13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Wireless Listen ers’ Licences.
– Will the Postmaster- General state whether the newspaper report is accurate which states that an inspector of the Postal Department reported in Canberra 84 cases of persons who had failed to take out wireless listeners’ licences, and that only 34 prosecutions were instituted? Is it true that certain government officials were afforded an opportunity by the inspector to take out licences instead of being recommended for prosecution?
– I have nothing to add to the explanation which yesterday I made of the actual facts, but I shall be glad to have further inquiries made into the matter.
Report by Sir Hamilton Harty.
– Can the Postmaster-General say whether a report upon wireless broadcasting in Australia has been received by the Australian Broadcasting Commission from Sir Hamilton Harty? If it has, will the honorable gentleman make the report or the substance of it available to honorable members?
– This matter is entirely within the purview of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I am not aware whether a report has been sought from or furnished by Sir Hamilton Harty, but I shall obtain the information from the commission, and also learn whether the report. if received, may be made available to honorable members.
TERMINAL Point in AUSTRALIA
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if it is a fact that, despite the Government’s approval of the recommendation of the expert committee that Cootamundra should be the terminal point of the air mail service from Great Britain to Australia, and the acceptance of tenders on that basis, -the honorable gentleman promised a deputation that ho would recommend the substitution of Mascot for Cootamundra? If so, will he give his reasons for the adoption of that attitude?
– The facts are not as the honorable member has stated them to be. On behalf of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in whose department all matters relating to civil aviation are dealt with, I received n deputation on the question of the alteration of the conditions relating to the terminal point in Australia of the air mail service from Great Britain. I did not, in the course of my reply to the deputation, indicate whether I considered that the terminal point should be transferred to Sydney, although I hold very strong views on that question, and will state them in the appropriate place when the matter comes up for consideration. What I said was that if the mail would arrive in Sydney by 2.30 p.m., as I was informed that it would in any case, I, as Postmaster-General, would guarantee its delivery on the same afternoon.
Quality and Labelling
– In view of the adverse criticism recently levelled by the Attorney-General at the quality of certain .Australian products exported it? the East and of the trade methods adopted bv some Australian exporters, will “the Minister for Commerce indicate what steps the Government proposes to take with a view to making similar criticism unwarranted in the future?
– The whole matter is now receiving the very serious consideration of my department.
– I wish to know when the Prime Minister expects to receive a report from the Petrol Commission, whether this House will have an opportunity to discuss it, and if it is the intention of the Government to give effect to any decision that may be arrived at by this Parliament?
– I am unable to indicate the date upon which the Petrol Commission will make its report, and cannot anticipate its contents. That the matter will be submitted to Parliament goes without saying; if may be to this Par,liament or the next. I understand that the presentation of the report will .not be very much longer delayed?
– With reference to the amount of approximately £17,000,000, portion of the national debt borrowed from the United States o.f America, has the Assistant Treasurer considered the practicability of reducing the capital amount by shifting the indebtedness from New York to London? Further, is his department able to take advantage of any favorable exchange position that may arise from a further substantial devaluation of the American dollar?
– The total indebtedness of Australia to the United States of America is something under the equivalent of £50,000,000 at parity of exchange, of which we have optional conversion rights over the equivalent of about £10,000,000. The Government has been watching the position very closely since the depreciation of American exchange, but so far has not considered that it would he in the public interest to take any action in connexion with the -matter. I may mention that 4he equivalent of £10,000,000, which is now due for redemption, bears the lowest interest, of the whole f our American securities - 4J per centcompared with rates ranging up to as high as 1 per cent. The situation is still being closely watched.
New Zealand Embargo
– Oan the Minister for Commerce hold out any hope of an early removal of the New Zealand embargo against the importation of Australian citrus fruits, so that the agreement may be ratified before Parliament is dissolved?
– Yesterday, in reply to a similar question, I pointed out that the representative of the New Zealand Government arrived back in that dominion only last Friday, and that it was almost certain that the New Zealand Government would need to consult with the Government of the United States of America, because it could not accept the recommendations of the Canberra Conference and still hope do secure in America a market for its fruits. Until the result of those negotiations is known, we cannot contemplate the ratification of the recommendation of that conference.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that jam manufacturing firms in the eastern States are selling their products in Western Australia at prices considerably below those charged in the eastern States ? Does not this convey either that the manufacturers are exploiting the eastern consumers or that they are in a position to pay fruit-growers a price higher than the minimum fixed by the Sugar Concession Committee? Will the Minister take up this .matter with that committee and endeavour to obtain a higher price for locally-processed fruit with particular reference to the Victorian berry-fruit industry?
– Matters relating to the Sugar Concession Committee come under the Customs Department. If the honorable member will give me the full details I shall have inquiries made.
– Has the Minister received from Dr. Woolnough any further geological reports- on the Northern Territory, and, if so, will he be kind enough to lay them on the table of the House ?
– A further- report with reference to several mining areas in the Northern Territory has been received, and I shall meet the wishes of the honorable member by placing it on the table of the House.
Cil A BIT ABLE I.NSTITutions
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to give a favorable reply to my previous request that the increased telephone charges will not be applied to charitable institutions ?
– Hospitals and ambulance societies have for many years had the use of telephones at concession rates. It was proposed to level up the charges to the normal rates, but, in view of the circumstances, instructions have been given, at least for the present, to levy the charges that have been in operation for some time past. No additional charge will therefore he made to those institutions at this stage in respect of their telephone costs.
– When is the new national broadcasting station in the Katanning district in Western Australia likely to be completed, and can the PostmasterGeneral indicate whether there is likely to be clear reception on the eastern gold-fields, 400 miles away ?
– The honorable member for Perth asked me a similar question last week when I undertook to obtain the approximate date when the station would be in service. I am therefore able to inform the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that it is expected that the station will be in operation before the end of the year. I am not quite clear as to whether clear reception will be given on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable member and advise him later.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs intimate when the provisional commercial agreement with Belgium, guaranteeing unrestricted entry for Australian barley into that country, expires, and can he inform the House whether he has .made any progress since his optimistic statement of about two weeks ago in respect of the negotiations for an agreement which will secure the sale of Australian barley now being sown for the next harvest?
– Glass, meat and barley are all wrapped up in this question.
A3 I informed the House recently, negotiations are still taking place and a conference is now being held in Sydney between the representatives of Belgium and the Customs Department with a view to arriving at finality. The Government realizes the great importance -of this question.
– Can the Minister see through the glass?
– Yes, but some honor.able members with both eyes wide open fail to see the situation. Recently the Secretary of State for the Dominions stated that requests had been made to Australia regarding the sheet glass problem, but that no satisfactory answer had yet been received. I wish to inform the House that a month ago negotiations wore opened up with the British Government with regard to the Belgian concessions - there are others besides those relating to glass - and only within the last few days have we had a reply from the Government of the United Kingdom on the matter. But that does not enable us to settle the whole of the difficulties. In the meantime negotiations will be continued with Belgium. The temporary agreement expires during this month, but in the event of the present negotiations breaking down we are hopeful of obtaining another temporary agreement for two months.
– As the Prime Minister has intimated that an election is likely to take place shortly, will he also intimate the nature of the programme of the Government and when honorable members are likely to be able to arrive at the seat of war in their electorates?
– I have stated previously the date upon which the Government hopes to stage the battle, but for the benefit of honorable members generally I wish to intimate that it is intended to ask for an adjournment of the House over the next week.
– What has the Government been doing during the greater part of the present year?
– The Government has been carrying out the work of the country despite the fact that it has had no assistance of any kind from the honorable member. If the country were run on the lines advocated by the honorable member, it would soon be a case of “ God help it “. In order to permit of the preparation of the budget the usual course will be followed of adjourning the House, and the budget will be submitted to this chamber on Tuesday, the 24th July, on which date the House will reassemble. The Government will then proceed to dispose of the business that arises from the budget before the House actually adjourns to enable us to reach the seat of war referred to by the honorable member for Forrest.
– When the Government is preparing the budget, will it consider giving further assistance to parents of large families by way of the maternity allowance by increasing the amount of income that the father may earn over £208 per annum to the extent of £25 a year for each child in the family?
– The question of tha maternity allowance has already been given attention by the Cabinet, but not. that final consideration which will have to be given to it before the budget is submitted to this Parliament.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me what is the minimum percentage of spirit strength in brandy, whisky, gin, rum, port, sherry, claret and hock permitted to be sold by the retail trade in Victoria?
– That is a matter which concerns the Victorian Government, but I understand that the minimum strength permitted in brandy and whisky is approximately 65 per cent, of spirit content. I shall have exact information furnished to the honorable member subsequently.
– Yesterday the honorable member for the Riverina (Mr. Nock) asked me a question concerning cotton mid tobacco. I misunderstood his question regarding tobacco. He wished to know whether any arrangement had been come to between the Government and the tobacco manufacturers concerning this year’s crop. As I have already intimated to the House, an arrangement has been made by which the tobacco manufacturers will buy all the bright mahogany leaf and leaf of better quality, and also their ordinary usings of other grades. As the crop this year will be smaller than usual, due to disease, and will yield only about 2,500,000 lb., and as Australia’s usings are more than 4,000,000 lb., approximately 1,000,000 lb. of last year’s carry-over is likely to be required in addition to the current year’s crop.
– Yesterday during the debate on un om ploy ment the Leader of the Opposition used certain figures regarding employment in the Federal Capital Territory. Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the right honorable gentleman’s figures were correct? I should also like to know what number of men were employed in the Federal Capital Territory during the periods referred to by the right honorable gentleman.
– The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition were incorrect. The number of men actually employed on relief work in Canberra yesterday was 716, and the number so employed on the 31st December, 1931, was 533. The increase was due to the fact that in 1931 well over 100 youths were in Canberra who have since reached the age of 21 years, and so becoming qualified for registration, have registered. It should also be remembered that in 1931 a large number of the unemployed here were not eligible for registration, as they had not resided in the Territory for three years. They have since qualified in that respect. The actual number of persons employed on works in Canberra to-day is 741, not counting persons on relief work; the number employed in 1931 was 675, counting in quite a number on relief work.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether he expects to receive a report from the Royal Com- “ mission which is inquiring into the wheat industry in time for it to be considered, and the matter dealt with daring the life of this Parliament?
– I have on previous occasions said that the Government hopes to receive at least an interim report from flic Wheat Commission in time for proposals arising from it to be made to this Parliament.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the announcement that the British Government intends to subsidize British shipping by £2,000,000 a year has modified the considerations which restrained the Australian and New Zealand Governments from taking independent action with regard to the competition with British lines on the Australian and New Zealand register by subsidized foreign shipping trading to Pacific and Australian ports?
– The Commonwealth Government has been in close touch with the Imperial and New Zealand Governments in connexion with this matter from the beginning. It is largely because the British Government has delayed so long in dealing with this subject that no action has been taken by this Government. So far as we can see at present, the recent proposals of the British Government are not likely to alter the situation very” much in respect of competition by subsidized foreign shipping with British shipping in Australian and New Zealand waters, but they will be carefully examined in order to decide the course that should be followed by this Government. We hope that any action will be taken conjointly with the New Zealand Government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a resolution passed by the Federal Conference of tho Country party, requesting the Federal Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into banking practice and credit systems, generally, and also the long-term interest position? Does the Government intend to take any action in this connexion?
– An announcement will bo made in due course in regard to any action that the Government may decide to take.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether the details given in the Melbourne Herald of yesterday’s date of a rural rehabilitation scheme are in accord with the policy of the Government?
-No details have yet been settled in regard to that matter. An announcement will be made by the Go.vernment in due course.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to inform me whether he has been advised of any decision by the World Advisory Wheat Committee regarding the application of Argentina for permission to export wheat in excess of the quota fixed for that country in the international wheat agreement ? If so, will he intimate the nature of such decision, and also the attitude of the Government on the subject?
– I am unable to give the honorable member any information regarding the exact position, but negotiations are still proceeding. The attitude of the’ Commonwealth Government has been endorsed by the Wheat Advisory Committee, which, as honorable members know, is dominated in its personnel by direct representatives of the wheatgrowing interests of Australia.
– In view of the fact that the omnibus of the Federal Capital Territory transport branch motor service leaves the Canberra railway station for the city at 12.33 p.m., and so does not supply transport for passengers arriving by the train from Sydney and Melbourne which reaches Canberra at 12.35 p.m. - two minutes after tho departure of the omnibus- will the Minister for the Interior try to vary the time-table the few minutes necessary to ensure that passengers arriving by that train will not have to wait half an hour for the next omnibus? Tim is particularly necessary in the case of honorable members who arrive in Canberra by that train on parliamentary sitting days.
– I shall make an investigation, and ‘try to meet the honorable member’s wishes.
Question proposed - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
.- Within the last hour I have received from Darwin the following telegram, which I can only describe. a& astounding : -
Drake-Brockman’s interim waterside award made provision ships crews load unload cargo Darwin at waterside rates and conditions plus special further conditions applicable ships crews. All ships visiting Darwin including Burns Philp and oil boats employ prohibited Asiatic crews except Koolinda. Interview Labour party. Strongly fight matter House immediately. Drake-Brockman’s objective suspected drive off wharf Australians earning average three pounds odd weekly. The provision was not claimed by employer claimants.
I think that honorable members will agree with me that this is an extraordinary position. The interim judgment delivered by the court is one of the most extraordinary which has ever been issued. Most of the ships that trade to Darwin are manned by Asiatic crews, and, under the new award, these crews are to displace the white Australian workers, who, up to the present, have been employed on the waterfront. This judgment cuts directly across the White Australia policy, and. the Government must accept responsibility for what is being done.
– How can the Government override the court?
– The Government can override the court when it comes to a matter of upholding the White Australia policy. If it is not able to do so we might as well hand over the government o*f the country to Judge Drake-Brockman. In this instance neither the employers nor the employees asked that the offending provisions be included in the award, and yet the judge went out of his way to insert them. This represents one more attempt to drive white men out of the Northern Territory. If it is a question of costs, the alternative is plain, as has been made clear by numerous reports of the Public Works Committee, and by a report of Sir George Buchanan. In all these reports it was painted out that working costs at Darwin must remain high until more uptodate equipment and better facilities were provided for handling cargo. It is wrong of Judge DrakeBrockman to assume that, because handling charges are high, it is time to replace white Australians with prohibited Asiatics. Recently the railway bond stores at Darwin were destroyed by fire. Those sheds weiR situated half a mile from the waterfront and the Government now has an opportunity to do the right thing by rebuilding them close to the wharf, which would enable goods to be handled more cheaply. What Judge DrakeBrockman is attempting to do to-day in Darwin he will no doubt attempt to do in future at other ports throughout the Commonwealth. This is merely the thin end of the wedge. It is the duty of the Government to intervene, and to make it clear that it will not tolerate any interference with the White Australia policy, nor countenance the displacement of white Australians by prohibited aliens. No government would tolerate action of this kind at any of the southern ports, so why inflict it on the north? The Government has repeatedly stated that it desires to see the north settled by a virile white population, but this cannot be done while preference is given to Asiatics. One wonders whether there is any significance in the proposed amendment of the Navigation Act. Perhaps it is intended by means of such an amendment to apply to all ports throughout Australia the conditions fixed by Judge DrakeBrockman for waterside work at Darwin. The position is a serious one, and I ask the Government to countermand this award insofar as it provides for the employment on Darwin waterfront of prohibited immigrants.
Mr. JOHN LAWSON (Macquarie) [3.7J. - During the next three or four weeks, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of polling clerks and deputy returning officers will be appointed in connexion with the forthcoming federal election, and I ask the Government, when such appointments are being made, to give preference to unemployed men, and particularly to those of them who are returned soldiers. I have received a large number of letters from various returned soldiers’ associations urging that this be done. During recent years many of these returned soldiers have been battered by the blows of circumstance and bent by the assault of adversity, and they are worthy of any consideration we can give them. In the past there have been serious complaints - many of them I fear only too well founded - that their claims have been overlooked. I am not blind to the practical difficulties that confront the divisional returning officers and the responsible officials of the department in making these appointments, and I do not suggest that they should be called upon to recruit these men entirely from the sources I have indicated. But I suggest that men who are unemployed, and who, perhaps, have been unemployed for a number of years, particularly if they happen to be returned soldiers, and more so if they are married men with families, should have first claim to consideration. It is lamentable, indeed, at a time such as the present, which may be said to be the testing time of the moral calibre of the nation, that in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly a week or two ago the Premier of New South Wales was obliged to admit that preference to returned soldiers and sailors was virtually a dead letter. I appeal to the Minister to approach the returning officers throughout the Commonwealth and indicate to them the moral obligation which rests upon this Government to see that unemployed men, particularly returned soldiers and those who have family responsibilities, have their claims fairly and justly considered when applications for positions such as these are being considered. The opportunity to earn an honest £1 or 30s. will be regarded by these men with a relish which cannot bo fully appreciated or understood by those of us with whom fate has dealt more kindly. I urge the Minister to see that, even if it means some measure of inconvenience to the departmental officials, or even some slight sacrifice of efficiency, justice to these unfortunate men is not sacrificed upon the altar of expediency.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) this afternoon, that the Parliament would not sit next week, I take this opportunity to bring under notice the necessity for making some provision for the invalid and” old-age pensioners when the Government’s budgetary proposals are being considered. During the week-end my colleagues and I had an opportunity to discuss matters affecting invalid and old-age pensions at a conference of pensioners’ representatives from the greater part of the State of New South Wales. These people were able to give first-hand information of the effect of the amendments of the pensions legislation made in consequence of the Premiers plan. They detailed the circumstances of these unfortunate people and the effect of the two reductions of the pension rate, pointing out that even the partial restoration made last year still left them in an impoverished condition owing to the rising tide of costs. These men who, in their earlier days, took a very active part in the affairs of this country, and are, therefore, competent to understand such matters, made a general survey of the financial and the budgetary position of the Commonwealth, and they carried a resolution unanimously that they were of opinion that the circumstances surrounding the budgetary position of the Commonwealth did not warrant the pension cuts still being imposed. They particularly requested us to seize the earliest opportunity to impress upon the Government the necessity for meeting their claim in this- respect, and in view of the statement made earlier this afternoon it is timely that the decision of this conference should be made known. Remissions of taxation running into millions of pounds have been made to many people not affected by emergency taxation. In fact the Government admits that it has remitted £10,000,000 to various sections of the community most of whom were not affected by any form of emergency taxation.
– ‘Some of these people are absentees.
– That is so. Taxation of oversea shipping companies has alao been remitted. The cuts imposed on pensioners are a direct form of class taxation. A drop of 5s. a fortnight in the income of people dependent upon the pension for their sole means of existence is indeed a heavy cut. Nobody can gainsay that. Nobody can dispute the unfortunate circumstances that surround the pensioners throughout Australia tac day. I agree with them that their pensions should have been restored to their former level before any remissions of taxation should have been made to those people outside the scope of the emergency taxation. I attended their conference and heard their deliberations.
– Why not leave them alone?
– I resent the imputation in the honorable member’s interjection. These people are quite competent to look after their own affairs. Indeed, they are individually more competent to be members of this House than is the honorable member. I therefore will not allow any honorable member to slander them or cast a slur at their age.
This conference, having full knowledge of all the facts and the necessity for an amendment of the pensions law, particularly requested that we who were in attendance should seize the earliest opportunity to impress upon the Government that ia the preparation of its budget proposals the pensions paid to invalid and aged persons should be restored to their former level of £1 per week.
The next point to which a great deal of attention was devoted was the effect of the property provisions of the act on the homes of invalid and old-age pensioners. This question does not arise so frequently in industrial centres as it does in many country centres. It was urged that considerable uneasiness of mind and general dissatisfaction were being caused, and that on that account the continuance of these provisions should not be countenanced any longer. The question is not so much one of £ s. d. as of the sentiment which, over a long period of years, has grown up round these properties. Having shared one another’s joys and sorrows, these old people expect that when the time comes for them to leave this earth they will Iia ve the disposal of their property in whatever way they may deem desirable. “The rights inherent in property have been the subject of the proud boast of a large number of leading public men over a long period of years, and it is not to the credit of any government that it should be responsible for the deprivation of those rights under the powers conferred by the existing pensions law. The delegates to this conference discussed the matter freely and fluently, and with a full knowledge of the facts. None of us can visualize what the future holds in store. Many of those old men and women had not the slightest conception that in their declining years circumstances would arise that would make it necessary for them to become a charge on the State. All honorable members should consider the question from that angle.
The next point that I wish to raise concerns the subject of invalid pensions. Much criticism has been levelled against those members of the medical fraternity who report upon the condition of applicants for invalid pensions. Cases have frequently occurred in which the production of additional evidence, as the result of an examination by specialists, has led to the reversal of the department’s original decision. As a rule-, this evidence is procured upon the advice of honorable members whose assistance has been sought by persons whose applications for an invalid pension have been rejected. Provision should be made for a hearing by an appeal board in cases where there is conflict of medical testimony. On other occasions, support has been given to my contentions by medical men who are members of this House. They have agreed that such differences of opinion may arise that applicants may not be treated fairly. I am of the opinion that an appeal board could be set up, and there are medical men who would beonly too pleased to act without much additional cost to the department. The greatest credit is due to those medical men who, during the last three or four years, in my district as well as in other districts, have voluntarily given their services at any hour of the day or night to those who, unfortunately, have been unable to pay for them. The majority of the members of the medical profession are only too happy to relieve whatever suffering and misery may exist by reason of ill-health. It is not likely that the Government would be involved in very much additional expenditure by adopting my suggestion, whereas ranch of the present friction would be removed.
I have brought these matters forward fo-day, so that they may be considered in connexion with the preparation of any proposed amending legislation. It would be an excellent idea if, before framing new legislation, the Government afforded honorable members an opportunity to express their views upon the subject. Had such an opportunity been given before the bill to amend the Navigation Act was introduced, it might have been found possible to bring down a more comprehensive measure, and one that would be more in keeping with present-day conditions.
In the name of those on whose behalf I speak to-day, I particularly request that the three important phases of the pensions law to which I have directed attention be given the serious consideration of the Government.
.- I was interested in the story related by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has received a telegram indicating action that has been taken by the Arbitration Court in Darwin, and stating that the coloured crews of steamers which arrive at that port are to be permitted, by order of the court, to engage in work on the waterfront. From that point the honorable member proceeded to argue that the Government, through this public instrumentality, had sanctioned an invasion of the principle of a White Australia. That is too ridiculous to need combating by me.
– I did not say that.
– I understood the honorable member to say that the Government should do something in regard to the matter. Obviously, if the Government were to do anything with respect to an award of the court it would interfere with that award; it would declare it null and void and substitute something else for it. I wish to be quite clear as to where honorable members opposite stand on the question of arbitration. There is an Arbitration Court, for which they claim to be the principal protagonists. Arbitration was the subject around which the general elections held in 1929 principally revolved. Do honorable members opposite desire that when an award of the court suits them the Government must not interfere with it, but that when it does not suit them the Government should step in?
– That is what the Government does.
– I suggest to the honorable member that neither he nor I, nor anybody in this chamber, is acquainted with the facts of this case. The judge in Darwin heard the evidence and, according to the telegram read by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, gave a decision. That is a responsibility of the presiding judge and. not of the Government of the day, whether it be this or any other government. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. The court is either an impartial industrial tribunal or one that is controlled from this House. It has been suggested that banking institutions should be controlled from this House, and the suggestion that the Arbitration Court should be similarly controlled is quite in line with that. The honorable member said that the claimants in this case had made no claim along the lines of the award of the court. So far as my knowledge goes, if a claim is not made the court cannot constitutionally grant anything of that order.The award of the court must come within the limits of th° claim made to it by one of the contesting parties. If the award in this case is outside the scope of the claim, as the honorable member asserts, it is the simplest thing for the Waterside Workers Federation to upset it on constitutional grounds. The suggestion, nay, the allegation, of the honorable member, that the action taken by this single judge represents the thin end of the wedge of proposed action by th& Commonwealth Government to flood thewharfs of Australia with Asiatic labour.to the detriment of Australian workers”, is too ridiculous to call for comment.
Mention has also been made of the suggested amendment of the Navigation Act. The honorable gentleman professes to see in that something which lines up with what the court has done in Darwin. Ho knows better than that. All the reports as to what is to be done in connexion with the Navigation Act refer exclusively to Tasmania. The merits of the action proposed will be plainly evident even to him when the measure is brought before the House.
It has been suggested in the press, and mention of it has been made in this House, that a plan of rural rehabilitation is to be brought forward. The title is somewhat alliterative, and rather alluring; but the details, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, ave not yet before us, and we have no means of judging exactly what the plan is. It has been suggested by our friends of the press that a loan of something like £20,000,000 is to bc floated, with the object of lightening the burdens of the farmers and of, helping them to cut their costs, so that they may he -kept on their properties. I hope that something along those lines will materialize. But there is another phase of rural rehabilitation to which I should like to refer, and which has a tearing on the question of unemployment, that this House discussed yesterday. From time to time it has been said that the most pitiable aspect of the unemployment situation, which, unfortunately, confronts Australia as well as other countries, is that which concerns the youths for whom the conditions of to-day offer no real opportunities. Many of them would like to go into the country, but many more would not, having been born and bred in the cities and having substantial fears of what life in the country implies. It is going to be more and more difficult to place these youths in positions in the cities. There are in the country many areas which are not earning their keep. I know of quite good land in Tasmania which comes within that category. Yet young men whose parents are not in a position to put them on the land cannot secure the openings that they desire. We have idle hands on their part, and idle lands on the other part, and it seems to me that we need a bridge between the two. I have been approached on more than one occasion by parents who have said: “ Our boy has had a good secondary education and we would like him to go into the country, but as we have rather limited means we cannot assist him. Could not some scheme be devised whereby the community could in some way reinforce our -efforts to enable our boy to go into the country and carve out a future for himself ? “ These boys are promising material, being strong physically, well educated, and quite willing to do rough work. I hope that the Government will include in its rural rehabilitation plan some scheme which will enable these boys to go on the land. Up to date quite a lot of good work in putting youths on the land has been done by various societies, principally church societies, but only in a voluntary and sporadic fashion ; but, nevertheless, those institutions have done their best within their limited means to place young people on the land quite adjacent to the cities to enable them to work in the fresh air and to give them some idea how to grow a tree or plant with a view to their absorption later in the farming community. But there is no real momentum behind that movement and we are in need of a plan which will give a greater momentum backed by strong resources and with co-operative action between the Commonwealth and the
States, such as, I presume, will be essential in regard to the rural rehabilitation plan. Although many people contend that it is of no use to place boys on the land because the primary producers to-day cannot make a success of their holdings, the fact still remains that some primary products can be sold at a profit. What is necessary in the agricultural reorganization of this country is the lessening of the production of things that cannot be sold at a profit and the increasing of the production of things that can be sold at a profit. I know of good lands in Tasmania which, if sown with pastures, could produce lambs and wool, both of which are profitable at to-day’s prices. If there were less cereals and roots grown and more meat and wool produced, then I undertake to say that, with financial assistance arising out of a scheme such as I have mentioned, many idle lands could, with the aid of the cheap money that is available to-day, be put to good use. Such a scheme would provide a reasonable living for those who engage in farming operations and thus incidentally assist this country to lift itself from the depression in which it is wallowing to-day.
.- I wish to refer to an anomaly in connection with the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. There has been introduced into this House a bill to amend a certain section of the act, but. I have learned that in discussing that legislation I must confine my remarks to the section of the act specified in the bill. The section to which I wish to refer is section 17 which provides that a pension is not payable to any person in Australia unless he or she has had 20 years’ continuous residence in this country. A case has been brought under my notice - and the Commissioner for Pensions has informed me it is not an isolated case - of a person who came to Australia in 1892. He is still a resident of Australia, and during the intervening period of 42 years has been absent for four and a half years. He has resided here for 37-J .years, but because he has not had 20 years’ continuous residence he has been debarred from receiving an oldage pension. That is an anomaly which should be rectified. It ( does- not present any serious financial difficulty, because there are few such cases. This man came to Australia in 1S92. In 1903 ite went to New Zealand and returned in 1906. [n 1919 he went to Scotland and stayed there for nine months. He then returned to Australia, and seven years afterwards re-visited Scotland and stayed a further nine months. He returned to Australia and has been here during the last seven years. I suggest that this anomaly could be overcome by a simple alteration of the act. It at present provides for 20 years’ continuous residence. I suggest that the period should be 20 years’ continuous residence or 2f> years’ residence in the aggregate provided that the last five years immediately preceding the application for a pension have been spent, in Australia. That would cover most of these cases, and I appeal to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that in any future amendments he will give consideration to my suggestion.
.- I wish to refer to the Petersham Telephone Exchange which is situated in my electorate. This exchange is at present worked upon the manual principle and it is the desire of the municipalities and the public bodies in the electorate that it should be converted to an automatic exchange at the earliest moment. About twelve months ago I introduced to the PostmasterGeneral, a deputation which advocated the conversion of this exchange, and from what we gleaned a commencement had been made with the work of conversion some years ago, but owing to financial stringency it had been suspended. The districts served by this exchange are highly important and deserve the consideration of the Government. When the deputation waited on the PostmasterGeneral he pointed out clearly that when finances permitted the work of conversion would be resumed. I consider that the time is now opportune for a commencement to be made with the conversion of this public utility. I did hear that a commencement was to be made with it this year, but I do not know just what that, may mean, because even the expenditure of £50 or £100 would enable a start to be made. In view of the healthy condition of the postal finances, this work should be undertaken and completed, if possible, during the present financial year.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr: Nock) has referred to an anomaly in the pensions law, and I have had brought before me a case similar to that outlined by him. I realize the injustice of this anomaly and others under the act. [Quorum formed.] They have remained far too long and are to the discredit of some honorable members who have for many years sat in this chamber without making any attempt to rectify them. It has been only during the last couple of years when it was realized that these unfortunate aged and invalid people could be made use of for political purposes, that the members of the Lang group commenced to capitalize their misfortunes. As I have stated before in this House, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will need many amendments in order to rectify anomalies and injustices before I shall be sa tisfied with it. I heartily join with the honorable member for Riverina in advocating an amendment of section 17 of the act, which is operating unduly harshly on some of our best citizens.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to the Pensioners Association. He claims that only the members of his own group are entitled ‘ to speak on behalf of that association. When any honorable member on this side of the House attempts to speak on behalf of the pensioners, he is immediately interrupted by the members of the Lang group. Last week a resolution - and I have a good idea of the framer - was placed before the Pensioners’ Association to the effect that the association in future be nonpolitical. That resolution was overwhelmingly defeated. I shall take an opportunity later to expose the meanness of some of the people who claim to be the advocates of these unfortunate pensioners.
– I support the protest of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) against the action of Judge Drake-Brockman at Darwin. I know the gentleman who sent the telegram which the honorable member read, and I feel sure that the facts are substantially as indicated in that message. I also know the circumstances of the situation, for I was in Darwin a few week, ago and conversed with the advocate of the waterside workers. Tho action of Judge Drake-Brockman is astounding. I regret that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) should have looked at the subject as he did, for he knows a good deal about Arbitration Court procedure and also the Navigation Act. The honorable member saw the telegram before the House met, but he used the information contained in it differently from the way in which he suggested that he would use it. He has given the Government dangerous advice. Judge Drake-Brockman has more than once violated the provisions of the Arbitration Act. Not very long ago he made an award governing the workers on the transcontinental railway which had the effect of reducing the basic wage, although it is clearly laid down in the act that the basic wage must not be reduced except upon reference to a bench of not less than three Arbitration Court judges. The matter was set right only by the expenditure of a great deal of money, and the unfortunate workers were out of pocket over the business in regard to both wages and other expenses for quite a long while. The honorable member for Denison ha3 suggested that Parliament should not interfere in a case like this, but I contend that when a judge of the court takes an action which obviously violates the Navigation Act and also endangers the White Australia policy, the matter should not be left to the High Court to remedy. The honorable member has frequently expressed to me the view that potential industrial disputes’ should be brought under consideration at the earliest possible moment so that grievances may be straightened out without delay, if that is practicable. The action of Judge DrakeBrockman in providing that Asiatic crews may load and unload ships at Darwin is a distinct violation of the Navigation Act. If such an award can apply at Darwin it can also apply at other Australian ports. If any attempt is made to adhere to that award, let alone extend it to other Australian ports, the waterside workers of this country are quite likely to denounce the Arbitration Court. I feel very keenly on this subject. We know how serious waterside disputes can be to this country, and
I do not desire to see a dispute provoked by this decision. Judge Drake-Brockman does not seem to realize that he is dealing with a big problem and that his decision may affect industry in general very seriously. Such action is that of an irresponsible judge.
– Do I understand that the honorable member Ls reflecting upon the judiciary ?
– My remarks had reference only to Judge Drake-Brockman.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to make reflections upon the judiciary.
– I shall not repeat my remarks, Mr. Speaker. The Navigation Act makes it quite clear that interstate and intra-state ships carrying passengers and/or cargo between States or to federal territories must be loaded and unloaded under certain conditions. The work must be paid for at certain prescribed rates. Even the British crews of such vessels are prohibited from loading and unloading the ships unless no other labour is available. It is all the more deplorable, therefore, that permission should have been given for Asiatic crews to engage in the work. I do not think that any one imagined that Judge DrakeBrockman intended that the Asiatics engaged in this work in the terms of his award should be paid the prescribed rates of wages for British workers. If this award is adhered to, the White Australia policy may be seriously jeopardized and international complications may follow.
– The economic standards of the Australian workers may also be undermined.
– That is so. I do not believe for a moment that the people of Australia desire to risk any .such possibility. If this award becomes operative, it must impoverish further our people and make the restoration- of prosperity impossible. The increase of prices will be definitely delayed and the first step towards the defeat of the White Australia policy will have been taken. I urge the Government to take immediate action to rectify the mistake. When I was a member of the disputes committee of the Australian trade unions I was urged to consent to Japanese ships being allowed to lift coal from Newcastle to
Melbourne and other ports where there was a shortage of coal. There was great anxiety at that time lest the wheels of in* dustry should be stopped and some people were prepared to take the risk of allowing Japanese ships to handle coal between certain Australian ports. But I realised that if Once permission were given for this to be done, it would be very difficult, subsequently, to withdraw it. A delicate situation would arise in which due consideration would not be paid to the particular circumstances which led to the granting of such permission. Surely Parliament will not allow an obvious mistake and a very serious injustice on the part of a judge of the court to remain uncorrected. I urge that an investigation be made by the Government to ascertain whether Judge Drake-Brockman has gone beyond the clear provision of the law, and, if so, that his action should be nullified without making it necessary for the workers of Australia to raise money from any source from which it may be obtained in order to fight the case through the High Court. If action of this kind becomes necessary it will do a great deal to weaken the confidence which the workers hav.e in industrial arbitration. Any serious action of this kind which is clearly illegal should be corrected as speedily as possible. If Parliament will not help the workers to act by constitutional means it will bring disrepute upon itself. I am astounded that the honorable member for Denison should object to Parliament taking action in a case of this kind. His attitude is, in my opinion, entirely wrong. The Government must do everything within its power to encourage the workers to act constitutionally. I have seen smaller matters than this cause protracted disputes which have affected the whole maritime industry of Australia and cost the country hundreds of thousands of pounds/ l do not wish to see anything of the kind happen again.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Parliament should be made a sort of court of appeal from a decision of an Arbitration Court judge ?
– I suggest that; Parliament should take a commonsense view of this situation in the interests of
Australia. Parliament has already in tei’‘fered in this way. for instance, when the chairman of the Public Service Board declared that a district allowance which public servants had obtained through au arbitrator’s determination was unwarranted, the Government moved in Parliament to disallow the determination and Parliament stood by the Government. It is well known also that when the Government, some years ago, overrode certain legislative provisions and deported a person from Australia, the people had to fight for their rights and it cost a large sum of money, collected at great expense, to remedy the wrong that was done, but no compensation was given to the people who paid to prove that the law was bad. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to inquire whether the circumstances outlined in the telegram read by the honorable member for . the Northern Territory are actually as therein described and, if they are, to ascertain whether the judge’s decision is not, in fact, unsound. If he finds that this is so, I earnestly appeal to him to take prompt steps to remedy the error. It was pointed out in the press some weeks ago that the waterside workers of Darwin were making very high wages, which rose to either 10s. or £1 an hour in some circumstances. It must, he remembered that very few ships tie up at the Darwin wharf. When they are there they must be unloaded and loaded as rapidly as possible because of the expense involved in keeping them at the wharf. This means that on occasions the waterside workers have to work for 30 or 40 hours on end, and then be Unemployed for weeks till the arrival of the next boat. In such cases it is only reasonable that they should be paid according to the severity of the period during which they have to work continuously. If on such occasions they ate able to earn more than the basic wage it must be remembered that iu consequence of the small amount of such work that is available to them their average is probably no more than the basic wage.
– It is not as much as the basic wage on the average.
-=The consideration of these facts has caused the Arbitration
Court to grant higher wages for overtime work, and I submit that it is quite improper for a judge to make an award which would prevent the waterside workers from earning these higher wages for overtime work. If Judge DrakeBrockman’s award becomes operative, Asiatics will be able to take from Britishers the work of loading and unloading ships that call at Darwin and the working conditions are as decided by the master of the ship. I hate the idea of an industrial dispute, and 1 wish to avert one. I believe in constitutional methods. I wish to tackle the problem before trouble starts, rather than afterwards. The Government must take this matter up before a dispute occurs, which may spread to all the other ports of Australia.
.- Some time ago I was in Darwin, and watched wharf-lumpers there unloading a ship. According to the regulations, there were four men standing one in each corner of a truck on the wharf receiving the cargo as it caine out of the ship. Their performance was the nearest approach to slow motion I had seen outside a cinematograph theatre. I was able to make a comparison because I had only just lately come from Fremantle where I had seen two men to a truck doing the work more expeditiously than the four men at Darwin. I am not surprised, therefore, to learn that the Darwin waterside workers, who have abused their privileges, may shortly be looking for other jobs.
We in Australia have reason to be proud of the provisions made for the support of the aged and the infirm, but the pensions law is by no means perfect, and is now due for overhaul, with a view to removing some of the defects which experience has brought to light. One defect in particular has become most obvious to those charged with the administration of the act. The present definition of an invalid person sometimes prevents the granting of assistance to persons who are morally entitled to it. The act provides that, in order to qualify for an invalid pension, an applicant must be permanently incapacitated for work, and that has been interpreted to mean that he must bo unable to do any work even of the lightest kind. Some exceptions have been made recently in this regard, but there are few light jobs available these times. An applicant may be unable, because of his infirmity, to obtain any employment whatever, though not yet at a stage at which a Commonwealth medical officer would be able to certify him as being permanently and totally incapacitated for work. Sooner or later he will become eligible for a pension, but in the meantime his position is desperate. He cannot get a Commonwealth pension, and the fact that a Commonwealth medical officer has certified him as being fit for work is regarded as sufficient reason by the State authorities for refusing him assistance. The Government should make some provision to meet cases of that kind by establishing an emergency fund. There is a precedent for this because, under the Victorian pensions system which operated before the Commonwealth scheme came into force, such a fund was administered at the discretion of pensions officers, and was used for the relief of old people who had not. yet qualified for pensions in the ordinary way. It would not cost a great deal to institute a similar scheme at the present time. We cannot provide by definite legislation for the cases to which I have referred because a considerable degree of elasticity is necessary, and officers must be allowed to use their own discretion. I mention Hie matter now so that, if POsible, some provision may be made in the budget for giving this measure of relief.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) that one of the saddest features of the depression is the fact that it has prevented thousands of youths, who have left school after receiving a good education, from obtaining employment. This is most demoralising to the rising generation. The honorable member suggested that it might be possible, under the Government’s scheme for rural rehabilitation, to provide employment for these young men on the land. The scheme is an attractive one, but honorable members must have realised that many of our attempts to put people on the land have not met with the success anticipated. The Imperial Government, in conjunction with the Commonwealth and State Governments of Australia, provided £32,000,000 to put. settlers on the land, but the scheme has proved almost a total failure. There is only one way by which the land can be made to support more people, and that is by providing better markets for the produce of the land. The Bruce-Page Government spent millions of pounds on the River Murray Waters Scheme with the idea of growing grapes and other products on the irrigated land, only to find, before the work was finished, that there would be no market for the extra produce. The first duty of this, or of any oilier government, is to see that markets are provided for the absorption of what our people produce. Unfortunately, however, the policy followed by Commonwealth governments in Australia has tended rather to close markets than to open them. We have taken up a grasping, insular attitude which has made us un popular overseas.I am pleased that the present Government is seeking by negotiation to open up trade with other countries, but we must be prepared to trade both ways. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) made out a case in favour of the retention of thecoasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, and did it very well from his point of view; but the fact remains that that act is one of the disadvantages under which trade and commerce in this country is labouring. In Western Australia we have excellent ports but, because of high costs, they are unpopular with the shipping companies. The Navigation Act has conferred great benefits on Australian workers, but, instead of appreciating the favours conferred, the workers have too often responded by creating endless disputes and tying up trade.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) - and he is not a bad Postmaster-General, either - for greater equality of treatment as between permanent officers of the department and unofficial postmasters, and those who conduct our country telephones who render such excellent service to the public in country districts. Permanent officers enjoy the advantage of good salaries, a superannuation scheme, and a reasonable sense of security. On the other hand, unofficial officers are grossly underpaid, and have no security of tenure whatever. Honorable members must be aware of the efficiency with which these unofficial postmasters discharge their duties, and the courtesy with which they meet the requirements of the public, even to the extent of providing services after hours. I hope that some provision will be made in the budget for granting them better remuneration. People outback are doing an essential service to the whole community, blazing tracks andbringing new areas into fertility, and it is essential that the residents of the cities should have ready means of communication with them. I suggest to the Government in its dying days that these non-official postal officials should be accorded better treatment. I hope that the Government comes back blooming after the election, and that it will be better for the adoption of the suggestions which I have made.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government some matters regarding the interpretation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act as it now stands. For some months past, and particularly during recent months, there has been considerable delay on the part of the department in fixing the date for the commencement of the old-age pension. In some cases as much as from eight to ten weeks have elapsed, and when the pension is finally granted it is only paid retrospectively for about two pays. The claimant thus loses about six weeks’ pension. Section 15 of the act provides that every person who has attained the age of 65 years, or who, being permanently incapacitated for work, has attained the age of 60 years, shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension. There is nothing in that section which can be misinterpreted. If plain English means anything at all, the section means that a person who has made application after having attained the age of 65 years is entitled to the pension as from the date upon which he reaches the age of 65 years, provided that satisfactory proof is supplied as to age. I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. If a pensioner makes application for a pension a month afterhe reaches the age of 65 years his pension should not be back-dated for that month; but if he makes application for a pension prior to his 65th birthday, the pension should be paid as from the date upon which he attains the age of 05 years. The department shelters behind section 33 which provides that the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, having settled the claim, has the right to fix the amount to bc paid, and the date from which the pension shall commence, provided that the date so fixed shall not be a date prior to the date of the claim. I maintain that that provision is only inserted in the net to cover cases where there is a legitimate dispute as to the validity of the claim, or cases where correctness of the information supplied in the application is in dispute. The department should not be allowed to shelter behind that provision in cases where it is clearly shown that the pensioner reaches the statutory age on a certain date, and on that date the application is already in tho hands of the department.
I have dealt with many cases in which the department has departed from the usual procedure of sending an applicant for a pension to the departmental doctor, and has simply notified the pensioner that tho certificate furnished by his own doctor does not disclose that he is totally and permanently incapacitated. There is nothing in the act to justify this practice. The act does ,not provide that the person seeking an invalid pension shall be “totally” incapacitated. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that some provision should bc made for people permanently, but not totally incapacitated. I understand that the practice of the department is based upon a regulation. The act provides that the Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with the act. If the Government, or the Governor-General acting upon the advice of the Government, frames a regulation which goes beyond the scope of the act or is contrary to the real meaning of the act, that regulation is invalid. Regulations should not be approved which go beyond the real intention of the act.’ Yet the Pensions Department acts under a regulation which is not consistent with the intention of tho act, and rejects claims for pensions simply because the applicants’ doctors have not definitely said that the applicants were totally and permanently incapacitated. I have had cases brought to my notice in which the medical adviser has declared an applicant to ‘be permanently incapacitated - that is all he is required by the act to do - but without an examination by the departmental medical officer the claim, after weeks of delay, has been rejected on the Wording of the claimant’s own doctor’s certificate.
We find some rather remarkable rulings given by the Pensions Department. A case which came before me was that of a man who suffered from epilepsy, and was totally and permanently incapacitated. Upon a cross-examination by the government medical officer, it was revealed that he suffered from epileptic fits only in the night-time, and the Pensions Department said that, as he suffered from these fits only during the night-time, he was quite fit to earn his living in the day-time. On that ground the claim waa rejected. This man had been unemployed for four years; but the department would not admit that it was because of his epileptic seizures that his physical condition had degenerated to such a degree that he could not work.
Another case which was brought to my notice is somewhat similar to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). This was the case of a man who is at -present confined to a sanatorium suffering from advanced tuberculosis. He was a seaman, and had been employed as such on the Australian .coastal trade for nearly 30 years. On losing lm employment he subsequently secured work on one of the Commonwealth Government’s own ships trading to Great Britain, but on the way to England he fell ill from influenza, which subsequently developed into tuberculosis. After returning to Australia he made application for an invalid pension; but was informed that his application could not be considered, as he had contracted his disability outside of Australia, despite the fact that he had worked in the interstate maritime service for 30 years.
Another matter to which I propose to draw attention concerns the provision which gives the Deputy Commissioner tho right to determine whether the parents of an invalid person who make application for a pension are able to support him or her without the pension. A man with four adult children, all unemployed, and entirely dependent upon him, was earning £3 10s. a week. In New South Wales, if a father is earning this wage, his children are not entitled to draw the dole. The whole of the family were thus forced to exist upon £3 10s. a week. When the daughter, who was suffering from tuberculosis and was certified by her medical adviser as being totally and permanently incapacitated, made application for an invalid pension, the department determined that, as the father could maintain his daughter without the assistance of the pension, the claim should be rejected. When I pointed out to the Commissioner that there were five adults living on £3 10s. a week, he said that the department could not take into consideration the maintenance of adults other than the wage-earner himself. Although the children could secure no unemployment relief from the State Government, the £3 10s. a week was declared by the Commissioner to ‘be sufficient to enable the father to maintain his invalid daughter. This is a remarkable ruling in view of another decision that has been made to repeal the provisions of the act which require the relatives of a pensioner to contribute towards his pension. The regulations for administering those provisions provide that a single relative earning £4 a week shall not be required to contribute anything, and that a relative in receipt of £4 10s. a week must pay only 2s. 6d. In the other case, however, where the father of a family was earning £3 10s. a week, he is obliged to maintain a family of five adults, one of whom is totally and permanently incapacitated. That would appear to indicate gross inconsistency in the two regulations issued.
The only other subject with which I desire to deal is that which was raised by the honorable member for the Norths ern Territory (Mr. Nelson). The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) presumes to chastize honorable members on this side because, while claiming to stand for the system of arbitration, they, in his opinion, wish to interfere with a decision of the court. He argues that wo cannot at one and the same time be advocates of the arbitration system and also of interference with awards of the court. The honorable gentleman himself has been guilty of the desire to have it both ways. I distinctly remember the occasion in the life of this Parliament when the present Government deliberately flouted an award of its own Public Service Arbitrator in the matter of the wages of public servants. When its action was challenged in this House, the honorable member for Denison supported the rejection of that decision of the arbitrator, thus doing what he charges us with having the desire to do.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has besmirched, in a sense, the waterside workers of Darwin. Upon a recent visit to that town, he saw four waterside workers standing one at each corner of a 5-ton truck. He merely glanced at them, and because in his opinion they were going too slow he alleges that they are in danger of losing this class of work. As a member of the legal profession the honorable gentleman must know that lawyers have no compunction about going slow, particularly when they have a suitable client upon whom to practice their wiles. I warn Lim that he would do well to advise the members of his profession to speed up a little, lest at some future date they lose the power to operate on the milch cows that from time to time make use of the courts of Australia.
– I have listened with interest to what has been said by the honorable members for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) with respect to an alleged award given by a judge of the Arbitration Court at Darwin. There is not much that one can say in reply, for the reason that no official intimation has been received that such an award has been given. Even admitting that it has, the Cabinet would naturally have to study the documents fairly deeply before criticizing the actions of a reputable judge. The gentleman in question is possessed of a -high degree of intelligence, and if he has given a decision upon the facts of the case as they have been elicited in evidence the Government would be very loath to interfere with it. It is sufficient to say that the Government will watch matters of this kind, and interfere if au injustice is done. In the absence of injustice, the Government would be acting beyond its rights if it interfered with the working of the court.
– “Will the honorable gentleman sanction the employment of aliens ?
– That is another point upon which we have no information. It will be time to meet the contingency should it arise.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has urged that if possible the polling booths at the forthcoming general elections should bcmanned by returned soldiers who at present are out. of employment. That is the usual policy of the department. At previous elections, preference has always been given to returned soldiers. The honorable member contended that even though efficiency might to some extent be jeopardized, the positions should be filled by returned soldiers. I am unable to go that far, and I suppose that a similar view is held by the department. But I cannot see that efficiency would be jeopardized. A large number of returned soldiers who are out of employment are quite capable of performing this work.
I shall see that the different matters connected with pensions that have been raised by several honorable members are brought to the notice of the Minister concerned.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the House to an injustice that has arisen from the transfer of war service homes in Victoria from the State Savings Bank to the War Service Homes Commission. A man whose war service home was insured against fire, flood, and various other contingencies, including damage by white ants, discovered that some of the timber in the front portion of his house was infested with white ants, and wrote to the commission inquiring whether he should employ a carpenter to replace the affected part and send in the account, or wait until an inspection had been made by an officer of the commission. To this he received a reply informing him that the commission did not regard itself as liable for this particular form of damage, as ite insurance policy did not include that risk, despite the fact that it was covered by the policy which he took out with the Sayings Bank of Victoria, the premiums of which he had paid in full. When the administration was transferred to the War Service Homes Commission, he was not informed that certain contingencies wore no longer covered. I submit that the commission must take over all the liabilities and obligations entered into by the State authority. One can imagine the position that would arise in the event, of this man’s home being burnt down, if he were calmly informed by the commission that it was not responsible, because its form’ of insurance did not cover the risk of fire. The principle is exactly the same. I have no doubt that there are other cases of the same kind. I raise this not as an individual case, but as one which may be illustrative of many others. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that this liability will be acknowledged by the War Service Homes Commission. Unless it is, the commission may be charged with having practised some form of repudiation.
– When the State Savings Bank of Victoria took over certain homes from the War Service Homes Commission and began to build additional homes with money advanced to the bank by the Commonwealth Government it was required to provide the homes under conditions not less favorable than those granted by the commission. The war service homes scheme assumed certain liabilities in respect of insurance. The State Savings Bank of Victoria granted insurance on some items that were covered by the policy issued by the commission, but in addition had assumed responsibility for the risk of damage by white ants, borers, and the warping of unseasoned timber. The war service homes which were being administered by the bank have now been re-transferred to the commission. Certain legal queries have been raised by different persons concerning the insurance to which they are entitled. I have discussed the matter with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and have submitted it to the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Senator McLachlan) for his opinion. The desire of the Government, the commission and myself, is to do the fair, honest and just thing, but in a legal way. I assure the honorable gentleman that justice will be done in every case, but that it will be done legally. So soon as the opinion of the Acting AttorneyGeneral is available, the honorable gentleman and the applicant will be notified of my decision.
.- Yesterday I did not have an opportunity to debate the question of unemployment, upon which I have spoken for over 45 years. I regard unemployment as the present, greatest curse of humanity, not only in Australia, but also in every other country. It is second only to the curse of war. If war were declared to-morrow, we should have no trouble in raising the necessary money to prosecute it. Why, then, can we not find money for the relief of unemployment? During the last awful war, I doubt if any human being in Australia lacked proper and sufficient food. It is known from statements that have been made by medical men connected with the Department of Public Health that the cursed disease known as rickets is becoming very prevalent in Australia on account of the lack of proper and sufficient food. A man who is hungry beyond bearing may approach a householder and be given some weak tea, bread, and perhaps, a little dripping. That will not build up the human frame. The illeffects of under-nourishment are accentuated in the case of little children. Children are to-day in need of proper food, and yet we boast of our civilization. In Victoria the cost of keeping a prisoner in gaol is 26s. a week; yet an honest man in the community is asked to try to live on 68. a week. We should tackle this problem boldly by embodying in our Constitution the principle of the right to work. I have had 45 years’ experience of politics, and during that period governments have come and gone. I cannot remember one single winter during which there wa.» not some trouble in respect of unemployment. Luckily there was very little trouble- until recent years. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) suggested that we should wait for a while and then assist the unemployed with some far-reaching project.
– I did not say that- we should wait, but that we should carry on immediately.
– I am glad that I misunderstood the honorable member.
– I want the Government to look far ahead.
– If there were a war we would not look far ahead, but would take action immediately. We have in this land untold wealth in respect of oil, gold, silver and hundreds of other things. Why not make use of that wealth in order to solve the problem of unemployment? To my knowledge only one financial expert in the world - I refer to Major Douglas - is advocating the use of accumulated wealth for that purpose. To the discredit of this country we gave but a cold welcome to that gentleman. On the other hand we wasted money on the Big Four, who were asked to come to Australia. The expenditure included £2,000 for motor-cars and £2,500 at Menzies’ Hotel. When the wives of that magical Four expressed a wish to enjoy a salt-water bath in Queensland, a Commonwealth officer in receipt of a. high salary was sent with £3 of” the taxpayers’ mono;y with which to -tip the bath-keeper. Can any honorable member conscientiously say that Australia, received any benefit from the visit of the Big Four? I am not blaming this Government, because it was not instrumental in bringing about that awful event. Unemployment is the next great curse to war and we should not delay one instant in our efforts to solve that problem. What glorious cries “ unemployment” and “the right to work” will be at the next election ! I maintain that every human being has the right to work. There is work available in respect of street and road repairs and the building of bridges. There is sufficient work in respect of the conservation of water to absorb the whole army of the unemployed in this country, because for every thousand men given employment by the Government, 300 or 400 others are absorbed in other directions. Governments succeed governments, but nothing is done to tackle boldly the problem of unemployment. Every insect in this chamber can select any corner for its home and keep itself, yet any human being who selects a few vacant acres and attempts to grow food for himself is immediately removed by an officer, possibly a policeman. Of course, death may await the insect from the broom of the cleaner, but who knows when death will come to any of us. Great Britain’s debt to the United States of America was funded at an interest payment of 3 per cent, for ten years and 3^ per cent, thereafter, but in spite of . that concession Australia was paying England 6 per cent, on its war debt including 1 per cent, sinking fund. Despite the fact that we have seven governments in Australia Jack Lang was the only political leader who said that if England failed to treat Australia as favorably as the United States of America had treated England we should make no more interest payments higher than 3 per cent. That was called repudiation by some people in Australia, but the fact is that to-day Australia is the only country in the world which has not repudiated its debts and is meeting its war commitments. For every £100 of interest sent to England, we have to pay an additional £25 on account of exchange, and for every £100 that we send to the United States of America we have to pay £79 on account of exchange. This problem is too big for any one government to handle, and it is only by a combination of all parties that any progress will be made towards a solution of it.
– I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the House the action of certain honorable members, including Ministers, in making inaccurate statements in this chamber and misleading pensioners and other sections of the communityand inflicting much hardship upon them. Some time ago the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when dealing with a bill to amend the pensions law, said that it was the practice of the department and of the Government to permit invalid pensioners to earn a few shillings per week. A branch of the Oldage and Invalid Pensioners’ Association, communicated with me asking for a clear indication from the Assistant Treasurer as to what he intended to convey by his statement. The following is a copy of the letter which the association wrote to me -
It has been stated in the House of Representatives by Mr. Casey that invalid pensioners are, and have been for some time, allowed to earn five or six shillings per week. Would you kindly inform me if that statement is correct and if it would be safe to advise invalid pensioners accordingly.
The Assistant Treasurer replied -
With reference to the attached copy of correspondence forwarded by you on the subject of earnings of invalid pensioners I have to inform you that cases have arisen from time to time in which invalid pensioners have received occasional payments of a few shillings per week for small services rendered, notwithstanding that thu medical evidence indicated that they were permanently and totally incapacitated for work. In these cases, the payments have not been held to disentitle the persons to pension on the ground that they were not totally and permanently incapacitated.
That reply was not sufficiently definite to enable the Pensioners Association to inform its members and non-members as to whether they were permitted to earn n few shillings a week. I therefore communicated with the Assistant Treasurer asking him to be more definite. On the 19th January, I received from him a. further letter reading as follows: - 1 desire to acknowledge receipt of your letter nf 15th December, 1933, copy attached, with reference to the permissible earnings of invalid pensioners, and regret that my absence from Canberra has prevented me from replying’ earlier. I am unable to add to the advice contained in my letter of 11th December that cases have arisen from time to time in which invalid pensioners have received occasional payments of a few shillings per week for small services rendered, and still have been permitted to draw their pensions. I may explain, however, that the services rendered in these cases have not been commensurate with the payments made, tho latter having been prompted largely by charitable motives.
Although, on several occasions, I pressed for a more definite statement from the Assistant Treasurer, I was unable to obtain it, but I am in a position to say that from information supplied to me by members of the Pensioners Association, a number of invalid pensioners accepted the statement of the Assistant Treasurer and secured part-time employment at a few shillings a week. Immediately the department discovered what they were doing their pensions were cancelled. 1 contend that it is entirely wrong for a
Minister or any honorable member to make a statement which is calculated to mislead any section of the community, and which, in fact, has jeopardized the payment of pensions to .certain individuals.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) has stated that certain resolutions were carried by the Pensioners Association. I wish, in the first place, to say that the resolutions which were carried by that common-sense organization were not prompted by any member of the party to which I belong. I am quite satisfied that the pensioners are competent to judge who should be their representatives in this chamber, and who should address their various conferences. It is true that the honorable member for Lang has made many efforts to address the pensioners, and I remember one memorable occasion when he addressed them in the Sydney Domain. Owing to the hot reception when he then received he has not again appeared there. Several honorable members have availed themselves of the opportunity to reflect, not only upon the pensioners and their association, but also upon various sections of the workers who have been largely instrumental in making Australia the nation that it is to-day.
Reference has been made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to the statement of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). The honorable member for Perth may have visited Darwin and seen the waterside workers in action. I have not had that privilege, but I have seen members of the legal fraternity in action. The honorable gentleman said that the waterside workers at Darwin were the nearest approach to slow motion that he had ever seen. I shall go one better and say that, the members of the legal profession whom I have seen in action are absolute perfection in slow motion. Honorable gentlemen who decry the efforts of other sections of the community to make an honest living should examine the conduct of members of their own profession.
I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation is not present for I wish to direct attention to certain matters relating to payment of war pensions. The
Government has, on many occasions, endeavoured to dodge its obligation to war pensioners by saying that the existing law makes the doing of certain things impossible; but if it had a real desire to help the pensioners it could have kept Parliament in session so that the deficiencies of the law could have been remedied and its anomalies removed. I direct- attention to the case of a lady who recently suffered the bereavement of the man, a returned soldier, whom she thought to be her husband. After the death of this man an investigation by the Repatriation Department showed that he had been guilty of bigamy, and that the lady who was living with him at the time of his death, ‘and who had borne him two children was not his legal wife. Thereupon the pension which she had been receiving for many years was cancelled. I communicated with the Minister in regard to this case, and lie replied that the law made it impossible for the pension to be continued any longer. I hope that something will be done to rectify this anomaly.
The next matter I wish to refer to is one for which this Government is not wholly responsible. Unfortunately when the alleged Labour Government, which preceded this one, caused the financial emergency legislation to be passed through Parliament it opened the door for many injustices to be committed. Following upon the passage of that legislation certain regulations were “issued which placed a restriction upon the amount of income which a mother might receive and still retain her pension. It was laid down that if her total income exceeded £3 a fortnight no pension was payable. The Government attempted to justify the introduction of this provision by stating that it had been agreed to by a committee of certain individuals who claimed to represent returned soldiers generally. The fact is that the rank and file of returned soldiers knew nothing whatever about, this amended legislation until they began to feel its effects. Because of the rigid enforcement of the provision that I have referred to, many people in the community are being deprived of the right to live decently.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) pleaded that. unemployed returned soldiers should be employed in polling booths during the coming election. If one accepted the statements made ut various times by Ministers he would assume that every returned soldier in this country was in employment ; but the honorable member for Macquarie ha3 practically admitted this afternoon that the best that the Government can do for some returned men is to provide them with one day’s work in three years. The honorable member referred to certain speeches that had been made in the Parliament of New South Wales that the Labour party of that State was not favorable to preference to returned soldiers. I do not hesitate to say that I am opposed to any form of preference other than that for unionists. Many trade unionists who went to the war and rejoined their unions on their return to Australia, to-day would be perfectly satisfied with preference to unionists. They realize that a straight-out preference to returned soldiers would cause hardship to many deserving persons in the community. We know very well that this Government, which professes to adhere to a policy of preference to returned soldiers, disregards that policy when highly-paid positions have to be filled, on the plea that all other things are not equal. On these grounds they give all the best positions that become available to their own political friends, whether they are returned soldiers or not. When “ scabs “ are wanted on the waterfront, or laborious work has to be done on roads or elsewhere, the Government seeks the agency of returned soldier organizations to obtain workers at rates of pay below the prevailing rates for such work in this country. The Labour party holds that all work that becomes available should be equally distributed among all the members of the community. If the contention of the honorable member for Macquarie were carried to its logical conclusion, it would bc found that young men who are the sons of returned soldiers, but were too young to enlist, would be denied employment. This would react disastrously on their relatives, who may have suffered heavy bereavement and loss during the war years.
I trust that the matters which I have discussed will be brought under the notice of the Ministers concerned, and that remedial action ‘ will be taken by the Government.
.- We are approximately eight weeks from the date of the election, and on that account the discussion that occurred yesterday on unemployment is of particular interest. It was stated during that debate that 20.9 per cent, of the people of Australia are out, of work. This figure includes only members of industrial organizations registered for employment. It does not include the army of 55,000 boys and 50,000 girls who leave school every year in this country. No provision has been made by this Parliament to provide work for these most unfortunate young people. Whether members of the Government, or of the Opposition for that matter, like it or not, the coming election will be fought on the unemployment issue. The people of Australia will want to know what the parties seeking support at the election intend to do to solve this problem. A government which has been unable, in an undeveloped country like Australia, to find employment for the people here is not likely to retain the confidence of the people. Not many years ago, advertisements were broadcast overseas to the effect that Australia was the land of golden opportunities, and the best place in the world for young people to make a start in life; yet, to-day, tens of thousands of our people cannot find work here. The Government, in forecasting the financial position for the current year, has intimated that it intends to spend £4,000,000 on defence and to provide £2,000,000 to help the States to reduce their deficits. In addition to that, it is suggested that there will he a surplus of £1,300,000. The spending of a large sum of money on the purchase of two war vessels overseas will ‘be of no advantage to the unemployed workers of Australia. Nothing is being done to put reproductive works in hand to provide employment for our people, but every endeavour is being made by the Commonwealth to avoid responsibility for unemployment. We have been told that the States are responsible for it; but, whatever the Commonwealth Government may say in respect of unemployment in the States, it cannot expect the people to believe that the States are responsible for unemployment in federal territories. In the Federal Capital Territory, for instance, unemployment has been reduced, in round figures,” from 600 in 1930 to 400 in 1934. But is it beyond the capacity of this Government to provide employment for a mere 400 people in the Federal Capital Territory, so that during the winter months they may have some of the comforts of life. The only suggestion that the Government has made recently to cope with unemployment in the Federal Capital Territory is that 100 workers should be sent from Canberra to South Australia, which State has, I suppose, the highest unemployment figures in the Commonwealth. Before people can obtain any sustenance at all in the federal territories, they must be resident within the Territory for three years. How are such people expected to exist during that period? Even after they are eligible for (registration they are given very little work. Single men are able to obtain one day’s work a week, and married men two or three days’ work a week, according to the number of children they have dependent upon them. A government which is obliged to admit, after three years in office, that it has been unable to find work for 20 per cent, of the people, will receive from the electors the treatment it deserves. That men are willing to work is shown by the number of them who “jump the rattler” to got to other localities in the hope that they will be able to obtain employment. When such men are discovered travelling ou goods trains without tickets they are prosecuted, although it does not cost the price of an extra shovelful of coal to carry .them on a train. Both State and Federal governments say that they must uphold the law, and that they must, therefore, do what they can to prevent men from riding on railway trains without paying their fares. When unemployed men arrive at Tennant’s Creek, in the Northern Territory, in search of gold, they find that they are not allowed to go prospecting where there is still some chance of gold being found, because the land has been declared a reserve for aboriginals. They .are compelled to leave the settlement, and if they “ jump the rattler “ when they get to the railhead, those of them who are caught are herded into gaol, their fingerprints are taken, and they become, officially, criminals. Boys who have remained at school to qualify in arts or science subjects, and who go out to seek employment when seventeen or eighteen years of age, find that no work is available for them. They are then at an age when employers would have to pay them high wages under arbitration awards, and the employers prefer to take on boys of fourteen years of age. The youths who are thus unable to find work are not prepared to remain at home as a burden on their parents, though the parents would gladly keep them so long as there was a crust of bread in the house. Being of sturdy, independent stock, they go out into the world to fend for themselves. They fall in with older men, who are also in search of work, and, it being necessary to make dry stages of about 40 or 50 miles, they secret themselves on a goods train to make the journey. The old hands drop off before reaching the point at which a search is likely to be made, but the boys stay on and are caught. They are brought before a court, convicted, and punished, and from thenceforward become criminals in the eyes of the law.
It is all so tragic, and so unnecessary. There is work in abundance to be done, if only we would do it. In Queensland, alone, such towns as Cairns, Mackay. Townsville, and even Brisbane, are not yet fully sewered, and this work is urgent, if only for health reasons. We are told that there is no money with which to do work ; but, if a war were to break out to-morrow, money would be found with which to wage it, and men, also. If we allow the nation to stagnate, as it has done during the last five’ or six years, there may eventually be money with which to carry out necessary works; but there will be no men. The Commonwealth Government cannot evade its responsibility by sheltering behind State governments, because we all know that it is the Commonwealth Government which really controls, the financial situation. Honorable members opposite have asked what the Labour Government did to relieve unemployment in 1930. 1 must be remembered, however, that in 1930 the average price of wool was 6d. per lb., whereas to-day it is more. like 16d. At that time thousands of pastoral workers were out of work, because it did not pay the graziers to hare the wool taken off the sheeps’ backs. Land tax, railway freights and other charges were so high that the whole return from wool would have been absorbed, leaving nothing for the grazier. If the corner has now been turned, and prosperity is in sight, the credit is due, not to the Government, but wholly to the fact that the price of wool has risen. The Government claims that there has been a decrease in the volume of unemployment; but, at the present rate of improvement, it will be ten years or more before all our unemployed are back at work. Even to achieve the slight measure of improvement which has so far been effected, the workers have been called upon to make enormous sacrifices. In New South Wales, unemployment tax at the rate of1s. in the £1 has been exacted from those in work, and in Queensland the tax has been fixed at 6d. in the £1. Besides this, wages everywhere have been heavily reduced. Unemployment is a national problem, and should be dealt with by the National Government. There are millions of acres available upon which men couldbe settled. There are thousands of people possessing some capital who would be glad . to place their children on the land if it were made available to them on reasonable conditions, and if some assistance and encouragement were given to them during the initial stages. I hope that the Government, instead of boasting about its surplus of £1,300,000, and instead of spending £4,000,000 on buying war material from overseas, will, even at this late stage, do something for the relief of those urgently in need of assistance. Let it provide employment at least in those areas which it directly controls, instead of allowing matters to drift on as they aredoing now.
.- I was astounded to -hear this afternoon of the effects of the recent judgment delivered by Judge Drake-Brockman dealing with the conditions of waterside employment at Darwin. This judgment goes beyond the realms of mere industrial legislation, and impinges on the White Australia pohoy, which is enshrined in the hearts of the Australian people. I was not much impressed with the attempt of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) to justify the inactivity of the Government, on the ground that it was not desirable to interfere with judgments of the Arbitration Court. We have not forgotten that, on a previous occasion, the present Government showed no hesitation in overriding an Arbitration. Court ruling, and in respect of this very industry. I refer to the occasion when a judge of the Arbitration Court fixed a date beyond which volunteer waterside workers would cease to be officially recognized, and when this ruling was deliberately disregarded by the Government. It was not prepared to accept the decision of Judge Beeby, but framed regulations which were directly contrary to the very principle laid down by the learned judge. This has caused considerable irritation and unrest on the waterfront. I say, emphatically, that the Government should protect the Australian people against a decision which would deprive them of what is rightfully theirs in favour of the crews of alien ships trading on the Australian coast. It is only a matter of time when this practice will be extended to other ports within the Commonwealth, and it is important that we should make a strong protest against the giving of a concession which would deprive our Australian waterside workers of work which is rightfully theirs.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
The following papers were presented : - Mining Areas in Northern Territory - Preliminary Report on tour of inspection by the Commonwealth Government Geologist (Dr. W. G. Woolnough ) .
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1934 -
No. 11 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 12 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
Nos. 13 and 14 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
Motion (by Mr. Mark) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections 22, 39, 45x and 45y of, and the second and fifth schedules to, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- J931, to repeal section 40 of that act, and to amend that ‘act in relation to pensions payable to returned soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill hu now read a second time.
This bill is intended primarily to honour the promise by the Prime Minister at the commencement of this session, that the Government would bring in legislation to include in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act the full pension granted to ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis due to war service. This promise was made in response to a question asked by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I think every honorable member will agree with the Government’s action, which will result in bringing greater peace of mind to those unfortunate men who have rendered heroic service to their country with such disastrous results to themselves. I should point out that the full pension was made available to tubercular soldiers by a Cabinet decision operating from the 1st July, 1925. Successive governments have affirmed that decision, but there ha3 always existed in the minds of those benefiting from it a fear that some day they might be deprived of the full pension. The inclusion of the provision in the act guarantees that .it can be lost by parliamentary action only. A similar state of affairs existed in regard to the payment of an attendant’s allowance to blinded soldiers. By some oversight when the second schedule of the act governing similar grants was prepared, the blinded soldiers were overlooked. Action was taken to remedy the effect of the omission by the issue of a regulation enabling payment to be made. It is now proposed to remedy the omission itself by including the provision in the act.
As it is necessary to secure parliamentary sanction for this proposal, opportunity has been taken to remove certain technical difficulties of administration. Sections 22, 39, 40, 45x and 45 y of the act are affected, and the second and fifth schedules. The effect of the alteration will permit the Repatriation Commission to pay pension to certain classes of people, who, though morally entitled to it, have been debarred from receiving it by the peculiar wording of the act. It will also enable the Repatriation Commission to bring payments of living allowance under the proper definition of pension. The powers of the appeal tribunals, in regard to arrears of pension which were affected by the financial emergency legislation, have been slightly increased. No drastic revision of the act as a whole is intended, nor is it necessary; but the legislation, when passed, will enable the Repatriation Commission to administer the act in a more sympathetic and liberal way than has been possible under the existing provision. There is nothing in the bill of a contentious nature, and I anticipate that it. will receive the unanimous support of honorable members.
I know that every honorable member has the interest of the ex-soldier at heart, and at this stage I arn pleased to inform the House that the Government, in addition, to this bill, has also approved of a complete revision of the repatriation regulations to simplify the work of the Repatriation Commission in carrying out the sympathetic intentions of Parliament. It is also the intention of the Government to bring forward further legislation of importance to ex-soldiers and their dependants. That, however, will be dealt with at the proper time, and honorable members will then have ample opportunity to examine closely the proposals.
Clause 2 of the bill has reference to section 44 b of the Financial Emergency Act of 1931, which amended^ the definition of “ Dependants “ in section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by excluding from pension benefits any wife married or child born to a member of the forces after the first day of October, 1931, provided that if the father dies as a result of war service, such child shall be deemed to be a dependant and will become pensionable. It will thus be seen that a child could be eligible for war pension and the mother not eligible, and that the mother’s widowhood has been brought about by her husband’s death from war service. The Government has given careful consideration to this matter, and has decided to amend this definition in such a way that a widow, under the circumstances which I have outlined, may be granted a war pension. It is felt that the sympathy of the House and of the people of the Commonwealth is with those dependants who have been bereft of their breadwinners through the Great War, and that this sympathy may rightly assume a practical and tangible nature in the form of a war pension at the time when monetary assistance will be most helpful and appreciated. While the expenditure in the aggregate will not be very great, the grant will be a boon to the individual recipients.
Clause 3 of the bill proposes to redeem a promise made by successive governments to soldiers suffering from that dread disease, pulmonary tuberculosis. In December, 1924, the Royal Commission on War Service Disabilities recommended that a permanent pension should be paid where tuberculosis has resulted from war service. During August, 1925, Cabinet approved of the recommendation of the commission, and decided that in such cases a pension at full rate should be paid for the life of the pensioner. From time to time the matter has been reconsidered with a view to the incorporation of the decision of Cabinet in the act, thus giving it the force, permanency and protection derivative only from a statutory provision.
Clause 4 of the bill is drafted to remove certain undesirable features of section 39 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which at present provides that the dependants of a soldier who dies from other than war causes may continue to draw the pensions they were receiving at the time of his death. This section operates somewhat harshly in certain cases, and the Government desires to abate the harshness of its application. Recently, to assist the Commonwealth during a period of financial stress, some soldiers voluntarily relinquished their pensions and those of their dependants. In cases where the soldier subsequently dies from causes not attributable to war service while the pension is under relinquishment, the deceased’s dependants cannot then be regranted a pension. In another case a soldier may, for patriotic reasons, or through ignorance of the provisions of the act, fail to apply for a pension for his wife and children, although they were eligible to receive one, and on completion of a former application would have been granted one.In the event of his death from causes not attributable to war service, the commission finds itself unable to grant his widow and children a war pension on the ground that his death was not attributable to war service. The proposed amendment will, if accepted, enable the commission to grant pensions in such cases as I have mentioned, and award some measure of assistance to very deserving dependants.
Clause 5 purports to repeal section 40 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which, in its present form, prevents the commission from granting a war pension to the dependants of a man who dies as a result of his war service, more than seven years after the date of his discharge, unless, at the time of his death, he was in receipt of a pension, and then only to his widow and children. The Royal Commission on War Service Disabilities recommended the repeal of this section, as it was unduly hampering the commission’s administration, and successive governments have met the situation temporarily by approving of the payment of a living allowance at war pension rates under regulation 96. By repealing section 40, such dependants will automatically be dealt with under section 23 or other appropriate sections of the act, and will be granted war pensions. Special action will be taken to conserve the interests of those drawing living allowances under regulation 96, and they will then automatically receive war pensions. The Government feels that it is the intention of Parliament, and the wish of the people of the Commonwealth, that, where a man dies from war service, even if it is more than seven years after his discharge, his dependants should be granted a war pension. By repealing section 40, this eminently desirable object will be achieved.
In Clause 6 of this bill, the Government proposes to authorize the Appeal Tribunal - commonly referred to as the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal to approve, iu certain specified cases, arrears of pension not exceeding certain amounts. It has been found in practice that there are several deserving cases which, under existing law, cannot, be granted the relief to which they, in the opinion of the Government and, I am sure, of all honorable members, are justly entitled. Illustrative of the point, it may be mentioned that where the commission cancels a soldier’s pension, and on appeal, the Appeal Tribunal restores his pension, the restoration dates only from the date of the appeal to the tribunal. In these circumstances, the man may easily lose his pension over a period of several weeks. Also, the commission may decide that, even though the Appeal Tribunal establishes his entitlement to the pension, there is no pensionable disability, aud the appellant then approaches the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, which, under the existing law, is empowered to regrant, grant or increase a pension as from the date of lodgment of appeal only. After full consideration of the whole of the surrounding circumstances, the Government is desirous of permitting the Appeal Tribunal to date its decision from the date upon which the commission terminated or rejected a pension, or from a date three months immediately preceding the lodgment of the appeal, whichever is the later. In cases where, by ordinary departmental machinery, a pension has been refused, cancelled or reduced, the Assessment Appeal Tribunal will have power to date its decision from the date of such refusal, cancellation or reduction, or from a date three months immediately preceding the lodgment of the appeal, whichever is the later.
Clause 7 of the bill gives power to an assessment appeal tribunal to appoint a representative to continue an appeal by a mentally afflicted soldier.
Clause 8, if accepted by Parliament, will enable the Government to redeem a longstanding promise to include in the act a provision which at present has the force of a regulation only, for an allowance to blinded men, or to men who have no useful vision, to provide an attendant. In addition, it is proposed to empower the commission to grant an attendant’s allowance to other soldiers who suffer from serious disabling injuries or illnesses, the incapacitating effects of which are similar to those resulting from injury or disease affecting the cerebro-spinal system. An attendant’s allowance in spinal cases is already in force under the second schedule to the act, and the amended definition will enable the commission to give a wider interpretation to the provision, and assist many thoroughly deserving, seriously disabled men.
Clause 9 is designed to remedy certain legal defects. As the items to be amended read at present they are meaningless, and consequently make it extremely difficult for the commission to approve benefits thereunder. The additions are self-explanatory, and with a view to protecting the interests of those cases in which assistance has already been granted under this schedule, it is the desire of the Government to date the provision back to the 18th October, 1922.
Debate (on motion) by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections three,’ twenty -nine, thirty-three, thirty-nine, forty-one, forty-seven, ninety-three, one hundred and twenty-three, one hundred and thirty-three, one hundred and thirty-five, one hundred and seventy-seven and two hundred and twelve of. and the schedule to, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1018- 1929, and relating to enrolment and the removal nf names from electoral rolls.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This measure covers several proposed alterations of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the more important relating to four matters to which I propose specially to refer.
First, provision is made in the bill whereby inmates of institutions for the reception of indigent, invalid and infirm persons, the cost of whom is provided for wholly or partly by the government of the Commonwealth or of a State, or by a municipal or other authority of the Commonwealth or of a State, shall be entitled to enrolment and to vote only in respect of the division in which they lived prior to their admission to the institution. As honorable members are aware, under the existing provisions of the Commonwealth law inmates of institutions of the nature referred to are entitled to secure enrolment in respect of the divisions in which the institutions are established, after having completed the requisite period of one month’s residence thereat, and to vote accordingly, the effect being that in the case of the main institutions in the several States a considerable proportion of the voters in the particular division or divisions concerned is comprised of the inmates of institutions located in those divisions, the majority of whom have no community of interest whatever with the bulk of the electors of the constituency. It is considered that, as a. general rule, persons who are compelled through force of circumstances to leave their ordinary places of residence to become inmates of institutions of the nature mentioned would infinitely prefer to have the right, which this bill proposes to concede, to continue their electoral association with the divisions embracing the places at which they lived prior to entering the institution. The majority of these persons have little or no interest in the division in which the institution happens to be located. On the other hand, many of them have rooted interests resulting from a long period of active work and residence in the divisions in which they were previously living. In making special provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to inmates of these institutions the Government is not altogether breaking new ground. The Electoral Act of Queens-land provides that, for the purposes of enrolment and voting, inmates of charitable institutions shall be deemed to live in the electoral districts m which they respectively lived prior to becoming such inmates; whilst section 18 of the Electoral Act 1907-1921 of Western Australia provides, among other things, that every person who is wholly dependent upon relief from the State or from any charitable institution subsidized by the State, except as a patient under treatment for accident or disease in a hospital, shall be disqualified from being enrolled or from voting at an election.
The second matter of importance included in the bill is the additional provision to ensure the correctness of the rolls. Under the law as it stands at present, the machinery, it is considered, is not sufficiently stringent in that it does not empower the electoral administration to deal immediately and effectually with incorrect or improper enrolments which may come under notice between the issue of the writ for an election and polling day. This defect will be very materially remedied by the new provisions. In particular those provisions are intended (a) to avoid any elector having his name placed on the roll in respect of any address other than the address at which he is actually living at the date of his claim; (b) to provide a ready means whereby the electoral officers will be able at any time to transfer to the proper roll the names of any electors who it is discovered have been enrolled for a division or subdivision in which they did not at the date of the claim actually reside; and (c) to provide means whereby the electoral officers will bo able between the issue of the writ arid polling day to effect the removal from the roll of any enrolment which lias been improperly obtained.
The third important alteration proposed by the bill is that which provides that at a Senate election the elector must vote for the full number of candidates in the order of his preference for them. Under the law as it stands at present, the elector must, at a Senate election, vote for all the candidates where the number thereof does not exceed twice the number to be elected plus one, but where therm are more candidates than twice thu number to be elected plus one the elector may please himself whether be continues tt* indicate his preferences beyond the prescribed number or not. In the case of an election for the House of Representatives the act requires that, where there are more than two candidates, the elector must indicate his preferences for the whole of the candidates, and it is considered that the law should be consistent by providing for the same requirement to apply in the case of Senate elections. The- inclusion in. the act of the relative provisions- set out in the bill1 would remove the existing lack of uniformity as between elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives, and as- it would enable the directions to voters to- be issued in more concise and simple terms than at present there is reason to believe that it would tend to reduce, the number of informal votes recorded. Hitherto the directions relating to the manner in which a Senate ballot-paper must be marked have necessarily, where there were more candidates than twice the number to bo elected plus one,, been rather involved and somewhat at variance with those relating to the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives election. This,, it is contended, has led to confusion and misunderstand.ing, which have resulted in an abnormal number of informal votes. Another reason for this amending .provision is that the principle of preferential voting demands for its full’ and complete application the indication of a preference for every candidate; otherwise there is always the possibility of a result which is not; in accord with the real wishes of the electors.
A further clause relating to Senate elections is designed to provide effectively for any case in which a Senate candidate dies between the date of nomination and polling day.. Honorable members, will recollect that, in connexion with the 19-28 Sen-ate election in Victoria, one of the candidates, Mr. J. K. Forsyth, died on the 12th November - four- days before the poll was taken. Ballot-papers containing the name of the deceased’ candidate had already been distributed throughout the State,, and, although it waa possible in the great majority of cases to substitute fresh ballot-papers with his name omitted’ therefrom,, it was impracticable to do so in respect of some of the more remote polling places, at which there was no option but to use the original ballotpapers. Although the name “Forsyth.” was ruled out therefrom by- .the presiding officers, and the- ballot-papers were, thereupon officially regarded as ballot-papers from. -which- the name of “Forsyth” had been, omitted, in- many instances preferences were indicated opposite the name ruled out, or a break occurred in the numerical sequence of the preferences, in either of which event the vote was- rendered informal. Owing to tho brief period at their disposal, political organizations wereunable to withdraw from circulation all the “ How to vote “ cards, including Mr. Forsyth’s name which had been issued’ advising electors to mark their ballotpapersin the manner set forth. Electors to whom these cards were given apparently werein a quandary when, upon attending the polling booth, they found that the “ How to vote “ card’ contained the name of one more, candidate than appeared on theballotpaper; and as a consequence many failed to mark their preferences in strict numerical sequence-. On that occasion,, the High Court, sitting as a Court of Disputed Returns, held that 11,289’ ballotpapers marked - 1 Barnes, 2 Blakey, 3 Findley, 4 Elliott, 6 Lawson, wererightly rejected as informal. It would be impossible, in the event of a Senatecandidate dying immediately prior topolling day, to issue fresh ballot,papen to all polling places, and in. order toavoid the great difficulty which, under the law as it stands, would arise in such a case, the adoption of the amendingprovision included in the bill is highly desirable in the interests of all concerned. In effect, it i-a designed to validate the use of Senate ballot-papers containing the name of a candidate whose death occurs between nomination day and polling day. Its adoption will, not only relieve the electoral administration and the political organizations from grave difficulty and anxiety in such, unfortunate circumstances,, but also save from invalidation ballot-papers which, under the act as it now stands, must bc rejected asinformal.
The fourth matter in the bill to which attention is specially invited refers to disorderly behaviour at election meetings. Under the: existing provisions of the Electoral Act no power is given for a con- stable to remove disorderly persons from an election meeting. Honorable members,
I am sure, will welcome the proposed amendment, which will enable the chairman of a meeting to direct a policeman to remove any person who prevents the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held.
The bill also contains an amendment relating to the postal voting provisions of the act. Cases have come under the notice of the electoral officers in which an authorized witness has endeavoured to influence the vote of an elector voting by post before him. Such a practice, I suggest, should be regarded as a serious offence, and justifies the inclusion in the act of the proposed provision that an authorized witness shall not influence or attempt to influence in any way the vote of an elector voting by post before him.
The only other matter contained in the bill, apart, from merely consequential alterations arising out of those already mentioned, and the omission of two obsolete sub-sections of the Electoral Act, is a clause bringing up to date the existin”’ provisions relating to the transmission of telegrams.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Baker) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Sitting suspended from 6.7 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 11th July (vide page 416), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government has presented to the House legislation for the repeal of a certain provision that it inserted in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in September, of 1932. It is part of certain legislation of a strictly repressive character introduced at that particular time, which did a great injustice to those who were at that time in receipt of pensions as well as to those who have since made applications for pensions. The bill introduced by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is totally inadequate to meet the great public claim that there are at the present moment, in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, provisions which should be liberalized or at any rate restored to the basis in existence prior to the introduction of the emergency legislation or the repressive conditions imposed in 1932. I intend to move as’ an amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting in their place the words “ the Government be instructed also to provide legislation immediately for the purpose of removing entirely from the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act the provisions dealing with the claims upon pensioners’ property, and to provide for the restoration of the maximum pension of fi per week.
This bill appears to me to be a belated acknowledgment of the serious error that was made in imposing certain conditions, and which called forth expressions of indignation throughout the length and breadth of this country.
– It is an election dodge.
– I believe that the proximity of the election certainly has a very real relation to this circumstance, and there is no doubt that the provisions originally introduced by the Government in 1932 occasioned endless anxiety to thousands of the aged and infirm of this country. It was the intention of the present Government to surround pension matters with such hateful conditions that people would, be discouraged to take advantage of this social legislation. The Assistant Treasurer, a3 late as yesterday, indicated very clearly the intention of the Government in the introduction of this provision, which has proved so depressing, disconcerting, irritating and unjust to so many of our best citizens, when he said -
A brief history of this matter is that in 1932, in an endeavour to stem the rapidly increasing cost of pensions, measures were introduced requiring, among other things, relatives of pensioners, who were in a financial position to do so to make some contribution towards the cost of the pension.
Furthermore, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) indicated last December the true import of the Government’s attack upon the pensioners’ conditions. He indicated that the application of the Government’s policy in this matter had been responsible for the surrender of their pension rights by 12,000 people from the initiation of the amended law up to last December, and that it was estimated that another 13,000 had failed to apply for the pension, although entitled to do so. He said also that the amount represented by the pensions which these 25,000 persons forewent, was about £650,000. That gives an indication of what was really behind the mind of the Government in introducing this class of legislation, and I feel that the way in which people have been discouraged, or, to use a better word, intimidated, to deter them from taking what was rightfully their due under the social legislation of their country, is a most unfortunate record for any government in any country.
There was no justification for making these claims upon the pensioners at that particular time. At the very moment the Government was seeking to impose these unfair conditions upon the pensioner!, it had actually a surplus of £1,314,091. The reductions which were proposed in the legislation at that time and which would result from the conditions that were placed upon the pensioners in regard to property, and the surrender of many pensions, it was estimated, would relieve the Treasury of an expenditure of £1,100,000. It is interesting to note that when these conditions were imposed on pensioners, the Government started almost immediately to remit taxation. To certain importing commercial interests, through tariff revisions it gave a total remission of something like £800,000. In an effort to placate the Country party, exemptions from the payment of sales tax were allowed on certain classes of machinery, this representing a remission of £400,000. These gifts were really given at the expense of invalid and old-age pensioners.
In addition to being required to subject themselves to the full extent of all the cuts made under the financial emergency legislation the pensioners were subjected to certain impositions and qualifications which limited their eligibility to receive pensions. They were made to feel that pensions were no longer to be regarded in the light of assistance to which they were, as a right, entitled. The Government had no justification whatever to inflict on the pensioners at that par- ticular time the impositions I have mentioned. Some pensioners who were in receipt of the maximum pension of 17s. 6d. were immediately mulct of 2s. 6d. Where they could prove that their income did not amount to 2s. 6d. the margin between the income and the half a crown was restored, but the restoration was not made retrospective. Thus many people suffered a cut of 2s. 6d. for a certain time, although they had actually been entitled ito receive a higher rate of pension for that period. There was a cut of 2s. 6d. in respect of all persons who were receiving less than the maximum rate. The full rate of 17s. 6d. was given only to those people who had no other source of income whatever, so that actually the ordinary,. normal maximum rate from the time of that reduction was really 15s. pei- week. The .annual pension rate was reduced from October, 1932, to October, 1933. from £45 10s. to £39. It was only under special circumstances that persons were able to secure .the 17s. 6d., a pensioner having to -be completely dispossessed of any income whatever to do so. So desirous was the Government to raise money from this source that it squeezed the last shilling from any pensioner who was earning anything up to 2s. 6d. But it even went further and made attacks on invalid pensioners who were regarded as being adequately maintained in the homes of their parents or relatives. As the result of an investigation in this respect, many pensioners, because they resided with parents or relatives, were subjected to further cuts on the ground that they were being adequately maintained. In addition to that the pension of inmates of institutions which at that time was 5s. a week was reduced by ls. a week as well as the amounts to the institutions. Those were the immediate reductions in pensions made in September, 1932 by the Lyons Government, but one of the greatest- impositions to be found in the pensions legislation is the new provision which was inserted in the act by this Government whereby claims were made by the department upon the estates and properties of pensioners. Such a provision has never before been inserted in our pension legislation, and it was left to this .Government to devise this new method of penalizing the pensioners.
– The Government did that joyfully.
– There was no apology given by the Government, although it had to make some exceedingly awkward explanations in an endeavour to justify its action. The Government further harassed the pensioners by inserting in the act another provision which enabled the department to compel relatives to contribute towards the payments to pensioners. Contrary to what the Assistant Treasurer has said, no indication was given by the department as to the limitation placed upon the incomes of relatives before it would become necessary for them to contribute to pensions, and when the department interviewed the relatives it was a sheer case of bluff. I have been informed by some relatives of pensioners in South Australia that the departmental inquiry was like a “Dutch auction “. In response to notices they called upon the department, and were asked whether they were in a position to Contribute towards the pension of their father or mother. A person on the basic wage, because of being exceptionally sensitive in regard to his obligations to his parents, might suggest that he could contribute 2s. a. week.
– I rise to a point of order. The bill is confined entirely to the repeal of section 52m of the act which is solely and wholly concerned with relatives’ contributions, and I submit that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is speaking to points which are in no way relative to the bill.
– I submit that I am speaking not only to the bill, but also to my proposed amendment which embraces the provision to which I have referred.
-In reply to the point of order raised by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) I wish to point out that the amendment to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has referred is not at present officially before the House. After the honorable member has completed his speech the question will be stated from the chair and points of order will then be admissible. In the meantime the honorable member for Hindmarsh is strictly in order.
– The relatives who were interviewed by the department were not told of any limitation of income or of exemptions. They were merely asked what they were prepared to pay. If a person stated that he was prepared to contribute 2s. a week towards a pension the department would ask him to contribute more than that.
– How does the honorable member know that ?
– I have ascertained the methods adopted by the department from persons who were victims of this “stand and deliver “ method. If the person concerned were prepared to raise his contribution to 2s. 6d. the department would still not be satisfied and would suggest that he increase the contribution. That actually took place under the provision, in the act relating to claims upon relatives of pensioners. The relatives were placed in a humiliating and most distressing position, and this was keenly felt by parents who were in receipt of the pension. Subsequently a further indignity was placed upon the pensioners by the class of report submitted by the Auditor-General. If there is one man in the community who has seriously wronged the invalid and old-age pensioners, it is the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Cerutty. My one regret is that this Parliament has not the opportunity to deal adequately with persons holding responsible positions who deliberately set out to malign an unfortunate section of the people. At every opportunity I shall, without making apology or excuse, expose the bias and unfair attitude, not only of the AuditorGeneral, but also of this Government, in imposing repressive conditions upon the invalid and old-age pensioners. These people must have some relief. Although modification was made last December the stinging effect of this harsh treatment is still felt. This amending legislation is deplorably inadequate, and will do little towards removing from the invalid and old-age pensioners the irksome, irritating and unjust conditions which have been imposed upon them by this Government. There should he a full restoration of the conditions that were in operation prior to the introduction of the Financial Emergency Act. In the first year of the operation of that measure, this Government had a surplus of £1,314,091 ; in the second year it had a surplus of £3,546,608, and in the third year- 1933-34 - there was a surplus of £1,301,616. There is, therefore, ample justification for the restoration of the normal conditions which previously prevailed, particularly in view of the fact that this Government has made substantial remissions of taxation to the wealthy section of the community. Last year it remitted £7,500,000, and the previous year £2,000,000, mostly to people who have large financial interests. The Government, in its efforts to discourage applications for pensions, has deprived approximately 25,000 people of benefits to which they are rightly entitled under the pensions law. It was a mean action on its part to seek to secure added revenues and to balance its budget at the expense of the aged and suffering in the community. There are in the pensions law many provisions which have been most unjust and unfair in their operation. The department has exercised such a strict supervision of the law that people who should rightly be in receipt of the pension have been deprived of it. I know of some people in the early stages of tuberculosis who have been deprived of the right to a pension because it has not been proved to the department’s satisfaction that they are totally incapacitated although they are certainly permanently incapacitated. If this Government refuses to restore benefits to the pensioners, the Labour party will seek from the people a mandate to restore the maximum rate of £1 a week and to repeal the iniquitous provisions of the act dealing with claims upon pensioners’ property. A large number of people imagine that the withdrawal of the white card, commonly known as the “ White Horror “, dispensed with claims upon pensioners’ property. Certainly there has been a technical or legal change of definition from a “charge” to a “ debt “, but the act still retains the provision relating to claims upon pensioners’ property. It will, therefore, be well for the people to remember that this Govern ment has been responsible for inserting in the principal act harassing provisions which were never thought of by any previous government, and that no other government has imposed upon the pensioners the injustices to which they have been subjected during the last two and a half years. For that reason, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Government be instructed also to provide legislation immediately for the purpose of removing entirely from the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act the provisions dealing with the claims made upon pensioners’ property and to provide for the restoration of the maximum pension rate of £1 per week.”
– I second the amendment-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is entirely irrelevant to the bill before the House, the object of which is to repeal section 52m of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which deals with the contributions by dependants and relatives of invalid and old-age pensioners. The two points in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh have nothing whatever to do with the bill under discussion. The amendment, I submit, is entirely out of order, and I should like you, sir, to give a ruling on the point I have raised.
– Standing Order 162 reads -
No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the bill.
That standing order is imperative, but it refers to bills of a general nature, whereas the bill before the House seeks to amend a principal act, in this case the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This point is specifically referred to in May, 10th edition, at page 446, as follows: -
It is also competent to a member who desires to place on record any special reasons for not agreeing to the second reading of a bill, to move, as an amendment to the question, a resolution declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy, or provisions of the bill: or expressing opinions as to any circumstances connected with its introduction, or prosecution; or otherwise opposed to its progress; . . .
There have been many precedents in this House for moving amendments similar to that submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Some, which have been allowed by previous Speakers might fairly be questioned, but on the facts contained in May, I rule that the amendment is in order.
– I rise to a further point of order. I submit that as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh would increase the burden on the revenue, it cannot be moved by a private member.
– I rise to a point of order. The point raised by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) could be sustained if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh were to amend the bill before the House, but it does not propose to do that. It is merely to obtain an expression of opinion from the House as to whether the bill shall be referred back to the Government for further consideration, with a view to the introduction of another measure, and if carried, will not have the effect of increasing the appropriation.
– I rise to a point of order. As this legislation was not introduced by means of a resolution, founded on a message from the Governor-General, I respectfully submit that my amendment is in order.
– I. have to rule against the Assistant Treasurer for reasons some of which” ha ve already been given by those who have spoken to the point of order. The Assistant Treasurer will readily realize that this amendment asks that additional legislation be provided to cover the amendment. Therefore the amendment in itself does not increase the expenditure in any shape or form.
– I rise to a further point of order. If this amendment were accepted by the House-
– Order ! The Assistant Treasurer is now transgressing my ruling.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) specifically mentions that the rate of pension shall be fi a week, it is out of order, and cannot be accepted by the House. I contend that, in this case, it is unnecessary to have u message from the Governor-
General. No such message is required when a tariff resolution is brought down.
– I support the point raised by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). If the amendment is carried, a new bill must be introduced providing that the rate of pension shall be £1 per week, which would materially increase the amount required, as compared with that which would be appropriated under this bill. The effect of the amendment, if carried, would be to increase the amounts paid to invalid and old-age pensioners over and above that provided in the bill, thus making an additional charge upon the revenue.
– No message from the Governor-General has been presented to the House in connexion with this bill and the point of order cannot be sustained.
– I ‘remind honorable members of the promise made in this chamber more than three years ago by the then Prime Minister. Mr. Scullin, who then made it clear that the legislation providing for a reduction of pensions was purely of an emergency character, and would be repealed at the first possible opportunity. That declaration had the unanimous support of all honorable members now supporting the Government. But although they then undertook to assist in restoring pensions so soon as the finances permitted, they now wish to repudiate their promises as they have done for the last three years.
– Does the honorable member include the reductions made by the Scullin Government?
– Yes. Instead of the present Government restoring the 2s. 6d. per week of which pensioners were deprived, it has inflicted greater hardships upon many of them. In the first place, the Government suggested that pensions would have to be reduced from 17s. 6d. to 15s. per week, but the proposal received such a hostile reception, not only from members of the Opposition, but from some of the Government’s supporters as well, that the bill was withdrawn, and, after further consideration, an attempt was made to collect an equivalent amount in an indirect way. It was suggested that those who received income in some form, however small, should receive a weekly pension of only 15s. It was made to appear that pensioners would receive 17s. 6d. a week ; but it was obvious that pensioners who had any income at all would not receive more than 15s. weekly. The Government then introduced other amending provisions that no one ever dreamed would be brought before this Parliament. I remember an eloquent speech made by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) in opposition to the proposal, which, he said, was undermining the fundamental principles of our social legislation.
– I rise to a point of order. While respecting your ruling, sir, as to the validity of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I submit that the point at issue is the intention of that amendment. The intention of the amendment is clearly to bring about an increase of expenditure, and it is beyond the right of a private member to move in that direction. Further, the procedure adopted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh will undoubtedly have the effect of evading the purpose of the Standing Orders. I, therefore, submit that the amendment should not be accepted.
– The honorable member for Henty has trespassed on his privileges in again rising to speak on a subject upon which the Chair has just given a definite ruling. I regard the amendment as affording an opportunity for honorable members to give an expression of their opinions. It need not in any way increase the expenditure.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that, you ruled that as this bill was not founded on a motion in committee following the receipt of a message from the GovernorGeneral, the discussion could be allowed. No message is required for the submission of tariff resolutions in respect of which no increase of the burden on the taxpayer can be proposed by a private member.
– I cannot allow points to be raised time after time in this manner. I have given » definite ruling and if honorable members disagree with it there is a proper course for them to follow.
– I regret that the Minister should be hampering the Chair in this way. It is obvious to me, and later it will be obvious to the electors, that the Government and its supporters are quite ashamed of this legislation.
– I must ask the honorable member for Melbourne Ports not to use extravagant language.
– I will say, Mr. Speaker, that if I were a member of the Government I should be ashamed of this legislation. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Henty should wish to prevent a discussion on this subject, for he wa3 one of the first members of the Opposition that pledged himself to the right honorable member for Yarra, when he was Prime Minister, to assist in restoring the pension rate at the first opportunity.
– That is not so. Let me ask the honorable member whether it is not a fact that every increase of the pension has been made by antiLabour parties?
– Order ! I ask honorable members generally not to allow their feelings to run riot. An honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence and I must ask that interjections be discontinued.
– I have no desire to make provocative statements, but it is difficult to refrain from doing so when discussing this subject. There can be no doubt that promises made by honorable members opposite have been repudiated. The Government was able in 1932-33 to remit approximately £2,250,000 of existing taxation, and it did so without restoring the reductions that were made in pensions under the Financial Emergency legislation. In 1933-34 another £7,500,000 of taxation was remitted anc? at the same time the defence expenditure was increased on a lavish scale. Still the pension rate was not restored to its former figure. We are told now that the Government proposes to expend £4,000,000 on defence this year. In the circumstances, it is deplorable that the promise to restore the pension has not been honoured. Apparently the Government wishes to repeal section 52m because it has come to the conclusion that the revenue derived from its operation does not justify the expense involved in collecting it. We know very well that questionnaires and circulars were set out to the children of all pensioners requiring them to intimate the extent to which they were able to contribute towards the pensions that their parents were drawing. It is not true, as suggested by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), that the public were notified that £6 and £4 per week would be the minimum wages on which persons would be required to make contributions to their parents’ pension. Many of my constituents who sought ray advice on this subject informed me that they lived in daily fear of having their affairs made public in the police courts of this country because they were not able to contribute to their parents’ pensions as they were earning only between £3 and £4 a week. When this provision was first introduced I stated that the effect of it would be to cause children to cease voluntary contributions of1s. or so a week to their pensioner parents, because they could not contribute both to the parents and the Government. We all know very well that it is the habit of most grown-up children whose parents are receiving a pension to buy their fathers a tin of tobacco, a pair of slippers, or some other little thing, and their mothers articles of clothing and other little comforts, every week or so to help them to live with some slight measure of ease on their pension. Formerly, this was done in the belief that such expenditure would be an additional benefit to the pensioner parents, but when this provision came into operation children realized that such contributions would merely be additional contributions to the Government and not helpful to their parents. The fact that the revenue from the operation of section. 52m has been only £6 is a further indication of the impoverishment of the workers of this country. Although the Government has attempted to intimidate children of pensioners by sending out a second circular to them, the financial result has been negligible. In these circumstances it can hardly be argued that there is unbounded prosperity throughout the country.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh practically admitted that this was so when he asked for an increase in the rate of pension.
– That is not so. The honorable member said that as the Government had been able to remit taxation amounting to between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 in the last two years, chiefly to a handful of people who could well afford to pay it, steps should now be taken to increase the pension. I think it will not be denied that the remissions of taxation have benefited mainly large land-owners, ship-owners, and persons in a position to pay income tax.
– That is nonsense!
– The remissions would benefit not more than 20 per cent. of the people, but the reductions of pensions and other reductions consequent upon the financial emergency legislation have fallen, and still remain, upon 80 per cent. of the people. The object of the amendment is to influence the Government to restore the pension to the rate that obtained prior to the infliction of the emergency cuts. When the department found that the response to its questionnaire and circular calling upon the relatives of pensioners to contribute to the pension was so small, it took the short cut of cancelling or suspending hundreds of pensions.
– That is a wild statement which cannot be proved.
– It can be proved. The fact that numerous pensions that had been cancelled or suspended were restored after the cases had been reviewed in consequence of representations made by honorable members and others to the Pensions Department is a proof that the original interference with the pensions was unjustifiable. The pensions were not restored simply because honorable members asked for them to be restored.
Mr. Casey interjecting,
– I hope that the Assistant Treasurer will not think that I am intentionally making mis-statements about the matter. I am merely relating my own experience. Many pensioners have come to me with letters which they received from the department, stating that, as it was understood they were being adequately maintained, their pensions would be reduced by a certain amount at the next pay-day, or perhaps cancelled altogether. I immediately inquired of Mr. McPherson, or some other official, about these cases, and as a result of my representations very many of them were reviewed and the pensions restored to the original amount. Surely that justifies me in saying that the money which was withheld from pensioners in these circumstances was wrongly withheld. But in some cases the position was even worse than that. After discovery of the error pensions were restored to the original amount, but the sum withheld while the cases were being reviewed was not paid. Hundreds of pounds have been taken from the pensioners as a result of the Government’s action and they have not been compensated.
– Can the honorable member say if all this happened after form 23 had been issued?
– When was that form brought into use?
– Only about fifteen years ago. Surely the honorable member is acquainted with its terms. All the pensioners in his district are, I am sure, conversant with it.
– If form 23 has been in use for so many years, the complaints which were brought to my notice certainly related to pension payments subsequent to the issue of that form. What I am complaining about is going on to-day and has been for the last year. Surely what I have said is sufficient to convince honorable members that mistakes have been made by the department and that because of those mistakes money has been withheld from pensioners which they should have received. Indirectly, they have lost much more than is represented by the deduction made under the Financial Emergency Act. In several ways their pensions have been reduced. Having an intimate knowledge of what has been happening in connexion with pensions, I have pleasure in seconding the amendment. I hope that a sufficient number of Government supporters will vote for it in order to ensure a complete review of the whole system. I also hope that by this means the pensioners will be restored to the position which they occupied before the introduction of the financial emergency legislation.
. From the speeches of honorable members opposite, it is fairly obvious that we are close to an election. I must say, however, they appear somewhat destitute of the powder and shot necessary for the conduct of a successful campaign.
– The honorable member does not want to vote on this amendment.
– I assure the honorable member that I am quite ready to vote on it. Yesterday, in the discussion of the unemployment problem, we were told over and over again by honorable members opposite that tho Government had failed to restore any measure of confidence in this country or do anything to bring about an increase of prosperity. Some honorable members cited the unemployment figures in support of their contention. Now, strange to relate, in this precious amendment, moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and seconded by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the House is told that the Government has been responsible for such an amazing return to prosperity that the country can well afford to restore to invalid and old-age pensioners their full pensions, as well as make other concessions relating to social benefits. But honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. The amendment is a declaration by the Opposition that this Government has fulfilled the promises that were made on its behalf when it went to the country two and a half years ago. Since I am one of those oldfashioned parliamentarians, who like to see a strong Opposition, I hope that, if honorable members opposite return after the elections, they will be a more impressive and effective Opposition in the next. Parliament. May I also express the hope that on a future occasion, when honorable members opposite launch an attack upon the Government, they will select a subject which presents better opportunities for adverse criticism than the poor feeble little thing that has been presented to the House this evening. -
What is the record of this Parliament in its dealings with the aged and invalid people of this country? And what is the record of the respective parties? The first measure to authorize the payment of a pension of 10s. a week was passed by a government representing elements similar to those supporting this Government, as were also the four subsequent increases of 2s. 6d. a week. What is the record of honorable members opposite, and the governments supported by them? The first Labour government took office, I think, in 1904. It had ample opportunity to show its practical sympathy for those people concerning whom Labour members now pretend to be so solicitious; it did nothing, and no Labour government since that time has given a penny to invalid and old-age pensioners. But Labour’s record is even worse than is implied in this statement. Three years ago the Scullin Government was in office. It took away 2s. 6d. a week from- pensioners.
– The honorable member supported the Scullin Government in that regard.
– I did, but I did not propose the reduction. The inspiration for that course of action came from honorable members opposite, who were then supporting the Government.
– Not all of us.
– Perhaps not ; but the honorable member for Hindmarsh, whose amendment we are now discussing, continued his support of the Scullin Government, and he now sits on the front Opposition bench alongside the leader of that Administration. I believe the honorable member for Melbourne Ports withdrew his support from the Labour Government in connexion with that proposal, but to-night he sits behind the Leader of the Opposition, who was responsible for it, and he, with the honorable member’ for Hindmarsh, is endeavouring to establish his claim for the support of the invalid and old-age pensioners in the face of the extraordinary facts which I have related. These two honorable members were associated with a government that never did anything for the old-age pensioners. On the contrary, it reduced their payments by 2s. 6d. a week. Now they are trying to persuade the country that they are the lifelong friends of the pensioners ! I repeat that I like to see a good, strong opposition; but, if this amendment is the best playing card of honorable members opposite, I strongly advise them to resist the proposal for an early election. I am convinced they will never fool the pensioners with any device of this nature.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I cannot allow to pass unchallenged an incident that has just taken place in this chamber, because my position has been very much misrepresented. I express my strong resentment at the action of the Assistant Minister. (Mr. Casey), who, a moment or two ago, came round to this side of the House in a condition of rage, and said to me, in the presence of several honorable members, “ You will get little consideration, from me in future.” If the honorable gentleman has in mind any consideration which I may expect from him as Assistant Minister, I assure him that I shall expect only what is due to me as a member of the House. I have never asked of the Minister anything that I am not entitled to receive. I very much resent being spoken to in the manner employed by the honorable gentleman in the presence of fellow members, who might think that I have been asking for more than I am entitled to. I make this explanation now, so that the Assistant Minister may know that, if in future I approach him in his official capacity, I shall expect tq receive only the consideration that is due to me as a member of this Parliament.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The restoration of pension payments is long overdue. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has accused members of the Opposition of supporting a government which reduced the pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. The honorable gentleman made no quali’fication whatever in his charge, so I take this opportunity to remind the House that the group with which I am associated did not in any way support those proposals. Nor did it support the Premiers plan. On that occasion eighteen members of the Labour party were in revolt. They were strongly opposed to the Premiers plan, which involved the reduction of pensions.
– Where are they now?
– Our five are still here. It is grossly unfair for the honorable member for Henty to make that charge. He was, I believe, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the time.
– No; I was well out of it.
– When introducing the bill, the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) mentioned that an extra staff had to be engaged to deal with the large number of questionnaires that were sent to relatives of pensioners, under the amending legislation passed last year, and added that the resultant income, by way of contributions from relatives of pensioners, was not commensurate with the expense involved. He said that for the last three months only £6 was contributed by relatives. We know that many people who were in a position to make contributions absolutely defied the Government to take action under section 52m of the act. I know personally of men in good positions who challenged the Government to take them to court, and the Government declined to take up the challenge. Had it done so, the invalidity et the act might have been made manifest.
This amending bill has been brought down because an election is approaching, and the Government is trying to placate pensioners and their relatives who have been incensed by having been forced to answer irritating questionnaires. There are 260,000 pensioners in the Commonwealth, and the relatives of these probably number another 500,000. If the Government wished to do something to relieve cases of hardship, it could amend the section of the act which makes the parents responsible for the maintenance of their invalid children over the age of sixteen years. Under the section parents who are receiving little more than the basic wage are, in some cases, compelled to maintain their invalid children, even though they may have three or four more other children to provide for. I have had invalid children speak to me of their intention to take some desperate steps to relieve their parents of the burden of maintaining them.
– Parents are compelled to maintain their children in such circumstances only if they are well able to do so.
– That is not so. I know of a father who is receiving only £5 a week, and has four other children to maintain ; yet the department insists on his maintaining his invalid child.
– The honorable member should give more particulars regarding income.
– I am speaking of cases I have known among miners in intermittent employment, and some of them are .in the electorate which the honorable member himself represents. If the honorable member does not change his attitude I can well believe that it will not be long before somebody else is representing Macquarie.
People who are in a position to maintain their parents will willingly do so, but they object to being placed under compulsion. One member of Parliament to whom a questionnaire was sent, absolutely refused to make any contribution through the Government, although he was already contributing towards the support of his mother. When the pension bill waa first introduced, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) said that the pension was not to be regarded as a charity, but as a right, something to which the pioneers were entitled as a reward for the services they had rendered to the community. Now, the pension ir not even a charity; it is a deferred1 loan on the pensioners’ property and is recoverable from the property they leave at their death. We have heard much talk from Government supporters of pensioners being free to dispose of their property as they like, but pensioners are still required, if they dispose of their property, to furnish within thirty days details of the transaction to the department, and for every £10 by which the proceeds exceed £50 their pensions are reduced by £1 a year, even though the transaction was in respect of their own homes.
Wo have been further informed that a pensioner may will his property to his relatives, but, upon examining the act. we find that he may will it only to those relatives who are residing with him in his home to avoid any repayments of the pension from the property. Usually the, members of a pensioner’s family drift away, and he lives by himself. In any case pensioners usually entertain the same affection for all their children, and desire to leave their property to all of them alike. Why should old-age pensioners be singled out for treatment of this kind ? If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for high court judges, retired army officers and other recipients of high pensions.
This hill is simply political window dressing, and the Government need not think that it will in this way escape the wrath of pensioners’ relatives. The public will not be satisfied until pensioners have restored to them the absolute right to dispose of their property as they think fit, a rightwhich. even under the bill, is still denied them. These people will not forget how they have been attacked. Every right-minded person in the community believes that these aged persons should have the right to dispose of their property as they wish. When the act was amended last year, we on this side sought to have included in it a provision whereby a grandchild who cared for her aged grandparents in their declining years could benefit under their will; but we were unsuccessful. Many cases of this nature, in which real hardship has been inflicted on deserving persons, have come under my notice. In a letter from Plattstreet. Wallsend, dated the 5th July, 1934, a grandson of the pensioner wrote -
The home was left to me, and the will was made before the pension act came in force. I have been living with him ever since I have been married - twenty years - up to the time of his death, and after his death, and J am still living in his home. 1 nin not in a position to pay the money.
He then mentioned an amount of £40. Following that, comes the most pathetic part of the letter -
My father, tho late Mr. Noah Banks, pensioner, died 27th August, 1933. I worked hard for him for twenty years to the end.
My father fretted a lot over the act, and it was pitiful to listen to him praying for God to help me, six weeks before he died.
Many pensioners have been worried to death because of their inability to leave their property to their loved ones. Another ease is that of an old man without relatives who came to me Sunday after Sunday, asking whether he could leave his property to two persons who had cared for him. In his will he. bequeathed his property to those friends, but before he died he was greatly distressed at the thought that they would have to pay back to the Government the amount he had received as pension. On the occasion of his last visit to me the weather was wet, and the old man caught a cold from which he died. I attribute his death to the passing of this act. The time has arrived for the repeal of the iniquitous sections of the pensions law. In the evening of life these old people should know nothing hut happiness ; yet, because of the legislation enacted by this Parliament they have been so worried that they have been forced to organize in self-defence. When the Scullin Government sought to apply the Premiers plan to pensioners, and called upon them to accept a lower pension, the group with which I am associated opposed the proposal tooth anl nail. We were told then that, when the budget was balanced, a restoration would be made to those who suffered under the plan. Not because of anything the present Government has done, but because of improved prices for wool, the revenue is now more buoyant, and that promise should be honoured. The Government, which failed to keep its word to those from whom it demanded heavy sacrifices, has granted to wealthy sections of the community remissions of taxation to the amount of £9,500,000; indeed, it boasts of the amount of taxes it has remitted. Those who can afford to pay taxation are not those in receipt of a pension of 17s. 6d. a week. In pursuance of the Premiers plan, which attacked those on the lower rungs of the ladder, the Scullin Government took £1,600,000 from pensioners, and that action was followed by a further raid on the pensioners by the present Government which took from them £1,100,000 a year.
In addition, legislation introduced by this Government levied tribute on the property of the pensioners after their death. What an iniquitous piece of legislation is this, which levies toll upon the aged and infirm after their death ! What a wonderful page of history to look back upon - a page which records the legalized robbing of the poor! Those who will come after us will read with scorn how the Government of this day became possessed of the assets of the pioneers of Australia. How will the children of future generations feel when they read that certain property in the possession of the Government was formerly owned by pensioner Tom Smith, but was taken from him under the authority of an act of Parliament, passed during the regime of the Lyons Government? The sooner we remove from the statute-book such iniquitous legislation the better it will be for the good name of Australia.
Forecasts of government policy appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald are generally fairly accurate. When I wanted to gain some information regarding the new boundaries of the Hunter electorate, I studied that newspaper, and subsequently I found that its forecast was correct. Yesterday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald contains a forecast of further remissions of taxation to wealthy squatters and others who can well afford to pay it. The pensioners cannot afford to have 2s. 6d. a week withheld from them. The Government claims to have returned to the pensioners the amount taken from them since it came into office. That may be; but the argument is not sound, because honorable members now supporting the present Government assisted the Seullin Administration to reduce the pension by 2s. 6d. a week. Without their assistance, that Government could not have got its proposals through this House, because thirteen members of the Scullin party, including five members now in the group with which I am associated, were opposed to the reduction. Before granting remissions of taxation to sections of the community which made no sacrifice under the Premiers plan, the Government should restore to the old-age pensioners the amounts taken from them. Some of the remissions of taxation go back to 1927, or earlier. When the Premiers plan was introduced, the then Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said that, under the then existing conditions, pensioners would be no worse off with 17s. 6d. a week than they were previously when in receipt of 203. a week. I leave it to the pensioners to say whether or not his statement was correct. Mr. Theodore also said that the proposals of the Scullin Government would provide employment immediately for 10,000 men; but we know that that promise has not been fulfilled. The reduced purchasing power of the community is reflected in business generally. Storekeepers and others find their turnover reduced, and, accordingly, they dismiss some of their employees. The same thing applies to our manufacturing industries. T mention these matters to show that it was false economy to insist upon the reduction of wages and pensions. That course has not brought about prosperity and the larger measure of employment that was anticipated.
Numerous instances have been brought to my notice of pensioners’ claims having been held up by the department for three or four months. When the department eventually decides to pay the pension, payment is made only for a fortnight prior to the date upon which the application was approved. That is grossly unfair. Why should not the pensioner get the pension from the date upon which the claim was lodged? On the other hand, if a pensioner dies on the day before his pension is due, or even on the clue date, his relatives cannot collect the amount. I have made numerous applications to the pensions department in cases of this kind for payment to be made to the relatives of the deceased in order to help them to meet the burial expenses, and the reply has been that they are not entitled to receive the pension because all payments are made in advance. I introduced to the PostmasterGeneral a deputation consisting of Messrs. Jack and Kellock, president and vice-president respectively of the Northern Miners Federation, in regard to the effect of the property sections of the pensions law those engaged in the mining industry.
We are often reminded of the sad’ plight of young fellows who have left school, and can find no opening in industry. We are urged to find work for the younger generation, which is suffering most from the depression. Many miners who, in the ordinary course of events, would retire from active work in the mines at about 65 years of age, thus making room for younger men, remain in employment even until they reach advanced age, because they are afraid that if they retire and apply for the pension, they will lose control over their properties. On this subject I have received the following letter from the general secretary of the Coal and Shale Employees Federation of Australia : -
It appears that we shall require to further implement our representations to the Commonwealth Government on this matter, and after consultation with our northern office we shall acquaint you with our plans in this regard.
In the meantime, we shall welcome any proposals you wish to make to lend weight to your own efforts in this matter.
Some men who have reached the age of from 65 to 75 years, continue to work in the mines, while their own sons between 21 and 30 years of age remain idle. This tragic state of affairs is due to the fear of the old people that if they relinquish employment and claim a pension the Government will seize the property which their children helped them to buy. If the property provisions of the act were removed, many old miners would withdraw from employment, and younger men would take their places.
This is not political propaganda on the part of the mover of the amendment or myself. We are acting out of sympathy for the old-age pensioners who have blazed the trail, carved settlements out of the bush, and handed down to us a wonderful inheritance, of which many of us are proud. It is shameful that in the evening of their lives they should be made to suffer as they are doing. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the repeal of the iniquitous property provisions of the act, to restore the pension to £1 a week as is proposed in the amendment.
– I propose to make a few observations on this important subject, and to reply briefly to some of the statements that have been made. The Government, and the party which supports it realize the claims of the aged people upon the community. The United Australia party and the antecedent parties from which it has sprung have never been ungenerous to the invalid and aged. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) every benefit that the old-age pensioners of this country have obtained has been obtained from Liberal, Nationalist, and similar governments. If honorable members will read the history of the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, they will see that, commencing with 10s. a week, the pension has been increased from time to time by non-Labour governments, and that the only government to reduce the pension was a Labour government. I also emphasize the fact that the present Government has never reduced in any way the amount of the pension. When it assumed office it found that the pension had been reduced by the Scullin Government from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week, and at that amount it stands to-day. Any invalid and oldage pensioner to-day who has no other income i3 entitled to 17s. 6d. a week. That provision has never been interfered with by this Government. It seems to me that the importance of this subject has been unduly magnified. There are politicians in this country who, whenever an old-age pensioner waggles his beard at them, start to wobble at the knees. They think that the voices of the pensioners are the voices of the people crying out for their blood. We hear threats of what the pensioners will do on polling day, but the best evidence of their views is their attitude in the past. I remind the House that an election has been fought since the pension was reduced to 17s. 6d. a week, and every member on this side of the House, despite the fact that he voted for the reduction, increased his majority materially. Every old-age pensioner in my electorate knows that when he applies to me for assistance I pursue his claim to the very uttermost; I treat the pensioners as men and attend to their business in an honest straightforward manner, and I am perfectly sure that I can be sure of their support without crawling or whining to them. The same claim can be made by other honorable members supporting the Government. To-day there are oldage pensioners who are presidents of branches of the organization to which I belong. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has already said that the president at an electoral conference held in his constituency a couple of weeks ago was an old-age pensioner. Honorable members opposite deceive themselves by their own verbosity and their narrook on this subject. They are due for a very sad awakening if they think that the old-age pensioners are the only people to be considered at the next election. This Government and its supporters yield to no section of the House in its concern for the pensioners. At the same time, there are other interests which should be and must be considered. People of the middle classes, who by rigid self-denial and thrift have become the backbone of this country, are entitled to consideration. They will get it. from this Government, as will every other section of the community. That is an ideal to which every government should conscientiously aspire. This Government has, from the date it assumed office, endeavoured to treat every section of the community fairly and squarely - a fact that will be generally admitted. I believe that the old-age pensioners to-day are perfectly satisfied with the amount they are receiving; at any rate I have not received complaints on that score. If the pensioners were not being made a pawn in the political game, we should not have the demonstrations which are being staged ostensibly on their behalf. They are regarded by some honorable members as being an important voting factor, and are being exploited by unscrupulous persons merely in order to gain a party or personal political advantage. By trading on the age, penury and infirmities of the pensioners, honorable members opposite are acting in a mean and petty way. Of course, they hope to get votes by doing so. I have stated on the public platforms that 17s. 6d. a week, or 35s. a fortnight, ib a fair and reasonable amount, com pared with the dole on which an unemployed man and his wife and family have to live.
– Why make that comparison ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Because these conditions obtain in the community to-day. The various State governments, many of them Labour, have fixed the amount of the dole given by way of relief to the unemployed, and we find that the pensioners are in a more favorable financial position.
In deciding the proper amount to be paid to the pensioners, we have to consider the present purchasing power of money. The pensioner can purchase as much with 17s. 6d. to-day as he could when he was receiving £1 a week. The sum of 17s. 6d. has a greater purchasing power now than at any time since 1909, except in one quarter, owing to the reduced cost of living, which, I may mention in passing, has been brought forcibly under the notice of members of the Public Service. If there is any merit in not reducing pensions, this Government has an unblemished record. Panic has set in amongst members of the Opposition because of their fear of the Nemesis that awaits them. I shall show what this country has done for the “old pioneers as honorable members opposite like .to describe them. I have every respect for them, but when I hear the Uriah Heeps on the other side of the chamber use such expressions concerning the aged and infirm, my stomach almost turns. I was about to mention the amounts paid by the Commonwealth in invalid and old-age pensions, and I am sure that if the recipients were kept away from sinister influences they would he the first to declare that they had been treated fairly. It is said that they have an organization. Of course, they organize on behalf of the political party in whose policy they believe; but it can be said to the credit of every honorable member on this side of the House that he has not demeaned himself by endeavouring to organize the old-age pensioners. Adherents of the party opposite collect 3d. a week from them for’ organization purposes, and then they invite them to a conference and address them. Their old-age and infirmities are being traded upon for political purposes. The total expenditure on invalid and oldage pensions in 1910 was £1,433,000; in 1930 it had increased to £10,791,000; and in 1932 the amount was £11,125,000. At that stage steps were taken to restrict this expenditure, and in 1933 there was a reduction of about £125,000, but in 1934 the cost of pensions was about £12,000,000. A calculation has been made that in 1942, at the average rate of increase in the number of pensions paid, the total expenditure would amount to nearly £30,000,000, if the pension were increased to £1 a week. That is the serious position which responsible governments must face, and no Ministry that attempts to deal fairly with all sections of the community can ignore it. In 1933, 65 per cent, of the Commonwealth revenue from direct taxation and 20 per cent, of the revenue from all sources was used in the provision of invalid and old-age pensions. Anybody who claims that we are making an unfair contribution to the pensioners is unaware of the facts, and is misleading the public. That is the position in which this Government finds itself to-day; pensioners are receiving from 65 per cent, to 70 per cent, of the revenue derived from direct taxation, and 20 per cent, of the total revenues of the Commonwealth.
– Why has the amount crept up?
– It has reached the £12,000,000 mark because of the amount which this Government handed back last year by means of certain concessions.
– The general economic policy of the country has been responsible for the increase.
– I have no desire to overpaint the picture, and am prepared to agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the existing conditions are partly responsible. I contend, however, that they do not wholly account for the increase. The proposal to revert to a pension of £1 a week would involve the Commonwealth in an additional expenditure of £2,000,000 annually. One is gratified at the admission by honorable members opposite of the existence in Australia of a greater measure of prosperity than formerly prevailed. But notwithstanding the improvement that has taken place, very little would be left for any other section of the community if the Government had to hand out a further £2,000,000 to pensioners. I am confident that such a proposal would not find favour with other sections.
There is little to which one need refer in the speeches that have been made on this measure. The debate has been in the nature of a sham fight, a pre-election demonstration. No real sincerity, no honest desire to do anything for the pensioners, has been manifested. The speeches of no honorable member are less sincere, or are made more for effect, than arc those of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and no one does less for the workers of this country. I have noticed the effect that he has endeavoured to obtain, and the tears that he has put into his voice.
Mr. Archdale Parkhill having been required by Mr. Speaker io withdraw an unparliamentary expression,
– I withdraw it; but I do not want to be lectured.
-Order ! If the honorable gentleman proposes to make himself objectionable to the Chair, I shall have not the slightest hesitation in taking action to restrain him. He must understand that his privileges are no greater than those of any other honorable member. He must not make an objectionable remark to the Chair.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.With greatest respect to you, sir, I have not made an objectionable remark to the Chair. Had I done so, you would have Galled me to order and demanded a withdrawal. I have pointed out that the property provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act have very little to do with the matter before the House. Since those provisions were first enacted, they have been so amended as to make them quite innocuous, and to-day few people would take the slightest objection to them. As a matter of fact, the interests of sons, daughters, and other relatives of pensioners have been safeguarded, and there is nothing left for any one else. .No one knows that better than honorable members opposite. The object of the bill is merely to make a further concession to old-age pensioners. Apparently the honorable members of the Opposition are not prepared to assist in that direction. They know that the proposal which has been put forward cannot and will not be accepted. I therefore contend that they are doing a distinct disservice to the pensioner, instead of benefiting him. The aim of the bill is to ensure that relatives of pensioners shall not be asked to do more than they are prepared to do voluntarily to support their parents, and the only effect of the amendment, would be to cause pensioners to lose the benefit they would otherwise obtain.
The honorable member for Hunter has referred to a deputation that he introduced to me. I met that deputation courteously, although 1 was quite well aware of its political object. The honorable member has said that there are men in the different mines in Newcastle who have reached the age of 75 years, and yet, because of the operation of the property provisions of the act, will not relinquish their employment and thus make way for younger men.
– I said up to 75 years.
– I pointed out to him, somewhat to his discomfiture, that those provisions have operated for only one year, and that, therefore, the men to whom he referred had reached the age of 74 years before they were enacted. Any honorable member of this House, looking at the matter fairly and squarely, will agree that the property provisions have no relation to this problem, which is entirely one for adjustment between the mine-owners and the miners’ federation.
This debate has not helped the oldage pensioners, but it has brought into clear and bold relief the party that has always been the friend of the old-age pensioners, and has given them every increase of pension they have received, and it has revealed even more clearly the efforts that have been made by certain members to make political capital out of the age and penury of a deserving section of the community.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) referred to a deputation from the northern miners which I introduced to him, and in so doing misrepresented me. The deputation stated that miners were continuing at work up to the age of 75 years. The Minister attributed to me the statement that all these men had reached the age of 75. As a matter of fact their ages ranged from 65 upwards, and I pointed out that miners who ordinarily would have retired at 65, with few exceptions, have declined to so because of the property provisions of the pension law.
.- I do not wish to give a silent vote on this matter. Early in the history of this legislation certain amendments were made which I think were highly inquisitorial, and caused annoyance, inconvenience, and even fear to old-age pensioners. The Government has had wisdom enough to remove those inquisitorial features. It is a pity that they were ever introduced. They have cost a lot of money and until recently a tremendous amount of money was being expended in trying to enforce that provision which required relatives to contribute towards the maintenance of aged and invalid relatives. The Government belatedly has withdrawn that provision. In considering the amendment we should take into account the ability of this country to make increased contributions to the old people. Since this Government came into power the public debt of this country has not been reduced. It is greater now than when the Scullin Government was in power, and that Government found it necessary to reduce the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. So there is no justification for suggesting that this country is able to restore the pension to its old level. And if we examine the value of the pension since its introduction, we find that the 17s. 6d. granted to-day is relatively of greater value than any amount previously paid. I want oldage pensioners and those who care for them to realize that if we grant them too much to-day” they may not get so much later, but may have to suffer another reduction similar to that made by the Scullin Government. I ask the House to consider the value of the pension, in relation to the average basic wage paid in the Commonwealth at various dates since 1910 -
The present pension has the highest relative value of any pension yet granted to the old-age pensioners in this country, and it is about as much as this country can afford to pay. If we could afford to pay more I would be willing to give it, but if we do so at the present moment I am afraid we shall be going beyond the point of prudence. For that reason I propose to leave the pension as it is and will vote against the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchinson) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) 1934.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934.
Days of Meeting - Invalid and Oldage Pensions -Waterside Employment at Darwin - International Cricket : Wireless Broadcasting - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Cotton Industry - War Service Homes.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) did not, as is customary, inform the House of the Government’s proposals in regard to the sittings of the House after to-morrow, we know that an adjournment over next week is contemplated, and I consider that the intended alteration of sitting days will not meet the convenience of honorable members. It is reasonable to expect the Government to give consideration to honor able members who desire to play their part in the business of the House and fully represent the interests of their electorates. It is understood that the House will not meet next week. If that is the intention of the Government, an intimation of it, other than that given in answer to a question today, should have been given to honorable members. The affairs of government are sufficiently widespread and important to command proper attention, and the Government should know at least more than a day ahead of what its future actions are likely to be. It is true that there have been many changes in respect of the dates of the meeting of this Parliament, the elections, and the presentation of the budget, and ever since we reassembled there has been a general uncertainty in respect of the business of the House. As a matter of fact, months before the House met various rumours were afloat, and the attitude that the Government adopted in respect of them was certainly not in keeping with what is generally expected from a government that alleges to conduct its affairs on business lines. As Parliament is not to sit next week, more time will necessarily be taken later in dealing with the business of the Government. The debate which has just been adjourned will probably be resumed to-morrow, although it could easily have been continued for another hour or two this evening. I make this protest because honorable members, had they been aware of the intention of the Government to adjourn over next week, could have made other arrangements before they left their homes at the beginning of last week. The Government’s attitude is unfair. We hardly know from week to week what arrangements to make. As I live fairly close to Canberra I am not penalized to the same extent as other members who represent electorates in South Australia and Western Australia. This Parliament is not using the time at its disposal to the best advantage, for instance, the early adjournment to-night, and all the time the Government is making alterations entirely in its own interests, extending no consideration whatever to honorable members on this side of the House.We have taken no action to obstruct the business of the House. We have not protracted the debates. In fact, during the last two weeks, the Government has had a clearer run than it has had during any previous sitting. But although we have extended to it every consideration, it has not been courteous enough to extend in return any consideration to us. In making its arrangements it has kept us entirely in the dark till the last minute, with the result that we have not been able to make any arrangements on our own behalf. While it is the duty of the Government to control the business of the House, honorable members on this side of the House as well as honorable members opposite, have certain responsibilities in connexion with their electorates, and are therefore entitled to a straight-forward declaration as to the Government’s intention respecting the length of sittings, the days of sitting, and the date of adjournment.
.- I join the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in protesting against the action of the Government in adjourning, not only the debate on the amending pensions legislation, but also the House over the next week. Although that arrangement might suit honorable members who represent constituencies not far distant from the Federal Capital it is not very welcome to honorable members who represent constituencies in Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. We are entitled to know the intention of the Government in respect to the business of the House, and I suggest, with the honorable member for West Sydney, that the debate on the pensions legislation might have been proceeded with to a later hour to-night. We know full well that the debate has been adjourned because of the knock-backs that the members of the Government have received to-night on various points of order raised by them. To-night we have seen a bad exhibition of temper on the part of a Minister.
– I rise to a point of order. This matter has been referred to previously. It concerns a private conversation which I had with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
– The Assistant Treasurer is making not a point of order, but a personal explanation.
– The private conversation was so audible that I distinctly heard it. We have had the spectacle of an exhibition of temper on the part of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) and you, Mr. Speaker, had to call him to order. There is plenty of work for this House to proceed with, but presumably within the last few days of the session much of the business will be thrown aside. Had this Parliament assembled earlier, honorable members would have had more time in which to discuss matters of urgent importance. Even before the House met, there were persistent rumours that an election would take place on the 15th September, but they were given emphatic denials by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). He distinctly stated through the press that there would be no election until at least February or March next year. We are entitled to know something more than we have been told to-night of the Government’s intentions.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) both made reference to a private conversation which I had with the honorable member for Hindmarsh this afternoon,- and I think that it is only fair to the honorable member and myself that the facts should be made known. The honorable member came to me and asked for special consideration-
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member asked for special consideration for himself in respect of the discussion of the amending pensions bill. I used my influence, such as it is, with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to have the bill brought on at a time to suit the honorable member, and then he took the step which I resented. I then calmly, without any show of temper, told the honorable member that he would get a lot of consideration from me in the future. I. now repeat that statement. He asked for special consideration from me and he received it.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation. It is true, as the Assistant Treasurer (Mir. Casey) stated, that 1 asked for a postponement of the consideration of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Bill, but that request was such as any honorable member has the right to make to any Minister and cannot be regarded as of a special nature. The Minister was unable to extend to me the full consideration I sought. Had the debate been postponed until next week, it would have suited me better. I have never asked the Assistant Treasurer or any other Minister for more than that to which I am entitled. I resent his threat, and I hope it does not mean that any request which I have to submit to him in future on behalf of those whom I represent will be treated differently from requests made by other honorable members. I consider that I am entitled to courteous treatment. That is the least one can expect from a gentleman.
– I desire to make a further personal explanation. The implication of the honorable member for Hindmarsh ‘ (Mr. Makin) is that I shall use any difference of opinion between us against his interests in any future representations he may make. The honorable member knows that that is an unworthy suggestion. As to the other portion of his remarks I accept his apology.
– I feel impelled again to refer to the extraordinary award delivered by Judge Drake-Brockman in Darwin. In replying to the statements I made this afternoon, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) said that he would wait until full particulars of the award were before him before making any comment. I then telegraphed to the secretary of the waterside workers’ organization in Darwin for full particulars of the award, and have now received the following telegram -
Brock-man’s clause begins any person employed on any ship at Darwin may be engaged on such ship in handling cargo or coal for the purpose of loading or unloading the cargo of any such ship. Where any persons employed such ship is called upon by the master thereof to handle cargo or coal as aforesaid such person shall be entitled to receive from his employer full rates of wages applicable at Darwin to waterside workers other than per- manent railway employees without any deduction from his ordinary wage and any time to worked and paid for shall not be considered as hours of duty on the ship. The master shall determine the hours of commencement of work and shall regulate at his discretion tha number of gangs to be employed and their disposition in accordance with the amount of work to be done. The meal hours smokohs overtime rates and conditions generally applicable to waterside workers other than permanent railway employees shall apply to such persons. The term handling cargo in this clause shall include the actual loading and unloading of cargo driving winches attending yardarins shipping and unshipping hatches and beams greasers attending generators for supplying power for cargo work and acting as hatchman or captain of hold clause end. He also made the award applicable to nonmembers of this or any other union. He also made provision railway award to cover waterside workers after advising Allen to amend his claim to cover same. He also made railway award applicable to non-members any unions).
If such an award can be granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in a far off port such as Darwin, a similar award can also be made in Melbourne, Sydney or in any other port in the Commonwealth; a Commonwealth arbitration judge can direct that the coloured crews of foreign overseas vessels may discharge the cargoes of such ships at these ports, and thus throw members of waterside workers’ organizations to the wolves. That the Commonwealth Government was a party to the proceedings in the Arbitration Court in Darwin is clear, because it was represented in the court by the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. The award directly affects the activities of the Commonwealth Government. It is unfortunate for the Government that its true intention with respect to arbitration has unintentionally been disclosed to the Australian people by Judge Drake-Brockman, an ex-chairman of the Employers Federation. He knew that the members of the crews of such vessels consist almost entirely of alien slave labour who are now to receive preference over white Australian workers. There is no authority in Australia to ascertain the wages paid by the shipowners to these aliens. The captain of a vessel will be able to tell the crew that if they will not accept the payment offered he will not engage them again. The effect of this award will be that 30 or 40 Australian workmen will be thrown to the wolves in the interests of foreign shipowners. The facts disclosed in the telegram I have quoted are a revelation. It is astounding to realize that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be used to inflict such a grave injustice upon our own people. Under the decision given black and yellow labour is to be given preference to white Australians by virtue of the master’s powers given in the award. One can readily visualize the chief officer of a foreign vessel standing over five or six foreigners doing the work which should be done by eight or ten men in a ship’s hold and driving them like niggers. It is time that the people of Australia realized that the Commonwealth Government is actually a party to this award. The Government should realize that, although preference in employment may be given to these aliens, under our immigration restriction law3 they can never become citizens of the Commonwealth. It is a deliberate attempt to depart from the principle of a White Australia and to undermine the standard of living in Australia. This Government will have to protect white workers or make a straightout declaration in favour of alien labour. When Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, he tried to tamper with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In fact, he went to the country on the policy of the evacuation of the field of industrial arbitration by the Commonwealth. We are all aware of the unhappy result to his Government. It is, therefore, the more regrettable that a Commonwealth court should now give absolute preference to alien crews in certain work at Darwin. If this is permissible at Darwin, it will soon be permissible at other ports of Australia. What is being done in the north to-day will certainly be done in the south tomorrow. The same judge will no doubt obey the behest of the ship-owners in the south. I protest against this endeavour to undermine our White Australia policy, and trust that steps will speedly be taken to ensure that preference in waterside work shall be given to Australian workers.
.- I have listened twice to-day to the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) regarding the award that has been given by Judge Drake-Brockman covering waterside employment at Darwin. If the interpretation which the honorable member has put upon the award is correct - and the telegram certainly seems to me to warrant such an interpretation - a serious situation is likely to develop in Australia. I, therefore, ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to consult his legal advisers in order to ascertain whether the award does not cut across the provisions of the Immigration Act. If coloured crews are to be employed in waterside work at Darwin, it is time that the provisions of that act were tightened. If what has been complained of can be done at Darwin, it can, no doubt, also be done at other ports, and if it is done we shall have to face, further trouble on the waterside front of Australia. I have read the telegram which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has received, and it seems to me that the award complained of strikes at the very root of one of the most cherished principles of Australia - our White Australia policy. I urge the Prime Minister to make a careful inquiry into the subject.
– I have noted what the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) have said regarding employment on the waterside at Darwin; but I can only repeat what I said this afternoon. No information of the nature referred to by the honorable member for the Northern Territory has yet reached my department. There may be some particulars concerning the matter in the possession of the Attorney-General’s Department, but until I have specific information I cannot discuss the subjectIn fact, it would be unfair for me to do so. The case, so far as I know, may be sub judice. I assure the honorable member for Northern Territory, and also the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government will make the fullest inquiry into the subject. We do not desire to bring about the state of affairs they fear. It i8, however, impossible for me to say more than that to-night. We must await official information on the subject.
– I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) to serious complaints that have been made by persons resident in the Kalgoorlie and Boulder districts, that tho reception of broadcast descriptions of the recent cricket test matches in England have been most unsatisfactory at those important centres. We have only one A Class station in Western Australia and it is difficult to receive reasonably good broadcasts from it east of the Darling range. It is known that the Government purposes establishing other A class stations in Western Australia, but the station to be provided at Katanning will not be ready for service until December. It is, of course, impossible for a B class station, such as 6KG at Kalgoorlie, to bear, without some help, the expense of re-broadcasting the test cricket descriptions, because its income is relatively small. I understand, however, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is prepared to make arrangements with certain B class stations to provide for the relay of test cricket broadcasts. In these circumstances I suggest that while the test broadcasts are being made, or until adequate broadcasting facilities are provided for the people in the Kalgoorlie and Boulder districts, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department might well forego the charges which, in ordinary circumstances, it would make for this service.
.- I call the attention of the Prime Minister to the activities that are at present proceeding at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard in connexion with the building of a sloop for the Government, and to ask that an investigation be made into the nature of the employment being given by the company which has leased the dockyard. I inquired from the Prime Minister a day or so ago whether the lessees of the dockyard had been called upon to tender for the building of the sloop, whether award wages and conditions were to be paid for the work done on it, and whether a guarantee had been given by the lessees as to the number of unemployed who would be absorbed on the work. The Prime Minister informed me that the lessees had not been called upon to tender in the ordinary way for the building of the ship. I do not know whether the Government felt it necessary to give this work to the lessees under the terms of the agreement that it had made with them, or whether it felt that the work should be kept in Australia. If the Government desired to retain the work in this country be relieving the lessees of the dockyard from the necessity to submit to competition from overseas firms, its’ action was commendable. But in that case the lessees should, at least, be prepared to provide as much employment as possible for the shipbuilders in and around Sydney who are out of. work. This is a way in which they could reciprocate for the consideration that has been given to them. I am informed by the unemployed shipbuilders of Sydney that only about 100 men are employed in the construction of the sloop, and that the same men ave called upon to do other repair work which goes to the dockyard. The men are frequently called upon to work until 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock at night and on Saturday afternoons, and even Sundays, in doing repair work, because their time during ordinary working days is fully spent on the sloop. I ask the Government to investigate the position, and, if necessary, to bring pressure to bear upon the lessees to oblige them to provide the maximum amount of work, in ordinary working hours, for the shipbuilders who are to-day out of work. It is hoped that the lessees will reciprocate and, by spreading the combined work, give fulltime employment to a larger number of ship-builders and iron-workers at award rates. This would be preferable to the present system of employing a limited number of men and working them excessively long hours, to the detriment of others who are walking about looking for work.
.- I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in view of the fact that Parliament will not be sitting next week, to make a statement of the Government’s intention with regard to the Tariff Board’s report dealing with the cotton industry. It is true, as the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has said on many occasions, that the report is of a far reaching character, requiring careful consideration at the hands of the Government. But it has been in the hands of Ministers since September of last year, and all those interested in the industry are looking for a statement from the Prime Minister on the subject and definite action by the Government. Some time ago the Queensland cotton-growers had on hand 9,000 bales of cotton lint, but because of the uncertainty as to the future, they shipped over 4,000 bales overseas, leaving 5,000 bales on their hands. They could have sold the whole of the production in the Australian market, if the desired protection had been given to all branches of the cotton spinning industry, in addition to the growing side of it. There is great anxiety as to what is going to happen lo the spinning side of the industry. Those interested in it do not know where they stand. One mill is working only five-eights capacity, another is 250 short of its full complement of employees, another is working two days a week, while still another is practically idle. They have been waiting from month to month hoping that some decision would be made by the Government.
– If a decision is not soon made, there will be no sale for the 1935 crop.
– That is so. If our growers are forced to export, their product will come into competition with that of black labour countries, and they might as well go out of production altogether. I realize that the question is an important one, but the Government cannot claim that it has not had time to deal with the report, because, as I have stated, it has had it since September of last year. I hope that the Prime Minister will, at an early date, make a definite statement of the Government’s intentions with regard to the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton industry, and I ask that the necessary protection be given before Parliament is dissolved.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has asked me some questions with respect to the broadcasting of test cricket news through the Kalgoorlie B class station. He was good enough to inform me that he intended to mention this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House to-night, so I was able to obtain the necessary information for him.
Some months ago negotiations for the organization of a highly-efficient telegraph service between England and Australia, which would supply sufficient detail of the various matches to enable a connected story to be given over the broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth, led to the completion of a legal agreement between the Broadcasting Commission, certain metropolitan news interests, and a number of B class stations, the co3t being shared on a prearranged basis. It was also recognized that other B class stations might care to share in the service, and provision was made for their participation by negotiation.
The department undertook to assist to the fullest extent, and, in co-operation with the overseas companies, established a comprehensive network of telegraph circuits to each capital city, a telegraphist being situated close to the cable, or alternatively the beam, receiving instrument for the purpose of transmitting each cricket message simultaneously to the whole of the chief telegraph offices. In each of the latter a telephone system was provided to enable such message to be instantaneously and simultaneously communicated to each participant in the pooling arrangement. The provision of this co-ordinated service was contingent upon payment of the usual inland telegraph charges.
The arrangement wa3 almost ideal, because of the fact that it enabled all concerned to receive the information at practically the same moment and within a short space of time after the message had been lodged for transmission by the correspondent.
Several communications passed between the department and the Kalgoorlie station, and also the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who had suggested that 6KG should participate in the arrangement for the broadcasting of the test cricket news.
Mr. Green was informed of the position and that no difficulty would be experienced by the department in making the service available forthwith, provided the Kalgoorlie station had the assent of the pool authorities and undertook to meet the telegraph charges involved.
Subsequently ways and means of affording 6KG listeners an opportunity to participate in the cricket news service were the subject of discussion with the honorable member, and a number of alternatives was examined. Station 6KG was advised to this effect on the 9th July, and the suggestion was made, as the result of conversations with the pool authorities, that the pool was prepared to provide a restricted service comprising telegraph summaries every half hour during the currency of the cricket matches. The department indicated its desire to provide the necessary telegraph, facilities at once, if the pool plan commended itself. No intimation has since been received from the station concerned and, in the absence of any notification of acceptance or rejection of the terms communicated to the station, no service has been provided.
I might add that other B class stations have preferred similar requests for free cricket service, hut it is obvious that acquiescence in any such arrangement, affording exceptional treatment to individual stations, would result in an outcry from a large group of B class stations, which, as participants in the pool arrangements, were required to pay the charges involved. While the department is particularly anxious that all listeners should have the opportunity to listen to the broadcasting of the test cricket, it is quite unable to differentiate so as to allow certain stations to participate free of cost whilst others are required to pay.
I have, I think, explained the situation clearly so far as station 6KG is concerned. It could have had the facilities for the broadcasting of test cricket news if it had been prepared to join the pool and contribute its quota of the expense. Since it was not prepared to do that, the department did not think it reasonable to grant it a service for which other stations were paying. Besides the unfairness of such an arrangement, the department would have been involved in a number of claims from other stations of a similar character, which it would have been unable to meet.
– I mentioned that there is no national station in Western Australia to serve that area.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is so. But another station will be in operation before the end of the year.
– I have been asked by a representative of a large association of war service homes purchasers to ascertain what action is contemplated by the Government when the present arrangement with regard to the purchase of war service homes expires in 1935. Members of this association are concerned about the future. They do not know whether the present arrangements will be abruptly terminated without further negotiation, or whether representatives of the association will be permitted to confer with the commission with a view to determining the conditions that will obtain after the expiration of the present agreement. It would relieve them if the Minister administering War Service Homes would make an announcement of the Government’s intentions. They would then know what to expect in the future.
– The policy of the Government at all times has been to endeavour to ensure that every purchaser or borrower shall continue to occupy his home, even though he makes only nominal payments. Provided that he pays according to his ability to pay, and he is not in a hopeless position, he meets the requirements of the commission. The scheme is based entirely on the ability of the purchaser or borrower to pay. If he has no income he pays nothing; if he has an income he pays according to what he can afford on the basis of the liberal pro rata scheme which is in operation. The principle followed is that laid down in the Harvesterjudgment, which stated that the worker should be able to pay 23 per cent. of his income by way of rent. The commission requires the soldier to pay at least 20 per cent. by way of instalment, leaving 3 per cent. for rates and taxes. A soldier earning the basic wage or more is required to meet his obligations in full. There is no other scheme in the British Empire so generous as this, and returned soldiers all over Australia have expressed their appreciation of it. The policy now in operation was framed by a committee of returned soldiers specially appointed for the purpose, of which the chairman and one other member were nominated by returned soldiers’ organizations. If the returned soldiers comply with the requirement of this liberal scheme, they can rest assured that they may continue to occupy their homes. However, I should be pleased to receive suggestions from the honorable member or from soldiers’ organizations so that they may be considered before August, 1935.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) complained that insufficient information had been given them regarding the sittings of Parliament. I can scarcely understand the complaint. I have at all times tried to meet the conveniences of honorable members, and extended to them every courtesy tha t was possible. I have always indicated to the honorable member for West Sydney, as to the leaders of other sections in the House, what the Government intended to do.
– Not this afternoon.
– The final decision to adjourn for a week was made only a little while before the House met, and the honorable member was notified of it before I informed the House.
– I was not told of it until question time.
– I asked the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) to go across and inform the honorable member.
– He did not tell me.
– I saw him go over.
– Yes, but he merely discussed with me a bill which was to be introduced, and mentioned nothing about the adjournment.
– Then there must have been some mistake, and the honorable member must absolve me from blame in connexion with it. It is intended that the adjournment shall be for a week, and after that we shall meet on four days a week, or more frequently if necessary, so that the business may be disposed of in good time. I sincerely regret that the honorable member for Herbert has been so inconvenienced. We know the circumstances that compelled his absence from the House, but as we did not make the decision in time we regret that we were not able to prevent him from being brought down here practically to meet an adjournment.
The Cotton Bounty Bill has already been introduced, and to-morrow the Minister for Trade and Customs will deliver his second reading speech on it. The debate can be resumed later.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) raised the question of employment at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The Government entered into an arrangement with the company that now controls these works, under which a saving of between £60,000 and £70,000 a year was effected. The company was to be left entirely free to manage the enterprise as it thought fit. Honorable members opposite objected to that arrangement, but it has resulted in a substantial increase of employment. Many men are employed there to-day who were unable to obtain employment when the yard was under government control, and this has been largely due to the good management exercised by the company. The Government has no right to interfere with the management of the yard, and if it had it would not do so.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred to conditions of labour on the waterfront in the Northern Territory, and that matter has been adequately dealt with by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount collected from the flour tax?
– The net collections to 30th June, 1934, were £1,254,000.
s asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the wholesale price of the undermentioned foreign farming implements in New Zealand, South Africa, British East Africa, and Argentine, for 1031 and 1934, respectively - (a) Disc plough, two furrow; (b) header harvester, 8 feet; (c) spring type cultivator, 8 feet with fore-carriage;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The wholesale price of 26-gauge “ Orb “ quality galvanized iron or comparable iron -
No details of the prices of galvanized iron in South Africa, British East Africa, or Argentine are available. The rates of duty on galvanized iron entering each of the countries mentioned are -
Argentine - Approximately £9 2s.6d. (Australian currency), per ton.
The rates of duty on the two kinds of wire mentioned entering the countries abovementioned are -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The ordinance has been amended to make it possible for refunds to be made in cases such as that referred to, subject to the approval of the Minister. The fact that finality has not yet been reached in this matter is due to the failure of the person referred to to keep an appointment with the SolicitorGeneral.
Sales Tax: Exemption of Building Material.
Mr. Price asked the Treasurer, upon notice
In order to assist the building industry and other industries dependent upon it, and for the purpose of relieving unemployment, will he give urgent consideration to the question of exempting building material from sales tex?
s. - The Government is giving consideration to requests for the exemption of building materials from soles tax, as well as to various other requests for exemption from that tax.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
r. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wheat-growers Relief Act 1933.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the amounts allocated to the various States from the 1933 grant for the relief of wheat-growers, and also the amounts which have been paid to the wheat-growers up to the present date by each State?
t. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The amounts allocated to the different States under the Wheat-growers Relief Act 1933, are as follow: -
All advances sought by the States have been granted to them
The Commonwealth Government has not yet been advised of the amounts actually paid out to wheat-growers by the States.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the amount allocated to the various States from the federal grant of ?125,000 to assist fruitgrowers, and the amount of such grant already distributed in each State?
t. - The answer to the honorable member’s question isas follows : -
The amounts allocated to the different States under the Fruit-growers Relief Act 1933, are as follow: -
All advances sought by the states have been granted to them. The Commonwealth Government has not yet been advised as to the amounts distributed to fruit-growers by the States of Victoria and Tasmania.
State Grants: Herd-testing Associations.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consider reverting to the former practice of making a grant to the States for the purpose of assisting herd-testing associations?
t. - This matter will receive consideration.
– The information will be obtained and a reply furnished as soon as possible to the question asked by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) in regard to the issue of surplus military clothing to theunemployed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340712_reps_13_144/>.