15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister supply information concerning the latest developments in Central Europe?
– I believe that the Minister for External Affairs proposes to make a statement with regard to the matter to-morrow.
– Is the Acting Minister of Commerce aware that Australian firms holding agencies on behalf of German firms have been advised by their principals that unless they employ a percentage of Germans they will lose their agencies? If so,will the honorable gentleman inform the House as to what actionhe proposes to take to combat this attempted domination of our trade and employment?
– I have no knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries, the result of which will determine what action will be taken.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House as to whether the negotiations in connexion with the proposal to subsidize shipping in the Pacific have been advanced to such a stage as to enable him to make a statement on the subject?
– No. So far as official information in the possession of the Government is concerned, the position is exactly as it was last week.
– Has the Treasurer given consideration to the suggestion that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill he amended in the direc tion of enabling women to make a higher contribution, and thus obtain the same pension as is proposed in the case of male contributors?
– I have nothing to say at the moment. The Prime Minister will deal with the matter in a speech that he will make at a later hour this day.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the advisers of the Government, or members of the Cabinet, have given consideration to the heavy extra cost in which hospitals and charitable institutions are likely to be involved under the national health and pensions insurance scheme? If so, have any steps been taken to remedy the complaints made or to reimburse such extra cost to the institutions affected ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member has not escaped the notice of the Government or its advisers, but I suggest that it would be inappropriate to anticipate the debate on the bill. I assure the honorable member that during the debate I shall be able to give him complete satisfaction on the point.
– I have received numerous telegrams from tank officials indicating that they are anxious to be excluded from the national health and pensions insurance scheme. I am informed that male bank officials have their own superannuation scheme, which they consider to be quite adequate. Can the Treasurer inform me whether these officers are excluded from the first schedule of the bill ?
– I repeat that I think that it is advisable to confine the discussion of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill to the debate which is shortly to be initiated. My answer to the honorable member is “ No “.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government has come to a decision in regard to the establishment of an aerodrome near Melbourne? Will he give consideration to the claims of the district in the vicinity of Portland?
– An aerodrome is already established at Essendon, the recognized airport of Melbourne If the honorable member will place his question on the notice paper, I shall institute further inquiries to ascertain whether there is a suitable site for an additional aerodrome, and if it be desirable to do anything in connexion with the Portland area.
Applications for Employment
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the form on which an applicant for employment with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is required to furnish particulars as to date and place of birth, schools attended, &c., contains also a question as to the applicant’s religious creed? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that the directorate of the company has been requested to withdraw that question on the ground that it is superfluous and improper ? Does he know whether or not the request for its withdrawal has been acceded to? In any event, in the light of section 116 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution, and having regard to the fact that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is the equivalent of a Commonwealth instrumentality, will the right honorable gentleman see that the representatives of the Government on the directorate are advised that it regards this question as either impertinent or superfluous?
– I was not aware of the fact, if it be a fact, referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, but I have no hesitation in saying that whether it be a government or any other activity, the matter of the religion of an applicant for employment should have nothing whatever to do with his engagement. If the position be as has been stated by the honorable gentleman, I assure him that the representatives of the Government on the directorate will be instructed to use their influence in the direction of the removal of the objectionable question.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether he can take some action with a view to the relaxation of the regulations in respect of the definition of fly-free areas in certain citrus-growing districts of New South Wales, in order that the citrus industry, particularly the mandarin growers, may take full advantage of the New Zealand market?
– Action has already been taken in this matter, the last occasion being when Mr. Cunningham, an accredited representative of the Government of New Zealand, visited New South Wales to make a personal investigation in conjunction with the State Department of Agriculture, the net result of which is that only the Murrumbidgee areas of the State of New South Wales are acceptable to the Government of New Zealand as being free from Mediterranean fruit fly.
– When drawing up plans for the aerial defence of Australia, will the Minister for Defence give consideration to the stationing of an aerial squadron in the Cairns hinterland, to assist in the defence of the north-east coast of Australia, as well as a squadron in the vicinity of the Gulf of Carpentaria? Further, will he consider the construction of underground fuel tanks at squadron bases?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Council of Defence.
– When framing next year’s Estimates, will the Minister for Defence consider the advisability of extending the membership of rifle clubs and the rifle club movement generally throughout Australia ?
– The matter of the membership of rifle clubs, the expenditure involved, and so forth, is under consideration at the present time. It will be dealt with fully in relation to the militia forces when the Estimates for the ensuing year are being framed.
– Has the Minister for Defence had brought under his notice the fact that the limitation on new members of rifle clubs is having a very serious effect upon clubs in certain institutions, such as our universities, which depend for their membership upon young students who take the place of those who leave the universities from time to time? If so, can he say whether any arrangements are being made to give more flexibility to the regulations so that this anomaly may be corrected?
– There is some misapprehension, I think, regarding the interpretation of the instruction issued, following on the fact that the authorized number of members of rifle clubs throughout the Commonwealth has been exceeded. The number provided for under the current year’s Estimates was 50,000, and it is impossible to provide for new enrolments until the necessary provision is made in the budget for the next financial year. The Government is now considering whether it will make provision for an increased number, but no definite indication of its intention can be given at the present time.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce inform the House whether any decision has yet been made respecting the application for assistance in the export of prunes, apples and other fruits? If so, when will a pronouncement be made as to the nature of the assistance and the conditions under which it will he granted? In particular, will the assistance be contingent upon an improvement of the standard of the fruit?
– I am not yet in a position to make a statement on this subject. Assertions have been made that the bounty already payable in respect of the citrus industry is not really reaching the fruit-growers. As soon as the inquiries on this point are completed, I shall be able to make a recommendation to Cabinet and the matter will be finally disposed of.
– As it has been the practice in past years for the Defence Department to make large quantities of surplus military clothing available to the unemployed, I ask the Minister for Defence whether, in view of the approaching winter months, he will ascertain if surplus military clothing will again be distributed? If so, what quantity will be made available in Queensland?
– The usual practice is being followed in this connexion, and the distribution will be made through the ordinary channels in the various States on a proportionate basis. I cannot say what quantity will be made available in each State.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Commerce been directed to the following paragraph in the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, in respect of farmers’ debt adjustment procedure in Victoria : -
In that State the audit of the accounts for the year disclosed some cases of doubtful legality, inasmuch as advances were made to cover amounts larger than those which creditors were prepared to take in adjustment of their debts.
Will the Acting Minister investigate this statement and, if necessary, take steps to see that the practice complained of is discontinued? Will he also ascertain from the Acting Attorney-General whether legal action can be taken to recover money so misappropriated?
– The Treasurer drew my attention to this subject as soon as the report of the Auditor-General was published. Following upon a discussion at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Canberra a few weeks ago, a formal request was made to the Government of Victoria to take certain action. A reply has not yet been received in regard to the matter.
– I ask the Minister for
Defence whether the report in the press is correct that the names for our two new warships await the approval of His Majesty the King? In making a recommendation on this subject, will the honorable member see that Perth is given consideration ?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be kept in mind.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs inform me of the present position in respect to the report of the Tariff Board on the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia? Has the board yet submitted its second report, and will a further decision be made by the Government before the end of this session?
– No change has occurred in connexion with this matter since I answered the previous questions about it. The Government is still awaiting the return of the document from overseas.
– On the I8th May, I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he had any information to give the House regarding the report published recently in the press that a considerable saving would be made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission as the result of a voluntary arrangement with the Performing Right Association in regard to the amount of tribute to be paid for the use of certain copyright material in radio programmes? The honorable gentleman said that he would endeavour to make a statement on the subject in the House at an early date. Is he yet able to do so?
– I understand that the Postmaster-General is preparing a statement on the subject. I hope that it. will be available later this week.
-Has the Acting Ministor for Commerce been able to make arrangements with the Australian Overseas Transport Association for further shipments of Tasmanian apples overseas in order to fulfil orders from continental ports ?
– I discussed this subject with a representative of the Australian Overseas Transport Association to-day. I hope to give the honorable member some information later this week in addition to that which has already been furnished to him.
– Has the Minis ter for Defence yet made inquiries into the move initiated by the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, to train civil air pilots whose services would be available to the country in a time of emergency? If so, what has been the result, and is it possible to extend the scheme to other States?
– I have not yet received the comment of the officers of the Defence Department on the movement which has been initiated, not by the Chamber of Manufactures as the honorable member has suggested, but by another organization in New South Wales, which has been supported financially by the Chamber of Manufactures and other bodies.
– Will the Acting Minister for Health make a statement at his earliest convenience regarding the proposal of the Government to establish free kindergarten centres in various capitals of the Commonwealth?
– The investigations being made into this subject are not yet complete. As soon as possible a full statement will be made on the subject to Parliament.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state when we may hope to get the long promised report dealing with unofficial post offices?
-I regret that I am unable to fulfil the promise I made last week regarding the report, but I hope that it will be available within the next few days.
– As it was stated in the Governor-General’s Speech, in November last, that the Government proposed to introduce legislation to afford Bclasss broadcasting stations a greater security of tenure than they now have under their licences, can the Prime Minister inform the House when the Government is likely to bring forward the necessary legislation? Will it be during the present parliamentary sittings?
– I am unable to state definitely when the legislation will be introduced. The Government has been unable to give full attention to the matter, since it has been compelled to deal with much more urgent subjects, but it hopes to reach finality with regard to these licences in the near future.
– Will the Prime Minister reconsider the position with regard to the application of the Transport Workers Act to the waterside workers in Sydney, particularly in view of the violent opposition expressed against the application of the licensing system?
– I have nothing to add at this stage to what. I have already said in connexion with the matter.
– Is it the practice of the Defence Department to refuse to enlist in the navy a youth who has resided in this country since infancy? His father, who was born in America, and who left that country when the son was three months old, fought with the Canadian forces during the Great War, yet his son is not permitted to join the Royal Australian Navy because the father’s nationality is unproved.
– It is the practice of the defence authorities not to accept recruits of foreign origin, unless they are satisfied that the applicants have been naturalized and have fully accepted the principles of naturalization. It is not customary to accept persons who are aliens, irrespective of their nationality. In all probability, the youth referred to by the honorable member now carries his father’s nationality.
– Has the Acting
Minister for Trade and Customs yet made up his mind when he will table the report of the Tariff Board on the cut glass industry ? Is the delay that has occurred due to any conflict between the recommendations of the Tariff Board and the trade treaty entered into with Czechoslovakia ?
– Reports by the Tariff Board are not usually laid on the table of the House singly; as a rule, three or four reports are submitted simultaneously. There is no justification for the suggestion that the report on the cut glass industry is being held back for any specific purpose. The Government is giving consideration to the matter with a view to the resuscitation of the industry and the re-employment of the operatives.
– Can the Acting Min ister for Commerce state whether any arrangements have been made with the British authorities by the ministerial trade delegation now in Great Britain concerning Australian meat exports for the remainder of the current year?
– At this stage I have no statement to make on the matter, but I may bein a position to do so before the end of the week.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Agricultural Council - Statement dealing with the Seventh Meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held at Canberra, 12th-l3th May, 1938, together with Resolutions agreed to.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -1938 -
No. 14 -Professional Officers’ Association. Commonwealth Public Service.
No.15 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointment of H. B. W. Ridley, Department of the Treasury.
Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1938. No. 41.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 43.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 45.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 44.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1938 - No. 1 - Mining.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to make provision, in relation to the Commonwealth or the Defence Force, with respect to the Naval, Military and Air Forces of other parts of His Majesty’s Dominions and of Territories administered by His Majesty and with respect to members of those forces, and for other pur poses.
Debate resumed from the 4th May (vide page 811) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The provision of social services is an essential feature of the functioning of the democratic state. This nationdoes not believe that the state is an authoritarian organization ruling the lives and liberties of the people in the sole interests of the state. On the contrary, the essence of our form of government is that the state shall be the instrument of the people - their common property performing for them, as citizens, the services which, as individuals, they would find impossible. This position has not arisen overnight; behind it have been years of development. Whilst it is true that, organically, the state arose to provide for the defence of life and property against external attack, it has long been recognized that it must also provide for the defence of life and property against internal causes which produce, or threaten to produce, disruption and weakness. As the result, all over the world the state now performs social and economic functions which, if left to individual initiative or control, would be either done badly or not done at all. It is clear that the strength of the democratic nations will be proportioned to the virility and patriotism of their citizens. Accordingly anything which weakens the life of the individual deprives the state, in some measure, of the services of the individual involved. The social life and the social standard can, therefore, be said to be the measure of the power and greatness of modern communities. That is true of all democratic communities; it is particularly true of Australia.
What has been done hitherto in providing service for the poor, or for the community, has been much more than the mere use of the state to help sections of society. It has, in fact, been a policy for the good of the state. Conflicts inside our territorial boundaries, due to basic social injustice, have been appeased by the ameliorative provisions of many statutes. National stability has been strengthened by the nation using its resources, and also the resources of its citizens in general, to meet the special needs of various groups in the social life. The Labour party stands for this policy and for its expansion, because it believes that the policy is sound in principle. It says to the poor that the ordered processes of law should be invoked in order that their difficulties may be surmounted; it says to the rich that the taxes imposed upon them, and used in this direction are an insurance against internal disorder and dissension.
The Labour party says further that, irrespective of the economic purposes of social service as contributing to national stability, considerations of humanity and concern for those whose circumstances evoke sympathy, are more than a national ideal. They constitute a vibrant principle in the national character. It is not a platitude to say that the family, and the well-being of family life, are the focal points upon which hinge the true greatness of the nation. The family’s services to the state are infinite in variety and extent. The family is the source of national continuance. Its labours provide not only for the subsistence of its own members, but also for the services of ordered government, the administration of the law, and the defence of the country against attack. The family is the sole guarantee for the honouring of the obligations which the nation has accepted.
As leader of the Labour party in this House, with a full recognition of my responsibility in connexion with this bill, I put it to the country, that money may be invested no less profitably by society in the well-being of family life than in the development of lands, the opening up of empty spaces, and the provision of the physical capital which will enable industry to become more efficient. Investment in social welfare is more than legitimate; it is profitable.
To the extent, therefore, that this bill envisages the expenditure of public money to improve the social life of the nation, we can regard the expenditure as justifiable in the strictly economic sense as would be any other form of expenditure which may appear, either now or in the years to come, in the budgets of governments. Despite our boasted prosperity, far too large a proportion of our families experience conditions definitely prejudicial to their welfare as individuals, and, therefore, prejudicial to the contribution which they can make to the nation as a whole. Poverty is still with us. Sickness - preventable sickness - ravages too gravely our physical fitness as a people. The individual struggle for existence is becoming increasingly intense. Ear too many may be described as victims of the system ; and too large a proportion of our people have incomes so low as to make them absolutely deficient in the resources essential to decency and good living. Were it not for the fact that, in recent decades, the state has elaborated an extended system of social services, the poverty of afflicted members of our community would have rendered them desperate - jeopardizing the existing interests of the well-to-do and all those who find the current economic order satisfactory.
The Opposition says that the time is overdue for an enlargement of social services in Australia. We have to give emphasis and definiteness to the policy of social services and, in the years ahead, treat them, not only as a salvage medium, but also as an agency for the remodelling of the industrial and economic life of the nation. Much money has been spent on investigating proposals in this connexion. Reports on national insurance have cost over £45,000. The Royal Commission on Child Endowment, of which I was a member, cost £16,480, and the cost of the Royal Commission on Health was £7,087, a total of over £69,000. It can, at least, be said that this country has not been niggardly in respect of its expenditure on inquiries into problems affecting family life.
There are approximately 0,900,000 people in Australia, of whom, speaking broadly, one-half are males and the other half females. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) says that the proposals before us, when operating, will affect directly 1,S50,000 persons, and that in various ways its incidence will stretch to approximately 3,600,000 persons. He says, also, that it will apply to the bread-winners, the sick, the aged in the community, and the wives, widows and orphans of the workers. At this stage my criticism of the bill is that it will not do as much as the Treasurer claims. It will leave undone much which should be done; and what it does propose to do will be done on the wrong basis, and in the wrong way. I object to the limitation of this bill to employees, but as that matter has already been determined by the House, I am unable to say more that that it is a fundamental weakness of the proposed legislation. The bill makes no provision for self-employed workers, farmers, or small shop-keepers, and it makes very doubtful provision for persons casually or intermittently employed. I venture the opinion that, in practice, its scope will be limited in substance to employees in regular work.
Parts 1 and 2 of the first schedule are drawn in a way which jeopardizes all the relief workers as insurable persons. Regulations may exclude them. I have endeavoured to ascertain whether regulations have been drawn, but I take it that, although Ministers have had under consideration some of the proposed regulations, it would be wrong for me to say at this stage that they may exclude casual workers. I point out, however, that the bill, as drawn, definitely empowers the government of the day to exclude the whole of the casual, intermittent and relief workers from the ambit of even its limited benefits. Therefore, all the casual and relief workers may at this stage be considered as at least doubtful participants in the benefits of the bill as insured persons. Parenthetically, I point out that the failure to provide as an integral feature of this plan for relief workers and casual workers, and for those who in the main are most subject to unemployment, means that those who will most need the benefits of this bill will be least likely to share in them. The magnitude of this group is indicated by the fact that in one year three of the States of the Commonwealth expended £12,500,000 in providing relief for them, and it seems evident that in any future period of depression they will be deprived of the positive advantage of this measure, insofar as it has any positive advantages. The bill leaves the major disability of unemployment absolutely unrelieved, either as a social problem or as an individual misfortune. In 1925, Mr. S. M. Bruce, then Prime Minister, described unemployment as “ this most deadly cause of anxiety and unrest,” yet this Government has no proposal for its relief.
The Labour party believes in national insurance; but this bill is not national in character, nor does it ensure nationwide application. The proposals fail to ensure medical treatment or benefit for the wives and children of employed married men - notwithstanding that these married men are “ insured persons”, and comply fully with all the obligations of the proposed law. It treats women differently from mcn, not only economically, but. also socially. There is a sex discrimination in the measure which tends to vitiate the premises upon which it is constructed.
Purporting to deal with a national problem, the bill contemplates an anoma lous system of class taxation. Its benefits are not equally shared, and its burdens are not equally distributed. The workers and the employers, between them, are to find £11,000,000 a year in the early years of the scheme, the amount rising to approximately £15,000.000 a year. Inevitably, the impact of this burden on industry is bound to be significant. T decline to delude myself with the idea, that a contribution is not a tax. “We are taxing the employers, and we are taxing the employees. This principle of sectional taxation in a national health and pensions system appears to be fundamentally unsound. Clause 1S5 of the bill gives emphasis to the class taxation the bill contemplates, particularly as it affects the employees.
T agree that industry should be responsible for the accidents which workers suffer, for that is a hazard incidental to industry. I agree also that, to a degree to be determined, industry should bear a considerable part of any burden arising in respect of the relief of unemployment. But sickness, other than occupational diseases, appears to me to be a social rather than an industrial contingency; and the same principle is valid in respect to superannuation or pensions for the aged. Social obligations should bc community obligations; they should not bc met by systems of sectional taxation.
To the extent that the bill seeks to provide a better-equipped national life, it seeks to add to the national competence to resist either external aggression or internal disorder. It is therefore, as much an insurance plan for the protection of incomes derived from rentals and property in general as it is for the protection of incomes from industry and commerce. Why the rentier class should be specially singled out for exemption from their share of the cost of these proposed now national services is something which the Treasurer has not explained, and which I challenge him to justify.
The Labour party expresses its utter condemnation of individual contributions as a principle in regard to invalidity, old-age and widows’ pensions. These services should bo a charge on the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth. To impose special levies, either on workers or employers, is utterly unjust. The greater the number of workers that a business employs the greater will be the tax on the enterprise, while it could easily happen that the smaller would be the benefit to the employees.
I point out, in dealing with the contributory system, that many wealthy taxpayers in Australia are not employers and, except as contributors to consolidated revenue from which will come the initial finance for this scheme, will contribute nothing to it. Yet employers will be mulct double - first as normal taxpayers, and again as contributors because they are employers. As things stand, the workers, through indirect taxation and, indeed, directly, supply a large part of the revenues of Commonwealth governments. To disregard the burdens at present laid on them, and to insist that they shall make a special additional contribution for pensions is not only to tax them doubly, but also greatly to endanger their eligibility in respect of this category of benefits. Furthermore, the hill contemplates that a married worker must make a special contribution to a friendly society in order to ensure medical treatment for his wife and children. This is overloading the camel’s back.
The principle is bad from two aspects. On the one hand it imposes sectional taxation regardless of individual capacity to pay, while excluding many sections from their just obligation to pay. On the other hand, - it confines eligibility for benefits to the insurance status of the contributors; and, as this status depends on contingencies which cannot be foreseen, either in point of time or in character - particularly in the absence of unemployment insurance - the probability is that those most in need or equally deserving will not have rights assured to them. They will have exhausted their ability to contribute a.nd will be disqualified from the application of the scheme.
The Labour “party believes that the time has arrived when national health services should be treated, in principle, in the same way as education. They should be free to all members of the community. The scheme outlined in this bill is a limited system of health insurance. I have no doubt that, in the years to come, proposals will be made to extend it. But the fact is that this proposed insurance scheme involves the creation of complicated administrative machinery, the chief function of which is really to exclude people from it. Basically, we shall have two sections of people - those who are eligible for the benefits and those who are not. Hence arises a complicated administration which, in its very nature, must be costly, and every pound spent administratively is a pound withdrawn from the pool from which benefits are made possible.
I put it to the country that, in a national system of health, it would be cheaper to levy taxes than to raise contributions. It is proposed in this bill, however, that the employee shall make a flat rate contribution of ls. 6d. a week, of which 7½d. will be assumed to be for health insurance and 10½d. for pensions insurance. These rates will rise as the years proceed. The employer of the worker will, of course, make a similar contribution. Yet it must be obvious that the sickness which affects the worker’s wife and family - particularly in the earlier years of the married state - generally calls for medical advice more often than will be the case with the insured worker himself. He, therefore, has to make other provision for the medical treatment of his wife and children. It is assumed that this will be done through the friendly societies; but the Treasurer points out, as an argument, in support of the bill, that at present only one-quarter of the wage-earners are in friendly societies. It is a fact that three-quarters of the wage-earners, who. without having to pay the contributions a.s insured persons under this bill, have not joined friendly societies through some cause or another - chiefly irregularity of employment and income, or a low income - will be in no better position in future to join a friendly society than they have been in the past.
While it may be said that the habit of insurance will increase in Australia, the criticism which the friendly societies have made against the bill warrants us in presuming that their experience suggests great prejudice to the future of friendly societies when this bill becomes law. In these circumstances, the omission pf medical benefit for the wife and children of the insured male worker really means, in practice, an absolute failure to provide the thing which is the kernel of the sickness problem in Australia, namely, a national health service. I put it to the Parliament that medical services under m contributory system will be given solely on the basis of the insurance status of the worker, and this insurance statusdepends on factors such as employment and wages, which, in themselves, have little relation to health. The man wlm’ is not insured, or who has forfeited hiinsurance status, is just as liable to fall ill as is the insured person. On the other hand the husband, even though he be an insured person, will be less efficient in industry through anxiety and the cost incidental to the treating of his sick wife.
The Government has not told us what will be the cost of the medical service, as distinct from benefit, but 1 am assuming that, as the Treasurer has said, substantially it will work out at lis. per insured person. Taking the figure as lis. for the medical practitioner’s fee for the insured person, it will be seen that we could treat, on this basis, the whole population for less than £4,000,000. The institution of such a great service at such a cost would give to Australia a national health service free from anomalies and one which, even on the limited provisions of the bill, would be an immense step forward in the prevention of disease, let alone its treatment.
Recently we have heard criticism which suggests that the lis. per insured person is not regarded by medical practitioners in general as sufficient to give the minimum service which they think should be rendered. There seems to be some sort, of a revolt against the agreement which apparently t ho council of the British Medical Association made with the Government.
The British scheme, though invaluable, has many critics, and I venture to 3ay it is regarded by some as not altogether satisfactory. I doubt whether the medical profession in Australia, as a whole, has confidence in the plan contained in this bill, and its proposed application, in broad outline, to Australia. The Treasurer may tell us that the medical profession iu Australia, as a whole, i3 satisfied ; but at this stage, having informed my mind regarding the opinions of those bodies in Australia competent to express an opinion, I would hesitate to say that the Government’s scheme has that measure of confidence of the medical profession suggested by the Treasurer.
Every argument advanced by the Treasurer in support of the medical treatment provisions of this bill, as they apply to insured persons, can be said, from the viewpoint of national interest, to apply more strongly in relation to the whole community. If this service is to be of real value to insured persons, if it is to meet their requirements in a reasonable and satisfactory manner, we shall be warranted in saying that those who are not insured - casual workers, relief workers and the unemployed whose eligibility to maintain their insurance status, will be doubtful - will need this health service much more often and to a greater extent than will the category of insured workers in regular employment. Therefore the argument advanced by the Treasurer for health services for insured persons warrants the Opposition in declaring that in any national social service scheme the ideal should be a health service for the nation. The omission of wives and children from the medical benefit section of the measure not only is bad from the national health aspect, but also is inimical to the character of family relationships themselves. The wife is not insured, the contention being that she does not contribute. But her husband is insured because he does contribute, and the employer contributes as much to the husband’s treatment as does the husband himself. The presumption is that the husband earns the wage. I reject this narrow view of the organic character - economically as well as social.y - of the married state. The wife who stays at home performing her housewifely duties contributes as much to the earnings of her husband’s wage as he himself does, and she is entitled to the same amenities of civilization. To argue that the wage should be drawn on to provide a special deduction for the special treatment of her husband, without her sharing in this service, appears to me to be a gross failure to realize either the equality of husband and wife in the married state, or the citizenship rights of the wife as a subject of the state.
As the wife of her husband, she i3 entitled, from her husband’s wage, to every kind of service which he can derive from that wage, and as a citizen of the state she is entitled to share in any service to provide which either the consolidated revenue is drawn upon, or a tax upon employers i3 imposed. Therefore, the sex discrimination in the bill as drawn, I venture to Si: V. not only expound* a new heresy in the relationship of man and wife as we understand it in Australia, but also strike-; unnecessarily and unjustifiably a blow at the very civic status of the wife.
I use this argument because the employer will make no contribution to enable the wife to be treated, but will make one in the case of the husband; otherwise the latter’s contribution under the plan as constructed in this bill would be very much larger than is proposed. In relation to this aspect of the bill, I note that the Medical Journal of Australia has this to say: -
No one will agree that the scheme is ideal. lt is far from ideal for it makes no provision for the dependents of insured persons. Indeed, if the scheme, as drafted, becomes effective it may be that many of the dependents will be deprived of medical benefits that they receive at present through friendly societies because the breadwinner may not be able to make voluntary contributions to a friendly society as well as compulsory contributions to national insurance.
Another fault is that it docs not include the unemployed and the unemployable - the people who need medical care most and are least able to afford it. Further, no provision is made for specialist services.
I, of course, am aware that there appears to be some dispute between the general body of medical practitioners and the Council of the British Medical Association in regard to the whole scheme; but that dispute, I point out, had not developed when this view was expressed editorially in the Medical Journal of Australia, and it appears to me to be a reasonable statement of the implications of the bill.
There are other discriminations in the bill - because it is limited in scope - which are bard to justify. The Treasurer, no doubt, will argue that, because males contribute ls. G’d. a week against ls. a week by women, the scale of £1 medical benefit, 15s. disablement benefit, and £1 old-age pension for men, is in proportion to the 15s. medical benefit, 12s. 6d. disablement benefit, and 15s. old-age pension provided for women. I point out that the bill asks us to accept in substance the report which suggests that the number of women to be insured is estimated not to exceed 500,000 because of the limitation of the measure to employees and wives who will voluntarily continue their insurance status. Therefore, it is contemplated that the bill will affect only half a million women out of the total number of women in the community.
I do not believe that it is practicable for a women to make the same rate of contribution as a man. The fact is that her wage is less, even though she performs the same service. But 1 see no reason why the injustice of unequal pay for equal work should be repeated in this bill of unequal benefits. Obviously, the woman cannot pay as much as the man. But we have here more than a mere actuarial problem; we have a problem of social and sex justice to decide.
Without any increase of the contributions which women will make under this bill, they should be entitled to equal benefits. I put that forward positively as the considered view of my party. .1 do not know what reasoning it was which led to the assumption that a sick woman can be sustained cheaper than a sick man, or that an aged woman can live at less cost than can an aged man. I absolutely deplore the provision of an oldage pension of 15s. for women.
I have said that I am unable to put forward any claim for complete equality. That would. mean equal contributions, and an equal age level for eligibility. Until the wages system is altered, or a system of family allowances is devised, any suggestion that, by paying equally with men, women may be given equal benefits under this legislation, cannot be sustained. Only the more comfortably placed families could satisfy the demand of an equal contribution by the wife in order to obtain a benefit equal to that given to her husband. The poorer families, and those which are on or about the minimum wage, would be unable to make the double contribution. In any case, the health services for children could not be met by this device. It must be clear, from an examination of the report of Sir Walter Kinnear, that what he had in mind in framing his general plan, and what the actuarial report bears out, was that a certain maximum figure could be accepted as constituting the amount which it is reasonable to expect the worker to pay each week. Upon that figure the whole plan was constructed. The justification for its anomalies is founded on the assumption that that contribution represents at least a workable starting point. If the suggestion should be made at this stage that women, by making contributions equal to those made by men, may obtain equal benefits, I would point out thai in practice that would work out fairly only in the case of those families in Australia which have wages considerably above those that are fixed for working men and women. The middle classes - -those approximating between £300 and £3G5 a year - in the clerical spheres, might be able to meet that provision. But to advance, even belatedly, as a remedy for the sex injustice of the bill, the proposal that, by making equal contributions, women might receive benefits equal to those given to men, would merely be to suggest that they be given a label without any reality, for only few wives of married men would be able to comply with such a stipulation. I repeat that, until the whole standard of life is raised, until the standard of wages is increased, any such attempt at this juncture to smooth out this difficulty, would be wrong. The right way to do it, as I have already suggested, is, not to ask women to make an equal contribution, but to provide out of the consolidated revenue of the nation the money needed to give them equal benefits.
– Why not increase the wage rate of women, and thus enable them to do it?
– The honorable gentleman knows that repeatedly I have asked for the Constitution of Australia to be amended so that this Parliament would have full industrial powers. When I last made that proposal, the honorable gentleman voted against me.
Looking at the matter socially, which 1 think is just as important as looking at it merely from the viewpoint of the actuary, and knowing that a 15s. pension to a woman at 60 years will cost more than the payment of £1 to a man at 65, I none the less say that Commonwealth payments should be drawn on to provide for equality of benefits in this connexion, in respect of payments, while still retaining the earlier age level for women. The Commonwealth can do out of consolidated revenue, under this insurance plan, what it has already done in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. It must be clear that many women will pass out of the category of “insured person”. They will leave industry and marry, and there will be no surrender value or equity in the contri butions they have paid unless, as wives they continue to make a contribution in order to receive the old-age pension. 1 am fearful that we shall find, in the main, that women coming into industry will replace those who are going out - that is, as insured persons - and that, while many women will have been contributors for a few years, not many wil ultimately benefit by the provisions of the bill, except during the few years in which, as employees, they have been insured persons.
Under the present pensions system, men and women receive equal payments, but under the bill it is contemplated that a disablement benefit of 15s. will be given to men, but one of only 12s. 6d. to women. That appears to indicate a wrong conception of the matter.
I confess to being somewhat perturbed at the complicated administrative machinery which the bill establishes. Shortly put, we are to have a national insurance commission, an approved societies consultative council, a board of trustees for funds, a medical benefit council, a. district medical benefit committee, a medical practitioners’ committee, a pharmaceutical chemists’ committee, and a panel of referees.
All these arise from two things : first, the limitation of the bill to employees; and secondly, the decision of the Government that the administration of the act is to devolve upon bodies whose powers arid responsibilities cannot be smoothly executed without some over-riding supervision. Some approved societies will, apparently, bc able in time to give more benefits than others. Some approved societies may even have to impose levies upon their members. Thus, we are facing the prospect of unequal advantages for insured persons, even though equal contributions are demanded from them.
Furthermore, I require guarantees regarding the setting up of approved societies. Only the friendly societies and some trade unions have had any experience in administering medical and health services. We ought not to encourage the development of approved societies in which the provisions of this bill will be used as a second, string to attract other types of activity. That ought to be made clear. Paramountry, the medical benefit provisions of the act ought to be administered by those organizations which have had experience in that direction. While 1 should be glad if large trade unions were to accept the status of approved societies, none the less I say that all trade unions have not had experience in this matter, and I do not believe it to be either right or proper that bodies which are not experienced should be encouraged to come into the matter in order to prop up their existing business.
– Some trade unions have had experience of this kind.
– That is quite true, and those who have had it would be just as competent to engage in administrative work of this kind as would friendly societies.
In Great Britain certain insurance companies have come into the scheme as “ approved societies “ in respect of medical benefits. There are 23 life insurance companies in Australia, but, from my comprehension of the position, only five of them appear to be strictly mutual societies. The remainder appear to be merely trading corporations operating in such a way that the whole of their profits are not devoted to the benefit of the policy holders but, in part at least, serve the interests of shareholders. These, in fact, are capitalist organizations and should be disqualified from the administration of this plan which is presumed to be of mutual help. None of the insurance companies has in fact had any experience in administering medical services. I suggest that Parliament should make it plain to the insurance companies that they are not, in its judgment, the type of organization that should, without reasonable inquiry and adequate guarantee, be given administrative power in this service. For myself, and speaking subject to a second think on the matter, I would at this stage prefer to limit the administration to friendly societies and trade unions which have had experience in administering medical benefit services.
I have the greatest admiration for the work which the friendly societies have done in Aust’ alia.
The organizations have nearly 600.000 members, the greater proportion of which are, I understand, married men, and they claim to benefit at present approximately 2,000,000 people. When I make allowance for the single men included in their membership I am inclined to estimate the total range of their influence at between 1,500,000 and 1,750,000 people. I feel confident that their position would bc, in the future, vastly different from what it probably will be and that they would have less cause for disquietude were the medical benefit side of this bill extended to cover the wives and children of insured males. They would, at least, continue at their present strength. It would be a bad thing in the civic life of Australia were they to attenuate gradually to extinction - apart altogether from the invaluable financial and medical service which they have made possible. 1 know that thousands of workers arc outside the friendly societies, but this position is explained, in part, in my view, by the unjustified assumptions encouraged by industrial assurance canvassers that a better investment is open to them for a weekly contribution to assurance companies. This bill fails to cover the field of friendly society activity but yet threatens its competence for future strength. It may be true, as the Treasurer pointed out, that only about G00,000 of the 1,S00,000 people covered by this bill are members of friendly societies and that therefore some system of compulsory assistance is desirable, but the fact is that the membership of friendly societies would be very much larger than is the case were it not for the misrepresentations which industrial assurance canvassers have made to thousands of working men and women that if they would insure their children tor 6d. a week over a period of years they would receive lump sums in 10 or 15 years. Inquiries have been made into this whole subject recently, and I do not wish to discuss it, in detail at present. I make the point, at the moment that had it not been for the wrongful enticements offered to the wives of workers particularly, very many morn families would to-day be covered by friendly societies than is the case.
Any plan to safeguard the people, or even sections of the people, against certain contingencies should be founded on sound principles. Service and justice should be the essence of our objectives, and the cardinal features of our methods.
There should be equity in the treatment of our citizens, having regard to their needs, their rights and their obligations.
This is not a bill for national insurance, even though it purports to be such. Its limitations and its anomalies in regard to benefits, its inequitable proposals respecting the manner in which the common fund shall be derived, and its incidence in general, make it very necessary that the House should order the preparation of a much more liberal bill for our consideration.
The Government has brought down a plan in which the ideal of national insurance for social service has been converted, in substance, into a scheme for the assurance of the increased cost of existing Commonwealth social services against any possible contingency. The Government appears to be more concerned with providing against the impending liability of the existing pensions scheme than with any other single consideration. It must be patent that our expenditure on pensions will steadily increase, and the nation has to face this situation. It is, however, reasonable to keep in mind that our wealth-producing resources are not remaining static. We are advancing materially from decade to decade, and it is incongruous that a Government which has not hesitated to pass on an increasing interest bill to posterity should parade its desire to avoid passing on a higher pensions bill. Generations to come in Australia will have less difficulty in meeting the obligations of a non-contributory pensions system than in meeting those inherent in the debt legacies which will be bequeathed to them by this Government and other preceding anti-Labour governments.
I, therefore, refuse to destroy the principles upon which the Commonwealth system of invalid and old-age pensions have been founded. I also refuse to agree that pensions for widowhood should be put on a separate basis from that which, hitherto, has applied to old-age pensions. The Government has given to us the label of “ National Insurance “ without its reality. It is also offering us anomalies amounting to injustices in the general plan of benefits which have been outlined. If the country had been afforded an adequate opportunity to examine this bill, if the various institutions of our society which had had special training in social services had been given some better knowledge of the important phases of the bill ; if the people at large had been more fully informed of the nature of the impact that this whole scheme will make upon the work already being done by friendly societies, State Governments, and various contributory hospital schemes which have been organized throughout Australia on a voluntary basis, the Government would have been obliged to draft a bill which would not have had so much in it that is objectionable.
A better, more comprehensive and more equitable bill should be submitted to this House. I therefore move -
That all words after the word “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this House is of opinion that in its present form the bill is unacceptable because -
It seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for oldage, invalidity and widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right without the exaction of individual contributions ;
It provides unequal benefits for men and women ;
It fails to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of contributors;
By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity it tends to discourage young menand women from joining these associations of selfhelp, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render; and, therefore, the bill should be withdrawn andredrafted and a more liberal bill, freed from the defects now enumerated, should be introduced without delay.”
I have moved this amendment to the motion for the second reading because I believe that at this stage wo should direct the architect to redesign the structure rather than leave it to the builders, the members of this Parliament, tocome forward with a separate plan that would destroy the general symmetry which is essential in any well-constructed plan for national insurance. We all know what would happen if a flood of amendments were suggested to this bill. For that reason I submit thatwe should, at this stage, make a declaration respecting the form of bill which we consider should be submitted to us, and when a bill in that form has been drafted we could consider it and at the committee stage make such amendments and adjustments as we thought proper. The alterations required in this bill to make it acceptable are too radical to contemplate. The actuarial calculations upon which the measure is based would be thrown out of adjustment if any effective treatment were given to the general principles underlining this measure.We consider, therefore, that after the Government has taken into account the views of members of this chamber it should withdraw the bill and have it redrafted. After this debate it would be in a position to submit to us a more workmanlike and more liberal bill with which we could deal without doing so much damage to the structure of it.
It would have been very much wiser had the Government avoided the secrecy which has marked its discussions on this proposal with various bodies. The general structure of the bill was one which it was important that friendly societies, medical practitioners, State Governments, and workers’ organizations, should have had before them. It is true that the report of Sir Walter Kinnear was made available some time ago, but how far and to what extent the Government intended to implement that report was not known until the Treasurer delivered his second-reading speech. The people should have been given more knowledge of this bill. It would be tragic if, at this stage, the Commonwealth Parliament failed to do its utmost to accept a larger responsibility for the social services of Australia than it has hitherto accepted. I am glad indeed that, after nearly four decades of federation, we have reached the stage at which we can come face to face with a greatly enlarged plan to deal with the health and welfare of family life in Australia; but I submit that the general principles of the bill should be reconsidered. The Government should take cognizance of the views of the Opposition, and of the friendly societies, and should endeavour to deal with the subject not as a party ministry but as the executive of the nation, co-operating with all interests concerned in the working out of a better plan than the bill contemplates.
– The speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) may be reduced to a very few words, which would indicate condemnation of the bill as a whole, and the desire to destroy it that has been in the minds of the Opposition for some considerable time. The Opposition desires the substitution of a measure that would place the whole community in a position of dependence upon the national Treasury from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year. Instead of a system of insurance on a sound actuarial basis, guaranteeing benefits week by week, month by month and year by year, it desires a scheme under which the community would be dependent upon the circumstances of the Treasury from time to time, and would have no guarantee whatever that the benefits would be secured.
– The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act operates in that way now.
– Yes; and there was a time when, because the payment of the pension is dependent upon the financial capacity of the Treasury, the pension could not be paid. Even friends of honorable members opposite have had to cut the pension down.
The honorable member for East Sydney interjecting.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member’s remark is out of order and offensive. I call on him to withdraw it, and apologize.
– Certainly. Mr. Speaker.
– The Leader of the Opposition was allowed to proceed with his speech without interruption. One of the reasons which impelled the Government to introduce this scheme is its desire to provide for benefits the regular pay- ment of which can be depended upon. If the scheme were dependent on the circumstances of the Treasury at any particular time, there could be no security from year to year with regard to the payments. This has been proved by recent history.
I make no pretence that the bill is perfect or complete. Its introduction has been awaited for a very long time. When it appeared to the critics of the Government that too much time was being spent in the preliminary examination of the position, constant attempts were made in this chamber to compel the Government to announce when the bill would be brought forward. The community as a whole has been eagerly awaiting the introduction of The measure, and the scheme submitted has met with the approval of a large section of the people. It has been criticized, as inevitably it would be, because it is not perfect. As a matter of fact, this is merely the first measure. The Government has been prepared from the beginning to receive suggestions for its improvement. I am surprised that some honorable members appear to bc somewhat amused when it is suggested that the Government already intends to make changes with regard to some of the provisions of the bill. The Government has welcomed suggestions in the past and it will continue to do so. Despite the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that secrecy has been observed, I point out that the Government has consulted with every organization in Australia that it thought could contribute something of value in the consideration of the scheme.
– -With which bodies did the Government consult?
– The friendly societies, the medical profession, the trade unions, and the pharmaceutical societies. Consultations have been carried on to a greater extent than in connexion with any former bill, in order to obtain as perfect a measure as is possible in the circumstances, and, as I have said, the Government still invites suggestions for its improvement. We hope that those suggestions will be constructive, not destructive. It has been proposed that additional bodies should be brought within the scope of the scheme and that the benefits should be extended; but we should be as sure as possible that those who will have to make the contributions will be able to do so continuously, and that the benefits also will not prove too heavy for the scheme to carry.
Without hesitation, I describe this measure as the “ first “ national insurance bill; there will be others from time to time. Already the Governnent is preparing for the introduction of another, because it has accepted suggestions which have been made in the proper spirit for the improvement of the scheme. Time will give us experience which we lack to-day, and the need for improvement will become apparent even without suggestions from outside. This is an honest attempt to make a definite contribution towards the solution of a very great problem. I can only express my great disappointment that the members of the Opposition have not made some constructive contribution to the debate for the purpose of improving the measure. Any practical suggestion put forward will receive consideration, but the Government is not prepared to run the risk of destroying the actuarial basis of the bill by accepting any suggestion haphazardly, merely because it may provide some special benefit to a particular section of the community, or even to the whole community. The benefits under the bill arc guaranteed to a majority of the people of Australia. They are of such a character that they are not exceeded, and I doubt if they are equalled, under any other scheme in the world. The benefits that will accrue are actually guaranteed, and will be received by the assured persons in return for contributions representing only one-quarter of the sum that would be actuarially required to cover those benefits at the average age of entry into the scheme.
With this scheme in operation £3,000,000 will be annually distributed to insured persons who are laid aside by sickness. Apart from the relief which this will afford, the distribution of that large sum will beneficially affect the economic position of the country. The scheme will enable us to mobilize the medical resources of the community in a co-operative effort to relieve suffering, and at the same time to raise progressively the general standard of health of our people. But the Opposition asks us to destroy this scheme before it is even considered. For the first time in our history, elderly insured persons will get the oldage pension as a right, free of any deduction, or any inquisition as to their means. The benefits payable under this pension scheme will gradually rise from £2,000,000 a year to over £30,000,000 a year, and that will be in addition to the further £20,000,000 a year payable under the existingInvalid and Old-age Pensions Act and the health insurance scheme. That vast sum, ultimately amounting to nearly £1,000,000 a week, will add enormously to the health, happiness and contentment of the most deserving classes of the people. Its weekly circulation will materially increase the purchasing power of the people, and promote the prosperity of the country.
Objection is taken to the contributory system, not by those who desire to improve the scheme, but by those who are entirely opposed to it. Surely we should pay heed to what is happening throughout the world, and to what is being done by other countries at least as democratic as our own. We must recognize that the International Labour Office was brought into existence by the Treaty of Versailles, and that it has endorsed the very principle to which some honorable members are objecting to-day. I am rather surprised to find that the Leader of the Opposition himself objects to compulsory health insurance because it involves a contribution by the individual. Such a scheme as he advocates would merely provide for a dole.
– That would not be an insurance scheme at all.
– Of course not. The Leader of the Opposition has reminded us to-day that he was a member of a royal commission some time ago, and that he and another member of that body submitted a minority report. One of the recommendations in the minority report was - “ Temporary sickness of the breadwinner should be provided for under a system of compulsory health insurance “.
– The right honorable gentleman might mention the other relevant recommendations.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable member. After all, he expressed to-day the view of the Opposition as a whole.
– I do not withdraw one single syllable of the sentence to which the Prime Minister has referred, but, in fairness, he should quote the other recommendations.
– The honorable member canquote the others if he wishes to do so ; but, if anybody can interpret the recom mendation I have mentioned as being in line with the honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech on this bill, I do not understand plain English.
It has been demonstrated clearly,I think, that it is practically impossible to have a scheme to deal with over 50 per cent. of the community without some assistance being required from employers and employees. Any other scheme would break down of its own weight. What was the position when the first Labour Government came into office in Great Britain? That government was imbued with the same ideas as have been expressed by the members of the Opposition to-day, but in trying to put its scheme into effect it failed. In 1925, Mr. Chamberlain, the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, introduced a contributory pensions scheme. Since that date, a Labour administration was in office in Great Britain, but far from repealing the act, it extended the scheme. There is scarcely a responsible Labour leader in Great Britain to-day who would suggest a departure from the contributory principle. I ask the Opposition to follow the example of the Labour party in England, and to assist the Government to place this bill on the statute-book so that, as time goes on, it may be improved. The Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say about the sick and the suffering in this community. Let me assure him that this scheme will not interfere with what is now being done, under existing legislation, to relieve them. Indeed, this scheme goes further; it will help those who desire to provide for their future but cannot by their own efforts do so.
I shall now refer to some of the benefits which will accrue from the payment of the small sums to be contributed under the scheme. The pension contribution under the bill is1s. 9d. a week, of which the employee is to pay 10½d. In return for that contribution he will be guaranteed an old-age pension, with allowances for his children.
– There are certain conditions to be complied with.
– There are many difficulties to be overcome, and that is why I seek the co-operation of honorable members of all parties, with a view to the removal of any objectionable feature in the bill. If the contributor dies before attaining the pension age, his widow will get a guaranteed pension for life, with an allowance for each child under fifteen years of age. If the widow dies, the children will be paid orphans’ pensions at double the rate of the child’s allowance. The average age at which men will come into this scheme at its inception is 34 years. On an actuarial basis, the contribution at that age for the benefits they will get under the act would be 6s.6d. a week; but, as I have said, all that the employed man will be asked to pay is 10½d. a week. That contribution would not pay for more than one-third of the cost of his widow’s pension alone; the remaining two-thirds of the cost of the widow’s pension and the whole cost of the old-age pension will be borne, partly by employers, but mainly by the Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Opposition said that it would be tragic if this bill were passed.
– I do not think that I said that.
– At any rate I say that it would be tragic if it were not passed. Should it be defeated, those responsible for its defeat will have rendered a great disservice to a big section of the people. As time passed, their action would be condemned by the very people who had hoped to benefit from this legislation. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that farmers, shopkeepers and other self-employed persons should be included under the scheme. Various suggestions have been made that more people should share the benefits of national insurance, and also that the benefits should be greater; but we must remember that if increased benefits are to be provided for a greater number of persons, there is danger that the foundations of the scheme will collapse under the strain. These self-employed persons cannot be brought into a compulsory scheme, because many of them will not need the benefits which it will offer. In their case a compulsory scheme would n ot bejustified.
In his second-reading speech the Treasurer said that the Government would examine all the suggestions that had been made, and that, if practicable, a bill to deal with them would be introduced later.
Since his speech was delivered in this House, the position has been further examined, and although much remains to be done, sufficient progress has been made to enableme to give an assurance that the Government will, at a later stage, introduce a bill to make provision for self -em ployed persons.
There have been complaints that it is wrong to distinguish between men and women in respect of the benefits arising from this scheme. It is suggested that women will be unfairly treated as compared with men. Let us see what foundation there is for that charge. A woman in Australia may obtain the old-age pension on attaining the age of60 years. Under this scheme she will get a pension of 15s. a week on reaching that age. It is beyond doubt that the cost of her pension will be greater than that of providing a pension of 20s. a week to a man on attaining the age of 65 years. It will be seen, therefore, that if there- is to be a distinction, it will be in favour of the woman. She will make a smaller contribution each week, and for a shorter term, than a man will.
– At present every woman gets £1 a week without any contribution whatever.
– That is not so; every woman does not get £1 a week now.
– That is because the Government will not give it to her.
– There is a good deal of misunderstanding in this connexion. No woman who, under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is entitled to £1 a week at 60 years of age, will get less than £1 a week. The simple reason is thatthat act will remain; the Government has no intention to amend it. The charge that women will be unfairly treated under this legislation is therefore without foundation.
– The scheme provides for only 15s. a week in the case of a woman.
– That is so, but for her 1s. a weekshewillgetabetterreturn inthe15s.aweek that will be paid to her than a man will got for his greater contribution.
– She will get £240 more.
– I challenge contradiction of my statement that any discrimination in the bill is in favour of the woman.
– I pointed that out in my speech.
– The Government has given further consideration to the points raised to-day by the Leader of the Opposition and, as the result, has refrained from increasing the compulsory contribution by women, but I am in a position to give an assurance that, when the bill is in committee, provision will be made to allow women voluntarily to increase their contribution by 6d. a week, in order to obtain a pension at the rate of 20s. a week on attaining the age of 60 years.
– They will pay for it.
– At 60 years of age a woman who makes the higher contribution will receive a pension equal to that which will be paid to a man at 65 years of age, although he will have paid a larger sum each week for a longer period. Of course, the option will have to be exercised within a limited period, but there will be no age limit. These provisions will apply to women who will become special voluntary contributors.
– That is a poor option for those with a limited wage.
– I predict that a large number of women will elect to make the higher contribution. As we are not living in an ideal world, we must face the fact that there is not equal pay for equal work for the sexes. Yet many young women have responsibilities which are considerably lighter than those borne by their men folk.
Although the Leader of the Opposition has condemned the scheme of the Government, he complains that some sections of the people, such as relief workers, have not been included in it. I am not able to say now that they will be brought under the scheme, but I can say that it is the desire of the Government to include in it as many as possible. There is no need to question the bona fides of the Government; its aim is to make the scheme as comprehensive as possible. Nevertheless, acceptance of some of the suggestions which have been made would, before long, so extend the scheme as to include practically the whole community. That is not possible in a sound scheme of insurance. It has been suggested, for instance, that the medical benefits under the scheme should be extended to the wives and families of insured persons. Others wish those benefits to apply also to farmers and other self-employed persons. Furthermore. the doctors urge that specialist services of various kinds should be provided, and also that there should be a limit to the number of insured patients a doctor may treat. They ask also for increased remuneration. Some of the suggestions which have been made are interesting, and it is hoped that they will be incorporated in the scheme in the future. But in establishing a scheme of national insurance we must proceed along common-sense lines. We must use common sense at the beginning, so that we may achieve something to which we can add as time goes on. We have to consider, not only the finances of the scheme, but also the need for medical services. Where are we to get the required number of medical practitioners during the coming year? The services which the friendly societies have asked should be left to them, we shall leave to them. They also require the services of medical practitioners. The societies have asked that they should be the sole administrators of the scheme, but the medical profession and the Pharmaceutical Institute object. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, a very large number of persons has refused to join friendly societies in the past, and we are not prepared to enforce compulsory membership. In the interests of the friendly societies themselves, it would not be desirable. If people are prepared to join societies of their own free will, well and good, but if they are compelled to join, they would not be of much use even to the societies. The Government will not agree to proposals that cannot bc carried out, and I suggest that honorable members should adopt a more reasonable attitude to the proposals. We conferred with the friendly societies and with the British Medical Association: we entered into what we thought was an agreement with the Council of the British Medical Association regarding the contract services to be rendered, but now the Council feels that it cannot carry out the under-
Taking which we thought had been given.
– Does that mean that the medical services which practitioners were to give, and for which provision is made in the bill, will not now be given?
– No; but it means that a hitch has occurred in regard to the agreement which it was understood had been reached. There has been an agitation by some medical practitioners, particularly in New South Wales, in opposition to our proposals, but I feel sure that a settlement will be reached. In any case, whether the settlement is on the terms previously understood or on others, the scheme will be gone on with.
– Does the Federal Council of the British Medical Association say that the medical services cannot be carried out for the11s. mentioned?
– It does not say so, but the Council seems to be a difficulty regarding the carrying out of the agreement.
– Will that affect the benefits under the scheme?
– No, it will not interfere with the success of the scheme at all. It is impossible to promise lavish extensions of benefits. Regarding approved societies, experience has shown that centrallyadministered schemes arc not ideal, because personal interest and personal contact are lost. On the other hand, we could not agree to the friendly, societies alone taking full control. We want to provide, as far as possible, for equality of benefits, and we think, therefore, that the allotment of surpluses of the various societies throughout the community on a 50-50 basis will retain the best of both systems, those directly administered from the centre, and those administered th rough thesocieties. Personal interest in the success of the societies will be maintained, and those in a less advantageous position will obtain some advantage from the profits of those more favorably placed. We must preserve freedom of association. This was insisted uponeven by the International Labour Office in its recommendation on this subject. This bill is drafted in accordance with that principle - freedom to choose one’s doctor; freedom to choose one’s chemist; freedom to choose one’s society. This scheme is bringing into insurance 1,400,000 persons who, in the past, have refrained from joining friendly societies. Many of them have other attachments, and it would be wrong of the Government, and I believe it would be detrimental to the interests of the friendly societies in the long run, to force those persons away from their existing associations and coerce them into an unwilling allegiance to the friendly societies. The National Insurance Commission may be trusted to exercise the most careful discrimination in its approval of societies, and there is a clause in the bill which empowers the commission to withdraw approval from any society which is not conducting its business in the sole interests of the insured members.
Suggestions have been made that this scheme is designed to save the Treasury money, and that the Commonwealth is trying to beniggardly. There is no truth in such suggestions. For the next quarter of a century, the combined cost to the Commonwealth under this scheme, and under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will be higher than the steadily increasing costs of the present act, if this scheme were not adopted.
We start the scheme with a Commonwealth grant of £2,000,000 a year, £1,000,000 for health and £1,000,000 for pensions, and that figure will gradually rise to £11,000,000 a year about the year 1961. If there were no weekly contributions, and the Commnowealth grants remained as provided in the bill, the scheme would bo insolvent in eight years. To remedy such an impossible state of affairs, the Commonwealth grants would have to be increased to the following amounts : -
Ultimately, the total Commonwealth liability in respect of pensions under this bill and the existing act would rise from the present proposals of £10,000,000 a year under this scheme, and £18,000,000 a year under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a total of £28,000,000 a year, to the impossible figure of £48,000,000 a year- £18,000,000 under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and £30,000,000 a year under this scheme. That is frenzied finance of a kind whichIam sure honorable members would not approve for a moment.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s authority for those figures?
– They are actuarial calculations made by competent persons whose findings cannot be challenged. We cannot hope to devise the perfect measure at this stage, and the Government is prepared to consider any suggestions for the improvement of the bill. I feel that this is only an instalment of our national insurance legislation, and that other measures will be placed upon the statutebook from time to time. There has been a strong demand for the introduction of this scheme throughout Australia for many years. The Leader of the Opposition himself, when a member of the royal commission which dealt with the matter, said that the introduction of the scheme should not be delayed. Now the Government comes forward with a. sound scheme, guaranteeing certain benefits, and I appeal to honorable members to assist the Government to place the measure on the statute-book as early as possible, in order that the benefits may not be delayed. Every fortnight that the measure is delayed will have the effect of cutting out from the benefits of the scheme persons who have been looking forward to receiving them.
– Does the honorable gentleman want us to pass the bill without discussion?
– No, but I do not wish that there should be undue delay.We do not claim that, with the passing of this measure, we shall enter upon the millenium, but it is a notable step forward and, in after years, those honorable members who assisted in putting it through Parliament will look back with pride and satisfaction upon the part they played in it.
.- In my comments on the bill, I take last things first. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his closing remarks, said that any delay in disposing of the measure would mean delay in the establishment of the scheme to the detriment of those who would benefit under it. That was not a strictly accurate statement of the position because all honorable members know that, whatever time may be taken by this House in discussing its many provisions, the act, assuming that the Government’s proposal is adopted by this Parliament, will not come into operation until the 1st January next. A scheme such as the one outlined has been promised for a great many years. National insurance is on the platform of the Australian Labour party, but this does not mean that honorable members on this side must accept any pale shadow of national insurance legislation which this Government chooses to place before members. Many honorable gentlemen will recall the speech made by thepresent Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who, as Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, on 14th September, 1928, moved the second reading of the National Insurance Bill. The remarks of the Prime Minister this afternoon were reminiscent of those made nearly ten years ago by the deputy leader of the present Government. On that occasion, Sir Earle Page, as Treasurer, said -
On behalf of the Government, I have the honour of bringing before Parliament, in the National InsuranceBill, the most comprehensive and progressive measure of social reform that has ever been brought forward in any parliament of Australia.
But what happened to that “most comprehensive and progressive measure”? All honorable members know that it was intended as election bait for the pending appeal to the people and that the Government, when returned to power, made no attempt to honour its pledge.
The present bill is the result of innumerable inquiries and reports on the subject of national insurance. For my own part, I doubted whether the Government had intended to proceed further with the matter, and now am convinced, in common with other honorable members not only on this side of the chamber, but also in the rank and file of government supporters, that the Ministry is actuated by ulterior motives : that its main purpose is to save expenditure on pensions and reduce the tax on those sections of the community that are best able to pay taxes. The Leader of my party (Mr.
Curtin) pointed out that the bill is in essence a taxation measure, with this difference : instead of observing the golden principle of all sound taxation proposals, namely, that the burden should fall on those best able to bear it, contributions to this scheme will be required of those least able to pay them. Summed up, the proposal is merely a device for sharing poverty. Once again, the poor will be called upon to assist the poor, while those who are really in a position to pay contributions and thus finance the scheme will escape. An examination of the bill discloses that a mountain of labour, as represented by the preliminary discussions and the drafting of the many provisions, has produced a miniature mouse as represented by the benefits to be conferred on those who will come under the scheme. Instead of being universal and all-embracing, the Government’s project will benefit directly about 1,850,000 employees in the Commonwealth, while a similar number will enjoy part benefits. In other words, the scheme embraces directly and indirectly, only about onehalf of the population. It ignores completely the requirements of the most necessitous section of our people - the unemployed. I admit the constitutional difficulties to be encountered in bringing forward any proposal for unemployment insurance, but submit that much blame for this state of affairs must be attached to this Government because it has not made any serious attempts to obtain wider constitutional powers. As the result, the people are still suffering because of the continued existence of the anachronism of State parliaments. If the present Government were sincere, it would have persisted in its endeavours to obtain for the central government wider industrial and other powers, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister, in the concluding sentences of his speech this afternoon emphasized that every moment occupied by the House in discussion of the bill would delay the coming into operation of the act. We have become accustomed to appeals of this nature since the Lyon.? Government came into power. Accordingly we appraise them at their true worth. Many months of idleness occur - sometimes the parliamentary recess has lasted for six mouths - and then when members re-assemble, we are expected to pass without delay measures of the utmost importance to the people. In connexion with this bill we have been told that if we have the effrontery to debate it vrc shall prevent the national health and pensions scheme from being put into operation as rapidly as possible. There is no valid reason for this appeal. Although it was once, held that it was not competent for Parliament to enact legislation having retrospective effect, the Parliament can enact that payments under any bill shall be made from a given date, even if retrospective. A bill of the magnitude of the one now before the House calls for a very thorough examination of all its far- reach ing provisions. Therefore, we on this side make no apology when we say that we shall exercise all our rights as an Opposition, and use to the utmost the forms of the House governing debate to ensure that every clause of the bill is fully discussed. We are prepared, if necessary, to sit night and day. It is not our intention, as was suggested by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, to pass it in 24 hours or a week, simply because a complete discussion of its many provisions may prevent the scheme from being put into operation as quickly as the Government wishes. The Treasurer told us that “every moment” of the Government’s time in recess had been given to the preparation of this bill. Of course the honorable gentleman spoke figuratively, otherwise the Government would not have had time to consider the other measures which appear in its legislative programme for the present session. When, on the 4th May, the Leader of the Opposition, on the motion for leave to introduce this bill, submitted an amendment for the purpose of including in the scheme the unemployed, the Treasurer argued that the alteration was not necessary because the words “ other purposes ‘”’ included persons in the Commonwealth other than employed persons. Since the Treasurer is regarded as a man not altogether devoid of ability, I suggest that the argument which he employed to defeat the amendment on that occasion was unworthy of any Minister of the Crown, be he Prime Minister, Treasurer or other Minister.
We on this side contend that a measure of such vital importance to the people should not he completed before the newly appointed senators take their places in that chamber on the 1st July. It is now seven months since the federal election resulted in the rout of Government candidates, but under an antiquated constitution the newly elected senators will not be permitted to take their places until the 1st July. Meantime the Senate is entitled to consider and pass legislation with the assistance of members most of whom have been rejected by the electors.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine hisremarks to the provisions of the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show why the bill should not be passed by this Parliament with the Senate as at present constituted. To do so is a negation of the principle of democracy which thisGovernment is supposed wholeheartedly to support. We had an example of its insincerity recently when it brought forward a measure which critics, rightly or wrongly, alleged was for the purpose of providing positions for superannuated politicians. That bill was introduced in the Senate in order that it could be passed by that chamber before the end of the financial year, and this chamber need not deal with it until after the next recess.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
– The archaic procedure of this Parliament, and indeed of the Parliament of Great Britain, clue to the custom of following precedents instead of dealing with each issue on its merits, has on many occasions prevented members of the Opposition from submitting amendments to bills not merely for the purpose of increasing the appropriation-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines. He is criticizing the Standing Orders as well as the procedure of the House, which has nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– Whatever may be the reason for the position that has arisen, the public, I believe, will understand that failure to move amendments to important legislation such as this is not due to oversight by the Opposition, but to the archaic procedure under which this deliberative assembly performs its business.
– Order ! I insist that the honorable member obey the direction of the Chair and confine his remarks to the bill.
– I trust that the actuarial calculations will be found to be correct. In saying that, I am not criticizing the expert actuaries. Obviously, however, honorable members of the Opposition have not at their disposal the resources possessed by the Government to enable them to check up the figures. I particularly stress this because our experience of the Treasurer’s budgets will not allow us to place any reliance on his judgment in this particular regard.
– Order ! Unless the honorable member proceeds to discuss the bill, I cannot allow him to continue.
– I trust that the same position willnot arise as arose in Queensland in connexion with a bill providing for railway superannuation which was brought before the Parliament of that State by a government of the same political complexion as this Government. Ostensibly, that measure was scrutinized in advance by expert actuaries, one of them being the most expert in Australia. Later, however, it was found to be totally unworkable. Investigations showed that unless the State government- which at first did not propose to contribute anything, but later agreed to contribute £10,000 per annum - was responsible for over 50 per cent. of the total contributions, aggregating approximately £300,000 per annum, the bill would fall to pieces of its own weight. Not having had the opportunities which the Commonwealth Government has had, I am not suggesting that this bill may not be actuarially correct; but in view of our experience of governments of the same political kidney, we have every right to be very careful in regard to that particular matter. An example of experts differing occurs to me. A year or eighteen months ago, Sir Walter Kinnear stated in his report that the initial health insurance deficit would be £18,000,000. and that 35 years would pass before that initial deficit was overtaken. According to the Treasurer, the initial deficit will be £17,500,000, and it will be overtaken in 30 years. That is a very considerable difference. I prefer to accept SirWalter Kinnear’s figures rather than those of the Treasurer. I further point out that, since Sir Walter Kinnear’s report was presented, the number of contributors has increased from 1,815,000 to 1,850,000. Obviously, therefore, the initial deficit will be greater instead of less than thatwhich he estimated it would be, and a longer instead of a shorter period will be required to overtake it. , The actuaries who examined the Queensland railways superannuation scheme showed that actuarially it was incorrect, despite which Mr. Godfrey Morgan, then Minister for Railways in the Moore Government, signed the minute “ Take a risk.” That minute is still on the files in Queensland. I hope that the Commonwealth is not faced with a similar experience. I suggest that there is considerable risk that this scheme will fall of its own weight, particularly as there are eight or nine different organizations of non-government employees who will be given a free hand as to the manner in which they disburse government funds.
There has been frequent reiteration of the great benefits which this measure confers. I propose to prove, in the first place, that in several regards it is not nearly as beneficial as the act which is now in operation in Great Britain ; and secondly, that it is nothing like as valuable a contribution to the mass of the people of Australia as was the bill brought forward ten years ago by Sir Earle Page, as Treasurer, on behalf of another antiLabour Government. We are entitled dispassionately to make comparisons. Under the British act, the wife of an insured man also receives a pension, assuming that she has reached the insurable age. There is no such proposal in this measure, and I suggest that the Treasurer might consider its inclusion. The Opposition cannot move an amendment to that effect; it is precluded by the Standing Orders from doing so. There is also a very big difference between contributors and non-contributors. Under the British act, a contributor receives a pension five years earlier than a noncontributor. Under this measure, the unfortunate person who has been scrambling along on the basic wage during the whole of his lifetime, and has contributed to this scheme, will receive a pension no earlier than a non-contributor who has been in receipt of a salary of more than £365 per annum. The necessity for differentiation was realized in Great Britain. There, the non-contributor has to wait until he is five years older than the contributor before he receives a pension. There is also another important difference. Under the British act, the allowance for a dependent child is fixed at 5s. a week. Under this so-called progressive legislation, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) proudly proclaims will place Australia in the vanguard of democratic nations, 3s. 6d. a week is regarded as sufficient for a dependent child in this country.
– What children get it in Great Britain?
– In Great Britain the payment is 5s. a week for the first child and 3s. a week for every child thereafter.
– The payment is made only in respect of the children of widows. That is a very vital point.
– I fail to understand why a widow’s child should need more than the children of other persons who are in needy circumstances. Not until an Australian citizen has four children will he receive as much as a man with a similar number of children in Great Britain. Under this measure, payment is to be made in respect of orphans and dependent children only until they reach the age of fifteen years, whereas under the British act the payment is made in the first place up to the age of fourteen years, and then for a further term of two years in’ the case of children who are in full-time attendance at school. The Government appears to have followed blindly the recommendations of Sir Walter Kinnear where they were found not to be too costly, and to have reduced other benefits recommended by that gentleman.
I shall now compare this measure with the National Insurance Bill introduced in 1928 by Sir Earle Page. The secondreading speech on it was made by that gentleman in September of that year, but the bill was not further proceeded with, it was used as an electioneering bait, and proved very successful, the Government being returned to office. An exactly contrary attitude has been adopted by the Government on the present occasion, but for the same reason. This measure bus been introduced immediately following upon an election, two and a half years before the Government will again have to appear before the people. Realizing that the people have a short memory, the Government probably hopes that in two aud a half years’ time the arguments now used against the bill, and the harm done by it throughout the community, will be forgotten.
I propose to prove that the bill introduced almost ten years ago made provision for greater benefits at less cost than are proposed at the present time. In connexion with the previous measure, Sir Earle Page pointed out that it provided for no fewer than nine separate benefits, of which eight were applicable to male and six lo female contributors. The amount to be charged was ls. a week in respect of oath male employee and 6d. a week in respect of each female employee. Under i he present proposal, the charge is to be ls. 6d. a week in respect of each male employee at the outset, to be increased to ls. 9d. a week in five years’ time, and to 2s. n week in ten years’ time. The employer, of course, will pay an equal amount, That is exactly double the charge proposed by Sir Earle Page. J lis measure provided that females should contribute 6d. a week, whereas under this proposal the amount is to be ls. a week ;if the commencement, and ls. 3d. a week later. A further analysis discloses that the former measure made provision for all sorts of benefits which are not suggested at the present time. I doubt whether many Government supporters have concerned themselves very much about the relative benefits under this bill compared with those of that introduced ten years ago.
Under the bill of 1928 provision was made, for example, for a marriage allowance on a sliding scale to a contributing female. A girl who became a contributor at sixteen years of age, and married at 26 years of age, was entitled to a gift of £4.
This was a wedding present from the Government. There is no proposal in this measure for anything of that kind, although the contribution from females is from two to two-and-a-half times higher than that provided under the 1928 bill. At that time the Government of the day apparently thought it desirable that women who left their employment to undertake the invaluable duties of wifehood were entitled to some consideration.
The sick benefit provided under the 1928 bill “was at the rate of 27s. 6d. a week for adult males- and married male minors. Under this hill it is to be only £1 a week. It, must be kept in mind, of course, that the 1928 bill was, in the opinion of very many, drafted for electioneering purposes. If it was actuarially sound, it is difficult to understand why the Government should now be able to offer only a very much lower benefit for a very much higher contribution. In the case of adult females, or married female minors, the benefit under the 1928 bill was £1 a week, but under this progressive legislation, it is only 15s. a week. Unmarried minors of either sex wore to get 15s. a week under the 1928 scheme; but under this scheme the unmarried male minor gets 12s. a week, and the unmarried female minor get3 10s. a week. Again I ask, why the difference if the 1928 scheme was actuarially sound? We on this side of the chamber, after long experience and some appreciation of the general attitude of the Government, have our doubts about the actuarial basis’ which is adopted.
We can understand that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should desire the discussion of this bill to be expedited. No doubt they would like the measure to be passed without any discussion. I am confident, however, that the cumulative force of the arguments of the Opposition will wreck the whole scheme, for. it is full of anomalies and inequities.
The plan of ten years ago provided for a child allowance of 5s. a week in respect of each child under 16 years of age. Now, when no election is looming ahead, the proposal is that the child allowance shall be 3s. 6d. a week, and that it shall operate only until the child reaches 15 years of age. Have our children become stunted in their growth through malnutrition or neglect, that only 3s. 6d. is now needed to maintain them?
The widow’s allowance proposed under the 192S bill was fi a week. That proposed under this bill is 7s. 6d. a week. In fairness to the Government, I must direct attention to the fact that it has generously undertaken to increase the allowance for widows to 15s. a week in five years’ time. But, of course, the contributions will also increase by 6d. a week in five years’ time.
The ‘1928 bill also provided that-
Superannuation allowances are to be made available to insured persona of both sexes upon reaching superannuation a<re. In addition it is proposed to apply them to the case of any pensioner whose wife attains the age of CO.
Exactly what that means is not quite clear but doubtless the superannuation benefits under this bill have been diminished, as have practically all other benefits compared with those under the 1928 bill. 1 desire now to deal with one or two points which, in my opinion, must completely destroy the bill. The constitutional difficulties which face the Government in regard to the measure are almost overwhelming. The position is so hopeless in this regard that it seems to me that the Government is merely seeking to gain kudos through having introduced the bill, because it knows very well that the measure is one that could not withstand an attack before the High Court. The title of the measure indicates that it is intended to deal with health and insurance. The Commonwealth power to deal with health is extraordinarily limited. I direct honorable members to the following paragraph on page 168 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution issued in 1929-
The Commonwealth Parliament h«s no power to legislate with respect to health except in so fa.r as it may do so in the exercise of its powers to legislate with respect to imports and exports, tn trade and commerce between thu States, or to quarantine.
Nothing could be more definite than that. As a matter of fact, considerable doubt exists as to the constitutionality of the Commonwealth Department of Health. According to the report- to which I have just referred, the Prime Minister at a Premiers Conference in 1919 - advanced tentative proposals for the establishment of a Commonwealth Department of Health. To these proposals each of the State Governments ultimately consented, and thi’ department was created bv order in council on the 7ih March, 1921.
It will be gathered from that brief citation that the Prime Minister had to obtain the consent of the State Governments before the Commonwealth could establish its Health Department. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth Parliament may make laws with respect to “ (ix) Quarantine,’’ but nothing more is said about health matters, lt seems to me, therefore, thai it can hardly be argued that this bill has been introduced pursuant to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to - deal with health. Under that heading it must surely be regarded as ultra vires the Constitution.
Even graver doubt exists concerning the power of the Commonwealth to deal with insurance. Placitum xiv of section 51 of the Constitution provides that the parliament may legislate wilh respect to -
Insurance other than State insurance, also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned.
I submit that this power has no relation whatever to health insurance or pensions, for insurance of that, description wa.s scarcely known over 38 years ago when the Constitution was framed. The power relating to insurance is referred to in section 51, in a group of powers relating wholly to commercial matters. The matters immediately preceding placitum xiv relate to currency, coinage, legal tender and banking, and those immediately following it relate to matters of commerce, weights and measures, bills of exchange, promissory notes, bankruptcy and insolvency. Quite a new group of subjects begins at placitum xxi, such as marriage, divorce, matrimonial causes, and invalid and old-age pensions, all of which deal with social subjects. I contend, therefore, that if the Government is relying on its power to legislate in respect of insurance to establish the constitutionality of this bill, it is skating on very thin ice. In the volume Judicial and
Phrases, it is clearly shown in innumerable reported cases that commercial insurance is a contract between parties. There is no suggestion in the bill now before us of a contract between parties. As a matter of fact the Commonwealth Government is seeking to force this bill upon the community, although clearly it. has no authority under either its health or insurance powers to legislate on this subject.
The Treasurer has referred to the measure as insurance for collective security. We frequently refer to all sorts of things as insurance. It is said, for example, that our defence programme is in the nature of insurance, and that our expenditure on unemployment relief works; rationing, and the like, is insurance. We are told that the first is an insurance against some foreign power, and the second an insurance against an internal uprising or revolution. None would suggest that the insurance powers in the Constitution cover this. The insurance referred to in the Constitution unquestionably connotes contracts. It seems to me, therefore, that even assuming that this bill is passed, it will be possible for any aggrieved person to render it ineffective. An employer who objects to the payment of his contributions may take the matter to the High Court, in which case I have very little doubt that a decision adverse to the Government would be given.
That the Treasurer has doubts about the matter is revealed by the fact that he proposes to introduce a separate measure to enact the taxing provisions of the scheme. Even in that regard the bill is likely to come to grief, for it does not provide for equality of taxation. Some contribute more in taxes than others, and. it may be found that inequality of taxation is unconstitutional. A portion of this measure overrides the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the State Arbitration Courts, and acts of the State parliaments. There is also a doubt regarding the provisions of the bill under which the States are treated as employers, and which give power to the Commonwealth Government to impose heavy burdens on State Governments. The doctrine of the immunity from taxation of State instrumentalities has been overruled, but not many years ago these provisions would have been definitely unconstitutional. [ Leave to continue given.’]
I have not sufficient time at my disposal to explain fully why I think that old-age pensions should not be contributory. I support the contention of my leader that they should be paid out of revenue, and the most equitable form of taxation is income taxation. The golden principle to be observed is that the burden of taxation should be shouldered by those who are best able to bear it. Banking, insurance, and mortgage and investment companies often receive the greatest benefit from the reduction of taxation. Many large contributions have been made to the latest Commonwealth loan. People are urged to be patriotic and to invest in government loans, but the interest returned to the patriots must be provided by means of taxation. When, therefore, these people complain of high taxation they should be reminded that much of the money raised in this way is required to provide interest on their own loan investments.
T do not suggest that the national insurance scheme should be totally non-contributory. As was pointed out in the policy speech of my Leader, the Labour party considers that invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, and unemployment insurance should all be paid out of revenue raised by taxation, and that the fairest method is income taxation. If the cost of national health insurance is to be met by means of income taxation,, it will be necessary to impose some burden on the lower-paid sections of the people, but, under this bill, only persons receiving an income up to £365 per annum are to be called upon to make any contribution at all. Those whose incomes exceed £365 per annum will pay nothing towards the cost of the scheme, apart from their share of the government subsidy.
The main reason for the introduction of the scheme is that the cost of invalid and old-age pensions is rapidly increasing, and it is estimated that 40 years hence the total expenditure will be approximately £32,000,000 a year. I point out that the total revenue of the Common- wealth has increased to a remarkable degree since the time when the invalid and old-age pensions scheme was introduced. It is now over £SO,000,000 a year, and the wealth of the community has vastly increased. The Treasurer contends that, owing to the increasing number of people in the community of pensionable age, there will be comparatively fewer young people to carry the old people who are receiving pensions; but that presupposes no increase of the birth rate. The Minister’s own speech showed that there has been a slight increase of the birth rate in the last few years, because economic conditions have improved to a certain extent. If the Government would see that the requisite amount of purchasing power was provided to put all our people back into employment, and to increase the productive resources of the country, the birth rate would increase at a more rapid rate than at the present time. Apart from that, however, it is not a matter of great concern whether a smaller number of young people will have to carry a larger number of old people. The main question is - how many persons are in employment at remunerative rates of wages to carry the total financial burden of the scheme? All who are not in employment to-day are not helping to meet the cost of pensions and other services. The best way to tackle the problem is to put the productive forces of the country into full operation. I do not suggest any wild scheme of inflation, but, under a more advanced financial system than that now adopted, all our people, except the few who are unemployable, could be given full time employment. Technological advance in the industrial world is so rapid that in 40 years’ time we should be able to produce quite easily all the wealth required to enable us to pay £32,000,000 a year for old-age pensions.
I have shown that this bill falls far short of the measure submitted ten years ago by Sir Earle Page, and I have indicated its limitations compared with the British act. It is also faulty by comparison with the pensions legislation of New Zealand. When the New Zealand Labour Government came into power two years ago, it not only restored the old-age pension from 17s. 6d. a week, to which it had been cut by an anti-labour government, to the sum of £1 a week, which had previously been paid, but also increased the rate to 22s. 6d. a week. The war pension in New Zealand amounts to 22s. 6d. a week. In regard to all pensions, the pensioner’s wife receives 10s. a week, and, I understand, a similar weekly payment is made in respect of each dependent child. Instead of apologizing throughout the country for the payments to the old people, it should be a matter for pride that payments for oldage and invalid pensions have increased. The more the revenue is used in assisting people who are most in need, the more we are entitled to regard ourselves as a civilized community. The Labour Government in New Zealand is now contemplating the introduction of a national superannuation bill which will go even further than the legislation already operative in the dominion. If the Commonwealth Government wishes to do the best thing possible for the people, it will bc well advised to wait for a short period until the New Zealand nacional insurance legislation has been introduced, and then to copy it in its entirety.
One of the arguments put forward in the reports of experts in favour of this bill is that it leads to thrift. What about the man who has been in good circumstances but has become impoverished I Under this measure, without any contribution at all, he will be entitled to receive the pension. Surely that is a tremendous blow, under the aegis of this Government, to independence and thrift. Is thrift a thing of such high importance? Under the present unbalanced social system, thrift may be, not a virtue, but an evil. For the first year or two, during the last depression, the necessity for thrift was preached until there was an awakening to the fact that the only way to counteract the effects of the depression was to increase the purchasing power of the people. Accordingly, the policy of deflation was changed to what was politely referred to as one of “reflation”, with the result that the people spent more readily, and the ship of State was once more placed on an even keel. Thrift is at all times an evil, unless there is a currency-controlling authority to. pump iu;o ha ( community sufficient purchasing [jo wor to balance the wealth, hoarded up by the so-called thrifty patriots. In some countries, France and India, for instance, measures are taken to pi event hoarding. Sitting ssuspended front, G.L5 to S p.ni.
– In conclusion, I shall numerate certain of the outstanding anomalies of this measure. Should the bill reach the committee stage 1 hope to dissect aand elaborate a number of matters which I have not discussed to-day. I contend that provision should be made to include in this measure persons who earn more than £365 per annum, and also small farmers, shop-keepers, and other self-employed persons. I submit, further, that the whole scheme, instead of being under the control of any outside organization, should by under control of the Commonwealth which will provide £100,000 per annum as cost of administration and up to £11,000,000 per annum for grants, or in lieu thereof, should be controlled by the friendly societies and trade unions. 1 also consider that the present benefits provided by friendly societies for wives and children should be provided by the national insurance scheme and that their dispensaries should he protected by being allowed to register as medical practitioners. Equal benefits for men and women should also be provided.
In final condemnation of the scheme, 1 submit that the bill is not as generous as the British, legislation, and certainly it is not at all comparable to the measure brought forward 10 years ago by the then Commonwealth Government. I shall, therefore, support the amendment and oppose the bill, which compels such heavy contributions for such meagre benefits.
S.l]. - i rise to speak to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The amendment is divided into four parts, each of which I shall deal with in turn. First, the honorable gentleman moved -
That thin House is of the opinion that, in its present form, the bill is unacceptable because, first, it seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for old-age. invalidity and. widowhood which should “be provided a matter of right without the exaction of individual contributions.
That proposal makes it. clear that the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of his party, is opposed to the principle of insurance. The Government has introduced an insurance scheme which seeks to exact from employers and employees a certain moderate weekly contribution, the amount cO raised to be enlarged considerably by government contributions which will increase each year over a period of years until they reach £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 a year. In contradistinction to that policy, the Opposition seeks to eliminate the insurance element, and to substitute a proposal that would make the working population of this country - those who work for salary or wages - dependent on the stale of the Commonwealth budget, and its ability to provide pensions from theproceeds of taxation without any contribution whatever from those beneficiaries. It. is there that the Government parts company with the Opposition. Honorable members of the Opposition would have these widespread benefits entirely in me form of what I can describe only - and I think without exaggeration - as Treasury “handouts “ because they would’ not be contributed to by those who would take aadvantage of them.
– In that respect they would, be like, the wheat bounty.
– During recent months I have had conversations with large numbers of persons interested in this measure- - some of them possible contributors to, and beneficiaries of, the scheme. In all my conversations with working men and women I found only one doubt in their minds in respect of the scheme. Thepeople with whom I spoke had no reason to speak other than what was in their minds. Their only doubt - and it is a real doubt with them - is the ability of the Government to guarantee the widespread benefits that it has undertaken to provide, for a contribution from them of ls. 6d. per week in respect of a man and ls. a week in respect of a woman.
– The Government cannot guarantee them.
– One can well imagine that persons who have not examined the measure carefully should doubt the ability of the Government to do what this measure promises. Men doubt the ability of the Government to relieve their minds of the load of anxiety in respect of themselves when they become ill, or attain old age, and in respect of their widows, and children, when they die. I have not met any working man or woman who has expressed any doubt as to whether or not be or she should be culled upon to pay the ls. Cd-, or ls. a week, as the case may be, for which this measure provides, indeed I am convinced that the working nien and women of this country are essentially suspicious of a political party that promises them something for nothing
– They showed that al the last election.
– They have bitter recollections of the fate of those persons who, during the recent period of depression, were unable to obtain the amount of invalid or old-age pension which they previously received. They realize that if they pay the relatively small contribution provided for in this bill they will be able to command those benefits which it promises. That, I believe, is the view of every self-respecting working man and woman of this country. They do not seek charity. They desire to maintain their self-respect, and to be sure of something for which they have qualified by payments made by them. I say without fear of contradiction that the contributory system is the only system that can guarantee these benefits to the working men and women of ‘this country.
– How can those benefits be guaranteed during a period of intense unemployment ?
– That difficulty is coped wilh under this measure to the greatest possible extent. If any measure can be raid to be guaranteed by the Government it can be said of this measure. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that these benefits could be given to the nien and women of this country without any contribution at all.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that 1 refused to delude myself that there was a difference between a contribution and a tax.
– The honorable gentleman condemned the measure because “it seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for old-age, invalidity, and widowhood, which should bc provided as a matter of right without ibc exaction of individual contributions If the inference to be drawn from ihat statement is not that these benefits could be provided fi om the Commonwealth Treasury without contributions by the beneficiaries, I do not understand the meaning of words.
– Does the Treasurer suggest that the Com mou wealth Treasury at present gets revenue without taxing the workers l.
– The honorable gentleman would lead me along a by-path. No one will deny that his amendment seeks to make the workers of this country understand that they can get all these benefits without paying for them at all by way of contribution. I do not believe that that could be done for any considerable period. I venture to think that, had the Leader of the Opposition been in ray place at the Commonwealth Treasury for the last five or six years, he would share my anxiety - and, indeed, that of every member of the Cabinet - as to the future of social services in Australia. Any critic can solve an individual problem of govern nien I: so long as it is not related to a’l the other problems; but the duty of a government, as I see it, is to do its best to solve at the same time all the problems that: confront it. The maintenance of social services is only one of many problems. Those honorable gentlemen who believe that we can continue for a number of years to pay these benefits out of Commonwealth revenue, should study the Commonwealth budgets for the last 25 years. In 1913-1914, the Commonwealth budgeted for a revenue of £21,000,000. Largely a& a result of heavier commitments due to the war, the amount budgeted for in 1919-1920 was £50.000,000. This year the amount is approximately £90,000,000.
– The population has increased in the meantime.
– The population has advanced but slowly. Moreover, the wealth of this country has not increased in proportion to the increase of its expenditure. At the moment, no one can see signs of that regular annual increase of revenue from taxation, both direct and indirect, during the past few years being maintained. With the world in its present unsettled state, how can a country with a population of less than 7,000,000 people continue to exact these large and increasing amounts of money from the people
– How can the Government continue to pile up the national debt?
– If the honorable gentleman is in earnest in advocating a reduction of the national debt, he should make his representations in other quarters. The record of the Government shows that the Commonwealth debt, as opposed to State debts, has declined appreciably.
– The debts of the States are increasing because the Commonwealth Government has shirked its responsibilities.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) cited some figures in order to reveal the position that would arise if contributions from both employers and employees were omitted from this scheme. He showed that if there were no contributions from them, the burden on the Commonwealth budget in 196S would be about £22,000,000, compared with about £10,000,000 under a contributory scheme.
– What is the population of Australia likely to be in 1968?
– There is no assurance that it will be appreciably greater than it is to-day. Unless some miracle happened the burden on the Commonwealth budget under a non-contributory scheme would be beyond what it would be possible to exact from the people of this country without doing grievous injury to employment. .
– Does the Treasurer say that he can get £15,000,000 a year in contributions, but not by means of taxation ?
– Definitely, yes.
– That is amazing.
– Not at all. It is a question of the burden being spread over a large number of people instead of being confined to a narrow class. State and Federal taxes in this country to-day together represent a very high degree of taxation indeed. I do not say that this is the highest in the world, but it is not very far short of it, and the unused limits of taxation in this country are not great. They may appear great in times of relative prosperity, but it is necessary to provide for a taxation yield that can be maintained in good years and bad. I may say that I have had legitimate cause from time to time for anxiety on this score. The Leader of the Opposition asks that all these benefits should be provided from revenue, but I do. not believe that such a proposal, if given effect, would provide the workers with an adequate measure of security. They would receive their benefits in good times, but it is doubtful whether they would receive them ki bad times. If this is to be really a scheme of national insurance, it must be something upon which the workers can rely in bad times as well as in good.
– Can the Government guarantee that in a time of depression the workers will still receive the benefits for which they have contributed?
– Such a guarantee could be given much more easily under the Government’s scheme than under that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. From a governmental point of view, this is the most generous national insurance scheme in the world to-day. I believe that there is no government scheme, or any private provident scheme, that is nearly so generous as this scheme is to-day, and the government will continue progressively to contribute more to this insurance fund than is contributed by the State to any other scheme of which I have knowledge.
The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition further states -
The present bill is unacceptable because (6) it provides unequal benefits for men and women.
That, of course, is true. It does provide unequal benefits for men and women, but the inequality is not where the honorable member believes it to be. The women are getting more out of the scheme than their contributions warrant. I do not say that that is wrong, but it is a fact that women, as compared with men, will obtain more than will be warranted by their contributions. Moreover, in the course of not very many years, women and dependents will be getting more absolutely out of the scheme than men will be getting. It has been stated through various feminist organizations that there is sex discrimination in this scheme. There is, but it is quite definitely against men, and not against women. This, of course, applies also to the oldage pension. A woman’s pension of 15s. a week receivable at 60 years of age, is worth more when capitalized than a man’s pension of fi at 65 years of age. There is the additional point that men, and the men only, will pay for widows’ pensions. There is nothing in the women’s contributory scheme to provide for widows’ pensions.
– The employer will pay also.
– Yes, but the female employee will pay nothing towards her own pension. That is to be paid for by the male employee and his employer.
– But nothing is paid towards it by the landlord and the rentier.
– They pay all they are able to pay in the way of ordinary taxation. It is evident that there is nothing in the way of discrimination against women in this scheme. The Leader of the Opposition has himself admitted that women are not able to pay the same contributions as men. This is a self-evident fact, because women’s wages in this country are little more than half those of men. I do not believe that the average working woman is able to pay more than ls. a week towards the scheme.
– Nor can the man on the basic wage afford to pay ls. 6d. a week
– I do not believe that a contribution of ls. 6d. a week from the man on the basic wage is unreasonable.
– The Treasurer has never had to live on the basic wage.
– I know many men who have, and I know their opinion on the matter just as well as docs the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney). We must remember that the amount of 15s. a week for sick pay or the old-age pension for women is only a base or rninimum rate. There is ample provision in the bill for the supplementing of the rate in the case of women who are in need of an additional amount. The bill provides - and this does not exist in any other measure - for the amount to be supplemented by 3s 6d. a week for each de pendent child under 15 years of age. In addition, a woman old-age pensioner may, if she is in need of it, have her pension of 15s. a week increased to fi. The rate of 15s. u week is, I have taid, the base rate, and is approximately the amount justified by the woman’s contribution.
– The Government would pay the extra 5s. ?
– But not to the woman who has been thrifty.
– The honorable member may put it in that way if he likes. She would get what she paid for, but the woman who needed it would receive £1. Where is the sex discrimination in this regard ?
– The answer is, in regard to health services. No medical service is provided for a wife.
– Now the honorable gentleman is shifting his ground. As I have said, if there is sex discrimination, it is against the men, which is probably as it should be.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the third part of his amendment, referred to the failure of the bill to provide medical benefits for wives and children of contributors. It is, of course, a fact that this bill provides medical service, free medicines and sick pay for the male contributor only, and not for his wife.
– Does the British scheme provide such benefits for wives and children?
– No, it does not. 1 remind the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) that neither the British scheme, nor any other scheme of which I know, provides such benefits in respect of wives and children. The British scheme provides supplementary allowances for dependent children of widows, but it does not provide similar allowances in respect of sick pay or old-age pensions. This bill does, and that is one of the many merits. This is the only scheme of national insurance in the world in which sick pay for the worker is supplemented by a relatively substantial amount for each dependent child.
Let me analyse the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition that the scheme fails to provide medical benefits for the wives and children of contributors. If we include medical benefits for wives and children, provision must be made to pay for this service. Are we going to ask single men and women to pay part of the cost? Of an estimated total of 1,850,000 probable contributors under the scheme, only 700,000 are married. Are we to ask all contributors, whether married or single, to contribute to provide this benefit?
– They are to be required to contribute towards widows’ pensions.
– Yes, but I suggest that that principle cannot be extended indefinitely. As the bill is drawn the single person will contribute quite a fair amount towards the benefits receivable by married persons, and the Government believes that it has gone far enough in placing burdens on unmarried men and women for the benefit of married persons. If we do not ask single men and women to pay for the additional benefit, we must make married men, and possibly their employers, carry the whole burden. I do not believe that honorable members would suggest that it would.be wise to have differential rates for employers’ contributions in respect of married and single men. Such a provision would tend to make employers discriminate against married men, and that would be most undesirable. We arrive, then, at the position in which the entire burden of this service must be borne by the married men themselves, and that is exactly what the Government proposes. We believe that the scheme should cover all the active workers in industry, and that if the married workers desire to make provision for their wives and children they will have ample opportunity to do so through the friendly societies, as they have had in the past, and it will not be a great additional burden upon them.
– It will be a double burden.
– The burden must be borne by some one, and I have stated the arguments against its being borne by single persons or by the employers. Thai leaves only the married men. Therefore, I believe that the Government is right in its decision to leave this ser vice to be provided by the voluntary action of the married men themselves.
– Does the Treasurer mean that the Government is shifting its responsibility with regard to the wives and children?
– No; I repeat that, in this scheme, the Government is shouldering responsibility which is not included in any other scheme of a similar nature in the world.
– The Treasurer will compel us to give the figures.
-I hope that the honorable gentleman will do so. I believe that this scheme, considered in respect of all employees in Australia, is a fair one, and 1. put it to honorable members that if the Government were to make compulsory the payment of contributions in respect of wives and children, the friendly societies would be put completely out of business.
– Why not subsidize the friendly societies ?
Mr.CASEY.- Why stop at friendly societies ? If the Government could draw money from the skies, it could do anything.
I come now to the fourth paragraph of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. -
By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity, it tends to discourage young men and women from joining these associations of self-help, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies, without providing in full the services which they now render.
It is admitted quite definitely-
– The Treasurer has admitted three of my fourpoints.
– But my replies have been effective, I hope. I admit that, in the absence of a national insurance scheme, the friendly societies, in respect to the voluntary side of their business, would probably develop more rapidly than they can hope to do when the scheme is in operation. But I would remind the House that the friendly societies, important and useful though they are, are not the only element in the Australian picture of national health and insurance. There are in existence many other elements : many other self-help organizations. About 400,000 persons who are now members of friendly societies will come under the compulsory provisions of this measure.
– They represent only bread-winners, do they not?
– They are members of various friendly societies, lt is not the belief of the Government that the rest of the working population in Australia has made no provision for the future. All the evidence is to the contrary. Statistics relating to the various life insurance societies in Australia show that there are considerably over 3,00U,000 life policies in operation. There are also the very many provident funds established in connexion with private industries. These funds are, in essence, friendly societies in that they perform largely the same kind of service for their contributors. Therefore, I may say of them that they are, in all but name, friendly societies. All these organizations will, to use a somewhat harsh term, sutler by reason of the fact that the Government is endeavouring to bring the whole of the Australian working population into a compulsory national insurance scheme with specified and guaranteed benefits for all of the contributors. But the vast majority of these organizations will suffer quite willingly for the sake of a widespread national insurance plan.
It is appropriate that I should in this connexion direct the attention of honorable members to the third paragraph in Sir Walter Kinnear’s original report, lt is to be found on page 21 -
Die experience of social insurance in most countries is that a national scheme stimulates a desire cm the part of the better-paid workers for further protection, .lt is not the function of any system of State insurance to supersede every other kind of thrift. A state scheme should provide a substantial foundation upon which insured persons would be stimulated to make supplementary provision for -themselves according to their means. In that way the virtue of thrift and the spirit of self-reliance would be encouraged. It is to be hoped, moreover, that many of the larger employers of labour who have been deterred in the p«”st from formulating some pensions scheme for their workpeople because of the prohibitive cost, might see their way to make a more modest proposal which, in supplementing the national scheme, would be of practical value and would add immensely to the satisfaction and contentment of their workpeople.
Experience of the national insurance scheme in Great Britain has shown that friendly societies have at least maintained their position on the voluntary side and, as regards the approved society side of their business, have actually gone ahead by leaps and bounds in the 20 years during which the scheme has been in operation. Therefore, it is true io say that, grouping the voluntary side of friendly societies’ activities and the work of the approved societies, there has been a definite measure of progress. As regards life societies, it maybe argued on behalf of life assurance companies that following the initiation of a compulsory national insurance scheme on a fairly broad basis, the workers -will be less disposed to take out policies in respect of their own lives or of their children. But we do not believe that, once the national insurance scheme has got into its stride, this will continue to be the effect. We believe that after an initial halt following the inauguration of the scheme, the volume of life insurance business in Australia will increase at feast at, the rate of recent years. Therefore any sacrifice which the Government might ask these various thrift organizations in Australia to bear for a year or two will be small relative to the benefits to be conferred on the community.
In conclusion I would say, as the Prime Minister said this afternoon’, that this bill does not seek to establish the millennium overnight, simply by the payment of J s. 6d. a week by employed male workers. That would be too much to expect of any project. The Government does not claim that all the ills to which mankind is heir will be cured by this measure, but I do venture the opinion which I expressed on another occasion that the bill, imperfect though, it may bc, is a mighty fine start.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) 8.40J. - I desire briefly to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and also to reply to some of the misrepresentations made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in the speech which has just concluded. As I understood the Leader of the Opposition, the intention of the amendment is not as described by the Treasurer. His opposition is to the compulsory contributory scheme being applied to old-age and invalid pensions and widows’ pensions. He did not suggest that if we enlarged the sphere of social legislation to include all the benefits now enjoyed by members of friendly societies throughout Australia, there would not have to be some form of contribution. The Leader of the Opposition said he was in favour, as I am, of a really national scheme, and as I understand his argument, no scheme can be regarded as national unless it includes all the people. The hill now before the House does not do that. It is a hybrid proposal, and all the arguments and explanations in the world will not prove otherwise. It does not cover the whole of the people. It does not cover even all those who work for wages. It excludes thousands of working people whom the Treasurer, for the first time to-night, described as self-employed - a new name for Australia ! Many thousands of men and women, owing to a lessening of their efficiency, are unable to secure regular employment, with the result that they accept work on a contract basis which yields something less than the legal basic wage. I speak with some knowledge of this section of our work-people because of my experience of dealing with claims under the “Workmen’s Compensation Act. In endeavouring to frame amendments of that act we have always experienced difficulty in covering workers who earn their living in this way. Because of the increasing momentum of change of methods in the industrial arena large numbers of workpeople, particularly in the building trades, accept contracts in small sections. Some of them are specialists in their own particular class of work, and eight or ten small sections may obtain employment in this way in one building. These people are not classified as employees. Consequently they are not covered by this bill. The same applies to men engaged in agricultural and horticultural pursuits.
– They may be in the scheme.
– As I understand the bill they are not, but I hope that the Treasurer will be able to overcome this defect. In my opinion the scheme has been introduced for the purpose of shifting the growing burden of old-age and invalid pensions from the shoulders of one section of the people, to the shoulders of another section. Employees who are covered by it must make regular contributions or else lose its benefits. I know that the bill contains reasonable provisions designed to ensure that the casual worker will be carried by the scheme as long as possible, but there is no escaping the fact that eventually practically the whole of the burden will rest on the shoulders of the employees. The businesses of some employers will be temporarily disorganized and they will lose money in the process, but in the last analysis the same practice will be adopted in regard to these contributions by employers as is followed in connexion with the sales tax and all other taxes; the cost will be reflected in the prices charged for commodities. The Treasurer may reasonably advance the argument that the wages of the workers will be automatically adjusted in order to conform to variations of the cost of living. My rejoinder to that is that approximately one-half of the workers are employed under Arbitration Court awards which are subject to automatic adjustment, and even they have to wait until the cost of living has risen by a certain number of points in order to have the adjustment made. The process of adjustment is a lengthy one and the workers never make up what they lose. If the experts who drafted this scheme could be induced to examine figures that could be suggested to them based on Australian practice, I am certain that they would come to the conclusion that at least 75 per cent, of the cost of this scheme will ultimately fall on those who work for wages. Therefore, it is a hybrid scheme from that viewpoint. It is not universal, nor is it national in character.
I am sorry that whenever pensions matters are being discussed, the Treasurer, as nicely as he can, conveys the impression that he regards the invalid and old-age pensions as a charitable scheme.
– Have I said so?
– Not in those words. But the honorable gentleman always suggests that we should get away from such a scheme, thus implying that it is on a charitable basis. That is not true, nor is it fair to those who receive the pension. That scheme, as the honorable gentleman knows, has been in existence for over 30 years. The basis of it was that those who had served this country in industry for a minimum period of 20 years, should be given the pension as a right if their circumstances showed that they needed it. The honorable gentleman is not acting fairly when he advances the claims of the present scheme by suggesting that the other is on a charitable basis, and that this will remove that stigma.
– I have suggested nothing of the sort.
– Let me go a little further. I suggest that the charity alleged by some people in connexion with the existing scheme will become reality under the proposed scheme. Here we have a clear line of demarcation. In one case, a worker between the ages of 16 and 65 years will pay1s. 6d. a week or more to become entitled to a pension. On the other hand, a struggling shop-keeper or a worker who whitewashes walls at so much a piece instead of so much a week - thousands make less than the basic wage - may not make one contribution up to the age of 65 years, and yet will receive a pension if he passes the means test. Surely it is obvious that the man who is forced to face the means test in order to receive the pension will be regarded as one who is receiving charity. What formerly was merely alleged to be charity is being made real charity. I object to the scheme on that account. I am not opposed to national insurance against unemployment; on the contrary, I have advocated it for years. We should first tackle those matters which are essential and most urgent, leaving those which have been handled really well by the lodges of this country until the existing gap has been bridged. The Government has started from the wrong end. For years we have been promised insurance against enforced periods of unemployment, which are becoming longer and more regular each year. Temporary relief is being afforded at present by the operations of armaments firms. Everybody knows that, so soon as those operations slacken, the army of unemployed will become larger than it has ever been. Sir Walter Kinnear and other experts will, I think, agree that this period of orthodox prosperity is the appropriate time for the establishment of a scheme to protect us against this everrecurring evil. If this Government does not tackle the matter of unemployment insurance in a period of prosperity, when the conditions are favorable to the building up of a fund, when can we expect to have such a scheme introduced? I object to the proposed scheme because it is only partial in its scope. It omits to deal with those matters which most urgently need attention and interferes with others that are already partially covered. It disorganizes those institutions which are catering successfully for a largo number of our people, and does not bridge the gap which will be caused by the withdrawal of persons from those institutions. There are hosts of recognized friendly societies which have stood the test of nearly 100 years, catering for the requirements of thousands of unemployed families in respect of medical, dispensary, burial and sick benefits. This scheme will not do that. It does not touch the women and children. It does not deal with the condition of affairs which impels a man who has the responsibility of a wife and growing family, to join a lodge. It will undermine the lodges and make their position precarious for years to come. It does not say that the operations of the state shall be extended to cover all social services. It is a hybrid scheme which makes gaps and does not bridge them. It does not tackle the fundamental economic problem of unemployment. For these reasons I am opposed to it, and support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin); not because I object to asking people to contribute, either compulsorily or voluntarily, to a fund for the provision of medical attention, funeral expenses and sick pay. No mention of that has been made in the amendment. We blame the Government for not having included unemployment insurance in its proposal. We say that a widow’s pension, which has been promised for so many years, should be given as a right, and should have no association with a compulsory contribution scheme. All of the benefits which have been and ave now being provided by the Australian Natives Association and other lodges of this country, should be left untouched until the matters not already dealt with have been tackled. The Treasurer did not reply to the charge that this is a perpetuation of an evil which Australia and all the advanced countries of the world have been endeavouring to remove, namely, the inequality of the sexes. I do not mean to suggest that he tried purposely to mislead. Thousands of women in this country do not get on the average more than 60 per cent, of the male wage, but we should all be pleased to know that, as the result of intensive educational work, the number of women who receive equal pay for the same work in both public and private employment, is increasing year by year here and in England and every other country in the world. But the question should not be examined in that way. It is not a matter of comparing the wage of a woman with that of a man. In considering the benefits to be given under the scheme, surely we do not take into account the fact that an engineer gets £7 a week and a labourer £3 10s. a week. The contribution of both is ls. 6d. a week. The question is, are the contributions and benefits in proportion to the amount earned by the recipient? They are not. They are fixed at the lowest amount which will make possible the subsistence of a single individual, and should apply equally to male and female. Surely the £1 decided upon in the case of a male is not too much for a single woman? Should not the matter be examined in that way? No selfrespecting government should suggest that a female who has to keep herself should receive only 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week merely because she is a” woman. The battle for recognition of equality of the sexes has been almost won. The cause will not be advanced by saying that. we shall take only ls. a week from a woman because she earns £3 a week and ls. 6d. from a. man because he earns £5 a week, and require the woman to live on 15s., while recognizing that the man needs at least £1. I am opposed to the Govern- ment’s scheme because it introduces that element of sex inequality, and also because it has the real stigma of charity, which is not attachable to the existing pensions scheme. I can recall the words of the Prime Minister who introduced that scheme. He said “This is a right which we give to our pioneers upon attaining the agc of 65 years in the case of men and 60 years in the case of women if they have served in industry in Australia for at least 20 years and have a clean record; this is their due, no matter whether they live in a cottage or a castle, as long as it is their own domicile and they do not draw rent, interest or profit from it.” The sex element has never been introduced into the invalid and old-age pensions scheme of this country. I say in the presence of the English experts who are in the chamber to-night, that that scheme has been acclaimed all over the world as one which other countries could well follow. The Treasurer did not put the case fairly. He cited the highest figures of the Commonwealth for the last 25 years. The whole of the economic activities of the world have been changed. He pointed out how the cost of pensions has ri.-en. Why did be not direct attention to the other side of the balance sheet and show how the national income has increased, and how the burden of indirect taxation has been made heavier, in order to balance the ledger? During the last six or seven years this Government has consistently hinted that .something of this sort should be done in order to relieve it of the responsibility of defraying the cost of invalid and old-age pensions, yet at the same time it has repeatedly remitted taxes that were payable by the richest section of the community. Twice the amount of money that has been added to the pensions bill has been remitted in taxes to the wealthy people of this country; such remissions amount to millions of pounds, and because the Government has now found that it must re-impose the taxes, or take some other course to increase the revenue, it has seen fit to abrogate a principle that has been in operation in this country for more than twenty years-
Tho Labour party is definitely opposed to any interference, or tampering, with the basis of our pensions scheme. Moreover, it considers that pensions should be provided for widows and orphans on the same basis as the invalid and old-age pensions. The money to provide these social services should be obtained by taxing the persons who enjoy high incomes in this country.
The scheme of this bill is not national in character, it is not universal in effect, and it is not on a fair basis. Neither the burdens nor the benefits operate equitably. The wives and children of certain taxpayers are excluded. Some of the benefits sought to be provided will have to be paid for by the recipients while they are between 16 and 65 years of age, whereas benefits will be provided for certain other persons who will have contributed nothing to the general fund. If this scheme is put into operation many thousands of our people who are excluded from it will feel ashamed to apply for the invalid and old-age pension. The greatest objection is to shifting the burden from the rich to the poor.
.- Although I did not hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), deliver his second-reading speech on this bill, I have read the report of it and I have listened to the speeches of other honorable members who have spoken in the debate. I have come to the conclusion that the purpose behind this bill is not to provide national health insurance, but to induce Parliament to take a step which will compel the workers of Australia to pay the whole cost of the social services they now enjoy. The words “ national health “ appear in the title of the bill, but in principle the measure contains nothing really effective to do with that subject. The Treasurer made this point clearer in the speech that he delivered this evening, than in the second-reading speech which he delivered on the 4th May. Unfortunately, the tendency so clearly noticeable in this bill has also been noticed in certain States in which non-Labour governments are in power. I have New South “Wales particularly in mind. The Government of that State has undoubtedly diverted the revenue, of the unemployment tax from the purpose for which it was intended to the provision of social benefits which previously had been paid for out of general revenue. The Commonwealth Government in this bill is now seeking to follow that vicious example. The Treasurer has frequently of late commented upon the increasing cost of the social benefits now being provided in the Commonwealth sphere. So far as I know, such benefits are limited to invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity allowance. It can hardly be said that war pensions and other commitments under our repatriation legislation are social services. This evening the Treasurer expressed the fear that, in spite of all the prosperity which the country is alleged to be enjoying, trouble lies ahead in regard to meeting payments for these social services. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman has information which is not available to the general public.
– There was no sinister implication in what I said.
– It seemed to me that the Treasurer was seeking to inform the country that the stability which we are sometimes told has been restored is not nearly so solid as, on occasions, we have been asked to believe. He said that in the course of a few years the expenditure of the Government in respect of pensions would reach an alarming figure, which would perturb future governments. For that reason this Government is seeking to alter the policy of this Parliament by transferring the burden of social services from the shoulders of the whole community to those of the workers, for whom the benefits have been chiefly provided. If, in such circumstances, Labour men were to support this bill as it stands we should be untrue to principles which have governed Labour policy since the party first became n power in Australia.
We believe that the workers have never been given a fair proportion of tho wealth that they have produced. For that reason Labour has endeavoured, by certain legislative activities and other processes, to fashion the economic structure of the country so that the workers would ultimately enjoy a larger share of the national wealth. The setting-up of industrial courts and wage-fixing tribunals was one part of that process. The provision of social services was another part of it. These social services might fairly be described as a national dividend to the workers. By means of pensions for those who need them, and child endowment for those rearing families, it is possible to give the worker a greater share of the wealth of the country than can be obtained through the medium of wages. Labour believes that this is the only way under * our present system that the workers can obtain anything approaching their proper share of the wealth of this country. Such a policy must inevitably be beneficial to the whole community, for undoubtedly it adds to the purchasing power of the people. By supplementing the income of the workers in this way we undoubtedly benefit society as a whole. Such a policy is much to be preferred to one which would have the effect of allowing an altogether undue proportion of the wealth produced to remain in the hands of those who are sometimes called “ the captains of industry “. When compulsion is necessary to provide for a more adequate distribution of wealth by means of various forms of social services it should be applied.
Unfortunately, the Government is seeking to alter wholly the basis upon which our social services are established. During the life of this Parliament the financial powers behind the Government and its supporters have been drawing almost unceasing attention to the rising costs of our social services. We are continually being reminded that our pensions bill is so much higher than it was ten years ago, and so much higher than it was fifteen years ago. We have also been informed that at the end of this financial year the amount involved will be approximately £15,000,000. For this reason it is said that the Government should take steps to relieve the budget of a portion of. this burden. We complain, however, that insufficient attention has been given by the Government to the basic causes of this increase. The general economic conditions of the country are responsible. During the last six or seven years we have seen a gradual change in the outlook of our people - a change due to economic pressure which has made inevitable the rising cost of pensions in this country. Until about seven years ago the average son and daughter in this country looked upon it as a responsibility, if they were capable, to provide for their parents when age or invalidity overtook them. I think it quite true that that sentiment was deeply embedded in the home life of the Australian people. Prior to that time many aged or invalid parents did not apply for the pension because they were being maintained by their children. But a change has overtaken the community since 1930. Adult sons and daughters upon whom the responsibilities of life have fallen are now finding that they are unable to obtain employment to provide even for themselves, much less to provide for their unfortunate parents as they would wish to do. In many instances they are unable to provide adequately for their own families. This has meant that many old and invalid people have applied for the pension, who, under the circumstances of other days, would not have done so. It is this radical change that -has caused the substantial increase of our pensions bill. The Government, however, has not seen fit to attack the root causes of this trouble, and make such adjustments as would permit our people to continue to observe the habits and customs of the last generation.
We must, therefore, study this bill in the light of those circumstances. It is alleged that the bill is designed to provide national health insurance. I have yet to be convinced that this end will be achieved by the workers attaching themselves to the panels of local medical practitioners. Neither the extensive propaganda of those interested in. the promotion of this scheme, nor the speeches delivered by Government supporters in the course of this debate, have awakened any conviction in my mind that the scheme of this bill is either national or really beneficial to the workers.
If the Government is genuinely desirous of bringing about a condition of national health in the true sense of that term, it is necessary to go into the homes of the workers, and to study seriously the conditions under which a large section of the people live, particularly the circumstances under which many children are being reared to-day. During the life of the last Parliament the then Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) declared that no fewer than 40 per cent, of the children of Australia were suffering to some extent from malnutrition. A similar assertion appeared in a report submitted by the nutrition committee appointed by the present Government. That committee, I understand, has not completed its inquiry, but has presented a supplementary report regarding conditions in country districts, particularly in New South Wales. Therefore, we should not allow ourselves to be carried into the clouds in discussing this bill. There is no justification for trying to make the public believe that, by the introduction of this scheme, national health will be secured to an extent never previously experienced. Beginning with attention to the conditions under which children are brought up, and going into many other aspects of our social life, vitally necessary reforms should first receive earnest consideration at the hands of the Government. I could speak at considerable length about the conditions that prevail in my own electorate. The housing conditions in a number of centres there are deplorable, and tend to undermine the health of the people. Children need more fresh air than they are able to obtain under average housing conditions in crowded industrial suburbs. Bearing in mind all these factors, the whole matter should be viewed from an angle entirely different from that from which this bill approaches it.
What medical benefits are proposed to be provided under this measure? Insured persons will have the right to be attached to the panel of a local doctor, or some other medical practitioner whom they may care to choose from a list that will be supplied to them. Possibly the panels of some doctors will have large numbers of persons and, according to information I have received, the conditions that prevailed during the early stages of the operation of the scheme in Great Britain, will be experienced in Australia. I am advised that the way in which patients were dealt with by the panel doctor was even more rapid than the manner in which traffic cases are heard in metropolitan courts. The patients merely walked into the surgery and walked out again, and behind the scenes, provision was made for different kinds of medicines to be handed out in accordance with the decision reached by the doctor as the patientspassed through the room. I understand that four large jars of different medicines were mixed ready for use behind the curtains in the surgery, and as the panel doctor was forced to deal in a stereotyped way with the patients who were lined up in hundreds, they were simply labelled to receive medicine from either one of those jars. I received this information from Australian doctors who had visited Great Britain for hospital experience and had also done locum tenens work. It is true that that condition of affairs has been remedied to a degree, but the British scheme does not ensure anything approaching the medical attention obtained in Australia under the friendly societies system. Here the medical man sees that the patient is properly cared for, and tries to discover his real needs. It is not always necessary for a doctor to prescribe medicine, as the patient may need rest or a change, or merely advice. I am informed that only by direct and personal relations between the medical man and the patient can national health be secured. Under the proposal in this bill, those who contribute to the cost of the scheme will not receive anything like the proper medical attention they need, or indeed the treatment many of them already receive to-day.
The frequency of resort to hospitals was mentioned by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. This matter of hospital accommodation and treatment has become a serious matter in New South Wales. Earlier in the evening, by way of interjection, I referred to the national debt. If the national debt is increasing as the result of expenditure by the States, as the Treasurer stated, we should remember that .the people in the States and in the Commonwealth are the same individuals, and the burden of both State and Commonwealth expenditure falls on their shoulders. My answer to the Treasurer was that if the debt of tho Commonwealth is declining and the State debts are increasing, the States are carrying responsibilities which the Commonwealth should be willing to share. If the debt is increasing the Commonwealth cannot evade its responsibility by casting all the blame on the States. The hospital question is one of the responsibilities of the States, and at the present time they are not providing hospital services to the extent that they are required. Almost every medical practitioner says that delay is experienced, particularly in country centres, in getting X-ray treatment. From three to nine months may elapse before such treatment can be obtained. The present centralized hospital services deprive medical practitioners and patients in the country of reasonable access to the most modern equipment. Local medical practitioners would have a better opportunity than they have at the present time to prevent the spread of disease and to maintain healthy conditions among the workers, if such equipment were readily available in country areas and even in suburban districts. These are matters to which the Commonwealth Government should give serious attention, if it sincerely desires to bring about national health. These things are the very basis upon which national health depends. Unfortunately, our Health Department does little or nothing in this connexion. When an effort is made to do something, in this House we are told that it is the responsibility of the States, not of the Commonwealth. I am not satisfied that the workers should be lined up for medical examination on conditions similar to those which have obtained in Great Britain. A worker who in the early stages of tuberculosis requires X-ray treatment and careful attention, will be sadly disillusioned if he thinks that under this scheme he will get the attention that he needs. I have here a letter from the Trade Unions Congress in Great Britain, which contains the following: -
Sir Walter recommends for Australia the same kind of medical benefit as we have here, namely, a general practitioner service as set out in paragraph 34 of his report. Our criticism of that service is that it is not by any means complete. The practitioner has no link with consultants or specialists of any kind and the range of services that he can give is strictly limited. This again is, in our opinion, a very serious drawback in the medical benefit, and although a royal commission as far back as 1925 recommended the provision of a consultant and specialist service it has not yet been done.
I draw the attention of the workers of Australia to the fact that under this scheme they will not get anything like the service that they are now getting from the friendly societies. In cooperation with the medical fraternity, the friendly societies throughout the country have done a most valuable work. I want the workers to know that, with this legislation on the statute-book, they will not get the service that they now enjoy, even though they make greater contributions than they have ever made before. The letter from which I have quoted emphasizes the importance of consultation. In fairness to the practitioners themselves, I say that it will be physically impossible for them to do what this bill imposes. The workers must not be misled. We are told that if we hold up the passage of this measure, we shall regret our action and we shall deny to many in the community the advantages of this legislation, but I remain unimpressed ; I believe that the scheme will not do what is claimed for it. It will not give the service that is now provided. I am, therefore, forced to say that behind this scheme is not a desire to give medical benefits but an attempt to shift the responsibility for social services from the Government on to the shoulders of those who later in life may need them. This fundamental change of policy on these matters must be strenuously opposed by Labour.
I wish now to refer to the importance of the home and the family. Anyone who inquires from medical men will be told that most of the medical benefits of the friendly societies are enjoyed by the wives and children of the workers rather than by the heads of families. Young mothers are naturally inexperienced in training children and w-hen their children show symptoms of illness they call in a doctor. Even though no prescription may be required, the presence of the doctor gives confidence and removes unnecessary fear. Regarded from the point of view of its effect upon family life, this bill is unsatisfactory. The Treasurer said that the Government will not call upon single men to accept responsibilities that should fall upon married men. In effect, he says that the Government intends to *’ walk out “ on married men and their wives and children. If this country is to justify, amongst many other things, its occupation of so large a territory, it dare not walk out on its married men. A government’s first consideration should be towards those who establish homes in the community and rear families. Many families have experienced hard times during the last few years, as every honorable member knows. If the Government washes its hands of its responsibility in respect of married men and their wives and children it will be disregarding obligations that are vital to the national well-being. Honorable members have only to call to mind the recent outbreak of infantile paralysis which was particularly severe in New Zealand, and in Victoria, although, fortunately, not so severe in° New South Wales, to realize that we cannot even contemplate a denial of the community’s responsibility in respect of these children and their mothers. I do not ask that any single man should be called upon to do more than Iris share, but we must bear in mind that the single man of to-day may be the married man of to-morrow. It is the duty of the Government to take care of the wives and children of the workers in the community. The Treasurer may say that this can be left to the friendly societies, but I point out that every shilling taken from the family income is a shilling less to spend on the necessaries of life. After all, not many workers really receive the basic wage all the year round. It must be remembered that the basic wage is not a wage which must be paid in all weathers, wet and dry, and when men are unemployed ; it is a wage which men get sometimes, and nowadays very rarely. It would be safe to say that many workers receive not more than half the basic wage throughout the year. Since January of this year, I have noticed that large numbers of men in New South Wales have been in search of employment because of the cessation of road construction, and other State activities. Every shilling taken from the meagre earnings of men on or below the basic wage deprives them, or their wives and children, of things that they badly need. To them ls. means as much as does £1, or even £10, to others in the community. A worker has many calls upon his scanty purse - the wages tax, the insurance tax, and so on. Some of them have taken out life assurance policies; the Treasurer will not say that they should be surrendered, or that the workers had no right to incur such liabilities. These policies retain their value only by the payment regularly of the -premiums on them.
– The Treasurer mentioned that 3,000,000 policies are in force. Many of those provide no security for the family at all; they are taken out merely to enable probate duty to be paid at death.
– If we were to study the family budget of the average working man, and consider what his commitments are, we should more readily appreciate the difficulty he experiences in paying his way. When in the past the workers claimed higher wages, the argument of the employers was that industry could not bear the additional burden; that factories would be forced to close. The working man, however, cannot close his home when additional burdens are placed upon him. He cannot walk out and leave his wife and family. If he bo a man at all, he must stand up to his responsibilities, and when extra burdens are placed upon him he must reduce his expenditure in other directions. Every man must pay his insurance premiums, his lodge dues, and his trade union subscriptions. It is necessary that the working man should belong to an organization so that, by association with his fellows, he may be in a position to defend his rights, and this entails certain financial obligations which must be discharged. For that reason, we disagree with the Treasurer, who stated that if the working man wished to make provision for medical services for his wife and children, he should do so through a friendly society. We say that to do so would be to take upon himself a greater burden than he should be asked to carry. We believe that the efforts of this Parliament should be directed towards reducing the working man’s burden, rather than towards increasing it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) when in Great Britain recently, made many speeches at banquets and official luncheons extolling the sacrifices of the people of Australia during the depression. That is all very well; but the depression is over now, and the workers are entitled to expect something better. [Leave to continue given.’] Honorable members opposite have, in their speeches, shown a disposition to rebuke the Leader of the Opposition, and the Opposition generally, for having had the temerity to question this bill, and for having asked that it be withdrawn for the purpose of being redrafted. They should, realize that if they are justified in rebuking the Leader of the Opposition on this score, they should also rebuke those numerous organizations throughout the country which have expressed disapproval of the measure for one reason or another. I refer particularly to the medical profession, hospital boards, ambulance associations, and friendly societies. At an earlier stage, I sought information from the Government regarding the regulations which would be made under this measure. It is almost as important that honorable members should be acquainted with these regulations as that they should have the bill before them. In fact, they should be supplied with a copy of the regulations at the same time as they are given a copy of the bill.
According to the Prime Minister, certain arrangements were entered into between the Government and the council of the British Medical Association. It is fairly clear that whatever those arrangements might have been, no consulation took place between the council and the rank and file of the medical profession. I am “open to correction, but it is my opinion that the advice tendered to the Government was given by the specialist section of the medical profession, and in no way represented the opinion of the ordinary practitioners, particularly those in the country. The arrangement come to might suit the city specialists well enough, but it is evident that it is not satisfactory to the men who will have to do the actual work, and who will get very little for it. I am pleased that these men are standing up for their rights.
– I discussed the matter with the Federal Council of the British
Medical Association, and one cannot get a more representative body than that.
– It is obvious that, in this instance, the council did not represent the opinion of the majority of members of the association. The Government received certain advice from experts brought from England, but conditions here are very different from those overseas. I can understand the resentment with which the country doctors received the Government’s proposals. A country doctor may be called upon to visit a patient 10 or 15 miles away. He must make an immediate diagnosis, and accept responsibility for his decision. He cannot arrange for a consultation, nor can he send the patient for an X-ray. He must make the decision himself, and he is entitled to be adequately paid for the responsibility he has to bear. 1 am informed that, in the northern coalfields districts, the workers, while insisting upon good conditions for themselves, insist also upon good conditions for the medical men who look after them.
I trust that when the bill is in the committee stage the Treasurer will be able to give us full information upon the various points that will be raised. Honorable members will want to know what is being done in respect of casual and part-time workers. They will also seek information regarding the position of workers already subscribing to superannuation funds, such as those in the railways and tramways services. I understand that employees who contribute to funds guaranteed by State or Federal Governments will be exempt from contributions, but what of those who contribute to municipal and private superannuation funds which are not guaranteed ? Many of the clauses in the bill have a whole series of sub-clauses and paragraphs which require a great deal of explanation. Some of them appear, to the layman, to be actually contradictory.
The Treasurer, when speaking to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, said that this scheme was the first in which provision was made for the payment of pensions to widows, and the first which provided for payments in respect of children. I remind him that widows’ pensions have been paid in New South Wales for a number of years past.
– And who introduced the scheme ?
– Mr. Lang did. The scheme also provides for allowances to children, and Mr. Lang introduced that also. These benefits have been enjoyed by the workers of New South Wales for many years; the recipients have not been called upon to make any contributions, and no conditions have been laid down in respect of them. These payments become the right of persons eligible to receive them. I therefore repeat that the principle referred to by the Treasurer was established by a New South Wales Labour government in connexion with its measures for social reforms, the purpose being to place greater purchasing power in the hands of a larger number of persons, and to cause the State as a whole to share the burdens and assist those whose position in life has been prejudiced by circumstances over which they had no control. Judging by the expressions of opinion “which we have heard in this debate, I confidently believe that the wrong being done by this Government in the bill will in due time be removed by a future Labour government, which will put this legislation back on a basis which the people of Australia have supported for so many years and, I believe, wish to be maintained.
.- This proposal for the inauguration of a national health and insurance scheme has been on the programme of various political parties for many years. It was first spoken of in 1925 when the International Labour Conference at Geneva made a declaration that the only satisfactory scheme would be one that was contributory in character. Following the conference, Dr Earle Page, who was Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, framed the National Insurance Bill and moved its second-reading in this House in J 928. Tho cost of that scheme was so staggering, the swing of the political pendulum was so sudden, and the depression so oppressive, that the measure was laid aside for the time being. The project has been remodelled and brought up to date by this Government and it is now before this House for consideration. The working man who is married and has a family and the young unmarried man who may be contemplating matrimony frequently ask themselves what would happen if they were to become ill or die. This bill will remove that worrying uncertainty from nearly 2,000,000 people in Australia.
The increased cost of pensions is threatening national solvency. Since 1909-10 when the pensions scheme was inaugurated, the number of pensioners has increased by 500 per cent, and the amount of pensions payable, by over 1,000 per cent. When Dr. Earle Page introduced the previous insurance bill in 1928, the pensions bill of the Commonwealth amounted to £8,250,000. This year it is in the vicinity of £16,000,000. The time has come to call a halt. If we examine these figures further, we shall find that, starting in 1909-10, there were 65,492 pensioners who received pensions amounting to £1,497,330. The breadwinners in the community at that time totalled 1,652,280, or approximately 25 breadwinners to every pensioner, and the payment per breadwinner was 18s. lOd. a. year. In 1926-27 the number of pensioners had risen to 175,721 and the total pension payments to £8,252,387. The number of breadwinners was 1,945,000 and the ratio of breadwinners to pensions was eleven to one; the average payments per breadwinner had increased to £4 5s. 5d. In this financial year, as the Treasurer has informed us, there are 311,000 pensioners, and the total payment is likely to be £15,850,000. The breadwinners in tho community number 2,270,000, and the ratio of breadwinners to pensioners is down to seven to one, whilst the payment per breadwinner will be £6 19s. 7d. The Treasurer estimates that by 1978. assuming that the present rate of increase is maintained, the number of pensioners will be 625,000 and tho total pensions bill approximately £32,000,000. By that year breadwinners will number approximately 2,370,370, and the payments on account of pensions per head of breadwinners will be £13 10s., whilst the ratio of breadwinners to pensioners will be only four to one. It will be seen that with the increasing percentage of aged people in 1978, under the existing system, a much larger proportion of the national income will be necessary to provide the amount required for pensions. It has been estimated that it would take, on an average, 5s. a week from every breadwinner’s wages to pay for pensions, and there would be but two workers in the community for every person who had reached the age at which pensions were payable.
National health is a national asset. The scheme contained in this bill will not only stabilize the pensions position, but it will also remove the hideous nightmare of fear from 1,850,000 people who will be protected by the Government’s proposal. lt has often been said that humanitarianism is the yard-stick of civilization and that democracy has decreed that all the good things of life are not meant for the wealthy favoured few. The policy of governments from time to time has been to take an increasing proportion by taxation from the wealthy persons in the community and distribute it in various social services. Thus we had the introduction of free education, pensions, hospitals, and other social services, the cost of which is nearly £50,000,000 a year or £7 a head of the population. In New South Wales, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said to-night, there are additional social services such as widows’ pensions and child endowment. The honorable member wa3 in error, however, when he said that these “benefits were available without conditions. There is the means test based on much the same principle as the means test in connexion with o”r invalid and old-age pensions payments.
This bill provides an insurance policy by means of which the workers will be obliged to observe compulsory thrift to ensure a measure of medical attention, medicine, sick pay, widows’ benefits and an old-age annuity. Since the cost of all social services comes out of production, we have to acknowledge that there is a limit to which governments may go in taxation. If, by its proposals, the Government takes from those who produce the wealth of this country an excessive share of their production, we shall eventually reach that stage when the law of diminishing returns will become operative. If the incentive to pro- duce is taken away from the people who create wealth, and the production of wealth declines, the living standards of our people must decline to a corresponding degree. It is established that excessive taxation weakens the incentive to produce. ‘Hence, we find that in this scheme the Government has had regard to the advice from Geneva, and has evolved a scheme embodying the principle of compulsory thrift, in addition to medical and sickness benefits.
As regards the conditions, I think the proposal is a particularly good bargain for those who will come under the scheme. No insurance company and no friendly society could give anything like the same benefits for the same contributions. Actuarial calculations have been made on the basis of a sixteen-year-old life, but even on that basis only about one-third is directly paid by the insured, while on a 32-year basis, the average age at the commencement of the scheme, and with selected lives, the contribution for health benefits alone would be, in the case of a male contributor, ls. 3d., for pensions Sa. 9d., or a total of 7s. compared with the contribution of 3s. provided for in the bill. For females, the contributions on an actuarial basis would be ls. 2d. a week for health benefits, 4s. Id. a week for pension benefits, making a total of 5s. 3d. compared with 2s. in the bill. These figures, however, are not nearly so impressive as typical illustrations. For example, the man, at the average of 32 years, with two children, after paying for 26 weeks a total of 39s. is eligible, in addition to medical treatment for 26 weeks, for sick pay £26, and £9 2s. for the children, while the payments would continue at 22s. a week for the duration of the sickness. In the event of his death 19s. 6d. a week or £50 14s. a year would be paid to his wife and children as long as widowhood and dependency continued. Should he, as is likely on the law of averages, live to 70 years, his five years’ annuity would be £100 more than his total contributions, with all his medical and sickness benefits thrown in.
It is natural that the employer and the taxpayer should complain about the cost of these social services; but I fail to understand why complaint should come from those who arc likely to receive benefits under the scheme. Some criticism has been directed to those provisions relating to the position of insured females and there is a suggestion of unfair discrimination. I think the Treasurer put the position very fairly and clearly this afternoon, when he compared the relative benefits of male and female contributors. For the information of honorable members, let me cite figures relating to two specific cases, and direct their attention to the generous advantages to both, particularly to the insured female. We are told by insurance companies that with the average age of insured persons at the commencement of the scheme at 32 years, the expectancy of life will be 70 years for the man, and 73 years for the female. It is common knowledge that women require, or at any rate demand, more medical attention than men do; but let us disregard this and consider the position on the flat rate basis. In the 41 years from the age of 32 years to 73 years the average female would be entitled to 41 years medical and dispensary service, costing 15s. a year, or a total of £30 15s. Figures obtained from British insurance authorities show that we can calculate that the average number of weeks during which a woman would be ill and claim sick pay until she reached the age of 60 years would be 56 weeks at 15s. a week, or £42. Her annuity between the ages of 60 and 73 years, at 15s. a week, would total £507. Thus, the average service and payments to the women of average age entering the scheme at its inception would be £579 15s. Her contributions, in order to secure those benefits would be: five years, up to the age of 44 years at ls. a week, £13; 23 years between that age and the age of 60 years, at ls, 3d. a week, £74 15s. ; a total of £87 15s. for a benefit of £579 15s. Will anybody dare to say that that is not a particularly generous scheme for the females who are provided for? It amounts to £6 12s. for every contribution of £1. Now take the case of a man of the same age. With an expectancy of life of 70 years, the 32-year-old male will receive medical and dispensary service for 38 years, which, at a cost of 15s. a year, would be worth £28 103. The average number of weeks during which he would be ill and would claim sick pay, according to British experience, would be 3S. At £1 a week, he would receive £38, together with children’s allowance for 38 weeks. Under this heading, a man with one child would receive £6 13s. His oldage assurance from 65 to 70 years would be £260. These three services and benefits, to a man of 32 years of age entering the scheme at its inception, would total £333 3s. His contributions, in order to secure them, would be : first five years, up to 1944, at ls. 6d. a week, £19 103.; five years till 1944, at ls. 9d. a week, £22 15s. ; 28 years up to the age of 65 years, at 2s. a week, £119 12s., a total of £161 17s. for a benefit of £333 3s. If we compare that with the women’s privileges, we find that a man would receive £2 ls. for every contribution of £1 - with an alternative provision, if necessary, should his wife become a widow - while his wife would receive £6 13s. for each £1 she pays in or a total of £579 15s. for her contribution of £87 15s. I maintain that the ladies of the community have no grounds whatever for complaint in regard to discrimination being practised against them. Eather is the boot on the other foot. The Government is being particularly generous in providing an alternative voluntary scheme to enable them to contribute an extra 6d. a week, if they so desire, so that in their old age they may receive £1, instead of 15s. a week, as an annuity. These benefits are far ahead of what could possibly be secured from any insurance company in the land. We have also to take into consideration the income of the insured person. As the income of the female section of the community is hut 52 per cent, that of the male section, the Government is quite justified in making the provision that women shall be able to enter the scheme at a rate which _ is more commensurate with their capacity to pay out of the wage that they receive, instead of endeavouring to put them on the same basis as men in regard to contributions and benefits.
– Why not raise their wages ?
– We are dealing with a national insurance scheme, not with the wages of any section of the community. Every honorable member will admit that the friendly societies have done wonderful work in providing co-operatively for protection against sickness, funeral and medical benefits, and sick pay. Because of the number of their members, they will have a very big say in the working of this proposal of the Government. As those who are outside their ranks could voluntarily have entered them had they so desired, the Government would not be justified in making it compulsory for all the workings of this huge national scheme to be operated by friendly societies. Compulsion will be used in order to bring all employees under the scheme. But we should have no more compulsion than is necessary. It is not necessary to extend this provision. There will be more efficiency, greater economy, and better service, if there is some competition between the various societies that are formed. The concern of the Government is, that there shall be the utmost efficiency and economy, and that insured persons shall receive the greatest benefit from the contributions that are made by themselves, their employers, and the Commonwealth. It is a policy of compulsory thrift, as well as of compulsory provision for medical assistance in substitution for a means test and an old-age pension as a charity. We know that, within recent years, thrift has not been practised to as great an extent as was formerly the case. This is proved by the increasing number of those who, having reached the pensionable age, are making a claim for the pension. The introduction of a scheme such as this is a national service. We shall find that the people will save instead of dispossess themselves of assets, and that they will have considerably more comfort in their old age than would be the case if they had to depend solely on the old-age pension.
There is one reference that I desire to make in connexion with insured persons. It has been suggested that an insured person may not be allowed to choose the society which he desires to enter. I consider that no society should have the power to reject an application for membership.If a man desires to enter a society in the vicinity of his home, that society should not have the power to refuse to accept him, or to reject an application for the transfer of an insured person from some other locality. I hope that the Treasurer will keep that point in mind, and will see that provision is made to prevent any society from attempting to make its branch exclusive and rejecting an insured applicant who desires to be connected with it.
– In my second-reading speech I made it clear that an insured person will be free to choose the society he desires to join.
– But some societies may think that they have the power to reject an applicant. That should not be allowed. Friendly societies have had such a good start that they need be under no apprehension. The concern they have already shown is not justified. Even though insurance companies, trade union organizations, and other societies may also be established as “ approved societies ‘”, the record of service of existing friendly societies, I feel sure, will stand to them. They can look forward to gathering in a very big proportion of those who will join up under this national scheme.
Many anomalies have been disclosed by the debate, as well as by a study of the measure. Some of them will gradually disappear as time goes on. Although the farmer is not allowed to come under the scheme to-day, the plough-boy, who will be the farmer of to-morrow, will be covered by it. The cowboy of to-day, who will be the dairy-farmer of to-morrow, will be an insured person, because he is in receipt of wages. It will be competent for him to remain in the scheme if he so desires. The apprentice engineer, who may be a foundry proprietor in the years to come, and the shop-boy, who may become an Anthony Hordern, also are covered. The majority of persons begin at the bottom of the ladder and gradually rise. As time goes by, a much larger percentage of the people of Australia will automatically be covered by this scheme in their younger years, and will have the option of remaining in it voluntarily. These provisions, however, do not apply to the small employer of the present day. Hundreds of thousands of such men will be excluded from the benefits of this legislation. The obligation rests on the Government to balance the scales fairly by making such provision as will ensure that justice is done to those who are excluded by this proposal.
– The House voted against the proposal. The honorable member himself voted against it.
– There is a certain way in which a thing should be done. Whether it be by exempting an employer whose income is below a certain amount, or by placing those sections of rural industry which are on export parity and have no home price for their product on the same basis as secondary industries, and other primary industries which enjoy the advantage of a home consumption price, the obligation rests on the Government to see that injustice is not done. The big employer, whether in factory, transport, large warehouse, or any other organized industry, will add his contribution to his overhead costs, as is now done with the sales tax,workmen’s compensation, and other outgoings. If a factory is working on a five per cent. margin of profit, the employer will pass on this additional burden. He will not be at a disadvantage, because his competitor also will have to pass it on. But the trouble is, that certain sections of the community will not be able to pass it on, and that is where injustice will be done. The butter industry has an organization - it may be hanging by weak threads - which enables it to fix a home consumption price for its product. There is a home consumption price also for rice, sugar, dried fruits, and the secondary industries of this country. But the meat, wool, and wheat industries have not a home consumption price. Their returns are determined by export parity. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out in this House last week, those producers receive less than export parity; they get world price less the cost of transport and marketing. Such producers are making a contribution to the consumers of this country. The report presented to this Parliament two or three years ago by the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry statedvery definitely that there was no reason whatever why the wheat producers should not have a home consumption price for their products, in common with other primary producers. This is one method by which,
I submit, the Government is obliged to protect those of the community who will be penalized by being compelled to pay their employees’ contributions to this scheme, but cannot pass them on by raising the price of their products.
The following figures relate to classes of the community which will not be covered by this bill, but will be penalized by it:-
Some thousands of these people would be unable to pass on the cost to them of this scheme. I now ask honorable gentlemen to consider the income tax returns of these producers. They will then realize how inequitable it would be to compel them to pay the contribution at present set clown as their proportion. Of these 110,450 people only 10,273 paid income tax in 1933-34. In other words, 90 per cent. of them had an income which fell below the range of federal income taxation. In spite of this injustice it would be adopting a dog in the manger attitude to vote against the bill, for its provisions would benefit nearly 2,000,000 people.
– Nevertheless those whom the honorable member mentioned are an important section.
– That is so, and an obligation rests upon the Government to deal justly with them.
– How would the honorable member do so?
– Mr. Speaker would not allow me to discuss that subject.
Mr.Curtin. - The honorable member may surely make a positive proposal.
– My proposal is that the State governments should bring machinery into existence, by declaration or by State legislation, for the fixing of a homeconsumption price. The Commonwealth Government could levy an excise duty on that price for an equalization fund which would compensate the primary producers to some extent.
– Then the employers’ contribution, to that extent, would be a mere fake?
– That is not so. Paragraph 162 of the first report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry stated that “ The tariff raised the price of growing wheat by about 9 per cent.” That is equivalent to 4d. a bushel. This scheme with workers’ compensation definitely adds another1d. a bushel to the farmers’ costs. The Royal Commission also stated that the wheat-growers of Australia were giving the Australian consumers an advantage of1s. a bushel over worldprices on every bushel of wheat sold for consumption within Australia.
– Obviously the honorable member desires that the employers shall be permitted to pass on their contribution, but that the workers must not be allowed to do so.
– That is not the case. I merely ask that these producers be put on the same basis as other employers, and I am pointing out that under this scheme the Government is placing a heavy penalty on one section of the community, many of whom are not enjoying even the basic wage. Such an injustice should not be permitted.
– The honorable member obviously thinks that the employers should be permitted to pass on their contribution, but he must know that the employees could not do so.
– The employees will receive big benefits from the scheme by means of sickness insurance, annuities, pensions to bereaved wives and children, and so on. People who insure with an insurance company in the ordinary way have themselves to pay the whole premium, but the prospective beneficiaries under this scheme will pay only one-third of the premium. In my opinion the scheme is particularly generous to the workers, but it is burdensome to primary producers who are not in a position comparable with that of the manufacturers. As 90 per cent. of the people for whom I am speaking have an income of less than £250 a year I ask the Government to take steps to rectify the injustices that would be imposed upon them. While we believe that a scheme which will benefit 2,000,000 persons should be endorsed, we do not think that one section should be heavily penalized to achieve that object. Democracy is designed to gain the greatest good for the greatest number, but minorities must have protection. All I ask is that the primary producer shall be protected by the Government against the injustice which exists under the bill as drafted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
House adjourned at 1 0.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he table a return showing in detail the total amount paid from Commonwealth revenue since 1st July, 1932, by way of assistance to primary industries, whether by grant, bounty or advance, and giving thetotal made available to each individual industry each year ?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Duty on Oregon Timber.
e asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Oregon means an additionalcost on a fiveroomed brick and stone house of approximately£16?
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give an undertaking that when the Defence Estimates for 1938-39 are being prepared, favorable consideration will be given to making an increase in the grant for rifle clubs so that additional clubs may be formed, and new members may be enrolled in districts where young men are prepared to give this form of voluntary national service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Estimates for the next financial year have not yet been considered, and it is not possible to make any statement on the prospective vote other than that no reduction” is at present contemplated.
Fumes from Motor Vehicle Engines.
y asked the Acting Minis- ter for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Can anything be done to prevent the exhaust fumes from the engines of the department’s motorbuses entering the passenger accommodation to the discomfort of the passengers and detriment to their health?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Allbuses have been checked for exhaust leaks between the engines and the terminal points of the exhaust pipes and have been found to be without fault. Large exhaust pipes are fitted to all thebuses to allow the exhaust gas free escape, but allbuses will have traces of exhaust smell when travelling in a following wind or when passing each other. It is considered that the departmental buses in Canberra are less subject to exhaust gas fumes thanbuses in most other centres. This matter is being closely watched by the transport officer.
y.- On the 19th May, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
y.-On the 18th May, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) asked the following question. without notice -
In connexion with naval recruiting, will the Minister for Defence consider the desirability of accepting those older lads, who, as a result of the depression, are still unable to obtain employment in preference to engaging younger lads, as at present?
I am now in a position to inform the. honorable member as follows: -
The normal maximum ages for entry of recruits to the navy have already been increased; for example, ordinary seamen from 18 to 20½ years, with 21 for specially desirable candidates; and 18 to 21 for stokers, with 23 for specially desirable candidates. Artisans are entered up to 25, and specially desirable artisans up to 28.
In view of the special conditions which prevail in the depressed mining centres of the Newcastle district, the Minister has directed that special consideration shall be given by the Naval Board to applications for enlistment from these areas. Arrangements have accordingly been made for the policy of preference to younger lads, that is, those under eighteen, to be applied with some latitude in regard to applicants from these areas.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380524_reps_15_155/>.