12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Iask the Prime Minister whether the Government has decided what grants shall be paid by the Commonwealth to the States of South Australia,Western Australia, and Tasmania, following the reports by the Public Accounts Committee?
– The grants to States will be dealt with by the Treasurer in his budget speech to-morrow.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state whether the economies to be effected in his department will result in further dismissals of employees?
– -The aim of the department is that, consistent with economy, further dismissals shall bo avoided.
– I understand that some time ago samples of Australian hops were sent to Canada. Has the Minister for Markets received any acknowledgment of the consignment ; and, if so, will he indicate the effect of it?
– At the suggestion of the honorable member for Franklin, I arranged, when I was in Canada, for a trial shipment of hops to be sent from Australia to the Dominion. I am pleased to say that the hops were very favorably reported on, and it is expected that substantial orders will follow.
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs seen the following newspaper report of a statement by the -Canadian Minister for National Revenue:
The Government had decided to prohibit the importation from Soviet Russia of coal, wood pulp, lumber and timber ofall kinds, asbestos and furs, in the public interest, following the receipt of documents and other evidence, and with the authority held under an amendment to the Customs Tariff Act to prohibit importation from any country not a contracting party to the Treaty of Versailles. . . We are convinced that there is forced labour in the cutting of timber, in the mining of coal, that political prisoners are exploited, and that the standard of living is below any level conceived of in Canada.
Has the Minister seen also the following paragraph : -
– Order! The purpose of a question is to elicit information, not to give it. I cannot permit the honorable member to continue reading long extracts.
– I am asking the Minister if he has readcertain published statements.
– I am aware of that, but the honorable member will realize that it would be possible to carry on an irregular debate by that means.
– I ask to be allowed to read a short paragraph from the Empire Parliamentary Association’s Report on Foreign Affairs for the months of January and February last. Referring to the United States of America the report states -
On 10th February the Treasury decided to place an embargo on lumber and pulp wood from four White Sea districts in which it has evidence that convict labour has been used.
Has the Minister seen those statements, and has his department made up its mind as to what action it will take in regard to the Russian timber which has arrived at Sydney?
– The first statement quoted by the honorable member was brought to my notice; the second I have not seen. The invoices showing the value of the timber unloaded in Sydney have not yet reached Australia. As soon as they arrive they will be referred to me. Meanwhile the interests of the Australian timber industry are being protected, because security at the rate of 10s. per 100 superficial feet is being demanded to cover any anti-dumping duty that may be applied in the event of the Tariff Board reporting that the timber from Russia is being dumped. There is no need for apprehension on the part of the timber interests. The right action will be taken by the Government at the right time.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is true that Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, has delayed signing the Debt Conversion Agreement, and has telegraphed to the right honorable gentleman to the effect that “ serious legal questions have” arisen as to whether the draft conversion agreement will give effect to the Melbourne conference plan”? Do Mr. Hogan’s objections refer to the second schedule drafted by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) ?
– In reply to a question yesterday I stated that, to the best of my knowledge, all the State Governments but one had signed the agreement, but that the Victorian Government had raised certain legal questions, which were being explored.
– Why should that State receive ‘ different treatment from the others?
– It is not being treated differently. The Premiers have all taken legal advice on the subject, and lawyers differ in their opinions. The matter is an important one, and naturally no government will commit itself to the agreement until it is satisfied that its interests are fully protected.
– Was the objection of Victoria’ raised to the second schedule?
– It is connected with the last schedule. The Commonwealth Government is having the matter examined by its legal officers.
– Is the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) yet in a position to announce the date upon which we may expect the agreement concerning the reciprocal trade treaty with Canada to be tabled ?
– Some days ago I received from Canada a signed copy of the agreement, but the request has been made by the Prime Minister of that dominion that,as the copy signed by the Australian Government will not reach Ottawa until the week-end, the Commonwealth Government should delay the submission of the agreement to this Parliament until next Tuesday, when our copy of the agreement will he presented to the Canadian Parliament.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In commenting upon the suspension of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) from the House last night, the Sydney Morning Herald, in to-day’s issue, states that I and other members of the Opposition voted with the Government. As is well known, the motion had nothing to do with the Government. It was connected solely with the proper conduct of the proceed-, ings of this House, and no party significance attached to it.
– The following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 8th inst. : -
The Postmaster-General stated to-night that he had induced the Treasurer, in the event of the present exchange premium decreasing, to increase the gold bonus proportionately, so that the Government’s proposed 50 per cent. cut in the gold bounty under its economy proposals would not have the effect of reducing the bounty below 20s. per ounce with exchange rates at par.
When the Prime Minister and the Treasurer met a deputation from Western Australia on Wednesday, were they aware of this alleged arrangement having been made on the previous day? If so, why was the arrangement not disclosed to the deputation? Further, does the Prime Minister approve of his Ministers making publicity out of their confidential discussions ?
– It is not permissible to ask a Minister for an expression of his personal opinion; therefore, the last part of the honorable member’s question is out of order.
– The facts contained in that paragraph are substantially correct. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) made an announcement that the amount payable under the gold bonus would be reduced by 50 per cent. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. A. Green) raised the matter with the Treasurer, myself, and other Ministers.
– And other honorable members raised it, too.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) also mentioned the matter.
– The honorable member for Bendigo was one of the principal ones to battle for it.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members to assist the Chair in conducting the business of the House.
– Honorable members protested against what appeared to be a discrimination against the gold industry.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member for Kennedy ignores the appeal of the Chair I shall name him forthwith.
The honorable member for Kennedy again interjecting,
– I name the honorable member for Kennedy.
– I ask the honorable member to express regret to the Chair for disobeying its ruling.
– The same restrictions should apply to members occupying the front bench.
– I withdraw my interjection.
– The PostmasterGeneral, with others, protested against the proposed 50 per cent. reduction, which was alleged to be a discrimination against the gold industry when compared with the proposed 20 per cent. reduction of other bounties. The reply given by the Treasurer and myself was that gold was obtaining the same price on the world’s market as hitherto, and, in addition, the producers of gold were benefiting by a very high rate of exchange, which gave them a premium of approximately 24s. an ounce. It was agreed that if the exchange should come down, and the gold industry should lose that premium, the rate of the bounty should be increased from 10s., in order to preserve the advantage now enjoyed by the high exchange. An amendment to that effect will be inserted in the Gold Bounty Act. As a result of the deputation which waited upon the Treasurer and myself yesterday, the proposal was altered somewhat. I am glad to say that representatives of the gold industry who formed part of the deputation left yesterday quite satisfied that the Government was treating the industry fairly.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether honorable members are to look for statements about the financial policy of the Government to the utterances of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) in the House, or to interviews by the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) with representatives of the press ?
– A Minister, like any other member, is entitled to obtain expression of his own views in the press. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has done so on many occasions, without exception being taken to his action.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government permit a workers’ delegation from Russia to visit Australia, and provide facilities for such delegation to inquire into the working conditions of the various trades in Australia, on condition that the Soviet Government reciprocates and provides similar facilities for a delegation of Australian trade unionists, in order to clear up the many, various, and contradictory statements concerning Russia ?
-Should a delegation to Australia of the nature indicated by the honorable member be suggested by the Soviet Government, the proposal will receive consideration by the Commonwealth Government.
Mr.FRANCIS asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the aggregate issue of Australian notes on the last Monday in June, of each of the years 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1931?
– The aggregate issue of Australian notes on the last Monday in June of each of the years shown was -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government take into consideration the question of permitting any public servant who is now near the retiring age to retire forthwith in a manner similar to that permitted to public servants of the Defence Department and of the Income Tax Department, when the Commonwealth took over the management of the State Taxation Departments ?
– The financial position of the Commonwealth is such that the Government is not in a position to incur a liability in connexion with the retirement of public servants before the statutory retiring age, such as that incurred in the cases mentioned by the honorable member.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the amount received in overtime payment and travelling allowance during the financial year ending 30th June, 1931, by
the private secretary to the Minister for Trade and Customs; and(b) the private secretary to the Assistant Minister, Senator Duly?
– No overtime is paid to private secretaries. With regard to travelling allowances, I would refer the honorable member to the reply given to him on the 2nd July on this subject.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Action by Commonwealth.
General, upon notice -
– The two actions have reached the stage at which the Commonwealth is ready to have them set down for trial atsittings of the High Court in Sydney, commencing on the 28th July. Pending the result of certain negotiations entrusted by the Premiers Conference to a sub-committee, instructions to take this step are being withheld for the present.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The basic wage of all adult male officers and employees of the Commonwealth Public Service is reduced by an amount sufficient to provide the sum involved in the payment of child endowment. The procedure followed is set out in Determination No. 10 of 1923, issued by the Public Service Arbitrator, copy of which is available in the Parliamentary Library.
– Yesterday the honorable member forCorangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
No. The difference between the actuarial surplus and the amount placed to reserve has been earmarked to enable additional benefits to be provided. A superannuation pension is made up of two separate and distinct amounts, viz. -
The moneys of the superannuation fund, which belong to the contributors, cannot be used to make up for any reduced payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 17 - Liquor.
No. 18 - Explosives.
No. 19- Supply (No. i) 1931-32.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from 8th July, vide page 3579).
Clause 1 (Short title).
– The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is adopting with regard to this bill procedure similar to that which he adopted with the last.. At the last moment, and just as the consideration of the bill in committee is to be commenced, honorable members have been handed a sheaf of amendments, which are, in bulk, practically as big as the bill itself. I ask him to inform the committee why the Government or the Crown Law authorities are unable to present bills to Parliament in the form in which it is intended that they shall be considered by honorable members.
– Surely the honorable member will acknowledge that if the Minister in charge of a bill is to take notice of, and accept, the suggestions made by honorable members during the secondreading debate, he must embody them in amendments to be submitted during the committee stage of the bill. These amendments could not be presented earlier.
– They were available to us only ten minutes before we are to deal with them.
– They could not be made available before. They had to be drafted and printed. Some of them have only just come from the printing office.
– Honorable members should be given sufficient time to consider the amendments that are to be proposed.
– The honorable member will find some of his own. suggestions among these amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Parts).
.- I take it that this is, in effect, the main clause of the bill, and I have a word to say in regard to the proposal to reduce old-age pensions. Under the bill, if a person owns property to a value greater than £500, he will not be eligible to receive the full amount of the old-age pension.
– “Would it not be better for the honorable member to wait until we come to that portion of the bill which deals expressly with the reduction of oldage pensions?
– Very well, I shall defer my remarks.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears - “ authority under the Commonwealth “ means any authority constituted by the Commonwealth, or by or under any act, but does not include the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or any corporation any shares in which are held by or on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That after the word “ Australia “ in the definition of “authority under the Commonwealth “ the words “ the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other act or in any regulation, contract or agreement or in any award, determination, order or decision of any authority having power to fix rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances, all salaries of officers and employees, whether such salary is payable under special appropriation or otherwise, shall be reduced by Thirty-four pounds per annum in the case of adult officers or employees and of married officers or employees who are not adults, and by Seventeen pounds per annum in the case of unmarried officers or employees who are not adults:
– This clause deals with the general reduction of salaries and wages of Commonwealth employees, and also provides for the reduction of wages of those engaged in semi-governmental activities. I, therefore, intend to oppose it. Much has been said of the arbitrary conduct of the Government in bringing about these reductions, and of its violation of the Labour principles upon which it was returned at the last general election. This aspect of the matter cannot, I feel, be over-emphasized by those who still retain their Labour principles, and would, if they could, force this Labour Government to honour them. I have here a leaflet which was circulated during the last elections among the Commonwealth public servants, appealing to them to support the Labour party. I propose to quote from this document so that those to whom the appeal was made may in future know how much trust to place in those who made it. On another occasion they will require something more than pamphlets before they will accept the word of those who then deceived them. The pamphlet states -
Labour stands four-square for the policy of industrial arbitration for the settlement of questions relating to rates of pay and general conditions of employment.
In conformity with this general policy Labour is definitely opposed to any restriction of the existing arbitration rights of Federal Service employees.
Labour will protect the present Federal Public Service arbitration system from interference by reactionary interests. Support this policy; vote Labour.
E. G. Theodore,
Director, Labour Campaign
Trades’ Hall, Sydney
On the back of the pamphlet are printed these further promises to the public servants -
Labour will remedy the present inequitable system whereby the Public Service unions are debarred the right of instituting legal proceedings in defence of their members in respect to breaches of arbitration awards by the Administration. Labour will take the necessary steps to remove unjust barriers against advancement in the Service by reason of age. Labour will replace the present obsolete Workmen’s Compensation Act relating to government employees with more up-to-date legislation.
This was actually done towards the close of last session, and I was pleased to be the responsible Minister when that legislation was passed in the interests of those to whom the promises had been made in that particular direction. The statement continues -
Labour will overhaul the system of promotion with a view to instituting safeguards against favoritism.
That was the expressed policy of the Labour party at that time, and this clause of the bill cuts right across the definite and solemn undertaking given to the men and women employed in the Public Service. They undoubtedly supported Labour at the election, not merely by their votes, but with their financial resources also, and did so to a greater extent than ever before in the history of federal elections. That is what the Public Service did for Labour two years ago, and this is the reward they are getting to-day. It is, however, pleasing to observe that some of the men in the Public Service organizations have had the courage of their convictions, and are fighting against the Government’s proposals. Others have surrendered abjectly, and they will, I am sure, be treated as they deserve by the rank and file of their organizations. Recently a meeting of public servants, attended by 600 persons, was held at Melbourne, in the Central Hall, Little Collins-street. It was addressed by a number of prominent Melbourne citizens, among them Mr. Blackburn, a member of the State Parliament, and at the conclusion of the meeting the following resolution was carried: -
That this meeting of Commonwealth PublicService employees declares that the proposed “ cut “ of the pay and pensions of governmental employees will be unjust and injurious, not only to its immediate victims, but also to the mass of the community, because - (1) It will violate the contracts upon which thousands of men and women have become and remained public employees, and have contributed to superannuation funds; (2) it will diminish the capacity of public employees to continue their superannuation payments as well as reducing the Government contributions to the superannution fund; (3) It will reduce the power of public employees to buy the products of other workers, thereby increasing the business depression and unemployment; (4) it will encourage private employers to seek still further reductions of wages just as the State reductions in 1030 led to the 10 per cent. “cut” in the basic wage; (5) it will force from salary and wage earners contributions which bondholders and mortgagors will be free to refuse to make.
That this mass meeting, therefore, records its uncompromising hostility to this raid on pay and pensions, and urges its members to support the election or re-election of any candidate who opposes the plan, and confidently expects and invites the support and cooperation of the general community in resisting a policy which, as recent) experience has proved, cannot relieve, but must intensify the calamities of business depression and unemployment.
The resolution expresses definitely the views of the Commonwealth Public Service organizations in Victoria. Their reference to the agitation that occurred a few months ago, when theFederal Arbitration Court cut real wages by 10 per cent., is extremely pertinent at this time. I well remember that at that time the Government expressed strong opposition to the action of the Arbitration Court in that case. As a matter of fact, the Government intervened, and asked the court to withhold the application of its determination because of a new monetary policy that it proposed to put into effect. The Government then contended that the 10 per cent. cut in real wages should not be applied until such time as its monetary policy had been applied, and, as is well known, the Attorney-General attempted to prevail upon the Chief Judge to defer the application of the award, in order to give the Government an opportunity to give effect to its new policy. At that time it was proposed to introduce legislation to that end, by which the Government had definitely declared it would stand or fall. The Public Service organizations, in the resolution I have just read, draw attention to the fact that it had been said by the court, at the time when the 10 per cent. cut was made, that increased employment would follow that reduction. The members of this committee will recollect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) then said, “ If the court has determined on this course, as the Government accepts arbitration as a means of deciding these questions, the responsibility now rests on the employers to provide the extra employment which the court declares will follow, if this 10 per cent. cut is applied “. But we all know that unemployment has increased since then. Thousands more are out of work now than at the time when the cut was made. Only last week, when checking up the unemployment figures in New SouthWales, I learned that 5,000 had been added to the list quite recently, one factory alone, Nestle’s, at Abbotsford, having discharged between 200 and 300 employees in one week. Yet the Government is now following the very policy that it denounced but a short time ago. Therefore, the statements made by the Public Service organizations in this regard are important. Those statements are emphasized by the circumstances in which the workers find themselves to-day, and it is fitting that now that Ave are considering the clause before the committee the whole of the facts should be recorded. In New South Wales, the Public Service organizations have also taken steps to declare-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I oppose the fixation of wages by Parliament. While we have an arbitration system, Parliament should not assume the power exercised by the court to determine wages.
– But the arbitration system is breaking down, all along the line.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion. On the 4th June, an application was made to the Industrial Court in Brisbane for a reduc tion of the basic wage from £3 17s. to £3 7s. 6d. per week; but, despite the statement by the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) last night, that 17s. 6d. will purchase as much now as could be bought with £1 a short time ago, even the judges of the Arbitration Court in Queensland would not agree to the reduction sought. I was surprised to hear the Postmaster-General remark that I had spoken twice previously on the second reading of the bill. When the Labour party was in opposition, he was one of the militants, and was foremost in the singing of “ Solidarity for Ever “, and I think that he is the member concerning whom the Senate carried a resolution of condemnation for the singing of “The Red Flag” in one of the hotels in Canberra. The Minister need not abuse members in this chamber merely because they do not see eye to eye with him. If I had spoken four times yesterday on the second reading of the bill, it would have been the duty of the Speaker, and not the Minister, to draw attention to it. All members have the same rights in this chamber. If the power to fix wages is taken from the courts, as proposed under the bill, it will not be long before men like the PostmasterGeneral will object to those opposed to him expressing their opinions either in the House or out of it.
I was remarking that, when application was made to the Industrial Court in Brisbane for a reduction of the basic wage from £3 17s. to £3 7s. 6d. a week, a reduction of 5s. a week was agreed to.
– The basic wage has gone by the board there.
– No. The application to which I refer was made on the 4th June. For the information of the honorable member, I may say that certain awards have gone by the board. The pastoral workers’ award has been wiped out, and men in Queensland, on account of the prevalence of unemployment are being asked to work as station hands for practically nothing. That is what the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) desires, and every member of the working class should realize that. If the workers are not careful, there will be a return to the open economic ring that was talked about a great deal prior to the. 1929 election. The basic wage of a postal worker will be reduced under the Government’s proposals to £31s. 2d. a week, or 11s. less than the basic wage in Queens land.
– A lot of men are working for less than half that amount.
– Because of the cancellation of some of the awards men are being forced to work for next to nothing; but this Parliament should not force other men to do so. Least of all should this Government introduce a proposal which would have that effect. Prior to the 1929 election, we bitterly condemned the Bruce-Page Government and its supporters for attempting to destroy industrial arbitration. Mr. Bruce said in 1929, that he intended to abolish all arbitration awards; but the people gave their answer to that statement , on the 11th October of that year. This Government was put in office for the purpose of defending our arbitration system.
Yesterday I said that the whole of the postal workers’ unions had agreed to the application of the cost of living reductions three months earlier than was necessary. I find that two of these unions, one of which was Third Division Telegraph and Postal Workers Union, were opposed to that course. I do not know the name of the other union that opposed it.
– The percentages of unemployment in Queensland and New South Wales are 13 per cent. and 26 per cent. respectively.
– Since the cancellation of the pastoral workers award in Queensland the number of men employed in the industry has fallen below what it was when the wage was £3. The cancellation of awards does not lead to an increase in employment. ‘ The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) should know that. The Brisbane City Council is now applying for the cancellation of certain awards governing its employees, yet the citizens of Brisbane are paying higher rates on a higher valution than ever before. If these awards are cancelled, no additional employment will be made available.
– The fact remains that there is less unemployment in Queensland than in any other State.
– That is not so. Butin any case, the Commonwealth Government should be the last to interfere with the living standards of the people. Organized labour has fought for 30 years to build up a good standard of living, and particularly to set up wage-fixing tribunals. Some members of the Labour movement do not believe that this is the best method for the fixation of wages; but I think otherwise. Not so very long ago Mr. Justice Powers said that 90 per cent. of the awards of the Arbitration Court were honorably obeyed. Our arbitration system has saved the working people of this country hundreds of thousands of pounds, which they would otherwise have spent in strikes. I do not believe that the destruction of our arbitration system would be beneficial to the workers. From my reading of the history of the earlier years of the Labour movement, I have formed the opinion that long drawn-out strikes, which result in the cessation of industrial operations and the unemployment of thousands of men, have not been beneficial to the workers. On the other hand, the adoption of industrial arbitration has been an absolute boon of the workers. If this Parliament, by passing this bill, interferes with our arbitration system, private employers will consider that they also have the right to do so. I hope that no employees of the Commonwealth Government will be asked to work for a wage below the basic rate operating in the State in which they live. Why should people doing similar work in the same State be paid different wages? If this proposal is agreed to, there will be a difference of11s. per week between the basic wage applicable to Commonwealth and that applicable to the State servants in Queensland. Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Government to drop this bill.
.- I feel inclined to move that the sitting of the committee be suspended to give honorable members an opportunity to hear the fine gramophone record made by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) prior to the last election. The honorable gentle- man discussed arbitration in the speech which he recorded, and made some very pertinent observations. That record found its way into the homes of very many workers. The views of the Treasurer at that time will, however, be poor consolation to the public servants now. The public servants contributed their money to make possible the manufacture of that record. In the speech which he delivered on that occasion the Treasurer attacked the Bruce-Page Government and the Nationalist and Country parties in fine style for daring to attempt to destroy industrial arbitration. He also quoted the following limerick: -
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who went for a ride on a tiger;
They returned from the ride,
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
Our public servants are, to-day, well inside the banking tiger. The Treasurer, in 1929, vigorously defended industrial arbitration; but he is now doing his utmost to destroy it. Such a disregard of ethical principles on his part, and on the part of his colleagues, is deplorable. This party was returned to power to maintain industrial arbitration. I remind honorable members of the contents of the scrap of paper which the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) read a few minutes ago. If such things can go on, the very name of democracy, and the institution of parliamentary government, will, alike, stink in the nostrils of the people. We have heard a good deal lately about faith and confidence. How can the people maintain faith in democracy when they cannot be sure of the integrity “and honesty of purpose of the so-called democratic representatives whom they elect? This party was returned to power upon its solemn promise that it would safeguard the interests of the people; but it is now proceeding ruthlessly to destroy the very institutions which it is under an obligation to protect.
Honorable members in this corner did not challenge the right of Parliament to reduce the salaries of Ministers and members, and of the officers directly under its control, although we did not necessarily agree with the course that was taken. But we deny the . right of Par liament to destroy the standards of living of the people which . have been built up by arbitration. It is a retrograde step in our national life for Parliament to interfere with arbitration awards.
– Why should not Parliament have the right to reduce wages?
– It should not have that right. It has long been held by every political party that Parliament is not the proper institution to increase or decrease wages other than the wages of those officers directly under its control. The honorable member has now joined with his political enemies in order to reduce wages. He interjects a lot from the back bench, but he has not the moral fibre to stand up and declare his attitude in this chamber. He does nothing to assist in the proper conduct of this committee.
– Does the honorable member himself?
– The honorable member reminds me of Satan reproving sin. It is a recognized principle that the fixing of wages and conditions of labour must be regulated, not by Parliament, but by the Arbitration Court established for that purpose. If the Parliaments of this country undertook to fix wages and conditions of labour, we should have the spectacle of one Parliament increasing wages and another Parliament decreasing wages. The position would be impossible. Yet this Government is now legislating to permit Parliament to interfere with wages and conditions fixed by the Arbitration Court. I am glad that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) has accepted that principle. We shall see if he stands to it in the future, although I predict that his term in this Parliament will be short.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the motive actuating the Government is the destruction of arbitration ?
– I ask the honorable member if he is in favour of Parliament regulating wages? He has not the courage to answer that question.
– I say that Parliament is now fixing wages because of sheer necessity.
– That is a lawyer’s quibble. This Government is being forced to interfere with Arbitration Court awards by influences and institutions which have never had the courage to fight openly for their principles. This alleged Labour Government has not even the pluck to fight the Nationalist party, which is out to destroy the principle of arbitration and the basic wage. The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) informed me yesterday that he intended to bring down an amending arbitration bill. That is utter nonsense. How can this Government pretend to be tinkering with the arbitration system when, by means of this legislation, it is attempting to destroy that system? Immediately this bill has been passed and the wages and salaries of the public servants are reduced, a mandate will be is given to private interests outside to follow the lead of this Parliament. How can this Government pretend to be safeguarding the interests of the workers when it is using this Parliament as an instrument with which to destroy their conditions?
-Wages have already been reduced outside.
– But to nothing like the extent to which the wages of the public servants are now to be reduced. This Government has no right to call itself a Labour Government, and those honorable members on this side who are supporting it on this issue will shortly lose the right to call themselves Labour members. “Why should this Government do something which its opponents would be afraid to do if they were occupying the treasury bench? The next election will undoubtedly be fought on this issue, and the sooner it comes about the better. It is regrettable in the extreme that honorable members who were elected to this chamber as the representatives of the workers are not now prepared to safeguard their interests. When the division is taken on this clause, and on every other vital clause of the bill, every honorable member who calls himself a Labour member should, if he has any self respect left, vote against these proposals.
– I hope that provision will be made in this bill to ensure that Commonwealth public servants in New South Wales will not be victimized to a greater extent than their colleagues in other parts of Aus tralia. The Parliament of that State has been unmercifully slashing wages without authority from the people, and without reference to the Arbitration Court. If Mr. Lang and his colleagues dip further into the pockets of the public servants a serious injustice will be done.
– We are providing against that in clause 17.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Although the Government of New South Wales was elected to carry out Labour principles, it has abandoned that important plank of the Labour platform which provides for the fixation of wages and salaries by arbitration. I cannot understand how any man elected to represent the workers can endorse such a policy.
– I was elected to this Parliament to maintain the wages and conditions of the workers, and I have always believed that arbitration is the only just system of regulating industrial conditions. For 30 years the Labour party has advocated the principle of arbitration, and has opposed the fixation of wages and salaries by Parliament. If the legislature assumes the right to regulate the wages of servants of the State, it can, with equal justice, assert that claim in regard to all other employments. Such an attempt would produce chaos. Having had extensive experience in the Arbitration Court, I am convinced that wages and salaries cannot be equitably adjusted without full inquiry into the conditions of employment. Such an inquiry is beyond the capacity of Parliament. This bill proposes a general reduction of Com- monwealth salaries and wages by 20 per cent. The Public Service has been thoroughly combed, thousands of temporary men have been dismissed, and we are entitled to assume that those remaining in the Service are necessary, and are rendering services commensurate with the payment received. Why should they not receive the rates awarded by the court? The Government is in a quandary, and I sympathize with its efforts to balance the budget, but I gave a pledge to the electors that I would opposethe reduction of wages, and I would be recreant to the trust reposed in me if I voted for this bill. If the Government is of opinion that the Public Service is overmanned and overpaid, it should refer the matter to the Arbitration Court. The proposed reductions should not be effected without the fullest preliminary investigation.
– This committee has some knowledge of the state of the Commonwealth exchequer.
– Yes, but the President of the Arbitration Court or the Public Service Arbitrator would take into consideration the work to be performed and the capacity of the Commonwealth to pay. It is not right that extravagant governments should create deficits, and then reduce public service salaries in order to balance the budget. I cannot understand the pessimistic convictions of some people that Australiais insolvent, and cannot pay its way. The country was never more productive, and I am confident that it will overcome its difficulty. We should not allow ourselves to become panic stricken.
– Especially as this plan will do no good.
– That is so. If I believed that this plan would improve the conditions of the workers, and would create more employment, I would vote for it. But I believe that it will have the opposite effect. Every £5 taken off wages correspondingly reduces the purchasing power of the community. I regret that the Government has introduced this proposal, and my pledges to the electors oblige me to vote against it.
.- The importance of this bill is indicated by the state of the committee. A few minutes ago not two members of the Opposition were absent, but on the Government side the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is left to “carry the baby.”
– Nonsense !
– Most of the ministerial supporters are absent. It is right that the Treasurer should carry the baby, because there is no doubt of the paternity of this bill; its every feature bears a striking resemblance to the Treasurer. The clause now before the committee is not complete. It commences, “Notwithstanding anything contained in this act”. It should read, “ Notwithstanding anything we have said or promised at any time, not- withstanding any principle we have advocated or anything we have said we would do for the benefit of the workers, notwithstanding the money voted by Labour supporters to return representatives to Parliament, the crucifixion must take place, because the Government, with the aid of the Opposition, has the necessary numbers.” The division which took place on the second reading of the bill last night was a pitiable spectacle, for of those who were elected to the chamber as Labour members, 22 opposed the Government and seventeen supported its proposals. This Government came into office not two years ago, condemning the administration of its predecessor, and promising to rectify it. It undertook to preserve the salaries and conditions of the public servants. Instead of honouring that undertaking it is now proposing to rob men who are giving a fair return for the wages awarded them by the Arbitrator. This interference with the principle of arbitration, this removal of one of the corner stones of the temple of Labour, is an act of unprecedented treason on the part of the Labour Government. One Minister correctly stated in the Senate yesterday, “I am afraid that the Government must admit that it has surrendered.” It has thrown up its hands and cried “ Kamerad “.
– It has thrown its guns away.
– Worse than that, it has gone over to the enemy and trained its guns on its former comrades. In the army such traitors would be shot on sight, and that I believe will be the fate of those who have deserted Labour principles when the workers have a chance to train their electoral guns on them. One thing that should dissuade honorable members on this side from voting for this bill is the joy of the members of the Opposition. I have never seen the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) happier than he is to-day.
– I remind the honorable member that this is not a second-reading debate. Clause 9 is before the committee.
– I am dealing with clause 9, which will rob. the public servants of what was promised to them by the Government. We have been told that this action is necessitated by the financial position. The responsibility for the present position lies with the Government, and the consequences should not be borne by the public servants. The burden they are asked to shoulder would not have been created if the country had been properly administered, and the Labour party had done its job as it said it would and could. I am not able to say whether the present wages and salaries in the Public Service are just, or whether a 20 per cent. reduction would make the wages more commensurate with the work. That is the job of the Public Service Arbitrator. The Government has signally; failed in its duty to do the job it was elected to do. We cannot forget the promise made by the Treasurer, as Labour Campaign Director in New South Wales, that the Labour Parliament if elected to office would preserve the rights and conditions of the public servants. Apparently the plan of which this bill is a part, is the last word of a hopeless government. We are told that if we do not accept this proposal, Australia will drop over a precipice. I deny that. When theFisher Government promulgated its idea for the benefit of Australia and trespassed on the perquisites of the bankers by initiating the Commonwealth note issue, the Argus declared that Australia was on the edge of a precipice. Allegedly, we are again on the edge of the precipice. I say that we are not. We are merely suffering from the ineptitude of a government that gained office by making false promises. The slogan of Mr. Bruce when he was Prime Minister was, “ Produce, produce, and lessen the cost of production.” Last year the present Prime Minister urged the people to grow more wheat. They did so.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause.
– I am endeavouring to do so. This clause should not be in the bill. The Government has no right to determine what a letter-carrier shall receive, or whether there shall be a reduction in wages. The Prime Minister urged the people to grow more wheat, and they did. He has no right to take it out of the civil servants because he missed the bus. The civil servants have done their job well. I do not suppose that a more efficient service could be found. This clause clearly proves the incapacity of the Government. It is quite unnecessary to reduce wages. I can submit a fool-proof alternative plan, which does not involve wage-slashing in this country of Opulence, with a big “O “.
– Where are the Opulent ?
– Everywhere. Even the honorable gentleman is betteroff now than he was before he became a member. I remember when he wanted to take men out to sea and dump them, and when he talked about the wines of this country being coffin varnish. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) knows that there is an alternative to this plan. If he does not, he was a fraud when he supported Labour. I do not say that offensively. The honorable member was elected as a supporter of arbitration. He knows that the wages and conditions at which this Government is going to slash are the result of the struggling and toiling of the workers.
– When I was fighting the honorable member’s inflation policy he was always demanding from me, “ What is your alternative?” This is it.
– The honorable gentleman never thought of this plan until the Opposition took him to its bosom. Mine was a practical alternative. Had my policy been adopted, the honorable gentleman, and those associated with him, would not now be wage-slashing and pensionpinching. This is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the political life of Australia. I am hopeful that the time will come soon when the true supporters of Labour will have an opportunity to rehabilitate the party which has been so grievously betrayed, so that again the interests of the workers of Australia may be preserved. We have leaned on broken reeds and painted laths. But the time will come when the movement will again be led by men of purpose, who will stand by their promises, and do the job they are elected to do.
.-I have no illusions as to how the division on this clause will go. I believe that, notwithstanding the justice of the claims urged by the opponents of the plan, the result will be the same. I intend to move amendments in an endeavour to save something from the wreck of the salaries that it is proposed to pay civil servants; to provide that recognition shall be given to the procedure that has always been adopted by the arbitration courts of Australia. I do not propose to dilate upon the generalities that have been indulged in by honorable members. I do not think that they will help me and those with whom I am associated to gain our objective. I do believe that Parliament should be prevented from interfering with wage rates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stated that the Debt Conversion Bill would override the provisions of any other act. Boiled down, that means that this or any future government may ignore the system of arbitration that the Labour party has so strenuously fought for and advocated for many years, and make another slash at the wages of the workers. The wage slash of 20 per cent, that was agreed upon by the Premiers Conference is outrageous. It will be remembered that the decree of the full Arbitration Court to reduce wages by 10 per cent, was received with horror and amazement by the Labour movement, and also by this Government, which briefed counsel to intervene, in an effort to protect the general public.
Like the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), I am not blind to the position of the Government, but when alternatives have been proposed - perhaps they were crude, but they were none the less honest - they were received in stony silence. I believe that this Parliament could have been saved from the disgusting position in which it is to-day; when, during a time of decreased national spending power it proposes to reduce wages to £3 ls. per week, and to cut pensions. This is the most deadly blow that has ever been dealt to the wage system of Australia. The position of the nation does not warrant it. I venture to say that within two weeks after the passing of this bill every private employer in the Commonwealth, whether his business is showing a handsome profit or not, will approach the Arbitration Court and urge that, for national reasons, the wages of employees be reduced a further 10 per cent., to coincide with a reduction effected by the
Commonwealth Government. Even at this late hour the Government should endeavour to meet those who are opposed to the plan, by agreeing to a smaller reduction. Ten per cent, is bad enough in all conscience, but it would at least be in conformity with the reduction made by the Arbitration Court. It is outrageous that a wage of only £3 ls. should be paid to an adult male worker. Clause 8, upon which I intended to speak, is almost as bad as this one. I have as great an experience of awards as has any other honorable member. I came into this House at £1,000 a year, but after this measure is passed my net salary will be £335 per annum, or £6 9s. a week. I have a fellow feeling for the civil servants, whose emoluments are to be slashed so ruthlessly. This is how my salary works out -
I am compelled to dress reasonably well, and there is not much left of my £6 9s. a week. However, the case of the civil servants on £3 ls. a week is even worse.
– How many civil servants are on the basic wage?
– It will be found that, after superannuation contributions are deducted, the majority of them do not receive more than £3 ls. a week. In order to ameliorate their condition, I move -
That the words “ officers or employees and of married officers or employees who are not adults “ sub-clause 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : “ male officers or employees and of married officers or employees who are not adults, and by Twenty-two pounds ten shillings per annum in the case of adult female officers “.
The object of the first part of my amendment is to ensure that the wages of female workers shall be reduced in conformity with the formula that has always operated under the system of arbitration adopted in the Service.
In the awards of Commonwealth Public Service unions provision is made for annual adjustments of salaries in accordance with variations in the index number for the twelve months ending the 31st March. The principle followed is that with each £6 increase granted to adult males, £4 is granted to females, and £3 to minors. The total of increases which have been granted under the provisions of these awards have been -
“Under the principle adopted in this bill, the reductions are being made on the index figure for the quarter ended March, 1931. Under this method adult males will be reduced by £34 per annum in respect of the lower cost of living figure used. The principle of applying to minors half of the amount applicable to adult males has been retained, and minors will be reduced by £17. The clause involves a departure from the established arbitration practice in regard to females who. instead of being reduced by twothirds of the adult male rate, are to be reduced the full £34. There is no justification for an alteration in the existing practice. The proposal imposes an unfair and inequitable reduction on female officers, which can be remedied by the adoption of the amendment. In industrial circles the manner of fixing the wages of female workers has always been looked upon as calamitous, and has not achieved the result hoped for by the judges. It is an outrageous thing to reduce the basic wage to £182. A basic wage of £208 would be a fair thing, and would give the worker some chance to live decently. The Opposition should meet us on this matter, for the sound reason, which has not been refuted, that we cannot help the country by reducing wages, and thus reducing the spending power of the community. The lower paid men have the same responsibilities as the higher paid officers. They have to pay taxation, and support their families just as the others have. I am against this clause as it stands, because I am opposed to a reduction of wages and salaries.
– I cannot help remarking upon the orgy of electioneering which has been indulged in by honorable members in the corner opposite in connexion with this clause. 1 take the liberty of very seriously doubting their sincerity. They know perfectly well that this clause, and this bill, will be carried, and in the circumstances, they are aware that they can indulge in their theorizing with complete immunity. That in itself invests their arguments with an atmosphere of insincerity. The events of the last five or six weeks have provided them with a golden opportunity for indulging in first-rate electioneering, and they have taken full advantage of it. The opposition of some honorable members opposite has made clear one other thing. Indeed, it was given away by the garrulous ‘ member from Bendigo (Mr. Keane), in the course of his speech. He, and others opposite, have indulged in mock-heroics in defence of the interests of public servants; but it has been revealed that their action is prompted largely by the desire to protect their own salaries. They are using the public service as a stalking horse, and what they are really anxious about is to prevent a reduction of their own parliamentary allowances.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) has referred repeatedly to the parliamentary allowances of honorable members, a matter with which this clause has nothing to do.
– The previous speaker referred to parliamentary allowances, and some incidental reference to them is permitted. I am waiting, however, for the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause before the committee.
– If you are waiting to catch me, Mr. Chairman, I assure you that I am not going to provide you with the opportunity. That is no reflection upon you, as chairman, but is directed against honorable members opposite. This bill is directly designed to achieve retrenchment in the payments to public officers, and public officers include members of Parliament, who will suffer the same reduction as public servants.
Some honorable members opposite have not hesitated to degrade themselves by using the civil servants as an excuse for opposing the reduction of their own salaries. They have not hesitated to endeavour to improve their position with certain classes of the community, at the expense of the Government with which they are associated, by opposing measures which they know will be carried in spite of anything they may do. By that attitude they convict themselves of political cowardice. They are sniping from behind a hedge; they are attempting to do murder in the sure and certain knowledge that they will escape the consequences of their crime.
– We shall settle the honorable member when the time comes.
– If the honorable member believes that he can settle me, he may allow himself the luxury of that belief. I assure him, however, thatI am not going to be settled in accordance with his wishes, but only in accordance with the wishes of the electors of Darling Downs. The honorable ‘ member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), with his usual impassioned and windy rhetoric, used this clause as an excuse for defending the arbitration system, and in the course of his wind-bagging, told me that I had no right to impugn his motives. What the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Bendigo forget is that, even at the present time, the majority of industrial disputes in Australia are settled by direct negotiation “between the parties concerned, and not by the Arbitration Court at all. That is a fact which is constantly ignored by the defenders of the arbitration system. I propose to quote from the Commonwealth Year-Book, 1930, in support of my contention, and to let honorable members opposite know that their assertions in regard to the arbitration system cannot go always unchallenged and uncontradicted.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Darling Downs is not confining “his remarks to the clause before the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is in order.
– The Year-Book of 1930 states-
The majority of the disputes were settled by direct negotiations between employers and employees, the proportion so settled ranging between 47 per cent. in 1924, and 70 per cent. in 1921. Of the 253 disputes during 1929, 129, or 51 per cent., were settled by this method. The proportion of dislocations settled by compulsory conferences, or the intervention and assistance of officials under State or Commonwealth Arbitration Acts, has varied considerably during the period under review, ranging from 2 per cent. in 1923 to 15 per cent. in 1920.
That completely disposes of the laudation by the honorable member for Werriwa of the Arbitration Court, and of the idea that it cannot be done without. I submit, as I have done on half a dozen other occasions, that the whole system of compulsory” arbitration in Australia is tottering to its fall, and will soon be in a state of complete collapse. The former leader of this House, Mr. Bruce, told the people that definitely at the last election. They refused to believe him; but everything that has happened since is conspiring to bring the truth of that assertion home to the people, and I do not hesitate to declare that, in the near future, compulsory arbitration, as we now know it, will have ceased to be in the Commonwealth. Sooner or later a responsible leader will arise and abolish the system.
– I learn from officers of the Public Service Board that when female adult officers are affected by cost of living adjustments, their salary is increased or decreased by £4 per annum, while that of adult male officers is increased or decreased by £C. That being so, it warrants some differentiation in the adjustment we are making arbitrarily in the bill. On that ground I can see no reason for objecting to the amendment.
.- Little did I imagine that when I broke the silence imposed on me in this Parliament by my occupancy of the speaker’s chair, I should need to speak in defence of what have been the declared fundamental principles of the Labour movement almost from its inception, and to speak in their defence at a time when a Labour Government was in possession of the treasury bench. It is almost inconceivable that a Government, whose members have subscribed to the platform of the Labour party, and whose supporters were elected by reason of the declarations made in support of this basic public policy, should to-day be departing widely from it. The last election was fought by the Labour party for the maintenance of compulsory arbitration. It was the proposal of the opposite policy that brought about the downfall of the Bruce-Page Government.
– Great financial and economic dangers have occurred since the last election.
– That may be so; but I feel that nothing has occurred since then sufficient to justify the Government in departing from the basic and fundamental principles which it was returned to maintain. If a Government cannot carry out the policy which it declared when the party which supported it was elected, there is only one honorable course for it to pursue, and that is, to go back to the electors and secure a mandate for any change that it considers necessary. Ordinary standards of ethics demand that men who accept position and pay in return for the promises that they have made to the public, should certainly carry out their pledges to the full, or vacate the offices thus obtained.
– Is the honorable member speaking to the amendment orto the clause?
– If I am not in order the Chairman will put me right. I ask the Treasurer neither for his advice nor his assistance.
– No one is more strict than the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in having the rules of debate observed when he is in the chair. An amendment has been moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) which relates to the differentiation between adult male officers and adult female officers, in respect of deductions from or increases to salaries. I desire to know, therefore, if the honorable member for Hindmarsh is now in order in discussing the measure generally.
– The amendment itself involves a departure from vital principles upon which the Labour party was elected to power. It threatens the prin ciple of arbitration and also other principles that to Labour are regarded as dear. Consequently, I submit that this discussion cannot be circumvented by confining the debate to the specific question that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has mentioned.
– I was speaking to the clause generally.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will be quite in order in speaking to the clause or to the amendment.
– I do not desire to infringe in the slightest degree the recognized rules of debate, nor to offend against parliamentary decorum. The clause constitutes a departure from one of the most cherished ideals and principles of the party to whose policy the Government has subscribed. Only recently, when the position of Public Service Arbitrator had been vacant for many months, a new appointment was made by the very Ministers who now propose to make this wide departure from the hitherto recognized principles of the Labour party.
– A big mistake.
– Whether the appointment was a mistake or not, it was made, and is surely evidence of the fact that the Government quite recently considered it desirable to maintain the standards and practices observed -in the adjustment of wages and conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service. This proposal, coming so soon after that appointment, is a startling circumstance, indicating plainly the abandonment of a principle recently insisted on by the Government in regard to the conditions in the Service. I feel that this is only the prelude to something which will be far more serious in its effects upon the adjustment of wages and conditions in private employment throughout Australia. I have at least some justification for saying that, because the Leader of the Opposition in another place recently uttered these words -
Unless financial reconstruction is followed by proposals for economic reconstruction, Australia will not be on a sound basis. That is going to be just as distasteful, and just as the Government failed to take the necessary steps to bring about reconstruction, I fear that it will not have the courage to take those that are necessary to ensure economic reconstruction.
Only one interpretation can be placed upon that statement, and it is that the speaker had in mind the abolition of the principle of “arbitration so far as it applies to industrial conditions outside the Public Service. This Parliament will establish a dangerous precedent if it adopts this clause, because to do so will involve a departure from what has been the fixed policy of this country in regard to arbitration, for the last twenty-seven years, and so far as the Public Service is concerned, for almost two decades. The Government cannot possibly be excused for taking this line of action, and trespassing on one of the most cherished principles of the Australian Labour movement. Some may ask, “ What other course could be taken for the readjustment of the financial position? “ I recognize that governments must live within their income; but I remind this committee that these are by no means normal times. Surpluses were enjoyed in recent years, and it was possible to re-adjust the financial standing of governments from time to time by reason of those surpluses. I feel that when the days of prosperity return, this country could substantially provide for the financial arrears which recur.
There are other measures that might be taken to meet the present situation. There could and should be closer co-ordination of State and Federal services. The present duplication of public activities is very costly and unwarranted. If the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers had devoted its time to seeking to eliminate duplication and to effect economies by the co-ordination of services, its action would have been more scientific, and the results would have beer more enduring, than the reductions’ that were agreed to.
The adoption of the policy which the Government has put before us must inevitably lead to the accentuation of the depression from which the country is suffering, for it must bring about a reduction in the spending capacity of the community. The effecting of economies now proposed will not help to provide work for our unemployed, but will rather tend to increase the volume of unemployment. Because the people will have less money to spend, the demand for goods will he reduced.
If the Government had taken steps to increase the spending power of the people to what it formerly was, the depression, in my opinion, would have lifted. No matter from what angle I examine the policy of the Government, I can see no justification for it. It is a serious departure from the policy on which we were elected. It will lead to the establishment of a dangerous precedent in respect to the adjustment of the wages and conditions of those engaged in private industries; and it will not solve, but will add to, the problem of how to re-establish industrial and economic stability. In these circumstances I cannot support it. I was returned to this Parliament pledged to support a definite policy, and I feel that that policy should not be departed from, at least until the people have been consulted. I would rather retire from public life, and through the Labour movement consult the electors again than support the Government on this occasion. We cannot expect to maintain honour in public life by the adoption of a policy of this kind, which really amounts to a repudiation of the promises given to the people. The Government would have acted wisely had it referred its original monetary policy to the people. We should have had the satisfaction of knowing that we had not sacrificed our principles, but had fully observed all the requirements of a high public morality.
– I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) should give honorable members a fuller explanation of the effect of the amendment of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane). The explanation he- gave us a few minutes ago was extremely brief.
– In accordance with the practice which at present prevails, female adult members of the Public Service are affected by cost of living adjustments either upwards or downwards to the extent of £4 a year, and male adult, members to the extent of £6 a year. Female adult officers, under the existing arrangement, are affected to the extent of two-thirds of the amount by which the salary of adult male officers is increased or decreased. To retain the relative position of female and male adult officers, it is necessary to accept the amendment.
Amendment - by have - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Keane) agreed to-
That the words “ officers or employees and of married officers or employees who are not adults “, sub-clause 1, be omitted with a view to insert the following words: - “male officers or employees and of married officers or employees who are not adults, by Twenty-two pounds ten shillings per annum in the case of adult female officers,”.
– I am opposed to the clause for several reasons. In the first place, I consider that its provisions are an encroachment upon our system of industrial arbitration which received the endorsement of the electors in October, 1929. I am also opposed to it, because it may give industrial workers in private enterprise an incentive to disregard industrial arbitration, and to perfect their organizations for direct action. I oppose it, too, because it provides for a reduction of wages to the extent of at least three times the amount of the fall in the cost of living. Such wage reductions will not help to restore our economic prosperity, and will only add to our difficulties. During the last year, the workers of Australia have lost about £50,000.000 from their wages fund. Moreover, an increase of 10 per cent, has occurred in the volume of unemployment. I do not believe that the provisions of this clause will help in any way to rectify either of these serious troubles. Recently, the Treasurer delivered a speech in this House which, from my point of view, put the case admirably. He said -
According to the banks, all the Government had to do was to cut down wages and pensions and the country would suddenly recover its pristine economic soundness. Was there any one simple enough, any one whose mind was so infantile, as to think that that would meet the position ?
I endorsed that statement at the time it was made, and I still believe that it is an accurate summary of the position. En effect, the honorable gentleman said that no amount of reduction in wages and pensions could rectify our economic disabilities, because it would necessarily reduce the spending power of the people.
The honorable gentleman went on to deal in extenso with the arguments that have been used during the last five or six years by students all over the world to prove that the principles of this rehabilitation plan cannot possibly remedy our troubles.
For twenty years at least, I have been continuously engaged in the work of perfecting our industrial. organizations, with the object of encouraging the workers to adopt constitutional, as against unconstitutional, methods of settling their disputes. I have urged the workers of Australia to register their organizations in the court, and to use the methods of conciliation and arbitration in preference to that of direct action. I am still convinced that the adoption of direct action involves both parties in industry in a dead loss, and inevitably causes a serious waste in the economic assets of this, or any other, country. We should encourage our people to use our arbitration machinery to the fullest possible extent. Industrial arbitration was one of the outstanding issues at the last federal election. The former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) held the view that cheapness in every direction was necessary for the economic salvation of Australia; and in the most courageous fashion he invited the people to express their view on the subject. The people indicated in an unmistakable manner that they were opposed to the policy of Mr. Bruce and his followers, and were favorable fo the continuance and perfection of our industrial arbitration methods. Consequently, they put the Labour party in office, but, unfortunately, not in power. In the circumstances, it was the duty of the Labour party to do its best to improve our arbitration machinery. As one step in that direction, it filled the vacant office of Public Service Arbitrator - an office which would have been abolished had the previous Government been returned to power. It requested the Public Service Arbitrator to do his best to encourage the adoption of conciliatory methods in industrial matters. I am glad to say that the Arbitrator has acted on that suggestion to the satisfaction of the Service and the community generally. The present Public Service Arbitrator has endeavoured, more than his predecessor did, to settle potential disputes around the table without resorting to arbitration. In spite of that, this Government is now contradicting and swallowing its previous public statements that Parliament has no right to interfere with wages and working conditions. I do not believe in that principle. I consider that Parliament should review the economic conditions of this country with the object of establishing a proper basic standard of living for the people. That procedure has not been attempted in this country, and Parliament has not as yet adopted it; but I believe that Parliament should fix the standard working week and the minimum wage, and review its decisions from time to time in the light of the growing intelligence of the community, That is not now the law of this country, nor is it the desire of the people, and perhaps I should not have introduced the subject. But it was the desire of the majority of the people to continue the Arbitration Court, and to have the wages and the conditions of the workers fixed by award, and not by legislative act of this Parliament. For that reason I oppose this measure. I oppose it also because it will give an incentive to the people outside - manual workers, clerical workers, and professional workers, too - to fall back on their industrial organizations, and not depend - as they have for the last ten years and which they desire to continue doing - upon Parliament and the Arbitration Court to review their conditions from time to time. I have urged the people outside to allow Parliament to perfect the arbitration system and to rely upon it for the rectification of their grievances. If this plan is adopted, my advice to the workers is to make the industrial machinery more and more perfect, so that they may ultimately rely upon their own organizations. They will suffer considerable hardship unless they do that. I believe in constitutional methods, but no reform has been won by the Labour movement in this country, except as a result of developing and educating the great volume of public opinion outside. No Labour government or any other government has ever given the workers of this country any benefits except at the demand of the majority of the people. This legislation will, more than anything else, tend topush the workers back on their own resources. I oppose it because I desire the arbitration system to be properly tested, and constitutional methods adopted in place of direct action. If the Government’s plan is put into operation, wages will be reduced, and will continue to be reduced, because, according to the Statistician’s figures, the index figure for wages falls three times as rapidly as that for the cost of living. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when quoting cost of living figures, selected a peak year to suit his argument. I do not say that unfairly, because I recognize that the honorable member is one of the fairest debaters in this House.
– I took Professor Copland’s figures, and not the figures for any particular year.
– The honorable member quoted figures for one year. 1 shall quote figures over a complete decade- from 1921 to 1931. During that period the cost of living fell 8.9 per cent., and the basic wage, without taking into account the proposed reduction, fell 17.9 per cent.
– Why does not the honorable member move an amendment in accordance with his ideas?
– The clause could not be amended to suit me. If this plan is given effect, a reduction of 10 per cent. will actually become a reduction of 20 per cent., because in a decade the minimum wage has fallen 27.9 per cent. as against the fall in the cost of living of 8.9 per cent. For that reason I oppose the bill.
– The honorable member is speaking to his new electorate.
– I am speaking quite independent of any electorate. I do not argue for the sake of sentiment or of getting votes.
– Had the honorable member not done so, he would have failed to obtain the selection for Melbourne Ports.
– Were I guilty of what the honorable member suggests, I should consider myself physically and mentally inferior to him, but I do not admit that for one moment. I oppose this clause because its object is to reduce wages ruthlessly. Some honorable members have suggested that, because this legislation directly affects the public servants, we should not be concerned about it, and that certain honorable members are concerned about it only for political reasons. That suggestion does not apply to me. If the wages of the public servants are reduced to the miserable pittance proposed under this bill, the wage of every other worker in this country will be indirectly affected.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) has referred to the arbitration system, upon which, he contends, this legislation will have a seriously detrimental effect. I reiterate the opinion which I have expressed repeatedly in this chamber that the so-called arbitration system is one of the curses of this country: It has brought about most of our unemployment, and the overlapping of Federal and State awards has been largely instrumental in causing the present financial crisis. The Arbitration Court and the tariff are the two curses of Australia. The honorable member for Flinders apologized for the ineffective operation of the arbitration system. There has been too much apology for the Arbitration Court. It should have been abolished long ago. The honorable member has said, with his tongue in his cheek, that he is free and independent; but we all know that he has his eye on the electorate of Melbourne Ports. This Parliament should awake to the fact that the Federal Arbitration Court is an anomaly and an incubus. Until we get rid of it Australia will never progress as it should. Amending arbitration bills galore have been introduced into this chamber. The Prime Minister is now contemplating bringing down another amending bill. There is no need to tinker with arbitration any longer. It should be abolished altogether. What brought me principally to my feet was the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). He expressed his views on this legislation and, to put it mildly, he soundly slated the Government. I support this clause and the Government’s plan generally. I am not altogether satisfied with it, but it is a step in the right direction, and, therefore, deserves our support. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who spoke of his highmindedness, said that he intended to oppose the bill, and that the Government’s action in introducing this legislation was quite wrong, and in opposition to the ideals of the Labour movement. That movement has to-day been rent in pieces. When the honorable member is in the chair we have no opportunity to criticise him, and I welcome this opportunity to speak plainly. That honorable member was given a high office in this chamber on the recommendation of the Government. He has now turned the Government down. If he is so highminded, I ask, does he still intend to occupy his present position?
– That is a fair question.
– My position was given to me, not by the Government, but by the Parliament.
– At the beginning of the session we like to play these little comedies in respect of certain appointments. The honorable member cannot claim to be impartial in his high office when he not only votes in committee, but participates in the discussions. If I may. say so without offence to him, it is a mongrel cur that bites the hand that feeds it.
Mr.Crouch. - On a point of order. That remark is undoubtedly directed against the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has not taken exception to it.
– I do take exception to it, and the only reason why I did not rise at once to object was that I thought that that would not be necessary. I wish to add that the executive position I occupy is the gift of the House and not of the Government.
– I ask the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– If the aphorism I used is personally offensive to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I willingly withdraw it.
Tlie only way in which Australia can be restored to a level keel is by everybody in the community making some sacrifice. Later, I shall refer to one section that has voluntarily agreed to make a substantial sacrifice. The alleged spokesmen of organized trade unionism have sought to tell us what is necessary to the welfare of Australia, but I know that they are not stating the view of people whose judgment counts. Australia has lived beyond its income; it has indulged in luxuries such as the Arbitration Court. It must mend its ways and return to the simple life before it can regain prosperity. I support the proposals which the Government has put forward for the implementing of the Melbourne Conference plan, which has been signed even by that peculiar individual, the Premier of New South Wales.
).- I am opposed entirely to this clause. Whilst I do not ignore the difficulties which have beset the Government ever since it assumed office, I am justified in protesting against its adoption of methods such as are expressed in this bill. I agree with those speakers who have declared that this measure is a violation of election pledges, and an attack upon the principle of arbitration. But I rose particularly to urge that more attention than has yet been given by this committee should be paid to the condition of those persons who will be most acutely affected by the proposals now before us; I refer to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service. The majority of them are the employees of the Postal Department, the administration of which has been criticized by me on more than one occasion. Two-thirds of the total number of employees in our Public Service are i n receipt of a wage of less than £6 a week. The basic wage for the Service on the 1st July, 1930, was £216 per annum, plus child endowment, in accordance with the Statistician’s cost of living figures for the twelve months ending the 31st March, 1930. This wage was ordinarily due under awards for reduction from the 1st July, 1931, by £18, because of the fall in the cost of living for the twelve months ended the 31st March last. That would have made the basic wage from the 1st July £198, plus child endowment. The
Service unions, however, agreed that the reduction should take place from the 16th April, or two months before the due date. Because the Government has ignored these facts, its present proposals become additionally severe.
The provisions of this bill strike most heavily against the most defenceless sections of the Service. We are entitled to remember that these officers do the real work of the Commonwealth in all the administrative departments. They have to pass all manner of tests and examinations before and after entry into the Service. They are subject to the closest supervision, and their slightest mistakes are visited with disrating and various other penalties. The majority of them are kept on the bread line virtually all their lives. The higher paid officials are not affected by these proposals to the same extent. I mention that especially in relation to the plausible claim voiced in this committee that the bill imposes equality of sacrifice. The Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the appointment of an officer who has been receiving £80 a week. Under this clause he will be expected to live on a paltry £60 a week. When I first sought, in this Parliament, information relating to the colossal increases in his salary, I was met with the anger of members of the Opposition, who then suggested, and have since repeated, that I am animated by motives of personal animosity against that officer. I assure the committee that that is not so. I do not know the gentleman, and I doubt if I would recognize him if I saw him. My objection to him is solely because his appointment, salary and administration give the lie to the statement that the reductions in salaries of Commonwealth employees are proposed in the interests of economy, and because the country has no option. His extravagant administration has produced conditions which make it all the more barbarous that the lower-paid officials, who have done their work faithfully and well, should be expected to pay the penalty. On the 18th December, 1923, Mr. Brown was appointed to the Postal Department. In :that year, immediately prior to his appointment, the profit in the postal branch amounted to £1,365,064. In the’ first year of Mr. Brown’s administra- tion, the profit of the branch shrank to £502,667. Since then it has continued to shrink. In the last year prior to Mr. Brown’s appointment the losses of the telegraph branch were £78,460; within twelve months of his assumption of office, they increased to £188,982. Every subsequent year of his administration has been carried on at a loss. The maximum loss for one year was £312,075, in 1928; that for 1929 was £22S,134.
A similar story of poor administration is revealed in connexion with the telephone section of the postal services.
– Mr. Chairman, has this attack upon the administration of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs any connexion with clause 9?
– I do not regard it as an attack upon anybody. It is merely an endeavour to prove that the salaries of some officials will not be reduced sufficiently under this scheme.
– I am advancing concrete examples to prove that the selfrighteous pleas of honorable members Opposite about equality of sacrifice are without foundation. In 1922, the year prior to the appointment of Mr. Brown, the profits of the telephone department -amounted to £179,455. Within twelve months the profits fell to £50,667. Within two years of his appointment they had disappeared entirely, and were replaced by a loss in that year of £258,619. Thereafter the losses continued to mount rapidly. In each of the three branches of the department administered by Mr. Brown, in which ave employed the great majority of the public servants who will be affected by clause 9, there has been an unparalleled story of tremendous losses. And he is an official who has been receiving £80 a week. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when expressing indignation that I should dare to draw attention to the high salary paid to Mr. Brown, stated that the £4^000 per annum that he was receiving was nothing, that Mr. Brown had saved the country many times that amount each year. I am demonstrating that that claim is extravagantly wrong. The figures that I have quoted show in unmistakable terms that under his administration the profits of the Postal Department have diminished by 61 per cent. The telegraph section was working at a loss, which this official contrived to increase by 190 per cent. ; to almost treble what it was prior to his term of administration. -In the telephone department, Mr. Brown has performed the mathematical impossibility of taking away more than the whole; for he has caused the entire profits to disappear, and replaced them with a gigantic 1.03s. Official records indicate that the decrease in profits represents no less a figure than 237 per cent. The man under whose administration that has occurred will in future receive £60 a week, -while the bread-line wages of a few paltry pounds a week of the majority of his men, who do the real work of the department, are to be savagely attacked by the operation of this clause, in th, name .of economy and of equality of sacrifice.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This clause, which is in accordance with the decree of the Melbourne conference, pro:vides that Commonwealth public servants shall be subjected to a 20 per cent, reduction in salaries and wages, in order tharAustralia may be financially rehabilitated. A good deal of criticism has been hurled at those who are opposed to the plan. I give every honorable member respect for the opinions that he holds. We may disagree politically and industrially, as the .result of our being educated in different schools of thought. I have been trained in a different school of thought from that which produced the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who deliberately endeavoured to take advantage of the position of the honorable member for Hindmarsh when that gentleman stated his intention to express the opinions of those who elected him to this Parliament. The honorable member was entitled to do that. If the honorable member for Richmond was unable to reply successfully to the speakers who preceded him, he should at least have had the decency not to take advantage of the position in which the honorable member for Hindmarsh finds himself.
Clause 9 intimates that there will he a reduction of 20 per cent, in the salaries and wages paid to Commonwealth public servants. To that I am opposed. I have a very vivid recollection of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) endeavouring to impress upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) the necessity for such a reduction. The right honorable gentleman then said that he would never be a party to reducing the salaries and wages of Commonwealth public servants; that that would be equivalent to a special class tax. I agreed with him. Unfortunately the Prime Minister has changed his view, and has accepted the policy enunciated by the Opposition. It was claimed at that time that, if a reduction were made in salaries and wages, there would also be a reduction in interest. Nothing was said about a conversion loan.
It is absolutely wrong to call upon the Commonwealth public servants to suttor an aggregate salary reduction of £1,750,000. They bear their proportion of taxation just as does any other section of the community. If the Government found that it was imperative to raise additional revenue, it could have done that by imposing extra taxation, which would have made the burden an equitable one.
Some honorable members have claimed that this is merely an emergency measure. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) intimated that he will move an amendment providing that it shall apply for only three years. It is not an emergency measure. Once it is brought into operation, steps will be taken by honorable members opposite and their friends to ensure that it stands for sill time. Many public servants will make greater sacrifices under this scheme than honorable members realize. They have entered into contracts, and I fail to see how they will be able to carry them out. Those who are about to retire will lose an appreciable portion of the superannuation for which they have contributed for years. Honorable members opposite talk glibly about the good time that these public servants have had, and contrast the position of the unemployed. Certainly I should like to see our unemployed enjoying a good time, but I fail to see that a reduction in pensions and in the wages of public servan ls will improve the condition of our 4-00,000 unemployed workers. It will merely accentuate the existing depression. The purchasing power of the people will be reduced by £7,000,000. The right honorable member for North Sydney admitted that these reductions will not place one more person in employment.
The bill is a try-out. We have already had a similar try-out - a reduction of wages by the Arbitration Court equal to 10 per cent. We were told by Professor Copland, and other economists who also attended the Melbourne conference, that, if the workers of Australia were prepared to accept a 10 per cent, reduction in wages, that would result in the reemployment of a large number of workless. The experiment was tried; the standard of our workers was reduced. Instead of putting more men into work, it threw thousands out of employment. The purchasing power of the people was decreased, and business houses that anticipated an extension of their activities had to dismiss many employees. The people had not the wherewithal to purchase their commodities.
It has been stated that those who oppose the plan have not the courage of their convictions. Every man’ who expresses his opinions, whether they be for or against the bill, has the courage of his convictions. I have always been prepared to express my opinions, and have always had the courage of my convictions. I have not attempted to shelter myself behind any organization, whether that of the public servants, or of the trade union movement generally. I have lived and worked in a hard and bitter school, and I know something of the struggles of the class which I am here to represent. Some honorable members take exception to the attitude of those who oppose the Government’s proposals, and attribute our opposition to selfish motives - to a desire to improve our position. I do not believe that any honorable member who opposes the reduction of pensions and wages or the setting aside of Arbitration Court awards does so from selfish motives. We all believe that we are doing the right thing. I am opposed to my colleagues on these measures, and it is possible that I am not doing what is right, but I think 1 am. I came into this Parliament to support Labour principles, and on those principles I take my stand. If I am defeated, I shall at least have the pleasure of knowing that I have not sacrificed any of the principles for which I have always fought.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat was good enough to refer to me, and to my attitude on this measure. He raised the issue to which I referred last night, namely, the duration of the Government’s plan. I am as zealous for the welfare of the public servants as any other honorable member. My actions all my life have shown that, and my efforts on their behalf are reflected in the salaries and conditions they now enjoy. Although this Parliament has represented in it many schools of thought, some of them heterodox, and others even more heterodox, we are all of us, I believe, moved by a profound desire to do the best we can for the people of the country. Because we are divided in this way, I know that it would be utterly futile to move the amendment I have foreshadowed unless the Government regards it sympathetically. I am desirous of obtaining from the Government an indication, not only of its attitude towards my amendment, but of the spirit which infuses its policy in regard to this measure. It has been spoken of as an emergency measure, and certainly is one dealing with an emergency. When that emergency is, past, what is to be the Government’s attitude towards Australian standards of living? That is the question which the people of this country are anxious to have answered. I do not want to submit an amendment which know must be overwhelmingly defeated, but I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) - who, in the days that are gone has, like myself, been a champion of the workers - exactly what the attitude of the Government will be in the future towards Australian standards of living. If the assurance is given that this policy is to deal only with an emergency, and that when that emergency is past the whole situation will be reviewed in the light of events then existing, we shall, at any rate, be able to look to the future with some degree of confidence.
– I am sorry that I did noi hear the second-reading speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I was engaged at the time on urgent business outside the chamber, and was unable to hear his speech, or the arguments which he put forward in favour of his proposed amendment that the plan should operate for three years only. In answer to the query which he has directed to me, however, 1 am compelled to inform him that it is impossible for the Government to accept his proposal. It is true that the bill is. an emergency measure. It arises out of the extreme emergency in which the country finds itself. It is our hope, and indeed, it is almost a certainty, that we shall emerge from the present conditions in a sounder economic and financial position than we are in to-day.
– Does the Treasurer mean that the position will be better from the point of view of the country or of the Government?
– The Government has not, in the preparation of these measures, set out to create a political situation which will ensure its continuance in office. It must surely be recognized that that was the last thing which actuated the Government when it committed itself to this plan. An emergency exists, and the Government has set itself to deal with it. The emergent conditions may not last long, but how long they will last no man can forecast. No one can say what will be the effect of these measures on the economic position of the country, or even on the Government’s finances. We can only hope for the best, and trust that, by the adoption of this policy, we can put the Government’s finances on a sound basis, and help the country to a sounder economic position generally. It would be most unwise, 7 believe, to place a limit, long or short, on the operation of the emergency provisions. I ask the right honorable member for North Sydney not to press this proposed amendment.
– The Government has not accepted this plan as a settled policy?
– No. I do not believe that any honorable member in this House, who desires to see his country advance and civilization progress, would agree to a permanent reduction in our standard of living. Some honorable members who have spoken rather give the impression that, in their opinion, they alone stand for improvements in our standards of living, and that Labour representatives who disagree with them have abandoned their principles, have become recreant to their trust, and have thrown overboard their pledges; that they have in short, dishonoured themselves as representatives of the people of Australia. That kind of argument is too paltry, to take seriously.
– We can quote from the Treasurer’s own speeches in support of our contentions.
– Honorable members have frequently quoted from my speeches, and I do not object to that. Some honorable members who have spoken on this clause appear to be unaware of the tremendous changes which have taken place since 1929. They have referred to conditions existing in 1929, when the general elections took place, and complain that the policies outlined then are not in harmony with the measures which the Government has now introduced. That is perfectly true; but any one who expects that the policies of to-day must conform, in every respect, with those advocated in 1929 in this or any other country, is simply ignoring what has happened since 1929.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was very critical in his references to this clause. He blamed the Government for departing from its policy of February last. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) did the same. He said that the Government had endorsed a policy, and then changed it; that it had framed another policy, and changed that, and that it had then agreed on still another policy, and changed that also. I remind the honorable member, however, that at least five of these policies were adopted while the honorable gentleman himself was a member of the Government. What has he to say about that? He was prepared to draw his salary, to remain in the Ministry, and to keep silent. He can wax very eloquent when he has a gallery to listen to him; he becomes impassioned when tickling the ears of the groundlings. He gets into the limelight when he has a public to appeal to; but he did not raise his voice in opposition to this policy when it was before the Parliamentary Labour Party for adoption. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) again trounced the Government for having gone back on its pledges; for departing from » the policy which it adopted in February. Why, he himself ran away from the policy which he had accepted. In February last the Government adopted a monetary policy which, if we could have effectuated it, would have created credits for stimulating industry. He stated yesterday that he supported that policy, but the fact is that, no sooner had the Government formulated it, than he deserted the party, and set out to criticize the Government, in an attempt to ruin it.
– I will give the Treasurer more when this is over.
– The honorable member must take his share of the responsibility. He stayed in this Government as long as he could, but made his position impossible, because, while a Minister, he advocated a policy diametrically opposed to that of the Government of which he was a member. He even sought re-election to the Ministry, while denouncing the Government to which he wished to return. If there has been any somersaulting, or modifiacation of pledges, or throwing overboard of principles, let him, therefore, examine his own recent record. I do not wish to refer or reply to all the nonsense that has been talked lately from the corner occupied by members of the Lang group, or to answer all the futile charges made by them. They are playing to the gallery continuously. They boast of their courage in espousing the cause of the workers ; but their first regard is for their own political salvation, and they talk as they do because they are the representatives of certain industrial districts.
.- I am glad that the Government will not accept the amendment suggested by the* right honorable member for North Sydney. I think that it would be impossible to fix a date for the termination of the operation of the plan.
– The honorable member wants it to stand for ever.
– No. I appeal to the right honorable member for North Sydney not to persist in his amendment, because he has the assurance of the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, that this is merely an emergency measure. Every honorable member on the Opposition side has looked upon it in that light. I was one of the first to suggest the general reduction of expenditure,because I knew that it was inevitable. Were it possible to avoid these cuts, I would certainly have done all in my power to prevent them. Not one member on this side of the chamber supports with pleasure the reduction of wages and pensions, and, so far as we are concerned, the reduction will not operate longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability. At the earliest possible moment, members on this side will stand behindany proposal for the restoration of the wages and, conditions that have been enjoyed by public servants up to the present time. Possibly in three years the circumstances of the Commonwealth will have so improved that the old conditions can be restored.
– The public servants have been forced hack.
– There is no desire on my part to force them back. My course of action is dictated by stern necessity. I give the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) credit for honesty of purpose, and I feel sure that he will accept my assurance that in my judgment these reductions are unavoidable. Nothing would be achieved by agreeing to the amendment.
.- Under this clause the Government is introducing a principle that I have always opposed. It is endeavouring to have the wages of public servants determined by an act of this Parliament, and I claim that Parliament is not qualified to give a decision of such a nature. It has not the necessary organization available to enable it to collate all the facts needed to enable a decision to be reached regarding the wages and working conditions that should obtain in the Public
Service. Within the last two months, a request has been made in Queensland by the Employers’ Federation for a reduction of the basic wage by 9s. 6d. a week, and the court decided to grant a reduction of 3s. a week, making the wage about £19.2 a year. The Federal Government desires to reduce the basic wage of the public servants to £182 a year, or £10 a year less than the Queensland rate. If the Parliament were to accept that proposal, the employers in Queensland would be induced to ask the court to reduce the basic wage in that State to a like amount. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) expressed the opinion that Parliament should determine the number of hours for which the members of the Public Service should be employed weekly, and the minimum wage that should be paid to them; but sucha scheme would be unworkable, as the conditions would probably be varied with each change of government. It seems clear to me that the Arbitration Court is the proper authority to deal with this matter. The policy of this country regards arbitration as the best means of settling industrial disputes.
The honorable member for Darling Downs referred to the large number of grievances that had been settled without the intervention of the court. That is so; but, if the court had not been in existence, the conference at which disputes have been settled by conciliation would not have been held. In Queensland the employers refused, at one time, to confer with their employees, although they now recognize that good results can be obtained by a conference of the parties directly interested as employers or employees. Under the present system, if the parties do not voluntarily confer, the court may order them to do so. In many cases the court has brought the parties together, and much good work has been accomplished. The bush strikes of the ‘nineties, and the maritime strike of 1889, were the outcome of the cruel conditions imposed on the men by their employers. In . 1891, I, with the rest of the bush workers, was urged to return men to Parliament who would place legislation on the statute-book to provide for the settlement of industrial grievances.
I still consider that arbitration and con* ciliation are the best means of dealing with industrial disputes, and the settlements reached by conciliation are usually more permanent than any others. In the near future, when applications are made to the court by employers’ organizations for a reduction of the basic wage to the amount proposed by the Government, under this bill, the present attitude of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and the other members who support this proposal, will be referred to as an argument in favour of the reduction.
I regret that this measure has caused so much conflict between members. The honorable member for Richmond (Mv. R. Green) referred to Mr. Speaker in terms which lower the whole tone of parliamentary debate. They were unworthy of any member of the National Parliament. I do not agree with the honorable member for Flinders that Parliament should fix a minimum wage for public servants. With a Labour government in power, the Parliament might declare that the minimum wage should be £4 or £5 a week; and if an anti-Labour Ministry were in office the amount might be reduced to £3 or £4 a week. Only the Arbitration Court should be permitted to decide the matter.
.- For the good of the country, the sooner this bill is passed the better. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) have indulged in rather fatuous remarks, and have based their speeches on false premises. The former voiced the usual platitudes, but proved nothing, and convinced nobody but himself. The honorable member has been given credit for sincerity, but what is the value of the opinion of a Labour organizer who has qualified at the Trades Hali? We are dealing with a financial emergency bill. We have reached the edge of a precipice, in a great measure because of the actions of the socialist section. I am somewhat amused over the socialist party opposite calling itself a Labour party. It hoodwinks the workers, and leads them to believe that, if only they elect a Labour government to office, Australia will be a Utopia for them. The present Government came into this House with an enormous majority, and since that time Australia has experienced unemployment to an unparalleled degree. Yet the honorable member for Flinders opposes any reduction in the wages and salaries of public servants no matter how serious the situation. He has taken exception to an interjection to the effect £hat his speech will assist in his election for Melbourne Ports. He may deny that as he will, but there was a wonderful synchronization between the resignation of the honorable member from the Ministry and his selection as Labour candidate for Melbourne Ports.
Various honorable members have advanced reasons why the salaries of civil servants should not be reduced. The trouble is that our Civil Service has been over-organized. The greatest enemies of peace in industry are the federal executives of the various unions. These men have, for many years, battened upon the workers, who have been required to pay tribute for the right to work. In these days - and I am speaking of the Civil Service of Australia, not of Russia - a person is obliged to join the particular branch of the Civil Service organization which covers his calling before he can obtain the advantages of the arbitration awards which relate to it. That provision was introduced by this socialist Government. . Actually, an officer of a certain Commonwealth department was informed that he was not eligible to join the union, and so he was prevented from obtaining the benefits of an award which applied to his fellow-officer who worked beside him-. Happenings like these have brought us to our present pass. The Labour party has won a certain spurious loyalty from the workers by making promises which cannot be fulfilled. Trade unionism has ceased to be an ideal for the uplift of the oppressed, and has become a domination of the man by the official. A false idealism has been preached to the workers, who have become dominated by union officials. I admit that many men have joined the Labour party under the inspiration of worthy humanitarian ideals; but the party has not been, able to give effect to those ideals. On the other hand, certain individuals, like honorable members who sit in the corner opposite, preach class bitterness on every possible occasion, and particularly when any matter which has relation to wages and conditions of work is under consideration. It must be remembered that wages are only part of the economic fabric of the nation. Wages must necessarily vary according to the capacity of the country to pay.
It has been said by some honorable members opposite, and particularly by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), that the Civil Service is being forced to accept a wage reduction of per cent., whereas the Arbitration Court has reduced wages by only 10 per cent. The honorable member was a union secretary for many years, and he must know that that statement is not accurate. It is true that the Arbitration Court recently made a reduction of 10 per cent, in wages; but quarterly adjustments had previously been made in accordance with the cost of living figures, the total result of which has been a 23 per cent, reduction, or more than the reduction that civil servants are being called upon to make. In addition wage reductions have been operating in the outside industrial world for many months.
Like all other honorable members of the committee, I am prepared to pay my tribute to the zeal and ability of our civil servants. The Civil Service is a necessary adjunct to government. In Great Britain the Civil Service is held in the highest repute, and in Australia we have many public officers who work silently, but effectively, in behalf of the Ministry and the community generally, and who are the men behind the Ministers. It is not the fault of these men that some public departments have been extended out of all proportion to the needs of the situation in consequence of promises made by politicians to the electors, or of the ambitions of particular Ministers and departmental heads. But the time has come when there must be a serious overhauling of every government department with the object of effecting economies. Personally, I should like to see a business council appointed, consisting of the Auditor-General and outside accountants, to advise the Government on ways and means of effecting savings in the Government service, even to the extent of abolishing entire departments or branches. In connexion with Parliament, we have a refreshment-room, with a staff large enough to feed a regiment, to cater for a few members of Parliament who would do better to obtain their meals at the hotels where they live. I realize that the abolition of such a department as that would mean the loss of employment for some people; but the government of this country can only be carried on soundly when our expenditure is in proportion to om- revenue and our population.
This measure is termed a “financial emergency bill.” I should like to see the Government effect economies in certain extraneous payments. In a recent, report of the Public Service Board, it was stated that nearly £500,000 is being paid away annually in waiting time, travelling allowances, and so on. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and certain other honorable members have been making inquiries into some aspects of this subject. Further investigations should be made with a view to framing the Estimates in these respects on economic lines. If economies had been made in these directions, it is probable that the serious cuts in salaries which are now being proposed could have been avoided. I regret that it is necessary to make these adjustments; but they must be made if the Public Service is to be put in the same position as persons in private employment.
.- I do not propose at this stage to make any allusions to platforms, planks of platforms, or promises. I have come to the conclusion that certain honorable members hold the opinion that promises, like pie-crusts, are made to be broken. I have declared that I am opposed to this bill, lock, stock, and barrel. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) for his successful endeavour to obtain a moiety of justice for the women employees in the Public Service. I am also pleased that the effect of the amendment of the honorable member, which the Treasurer has accepted, will be to place our female employees on a more equal footing with the male employees. Women workers have always been more or less unjustly treated; but. the fact that under the provision of the clause, as amended, they “will suffer a reduction of only £22 10s., as against £34 for male employees, will no doubt be a help to them.
The short title of this clause is “ General reduction of salaries and wages.” A couple of weeks ago I advocated that there should be no reduction of the basic wage. In my opinion Parliament should have the power to determine the minimum wage and the standard number of hours which should apply to workers throughout the Commonwealth. Such a power is conferred upon the South African Parliament by the Constitution of that dominion. Unfortunately, the Australian Constitution is deficient in that respect. One great disadvantage of our system of arbitration is that too many lawyers and too many legal maxims are associated with it. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and I each possess a medal which was presented to us by the Federated Tramways Union of Australia for services rendered. That union was obliged to spend £18,000 in order to secure its first award from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In my opinion our system of arbitration should be greatly simplified. Napoleon inaugurated a system of industrial arbitration which was incorporated in the Code Napoleon, and applied to every territory that, during that period, came under the control of all-conquering France. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, promised me that, while he was abroad on one occasion, he would try to obtain an up-to-date book on this subject for me. Unfortunately, he was too busy to do so. I have now asked the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), if he will try to secure a modern volume on this subject, and place it on our library shelves. The most up-to-date hook that we have available at present is A Sovereign People, written by Henry Demarest Lloyd, and edited by John A… Hobson, the chapter on the Conseils des Prud ‘hommes being the best I have ever read. I made extended references to this subject in a speech that I delivered on the Maritime Industries Bill on the 6th September, 1929, and , which is reported in Hansard, volume 121, at page 723; but an extract which I took from page 155 of the book is worth of repetition. It reads as follows : -
The employers and employed in each’ group of trades elect their representatives, fifteen for each side, to form a conseil. The numbers choose by ballot a committee consisting, of a president, vice-president, secretary, and vice-secretary, the presidency and the other offices being held alternately by an employer and a workman, with the further proviso that, when the president or the secretary is an employer, the vice-officer must be a workman, and vice versa.
The work of the conseil is divided as follows. First comes the conciliation board, consisting of an employer and a workman, who preside by turns. This board has summary powers of decision in cases involving sums not exceeding twenty francs. In case of disagreement between the members, or where sufficient evidence for a summary judgment is lacking, the case is referred to the second board, the tribunal.
The Tribunal dcs Prud’hommes consists of a president, three employers, and three workmen, hears evidence and, where necessary, summons experts and gives final decisions in cases not involving more than 500 francs.
Cases involving larger sums arc carried to the third court, a chamber of appeal, which consists of a president, five employers, five workers, and a secretary (without a vote).
Finally, certain cases where competence of jurisdiction is disputed are referred for decision to a mixed court composed of two judges of the court of justice (nominated by this court) and three prud’hommes chosen from among themselves by the chamber of appeal.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Tribunal des Prud’hommes is the only place to which legal men are admitted. There are two judges, but they are outvoted by the three members of the Court of Wise Men. The passage continues -
The proceedings of the tribunal and the chamber of appeal arc public, and careful rules are provided to secure that no member of a court shall have any interest, direct or indirect, that is prejudicial to the impartiality of his judgment in the case he is called upon to try.
The councils have also other functions of a more general order. They are summoned by the cantonal government to deliberate upon questions affecting industry and commerce. A special committee of prud’hommes determines questions regarding the execution of contracts, and constitutes a sanitary authority regarding the conditions of trades. Finally, a central committee, consisting of two elected delegates, forms a reporting and mediating committee between the Conseils de Prud’hommes and the Council of State and governmental departments, and is also entrusted with general powers of investigation into industrial conditions, hygienic, technical, and educational.
Such is the system in force in Geneva and Valid. Two other cantons, Neutchatel and Solothurm, which had adopted the same method, exchanged it later on for what is commonly known as the method of arbitration courts.
The distinctive feature of this method is the appointment of the president of the Industrial Court from outside the trade the disputes of which he has to arbitrate, thus securing a presiding officer of guaranteed impartiality and usually of higher experience and general competency. [Quorum formed.]
With the exception of the Court of Conciliation, all these courts are open to the public. The Court of Conciliation comprises one employer, and one employee, who endeavour to maintain peace between the workmen and the owners. Judgment is given publicly, either orally or in writing, and is enforceable by the ordinary processes of law. A further passage reads -
Ten courts of arbitration deal with disputes in these groups of trades -
Earth and building works.
Foodstuffs and liquors.
Paper-making and polygraphic industry.
Retail trade and other callings (banks, insurance, employments connected with literature, art and science ) .
The following table will show the number of cases dealt with and the manner in which they were settled: -
I hope that every honorable member will study the conditions under which the Court of Wise Men is appointed, and the extremely valuable work which it performs. In addition, I refer honorable members to the following works: -
Survey of Industrial Relations, published in London.
The Contemporary Review, 1883
Co-operative Commonwealth, by Lawrence Gronlund.
Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration, by Douglas Knoop.
A Sovereign People, by Henry Demarest Lloyd, edited by John A Hobson.
I am against this bill, lock, stock, and barrel. I am against a reduction of wages, because it decreases the purchasing power of the community. I hope to live to see the day when Parliament will insist upon a minimum basic wage, and by that means bring about a civilization worthy of this country.
.- During the second-reading debate I asked that when we came to deal with the conditions affecting the awards governing the Public Service, full details might be given to honorable members respecting what was proposed, and the operation of the provisions of the several clauses. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) promised that that course would be followed.
I hope that before we vote on this clause that we may be fully informed as to its effect in addition to the reduction of wages. As I have already stated, those affected by this legislation will not be able to fully appreciate its result until it is actually applied, so that it is desirable that honorable members should know every effect of the reductions in wages and alterations of conditions that are to apply to the Public Service.
Touching upon the policy associated with this clause, I wish to answer some of the statements made by the Treasurer just before the dinner adjournment. He * then made a vicious attack upon the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and myself, and in the course of his remarks he dealt with something that happened in February of this year, when, he said, I had run away from a policy that had been determined by the Government. If the charge of running away from policies, not particularly during the last few months, but over a long period, is to be brought against anybody, there is no one who has offended more in that way than the Treasurer himself.
– Did not the honorable member run. away from the policy decided upon in February last?
– No one made a greater surrender, and runaway from the policy of last February than did the Treasurer himself. He ran away from a decision to declare a state of national emergency in order to solve the problems that confronted Australia at that time.
– The Treasurer ran away from himself.
– That aptly describes the position. The Treasurer has charged mc with running away from a policy when it was he himself who ran away. That policy is apart altogether from the Gibbons proposals. Every honorable member knows what happened in regard to those proposals, and the complete surrender and run away that was made when he was re-elected to the Cabinet. In defending myself against the charge of the Treasurer, let me say that in February last the Treasurer decided to give effect to a policy of national emer gency in order to overcome our economic difficulties. That was his policy when he left Sydney to attend the Premiers Conference, after having failed to obtain the acceptance by the bank board of the Gibbons proposals. It was at that conference that the Premier of New South “Wales made a declaration as to the course which would be taken by him, which is now known as the Lang plan. Who ran away from the Labour party’s policy on that occasion? The Treasurer knows that I came to Canberra with him for the purpose of discussing the details of this policy with the Premier of New South Wales; but when it was put to the Prime Minister he shook at the knees, and was afraid to go on with it. The Treasurer then ran away from that policy. He completely surrendered at that stage and no more was heard of the national emergency proposals. He should be the last honorable member to accuse other honorable members of running away from a policy. My action in remaining in the Ministry has been questioned. It can be claimed by the honorable member for Bourke and myself, that when we were members of the Ministry, we were able to hold out against the violation of Labour policy and principles. The Treasurer was not a member of the Ministry when the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) submitted his proposals, which he now says were modified. Perhaps they were, but in any case they were not so vicious as those which are before us to-day. But the ex-Postmaster-General can inform honorable members that in the discussion that took place on his proposals, the honorable member for Bourke and myself, and the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) fought strenuously against him so as to prevent him from giving effect to his policy.
– Hear, hear !
– We believe that it was a violation of Labour principles. I think that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) will endorse what I have said regarding our attitude towards him. ‘ I come now to the attitude of the Ministry. At the time that the honorable member for Bourke and myself were associated with the Ministry, we did not run away from any policy. We fought strenuously to prevent effect being given to a policy which we knew would be detrimental to the workers of this country. Let me remind the Treasurer that when he was out of the Ministry he had some very good friends within it, who were pleading- his cause, and defending him against others who, although now voting with him, were ready six months ago to sacrifice him and destroy him politically and socially.
– (Mr. Mackay). - I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude, and I now ask him to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– The Treasurer has insinuated that those honorable members who are opposing the Government’s proposals are doing it for political reasons, so as to improve their position in the eyes of their electors. Let me say that the Treasurer himself is a master in the art of political expediency. In the course of his political career he has shown himself more capable of moulding political policy to suit his own interests than any other honorable member in this chamber. That is my answer to the charges that have been hurled by him at those who are refusing to support the Government’s plan. Those honorable members of the Opposition who are supporting the Government on this occasion are doing so only because they know that the policy put forward by the Government is that formulated by the interests which they represent. I do not consider the interests of my constituency only. While I have a seat in this chamber I shall always defend and advocate the principles of the Labour movement, whether I represent West Sydney or any other electorate.
This bill will create a precedent which perhaps may provide opportunities for action to be taken which will be the direct opposite of that now proposed. The Government and the Opposition have now declared that Parliament can decide the wages paid in industry, because they are now supporting a proposal under which Parliament is to reduce wages. It can therefore no longer be regarded as necessary to set up a tribunal for the fixation of wages and conditions of labour. Ac cording to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), wages are now to be fixed in accordance with the financial circumstances of the country. I remind him that when times were prosperous there was no move on the part of the National party to vest in this Parliament the power to fix the wages and conditions of labour.
– The honorable member for Fawkner then contended that this should not be clone.
– I thank the honorable member for that reminder. Now that conditions have changed, and we are faced with what is called financial stringency, this Parliament is reducing wages and changing the conditions of the workers. The precedent which is now being established may be used at some not far distant date to bring about the opposite effect. That position will satisfy me at .this juncture. By this bill the Government is establishing new precedents, and laying down a policy for the future, and I hope the opportunity will present itself before long to apply it in a direction opposite from that in which it is being applied to-day.
. - The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in the course of hi3 opening remarks, referred to the necessity for examining some of these clauses in greater detail in order to discover whether more severe disabilities were being imposed on public servants than are represented by the mere cuts of salaries. If the honorable member would indicate the particular features which he wishes considered, we could discuss them with him; but, instead of doing that, he and his supporters in the corner seem to take every opportunity to indulge in a general debate as to whether the plan agreed to by the Melbourne Conference should apply, whether it is sound, and whether it represents a change of attitude on the part of the Government. This general discussion makes it more difficult for me, as the Minister in charge of the bill, to consider specific objections to individual clauses.
– If a proposal is wrong in principle, we cannot right it in detail,
– When the Treasurer indulges in second-reading speeches we have to reply.
– That statement is “hardly fair. I have addressed myself to this clause only once before, and then only after, every member of the corner party had spoken in general terms. The honorable member for West Sydney started to rake over the embers of recent history in order to assail the policy of the Government, and he wrongly accused me of having started the recrimination which has developed during this discussion. After moving the second reading of the bill, I did not speak on it again until this afternoon. The Constant gibes and jeers hurled at me from both sides of the committee do not cause me any particular hurt or offence. I am becoming more or less insensitive to bitter personal and vindictive attacks, and they do not disturb me. But the honorable member for West Sydney referred to the policy which the Government was evolving in February last. Since it came into office the Government has had to consider, not once, but several times, the evolution of monetary policy. For that I make no apology. Those who have watched the course of events can easily understand that the modification of the Government’s attitude on these questions was necessitated by the revolutionary changes that , have been taking place in the economic situation.
– The honorable member knew all about it from the beginning.
– I take no notice of the loud guffaw, which is one of the peculiar characteristics of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). Some honorable members have a particularly uncouth way of replying to arguments that do not agree with their ideas.
In February the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) had. recently returned from England, and I had recently re-entered the Cabinet. In the preceding six months the financial position had developed in a most unexpected way. When the budget was formulated last year we thought that we could very nearly balance the budget by the measures we were adopting.
– The budget estimates were not a great success.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) yesterday made slighting reference to me in regard to the preparation of the Estimates.
– Critical references.
– I do not wish to indulge in recriminations, nor do I claim exemption or immunity from fair criticism.
– That was ordinary political criticism.
– Surely I am entitled to reply to it !
– Then I ask the honorable member to allow me to proceed. He slightingly referred to the forecast of receipts and expenditure, and charged me with gross incapacity. Such criticism makes no allowance for the extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances that developed immediately after the preparation of the Estimates. Australia had an experience, not differing in degree or character from the experience of most other countries in the same period, whose finances were thrown out of all reckoning as a consequence of the unexpected and calamitous decline in commodity prices. From June of last year to February of this year commodity prices in Australia, as measured by the general index numbers, had declined by 25 per cent. Customs revenue had fallen off to an extent that nobody could have foreseen. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, ‘ who was a member of the Bruce-Page Government for several years, should have known from experience that a Treasurer’s estimates are not the result of his own computations and calculations of revenue and expenditure in every phase of governmental activity; they are based on the calculations of the treasury, customs, and taxation officials, and various other responsible officers of the Government. But the honorable member is pettyminded and mean-spirited enough to take advantage of the unrealized estimates to cast a personal slur on me, and to impugn my capacity.
– When the budget was delivered I predicted that the estimates would not be realized.
– When, in February, we were considering this calamitous outcome of the economic disturbance that had been felt with particular severity in the preceding six or seven months, the Government recognized that some positive and drastic policy would have to he put into operation. After many days of intense consideration by the Ministers mainly concerned, the suggested line of action was discussed in Cabinet. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who was then a Minister, took part in the’ discussion. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) was also in the Cabinet. Apparently all the Ministers acquiesced in the proposed policy.
– What policy?
– Do I understand that, although the honorable member was in the Cabinet, he does not know what policy was being considered ?
– Tell us what it was.
– The honorable member knows that in February the Government discussed a policy which was put before the Premiers Conference and published a few days later.
– The policy which the Prime Minister told the conference was no policy.
– The honorable member is repeating what the honorable member for Bourke said last night. He must have known that there was a false implication in the criticism of the honorable member for Bourke, because he was a member of the Cabinet when the policy was formulated for presentation to the Premiers Conference. When I charged him, this afternoon, with having run away from his responsibilities, I had in mind not only that he was a member of the Ministry, but that he attended the Cabinet when that policy was being settled, and he never indicated disagreement with any phase of it until the Premier of New South Wales declared in favour of the repudiation of interest on the overseas debt. Even after that declaration, the honorable member did not define his attitude until he had been to Sydney, and, apparently, had been approached by those who had influence over him. The honorable member will recollect that for a couple of days the Prime Minister was trying to get in touch with him, as a result of a statement which had been published regarding his attitude, to ascertain where he stood in relation to the Government’s policy. When, eventually, the Prime Minister succeeded, the honorable member, somewhat apologetically, explained to him that he had his own difficulties in his electorate.
– Who told the Treasurer that?
– I have no wish to do an injustice to the honorable member.
– The statement is not correct.
– I accept the honorable member’s disclaimer. He will not deny, however, that he went to Sydney, and there made a declaration contrary to the policy of the Government of which he was a member, without having first notified the Prime Minister, or informing the Cabinet, that he could no longer support that policy.
– The Government never had a policy.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that the Cabinet, of which he was a member for a year, was without a policy?
– The committee is considering clause 9, but the discussion will wander very far from it if it is allowed to develop on personal lines. I suggest that the matter now being discussed by the Treasurer would more fittingly be dealt with during the budget debate.
– I shall readily conform to any decision that we should follow the usual and orderly course of keeping the discussion relevant to the clause under consideration, but nearly all the speeches delivered to-day have taken the form of a general review of financial policy, attacks upon the Government, and charges against Ministers, particularly myself. However, I do not wish to give any excuse for the continuance of that line of debate. I shall confine myself in future to the consideration of the details of the bill.
.- Before the dinner adjournment, I was dealing with a matter of extreme importance, and I submitted some details as to the incapacity of certain highly-paid officials.
– Oh, drop that, and get on with the bill.
– It is strange that when attacks are made on the emoluments of unfortunate people who are receiving only the basic wage, there is no word of disapproval from honorable members opposite, but every time that I draw attention in this , chamber to an officer whose salary rate is £80 a week, and whose services, according to official records, prove him to be highly incapable of holding his position, they are indignant. I gave figures to prove that, under Mr. Brown’s administration, the profits of the postal branch diminished by 61 per cent. The telegraph section of the department was working at a loss, which Mr. Brown contrived to increase by 190 per cent. In other words, that official has almost trebled the losses of that department.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that if the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) is permitted, under the guise of dealing with clause 9, to persist in his vindictive vendetta upon the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, I should be given the opportunity to reply.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I remind the honorable member for Martin that while he can make passing reference to the services of a departmental officer, he is not in order in persisting with that line of argument.
– The committee is dealing with clause 9 of the bill, the effect of which will be very serious upon the lower paid officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. I indicated that the majority of those employees are in the Postal Department, and I then proceeded to show that the representations made by the Government, and the supporters of this measure, that the bill has been introduced in the interests of economy, and to effect an equality of sacrifice, are not warranted by the facts. I am endeavouring to demonstrate that I am right in that contention. I have shown that a highly-paid official has been responsible for constant and heavy losses in the revenues of the Postal Department. He and his associated highlypaid officials endeavour to make good those losses by penalizing and hounding out of existence the entirely blameless lower-paid officials of the department, so bringing about a situation the details of which this committee is entitled to know.
An attempt is being made to abolish male positions and to displace male officers with cheap female labour. The matter of equal pay for equal work was debated in this chamber in connexion with the Public Service Amendment Bill of 1924, when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) moved that the following new clause be inserted: - 109a. Section 30 of the act is amended by adding the following proviso: - “ Provided that where female officers perform similar duties to those of male officers, the salaries of such female officers shall be equal to those of such male officers “.
The present Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), during that debate, said -
As one who has had some little experience in gauging the value of employment, I contend that in those classes of work which women perform side by side with men, the value of their services to their employers is at least equal to, if not greater than that of the services of the men themselves.
Those principles have not been observed. The departure from them has operated against the male employee most unfairly and seriously, especially to those in the lower grades of the Service. I am attempting to place facts before the committee which warrant its attention, as they disclose circumstances that prejudice that quality which honorable members opposite particularly profess to worship - efficiency. The effect of this clause will accelerate the devastating influence of the forces to which I have referred. I have here a statement that has been issued by the employees of the Postal Department, and I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard for the information of honorable members, and of the community generally.
– Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the statement be incorporated in Hansard?.
Honorable Members. - No!
– Honorable members opposite are very anxious that the practice of concealing important facts, which has been the policy of the administrative head of the Postal Department, shall be perpetuated, to the disadvantage of the country. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks
Union has sent the following telegram to the members of my group : - “The Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union emphatically protests against, and views with indignation, the action of the Federal Labour Government, who, by pursuing their policy of ruthless wage cuts, have violated all principles of unionism and of the Labour party, and have sacrificed the interests of those who look to them for protection.
I submit that the care of the lower-paid officers of the Service is of greater concern to the. Government and of this committee than the welfare of higher paid officials, especially when, as I have demonstrated, the latter are incompetent. The application of this clause will be entirely prejudicial to those who have applied themselves to study in order to pass examination, so that they might advance to higher grades of skilled employment. Instead of the country having the benefit of the continual development of this technical skill in its young people, the contrary will obtain.
Apart from the violation of the principle of arbitration and the reduced purchasing power of the community which will be effected by this clause, it is necessary for this committee to pay serious attention to the facts that I have placed before it. A ruthless attack is being made upon the potential technical skill and ability of young officers in the department* who are, in the main, doing the real work of the Service. It is on their behalf, and on behalf of the great majority of our public servants who are on lower rates of pay, that I have spoken. In the opinion of my colleagues and myself, this measure, combined with the onslaught that is being made upon the workers of Australia by the financial interests of the country, is neither more nor less than an attack upon life itself, and we are justified in fighting it to the utmost.
.- The Treasurer has stated that every speaker to this clause has indulged in a second-reading speech, and has made a general attack upon the Government. I, for one, have not done so, but have confined myself to the details of the bill. I deny, too, that I, have indulged in any personal attacks upon any member of the Government while debating the measure.
If I have at any time made such attacks I have done so because I believed the individual concerned to be guilty of betraying the Labour party.
– The honorable member is one of the most personally offensive members in the chamber.
– That is an apt description of the peculiarities of the Attorney-General. He is also the first to “ run away from any attack that is directed against him. The honorable gentleman has had to be called to order for venting his personal spleen and vindictiveness on more occasions than has any other honorable member during my term as a member of the Federal Parliament.
By interjection and by statement the Government and honorable members opposite seek to prove that clause 9, which effects a reduction in the wages arid salaries of public servants, is necessary because of the pressure on the public purse. » It is absurd that such an excuse should be used to’ justify the violation of all the principles of arbitration. The Harvester judgment, pronounced by the late Mr. Justice Higgins, laid down principles for determining the basic wage in Australia. The Labour movement, politically and industrially,accepted arbitration on the basis of that judgment, which laid down the principle that industry, in order to live, must continue to pay a progressive living wage. This clause is the direct negation of that principle. It lays down the principle that living conditions need not be taken into consideration when fixing wages. I contend that Parliament has not the time or the means at its disposal to analyse conditions in order to arrive at a proper decision as to what wages should be. The Government says, through this legislation, that the principle of the Harvester judgment is no longer to apply, and in so doing it has created a precedent for private” employers. This legislation will destroy the very corner stone of the arbitration structure. That is why I declare that a government which flouts the principles held sacred by Labour for two generations, has no right to call itself a Labour Government. I say here, and will repeat elsewhere, that the Treasurer may think what he likes of the action of the Government, but he, and the other members of the Government, have forfeited their right to call themselves Labour representatives.
– This is about the mildest speech which the honorable member has made this session.
– The Treasurer can be as vindictive as any one towards his opponents when he chooses.
– I am never vindictive.
– I refuse to be dictated to by the Treasurer or any one else. During this debate, he has seen fit to adopt the attitude of the cultured gentleman, and to lecture us on our manners. Well, I shall be the crude man. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked whether we had taken into consideration the slender nature of the Government’s purse. He does not seem to have taken into consideration the slender nature of the workers’ purse, any more than he did when he declared that white workers should be able to live on 12s. 6d. a week. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) applauds the proposal that this Parliament should take upon itself the task of reducing wages. If that principle is accepted, the time may come when Parliament will take upon itself the power of raising wages. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander ; but if we turn Parliament into an industrial tribunal, we shall be treading on dangerous ground. Honorable members opposite may yet lash themselves into a frenzy of opposition to the very procedure which they are now so willing to accept. The maxim of the Treasurer has always been that a party should be able* to judge whether its proposals were right or wrong by the attitude of its opponents. I ask him to reflect upon that at his leisure, and especially when he is applauded by members of the Opposition. They are defending him now with more enthusiasm than they ever expended in support of their own leader, although six months ago they would have, kicked him to death, politically, and, I believe, physically.
.- This clause-
– Beware of the applause of the Opposition.
– The Treasurer is not only getting the applause of the Opposition; he is getting their votes.
– It is an unfortunate government which cannot depend on the votes of its supporters.
– After all these recriminations, let us proceed in a Christian spirit. We are discussing clause 9, which deals with the reduction of wages. Therefore, I am against it, and I am justified in using every means at my disposal to defeat’ it. Some personal remarks have intruded into this debate, and the Treasurer has been largely responsible. Although I, as a gentle dove, never said anything from the platform about the honorable gentleman, the Treasurer has referred to me as one of the greatest repudiationists. ‘That is as one brother to another; that is his idea of playing the game. He is, of course, justified in defending himself as best he can against those who attack him, but incidental to his main theme, he said something about my conduct as a Minister, and referred to the money I accepted as a Minister of the Crown.
– I made no reference to any money which the honorable member had accepted.
– Did not the Treasurer refer to the salary which I drew while I was a Minister?
– As a matter of fact,. I discontinued my criticism when the honorable member ran out of the chamber.
– I left the chamber to obtain some papers. The Treasurer said that I had been identified with the Government’s policy, and had then attacked the Government. As a matter of -fact, this is what happened: Last February, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held in Canberra. The Treasurer was there, and so was the Prime Minister. The first day the Prime Minister said, “ There is no plan; the idea of holding this conference is to evolve one “. The conference was continued on Saturday, the 7th February. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister were again present. The Prime Minister said, “ The Treasurer and I had been closely engaged in formulating a plan . . . ‘.- it has involved consultation with the bank authorities-“. Of course, it was impossible for a Labour government to evolve a plan without consultation with its enemies ! On the third day, when the conference met, Mr. Lang presented his plan.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the position by quoting one or two of the Prime Minister’s remarks, and trying to make out that he was setting out the Government’s attitude to the proposals under discussion. The honorable member knows that, on the Saturday, I made a full statement of the Government’s policy.
– Very well, that is capable of proof. Any honorable member may look up the report of the proceedings, and can determine for himself whether or not any definite proposition was presented by the Treasurer. He spoke in very general terms, and, as a matter of fact, presented no definite proposition. The first definite plan presented to the conference was that of Mr. Lang, on the third day. The conference would have none of Mr. Lang’s plan, and on Friday, the 13th, the Commonwealth representatives put forward the National Emergency Plan. This plan provided for - (a) Public Service wages to be reduced in accordance with the cost of living figures as determined by the Commonwealth Statistician; (b) interest to be reduced by the banks in consultation; (c) interest on bonds to be taxed 3s. 6d. in the £1; and (d) Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin to wait on the associated banks and submit the proposals. They waited on the associated banks, and what did they get? They got what they have always received from the same quarter; they were snubbed by those institutions. The banks had declared from the outset that they would grant no accommodation to the Government, unless it agreed to a reduction in wages and pensions. The banks did not immediately reply to the representations of the Government, but a reply was made on the 25th February. The conference again assembled to hear the judgment of the associated banks. What a spectacle was presented by the Government of a vast continent anxiously awaiting the judgment of the associated banks! Well, the banks rejected the National Emergency Plan. They denounced the proposals for the taxation of interest, and refused to reduce their own interest rates. In common with the Commonwealth Bank Board, they endorsed the recommendations of the committee of experts, which practically conformed to the demands which the banks had been making for twelve months previously. Conditionally upon these recommendations being adopted by the Government, the banks agreed that they might possibly effect some reduction of interest on overdrafts and mortgages, but not otherwise. The associated banks treated the conference with as much derision and contempt as the conference had treated the Lang plan. The conference was so staggered that it adjourned until the next day. On Thursday, the 26th February, the conference met again, and the next day marked the end of my association with the Government. I terminated that association officially on the following Monday. How then could I be identified with any proposal agreed to at that time?
– Did. they give you the sack?
– Perhaps I got what was coming to me, because of my misconduct. The Treasurer now says that we are suddenly faced with a great crisis. We have been faced with that crisis ever since the first day the Government assumed office, for did not the Prime Minister and the Treasurer repeatedly inform the public that the difficulties with which the Government was confronted had been created by the preceding Government. We were faced with a problem. It was not of our making, it is true, but it faced us, and called for solution. It was open to the Government to follow the policy of the previous Government, or to adopt another policy for itself. The Government refused to adopt any other policy. Sir Robert Gibson had informed us - and this may be some consolation to the Treasurer - that for three years in succession he had warned the Bruce-Page Government of the coming economic crisis. How, then, can the Prime Minister and Treasurer say that the crisis came suddenly upon them like a thief in the night ? We know that from ,, the very beginning the Treasurer and the Prime Minister informed the country that we were faced with a grave economic crisis of ever-growing magnitude. When this Government first assumed office its leaders informed the people that industry was becoming paralysed, and that unemployment was increasing. At that time the Commonwealth Government had an overdraft in this country of £13,000,000, and had issued treasury-hills abroad to the value of £5,000,000, making a total of £18,000,000. At the same time we were faced with immediate commitments amounting to £10,000,600, making our total floating indebtedness £28,000,000. It is evident, therefore, that we are faced with no crisis now which has not existed from the time the Government took office. I have nothing further to say on this matter at the moment. Holding the views that I do, I consider it inevitable that we must take some new road. As the Treasurer told us, this catastrophe is the outcome of the monetary situation. He remarked that there was no possibility of remedying the position without an alteration of the monetary system. Therefore, willy nilly, sooner or later we shall be driven by the sheer force of events to do what we refuse to do to-day, and we shall be driven to do it by reason of the crisis that is developing.
– The honorable member never supported me in the Cabinet on that policy. He was always attacking me.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) never supported any policy.
– The Treasurer was -the opponent of all progressive policies. On the 26th October, 1929, he proclaimed in the press of this country that as soon as Parliament met he would formulate a. policy which would not only balance the budget, but would also go to a certain extent in the direction of wiping off the £5,000,000 deficit which his predecessors “had left him. Is that not so?
– If the honorable member says so, I let it go. He knows that though policies are formulated by governments, and introduced, they are sometimes rejected in other places.
– Yes. The Labour party was confronted with the position that it could not evolve a new policy, and put it before Parliament, without incurring the hostility of the Senate. From the hour when the Government took office, it could expect nothing, until it had swept aside the Nationalist Senate. We could no more expect that body to “ endorse a Labour policy than a Labour Senate could have been expected to endorse the policy of the Nationalist party. The Treasurer, from the outset, both within the Cabinet and within this party, was the opponent of all progressive measures involving any new policy. As a matter of fact, he was the opponent of the policy which he afterwards adopted through stress of circumstances. He accepted no policy until he was out of the Cabinet, and then he formulated a new one. These recriminations do no good to anybody ; but we have the right to oppose this measure by every means at our command. There was an alternative policy. There was another road ; there were other methods and they meant the adoption of new principles. It is useless to link Labour’s proposals up with those of the Nationalist party. Labour could not expect the Nationalist party and the Nationalist Senate to adopt the measures that it thought necessary, but which. comprised the only policy which could in any way relieve the situation.
– If the honorable member thought that there was a sound alternative plan it is strange that he did not favour us with his advice in the party meetings.
– At the first Cabinet meeting held, after the Treasurer had, in his able way, stated the position in connexion with the economic crisis that was before this country, I ventured to suggest that the policy which had been initiated could not improve the situation, and I made several proposals based upon Labour principles and upon the nationalization of banking, for which the Labour party is supposed to stand.
– The honorable member is now referring to what happened in 1929.
– Yes. Let honorable members be the judges in this matter. We should not be wise after the event. I said that there was an external situation and an internal one, and that so far as the external policy was concerned two things were necessary - the mobilization of gold and the control by the Commonwealth Bank of overseas exchange, so that all the services of the Government should be met prior to any other service. The Government turned down that proposal as absurd. That was on a Friday. On the following Tuesday there came a communication from Sir Robert Gibson, who proposed that legislation should be passed for the mobilization of the gold resources. 1 said to the Government, and to the Prime Minister, “ Gentlemen, I do not want to say to you’ I told you so ‘, but I will ask you to believe, since you accept on Tuesday a proposition from Sir Robert Gibson, which you would not accept from me as a member of the Cabinet on Friday-
– Is this an imaginary conversation?
– I know the Treasurer. I am aware of his failing memory.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to clause 9.
– Then my story will haveto be told on some other occasion.
Question - That clause 9, as amended, be agreedto- put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 (Percentage reduction of salary and wages).
.. - Since the phraseology of the bill is necessarily of a technical and legal character, it would be of advantage if the Treasurer would give a brief outline of the meaning of this clause. When I was speaking on the previous clause he complained that I did not say exactly what information I required.
Attention being called to the presence of a stranger in the chamber,
– I ask the SergeantatArms to remove the stranger.
– I was anxious to know when the previous clause was under consideration what part of the conditions relating to the employment of public servants was actually attacked. If the reduction applied to overtime, for instance, or any other conditions, covered by awards, we should know just how far they are being affected. We should be informed whether they are to be entirely abolished, whether the amounts provided under the awards are tobe reducedby a certain sum, or just how far this alteration of miscellaneous expenditure will go. We certainly should have a more detailed explanation of the provisions of this clause than the Treasurer has seen fit to give us.
– The clause deals with the percentage reduction of salaries and wages over the basic reduction equivalent to the cost of living figures provided for in clause 9. The mode of operation of the clause is set out in the first schedule to the bill, which indicates the manner in which the reductions will be effected. In my second-reading speech I gave a table, which appears in Hansard, in which the exact amounts to be deducted from various salaries are shown. The reductions in regard to extraneous expenditure and allowances, either for special purposes or special services, are not provided in this clause. There is nothing in the clause which will result in the permanent removal of any of the conditions that at present prevail. For instance, the travelling allowances of public servants will be considered in the same way1 as the travelling allowances of Ministers, judges, or other functionaries. Another clause in the bill provides that the Minister responsible for the administration of this part of the measure may refer certain questions to a committee for investigation, but he will have the responsibility of making the final decision. If the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has in mind any particular setof conditions, or any special emoluments that he thinks may be affected, I would be glad if he would indicate them.
– The Treasurer will appreciate the difficulty I am in, because there are so many awards in existence.
– The ordinary conditions of awards will remain. Generally speaking,- the only adverse effect upon the Civil Service will be the reductions of pay provided for in clauses 9 and 10, and some other clauses..
– Why should there be any interference?
– There will be no interference with salaries and hours of work except those specifically provided for.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11- (1.) The last two preceding sections shall not apply to officers and employees to whom this section applies and the salaries of such officers and employees shall he subject to reduction as follows: -
.- I move-
That after the words “ part of the Commonwealth “ sub-clause (1) paragraph (iii), the following words be inserted: - “or by an industrial agreement or by a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator which provides for adjustment of salary or wages quarterly based on the index numbers “.
The object of the amendment is to apply the reductions to certain Commonwealth employees who are not controlled by the Public Service Board.
– This is a particularly vicious clause, for it carries the so-called economies right outside of the scope of the Public Service, in the ordinary sense of that term. One would have thought that, even in the turmoil in which it finds itself, the Government would have been content to legislate only for the employees directly under its control, through the agency of the Public Service Arbitrator. But it is actually carrying its proposals into a sphere in which they will conflict with State awards as well as other Commonwealth awards.
– The clause relates only to Commonwealth employees.
– It will relate to men employed in such undertakings as the naval dockyard. These employees are carrying on a class of work known as shipbuilding and general repair work, but it is well known that they also do other classes of engineering work for various governments and for private individuals also, if they can get it. Side by side with the employees in these undertakings, there are men engaged in State and private enterprises, doing exactly the same class of work.
– At Walsh Island, for instance.
– That is so; and also at Mort’s Dock. In both instances these employees are governed by awards of the Commonwealth or State arbitration authorities. No doubt this clause is being made to apply to the naval dockyard employees, because the dockyard is a semigovernment institution, although it is alleged to be beyond the control of Parliament. It is deplorable that this Government should attack the wages and conditions of these employees, who will be placed at a distinct disadvantage compared with other employees engaged in the same class of work. This is carrying the fight for economy far beyond the realm of decency. The Government should confine its activities to those persons who work under awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. I should like to hear what some other honorable members who have had more experience in Arbitration Court work than I have think of this clause. Probably, they would be able to inform the committee just how far-reaching it is. At any rate, I ask the Government to consider my suggestion that it should confine its economies to the employees for whom it is specially responsible.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also verbally amended.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 28
Mr.Curtin. - I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the majority of Labour members are voting against this clause.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12- (1.) For the purposes of this part there shall be a committee which shall consist of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. (4.) The Minister may refer to the committee the cases of any classes of officers and employees and of other persons rendering service to the Commonwealth in relation to which he has power under this part to give a direction upon the receipt of a recommendation of the committee.
.- I should like to know from the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) what is to be the function of this committee. I suggest that there is scope for definite representation upon it of the employees in the Public Service, particularly in view of the steamroller method that is being adopted generally in fixing their wages and conditions. The clause makes provision for the appointment of a committee, consisting of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. I suggest that the last-mentioned person should be a representative of the employees. In any case, he would be in a minority on the committee. Necessarily this body will carry out much of the actual administration connected with the reduction of wages. If the employees are represented on the committee they will be assured of access to it. It is on all fours with the policy of the Labour party that employees in industry should have representation on any body dealing with wages and conditions of employment.
– I should like some information as to the procedure to be followed by the committee, and the means by which evidence will be collected. In respect of the ordinary method of determining wages and conditions, and of making application to courts and tribunals, great care is exercised by the employers to make certain that every avenue is open to them to put their case. If they fail to obtain what they consider to be justice in the lower tribunals, they have the right to appeal to some other body. I should like to know what line of investigation will be undertaken by this committee, and if the same protection is to be given to the workers. I understand that those who will be affected by this clause are government employees governed by State or Federal awards. Whatever conditions they now enjoy have been obtained by the advocacy of their representatives before the various tribunals which have fixed those conditions. Is this committee to fix arbitrarily the conditions of the employees, and if so, is there to be an appeal to another body or is the Minister to have arbitral authority over the whole matter? After all, the Minister’s job will be to slash the wages of the workers. If a Minister is able to do that when this bill is passed, another Minister will be able to do the opposite on some future occasion. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane). He has advocated the adoption of a principle that has long been recognized by the Labour movement. He has suggested the appointment to the committee of a representative of the employees in the Public Service, or of the unions concerned, so that every avenue may be open to them in preparing and placing their cases before the committee or the Minister.
– In dealing with the bill, it was found impossible to make the application of the general reduction as now provided for, cover all the cases likely to be met with either in connexion with the Public Service or with the industrial section. In the Defence Department there are many grades of workers and ratings who receive pay in addition to allowances such as kit allowance, and so on. They cannot be covered comprehensively by any provision in the bill itself. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to the fact that certain discretionary powers are to be vested in the Minister. The Government’s intention was to state definitely in the bill what was to be done in every case ; butwe found it impossible to apply a general reduction to the Public Service in respect of every payment for which the Government is responsible. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has asked that the employees should have representation on the committee. It is essential thatwhatever decisions are reached by the Minister or the committee, should be reached quickly. Cases cannot drag on for months if the plan is to be given immediate effect.
– If that is so, no evidence is to be collected.
– I remind the honorable member that no evidence is placed before the Conciliation Committee in New South Wales. I do not believe in the procedure adopted there, although I have been engaged in it from time to time. In that State the representatives of the employers and employees concerned are called together to discuss matters in dispute, and in many instances the Conciliation Commissioner instructs the representatives to conferwith a view to coming to a settlement. In this instance,whatever decision is reached must be reached quickly. Although it is impossible for every union concerned to be represented on the committee itself, I assure honorable members that the employees in the Service will be given an opportunity to put their case, either before the committee or the Minister.
– Will the Minister have time to consider every case?
– I have already, with the assistance of my officers, been able to consider all the details of the’ reductions in the Army and Navy. I have no doubt that a Minister,with the assistance of the officers in his department, will be able to deal with the cases put before him. Among the personnel of the committee is to be a person appointed by the Governor-General,’ and the honorable member for Bendigo has suggested that that person should be a representative of the employees. It is not possible to have every union represented on the committee. Only those caseswhich the Minister refers to the committeewill be dealt with by that body.
– Will the Minister be bound by the recommendation of the committee ?
– The Minister will have a discretionary power. Such matters as travelling allowance, which some honorable members may regard as excessive, the Minister may refer to the committee. He himself may decide to make adjustments. When these cases are being dealtwith the parties concerned can rest assured that either the Minister or the committee will give them every opportunity to put their view as to how adjustments should be made.
– If the Minister is wise the committee will not have too much say.
– As probably 80 per cent. of the cases will be in the Defence Department most of the decisionswill rest with me, and despitewhat has been said by honorable members in the corner,I hope that, while having due regard to the rehabilitation plan and the provisions of this bill, I shall be able to give fair and sympathetic consideration to each.
– Will the Minister admit that this is a dangerous practice?
– I admit that certain dangers will be associated with the system proposed, especially if the Minister be determined to exercise arbitrary jurisdiction in every case, but it is notwith that object that the committee is to be appointed. We are adopting this procedure merely because Ave cannot prescribe a definite percentage reduction to cover all cases and all allowances.
– Are not all these allowances governed by regulationswhich could be dealtwith by the Minister on his own authority?
– Some of them are. No awards apply to the defence, navy, military, and air force personnel.
Certain staff allowances, kit allowances, &c, are fixed. In the Department of the Navy, for instance, an able-bodied seaman receives per diem - Active pay 7s. 2d.; deferred pay, ls. 9d.; kit upkeep, 7d. ; board and lodging 2s. 3d.; and other allowances averaging 5d. All those allowances could not be dealt with in the bill.
– The adjustments will extend into the field of awards.
– I do not deny that. I admit frankly that as a result of the cost of living adjustments since June, 1930, many men have already suffered extensive reductions. But these will be taken into consideration by the committee and the Minister. To some classes “it may not be possible to apply any reduction at all. If a percentage reduction were applied all round in the Navy, varying grades and ranks would be reduced to the same level. That must be avoided. No definite provision to meet all cases can be stated in ‘the bill; but we should endeavour to ensure a uniform application of certain principles throughout the Service. We want to avoid the creation of anomalies through a decision by one Minister operating here, and a different decision by another Minister operating somewhere else. The committee is not to be appointed to shield the Minister, but it will assist him because he cannot have full knowledge of the circumstances in each branch of the Service. There may be 50 cases to which reductions could be applied under this legislation, but in respect of 45 of them the Minister may decide that no action is desirable or worth while.
– The bill proposes that the committee shall consist of a representative of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person to be appointed by the Governor-General. Why not give the employees representation?
– Possibly, 50 or 60 organizations will be concerned, and each one cannot have a representative.
– Select one man to represent the lot. ‘
– Certain sections will have special claims, and I shall favorably consider the practicability of giving representation to any general body.
– Provide that in the bill.
– I cannot do that. If we provided for a representative of a Public Service union he would not be able to represent any other section.
– Provide merely that there shall be a representative of the employees.
– I do not propose to alter the wording of the bill.
– The Minister is opposed to Labour principles in this respect also.
.- The proposed committee is to practice direct action of the most extreme kind. The provision in the bill contains the1 very essence of non-unionism, and indicates the length to which the Government is prepared to go to destroy every industrial and political principle of Labour. Apparently the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) has been selected for this job because of his special knowledge of the industrial organizations, and the tactics they sometimes employ. He is to see that there shall be no delay. There is to be a star-chamber adjudication, and the views of the employees are not to be considered. The Minister’s statement that, because 50 or 60 organizations are concerned, one man cannot be chosen to represent all, is moonshine. There are thousands of branches of trade unions in Australia; yet each year in a very short period they have been able to select representatives to attend the International Labour Conference. If the Minister would consent to representation of the employees the organizations could nominate their man before this bill passes the Senate. By his stubborn opposition to such representation he is removing from this plan the last vestige of any principle of Labour. When asked to give representation to the workers, he adopted a dictatorial attitude, and declared “I will not have it “.
– I did not say that.
– That was distinctly implied. After all, he is not responsible; the influence of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is behind this proposal, and he will see that no penny or half-penny which can be taken from the workers is overlooked. The Minister for Defence admits that elements of danger are associated with this clause. It is full of danger to the employees, and to Labour principle. Men who have held office in industrial organizations are familiar with the history of their struggles to advance, and to gain recognition for their officials. The Minister knows the fight waged by his own organization for the right to a voice in fixing the wages and conditions of its members. Yet he adopts the old conservative attitude - “ We will not have any of those persons. They have no place on our committees. We shall decide these tilings arbitrarily “. I record my bitter disappointment, disgust, and contempt for the whole sorry business.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), as a former advocate in the Arbitration Court of the engine-drivers of New South Wales, will recognize the justification for giving representation to the large army of men who are to lose £1,800,000 through the reduction of their salaries. They are to make that sacrifice without . being heard. The third member of the committee is to be appointed by the Governor-General. Why should not this Parliament take the responsibility? When men’s wages and working conditions are being adjusted, they have a right to be heard, and I am sure that the Public Service organizations could, within 24 hours, select a representative to serve on this committee. At one time the Minister represented enginedrivers in the Arbitration Court; the Australian Workers Union had another representative, and the Australian Railways Union yet another. Amongst the Public Service unions also there must be many experienced advocates, and no difficulty would be experienced in selecting one of them to represent all organizations. Surely we are not going to take away the few remaining rights of these workers. To preserve their interests, I move -
That the word “person”, sub-clause (1), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ representative of the employees “.
I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) would agree to that amendment if he were here. I know that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) has «, thorough grasp of arbitration matters.
If this were a case which affected the engine-drivers, he would quickly justify the claim that provision should be made for that body to be represented on the committee. I hope that he will recognize that the public servants of the country have just as much right to representation as have the engine-drivers, the Australian Workers Union, or any other section of workers, and that it will not be necessary to divide the committee on my amendment, which should be carried without wasting further time.
.- The further this discussion proceeds the more convinced I become that the suspicions entertained by me earlier in the day were justified. The Government made it as clear as possible that this cut was to be restricted to salaries and wages. Upon further examination it is revealed that conditions also are jeopardized. It was appalling enough to learn that there was to be a salary reduction amounting to £1,700,000, but, as the plot unwinds, it becomes, apparent that it is more vicious than anybody imagined. I suggest that the only task performed by the proposed committee would be to interfere with conditions, not to leave them alone, or improve them. It was my intention to move an amendment to the previous clause to cover 60 civil servants who were compulsorily transferred to Canberra and -who do not receive the cost of living allowance, but in conversation with Ministers I was. told that the proposed committee would handle such a matter.
– I was given a similar assurance.
– Examining the proposal in cold blood, I cannot see how the committee can do what is claimed of it. I am opposed to the appointment of any committee which will have the right to override conditions prescribed by either an arbitrator or an arbitration court. I visualize the time when the present Opposition will be in office, and I know that, industrially,some of them would not stop even at slow murder. If it is deemed to be right for this Government to interfere with wages and conditions, we can imagine what a government composed of honorable members opposite would do if their supporters demanded further slashes in the wages and conditions of civil servants. I cannot imagine anything more detrimental to the principle of arbitration than the implication contained in clause 12. It is a most impudent suggestion, particularly as it emanates from a Labour Government. The personnel of the committee will consist of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners, the Public Service Arbitrator, and some mysterious person who, the Minister admits, will not represent the employees. The least that could be done would be to provide for the combined unions to nominate a representative to participate in the proceedings of this committee. In the circumstances, while the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has my support, I oppose the clause as a whole.
.- I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for. Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). I conclude that the clause has reference to the naval, military, and air forces, and that this mysterious third member will be a brass hat - a major-general, or something of the kind. I know a good deal about that type of individual, from my association with the army. The military administration did me the honour of keeping me for about 60 days at its expense, and it provided somebody to look after me. I learned then the conditions of the permanent men who were in charge of me. Their pay and allowances were none too generous, although they were doing their job just the same as any other class of workmen. I do not want to say anything offensive about “ brass hats “, but I do think that this representative should not be appointed from among the officers. When we are to deal with the working conditions of men, whether in the navy, the army, or the air force, we should have, besides a representative of the Public Service Commissioners, and the Public Service Arbitrator, some one directly representing the men themselves.
– Whom would the honorable member suggest?
– The Minister has had considerable experience in arbitration matters, and should be able to select some one to represent the men concerned.
– Does the honorable member suggest that he should select a corporal or a batman?
– If the last Government were still in power it would, I have no doubt, take advantage of this provision to find a job for one of its friends. It should be laid down as a principle that the workers in the Service should have their own representative on the committee.
– This is a matter affecting the navy, army, and air force.
– I know something of military conditions. I was in the militia before the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was born.
– That is hardly possible.
– Very nearly. I joined the militia when I was nineteen years of age, and now I am 60. There would be no dearth of applicants for this position. It is important that the men should be adequately represented when these cuts are being made. We know that a little bit . will be lopped off here, and another little bit there. Their allowances will be reduced, and the process can be made very irritating to them. The Minister must know that in the army, as in a business, it is impossible to get the best out of men unless they are contented. The whole purpose of this provision is to pinch wherever possible, in order to balance the budget; it is not designed for the benefit of the employees. Every opportunity will be taken by the committee to cut down costs. I do not believe that the Minister has forsaken all hisLabour ideals now that he has joined the coalition. He has done good work in the arbitration sphere before to-day, and he must know that it is imperative, if the workers are to receive a fair deal, that they should be represented by some one who knows the conditions under which they work. The request I make is a fair one, and I hope that honorable members opposite, who are the other party to the present political coalition, will let up a bit, and not drive the workers right over the precipice.
.- So far the Minister has given no indication as to who will he the third person to ‘be appointed to this committee. Sub-clause 1 of the clause sets out that the committee shall consist of a representative of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. When it was suggested to the Minister that the third representative might be some one nominated by the employees, his only objection was that the time would be too short to secure a suitable nominee. That objection, I believe, is purely imaginary. I am convinced that the unions could, at very short notice, find a suitable person to represent them on the committee. The proposed amendment is a fair and reasonable one, and I shall support it.
.- Honorable members opposite have suggested that some nebulous person, probably a union representative, should be the third member of this committee. I remind them that the employees affected by this provision are, for the most part, members of the navy, army, and air force. They do not want anything to do with union officials. The others comprise only a few employees in munition works, in the arsenals and in the dockyard. Yet honorable members opposite suggest that there should be appointed a union secretary who has a knowledge of conditions in the army. Surely the services themselves should have a representative’!
– That is what we suggest.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said that the Government should not appoint a “ brass hat “ to the position. I suppose he means that it should not appoint a senior officer, who would know something of conditions in the forces. The members of the navy, army, and air force have no union. They have been rationed, and their pay cut down; but we have heard no complaints from them.
– They have an organization._
– They have not.
– Then why have they not ?
– Because they have no desire to be union-ridden. .They do not want agitators to batten on them. The third member of the committee should be some one nominated by the Minister - whether of senior or junior rank is immaterial provided he knows the work. The entire personnel of the navy, army, and air force are to suffer this cut, and
I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) or the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) to give an assurance that their deferred pay up to date will not be affected; that the cut will apply only to deferred pay accumulating from this date onwards. The navy and army have a permanent personnel of approximately 1,500. Besides these men are a few artisans who will come under this provision, but they are already covered by Arbitration Court awards, and have means at their disposal for putting the case before the authorities. There is no doubt that the representative of the forces should be an officer properly qualified to speak on behalf of the three services, and possessing a full knowledge of matters pertaining to their pay and other emoluments.
– When speaking to the first bill dealing with the rehabilitation plan, I attempted to forecast the effect of this legislation. I said then that its effect on wages and pensions would not be fully realized until it had actually been put into operation. During the committee stage of this bill the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that he also could see the far-reaching nature of these proposals. Instead of dealing merely with wages, the bill cuts across those things which have been established by trade unionism through its organized strength. The point I wish to emphasize is that, although wages are determined on the basis of the Statistician’s index figures, the conditions of employment, and the pay for various classes of work, apart from the main trade or calling in question, have been established by the advocacy of trade unionists either in the courts or on the job. This clause provides means whereby those conditions may be attacked :by a method entirely different from that by which they were obtained. I assure the committee that I found the Minister’s speech very interesting, because of my knowledge of him, and of his association with the organizations he represents. The Minister’s reference to the necessity to do this job quickly was particularly illuminating. How different from the case which he pleaded on behalf of the locomotive- engine-drivers before the court! When it was a case of a downward trend - a slash in their wages - the slogan of the locomotive engine-drivers was, “ On with the Westinghouse brake, and keep it on hard “, in an endeavour to save their wages by prolonging the proceedings. One v thing which must appeal to the average worker is that whenever, in the course of the development of a country, the necessity arises for certain jobs against their interests to be done, at the psychological moment the forces arrayed against Labour can always get a man who has been trained in the ranks of Labour to do the job, and do it quickly. The Minister knows what has been done in the past by delaying proceedings. Now he will act speedily against the workers when the power is in his hands.
– He wants the signal “ Line clear “.
– I ask the Minister to visualize the time, not many years ago, when, on nights that were bad, and the weather conditions cold and wintry, he stood on the foot-plate, and peered out through. the trap-door looking for signals. As he ploughed through the black night did he not sometimes think of the conditions that had been won for himself and his comrades - extra for overtime, shelter from the weather - by the union to which he belonged? How different his attitude to-day! Let me remind him of the great struggle that took place in 1917 - a struggle in which he, together with his comrades in the locomotive shop, took part.
– Order ! The honorable member is straying beyond the limits of the clause.
– This clause deals with conditions of employment. The Minister who is now in charge of the bill has been entrusted with the task of carrying out this work on behalf of the Government. I think that it is very fitting that he should be reminded of his own circumstances not long ago, so that when the occasion arises for this work to be done, he will, be mindful of the conditions he has experienced, and which his erstwhile comrades are still going through, seeing that they have not been elevated to high positions as he has been.
I am merely asking him to consider these things when the time comes for him to act. I do not wish to be personal in thiB matter, but I think that the Minister will appreciate what I am saying. We work in a very comfortable atmosphere in this chamber, but the workers who will be involved in these changes are not so favorably situated. They are still in the position which the Minister occupied only a few years ago.
These proposals are to apply to others than actual public servants. When dealing with a previous clause I said that it would apply to dockyard workers, painters, clerical workers and others working under both State and Federal awards. I pointed out that they will apply to the men at Garden Island, many of whom are not public servants. They will apply to men in all the different trades, whose members are organized in trade unions. As I have said, the Minister has been a locomotive engine-driver and, consequently, he knows all about that class of work; but what does he know of the details of the work carried out by boiler-makers, engineers, ship painters, or electricians? How will the members of the committee know these things unless the men are represented? Does he know the reasons why extra payment is given for certain classes of work in other trades? I have worked on submarines as an electrician. In that class of work there is extra pay for working in confined spaces. No person can appreciate the necessity for that extra pay unless he has worked as an electrician in such spaces. The Minister may be genuine in submitting these proposals - I say that in fairness to him. If so, I ask that he will see that the men affected will be given a chance to present their views. If, on the other hand, the bill is merely so much camouflage and the Minister will arbitrarily carry out the job assigned to him - and he has admitted that he is to be given a discretionary power in the matter - let him be honest and. say that these proposals have only the appearance of being democratic, because, in reality, it is useless to wait, seeing that there is no time to make a real investigation, speed being the essence of the contract. I remind other Ministers that they, too, have come from the workshop, the shearing shed, or the factory, where they earned their living under conditions which had been gained by the efforts of the organization to which they belonged. I hope that they have not forgotten the source from which they have sprung. If they remember these things I cannot understand how they can put into this measure a clause which provides for the breaking of one of the most important principles of the Labour movement.
.- On my first glance at the clause I thought that it was intended for the adjustment of anomalies that might occur in regard to salaries, but on further investigation I concur in the views expressed by other honorable members. It would be far too dangerous to permita Minister to have the power conferred by this provision. Its operation mightvitally affect the actual conditions under which men are required to work in Commonwealth employment, yet the committee will not have on it a representative of the employees to assist in the determination of their conditions. “When Labour was in opposition, and industrial legislation was under discussion, we always pressed on the Government of the day amendments providing that the organizations interested should be represented on the various boards and tribunals appointed. That was regarded as a fundamental condition, and it is astounding that the Government should now bring down a measure of this character which does not embrace a provision such as was regarded as essential when we were in opposition. While. I realize that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), who is now in charge of the bill, may be relied upon to see that fair and just decisions are made, he is only a creature of the moment, and there is no guarantee that whoever may succeed him will be as familiar as he is with the conditions of those with whose cases he will have to deal. If the clause is to be left in thebill at all, it should at least be provided that a representative of those affected by any change in conditions shall have a voice in the matter, and be allowed fully to present their case.
– The bulk of these employees are from the Service. The artisans’ wages will be brought into line with the arbitration awards.
– If such a qualifying provision were contained in the clause, the honorable member would be justified in setting it off as an adequate reply to my contention, but the clause gives full power to the Minister to determine these matters, and that is too great a power to place in the hands of any individual, particularly when provision isnot made for the full facts of the case to be presented. We are entitled to a more satisfactory explanation of the position than hasbeen given. There is no more important feature of the bill than the clause under discussion. I ask the Minister to. recognize the merit of the case presented, and inform the committee to what extent the power given under the clause will be used, and what provision is to be made for those affected to have their case adequately presented before a decision is reached.
– Despite the unkind personal references to myself by certain honorable members in the corner occupied by the Beasley group, I may say that all the points that have been raised regarding this clause have been considered by me, and I have discussed various aspects of it with those likely to be affected by the operations of the committee. Where it would be possible for union representatives to be appointed I would be favorable to following that course, but I am not prepared to accept the amendment, because a good many of the matters that would be dealt with by the committee do not affect any organization. For instance, the travelling allowances of members of the navy and army will be considered by the committee, and there is no representative of those men who could be appointed. I have no intention, as has been suggested by one honorable member, of getting a “ brass hat.” Those appointed to the committee will be fully conversant with all the circumstances surrounding the matters to be decided. The clause must be left open, if consideration is to be given to placing on the committee, at some stage of its proceed- ings, a person to represent the organizations whose case may he under review.
– Does the Minister say that this clause applies only to the military ?
– No. Travelling allowances, which affect navy and army men, apply throughout the whole of the Commonwealth Service. It would be impracticable to appoint a representative of the navy and army, because they have no organization.
The Public Service organizations will be interested in a number of the matters with which the committee will deal. I think that the subject referred to by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) could be dealt with, not, for the purpose of making n reduction, but. to determine whether there should be any reduction at all. Several representatives of the organization have met me, and discussed the matters likely to be deal with hy the committee, hut I cannot accept the amendment.
– The Minister is afraid that a union representative would take up too much time in putting his case.
– I do not wish to run away from anything. The representatives of a number of organizations have interviewed me, and I have pointed out to them that the matters that will come before the committee must be dealt with within a reasonable time. I propose to submit an amendment, later, to provide that the Minister “ shall “ refer matters to the committee. I have already promised to give favorable consideration to requests made to me by the representatives of a number of organizations. So far as possible, I will meet them in regard to seeing that they obtain a proper hearing, and have an opportunity of putting their case before the Minister himself. It has been stated, for political reasons, that I have no sympathy with the workers, but, despite these unkind remarks, sympathetic consideration will be given to the representations of the Public Service organizations, and even to those of the members of the Beasley group.
.- Labour opposed very bitterly the BrucePage Government’s endeavour to pass legislation to permit the Arbitration Court to take into consideration economic realities as applying to private employment, yet a Labour Government is now taking upon itself to take into consideration economic realities in dealing with government employment. In other words, in order that it may meet its obligations, and sacrifice its own workers, it. proposes to set aside the arbitration law. On what ground does it refuse to private employers what it takes to itself?
– If the honorable member will read clause 11, he will find that Hint is not correct.
– The Government rnakes a law for the private employer, and calls upon him to ignore economic -realities, and I see no reason why it should not obey the same law. But having swept aside its obligations in that respect, it now proposes to appoint a committee upon which it refuses representation for those who have a right to such representation. In applications before the Arbitration Court, sections of unions are permitted to change their representatives. For example, in the same organization there may be one representative for tramway employees and another for railway workers.
– That is not possible in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– In appeal cases, which is part of the Commonwealth arbitration law, various sections of an organization may have their special representatives; yet what is allowed to private organizations is refused to the organizations within the Commonwealth Service.
– I have refused nothing. The position is that I cannot accept the amendment, because it is not practicable.
– The Minister says that he will give sympathetic consideration. That is just what the private employer offers. All that the private employer asks is that he be left outside the law, or that depression in trade, a fall in prices, or his liability to make his income meet his expenditure should be taken into consideration by the Arbitration Court. But we deny that right to him, and surely a Labour Government should not refuse to bind itself to the code which it imposes on the private employer. The whole proposition is outrageous from beginning to end.
– Do I take it from the Minister’s remarks that the organizations which waited on him are prepared to accept this proposal?
– I did not say that they had accepted anything.
– I call attention to the state of the committee.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) must not leave the chamber. [Quorum formed.]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.When a call for a quorum is made, no honorable member must leave the chamber. I ask the honorable member for Bourke to apologize to the Chair for having disregarded the instruction to remain.
– I do so. It was only after I had left the chamber that I became alive to the fact that I was not permitted by the Standing Orders to do so. I returned immediately.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) says that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is nebulous. It is not nearly so nebulous as the Minister’s proposal. We think it necessary that a representative of the men likely to be affected by cuts should be given a place on this committee, because, apart from the provisions in .the bill, it was agreed at the Premiers Conference that another cut of £1,000,000 should be made in adjustable expenditure, and that is a matter which may be referred to this committee. The Minister has referred to travelling expenses for military and naval officers. There would certainly be no representative of those officers upon this committee even under the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy, and the representative of the organizations would have no knowledge of the details, but he need not have a voice on that particular matter.
– I intend to move an amendment that the matters mentioned by the honorable member shall be referred to the committee.
– In that case, it is still more necessary that a representa tive of the employees shall be appointed to the committee. If a man of the right type were selected by the unions for this purpose, it would be to the advantage of all concerned. A man accustomed to submitting the claims of the workers to arbitration tribunals would be excellently suited for such a position. In view of the fact that the munition workers at Lithgow and at Maribyrnong, and the employees at Garden Island, the Naval Dockyard, and other places will be involved, they shoul’d have the opportunity of nominating one member of the committee.
– The workers referred to by the honorable member will not be affected.
– The provisions of this bill will affect not only those, working Under awards of the Public Service Arbitrator, but also employees of the Commonwealth Government who work under awards given by other Commonwealth and State industrial authorities, so the workers to whom I have referred must be involved. Employees engaged in government and semi-government enterprises in which the Commonwealth is interested, will be working side by side with men engaged in State Government aud private enterprises, for lower wages than their fellows. Nothing creates so much discontent in industry as variations in payment for similar work.
I am quite ready to believe that the present Minister would give sympathetic consideration to the matters submitted to him, but I remind him that during the last twelve months three honorable gentlemen have discharged the duties which he is now discharging. I am quite ready to believe that practically every member who sits on this side of the committee would, if he were in ministerial office, give sympathetic consideration to the representations which the workers might make to him. But there are rumours that a coalition government is to be formed, and that various adjustments of a political, as well as of an economic character will be made in the next three months. If an amalgamation of the principal parties in this chamber were to occur, who could say who would be discharging the duties which the honorable member “for Macquarie (Mr.
Chifley) is now discharging? The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) might be called upon to discharge them, in which case, God help the workers. The workers would also be in a very sorry plight if they had to rely on the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), for sympathetic consideration. Our bitter experience as industrialists teaches us that we must look on the worst side of things. I have been a member of this Parliament for a number of years, and have usually sat on the Opposition side of the chamber. On numerous occasions, when anti-Labour governments have proposed the appointment of commissions, committees, and boards, we have fought hard for the appointment of a representative of the workers. We should therefore be guilty of hypocrisy if, having fought for such appointments when we were in opposition, and had no chance of getting them, we failed to enact them now that a Labour government is in power. That would be the worst kind of political cowardice. We know very well that the plan underlying this bill was formulated by the bankers and their representatives, who practically forced the various governments to agree to wage reductions. It would not be surprising, therefore, if Sir Robert Gibson, Mr. Davidson, or some other banker were appointed to this committee.
– The honorable member would like to see Mr. Jock Garden appointed to it.
– He would give the workers a fair deal, at any rate. We regard the position as being distinctly dangerous from the workers’ point of view, and for that reason we intend to do our utmost to safeguard their interests, and to insure that some sort of justice will be done to them.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-At first I was inclined to support the amendment, but after conferring with representatives of Public Service organizations, I am satisfied that the assurances given to them by the Minister are all that they desire. In those circumstances, I must oppose the amendment. The cheap abuse of men elected by an overwhelming majority of the members of their respective organization does not help to support the case submitted by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). After all, abuse is not argument. It is nauseating to hear so much about cowardice. There are various forms of courage, and I am not suggesting that any one has a monopoly of that characteristic.
– Why cannot the honorable member stand up tothe promise that he made on the platform. He is deserting those who sent him here.
– For many years I have enjoyed the confidence of ; he people who sent me here, and until recently my right to represent my present constituency has never been challenged. I have been selected as an unopposed Labour candidate for a long time. I am not here to indulge in cheap abuse or recriminations. There are different forms of courage. We have heard of the courage of the bull which stood in the way of an express train; although it showed courage it lacked judgment.
– Why does not the honorable member support the requests of the organization which he is supposed to represent ?
– I shall continue to protect their interests until the electors have an opportunity of deciding the matter. I desire some information from the Minister with respect to the employees at Canberra, particularly in the Postal Department, who were granted a living allowance of which they were subsequently deprived by a former government. Unless their position is dealt with, they will be at a disadvantage when reductions are made, as compared with other public servants at Canberra who receive an allowance. I was informed that steps would be taken under this clause to safeguard their rights. That aspect of the matter is causing a good deal of concern. They may have made representations to other honorable members; but it is a matter upon which I would like an assurance that action will be taken to protect this particular class of employee.
– I have already informed the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) that consideration would be given to their claims,
.- As the Public Service Arbitrator is to be a member of the proposed committee it will be a case of Caesar appealing to Caesar. The person who makes the award will to some extent deal with the applications made to the committee. The Minister should not hesitate to grant sectional representation on the committee. There are nine different branches in the Victorian railway service, and when matters affecting different branches are involved, a representative of the section interested acts as a member of the committee. Sub-clause 4 reads - (4.) The Minister may refer to the Committee the cases of any classes of officers and employees and of other persons rendering service of the Commonwealth in relation to which he has power under this Part to give a direction upon the receipt of a recommendation of the Committee.
I again ask the Minister to clearly state his powers under this clause. He can refer almost anything to the committee. If the alternative I have suggested is not adopted, unnecessary expense may be incurred. An anti-Labour government could play havoc under this provision, and even render ineffective decisions of the Arbitration Court. I am opposed to this committee in its entirety, and as the platform of the Labour party provides for the representation of the employees on all such committees, I trust that the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) will be accepted.
.- The Minister should give further consideration to this provision, which in its present form may be ineffective. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that the committee is required particularly in connexion with naval and defence departments, but cases involving other departments may be referred to it. The clause provides for a committee consisting of the Public Service Arbitrator and a member of the Public Service Board, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. During a period of financial stringency, a member of the Public Service could be appointed, and thus save expense. It would also safeguard a vital Labour principle. On the Appeal Board appointed under the Public Service Board Act, a public servant represents the section of public servants concerned, and a similar policy should be adopted in this instance. It will not be a permanent committee, and surely a public servant can be appointed to represent those directly interested. On all committees appointed in connexion with the navy and the army the trade union movement has been represented.. The whole of the committees, from the original committee to the special appeal board associated with the vocational training of returned soldiers, have included a representative of the trade union movement. There should, therefore, be no difficulty in appointing a member of a trade union to this committee.
– There are some sections of the navy aud the army which are not organized.
– Surely one man can be found in the Service capable of examining anomalous conditions, rates of pay and travelling allowances?
– If an amendment to that effect were included in this clause, the words “representative of the employees “ would have to be used in relation to the third member of the committee.
– Associated with the navy, the army and the air force, are all kinds of training establishments and departments, which necessitate the employment of men other than the actual officers. I refer to tradesmen, labourers and clerical and professional- workers. Surely, as the third member of this temporary committee, we can find one person who is capable of representing the employees. If any military, naval or air force officers concerned in a case before the committee objected to the representative of the employees on the committee, he could be asked to retire from the case.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted (Mr. Riordan’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That sub-clause (4.) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: - “ (4.) The Minister shall refer to the committee -
Question - That clause 12, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Payments under contracts).
– I should like the Minister to state specifically whether this clause will apply to contracts, such as mail contracts, that are entered into by the postal and other departments.
– No; only to contracts relating to salaries and wages.
– It refers to “ any salary, allowance, or amount payable under any contract or agreement.”
.- This is a machinery clause, and is not intended to apply to mail contracts. It applies to wages and salaries, and to any amount that may happen to be paid for work done under salary contract, but not to a contract which is let to any person for the performance of work at a certain price.
– That is not a satisfactory explanation. Does the Minister know exactly what the clause means? I do not think that it is fair that the committee should be brushed aside with an off-hand answer. The wording of the clause is “ any salary, allowance or amount payable under any contract or agreement.” Supposing that some one in the country enters into a contract or an agreement with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to carry mails from a country town to some outlying district, and, in order to do so, has to purchase a motor car and provide other necessary equipment. The clause is sweeping and all-embracing, and I should like to know whether it would cover such a set of circumstances. How would that man fare in regard to meeting his payments under the contract? Supposing that he bought a car on the hire-purchase system: how would he keep up his payments? The majority of these contracts or agreements that are entered into for the carriage of mails are cut fairly close to the bone. If the clause provides an opportunity for the department to cut across these people, I am sure that the committee will riot stand for it.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Minister for Defence) T1 1-231 -I direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the clause refers to any contract or agreement “ in pursuance of this part.” The part in question relates to salaries and wages. I give the assurance that it is not intended to cover the matters which the honorable member fears may be covered. It does not refer to such things as mail contracts.
– Mention a contract or an agreement to which it actually does apply
– If the honorable member studies the clause he will see that it refers to the matters set out in the bill itself
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [11.30”. This part of the ‘bill relates to salaries and wages, and the clause refers to “any salary, allowance or amount payable under any contract or agreement “; which is reduced in pursuance of this part. That clause is sufficiently wide and embracing to permit of interference with many contracts relating to postal services. Contracts to carry mails involve the payment of . allowances. Semi-official post offices involve wages and salaries paid under contract, and it seems to me this clause will permit of the definite repudiation of contracts and agreements. The Minister has assured us that such contracts will not be affected, but I do not know that his denial will be sufficient. A sum of £1,000,000 is to be saved by administration in respect of adjustable expenditure, and in order to effect that economy, contracts may be interfered with under cover of this clause. Because of the meagre explanation given by the Minister, and the apparent disinclination of the Treasurer to enlighten the committee further, I propose to vote against the clause.
.- The clause is so wide that I am convinced that mail contracts will be subject to a 20 per cent, reduction, regardless of what plant the contractors may have acquired, or what other arrangements they may have made for the conduct of their service. Many of the mail contracts have been cut to the bone, and are not capable of further reduction, specially as sales tax will have to be paid on benzine and horse feed. If mail contractors suffer a reduction of 20 per cent, their margin of profit may be wiped out. Because of the breach of contract, some will immediately discontinue their services; the department will be protected under this clause, and the contractors will have no redress. The clause might also apply to contractors preparing runways at aerodromes for the Defence Department. It is very convenient at times, when a contractor repudiates or abandons his job, for the department to leave his’ employees high and dry. I know of three such cases. One the Government rectified, but only after a considerable lapse of time. The contractor had to be brought back from the Northern Territory, and, meanwhile, his employees were stranded at Camooweal, over 200 miles from the railhead.
– Will the honorable member explain what these matters have to do with the clause?
– Contracts are mentioned in the clause several times,, and I am pointing out the danger that if they are interfered with the employees may be “ scaled “ of their wages. In connection with one broken contract, the em- ployees received only half their pay, and I was six months in this Parliament before I could induce the department to do even that measure of justice to them. Again, in the electorate of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) 20 or 30 men were left lamenting until the honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Lyons), when he was Postmaster-General, approved of a proposal that they should get half pay, but local storekeepers, butchers, and other business men, who were just as much interested, because they had given credit to these employees, got no redress. If this kind of business is tolerated, contractors’ of the class described could put in almost any price, get a contract, carry on for a month or so, draw progress payment for the work, and then disappear.
.- I hope that the Minister will make this clause a little clearer. The part of the bill with which we are dealing is headed “ Salaries and wages “, and earlier clauses relate to salaries and wages fixed under statute, under regulations, or under awards and determinations. This clause enacts that the payment of any reduced salary,, allowance, or amount payable under any contract or agreement shall be taken as full settlement and discharge of the liability. In itself, the clause is probably unobjectionable, even to those honorable members who are opposed to the general plan, because the scheme having been adopted, obviously some such provision is necessary. When, however, we turn to clause 15, we find this general provision -
Where the amount of any payment, fee, or allowance (to which this part does not otherwise apply) inrespect of the performance for the Commonwealth or for any authority under the Commonwealth of the services of the Chairman or of any member of any board, committee or other authority, is fixed by. or under any act, the payment, fee, or allowance shall be reduced by 20 per centum of the amount which would otherwise bo payable.
That is limited to payment for services rendered by the chairman or member of any board, committee, or any other authority. But it seems to me that a difficulty arises under sub-clause 2 which reads -
Where by or under any act provision is made for any payment. to any person of any amount in respect of any services ren dered by him to the Commonwealth, or to any authority under the Commonwealth, the amount shall be reduced to such extent, if any, (not exceeding 20 per centum) as the Minister, upon the receipt of a recommendation of the committee, directs.
Clause’ 5 states that the words “by or under any act” includes -but does not mean - “ by or under any ordinance of any territory, being part of the Commonwealth, and by or under any regulation, under an’ act or any such ordinance “.
– Why does not the honorable memberraise this point under clause 15?
– It arises under clause 15, but the discussion having been initiated under this clause, I thought it desirable that I should, at this stage, offer what comment.3 I had upon the matter.
– That may be all right ; but the honorable gentleman conveys the impression that there is something in the point which has been raised by the honorable member for West Sydney. With that contention I do not agree.
– If the AttorneyGeneral thinks that there is nothing in the point, he will have an opportunity to give his reasons for that belief. I am not satisfied that there is not something in it. Let us take the case of a mail contractor. So far as I am aware, such a contract is made under the Post and Telegraph. Act, and it appears to me to be possible to affirm that payments made to such contractors are payments for services rendered to the Commonwealth. The Minister has stated that it is not the intention of the Government to have any ambiguity in any provision of the bill, and I submit that there is room for the doubt which I have indicated. It may be contended that sub-clause 2 of clause 15 does not apply only to cases where the act actually fixes the amount. It may also be arguable that some of these mail contracts are independent contracts, and the work done under them may not be regarded as services rendered to the Commonwealth, although the contractors may employ servants.
– It is not the intention of the Government that the provisions shall apply to. the cases mentioned, but to salary contracts such as those made with employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If clause 15 is not quite clear I shall have no objection to its postponement, so that I may consult with the Crown Law officers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 postponed.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17- (1.) The allowances, or salary and allowances, of any senator or member of the House of Representatives (including any senator or member who holds a parliamentary office) and of any Minister of State and the salary of any officer or employee, after reduction in accordance with this Part, shall not be subject under the law of any State to taxation at a higher rate or percentage or to a greater extent than the prescribed rates or percentages of that salary in addition to any tax imposed on that salary under any law in force in that State on the thirtieth day of June One thousand nine hundred and thirtyone.
– I move -
That the word “thirty-one”, sub-clause 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lion thereof the word “thirty”.
This is a clause by which it is proposed to relieve Commonwealth employees of any extraordinarily high State taxation which may be imposed as part of a State rehabilitation scheme, and which, if applied to Commonwealth employees, would have the effect of imposing upon them a double burden. A further amendment will be proposed later, and should be read in conjunction with this. If both amendments are agreed to, the effect will be to allow the ordinary income taxation which was in force in regard to the salaries of Commonwealth public servants as on the 30th June, 1930, but only such increase’d taxation shall apply as does not exceed prescribed rates or percentages as fixed by the GovernorGeneral, and notified in the Gazette. The second amendment, which will be introduced as sub-clause 4 of the clause, will provide that the Governor-General may arrange with the Governor in Council of any State that the State taxation of salaries, and allowances of Commonwealth public servants may be deducted periodically from their pay. This is for the convenience of employees. If, after the passage of this bill, special State taxation is imposed, say, for the purpose of unemployment relief, and it applies to wages and salaries, the amount of the tax may be deducted weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, in accordance with an arrangement entered into with the State concerned. The intention is to allow any reasonable impost relating to unemployment relief, but not any special taxation, such as that which was the subject of a bill recently considered in the New South “Wales Parliament. I am not now criticizing, nor do I desire to do so, either the wisdom of that measure, or the incidence of the taxation proposed in it. It is not on those grounds that this provision is made, but on the ground that if such a bill became law it would undoubtedly impose on Commonwealth public servants a double burden. They are already suffering a direct cut as a result of the measure now before us, and they would, in addition, be subject to the special taxation imposed on them as citizens of New South “Wales. I remind honorable members that the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) has claimed that the ls. in the £1 unemployment tax is regarded by him as part of the reduction of wages under his plan for the stabilization of the finances of New South Wales. If, therefore, it’ is to be regarded as an impost, the purpose of which is to distribute the burden over the wage-earners of New South Wales, it is a fair thing for us to exclude from its operation Commonwealth public servants who will be subject to a cut under this bill.
– Will this exemption apply to federal members of Parliament also ?
– It will apply to members of this House and of the Senate, as well as to members of the Public Service. When this bill was drafted, and the year 1931 fixed upon for this purpose, it was thought that no special taxation would apply to Commonwealth public servants, because the New South Wales special income taxation bill had been rejected . by the Legislative Council and the ls. in the £1 unemployment tax had not been re-imposed. After the bill was drafted, however, the ls. in the £1 tax was again imposed, and it became necessary to date this provision in our bill a year earlier, and to provide that only prescribed rates of taxation should be applicable.We do not desire that Commonwealth public servants shall evade bona fide unemployment taxation in any State, but we wish to have uniformity throughout the Commonwealth, and to that end we retain the right to prescribe the maximum taxation which shall be applicable.
.- I regard as a very dangerous innovation the delegation of this reserve power to the Governor-General in Council to limit the amount of taxation which may be imposed on a highly privileged class of the community. I admit that, in view of the attempt made in New South Wales to impose taxation of an especially severe character, some such provision is probably justified; but it is a mistake, I believe, to alter the date in this clause from 1931 to 1930. During the last twelve months, taxation has been made very much heavier in every State of the Commonwealth, and not in New South Wales only. The1s. in the £1 unemployment tax in New South Wales is not excessive, as compared with the taxation in some of the States, particularly in South Australia and Queensland.
– The1s. in the £1 tax is in addition to greatly increased income taxation.
– It is a heavy impost, I admit; but it is not a devastatingly heavy tax compared with the taxation in force in some of the States which are less well off, possibly, than New South Wales. I could accept the granting of this special power to the Governor-General in Council, if it were not proposed to date the provision back to 1930. It will be undoubtedly very hard on civil servants if they have to suffer a cut in their remuneration, and pay heavy State taxation as well, but that is the lot of people in all walks of life these days. If there is not enough jam to go round, then it must be spread a little thinner. If the jam on the bread of the public servants is left too thick, the other sections of the community will have to make shift with too little. I intend to oppose the proposal to alter the date from 1931 to 1930, but I offer no opposition to the other proposed amendment.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to
Friday, 10 July 1931
– I understand that while in its present form the bill exempts Commonwealth public servants from the payment of special taxation imposed by a State, the Treasurer has agreed that regulations shall be framed requiring them to share in any reasonable taxation which a State might impose.
– That is so.
– In that case I have no objection to the alteration from 1931 to 1930.
This clause raises again the question of the liability of Commonwealth public servants to pay State income tax, and of the State public servants being liable for Federal income tax. Any provision to exempt’ Commonwealth public servants from State taxation might have a boomerang effect, for the State Parliaments would probably retaliate.
– The States have not the power to do so.
– I understand that some years ago this point was tested in the courts, and that it was decided that Commonwealth public servants were not liable to pay State income tax.
– After that decision was given this Parliament legislated to make it possible for the States to impose income tax on Commonwealth public servants and members of the Federal Parliament. The States impose their income taxation in the exercise of a permission given by this Parliament.
– I take it that there has never been any question of the constitutionality of State public servants being taxed by the Commonwealth?
– I have not heard the question raised. State public servants pay federal income tax without question.
– If we exempt federal public servants from State taxation, the States might be led to explore the possibility of retaliatory action being taken. If that were permissible, the Commonwealth would probably lose more than it would gain.
– If the States were to do that, this Parliament could meet the position by legislation, if it so desired.
– Would it not involve an alteration of the Constitution?
– The matter could be dealt with by legislation.
– As the Treasurer has given an assurance that regulations will be issued to make federal public servants liable to pay any reasonable taxation imposed by the States, I offer no objection to the amendment.
There is a general impression that members of this Parliament receive £1,000 per annum, and that they are not being called upon to share in the sacrifice which is demanded of the people. I want to correct that wrong impression. When I was elected to this House, the allowance I received was £1,000 per annum, but since then there has been a reduction of £100 a year. This bill proposes to reduce the allowance still further, making it £800 per annum. A member of this Parliament who represents a rural constituency, remote from Canberra, has the following deductions made from his original allowance of £1,000 : - The reduction made last year, £100; the further reduction now proposed, £100; income tax, Federal and State, £45; 40 weeks’ hotel expenses at Canberra at £3 a week,, say £140. In addition, he has to pay car hire, and hotel expenses in rural electorates, ‘amounting to at least £150 per annum; donations £75; moiety of election expenses £50-
– If the honorable member is only just learning these facts, I may inform him that the position gets worse every year.
– It will be seen that £660 of the £1,000 allowance is definitely earmarked, leaving only £340 per annum, or £6 9s. a week. That is the position in which I find myself; other members may have an even worse story to tell. I give these particulars in order to disabuse the minds of the citizens of Aus. tralia of any illusions they may have on this subject.
Had I been in the chamber when the clause dealing with the allowances of members was dealt with, I should have opposed any reduction, or at least have urged that members representing rural constituencies should be granted a special allowance. Some members necessarily incur heavier expenses than others are called upon to meet. If a man is to be above suspicion, he must be paid a reasonable amount for his services. Before I entered this Parliament, I was receiving two and a half times as much as I now receive. Unlike the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), who said this afternoon that certain members were sheltering behind the public servants in order to save their own allowances, most of the members on this side of the House have no other means of livelihood than their parliamentary allowance. I understand that the honorable member for Darling Downs has certain business interests which place him in a strong financial position as compared with others. I want to see Parliament open to any man in the community who is able to secure the confidence of the electors. An honorable member’s advocacy of the policy of no wage reductions should not be construed as an effort to retain his own allowance. If my £200 will help Australia, the country can have it, but I do not think that that will be the result. The gesture might have some moral effect, but that is all.
– Is there anything moral about the bill?
– I am opposed to the bill, because I am opposed to all wage reductions. I want the citizens of Australia to know that the members of this Parliament do not have so rosy a time as is sometimes pictured. For the greater portion of the year, they are away from their homes, performing their multifarious duties, all for £6 9s. a week, or about £1 a day. I hope that other honorable members will endeavour to enlighten the electors on this subject. Some allowance should be granted to members representing rural constituencies.
– What amount does the honorable member suggest?
– In view of the attitude of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) towards this bill, as indicated by his votes to-day, I shall not answer his interjection. I hope that we shall hear no more of the charge that members of this Parliament receive £1,000 per annum, and are making no sacrifice in this time of national trial.
– I shall oppose the amendmentbecause I do not think that any advantage will be gained by going back twelve months. In Queensland, at least, the taxation imposed during the last twelve months has not been very much greater than that which was levied previously. When the present Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was Treasurer of Queensland, members of the Commonwealth Parliament were allowed a deduction of £50 for State income tax purposes. Later, during the term of office of Mr. McCormack, the deduction was increased to £100. During Mr. Theodore’s regime, the members of the State Parliament were also allowed a deduction of £50. There was no difference between the allowance granted to a State member representing, say, South Brisbane - a small electorate which could be covered on foot in about half an hour - and the deduction to which the representative of a large federal electorate such as Kennedy or Maranoa was entitled. It costs me £50 for the hire of a car for one trip through my electorate. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), it costs a member of Parliament £150 a year to live in Canberra. When a member, living in any of our capital cities, returns to his home from Canberra, his expenses cease, but that is not so in the case of members representing rural districts. I think the Federal Treasurer should take the matter up with the State Treasurers, so that provision may be made for the deduction allowed by the Federal Income Tax Department to be also allowed for State taxation purposes. Many are under the impression that members of Parliament are paid travelling expenses. Last week I received an anonymous typewritten letter from Brisbane, in which the writer expressed his pleasure that members of Parliament were to have not only their salaries, but also their expenses cut, and he incidentally accused members of expecting the Commonwealth to pay for the hire of the motor cars in which they travel about. Many have the idea that all that a member of Parliament has to do is to fill in a voucher on his return to Canberra and to have recouped all the expenses he has incurred whilst travelling. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) is the first member of Parliament I have heard attempt to explain the position clearly. For some reason or other members generally are rather diffident about doing so, because they imagine that the people outside will think that they are whining, and because they fear that they will be met with the question, “ If such is the case,why do you remain in Parliament”? The money standard is the only standard some people recognize.
– I should like to have some information from the Treasurer as to what the prescribed rates or percentages are likely to be.
– We shall probably adopt the maximum rate of income tax ruling in the States.
– Within the time covered by the amendment.
– No. In any succeeding year.
– Has the Commonwealth power to prescribe immunity from State taxation?
– It has power, I think, to provide a limit to a special tax or to any income taxation which may apply to a Commonwealth servant.
– This clause provides a means by which a State unemployed relief tax may be collected from federal public servants weekly or fortnightly.
– That is so.
– The difficulties outlined by the Prime Minister in reply to my question have apparently been overcome, but is no further alteration required ?
– This provision gives the Commonwealth the legal power, but a further arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State authorities is necessary.
– Many inquiries have been made upon this point. I understand that a regulation provides that a Commonwealth officer must voluntarily agree to this arrangement. He cannot at present be forced to subscribe weekly or fortnightly to State unemployed relief funds. I should like to know if this proposal is to force him to do so.
– I do not know that it does. In any case, if a Commonwealth officer does not wish to come under the proposed arrangement, I do not think that he should be forced to do so.
– I rather think that most of the Commonwealth officers would prefer to pay on a fortnightly basis. I am told that although they pay a little more on a yearly basis, the assessments are usually made at a time when they are least able to meet them. No doubt the provision in the bill will also assist the State Governments.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (4.) The Governor-General may arrange with the Governor-in-Council of any State that the taxation, under the law of that State, if the salaries and allowances of any persons whose salaries and allowances arc reduced under this Part, to the extent to which such taxation is permitted by or under this section, shall be deducted from the periodical payments of the salary and allowances of those persons and shall be paid to the State in such manner and at such times as are provided by the arrangement.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
All payments of pensions under -
section forty-eight a of the Judiciary Act 1903-1927;
section fourteen B of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1930; and
section eighteen c of the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1930, shall be reduced by twenty per centum of the amount which would, but for this section, be payable.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That the following now sub-clause be inserted: - “ (2.) All payments of pensions payable by the Commonwealth under section eighty-four of the Constitution to any person who, having been transferred from the Public Service of a State to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, is entitled to retire, or has retired, from office on the pension permitted by the law of the State as if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State, shall be reduced by such percentages or amounts as are provided, from time to time, by or under any law of the State from the Public Service of which he was transferred to the Public Service of the Common wealth, which would have been applicable to him if his service with the Commonwealth had been a continuation of his service with the State.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Reduction of payments under Superannuation Act).
– This clause provides for a reduction of the pensions of persons who retire from the Commonwealth Service after having contributed to the Superannuation Fund.
– It affects the payments which the Government makes periodically to the pensioner, but does not affect the payment he gets out of the fund itself.
– The Government is liable for a portion of the pension. Does it now propose to lessen its liability in that respect?
– The bill provides for a reduction of the Government’s contribution by 20 per cent.
– Here again the Government is distinguishing between one class of people and other sections of the community who are being affected by the measure. The rights and privileges of men who were in the Service of a State prior to joining the Commonwealth Service are preserved by the Constitution. They are entitled to certain pensions on their retirement in respect of service rendered to both Governments. They have contracted by a series of payments to the Superannuation Fund to be paid a certain superannuation upon their retirement. The Government has entered into a contract with them to provide for them in the latter portion of their lives. The bondholder is to be invited to accept a reduction, but the same treatment is not extended to the public servant who is about to retire, or has retired. This is, therefore, an opportune time to show again how willing the Government is to break some obligations into which it has entered, while at the same time it extends the greatest consideration to others. It has been kind enough to ask the bondholders to accept a reduction; why cannot it ask the contributors to the Superannuation Fund to do the same? I oppose this further application of the Government’s policy, and propose to call for a division. [Quorum formed.]
– This clause strikes at a section of the people who are in a defenceless position.
– Why are they defenceless?
– Because they are in the evening of their lives. They are civil servants who have passed examinations, existed on small salaries for many years and finally reached the age of retirement on a definite understanding as to what their income would be. Now through no fault of their own they find that a so-called rehabilitation plan, brought in for the alleged purpose of restoring general prosperity, aims at impoverishing them at a time when it is impossible for them to do anything to improve their position. Is the Treasurer able to give the amount of revenue which the Government expects to receive under this provision?
– I cannot give the figures at the moment.
– I suggest that the clause be withdrawn. If it is not withdrawn, my colleagues and I intend to vote against it, as a protest.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority … 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 (Employees reduced in salary).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Suction four of the principal act is amended by omitting’ the word “ Five “ and inserting in its stead the word “ Four “.
Section proposed to be amended -
Subject to this act there shall be payable oat of the Consolidated Revenue Fund …a maternity allowance of Five pounds. . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be added- “(2.) The amendment made by this section shall apply in relation to any claim made after the commencement of this section.”.
– I intend to oppose this clause. Some years ago when I recorded my vote in support of a measure introduced by the Fisher Government providing for the payment of a maternity allowance to assist the womanhood of this country, I little dreamed that the action now proposed would ever be taken by a succeeding Labour Government. At St. Mary’s Hospital, at Paddington, near London, every case came under my immediate care and supervision. I have a keen memory, and I vividly recall the gratitude expressed by some poor women who were supplied by the hospital authorities with clothing which was little better than as much rag. I also remember one awful night, when sleet and snow was, falling, so that I would not call upon a student to undertake the task that was before me, I went to some mews in a district in which the wealthy Duke of “Westminster owned a great deal of property, and there in an apartment which measured 10 feet by 11 feet by 10 feet, I assisted in bringing into the world a child which made the eleventh in the family. The place was so small that the other members of the family had to stand in the doorway to provide sufficient room for me. Trudging home through the sleet and the snow I wondered how the good God could allow the people in any city to live under such conditions. On another occasion when the blood was not dripping, but actually flowing from the patient, I had to obtain the help of the superintendent of the hospital. In that case the whole place was infested withvermin. If that poor, unfortunate mother could have had the assistance that the late Andrew Fisher gave to the women of Australia, she would have thanked him next to God Himself, and the child would have had a chance of leading a healthy life. Science has proved that vermin, especially of the parasitical variety, carry the germs of disease. Andrew Fisher is dead, but his memory will ever remain green as a great leader of a great Labour party. The party that he led was not so numerically strong as was that which came into this Parliament a little Jess than two years ago. Where is that party to-day ? I did not think that I would live to see the day when the Prime Minister of a Labour government would attach the stigma of poverty to this gift of a government to a mother and her child.
– Order! The question before the Chair is the reduction of the allowance from £5 to £4.
– I do not want the stigma of pauperism to be fastened on the mothers of this nation.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is discussing a clause that the committee has not yet reached.
– I object to the proposal to reduce the allowance. Under a later clause it is provided that only certain people shall be entitled to it. What did the opponents of the Fisher Government say when this act was passed? They called the maternity allowance the baby bonus, the bangle bonus, and other similar names, and expressed their inten tion of doing what the present Government is doing to-night; but they found that many of their women folk, who occupied high positions in the social world, were claimants for it. That being the law, what man would deny them the right to receive it? This amendment, however, will change all that. The Government proposes to attach the stigma of pauperism not only to the maternity allowance, but also to old-age pensions and pensions of all other kinds. That, is what I hate and loathe. I believe that every woman in Australia will regard this as a vile deprivation of her rights.. _ I have to thank the women folk for being honoured with the representation . of the division of Melbourne. I never would have won the seat but for their votes. When men were in the majority I was defeated by the “ bricks and mortar “ votes in. Melbourne. I have the> women folk to thank for the long time that I have been in Parliament. I ought to. be. a judge of humanity after an experience of 42 years in public life; and I say that this infamy will never be forgotten.
– This clause proposes to reduce the maternity allowance from £5 to £4. One reason given for the proposal is that it’ is necessary to exercise economy’; and another, that the £4 will be equal in purchasing power to what £5 was previously. The amount of £5 was fixed by the Fisher’ Government, which - introduced the act in 1913, and the allowance remained at that figure throughout the period of rising prices that followed. Prices are higher to-day than they were in 1913; therefore, on that ground-‘ the argument for the reduction fails. This reduction is nothing more or less than miserly cheese-paring by a government that’ is prepared to take the pennies of the poor, the sick, the blind, ‘ the lame, the halt, and the dumb, in order that it may conform to a bankers’ policy -to rehabilitate this country by the economic degradation of the people. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that it places on the Labour party a stigma which it will take a long time for that party to outlive. I regretas deeply as any man can that this- is the action of a so-called Labour Government. I repeat that that Government can never again honestly call itself a Labour Government. It does not know what Labour means. It has not within it a vestige .of the idealism of Labour. For a paltry few thousand pounds it is prepared to cut into this allowance; and, in a later clause, it proposes to do some- thing even worse. I protest as vigorously as I can against the proposed reduction.’ It is a degradation of the Labour move ment -that I bitterly oppose. I view the proposal with disgust and loathing, . and hope that the electors will adopt a similar attitude towards it. I trust that .when they have the opportunity, they will hurl into political oblivion those who are responsible for it.
– I support the principle of this proposal, but suggest an alternative scheme for the consideration of the Government: The charities boards, which are au fait with the workings of our hospitals, might well be consulted. If that were done, I believe it would be found that those hospitals would approve of the payment of the maternity allowance to institutions that deal with maternity cases. The giving of the allowance is admitted to be a humanitarian act; but frauds have been perpetrated in the obtaining of it, because it has been procured by some persons who are not entitled to it. It is also known that the money has not always been spent in the way intended. If it were paid to these institutions, the patient would get that measure of medical attention which is necessary.
– Why does not the Government introduce an entirely new arrangement, under which maternity hospitals would be established, and the money be paid to them?
– Surely the honorable member is aware that there are ‘ such institutions, in Melbourne at any rate, ‘at the present time! I suggest that the payments be made to those institutions, many of which are working under great difficulties and with heavy overdrafts. In numerous instances the services of the best doctors are given gratis. If my suggestion were adopted, the patient would be assured of the best medical attention and the mortality rate would be considerably lessened. The administration of the, act would be a simple matter, and I feel quite sure that a greater saving than £225,000 would be made.
.I thoroughly approve of what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has suggested, but with a difference. If, as’ the honorable member says, it would be, better to have maternity hospitals to > which the medical fraternity would give their services free, much greater benefits would accrue if that provision were additional to the granting of the maternity allowance. As Christians, our first care should be the sick and the needy. There should be no question of balancing budgets where the health of the people is concerned. If children are to be brought into this world, we should at least see that those who bear the pain and the suffering associated with birth are succoured by the nation to the fullest extent. To balance budgets at the expense of the mothers of this country is, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has said, a disgrace that is unfathomable. Why should the mother and her child be called upon to make this sacrifice? Children born in Australia have always been regarded as our best immigrants, and we as a Labour party have always prided ourselves upon this humanitarian act of giving some assistance to mothers in their time of travail, when, in a large number of cases, the expense’ causes considerable hardship. I cannot recall any more disgraceful proposal in the history of legislation in Australia. The honorable member for Balaclava, asserted that in numbers of cases the money had been ill spent; but when his bluff was called he could not mention such a case. When the maternity allowance was originated, it was argued that the money would be spent in a manner that was not intended. I think that the gentleman who, for some years, has been representing Australia in London, was credited with saying that some women purchased bangles and other trinkets with the maternity allowance. That, of course, was untrue, at all events of the workers’ wives, because in the majority of the workers’ homes, the greatest treasure that enters is the new baby. The one desire of the parents is that the child shall have a good start in life, and a better opportunity to make good than they enjoyed. Now, because of the ineptitude of our legislators, this much-needed and very welcome assistance is to be substantially reduced. I blame the Treasurer to a large extent, because he is the kingpin of the whole show; but the blame does not rest entirely upon his shoulders. Those who support him must accept some responsibility for this repugnant proposal, which I regard as one of the worst features of the present Labour Government’s plan. It is unthinkable that an attempt should now be made by a Labour government to tear down the temple of social services which has been erected with such care by those who have been connected with the movement for so many years. To seek to justify this paltry economy on the grounds of expediency, is, I think, unworthy of any government, because this will not balance the budget, or provide employment for a single person. I, as a member of the Labour party, believe that all the benefits of our social services should be available to every citizen of the Commonwealth, and if I had my way, I would make the old-age pension as free as the air. There should be no embargo against its acceptance by any person in Australia. If I cared to take up a different attitude upon this, and other issues now before this Parliament, I could be assured of a free run for the City of Adelaide, and be in the same position as some Labour men who have shifted from this side of the House, and are now the nominees of the Liberal union in that State. But I am not going to do that. Political considerations of that nature do not weigh with me. This proposal is repugnant to every true member1 of the Labour movement. I submit, also, that it is not necessary. If the Government were sincere in its determination to effect real economies, it would cut out a great deal of overlapping expenditure that is being incurred in all the States. In the first place it could launch a campaign for the abolition of the useless State Parliaments, and all the paraphernalia associated with them.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall be glad if the honorable member will confine his remarks to the subjectmatter of the clause.
– That is just what I am doing. The clause proposes to effect certain economies in connexion with the payment of the maternity allowance. Foi what? To balance the budget at the expense of the babies ! There is an alternative, but as soon as I or any other honorable member who is opposed to these proposals mention alternative schemes, weare told to “ stick “ to the clause. I am sticking to it. The Government estimates to save £180,000 by this miserable economy. Instead of seeking to balance its budget at the expense of the babies, it should get rid of a big crowd of useless politicians, and other ineffectual entities, who are supposed to be representing this country overseas. Instead of doing that, it brings down a scheme to economize at the expense of expectant mothers. For many years prior to the accession to office of this Government, the Commonwealth expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in bringing immigrants to Australia. It would not be wide of the truth to say that, under the aegis of the previous Administration, more Italians came to Australia than during the whole of the time from the colonization of this country until the year when the Bruce-Page Government got possession of the treasury bench. For several years there was a steady inflow of Czecho-Slovakians and the flotsam and jetsam of Southern Europe, the idea being, so we were told, to develop Australia according to British traditions; but the real intention was to bring about a reduction in the cost of production, and a consequent lowering of the Australian standard of living. I am proud to be able to put up something of a fight in opposition to this proposal, and I repeat that if some of the alternatives which I have suggested were adopted, it would be unnecessary to make these economies. There are a hundred and one ways in which we could rehabilitate the finances of the Commonwealth if the Government cared to adopt them. Instead, it prefers to follow orthodox lines to restore confidence. Then, when confidence is restored, the Government still following good old orthodox lines, will approach investors in Great Britain, borrow more money, and in that way will increase the interest burden which these unfortunate babies will have to pay some day. But first of all we must restore confidence ! Everything then will be all right. I have no time for these financial jugglers, these three-card tricksters, these thimble and pea people. This proposal is nothing more nor less than bare-faced, daylight robbery. A burglar is a gentleman compared with the man who would take money from an expectant mother on the eve of her accouchement and rob her of 20 per cent. of the amount which hitherto has been payable to all mothers in Australia. But this proposal is approved by honorable members opposite, and I suppose it will be carried. In my opinion, no language allowable in this chamber can properly describe it.
.This proposal is a portion of the plan. Those who sponsor it ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is an unworthy attempt by a Labour Government to do what the Nationalists have been clamouring for during many years. It should not be forgotten that Nationalist Governments for many years allowed a number of services to be carried on for the benefit of the wealthy interests of this country. They were not concerned about the balancing of budgets, otherwise they would have eliminated many of the non-paying activities which cost this country so much. This Government, in giving effect to a Nationalist policy, is prepared to rob expectant mothers of £1 of the amount which should be paid to them. I, as an Australian, and a Labour representative, and one who was proud of the achievements of the Fisher Government, which gave effect to the whole of its legislative programme, feel absolutely disheartened in knowing that a Labour Government, in a time like this, has associated itself with such a miserable and unworthy project. If ever there was a time when every effort should be made to reduce infantile and maternity mortality, that time is now, when, owing to widespread adversity, 400,000 of our workers are unemployed, and, therefore, unable to provide their womenfolk with the ordinary comforts of civilization. Honorable members will have read in the press, within the last few days, of the appalling experience of a number of expectant mothers who were accommodated in the unemployed camp at Happy Valley, near Sydney. The cyclonic storm which swept over that city a few days ago utterly destroyed the Happy Valley encampment, and city ambulances had to be requisitioned to rescue many unfortunate expectant mothers who were living there. The enormous loss of life which takes place every year among mothers and infants should justify us in at least maintaining the present amount of the maternity allowance. The maternity death rate is higher in Australia than in England and in Wales. How many honorable members of this committee have taken the trouble to read the report of Dame Janet Campbell, who was invited by the Bruce-Page Government to visit Australia and report upon child welfare ? I have read the report, and was deeply moved by its contents. In Australia we lose, each year, about 5,000 infants before they reach the age of twelve months, and, of that number, almost 50 per cent, die within two or three weeks of birth. It is during this time that the maternity allowance of £5 is so useful in a great many families. It is much better to spend money in this way than on the Federal Capital, or on the Navy and Army, and other unprofitable services. We can find millions of pounds for defence purposes, but, in order to balance our budgets, we must pare down by £1 the already sufficiently small allowance paid to mothers so that they may have a chance ofpreserving their own lives and’ those of their infants. It is disheartening for a man who has always supported the Labour movement to be told that’ it is necessary to resort to such methods in order to balance the budget. Rather thanagree to this proposal, I would hand over the job to the party opposite, which is, to a large extent, responsible for the difficulties in which Australia now finds itself. ‘ The whole of our troubles are not due to the diminution of the national income. Many of them can be laid at the door of the last Government which, by its recklessness and extravagance, destroyed the financial stability of the Commonwealth. Now the Labour Government, instead of resolutely carrying out its policy, is trying to patch up the national finances by knocking something off maternity allowances, civil servants’ salaries, and the pensions paid to our soldiers, and to the aged and infirm. I will not associate myself with such action, and I am angry that, as a Labour supporter, I am compelled to oppose the legislation of a Labour Government. It is over two years ago since the BrucePage Government called applications for the position of Director, Division of
Maternal and Child Hygiene. What has become of the proposal to appoint this officer? Has not the Minister for Health any responsibility in regard to the matter? This was a most worthy proposal, but a government which could find salaries of £2,000 a year for heads of public departments, and £4,000 a year for the Director of Postal Services, was able to offer only a miserable £1,100 a year to the man who was to fill the post of Director ofMaternal Hygiene. Why has the position not been filled? We are told that the Government cannot find the money to establish this most important branch of the Public Health Department. Ifeltonce that when a Labour government got intopower it would make it its business to ‘provide liberally for public health activities, but in that we have failed miserably. I regret very much that the Government should seize on this method to secure money for balancing thebudget.I shall resist the Government’s proposals, and vote against them.
– I register a strong protest against this clause. Of a bill which is infamous throughout, this is, one of the mostlamentable features. At an earlier stage in this debate I expressed the opinion that, so far as the people of this country were concerned, we might as well have had Sir Otto Niemeyer as head of the Government, supported by Sir Robert Gibson. At the present stage one might venture theopinion that we might as well have Herod as Treasurer of the Com- monwealth. I compliment the venerable member for Melbourne (Mr. Maloney) for his. magnificent contribution to the debate to-night, in spite of the frivolity of certain members of the Opposition. I congratulate also the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) upon his stirring speech. In connexion with a. proposal of this kind, one regrets that a country enjoying adult suffrage is not represented by even one woman in this Parliament, although at least 50 per cent. of the electors are women. I remind the honorable member for Melbourne that, when he spoke in justifiable condemnation of the present so-called Labour party, he may have overlooked the fact that, after all, only a remnant of the original party is really responsible for these infamous proposals. Out of a total of 47 which comprised the party after the last federal elections, the last division to-night revealed that only eighteen are left to support the disgraceful legislation proposed by the Government. I register the strongest protest against this clause of which I am capable and I trust that, when the next appeal is made to the people, the women of Australia will rally to the cause of motherhood in such a way as to annihilate politically every member of this Parliament who votes in favour of this proposal.
.There are certain periods in the history of the Labour party upon which its supporters have always been able to look back with pride. From my earliest association with the Labour movement, those who were seeking the suffrages of the electors have always been able to refer to the regime of the Fisher Government between 1910 and 1913 as demonstrating the benefits of Labour rule. They have pointed to the institution of the maternity allowance for which- that Government was responsible,- and to other humanitarian legislation. If one looks up the parliamentary debates of that time one will find, however, that the Fisher Government carried the Maternity Allowance Bill in the face of the most hostile opposition. It succeeded by virtue of sitting early and late, and eventually tiring out a most strenuous Opposition. Now, in 1931, only a small coterie of Labour representatives are left to defend those things for winch Andrew Fisher fought. . Honorable members who “have followed the history of the Labour movement have no doubt come’ across a book published by the Australian Workers Union. In this publication there appears a cartoon depicting a little child holding a £5 note in his hand, while underneath The picture are the words, “ Thank God the Fisher Government gave me a chance to live “. It has been left to another Labour government to rob the child of its chance to live. One by one the principles of Labour are being abandoned at the behest’ of the’ capitalistic press, -and of those who are forcing the hand of1 this Government. Well may honorable mem- bers opposite smile with satisfaction to think that a Labour government is doing that which they desire, but have not the courage to do themselves.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) referred to the breaking up of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party. The present Government was elected with 47 followers about eighteen months ago. A year later, six members left the party, and joined the Nationalist party. After that, five members, now known as the Lang group, left the party, and about the same time the Parkes seat was lost to Labour. Of the 47 Labour members returned at the last election, seventeen are now voting against the Labour Government in an endeavour to protect Labour principles, and it has now the support of only eighteen Labour members. The position of the present Labour Government iri relation to the members of the Labour party reminds one of the story of the mother and father who came ‘ to the city during the war to see their son march past with the troops, and who, after watching them go by, declared that all were out of step but their Johnnie. If we have to remain here all night and all to-morrow we shall “fight every clause of this bill in an endeavour to defend, the principles for which Labour has always stood. At a time like this, when 400,000 people are out of work, the maternity allowance is a greater necessity than ever. To many of those who are bringing children into the world at the present time the bonus means a ‘ very great deal- much more than it did’ when their husbands were in work. It is notright to say that the money has been wasted. Perhaps in isolated cases ‘it has been spent unwisely, but in the main the maternity allowance has been used in the interests of- the infant child. Even now, infant mortality is high; but it would have been higher but for the maternity allowance for which, the Labour party was responsible. A reduction of the allowance will result in the death of many infants. As the honorable member, for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said, we have spent thousands of pounds in bringing migrants to Australia. Although no migrant- can equal the native born child it is now proposed to save £125,000 on the maternity bonus. If that saving results in the death of even one infant who otherwise would have lived, the reduction cannot be justified. I hope that the opposition to this clause will be greater than that which has been offered to any clause which has already been dealt with. The Government should’ deal with the maternity allowance as it dealt with soldiers’ pensions; it should have an inquiry made into the matter, to see whether the same amount could not be saved in other directions without interfering with this humane legislation.
– I associate myself with the protest of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) against the proposed reduction of the maternity allowance. I feel strongly on this subject because I regard that allowance as one of the most beneficent forms of social legislation for which the Labour party has been responsible. The maternity allowance stands in the very forefront of Labour’s wonderful achievements in the betterment of social conditions in this country. When legislation providing for a maternity allowance was introduced in 1912, it was not thought that £5 would cover the whole of the expenses associated with the birth of a child; it was regarded as a reasonable contribution towards the additional expenses of a home at such a time. If that was the position in 1912, what justification is there for reducing the allowance to £4 now, when prices are at a much higher level than they were then? By reducing the allowance we may do irreparable harm to the race, because of the injury which may be caused to our future citizens in their first hours of life. Generally, the parents with the largest families are found among the poorer people in the community.
– They will still get the allowance.
– These people, with their reduced incomes, cannot afford to lose £1 at a time when their expenses are particularly heavy. In times such as these we should endeavour even to increase the maternity allowance, not to reduce it. Those who have at heart the social and moral well-being of our people cannot view with equani mity any proposal to reduce the maternity allowance, because of the probable effect on our future manhood and womanhood. If we were earnestly to seek for a permanent solution of the problems which confront us, we should find a way of avoiding the necessity for reducing an already inadequate allowance. Mr. Critchley Parker, the editor of the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, demonstrates that this proposal is but the beginning of a campaign for the abolition of the maternity allowance. If this reduction is accepted, a precedent will be established for further reductions, until finally the allowance will disappear entirely. Those who have opposed this plank of Labour’s’ humane policy in the past will not shrink from depriving mothers of this assistance altogether. In these times it is incumbent upon us to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. The motherhood of the country should be preserved from danger in its most critical hour.
– The fears expressed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) impel me to say another word in support of the alternative plan which I have already suggested. As stated by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), our infant mortality is alarming. Most of the deaths among children under one year occur in their first few weeks of life. That is largely because the nursing is at fault. I speak with some knowledge of this matter. The best value for the money spent in maternity cases is obtained when proper attention is given to the mother and child. When. I said that the allowance is sometimes abused, I had not overlooked the fact that in other oases it has proved a boon. Unfortunately, it is not always the mother who gets the benefit of the allowance, for frequently it is spent in drink or squandered in some other way by the father.
– In that case, not even an allowance of £4 is justified.
– Better results could be obtained from an alternative scheme.
– The honorable member wants to do away with the maternity allowance altogether.
– I want to see the best results obtained for the money we expend. In every capital city there are women’s hospitals and after-care homes. If the money now paid in maternity allowances were used to assist those institutions, it would be spent to better advantage. I realize that in country districts the allowance would have to continue, although on a lower basis. Now that the Government is at the cross-roads, it should consider alternatives to the present arrangement. In the institutions which I have mentioned, both mother and child get the best attention possible. Those institutions are in urgent need of financial assistance. If the Government were to call a conference and inquire into this matter, as it did in the case of soldiers’ pensions, I feel sure that a workable scheme could be evolved. The Government should consult with those skilled in obstetrics to see whether a scheme could not be evolved which would reduce the present rate of infant mortality. I submit my suggestion in all earnestness.
.We have reached what is probably the most sordid phase of the plan which has been submitted to us. Some of the alternatives to that plan are not so absurd as some in this chamber would have us believe. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) recently said that it was anticipated that the acceptance of the Hoover plan would benefit Australia to the exent of over £3,000,000. The Government did not expect that relief when the Premiers Conference plan was evolved. In view of the probability of the Commonwealth benefiting to that extent, it might be well to remove from the plan the proposal to reduce all pensions and the maternity allowance, which provides for the saving of practically the same sum that would be gained under the Hoover plan. I believe that, on this question, every member of the Ministry has the same views as every supporter of the Ministry.
– What makes the honorable member believe that?
– Knowing the history of Ministers I can believe in their sincerity. The payment of a maternity allowance is a part of the Labour plat form that has for many years been widely advocated in Australia. It was provided that the allowance should be given to every member of the community without reservation, so that people in the ranks of Labour could, like any other class of the community, accept it without indignity. No. salary limit was fixed ; there was to be no suggestion of charity; the allowance was to be the right given to every mother, whether she were rich or without means. If anything in this plan is more to be deplored than any other part of it it is this interference with the maternity allowance. I believe that there should be no reduction, but I agree that perhaps the money could be spent in a different way. There may be something in the suggestion that skilled hospital treatment should be provided, and inquiries might be made by the different State Governments to see if full effect can be given to that suggestion ; but the question immediately before the committee is what the amount of the allowance should be. It is useless to suggest that the reduction in the cost of living will make up for the £1 reduction of the allowance. Medical fees, the cost of drugs, nursing fees and all the items I have mentioned during the last few days still remain high, and there has never been a time when the payment of the full allowance . has been more urgently required than the .present, because the women likely to be affected by this reduction are the wives of .men whose work is casual or who have no work at all. I have heard no justification for this feature of the rehabilitation plan except the general statement that budgets must be balanced. Some weeks ago, at Bagshot, in my electorate, I was speaking at a church gathering, held in aid of hospital funds. The audience was by no means Labour. At that time the plan had not been evolved. I said that a Government of the movement I represented would never stand for the squaring of State balances or Commonwealth balances by reducing social services. Yet this Government is doing so. The corollary to the Commonwealth’s adoption of this plan must be a reduction of hospital grants by the State Governments, and there will be greater need than ever for home treatment. The next clause is equally objectionable, because it provides an income limit for the recipients of the maternity allowance, and every one will know the worldly position of every applicant for the allowance. That, also, is an infringement of the original intention of Parliament that the allowance should be the right of every woman in Australia, whether she be the wife of a wage-earner or the wife of a millionaire. For these reasons, and because I am in general opposition to the ‘ whole plan, I shall vote against this clause, as I have voted against others.
.I have always been opposed to any reduction of the maternity allowance, and I never thought that the time would arrive when I should be called upon to oppose an attempt on the part of a Labour government to interfere with one of the most humane pieces of legislation ever’ placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth by Labour. I have had some little experience amongst the working classes, and know of the benefit that has come to them from the payment of this allowance. But it seems that, in order to meet the wishes of people politically opposed to Labour, the Government has been forced to bring about a reduction of the allowance. During the last election campaign our political opponents mooted this reduction, and, if my memory serves me rightly, the exPrime Minister indicated that if his Government were again returned to power, the reduction would be brought into effect. If my memory also serves me rightly, every Labour candidate opposed that proposal. It may be true that’ many people are in a position to meet all the expenses attaching to maternity, but, in my opinion, any attempt to distinguish between the rich and the poor will be the starting point of interference with the payment of the allowance and possibly the starting point of its abolition. “When the act was passed, it was said that it would be abused. It was called the bangle bonus act. All sorts of fancy titles were given to it. But no case in which the allowance has been abused has yet been brought under my notice.
In support of- this legislation it was claimed that the money would be spent on Australia’s best immigrants, or the nation’s priceless assets as they were termed. The first few weeks of a child’s life are the most critical, and the payment of this allowance may make all the difference in the world to it - determining whether it will grow to bo a sturdy citizen or not. I feel that I should be breaking the pledges I gave when I consented to stand as a Labour candidate, and violating the principles of the platform of the party to which I belong, if I supported this clause, and it is therefore my intention to vote against it, as I shall vote against other clauses in. the bill.
– I do not think £5 is too much to pay as a maternity allowance. I do not think that £10 would be too much to pay. I should like to go further and pay a £20 allowance upon marriage. There is nothing I should be more pleased to do than to increase the salaries of public servants instead of reducing them. But we are not here to-night to deal with that. “We are in a position that forces us” to choose between two evils. Those who are supporting the plan are doing so to prevent something worsefrom happening than a reduction of salaries, allowances, and pension’s. Itis not the mere question of whether £4 or £5 should be paid. We cannot carry outthe Labour policy. I pay homage to representatives of industrial centres who’ are taking their political lives in their hands and risking defeat because of their support of this plan. I also look with’ respect upon those who honestly, and with pertinacity, are fighting for Labour principles. But I shall vote for the- plan because I do not want to see something worse in the shape of repudiation. In’ 1S92, when we were confronted with a very serious position in Australia, there was no maternity allowance. I was in_ public life in New South Wales’ and strongly supported Mr. Arthur Griffith when he advocated the payment of a maternity allowance, and the matter was- afterwards taken up by the Commonwealth. It is the desire of the majority of the members- of the party to which I belong to adhere to the policy enunciated by the Prime. Minister- (Mr. Scullin) prior to- the last general election, but owing to circumstances over which we have no control that is impracticable. We are not the masters of the situation. The members of the break-away branch of the Labour movement who are supporting Mr. Lang should realize what he is doing in the matter of slashing wages, aud generally disregarding the policy upon which he was elected.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) in order in referring to the policy of Mr. Lang in discussing this clause?
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the committee.
– It is generally admitted that the amount at present paid as a maternity allowance is insufficient, but in order to assist in restoring this country to financial stability reductions have to be made. As the reduction provided in this clause is part of the plan, I intend to support it even if it means my political extinction. I am doing what I think will in the end be in the best interests of the people. At present, this Government is not sufficiently strong numerically to carry out its policy, particularly as some honorable members elected to support it are endeavouring by tiddly-winking methods to misrepresent what the right honorable the Prime Minister has said.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– The proposal now before the committee is repugnant to members of the Labour party, but as there is no alternative, I intend to support the Government. It is to be hoped that before long we shall be able to give full effect to our policy, and even in- * crease the rate of allowance now paid. Unless this plan is adopted, we shall be faced with default, and that will cause more misery and distress than at present exists.
.- I desire to associate myself with the protests made by honorable members who have already spoken in opposition to this clause, and to congratulate them upon their fight to retain the present rate of the maternity allowance, which is one of the most important principles of the Labour party. This is a definite instance of pounds, shillings, and pence being regarded as of greater value than human life. The payment of this allowance has, in many instances, been the means of saving life. As previous speakers have pointed out, this money is made available at a period of great consequence, not only to the mother, but also to the .child. When medical attention is needed, there should not be any absence of financial aid; Honorable members who have families can fully appreciate the necessity for this assistance. Yet honorable members make the reduction of the allowance from £5 to £4 a feature of the so-called economy proposals ! The members of this group cannot in any circumstances associate themselves with that. Labour’s policy is based upon humanitarian ideals and inspirations. When the Labour Government, led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, first put through Parliament a bill providing for the payment of the maternity allowance, the humanitarian features of the policy weighed heavily with those who were then members of the party. It would be impossible to assess the value of the allowance in the saving of life. It is tragic that Labour members of this Parliament should, in 1931, have to witness the sorry spectacle of another Labour Government interfering with a policy such as this established by a former Labour Government. I agree entirely with the prediction of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that this is merely the beginning of a general attack upon the maternity allowance. No doubt, when further cuts are ma.de in order to balance budgets, this item of expenditure will be wiped out altogether. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the advantages of nursing homes. I do not deny the need for providing facilities for the nursing of mothers, but this suggestion is only put forward by those who are using it to support a proposal which I believe will eventually mean the cutting out of the allowance altogether.
Therewouldbe no objection to discussing the proposals submitted by the honorable member if the present rate of the allowance were being maintained, and if a workable scheme were evolved we could, perhaps, improve the present system. But, until other proper provision is made for giving succour and attention to mothers who need it, we should not support the reduction of the allowance from £5 to £4.
– I suggested convening a conference. Would the honorable member agree to that?
– I would if the present allowance were maintained. Numerous conferences have been held during the last eighteen months or two years ; but the results have been anything but fruitful. Therefore, I, and other honorable members opposing the Government’s proposals, are not too much inclined to rely upon the result of such a gathering. In the meantime, we must hold that which we have. It is a sad commentary upon our present social system that, at this period in our history, we cannot continue the present rate to those who are in need. The present allowance should be retained for the preservation of the lives of our future citizens. We should hold on to what we have irrespective of the consequences.
– The speeches in support of the retention of the present payment call for some reply from a member of the Government.
– I thought that they were made purely for electioneering purposes.
– Sheer political hypocrisy!
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that the speeches of honorable members opposing this clause constitute sheer political hypocrisy. I resent the remark of the honorable member, which to me is offensive, and should be withdrawn.
– I regard it as severe but permissible criticism.
– As I regard it as offensive, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I do not consider it offensive.
– I do, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The conduct of the committee is my responsibility. In the circumstances I do not intend to ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– I submit-
TheTEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member does not intend to dissent from my ruling he must resume his seat.
– I do not know that any good purpose could be served by dissenting from your ruling at this hour.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Then I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that the speeches of honorable members in opposition to this clause were made purely for electioneering purposes.I regard that remark as offensive, and ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I do not regard the statement of the Minister as offensive.
– Is it for you, sir, to determine that point?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already given my ruling.
– I do not consider such remarks as offensive, because insults from political hypocrites like the honorable member for Warringah are complimentary to me.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I merely used the term that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) appliedto me; and which you said was not offensive.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is much difference between applying the term “ political hyprocrisy “ to a statement, and charging a man with being a hyprocrite. It is legitimate criticism to say that a person is indulging in political hypocrisy; but I cannot allow any honorable member to charge another with being a hypocrite. The honorable member for Werriwa must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. I simply made the statement to test your partiality as a Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I understand that the honorable member has said that he made the statement to test my partiality as a Chairman. I ask him to withdraw that.
– Withdraw what?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Withdraw the statement that there was any necessity to test my partiality as a Chairman.
– I am not responsible for. any impression that you may have gained from interjections by the honorable member for Warringah, or from what may be told to you by the clerk at the table. I decline to have put into my mouth words that I have not uttered.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member denies having made the remark, there is nothing further to be said. I leave the matter to his sense of honour.
– I was proceeding to say that the arguments advanced during the last hour and a half or two hours by honorable members who sit in this part of the chamber, in opposition to this miserable cut of £1 in the maternity allowance, surely call for some reply by a responsible member of the Government. I am not concerned with whether ©r not the Minister who is in charge of the chamber for the moment considers that they are political speeches. I have frequently heard him and other members of the Government make speeches which could not be characterized as anything but political speeches.
– I am not denying that.
– It is very convenient for the Minister to apply that term to the speeches that have been made this evening ; but I do not think there are many honorable members who speak without considering the influence that their remarks may have upon the people outside. Consequently, the use of such terms is merely another form of political hypocrisy. I want to know whether the responsible members of this Government are so ashamed of this miserable cheeseparing cut, this attempt to rob the babies of this country, in the interests of the banking institutions that, having absented themselves from the chamber during the whole of the debate, they now decline to say one word in justification of the proposal. Speech after speech has been made, attack after attack has been launched, against the viciousness of the principle embodied in this clause, yet not one word will they say in its defence. They are dumb in their shame and their degradation. They cannot justify it. In all my experience in this Parliament I have never seen a government so dumb and so incapable of answering or of attempting to answer criticism such as has been hurled against this proposal. Ministers are destitute of any sense of shame. I shall continue to protest. If the members of the Government will not in this, the national Parliament of Australia, say u word Fig justification of this action, by their silence they themselves condemn it. That silence shows that they are ashamed of it, and that they realize the political iniquity of it. It is not only something that they will live to regret, but something that will cause them to hang their heads in shame at having done it. I repeat that they cannot justify it, and that they have not the courage to stand up in this chamber and attempt to justify it. The only attempt at its justification was the miserable effort of the honorable member for Warringah, backed up by the equally miserable effort of the honorable member for Balaclava. The only persons who will attempt to defend this thing are the members of the Opposition, who are glorying in the fact that it is being carried out. The only plaudits and the only support that the Government can get, come from the Opposition.
– The Opposition now consists chiefly of rats and reptiles.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has said that we who sit on this side are rats and reptiles. That is distinctly offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member for Martin used that expression in regard to the members of the Opposition, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I used those words under very great provocation ; and I submit that they are in accordance with fact.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.All that I want to know is, whether the honorable member used them.
– Yes, I used them against the Opposition, which consists of political rats and reptiles.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must withdraw the expression.
– I do not feel inclined to withdraw, because it is the truth.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Icall upon the honorable member to withdraw, otherwise I shall name him.
– As it is my wish to continue my fight in this chamber against this Herodian horror, I withdraw.
– I conclude by repeating that the only support for this proposal comes from members of the Opposition who, having secured the carrying out of their policy, are glorying in the shame of the Government.
.I support the protest of the honorable member forWerriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) against the failure of the Government to give any further explanation than has been ‘ given generally in regard to the whole plan. This is the most vital principle of the bill, although, judged by the saying that will be effected, it is a puerile attempt at economy..
Mr.White. - On a point of order, I ask whether the honorable member is in order in addressing the committee with his boots off.
– I thought
I could smell something.
– I point out to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that their remarks are distinctly undignified.
– What did I say?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member made a most improper remark in which he referred to a smell.
– I consider, Mr. Crouch, that you ought to apologize to me. My remarks were not in any way undignified, and I object to having them so termed.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to state very seriously that in my opinion there has been an infringement of an important standing order, which requires that members shall appear in this chamber properly clothed. I submit to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that on the evidence which has been submitted by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) appears in a state of semi-nudity, and therefore, his costume is not in conformity with that particular standing order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order. I consider that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) is trying to be frivolous at the expense of the Chair and I ask him to resume his seat.
– Mr. Crouch-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must obey my direction ; otherwise I shall name him.
-i rise to a point of order.
– I have already decided a point of order raised by the honorable member, and J call upon him to resume his seat.
– I shall do so; but Ishall rise immediately to ask you a question.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Adelaide.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish you, Mr. Crouch, to apologize to me for having said that a remark of mine was undignified.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member for Balaclava continues the attempt to be frivolous at my expense, I shall name him.
– I am not trying to be frivolous; I am quite serious.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member persists, I shall name him.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
The TEMPORARYCH AIRMAN.I refuse to permit it. Will the honorable member resume his seat?
Mr. Morgan, continuing to stand,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I name the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– I am afraid that the committee has become a little unruly, but I believe that that unruliness arose over a slight misunderstanding. If the honorable member for Darling Downs will accept the ruling of the Chair, and allow the debate to proceed, the committee may settle down to a little more orderliness. I trust that the honorable member will act on my suggestion.
– I have no hesitation in complying with the wishes of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), particularly as I understand that in the meantime the honorable member for Adelaide has become properly clothed.
– As a matter of fact, I was properly attired when I was addressing the committee prior to the raising of the point of order.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will now proceed.
– I intend to do so, when I get a chance . I endorse all that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has said. If the Minister can show justification for this iniquitous proposal we shall be glad to hear his explanation. This economy scheme cuts right across the established principles of the Labour movement, and before we agree to this clause we should have ah adequate explanation from the Minister. Honorable members opposite have always advocated the abolition of the maternity allowance, and as the Government is now acquiescing in that demand, we are entitled to know what justification there is for this proposal. Allegations that all the speeches that have been made in the Course of this debate are intended as political propaganda cut no ice with us. We stand for the maintenance of Labour ideals, and are fighting for a principle which was not won easily. It has as its base one of the finest ideals ever conceived by the Labour movement, so it is not likely that we, who have not weakened in our advocacy of Labour principles, shall readily agree to scrap it. It means so much to those whom we represent. If we are to have the stereotyped reply that unless this economy is accepted expectant mothers will not be able to get even £2, let us have it. We shall then know where we stand, and will know that even expectant mothers in this country will be required to make their contribution to save the nation. If now we can extract from the Government the reasons for this economy we shall be able to examine them in the light of future events, and see how much reliance can be placed upon them. This proposal means the repudiation of Labour’s ideals concerning which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) spoke so earnestly the other night. Apparently one cherished ideal after another is to be thrown overboard, and later will come the crash.
– Sit down!
– I shall sit down when I have said what I rose to say, in opposition to the financial oligarchy that is dominating this Government. T. R. Ashworth and his confreres in big business are behind all these economy moves, and the Government, supinely doing their bidding, is now prepared to rob even expectant mothers of a portion of the maternity allowance which has been a feature of Commonwealth policy for so many years. We who are opposing the proposal wish to have placed on record the case for the reduction stated by a responsible Minister.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman-
Mr. Archdale Parkhill interrupting,
– I invite your attention Mr. Chairman to the disorderly conduct of the honorable member for. Taronga Park.
– I represent a lot like you at Taronga Park.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I was about to remark when I was so rudely interrupted by the honorable gentleman-
– I instruct the honorable member for Martin to resume his seat. He drew my attention just now to what he termed the disorderly conduct of the honorable member f or “ Taronga Park “. I now name the honorable member for Martin for insulting behaviour to the Chair.
– It is my painful duty to move - .
That thehonorable member for Martinbe suspended from the service of the committee.
– I rise to a point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There can he no point of order concerning the motion before the Chair. The question must be put without debate.
– My point of order has to do with the procedure which you, sir, have adopted. I understand that it is customary, when a motion similar to that which has just been moved by the Treasurer, is before the committee, to allow the honorable member who has offended an opportunity to withdraw.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must resume his seat. There can be no point of order taken with regard to the question before the Chair.
– My point is that Mr. Speaker has to take action in such a case.
Motion - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Hon. R. A. Crouch).
Majority . . . . 25
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It is the duty of the Speaker, if the House agrees to the motion, to suspend the offending member for the remainder of the sitting. The vote of the committee is reported to Mr. Speaker, and a vote of the House taken. In this case, the offence was so gross, and the insult to the Chair so deliberate, that I asked the Acting Leader of the House to take immediate action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
– I have to report that, during the proceedings in committee, the honorable member for Martin was guilty of a gross insult to the Chair, in consequence of which the committee, on division, suspended him from the service of the committee.
– As the committee has carried a motion for the suspension of the honorable member, I move -
That the honorable member for Martin be suspended from the service of the House.
Motion put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 26
– The Speaker may be informed of what occurred only by the Chairman of Committees, when he makes his report. The Standing Orders do not provide for any further explanation, and there can be mo debate on the motion.
– If the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) expresses regret for what he did, or is alleged to have done, would his apology be accepted by the Chair?
– If the honorable member for Martin desired to apologize, he should have done so while the House was in committee. Once the matter was reported to the Speaker, he had no alternative but to ask the Leader of the Government to take the necessary steps in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. Eldridge then retired from the chamber.
– Just before the. incident which has now been disposed of, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) was attempting to bring home to the Government the necessity for defining its attitude towards the reduction of maternity allowances. About ten honorable membershad expressed their contempt and disgust at the proposed action of the Government, and it was naturally expected that the Minister in charge, or some other member of the Government, would explain the reasons for the cut which is to take place. No attempt was made, however, to defend the Government’s proposal. Not one Minister has seen fit to express an opinion. Is it that they are ashamed to do so, or is it that they do not desire that the records of the House shall disclose, in future years, their attitude towards this important matter, and make it clear for every one to see who stood for Labour principles, and who was against them? Evidently they desire the clause to be passed without any reference being made to it by members of the Government. This is a shameful attitude, and before the vote is taken I have taken this opportunity to express just what . I think of the Government.
Question - That clause 23, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 24 (Who may be claimants).
– This is the clause which seeks to pauperize those who claim the maternity allowance. I am reminded that on one occasion the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said that the cost of policing such a provision would practically eat up any saving which would’ be effected by it. When Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, there was an agitation to restrict the maternity allowance to persons with small incomes, but Mr. Bruce, a Nationalist Prime Minister, refused to alter the basis of the allowance, largely because the saving would not be very, great if the cost of policing the provision were taken into account. Apparently, the present Labour Government wants to deal with the maternity allowance in the same ruthless manner that it dealt with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) a few minutes ago. One is filled with disgust that that Government should lay its unworthy hands on this legislation, of which the Labour party has always been justly proud. However bad the condition of the finances of the cou n try, they cannot justify an action of this kind. How much will the reduction of the allowance by £1, and the further reduction which this clause will effect, assist towards balancing the budget? Apparently, the doctrine of the equality of sacrifice must go right to the cradle - the unborn child is to be robbed of the provision made in its’ interests. The Government regards the reduction in the maternity allowance - the pauperizing of Australian children at birth - as asacri- fice equal to that of a Minister of the Crown whose salary is cut down to £35 a week, or of a member of this Parliament, who, even under these proposals, will have £16 a week, or even to that which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, with his £70 a week, will be called upon to make! No argument, however plausible, can justify the proposal. The Government which makes it stands condemned for all time. So ashamed of its own proposals is the Government, that it remains dumb, and will not even attempt to defend them.
.- If at this late hour it is possible to treat this subject seriously, I should like the committee to consider whether it is really worth while making this distinction for the small saving which is likely to accrue from it. In 1923 an estimate was made of the saving which would be effected if persons in receipt of £300 per annum and over were to be ineligible for the maternity allowance. It was then estimated that the saving would amount to about £29,000 per annum. The present estimate of £100,000 per annum has admittedly not been made on figures which are at all likely to give an accurate result. On this subject the women’s service guilds in the several States appear to be fairly unanimous. They regard the maternity allowance” as a recognition of maternity, which should be given without class discrimination. There is a very strong objection on the part of women to making which they regard as a declaration of pauperism. When a similar proposal was made in 1929, itwas strongly objected to on the grounds which I have indicated. In view of the considerable cost which would be incurred in policing the provision, it would be well for the committee to consider whether, after all it is worth while giving offence to so many women to gain such a small amount.
.This clause is even worse than the one which preceded it. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has put the position temperately, yet very clearly He has voiced the opinion of the women of. Australia regarding the maternity allowance. In view ofwhat the committee has heard from the honor able member for Werriwa (Mr Lazzarini) and the honorable member for Perth, the Government should? at least attempt to justify its proposal. If the estimated saving of £29,000 mentioned by the honorable member for Perth was correct in 1923, the Government should say why the estimate is now £100,000. Among those who will be entitled to claim the maternity allowance in the future will be a number of young women claiming it in respect of their first child. Is it right that they should be required to answer questions comparable with those which old-age pensioners have to answer? Is it right that we should require these young women to satisfy a commissioner or a special magistrate of their eligibility for a maternity allowance? It is to be remembered that a maternity allowance is not a continuous payment like on old-age pension. Eather than submit to such an examination, many women with unchallengable claims to an allowance, will reject it in disgust, However serious the financial position of the country, surely it does not require the brand of pauperism to be placed on our womenfolk. The Government should be ashamed to make such a suggestion. The proposal itself surely is bad enough, but it becomes more repugnant and obnoxious than ever when, we reflect that it is ‘the proposal of a Labour Government, which claims to :rep resent the workers in this country. This clause provides that the allowance shall not be paid in the case of a posthumous or -ex-nuptial child unless the claimant satisfies th.? commissioner that her total income for the period of twelve months preceding the date of the birth did not exceed £260. To obtain payment of n ‘ paltry £4 the mother of an ex-nuptial child must undergo a third degree examination ! Do honorable members realize that this is the proposal of a Labour Government, the successor to a Labour Government which introduced this legislation of which we have always been so proud ? Labour’s high ideals are being cast aside by the present Government. Is it any wonder that honorable members on this side become heated when they think of what has taken place ? Any honorable member who votes for a provision which requires the mother of a child to undergo a third degree examination before she can obtain a paltry £4 should be ashamed to look at his ‘ reflection in the mirror. It was our practice to upbraid and revile the Bruce-Page Government for having put what we called a dog-collar on waterside workers; but this proposal to submit new mothers to a searching inquiry makes me feel ashamed. If it is a Labour proposition I am not a Labour man, and do not want to be one. But I am sure that it is not one-thousandth part of 1 per cent, a Labour proposition. Last night, at a council of the Labour party of South Australia, by 182 votes to 16 the delegates decided to oppose the Commonwealth Government’s plan. Such is South Australian Labour’s reply to a presumably Labour proposal for the rehabilitation of the country’s finances. “Without this plan we can avoid the precipice of default. The country can stand up to its obligations without having to ask its new mothers to subject themselves to this catechism as to what income they receive and the source from which they get it; also -whether the earnings of the preceding twelve months have been more than £260. I am disgusted that such a thing should be proposed, and if this Government can say nothing in justification of it, it is deserving of the stigma that will attach to it for all time for having put it forward. Ministers are bowing the knee to Baal. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has said to them, “ You must do this or we shall reduce you to a state of penury,” and they are too supine to withstand him. They were elected to carry out a certain programme, but they are crying ” Peccavi. “We shall do what you say, Mr. Latham. You were right; we were wrong. You had all the wisdom; we were the fools. “We surrender, and we think you so far right that we shall do all the dirty work for you ; we shall even go to the length of letting you push our paws between the bars to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for you. “We shall sell ourselves and our women folk to you body and soul. Take us on your side for heavens sake, because we are no longer worthy of being described as Labour men.”
– The necessity for filling in claims and appearing before a special magistrate in order that applicants may declare on oath that the statements contained therein are true, must inflict hardship on those who are to “be paid the maternity allowance. They must swear that the family income is not over £260 per annum, and, like the old-age pensioner, must submit to be cross-examined by a special magistrate in the department as to the truth or otherwise of the statements they have made. Such an investigation always goes beyond the actual requirements of the application form. I have had numerous complaints that it is an application of the “ third degree “ in the case of old-age pensioners. I should say that the money is most urgently required at the birth of a child. At any rate, that is the time when special attention is needed, and the mother is certainly not then in a position to appear before a special magistrate and declare what is expected of her before she can establish her claim to the allowance of £4. She should not he required to do so. A second point to be raised about this clause is : What is covered by the word “ income “ ? In New South Wales, during the course of the preceding twelve months, the husband may have had partial employment of a character entitling him. to receive assistance from the State in the shape of child endowment. Another form of relief given in New South Wales is poor relief from the Department of the Chief Secretary. Another form of assistance may be the war pension, no matter how small, payable by the Repatriation Department. These items will all be included as income. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has shown that the amount that will be saved under this provision is so small that it is hardly worth bothering about. The objections raised against it should receive the sympathetic consideration of the Treasurer. 1 think that applicants for the allowance should not be put to the humiliation of having to run the gauntlet of investigation, and that any allowance in the form of assistance from a State should not be taken into consideration in estimating income.
– The honorable member is unduly delaying the passage of the clause by stating at great length a point very easily explained, and has conjured up dif ficulties respecting the making of an application by the mother for an allowance. The claimant need not go before a special magistrate, nor will she be subjected to the inquisitorial investigation which the honorable member has imagined. At present, she makes out a claim, which is witnessed by the medical officer or nurse, and the only additional requirement will be a declaration which can be made before a person authorized by the act to witness declarations.
– I am pleased to be able to endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) about distinctions. I know that many women’s societies resent any distinction being drawn between mothers who are married and those who are single women. I have been thanked by them for having burnt many cards describing patients as unmarried. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) will accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Perth, and drop this clause. It will not save much money, which, after all, is not the greatest thing in the world, but it will fix the stigma of poverty on women who get the allowance. I am glad to see that the words “ex-nuptial,” first incorporated in this legislation by Mr. Andrew Fisher, have been retained by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). The Commonwealth Year-Booh no longer uses the word “ illegitimate “. It employs the words “ ex-nuptial “. Deep down in the hearts of women there is a sense of loyalty to one another, and the women’s organizations are earnest in their appeal that no distinction should be made in the payment of the maternity allowance. Let us leave the provision as it is to-day, so that the stigma of poverty may not be attached to the recipient of the maternity allowance.
.. - I feel disposed to support the contention of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). The anticipated saving isso small that I do not know upon what, grounds’ the Government bases its calculations. Owing to the depression which, now exists, the social life of the com- munity is so disturbed that the number of persons claiming the allowance will not be great. Persons receiving even more than £260 a year, who have recently established homes, should be able to participate in the allowance, because of the numerous expenses which they have to meet. The Minister should move an amendment to increase the amount from £260 to £500 instead of quibbling over matters of this kind. The Government’s proposals have been formulated with the object of saving millions of pounds, but if this clause is passed in its present form a very small saving will be effected, and deserving mothers will be deprived of an allowance to which they are justly entitled.
.The Government should have given more consideration to the contentions of those who are opposing its financial policy. The deletion of this clause would, I submit, afford satisfaction to practically every honorable member, as the payment of maternity allowance under the proposed system savours of a class distinction which is contrary to the spirit of the act. Notwithstanding the arguments adduced by a large number of honorable members in opposition to this and other clauses, we have not had a reply from a Minister. Whatever may be urged against those in opposition to the bill, I think it will be conceded that we are opposing some of its provisions on a sound basis. I have not charged the Government with insincerity, because I have realized that it is faced with a tremendous proposition. But I have suggested that, as the Government’s commitments may be reduced by £3,090,000, under the international debts arrangement, this amount could be used in such a way as to avoid the reduction of pensions and maternity allowance, which is repugnant to every honorable member. Even at this late hour, some effort should be made by the Government to meet those members of the Opposition who are carrying on the work of the committee while so many other honorable members are either asleep or absent from the chamber. The only reply we have had to the numerous points raised was from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), who said that those opposing the Government’s proposals were merely making electioneering speeches. Those who are opposing the plan , are taking more risks politically than are those supporting it. In view of the small amount likely to be saved I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) will withdraw the clause.
– I am not satisfied with the reply of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) to the points raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in connexion with the form to be filled in by claimants. The Treasurer, in his usual airy manner, endeavoured to make it appear that it was not the intention of the Government to embarrass those who submitted claims. We are all aware of the inquisitorial nature of the investigation conducted in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions, and there is every justification to assume that a similar procedure will be followed under this clause. In endeavouring to ascertain the actual income of the husband of an applicant, inquiries of a most rigid nature will be conducted, and in some instances persons entitled to the allowance will refuse to make an application, because of the indignity to which they will have to submit. Since consideration of this measure in committee was commenced, honorable members on this side have been ineffectively hammering away at the Government, but Ministers have not even replied to any of the points raised. As the reduction of the allowance, and the conditions under which it is proposed to pay it, destroys a fundamental principle and an important plank of the Labour party’s platform, I intend to oppose the clause.
– Does the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) intend to reply to the points I raised with respect to the allowances to be included in calculating annual income ? I directed the attention of the Minister to certain instances in which applicants may be receiving money from the State in circumstances which suggest poverty, and I contend that amounts so received should not be regarded as part of the income of applicants.
Question - That clause 24 he agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 20
– I have no knowledge of any such occurrence.
– I direct your attention to it.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 (Evidence as to income).
– The consideration of this clause furnishes the Minister with an opportunity to state what evidence a claimant for a maternity allowance will be required to submit. It sets out that every claim shall be supported by such evidence as to the income of the claimant and of her husband as is prescribed. I take it that the evidence will be prescribed in regulations that will be made under the act. Honorable members do not always have an opportunity to scrutinize the regulations that are made subsequent to the passage of legislation. Therefore, at this stage, the committee should be informed as to just what kind of evidence will have to be submitted. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), replying to a question that I raised on the previous clause, informed the committee that it would not be necessary for a claimant to go before a special magistrate. Claims for old-age and invalid pensions are signed before a Justice of the Peace, and the claimants certify that their statements are correct; but such a certification isnot always accepted as a matter of course by the department. When the claims reach the department they are checked over, and a card is sent to the applicant instructing him to present himself to the department. On any day of the week, if one visits the department, one will find quite a large number of old persons lined up awaiting their turn to appear before these magistrates. I think it will be found that that procedure will ‘be followed in regard to claims for. the maternity allowance. Unless the Treasurer can state definitely the nature of- the evidence that will be prescribed, and the exact manner in which it will be collected and presented, we shall not feel satisfied.
– In cases of this kind the evidence is usually furnished by means of the claim signed by the claimant, in which are set out the particulars asked for, in answer to the questions that appear on the claim. It is not a complicated matter. Probably two or three questions relating to the income of the claimant and of her husband would be quite sufficient in normal cases. Further investigation would be made by the department only if there were reasonable grounds for the suspicion that false statements had been made.
– I should like to have the definite assurance that those are the only requirements that will be prescribed. Does the Treasurer assure us that the claim for the maternity allowance will contain only two or three questions, and that, without any further investigation, or questioning, the allowance will bepaid?
– That is so, except where there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion that false answers have been given.
– They have to be checked up with the employers.
– Oh, no.
– That is the practice with other claims.
– This clause relates only to the form in which the claim shall be submitted. Investigations into it are dealt with by the succeeding clause.
– Clause 26 gives the Commissioner, or a deputy commissioner, the power to make investigations; but those investigations will be based on the conditions that are prescribed. I am still fearful that the position will be identical with that relating to claims for old-age pensions, and that the investigation will be just as severe and inquisitorial. This clause is as obnoxious as any other in the bill, and I and my colleagues will vote against it.
Clause agreed to.
After section seven of the Principal Act. the following section is inserted: - “7a. - (1.) The Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner may cause to be made such investigations . . . “ (2.) Any person who, on being required under this section to furnish a report, fails to furnish the report within a reasonable time, or furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for one year “.
.On the preceding clause the Treasurer airily dismissed an inquiry by honorable members by stating that only one or two questions would be asked. It does not appear as though the process is to be quite so simple as he would have us believe. This clause provides that the Commissioner or a deputy commissioner may cause to be made such investigations as appear to him to be desirable in. order to ascertain the circumstances of any claimant or her husband and the truth of the statements contained in the claim, and may require any person whom he believes to be in a position to do so, to furnish to him a confidential report as to the income of the claimant or of her husband. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said on the preceding clause, the third degree method is to be applied to these people, and an inquisitorial investigation will be made into the amount which the husband of the applicant is earning, if he is in employment, and even into what the applicant herself may have coming to her from any source.
– Only where there were reasonable grounds for supposing that the statements made in the claim were not truthful, would those investigations be made.
– It is useless toargue as to the intention of Parliament after an act has been passed; the authorities are guided by what an act prescribes. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has reminded me that thesting in this clause is in the tail. Assurances as to what was intended do not carry any weight years after an act has been passed, when the man who gave them possibly has passed out of political life, or into total oblivion. It does not matter what regulations may be made, they cannot over-ride the specific language of the act. If the Commissioner desires definite information before agreeing to the payment of this allowance, he will cause investigations to be made. The clause goes on to say-
Any person who, on being required under this section to furnish a report, fails to furnish the report within a reasonable time, or furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence.
Therefore, the investigation will be just as inquisitorial in this case as in the case of a claim for an old-age pension. Some officials, when clothed with a little brief authority, can be even more tyrannical than the Minister, and may do what Parliament never intended should be done. I repeat what was said by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), that this will be repugnant and obnoxious to our women folk. One of the most offensive features of the Arbitration Act, which this Government amended soon after it came into power, was the excessive nature of the penalties that were provided for offences. Yet this hill proposes, under the clause we are now considering, a penalty of £100, or imprisonment for one year! Even if a person, in furnishing information, made some slight mistake, or wilfully supplied particulars that were not truthful, could it be argued that such a vindictive, vicious penalty should be inflicted? Our acts usually impose a limitation on such penalties by stating that they shall not exceed what is stipulated. Discretionary power is given to magistrates to assess the enormity of the offence. The giving of inaccurate information may be due merely to forgetfulness, and might easily be explained by the individual concerned in the presence of a sympathetic examiner. Sympathy is not always shown in such cases. I know from experience that there are many persons who will not appear before some magistrates for the purpose of giving evidence. Even if the statement made be not wilfully untrue, the claimant will be guilty of an offence, and punishable under this provision. One might think that unless the allowance is reduced the financial consequences will be so disastrous as to send this country clean over the precipice ; whereas, if the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is rightly informed, the total savings will amount to only £29,000. The whole business is most obnoxious to me. It savours of the dark ages. Certainly it is not in keeping with this progressive age, when it should be the duty of all governments to show every consideration to the people.
– I ask the Government to reconsider the penalty proposed for offences under this clause. It is provided in section 10 of the principal act that the penalty for the submission of fraudulent claims shall be a maximum fine of £100 or imprisonment for one year. This clause is inserted to enable the Commissioner or deputy commissioner to obtain information concerning the circumstances of any claimant, and it enacts that any person - he may be an employer, or a brother or sister - who is asked to make a confidential report must do so within a reasonable time.
Furthermore, the report presented must be a true report, otherwise the penalty will be £100, or imprisonment for one year.
– That is the maximum penalty.
– I think all honorable members understand that it is the maximum penalty; but, having regard to the character of the offence, the position, I suggest, would be met by a smaller penalty.
. - The penalty provided betrays the whole intention. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has endeavoured to persuade the committee that the Commissioner or deputy commissioner would determine whether or not the information supplied was satisfactory. I think it is dangerous to leave too much to the discretion of any particular individual. The penalty is altogether too severe. A member of a claimant’s family might be called upon to furnish a report, and if he refused to do so within a reasonable time, he would be guilty of an offence. Personally, I should refuse to act as a spy upon my neighbour in a matter like this, and yet if I refuseda request by the Commissioner to supply information concerning an applicant, I should be liable to the penalties provided in this clause. It is despicable, and most obnoxious in every respect.
– I raise on this clause objections such as I made when clause 25 was under discussion. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) might have gone a little further, and, in addition to providing the penalty set out in the clause, he might have inserted a provision for the payment of a reward to persons who furnished information upon which the Commissioner would be able to save a little more at the expense of expectant mothers. It is iniquitous to require any person to be a spy upon his neighbour; yet under this clause the Commissioner may call upon some member of the claimant’s family, perhaps a married sister or brother, to furnish a confidential report within a given time. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has already pointed out that the penalty is altogether too severe. I go further, and say that these provisions savour of the star chamber; they are methods of medievalism; they are entirely foreign to the spirit of our age.
This whittling away of principles for which the Labour party has always stood, is repugnant to me and to several other honorable members on this side. Undoubtedly it will seriously damage the prestige of the Labour party.
.The committee has already decided that the amount payable shall be reduced from £5 to £4, and this clause gives power to the Commissioner to have made such investigations as appear to him to be desirable concerning the circumstances of any claimant. The same procedure is followed in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and I have not heard of complaints. I believe that these new provisions will be administered with the same sympathetic regard for the position of claimants. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the penalty is too high, and I suggest that it be reduced to, say, £50 with a corresponding shorter term of imprisonment.
– Since it relates to what is, after all, a minor offence, I shall accept an amendment to make the penalty £10 or imprisonment, say, for one month.
– In view of the Treasurer’s assurance, I move -
That the words “ one hundred pounds or imprisonment for one year “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ ten pounds or imprisonment for one month “.
, - I am entirely opposed to the clause, because it is out of touch with the mentality of the Australian’ people. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) mentioned just now that investigations, similar to those which may be made under this hill if the clause is passed in its present form, are made under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I am unaware of any provision in that act to compel people to actas informants, and it seems to me that, in the absence of voluntary informers, we are endeavouring to breed some. I hope that the clause will not be carried, because it is foreign to the characteristics of our people. I do not approve of the proposed differentiation between those who areeligible to apply for the maternity allowance and those who are not. It suggests an intention to pauperize people who may be claimants, and it is most unfair that they should have to answer a questionnaire concerning their circumstances. Also it is most improper to impose a fine of even £10, or imprisonment for one month, upon any person who refuses to give information concerning some other person in connexion with claims for the maternity allowance. An old-age pensioner has a right to get some friend who has known him for years to come forward voluntarily and certify on his behalf, but there is nothing in the act, I submit, which would justify a provision of this kind.
– The honorable member has, I think, criticized this provision rather hastily. He has no justification for saying that there is nothing like this provision in any other act. As a matter of fact, in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, there is a provision which is the same as this, almost word for word.
– I have never known it to be acted upon.
– That statement is altogether different from the honorable member’s previous statement that there is no such provision.
– I know of no other provision resembling this.
– Section 28, subsection 2, of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, is as follows -
The registrar may require any person, whom he believes to be in a position to do so, to furnish to him, for submission to the Magistrate, a confidential report as to the circumstances or the financial transactions of any claimant or pensioner or of any relatives of the claimant or pensioner; and any person who, on being required to do so by the registrar, fails to furnish a report within a reasonable time, or furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or six months imprisonment.
– I withdraw my assertion, but I have never known that provision to be resorted to.
– That section of the act would never bc oppressively applied; but it is quite common to insert such a provision as a protection against fraud, and in order to protect the revenues of the Commonwealth. There is no reason why an employer should not be required to answer questions as to what wages are paid to the husband of a claimant, and if an employer answered falsely he would not only be guilty of an- offence under the law, but would be guilty of an act of bad citizenship as well.
– Why introduce this provision now, seeing that the Maternity Allowance Act has been in operation for so long without it?
– Surely the honorable member must see the need for it. Under this bill there has to be a declaration of the income of a claimant’s husband, and the provision is inserted in order to protectthe department against a false declaration.
Amendment agreed to.
.The Treasurer said that the section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which he quoted was never harshly administered. Apparently he has never seen the file of an old-age pensioner. I have seen many, and I know that all sorts of inquiries are made into the circumstances of applicants. I know of one applicant who, seven years ago, made a gift of £200 to his son on the occasion of his marriage, and that is held against him now. In other cases, inquiries were made into circumstances associated with the building of houses, and tradesmen’s bills had to be produced. In all cases the applicant must produce his bank-book. The claimant has to answer all sorts of interrogatories, and the department makes the very fullest inquiries in pursuit of information. Usually no attempt is made to evade the questions. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), it is possible that in the case of an applicant for a maternity allowance, information may be sought by the department from the applicant’s next-door neighbour. The whole thing is too inquisitorial, having regard to the paltry amount involved.
Even on the estimate of the Treasurer it is expected to save only £100,000 under these proposals, and according to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Curtin) the amount to be saved is only £29,000.
– The honorable member for Perth was proceeding on the assumption that the allowance will be payable only to those with an income of less than £300 a year.
– This sort of thing makes my British blood boil. It is wholly repugnant to me, and my vocabulary is noi equal to the situation. If only I were back in France, I should be able to express myself. I should like to hop over for just five minutes, so that I might say what I feel ought to be said of a measure of this kind, emanating from a Labour government.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in tlie affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 29 agreed to.
Clause 30 (Limit of Pensions)
.This clause proposes to reduce invalid and old-age pensions from £52 to £45 10s. per annum. The word “ sterling “ has been omitted. It should be included, for I suppose that when the pension has been reduced as proposed the amount will be paid in sterling. Honorable members are aware of the circumstances which led the Labour party to introduce legislation providing for the payment of pensions to those who had borne the heat and burden of the day, and in the evening of life found themselves inadequately provided for. At first, they were to receive 10s. a week at a time when by no stretch of imagination could they be called young. The time was long overdue for the granting of such pensions when at last the act authorizing them was placed on the statute-book. In the past, political parties have competed for the “ kudos “ associated with the increasing of the old-age pension rate. Rarely was the notice-paper free from a notice of motion by some member in favour of an increase in the old-age pension. The idea underlying the granting of the pension was that in the evening of life some recompense should be made to those who had laid the foundation of the nation. My political views are based largely on the principles laid down by Bellamy in his book Looking Backwards. Bellamy maintains that the pension should be not a mere pittance, but a substantial amount based on the productivity of the world, and that its recipients should enjoy it as a right, not as a charitable grant.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I remind the honorable member that this clause deals with the amount of the pension, and I ask him to confine his remarks to that aspect.
– I am endeavouring to show why the amount should not be reduced. The Government gives as its reason for seeking to reduce the pension that we are on the edge of a precipice. I say that we are not on the edge of a precipice, and that there is no justification for reducing the amount of the pension.
– The honorable member had ample opportunity to discuss the subject in all its aspects when speak: ing to the second reading.
– I took advantage of that opportunity. We have now come to the clause in which the iniquity of the Government’s proposal is revealed. This clause is even worse than those which preceded it, because on the basis of the Statistician’s figures it will affect a large section of the community. Even now, the pension is inadequate, and if only for that reason it should not be reduced. . There is, however, this further reason for not reducing the pension - to do so will not accomplish what is desired. If the Government is determined to plunge the stiletto into those who have supported it from the beginning, I warn it that that will not result in the fulfilment of its desire, although it may injure or kill those who are stabbed. If the Government does not know that by reducing pensions the money in circulation throughout the country will be reduced, it is unfit to occupy the treasury bench. If it were not for the injury which will be caused to the persons whom we should protect, I should welcome this action on the part of the Government, because of its boomerang effect. The total estimated saving from the reduction proposed in this clause will be £1,825,000 per annum. The sum of £14,000 is to be taken from the inmates of benevolent asylums by means of “ a bob collection “ ! I remind the House that a considerable portion of the old-age pensioners are men and women who have pioneered this country and endured many hardships and privations in developing it in order that we may live in comfort. Now those who have benefited from their efforts - men like Mr. T. R. Ashworth and others - say that their pensions must be reduced. And we, in this Parliament, are asked to sanction the reduction. No honorable member possessing humanitarian instincts can conscientiously vote in support of the Government’s proposal. Even if the reduction is made, the nation will not be saved from the precipice, because the purchasing power of the community will be lessened to the extent that pensions are reduced. On many occasions I have heard the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) speak of the repercussions which would follow the withdrawal of money from circulation.
– He ought to know.
– He ought to know, and he do’es know that this action will have a similar effect. Whatever we do, we should not take action which will result in injury to the very young or the very old in our midst. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for even contemplating such a thing. The clause provides for a reduction of the pension rate by 2s. 6d. a week. That means all pensions.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This clause begins the injury which the bill will inflict on invalid and old-age pensioners, and clause 31 completes the job. To the proposal to reduce those pensions I offer the strongest objection. It is said that 17b. 6d. to-day will buy as much as £1 bought a year or two ago. In this connexion I wish to quote from a letter I have received from an old-age pensioner, 70 years of age. He writes -
I am very disappointed in Mr. Scullin. Why not take some . of the princely salaries down. Some of my friends will never vote Labour again. I live in a room - 10s. a week, firing1s.9d., groceries 7s.6d. Not one shilling for clothing.
His pension provides him with bare shelter, a small supply of provisions and not too much firing. It is not sufficient to clothe him. Now, he will have to manage on 17s. 6d. One could hay a lot on this subject, but it brings as back to the point we have been emphasizing all along - that in order to obey the behests, demands and commands of financial institutions and other powerful corporations, the invalid and old-age pensioners must lose half a crown a week. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) that the £1,625,000, by which, by means of this cut, the purchasing power of the people is to be reduced will not provide employment for one individual; it will simply go towards paying off the country’s debts. As I have said before, these proposals resemble an attempt to take a dent out of a rubber ball by making a fresh dent here and a fresh dent there, until the ball is all one dent. But even if to deprive the old-age pensioners of their halfacrown a week would balance the budget, it would be too dear a price to pay. If this step is taken it will take years of strenuous fighting to restore one of the most cherished ideals of the Labour movement to which Ministers claim to belong. It is a true saying that it is easy to take away but hard to replace. And when honorable members say that they hope later to restore the pension to the full amount of £1, I fail to follow their line of reasoning. To me it seems uneconomic if not stupid. If we had only had the courage, we could have carried into effect a plan by which, before now, the Government would have been provided with four or five times the amount proposed to be saved by the cheese-paring plan now under consideration. I shall never give a vote in this chamber so gladly as I shall vote against this particular proposal. I realize that there are others who are just as glad to give a vote to take away the pension.
– No vote is gladly given to take it away.
– The hostility of honorable members to those who are opposing the proposal shows that it is a policy which they would like to carry out, seeing that it is one that is dictated to them by institutions outside. The contention of some honorable members that they are merely taking away the pension now, in order that they may restore it again, will carry little weight in this chamber. That a Labour government should go back on all the traditions of Labour, and strike at the very basic principles of the movement, is a degradation and a shame tothe Australian Labour Party.
– My feelings are intense when I have submitted to me a proposition of this description by a party to which I have given every assistance in propagating and establishing the sound principle that the conditions of those who are entitled to invalid and old-age pensions should be improved to the greatest degree possible. The proposal to reduce the rate of the pension is, I feel, contrary to the basic principles of the Labour movement, and to what is the duty of any government entrusted with the responsibility of giving effect to Labour’s policy. The situation that confronts us at this moment cannot be squared with that plank in the platform of the party which distinctly declares for “ increased invalid and oldage pensions “. That is a plank in the platform which every honorable member on this side of the House has pledged himself to support and have carried into effect, and how any person who has attached his signature to that declaration can support clause 30 of this bill is beyond my comprehension. The specious argument that to vote for a reduction now actually means increasing the pension is also one that I cannot accept. Yet honorable members appear quite annoyed because they cannot convince others that by voting for a reduction of the pension rate they are actually giving an increased pension. A few such increases like that and there would be no pension at all then. Of course, there is no logic in such reasoning, and the people who use it are merely seeking to sooth their greatly disturbed consciences.
The full sacrifice the invalid and oldage pensioners are required to make is not only the flat reduction of the flat rate provided for in clause 30. It. has gone out to the public that there is to be a reduction of invalid and old-age pensions by 2s. 6cl. a week, and most pensioners are under the impression that that will be the only contribution expected of them towards the general sacrifice. The deduction, however, will not be confined to 2s. Sd. a week on the actual amount of the pension received, whether it be fi or 2s. 6d. - the man whose pension is 2s. 6d. will no longer have a pension - there is something else that will reduce the pension considerably more; I refer to the provision dealing with the qualification for a pension. In order to get a uniform 22$ per cent, sacrifice in the case of bonds, it is intended to convert them at a discount or a premium.
– The sacrifice is much more than 22$ per cent, in some cases. It is 33 per cent, in the case of 6 per cent, stock.
– The holder of 6 per cent, stock will get a bond for fl04 3s. 6d. for every f 100 bond he now holds, whereas some old-age pensioners who own property in which they live of the value of £900 will have their pensions reduced by 100 per cent, because they will lose their qualification for a pension. I shall be able to extend that argument a little later, but it can be seen that there is no limit to the percentage that may be taken off the invalid or old-age pensioner. The reduction may actually reach 100 per cent. Is that equality of sacrifice? I” strongly object to the inroads which are being made into the rights of invalid and old-age pensioners in this and in some of the following clauses. It is said by some that those persons whose pensions are to be reduced from 20s. to 17s. 6d. a week will not be inconvenienced owing to the decrease of the prices of certain commodities. This statement is more illusory than actual except perhaps in regard to the prices of boots and clothing, but these are not everyday lines. But let us now consider the other side of the matter; the value of a pensioner’s home is to be calculated upon inflated values fixed by the municipal authorities. The Government, therefore, proposes to catch the pensioners both coming and going. There is no fairness in such a proposition, which I do not hesitate to condemn in the strongest possible terms. There are no words in which I can adequately express my feelings of resentment towards this action of a government comprised of members of the party to which I have always belonged, and which could have submitted a policy to benefit these aged and infirm people. “ I earnestly call the attention of the Government to this matter, and ask for some relief from what now is a most inequitable position. I realize that the amount which has to be provided out of the consolidated revenue to meet the payments of - invalid and old-age pensions is increasing; but the Government should place the pension system upon a proper basis. We cannot permit the situation to develop as it is. developing without endeavouring to place the pensions upon a surer footing. The increase in the number of pensions paid during the last few years is due largely to the unemployment caused by the abnormal conditions which prevail. This has compelled many additional persons to apply for pensions which otherwise they would not have sought. “When prosperity returns - its return will be delayed under this plan - we can expect a decrease in the number of claims, and there will then not be such a heavy demand upon the revenue. In view of all the circumstances, the Government (should introduce a scheme of national insurance to be supported by regular contributions from members of the community, and payments from a fund so created would not be regarded as an act of benevolence on the part of any government. Such a system would bring in sufficient money for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions at possibly an even higher rate than is now being paid. No one would experience any hardship, and the recipients would then be receiving what they had contributed for. If the Government had been prepared to give effect to a system of national insurance, which is part of the Labour party’s policy, it would not now be compelled to make such an unfair demand upon our old-age pensioners. I cannot support the Government in this proposal jio reduce the amount paid to invalid and old-age pensioners, and I intend to vote against these other clauses which further restrict the pension provisions. I trust that a majority of the committee will see the wisdom of maintaining the rate which the pensioners now receive, as they should not be deprived of what is their due in the eventide of life.
– I again register my protest against this iniquitous form of taxation being imposed upon a defenceless section of the community. It was astounding to me to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) say last night that although a reduction of 2s. 6d. was to be made in the amount of the pension it would actually mean an increase to the pensioners, owing to the reduced cost of living. A reduction of from £52 to £45 a year will inflict a severe hardship upon many of these old people. Under the existing law they are allowed to earn up to £78 a year, but their prospects of increasing their earnings at a period when thousands of’ able-bodied men are vainly searching for work are hopeless. In most cases, the pension they receive represents their total income, and the statements of those whosay that they will be better off on a pension of 17s. 6d. a week, is a mere absurdity. Old men in the country cannot obtain a room for less than 5s. a ‘ week. If they purchase 3 lb. of beef, 2 lb. of sugar, 3 loaves of bread their weekly expenditure is 10s. If we allow for a little butter, tea, jam and a few other essentials, they have nothing left to purchase clothing, medicine or a little tobacco. In prosperous times, many of these old chaps worked on stations, and in some instances pastoralists employed them in dummying selections. To-day, these selections are either not worth dummying or they are so closely policed by officers of the Lands Department that the system has broken down. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in advocating the introduction of a platform of the Labour party providing for a scheme of national insurance under which all sections of the community would contribute to a fund from which persons reaching the evening of their lives could receive an amount which could not be regarded as a” charitable gift of the State. I do not believe that this country is in such a desperate state that it is necessary to impose this form of taxation. Although there has been a big fall in our national income it ill becomes a government supposed to represent the masses to inflict this form of taxation in order to help it out of its difficulties. Some contend that the bondholder who has saved his money should not be compelled to make a sacrifice, and that the poor old pensioner should. There are thousands of pensioners who have invested their savings in homes. Have they not been thrifty’ The man who owns a. house valued at £900 will not be eligible for a pension. “What outlook has he? His asset will really be a burden to him. I purchased a home when the market was inflated, and to-day I could not give it away. “With water rates and sewerage charges on the up-grade,many of these old people have not sufficient, even with the pension, to discharge their obligations. I do not know how they will fare when their pension is reduced. This is the most miserable and contemptible action that has ever been taken by any parliament. I feel very keenly in regard to the matter. As soon as I noticed this provision in the measure I went to Brisbane, interviewed the executive of the party, and wrote to my organizations advising them that, whatever they might decide, I intended to oppose it, even if I were the only one in this chamber who did so.
Members of the Government say that those who oppose this proposal have in view the possibility of gaining votes in their electorates. It is recognized, of course, that once men are pushed into a cabinet they become quite honest and respectable. They are singular in their honesty. Our motives are bad, but their actions are dictated by a desire to advance the welfare of the old-age pensioner, who, they say, would get only 12s. 6d. if it were not for this plan. In my opinion, that is all “ bunkum “. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), told members of the Labour party last October that if they did not agree to a portion of what is included in the present plan they would get nothing at all. I remember saying at the time, “ When we reach that stage we shall all be in the same basket “. It is my candid opinion that there would not be a crisis, and that the pension would not be reduced to 12s 6d., even if we refused to agree to this proposal. The banking institutions and the “ money bugs” would not allow the financial system to break down. One of the private banks a couple of weeks ago declared a dividend of 11 per cent. on a capital of £16,000,000 and added £500,000 to its reserves.
We have been told that the reduced pension will have a greater purchasing power than that which is now paid had some little time ago. . That statement has been made by a Minister who, when in Opposition, led in the singing of “The Red Flag “ and “ Solidarity for Ever “. When he travelled over his electorate appealing for support from old-age pen sioners and working men, he wore a red shirt and tie. I have never descended to such tactics. All honorable members know to whom I refer; it is the present Postmaster-General. I do not object to listening to bed-time stories, but I do not think that in a serious time like this they should be related by a responsible person who is in charge of a big spending department. I suspect the ability of such persons to manage their departments economically. When I hear some of these gentlemen expressing their views I begin to wonder whether it would not be possible, by efficient management of the departments, to save this 2s. 6d. a week for the pensioners.
(Mr. Mackay). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I deeply regret the proposal of the Government to reduce the old-age pension from £1to 17s. 6d. a week. It is most disappointing to members of the Labour party to find that in this matter the Government has thrown the Labour policy overboard. Honorable members will have no difficulty in recalling the suggestions that have been made during the last twelve or eighteen months by members of the Nationalist party for the reduction of not only public servants’ salaries, but also pensions. I have always felt that whatever else was found to be necessary, we at least would not touch the pensions of our aged, our infirm, and our returned soldiers.
Honorable members on this side who have shown opposition to the proposals of the Government have been accused, not only by honorable members opposite, but also by Government members who support the plan, of playing up to the electorates, of making electioneering speeches, and of showing a yellow streak by paying more regard to our political skins than to the seriousness of the position that confronts us. My duty as a Labour representative is clear, and I am not influenced by the statements that are made either by honorable members opposite or by Government members who support the plan. I have a very clear recollection of this proposal having been put forward from time to time by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), as well as by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), when he was a member of the Federal Labour party. The Government and those who now support it have stubbornly resisted at all times any suggestion that there should be an interference with the pensions of the old and the infirm. Therefore, the present somersault by the Government is most extraordinary. No uncertainty exists as to the nature of pension cuts, &c, and I regret that this plan lacks definiteness in the direction of providing employment for our people. We have seen the pensions bill soar higher and higher during the last eighteen months or two years, due entirely to the deliberate restriction of credit by the banks. Those institutions have been assisted by a majority of members of another place, with the result that the Government has not been able to give effect to its financial policy. But that failure is no justification for an interference with pensions. This proposal affects men and women who have done much to build up this country, and who have made it possible for us to enjoy the conditions and services that operate at the present time. Its advocates attempt to justify it to a certain extent, by claiming that there has been a decrease in the cost of living. Perhaps the statistician’s figures may be quoted in support of that contention; but I want more substantial proof of its accuracy To my mind, the fall in the cost of living is illusory rather than real.
I had hoped that, before being called upon to consider this proposal, I would have had an opportunity of testing out what actually could be done by a person with £1 a week. It was my intention, had the opportunity presented itself, of living largely as a hermit, doing my own buying and attending to the preparation of my own food. I would have bought in the most favorable markets, lived as economically as possible, and eliminated all unnecessary expenditure. I regret that I had not that opportunity. It is not likely that the recital of my experiences would have influenced the Government or the supporters of the plan, but it certainly would have given me the additional satisfaction of knowing definitely that the opinion which I held in regard to the cost of living was well founded. The people who are to be affected by this reduction will not be satisfied merely with the statistician’s figures. The so-called decline in the cost of living will not butter their bread, nor will it enable them to purchase those commodities which they need in their oldage.
The advocates of the plan have put forward the plea that there should be equality of sacrifice, and that that sacrifice should be spread over all sections of the community. Even if an attempt has been made by the Government to effect an even spread over all sections of the community, I consider that a little extra pressure has been applied in the case of pensioners and others who enjoy the advantages that result from our various social measures. If the Government had brought forward proposals to increase employment, the position would have been immediately reflected in the figures relating to expenditure on invalid and oldage pensions, as many persons at present in receipt of old-age pensions would be absorbed in employment, and there would be no need now to consider this reduction to 17s. 6d. a week. Bather than support this proposal, I would favour the imposition of a special tax upon all young wageearnersthose young people who, under existing taxation measures, contribute nothing by way of income taxation to the revenue. Throughout the Commonwealth there must be many thousands of this class of wage-earners, who might very well be called upon to make some contribution to the maintenance of’ our aged and worthy pioneers, instead of expecting these unfortunate people to struggle along on 17s. 6dper week. I very much regret that the Government has weakened to such an extent since the conference of Premiers in February last. I have studied carefully the whole of the reports of that gathering, and have failed to find the slightest suggestion that the Federal Government was then prepared to entertain a proposal for a reduction of old-age and invalid pensions. I am also convinced that if such a suggestion had been made by the Government at the time, the view of the party would have been made known in no unmistakable manner. I regret that the Government did not earlier frankly inform Parliament that it would be impossible to continue these social services on the scale hitherto obtaining. Much of the present trouble could have been avoided. Ministers waited until the end of the financial year, when the banks had delivered their ultimatum at the point of a revolver, so to speak, and then responded to the threats of the banks. It is to be deplored that we should now be called upon even to consider such a proposal as this. I certainly will do all in my power to defeat it.
.- I have already stated that, in my view, a reduction of the old-age and invalid pensions is unthinkable. Every honorable member caine into this House pledged to serve the interests of those who sent him here, and I suppose that all have done their best. It is now the duty of this committee to arbitrate on the claims of our aged and invalid pensioners. Since I have been zealous in my support of our secondary industries, I must be equally zealous in standing by the provision to be ma’de for the care of our aged pioneers and invalid persons. In my position as head of the organization which I represent in Victoria, I gave certain rulings last year when this matter was under discussion. I take the view that, as a party, we ‘cannot be continually shifting our ground. As our course is definitely mapped out for us in the platform upon which we were elected, it should be our duty in this House to do all in our power to give effect to it. The Government has declared that unless these economies are approved the financial, position of the Commonwealth will be quite hopeless. I cannot accept that view. Certainly I am strongly opposed to the proposed cut in invalid and old-age pensions. The provisions relating to the value of house property will operate harshly against a large number of old people who live in their own homes. The cost of living has not declined sufficiently to warrant this reduction. The absurdity of the claim is easily capable of proof. The Government has accepted the Statistician’s figures, the accuracy of which is challenged by the Labour movement. During the lasttwelve months there has been an alarming increase in the number of applicants for this class of pension, owing to the absolute dislocation of industry. Many old people who, formerly, were supported by their sons or daughters, are now claiming the pension because members of their family are no longer able to maintain them. I believe that this position will be aggravated under the plan. Rationalization and mechanization of industry will throw 150,000 wageearners upon the dole, or whatever system of maintenance may be adopted, probably for the rest of their lives. The need for the full amount of pension payments was never more urgent than it is at the present time. The authors of this plan would have disarmed the majority of its critics if some attention had been paid, even last year, to the interest burden of our overseas debts. Now that the crisis is upon us, we who believe in the maintenance of our social’ services, in which Australia has given a lead to the rest of the world, must close up our ranks and fight in the interests of those who certainly deserve the best that this country can give them. It is to be regretted that the continuous agitation for a reduction of our social services has at last succeeded. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have given wholehearted support to all measures approved by the party, although not all of them helped me in my electorate. This is practically the only proposal upon which I have not followed the decisions of the majority. I regard this as the most momentous session in the history of this Parliament, and I am amazed at the poor attendance of honorable members during this sitting. With the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), I am beginning to realize the futility of these long-winded parliamentary proceedings. Throughout this protracted debate it has been .extremely difficult to obtain any reply from Ministers. “ Those that are now in the chamber are sleeping, and I suppose those that are outside are dreaming. They rely upon their brute majority to carry this legislation. If I go out of this House because of my attitude towards these proposals I believe that I shall be in good company, and I do not think it will be possible for any allegation of unfairness lo be levelled against me. The economy measures are, in my opinion, unthinkable to a Labour representative because they will reduce the spending power of a very considerable section of our people, and inflict hardship upon so many of those whom we specially represent.
.- It does not give me any pleasure, as one who has supported the Government in season and out of season, to find myself in disagreement with it at the present time. 1 have said all along that I would not, in any circumstances, vote for the reduction of old-age and invalid pensions, or for cutting the remuneration of those on the bottom rung of the ladder. Many arguments have been advanced as to why these cuts should be made. Credit has been given to the Bruce-Page administration for increasing the old-age pension, but at the time that Government raised the pension from 17s. 6d. -to £1, Sir Robert Gibson, the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, had already notified the leaders of the Government that the crisis, which is now upon us, was threatening. Therefore, the present depression cannot be advanced as an excuse for reducing pensions.
One thing at least must be placed to the credit of the old-age and invalid pensioners. Their numbers have recently increased very greatly, but that is because a great many of those who were previously entitled to claim pensions refrained from doing so as long as they were able to obtain employment of any kind. The increase in the number of pensioners is not due to an increase in population, or to the fact that a large number of persons have recently become infirm, but to the fact that large numbers declined to make any demand upon the State until they were absolutely compelled to do so.
It is also necessary to point out that pensioners are liable to suffer through the operation of this plan, apart from the direct reduction of their pensions. It has been claimed for the plan that, if it is put into operation, it will result in the release of credits, the stimulation of industry, and the raising of prices. I do not know whether the plan will work out in that way, but if it does, it is clear that the pensioners will be worse off than ever.
Not only will they have had their pensions reduced, but even the pension they receive will be worth less than it was before.
Apart from that, however, there is no equality of sacrifice under this plan as between pensioners and other sections of the community. As I pointed out before, the taking of half a crown from an oldage pensioner’s income of £1 a week represents to him a much greater sacrifice than an equivalent percentage reduction in a larger income. The loss of half a crown by the pensioner is immediately and severely felt, while a substantial deduction could be made from the income of a man in receipt of a large salary almost without his feeling it. Moreover, under the plan some pensioners will have their pensions reduced by as much as 70 per cent. ; others will be reduced by 50 per cent., and so on down the scale until we arrive at the minimum reduction of 12$ per cent. Many pensioners who live in the cities own homes of which the valuation for municipal rating purposes is as much as £800. This is £300 more than the limit fixed in the bill, so that their pensions will he reduced by £1 for every £10 in excess of £500, making a reduction of £30. Under the 12$ per cent, reduction, £6 10s. will be cut off their pensions of £52 a year, making a total reduction of £36, which is equivalent to 70 per cent. Now let us consider the case of a man living iD a house of a ratable value of £700. The block of land on which the house stands may quite easily be valued at £200, so that, even if the house itself is valued at only £500, the total valuation will be £700. The deduction in respect of excess value in this case will be £20 which, added :o £6 10s., makes a total reduction of £26 10s., or 50 per cent, of his pension. When we compare this with the maximum reduction of 22$ per cent, imposed on other sections of the community, it is evident that there is no equality of sacrifice here. I do not believe that the majority of honorable members of this House desire to penalize any section of the community to this extent. Presently honorable members who, exhausted by the long sitting,, are now sleeping in various portions of the building, will come in and vote on this proposal, perhaps without knowing that they are imposing a sacrifice amounting to a 70 per cent, reduction of their income on many aged people, while those in affluent circumstances are called upon to sacrifice only 22-^ per cent. It is not the fault of those who oppose these provisions that they find themselves in the position of having to vote against the Government. Members of the Government were told before ever this plan was agreed to that a majority of the Federal Labour party were not in favour of the drastic cutting of wages and pensions. I trust that the Minister will give some consideration to the representations I have made on behalf of the pensioners.
– I am strongly opposed to this clause, which, if carried, will impose great hardships on a deserving section of the community.. I have met and know many of these old-timers, and it is not right for the Government to demand this heavy sacrifice of them, The Labour party has always claimed that it was largely responsible for the introduction of such humanitarian legislation as old-age and invalid pensions, and I never expected that the time would come when I should be fighting my own party to retain for the old-age pensioners their meagre £1 a week. It has been said- that the pensioners will be as well off on 17s. 6d. a week as they were formerly on £1 a week. I cannot accept that contention, because I do not accept the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. No doubt he based his figures upon the data supplied to him by storekeepers, land agents and others, but we who have prepared cases for presentation to the Arbitration Court, know that the figures produced by the Commonwealth Statistician’s Department, and those supplied by householders, often show a wide divergence. The reduction of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week will impose a very real hardship on old-age and invalid pensioners. But that reduction is not all; the tightening up of the legislation in other directions will impose further burdens upon them. Many Labour members have for a considerable time been desirous of amending the legislation dealing with invalid and old-age pensions with a view to correcting anomalies which make it very difficult for persons entitled to pensions to receive them. This bill will make their position even more difficult.
It is not easy to vote against men withwhom I have been associated for many years. There are some who would endeavour to persuade the people that the opponents of the plan which was evolved at the Premiers Conference are actuated by political motives, and are not earnest in their opposition. I believe that every opponent of that plan is perfectly sincere in his opposition to it. A few months ago, when it appeared that there was a likelihood of an attempt being made to reduce these pensions, I told a number of pensioners in Tasmania that I would never be a party to a reduction of invalid and old-age pensions; that I would. rather go out of public life standing firmly for the principles in which I believe. I said that I would stand by those who had played an important part in building up the nation and making it a better place for subsequent generations to live in. When I think of the struggles of the pioneers, I realize that a pension of £1 a week is all too meagre. I feel that I am doing the right thing in opposing this bill. I intend to do so.
– In my second reading speech on this bill I outlined my objections to this, clause fairly fully, so that it is scarcely necessary to cover the same ground again. The Australian Labour movement has rightly boasted -that it has accomplished many social reforms, which, so far, have not been given effect in other countries. We have spoken of the standard of our wages, of the conditions which obtained in industry, and of the reforms which have been obtained by returning to State and Commonwealth Parliaments men pledged to support Labour principles. Pointing to these accomplishments, we have urged the workers of other nations to go and do likewise. Sitting with me in this Parliament to-day are two members who represented Australia at a conference on the other side of the world which had for its object the securing of social reforms by bringing backward countries up to the standard of the more advanced ones. At that conference the Australian representatives told the workers of other lands what had been done in Australia, and urged them to endeavour to establish similar reforms in their own countries. At the conclusion of the war, it was pointed out that if world peace was to be established and maintained,’ it “was desirable that the more backward countries should be brought up to the standard of the more advanced nations ^ in the matter of social reform. Having boasted of our higher standards, we are now asked by a Labour Government to go backward ourselves instead of bringing others forward. The policy now being inaugurated will, I feel sure, be pursued later on beyond a reduction of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. “Words fail me when dealing with proposals of this nature, because upon a Labour Government devolves a greater responsibility than rests upon its opponents to uphold the humanitarian principles for which Labour has fought. Our political opponents look upon these attacks on our social conditions in an altogether different light from that in- which we view them. I shall give one example from my own experience. At the conference which I attended on the other side of the world, the representative of the Nationalist Government then in office in Australia supported a backward policy more in keeping with that of countries like Austria and Czecho-Slovakia than that of Australia. His attitude on that occasion proved that only by political and industrial organization had the people of Australia been educated to the necessity for these social reforms, and that the opponents of the Labour party had accepted those reforms not of its own free will, but because public opinion demanded them. Otherwise, their representative at the conference, Sir Joseph Cook, would not have adopted the attitude that he did. To-day the members of the Opposition are the most pleased persons in the community - although they have not expressed that pleasure in words - because of the situation which has arisen.
– That is not fair.
– Honorable members opposite rejoice because they have forced a Labour Government into such a position that it is doing an anti-working-class job which they themselves want to see done. The interests which are forcing the Government to do these things are the interests which honorable members opposite directly serve and have served for many years.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order! The honorable member must now deal with the clause before the committee.
– I submit that I am dealing with it, Mr. Chairman. I have been endeavouring to convince the committee that only because of the activity of Labour organizations have social reforms ever been effected in this country. I do not wish to cover the ground which my colleagues have already ably covered. The best way to prove whether those who accept the plan really believe in it would be to make it apply to them as it now applies to others. We should not then hear so much squeaking from some honorable members opposite. Quite a number of my friends have received letters detailing the hardships suffered by invalid and old-age pensioners and pleading with us to defend them by every means at our disposal. We are doing the best we can for them in the circumstances, but we hope that very soon a change in the political life’ of this country will provide an opportunity to restore what is now being stolen from these old people by this bill.
– Many of the speeches on the question of invalid and old-age pensions seem to me a rehash of statements made on three or four other occasions when opportunity has been afforded to discuss the rehabilitation plan. I am not complaining of that; but I think the time could have been more usefully employed in committee in an examination of the provisions of the bill. Without reflecting on any one, it seems to me that some honorable members are speaking to the gallery rather than endeavouring to arrive at the truth. They are appealing to prejudices outside rather than discussing the details of the measure, and they will not admit that other honorable members on either side of the chamber, are also possessed of humane feeling towards the people who are affected by this plan. It is not reasonable for honorable members to assume that the Government is taking a delight in reducing pensions, or salaries or the other proposals of the plan.
Some honorable members who have spoken have not fully understood the operation of the provisions relating to pensioners. In making their calculations as to how the next clause will apply they have started on a wrong basis. The bill provides that in the case of a home valued at £800 a deduction of £500 is permissible, leaving a balance of £300.
– To be treated as property?
– No. The pensioner is allowed to deduct a further £50 in accordance with the act as it stands, which leaves £250 to be treated as property, and for every £10 of that amount £1 is deducted from the pension, reducing the pension by £25 a year. In the case of a married couple who are both pensioners, the balance of £300 is divided by two, leaving an amount of £150from which £25 is deducted. The £1 in £10 then applies, and the pension in each case is reduced by £12.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that the Labour party at one time prided itself on being representative of a very advanced policy, and that it had the right to appear before the world as a party that had accomplished great reforms. That is true, but in what sense can it be said that we are no longer able to claim that we have advanced this country or accomplished great reforms? Can the honorable member point to any country with so generous a pension scheme for invalidity or old-age as Australia will have after this bill has been passed ?
– Is that anexcuse for passing the bill ?
– No ; but it is justification for saying that Labour still stands for an advanced policy.
– If that is the honorable member’s reasoning I will leave it to him.
– My reasoning will stand as close an examination as that of the honorable member.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the Treasurer to deal with the clause.
Mr.THEODORE.- If I am not doing so, what of those who have spoken upon it earlier this morning? I am dealing with pensions. Australia’s system will remain comparatively the best in the world even after this reduction has been made. It is only approached by one or two countries so far as the old-age pension is concerned, butit is approached by no other country so far as the treatment of invalidity is concerned. I cannot recall one country where persons are entitled to pensions from the Government on the ground of invalidity except under some contributory scheme. In our library can be found some up-to-date information upon pension schemes operating in various countries. The report of a Canadian royal commission which in 1929 investigated the question of liberalizing or bringing under dominion control the pension schemes in Canada gives a conspectus of the legislation relating to pensions in various parts of the world, and of the benefits arising under that legislation. It shows that Australia stands alone in the liberality of its pensions system. New Zealand approaches it to some extent, but even with this alteration we still have the most liberal scheme in the world. If, in the face of the financial and economic difficulties through which the country has been passing, we can maintain a scheme which is the most liberal in the world, the Government should not be decried, merely to make political capital by opposing this plan. Very good arguments can be advanced in defence of the plan. The increased payment of £1 a week to invalid and old-age pensioners came into operation in 1925, and the amount of pension that will now be payable has a greater purchasing power than that of the pension payable in any year since it was increased to £1. If we can maintain the true relative value of the pension to the persons in receipt of it, despite great economic disturbances, the great loss of national income and the drop in production in Australia, it will be a matter for congratulation and not for the denunciation, criticism and distortion in which some honorable members have been indulging throughout the night.
.The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has made reference to the property qualification referred to in the next clause. I should like him to go among the old-age pensioners and tell them that with this reduction they are to-day just as well off as they were two years ago; that the purchasing power of their reduced pension is greater than that of £1 two years ago. This is all so much sophistryon his part. Because we will not accept an alteration of the conditions for which we have fought for many years we are told that we are trying to make political capital. I am out to do what I think is right in the interests of those who have sent me here to represent them, and I am fortified in my altitude by the decision of a meeting held in Adelaide last night that I should be asked to oppose the provisions of this bill. I do not rise on this occasion, however, to deal with that aspect of the question. It cannot be said that I am endeavouring to make political capital out of what I am now about to say.
I have received letters giving reasons why the pensions of the blind should not be reduced. One of these letters is from an institution for the blind in my electorate which has been hit very hard by the depression. It sets out what is paid in bonuses to those who work for the institution. A man who is blind is suffering one of the greatest hardships that can be inflicted on mankind; yet he will be very materially affected by having his pension reduced by 2s. 6d. I should like to hear the Treasurer trying to convince the inmates of this institution, who have to work day after day and week after week under a tremendous handicap in competition with workers who are in the enjoyment of full sight. It would be a hard task for the honorable gentleman to convince them that under this “ nominal reduction “ they are better off than they were previously. As a matter of fact, they have asked me to try to safeguard their interests, and to see if it is not possible for them to retain their full pensions. There is no political kudos to be got out of this matter; it is simply a question of acting fairly to pensioners.
In. justification for the action he has taken, the Treasurer says that with the reduction proposed our pension scheme will still be better than any other pension scheme throughout the world. We are proud of that fact. Have we not fought to bring it about? In many reforms Australia has set an example to the rest of the world.
– But one would think that under this plan the pensioners and workers were being thrown to the wolves.
– So they are, so far as this party is concerned. The honorable gentleman would not care to read some of the letters of returned soldiers referring to the promises made to them under his name. They look to us to honour these promises. It will be exceedingly difficult for those supporting this provision to convince the people outside, and particularly the blind, on whose beh alf Iour making a strong appeal, that the proposed reductions are necessary. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) in directing attention to the pension systems operating in other countries stated that the Commonwealth treats its aged and infirm more generously than any other country. That is not surprising considering the progress we have made in many directions. We should be able to confer greater benefits upon our people than any other country. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that our funds are exhausted. I do not believe that.
– There are hundreds of reasons why we cannot continue on the present basis.
– And there are thousands of reasons why the reductions to be made should be distributed more equitably. Considering the wealth of this country, can any honorable member opposite justify a reduction in the pensions of these poor old people by 2s. 6d. a week? Our position is not as hopeless as some suggest. Notwithstanding the mess which this Government has made of the job, I believe we shall be able to convince the electors that if given another opportunity we shall restore the rates.
Mr.R. Green. - The honorable member is only appealing to the electors.
– I am making an appeal on behalf of those whom I represent, regardless of my political future. If we did not take a stand in this matter we would rightly be howled down by those whom we represent, including a large number of old-age pensioners. Honorable members know the hardship that will be inflicted on those who are to be deprived of 2s. 6d. a week. The members of the Labour party have won the confidence of the people by promising to protect the interests of the workers, the old-age pensioners, and others who in the past had received little consideration from the Government. The Treasurer’s speeches in support of this present policy will be published in the newspapers,but my utterances in opposition to the scheme will not be reported. The Treasurer is now receiving the support of newspapers in which only a few weeks ago he was referred to as one who would bring about the ruin of this country. I do not believe that our financial position is so bad as it is said to be. There is another way out. I sincerely trust that the clauses relating to the invalid and old-age pensions will not pass in their present form. As the opposition to the Government’s proposals is not sufficiently strong to carry any amendments, we can only record our protests.
Question - That clause 30 be agreed to - put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 31 (Assessment of value of accumulated property).
.Those who are opposed to the pension cuts have pleaded with the Government to modify the proposed reductions. I hope that special consideration will be given to our representations on thisparticular clause.
During the debate on this bill a good deal has been said in regard to equality of sacrifice. Under this clause a very considerable sacrifice will have to be made by a large section of the community. A. little while ago I showed how the proposal would affect persons who own property. Under the clause that has just been carried, all pensioners are to be reduced by £6 10s, per annum. This clause proposes to take into consideration the value of the house in which the pensioner lives, if it should be his property. The heaviest cut proposed by the Premiers’ plan is 22½ per cent.; but what will be the effect upon pensioners who own property? Take the case of a pensioner whose house is valued for municipal rating purposes at £800. The first £500 will be untouched, but on the balance of £300 the deduction will be at the rate of £1 in every £10.
– There is an allowance of £50.
– That is not to be made if the pensioner has £50 in the bank. According to my calculations, a pensioner whose house is valued at £800 will have his pension reduced by £36 10s. or, if we deduct the £50 referred to by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), by £31 10s., which is equivalent to approximately 70 per cent. Therefore, in his case there will be no equality of sacrifice. A pensioner, who has a house worth £700, and a banking account of £50, will have his pension reduced by £26 10s. ; and, in the event of his having no money in the bank, the reduction will be £21 10s. I contend that the value of a pensioner’s house should not be considered in fixing the amount of his pension. Drastic cuts have already been made’ with respect to this section of the community. It is not unusual for a block of land to be worth £200; consequently, very little is left for the house itself.
– Is the value of the land to be included ?
– Yes ; the whole of the value is to be taken into consideration. A man who is over 65 years of age may not be able to do work that will give him an income; but if he were a handy man he would quickly improve his home, and very little effort would be required to raise the value to £700. He is to be taxed to the extent of 50 per cent. Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in the Tenth Parliament inspected in Adelaide a number of cottages that were erected under a housing scheme, each of which cost between £700 and £800. Admittedly, they were good types of workers’ homes, but still they were only cottages. Many oldage pensioners may to-day own, even in that locality, houses that are worth as much as £700. Honorable members know as well as I do that a decent block of land in a repeatable suburb in any of our capital cities is worth not less than £200. Surely it will not be contended that old-age pensioners are living in a mansion when they live in a house valued at £700! There is probably not an honorable member of this House whose home is not worth three or four times as much. Many of these pensioners may have done more for this country than any honorable member. Why should they be penalized to a greater extent than any other section? The Treasurer ought not to penalize this small section of the community merely in order to fulfill a promise given at the Premiers Conference to save, a certain amount of expenditure.
Only a small sum is involved. The Government has riot given way on one point.
– The honorable member is not right in that statement.
– An amendment moved yesterday by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) was agreed to by the Government.
– The Government may have given way on a small point. I can visualize the Prime Minister and the Treasurer at the Premiers Conference agreeing to make certain savings. Surely they did not expect to pass the whole plan through this Parliament without alteration ! I ask the Treasurer to allow this clause to be deleted so that old-age pensioners may be permitted the full enjoyment of their homes. They should not be specially taxed in the manner proposed under this clause.
– Will the Treasurer indicate what will be the effect of this proposal on the economy plan?
– It is estimated that the inclusion of this clause will make a difference of £21,000 in pension payments.
– What would be the effect of raising the value of the home to £750 ?
– It would probably make a difference of .£12,000 or £15,000.
– That is a small sum compared with the economies contemplated, and as the clause in its present form will cause annoyance to a considerable number of old-age pensioners, as well as make the position of many honorable members a bit difficult, the Treasurer might very well agree to its elimination, and leave the value of the home to stand.
.- I hope also that the Treasurer will agree to delete the clause altogether, or else increase the value of the house to approximately £800. Some compromise appears to be necessary. I say definitely that I cannot vote for the clause in its present form.
– If it will save a long debate, the Government will agree to its deletion.
– While the Government is in full sympathy with all that has been. and all that can be said upon the points that have been raised, we find in the administration of the act that, in some cases, pensioners own as much as 300 acres of land.
– That would be a farm.
– In some cases it is possible for them to earn a considerable income from a property. They are able to run, perhaps, a few sheep or cows, and by growing vegetables and other products bring down their cost of living very appreciably. The intention was that if an old couple had made a home for themselves, they should not on that account be debarred from receiving the old-age pensions, butanomalies have been discovered in the administration of the act. In some cases, where a property is divided by a road, the portion that is not attached to the home - it might comprise 150 acres - is taken into consideration. It was suggested some time ago that we should fix the value of the property at £250, but we made it £500.
– Make it £750.
– I think it would be better, in the circumstances, to agree to the deletion of the clause. The Government will then look further into this matter.
Section 31 of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2) the words “the rate of five shillings and sixpence “ and inserting in their stead the words “ a rate calculated in accordance with this act but not in any case exceeding four shillings and sixpence.”
Section proposed to be amended -
If it appears to the magistrate that the claimant, although othenoise qualified for, is unfit to be entrusted with a pension, a pension at the rate of five shillings and sixpence per week may be granted to theclaimant, and payment of the pension may be suspended until the claimant has become an inmate of a benevolent asylum.
.- I move -
That the words “ four shillings and sixpence” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “five shillings.”
If this is accepted it will involve consequential amendments to clauses 34 and 35. I hope that the Treasurer will accept it, and I crave indulgence for two or three minutes while I explain the principle upon which the amendment is based.
A 12½ per cent. deduction of the hospital pension would amount to 8¼d. ; the Government proposes to take 1s. A 12½ per cent. deduction from the amount of 14s. 6d. paid to institutions for the maintenance of the pensioner, which is not covered by this bill but is an arrangement between the respective governments, would amount to1s. 9¾d. ; the Government proposes to take1s. 6d. The responsibility of maintaining those institutions is vested in the States, and a large number of the inmates are, to a degree, self supporting, in the sense that they grow vegetables, &c. To be equitable, the deduction should be worked out on a different basis. When the hospital pension was increased in 1928 from 10s. 6d. to 14s. 6d., the increase was 38 per cent., and the increased amount of 1s. 6d. paid to hospital inmates represented an increase of 37½ per cent. A deduction of1s. from the pensions fund to hospital inmates amounts to 18 per cent., whereas a deduction of 1s. 6d. from iustitutions amounts to 10 per cent. Since the whole scheme is allegedly based upon the principle of equality of sacrifice, there is no justification for taking those amounts off in that disproportionate way. I suggest to the Government, and I hope that the Treasurer will accept the suggestion, that instead of taking ls. off the hospital pensioner and ls. 6d. off the institutions, it would be better to take off 6d. and 2s. respectively.
– That is reasonable, and the Government will accept the amendment.
– Since the Government is prepared to give way on the 6d., why bother to touch the thing at all? The difference represents only a degree in the infamy of the proposal.
– The honorable member has been talking all night, and has not accomplished even as much as this.
– And if this amendment had emanated from a member of our group, it would not have been accepted either.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to- put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority .. ..22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 33 agreed to.
Clause. 34 consequentially amended.
Question - That clause 34, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 35 consequentially amended.
Question- That clause 35, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 7.50 to 9 a.m. (Friday). [Quorum formed.]
Clause 36 agreed to.
For the purposes of this part “ pensions “ means pensions payable under Part III. of the principal act and includes payments under section thirty-two and the second schedule of that act and under regulations 89a to 89b (inclusive) of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Regulations as in force at the date of the commencement of this section and any regulations amending or in substitution for those regulations.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That the words “ and under regulations 89a to 89r (inclusive) of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Regulations as in force at the date of the commencement of this section and any regulations amending or in substitution for those regulations “ be omitted.
Clause, also verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 38 (Payments of war pensions to be reduced).
– I move -
That the clause be omitted with a view to insert in Heu thereof the following clause: - “38. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act, pensions payable under that act to persons included in the following classes shall subject to this section be reduced by twenty-two and one half per centum : -
Parents of members of the forces;
Children of members of the forces in receipt of pensions under the principal act;
Wives of members of the forces in receipt of such pensions;
Brother and sisters of deceased members of the forces or members who are in receipt of such pensions;
Other persons who are dependants within the meaning of the principal act and who are not elsewhere referred to in this sub-section. (2.) The last preceding sub-section shall not apply-
to the widowed mother of any deceased unmarried member of the forces ; or
to the widow or children of any deceased member of the forces, where the death of the member resulted from an occurrence happening during the period he was such member. (3.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act -
the commission may, at any time within three months after the commencement of this sub-section, cancel any pension payable under that act to any person whose pension is reduced in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (1.) of this section and whose circumstances, in the opinion of the commission, do not justify the continuance of the pension; and
such reductions, additional to those made in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (1.) of this section in any pensions payable under that act, shall be made, as are prescribed.”
– The representatives of certain returned soldier organizations have been in conference regarding the reduction of war pensions, and, according to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) have agreed, subject to certain qualifications, to a reduction in the pensions of men who belong to the various organizations. They have also agreed, as I am reminded by the honorable member for Cook (Mr.C.Riley) that the pensions of men who were not represented by them at the conference should be reduced. Honorable members, who have been fighting against a reduction being made in old-age and invalid pensions and in the salaries and wages of civil servants, were equally prepared to fight against any reductions in war pensions. However, if the alleged representatives of the returned soldiers have agreed to a compromise, and have sold out the rights of these men, the position is made very difficult for us. I and those associated with me desire to say to returned soldiers generally, and particularly to those who are not prepared to accept the climb down of their alleged representatives, that I hope they will take it upon themselves to deal with the officials who have made this compromise. It is pleasing to note that a number of returned soldiers have organized a body known as the Ex-service Soldiers’ Rights Defence League, and, judging by the course of events, particularly in Sydney, they are making good progress. They have been stimulated to action chiefly because of the attitude of those who failed to give them proper protection at a time when it was most needed. Returned soldiers will have to take it upon themselves to deal with those who have betrayed them in this matter.
– Betrayed ?
– Yes; there is no question about that.
– That is a word that the honorable member should be ashamed to use in this connexion.
– The honorable gentleman is not ashamed to use any epithet or to take action against the workers. I hope that the returned soldiers will rise in their numbers and organize, apart from the existing organizations, which are purely political in nature, and that the new bodies will render whatever aid they can to those of us who have fought against these reductions and will still fight strenuously against them, even if they are agreed to by Parliament. I and my colleagues appeal to them to sever their connexion with these political organizations which are alleged to represent them, leaving those bodies only with their officials. That must be done if returned soldiers are to enforce their rights and ensure that the promises that were given to them are kept. I leave it at that, because I feel that nothing further can be effected in this chamber. I and those who are associated with me will carry on the battle outside this Parliament.
– It is only fair to the returned soldiers’ organizations that I should say a few words in reply to the statement made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). There is no question about any betrayal of the returned soldiers. They and their organizations realized, as did the Government and the country generally, that economies had tobe effected. The Go vernment took the responsibility for saying that it was essential that reductions should be made in war pensions to the amount of £1,400,000. Representatives of the returned soldiers’ organizations asked the Government to permit them to appoint a committee to investigate the matter in an endeavour to spread the burden evenly, avoid anomalies, and impose the least possible hardship on those concerned. The Government agreed. The resultant committee brought forward a scheme providing for reductions amounting to £1,000,000, and undertook the task of recommending the directions in which further reductions of £280,000 could be effected. That represented approximately £1,300.000, or £100,000 short of what the Government desired. The proposal was accepted. It was not a betrayal of the soldiers by their organizations, but a very honest and honorable effort to protect those men sofar as was possible - an honesteffort made by men who have a full realization of the seriousness of the financial position of Australia.
– I shall reply briefly to the Prime Minister’s statement. Time will determine whether my words are correct or not, so far as the rank and file of returned soldiers are concerned. They are the people who count and who will suffer most under this abominable plan; not those who allegedly represented them on the committee. I have evidence in my possession to prove my contention that these men are taking steps to defend their rights. I shall be pleased to do whatever I can do to assist them in that object, because I believe that those who betrayed them should be exposed and suitably dealt with.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the following now clause be added- - “ 38a. - 1 . The Regulations may provide for the constitution of a committee which shall have power to inquire into the pensions payable under the principal act to any classes of persons and to make recommendations to the Minister as to the reductions, additional to any reduction effected by thisPart, which should be made in those pensions. “2. The conditions of appointment of any member of a committee constituted for the purposes of this section and the duration of any such committee shall be as prescribed.”
– I take it that this clause provides for the continuance of a committee such as that which is now operating, to inquire into, and make recommendations as to the application of the proposed reductions.
– I make this request to the Prime Minister, that if the appeal that is being made by the Prime Minister to those who are able voluntarily to relinquish portion or all of their pension is successful, as I__am sure it will be, and the committee i3 able to provide the £280,000 that is still required, the amount saved by voluntary relinquishment of pensions shall be restored to necessitous war pensioners, whose pensions have been reduced.
– The committee has undertaken to suggest further economies amounting to £280,000, and has requested the Government to appeal to those who can afford to do so, to voluntarily relinquish the whole, or part, of their pensions. A liberal response to that appeal would prevent reductions in other directions, and would minimize the hardships imposed.
– I join with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) in his request. It is very creditable that the representatives of the returned soldiers’ organizations should have come to this arrangement. I admit that the proposal is not perfect. No scheme could be evolved that would please everybody. Some have criticized the arrangement by saying that single soldier pensioners will profit under it as they have not wives and children whose pensions will also be deducted. I point out that of the 75,000 war pensioners only 16,000 are single men. The average age of all returned soldier pensioner’s is 41 and among those who are single are many disable-! or cot cases, and even these will have deductions made in respect of certain dependants. I see no reason for the criticism by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) who said that the soldiers had been let down by their leaders; the contrary is the case. If, in addition, committees are formed in each State to inquire into pensions with a view to the elimination of anomalies, on the lines suggested by me during the second-reading debate, and an appeal made to those ex-service men who do not require their pensions to surrender them voluntarily, more than the saving desired by the Government will be made. When the Prime Minister makes this appeal, I have no doubt that there will be a generous response. The result of the conference between the Government and the representatives of the soldier organizations is most satisfactory, and I am pleased that the leaders, at a period of economic crisis, have shown themselves just as ready to do what is patriotic as they were at the time of the late war.
– I cannot let this clause pass without saying a word in reply to the very unfair and partisan attack made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) against the body of men who, at a time of national emergency, have shown a. high spirit of responsibility and patriotism. It was about as invidious a task as anybody could undertake to review the system of pensions, and confer with the Government in efforts to find a way in which economies could be made with the least injury to the smallest number. Inevitably, everybody could not be pleased. If any one of us had had to make the arrangement that has been arrived at, we should probably have come to a slightly different- decision in one direction or another ; but no person inside or outside this Parliament, with any sense of fairness, could fail to recognize the courage and public spirit which has been shown by the leaders of the soldier organizations. I refer to the leaders of not only the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, which has battled for the soldiers’ rights and privileges for years, but also the other organizations which represent the more seriously disabled sections of the returned men.
The fact that all these organizations, although they have often brought pressure to bear on governments in the past, have at this time seen that it is absolutely necessary to assist the Government, shows that the present action has no political significance. The presidents and other leaders of these organizations have acted in what they believe to be the best interests of the soldiers themselves. Although the economies will be of immense help to the finances, they are even more important from the point of view of soldier pensioners, because they will help to safeguard their pensions. There can be no doubt whatever that under inflation, whether controlled or uncontrolled, no pensions in Australia would be worth anything. If the economic and financial system of the country were destroyed by systematic repudiation such as has been practised in one State of Australia, pensions and services of a similar mature would be much more seriously curtailed in value than they will be by the proposals now before us. The wise recognition of that fact by the men who have conferred with the Government, and helped to come to the arrangement that has been made has earned for them the gratitude of all soldier pensioners. I regret that the circumstances have made it impossible to circulate earlier the amendments that have been drafted. It has not yet been possible for members of the returned soldier organizations to consider these amendments in detail; but, no doubt, if any oversight has crept in, it can be pointed out and rectified in the Senate. I am particularly pleased that the Treasurer has accepted the amendment to the previous clause, which was brought forward by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), ‘because it will remove any possible suspicion that the power which will be granted to the Executive in this time of great national emergency might be used continuously, and further curtail what is left to the returned soldiers. I congratulate their organizations on finding themselves led by capable, patriotic and far-seeing men, and extend to the Government my recognition of its good work in consenting to confer with the representatives of the organizations, and reaching an agreeement with them.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Section twenty-two of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end of the definition of “dependants” the words “but does not include any wife married, or child born, to a member of the forces after the first day of October One thousand nine hundred and thirty -one.”
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That after the word “thirty-one” the following proviso be inserted: - “Provided that any such child born after that date whose father dies from the results of an occurrence happening during the period ho was a member of the Forces shall be deemed to be a dependant.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 40 agreed to.
After section 27 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “ 27b. Where a pension has been cancelled and the pensioner, upon an application for re-instatement of his pension, is again granted a pension, payment of the pension so granted shall not be made in respect of any period prior to the date of the application for re-instatement.”.
– I move -
That the following be added to proposed new section 27 b: - “(2.) Where a pension has been voluntarily relinquished either wholly or in part and the pensioner applies for the restoration of the pension or part thereof so relinquished, the pension or part thereof shall, subject to this act, be restored, but the restoration shall not operate in respect of any period prior to the date of the application.”
-What is the effect of this amendment?
– If the appeal that is being made to the ex-soldier pensioners voluntarily to relinquish their pensions, is responded to and they find subsequently that their circumstances compel them to go back on the pension list, they may do so merely upon making application, and their pensions will be restored.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 42 to 45 agreed to.
Clause 46 (Place of sittings of High Court).
– What does the Government intend to do with respect, to the exorbitant salaries of members of the Judiciary? Are any steps to be taken to bring under notice their obligations to the community as the result of this scheme?
.- The Prime Minister will communicate with the Chief Justice, and the justices of the High Court, as well as with the members of other branches of the Commonwealth Judiciary, calling attention to what has been done, and inviting them to contribute, voluntarily, portion of their salaries. The State Governments, it is understood, propose to make similar requests to the State Judiciaries. The point has been raised that if the Judges voluntarily give up portion of their salaries, provision should be made so that they will not be taxed upon their normal salaries, but upon the lower sums they will be actually receiving. Therefore, an amendment on these lines will be made in the bill at a later stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 47 - (1.) -All amounts payable by way of bounty under the Gold Bounty Act 1930, shall be reduced by fifty per centum of the amounts which would but for this section be payable.
– I move -
That sub-clause (1) be omitted.
The reduction of the gold bounty will be dealt with in a new clause 47a which has been circulated.
Mr. HAWKER (Wakefield [9.28 a.m.]. - This clause deals with the reduction of bounties. I certainly do not object to their reduction in the present emergency, but I wish to enter a protest against the special terms of this amendment, which, safeguards one export industry - gold mining - while similar safeguards have not been provided with respect to the other export industries referred to in the schedule. With the exchange as it is to-day, a strong case can be made out for adjusting to some extent the bounties on exports; but the conditions will not be the same if the exchange returns close to par. While most of the bounties mentioned in the schedule are concerned entirely with products that are consumed locally, the wine bounty relates to a commodity that is exported. The exchange has been an immense help to the export of wine, this year, but it has mainly been used to reduce the price overseas to enable Australian wine to compete with the South African product. Notwithstanding these price reductions, 3,000 tons of grapes were not picked this year. It will be obvious, therefore, that there is no substantial margin of bounty above the urgent needs of the case. If the exchange returns to par, or nearly to par, which, of course, can only occur with a return to general prosperity, a similar arrangement should be brought into operation in relation to the wine bounty as is proposed in relation to the gold bounty. If the Government cannot see its way clear to accept an’ amendment of this nature at this stage, I ask it to give consideration to the possibility of doing so while the measure is before another place.
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) ; but I point out that there is an important distinction between the gold bounty and the wine bounty. The gold bounty has been reduced 50 per cent, because of the premium which the exchange gives to the export of gold. It is true that the exchange also gives a premium to the export of other commodities ; but not to the same extent. In view of the heavy reduction in the gold bounty, the Government felt it was only fair to make this provision. A similar provision is not so necessary in the case of a reduction of bounty of 20 per cent. However, consideration will be given to the representations of the honorable member.
.- I ask the Prime Minister to give an assurance that the reduction of the bounty on such articles as sulphur and wire netting will not be offset by the imposition of duties. If duties are imposed, it will mean that the sacrifice will fall upon the primary producers who use these commodities, and not upon the industries concerned.
– It is not contemplated that extra duties will be imposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 48 agreed to.
Postponed clause 15 - (2.) Where by or under any act provision is made for any payment (to which this Part does not otherwise apply) to any person of any amount in respect of any services rendered by him to the Commonwealth or to any authority under the Commonwealth, the amount shall be reduced to such extent, if any (not exceeding twenty per centum), as the Minister, upon the receipt of a recommendation of the committee, direct’s.
Provided that, where travelling allowances are fixed by the Governor-General, the amount of the reduction (if any) shall be such as the Governor-General directs, but not exceeding in any case twenty per centum of the amount so fixed.
– I move -
That after the word “Commonwealth”, the following words be inserted: “ (not being services under contracts for the conveyance of mails, or such other services as are prescribed) “.
When this clause was under consideration some doubt was expressed as to whether its terms would apply to contracts for the conveyance of mails and so on. The matter will be put beyond any doubt by the insertion of the words proposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to-
That the word “twenty”, in the proviso to sub-clause 4, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twenty-five “.
Clause also consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to-
That the following new clauses be inserted: - 3a. The several parts and sections of this act shall be administered by such Ministers as are respectively specified by the Governor-General by order published in the Gazette or by such other Ministers or members of the Executive Council as are, for the time being, acting for or on behalf of any Ministers so specified. 17a. Where-
a taxpayer holds any office under the Commonwealth or a State the salary of which - :
is fixed by law and payable out of the general revenue of the Commonwealth or the State; and
is not reduced by the law of the Commonwealth or of the State relating to the financial emergency; and
the taxpayer has agreed with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth or of the State as the case may be that the taxpayer will, in any year, for the purpose of assisting to relieve the financial stringency of the Commonwealth or the State, as the case may be, and to reduce the expenditure of the Government thereof, accept,instead of the salary so fixed, some smaller sum, and allow the Treasurer to retain the balance in aidof the general revenue of the Commonwealth or the State, the following provisions shall apply: -
In the case of any such taxpayer holding office under the Commonwealth, the sum actually paid to the taxpayer in pursuance of any such agreement shall, for the purposes of any act of the Commonwealth or a State relating to taxation based on income, bc deemed to be the salary of the taxpayer derived from that office, and the sum retained by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth shall not be taken into account for the purpose of calculating the taxable income of the taxpayer under any law of the Commonwealth or a State; and
In the case of any such taxpayer holding office under a State, the sum actually paid to the taxpayer in pursuance of any such agreement shall, for the purposes of any act of the Commonwealth relating to taxation based on income, be deemed to be the salary of the taxpayer derived from that office, and the sum retained by the Treasurer of the State shall not be taken into account for the purpose of calculating the taxable income of the taxpayer under any law of the Commonwealth.
.-I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 21a. The provisions of section 17 of this act shall extend to any pension which is reduced in accordance with this part and that section shall apply to a,ny such pension in the same manner as it applies to the allowances and salaries of the persons specified in that section.
The Treasurer has agreed to accept this new clause, the object of which is to provide that increased taxation by the States over and above that which was in operation on the 30th June, shall not be imposed on persons who have retired on pensions. These individuals will be placed on the same footing in this respect as members of the Public Service.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 47a. (j.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the act, the amount of bounty which shall be paid and distributed in accordance witli the aut in respect of fine gold produced during any period shall be calculated in accordance with this section. (2.) The amount of bounty which shall be paid and distributed in accordance with the act in respect of the year ending on the thirtyfirst day of December One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one shall be calculated as follows : -
In respect of fine gold produced during the half-year ending on the thirtieth day of June One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, bounty shall be calculated on the basis of One pound Australian currency for each ounce of fine gold produced during that period in excess of half of the average number of ounces; and
In respect of fine gold produced during the half-year ending on the thirty-first day of December One thousand nine hundred and thirtyone, bounty shall, subject to this section, be calculated on the basis of Ten shillings Australian cur. rency for each ounce of fine gold produced during that period in excess of half of the average number of ounces. (3.) In respect of fine gold produced during the year commencing on the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two and during any subsequent, calendar year, the bounty which shall be paid and distributed in accordance with the act shall, subject to this section, be calculated on the basis of Ten shillings Australian currency for each ounce of fine gold produced during that year in excess of the average number of ounces. (4.) The bounty calculated under paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) of this section and under the last preceding sub-section in respect of fine gold produced during any period to which those provisions apply, shall be increased by One shilling Australian currency per ounce of that gold in respect of each decrease of three per centum in the average rate of exchange per centum during that period below thirty per centum, but such bounty shall not, in any event, exceed One pound Australian currency for each ounce of fine gold upon which bounty sis calculated under this section. (5.) For the purposes of this section -
“average number of ounces” means the average number ascertained in accordance with the act, of ounces of fine gold produced annually during the years One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, One thousand nine hundred and twentynine, and One thousand nine hundred and thirty;
) “ rate of exchange “ means the rate of exchange for telegraphic transfers from Australia to London;
) “ The act “ means the Gold Bounty Act 1030;
the provisions of the act shall apply for the purposes of ascertaining the number of ounces of fine gold pro duced during , any period ;
the average rate of exchange during any period shall be such as is certified in writing to the Treasurer by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The clause is in a slightly different form from the printed draft, which was circulated. The effect of the alteration is that with every reduction of 3 per cent. in the exchange rate one shilling per ounce shall be added to the gold bounty. At present the exchange rate is £30 10s. When it falls to £27, one shillingper ounce will be added to the bounty, and with every additional fall of 3 per cent. an extra shilling will be added.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted: - 47b. - (1.) Where any payment, the reduction of which is authorized by any section contained in Part II., III., V. or VI. of this act, is of a periodical nature (not being -
a payment in respect of a period the whole of which had accrued prior to the commencement of that section; or
a payment the reduction of which is authorized to be made from such date as the Minister directs), and is made after the date fixed for the commencement of that section, it shall bc subject to reduction to the extent to which it would have been so subject if the whole of the period in respect of which it is made had accrued after the commencement of that section. (2.) Where any payment, the reduction of which is authorized by any section contained in Part II. or III. of this act, is not of a periodical nature (not being a payment the reduction of which is authorized to be made from s.ucli date as the Minister directs), and is made after the date fixed for the commencement of that section, it shall be subject to reduction in accordance with that section.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule -
.- I wish to know whether any existing agreements or contracts in the nature of subsidies could be included in this schedule, and so brought within the sphere of the proposed economies. I have in mind particularly the heavy subsidy which is being paid to Westralian Airways. The subsidy is payable for a long time yet.
The Minister for Defence was kind enough to furnish me with a copy of the agreement, but I do not propose to read it to honorable members. In a covering letter which he wrote me the Minister said that the amount being paid annually to Westralian Airways was £39,520, which was at the rate of £380 per trip. It must be obvious to all honorable members that under the conditions which will prevail after the passage of this bill that subsidy will be worth 25 per cent. more than at present. Unfortunately, the payment of it enables the Westralian Airways to com pete successfully with our transAustralian railway. The result of this competition has been that the traffic on the railway has been reduced to two passenger trains a week, and an occasional freight train. If the subsidy could be reduced the trans-Australian railway, which cost millions of pounds to construct, and is at present operating at a loss of thousands of pounds per annum, would be in a better position than it is to-day. Westralian Airways is competing unfairly with the railway, because the fares on one of its routes in Western Australia, which is comparable in distance with the route from Adelaide to Perth, is more than double the fare charged for the Adelaide-Perth journey. Many men have been dismissed from the Commonwealth railway service, and much of our rolling-stock is lying idle at Port Augusta, Kalgoorlie, and other stations, because of the unfair competition of Westralian Airways. I ask the Prime Minister whether this subsidy could not be reduced in the same way as bounties are to be reduced. There is little difference between a subsidy and a bounty, and, if the Government is able to alter legislation, it should be able to alter an agreement. Because of the increased purchasing power of money consequent, upon the operation of the Government’s plan, the value of the existing subsidy will be increased. It is, therefore, reasonable to expect that the competition of Westralian Airways Limited with the Commonwealth Railways will become more acute, because that company will be able to reduce its freights and fares, and still make the profit that it has been making hitherto.
.I commend for the consideration of the Government the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). Coming to another agreement that has recently been signed by the Government, I consider that it would be totally unfair to regard the sugar industry as sacrosanct, and not to compel it to suffer a sacrifice in common with other industries. Ordinary justice should lead those interested in the sugar industry to join, of their own volition, in the general plan of economy.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I cannot allow a discussion on the sugar industry, because no bounty is paid on sugar.
– The honorable member for Grey has referred to one agreement, and surely I may refer to another.
– Thereis no subsidy or bounty paid on sugar.
– I also remind the honorable member for Forrest that, in discussing the sugar agreement, he is anticipating an order of the day on the noticepaper.
.A considerable item of expense in connexion with Westralian Airways Limited is the cost of fuel. Since the mail contract was entered into with that company, the cost of fuel, owing to the operation of the tariff, has been increased by 3d. or 4d. per gallon, and that has meant to the company an added expenditure of some thousands of pounds. Surely, there should be no interference with existing arrangements for the carriage of mails. There is no analogy between a bounty and a contract. A bounty is a gift, but the contract with the Westralian Airways Limited constitutes a payment in consideration of services to be rendered by the company for the benefit of the public. There is no excuse for breaking contracts entered into by the Government. It is true that, in the case of a bondholder, we are breaking our contract, but that is because of the extraordinary position of this country, which makes it impossible for us to carry out the terms of that contract. If we interfere with one contract, we will open the way to interference with every individual contract entered into by the Government,
.- The subject raised by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) has already been placed before me, I admit, with considerable force. I say, frankly, that I would be glad if we could avoid the payment of the large subsidy which isnow being made to Westralian Airways Limited, a company which is competing with the Commonwealth Railways.
– How long does the contract last?
– It has three years to run. This subsidy is wrapped up with the whole question of mail contracts on shipping and air services. But I am taking this matter up with the shipping and airway companies to see what adjustments can be made. We specifically exclude air services from the term “ services “ as mentioned in the bill. If we reduce shipping subsidies, that might result in an increase in freights on our primary products exported overseas. We are also faced with other disabilities. We could not, under an emergency plan for economy, make a reduction in the subsidy paid to one individual company. There are various airways in Queensland and in Western Australia.
– Because of the east-west air service the transcontinental railway is losing considerable revenue.
– That is so, but this is a plan to effect economies, and not to rectify anomalies. We could not apply it to the Westralian Airways without applying it to Qantas and other airway companies.
– I trust that there will be no interference with existing subsidies paid on air services.
– We have specifically excluded air services from the terms of the hill.
– What I was concerned about was the need to continue the mail contract with Qantas. The route traversed by that company’s aeroplanes is not along the railway. In any case, I do not believe that the air service between Melbourne and Western Australia has been responsible for the falling off of the revenue of the transcon tinental railway. The aeroplane gives an efficient and fast service. The Qantas aeroplanes travel from Brisbane through the back country to Camooweal. The service could be extended to Daly Waters and on to Burketown, serving all the Gulf country, where in the wet season, were it not for the air service, mails would be delayed three or four months. Before any reduction is made in the subsidies to air services, I hope that I shall be consulted, and that the subsidy to Qantas will not be interfered with.
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that he ask the Westralian Airways to agree to a conversion similar to that proposed to the bondholders.
– That is precisely what I am doing.
– It must be plain to the Westralian Airways that, when its present contract ends, it is not likely to be renewed unless the circumstances of Australia change considerably, and so as to have some greater security with respect to the development of its services in other directions, such as linking up with an air mail company from England, it might agree to a conversion similar to that submitted to the bondholders. If that were done, there would be no need to attempt to rectify anomalies under this scheme of general economy.
.I should like to know whether the Westralian Airways have rigidly adhered to the conditions of its contract. I understand that some little time ago, the company sold a machine to another company, and replaced it by a machine not in keeping with the conditions of the contract. If that is so, there has been a breach of contract, and the Government, if it sees fit, can terminate it, and come to whatever arrangements it desires with the company in keeping with the times.
– I hope that the Government will keep its hands off aviation, and not interfere with existing subsidies to airways. The fact that the service between Hobart and Brisbane has been closed down, temporarily at any rate, shows that the company concerned is unable to carry on without a subsidy.
– I am not advocating a reduction in the whole of the subsidies paid to airways companies. I referred only to Westralian Airways, which is causing considerable loss to the transcontinental railway.
– There is no doubt that the amount of subsidies should be periodically reviewed. The company which has maintained a good air service between Brisbane and Sydney, and also between Sydney and Melbourne, and Melbourne and Hobart, has met with considerable loss, which, coupled with the loss of one of its air liners, has compelled it to close down. The Qantas Air Service in Queensland is one of the most efficient in the world, due largely to the fact that it is subsidized; in fact, the most successful commercial aviation companies in the world are those which are subsidized. I hope that the Government will bear in mind that aviation is only on the threshold of its usefulness in Australia. It should be encouraged because of the extensive areas to be covered, the bad means of communication, and lack of roads, and because an aerial service can so easily be changed from one terminus to another. The suggestion of the honhonorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker),- in this regard concerning the east-west service, is worthy of consideration. I ask the Government not to discourage aviation,” but to help it in every possible way, and particularly to endeavour to keep the Sydney to Brisbane and the Melbourne to Hobart services going.
– What are the honorable member’s views regarding the use of the Military Air Force for commercial services ?
– Military aeroplanes are not suitable for commercial purposes. In commercial aviation, the larger the aeroplanes the more economically can the service be operated. No doubt, in the’ near future, especially if crude oil can be used, air lines will be able to operate without a subsidy. In the meantime, the high price of petrol, the heavy overhead costs, and the rapid depreciation of aeroplanes, make some subsidy necessary.
– I agree with what the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) suggested regarding the reduction of the subsidy for the east-we3t service, and also with the attitude which the Government has adopted towards Qantas. 1 hope, however, that in considering the service from Melbourne to Tasmania the Government will bear in mind that at times, owing to bad weather, the ordinary shipping communication between the island State and the- mainland is suspended. Because of the circumstances of Tasmania that service is entitled to special consideration, as is the Qantas company, which serves vast- areas in the remote north.
– It is true, as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) stated, that Westralian Airways sold one of its Hercules aeroplanes. Because of their age, arrangements have been made for the replacement of these machines by Viastra machines. According to the tests made in England, the one which was ordered was eminently suited for the work, but owing to Australian atmospheric conditions, some alterations had to be made. The second machine to be delivered, however, will comply with the conditions laid down by the Civil Aviation Department. A definite time was allowed the company in which to replace the Hercules machines that were sold, and the Government will see that the terms of the contract are fully complied with.
Last night the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me whether deferred pay would be affected by the bill. I am now able to inform him that deferred pay which has already accumulated will not be affected, but future deferred pay will be subject to reductions. The honorable member suggested that a small subsidy would enable Australian National Airways to continue its operations. Perhaps he is unaware that the company asked of the Government a fairly substantial guarantee or subsidy. Such assistance might have been possible, in prosperous times, but is not practicable in existing circumstances.
In regard to civil aviation generally, notwithstanding the state of the finances, the Government has endeavoured to keep what it regarded as its obligations to the aero clubs. Although it has been compelled to reduce the subsidy to a considerable extent, it has arranged to help them sufficiently to enable them to carry on.
Second schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin).
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator H. Kneebone had been appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public’ Works in the place of Senator J. J. Daly, discharged from attendance.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
Message reported transmitting estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the year ending 30th June, 1932, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply.
– When presenting the budget for 1930-31, the Prime Minister dealt at length with the very severe worldwide economic disturbance which was prevailing in practically every country.
The acute position at that time outlined has since become accentuated, and, in November last, the then Acting Treasurer made a supplementary financial statement to the House, embodying proposals for arresting the further drift in Commonwealth finances. Since then a general survey of the whole position has been made on several occasions. Of these I may mention the speeches made when measures were introduced to this House, designed to make alterations in our monetary policy with the object of increasing employment, and giving an impetus to trade and production generally. The economic position was also dealt with at the Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra in February last, and again in Melbourne in May and June of this year. During the debate on the second reading of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Agreement Bill, the Prime Minister and myself, on the 18th June last, made an exhaustive review of the present economic situation, and outlined the measures agreed upon at the conference for the financial rehabilitation of the Commonwealth. In view of these recent utterances I do not propose to go again over the whole ground.
The position of our unfunded debt overseas has been the cause of much anxiety during the year. This debt is covered by Commonwealth securities which have been issued, with the approval of the Loan Council, in respect of the floating indebtedness of both Commonwealth and State Governments.
Owing to the inability of the Loan Council to obtain long-dated loans overseas, the requirements of the Governments, up to 31st August, 1930, were financed by means of bank overdrafts and short-dated treasury-bills issued to the public. After that date the Government expenditures were met by remittances which were made possible by the pooling of London exchange by the Australian banks under an arrangement with the Loan Council. The Governments are given first call upon accumulated Australian resources in London by virtue of this arrangement. The unfunded debt at 31st August, 1930, which has since remained constant, totalled £38,075,000, and was held as follows : -
At the present time the Australian banks are carrying £33,075,000 of the unfunded debt, and the Westminster Bank £5,000,000. Of the total amount of £38,075,000, £10,220,000 is on account of the Commonwealth.
The cash position in Australia at 30th June reveals that treasury-bills discounted and overdrafts granted by the banks total £22,268,000. Against this indebtedness certain of the States had cash balances on current account totalling £1,651,000. Of the total accommodation provided £6,264,000 was on behalf of the Commonwealth.
The results of the first quarter of the year showed clearly that the budget estimates would not be realized. There were evidences of an alarming falling off in customs revenue, and it was obvious that, owing to the increasing dullness in trade, the estimated receipts from the sales tax and the post office would fall short of the estimate. The experienceof the first few months of the yearindicated that unemployment was forcing oldpeople to apply for pensions, andthe increase in the rate of London exchange involved a large increase in expenditure.
In November last, the Government brought down a supplementary budget which imposed increased taxation, and indicated certain savings and economies in expenditure. The combined result of these measures was estimated to yield an annual benefit to the budget of £8,000,000, and to yield £6,880,000 for the remaining portion of the year.
Subsequently revenue from indirect taxation continued to decline and the increase in invalid and old-age pensions proved to be greater than was anticipated. The rate of London telegraphic transfers rose from £8 10s. per cent. in July last, to £30 10s. per cent. and resulted in an expenditure on London exchange of £1,783,000 for the year.
For the purposes of the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the deficit was estimated at £13,400,000. Owing mainly to an unexpected increase in the yield from direct taxation in the last few weeks of the year tho actual deficit proved to be £10,756,899.
The deficit of the Commonwealth for the year 1930-31 is arrived at as follows : -
Interest unpaid by New South Wales.
The New South Wales Government has failed to provide from the 1st April last for the payment of interest on loans raised in London, and from the 1st May the interest on loans raised in New York. The financial agreement between the
Commonwealth and the States provided that the Commonwealth would take over the debts of the States existing at 30th June, 1927, and would, in respect of these debts; assume as between the Commonwealth and the States the liabilities of the States to bondholders. As the debt in respect of which New South Wales failed to meet the interest is included in the debt taken over by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Government had no option but to make good the default of New South Wales.
In addition the New South Wales Government has failed to pay certain interest due to the Commonwealth in Australia.
The following table sets out the position at 30th June, 1931 : -
The accumulated deficit to the 30th June, 1931, is as follows: -
Loan authority to the amount of £7,000,000 is already available to meet shortages in the revenue account, and it will be necessary to obtain further loan appropriation of approximately £14,000,000 to cover the accumulated deficit to 30th June, 1931.
During the period of rehabilitation of the finances it is not proposed to make any special provision to repay the loans raised to meet revenue deficits, but the statutory sinking fund contribution of 10s. per cent. per annum will be paid.
When we have returned to budgetary equilibrium it will be decided whether the loans covering deficits will be repaid from future surpluses, or whether the annual sinking fund contribution will be substantially increased so as to extinguish the debt within a period of, say, nine or ten years.
It was announced last year that the policy of the Loan Councilwas to confine its borrowing in the future almost wholly to the Australian market. During the year it was found that only a very limited amount was available for new works from local investors, whilst borrowing overseas was impossible. It became necessary, therefore, substantially to reduce the loan programme.
The estimated loan expenditure for the Commonwealth for 1930-31 was £4,127,000, whilst the actual expenditure was £1,988,820, a decrease of £2,138,180. The following table gives short details of the actual loan expenditure for 1930-31, compared with the estimate: -
The amount applied towards the redemption of Commonwealth debt in 1930-31 was £4,644,359. The sources from which these funds came were -
The amount which will be available for 1931-32 is estimated at £3,175,000.
The amounts made available from the National Debt Sinking Fund for the redemption of States’ debts in 1930-31 were -
The amount to be provided in 1931-32 is estimated at £3,815,000.
Combining the Commonwealth and States’ figures, the total amount made available last year for the redemption of Australian debts was £8,158,868. The actual payments in redemption of debt during 1930-31 totalled £5,454,030 in Australia and £2,442,540 overseas.
For 1931-32, the amount which will be available for the redemption of Commonwealth and States’ debts is estimated at £6,990,000.
The debt at 30th June, 1931, is domiciled as follows: -
The London debt includes the amount due under the war funding arrangement with Great Britain, which originally was £92,480,156 and now stands at £79,724,221.
War debt was reduced during the year by £5,237,230, while debt for works and other purposes increased by £18,874,362.
Of the gross Commonwealth debt of £386,594,494 due at 30th. June, 1931, sums repayable to the Treasury amounted to approximately £22,000,000, leaving the net debt at- £364,594,494, as against £349,707,279 on 30th June, 1930.
The debt on account of the States at 30th June, 1930, amounted to £727,639,836. On 30th June, 1931, the debt stood at £767,316,373, an increase during the year of £39,676,537.
At 30th June, 1931, Commonwealth and States’ public debt, combined, aggregated approximately £1,153,910,867, as against £1,100,597,198 on 30th June, 1930.
The increase of £53,313,669 in the gross debt is largely accounted for by an increase of £51,395,000 in the short-term debt, of which £29,814,000 represents short-dated securities issued in respect of overdrafts existing at 30th June, 1930.
I have dealt exhaustively with the various phases of the rehabilitation plan in the debate upon legislative measures which are now under consideration in this Parliament ; and, therefore, will now confine myself to a summary of those matters arising from the plan, which have a direct bearing on the budget.
Reductions of Expenditure under Rehabilitation Plan.
The salaries and wages of Commonwealth employees are to be reduced on a graduated scale so designed that the total reductions will represent 20 per cent, on the whole salary bill. All adult male officers will be subject to a reduction of £34 to cover the fall in the cost of living, inclusive of any reductions effected since 1st July, 1930. The residue of the salary or wages is subject to a percentage reduction on a sliding scale varying from 3 per cent, to 24 per cent. It is also provided that reductions will not bring the salary of any adult male officer below £182 per annum. The relief to the budget by the salary reductions is estimated at £1,800,000.
Maternity allowances are to be reduced from £5 to £4 and will not be paid in those cases where the income of the claimant and her husband for the preceding twelve months exceeded £260. It is anticipated that the resultant saving in expenditure will amount to £230,000.
All invalid and old-age pensions will be reduced by 2s. 6d. per week. The limit of income, including pension, is to be £78 per annum, instead of £84 10s. Pensions payable to inmates of benevolent asylums will be reduced from 5s. 6d. to 5s. per week, and the rate of payment to State institutions for maintenance of pensioner inmates will be reduced from 14s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. War pensions are to be treated as income for the purpose of calculating pension, and the standard of adequate maintenance in respect* of invalid pensions will be reduced. ‘ The whole of these provisions will result in an estimated saving on the pensions bill of £1,825,000.
It was originally intended to reduce war pensions by 20 per cent., providing that a refund would be made in certain cases having regard to the minimum income of the pensioner. In the cases of widows and widowed mothers who have no other income, it was proposed to reduce the pension by 10 per cent., but no reduction was contemplated in the case of orphans. Adjustments were also proposed in regard to the payment of living allowances which total £250,000 per annum. Representations were made by returned soldiers’ organizations that they should be permitted to submit a scheme to the Government which would bring about the desired saving, but alter the proposed incidence of the reduction. The Government met the organizations in this matter, and a scheme was sub- mitted which would result in a saving of £1,018,213 in war pensions and repatriation benefits. The proposals-submitted are acceptable to the Government, and they are being embodied in the Financial Emergency Bill in lieu of other provisions originally contained. A further saving of £281,787 has still to be made to bring the total saving to £1,300,000. The committee of the returned soldiers’ organizations have been authorized to’ continue to function for a further six weeks to enable them to make recommendations to obtain a further saving of £281,787. If the committee fails in this matter the Government reserves the right to impose further reductions so that a total saving of £1,300,000 will be secured in lieu of £1,417,000 as originally intended.
In order that the sacrifice involved in giving effect to the conference plan may be shared by all, it has been decided to invite holders of Commonwealth and State securities to convert their holdings into new securities on the basis of a 22-$ per cent, reduction in the rate of interest. In certain cases where securities are carrying low rates of interest the rate will not be reduced below 3 per cent.
It is expected that if the conversion appeal is a complete success, the reduction in the Commonwealth interest bill will be £2,800,000 per annum. It will be necessary, however, to reduce the interest rates on loans made to the States for Soldier Land Settlement and the interest on advances for War Service Somes. It has been decided, therefore, to reduce the rate of interest on Soldier Land Settlement Loans from 5 per cent, to 4 per cent., provided that the States pass on the reduction to the settlers, and it has been decided also to reduce the rate of interest on advances for War Service Homes from 5 per cent, to 4$ per cent. The reason for the discrimination between the two classes of loans is that the administration costs in connexion with Soldier Land Settlement are borne by the settler, whilst similar expenses in connexion with War Service Homes are borne by the Commonwealth. The cost of these concessions is £330,000, so that the net gain to the budget by the conversion scheme is £2,470,000.
In addition to the major savings indicated above, it was decided to still further reduce the adjustable expenditure by approximately £1,000,000. Particulars of this further saving are set out in the following table. -
Increased Taxation under Rehabilitation Plan.
It is proposed to reduce the general exemption in respect of income from personal exertion from £300 to £250, and cause it to diminish by £1 for every £2 by which the net income exceeds £250, so that, when the net income reaches £750, the general exemption will have vanished. It is estimated that this alteration will yield £290,000 additional tax. The special super-tax of 7½ per cent. on property income will be increased to 10 per cent. It is estimated that this will yield additional tax of. £830,000. The normal rates of income tax payable by companies and individuals will be increased all round by 5 per cent. It is estimated that this will yield additional tax of £380,000, making a total additional revenue of £1,500,000.
It had been decided to increase the rate of sales tax from 2½ per cent. to 5 per cent. to yield additional revenue totalling £4,000,000. The Government has since decided to grant exemption from sales tax in respect of purchases by State Governments and Government departments for the official use of those departments, and also in other ways to. increase the list of exemptions. In these circumstances, a 5 per cent. rate would not yield the desired revenue. It. has therefore been decided to increase the rate of sales tax from2½ per cent. to 6 per cent.
The increased rate of sales tax will apply to all importations and sales of goods made on and after the 11th July, 1931.
It must be remembered that a full period is not available for the collection of this tax during the current year. Collections in the month of July in respect of local sales in June will represent 2½ per cent, on those sales. Sales in July, prior to the commencing of the increased rate, as well as collections at the Customs for the same period, will be at the existing rate of 2½ per cent.
On and from 11th July, 1931, the following goods imported into or sold in Australia on or after that date will be exempt from the sales tax. These are additional exemptions : -
Australian timber used in mines in similar manner to imported Oregon used for mines. Chaff bags imported.
Charcoal, coke, firewood and kerosene for all purposes.
Crude oil and fuel oils for use in the production of power.
Crude tar when purchased for use as a fuel by a registered manufacturer, or applied by a manufacturer thereof, as a fuel used in the manufacture of goods for sale.
Fauna for public Zoos.
Goods imported into and goods purchased in Australia by a Government of the Commonwealth or a State if the Commissioner is satisfied that the goods are for the official use of a Department of that Government and are not for re-sale or distribution for use by any person, organization, association or other body which is not completely controlled or the expenditure of which is not completely borne by that Government.
This exemption will be subject to the condition that the State Governments will charge sales tax and pay it to the Commonwealth on sales of goods made by a State trading concern.
Metal, gravel and sand for road-making produced or purchased by a local governing body.
Power alcohol produced in Australia and mixtures produced in Australia of petrol and power alcohol.
Ships and power driven vessels of over 1,000, tons gross register.
Stud live-stock imported into Australia when the Commissioner is satisfied that it has been imported solely for purposes of being used for stud purposes.
Works of art which are intended for continuous public exhibition free of charge.
On and from 11th July, 1931, the exemption from tax hitherto allowed in respect of semolina will cease to apply, and sales tax will be payable in respect of all importations and sales in Australia of semolina which take place on and after that date.
The Government proposes to incorporate in the Sales Tax Assessment Acts a provision which will permit of any alteration in the rate of sales tax being adjusted as between a vendor and purchaser as may be required, so that the vendor may recover from the purchaser any increase in tax or the purchaser may obtain- relief on account of any reduction in the rate. Associated with the provision will be one in which the amount of the sales tax payable by a vendor in respect of any goods shall be shown as a separate item on the invoice for the goods.
It has been decided to alter the rates of primage duty, particulars of which will be embodied in a resolution to be tabled later by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– No ; it does not take into account any default as from 1st July.
The estimated expenditure on war, repatriation and defence is £27,960,000, being a decrease compared with the actual expenditure for 1930-31 of £5,252,969. The chief items of decrease are : -
The estimated expenditure under special appropriations (other than war and repatriation) is £14,892,900, being £562,512 less than the expenditure of the previous year. The decrease in the cost of invalid and old-age pensions is £860,953; in maternity allowances £230,652, and the decrease in other statutory payments, excluding interest and sinking fund on works is £140,067. These decreases are offset by an increase in interest and sinking fund of £669,160. Most of this interest is payable in London, and does not therefore come within the scheme of interest reduction. Moreover, additional overdraft accommodation will be required to meet the lag in revenue and ultimately to cover the deficit on the year’s transactions.
The estimated expenditure on the ordinary votes of departments is £2,454,300, being £356,393 below the expenditure for 1930-31.
Compared with the previous year, miscellaneous services have increased by £255,032, the total estimated expenditure being £996,250. The increase of £373,000 in the provision for overseas exchange more than accounts for the total increase under this heading.
The estimated expenditure under additions, new works and buildings is £116,842, being an increase of £88,640 over the expenditure of the previous year. This increase is due to the change of the policy of the Government in regard to loan expenditure, which I will again refer to later.
The loss of £579,060 on business undertakings is made up of a surplus of £174,800 in the transactions of the Post Office, and a deficit of £753,860 in connexion with the Commonwealth railways. The net loss is £287,368 less than that of the previous financial year.
The charge on the budget for administering the Territories of the Commonwealth is estimated to be £707,036, being an increase of £2,939 compared with last year.
The payments to or for the States show a decrease of £1,507,703, compared with the actual expenditure of the previous year. This decrease is partly due to the proposed amendment to the Federal Aid Roads Agreement to which I will later make further ref erence.
The revenue expected to be received from indirect taxation is £37,100,000, an excess of £5,332,074 over the receipts for last year. This increase is due to the higher rates for primage duty and sales tax.
The anticipated revenue from direct taxation is £13,200,000, which is £5,452,179 below the revenue collected in 1930-31. The principal decrease is £3,784,374 in income tax, due to. the anticipated reduction in taxable incomes which must necessarily follow the financial depression which adversely affected commerce and trade throughout the whole of last financial year. It is anticipated that there will be a reduction of £958,598 in the revenue from land tax, mainly due to the reduced valuations of land. The revenue from estate duties is always difficult to estimate, but it has been thought wise to budget for a decrease of £668,865, as compared with the actual receipts of the previous year.
The other miscellaneous heads of revenue are expected to yield £3,835,000 as compared with £5,754,630 in last financial year, being a reduction of £1,919,630. In the revenue of last year was included a non-recurring amount of £1,500,000, being accumulated income arising from liquidation of ex-enemy properties. On account of the concessions proposed in respect of interest on loans for soldier land settlement, the loss of revenue from this source will be £247,000. v
The deficit of the Commonwealth submitted to the Melbourne conference was estimated at £4,380,000, which is £796,300 less than the estimated deficit now arrived at. The reasons for this departure from the conference estimate are as follow : -
Some of the reductions made will not operate for the full year.
It was not possible, without hardship, to reduce war pensions by 20 per cent., as contemplated by the conference. The total reduction in war pensions and repatriation benefits is equal to 15.4 per cent, of the total pensions bill.
From the experience of the year just closed, it is certain that the Post Office revenue will not reach the estimate submitted to the conference.
The policy of the Government in regard to capital works involves charging to revenue, capital expenditure which, in previous years, was charged to loan.
I desire to make some reference to the proposal made by the President of the United States that the payment of interest and principal on intergovernmental war debts as well as the payment of reparations should be postponed for one year.
The British Government had previously agreed to suspend for two years the repayment of principal moneys ‘ due under the funding arrangement of Australia’s war debt, and it has now generously agreed to apply the principle enunciated by President Hoover to the interest on that debt.
As these proposals have not yet been finally accepted by all the governments concerned, it was thought wise to prepare the budget on the position as it stands at present, and provision is made-for paying the interest on our war debt as well as for the receipt of reparation moneys. Should, however, the plan be brought into operation, the relief to the Commonwealth budget during 1931-32 will be £4,028,000, so that the anticipated deficit of £5,176,300 ‘ will be reduced to £1,148,300.
The benefit to the Commonwealth is arrived at as follows: -
Reference has been made to the difficulty, if not the impossibility, at the present time of obtaining loans to finance new works. In view of this position, the Government has considered it futile to bring down loan estimates, and has decided to charge the whole of the capital expenditure to revenue. Particulars of this proposed expenditure will be found in the estimates for additions, new works, and buildings.
The expenditure on new works last financial year was -
The expenditure to be wholly’ provided from revenue in the current year is £829,077, a reduction of £1,234,187.
After carefully considering the relative difficulties of the Commonwealth and the States, the Government has decided to provide for one year a special grant of £1,000,000 to South Australia, and to continue for 1931-32 the expired grant of £300,000 per annum toWestern Australia. The grant to Tasmania will be continued at the existing rate of £250,000 per annum.
The question of the amendment of the Federal Aid Roads Agreemeut has been the subject of considerable discussion at conferences between the Commonwealth and the States during the last eighteen mouths.
Under the present agreement, which operated from the 1st July, 1926, the Commonwealth is obliged to provide £2,000,000 a year for ten years, and the States £1,500,000 a year for ten years. The States are also required to spend the money on the construction and reconstruction of approved roads. The obligations imposed on the States have proved so burdensome that they have requested relief from their contribution and greater freedom in the spending of the money. In view of the decline of approximately 50 per cent. in petrol imports, the Commonwealth has also found its obligation a much more serious burden than was contemplated in 1926.
At a conference in February last it was resolved that the agreement be amended to provide that, as from 1st July, 1931, the Commonwealth shall pay to the States a sum equal to2½d. per gallon on all petrol cleared through the customsfor home consumption,; such sum to be apportioned among the States on the same basis as the £2,000,000 set out in the agreement.
– £1,400,000. All other conditions contained in the road’s agreement to be cancelled. The Premiers undertook to submit the matter to their respective governments.
At the May conference the States submitted further representations, and the Commonwealth undertook to embody in the amended agreement provision for further payment to the States out of excise collections on petrol refined in Australia.
A formal agreement has been drawn up on the lines indicated, and has been signed by the Prime Minister and forwarded to the States for completion. This amended agreement will be submitted shortly for the approval of Parliament.
Under the new agreement the Commonwealth will pay to the States a sum equal to 2½d. per gallon on imports of petrol and a further sum equal to1½d. per gallon on petrol refined in Australia. The total amount available will be distributed to. the States in the same proportion as the £2,000,000 which was to have been provided under the original agreement. The States will be relieved of their contribution, and they will be free to spend the money on any class of road work, including maintenance.
Provision has been made in the budget for the payment in 1931-32 of £1,400,000 which is based on the present consumption of petrol.
– How will that amount be spent?
– It may be spent on maintenance and construction work.
– That is a big change in principle.
– That is so. A fundamental change has been made in the agreement which will allow of much more elasticity.
In addition to the Debt Conversion Agreement Bill, the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill, and ‘the Financial Emergency Bill, which have already been presented to Parliament, the following legislation will be necessary to give effect to the budget proposals -
Loan Bill to cover revenue deficit.
Bills for special grants to South Australia and Western Australia.
Bill to amend the Federal Aid Roads Agreement.
The task of bringing down the budget in the second week in July, particularly in times of momentous changes in financial policy, has prevented the presentation of the main Estimates, and the complete budget papers. I hope to be in a position to make these documents available within a fortnight, and, in the meantime, I am circulating such statements of accounts as will give a bird’s eye view of the position of the finances of the Commonwealth.
Australia and many other countries are passing through critical times. The outstanding causes of the trouble have been beyond the control of the Government. The effects of the external monetary system have been dogging our steps at every turn. All our attempts in the past twelve months to stimulate a recovery of trade, to maintain the stability and usefulness of our credit structure, to restore employment, and to secure to the workers and the primary producers their assured reward, have been frustrated by external events and influences.
The Government recognizes that Australia cannot afford to let her finances drift into greater chaos while we helplessly await, during an indefinite period, for a change in world monetary policy, and an increase in commodity values. The Government has, therefore, undertaken a policy of internal financial rehabilitation which, though drastic in its incidence, is at any rate equitable in its effects upon the various sections of the community.
The Government is convinced that, in the existing circumstances, it is adopting the most effective policy to restore the country to economic health, and confidently appeals to Parliament, and to the community in general, to assist patriotically the successful accomplishment of the complete plan.
I move -
That the first item in the Estimates for Additions, Nev Works, Buildings, &c., under
Division I - Department of Defence - namely - “Naval establishments - Machinery, and plant, £3,000 “, be agreed to.
The following paper was presented -
The budget 1931-32 - Papers (preliminary issue) presented by the Honorable E. G. Theodore, M.P., for the information of honorable members on the occasion of the opening of the budget of 1931-32.
Ordered to be printed.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1931.
Motions (by Mr.Theodore) proposed -
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. I) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum uponthe sale value of goods manufactured in Australia by a taxpayer, which are sold byhim or applied to his own use on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 2) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods manufactured in Australia, which are sold, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one by a taxpayer who purchased them from the manufacturer.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 3) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods manufactured in Australia, which are sold, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, by a taxpayer not being either the manufacturer of those goods or a purchaser of those goods from the manufacturer.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Salts Tax Act (No. 4) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods manufactured in Australia and sold to a taxpayer who has, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, applied those goods to his own use.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 5) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods imported into Australia by a taxpayer on or after the eleventh duy of July, One thousand’ nine hundred and thirty-one.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by tha Sales Tax Act (No.6) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods imported into Australia, which are sold, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, by a taxpayer who imported those goods.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 7) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods imported into Australia, which ure sold, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, by a taxpayer not being the importer of those goods.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 8) 1930 there be imposed sales tax at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods imported into Australia which are sold to a taxpayer and are applied, on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, to his own use.
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 9) 1930 there be imposed sales taxat the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods in Australia, leased by a taxpayer on or after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty -one.
– I move -
That in addition to the duties collected in accordance with -
the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 as proposed to be amended by tariff proposals; and
the resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the nineteenth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, in relation to a special duty of customs ; and in lieu of the primage duty specified in the resolution introduced into the House of Representatives on the fifth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, there be imposed on and after the eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirtyone, at nine o’clock in the forenoon reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, ad valorem duties of customs (in this resolution referred to as primage duty) at the rates hereunder set out on the undermentioned goods which are entered for home consumption on and after the said eleventh day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, except such goods as are hereunder specified as being exempt from primage duty.
Goods exempt from primage duty -
goods covered bv Items 308, 370, 371, 372, 373, 400, 401, 409 and 423 of the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 as proposed to be amended by tariff proposals;
agricultural and horticultural seeds not covered by anv item in the Customs Tariff 1921-1930; bullion and specie; cornsacks and floursacks; manures and fertilizers ; materials for use in the manufacture of spraying preparation; materials for use in the manufacture of cornsacks, floursacks and other sacks;
any other goods which are from time to time exempted from primage duty by proclamation made by the Governor-General with the advice of the Federal Executive Council and published in the Gazette.
any other goods which are from time to time, by proclamation made by the Governor-General with the advice of the Federal Executive Council and published in the Gazette, added to the list of goods upon which primage at the rate of four pur centum is imposed.
All goods whatsoever, which are not, in pursuance of the foregoing provisions of this resolution -
That where by this resolution any goods are exempt from primage duty or are subject to primage duty at the rate of four per centum ad valorem, on the condition that those goods will be used for a purpose specified in relation thereto in the resolution, the Comptroller General of Customs may require security that those goods will be used for the purpose so specified.
That in this resolution “ Tariff Proposals “ means the tariff proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the twenty-sixth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one, and includes any tariff proposal introduced into the House of Representatives subsequent to that date.
This resolution, the purpose of which is to increase the primage duty with the object of obtaining additional customs revenue, is being submitted in accordance with the advice of the economic experts who were consulted in connexion with the formulation of the plan for restoring the finances of the Commonwealth.
Hitherto primage duty has been imposed at 4 per cent. excepting on certain goods which were exempted from primage. The resolution provides for three classes of goods, viz. - (1) goods exempt from primage; (2) goods subject to primage at 4 per cent.; and (3) goods subject to primage at 10 per cent. The goods now exempted from primage include, in addition to the goods hitherto exempt, the following additional goods: -
Seeds - free unspecified under the customs tariff, e.g. pasture and grass seeds.’
Manures and fertilizers, potash and nitrate of soda.
Material for the manufacture of corn, flour and other sacks.
Materials for the manufacture of spraying preparations.
The second class embraces goods which are at present liable to 4 per cent. primage, and will continue under this resolution to be liable to that rate. These goods are -
Bran, gunny, ore and potato bags, fibres for the manufacture of binder twine, cream separators, shearing machines, stud stock, rock salt, fuel oil and coal consumed in Australian waters, power kerosene, soda, ash, caustic potash and caustic soda for fellnongering purposes, books and periodicals for public libraries, goods for public hospitals, vessels over 1,000 tons gross register and news printing paper.
The present customs duty on newsprint is £1 British, £4 general. Following on the imposition of primage duty it is proposed to remove the duty of £1 per ton on newsprint from the United Kingdom and Canada. This duty was imposed on the 9th July, 1930, chiefly for the purpose of defraying the cost of a bounty on paper pulp, which was not proceeded with. The proposal now made will enable an additional preference to be given to an important Canadian product, and will make the proposed Canadian reciprocal treaty which is so favorable to Australia more acceptable to Canada.
In addition to the goods I have just mentioned, the second class embraces those goods which, under the ordinary customs tariff, are admitted by by-law free or at 10 per cent. under the following tariff items, namely, item 174; machines, machine tools and appliances; item 219 n tools of trade; item 404 minor articles and materials for use in manufacture, and item 415 a manufactures for the development of industry and for public hospitals, public educational institutions and public utilities.
The third class of goods will be liable to primage at 10 per cent, and will include all goods not exempt under the first class or liable to 4 per cent. under the second class. The resolution contains provisions by which additional goods may by proclamation be added to the exempt class or to the class liable to 4 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in reference to something which occurred a couple of weeks ago. During a series of interjections, while the Prime Minister was speaking on the rehabilitation plan, I regret that I lost my temper and referred in a general way to some honorable members as having a yellow streak.
– What does that mean?
– Itmeans lack of courage. I do not believe that any honorable member, whether he disagrees with me or not, is lacking in courage, and I had no intention of making my remark in any way personal. It was uttered in the heat of the moment, and I regret it.
– I should like the Prime Minister to give some indication when the sales tax amending bills will he introduced and debated. If hu can do so, it will enable honorable members to make arrangements beforehand.
– I am pleased that the honorable member has asked that question, because it was my intention, when moving the adjournment, to indicate the business for next week. We shall proceed with the budget debate, and at the earliest possible opportunity move the second readings of ibo important measures outlined in the budget. The second reading of the Wheat Marketing Bill will also be moved early in the week, aud the debate adjourned. I hope that the taxation bills, as well as the budget, will be debated during the week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned lit ll.B a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310709_reps_12_130/>.