13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I rise to make a personal explanation in connexion with an incident which occurred shortly before midnight. In speaking on the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) allotting the time for the discussion of the Financial Emergency Bill, I said -
Many honorable members who desired to speak to the second reading were tumble to do so because of the action of the Government in applying the closure, although there had been no undue prolongation of the debate. The motion now before the Chair means that honorable members will not have an opportunity to give the bill the consideration that it deserves. The Government has acted in a dastardly manner.
At that point you, sir, called me to order. I have read my actual words, and I leave it to honorable members to determine whether there was anything disorderly in what I said. I have been a member of this Parliament since the beginning of federation, and during that time, as you said, Mr. Speaker, have acted as Temporary Chairman of Committees, and have also occupied the chair us Deputy Speaker. During my long parliamentary career I have always endeavoured toassist in maintaining order, andI do not think it can be said that I have ever acted in a disorderly way. When I was called to order you, sir, said -
The honorable member, as an experienced parliamentarian, whohas onmany occasions acted as Temporary Chairman of Committees, must know that the Standing Orders require him to address himself to the motion before the Chair, which is that a certain time shall he allotted to the remaining stages of the bill. But, as the time allowed forthis debate has now expired, the question must be put forthwith, “ That the motion he agreed to “.
I challenge those Ministers who treat this matter so lightly to show that in the few words I had uttered I did not deal with the question before the Chair. If we are to be governed by “ Rafferty’s “ rules we shall not get anywhere.
– I was not referring to you, sir. I feel aggrieved at having been called to order when my remarks were relevant, and I leave it to honorable members to decide whether, in their opinion, I was right or wrong.
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) called on me this morning, appearing much concerned because he was called to order by the Chair in the circumstances he has mentioned.I had not then seen the Hansard report of his remarks. The first portion of his remarks appear to be quite in order, but his concluding statement that the Government had acted in a dastardly manner was, he must admit, unparliamentary. It was these words that prompted me to call him to order. If I unwittingly did himan injustice, I express my regret.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with the vote I recorded on the motion moved by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) for the reduction by 40 per cent. of the allowance of Ministers and members of this Parliament. I express my surprise that any honorable member should abuse the privileges he enjoys under our Standing Orders by moving a motion which he knows there is not the slightest chance of being carried. As a result of his motion one of the ablest members of the Cabinet has resigned. I express my sympathy with the Minister who has resigned from the Cabinet on such a trivial question.
– An honorable member, when given permission to make a personal explanation, is not entitled to refer, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is now doing, to something that arose out of a previous debate.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Board’s reports on bunker coal, roadmaking material including bitumen and bitumastic emulsion, and piece goods in the gray or undyed state, and move -
That the papersbe printed.
Mr.Forde. - Can the Assistant Minister give the House any indication when the discussion on the tariff will be proceeded with?
– It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the discussion on the 13th October next.
Motion agreed to.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from the 22nd September, vide page 724).
Clause 12 (Definitions).
– This clause proposes to amend section 34 of the principal act in respect of the definition of income. The amount of the income of an old-age pensioner has to be estimated in order to ascertain the amount of pension to which he is entitled. From the income so estimated for the purposes of the act, certain receipts are excluded. At present, payments by way of gift or allowance from mother, father, son or daughter or legally adopted son or daughter are excluded. It is proposed in a later clause of the bill to provide that certain relatives - husband, wife, mother, father or children - shall, in certain circumstances, be subject to the obligationto contribute to the cost of the ponsion of an old-age or invalid pensioner. In order to bring this provision with respect to income into accord with the provisions which make it possible to require contributions from relatives, the list of relatives is altered in the amendment circulated. It is impossible to discuss this clause without making some reference to the general scheme of which it is a part, and, therefore, I mention now that a subsequent amendment requires such relatives, if in a position to do so, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, to contribute towards the cost of the pension paid to the old-age or invalid pensioner. It is not, however, the intention to provide that where the relatives are already contributing, the pensioner shall be subjected to any disadvantage in respect of such contributions, in the diversion of any portion of such contributions into Consolidated Revenue. The effect of this and other provisions is this : That any allowance received from the named relatives will not be taken into account in estimating the pension. That is to say, that the husband, wife, father, mother or children of the pensioner may make any contribution towards the support of the pensioner without affecting the amount of the income for pension purposes. It has always been the law, in the case of applicants for an invalid pension, that a pension shall not be granted if relatives are adequately maintaining an applicant for a pension. It is proposed that the same qualification shall be introduced into the provision relating to the granting of old-age pensions. That is to say, that in both cases, if relatives do, in fact, adequately maintain the applicant, no pension is to be granted. Under the law as it stands at present, a relative may furnish a person with an income of £20 a week, and this will not disentitle him to receive an old-age pension. We propose to alter that by providing that, if a person is in fact adequately maintained, he shall not be eligible for an old-age pension. But the provision will be retained which relates to the effect upon the amount of pension payable of allowances from relatives. Take the case in which a son allows, say, 12s. 6d. a week to a father. At present the receipt of that money does not decrease the amount of pension paid. If it were taken into account, and the son were required to pay the money into Consolidated Revenue instead of to the pensioner, the latter would receive only, say, 15s. instead of 27s. 6d. That is not desired, and it will be prevented by the amendments that are to be proposed. In the case that I have mentioned, the pensioner will be entitled to continueto receive the 12s. 6d. without having the rate of his pension affected. But there are other provisions which make it possible to obtain a contribution from relatives who are in a position to make it, regard being had to the persons dependent upon them, and also to any amount that they may have already paid. Let as consider the case of a man in receipt of thousands of pounds a year, whose father is an old-age pensioner, who could quite easily support his father entirely, and yet pays him only 12s. 6d. a week. Such considerations do not arise in determining eligibility.
– In such a case what would he the rate of pension?
– It would he 15s. a week. But, under later clauses of the bill, if such a wealthy man does not agree to make a contribution towards the cost of the pension, he can be compelled to do so. He would certainly be ordered to pay into ConsolidatedRevenue the 2s. 6d. needed to make up the 15s., and, if the magistrate thought proper, the whole of the 15s. The point that I wish to make clear is that the bill does not in any way prejudice a pensioner by reason of contributions from the relatives named in the measure.
– If the contribution of a wealthy son is not to be regarded as income, will not the father be entitled to a pension of 17s. 6d. ?
– The bill provides that, while the normal rate of pension shall be 15s., in cases where there is no other income and the pensioner is wholly dependent on his pension it shall be 17s. 6d. That principle also applies where there is other income, but it is less than 2s. 6d. a week. A pensioner with no relatives helping him, but with an income of1s. a week, would receive 16s. 6d. a week. Where there is a contribution by the named relatives, that is to be taken into account as part of the income. Consequently, if a son gives his father 2s. 6d. a week, the pension will be at the rate of 15s. a week, and if his contribution be1s. a week, the pension will be at the rate of 16s. 6d. a week. The result of these provisions, therefore, is that there will always be a minimum income of 17s. 6d. a week.
– If the son contributes 10s. a week the pension will stillbe 15s. a week.
– That is so.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has left the impression that this bill will not reduce the pension in cases where the contri bution by a son to his father amounts to 12s. 6d. a week. That is not correct. For the first time it is proposed by this bill that the contribution of a son to a father is to be regarded as income.
– An amendment that has been circulated removes the right honorable member’s objection, because such contributions are to be excluded from income.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that if a son is contributing 12s. 6d. a week the pensioner will receive 15s. in pension?
– I want honorable members to realize that under clause 14 a contribution by a son will be taken into account in determining whether a pensioner has other income; and if he has, his pension will be only 15s. a week, which is a reduction of 2s. 6d. a week on what he is receiving to-day.
– There is a reduction of 2s. 6d. a week in some cases, certainly.
– That is contradictory of a statement by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that I have read this morning, in which he said that no cut whatever was being made in pensions. The honorable gentleman could not have read the bill. No one can calculate exactly the number of persons who will be affected. There is no data in the department that would enable such a calculation to be made. The only guide that we have is the report of the department, which states that 50,000 pensioners are not receiving the full rate of pension. Those persons must have an income from different sources of more than 12s. 6d. a week. Surely it is fair to assume that at least another 50,000 have incomes of less than 12s. 6d. a week. Any pensioner who has an income of 2s. 6d. a week or more will be reduced to a pension of 15s. a week. Consequently it would be a very low estimate to say that from 100,000 to 150,000 persons will have their pension reduced immediately by 2s. 6d. a week.
I come now to the amendment which adds to what is to be regarded as income. The Attorney-General has said that this principle is already in the law. I dispute that. To some extent the principle of contributions being made by certain relatives to invalids is in the law. But the contributions of children to their parents’ keep are on an entirely different principle. In connexion with old-age pensions the principle is accepted that a husband must maintain his wife, and vice versa, and the income of each is considered to bo half of their combined incomes. The principle is in a slightly extended form in the invalid pension act, because an invalid may not be a husband or a wife. Consequently a son or a daughter must be maintained by the parents, and a husband must maintain his wife, and vice versa. Now, however, a new contribution is being introduced, and provision is being made for what is not the lawin any part of Australia with the exception, I believe, of some obsolete legislation in Queensland. I understand that there is a provision in an obsolete Queensland act, whichhas never been in operation, that children are legally liable for the support of their parents; but the insertion of such a provision in our old-age pension law would be entirely new. The moral duly of children to support their parents stands unchallenged, but I certainly challenge the statement that any such legal duty is at. present incorporated in our old-age pension law.
Then, again, nothing in this bill defines the meaning of adequate maintenance. I suppose the subject will be dealt with by regulation or departmental administration. In my opinion, it would be entirely unfair for the Parliament to pass this provision without fixing standards for the guidance of the department administering the law. “Will persons who are on the basic wage be required to contribute to the support of their parents? Perhaps persons in receipt of less than the basic wage may be required to do so. If not, what margin will be allowed over the basic wage? What attitude will be adopted by the authorities in regard to the number of the dependants of sons and daughters who might be required to. contribute to the maintenance of their parents? We know that to-day whole families are out of work. Our old-age and invalid pension department has earned the respect of Parliament, but if we oblige its officers to determine such matters as these, we shall certainly bring it into disrepute.
Early this morning I said that the only bit of logic in the speech made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), in moving his amendment in relation to parliamentary allowances, was the statement that honorable members who refused to vote for a double cut in their own emoluments should also refuse to vote for a double cut in pensions. The honorable member was right when he claimed support for his amendment from all those who intended to vote for the reduction of the pension. I voted against tho amendment because I thought it was unreasonable, but this proposal is far more unreasonable.
– The right honorable member is misleading the committee. What amount would have been cut from the parliamentary allowance under the amendment of the honorable member for Angas and what amounts would be cut from the pensions under this proposal?
– The honorable member for Balaclava is apparently quite prepared to make a double cut. in the pensions, but is not willing to make a double cut in his own allowance.
Under the Premiers plan it was decided to reduce pensions by 12½ per cent., ministerial allowances by 25 per cent, and the parliamentary allowance by 20 per cent., but there is no analogy between the two cases. A reduction of 12½ per cent. in the pensions is far more serious than a reduction of 20 per cent. in parliamentary allowances.
It is deplorable that it should be made a criminal offence for a pensioner to fail to notify the department within 30 days that some little property or certain gifts have been made to him. To enact that such an omission shall render a pensioner liable to imprisonment for a month or to a fine of £10 is a totally unjust thing. Can it be expected that old-age or invalid pensioners will be able to comply with a law like this? Yet if they fail to do so they will doubtless be told that ignorance of the law is no defence. It is difficult enough for pensioners to make the returns which the department now requires, but it would be impossible for many of them, on their own initiative, to furnish the department with the extra information which will be required under this bill. Yet failure to provide it will make a pensioner guilty of a criminal offence and render him liable to, amongst other things, the cancellation of his pension for two years. This is the worst example of draconian legislation that I have ever seen.
.- I am anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on this point. The amendment which has just been circulated makes it necessary for us to consider four documents in dealing with this matter, and that is rather difficult to do. The definition of “income” in the Old-age and Invalid Pension Act states that income shall be deemed not to include payment -
But under the amended provisions that part of the definition is to be dropped and a new paragraph d is to be inserted, which reads -
I am unable to see how that amendment alters the position.
– It is altered by the proposed amendment of clause 14.
– That amendment adds the following proviso : -
Provided also that for the purpose of the last preceding proviso the income of a person shall be deemed to include any payment by way of gift or allowance from the husband, wife, father, mother or child of that person.
– But no pensioner will have less income than 17s. 6d. a week.
– In view of that proposed amendment, I can see that there is a difficulty.
Mr.Rosevear. - That being so, will the honorable member withdraw the press statement that he made in regard to pensions?
– There is no need to do that, for that statement dealt with the bill as it then stood and was made before this amendment was circulated. In any circumstance, the income of a pensioner is protected at 17s. 6d. a week.
– But the pensioner will not have a pension of that amount.
.- Under existing legislation there is no provision for the deduction from taxation returns of gifts made by children torelatives in receipt of a pension. Seeing that legal provision is now being made to oblige certain relatives to contribute towards the support of their parents, I ask the Government to undertake that such gifts may be deducted from taxable income. It has always seemed to me cruel that the deduction of such amounts has hitherto been disallowed.
. - The point raised by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will receive consideration when we are dealing with the Income Tax Assessment Bill; it could not properly be dealt with in this measure. There will be considerable difficulty in adopting this suggestion, because the spending of money by parents in supporting their children might, with equal justification, be regarded as the fulfilment of a moral obligation, and we could hardly deduct the amount so spent from their income. I had hoped that I had made it clear to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that if this legislation is adopted, no old-age or invalid pensioner will have an income of less than 17s. 6d. a week. That is the governing principle in clause 14. If, from his family or from other sources, he receives an income of under 2s. a week, his total payment of 17s. 6d. will be made up of, say, 1s. income, and 16s. 6d. pension. Where the income of a pensioner is more than 2s. 6d. a week he will be entitled to a pension fixed in accordance with the ordinary practice.
– If a pensioner is in receipt of 2s. 6d. a week from some member of his family or from other sources, he will get a pension of only 15s. a week.
– That is the intention of the legislation, and that is where the saving will be made.
– The most remarkable incident in the debate so far was the admission of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). He went to great pains to indicate, to his constituents, I presume, that this measure did not interfere in any way with payments to pensioners. It is a wonder that the honorable gentleman did not try to persuade them that their position would be improved under this measure. His remarks this morning suggest that he did not know the precise nature of the Government’s proposal; though in his press statement he claimed to know all about it. Will any honorable member say that a pension of even fi a week met all the requirements of those who were forced to live under it? Recently the inmates of the Waterfall Sanitorium sent to me and, I assume, to other honorable members also, a statement of their circumstances, and asked that their position be not interfered with under this legislation. The majority of those persons have spent the greater part of their working lives underground, with the result that their health has been shattered. They are now forced to spend the remaining years of their life in that institution, and, as my friend the former member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) used to say, “ are daily expectorating away their lives.” Under this legislation their allowance of 5s. a week, fixed by the Financial Emergency Act, will be cut down to 3s. 9d. Apparently, this “ humane “ Government considers that 5s. a week is too much for these unfortunate people.
– If they receive any outside assistance, it will be considered as income.
– Exactly. Any help which they receive from friends or relatives will be taken into account by the department in assessing the amount of allowance to be paid to them. This treatment is calculated to deprive them of help from friends. Consequently, they will be unable to obtain additional comforts during the few remaining years of their lives.
– The words “entirely dependent “ make that very clear.
– That is so. Another class of pensioner to be penalized by this legislation is the person who has contributed a few shillings a week towards superannuation benefits and receives a small income from this investment. Any payments in this form will be regarded as income. Similarly, assistance given to invalid pensioners will penalize them, although, in many cases, such assistance is absolutely essential to their comfort and happiness.
– Many invalid pensioners are juniors.
– That may be true, but I know of a number of young people,- some of whom are entirely incapacitated, and need attention continuously from relatives in their homes. It would be most unfair if any monetary assistance which they receive from relatives were debited against their pension allowance. These’ are factors of which honorable members should take notice, regardless of their political convictions. If we consider all such cases from the purely humane standpoint, we must be forced to the conclusion thm this amending legislation will operate most harshly against a considerable number of unfortunate people, some of them have sunk low in health and will really be regarded by this measure as outcasts of society. Sometimes, I feel that the more humane course would be to remove them from the earth than to treat them in the way that is now proposed, because of the mental anguish which they must suffer from the knowledge that their condition is so hopeless, because they do not know from week to week what may happen to them. I also object to the inquisitorial nature of the application forms which will have to be filled in by persons claiming pension benefits. Before the department will pay a pension, it must be satisfied as to the financial position of relatives, and as these may be scattered throughout all the States of the Commonwealth, a pension applicant may be unable to furnish the necessary information. Consequently, the pension may be withheld from him indefinitely. Even under existing conditions there is considerable delay, because the Deputy Commissioners must comply with the strict letter of the law and the regulations framed under it. It will be almost impracticable to operate this amending legislation, because, while the Deputy Commissioner may have certain discretionary power, his decisions which involve payments will be subject to strict scrutiny by the Auditor-General. For that reason he will always take the extrasafe course. Another of the necessary conditions for the receipt of an invalid or old-age pension is that the applicant has not, within the period of five years preceding the date of his pension claim, “ transferred otherwise than bona fide for value property of any kind exceeding in value in the aggregate the sum of £100 “. This provision may operate harshly in many cases. For example, a man may be engaged in a certain industry and, through some unfortunate accident, may be forced to apply for an invalid pension. If within a period of five years preceding his claim he had transferred property of the aggregate value of £100, he would probably be ineligible for pension benefits.
– The proviso to section 34c makes it clear that he will not be ineligible in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member.
– We all know what will happen in such cases, and I repeat that it will be most unfair to throw the responsibility on the Deputy Commissioner. In its amended form, the measure will cover many aspects of family life not. touched by the parent act.
– It will intensify a thousand times the difficulties of applicants.
– Exactly. Even under the present act we hear numerous complaints of the use of this discretionary power by the Deputy Commissioner, and, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has said, the source of irritation will be intensified a thousandfold. Under clause 13, the Government proposes to set up a new police force, the purpose apparently being to try to run these unfortunate people off the earth. That clause authorizes the Deputy Commissioner to delegate certain powers vested in him, and I suppose we shall have around the pension- offices in all the States an army of-
– An army of pimps.
– Yes, or, at any rate, an army of individuals who will roam the cities and the countryside endeavouring to secure information. This bill will give every scope to the practices of informers. It is my experience that this practice of informing prevails to a greater degree in respect of pensioners than in respect of any other section of the community. Immediately certain information is forwarded to the department, the pension ceases, and the pensioner is called upon to disprove the charge preferred against him. Even now, with the limited scope given by the existing act, for many reasons which are not always bona fideperhaps because of some family quarrel, or a squabble among neighbours - there are some individuals unjust enough to forward to the pensions office charges against persons in receipt of pensions. In such cases, it is the practice of the department to adopt the method of warfare, by applying economic pressure. It suspends the payment of the pension, and throws upon the pensioner the onus of proving that what has been charged against him is contrary to fact. Moreover, he does not know who has made the charge against him. Although the informer may be the greatest “ crook “ possible, the pensioner may lose his pension, and is, in any case, put to considerable inconvenience to disprove the charge preferred against him.
– The honorable member does not object to proper supervision in order to safeguard the public interest.
– I am not objecting to supervision ; it is necessary in all walks of life.
– Mr. Lang appointed dole inspectors.
– Yes, and to my knowledge they carried out their duties judiciously and wisely. There were never any serious complaints against them, and always the benefit of the doubt was given to those who might otherwise have had their food relief withdrawn.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has raised points which are important and deserving of reply. The honorable member has complained that grants of pension will be delayed and great administrative expense caused, and, possibly, suffering to applicants, by reason of the provisions in the bill which lay down the procedure for contributions from certain relatives. The honorable member has misunderstood the position. No pension application will Le delayed on account of any of tlie provisions in the bill relating to contributions by relatives. The grant of pension is made before and independent of such contributions, and the amount of the pension is not affected by any contribution which may be obtained from a relative by virtue of the application of subsequent provisions of this .bill. In other words, so far as the grant of the pension and its amount are concerned, in the case of both invalid and old-age pensions, the act will operate freely and independently of the provisions in the later portion of the measure relating to contributions by relatives. In regard to inquiries from the relatives under proposed new section 52m, it is required by proposed 11ew section 52a that there shall be a return showing the property owned by the pensioner. Such information is already called for under regulation. The clause also requires a return giving particulars as to the relatives, but not as to the relatives’ property; the latter would be quite unreasonable, and is not required. If honorable members will look at the proposed amendments they will see that every attempt is made to deal with the matter of contributions by relatives without, bringing any relative before a court, and that the only relatives brought before a court are’ those who, having been given every opportunity to contribute, refuse to do so, although, in the opinion of the Deputy Commissioner, they are in a position to contribute. The Deputy Commissioner may, not shall, send notices to relatives asking them to make a voluntary proposal for a contribution, or to submit a declaration as to means and ability to contribute. If the matter is arranged on the basis of a voluntary proposition, either immediately or subsequently, the whole thing is settled ; there are no court proceedings. These are taken only in respect of cases in which there is either a refusal to make any proposal, or a refusal to make a declaration as to means and ability to contribute, or the proposal made is, in the opinion of the Deputy Commissioner, not a fair one, having regard to all the circumstances. Under the final amendment proposed by the Government, the court will sit in camera to consider the means and ability of the relative, after taking into consideration all claims upon him by others whom he is supporting, and any special features of the case, including any contribution which he already voluntarily makes. But these proceedings can be taken only after the matter baa been first dealt with on a voluntary basis between the Deputy Commissioner and the relative.
.- The bill is bristling with difficulties, and, if it becomes law, will be very hard to administer. Provision is made for the children of pensioners to maintain their parents. It is true that, in certain instances, the pension will not be reduced ; but, in my opinion, the majority of pensions will be reduced.
– Fully SO per cent, of them.
– I agree with the honorable member. From the experience I have had in dealing with pension cases in my electorate, I feel sure that there will be thousands of pensions cancelled as a result of this legislation. Rather than submit to the humiliating conditions imposed, by this measure, the pensioners will allow their pensions to be cancelled. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has pointed Out, quite a large staff of inspectors will be needed to police the act, and, as all honorable members are aware, the aged people of this country will not stand for inquisitorial methods on the part of the department. They will surrender their pensions rather than be subjected to humiliating inquiries by inspectors into their affairs. I have in mind the case of a son and daughter who, being anxious to assist their parents, paid £300 for a home, and had the property transferred into the names of the parents. If this bill becomes law, that property will be taken over by the Commonwealth Government to recoup it for the amount of pension paid to the parents, although they have paid no portion of the purchase money. Such a provision, it seems to me, is mostunfair to sons and daughters who are anxious to assist their aged parents. The infirm workers of this country are very badly off. Although sons and daughters may be willing to maintain aged parents, they may not be similarly disposed towards invalid relatives. There, are thousands of these, who cannot be classed as totally or permanently incapacitated, and are not eligible for pensions. 1 Intend to oppose the clause and the proposed amendment, because I contend that, in principle, they are not in keeping with tlie spirit of the principal act, and will operate harshly and unjustly against those persons whom we should protect.
.- The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that if those honorable members who are supporting the bill wished to be logical, they would have supported the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), providing for a reduction of 40 per cent, in the parliamentary allowance of ministers and members. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to mislead the committee, and 1 asked him to state the actual percentage reduction in each case.
– Which I did.
– No ; the right honorable gentleman devoted a good deal of his time to an attack upon me. He is at his best with fierce elocution on imagined wrongs. But we know that at the Trades Hall he has been referred to as “ nobody’s dog,” and that he is making strenuous efforts to rehabilitate a shattered reputation. Nevertheless, in the electorate which I represent, he has been referred to by officials of the Australian Labour Party as the champion pension slasher of all time. The old-age pension reduction made by the Government of which he was the leader was 3 2-Jf per cent., whereas that moved by the honorable member for Angas in connexion with parliamentary allowances was 40 per cent. The proposal of this Government is to leave the pension of indigent persons at 17s. 6d. a week, as it is at present; but that the rate of pensioners with a certain income shall be reduced by 2s. 6d. a week. The number to he so reduced is indefinite. There will be difficulties in administration, too, but the provisions of this bill will .be reasonably administered by the department. Even if the percentage reduction in pensions were doubled, which it is not-
– Tt is.
– I cannot see that it is in the case of a pensioner who has no income.
– In the case of those who have an income of only 2s. 6d. a eek, the reduction will be doubled, and the honorable member voted against doubling the reduction of . the parliamentary allowance.
– Those who have an income from other sources will suffer a reduction, but those who. have not will continue to receive the present pension. ‘The per cent, reduction has not been doubled, and, therefore, the contention of the right honorable member is quite illogical. The present reduction in the parliamentary allowance is 25 per cent., but the proposed cut in pensions will be less than that. ‘The object of the Premiers plan was to spread reductions ou a percentage basis as equitably as possible over all sections of the community. Honorable members may recall that I suggested some time ago that it was time to make substantial reductions in the expenditure of the Public Service; but that, before we did so, a start should be made on our own allowance. That policy waa adopted by the Labour party, which had previously opposed it. If a further reduction in public servants’ salaries and governmental expenditure generally is necessary, I shall support a further reduction in the parliamentary allowance; but all these cuts must be relative. The percentage reduction in invalid and old-age pensions should be lower than in other instances. The Public Service Board states in its latest report that those in receipt of salaries up to £250 per annum have to submit to a reduction of IS per cent., up to £1.000, 20 per cent., up to £2,000, 22$ per cent., and over £2,000, 25 per cent. The right honorable member endeavoured to prove that those honorable members who opposed the amendment of the honorable member for Angas were illogical, but, in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions, he has shown himself to be most illogical.
.- I very much regret’ that owing to the indecent haste in which this measure has been rushed through this House, I was prevented from speaking on the second reading, more particularly with respect to those provisions which relate to the Public Service, and the navy, army, and air forces. However, we now have to devote the limited time at our disposal to the remaining clauses of the bill, which will be taken en bloc, and, therefore, any suggestions made will necessarily receive short shrift. I think it was the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) who said that honorable members on this side of the House represented 90 per cent. of the capital in Australia. If the representation of a large number of invalid and old-age pensioners is of any merit, the. electorate which Irepresent will not take second place to any other. In these circumstances, I am keenly interested in the subject of pensions. I was strongly opposed to the Government’s pension proposals as outlined in the budget speech, not because I think that the country is in a position to continue to pay unnecessarily high rates in connexion with its social services, but because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) mentioned in that speech that there was a possibility of the Government inaugurating a contributory pensions system. In those circumstances, I think that the existing rates should have been allowed to continue until a modified system was brought into operation. Some of the opposition to these proposals has been based largely on fallacy, and my view-point has been changed since the Government amended its pension scheme. When the pension system was first introduced many years ago, it was considered by some persons disgraceful to accept a pension.
– That is not so.
– It was in many instances. Children did not like their parents to be in receipt of a pension. That objection has now been overcome, and as the recipients of pensions have become more numerous, the expenditure has increased. In this connexion I am reminded of the lines of Pope -
Yet seen too oft, familiar withher face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Unfortunately, the pension system has in some instances been abused. Some say that the abuse has been exaggerated, but although it is difficult to prove that abuse is taking place, we have every reason to suspect that persons not entitled to pensions receive them. I strongly support what has been said concerning the sympathetic way in which the act is administered by the Commissioner. We are justified in assuming that he will exercise similar discretion in administering this measure when it is enacted. It is only those who have abused the privilege who will be inconvenienced. Those who have done so should be dealt with. The way in which the law is being amended will automatically prevent abuse. Instances have been mentioned in which persons, just before reaching the qualifying age, have disposed of their capital in order to become eligible for a pension, but such conduct on the part of some is not a reason why genuine cases should be penalized. The Commissioner is able to deal with those who make false declarations. There are not many who will adopt the role of informers.
– If some have made a false declaration that is no justification for reducing the rate to genuine persons.
– Such persons will not be affected. It is only fair that persons who are able to support their relatives should do so. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) referred to the position of a rich son who might be contributing to the support of his parents. If a man were contributing 12s. 6d. a week towards the support of his aged parents and that was the full amount he was able to con tribute, then, according to the Attorney-General, a pensioner would still receive a pension of 15s. But in another portion of the bill provision is made for an inquiry to see whether the son should contribute to the Consolidated Revenue in order to make up portion of the pension.
– The result of that inquiry will not affect the rate of the pension.
– How does it affect the son? Would any payment to Consolidated Revenue be deductedfrom the 12s. 6d. he was contributing?
– No, that is provided for.
– If the son were required to contribute to the Consolidated Revenue to make up the pension, would it absolve him from the payment of the 12s. 6d. which he made in the form of a private contribution to the pensioner?
– I shall answer that point fully, later.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) mentioned the Waterfall Sanatorium, in my electorate.The only escape for many of these unfortunate persons, who are suffering from tuberculosis, is death. Those who are cared for in such institutions receive only bare sustenance. The amount they get in pension is used to purchase fruit, soap, socks, shaving gear, tobacco, wool and cotton for mending their clothing, newspapers, writing material, and almost everything else, with the exception of food. It seems unjust to inflict any hardship on such persons, who, because of the infectious character of their complaint, are not welcomed even among their own relatives, and are segregated from their fellows.
– Does the honorable member agree that their pension should be reduced by1s. 3d. a week?
– That is most unfair.
– Then will the honorable member vote against the bill?
– I shall not. I am urging the amendment of that provision, or its administration in a just manner. Members of both wings of the Labour party in this chamber have criticized the reduction in wages.
Their argument has been that loss will be occasioned to the spending power of the community. The foremost example of loss of spending power in Australia today is that of the Commonwealth itself, and that is our justification for supporting the Government in this matter. The national income has dropped tremendously ; consequently, we are not able to spend on social services what could be spent when we were better off. I consider that it is fair to ask relatives to assume some portion of this burden.
.- Mr. Bell-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).The honorable the Attorney-General.
Honorable members persistently inter
– If honorable members do not want an explanation of points that have just been raised, I have no wish to force it on them. I shall therefore resume my seat.
– I still have considerable difficulty in regard to what constitutes the income of a pensioner under this proposed legislation. Take the case of a person who is living in a house that he owns. He has no source of income other than the pension. At the present time, he receives a pension of 17s. 6d. a week. There is a mortgage on his property, the interest, on which, together with the rates and taxes levied by different authorities, are being discharged by his son. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that those payments by the son amount to 12s. 6d. a week. Will they be regarded as the income of the pensioner?
– No. In the case to which the honorable member refers, the payments are made to a mortgagee or a municipality, and in no sense are regarded as income for the purpose of determining the rate of pension. Such a pensioner would receive 17s. 6d. a week.
– When the Commissioner inquires into the circumstances of the pensioner’s relatives, will those payments be regarded as a contribution within the meaning- of the act?
– It is the intention of the Government to direct the Commissioner that, where there is a fair contribution, no further steps shall be taken. It is entirely a matter of administration. The provision relating to it enacts only that the Commissioner may send out to relatives notices requiring a contribution to be made.
– The Commissioner may consider a contribution to be fair, or he may not; it will depend on what income the man has.
– Let us suppose, however, that the matter reaches the court. In that case, the magistrate will be directed to take into account any allowance that the court is satisfied will help to maintain the pensioner without any order being made under the section.
– It will depend on the mind of the magistrate.
– Of course it will.
– The facts in each case will have to be considered by the Commissioner, and, if the matter goes to the court, by the magistrate.
– Yes. But the amount of the pension will be unaffected throughout.
– Does that mean that these contributions by the son will not be a charge against the property; in other words, that the son will have no right to recover them on the death of his father?
– That is so; the law, as it stands at present in that respect, will continue to operate. It is entirely a matter of private arrangement between the son and the father.
– But the pension will become a charge against the property upon the death of the pensioner.
– I should like the Government to consider seriously the possibility of making some concession in favour of blind persons. It cannot be denied that every blind worker in the Commonwealth will be called upon to contribute the difference between the £45 10s. that he is now receiving by way of pension, and the £39 that he will receive under this law. It is true that, at the present time, a blind person is able to earn up to £221 per annum without affecting his pension. But very few blind people are in a position to make good the difference between the present and the future rate of pension. My fellow members may be able to appreciate what the handicap of blindness means; I know from experience. These blind workers are carrying the full responsibilities of citizenship. They are in a position to enter into and to sustain the different relationships of life. They are trained to all kinds of callings. But with their handicap it is impossible for them to compete with those who are not similarly afflicted. With the pension as it is now, and with other assistance, they are able to make a decent income; but if the law is altered as proposed, the income of each will be reduced by £6 10s. a year. I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) whether it is not possible to make some concession in their case. I am confident that every honorable member would be prepared to do so were it possible.
There should be a general recognition of the fact that sympathy with affliction is not confined to any one party. No man has more sympathy than another with real affliction. I speak from experience. It is impossible for me to say a bitter or an unkind word to or about any honorable member of this House, no matter to what party he belongs or how extreme he may be in politics; I have had first hand experience of the fact that every honorable member is willing on the instant to respond to the needs of one who is in want of his help. As I have mentioned previously, many a time when I have been in an awkward position within the precincts of this House, I have had a hand placed on my arm and have been assisted to safety ; and I could not for the life of me tell whether it was a Labour, a Nationalist or for that matter a Communist hand; it was simply a kindly human touch. In considering what assistance may be given to the aged and the infirm, why can we not recognize that we are all anxious to do everything possible in the circumstances? We may differ in opinion as to what is possible, but we are as one as to what is desirable. Each of us would be willing to go as far as our circumstances allowed in the direction of alleviating the conditions of these people.
– I wish to reply to the rather moving appeal of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The honorable gentleman is, I think, under a misapprehension as to the effect of this proposal. Last year when the invalid and old-age pension law was amended, no alteration was made in the amount that a blind person was able to earn namely, £221 ; nor is any alteration being made in that amount now; it is being left precisely where it was. At present the pension to which a blind pensioner is entitled is £45 10s. a year, and he is permitted to earn £175 10s. a year, making £221 in all. If this bill be passed, the alteration will be that the amount of pension will be £39 a year and theamount of income that may be earned £182 a year, making £221 in all. The only blind persons who will be prejudicially affected in any way in relation to this aspect of the matter will be those ‘who earn incomes between the precise figures of £168 10s. and £175 a year.No other blind persons will be affected. If the honorable member for Fawkner is able to show that injustice will be imposed upon such persons, the Government will be prepared to consider his submissions.
– Is it not a fact that the amount of pension will be reduced from £45 10s. to £39 a. year?
– Or, in other words, that the pension will be 15s a week instead of 17s. 6d. a week?
– That is so, but I understood that the honorable member for Fawkner was under the impression that the amount of income that a blind pensioner would be allowed to receive would be reduced.
– I understand that the total amount will still be £221.
– That is so. I have evidently misunderstood the honorable member’s point. Where there is an income of more than 17s. 6d. a week, a reduction of 2s. 6d. a week will be made in the pension.
.-Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) informed this committee that, notwithstanding any arguments advanced against the proposals of this bill, the Government intended to insist that it be passed as placed before the House. It would seem, therefore, to be a waste of time for us to discuss the measure, for the Government does not intend to be influenced by any arguments against it. But when we remember that only a few days ago the right honorable gentleman said that the Government intended to insist on the reduction of the pension to 15s. a week, even to the extent of making it a vital test, and that it has now decided that 17s.6d. a week may be allowed in certain cases, it, would seem to be possible that if a sufficiently strong case could be put forward, even the Government and its supporters might be led to review their position. Unfortunately, however, insufficient time has been allowed for the discussion of the matter.
In dealing with this measure it is necessary for honorable members, as pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), to consider not only the bill before us, but the two financial emergency acts now in operation, and also the several principal acts which this measure seeks to amend, and the fifteen proposed amendments which have been placed on the table this morning. It is only too obvious, therefore, that in the limited time allowed very few honorable members can possibly understand all the exceptions, qualifications and provisos that are being introduced. It is impossible properly to understand this bill in the short time that has been allowed for its consideration by the Government. That has been amply demonstrated this morning by the fact that two legal gentlemen on the other side of the House have admitted that they do not understand what the Government is seeking to do. It would have been far better had the Government followed precedent and arranged for the consolidation of these new proposals with the principal acts, so that we could have had the whole matter clearly before us.
As an honorable member who was prevented last evening from doing my duty to my constituents through not being allowed to speak on the second reading or committee stage of this bill, I wish to protest against the application of the guillotine to the measure. The method by which this was done prevented any discussion whatever at the committee stage of the bill of the proposed alteration in the conditions governing the payment of the maternity allowance, and of the reductions in Public Service salaries. On those two important matters, not. a word was said for or against.
It does not seem to be clear to the supporters of the Government that under the provisions of this bill the invalid and oldage pension is actually being fixed at 15s. a week. If the proposed amendments of our pensions law are read in conjunction with the provisions of the Financial Emergency Act and the amendments to it, it will he seen that we are providing that -
The amount of pension shall in each case beat such rate as, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who determines the pension claim deems reasonable and sufficient, but shall not exceed the rate of£39 per annum in any case, nor shall it be at such a rate as will not make the pensioner’s income together with pension exceed £71 10s. per annum.
Therefore, the pension is now fixed at 15s. a week, although, in certain cases, provision is made that an amount not exceeding 17s. 6d. a week may he paid. One such proviso is contained in the amendments tabled this morning. It reads as follows : -
Provided further that where by virtue of the provisions of this act a pensioner or claimant is eligible for a pension at the rate of thirtynine pounds per annum and is in receipt of an income of less than 2s.6d. the amount of pension may be at such rate as the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who determines the claim deems reasonable and sufficient but so that the amount of the pensioner’s income together with the pension shall not exceed £45 10s. per annum.
There is, therefore, no definite assurance that a pension of 17s. 6d. a week will be paid even in such cases. That is to be the maximum, but the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner may determine that 15s., 15s. 6d., 16s. or any amount less than 17s. 6d. a week may be paid. In my opinion, the amended proposals are worse than those originally submitted to us. This will be discovered by other honorable members when the administration of these new provisions is commenced. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said that the Government cannot indicate definitely what amount will be saved under these provisions, the right honorable gentleman has indicated that the budget must be balanced, and that £1,100,000 must be saved in our pensions expenditure, no matter how hard and cruel the making of the saving may be.
– And later it is intended to remit taxation.
Mr.BAKER. - That is so. An amount of £1,200,000 is being deliberately given back to certain taxpayers.
When the amount of the old-age pension was originally fixed, it was a bare subsistence allowance, not fixed in accordance with the decision of any court, or in relation to thebasic wage. It was never suggested that the amount should be affected by the rise or fall in the cost of living. But the Government is now introducing a totally new principle in providing that the miserable pittance that is allowed shall rise or fall according to the cost of living. It is also provided that relatives shall be forced to contribute to the maintenance of their needy parents. As pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), there is an act on the Queensland statute-book, entitled “ The Interstate Destitute Persons Relief Act,” under which a father or mother may sue a child over the age of 21 years for upkeep, if the child is able to contribute in this way. There is also a provision that a child under the age of eighteen may sue a parent for upkeep. But that act is practically a dead letter. I do not think that there has been a single case under it, because, although there may be a moral obligation upon relatives to care for other needy relatives, no one likes toparade such matters in public. Every effort is made to keep them as private as possible. People would rather suffer silently than take action under such an act.
One of the most vicious principles of a most vicious bill is that, on the death of a pensioner, the amount of pension he has received shall be the first charge Upon any property he may leave. That provision cannot be condemned too strongly. I am more than surprised that any government in this enlightened age should seek to enforce it.
Honorable members seem to regard our discussion of this bill with as little concern as they would the proceedings in an ordinary debating society, for they appear to have overlooked that its provisions directlyaffect a quarter of a million Australian people, and indirectly affect a million. This should be realized by those entitled to vote on the bill. It should also be realized that an effort is being made to inflict great hardship on the section of the community least able to bear it, and the section which is unable to fight for itself. That we are dealing with flesh and blood seems to be overlooked. The Government has determined that it will make its budget balance, no matter what may be the cost in suffering and hardship to the needy people of Australia. I wish particularly to protest against the intended treatment of inmates of public institutions. These people have already suffered severely, and it is now proposed that the paltry amount of 5s. a week received by them should be reduced to 3s. 9d.
There is only one other point upon which I would like to touch. At present a person has to be totally and permanently incapacitated before he can claim an invalid pension. If the act were construed strictly by medical men, a very small percentage of persons applying for the invalid pension would get it, because of. the difficulty of proving total and permanent incapacity. The act is in need of amendment in the direction of leniency, not severity. I hope the Government will reconsider the position of invalid pensioners before it is too late, and I appeal to those honorable members who posed as rebels during the earlier stages of the debate to support us now in the fight against the Government’s attack on those persons who. are least able to look after themselves.
.- I join in the appeal made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on behalf of blind pensioners. They should not be subjected to further cuts. The majority are able to earn something, and under this bill any property which they may possess will affect their pension payments.
– The position of blind persons will be looked into by the Government, but it must necessarily be considered in conjunction with many other hard cases.
-There is not time now to draft an amendment, and I was about to ask the Attorney-General for an undertaking such as that which he has just given the committee, namely, that pensions payable to the blind will be reconsidered and the necessary amendments made when the bill is before the Senate. I was not satisfied with the original proposals. There has been, however, a reconsideration of the whole position. I took part in the discussion, and as a result it was agreed to restore the full pension of 17s. 6d. to persons wholly dependent upon it. They represent 80 per cent. of the total pensioners.
– How does the honorable member get that percentage?
– The official figures in the budget disclose that approximately 77 per cent. of old-age pensioners, and 80 per cent. of invalid pensioners, draw the full amount of 17s. 6d. a week.
– That does not necessarily mean thatthey are wholly dependent on the pension. The honorable member has forgotten that a person may have an income of 12s. 6d. a week and still get the full pension.
– Only if the income is earned.
– As I understand the Government’s proposals, the full pension will be restored to80 per cent. of the persons drawing the pension. That I regard as a satisfactory compromise which I, among others, agree to accept, and having accepted it, I intend now to support generally the proposals of the Government. The position of blind pensioners is exceptional. For this reason I hope that during the week-end the Government will reconsider its decision and make the necessary amendments in another place.
Several honorable members rising,
– The honorable member for Reid-
.- Mr. Chairman–
– Last night when I rose to address the committee you, Mr. Chairman, overlooked me and gave the call to another honorable member who had spoken previously.
– The honorable member for Reid has not yet spoken in this debate.
– I do not say that the honorable member for Reid has; but two or three other honorable members who have had the call have done so. Because of the application of the guillotine, honorable members who wished to take part in the debate on the second reading are now being crowded out owing to the time limit.
– No other honorable member, except the Minister in charge of the bill, has spoken twice in this debate.
– I hoped that I would have an opportunity, during the secondreading debate, to say what I thought of this iniquitous measure, but the application of the guillotine prevented me from doing so. I am strenuously opposed to the reduction of the allowance to inmates of Government institutions from 5s. to 3s. 9d. a week. Pensioners in those places are particularly unfortunate. They get no clothing excepting the Government issue, which is not unlike a gaol uniform, and of course they get no tobacco, fruit, or other little comforts. At Newington, for example, the home for old ladies, no biscuits are provided.
– - Persons in gaol get some comforts.
– Of course they do. I. therefore hope that the Government will reconsider this matter, and not interfere with the allowances paid to these people. Every honorable member must have been deeply moved by the appeal made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on behalf of blind pensioners. All the inmates of these government institutions, and especially in those places where no clothing is provided, should receive our sympathetic consideration.
– They have votes.
– My association with inmates of government institutions does not date from my entry into the political life of this country. For 25 years I have been a regular visitor to these institutions, having taken part in concert parties, dances, and other social functions for the entertainment of the inmates. I hope that the Government will listen to the appeal made by the honorable member for Fawkner, and introduce amendments which will ensure to inmates of government institutions the allowance of 5s. a week as hitherto. It is said of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that he is hardhearted. I shall not judge him until I know his decision in this matter.
– The reduction is ls. 3d. off the amount paid to the institution and ls. 3d. off the amount paid to the pensioner, lt is suggested that that is fair.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral consider it fair?
– In the circumstances, yes. I am not sure that the money is not better spent by the institutions than by the pensioners themselves; but I am prepared to halve it.
– In any case, they will only get 3s. 9d. a week.
.- I am afraid that we are in a bit of a tangle over the Government’s proposals. I find it difficult to understand precisely what they mean, and I doubt that any other member of the committee is in a better position. After having studied the measure closely, I can sum up my knowledge of it by saying if this clause means that, then that clause must mean this ; and if that does, this does not. Even the legal luminaries among us are in doubt. The whole thing is a dreadful tangle. The framers of this bill are asking the pensions administrators to interpret an act that they cannot explain themselves. They arc like the girl who wrote a letter to her father and could not read it herself, but said that her father could read it because he was a better scholar. From my experience of the pension administrators they will honestly and fairly carry out the provisions of this bill, and the pensioners themselves will learn what it means, as will also the blind and the old people in our homes. It is a pity that the Government has brought it forward. It would have been much better if the Ministry had not interfered with the provisions relating to the invalid and old-age pensions. The Government is now asking us to vote for a measure to limit payments to all classes of pensioners to an amount very little more than the stamp allowance to members for their correspondence. The bill reminds me of a story told of an eminent cleric in this neighbourhood. It is said of him. that he once called at a certain farmhouse, where he remained overnight, and the following morning when the maid asked him what he would have for breakfast, he replied - “ Two boiled eggs will do, my little lass “. Later she brought him- fifteen, and when he expressed his astonishment and protested that he could not .possibly eat so many, the maid said, “ Oh, you will find it a hard job to get two good ones in the lot “. That, I think, may be said of the -many provisions in this bill. I am not going to vote for one clause of it. It is too paltry.
Passing through Adelaide the year before last, I met an old friend and asked him how things were going in South Australia. He said, “ They are terribly bad. The farmers are suffering from drought, the merchants are going bankrupt, the banks are hard put to it to keep going, thousands of people are starving or on the verge of starvation, property is becoming less and less valuable each clay, and tilings are very black.” I asked him what means the people of the State were taking to try to get out of their difficulties. He said, “ Watson, old man, I do not know. We are straining every muscle, we are spending sleepless nights in considering the best way to get out of our difficulties.” I said. “ But what really are you doing?” He replied, “ Well, we are all thinking out schemes of sacrifice for some one else to make.” And that exactly is what is happening in this Parliament to-day. It was proved by the vote on the motion to reduce the allowance of members.
– For the five minutes available to me I intend to speak in protest against the passage of this legislation. I have been in Parliament for 43 years and I have never previously seen its equal. Which Government will be most blamed - that which first blazed and laid the trail of this evil road, or the present Government which is going a step further - only the future will tell. Over 3,000 applications for pensions have passed through my office in one year. There are five pages of questions upon the claim form. I wonder if more answers have to be furnished by applicants for admission to workhouses in England. The most solemn document to which a signature has to be affixed is a will, and there only one signature is required, if it be properly witnessed. But for an application for an old-age pension, at least three signatures arc required. I pleaded very hard with the ex-Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, upon this point,but he had no heart for the old-age pensioner, and said that every question on the form was necessary. All that I can say is that I hope that his mother will never have to answer all these questions, and that he and his wife will never find it necessary to answer them plus those being added by the legislation we are now considering. They are like a nightmare to the aged. Surely all we need ask an applicant for a pension to answer is, “ How old are you? If you are not a native of the country, how long have you been in Australia? Have you any property or income?” The penalties for answering falsely are a sufficient deterrent to those who would otherwise give wrong; answers. If the Government intends to persist in this class of legislation, I dare it to grasp the nettle firmly, and to bring in a bill to deprive pensioners of votes. I am firmly of opinion that the last Government was swept out of office by the old-age pensioners and their friends and sympathizers. During the election campaign, I asked many of the pensioners who came to my office to give their votes for my friends who were seeking election for the Senate. Many of them refused to do so. Others ultimately promised to vote as I wished, but when they went down the three steps in front of my office - sometimes with assistance. - I knew in my heart that they would fail to keep their promise. That is why the ex-Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), to my regret, was swept out of political life, and the present Government, if it follows the course of trying to crush the lowly, will suffer a similar fate; because while it is easy to forgive, it is hard to forget. I hope that I shall live to see all these legal complexities and intricacies swept aside, and Australia leading the world in the bestowal of pensions upon its aged. No other country, with the exception of New Zealand, has so far sought to reduce the amount of the old-age pension. Having made my protest, I give place to some other honorable member.
– I had not intended to speak to-day, because of the limited period allotted for the discussion of this particular portion of the bill, but I feel impelled to indicate my pleasure at the amendments which the Government has brought forward. Like other honorable members, I was not altogether enamoured of the original proposals, but unlike some, I regard the Government’s steps in altering them as an indication of courage, rather than the reverse. I have listened to statements that suggest that honorable members opposite alone have the desire to conserve the interests of the indigent poor in our community. They have been reminded that the pension was not the gift of a Labour administration, and that the original pensions bill was introduced by an anti-Labour government. Their reply has been that the action of that Government was inspired by promises of support from certain. Labour interests in the Parliament of that time. I remind them, however, that provision for old age and invalidity was made in three of the States of the Commonwealth upwards of twelve years prior to the passing of the Commonwealth legislation.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause and the amendments, and not with the original act.
– I am pleased that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has lent a responsive ear to the appeal of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and that a very desirable amendment will he made before this measure becomes law. I also welcome the suggestion that, in conjunction with the claims of blind pensioners, the cases of equally deserving members of the community should also be considered. I do not join entirely in the appeal made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) on behalf of inmates of institutions of which there are one or two in the Parramatta electorate, because I can see the difficulties with which the Government would be confronted. It would, however, be cowardly on our part to refuse to face the fact that differentiations have to be made.
While it may be true that the moiety of the pension which is paid to the inmate pensioner is often spent in directions never intended by the legislature, there are other cases in which it is perfectly safe to give to the pensioner the full amount of the moiety. Honorable members must not forget that it was the previous Administration whichreduced the moiety from 5s. 6d. to 5s. The present Government in giving effect to its proposals in this bill has not made any departure in that particular. I take second place to no honorable member opposite in my desire to conserve the interests of the indigent poor,but I agree that there is something in the contention of the Attorney-General that we have to consider the interests of the institutions as well as those of the inmates.
Although, if it came to deciding between the two interests, my sympathieswould be with the individual pensioner, we must always keep in mind the fact that the institutions are responsible for maintaining the pensioners. No one would suggest that the proportion of the pensionwhich goes to the institution is sufficient to meet the cost of keeping the inmate. The whole tenor of the debate, particularly on this side of the chamber, has been to prove that 17s. 6d. a week is not a living wage. If the institution provides the whole means of livelihood-
– Order! The time allowed for this portion of the committee stage has expired.
Question - That clauses 12 to 18, as amended by the printed and circulated amendments of the Government, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Circulated amendments -
Omit clause 12, insert the following clause: - “12. Section thirty-four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - “ (a) by omitting paragraph (d) of the definition of “ Income “ and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : - “(d) By way of gift or allowancefrom the husband, wife, father, mother or children of that person.” ; and ‘.”
Clause 13, before the proposed new section 6a insert the following section; - “6aa. - (1.) A commissioner may, by writing under his hand, delegate to a deputy commissioner all or any of his powers or functions under this act (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers or functions may be exercised by the deputy commissioner with respect to the matters specified in the instruments of delegation. “ (2.) Every delegation under this section shall be revocable at will but any delegation shall not prevent the exercise of any power or function by the commissioner.”.
Clause 14, line 28, omit “ Provided further that when the income of a pensioner is “, with a view to insert “ Provided further that where by virtue of the provisions of this act a pensioner or claimant is eligible for a pension at the rate of Thirty-nine pounds per annum and is in receipt of an income “.
Clause 14, at the end of the clause add the following proviso: - “ Provided also that, for the purposes of the last preceding proviso, the income of a person shall be deemed to include any payment by way of gift or allowance from the husband, wife, father, mother or children of that person.”
Clause 18, lines 47-48, omit “the pensioner and (as the case may be) the wife or husband or the pensioner “, with a view to insert “ they and each of them “.
Clause18, lines 2-3, omit “the pensioner and to the wife or husband of the pensioner as the case may be,”, with a view to insert “them or either of them,”.
Clause 18, lines 28-29, omit “the amount of pension paid to him after the commencement of this section “, with a view to insert “ and upon the death of a person who, after the commencement of this section, ceased to be a pensioner, the amount of pension paid to the pensioner or person after the commencement of this section, and not repaid to the commissioner under the foregoing provisions of this part “.
Clause 18, line 7, after “ contributed “ insert “ , eithervoluntarily or compulsorily,”.
Clause 18, lines 24-26, omit “ shall send a notice to every such relative requiring him to furnish in a prescribed form a declaration as to his means and ability with a view to insert “may, from time to time, send by post a notice to every such relative requiring him, within the time limited in the notice, to make a proposal in writing for a voluntary contribution towards such cost, or furnish in a prescribed form a declaration as to his means and ability “.
Clause 18, after sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 52m insert the following subsection : - “ (1a.) If within the time specified in the notice the relative makes a proposal for such a voluntary contribution, the deputy commissioner shall consider it, and if he is of opinion that the proposal (as originally made or as subsequently amended with the consent of the deputy commissioner) is fair in all the circumstances, he may; with or without requiring the relative to furnish a declaration as to his means and ability, accept from the relative an undertaking in writing in the prescribed form to pay to the deputy commissioner during the continuance, of the pension, at the rates specified in the undertaking, a voluntary contribution towards the cost of the pension, and thereafter, so long as the relative continues to contribute at those rates, the following provisions of this section shall not apply in relation to any contribution by that relative towards the cost of that pension, unless and until a further notice is sent to the relative in accordance with the last preceding subsection.”.
Clause 18, lines 27-30, omit “ If any relative does not furnish such declaration within the time limited in the notice, or if it appears to a deputy commissioner that any such relative is able and ought to contribute but is not willing to do so”, with a view to insert - “If-
Clause 18, line 3, after “him” insert “and to any allowance which the court is satisfied the relative will make towards the maintenance of the pensioner without any order being made under this section.”
Clause 18, lines 36-37, omit “ Any case under this section may, if the court thinks fit, be heard in private with a view to insert “ A court shall hear in camera any case arising under this section.”.
Clauses 12 to 18, as amended by printed and circulated amendments, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1.7 to 2.15 p.m.
That clauses 19 and 20 be considered together.
Clauses 19 (Amendment of Wine Export Bounty Act 1930-31) and 20 (Temporary Suspension of Gold Bounty Payments).
– Under the Wine Export Bounty Act of 1930, a bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon was payable on fortified wine exported. By the Financial Emergency Act 1931 the rate of bounty was reduced by 20 per cent, to ls. 4*d. a gallon. To provide the funds necessary to pay the bounty, an increase of 5s. a gallon was made in the excise duty on fortifying spirit, and the amount so derived was paid into a trust fund, out of which the cost of the bounty was defrayed. Portion of the fortified wine made in Australia is consumed locally, and portion exported, and whether or not the amount derived from the duty is sufficient to pay the bounty, is dependent upon the volume of the exports and the proportion of the total manufacture consumed in Australia. Exports have been relatively very considerable, with the result that there has been a heavy demand on the fund, and the Consolidated Revenue has had to be drawn on to make good the deficiency. If the exports continue to be a heavy drain on the fund, then, of necessity, the amount required from Consolidated Revenue to complete the payments will continue to increase. The Government felt that some limit must be placed on the amount thus provided year by year. Consequently, the bill lays it down ‘that the total extent to which the Consolidated Revenue shall be called upon to contribute shall be not greater than £96,000 a year. That wa3 the amount involved in the year 1930-31.
Clause 19 proposes to amend sections 4 and 6 of the Wine Export Bounty, Act 930-31. The amendments embraced by paragraphs a and b of sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 52a of the Financial Emergency Act, are minor ones. The first provides for the insertion of the letter “ a “ after the figure “ 62 in sub-section 2 of section 4 of the Wine Export. Bounty Act. That section reads -
The account established in pursuance of this section shall be a trust account within the meaning; of section (i2 of the Audit Act 1901-20.
The. insertion of the letter “a” simply makes that reference complete and perfect.
The amendment covered by paragraph b is necessary, in view of the new sub section provided for subsequently. It amends sub-section 6 of section 4 of the act, which at present reads -
If the amount standing to the credit of the trust account is at any time insufficient to pay any bounty and drawback payable under this act, the amount of the deficiency siu; 1 1 be payable into the trust account from the Consolidated Revenue .Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly.
The amendment modifies the operation of that provision to the extent rendered necessary by the terms of the proposed new sub-section 6a, which is provided for by paragraph c That sub-section limits to £96,000 the amount that in any financial year shall be available from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The total amount paid by way of bounty in 1930-31 was £165,000, of which £69,000 was derived from the additional excise duty of 5s. a gallon, and the balance from Consolidated Revenue.
The object of the proposed new subsection 3 is to amend section 6 of the Wine Export Bounty Act. That section reads -
The rate of bounty payable under this act shall be ls. 9d. per gallon.
Then follow two provisos which have no bearing on this matter. The rate of bounty now is ls. 4fd. a gallon, due to the 20 per cent, reduction effected last year. The proviso that is to be added by the proposed sub-section 3 will enable a lower rate of bounty to be struck in any year in which the excise duty and the contribution of £96,000 from Consolidated Revenue are not sufficient to meet the requirements. From the evidence that we have been able to collect, it does not. appear that the amount thus raised will be exceeded. On the figures for the first three months of this year, it seems perfectly clear that the £96,000 plus the receipts from the excise duty will be sufficient to cover requirements at the rate of ls. 4£d. a gallon. The ex-Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker) has gone very carefully into this matter and has conferred with representatives of the industry. He is firmly convinced that there will be ho necessity to make any further reductions in the rate of bounty payable. If there is, whatever is required may be done by regulation.
.- I regret that this matter is being rushed, and that we have not the time to give it proper consideration. The wine bounty came under the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs when I was in charge of that department, and it fell to my lot to investigate the conditions in the industry and to introduce in this Parliament two measures dealing with the bounty.
I am sorry that the Government has seen fit to interfere with the bounty. As the Minister concerned, I gave it as my opinion that, no matter what government might be in power when the act expired in five years’ time, the principle of the bounty would not be interfered with, because the industry itself was being called upon to bear the costs. I am concerned as to the effect that the limitation of the amount payable from Consolidated Revenue will have on employment in the industry, and on the prices that will be received by the grapegrowers in it. The purpose of the bill is to limit to £96,000 the expenditure from Consolidated Revenue. Last year the expenditure from that source was £130,000, and from the trust account £70,515, a total of £201,000.
The wine industry is to-day a very important one to Australia, but particularly to the States of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. There are 12,500 persons, including grapegrowers, directly employed in it, and their dependants total another 15,000.
When the Scullin Administration took office, Ministers were besieged with representations from the industry, which was then in a very parlous condition. The reduction of the bounty by the previous Government had made the outlook very uncertain for the grape-growers who felt that they would not be able to market practically half of their crop. Shortly after that government assumed office, I introduced a Wine Export Bounty Bill, which provided for the payment of a bounty of1s. 9d. a gallon on fortified wine exported from Australia. That measure repealed the Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-28, under which the rate of bounty payable on fortified wine exported, was1s. a gallon, with the exception of wine sent to Canada, on which the rate was1s. 9d. a gallon.
The original act, which was passed in 1924, was amended in 1927, to provide for the reduction of the bounty from 4s. to1s. 9d. a gallon. At the same time, it was notified that a drawback at the rate of1s. 3d. a gallon would be allowed on and after the date upon which the reduction became operative. The total amount of bounty and drawback received by exporters was, therefore, 3s. a gallon, as against 4s. a. gallon under the original act. In 1928, the wine industry was again reviewed, and Parliament passed an amending act providing for the reduction of the bounty to1s. a gallon. Under that act the total amount of bounty and drawback received by wine exporters was 2s. 3d. a gallon.
Summarized, the main provisions of the bill, that I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced, had the following effects: - 1. It increased the rate of bounty from1s. to1s. 9d. a gallon; 2. It provided for a trust account, into which the additional excise duty of 5s. a gallon on fortifying spirit should be paid. The whole thing was financed by that increase in the excise. 3. It provided that the rate of bounty fixed should operate for a period of five years. 4. It tightened up all the conditions relating to the rates paid for grapes and fortifying spirit used in the industry, and in the manufacture and export of wine. 5. It made provision for conditions of employment and rates of wages with respect to the labour employed in the manufacture of fortified wine, and in the production of grapes used in that manufacture.
At this time the industry was on the verge of bankruptcy. The blackest of pictures were painted of the conditions which prevailed. It was pointed out that the ruin which faced the grape-growers was due principally to the reduction of the bounty by the previous Government. The Scullin Governmentrealized the need for financial assistance for the industry, and it increased the duty on fortifying spirit from 5s. 6d. a gallon if made from doradilla grapes, and 6s. a gallon if made from other grapes, to 10s. and11s. a gallon respectively. It was provided that the industry itself should find the money for the bounty, and that the whole of the revenue from the old rate of duty on spirits for fortifying wines, which averaged about £350,000 a year, should go into, revenue. Unfortunately, the trust fund was not sufficient to meet the whole of the bounty that had to be paid last year, and Consolidated Revenue was drawn upon to the extent of £130,000. Since the original bounty act was passed, the quantities of fortified wines exported and the amounts paid in bounty each year have been-
The Prime Minister is seeking by these provisions to limit the amount of money drawn from Consolidated Revenue to £96,000 a year. I sincerely hope, however, that the Government will treat this industry sympathetically, and that it will watch the interests of the grape-growers in particular, because if they had not been protected in the past by the fixing of the price of grapes, I am afraid that they would have been exploited by ‘ the big wine-makers in Australia.
I should like the Government to do something more to encourage the marketing of our wine overseas. I know that the Wine Overseas Marketing Board is doing certain work in this regard, but, as the Prime Minister has told us that he does not expect that more than £96,000 will be required from Consolidated Revenue, although £130,000 was required from this source last year, it seems to me that there is room for apprehension. We have been told that, as a result of the Ottawa agreement, we may expect to build up our “wine exports to Canada, and that greater efforts will be made by the leaders of the wine industry to build up our sales in London. As a result of the depression in Australia, the local consumption of wine has decreased by 33-J per cent., and this decline has made it extremely difficult for the large and small interests engaged in this industry to obtain financial accom- modation. The glut of wine in Australia has been a serious obstacle in this regard. The future success of the industry depends largely upon the lifting from Australia of a substantial quantity of the surplus Australian wine and the placing of it on the market overseas. Great Britain consumes 15,000,000 gallons of wine annually, of which 10,000,000 gallons is sweet wine, which could be supplied by Australia. I should like the Prime Minister to give us an indication that it is the intention of the Government to do something to exploit this potential market. Has he any report from the Department of Commerce or the Customs Department as to the prospects in this direction? We are now supplying only one-fifth of the sweet wine requirements of Great Britain, the remainder being supplied by Portugal and Spain. We have read a great deal about the desire of Great Britain, as expressed at the Ottawa Conference, to give preference to Australian products. Here is a direction in which help can be given. As the Prime Minister has suggested that there will be no increase in the demand on Consolidated Revenue this year for the purpose of this bounty, he must be assuming that there will be no increase in our exports of wine. If that is so, what is to happen to the 27,500 people dependent upon the wine industry of Australia for their living?
No one can deny that the wine bounty has had a beneficial effect on the industry. Before the first bounty act became operative, Australia was exporting practically no wine to Great Britain.
– We were exporting dry wine, but not much sweet wine.
– That is so. There is room for. a substantial increase in our export of sweet wine. We should be able to supply a substantial part of the 10,000,000 gallons of sweet wine that Great Britain is at present purchasing mostly from Portugal and Spain. I regret that the Government should have seen fit to interfere with the arrangement made by the Scullin Government. The beneficial effect of the legislation passed by that Administration has been much appreciated by the grape-growers. If those steps had not been taken at that time, 25 per cent, of the grapes grown would have remained on the vines. The fact that they could be picked meant that considerable employment was provided in the industry at award rates.
– I wish to deal with clause 20 of the bill, which relates to the gold bounty. At a time when Australia was in the depth of the worst depression she has known, when unemployment was rife, and when many mines had ceased operations on account of the poorness of the reefs being worked, and the cost of production, due to high tariffs, and so on, a bounty was provided on the gold produced. This was done at a very opportune time for the industry. The par value of gold at that time was £4 5s. per fine oz. ; but, in Australian currency, it had an added value of 6s. 7d. per oz. Consequent upon the provision of the bounty, a number of mines opened, and I believe that new capital was invested in certain low-grade propositions, with the result that profitable working was possible. In 1931, when gold had appreciated, due to the depreciation of the Australian £1, to £5 9s. Id. an oz., or an increase of 17s. 7d. an oz. over its value when the bounty was instituted, England went off the gold standard, and by doing so caused an automatic premium in the vicinity of 70 per cent, to accrue to the value of the gold won in Australia. From that time, due to the accretion in the value of the Australian £1, the price of gold rose, in Australian currency, to £7 6s. an oz., or an increase of £2 14s. 6d. above the price when the bounty was first instituted. The mining industry consequently received the greatest fillip it had had since the ‘nineties, when the Western Australian gold-fields were opened. Un-doubtedy, a certain amount of capital was released as the result of the high price of gold, new mines were opened, moribund mines brought into production again, and employment increased in very many gold-mining centres. In Victoria, before this year’s boom, if I may so call it, it was conservatively estimated that only 10,000 men were engaged in the goldmining industry; but since then the number has increased enormously. Throughout Australia I suppose there are in the vicinity of 50,000 men engaged in gold-mining at present. Our production figures have grown from 467,000 oz. in 1930 to 000,000 oz. last year, and these figures are still increasing at a substantial rate. Gold is being won, not only by big companies, but also by many fossickers, who have gone out into hack country to search in the gullies and creeks. These men are living an extraordinarily hard life in their endeavour to remain independent. But they would sooner live in this way than be dependent on the dole. I am afraid that many fossickers have been misled as to the value of the gold bounty, not only as it was originally introduced, but as it was subsequently reduced. In my electorate, I suppose there are more fossickers than in any other electorate in Australia, with the possible exception of Kalgoorlie, and I. am continually meeting the statement that the bounty is worth 20s. an oz. Of course, people who say that indicate that they have confused the bounty with the premium on gold, and have not really studied the question for themselves.. They do not appear to realize that the bounty is payable only on the production in excess of that for the last three years. As a matter of fact, the average value of the bounty during the period in which it has been payable i3 only about 3s. an oz. A comparison of that figure with £7 6s., the price of an ounce of fine gold, shows that the bounty is really worth very little. The total yield for the Commonwealth last year increased by 25 per cent, . In Victoria alone, the production almost doubled, the yield being 44,000 oz. as compared with 24,000 in the previous year. There was a similar percentage increase in Queensland, and in the Northern Territory the output was approximately 50 times greater than in the previous year. The decision of the Government to withdraw the bounty temporarily has not affected tlie market. Investors may he assumed to be fairly good judges of the condition of the industry. It is significant that the market for mining shares still remains high. In many cases, there has been a definite advance, indicating that the actual price of gold rather than the payment of a bounty has been responsible for tho buoyant condition of the share market. The bountyaverages about 3s. an oz. Undoubtedly, it stimulated the industry at a time when help was most needed, and this being so, I am going to depart from myaccepted principle of not advocating the payment of a bounty except for defence and health reasons, and will admit that, in the case of the gold-mining industry, the effect of a bounty was the exception which proved the rule.
Some figures dealing with production in the Bendigo, Eaglehawk, and Marong districts in my electorate show that in the first seven months of 1932, 1,700 men won 4,387 oz., giving an average output of approximately 2¾ oz. This worked out to about £20 worth of gold for each prospector, and the bounty payable in respect of it was approximately 9s., or½d. per man per day. The position, from the point of view of the bigger companies is, I think, well indicated in the shortextracts which I propose to read. In the Melbourne Herald of recent date there appeared the following: -
The Chairman of the Hercules and Ironbark Gold Mining Companies (Mr. Angus Mackay) said to-day that while the gold bonus has been of some help to the Bendigo field, the suspension of the bounty on new production would have very little effect in Victoria. The premium and exchange on gold prices were most valuable aids to the industry. The Government had made a sound move in deciding that the suspension should be temporary, and that payment should he resumed if the price of gold fell to £5 an oz.
Apropos of that statement, I may tell the committee that when representations were made to the Government with regard to this matter, I suggested that, to save the industry from again getting into the slough of despond, and having in view the fact that the Government was determined to reduce the bounty payable, it would be advisable to re-commence paymentswhen the price was £6 per oz. in London, and fix payments on a sliding scale.
Mr. A. G. Palmer, the legal manager of several Bendigo gold-mining companies, also states that the amount received from the bounty by Bendigo ventures has not been large, but has been of some little help to the industry. The Mayor of Bendigo, who is closely in touch with the industry, is reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 1st September, 1932, to have stated -
It would be ungracious to expect that the Federal Ministry, in the present parlous con dition of the nation’s finances, would continue the gold bounty. When the bounty was enacted, gold was at about £4 10s., but now it is, nearly £7 an oz., and the industry would not be imperilled by the suspension of the bounty.
The Chairman of the Bendigo Stock Exchange who, one would imagine, has his fingers on the pulse of the industry is also reported to have said that -
The suspension of the bounty would have little influence on the mining industry. With the present high premium on gold the industry could well afford to make the small sacrifice.
But perhaps no one in the industry can speak more authoritatively about the effect of the bounty than Mr. C. de Bernales, the chairman of the Western Australian Gold Producers Association. Mr. de Bernales, who is now in London, was prominently identified with the proposals brought forward by the Scullin Government, and at about that time was a familiar figure within the precincts of the House. In a cabled report from Loudon, appearing in the Melbourne Argus, we have the following statement : -
Commenting on the proposals in the budget regarding the gold bonus, Mr. C. de Bernales, of the West Australian Gold Producers Association, said that the plan appeared to give a reasonable basis of discussion, and he would advise the industry to agree, if the plan were duly embodied in a parliamentary measure. He is of the opinion that the withdrawal of the bonus would not adversely affect London investors who are favorably disposed to supply large amounts of capital to develop low-grade gold mines in Australia.
In the face of these statements honorable members must admit that the Government acted wisely in coming to the help of the industry at a critical period in its history; but we may now expect it to carry on without this help in the altered circumstances, due, in part, to Great Britain going off the gold standard. I am glad to know that the Government’s decision is to suspend the payment of the bounty temporarily, and not to do away with it altogether. We may, therefore, hope that if the industry experiences difficult times again, prompt action will be taken to re-enact the bounty. But I should like to utter a word of warning. I do not know whether it has been stressed already, but if recent activities in the gold-mining industry should result in important discoveries leading to a heavy increase in production, the estimate of Commonwealth liability under this act would be very severely affected.
.- I should not have supported the Government’s proposal to pay the bounty but for the fact that the gold-mining industry had been severely hit by the tariff, and in many other directions, and I now direct attention to the fact that the reductions in this form of government assistance affect chiefly the States of South Australia and Western Australia. I fail to understand why similar action has not been taken in connexion with the cotton bounty, and I do not know why a duty has been placed on sulphur, which is merely a by-product of another industry. J. realize the urgent need to keep down expenditure; but I think there are many other directions in which the Government could effect economies. It must be clear to honorable members that the expansion of the gold-mining industry will, perhaps more than anything else, do much to rehabilitate the finances of Australia. Increased mining activity means an increase in employment and the circulation of much more money throughout the community. I regret that the Government feels obliged to break one of its pledges in regard to this matter, and I move - .
That thu words “ Five pounds ten shillings “, paragraph ft, sub-section it of proposed new section 53a, be omitted with a view to insert in lion thereof tho words “Six pounds”.
The effect of this amendment will be to fix the Australian price on a parity with the Loudon price, plus exchange, The Government would have done the right thing by the industry if it had arranged to pay the bounty when the London price of gold dropped to £6 per oz.
.- 1 direct attention to an analysis of the figures dealing with the payment of the wine bounty under the Financial Emergency Act. Last year approximately £201,000 was paid by way of bounty on wine production after eliminating all computations due to drawback. Approximately £69,000 of that amount came from trust funds, into which payments were made of the revenue from the additional excise duty of 5s. per gallon on fortifying spirit. That left a sum of over £130,000 to be provided out of Consolidated Revenue. Assuming that the receipts and claims for bounty remain the same during the next twelve months, approximately £40,000 of the total £201,000 required would be a fairly severe cut. But certain circumstances make the reduction very much less than it would appear to be at the first scrutiny. In the first place it is considered to be most unlikely that the export of wine during the current year, will equal in volume that of last year, because lastseason considerable shipments were made overseas, hurriedly, in anticipation of a reduction of the bounty, and also because of the difficulty in finding finance. For this reason a considerable quantity of wine was exported speculatively and was not sold to consumers in Great Britain. This is clearly shown from the figures of the Australian, stocks of wine held in bond in the United Kingdom, which increased during the last financial year by approximately 450,000 gallons. Thus of the 2,800,000 gallons shipped approximately only 2,300,000 were sold in England and the rest accumulated in bonded stores. This accumulation had a most depressing effect upon’ the wine market in Great Britain and for that reason the Wine Export. Control Board has been very carefully regulating shipments of wine for which no sale has been proved. No attempt whatever has been made to prevent shipments of wine which were going to an assured market. The regulation of shipment has applied only to those speculative consignments which have led to the large accumulations in bond in the United Kingdom, and have made the sale of Australian wine at the regulated price much more difficult. It is probable that there will be 300,000 gallons less exported this year than last year. That fact alone will substantially reduce the claims for bounties, but there will also be reduced expenditure from Consolidated Revenue, because there will be a larger amount available in the trust fund. When the previous Government imposed the special excise duty to raise money for the trust fund, it exempted from- the payment of that excise all the wine then in bond. In consequence of that, during the last two years a very large percentage of the wine consumed in Australia has not been paying any contribution towards the trust fund which was created to provide means for the payment of an export bounty on wine, and in the circumstances there has been a serious drain upon other revenue in order to provide means’ for the payment of the bounty. But the stocks in bond in 1930 and the stocks of wine held by the wine-makers on which duty had already been paid, and which are therefore beyond the control of the Customs Department, are rapidly becoming exhausted. It is therefore quite certain that, given approximately the same consumption of wine as occurred in Australia last year, there will be a much larger contribution of excise payments to the trust fund. The reduced vote from the Consolidated Revenue will, therefore, not represent a substantial ‘deficit in respect of the amount required for the payment of the bounty on wine shipped as the result of actual sales. In fact, it is possible that there may be sufficient receipts in trust fund to cover, together with the vote provided, the whole of the requirements for the bounty at the full rate of ls. 4$d. On the other hand, there may be some deficiency in this regard during the current year, because it is not possible to obtain actual statistics of the stocks of wine held by wine-makers and withdrawn from bond after the payment of the duty. Whilst such stocks exist the wine-makers will naturally use them to as great an extent as they can, hut there is a general impression that they are nearing exhaustion. If mo3t of them are not used up at the present time there is no doubt they will become exhausted in the near future and the trust fund will then be replenished with sufficient funds to meet the full payment of the bounty. It may moan a certain amount of delay in meeting some of the claims towards the latter part of this year until the trust fund is replenished again in the way I have indicated, but it should not, and in fact will not, lead to any serious delay. The effect of this legislation therefore will not be to cause any reduction of the rate of the bounty. On the contrary it will protect the revenue in this particularly difficult year while securing the payment of the bounty against the receipts which are absolutely
Ifr. Hawker. certain to come-into the trust fund in the near future if they do not actually come in during the current year.
Very influential sections of the winemakers are anxious that the whole basis of the excise and bounty payments should be reduced, and this is a matter which has been receiving considerable attention. There is a division of opinion as to whether such a -drastic change should be made, but there is nothing in the present bill to prevent the proposal being considered. If payments are continued at the present rate until the alternative schemes have been thoroughly investigated and discussed by all sections of the industry, it will not prevent the ultimate adoption of some other system if there is a general agreement that it should be adopted. I conclude by supporting these provisions of the bill, because I consider that, it is essential to protect the revenue in a. year like this against a rush of shippers who send wine out of the country for speculative purposes, and because the limitation proposed will have no detrimental effect upon the wine industry, nor increase the difficulties from which the industry is now suffering. On the contrary, while safeguarding the revenue in a most difficult period, it should secure to the industry that stability which is so essential to the making of contracts and the carrying on of trade.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved an amendment proposing that the gold bounty should become payable when the Australian price does not exceed £6 an ounce, whereas the bill provides that it shall not become payable when the price exceeds £5 10s. an ounce. The honorable member’s proposal, I submit, is to increase a charge upon the public revenue beyond what is proposed in the bill, and -I submit that it is not in order for any member other than a Minister to move to increase a charge upon the public revenue.
– My amendment would not increase the cost of the bounty as pro.vided for in the act. If the argument advanced by the Attorney-General is sound, it would be impossible to move any amendment to this bill. We are not dealing with a message from the GovernorGeneral; we are dealing with a bill to reduce expenditure, and I hold that I am quite in order in submitting an amendment so long as its purpose is not to increase existing expenditure.
– I support the contention raised by the honorable member for Swan. The argument of the AttorneyGeneral that the effect of the amendment would be to increase the charge on the Consolidated Revenue cannot be sustained. Its effect would be to reduce the existing charge.
– I submitted that its effect would be to increase the proposed charge.
– Its effect would be to reduce the existing charge, although not to the extent proposed by the Government.
– I think that the point raised is covered by Standing Order 171 which reads -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax, rate or duty shall be proposed by a non-official member in any committee on any bill.
I take it that the reference is to a rate, tax or duty already existing and not one which is proposed. The honorable member for Swan does not propose to increase the existing charge; his amendment would lead to a reduction of that charge. I contend that it is in order.
– The question is whether the amount of £5 10s. mentioned in the clause of the bill can be increased without increasing the charge on the revenue. Standing Order 171 reads -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax, rate or duty shall be proposed by a non-official member in any committee on any bill.
It appears to me that the amendment would have the effect of increasing the charge on the revenue as proposed in the bill. I, therefore, rule that it is not in order.
.- Although the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has been ruled out of order, I trust that the Government will accept it as a direction, or at least a suggestion, that the measure should be amended in the direction desired by those interested in the gold-mining industry. The psychological effect of removing, or, as the Government term it, suspending the gold bounty for an indefinite period, will be detrimental to the industry. As mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. P. Harrison), the amount paid by the Government last year in the form of a bounty was equivalent to 2s. 7d. per ounce or a total of over £80,000. The present improved position of the gold-mining industry is due largely, I admit, to the exchange position. The industry is not aiming at making profits for the time being.
– Those engaged in the industry are enlarging their plants, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), who professes to have some knowledge of mining in Tasmania, particularly with respect to the treatment of zinc, shows an ungenerous spirit in trying to defeat the efforts of those interested in the gold-mining industry. It is true that when this bounty was introduced by the present Treasurer when a member of the Seullin Government, the exchange rate was against Australia to the extent of about £9, and that later the rate was increased by 30 per cent. On the adoption of the Premiers plan a little over a year ago, the gold-mining industry had to submit to a reduction of approximately 50 per cent, in the bounty although reductions made in the case of other industries did not exceed 20 per cent.
– But gold increased in price by 100 per cent.
– I know that, but I desire to make my speech in my own way. The reduction was 50 per cent, in accordance with the scale agreed upon, and the bounty payable was to be 10s. an ounce on the quantity of gold produced in excess of the average production for the years 1928, 1929, and 1930. The total amount of the bounty paid last year, as I have said, was approximately £80,000, but provision was made that for every 3 per cent, by which the exchange decreased the bounty was to be increased at the rate of ls. per ounce. It has been said that, based on Australian currency, the gold producer is receiving £7 6s. an ounce, but the Government, in dealing with this industry - unlike its attitude towards manufacturers - did not consult those engaged in it, but discussed the matter in Cabinet, and willy nilly decided that the bounty should be suspended. In discussing this subject we have to review the whole position and consider the circumstances in which provision was first made for the payment of a gold bounty. Ever since 1925, I and other honorable members interested in the gold-mining industry have advocated the payment of a bounty on the gold produced. During the war those engaged in producing primary products, including base metals, received advanced prices to the extent of 200 per cent. or 300 per cent., while the price of gold remained stationary at £4 4s.11½d. per fine ounce. But now, when the gold-mining industry is coming into its own, the representatives of Western Australia and honorable members on this side of the chamber are its only friends.
– Why not run the business without a bounty?
– The honorable member for “ Cash and Carry “ or whateverhe terms his business, is making suggestions concerning an industry of which he knows nothing. For a period the gold-mining industry was in danger of going out of existence. Over £630,000,000 worth of gold has been produced in Australia, and of this amount about £300,000,000 worth has been raised in Victoria. Indeed, the discovery of gold was responsible for the rapid development that occurred in Australia, more particularly in Victoria, in the early ‘fifties. Between 1925 and 1930, only two gold-mines in Australia were paying dividends, but many other mines were losing to the extent of £2,000 or £3,000 a year. The Golden Mile in Western Australia has produced over £100,000,000 worth of gold.
– How many would be paying dividends but for the favorable exchange rate?
– Not many. Eventually the Government decided to give some assistance. In 1903, there were 16,000 employees in the industry, but in the course of time that number was reduced to 4,000. This had a depressing effect on trade generally. In consequence of the decline in gold-mining the population on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia was reduced from 40,000 to 14,000, but to-day, largely as a result of the favorable exchange rate, there are 3,000 more working miners there than there were two years ago. Fully 10,000 “ fossickers “ are seeking gold because they realize the benefit to be derived from the gold bounty. It is true, as the honorable member for Bendigo states, that some have an exaggerated idea of the value of the bounty; but Australia has never received a better advertisement than it has in connexion with the gold bounty. It. has been declared to the world that the Commonwealth Government is paying a bounty on gold. The Government’s policy, in this respect, has been supported by the financial journals of Great Britain, which are directing attention to the great possibilities of the industry. Although only 2s. 7d. an. ounce has been spent in the form of a bounty, Australia has received a wonderful advertisement, and has been brought under the notice of investors throughout the world. Fully £800,000 has been spent by the Wiluna Gold Mining Company partly as a result of this paltry £80,000. which the Government is not prepared to continue. Notwithstanding that heavy expenditure on the part of the company, the Government has taken from it no less than £100,000 in the form of customs duties on machinery that is of such a highly technical nature that it is not yet manufactured in Australia. Ittakes everything and gives nothing. In response to the pressure of the Country party it has reduced duties on many commodities used in rural production, but has done very little to assist the gold-mining industry the importance of which is, at the moment, equal to if not greater than that of any other form of primary production,. The bounty provided by a Labour Government is now being removed by a Nationalist Government after it had been in existence for only eighteen months. It is the duty of the Government to assist prospectors rather than to discourage them, as, by so doing, it enables them to earn a few shillings and prevents them from going on the dole. Thousands of prospectors are willing to take the chance of making from 15s. to £1 a week as a result of the benefit given by the present rate of exchange. Large sums of money have been expended on plant at the Wiluna, Lake View and Star Mines. The amount paid in customs duties on machinery installed by those companies, and by the Mount Coolan company, which recently commenced operations in Queensland, would be more than would be expended by, the Government on the bounty for several years. Obstacles are being placed in the way of companies which use mining plants produced overseas. In connexion with the production of gold, it is necessary to instal highly technical machines - machines which the operators understand - and while some hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on Australian machinery an unnecessarily heavy duty is imposed on those portions of the plant which have to be imported. The honorable member for Bendigo stated that Mr. de Bernales was agreeable to the suspension of the bounty; but that gentleman is in close touch with Australia’s Acting Minister in Great Britain, who apparently told him that the industry would have to take this or nothing. Mr. de Bernales always advocated a bounty of 20s. an ounce when the industry was in a serious condition, but after conferring with theworld’s greatest wordspinner, has apparently realized that it is impossible to get more. The future of the industry depends on increased production. The large amount of money expended in gold-mining must be protected, and further expenditure must be incurred in order to secure satisfactory returns. From a psychological viewpoint alone, it behoves this Government, whose leader recently told us that for the first two months of this financial year, there had been a surplus of £2,000,000, to continue the bounty at the present rate, as by so doing it will give Australia one of the best advertisements it has ever received.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Committee Stage of the bill has now expired.
Clauses 19 and 20, and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses6 to 18.
My object is to give honorable members another opportunity to emphasize the effect of these clauses, which have been passed by the committee without being properly understood even by the Minister who introduced the bill. This morning we witnessed an exhibition by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) who, earlier in the week-
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is not in order in discussing in the House what has taken place in committee, because the House has no cognizance of it.
– The Speaker is ignorant of what takes place in committee. I understand, however, that the honorable member for West Sydney desires the recommittal of the bill for the further consideration of certain clauses. I consider that he is in order in giving his reasons for such action ; but he may not now debate that portion of the bill.
– No better reason can be advanced than that even legal members who support the Government are not able clearly to define or to understand these clauses, and what effect they will have on the pensioners of this country. An opportunity should be given to us to peruse every one carefully as well as to understand the purport of the various amendments that were placed in our hands only a few hours before we were called upon to consider them. Thousands of public servants throughout Australia will bo seriously affected by the provisions of clauses 6 to 10. After all, if this Parliament is to be of any real value, honorable members should have every opportunity to express the views of their constituents. Consequently, I feel perfectly justified in asking that these clauses be recommitted, so that those honorable members who have been denied that opportunity may be given it. It is unquestionable that every honorable member in this House regards it as his responsibility, if not his obligation, to express the views of his constituents on this most important question. I suppose that no more important matter will come before this Parliament than that with which we are now dealing. Because of the seriousness of the effect of these provisions upon public servants and the violation of principles long cherished by the people of this country in regard to arbitration, no restriction should be placed upon the right of honorable members to voice their opinions.
In regard to clauses 11 to 18, I do not think that it is necessary, nor do I desire, to again go over ground that already has been covered. All of us could speak at some length upon them, and I believe lay bare their real effect. In spite of the Prime Minister’s opening statement that even if we stayed here until Christmas, he had no intention of altering the course upon which his Government had decided, I feel convinced that the weight of numbers and of opinion on both sides of this House would, if given the opportunity to do so, force him and his colleagues to realize that they are adopting a policy of destruction towards those invalid and old-age pensioners upon whom these provisions will fall. Because we feel that, we ask that the clauses be recommitted, so that we may again impress upon the Government the seriousness of the position and make a last attempt to save these people from absolute destruction.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) knows perfectly well that nothing would be achieved by his proposal except further waste of time on top of what was wasted last night.
– The Prime Minister must realize that he is not in order in characterizing as “wasted,” time that has been devoted to the discussion of a bill.
-I of course, bow to your ruling, sir. I take it, however, that it cannot be denied that frequently time is wasted in this, as well as in every other parliament.
The honorable member for West Sydney has appealed for further time to consider clauses that he has alleged are not clearly understood, particularly those relating to the granting of pensions.
– That was demonstrated this morning.
– During last night, when it was proposed to limit the time allowed for the consideration of the bill, the honorable member for West Sydney and others used the occasion to argue upon amendments that were irrelevant and entirely out of order.
– I take the point, Mr. Speaker, that you are the custodian of the proceedings of this House, and that it is for you to determine the relevancy or otherwise of matters that are introduced.
– I understood the Prime Minister to allude to something that took place in committee. If that be so, the Chair has no knowledge of what occurred.
– Not only is it my opinion that the matters to which I have referred were irrelevant and out of order, but a ruling in those terms was given by the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bell). The honorable member for West Sydney and his colleagues spent an hour in arguing upon the unimportant question whether any limitation should be imposed on the debate. That valuable hour might well have been utilized in the further consideration of the clauses of the bill that the honorable member now wishes to have recommitted. He and his colleagues thus robbed themselves of that time.
– How much time did the right honorable gentleman occupy?
– Very little. Because of the limitation placed upon honorable members, I purposely refrained, during the later stages of the bill, from occupying any time. The point that I want to emphasize is that extra time was available to honorable members, and that they were robbed of one hour in the manner that I have indicated.
– Judging by the way in which the right honorable gentleman mouths it, one would think that an hour was a year.
– The right honorable gentleman himself took up some portion of the time, and must, therefore, share the blame.
Honorable members interrupting,
– I ask honorable members to conduct themselves becomingly. Particularly do I ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) to cease his very loud interjections.
– I have pointed out that early in the proceedings I refrained from taking up any time, so that honorable members might have a fuller opportunity to debate the bill. But when, at the last moment, it is proposed merely to talk against the clock, and to devote the final quarter of an hour to political propaganda, it is necessary for me to take a determined stand. I shall not be a party to giving further opportunity, when a prior one was deliberately declined. The honorable memberfor West Sydney knows perfectly well that, on numerous occasions, this House has expressed very definitely its attitude towards the proposals embodied in the bill, and is well aware that nothing may be gained by further debate.
– I hope the House will-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill having expired, I shall put the question.
Question - That the bill be recommitted forthe reconsideration of clauses 6 to 18 (Mr. Beasley’s amendment) - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - I have to inform honorable members that Ihave received a communication from the Hon. C. A. S. Hawker resigning his portfolio as Minister for Commerce. I have forwarded the resignation to His Excellency the Governor-General, who is in Perth, with a recommendation that it be accepted. I have asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (the Hon. J. A. Perkins) temporarily to carry out the duties of Minister for Commerce. As soon as a successor to the Hon. C. A. S. Hawker is appointed, I shall notify the House.
Roy al Commission.
– by leave - In the budget speech I announced that Mr. Justice Ferguson, who has had long experience upon the Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, was to be appointed as a commissioner to examine both Federal and State taxation law with a view to the simplification and standardization of direct taxation legislation.
The Government considers it desirable that a public accountant of high standing should assist Mr. Justice Ferguson in this important inquiry, and has accordingly decided to appoint Mr. E. V. Nixon to act in conjunction with Mr. Justice Ferguson as a fellow commissioner.
Mr. Nixon is a Fellow of the Corporation of Chartered Accountants of Australia, a member of the general council of that body, and a Fellow of the Society of Accountants and Auditors, England. He has practised his profession in Victoria for over 30 years, was for some years senior lecturer in accountancy at the Melbourne University, has been associated with several important public inquiries on behalf of former Commonwealth and Victorian Governments, and has had wide experience in financial and taxation matters in connexion with many large industrial and commercial undertakings.
Ottawa Conference Proposals - Fin ancial Emergency Bill - Invalid and Old-age Pensions : Petition from Melbourne Ports - Increased Sitting Days.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On the arrival of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), Cabinet will take up with him the consideration of the proposals that have emanated from the Ottawa Conference and the tariff matters associated therewith. I hope on Wednesday to indicate definitely to honorable members the order of business for the next few weeks.
. -I do not propose to delay honorable members, but. I cannot allow the House to adjourn without expressing, on behalf of the Opposition, some opinions which we were not permitted to state yesterday owing to the hampering conditions imposed by the Government in the debate on the Financial Emergency Bill. I take this opportunity to protest so that we may not have a repetition, in the life of this Parliament, of what has happened during the lasttwo days. I have had some responsibility as head of a government, and I know that it must get its measures through. But I submit that this must be done in a fair and reasonable way. The bill which we have just passed is one of the. most comprehensivemeasures which wo have had to handle for a long time. Although its provisions are all embracing, and its ramifications extremely wide, it was rushed through this House in two days and a half. I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made an attack upon honorable members and charged them wi th wasting the time of the House. The right honorable gentleman included me in that charge when, as a matter of fact, I spoke for only two or three minutes to a point of order taken to avoid waste of time.I believe in correct procedure and in the protection of the rights of honorable members. The Prime Minister’s allegation that I was assisting other honorable members to waste the time of the House was not a correct statement of the position. Suppose an hour, or even two hours, we’re spent in unprofitable discussion, that does not warrant the Government in rushing this class of legislation through in the limited time allowed for its consideration. In all my experience in Parliament I have never witnessed such a demonstration of ignorance of government supporters regarding its proposals as I saw to-day. Member after member on the Government side demonstrated that they knew little or nothing about the bill, and when they asked for information from the Minister in charge of it for the time being, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), his explanation to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was one of the most glaring spectacles of camouflage that I have ever seen. The honorable member put his question in the clearest possible terms.Whether or not one agrees withhim, one must admit that his speeches are lucidity itself. Every honorable member clearly understood the question which he put to the AttorneyGeneral, and the answer of the AttorneyGeneral gave honorable members a false impression. How many honorable members now know what is contained in clauses 6, 7 and8 of the bill?
– How many honorable members realize the full extent to which this legislation will affect the lives of people in almost every branch of industry throughout the Commonwealth, and how it will affect the people socially and industrially? When Prime Minister, I did not apply theguillotine. I gave honorable members reasonable opportunity to consider the legislation brought forward without applying the closure.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not canvass legislation that has just been passed, and particularly he must not refer to what has taken place in committee.
-I am not canvassing legislation just passed, nor amI discussing anything that happened in committee; I am making a protest on behalf of the Opposition, and on behalf of every honorable member whose rights should be respected when I say that I hope we shall, in future, be given a reasonable opportunity to deal with measures of this importance. A bill of such magnitude cannot be dealt with adequately in the time allotted to it by the Government. I do not think there are many honorable members who are prepared to say after rhe demonstration which we had in committee, and in the House to-day, that they passed this measure knowing exactly what its provisions were.
– I rise only to reply to the statement of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that, when answering a question put to me by an honorable member on this side, with reference to the bill then under discussion, I was guilty of camouflage. I admit that I did misunderstand the point which the honorable member had raised. I misunderstood him, because I made the mistake of leaving the table in order to obtain information on the point which I believed he was taking, and while I was away speaking to an officer, I lost the thread of what the honorable member was saying. But I resent the suggestion that I was insincere or dishonest in any statement I have ever made to the House.
– I should like to obtain some assistance from the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in a matter about which I am somewhat concerned. Last week I received a request from a number of my constituents to present a petition to the Prime Minister on the subject of the proposed reductions in invalid and old-age pensions. I told the committee that the House would be discussing the measure next week, and that I would obtain the petition and present it. I should like to know now from the Prime Minister if I shall have an opportunity of doing so. Probably I should present it to you, Mr. Speaker, but I shall be obliged if the Prime Minister can tell me if any good purpose will be served if I presented the petition next Wednesday ?
.- I should like to know from the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) if it is not possible for the House to meet on at least four days next week and thereafter. We have a great deal of important legislation to put through, and, if possible, we should avoid all-night sittings because good work cannot be done in that way. There is no reason in the world why we should not sit at least four days a week, and when urgent legislation, including the tariff, is under consideration, we could sit even on five days. While it may be incumbent on Ministers to spend every week-end in Sydney or Melbourne, or in some other part of Australia, it would, I think, be much better if we could devote a little more time to legislation in Parliament, and so expedite business and. enable honorable members to get back to their constituencies.
.- Under the provisions of the bill which we have just passed, certain of our invalid and old- age pensioners will be entitled to 17s. 6d. a week and others to only 15s. It will be impossible to ascertain who should get 15s. and who should receive 17s. 6d. a week until some investigation is made into individual cases. I consider that pensions should be paid at the existing rate until such investigations are complete, and would suggest that the Government should earnestly consider delaying the issue of the proclamation bringing the act into operation until such an investigation is made.
– In reply to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I can only say that I regret as much as he does the necessity to rush legislation through this House; but I have, on other occasions, told honorable members that it is essential to pass without delay our financial measures in order to effect the savings which we anticipate will bemade under them. So far as is possible, the Government will avoid the application of the Standing Orders limiting debate. If, in the heat of moment, I did the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition the injustice of saying that he wasted the time of the House, I regret it. On reflection, I admit that he was not one of those who took action to delay the passage of the bill. I,therefore, regret that I included him in the criticism.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has asked if he may. present a petition dealing with the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. It could not be considered by the House, of course, but if the honorable member will present if to me before the next meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday, it will be considered by the Government.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has suggested that Parliament should sit on four days in each week. I have already pointed out that it would be difficult for members of the Cabinet to prepare business for the House if Parliament were sitting on four days-
– It ought to be prepared before Parliament assembles.
– The honorable member knows that that is not always possible. Soon, we shall have to submit to this Parliament a very comprehensive tariff schedule arising out of the agreements made at Ottawa. These alterations will require very careful consideration. Before they are presented, we may have to ask Parliament to give us even more time than is provided by the ordinary week-end adjournment. But immediately they are ready, I see no reason why we could not then adopt the suggestion of the honorable member and sit on four days each week.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) has asked that some consideration be given to the position of invalid and old-age pensioners before we apply the reductions authorizing the amending legislation which has just been passed. He suggests that inquiries should be made into the circumstances of pensioners who will be affected by the new provisions. There is provision in the act to bring it into operation by proclamation, and I will undertake that Cabinet will give consideration to the point which he has raised. We cannot, of course, long delay the operation of the act, but the point which he has raised will be considered by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answers to questions on notice were circulated: -
Primage Duty on Books.
When was the present 10 per cent. primage duty placed on books?
What sum has been raised from this source?
Reduction of Overseas Interest
Will he communicate with the British Treasury and the Bank of England to ask them to assist the Assistant Treasurer to have interest on all existing Commonwealth loans reduced to2½ per cent. in order to save £15,000.000 a year in interest?
Bulk Handling of Wheat
In the event of one or more of the wheatproducing States deciding to adopt the bulk handling system for wheat, will the Commonwealth Government be prepared to support the scheme to the extent of contributing an amount equal to the difference between the price of locally-produced and that of imported material without duty?
As a general rule an officer should not be paid travelling allowance as prescribed by Arbitration Determination or Public Service Regulation when he is able to reside at home and does not incur expense for board and lodging by reason of his absence from headquarters. In such case, however, any reasonable claim for additional expenses necessarily incurred may be allowed.
The authority for the issue of this instruction is contained in Public Service Regulation No. 81.
Ottawa and Geneva Conferences
Resident Minister in London.
Tasmanian Broadcasting Station
What is the average period for which an old-age pensioner draws such pension, and what is the average total amount of pension paid to pensioners?
Public Service Salaries
What are the names of all officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and the official positions occupied by each, who are in receipt of a. salary of £1,000 or more per annum, having regard to the reductions made under the Financial Emergency Act?
Premium on Gold Export.
What is the amount of premiums earned by the Commonwealth Bank on this country’s gold exported by the bank ?
The following reply has been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank: -
The bank docs not consider it expedient to divulge detailed information of its transactions other than shown in published returns.
Unemplo ymen t Loan .
In connexion with the loan for unemployment relief that was raised last year, was provision made for a sinking fund which would amortize the loan in a brief period similar to tinprovision attaching to the loan for. the payment of the wheat bounty ?
The answer to the right honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No special provision has been made for sinking funds for the amortization of loans raised for unemployment relief by means of treasurybills. The treasury-bills issued for unemployment relief works represent only portion of the short-term securities issued for works loan purposes, and the position in regard to the bills issued for these purposes is quite different from that of bills issued for payment of the wheat bounty. Some of the unemployment relief loan moneys are repayable to tlie Com- mfmweu.lt.il, whilst aa regards the balance, final provision for amortization cannot bc made until thu Loan Council is in n. position to determine whether treasury-bills issued fur unemployment relief works, mid other loan works are to be covered by n long.dated loan.
As regards the wheat bounty, it was understood, when the banks were asked to provide moneys for this purpose, that special provision would be made for thu amortization of the bills. The wheat bounty payments bavins now been virtually completed, it was considered desirable to make such provision in the. budget for the current year.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320923_reps_13_135/>.