14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Northern Australia Survey Act - Aerial. Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Report Of Committeefor period ended 30th June,1936.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 32- Motor Traffic (No. 2).
No. 33 - Liquor (No. 2).
No. 34 - Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 35 - Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).”
No.36 - Appropriation 1936-37.
No. 37 - Licences.
No. 38 - Natives’ Contracts Protection.
No. 39 - Gaming.
No. 40 - Roads Maintenance.
No. 41 - Supreme Court Assessors.
No. 42- Public Health.
No. 43 - Customs Tariff (No. 2).
No. 44- Native Labour (No. 2).
No. 45 - Shipping (No. 2).
No. 46 - Forestry.
No. 47 - Land.
No. 48 - Mining (No. 2).
– Is the Minister for the Interior able to assure the House that the report upon which he acted in excluding Mrs. M. M. Freer from Australia referred to her and no one else, and also that it was a true report?
– The report referred only to Mrs. M. M. Freer and I have every confidence that it was absolutely true.
– “What proof can the Minister produce to show that his secret informant in India did not confuse two women named Mrs. Freer when he supplied the information upon which Mrs. M. M. Freer was banned from entering Australia as an undesirable character ?
– Proper investigation is being made into every fresh development which presents itself in respect of this case, either in the press or elsewhere. The information upon which the Government acted could have referred to none other than the lady who was refused admission to this country and is now inNew Zealand.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral received a request from Mrs. M. M. Freer’s counsel in New Zealand that an impartial tribunal should he appointed to investigate the circumstances of her exclusion from Australia?. If so, what reply has the honorable gentleman made to it?
– I have not received such a request.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether if, after making further investigations into the circumstances of the exclusion of Mrs. Freer from Australia it should be found that the information upon which he acted is incorrect he will review the whole case?
– That is a hypothetical question. If such unlikely circumstances arise undoubtedly the case will be reviewed.
- by leave - Honorable members are probably aware that some time ago His Majesty the King was pleased to approve of the appointment of a Coronation Commission consisting of persons representative of the United Kingdom, Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, which would meet in London for the purpose of considering those aspects of arrangements for the Coronation which were of common concern.
The persons approved by His Majesty on the advice of the Commonwealth Government for appointment as representatives of Australia on the Coronation Commission are as follows : -
The Prime Minister
The High Commissioner in London.
The Right Honorable Sir Isaac Isaacs, G.C.M.G
The Right Honorable Sir George Rich, K.C.M.G
John Curtin, Esquire, M.P., Leader of the Opposition.
Several meetings of the commission have been held in London to discuss preliminary details. Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir George Rich attended the early meetings and the High Commissioner has taken part in all the deliberations.
It is the intention of the Government to call together as early as possible the members of the Coronation Commission residing in Australia to discuss with the Government Sub-Committee - the Honorable Sir Archdale Parkhill, the Honor-‘ able T. Paterson and the Honorable R. G. Casey - matters connected with the Coronation which are of concern to Australia.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me what the actual position is regarding invitations to the Coronation? Will invitations to the States be issued by the Commonwealth or by the Dominions Office?
– I am not sure ofthe actual position, but the past practice has been that the Commonwealth has been directly invited by the Government of Great Britain, and no definite invitation has been extended to the States. The States, however, have received an intimation of the pleasure of the authorities overseas if they could make it possible for representatives to visit the celebrations.
– But has that not been altered as the result of the Statute ofWestminster?
– Has the Prime Minister or any member of the Government received information to the effect t/hat an important Lancashire cotton manufacturing firm proposes to establish a factory in Australia? If so, will the right honorable gentleman bring under the notice of the representatives of the firm the advantages of Tasmania in this connexion ?
– I have not received any information to that effect. The practice of the Commonwealth Government in such circumstances is to bring under the notice of the promoters of new industries the advantages of each State in the Commonwealth.
– Some time ago I requested the Minister for Commerce to investigate the experiments being made by Mr. Brice Henry in connexion with the fattening of stock in the coastal districts of North Queensland. I pointed out at the time the important consequences which these experiments, if successful,
Would have upon such questions as -the peopling of North Queensland and its defence. I understand that, following upon my request, some investigations have been made by the Department of Commerce. I now ask the Assistant. Minister for Commerce whether he will supply honorable members with the information which has been obtained, and also whether, in the view of the Government, it is desirable that some assistance should be given to enable these experiments to be continued?
– The Department of Commerce has received some information in connexion with the experiments being made on the north coast of Queensland in the fattening of cattle bred in the inland districts, but I shall obtain detailed information on the subject for the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister able to intimate to honorable members the nature of the business to be placed before them next week and also the days upon which the House will be required to sit ?
– It is proposed that the House shall sit from Tuesday till Friday of next week. Among the early business to be considered will be the tariff proposals. Subsequently, bills to ratify certain provisions of the Statute of “Westminster and to reconstitute the Public Works Committee will be submitted.
– “Will the Minister for the Interior, in recommending the replacement of Dr. Fen-ton’s aeroplane at the Government’s expense, see that the control of its operations are vested in Dr. Fenton and the chief medical officer so that the professional activities of Dr. Fenton will not be interfered with by people who are unfamiliar with his necessarily hazardous and unforeseen duties in connexion with the aerial medical services to the people of the Northern Territory ?
– The facilities being provided in the Northern Territory for aerial medical services and for the flying doctor will be continued, but by exactly which method still remains to be decided. I hope that a decision will be made to-day or in the very near future.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce inform me whether it is a fact that an additional amount of money has been provided for the purpose of trade publicity in Great Britain and, if so. what is Che additional amount and to what uses will the money be applied?
– The amount of money allocated for trade publicity purposes in the United Kingdom has been increased by- £30,000. The purpose for which it will be used is general publicity for the promotion of trade throughout the United Kingdom and the continent.
– The Minister for the Interior made -available recently the cost per fuel mile of a certain motor omnibus used in the transport service in Canberra. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he will make available additional data concerning the cost of travel by both the diesel engine and petrol-using omnibuses so that honorable members may ascertain which is the more economical ?
– I shall be glad to do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the Commonwealth Statistician to prepare a return showing the imports into Australia during the last 25 years and also the effect upon employment of such imports so that we may ascertain whether employment has increased or decreased according to the volume of the import trade ?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s question and ascertain whether sufficient information of this nature is not already available and also whether the cost of preparing such a return may not be beyond its value.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet had time to considerthe advisability and necessity for appointing further Commonwealth inspectors to police the professional awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration ?
– This matter has been under consideration, but no actual decision has yet been arrived at.
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member refers and attributes to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, but I explained in answer to a question from another honorable member only yesterday what is regarded as the contribution made by Australia in regard to the Singapore base.
– I lay on the table of the House the reports of the Australian delegates to the Twentieth Conference of the International Labour Organization which met at Geneva in June of this year, together with the texts of the draft conventions and recommendations adopted thereat, and move -
That the reports be printed.
On this occasion the Government delegate was Colonel E. F. Harrison, M.P. ; while the non-Government delegates representing the employers and workers were respectively Sir Robert Knox and Mr. P. J. Trainer. The agenda was of considerable importance, dealing with hours of work, annual holidays with pay, recruiting of workers, safety provisions in building construction, and other subjects.
Proposed draft conventions were under consideration by the conference for the application of the forty-hour week in respect of -
Only one of these draft conventions was adopted, viz., that in regard to public works. The other draft conventions on hours of work, with the exception of the one relating to the textile industry, were rejected by the conference. The question of the adoption of a draft convention on hours of work in the textile industry will be further discussed at the conference next year.
I would point out that the conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference are quite different from conventions adopted at other conferences. In the first place, representation at the International Labour Conference consists of government, employers’ and workers’ delegates. All these delegates are entitled to one vote each, and they vote together in the plenary sessions of the conference, where a two-thirds majority of such, mixed votes is sufficient for the adoption by the conference of a draft convention. Moreover, draft conventions, when adopted, are not signed on behalf of governments. They constitute in effect, merely draft international regulations on industrial and social matters adopted by the conference to be submitted to governments for consideration.
The obligation of members under the constitution of the International Labour Organization, is that they will, within a period of one year from the closing of the session of the conference, and in exceptional circumstances, eighteen months, bring a draft convention before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies for the enactment of legislation or other action. If the draft convention fails to obtain the consent of the competent authorities, no further obligation rests on the member. The Commonwealth Government has always consulted the States in respect of conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference from time to time, and has raised the question at conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers with a view to the States giving legislative effect to the provisions of those conventions dealing with subjects which fall within the jurisdiction of the States, and subsequent ratification by the Commonwealth. Ratification is effected by means of an order by the Governor-General in council which is registered in due course by the League of Nations.
At the conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1929, the Commonwealth Government intimated that it would be prepared to ratify any convention to the provisions of which the States had given effect under their legislation, and in respect of which the States had given an assurance that they would not modify such legislation so as to make it inconsistent with the provisions of the convention without previous consultation with the Commonwealth. It was also pointed out that it would be necessary for all the States, and not some of them only, to give legislative effect to the provisions of the convention before the Commonwealth could proceed with ratification. Most of the conventions deal with matters which fall within
State jurisdiction, and concern the Commonwealth only in relation to its territories.
No progress was made as the result of this conference, and the matter was further taken up with the States - by correspondence, but again without substantial results. The Commonwealth Government has so far ratified ten conventions dealing principally with maritime matters. The question of the ratification of conventions, at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, was again discussed at the recent conference in Adelaide, when the unratified conventions were divided into three categories.
The first category includes conventions which are fully or substantially covered by State legislation or practice; the second, those which require only minor legislative amendments; and the third, those which involve more important changes. Conventions falling within the first category’ are those concerning the 48-hour week, 1919 ; minimum age in industry, 1919; minimum age in agriculture, 1921; right of association in agriculture, 1921; workmen’s compensation in agriculture, 1921; weekly rest in industry, 1921 ; hours of work in commerce and offices, 1930; minimum age for non-industrial employment, 1932 ; hours of work in automatic sheet-glass works, 1934; and underground work of women, 1935.
The second category comprises conventions concerning unemployment, 1919 ; childbirth convention, 1919 ; night work of young persons, 1919; workmen’s compensation for accidents, 1925 ; protection against accident of workers employed in loading or unloading ships, 1932; workmen’s compensation for occupational diseases, 1934; night work of women, 1934; and hours of work in coal mines, 1935.
The third category consists of thirteen conventions, relating mainly to compulsory insurance against sickness, old age, invalidity, &c, and others which concern matters in respect of which it is doubtful whether the requisite unanimity on the part of the States is at present obtainable.
The relevant sub-committee of the Adelaide conference expressed the opinion that the delay in ratification that had occurred was, to a large extent, due to the fact that consideration by the States of the conventions was not a function of any one department or officer; and the committee recommended that the States should be invited to charge with the responsibility of dealing directly with international labour conventions some one department or officer. The committee also recommended that the States should be invited to communicate at once their acquiescence or otherwise in any convention, the subject-matter of which is substantially covered by State law, and, as far as concerns the other conventions, to advise the Commonwealth Government as early as possible, and in any event within six months, whether ornot they were willing that the Commonwealth should proceed with ratification. The conference adopted the report of the subcommittee.
In regard to the question of hours of work, I would mention that the Government delegate was fully informed prior to the conference as to the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the proposed conventions in connexion with hours of work. These instructions, briefly stated, were to the effect that he was at liberty to support the proposal and vote in favour of the adoption of draft conventions providing for a forty-hour week on two conditions: -
On this basis, Colonel Harrison voted in favour of the forty-hour week in respect of public works, which was adopted by the prescribed majority with a margin of one vote.
Honorable members are aware of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the question of the general adoption of the forty-hour week in Australia. It has been made clear in this House and elsewhere. The Government endeavoured to arrange for a conference between representatives of the various parties concerned with a view to comprehensive investigation of the merits or otherwise of the shorter working week, but these efforts failed. Later, it was suggested that an investigation might be held by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but this suggestion also was rejected. Consequently, at the recent conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers in Adelaide, the Commonwealth Government expressed the view that the only bodies that could deal satisfactorily with the question were the industrial tribunals of either the Commonwealth or the States. The proposal for the adoption of a 40-hour week was resolved in the negative by the conference.
Two other conventions were adopted by the International Labour Conference, one concerning annual holidays with pay, and the other concerning the regulation of certain special systems of recruiting workers. Various recommendations and resolutions were also adopted. The conventions and recommendations have been referred to the State governments for information and advice as to the extent to which the provisions of any of them are covered by existing legislation, and as to any action contemplated by the States to give effect thereto.
Each of the delegates in his report has referred to the inconvenience suffered by the absence of technical advisers to assist in representation on the various committees, some of which sit simultaneously, and even, at times, concurrently with the plenary sessions of the conference. This is a matter which has been referred to on former occasions, and has received consideration. Owing to the geographical position of Australia, the appointment of advisers would involve very considerably increased expenditure, and, in view of this, advisers have not been appointed. The workers’ delegate, for example, is provided with a first-class return passage, and receives allowances of £1 10s. a day on board ship, and £3 3s. while on land and, in addition, compensation for loss of wages, which usually amounts to £7 or £8 a week, over a period of approximately three months. The expenses of advisers would be’ about the same as those of the delegates. Under the existing arrangement, the cost of representation at an International Labour Conference, with only the -workers’ delegate being specially sent -from Australia, as has been the practice for several years, amounts approximately -to £1,200. Each adviser appointed would increase this cost hy from £400 to £500. I- commend the reports for perusal by honorable members.
.- Ordinarily I would move for the adjournment of the debate on this motion, but I have a fear that if I were to do so, that would be the end of the discussion during this period of the Parliament, and I desire to make some comments upon the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). It would appear that the Government directed its delegate to the International’ Labour Conference to vote for the principle of the 40-hour working week on public works, while, at the same time, holding in reserve a defeatist policy in regard to the application of the 40- hour working week in Australia. I say that quite deliberately, because every reference by. the Government to the application of the 40-hour week suggests that, while it instructed its . delegate to vote for the 40-hour week, it had no intention of giving effect -to the convention. Were it otherwise, it would not now profess that, before the principle can be applied in Australia, there ought to be an investigation in order to discover whether it is a desirable thing. Quite obviously, it ought not to have directed its delegate to vote for a proposition which it was not satisfied was practicable and workable.’ Those of us who are interested in this matter were surely justified in believing that, when the Government directed its’ ‘delegate to vote for the 40- hour week, it- was itself convinced that the 40-hour week was a fair and reason able thing for the workers of Australia. Although the Government delegate voted for the 40-hour week, he was directed to point out to the conference the constitutional limitations under which this Parliament works. Nevertheless, when we put that forward as a statement of fact calling for a constitutional remedy, the Government itself opposes our suggestion that the people should be asked to confer the power which this Parliament should possess. The attitude of the Government is so contradictory that the people should be told about it. If it be true that the States are in fact, as -well as in law, the practical and legal authorities for controlling hours of labour in Australia, then, before the Government sent its delegate to Geneva to discuss working hours, it should have ascertained from the States what kind of delegate they favoured, and what views that delegate should express. Now, after the delegate has returned, it appears to be necessary to consult the States in regard to what action should be taken, but the reasonable and intelligent course would have been to consult the States before he went away. The States should have been told that the Government proposed to be represented at the International Labour Conference, and that matters falling within the competence of the States were to be discussed. The States could then have expressed their opinions upon the matters to be brought forward, so that the Government delegate might ‘be properly instructed. At present, the workers in Australia are being humbugged as between the powers of the States, and the powers of the Commonwealth, and no progress is being made in the direction of industrial reformation. The result is that, while Australia at one time led the van in respect of the general standard of industrial conditions, to-day it is far in the rear regarding quite a number of important matters. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) furnished a report to the Government showing how far Australia is behind -regarding national insurance, particularly insurance against unemployment. That is one great reform already operating in many other parts of the world which is not operating in Australia. In addition, important industries in some of the major countries of the world are observing conventions of the International. Labour Office to which Australia has not yet given effect. Those are two directions in which Australia has failed to progress. Moreover, our wage standards have fallen considerably in relation to the cost of living, so that Australia has forfeited whatever claim it might have had to regard itself as among the most progressive countries of the world. This retrogression during recent years is largely due to the fact that, although the Government professes to be in favour of a shorter working week, it refuses to take any steps to put the principle into effect. Therefore, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and that the Government shall proceed to give effect to the convention providing for 40 hours as the maximum working week.”
.- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) furnishes an opportunity to the Government to prove its good faith in regard to the instructions which it gave to its delegate at the last International Labour Conference. This is far too important a matter to be shelved or adjourned. Any adjournment of the discussion at this stage would be equivalent to a declaration in opposition to the principle of the 40-hour working week. i had expected that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) would indicate what steps the Government proposed to take to give effect to the convention, but evidently it intends to procrastinate until the next election campaign, so that it may make the 40-hour week one of the features of Government policy. The International Labour Convention proposes to apply the 40-hour week to all public works, and the Commonwealth has full power to do this, at least in respect of those public works under its own control. The High Court, in its judgment in the Henry case, stated that the Commonwealth Government had power to legislate in respect of those matters covered by international conventions, and this is surely an opportunity to test the validity of that pronouncement. Even apart from that, however, the Government could without delay put the 40- hour week into operation on its own public works. But it is not willing to do so. It is all very well for it to say that it is favorably disposed towards the adoption of the 40-hour working week, but the people will want to know why it fails to implement the hours convention of the International Labour Conference in respect of its own employees. Its treatment of this question during the last few months proves beyond &ny shadow of doubt that it is not prepared to give practical effect to the convention, and is seeking to evade the issueand defer the possibility of its adoption, in Australia. At any rate so far it has. aone nothing tangible towards the practical application of the convention to itsown servants. Realizing the effect upon employment of modern processes of manufacture, and the increasing use of scientific appliances, surely the Government must recognize its responsibilities for the adoption of the principle of the shorter working week at the earliest possible moment. The fact that it instructed ti e Commonwealth delegate to the International Labour Conference to vote in favour of the adoption of the hours convention is surely sufficient evidence that it must have been fully convinced of the desirableness of adopting that reform in Australia. The Government could only have acted after full investigation by those who were in a position to proffer advice on the subject, and it must have been upon the strength of advice tendered to it that it instructed the Commonwealth delegate to support the principle of the 40-hour week at the International Labour Conference at Geneva. It is therefore incomprehensible that, at this juncture, the’ Government should seek to evade the issue and, at the same time, make no practical suggestions to this House in regard to the matter. Apparently it is quite content to accept the decision of the recent Premiers Conference in Adelaide as the final word on the matter. I maintain that it should at least apply the principle to those of its employees who are engaged on public undertakings, while indicating that it .is wholeheartedly in favour of the application of this urgent and essential principle to the workers engaged in industry throughout this country.
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the provisions of the Income
Tax AssessmentAct 1936 relating to the special property tax, to amend the provisions of that act relating to leases of land, and to amend sections twenty-three, thirty-six, thirtyseven, seventy-two, seventy-eight, one hundred and fifty-nine, one hundred and seventy and two hundred and eighteen of that act.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Coinage Act 1909.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 18th Novem ber, 1936 (vide page 1974) on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this amending bill, in effect, is to empower the representative of the Northern Territory in this Parliament to vote on such matters as relateto the allowance or disallowance of ordinances gazetted in respect of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, and on any amendments that may be made to such motions for disallowance. It applies a step further than has hitherto been the case the provisions of section 122 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act which authorizes the Parliament, on whatever conditions it thinks appropriate, to give parliamentary representation to a territory surrendered by a State and accepted by the Commonwealth. It is, of course, a matter of history that the Northern Territory was surrendered to the Commonwealth by the State of South Australia, and that for some years no action was taken under the powers conferred upon the Parliament by section 122 of the Constitution Act to give to that territory representation in either House of the Parliament. Parliament was finally moved to give representation to the Northern Territory in this chamber only; but it was expressly provided that the representative of that territory should not vote in any division taken in respect of any matter considered by this Parliament. In general, this disability will still stand, and it is only in respect of the disallowance of ordinances’ governing the management of the Northern Territory which are gazetted by the department, that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) will be given a vote.
This represents a very important development, I submit, in the political history of the Commonwealth, in that, for the first time since federation, a representative in this Parliament who is not a representative of an electorate which is part of a State will be permitted to vote. Certainly it will he only upon stated matters, but nevertheless he will actually be permitted to vote. To those who regard the federation as a federation of States, this development is, I think, of very great moment. It marks definitely a transitional stage towards what I shall describe as the unity of the Australian people politically. There are territories other than the Northern Territory which, no doubt, will be surrendered to the Commonwealth in due course. There is, of course, the Federal Capital Territory itself, which is at present without representation; when the population of the Federal Capital Territory increases adequately no doubt representations will be made to the Government of the day to provide for some practical representation of the people residing in it. By and large, it appears to me contrary to our democracy that any people in any part of the Commonwealth, subject to its laws, should be without a vote in respect of their representation in this Parliament. That appears to be an inherent defect in, shall I say, the citizenship rights of those who now dwell in the Federal Capital Territory. F.or those who dwell in the Northern Territory, we have taken into account distance and the fact that they are far removed from the seat of government, and thus can be best served by direct representation.
I shall support the bill, having made these remarks merely with a view to directing attention to what I conceive to be its indicative importance in the development of this Commonwealth.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) 1 12.1]. - It is but natural that I should support this proposal of the Government, for which I have always striven vigorously. That a band of pioneers, such as the electors of the Northern Territory, should have been doubly penalized by being disfranchised, is shocking. Whatever faults this Government may have, it will always be remembered by the people of the Northern Territory for this wise and discreet action.
I am pleased indeed at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). When I interviewed, the honorable gentleman some months ago, I thought that he held a different view as to the manner in which the Northern Territory should be represented. I am agreeably surprised to learn that I misunderstood his remarks, and that he takes the democratic view that no resident of the Northern Territory should be disfranchised. I thank him, as the mouthpiece of his party, and also thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues, of whom I have at times been a somewhat severe critic. I shall continue to be that when the need for it arises.
. - In one direction, I consider that this bill possibly does not go sufficiently far, in that it limits the right of the honorable member for Northern Territory to a vote on motions involving the disallowance of any ordinance of the Northern Territory or any amendment of such motions. There will be occasions, when measures embracing matters of even more importance than ordinances will be dealt with by this ;House. The Government should, therefore, consider the advisability of empowering the honorable member to vote on any bill involving the expenditure of public money, apart from the estimates, to give effect to government policy. It must be conceded that the people of the Northern Territory have to bear the same taxes as are imposed on the general community throughout Australia. They should, therefore, be entitled to a direct voice in the determination of the course, which government expenditure should follow in the Territory.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I understand that the honorable member for the Northern Territory has said that he is glad that I have changed my attitude, and am now espousing democratic principles.
Honorable Members. - He did not say that.
– I was not present while the honorable member for the Northern Territory was speaking, but in order to make my position clear, I now say that at no time, in no place, have I opposed the representation of the Australian people in this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am somewhat astonished that the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have accepted as entirely satisfactory this very limited and meagre grant of voting strength. What provision can reasonably and lawfully be made for the representation of a territory so large in area and so small in population as is the Northern Territory, is a very big question.
– What is the population of the Northern Territory?
-Approximately 2,410 persons are enrolled.
– It has an area of about 520,000 square miles, or 335,000,000 acres. When this measure is passed, the honorable member for the Northern Territory may vote on any motion for the disallowance of any ordinance of the Northern Territory and any amendment of such motion. The honorable member acquires no right to vote in respect of the hundred and one questions affecting the Northern Territory - its administration, land settlement, roads, river systems, or anything else - that may arise in this Parliament. The honorable gentleman came into this House with the express determination either to secure a vote or to resign. He now expresses himself as entirely satisfied because he may vote on any motion for the disallowance of any ordinance of the Northern Territory and any amendment of such motion. He is given no rights in relation to the drafting of the terms or the scope of an ordinance, but he may vote on a motion for its disallowance. If he considers that that satisfies the ambitious demand that he made when he first came into this House-
– He has not said that he is satisfied.
– If he is able to sit down with a sense of complete achievement because he has won this concession from the Government, I suggest that the Government has flattered him with the notion that he has been given something substantial, when, in fact, it is so small that it will never be faithfully valued until it has been examined under the microscope.
Mr.Paterson. - Apparently it is a case not of “ the distant scene “ but of “ one step enough for me “.
– At all events, this can hardly be regarded asa step of a yard measure. It is a very short step indeed. But perhaps it is sufficient, as the elections are approaching and the shadow of the bulky form of the exmember for the Northern . Territory is once again appearing on the horizon, to enable the honorable gentleman to go back with banners waving and drums beating and to declare that he has secured a vote for the representative of the Northern Territory.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- This may be an appropriate time to ask the Minister to consider, if he is not now in a position to say, what he proposes to do on the general question of the representation of Commonwealth territories. This bill, slight though it undoubtedly is in itself and in the measure of voting power that it gives’ to the representative of the Northern Territory, certainly suggests an inquiry into the general principle of the representation of Commonwealth territories, including, of course, the Federal Capital Territory. Presumably the Government has taken this step as the result of profound consideration, because, short though the measure is, as well as the stride that has been taken, it represents a landmark in the history of the Commonwealth. The House must be curious to know what the view of the Government is generally upon the question of the representation in this Parliament of the territories of the Commonwealth, including the granting of the franchise to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory.
– I hope that the Government will not adopt the policy of granting representation in this Parliament to the Federal Capital Territory and that, if an attempt be made to extend the principle to other territories under the control of the Commonwealth, it will be resisted. The better method would be to endeavour to bring them to the stage at which a system of local self-government might be set up. I believe that every honorable member would be only too happy to see the conditions in north and central Australia so improved that they could be set up as a State under the Commonwealth, rather than be represented as a territory in this Parliament. We .have to recognize that the position of the Federal Capital Territory is an entirely different one. Probably, the only precedent is that of the district of Columbia in the United States of America, which has a direct vote, but, T understand, no representation in the Federal Congress. Personally, I consider that it would be unwise to grant representation in this Parliament to the Federal Capital Territory. I realize that there is always the tendency for certain people to demand . that that should be done. If some system of local government were established - the Government has made some effort in that direction - and if more responsibility were given, the question of the representation of such a small territory should not arise. I hope that if the request for it is again made it will not be acceded to by the Government.
I have allowed the debate on this motion to digress a little, but I remind honorable members that the bill can only be discussed in the form in which it has been reported from the committee.
– ‘Parliament has gone as far as it should go in the granting of a vote to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). To go further would be unwise. If it were proposed to give the representative of the Northern Territory equal status with other honorable members of the House - in my opinion it is doubtful whether he could actually be given such status, for the members of this House are appointed to a considerable extent, at least, on a population basis - a great deal of objection would be raised. It would be desirable, in my opinion, to adopt the policy of government of the Northern Territory by ordinance, with a special provision that ordinances must be submitted to Parliament, and if motions for their disallowance be tabled, they must be discussed. This would be preferable to giving the people of the Northern Territory a merely illusory representation. At pre sent, a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance may be discussed only with the approval of the Ministry. If a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance be tabled in the Senate, it must be discussed and dealt with. If we were to provide that motions for the disallowance of ordinances tabled in this House must be discussed within, say, fifteen days, it would be a distinct improvement on the present procedure.
– Does not the Acts Interpretation Act provide for that?
– It does not. T intend to refer to that matter when the Acts Interpretation Bill is next before us. All that the residents of the Northern Territory are entitled to ask for at present is the right, through their representative, to consider and vote upon the actual laws by which they are governed, without taking a hand in the determining of the policy of Australia generally.
– in reply - The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Barker, (Mr. Archie Cameron), and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), have each raised some interesting points concerning parliamentary representation of the territories of the Commonwealth. After all, this subject is largely governed by arithmetical considerations. There are 2,410 electors enrolled in the Northern Territory, and 5,359 persons enrolled for the purpose of voting at Advisory Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory. Although it may be said, that the people of the Federal Capital Territory are voteless, it cannot be contended that they are voiceless,’ for the national Parliament meets in their midst, and many honorable members are quite ready at any time to ventilate any subject which seems to require consideration. Again, ordinances proposed to be applied to the Federal Capital Territory are submitted to theFederal Capital Territory Advisory Council for consideration before effect is given to them, so that the people in. this territory have, through their representatives on the Advisory Council, ft voice in determining the form which ordinances shall take.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Certain amendments of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1925, are necessary to clarify the position of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner in relation to railway lands, and to meet conditions as they exist to-day in regard to competition from motor traffic. Other amendments proposed in the bill relate to staff and general railway matters.
Clause 2 of the bill is designed to ensure that all Commonwealth railways shall be vested in the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and in respect of the lands for an estate in fee simple. This position actually applies in respect of all Commonweal ih railways with the exception of a short stretch between Katherine and Pine Creek in the Northern Territory. When the bill for the construction of that line was introduced, this point was not covered, and the amendment I am now submitting to honorable members is intended to rectify that omission.
For some time, the Commonwealth railways have been subjected to motor competition, particularly on the transAustralian route, and the object of clause 3 is to enable the Commissioner to retain a reasonable share of the business by quoting special rates to customers who use the railways for the whole of their traffic. The proposed amendment is similar to an amendment of the New South Wales Railways Act recently made.
The amendment proposed by clause 4 of the bill will provide that continuity of employment shall not be broken unless more than twelve days elapse between the termination of the prior permanent employment of an employee and the commencement of his employment with the Commonwealth railways. The present provision allows three days only for a new appointee to take up his position. The need for this amendment will be appreciated when I direct the attention of honorable members to the position in which an employee of, say, the Queens- laud railways finds himself if he should be transferred to the Commonwealth railways and appointed to a position in, say, Western Australia. The present period of three days is not sufficient to allow a person in such circumstances to take lp his new work without breaking the continuity of his service. The proposed new period of twelve days will be ample for the purpose.
– In the event of a man transferring from a State railway service to the Commonwealth railway service, is continuity of service assured him ‘?
– Yes; the twelve days’ break will give ample opportunity for the transfer.
Clauses 5 and 6 a provide that the Plant and Stores Suspense Account established by section 55 of the Commonwealth Railways Act and the Railway Accident and Insurance Fund established by section 56 shall be trust accounts within the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act. Section 56 also provides that the Railway Accident and Insurance Fund shall be kept at the Treasury. In each case, however, the transactions of these special funds are dealt with in the Treasury accounts in the same manner as if they had been trust accounts established under section 62a of the Audit Act, and, in effect, the balances remaining to the credit of the funds have been dealt, with a.s if they formed part of the trust fund referred to in section 62a 3 of the Audit Act. This procedure, whilst in conformity with the general practice in dealing with trust, a counts and funds of this nature, is not strictly correct in a legal sense, and the amendments proposed by clauses 5 and 6 a have been designed to place the matter on a proper legal footing.
The object of clause 6 b is to provide for a greater sum being set aside from Consolidated Revenue for the purpose of the Railway Accident and Insurance Fund, the present amount of 5s. for every £100 of the revenue of the railways not being sufficient to maintain the fund in a financial condition
Although the amendments proposed in clauses 7, 9 and 12 are very necessary, they do not call for any special explanation at this stage.
Under section 63 of the principal act, the Commissioner may acquire private lands, Crown lands of a State and lands which have been dedicated, reserved, or set apart for any public or other purpose. There is no power, however, for the Commissioner to acquire lands vested in the Commonwealth, lt is not considered desirable to give the Commissioner power to acquire any Commonwealth lands, except such as shall have been reserved for the purposes of a railway, and the proposed new paragraph /; of clause 8 provides accordingly. Any acquisition under the amended sub-section will be subject to any law of the Commonwealth or of a territory governing the disposal of lands.
Under the principal act persons charged with offences may be brought before only a- police, stipendiary or special magistrate. The purpose of clause 10 is to provide that they may, under certain conditions, be brought before a justice- of the peace. The reason for a provision of this kind in a vast area like the Northern Territory will be fully appreciated, for sometimes under existing conditions persons charged with offences have to wait for long periods before they can be brought before the appropriate court.
Section 22 of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930 provides that the provisions of that act shall extend to employees of such authorities under the Commonwealth as are prescribed. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has been prescribed as an authority under that section. In view of the fact that employees of the Commonwealth Railways ‘Commissioner are covered by the provisions of Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930, section 85 of the Commonwealth Railways Act is not necessary and it is accordingly proposed in clause 11 of the bill that it be repealed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th- November, (vide page 1974) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to amend certain provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act dealing principally with service pensions and its object is to remove certain anomalies that have been discovered in the administration of the act. Clearly the measure may be more effectively discussed at the committee stage, and I therefore shall not occupy the time of honorable members in debating it now. I shall support the second reading.
.- The object of this bill, the introduction of which I welcome, is to liberalize the conditions under which service pensions may be granted to unemployable ex-soldiers, and ex-soldiers who have reached the age of 60 years. More particularly this bill relates to the position of the unfortunate returned soldier who is suffering from tuberculosis. It is a source of great satisfaction to me to know that the Government is placing these men on a footing entirely different from that occupied by ex-service men who are suffering from a variety of other disabilities. I am sure that nobody has greater sympathy with, or has taken more practical interest in the well-being of, returned soldiers than the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) ; but, whilst he has considerably liberalized the provisions of the Repatriation Act, I consider that the strongest possible case exists for the payment to tubercular exservice men of the full amount of the war pension. I am confident that no one will deny that at least 90- per cent, of the sufferers from this dreadful disease contracted it as the result of the hardships and the rigors imposed upon them by the Great War. The hardships they faced embraced not only the rigors of climate, but also contact, in a great many instances, with poison gas. To extend to these men the full war pension would cost about £36,000 a. year, and if their wives and children were included, the cost would be about £160,000 a year. I wish to impress upon the Minister certain aspects of clause 7, which repeals section 45af of the principal act, and replaces it with the following new section : - 45ap. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, no person shall receive at the same time a service pension under more than one section of this division of this part, and no person, other than a member of the forces who is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, shall receive at the same time a service pension and a pension under the law of the Commonwealth relating to invalid and old-age pensions:
This provision, for a man who is suffering from tuberculosis, whilst not being as much as I should like to see, nevertheless does, I believe, enable him and his family to live, but not of course, in anything more than humble circumstances. For the purposes of bringing what I desire to emphasize before the House, I shall cite the case of a tubercular sufferer who has a wife and two children. He is entitled to a service pension of 16s. a week and an invalid or old-age pension of 15s. 6d. a week, whilst his wife is entitled to a service pension of 16s. a week, and also receives 5s. a week in respect of the two children. In New South “Wales the man would be entitled also to 5s. a week child endowment in respect of one child. Those amounts would bring the total income of the family to £2 17s. 6d. a week. On the face of it, that seems to be fairly reasonable, although perhaps not entirely adequate. I stress, however, the fact that the proposed new section 45af declares that no pensioner shall be in receipt of both a service pension and an invalid or old-age -pension unless he is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Very well. Whilst he is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, he is entitled to an invalid or an old-age pension, as well as to the service pension if he should be an invalid or aged. But immediately the pensioner dies this amendment, if allowed to retain its present wording, will render his widow ineligible for an invalid or an old-age pension.
– But she will still be eligible for the service pension.
– Yes, but while her husband is alive the family income is £2 17s. 6d. ; when he dies it is reduced to £1 6s. a week, including 10s. for two children.
– But she would be entitled, on the death of her husband, to the equivalent additional income of 30s. a week above the rate of the service pension.
– She could augment her income from other sources only if she were not an invalid or above the statutory pensions age limit. This bill specifically provides -
That no person other than a member of the forces who is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, shall, receive at the same time a service pension and a pension under the law of the Commonwealth relating to invalid and old-age pensions.
Immediately the wife of a tubercular exsoldier becomes a widow, she becomes ineligible to receive anything more than a service pension.
– She is treated in exactly the same manner as any other widow. The soldier himself is to receive this consideration because of his physical condition, but when he dies his widow is just like any other woman.
– But when her husband is alive in certain circumstances she is entitled to an invalid or an old-age pension. While the husband is alive the family income can amount to £2 17s. 6d. a week, and the husband is also entitled to free hospital treatment. But when he dies the income of the widow is to be reduced to 26s. a week which is a reduction of 378.
– She is no worse off than the widow of any other soldier.
– But she is the widow of a soldier whom the Government tacitly admits has died as the result of war disabilities.
– That is not admitted. If it were admitted the arguments of the honorable member would be well founded.
– The Minister’s contention is open to argument. The Government, by introducing the service pension for sufferers from tuberculosis, tacitly admitted that the . disability was due to war service. I wish to impress upon the Minister the tremendous nervous strain imposed upon the wife of a man who suffers from this dreadful disease. I consider that this in itself makes her and her children eligible upon her husband’s death, for something more than a mere 26s. a week. Some provision should he made whereby she should be eligible not only to receive a service pension, to which she is normally entitled, but also to take advantage of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in order to make her total allowable income 31s. a week. I suggest to the Minister that he should consent to accept an amendment in committee which would give effect to the principle I have attempted to state.
.- I do not desire to make any extended comment because all parties will agree that these proposals are necessary. The Government and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) must be congratulated for bringing forward the concessions contained in this bill. There are, in the hospitals and institutions of this country, many unfortunate men who will, to an extent, be relieved from hardship by them. In common with other honorable members I have made representations to the Minister on behalf of returned soldiers, particularly those at present in the Randwick Military Hospital, and this bill, I am glad to say, is an answer to these representations. The action of the Government will be appreciated by all the returned soldiers’ organizations throughout Australia.
I desire now to repeat my representations on behalf of those South African war veterans in Australia who may be in necessitous circumstances. These men have not the organization that exists to-day in the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. Indeed, comparatively few of them are still alive in this country, and I venture the opinion that if one were to take a census one would find that the number of the South African war veterans who are in need do not exceed 250. I suggest that the Minister should take their case into consideration and that these men should be granted service pensions.
Sitting suspended from 1244 to 2.15 p.m.
.- This useful bill removes some causes of friction in administration which have become apparent since the act of last year was passed, but I feel a great deal of regret that something is not being done to extend the benefit of service pensions to children born, and wives married, after tlie 1st October, 1931, or at any rate to give the department discretion, in such cases as it thinks fit, so to extend the provisions of the act. I know of many cases in which hopelessly tubercular men have married - who have been taken pity on by women who have married them, and assumed the care of them, and it is hard that the wives should be denied service pensions. Under the act, however, nothing can be done for them. I join with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) in urging that the few surviving veterans of the South African war should be given the benefit of these provisions. I also commend to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. “Hughes) the New Zealand War Veterans Allowance Act 1935, which, in the case of unemployable soldiers, goes a good deal farther than ours does. It does not exclude wives married, and children born, after October, 2931, and it enables a family to receive allowances totalling nearly 50 per cent, more than the maximum permitted under this bill. Under our legislation the maximum receivable by a man, his wife and one child is £100, made up of 30s. a fortnight to the man, 30s. a fortnight to the wife, and 20s. a fortnight to the child. Under the New Zealand act, the maximum receivable in a similar case is £143. We should try to make our provisions for ex-soldiers and their dependants at least as liberal as those of New Zealand. It can be said to the credit of cur legislation that it does make allowance for the granting of pensions to tubercular soldiers, which the New Zealand legislation does not. I am glad to see that the Minister for Repatriation is still solicitous for the welfare of the returned soldiers, and is endeavouring to do his best for them.
.- I rise to offer my congratulations to the Minister and to the Government for having, so soon after the passage of the last repatriation amending bill, brought down the present measure to remove such anomalies, particularly concerning the new service pensions, as have been discovered in administration. I am glad to observe that the definition of income is being amended so that the commission may, when assessing the pensions of soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, decline to take into account any pension received under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In future no account will bc taken of invalid or old-age pensions when fixing the rate of pensions payable to tubercular soldiers.
I am also pleased to see that service pensions may be paid to war nurses regardless of whether they served in a theatre of war or not. Those who had an opportunity to see the work of war nurses overseas realize how terribly difficult and strenuous their task was. Theirs were not the ordinary duties of hospital nurses, but frequently they had to work the clock round under extraordinarily difficult conditions. When an attack was in progress, ambulance trains and motor ambulances carried back a constant stream of wounded to the casualty clearing stations and stationary hospitals, and the conditions under which the nurses had to work are indescribable. Just as many returned soldiers were burnt out by their war service, so the health of in any war nurses was permanently affected by the work they were called upon to do in attendance upon the suffering wounded.
Another provision of the bill is that a service pension may now be paid to the dependants of an ex-soldier who has made application for a pension, but who dies before it has been granted. Thus, if a soldier applies to the commission for a pension, but the application is not approved until after his death, his widow and other dependants will now be entitled to receive the pension. Under the old act this was not possible. A soldier in receipt of an old-age pension may, under this measure, surrender it, and receive a service pension which also carries a pension for his wife and children. This is an improvement for which every one will be grateful.
This bill, which corrects many anomalies, will bring about a much more satisfactory state of affairs, and will remove many causes of friction and irritation that arose after the introduction of the original service pension legislation. I am glad that the measure contains a provision for the payment of 6s. a week for returned soldier inmates of asylums, mental, and other institutions. Those who have such institutions in their electorates know, unfortunately, that a great many ex-soldiers are inmates of them, and this provision will add greatly to their comfort.
I should like to have seen the bill contain many other provisions, but even as it stands it represents a big step forward in the direction of helping the returned soldiers. I should have liked, for instance, to see in the bill provision for the payment of service pensions in respect of wives married, and children born, after October, 1931. The Prime Minister, and the Minister for Repatriation, have received deputations in regard to this matter, from the returned soldier members of this House, and I know that the representations then made are being considered. 1 understand that we cannot hope for everything at once, but perhaps in a subsequent measure this request will be acceded to.
I join with other honorable members in asking that service pensions at least, should be granted to veterans of the South African War. There are not many of them left, and I know that the Minister lias received representations on this subject, because I have been a member of deputations which he has received. I am aware that he sympathizes with the request, and I hope that it will be possible for him soon to announce that the Government, on his recommendation, has given, its approval. The bill, even as it stands, will improve the lot of many exsoldiers and their dependants, and it is further evidence of the goodwill of r.he Government towards ex-soldiers.
– I appreciate what has been done by various amending’ bills to remove anomalies discovered in the working of the Repatriation Act, but I am still a long way from being satisfied that this bill honours the promises made to returned soldiers before they went away to fight. I have particular cause for dissatisfaction regarding the attitude of the Repatriation Commission towards applications for service pensions. I have found that it is much easier to induce the authorities to agree to the granting of an invalid pension than it is to get a service pension from the Repatriation Department. Indeed, I go so far as to say that it is almost impossible to have a war service pension granted except to a man who already has one leg in the grave. I have in mind one case which I submitted to the Repatriation Commission, and to the Minister for
Repatriation (Mr. Hughes). I forwarded certificates from doctors stating “that the claimant was suffering from fibrosis of the lungs caused by war service. Those certificates were unchallenged by the medical advisers of the commission. I had the man X-rayed, and it was shown that ‘both lungs were affected. Other eminent medical men in Hobart have certified to the same effect. 1” have a certificate from the Hobart Public Hospital, and another from the social service doctor, to the effect that the man is totally incapacitated for work.
– Is the disease active ?
– Then the man should receive a pension.
– Of course he should, but he cannot get one, and he is receiving sustenance from the Tas.manian Government for the maintenance of his wife and seven children. The man’s medical adviser refuses to allow him to go to work for fear that he should drop dead on the job. When I put this man’s case to the commission it replied, in effect, “ Oh, it is possible to get a medical certificate in support of any claim. Such certificates are not worth the paper they are written on.” I contend that if a doctor’s certificate in favour of a claimant for a pension is not worth the paper it is written on, neither is the certificate of the doctor employed by the Repatriation Commission. The commission cannot have it ‘both ways. When cases of this kind are put directly to the Minister for Repatriation he replies that service pensions are not to be regarded as compensation, but I maintain that those who went abroad to fight for their country, and whose health suffered as the result, are entitled to compensation. It is argued, also, that war is not an industry, and that pensions should not be regarded as a kind of industrial compensation, but many of those who stayed behind during the last war made of it a very profitable industry. They grew wealthy while others fought for them. Millions of pounds were made out of the flesh and blood of young Australians, including some of my own people whose bodies are lying in France to-day.
The commission has laid it down that it will not accept a medical certificate from an outside doctor. This man who, prior to enlistment, was employed as a builder’s labourer, was seriously wounded during the war. He took suddenly ill and was conveyed to a public hospital. He died shortly after admittance. On his file in the departmental records is a certificate, signed by the doctor who attended him prior to his death, that he died from the effects of war service. Because he was in receipt only of a partial pension his widow was granted a pension amounting to 4s. 6d. a week. Tn spite of repeated requests to the Minister for Repatriation and to the department, for an increase of her pension, nothing was done for this poor, unfortunate woman, although she had lost the use of one arm through paralysis. It is difficult to understand the reason for tho departmental decision, in view of the fact that the doctor who last attended her husband certified that his death was attributable to war service. The department is constantly sheltering behind the barrier provided by the repatriation legislation which insists that a certificate that death is due to war service shall be supplied by a departmental medical officer. I feel sure that in the case of accidents to men engaged in industry, if the certificate of the doctor last attending a man who died as a result of such accident were tendered in evidence to the court in a subsequent claim for compensation, it would be accepted, and that the court would grant damages against the employer for whom the man had worked. I refer the Minister for Repatriation to the compensation case Lawrence v. Tasmanian Steamships Company, in which a private practitioner’s certificate was held as relevant and concrete proof of the cause of death.
I ask some of the returned soldier members of this chamber if they are prepared to allow this sort of thing to continue. I am not a returned soldier, but I am prepared to see that every man injured in the war and who is now suffering disabilities as the result of war service shall receive a pension in exactly the same way as a man injured in industry receives compensation for his injuries. I ask them if they think that the widow of the man to whom I have referred has been fairly treated. In New Zealand she would be given, under the Labour Government, a full pension. In another case which has been brought under my notice, a man who was wounded in the stomach by shrapnel and whose injuries brought about a complication of stomach nerves, was operated on, but subsequently developed a growth which could be attributable to the injury he had received. He was again operated on, and the growth was removed, but he died from the effects of the operation. His doctor issued a certificate that his death was attributable to war service, yet no increase of pension was made to his widow, who was on a partial pension. The repatriation legislation should be so amended as to provide for the acceptance of death certificates issued by private practitioners. If honorable members in this House are sincere in their efforts to improve the lot of returned soldiers, they will see to it that such an amendment is made. I see no reason why the certificates of eminent medical men who have established for themselves a great reputation in the medical world should not be accepted by the Repatriation Department. Unless that is done the Repatriation Act must fail, and fail miserably. “When I remember the great body of men who enlisted for .active service abroad, the pick of Australia, and the most courageous of its citizens, inspired with the ideal of patriotism to defend their country against its aggressors, I am ashamed to think that to-day all the promises made to them are forgotten, and many have no prospect before them but to eke out their existence in some old men’s home. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) shakes his head. I say that there are a number of former soldiers in the Old Men’s Home at Newtown,
– I was shaking my head with regret.
– Is it right that men who served their country for three and a half years in France and Flanders should have no prospect before them but to eke out their existence in an old men’s home on a paltry allowance from the Government of 5s. a week to keep them in tobacco?
– That is a big amount to spend each week on tobacco.
– It demonstrates the sympathy of the honorable member for Riverina for returned soldiers when he says that 5s. a week is too much for men who fought for their country.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– While the soldiers were facing extreme hardship during the winter of 1916 in the mud of France and Flanders the honorable member for Riverina was wallowing in his bed. I shall tell the returned soldiers throughout Australia just what sympathy they can expect from the honorable member. In my view, what is the concern of one soldier is the concern of all soldiers throughout the Commonwealth. In discussing our obligation to returned soldiers with people outside of this Parliament who have the best interests of returned soldiers at heart, I have been frequently told that the time has come when the veterans who fought for their country in time of need should be cared for in some institution other than an old men’s home.
I may say at this stage that I shall not support any legislation designed to give preferential treatment to the veterans who fought in the South African war as against those who served in the Great War with the Australian Imperial Forces.
Recently I asked the Minister for Repatriation whether pensions would be paid in respect of children born to returned soldiers married after 1931. His reply was that that matter would be dealt with when a Repatriation Bill would be brought before the House, but no provision to cover such children has been made in the measure now before the House although its introduction presented an opportunity for the fulfilment of the Minister’s promise. What has happened to that promise? Why is not some action taken now to honour it? I know of a man who is in receipt of a full pension of twoguineas a week. He married after 1931, and now has four or five children, but because he is unable to exist on his pension he is forced to seek social assistance from the State. The Government, has made no attempt to honour its promises to returned soldiers. What right has the Government to say when a man should get married? The children born to soldiers who married after 1931 are just as good Australians as are those born to those married prior to that date. I will see to it that these children will be told how this Government has treated their fathers. The Government has plenty of money with which to honour the promises made to returned soldiers, but is more concerned in remitting taxation to the amount of £9,000,000 which was imposed on the wealthy classes of Australia, a section which suffered nothing in the Great War. The Government refuses to grant proper compensation to men who to-day are burnt out and suffering as the result of the tortures inflicted on them during the winter of 1916 in France and Flanders. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was in France he harangued a gathering of soldiers on the road to Armentieres on the need for conscription. When the barrage commenced the right honorable gentleman fell off the box from which he was making his address, and* remarked, *’ That is the shortest speech I have ever made.” I have the authority of a couple of friends of mine for the authenticity of that happening; they were there at the “time.
I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in regard to the provision being made in this bill in respect of nurses who served in the war. I assure the honorable member that a number of them are in such a bad way that they will not live long to enjoy this concession.
The Government has all the power necessary to bring about such amend.ments of the Repatriation legislation as would ensure, to those who were encouraged to enlist for service in the Great War conditions commensurate with the service they rendered. I ask the Government to honour its wartime promises to returned soldiers. If to do ‘this would send the Government “ broke “ the sooner it goes to the country the better. We on this side of the House would then take over the reins of government and would fulfil the promises made to those noble men who have suffered and who continue to suffer from the awful effects of war.
– In order to do so the Labour party would withhold money from the old-age pensioners.
– No. If the party which I represent were returned to office it would withhold money from the greedy wheat-farmers and give it as compensation to those who served their country in a time of crisis. I am anxious to see that every man is compensated according to his injuries and the disabilities under which he continues to labour, but I would not grant a pension to those who do not need it.
I was speaking a few moments ago of the Minister for Repatriation. This morning, when I took a case to him, he showed me the files and said, “ There is no case “ and I agreed with him. On another occasion, he admitted that I had made out a prima facie case, and wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission, who is a lawyer and knows very well what documentary evidence is, but that gentleman refused to grant the pension. The time has come for this Parliament to “clip the wings” of the Repatriation Commission, and lay down once and for all that a medical certificate must be accepted as relevant evidence. The Repatriation Act says that when any doubt exists, the soldier shall be given the benefit of it. If six doctors on the one side say that a man is unable to work, and two or three doctors are paid by the commission on the other side to say that he is able to do some work, the majority view should be accepted, and he should be compensated for his injury. I wrote to this man’s superior officer, and received the reply that he had been an important runner for six months and had taken part in some of the biggest “ stunts “ in France, by reason of which it was practically certain that he would be affected by gas. To-day he is suffering from fibrosis, yet the Repatriation Commission and the Entitlement Board contend that his condition is not the result of war service. He was strong and healthy before he left Australia. The commission having given a decision, will not alter it for fear that it might be thought that it is backing down. I appeal to honorable members who have some sympathy for the returned soldiers to use their influence with the Government to have the existing anomalies removed and to have included in the act the provision that a medical certificate shall be accepted as evidence. If that be done, I shall be satisfied. Rut if the request be refused, ‘ there is something wrong with the repatriation policy of the Government. If the Minister will not move an amendment to provide for children born after 1931, I shall do so, in order to test the feeling of the committee. If neither he nor I can do anything to rectify the position, we might as well tell the returned soldiers that we are subject to the dictates of men, many of whom have lost sympathy with them because their own bread is buttered, their jobs are secure, and they live in an environment so pleasant that they are unable to appreciate the sufferings of those who are battling to feed and maintain their wives and children. It is of no use to emphasize what has already been done for the returned soldiers, if all the promises made by the Government are not fulfilled. I have followed the progress of the Minister step by step while he lias been drawing the wool over the eyes of these unfortunate men. It was said at the front, that one dead soldier was worth ten soldiers who were wounded. Doubtless that is the way in which the Government views this matter. Its principal consideration is the matter of pounds, shillings and pence. In Tasmania, there are men who should be receiving the fu’” pension, but are on the dole. They are burnt out, and for years have suffered the pangs of poverty, as well as the results of shell-shock, caused by long spells in the trenches, some of them totalling 90 hours. That, they break down at 40 years of age cannot be wondered at. The Repatriation Commission claims that any man is likely to break up at 40. I say that no man does so unless he has suffered Injury in the course of his employment. The Minister must instruct the Repatriation Commission that it is not entitled to assume anything, but has to deal with hard cold facts. A physically strong mau who is breaking up from the effects of war is entitled to compensation. It is a disgrace to allow war veterans to end their days in an old men’s home. Many years the opponents of conscription sug- gested that those who enlisted would die’ in the poor house when they returned to Australia, and the reply of the supporters of conscription was that they would look after the men and see that they did not. Now is the time to build a war veterans’ home and give to those men the comforts to which they are entitled so that they may enjoy a little happiness in return for the years of service that they have rendered. So long as there is one returned soldier who needs compensation for his services in the last Great War, or one widow in want whose husband’s death was due to war injuries, I shall continue to denounce the Government both inside and outside of Parliament. I hope that the Minister will consider my suggestions.
– I rise to a personal explanation. The honorable member who lias just resumed his seat, having remarked that the sum of 5s. had been thrown to the returned soldiers as a pittance for the purchase of tobacco, added that I had said that that was plenty for them. That is an absolute falsehood. I made no ‘such comment. I am quite satisfied to accept Hansard’s report of what I said, which was that these men do not spend 5s. a week on tobacco.
– The honorable member did say that.
– ‘Order ! The honorable member for Denison is out of order.
– Well, the honorable member said-
– Order ! The honorable member for Riverina has made a denial, and that denial must be accepted.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I said that the recipient, of a service pension who is an inmate of an old men’s home would receive only 5s. a week.
– For tobacco, the honorable member said.
– I said that that is all the comfort he can get; the balance of the pension goes towards payment of his board. The honorable member for Riverina interjected - “ It is too much “. I say that it is not too much.
– Order ! The honorable member for Denison is not making it personal explanation. The point in dispute cannot be debated. The honorable member for Riverina has denied having used the words attributed to him, and his denial must be accepted.
– And what about my denial of what is alleged to have been :said?
– Order ! The honorable member is distinctly out of order; he must resume his seat.
.- This small bill, which seeks to make certain amendments of the Repatriation Act must, I think, meet with the approval of all members on both sides of this House, not merely those who are returned soldiers. It represents yet one more link in that chain of repatriation legislation which I should say goes far towards meeting the legitimate aspirations of the returned soldiers of this country. The proposed amendments seek to remove anomalies, the majority of which have arisen in consequence of the service pension legislation introduced into this House late last year. I should like to refer briefly to some of those anomalies.
The amendment in clause 6, subclause 3 b, is designed to make possible the granting of a service pension to the widow and children of an ex-soldier who died before his service pension had been approved. That, I consider, is a most desirable objective. There has naturally been quite a rush of applications for service pensions, and I know that, unfortunately, the cases have not been dealt with as expeditiously as either the Repatriation Commission or the Minister would desire, and that many exsoldiers have died while their cases have been under consideration. The provision is an eminently fair one.
I also thoroughly approve of the proposal in clause 7 which provides that, upon the surrender by an applicant of his invalid or old-age pension, a service pension may be granted to his dependants retrospectively to the date of his application for a service pension.
I believe that the most important provision is that which provides that tubercular ex-soldiers who are inmates of an institution will not be charged for board : ind lodging while in the institution. Personally I have always thought this to be a grave injustice that was never intended, and I am delighted to know that the amendment now proposed will remove all misunderstanding of that nature, and that service pensioners will in the future receive their full pension, whether they are inmates of institutions or not
While I feel that, in the ultimate administration of this legislation, sympathy is exercised, it seems to me that, in dealing with applications in the first place, the Repatriation Commission adheres too literally to the letter of the law. I am led to make that remark by reason of the fact that, although only 50 per cent, of the applications for service pensions are granted on the first application, 30 per cent, of the remaining 50 per cent, are subsequently granted on appeal to the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
– That involves a delay of six months.
– Unfortunately that is true, and it is inherent in appeals of the kind we are considering. Obviously, sufficient tribunals cannot be established to deal with appeals the day or the week after they are lodged. If applications were treated a little less literally in the first place, some of this delay might be avoided. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) to give consideration to proceeding along the lines advocated in the Hyndman report, submitted to the Government of Canada. It is suggested in that report that the cases of ex-soldiers whom we describe as burnt out - that is, permanently unemployable men - should be considered from the point of view of ‘both medical and industrial unfitness. I visualize the possibility of an applicant for a service pension being informed by the Repatriation Commission that he is not considered to be permanently unemployable. It may be said, for example, that he is perfectly capable of working a lift. But there are insufficient lifts in Australia to provide employment for all men so circumstanced.
– There are not enough lifts to go round.
– That is so. A carpenter may, perhaps, be told that he is quite capable of doing clerical work.
But such a man, having devoted his whole life to carpentry, may find it impossible to do clerical work satisfactorily. I hope, therefore, that, when further amendments of the Repatriation Act are being considered, the Government will give attention to the possibility of providing against both medical and industrial unfitness.
I wish now to refer briefly to some remarks of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney). The position of the burnt-out and totally incapacitated ex-soldier is too serious and tragic to be made the sport of party politics. I was disappointed by the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Denison, for we know of the sufferings through the war of those very closely associated with him. I should have thought, therefore, that the last thing the honorable member would attempt to do would be to introduce party politics into the consideration of this subject.
– I rise to a point of order. I did not attempt to make sport of the suffering of returned soldiers or to introduce party political considerations into the subject. I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member for Denison referred to the unfortunate experience of returned soldiers having to spend the last years of their lives in old men’s homes. I shook my head when he made that remark. I feel that every honorable member of the House must regret that some ex-soldiers must enter old men’s homes. I wish the honorable member for Denison to realize that I was not shaking my head either to contradict his remarks or to express sarcasm at what he was saying.
I commend the bill to all honorable members.
.- All honorable members on this side of the House welcome any increased benefits to returned soldiers and their dependants in consequence of amendments of the Repatriation Act, but personally I regret that the amendments do not go as far as they should go. In 1931, heavy reductions of war pensions and other pensions were made. By this means the Government was able to curtail public expenditure by some millions of pounds.
The amendments of the Repatriation Act agreed to last year made some concessions to returned men and their dependants, and some further considera- tion is being given to them in the amendments now under consideration ; but when we realize that during the last two years the Government has remitted taxes to the extent of millions of pounds annually to certain wealthy persons in this community, while it increased pensions by only ls. or 2s. a week, we must express our entire dissatisfaction with the position. I cannot offer the Government any warm congratulations upon the introduction of this bill, for it does not go far enough. It merely tinkers with the business. All honorable members have been approached at different times by returned men who, having enjoyed some measure of health for a number of years, now find themselves to be suffering from the effects of gas or wounds which they thought had completely healed. To-day throughout Australia hundreds of men are suffering from spondylitis and rheumatic disabilities of one kind and another which they find it almost impossible to prove to be due to war service. As the years have crept on, many ex-service men have been overtaken by unsuspected infirmities, and the Government should make adequate provision to grant relief to them. Those suffering from spondylitis should undoubtedly be given sympathetic consideration immediately. The law should be amended to remove the provisions which place the onus on the returned men to prove to the Repatriation Commission that their complaints are due to war service. Nothing is, perhaps, more tragic in our national life to-day than the plight of returned men who have found it impossible to obtain regular work in their former callings, and who are now so much driftwood on the industrial sea. The Government should give serious attention to the devising of ways and means to assist these men in some proper fashion. Frequently applicants for pensions are required to consult a specialist, and the specialist does not feel justified in certifying that the disabilities from which the men are suffering are due to war service. It is unhappily true that many men have found it impossible to- obtain official information as to their medical history overseas. I know of some persons who have been asked to supply such information during the period they were in Trance, England and elsewhere overseas. This shows conclusively that the departmental records are incomplete. As a matter of fact, in one case I have in mind, the subject of a claim for a pension on the ground of spondylitis which was recently placed before the Repatriation Commission, the incapacitated condition of the man is indeed tragic. For years after his discharge from the military forces he was employed as a clerk in the Repatriation Department in Sydney. This man could prove that while he was in -England he received medical attention for what would be described as the first stages of spondylitis. I appeal to the Minister to do something for men who are stricken with disease but find it difficult to establish before the commission the truth of their claim that their incapacity is due to war service.
Sir DONALD CAMERON (Lilley) ]_3.16j . - The principles enunciated in this bill I welcome immensely because they give effect to some proposals which I have advocated for a very long time. We cannot fail to appreciate the fact that every clause of this measure, in some way or other, liberalizes the existing legislation or helps to facilitate the administration of the main Repatriation Act. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) said the act did not go far enough. I think, Mr. Speaker, as far as I can remember, that since you and I came into this House together in 1919, all honorable members have felt that every piece of legislation connected with repatriation did not go as far as they, irrespective of party, thought it should.
I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) and I feel that I should state that never since Mr. Speaker and I have been members of this House have the petty activities of party politics had anything to do with legislation affecting repatriation. That fact has always been one of the pleasantest recollections of my experience of this Parliament. I do not charge the honorable member with having endeavoured to bring party politics ink this issue, but as one of the oldest members of this House - only four other honorable members who are at present members of Parliament were here before 1919 when I was first elected - I assure him that all parties have recognized that the nation undertook to treat, in the most generous way, those who served in the war, and all parties have appreciated the fact that it is our duty as members of the national Parliament to carry out that undertaking.
The Government which afforded disappointed applicants for pensions the right to appeal to independent tribunals against decisions of the Repatriation Department, did a worthy deed, and I feel sure that there is no intention on the part of this legislature as at present constituted to permit that provision to be disturbed. Since the establishment of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal in 1929 more than 17,000 appeals have been dealt with and approximately 3,000 of them have been allowed, while the Assessment Appeal Tribunals have dealt with 13,500 appeals and have approved of 8,300. It will be realized that the appeal system is a fine one, and that the ex-soldiers are gaining genuine benefits from it. I am pleased, therefore, to note that the Government intends to continue the tribunals as part of the general system of repatriation. I feel that that is the intention of the amendment in this bill.
It is also gratifying to me and I believe to all other honorable members to observe that those unfortunate ex-soldiers who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, who cannot connect their incapacity with war service, will receive very real benefits under this bill, which, it was thought, they would receive last year when this Parliament passed the legislation that instituted service pensions. As proposed by this bill, maintenance in the form of board and lodging in approved institutions will no longer be taken into account. It is further proposed that a man suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis may draw both the service pension and an invalid pension. Thus a single man will get 31/6 a week and at the same time will receive excellent medical treatment. A married man will also receive 31/6 a week but, in addition, his wife may receive an amount, not exceeding 16s. a week, and each child, limited to four, 2s. 6d. a week. We must all agree that this provision will make the position of those particular returned soldiers very much happier than it has been.
We cannot fail to realize that from the nature of their services it was impossible for some Australian army nurses to serve in a theatre of war as defined for the purposes of the act as it now stands, and I am particularly glad to see that the Government will make these nurses eligible for consideration provided only that they left Australia for service abroad.
There are other features of the bill that are well worthy of comment. One is the provision which enables dependants of exsoldiers who died subsequent to the lodging of a claim to have that claim determined. Another is that the fact that the bill will permit the granting of a service pension to a dependant from the date of application and not from the date of the surrender of the invalid or old-age pension, as has been the case hitherto. Another worthy feature is that those most unfortunate inmates of asylums for the insane who are incapable of malting representations on their own behalf, are being provided for. A weekly amount, which was referred to somewhat scathingly, I regret to say, by the honorable member for Denison, will be made available for the purchase of tobacco, fruit and other small luxuries which will surely make their lot a little better.
I strongly support the representations made on behalf of the South African campaign veterans. I am disappointed that provision for them has not been included in this measure. My disappointment is the greater because I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) is sympathetic and would gladly make some provision to have these men who served in the days of the South African war included in some of the benefits of our repatriation legislation. In Brisbane recently, with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), I accompanied a deputation of these men to the Minister, to whom their case was put very clearly. They asked for very little, and, in the end, they said they were appealing to be included, under the service pension provisions of the Repatriation Act, but, if they could, not obtain that privilege, they asked tobe granted the right to obtain the old-age pension on lines similar to that provided for returned soldiers in the legislation which was passed last year. I had hoped that they would be provided for in this bill, but they have not. I now hope that, at some later date - not too late, because there are not too many warriors of the South African days left - something will be done for them. It is a small thing to ask for a small’ measure of recognition that they, unfortunately, have never had in this country, for the service they faithfully rendered 36 yearsago.
Reference has been made also to thepayment of pensions to new wives and children ; that is those who were affected by the legislation which it was necessary to introduce in 1931. I am entirely in sympathy with all that has been said. I feel sure that the Government will give this proposal every consideration and will come to some favorable decision at the earliest possible moment, because I think that the claim of those unfortunatewomen and children is completely justified.
– How long is the Government going to take?
– That is a matter entirely for the Government, hut I feel certain that it will give sympathetic consideration to it, and I am hopeful that something will be achieved. I do not claim, and the representatives of thesoldiers’ organizations themselves do not claim, that everything can be done this year, but certainly there will be an opportunity, in the near future, to reconsider this particular phase of repatriation. We must realize that it was the intention of the administration of the day, and certainly the intention of members, who supported that administration, to consider the claims of these wives and children when the financial conditions of the country made it possible to give back some of the cuts that were imposed in 1931, not only in the invalid and old-age pensions and in other directions, but also in repatriation pensions-
.- The measure before the House aims at removing some of the anomalies which have been brought under the notice of the Government from time to time by the Labour party concerning the administration of the Repatriation Department, and the procedure adopted in granting service pensions; but as a member of the Labour party, I must say that, although some of the anomalies are to be removed, others remain. This party will support any measure which aims to give support to a deserving section of the community, but I think that it is a wrong principle to make it one of these qualifications for assistance that a person must have had service overseas in the Australian Imperial Force. In this country we have two forms of legislation to assist invalided or disabled persons, first, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and secondly, the Repatriation Act. I believe that the needs of the citizens should be the sole consideration of any government or authority, and that assistance should be rendered in this case, irrespective of whether a man or a woman had service outside Australia in military forces. But at the moment, as. we are only dealing with the deserving section of the community covered by this legislation, I propose to make one or two remarks as to the purposes of the Government in removing certain anomalies. It is bad enough when the Government makes distinctions in granting relief, but it is worse when, after having decided to give relief to a class of persons it discriminates between the various sections of that class. If the proposal of the Government were to give relief to every section of the returned soldiers there would be no objection to it. The objection members of the Opposition have to this measure is that, although it removes certain anomalies to which the attention of the Ministry has been directed by the Labour party, it allows other anomalies to remain.’ One of the anomalies remaining is the specification that, before an ex-soldier can claim a pension on the grounds of unemployability, he must prove that he has served in a theatre of war. Many complaints have been registered against the definition contained, in the Repatriation Act of the term “‘theatre of war”. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has directed notice to the rejection of pension claims by ex-soldiers who were able to claim that they had served so close to a theatre of war that there was loss of life in the detachments with which they served. If it is to be left to the department to determine what constitutes a “ theatre of war “, many returned soldiers will find it difficult to prove their claims for pensions. The Government has done the right thing in making service pensions available to nurses who did not serve in the theatre of war, but why stop ur nurses ? Why not make the provision cover all those who embarked for service abroad? I know of one man who got no further than England, where he was sandbagged one night on his way back to camp. As the result of the injury he then received he is now a physical wreck; but because his injury was not received in a theatre of war, he is not entitled to a pension. All fair-minded members will, L am sure, admit that there should be no discrimination between various groups of disabled ex-soldiers. If their disability is such that they are entitled to a pension, they should receive it, irrespective of whether they served in a theatre of war or not.
A little while ago, I complained in this House regarding the manner in which the department is administering the provision that returned soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis shall be entitled to a pension. The act clearly stipulates that a pension shall be payable to a returned soldier if he “is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis “. In practice, however, the Repatriation Commission takes it upon itself to decide whether the disease is active or dormant, and if it is dormant no pension is granted. This, I believe, is an evasion of the intention of Parliament, and is even opposed to the direct wording of the act. No one can say that this disease, once contracted, will not recur, and even if its progress is arrested by medical treatment, the health of the patient remains affected. I am sure that those honorable members who voted for the amendment making pensions available to tubercular soldiers never meant that the payment of the pension should depend upon debatable medical testimony as to whether the disease is active or dormant. I trust that this discrimination will be dropped, and that in future the pension will be granted in all cases where it can be proved that the patient is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.
The act provides that, if a returned soldier’s widow in receipt of a service pension should re-marry, her pension shall cease, but it also provides that any pension being paid to her in respect of her children shall also cease. Every one will agree that if a widow re-marries she should no longer be eligible for a tension, but I cannot see why the children of the dead soldier should cease to be an obligation upon the Government simply because their mother chooses to re-marry. The Commonwealth has acknowledged a definite responsibility towards the children of deceased ex-soldiers, and this should not be affected by the re-marriage of the mother.
I regret that, in the granting of relief to deserving sections of the community, there should be discrimination as between one section and another. I believe that returned soldiers, along with other citizens who are in need, should receive assistance from the Government, but it should not be a condition of such assistance that the person shall have served in the military forces overseas. The only qualification should be the person’s need, and whether or not he is deserving of assistance. I believe that the Government should so liberalize the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act as to cover all persons in need of assistance, whether civilians or ex-soldiers. I admit that, under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act as it now stands, many returned soldiers in receipt of service pensions would not be eligible for invalid pensions, because they are not totally and permanently incapacitated. The Government, however, recognizes that they are entitled to assistance, because, as the result of their war service, they cannot take their proper and normal place in the industrial life of the community. I maintain, however, that all citizens, whether returned soldiers or not, who, because of disabilities, are unable to take their proper and normal place in the industrial life of the community are equally deserving of Government assistance. At the present time, some invalid pensions are denied because the claimants are not totally and permanently incapacitated for all forms of work. I point out, however, that it is absurd to say to a wharf labourer, who is incapacitated from carrying on his usual employment, that he has no right to an invalid pension because there is no reason why he should not earn his living as a clerk. We know, as a matter of fact, that men cannot adapt themselves to changes of occupation in that way. Therefore, as I have said, the sensible and just thing would be to make invalid pensions available to all those who have lost their capacity to keep themselves.
Seeing that this bill removes some of the existing anomalies in the Repatriation Act, the Labour party will necessarily support it, but we ask the Minister for Repatriation to give consideration to the two points I raised, one in connexion with pensions to ex-soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and the other in regard to the stoppage of pensions payable in respect of the children of deceased ex-soldiers upon the re-marriage of their widows.
– It goes without saying that all honorable members approve of any action by the Government to widen the benefits to returned soldiers under the Repatriation Act. There are still many roughnesses in the act which one might criticize, but I try to forget them for the sake of the smooth passages, and because I remember that, for the most part, the act is being administered generously, and in a just and humane manner.
I desire to’ draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) to an undesirable custom that is creeping in in regard to the appointment of the tribunals which consider the appeals of returned soldiers claiming pensions. Section 45a of the act provides -
The spirit underlying this section is that there should not be a preponderance of medical or legal men on these appeal tribunals. The section certainly provides that a legal man shall be chairman, and that is desirable, but as the Minister for Repatriation once said, the idea behind the appointment to the board of poisons other than lawyers was to prevent an appeal from Caesar unto Caesar. He said it would be absurd to require a “ Digger “, en’ 11U had received an adverse decision from a medical officer or other professional person, to carry his appeal to another tribunal consisting of persons of a like habit of thought. With that I agree, but I suggest that he is now condoning the offence which previously he condemned. At the present time, there are, on the appeal tribunal, two legal gentlemen - Colonel Ralston and Colonel Mason, both of whom are returned soldiers - while ‘Colonel Dibden is the only lay representative of the returned soldiers. If a decision has been given by professional men against the application of a returned soldier, it is improbable that it will be upset by a tribunal consisting of men of the like habit of mind. I do not suggest that they would be biased, but it is well known that legal minds tend to work more or less in the same way. Thus, the straightforward., common-sense view of a case might be. rejected by legal men, whose training tends to make them consider legal points rather than the substantial justice of the case. The purpose of appointing the appeal tribunal was to carry the “ Digger’s “ case outside the ken of legal minds, and to bring to bear upon it the consideration of common-sense, lay minds, which would deal with it without reference to legal procedure.
– That was the intention of Parliament when the legislation was passed.
– That is so, and the Minister on that occasion, referred to it in no uncertain way. I appeal to him to give consideration to the proper constitution of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.
.- The Opposition very cordially co-operates in the passage of this bill because we believe that it will help to remove many of the anomalies that arise in connexion with the administration of the war pensions legislation. Honorable members on this side of the House only hope that the matters raised by honorable members generally during this debate, indicating further defects in the existing legislation, will meet with the sympathetic consideration of the Minister at the earliest possible moment. For the present instalment of relief, however, we are certainly grateful to the Minister. The benefits of the bill now before the House will be felt by many ex-service men and their dependants who need relief urgently. With regard to the question of the acceptance by the war pensions authorities of certificates of total invalidity issued by the invalid pensions authorities, I should like to know whether the Repatriation Department has yet been able to find a modus operandi in regard to that matter. The Minister will remember that in the past, the anomalous position has existed that a person accepted aseligible for the invalid pension is not necessarily accepted as eligible for a service pension. The suggestion was made that persons who had been in receipt of invalid pensions during the last five yearsa*nd who had undergone medical examination during that period, might be accepted as eligible for service pensions. I should be glad to know whether arrangements have been made to correct the anomaly.
– The Repatriation Department accepts the decision in respect of an invalid pension as prima facie evidence of unemployability, but it reserves to itself the right to inquire into’ every case.
– That is to be expected it is the rightful prerogative of the department to do so ; but the fact that a person has, during the last five years, been in receipt of an invalid pension, might be readily accepted as establishing his bona fides as an applicant for a service pension.
I indicate my strong support of the requests made that ex-soldiers who served in the South African war should be granted the benefits proposed by this legislation. Many of those men are equally as deserving of consideration as those who served in the Australian Imperial Forces during the Great War.
The Repatriation legislation might very well be liberalized in the direction mentioned by the honorable members for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) and Denison (Mr. Mahoney), and others. Frequently, when an ex-soldier makes application for a service pension, he is told that he could undertake light work such as is undertaken by door-keepers or liftmen. It must be obvious that the number of positions of that kind that become vacant is very few, and that it is almost impossible for the greater number of incapacitated or partially incapacitated ex-soldiers to secure employment of that sort.
I am considerably concerned at the provision made in clause 11 for the payment of 12s. a fortnight to service pensioners who become inmates of hospitals, sanatoriums, benevolent institutions and the like. I desire to know whether, in cases of that sort, the Government, makes any contribution to the institution for the support of the pensioner.
– If that were done, the pensioner would get nothing at all.
– If that practice is continued, it seems that the department will profit from the misfortune of the pensioner. That seems to be a very grave and anomalous position.
– Such pensioners are usually inmates of government institutions.
– Not necessarily, and certainly not necessarily inmates of Commonwealth institutions. Such pensioners may become inmates of an ordinary hospital. When the bill is in committee I expect the Minister to amend it in such a way as to ensure that service pensioners receive the full amount of pension whilst they are inmates of institutions, or, at any rate, that some payment is made to the institutions for the maintenance and care of such pensioners.
– In such cases the pension continues to be paid to the pensioner’s wife.
– That, at any rate, is something.
– If a married man becomes an inmate of one of those institutions, his pension ceases, but his wife’s pension continues to be paid.
– P>ut the Commonwealth makes no contribution towards his upkeep.
– It is the liability of thcState to look after its citizens. Where a man is suffering from a war” disability, we relieve the State of all responsibility; where he is not suffering a war disability, he remains a unit of the general body of citizens.
– A different practice entirely exists in connexion with the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, under which, when a pensioner become? an inmate of an institution, portion of the pension is paid to the institution for his maintenance.
– It is not a proper charge, however, upon the Repatriation Commission.
– The law should be made uniform with respect to payments of this description. Having drawn the Minister’s attention to this anomaly, I leave it at that for the present. I hopeto have an opportunity to deal with it more fully, however, during the committee stage of the bill. I trust that there will be a further liberalization of the provisions of the repatriation legislation to cover all ex-soldiers who suffer disabilities which may be attributable to war service. We, on this side of the House, hope to have an opportunity to express in a practical way our sympathy also with those who have been victims of other phases of life’s struggle.
.- The prominence which has been given to medical certificates during this debate, leads me to a few observations with regard to the practice adopted in connexion with medical certificates which I think is in need of overhauling. Many people regard a medical certificate as a document of very high authority; whereas others believe that it is not worth the paper upon which it is written. My experience is that medical practitioners generally are careful in issuing certificates, but there is natural sympathy between a medical adviser and his patient. Therefore, the sugges’tion that a certificate of a doctor that a soldier’s illness is due ito war service should be accepted as final, is something which we cannot adopt in connexion with this legislation ; but I have seen many cases in which, I think, sufficient attention has not been given to the opinions of the patients’ medical advisers. They arise in those cases in which the soldier has failed in his original application and has made an appeal to one of the appeal tribunals. The applicant bases his appeal on the certificate of a doctor that his trouble is due to war service, and this may contain any fresh evidence. In cases which have come under my notice, the tribunals have not heard the medical practitioner in regard to his patient’s illness. The proper course that I recommend should be adopted by the tribunals is that in every instance where a medical practitioner gives a certificate, every opportunity should be offered to the soldier to bring along his medical adviser to give evidence on his behalf in person and, preferably, in the presence of the departmental doctors, because there is no better way of testing the opinion both of the private practitioner and of the departmental medical adviser than by bringing them together in the presence of the tribunal which has to decide the case. It is not necessary to have a thorough crossexamination to arrive at a fair decision in cases such as this. “Where the applicants are represented before the tribunals by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, their cases are properly conducted. Many applicants, however, are quite unable to represent their own cases properly, and it has been my experience that evidence which ought to be brought before the Commission is not presented to it because of the applicant’s lack of knowledge as to how to go about the business. The suggestion I make is that in every case in which a medical certificate is produced, facilities should be offered to the applicant to have his medical practitioner heard by the tribunal itself, and that the departmental medical . officer should be present at the proceedings.
– I agree that this is largely a committee measure. But there are one or two matters that I wish to raise at this stage. I appreciate what is being done, and consider that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) is to be commended for the proposed im- provements. I remember joining the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) and other honorable members some months ago in an approach to the Minister concerning the men who are suffering from tuberculosis. What we then sought to obtain has been largely embodied in this bill, and those concessions will be a godsend to the tubercular cases. It is, of course, impossible to draft any measure that will escape anomalies, and doubtless they will continue to crop up from time to time.
If I interpret aright the proposed new section 45an, an amendment of it is desirable. It provides that if, upon the death of a member of the forces, his widow should remarry, not only her pension, but also that of the children, shall be cancelled. To my mind, the two cases should be kept separate. The new husband cannot be expected to shoulder the responsibility for the maintenance of children by the previous husband. I suggest that provision should be made for the continuance of the pension in the case of those children.
My experience of the Repatriation Department in Victoria has given me no cause for complaint. The officers in that State have conceded everything that was allowable under the act.
With other honorable members, I consider that the children of badly crippled ex-soldiers, who have been born since 1931, should be brought within the scope of the act. The promise was made that that would be done. I admit, of course, that some time limit must be fixed. The experience of the last few years, however, has proved that the fixing of 1931 imposed a hardship on a small group of men who are suffering probably to a greater extent than are any others, because they are totally disabled. I am personally acquainted with men who, year after year, refused to marry because of the feeling that they would be a burden on their wives. Many such men eventually had to succumb to the overtures of those who wished to marry them despite their disability, because of their need for constant attention. In some cases, children have since been born, hut they are not entitled to a pension, because of having been born since 1931. If I remember rightly. when the cuts were made in the pensions of the dependants of soldiers, the Government promised that this matter would be considered when the stage w’as reached which made it possible to deal with it. This is a burning question with many returned soldier organizations.
The clause dealing with the special service pension applies only to men of a certain class who do not receive an ordinary war pension and are unemployable. Those who are suffering from tuberculosis may obtain an invalid pension as well as the special service pension. If account bc not taken of them, the number remaining is comparatively small; but no provision is made on their behalf, because they are not entitled to both the special service pension and the invalid pension. I submit that the small number of men who qualify under this heading should be eligible for the special service pension as well as the invalid pension, as are men who are suffering from tuberculosis. If the Minister is unable to make that provision in this measure, 1 hope that he will make it in the near future. I thank him for what he has done.
.- T desire to draw attention to one phase of service pensions. I am very pleased that, the Government has seen fit to liberalize the law in some respects, but I should also like it to bring within the scope of lbc. act men who served in the South African war. I have handled the case of a man who not only served in the South African war but also enlisted for the last war. “While in Blackboy camp. Western Australia, he met with a serious accident when out cutting wood. The department has refused to admit that that was due to war service. This man has since been an invalid, yet he cannot obtain a pension under the existing law. He is receiving an old-age pension, but his wife is too proud to accept one, and they are consequently in very poor circumstances. In all probability there are other cases of a similar nature. I have written to the Minister in connexion with the matter on several occasions. I urge him to endeavour to meet this case, and also, if possible, the case of the few South African veterans who are still alive.
– in reply - Honorable members will, I hope, acquit me of discourtesy if I deal very shortly with the matters that they have raised.
As honorable members know very well, I have always viewed sympathetically - as has the Government - the claims of the South African veterans. There are, however, very many points which still have to be considered. We are under a very special obligation to the members of the Australian Imperial Force, and the discharge of this must be our first consideration. While mindful of the claims of the South African veterans we must maintain an even balance between the different sections of the military forces. I can, however, promise that the matter will receive the most careful consideration of the Government.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has referred to the case of the widow of a tubercular soldier. I believe that he has misunderstood the position, because no person other than a pulmonary tubercular soldier can draw at one and the same time both a service pension and an invalid or old-age pension. That privilege is personal and is given to the tubercular soldier because of the tragic nature of his disease. When he dies, the position in regard to his widow is no different from that of the widow of a soldier who has died from, let us say, cancer or any other disease, and she is consequently treated in exactly the same way. Were we to make any difference we should bring upon ourselves a host of difficulties.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has contrasted the conditions of a service pension in Australia and New Zealand. It would appear that the honorable gentleman has not thoroughly familiarized himself with the position. I am informed, and I believe, that the maximum allowed income in New Zealand is £143 per annum for a man, wife and family. The maximum allowed income in Australia for a man, wife and family is at least £163 16s. Further, when a New Zealand service pensioner dies the allowance to his wife and children - equal to one year’s pension - is paid in a lump sum. In Australia, the service pension to his widow is continued during her lifetime unless she remarries, and to the children until they reach the age of sixteen years. Then, again, in New Zealand there is no service pension on the ground of age or tuberculosis, nor is there any institutional treatment. The conditions regarding service in a theatre of war are also far more strict in New Zealand than they are in Australia. Taken by and large, the repatriation system of Australia will bear very favorable comparison with that which exists in any other belligerent country. The soldier of no other country receives more just, prompt, and sympathetic treatment.
Something has been said about the power of the Minister to override the decisions of tribunals. That is all nonsense. This legislature has decided very definitely that in the best interests of the soldier and the country the power should be deposited in these independent tribunals, every one of which - and this cannot be said of those of any other country - is composed wholly of returned soldiers. The Repatriation Commission is in that category; all of its members are ex-service men, one member being chosen practically by the league. The Deputy Commissioner in each State is a returned soldier, and the Repatriation boards are staffed by soldiers. Both the assessment tribunals and the entitlement tribunal are composed wholly of returned soldiers. From beginning to end the ex-soldier pleads his ease before a jury of his peers.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to the case of certain ex-soldiers segregated in asylums and hospitals, but I do not think he quite appreciated the real situation. The point taken by the commission is clear and definite, and, in my opinion, sound. The Government has recognized its obligation to service pensioners. The law provides that the pension must be paid to the man himself, and not to any institution. Although a pension may be paid to an individual under these circumstances, he still has the right to enter an institution if he desires to do so. The Commonwealth Government has accepted its obligation to the pensioner, as an ex-soldier, but this does not relieve the
State of its obligation to him as a citizen.
A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked me a pertinent question concerning the cost to the public of the increased benefits now being provided to pensioners. I am now able to inform him that the increase of the maximum rate of the service pension from 18s. to 19s. a week, effected by the Financial Relief Act, involves an expenditure of £13,000 per annum. The estimated cost of increasing the maximum rate of pension for children from 12s. to 15s. is £143,000 per annum. The estimated cost of disregarding the maintenance of tubercular soldiers, is £7,000 per annum. These are real benefits to the people affected, and should not be measured simply by the standard of pounds, shillings and pence. Those who will benefit will realize that they are no longer dependent upon charity. A helping hand is being reached out to them, which will, undoubtedly, afford tbem hope and comfort.
I shall be glad to supply any further information at the committee stage of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Tenure of members of Appeal Tribunal).
.- 1 was most interested in the remarks made a few moments ago by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman left the impression in the minds of honorable members, I am sure, that the last word in regard to pensions rested with the appeal tribunal, and that he, as Minister, had no power to interfere with it3 decision. If he will refer to the decision of the High Court in the case Bott v. The Commowwealth, he will see that in the opinion of the High Court the Minister may, at any time, override a decision of the assessment or entitlement tribunals. Bott lost his case, but the High Court gave a definite ruling on the particular point to which I have referred. Apparently the right honorable gentleman seems to think, as did some of his predecessors in office, that he has no power to interfere with the decisions of the tribunal. The High Court has made it quite clear that he has power to do so. Whether it is expedient that he should do so is, of course, another matter. The right honorable gentleman should, however, disabuse his mind of the idea that he has no discretionary power, for both the assessment and entitlement tribunals are executive, and not judicial, bodies.
My principal object in discussing this clause, however, is to refer to the tenure of office of the personnel of the Entitlement Tribunal. Speaking from memory, the period of the appointment of this tribunal will expire on the 31st May next. Recently, Mr. P. E. Deane retired from the tribunal, and the Government appointed in his stead a most estimable gentleman, who had for some time been acting as chairman of a subsidiary body set up to assist the tribunal. The act of 1929, under which this tribunal was appointed, provided that the chairman of it must be a solicitor or barrister. The present Minister for Repatriation took an active part in the debates at that time, and I feel sure he will remember clearly that the then Minister for Repatriation, the late Sir Neville Howse, emphatically stated that the only legal member of the tribunal was to be the chairman. Parliament agreed with that contention. Section 45 r 2 of the act provides that -
The commission may be represented by any person other than a legal practitioner at the hearing of any appeal by an appeal tribunal or by an assessment appeal tribunal.
Paragraph b of section 45 r 3 provides that an appellant shall be entitled “to be represented at his own expense at the hearing by a person other than a legal practitioner “. Section 45 w 2 states that-
Subject to this act an appeal tribunal and an assessment .appeal tribunal shall not in the hearing of appeals be bound by any rules of evidence but shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case and shall give to an appellant the benefit of the doubt.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member is not now discussing the tenure of office of the tribunal, and I ask him to confine his remarks to that subject.
– The present tribunal was appointed for a period of five years, with eligibility for “ reappointment for a further term not exceeding five years”, but some doubt has arisen as to whether it may continue to function at the expiration of that extended time. The object of this clause is to set that doubt at rest. I am concerned at the moment about the appointments to the tribunal. Unwittingly, possibly, a mistake has been made, in my opinion, in appointing a second legal gentleman to the tribunal. The intention of Parliament was undoubtedly that only the chairman of the tribunal should be a legal practitioner. Colonel Mason is, so far as I know, a most estimable gentleman; but it was unfair and possibly illegal that he, being a legal practitioner, should have been appointed a member of the tribunal, for in such circumstances, although two of the members of it are legal practitioners, the parties which will appear before it are expressly debarred from engaging legal assistance to help them in the matters with which the tribunal has to deal. I therefore ask that, before the tribunal is reconstituted in pursuance of the proposal now before the committee, the Government should take care to see that only one member of it is a legal practitioner.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Pension to widow and children of service pensioner).
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) whether he will give favorable consideration to the request that I made in my second-reading speech that, although in the event of a widow losing her pension on remarriage, the pensions of the children shall be preserved. The amendment now sought to be made to the principal act would involve both the widow and children in the loss of their pensions in the event of the widow’s remarriage. That seems to me to be entirely inequitable to the children.
– Although I cannot agree to an amendment of the clause at this stage, I shall give careful consideration to the point raised by the honorable member, and will discuss it with the commission to see whether a case can be made out for the honorable mem- ber’s contention. If so, I shall submit the matter to the Government. The point is one that may occur and I do not deny that some real injustice may bc done. I shall look into it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Limit of pension where pensioner in a public institution).
.- I listened with great care to the statement made by the right honorable Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), in regard ro the amount of the Avar pension paid to an inmate of a hospital, sanatorium, or benevolent home. I could not, however, follow the reasoning of the honorable gentleman. It may be, of course, that my capacity to appreciate thoroughly and to understand his wisdom is at fault, but, at the same time, I confess that he has left me bewildered as to how ho can find justification for his action. All I can hope is that, before many days have passed, he will at least come to consciousness of my argument that the department is actually profiting at the expense of the inmates of those institutions. I contend that this is at variance with the principle which guides the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department. I hope that if my persuasive powers at this moment are unable to convince the Minister, at least subsequently he will recognize that there was some merit in my argument.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report, adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will remember that the present Income Tax Assessment Act was passed by the Parliament in June of this year. The present bill relates to matters that require amendment in the light of the considerable examination to which the act has been subjected in the intervening period. Such of these matters as are the concern of the State
Governments as well as the Commonwealth Government, in the interests of uniformity, have been discussed with the State Governments by correspondence and otherwise. It is hoped and expected that at least a majority of the State Governments are in accord with the proposed Commonwealth amendments, and that they will take action on lines that are consonant with the amendments proposed in thisbill.
Probably the most important single subject dealt with in this bill is that of the method of dealing with the taxation of leaseholds. During the passage of the 1936 Assessment Act through Parliament, an amendment was adopted by the Parliament to the effect that, where a lease of land from the Crown, which is used for primary production, is assigned, and the lease was acquired by the taxpayer before the sixth year prior to the year of assignment, the amount of premium to be included as assessable income shall not be greater than the amounts of deductions previously allowed to the taxpayer in respect of the lease. During the discussion in Parliament I undertook to recommit the question of taxation on the sale of Crown leaseholds to Sir David Ferguson, chairman of the Royal Commission on Taxation, for further inquiry and report. Sir David Ferguson made this further inquiry and his report, dated the 28th July, 1936, was tabled in this House in September. In effect, the report recommends that Crown leases of land used for purposes of primary production should be treated in the same mtinner as freeholds and that the proceeds of their sale should not be taxable, except in cases of trafficking in such leases, and that the purchase price should not be allowed as a deduction to the purchaser. It was further recommended that existing rights in respect of leases at present in force should be preserved. The Government, after proper consideration, has decided to accept Sir David Ferguson’s recommendations in this regard; and the bill, in clauses 10, 11 and 14, gives effect to them. The provisions relating to Crown leases of land used for primary production are taken out of the general lease sections of the principal act - sections 84 to 88 - and placed in a proposed new section 88a. The proceeds of the sale of Crown leases sold after the 1st July, 1935, will not be taxable unless deductions have previously been allowed to the vendor. If any such deductions have been allowed, the premium cannot be taxed beyond the total of such deductions. The 1st July, 1935, is the date from which the existing provision in the principal act relating to Crown leases, section 84(2), operates. In regard to the withdrawal of the deduction of the premium paid by the purchaser, however, the bill provides that the provision shall not apply in respect of leases entered into before the 1st January next. This date has been fixed so that purchasers may have ample notice of the proposed change in the law.
A matter arising out of the proposed alteration of the method of assessment of Crown leases is the basis of valuation of live-stock sold in a walk-in walk-out sale. Sir David Ferguson dealt with this matter and pointed out that upon a walkin walk-out sale section 36(3) makes the allocation of the purchase money by the parties binding upon the commissioner. If the price of the lease is made non-taxable, or if it is left only partly taxable, there will be a strong temptation to allocate in the contract a very high price to the lease, and so reduce the amount of the taxable proceeds of the live-stock. The Government could not fail to be impressed with the foregoing and the bill therefore provides, in clause 4, for the deletion of the reference in section 36(3) to the price specified in the contract, leaving the assets sold, including live-stock, to be valued at market value. The Commissioner thus can challenge any price specified in the contract if he does not consider it to be the appropriate market value. Clause 5 provides for a consequential amendment in section 37(2) of the act.
There are two other matters relating to the taxation of leases which have been the subject of discussion with Sir David Ferguson, and which are contained in clauses 12 and 13 of the bill. The first deals with the case of a lessor who is assessable on the value of improvements effected on his land by a lessee, and who disposes of the property. To avoid complications it has been decided to tax the annual instalment of the value of the improvements attributable to the year of sale to the purchaser of the property with the improvements.
The second matter is that relating to the disallowance of the deduction to a lessee who erects improvements in which he has no tenant rights, where the lessor is a trustee of the land for the lessee, or the lessee is a trustee of the land for the lessor. I wish to emphasize that I have now got away from primary production. This matter affects lands which are not necessarily lands confined to primary products. One of the effects of this section in the act was to deprive a beneficiary of the deduction, although he may have entered into the contract or agreement with the trustee in a perfectly bona fide manner. Upon Sir David Ferguson’s recommendation the Government has decided that in such circumstances the deduction should, be allowed, and that the only type of case which should be struck at is where the lessee and the lessor aru in effect the Same person. An amendment to give effect to this is contained in clause 13 of the bill. I emphasize that this measure must necessarily be a measure for consideration in committee, and I shall go into that matter in greater detail later.
Consequent upon the removal of the special property tax, the references in the Assessment Act to that tax are deleted by clauses 2, 6, 9, and IS of the bill.
Section 23 s of the principal act provides for the exemption of the income of a company which was formed and is carried on for the sole purpose of insuring property belonging to a religious institution. As drafted, the exemption would not apply if a company, although not specifically and solely formed for the purpose mentioned, has in fact carried on business in accordance with the conditions (herein set out. It is proposed under clause 3 of the bill to delete paragraph s of section 23, leaving the exemption to be determined in accordance with the usual practice of the Taxation Department, namely, that where the income belongs, in effect, to a religious institution the exemption will be granted under section 23 e. This gives the Government greater freedom to grant exemptions in all proper cases than it has under the act at present.
Under clause 7 of the bill the deduction of State income and land taxes is extended to cover taxes of a similar nature imposed by a territory of the Commonwealth. There is a tax in the Northern Territory which, in effect, is the same as the State income tax, and that tax in the future will be deductable.
A drafting amendment is proposed in clause S in order to clarify the intention of the provision relating to the deduction of calls on shares. It has been found that under the existing legislation there is a possibility of two persons claiming the same deduction on calls on shares. It is now proposed to close that avenue.
Section . 159 of the principal act provides for a rebate to a non-resident taxpayer in respect of income taxed both in the Commonwealth and in the United Kingdom. It has come under notice that a taxpayer, under the income tax laws of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom, may be deemed to be a resident of both countries in respect of the same year, for example, a resident of Australia visiting England and residing there more than six months. In that event he would be liable for income tax on his Australian income both in the Commonwealth and the UnitedKingdom.
– Does the United Kingdom reciprocate?
– Yes, it brings the Australian resident under the existing provision for reciprocity, whereas previously certain Australians might not have been brought under that provision. It is considered that the resident of Australia should be placed in as advantageous a position as the non-resident in regard to relief from double taxation, and under clause 15 of the bill the relief is extended to residents as well as non-residents.
Clause 16 of the bill contains a drafting amendment to section 170 relating to amendment of assessments.
Section 218 of the principal act repeats the garnishee provisions of section 65 of the 1922-1934 Assessment Act. It has been found, however, that the section does not give full power to the Commissioner to accept or require payment of tax by instalments.
As this method of payment of tax is, in some cases, to the advantage both of the taxpayer and of the Taxation Department, provision is made in clause 17 of the bill empowering the Commissioner to collect tax by instalments from a person making payments to the taxpayer.
Clause 19 provides that the amendments shall apply to assessments for the current financial year, which is the year to which the principal act first applies - that is to say that the assessments issued in the next few months will be based on the law as amended by this present measure.
In commending this measure for the favorable consideration of honorable members, I would say that the whole of the bill has been drafted after consultation with Sir David Ferguson, the chairman of the Royal Commission on Taxation, and, to the extent to which the provisions affect the States as well as the Commonwealth, they represent provisions which, in the interests of uniformity, the States have been asked to adopt as far as the framework of their acts necessitate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the . Senate without requests or amendment : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill1936.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill 1936
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill 1936.
Bill brought up by Mr. Cabby, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill benowreadasecondtime.
This bill was forecast in my secondreading speech on the recent Sales Tax Exemptions Bill. It is a somewhat lengthy measure because the necessity for providing amendments, which are largely repetitive in substance, to each of nine
Sales Tax Acts, and to the Sales Tax Procedure Act. The bill is a machinery measure, designed to alleviate some of the disabilities and difficulties of sales taxpayers, to simplify the sales tax law, and remove certain weaknesses in the law that now make evasion possible.
Clause 60 provides for the curtailment of retrospective taxation, and the bill contains the following provision for that purpose : -
The three years’ time limit will not apply where the Commissioner is satisfied that tax has been avoided by fraud or evasion. This is comparable to provisions of the income tax law.
The general effect of the provision is that sales taxpayers will not be called upon to pay tax more than three years after the close of the month in which a taxable transaction took place, unless they receive a specific notice from the department to pay tax on those sales, &c, within that period. The present law requires the Taxation Department to seek to collect back taxation for a period reaching back to the coming into force of the sales tax law, if it finds that a taxpayer has not complied with the full requirements of the law during that period. This may cause serious hardship to taxpayers who, through inadvertence, have not appreciated the incidence of the sales tax law on their business, and who, when required to pay the additional tax, are not in a position to recoup themselves by passing it on to their customers. Eor that reason, the Government takes the view that a time limit upon the retrospective application of an indirect tax such as sales tax is justifiable. As a necessary complement of this proposal, the bill also provides for a three years’ time limit upon the making of refunds to taxpayers.
The effect of the other provision referred to for the curtailment of retro spective taxation will be that taxpayers who accept and act upon the rulings and advices of the Taxation Department will be absolved from any liability for retrospective taxation when those rulings or advices are subsequently altered. This, of course, is subject to the limitation that taxpayers must acquaint themselves with, and act in accordance with, any amendment of the law which is effected after the ruling or advice is given. If, however, a ruling or advice is given on the effect of any amendment of the law, that ruling or advice will stand until it is altered, unless it is altered in favour of taxpayers, in which case they will have their ordinary right to claim a refund, subject to their satisfying the department that the tax to be refunded has not been passed on to their customers.
Clause 11 confers authority to the Taxation Department to agree with any taxpayer for a specified period regarding the method of ascertaining his sales tax obligations. This is closely associated with the provisions to curtail retrospective taxation. There are many cases in which at present it is extremely difficult for taxpayers and the department to determine quickly and precisely what is the amount of sales tax that they should pay according to the law. The case of wholesale hardware merchants is typical of the most difficult class of business to which to apply the sales tax law with speed and precision. This is because such businesses have, under present circumstances, to dissect, record and report monthly many thousands of transactions, part taxable and part non-taxable. It is proposed, in the first place in selected instances, to seek to apply a much simplified method to such businesses, by way of collecting tax for any one month on a percentage of the total sales for that month, representing the proportion that taxable purchases bear to total purchases during the previous month. Tests have been made in selected businesses over a period of twelve months, and it has been ascertained that this method can be applied without detriment to the revenue, and with considerably reduced work and inconvenience both to the department and to the taxpayer. Provision will be made in any such agree- ments entered into by the Commissioner for test-reversions to the existing method at any time to ensure that the revenue is not suffering. The present system of estimating sales tax liability is extremely difficult to administer in connexion with businesses that deal in homogeneous goods, some part of which are imported and taxable while the remainder is of Australian origin and free of tax. In a typical instance, such as that of a seed merchant, the imported and the locallyproduced goods are mixed for sale with the resultant obvious difficulty in estimating the tax payable on any month’s business. A business of this sort lends itself with advantage to the making of an agreement with the Commissioner for a basis of taxation similar to that which I have mentioned in the case of a hardware merchant. Many other such instances could be cited to show that the proposal in the bill could be applied with considerable mutual benefit, both to taxpayers and to the sales tax administration. Perhaps I should emphasize that this proposal to empower the Commissioner to make agreements can only be implemented gradually, and after the Commissioner has assured himself that the revenue in each instance will not suffer. I believe that it is a forward move, and that, as time goes on, it will result in the gradual elimination of much of the existing cost and inconvenience of the collection of sales tax.
Clause 17 provides for the making of refunds to effectuate exemptions. Many exemptions are conditional upon the character of the ultimate consumer of the goods - whether they are government departments, public hospitals, &c. When the taxpayer, whether a manufacturer or wholesaler, sells the goods to a retailer, neither he nor his purchaser is aware that the goods will eventually he sold to a person or authority who was intended to receive them free of tax. Consequently, the manufacturer or wholesaler, when he sells the goods to the retailer, pays tax which is passed on to the government department, &c, and there is no provision in the law which authorizes a refund of the tax. The result is that many hospitals are dealing directly with wholesalers or manufacturers, and cutting out their local retailers.
The bill authorizes a refund or payment equivalent to the amount of the tax to be made -
The proposal is to enable cases to be prescribed, according to circumstances, in which such refunds or payments may be made. It is necessary to limit this relief to cases to be prescribed by regulations, because a general statutory provision for that purpose would impose an impracticable task upon the Taxation Department. Only practical experience can determine the cases in which the intended relief can be given without the creation of impossible administrative burdens.
The cases cited are only a few of those which can be provided for. One other important case is that of the taxpayer who inadvertently, or unavoidably, pays, or bears, tax on goods which he uses as raw materials for the production of other goods. The general intention of the law is to exempt raw materials, whether they are used to produce either taxable or exempt goods. The existing regulations to prevent double taxation authorize refunds of tax paid on raw materials for the production of taxable goods, but do not authorize refunds of tax paid on raw materials for the production of exemptgoods. The bill will authorize regulations designed to correct this anomaly.
In clause 5, provision is made for the granting of relief to retailers in certain cases. The proposals for this purpose exclude from the category of wholesale sales, and include in the category of retail sales - la) sales of goods, to consumers, at a trade discount; and
Under the existing law, all sales of goods to consumers are retail sales, unless made at a trade discount. The exception is anomalous, and has been proved to he the cause of many difficulties, and of serious competitive anomalies. The hill makes provision for the removal of these difficulties and anomalies.
Clause 5 provides for the exemption of goods manufactured wholly or principally from second-hand materials and sold as second-hand goods. The High Court’s decision that sales tax was not payable on second-hand goods did not have any application to goods manufactured from second-hand materials. In very many cases where goods are so manufactured the second-hand raw materials lose their second-hand character in the process of manufacture, for instance, when scrap jewellery is melted down and used in the manufacture of other articles of jewellery. There is no doubt that such products are taxable. In some cases, however, the second-hand materials retain their second-hand character, and the product is sold as second-hand goods. The simplest instances of that are found where a bicycle is manufactured from second-hand bicycle parts or a motor car is produced by attaching a new body to a second-hand chassis. The Taxation Department has been advised that, in the latter cases, sales tax is payable on the sale of the goods so produced. In some of those cases, however, it is almost impossible to determine whether the article is a manufactured article or merely repaired second-hand goods. In any case, the department is faced with the claim that the taxation of the article is contrary to the spirit of the High Court’s decision on second-hand goods. The attitude of the Government is that, in view of the exemption of second-hand goods, justice is satisfied by the taxation of such new material as may be used in the production of the article whichis sold as second-hand goods. The hill proposes to give effect to that attitude.
Clause14provides for refunds of tax where registered taxpayers have inadvertently failed to quote their certificates as required. Tax is payable wherever a registration certificate is not, in fact, quoted. In many cases taxpayers fail to quote their certificates because they are not aware that they are entitled to do so. Consequently, they have to pay, or to bear, sales tax which they were not intended to pay, or to bear, yet the law contains no provision to authorize refunds of tax in such cases. The bill will authorize the making of refunds in these cases provided that the claimants have not passed the tax on to their customers.
Clause 51 provides for refunds where bad debts are incurred on the leasing of goods. The existing law authorizes refunds where bad debts are incurred in connexion with the sale of goods. Bad debts on losses of goods are equally deserving of this concession.
There are a few other minor provisions for the alleviation of taxpayers’ disabilities.
The rest ofthe bill, probably the major part of it, is devoted to purely formal amendments; the curing of obvious defects in the law ; and the ratification of the intention of the law in cases where certain doubts have arisen. The purely formal amendments are typified by the proposed repeal, in clause 3, of various acts which amended exemption schedules already repealed by last year’s measures for the consolidation in one act of all sales tax exemptions. The provisions for the remedy of obvious defects are typified by clauses 12 and 52. Clause 12 merely requires manufacturers who apply their products to their own use to pay tax within 21 days after the close of the month inwhich they so apply their products. In practice this is actually being done. Originally the law required the Commissioner to determine and notify their liability. Now the law prescribes the basis of their liability, and it is no longer necessary for them to await the Commissioner’s determination. Clause 52 ensures that manufacturers or wholesale merchants shall pay tax on leases of goods, for example, hire-purchase sales, whether or not they comply with the requirement to become registered. Several years ago the law was amended to impose tax in such circumstances, but certain consequential amendments were overlooked, and the defect is now proposed to be remedied.
The major provisions to ratify the intention of the law are contained in clauses 9 and 11. Clause 9 removes any possible doubt that a. manufacturer is liable to pay tax where he manufactures for his own use goods of a kind which hedoes not sell. Paragraphsb,d,e and g of clause 11 contain provision for ensuring that manufacturers will pay tax upon a fair and reasonable wholesale value of their products where they sell them by retail, or apply them to their own use, am! they do not sell similar goods by wholesale. The law is designed to achieve that result but, although the majority of taxpayers are complying with the intention of the law, there are numbers of cases in which the taxpayers concerned, or their agents, sensing a defect in the law, are practically defying the Taxation Department to enforce payment of tax on more than cost of production, which in ordinary circumstances is necessarily less, if not considerably less, than a reasonable wholesale value of goods. The scope of a second-reading speech upon a bill of this nature scarcely permits mo to give any further details than I have already given. This is essentially a bill for discussion in committee. When that stage is reached full details and explanation will be given. I commend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Ma*. Curtis) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 193G.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill 193H.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill 1930.
– by leave - I move -
That, the bill be now read a second time.
This short measure is, I believe, the first measure introduced into this House to amend the Coinage Act of 1909. Th<? original act set out in a schedule, the coins that are legal tender in Australia, and the allowable limits of weight of each coin. Besides specifying the denomination and allowable weights of gold coins, the principal act provides similarly for silver coins of the following denominations: the florin, the shilling piece, the sixpence and the threepence. The present bill purposes, first to give power for the minting and issuing of crown pieces, and to determine their weight, and, secondly, to alter the pro- visions of the principal act regarding variations from standard weight and fineness. That is known as the “ remedy allowance “ of the coin.
This bill has become necessary by reason of the Government’s proposal to issue crown pieces commemorating the coronation of His Majesty Sing Edward VIII. This is the first occasion on which a crown piece has been issued in our currency. It is, of course, an old coin in England, having been first issued in 1515, during the reign of Edward VI. The English crown piece has, since the time of Charles II, generally had an inscription on its edge, the practice of edgelettering having, in those earlier days, been adopted to prevent clipping of the coin. This practice was, however, changed in 1927, when the British crown piece was issued with a milled edge. We propose to adopt the milled edge for the Australian coin. The obverse design will, of course, be the King’s head. For the reverse, we have chosen a crown as being the most suitable design. The crown will be surrounded for three-quarters of the periphery of the coin by the lettering “ Commonwealth of Australia “, and underneath the crown will appear the vords, “ One Crown “, which, as honorable members will see, will have some significance at this time other than that relating to tho coin.
The “ remedy allowance “ is the amount by which coins are legally allowed to vary above or below standard weight and fineness. Under the principal act it is specified that each coin shall be of a certain weight and fineness. That provision, however, has been found extremely difficult to administer, and the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint has suggested that the Commonwealth should adopt, for the silver and bronze coins, the existing British practice of allowing what is known as the “ bulk remedy allowance “ to be applied, thus saving individual coins which are only slightly outside the remedy now prescribed. Under the provision for the bulk remedy allowance it is specified that so many hundreds of coins shall not deviate by more than a certain proportion from the correct weight. That will be seen in the second last column of the proposed new schedule.
– What changes does the new schedule contemplate?
– The only changes are in respect of the addition of the crown piece and the line relative to it, and the alteration of the remedy, as shown in the second last column of the schedule. In the proposed new schedule the remedy allowance in respect of the crown piece is expressed as one in 220. Under the act the schedule provided an actual limit of weight in respect of each coin. If, and when, this bill becomes law and new florin pieces are issued, 175 florins must not weigh less than 174 perfect florins or more than 176 perfect florins. Similar limits are prescribed in respect of other coins.
– They are treated in bulk?
– Yes. The proposed alteration is made to bring the Commonwealth’s practice into line with that adopted in the United Kingdom.
– Is it intended to place a limit on the issue of crown pieces?
– In the first place the issue is designed as a commemorative issue. I do not know off-hand how many coins will be put in circulation. Probably between 25,000 and 50,000 will be first minted. If there is a further demand for the coins the mint will meet it at the request of the Government.”
– If the issue were not maintained the coins would soon be at a premium as souvenirs?
– There may well be a continuous demand for the coins, though not in any large numbers. That demand will be met.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Retirement oe Adelaide Telegraphists - Federal Aid Roads Agreement? - Mutton Bird Oil - TASMANIAN Shipping Service.
Motion (by Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have been awaiting a convenient opportunity to present to the House, and particularly to the Prime Minister (Mr.
Lyons), the case of a number of former telegraphists in the Postal Department at Adelaide. As State transferred officers, they had certain accrued rights for which the Commonwealth accepted responsibility when they were transferred. As they approached the age of 64 years, the clear intimation was given to them that their services as Commonwealth officers would have to be terminated, and the department used unfair and highly improper methods with a view to inducing them to tender their resignations, rather than be compulsorily retired. The adoption of this course would enable the department to evade its obligation to pay, upon compulsory retirement, the compensation to which they would be entitled by reason of their accrued rights. An officer named Edwards refused to tender his resignation, and upon being compulsorily retired brought a cast* against the Commonwealth in the High Court, which determined in his favour, and granted him compensation, as well as costs against the Crown. Subsequently, a second officer also took his case to the High Court, and obtained a similar decision. The men whose case I am now presenting were official associates of Edwards and the other appellant, and performed exactly the same class of work. Their qualifications were practically identical, and they possessed the same rights. They were approached by the superintendent, who informed them that the department desired them to tender their resignations. He also said that if they refused to resign voluntarily he would report that they were inefficient, and that would justify the department in dispensing with their services. These men have served the State and the Commonwealth for a lifetime, and no charge of inefficiency has ever been laid against them. On the contrary, some of them were detailed to undertake the duties of relieving supervisors and relieving superintendent, proving that they were not by any means inefficient, but instead possessed high qualifications, because this is work which only the senior and most experienced officers in the department are required to perform. Yet, being anxious to rid itself of the responsibility for the payment of compensation, the department has sought to apply duress to obtain their voluntary retirement, threatening that otherwise they would be reported as inefficient and thus have a stigma placed on them. Eight of them agreed to tender their resignations rather than submit to this indignity. The fact that eight men tendered resignations simultaneously when they had the right to remain in the department as long as they were efficient, makes it evident that the retirement was at the instigation of and under pressure by the department. It was obtained by a trick. I wrote to the Prime Minister setting out the full facts of the case, and asking that the same consideration be given to these mcn as had been obtained by the officers who approached the High Court. I emphasized the similarity of the two positions, and pointed out that there was a moral claim for compensation equal to that awarded by the High Court. The reply that I rewived was that these officers had not been subjected to duress; that that suggestion was absolutely repudiated. I therefore, now present to the House a statutory declaration signed by these men and witnessed, which indicates that the statement of the Prime Minister and the department is contrary to fact. It reads -
We, Frederick W. Chaplin, 3 Victoriaavenue, Rose Park; Francis Collins, 2 Grant:i vonue, Rose Park;” Richard H. Hawke, Goodenoughstreet, Mile End; Patrick G. Moore, l> Maud-street, Unley; David N. Peek, Highstreet, Kensington; Edgar C. T. Roberts, 119a George-street, Thebarton; Patrick J. Ryan, 11 Anglo-avenue, Parkside; and Hermann Schroeder, 282 Young-street, Wayville; all in the State of South Australia, retired Public Servants, do solemnly and sincerely declare -
That we and each of us have read a copy of the report dated the 20th day of May, 1.93G, from the Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board to the Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, M.P., Prime Minister.
We and each of us deny that our resignations were tendered voluntarily. 3 We and each of us say that the facts set out in our respective letters dated the 19th day of February, 1936, to N. J. Makin, Esq.. M.P., are true in substance and in fact.
And wo and each of us make this solemn declaration by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act 1911-1922 conscientiously believing the statements contained therein to be true in every particular.
I am strongly of the opinion that a grave injustice has been done to these men, who had the right to continue in the service of the Commonwealth as long as they were regarded as efficient officers and were able to discharge their duties. The Government would do well to give them an opportunity to place their case before some tribunal. I urge it to consider the setting up of a committee - I am not asking for a parliamentary committee at the moment - which will go into all the facts of the case, examine the file3, and determine whether there is any evidence of inefficiency within recent years. If there is not, the conclusion must be that duress was applied to secure the retirement of these men and to deprive them of their rights as transferred officers. 1 invite the Prime Minister to receive their claims, and to see that justice is done to them. They have served this country conscientiously and well.
.- I wish to obtain some information from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). When T raised the matter on a previous occasion, the reply was somewhat indefinite, due to the fact that the honorable gentleman had to deal with a number of matters within a limited period.
I understand that an additional amount of £600,000 is to be made available to the States under the proposed new Federal Aid Roads Agreement, the terms of which are to be extended in certain respects so that the State governments will, in future, be able to expend money on bridges, by-roads, shire roads and other roads as well as main roads. Forestry may also be assisted by the expenditure of some of this money, which, we have been . given to understand, may be expended by the State governments on main roads or other approved works. This being so, can the Treasurer inform me whether portion of the amount may be expended on havens, shelters, anchorages, beacons, jetties and the like, for the protection of motor boats? The owners of motor boats and launches have, during the last ten years, paid the tax of 7£d. a gallon on all the petrol used in their boats, and. the aggregate amount of this taxation obviously would be substantial. These people are anxious to know, therefore, whether some of the additional money to be made available to the States may be expended in providing additional facilities for them. The original grant of £2,000,000 lias been increased to £3,000,000, and under the new agreement ii: will be further increased to £3,600,000.
– The new agreement is being so drafted that, while in respect of the 2-£d. a gallon made available for expenditure on main roads under the existing agreement, no alteration will be made, the amount represented by that tax being hypothecated definitely for use on main roads, the extra -Jd. a gallon, which is to be paid to the States, and is anticipated to yield £600,000 annually, will be available for each State to use for the provision of havens, shelters, anchorage and the like for the protection of motor boats, and also for the provision of beacons and jetties for fishing boats according as the State may desire.
– What about aerodromes?
– I am dealing with another aspect of the subject, at the moment. The State governments will have complete freedom to use portion of the money allocated to them for the purposes referred to by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis).
– Will the State governments be permitted to build say, a police station at Black Dog Creek with this Commonwealth money?
.- Recently the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) was good enough to obtain for me a report on the result of the use of “ Mirdol “ in the treatment of tubercular patients at the Heatherton Sanatorium in Victoria. I understand that during a period of five months, 40 patients were treated with this emulsion. Fifteen of these, according to the report, showed marked betterment beyond expectation, and the use of the emulsion was considered to be a marked factor in achieving this good result. The superintendent added that the improvement in some of the cases was quite dramatic. Allround improvement was shown. I have been informed that tests were continued at Heatherton Sanatorium for a further period of thirteen months, making eighteen months in all. I have asked for a report from the superintendent of the institution covering the whole period of eighteen months during which the emulsion was used, but the Minister for Health now says that that gentleman has intimated that he is unable to add to the information already given in the report that was laid on the table of the House some weeks ago. That report covered only five and ti quarter months. Surely, some other results, good or bad, must have followed the use of the emulsion for the thirteen extra months during which it, has been tried. I cannot believe that the Minister for Health is himself satisfied with the reply he has given me, and I therefore ask whether he will request the State authorities to ascertain why the medical superintendent of the sanatorium is unable to provide further information for us. It seems to me that information is being suppressed. If that is the case, I wish to know why it is being withheld. Either the treatment has been beneficial or it has not been beneficial. As it was beneficial during the first period of its trial it is reasonable to assume that it was also beneficial during the extended period. In any case the matter is so important that additional information should be furnished to us. If the tests were good, the public should be informed to the effect; if they were bad, then that is the end of the matter. If this emulsion is really beneficial to sufferers from tuberculosis, it should be made available to the public. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have referred to this matter solely for the sake of sufferers from tuberculosis. I have no other interest in the subject. The chemists responsible for the preparation of “ Mirdol “ naturally wish to know where they stand. In consequence of the delay in publishing reports of the effects of the treatment, these people have been subjected to some mental anxiety and a degree of pecuniary loss, and the public also has waited expectantly for additional information. I therefore, ask that further efforts be made by the Government to obtain information during the whole period of eighteen months during which the emulsion was used in the sanatorium.
A few weeks ago, I made an inquiry of the Prime Minister regarding the passenger shipping service between Melbourne and Tasmania, in consequence of certain reports supplied to me that per- sons desiring to travel to Tasmania during the Christmas period had been informed that no second class berths were available. Since that time a statement has been supplied to the Prime Minister to the effect that the information furnished to me was incorrect. Apparently the figures made available to the Prime Minister indicate that between the 19th December and the 31st December, there are available on the Taroona and the Nairana, 7,018 first class berths and 2,629 second class berths. The information further indicates that up to Thursday, the 29th October, only 801 first class and 840 second class berths had been booked. While I was in Melbourne recently, I investigated the report made to me that no second class berths were available, and I ascertained that it was accurate. I wish to know why it is that the shipping companies furnished the Prime Minister with information that a specific number of second class berths were available, while they intimated to persons desiring to travel to Tasmania that no such accommodation was available. It seems to me that an a ttempt is being made to deceive and mislead the public. This is serious to Tasmania. Many people on the mainland, whose homes are in Tasmania desire to go home for Christmas, and many tourists desire to travel to Tasmania to spend the Christmas holidays there. As the shipping company operating the service to which I have referred, receives a subsidy of more than £50,000 a year from the Government, I request that steps be taken to ascertain why misleading information has been supplied to members of the public who have applied for second class berths to Tasmania, particularly as entirely different information was furnished to the. Prime Minister. The tourist traffic is of tremendous importance to Tasmania. That State, in common with all other States, and for that matter, all countries of the world, does its best to exploit to the fullest extent any tourist trade available. Some immediate action should be taken by the Government to clarify this obscure situation. People should be informed definitely whether second class berths are available or not, so that those closely affected maj make their arrangements accordingly.
SirARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah - Minister for Defence) [5.44]. - I have listened carefully to the representations made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard).
The statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh together with the statutory declaration to which he has referred, will be placed before the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and I am sure that it will receive his earnest consideration, and he submitted to the proper officers of his department.
I shall alsoplace before the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) the request of the honorable member for Bass for additional informationconcerning- the use of “ Mirdol “ emulsion in the treatment of tubercular patients, and will direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Pager) to the honorable gentleman’s statements regarding the shipping service between Melbourne and Tasmania.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.45 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the practice of the Defence Department to retain the services of ex-Royal Navy men who have reached the retiring age and are in receipt of Imperial pensions; if so, does he approve of this policy; if not, will he see that this practice ceases?
– It is not the practice to retain any man who has reached the retiring age unless special reasons exist for the grant of an extension of the prescribed age of retirement as provided for in the Defence Act.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The number of miners resident on Misima is not known. The European population on the island is over ]00.
l asked the Minister, for the Interior, upon notice -
What was the total number of aborigines receiving education for each year since 1930, and what was the cost for each year?
– The Commonwealth Government is concerned only with the aborigines in the Northern Territory and the Territory of Jervis Bay. The only education which is at present being imparted to full-blooded aborigines in the Northern Territory i3 through the medium of missions, which are subsidized by the Commonwealth. The numbers of full-blooded aborigines at present receiving education are not available. They will, however, be obtained. In the new policy which was recently approved, provision is made for the education of fullblooded aborigines, commencing with the detribalized natives. There are special schools at Darwin and Alice Springs, staffed with qualified teachers, for the purpose of imparting education to halfcaste children. A school is conducted at Jervis Bay for the education of aboriginal and half-caste children in that area. Information as to the number of pupils and the annual cost of the school is being obtained. The education of aborigines in the States is a matter for the respective State governments. No information is available as to the numbers of children being educated in the States or the cost of their education.
British Restrictions on Foreign Imports.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he give a list of duties and restrictive quotas imposed by the British Government upon importations of foreign foodstuffs with the object of ensuring a profitable market in Britain for dominion foodstuffs?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
There is no duty on frozen and chilled meats, bacon or ham, but by the Ottawa agreement importations of foreign frozen mutton, lamb and beef were reduced to Go per cent, of 1931-32 importations, whilst under the United Kingdom-Argentine agreement importations of chilled beef from that country have been reduced by 10 per cent. of the 1931-32 importations. Importations of foreign bacon are regulated on the basis of the capacity of the United Kingdom and dominion producers to supply the United Kingdom market.
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
What steps have been taken by the Department of Commerce to investigate the methods for the preservation of orange juice, and the adoption of a method as a commercial proposition ?
– The information is being obtained, and willbe furnished to the honorable member later.
Postal Department: Appointment of Supervisor at Melbourne - Tubmore Post Office Site - Radio Telephone) Charges.
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows’: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361119_reps_14_152/>.