15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer state what action the Government proposes to take concerning the reported ultimatum issued by medical practitioners that unless the fee of11s. a patient is increased they will refuse to render medical service under the national health and pensions insurance legislation?
– There has been no ultimatum.
– It is reported in this morning’s press that one has been issued.
– That does not necessarily prove that it has been.
– Has the Prime Minister or the Treasurer had any intimation from the Federal Executive of the British Medical Association (a) as to whether the members of that association in Australia are not prepared to render service under the conditions of the proposed act and regulations; and (b ) as to whether the Federal Executive of the British Medical Association is ready to negotiate for service under an altered set of conditions?
– I have had a communication from the secretary of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, and at an early hour, I believe this afternoon,I am to meet the members of that council.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absencefor two months be given to the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), the Attorney -General (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), on the ground of urgentpublic business.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Industry ascertain from the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Industrial Board whether steps have been taken to declare, during the sittings of the board which commence in Canberra this week, an award for transport drivers in this city on the lines of the award that has been made in respect of the drivers of government transport lorries?
– I shall consult my colleague, the Acting Minister for Industry, and let the honorable gentleman have an answerto-morrow.
Training in England.
– Can the Minister for Defence state whether it is the intention of the Government, during the presence in Australia of Major-General Squires, to send one or more of the senior staff officers of the Commonwealth defence forces to Great Britain, with a view to enabling him or them to gain a closer knowledge of defence developments abroad ?
– It is the practice of the Department of Defence to send to the United Kingdom for special training and on exchange quite a number of officers from each of the services. The question of sending a special senior officer to the United Kingdom following upon the arrival in Australia of the newly appointed Inspector-General of the Military Forces has not been considered by the Government.
Prohibition Against Importation
– This morning’s press reports that regulations are to be promulgated with the object of preventing the importation of twenty American magazines. Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to submit the names of the magazines concerned ?
– No. It has not been the custom in the past to submit the names of banned books or magazines. The usual procedure will be followed in this ease. A list of the books concerned will be forwarded to Customs Houses in the various States, and will be available to interested parties. In some cases, publicity merely has the effect of increasing the public demand.
– by leave - As honorable members are aware, the situation in regard to the German minority in Czechoslovakia is causing grave anxiety; but reports which have appeared in certain sections of the press give a misleading presentment of the position.
It will be remembered that the FrancoCzechoslovak Treaty of 1925 provides that France and Czechoslovakia undertake to lend each other immediate aid and assistance in the event of unprovoked aggression, and there is also a mutual assistance pact between Czechoslovakia and Soviet Russia to a similar effect. France and Soviet Russia have, accordingly, definite treaty obligations towards Czechoslovakia. That is not so in the case of Great Britain. Mr. Chamberlain made it clear in the House of Commons on the 24th March last, that Great Britain was not prepared to give an assurance to France that in the event of its being called upon, by reason of German aggression against Czechoslovakia, to implement its treaty obligations under the Franco-Czechoslovak Treaty, Great Britain would comewith its full military forces to the assistance of France. Great Britain would not, accept a commitment of this kind in relation to an area where vital British interests were not concerned. Mr. Chamberlain added, however, that itmust be realized that if war broke out it was unlikely to be confined to those who had assumed legal obligations, and it was quite possible that other countries in addition to the parties to the original dispute would be involved. “ This “, he observed, “is especially true of two countries like Great Britain and France, with long associations of friendship, with interests closely interwoven, devoted to the same ideals of democracy and liberty, and determined to uphold them “. I wish to assure the House that this remains the policy of the British Government to-day. I emphasize that the British Government has assumed no new commitments in regard to Czechoslovakia during the last few days.
In order to understand the present position in Czechoslovakia, brief reference is necessary to its history, ethnographic and geographic circumstauces. With the exception of a very small part of what was formerly German Silesia, the territory of the new Czechoslovakia had formed part of the Austrian Empire. The people had been subjects of the Emperor of Austria, and not of the German Emperor. The population of Czechoslovakia, like that of other Danubian countries, is made up of mixed races. Out of a total population of 15,000,000 over 3,000,000 are of German race and speak the German language. By the treaty of Versailles, Czechoslovakia became a selfgoverning nation and was admitted to membership of the League of Nations.
After the accession to power of Herr Hitler in Germany, the Sudeten German party was formed in Czechoslovakia by Herr Henlein, and rapidly gained ground. The cause of the Sudeten Germans was at the same time vigorously supported in the press of the Reich. Honorable members will appreciate the full import of the Henlein demands if they will consider for a moment the geographical position of Czechoslovakia. To-day the greater part of the Czechoslovak republic is surrounded by the territory of the German Reich. Germany is literally at its doors. From the present frontier of Czechoslovakia it is 25 miles, as the ‘plane flies, to Dresden, less than the distance from here to Collector; 60 miles to Leipzig, 100 miles to Munich, and only 108 miles to Berlin.
On the 24th April, Herr Henlein, the leader of the Sudeten Germans, outlined his programme, in which he demanded -
The Czechoslovak Government has not hitherto been favorably disposed to territorial autonomy for the Sudeten Germans, on the ground that this would weaken the internal cohesion of the State and lead to disintegration, though it has stated that it is prepared to make certain substantial concessions to the German minority. Since these demands were presented by Herr Henlein to Dr. Hodza, events have moved rapidly. Briefly stated, on the 20th May, a number of incidents occurred at Prague and elsewhere, including the shooting of two Sudeten Germans near the frontier. The Czechoslovak Government decided, in view of these incidents and of the reports of movements of German troops in the direction of the Czechoslovak frontier, to call up one out of five classes of reservists with a view to reassuring public opinion in the country, and ensuring the maintenance of the authority of the State.
The German Government has denied that any such movements of troops have in fact taken place. On the 22nd May, the political council of the Henlein party informed the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia that it was not in a position to hold conversations with the Czechoslovak Government so long as peace and order in the Sudeten country were not assured. An interview between Herr Henlein and the Czechoslovak Prime Minister has now, however, taken place, and there seem to be indications that a settlement of outstanding differences will he possible.
Honorable members will recollect that, in his speech in the House of Commons on the 24th March, Mr. Chamberlain observed that, so far as Czechslovakia was concerned, now was the time when all the resources of diplomacy should he enlisted in the cause of peace. The British Government has directed all its efforts to this end. It has recently and repeatedly represented to the German Government that a peaceful settlement of the Czechoslovak question was of vital importance if European civilization was to be preserved, and that it was expected that the German Government would cooperate in the efforts being made to maintain peace. The British and French Governments have made joint representations to the Czechoslovak Government, urging that every effort should be made to arrive at a reasonable and equitable solution of the Sudeten question. They have at the same time emphasized that every precaution should be taken to avoid unfortunate incidents.
Information received by the Commonwealth Government indicates that the tension in Czechoslovakia has to an extent diminished, and that the recent elections took place uneventfully. The representations made by the British and French Governments have, I think, largely contributed to an easing of tension in the situation, and I am hopeful that it will be possible to find a peaceful solution of this question which has so long been a disturbing factor in European politics.
– Is the Acting Minister for Commerce yet in a position to give information to the House concerning the activities of the ministerial trade delegation now in Great Britain concerning Australian meat exports for the current year?
– Yes. Reports to hand to-day indicate that we have experienced no difficulty in placing on the United Kingdom market the quantity of mutton and lamb which we desire to export up to the 30th June, and that for the period from the 1st July to the 30th September, although the figures have not gone forward, the delegation expects that there will be no difficulty.
– Is the Prime Minister able to advise the House upon what date the debate on foreign affairs, now listed as item No. 13 on the notice-paper, will take place? If he is unable to fix a definite date, will he state whether the Government intends that any such debate shall be held prior to the termination of the present parliamentary sittings next month ?
– In reply to the last portion of the question, the Government intends that the debate shall be resumed before honorable members disperse for the winter recess towards the end of June, or about that time. Although the item referred to is now the thirteenth on the notice-paper, the number will probably be changed to-morrow, or as soon as another item is inserted before it onthe agenda.
– Does the Minister for the Interior propose to make available to honorable members the report, extracts of which have already appeared in the press, of Dr. Donald Thomson <“>n the position of the aborigines in the Northern Territory?
– I had hoped that before now the final report 5f Dr. Thomson would have come to hand. I have recently had a letter from Dr. Thomson intimating that its presentation may be delayed somewhat, and, therefore, I propose to make the interim report available to honorable members immediately.
– Will the Treasurer ascertain if his department could readily furnish honorable members with a conspectus of the various forms of hospital services maintained by State governments and by voluntary organizations in various country areas throughout Australia, together with, tlie costs of those services, either to the governments or to the voluntary organizations, and the extent to which, if at all, the hospital authorities “will be affected by the passage of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill?
– I shall do my best to get information that will satisfy the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to state what is the present position on the waterfront in connexion with the threatened disturbance over the loading of materials such as tin plate and scrap iron for export?
– Most honorable members are aware of the result of the meeting of the waterside workers this morning. I have received a communication from the secretary intimating that the union has almost unanimously reversed the attitude previously taken by it with regard to the export of certain commodities to i apan
– Is it intended to continue indefinitely the export of scrap iron, while, at the same time, prohibiting the export of iron ore? In order to be consistent, will the Government take into consideration the limiting of the export of scrap iron, either when existing contracts have been terminated, or at the end of some definite period?
– As 1 intimated to the House on a previous occasion, when the Government was convinced that it was essential, in the interests of the Australian iron and steel industry, to place an embargo on the export of iron ore, it took action in that direction. On the information available, there is no evidence that it is necessary, in the interests of any Australian industry, to place an embargo on the export of the other commodity to which the honorable member referred. I give the House the assurance that, should the Government become convinced that such, action was necessary, it would not hesitate to take it.
– In view of the fact that the comparative table compiled recently at my request, relating to pensions and deferred pay of officers of the three arms of the defence forces shows that, in the majority of cases, the pensions of officers of the Australian defence forces are only about one-half of that of officers of similar rank in the defence forces of the United Kingdom, and in the case of officers of the highest grade only about one-third, will the Minister for Defence have steps taken in the near future to make the pension provision for Australian officers more adequate?
– This matter is now receiving consideration by a departmental r ommittee. When the report of that body is received it will be considered by ‘the Government, and I hope to be able to report that efforts will be made to rectify the anomalies referred to by the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Minister far the Interior in a position to table the report received from the New South Wale3 Government with regard to the Boock break-of-gauge device?
– I am not in a position to table the report, for the reason that it was furnished to me by the Minister for Transport in New South Wales with an intimation that it was for my confidential information.
– In view of the inauguration of a new air service to New Guinea, can the Minister for Defence say whether Thursday Island is to be equipped as a port of call ? Further, in view of the importance of Thursday Island, will he consider the construction of an aerodrome there?
– The new air service between Sydney -and New Guinea which will commence next Monday will not use Thursday Island as a stopping place. Steps are, however, being taken to provide improved facilities, including an aerodrome, at Thursday Island for other services which are contemplated.
– Does the Government propose to take any action to strengthen the defences of New Guinea in order to prevent that territory from being used as a base for an attack against Australia?
– My attention has been directed to a newspaper paragraph on this subject. The terms of the mandate under which Australia controls New Guinea preclude the making of any preparation for defence, the establishment of air bases, or, indeed, arming the territory in any way. Consequently, the measures suggested by the honorable member cannot be adopted.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Defence has asked the various rifle club associations throughout Australia to reduce their numbers, can he say what prospect there is of the inauguration of other clubs which are on the waiting list of the Defence Department i
– I have not asked the rifle clubs to reduce the numbers of their members. As I explained yesterday, the maximum number of members provided for at present is 50,000. As that number was being exceeded instructions were given to restrict the enrolment to the number mentioned, and for which financial provision has been made. The future expansion of rifle clubs, and the financial assistance to be given to them, is now under consideration. Whether or not the number will be increased beyond 50,000 will be decided by the Government in the near future in connexion with the Estimates for the ensuing year.
– Can the Minister for Defence say why the report of the aeronautical expert on Australia contains no reference to Tasmania, and will he make arrangements for an early report regarding Tasmania?
– As I have pointed out on other occasions, all matters relating to the defence of Australia are dealt with on a Commonwealth-wide basis. No State is dealt with as a State.
– In to-day’s press, serious allegations are made regarding departures from the approved plan for the layout and development of Canberra, to which I referred in this House recently. Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to set up a special body charged with the duty of seeing that the plan is not departed from?
– When the honorable member asked a question on this subject some time ago, I referred it to the Minister for the Interior, who is now giving it consideration.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that certain unemployed men who were applicants for work with the Main Roads Board of New South “Wales were deprived of their place on the register because they had joined a military camp for a fortnight? Will he take “steps to see that men who volunteer for military service are not placed at a disadvantage?
– I have no knowledge whatever of the matter referred to, but if the honorable gentleman will supply me with particulars, I shall be pleased to examine the position carefully, in order to see that such men suffer no disabilities.
– Can the Prime Minister say when it is proposed to introduce legislation to establish a mortgage bank for both primary and secondary industries, and can he say what steps are being taken to provide small loans on persona] security?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will place the second part of his question on the notice-paper. As to the first part of his question regarding legislation to establish a mortgage bank, I hope that a bill for that purpose will be introduced as soon as the measure dealing with national insurance has passed through this chamber.
-I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation to a case which seems to me to merit careful re-consideration. It relates to a certain ex-soldier who, after having been reported as illegally absent from duty, was found to have been killed in action on 28th October, 1916. His widow has been trying unsuccessfully all through the years to obtain a pension. I wrote to the Department on the subject, and received a reply which stated -
With reference to your representations of 10th May, 1938, I have to inform you that in January, 1032, advice was received from the Officer in Charge of Base Records, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, that as a result of representations to Army Head-quarters, the Honorable the Minister for Defence hart approved of a recommendation that the above- named soldier, who had previously been declared an illegal absentee, be adjudged to Iia ve been killed in action on 28th October, - 1910, on which date it was disclosed that he was last seen with his unit.
On receipt of this advice, the case was considered by the Repatriation Commission in February, J 932, and the applicant was subsequently informed that there was no provision under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which would permit the Repatriation Commission at such a stage to approve of a war pension being granted to her.
I ask the Minister whether he approves of a war widow being deprived of a pension in such circumstances. If not, will he take steps to cause an alteration to be made in the Repatriation Act or regulations thereunder to permit the granting of a pension in this case?
– I shall discuss the case with the Minister for Repatriation and let the honorable member know what decision is reached. The latter part of the honorable member’s question relates to policy, but it also will receive full consideration.
– In view of the importance of the apple-growing industry and of our regaining a share of the German apple market, is the Acting Minister for Commerce able to give me any information respecting a report that n recent order for 90,000 cases of Tasmanian apples for the Hamburg market could not be fulfilled because the Conference Shipping Line refused to make freight space available?
– I deny that any such loss of business has occurred owing to the lack of shipping space. When 3pace was offered to the firm referred to, it did not make use of it. The same firm has had a dispute with the Department of Commerce only this week. It has been ascertained that the firm used only one-third of the space available to it. I have no doubt that telegrams have been received by certain honorable members this week from this source, to the effect that another firm had received an order for 60,000 cases of fruit for a continental port. The firm, when communicated with by the department, denied that any such order had been diverted to Tasmanian ports to lift been received. However, a vessel has 50,000 cases of apples. The firm first referred to has supplied only 14,000 cases and not 100,000, which it had said it could supply.
– As the Public
Works Committee has recently recommended the construction of a terminal air-port at Mascot, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will consider using the staff of the Commonwealth Works Department, at Sydney, to undertake this work, in preference to having it done by contract labour?
– The staff of the Works Department in the Sydney office is not adequate to undertake constructive work of this kind. Moreover, it is not the policy of the Government to use its own staff for such major undertakings. In accordance with the Government’s policy tenders for all major works will be called in the usual way.
– Is the Treasurer yet in a position to say at which university the Government has decided to establish the proposed Chair of Aeronautical Research? If not, is he able to say when a pronouncement may be expected?
– The Government has not yet reached a decision on this subject, but it hopes to doso within the next two or three weeks.
– As Wyndham, in the Kimberley division of Western Australia, is the only place in Northern Australia that has meat freezing works, will the Minister for Defence consider including it in the direct route’ of the Darwin-Perth air-mail service, and so save the expense of operating a loop service from the Ord River to Wyndham ?
– The claims of Wyndham were not overlooked when investigations were made into the reorganization of the internal air services of Australia. It was not found practicable to include Wyndham on the direct Perth-Darwin route, but Wyndham is being provided with an effective and efficient air service.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for the Interior proposes, during the next recess, to visit the Northern Territory, I ask him whether he will consider making arrangements for some honorable members of the House, in fair proportion to the strength of the respective parties, to accompany him, so that they may obtain a better understanding of this remote part of the Commonwealth, in respect of which they are expected to legislate?
– I appreciate the importance of the honorable member’s suggestion. The visit I propose to make to the Northern Territory during the next recess will involve a great deal of camping out and the provision of extensive transport facilities. The Administrator of the Territory and certain of his staff, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and one or two advisors, will be included in the party. In such circumstances it will not be possible to make arrangements for many honorable members to be accommodated. I propose, however, to ask the honorable member for the Northern Territory to join the party, and I think it may be possible for one or two other members of the House to do so. Consideration will be given to the matter.
– Will the Minister for Defence arrange for certain of the proposed defence works, in connexion with which a considerable amount of unskilled labour will be required, to be put in hand at once under the conditions which applied to certain other works recently undertaken and which were capably handled by the officers of the department? If this could be done, a very large number of men now seeking employment could be put into work.
– I have already had made a very careful survey of the works which the Government proposes to carry out in connexion with its defence programme. That programme has been correlated with the proposals of the various States with the object of distributing the works evenly throughout the whole of the year in order to provide the maximum amount of employment, while at the same time meeting the requirements of the Defence Department. A considerable portion of the work, consisting of renovations and repairs, is not being let by contract ; it is being carried out by the Defence Department itself. This work also is being distributed as evenly as possible in order to give relief to persons out of work, particularly those with dependent families. The claims of returned soldiers are receiving special consideration.
The following paper was presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Huonville, Tasmania- - For Defence purposes.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 1370), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read, a second time.
Upon which Mr. Curttn had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “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 benefitsfor 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 men and 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 and redrafted and a more liberal bill, freed from the defects now enumerated, should be introduced without delay.”
.- This bill has been introduced in fulfilment of the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) during the last elections. The proposals submitted by the Government on that occasion were very substantially endorsed by the people. I regard this as undoubtedly the greatest measure of social service ever introduced in this Parliament, or likely to be introduced in our lifetime. Accordingly, I extend my hearty congratulations to the Government for what it has done. I was a member of the Royal Commission on National Insurance appointed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925, and that commission reported favorably upon the introduction of a scheme of national insurance. Ever since then I have kept in the closest touch with the various national insurance schemes in operation in other parts of the world, and I have no hesitation in saying that this scheme is outstanding among all others for the benefits which it proposes to confer. The scheme will apply to 1 , 850,000 persons, or about 52 per cent, of the workers engaged in Australia. It will provide guaranteed benefits free of any irritating means test in respect of periods of sickness or disablement, together with old-age pensions, and allowances for widows and orphans. In one respect it will fill a serious gap in our social legislation. In the past, persons so incapacitated that they were unable to work for a considerable time were denied an invalid pension because they could not prove that they were totally and permanently incapacitated. So far as insured persons under this hill are concerned, that condition will be removed by this bill, so that incapacitated persons will become entitled to pensions even though their incapacity be not permanent. I am glad that the Prime Minister has, on many occasions, been able to give a definite assurance that the scheme will not in any way affect our invalid and old-age pensions scheme as it exists to-day, and I am pleased to have his undertaking that there will be no reduction of payments to the aged, the infirm and the invalid.
This scheme is on a compulsory and contributory basis, and complies with the recommendation of the International
Labour Office. It applies to all persons over fourteen years of ago under a contract of service in the Commonwealth, except persons employed otherwise than by way of manual labour at a rate of remuneration in excess of £365 per annum. The benefits proposed compare more than favorably with those enjoyed in any other country in the world. The bill provides the following benefits : -
Health Benefits. (a). Medical treatment - Consisting of free medical attendance and treatment, including medicines and certain medical and surgical appliances.
An allowance of 3s.6d. per week for each dependent child under fifteen years of age.
Disablement benefit is, like sickness benefit, a payment during incapacity from sickness, and comes into force when the right to sickness benefit has been exhausted. Sickness and disablement benefits are payable up to the ages at which old-age pensions begin to be payable, age 60 for women, and age 65 for men. Old-age pensioners will also he entitled to free medical attendance and treatment, including medicines, for the remainder of their lives. The widows’ pension provides 15s. a week for life, or until re-marriage, for the widow of an insured man., in addition to an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child under fifteen years of age.
The weekly rates of contributions to be paid under the scheme by employed persons are initially 3s. for men and 2s. for women, of which, in each case, the employee will pay half, as follows: -
I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to operate the national insurance scheme through approved friendly societies and other approved societies, and to have a flat rate of contribution, the Com monwealth making contributions from time to time to ensure the solvency of the scheme. If the contributions were not on a flat rate basis, the scheme would be actuarially unsound. Experts advise that the following weekly contributions would be required from employed persons if the Commonwealth Government contributions were not made: -
I regard the Government’s proposal as being only the first step in a comprehensive national scheme of compulsory insurance. At the present time there are many groups of persons who should be eligible for inclusion, and yet are not covered by the measure; but I know it is the Government’s intention, while the intricacies of the second proposal are being worked out, not to delay the contemplated benefits of this scheme to the 1,850,000 participants, who are provided for in this bill. Australia is a large continent and the scattered nature of the population presents many difficulties in the formulation of a scheme of this character. I have repeatedly urged that small farmers, shopkeepers who are conducting their own businesses, and persons of this character, should be embodied in the bill. Until this is done the scheme cannot be regarded as a truly national one. Such a proposal, however, should he purely voluntary. The pronouncement of the Prime Minister yesterday that the Government intended to introduce another measure covering those sections of the people that are not included in the present scheme meets my contention. I accept the undertaking in thespecial circumstances as being satisfactory. A more definite and unequivocal promise should not be expected from the Government at this stage.
I regret that there is no provision in the scheme for unemployment insurance for which T think we must attach blame to certain State governments, which have either refused to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government or have not taken any steps to co-operate, notwithstanding repeated overtures from the Commonwealth Government. The Government’s proposal is, in my opinion, at least 25 years ahead of the scheme introduced in Great Britain by Mr. Lloyd George in 1911, and I submit that the benefits contained in the measure are the best in the world. The British scheme was somewhat piece-meal in structure, and speaking in support of it Mr. Lloyd George 3aid that, in the then existing circumstances, the Government could not have followed any other course. It relied on time and experience to indicate the lines upon which it could be expanded and improved.
I direct the attention of honorable members, particularly those on the other side of the House, to the following comments which appeared in a leading article in the Melbourne Age on Monday last.
To-morrow the Federal Parliament resumes consideration of probably thu most important piece of social legislation in our history, the National Health and Pensions’ Insurance Bill. A measure so intricate and se intimate in its impact on individual lives lias necessarily many aspects from which it may be diversely viewed. But there is practically nation-wide unanimity in the desire that the main objectives should be achieved.
The Age urges members to allow the bill to be placed on the statute-book in order that alterations and improvements may be made to it when required in the light nf experience gained over a period of years. The article goes on to state -
That course is to bo commended in preference to any attempt at immediate wreckage. It is to be hoped that the majority nf members in all parties will act, on the same principle, and that progress will not be retarded by undue insistence at this stage on some particular detail. 1 commend the arguments contained in this article to honorable members on both =ides. If the.)’ give heed to it there must, T feel confident, be a substantial majority in support of this important legislation.
The importance of national insurance is recognized in most leading countries and steps have been taken to place on the statute-books legislation providing for the assistance of incapacitated wage earners. Belgium led the way by introducing a compulsory insurance scheme in 1868. Then followed Germany in 1S83, Austria in 1SSS, Hungary in 1S91, France in JS94, Luxemburg in 1901, Norway and Iceland in 1909, Italy in 1910, the United Kingdom in 1911, Roumania and Russia in 1912, Holland and Sweden in 19.13, Bulgaria in 1914, Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Spain in 1919, Poland in in 1920, Denmark in 1921, Esthonia, Japan, Latvia and Jugoslavia in 1922, the Irish Free State and Argentina in 1923, and the United States of America in 1935.
It has been estimated that over 100,000,000 people in various countries are covered by some form of national insurance, so it is high time that Australia adopted a similar proposal.
Experience in the working of these schemes in various countries has led to proposals for their expansion and improvement in order that they may be more comprehensive, and better serve the needs of the people. National insurance is thus no new proposal ; it has long since passed the experimental stage, and has become an integral part of the social systems of a great number of important countries.
This bill will, I am confident, provide definite security for Australian employees and our aged and infirm citizens. The greatest and more constant anxiety of the wage-earner is the possibility that he and his dependants may be placed in serious financial difficulties owing to sickness, accident, invalidity or old-age. National insurance is the proper remedy for what may be regarded as one of the greatest evils of modern society. The fundamental principles underlying schemes for national insurance appears to be the recognition of the principle that all units of the community should be protected by the strength of the community as a whole against the incidence of misfortune that mav befall a section of the people or individuals. It is now recognized in the old world that, in order to advance the. prosperity of the nation as a whole and conserve its vital forces, it is better that misfortunes of individuals should be distributed and borne lightly by the whole community than that individuals should be crushed by the weight of their own troubles.
As I have already indicated, national insurance has become an integral part of the social system of most important countries. In this respect, Australia is far behind the times, notwithstanding our claim to lead the world in social reforms. In no fewer than 31 countries, some system of national insurance has been instituted. In most of those countries the original schemes have been considerably extended, and are continually being made more comprehensive. We should follow this wise course. In not. one instance has there been any suggestion to abandon national insurance, and return to the less satisfactory pre-insurance methods. Those who were amongst the. most bitter critics of the schemes at their inception subsequently became their strongest supporters. I arn convinced that the need for such a scheme in Australia has been proved beyond all doubt. Many wage earners are unable to provide, unaided, for circumstances that may arise because of incapacity to work, and the worker is unable to make provision for the rest of his life from the wages received during his effective working years. His greatest and most constant worry is that, should he be unable to continue at his employment, he and his dependants will be involved in serious financial difficulties. National insurance will give them the necessary relief, and complete confidence as to the future. At least 16 per cent, of our native-born citizens are applicants for the old-age pension. The whole community suffers as a result of the wage-earners’ incapacity to work. Wages to the total amount of £10,000,000 are lost each year on account of sickness, and the noncirculation of thi3 money is a .serious matter for the workers and for trade. The resultant loss of production is estimated at four times this amount, while the social and economic burden created is enormous, and is not equally distributed.
As the scheme will be operated by approved societies, such as friendly societies, trade unions, mutual assurance companies and approved groups of persons, not fewer than 2.000 being in each group, I should like to refer to the Dom tion of friendly societies in relation to the bill. Like other honorable members, I have been inundated with letters from friendly societies and other organizations, which are anxious to learn the part they are to play in the scheme. Friendly societies have submitted requests that they should be appointed as sole approved societies. I do not think their case, as submitted, has a sound basis. Although I am sympathetic with their request, and would be glad if it could be granted justly, .1 am of opinion that no case has been established to my satisfaction that they should be appointed as sole approved societies to administer the scheme. I intend to submit certain observations which, I think, should be helpful in influencing friendly societies to arrive at the same conclusion. I appreciate fully the splendid work which has been performed voluntarily by friendly societies throughout Australia for so many years. I appreciate also the numerous difficulties with which, these organizations have had to contend in the past under the voluntary system. Such difficulties are due mainly to the inherent defects of the voluntary principle of insurance, and not to any inefficiency or lack of effort on the part of the administrative authorities of friendly societies, who have done well. I am glad to take this opportunity to pay tribute to their splendid work. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, at the present time, of a total of 1,850,000 wage earners who will come within the scope of national insurance, less than onefourth of that number have voluntarily become members of existing societies. Many others have already become associated with trade unions, or mutual assurance companies, or have become contributors to employees’ provident and shop funds. Those persons who are not members of friendly societies will desire to retain their present associations for national insurance purposes. Every one should be entitled to freedom of choice of his own approved society, and that freedom should be preserved. I think that in the final analysis the friendly societies will adopt that view. The medical profession objects to friendly societies being given sole control of the administration of medical benefits. Evidence in England has proved that competition has inspired the administration of friendly societies to greater efficiency and economies in management, which have proved to the advantage of the national scheme.
Friendly societies are already in the field in most parts of Australia. Therefore they should be able to make a flying start in enrolling members, and they should have no fear of competition if they overhaul their machinery completely, in order to adapt it to national insurance requirements. They should be able to retain all of their present 400,000 members and, in addition, should also obtain a very large share of the 1,450,000 new members to be. enrolled. These 400,000 members should constitute themselves into 400,000 agents for their societies, and there should be provided a great incentive for insured members to join friendly societies of proved efficiency and experience. The Government is desirous of assisting friendly societies to carry on their voluntary activities, and it will ensure that whatever is practicable will be done to protect their interests. National insurance will prove a great advantage to friendly societies in their voluntary work. After 27 years’ experience in England, the leaders of the friendly societies movement there have declared that national insurance has proved a boon to their voluntary activities. It has given them a new lease of life; the membership of voluntary societies was never larger than it is to-day, and their financial position has never been more sound than it has become since national insurance was introduced, whilst the efficiency of their administration has improved out of all recognition. The limitation of minimum membership of approved societies to 2,000 is a further protection of existing friendly societies against the competition of numerous small organizations springing up and competing with existing institutions. One of the worst features of the English scheme is the detrimental effect which thousands of small societies have had upon the general administration and financial structure of the scheme. For instance, when the scheme was introduced, men on cab ranks formed an approved society, and there were thousands of similar small societies. Under the scheme of the bill, it will not be possible to form small societies, and, therefore, the position of the friendly societies will be consolidated. It is preferable that there should be a requisite number of sound financial units, rather than that the administrative machine should be overloaded with numerous small and probably, in many cases, inefficient and unsound small financial units.
The benefits of national insurance are not intended to cover all the requirements of the average wage earner so far as the health and maintenance of himself and his family are concerned. It is well known that once the individual realizes the practical value of insurance, he will himself take the further initiative in obtaining extra cover whenever he is in a position to do so. Medical benefit has been restricted to the insured person himself, and here again is an opportunity for friendly societies to retain provision of medical benefits for the insured person’s wife and children, and to obtain the new business which will be offering in this direction. Friendly societies have, in fact, asked, I think quite reasonably, that the medical service for dependants should be left in their hands, and the Government, I feel sure, will take whatever steps are desirable and practicable to help the friendly societies maintain an efficient service. In order to complete the range of benefits which a complete national insurance scheme should offer, it would have been desirable to include other benefits in addition to those provided by the bill, such as funeral benefit, but here again the field of activity has been left to friendly societies and other similar associations to continue to cater for the wage-earner’s requirements in respect of benefits of that character. Many alternative suggestions have been made for the improvement and enlargement of the scope of the bill. It has been suggested by honorable members on both sides of the House that the scheme should be enlarged to ‘provide for the wives and children of insured persons. I invite those honorable members to refer to this very able article in the Melbourne Age, which say3 -
A measure so intricate and so intimate in its impact on individual lives has necessarily many aspects from which it may he diversely viewed. But there is practically nation-wide unanimity in the desire that the main objective? should be achieved.
I also invite them to heed the advice of the Age - that they should allow the bill to go on the statute-book with a view to future repair, in preference to any attempt at immediate wreckage. I suggest that we should first attain the main objectives and concentrate on other activities later, when their adoption is proved possible. I have examined carefully the proposal to bring wives and children of insured persons within the scope of the scheme. I should like to see it done because it would be of material assistance to friendly societies as approved societies; but I believe that at the present stage it would be uneconomical and im practicable. In no other scheme in the world arc the wife and family of an insured person embraced in the scheme by which he is covered.
– What authority has the honorable member for saying that?
– The authority of my knowledge and research. It is also verified by the experts who are advising the Government.
– Does the honorable member recollect that, as a member of a royal commission, he advocated the very principle the adoption of which he now says is not possible under this scheme?
– I certainly advocated it as a main objective. I am advocating it to-day. I have not changed my position one iota. I regard it as an ideal to be aimed at, but say that it is impractible and uneconomical at the present time. The scheme must not be overburdened at the outset. As I have already stated, it is 25 years ahead of that originally launched in Great Britain. Some honorable members believe that there should be no limitation in regard to costs. I say that regard must be had to the funds available, and to the contributions which employer and employee are to be called upon to make. My inquiries have disclosed that it is difficult at the present time to obtain the medical officers who will be needed to give effect to the 2’roposed scheme. If the wives and children of insured persons also were entitled to receive medical treatment at this stage, the number of persons for whom each medical practitioner would be responsible would be so enormous that the required assistance could not be given. I make this statement having regard to the medical position at the moment.
– The doctors now practising have to look after them.
– That is a peurile observation, which is unworthy of the honorable member. When a fee. of 10s. 6d. has to be paid for each visit, the services of medical practitioners are not so readily enlisted. It must be borne iu mind that a medical practitioner would not attend to the requirements of an insured person, his wife and family, for lis. To-day the average charge for that service is at least 27s. 6d. The proposal which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is bursting to announce to the House would cost three times as much as the proposal of the Government. I suggest that he study it further before bringing it forward. The opportunities afforded to young medical officers in p re-insurance days will not be comparable to those that they will have when this scheme is in operation. In three, four, or five years’ time numerous medical officers may be available for engagement under an enlarged scheme should the finances of the country permit of the enlargement.
– la the honorable member aware that in the universities of Australia a limitation i3 imposed on the number of those who are permitted to graduate in medicine?
– The honorable gentleman is very much out of date. That was the case during the depression.
– It is so at the moment.
– It was necessary until this scheme was brought forward. In future, university students will be eager to take a degree in medicine, and I am perfectly certain that there will be a field for them. Until that field is available, they will not undertake the prolonged and exacting course necessary to become qualified as medical practitioners. We should accept the scheme as it stands, and not risk its collapse by the adoption of burdensome alterations.
I draw the attention of the Government to one anomaly which should be rectified. As the bill is drafted invalid orphaned children would cease to be entitled to a pension on reaching the age of 15 years, but would not be entitled to an invalid pension under the existing pensions scheme until reaching the age of 16 years. For twelve months therefore they would be entirely dependent upon their widowed mother. I ask that the bill be amended to cover that period of twelve months, so that such children will not have to be wholly supported by their mothers.
Among the numerous- persons who have communicated with me and many other honorable members with respect to this measure, is that section of the community known as Christian Scientists. I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to examine the representations of these good people, and study the copy of the British Columbia Act with which I have supplied him. That act contains a. provision for the exemption of these particular people. They desire to he exempt on certain religious grounds, and I should be very glad if the Treasurer will see if it is possible to accede to their request.
There are many other features of the bill with which I should have liked to deal. It is a comprehensive measure, covering many phases, and is one of the most voluminous that has been before this House for a long while. In the main, it is a committee bill, and I shall be very glad to co-operate with the Treasurer and other honorable members with a view to effecting any necessary improvement of it at that stage. It must be borne in mind, however, that it is based on actuarial calculations, no major variation from which could reasonably be entertained. Any proposal for the alteration of main principles ought to be forecast at the present stage, so that the Treasurer and his officers might examine its effect actuarially on the calculations before Ave reach the committee stage. If that be done, I think that a scheme could be devised with which this Parliament would be well satisfied and which would be a lasting monument to it.
Mr. MAHONEY (Denison) [3.50J.- Having studied this measure very carefully, I have come to the conclusion that there is not a particle of good in it. On the health side, provision should first be made for those who most need attention. My experience throughout life has been that the young man of IS, 19 or 20 years of age who is about to marry decides to insure immediately against the cost of sickness and for his future wife and family. As a member of a friendly society, I am not prepared to forego the protection and the services which have been available to me for the last 20 years in return for the benefits proposed by this bill. This is the worst form of legislation that has ever been placed before the people of Australia. The payment of £1 a week will not compensate a man for the loss that he will incur. My experience, and that of hundreds of workers who are members of friendly societies, is that, without the protection of a lodge, one would get nowhere and would always be in debt. The lodge doctors with whom I have come in contact have rendered valuable service to the wives of members of friendly societies. What provision is made by the bill for that which is most vital in the community, namely the health of mothers? An insured person will not be permitted, to consult the medical practitioner who attends him in respect of the health of his wife. Lodge doctors render service to expectant mothers right up to the birth of the child, and charge only for the administering of .an anaesthetic and attendance at the birth. The list of health services for which the bill rnakes provision does not embrace motherhood. At the present time, the rate of mortality among mothers at the time of childbirth is high. In the words of the Right Honorable “William Morris Hughes, “ Mothers are the reservoir from which the nation draws its manhood.” If they are not afforded protection by this measure, I shall not be a party to its enactment. The children of this country require more medical attention than does any grown person. A child who does not receive necessary medical attention is weak and deformed upon attaining to manhood or womanhood.
The British Medical Association states -
Health insurance is, in effect, an extension of the system of contract practice by which members of friendly societies receive medical benefits. Within its limitations, the service given by lodge practitioners in Australia is of a very high order and equal to the best general practitioner service in the world. But the weakness of all contract practice - and these remarks apply to the proposed Commonwealth scheme - is its incompleteness and inadequacy. That this is so is not the fault of the medical profession, for it is impossible on the low rate of remuneration paid in Austrafia, and which rate it is proponed to pay under the Commonwealth scheme, to provide full and adequate investigation and treatment of disease to insured patients.
Those who receive benefits under the national insurance scheme in operation in Great Britain, are not getting the medical attention which they need, because the service is rendered on mass-production lines, and stereotyped prescriptions are handed to the patients. Under this scheme a surplus amounting to £134,000,000 has already been accumulated, and it appears that the scheme which the Commonwealth Government proposes to launch will also have reserves amounting . to millions of pounds. I object to this exploitation of the “workers.
The membership of the Hobart and Launceston United Friendly Societies Dispensaries is 15,000. The items dispensed yearly number 175, C00, and the capital invested is £10,000. Allowing for each member representing only three persons, the number likely to be adversely affected, should the bill pass in its present form without necessary safeguards for the institution mentioned, would be 45,000 persons; but, as that is regarded as a low estimate, the actual number would probably be nearer 80,000, or more than one-fourth of the State’s population. Calculated on the same basis, there are about 100,000 friendly society memhers and dependants in Tasmania affected by the proposed legislation, or nearly one-half of the population of the State. The scheme would interfere with and retard the progress of the friendly societies, and bring into competition with these organizations, which have never sought or received government aid, other powerful influences which do not stand to suffer as the friendly societies do. but would be granted greater opportunities to extend their operations. There are nineteen distinct friendly societies operating in Tasmania with a membership of 25,06S. The days of sickness paid for during 1936, numbered 334,692. Sick payments in 1936 amounted to £33,264; and during the last twenty years they have totalled £581,000. Funeral benefits in 1936 amounted to £21,605 ; and during the last twenty years they aggregated £385,000. Medical benefits, which have totalled £51S,000 during the last twenty years, amounted to £29,793 in 1936. The total of the payments under the headings mentioned were £84,662 in 1936, and during the last twenty years £1,484,000. Calculated on the same basis, the benefits distributed by the friendly societies throughout the Commonwealth during the last twenty years, amounted to the colossal sum of £34.132,000.
The friendly societies have never failed to meet their obligations to their members. Repeated assurances have been given that the bill will help rather than hinder these societies. These assurances include the statement that the friendly societies in England have held their own in competition with the British national health insurance scheme. Tt must be remembered, however, that English and Australian conditions arc by no means identical. Working under the scheme in England there are - (3) Accumulative societies, (2) Deposit societies, (3) Holloway societies and (4) Dividing societies. Such societies do not exist in Australia.
The national health insurance scheme in England, in its early stages, completely annihilated many small friendly societies. The larger ones ihat have survived have been forced to change their operation?, and the nature of the benefits they formerly offered. The outlook of their members has changed considerably. In fact, they are now friendly societies only in name. That is a complete answer to the Government on the subject of friendly societies.
Members of the Commonwealth Public Service, and of the public services of the States, who are covered by superannuation schemes, are not to he brought under the national insurance scheme. This, of course, places a large number of men and women outside the scope of the measure.
One of its effects will be toenable the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to realize bis lifelong ambition to makethe workers pay for the invalid and old-age pension. He has stated from time to time that the cost of the pension has been increasing at an alarming rate, but I do not share his opinion that the workers should be compelled to find the money necessary to enable the pension to be paid. The government, of which he is a member, is responsible for the present conditions of industry to which he has referred because it has done nothing to enable the rising generation to take its place in the industrial world. Had adequate provision been made for the employment of young people, there would have been no difficulty in Australia meeting its obligations to the aged and infirm. For many years I have been closely associated with the unemployed, and I point out that they require greater medical attention than any other section of society. Their standard of living is low, and their wives and children almost invariably suffer from malnutrition. Many a time I have discussed their tragic circumstances with medical men in Tasmania, who have informed me that they constantly receive calls from families on the dole, 99 per cent, of the women and children being under-nourished. A man of giant intellect from overseas conies to Australia as the saviour of the people, and says, “ Accept the baby I have brought you,” yet the suction that most requires assistance has been omitted from the scheme! The Government has left out this unfortunate class because the unemployed cannot afford to contribute to the cost ofthe scheme. Only those in regular employment are to be helped. The casual worker is to be denied the benefits of national insurance. A firm in Hobart engaged in the production of foodstuffs employs labour for three or four months each year, and, for the remainder of the year, the employees are forced to take such government relief work as is available to them. These employees will derive no benefit under the present scheme.
If our nation is to survive, it is essential that young people should marry early and raise families. Girls employed in industry frequently marry men who getonly the basic wage, and when they marry they will forfeit all the money they may have paid into the insurance fund. I have studied the industrial policies of the insurance companies, and I find that the companies are behaving much like bushrangers; but the scheme outlined in the present bill is infinitely worse. Australian mothers will not tolerate this imposition. In large industries the employees already have their sickness insurance schemes, and, judging by letters received from my electorate, 24,000 of the 25.000 voters there are opposed to this scheme. That is an indication of its popularity. Because the price of metals is fixed in the world’s markets, the Mount Lyell Company is making only small profits. That company is different from a manufacturerof food-stuffs. The Mount Lyell Company, which has its own insurance scheme, has protested against this legislation, as have also the miners in its employ. Those workers, as well as their wives and children, are now insured against sickness, but if they participate in this scheme, they will he required to join a lodge. As many of them will not be able to pass the neces- sary medical test, what is to become of their wives and children? This bill affords them no protection; it gives no consideration to men who work in the bowels of the earth to win metals in order that dividends may bo paid to wealthy shareholders, who live in luxury, hut make no contribution towards the health of the community. According to English experts, Russia has the best national health scheme in the world. In that country a prospective mother is taken into a rest-home two months before her confinement, and she remains in hospital for two months after her child is born.
Mr.JohnLawson. - That is not so.
– It is so; when the honorable member wentto Russia his eyes were shut.
-i talked with the mothers.
– During that critical period the mother is paid wages.
– A woman gets a fortnight off for a confinement.
– There is no such provision in this bill. Under this scheme a nian working in an industry which produces commodities for either wear or consumption will pay ls. 6d. a week. His employer will pay a similar amount. But the employer, when examining his posting system, will be able to say “I must add ls. fid. to the selling price of the commodities that I am producing.” He will do so, with the result that when a working man buys those commodities he will pay his employer’s contribution; lie will pay 3s. a week. Indeed, in the final analysis, he will pay the contribution of the Commonwealth and the States also. The honorable member foi Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that he would vote for the bill although it was as rotten as a scabby potato.
– I did not say that.
– But the honorable member meant it.
Let me now refer to the invalid and old-age pension. When I receive the old-age pension, I shall regard it not as a dole, but as payment for services rendered. Hundreds of my friends are of the same opinion ; they regard the pension as recompense for services rendered by men and women who have contributed to the wealth of this country and in their declining years are in need. A mother who has borne and nursed children, and trained them to become worthy citizens is told that the old-age pension is her reward ! The people are being misled when they are told that they will get something under this legislation. The truth is that they will have to pay for nil the benefits that they will receive. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said that there will be no interference with the old-age pension. I say that it will be interfered with. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will have to bc either amended or repealed, should this legislation be placed on the statute-book. Under this bill, every man of 60 years of age will become a contributor should he be in employment. Before many years have passed, all those persons in the community who draw pensions in respect of which they have made no monetary contribution will have died, and we shall have a population of men and women all of whom will have to pay for any pension that they may receive. The gentleman who is advising the Government in regard to this scheme admits that. The real purpose behind this bill is that the wealthy supporters of the Government will not have to share the cost of maintaining the aged and infirm in this country. Figures were cited to show the cost of this scheme, but no reference was made to the population of Australia 20 years hence. Before then, Australia may be blotted out as a nation ; on the other hand, this country may have a population of 20,000,000. The Government is asking too much of an intelligent and enlightened House to ask it to accept incomplete figures. If the political axe falls on my head because of my opposition to this bill, I am prepared to accept my fate. I declare now my intention to do everything to prevent it from becoming law, and to defeat the Government which has introduced it. On every possible occasion, I shall expose the hypocrisy of the Government and of those responsible for bringing this obnoxious legislation before the Parliament of this country.
Listening to the Treasurer, one would have thought that his heart bled for the widows and orphans in the community. The only man in public life in Australia who has stood up for the widows and orphans of this country by placing on the statute-book legislation entitling a widow to £1 a week, and her children to 10s. a week, is Mr. Jack Lang, who has been slandered and misrepresented as no other man in Australia has been. Yet, no other political leader in this country has done for the widows and orphans what he did. Although the legislation that he introduced contained no provision for contributions by beneficiaries, the Stevens Government has not dared to repeal it. Every needy widow and orphan should be provided with a pension. Let us consider the case of a girl who relinquishes a well-paid job in order to marry a man whose income exceeds £365 a year. After they have lived together for a number of years and reared a family, the husband may become ill for a long period, with the result that their combined savings disappear. Should he die, neither she nor her children will be entitled to a pension. What inducement is there to girls to give up jobs in order to marry?
We should provide a pension for widows and orphans who need it, but the Government prefers to make them the recipients of charity and, therefore, it excludes them from this bill. Australia is crying out for a larger population, but honorable members opposite do nothing to assist people to rear families. I am not afraid to go into any electorate and tell the women of the harshness of this legislation. Should this bill become law, widows and orphans in Tasmania will be in a worse position than at present. The Labour Government of that State pays rent for needy widows and, in addition, gives them something for themselves and their children. This bill contains no such provision. A woman with four children must have a house of four rooms for which she has to pay 15s or 18s. a week. In order to pay the rent, she will have to draw on the children’s pensions. How can a woman feed and clothe four children on a few shillings a week? Sir Walter Kinnear knows nothing of the conditions under which the poor people of this country live. Obviously, those responsible for this legislation have never known want, or even the fear of want. They probably have no children of their own.
I have heard the Prime Minister say that he believed in equal opportunity for every child in the community, rich or poor; but this measure does not provide equal opportunity. It has been said that the bill was drafted in Germany, taken over to Lloyd George in England, and brought out here by hishenchmen to bulldoze and hoodwink the men and women of this country. Whatever may be the real case, the hill is not worthy tobe put alongside the New South Wales act. which provides pensions for widows and children.I have the greatest admiration for Jack Lang for having introduced that act. A man who could sponsor such a measure cannot have any bad blood in his veins.
The bill should be withdrawn and the representatives of the workers, of industry, of the women of this country, of the friendly societies, and of the Commonwealth and State Governments, should he called into conference to formulate a truly national insurance scheme. The Treasurer said chat he had received letters from many workers in support of the bill. I should like to know the names of the writers. I represent a working class constituency in Hobart, and I have been advised to work strongly against the bill. 1 shall do so. I believe that the bill is unfair, not only to the workers of this country, but also to its medical practitioners, many of whom have been most generous in their treatment of the wives and children of the workers. Speaking for myself, I wish to pay a tribute to our medical practitioners. My own wife has been generously treated by our medical adviser, not only in respect of the noble function of childbearing, but also in many other ways. Frequently the doctor has declined payment for his services. I believe, therefore, that 1 am acting only fairly in supporting the protest of the medical profession against the passage of this legislation.
The friendly societies are also against the bill. An honorable member asks me whether I am a member of the Hibernian Society. I am not. I am a Druid. In m,v electorate the Orange lodges and the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society have united tomake common cause against the common enemy.
This is not a national insurance bill. It is rather a scheme to compel the workers to pay for the social services which the nation has hitherto provided for them. I appeal to the Government to withdraw the bill and re-draft it. It is extraordinary to me that a distinction is drawn between Commonwealth public servants, who receive, superannuation on retirement-
– For which they pay.
– I am not interested in that point at the moment. A distinction is drawn between these public servants and the employees of certain industrial and commercial organizations who also contribute to superannuation schemes, in that Commonwealth public servants will not be obliged to contribute to this scheme while other individuals who are already paying for superannuation rights will be compelled to do so.
I make no apology for my criticism of the bill Medical benefits, invalid and old-age pensions, and widows and orphans pensions, should be provided by means of a graduated income tax on thatsection of the community most able to bear it. Insurance against unemployment should be provided by the Government. The incompleteness of the bill in respect to medical services is glaringly revealed by the omission of provision for dental treatment. The mothers and children of the working class of this country deserve far greater protection than can be accorded them under this bill. We desire to develop a virile race in this country. As the friendly societies are united in their opposition to the bill, it is sure to be defeated ; but if it should be passed, , we shall fight it on the hustings at the next elections, and the law will then be defeated. The person who brought the scheme to this country will depart from our shores unhonoured and unsung.
– I cannot hope to vie with thehonorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) in picturesque diction, but I congratulate the Government and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon having introduced such a comprehensivemeasure for the compulsory insurance of the wage-earners to provide medical and sickness benefits, pensions for widows and orphans, and superannuation for workers in their old age. The bill, which is designed to affect more than half our population, has been drafted on a scale worthy of the national Parliament. Compulsory national insurance has long been a plank of the platform of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and I am very glad that a large instalment of a complete scheme is now being provided. I was pleased also to learn yesterday from the Prime Minister that a complementary scheme - I presume of a voluntary character - will be introduced at an early date for thebenefit of the small farmer, the small shopkeeper, fishermen and other self-employers whose incomes are comparatively small.
– Why is that not being done in this bill.
– -One reason is that compulsory and voluntary schemes could not very well be provided in the same bill. This compulsory scheme is for the wage earners. The voluntary scheme is for self employers and certain others whose income is small. The Government, in my opinion, is wise not to confuse the issues by including the two schemes in one bill.
Insurance, in its very essence, involves the collection of contributions. An insurance plan must of necessity be contributory. For that reason I found myself unable, yesterday afternoon, to follow the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. That honorable gentleman’s remarks are at all times worth attention and I listen to them with respect. But when he said that the Labour party favoured a non-contributory scheme and then added that it, was nevertheless in favour of a system of national insurance he made contradictory statements.
– I opposed contributions for services now being provided for out of Consolidated Revenue. I did not apply that argument to medical services.
– Non-contributory benefits could perhaps be regarded a? social services, but by no stretch of the imagination could they properly beregarded as national insurance.
– Hear, hear!
– The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that occupational diseases might very well be regarded as coming within the province of the employer’s responsibility. He went on to say that, in the view of his party, old-age pensions were a social rather than an industrial obligation and that the cost of them should be borne entirely by the general taxpayer. 1. think I have put the honorable gentleman’s view correctly.
– That is so.
– It is remarkable that the chief spokesman of the Labour party should argue, in effect, that industry owes no obligation to its worn-out human mechanism. If a man wears himself our in industry does not industry owe him something? Apparently the Leader of the Opposition thinks not.
– We say that the community owes him something.
– Are the industrialists who become too old for work to he consigned to the industrial scrap heap and to become the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth Treasury as the disburser of old-age pensions? Commonwealth and State Governments, as employers, help to provide for the old age of those who have been in their employ. So do railway departments and other State instrumentalities, banking institutions, anl many big business concerns. Hitherto it has been regarded as most commendable and praiseworthy for private employers to subsidize the contributions of their employees to superannuation fund–. Firms and institutions which have done so have been held up as examples for others to follow. -Vow the Labour party is preaching the doctrine that no obligation rests upon the employers in these matters, for it is a social service which should be discharged by the State and not by the employers, i. cannot follow such reasoning.
– Will there be any Commonwealth subvention for self-employed workers under the bill which the Government proposes to introduce later?
– Yes, and I hope a substantial one. In opposing this bill the Leader of the Opposition has made the. best of a poor case. I could not help thinking yesterday, while he was speaking and when he moved his amendment in favour of- a noncontributory basis for pensions, that he was half-hearted. His speech lacked conviction.
This plan will still remain, to a very substantial extent, a social obligation to he carried, by the Government, but not wholly by the Government. It will be carried partly by the employee, partly by The employer, and, to a more generous extent, by the Government. Such a partnership is, in my opinion, wholly desirable. Members of the Opposition, in their speeches, and by interjection, have declared that the main object of this measure is to reduce Commonwealth expenditure, either now or in the future, on invalid and old-age pensions. I wonder how many of them have read carefully the actuary’s report dealing with the expenditure to which the Commonwealth will be committed in the immediate future and even in the distant future. Even at the end of 50 years, when practically every one who is contributing will have been in the scheme since 16 years of age, it will still be necessary for the Government to make very substantial contributions. The actuaries estimate that, 30 years hence, £30,000.000 will be paid out annually in sick benefits, widows’ pensions and old-age pensions. That amount of £30,000,000 will be provided in the following ratio : The employees and employers together will provide about one-third, the Commonwealth Government will provide another third, and the remaining one-third will be obtained from the interest, which will by then be earned on the very large funds which will have been amassed. Thus, in 50 years time, the employee will be paying only about one-sixth of the amount which will come to Lim when he begins to participate in the benefits of the scheme.
– That is only guess work.
– That is the report of actuaries who are as competent to make an accurate estimate as human beings can be. The figures 1 have quoted indicate what wonderful advantages will be reaped by the workers. It is evident that the scheme will continue to constitute a substantial social obligation upon the Government, when so much of the money necessary to operate it will come from sources other than the employer and the employee.
A good deal has been said in the course of this debate about discrimination against women. The Treasurer cited figures - and he was supported very ably by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) - showing that the discrimination is actually against men, rather than against women. Moreover, the Prime Minister announced that women would be given the option of paying an additional 6d. a week, thus bringing their contributions up to the men’s, and enabling them to obtain the men’s rate of pension. That, I think, disposes of the argument of the Opposition.
I should like, however, to bring under the notice of honorable members another aspect of the matter which has not been touched upon before. [Quorum formed.) Do honorable members realize that the pension life of a. woman will be almost twice as long as that of a man? In the first place, the woman will begin to receive the pension five years earlier, and women live, on an average, nearly four years longer than do men. Thus she will be in receipt of a pension approximately nine years longer than will the male contributor. While the male contributor, who comes into receipt of his pension at 65 years of age, may on the average, continue to enjoy it for ten years, the average woman contributor may look forward to receiving her pension for a period of 19 years.
Honorable members are familiar with the fact that, if one man crosses the floor of this House during a division, the result is affected by two; a vote comes off one side and goes on to the other. In the same way, when women cease to be contributors five years earlier than men, and become pensioners five years earlier, the resultant loss to the fund is a double one. One might. say that the actuarial candle, from the time she ceases to be a contributor, is being burnt at both ends. That is one respect in which women enjoy a tremendous advantage under the scheme, and why it is certainly not true that they arc being discriminated against.
In respect of those women who elect to pay the additional 6d. a week, and thus qualify for the full pension of fi, the Commonwealth will have to contribute an additional £30, over and above what it would otherwise have to contribute. I am glad that women are to be given the opportunity to qualify for the full pension, but it should not be forgotten that it will cost the Government a substantial additional amount to provide this benefit. On the other hand, the woman who prefers to contribute at the lower rate, or, indeed, is unable to afford to pay more than the minimum rate, will receive 15s. a week under the scheme. It must be remembered, however, that possibly hundreds of thousands of women will enjoy that modest income who., because of the means test, would not be entitled to one penny under the ordinary old-age pensions scheme. There will be no means test under this scheme, and the 15s. a week may be regarded as supplementary to any savings the pensioner may have made. That 15s. a week, modest amount though it is, is equal to the annual interest on £1,000 worth of Commonwealth bonds at the present time. What I wish particularly to emphasize is that every woman contributor whose means are so limited that she would be entitled to a pension- of £1 a week under the existing old-age pen- sions scheme, will, under the new scheme, be granted a supplementary 5s. a week to bring her pension of 15s. up to £1. That provision disposes of the criticism that has been levelled against this part of the measure.
One of the best features of the contributory scheme is that thrift is not penalized, as it must inevitably be under the present old-age pensions system. Pensioners will now be able to enjoy this superannuation, together with any other savings they may have been able to make during their working years. Under the present scheme, a nian is permitted to own his own home without any deduction being made, but further savings are a. bar to his receipt of a pension, at least in full. The result is that some people have deliberately divested themselves of their savings in order to qualify for the full old-age pension. I have been informed on very good authority of one incident that occurred in my own electorate. A couple had been able to pay off the purchase price of their home, and in addition had saved the not inconsiderable sum, for working people, of £1,500. They realized that, however well they invested the money, they would not be quite so well off on tlie income a3 if they were both in receipt of the full amount of the old-age pension, totalling £2 a week. Therefore, they took a trip abroad, and spent the whole of the £1,500 in twelve months. They had a glorious time, and. upon their return, applied for and obtained the old-age pension. The present scheme will make that kind of thing unnecessary, because all benefits will be in addition to any other income the pensioner may have.
The Prime Minister also gave an undertaking that a supplementary bill would follow the present measure for the purpose of bringing into the scheme small farmers, small shopkeepers, fishermen, and other self-employed persons in receipt of small incomes. That will be very acceptable. A considerable proportion ot those on the land, in small shops, and in other occupations, are in receipt of incomes very little above the basic wage, while there is a. huge percentage whose incomes are undoubtedly below £365 a year. I presume that the scheme designed to cover these persons will be on a volun- tary basis, and that is a good reason why it is not included in the present measure, which is a compulsory one, based on the receipt of contributions from wages.
Honorable members will appreciate the fact that, as time goes on, the number of those who to-day are excluded from the benefits of this measure will diminish. Nearly all of us. at one time or another, have been employees. When a person has been, as an employee, a contributor to the scheme for two years, he or she will be entitled to continue voluntarily as a contributor. This provision will open the door to an enormous number of people throughout Australia. For instance, the farmer who is to-day working his own property, probably started working for his father as a wage-earner - -if he were fortunate enough to get a wage - and he would be qualified to contribute voluntarily to the scheme if he had been a compulsory contributor for two years as his father’s employee. The man who started as a shop assistant and, in the course of time, became a shopkeeper on his own account, or the head of a huge department store, would also be qualified to become a voluntary contributor. I think that, as time goes on, the number of those who are excluded from the benefits of the measure will greatly diminish, and that the number of those remaining outside the scheme will become relatively small.
– The payment of invalid and old-age pensions will cease altogether.
– No, it will not. The Government will not interfere in any way with the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. I know, however, that some honorable members opposite would rejoice to be able to say that the Government proposed to substitute for payments made under the existing Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, the benefits to be obtained under this measure.
– And that is absolutely correct.
– Critics of the proposal cannot truthfully say that, for the simple reason that the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act will remain intact. Its provisions will be unimpaired, but I believe that, with the passage of the years, and the establishment of the new scheme, a relatively smaller number of the population will require to come under the old provisions.
Usually the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Air. Holloway) delivers interesting and logical speeches in this chamber. Yesterday, however, his arguments were somewhat contradictory. The honorable gentleman urged that the Australian Natives Association and other friendly societies should be allowed to carry on their work without interference, and in the same breath, almost, he advocated that all health benefits in respect of men, women and children should be included in the Government’s proposal now before the House. If his suggestion were adopted, and if all the medical and health benefits to which he referred were included in. the Government’s plan, the activities of the Australian Natives Association and other great friendly societies throughout the Commonwealth would be very greatly restricted. Indeed, they would have very little to do except as approved societies under the national insurance scheme. I think it is a good thing that some field has been left undisturbed for those great bodies. When the British scheme was introduced, the friendly societies in the Mother Country feared that it would be detrimental to their interests. As we now know, exactly the opposite has proved to be the case. The friendly societies in Great Britain have found the scheme helpful to them in the good work which they have been doing for so many years. I hope, and, indeed, I believe, that the Government’s scheme will help rather than hinder the friendly societies in this country. I have very great respect for the work wh ich they are doing, and I sincerely hope that they will be able to extend their activities on the broader foundation that will be made possible by this bill. The measure is one essentially for detailed consideration in committee, so it is not my intention to occupy further the time of the House, except to say that I believe that, as time goes on, this national insurance scheme will give to millions of Australian citizens a sense of security and a right to benefits which they could never hope to acquire by their own payments alone. T hope that the bill will prove to be a monumental landmark inthe history of Australian social legislation.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) because I consider that the bill, in its present form, will bring about a state of chaos in Australian social conditions. If the measure had been founded upon principles which have been enunciated by honorable members on this side of the House, it would have been sound. I listened attentively to previous speakers, and particularly to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). He impressed on us that this was a proposal for a compulsory contributory scheme in its application to employees, and that the Prime Minister had promised, later, to introduce a bill providing for the voluntary insurance of small farmers, fishermen and other persons who have been described as self-employers. The honorable gentleman was asked, by way of interjection, why he did not approve of inserting amending provisions for that purpose in the present bill, but he conveniently ignored the inquiry. I say definitely that there is no necessity for the introduction of a second bill; the required alterations could be made in this measure to provide for voluntary contributions from those who are at present excluded from the scheme. The honorable member for Gippsland also declared that the Leader of the Opposition, and his supporters, did not believe in compulsory contributions as provided in the bill, and took the Leader of the Opposition to task for having suggested that industry should not be expected to contribute something towards the maintenance of its worn-out employees. I agree with that sentiment. The honorable gentleman amplified his argument by asserting that the Government was compelled to pay contributions in respect ofits employees. I have no doubt he realizes that the contributions required of industry in connexion with this scheme will eventually be passed on. The Government, however, is not in a position to do this. In former years, whenever we asked governments of which the honorable member for Gippsland was a member, to do something to prevent private firms from exploiting the people by controlling commodity prices, we were told that anything like that was outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. Under this bill the employers’ contributions will be recovered by the simple process of increasing commodity prices. What does the honorable member for Gippsland intend to do about it? These private employers are his friends and the friends of this Government. They are the people to whom the Government looks for support, and whom we cannot get at and never will get at until an amendment of the Constitution vests the Commonwealth Parliament with power over trade and commerce and the people who control commodity prices to the injury of the country.
– The honorable member’s friends voted against that proposed amendment of the Constitution at the last referendum.
– They did not have an opportunity, as the last referendums related to marketing and aviation. The party to which I belong affirms the right of the Federal Government to fix commodity prices. When this bill becomes law, I know what action willbe taken by the great coal industry with which I have been connected for the whole of my life. In the past, whenever any legislative proposal has had the effect of increasing costs of production, the price of coal has been raised 50 per cent, to 100 per cent. The people have been compelled to pay the higher prices in order to compensate the employers for a slightly increased cost of production. The employing coalowners will follow the same course in connexion with their contributions under this bill, which will be1s. 6d. a week for each employee; to re-imburse themselves they will increase the price of coal 6d. or 1s, a ton, which will be out of all proportion to their increased costs, as each of the 19,000 engaged in the industry averages an output of three and a half tons a day. In that way they will make additional profit from the mere fact of being required to contribute to the Government’s national insurance scheme. What will be done to prevent them? The Governments cannot recover their contributions on account of their employees. Nor can public hospitals, charitable institu- tions and such public bodies. This scheme will press heavily on them. The honorable member for Gippsland knows that private employers can recover their contributions by increased commodity prices, but no relief is apparent for public hospitals which render a service to suffering humanity; they must make their contributions to the scheme. I hope to see the day when private industry will be compelled to maintain it3 incapacitated employees to the end of their days on a reasonably decent standard of living, instead of throwing them on to the industrial scrap-heap when they are too old ;<i render further useful service. The hill will enable the Government to escape some portion of its obligations to invalid and old-age pensioners whose benefits are on a ti on-contributory basis. The increasing liability for pensions ia the real cause of the concern of the Government and its supporters.
– That, statement is 1 1 nite wrong.
– it is not wrong. Wc have been told that the cost of pensions i his year will be about £15,000,000, and thai the charge on the budget has been “readily increasing for a number of years, particularly since the depression. This mounting cost of pensions is a bugbear ro the Government, and has been a worry to most of its supporters. In recent years the liability has grown enormously. Why has it grown? Is it not true that although the Government and its supporters boasted that they had found a solution for unemployment, they have not, in fact, found any solution at all?
– Employment figures declined during the time when the Scullin Government was in office.
– If the honorable member is of that opinion I invite him to visit my electorate, and tell the people there that unemployment is not so serious to-day as it was in .1.929-30. If he did, the people would chase him out of the i own. The pensions bill has increased because of the inability of private industry to absorb men who are looking for jobs, so their only course is to make application for the old-age pension. These people did not take the pension from the Government with any pleasure. By stating that those persons who are embraced within the national insurance scheme will not lose their self-respect, the Treasurer was implying that the old age pensioners of Australia have lost their self-respect. I recall the occasion when the late Sir Littleton Groom, then member for Darling Downs, criticized the Lyons Government for proposing to inflict hardship on the old-age pensioners; in support of his case he quoted from the speech which he made when he moved the second-reading of the first federal old-age pensions bill in 1908. Sir Littleton Groom was complimented on both sides of the House - by Sir George Reid, Mr. Andrew Fisher and other leaders - when the bill was passed, and the old-age pension was granted to the pioneers as a right and not as charity. Yet the Treasurer had the audacity yesterday to imply that those persons who accepted the oldage pension lost their self-respect. I should like to learn bow any man earning £365 a yea.)-, which is the maximum of income entitling a person to come within the scheme of the bill can rear and educate a family in a reasonable standard of comfort, make provision for his old age, and possess any assets when ho reaches 65 years. A great number of nien who earn up to £365 a year are compelled to apply for a pension to maintain them in their old age. The Government thinks that it will fool these persons, but it will nut. fool them long once they obtain an intelligent grasp of the Government’s scheme. Then they will realize that the Government is, by a cunningly devised plan, compelling them t” make contributions towards an old-age pension when, under the present old-age pensions system, they could obtain the pension without contribution. Under the present old-age pension system there are restrictions which are not fair. The thrifty man is not always the one who rears a family; often the man who has saved money has been able to do so because be has no family. The man who rears a large family cannot save money for his old age. I earned money working in the mines and reared a family of six children, and now, even though I am a member of this House. I am £200 in debt. I shall not describe my mode of living beyond saying that I neither drink nor gamble. The bill is a cunning move by the Government to save the amount of £15,000,000 which is now paid annually in old-age pensions.
The Prime Minister stated that the Government, when preparing the legislation, consulted various organizations, insurance companies, friendly societies and the consultative council of the British Medical Association, for the purpose of mobilizing medical benefits, but I would point out that one large section was not consulted. The Treasurer stated that of the total number of 1,850,000 persons who are to be brought within the scheme, more than 400,000 are members of friendly societies. Of the balance a large number are members of trade unions, but the unions were not consulted by the Government when it was preparing the draft, legislation. The Treasurer said that the bill was intended to cover the members of the trades unions, but I shall furnish certain information which might benews to the honorable gentleman, and even to representatives of friendly societies. It is not news to those who represent the coal-fields. In my electorate alone, 14,000 miners’ families are, covered by a voluntary scheme.
– They will come under this scheme.
– But this scheme, is not so good. The minersmake contributions to what is called a local benefit fund. The amount of the contribution is 6d. a week. If they are off work for six weeks they receive a payment of £1 a week, together with an additional sum which is determined according to their family responsibilities. They are covered by a levy which is imposed on the whole of the miners. This scheme would be more equitable if the cost fell on the whole of the community instead of on only a portion of it. The miners also make a contribution which entitles them to free medical attention and free hospital treatment. As a member of the Miners’ Federation, I am still making that contribution. In January.1931, I entered the Kurri Kurri hospital, where I underwent a major operation which did not cost me a penny. The hospital treatment was also free. The wives and children of all the miners who come under the scheme are insured, as well as the miner himself, for a payment of 26s. a year. The money thus raised enabled the hospitals at Kurri Kurri, Cessnock and Lithgow to be built. 1 pay10d. a week in order to be entitled to free medical attention for myself and the whole of my family, irrespective of age, so long as none of them is working. Some miners suffer, from a disease that is known as nystagmus, an affliction of the eye caused by the artificial lighting in the mines. For a contribution of 3d. a week, the services of an eye specialist are available, not only to the contributor, but also to the whole of his family. The free treatment includes operations, and the contributor is also entitled to spectacles free of cost. That scheme is well in advance of the proposal of the Government. Is it surprising that this legislation is not favorably regarded, particularly when it is realized that the mine owners will raise the price of coal to defray the cost of their contributions, with the result that the commodities produced by secondary industries which are obliged to use that product, will have to be raised in consequence? The miners enjoy a further benefit in that, out of the funds raised by means of the union levy, a payment of £50 is made by the organization to meet the funeral expenses of a deceased member. In the event of his wife predeceasing him, the miner receives £30. Other funeral payments are £10 in respect of a child fifteen years of age, £7 10s. in respect of children between the ages of six and ten years, £5 10s. in respect of children between the ages of two and six years, and £2 in respect of children from birth up to two years of age. That will give some indication of what has been and can bc done by voluntary effort. Yet the Government proposes by this measure to stifle such grand voluntary efforts ! The members of friendly societies alone have enabled such schemes as this to be established by the Miners’ Federation and other big trade union organizations. They realize that by these means the membership of the societies can be increased and their administration made more economical. I am a member of two friendly societies, one of which I joined when T was sixteen years of age. The friendly societies have rendered yeoman service to the people of this country, and they should receive some consideration from the Government. If this bill is passed, they and the trade union organizations should be the only approved societies. That would ensure unanimity in the administration of the scheme. Social services on a liberal scale should be financed out of Consolidated Revenue, the amount needed being raised by means of a graduated tax from which should be exempt all whose incomes are below £350 a year. This would be of considerable benefit to those workers for whom some honorable members shed tears. I have pleaded for something to be done for the workers, until I have become disgusted at the apathy of those who should show sympathy for them.
– Why did not the Labour governments which have been in office in Australia make provision for them ?
– There has been no Labour government in office in this Parliament in a normal period. It would be impossible to pass on such a tax as 1 have suggested. It has been said that those who pay the highest taxes are not “ squealing “. Industrial magnates do not send representatives to watch their interests while taxation measures are being considered by this Parliament, as the friendly societies have done in connexion with this measure. They know that, so soon as taxation is increased, the prices of commodities can be raised, and they are enabled to profiteer on the additional amount they are called upon to pay.
The bill proposes that youths between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years shall contribute at the rate of 4d. a week, but they will be entitled to receive in return only the medical benefit which, in the industry to which I belong, is given free, because of the contribution made by the fathers; in addition, if a boy is off work for six weeks, he receives one-half of the amount receivable by the adult. Wherein, then, lies the equity of this bill? I should like to hear the comments of some miners upon it. Is there any reason why these youths should not receive equal treatment if they are to be compelled to contribute to the scheme? The miners get all their medicines free of cost. The bill provides for the selection of chemists. I can well imagine what the miners would say if 1 were to tell them that they had to select their own chemist. The doctor is their chemist and the dispenser of all medicines that are needed.
– The miners pay 100 per cent. for their benefits. Under this proposal, they will pay only one-third.
– The honorable member should have his brains brushed. He should go back to school and learn ready reckoning. Admittedly, the contributions of the miners are greater, but, on the other hand, the proposal of the Government relates only to the insured person. Has he not, to make provision for his wife and children? If he wants similar benefits for his wife, he has to pay another one-third, and if he has adult children, there is a further one-third.
– The miners’ scheme is a good one. Will the Government’s proposal injure it?
– Definitely it will, because it is only a half-baked scheme, and does not go far enough.
Mr.FADDEN. - What is the total contribution of the miner?
– It is1s. for the doctor, 1s. for the hospital, and 3d. for the eye specialist.
– Do those payments cover funeral benefits?
– No. I have referred only to the funeral benefit of the head office of the general organization in the Newcastle district. In addition, if a man is killed in a mine or dies from sickness, a levy of 2s. 6d. on each member of the union is made on his behalf, and the total proceeds range from £50 to £100.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of a scheme providing for a similar contribution and similar benefits being made compulsory?
– An equal contribution would not be needed if the Government could levy upon industry and prevent industry from passing it on to the community. That could be done only by an amendment of the Constitution, which would give to this Parliament full power in relation to trade and commerce; in other words, place it in the position to fix the prices of commodities. When we do that, we shall get somewhere.
– The honorable member opposed that when it was proposed.
– There has never been a referendum on it. A good deal of lip service has been heard with respect to the unemployed. At two elections, the Government has ridden home on the backs of the unemployed, lt has promised to solve this problem, and has declared that no scheme of national insurance would be adequate unless it made provision for the unemployed; but the bill excludes relief workers from this scheme. It cannot be fairly maintained that satisfactory provision is made for them by means of intermittent relief work.
Can any honorable member tell me what provision is made under this scheme for the widows of to-day ? Under the bill only the wife of a person who is insured will be entitled to a widow’s pension in the event of her husband’s death. Those widows of to-day who at the last, census numbered S9,000, many of whom have been forced by circumstances to work in industry, are definitely excluded by this bill from securing a widow’s pension. While a widow is so employed, she will he compelled to pay ls. a week for health and pension insurance. [Leave to continue given.]
Provision should be made for widows employed in industry who, when about 40 or 50 years of age, become burnt out. They are not sufficiently ill to obtain the invalid pension, and, because they are childless, they have no hope of obtaining the widow’s pension. Therefore, they have to struggle on until they become entitled to the old-age pension at the age of 60 years, or, through sickness, qualify for the invalid pension. If a woman who has contributed under this bill marries and wishes to continue her pension payment, she must pay a flat rate of ls. a week to enable her to receive 15s. a week when she is 60. There is no reason at nil why she should not receive the fi as the men will. What will become of the money she will have paid into the fund from the time when she began co work in industry, possibly at the age of fourteen years, until she reached the age of, perhaps. 25 years when she married? Should not those contributions be sufficient to insure her for the rest of her life? When she goes out of industry and marries, another girl takes her place, and so the contributions to the fund from the prospective mothers of the nation will be continuous. It is disgraceful that women who render the greatest possible service to their country should be treated in this way. The maternity allowance should be granted to mothers as a right, and the payment should not be “dependent upon the earnings of their husbands. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that he hopes that the scheme will be improved. Therefore. I trust that, the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition will be accepted, because the Opposition desires that the scheme shall embrace many sections of the people who are now excluded. Men who have been in affluent circumstances in the past have been forced to accept the old-age pension. 1 have obtained the pension even for an ex-member of parliament, and it must have been hard for him to hear the statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that a man loses his self-respect when he accepts the present pension, but that, under the Government’s proposal, he will retain his self-respect. By accepting the amendment, which would make the scheme more equitable than it now is, we should go a long way towards safeguarding the democratic institutions of this country.
– One finds it difficult sometimes to reconcile the various statements of members like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He has told us at considerable length of the scheme of selfhelp which is in operation on the coal-fields of New South Wales, and 1 believe that it is worthy of all the commendation he has given to it. As one who was born and reared in that district, I know of the tendency of the men there to resort to self-help of the kind mentioned. But how the honorable member can commend a scheme of that kind, and object to extending its benefits over a wider area, passes my comprehension. If it is possible for a fund which is built up entirely from the contributions of it” rr- ember? jo be generous, surely it must be competent for a fund established by the contributions of the ultimate beneficiaries, supplemented by contributions by employers and also by the Commonwealth, to he much more generous. 1 cannot see that this bill will interfere with the perpetuation of the miners’ local benefit fund, beyond requiring certain adjustments to be made. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) voiced another grievance against the 1,ill. lie said that a girl who had been in insurable employ, but had left for the purpose of getting married, would be compelled to pay another 5s., whatever that may mean. My reading of the bill is that she will have the option of continuing to pay ls. a week until she attains the age of 60 years, when she will be entitled to an annuity for life at the rate of 15s. a week. There are some points about this bill which are open to criticism, and some of them I shall criticize before T resume my seat, but, this is not one of them. On the contrary, I regard it as one of the most generous provisions of this measure. It means that that girl will be able to secure an annuity for herself at probably one-fourth the commercial cost of a similar annuity. I wonder what the other contributors to this insurance scheme, who also may have to leave industry - not necessarily to get married, but for other purposes equally worthy - will have vo say when they realize that, they will not be allowed to participate in that generous provision. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that the strength of a democratic community is in proportion to the virility of its patriotism. He could have added with truth that the virility of its patriotism is in proportion to the economic security of its people. And had he said that, he would not hove said anything original. Not long ago a conference of the Economic Committee of the League of Nations met at Geneva in order to discuss the world unrest which was causing so much concern at the time, and, unfortunately, still is. In a speech, which was acclaimed as one of the most outstanding deliverances of the whole gathering, one delegate said -
No longer did thinking people throughout the world have any doubt that the principal cause of world unrest, leading up to the fear of war. was the economic insecurity which hung like a pall over the industrial communities of the world.
That was the expression, not of a representative of the Soviet Republics, but of an ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - our .very efficient High Commissioner in London - and I had the assurance, from the lips of the Prime Minister himself, that the Government of the Commonwealth did not dissociate itself from the statement of its representative at Geneva on that occasion. In passing, I may say that not always does the Government of the Commonwealth entirely endorse the things said by some of its representatives at Geneva.
Just as in the domestic and national realms, so also in the international sphere, is economic security essential to the perpetuation of contentment and peace. At Versailles in 1919, there was a conference which, not inaptly, has been referred to as the greatest gathering of statesmen in recorded history. They had assembled for the special purpose of determining the measure of responsibility for the provocation of the Great War, and to assess the penalties which should be imposed on the nation which was adjudged guilty. Although that was the principal objective of the conference, there was another matter which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of most thinking people, was even more important, namely the endeavour to create a set of world conditions which would make another peace conference unnecessary, by ending for all time the resort to war as an instrument for the settlement, of international disputes. Arising out of the discussions of that conference was a pronouncement similar to that made by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, but it was made nineteen years earlier. The delegates to that conference, said that the objective of world peace was impracticable unless it was founded on social justice to the workers in industry. I emphasize that that gathering was not a congregation of trade union officials, or even of radical members on this side of the House, but the greatest gathering of diplomats that had ever met in conference. They were not content with pious platitudes; they decided to endeavour to create those world conditions which they said were essential to the establishment and maintenance of world peace. Thus was born the International Labour Office. It was created by the Versailles Peace Conference to protect and improve the working conditions of industrialists throughout the world. That was its general charter, but some special directions were given to it. In addition to being told in a general way to endeavour to improve the lot of working communities throughout the world, the Peace Conference itself - and this is set out in section 13 of the text of the Treaty - asked the International Labour Office to pay special and immediate attention to several matters which it believed were of outstanding importance. Among them was the very subject we have been discussing to-day - the provision, for the workers in industry throughout the world, of a greater measure of protection against social and industrial vicissitudes, such as illness, unemployment, and the deficiencies of old age. Because of the spotlight being focussed on these important subjects, the International Labour Conference has paid special attention to this matter, with the result that no less than nine conventions which bear on the subject of economic security have been adopted since 1919. This development of world thought has resulted in no less than thirty countries of the world establishing schemes of social insurance. Why is it that Australia is the last of the reputedly forward nations of the world to follow the lead in this direction? Is it because 14,000 miles of ocean obscures our view and dulls our knowledge of what is going on abroad, or is it because pure ignorance of world trends has left us blissfully oblivious of the possibilities inherent in national insurance? We cannot claim that this is so, for as far back as 1910 the Commonwealth Statistician of the day, Sir George Knibbs, was asked to make an investigation of the schemes of social insurance then current on the continent, principally in Germany. These relevant paragraphs appear in the report that he submitted to the Commonwealth Government on the 10th September, 1910: -
Since one of the prime factors in production is the healthy and efficient workman, expenditure on sound social insurance may be regarded as a wise investment, and one which will return to a nation a high rate of interest . . .
Beyond all material considerations, the beneficial moral effect of the system in Germany has been enormous, and a direct and farreaching result is that the spirit of thrift, manliness, and self-reliance has been reinforced inthe working classes.
That was not our only evidence of what was going on abroad, for in 1913, the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Joseph Cook, speaking on the hustings, referred to the investigations of Sir George Knibbs, and remarked that the inquiries had proceeded so far that it was hoped very soon to crystallize the results in legislation which would give to the people of this country some of the benefits enjoyed by people of other countries of the world.
In 1923, we took another step forward. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into the subject. It sat for two or three years, took voluminous evidence, and forwarded its report to the Government on the 10th June, 1925. I cite the following passages from that report: -
The wage-earner is generallyunable to provide, unaided, for the circumstances arising from his incapacity to work. His economic position is also seriously affected by the sickness of his wife or dependants. Very often, under present conditions, these unfortunate circumstances necessitate an immediate request for charitable assistance . . .
Your commissioners are, therefore, of the opinion that it is both desirable and necessary that the Commonwealth Government institute a compulsory system of national insurance in Australia which will provide for the payment of sickness, invalidity, maternity, and superannuation benefits to insured members.
I emphasize the use of the word “ compulsory “, for it appears again in the Summary of Recommendations in the following context : -
Your commissioners recommend -
that a national insurance fund be instituted which will provide for the payment of sickness, invalidity, maternity. and superannuation benefits to insured members, and
that membership of such fund be compulsory.
That report was signed by sevenhonorable members of this Parliament, three of whom were members of the Labour party. One of them, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, (Mr. Green), is still a Labour representative in this House. In these circumstances I find it difficult to understand the hysterical opposition that the Labour party is now offering to the principle of compulsory and contributory national insurance. As the Prime Minister reminded us yesterday, even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) himself signed a report not long ago, endorsing the principle of compulsory insurance. The three members of the Labour party who signed the 1925 report likewise gave unequivocal and unreserved endorsement to tuc principle of contributory insurance.
In 1927, at the conference held at Geneva under the aegis of the International Labour Office, Australia, as usual, had three delegates, one of whom represented the Government, one the employers, and one the employees. The Government representative was Sir Joseph Cook who, at that time, was High Commissioner for Australia in London. In his report he stated that the most important item on the agenda was that which related to the institution of compulsory systems of sickness insurance. This was also the view of the other two delegates. After the subject had been threshed out at that Conference the principle of universal compulsory sickness insurance was endorsed by 75 votes to 2. Among the names of those who voted in the affirmative, was that of Mr. Culley, a former Labour member of this House who is, at this moment, again journeying to Geneva as the representative of the workers of Australia. The subject of compulsory and contributory insurance was again discussed at the 1933 International Labour Conference. This time invalid and old-age pensions were being considered. The principle was approved on that occasion by 106 votes to 2. The Labour. representative at that conference was Mr. Wallis. Obviously, therefore, the opposition now being offered by the Labour party to the general principle of compulsory contributory insurance must be. based on quite newlyfound ideas.
We went a little further in 1928, for in that year the Government introduced a bill into this House embodying many of the features included in this bill, but framed on a much more generous scale. In 3 935 a further report was submitted to the Commonwealth Government by a distinguished member of this chamber who shall remain unnamed. Since that time continuous investigations, actuarial and otherwise, have been made of the practicality of introducing a system of national insurance into this country.
For more than a quarter of a century, therefore, various Commonwealth Governments have been urged to introduce a bill to deal with the subject we are now considering. I am sure that many people throughout the length and breadth of Australia will support me when I commend the Government for having made this start. Whether we are altogether satisfied with the nature of the start is another matter.
Sitting suspended from G.15 to 8 p.m.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Speakers on the Opposition side did not hesitate to describe the contributory provisions of the bill as a method for robbing the workers of their rights. If that be so, then a great many persons besides members of the Government have been guilty of a similar intent. The charge lies also against members of the royal commission of 1925, including three members of the Opposition, who recommended compulsory contributions from the insured as part of the scheme. Similarly, Labour representatives at the International Labour Conference have, time and again, endorsed the principle of contributory community insurance. Quite recently, the British Labour party devised a pensions scheme which they, believed would be superior, in some respects, to the present pensions scheme in operation in Great Britain, but they did not suggest a departure from the compulsory contributory system. All they proposed was to increase the benefits; they adhered very firmly to the contributory system, and that after 27 years’ experience to guide them. I do not believe that the Opposition truly reflects the minds of the workers in Australia in this respect. The fact is that there are no rights under the present system of social services, and there can be no rights so long as the financial backing of those services is dependent upon the condition of the public treasury. I atn not one of those who believe in blaming the Scullin Administration for reducing social service payments during the depression. I do not forget that that Administration could not have done what it did except for the support of those now on this side of the Mouse, but I do say that what happened on that occasion is a classic illustration of the insecure basis upon which our present social services rest. The fact that the Scullin Administration was unwillingly compelled by the force of circumstances to make severe reductions in regard to social services, demonstrates beyond ail doubt the insecurity of those services which depend entirely upon the. treasury.
Do honorable members need to be reminded of the limitations and restrictions associated with the present pensions system? Let me give a few illustrations that have come under my own notice, which indicate how frail is the contention that the present old-age pension is a right. Recently, I was visited by a constituent who complained that his application for a pension had been declined. When I perused the papers, I found that the pension had been refused because his wife and he were joint owners of a pair of cottages. Had they owned only one cottage it would not have affected their pension rights, but they had committed the crime of acquiring, by their frugality, a second cottage valued in excess of £800. Therefore, under the regulations, the Commissioner bad no option but to refuse the pension. Ordinarily, they would have been entitled, between them, to pensions totalling 40s. a week, but this was denied them because they owned a second cottage, the rental value of which was not more than 16s. a week. Is that the kind of thing which members of the Opposition desire to perpetuate? During the last election campaign, a constituent complained to me that his pension had been reduced from 16s. 6d. to 5s. a week. I found that this was due to the fact that the department had learned that the aged wife of the pensioner had secured a position as cleaner in the local school, at a wage of 4Ss. a week. Under our oldage pensions scheme it is assumed that all income or property is jointly shared by husband and wife. Therefore, in this instance, the Commissioner had no option but to allocate to the husband £1 4s. Od. of the £2 Ss. Od. earned by the wife. Another provision of the act is that no pensioner shall receive a gross income of more than 32s. 6d. a week, including pension. As £1 4s. Od. of the wife’s earnings were appropriated to the pensioner, it followed that 8s. 6d. a week was the maximum pension to which he was entitled under the law, and this was further reduced because the engagement of his wife had continued for twelve months before it caine to the notice of the department, and the 3s. 6d. was deducted by way of restitution. Again, I ask, is that the kind of thing which honorable members opposite wish to see continued ? Only a fortnight ago, still another case caine under my notice, that of a former stonemason who was suffering from silicosis, though not sufficiently to justify the payment of an invalid pension. He was denied an old-age pension because, when he was earning good money, he acquired a block of ground which, though valuable according to the books of the municipality, was of no value to bini because it returned him no income. However, the nominal value was in excess of the statutory amount permitted, and he was for that reason refused a pension. Surely that sort of thing is not equitable, and yet it is just the sort of thing which will be perpetuated, and repeated many thousands of times throughout Australia, unless we substitute something better for the existing pensions scheme.
Certainly, the measure now before the House is not perfect, but I agree with the Treasurer that it is a mighty fine start. I want to help the Treasurer to make it a better start. The bill represents an epoch in Australian sociology, but I should be disappointed with it were it not for the assurance of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that this is only a first instalment of the complete social services scheme. I want to make it a worth-while instalment. The bill contains some defects and omissions in regard to which I am prepared to wait for the remedy, but other defects should be remedied now, before the measure becomes law. The most outstanding defect is the restricted operation of the scheme in respect to the personnel covered, and the contingencies against which contributors are protected. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the Government proposes to devise a scheme to bring in those self-employed workers now excluded, but I should like to see them included in the present measure. It would then more closely approximate to the British plan, which now includes some hundreds of thousands of selfemployed workers not previously admitted. The 1928 National Insurance Bill introduced into this Parliament by Sir Earle Page provided for the inclusion of voluntary contributors of the kind ito whom I have just referred. I have here a report of an address made recently in Great Britain by Sir Henry Brackenburg past president of the British Medical Association of Great Britain. Recently at the request of the Government of New Zealand, he- visited the dominion to advise upon health insurance plans. He has had over a quarter of a century’s experience of the operation of national health insurance in Great Britain, and on his return to Great Britain from New Zealand he delivered an address in the course of which he said -
There are other persons of like economic position who have not an employer, who are working on their own account - in England, the small shopkeeper, even the hawker, the pedlar, and in Mew Zealand especially, and tn a certain extent in this country, too, the small farmer who is working for himself - who never attain to beyond a very modest income year by year. Now, if this is to be a national health provision, nobody could deny, 1 think, that those people need the provision to be made for them, or need to be helped to make the provision for themselves, in a measure at least equal to that which is available for insured persons or the heads of families, as the case wRY be. So that, having profited by the experience of this and other countries, it is logical to propose, when establishing a new scheme - certainly the medical profession in New Zealand does dispute it - that the insured clientele ought to be not only the weekly wage-earner, but his dependants and others of like economic status.
Therefore, I hope that it will be possible, even before this measure becomes law, to widen its scope so that at least the dependants of contributors will be covered in respect of medical attendance. It has been said that it would be unfair to ask the employer to make a contribution towards the medical attendance benefit of employees’ wives and families whom he never sees, but the bill does require him to make contributions towards other benefits in respect of wives and children. I had hoped that it would be possible for the Government to do one of two things: either to widen the scope of the measure, so that it would provide for medical attendance benefits for those wives and children, or, by another health measure, grant a subvention to friendly societies so that they would be able to formulate a proposal for the inclusion, of women and children in the friendly societies medical scheme. It might be asked why should the Government provide for the care of persons of this kind. A number of reasons may be advanced in favour of this course. If it is right for the Government to apply £1,000,000 to assist in securing medical attention and kindred aids for 1,850,000 contributors of the classification named in this bill, surely it is not incongruous to propose that it find some other sum of public money to provide similar benefits for some other section of the community? I commend these proposals to the Government and I hope, that before the bill is disposed of, the Treasurer will indicate to the House whether he is prepared to endorse one or other of them.
I am glad that in providing for the administration of the measure the Government has followed the lead of Great Britain by using as its agents approved societies. This was the method adopted by Mr. Lloyd George in connexion with the British measure in 1911, and it allayed fears and apprehensions of British friendly societies as to their stability under the new social order. I do not share with friendly societies in this country their apprehensions concerning the effect on their activities of this scheme. When I was in England some time ago T had, and took advantage of, the opportunity to discuss this measure with the highest executives of the friendly society movement in Great Britain, and was told that I could assure the friendly societies in Australia that as long as the Commonwealth scheme followed the lead of Great Britain in the method of administration, the societies would not have much to fear from the operation of the act. T can, however, readily understand their- apprehensions, for 1 do not deny that thu inauguration of the scheme is likely to deprive them of some of their members, especially the youthful section whom they can least afford to lose. Therefore, I would be quite prepared, subject to the acceptance of my earlier suggestion that the wives and children of contributors be brought under the medical benefits of the scheme, to place in the hands of the friendly societies and other bodies such as trade unions which have been conducting work of this type, the complete administration of the measure.
– Would the honorable member exclude insurance companies from the category of approved societies?
– Yes, subject to the proviso already expressed, it has to be admitted that there are still some weaknesses in the approved society method, not the least of which is the fact that it provides for differential benefits to be given to people who, under the scheme, will pay the same contributions. It is well known that in Great Britain, some of these societies consisting largely of contributors who are working under sheltered conditions and’ therefore seldom lose time from work, are able to pay greatly extended benefits to their members because contributions are constant and claims light, whereas other societies in less favoured circumstances experience difficulty in maintaining the statutory benefits provided under the British act because their members are not all in regular employment.
I am glad that the Government has found a way to equalize the benefits under this measure and that it is removing some of the objections to which I have directed attention. The provision under which 50 per cent, of the disposable surplus of all approved societies is placed into a common pool for re-distribution will, of course, maintain to some, extent an equality of benefits. In Great Britain every branch of an approved society is treated as a self-governing body with regard to its financial affairs and national insurance. Under this arrangement it is possible for the members of, say a society of Oddfellows in Haberfield to secure benefits which are not enjoyed by their fellow craftsmen in
Cessnock. I am glad to know that the Government is not slavishly following the British practice in this regard. It is treating the central organization of a society as the unit, so that the disparity in respect of benefits, noted in England, will not be repeated in Australia.
One other of the imperfections of the bill, from my viewpoint at least, lies in the fact that it provides discriminatory benefits for male and female contributors. I know, and I have had occasion to say so frequently during recent weeks to meetings of women’s organizations, that an analytical examination of the bill will reveal that on the whole the female contributor does not fare worse than the male contributor. But it is a tradition in Australia and the practice is established in the British act that there shall be no discrimination in pensions payable to male and female contributors. We have been told that payments under this bill to a woman of 60 year3 of age will not be limited to 15s.; that if she conforms to the requirements of the old-age pensions law, her pension of 15s. a week will be supplemented by 5s. a week, making the total 20s. a week. I thought that one of the things which would be ended by this bill was the means test. I regret to note that it is to be perpetuated. What will be the probable effect of this provision? Obviously, the 5s. a week will not be paid to a girl who decides that 15s. a week, or even 20s. a week, is not sufficient for her to live on when she attains the age of 60 years, because if, in pursuance of her resolve, she practises thrift, for every £10 which she saves there will be a deduction of ls. a week in her claim for supplementary pension. With this provision in the bill, there will be little inducement for contributors to save money. In any case, the majority of women who remain in insurable employment until they reach the age of 60 years will be able to qualify for the old-age pension, particularly if they become “ wise “ to this principle and decide that they are not going to save, but will depend upon the supplementary payment from the old-age pension fund. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to eliminate this unfortunate discrimination by granting the extra 5s. to all female contributors, « veil those guilty of the offence of saving a few pounds to provide additional comforts in her old age. 1 am not enamoured of the proposal to enable a woman io contribute ls. 6d. a week in order that she may qualify for a pension of 20s. a week. 1 sec in it a sincere attempt by the Government to meet a request that has been made, but, unfortunately, it seeks to remove one anomaly by creating another. The female contributor who elects to contribute on this basis will not be encouraged when she discovers that, until she reaches the age of 60 years, she will not receive the same benefits as a mab’, contributor, also paying ls. 6d.; in respect of sickness and disability. 1, therefore, hope that the Government will be able to extend the voluntary pension to all the women covered by the scheme. 1 come now to the nationality qualification. lt is an anomaly - T am sure it is unintentional - that, in an Australian national insurance bill, the only persons who are excluded from its provisions on the score of nationality are the Australian natives. Under the employee qualification, the scheme cannot exclude aliens, but it does exclude Australian aborigines and Pacific Islanders. I feel sure that this is an oversight, and that it needs only to be brought to the notice of the Government to bc rectified. I cannot believe that it was the serious intention of the Ministry to exclude from the measure those Australian aboriginals who are able to qualify as employees. * Leave to continue given.]*
There is one other aspect of the bill which I know will provoke criticism from honorable members opposite. The measure definitely precludes arbitration courts, commissions and similar bodies from taking into account contributions to the scheme when determining the basic wage. I know that there are genuinely divergent views as to whether the contributions exacted from the worker in respect of this measure should or should not be taken into consideration. There, is in the bill provision to use Commonwealth sovereignty to prohibit State tribunals, when making cost-of-living awards, from giving consideration to contributions made to this fund. I do not know what the provisions are in other
States, but I know that in New South Wales the Industrial Commission, in December, 1936, did make an allowance for lodge dues and hospital contributions. It seems io me that the clause to which I refer will arbitrarily prevent the New South Wales Arbitration Commission from pursuing the policy which, up till now, it has applied. It is not impossible to perceive that it might even result in the lowering of the basic wage in that State, but as the New South Wales Government has followed the Commonwealth basic wage that result might be avoided. Probably similar conditions exist in the arbitration courts of some of the other States. It is my view that the worker’s contribution should form part, of the regimen taken into account when the Arbitration Court is assessing the basic wage, because I believe that the preservation of health is just as necessary a feature of Australian family life as the provision of meat and bread and other foodstuffs. As we, as a national Parliament, are deliberately imposing the scheme on all the people embraced by the bill, we have less right to refuse to them the opportunity at least to establish before the appropriate tribunals the right to have some provision made in respect of that contribution. I am aware that it will be suggested that the granting of some of the concessions for which I and other honorable members are asking will involve the raising of additional revenue either from the contributors or by the Government, but I can only repeat that if it is right for the Government to subsidize the medical services of one section of the community it is equally right for it to extend that privilege to other sections.
I am pleased that the Government proposes to enter into a reciprocal arrangement with the British Government’ so that people migrating between Great Britain and Australia will be able to take with them their acquired merits in the fund. I hope that that principle will be extended. There is an international labour convention dealing with the matter and I hope that the Government will ratify it. I have no doubt that the absence of such an arrangement has bad a restraining influence on migration from Great Britain to Australia in recent years, because men and women hare been reluctant to lose the measure of security which they have acquired under the insurance legislation of Great Britain. it is my hope that some form of national insurance, however imperfect, shall be placed on the statute-book, but it is my duty to my constituents and myself to do all that I can to have as many as possible of the imperfections removed. Ten years ago the present Minister for Commerce and Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) introduced a national insurance bill and when moving the second reading he stated that too long had the workers of Australia waited for a scheme of social insurance to relieve them from the grim spectres of want and misery. That sentiment has now the emphasis of a further ten years’ delay and, endorsing it, I hope that the relief will not be delayed much longer.
.- Supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I believe that if this measure were to be made worth while such fundamental alterations would be necessary as would result in its practical destruction. I shall attempt to demonstrate that there is not a redeeming feature in the measure. The Government describes it as a national health and pensions insurance bill, but I think that the term is a misnomer. In the first place it is not a national scheme. It is true that both the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) stated that the operation of the measure would affect 52 per cent, of (he Australian population. 1 do not doubt that statement, but I would point out that it will not affect, them in the way in which the Government contends it will, because the operation of the measure cannot bestow any benefit on the workers or improve their conditions. Let us examine the purpose of the bill. Listening to supporters of the Government who have already spoken describing the extensive benefits to be bestowed on the workers in return for the contributions that they are to be asked to make, one might be inclined to think that the Government’s supporters are anxious to alleviate the position of the distressed section of th» community
Examination of the history and record of the Government parties proves the contrary. My advice to the workers is “ beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts ‘”. If the workers examine carefully the Government’s proposals and ask themselves whether they will be better off after the enactment of the measure than they are now, they will realise that they will b<3 far worse off. The sole purpose of the Government and the interests supporting it - the wealthy section - is to remove the responsibility of providing the revenue out of which payments are made for social services from the shoulders of the rich to the backs o? the already overburdened workers.
The Government’s supporters who have spoken in favour of the measure say that the bill is not a money-saving device; but, bearing on that claim, I quote from au article m the Sydney Sunday Sun of the f3 th June, J 03*7 - *
The rising coa! of social services has been the main reason fur the evolution of this scheme. New South Wit lea spends about £5,000.000 -under this head, mid last, financial year combined expenditure of State and Federal Governments on soc:al services was over £30,000,000. -Mr. K. I’ lnnes, who has been made available by the Australian Mutual Provident Society to advise Cabinet, emphasized that, the increasing proportion of elderly people in the community made it essential that the superannuation scheme (replacing the old-age pension) be on a. compulsory contributing basis.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) stated in hi* report of the 4th December, 1035 -
My knowledge of the extraordinary burden imposed on Austral inn budgets in the care of and in the provision for sick and unemployed, and also of the serious concern regarding our growing old -age pension account, impelled mc to make a very close study of these schemes, particularly of the British plan, which seems to me to have obvious clements of applicability to Australia.
The honorable member for Parramatta did not say to-night that his sole purpose in supporting the bill was to relieve Government budgets. I shall now quote fi om the Treasurer’s speech explaining the bill-
The gravity of the prospective growth iu the cost of pensions is accentuated by the fact that -10 years from now there will be relatively fewer persona in the active productive age groups to bear the bin den.
In trying to overcome some of the opposition of employers to the measure the Treasurer said -
I du not disguise the fact that there will be Mime heart-burning.’ amongst employers by reason of the cost to them, ihat cost will amount to £5,5110,000 in the early years of the scheme and. in the course of about fifteen yearn, that figure will gradually rise to nearly £7,51)0.000. That is a very large emu. but I invite employers to bear in mind what 1 have just said as to the formidable increase in the costs under the existing Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, if this national insurance scheme is not passed.
The statement proves that the Government has introduced the measure not for the purpose of providing additional benefits for the workers, hut. to relieve the rich supporters of the Government of the cost that they are called upon to bear for the provision of social services. I agree ihat as the years pass the amounts required for old-age mid invalid pensions will progressively increase and I am aware that the expenditure for these pensions has now to be met out of consolidated revenue. If the amount required for the pensions increases substantially in the future the Government will be forced to levy additional taxation upon ils wealthy supporters, and this the Government is trying to avoid. The scheme appears to be nothing more than a swindle to place the burden of financing social services on the already over-burdened poor. The Government is asking the workers to increase their existing poverty in order to provide against their future destitution.
It has been stated that this national insurance scheme will preserve to the workers their dignity and self-respect by flailing upon them to make some contribution. The workers will have no need to feel any loss of self-respect or dignity if they apply for the paltry amount that is to be made available to them under the terms of the existing Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. Are they not the nation builders and the past producers of the wealth of Australia ; and when they obtain a benefit under such n scheme as this, will they not be getting only a return of that which they have contributed to the revenues of the Commonwealth in the years of their employment? I should like to ask honorable members of the parties supporting the Government whether they felt any loss of dignity or self-respect when they or their constituents collect the bounties paid io primary industries. Did liny ever suggest that those bounty schemes should be placed on a contributory basis? If it is right to ask the workers to provide by contributions for benefits which ir is said they will receive under this legislation, would it not- be logical to ask the primary producers to pay contributions in the good years towards the bounties which they received in the lean years? Under the scheme of the bill the workers are to pay a contribution and the employers are to pay one also; it means in plain words, that the worker will not only pay his own contribution, but finally pay the greatest proportion of the employer’s contribution, because the employer will add hi3 contribution to overhead expenses and pass it on to the workers in the form of additional prices charged for goods. The only persons to whom the worker can pass on hicontribution are his wife and children. If ls. 6d. a week is taken out of the pay envelope of a worker it means leas bread and butter and other commodities for the family. Perhaps many people imagine that the workers are receiving such high wage3 that they will be able to pay the weekly contribution without suffering any material loss. But actually the base wage of the worker is decided in this country to-day upon the principle of providing what will supply the normal minimum requirements of a man, his wife, and two children. Tie receives nothing in addition which would enable him to practise the thrift which file Government says is so necessary. The worker can practise thrift only hy depriving his children of some of the things that even the court, which has not been over-generous in its decisions, has laid down as the minimum which the worker should receive.
Let us examine some of the humbug to which this Parliament and the people of this country have been treated in regard to this particular matter. The Treasurer has said that we ought to be proud of the liberal provisions made in this country for the assistance of many of the distressed sections of the community. He has also said -
I believe that no country in the world has a more highly developed sense of social justice than our own, and that the unwritten motto of Australia is “ Do as you would be done by”.
Mention has frequently been made of the wonderful conditions that prevail in Australia, and it has been said that the workers should, by their own thrift, provide for their needs. The statements of honorable members should be examined, with a view to seeing whether they coincide with the facts. The Treasurer said on one occasion -
And there remain the people who make no provision for the future. We Australians are generally regarded as a race of optimists. That is partly the result of our sunny, equable climate and, on the whole, a high standard of living. Quite a considerable proportion of our people earn good wages.
The census is the only accurate means whereby we can ascertain what are the conditions of the people, and whether they are receiving the wages which the Government contends they are receiving. The census taken on the 30th June, 1933, disclosed that at that date 348,566 breadwinners in Australia had no income whatever; that 875,503 had an income of under £1 a week; that 573,641 had an income of between £1 and £2 a week ; and that 375,688 had an income of between £2 and £3 a week. Actually, 2,173,398 breadwinners in the Commonwealth at that date were receiving less than £3 a week. Yet Government members try to convince us that the reason why there is so much want among our aged workers and those who are suffering from various ailments is that they have not practised thrift! I suggest that, if they had the opportunity possessed by members of Parliament to decide what wages they should receive, they might have something which would enable them to practise thrift. But they have not that opportunity.
Let us examine, for a moment, the alleged benefits of this proposed scheme. According to the bill, the contributions may be increased by the Government to any amount at any time. An examination of world conditions to-day will show that we are sliding into another depression. Consequently, the Govern ment is anxious to build up a fund out of which the workers themselves, by making sacrifices now, will be called upon to provide, the means of subsistence for distressed sections of the community in the depression years. Few workers will be able to receive any benefits under the scheme for at least two years. Therefore, immediately the scheme comes into operation, the money will begin to flow in and there will be derived an enormous surplus such as was obtained under the British scheme, which to-day totals £130,000,000.
Let us see what a friend and supporter of the Government has had to say in regard to the particular burden of pensions. Mr. John M. White, Secretary of the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales is reported to have said -
National insurance is a scheme whereby the burden of social amelioration is directly borne, in part, by the potential recipients of suchrelief….. The position has arisen to-day, however, when the charge on the Government’s revenue funds to provide these benefit payments has achieved such dimensions that some degree of alarm isfelt as to whether the budgets can reasonably stand these everincreasing demands….. When it is remembered that federal pensions are increasing by approximately £1,000,000 per annum, and an Auditor-General recently felt constrained to express a serious warning as to the position in a few years time, the need for some radical change in the scheme of financing such social services becomes apparent. The successful implementing of a comprehensive scheme of contributory national insurance in Australia would, it is submitted, achieve a threefold purpose - firstly to give to the worker a much needed sense of security against contingencies beyond his control, secondly to make the worker directly responsible, in part, for financing the benefits he will be entitled to receive, and finally to relieve taxpayers of a burden which is becoming almost intolerable.
He went on to say -
The present would appear to be a favorable opportunity to embark upon such a scheme as has been contemplated. Industries are on the up-grade, unemployment has been restored to pre-depression standards, and Governmental finances are buoyant. Now is the time to act so that future emergencies may find the scheme well prepared.
That is exactly what the Government proposes to do. It wishes to launch the scheme now because it believes that Government finances are buoyant and that to an extent industry has revived, so that it may have in existence a substantial fund upon which it can draw when we slip into another depression ; and judging by happenings in Great Britain and the United States, which generally are reflected in Australia, that possibility is not very far off. It is the desire of the Government that the workers, by accepting a lower living standard, should provide the means whereby the cost of social services may be met in the depression years that are ahead without having to impose additional taxes on the very rich.
Let us examine the details of the bill. As I have said, the Government will have the power to increase the contributions to any figure it thinks is necessary. It is not guaranteeing the solvency of the fund out of which these benefits are to be provided. It has not said that it will back the scheme no matter what calls may be made upon it, but it has provided that the contributions shall be those which are fixed by Parliament. Therefore the contributions will be those fixed from time to time by the Government, because it controls the Parliament. Consequently, should there be an abnormal demand on the fund out of which it is said that these benefits to the. workers will come, the Government will have the necessary support in this Parliament to enable it to increase the contributions of the workers. That simply means that Parliament will have power to make a reduction of the wage rates and living standards of the community should it desire to do so.
It is said that this scheme is based on the British scheme. In many respects it is even worse than the British scheme. All that has been done in Great Britain under the so-called national insurance legislation is to make permanent the poverty of a considerable section of the population. But in that country all children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years receive medical benefits free of cost. They are not asked to make a contribution. Yet this Government, in its desire to get as much as it can from the worker so that it may lighten the burden of its wealthy friends, is not prepared to leave even the children alone. It wants its pound of flesh from them as wellas from adults. Consequently, it requires that every child in industry between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years shall make a contribution of 4d. a week, so that they may be given medical service and be kept constantly in good health, thereby maintaining intact this avenue of cheap labour for exploitation by the manufacturers, thus enabling them to earn the profits that they are so anxious to amass.
Let us consider the case of other sections of the workers who are being asked to make contributions to this scheme. No matter what portion of a week a man may work, he will still have to make his contribution. If he should happen to work on only one day or two days, the amount of his contribution will not be lessened.
I was rather amazed to hear the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) comment upon the discrimination in this particular legislation against the Australian aboriginal native. The honorable member should not have been very greatly surprised at that. He must be aware of the nature of the activities of the Government of which he is a supporter. He knows that it permits a system of slavery to exist in this country, that in many cases it allows Australian aboriginal natives to be employed for no more than a mere modicum of food. If the aboriginal native of Australia were embraced by this scheme, the wealthy pastoralist who takes advantage of this cheap reservoir of labour would have to pay a contribution of 3s. a week for each native employed. The Government is not prepared to agree to that, consequently the aboriginal native is excluded from the scheme. On innumerable occasions it has been proved beyond doubt on the floor of this House that not only the male aborigines, but also the females, are being exploited in various parts of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
Mr.WARD. - Although I bow to your ruling, sir, I still say that in this measure particular provision is made to exclude from the scheme aboriginal natives of Australia and Pacific Islands’ natives. As the Government has given no indication of the reason for that exclusion, I consider that honorable members are quite in order in drawing their own conclusions as to its intentions.
– Older ! The honorable member must know that he was called to order because he referred to what bad been done in this House. The exploitation of persons referred to by him lias nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion.
– Very well, 1 shall deal with what the Government proposes to do. In practically every case, a low-paid worker has to remain at his employment on many occasions when the condition of his health is such as to warrant the cessation of his activities in order that he might recuperate. Because of the needs of his family, bc has to continue at work, or return to it before lie is in a fit condition to do so. This scheme does not give to the low-paid worker the opportunity to stay at home until he has fully recuperated. During the first 26 weeks of idleness, provided he is qualified in other respects, he is to receive a sickness benefit of £1 a week. What worker could lie expected to make provision for the requirements of himself and family on an income of £1 a week, and the additional paltry means that are to be made available to him? If a worker, being anxious to return to his employment, does so before he has been absent for seven’ days
Jil account of ill health, he will receive no benefit at all. The whole scheme is so surrounded with restrictions and qualifications that many unfortunate workers who think that they will be provided for will find, to their dismay, that such is not the case. It has been said by many speakers in this chamber that no provision has been made for medical services for wives and children of the workers. The lowerpaid worker who makes a sacrifice in belonging to a friendly society cannot afford to contribute to the society at the same time, and make the compulsory contribution required under thi3 scheme. He must choose whether he will make additional sacrifices to remain in both schemes, or terminate his membership of the friendly society. The majority will be compelled, on account of low wages, to cease their membership of the friendly societies.
No medical service is to be provided for old-age pensioners who receive their payments under the provisions of the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; but why discriminate between sections of the community in their need? Whether they receive pensions under the present act, or whether they come under the measure now under consideration, their needs will be just the same. According to the Government the only old-age pensioners who will get medical assistance will be those receiving superannuation payments under the proposed scheme, and not those who get pensions under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Under the bill before us, no means test is to be applied ; but those who receive the old-age pension under the existing act must prove that they are in destitute circumstances and yet are to be denied the medical services to be provided for those who receive payments under the insurance scheme.
The majority of the workers who will come under this scheme do not enjoy continuity of employment. They have intermittent periods of employment in various works and undertakings, and under this proposal they will automatically lose their benefits if they become unfinancial. The Government generously says that if they lose their employment, they may remain financial under the scheme by paying not only their own contributions, but also those which were paid previously by their employers. Another provision of the bill relates to the recurrence of illness. If an injured person ceases work owing to ill-health, and if in his first period of illness his absence from work does not exceed 26 weeks, and he contracts a further illness eleven months, three weeks, and six days later, provided a year has not elapsed, this must be regarded as a continuance of the previous illness, and the benefit already received must be deducted. This means that on the second occasion, although the illness is a totally different one, if the worker has already had sixteen weeks’ sick benefit he can only get another ten weeks’ sickness benefit. This is the treatment that will be received by workers as a reward for having accepted a reduction of their living standards.
Now, let us consider the circumstances in which the old-age pension, or the so-called superannuation payment is to be granted. It is provided that before a person can receive this he has to be insured for five years, and that during that term he must have made 20S contribution” since his last entry into insurance, and an average of 39 contributions in each of the three years immediately prior to bis reaching the pensionable age. Everybody knows that, under present industrial methods, the tendency is to push out the older workers, because they cannot, keep up with the production pace, and to employ younger workers in their stead. Many workers, therefore, find themselves on the scrap- heap at the age of 45 years, and some at an even lower age. The Government says that it will not put these men outside the. scheme, provided they have previously been insured, because they will be given the right to become voluntary contributors. A labourer may have to go out of employment at the age of 45 years, and this Government tells him that, for the following twenty years, if he likes to pay his own contributions and also those previously paid by his employer, he will receive 15s. a week as a pension when he reaches the age of 65 years. These are the provisions of what the Government terms “national insurance”; but that is a misnomer. This scheme has never been more than one designed for the purpose of swindling the people - taking money from their pay envelopes and reducing their living standards to make the wealthy sections of the community more secure from further taxation.
I now turn to the differential treatment of men and women. The Leader of the Opposition made out a very good case why women should not le placed on a lower level of benefits than mon. Ministerial supporters, evidently fearful of repercussions in their electorates, have been trying to find excuses for the Government’s action in this matter. They have pointed out that women live longer than men, and therefore will he in receipt of the superannuation benefit for a longer period. Evidently, they desire to impose a penalty on the women for Jiving! According to the Government, the majority of women will be given an opportunity, when they marry, of continuing under the scheme as voluntary contributors. But what will he the position of a woman who marries and contributes voluntarily for, say, twenty years, at the end of which period her husband becomes unemployed, with the result that he is unable to make either his own contribution or that of his wife? Every time a worker becomes unemployed, his wife also loses all benefits under the scheme which she has paid for in years gone by.
– Does not the honorable member think that before another twenty years have elapsed a Labour government will have come into power to rectify these things ?
– 1 am very pleased that my arguments have convinced at least one Minister that the scheme requires rectification, and I hope that he will vote for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, in order to give effect immediately to the necessary alterations.
In New South Wales there is’ a widows’ pension and an allowance for children. These benefits were granted by a Labour government under the leadership of Mr. J. T. Lang, now Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament. I ask the Government whether the benefits under this scheme will interfere with those already in operation in New South Wales under the State law. One clause of the bill provides that an injured worker cannot receive workers’ compensation at the same time as he gets the disablement benefit under this measure. Evidently, what the Government hopes to do is to take away from the workers some of the benefits they have already secured.
What are the particular medical benefits that the people are to receive under this scheme? Let us consider the position of the doctors who will be called upon to take panels of patients. We find that to-day a doctor, in order to be assured an income of £1,000 a year, must have a panel of no fewer than 3,000 patients, because he must have a gross income of £1,500 a year, of which £500 is required to meet the upkeep of his surgery and the running cost of his motor car. The Government tells members of the medical profession that they can have their private practice, but what does that mean in an electorate like East Sydney? If this measure becomes law, the private practice of practically every doctor in that area will disappear. I ask honorable members how many people in Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo and Paddington receive more than £7 a week? Almost the whole of them will come under this scheme, with the result that the private practice of the medical practitioners in those areas will disappear and they will be forced to depend on this scheme for a livelihood. It is impossible for any doctor to give proper attention to ‘3,000 or more patients. Many of the doctors in my electorate give honorary service at various public hospitals. One of them goes three afternoons a week to the Lewisham Hospital, where, in an honorary capacity, he gives attention to people who cannot afford to pay for it. As a mark of appreciation of his services, the Government taxes him 7Jd. on every gallon of petrol that he uses in driving to and from the hospital ! He will have to cease that honorary service because, in order to -earn the income which he says is necessary for him, he will have to devote the whole of his time to the panel of patients allotted to him under this scheme. The result will be that he and other doctors will be forced to withdraw the services now rendered in an honorary capacity to patients in hospitals throughout the country. The unemployed, who are not covered by this measure, although they are the most needy section in the community, and have to get from public hospitals what medical attention they need, will not be able to draw upon the services of those doctors who now attend to them without payment. This most unfortunate section of the community will be penalized still further by this measure.
At present, every person has complete freedom to select his own doctor, but under this bill, should a man remove from one district to another, and desire to nominate a doctor in the area in which he previously lived, he will not be able to do so. His family doctor could not accept him on his panel. Again, under this measure, how is an injured person to be provided with bandages and other surgical equipment? Should a worker be injured away from home, and require medical attention, will he bc expected to go home and get his bandages, or will the doctor have to provide them out of the Ils. that he will be paid? The Prime Minister said that contributions to insure such benefits as will be provided under this bill, would cost 6s. Cd. a week with any private insurance company. What an amazing statement for the right honorable gentleman to make! If benefits which, under a private insurance scheme, would cost 6s. 6d. can be provided under this scheme for 4s. a week, why has the Government not taken action to deal with the private insurance companies which are exploiting the people? 1 am opposed to this measure principally because it visualizes a continuance of an unjust system. It accentuates the poverty of the workers and visualizes the permanence of a servile state. [Leave to continue given.]
I now draw attention to the serious effects which the passing of this measure will have upon existing benefit societies. From a reliable source I have been informed that 28 per cent, of the members of the friendly societies are unmarried, which means that, in most cases, they have no dependants. These single persons will not pay twice for the same service, and, therefore, they will cease to remain members of friendly societies. The Prime Minister said that we must consider .the economic value of the payments under this scheme, which will amount to approximately £1,000,000 a week. Evidently, the right honorable gentleman is of the opinion that if the people have another £1,000,000 a week to spend, business will boom. I agree that if the spending power of the people were, in fact, increased by £1,000,000 a week, business would, improve. The workers are the best spenders in the community, because they believe in supplying the requirements of their families, if they can do so. An additional £1,000,000 a week could be expended in providing some of the necessaries of life which are now denied to many persons in the community. But this measure will not increase the spending power of the people by £i,000,000 a week, because that money will first be taken from them by way of contributions under this scheme. It is merely a matter of taking the money from one pocket and putting it in another. Never before in the history of this country has so much humbug been preached. The Prime Minister also said that without contributions the benefits of the scheme would be reduced to nothing more than the dole. He went on to speak of the dignity of labour. He said that the workers in the community would be happier if they could say that they had contributed towards the benefits which they received. The right honorable gentleman admits that the scheme covers only 52 per cent, of the people. What is the position of the more needy sections of the community who will not come within the insured field? What about the unemployed who will not be covered by the scheme, but will have to go to public hospitals when they need medical attention? Has the Government no regard for their dignity and selfrespect ? If the Government had a proper regard for them, it would introduce a comprehensive scheme of extended national social services which would confer benefits on all the needy sections of the community.
Several honorable members who support this bill referred to the cost of social services. They said that the nation cannot afford a more liberal scheme. They cited statistics showing that the cost of pensions had increased during recent year3. I also have made some inquiries, as the result of which I have ascertained some information relating to the wealth of this country. Honorable members opposite told us that compared with 1921-22 the pensions bill for 1935-36 showed an increase of £7,500,000, but they did not tell us that, during the same period, the value of the production of the various industries of Australia increased by £156,000,000. In the light of those figures I say that the capacity of this country to meet an increased pensions bill is greater than it was five years ago. It is ridiculous to make a comparison from year to year because of the impossibility of deciding with any certainty the value of the £1 at any given time, due to the fact that private financiers ure constantly juggling with the currency. The figures which have been cited demonstrate that when the requirements of the workers are being considered the bare minimum is fixed. The workers have never been given the opportunity to share in the prosperity of the country. When increased profits are made, those profits go into the pockets of a few wealthy supporters of the Government, but when an industry is not making profits, or is said not to do so, the workers are asked to make sacrifices, as in the depression years.
If we were to judge the honorable member for Parramatta by his speeches in this House, we should expect him to vote for the amendment rather than for the bill as introduced ; but if we judge him by his votes in the past, it will not be difficult to decide on which side of the chamber be will be found when the vote on this measure is taken. The honorable member chided the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) for what he described as their inconsistency. I remind the House that, not many years ago, the honorable member for Parramatta paraded up and down the country advocating a working week of 40 hours, but when he had the opportunity to vote in favour of a 40-hour working week, he voted against it. I give to the honorable member full marks for inconsistency. There may be some who think that if this measure were defeated the Government would reap a political advantage, because, in that event, it would be able to say that the Labour party had voted
Against a scheme of national insurance. I make an offer to honorable members opposite. I suggest either that the opinion of the people regarding this measure be sought by means of a referendum, or that any ‘honorable member opposite will, in any section of his own electorate, debate the merits and demerits of this bill with a representative of the Labour party. I am convinced that, after hearing the arguments, any average intelligent Australian audience would agree that this measure i3 merely a scheme to swindle the workers to the advantage of the very rich.
r9.29”.- As to the objective of the Government in endeavouring to incorporate in the laws of this country some measure of health insurance, I do not think that there is much difference of opinion. The issue is as to the method of giving effect to such a scheme. Judging by the speeches which have been delivered, it would appear that, with the possible exception of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), there is general agreement that some measure of national insurance is necessary. Some honorable members have gone further and argued that an unemployment insurance measure should also be introduced.
The reasons given by honorable members for opposing this bill have been extraordinarily dissimilar, but they may be grouped under the four headings of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. The first objection made therein is - lt seeks to place upon a contributory basil the payment of pensions for old-age, invalidity, and widowhood which should be provided, « a matter or right, without the exaction of individual contributions.
If we deal with this subject fairly, we shall recognize that the fund to pay pensions of any description can come from only one source, production. Three different factors contribute to production in this country and three different interests derive benefits from it. Only the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) among honorable members opposite has so far given any consideration to this aspect of the subject, and E understood him to say that he thought that the only way to obtain the money necessary for the payment of pensions whs by taxation of unimproved land values.
– I said that that was one source from which money could be obtained.
– The honorable gentleman’s speech showed the great divergence of opinion that exists among those opposed to this bill. Some of ray own colleagues in the Country party may be inclined to vote against the bill though for entirely different reasons from those stated by the members of the Labour party. I advise my colleagues to bear in mind that the Country party, ever since I have known anything about it, has given pride of place on its platform to some scheme of national health and unemployment insurance.
– Then why have selfemploying rural workers been excluded from the bill?
– I shall deal with that point presently. Every member of the Country party who votes against the. motion for the second reading of this bill will vote in violation of a policy for which the Country party has stood ever since its formation. My colleagues who may be antagonistic to this measure would also be well advised to consider seriously the effect of putting the responsibility for founding a scheme of this kind on the shoulders of the Opposition.
– Who is the Acting Minister for Commerce threatening?
– I am threatening no one. I am making a plain statement of the fact which I hope will be borne in mind by the members of the party to which I belong. The cost of any scheme of national health insurance must eventually come out of the value of production. There is no other source from which it can come. Consequently, the only point that can be at issue is the method that may be employed by successive governments to meet the costs of such a scheme. I have no doubt whatever, personally, about the wisdom of the Government’s contention that any scheme of this kind should be contributory. The three parties concerned with production in this country are the workers, the employers, and the Government which depends upon production for ‘a considerable proportion of its revenue.
– What about the wealthy classes of the community?
– I do not think it can be said that they escape Commonwealth taxation, and I am quite sure they do not escape State taxation. If honorable members opposite would outline a scheme of taxation by which they would be prepared to raise money for the purpose of national health insurance, the people at large would consider it with very great interest, but, unfortunately, this secret has not been revealed.
The next objection taken in the amendment is -
It provides unequal benefits for nien and women.
This gets back to the ages-old argument as to whether there is equality between men and women. I say quite frankly that I do not believe there is, or ever was, or ever wi:; be. To talk about equality between the sexes is so much nonsense, and the sooner people realize this the better it will bo for the whole community. The people should wake up to the designs of those who try to make profit out of that sort of thing. No more effective argument against the equality of the sexes could be advanced than the fact that the very friendly societies whose representatives are sitting in this chamber to-night do not, so far as my knowledge goes, give equal treatment to the sexes in regard to either contributions or benefits.
– What does that prove?
– It proves the absence of any ground for the contention that the sexes are equal. At any rate, the onus is on the Opposition to prove it, and, so far, it has not done so. 1 have never known of any real attempt to prove it. I have heard the bald statement made from time to time by honorable members opposite that the sexes are equal, and, as I think of the various occupations which those honorable gentlemen have followed from time to time, I feel justified in asking them whether they have ever been able to find women who could stand up to such work ; but, being a man of pacific tendencies, I do not wish to excite them unduly, so I shall pass on to my next point.
The third complaint made in the amendment is that the bill -
Fails to provide material benefit for the wives and children of contributors.
That contention takes us back to the criticisms levelled against the British national insurance scheme when it was being introduced 25 years ago. In fact, it may be fairly said that every argument being advanced against this scheme was advanced against the British scheme when it was being initiated. It is most interesting to-day, for example, to read the objections taken by the friendly societies of the United Kingdom in 1911 against the proposals of the Government. Undoubtedly, the friendly societies were apprehensive of their complete annihilation. This observation brings me to the fourth objection referred to in the amendment, which reads -
Itv partially overlapping the field of friendly (society activity it (the bill) tends to discourage young men and women from joining these association* of self-help, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render.
On this point I direct the attention of honorable members to the following statement made in the Foresters Miscellany of April, 1914, on the British scheme: -
A “ century old “ seemed to be the highest commendation we had to offer to the public, with the result that in friendly societies, as in everything else that remains stationary, the public got ahead of us, and we were left with our mouldy remembrances. The coming of the National Insurance Act found us in a maze of a century’s growth of prejudice, and our leaders instead of immediately taking steps to set themselves free from the unnecessary entanglements wasted their efforts in a futile attempt to get the national scheme started in an exact replica of their methods.
That sets out, not unfairly, the attitude that is being taken to this bill to-day by the friendly societies. It might well have been imagined from what was said 25 years ago in Great Britain that the endorsement of the British national insurance scheme would encompass the entire ruin of the farming community. Similar statements are being made to-day concerning this scheme. Nothing of the kind happened in Great Britain, nor is it likely to happen here. The farming industry, and, in fact, every other industry, must benefit by the introduction of a scheme which makes some measure of saving compulsory. This bill provides for a measure of compulsory saving, and not for a measure of additional taxation. Compulsory saving must be undertaken by every community which wishes to do away with the’ disabilities and disadvantages inherent in the state of affairs which exists to-day in Australia.
An indication of the nature of the criticism to which the British scheme was subjected is given in the following paragraph from page 176 of The Life Romance of Lloyd George: -
No measure, not even The People’s Budget itself, had to encounter such a storm of bitter opposition from every direction. It was described as the “Malingerer’s Millennium” as the “ Cheats Charter “. and by a hundred other contemptuous epithets. Every conflicting interest bombarded it in turn and simultaneously. Socialists denounced it because it was contributory: capitalists because it was compulsory; titled ladies because they were made responsible for “ licking stamps “ to place on the insurance cards; domestic servants because their wages were docked to the extent of a few pence per week: friendly societies feared it spelt the end of their activities: tba doctors broke out into open revolt, raising anew the cry “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians! “ and by their revolt almost precipitated the introduction of a scheme of nationalization.
Every interest, referred to iu that paragraph is represented in this House tonight. All these representatives are fearful that something, is about to be done by ifr. Archie Cameron. the Government which will annihilate their particular institution. But their fears will prove to be quite groundless.
– Why is not the Government giving us a complete bill?
– It is impossible to deal with the whole subject at once, and so priority has been given to certain interests. Although a national insurance plan has been in operation in Great Britain for 25 years, it is still incomplete. We could, therefore, hardly hope to introduce a complete scheme immediately.
In dealing with this bill, the Opposition is faced with two courses. It can assist the Government to place upon the statute-book a bill which will be the foundation of .national health insurance in this country - a foundation upon which can be built the palace which the Opposition desires to construct when it gets into power again, as I have no doubt some day it will do; or it oan oppose the bill and so, possibly, prevent the workers of this country from having any scheme of national insurance. The choice is between those two courses. The Opposition may oblige the workers to continue under the present conditions, or it may assist to establish a scheme which, although not complete, is yet capable of yielding substantial benefits-. Every vote given against the bill will register a determination to prevent any effective action to introduce national insurance into this country.
I wish to refer briefly to certain statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He said that any contributor to the scheme who subsequently became an invalid, would not be able to obtain an invalid pension. I direct his attention to clause 95 of the bill which is a complete answer to his contention.
– I do not read clause 95 in that way.
– Then I advise the honorable member for Dalley to read it again.
The honorable member for East Sydney made another serious mis-statement when dealing with the increased wealth of the community. He had no sooner used some extraordinary figures to show that the wealth of the community was increasing at a remarkable rate, than he proceeded to argue that the monetary measure used to make that calculationwas entirely false. Consequently, he disproved his own argument. He then contended that the Government should submit its national health and pensions insurance scheme to a referendum of the people. I would never be a party to that.I do not think a measure of this kind could ever be properly understood by the people at large. To hold a referendum in regard to proposals of such magnitude and intricacy would merely be to appeal from those who ought to know, to those who have not the opportunity or leisure to study the matter, and find out the truth for themselves.
– If the Assistant Minister will read clause 95 he will see that what we have been saying is true.
– Clause 95 is as follows : -
A person in receipt of a benefit under this actshall be entitled to receive, at the same time, a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937 to the extent to which the benefit under this act, including dependent child’s allowance, is less than the pension to which, but for this, section, he. would have been entitled under that act, but not otherwise.
It is clear, therefore, that the pensioner would be entitled to £1 a week. In my opinion, we should not spend a great deal of time debating the second reading of the bill. The time of Parliament would be much better spent in discussing the measure clause by clause in committee. The Government recognizes that the bill contains many contentious points, and it is prepared to listen to any arguments put forward by the Opposition. To any honorable . member who is inclined to vote against the second reading of the bill let me point out that the measureshould not be judged on its present condition, but on its condition when it is reported to the House from committee. Those honorable members, on whatever side of the House, who attempt to vote the measure out on the second reading will be deliberately attempting to prevent the workers from having any form of national insurance. Those who sincerely wish to inaugurate some form of national health insurance will vote for the second reading, and attempt to improve the bill in committee. To those members from the agricultural areas who are inclined to be critical let me point out that this is not a complete measure. The Government does not claim that it is the last word; in fact, we have stated quite clearly that it is only the first word. Honorable members will have an opportunity in committee to improve the bill, and I appeal to them to get the measure into committee as quickly as possible, so that we may get down to essentials.
.- The part of this bill which commends itself most to me is the name. Any scheme designed to meet the growing need for national insurance must make provision for the incapacitated, the aged, the unemployed, and their dependants. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart.) spoke at length on the bill. He is a man of whom I had heard a great deal before I came into this Parliament. In his public addresses over the air and elsewhere he advocated such social reforms as a shorter working week, national insurance, and the removal of social inequalities, but I have since found to my disappointment that, although he is at all times prepared to advocate these things in high sounding phrases, he is not prepared to support them with his vote on the floor of this House. The honorable member put up an impressive fight at Geneva a few years ago on behalf of the workers, and prepared a very fine report on the subjec t on his return. He was also associated in the preparation of a report on unemployment in Australia, but he invariably votes with the Government in opposition to any progressive proposals for reform emanating from this side of the House. In his speech to-day he expressed dissatisfaction with the Government’s proposals for national health insurance, but he indicated that he was prepared to accept the crumbsoffered by the Govern-, ment, rather than assist the Opposition in its fight for the whole loaf.
The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) laid stress on the provisions for compulsory saving embodied in the measure, and he tried to whip his own party into line in support of the Government. He quoted clause 95 of the bill, which reads as follows: -
A person in receipt of a benefit under this act shall be entitled to receive, at the same time, a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937 to the extent to which the benefit under this act, including dependent child’s allowance, is less than the pension to which, but for this section, he would have been entitled under that act, but not otherwise.
The Assistant Minister attempted to answer the argument of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) who stated that a person receiving an invalid pension under this measure would not be entitled to the benefits of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The honorable member stated that such a person would receive only 15s. a week, whereas under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act he would be entitled to £1. That is true, and it applies particularly to men with children. There is provision in the bill that the pensioners shall receive 3s. 6d. in respect of each dependent child, so that a pensioner with two dependent children would receive more than £1 a week, and therefore would not be entitled to benefit under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Under the present pensions scheme it is very difficult to get doctors to agree that an applicant for a pension is totally and permanently incapacitated. Many are regarded as borderline cases, and their applications are refused. The difficulty experienced by such persons in obtaining pensions will, I venture to predict, be greater in the future than in the past.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, who advanced unassailable arguments as to why the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. The Assistant Minister for Commerce suggested that we should pass the second reading of the bill, and then improve it in committee, but it is extremely improbable that the Government would accept any substantial amendments emanating from this side qf the House. It has already intimated, of course, that it will accept some amendments from its own supporters, but I doubt very much whether it will accept any from the Opposition. If it would agree to give better cover to contributors under the scheme, the attitude of the Opposition might be different. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer stated that the present measure was only a first instalment of the complete scheme. We have been told that some day, if the Government lives long enough, it will introduce another measure containing more liberal provisions and applying to other sections of the community that are not dealt with in this bill. But we have had no indication that action will be taken by the Government at an early date. If it is the intention of the Ministry to liberalize the scheme now before the House, why not do it in this bill by a series of amendments which could be indicated at this stage for the information and guidance of honorable members.
Despite the claims of the Government the bill does not provide any measure of economic security for the masses of the people. It is true, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has stated, that the scheme merely proposes to take money out of one pocket and put it into another. Its effect, I fear, will be to lower the general standard of living, because the cost of the scheme will be added to the cost of commodities. Last night the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) made a careful examination of the measure and went to great pains to explain that the cost of the scheme would certainly be passed on to the consumer. Therefore, we may assume that the workers in industry and also the unemployed will be compelled to make an additional contribution owing to the higher cost of commodities. The £1,000,000 a year which the Government proposes to pay, as its share of the cost, will come out of the consolidated revenue. The burden will fall heavily upon the small employer. The owner of a small timber mill in the back country, employing half a dozen men. will have to make his contribution as an employer, and his . employees will also pay their share, whereas persons with assured incomes from investments of one form or another will make no direct payment to the scheme. Contrary to the practice of friendly soceities to accept full responsibility for medical benefits for members and their wives and families, the scheme applies only to insured persons, so that a contributor who at the present time a member of a friendly society must continue his membership in order to obtain the medical benefits for his wife and children. I feel sure that the friendly societies will suffer seriously. Young people, particularly those in receipt of low wages, who in other circumstances would have joined friendly societies, will not now do so, because under this scheme they will be forced to contribute ls. 6d. a week from their wages to the national insurance fund. I doubt that many of them could afford to join a friendly society in the circumstances, so it appears to me inevitable that the societies will suffer. The dispensaries which, for almost a century, have been rendering a very great service to the members of friendly societies, will also be definitely injured. I do not know what the Government intends to do about this aspect of its proposal, but I hope that it will give careful consideration to it.
One proposal made by the honorable member for Parramatta is worthy of serious consideration. The honorable gentleman suggested that the friendly societies and other organizations, including trade unions, which for a great number of years have been engaged in this class of business, should be charged with the administration of the scheme. Perhaps this is one of the amendments which the Government will accept when the bill is in committee.
The keynote of the Treasurer’s secondreading speech was the growing burden of old-age and invalid pensions. He told the House that the payments were increasing at the rate of approximately £1,000,000 a year, and. that at the present rate of increase the cost would ultimately become prohibitive. The honorable gentleman obviously expressed the Government’s concern, and we are entitled to assume that the bill is an attempt to “ pass the buck “ in respect of pensions from that section of the community which is best able to pay, to the workers.
It is true that under this scheme the range of pensions will be increased and that the means test will not apply to insured persons. That is one merit of the proposal. As regards the discriminatory provisions of the bill, the Government must accept full responsibility if it is not willing to consider an amendment to follow the principle laid down in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It is idle to argue that because the expectation of life in the case of women is greater than i:i the case of men, they should receive a lower rate of pension. Neither the Ministers nor their supporters will bo able to explain satisfactorily the reason for this unfair discrimination. It is probable that the provision will be altered when the bill is in committee. It seems to me that these clauses relating to female employees will be profitable to the Government because of the large number of female employees who will drop out of the scheme upon marriage. It is probable that in ten years’ time not more than 10 per cent, of the female employees at present in industry will be so employed.
The Treasurer emphasized the expansion of our social services and their alleged excessive cost. What is the position? The official figures show that the proportion of expenditure from consolidated revenue on social services increased from 14 per cent, in 1910, to 21.1 per cent, in 1937, and that the per capita expenditure in Australia is less than half the amount so expended in Great Britain, particularly as the direct taxation is also much lower here than it is there. This being the position it seems remarkable that the Government should have invited a British expert to visit Australia to report on proposals for the establishment of a national insurance scheme for the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that within the scope of his terms of reference Sir Walter Kinnear was able to give the Government information which, in his view, met the situation; but I feel sure that had he received more liberal instructions he would have submitted recommendations for a scheme that would have been more democratic and satisfactory to all sections of the House and the people generally.
– An archangel could not do that.
– That may be the opinion of the Assistant Minister; I do not subscribe to it. I believe that the average Australian, as a good sportsman, would .accept a fair thing. °
-. - There is a difference of opinion aa to what is a fair thing.
– “We all have our views on that subject. We know that the vested interests of this country are opposed to the Government’s insurance scheme. The figures which I have cited relating to the comparative expenditure on social services in Great Britain and Australia, taken in conjunction with the fact that this country is supposed to lead the world in social legislation, suggest that the Government might have proposed more liberal provisions in this scheme. The plain fact is that the measure is designed to relieve the Government of some of its obligations. The Government is seeking a way to reduce the increasing expenditure on social services, and, therefore, the measure is designed to collect money from wage-earners and employers, thus imposing an additional tax on the workers. The quotation made by the honorable member for Parramatta of the provision preventing the Arbitration Court from granting any relief to the workers because of the additional burden to be imposed on the workers was significant.
I should like to point out that there i* in Tasmania a free medical scheme operating in a limited degree, but which the government proposes to extend. The service is free to every person in the community, and the scheme proposed in the bill must cut directly across the Tasmanian scheme, because under it the workers in that State will be required to pay a contribution for medical service, although the Tasmanian Government is providing a service free of cost. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) claims that all sections of workers covered by the hill will be able to afford to pay the contributions specified in the bill, but I wonder if he is aware of the basic wage rates. I shall enumerate the rates in force on the 23rd March last -
It. i3 futile to claim that basic waIteearners can afford to pay a contribution additional to the fixed rate specified in the bill in order to protect their wive3 and families. In very few instances can they obtain a house for less than £1 a week, and after payment of rent they are left with less than £3 to keep themselves and their families. I suggest, with respect to the Treasurer, that he does not know anything about the difficulties that the basic wage-earner has to face. “ The honorable gentleman is in a safe position in life, and his statement that basic wage-earners could afford to pay this or that amount is mere assumption. Let him ask basic wage-earners who have reared families whether they can afford to pay ls. 6d. a week for national insurance and an additional ls. 6d. a week to a friendly society in order to secure benefits for their wives and children, and then have sufficient to keep them in decent comfort, and he will find that the answer in every case is “ no “. The application of a little common sense is sufficient to show the difficulty confronting the basic wage-earners.
I am interested in a benefit organization in Tasmania which is financed by the contributions of the employer and employees. The employees contribute ls. a week to the fund, for which payment they are entitled to a doctor’s service, medicine, hospital benefits, the services of optician and dentist and a weekly payment of about £2 5s. a week when they are off work on account of sickness. Under the Government’s proposed scheme of national insurance, those employees would be compelled to make additional payments for the provision of medical service for their wives and families, and in the event of a worker becoming sick he would not receive any benefit from the fund for the first seven days of his illness. Under the Tasmanian scheme, the worker is entitled to £2 5s. a week from the day he goes off work through sickness. It will be difficult to convince the persons who will come under thi3 scheme that it will provide greater benefits. Under the terms of the bill a worker would not be entitled to any payment from the fund until he had been sick for seven days, but I am aware that if he became sick again in the same year the payment would commence from the day on which he was not able to work. Employees of between fourteen and sixteen years of age who work in the mills to which one Tasmanian scheme applies, would contribute 4d. a week under the scheme proposed in the bill, but they would not be entitled to receive anything like the benefits which they secure under the Tasmanian scheme for a payment of 6d. a week.
Australia is not the only country which is considering national insurance. Recently a report was made on this subject in South Africa. The scheme as outlined in the annual report of the Department of Public Health of the Union would provide for the following: -
The funds required for the provision will be derived from contributions by and administration of these benefits the Government, employers and employed people in the proportion of approximately: Government, 141/2 per cent.: employers, 49 per cent.; and employees,361/2 per cent.
It is considered in some quarters in Australia that South Africa is lagging far behind us in the field of social service, hut I submit that the scheme of national insurance contemplated in the Union is much better than that proposed by the Commonwealth Government. The South African scheme provides not only for the insured person, but also for his wife and family, whereas this bill eliminates the wife and family. According to the figures cited by the Treasurer, the workers will have to contribute £11,000,000, rising to £15,000,000, a year towards the operation of the scheme. The amount so raised will be a tax on the workers, additional to the payments that they will have to make in order to provide medical service for their wives and children. The Government claims that its scheme will embrace 1,850,000 persons, but one important defect is that it will not cover the women who will be the mothers of future generations. The scheme provides only for men and women in industry, and I submit that any scheme which does not make provision for the wives and families of men engaged in industry, and those who are out of employment, falls far short of a national health insurance scheme. For the reasons that I have given, I propose to vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- During the last general election I gave an undertaking to my constituents that I would support social legislation dealing not only with health, but also with unemployment insurance, and I said that I would support anybill which fitted in with Australian conditions. The Government has seen fit to bring in a bill to deal with the health side of the matter. I, for one, shall be glad to help to place the measure on the statutebook. I think it can be said that the health of the people is of national importance. I believe that this scheme, even though it is not perfect in many directions, will go a long way towards building up a virile race. It would have been preferable, I think, had the Government first tackled unemployment insurance, for which there is greater need at the present time. The friendly societies throughout Australia are to a large extent dealing with the medical side of the matter. They have rendered valuable service to the community. I can speak with experience of their work, because from boyhood I have been associated with many of them. I have taken a particular interest in two, in which I have served in all the offices.
The proposal of the Government is certainly an advance on the British scheme, and, in my opinion, will be in advance of social legislation in any other part of the world. During the years 1925 to 1928 I was Agent-General for South Australia in England. I then had a good opportunity to examine the working of the British scheme, and see how the public re-acted to it. This scheme is, of necessity, slightly different, because Australian conditions are, happily, better than those that prevail in the Mother Country. Although the standard of living is higher in Australia, there is still room for considerable improvement, and I shall be glad to help in that direction. We .are not in the happy position of being able to say that, in regard to social legislation, uniform conditions prevail throughout the Commonwealth. Each State is able to legislate in accordance with its own desires, with the result that there are complications. The Government deserves to be congratulated for having introduced a bill of this nature, which provides a striking illustration of the principle of collective security. The intention is to protect the worker and his family against the emergencies of life, including sickness, whether it be temporary or prolonged. There is also provision for the payment of an old-age pension. I have no doubt that the scheme will make a strong appeal to those who will he fortunate enough to come under it, and thu6 obtain security for themselves and their dependants. The effect of it will be greater independence and self-reliance. I am always pleased to note the efforts of young men to make provision for a rainy day, and to purchase their own homes. Some of them do this before they take upon themselves the responsibilities of marriage. A costly .illness without some such provision as this to meet it, might place a young couple in straitened circumstances financially. I regard the bill as a real step forward, and trust that there will be no attempt to gain a political advantage out of it. It can be discussed on non-party lines and from a national viewpoint. If that be done, the scheme will prove a blessing to the Australian people, and they will have complete confidence in it. There must be public confidence in any measure that is brought forward, otherwise it must fail. I appeal to all sections to give the measure their full support. When it has been in operation for some, time, the benefits derivable under it will assert themselves. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has assured the House that it was drawn up only after careful actuarial calculations had been made. Its passage should not be rushed. Detailed consideration should be given to it from many viewpoints. One must admit that there are many interests which have to be considered. The effective work on the measure will be done in committee, at which stage, I have no doubt, amendments will be proposed and probably accepted. Although approving of it in the main, I reserve to myself the right to move for the amendment of some of its clauses. It is estimated that the number of directly-insured persons will exceed 1,850,000, that the average insured age will be 32 years, and that 500,000 of those who will come under it will be under 40 years of age. Every one of those persons, irrespective of age or physical condition, may enter the scheme on the same basis, and enjoy equal benefits with all others of the same sex. It is to be noted that no more than the equivalent of the actuarial value of the benefits will be derivable by persons who enter the scheme at the age of sixteen years.
Let us consider some of the benefits that will be provided under this scheme. Actuarial calculations show that the benefits at an entry age of 32 years will exceed in value 7s. a week, and rise as the age of entry increases, yet no insured person will be required at the outset to pay more than ls. 6d. a week. In this respect, the present proposal offers greater benefits than are given under the British scheme. Those privileged to become original contributors will receive benefits worth more than 7s. a week at the C09t of ls. 6d. a week. This is a real insurance scheme, because it insures the lives of the contributors for an average amount of £700 each. Many thousands of citizens have taken out private insurance policies, and the wisdom of their action in providing for their old-age is generally recognized. Under this scheme, no medical examination will be required, as would be the case in joining even a lodge. I am pleased that Australia is taking its place -with the other nations in recognizing the need for insurance on a national scale.
Another aspect which should not be overlooked is the huge cost of our present social legislation. “Whilst conserving the interests of present and potential pensioners, this measure will place the whole system of pensions on an actuarial basis, and, later, there will be a properly constituted national fund which will remove social services from the political arena, and give stability to our social legislation. This measure should remove the wageearner from the terror of ill-health and consequent unemployment. [Quorum formed.’] It will give the insured person greater self-respect, since he will be making a direct contribution to the fund out of which his pension will be paid. Under the present system, there is no incentive to look to the future, because, if one can comply with the means test, he can secure the old-age pension. Under this bill there will be no means test. The right to a pension will be established, and no man or woman will be asked whether he or she has any money in the bank. An assurance has been given that the bill will not in any way disturb the present invalid and old-age pension. Present and future pensions will adjust themselves as the national scheme develops. The Government has made an honest attempt to bring about the social betterment of the people. This is a humane proposal, and I regard it as only a beginning. No doubt, when the scheme has received a fair trial, it will be shown to be capable of extension. The bill will go down in history as a great blessing to the nation; it will put Australia in the van of social progress, and will assist materially in ensuring the health and happiness of the people.
– I was intrigued by the consistent way in which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) referred to this proposal as a scheme. I agree with him entirely. One of the dictionary definitions of “ scheme “ is “ an underhand device, an intrigue, a plot “. That part of the definition amply and accurately describes this measure. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that the present pensions system has failed, and, desiring to prevent the people from recognizing the general economic collapse, they bring forward a scheme, a device, an intrigue, a plot ; in order to hoodwink the people a little longer; they hope that the party in power may be permitted to perpetuate the system under which it draws off its profits. I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I agree that radical alteration of this measure is required, because it envisages a society permanently established on the basis of poverty and dispossession. The Government and its followers think that they will continue to be the lords of creation, and that the masses will be prepared to accept crumbs of this kind. I prophesy, however, that the masses will cast off the chains of economic slavery which have been put around them under the system of so-called capitalism. This bill is based on a system of exploitation and degradation of the masses, and it is a fitting instrument to be proposed by a government that desires poverty and permanent dispossession to be the lot of the workers. I hope that the time is not far distant when the people will refuse to tolerate such exploitation.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) tried to apologize for the bill. There has been a sad change ‘in the outlook of the right honorable gentleman since the time when he was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. I refuse to accept bis forecast and to agree that the people of Australia will continue to take sops as something handed out by a generous and paternal government. Sop after sop has been given to the people since the capitalistic system has been engrafted upon the civilized world. An attempt has been made to lead the people to imagine that the Government has given them something, although what they have received has come out of their own pockets, and they have not got back as much as has been taken from them. I trust that the people, through the ballot-box, will force from the Government something more than the crumbs thrown at them to-day. A bill with a title such as this should be of a national character and provide in reality for national health. Ti should be nation-wide in .its operation and should embrace every individual in the community - men, women and children. It should go even, further than that, and provide for prenatal medical attention for expectant mothers; otherwise, it will fail miserably as a measure to secure national health. The bill should have been submitted to us months ago. There is no justification for the threat held out that the debate will be continued all night.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject matter of the bill.
-The bill fails to recognize the first fundamental principle of any health measure. Any scheme that purports to conserve the health of the nation must start with motherhood and babyhood; otherwise it is doomed to failure. Of what use is it to try to insure the health of the people in maturity, when malnutrition, slum life, low wages and bad housing take full toll of their health and constitution ? It is useless to put forward a measure of this character and claim that it will improve the health of the nation, when all the evidence shows that the health of largo numbers in the community has been undermined by the conditions which I have mentioned. How does the Treasurer think that he can insure the health of the people in my electorate who live under the most wretched conditions, due mainly to the influence of that combine which supports the Government?
– To what combine does the honorable member refer?
-I refer to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which pays thousands of pounds into the funds of the party to which the Treasurer belongs. The only insurance that many people have is that which is provided by the friendly societies and other organizations which were referred to by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Having mining areas in ray electorate, I support the honorable member’s references to the Miners’ Federation and the friendly societies.
– They were not consulted about this bill.
– One of the greatest educational conferences ever held in this country reported that the inferiority complex so often found in Australian children was due to the fact that 40 per cent, of them were suffering from malnutrition because of the economic position of their parents. In the Government’s scheme, there is no adequate provision for women and children. I suppose ihat the father of the family mu;t be looked after, because he is a wage slave, and must be given stimulants so ihat his nose may be kept to the industrial grindstone, in order that more profits may be made for the wealthy section of the community. But it is a short-sighted policy which makes no provision for his wife and children. Figures cited by -Mrs. Cameron, of the Feminist Club, who is not a supporter of Labour, show that during the last tcn years, the lives of 5,968 mothers and of 55,016 children under one year of age were lost - an average of thirteen mothers and 106 children every week. That toll was almost entirely due to one cause - neglect. Yet the Government brings a mau .12,000 miles from another country to tell us what we ought to know.
– The Government has no confidence in the people of this country.
– I object to socalled experts being brought here to tell us how to do things that we should know more about than they do.
– The Government could not get any “ Aussie “ to do its dirty work.
– I warn the honorable member for Hunter that the Chair will take definite action unless he ceases his interjections.
– Two-thirds of the troubles of this country are due to the habit of bringing men here from other countries to tell us what we ought to do. I shall read from the Sydney Sun - a journal to which I wish to pay a tribute for the excellent articles which it has published dealing with motherhood and child life-
Many expectant mothers with limited means are not receiving the adequate and efficient maternity service to which they are entitled. Babies are being born in sitting rooms which have to be turned into makeshift wards. Many mothers, having had their children, are being placed on stretchers so that there shall be ward beds for new cases.
If the Government is in earnest about building up a healthy and virile race, it will leave the friendly societies and other bodies to continue the good work which they are now doing. Life at its beginning must be safeguarded if it is to progress towards manhood and full citizenship. That should be the first phase of national health to be examined by any expert. I repeat that it is not enough to try to build up a man’s health, so that he can continue to work for a few years longer, when the real trouble is that the lives of many of our people arc undermined by malnutrition from the time of their entry into this world. The slogan of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), when Minister for Health, was “ populate or perish “. That, too, wa3 the cry of the tragic ex-Treasurer, the present Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who is now overseas. “Populate or perish” is a vain cry when 40 per cent, of Australia’s children are suffering from malnutrition. Experts, including some who have come here from overseas, tell us that malnutrition is due, not so much to insufficient food , as to unsuitable food. Milk is essential to babies and young children; but milk at 6d. or 7d., or even more, a quart, is beyond the purse of many thousands in thi3 country. The result is that scarcely a child in the homes of the workers of Australia gets sufficient milk to build up a healthy constitution. When a child reaches manhood, some effort is made to enable him to continue working a little longer, but a system that operates only after the damage has been done is wrong. I realize, of course, that babies cannot make voluntary contributions to any insurance fund, because they have no earning power. Nor have mothers any earning power at the time of their greatest contribution to the nation. What sort of parents will these children be when they grow up? Malnutrition threatens, not only individual lives, but also civilization itself. That danger exists in every country under the capitalistic system. A proper system of national health insurance requires the application of science and knowledge towards securing the health of the people of the nation. Whilst I do not agree with everything that the medical profession says, and although I realize that its approach to this subject must be largely influenced by selfinterest, I propose to quote from one of its publications, because I think that it goes to the very root of the proposal for national health insurance. 1 do not propose to read the who:e of this document, for I frankly admit that 1 disagree with some of the statements in it; but the following passages put the position of the medical profession very clearly : -
It is contrary to the policy of the association to provide a service of different quality for the rich and poor, or to adopt any proposal which would deteriorate the quality of medical service or deter the best class of medical practitioner from practising in the Commonwealth. No plan is economically sound which does not safeguard standards since efficient service is, in the long run, the most economical. The essential principles which the association considers should form the foundation of any national medical or health service are as follows: -
That the service should offer full scope and opportunity for the prevention and cure of disease and for the promotion of full mental and physical activity.
That the service should be a complete one. Not only must it provide to every individual the services of a general practitioner, but it must also make available consultant and specialist services and such ancillary services as pathology and X-ray examinations, nursing and massage service, &c. There must be also, of course, accommodation and treatment in hospitals, sanatoria, convalescent homes, &c.
If medical practitioners cannot speak with authority on health matters, who can ? These men have made a life study of public health. We all go to them for advice and treatment when sickness overtakes us. We are, therefore, under some obligation to consider their views on a measure of this description. Not onetenth of the services enumerated in the statement that I have read is covered by the provisions of the bill. No one would have an earthly chance of getting a reasonable diagnosis or a proper examination from a doctor “ roped into “ a panel under the method laid down in the bill. On several occasions in this House I have criticized the disciplinary activities of the British Medical Association, but I take this opportunity to make it quite clear that I have the highest respect for the members of the medical profession. Many of them work very hard for next to nothing. I know of their self-sacrificing work in our big hospitals. Had it not been for the skilled attention that 1 have received from surgeons on two occasions I should not be in this House to-night, so I speak very sincerely. Many doctors work day and night for patients from whom they can expect very little return. It frequently happens that doctors do not even present accounts to poor people, and they very often run the risk of receiving little payment from persons who are really in a position to pay. The medical profession throughout the Commonwealth and, in fact, throughout the world, is doing a noble work. Possibly a few doctors are hard-hearted, but I gladly acknowledge that I do not know one who has refused his services to persons not in a position to pay. In my opinion it will be physically impossible for the members of the medical profession to discharge the duties required of them under this bill, and at the same time to continue their friendly society work and their private practice.
Consideration should also be given to the repercussions of thi3 measure on the economic life of the community. Instead of helping to solve our problems, the passage of this bill will simply make conditions more chaotic than ever. If some of its provisions are put into operation an impossible position will be created in relation to ambulance and hospital services. I know a good deal about the work being done in the public hospitals of Sydney, for I visit them frequently. Invaluable work is also being done in many hospitals established on a purely charitable basis. Dealing with the position that will be immediately created in respect of hospitals if this bill is passed, a Sydney newspaper stated -
Increased State income taxation is feared by the Treasury as a result of the Federal Government’s National Insurance Bill.
The adverse effect of the scheme on State hospital finance is the worst feature from the State’s point of view and has been specially reported on by the Hospitals Commission.
This report declares that the hospitals, as employers, will have to pay at least £G0.000 a year into the insurance fund.
The commission expects that the State voluntary contribution scheme, which now returns about £400,000 a year in New South
Wales, will be almost wiped out by the Federal scheme and that at least an additional £350,000 a year will have to be found for the hospitals from general revenue. The commission is also disturbed by the fact that under the Federal bill no benefits are to be paid to any person resident in a public hospital, asylum, or State institution which is supported wholly or partly by public funds or charity.
About 11,000 persons are in State mental hospitals and some thousands more, mostly chronic cases, in other institutions.
In the past the Commonwealth Government has paid considerable amounts to the State towards the upkeep of these people; this practice will apparently cease under the national insurance scheme.
It is probable that the Federal Treasurer, (Mr. Casey), will be approached with a request for a conference with State financial authorities before the scheme is finalized.
The Government seems to have left these factors entirely out of consideration.
Having dealt with the wrappings of the bill - the hocus-pocus, so to speak - I now come to the real reasons which have led to its introduction. The real purpose of the Government in bringing this bill is to make pensions contributory, so that the Treasury will be relieved of finding the money from direct taxation. Honorable members on the other side of the House have been moaning for years about the cost to the Treasury of invalid and old-age pensions. They have put forward proposals for taking the scheme away from the direct administration of the Government, and putting it under the control of a special board. Always they have been harping about the cost of pensions, but we pay £62,000,000 a year to the money changers in interest on our national debt. We pay and pay, and get nothing in return; but nobody on the other side of the House has ever raised any objection to that, because their friends are reaping the benefit. However, when it comes to finding a few millions of pounds with which to pay pensions, they complain loudly, and now an alternative scheme has been put forward. As I have said, the whole idea is to relieve the Treasury of the responsibility of finding the money for pensions. Immediately this scheme comes into operation, funds will begin to accumulate, and the Treasurer will have the means at hand to pay pensions under the existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme.
– That is not so.
– Very well ; we shall wait until we get the AuditorGeneral’s nest report. I venture to predict that he will have something to say about the matter. All the indications are that the world is heading towards another depression. Were it not for the temporary fillip given by the armaments race, we should have been in the depths of a depression by now. The Government realizes this, and is taking steps to compel the workers to contribute towards their own pensions.
How did the invalid and old-age pensions scheme originate? What was the inspiration? The inspiration came from the shearing sheds in the far-west of New South Wales. There the men were gathered together discussing proposals for the Australian Labour party conference to bc held in Sydney. One man proposed that an old-age pensions scheme should be placed in the platform of the Labour party, and the proposal was accepted by the party. Eventually, the scheme became law as the result of the pressure exerted by the Labour party when it held the balance of power in federal politics. Those who represented the same interests as the Government now represents, called the scheme Utopian, and said that it would destroy the financial stability of the country. The Labour party maintained that the pension was a right to which every citizen was entitled in return for the services he had rendered to his country. I admit that the act never satisfied me. To-day, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said things in criticism of the old-age and invalid pensions scheme which he never said when honorable members on this side of the House were fighting for the rights of pensioners. The sort of special pleading that he used is evidently necessary to bolster up the case in favour of this legislative monstrosity we have before us to-night. He drew attention to all kinds of defects and anomalies in the present pensions scheme but the remedy is to remove those defects and anomalies, rather than substitute for them another defective scheme.
In this bill, it is proposed that the employers and the workers shall at first provide £11,000,000 a year, the amount rising to £16,000,000. The fact is, of course, that the employers will not provide one penny, and the Treasurer knows that better than anybody else does. Immediately the scheme becomes operative, the employers will add their contributions to their production costs, and then add their profit to the total just as they do with regard to tariffs, or increased wages. Neither the Treasurer nor anyone else can frame legislation to prevent them from doing it. The worker will pay the boss’s contribution in increased prices, and his own out of his meagre wages. The honorable member for Parramatta criticized the Leader of the Opposition for advocating that the scheme should be non-contributory, and then he went on to say that the Arbitration Court should be empowered to add the amount of the worker’s contribution to his wages. That, in effect, would make the scheme noncontributory so far as the workers are concerned. If the honorable member is not merely a political humbug he should support the Opposition. All our economic history shows that costs of this kind are always passed on by employers, who get them back in the form of increased prices. If such charges were really met by the employers, why is it that profits continue to rise? Why is it that the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer? I am not now referring to the little butcher or storekeeper, but to the plutocrats whom this Government represents. Their profits arc always increasing, and so are their assets. Despite anything that may be done to check them, their influence in the economic life of the community is always increasing. Therefore, the community as a whole will pay the cost of this additional social service, and as the workers comprise the vast majority of the community, the burden will fall mainly on them. I endorse all that has been said by honorable members on this side of the House, and I shall vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
I come now to a subject upon which I speak with a considerable amount of personal feeling. Throughout my life I have been identified with the friendly society movement in my State, and I can say with every confidence that personal contact with members of such bodies, in the society rooms, has stimulated me to do better things. Whatever decent characteristics are evidenced in my public or private life I owe to the friendly society movement. It has been to me an inspiration and a strength since my early manhood, and I pay a tribute to these societies for their influence in the social and economic life of the Commonwealth. Any legislative proposal that is calculated to interfere with the efficiency of these organizations, without continuing everything that they do will be, in . my opinion, a tragic blunder. For many years I have held that it i3 the duty of this Parliament to assume full responsibility for the health of the community, in all” its aspects. I am convinced that the time is not far distant when the governments will be compelled to assume this responsibility. If, to-morrow, I could obtain support for it, I would endeavour to have introduced into this Parliament a bill vesting in the Commonwealth Government the whole of the responsibility for the health of the people, from the pre-natal period until the end of life. But I shall not accept this monstrosity which the Government has placed before honorable members, because its provisions contain a threat against friendly societies, which have for so many years rendered valuable service to the people of Australia. I defy any person who has been connected with the friendly society movement to say that he is not a better man because of that association. Therefore, I view with alarm the Government’s proposal which, as I have shown, will injure the movement.
Another aspect to which I direct attention is the absence of provisions relating to the intermittent workers and relief workers. No section of the community is in greater need of consideration. From the viewpoint of the Australian standard of living, and, indeed, of self-interest, we should not tolerate any festering sores in the economic life of this country. Unfortunately, these categories of workers are ineligible for the benefits under this scheme, because being unemployed, they are unable to make contributions. Therefore, they are receiving no consideration in this bill. This is a tragic blunder for which the Government must stand con- demned. This defect in the bill proves beyond all possible doubt, in my opinion, that the only reason for the introduction of the scheme is to enable the Government to relieve the wealthy sections of the community from taxation in respect of invalid and old-age pensions.
I hold in my hand some interesting information relating to the New Zealand scheme which I regard as a really national health insurance proposal. I commend it to the Treasurer for his consideration. I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed, in all circumstances, to a contributory system of national insurance. But I believe in taking first things first, and I submit that anything which will raise the status of the working people and provide them with decent conditions is a step in the right direction. The New Zealand scheme is, in my opinion, a truly national proposal. The government of the sister dominion has tackled the problem in statesmanlike manner,” and its insurance proposals will give substantial benefits to its people.
The Treasurer has had something to say about the self-respect of persons who will benefit under this scheme. Apparently the honorable gentleman and his friends measure self-respect in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence. I do not. I submit that the man without a farthing in his pocket and perhaps in rags, can be as much entitled to respect as is the Treasurer or any of his welldressed friends, living on the fat of the land.
– I have never suggested otherwise.
– The Treasurer definitely stated that contributors to the Government scheme would get their pensions and retain their self-respect.
– And I repeat it.
– Then it follows that they must lose their self respect if they accept pensions on a noncontributory basis. The Minister cannot have it both ways.
– Yes I can.
– The implication of the Minister’s statement is obvious. I repeat that he measures self-respect in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence.
In order that some of the provisions of the New Zealand act may be placed on record. I quote the following from a recent newspaper article -
Dealing with health, Mr. Savage said that the Government proposed a universal general practitioner service free to all members of the community requiring medical attention.
It was also proposed to give free hospital and sanatorium treatment for all, and free mental hospital treatment.
The Government will provide free medicines and free maternity treatment.
Grants will be made to assist poor mothers to obtain a baby’s outfit.
All these will be provided as a first stage.
The Government will extend the service later to includespecialist and dental treatment.
Regarding pensions, the invalidity pension of £l a week, plus 10s. for wife, 10s. for each child under 10, with a maximum of £4, will be increased to 30s. a week, with an allowable income of£1 a week for a single person and 30s. for a married person.
Sustenance will be continued at the present rate, except the children’s allowance of 4s. will be increased to5s.
Widows’ pensions will be 25s. a week, with an allowable income of 30s.
All children orphaned under the age of16 will get a pension of 15s. a week. [Leave to continue given.] I continue my quotation -
Recognizing the need for bigger families, the Government will increase the present family allowance of 2s. a child to 4s.
The income allowance will be advanced from £4 to £5.
Up to £4 Weekly.
Miners’ pensions will be increased to 30s., war veterans to 25s., plus 15s. for wife and 5s. for each child, with a maximum of £3 10s. and income allowance of £1.
Referring to general pensions. Mr. Savage said men and women will get 30s. a week for the remainder of their lives, with an allow able income of £1.
Thus, a single man could have up to £2 10s. and a married couple £4.
Mr. Savage added : “I want to emphasize that these proposals are by no means the climax of the Government’s endeavours, but a substantial instalment.”
Operate Next Year.
In justifying the1s. in the £1 levy on wages and income, Mr. Savage said the benefits would be much greater.
The load on the exchequer could only be borne by a country made increasingly prosperous by the deliberate policy of the Government, he added.
The proposals will go before a parliamentary committee, and will be passed next session.
The benefits will operate from April1st next year.
That is only a commencement. Those proposals are worth while. If the Government would, as it does in the case of pensions for judges and other highlyplaced persons, make provision for the payment of a sufficient amount to enable the person who receives it to live in the same economic position as that in which he lived when he was following his occupation, it would have the wholehearted support of all sections of the community. This proposal is for the payment of a pittance of £1 a week, and to obtain it the worker will have to contribute to the fund out of which it is to be paid. This is not an insurance scheme. The Government is merely making a bold pronouncement to the world that for the next 60 years, perhaps for eternity, the economic life of Australia is to be based on the poverty, misery and dispossession of a large section of our people. As a member of this National Parliament, I refuse to envisage such a future. Because this bill envisages” it, I am opposed to it. [ Quorum formed.]
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nairn) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he supply a copy of any reports issued by Mr. Herbert Gepp, Messrs. Rivett, Ward and Fowler, and Dr. Woolnough in reference to the prospect of establishing an alkali industry in Australia, also a copy of the report of the inquiry by officers of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and Commonwealth officials in 1932?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Copies of reports submitted separately by Sir Herbert Gepp and Dr. W. G. Woolnough, together with a copy of a report prepared jointly by Sir DavidRivett, Dr. L. Keith Ward and Mr. S. Fowler, dealing with the question of establishing the alkali industry in Australia will be made available for the perusal of the honorable member. No report on the industry has been submitted to the Commonwealth Government by officers of
Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, acting in association with Commonwealth officers, but Sir David Rivett, Dr. Ward and Mr. Fowler, in investigating the matters dealt with in their report (above referred to), discussed certain questionswith officers of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited.
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– Information on the matter is being obtained.
y asked the Minister for the interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Government has given financial assistance to the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia. So far. no financial assistance has been provided by the Government to any religious bodies in Western Australia, hut approval has been given for a weekly contribution by the Government of 3s. 6d. a child up to the age of fourteen years and with a maximum payment of £1,000 per annum in respect of approved children introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in Western Australia for training in its institutions in that State. In addition, approval has been given for financial assistance by the Government in respect of approved children introduced to other States by other religious bodies to the following extent: -
y asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows : -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Australian Broadcasting Commission : Broadcasts by Count von Luckner and Sir Harry Lauder.
y- asked the Ministerrepresenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The honorable member’s questions have been referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister take early action and instruct that immediate consideration be given to the former Minister’s promise of the 18th October, 1937, to the Royal Aero Club of Western Australia?
– I assume that the honorable member’s question refers to a letter addressed to him by my predecessor on the 18th October, 1937. This letter related to three matters -
As regardsI, the honorable member is aware that approval was given for the allocation to the club of a sum of £500, representing approximately 50 per cent. of the estimated cost of the additional aeroplane required by the club, such sum being in the nature of a loan repayable in monthly instalments for the unexpired period of the club’s Agreement with the Government. As regards 2, this matter has been discussed freely with the club, who are aware of the difficulty of providing immediately a permanent site for the erection of a club house on Maylands aerodrome. A suggestion that the existing building should be used temporarily as a club house is being investigated, and the club has been asked to advise what alterations they would desire to make this building suitable for their purpose. As regards 3, the Controller-General of Civil Aviation did visitWestern Australia and discussed fully with the club many matters of common interest.
Defence: Aerodrome in Victoria.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In future negotiations for the establishment of a defence aerodrome in Victoria, will he give consideration to a district midway between Melbourne and Adelaide, namely, that of Portland, Victoria?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
If departmental requirements necessitate the establishment of a defence aerodrome adjacent to the coastal area between Melbourne and Adelaide, consideration will be given to Portland district.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380525_reps_15_155/>.