House of Representatives
27 May 1938

15th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 1490




– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether it is a fact that the positions of Assistant Trade Commissioner in China and Japanare vacant? If so, is it intended to fill these offices, and at what date?

Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · CP

– The position in Tokyo is vacant, and that in Shanghai is likely to become vacant at an early date. I have not yet made a decision in regard to the method or the time to be chosen for filling the vacancies.

page 1490




– I have received this morning 30 odd telegrams from members of the medical profession in my electorate who have entered into contracts with the miners’ industrial organizations to provide medical service to the miners and their families. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill will affect the remuneration that they receive on’ this account. Will the Treasurer consider the request that the remuneration to be paid under the proposed scheme shall be increased ?


– If the honorable gentleman will be good enough to allow me to peruse the telegrams he has received, J shall venture to suggest the terms in which he might reply to them.

page 1490




– I think that I should refer to the rule governing the asking of questions in respect of proceedings impending in Parliament. I do so, not because I complain of anything that has been done, but I request honorable members not to ask questions relating to a bill that is to be discussed in the House during the day. Some questionsare asked that may not definitely evade the Standing Orders, but they certainly invite the Minister to anticipate debate upon the order of the day; and as it is likely that the debate upon the National Health and Pension’s Bill will be resumed in a few minutes, questions relating to that measure cannot be regarded as urgent.

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– Will the Treasurer state whether it is true that the Statistician’s Department is working on a new index figure, designed to eliminate what is known as the “ A “ series,in the fixation of the basic wage? If so, will the honorable gentleman give to industrial organizations, through a central representative, an opportunity to express their opinion before the new index figure, which they fear may lessen the chance of wages keeping pace with the cost of living, is fixed?


– The Commonwealth Statisticianhas nothing to do with the fixation of wages. To the best of his ability, he from time to time puts forward figures which, in his view, are best designed to reflect variations of the cost of living. These figures are made available to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and from that time onwards all responsibility in respect of the fixation of wages, based on those figures or otherwise, rests on the court.


– Will the honorable gentleman state whether or not it is a fact that the index figure fixed by the Commonwealth Statistician is used by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in determining the basic wage? If so, when the Statistician is taking steps to alter that index figure, either by limiting or by adding to the number of commodities to be weighted in order to arrive at the weighted average, will he consider the advisability and justice of allowing industrial representatives to express their opinion before such a drastic change is made?


– Whether or not the Court takes notice of the Commonwealth Statistician’s index figure, is entirely a matter for the Court to decide. Thepreparation of index figures is a technical matter, and I do not believe that the ability of the Commonwealth. Statistician to construct the best figures available could be aided by the advice of bodies which he does not now consult.


Second Reading.

Debate resumed from the 26th May (vide page 1483), on motion by Mr. Casey -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Upon -which Mr. Curtin had moved, by way of amendment -

That all the 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 pensionsfor oldage, invalidity and widowhood, which should he provided as a matter of right without the exaction of individual contributions;

It provides unequal benefits for men and women;

It fails to provide medical benifit 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 he introduced without delay.”


– It appears to me that the question before the House is, whether this bill should now be withdrawn and recast, or whether it should be passed subject to whatever amendment of it may be made in committee.

A good deal of criticism has been levelled against the measure, and many merits have been claimed for it. Although I intend to vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I say quite frankly that the bill is not my conception of what has been grandiloquently described as a National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. It would have been moreaptly described as an employees’ compulsory health insur ance bill. It is difficult for me to regard as a national health bill one which does not take into consideration the following factors : -

  1. Unemployment;
  2. Ante-natal and post-natal care;
  3. The relief worker; and
  4. Proper hospitalization.

I am conscious of the fact that, in respect of some of these matters, constitutional difficulties arise; but a national health scheme which does not cover every section of the community, particularly the unemployed and unemployable, is to me a negation of terms. I frankly confess that I am not impressed by the fact that, having chosen grounds which, in his opinion, warrant the withdrawal and redrafting of the bill, the Leader of the Opposition should have omitted any mention of the unemployed in the amendment that he has moved.

Mr Beasley:

– The honorable member is not acquainted with the procedure of the House, otherwise he would not make that the basis of a charge against the Leader of the Opposition.


– I listened carefully to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I have very great respect for the manner in whichhe marshalls and presents his arguments; but studying the terms of his amendment, I find that the four grounds upon which he suggests that the bill is unacceptable omit entirely any reference to the unemployed. In my view, the unemployed are the most important section of the community from the viewpoint of national health, because they are entirely without the necessary means tc obtain proper nutrition.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I remind the honorable member that the House, by a vote that it has given upon the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on the 4th May, has determined that unemployment insurance cannot be included in this bill. I have permitted honorable members to state that provision should be made for the unemployed, but I cannot allow the honorable member to debate the matter.


– I bow to your ruling, sir, and subject to it, shall endeavour to state my views as fairly and dispassionately as I can. It appears to me that this bill has a good deal to commend it; but a number of factors which have been omitted from it I am precluded by your ruling from discussing. I should have thought, however, that it was impossible to approach ‘ the consideration of any scheme of national health insurance without considering every factor which such a scheme should cover, and its effect upon the different sections of the community. I hold the belief that a scheme such as this cannot be considered apart from,’ but must be considered in relation to, the unemployed, the nation itself, the effect upon mothers and children both before and after birth, and like factors which ha ve a vital bearing on the economic and national fabric.

With due regard to your ruling, sir, I desire to direct a few remarks to the matter of the health of the community. T have no wish to repeat what has already been said, but shall seek to confine myself to a summary of my impressions of the measure and points ill respect of it which I hope will commend themselves to honorable members. One can always offer destructive criticism; the difficulty is to advance constructive criticism, and to suggest a different plan in substitution for that which is presented. I have many points to make in respect of what I conceive to be the deficiencies of this measure; but I desire, nevertheless, to make it clear that, whilst I do not think the bill goes far enough, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is to be congratulated upon the fair and dispassionate manner in which he introduced it and upon the tremendous amount of work he has put into it. On this account I believe that not only this House but also the people of this country will feel greatly indebted to him.

The fundamental purpose of a health insurance scheme is to ensure that members of all classes of the community shall receive proper medical attention when most needed, and that they shall not have to depend upon their ability to make contributions in order to receive it. I believe in the principle of contributory insurance, but I do not consider that that principle should be applied equally as between the employer and the employee. At the present stage, however, it appears to be impossible to persuade the Treasurer to accept any amendment which would interfere with the contributions, because the scheme is based upon actuarial calculations which permit only a fine margin. Having regard to the position of the people generally, one is always struck by the thought of what is to happen to a man who becomes unemployed. It is true that, under this scheme, he is protected for the first two or three years, because, having once come under the operation of the scheme, he receives free insurance for at least that period. But the time comes, particularly in the case of a casual worker, when he may be unable to keep up his payments, and in such an event he will lose the benefits of the insurance unless his position is protected. I am conscious of the fact that clause 1S6 provides machinery for dealing with casual workers. In committee I shall have something to say as to the adequacy of the machinery for which provision is made to deal with the manifold problems that will arise in respect of the casual worker.

In my view, no provision is made for the relief worker. I know that the view of the Government is that that matter comes within the purview of the proposed scheme; hut giving the terms of the measure the best consideration that I have been able to give, I do not think that it does. If one looks to part 1 of schedule 1, one will find that generally all employment is covered, but if one looks to part 2 of the same schedule, one will find that there is an exception in relation to casual workers other than those who are engaged in the employer’s trade or business. My considered view is that it cannot be said that casual labourers employed, for example, by a government are engaged in an employer’s trade or business. If that view be correct, a very important and deserving section of the community has been omitted from the bill. I am satisfied that this Government intends that they should not be omitted, but, if there is any doubt, it should be resolved by this House. I hope that relief workers will be clearly covered by the measure, because they are deserving of earnest consideration. With any scheme of national health insurance we must combine a system of public works development, which should go hand in hand with a scheme of unemployment insurance, so that, when a person is unemployed, his health will be preserved by a measure such as this, his purchasing power to some extent preserved by unemployment insurance, and by a flexible programme of public works, which could be retarded in times of prosperity and accelerated in times of adversity, provision made to absorb in government work an employee who is thrown off from the ranks of private industry. These considerations are important in dealing with any scheme of national health insurance. One would not be complete without the others.

We cannot envy the task of the Treasurer, because many conflicting interests arise in connexion with the proposals of the Government, and the difficulty is to reconcile those interests for the welfare of the community. It is impossible completely to resolve the difficulties. A measure of this description must inevitably affect certain sections adversely, but, in the final analysis, we must consider not how it affect3 particular sections but what is best for the general body of the people, who are mostly made tip of those who earn their livelihood by working for wages.

One must have regard to the difficulties presented by the limited powers given by the Constitution. I conceive this bill to have been brought down under two powers only in section 51, those relating to “ Insurance, other than State insurance,” and “Invalid and old-age pensions.” When matters of national importance come before the House, we hear reasons advanced why the Commonwealth Government cannot go any further than it has gone under a certain measure, and this is because of limitations inherent in the Constitution. The Commonwealth says that a certain problem is one for the States, and the States on the other hand reply that it is a matter for the Commonwealth. I doubt whether this bill is constitutional at all, as it depends for its constitutionality entirely on the two placita of section 51 to which I have referred. Certainly it cannot be stated that power to introduce this bill is completely given under the invalid and old-age pensions power. Recently I asked the Acting Minister for Health whether the Government had given attention to a scheme whereby invalids could be treated to enable them to be reclaimed as useful members of the community, and in that way to relieve them and at the same time assist the national finances. The reply I received was that health matters lay entirely in the hands of the States, and consequently the Commonwealth Parliament had no power to give effect to such a scheme as that suggested. Unless it be a combination of the placitum dealing with invalid and old-age pensions with that relating to insurance other than State insurance, there is apparently no power under the Constitution to pass this bill. I assume that the Government has satisfied itself whether insurance other than State insurance can be said to give power to introduce national insurance on a compulsory basis. The writings of Dr. Anstey Wynes in his Legislative and Executive Powers in Australia express the definite view that a scheme such as this is beyond the powers of this Parliament. It would be a national calamity if matters of such far-reaching importance could not be dealt with by this Parliament in the interests of the community. Whilst the people will not grant increased powers to the Commonwealth, it may finally be that this Parliament, adopting a completely national attitude, divorced from sectional or State considerations, will apply the fiscal powers given by the Constitution to force the States to surrender so much of their powers to this Parliament in respect of national matters such as health as will enable it to legislate regarding them.

Mr Brennan:

– This Parliament will have to do that sooner or later.


– I agree. I cannot conceive of any sovereign people continuing to submit to such limited power* in matters of national importance as are given by the Constitution.

A matter to which earnest consideration must be given by the Government i» whether efficient medical services will be rendered under the scheme. I have listened with great care to a number of speeches delivered on both sides of the House, and I am not satisfied that members of the medical profession will be able to render efficient service under this scheme. I have no doubt’ that they will do their best. I hope that the anticipations of the Treasurer will be completely realized. I know many doctors who have practised in England quite recently, and, despite the findings of the royal commission there, their view, which I consider a rational one, is that the standard of the medical profession in England has generally diminished. Although it may be that the standard of care given by medical men there has improved by comparison with the old lodge system, nevertheless it falls far short of the standard required by the average man in Australia. There is no doubt that the worker in England - I can only speak from hearsay - requires less than the worker in Australia. He has not achieved the same degree of individualism in the matter of requiring his proper quota of the services rendered by the State as has the worker in Australia, and Australian doctors rightly take the view that Australian workers will not be satisfied with the treatment which is meted out to them in England. Whilst I am hopeful that the Treasurer’s opinion, will be justified by events, I suggest that careful consideration must be given to this matter. An investigation should be made when the scheme is brought into operation to ensme that efficient services are given to the workers.

Mr Casey:

– Hear, hear!


– I am sure the Treasurer will endeavour to do all that is possible in that direction. Australia depends on its workers, and unless they receive what they are properly entitled to - adequate and complete medical attention within the limits prescribed, and not casual attention as I have every reason to believe workers are frequently given in England - the scheme will fail by reason of that fact. When many doctors whom I know, and who work in industrial areas, give me their opinions on these matters they do not speak from a selfish point of view. I have great respect for the medical profession, and, with very few exceptions my experience has been that their chief desire is not to make money, hut to give service to the community. Many members of this House who represent industrial areas will bear me out. in that statement.

Mr Beasley:

– How could this matter be tested?


– In the first place a court of inquiry could be set up to investigate complaints made. Test shots could be taken from time to time to see how the patients were being treated. Other than that it may he necessary to increase the proposed capitation fee.

Mr Beasley:

– The number of patients on each panel could be limited.


– Yes, but under the machinery of this act the patients have the right to choose their own doctor and possibly one medical man will have a large number of contributors to deal with. He may not be able to give proper attention to them if the number is too large. The number of doctors in Australia is 5,265, and those available for national health insurance may be put down as approximately 3,000. The number of breadwinners in this country is about 3,150,000, and the number of dependants about 3,500,000. Having regard to the fact that this bill is intended to cover 1,850,000 contributors, at the present capitation fee, and with the contributors distributed at an equal ratio between 3,000 doctors throughout the Commonwealth, each doctor would receive 620 patients in his panel, and from them he would get £340 per annum. There arc approximately 130,000 breadwinners in the Commonwealth receiving more than £365 a year. If we put them clown as 4.0 to each doctor we find that allowing for anaesthetics, workers’ compensation, and confinements, the amount each doctor would receive from them would be about £200. With respect to the unemployed there are about 200,000 and from them no revenue will be obtained by the doctors, arid a similar remark is applicable to the 300,000 pensioners. Lodge members not under the scheme number almost 200,000, and, dividing them among the available doctors, each doctor would receive £100. The other breadwinners number 435,000. and this would mean something in the vicinity of £160 to each doctor. Allowing for dependants, the gross earnings of a panel doctor would therefore be £1.080 a year, to which must be added something to cover services and contributions other than services prescribed. Thus doctors will not receive, from the present capitation fee of lis., the remuneration and comfortable living which it is sometimes suggested they will. The standard of efficiency of a medical man should not be low. Sufficient time should be available for research, and, above all, the working man should have preserved to him under this scheme efficient medical services. A proper investigation should be made in order to ensure that this system does not result in insufficient attention being given to the working man. For that reason I ask the Treasurer to consider again whether the capitation fee is sufficient. If, after further consideration, the honorable gentleman is convinced that it should not be increased. I hope that he will make provision to ensure that there will be no overloading of panels, resulting in doctors being unable to render efficient medical service.

Turning now to the merits of the scheme, I mention, first, that each man is insured once he becomes employed. For a period of approximately two years from now he will be protected whether he becomes unemployed or not. Should he become sick, his sickness benefits and his disablement benefits will be available to him and may continue to the maximum age. Once he is incapacitated through sickness he can never lose completely, by reason, of incapacity resulting from sickness, the benefits payable to him under this legislation.

Provision is made in clause 1S6 for casual workers, although as to the Eli th.ciency of that provision I shall have something more to say in committee.

The benefits themselves have been made clear. This is not a charity scheme. I do not believe that the working men of this country want a charity scheme. They want security, and I believe that they want to be self-reliant. It is my humble view that we have been giving too much assistance to all sections of the community without sufficient regard to the effect of that assistance upon the community as a whole. Unless wc get away from the idea that all social benefits are to be provided on the basis of charity - extracting from the community as a whole in order to give to a particular section - we shall not develop a self-reliant and efficient people.

From my experience of the working men and women et this country, 1 am confident that they ask for little beyond security as to employment and sickness. Generally, all social legislation should be dependent upon general revenue. That should be the cardinal rule, although I admit that variations of it are necessary, depending on particular circumstances when sectional taxation is justifiable.

Mr Beasley:

– Would the honorable gentleman apply that reasoning to other sections of the community?


– Certainly I would. I point out that in respect of the Workers’ Compensation Act a benefit is received by the employer because the risk of his employees contracting an occupational disease is something that he should provide against. Under that scheme, the burden is placed upon him. That is an example of sectional taxation the benefit from which goes to a particular section. But here we have another system, under which the benefit goes to the employee and the cost distributed between employers and employees, because it cannot be said that a non-occupational disease has no relation to a worker’s employment. A man spends most of his life in employment, and undoubtedly the stress and strain of industrial life must have some effect upon his constitution. Although it may not be possible in a particular case to relate a man’s sickness to his occupation, there must be some relation between his occupation and his nonoccupational disease. In that case the benefit is divided; the employer benefits because the efficiency and health of his workmen are preserved, and the employee benefits because he is given security and the unquestionable benefits of health insurance legislation. I am, therefore, amazed that the Opposition can find no merit in this measure. A careful and dispassionate consideration of it discloses that considerable benefits will be conferred on employees, and because of that, I believe that the provision for sectional taxation is just It i3 taxation divided between those who derive benefits - in this case the employer and the employee.

Although a careful examination of the bill shows that the benefits which it will confer and which I need not elaborate are considerably greater than a man could obtain from any commercial insurance office - he could not get from it comparable benefits for the same contribution - nevertheless, there are certain aspects of the measure to which I think attention should be drawn. One of them is that throughout the measure the words “ incapacity due to sickness “ are to be found. As I construe those words, they mean total incapacity for work of any kind- not total incapacity for the particular work to which the man is ordinarily accustomed. The bill, therefore, does not appear to cover the case of a man who may be incapacitated for the particular work upon which he is ordinarily engaged although partially capable of performing some other work. I suggest that that point be given further consideration by the Treasurer and this House. If the interpretation is as I have stated, L believe thai this provision will result in injustice, because under it men will frequently bo unable to qualify for benefits which this legislation purports to confer on them.

I submit, further, that relief workers must be covered by this scheme. If the Government believes that they are already covered by it, the mere fact that doubt has been expressed on that point should be sufficient to cause it to make its intention clear on the face of the bill.

The power to make regulations is conferred by clause 1SS. Parliament is asked to give its approval to a form which I regard as highly objectionable. Normally, there- is some supervision of regulations by Parliament, but under this clause I see no sufficient safeguard. In most legislation provision is made for regulation’s to be laid before Parliament and to remain upon the table for a definite period.

Mr Blackburn:

– Does not the Acts interpretation Act cover the point raised ? A regulation may be disallowed .by motion carried by one House of the Parliament.


– That is not sufficient. In respect of this legislation, I suggest that provision be made that regulations dealing with matters to be prescribed should first receive the approval of Parliament-

Mr Beasley:

– The regulation making power in this bill is more important than in most legislation.


– That is so. This bill confers on the Government not only administrative powers but also what might be termed legislative powers. It is because of that fact, and also because of my inherent objection to the delegation of non-administrative powers and important administrative powers thai should be under the supervision of Parliament to non-parliamentary bodies, that I urge the Government to give further consideration to this point. For example, the actual nature and extent of the treatment of the worker are to he “ as prescribed “. Again, the number of working weeks which a man will have to work, after once having lost his free insurance, before he again qualifies for it will be “ as prescribed “. Those examples are an indication of the matters contained in this bill which are to be delegated to the rule-making body. I admit that the establishment of the machinery to give effect to a bill of this nature must be. left to the controlling body, as it cannot be within the ordinary competence and time of this Parliament; but my experience has shown that serious repercussions have at times arisen in this connexion, and because of that danger I urge the Government to insert a provision such as I have suggested.

The bill has ‘been criticized for not providing for a surrender value in respect of payments made by a woman who subsequently marries. I suggest that that criticism arises from a total misconception of the nature of the bill, lt is superfluous for me to point out that insurance, in its ordinary -ouse, means the pooling of the resources of individuals in order to meet contingencies which may affect only a number of them. When that contingency strikes an unfortunate member, the total pool, or a proportion of it, is applied to satisfy his needs. Let us consider, for example, ordinary fire insurance. A man insures his property against fire, and pays a premium in respect of it. If a fire does not destroy his property, he does not complain that he has not received some surrender value in respect of his policy. If he is fortunate enough to avoid the loss of his property through fire, he knows that his premium will be available to assist others not so fortunate. The provisions of this bill are similar.

That criticism to which 1 have referred might be applicable to a life policy, where a level premium is determined in accordance with a gradually increasing risk, and not, as in this case, upon the actuarial risk at the age of sixteen years. The contributions under this bill are based on the actuarial risk at the age of sixteen. Should a woman enter upon the scheme at, say, 27 years of age, the amount ought to be about 3s. in respect of her old-age pension, but instead of paying 3s. a week, she will pay only the contribution based upon entrance at age sixteen. In these circumstances, the complaint that the bill is unjust because no surrender value is provided for in these cases, completely disregards the nature of this scheme compared with schemes in which surrender values of policies are paid.

I wish now to refer to the effect. of this scheme upon that section of the community known as Christian Scientists. It has been urged that these people should be excluded from the operation of this measure in respect of medical benefits. British communities do not, as a rule, pass legislation which interferes with the religious beliefs of any section of the people. Those beliefs have always been regarded as a paramount consideration in determining legislation affecting them. This bill impinges upon the religious beliefs of these people and I therefore urge the Government to adopt the proposal, which I support, to insert a clause in the bill similar to section 3, sub-section 4, of tho British Columbia Health Insurance Act of 1936, which exempts Christian. Scientists from medical benefits. If that is done no harm will be occasioned to their religious convictions. They are a respectable class of the community whose conditions I believe the Government does not desire to disturb. I- strongly urge this course upon the Treasurer.

I come now to the consideration of “ approved societies “. The friendly societies of Australia, as many honorable members have stated, do extraordinarily good work for the community, but I can not subscribe to the view that they should be the only “ approved societies ;’ under the bill. I feel that abuses may occur in connexion with “ approved societies “ unless the most careful regard is paid to the conditions under which particular societies may be formed and the method under which they may solicit and obtain contributors. I know that certain insurance offices are already soliciting contributors with an eye to this scheme. They cannot get any benefit from this scheme because it is non-profitable, but it is- indirect benefit they are seeking. If the approved societies “ are not correctly controlled there will be abuses by certain insurance companies, although of course not by all. I freely admit there are many of them who would not indulge in tactics which would discredit insurance activities, but other offices are quite likely to use this scheme as a bait to entice workers to carry insurance much beyond their means. This should be most closely watched, and the whole position carefully regimented. That can be done under the provisions of this bill. “ Approved societies “, in my opinion, should be limited to friendly societies, trade unions, and mutual aid societies. Unless proper control is exercised in this respect abuses will undoubtedly occur in the method of soliciting contributors.

Another subject which merits careful attention is the position of welfare funds organized by the banks. Contributors to approved funds of this nature should be exempt from the provisions of this bill. Many voluntary schemes of this description confer substantial benefits upon subscribers. The Government has power to exclude such contributors and many requests have been made to urge the Government to take this course. There is a fear that compulsion will be brought to bear upon contributors to these funds to join the national scheme, notwithstanding that their voluntary schemes afford greater benefits than those provided under this measure. The persons affected by these voluntary schemes are more secured and a somewhat more privileged section of the community than the general body of workers and do not need the benefits of this bill, and I urge that they should be exempt from contributing to the national scheme.

I have not sought to deal, in- detail, with matters that, in my opinion, may be more appropriately considered at the committee stage of the bill. Despite my criticism of the measure, I am not like honorable members of the Opposition who say that because they cannot be granted a complete scheme of national insurance they will take no step towards the achievement of that ideal. Because 1 criticize measures introduced into this Parliament - and I shall do so when I think it proper - it is not to be understood that I shall necessarily vote against them. I hope that I am able to see merit where it exists and to act accordingly. I do not wish my actions to be governed, as those of some honorable members opposite seem to be, by preconceived ideas. Regarded impartially, this bill should commend itself to all honorable members. Without doubt it affords us the opportunity to make a good step forward in social legislation. If I cannot take a full step forward I shall, at least, go as far as I can, knowing that later opportunities will come to make a closer approach to my final objective, which is the achievement of greater security for the working men of this country. I believe that this bill goes some distance in that direction.


.- Most of the speeches of honorable members opposite on this measure have damned the bill with faint praise. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), however, has praised it with loud damns. Tet it is difficult for me to understand how he arrived at his final conclusion in view of the fact that earlier in his speech he attacked the measure on practically every possible ground, including its constitutionality.

In the opinion of the Opposition, the bill was too confined by the terms of leave governing its introduction. We attempted at the appropriate stage to extend the terms of leave but did not succeed. Leave was given to introduce a bill to provide benefits only for certain employees and their dependants. We considered that a more comprehensive measure should have been drafted.

Generally speaking, the Opposition feels, and properly so, that if details of measures may be effectively altered in committee they should be discussed at that stage; that the mere fact that a bill as introduced may not bc completely satisfactory should not be sufficient ground, if the defects are remediable, for rejecting it in toto; but its opinion of this particular bill is that it has so many ineradicable and fundamental defects that it could not be effectively amended at the committee stage. For that reason the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) moved Lis amendment at the second reading stage which I heartily support.

Two of the objections to the bill set out in the amendment are so obvious that they require no elaboration. These are that the bill provides unequal benefits for men and women, and does not provide medical benefits for the wives and children of contributors. Further comment upon these points is quite unnecessary.

I shall confine my remarks, first, to the fourth objection, and, secondly, to tho first objection. The fourth objection is -

By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity it tends to discourage young men and women from joining these associations of self-help, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render.

Obviously the bill as drafted overlaps, in part, the field at present covered by the friendly societies. It is proposed to give health and sickness benefits under the measure but only to the insured person himself and not to his wife and children. What will happen, therefore, is that the spring which feeds the friendly societies to-day will tend to dry up, that spring being the flow of young men and young women. Young women, in particular, join friendly societies with the object of making provision for health and medical benefits for themselves, and not for their dependants. This measure will discourage them from joining friendly societies for that purpose. It will also discourage young single men from joining for, naturally and temperamentally, they are frequently unthrifty and will be apt to say: “As we are compelled to make contributions to the national scheme we will not join a friendly society”. The answer made by the Government supporters to these objections is that the friendly societies of Great Britain, where ii scheme of national insurance has been in operation for a quarter of a century, lave flourished. My reply to that argument is that the British friendly societies have flourished because they have dovetailed their activities into those of the national insurance scheme. They have tended to desert the field covered by the national scheme and have entered other fields, in Great Britain friendly societies, as well as other approved societies, are controlled by the imperial Parliament. Friendly societies in Australia are not controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament. Approved societies in Great Britain may register as friendly societies notwithstanding that their members are compulsory members. The situation is different in Great Britain also because the British act provides that approved societies may with the consent of the Minister abandon their existing custom of providing certain benefits and divert their attention to certain other benefits stated in the schedule of the act, such as dental, ophthalmic and nursing and hospital benefits. So far as I have been able to discover no provision of that kind appears in this bill, the reason being that this Parliament is not competent to enter upon the States’ domain and regulate friendly societies. The view that 1 have just expressed is borne out by Mr. William Harbutt Dawson, who has done a great deal of work in the interest of national insurance, from the time of bis early studies of national insurance in Germany until to-day. He says that the friendly societies of Great Britain have met the position sometimes by reducing the contributions of insured members and sometimes by providing additional benefits, but in order to preserve the solvency of their funds they have imposed more onerous conditions upon non-insured members. In other words, they make their non-insured members pay at a higher rate for the benefits that they enjoy and so keep their funds solvent.


– Is that the position in England to-day?


– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) may read for himself Mr. Dawson’s article on “ National Insurance “ in The which is to bc had from the Library. Approved societies in Great Britain have adjusted their operations to dovetail into those of the national insurance scheme. They say, in effect : “ We will give benefits other than those which we have previously given. We will enter this field of additional benefits in order that we may retain our members. We will also reduce the voluntary contributions to friendly societies in respect of those who are contributing to the compulsory national scheme “.

I come now to a more important point with which I wish to deal. It has been said by Government supporters that the Opposition is opposed to any form of contributory insurance. That is not so.

Mr Lane:

– Labour’s policy is pure socialism.


– A policy of pure socialism may be preferred to a policy of impure individualism such as honorable members opposite are advocating. Their policy is individualism tempered by fear of the electors. The Opposition says that it objects to any scheme for pensions for invalidity, old age or widowhood being placed upon a contributory basis. I have no objection to a universal compulsory contributory scheme for health benefits, but 1 object to this scheme because it is not of universal application. It is of a class nature which involves the worker in something which is not necessarily connected with the work he does. The Government is saying to the workers : “ You shall be liable to have your wages docked by your employers to provide contributions to this scheme “. I should have offered no objection to a universal contributory scheme under which all contributors would be equal, but I resent the workers being regarded as inferior and non-adult persons in the community. To my mind, the main objection to this scheme is that it fixes upon the workers ;i servile status as persons unequal to other members of the community. The Labour party says, without reservation, that every person who, by reason of age. invalidity or widowhood, or because of responsibility towards dependants, is unable to provide for himself or herself, should be maintained by the community as a matter of right, and not of grace or charity. That principle underlies the- original old-age pensions laws in this country and in New Zealand. The first measure introduced in Australia was the Old-age Pensions Bill of New South Wales, sponsored by Wm. John Lyne, in 1900. It started with this preamble -

It is equitable that deserving persons who during the prime of life have helped to bear the public burdens of the colony by the payment of taxes and by opening up its resources with their labour and skill should receive from the colony pensions in their old age.

That is a succinct statement of the view accepted by the people of Australia when old-age pensions schemes were proposed in New South Wales and Victoria in 1900. Old-age pensions had been introduced before that in New Zealand, and I should like to quote a passage from Wm. Pember Reeves’” book, The Long White Cloud, which discloses the views of Richard John Seddon, who introduced the Old-age Pensions Bill, which was finally passed in 1898. It is as follows : -

He took the human view that those who had brought up large families and worked hard all their lives for a daily wage had done their duty by the State. He held, too, that it was impracticable to try and compel the working man to set aside part of his wages towards is. pension scheme during a period when every penny he earned would, in the ordinary course, be spent in the upbringing of his family. Such expenditure, Seddon maintained, was every bil as much for the benefit of the State as would be a forced contribution towards a pension scheme.

That is to say, the expenditure of the worker’s small wage on the maintenance of himself, his wife and his children, benefits the community just as much as would the expenditure of forced contributions by somebody else.

I propose to trace the development of old-age pensions provisions in order to show that in British countries there is an overwhelming preponderance of opinion in favour of straight-out pensions without the exaction of any contribution from the persons receiving them. It has been suggested in this House that the idea of contributory old-age pensions is an improvement upon the previous noncontributory scheme, but, as a matter of fact, the original old-age pensions proposals involved the payment of contributions by the recipients. Such a proposal was first put forward in New Zealand in 1882 by Sir Harry Atkinson, and arose out of an article written by Canon

Blackley in 1879. However, it was not carried. In 1891, Denmark, the first of all countries to provide old-age pensions out of taxation without any contribution by the recipients, placed its pen-ious law on the statute-book. This revived interest in the subject in Great Britain and Australasia. In 1S93/ a royal commission was appointed in England to inquire into the matter, but it was unable to make up its mind whether pensions should be paid out of taxation, or whether they should be on a contributory basis, compulsory or voluntary. Consequently, nothing was done. In New Zealand, however, one proposal after another was put forward over a period of several years. Seddon introduced a straight-out old-age pensions scheme, and after three years it was passed through Parliament. Objections were raised at the time, and it was said that it should be on a compulsory contributory basis, and administered through an approved society, the system of administration through approved societies having been adopted previously in Germany. The example of New Zealand was followed by other communities, and the principle upon which they established their pensions schemes cannot be better stated than in the words quoted a few days ago by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) -

It is better that the misfortunes of the individual should be borne by the whole community rather than that the individual should be crushed by the weight of his misfortune.

In 1900 Victoria and New South Wales introduced schemes similar to the New Zealand one. The legislation was first introduced in New South Wales, but the Victorian act actually came into force first. In 1900, Queensland passed similar legislation, as also did the Commonwealth of Australia and the United Kingdom. All these schemes placed old-age pensions on a- non-contributory basis. It is true thanat a later date, Great Britain introduced a contributory scheme, which ran side by side -with the original noncontributory one. In Great Britain, at the present time, there are two schemes. Under the one the pensioner may obtain a non-contributory pension at the age of 70 on terms somewhat similar to those of our own Pensions Act, while those who come under the contributory scheme may obtain a pension at the age of Gi. Hon- ( table members should notice that the Commonwealth Government’s proposals do not provide for pensions to men at the age of GO, and to women at the age of 55. as it should if the example of Great Britain were followed. The purpose, evidently, is gradually to supplant the straight-out old-age pensions scheme by he system of contributory pensions. The British system applies to Northern Ireland. Health insurance there is governed by an Imperial Act, while oldage pensions are governed by a North of Ireland act. In .England, two separate acts cover the ground which it is proposed to cover in the one measure before this House. One act deals with the contributory health insurance scheme, and another and separate measure provides tor the contributory old-age pensions scheme.

Newfoundland, in 1911, followed the Australian example of providing old-age pensions on a iron-contributory basis, and this example was also followed by the more important sister dominions of Canada and South Africa. In 1927. Canada introduced a scheme for the payment of old-age pensions on a noncontributory basis, the scheme being extended later to cover blind persons. South Africa, in the following year, also introduced a non-contributory old-age pensions scheme. Canada was probably influenced by the fact that, in the United States of America, a great many States paid old-age pensions and pay them on a noncontributory basis, but the fact remains that every British dominion, as distinct from Great Britain itself, has followed the example originally set by Denmark in 1891, and New Zealand in 1S9S, by paying old-age pensions on a non-contributory basis. The Irish Free State took over from Great Britain the system of non-contributory old-age, pensions, and has continued it: The same principle has been applied to pensions for mothers. The system operates in the United States of America, which was the first in the. field, and operates in Canada, New Zealand and New South Wales. The principle recognized in all those countries is that old-age pensions, and relief for invalidity, widowhood and orphanhood should be given as a right, and not in return for contributions exacted from the recipients.

I have no doubt that the Government believes that, eventually, the contributory scheme for pensions in Australia will supplant the present non-contributory oldage and invalid pensions scheme. In my opinion, it will not do so, because thb benefits under the scheme will prove to be less than they appear to be. This scheme will benefit only those workers who can look forward to continuity and regularity of employment. We should not be misled by the experience of a highlyindustrialized country like Great Britain. In Australia, most of our workers are employed in small industries, or on farms, and, consequently, their employment tends to be intermittent and irregular. Another financial crisis such as the last depression would wipe out everybody’s right to relief.

Mr Rosevear:

-The Government would “ pinch “ the lot.


– The Government says that it wants to place the scheme on a contributory basis so that, during future depressions, it would not be tempted to “ pinch “ the old-age pensions fund. The change-over from a noncontributory to a contributory scheme has been justified by two arguments; one appeals to the public, and the other to the persons who expect to receive pensions. The first argument is that the burden of pensions is too heavy for the taxpayer to bear, and he must be relieved. The second argument, which is addressed to the persons likely to benefit under the scheme, is that it will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth, and so will be safer than the existing old-age pensions scheme. Let us consider the first argument : From what source will pensions come in future? They will come from the same source as that from which taxation comes. The Government will not create a new fund that is at present free from taxation and say that out of it these payments shall be made; the fund will come out of the credit that is available for taxation. It is not intended in this scheme to impose the burden on the people best fitted to bear it, but on the worker in the first instance, and, secondly, on the employer. Thus, it will violate all the recognized canons of taxation. Apparently, the Government intends to disregard the capacity or the ability of the individual to pay. The fund which is available for taxation comes out of, the production of the country, and so will the contributions to this fund. These payments will be taxation disguised with the more palatable name of contributions, the belief of the Government being, apparently, that taxation by another name would sound sweeter.

Money that is paid in the form of invalid and old-age pensions and to widows and orphans does not vanish altogether. It is not money that is withdrawn from circulation. If a government devotes a portion of its revenue to defence expenditure, it hopes that there will not be need to employ the machinery created. If, however, it is used, the money will vanish and have to be replaced. Expenditure of that nature adds nothing to the wealth of a country. But noncontributory payments to invalid and old-aga pensioners are merely a redistribution of wealth or a social reform by means of taxation, taking from those who have a superfluity and giving to those who hare a need of it and a right to be maintained by society. This seems to me to dispose of the first argument.

I come now to the argument that tho contributor will feel that he is safe because thi3 scheme will be guaranteed by the Government. There is no guarantee of the solvency of the fund. In the years of depression, the Commonwealth Parliament reduced invalid and old-age- payments, thereby rendering the recipients of that form of social service uncertain as to their future. I, and every other person in the community, regret that the Commonwealth Government of the day thought it necessary to take that action. But it also reduced other payments, including some that were part of its contractual obligations. For instance, it had guaranteed the superannuation fund, saying to the public servants: “ You contribute to the fund from your salaries, the Government will contribute pro rata, and the fund will be guaranteed by the solvency of the Commonwealth.” But the same act that struck at the oldage pensions struck at the superannuation fund. Section 24 of the Financial Emergency Act of 1981 provided that contributions payable by the Commonwealth to the superannuation fund should be reduced by 20 per cent.; that is to say, in a time of stress, the Commonwealth withheld the money which it had solemnly contracted with its employees to pay as an inducement to them to forgo a part- of their wages.

This bill does not give any greater degree of security for the trust funds than is to be found in the measure relating to invalid and old-age pensions. The United Kingdom Economy Act of 1926 actually reduced contributions made by the” Government to the health insurance fund; and, as we know, every Australian Treasurer in times of financial difficulty acts in the belief that the various trust funds are there for the purpose of getting the Government out of its difficulties, in the same way as a drunken father breaks open his child’s money-box when he is thirsty. My experience is that money in trust funds in the State of Victoria is regarded as being available for the Treasurer to help himself when he has difficulty in balancing his budget. It is declared that the solvency of the fund will depend en the contributions which the Commonwealth will make to it. In the United Kingdom, the contributions vary from one-seventh in England to onesixth in Scotland. The scheme cannot be solvent unless the Commonwealth makes its contribution, and there is nothing to compel the Commonwealth to contribute. It may reduce its contributions as was done in the United Kingdom in 1926, and as was done in the Commonwealth in respect of the superannuation fund.

No person who does not wish to be deceived can-be deceived by the argument that the provision made in this bill is more adequate or that it gives greater security than is contained in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In future times of crisis, we shall see the Government helping itself to the money in these trust funds, so far as its own contributions are concerned, and we shall also see a decline of contributions from the people during long periods of unemployment.

I have endeavoured to confine myself to those features of the measure which I regard ‘ as ineradicable defects - faults that cannot be overcome by amendment. Features that are remediable may be dealt with by amendments when the bill is in committee.

The more I look at this bill, the worse 1 like it. At the outset, I had some sympathy with the Government, believing that this measure was an attempt, though possibly a poor one, to provide a satisfactory national insurance scheme. But 1 am quite convinced that only those people who are able to retain their employment year in and year out and thus continue their contributions to the fund will be provided for. Those people whose employment is irregular and subject to the vicissitudes of industry will suiter. The worker who is in regular employment is very often in a scheme of his own choosing and is satisfied. We have been inundated with appeals from people who are contributing to other schemes which they consider better, and who do not wish to be brought within the scope of this proposal. They fear that if they are compelled to contribute to this scheme their employers will destroy the ones to which they have been contributing for a number of years and which they regard as more generous. I have some knowledge of a semi-governmental scheme which makes better provision for its members than is proposed in the scheme before the House. The fund is made up of contributions from the employees supplemented by payments by the board of management, but the board says that if it is compelled to contribute to the Commonwealth project it will have to cease its contributions to the existing fund. That it would be sorry to do, because it believes that the fund would be either destroyed or very much impaired. This reinforces my point that many of those whom this proposal will benefit - permanent employees - are already much better provided for, while the scheme is not capable of providing any benefit for the great mass of the workers.

The position taken up by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is that of a number of classes of employers. They complain of the omission from the scheme of self- employed persons, particularly small farmers, ““lt is difficult to make some employers see what interest they have in contributing to a scheme to ensure the health of the workers. The constitutional objections to this legislation are worthy of consideration, but 1 do not think that the measure can be debated on that basis. If this Parliament adopts the scheme and it receives general support from the community, but is attacked on the ground of its general unconstitutionality, it will receive the support of the States. In 1925, the Privy Council declared invalid the Investigation of Disputes Act, which had been in operation in Canada for twenty years. It held that the Dominion Parliament had no authority to pass that act which, however, had been giving satisfaction to numbers of people. As soon as the decision was given, representatives of the dominion and provincial governments conferred and complementary legislation was passed continuing that law. I do not believe that our State parliaments will be unmindful of anything that may injure the people whom they represent, nor do I think that State governments will be neglectful of the people’s interests. I believe that this national insurance scheme, if it is passed and proves to be advantageous to the people, will be made effective by State, as well as Commonwealth, legislation.

There are various other aspects of the bill to which I could direct attention, but I shall confine myself to the references made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to the inexpediency and impropriety of this Parliament delegating important legislation by regulation. That seems to be the way in which this Parliament does its work. Members come to Canberra from all parts of the Commonwealth and do not wish to stay here very long. Consequently they do not devote a great deal of time to the consideration of measures in detail, so Parliament uses the power of delegation. But it tries to safeguard itself by providing that any regulation may be disallowed by either House. If regulations are promulgated when Parliament is not sitting, any honorable member who objects to them may submit a motion to disallow them, and if it is not disposed of within fifteen sitting days, the regulation fails altogether. But more important powers are dealt with in an unsatisfactory way.

Some of the decisions of the commission may not be questioned, and in respect of others the only appeal is to a sort of revising hamster appointed by the Government. In the United Kingdom the contributor has the right to appeal in a simple and inexpensive way against decisions of the commission to an independent court of whose ability and impartiality there can be no doubt.

Many of these matters to which 1 have directed attention can be dealt with when the bill is in committee. I hope that the Government will accept amendments to improve the measure; that it will give relief where relief is not given in the draft, and that the relief now offered will lie made more generous. In some respects the scheme is better than the English act; in others it is worse and more grudging. 1 hope that we shall have a long discussion, assuming that the second reading will be passed, in committee, of the many clauses, and that all parties will do their best to make the measure tolerable and fulfil at least some of the promises made in respect of it.

Minister without portfolio, assisting the Treasurer · New EnglandAssistant Minister · CP

– I do not desire to traverse the ground covered by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his secondreading speech. My intention is to deal with some of the points that have been raised since the introduction of the measure. The general principle of national insurance appears to have been accepted throughout the Commonwealth, and there is no necessity for me to devote time to an explanation of its advantages. I listened with great interest to most of the speeches so far delivered in this debate, and am struck with the fact that no member on either side of the House, however critical he may have been of the features of this bill, is prepared to affirm that national insurance in itself is undesirable. The only question at issue, therefore, is - are the proposals for the implementation of a scheme of national insurance outlined in this bill sound and meritorious? Members of the Opposition, including the Leader (Mr. Curtin), have categorically attacked the bill on certain grounds, the chief of which are that there should be no contribution by employees; that there should be equal benefit payments to men and women; and that the scale of benefits should be more generous, particularly in regard to child endowment, widows’ pensions, and old-age pensions for women. The Opposition also desires the inclusion in the bill of a large section of the community embraced in the self-employee class, such as farmers and small shopkeepers, and it further asks for inclusion of the wives and children of insured workers.

All these criticisms constitute a general indictment of the whole scheme now submitted to the House, and if the House approves of the Opposition’s case the only course open to the Government is to withdraw the bill and either abandon national insurance altogether or submit a re-drafted scheme embodying the suggestions of the Opposition.

It has been made clear by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that a re-drafted bill in the terms desired by the Leader of the Opposition and his followers is quite out of. the question, and that all the Government can promise is that the matters at issue will be carefully considered as time goes on, to see if additional benefits can be conferred and extra sections of the community can be embraced in national insurance. A second bill embodying some of the phases not included in the present bill is now under the consideration of the Government.

That is where the matter stands at present. Personally, I consider that the Government’s attitude is very generous, and I feel sure that it meets with the approval of the great majority of the Australian people, including the workers who will benefit under this bill. I am certain that if, by any chance, the Opposition’s proposal to withdraw the bill were adopted, there would be widespread disappointment throughout the Commonwealth, and that, before long, strong demands would be made on this Parliament to re-introduce national insurance substantially in the form now embodied in this bill. It is a fact that of all the objections and complaints raised against this bill, not one has so far come from the general public -who will be insured. All the fuss has been made by sectional interests.

The attitude of the Opposition is undoubtedly destructive, and is designed to gain political advantage out of what is believed by members of the Labour party to be a state of irritation in regard to certain features of this bill. The friendly societies, doctors, chemists, women’s organizations and trade unions are all making certain demands to strengthen their own sectional position. The Opposition has seized upon these sectional demands, lumped them together in one comprehensive indictment of the bill, and set out to create a political position favorable to itself. Seeing that the Labour party has never devoted any constructive effort to this subject of national insurance, and has played no part in formulating the present scheme, either by outside agitation or by advocacy in this House, I have no hesitation in saying that the attitude of that party i3 wholly mischievous, obstructive and inimical to the social welfare of the workers of Australia. I have heard members of the Opposition say with some gusto that they believe that if a referendum were held this bill would be defeated. I doubt very much whether that would happen; but if it were defeated, it would only be as the result of a conflict of sectional interests who desire to gain some greater advantages for themselves, and not because of any general nation-wide antipathy to national insurance. The Government, however, submitted national insurance as one of its policy proposals at the last general elections, and was returned with an overwhelming majority. It is fully entitled, therefore, to proceed on the presumption that it has a mandate from the people to introduce and implement a scheme of national insurance, leaving the people to decide at some future date the question of whether a scheme so introduced and implemented is worthy of endorsement. [Quorum formed.1 I think that the Government is taking a sound risk. I feel confident that when the next elections are held, national insurance as embodied in this bill will receive overwhelming support from all sections of the community.

I have also heard honorable members opposite challenge supporters of the bill to appear in any electorate and debate the question with them. This is a very cheap and illusory form of political propaganda. We know very well that, if such a challenge were accepted, interested parties desiring increased benefits under the bill, or wishing to be exempted from its provisions, would attend the meetings and take charge of the proceedings. I have no doubt that members of the Opposition would simply pander to these interests, trying to inflame the irritability of each and making out of the whole turmoil an unfair and unreliable indictment of the Government’s national insurance policy. If, instead of this preliminary skirmishing, the Opposition would assist the Government to launch the scheme, and then help to avert any failure to protect the proper interests of workers, the Labour party and its allied political interests would gain credit for constructive criticism and a national outlook.

That this bill is a genuine attempt by the Government to improve the social welfare of the workers of this country, rather than of any minor sectional interests, is indicated by the fact that at the very outset no less than 85 per cent, of persons in the employee group, as at the 1933 census, will be included. If we add to these the 35,000 juvenile contributors who will be brought into the scheme, we shall have 86 per cent, of the total number in the employee group. Of these, 1,350,000 will ‘ be males and 465,000 females. The males will constitute 83 per cent, and the females 90 per cent, of the employee group as at the 1933 census. It is probable that about 90 per cent, of the total employee population of Australia will be embraced in this scheme at the outset. This proves that the aim of the Government is not to provide national insurance for selected or favored sections of the community, but to give it to that predominant section which comprises practically the whole of the wage-earning population of the country. Yet we find that no credit is given to the Government by the Opposition for performing this gigantic task. On the contrary, every possible fault is being found with the scheme and nothing is being said in praise of its advantages. I exclude from this statement the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who found considerable merit in the bill.


– He must have read it very closely.


– Like the Government, it has no merit.


Dr. Maloney is the oldest member of this House. He is the only medical man in the ranks of the Opposition, and the only member of the Opposition who has said that he approves of the bill. No cognizance is being taken of the fact that the International Labour Office at Geneva has reported that all governments–

Mr James:

– On a point of order, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether under the Standing Orders a Minister or any other member of this House is permitted to read his speech?

Mr SPEAKER (Hon G J Bell:

The Standing Orders provide that honorable members may not read their speeches; but it is perfectly obvious from the exchanges that have taken place, that the Minister was not reading.


– I assure honorable members that I have prepared voluminous notes for the purpose of my speech. I was saying that no cognizance is being taken by the Opposition of the fact that the International Labour Office at Geneva has reported that all governments have indicated that the only effective basis for ensuring the protection of rho workers is compulsory and contributory insurance.

I draw attention also to the fact that the Opposition has ignored the worldwide development of national insurance for health, pensions and unemployment. The fact that no fewer than 32 countries, excluding New Zealand, now enjoy national insurance in some form or other, indicates the extent to which Australia has lagged in the race for social improvement. It is strange that the Labour party has taken so little interest in this world-wide development, and more strange that now that a government is in power which realizes that the time has arrived to speed up our efforts in this direction, the only attitude which Labour can see fit to adopt is one of hostility and destruction. [Quorum formed.] The attitude of the Opposition is entirely that of the do’g in the manger- it does not propose to do this work itself, and is determined to prevent any other parties from doing it. I know that the answer will be that Labour is prepared to do the job on a non-contributory basis. The fact remains, however, that up to the present it has not come into the open with any concrete proposals beyond the general offer made at the last elections to bring in unemployment insurance. It has taken no steps to show that it is concerned with the health and pensions side of national insurance. Yet in many other countries unemployment insurance is not considered important, or even urgent, health and pensions being given more prominence. I do not say that this proves that unemployment insurance is not important or even urgent in Australia, but I do say that it indicates that health and pensions in the opinion of many other countries are the first responsibilities of governments. That is the attitude we are adopting in Australia. We desire to organize the health and pensions of the workers of this country upon a sound actuarial basis without further delay. To show the absurdity of many arguments against this allegedly unfair measure, I need mention only some of the countries which have, for a considerable time, operated compulsory health and pensions schemes for their people. These include Argentina, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Esthonia, Prance, Germany, Hungary, the Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Roumania, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. All of those I have mentioned have adopted insurance for sickness, maternity and funeral benefits. Most of them have oldage, invalidity and survivors’ benefits. Of the total of 32 countries with national insurance, only nineteen have unemployment insurance of some kind or other. In order that the information I have obtained shall be available to honorable members I ask the permission of the House to incorporate in Hansard a list of all the countries which, according to the latest information, have some form of national insurance, and the main features of these schemes. This table was compiled by the national insurance experts, and should be of great interest to honorable members generally.


– Is there any objection to the request?

Mr Curtin:

– Provided all reference to unemployment insurance is excluded, I have no objection to offer.


– That will be done.

Leave granted.

My main purpose in giving the actual information to the House concerning schemes in other countries is to show that this Government is not doing anything revolutionary or world-shaking. As I said previously, Australia is well behind in the race, and this bill is really a belated -effort to show the world that we have the will and the energy to do at least as much for our workers - and in some respects more - as many other countries have done for theirs. To my mind the question of national insurance should be regarded from this world viewpoint. Even if we have proposed what many members contend is an imperfect scheme, we are in duty bound to bring in some scheme, or condemn ourselves in the eyes of the world lis a socially stagnant country. I am surprised that this aspect has not received more attention in the present debates, and that honorable members have not marie more concession to the Government for its praiseworthy effort to bring Australia up to date in this fundamental matter of health and pensions insurance for our workers.

I come now to several matters which have been the subject of considerable controversy during the last few days. The two outstanding administrative differences under discussion are the conditions which the scheme will impose upon the medical profession and the handicap it will impose upon the friendly societies. In common with other members, I have had many requests from doctors who seem to be perturbed at the prospect of a bad deal under this scheme. One doctor in my own electorate approached me recently and said “ This national insurance scheme is a terrible thing”. I asked “In what way”? He replied “It will be impossible for the doctors to stand up to it “. I asked him whether he meant that the difficulty would be due to the payment or to the weight of work. He said “ Both “ ; and added that the doctors would be working day and night every day of the week, and would never catch up with what would be required of them. I pointed out to him that each doctor who came into the scheme would do so voluntarily, and that he would have a certain number of patients. He said “Yes, but how could we deal with thousands of cases at such a low rate”? I answered that he would not have to deal with thousands of cases, because only a very low percentage of the people’ under his care would require medical attention. He seemed to be under the impression that every one on his list would want attention at once. I explained to him that this was obviously a delusion, and, if it worked out that way, of course no doctor could keep up with the work, I told him that only a small percentage of his patients would require his attention from day to day all through the year. He seemed to bc very surprised, and said “ If that is so, it will be all right”. I mention this incident to show that many of our doctors are probably suffering from the delusion that they will be worked to death, and will have to neglect their normal practice. Inquiries show that in Great Britain each panel doctor, on an average, pays not more than one visit a year to each patient. These would be visits to homes.

Mr Gander:

– Why does the doctor from Bankstown object?


– I do not know. The data available from Great Britain shows that the doctors there are not overworked, and they will not be overworked in Australia.

In Great Britain the average panel is 900, and the maximum 2,500, or, with a partnership of two doctors, 5,000. It is estimated that in Australia under this scheme the average number of insured patients to each doctor will be 600, with 1,500 as a maximum. I understand that these are the proposals of the doctors themselves. Taking the British results as a fair guide - and possibly in Australia the average would be lower - it is obvious that the doctors, on the average, would not be overburdened, and would receive adequate remuneration for their work. It will be seen that this will not impose any great weight upon the medical men. Actually, the great merit of the system is that, except in abnormal times of epidemic, the practitioner will be paid all the year round for treatment which is not required; that is to say, many insured persons will require no treatment whatever, and these will make up for any excess treatment which a limited number may demand. I may add that the doctors will have perfect freedom to work under the national insurance scheme or not, as they desire, lodging from the British experience, the great majority will be only too glad to come in, and do their part in carrying out a national scheme of health insurance.

Out of some 4,500 doctors in Australia, including Government and institutional doctors, it will only require about 3,000 to operate national insurance at the outset. This allows a considerable margin for medical men who do not desire to participate. One out of every three doctors will have to stand out for lack of work under the scheme. This should obviate the need for undue self-sacrifice on the part of those doctors who do not want to participate.

Tn his speech the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) described the difficulties which would confront doctors in the thickly populated areas of his electorate, where many of the people have very low incomes. He seemed to think that there would be very few doctors available, and far too many patients. The figures I have given regarding the average panel and the amount of work which, on the average, will be thrown upon the doctors should furnish a sufficient answer to the honorable member.

On the subject of friendly societies, I point out that everything appears to be in their favour under the bill. Although there will be other approved societies, the friendly societies will be in a. position to compete more than favorably with mutual insurance companies and new approved societies. They will start with 400,000 nationally insured persons who will already be members of friendly societies, leaving 1,450,000 insured persons not in the societies, who will be brought within the scope of the cash benefits controlled by the approved societies. The friendly societies will probably gain most of these. Even though they will not handle the medical benefits and pension payments, they will have plenty to do in the distribution of cash benefits, and in the distribution and collection of the insurance cards. In all probability they will find it necessary to expand their organizations at a rapid rate almost from the beginning. A3 the friendly societies will be brought into contact with the dependants of thousands 01 national ly insured persons, they will have a chance to increase their membership substantially. As national insurance takes root, and throws out its branches in all directions, the friendly societies will become more and more part and parcel of the system. Ear from having any reason to fear that their activities will be reduced, or restricted, the friendly societies seem to be marked out for a new era of importance and usefulness in the social welfare activities of the Commonwealth.

As to the requests made by hospitals, ambulances and other organizations for exemption, I do not think that a strong case has been made out; after all, the employees of these institutions have just as much right to the benefits of national insurance as have other sections of the community. The contention that voluntary contribution schemes for hospital treatment will suffer under national insurance may, or may not,, prove to be reliable. People who make these contributions for hospital treatment will, 1 think, still desire to continue them. National insurance does not provide for hospital treatment, and therefore people who protect themselves in this way will have no logical reason to discontinue their voluntary payments to the hospitals, which generally range from 3d. to 6d. a week and, therefore, are not a serious drain upon the incomes of the people who voluntarily make these small sacrifices.

Criticism has been levelled against the scheme on the ground that the noncontributory scheme of old-age and invalid pensions will be detrimentally affected by it. Honorable members of the Opposition claim that the real motive of the ‘ Government is to escape any further commitments under the existing pensions legislation. The answer is simple. The cost of invalid and oldage pensions on a non-contributory basis will be approximately £16,000,000 for the coming financial year, with or without national insurance. With national insurance, it will never become less than that amount, a.s is shown in the actuarial report on the financial provisions of the bill. It will be seen that, although the payment under this heading will not increase to any extent under national insurance, it will, by 197S, amount to £17,800,000, 30 that, during the next 40 years, even with national insurance in existence under the proposed legislation, the country will still have to carry roughly the present weight of old-age and invalid pension payments. If anything, the weight will increase slightly towards the end of that period. [Quorum formed. J With national insurance, the total pension payments at the end of 40 years will be £43,100.000, including £25,300,000 under the national insurance, scheme, plus the non-contributory amount provided out of the budget. How honorable members opposite can argue that the Government has some sinister motive and desires to transfer the burden of pensions from the taxpayers to the workers of the country, is beyond comprehension. It is true that, without national insurance, the cost of non-contributory pensions would increase, until in 197S the total would be £32,150,000. The workers, however, would be very much worse off, for they would be without the additional pension benefits provided by national insurance. Actually, at the end of the 40 years, they would be worse off by £11,000,000 a year than they would be if no national insurance were introduced. I admit that the amount paid as contributions to the pensions would be a set off against that amount, but without national insurance that money would not be paid in, and, therefore, would not accumulate to come back eventually to the workers in the form of pensions.

In discussing such a large subject it is impossible to deal with all the points which have been raised by honorable members. Other Ministers and members have answered many of the criticisms. I. admit that the Government’s scheme is not perfect, but it does not contain nearly so many imperfections as certain honorable members allege. For instance, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) spent a good deal of time in trying to prove that under this scheme invalid pensioners would be worse off, because whereas they are now entitled to £1 a week, under it they would never receive more than 15s. a week. He declared there was nothing in the bill to prove he was incorrect. Until it was pointed out that clause 95 covered these matters, he aud other honorable members appeared to think the clause did not do so, owing to a reference to child endowment. Although clause 95 does definitely and clearly guarantee the invalid pensioner at least £1 a week, it is true that if he had dependent children the amounts allowed to them would be included in his payment, but this would really assure him more than £1 a week. A man with no children would receive 15s. a week plus 5s. made up from revenue. An insured person with one dependent child would receive 15s. plus 3s. Gd. child endowment, plus ls. 6d. contribution from the Treasury, a total of £1 a week. If he had two children bo would receive 15s. plus 7s. for the two children, a total of 22s. a week. The basis is continued in respect of any number of dependent children up to the age of fifteen years. That ‘ is the effect of clause 95. Undoubtedly the position, with child endowment, would be much better for the pensioner than at present; even without child endowment it would be no worse.

Reference was also made by the honorable member for East Sydney to the inferior type of medical treatment which poor people would receive owing to the over-working of the doctors. Instancing the case of a man with an injured arm who may visit a doctor at a surgery be asked whether the doctor would tell the patient to go home and bring bis bandages. Certain other honorable members seemed to be amused at the alleged exposure of an absurdity in the scheme. That was another instance of the disinclination of some honorable members to pay attention to the real nature of the proposal. The bill provides that medical appliances shall be included in the treatment, and the regulations will guarantee that bandages, splints and other necessary appliances for the treatment of injuries shall be supplied by the doctors.

The honorable member for East Sydney also said that juveniles in England get medical treatment free under the Health Insurance Act. That is not so. The employee and the employer each pav 2d. - a total contribution of 4d. The Australian bill provides not only medical treatment for the total payment of 8d. contributed equally by the employer and the employee, but also that a period of insured employment as a juvenile contributor will shorten the period of waiting before, if employed after sixteen, he becomes entitled to sickness benefit. It may be reduced from 26 weeks to thirteen weeks. There is no similar provision in the English act.

I desire also to refer briefly to statements made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) as to the poor treatment of pensioners under the panel system in England. What happened in the early stages of the British scheme is not relevant to the present position in Australia. Information obtained by the Government shows that the operation of the present panel system in England is entirely satisfactory. There is no truth in the statement that patients in England stand in queues outside the surgeries, and that there are insurance doctors who have no equipment, and whose only method of examination is a glance at the tongue of the patient. Such stories are purely fictitious and should not influence honorable members intheir examination of the great medical scheme now submitted to the workers in Australia.

The bill provides ample machinery for ensuring proper and sympathetic treatment of patients by the doctors. Any attempt to frighten the people by suggesting that they will be given- haphazard treatment, when there is no evidence whatever on which to base such misrepresentation is unfair not only to this Government but also to the medical men of Australia.

The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) paid considerable attention to the part of the bill dealing with widows’ pensions. He contended that widows in New South Wales would actually be worse off than at present with their State pension scheme which, he said, gave £1 a week to widows in addition to 10s. a week for each dependent child under fourteen years of age. Other honorable members also repeated his contention. It is true that there is a valuable widows’ pension scheme in operation in New South Wales, but it does not work out as advantageously as the honorable member for Darling indicated. It is not correct to say that every widow receives £1 a week, because the pension is based on a means test. Moreover, she receives pensions for herself and children onlyif she has children under the age of fourteen years. When the children reach fourteen years of age her pension as well as that of the children ceases. Under the proposed national insurance scheme the widow will receive her pension for life while she remains a widow, plus an allowance for each child under the age of fifteen years. There will be no means test.

I mention these instances because 1 consider they are typical cases of haphazard criticism of the Government’s proposals. Such criticism is destructive, not constructive. While realizing that there will be initial difficulties in the establishment of this scheme, the Government is convinced that ample machinery will be available to bring the system of national insurance into operation rapidly and efficiently, so as to ensure that within a very short time the vast majority of insured persons will realize that it has become an integral part of their daily lives - something which has greatly improved their social welfare status and given- them a bigger stake in their country.


– The Assistant Minister has exhausted his time.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Wide Bay

– I naturally subscribe to the principle of national insurance, but I am disappointed by the limitations of the bill before us. Any system, of national insurance should provide, primarily, for the unemployed. I realize, however, that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the omission of this needy class of the community from the provisions of this bill. When it first set out to devise a scheme of national insurance for this country it had in mind the inclusion of the unemployed. To cover them, however, it was necessary to obtain certain assurances from the State governments. The attempt to do this failed, for the State governments desired to retain the social service activities and money-spinning unemployment taxing measures which they had in operation. For this reason, the Commonwealth could not make provision in this bill for insur- ance against unemployment. The attitude of the State governments in this regard affords further evidence that, sooner or later, the people of Australia will have to equip the national Parliament with increased constitutional power, and that in the interests of equal treatment for all sections of our community in all the States the State parliaments will have to be abolished. Only the national Parliament can deal justly by all sections of the people throughout the Commonwealth. State jealousy and State interests have frequently prevented this Parliament from making equitable legislative provision for all the people. The omission of unemployment insurance from this bill is undoubtedly a grave injustice to the unfortunate people affected.

Although during the last election campaign the Government promised to introduce a national insurance bill, I do not think it can be said that any honorable member who declines to support this bill is revoking his promise to support national insurance, for the limitations in this bill are considerable.

I at least am pleased that provision is about to be made to help a large section of employees in this country. As a matter of fact, the bill ought to be called an employees national insurance bill. The measure has been modelled upon the British National Insurance Act, which has been in operation for about 25 years, but the benefits under this measure are superior to those provided under the British act. I feel safe in saying that, however unfavorably we may regard the limitations of this bill, we are glad that the Government has been able to make a start.

National insurance should, in the first place, benefit the most needy sections of the people. It cannot be fairly argued that this measure will make possible a saving of expenditure on the part of the Government, for although it is only the first instalment of complete national insurance, it will involve heavy additional expenditure. In respect of those employees who will be covered, the provisions of the bill are generous, and I am confident that, on the whole, the workers affected will, as time goes on, be pleased with it.

I do not wish to deal with the provisions of the bill that have already been much debated, but, in passing, I observe that the employers are being called upon to make a contribution to the fund amounting to one-quarter of the total contributions. So far as I am aware, the employers as a body have not complained about this obligation. 1 cannot understand the contention of some honorable members that the passage of this bill will adversely affect the spending power of the community. To my mind, it will have the reverse result, for, in the early stages of the scheme, £2,000,000 a year of additional money will be circulated among the beneficiaries, and ultimately £30,000,000 will be distributed. In addition, £20,000,000 will ultimately be required to meet the cost of our existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme.

The sickness benefits provided for employees under this measure are generous and will involve an additional contribution of £1,000,000 from the general revenue. This figure will ultimately rise to £11,000,000. It cannot be said with any justice that the contributions required for the employees to obtain these benefits are on too high a scale. National insurance must obviously cost something. The employee pays one quarter of the premium on his policy. “We may expect our people to develop an insurance mind when this scheme is put into operation. At present Australians are not so insurance-minded as are the people of the United States of America and certain other countries, if we judge by the per capita payments of the residents of these countries for insurance purposes; but I hope that the introduction of this scheme will develop a spirit of thrift among our people. The existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme acts in the reverse way, for at present people who, during their working life, take out insurance policies and keep up their payments, find themselves handicapped thereby when, in their infirmity or old age, they apply for a pension.

It has been complained that the payment of 10£d. a week to qualify for a pension is too heavy. I entirely disagree with that view. Moreover, I point out that under this scheme pensions are unlikely to be decreased in a time of financial emergency, whereas we have seen that under the existing pension scheme reductions of pensions are made in such time3. The bill provides for widows’ pensions and child allowances if the breadwinner dies. Families should not be left stranded when their bread-winner is taken from them. In the case of the death of the mother of orphan children, this scheme provides for a double payment to be made to the children. As the payment to ensure these benefits is equal to only one-third of the total payment, it cannot be said that it is unduly heavy. In any case, we have been assured by the experts that the scheme is actuarially sound. For this reason contributors may be confident that the promised benefits will be paid.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment with the object of having the bill withdrawn for redrafting. The reasons given in the amendment for this action are contradictory. The amendment states that -

By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity it (the bill) tends to discourage young men and women from joining these associations of self-help, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render.

But the preceding paragraph states that the bill-

  1. fails to provide medical benefits for thu wives and children of contributors.

Had the bill provided the medical benefits for wives and children which are now provided by friendly societies, there might have been some justification for the final, paragraph of the amendment. As a matter of fact, any honorable members who support the amendment will undoubtedly seriously imperil the future of the friendly societies. The members of the Opposition say that the workers should not be called upon to contribute towards the pensions scheme, but when we consider the tremendous benefits they will receive, the large contributions which the employers have to make to the fund, and the fact that the present oldage and invalid pensions scheme will continue as before, we must admit that there is little real cause for complaint.

The fourth part of the amendment refers to the unequal benefits for men

Ifr. Bernard Corser. and women. That charge has already been answered so effectively that it is not necessary for me to go into it now. lt has been shown that in return for a lower contribution women who will receive their pensions at 60 years of age, as against 65 in the case of men, will, on an average, actually receive more out of the fund than men will.

There is one omission from the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition which I was sorry to note. In his enthusiasm to improve the position of those provided for under the bill, the honorable gentleman forgot the most deserving class of the community, namely, the primary producers. They are included in the scheme as employers and contributors, but not as beneficiaries, although, in a great many instances, the farmer’s income will be less than that of tlie man whom he employs. That is a serious anomaly. They are unjustly included in the bill as contributors, and unjustly excluded as beneficiaries. The primary producers have never been in a position to take advantage of the social services provided either by the Commonwealth or by the States. Therefore, I make no apology for pressing their claims in respect of the present scheme. So unjust is the bill in this regard that I shall require to be satisfied that provision will be made for the primary producers before it will have my support. The primary producers pay their share towards all social services. In some States, they are already contributing towards unemployment insurance schemes, and they pay workers’ compensation in case those they employ are injured. I have no complaint against that. In Queensland, they pay a special land tax towards the support of hospitals. They are taxed to provide clinics for the care of the babies and mothers of city dwellers. They contribute towards the cost of dental institutions, although very few are able to take advantage of them. Now they are being asked to contribute towards the national insurance scheme, without being given the chance to come under the scheme themselves, or for their wives and children, because they are employers. Either all primary producers in receipt of incomes less than £200 a year should be excluded from the bill, or they should bc included as beneficiaries, and the Government should pay half their contributions, as the employer does for the employee. No further actuarial research will be needed, and there need be no more delving into statistics. Let the Government include the primary producers as beneficiaries, and supply half their contributions to the fund. This much is due to them from the community because of the sacrifices they are making for the .benefit of the community. The primary producers earn their living under conditions of great difficulty. Upon them, through the export commodities they produce, depends the financial stability of the country. The time has arrived when definite steps should and must be taken to ensure that they get their share of the social benefits for which they have been paying so long.


– The honorable member voted against the proposal that the bill should be widened in order to give the primary producers the very things for which he is asking.


– The honorable gentleman’s amendment contains no reference to the primary producers.

Mr Curtin:

– The honorable member knows that I moved an amendment under the order of leave to provide for the inclusion of those things which the honorable member wants.


– The Leader of the Opposition cannot get away with that. There was no need to alter the order of leave, because the primary producers already come under the- bill as contributors, and for that reason I am able to make my plea on their behalf to-day. Indeed I would not have been permitted to discuss the primary producer if an amendment of the order of leave had been necessary.


– If the honorable member will move in committee to include the primary producers as beneficiaries under the scheme, and his amendment is allowed, we on this side will support him.


– I understand that there may be no need for me to move such an amendment, because the Government is at present considering a method for granting the request I make.

I shall want to see what the Government’s proposals are in this respect before I vote for the second reading of the bill, lt will be necessary for the Government and not a private member to move the amendment in committee. I am prepared, however, to attempt it.

Honorable members opposite do not appear to appreciate my advocacy of the interests of the primary producers, that section of the community that is harassed by drought and floods, disappointed by low prices, unable to control the return from their farms, and unable to take advantage of the social services for which they pay, and which the city dwellers enjoy. Clinics are provided for the care of city children to which the anxious mother may take her child from day to day. Provision is made for nurses to visit, the homes, and give attention to the mother or children. The city breadwinner can go to his work and return from it in comfort by tram or train and other utilities, and his children travel backwards and forwards to school by the same means. On the dairy farms in the country, however, both the father and mother, and often tho children as well, are engaged as breadwinners. There are no nurses to look after the children, who must walk or ride long distances to school and home again. Now it is proposed to confer still further benefits upon the city dwellers, while once more the people in the country are being left out. Medical attention will be provided for a farm employee, on whose behalf the primary producer, as the employer, pays his contribution ; but if the unfortunate employer, whose . income may not be the equivalent of the basic wage, becomes ill. he will not participate in the benefits of tho scheme. People living in cities and towns enjoy all the facilities of modern civilization. They have readily available to them telephonic communication, doctors, and chemists’ shops at the corner. Not so the farmer. If sickness overtakes the farmer he may be without telephone communication, or may have to travel over long distances over ill-made roads to secure help. These people are not included in the scheme. They are a very important section of our community, and unless I have a definite assurance that provision will be made for them I shall not support the bill. Although I appreciate all that the Government is doing in this matter, I shall strongly deprecate its action if it rejects the claims I have already put forward on behalf of this section.

As has been indicated in the press, the Government has decided to give financial assistance to friendly societies to permit of medical benefits to” the wives and families of contributors to the Government’s scheme. This decision will widen very considerably the activities of friendly societies. These and similar bodies have expressed concern as to their future following the inauguration of the Government’s scheme. It has been estimated that the friendly societies will lose about 40 per cent, of their members, but as provision is to be made for subsidising the wife and children of insured persons, their activities will be greatly enlarged. It is to be hoped that nothing will be done to injure the splendid services which friendly societies are rendering to the Commonwealth.

I sympathize with the executive of the Australian branch of the British Medical Association, which, we have been informed, was in consultation with the Government in the framing of some of the provisions of the bill. Recent developments have indicated that a considerable number of members of the association have objected to some terms of the agreement and to the capitation fee. We, as members of this Parliament, are often in very much the same position when the Government is preparing its legislation. Some details of the national insurance scheme were disclosed in confidence to the executive of the British Medical Association. Necessarily the negotiations had to be treated as confidential pending the final drafting of the measure for presentation to Parliament. The executive of the British Medical Association was unable to discuss with its members the principles of the bill, because at that stage the details had not been determined. My experience of the medical profession is that they often work for nothing and seldom demand unfair payment for the service which they give to the people. I feel sure that the Government will give full consideration to the claims of the medical practitioners, and that an amicable settlement will be arrived at.

The Government’s decision to assist friendly societies will, as I have said, greatly extend their activities. We have been told that approximately 1,400,000 additional persons, representing the wives and children of contributors to the national scheme, will depend on friendly societies, among other approved societies, for medical attendance and benefits that are to be given to them under the Government’s scheme. The scheme will, I think, make the people more insuranceminded. Under the Government scheme doctors will be expected to attend to 600 contributors, as against 900 in Great Britain. This may appear to be anomalous, but we have to bear in mind that conditions in Australia are different from those in England. Our country people are more isolated and distances are much greater. Even in country districts in England, hospitals are in close proximity, and doctors, if they consider it necessary, may send patients to hospitals, whereas, in Australia, hospitals being fewer in number, Australian doctors will be required to give personal attention to a greater number of patients than would come under the personal care of British doctors.

We. have heard objections to the bill from women who complain of the discriminatory payments. I hope, however, that the explanations that have been given have removed most of the grounds for complaint in this direction. It has been objected, also, that the employees of banks are included. I understand that, if they were excluded, the actuarial basis of this scheme would be affected. No one wishes to interfere with benefits which bank employees get under the various superannuation funds established by such banking institutions, but I suggest that employees of banks will not find it a hardship to pay contributions to the Commonwealth fund, and there is no reason why existing bank schemes should not be adjusted to meet the altered circumstances and enable their employees to obtain additional benefits.

I hope that the Government will see its way clear to meet the claims of the primary producers and that, before the vote on the second reading is taken, the

Treasurer will be able to inform us that a suitable scheme has been evolved in the interests of this most deserving section of our people. This may be possible by an additional contribution. The difficulty in the interest of employees, wives and children, has been overcome by a Government subsidy to the friendly societies. Some such scheme may be possible for the primary producers. I repeat that there is no more deserving section of the community; many of the primary producers earn less than the basic wage, notwithstanding that they have to work long hours and have to call upon their wives and children to help them.


.- I do not intend to give a silent vote on this measure. I cannot support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Usually, the honorable gentleman is reasonable, so I am inclined to think that some pressure was brought to bear on the honorable gentleman to submit it. The Opposition has asked for benefits additional to those embodied in the bill, and they expect these to be given on a non-contributory basis. Surely they realize that their proposal is unpractical and unworkable. During the last 25 years, the taxation burden has increased by about four-fold. If the amendment to the bill were accepted and a new measure drafted on the lines suggested, the additional cost would be so great that taxation would rise sharply, to the detriment of all industries in the Commonwealth. “We cannot get something for nothing. I have heard no word of objection to the bill from those who will expect to get some benefit from it. National insurance in some form has been asked for by the people of Australia for the last 20 years. The demand has been more insistent since the Lyons Government took office. During the last three parliaments, innumerable questions have been put to the Ministry as to when a national insurance bill is to be introduced. Such a measure is now before the House and I submit that it has been framed on fairly sound lines. Nevertheless, members of the Opposition are doing all in their power to prevent the people of Australia from getting what they need. If this bil] fails to pass, I am afraid that very few present members of this House will see another. I intend to support the bill as it stands, even though it does not go as far as 1 desire. Both me Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) have stated that it is a foundation to which additions can and will be made. In my opinion, it is far in advance of the scheme that has been in operation in Great Britain since 1911. We have had the benefit of the knowledge and services of Sir Walter Kinnear, who was closely associated with the establishment of the British scheme. I believe that, within one year, even those who have criticized the bill in this House during the last week will be content with what it has achieved. The Bruce-Page Government, during its tenure of office, introduced a national insurance bill which reached the second-reading stage. An election then ensued, and the measure was dropped. I am satisfied that, had that Government been returned to power, national insurance would have been operating in Australia to-day, but unfortunately for Australia, the Ministry was defeated. A Labour administration held office in the ensuing two years, and the subject was never mentioned by it. When the Lyons Government was returned to power six and a half years ago, national insurance was one of the first matters discussed in the party room, and a committee was appointed to formulate a scheme. I had the honour of sitting on that committee with the present Treasurer, who was then a private member, but it was found that the task was far too big for such a committee to tackle. If my memory serves me rightly, prior to the presentation of the report of Sir Walter Kinnear, the subject of national insurance was reported on by experts in Australia. Had their recommendations been adopted, each person participating in the benefits of their proposed scheme would have had to contribute a sum of approximately 9s. a week. The Opposition urged the Government to go ahead with that proposal. The present scheme will cost the employee and employer only ls. 6d. a week each, and in return will give many benefits. It is something of which this Government and the people of Australia will be proud. I congratulate the Treasurer on the introduction of the measure, and commend him and Sir Walter Kinnear for the many months of arduous labour they have devoted to it. The standard of social services in Australia is higher and better than in any other part of the world, but their cost is becoming so great that unless steps along the lines proposed bo taken the whole structure will collapse of its own weight. To-day, invalid and old-age pensions - to which I am not opposed in any way - cost Australia, almost £16,000,000 annually. That is only a fraction of the disbursements of the Treasury. Many other social services, non-contributory in character, have been sought by the Opposition, but the Commonwealth is not in a position financially to undertake them. Those who contribute to the fund to be established under this bill will receive £1 a week in case of illness, and at the age of 65 years will be given a pension of £1 a week, the only difference between this scheme and the present pensions scheme being that to-day a man who has been thrifty and has saved a few hundred pounds may render himself ineligible for the pension. Women who contribute1s. a week to the proposed scheme will receive 15s. a week in their old age, but if their income be only 12s, 6d. a week, they will be given the present amount of the pension, namely, £1 a week. I wish to make that quite clear, because many pensioners in Australia have been led to believe that they will receive only 15s. a week. The bill also makes provision for medical benefits, widows’ pensions, and allowances for children. Many complaints have been voiced concerning small farmers, shopkeepers, and others, who wish to be embraced by this scheme. Their claims willhave my support when a bill to make provision for them is brought before the House. We have been given the assurance that such a measure will be introduced as early as possible. There are many persons who may employ one, two or three men, and at the end of the year find that their income is less than that of their employees. I feel sure that they also will be provided for under the now measure. I am pleased to know that during the last few days arrangements have been made to give to women a share equal to that proposed for men. Friendly societies, which do not understand how the scheme will operate, are fearful that under it -they may be worse off than they are to-day. 1 believe that within -twelve months they will realize that they are really better off. That has been the experience in Great Britain. We have had in Canberra during the last few days a number of friendly society representatives and doctors who think that their interests will be adversely affected. That will not be the case. I do not blame any man for trying to get all that he can, but I believe that what has been offered to the medical profession is quite adequate. That applies also to the friendly societies and trade unions, which will participate inthe administration of the scheme.

I am confident that the scheme will prove a blessing to the people of Australia, that it will operate quite smoothly, and that even the Opposition will be pleased with the results achieved by it.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

page 1518


Canberra Housing Programme - Cost of Living Index Figures - Port Augusta House Rents - Mercantile Marine - Burial of War Veterans - Commonwealth Publicoffices: Cleaners -NoxiousWeeds in Tasmania.

Motion (by Mr. Thorby) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.


.- About three weeks ago I drew attention to the shortage of houses in Canberra, the cost of building new ones, and the high rents which the people have to pay. During the next twelve months about 150 houses are to be erected in the Federal Capital Territory. In my opinion, the cost of building here and the rents charged are much too high. In South Australia a trust has been formed, a sum of money has been allotted to it, and it is engaged in the building of brick houses on blocks each measuring 40 feet by 140 feet. Each house has two bedrooms, a hall, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a laundry, and a sleepout. This accommodation meets the requirements of the average working man and his family. The price of this building, including the land, is £450. I recognize that the cost of building is necessarily higher in Canberra than in Adelaide. But allowing for a 50 per cent, increase of the cost, 1 should say that a house of similar dimensions could be erected in Canberra at a cost of not more than £700. I should have mentioned that the houses being built in Adelaide are of the semidetached type. Honorable members should carefully consider the housing problem in Canberra with a view to improving tho position. I regard it as the duty of honorable members to be of service, if possible, to every community in the Commonwealth. The chairman of the building trust which is operating in Adelaide is Sir William Goodman, and he visited Canberra this week. He had a conversation with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), who i3 much impressed by the Adelaide scheme. Some of his officers will shortly inspect the buildings being erected there by the trust. I have seen those homes, and the workmanship is first class. The rent charged is 12s. 6d. a week. I asked Sir William Goodman whether some of the contractors who are doing this work in Adelaide might be willing to extend their operations to Canberra, and he assured me that they would be prepared to contract for similar work here.

Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [3.201. - A few weeks ago tho Commonwealth Arbitration Court issued a notice to the industrial organizations registered in the court that at about the end of May oi’ the beginning of June, a new set of figures will be used for determining the bp.sic wage. At, the present time, officials of the Statistician’s Department work on three separate series of figures, and there has been a considerable variahon of the rates fixed under each. Now many of the workers are afraid that the contemplated alteration will mean a reduction of their minimum wage. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in reply to a question asked by me this morning. said that he had no authority to advice the Statistician’s Department.

Mr Casey:

– I did not mean to say that.


– The Statistician points out that the wage is fixed, not by him, but by the court. The figures tabulated for the purpose of helping the court to determine the basic wage have been, for twenty years, and still are, absolutely sacrosanct. Those associated with the industrial organizations know, before they go into the court, what the minimum wage will be, because the Statistician supplies the figures to the trade unions as well as to the court. The court has decided to issue a notification that in June the “ A “ series of figures will be not further used, and a new method of determining the basic wage will be introduced. I understand that the Statistician proposes to eliminate the three series of figures and to use one standard set of figures, upon which all wages will be fixed. This proposal has caused dissatisfaction and fear. This particular period has been chosen for the alteration, because there is less variation between the three sets of figures now than there has been at any other time. I have consulted the Statistician, and he considers that the change will he made without any of the employees losing a considerable sum. In working out the formula for the new figures, a smaller number of commodities will be taken into account, and this will alter the rate at which wages have overtaken the changing cost of living. When the cost of living is determined on the basis of a smaller number of commodities, wage increases will not take effect as quickly as iu the past. The general opinion to-day is that for a considerable period ahead the tendency will be for prices to increase. I hope that that forecast will prove correct. When the new figures are issued, . I hope that the court will allow representatives of the workers to confer with it, so that the workers will not suffer in the process of making this change. For many years the court followed the same formula. I suppose it did so for twenty years up to 192S-29. Then suddenly one of the judges decided not to follow slavishly the practice) adopted by his fellow judges, and he introduced a formula for himself. He selected twenty provincial tows instead of five, and the result was a reduction of the minimum wage of timber workers by 5s. a week. He did that after the case had been partly heard. As the result, there was a big strike, and I, myself, was fined for advising the men not to obey the award of the court. That shows the danger associated with these changes. Should the basis of calculation be altered it will mean that, in the event of increased prices, wages will not rise as quickly as if a greater number of commodities were included. I ask the Treasurer to consult” with the Statistician with a view ito avoiding that result. It has been said that the statistician does not fix wages, as that is a matter for the court, but 1 point out that the court always bases its awards on the figures supplied by the statistician. I do not say that any one consciously desires to do the workers an injustice, but unconsciously the court may do so unless care is taken. I hope that action will be taken to safeguard the workers.

There, is general satisfaction at the decision of the Government to make available £10 towards the burial expenses of indigent veterans of the South African war. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to extend, that concession to members of the merchant service marine who served in the Great War. These men performed valuable national service in dangerous waters, but they have no pension rights. Their services have been recognized by the returned soldiers, and they have been permitted to plant a tree near the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Some of these men are still suffering from their war experiences, and I ask that their claims be recognized by the Government.


– I rise to support the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) in regard to house building costs. For several years there has been considerable building activity in Canberra, and it would appear that the demand for houses will continue for some time. I am alarmed at the cost of building in Canberra. There are hundreds of persons awaiting houses here, but if the present standard of dwellings is to be maintained, and costs do not fall, many years must elapse before the demand can be met. The honorable member for Adelaide referred to a new system of construction which enables cheaper houses to be provided. I have seen some of these dwellings in the suburbs of Adelaide: they contain four rooms and sleep-out in addition to bathroom and other conveniences, and are in every way satisfactory. These houses are built through a trust and cost £450 each, including the land. The Government of South Australia assists to finance persons who wish to acquire such homes for themselves, and, generally, the scheme has proved a great success. The cost of construction is so low that a worker is enabled to obtain a home for 12s. fid. a week. I am sure that that record cannot be equalled in Canberra, and I do not think that it can be equalled elsewhere in Australia. I am glad to know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) has consulted with Sir William Goodman, the chairman of the building trust referred to by the honorable member for Adelaide, and I hope that an early inquiry will be made into the question and that good results will follow.


– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the urgent necessity for the taking of some effective action in Tasmania to deal with the noxious weed known as ragwort and also the blackberry. This matter has been brought prominently under my notice by a recent report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The local governing authorities in the affected districts of Tasmania are doing their best to cope with ragwort, but the weed is so prevalent and troublesome that more effective action is needed. I have in mind one piece of land which was ploughed three years ago and which has now been absolutely overrun by ragwort. The blackberry has also taken charge in many districts and is likely to cause disaster to some settlers. As the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research dealt so effectively with the prickly pear in Queensland and New South Wales by means of the cactoblastus insect it might be able to devise some effective means to eradicate ragwort and blackberry. A spray known as “ Alkacide “ has been used in some districts. I should like the Minister in Charge of Development and Scientific and Industrial Research to ask the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to make experiments in Tasmania in order to discover the best means to cope with the situation that I have described.


.- I support the request of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.

Holloway) that an investigation be made into the methods adopted by the Bureau of Census aud Statistics in the compilation of the cost of living figures on which our arbitration tribunals fix the basic wage. It must be obvious that any reduction of the items of regimen is likely to cause misunderstanding and. perhaps, lower the standards to the disadvantage of the workers on the basic wage.

Another aspect of the subject has been brought under my notice by the Mayor of Port Augusta in consequence of complaints made to him by various trade union organizations. The following letter sets out the position -

I have been requested by the Boilermakers’ Society to bring under your notice what appears to bc a discrepancy in the compilation of the weighted average house rents (all houses) in Port Augusta for the quarter ended March, 1938. According to the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, the index figure for house rents for the quarter ending September, 1937, was 184.94; in December, 1937, 184.49; and in March, 1938, 184.48. This shows a slight reduction in average rentals, whereas our own knowledge of the situation is that there has been a very definite and substantial increase! So much so, in fact, that as mayor I have considered it my duty to issue a warning to landlords that the corporation views with disfavour the unwarranted increase in rentals and that unless this upward trend is stopped, the new council assessment will be based on the increased rentals charged. In view of our certain knowledge that there has been an increase, it is surprising to see a slight reduction disclosed in the Statist’s figures.

The position is that the index figure for men employed on the Commonwealth Railways here is only two points under the figure necessary for an increase in the basic rate and we feel that if correct information had been obtained regarding the weighted average house rents, this increase would have been payable this quarter. Would you, therefore, enquire for us as to the method adopted in compiling this figure, and if possible ascertain the source of the departmental information in Port Augusta.

Anomalies in relation to house rents are likely to cause grave dissatisfaction. If the workers feel that they are being deprived of an increase of wages in consequence of the unsatisfactory preparation of cost of living figures, harmony cannot be expected. We know very well that whenever the cost of living figures justify reductions of wages action is taken immediately. If, therefore, through the inaccurate collection of data the workers are deprived of an increase of wages to which they feel they are justly entitled, they have ample reason for complaint. I feel confident that the Treasurer will make a prompt investigation of this matter.

I direct attention also to the circumstances of elderly women employed as cleaners in the Commonwealth Public Service. Although these women may have been employed by the Commonwealth for a great many years, they do not receive any of the benefits in the form of leave which are enjoyed by members of the Public Service. I have had brought under my notice the case of a woman who is 67 years of age. For the last 33 years she has been employed by the Commonwealth, and yet, when she retires, she will not receive the benefit even of long-service leave. I should like to see such persons recognized to the extent of being granted pensions even somewhat better than the ordinary old-age pension, but whether that can be done or not, they should at least be given the benefit of the longservice provisions which apply to Commonwealth officers.

Treasurer · Corio · UAP

– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), supported by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), brought up the matter of the index figures used by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in the fixation of wages. There appears to be a good deal of misapprehension in their minds on the subject. Three index numbers are in use. There is the A index number, which takes into account food and groceries and all house rents. The B series takes into account food and groceries, and the rents of four and five-roomed houses, while the C series takes into account those other two factors, plus clothing and miscellaneous items. The fact is that the C series takes into account not fewer, but more, items than the others on which to base an index of the cost of living at any particular time. Until 1934, all Commonwealth awards were based on the A series, but in that year, for reasons thought good, the court turned over almost entirely to the C series, until to-day practically 99 per cent, of awards are based on the C series. There are only a few outstanding awards still based on the A series, and likely to be affected by its discontinuance. The A series is regarded by the Statistician and by the court as inadequate. It takes in. all houses, and neglects entirely clothing and miscellaneous items, which enter into the regimen of the workers. Its discontinuance will mean that awards based upon it will, in a short time, have to come up again for review in order that new ones may be made based on the C series. The efforts of the Statistician are directed solely towards compiling an index that is a faithful reflex of the variations of the cost of living from time to time. The court is not obliged to accept any particular series compiled by the Statistician. In practice, the Statistician keeps in touch with the court, and advises it of what he believes to be the real position regarding cost-of-living variations. The court has, I believe, compiled its own figures, known as the court series, based on the C series. If those honorable members who are interested will approach the Commonwealth Statistician, I am sure that he will be glad to explain to them everything that he can regarding the compilation of the series. I have just had handed to me the following memorandum from the Statistician’s office dealing with this subject: -

The following series are at present published

A series -Food and groceries, rent of all houses.

B series - Food and groceries, rent of four and five-roomed houses.

C series - -Food and groceries, rent of four and five-roomed houses, clothing, miscellaneous.

Series Used by Commonwealth Court.

The first series used by the Commonwealth Court was the A series - which, at the time, was the only one in existence.

About 1925 the B series index was first published as the Statistician’s official “ food and rent “ index. The Statistician then desired to discontinue the A series,but he was directed by the Government, at the instance of the Commonwealth Court, to continue publication of the A series index and to continue to use the then-existing methods. Since then the A series index has been compiled specifically for the purposes of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.

In 1934 the Commonwealth Court shifted the basis of practically all its awards to the C

Series index. In 1937 it shifted from the C series to a “ court “ series. (At present the “court” series consists of the C series, recalculated to a different base.

It is open to the Court, however, to alter the basis of the “ court “ series in any way it may wish, it is not necessarily committed to following the Statistician’s C series. The change to a “ court “ series was made partly as a result of a request by the Commonwealth Statistician, who was in danger of being forced, against his will, into making decisions which could influence wage rates. Such a development would, of course, he entirely at variance with the underlying idea on which the whole frame-work of Wage regulation by independent judicial tribunals is based.)

At the present time there are only about half-a-dozen federal awards based on the A series. Host of themare relatively unimportant from the point of view of numbers affected. There are several alternative methods available by which the automaticadjustments under these few awards could be regulated without in the slightest degree interfering with the interests of employers or employees.

The Statistician consulted the Commonwealth Court fully before announcing the intention to cease publishing the A series, and the Courthas agreed that no insuperable difficulties would be occasioned by its discontinuance.

Reasons for Discontinuing the A Series.

The A series index is now only a historical survival, and its use for the purposes of wage regulation and adjustment has diminished almost to vanishing point. At best, it is only a partial index of cost of living, and because it covers the rents of houses of all sizes it is not closely applicable to the circumstances of the average wage-earner. Recently the Statistician has been devoting much attention to improving the accuracy of the rental figures for four and five-roomed houses (for B and C series purposes), and it would be impracticable to extend the new detailed methods to houses other than those of four and five rooms. In the opinion of the Statistician and the Commonwealth Court, it is preferable to concentrate the efforts of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on making as perfect as possible the series which is now used almost exclusively for wage variation purposes.

Another point raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh related to the position of cleaners employed in Commonwealth offices. I shall look into the matter, and let the honorable member have a reply.

The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the control of noxious weeds in Tasmania, particularly blackberry and ragwort. I do not know whether the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has investigated those plants, though I believe that when Dr. Dickson visited Tasmania recently he prepared a report on the blackberry pest. If that report is public property, I shall make a copy of it available tothe honorable member. Regarding the other matter, I shall see whether it comes within the province of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I throw out this warning, however, that there can be no appreciable extension of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the primary production side at the present time. The hands of the council’s officers have lately been full because of the work they have taken up on behalf of the secondary industries.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked that the Government should extend to members of the merchant service marine that measure of assistance in regard to burials of deceased members that has been already extended to South African war veterans. I shall investigate the suggestion, and advise the honorable member.

I cannot attempt to explain the discrepancy in the figures regarding house rents at Port Augusta, but I do stress the fact that, during the last two or three years, the Commonwealth Statistician has been trying to perfect his index figures in all directions so that they may more quickly and accurately reflect economic conditions throughout Australia. It is possible that this matter is one of those slight anomalies that resulted from the application of more intensive methods. I shall make inquiries regarding it and advise the honorable gentleman.

The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), supported by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), mentioned the cost of house building in Canberra. I shall have the remarks of the honorable gentlemen brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 4.1 p.m.

page 1523


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Iron Ore Deposits

Mr Nairn:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Has he received from the Perth Chamber of Manufactures a protest against the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound?
  2. Since the preservation of the ore at Yampi Sound is deemed necessary for the protection of the Australian ironindustry, will the Government open negotiations with Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and/or allied industries with a view to the prompt development and use of the deposits at Yampi?
  3. Alternatively, will the Government take other steps to ensure that these deposits be developed and utilized within the Commonwealth?
Mr Lyons:
Prime Minister · WILMOT, TASMANIA · UAP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. Yes. 2 and 3. Full consideration will be given to the question of a means of utilizing the iron ore resources of Australia with the object of best serving national interests and providing the maximum amount of development and employment.
Mr Pollard:

d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. Has any investigation been made by Dr. Woolnough of the quantity and quality of the iron ore deposits at Lal Lal, Victoria?
  2. If an investigation has been made - (a) what is the estimated tonnage of the deposits; and (b) what is the quality of the deposits? 3.Is it a fact that recently several representatives of a foreign power inspected these deposits ?
Mr McEwen:
Minister for the Interior · INDI, VICTORIA · CP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.No.

  1. I am not aware of the fact that several representatives of a foreign power inspected the deposits at Lal Lal, but shall make inquiries of the Mines Department of Victoria, and furnish the honorable member with the desired information as soon as possible.

Transport Workers Act

Mr Curtin:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he give early consideration to the appropriateness of, at this period, terminating the application of the Transport Workers Act to the ports where it now operates by proclamation ?

Mr Lyons:

– It is not considered that the time is yet opportune to take this action.

Wheat Industry : International Conference - Home Consumption Price

Mr Wilson:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will the Government favorably consider the question of taking the initiative in sponsoring a conference of representatives of exporting wheat-producing countries with a view to bringing about (a) stability of prices, (b) regulation of marketing, and (c) any other action necessary in connexion with the industry?

Mr Lyons:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

An international agreement, which was designed to regulate marketing and stabilize prices, was entered into in 1933-34. This broke down the following year. The Standing International Wheat Committee, which is representative of all principal wheat-exporting countries, is still in existence and may, it is considered, be relied upon to do anything practicable to ensure improved marketing methods.

Mr Gregory:

y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

In view of the failure of the State representatives at the recent meeting of the Agri- cultural Council to come to any definite decision regarding the wheat industry, what action does the Government propose to take to ensure a home price for wheat, or, alternatively, a bonus on wheat exported?

Mr Lyons:

– This matter is still under the consideration of the governments of the States, with which the Commonwealth Government will consult at the appropriate time.

Income Tax: Extension of Time for Primary Producers

Mr Scully:

y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Owing to the disastrous drought through which men upon the land in the inland districts of New South Wales have passed during the past year, causing very heavy losses in both crops and stock, willhe grant to the men affected an extension for at least one year of the time for payment of income tax for 1937-38 assessments, and also for any arrears that may have accrued due to failure of past seasons?

Mr Casey:

– The answer to the honorable -member’s question is as follows : -

The Income Tax Acts make adequate provision for relief in cases of hardship. Full consideration will be given to individual cases upon application to the department.

Airport for Melbourne

Mr Holt:

t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that the Commonwealth Government will shortly withdraw its offer of £100,000 to the Victorian Government towards establishing an airport at Fishermen’s Bend?
  2. Is the Government taking any, and, if so, what, action to ensure an adequate and up-to-date airport for Melbourne?
  3. Has he noted that the Melbourne City Council has offered to co-operate financially to the extent of £50,000 and otherwise to establish such an airport?
  4. What steps, if any, is he taking to avail himself of the co-operation of the Melbourne City Council for this purpose?
Mr Thorby:
Minister for Defence · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -

The matter of the establishment of an airport at Fishermen’s Bend so far as it concerns the Commonwealth is at present receiving consideration by the Government, and I am not yet in a position to make an announcement. I have, however, noted a press statement that the Melbourne City Council has offered to contribute towards the cost.

Canberra : Housing

Mr Barnard:

d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. How many persons are on the waiting list for houses in Canberra?
  2. How many houses containing four, five or six rooms have been built during the past two years by (a) the Government and (b) private enterprise?
  3. Can he give any indication when the Government will have made up the shortage of residences in Canberra?
Mr McEwen:

– The information is being obtained.

National Insurance: Provision for Supply of Medicines

Mr Corser:

r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What are the terms under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill made with the pharmaceutical chemists and friendly societies’ dispensaries for supplying medicines, &c, to insured persons, and what will be the cost of drugs, &c, and how is that cost arrived at?
  2. What dispensing fee will be allowed, and on what basis will this fee be arrived at?
  3. What will be the dispensing fee allowed for dispensing an ordinary 8-oz. mixture?
Mr Casey:

– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -

As 1 explained in my speech on the second reading of the Insurance Bill, general agreement has been reached with the central representatives of the pharmaceutical chemists on the basis of repayment of the wholesale cost of the drugs supplied, together with a dispensing fee. It is not possible to state the expenditure on medicines, as this will depend on the amount of medicines ordered by the doctor and the number of prescriptions. The details of the scale of dispensing fees have not yet been finally worked out. I understand that ti ic; friendly societies’ dispensaries are prepared to accept service under the scheme on the same general terms as have been agreed with the representatives nf the pharmacists.

Assistance fob Industries.

Mr Casey:

y.- On Thursday, the 26th May, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -

  1. Will he provide a list of bounties paid or assistance given to secondary industries since 1925?
  2. What was the estimate made by an economic commission prior to 1930 concerning the additional cost of secondary goods per year in Australia, imported and locally made (separately preferred) as a result of the Australian tariff?

The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. The following is a list of bounties paid to secondary industries for the period 1925-2fl tn 193(1-37,” both years inclusive: -
  1. Tin: report of the Economic Committee on the Australian Tariff in 1920 stated in a paragraph headed “ The Total Subsidies of Production,” - “These may be grouped as follows : -

Tlie statement quoted was in respect of the year 1920-27.

Mr Casey:

– On Wednesday, the 18th May, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked tlie following question, without notice -

Will the Treasurer have a return prepared showing in detail the bounties paid to particular industries in Australia each year since thi; 1st July, 1932, and also indicate for the convenience of honorable, members the total amount so paid?

I am now in a position to supply the following statement showing the bounties paid to industries in Australia during the financial years 1932-33 to 1937-38 inclusive -. -

Mr Casey:

y.- On Tuesday, the 24th May, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question, upon notice -

Willhe table a return showing indetail the total amount paidfromCommonwealth revenue since 1st July, 1932, by way of assistance to primary industries, whether by grant, bounty or advance, and giving the total made available to each individual industry each year?

The following statement supplies the information required by the honorable member : -

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.