10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.WATSON- I have this morning received the following telegram from Western Australia: -
Produce merchants Western Australia representing approximately £30,000 perishable cargo on Dimboola and Mundalla at meeting resolved forward following resolution to steamship owners - “ As both these ships were loaded under old conditions same conditions for unloading should apply and owners be requested to grant this concession to merchants who will otherwise be involved in heavy losses. “
Has the Prime Minister received a similar communication, and does he know of any means of inducing the shipowners to grant the request?
– No such communication, if received by my department, hae yet come under my notice, but I remind the honorable member that this is not a matter in which Parliament or members of Parliament should interfere. The Arbitration Court has made an award and it is the duty of this Parliament to support its observance.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the action proposed to be taken by the Government in regard to the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission for assistance to the gold-mining industry?
– The report of the commission has been under the consideration of the cabinet and I hope to announce the Government’s intentions in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether there is any foundation for the disquieting newspaper report concerning an alleged mutiny on H.M.A.S. Brisbane during the recent trip to the Cook Centennary celebration at Honolulu? If so, will the circumstances of the outbreak be fully investigated ?
– The matter has not been brought to my notice officially, but having read the newspaper statement I have called for a report from the Department of the Navy.
– A newspaper statement regarding housing accommodation for Commonwealth officers to be transferred to Canberra is headed - £1,000,000 - Costly Canberra Scheme - Service Transfer; 700 new houses wanted.
I ask the Honorary Minister, who, I understand is dealing with this matter, whether the Government intends to embark on a housing scheme to cost £1,000,000 in view of the anticipated deficit of £2,628,743? Before such building operations are undertaken will they be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report?
– Cabinet does not intend to embark on a huge scheme of house construction, and no suggestion to that effect has been made by the Minister concerned. The view of the Government is that transferred officers who desire to purchase homes in Canberra should avail themselves of the Commonwealth housing scheme. A decision as to the provision of office accommodation for the remaining departments to be transferred has not yet been made by cabinet.
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– I have asked the Commonwealth Bank to supply the information desired by the honorable member, but I regret it is not yet available.
Mason’s Contract - Supervisor of Building and Maintenance - Allowance to Colonel Thomas
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
Mr. E. RILEY (through Mr. Fenton) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Federal Capital Commission has appointed or is about to appoint a contractor, who has carried out and is at present carry ing out contracts for the Commission, to the position of supervisor and inspector of building and maintenance; if so, what is the name of the contractor?
– I have been advised by the Federal Capital Commission that no such appointment is contemplated.
Mr. E. RILEY (through Mr. Fenton) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I have called for a report on the matter and shall advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
With regard to the application of the Queensland Peanut Board for permission to introduce peanuts into Australia for seed purposes -
) What action has been taken by the Common wealth Health Department? (b) Has any reply been received from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock to the letter from his department of 1st August last, and, if so, what is the nature of such reply?
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The whole question of furlough payment has again received the consideration of the Government, which has decidedto approve only of claims made by those employees who had the requisite service but whose service was not continuous by reason of the fact that they had been sent away from the dockyard to carry out work in the service of other departments.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tariff Board’s Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Moreover, this industry is not a likely user of Australian-grown cotton, the directors contending that no suitable cotton is grown in Australia.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Speaking on the budget two days ago I referred to a letter sent to me by the Chief Commissioner for the Federal Capital, Sir J ohn Butters. The Canberra Times this morning publishes a statement by that gentleman that I had made use of a private letter. The communication I received was typed on official paper and signed “J. H. Butters, Chief Commissioner.” Moreover, a copy of it was sent to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). . Honorable members will realize, therefore, that the letter was not private or confidential.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Latham) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission, 1st July, 1927, to 30th June, 1928, together with
Statements and Balance-sheet.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos. 86, 93.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, Nos.85, 87, 92.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1928, No. 18 - Mining.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to -approve an agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Tasmania.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The agreement which the bill proposes to ratify is really the outcome of the financial agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the whole of the States. That agreement provides that all moneys and securities standing to the credit of sinking funds on the 30th June, 1929, shall be transferred to the National Debt Commission, but that such a transfer shall in no way limit the power of a State to cancel any such securities before the 30th June, 1929. Under the financial agreement, the new sinking fund contributions are to be based upon net debts ; that is to say, upon the gross debts due to the public on the 30th June, 1927, less the amounts of the sinking funds held at that date. It was contemplated that the States would immediately apply their sinking funds towards the reduction of their debts and thus obtain the benefit of the consequential saving of interest. The majority of the States have already taken this action, their sinking funds having been invested in their own securities. Tasmania, however, occupies a different position, almost the whole of her sinking funds being invested in Commonwealth securities. Thus she could obtain the same immediate advantages as the other States only by the adoption of one of two courses; either she could sell the securities on the open market^- which obviously was most undesirable - or hand the bonds over to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has agreed that the amount of the bonds handed over -shall be offset against certain debts that the State owes to the Commonwealth.
-^ What will be the position if the financial agreement is not validated ?
– That would make very little difference in it. The Tasmanian debt will be reduced to the extent of the bonds that are cancelled; but the interest which is now placed to the credit of her sinking fund will be no longer obtained from those securities. This is purely a domestic question, which Tasmania must decide for herself, and she is satisfied that the course proposed will not prove hurtful to her.
– The Commonwealth will cancel the debt and obtain the amount which now stands to the credit of the sinking fund?
– That is so. From the point of view of the Commonwealth, the position will not be altered.
– What will be the position of the Tasmania bondholders, who are relying upon the sinking fund eventually to discharge the obligation of the State, when those securities are surrendered ?
– There is not to be any surrender, but merely a cancellation of debt to the amount of the bonds held. The advantage of the transaction to Tasmania is that she will not in future need to make provision in her revenue account to meet the interest on the bonds. The benefit in that direction will be something like £63,000 a year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Report adopted and bill (by leave) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th September, (vide page 6569) on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The entry of the Commonwealth into this domain of taxation, as with some other forms of taxation, was made in 1914, on account of conditions brought about by the war. Prior to that date the exploitation of this field was left to the Governments of the different States, who, it must be admitted, exploited it fairly fully.
Persons of a hopeful nature supposed that the activities of the Commonwealth in this direction would be only temporary; but, true to tradition, the tax having been imposed has continued to swell the revenues of the Commonwealth and to add to the general burden of taxation under which the people labour, and relief from which they expected the present Government to afford them.
The general principle of this measure, so far as I have been able to familiarize myself with its provisions, is not one to which any great exception can be taken. It probably represents an honest endeavour by the taxation officials to stop up those fissures through which there have been undesirable leakages of public revenue. When taxation weighs heavily there is naturally a disposition to avoid paying it wherever possible. It must be acknowledged that this particular form of taxation does weigh heavily, almost oppressively, upon certain sections of the community. I am not customarily regarded as a spirited defender of any phase of big business; but I am bound to admit that even in the case of fairly large estates, especially those that are in the nature of business undertakings, the imposition of this tax sometimes causes considerable embarrassment. When the death occurs of the person upon whose initiative and skill the success of a business entirely depends, the procuring of the ready money necessary to pay the estate duty is frequently a matter of real concern to the wife and other dependants of the testator or an intestate. Generally speaking, the amount of tax is considerable, more particularly under the laws of the States. In the case of small estates the position is even more serious. The testator may be the owner of a humble residence, worth not more than £1,200. For that sum nowadays, the average working man can secure little more than a cottage, and his widow frequently experiences great difficulty in finding the money’ to pay federal and Stare estate duties, in addition to other fees, and in some cases the legal expenses connected with administration. This tax operates more harshly than almost any other form of taxation ; or at any rate it is felt more directly and more poignantly than any with which I am familiar. The Commonwealth duty, in principle, is levied upon the ; taxable value of the property owned by the deceased at the time of his death and passing to other persons under the terms of his will or by reason of an intestacy. That is a summary of . what constitute*” taxable property.
As I have said, and as the Treasurer said when introducing the bill, it has been found that in this general field of taxation the law leaves loopholes of escape for those who certainly should pay taxation. Gifts passing from a living person to another within a year of the testator or intestate’s death may be charged with duty; but it has been found that apparently genuine transactions of transfers for value between relatives, which are really in essence not transfers for good consideration but gifts, have not come within the law. It happens therefore that instead of the parties making gifts from one to another which would come within the law both as to gifts and as to estate duty later on, they make these transfers for value; but the value instead of being the real value is merely a nominal value agreed upon simply to escape the provisions of the law in regard to duty. I have not the slightest, doubt that such transactions, which are clearly evasions of the law, frequently occur. Of course it would be contrary to justice that a second impost should be placed upon an estate merely because the consideration money in connexion with such a transfer was comparatively light. Even in the ordinary course of buying and selling it sometimes happens that property passes from a transferee to a transferor for a small consideration. In other words, the purchaser makes a good bargain. In such cases if the property were assessed by a competent authority it would often be valued at considerably more than the amount paid for it, but no further impost would be made for duty. I submit therefore that while this new provision is justifiable in certain cases it should not be used to levy a second duty unjustly, merely because the original consideration appeared upon the face of it to be low.
– The provision will only apply to relatives by blood. Ordinary purchasers will not be affected. ‘
– That is so; but even a purchaser who is a relative by blood may carry out such a transaction in good faith although the consideration may, in the opinion of some people and even of experts, be inadequate. There is no reason why every transaction should be regarded with suspicion.
Certain provisions in the bill apply to the collection of duties following the death of a joint tenant. In the case of joint tenancies the property passes to the survivor or survivors. The Treasurer, and apparently the Taxation Department, consider that it is unjust that no taxation should be collected in respect of property so passing. The first comment upon that is that every estate which is the subject-matter of a joint tenancy must sooner or later come into account for duty. The Treasurer has suggested that joint tenancies may be given continuity like certain trusts, and that there might he something in the nature of an endless chain which would prevent the property from ever coming into account for the purposes of this duty. That suggestion seems to me to be a little far fetched. Such a situation could be provided against by enacting that the number of changes in proprietorship should be limited. If, let us say, three persons constitute a joint tenancy it might be provided that the property could pass to two of the joint tenants in the event of the death of one of the three, and subsequently to the survivor in the event of the death of the other, and that it must then come into account for taxation purposes. However, the Treasurer proposes to take “a short cut and impose the duty when the first break occurs in the joint tenancy. That appears to me to be to some extent a new departure.
The Treasurer also referred to cases in which the whole of the property of a deceased person has been transferred during his lifetime. The axe of the taxgatherer cannot fall upon any one in those circumstances, for all the property having been alienated, no question of probate arises and no letters of administration need be taken out. That appears to me to be an anomalous position. There are, of course, provisions in the Administration and Probate Act to compel persons to bring estates into probate, and creditors may enforce the winding-up of a deceased estate; hut where there is no estate because of the alienation of it by the deceased prior to his death nothing can be done. It seems to me to be logical that duty should be collected in such circumstances on parallel lines to those employed in respect of other alienations within twelve months at least of a person’s death. I realize that there is some danger in continuing an obligation upon a property after it has changed hands. It is always dangerous to attempt to follow property when it passes in good faith and for value from one person to another, but apparently the qualifications included in the bill will safeguard the position.
This measure may not excite much discussion and at the moment I do not take exception to it in principle. It appears to be justified by the experience of the Taxation Department. It will remove some anomalies and prevent certain evasions which have hitherto occurred. I can only hope that the tax will be gathered equitably and diligently by the Treasurer after the bill is passed.
. - The first Commonwealth Estate Duty Bill was passed in 1914, and it was understood that it would continue in operation only during the period of the war. But the introduction of this measure makes it clear that the tax is still to be imposed. Whenwe were considering possible readjustments of Commonwealth and State financial relations last year, there appeared to be a likelihood that the Commonwealth would withdraw from this field of taxation ; but what has occurred shows us clearly how difficult it is for a government to withdraw from any field of taxation which it has entered. I regret that a bill like this, which the Treasurer himself described as extremely technical, should have been introduced under circumstances which afford honorable members very little opportunity to examine it thoroughly; but I must acknowledge the kindness of the Treasurer in providing me with a copy of the speech which he made when introducing it. So far as one can judge, after such a brief consideration of the bill, it contains some commendable features. It is plainly desirable that when the whole of his property is disposed, of by one person to others within a year of his death there should be a provision by which returns can be obtained and duty collected from the persons who benefit. That is obviously a matter that ought to be put right. Trustees and administrators should have the power to recover any amount due by the donee of a gift inter vivos or a remainder under settlement. It would be plainly ridiculous that the administrator should be liable to the Government for certain amounts and yet unable to recover them from the persons who have benefited by those gifts.
A point on which I wish to speak in rather more detail was referred to by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and has reference to the subject of joint tenancy, as to which this bill appears to me to go some distance in making rather a radical, alteration regarding what has always been one of the features of English and of Australian law. As most honorable members know, joint tenancy has five characteristics - unity of title, time, interest and possession, and, perhaps most important of all, the right of survivorship. If honorable members will bear with me for a moment, I shall read a short quotation from Strahan’s Law of Property, which, at page 130, refers in these words to the subject of the right of survivorship -
The most important characteristic of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship or jus accrescendi When an interest in land or goods is limited to two or more persons jointly, the joint tenants arc regarded as one proprietor, and us each tenant dies the whole estate survives to the surviving tenant or tenants until only one tenant remains, who then becomes owner of the interest in severalty. The surviving tenant or tenants are entitled to the whole joint interest on a fellow joint tenant’s death, regardless of any devise or bequest of his share which he may have made by his will, or of any rent-charge upon the joint interest which he may have granted during his life, or of any claims of creditors for debts due by him.
That is sufficient to show how clearly and strongly it has always been held that the almost essential feature of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, by which, of course, it is plainly distinguished from tenancy in common, where there is simply unity of possession, and no right of survivorship on the death of a tenant. On the death of a tenant in common his interest is subject to the provisions of his will, and in the case of an intestacy is shared among his next of kin. To turn from the law to the facts, I imagine that in most cases of joint tenancy in Australia it applies to houses and land, generally city property. A man as he gets up in years may buy a property in a suburb, and put it into the name of himself and his wife jointly. The effect of the unities being observed is that at common law there is a right in the survivor of those two to the interest in that property, and to its use for the rest of his or her life. In all probability this practice is mo3t frequently found among persons who are not particularly well off. Personally, I cannot say that I see anything reprehensible in it, and I think it is at least open to doubt whether it is quite a fair thing that the Taxation Department should within a brief period collect two estate duty taxes, that is on the deaths of the husband and the wife, who as a general rule are much of the same age, and may normally be expected to die within a comparatively short time of each other. The chances are that in the case of persons” with larger properties matters are provided for by a settlement, which may involve more money at the time, but which would create a life interest for each of the persons concerned in turn, and on the decease of the survivor of them provide for the remainder of the interest. The point I put to the House is that we have here, it seems to me, an interference with one of the oldest forms of English conveyance, and that it is not even a complete interference. Under the federal law no deceased estate which is under £1,000 in value is taxable at all, and, therefore, this wiping out of the rights of joint tenants by saying that the Commonwealth law does not regard them as such for the purposes of this duty, will not affect the very large number of persons whose estates are under £1,000 in value. It seems to me undesirable that the law should wipe out joint tenancy with regard to anybody who has property to the value of over £1,000, but should not wipe it out if the value of the property is under £1,000. Those whose properties are under £1,000 in value will still have their joint tenancies recognized, and their estates will not be taxable by the
Commonwealth.. Whether they would be taxed by a State or not is a matter for the State Parliaments to decide.
I do not wish to over-stress the matter, but I express regret that by this bill a type of holding which goes back to the early days of English law is, in effect, to be abrogated, though not directly abrogated as regards the whole public; it is simply to be put aside so far as those who own property over a certain value are concerned.
– In what way will it be abrogated?
– In the sense that if full estate duties can be collected from both of two joint tenants, the joint tenancy does not exist, because there is, so far as this measure goes, no survivorship. The essential feature of joint tenancy, if I may put the matter to honorable members again, is that there should be joint survivorships; that is, if one of the parties die, his or her interests lapse and the other party owns the whole property. Under the provisions of the bill that will not be the case. The measure, in effect, says that, for the purpose of’ estate duty, a joint tenancy shall be regarded as a tenancy in common. That is the way in which I read the bill, and if I am wrong on the point I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will put me right. One may, perhaps, express a doubt as to whether it would not have been better if the Government, instead of doing this, had laid it down clearly that no joint tenancy should be regarded as such unless, in fact, the four unities - which I have already mentioned - title, time, interest, and possession - had been fully complied with.
.- In considering this measure I must have confidence in the head of the Taxation Department, who, no doubt, regards the bill as essential in the interests of the people. My experience teaches me that no person desires to pay taxes. Business men and others often vest their properties in their wives, and, unfortunately, the Companies Act of New South Wales affords facilities for that course of action. The bankruptcy law provides that no benefit can be derived from such an arrangement unless it has been made two years prior to insolvency. The federal estate duties were imposed, as explained by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes), to assist in meeting the war debt, but estate duties were collected in New South Wales prior to the war. I remember a case in which the owner of an estate which ran into millions of pounds occupied a high position in the social world, and took an active part in religious matters, but when he died only one-tenth of the money left by him was taxable. No doubt the Commissioner of Taxes has discovered evasion of estate duties, and absence of power to enforce their payment. The object of the bill- is to prevent persons from evading their liabilities in respect of estate duties. Most persons when they die leave little of this world’s goods. Some of them have houses and in that case I believe the exemption is £1,000.
– A house worth £1,200 is merely a poor man’s home, and on such a property, if situated, in Victoria, the estate duty - Commonwealth and State - conies to £60. There is an exemption of £1,000 under the Commonwealth Estate Duty Act and some exemption under the acts of all the States.
– This class of legislation is better left in the hands of those with legal knowledge. If any injustice is done under this law when it becomes operative, the Commissioner of Taxation must bear the responsibility. I offer no opposition to the second reading of the bill.
.- This bill can well be left to the consideration of legal men, because its provisions are too involved for members of the laity to follow. It needs a life-long study to understand the intricacies of land tenures. To me it is evident that this country is being robbed because of the evasion of taxation. Although I look upon the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Ewing, as the apotheosis of justice, as a man who could not be better equipped mentally for the position he occupies, I hope that under this bill his administration will not be made more difficult. It is easy for the rich man to evade taxation. One can picture a man on his death bed authorizing the distribution of his wealth in the form of bank notes among his heir3. In that case it would be very difficult for the
Commissioner or the Government to impose probate duty. There are two kinds of bonds. One is transferable by possession. It is like a bank note. If it is passed to an individual it becomes his. Possession is nine points of the law and sometimes a little more. The practice that I have instanced might be prevented by prescribing that no bond shall be transferred without endorsement and the date of re-endorsement shown thereon. In the dying hours of the session I cannot expect the Treasurer to adopt this suggestion, because to give it effect we might need the keenest legal brains in the community to draft the requisite provision. I firmly believe that this country is at present being defrauded of taxation. Take for instance the interest coupon. A man may have £1,000 worth of bonds and he may tear off so many interest coupons and give them to a friend. So far as I can ascertain from bankers and other financiers, there is no way of tracing those coupons. A shrewd wealthy man can easily evade his just dues to the country. We must recognize that there are such persons in this community, although I admit that they represent only a small minority. Bonds can he used like bank notes and both those symbols of value, can at the death bed, be passed on. In such a case it would be difficult to trace the money for taxation purposes. All bonds should be transferable by endorsement and the date of the endorsement shown thereon. Honorable members may recall that an officer of the Victorian Parliament was once mixed up in a case in which bonds were stolen and the holder refused to return them unless a certain reward was given. I believe that the reward was refused. I do not know to the present day whether those bonds have been returned to the rightful owner. There are many difficulties surrounding the collection of estate duties, and I do not desire to add to them.
.- t am dad that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is tightening up legislation not only in relation to land and income taxation, but also to estate duties. It is evident to me that the wealthier people of this community take every opportunity to evade their just dues. It has always been a surprise to me that corporations and individuals who are rolling in this world’s wealth are among the chief offenders in evading taxation. Any person with a national spirit should not object to paying his lawful taxes; in fact out of his generosity and true nationalism he should not be averse to paying more than the amount at which he is assessed. Let me give an illustration of how a rich man may evade taxation. Take an estate on which, the probate duty is, say, £100,000. The executors of the estate may go on the bond or stock market and purchase at £98 10s. bonds maturing in 1948, and then tender them at a value of £100 each in payment of probate duty. In that case taxation to the amount of £1,500 would be evaded. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has been instrumental in extracting from the Treasurer certain information respecting the probate duty paid in stocks and bonds over a period of years. According to the return given by the Treasurer, up to £900,000 in Commonwealth Government bonds has been paid in probate duties, It is easy to realize that much of that stock would be purchased at £98 10s., or even £97 10s., which was the value recently when the market was depressed. In that way considerable taxation would be evaded. I do not blame the taxpayers for evading taxation, especially when this can be done without fear of penalty. I should like to know the sum which the Treasurer estimates has been lost over a series of years because of the failure of this Government to bring in legislation to prevent this form of evading taxation. When’ this measure has been in operation for twelve months it will be interesting to know whether the receipts from this avenue of taxation have increased to any extent. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that under the present law considerable hardships are suffered by the poorer class of persons, especially those who are maintaining large families, and can ill afford to pay probate duties. If any proposal is made to raise the exemption as far as those persons are concerned I shall be pleased to lend my support to it. The bill receives my approval, principally, because I believe that this tax has been too frequently evaded. Under advice, legal or otherwise, they have been doing their best to dodge the tax collector. If they have been evading their just liabilities, I am pleased that the Treasurer, and those associated with him, are taking steps to see that this practice is not continued.
– The objection to taxing joint tenancies does not impress me very much, but I am wondering just how much of the property held in joint tenancy it is proposed to tax. I understand that if a man settles property by way of a joint tenancy, the whole property is taxed ; but, suppose that a husband and wife bought property in their joint names, and one died, will the half share be taxed, or is the tax to be levied upon the whole of the property? In my opinion, only the share of the interest which passes should be taxed. If the property is held in two or three names, the interest to be taxed should be one-half, or one-third, as the case may be, except when palpably the settlement was made to evade duty. I do not think that it is right that if a property is held in two names, and one party dies, the survivor should have to pay duty on the entire value of the property. In the case of a tenancy in common, when the property is in two names, we now charge duty on half the value of the property; if it is in three names, we charge duty on one-third of the value, or the amount which actually passes. I cannot see any reason for making a distinction in the method of taxation between cases of joint tenancy and tenancy in common. When the form of joint tenancy is used for evading duty, it is only right that something should be done to prevent it, but otherwise, only that share of a property which passes shouldbe subject to taxation.
– I am pleased to observe that the general principles of this bill meet with the approval of honorable members, and that they agree that the unfair discrimination at present existing in the working of the law should be removed. With regard to joint tenancies, I can assure honorable members that the matter will be put absolutely beyond doubt by the AttorneyGeneral. There was never any intention to tax more than the property which was actually owned by the deceased.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definition of “Gift inter vivos.”)
– There is general agreement as to the wisdom of this clause. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked that there should not be any harshness in the actual administration of the provision, and I am sure that the Commissioner can be relied upon to avoid that.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Section eight of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (4) and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs : -
which had been owned by the deceased person but which, immediately prior to his death, formed the whole or part of property held by him and other persons as joint tenants ; or
Section proposed to be amended - (4.) Property -
which passed from the deceased person by any gift inter vivos or settlement made before or after the commencement of this actwithin one year before his decease, or, being property comprised in a settlement under which he was tenant for life, the life interest of which teas surrendered by him to the remaindermen within one year before his decease; or
in whichhe had a beneficial interest at the time of his decease, which beneficial interest, by virtue of a settlement or agreement made by him, passed or accrued on or after his decease to, or devolved on or after his decease upon, any other person, shall for the purposes of this act be deemed to be part of the estate of the person so deceased.
– Some questions have been raised by honorable members on paragraph d, which extends the definition of property. The reason for including a provision for dealing with joint tenancies is this: A joint tenancy is the most easy and obvious method of avoiding the making of a will, and, therefore, of preventing the application of this taxation act to property which, in fact, passes upon death. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said that property, upon the death of one of two joint tenants, was vested in the survivor, who then became the holder of the entire interest in the property; whereas, previously he was interested as a joint tenant, and had the rights of a joint tenant, including the right to obtain a partition of the property by taking appropriate proceedings. Property may pass, therefore, upon the death of a single joint tenant, to the surviving joint tenant, or joint tenants, just in the same way as it passes by will. It is thus easy to avoid the application of the Estate Duty Assessment Act by a series of joint tenancies. For instance, a property may be vested in A and B as joint tenants; A dies and B becomes the owner of the whole property, He then creates a joint tenancy between himself and 0. Then B and 0 are joint tenants. B dies, and 0 is the owner of the whole property. Then 0 brings in D, and so it may go on indefinitely through a succession of deaths, and at no time is estate duty paid. It is surely reasonable to provide against such a case if it is possible to do so. It is quite true that, in some cases, it might happen that duties would be collected under the act at comparatively short intervals; but that, unfortunately, can also occur in cases in which wills are made in the ordinary way. It very often happens that a husband dies, and his wife pays probate or other death duty on the estate which has been left to her. Then the wife herself dies, and again duty has to be paid. That is an unfortunate incident of the proximity of deaths, and it is very difficult for any taxation system involving death duties to avoid occasional hardships of that kind. Accordingly, I put it to honorable members that the general principle of taxing property obtained by the survivor of a joint tenancy is sound. Most ordinary purposes can be served .quite well by a tenancy in common, when there is a separate interest in the undivided property, and when no right of survivorship obtains. Where a joint tenancy is resorted to, there is no reason for extending special consideration to joint tenants, when they might equally well be tenants in common, and when the effect of a joint tenancy is to prevent the imposition of proper taxation. Honorable members have stated that the clause, as drawn, would produce the effect that, when there are two joint tenants, duty would be payable on the whole interest in the estate upon the death of one of the tenants. I do not think that Parliament wishes any such thing to be done. The honorable member for Batman suggested that taxation should be levied only on the real, increased interest which is obtained by the survivor upon the death of the other joint tenant. That is a point to which consideration may fairly bc given, remembering that the act already contains a provision dealing with settlements made within a certain period before death, to prevent them from being used as means of evading duty. Although it is not so intended, this provision might, on a strict reading of the words, apply to every case in which a person had, at any time during his life, owned a property, and subsequently happened to become interested in it again as a joint tenant. It would be unjust to compel such a person to pay duty on the full value of the property. After hearing what honorable members have said, I have prepared a redraft of this section taken from the Victorian Administration and Probate Act, 1915. This section has been in the act for a long time and is couched in these terms -
All property of any kind whatsoever which a person having been absolutely entitled thereto has voluntarily caused or may cause, to be transferred to or vested in himself and any other person jointly whether by disposition or otherwise (including any purchase or investment effected by the person who was absolutely entitled to the property) either by himself alone or in concert or by arrangement with any other person so that a beneficial interest therein or in some part thereof passes or accrues by survivorship on his death to such other person, shall on the death of such person be deemed to the extent of such beneficial interest to form part of his estate for the purpose of estimating the duty payable under this Act and shall be chargeable with duty thereon accordingly.
That section was placed in the Victorian Act in 1903, and, as far as I know, has worked fairly. I call the attention of the Committee to these points: It is limited to a case in which a person has himself brought about a joint tenancy, so that by survivorship the beneficial interest accrues to’ another person. Therefore, an individual who years ago owned land, and happens to become entitled to it by transfer or joint tenancy, is excluded from taxation. Further, the taxation is limited to the extent of the beneficial interest that passes to the survivor. The substance of this section will meet the objections which might be raised to the clause in its present form. Accordingly I move -
That proposed new paragraph (d) be omitted and the following inserted in lieu thereof : - “(d) Which a person having been absolutely entitled to, has voluntarily caused to be transferred to or vested in himself and any other person jointly whether by disposition or otherwise (including any purchase or investment effected by the person who was absolutely entitled to the property) either by himself alone or in concert or by arrangement with any other person so that a beneficial interest therein or in some part thereof passes or accrues by survivorship on his death to such other person, to the extent of such beneficial interest; or”
This section deals not only with a person transferring property to himself and another but also with a purchaser who arranges that a property shall be transferred to himself and another as joint tenants. That may be done by purchase or investment, and to meet such a situation the words we have adopted appear in the Victorian Act. The section as amended will effect the double purpose of limiting the taxable part of the property to the interest which passes, instead of making the whole property taxable, and of excluding a person who years ago was the owner of a property and many years later finds himself a joint tenant of it.
.- The thought never entered my mind that the clause in the bill was intended to tax property other than the interest of a joint tenant, but a doubt upon that point having been raised by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) it is gratifying to me that the Attorney-General has made the matter clear and has proposed a liberalization of the section to meet cases in which clearly the tenancy has been created for ulterior purposes, as it may be at almost a moment’s notice prior to the death of the person whose estate is immediately concerned.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Commissioner may alter assessments).
– The New South Wales law contains a provision that at any time after the discovery of new assets the Commissioner may make a new assessment of the estate, including them. Under this clause will the Commissioner have power to re-assess by reduction as well as by increase? Often after a will has been filed for probate and duty has been paid other liabilities are discovered which considerably reduce the estate.
– Sub-section 4 of section 20 provides that if the alteration of any assessment has the effect of reducing the duty payable on the estate the Commissioner shall refund the excess paid. The clause is solely for the purpose of enabling the Commissioner to deal with alterations which he knows are necessary but which he has not been able to make within the twelve months. In such cases the Commissioner may within that period give notice of his intention to make such alterations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report (by leave) adopted.
Bill (by leave) read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported and ordered to he taken into sideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
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 provide for the insurance of employees and the wives, children, widows, and orphans of employees, against certain contingencies, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That’ Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Gibson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. EARLE Page, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
On behalf of the Government, I have the honour of bringing before Parliament, in the National Insurance Bill, the most comprehensive and progressive measure of social reform that has ever been brought forward in any Parliament of Australia.
The subject matter of this bill is one of very great importance, not only to the whole community in this country, but also to the whole civilized world. In all directions it is being recognized that the beneficent principles and practice of insurance should be applied not only in respect of such casualties as death, fire, ship-wreck, and accident, but also to those other more insidious, but no less serious, casualties of sickness, invalidity, and senility, which affect our. social organization and, in the absence of due provision, cause untold suffering.
The ferry disaster on the Sydney Harbour, a few months ago paralysed us momentarily with sheer horror, and then rendered us alert to ascertain whether it was not possible to render such an occurrence with its associated distress an impossibility. How many of us realize, however, that in our everyday life we have even more extensive, though less vivid, tragedies, which, if not capable of prevention, are at least amenable to amelioration with no great effort on our part by the appropriate adaptation of some of the machinery which we apply every day to the rectification of inequalities in other matters? It may, perhaps, be impossible for us to prevent the blow from falling, but we may, by appropriate organization, be able to lighten its effect upon those upon whom it falls.
Many people are apt to say that such’ things should not be; and they appear to think that having said so much they have done all that could reasonably be expected of them. Their assertion may be true to some extent, but in this practical world in which we live we have to deal very largely with what is, however, much we may aspire for what should be.
It may be well here to deal very briefly with a popular misconception on the matter of insurance, especially as it has a somewhat important bearing on the question before us. In the minds of many people there is a degree of confusion between the terms “ insurance “ and “ prevention,” although they express in reality two very different ideas. Insurance invariably implies loss or injury as well as something by way of compensation to make good, in part at least, the loss sustained. In essence, however it may be administered, insurance implies a combining of the interests liable to a risk for the purpose of providing compensation to those of the constituent interests which suffer loss or injury. The man whose house remains undestroyed contributes to the replacement of the house of the man who suffers by the conflagration. The man whose motor remains undamaged contributes to make good the loss suffered by him who crashes. The man who experiences a long life contributes to the needs of the dependants of another who dies early, and so on.
The prevention of that which causes the loss is strictly no part of the insurance function. Thus, it is not an essential or usual part of the function of a life assurance office to provide medical attendance for its policy-holders. It is no part of the function of marine insurance to chart navigation routes or provide lighthouses, beacons and buoys. It is equally no essential part of the function of fire insurance to provide fire brigades, although some of the early companies did so, and many of those in the present day are compelled to contribute to . their upkeep. It is no part of the burglary insurance company to police the streets to prevent burglary, nor of the motor car insurance societies to prevent accidents to motor cars. In all these and similar cases the insurance activity commences only when loss has been suffered, and in the terms of the particular contract it provides compensation to the insured person who has suffered the loss.
I have no wish to disparage prevention or the desirability of attempts at prevention. What I wish to stress is that insurance not only differs from prevention, but that it commences to operate only when attempted prevention has failed. What we are dealing with in this measure is not the prevention of such ills as the sickness, disablement or death of the family bread-winner, nor even the restoring of him to activity, where such a result is possible. These are matters for separate consideration. We are here aiming at the furnishing of relief in respect of the distress occasioned by the occurrence of these ills.
Insurance has been defined as the provision made by a group of persons, each of .whom is in danger of some loss, the incidence of which cannot be foreseen, so that when such loss does occur it shall be distributed among the whole group. In other words, insurance is the substitution of a social co-operative provision for an individual provision by the distribution of the losses and the elimination of risk. More briefly stated, insurance is a system for pooling losses.
– It is putting into practice the admonition - “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”
– In recognition of this principle, various forms of voluntary social insurance have been already engaged in by friendly societies and similar organizations. But this voluntary insurance covers practically only the thrifty, or the better-off section of the community who have some surplus earnings. The thriftless, and those whose present necessities are so great that, notwithstanding a desire to make provision for. the future, they have not been able to cover themselves, are not provided for. In addition, the existing systems have covered only a part of the field, such as the death of the husband or father. The imperative need of covering the whole field, especially under the conditions of modern industry, has made the movement of social insurance one of the most important world movements of our time.
The greatest advantage of insurance is that it removes the sense of personal insecurity. Even if it may be contended that insurance costs as much as it gives, or may even cost something more on account of the expenses of administration, yet the advantage arising from the absence of this sense of personal insecurity would make insurance abundantly worth while. This is specially applicable to the loss of working power due to sickness, old age, or accident. The great bulk of the workers of our country have some difficulty in providing for the whole of their necessities out of their wages, which do little more than cover current expenditure when they are working and in full employment. If those wages are barely sufficient when they are well, an interruption of their wages through any of these causes will soon lead to serious economic distress. Sir Neville Howse, Dr. Maloney, Dr. Nott, and I, as well as every other medical practitioner and honorable members generally, have had experience of the great distress caused over a wide field through no adequate provision having been made for sickness and the supply of nutritious food and warm clothing. Lack of provision in these directions frequently lengthens the periods of illness and lessens the capacity for work.
Modern industry divorces the worker from the land, so that, whether in employment or otherwise, there is a continuous outgoing for rent, food, &c. It is reasonable, therefore, to ask that modern industry should contribute to a national insurance scheme against inability to work and consequent interruption in income. This interruption may be due to any one of various causes affecting the breadwinner. Of these, the most important are temporary sickness, permanent disablement, senile decay, death, and unemployment.
Concerning the first four of these causes, there is a large amount of data available to form the basis for a scheme of amelioration. They have been the subject of intensive investigations in many countries under different conditions, and, whether in the field of appropriate statistical data or in the experience of friendly societies and life assurance offices, they have furnished a wealth of suitable information. On the basis of these results, it is possible to build with a considerable degree of assurance. The definite relations to age of sickness, disablement, senility and death, are well known, and, although not as exact as the constants of physics, chemistry, &c., they yet furnish reliable bases for the erection of social edifices which will serve to shelter the weak and the suffering.
In respect of the fifth principal cause of interruption of income - that of unemployment due to the inability to find employment because of the lack of adjustment between demand and supply in the labour market - the position is not so simple, nor has the foundation been so well laid.
In reporting on this matter, the Royal Commission on National Insurance said that there were not sufficient data in Australia on the subject to enable a suitable solution to be formulated or to allow a satisfactory scheme to be brought forward to deal with it. It suggested the creation or utilization of agencies which would enable the necessary data to be obtained, so that the problem could he seen in its proper perspective.
The other social ills enumerated can be more or less easily measured, and with some precision in terms of intensity of cause and effect; but the problem of unemployment, being based on so many and such elusive causes, has up to the present baffled the efforts made to effect an analysis of it, and an interpretation of its significance.
In several countries attempts to effect a satisfactory scheme of unemployment insurance on a local basis have been made with varying success, but until recently the only such scheme on a nation-wide basis was that of Great Britain. But the conflicting reports as to the efficacy of the scheme are such as to give pause to the reformer, desirous of providing his less fortunate fellow man with a solution of his troubles. The position is immensely complicated by the possibilities of malingering, and the complexities arising from the continual struggle between capital and labour.
In this matter we have a good example of the difference between insurance and prevention. Those disabilities which are provided for in the bill may be said to have reached a stage at which the principle of insurance can be satisfactorily applied to them with a reasonable certainty of obtaining a sound system and beneficial results, whereas the disability to which theterm “ unemployment “ is usually applied is at present a matter for prevention rather than insurance. The Government is now considering the means by which measures for prevention can be applied. Such measures may involve policies directed towards securing the maximum production and development of the industries of the country; increased facilities for adjusting the supply of labour, and the demand for it; increase in the mobility of capital and labour; more uniform distribution of the demand for labour throughout the year by a wise selection of industries a.nd suitable adjustment of programmes of public works over a period of years, &c. These subjects, however, are not before us at the moment. I have mentioned them in order to indicate that consideration ofthe matter of applying insurance to unemployment has not been lost sight of, but that a policy directed towards its elimination, as far as that is practicable, is being sought.
The problem of unemployment - its nature, causes and remedies - has been referred by the Government for investigation to the Development and Migration Commission, which has been asked to get all possible information and to express its views on the most satisfactory methods of dealing with the evil. A valuable report has already been furnished by the commission, and further investigations are proceeding, which, it is hoped, will lead to satisfactory results.
The recommendations of both this commission and the Royal Commission on National Insurance point to the’necessity for the following action: -
By the Commonwealth Government -
By the State Governments -
By Commonwealth and State Governments -
By co-operation with each other for the application of legislative remedies for defects discovered as a result of economic research.
It can be laid down as an axiom that unemployment insurance is not a remedy for unemployment. It merely affords temporary and partial relief for those who by reason of unemployment are deprived of their full wages. It is also obvious that the greatest service that can be rendered to an unemployed man is to find him work to do ; unemployment insurance will not do this.
Side by side with the collection of adequate data should, therefore, proceed those other measures of organization and research which will really grapple with the problem itself, make better provision for assisting the worker to find his job, and also to strike at the causes which are making jobs scarce. These are the lines upon which action should first he taken, and upon their fruition depends the decision as to the further step for providing for those who, notwithstanding all that can be done, are still unprovided for.
Then will come the question as to whether that can best be done by the Commonwealth or the States. It must be borne in mind that unemployment insurance should he associated with organizations for finding work, with vocational training, and possibly with some scheme for dealing with the unemployable. In these questions the States have many advantages over the Commonwealth owing to their control of lands, mines, and railways, as well as by reason of their wider industrial powers.
Leaving the solution of this problem for the moment, the Government has considered it desirable to push forward with measures relating to the other causes of interruption of income, and to apply to their amelioration those principles which have proved effective in Australia and elsewhere.With this end in view the matter has been investigated actuarially and otherwise to ascertain to what extent the workers of this country would be able to provide appropriate benefits for themselves, in their various states of incapacity, and to what extent their efforts could and should be supplemented from other sources.
The result has been the bill now before the House. It deals in a comprehensive way with the four causes of interruption of incometo which I have referred and introduces a practical scheme within the powers of industry to compass, involving as it does a contribution of no more than1s. per week from each male worker and 6d. per week from each female, which will be supplemented by contributions by employers and the Commonwealth.
The outstanding difficulty of such a scheme is the fact that we are faced by a body of workers ranging all the way from callow youth to decrepit age, and we have to provide all with the same benefit at the same price, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of providing the benefit to those in advanced age is immensely greater than in the case of the young. Sickness and disablement are much more frequent with the old than with the young, senility is much nearer, and as the proverb has it, “ the young ‘ may ‘ die but the old’ must ‘.” In these circumstances it is clear that the cost of socially insuring a worker of advanced age is much more expensive than that of insuring a youth. What shall be done? Shall we charge higher contributions to the old than to the young? Clearly such a course is impracticable. In addition to his other disabilities, the older worker would be loaded with a heavier contribution to be paid by himself and by his employer if the scheme took the usual form. This would mean in many cases that the older man would lose his job and find it difficult to get another. To prevent such injustice there must be a flat rate of contribution applicable to workers of all ages with a discrimination as to sex. This is the first desideratum. Next, the rate to he paid by way of contributions, since it must come alike from all of the same sex must be of such extent that its payment does not deprive the man on relatively low earnings of the measures of comfort that are necessary toa reasonable standard of living and health, and thus force the worker below a desirable social standard. Who, then, should assist him in this assurance necessary for him to retain his sense of personal security and provide him against the interruption of his earning power? This point was fully examined by the royal commission on national insurance, which unanimously reported that there were three sections who should contribute - the State, the employers and the workers.
– Did they say in what proportion ?
– No; but they 8 aid that there should be a contribution by each section. The State would find it necessary to contribute, because the need of insurance increases with the hazards run, and the graver the risk the greater the cost, the workers are unable to meet the true costs of insurance conducted on a business basis. State action can reduce the cost of insurance in certain ways. For instance, by making insurance compulsory, the whole cost of canvassing and seeking business is abolished. If the State can insist on a safe insurance organization devoid of the elements of profit and one in which everything except the actual cost of administration comes back to the insured, that also tends to reduce the cost. The State may again aid by itself carrying part of the cost of administration or by directly subsidizing an insurance scheme either by carrying certain benefits itself or by insisting on other elements of society, such as employers, carrying a certain share.
The employers should contribute because industry should assist to carry its own wreckage. That nation can hardly be said to be civilized, which permits its industry to use up its human assets without providing for their periods of unemployment due to sickness. As Goldsmith has it - 111 fares the land to hastening ills a prey Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
Employees, too, should contribute, because first of all their contributions towards future benefits would encourage thrift and the fact that their own contributions were involved, would give them a direct interest in the management of the whole scheme, especially if they felt that by their own representatives, they had some definite control over their own money. This sense of interest in the ‘huge sums that will be accumulated to keep the scheme solvent will help to stabilize the Commonwealth as a whole.
Different countries have dealt with this problem in different ways. I propose to deal briefly with w.hat has been done in other countries.
In the various countries of Europe where some form of social insurance has been in force for many years, there are two distinct types, the one voluntary, the other compulsory. In Great Britain the voluntary system dates back into the remote past, and the origin of the village burial clubs would be difficult to trace. These were voluntary in so far as a customary institution can be voluntary amongst a people relatively primitive. The more truly voluntary friendly societies came later and still flourish. Voluntary social insurance of the friendly society type was also wide-spread in Europe, though seldom as successful, in so far as numbers and influence were concerned, as was the case in Great Britain. Two notable exceptions were Switzerland and Denmark, small countries in which voluntary social insurance achieved a marked development in somewhat special circumstances.
In most countries, including Great Britain and Australia, the defect of the voluntary system of social insurance has been the necessary failure to reach the less thrifty and less thoughtful of the workers. The position in Australia at the present time in respect of friendly society provision is much the same as was that in England when the national health insurance scheme was introduced there in 1911. In both cases about 30 per cent, of the eligible workers came within the scheme. The remedy which has been introduced in several countries and which is continuously growing in its range, both of countries and benefits, is that of compulsory insurance. It is a going out into the highways and the byways and compelling them to come in. The initiation of this phase is due to Germany, where under Bismarck, the compulsory sickness law was introduced in 1883, accident insurance laws in 1884 and 1885, and the law of insurance against invalidity and old-age in 1889. Twenty-two years after the last-mentioned of these dates a some what similar compulsory law was introduced into Great Britain to supplement and help to standardize the social insurance provisions then in force there. Since the initiation of compulsory insurance in Germany in 1883 the growth of the principle in Europe has been almost continuous, until in 1927, at the conference of the International Labour Organization of the League of Nations, held in Geneva, representatives of no fewer than 46 countries, from all parts of the world, agreed by a large majority that the principle of compulsory insurance should be applied to sickness. Other forms of incapacitation are to be considered at later conferences, but the overwhelming support given in 1927 to the application of compulsion to the sickness benefit, leaves no doubt that when the further items of social insurance are considered internationally the support for compulsion will be equally strong.
In Australia, although there is not any comprehensive organization or group of organizations dealing with social insurance in extenso, there are numerous activities, some governmental, some assisted’ and some purely voluntary, covering a large portion of the field of social benefits usually occupied in other countries by schemes of compulsory social insurance.What has long been felt necessary has been some scheme for systematizing and regularizing the benefits afforded ; for the prevention of overlapping ; and for giving the prospective beneficiaries an element of control in and responsibility for the benefits to which they will become entitled. It is not proposed in this measure to provide the beneficiaries with all they may need. Such an objective would be far beyond the range of the present proposals. Further, as will be seen later, it is not proposed to restrict the activities of existing thrift institutions, so that those who find the provisions of the compulsory scheme insufficient for their requirements will have ample facilities within the limit of their means of supplementing the minimum which the compulsory scheme provides for all.
Concerning Australian thrift the following figures, representing approximately the present accumulations of some of the more popular thrift institutions, will be of interest. These results may be taken as giving roughly the position at 30th June, 1928-
This large total of £346,500,000 sterling by no means covers all the Australian thrift accumulation, for small holdings of debentures and investment stocks and shares are numerous, and although not readily ascertainable, they must aggregate a very considerable sum. Further than this there is the increasing tendency in Australia generally for people to own their homes and thus to secure to themselves the satisfaction of a continuous supervision of their investment and an equally continuous inflow of the income which it furnishes in the form of the shelter and comfort derived from it.
The range of benefits at present provided in Australia is very extensive and covers the following agencies amongst others. Some of the benefits are wholly contributory, some are partially contributory and some are non-contributory: -
Federal Government -
Staff pension schemes -
Life assurance -
Charitable institutions -
Housing schemes -
As the result of a careful review of the present position, the Government decided to propose a national insurance scheme which should, to some extent, fulfil the desideratum of systematizing the benefits now afforded by various agencies and coordinating their efforts. The systematization and co-ordination provided are, of course, far from complete, but this measure makes a start with these matters on eminently practical lines. Nine cash benefits are provided, the main object of which is that of assisting the insured person who is laid aside by sickness, invalidity, or senility, to provide for the needs of himself and his dependants. It also makes some provision for the widows, and for orphans, to the age of sixteen, of those who die. The bill takes advantage of existing machinery, and necessitates a large measure of co-operative effort. Here I desire specially to mention the assistance that has been given by the leaders of the friendly society movement, and by the various insurance organizations of Australia. The compulsory application of the scheme to all employed persons except those sufficiently provided for otherwise makes at least some provision for the most helpless section of the community. As the burden will be shared by employers, employees and the Government, it ensures that the cost will be distributed equitably and without undue pressure throughout the community.
We come now to the provisions of the hill itself, and I propose to pass in brief review the various parts into which the draftsman has divided the measure, reserving until the committee stage the more detailed explanation of its several sections.
First there is the preliminary part, which merely comprises provisions for short title, commencement, parts and definitions, and I shall not detain honorable members here except to call attention to the definition of “ orphan.” Under the act “ orphan “ means “ a child under the age of sixteen years who was dependent upon a deceased insured person at the time of the death of that person, and includes an ex-nuptial child, a step-child, and a legally adopted child.” I may also refer to the definition of “week,” which means “ the period of seven days commencing at midnight between Sunday and Monday.” The former of these definitions gives a liberal range to the provision for orphans. The latter definition is based on the English precedent, and gives significance to the term “ week,” which is otherwise vague as regards its commencement and termination.
The idea which the Government has had in the preparation of this measure is that of securing an administrative organization which shall act under the terms of its constitution with practical freedom from political interference. Provision is made for constituting a board which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, which may acquire, hold, and dispose of real and personal property, and which shall be capable of suing and being sued. The board will thus be endowed with full authority to carry out the important duties prescribed for it under the act and regulations. Provision is made that the board shall comprise not less than three nor more than five members. One must be appointed from representatives of the employers, and one from representatives of the employees. The Governor-General, it is provided, will appoint as president one of the members, who will be the permanent administrative officer of the board, and devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office. It is further provided that one of the members of the board shall be an actuary. The terms of office of the several members are to be such as the GovernorGeneral determines, but must not in any case exceed seven years, with eligibility for re-appointment. The president and other members of the board are to be paid such remuneration respectively as the Governor-General from time to time may determine. A member of the board may be suspended by the Minister for such serious sins of omission and commission as inability, inefficiency, or misbehaviour, or neglect or failure to carry out any of the provisions of the ‘ act or the regulations. But the Minister must report promptly to Parliament the full grounds of any such suspension, and it then rests with’ Parliament whether the suspended member shall be dismissed or reinstated.
Having provided the board with reasonable security of tenure and powers, and made it duly representative of the principal interests concerned; and having safeguarded its actions by the provision for adequate authoritative technical assistance amongst its members, the important task will devolve on the Government of selecting suitable persons for the posts thus created. This will be a most serious duty, but I have no doubt that suitable persons will be found to undertake the responsible work involved in setting in motion the great organization which this bill is designed to bring into being. The board will represent the central executive of the scheme, but it is intended that in each State and each Territory within the Commonwealth there shall be a commissioner - a full-time officer - who shall represent the board in that State or Territory. In each State, but not in the Territories, this officer is to be assisted in his duties by a State advisory committee of four persons, one of whom is to be a legally qualified medical practitioner. The other three are to be selected from representatives of the approved societies engaged in the administration of the act. Finally, the board is to be required to report annually to Parliament on its activities.
– Is provision made for the representation of friendly societies on the central board?
– Not directly; but they will be directly represented on each State, advisory committee.
The range of benefits is considerable. There are no fewer than nine separate benefits, of which eight are applicable to male contributors and six to female contributors. The practical nature of the proposal is shown by the fact that for these benefits the male insured person himself is charged ls. per week and the female insured person 6d. per week. The two benefits which make earliest appeal to the insured person are the sickness allowance and the disablement allowance.
Sickness allowance corresponds to the benefit which in friendly society usage is generally known as “sick pay.” The disease, or physical or mental incapacity which gives the insured person the right to benefit, must be certified in general by a duly qualified medical practitioner, and benefit will not commence until the fourth day of incapacity. This will Have the effect of eliminating from the right to benefit the large number of relatively minor ailments which do not run beyond the third day of incapacitation. The rate of benefit payable to males, who are adults or married minors, is 27s. 6d. per week; to females, who are adults or married minors, 20s. per week; and to unmarried minors of either sex 15s. per week; but not so as to exceed, in this last case, one half of the average weekly wage.
– Must the sickness entail entire cessation from work?
– Yes. Where the period during which . continuous sickness allowance is payable continues ‘beyond six months, the benefit automatically becomes a disablement allowance, and the rate 20s. per week all round. Detached periods of sickness with less than a year intervening are for this purpose treated as continuous, but in such case there is no lapse of three days before the allowance becomes payable.
Associated with these benefits is a child allowance of 5s. per week payable to an insured person during receipt of sickness or disablement benefit in respect of each dependent child under the age of sixteen.
This has the very great merit of increasing the sickness and disablement benefits in those cases in which the increase is most needed.
– Will those receiving invalid pensions be eligible?
– No; they will not be insurable persons. Only workers come under the scheme.
The widows’ and orphans’ allowance of 20s. and 5s. per week, respectively, furnish much needed assistance in providing a little when the greatest blow of all occurs, the death of the breadwinner.
– Will the pensions paid to war widows be interfered with?
– No, they are expressly excluded.
It may, perhaps, be contended that the measure of relief does not appropriately meet the loss, but, as was pointed out earlier, this is not a scheme for providing all that is necessary to secure comfort, much as one would wish to propound such a scheme. It is a scheme for encouraging, enabling, even compelling, all workers to make some provision for their dependants.
To attempt to make an elaborate provision would be in many cases to render ‘ the scheme unworkable. Those who desire further provision can obtain it elsewhere with the appropriate institutions, of which there are many in Australia. Provision is made that the allowance to the widow shall be payable for at least three years after the death of her insured husband unless during that time she dies or re-marries, in either of which cases the benefit lapses.
If she is a widow with young children the widow’s allowance is to continue to be payable until such time as the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen, and is then to cease if more than three years have elapsed since the death- of the insured person.
The marriage allowance payable at the marriage of an insured woman is an interesting provision which will be appreciated by many. A girl becoming an insured person at age 16 and being married at the age of 26, will be entitled to receive a sum of approximately £4 on leaving insurance.
We come now to the benefits payable in respect of advanced age when the insured person ceases to be able to compete successfully for a living in the hurlyburly of a work-a-day world. Some with prudence, foresight and no small measure of self-restraint and possibly of privation to themselves or their dependants, have been able to accumulate a small sum for their declining years. Others with pathetic perseverance have saved enough for a decent burial, as if the disposal of the dead body were of greater significance than the privations of the living soul. Few people with the limited facilities for saving and the numerous and attractive inducements to spend, have been able to gather together more than a mere pittance. To these the assurance of a definite sum payable regularly without any stigma, merited or unmerited, attaching to it, is likely to prove a haven of refuge. It is the provision of these benefits, which in the bill have been termed superannuation allowances, that the Government proposes as the share, for the present, of the Commonwealth in the scheme now before us. The offer is made to the workers, and their employers, and incidentally to those voluntary contributors who come under the provisions of the bill, that if they provide in the manner laid down, the benefits in respect of sickness, disablement, dependent children, widows, orphans, and the small wedding present in the case of the insured woman entering matrimony, there will be provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund a pension of 20s. per week for their declining years irrespective of their means, and conditioned only on the fact of insurance, on their length of residence in Australia, and the attainment of superannuation age. As in the case of the old-age pension scheme at present operating, the ages for the commencement of the receipt of allowance are to be 65 in the case of males and 60 in the case of females.
These superannuation allowances are to be made available to insured persons of both sexes upon reaching superannuation age. In addition, it is proposed to apply them to the case of any pensioner whose wife attains the age of 60, and also to the widow of any deceased insured person if she is still a widow upon the attainment of the same age. I have already explained that at the date of widowhood the widow becomes entitled to a temporary allowance which in many cases will cease to be payable before she reaches superannuation age. On the attainment of that age, if she is still a widow, or if she is the wife of a pensioner under thi3 scheme, the widow’s superannuation allowance will become payable.
We have thus a range of benefits provided to meet some of the serious ills which are apt to befall the workers during their working period and after. It is true that we have not provided for all contingencies, and that we have not provided large sums by way of benefits. What has been aimed at is the inauguration of a sound scheme to provide basic benefits at rates which are within the reach of all. As previously said, to those who are in a position to extend these provisions, there are in Australia the means for such an extension, and the experience of other parts of the world warrants us in believing that the education in the methods of thrift which this scheme will furnish, will cause many who previously made no provision to seek opportunities for extending the benefits here provided.
– If a man with four children becomes incapacitated to-day, he is eligible for the invalid pension at £1 a week; if he should not become incapacitated until the day after this measure comes into force, would he receive £2 a week?
– An insured person must have been a contributor for six months before becoming eligible for sickness benefits. If an insured person with four dependent children became incapacitated six months and one day after he commenced to contribute, he would receive £2 7s. 6d. a. week for the first six months and thereafter £2 a week.
– But if he were incapacitated before he became eligible, he would receive only the invalid pension, and he would get nothing in respect of his children.
– The only persons eligible for benefits under this scheme are those who are actual contributors.
– What is the position of a person who has never been an employee ? Would he, at the age of 65 years, only receive the old-age pension?
– Our old-age pension legislation will still stand, and destitute persons not eligible for pensions under this measure will still be able to take advantage of it.
– What is the situation with regard to the maternity allowance ?
– It has been very strongly argued by certain interests that there should be a clear line of demarcation between maternity cases and other cases of illness and incapacity. Consequently it has been thought wise to leave the maternity allowance as it stands. I point out that very few of the contributors under this scheme will he eligible for the maternity allowance. The great majority of women bearing children lead a domestic life. Provision is made in one section of the bill that there shall be no sickness pa,yments for five weeks immediately succeeding child-birth in respect of any disease or disablement connected therewith; but for any other disease or disablement the allowances under this act will be payable as well as the maternity allowance then payable.
Having briefly reviewed the nature and extent of the benefits which it is proposed to provide under this scheme, I shall turn for a few moments to the classes of persons who are to be responsible for furnishing the contributions from which these benefits are to be paid. Apart from questions of sex and age, there are two distinct classes of contributors provided for, known respectively as employed contributors and voluntary contributors. An outstanding difference between them is that the former are compelled to come in, whereas the latter may exercise an option. Whether it might not he advisable to use compulsion with the latter class also, and consequently to render their designation “ voluntary “ inapplicable, is a matter for later consideration. In the present measure, following the lead of the original British legislation, special provision for voluntary contributors has been made.
In respect of voluntary contributors an attempt has been made to give to as many as possible of those who are eligible an opportunity to take advantage of this provision. With this end in view the Government has decided to pay in each case that portion of the rate for age which is in excess of 2s. per week for males and 1s per week for females in all those cases in which the voluntary contributor comes into the scheme within twelve months after its commencement.
This concession corresponds to that granted in allowing all employed male contributors at the initiation of the scheme to come in at a flat rate of1s. each by employer and employee. No voluntary contributor may be granted entrance to the scheme after attaining the age of 45. This is due to the fact that the rate for age increases rapidly after age 45 has been attained.
– Does that mean that no person over the age of 45 will be able to take advantage of the scheme?
– Such persons may not come in as voluntary contributors. As a matter of fact the rate of contribution would be too high to make it possible for them to do so.
– Is it not a fact that while employees will be forced to contribute to this scheme to get £1 a week benefit from it ultimately, other persons may receive £1 a week as an old-age pension without any such contribution ?
– The benefits under this scheme are nine in number, and the proportion of contribution made by the Government to enable the pension to be paid will he much higher than the amount it provides for old-age pensions. I suppose that in some cases the Government will pay benefits equivalent in cost to as much as 5s. per week to enable certain persons to receive benefits for which they pay only1s. a week.
– The fact is that superannuation will be 20s. per week with a personal contribution, and the old-age pensions will be 20s. per week without a contribution.
– It is true that ordinary old-age pensioners pay nothing; hut persons must be destitute to qualify for that pension. Superannuation under this scheme is independent of means.
Concerning employed contributors, it may be said that, apart from persons engaged in what are known as “ excepted employments “ and certain other specially “ exempt persons,” it is proposed that all workers employed under a contract of service shall be compelled to he insured if, being males, they are between the ages of 16 and 65, or, being females, they are between the ages of 16 and 60. All apprentices who receive a money payment will be compelled to insure. This condition is irrespective of sex, nationality, conjugal condition or method of remuneration. Amongst those employed persons who are specifically excepted are non-manual workers who are in receipt of an income from all sources in excess of £416 per annum.
The voluntary contributors provided for in the bill are of two types, those who enter insurance as voluntary contributors, and those who having entered as employed contributors, cease to be entitled to insurance as such and elect to become voluntary contributors. Under the English Act the number of the former type was so small that in one of the later amendments of the aci the provision for them was deleted, leaving only the second type, and of these the number amounts to little more than 2 per 1000 persons insured.
The persons whom it is proposed to exempt, on application, from the necessity for insuring are mainly those whose livelihood is provided for by some means other than the employment which would otherwise bring them under the compulsory provisions of the scheme. There are, however, some special provisions for exemption without special application. One of these is in respect of all employed males who have attained the age of 63 and all employed females who have attained the age of 58 at the commencement of the act. This is due to the fact that there is a minimum period of six months after entry to insurance before sickness benefit can commence, a minimum period of one year after entry before disablement benefit can commence, and a minimum of two years after entry before superannuation benefit can commence. In these circumstances the desirable course appeared to be to provide for special exemption for all persons who were within two years of superannuation age at the initiation of the scheme. Another cause for special exemption in Australia is the existence of remote localities and individuals, rendering effective administration of the act well-nigh impracticable. A further instance of special exemption is the aboriginal native of Australia.
I come now to the consideration of the sinews of war - the contributions. I have shown from, or in respect of, whom they come. In general, as already stated, each male worker, whether 16 or 56, has to provide from his wages ls. per week, and each female 6d. for 48 weeks in the year on the average. The generous benefits granted under this scheme are, of course, much more than . the payments actually made by the contributor himself will provide. They are rendered possible only by the fact that his contributions are supplemented from other sources for which the bill makes provision. In the case of the employed contributors who, on the basis of the English experience, will be much the most numerous type, the payments are to be all made in the first instance by the employer, one half being his own contribution and the other being made on behalf of the employed contributor and recovered by deduction from wages or otherwise. Any sum so deducted from wages or other remuneration is to be deemed to have been entrusted to the employer for the purpose of paying the contributions in respect of which it was deducted. Provision is made that, notwithstanding any contract to the contrary, the employer shall not be entitled to deduct the employee’s contribution from the wages of the employed contributor or otherwise to recover it from him. A penalty not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for three months is provided in the case of an employer who fails to pay any contributions for which he is liable, or who attempts to deduct any part of his own contribution from the wages of an employed contributor. There appear here to be adequate safeguards that the employer shall not pass on to the employed contributor anything other than the burden allotted to him under the bill. The further provisions of the measure ensure that the employed contributor shall have every facility for ascertaining that the payments on his behalf are duly made by his employer as well as being deducted from his wages. The fiat rate of contribution actuarially determined in respect of the benefits is 2s. per week in the case of male workers, shared equally between employer and employed contributor, and ls. per week similarly shared in the case of female workers.
I propose now to give a brief description of the machinery which has been devised for the collection and the allocation of these contributions. Dealing first with the employed contributor, it may be said that the underlying principle of the collection is that of requiring a stamp of a certain value to be affixed to a card of a certain type in respect of every week during the whole or any part of which an employed contributor has been in employment. The cards will be provided to the workers by the approved societies to which they belong. Concerning these societies, their organization, and their uses, I shall have more to say later. It is intended to make arrangements with the Postmaster-General for the production and sale of these stamps. Except in the case of voluntary contributors the purchasers of these stamps will be the employers who will from time to time obtain such stocks as they require’. The amount received in this manner by the PostmasterGeneral will be handed over by him from time to time- to the National Insurance Board, together with his periodical accounts for the cost of production and sale. The stamps purchased by die employer will be affixed week by week at the appropriate places on the cards of his workers presented to or left with him for the purpose, and at the end of the six months for which the card in use makes provision, the card with its array of defaced stamps will be lodged by the worker with his approved society, furnishing to the society his evidence of being duly financial and enabling the society, by presentation of it to the National Insurance Board, to . claim to have cash available for expenditure to a corresponding amount credited to its account in the books of the board. By such means the actual handling of cash with the associated danger of a portion of it remaining in the hands of some unauthorized person is reduced to a minimum and the. danger mentioned is almost eliminated. At the end of the chain of operations the insured person finds himself financial on the books of his society, and the society finds itself in funds in the accounts of the board without either the insured person or the society having actually handled a penny.
This does not mean that the control of the society’s business is taken out of its hands by the board. It will be seen later, when I explain the principles of the scheme of approved societies, that each society is given ample opportunity to manage its business in accordance with its ideas, as long as these are not in conflict with the provisions of die act. No society will be able to complain that it has not had an opportunity to make a success or a failure of its control. Extensive safeguards by means of periodical audit and valuation are applied but the elimination of the initiative of the society in the control of its business is one of the last things desired.
In respect of the voluntary contributor the work of purchasing and affixing stamps will, of course, devolve upon the contributor himself since he will function in the dual capacity of employer and employee as far- as his own contributions are concerned. Otherwise, the procedure corresponds with that indicated for the employed contributor.
I come now to one of the outstanding features of the proposed scheme, the proposal for control of the business by the insured persons themselves through the approved societies to which they will be required to belong. Under the proposals of the bill any group of not less than a thousand insured persons in Australia complying with the specifications will be at liberty to constitute themselves an approved society, and to have under the provisions of the bill complete control of its affairs. To what extent this opportunity for new combination will be availed of, it is impossible to say, but judging by the English experience under somewhat similar circumstances, it appears likely that use will be made for this purpose of existing organizations such as friendly societies, life assurance societies and companies or trade unions. In such cases as these latter, a feature of the bill is that the whole society or union becomes the approved society, but the provisions of the bill are to apply only to the special section which it is required to form for the purposes of national insurance. Provision is also made that all the funds and credits of the special national insurance section of any such parent society shall be as absolutely the security of the members included in that section as if they belonged to a society carrying on no other business than national insurance. Another type of group is that formed by a company or other body for the purposes of the bill, as for example, the employees of some large industrial organization. In any such case it is intended that the constitution of the group, designated in the bill a “ department,” shall provide for its absolute control by its members. Still another type is provided for in the case of special employers’ provident funds, which in certain circumstances and under adequate safeguards are to be allowed to function as approved societies. To facilitate the operation under the act of these particular organizations, clause 53 has been inserted. It sets out clearly what will be regarded as an approved society. The clause reads -
The board may, by notice in the Gazette, declare -
This will enable industrial organizations with existing provident schemes as well as existing friendly societies or trade unions giving benefits to register as approved societies and operate under the scheme. In the case of friendly societies operating under sub-section a, their executives will have complete charge of the operations of the approved society, but the. funds belonging to it will be kept apart from the funds of the friendly society itself. In this way we hope to mobilize the experience gained in the working of such organizations.
Clause 54 deals with what is termed a general approved society-. The procedure contemplated under this provision is somewhat novel, and is one of the features of the scheme. A general approved society will be conducted under the National Insurance Board. Any person eligible for insurance may apply for admission to it or for transfer of membership from any other approved society. Every person who within six months of becoming eligible for insurance has not become a member of any other approved society shall be deemed to have become a member of the general approved society on the same conditions as if he had applied for admission, and every person who has been expelled from an approved society shall be deemed to be a member of the general approved society on such conditions as the board may determine. It will be in a sense a clearing-house under the insurance scheme.
It is almost certain that even these four types will not account for all the persons who are compelled or who wish to become insured. Some may be refused admission for various reasons and some may not wish to be associated with any of the approved societies available to them. In the English scheme all such become what were known as “ deposit contributors,” and in the event of sickness or disablement became entitled to benefit only to the extent to which their own and their employers’ contributions on their behalf accumulated at interest would extend when paid out in benefits.1 On the exhaustion of these amounts the “ deposit contributor “ was entitled to nothing further under the scheme. This method which , is not insurance at all, but rather a type of savings bank provision, has always been regarded as unsatisfactory, and in the present bill it has been abandoned, its place being taken by provisions for a general approved society, which will cater for all those who will not or cannot join any other society, as well as under special provisions in each case for those who are expelled from other societies.
In adopting the principle of, the approved society the English precedent has been followed, the idea in both cases being that of utilizing existing institutions which in the past had done valuable work. There is in England a difference of opinion in certain quarters as to the most desirable methods of administration, but a British royal commission which reported in 1926 on the health insurance scheme recommended that they be retained, and this Government after a careful consideration of all aspects of the case is of opinion that with the improvementsprovided for in the present measure the scheme outlined will meet requirements more completely than any that could readily be devised. We have under it the retention of useful organizations combined with a marked degree of liberty available to the contributor in the matter of selecting the group with which he will be associated, and also to a large extent of selecting the type of control that he prefers.
In respect of costs of administration it has been assumed that each approved society will conduct its business at a rate approximating to that shown by experience to be required by the best conducted friendly societies.
A characteristic of the approved society, to which special reference must be made, is the fact that it must not be carried on for profit. This does not mean that there are not possible grades of management under which results may be experienced ranging all the way from success to failure; it means that there shall be no exploiting of the members by any person or organization for the purpose of making profits for persons outside the members. In other words, whatever the type of approved society, the operations under the act are intended to be purely mutual, in the sense in which that term is usually applied to life assurance matters. Unless the board is satisfied as to this characteristic it is not to be entitled to declare the body in question an approved society.
In regard to constitution, each approved society is to be entitled to frame its own rules subject to the approval of the board. To assist in this matter, and to give a lead towards an element of uniformity, provision is made for a set of model rules to be prescribed. These will no doubt form the basis of the rules proposed by the several societies.
Members are to be allowed to transfer freely from one approved society to another except at certain times, which will be explained more fully later, and any society is to have the right to refuse admission to any person unless such refusal is solely on the ground of age, and is to have the right to expel any member except on the ground of age or health. For instance, the Rechabite Order might refuse to accept a person for membership if he declined to sign the temperance pledge, but no society would be able to refuse an applicant merely on the ground of age.
– Will those who are already members of friendly societies be compelled to contribute to the fund?
– Many members of friendly societies will not be eligible to participate in the insurance scheme, and many workers who will be members of an approved society will not be members of friendly societies.
– But an employee who is a member of a friendly society and also a member of an approved society will have to contribute to both?
– That is so.
For breaches of the act or on evidence of maladministration, it is to be competent for the board to withdraw approval, and to take the necessary steps for winding up the national insurance- business of the society and preserving the rights of the members.
– How can the interests of an assured person be protected if the right of an organization to be an approved society is withdrawn ?
– Provision is made for the board to administer the affairs of the approved society. It can call on a society to put its affairs in order, and if the society fails to do so, the board may hand over its affairs to some other approved society. ‘
I now turn to the financial provisions. I have already given a sketch of the means by which the contributions payable in respect of employed and of voluntary contributors are directed into channels which result in their being placed to the credit of the approved societies to which those contributors belong, and being thus made available for the provision of benefits to them. I propose now to deal a little more extensively with the financial organization of the scheme, and to give an explanation of what is often regarded by some as a difficult and by others as an unnecessary complication in the scheme. I refer to the matter which is mentioned in one part of the bill as “ the initial deficit,” and which leads in another part to provisions for crediting certain “ reserve values “ to approved societies^ As the terms used are somewhat technical I must ask the close attention of members, but I think I can promise a clear exposition of what is involved and of the necessity for the course indicated. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer mainly to the major section, the male employed contributor, with his contribution of ls. per week, but the principles are exactly the same for the female with her weekly contribution of 6d.
When the scheme comes, into being the field will contain persons of all ages from 16 to 62 years last birthday, all of whom are just about to be insured. Since a young person is on the average subject to a smaller loss of employment through sickness or disablement than one of more advanced age, and runs a smaller risk of rendering his society liable for claims in “respect of such benefits as widows’, orphans’, and child allowances, it is clear that in the absence of any provision for equalization of rates of contribution it would, in fixing rates payable for the rest of life, be necessary for the society to charge a rate of contribution graduated according to age, continually increasing for each increase in the age of the entrant to insurance. Thus, supposing the appropriate rate payable by an entrant at age sixteen for the rest of his working life were ls. 6d. per week, the corresponding rates for entrants of higher age would be continuously greater until, say, for entrants at the age of 60 years they might be very heavy indeed.
It is clear that the imposition of varying rates according to age at entrance to insurance would be unworkable. This, I have already explained earlier. It is also clear that the rate for age, 16 years, say ls. -6d. per week, would not be sufficient to provide the stipulated benefits for persons entering at all ages. If this group of persons now entering insurance at all ages from sixteen to 62 years had, instead, all entered at the age of sixteen years at different dates over the past -46 years, each paying his ls’. 6d. per week, the present position would be that every one would have that uniform contribution to pay, and that in addition to this regular inflow of contributions there would be an accumulation of that portion of the level charge throughout life of ls. 6d. per week, which was not required to meet the charges in respect of the earlier years of insurance, but which it was necessary to husband and to fructify by investment to meet the time when the uniform ls. 6d. per week became, owing to advancing age, no longer sufficient to meet the demands for benefits. This is in essence the principle of the level premium which plays such an important part in sound life assurance and sickness insurance the world over, as distinct from methods which involve levying on members varying amounts from time to time to meet the claims as they arise. This latter hand to mouth method has grave defects, and in certain circumstances is doomed to failure. With the level premium throughout life the excess claims of later life are met by the accumulated reserves of the excess payments of the earlier period.
In introducing a scheme such as that now before us we are met with the necessity already pointed out of uniform contribution, associated with the absence of reserve provision. What has been done in preparing this scheme has been to ascertain, on the information available as to age distribution of the prospective insured persons, the amount of reserve which would have been in hand if every one had entered at the age of sixteen years, and if the due accumulation of the necessary reserves had been practised. This amount represents what has been called the “ initial deficit,” and one of the early duties of the board will be to ascertain in respect of each approved society the amount of its “initial deficit,” and in the terms of the. bill to “credit” the society with this amount. This does not mean that the society will bc entitled to claim from the board the amount of this “ credit “ in cash, but it does mean that in any valuation of the society’s financial position, it will be entitled to treat as assets for setting against its accrued and accruing liabilities the amount at the time so standing to its credit on the books of the board. Up to this point the “ credit “ based upon the “ initial deficit “ although serving a useful purpose is no more than a paper credit. The next step is the extremely important though often difficult one of converting promises into cash. In the present case this is effected piece-meal. The process of conversion is spread out over a period of 50 years, and the source of the requisite funds is the contribution in respect of the employed contributor. With the voluntary contributor there is no deficit since his contribution, whether paid wholly by himself or only in part, is based on rate for age at entry, and not on a uniform rate for all ages at entry at the initiation of the scheme. In providing for the initial deficit a calculation has been made of the sum that it would be necessary to add weekly to the level premium payable throughout life in respect of the employed contributor entering at the age of sixteen years. The amount to be so contributed has been computed to be rather less than 6d. per week, making with the level premium payable for entrants at the age of sixteen years a total of 2s. to be shared equally by employers and employees. This sum is to be payable in respect of all employed male contributors until such time as the initial deficit is liquidated. I hope I have made it clear that this initial deficit is a sum that will be definitely known as soon as the scheme is completely launched, and that its liquidation is a matter not only for the initial body of employed contributors, but also for all who enter subsequently during the period of liquidation. It may perhaps be contended by some that it is inequitable to require new entrants at the age of sixteen to bear a portion of the load, of initial deficit imposed on the scheme by its application at uniform rate of contribution to workers of all ages coming in at the commencement of the scheme, but the appropriate level premium for a person sixteen years of age is little more than ls. 6d. His employer finds the balance of the 2s. The arrangement is that during the period of liquidation every entrant at the age of sixteen pays rather less than two-thirds of the cost of the benefits available to him from contributions, and his employer pays rather more than one-third of this cost as well as the whole of the contribution towards the initial deficit. For entrants at the commencement of the scheme above the age of sixteen, the proportion of the cost of their own benefits actually borne by them is thus less than two-thirds, and this proportion continually diminishes with advancing age. The entrant at sixteen gets much more than he pays for, and at the same time his older and less fortunate brother, who was born long before this scheme comes into being, is also being helped.
The scheme comes into being with a deficit, but we are preparing from the start for a sinking fund to liquidate that deficit over a definite period.
The outstanding financial entity under the scheme is to be the National Insurance Fund, which, in a sense, will be a very special kind of bank whose clients will be approved societies, and the account of each approved society will be credited at an early stage with an I.O.U. of the board of indefinite duration bearing interest at a prescribed rate until paid. These are the reserves in respect of initial deficit with which we have been dealing. As soon as operations are really commenced, at all events within six months after the actual commencement of the scheme, the approved societies will begin to increase their credit by means of the vouchers, consisting of cards of cancelled stamps in respect of their members, which they will hand in. The whole of these amounts will be paid as cash to their account in the books of the fund, and 5.8d. of each 2s. will be used to convert the I.O.U.’s into cash, which is to be operated on as an ordinary current account. An approved society will draw cheques on its account in the National Insurance Fund to pay its claims and administration cpsts, and if its account will not stand it, provision is made to enable special advances to be made.
– Must every worker enrol with some approved society?
– Yes, it will be necessary for him to get a book from some approved society, and that book must be handed in every six months by the approved society with his cancelled stamps on it. Every one will be in the scheme, either the Government approved society or in some other approved society. No one will be outside. The National Insurance Board will occupy to the approved societies a position corresponding to that occupied by the Commonwealth in regard to the States. The scheme is so devised that, when once set in motion, the inflow of funds to the credit of the society will considerably exceed its outgo on claims, because the basis of contributions is so determined, and this, in the course of time, will provide cash balances available for investment. The amounts so available are to be ascertained from time to time by the board, and one half of the sum thus ascertained is to be carried to the central investment account, and to be invested by the board in Commonwealth Government securities at such prices as will yield the board not less than the current market rate of interest on similar securities. The other half is to be made available to the society for investment as it thinks fit, or, if the society so desires, to be invested by the board on behalf of the society. If the society chooses to invest its own half, it must do so under the restrictions that apply to the investment of trust funds under Commonwealth and State laws. That is to say, there will be ample provision to ensure that the funds of the society shall not be lost. But, in order to make certain that there will always be available a very substantial reserve of the society’s funds, one half of the balance available for investment will be invested by the National Insurance Board in Commonwealth securities.
Provision is made for the due audit of the accounts of all approved societies and for the actuarial valuation of their assets and liabilities, and also for a close supervision of the expenditure by them for the purposes of administration. Once every five years there will be a valuation, and, if the valuation of the assets of the several approved societies show surpluses over their liabilities, those surpluses will be dealt with in a special way, which is also one of the features of this bill.
Under the English scheme some dissatisfaction has been expressed in regard to the way in which these surpluses have been made available. In some cases approved societies have utilized them to provide additional benefits. Some organizations work under very much better conditions than others. For instance, the members of a society operating in a big mining district may work under conditions which are very much more unhealthy than those under ‘ which the members of a society located in a good residential town may work. Consequently, in order to provide that there may be some equalization over the whole nation, the Commonwealth Government has suggested in this bill a particular method of dealing with surpluses. One half of the surplus certified by the valuing actuary as being available for distribution is to ‘be made available to the society for the purpose, if it so desires, of giving additional cash benefits to its members. For instance, to a widow with no children it may give five instead of three years’ benefits; or it may give 7s. 6d. instead of 5s. for each child. A surplus is generally secured by a society because of its careful management, or because of a small sickness rate. In any case, the society that shows a surplus will be in a position to give better cash benefits. Of the balance of the surplus, fourtenths will be pooled and distributed among the various approved societies on the basis of effective membership. That arrangement will enable assistance to be given to societies like miners’ lodges, that do not work in salubrious surroundings. The remaining one-tenth is to be paid into a contingency fund designed to help lame dogs over any special stiles that may be encountered. It may possibly be used to help migrants, or in a variety of other ways to equalize any pressure over the whole of the scheme. On the other hand, if a deficit is shown on the quinquennial valuation as the result of an actuarial investigation, the bill provides for prompt steps to be taken to make it good. First of all, the board can demand that the society shall carry out its operations in a certain way, and if it is still not satisfied with the manner in which the society is conducted, it may take it over and manage it, or hand it over to the management of another approved society, which is run on sound lines. Provision is also made by which members of approved societies which have deficits cannot leave a sinking ship. They cannot derive benefit from one society in the heyday of its prosperity and then, because it has fallen on evil times, rush to another society. They must “ stick by the ship “ until the deficit is lifted by a special levy or some other means.
– Does this scheme apply to State and Federal public servants?
– Federal public servants are under a scheme which, taking it by and large, provides more benefits than are to be conferred by this scheme. Consequently, they will be exempt.
The scheme is necessarily dependent on a sound system of medical certification. In order to make certain that we shall have the benefit of the best advice possible, provision is made that the medical officers will deal directly with the board and not with the societies. They will also be paid by the board. There will be a panel of medical men. Every reputable medical practitioner will be available. Every person will be able to choose his own doctor, unless there is some sound reason why that doctor, either through giving too frequent certificates or for a similar reason, ought to be disciplined or penalized. I have discussed the question of certification with the medical profession, and they have given me many valuable suggestions with regard to the tightening up of the system. Provision is made in the bill that any one who knowingly makes a false statement in a certificate of incapacity shall be liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
There are numerous provisions in the bill of a miscellaneous character relating to such matters as disputes, exemption from taxation, powers of inspectors, offences, the making of regulations, and others.
– Supposing that a workman, after contributing for some years under the act, is unfortunate enough to get five years hard labour, how would his rights be safeguarded ?
– His rights would cease if he did not contribute inside six months.
– He would receive no wages in gaol.
– The fact that be is not contributing would place him outside the act. He would be kept in suspense for six months. After serving five years in gaol lie could re-purchase his status for that period by paying an additional levy. Where, under the act, the amount of a person’s income affects his eligibility for benefit or the amount of benefit payable to him, income arising in respect of war service is not to be taken into account. It is also provided that all benefits under the act are to be inalienable and that any assignment or charge on a benefit is to be void. Another provision of some importance is that no person is to be entitled to receive benefit under this measure and at the same time to receive a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It will not be possible for a person to join two or three friendly societies and also to come under this scheme, and thereby receive more money when he is ill than he received when well. The sum of £3 10s. has been agreed upon as the maximum that a man can receive from these various sources at one time, but in no case must the amount so receivable exceed two-thirds of the average weekly earnings during the previous twelve months.
It has also been decided that workmen’s compensation and the benefits’ under this scheme shall be mutually exclusive. The higher benefit will obtain; but not both benefits at the same time.
Regarding the number of persons who will come under the scheme when fully established, an estimate, which it is believed will be reasonably close, has been made in respect of the number of employed contributors.
Taking into account the exceptions and exemptions provided for in the bill, it is estimated that, if the scheme comes into force on 1st July, 1929, the number of employed contributors for the year ended 30th June, 1930, will be 1,600,000- persons, comprising 1,240,000 males and 360,000 females. It has also been estimated that 25 years later ‘ this number will have grown to a total of 2,400,000 persons, comprising 1,850,000 males and 550,000 females. Those figures relate to the compulsorily insured.
In respect of the number of voluntary contributors there is no satisfactory basis for estimation, since so much in this case depends upon the operations of the human will. The persons who will be eligible for voluntary contribution are the persons who are working on their own account without employing others, and small employers, the stipulation being made in all cases that the total annual income must not exceed £416. From experience under the English act, it appears improbable that a large number will take advantage of the benefit provided, and this experience suggests that a total of as many as 50,000 persons at the commencement of the scheme would be quite an outside estimate.
– What would be the position of a person who to-day receives less than the maximum income under the scheme, but later exceeds it?
– If he is compulsorily insured, he could carry on under the scheme as a voluntary contributor. The nature of these proposals is such that the additional costs to be borne by the Government will not be heavy during the next few years. In fact, owing to the relief which the scheme will effect in the matter of invalid pensions, it is estimated that for the first six years under the scheme the demands on the Treasury under . the scheme, and the consequently modified working of oldage and invalid pensions, will not be any heavier than those which would be made under the old-age and invalid pensions if allowed to function alone without the interference of any such scheme.
After that the relative charges on the Treasury will commence to grow, and it is estimated that in ten years the combination of benefits under contributory and non-contributory pensions will somewhat exceed what would have been payable if the old-age and invalid pensions had continued in operation alone.
I have given in short space an impressionist picture, perhaps something more, of the measure which I have the honour to introduce. I have shown honorable members that in the provisions made for its control an endeavour has been made to ensure that all interested parties shall be represented, and that there shall be appropriate technical assistance to maintain its soundness.
This measure has been made possible by the painstaking work of the royal commission which investigated the question, and which was so ably presided over by Senator Millen, to whom this Parliament is greatly indebted for his untiring efforts, extending over a lengthy period.
I am appending to my address, as a guarantee of the soundness of the scheme presented, the report on the bill by three fully qualified actuaries, who have assisted in its preparation, for it must be recognized that in a matter of this sort the actuary necessarily plays as important a part as an architect in connexion with the erection of a house, a public building, or a monument, or an engineer in connexion with the construction of a bridge, a reservoir or a railway. These three experts have certified to the soundness of the scheme put forward.
All of these gentlemen have the highest actuarial qualification, the Fellowship of the Institute of Actuaries of Great Britain and Ireland. One of them, Mr. C. H. Wickens, is the Commonwealth Statistician and Actuary; another, Mr. A. W. Sneddon, is a prominent actuary of lengthy and extensive experience in one of our leading life offices; and the third, Mr. S. Bennett, is the Government Statistician and Actuary of Western Australia, and is an expert in friendly society practice and finance.
A perusal of their report indicates that the actuaries have not merely analysed the financial side of this great question, but also contributed materially to the construction of the bill itself, and to the elaboration ofthe machinery necessary for setting the scheme in motion. In fact, the distinctive character of the solutions furnished by them to the numerous difficulties which the workings of the English act has rendered apparent has been mainly due to the intimate knowledge of the details of the British scheme which these three distinguished gentlemen have brought to the discussion, and has been quite as valuable in the preparation of the scheme as the strictly actuarial side of their work. In addition, I wish to thank the leaders of the friendly societies and other organizations who discussed with us the various features of this bill. They gave us freely of their experience, and were instrumental in enabling us to avoid possible mistakes.
– Did they approve of the bill?
– That is scarcely for me to say ; but many of their suggestions have been adopted in toto.
I have outlined as briefly as possible the basis on which the Government’s proposals rest, the scope of the measure which we have brought down to put them into operation, the comprehensive benefits for which provision has been made, and the widespread nature of their application. Having done this, I feel that I can leave the matter with the House with every confidence that members will recognize and appreciate the honest effort of the Government to contribute a practical proposal for the banishment of that grim spectre of want and misery that has too long haunted our sick and our aged.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– (By leave). - As I have informed the House on several occasions recently, communications have for some time been passing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales respecting the position of the coal-mining industry, which has been the subject of grave consideration. Today in the Parliament of that State, the Premier of New South Wales is making a full statement about the matter, and as he will discuss the causes which have brought about the present unsatisfactory situation, and will outline the results of recent events affecting the industry, I do not propose to deal now with the subject exhaustively, but shall confine myself to an account of what is proposed so far as it affects the Commonwealth as a whole.
As honorable members are aware, the production of coal is much larger in New SouthWales than in any other State of the Commonwealth, and the people of many of the other States are largely dependent on that State for their coal supplies, particularly for the making of gas and for use by their railways. During recent months, however, there has been serious industrial depression in the coal-mining areas of New South Wales, due to a lessening of the demand, both for internal and external consumption. To some extent this loss of markets has been caused, here as elsewhere, by the substitution of oil as a fuel in place of coal, and by the greater use of electrical power; but unquestionably in Australia the dearness of coal has been an important contributing factor, particularly in regard to our export and bunkering trade. The diminution in the demand for coal has brought about much unemployment, and consequently has seriously, engaged the attention of the New South Wales Government. If the matter were wholly a local problem, the Commonwealth Government would not be justified in taking action with regard to it; but as it is from New South Wales that a great part of Australia must draw its coal supplies, it is of national concern. The dearness of coal must increase costs throughout the Commonwealth, because it is so largely used by our shipping transport services, our public utilities, such as the railways and gas works, and by the manufacturing industries generally, and it is, therefore, essential to the profitable conduct of those and other activities that there shall be a cheap and sufficient supply of coal available to them. For this reason the Commonwealth Government felt that the situation in New South Wales was one which merited its attention, and, in conjunction with the Government of that State, has been investigating it. After a full inquiry and examination it has been decided that the first and immediate step must be to bring about a reduction of the price of coal, not only for use in Australia, but also for export. It is necessary that the whole economic position of the industry shall be inquired into, but the position will become much worse if we wait for such an investigation to be concluded before any reduction of price is made.
Prom the evidence before us it appears clear that no reduction of less than 4s. a ton for consumption within New South Wales and of 5s. a ton for external and interstate trade would be of material assistance to industry. This conclusion having been reached, the Government of New South Wales opened negotiations with those concerned in the industry in an endeavour to effect the necessary reduction. The Premier of that State, and Mr. Stevens, the Assistant Treasurer, have had many and long interviews with representatives of the mineowners and of the miners, and to-day the Premier will, in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, make the definite offer to the coal industry that his Government is prepared to reduce the charges levied , by it for railway freight, craneage, harbour dues, &c, on coal by the sum of 2s. per ton. That offer is conditional upon the owners agreeing to reduce . their profits by a sum equivalent to ls. a ton, and upon the miners agreeing to bring about the same reduction in the wage cost per ton. If this offer is accepted, it will have the effect of reducing the price of coal in New South Wales by 4s. a ton. These are matters entirely within the jurisdiction of the New South Wales authorities, and are being handled entirely by the New South Wales Government.
The Commonwealth Government has . been advised by the Government of New South Wales of these proposals. That Government has indicated that 4s. per ton is the maximum reduction which it can bring about, and has asked us to help by bringing about a further reduction of ls. in the price of coal for the export and interstate trade. The Premier of New South Wales has pointed out that the benefit of the full reduction of 5s. per ton will go to the consumers in other States. It is hoped, too, that there may be a further reduction effected through a reduction in coal freight on coastal steamers.
The Commonwealth Government has given serious consideration to the suggestion. It recognizes that a reduction of 5s. per ton would be of material benefit to all the States using Newcastle coal. Four shillings of the cost of that reduction will be borne by New South Wales; all that the other States will be asked to pay for will be the remaining ls. If the price of coal outside New South Wales is reduced by 5s. a ton that will have a very great effect in diminishing the cost of production generally as well as the cost of transport and essential services in all parts of Australia.
We have decided that the benefits to be derived from such a reduction would be So great as to warrant our agreeing to it, in the national interest, and we have informed the Government of New South Wales that in the event of its proposals being accepted, and a reduction of 4s. a ton being brought about in that State, we shall be prepared to take action with a view to a bounty of ls. a ton being paid in respect of coal exported to another State or overseas. Our assistance, however, will be definitely limited to a period of one year, during which time a full investigation into the position of the industry must be made.
The Government anticipates that this reduction will be brought about, and is in communication with the Governments of the other States, public utilities, and large manufacturers, in an endeavour to arrange that the decrease in the cost _of coal shall be reflected in selling prices generally. A reduction in the cost of production should mean a corresponding reduction in the cost of living throughout Australia. Already negotiations have taken place with some of the large users of coal, such as the Broken Hill companies, the iron and steel industry at Newcastle, the Hugh V. McKay Harvester Works, in Victoria, and others, all of which have agreed that the reduction; if brought about, will be reflected in the price at which they will sell their products. If the States follow the same course, it will have a tremendous effect upon costs. I saw in a newspaper the other day that the Minister for Railways in Victoria intimated that a reduction of this character would mean that freights in that State alone could be reduced to the extent of £250,000.
The Government has taken this action by reason of the fact that the course proposed will constitute the initial and a very important step towards solving the greatest, problem that is troubling Australia to-day. This is an effort to reduce the cost of production, with a resulting reduction of the cost of living generally. As 1 have said, this assistance will be definitely limited to one year, and within that time the industry must inquire into its own circumstances and re-organize its arrangements so that without further help it can supply coal at a price which will not only enable it to retain its present markets, but also to extend the field of its operations. Nothing further can be done until the attitude of those engaged in the industry itself is disclosed. Our offer is dependent upon the acceptance of the proposals of the New South Wales Government, and the reduction of 4s. a ton being made in the price of coal for internal consumption.
– Will the same arrangement apply in respect of the exportation of coal from Queensland?
– Yes, if a similar reduction in price is made in that State. The bounty will be payable on the export of coal from any State in which its internal price has been reduced by 4s. per ton.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next, at 11 o’clock a.m.
National Insurance Bill - Communications with Tasmania.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I think that I should intimate to the House and to the country the course proposed with respect to the National Insurance Bill, the second reading of which was moved by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) this afternoon. It is not intended to proceed during the present session beyond the stage which was reached this afternoon. Owing to the importance and complexity of the matters dealt with in the measure, the Government has deliberately adopted the course, which I admit is not usual, of bringing forward a measure just prior to the dissolution of the Parliament. We have done this because we think it essential that the people of Australia should have the fullest opportunity to consider the proposals embodied in the bill. There is, I believe, general agreement among the people of Australia as to the wisdom and necessity of establishing some system of national insurance as a protection against the financial effects of sickness, invalidity, and death, but at the same time there is great divergence of opinion as to the best methods by which effect can be given to that principle. We have also to take into consideration the present financial and economic position of Australia, and the effect of such a measure upon industry generally. In this bill we are laying a foundation upon which the future structure of national insurance in Australia will be built. The financial provisions alone are of the utmost importance and of the greatest complexity, but when once we have established a system of national insurance, with the whole of its finances based upon actuarial calculations, it will be extremely difficult to diverge from the principle originally laid down. That is another reason why there should be the fullest consideration nf the measure before its provisions are given the effect of a statute. The Government has devoted long and careful thought to the bill, and has had the benefit of the best advice and assistance that could be obtained in Australia in formulating its proposals. But although we believe that the proposals that we have submitted constitute the best method of dealing with a difficult and complex problem, there are so many factors to be taken into account, and so many divergent views to be reconciled, that the measure will require the fullest consideration of the people before it becomes law. We, therefore, invite copious criticism and comment from all those interested in or likely to be affected by its provisions. The subject is of paramount importance; it extends beyond party politics and party considerations. It is hoped that the bill will be considered on its merits, and that all those interested in the subject will give us their best assistance and advice. It has been introduced at this stage to give ample time for the study of its provisions and the ascertainment of its effect.
.- The shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania is causing a great deal of anxiety to the people of that State. Last year the Public Accounts Committee inquired into this matter and submitted a report and recommendation. On the 13th December the Prime Minister outlined in the House the service which the Government considered essential, and which it proposed to endeavour to provide. Tenders called by the Government closed in July last, and about a month ago the press announced that only one tender had been received, and that the tenderer had asked for’ a subsidy of £96,000; the Government was not prepared to grant that amount and would negotiate further with the shipping companies. I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House whether those negotiations are proceeding. The existing service is not only causing anxiety to the people of Tasmania, but is provoking abuse of the Commonwealth Government because it appears unable n take action to improve the existing state of affairs. In the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day appear some comments by Mr. Trenchard Miller, Chief Commissioner of Scouts in New South Wales, headed “ The Oonah, An Abominable Service.” Mr. Miller is not a dissatisfied Tasmanian; he is a resident of New South Wales, and his view will be endorsed by every traveller who has occasion to use that service. The people of Tasmania appear to be in a cleft stick, formed of a combination of seamen on one side, and of steamship owners on the other. That combination is a product oi the Navigation Act. Obviously the Commonwealth Government cannot permit the shipping combine to extort an exhorbitant subsidy for a service which the Government says is essential. In private conversation with the PostmasterGeneral, I have suggested what might be done, but it would not be fair to repeat that suggestion now if he is about to negotiate with the company. I believe, however, that certain steps which could be taken would be effective. The Commonwealth has admitted its responsibility, and the delay in bringing the matter to a decision is making the people of Tasmania justly impatient. Will the Government let the public know what steps are being taken to provide a service which the Prime Minister has declared to be necessary for the well-being of Tasmania ?
– The . Government has given a great deal of attention to the provision of a better service between the mainland and Tasmania. When tenders were called in July of this year, the only one received was that from the company which is now conducting the service. The tenderer asked for a subsidy of £96,000 as compared with the present subsidy of £30,000, and the only additional advantages offered were the reduction of the trip by one hour and the inclusion of one extra trip to the NorthWest coast. The Government did not consider those improvements worth an extra £66,000. Negotiations for the provision of a better service are in progress, and until some determination is reached 1 am unable to make a statement to the House. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) may rest assured, however, that the Government is as anxious as he is that an improved service to Tasmania should be established.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) regarding the service from the mainland to the North-West coast of Tasmania, and I remind the Postmaster-General that the travelling facilities for tourists could be immediately improved if arrangements were made for the Loongana to take over the running from the Oonah during the summer months. At present the Loongana runs for only two months in the year. The extra cost would not be very great; the necessary arrangements could be made with the shipping companies on fair terms. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will investigate this suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280914_reps_10_119/>.