House of Representatives
1 June 1938

15th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

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Prime Minister · Wilmot · UAP

-by leave - I move -

That Government businessshalltake pre- cedence over general business to-morrow.

The only general business on the noticepaper to-morrow is that which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who I believe is not very well at. the present time and on that account probably does not desire to proceed with it.

Mr.Beasley. - Why not give us an hour in which to raise some matters that cannot be raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House?


– I am informed that this will not interfere with the rights of honorable members in respect of “ Grievance Day “.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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– Has the Prime Minister read in a section of yesterday’s press, as well as in this morning’s press, the following statement which . is said to have been made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in a speech that he delivered at Geelong West last Monday night against Mrs. Brownbill, the endorsed Labour candidate : “ If there is a place for women in politics, it is probably in the Upper House, or in the Senate, where things are quieter and the old gentlemen occasionally drowse into their beards “? Does the right honorable gentleman . consider that that statement, enhances the prestige of Parliament? Will he also say whether Cabinet endorses it and the other outburst against the women of Australia a few days ago by the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron)?


– I have not seen the report of the Treasurer’s speech, butI can hardly ‘believe that it is quite correct.

X know of only two “beards” in the Senate. However, I shall confer with the Treasurer in regard to the matter.


– Is it the intention of the Acting Minister for Commerce to accede to the requests of certain women’s organizations to debate publicly the question of sex equality ? If so, will he advise for public information the time and place of such debate? If not, can it be assumed that he is not prepared to defend in public his cowardly statements-


– Order ! The honorable member is well aware that his remark is definitely unparliamentary and out of order. I have frequently asked him to frame his questions in accordance with the rules of the House. If he does not do so, I shall take action to see that he does.


Mr. Speaker-


– I cannot allow the honorable member to continue.



– Is it the intention of the Acting Minister for Commerce to accede to the requests of certain women’s organizations to debate publicly the question of sex equality? If so, will he state, for public information, the time and place for such debate? If not, can it be assumed that he is not prepared to defend in public a statement that he made under cover - of the privilege of the House ?


-The honorable member’s question is not in order. If the honorable member cannot understand the rules governing the asking of questions, I shall be glad to help him.

Mr Baker:

– I submit that this is a matter of public interest, and I should be glad if you would inform me in what way my question conflicts with the rule.


– The honorable member’s question conflicts with the rule3 printed on the back of the notice-paper. The expression in the latter part of his question rules it out. It is an imputation and the rules set out that a question should not contain imputations.


– But the expression was omitted when the question was asked a second time.


– Evidently, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) -was not listening. The honorable member’s question included the expression “ can it be assumed that the Acting Minister was not prepared to defend in public that which he had said under cover of the privilege of the House “.

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

– The statement was not made under cover of the privilege of the House.

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– Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to give to the House any of the final details in connexion with the overseas air-mail service, including time-tables and schedules?

Minister for Defence · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– The time-tables have not yet been: completed. No further information is available, other than that arrangements have been completed for the overseas air mail service to begin during July, and to he in full operation in August.

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– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether the Australian game of football is not allowed by the headmaster to be played at Telopea Park High School during school hours? Under what regulation of the New South Wales Department of Education is the schoolmaster of that school permitted to place a ban on the playing of the Australian game? Is it also a fact that, the scholars at St. Christopher’s School are prohibited from playing the Australian game on Manuka oval on Friday afternoons? Why should the Australian national game, which is the standard game of football in four of the six States, be banned from the schools of the National Capital?

Minister for the Interior · INDI, VICTORIA · CP

– I have already replied to the points raised in the honorable member’s “ speech “, in answers that I have made to letters received from many honorable members. Shortly, the reply is “ No “. In explanation. I may say that the headmaster of Telopea Park High School has decided that rugby shall be the standard game in respect of competitions, the reason being that he desires that his pupils shall have an opportunity to participate in organized competitive games with other teams, and he finds that no teams which play the Australian game are available within, range of his school. He has had no directions from me, nor would I care to interfere with him in the ordinary administration of his school, but he has informed me, upon inquiry, that the only available teams with which his school team could engage in competition play are at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and the Canberra Grammar School. A competition with them has been arranged.


– Are children attending schools conducted by the Education: Department of New South Wales allowed to play any game they wish? Has a school teacher employed by the Education Department of New South Wales power to ban any game? If the Minister has any information at hand will he advise me of the position?


– I have no information at hand, and I am unable to state what is the practice in. New South Wales with regard to the schools conducted by the New South Wales Education Department. Schools in the Federal Capital Territory are staffed by officers of the Now South Wales Education Department, and it is not the practice in such schools to forbid children playing any particular game or any football code. In regard to organized games, however, the headmaster decides upon one particular sort of game to be played.

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– In view of the very widely expressed protest against the regulation at present in force which insists upon the cleaning of all spray residue from apples before they are passed for shipment abroad, and of the opinion of many experts in the community that this has the effect of causing considerable depreciation of the fruit by the time it reaches overseas markets, will the Acting Minister for Commerce inquire into the possibility of having the regulation withdrawn ?


– An inquiry directed towards that end has already commenced. When finality is reached I shall inform the honorable member of the result of it.

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– During both the asking and answering of questions to-day, many honorable members have called out in loud tones and made interjections. This is very disorderly. Questions cannot proceed unless order is preserved.

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– In view of the growing opinion among the Australian public that the legislation known as the Transport Workers Act encroaches upon the liberty of .both employers and employees-


-The honorable member is not in order in asking a question in that form.


– I ask the Prime Minister whether, with the object of preserving harmony in work at the seaports of Australia, he will consider the wisdom and justice of repealing the Transport Workers Act?


– The Leader of the Opposition asked a question on this subject a few days ago. I replied that the Government did not consider that the time had arrived to deal with that aspect of the matter.

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– Is the Minister for Defence able to inform me whether it is a fact that the fulfilment of Defence Department orders placed in Great Britain for reconnaissance aeroplanes is likely to be inordinately delayed? If so, has the Government made any plans for the construction of such aeroplanes in Australia ?


– I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the delivery of aeroplanes to the Defence Department, but I assure honorable members on both sides of the chamber that everything possible is being done to secure the requirements of the Commonwealth. Deliveries of aeroplanes are coming forward. In addition, the arrangements in connexion with the establishment of an Australian factory for the manufacture of aeroplanes are proceeding satisfactorily.

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Pensions. - Treatment of


– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will take the necessary steps as soon as possible to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to provide that pensions shall be payable to Australian aborigines under similar conditions to those appertaining to other Australian citizens?


– The Government will consider the matter.


– Apropos of the status of women and aborigines in the Northern Territory, and of the great difference of opinion that exists in the south as to whether criminal natives should be flogged, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, as very little difference of opinion exists on this subject in the Northern Territory - as I pointed out to his predecessor in office last year in connexion with aborigines who had been recommended by the inquiry board for flogging because of their treatment of a constable, who had to fight for his life - and also of the support given to this view by Judge Wells-


– The honorable member must ask his question.


– I ask the Minister whetherhe will take advice from people competent to give it in respect of Northern Territory affairs rather than from people incompetent to give it, and also whether he will consult the women of the Northern Territory, particularly the wives of station owners and station employees, before adopting any policy in connexion with this matter?


– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.


– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to some reported observations made by a judge in the Northern Territory, in which, as a matter of policy, flogging was recommended as a punishment for certain crimes? Is any file available in confirmation of those reported statements, or in denial of them, and has the Government taken any action with regard to the matter; in particular, has his honour been told to mind his own business ?


– I shall refer the question raised by the honorable member to the Acting Attorney-General.


– In view of the outstanding knowledge of natives possessed by Monsignor Gsell, Bishop-elect of Darwin, I ask the Minister why he has not been consulted by the Ministry in connexion with the formulation of its new native affairs policy? If it is not too late will the Minister confer with Monsignor Gsell before that policy is put into operation? I have before me a copy of the Western Australian Government Gazette, of the 29th April, which contains regulations governing the licensing of missionaries. I do not ask the Minister to go to that length but I ask that new status be given to missioners, and that it be insisted upon that any missioners who go among natives in future should possess qualifications at least comparable to those of the Bishop-elect of Darwin or that their qualifications be vised by him.


– I have been in correspondence with Monsignor Gsell. I shall be glad to avail myself of the authoritative opinions of those qualified to give them in connexion with the investigation I am conducting at the present time into the proposed variation of Commonwealth policy in regard to aborigines in the Northern Territory. I have arranged that Mr. Chinnery, who is head of the Department of Native Affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea - a department which is regarded as being notably successful - shall accompany me on my forthcoming visit to the Northern Territory, when I shall have the benefit of his advice.


– Will the Minister for the Interior take advantage of the presence of Mr. Chinnery during his visit to the Northern Territory to consider the advisability of placing the aborigines of Australia under the same kind of administration as that which obtains in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea?


– That is probably one of the matters which I shall discuss with Mr. Chinnery.

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– Is the Minister for the Interior able to inform me whether the new boat ordered last year by the Department of the Interior for the purpose of patrolling the north coast lias yet been built? If the construction is not complete, how soon does the honorable gentleman expect the vessel to be in commission?


– -The completion of this work has been somewhat impeded owing to delay in the delivery of engines from Great Britain. These have now arrived, and it is expected that the boat will be in commission, after having carried out her trials, about the middle of July.

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– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Customs been drawn to a report issued by the Imperial Economic Committee .on Wool Production and Trade for 1936-37, in which the following figures are given of wool imports from New Zealand to Australia : -

Last year the imports totalled 3,492,000 lb. Is the Minister able to inform me why it is necessary to import this wool from New Zealand? Is the wool imported for genuine trade purposes, or merely for speculative purposes?

Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Trade and Customs · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP

– My attention has not been drawn to the report referred to by the honorable member, but the figures he has given are substantially correct. During the last ten months the quantity of wool imported from New Zealand has exceeded 10,000,000 lb. Most of this wool is of coarse cross-bred quality, of a kind not produced in Australia. It is used for” blending with our wool for certain manufactures, and also for making tops for export. There is reason to believe that a certain quantity of it is brought to Australia for speculative purposes. The quantity fluctuates between 3,000,000 lb. and 10,000,000 lb. a year. In view of the relatively small quantity of wool concerned, and the fact that theimports provide some employment for our people in the manufacture of tops, I do not think that there is any reason for anxiety.

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– Is the Minister in Charge of Development and Scientific and Industrial Research able to inform me when the vessel being obtained for fishing research work will be in commission? Where is it proposed to engage in the research operations, and how long is it expected that the vessel will have to concentrate in one place to obtain results ?


– If the vessel is not already engaged in research work it will be so engaged at a very early date. Its operations will be confined in the next few years to the area north and south of its nome port, which is Port Hacking. The vessel will take two or three years to obtain results of any consequence from that coast, which stretches for 1,000 miles from north to south. I shall consult the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to obtain more detailed information for the honorable member, which I shall convey to him as soon as possible.

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– On the 31st May the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked me a question, without notice, respecting the progress of experiments at Wardang Island in connexion with the rabbit virus, myxomatosis. I am now able to inform him that the enclosure at Wardang Island is at present being re-stocked with rabbits preparatory to the conduct of further tests, which will be directed towards methods of introducing the virus other than by droppings into the eye.

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– In view of the present low price of wheat and the prospect of a bountiful wheat harvest this season, will the Acting Minister for Commerce confer with the State governments to ascertain whether action can be taken by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States to secure a home-consumption price for wheat in order that farmers may be sure of a more favorable price for their product in Australia?


– That question was discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council in Canberra last month, at which all State Ministers for Agriculture were present. Those Ministers are under an obligation to report back to the Agricultural Council at its next meeting in Perth the result of their further deliberations.

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– In view of the great importance attached to, and the interest being shown in, matters appertaining to the defence of Australia, and in view of the desire of many members of this House to acquaint themselves personally, with the various activities of the services and of the munitions establishments, &c, will the Minister for Defence give favorable consideration to the idea of granting the necessary authority to enable honorable members to carry out the desired inspections?


– If it is the wish of honorable members on both sides of the House to make inspections of the kind suggested, I shall be glad to make arrangements for them to do so if they will get in touch with either the Secretary of the Defence Department or my private secretary. The Government would welcome honorable members taking advantage of such authority. It would facilitate the work of the officers arranging such inspections if visits could be made in groups. I shall do everything in my power to facilitate such visits.

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Departures from the Griffin Plan.


– During the present session, on two occasions, I have asked questions concerning departures from the plan laid down for the development of Canberra. We read in the press to-day that there is to be another departure, and that it is proposed to erect a high school building on a site other than that provided for in the plan. Will the Government consider the desirability of appointing a committee to see that the Griffin plan is not departed from, or of referring any proposed variations to the Public Works Committee?


– The matter is receiving the consideration of the Minister for the Interior.

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– Is it a fact that, owing to the refusal of the Victorian Government to make available the Fisherman’s Bend , site, the Department of Defence has reluctantly begun to make preparations for the development of Essendon air port as Melbourne’s permanent airmail terminal? If that is true, will the Minister take steps to point out to the Victorian Government that, once Essendon is adopted as the permanent air mail terminal for Melbourne, the future and inevitable development of Fisherman’s Bend will become an expense that will have to be borne solely by the people of Victoria?


– I have had discussions with the Premier of Victoria in relation to air ports surrounding the city of Melbourne. In addition I might say that I have full reports before me in connexion with the proposed air port at Fisherman’s Bend, and the estimated cost of its establishment, and also a very full report relating to the necessary extensions required to make Essendon a first-class air port. The matter has not yet been finalized.

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– Will the Treasurer state whether it is true, as reported, that three surgeons, one from Victoria, one from Queensland, and one from New South Wales, together with a general practitioner, are to be appointed to draw up regulations dealing with national health insurance? If so, does the Treasurer consider that to be desirable, in view of the fact that ordinary practitioners, and not surgeons, will do the work under the scheme?


– I have already requested honorable members not to ask questions regarding a bill now before the

House. It is probable that the Treasurer, in order to reply, would have to anticipate the debate.


– I was about to remark, Mr. Speaker, that I think the matter can be dealt with more fully in the course of the debate on the hill.

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– Will the Treasurer make representations to the various State authorities in support of the request of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners’ Association for concession fares on trains and trams, similar to those given to students ?


– I do not know that any support I could give to an application of that kind would be of any assistance. It would be better, I think, for direct representations to the State authorities to be made by the organization concerned.

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– .Will the Minister for Defence state what action has been taken by his department to enforce the regulations designed to prevent the low flying of aeroplanes over congested districts in the metropolitan area of Sydney?


– I have requested the authorities in every State, through the Civil Aviation Board, and through the Air Force branch, to do everything possible to avoid low flying by members of the force and by those under the control of the Civil Aviation Board. The department has also appealed to commercial aviation firms to instruct their pilots to avoid low flying where possible.

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– In view of the fact that the mother of Leading Seaman Storer does not accept the official statement that visibility was bad on the day on which her son was washed overboard from E.M.A.S. Canberra and drowned, will the Minister for Defence place on the table of the library the official file relating to this occurrence?


– No, I cannot place confidential documents on the table of the library. I have already explained that the fullest inquiry was held, and I have discussed the matter with the Admiral of the Fleet, who was on the Canberra with the captain, and with several other officers, as well as with some of the man’s own comrades who were eye witnessesto what occurred. They have all confirmed the statement which I previously made.

Mr James:

– Those are the very men. who have been saying something different to the mail’s mother.


– Seeing that the mother of Leading Seaman Storer resides in the electorate of the honorable member for Hunter, I am willing that he, and the Leader of the Opposition, should, if they so desire, see some of the documents in my room.


– In view of the fact that a large number of naval ratings appear on the electoral roll of the division of East Sydney, which I represent, will the Minister extend to me also the opportunity to peruse the file in connexion with the drowning of Leading Seaman Storer ?


– Certainly not.

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– Can the Minister for Defence state when the work on the construction of sloops at Cockatoo Island Dockyard will be commenced?


– Quite recently I made a tour of inspection of the dockyard in company with the directors of the firm, and learned that arrangements have now been completed for commencing construction on several of the . vessels that are to be built. ‘ Consideration has also been given to other work that will’ probably be carried out at the dockyard, and improved facilities for this work are now being provided.

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– Has consideration yet, been given by the Government to the payment of a bounty on citrus fruits for the; forthcoming season.


– Legislation providing for the payment of a bounty will be introduced into Parliament very soon.

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The following paper was presented : -

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of E. H. Mercer, Attorney-General’s Department

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 1585), 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 words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of opinion that in its present form the bill is unacceptable because -

It seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for oldage, invalidity and widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right without the exaction of individual contributions;

It provides unequal benefits for men and women;

It fails to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of contributors ;

By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity it tends to discourage young 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 moreliberal bill, freed from the defectsnow enumerated, should be introduced without delay.”

Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [3.11].- During the course of his remarks last evening, the honorable member for. Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that, by returning the present Government to power, the electors had endorsed its policy with regard to national insurance, but I point out that the fact that this Government was returned to office does not indicate that its policy with regard to either -national insurance or defence has the support of the people generally, since the Government was overwhelmingly defeated in the voting for the Senate. It was successful in one State only, as far as the Senate was concerned, and the reason for its success in this chamber is that the electorates were gerrymandered-

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order !


– Referring to the measure before the House, the Government should have considered first whether this Parliament has the necessary power under the Constitution to pass it. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) believes that it has not. The way in which the Government has shifted its ground during the debate on this bill shows that the measure was prepared haphazardly, and suggests that the constitutionality of its action was not considered. Yesterday the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) if the Government had secured the opinion of counsel regarding this aspect of the matter, and the reply received from the Minister was that he could not answer the questionowing to the fact that the debate was proceeding. The Minister should have been in a position to answer the question, seeing that honorable members are in doubt on the point.

Mr Stacey:

– The Treasurer was ina position to answer the question.


– Why, then, did he not do so, instead of refusing to give a reply ? . In an article by M. E. L. Cantor published in the Australian Law Journal of the 15th November, 1928, headed “ National Insurance in its Constitutional Aspects “, it is stated : -

At first sight it may appear that national insurance is authorized by section 51, subsection xiv., of the Constitution, which gives the Parliament, subject to the Constitution, power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to “ insurance, other than State insurance, also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned”. It must further be noticed that section 51, sub-section xxiii, confers on the Parliament thepower to make laws with respect to “ invalid and old-age pensions “.

In the first place the point may be raised that the “ insurance “ contemplated by the framers of the Constitution merely refers to insurance contracts in their ordinary sense, and docs not contemplate a compulsory levy or tax on the community for the purpose of a national insurance pool:of. the well-known Union Label case (6 C.L.R., 469).

It might further be argued that the items of disablement allowance and superannuation allowance under the National Insurance Bill tire not insurance, but are in tlie nature of invalid and old-age pensions, and that subsection XXIII. referring to invalid and old-age (tensions does not confer on the Parliament the [lower to make a compulsory levy or tax on the individuals, who are thus to be required to provide for their own relief.

In Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation v. Whybrow & Co. (11, 1) the High Court decided that the power to legislate with respect to conciliation and arbitration did not authorize the legislature to confer the power on the Arbitration Court to declare a common rule. Barton J., said at page 324: “Even if there could be arbitration for the prevention of a dispute (i.e., he had defined arbitration >is an attempt to settle a dispute already arisen) how can it be supposed that, with hh eye to such preventative arbitration, the Constitution has authorized laws for citing and for making regulations to bind all the persons engaged in an industry . . .”

By analogy may it not be argued that the Constitution, in authorizing the legislature to 1’uss laws relating to insurance, cannot be said to have authorized laws to compel a number nf persons in the community to insure? A dictum of nigging, J., at page 34fi, is in point mid reads as follows: - “If municipalities were by act empowered to provide medical attendance for the poor, and if it turned out that such attendance would be of little use without wholesome food and sanitary dwellings, there surely could not be inferred, as hu incidental power, the power to provide such food and dwellings.” Applying that dictum to the National Insurance Bill, we have a very close parallel. The federal legislature is by the Constitution empowered to pass laws relating to insurance, i.e., for the regulation of insurance. It may be argued that such regulation is of little nae, unless people are compelled tn insure, but surely there cannot be inferred that as an incidental power that the legislature has power to compel them to insure.

Another case in point is Huddart Parker 6 Co. v. Moorehead (8 C.L.R.. p. 330). This case deals with the power of Parliament to legislate with regard to “ foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth “. It w;ia decided that the power of Parliament to legislate in respect of corporations did not confer on the Commonwealth Parliament power to create corporations, and that the power was limited to legislation for the purpose of regulating such foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations created by State law, as were established from time to time in the ordinary course of trade. The analogy here is not difficult to follow: The power to legislate with respect to insurance does not confer on the Commonwealth Parliament the power to create insurance or an insurance fund, but only to legislate as to such insurance transactions, as are in existence, or may come into existence from time to time.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Does the honorable member challenge the right of the Commonwealth to enter into an international convention relating to insurance ?


– No. The right of this Parliament to enter into international conventions does not affect the doubt that has been cast upon the constitutionality of this measure. The honorable member apparently is of the opinion that the power of the Commonwealth to enter into international conventions gives it power to bring down a national insurance bill. What I have placed before the House is not my opinion - I am not qualified to express an opinion in respect of the constitutional aspects of the matter - but that of men with high standing in the legal profession. Dr. Wynes, of the South Australian bar, dealing with the self-same point, says -

The constitutional aspects of a national insurance scheme were dealt with in a recent article in the Australian La,0 Journal where the view is suggested that “ insurance “ in pi. (xiv) merely refers to insurance contracts in their ordinary sense, and does not contemplate a compulsory levy or tax on the community for the purpose of a national insurance bill. Reference is also there made to the Whybrow [common rule) Case, the Union Label Case, and Huddart Parker A Co. Ltd. v. Moorehead. It is submitted that the views there taken arc correct. In any meaning of the word “ insurance “, it could not include legislation enacting a system of compulsory insurance. The power extends to the regulation and control of the matter, to laws “ with respect to “ insurance if and when parties arc desirous of entering into the contract. As well might it be argued that the Commonwealth could compel every person in the Commonwealth to keep an account at the Common wealth Bank, and to pay certain sums by cheques upon the bank under penalty.

I have cited these two authorities for the purpose of showing that there is some doubt as to the Commonwealth’s powers in this matter. If the Government were sincere in its desire for Parliament to enact a scheme of national insurance it would place before the House the opinion of counsel on the powers of the Parliament to do so. I do not claim that the High Court, as it is at present constituted, would not be of contrary opinion to those which I have quoted. The High. Court is not bound by precedent and it may decide that this Parliament has the power to enact legislation on the subject of national insurance. But by failing to place counsel’s opinion on the matter before this House, the Government .has shown itself to be insincere. If it were sincere, why is there not provision in the bill to cover small shopkeepers and small farmers? As a matter of fact it is obvious that this measure was introduced in mock fulfilment of the promises that have been made over the last twenty years by anti-Labour parties to give the people of Australia a national insurance scheme. This bill was brought down by the Government with full realization that it would be challenged in the High Court and that if it were defeated in the House the blame would lie with the Labour party. The Labour party has had for many years as one of its foremost planks the policy of national insurance, but, unfortunately, it ha3 never been in the position to bring down a bill which would meet the requirem.cnts of the workers. It would never bring down a halfbaked measure like this, which has raised an outcry throughout Australia. It is a bill which meets the wishes of not one section of the community. If it did this Government would not have shifted its ground to the extent that it has since the debate began. So often has it done so that it is now practically impossible to know where at stands. Certain conflicting statements have appeared in the press, with the result that we on this side of the House are in a peculiarly difficult position to know just what the Government now proposes to do. At the last elections the Government parties promised the people of Australia that they would introduce national insurance legislation which would bo a boon to the workers. The bill that was brought down a fortnight ago has disillusioned those persons who were duped by the Government’s election promises. No greater disservice to the cause of national insurance has ever been done than has been done by this measure. The Labour party believes in national insurance within the true meaning of the term “ national “, but to apply the word “national” to this bill gives it a misnomer. Proof of the fact that it is not national in its scope is contained in the words of the Treasurer himself, who said that the bill would affect only :i ,350,000 persons. In further support of my contention that this bill is not truly national in character. I shall quote an article from the Goulburn Evening Penny Post of the 27th May last-

It is declared by the general practitioner that the National Health Insurance Bill has no claim to that title, for the following reasons: (1) It provides for less health and sustenance benefits than those given by the friendly societies for much less contributions: (2) Medical benefits and sick pay apply to one person only (there are indications, as stated in this journal yesterday, that this will he amended as a result of the protests).

The author of that article agrees with the contention of honorable members on this side of the House that this is not a national insurance measure. The people of Australia desire a truly national insurance scheme, not a half-baked one which will have the effect of dividing the community into different classes and categories. They have been promised one for a decade. A measure of this kind will introduce something which i3 foreign to the desires of all sections of the people. The Government intends that the cost of the scheme shall be met by means of direct contributions by those who are to be covered by it, and by their employers. It could not make the co3t a charge on revenue, becauseit wishes to be able to say to its supporters, “ Had we made this a charge on revenue, you would have had to pay for it, but we are asking you to pay for only a portion of it.” The balance is to heborne by the workers, who are least ableto afford it. The Government has remitted in five years taxes aggregating £20,000,000 in respect of its wealthy supporters. The Treasurer himself has said that the Government does not desire to re-impose certain taxes that have been remitted. Under this measure, a class tax is to be imposed on certain sections of the community. The Government proposes to. reduce the mere pittance, described as a wage,, which the workers are now forced toaccept in return for their labour. It does not think of making those sections which are best able to meet the cost of this scheme contribute towards an amelioration of the position of those whoassist them to amass their wealth, and, when they retire from active work, live in the lap of luxury. At the end of his days of usefulness, the worker is forced to join the unemployed army. The Government realizes that throughout the length and breadth of Australia there are arbitration courts and wages boards which fix minimum rates of wages. Although these rates have been fixed at practically the irreducible minimum, the Government proposes that they shall be further reduced. When the advocates of the workers appear before industrial tribunals they will not be permitted under this bill to urge, in support of a claim for increased wages, that the cost of the contributions made in respect of this scheme constitutes a reduction of wages. The bill is supposed to be designed to assist 1,850.000 persons who are in receipt of a wage of less than £365 per annum. Presumably, they will derive some benefit from it, but they will have lo pay for whatever benefits they receive. Last week the honorable members for Riverina (Mr. Nock) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) complained Ihat farmers will not be able to pass on the portion of this tax which they will have to meet but other industries will be able to do so. Thus Government supporters realize as well as we do that the operation of this scheme must result in higher prices and consequently a further reduction of the standard of living in Australia. This is a form of wage reduction. If it were not, and if, as Government members claim, it is such a wonderful piece of legislation, why have small farmers and shopkeepers with limited incomes been excluded from the benefits proposed under it? The benefit in the case of an adult male is to be £1 a week, and in the case of an adult female 15s. a week. Not content” with having discriminated between certain classes of the community, the Government wishes to carry that discrimination further by discriminating between the sexes. Despite what the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said, such discrimination is quite foreign to the opinions of the people of Australia. The Prime Minister in one of the weakest speeches I have heard him deliver, said that if a female contributor liked <to make an additional contribution her 15s. would be raised to £1. He should have told us how the workers may avoid this impost.

Another particularly unjust feature of the measure is that the bread-winner alone will participate in the proposed medical benefits. His wife and children will not be covered by the scheme, and, consequently, he will have to meet their medical costs out of his own pocket. In the majority of cases, particularly those of young married couples, the wife and children have much greater need of medical attention in the early years of married life than has the bread-winner him-, self. The argument will be used that the inclusion of the wife and children in the scheme might cut across the practice of friendly societies. This Government is not concerned about what happens to friendly societies ; its concern is merely to relieve the Treasury of the obligation to provide invalid and old-age pensions out of revenue. An insured person will be entitled to a general overhaul by an ordinary medical practitioner, but will be obliged to meet out of his own pocket the cost of any services requiring the attention of a specialist. The British Medical Association, in a publication entitled Health Insurance and the Health of the People, says -

The service should bc a complete one. Not on lj must it provide to every individual the services of a general practitioner, but it must also make available consultant and specialist services, and such ancillary services as pathology and X-ray examinations, nursing and massage service, &c. There must be also, of course, accommodation and treatment in hospitals, sanatoria, convalescent homes, &c.

Provision should be made for a more extensive medical service than is contained in this measure.

The Government of New Zealand proposes to institute a universal general practitioner service which will be free to all members of the community requiring attention. All health services should be universal and free. I hope that the day is not far distant when they will be nationalized. The Government of New Zealand also proposes to provide free hospital and sanatorium treatment for all. This bill makes no such provision. If a contributor to the scheme wishes to obtain free hospital treatment, he will have to continue his membership of a friendly society or voluntary medical and hospital funds. Those who are on small salaries - and they are the only persons to be affected by this legislation - will have to reconsider their position. They will find that they will be unable to carry the burden of two or three separate schemes. They will be compelled to contribute to this scheme, but the other two are optional. There can be only one result. The Government of New Zealand proposes, further, to provide free medicines and free maternity treatment, matters which were totally disregarded by the Government and its advisers and investigators in the drafting of this measure. According to the 1933 census, there are 1,151,000 married women in Australia. Those are to be debarred from insurance under this scheme. There were also at that time 1,930,000 dependent children. They, too, are excluded from the medical benefits of the scheme. Others excluded are old-age and invalid pensioners. It will be seen, therefore, that those who are most deserving of every assistance have been ignored by the Government. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said that mothers, potential and actual, are the most precious asset of Australia. That may be the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, but apparently it is not the opinion of the Government of which he is a member. If it were, all mothers and children in Australia would be included in the medical benefits proposed by this scheme. The bill also says to a young lady entering employment: “Whilst you are employed by’ a boss you have to insure ; but immediately you marry we have no further concern with you.” It may be argued that immediately a girl marries the obligation^ on the husband to maintain her. That is all very well. But how can a man on the basic wage, less ls. 6d. a week, make adequate provision for his wife? Queensland has been very fortunate in that for 23 years, with a break of three years, it has had a Labour government, which has instituted and operated what is practically the nationalization of the medical services of the State. Any person may attend at a general hospital, particularly in Brisbane, and be overhauled by specialists. If he is not in. a position to meet the cost of the treatment, which in most cases is very small, it does not matter.

It is deplorable that relief workers and unemployed persons have been omitted from the provisions of the bill. Although these classes of the community are unable to provide medical and health services for themselves, even the meagre benefits of this bill are denied to them. Relief workers are not deemed to be under contract of service. In 1936 a relief worker in Queensland wished to contest a seat on. a shire council, but the council’s advice was that, as he wa3 an employee of the shire, he could not oppose the tory councillors without first surrendering his right to relief work. He did so, and -was elected. All sorts of technicalities are raised against relief workers when it suits the powers-that-be to raise them. If the Government had been moved by true humanitarian sentiments it would have taken care to provide medical benefits for relief workers and unemployed persons, particularly as they require them more than their fellow workers in industry. Such persons are out of employment mainly in consequence of the vicious system under which we live, and the least we can do for them is to provide medical services for them and their wives and families. The Premier of New South Wales, in addressing a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on unemployment insurance last August, said that the Government of New South Wales provided £6,150,000, the Government of Victoria £4,300,000, and the Government of Queensland £2,300,000 annually for sustenance or relief work, making a total for the three States of £12,750,000. These figures clearly show the dire needs of relief workers, and afford additional evidence in support of my contention that they should be provided for under this bill. The Wheat Grower of the 29th April, 1937, contained the following: - “ The present social conditions are such that ill health is inevitable for a large proportion of the people and for their children,” stated a paper on “ Medicine and the Social Order “ by Dr. E. P. Dark, of New South Wales.

This also supports the view of honorable members on this side of the chamber that relief workers and unemployed persons should be included in the provisions of the bill. The Government, however, has seen fit to place the responsibility for these classes of the community upon the shoulders of the State governments, and in this measure it is disregarding them completely. It bears them in mind only at election time, when it seeks their support. According to the 1933 census, 1,272,000 children were dependent on parents in receipt of an income of less than £4 a week. Such children should certainly be provided for in any scheme of this kind. Health benefits,, in my opinion, should be universal, and should not be restricted to insured persons. A healthy community is the greatest asset that a nation can enjoy, and an obligation rests upon the Government to do everything possible to maintain a high standard of public health.

The Royal Commission on National Insurance, which reported to the Government in 1925, realized the importance of providing maternity allowances, for it recommended that a payment of £1 a week should be paid to wives insured under the voluntary scheme then proposed fortwo weeks prior to, and four weeks subsequent to, a confinement. Yet the Government, in introducing this bill, has entirely overlooked that recommendation. I am glad that this point was not forgotten by the Savage Government of New Zealand. We could hardly expect anything else from the Lyons Government, for it is clearly out of touch with most sections of the community.

The prospects of relief workers and unemployed persons are dreary indeed in New South Wales, where the Stevens an ti -Labour Government is in control, In Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, the unemployment figures are substantially below those of 1929. In New South Wales the figures for 1929 and 1937 are practically identical. It is deplorable that no effort should havebeen made to introduce an unemployment insurance bill, but such scant consideration of the needy classes of our community can only be expected from a government which has treated the unemployed so unfairly ever since it has been in office. We are frequently told that prosperity has returned, and that “happy days are here again”; but many people are still unable to find employment. Queensland is the most prosperous State of Australia. The

Labour Government of Queensland looks after not only the workers, but also all sections of the community. Consequently, Queensland is enjoying real prosperity. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) would peel the scales from his eyes and go to Queensland he would quickly see that this is so.

I regret that hospital benefits are not being provided under this bill. Moreover, many people who are to-day contributing to voluntary hospital schemes will find themselves penalized by the measure, for they will be unable, on account of the limitation of their income, to continue contributing to hospital funds and friendly societies.

The Government now states that, under this bill, persons will receive a pension as a right, which means the Government evidently considers that those receiving pensions to-day receive it not as a right-, but as a dole, a contention which Labour strongly condemns. The bill provides that a male insured person may be granted a pension upon attaining the age of 65 years, provided he has paid 104 contributions and five years have elapsed from the time he was insured ; otherwise, he will have to pass ameans test in order to secure a pension. It is regrettable also that the bill differentiates between male and female insured persons, for although the pension for a man is at the rate of £1 a week, that for a woman is at the rate of only15s. a. week. The Treasurer gave the House many figures in the course of his introductory speech. Probably these would bear examination, but on other occasions when figures have been thrown at us in this way we have discovered astounding discrepancies in them. We know that this Government, and other governments of the same “ kidney “, regard the invalid and oldage pension, to the cost of which they object, as a kind of dole. It is only at election time that the Government and its supporters are sympathetic towards the pensioners and pioneers of this country. [Leave to continue given.]

The Labour party has always regarded the invalid and old-age pension as a right that the infirm and oldaged people in this country have earned, for out of their meagre earnings they have all had to contribute to the general revenue from which pensions are paid. But to-day, men who work in the steaming tropics, and in theblistering heat of the western plains, carrying on the job that their forbears commenced, are being denied this right. These people make great sacrifices, and deny themselves many of the conveniences of life in the more thickly-settled areas, but the only time they receive consideration from the Government is when an election is approaching, or recruits are required for the army. * It is often said that workers in the outback exhibit the spirit of Anzac, and that is very true. It is the more regrettable, therefore, that though they will be compelled to contribute to the national insurance fund out of their meagre earnings - a mere pittance obtained in many cases from mining and hazardous farming operations -they will be denied many services that should be provided under any adequate national insurance scheme.

Mr,Mahoney. - Shame !

Mr.RIORDAN.- I agree with the honorable member. I wish to direct attention to one or two statements made by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. The honorable gentleman said -

Voluntary insurance is to be highly commended as indicative of individual thrift and foresight, andI pay my tribute to the wonderful work which these organizations are doing.

What a “ square-off “ ! He went on to say-

I speak in no spirit of criticism - voluntary insurance has failed to cater for a substantial part of our population.

Yet the Commonwealth Year-Book, No. 30, for 1937, at page 857, shows that the number of policies in operation in 1935 under ordinary life assurance was 965,597, and under industrial life assurance 1,920,116, making a total of 2,885,713. Then there are the various superannuation schemes for public servants, railway officers, police officers, &c. There is power under the act to exclude these people from the provisions of this measure. The figures I have quoted show that at present more persons are already covered by voluntary insurance than would be covered by the measure before the House if it comes into operation. Then, again, there are nearly 600,000 members of friendly societies with 1,500,000 dependants who share in the benefits derived from the father’s contributions. Dependants of contributors other than those under the age of sixteen years under the Government’s scheme,willbe denied any protection in respect of medical service. The Treasurer said that the greater proportion of those who stand in most need of insurance are uninsured. I point out, however, that over 3,000,000 persons are already covered by voluntary schemes as contributors or dependants of contributors to friendly societies or superannuation schemes of various kinds. The Treasurer has said that 3,600,000 persons will benefit under the Government’s scheme; if that be so, he must be taking into consideration the dependants of insured persons, and they do not come within the scope” of this bill in its present form. I point out, further, that a child or a wife will have to wait until the insured person has passed away in order toshare in the benefits paid for by an injured person. I hope that the actuarial calculations in connexion with this scheme have not been based on such doubtful figures as those used by the Treasure!’ in supporting it. This bill is an affront to those who believe that a national insurance scheme is a very desirable piece of legislation. The Government has misused the word “national” in association with its scheme, because it will affect only a limited number of persons. By no stretch of the imagination can it be called a national scheme. I support the amendment because if it is carried it will result in the withdrawal and postponement of the bill until the Government, having ceased shifting and shuffling in regard to it, is able to bring down a bill to provide insurance on a truly national basis.


.- When the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) started his speech I imagined he intended to attack the bill more on legal grounds than on anything else, but as he developed it, I found he could find nothingwhatever in the bill that appealed to him, and that he opposed it not only from the legal viewpoint, but also ‘from every possible viewpoint which the time at his disposal permitted. However, sharp may be the diversity of opinion among honorable members concerning the merits or demerits of the hill now before the House, however wide may be the differences of honorable members about it, I think we can all agree, at any rate, that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is deserving of a great deal of praise for the immense amount of work, trouble, time and labour be has put into it. The thanks of the House are due to him for the clear and detailed manner in which he presented the bill. He again showed that exceptional mastery of detail we have always found he possesses in regard to anything with which he deals. Despite what honorable members opposite may say, I. am pleased that the Government is taking this early opportunity to introduce this national insurance bill. During the last federal elections, the question of national insurance was very prominently before the people, and. upon every occasion on which it was mentioned from the platforms of members of the political faith of those who sit on this side of the House, at any rate, the fact that it was to be contributory in character was prominently placed before the people. In no case was it stated that a national insurance scheme would be introduced of a type not contributory in character. Again, I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) say that we can regard this as a first instalment. I believe it is to be a first instalment of what will be a progressive programme of social legislation. The bill itself sets out to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows and orphans of employees, and for other purposes. It is, I think, the most comprehensive piece of social legislation with which this Parliament has yet had to deal. It is very obvious that when a scheme of such magnitude is introduced, a great number of people will be dissatisfied. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) made some exhaustive criticism of the bill, but when boiled down it merely meant that in presenting the measure the Treasurer had been somewhat too conservative in estimating the benefits that could be conferred out of the fund to be established by contributions. Personally, I believe that the people generally want national insurance, and, equally, that they want national insurance on a contributory basis. I believe that, generally speaking, the people as a whole are in accord with the prime essentials of this bill. Opposition has certainly been expressed to it - a good deal naturally from interested sections; but I suppose there has been less opposition from the employers and employees, who are the two sections of the people most affected by it or, at any rate, as much affected as is any other section.

Mr Mahoney:

– There lias been a large amount of opposition from them.


– I disagree with the honorable member. Less criticism has been levelled at the bill by those sections than by other interested sections of the community. I am somewhat surprised by the attitude of the Opposition towards this bill. I believed, perhaps in my innocence, that honorable members opposite would, at any rate, vote for the second reading of the bill ; but the attitude of uncompromising hostility which has been adopted, by them can only lead me to suppose that they wish the policy of national insurance to be placed on the scrap-heap. [Quorum formed.] There is room for argument as to the order of precedence in which national insurance should be introduced to the Parliament: as to whether the question of unemployment insurance should not be dealt with prior to national health and pensions insurance. All honorable members, I am sure, realize that the question of unemployment is one in which the States are inextricably bound up, but up to the present it has not been possible to arrive at any common ground upon which the States and the Commonwealth can get together in connexion with unemployment insurance.

This is not the first occasion on which a national insurance measure has been placed before the House. The right honorable member for Cowper .(Sir Earle Page) introduced a national insurance bill in 1928 ; but for a variety of reasons that bill did not get beyond the secondreading stage. On this occasion I hope that it will not be long before this bill is placed on the statutebook. Generally speaking, social in- surance can be said to be of two types, either voluntary or compulsory. Voluntary insurance is very ancient in its origin. In England it goes back for probably hundreds of years. The growth of the voluntary system in England during the last 200 years has been amazing, and the growth of voluntary schemes in Australia during the last century has been astonishing. That is true alio of voluntary insurance schemes on the Continent but not perhaps to the same extent as in Great Britain. With all classes of voluntary insurance, however, there are certain inherent drawbacks. The most important of them in my opinion is that voluntary insurance does not touch that section of the community which, either because it is not thrifty or for some other reason, makes no provision for itself. Unfortunately, that section is only too often the very one most in need of some form of social assistance. As the father of a family gets old he may expect his children to help him in his old age, but generally we find that just at the time he requires their help his children have undertaken obligations of their own and find themselves not in a position to provide for him. It has been truly said that whereas one father will keep seven sons, seven sons will not keep one father. Compulsory insurance is of comparatively recent origin. It was instituted I think by Bismarck in Germany only just a little over 50 years ago; but its growth has been rapid. We find that the International Labour Office in Geneva in 1927 agreed upon the principle of compulsory insurance. Further than that we find that to-day compulsory insurance is in operation in more than 30 countries in the world. I was interested in the viewpoint expressed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) with regard to differential payments. It is somewhat similar to the scheme in the United States of America. That scheme, which has been in operation for only about three years, at the moment covers only old age and unemployment, but it has differential payments and differential benefits. The old-age insurance tax, for instance, is collected by means of a personal levy on salaries. The first $3,000 of salary is, I think, taxable. When a person becomes eligible on account of age, pension is calculated in accordance with payments made. The employer also makes contributions, and finally pension is paid on the level of the particular standard of living of the person who has made the contributions. That method has a good deal to recommend it, and I have given considerable thought to it, but I have come to the conclusion that it is not desirable that it should be introduced in Australia. I prefer a flat rate. In this country social benefits are provided by a variety of agencies, and they are of three kinds: They may be- contributory in character, they may be partially contributory, or they may be non-contributory. The agencies include among others the Commonwealth Government, the various State governments, the friendly societies, the trade unions, and superannuation schemes of one kind and another. The Commonwealth Government as responsible for invalid and old-age pensions, which are wholly non-contributory at the present time. The history of invalid and oldage pensions in Australia is interesting as showing the development of the system-. It is less than 30 years ago since they were first introduced, and at that time the maximum rate was 10s. a week, the number of pensioners was 65,000, and the total cost to the Treasury £1,500,000. To-day, the maximum rate is 20s., the number of pensioners 300,000 and the cost about £14,000,000. This year, it is estimated that the number of pensioners will increase to 311,000, and the total payments to nearly £16,000,000. It is estimated by actuaries that, in 40 years’ time, payments will exceed £32,000,000, and they give as their reason a study of the vital .statistics of Australia, which show a very important change in the age composition groups. The Treasurer has said that whereas to-day there are 26 persons of pension age to every 100 wage earners, the number in 40 years’ time will be 54 to every 100 wage earnei-3.

This bill will not affect in any way the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but when the future liabilities under that act are considered, it is obvious that some kind of contributory scheme is essential. However, for a great number of years, the cost of the national insurance scheme, plus the cost of the existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme, will be considerably higher than the increased cost of old-age and invalid pension. lt is estimated that in 25 years’ time the cost of the two schemes will be approximately what the cost would be if there were no national insurance scheme.

What does the bill set out to do? Itsets out to provide insured persons with certain benefits for sickness and disablement, life pensions for insured persons, life pensions for widows of insured persons, pensions for orphans up to 15 years of age, and allowances for dependent children under 15. It is estimated that the scheme will directly affect very nearly 2,000,000 people of ages varying from 16 to 65, who will receive its benefits without prior medical examination. It is admitted by the Treasurer that this measure is not perfect. No social insurance legislation was perfect when first introduced, but, for my part, I do not propose to jeopardize the success of the scheme simply because it is not perfect at the present time. We cannot do everything at once, and, granted that we have a solid foundation, which I believe we have, Parliament can build and improve on if.

The bill provides that, at the end of a five-year period, there shall be an examination of the finances of the scheme. It is expected that a majority of the approved societies will have accumulated surpluses from which it is proposed to pay extra benefits. In Great Britain, important extensions have been made in this way, particularly in regard to the provision of dental benefits.

We have to ask ourselves whether the proposed benefits under the scheme are worth having, and whether they are attractive to those who will come under the .scheme. In the first place, there are sickness benefits of 20s. for men and 15s. for women. If the sickness persists beyond n specified time, a disablement benefit of 15s. and 12s. 6d. a week will be paid. There are special rates for unmarried minors, and women may, by a voluntary contribution of 6d. a week, also receive a full life pension of 20s. a week at 60 years of age. There are to be widows’ pensions at 12s. 6d. a week until 1944, when they will be increased to - 15s. a week. There will be pensions of 7s. 6d. a week for orphans under 15 years, and allowances of 3s. 6d. a week in respect of dependent children. Surely those benefits are worth having. They compare favorably with those provided under the national insurance schemes of most other countries. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) produced a table comparing the benefits under the British scheme with those proposed under this scheme, from which it was evident that this scheme is the more liberal of the two.

The administration of the bill is to be in the hands of a national insurance commission, and certain approved societies. It has been argued that the approved societies should be restricted more than they are in the bill. Under the English scheme as originally drawn, approved societies were allowed to spring up everywhere, and many Vent out of existence after a very brief life. It is hoped to prevent that sort of thing; in Australia by fixing the minimum number of members for an approved society at 2,000. It has been said that approved societies should be limited to friendly societies and trade unions, while against this it has been pointed out that although most of the 1,850,000 persons- who will come under the scheme had the opportunity to belong to friendly societies, only onequarter of them elected to do so”. If the scheme is to be compulsory in character, those who have to pay should be afforded as wide a choice as possible regarding the societies they join. ‘

In addition to the. benefits I have already enumerated, further benefits are listed in the fourth schedule to the bill, and it is hoped to make them- effective at the end of the first quinquennial period. , Those honorable members who complain that the scheme as it stands is not sufficiently liberal should remember that it is axiomatic that higher benefits must involve higher rates of contribution. I do not think that we would be justified at the present time in fixing the rates at more than the 3s. and 2s. now stipulated.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) objected to the bill on four grounds-. First, he objected because the scheme is to be contributory in character. J.t bas been argued by honorable members on this side of the House that, under a contributory scheme, there is a greater likelihood of the benefits being paid in bad times as in good, than under a noncontributory scheme. Members of the Opposition have argued that, even with a contributory scheme, there can be no guarantee that the benefits will be paid in all circumstance?. Possibly that is right, but the likelihood of default is not nearly so great under a contributory scheme as under the present invalid and old-age scheme, or under ‘any noncontributory scheme. If members of the Opposition desire some authority in support of the contributory principle, let them remember that the International Labour Office in 1927 favoured such a method.

The Leader of the Opposition objected to the scheme upon the further ground that it provides unequal benefits for men and women, that it is, in fact,, loaded against women. I do not believe that to be a fact. As the Treasurer and other honorable members have: pointed out, if the scheme is loaded against anybody, it is against men, because the benefits they will- receive are disproportionately low compared’ with those that will be received by women in return for the contributions that each will have to make. For example, a widow will make no contribution in respect of her pension, the whole cost having been borne by her husband during his lifetime. It is generally agreed that women cannot, because of the wages they receive, pay as high contributions as men. lt is arguable, of course, that women should receive equal wages, but I believe* that the adoption of such a principle would lead to the driving out of industry of a very great number of women now employed. A woman may, if she wishes, and can afford it, pay an extra 6d., and receive a full pension of £1 a week at 60 years of age.

The third objection of the Leader of the Opposition is that the scheme fails to provide medical benefits for the wives and children of contributors. That is true, but again I point out that if greater benefits are desired there will have to be greater contributions. We have been told that, under a subvention, the Govern ment proposes, in effect, to subsidize approved societies up -to a certain amount per family unit, so that they may make the insurance of wives and children easier and less burdensome- for those who desire to take advantage of it. If that comes to pass, I believe that it will largely answer the objection of the Leader of the Opposition,

Finally, the Leader of the Oppositions objected to the scheme on the- groundthat it threatened the strength of the friendly societies. I doubt that very much indeed. I have examined the measure as well as I can, and I have listened, as have most honorable members, to representations on this subject from members of the consultative council of the friendly societies. I feel- that the final result of the scheme will be to strengthen the friendly societies. Speaking on this subject at a conference held twelve months ago, Mr. Ridley, of New South Wales, who is a very highly placed and well-known official in the friendly society movement, said -

In Great Britain it is open to the voluntary member to pay his voluntary contribution and receive extra benefit, and in fact the voluntary membership in Great Britain has increased since the advent of national insurance.

In fact, voluntary membership has increased under the British scheme. I do not belong to a friendly society, but I have attended many of the meetings of those bodies in my electorate, and I admire them for the work they are doing. Quite apart from the insurance benefit* conferred by them, they are of great social advantage,, and I should be sorry to see their activities weakened. I do not believe that this measure will adversely affect these societies, as was at first thought.

The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has raised a point about the position, under this scheme, of certain primary producers- whose income is not high enough to require them to pay income tax. This matter has been commented upon by other honorable members, and careful consideration should be given to it, because it would be an obvious injustice if a man receiving . an income of the kind indicated by the honorable member were compelled to become ti contributor as an employer to the insurance fund. However low his income may be, he finds it essential at certain times of the year to employ labour whether he runs his farm at a profit or a loss.

The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) pointed out that selfemployed persons such as small farmers and shopkeepers are not covered by the bill. I am glad to know that the Government proposes to introduce another measure which will include them. Many difficulties naturally arise in formulating a scheme of this magnitude, but they are not insuperable. I suppose that one of the greatest difficulties will be experienced in connexion with the collection of the contributions. No doubt, the Treasurer and those associated with him will be able to overcome them.

The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to clause 185, the marginal note of which says: “Rates of wages not to be affected by contributions and benefits.” I speak with all humility as a layman, but I should have thought that that’ clause must come very close to being ultra vires the Constitution. If it has any merit, it should certainly ensure uniformity among the various States. No doubt, the legal members of the House and other honorable members will have something to say about this clause at the committee stage, where this measure can be dealt with most conveniently.

Honorable members on this side, at any rate, believe that the principles of the bill are sound. I thought that the Opposition would have voted for the second reading, and would then have attempted to have the bill amended in committee. I believe the bill can and will be improved at the committee stage. It provides for probably the greatest piece of social legislation ever introduced in this Parliaments It would be too much to expect it to be perfect at the outset. If honorable members on this side have been inclined to be critical of it, the objections raised can, for the greater part, be overcome by amendments which the Government may be prepared to accept. I look forward to the placing of this bill on the statute-book. Very careful consideration has been given to it, and close attention has been paid to the views expressed by the various sections interested. I commend the measure to the House.


– I strongly support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), which indicates that the bill is unacceptable in its present form. The reasons given by him are that it seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for old-age, invalidity and widowhood which should be provided as a matter of right, without the exaction of individual contributions;’ that it provides unequal benefits for men and women; that it fails to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of contributors; and that, because it overlaps 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. The Opposition is of the opinion that the failure of the Commonwealth Government to include provision for unemployment insurance is a national calamity, and it firmly believes that the Australian people will not be satisfied with any scheme of national insurance which fails to protect them against the major social evil of unemployment, which the Government has seemingly completely overlooked.

In the opinion of the Opposition, a fundamental weakness of the proposed legislation is its limitation to employees. The bill, in my view, fails in that it makes no provision for the self-employed workers, such as farmers and small shopkeepers and many others. The Opposition contends that the bill is limited largely to workers in regular employment, many of whom are already covered by some form of superannuation and medical and sick pay benefits. For these reasons, we consider that the bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted, and a more liberal measure, freed from the numerous present defects, introduced without delay.

The Labour party contends that an exclusive national unemployment insurance scheme, administered by the Commonwealth alone, is feasible, and that

British experts have indicated that such a scheme could be made applicable to Australia by the Commonwealth Government without great difficulty. Because the Opposition suggests ways in which the bill might be advantageously amended, it is told that it is unsympathetic towards a comprehensive national insurance scheme, but that statement is quite incorrect. The unemployment insurance scheme in Great Britain embraces about 15,000,000 persons, and with their dependants, about 33,000,000. Ten other countries, all diverse in economic structure and industrial activity, have similar schemes operating quite successfully. It seems, therefore, a confession of impotence on the part of the Commonwealth Government that, whilst conceding the urgency of this legislation, has completely failed to deal with it, and Australians appear to be .once more on the edge of a desert of deferred hope, as far as unemployment insurance is concerned.

It was in response to years of public demand that a royal commission was appointed by -a Commonwealth Government in 1926, to consider this matter, and it recommended the adoption of an unemployment insurance scheme. This problem has since been the subject of various investigations and for fifteen years there were merely promises and reports of investigations, without anything practical having been accomplished, except the scheme that was put into operation by a Labour Government in Queensland some years ago. This being merely a State scheme, however, it had its limitations. What is required is an Australia-wide unemployment insurance scheme along the lines of that promised by the Leader of the Opposition in his policy speech at the last federal elections. There are still in Australia, to-day, over 100,000 of our people who are out of work, and they have a perfect right to employment, or to the protection of an unemployment insurance scheme. The Government, at the conclusion of this debate, should be in a position to submit to the House a more workmanlike and more liberal bill with which we could deal, without sacrificing the measure before us.

For years, the platform of the federal Labour party has provided for a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, embracing sick, accident, life and unemployment insurance, and the party has not’ deviated one iota from the attitude it has always adopted in regard to this matter. 1 think it is recognized on all sides that the feeling of insecurity in the minds’ of every worker regarding the future of himself and his wife and children is a substantial factor in undermining the health of our working population. The ambition of every worker is to obtain, for himself and his family, protection against the “ slings and arrows of outrageous fortune “. Throughout the world, the state performs social and economic functions which, if left to individual initiative and control, would be done either badly or not at all. Australia to-day lags behind 31 other nations which have adopted some form of national or social insurance, embracing 150,000,000 persons. It is. therefore, to be regretted that. after spending approximately £45,000 on reports about national insurance, £16,000 on a royal commission on childhood endowment, and £7,000 on a royal commission on health - the total cost has been £69,000 - the Government has come forward wilh this niggardly scheme, which denies all benefits to the .unemployed, the casual workers and relief workers, excludes wives and children of insured persons from medical benefits, and makes unfair discrimination against women-folk. In the opinion of the Opposition, these shortcomings provide ample reason for the adoption of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.

The word “ national “ in the title of this bill is a misnomer. The measure is by no means national in character, as it only directly covers a small section of the communityIt leaves hundreds of thousands of people unprovided for. The Treasurer,- in hia speech, stated that only under a national scheme of insurance involving the joint co-operation of the Government, employer and employee, could a satisfactory scheme be devised for the protection of the wageearners against the vicissitudes of life. It will be recognized that the Treasurer has provided for only a section of the workers, and has made no provision whatever for the rest of the community.

He left out completely unemployment insurance, casual workers, and cover for self-employed workers. In a statement issued by the British Medical Association of Australia, it was pointed out that no measure could be called “national” which did not provide a complete service and which excluded from its provisions, not only the dependants of insured persons, but also the unemployed and unemployable. In view of the lavish promises which were made by it before ‘the elections it should be the object of the Government to provide a national insurance scheme which would be truly national in character. In his speech the Treasurer went on to say that as far as insurance was concerned, the motto of a great number of the people of Australia seemed to be, “ Insurance can wait till to-morrow.” As far as this bill is concerned, for hundreds of thousands of people there is no to-morrow. They are expected to continue to drift down the stream of uncertainty. Probably the most deserving section of the people is excluded from benefits under this measure.

The Treasurer referred to the 600,000 people who have joined friendly societies and the like in order to provide against sickness and other misfortunes. He said that voluntary insurance had failed to cater for a substantial part of the population. So does this bill fail to cater for a substantial part of the population. The Treasurer went on to say that the greater number of those who stood in most need of insurance were uninsured, and that they were either unable to afford it or lacked initiative to become and remain insured. I would remind the honorable gentleman that even if they had the initiative and the desire, there are hundreds of thousands of people who would not be allowed to become insured under the act as it stands at present.- The Opposition, therefore, is right in contending that the measure is a sectional measure, and not a national insurance measure, as it is called by the Government. There is no logic in the Government’s attitude. On the one hand it says that steps must be taken to see that all our people come under the health insurance scheme, and on the other hand it brings down a bill preventing them from so doing.

The Treasurer has said that thi3 bill brings directly within its scope 1,850,000 persons and that it affects 3,600,000 persons. That statement is misleading a3 the only justification for saying that 3,600,000 people will be affected, is that some of the insured persons have dependant^. The Government is classifying these dependants as being affected although they are not entitled to medical benefits. The Bight Honorable S. M. Bruce, in his policy speech in 1928, referring to national insurance, said-

The position which the Government desire* to bring about is to secure equal benefits for every individual in the Commonwealth.

The parties in office to-day have forgotten Mr. Bruce’s doctrine. The Government’s scheme falls very short of the ideals expressed by Mr. Bruce, although it must be admitted that he did not proceed to give effect to them.

A great deal has been heard from the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) about national insurance. Discussing this matter in 1936, he said that -

Existing social services, all of which savoured of public charity would be displaced by community insurance schemes, to which each member of the community would contribute, ‘and from which each would benefit.

A large number -of members of the community is not going to benefit under this scheme, which, I have no doubt, falls far short of the honorable member’s ideal. As the health of our people is of such vital importance, one cannot but be amazed at the number of people who should be included in any national health scheme, but have been excluded under this measure. The Opposition is in complete disagreement with the Government in excluding these persons. According to my interpretation of the bill, there are many people such as shearers, cane-cutters, farmers, casual relief workers, shopkeepers and the like who are not entitled to be insured under this measure, and who will not have the protection which should be afforded by a bill of this kind. The Treasurer, in his speech, pointed out that consideration would be given to cases, such as those I have mentioned, later on, but he also stated that the reason for the exclusion of some of -‘them was the difficulty in col- lecting weekly contributions. If the friendly societies find that they can collect, their contributions from all classes, of persons, it is hard to understand why the Government cannot devise machinery to do likewise.

One of the worst features- of this billis the fact that it makes no provision whatever for wives and dependent children. There were 1,151,000 married women in Australia when the 1933 census was taken who are debarred from being insured under the health portion of this bill. In 1933, there were 1,930,000 dependent children under the age of sixteen years who also would be debarred from receiving medical assistance under this legislation. Thus, it will be seen that the two sections of the community to - whom every assistance should be given foi- the insurance of their health have no provision made for them. They are not even allowed to become insured ! A healthy race depends on healthy mothers. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) was right when he said -

The mothers, potential and actual, are the most precious asset of Australia.

Take the case of a female. From the- time she is born until the time she- enters into employment, she cannot come within the scope of this measure. When she becomes employed, she is forced to become insured and she must remain insured during the period she is working. When she marries, she again is excluded from “ the- health provisions of this bill and gets no refund of any money she has contributed. Members of the- female sex are entitled to medical attention only when they are in employment. Whilst they are children and when they marry they are not entitled to any health benefits. That places additional burdens on the insured wage-earners. It -might be stated by some that it is the husbands’ obligation to look after his wife and children, but I would ask, what chance has a man on the basic wage or thereabouts of providing proper medical attention for his wife and children on the salary that he receives? It is impossible. If it were not for the self-sacrificing attitude of a number of the general medical practitioners of Australia, who give their services free or at a small charge to a very large and deserving section of the community, thousands: would go unprovided for.

Another point to be considered is that experience has shown that lodge doctor* are called upon, more often to see the wife and children than to see the husbandFriendly societies will , bear out this statement. That is all the more reason why women and dependent children should ‘be, included in the scheme.

Mr Holloway:

– Doctors have to see. dependants five or six times more often than they have to sec the husbands.


– What my honorable friend has said is perfectly true. As the representative of a large industrial constituency, the honorable member knows that the Government could go a long way along the road towards assisting to better the state of health of the people by giving effect to the national housing scheme that was promised before the last election. The health of the community is, to a very large extent, dependent on the .type of home and its surroundings. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 21st April last, referring to the report on the Sydney slums, pointed out -

Large family groups, whoso incomes are ?4 a week or less, cannot afford healthy houses. They have to shelter ill homos so inadequate or deteriorated as to endanger health and warp the moral and social outlook of the individual, and this applies to more than one-third of the families of New South Wales.

Mr Lane:

– On a point of’ order, the honorable gentleman is not entitled to discuss housing.


- (Mr. John Lawson). - I have carefully listened to the honorable member’s remarks, and I consider them to be in order.


– Slum areas producing ill-health, squalor and congestion cover 2,000 acres within the heart of Sydney. What has become of the Commonwealth Government’s proposed national housing scheme promised by the Prime Minister on the eve of the 1934 Federal elections? It has been thrown overboard-. Better and cheaper houses tend to healthier and happier working people.

So far as I understand this measure, no provision is made in it for the insurance of men engaged on relief work. Consequently, thousands of people who come within the category of relief workers and casual workers will not benefit from this bill. These are some of the people whom the Treasurer said were not insured because they could not afford to be insured without assistance from the Government. But, under this bill, the Government refuses to assist them. Honorable members of the Opposition, and honorable members opposite who have taken a similar stand, are perfectly justified in demanding that these unfortunate individuals be provided for. If possible, the Opposition will take every opportunity in committee to move amendments that will liberalize the bill and bring Under its provisions these unfortunate relief workers and others who have been excluded.

The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. .Stevens, addressing the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on Unemployment Insurance in August, 1937, stated that New South Wales paid £6,150,000 to persons receiving sustenance or engaged upon relief works. Victoria pays £4,300,000 a year and Queensland, £2,300,000, making a total for the three States of £12,750,000. The persons engaged on sustenance works are in such dire circumstances that it is impossible for them to make any provision whatever out of the meagre pittance that they receive for medical treatment. Unfortunately, there are still, in Australia, thousands of young men who, during the acute years of the depression, were unable to learn a trade or obtain employment in offices and factories, and who to-day swell the ranks of the unemployed. Many of them are approaching the age at which they should assume the responsibilities of marriage, and, in numerous cases, wives and children are being maintained on the mere pittance received by way of unemployment relief. What chance exists of their being provided for in relation to medical benefits if they are not brought under a comprehensive national insurance scheme? The present social conditions are such that ill-health is inevitable for a large proportion of the people and for their children. That statement was made by Dr. E. P. Dark, of New South Wales, in a paper on Medicine and the Social Order which he read on Mi;) 29th April, 1937. According to the 1933 census, there were then 1,272,000 children belonging to parents in receipt of less than £4 a week, and 980,000 children dependent upon breadwinners receiving less than £3 a week. Health benefits should not be affected by the scope of employment. The census figures that I have quoted clearly show that the poorer class has the largest number of children. Their health is a national concern, and its maintenance is a national obligation which should not be shirked by the Commonwealth Government. The Royal Commission on National Insurance, which functioned in 3925, realizing the importance of assisting mothers, recommended that a maternity benefit of £1 a week should be paid for a period of two weeks prior to and four weeks after the confinement of a voluntarily insured member or the wife of an insured member.

Probably the most deserving people for whom provision should be made are those who form the large army of unemployed, numbering 100,000, yet they have been deliberately excluded from the benefits proposed under the scheme. I appeal to the Government to make provision, not only for them, hut also for their wives and children. For some time past, the Government has voiced its concern regarding the high rate of infantile mortality. Deep concern has also been expressed a,t the malnutrition which is so prevalent in many of the large States to-day. The fight honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when Minister for Health, in an address delivered in Sydney, said -

There was a danger of AO per cent, of the population of Australia of to-morrow being weak, sickly children.

He went on to say -

Many children suffer from malnutrition, and nearly one-third of the population of Kew South Wales is treated in the public hospitals of that State.

Mr Holloway:

– They are excluded from the scheme.


– That is so. The right honorable member for North Sydney also said -

We cannot afford to breed weaklings. We have to hold and develop this wonderful country. This ran only be done by an Al class people but it would appear that we are breeding » C.’i class

I submit that the poor unemployed and casual workers cannot afford to pay for medical attention; yet they are to be debarred from the benefits of this so-called national scheme. Poverty should not be a bar to the obtaining of medical benefits, nor should the people have to rely on charity in order to obtain those benefits.

In the policy speech that he delivered in 1925, the Eight Honorable S. M. Bruce said -

The question of child endowment is one of vital importance. The man with a family is iiic greatest asset to the community, and it is essential and desirable that the greatest encouragement and assistance should be given to such men.

No encouragement is to be given under this national health scheme. An insured person will be obliged to insure also under a voluntary scheme in order to provide medical benefits for his wife and family. The proposed widow’s pension is to be 12s. 6d., plus 3s. 6d. for each child. Therefore, a widow with three dependent children will receive £1 ls. a week, which is only ls. a week more than is drawn by an old-age pensioner. On that amount she and her children are to be expected to live. The Government now provides a childhood endowment of 5s. a week in respect of certain Commonwealth employees. I am reminded that the childhood allowance paid to sustenance workers by some State governments is greater than the amount stipulated in this measure. . No doubt, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will claim that the Government is being very generous to widows, in that this is the first occasion on which provision has been made under federal law for an allowance of any kind in respect of widows with dependent children. I- contend that the care of widows and dependent children is definitely a national obligation, and that the amount allowed should be at least £1 a week, with 5s. a week for each dependent child, the money to be provided out of Commonwealth revenue.

I wish to deal now with the trouble which the Government is experiencing with the medical profession of Australia. I consider that the Government has blundered very badly in its negotiations with the medical profession, and in respect of the remuneration which it proposes that the members of that profession shall receive. We have been told by the Treasurer that the Government conferred with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. I believe that to be true. But I would remind the honorable gentleman that that council is largely composed of surgeons and other specialists, some of them knighted gentlemen, who know nothing of the work of the general medical practitioner.


– They were elected to the position that they hold by the whole of the profession.


– The general medical practitioner is usually a very busy man, who has not the time to devote to the work of a body like the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. Some of those elderly gentlemen who are specialists in the profession, however, have ample time to attend meetings and visit other parts of Australia. I believe that if they were asked to reconsider the position, they would not come to any agreement with the Treasurer on the proposed rate of lis. for each insured person. I have deceived a telegram from Dr. T. A. Price, Queensland representative on tho Federal Council of the British Medical Association. It reads - 113 replies have been received this morning to plebiscite sent out yesterday. Only two unreservedly willing to act under the £heme Overwhelming majority against Federal Government’s scheme for their proposed inferior medical service. Members wilting to leave decision with branch council. Council insists on conditions that will ensure an efficient service for the worker and his family. Strong support from actuary with many years official experience of friendly societies’ finances.

Travelling to Sydney last Friday afternoon, I had a conversation with Dr. Price. He informed me that he was returning to Queensland to tender his resignation as Queensland representative on the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, because he found that he had made a mistake as a member of that council in that, under pressure, he was one of those who had agreed to the’ rate of lis. on figures that had been placed before the council. For over twenty years, he said, ho had been a specialist in the medical profession, and had not been closely in touch with the work of the’ general medical practitioner. Tie was honest enough to admit that he had made a mistake. He told me that the Government would not permit the federal council to consult the rank and file of the British Medical Association, that it was more or less committed to secrecy, and that it was asked to arrive at a decision on behalf of theprofession as a whole. Dr. Price is a very conscientious man. He said he realized that he had made a mistake in having been instrumental in unwittingly letting down the members of the British Medical Association, notably the general medical practitioners, and that his only honest course was to tender his resignation as the Queensland representative on the federal council at a meeting to be held at the, week-end.

Mr Archie CAMERON:

– Did he do bo ?


– He did; but the members of the Queensland branch of the association, realizing that the mistake was made honestly, and having in mind his many years of service - he had been president for ‘six years and had rendered sterling service as ex-president - asked him not to resign but to place at the disposal of the association the additional knowledge he had acquired, and continue the fight .for better remuneration for the general medical practitioners, so as to ensure a higher standard of service to those coming under the scheme. I remind the Government that a national health scheme would have very little chance of success if it -had not the hearty cooperation of the general medical practitioners. These gentlemen have a legitimate grievance. The negotiations were commenced and concluded in that secrecy which is now the bane of the present federal administration. A hush policy was followed, and, being unused to statistics and calculations, the representatives of the British Medical Association were cajoled into accepting something which is not acceptable to the general medical practitioners who will have to do the work. Again I emphasize the fact that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association is composed largely of specialists, who, under the scheme, will not have to shoulder the responsibilities of the panel doctor. Without consulting the general practitioners, those gentlemen committed them to a rate of Ils. in respect of each insured person. That rate the general practitioner regards as absolutely inadequate for an efficient service, or for one of the standard now being provided in respect of both paying patients and those who are members of friendly societies.

I have listened with interest to the views that have been expressed concerning the low standard of medical attention provided by panel doctors in England. General medical practitioners who have been in England and have acted as locum tenens for panel doctors have expressed to me views which corroborate those voiced by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and a number of others, to the effect that a panel doctor in England has to attend to so many patients that he cannot hope to give efficient service. In the words of one doctor, he almost has to read the stethescope through an overcoat in order to deal with the large number of patients who await his .attention in his surgery. He was, of course, speaking metaphorically. The statements of a large number of medical practitioners have absolutely borne out the contention of certain honorable members that the standard of service given under the national health insurance scheme in England is not as high as that given by general medical practitioners in Australia. The Labour party has uo desire to see the doctors overworked or underpaid, or to see an inferior medical service provided in consequence of their being overworked or underpaid. The position should be very carefully examined. The Government should have an independent investigation, along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who said that, conflicting statements having been made, the matter ought to be considered by a tribunal with an independent chairman, who would be above suspicion, together with a representative of the doctors and a representative of the Government,- to determine what would be a fair rate to pay to general medical practitioners in order to ensure an efficient service of a high standard. If it is not an efficient service this whole national health insurance scheme will fall to the ground.

Statistical information available to us shows that 3,155,000 breadwinners in Australia have 3,474,000 dependants. There are 5,265 doctors of all kinds practising of whom 3,000 are general practitioners. The Treasurer told us in his speech that this scheme would cover 1,850,000 persons. This would give an average of 620 insured persons for each elector. A payment of Ils. for each insured person would yield a. doctor- an income from this source of approximately £340 a year. The doctors have asked that, the payment for each insured person be increased to 14s. in city areas and 17s. Cd. in country areas. A special case can be made out in favour of a higher fee for country medical practitioners who are in a different category altogether from city practitioners. The rate ultimately decided upon should ‘bc subjected to an additional payment of at least 3s. 6d. in respect of each insured person resident in country districts. If the fee of 14s. be agreed to by ‘the Government the average return to medical practitioners would be £434 per annum from a panel of 620 insured persons. We have approximately 100,000 unemployed persons in Australia which would give an average of 35 for each practitioner. At present these persons are treated free either by general practitioners or at public hospitals. Obviously they are unable to pay. for treatment. Unfortunately many of them are sensitive about not having the wherewithal to pay for treatment, and they neglect to seek the care and attention essential to every person in the incipient stages of sickness or disease. There are 300,000 invalid and old-age pensioners in Australia, or an average of 100 for each general practitioner. These people also are unable to pay for medical attention. Two- hundred thousand lodge members not included in the national health scheme would average 70 for each doctor and including their dependants would give him a return of iipproximately £100 a year. The amount would be the same even if the payment under the bill be increased to 14s. for each person for they would not come under the national scheme. Other bread winners not included in the national scheme number 585,000, or an average of 195 for each doctor. The estimated return in respect of these persons and their dependants i3 £195 per annum for each doctor. Breadwinners in receipt of an income of more than £365 per annum are estimated to number 130,000. The average of this class for each doctor, added to the number of dependants of the 700,000 national health insurees, would be 230. From these it is estimated that the general practitioner would get an average return of £184 per annum. Other extras would yield £300 per annum. The total annual gross income of general medical practitioners on the basis of Ils. per insured person would therefore be £1,0S4. It should be realized, in considering this sum, that general medical practitioners require to undergo preparatory study for seven or eight years. After they complete their university career they must serve at least two years in public hospitals before they can hope to gain the experience necessary to practise their profession successfully. Heavy overhead expense is also incurred by a doctor in the conduct of his profession. He has to provide a residence, including, or in addition to, consulting rooms. He has to keep nurses in attendance, and also to run motor ears. In some cases he has to employ an assistant. The cost. of instruments and general equipment is also considerable. Very few* patients of the wealthier classes would be found on the list of practitioners in industrial areas, or in country districts, so general practitioners cannot hope for any substantial remuneration from this source. No provision is made in this scheme to cover the sickness of the general practitioners or to allow for holidays, or the post-graduate study which is of great importance to practitioners who hope to keep abreast of the times, for the inventive genius of scientists is. continually bringing new methods of treatment into vogue. [Leave to continue given.”]

General practitioners, as a rule, spend about two afternoons a week in an honorary capacity at public hospitals. They also attend post-graduate classes at the universities. If they are compelled to treat an unreasonably large panel of patients in order to make enough money to pay their -way they will naturally he unable to continue their honorary work or to take post-graduate courses mow and again. That is one of the reasons, so I am informed, why the panel doctors of England deteriorate in skill and do not render a service of such a high standard as that of the Australian general medical practitioners. The panel doctors of Great Britain have been relegated practically to the position of prescription doctors. They do not attempt any important operations. In fact, many of them never perform a surgical operation, and they drift into a groove.

At present in Brisbane there are 20,000 lodge members. The single members pay ls. 3d. a week and the married members

  1. 3d. a week. Ninety doctors render service to these individuals and the average return to each doctor for his lodge practice is £350 per annum, with extras. The doctors also have a private practice which gives them a higher return for each patient than is obtained from lodge patients. This enables the doctors to give their lodge patients very much better service than would otherwise be possible. Three individuals are dealt with in respect of each lodge member, single or married, so that the unmarried lodge member helps to pay for the treatment, of the dependants of the married lodge member, and so reduces the capitation fee that would otherwise be necessary for the family. Under the Government’s scheme, only married workers are insured. Seven hundred thousand married workers and 1,100,000 single workers will be affected by this scheme, and the payment necessary by a married worker to enable him to provide medical attention for his dependants will be prohibitive unless the Government provides a substantial measure of financial assistance from the general revenue to cover even partially the cost of including the dependants of married workers within the scheme. I ask that very earnest consideration be given to the possibility of making provision to cover these dependants.

I have no desire to endorse an overgenerous remuneration for general medi- cai practitioners, but I believe that a prima facie case has been made out for a review by the Government and its advisers of the fee proposed in respect of insured persons.

Reference has been made in the course of the debate to the contributory nature of this scheme in its relation to pensions. I was impressed by the able speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who traced the growth of the pensions schemes in operation in various States, and also in New Zealand, Denmark, Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America. The honorable gentleman showed clearly that all these schemes were established originally on a non-contributory basis. In most instances they are still on that footing. In Canada and South Africa, even as recently as 1927 and 1928 respectively, old-age pension schemes were provided on a non-contributory basis. I was not impressed by the remarks of the Prime Minister to the effect that if this scheme came into operation the old people of this country would, for the first time, receive their pensions as a right and not as a charity. Unless honorable members of this Parliament spoke with their tongues in their cheeks years ago when they assisted to place the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act on the statute-book, it is pure balderdash to say that an invalid or old-age pension as at present provided should be looked upon as a form of charity. In support of this view, I cite the following observations of Sir George Reid in a debate on the original pensions bill : -

I wish’ to heartily commend the character of the bill in so far as it removes any suggestion of an old-age pension being a charitable allowance. Such an idea degrades a system of old-age pensions. T should look upon a person who qualified under this act to receive .a pension as being just as fully entitled to it as is a Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces or the Chief Justice of Great Britain, or of any other part of the Empire, to receive a pension under any other system.

Sir Joseph Cook spoke to the same strain in the following words : -

I regard old-age pensions very much as a form of national annuity given to men who are entitled to demand it as a right and not us an act of mercy or charity. That is the only real basis on which the system can rest.

Mr. Andrew Fisher and other Labour loaders of that time warmly endorsed these views. The Prime Minister, therefore, is not justified in saying that the pension as at present payable is in the nature of a charitable dole. That argument should not be used to shirk the responsibility for shifting the cost of these pensions from the Consolidated Revenue to the workers in industry. In the last six years this Government has remitted taxes to the amount of £26,000,000 to the wealthier classes of the community. I submit that ‘a good deal of that taxation, if not all of it, should have been retained in order to improve the social services provided for our people at large. The Government has not made out a case to warrant any departure from the existing method of providing invalid and old-age pensions, particularly as pensions are payable from similar sources in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, the United States of America and many other countries.

The work of the friendly societies of Australia has been brought under notice during this debate. I have unbounded admiration for the fine service that these organizations are rendering to the whole community. Nothing should be done to jeopardize their position. These societies have done much to develop in the average individual the best instincts of citizenship. No young man wastes his time who joins a friendly society and participates actively in its affairs. Eventually be is a better citizen for so doing. The friendly societies have wielded a tremendous influence for good in the community, and have proved to be a solid foundation upon which the highest standard of citizenship may bc built. Of the 600.000 members of friendly societies in this country about 400,000 are to be included in this national insurance scheme, but, unfortunately, the benefits which flow from the societies to the dependants of their members will cease if the scheme is enacted. In order to estimate the number of persons influenced beneficially by the friendly societies movement throughout Australia, it is necessary to multiply those 600,000 persons by four, representing the family unit adopted for Commonwealth basic wage purposes. Friendly societies are apprehensive as to how they will be affected by this legislation in the future. There is some reason for their apprehension. I hope that the prophecies of certain honorable members, who say that friendly societies will not suffer, will be borne out by the experience of the future. I, personally, believe that approved societies should be confined to the friendly societies and industrial unions of Australia, and that -the big insurance companies of Australia should be excluded from that category. I certainly hope that an amendment along those lines will be carried when the bill is dealt with in committee.

In conclusion, I say that to call this bill a national insurance bill is to misapply the term “ national insurance “, which envisages a much wider field of cover and of benefits to the people. The Government has used a plan in which the ideal of social services has, in substance, been converted into a scheme for removing the present invalid and old-age pensions system from a non-contributory basis to one of contributions from the workers during the whole period of their employment in industry. Iti other words, the Government is desirous of shifting the burden of an invalid and old-age pensions scheme from the backs of the wealthy taxpayers to the shoulders of the working people and their employers. We, as a party, refuse to destroy the principles upon which the Commonwealth system of invalid and old-age pensions lias been established for upwards of 30 years, and we refuse to agree to placing the pension for widowhood on a contributory basis. It should be made a charge on the consolidated revenue. For the reasons I have set out, I believe that the best interests of the community would be served by withdrawing the measure and introducing a more liberal bill free of the many shortcomings of that now before the House.


.-After listening carefully to the speeches of theLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr. Forde) one is forced to the conclusion that the only persons worthy of quoting in connexion with national insurance are those who have led or supported one of the parties on this side of the

House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted the opinions of only two Labour men as authorities on social services, namely, Mr. Andrew Fisher, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). On the other hand he quoted freely from the speeches of Mr. Bruce, the honorable member for Parra-matta (Sir Frederick Stewart), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), Sir Joseph Cook and Sir George Reid, ‘all estimable gentlemen of the political complexion of the parties on this side of the House. From that very aspect of his speech we can gather that the party opposite has contributed little to this important subject. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has once again treated the House to an unfair attack on the United Australia party for its actions in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions. But what are the facts? On four occasions, either the Nationalist party or the United Australia party increased pensions payable to invalid and old-aged persons, whereas Labour’s single legislative act affecting invalid and oldage pensions was to reduce them. Honorable members opposite can bring no member of their party forward as a witness of the good things they have done for the invalid and old-age pensioners. Honorable members opposite have deliberately misrepresented the facts in relation to this bill and have confined their criticism of it to but one issue. They have endeavoured to fasten on to honorable members on this side of the House the charge that they have been responsible for saying that the invalid and old-age pension is a charity. No mention is made of the fact that, apart from the 300,000 men and women now in receipt of old-age. pensions, thousands .of others will be insured under the national insurance scheme, and will participate in its benefits even if, during the whole of their lifetime, they have received a wage of up to £6 a week. Nothing in the bill prevents a man who continues his employment, after reaching the age of 65 years from drawing £1 a week from the national insurance scheme. Honorable members opposite ha%’e practically confined their criticism of the bill to its effect upon those receiving pensions under the existing invalid and old-age pensions legislation.

This unfair attempt to ride upon the backs of the invalid and old-age pensioners has been one of the most outstanding features characterizing this discussion.

The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have deliberately attempted to mislead the House; they know only too well that the bill now before the House represents but the first instalment of a comprehensive programme of national insurance. Before arriving at a decision in regard to this matter, the Government took counsel with certain eminent authorities, with the result that it has been able to introduce a practicable measure which will pave the way .for other schemes. [Quorum formed.] I believe that no scheme of national insurance would be complete unless it covered wives and dependants of contributors, and then only if it were accompanied by a comprehensive unemployment insurance scheme. The United Australia party is the only party that will ever be able to finance and bring to fruition a scheme of national insurance to cover, not only sick benefits, but also benefits for dependent wives and children. I realize, of course, that it has been said on good authority that a sick benefit scheme would be of no value unless it were accompanied by an unemployment insurance scheme, for the simple reason that a large number of persons would apply for sick benefits immediately they lost their employment. The Government must give very serious consideration to that aspect of the matter. If I did not believe that the Government was earnest in. its great desire to help the unemployed of ‘this country, I would not vote for the measure now before the House; but there can be no doubt in the minds of honorable members or of the people generally that the bill now before the House represents a sincere attempt on the part of the Government to tackle this important and far-reaching problem. Let us consider the present position. Of the 1,800,000 employees who are to come under the scheme 400,000 are already members of friendly societies. There could be. added another 400,000 represented by better class mechanics and workmen. That covers in all 800,000 persons’ who will come under the scheme. There are another 1,000,000 who have no right to obtain medical benefits. I ‘believe that as the result of this bill ‘no less than 1,000,000 employees will, for the- first time, be able to look their wives and children in the face and to say: “We are able to call in the doctor when the little one is ill.” At present many of those people are completely unprovided for outside of the State hospitals.. This measure will place health on a federal basis.

To-day we had the spectacle of the youngest member of the party opposite who knows nothing about the law dealing with this matter from a legal point of view, evidently after having been prompted by the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Batman (Mr. Brennan). Those two legal luminaries of the party opposite were, apparently, not anxious to express their legal opinions in regard to the bill, and took advantage of the presence in their party of a mere boy to do what they themselves were not courageous enough to do. Unfortunately, they allowed him almost to make a fool of himself. I do not mind working men standing up for themselves, but I say it is a shame that the legal gentlemen opposite should ask the boy of their party to make irresponsible statements in regard to a great measure such as that now before the House. They have been instrumental in having him disseminate to the working class of this country the “view that the bill is not watertight, and that after employees have paid their subscriptions it is possible that they may secure no benefits. That is the most damnable statement that could be made by one who terms himself a representative of the workers. Honorable members who make irresponsible statements such as that do not represent Labour in this House; they never did. So recreant to their trust are they that if they had the opportunity to put their hands into the public purse, they would do so regardless of the effect on the working classes of the community which they profess to represent. The boy of the Labour party recited legal quotations handed to him by the legal luminaries of his party.

I believe that, when this scheme comes into operation, the people of the smaller

States will realize the benefits to be derived from belonging to a federation, and it will do much to. foster and develop a national outlook.. Honorable members opposite have condemned the scheme because it is contributory in character. I should like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to tell the coalminers in his electorate that he does not believe in the. contributory system in regard to the various relief measures in operation in those districts. He knows that if he were to do so, they would turn him out of this Parliament at the next election, and he would never get back again. Honorable members opposite, with a smug look on their faces, say that the scheme should be non-contributory, and that the whole cost of it should come out of consolidated revenue and the rich men’s pockets. Of course, the plan they advocate is socialism, pure and simple. Any one who advocates the financing of a scheme of this kind out of consolidated revenue is necessarily a socialist. We, on this side of the House, would never agree to the abolition of individual effort in this respect. Honorable members opposite condemn fascism, but they have had very little to say lately about Stalin, who, during the last few years, has been busy destroying the very men who helped him into power. The arguments of the Opposition are unreal, and full of fallacies. On the other hand, the Government, supported by the United Australia party, has enjoyed the confidence of the people throughout the life of four Parliaments, and has proved its ability and sincerity. It is not likely that the people will accept the statements of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to this scheme in preference to those of the Government. We have received the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that, before the present session ends, dependent wives and children will be included in the scheme, together with, small shopkeepers, ‘small employers and small farmers.


– We did not know that.


– Well, I am telling the honorable member now. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was given an assurance by the Treasurer that wives and dependent children would be covered in another bill, which would include also small farmers, shopkeepers and small employers. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was laboring this point this afternoon* he knew that the Government intends to introduce a scheme for wives and dependants.

Honorable members on this side of the House have u very good idea of what is in the best interests of the people they represent. With all due respect to the expert who was brought from England to advise the Government on this scheme, I point out that his proposals, though quite suitable, perhaps, for a country like Great Britain with its congested population, are not necessarily the best possible for Australia. I regret that the Government, or the Treasurer, if he alone is responsible, should have adopted a scheme based so very largely upon the British one. No doubt, the Treasurer is anxious that his scheme should, from the start, be placed on a sound foundation, and run no risk of failing. I believe, however, that when the bill is in committee, it will be altered in certain important particulars. For instance, several honorable members have pointed out that, under clause 50, a man may come under the benefits of the scheme, even for illness arising out of his own misconduct, while a mother, almost immediately after the birth of her child, is placed outside the scope of the scheme altogether. No doubt those objectionable clauses were simply copied from another act, and included without due consideration. They will have to be amended, and nothing will prevent me from voting for their amendment. I am convinced that the Government will be reasonable in this regard. It will not say to honorable members “ Take this or nothing.”

I believe that the friendly societies and provident societies can do all that is necessary under the scheme without invoking the aid of the insurance ‘ companies. Before entering Parliament I was, for 30 years, in n large distributing business, and I gained fi close insight into the operations of the friendly societies and, incidentally, of some of the insurance companies. I am told that already agents of the insurance companies are saying to clients “ Give us another ls. a week for industrial insurance, and by and by we «il] deal with you on a national insur ance basis.” A little while ago, a woman drawing the old-age pension, brought to me three industrial insurance policies, one for 6d. a week, one for ls. a week, and another for ls. 6d. a week, and told me that she was unable to keep up the payments on all of them. I took the matter up with the manager of the company, and asked him whether his agents made any inquiries as to the income of clients before issuing policies. He replied that it was not the business of the company to make such inquiries. I represented to him that the woman could pay ls. 6d. a week, but could not pay 3s. a week, and asked him what he could do about it. The manager practically told me to mind my own business, but as I am not the kind of man who is easily turned aside, he eventually decided to pay the money contributed on the third policy over to the other two, and allow the woman to continue paying at the rate of ls. 6d. a week. The insurance companies have been doing very well in the past. They have been charging high premiums, and earning high interest on their money. They have piled up huge reserves so that the Government is justified in saying to them, “ Carry on with your legitimate work, and continue to contribute your hundreds of thousands to public loans, but we do not want you in our national insurance scheme.” As I have said, the friendly societies are well qualified to do the work. In th.e past, they have confined their activities to providing medical benefits, and funeral expenses. I know many of the men holding executive positions in the friendly societies, and they are capable of doing the work efficiently. There is no reason why the Government should^ grease the fatted pig any further by handing over business of this character to the insurance companies.

As for medical benefits, I do not think that the Government should hold itself bound by an agreement if it can be proved that the agreement was entered into under a misapprehension. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the half-dozen gentlemen who negotiated the agreement on behalf of the British Medical Association were not qualified to speak for town and country doctors alike. I agree that a tribunal should be set up consisting of doctors and representatives of the Government, with an independent chairman, which would be charged with the duty of devising a scheme to give efficient service to the poorer sections of the community, ft is essential that mothers and children should have the best medical attention possible if Australia is to continue to have a virile population. It would be fatal to put anything into this bill that would react to the physical detriment of the nation. I urge the Government, and those who advise it in this matter, to recognize that the conditions in Australia are quite different from those obtaining in Great Britain, and that with all our wealth, and our comparatively small population, there should be no difficulty in establishing a scheme of national insurance, of which our people may well be proud. To show the changed outlook on social insurance in Great Britain, I quote the following statement published in the National Insurance Gazette of the 29th April, 1937 :-

Two American doctors were here last year for some time studying the medical services in this country, and in particular the Health Insurance medical service. They sent out a questionnaire to a certain number of the working class, and I think it would be worth while giving you briefly the results of that examination. Over two-thirds of the replies that came in were in favour of an increase in sickness benefits and dependants’ benefits and were prepared to pay for it. Rather more than two-thirds were in favour of extending medical benefit to dependants and were prepared to pay for it. It is gratifying to all of us to find that only 2.5 per cent, were unfavorable to health insurance; over S3 per cent, spoke highly of it.

The fact should not be overlooked that 1,000,000 Australians go into hospital every year. People hesitate to take their children to private medical men at the present time, because of the cost. The Government should ensure that the scheme now contemplated will be successfully established, in order that parents, irrespective of their financial circumstances, may be able to raise healthy families worthy of this great Commonwealth.

Provision should be made for the physical and mental development of the young people of Australia. In New South “Wales, clubs have been formed by police officers, who devote their spare time to the physical training of youths. I am informed that whilst, perhaps, twelve youthful delinquents formerly appeared in the Sydney courts every week, only one case a month is now heard. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition reminded the House that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) and others had drawn attention to the necessity for the passage of such legislation as would give encouragement to the production of a strong and virile race by providing the means by which the people generally might resist the inroads of sickness and disease. The healthier the people are, the wealthier they will become. I hope that at the committee stage the clauses of the bill that are objectionable will be appropriately amended, and that, before the present Parliamentary sittings are concluded, provision will be made for medical attention for the wives and dependants of contributors.

Unemployment insurance .must eventually be effected on a national basis, but in this regard honorable members opposite speak with their tongues in their cheeks. The honorable member for Griffith. (Mr. Baker) knows that one of the obstacles to be surmounted in providing for a national scheme is the fact that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, regards the system of unemployment insurance in operation in that State as better than a. federal one. The Government, made sure that this bill was not ultra vires the Constitution. It is interesting to note that, although the legal luminaries of the Labour party, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mt. Blackburn), did not question the constitutionality of the measure, it remained for the youngest member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), to question the power of this Parliament to pass it.

Sitting suspended from 6.10 to 8 p.m


.- No country abreast of civilization can be without a scheme of national insurance, and, judged on that standard, Australia is the most retrogressive country of the world to-day. I shall proceed later to prove that contention.

With the changing conditions in the world to-day, it is obvious that no one can say what lies ahead of civilization. Whereas, a few years ago, Europe was almost a continent of kingdoms - Prance was the only republic - to-day the only kingdoms remaining are Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and the three Scandinavian countries, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Thrones have tottered. When France dispensed with Court pomp, it became a democracy, but, strangely, the only other democracies in Europe to-day are in the countries which are still kingdoms. The European republics - apart from France - about twenty of them, are either totalitarian units in the bauds of dictators or are tending that way. The condition of affairs that operates arises from the fact that unemployment is rife in countries that formerly considered themselves to he prosperous. When, in 1927, 1 was in the United States of America it was one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and the boast of its government was that the problem of unemployment had been solved. Every nian had a full dinner pail; every man had employment and it seemed that the speeding-up machines and methods of capitalism had brought more work and wealth to the labour employed. Yet, in the United States of America to-day, there are 1 3,000,000 unemployed, notwithstanding the fact that President Roosevelt and his so-called “ brain trust “ have made sincere efforts and expended large sums of money to provide employment in order to keep the United States “ of America from revolution.

The condition of the world to-day was, strange to say, forecast 70 years ago, not by an orthodox economist, but by a man who was not accepted in orthodox circles of economists at that time. His forecast was that England would not be allowed by other countries to remain as it was then, the workshop of the world. He pointed out that, whilst Great Britain was then enjoying the position of being able to export its manufactures to other countries, those other countries would themselves enter into the field and send their surplus of goods to other countries. He said that this theory of “ surplus value “, that is to say, the capitalistic system, would expand. As the result of the fact that the workers of each country are not reaping the full value of their production, those countries have to export the surplus value. Everything was happy for England so .long as it stood alone as a manufacturing country, but when the United States of America and then Germany, with its protective policy recommended by the great German economist, Frederik Liszt, joined issue with it, things were not so good. For a while, these countries competed for the markets in China and Japan and other countries which were not highly developed, but, eventually, those markets were closed because, those countries themselves took up manufacturing. The result has been the development of a tremendous army of unemployed persons in all countries. I frankly admit that I do not see any immediate way out of the difficulty. Russia, in theory, has reached the stage at which it employs the. whole of its people, but, in my opinion, Russia is still in the experimental stage. It has to prove that the amount that was set aside to pay the capitalistic profit in the past will not now be absorbed in overhead charges of checking up and management. The governments of other countries are forced to adopt some method of insuring the people against the ravages of .unemployment. Great Britain recognized the need to do something of that kind as long ago as 1911.

Thirty year3 ago, Australia was looked upon with hope. There were great democrats in it and the people were proud of the fact that they formed a democratic community. Thirty years ago, the Bulletin stood for democracy. We all remember the “democracy of the Bulletin” of those days.


– There is no democracy about it now.


– -Never mind what it is now. Like every other big newspaper, it has got into the hands of ‘the big interests. At that time, wonderful things were done by mcn who were sincere and untrammelled by the fears which characterize the present Government. I am not making any charges, but it could not survive if it became a democratic government. If it did, it would be forced out of office by the big interests, and would be replaced by one subservient to their behests. As the result of the control which is exercised by those interests Australia to-day, instead of being 30 years ahead, is 25 years behind most of the countries in Europe. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), in an address to the Constitutional Association in 1936, said -

The living wage was of such a character that it was not possible for the worker to provide for daily and weekly needs as well as to make provision for contingencies. ff that does not suggest that the honorable member then had in mind a noncontributory insurance scheme, I do not know the meaning of English.

The following table sets out when the various countries which have introduced national insurance brought their schemes of unemployment into operation : -

We are apt to think of the Bulgarians sis people who are still in the dark ages -

Whatever may be said about Mr. Lang, wc must recognize that he was ahead of the rest of Australia when he had the legislature of New South Wales adopt a scheme providing for pensions for widows and their defendants -

Russia is one of the few countries in Europe in which no contribution is made by the beneficiaries towards the cost of the scheme. I .think there are two other countries, Spain where they must be having a bad time operating it, “ and Denmark -

I have cited these examples to show that Australia lags ‘far behind and is no longer :the enlightened community that it was.

I Now we have before us this measure which is called the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. I admit that it . is a start’, but I am doubtful whether it can be regarded as an instalment. I think that for this Government it is the start and finish. Mr. Bruce, in the course of his policy speech thirteen years ago, said -

It is to be recognized that even under the conditions existing in Australia the wages of our workers are not sufficient to enable them to safeguard themselves against sickness, unemployment and old age.

He went on to say that the Government proposed to introduce legislation for a national scheme of social insurance and added -

As soon as the further report on unemployment is received, we shall legislate on such lines as will enable the worker to be insured against the most deadly causes of his necessity and unrest.

He was not going to make a start until the .report on unemployment was to hand. The Government of the day appointed a royal commission, of which I was a member, to investigate these proposals. The honorable member for Parramatta taunted me the other evening, in the course of an otherwise excellent speech, with having signed the report which recommended the adoption of a contributory scheme. I point out that the scheme then recommended .made provision for benefits in respect of sickness, invalidity, maternity and superannuation. That was the first report. There were later reports, which made recommendations in respect of unemployment and other matters. Indeed, one report suggested the nationalization of medical services and medicines. The Labour members of that commission signed the report, not under duress, but in the belief that the then Government would adopt a much better scheme than that now proposed by the present Government thirteen years later.

I shall proceed to deal with the recommendations then made. The first recommendation was that there should be a payment of 30s. a week to all adults, irrespective of sex - not one of -20s. to man and 15s. to women - in respect of sickness, and a further payment of 5s. a week in respect of each dependent child up to the age of sixteen years - not 3s. 6d. a week up to fifteen years of- age, as is now proposed. The next recommendation was thai there should: be a sickness benefit of 20s. a week to insured members under 21 years of age. The recommendation in respect of invalidity was for a payment of 20s. a week. This Government proposes that the benefit under this heading shall be 15s. in respect of men and 12s. 6d. in respect of women, with 3s. 6d. in respect of each child up to the age of fifteen years. Non-Labour members formed the majority of that commission. This royal commission suggested that a maternity benefit of 20s. a week should bo payable for a period of two weeks prior to and four weeks after the confinement of a female insured member, or the wife of an insured member. Under the present proposal, no provision is made for pre-natal or postnatal care. The commission also recommended that there should be a superannuation benefit of 20s. a week, payable to male insured members after attainment of the age of 65 years, and to female insured members after attainment of the age of 60 years. Under the present proposal a male insured member is to receive 20s. a week after he reaches the age of 65 years and a female insured member 15s. a week from the age of 60 years onwards. Therefore, the proposal of the royal commission was infinitely in advance of the present proposal. The honorable member for Parramatta has referred to my attitude towards this measure. As I have stated previously, the royal commission of which I was a, member made recommendations not only in respect of sickness, permanent invalidity, maternity and old-age, hut also in respect of unemployment. We thought (hat that was at least a decent instalment. I regret that no Government has since taken action along those lines. In respect of unemployment, the commission suggested the creation of an unemployment council, consisting of representatives of the Government, employers’ organizations, and trade unions, to establish and supervise a national scheme of employment; and of bureaux to supervise private, labour exchanges, to collect statistical’ data as to unemployment, to inquire as to the causation of unemployment, to cooperate with private employers, government departments, and medical authori- ties, in an endeavour to provide employment, and to co-operate with education departments in instituting effective technical training. Nothing was done. Then, in 1928, Sir Earle Page,, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth in the Bruce-Page Government, introduced a national insurance bill, which provided for compulsory insurance against sickness, accident, permanent disability, death, or old age. That proposal included provision for allowances in respect of widows, orphans, and other children. Like Mr. Bruce had done earlier, the right honorable member for Cowper then emphasized the inability of the worker to make provision against sickness and the like, but no proposal was brought forward to deal with insurance against unemployment, despite the definite promise of the then Prime Minister and the recommendation of the royal commission in 1926, which read -

That a system of insurance against unemployment be instituted, to meet those risks which are found to be unavoidable, and where assistance to necessitous cases is warranted.

Concluding his second-reading speech on the bill, Sir Earle Page said -

Members will recognize and appreciate the honest effort of the Government to contribute a practical proposal for the banishment of that grim spectre of want and misery that has too long haunted our sick and our aged.

The Government then referred the problem of unemployment to the Development and Migration Commission for investigation, and expressed the hope that that investigation would lead to satisfactory results. Reference to the matter is to be found in Hansard of the 14th April, 192S. The bill was not further proceeded with, although the right honorable member for Cowper had’ boasted that the soundness of the schemewas guaranteed by three prominent actuaries. How honest the effort wascan be gauged by the fact that successivegovernments of the same political “complexion have since continued to evade thegiving of assistance to those who, it was then admitted, are not able to help themselves. The workers have asked forbread, and in this measure they are toreceive a stone,

In 1935 the honorable member forParramatta, then Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment, submitted’. a report on national insurance. Mr. S. Bennett, Government Statistician in Western Australia - a most excellent officer - and Mr. F. F. Innes actuary of the Australian Mutual’ Provident Society, also submitted reports on the subject, but the governmnent of the day decided that it was insufficiently informed, and brought to Australia two British experts in the persons of Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. G. H. Ince, to furnish a further report. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), in an attempt to justify the dallying attitude of the Government, informed a representative of the Melbourne Age that “ it was dealing with the matter as rapidly as it could, consistent with accurate investigation and proper judgment.” Mr. Ince was specially brought out with Sir Walter Kinnear to report on unemployment, and his visit cost the Commonwealth about £3,000. He furnished an excellent report, in which be placed before the Government three alternatives from which it could make a selection, but no action has been taken, and I believe that the matter will be neglected by this Government if it remains in office for a considerable time to come.

It is true that New Zealand has had an experience almost identical with that of Australia. Many years ago the Commonwealth was well served by the late MY. Andrew Fisher, who was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, and who associated his party with the late Mr. Alfred Deakin in the initiation of an invalid and oldage pensions scheme. In passing, I may say that, although legislative provision was made for them, invalid pensions were not actually brought into’ operation until a government led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher was returned to power. That Government also established munition works, with the object of dissipating in Australia the fear of munitions being manufactured by private contractors, a practice which had had disastrous effects in Europe. A clothing factory for the manufacture of military garments was established with the same object in view. But after the Fisher Administration there was retrogression. To-day, the Commonwealth Bank is not able to provide cheap money in this country.


– Order ! I ask the honorable member to deal with the bill.


– In New Zealand there was a period of retrogression after the Seddon Government had gone out of office, hut lately there has been a revival. That is because a Labour Government has come into power. It is interesting to compare the benefits proposed under the New Zealand national insurance scheme with those proposed under this scheme. Funds are to be raised under the NewZealand scheme not only by contributions from employers and employees, but also by means of a social security fund, estimated to provide £17,000,000 each year, created by an employment and wages tax of from 3d. to ls. in the £1, which will affect the whole community. Additional revenue is to be obtained by the transference of a quarterly employment tax of 5s. to be imposed in certain cases, to the Social Security Fund. Provision is also made for a £ for £ subsidy by the Government. An unemployment tax is already in operation in New Zealand. It was introduced by a government in 1933, but has been ineffective. The Social Security Fund visualized by the Savage Government carries the same title as that established by the Roosevelt Administration in the United States of America. In that country, as honorable members are well aware, a policy of laissez faire operated for a very long time. It was a case of every man for himself and the “deil tak the hindmost”. America was at one time regarded as a haven by the poorer classes of people in Europe, but the political leaders of the nation have now come to realize that, unless some sound scheme of social insurance is provided, the country will quickly reach the verge of revolution.

The New Zealand scheme provides for free medical, hospital, and nursing services for every person in the community. Under the scheme of the Commonwealth bill even the wife and children of an insured person are disregarded. Under the New Zealand scheme, orphans will receive a pension of “15s. a week until they reach the age of 16. Our bill provides only 7s. 6d. for orphans until they reach the age of 15. The New Zealand scheme provides an old-age pension of 22s. 6d. a week for male and female alike, upon reaching the age of 60 years. The rate is increased to 30s. a week at 65 years. The income of the pensioner must not exceed £1 per week. Under the Commonwealth scheme., the old-age pension is only 20s. a week for males and 15s. a week for females and the pensioners may earn only 12s. 6d. a week. It will be seen, therefore, that the plan of the Savage Labour Government is -much more effective than the plan put forward by the Commonwealth Government. The New Zealand and Australian proposals of this kind may be compared in this way because the aggregate wealth of each country is enormous and the living conditions are similar. Under the New Zealand scheme, widows are to receive a pension of 25s. a week, and orphans under the age of 16, are to have an allowance of 4s. a week each. Under our scheme the widows’ pension is to bc only 15s. a week and the allowance for each child is to be only 3s. a week and to continue only until the orphan reaches the age of 15 years. Childless widows under the New Zealand scheme are to receive 20s. a week. Free maternity treatment is also to be provided under the New Zealand scheme, and in necessitous cases a grant for clothes for infants is to be made. No provision of that kind is made in our bill. The. invalid pension under the New Zealand scheme is 30s. a week. Under the Commonwealth scheme the disablement benefit is 15s. only for males and 12s. 6d. a week for females. Single persons will be allowed an income of £1 a week, and married persons an income of 30s. a week in New Zealand. Under ‘our scheme the disablement pension will be 15s. a week for men and 12s. 6d. a week for’ women,, although the present invalid pension is at the rate of £1 a week. The benefits proposed under national insurance schemes elsewhere are far in excess of those proposed under this billMr. Thompson. - The New Zealand scheme is not in operation yet.


– It is to become operative next April. Judging by the noise that supporters of the Government are . malting about this bill it will have to be altered considerably before it will be acceptable.

The Government of the United States of America was practically forced to pass the Social Security Act in 1935. Oldage pensions, or benefits as they are called, are provided under that measure at a rate varying from 10 dollars (approximately £2) to 85 dollars (approximately £17) a month. Last year the scheme wad extended to provide for lump sum payments to pensioners on reaching the age of 65 years, if a person’s wages from “ included employment “ after 1936 and before reaching the age of 65 years totalled at least 2,000 dollars. This benefit is calculated at the rate of onehalf of one per cent, on the first 2,000 dollars and up to 3,000 dollars. If the amount is ‘more than 3,000 dollars, the monthly payments will be half of one per cent, of the first 3,000 dollars plus one-twelfth of 1 per cent, of any amount over 3,000 dollars up to 45,000 dollars, and on a similar rising scale as the income increases. No more than 3,000 dollars may be counted in any one year as wages. Unemployment compensation is also provided under the Social Security Act, in the operation of. which there is co-operation between the State governments and the Federal Government: Provision is made in thatact for grants to the States for the purpose of unemployment relief. This instance might be compared tq the assistance provided by the Commonwealth Government to the State Governments for the relief of unemployment.


– The honorable member may not discuss unemployment insurance.


– I do not wish to be unfair to the Government. It is easy for a measure of this description to be discussed in a party spirit. I shall try to avoid’ that error. But I say at once that I cannot help thinking that the purpose of the Government in introducing this bill is not so much to provide a measure of national insurance as to oblige the workers in industry to make a substantial contribution towards the provision of pensions for their old’ age. The table- given- on- page 11 of the actuarial report on the financial- provisions of this bill indicates that in 1939 the cost of our invalid and old-age pensions, under the existing legislation, will be £16,250,000. By 1978 the figure will have risen to £32,150,000. The Government proposes, however, that the contributions under the scheme of this bill will be on such a basis as to oblige the workers to make a substantial contribution towards their pensions by that time. The total payments under both the existing pensions legislation and the scheme of this bill will amount in 1978 to £43,100,000. Of that amount, £17,800,000 will be incurred under the existing invalid and old-age pensions legislation, which is actually only £1,550,000 in excess of the present cost of invalid and old-age pensions. By 1.978 the employers and employees will be required to pay an amount of £14,350,000 towards the cost of pensions, and the workers on the lowest rung of the ladder will pay considerably more than £7,1 25,000 of this sum. the exact figures are somewhat difficult to calculate, because we cannot accurately estimate the’ growth of our population. Unquestionably, however, the Government contemplates obliging the workers, and particularly the poorer paid workers, to shoulder a substantial part of the cost of the pensions that will be payable to them.

The Labour party opposes this bill, first, because -

It seeks to place upon a contributory basis, the payment of pensions for old age, invalidity and widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right, without the exaction of individual contributions.

That was proposed by the royal commission which reported on this subject in 1926. We oppose the bill also, because -

It provides unequal benefits for men and women.

I have shown that this provision is absent from the national insurance measures of some other countries. We also oppose it, because -

It fails to provide medical benefits for the wives and children of contributors.

Further comment on that point is unnecessary. We oppose the bill, too, because -

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 con tinued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render.

I was closely associated with the work of friendly societies for many years. I know the way in which they conduct their business. Many members of friendly societies surrender pleasures enjoyed by other members of the community, such as nights out at the pictures, and the like, in order that they may devote their attention to coping with the problems of sickness and the provision of medical benefits. This work is of vital consequence to the poorer sections of the community. The people engaged in this public service are, in a sense, idealists, and their valuable work should be recognized by the Government. “ Approved societies “ should be limited to friendly societies, plus a few trade unions which, in the past, have provided medical benefits for their members. However I must say that I do not believe in trade unions providing .medical benefits as part of their regular work. In saying this I do not wish to cross swords with members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers who, for the last 50 years, have been doing effective work of this kind in the Old Country. * [Leave l.o continue given.]*

But I do not think that the intrusion of trade unions providing medical benefits in the category of approved societies will cramp the operations of friendly societies very much. I seriously question the wisdom of including insurance companies in that category. I believe in insurance as such; I recognize that it offers a reasonably safe investment for those in receipt of steady salaries; but we must not forget that during the last depression of the large number of people who had been employed on casual work and who, as the result of the chaotic conditions which then existed, lost their employment, many were forced to surrender insurance policies for a very low surrender value and, in other cases, where the amount paid in was only small, many were forced to allow their policies to lapse without receiving anything back by way of compensation. During the period 1927-1932, 1.500,000 life assurance policies representing a total insured value of £175,000,000 were surrendered, for the most part without any payment being made in return. I have no intention of entering into a dissertation on life insurance at this stage; I merely content myself by saying that life insurance companies have done good work in their own way, but that it would be unwise to include them in the category of approved societies for the purposes of this bill. That applies particularly to companies operating on the non-mutual basis. To include many of these companies in that category will give them an opportunity to extend perhaps still further the rotten system of industrial insurance that has been exposed so openly and so fearlessly in Victoria. I do not blame the insurance companies for continuing the system of industrial insurance; it was started years ago by certain companies and others have had to fall into line. Industrial insurance is a form of so-called protection that appeals to the poorest people in the community; people are induced to insure their children for ls. a week so that they may be assured of a certain amount upon attaining their majority. It has been proved by honorable members in this House that the ultimate return from insurance of this kind represents only about 10s. in the £. In these circumstances, friendly societies will be hurt by this bill in some directions. Their position could be improved by giving them the major part of the approved society work under this scheme.

I desire briefly to voice some objections held by honorable members on this side of the House to the bill. We object to its limitation to employees; we say that it should include small farmers and small shopkeepers.

Mr Makin:

– There is no reason why it should not include everybody.


– That is so; there is no reason why its provisions should not be as liberal as are those of the New Zealand legislation. We object to the scheme because it does not provide for insurance of the unemployed or of casual workers. That is the worst feature of the bill; people who need the benefits most get nothing. We object to the bill because it does not provide for medical treatment for wives and families. We object also to the sex distinction evidenced in lower pensions and medical benefits to females. In this respect the bill follows the English scheme; it disregards the recommendations of the royal commission of 1925. We object to the bill because it imposes a class taxation, restricted to employers and employees, the bondholders and the landlords going free. It is said to be a national scheme. Why not make it nation-wide? We object to the taxation of employees for accidents incidental to industry. Industry itself should be responsible for such accidents. Wo object to the failure of the bill to regard sickness as a national responsibility. The sooner we begin to accept medical treatment as a national responsibility, the sooner we will he in line with advanced countries in other parts of the world. We object to the shelving of an unemployment scheme as recommended by the Royal Commission on National Insurance in 1925. This matter was grappled with in England even in 1911.


– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.


– It is of no use for the Government to say that this bill is an instalment of a more comprehensive scheme, and that the rest will come later. A full insurance scheme has been promised since 1925. A number of adjustments are necessary, such as hospital payments made by employees to established funds, and provision for employees such as those engaged in banks, and others who participate in welfare schemes under the terms of their employment. Finally, 1 object to the bill because not one average worker in ten will ever be able to draw the old-.age pension under the scheme. Many of them will not be employed long enough to keep themselves financial. How can a man over 55 years of age expect to secure a job in industry to-day when thousands of young fellows are still unemployed? What chance is there of a grey-haired man securing employment in competition with young virile and eager young men? That reminds me of a story told by John Foster Fraser, who wrote a book called America at Work. When he visited a large iron mill at Pittsburgh, in the United States of America, similar to Lysaght’s or the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works, he said to the foreman, “ Where are the men over 40?” The foreman neglected to reply. Finally when he got outside he said again, “ Where are the men over 40?” When pressed to reply, the foreman said, “ Come in the car with me; we shall go to the cemetery”.


.- 1. cannot rise to speak about this bill without first paying a tribute to the work put in on it by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and his advisers. I do not think any one who has listened to the Treasurer’s explanatory speech in this House and to his explanatory speeches outside, could fail to be impressed with the tremendous amount of detailed knowledge be has of every phase of this bill, not only what is in the bill itself, but also the objections that are apt to be raised and the difficulties of administration that are apt to be encountered in the future. Whatever the Treasurer’s political future may be, 1 am sure that one of his proudest recollections will be the work he has put in on this measure. I think he is also to be congratulated upon the men whom he co-opted to help him prepare the bill, Sir Walter Kinnear, Professor Brigden, and their assistants. It has been suggested by some honorable members opposite that it was in some way a slight to Australians that experts should have been co-opted from the United Kingdom to assist us. t believe it would have been a very great reflection upon our intelligence as a nation if we had not been prepared to avail ourselves of the benefit of the lifetime experience of those gentlemen. Australia and this Parliament have every reason to be grateful to them. ‘ The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) very accurately described the bill as a courageous measure. I feel that one must admire the courage which has been shown by the Treasurer in bringing forward this bill at a time when he is faced with the necessity for finding funds for a greatly increased defence expenditure, expenditure of such imperative necessity, that if one had wished to shirk anything it would have provided a very adequate excuse for doing so. The Treasurer has shown his sincerity and courage by refusing to shelve a difficult measure with possible political repercussions and to tackle this problem as well as many other great problems of the moment. No one can pretend that this bill is a great votecatching measure; those who will receive benefits under it will very naturally consider the benefits only what every individual in a modern state has the right to expect ; but those who will have to bear the burden of it and the considerable pinpricks resulting from it will, if they are human, be inclined to place them at the door of the Government responsible for introducing the bill. I think that this bill is not one that will bring popularity to any one, and, therefore, I admire the courage of the Government in going ahead with it at the present time.

This measure, from two viewpoints, is, I think, a very welcome stride towards social betterment in this country. Any one who has had anything to do with our old-age pensions scheme, particularly members of this House, who know the limitations that are of necessity in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will welcome the fact that many of these limitations will be overcome by this national insurance measure. It is a deplorable thing to encounter over and over again old people who, after a lifetime of saving, find that they are ineligible for the old-age pension. Many of those who have been thrifty all their lives find themselves at the age of 65 years in a less satisfactory financial position than those who have never saved a penny. Therefore, I welcome this bill for the encouragement it will give to thrift, and, what is more important, the fact that it will remove the handicap that has been placed on thrift in the past. Although this is called a Health and Pensions Bill, it is not primarily a health measure, but rather a bill to provide insurance against the economic hardships of ill health. There is no doubt of the great benefit that will be brought to many citizens in this respect, but I suggest also that, although the bill aims to do away with the hardships of ill health, it must ako have some beneficial effect on the national health itself. All medical men agree that the majority of cases of serious ill health, even including those arising from tuberculosis and cancer, could have been cured if brought to them in the early stages. The great majority of people in poor circumstances refrain from calling in a doctor until the very last moment, and then it. is very often too late. Under this scheme, many serious eases of illness will be diagnosed in the early stages, and cures effected. In that way the health of the nation will benefit.

It is very easy for honorable members to suggest amendments to the bill to provide benefits for contributors’ dependants, and benefits for small farmers, shopkeepers and business men in receipt of small incomes. I quite agree that those benefits, in due course, must be provided by some means or other, but I commend to the notice of honorable members the statement of the’ Treasurer that this bill is only an instalment of health and old-age insurance. We must bear that in mind, not as an apology for the Government, but as an argument for starting the scheme on a sound basis. We must remember that, in due course, it will be necessary to extend the scope of national insurance to provide unemployment insurance. I do not wish to debate the necessity for that, but honorable members, and the public generally, should bear in mind that unemployment insurance must necessarily follow when an agreement can be reached between the Commonwealth and State governments. If we do not place the health and old-age insurance scheme on a sound basis to begin with, its extension to cover unemployment will be delayed for decades. We must also keep in the back of our minds the fact that there are other social betterment schemes upon which we must embark as early as possible. We must inaugurate a really national health scheme - not just a health insurance scheme - because it is admitted that health is becoming more and more a matter which cannot be left wholly to the States, but must be tackled by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States. In due course, education also must be placed upon a national basis, if only for the reason that the States have not the. financial means to attend to it themselves in the way in which every thinking person knows it should be done.

A question which is uppermost in the minds of every one who considers this matter is how the bill will affect the friendly societies, which have rendered, are rendering, and, I feel sure, will continue to render, such wonderful service to the community. It is quite natural that those connected with the societies, and, indeed, the people generally, should be nervouslest the scheme should in some way undermine the societies. It is proper they should send representatives here to put their point of view before members, and to explain possible dangers which the Treasurer himself and his advisers may have overlooked. I desire to express my appreciation of the splendid way in which the representatives of the friendly societies have put their case. The energy, plus moderation and propriety, with which they have stated their case is an exemplary lesson to many other lobbyists who frequent the precincts of this House. The major point worrying the friendly societies is that they will be left with one of the more difficult phases of their activities, that of providing for dependants of insured persons, while they will meet competition in other respects from sources not previously associated with this form of voluntary work. Their concern is natural, and we should pay attention to it. As far as I can understand the matter, the attitude of the friendly societies to these proposals has been misrepresented by many speakers in this House. I have heard several honorable members opposite say that the friendly societies are wholly opposed to the bill. In my opinion, that statement is most unfair to those representatives of the societies to whom I have spoken. All of them have made it quite clear to me that they are not opposed to the bill. They have stated that their societies have for a long time considered it essential that a national insurance scheme should be introduced, for the reason that a large percentage of our population, including many of those who need these benefits most, cannot be persuaded to provide for themselves as members of the societies have done. The fact remains that, under the scheme, the societies are being left with a very necessarybut difficult part of the work, namely, that of providing benefits for the dependants of members, and in this respect they are entitled to some assistance. I was glad to hear that the Treasurer had evolved a scheme by which he considers it possible to give considerable assistance to the societies to enable them to continue this branch of their activities. In this regard, the scheme must be extended to cover also the dependants of farmers and business men whose incomes are not higher than the income of those who are included as wage earners in the scheme. If that is done, I am strongly in favour of the proposal’.

My first reaction to the suggestion that mutual assurance societies should be excluded from setting up approved societies was that the request was an entirely reasonable one, but, having gone into the matter more fully, I see that it would not be right for the Government to grant the request. Mutual assurance societies have also provided a valuable service for the people of Australia.

Mr Rosevear:

– At a. good profit.


– The bulk of the societies doing this work do not make any profit at all in the way usually understood, because policy-holders receive whatever profit is made out of the activities of the societies. These societies, like the friendly societies, feel that, temporarily at any rate, the national insurance scheme may cut into their ordinary work, and that they have, therefore, some claim to be included. Moreover, they are in a position to render u real service to the community in some spheres which the friendly’ societies may not be able to cope with. The scheme has to be administered, not only in the cities and closely settled areas, but also in the outback districts, in many of which the only organization of the kind is’ the mutual assurance society. Therefore, these societies should be included in the scheme. It is undesirable that a government department should be set up to do the work which the approved societies are unable to undertake, but, if such a department has to be established, it should be as limited as possible: It has been urged against the inclusion of mutual societies that, with their organization and agencies, they would be able to give service which the friendly societies could not give, and make them a serious rival of the benefit societies; but, looking at the matter from the point of view of the public, I do not consider that that can be accepted as an argument in favour of their exclusion. Therefore, I think that the Government has no alternative but to make the range of approved societies as wide as possible. It is, however, essential that the conditions under which approved . societies operate should be as strict as possible, so that these bodies will be conducted on lines as sound as those on which friendly societies and trade unions have conducted their benefit schemes in the past. On one question, I should like the Treasurer to give the House some information at a later stage. I have been told that, under the British act, on which the present bill is modelled, ministers of religion are excluded from the national insurance- scheme. If they are excluded from the -benefits of this bill, something should bo done to bring them in because, unfortunately, many ministers of religion in Australia receive payment that is less than the wage limit fixed under this measure.

Various bodies have suggested that they should not be brought within the scope of the scheme, chiefly on the ground that they have made adequate insurance provision by other means. Some honorable members have been inundated by letters from such bodies. I have had a limited number of communications, and those received are from the officials of the Bank of New South Wales and the followers of Father Devine. The officials of the Bank of New South Wales contend that they have no need to avail themselves of this scheme, because of the adequate provision, made under the bank’s own superannuation scheme. I agree with them that they have little to gain under this bill, but, with adequate management of the affairs of their members, they have nothing to lose. It is significant that I have heard of no official of any other ‘bank who has protested to a member of this House against this scheme. The bank officials whom I have consulted have told me that they have little to gain personally, but that it will be a simple matter -to fit this scheme in with their own superannuation provisions. They realize that, if the national insurance scheme is to ‘be actuarially sound, it must embrace the sheltered classes of workers as well as those in less sheltered occupations. The lack of protests by the great majority of the officials of the trading banks is a tribute to their sense of fairness. I do not suggest that the officials of the Bank of New South Wale3 are any less worthy individuals than those of the other associated banks, but the very large number of protests - I believe 100 per cent, in the case of the Treasurer’s electorate - that have come from the officials of this particular bank suggests that they have received orders from head-quarters.

I fear that I am rather vague about the claims of the followers of Father Devine, who, I understand, is a negro gentleman in the United States of America; but, as these people have protested to me, it is my duty to air their protests in Parliament. They say that their religious scruples convince them that they would be showing a lamentable lack of confidence in the Deity if they made provision for old-age or illness. I am not sufficient of a theologian to say whether that attitude is correct; but, as I find that the majority of the churches of which I have more knowledge consider that it is right and proper for their own clergy to make provision against all contingencies, I think it is not unfair to suggest that the followers of Father Devine should be placed on the same basis as the members of other religious bodies. However, I submit this claim to the Treasurer and the House.

Another matter which is of pressing concern to all of us is the effect of this scheme on the medical profession. If it should impose a financial hardship on any considerable number of the members of that profession, it would be unfair and disastrous for the whole of our community. Lf it should result in any slipshod methods being imposed on any section of the profession it would be equally disastrous, but I do not think there is any likelihood of that. Personally I regard it as well nigh impossible for members of this House to form a reliable judgment upon the way this bill will affect the medical profession. Even those protesting against the measure must admit that they are not themselves certain how it will affect them. The statement has been made by the executive of the British Medical Association that it considers the capitation fee to be fair. On the other hand, very reliable doctors have claimed that it is not fair. I have heard protests from men in my own electorate, for whose opinions I have the highest regard, yet I have been told by country doctors, and by doctors practising in industrial areas, that this scheme will be of considerable financial benefit to them. Therefore I think that it is impossible now to say exactly what will be a fair thing in this regard. I consider -that some fee should be agreed upon now, and that a board of observers should be appointed to note how the scheme affects medical practitioners when it is in actual operation. A year hence, or at the end of some other period considered adequate, the position should be reviewed in the light of data collected by the board, which could be composed of a representative of the medical profession, an accountant, and a legal man.

In regard to two other ways in which medical men may be affected by this scheme I have more fixed ideas. Human nature being what it is, medical practitioners will probably have a great number of night calls which are not justified, merely because an unfortunate doctor can be dragged out at no expense to the contributor, and because at night a person’s courage is at its lowest point. Some penalty provision should be made to guard against medical men being summoned at night on frivolous grounds, and particularly against their being required to motor long distances at night or any other time to cases that are not urgent, or to patients who could easily consult the doctor during his ordinary consulting hours.

This is not a suitable time to discuss other details of the measure which have been mentioned in the debate ; these can best be thrashed out in committee. After all, the bill represents only a first stride, but it is essential that it should be a stride in the right direction. If it is found necessary to increase the contributions, or if the scheme is proved to impose an undue load upon the finances of the country, its extension may be delayed for years; unemployment insurance will be put back for decades, and other measures of social betterment for genera- tiona. Therefore, tlie first step should be a sound step along the path of social betterment.


.- I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and his helpers, Sir Walter Kinnear and Professor Brigden, on the excellent work that they have done on the preparation of this great bill. It must be gratifying to them to know that even if the bill in its present shape does not appeal to many honorable members, this House is unanimous that a scheme of this kind is needed in Australia. An immense number of people, about 2,000,000, will receive a form of social service under this long-delayed measure. A bill relating to national insurance was first introduced in this Parliament by Sir Earle Page in 1928, when he was Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Ministry. The Government was defeated when the bill had been taken to the second-reading stage. Then Australia was swept into the depression and for that reason, and other reasons, no further steps were taken. Since the defeat of the Bruce-Page Government and until very recently no Australian government could have been in a position to finance a scheme of the magnitude of national insurance.

This measure will extend privileges and benefits to a section of the community which has not hitherto been able to enjoy them. ‘ Honorable members of the Opposition are opposed to the contributory nature of the scheme, but they have not offered any suggestions as to how it could be financed except to say that the financing should be done from consolidated revenue. That would mean, if a long visitation of drought such as we have recently experienced came upon Australia, ‘or if there was a falling-off of our markets with a consequential fallingoff of taxation, that the Treasury funds would become so depleted that the whole financial fabric of the scheme would collapse. We had a foretaste of what might happen in the circumstances that I have mentioned during the economic depression, when governments were forced to reduce wages and pensions and so forth as the result of the collapse of industry and the conse quential collapse of taxation. This bill is on a contributory basis and will accumulate its own funds. It is not perfect - it could not be expected to be - but it is, as it has been described, an instalment. It is one of the most picturesque pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has promised a supplementary bill as soon as possible to remove many of the anomalies which necessarily must be associated with a measure of the dimensions and nature of this measure at its initiation.. Other amending legislation will be introduced from time to time, so that all sections of the community will receive the full benefits to be aimed at in a truly national insurance scheme. Honorable members on all sides of the House have complained that small farmers and shopkeepers and self-employed men have not been provided for, but that omission will be remedied. I join with other honorable members who have spoken on behalf of the small farmer. Many of them earn less than they are compelled to pay in wages to an employee, and it is gratifying to know that they will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.

For a time the activities of friendly societies will be affected by this measure, but I accept with gratification the assurance of the Treasurer that those institutions will not be impeded in the doing of the wonderful work that they have done in the past for the people of Australia. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) touched on every aspect of the bill in a most eloquent speech, and I hope that the Government will pay strict heed to the suggestions that he made. Friendly societies have the machinery ready, and I think that a great deal of the administration of this national scheme can safely be entrusted to them. Honorable members have received such shoals of correspondence and telegrams in respect of this legislation that at one stage I was hoping that, as the result of the impetus given to postal finances, the Minister representing, the Postmaster-General in this cham’ber would be able to announce that he would now be able to accede to the requests for a penny postage. Unfortunately, however, there was a sudden diminution in the amount of correspondence on this subject. This correspondence came not only from one banking institution, but also in a wide way from another section of the community which thought it would be seriously affected by this measure, namely, the medical profession. I join with other honorable members in expressing my sympathy with the doctors in their little embarrassment at the moment, but I feel they will soon be appeased. I think that the medical gentlemen on the Federal Council of the British Medical Association who entered into the arrangement with the Treasurer under-estimated his capacity for negotiation. In arriving at the capitation fee of lis., subject to x certain conditions, on behalf of its members, the British Medical Association executive apparently viewed the position and assessed the value of medical services only from a metropolitan point of view. It cannot be logically argued that the country practitioner, who has far more responsibility, and fewer facilities, conveniences, and means of consultation and research, aggravated by scattered population, and, in many cases, bad road connexions, is entitled only to the same consideration as the metropolitan practitioner. Consequently, I urge the merits of a differential rate for the country doctors. Quite apart from the factors [hat I have mentioned, I would urge upon the Treasurer the necessity for the establishment and maintenance of the right class of medical practitioner in the country areas of Australia. At the present time, ordinarily, doctors in country areas are men of high skill, but unless they receive something more than has been offered to them, I am afraid that a trek to the city areas will start, as the thickly populated industrial areas will claim all the brilliant medicos from country areas, and the country districts will be left with “ quacks “ and “ duds.” Comparisons are odious, but I cannot refrain from comparing the position of the country medical practitioner with that of honorable members of this House who represent country constituencies, and from comparing both with their city counterparts’. Honorable members from the city areas can tour their electorates in half an hour, whereas some

Mr. Collins. country members Could not tour theirs in six months. The comparison is fair when the difficulties that confront the country doctors are considered. They are regarded, not only as medical advisers, but also as general advisers, guides, philosophers, and friends, of the country people. This drift from the country to the city is serious, and detrimental to the interests of Australia, and in the interests of decentralization the Treasurer should give sympathetic consideration to the position of -the country medical men. The correspondence which honorable members ‘have received about this matter shows that the doctors are disturbed, knowing not what will happen to them. I know that the Government will do justice, not only to the medical practitioners, but also to every section of the community which this measure will affect. From a rough calculation, it is easy to see that there will be an accumulation of funds which will reach gigantic proportions, and enable the Government to embark on a scheme for the assistance of the unemployed and other persons in the future. I shall speak to this measure again in committee, because I realize that it is far from perfect; in fact, in its present form one could shoot holes in it. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) has said, it is at least a start; but I do not agree with him that nothing further will be done, because I know -that the scheme will go ahead by the leaps and bounds anticipated by the Government, until eventually it covers all those who need assistance under it.

Mr. JENNINGS (Watson) [9.46’J.- At the last appeal to the people of Australia, the Government pledged itself to a policy which embraced a scheme of national health and pensions insurance. That policy was endorsed by every honorable member on this side of the House throughout the length and breadth of this country. The bill that we now have before us has been introduced in fulfilment of the pledge then given. Had the Government not introduced it early in the life of this Parliament, it would have been subjected to severe censure, not only by its supporters throughout Australia, and by ministerial members, but the loudest voice in denunciation of it would have been that of the Opposition.

As we proceed to discuss the various phases of the measure, we realize the mammoth task involved in the preparation of the scheme. This is the greatest social reform ever attempted in Australia. The man who occupies the most unenviable position in connexion with it is the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), because he will have to find the finance necessary ro cope with the many problems that will arise.

The principal feature of the bill is its objective in regard to national health. I. contend that it is just as necessary to defend the people against disease as it is to defend the nation against a foreign aggressor. Many objections have been raised against certain provisions of the hill by various interested bodies, but, by and large, there has been no objection by the general public, and even those objecting are in favour of a scheme of national insurance. I have no doubt that the great majority of the people of this ‘country will welcome the inauguration of a scheme of health and pensions insurance. Apart from the great benefits proposed in relation to medical services, pensions, and the like, the aim of the bill is to improve the health of our people, and the scheme is designed chiefly for the prevention of disease.

National health and efficiency are cardinal factors in national progress. The Treasurer has indicated in his secondreading speech that the scheme embodied in the bill will, defend the Australian family against the unexpected emergencies of life. Physical fitness and good health are now national questions. They were given great prominence, in fact were sponsored, in the speech delivered by His Majesty the King at the last opening of the British Parliament. Nearly 100 years ago Dr. John Simon said in England -

The fact is, except against wilful violence, life is very little cared for by the law; and again, it is the public that, too late for the man’s health or independence, pays the wages which should have hindered this suffering and sorrow.

That has particular application to the position- in Australia to-day.

There are features of the measure which have received criticism from the

Opposition and will receive criticism from honorable members on- this side of the House. I would say, however, that it is a piece of legislation for which the people of the Commonwealth have been waiting for some time. What Great Britain and other countries have done in this connexion ought not to be beyond the capacity of the Australian people. A comprehensive scheme of national insurance is long overdue. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) that there was a time when Australia led the world in social legislation. It could then say to the rest of the world, “We are setting you an example in social legislation”. It has been said that it was all right for a young country like Australia, with a small population, to adopt such schemes, because, if they failed, no great harm would result, and it would be comparatively easy to scrap them, but that they were not possible in older countries, which, because of their huge population, could not run the same risks. That is not the position to-day. The older countries have profited by the early example which we set, and they have gone much further than we have done in a number of notable directions. To-day Great Britain, Germany, in fact 22 countries have schemes of social betterment which are ahead of anything we have done. We have much to” learn from them in a social and educational way.

I congratulate the Government for having introduced this national insurance scheme. The Treasurer is entitled to a good deal of praise, because the scheme is largely of his making. We know that he has devoted a tremendous amount of time and study to the subject, and that he has been ably assisted by Sir Walter Kinnear and Professor Brigden. I believe that I am right in saying that a year or two ago the honorable gentleman was convinced that such a scheme was beyond the financial resources of Australia; but lie was not satisfied until he had investigated the matter from every viewpoint, and finally saw a glimmer of light in the darkness. He has seen what other countries have been able to do, with the result that we have this scheme before us to-day. I believe that it will be a monument to the sagacity of the Government.

There is one matter which has given me a great deal of concern. Medical benefits are the foundation of any. scheme of health insurance. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) last night quoted from an article published by the Medical Journal of Australia on the 14th May, 1938, on the subject of this scheme. I was very much concerned when I read this week a leading article in that journal of the 28th May, 1938, in which the following statements were made: -

When the executive committee of the Federal Council had completed its negotiations with the Federal Government prior to the introduction of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, it was made clear to the Government that the Federal Council could not bind its members by any agreement that had been reached. The Federal Council speaks for the association; but, in a new matter, and one that has such possibilities for good or ill as national health insurance, its members throughout Australia had to be consulted. The members have now spoken, and have madeit clear that there is a great deal of opposition to some of the provisions of the bill. The executive committee, therefore, met in Sydney on the 21st May, 1938, and decided to submit to the Government the views of members and to suggest certain amendments.

It then went on to mention many suggestions which had been made to the Government, and continued with the following important paragraph: -

Possibly the greatest dissatisfaction expressed’ by medical practitioners generally has been in regard to the lack of provision for fees for night calls. The majority would prefer to have no night fees and no night calls: but, as night calls cannot be avoided, there should be some fee, which should be payable by the patient, so that calls shall be restricted in number. Medical practitioners are given the privilege of making a complaint when they think unreasonable demands on their services have been made; but such a procedure docs not meet with the approval of members of the British Medical Association generally. The Federal Council will ask for provision for the payment of a fee of 2s. Cd. for calls between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

I have quoted that because I have had conversations with medical practitioners who have pointed out that a great objection to the agreement is in con- nexion with night calls. The article goes on to say -

Some scheme of national health insurance is inevitable. It will require the co-operation of members of the British Medical Association, forming as they do the great bulk of medical practitioners in Australia, for its efficient working. It is right, therefore, that their views, both radical and moderate, should bc taken and correlated and moulded into a concrete whole for submission to the Federal Government, and it is right that the Federal Government should not only listen to them, but weigh thom carefully and, if possible, accept them. The federal councillors have worked hard and earnestly and at considerable personal sacrifice in their endeavours to obtain a fair and honorable agreement with the Government.

It is our great regret that we were unable to reveal to our readers the result of the federal executive’s negotiations with the Government long , before we did. Our leading article of the 14th May, 1938, had been ready for the press for many weeks before its publication.

This is a. very serious matter. Reliable authorities agree’ that the standard of medicine in Australia, measured by world standards, is among the highest in existence. We do not wish to lower that standard. It is on record that many Australian doctors are readily accepted for appointment to very high positions overseas.

It is difficult to discuss the details of the agreement with the medical profession and the friendly societies, because they are not before us, although it must be emphasized that the capitation fee of Ils. was agreed to by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association on behalf of the members of that body throughout Australia. Apparently, for some reason there . was a great omission, in that the rank and file of the medical profession were not consulted in regard to the very important matter of their service fees. I would ask: Whom could - the Government have consulted other than the Federal Council of the British Medical Association? That body said that it had plenary powers. Apparently, however, judging by the tone of the article from which I have quoted, that is not so. I can merely offer the opinion that members of the medical profession, not being business men, could not be expected to drive a hard business deal. It is necessary, however, to emphasize the fact that, under the scheme, the medical fees will be promptly paid. That is well worthy of being borne in mind. There will be no bad debts. Professional men know that an appreciable number of their accounts have to he written off as bad debts. There must lie a way out of the present impasse. I repeat that the very foundation of a scheme of -national health insurance is medical service. The public places its health and its life unreservedly in the hands of the members of the medical profession. A dissatisfied profession could completely wreck this scheme. The Australian people do not object to a reasonable return for services rendered. A fee of 2-^d. a week for looking after a man’s health all the year round does not seem to harmonize with the average Australian’s idea of a decent return for services rendered. It seems, therefore, that the agreement should be revised in

I lie light of the existing circumstances.

The .British insurance scheme has been referred to frequently in this debate, a scheme from which we have taken a lead in this national health and pensions reform. When it was first introduced in Great Britain it met with great opposition. Mr. Lloyd George was told when he brought the bill into the House of Commons in 1911 that the demands on the fund would speedily bring it to bankruptcy. However, after 27 years, national insurance is part and parcel of the life of the British people. Ft provides living proof for us that every citizen may have his future assured. The scheme has entirely revolutionized social services in the Old Country. Life has been made easier, and additional comfort has been assured for old age. I discovered when I was in Great Britain last year that national insurance in that country has proved a great success. It has certainly come to stay. I hope that we shall eventually complete a scheme which will, as is claimed for the British scheme, protect the health of the people from the cradle to the grave.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) complained that no insurance had been provided against unemployment. That, surely, is not the fault of this Government. Unfortunately the State governments would not co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in the matter. 1 am glad, though, that the Government has not entirely dropped the idea of unemployment insurance, which 1 regard as most desirable. The Prime Minister has informed us that it is impossible to institute such a scheme without the full co-operation of the State governments, and surely we must agree with him. Hitherto, it has not been possible to secure the full co-operation of the States, but the Prime Minister has declared that the Government will not discontinue its efforts to secure it.

Evidence of the solvency of the unemployment insurance fund of Great Britain is to be found in the following statement i the Ministry of Labour Gazette for December, 1937:-

Since the report on’ the Draft Unemployment Insurance (.Insurable Employments) Regulations, 1937, was made, the unemployment experienced has been below expectations, an.l the unemployment fund has accumulated rapidly. There i.s now an almost certain prospect that bv the end of 1937 the fund will be about ‘£((2,000,000, and there is a reasonable likelihood, in the course of next vear, of adding at least another £20.000,000, bringing the total to £S2,000,000, or more. As this sum can only be invested in shortterm securities, the fund will be earning ls per cent., or at most lj per cent., while paying 3J per cent., or a little more on its debt of about £100,000,000. The larger part of the fund will be a reserve held against depression or to provide for the improvements of benefit made on our second and fourth reports, but there is every prospect of our again being able to declare a disposable surplus of substantial amount at the end of this year.

Obviously the unemployment insurance scheme of Great Britain has, during the 27 years of its existence, been most effective, otherwise this substantial surplus of funds could not have been accumulated.

Mr Gander:

– What does the honorable member think of Jack Lang’s scheme ?


– I regard Mr. Lang as a good asset to the United Australia party, but the honorable member appears to have overlooked the point I was making. I was referring to the security of the funds in Great Britain. The honorable member must know that, due to Mr. Lang’s administration, it became impossible -in a certain crisis to which I do not wish to refer at any length, to pay any pensions at all.

This hill is designed to provide a health benefits and pensions insurance scheme. ‘Without doubt the initiation of the scheme will bo costly, but once it comes into full operation, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will be saved millions of pounds. There will not be any danger that pensions will not be paid.

I now direct the attention of honorable members to paragraph 101 of Sir Walter Kinnear’s report, which reads- ft is not within the province of this report to deal with the various schemes of social relief which at present exist in the various States in Australia. .But a passing reference should be made to the fact that the institution of a comprehensive scheme of health and pensions insurance, such as is adumbrated in this report, should, in the course of time, effect a substantial diminution in the amount of money which is ordinarily expended by the various States in connexion with widows’ pensions, children’s allowances, child endowment and relief of the sick, destitute, blind and aged.

There can be no doubt . of that. Another authority says -

Our social services in Australia axe distributed in a bewildering maze of federal and State duplication, resulting in . a waste of energy aud finance, in addition to which the citizens themselves contribute voluntarily an enormous sum to public aud private charities and institutions.

One of the greatest handicaps which faces the Commonwealth Government in dealing with a measure of this description is that our invalid and old-age pensions scheme and other social service measures are operating concurrently and side by side with the other schemes for social amelioration provided by the State governments. The duplication of such services undoubtedly involves the taxpayers of Australia in heavy charges. By all means, let the State governments continue to do what they are doing and what they wish to do in the direction of social betterment over and above anything that is contemplated in this bill; but let us try to do away with all overlapping and duplication, and let us see whether we cannot save something in administrative expenses. In this connexion, we hear the old story over again of the conflict of Commonwealth and State rights. Unfortunately, the constitutional power to deal with public health is hope- lessly divided between Commonwealth and State authorities”.

We have already experienced the benefits that have accrued from the coordination of the Commonwealth and State taxation and electoral departments. The degree of co-operation and uniformity achieved in these departments has been wholly to the benefit of the public. If similar co-ordination could be achieved in respect of social legislation, the taxpayers would be saved thousands of pounds. This point is referred to in the paragraph from Sir Walter Kinnear’s report that I have just cited. An immense saving could be made if all duplication of services and all overlapping of administration could be avoided.

The honorable members of the Opposition have declared their opposition to any contributory scheme of insurance. They say to the. Government and to the employers : “ You pay for the pig, and we’ll take home the bacon.” That is a short-sighted view to take of a big national question. It is also a very selfish attitude to adopt. I doubt whether 5 per cent, of the employees of Australia would thank honorable members opposite- for putting them in such a false position. The great majority of the people of this country are employees of one kind or another who believe in playing “cricket”. They are not without a certain sense of independence. They do not expect to take all and give nothing. I cannot help feeling that the Opposition has an entirely mistaken idea of the purpose of this bill. This is a national health and pensions insurance bill. The Government is saying to the Australian man and woman in effect : “ Here is an insurance scheme for your benefit. You( pay a small weekly sum as a premium, and, if sickness overtakes you or the members of your family, here is an insurance to tide you over.” It also says to the people : “ When you reach old-age, all the premiums you have paid will be returned to you plus a bonus which the Government and the employers have added. It is yours. There is no trace of charity about it.”

The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh. (Mr. Makin) referred in glowing terms and at some length in their speeches to the proposed New Zealand scheme on national insurance. Those honorable gentlemen did not stress that that scheme, which is not yet in operation by the way, includes provision for a tax on employees of ls. in the £1. A worker earning £4 a week would be obliged to pay a tax of 4s. a week. Under the Commonwealth Government’s scheme, the corresponding tax will be only ls. 6d. This is surely to the advantage of the worker. In addition to the tax of ls. a week on employees, a tax of ls. in the £1 will be imposed on the income of employers. The Government also proposes to subsidize the funds. It will be seen, therefore, that if the New Zealand scheme comes into operation, it will involve the taxpayers of that dominion in a very heavy expenditure. The situation there is so serious and the Government’s doubts about the efficacy of its scheme are such that it has considered it wise to refer the whole subject to a select committee.

Mr BERNARD Corser:

– The hill has riot yet been before the Parliament of New Zealand.


– -That is so. It is premature to mention it in this House. We have .before us a live scheme; the New Zealand scheme has not yet been born. Reference has also been made tonight to the national insurance scheme of the United States of America, hut the press reports that the Government of that country has invited Sir Walter Kinnear, the author of our scheme, to visit the United States of America to report upon the scheme in operation in that country. This action does leave much to the imagination.

The Leader of the Opposition has complained that the scheme now before us will involve the nation in additional taxation to the amount of £11,000,000. In a sense, that is so, but the taxpayers will be paid a very substantial interest on their investment. The Labour party contends that every citizen should pay the tax but that only a selected number should benefit by the proceeds of it. -The Government holds the view that those who benefit from the scheme, even if only to a slight extent, should contribute to it, in order that they may have a feeling of independence and a right to the benefits provided.

There ha3 been a good deal of debate with respect to the difference in the amount of the contributions of males and females. In the case of males, employer and employee are asked to contribute ls. 6d. a week each. The total contribution of 3s. a week is to be supplemented by’ a system of Commonwealth grants. In the case of females, employer and employee alike are to pay ls. a week. This raises a very important point. Seeing that female employees receive a smaller basic wage than males, we cannot expect them to contribute to the fund as much as males, and the question is whether they should be penalized for this by making their pension 5s. a week less than that paid to males, when under the existing pensions scheme to which they do not contribute at all there is no such differentiation. I confess frankly that I do not like that differentiation. It is true that existing pensions will not be affected; nor are those approaching pensionable age to be affected, but in a few years, when the national insurance scheme comes into full operation, we shall have women pensioners receiving smaller pensions than the ]nen. The Government has decided that if a female contributor makes a voluntary contribution of an additional 6d. a week, she will be entitled to participate in a weekly pension of £1. As far as it goes this is acceptable, but I would prefer that the payment of ls. 6d. be brought under the compulsory clauses. If one payment is compulsory and another is voluntary, a distinction will be raised. If possible, this should be avoided. It is quite likely that an application will be made to the Arbitration Court, to have an extra 6d. added to the basic wage of female employees. I feel sure, however, that many employers will, in any case, add the extra 6d. to the wage of female employees in order that they may obtain the full benefit.

I suggest that the question of contributions made by girls or women who subsequently leave their employment to be married might be looked into. No provision has been made in the bill for the repayment of any amount they may have paid into the fund. I quite agree that on an actuarial basis they will be provided with excellent insurance during the period of their employment, but when a girl leaves her employment to be married, repayment of the amount of her contributions, less a percentage reduction as well as a reduction for any expense accrued for sickness benefits, should be considered.

On reaching the age of 60 years, a woman who comes within the present provisions of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act can apply for the extra 5s. to bring her pension up to £1 a week ; but this penalizes thrift and brings in that element of charity which we hoped the new bill would eliminate. It raises once again the old question of a means test, and I am sure very few members of this House would wish to see that test revived in the form suggested here. The pension to-day is looked upon, not as a charity, but as a right. How much more should that be the case when this scheme of compulsory insurance is in operation.

The Treasurer has told us that the scheme contemplates contributions from, and benefits to, a total of 1,850,000 persons throughout the Commonwealth. How are we to deal in the future with those who do not come under the scheme? I await with interest’ the new bill to bring in the small shopkeeper and selfemployed workers. Undoubtedly provision should be made for wives and dependent children.

Among the benefits given by friendly societies, medical benefits are probably the most prized of all. It removes a load of anxiety from the family when medical advice is readily at hand in emergencies, and the proposal for a Government subvention to give assistance to friendly societies to enable them to bring dependants under the scheme is a most commendable one. I therefore heartily congratulate the Government on its action in this direction. It will add considerably to the success of the scheme. Friendly societies have done great work in the past which has been of much benefit to people throughout the Commonwealth. Friendly societies laid the foundation of national insurance in Great Britain, and they will be an important factor in the birth of national insurance in Australia. The history of social insurance in Great Britain is at first largely the story of -friendly societies which were voluntary organizations to which employees paid small fixed weekly contributions. The British National Health Insurance Act is the natural corollary of the various former British schemes. Several companies that grew up in Great Britain to extend insurance facilities were effectively checked by actuarial investigations such as are proposed in this bill.

Apart from the economic wastage and the humanitarian aspect of the position in respect of invalids, I urge upon the Government the desirability of providing clinics to prevent, rather than maintain, invalidity.

Many difficulties will, I know, confront the Government in its administration of the national insurance legislation; for some of them, I have no doubt, solutions may be found as time goes on. I feel sure that nobody knows better than the Treasurer, the difficulties that lie ahead, but I have no doubt that in this measure he has given us the best he possibly could at the present time. I believe that if we cannot have the whole loaf, three-quarters is better than none at all. For that reason, I support the bill, though I propose to make certain suggestions during the committee stage. I cannot support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, for, although I realize the bill is not perfect, I think that its defeat at this stage would put back the clock, and would defer the introduction of national insurance in this country for another decade.

Finally, it is -interesting to find that there is to be no interference with benefit schemes already in operation among the employees of a number of firms in Australia. There, will be’ co-ordination, of course, but those schemes will still continue to function. The Government proposes to institute certain defined benefits, but it does not say that the States or private institutions may not give added benefits. This is one big uniform scheme covering the whole of the Commonwealth, and it remains open for each State to say whether it will add something more.

I draw the special attention of honorable members to the appendices attached to Sir Walter Kinnear’s report. They contain a lot of valuable information, particularly with regard to the part the friendly societies are to play in this hig national scheme. The proposal for consultative councils, on which friendly societies, doctors and chemists will be represented, for the discussion of difficulties which may arise from time to time, is an admirable one. Difficulties are bound to arise, especially in the initiatory stages of the scheme. After all, nothing big has ever been accomplished without some difficulties arising. This is a courageous bill, and, although it has defects, it does the Government great credit. It is the greatest social scheme ever attempted in Australia, and I am sure it will be regarded in that light by the people at large. As I have said, it is not perfect, but it represents a worthy attempt to deal, in a statesmanlike way, with a very knotty problem, and, as such, we should welcome it most heartily. If it did nothing more than remove the everrecurring pension question from the election bargaining counter, it should be welcomed by all sections of the Parliament and of the people.


– I desire to say a few words in opposition to the general provisions of this bill. It has been surprising to me to hear the apologies made for its introduction by various Government members who have risen to support it. Apart from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), almost every honorable member who has spoken on the bill from the other side of the House has apologized for its failure to cover certain sections of the community, and for anomalies that are apparent in it. What extreme urgency is there for the bill to be brought down in its admittedly incomplete form? Would it not have been far better to adopt the recommendations contained in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and to withdraw the bill, and re-draft it after seeking the advice of those competent to make it more acceptable to the majority of honorable members of this House? All honorable members opposite have said that this is but the first instalment of a complete programme. If it is the first instalment, and is admitted to be incomplete, why introduce it at all in its present form? There are apparent anomalies in respect of nearly every section of the community to which this bill applies. Excuses are made, followed by promises by the Government to include in some future bill those omissions that are all too apparent in the bill now before the House. I admit that there are several honorable members representing country constituencies, especially in Queensland, who fully appreciate the omission from the scope of the bill of a section of the community which they know should be included within its provisions. A big section of the community has been omitted, not by mistake or accident, but as the result of the decision of the Government not to include it. The Government, apparently, thought it would get away with the bill in its present form, but the objection of those honorable members who are earnestly attempting to do the right thing by the constituents they represent has been so loud, and their protests have been so forcible, that the Government, fearing the destruction of the bill in its present incomplete form, has made halfbaked promises to amend it. One serious omission is that the scheme definitely excludes relief workers, and also the wives, children and dependants of those insured persons who come within its scope. Clause 17 is as follows: -

Subject to this Act, all employed persons (not being aboriginal natives of Australia or of the Islands of the Pacific) who have attained the age of sixteen years, and have not attained the maximum age shall be insured under and in accordance with this Act as employed contributors.

That is an astounding proposition. The Government proposes to exclude from the benefits of the scheme Australian aborigines, while’ admitting aliens, no matter how objectionable they may be from an Australian point of view. I have been for many years associated with the work among the aborigines, and am a member of the New South Wales Aborigines .Protection Board, and I know that many of these people are most deserving members of society. In New South Wales they are educated to the highest standard possible, and many of them are just as intelligent as are other members of the community. They have obtained employment, and are skilled at their work. Now the Government proposes to insult them by refusing to admit them to the benefits of the scheme.

No provision is made in this scheme for the small farmers and graziers, although about 70 per cent, of them, in New South Wales at any rate, receive net incomes “below the basic wage, and the incomes of many others are below the £365 stipulated in the measure. While they are excluded from the benefits of this measure, they must pay the employers’ contribution in respect of any persons they employ, although they may themselves be worse off than their employees. This point has been discussed effectively by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and others.

There are in country districts many persons in casual employment for whom this scheme makes no provision. I have in mind rabbiters, who, throughout the year, earn considerably less than the basic wage, although they have to work under most difficult conditions. Then there are the sleeper-getters, in .respect of whom it has been demonstrated that their average earnings are below the basic wage. When I was a member of the State Parliament in New South Wales’, and a Labour government was in office, action was taken to bring sleeper-getter3 under the Workers’ Compensation Act, so that if they were injured in the course of their work they might receive compensation. Subsequently, when the Labour Government was succeeded by the present Government of New South Wales, the sleeper-getters were, by the action of that Government, excluded from the benefits of that act. Now it is proposed to exclude them from the benefits of this scheme, so that they will enjoy no protection whatsoever. On their behalf, I desire to protest against their exclusion. It is only necessary to mention the anomalies in regard to small farmers and shopkeepers, and casual workers such as rabbit-trappers and sleeper-getters in order to realize how defective the bill is, and how far it is from being a scheme of national insurance.

I have received numerous communications from branch managers and employees of the bank of New South Wales in my electorate asking that they be omitted from the provisions of this scheme on the ground that they have a superannuation scheme of their own which is superior to it. It would not need to be very good in order to be- that. I ask the Treasurer to give consideration, when the bill is in committee, to the unanimous wish of the employees of the Bank of New South Wales to be excluded from the scheme.

I come now to what I regard as one of the vital provisions of the bill, namely, that relating to the provision of medical benefits. In this respect, the whole success of the measure depends upon efficient co-operation between the medical profession and the Government. Not since I have been in public life have I heard such a unanimous and justifiable protest against any proposed legislation as has been forthcoming from country doctors throughout New South Wales, and Australia generally, against the proposals contained in this measure. As one who has represented an Outback constituency for many years, I appreciate the great service rendered to the community by the country doctors, and it is an insult to them, and a blow to their prestige, to offer them the capitation fee of lis. as proposed in this bill. I have received telegrams from individual doctors in the western part of New South Wales, and from the northern parts of the State in which I formerly lived, expressing their definite opposition to the bill. Only yesterday, I received the following telegram from the secretary of the Western Medical Association: -

Local recent plebiscite by Western MedicaAssociation reveals unanimous resistance to present scheme emphatically consider bill bo postponed for consideration clause 115 capitation fee increased special night and mileage fees more services excluded.

Country doctors regard this matter with grave concern, and country residents also are alarmed because they fear that the effectiveness of existing medical services will be destroyed. The following telegram I received the other day from a doctor stationed in an outback town in my electorate : -

This is to register protest against national insurance bill. If bill is passed, this town will have no doctor as this practice will not be worth a cracker.

It is clear that the framers ofthis scheme had little or no knowledge of the country districts of Australia and the conditions under which country doctors operate, when they resolved to ask them to work for a capitation fee of l1s. For the most part, country doctors in the more remote places serve small communities but very large areas. The country doctor may reside in a township with a population of only 50 or 60 persons, and from this centre he must travel over hundreds of miles to attend a scattered population. To force these doctors to accept l1s. would be to do a grave disservice not only to them, but also to the community they serve.

I recently visited the outlying portions of my electorate, and on every hand I heard only hostility expressed towards this bill. It was declared that it would sound the death knell of country doctors. An agreement of some kind has been made by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, which has its headquarters in the largest city in the Commonwealth; but that body is not conversant with the conditions of life in outlying country districts, and it is not surprising that there has been a 100 per cent. breakaway from its decision. The council has failed to recognize that country doctors who give service to the community are entitled to adequate remuneration. In the summer months they are often called upon to suffer temperatures ranging from 110 to 120 degrees in the shade. In many instances the doctors are accompanied by their wives, who heroically endure these extreme temperatures. The people in the outback districts keenly appreciate the services of their medical men. Some time ago I was in the town of Mungindi, in the northern part of New South Wales, when the roads were impassable for ordinary motor traffic owing to heavy floods. An urgent call was received to a case of meningitis at Boomi. The doctor at Mungindi was conveyed to Garah, a distance of between 40 and 50 miles, by means of a railway tricycle, and he was compelled to traverse the remaining 40 miles to Boomi on a poor type of saddle horse, although he was unaccustomed toriding on horseback. I mention this incident to show the difficulties under which country doctors carry out their important work. More liberal provision should be made for these men than is contemplated under this bill. If they are asked to accept the capitation fee now proposed, they will be forced to desert their present practices in order to escape penury. The Medical Journal of Australia contains the following statement regarding health insurance -

Health insurance is, in effect, an extension of the system of contract practice by which members of friendly societies receive medical benefits. Within its limitations, the service given by lodge practitioners in Australia is of a very high order and equal to the best general practitioner service in the world. But the weakness of all contract practice - and these remarks apply to the proposed Commonwealth scheme - is its incompleteness and inadequacy. That this is so is not the fault of the medical profession, for it is impossible on the low

Tate of remuneration paid in Australia, and which rate it is proposed to pay under the Commonwealth scheme, to provide full and adequate investigation and treatment of disease to insured patients.

At a meeting of the executive committee of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association held at Sydney on 21st May, 1938, the objections of the profession were considered, and it was decided to make representations to the Federal Government on the following lines : -

  1. Capitation Fee. - This is regarded as being totally inadequate. The minimum rate that would be acceptable to the profession is 14s. in the metropolitan areas, with an additional 25 per cent. for country areas. In Australia the country practitioner has always been paid at a higher rate under contract practice than the city practitioner, the average difference being between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. The reasons for this briefly are:

    1. The isolation of the country practitioner and lack of amenities.
    2. The irregular hours of working of country practitioners.
    3. The fact that the country practitioner, unlike the city practitioner, is unable to transfer his difficult cases to a large hospital.
    4. As an encouragement to doctors to go out into the sparsely populated areas. The provision of medical services in these areas is a very real problem throughout Australia.
    5. In certain areas the additional cost of living.
  2. Mileage. - This is also regarded as being inadequate, the minimum rate which would bo acceptable being 2s. Cel., 6d. of which should he payable by the patient. Under contract practice in Australia mileage is always payable by the patient as a deterrent against unnecessary calls. It is also considered that mileage should be paid beyond two miles, a radius recognized by Government departments, such as the Repatriation Department.
  3. night Galls. - There is universal dissatisfaction in regard to the absence of any night fees. The fee need not be large - 2s. Gd. would be sufficient - and it is not to be regarded a6 income-producing, but purely as a restriction in order to prevent an excessive amount of night work. The policy of asking the doctor to make a complaint when he considers a call unnecessary or unreasonable does not appeal to the profession. The night fee would be payable hy the patient for calls between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Any person having an intimate knowledge of the conditions under which country medical practitioners work will agree that the capitation fee should he increased by at least 50 per cent. I have heard members of the Ministry endeavouring to lead the people to believe that the British Medical Association is satisfied with the proposed capitation fee. The Sydney Sun of the 31st May contained the following report -

At the British Medical Association council meeting in Sydney last night, the view most emphasized was that efficient medical service would be impossible under the present proposals, said the doctor.

Representatives of country associations passed a resolution of confidence in the State council.

The provision in the bill which assures the accumulation of big surpluses would be opposed, said another Sydney doctor to-day. “ We regard this as being at the practitioners’ expense,” the doctor added. “We think it would be fair to let the surplus accumulate more slowly and allow the capitation fee to be increased.”

Bitter complaints have come from hospitals on the ground that this measure will cause serious depletion of their funds. The Sydney Sun stated yesterday -

So great will be the cost to hospitals of the national insurance scheme that the New South Wales Hospitals Association fears a tax may be necessary if they are not recouped from the insurance fund, said the secretary of the association, Mr. H. W. Simpson, to-day.

The seriousness of the position is being conveyed to federal members by almost every hospital in the State.

The Victorian Hospitals Association is also alarmed.

With the introduction of national insurance, the association believed that donations and subscriptions would be decreased by £100,000.

National insurance would also have a serious effect on the Metropolitan Hospitals’ Fund and the industrial contribution funds of country hospitals.

It would mean that these funds would find it harder to increase their membership.

National insurance would also result in greater demands being made on the hospitals. “ Doctors will be compelled, in order to give patients sufficient treatment, to send them to hospitals instead of treating them in their homes”, said Mr. Simpson.

The Government should give serious consideration to this matter. If it were sincere in its contention that it desires to safeguard the health of the community, this measure would be comprehensive in its incidence, but, as it now stands, it is sectional. The Government clearly desires that the national insurance fund shall be established at the expense of certain classes of the community in order to relieve the Treasury of the obligation to provide invalid and old-age pensions and other social benefits, such as widows’ pensions and child endowment. Several leading Australian newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Sun, in publishing opinions similar to those which I have just expressed, indicate that apparently it is the desire of the Government to pass this measure in order to relieve the Government of some of the financial obligations it is carrying under existing social legislation. In doing so the Government will penalize many members of the medical profession, particularly those in country districts, hospitals and contributors, and at the same time will pile up an unnecessarily large surplus which it will use for other purposes. It must be apparent to every one that many of those who will be compelled to contribute will not, owing to death, marriage and other causes, receive any of the alleged benefits, and in fact probably hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed by persons who can ill afford to pay will not he utilized in the manner intended. It is safe to assume that only a small proportion of those who contribute to the fund will reach the pensionable age, because as was stated at the International Labour Conference ‘ held at Geneva recently, the employable age in some countries is being reduced, and owing to the introduction of modern machinery and the application of science to industry it is practically impossible for men to obtain profitable employment after they have reached 45 years of age. I believe that from 75 per cent, to SO per cent, of those who will contribute to this scheme will fall by the wayside, and that their contributions will be used to pile up a fund from which some of the expenditure now incurred on invalid and old-age pensions will be met. I disagree entirely with the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) -that the adoption of this scheme would be the means of creating a spirit of independence amongst the Australian people, particularly when we remember that only a small proportion of contributors will reach the pensionable age. The honorable member also referred to the fact that, under our pensions legislation, a number of pensioners owning nouses are deprived of a pension and that under this scheme they will benefit. It would be preferable to remove many of the anomalies which are to be found in our Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act than to bring forward a scheme which will confer very few benefits on those deserving people who will be compelled to contribute. If the Government removed the anomalies in our existing social legislation, those whom it professes to be anxious to assist could lie helped to a greater degree and at a much lower cost than they can be under this bill. A contributor on reaching the specified age, who has become unemployed, will be subjected to that objectionable means” test such as is applied in con*nexion with our present pension system. I believe that existing State social legislation, particularly in New South Wales, is of greater benefit to the health and happiness of the community than the alleged benefits to be made available under this scheme. For instance, the friendly societies, which are working harmoniously with the members of the medical profession, are performing a very valuable service to the people and “are meeting the needs of a larger section of the community than will be catered for under this bill. I am proud of the fact that I was a supporter of a

New South Wales government which introduced the Widows’ Pension Bill which is perhaps the most humane measure which has ever been placed upon the statute-book of any country. No provision is made in that bill for the application of a “means.” test; a widow receives £1 a week, and an additional 10s. a week for each dependant child up to 15 years of age. During the life of the Government which introduced that bill, there was extreme pressure upon the Treasury, but no serious financial consequences followed, and the act is still operating. The same government also introduced other social legislation, such as child endowment, under which workers on the basic wage were paid 5s. a week for each dependent child. Provision is also made for orphan children. [Leave to continue gwen.]

Apparently this measure has been introduced at the behest of wealthy supporters of the United Australia party, who believe that the time has arrived when our pensions bill should be met by the workers. Possibly the surplus which will accrue under this scheme will be used, as is a large proportion of the wage tax in New South Wales. Although that tax returns £7,000,000 per annum only about £1,500,000 is expended in the relief of unemployment, the balance going into the consolidated revenue. It was stated at the recent International Labour Conference at Geneva that when large sums of money are circulated by means of pensions and in other ways, the whole community benefits. When the purchasing power of the people is increased, the primary producers, as well as other sections of the community, benefit tremendously. If our invalid and old-age pension bill reached £100,000,000 annually, that amount would commence to circulate immediately and every one would be better off. During a period of intense economic and financial depression in the United States of America, leading economists informed the President that the best way in which to get that country out of the depression was by the circulation of money on a lavish scale. There is no need for alarm at the increased pensions bill, because the pensioners are people who have given the best years of their life to pioneering and developing this country and to helping Australia in its hour of need. We should not shirk our responsibility ; we must ameliorate the harsh provisions of this measure.

Darling Downs

– A careful study of this bill emphasizes its magnitude, complexity and profound importance. Exhaustive and careful consideration and study is necessary before a bill of this sort, which is to be enduring and workable, can be brought in. Most honorable members believe in the principle of national insurance. I believe that national insurance is not only ethical and desirable, but also possible of achievement. The subject; therefore, resolves itself into a discussion of ways and means rather than of principle or policy, and it is from the mathematical aspect that I approach it.

There are two salient difficulties in the way of the establishment of national insurance in this country. The first is the existence of an unusually great development of non-contributory social services, and the second the obstacle presented to efficient and cheap administration by the existence of sovereign States and the vast. areas that have to be covered. There are two aspects of the existing noncontributory social services. They form a sort of vested interest and the governments which conduct them will continue them with the result that side by side with a department giving free services there will be another department giving insurance, with the result that there will he not a little administrative confusion. The appropriate solution is the consolidation, as far as possible, of all services and all departments. In that regard, I submit that sufficient co-operation has not taken place between the State governments, which are administering non-contributory social services, and the Federal Government in the submission of this measure. We have been told in the course of this debate, with particular emphasis by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), that the basic reason for this bill is the guarding of the future against too great a load of noncontributory pensions. The Treasurer stated that the budget expenditure on pensionshad increased enormously from 1910 to 1937, but failed to parallel his statement and figures with figures relating to the growth of the productive capacity of the nation and to the growth of taxation to meet the social services. In order to place the matter on a comparable basis, I propose to compare the collections of taxes by the Commonwealth and the State governments in 1915-16 - the first year when the Commonwealth collected income tax - with those collected in 1936-37. Collections of taxes, Federal and State, amounted to £32,748,4S9 in 1915-16, and to £108,303,392 in 1936-37. That is an enormous increase, but the value of production in 1915-16, when about £32,000,000 was collected, was £250,000,000, leaving a residue after tax payments had been made of about £218,000,000, compared with a residue of £292,000,000 in 1936-37, when the value of production was approximately £400,000,000, out of which £10S,000,000 was taken in taxes. I cite those figures in order to emphasize what I consider to be a far too pessimistic outlook in the actuarial calculations of this Government. I submit that a contributory pension scheme has to be evolved, because, even after making allowance for pessimism, there is not sufficient justification for anything but a contributory scheme. The degree to which provision must be made for the future 13 a different matter and I do not altogether agree with the Government’s views. I submit that, as the first essential to the working of a national insurance scheme, there should have been evolved a scheme of unemployment insurance, for two very sound and, I submit, important reasons - first, in order to maintain the maximum amount of contributions, and secondly, in order to reduce the enormous burden of taxation on industry. When unemployment taxation was introduced in this country in 1930-31, the governments extracted in unemployment relief taxes the amount of £6,316,947. For the year ended the 30th June last, when all the States claimed that they had solved the unemployment problem, irrespective of the Commonwealth grants to the. States, we find that it was necessary to extract £11,327,934 from the same purse as supplied the money in 1930-31. In order to make this scheme economically possible, there must be some alleviation of that drain upon the public purse which is the means of employment, I exonerate the Commonwealth Government for its inability to do as I have suggested.

Mr Rosevear:

– Why?


– Because the States would not co-operate. It is obvious why they would not co-operate. The Australian States, particularly my own State, have seen in this taxation field an easy source of revenue. They are able to extract from pockets which they otherwise would not beable to touch money for use on general purposes and not for unemployment relief, for which reason it is claimed to be taken.

Mr Rosevear:

– The Government of New South Wales is the chief offender.


– And the Government of Queensland is just as much to blame.

Mr.Holloway. - It applies to all States.


– There is no doubt about that. Expenditure by the States on social services also tends to prevent the successful working of the Government’s scheme. The co-operation of the States is necessary in order to lighten the oppressive load of taxation on industry and in order to eliminate the possibility of overlapping. Touching on the question of States’ social services, the total payments out of revenue in 1910 in this direction amounted to £4,523,000, or 12½ per cent. of the total expenditure, whereas, in 1937, the expenditure had mounted to £24,952,000, or 20 per cent, of the total expenditure. Those figures show the need for co-operation.

There is no doubt as to the wisdom of the Government in trying to place this scheme on a sound actuarial basis if insurance against sickness and old-age is to be given to the great bulk of the people, which is a noble and worthy ambition. In order, however, to place this bill in its proper perspective, it is necessary to bring out not only the advantages that it will bring, but also the disadvantages. The persons mainly concerned are those who have to pay, of whom there are two classes: the employees and the employers. Moreover, it is necessary to make a fair measure of the value obtained for the contribution.

The Treasurer, on page 4 of his speech, referred to the young men, and said -

These young persons and their employe will pay a joint contribution of only 8d.per week, i.e., 4d. per week each.

Why “only”? Although the full medical benefit rate, including the member, his wife, children and dependants, is only 8d. a week in friendly societies, the “ young persons “ are to pay full rates for themselves only. The correct rates, according to our local experience, would be about 3d. for the member and 5d. for his wife and family, if divided. Female sickness is considerablyhigher than male sickness, and presumably the amount of medical attendance required would be more for the wife than for the husband, apart from the family. The medical services also are limited, and do not provide for operations, hospital charges, and confinements, which I should think would certainly amount to at least half the total expenditure for medical attendance and medicines. The act does not deal with this benefit on broad lines, and leaves much to be desired.

The sickness benefits provided are, after 26 weeks, 20s. a week for males and 15s. a week for females for 26 weeks. Disablement benefit of 15s. for males and 12s. 6d. for females will be provided after 104 weeks’ contributions have been paid. There appears to be a gap here. The 20s. benefit is for the last half of the first year’s membership, but the disablement benefit does not commence until the end of the second year. What, if any, provision is made for a contributor who is sick or disabled during the second year? The friendly societies make the benefits continuous. On page 4 of the pamphlet, the health insurance is1s. 3d. a week for males and1s. 2d. for females, the female payment being at a reduced rate. If reference is made to the 1925 report of the Royal Commission on National Insurance, it will be seen that weekly contributions required for benefits, at age 16 for males and females, are -

But female recent experience would now require 10.9d.

The Treasurer, on page 18 of his speech, stated to the effect that -

Persons will bo admitted to full insurance under the scheme at all ages between 16 and UG at rates for age 16.

The proportion of contributions allotted for sickness and disablement benefit out ot the 3s. total paid is stated to be ls. 3d. The above figures are quoted for males from the 1925 report. Certainly they would not be increased by more than about 15 per cent, since, and they are sufficient to meet claims and provide a reserve. In local friendly societies they amount to only 9.6d., including medical attendant for a member only. How is the difference of 5.4d. under the scheme accounted for?

Respecting females, the benefits offered are 15s. and 12s. 6d., for which the royal commission of 1925 rates are quoted as 3d. for sickness and .9d. for invalidity. But the recent local experience for females shows that these rates for 1925 would be insufficient owing to the very heavy increases over male rates that have been made evident by a recent separate analysis of female sickness. The actual rates required for females for sickness would bo 4d. for 15s. sickness benefit and 2.9d. for 12s. 6d. disablement benefit, a total of 6.9d. as compared with 5.6d. for lower benefits than for males. To this, add the 4d. for medical services, making I0.9d., as against the ls. 2d. health insurance under the bill, so that, even with the higher rates of sickness amongst the females, there is a difference of 3d. to be accounted for. It therefore appears that the rates to be charged under the National Insurance Act are too high for the benefits offered, especially when one considers the many exceptions and omissions from the act.

With regard to pensions, the contribution rates, as quoted in the report of the 1925 commission for age 16 are: males 20s. (at age 65) for 9.4d. per week, and for females (at age 60), 14.5d. ; yet the national insurance fund requires ls. 9d. for males and only lOd. for females. The female rate should be considerably more than for males. Reference back to the commission’s report of 1925, page 23, shows plainly that at all ages pensions for females, if paid at male rates of benefit, would cost nearly double those of males.

These facts, as stated, are based not on my own observation only, which might be questioned, but on the actual figures given in the 1925 National Insurance Report, the tables in which were drawn up by Mr. C. H. Wickens, who was the Commonwealth Statistician and president of the Actuarial Society of Australasia, and whose claims to be an authority on these questions should be paramount. I note from the daily papers that the Government falls back on the opinions of its own actuaries, and is inclined to refuse modification that may affect the actuarial position. What if the actuaries have been too cautious or have not had full information available? The quotations, which can be verified by reference to reports in the Parliamentary Library, make it appear that some explanation of the reason for excessive charges under the scheme should be given.

Referring again to the report of the Treasurer’s speech, he said -

The average age of insured persons at the start of the scheme is 32, and the actuarial value of. a man’s benefit under the scheme at that age is over 7s. a week against the man’s own contribution of ls. 6d.

In the 1925 report, for males at age 32 the rates are -

As will be seen, the above benefits in 1925 were only worth 2s. 6d., and, even if a widow and orphans’ benefit is added, and allowances are made for increased, sickness, they certainly would not exceed half the 7s. stated. What explanation is there of this discrepancy? It appears that what the Government is after is to use the employers5 portion to pile up a huge reserve fund, and thus reduce the cost of old-age pensions under the present act, while the employees’ contributions are intended to meet their own claims, present and future. But the Government has not said so.

Those are comparable figures taken from the 1925 and 1938 reports of which Mr. S. Bennett, the present actuary, was a member. The discrepancies are of such a nature that they demand some explanation here. In the circumstances, what reliance can we place on the actuarial reports? I recognize that the high reputation of the author of this scheme, Sir Walter Kinnear, demands respect, and inspires confidence, but when it is all said and done, he is only like an architect. He has been given certain financial limitations, and he has been told to build a structure accordingly. In order to prove conclusively the apparent discrepancy and loadings of the present calculation, as compared with the 1925 report, I propose to submit figures on the mathematical side in pounds, shillings and pence. My figures will be in the form of a financial statement in order to prove that very generous reserves have been provided, and liberal allowances made in the calculations. If honorable members will refer to the pension portion of Sir Walter Kinnear’s report, they will find that contributions for pensions for 1,350,000 males, at ls. 9d. a week, and for 465,000 females, at lOd. a week, work out at £6,142,500, and £1,007,500 respectively, making a total of £7,150,000. The contributions that have been -taken into actuarial calculation on the basis of this scheme, according to page 26 of Sir Walter Kinnear’s report, are £5,580,000. Consequently there is a difference of £1,570,000, and rightly so, too. Naturally, the whole 52 weeks’ contributions are not going to be received. I submit that the difference is equivalent to about twelve weeks each for 1,815,000 contributors. If the calculation is followed further, it will be found that the non-contributory reserve is approximately 23 per cent. If we are to have over 400,000 unemployed, the sooner we forget this scheme the better.

By applying that basis of reasoning to the health section, we find the estimated receipts for 1,350,000 males, at ls. 3d. a week, amount to £4,387,500 a year. For 465,000 females, at ls. 2d., the amount is £1,410,500. The total possible maximum receipts are, therefore, £5,79S,000. By taking from that an equivalent reserve of 23 per cent., amounting to £1,333,540, the net receipts would be £4,464,460. Out of that there have to be provided - as shown on page 9 of the actuarial report - cash benefits, £750,000; medical expenses for 1,350,000 contributors at 16s., and under clause 115, 465,000 at 17s. 6d., £1,4S6,875. The total cost on the fund would be £2,236,875, leaving a surplus reserve of £2,227,585 on the first year’s activities. I realize that, out of that reserve, provision has to be made for the cost of. administration. The amount of that we may learn from the Treasurer when he replies to the second-reading debate. But the fact remains that the surplus contribution, on what I submit is the most conservative basis for the expenditure contemplated under the bill, is £2,227,585. That is in addition to the £1,000,000 to be paid by the Government in the terms of clause 111. The reserve, or surplus contribution, at the end of five years, on that basis, and on the assumption that the contributions do not increase after the first year, with allowance for the increasing cash benefits mentioned at page 9 of the actuarial report, will be £11,137,925. The increasing cash benefits, according to page 9 of the actuarial report, will be £5,250,000. Therefore, .there will be a surplus at the end of five years of £5,887,925, in addition to the sinking fund provision by the Government, pursuant to the terms of clause 111, amounting to £5.000,000. Consequently, at the end of 1957, without allowing for any increase of numbers or value of contributions, and subject, of course, to essential adjustments of administration, the surplus contributions will total approximately £12,500,000, to which must be added the sinking fund of £19,000,000, an aggregate of £31,500,000. When the peak cash benefit cost of £3,100,000 is reached and has to be provided for, the available surplus, allowing for natural increase of numbers and value of contributions, should be sufficient to meet the position and leave the reserve intact. That is the position as I see it on the information available to me. I have limited facilities for obtaining information, but what I have disclosed is of such a nature as to demand at least inquiry and explanation. It reveals to me that either the benefits can be very wisely extended, or the contributions can be very materially reduced, while still keeping the fund intact. I am quite certain also, although I have not the facilities to prove it, that all the reserve necessary has been taken into consideration by the actuaries in arriving at the increasing cost of benefits. The inescapable conclusion is that the scheme is unduly loaded.

I intend now to discuss the matter from the viewpoint of Queensland. I recognize, of course, that State boundaries should be forgotten in the consideration of such an important national subject; but the peculiar circumstances and the sovereign responsibility of Queensland in connexion with the scheme are of such an extraordinary nature that I should be lacking in roy duty did I not bring them forcibly before the House. As far as monetary responsibility is concerned, the scheme will take out of the wage fund, the means of employment, and the industrial and commercial activities of the nation, on the basis of 52 weekly contributions, approximately £13,000,000. That is equivalent to almost £2 a head of the population of Australia. The pensions portion of that amount will be idle iu relation to the general activities of Australia for some considerable number of years, but on the health side the amount of £2,250,000 mentioned in the particular cash statement to which I have referred, would be put in circulation. On the basis of population, Queensland will have to contribute approximately £2,000,000. That £2,000,000 will be withheld from the activities of a State which, first, is vulnerable to an enemy; secondly, is undeveloped, and demands development; and, thirdly, has the highest rate of taxation of any State in the Commonwealth. That £2,000,000 is equivalent approximately to the average annual State income tax exacted in Queensland over the. last three years, lt is also £500,000 more than Queensland’s land an’d forestry revenue. I submit, therefore, that to take the sum of £2,000,000 out of general activities in Queensland will have the effect of keeping up taxation in that. State to the detriment of industry and employment generally. It has been stated that the justification for Queensland’s high taxes is the unique social services provided in that State. Dealing with this subject during the last State election campaign, on the 9th March, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, said -

Queensland citizens have the most liberal health services in the world. Those services operate from childhood to old age, and include, among others, benefits to children, such as baby-clinic care, child welfare attention and kindergarten instruction. To mothers the Government gives pre-natal care, maternity hospital, and post-natal attention. In sickness the citizens have at their disposal the finest public hospital system in Australia, and in necessitous old age there is a vastly liberalized system of benevolent and eventide homes.

This, I think you will agree, embraces a scheme of social service that has no parallel elsewhere, but is a full recompense for the moderate charge it makes upon the community.

To what extent will this scheme relieve the necessity for those social services, or interfere with the efficiency of those services? That is a point which must be considered. There is no doubt that the rural industries of Queensland cannot carry the burdens which will fall upon them under this particular measure. It would be a different matter if these charges could be passed on, but the amount involved, so far as Queensland’s primary industries are concerned, cannot Be passed on. The contributions are a tax irrespective of income, and a tax on resources whose full exploitation is essential to the development of a State like Queensland. Another point is the degree to which this scheme will conflict with conditions provided under Federal and State industrial awards, such as sick leave. Is there to be an adjustment in that respect, or with regard to such matters as workers’ compensation, u id the general liabilities and responsibilities and working conditions provided for under industrial awards? In short, where is the line of demarcation to be drawn as between the operation of this scheme and existing social services, and benefits provided under awards of the State arbitration courts and the Federal Arbitration Court? I submit that it is essential to provide a dragnet clause in this measure in order to prevent overlapping in respect of these matters.

T do not accord this measure the enthusiastic reception which it has received from many honorable members on this side of the chamber. I can see its possible repercussions and its definite disadvantages. It will undoubtedly adversely affect the hospital services of Queensland,, and complications are likely to occur in respect of the sovereign rights of the Commonwealth and the States relative to social services. I have been furnished with some interesting information from the Brisbane General Hospital, which indicates that 63.5 per cent, of the patients admitted to that institution are totally unable to pay for the services they receive. Many of them go to a general practitioner who, in most cases, prescribes h bottle of medicine and says, “You had better go into hospital”. The- hospital authorities naturally take a serious view of the possible effects of this measure, not only upon direct costs, but also in respect of out-patients and the general loading of hospital administration and maintenance. The British national insurance scheme has been in operation for more than 25 years and we can ascertain from the experience in connexion with it what is likely to happen in Australia. The British Medical Association in the first paragraph of an article on “ general introductory notes on hospital policy “ states -

Among the social changes of recent years none is more remarkable than that which has taken place in our hospitals. Originally charitable institutions for the general treatment of the very poor they have become centres of highly specialized and complex service to which four-fifths of the population look for help and where the community as a whole claims as a right services which can only be rendered by a great organization or its dependent branches. Voluntary hospitals have become increasingly the hospitals of the worker and his dependants. There is an urgent national demand that the benefits of the fully staffed and equipped hospital shall not be denied to any class in the community, and in particular shall be available at reasonable rates for those who cannot meet the cost of private nursing homes and whose means are yet above the income level of the insured person.

That experience is, to an increasing degree, the experience in Australia. This is shown by the following extract from an ‘ article which appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 25th April, 1937 -

Mr. Arthur Baillieu, a world renowned expert upon hospital administration, and who hud carried out investigations in the main countries of the world, including England, the Continent and tile United States of America, furnished a report upon the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He has given special attention to what he terms middle-class hospitals. The report finishes with this conclusion: -

Surveying the place of the voluntary and public hospital in the health service, Mr. Baillieu refers to evidence suggesting that the growth of the out-patients’ departments indicates that the public prefers and was increasingly demanding a type of service which the resources of the general practitioner could not at present provide.

Mr. Bailleau’s words should carry great weight. Obviously if the scheme of this bill comes into operation hospital maintenance costs and administration expenses generally will be increased, and the sources of hospital revenue will be reduced. It is well known that many hospitals in this country are maintained by contributions of workers, which vary from 2d. “in the ?1 on total earnings, to a straight-out levy of from ls. 4d. to ls. 6d. a week. Naturally, if the workers are compelled to contribute under the national insurance scheme they will discontinue contributing to voluntary hospital schemes. Time will prove this to be so. Queensland has its own unemployment insurance scheme which was introduced in 1923 by the Theodore Labour Government. From its inception it has provided for compulsory contributions. [Leave to continue given.]

It was a good thing that a compulsory insurance scheme was introduced into Queensland ; those who opposed it have lived to see its benefits. A great compliment was paid to it by the English expert who investigated various aspects of unemployment insurance. The scheme requires a payment of 6d. a week each by employers and employees. With reference to employers’ taxation liabilities in Queensland, I would emphasize that that State lias the highest taxation in the Commonwealth. According to Mr. Forgan Smith, Premier of Queensland, that aspect has been justified, and apparently confirmed, by the majority of the electors at the recent elections, because he claims that (he State provides the best social services in the world. The scheme provides the highest and best social service in the world. Queensland has also a hospital tax which is based on the value of land. That State has also the highest unemployment relief tax in Australia; it ranges from 5d. to lid. in the £1. It would appear that, like the poor, that tax will always be with the people of Queensland.’ In addition to those heavy exactions, there now comes the additional loading of ls. 6d. a week for each employee under this scheme.

I emphasize the merits of exempting small employers from this scheme. At this stage, I shall not do more than foreshadow an amendment whereby employers whose incomes are below £20S a year, and whose employees do not exceed a certain maximum number, shall be excluded from the necessity to contribute.

Mr Ward:

– Why not also exclude workers whose income is less than £20S a year?


– The worker will derive some benefit from this scheme, whereas the small employer will not. I suggest an exemption of £208 per annum, but if after experience of its working the fund is capable of allowing for a higher exemption I shall urge it. An exemption of £365 should be granted, for the reason that the basis of the scheme virtually states that any employee who does not enjoy an income of that amount cannot afford to pay for medical attention and other requirements in the event of sickness. It is only logical that an employer who does not enjoy an income exceeding £365 is not able to pay for employees’ benefits that he himself cannot afford. The exemption I foreshadow will extend not only to farmers, graziers and dairymen, but also to all employers, on the basis that in very many instances those men are getting less than the basic wage and less than the men they are reluctantly compelled to employ because of seasonal conditions or the circumstances- of their particular occupation. I shall not pursue the matter at any length, because ample opportunity will be provided to discuss it later.

Despite the fact that the principle or policy of national insurance is ethically sound and nationally desirable, this scheme disregards the fundamental principle of taxation, namely, ability to pay. I recognize the difficulties associated with a measure of this kind ; I recognize that from an administrative viewpoint and from a contributory viewpoint a flat rate had to be imposed, but I say that the very people who are carrying out their national duty and solving the unemployment problem that has imposed such a tremendous burden on the community, will be asked to pay a further penalty under this scheme, whereas landlords, investors and others enjoying large incomes will go scot free. I think some system could be evolved to provide for a real national insurance scheme.- In its present form the bill provides for nothing more than a scheme to cover certain employees. There is plenty of scope in Australia to compel the investor and the large income-maker to contribute their just quota to the solution of this vexed problem. There are, without particularizing, men in the community, for instance, those engaged in a professional capacity, making incomes ranging from £4,000 to £6,000 a year, who provide employment at most for only a typist or a messenger boy. Under this scheme they will be tax free. No regard whatever is paid in this bill to capacity to pay the tax. If there is any straining of the national insurance funds the Government should take some measures to get at those persons who should contribute their share towards a truly national insurance scheme. Another bad feature of the scheme is that it places an undue, and an unwise, burden, and confers no benefits, on primary producers and small employers with family responsibilities. That applies with particular emphasis to those primary producers who are depen- dent upon the export markets of the world for the sale of their products, but whose costs of production are based on Australian conditions. A third bad feature of the hill is that it discourages and places a penalty upon country life and rural activity by imposing a tax on small farmers and other primary producers. I submit that if this bill is the first instalment and if it is adequately adjusted and amended it will be like a patchwork quilt before it reaches the third-reading stage.

Thursday, 2 June 1938

Sitting suspended from 12.9 a.m. (Thursday) till 10.30 a.m.


– I congratulate the Government on its courage in bringing forward a bill so far-reaching in its social effects. I realize that it is not all thatwe might desire, but even in its present condition it provides benefits greater than those provided in the British scheme when it had been in operation for fifteen years, and which is generally recognized as the best in the world at the present time. Under this scheme, the old-age pension will be £1 a week for males at 65 years of age, and 15s. a week for females at 60 years of age.

Mr Mahoney:

– Those pensions are already obtainable.


– By a limited number only. This bill will extend the benefits to at least three times as many persons as are receiving pensions or allowances at present. In Great, Britain, male contributors receive a pension of 10s. a week at 65 years of age, and females 10s. a week, while there is no children’s allowance. In Australia, on the other hand, a children’s allowance of 3s. 6d. a week will bo paid for each dependent child under fifteen years of age; a widow’s pension will be 12s. 6d. a week until 1944, and 15s. a week thereafter, while in Great Britain it is only 10s. a week. For orphans, the pension will bo 7s. 6d. a week here, as it is in Great Britain. In Australia, sickness benefits for males will be £1 a week and for females 15s. a week, as against the British benefits of 15s. a week for males, 12s. for single females, and 10s. for married females. Thus, thebenefits in Australia will be approximately75 per cent. greater than those in Great Britain. Although the contributions in this country will be somewhat higher, the benefit to be derived will be more than proportionately greater.

Many interests will be seriously affected by this bill, particularly the friendly societies, the doctors and the chemists. Naturally, they are fighting for the best conditions they can get, but I believe that they are all agreed that this scheme is necessary, and none of them wishes to destroy it. They are only trying to get the best terms possible. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said that there was general opposition to the scheme - in fact, that everybody objected to it. I have spoken to a. great number of people in my electorate, and I know that that is not true. I have letters here from bank officials asking that they be exempt from the scheme on the ground that they have a very fine superannuation scheme of their own, but even they say that they do not wish to do anything to prevent the Government’s scheme from becoming effective. The friendly societies fear that, when the scheme is in operation, they will lose members, but in that they are mistaken. In Great Britain, it was found that the societies, instead of losing members, gained in strength. I hope that the Government will give the societies every encouragement and do everything possible to see that they get their fair share of new members. In the past they have done very fine work in Australia in providing medical services and sickness benefits. I trust that nothing will be done to prejudice their position.

As for the doctors, we all realize that their executive made a bargain, and then thought that they might be able to make a better one. They arc human, and it is only natural that they should seek the best terms they can get. I feel sure that they will realize, however, once the measure is in operation, that they will benefit substantially under it as have the doctors in Great Britain.

I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has been able to give an undertaking that the scheme will eventually be widened to include small farmers and shopkeepers. The Government has promised that, at as early a date as possible, a bill will be introduced to include such persons in a voluntary scheme. It would be unjust to exclude them, particularly the farmers, because they are the one section that is unable to pass on the cost of the scheme.

Mr Frost:

– They are already included in the scheme; they must pay their 1s. 6d. a week in respect of each employee.


– Yes, but they are excluded from the benefits. Many of those on the land are struggling to make ends meet, and although we hear cheap sneers from members of the Opposition about wheat bounties paid to farmers, we do not hear from them that the farmers are in difficulties largely because they acceded to the request of a Labour government to grow more wheat. They were promised a fixed price for their wheat, but did not get it, and they exported a large part of the equity they had in their farms in order to prevent Australia from defaulting in respect of its overseas obligations. I am also pleased that the Government has promised assistance to enable provision to be made for extending medical benefits to the wives and dependents of contributors. This promise, together with the promise in respect of farmers and small shopkeepers, removes the two principal objections I had to the measure.

Mr Mahoney:

– The honorable member would have voted for it in any case.


– The honorable member for Denison should consider well before he takes the responsibility of voting against this measure. A national insurance proposal was first brought forward before the’ war, but the war prevented anything from being done. A bill was introduced just before the depression, but again it had to be dropped. There is a danger, in the present state of world affairs, that ifthis bill be not passed now the scheme may be delayed for many years more. ‘ If the honorable member does anything to prevent the passage of the bill, he cannot claim to represent the widows and orphans of his electorate, nor to be concerned for the poorer sections of the community, whose interests he has championed in so many impassioned speeches.

Evidently the honorable member is prepared to wreck the bill for fear the Government will get credit for having introduced it. Roughly speaking, the benefits proposed for Australia are on the average about 75 per cent. higher than those in Great Britain. The sickness and disablement benefits proposed for Australia are on the average nearly 100 per cent. higher than are offered by the Friendly Societies in Australia.

For the first time in the history of sickness insurance an allowance, in addition to the sickness and disablement benefit, is to be made in respect of each dependent child. The contribution payable by the employed person to the pensions scheme will be only a fraction of its actuarial cost. Of the10d. a week to be paid in respect of pensions for women in the early years of the scheme, women will pay5d. a week, and, as the average age of women entering the scheme will be about28, and as the actuarial value of the women’s pension benefits at age 28 will be about 3s.1d. a week, it will be observed that women will be paying only one-seventh of the cost of the benefits. The average age at which a man will enter the scheme will be 34, and his pension benefits will be worth 6s. 6d. per week. Towards this men will pay 10½d. a week, the other7½d. being for health insurance. The average value of a widow’s pension and children’s allowances will be about £700. What working man could afford to insure his life for that amount? The average value of the man’s old-age pension at the age of 65 will be £500.

Women are extraordinarily well treated under the scheme. They will get their pensions five years earlier than men, and will consequently pay contributions for a term five years shorter. More than half of the man’s own contribution will be devoted towards providing a pension for his widow and children. The scheme will cover, including the wives and children, about 52 per cent. of the population of Australia. About 50 years hence the total cash benefits under the scheme, excluding the costs of medical services, but including the cost which will still be payable under the non-contributory pension scheme, will be nearly £1,000,000 a week, made up as follows : - .

The result of the scheme will be that over treble the number of persons now getting pensions will be in receipt of pensions and allowances. If no national insurance scheme be adopted, the cost of the present invalid and old-age pensions will rise from £15,850,000 to -over £32,000,000 a year. The scheme is on a sound financial basis. The benefits will be as much as the contributions will carry. If more benefits are to be included the contributions must be increased. It is considered that the contributions are as high as it is reasonable to ask from the basic wage-earners and their employers. No fewer than 24 countries throughout the world have already adopted compulsory contributory insurance. Is Australia not to march with the times?

A very serious problem in the outback settlements throughout the Commonwealth is the difficulty of providing adequate and satisfactory medical services. The doctors in those districts .have to make long and often difficult journeys to reach their patients, with a consequent increase of medical fees, and charges for mileage, that few of their patients can afford. In urgent cases also, where prompt medical attention is needed, the time taken to bring the doctor to the patient may prove fatal. Attention has already been paid to this problem, notably by the Australian Aerial Medical Services, but much remains to be done. It is satisfactory, therefore, to note that, in his speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill, the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made an important statement as to the Government’s policy on this subject, which may possibly be overlooked in view of the other and more controversial matters dealt with in the measure.

The Treasurer remarked that it was the policy of the Government steadily to develop the medical resources of the country until it could be said that not a life would be lost, and that no avoidable suffering would be caused through the lack of proper medical treatment. That is a great aim, and although we do not suppose that the Treasurer wished to suggest that this legislation would afford a complete solution of the problem, the medical service to be provided under it will give for the first time nation-wide medical treatment which should, make possible a considerable extension of medical facilities in the more sparsely-populated areas. The problem that these areas present to doctors is primarily one of travelling, and, if that service were paid for on a generous scale, taking account of both the cost of travelling and the time taken up, many enterprising young doctors might be more inclined than they are at the present time to settle and build up a practice in outback districts. This would be of enormous advantage to the farmers and settlers in those areas, who should experience a substantial reduction of tha cost of medical treatment for themselves and their families. The new bill, tha Treasurer pointed out, makes provision for co-operation between the insurance commission and State and local authorities, with a view to the extension of medical services to the more remote areas, and he anticipates that bush hospitals and flying doctors will play an important part in the new movement. That is an essential feature of any scheme of national health insurance. Those who are prepared to go into the outback areas - the pioneers of the vast spaces of Central and Northern Australia - are entitled to such medical and social security as the Commonwealth can afford to give to them.

Although the bill is not perfect, it represents the greatest step ever attempted in this country in the direction of social security. If the memebers of the Opposition, and certain honorable members who usually support the Government’, are prepared to accept the responsibility of wrecking the bill - and there is a great danger of their destroying it - that is a risk which I do not feel disposed to take. Although the measure may operate against the interests of a section of the people whom I represent, one must regard the matter from a national point of view. We must be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the great masses of the people who are definitely entitled to social security. If they are not given that security our civilization will have failed. The rejection of this scheme would result iri an injustice to widows and orphans and the poor people of Australia, and the electors would then be justified in rejecting at the next election those who are responsible for its destruction.


– I have listened to the many speeches delivered on this bill, and I am convinced that it is a most important one. I am strengthened in that conviction by the fact that the forty-seventh speaker on the measure needed an extension of time. I congratulate the Government on the courage it has displayed in introducing this comprehensive scheme of national insurance. It is true that in many countries legislation of this kind has been passed, but this bill is the most liberal, and provides for the most desirable type of national insurance that could be introduced. I pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for the enormous amount of work he has done in connexion with this measure, and to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) for his persistence in urging upon the Government and the people the urgent need for this legislation. Many people have long advocated some form of national insurance, and I think that the chief reason has been to avoid the disadvantages of the present pensions system, under which the private affairs of aged and infirm folk have to be investigated before they can receive the very necessary and just assistance given to them in their old age or ‘ invalidity. I was hopeful that this scheme would supplant entirely the old-age and invalid pension, but I can see that that is not possible, for many people, who might be in good circumstances throughout the greater part of their lives, might find themselves at pensionable agc in a position in which they needed financial help. Therefore, the old-age and invalid pension will have to be retained to cater for those who are not eligible to be brought under the present scheme.

Members of the Opposition object to a contributory scheme, but the workers have not shown that they dislike contributory insurance. About 400,000 of those who would be brought under this measure are already contributing to friendly society benefit funds. I suspect that if this bill had been introduced by a Labour government, all the members of the present Opposition would have applauded it. I understand that in New Zealand a suggestion has been made for the introduction by a Labour government of a scheme under which the workers’ contributions would be on a very much higher scale than that contemplated in the proposal now before the House. The present pensions system in Australia is dependent on the state of the finances of the country. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has mentioned that the reduction of the old-age pension a few years ago was not because of the inability of the Commonwealth to pay the full amount. I think . that the honorable member said that there was something wrong in the system ; but I remind him that, when the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister, he definitely stated that, if the financial emergency legislation were not passed, the rate of pension payable would be only about 12s. 6d. in the £1. If that was not’ an indication that the pensions system was dependent on the financial position of the Commonwealth at the time, I do not understand English.

Mr Brennan:

– ‘The right honorable gentleman said that that was what the banks had declared, and that this Parliament had no power to prevent it.


– That is one way of getting out of it; but I am of the opinion that the right honorable gentleman would not have made that definite statement if he had not thought that there was some truth in it. I was not a member of this House at the time, but I am inclined to think that he would not have put the blame on the banks, more especially as he used that argument in favour of the passage of the Financial Emergency Bill. If the measure now before the House had been in operation then, there would have been no need for a reduction of the pension rate. As proof of that, we need only recall that, the contributory schemes of the friendly societies, remained in operation as usual during the recent economic depression, when the general finances of the Commonwealth suffered considerably. Therefore, I suggest to the Opposition that it is much better to have a scheme under which the people will contribute to a fund from which they will be able to draw in time of necessity. If I know the working people of Australia, and the general public, I am sure that they would much prefer to be able, in their old age or invalidity, to draw from a fund which had been built up partly by themselves. When members of the Opposition advocate that the people should be given something from the general revenue to which they themselves have not contributed, they do not express the general desire of the people of Australia.

The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said that this is a scheme under which the poor will pay for the poor, and the rich will escape taxation. I contradict that statement. If anybody will get benefit under the scheme, it will be those receiving less than £365 per annum. There are many other people in the community for whom honorable members opposite ought to put in a word. Certain employers, such as small farmers and shopkeepers, have incomes as low as, and sometimes lower -than, those of the persons whom they employ. Yet if they desire to derive benefit under this scheme, they will have to make a double contribution. Leaving out the contributions by the Commonwealth, of the four contributions to be made for the benefit of a small farmer or shopkeeper, and an employee, three would have to be paid by the person called the employer. A scheme should be evolved whereby employers who do not get a high yearly income should be exempt from contributions. Employers on small yearly incomes would be unjustly treated under the present proposal. Those with incomes over £365 a year would be in a position to pay the double contribution, but small farmers, small shopkeepers, and others of that class, would have to pay for their employees and make a double contribution for themselves.

The honorable member for Batman stated that the present proposal is of no value, and that to obtain something better it would be necessary to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This means that the honorable member would favour the retention of that most objectionable feature of the act known as the means test. If that feature is not to be retained, on what basis would it be decided whether a person was entitled to the pension? Would it be given to everyone in the community, without any investigation of his financial position? If not, I should like to hear of some plan whereby a universal scheme could be instituted without applying the means test to those in need of the pension.

I am very jealous of the position which friendly societies occupy in the community, more particularly as they are voluntary organizations which have rendered an excellent service to the Australian people for many years. I would be very sorry if anything were done which would in any way weaken their present position. Many honorable members have received circulars from these societies suggesting that they should be made the sole approved societies under this scheme, and I should like to support their request : but, unfortunately, there are many difficulties in the way. ‘Commendable schemes are being conducted by other organizations, and it would be unfair in some cases to interfere with the work which they are doing. Moreover, if a limitation were imposed, it would be possible for other organizations to set up similar societies, calling them friendly societies, to operate in conjunction with established organizations. Provision should not be made for the appointment of a certain number of approved societies to carry out the scheme, because other suitable organizations may be established. There are enormous difficulties in the way of limiting the work to present organizations. If the Government can devise some means whereby the. operations of some organizations can be limited to their own employees, such a scheme will have my support. Some organizations, such as insurance companies, might go outside their own organizations in order to get members from approved societies. I see no reason why such associations should deal with other than their own employees, or endeavour to strengthen their membership by getting members from other societies. I trust the Government will l>e able to propose some way out of the difficulty.

Some publicity has been given te the request of certain organizations to be exempt from the provisions of the bill, but I am unable to support such a request, because if employees in any organization be exempted, requests will also be received from other organizations for a similar concession. The success of this scheme will depend, upon its comprehensive nature and upon receiving the maximum number of contributors.

A good deal of publicity has also been given to the attitude of the members of the medical profession towards this proposal. Although members of the British Medical Association discussed this subject with the Treasurer, I do not think that those with whom he conferred were fully representative of the general body of medical practitioners. I refer honorable members to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) and to the paragraph which he l ead from the Australian Medical Journal of the 14th May; but it is interesting to note that according to the issue of that journal of the 2Sth May the decision contained in the earlier publication was practically reversed. In fairness to the members of the medical profession, !i another conference ought to be held. Like the honorable member for Henty, I do not feel disposed to say what the medical practitioners should receive under the scheme. I am not in a position to say whether they are entitled to lis., 14s. or even 20s. for each person insured; but there is reason to suppose that the delegation which conferred with the Treasurer was not representative of the general body of medical practitioners. I support the suggestion that another conference be held, and that a judge should act as arbitrator. It may be that the rate will be increased, or decreased, but if the doctors be satisfied the scheme will be more likely to operate successfully. According to the statements of some honorable members, there is a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst doctors, particularly those in country districts. I believe that those who discussed this matter with the ifr. Scholfield.

Treasurer- represented the views of medical men who may not come under the scheme, and consequently will not have to experience the disabilities which will be encountered by other medical men. I do not know whether the rates are or are not sufficient, but another conference should be held in an endeavour to reach an arrangement satisfactory to all parties. There should also be a differentiation between the fee paid to country doctors and that paid to city doctors. One honorable member described the great disabilities under . which certain country doctors labour. I do not think that I can support everything that that honorable member said, because although many doctors work under great disabilities, others are carrying on their profession in fairly congenial surroundings. Unfortunately, the expenses of some country doctors are particularly heavy, because they have to provide a very efficient means of transport, and in that and other ways are handicapped financially. In these circumstances, I trust that there will be some differentiation between the fees paid to city and to country doctors.

Those who object to a contributory scheme should remember that there are 25 countries conducting compulsory health insurance schemes ‘ on a contributory basis, to most of which the employers, employees and the State contribute. In some instances the State does not contribute at all. The only country in which contributions are made only by the employer is Russia. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) said that in that country, contributions were made only by the employers, and when members of the Opposition advocate a non-contributory scheme, they are following the policy adopted in only one country, that country being Russia. Of the ‘ 24 other countries that have national health schemes, all are on a contributory basis.

I regret that after lengthy investigation, one feature has been omitted from the bill ; but I cannot see how it can be incorporated in this measure. I hope that as a result of a conference between the Commonwealth and State authorities some provision will eventually be made for a scheme of unemployment insurance.

I do not think it possible to include it in a bill such as this, more especially as unemployment is a matter for the States rather than the Commonwealth. If anything be done, it must be in co-operation with the ‘State Governments.


– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that subject on this bill.


– I believe that the Government is considering a further scheme under which farmers and small employers will be catered for; but if such a scheme be introduced some persons under that scheme may be contributing on a voluntary basis, and at the same time be compelled as employers to contribute to this scheme, which would mean that they would be paying into two schemes and receiving a benefit from only one. If such a measure be introduced I trust that the contributions from the Commonwealth will be more liberal, so that the burden will not fall too heavily upon those who can ill afford to spend much money in this. way. This is mainly a bill for consideration in committee, but for the information of honorable members opposite, I may say that, although I support the second reading of the bill, I reserve the right to vote as I think fit on any of its provisions.


.I support the amendment. moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I have listened attentively to the arguments of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and having perused the measure most carefully, I find that there is nothing in it which is likely to give a semblance of security to the great masses of the Australian people. There is no indication of any serious attempt having been made to benefit the working class of this country, and it appears that the measure has been brought before the House in such a form that we must either take it or leave it. Even amendments which may be an improvement will be disregarded. I believe that the whole subject should be further considered and that the delay occasioned would be more than justified. Great dissatisfaction exists on account of the secrecy with which the Government prepared this measure. Although months were occupied in its preparation, details of it were screened until it was presented to Parliament, and the persons whose assistance should have been sought in the drafting of it were ignored. The bill should not be rushed through Parliament in its present form, all criticism of it being swept aside. The Australian people are entitled to the best possible form of national insurance. Under this bill 1,850,000 employed persons will contribute weekly to the fund amounts of from 8d. to ls. 6d. and their employers will contribute like amounts. After five years, and again after ten years, the amounts of these contributions will be increased. The Commonwealth ‘ will contribute at the start £1,000,000 a year, the amount progressively increasing to £10,000,000 a year by 1961 for the payment of pensions and £900,000 a year for 30 years for health benefits, which will be limited to general medical practitioner attendance on the insured persons only. Wives, children and dependants are excluded, and no provision is made for the prevention of disease, even occupational disease, or for specialist or hospital treatment. The health scheme, at a gross cost estimated at £17,500,000, is a mere copy of the English scheme which was initiated in pre-war days for a much larger industrial population, accustomed to lower standards of living and medical service than prevail in Australia. The basis of the pensions scheme is to be a fund which will be developed over 40 years to an amount of £26S,000,000. During those 40 years old-age pensioners will increase from 590,000 to 1,2S0,000, although the official expectation is that after 1967 the population will fall steadily, unless there be an immediate increase of the birth-rate and extensive immigration. By 1978 the pensions bill will be £15,650,000 a year more than the contributions received.

In his second - reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) showed plainly that the motive of this bill is not to safeguard the health of the community but to lighten the burden on the revenue of the old-age pension. In 1909 there were 65,492 invalid and old-age pensioners and the expenditure thereon amounted to £1,432,585. In 1937 the pensioners had increased to 311,000 and the cost to £15,850,000. The Government has disclaimed any intention to alter the position of beneficiaries under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but I am confident that if this bill becomes law important amendments and modifications of that act will follow. My confidence arises from the fact that the Commonwealth Government, in 1932, under the provisions of the Financial Emergency Act, attempted to unload part of the pensions burden on to the shoulders of relatives of pensioners, and it was only after an outcry from all sections of the community and from ministerial supporters within this Parliament, backed up by the Opposition, that the Government was dissuaded from pursuing its policy. On behalf of the Government it has been claimed that tremendous taxation will be necessary in future to cope with the ever-growing burden of pensions. On this, point the secretary of the Taxpayers’ Association (Mr. J. M. White) has said -

The successful implementing of a comprehensive scheme of contributory national insurance in Australia would, it is submitted, achieve a threefold purpose - firstly, to give to the worker a much-needed sense of security against contingencies beyond his control, secondly, to make the worker directly responsible, in part, for financing the benefits he will bc entitled to receive, and finally to relieve taxpayers of a. burden which is becoming almost intolerable.

While the Government’s proposals should, in time, substantially relieve the budgets of the growing weight of social services, it is suggested that the. proposals should be regarded from a broader national- aspect. The worker to-day, with increasing longevity and technological unemployment, cannot but suffer from the fear of unemployment, old age, sickness or other incapacity, to earn a living. The removal of this fear must inevitably be of the greatest social importance.

Furthermore, it is felt that the average Australian worker would prefer a scheme in which he would have a right to benefits by reason of his own contributions rather than that he should he an object of public charity.

The Labour party maintains that investment by any government in - social service is progressive and profitable, and that this bill falls far short of what the Government of a. comparatively rich country like Australia should have put forward after £69,000 has been expended on investigation of national insurance by royal commissions and other bodies. The bill contemplates an anomalous system of class taxation. The workers and their employers will have to contribute at the start about £11,000,000 a year, and ifr. Sheehan. eventually about £15,000,000 a year. The Government tries to delude itself that a contribution is not a tax, but I refuse to subscribe to that view. This party believes that social obligations should be community obligations aud that they should not be met by systems of sectional taxation.

Great stress has been made by Government supporters on the claim that the compulsory tax to be imposed on all workers for pension purposes will lift oldage pensions from the level of a charitable payment. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), who has just resumed his seat, was one of them. The Labour party repudiates the suggestion that pensions are other than a rightful claim that the pioneers have on the accumulated wealth of the country as a recompense for the service that they have rendered to society. Since pensions have been established in this country .they have been paid from the proceeds of taxation, based on the capacity of the taxpayer to bear the burden. The whole basis of the pension scheme involved in this legislation is the desire of the Government to relieve the wealthy of the obligation of providing the necessary revenue and to compel the workers in industry, regardless of the sacrifice involved, to bear the burden on a totally inequitable basis.

Much has been said of the blessing that will be conferred on contributors, in that they will not be called upon to face a means test when applying for the old-age pension. The claim is utterly fallacious and is designed to humbug the people into believing that the Government is offering an excellent insurance investment. It is the old trick of the confidence man - the gold brick in new wrappings. The Government knows, and every other person who has given the most cursory study to the industrial history of the country knows, that tragically few persons, male or female, remain in the industries that will be covered by this legislation until they reach the maximum ages of 65 for males and 60 for females stipulated in this bill. Without giving any consideration to the many thousands of contributors that will be eliminated by death before they reach pensionable age, we all know that the exactions of modern industrial development year after year are determining that men and women are of no further use in industry where profit is the god, long before they reach pension age. As time goes on, this position is becoming accentuated, and middle age is rapidly becoming the maximum age. What then is the use of the Government’s assurances that the means test will not be applied, when we all know that’ the claims of the vast majority of contributors will be eliminated by prolonged unemployment and consequent forfeiture of benefits?

I have taken the trouble to compile a table from the data available in the census’ returns qf 1933 covering the industries and the employees of those industries that will be covered by (he pensions section of this legislation. The figures show the number of persons, both male and female, usually employed in those industries, and also the number of males employed between the age of 60 and 64 years, and females between the age of 55 and 59 years, in the year 1933. I have chosen those age groups because they represent the people verging on the pension age. An analysis of the figures utterly destroys the Government’s preposterous claim that payment of this pensions tax will prove a boon to pensioners, and reveals the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers will be taxed during the whole of their industrial career, and will, either by death or unemployment in their latter middle life, lose all possibility of avoiding the means test when eventually they apply for the old-age pension. The table is as follows: -

Of 1,47S,040 male employees in all industries in 1933 who would be eligible for the pension benefits of this scheme, only 56,553 were between the age of 60 and 64. Of 527,440 females, only 6,036 were between the age of 55 and 59.

That is to say that had this scheme been in full operation in 1933, only 3.9 per cent, of the males and .87 per cent, of the females were likely to be eligible to receive the old-age pension without the means test. What was true then is true now, and as the mechanization of industry develops the position will be accentuated. What an utter exposure of the Government’s humbugging claim that the workers are contributing to an excellent insurance investment! The Government and its experts know - they must know - that they are plumbing the depths of political hypocrisy when they urge the workers to accept this scheme, because it will remove the taint of charity and confer an untrammelled right to a pension without a means test. Although we are assured that the benefits under the bill are based on actuarial experience, it is remarkable that they provide for less health or sustenance benefits than those given by successful friendly societies for half the contributions that will be required under this scheme. The bill provides for medical treatment and medicine at all times and sick pay at £1 a week for six months’ disablement, to one person only; for this a man will, have tq pay 3s. a week and a woman 2s., but the woman will be able to draw only 15s. a week for six months, Contrast that with the position of workers in industry to-day, and with the benefits provided in the schedule: of a major friendly society. A member of a friendly society is entitled to medical attendance and medicine for himself, his wife, and his children under sixteen years. When sick he would draw £1 ls. a week for six months, 15s. for another six months, and 10s. for the third six months. After that he would receive a smaller amount if permanently disabled. If he were restored to health, went off the funds for two years, and then became sick again, the benefits would begin, all over again. Should he die, his widow would get £30 mortality benefit, or more if he had been a member for over five years. For all these benefits a member joining the society up to twenty years of age would pay ls. 6d. a week. The- bill does not allow mortuary benefit, which is a consideration . of much value to poor people, but, of course, it does provide for a pension of £1 a week. Friendly societies estimate that they could give such an additional benefit at from 5d. to 6d. a week. Thus they could give to families all the single-person benefits provided for in the bill at two-thirds of the actuarial estimate. Those who drafted the bill - its organizers and the actuary - are Englishmen who have been only a. few weeks in Australia.. To attack an allegedly over-swollen pension system, they would destroy voluntary organizations that efficiently care for 2,000,000 people. Consideration must be given, and we know that it will be given, to the friendly societies. These organizations have been quietly, energetically, and enthusiastically performing a wonderful work on behalf of citizens. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) stated that all the friendly societies could do was to give the member £1 for £1, but it is known that friendly societies have given benefits valued at over £200. for £15 paid in contributions. Also, they supply immediate benefits of sick pay for 52 weeks, mortality benefits, and medical attention for the worker, his wife and family. “Friendly society” is a good name, with a good meaning. The friendly societies promote thrift, christian charity, and good citizenship. They have been caring for sick and disabled members of lodges and ruling out malingerers for nearly 100 years. The friendly societies of Australia are more highly developed than were the corresponding bodies in the United Kingdom in 1911 ; their range and scope of benefits are more extended, and their administration is more efficient. Most Australian friendly societies are consolidated. They are not, as were the British societies, a loosely-knit conglomeration of branches of lodges. The head office organizations in each State possess staffs that have been carefully i rained in friendly society work, and they administer and control the lodges of the societies within that State. They have a thorough knowledge of the strength and the weakness of medical certification.. They have, by experience, been able toprevent malingering and undue exploitation of benefit funds. The. surmounting, of the recent period of depression without reducing benefits was indisputable proof of their stability and a tribute to their efficient management. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) declared that the workersdid not want a charity scheme, and that this was not a charity scheme. He said the workers only wanted security. But will the worker find security for himself and his family in this scheme? Honorable members on this side of the House have pointed to clauses in the bill that are far from giving that sense of security which government supporters claim for the scheme. The benefits of £1 a week during sickness and 3s. 6d. for . a dependent child are entirely inadequate. Thereseems to be no departure by the Government from the old ruling rate of the friendly societies, although the contributions under this scheme are greater; £1 a week was the amount paid by friendly societies more than 50 years ago when the basic wage was only £2 a week. It will still be the ruling rate under this scheme in different States where the basic rate may vary at £3, £4 or £5. Insurance benefits are easily lost by the worker obtaining a verdict in a compensation claim. Clause 69 of the bill states -

  1. 1 ) Where an insured person is entitled to receive compensation or damages under any act or State act or at common law or otherwise in respect of any injury or disease, the amount of sickness benefit or disablement benefit (including dependent child’s allowance) to which be would otherwise be entitled under this net payable only to the extent to which the weekly sum ‘receivable by way of such compensation or damages, or the amount of weekly wages received by him pending thu determination of the weekly sum, falls short of the weekly sum that would otherwise he payable under this act.

That clause is very dangerous. An injured person may obtain from the court an award of compensation, and if the person against whom the verdict is given is unable to pay, the approved society may take the responsibility of not paying because the man is entitled to compensation under the decision of the court. If after two years he dies, his wife and family may he deprived of any of the benefits for which he may have contributed for ten or fifteen years. That clause certainly does not give security to an injured person. In the event of him not going on with the claim, clause 147 would operate. That clause reads -

An approved society may, subject to the regulations make advances by way of sickness benefit or disablement benefit to any of its members being insured persons pending the settlement of any claim for compensation or damages and may take action, in the prescribed cases and manner on behalf of any such member who, without reasonable cause, refuses or fails to take proceedings to enforce any such claim

Therefore, in the event of an insured person not taking action, the approved society may take action itself. Having secured a verdict, the insured person may become the victim and receive no money through the approved society because the person against whom the verdict was obtained had become bankrupt.

The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that he intends to increase the women’s pension, but that the alteration will not lie made in the bill. He has said that a new bill will be submitted. We understand that the Government will submit air anomalous proposal that for an increase of her contribution to ls. 6d. a week a woman will receive at the age of CO only £1 a week. She will not receive the same benefits as the insured man for sickness and disablement. Strange to relate, at present a woman can receive 15s. for the payment of ls. a week. It is now proposed to make her contribute 6d. a week extra to obtain only 5s. extra benefit a week. The Treasurer has failed to explain why the rentier class should be specially singled out for exemption from their share of the cost of the proposed new national services. The Labour party is strongly opposed to individual ‘ contributions as a basis for invalidity, oldage, and widows’ pensions. We believe that these services should be a charge on the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth. Many wealthy taxpayers in Australia are not employers, and except as payers of ordinary taxation, from which will come some of the. initial cost of the scheme, they will contribute nothing towards it. On the contrary, the farmer or manufacturer who risks his capital in industry and makes a small net income, will have* to pay a substantial amount every year. The workers to-day, directly and indirectly, contribute a large proportion of the revenues of the Commonwealth Government, and in the opinion of my party the proposed special additional contribution for pensions is tantamount to taxing them doubly. No class should be exempt from payment. A scheme should be brought in whereby those now exempt will be compelled to make contributions. I shall instance how the scheme will affect some business men. A storekeeper in my electorate who employs a staff of nearly 100 persons has always paid them above award rates and given them sick pay at any time when they have been off duty through illness. He will now have to discontinue the sick payments as he find3 that he will have to meet an increased annual expenditure of nearly £1,000. It is the intention of this employer to maintain his present position financially, and the only way he will be able to do it will be by increasing the price of the commodities he sells. It can safely be assumed that the wholesale merchants will likewise pass the cost on to the retailer. In the long run all the cost will fall on the shoulders of the working class. Furthermore, the bill contemplates that a married worker must make, a special and additional contribution to a friendly society in order to secure medical treatment for his wife and children. Many have not joined the friendly societies, and thousands could not pass the medical test for membership. Any medical health insurance scheme that covers the breadwinner but not his wife and children is inadequate and incomplete. The Government contends that because males contribute ls. 6d. a week as compared with a contribution of ls. a week by females, the scale of £1 medical benefit, 15s. disablement benefit, and £1 old-age pension for men is in proportion to 15s. medical benefit, 12s. 6d. disablement benefit, and 15s. oldage pension for women. That is a biased view to take. The bill will affect only 500,000 women out of 3,382,000 females in the community, because of the limitation of the’ measure to female employees and to wives who voluntarily continue their insurance payments. We, as a party, while recognizing that a woman, on 54 per cent, of a man’s basic wage - for equal work in many instances - could not be expected to make the same contribution as a man, see no reason why the injustice of unequal pay for equal work should be repeated in this bill. We believe that women, without any increase of their contributions, should be entitled to benefits equal to those provided for men under this scheme. When insured women leave industry and marry, there ‘1 be no surrender value or equity in the contributions they have made unless, as wives, they continue their contributions in order to receive the old-age pension. Under the present pensions scheme, women receive equal payment, but under the bill it is proposed that a disablement benefit of 15s. shall be paid to men and one of only 12s. 6d. to women. That, in my opinion, is unjust discrimination.

There has been some reference to bringing life insurance societies into this scheme. I am thoroughly opposed to those societies having any say whatever in the matter. There are two sets” or organizations in Australia which are adequately equipped to administer the benefits of national health insurance on behalf of the Government. I refer to the friendly society organizations and to the trade unions. Should life insurance societies bo permitted to become “ approved societies “ under this scheme, a sordid campaign of canvassing will be commenced with a view to enrolling members in the various societies by offering the inducement of additional benefits. This would be most unsatisfactory, and would give wealthy organizations a very definite ad vantage which in the long run would be inimical to the best interests of the scheme. Life insurance societies would have a decided advantage over friendly societies, because the funds of the latter cannot be used for propaganda purposes. 1’ know that this is the case in New South Wales. Unless thi? Government were prepared to give them a grant for propaganda pur poses, their interests would suffer appreciably when wealthy insurance organi- zations began to enrol new members. How successfully this has been done in England is proved by the fact that more than one-half of the insured persons there are members of life insurance societies.

Reference has been made to the position of members of the medical profession under this scheme. I say definitely that the bill should not seek to place them under duress. A remarkable feature of the position is that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, after consultation with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), announced that it was pledged to secrecy and could not divulge what had occurred. The Medical Journal endeavoured to force members of the British Medical Association to adopt the scheme under the conditions laid down by the Government. This is what it published -

Medical practitioners who cannot sue tinwriting on the wall, who would at any cost stick to the good old days, as they call thom, would tlo well to remember that miti on al heu 1th insurance i« the best possible preventive of nationalization of the medical profession - a process which can only be described as detrimental to the welfare of thu community, likely to be destructive of progress in medical science and fatal to thu freedom of the medical practitioner.

I shall now proceed to show what happened in England because insufficient remuneration was given to members of the medical profession to enable them to discharge their responsibilities. Dr. Harrie Roberts published in the London Spectator of the 27th April, 1-93-4, the following very interesting article: -

There is yet another clement that materially detracts from the real efficiency of the panel medical service.

By long tradition in this country, it lui* come to be generally accepted that the prime duty and responsibility of every doctor is to his patient. An elaborate code of conduct based on this is one of the proudest heritages of the medical profession.

But for a panel doctor to act on this code is officially regarded as an act of mutiny. If he insists on doing so he renders himself liable to be mulct in heavy penalties. The insurance practitioner is instructed to look upon his patient with mistrust and suspicion; to receive his statements with unsleeping scepticism ; and generally to play the detective. It is no exaggeration to say that a panel doctor, so far as his material interests and the approval of his official employers are concerned, can far more safely and profitably give small thought to his patients’ health mid interests than disregard the economic interests of those great commercial organizations “ the approved societies.” A charge of “’ excessive certification “ or “excessive prescribing” may involve a doctor in a money fine of a hundred pounds or more, but there are no penalties attached tounder-certification, to under-prescribing or to under-attending generally. Can we wonder if a callous cynicism is beginning to develop in the minds of some of the doctors engaged in industrial medical practice?

Most of these defects could be very easily remedied, but it seems to be no one’s business to remedy them.

The panel system had an unfortunate start. The goodwill of the doctors was not obtained and they submitted to the numerous regulations under financial duress.

The Treasurer should seek the cooperation of the medical profession rather than of industrial insurance corporations. At the present time the medical profession is hostile to these proposals, and the Government does not seem to be prepared to meet the wishes of the doctors. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has argued that a Justice of the High Court, and others should adjudicate in the matter. No such suggestion ever came from the honorable member when the workers in any industry maintained that they were receiving insufficient remuneration for their labour. That, however, is by the way. I believe that the members of the medical profession are entitled to receive what they are claiming. They are not an exploiting body of men; on the contrary, they are among the most respected members of our community. If they are brought under this scheme by the application of financial duress, the best interests of the people will not be served. They will be unable to give satisfactory service to all of those for whom they will be responsible if they are to make a living out of the remuneration that the Government is offering. Everybody realises that a medical practitioner requires up to 50 minutes to make a thorough examination, which involves ascertainment of the cause of a patient’s complaint. Will a doctor in an industrial area have sufficient time to deal with the thousands of persons who will be on his medical list? I say that he will not. Therefore, the scheme should be made more liberal in the interests of the medical profession, so that its members may be in a position to render thebest service to the community.

There is another interest which has been completely overlooked in the drafting of this measure, yet it, too, performs wonderful work on behalf of the working class. I refer to the friendly society dispensaries. These organizations were established as an adjunct to friendly societies, and they enable those societies to keep their fees down to a reasonable level. It looks as though they are to be put right out of existence, because chemists are to be given the sole right to make up and supply prescriptions and appliances.

Clause 54 should be amended so as to enable friendly society dispensaries to undertake this work, and thus have the same rights and privileges as are to be given to chemists. I am quite satisfied that the bill will not pass in its present form. The second reading may be agreed to, butin committee the measure will be radically amended. I therefore have much pleasure in supporting the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) which reads as follows: -

That all the words after “That” be omitted witha view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words - “ this House is of opinion that in. its present form the bill is unacceptable because -

it seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for oldage, invalidityand widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right without the exaction of individual contributions;

it provides unequal benefits for men and women;

it fails to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of contributors: (d)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 re-drafted and. a more liberal bill, freed from the defectsnow enumerated, should he introduced without delay.”

As sensible, level-headed people, we must face facts. Wild talk will not help us, but on the contrary will make what is bad very much worse. We are an intelligent community, and will contrive to overcome our difficulties. But will this measure help us to do that? Let us examine the position. A healthy, well-clad, well-nourished, well-housed community is a nation’s greatest asset. That policy is best which supplies an abundance of food, good clothes, decent housing conditions, and opportunities to enjoy leisure, recreation, culture, and the so-called luxuries of modern life, and which also encourages the right kind of people to come to this country by creating conditions favorable to their welfare. Therefore, this measure should be withdrawn, redrafted, and improved in the respects suggested by my leader.


.It i3 quite clear from this debate that every honorable member would like to see the benefits provided under the bill extended. Unfortunately, however, our earnest desires in that respect must be governed by financial considerations. In the inauguration of a scheme of this magnitude it is wise to build slowly but surely. It has been suggested that the cost of this new social service should be paid for out of consolidated revenue without any direct contribution being made by employers or employees. Laudable though such a suggestion may be, it is clear that, owing to our increased commitments in other directions, it would involve increased direct taxation in the near future. Under such a scheme it would be necessary in the very early stages to double our present income tax collections whilst the total of those collections would increase year by year. If the scheme were free we should have to include many of those people now in receipt of less than £365 a year who are not already embraced in this measure. Furthermore, if the many other additional desirable benefits suggested were provided the burden on consolidated revenue would be so increased so that the whole scheme would be financially impossible. The Government should hesitate before further encroaching on the field of direct taxation which up to date has been left as far as possible to the State governments. Owing to increased burdens those governments are finding it more and more difficult to raise sufficient revenue for their requirements. It is impossible to study fully our public finances without taking into consideration the financial’ position of the States. I point out that for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, the total revenue of the State governments was £120,000,000, and adding to that figure the Commonwealth revenue the total cost of public services in Australia in that year amounted to over £200,000,000. In order to indicate the difficulty which State governments are experiencing in financing their services from their present revenues, I also point out that during 1937 they raised loans totalling £15,000,000 and’, in addition, received from the Commonwealth Government by way of .advances, £18,000,000. Furthermore, the various semigovernmental bodies borrowed in the same year £11,500,000 which was nearly twice the amount they borrowed for this purpose in the two previous years. I mention these facts in order to emphasize that this aspect of our national finances should not be overlooked when we are considering any suggestion to add to the existing burden of direct taxation1.

As the scheme set out in this bill is a contributory one it is imperative that it be placed upon a sound financial basis, so that the continuity and security of the fund to be created will be assured and the interests of the contributors protected. “Whilst many of the suggested extended benefits under this measure, would be very desirable, we must be careful that we do not overload a fund which has been established on a sound actuarial basis, or we shall endanger the whole scheme. To any one who takes a casual look at the actuarial basis it is apparent that ample provision has been made for reserves. However, it is impossible for the layman without considerable investigation to say definitely whether the actuaries’ estimates are correct in this respect.

I regret exceedingly that in order to prevent overlapping a complete survey was not made before this scheme was introduced of the present social services throughout the Commonwealth, not only in respect of those provided by this Government but also those .provided by the friendly societies and similar bodies. I emphasize that there should be some uniformity of the benefits of social services throughout Australia, because if overlapping is not avoided considerable additional burdens must fall upon the people as a whole. I suggest that consideration should be given immediately to that aspect of the matter, and that such action should precede any extension of existing social services. In Queensland employees already pay 6d. a week unemployment insurance, and relief tax, which, on a sliding scale, involves a deduction of 4s. a week in the case of an employee receiving £300 per annum. Contributions under this scheme will mean a further deduction of ls. 6d. a week from the wages of employees on this salary scale. For this reason 1 support wholeheartedly the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden).

I agree with other honorable members that the success of this scheme, from a health point of view, will depend largely on the full co-operation of the medical profession. For this reason I regret the unfortunate circumstances which have arisen in the preliminary negotiations for_ the arrangement of medical services. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the medical profession for the splendid services it has rendered to the community in the past. For some years I was associated with the public hospitals in Brisbane and I was impressed with the splendid voluntary service which the profession was prepared at all times to render in the interests of suffering humanity. That voluntary service was ‘given by all sections of the profession, by the specialist as willingly as by the ordinary doctor. One of the great advantages of the health services proposed in this measure from an economic point of view is that the worker will be enabled to consult his medical advisor in the early stages of any complaint. I have always felt that we should endeavor to organise our medical services in order to enable our people to take early advantage of the benefits of medical science, and thus keep themselves in good health rather than wait until they are sick and then seek a cure. Many workers to-day are prone to postpone a visit to their doctors because they feel that they cannot afford to lose time from work. That attitude usually produces serious and dire results for sick people. It might perhaps be a good thing if Australia adopted the system which I understand is in vogue in China where medical men receive payment only for so long as they keep clients fit and receive no payment whatever during the period of a client’s illness.

Moro co-operation is needed in respect of public health administration generally. In each State we have a Commonwealth health authority and a State health authority, whilst in the larger cities there is also a civic health authority. I urge that in the interests of public health the activities of these bodies should be vested in one authority. Such a reform is urgently needed in respect of this phase of our social life. If the suggestion made in this debate is correct that the Commonwealth Government has not constitutional power to take over complete control of public health throughout Australia, and that any efforts which the Commonwealth might make to assume such power would prove unsuccessful, the control of public health should be completely handed over to the State governments. I can speak from experience in this matter because for years I was associated with a civic authority to which was attached an extensive health department, and I could not help noticing overlapping in certain directions which militated against the most effective service being given to the community.

Mr Jennings:

– Control of public health in this country is hopelessly divided.


– That is so. I support the request of Christian Scientists to be exempt on conscientious grounds from the health provisions of this bill. Whatever our own personal views may be on this matter, we must respect the wishes of members of the Christian Science Church to be left free to abide by the tenets of their religion. I trust that serious consideration’ will be given in committee to an amendment on the lines of a provision in the British Columbia Act of 1936, which reads as follows : -

Where an employee otherwise within the scope of this section makes application for exemption in the manner prescribed by the regulations and establishes to the satisfaction of the Commission that he is an adherent or member in good standing of the Christian Science Church, the Commission shall grant to him a certificate of exemption from the provisions of this act; but, subject .to the regula tions, such certificate may be cancelled at the request of the employee or on the employee ceasing to be an adherent or member of that church.

I wish, to refer briefly to the security of the funds subscribed under this scheme. A measure of this description should ensure beyond all question that the funds shall be absolutely safe. As I read the bill the subscribers’ money is to be vested in a commission which will have sole control of the funds and will be authorized to operate only in the manner and for the purposes prescribed.

Mr Casey:

– The commission will be a special body.


– I am pleased to hear that this is so and I emphasize the need for such a provision. The funds subscribed under this scheme should be controlled by a different authority from that which controls the trust funds of the Government. I do not think either the Government or the Treasurer should have any authority over these funds, the con-: trol of which should be in the hands of an entirely independent body. I ask the Treasurer to give us an assurance on that point.

Mr Casey:

– The commission will be independent and beyond political influence.


– That is only proper. The Treasurer of this or of any future government should not be able in a time of financial crisis to make a. raid on these funds. It is the duty of the Parliament to make the conditions so stringent that the funds will not be available for any purpose whatsoever except that stipulated in the bill. “While dealing with this subject I wish to pay a tribute to the friendly societies of Australia for the splendid manner in which they have conserved their funds throughout their history. It is to the everlasting credit of these organizations that throughout the depression they not only provided all the benefits to which their members were entitled, but were also able out of their resources to keep good on the books many of their members who found themselves in a most( unfortunate position and unable to maintain their contributions. The funds of friendly societies are to some extent under the supervision of the State governments. It is obviously necessary also to provide that the funds subscribed under this scheme shall be subjected to close supervision. “While I do not wish to repeat what previous speakers have said, I feel that I must say a word in commendation of our friendly societies generally. I have had some experience of the work of these organizations, for I was a lodge auditor for many years in Queensland. I therefore know something of the methods and manner in which these societies conduct their business. It would bo regrettable if any provisions of this bill jeopardized the future of the friendly society movement of this country.

  1. was very pleased to hear that the Government intends in the near future to bring in a bill to provide a measure of social insurance for small employers, small farmers and small shopkeepers.

Some criticism has been levelled at the Government during this debate on the ground that the introduction of this bill is intended to relieve the Treasury of some of its commitments in respect of pensions and other social welfare legislation, but an examination of the facts of. the case by any thoughtful person must reveal that had the Government desired to take the easy road it would have refrained from introducing the bill at all, for if it is placed on the statute-book, this Government, and also other governments that may come into office during the next few years, will be obliged to make a larger provision for social insurance and pensions than would otherwise have been necessary.

I congratulate Sir Walter Kinnear and those associated with him upon having propounded this scheme. Their task was not easy. I dare say it has not been easy for them to sit in this House and liston to some of the criticism of their work, but I believe they will realize that the object of honorable members on both sides of the chamber is to pass a bill which will be in the best interests of the whole of the people. I am glad that the Government has secured the services of Professor Brigden as commissioner for national insurance. I know something of the work that he has done in Queensland, and although the work of inaugurating this scheme will be heavy, he will, in my opinion, do it well. I have no doubt that his wise leadership will contribute greatly to the success of the undertaking. As 1 see it, the Government is merely laying the foundation of a complete social service programme; but what is being done now. will undoubtedly redound to the benefit of our people for many years to come.


.- The inconsistency of many honorable members opposite in discussing this bill has been truly remarkable. One speaker after another has risen from the benches opposite and congratulated the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Government upon having introduced the measure, but such remarks have almost invariably been followed by a condemnation of almost every clause in the bill. I understood the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) to say that he was not in favour of any extension of social services in Australia until the Commonwealth Parliament was equipped with full power to deal with the subject. I cannot see how, in the face of such a statement, he can vote for the bill.

Mr Jolly:

– I said that I would not be prepared to go farther than this bill goes until a complete survey had been made of the whole field of social service.


– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who is a King’s Counsellor and should be able to understand a bill of this kind, congratulated the Treasurer upon having introduced the measure and then proceeded to criticize every clause in it. I do not think a single provision escaped his condemnation. He said, first, that the bill was not a national health and pensions insurance bill but an employees insurance bill. I agree with him on that point. He then expressed regret that the people in the community who were least able to help themselves in regard to the provision of medical services and pensions were not to share in the benefits of this measure. He also referred to the disregard of the wives and children of insured persons, and also of the large army of unemployed still to be found in Australia, who are not provided for under the bill. Honorable members on this side of the chamber deeply regret that no pro vision is being made for the unemployed. We endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah concerning other serious deficiencies of the measure. If honorable members opposite vote in accordance with the speeches they have delivered, they will support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and so ultimately give the House the opportunity to consider a real national insurance bill. If they vote for the second reading of the measure, and at the committee stage move all the amendments they have foreshadowed, neither Sir Walter Kinnear, the framer of the bill, nor the Treasurer, will be able to recognize the measure as passed. The Opposition is hopeful that honorable members will insist upon amending the bill in many important particulars.

I oppose the bill, in the first place, because it requires contributions from people not able to make them. If the basic wage worker, for instance, has to pay ls. 6d. a week to the national insurance fund, his wife and family will be deprived of necessaries of life which they can ill afford to surrender. It is deplorable that the Government should even contemplate taking ls.6d. a week from the wage which the Arbitration Court has decided is essential to provide’ only the bare necessaries of life for the workers. The ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), in an address which he delivered twelve months ago, said that 40 per cent. of the children of this country were suffering from malnutrition. This was simply because the breadwinner of the family was not earning sufficient to purchase the nourishing food vital to the welfare of his children. Should this Parliament take any portion of the earnings of the basic wage worker by requiring him to contribute to this scheme, it will only intensify his troubles and. aggravate his already unhappy condition.

I object to the discrimination between the sexes for which this measure provides. I see no justification for the statement that it costs less to keep a woman than a man. A large number of women are in employment doing equal work with men. Rather than require women to make a smaller contribution to a scheme of this- kind, I would prefer that they should be placed on the same footing as men as to benefits, and that the Arbitration Courts should make the necessary adjustment of their standard of wages. Although about 50 honorable members have addressed themselves to this bill, not one of them, apart from the Treasurer and two other Ministers, is wholeheartedly in favour of it.

Mr Brennan:

– The Treasurer is only officially in favour of it.


– That is so. Outside Parliament, I have not found any one who favours the bill. During the last two or three weeks, representatives of various organizations which will be affected by this scheme have visited Canberra. Their fears regarding the scheme are well, founded, inasmuch as its provisions will have the effect of causing some of them to go out of existence. Those benefit societies which cannot induce the youth of this country to join them, must eventually cease to function.

It is generally recognized that the standard of medical services in Australia is higher than in most other countries. A medical student who enters- our universities must undergo a course of training extending over about six years. Recently, the Minister for Health in New South Wales said that in future, before any student can obtain a medical degree in that State, he must devote one year to the study of obstetrics. That would make the full course in New South Wales seven years, whereas I understand- that in Great Britain the medical course can be completed in four years. I have heard of medical students who, having failed to meet the requirements of Australian universities, have obtained degrees in British universities,

Mr Jolly:

– That is a serious reflection on those institutions.


– I have stated a fact. The standard of medical service in Australia is higher than in Britain, but I do not suggest that it should be lowered. Indeed, the people of this country would not stand for a lowering of the standard. Sir Alexander Stewart, who, I -think, was the first person to have charge of (he Medical School in Sydney, told a party of people who went through the

Sydney University about 25 years “ago, tn at the standard of the medical profession in Australia was higher than in any other -part of the British Empire. I have no reason to believe that the standard has fallen since then. Having been associated with hospital work for a number of years, I know of the wonderful service given by members of the medical profession to public hospitals throughout Australia, particularly to patients from among the poorer sections of the community. In my electorate many workers who were not members of benefit lodges could not pay for medical attention during the depression, but not one of them was turned away from the surgeries of the medical men practising in that district. I add my tribute to those of other honorable members who have praised the medical fraternity for its wonderful care of the sick and afflicted in the community. This Parliament should not do anything to lower that standard. About twelve months ago one of the most eminent physicians in Australia, Sir Charles Blackburn, visited Europe. While in Russia he inspected some of the hospitals there. Possibly lie was shown over the best of them, just as a distinguished visitor to our shores, interested in hospital work, would be shown the best hospitals iri this country. He found that in Russia, under a national health scheme, no medical practitioner was permitted to see more than an average of 3.5 patients an hour. Under the scheme now under consideration, a panel doctor in Australia would have about 1,000 patients, and it would be impossible for him to give to them the close attention that their condition required. One doctor whom I know, recently visited England in order to gain further experience. He became associated with a panel doctor in an English town, and assisted him in a lock-up surgery. On his return, he stated that one morning about 150 patients awaited attention by the doctors. In the surgery was a man, untrained in medicine, whose duty was to receive the patients. After the surgery had opened, this man went to the door of the room in which the patients were seated, and called out, “ All who are suffering from colds come this way “. Thereupon, about 30 of those pre- sent rose and walked into another room. They were, in fact, diagnosing their own complaints. I mention that incident in order to show what the workers may expect under the Government’s scheme. If a system similar to that in operation in England is established here, the workers of Australia will be in a worse position, from a health point of view, than they are now.

The remuneration of doctors under this bill is entirely inadequate. Surely the country can afford to pay these men for their services?- The basis of the scheme is wrong; the way to ensure the health of the community is to begin with the children. Definite steps should be taken to deal with the causes of malnutrition, so that the men and women of the future will be in a fit state of health to carry out the duties of citizenship. Under this scheme a great injustice will be done, not only to the citizen of to-day, but also to the citizen of the future. The proposals of the Government are modelled on the scheme in operation in Great Britain which, as I have shown, has many grave defects. Surely the Government could have obtained the services of some one with a knowledge of Australian conditions to advise it in the preparation of its scheme.

Sitting suspended from 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.


– Doctors residing in the electorate which I have the honour to represent in this Parliament are at call, in some cases, as many as 160 hours a week. They are always on duty and the services which they render to the public are of the very highest order. I do not think that this Government, or any other government, should impose upon, the medical profession such a heavy task as that proposed by this measure. It is a much heavier task than any other persons, in whatever calling they are, in Australia, would be asked to bear. The allowance for country doctors is entirely inadequate. Many of them are rendering services of a standard equally as high as those available in the metropolitan areas. I know a country doctor in a town far removed from hospital facilities who, at considerable expense, equipped his surgery with an X-ray plant so that he might be able to give to the people whom he serves facilities to which he thinks they are entitled, and which Australian people generally expect from the medical fraternity. The travelling allowance proposed to be paid to doctors is entirely inadequate. I am informed that the surgeries of panel doctors in England are poorly equipped, and that no appliances are available for the proper medical examination of patients. In many cases panel doctors have only a few bottles of medicine iti their surgeries. It has been admitted by honorable members on all sides of the House that this scheme largely follows that already in operation in England. It is interesting, therefore, to read what a panel doctor has to say with respect to the English scheme. Dr. Harry Roberts, a panel doctor, dealing with the English system, contributed an article to the Spectator from which I make the following quotation: -

Unfortunately, the defects and limitations of the panel system are nearly as marked as are its benefits. In the first place, medical provision is made for wage-earners only, their families being left as before to manage as best the’ can. In the second place, a wageearner has but to fall into the ranks of the continuously unemployed to lose all claim to the services of the panel doctor who may have attended him for years. This may bc right from the point of view of commercial insurance, but it is ridiculous in a system purporting to provide the poorer three-fourths of our people with an adequate medical - service for which they cannot themselves pay.. Yet, madly enough, a working man or woman loses all claim to this service at the very time when he or she most needs it and is least able io purchase it in the commercial market.

The bill now before the House provides that a woman at the time of confinement loses all medical benefits for four weeks. That, to my mind, does away with the national aspect of the bill. In this Parliament we have heard members and Ministers say time after time that the Australian child is the best asset we have, yet under this bill it is proposed to deny to the mother and. child medical attention so necessary at a critical period of their lives. Dr. Roberts continues -

Every week I. in common with almost every panel doctor in the country, am compelled, regretfully, to tell men and women who have been under my care for months or years - people between whom and myself has grown up an intimate relation of mutual trust and understanding - that I am no longer allowed to attend to their ailments or to prescribe ameliorative measures. Until every member of an insured person’s family is entitled to tlie ministrations of the chosen family doctor, ami is so entitled for the whole of his life, we cannot look upon the insurance scheme as other than a leaky piece of medical makeshift, its effectiveness, as a constructive plan for conserving national health, is almost nil.

Advocating specialist treatment for those who come under the national health scheme, Dr. Roberts, in an article headed

Health and Insurance Doctoring “ published in the New Statesman and Nation, said -

The routine work is commonly looked upon hy the doctors as so much useless drudgery and the average doctor soon settles down to an unenthusiastic observance of formal regulations tho-t have small relation to efficient medical practice. .’Par too often “get all you can and give as little as you can “ lias been t lie slogan of the panel doctor. Naturally enough, the social status of the general practitioner has fallen from that of a professional mau to that of a tradesman. This, though understandable, is both unfortunate and, to many individuals, unjust, for there are in this country hundreds, possibly thousands, of panel doctors who do their utmost to live up to the finest traditions of the profession, who, so far as their opportunities permit, place the well-being of their patients before all other considerations.

That shows to a great extent what might happen in Australia. I am sure that members of the medical profession in Australia, irrespective of the remuneration paid to them under the scheme, will still give efficient service of a high standard, but is it just for the country to ask them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of this so-called national scheme? Dr. Roberts went on to say -

But the medical treatment officially provided for the wage-earners of this country takes little account of the enormous development in practical therapeutics during the last 25 years. Commonly, the treatment means little more than that every insured person can have a bottle nf medicine when he wants it and takes the trouble to ask for it. When the Insurance Act was introduced, the bottle of medicine was just about to settle down on its death-bed. The act rejuvenated it. and to-day there can hardly be a working-class home in the land without a partly-consumed or 10-oz. bottle of bitter or sweet, brown or pinkish, mixture, composed of ingredients in the efficacy of most of which, not one doctor in 50 has the slightest faith.

So they get only a bottle of coloured medicine in the curative properties of which the doctors themselves have not the slightest faith -

No provision is made for a serious surgical treatment beyond such as is considered within the competence and skill of the average general practitioner - and the medical organization have striven hard to keep that official standard as low as possible. The panel medical system should either be scrapped or radically modified. I believe it to be potentially the best system devisable, but if it is to b6 part of a really national health scheme, it should cover all the members of the families concerned; should be independent of such irrelevant considerations as unemployment and inability to pay contributions; should be so organically linked up with specialist institutions as to place within the reach of all that need them, in proportion to their need, all the medical knowledge and surgical skill available and should be free from the mass of useless rules, the observance of which takes up half the doctor’s time and attention, lessens his sense of personal responsibility to his patient, and destroys the spirit of professionalism on which true efficiency so largely depends.

Statements of that kind, coming from responsible medical men practising in the great city of Londan, laying bare the faults of the English legislation, should surely be a warning to us. To lower the standard of the medical profession in Australia would be a tragedy indeed.

The House would be well advised to reject the scheme. If it were withdrawn and redrafted the Government could submit a more comprehensive proposal that, would be of some value to the people. Not one member in the House and, as far as I know, no one outside of it regards this proposal .as a national insurance scheme. Apart from the defects with regard to medical benefits, there are many other objectionable features in it. It will, I fear, interfere with the work of friendly societies which have rendered wonderful service for very many years. I agree with other honorable members who have urged that these bodies and trade unions which have been doing work of a similar nature, should have absolute control of the scheme. A comparison: of’ benefits given by friendly societies and those proposed in this scheme will be of interest. Friendly societies benefits, being fixed on a sliding scale of fees, are actuarially sound, and apply to society members between the ages of sixteen years and 45 years. Assuming that the age at joining is 25 or 30 years, the member pays 5d. a week, which entitles him to 21s. a week sickness benefit for the first 26 weeks; for 3d. a week, a society makes a funeral allowance of anything from £20 to £40; for 9d. a week, it provides the ser- vices of a doctor and chemist for a married member, his wife and dependants, and for widowed mothers and dependants of single members; for £d. a week it gives to members hospital benefits for 26 weeks.

Under the Government’s proposal ls. 9d. a week is allocated to the pensions fund to’ provide a pension of 20s. a” week to male contributors, and ls. 3d. a, week to ensure health benefits. The friendly societies give a pension of 21s. a week for a contribution of 5d. a week, and medical benefits for 9d. a week. It is true that the Government’s proposal makes provision for the payment of disablement allowances and pensions; but this is supposed to be a national health scheme, and we are entitled to expect that substantial provisions would be made for the health of tho people in their earlier years, so that in later life they may enjoy decent health. We all recall the many speeches made by the former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), who on one occasion declared that 40 per cent, of the children in Australia were suffering from malnutrition, and we regret that this Government does not, in this bill, propose to do anything to ensure improved health for future citizens of this country.

I am afraid that friendly societies will suffer considerably when the scheme is in operation. A worker on the basic wage who is contributing to a friendly society, may find it impossible to continue his membership if he is compelled to contribute to the Government scheme, and certainly the younger. men will be disinclined to join friendly societies because, so they will argue, they are already covered by the national scheme. Vital statistics show that workers in nearly all industries suffer from occupational diseases. I was surprised to discover that the mortality amongst doctors is greater than in many other occupations. Diseases of the heart are prevalent among members of the medical profession. (Leave to continue given.]

There has been a heavy influx of southern Europeans into Australia during the last few years, and it is possible that a considerable number of these aliens will qualify for benefits under this scheme. If an alien 60 years of age is admitted to Australia, and is supposedly employed by one of his nationals here, he will be obliged to contribute to the national scheme, and after two years be entitled to participate in all its benefits. Thus he may become a permanent burden on the insurance fund, first for sickness, then for disablement, and finally for pension benefits. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has just reminded mc that alien employees under this scheme will be entitled to the old-age pension without complying with the residence qualification of 20 years required under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Contrast hi3 position with that of a woman whose case I submitted to the pensions authorities last week. A man came to Australia in the early part of ]914, and at the outbreak of war joined the Australian Imperial Force, was in the landing at Gallipoli, later saw service in France and other theatres of the war, and in 1919 returned to Australia with his wife and mother. The latter will not be eligible for the oldage pension until she has lived in Australia for 20 years; but, as I have shown, under this scheme a southern European may, as an employee contributing for two years, become entitled to all the benefits made available by it.

Mr Badman:

– And he need not be naturalized.


– That is so. Chinese and Japanese may also participate in the benefits of the scheme, but the Australian aboriginal native may not. This is a weakness of the proposal which should be rectified. I am absolutely opposed to the bill, and I hope that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will be carried. If so, the bill will be withdrawn and re-drafted. We may then have an opportunity to consider a really national scheme which will render good service to the people of Australia.

The honorable member for Warringah twitted the Leader of the Opposition with having made no reference in his speech to unemployment insurance. As a matter of fact, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition covers this phase of the subject fully. . When we remember all the discussion there has been about a 40-hour, week as a means for overcoming the unemployment problem, and recall the reports prepared on the subject by the honorable member for Parramatta, it is evident that the Government has placed the cart before the horse in bringing down this scheme without making any provision for unemployment relief. The Leader of the Opposition said he objected to the limitation of the scheme to employees. It made no provision, he said, for self-employed persons, farmers, and small shopkeepers and made very doubtful provision for persons casually or intermittently employed. In practice, its scope would be limited to persons in regular work. Therefore, in justice to those who most need help, but are least able to help themselves, the House should reject this bill, so that a new measure may be introduced that will embrace the families of contributors, unemployed persons and casual workers.

Sir CHARLES MARR (Parkes) [2.4SJ. - No other bill introduced into this Parliament since federation has created so much interest as that now before the House. It has aroused interest amongst all classes and sections of the community, and when it finally reaches the statute-book it will have very farreaching effects. I commend, and every fair-minded member must give credit to, the Government for having introduced a measure of such vital importance, which, while not providing all we would like, represents a very great advance on anything which has been previously attempted in this country. The subject of health insurance has occupied the attention of parliaments and governments in various parts of the world for many years past. I have just been reading a book on this subject by Professor Millis, of the Chicago University. In his foreword to the book he says -

The development of health insurance has shown a steady but slow change from the economic to the medical emphasis. The efforts of guilds, fraternal bodies, and cooperative associations in Europe to provide income protection for their members in time of sickness represent the historical foundation of health insurance upon which the comprehensive systems now established by law in most European countries have been reared. Two generations ago, when the slowly growing voluntary schemes for income protection during sickness were being absorbed into the large-scale enterprise established through government action, medical care was a secondary consideration. The powers of medicine to heal, control, and -prevent disease were then much less than they are to-day. The costs of medical care were then lower, both absolutely and iu comparison with the wage loss due to sickness. Most of the writings on health insurance have proceeded from the- merely economic approach.

The writer continues -

In so far as there is a solution for the sickness problem, three things are obviously called for; (a) prevention, in so far as it can be reasonably accomplished - and it can be in considerable measure; (6) adequate medical, surgical, hospital, nursing, and dental care; («) compensation through a money benefit when earnings are interrupted. Many of the students of the subject are of the opinion that if prevention is to be realized in desirable degree, that ii medical, surgical, hospital, and nursing care are to be effectively organized and made generally available to persons of small means, that if financial support is to be given when earnings are interrupted, and that if the bill is to “bo apportioned somewhat according to responsibility for the problem or according to ability to pay, a system of compulsory sickness insurance is necessary.

He points out that Germany, in 18S3. was the first country to introduce sickness insurance, while, at the present time, 31 countries, with a combined population of 500,000,000, have insurance schemes in operation. ‘ The book continues -

Over against these countries which have adopted compulsory insurance are a number which grant government subsidies to voluntary organizations insuring their members in an acceptable manner.

Discussing the subject of contributions the writer states -

The proportions exacted differ widely, but in a majority of cases the workers pay the same amount or twice as much as the employer, with the State paying various proportions up to a third of the total. “We in Australia have always prided ourselves that we kd the way in the provision - of social benefits for our people, but we must admit that, in regard to social insurance, we have been lagging behind. This may be a belated effort, but for that all previous governments, and not merely the present Government, must accept their share of responsibility. For the preparation of the present scheme, the Government, and particularly the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), are to bc congratulated, as well as those expert officers who have given their assistance.

Most honorable members who have addressed themselves to the bill have had some kind of criticism to offer, but it is unfortunate that most of the criticism from the Opposition side of the House bas been of a destructive character. Let us try to be fair-minded, and give credit to those who are really trying to do something for the less fortunate sections of the community. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr’. Green) say last night that he regarded the bill as a retrograde step, and this although he was one of those who, in 1925, recommended the introduction of social insurance on a’ contributory basis. There is no need to introduce bitterness into the debute on a subject of this kind, and the honorable member was certainly not justified in describing introduction of the scheme as a retrograde step. I remind honorable members opposite that all progressive legislation in regard to social services has originated with the party to which I belong. When I was a young man, the late, Sir George Reid. who was Premier of New South Wales, sent an officer to Germany to inquire into the old-age pensions scheme in operation there. Sir George Reid’s Government was defeated on the floor of the House because it had contributed £30’0 towards the expenses of this officer, and it was the Labour members in that Parliament who were responsible for his defeat. Labour has been in power on several occasions since federation, but it made no attempt to introduce a national insurance scheme. We all take off our hats to the late Mr. Andrew Fisher who was, I believe, one of the great men of Australia. He led a progressive government which established the Commonwealth Bank, but he went no further. Professor Millis points out in his book that, until recently, all governments were more concerned with the economic side of government than with the human side. Industries have used human beings as machines to be discarded and cast aside when they have served their purpose. That outlook has now been abandoned in most countries, and we all agree that the human being is worth caring for, particularly the man at the bottom of the ladder. That is why the party to which I belong has introduced so many schemes for social betterment, including the existing scheme of invalid and old-age pensions.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that the present scheme is only a first step, and we must admit that it is a most valiant step, along the road of social progress. I am sure that the people appreciate what is being done. I do not agree with the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) that the public oppose this measure. I have discussed it freely with members of the public, and I have heard nothing but praise for the Government for at least ‘tackling the question. After all, it is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all, but this scheme is not going to fail. I give credit to the Government and the Treasurer for the introduction of the scheme, and I do not forget the great service rendered to the cause of national insurance by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). Any scheme of this kind must be actuarially sound in order to stand the test of time. Honorable members opposite claim that the rich should bear the cost of this scheme; but industry is not carried on for philanthropic purposes, and, if a man cannot make his business pay, he either goes bankrupt or relinquishes the business before bankruptcy occurs. Therefore, it is necessary that all who will benefit under this scheme shall contribute to its cost. I do not blame the Scullin Government for not having introduced a measure of this kind. The time was not propitious, because, during the regime of that administration, Australia experienced a period of depression. But the Fisher Government was a Labour administration

Honorable members interjecting


– There are three members who persistently interject and disregard the order of the Chair.


– Several Labour Ministries have been in office in the Commonwealth, and none of them has introduced a scheme of this kind; but, when a government of another political colour brings down a measure of vital importance to the people on the bottom rung of the social ladder, the Opposition hurls stones at it. The strength of a chain is no greater than that of its weakest link; consequently, the working classes should have every consideration in the establishment of this scheme

Many references have been made to the need for a widening of the scheme to enable provision to be made for unemployment insurance. The Prime Minister has promised that another measure of social insurance is to be submitted shortly, and I hope that this will provide for insurance against unemployment. When a man is out of work, he ceases to be an asset to the community. If every worker were employed constantly, the benefit would bc felt by the community as a whole.

Mr Prowse:

– What about the self employer?


– Nobody has greater admiration than 1 have for the man who derives his livelihood from- the soil, and I hope that in the immediate future, it will be possible to devise a plan to enable small, farmers, small shopkeepers and others to benefit under this scheme. A woman who has lost her husband may conduct a small sweets store, and may employ a girl to assist her. but the income of the woman may be less than half the basic wage. The Prime Minister has undertaken to consider the claims of this class and I have never known him to fail to keep his promises.

Although the bill doe3 not provide for all the benefits one would like, I gladly accept it a3 the first step in the direction of social betterment. The provision of dental treatment might well be undertaken, because it is undoubtedly of national importance that the rising generation should have sound “teeth. 1 hope that national health will be considered from this aspect in the near future. “Much has been said about the various societies that will be associated with the scheme. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spoke of the Miners’ Federation. I take off my hat to that organization for its excellent work, and I realize that other bodies of a similar kind have rendered good service to their members. The friendly society movement is not merely a financial undertaking; it is chiefly carried on for the purpose of self-help in connexion with sickness and medical attention. Nothing should be done that would be likely to injure this movement. In Great Britain, in 1912 friendly societies had 46.8 per cent, of the membership of the approved societies under the national insurance scheme, whilst the trade unions had 11.5 per cent., the Employers Provident Fund 0.5 per cent, and the industrial and collecting societies 41.5 per cent, of the membership of those societies. In 1926, however, the friendly societies had only 41.2 per cent, of the membership of the approved societies, the trade unions had dropped to 9.4 per cent., the Employers’ Provident Fund increased slightly to 0.7 per cent., whilst the industrial and collecting societies had increased to 4S.7 per cent. That, shows a slight decrease of the contributors on the books of the friendly societies in Great Britain. 1 have no doubt that the introduction of a national scheme of health insurance must injure the friendly societies to some degree. It will probably prevent a number of young people from joining these societies, because they will not be prepared to contribute to both schemes’ but I have no fear that these societies will puffer under the present proposal to the degree that has been suggested.

Mr Rosevear:

– The honorable member does not understand the position.


– I have been a member of a friendly society for 42 years, and, in 1909, I was the youngest grand master in New South Wales. I have never had any financial benefit from one of these societies, but I have had the advantage of being able to help members who have been less fortunate than I have been.

Mr Mahoney:

– Self-praise is no recommenddation .


– If the honorable member for Denison interjects again I shall name him immediately.


– Every member has a keen desire to see that the friendly society movement does not suffer injustice under this bill.

I have discussed the measure with members of the medical fraternity, and doctors themselves say that thus cannot be’ classified as a national insurance scheme if the claims of wives and children are overlooked. I agree with them entirely. The Prime Minister has already announced that the scheme will be broadened to embrace dependants, and. when, the further measure which the right honorable gentleman has promised has been introduced, full consideration can be given to its provisions, and honorable members will have an opportunity to approve or amend them. All dependants should be compulsorily brought within the scheme.

The agreement made between the medical profession and the friendly societies in New South Wales provides the rate of 26s. per member per annum in the metropolitan area, and in the country the rate goes up to 32s. The 26s. paid by all members, irrespective of whether they are single or married, shows thai; the single man pays a bachelor tax in friendly societies to help the married nian with children. Children and dependants are thus partially carried by the single men, who are called upon to make a higher contribution than would otherwise be necessary. That system has my entire support. It should be possible to evolve a nation-wide scheme providing a general contribution by all male workers, whether single or married, to enable men with dependants to derive all the benefits without having to make a larger contribution than bachelors.

A doctor recently explained to me his own financial position, and showed how he is likely to be affected under the proposed scheme. I think the honorable member for Lang made a slight error when he said that he had a friend who was a doctor, and who worked 160 hours a week, because that figure leaves only eight hours in each week for sleep. My medical informant has on his panel at the present time 200 lodge patients. Let ns assume that each of them becomes an insured person under the present scheme. The contributions of 26s. per annum from the 200 patients amount to £260 a year. Under the present arrangement each doctor is entitled to receive extras for minor operations and such-like attention equivalent to 2s. per head. This extra 2s. means an additional £20, making the total income of the lodge doctor £280 per annum. The return under the present proposal from 200 insured persons, at lis. a head, amounts to £110 per annum, so that the doctor will be £170 a year worse off under the proposed scheme than under the friendly societies arrangement. Assuming that 35 per cent, of the single men in his friendly society panel, having no dependants, elect to resign their membership of the society, after the inauguration of national insurance, the doctor, in order to maintain his income at what he now derives from the friendly society, would require to be paid 26s. 2d. for each of the remaining 130 members in addition, of course, to the lis. capitation fee. Lf the number of married members were diminished by ten, the fee for the remainder would have to be increased to 2Ss. 8d. If 30 resigned from the lodge, the fee for the remaining members would require to be 34s.

For its success, this scheme depends on the co-operation of the medical profession, and I trust that the existing difficulties between it and the Government will be smoothed out to’ the satisfaction of both parties. In this country the medical profession has set a high standard which everybody wants to see maintained. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has my endorsement of his suggestion that a committee representative of the Government and the doctors under the chairmanship of a High Court judge, or a man of equal standing, should be set up at an early date to inquire into and report upon the fees that should be paid under this bill to the medical profession. I am certain that this House could have no hesitation in accepting a recommendation by such a committee. The circumstances of the medical profession vary so much that it is impossible for this Parliament to weigh the pros and eons without the assistance of a special committee. The investigation would take some time, but this bill will not come into operation until the 1st January next, and the first health benefits will not become ava.ila.ble until three months later, leaving ample time for a committee of inquiry to do its work and present its report. Provision could be made in the measure to have that report acted noon. Clause 115 sets out the capitation fee and I suggest that it could be amended by the addition of the words “ or such sum as is agreed upon “ by the investigation committee. That would not take away the powers of this Parliament.

Representatives of the women’s organizations have invaded the lobbies of this Parliament, but I think that they went away satisfied with the promise of the Government that no obstacles would be placed in the way of any woman, who desired to reap the full advantages of the measure provided she was willing to pay on a basis equal to that upon which the men will be required to pay.

One aspect of this matter that has been referred to by the doctors and commented upon in the press, although not hitherto in this House, is the fact that in New South Wales the agreement between the British Medical Association and the friendly societies excludes from panel benefit any person whose income exceeds £260 a year. This bill excludes from its benefits all persons whose salary is more than £365 a year. That fact will compel doctors to give panel treatment under national insurance to persons between the two limits of income who formerly were excluded from such benefit and from whom they were earning a higher revenue.

The honorable member for Lang contrasted the benefits of membership of friendly societies with the benefits provided under this bill, and he pointed out that, whereas friendly societies pay “sick” pay of £1 ls. a week, only £1 a week is to bo paid under the national insurance. I suggest that that is hardly a fair comparison, because the national insurance scheme provides an allowance not only for the contributor but also for the wife and children. That is an advance on what the friendly societies do. The practice of the different societies varies.’ I commend this scheme because under it everybody is to PaY for the health of the nation.

Mr Holloway:

– That is not so.


– On the contrary, the employee has to pay his share and the employer his, and the Government is to make its contribution. The Government represents the whole of the people.

One thing I do not like about this is clause 185, which reads -

Any authority having power under any law of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a territory to fix rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances shall, in fixing the rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances of any persons who are or may become contributors under this act, take into account the benefits provided by this act in consideration of the contribution payable by and in respect of those contributors and shall not, by reason only of the payment of contributions by those persons or of the provision of benefits for those persons by this act, vary the rates which would otherwise be payable.

Before that clause receives my support in committee, I shall have to be convinced of the justice of it. I believe that the arbitration courts and wages boards should be untrammelled.


– I thought that the parties opposite did riot believe in directing the court.


– At any rate I do not.


– The Court I am afraid will not take much notice of direction.


– Another clause which I do not like relates to juvenile employees who are not to be entitled to medical benefits until they have contributed to the fund for thirteen weeks. I do not see why they should not be entitled to participate in the scheme immediately after they have commenced payment towards it. A man who is only one week older than 63 years of age will he ineligible to contribute to or participate in the benefits of this scheme. 1 should like that provision to be amended. Every person who is under 65 years of age should be entitled to a pension upon attaining that age, if he has contributed to the fund for at least one year.

Mr Holloway:

– He will be entitled to a pension.


– Only under the existing pensions scheme, which makes provision for a means test. Everybody who contributes to a pensions fund should be entitled to its benefits, without being subjected to a means test when the age of 65 is reached, and there should hot be the slightest suspicion of charity being associated with the payment. A man who has reached the age of 60 years will not qualify for a pension under this scheme until he has been a contributor for a period of five years, by which time, probably, the undertaker and not the fund will be needed to look after him.

I congratulate the Government on the introduction of the bill. There has been much constructive, and, unfortunately, some destructive criticism of it, but on lue whole I believe that it is a good measure, which, in the near future, we hope will be extended in the direction of providing for those who are unfortunate enough to lose their employment, as well as those who need dental treatment and assistance in other directions. [ am not deprecating the efforts of the Government, but am urging that the benefits of the scheme should be enlarged. If that be done, not only will provision be made for those who at present are unable to look after themselves, but we shall also develop such a virile and healthy race as will make for a truly great nation.


.- Having listened to this debate for the last fortnight, I. am beginning to wonder whether the bill is not the most wanted and yet the most unwanted that has ever come before this House. I do not know whether it can be said that any supporter of it is wholeheartedly in favour of it. Those who have praised the Government and applauded its courage are not at all satisfied with the machinery provisions of the measure. I consider that the Government has been most courageous in having introduced a bill of this kind. ‘ Immediately I realized the nature of its provisions, I came to the conclusion that it was nothing more nor less than an employees’ bill. As far as I am able to judge, no organization with which I am acquainted has asked any government to introduce a national insurance scheme.

Mr Stacey:

– Should the Government have waited until such a request was made?


– Not necessarily. The national insurance schemes promised by both parties in this House, one contributory and the other noncontributory,were the ideals of politicians, not of the people of this country. I regard this bill as a very fine attempt to introduce a scheme which will make provision for those who cannot provide for themselves, but perhaps too ambitious a scheme at the present juncture. We have just passed through a depression, from which we have not yet fully recovered. We are not on the crest of a wave on which we shall continue to ride for a considerable time. This matter must be viewed from the financial and economic viewpoints. The Government would ‘have been wise had it introduced a separate scheme ir. relation to invalid and old-age pensions, which, year by year, are imposing a heavier burden on the community. Had it done so and left untouched the health provisions incorporated in this measure, it would have rendered a good service to Australia. Had it been considered that another scheme should be allied with one providing for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, a contributory scheme in relation to unemployment should have been chosen. We know that an unemployment insurance scheme has not been introduced because the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States were not successful. Those who were in Parliament during the years of the depression know full well that the spectre of unemployment has caused all governments, as well as the people generally, a good deal of worry. I venture to affirm that there .is not one honorable member who was in this Parliament during that period who did not hear tales of want and suffering in the ranks of the unemployed. Within recent years, Australia has suffered to a far greater degree from unemployment than from any other cause. Millions of pounds have been spent in assisting unemployed persons, and this has imposed a very heavy strain on the nation’s financial resources. Unemployment is probably the most potent factor in the ill-health of the people, yet in spite of the high rate reached, the members of the medical profession throughout Australia have so splendidly discharged their responsibilities that the death rate is lower in this country than in any other country with the exception of the sister dominion of New Zealand. But no nation can carry on indefinitely without some assistance being given which will, tend to reduce the effects of unemployment.

I should like to know why Labour members in this House are offering such stern opposition to this measure, which undoubtedly has been framed for the benefit, of the working class, by whom they are elected. I contend that they are not honestly opposed to it, but that, on the contrary, they will be glad to see it in operation. Certainly the employer will not be benefited by this legislation.

Mr Holloway:

– From what source does the employer obtain the means necessary to contribute to the scheme?


– The employer will contribute to the scheme not for his own benefit, in case of ill-health, but for the benefit of the employee. The reason for the opposition shown by honorable members in Opposition is that the scheme is on a contributory basis. What will the workers pay?

Mr Riordan:

– They will pay the lot.


– Such a claim must be carefully analysed. The workers will contribute about one quarter of the finance necessary to provide the benefits proposed by the bill. The employers also will make a contribution, and the Government - which represents the people of Australia as a whole-will subsidize the scheme. Surely no self-respecting worker would refuse to contribute to a scheme under which he will enjoy the benefits proposed by this measure!

I have said that any scheme introduced should first make provision for unemployment. ‘ The reason is obvious. At the present time, health benefits are provided by friendly societies. One third of those who will receive sickness benefits under this scheme are members of friendly societies. The governments of the States have rightly legislated in respect of workers’ compensation. Under that law, employers are compelled to insure their employees. Then, too, in some of the States there is legislation for compulsory insurance in respect of the third party risk associated with motor transport. Perhaps it -would have been wiser had the Government- made insurance with friendly”’ societies compulsory. Those societies” -could :have been subsidized, and been* -‘given the power to administer the whole scheme. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said that insurance by means of contributions is class or sectional taxation. In drafting this measure, the Government has endeavoured to maintain that self-respect and that self-reliance which are characteristic of the. Australian people, by asking them to contribute to the scheme, instead of adopting the suggestion of the

Opposition to provide free insurance, which would be no more than a dole system. 1 do not believe the Australian workers want charity. During the depression men out of work asked for jobs, not cash. If not 99 per cent., certainly more than 90 per cent, of them were definitely antagonistic to any suggestion of charity. For this reason I am confident that they would not appreciate a charitable scheme of insurance, but would willingly follow the lead of the Government, and. contribute for future benefits. Nothing has occurred since the days of the depression to lead me to believe that the outlook of the workers has altered. They will, in my view, be proof against a charitable system of insurance. The representatives of the workers in this House are letting their constituents down.

In any case the workers will not be required to contribute the full ls. 6d. a week. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) referred to clause 185 of the bill which provides that the Arbitration Court shall not take into account the contributions of employees to the national insurance scheme, but he did not refer to the numerous wages boards throughout Australia which fix the wages of the workers in accordance with the cost of living. If the cost of living increases in consequence of the contributions of employers and employees to the national insurance fund, we may bo quite sure that a variation of the basic wage will follow. In actual fact, the workers may not be called, upon, ultimately, to contribute in real money any more than 9d. a week.

I was hoping that any scheme of’ national insurance introduced by this Government would visualize some reduction of taxation ; but we can see now that such hopes are doomed to disappointment. This scheme is simply another form of indirect taxation which will have to be paid for ultimately by the consumers of the primary and secondary products of the country. The manufacturers, wholesale distributors, retailers and small shopkeepers who handle our manufactured goods, will undoubtedly be able to pass on the cost of this scheme to the consuming public. That is what happened in connexion with the sales tax. Honorable members will recollect when the sales tax was fixed at 6 per cent. It is common knowledge that at that time the price of goods was increased not by 6 per cent, but. by 10 per cent. That always occurs when increases of that description are enacted. The sections of the public who have, theoretically, to pay the tax invariably pass it on to the consumers, but the increased prices they put on their goods is always more than sufficient to cover the added cost. I therefore remind the members of the Opposition that if the cost of living should be increased by the enactment of this legislation, the wages of the employees will be increased in a somewhat greater ratio. But whereas the manufacturers, the wholesalers, and the storekeepers generally, can increase their prices to meet costs of this kind, and whereas wage-fixing tribunals may make an equivalent or even greater increase of wages to the workers to meet this outlay, the consumers, and, in particular, the primary producers, are unable to add ro their income. Therefore, the answer to the question, “ Who will pay for this scheme?” is, “The people engaged in the unsheltered primary industries of this country”. They undoubtedly will have to contribute the lion’s share of the national insurance fund. Every economist of note throughout the world recognizes that only the export industries of a country can bring new wealth into it, new money being tb( amount of the difference between tb ( value of exports and imports.

J.n these circumstances the Labour party and the workers at large should put both hands up for the scheme. They certainly should not condemn it. The Government will contribute £2,000,000 a year to the National Insurance Fun( for some time to come. I have noticed since I have been a member of this House that, again and again, when a member of the Country party rises to speak to any question, members of the Opposition call out, “Give bini a bounty! Give him a bounty!” The Government’s suV sidy to the National Insurance Fund may he truly described as a bounty to the workers. I do not say that the workers should bp deprived of any assistance the Government can give them. The Government’s contribution in this instance may be justified, but undoubtedly it also will have to be provided by taxation. It is hoped that in twenty years’ time it will bc no longer necessary for the Government to make this contribution, but the fact remains that for the time being it will have to do so. 1 am pleased that ‘an assurance has been given that the bill will be amended at the committee stage to provide for medical benefits for the wives and children of insured persons ; but, unfortunately, one section of the community has been left out of account altogether. Employers who need to engage the services of two or three workers to assist in their operations will be obliged to contribute to the fund in respect of those persons, even though their own incomes, on balancing the year’s operations, may be found to ha less than the basic wage. While 1 agree that any anomalies in the bill should be corrected at the committee stage, I arn very strongly of the opinion that the injustice of obliging small employers of labour, whose net income is less than the basic wage, to contribute in respect of their employees, should also be rectified.

Australia has not yet passed beyond the developmental stage. Ever since the feet of white men first trod our shores we have been developing our country. In recent years substantial advances have been made in certain minor primary industries, such as dairying, fat lamb raising, and meat exporting. These may one day reach the status of major industries, but many of those engaged in them to-day arc still struggling to make ends meet. We know very >cl what happens during the initial stages in connexion with these undertakings. A man with a small amount of capital goes out to clear a holding. He has to employ hands to assist him to fell the timber. Such employees must be insured under our workers’ compensation legislation. The employer, whose financial’ position may be not one whit better than that ofhis employee, is obliged to pay £6’ Or £’7 >a’ vear for each £100 of wages paid to -each1 employee in premiums under workers’’ compensation acts. When a small settler has tr> engage. three or four men this hurden becomes extremely heavy. Many fettlers have gone out into the malletcountry. or into the heavily timbered. wet areas to carve out a home. Frequently they exhaust their capital before their properties reach . the reproductive stage. In a»y case they have to face the prospect of working for long periods, sometimes for four or five years, without any income, but they carry on in the hope that they will eventually succeed. It is a hardship) on such individuals to have to pay workers’ compensation premiums. The struggle has become so hard for many men that they have abandoned it. It is unfair, in my opinion, that such settlers should also be compelled to contribute as employers under this scheme. Nearly 200,000 farmers in Australia will have to contribute £750,000 a year to this fund. Many of these farmers live four or five miles from a town. Their children go to the same school as the children of their employees. The wives and children of such settlers are just as much an asset to the nation as are the wives and children of their employees. I can, therefore, see no reason why these men, whose remuneration is no greater than that of their employees, if indeed it be even as much, should be obliged to contribute to a fund for the benefit of their employees’ wives and children seeing that their own wives and children are not insured in any way under the .scheme. The Government should quickly realize the injustice being done to these men and remedy it. There seems to be no reason why that cannot be done. Anomalies can be adjusted, but injustices of that kind I have mentioned must be eliminated.

The further we investigate this proposal the further we find its influence spreading. Let us for a moment consider the case of hospitals which arc at present providing free treatment for nurses. The Adelaide Children’s ‘Hospital which has a staff of 230 nurses receives its income from voluntary contributions and from a government subsidy. When this scheme is in force it will probably lose its voluntary contributions and will iia ve to provide at least £900 per annum in contributions to the National Insurance Fund. In South Australia district councils are rated at from l£d. to 3d. in the £1 f’f hospital purposes. Those district councils which have hos- pitals established within their boundaries will be penalized to some extent as a result of the operation of this scheme, and the South Australian Government itself will have to find an extra £40,000 or £50,000 to pay, on behalf of State employees, contributions required lander this scheme when it comes into operation. We must consider every aspect of legislation of this sort before we finally give it our approval.

I urge upon the Government the desirability of making better arrangements for country doctors. In my opinion a zoning system should be established under which doctors outside the metropolitan areas of closely populated centres will receive a capitation payment higher than that to be paid to doctors whose patients are within easy reach. I see no reason why we should extend the category of approved societies to include other than those societies which, during the last 50 or 60 years, have built up such wonderful organizations, and have already shown what they can do. Friendly societies cover practically the whole of the community; they will be found in almost, every town and village throughout the Commonwealth. With the exception of workers’ unions operating schemes of this kind in the past, I do not think that any other societies should be brought within the category of approved societies. Friendly societies and workers’ unions organizations would be in a position to advise the Government with regard to the administration of this scheme, and should be given first consideration.

In conclusion, so far as I am personally concerned, though I view the bill as an advance step in Australian history, as it now stands, I would not for one moment say that it is perfect or that it is fully in accord with ray conception of national insurance.

Mr Gander:

– It is not as good as Mr. Lang’s widows’ pensions bill.


– It has a much wider application; it embraces a great number of the people throughout Australia. Before I give my final decision on the bill I reserve my right to exercise my judgment in regard to it during the committee stage.

Northern Territory

– In speaking to this bill, this keg of dynamite, I am not unmindful of a remark made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), that the 47 th speaker asked for an extension of time. When I reflect upon how many speeches must have been torn up before the 47th speaker received the call, it reminds me of the miner who lengthens the fuse so that he may get as far away as possible from the explosion. ‘In my opinion, this bill certainly contains all the elements of an explosion. At the outset, I wish to make it quite clear that, since coming into this House, I have not varied my attitude on matters that concern the far outback as well as the coastal regions. My policy has been based chiefly on abhorrence of centralization and bureaucracy. Both are contained in this bill in a manner that leaves with us all the elements of an explosion. It is with diffidence that I approach this subject of national insurance, because I realize that my training has been a mathematical one, not along actuarial lines. I was led to believe that actuaries were men versed in an exact science, but after listening to the speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), I am convinced that this bill, which purports to be based on actuarial calculations, has not been framed on scientific lines. I listened to the speeches of all honorable members with deep attention, seeking without success, I am afraid, a speech in which an honorable member has approached this subject of national insurance for a young country like Australia in a manner designed to expose the factors that prevent the worker or small farmer from acquiring a certain modest ownership, an ownership that would make him, as a democrat, scorn this piece of legislation, which proposes to put all Australians in one mould. While I do not think the Government is deserving of condemnation in connexion with this bill,. I wish to compliment the Treasurer for the work he has done as the Minister in charge of it. I also extend the same congratulations to Sir Walter Kinnear, but I sympathize with him, because I feel that this bill cannot succeed. The bill is wrongly named for, essentially, there can be no such thing as national insurance covering a continent the size of Australia for at least half a century. I feel sure, however, that Sir Walter Kinnear does not need our sympathy. The task of any one endeavouring to formulate a policy of national insurance to cover such a vast continent, with its peoples so different and with such variations of soil and climate, would, indeed, be a heavy one. It seems to me that honorable members have, in the main, confined themselves to the resultant conditions from our policy of the last 50 years, leaving the contributory causes in the background. This contention is fortified by a short paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald concerning a lecture delivered to the Constitutional Club in Sydney by Sir Herbert Gepp, in which he is reported to have, said : “ Current national thought is of two kinds, ‘ Shush, shush ‘, and Face the facts ‘ class “. I have no doubt that he meant to ‘ say, “ Hush, hush ! “ but be did not say what he meant by “ face the facts “. It will be of little consolation to posterity to know that members of the National Parliament in 1938 were afraid to face the facts and get to the root cause of our economic troubles. It will be too late for us then to indulge in any historical disputation in which posterity may be interested.

Mr Lane:

– -Why do you not face the facts now?

Mi-. BLAIN. - The honorable member has not stated a fact since he has been in this House. The only reason why his head is on his shoulders is to keep his collar on.

I should like to outline briefly the position as I see it. The commercial complex has gradually and insidiously seized too much power in our Commonwealth and has been aggravated by the concentration of industrial activities in a few cities on the seaboard, and by a ridiculous tariff that lias given undue concessions to certain people. I shall not continue along those lines, because these facts are obvious to all honorable members; but I feel justified in criticizing one party in this House to which many of my friends belong. During the election campaign that party claimed, as a plank of its platform, a policy of industrial decentralization to enable this country to carry the optimum population. Incidently, I wish to refute the claims made by the less responsible students of the’ Summer School of Political Science, that Australia’s present population is the optimum.

Mr Gander:

– Did the honorable member refer to the United Australia party?


– No, I refer to the Country party. That party should have taken advantage of the glorious opportunity offered by the Government’s need for support m connexion with a greatly expanded defence programme, to present n pistol at its head and say, “ This is the price of our support. Do this, or do not count on our assistance”. The Country party has failed miserably to induce the Government to bring forward a national insurance scheme that is not merely a palliative. There is nothing national about this proposal, nor can there be anything national about any insurance scheme introduced in this country for a number of years. Speakers in this debate have strengthened ray belief that existing social insurance organizations cater well enough for the people at the present time, and could continue to do so provided a policy of decentralization is adopted at once. Before discussing the classification of our population according to its geographical position, and the need for differential methods of treatment in regard to this scheme as we go further inland, I wish to refer to the rich people of Australia, to compliment them upon their public spiritedness, and to say how foolish it is on the part of governments not to utilize their voluntary services to the fullest extent: At the present time, the country is losing the benefit of their services because of this silly policy of hospitalization in all States, instead of limiting it to the poorer and sparsely populated areas. The honorable member tor Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) urged that the services of earnest men and women who have combined in various organizations should bc enlisted in the working out of this scheme. I agree with the honorable member, and I urge further that the services of unorganized men and women should also be sought. Many such persons are seeking opportunities for voluntary service, and are being denied. This sys tem of over-hospitalization postulates not only that no further help be sought from private citizens, but also that such voluntary effort as is now taking place shall be discontinued. Recently, in Sydney, a movement was started for the provision of a cancer hospital to cost between £30,000 and £40,000. A wealthy Sydney resident was anxious to provide the necessary funds. He was prepared to express his citizenship in this way, .but he was discouraged by the official attitude and his services were not availed of. That sort of thing is a disgrace to Australia, which has already greatly overcapitalized its social services in certain areas.

In this scheme, the Government is proposing to continue the policy of rigid centralization ‘by controlling to the last penny all expenditure under it. This is foolish. Why not take advantage of the services of those persons and organizations who are willing to do the work while preserving our right to inspect? The friendly societies of Australia have given faithful service to the public in the past, and if their help is not sought in the administration of this scheme, the central authority will be snowed under with administrative detail. In regard to the three major activities of forestry, education and health, there is controversy as to whether they should be under national control, or be controlled by other agencies. ‘Forestry undoubtedly is a national job, but no one seems to take any interest in that. There is only eight years’ cutting of forests remaining in Queensland, and after that there will be no forestry assets there to bother about. Probably the care of the non-existent forests will then be handed over to the Commonwealth, since there will be nothing left to exploit. I believe that control of the remaining forests should be handed over to the nation now, so that we may utilize in their maintenance the services of those young Queenslanders who are acquainted with the problems that exist in their State.

In regard to education, there is a large section of opinion which holds that it should be brought under national control. To do so would be foolish, because it. would be impossible for a centra! organization effectively to attend to all administrative details. In England, no attempt has been made to centralize the control of education; the people in the Old Country know better than that, although, there is power to do it. It is true that the central government provides funds, but it makes grants in aid to the local county councils which directly administer the system. The central authority retains the important power of inspection, but hopes that it may never have to exercise it, which is as it should be.

And so in regard to health in Australia. This must be under national control, but that does not mean that it should be administered from a central point.- Local instrumentalities, and the services of private individuals, should be employed. For instance, what would the officers in charge of a central organization know of the problems that might arise in the R01)81’ River district, or of the needs of those living in Babinda or in far away Doodlakine? The Commonwealth should content itself with raising the revenue, and making grants to local organizations acquainted with local conditions, while reserving its right of inspection and advice. I realize that this would mean the re-drawing of the map of Australia, which in time must come.

Mr Holloway:

– The honorable member should take care that Dr. Fenton gets something out of the scheme’.


– Why does the Commonwealth, or why do departmental officers, seek all this unnecessary power? I have come to the conclusion that some of our senior public servants are to blame, together with Ministers who are influenced by them. It must not be understood that I am criticizing public servants generally ; I was one myself at one time, and just now I am defending two senior, and very well qualified, officers of the Land Board in the Northern Territory against attacks of bureaucracy. This powercomplex iri senior public servants, who are at Ministers’ elbows, may, if they have a high ethical outlook, be an altogether good thing; but if in their thirst for power they are prepared to sell their professional rectitude, and influence the policy of a malleable Minister, they can become a menace to this Parliament and to the nation. That is exemplified tit the present time by the tendency to govern, not through this Parliament, but by ordinances and regulations. This is a tendency which Parliament must resist. The system of government byordinance, implemented by regulations, is responsible for the fact that Parliament sits for shorter and shorter periods each year, until very soon the people will be asking why Parliament exists. I urge the Government to keep Parliament in session for longer periods, so that honorable members may -really know what legislation is being put into force, and so that the country will really be governed by Parliament, and not by bureaucrats. I make this appeal in the interests of the outlying parts of Australia, particularly the Northern Territory.

I desire to show how ill-named is this so-called national insurance scheme, how ill-conceived it is, and how ineffective it will be in its present form. Sir Walter Kinnear was given the task of drawing up a scheme that should apply to the whole of Australia. He is well qualified to evolve a scheme suitable for the needs of a small, densely-populated island like Great Britain, but in the time at his disposal he could not possibly form an adequate idea of the needs of a continent like Australia, where conditions vary so widely from place to place. Doctors, for instance, are called upon to perforin duties of a very different kind in one area as compared with another. For instance, within a circle drawn around Brisbane, there will be many unemployed persons who come within the range of social services provided by the State. Further to the north-west, we come to the farming areas of South Burnett where a different set of conditions prevail. Still further on we come to the merino area, and, finally, to the Northern Territory and the distant Kimberleys. An honorable member interjected a little while ago a remark about, Dr. Fenton. I remind him that Australia can always breed men who are ready to go out into the back country, and endure hardships without “squealing”, provided the remuneration is adequate. It is necessary to point out, however, that in the vast, thinlypopulated areas of the outback, it is necessary that doctors operating under this scheme be placed on an increased salary basis to compensate them, as I believe is done in Tasmania. In the farming areas, where the people enjoy some of the amenities of civilization and have a ready, nourishing and unfailing food supply, the family doctor system prevails, and I should hate to see that system pass. ‘As a matter of fact, the system proposed in this bill is suitable only for the slums, where the people can. obtain medical services in no other way. I hope, therefore, that this bill will be passed in a modified form. The word “national” should be deleted from the title, but humane considerations suggest that some system of health insurance should bo provided. I regret that the position of the family doctor is endangered by this measure, but I am confident that in South Queensland the people will still go to their family doctors. Although many medical men suein to fear that their practices will go by the board if this legislation is passed, I think they need have no fear on that score, because those members of the community who can afford to do so will still seek their services.

I am glad that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred to the need for bringing the unemployed under this scheme. The Northern Territory, which I represent, is a pioneering area populated largely by men who have no certain tenure of employment. They go to the territory looking for a job, often hoping to make a now start in life. I trust that men of this type will be covered to some degree by the bill.

The honorable member for Gwydir (‘Mr. Scully) drew a distinction between aborigines and “other aliens”. I realize that some aborigines residing in the southern States are well educated, but the great majority of them live in the remote Darts of Australia and are uncivilized. The honorable member for Gwydir was speaking, of course, about the aborigines in the settled parts of Australia. I suggest that it should not bc necessary to bring them within the scope of a measure of this kind. Surely, we who have occupied the country of this dying race should see that their pillow is softened in passing. A good deal of money is already being spent in the Northern Territory in providing for their needs.

Mr Brennan:

– If an aboriginal works for wages, why should he not be given the benefit of this scheme?


– I shall bo fully prepared to discuss the general treatment of the aborigines when a suitable opportunity arises. It seems to me that a scheme of this nature could never be a truly national one until half a century has elapsed, because of the vast extent of Australia and the varied conditions under which the people live. Although I admire the work of Sir Walter Kinnear in connexion with this bill, geographical variations are such that it will never be possible to form a perfect legislative mosaic by a central government. As far as possible, a policy of decentralization should bo adopted, and industries should be moved at least SO or 100 miles inland, to provide full employment for the people. Thus they may preserve their personality and be able to provide for their old-age. I trust that all semblance of bureaucratic control will be eliminated from the measure. We should invoke the aid of the friendly societies, private employers, and the numerous district hospital boards throughout the country, so that even the casual worker of the inland may not be deprived of the benefits of the scheme. * Quorum formed.]*

Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) 1 4.40]. - As might reasonably be expected in a debate of this kind, the various speakers have traversed a wide range of argument, but most of them, even supporters of the Government, support three or four points contained in the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition ‘ (Mr. Curtin). For instance, a number of members who have spoken from the ranks of both the United Australia party and the Country party have agreed that equal benefits should be provided for men and women, and that provision should be made for the wives and children of contributors. They have also agreed that by partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity the measure tends to prevent young men and women from joining these associations of self-help, without providing in full the services which the societies now lender. It can reasonably be deduced from the criticism offered on both sides that the House generally believes that the measure fails in these respects. The chief source of argument appears to hinge upon the paragraph in the amendment which sets out that the bill seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for old-age, invalidity and widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right, without the exaction of individual contributions. A considerable number of speakers have, however, devoted their attention to many matters extraneous to this main point of argument. One of the reasons why Government supporters desire to see the bill carried in its present form is their definite knowledge that it will impose a burden on the workers and lighten the hurden on the wealthy section. The proposal by the Opposition that the bill should bc withdrawn and re-drafted has been made because the. Governmentlias failed to grapple thoroughly with the problem, and has submitted a scheme which would impose additional burdens on the workers. The Opposition believes that the funds required to finance the scheme should be raised in a way other than that contemplated in the bill. It has been shown in another part of the British Empire that different methods of financing national insurance are practicable; and although the efforts of the New Zealand Government to establish a scheme providing services for al] by a totally different method may be regarded by some members behind the Government with scorn, I think that it will be found in a year or two that the course followed in the Dominion should have been followed in Australia.

The first thing necessary to make a scheme of this kind truly national is to provide for unemployment insurance. Supporters of the Government have rejected this, and their action has prevented it from being brought within the realm of discussion. The suggestion that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition for the withdrawal and re-drafting of this bill indicates that the Labour party is against the principle of national insurance is without foundation. The Labour party has always made it clear that it supports a policy of national insurance, but it believes that people who have lived lives of useful citizenship should have provision made for them on a noncontributory basis through taxation, with no suggestion of charity.

The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) referred in his speech to the constitutional aspect of this bill. If what he argued after considerable research and application to the subject is correct, it would appear that, after all the labour of the Parliament, it may not be possible to implement the Government’s plans. The position should be examined with care by those advising the Government so that it can be made clear and so that the problem can be approached on lines that will ensure that whatever legislation is passed will stand the assaults which will follow from those whose interests are affected. Certain vested interests ave opposed to this measure and I am certain that, if there is doubt, about the constitutionality of it, it will be challenged. I regret that the Treasurer admitted, or, at least, did not deny, that advice had not been sought by the Government. If it is certain that we have the power - and it has been fairly generally understood, I think, that the Commonwealth has substantial, indeed probably complete, powerin respect of insurance matters - we should begin to deal with national health insurance by taking over control of the various insurance agencies in Australia and work out a truly national scheme. The Commonwealth could, for instance, control all forms of workers’ compensation instead of leaving the varying amounts and conditions that, apply in the different State?. The element of doubt which was cast upon this bill first of all by the honorable member for Griffith was scorned by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) who suggested that the “boy” of the party had been pushed forward to propound an idea which the more experienced members of the party would not propound. The honorable member for Barton overlooked the fact that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on this side of the House, both of whom have wide legal knowledge and experience of such subjects, and the honorable member foi- Warringah (Mr. Spender) who is a Kings Counsel, expressed similar views. 1 1 is a pity that the Government had not previously definitely ascertained the constitutional constitution and passed on the advice to the House. A great deal of time will be spent in discussing this bill in committee, assuming that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is not carried. As the result of deliberations, there will emerge a bill unsatisfactory to this side of the House and to the people generally, but one which may form the working basts on which later the Labour party can provide a real national insurance scheme. But if it be then adjudged unconstitutional all of our work will have gone for nothing.

I challenge the bill because it is limited in its scope and narrow in its outlook, l t overlooks the right of the small shopkeeper, the small grazier and farmer, and the people who are not employed by any particular person, but who earn their living on a commission basis. There must be a fair number of such people in the Commonwealth. Those who are in business for themselves and whose incomes are small, are to be left without protection and without the opportunity to participate in benefits to which they will be compelled to contribute through taxation levied to make up the Government’s share. The wives and families of insured male persons are left outside the scope of the bill. Relief workers are ignored and the original owners of Australia, the aboriginals, are excluded. The position of the friendly societies can readily be understood and their anxiety appreciated. Member after member has expressed his admiration for the service given to the community by the friendly societies and has commended them- for the way in which they have given that service. T have been a member of a friendly society for many years and know the wonderful work that they have done on a voluntary basis. I hope that the Government will utilize their services in every possible way and that nothing will be done to impede them. I would extend the rights that are to be given to friendly societies under this bill to those hospital benefit societies that are organized on a basis of service without profit and which devote all accumulated funds to expand their benefits and services. I do not, however, subscribe to the idea that employers’ organizations should be admitted as approved societies. Trade unions, which care to be, should have the right ‘ to become approved societies. In my view, they will not interfere with the interests of established friendly societies. I would, however, deny to insurance companies the right to become approved societies. Some of them masquerade under the name of “ mutual “ companies or societies, but they have not the call for recognition that is possessed by friendly societies and trades unions. Both insurance companies and employers’ organizations should be excluded from the field. There is a legitimate field of operation for the friendly societies and trades unions and other organizations of workers controlled by the workers themselves in the 1,800,000 persons who will, if this bill is passed, come within its provisions; but it should not; be regarded as a new field for the insurance companies, the chief consideration of whose management is the accumulation of money, property, and influence - and power over the lives of thepeople through the policy of their directors. -I regard insurance companies as a field in which politicians who have rendered service, and have to be displaced in Parliament, find a field of activity.. Boards of directors of insurance companies contain former members of the United Australia party and even theCountry party, who do not hesitate to usetheir influence and power in a direction opposed to the policy of the Labourparty, -which stands for the maintenanceand advancement of the workers’ rights.

Stress has been laid upon the amount of exploration which has been undertaken on behalf of the Government in theeffort to find a basis for national insurance that will meet the needs of theAustralian people. The Treasurer has compared the bill, and what it seeks toachieve. to defence. He said, in introducing this bill -

The building up of the defence of the indivi- dual Australian family against the unexpected: emergencies of life was one of the things at: which the bill aimed.

He said further -

The results of those labours are embodied in the bill now before Parliament.

The results of that exploration, and the products of those labours, are now before Parliament, and, whilst every honorable member will claim that he is actuated by a desire to do something that will help in the direction of achieving economic security for the people, it is evident from the criticism of members of both sides of the House that, outside of the Ministry itself, there is much dissatisfaction. I must confess to a feeling of disappointment that a bill which has taken so long to evolve provides for so little, and that what it does provide for will, in the end, fall on the shoulders of the workers themselves. The scheme purports to apportion the load between the Government, the employers, and the employees, but it allows ji section of the community, which earns its income without entering into industry, and which employs as little human labour as possible, to escape its share of the cost. The bill is, apparently, designed to protect the investor and the rentier, who will benefit from the greater measure of economic security which it is claimed the Government’s proposals will give, without making any contribution to it, except that involved in the payment to the Government of taxes in which all other sections share. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) attempted to show that in the end the employee will pay nothing. That is a new line of logic, because close examination shows that the worker will not only pay his straight-out share, but will also have to pay for the employer’s share, as the result of increased prices and other devices which are utilized by the employer to extricate himself from a position in which he is faced with added expenditure. These devices will always be utilized until we have price-fixing machinery in Australia. There is another section, the professional and higherpaid salaried-class, who do non-manual work, which will escape very lightly, as the number of persons which it employs is small in comparison to the size of the income which it earns. It has been suggested by the Treasurer that the -rentier and the investor classes are heavily taxed.

A comparison of Australian taxes and the British taxes, however, shows that the wealthy section of the Australian community is let off very lightly. The struggling employer who is endeavouring to develop and extend his industry will, with the man or woman whom he employs, make a much . greater contribution.

The Government has, no. doubt, weighed all the factors, and has deliberately designed the provisions of the bill to make the workers contribute a greater share of the pensions, invalid and old-age, than has hitherto been the case, and has held up as a bogy the over-increasing percentage of the whole of the people who will be in receipt of a pension in another 40 years as an inducement for Parliament to adopt a scheme which is national only in name.

The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has already expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the Treasurer’s statement that -

Whereas to-day there are 20 persons ot pension age out of every 100 wage-earners, in 40 years from now the proportion of persons of pension age will have risen to 54 in every 100 wage-earners.

I agree with the dissent expressed as to the accuracy of the statement; it can only be an estimate. The Treasurer has not set out any figures on which his statement is based, but it is reasonable to assume that it is based on the decreasing birth rate as shown in the recent census returns, and on the increasing longevity figures culled from vital statistical tables. Probably if Nationalist governments, supported in their policy by Country party representatives, continue to govern in Australia, the estimate of a constantly decreasing birth rate will materialize.. But already there are unmistakeable signs of a. change in the outlook of the people. Take, for example, the results of the last. Senate election. “With a Labour government in office, there would be no reason to assume either a lower marriage rate or a lower birth-rate. On the contrary, with the greater sense of security which Labour legislation would give to the people, there would be every reason to expect an increase, not only of- the marriagerate, but also of the birth-rate, as well as the probable duration of life in Australia. The proper foundation of a scheme such as this is to make every citizen of the nation share in the cost of it according to his or her means. Before I leave the Treasurer’s statement, I should like to quote from the latest edition of the Commonwealth Year-Book -No. 30 for 1937. At page 440, under the heading “ Graphical representation of vital statistics,” it says: -

The progressive fluctuations of the numbers of births, marriages and deaths are important indexes of the economic conditions and social ideals of a community. Graphs have accordingly been prepared which show these fluctuations. It should be remembered, however, that, normally, the increase of births and marriages should be proportional to the growth of population.

The outstanding features of the graph representing births are: - An almost continuous rise in the numbers from 18G0 to 1891; a decline till 1S98, associated with the commercial crises of 1S91-93; a sharp fall in 1903 which accompanied a severe drought; an interrupted increase from 1903 to 1914, the total for 1914 being the highest recorded; a rapid decline to 1919, the result of war conditions, followed by an equally rapid increase in 1920. The numbers were fairly constant from 1920 to 1928 after which they declined steeply as the result of the world depression. A slight improvement was shown in 1935 and 1930.

It will thus be seen that the birth rate and the marriage rate fluctuate according to the nature of the economic conditions of the country. If Australia had a Labour government, which would make economic conditions secure in respect of all the people and not provide for securityonly iu respect of the wealthy classes, there would be an increasing birth-rate and marriage-rate, and greater social security. I should say that the best way in which the people could he made to contribute according to their means is by the imposition of a tax on incomes, from whatever source they are derived. In my view, it is not too much to ask the citizens of this country to contribute to its economic security in accordance with their means. This is realized in New Zealand, in which dominion the proposals of the government are entirely different from and on a much more satisfactory basis than are the proposals of this Government. I think that that will be admitted, not only by the medical profession, but also by the friendly societies and every other interest which will be genuinely affected by this scheme.. In. New Zealand, none will escape his or her obligation, whereas in Australia one section will wholly escape while another section will contribute very little. The figures given by the Treasurer, as indicating a rapid growth of the percentage of pensioned persons, have been described by him as vital considerations ; and - he added - “ some of them are quite disturbing factors.” That a decrease of the birth-rate in a country like Australia is a disturbing factor, no reasoning person will deny. But the data available make it clear that the birth-rate varies according to the economic position of the country. I have just read from the Commonwealth YearBook paragraphs which indicate definitely that, over a long period, the birthrate in Australia has ebbed and flowed in accordance with the economic position of this country. The same argument applies to the marriage-rate. No one will deny that, had the youth of this country been provided for during the years of the depression, the marriage-rate would have been considerably higher. There are few who will deny that it is now much below what it ought to be, owing to the difficulty which many young and otherwise eligible men experience in obtaining regular employment, and the fear of many of those in employment that they may lose it and have nothing better than sustenance to fall back upon. The reference in the Commonwealth Year-Book to the marriage-rate reads as follows -

The graph for marriages up to 1914 discloses approximately the same features as that for births - financial crises and droughts having a similar effect. The numbers for 1914 and 1915 showed a considerable increase over previous years. From 1910 to 1918 there was a rapid fall, the numbers being much below those of pre-war years. During 1919 and 1920 the recovery was very rapid, the total for the latter year being the highest ever recorded. Marriages declined again to 1923 then recovered to 1927, when the experience ot the period 1915 to 1920 was repeated, the graph falling sharply with the progress of the depression and making a striking recovery in the past five years.

It will thus be seen that the vital statistics of this country are very greatly influenced by its economic position.

Mr Holloway:

– So are sickness and crime.


– As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has reminded me, that applies also to sickness and crime. No one will deny that, when the people have security in their employment and know that they are not likely to have to cast round for a new job at almost any time, the home is in much better spirits. I believe that psychology has an important bearing, on health. When the people know that they arc secure, and that their future is assured, we can look for better health generally in their ranks. The Labour party aims at ensuring that feeling of security. I contend that it is not. reasonable to expect the Blouse to accept the figures put forward by the Treasurer. I admit his capability, and cast no reflection on him as an individual; but I believe that this Government, knowing that if it were allowed to continue in office for a lengthy period it would have to face an immense burden in respect of invalid and old-age pensions in the- years to come, very cleverly and designedly set about the preparation of a plan which would remove the burden from the wealthy section of the community, and place on the workers, under the guise of giving them something which was better than they had before, a load which should be carried by the nation as a whole and not by them.’ I think it was the honorable member for Grey who said that the Labour party is prepared to see the workers, whom it claims to represent, accept a dole. I know that that is the argument advanced by those who are Opposed to Labour; but if one reads the debates which preceded the granting of invalid and old-age pensions in the early stages of the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, one will find that leading men who were opposed to Labour in those days did not dare to express such a view. Labour now says quite frankly to everybody that it believes that the reward for good service for those who are unable to provide for themselves should be a pension from the nation, without any contribution other than the good service they had rendered over a lengthy period. We say that the preservation of the dignity of labour, referred to by the Treasurer, is the responsibility, not only of the employer and employee, but also of the nation, and that the Government is not making the effort fall upon the people as a whole, but is placing it heavily on the worker and his employer, and making provision to save its wealthy friends to the fullest possible degree.

I shall shortly state the benefits that are being offered under the New Zealand proposals. I know that my friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has given them in detail, and that later they will be referred to by many because of the excellence of the information they contain, but I wish to mention them briefly in support of my contentions. Shortly stated, they are as follows : -

The setting up of a national, health service foi- all classes of the community.

The payment of a superannuation benefit of 30s. a week, with an allowable income of an additional 20s. a week.

Payment of sickness benefits, the extent of which is to lie fixed after investigation -

I have no doubt that they will be as liberal as possible, because the Government of New Zealand does not take a mean view of such matters -

An increase of pensions for invalids, from 20s. to 30s. a week. Increased widows’ pensions on an extended classification.

They are to apply on a much wider basis than has hitherto prevailed.

Mr Holloway:

– Is the £1 now given on a contributory basis?


– So far as I am able to ascertain, as in other British countries it is on a purely noncontributory basis. It is regarded as a reward for citizenship for the contribution that has been made by the recipient towards the wealth of the nation.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Why cannot the thrifty workman participate in those benefits?


– I think that he should do so. If Australia were to apply the New Zealand practice, every man who so desired could participate in the benefits, and all would have to contribute towards the fund out of which they were provided ; the wealthy section of the community would not be allowed to escape. I say most emphatically that the thrifty man should have the right to participate. I do not want any interjection to make it appear that I advocate that the’ thrifty man should be left out of the scheme; but I entirely disagree with the method employed by this Government to obtain the funds necessary to make provision for what it describes as national insurance. Its scheme is not truly national, but would <be if the basis laid clown in New Zealand were adopted. The Government of that dominion proposes to increase invalid pensions from £1 to £1 10s. a week, and to increase widows’ pensions on an extended classification. Other proposed benefits are -

An increase nf the family allowance from 2s. to 4si. in respect of each child.

The creation nf hu orphan’s pension of 15s. a week.

An increase of the allowance in respect of war veterans.

An increase of tin- miner’s pension.

But for the fact that we have had a very long debate on this measure and I do not wish to make it wearisome) it would be most interesting to make a direct comparison of each of those items with what the Commonwealth Government would do.

Mr Jolly:

– What is to be the rate of contribution?


– The rate of contribution is to be ls. in the £1 on all incomes. Everybody should contribute to a scheme of this nature. A man who receives £10,000 a year would contribute £10 a week. I, as a member of Parliament receiving £20 a week, would contribute £1 a week. Every one should be willing to contribute for the sake of the nation. The rate of ls. in the £1 in New Zealand was imposed by the anti-Labour Coates-Forbes Government. It was later reduced to 8d. in the £1 by “the present Labour government, after it had raised the dominion out of the depression, and now that Government proposes to re-impose the tax of ls. in the £1 in order to provide a real national health service, such as could he provided in. Australia by a government which did not merely pretend but really wished to look after the interests of the people. When, to the benefits that I have mentioned are added free hospital treatment, sanatorium treatment for all those who require it, free maternity treatment - including the cost of maintenance while in a maternity home, and the provision of grants in special cases to provide the necessary outfits for babies - free hospital treatment for and the care’ of the mentally afflicted, and free medicines, the magnitude of the scheme will readily be realized. Those are the services which the Government of New Zealand believes can be provided at the outset of the scheme. It is intended later to establish other services, including anaesthetic, laboratory and radiology - specialist and consultant - massage and physiotherapy, transport to and from hospital, and dental and optical benefits. Other prospective benefits are: provision for home nursing, and domestic assistance when a staff can be trained, to bring the scheme into the realm of practical service. Finally, the Government will institute a health education policy, and so promote better health and the prevention of disease.

A comparison of the proposals of the Savage Labour Government in New Zealand aud those of the Lyons antiLabour government of Australia, illustrates the difference in the outlook of Labour and anti-Labour governments in dealing with national problems. Labour governments are able to visualize the many and varied needs of the people and to bring down measures to provide adequately for them. Anti-Labour governments must: do as the interests which control them dictate. Thus this Government offers, in the name of national insurance, a scheme which must utterly fail to satisfy the people that it proposes to serve. It also seeks to compel the people least able to do so to carry the burden. [Leave to continue given.]

The methods of finance adopted by the Savage Government and the Lyons Government vary as greatly as do the benefits proposed to be afforded. In New Zealand, the burden is being placed upon industry, and will be spread over the whole community. The tax of ls. in the £1 in New Zealand, plus the £1 for.fl subsidy by the government from general revenue, will provide a fund necessary to ensure health and pension benefits of a truly national character and allow scope for subsequent developments. In Australia contributions are to be obtained from only three sources, and the benefits are limited_ in a most unsatisfactory way. Because the La.bour party has objected to the limitations of the bill and has asked that it be withdrawn for redrafting to provide more comprehensive benefits, honorable members opposite have hurled the accusation at us that we wish to destroy the principle of national insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth. If honorable members opposite were genuinely interested in the provision of a proper scheme of national insurance, they would either vote for the amendment or adopt other means to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to compel it to withdraw the bill and prepare another on more adequate lines. The comparative figures and information to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) directed attention in his speech, must give food for thought to many people who do not ordinarily read Parliamentary Debates, but who are following with keen interest the debate on this bill. Those figures and that information, which will undoubtedly be convincing to people with a’n unbiased mind, strongly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It cannot be denied by any honorable member who has taken the trouble to inform his mind on the subject that the proposals of the Government of New Zealand are far more adequate and satisfactory than those contained in the bill now before us. In New Zealand, a procedure was followed which might well have been followed by this Government. It must now be evident to the Treasurer that the Government would have been well advised to appoint a committee to inquire into this whole subject before presenting this bill to Parliament. The Government of New Zealand appointed a non-party committee to make investigations. It cannot be said that it allowed the friendly societies or the medical profession to formulate its policy, but it made provision for these and other interested parties to submit evidence on the whole subject. After the committee has considered all the information furnished to it by various organizations, the Government will frame its final proposals for legislation. The Lyons’ Government framed its legislation, apparently, before it consulted the parties concerned, and now that it finds itself overwhelmed by criticism, it says, “In view of the criticism of this measure, the Government will introduce a complementary measure later on “. If it is as long in presenting the complementary measure to Parliament as it has been in presenting the bill now before us, the complaints of honorable members opposite will not be remedied for a very long time.

Some honorable members opposite, who have denied to the Labour party any credit for the establishment of the existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme, seem to me to accept the dictum of their leaders without inquiring into the real facts of the case. I therefore propose to read to honorable members a short history of the development of our present pensions scheme, prepared by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to whom we are greatly indebted for the accumulation of a vast amount of reliable historical data on this subject. It will show clearly that the Labour party was almost wholly responsible for the introduction of this beneficent legislation. It may be argued that as the Labour party was not in office at the time the old-age pensions were first provided in Australia, it could not possibly have been responsible for the system. But honorable gentleman opposite must be well aware that the Labour party was actually in power in many of our Parliaments before it was in office. It was, in fact, a third party holding the balance of power between two other parties. Consequently, it was able to compel the party which it decided to support to give effect to many of the planks of its platform, including that which provided for pensions. Before reading the statement, of the honorable member for Bourke on this subject, I observe that the antiLabour parties referred to therein were the political ancestors of the present-day United Australia party. I do not think that that can be denied. Moreover, many of the arguments advanced against the introduction of a. system of invalid and old-age pensions in the early days of this century are being advanced to-day (against the Labour party’s contention that a noncontributory scheme of national insurance should be implemented. In particular, the argument that a pension scheme would discourage thrift and industry on the part of the workers, which was voiced more than 30 years ago, is being repeated to-day.- The statement to which I have referred rends as follows: - -

Who gave, us old-age and invalid pensions ?

The Labour party did.

Prom time to time this is denied by our opponents. The only thing that gives a particle of colour to their denial is that old-age pensions were enacted before there was a Labour majority anywhere. That is true. But the Labour party had power long before it had office.

The Labour party was a third party too small to take the treasury bench itself but big enough to be able to make and un-make Ministries. Neither of the two big parties was big enough to govern without Labour votes. Labour could give power to whichever it preferred. It gave power to the party which would do most for Labour. In this way the planks of the Labour platform were made law.

In the nineties, old-age pensions were much discussed. The spiritual ancestors of the United Australia party were unfriendly. They said that pensions would discourage thrift and weaken the .moral fibre of the masses. There was a lot of unorganized sympathy with the proposals. Governments played with the idea. But it. was not until the Labour party made old-age pensions a fighting matter that they were given. The Labour party put in governments who had promised to pass old-age pensions. The Labour party made them live up to their promises.

In September, .1899, Labour put Lyne into office in New South Wales in place of Reid. Lyne promised to pass old-age pensions. In December, 1900, old-age pensions became law in New South Wales. In November, Labour put Turner into office in Victoria in place of McLean. Turner promised to pass old-age pensions. In December, 1900, oldage pensions became law in Victoria. In February, 1908, Labour put Kidston into office in Queensland instead of Philp. In July, 190S, old-age pensions became law in Queensland.

Before old-age pensions became law in Queensland, Deakin had promised Commonwealth pensions. This promise was made in 190;>. The Labour party put Deakin in office in place of Reid. Deakin wrote a letter to (lie Labour party promising to bring in old-age pensions. (The letter is printed in W. G. Spence’.? Australia’s Awakening, at page 396.) This promise was not carried out till 1908. A constitutional difficulty caused the delay. The States claimed the unspent revenue of the Commonwealth. They said that it had to be paid to them each month. Deakin thought that this was right. If it were right, the plan of creating a trust fund for the payment of pensions was impracticable. Fisher got legal advice that, said that the States were wrong. Deakin accepted this, and passed an act creating a trust fund for old-age pensions. The State of New South Wales challenged this act, but in October, 1908, the High Court upheld it.

The Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act was passed in 190S. Old-age pensions wore to come into force not later than the 1st July, 1909. In 1908-1909, Fisher was in power for six months. He brought old-age pensions into force from the 15th April, 1909. No time was fixed for the -commencement of invalid pensions. The second Fisher Government put them in force from the 19th November, 1910.

In these circumstances, the Labour party should be given full credit for the introduction of our existing pensions scheme. It is quite certain that had it not been for the influence of the Labour party of those days, the payment of invalid and old-age pensions would have been delayed for many years. The Labour party has always been the driving force in compelling anti-Labour governments to introduce social welfare measures. I, therefore, repudiate the statements of honorable gentlemen opposite, in which they deny to Labour any of the credit for the existing social benefits of this country. Labour has always advocated an advanced social ivo:fare policy, and those opposed to Labour have only applied it when they could not resist its application any longer.

One of the most objectionable features of this bill is clause 185, which appears to have been designed specifically to prevent industrial arbitration tribunals from increasing the wages of employed persons to cover the cost of social insurance. Government supporters have entirely failed to explain satisfactorily the reasons for including this provision in the bill. The contribution of ls. 6d. a week which workers will be compelled to make to the National Insurance Fund will entail a decrease of the amount of money available for the upkeep of the homes of the workers. As many workers find it impossible, even under existing conditions, to provide more than the barest necessaries of life for their families in consequence of the basic wage being fixed at the absolute minimum to provide sustenance, it must be obvious that any reduction of existing wages must involve the working people in extreme hardship. I appeal to honorable members opposite to vote against the inclusion of this clause in the bill. Our wage-fixing tribunals should, unquestionably, be permitted to take into account national insurance contributions in fixing the basic wage. The effect of this clause would, undoubtedly, be disastrous to the workers, and also detrimental to the wellbeing of the community at large. Anything that re-acts adversely on the basicwage worker inevitably affects the whole community. For a long while the workers’ representatives have been requesting wage-fixing tribunals to take -into consideration, in fixing the basic wage, lodge payments and other expenses incurred in providing medicines and medical treatment, and it is deplorable that just when these arguments appear to be carrying more weight than hitherto, the Government should include this provision in this bill.

Mr Holloway:

– Members of the Government have always said that the Government does not interfere with the courts.


– They may make that claim, but in this particular it is entirely disproved. The Royal Commission on the Basic Wage, which was appointed in 1920, considered this very subject. It made exhaustive inquiries in every capital city in Australia and examined about 800 witnesses. Its finding in connexion with life assurance appears on page 46 of its report, and reads as follows: -

In conclusion, the commission wishes to statu with the utmost clearness that in excluding any provision for so vital a part of the comfort of a family as insurance against the death of the bread-winner it hits done so in the hope that national insurance for such a contingency will he undertaken at an early date under government auspices.

The commission excluded unemployment insurance for the reason that it considered that provision should be made for it in a wage varying in accordance with the frequency of unemployment as related to the particular trade or calling for which the wage was being fixed. It did not deal with old age for the reason that this was considered to be the function of the legislature. The commission declared that if the provision for old age were inadequate, it was the business of Parliament, rather than of a wage-fixing tribunal, to extend it. The commission found, however, that in fixing the basic wage, provision should be made for lodge dues and medicine and dental treatment. The amount considered to be necessary for lodge dues was ls. 3d. a week, and for medicine, dental treatment, &c, 9d. a week, making a total of 2s. a week. Although this commission, after exhaustive inquiry, expressed the opinion that some of the benefits specified in this bill should really be provided for in the fixing of the basic wage, the Government proposes to prevent any wage-fixing tribunal from including in the wages of the workers the cost of the contributions proposed in this bill. In these circumstances, the Treasurer cannot expect the bill to be received with enthusiasm by workers who have been struggling for years to better their wages and conditions. Clause 185 affords additional evidence that the interests of the wealthy classes of the community are paramount in the eyes of the Government.

If the world’s wealth were rationally exploited and distributed, there is no reason to suppose that all its inhabitants of working age could not be fully employed, or that they could ‘ not enjoy a better standard of living than now obtains over large areas throughout Australia. The lessons of the present depression, of which some examples have been given, indicate sufficiently clearly in what direction the true solution lie3. Better organization of industry, a freer flow of trade, and a more intelligent management and distribution of money would enable the bogy of unemployment and its consequent effect on the health of the masses to be mastered. [ refer to unemployment in relation to the bill, mainly because it is one of the chief causes of the ill-health which the bill aims, or is said to aim, at alleviating. There can be no substantial improvement of the general health of the community, in my opinion, until the standard of life is improved. The first thing to be done in that direction is to follow the suggestion contained in the report of the Director of the International Labour Office at Geneva, that we should introduce into our social system “ a more intelligent management and distribution of money “. The scheme under consideration depends so much upon the contributions of the workers that, unless it is allied with some action to bring into employment those now out of work, and maintain them in work, one shudders to think what may happen to it when another depression arrives. Every branch of legislative effort is inevitably associated in some way or other with the effects, probable or possible, of a depression, and we want to see the economic security of the community established by the adoption of Labour’s programme in such a way that those ill effects which we fear are not likely to continue. I should like to touch upon the position of doctors and chemists, and of railway men and public servants in relation to this bill whose undoubted rights should be preserved; but I do not want to trespass on the time of the House at this stage. Ample opportunity will, I hope, be afforded to deal with those classes of the community during the committee stage of the bill.

I conclude by saying that if we are to preserve and advance our civilization we must endeavour to provide for social security for all of the people. That provision will involve some sacrifice on the part of the more fortunate people whose security is not in danger or in doubt. This bill does not involve any sacrifice on the part of those who are most secure, and cannot be regarded by people of unbiased minds a3 a reasonable step forward on the part of social progress. It lags far behind what the people of New Zealand will be called upon to provide, and as it is not commensurate with our capacity, and is deficient, it should be withdrawn and re-drafted. Many speakers on the Government side of the House have criticized the bill, and the Government itself has admitted that it needs amendment by announcing, in the early stages of this debate, after widespread criticism of- its provisions had been voiced, that it intended to bring forward another bill. The best course to take is to withdraw the bill, and redraft it in the light of the criticism offered and the example set by other countries, and replace it by a comprehensive measure that would justify the name of national insurance, and thus place on the statute-book legislation that would be of real benefit to the people of Australia as a whole.


.- To me it seems that the necessity for the introduction of a bill of this sort, is something of an indictment of an otherwise intelligent people numbering 0,750,000 and occupying a magnificent country which, even with the minor degree of development we have attained, already provides in super-abundance everything that is needful for the maintenance of the highest standards of human life in all its phases, embracing all that is worthwhile in the higher planes of culture, physical and moral achievement - and provides all that is necessary to abolish the grim spectre of want and destitution that perpetually haunts the majority of them. We go on temporizing and endeavouring to adjust our difficulties within the limitation of a system of economics which does not reflect physical facts and which although, broadly speaking, is accepted by a majority of people, yet to those of us of more realistic thought, is unsuitable and obsolete, and tremendously dangerous to our vaunted civilization. If the system, is persisted with very much longer it must result in disastrous consequences that only comparatively fewcan visualize. But our leaders in government and public thought seem unwilling to develop, or are incapable of developing, original or rational ideas. They appear to be lacking in the courage a nd vision of the pioneers of this country who so well and truly laid the foundations of this great Commonwealth. In dealing with national problems they appear to have negative,, rather than positive minds. I readily admit that no Government can move in advance of public opinion, but our leaders can and should courageously give a lead of a positive kind. It is deplorable to hear of the need for a plan to provide for national unemployment insurance. We should talk rather in terms of national employment and developmental works. I do not think that we are tackling the problem in the right way. Surely it is wrong to persist with the negative attitude we have been adopting for so many years. Surely it must be obvious to all persons who think reasonably and rationally, that the introduction of a hill of this sort is no way to tackle this great problem of national insurance. I’f we are to persist in following along the lines that have characterized our efforts in the past, we will make little contribution towards the improvement of the health of the people, and towards reducing unemployment. In a young country like Australia, there is unlimited scope for development; a tremendous amount of work can and must be done, if we are to populate this country. We shall never develop our heritage if we proceed along the lines we have followed in the past. The need for national insurance is surely definite evidence that there is something wrong in the present system. It is a. fact that during the depression our people were forced to makesacrifices on a scale never experienced before; it is also true that, so far as production is concerned we were never richer. Yet to-day we are faced with the paradox, not only in this country, but also in almost every other country, that the masses of the people are becoming poorer, despite the fact that science and invention have made the world wealthier than it has even been before. I mention these things to show that in my opinion we are not tackling this problem in the right way. If all of this be true - and I am satisfied that it is - it must be obvious that we are not proceeding along right lines; we are attempting to deal with effects when we should be dealing with causes. I say again the root cause of the necessity for the introduction of this bill is the faulty economic system which prevents remunerative employment being provided for our people, impedes the proper distribution of our production, tolerates malnutrition and is responsible for rapidly reducing a large portion of our population to what is known as C3 grade.

I propose now to deal with a few pertinent points in the bill. First of all, I say that injustice is inflicted on a large section of the community who come under the heading of employers. There are some hundreds of thousands of small employers, such as farmers, small shopkeepers, contractors and others, whose plight under the bill has already been dealt with by previous speakers. These people, in many cases, do not receive as much in return for their own personal exertion as they pay out in wages to their employees. It is the duty of the Government to remove the injustices which this bill inflicts upon them. Recently I toured through the country districts of Victoria, and I found that these people are rebelling against the proposal to compel them to contribute to this scheme. I hope that the Government will give heed to r,he representations made by previous speakers, and either provide for exemption from contributions of small employers, or prescribe a- reduced rate of contribution for them. That is only just and fair, because although they need the benefits of the scheme just as much as their employees, no provision is made for them to share in those benefits. I understand that the Government has promised that, at a later stage, another bill will be introduced to provide for small employers.

Although I do not doubt the sincerity of the Government, .1 am not prepared to wait for an indefinite period for the implementation of a promise of that sort. Unless the Government is prepared to implement its promise by amending the bill now before the House, I shall have to consider voting against the third reading. To provide for a separate section of the people in this way must, of necessity, involve heavier contributions, although figures submitted by previous speakers, and by the Treasurer himself, indicate that under the proposed scheme greater benefits could be provided than those set out in the bill. Many small employers have such small incomes that it would be a positive injustice to inflict this additional tax upon them. I know men who own contracting plant, and engage in seasonal work. They employ labour but, over a period of twelve months, they do not earn as much net income as some of the men who work for them. Many honorable members have referred to the exclusion of wives and children of insured persons from the medical benefits of the scheme. That is a matter to which the public is taking strong exception. Recently, when I visited my electorate, I received numerous complaints on the subject. I hope that the Government will pay attention to those complaints, and will afford some relief.

The friendly societies have done wonderful work in Australia by providing sickness and medical benefits for a large section of the community. I have never availed myself of their services, but I am convinced that there is some justification for their claim that they should be given a virtual monopoly in regard to the administration of certain benefits. When this scheme comes into operation, it will interfere seriously with the work of the friendly societies, and I do not think that the Government has given sufficient consideration to this. I trust that, when the bill is in committee, the Government will accept amendments designed to overcome these difficulties. Any such amendment will receive my support.

I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that the Government should not seek to administer the scheme from a central point, but should avail itself of the services of existing organizations, whose activities it should subsidize. Many of those who should be included in the scheme will be omitted unless alterations are made. I have in mind particularly relief workers, and those who obtain only intermittent employment, or who are actually unemployed. There is another anomaly in regard to women who pay their contributions for a number of years, and then marry and cease to be contributors. They will obtain no benefit whatever from the contributions they have- already paid.

In a scheme with such widespread ramifications we naturally expect to encounter anomalies, and there is a full measure of them in this scheme. Most of them have been stressed by other speakers, and I shall content myself with saying that I hope the Government will take steps to have them removed when the bill is in committee. In my opinion, it would have been better, before .the bill was introduced, to have referred the proposals to a select committee, representing all parties in the House, for examination and. report. Had that been done I believe that we should have had before us a bill more generally acceptable to Parliament and to the public. If the Government is under the impression that it has introduced a measure that is popular with the public it is clue to receive a rude awakening. During the last few weeks I have endeavoured to learn the opinions of as many people as possible in my electorate, and the great majority of those I have spoken to are hostile to the Government’s proposal. I cannot see any reason’ why the benefits for women should not be the same as those for men. No one has shown that the medical requirements of women are, on an average, less than those of men. As one who represents a country district, I have naturally received many representations from country doctors regarding this scheme. I believe that if the bill goes through in its present form, country doctors will get a very raw deal. It must be admitted that doctors in country districts have rendered a wonderful service to the public. In my own electorate country practitioners, as a class, are hard working, unselfish, and, in the main, highly qualified. Unless the Govern- merit’s proposals are varied, many of these men will have to leave their practices, and they will be replaced by others less qualified to carry on the work. There is no doubt that the capitation fee is too low as far a3 country doctors are concerned. I am not able to express an opinion in regard to the metropolitan areas. Perhaps in industrial areas the fee may be reasonably satisfactory,’ but it is certainly not so in country districts. It cannot be denied that the country doctors were not consulted on the subject of the fee and the conditions of service. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association did not make contact with its members before entering into an agreement with the Government. I do not altogether blame the Government for that, but I maintain that it is not too late, even at this stage, to give consideration to the claims of the rank and file of the doctors, particularly those with country practices. I maintain that country doctors are entitled to greater consideration than they will receive under this scheme. It is generally recognized that it is in the country districts that the best elements of the population of Australia are bred, and care’ should be taken that country practitioners are not driven out, and replaced by less qualified men.

With all its complications and anomalies, the bill is nevertheless a mere skeleton, the vitalizing of which is to be entrusted to a commission of government appointees. who will possess enormous powers. This typifies another modern trend in government - the setting up of bureaucratic boards and commissions, and delegating to them powers properly belonging to parliament. I recognize that it will be necessary to delegate considerable powers to the commission that will control this scheme, but I hope that parliament itself will retain control of the more important matters associated with national insurance. Here, again, I find myself in substantial agreement with the honorable member for the Northern Territory who stressed the point that parliament should be. more jealous of its powers. There will be tremendous overhead costs associated with the administration of this scheme, and that is another reason why parliament should keep in close touch with it.

No doubt, the Government has made reasonably sure that the bill is constitutional, but we cannot forget that grave doubts have been raised on this point. As a layman, I find it somewhat difficult to reconcile the determination of the Government to levy a tax on all and sundry, and compel them to come within the ambit of this scheme, with its previous oft-repeated refusals to tackle the question of the compulsory marketing of primary products. I make the point merely in passing, but it seems to me to be worthy of consideration.

I am somewhat amazed at the attitude of many honorable members who have congratulated the Government upon having introduced this bill, because it seems to me that, in this matter, the Government has acted contrary to the wishes of a large section of the public. In Victoria, there is very little enthusiasm with regard to the scheme. In a letter which I have received from the secretary of a hospital contributory insurance fund in one of the main towns in my electorate, the following statement appears: -

As tlie bill stands at present, it will not affect our hospital contributory insurance fund, but I would like to make a few comments on this so-called national insurance bill that Mr. Casey is trying to force on the workers nf this country. After checking the proposed bill carefully, there is only one conclusion that I could come to - that the bill, if passed, would simply mean an additional tax on the workers of this Commonwealth. There is no question but that the employees will indirectly pay the whole contribution, including that paid by the employer, and it will be passed on to the worker by the increase that is bound to come in the cost of living. Also, the amount put in by the Government is paid by the people in indirect taxation. The farmers and others should be pleased that they are going to be exempt from the bill.


– That is quite wrong.


– I do not say that 1 agree with all the statements made in the letter, but I have quoted a portion of it to indicate some of the opinions held in my electorate. If I followed my own convictions, I should vote against the second reading of the bill, ‘but I shall reserve my decision until the measure has reached the committee stage, because I desire to give the Government an opportunity to amend it in several important directions. There is much merit in the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I shall have something further to say a’bout the bill at the committee stage.


.- The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) accused the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) of omitting all reference to that portion of the scheme of national insurance adopted in New Zealand which provides for a tax of ls. in the fi on all wages or salaries. On two occasions the honorable member for Hindmarsh emphasized the fact that such a tax was contemplated, and I do not think that any honorable member of theOpposition would object to a measure drafted on the lines of the New Zealand legislation. The honorable member for Watson also said, in the course of his speech, and repeated it to-day by way of interjection, that the New Zealand scheme is not yet in force. According to the Prime Minister of that dominion, Mr. Savage, his Government intends to give effect to the measure from the 1st April, 1939. At the present time, the matter is being investigated by a select committee, and, no doubt, effect will be given to the scheme on the date when the Prime Minister states that the act will be proclaimed. The New Zealand scheme is at least entitled to be described as a national one, and it will not injure bodies such as friendly societies, which have been doing good work in Australia and in other parts of the world for many years.

Another statement to which I desire to refer is one made by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who, this afternoon, went to much trouble to explain that the party with which he is associated has a remarkable record of achievement. I have an idea that he has not always been associated with that party, and was not a member of it in the earlier stages of its career. I am reminded that the Government in power in New South Wales is supported by the party to which the honorable member owes allegiance, but it has done nothing to abolish the slums of Sydney, which are as bad as the worst in any other part of the world.


– The honorable member should contine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.


– If a measure were introduced in this Parliament providing for a scheme of national insurance similar to that shortly to be put into operation in New Zealand, it would be difficult for any honorable member to oppose it. National insurance is already provided for by law in that dominion. Effect was given to the measure by the Coates Government, and the Savage Government is now merely amending and improving a law passed some years ago at the instance of an anti-Labour government. The objection which I have, and which any honest man should have, to the present bill is that it does not provide for “ national “ insurance, since the section that most needs assistance is not brought within the ambit of the scheme. One honorable member said that a southern European might enjoy greater benefit under this measure than an Australian. A person of foreign nationality who became a naturalized subject might derive benefits under the scheme, whilst a single woman who contributed to the fund for some years, and then married, would receive no benefit. It may be that the Government intends to amend the bill to enable a woman who marries to continue her payments voluntarily. If there is one class of the community that is more entitled than any other to the protection of this Parliament, it is that composed of the mothers of the nation. Their claims should not be overlooked in the consideration of this bill.

Wealthy persons who employ no labour, but who draw large salaries and fees from industry, will contribute nothing to the insurance fund ; therefore, the bill cannot fairly be described as a national one. It is merely the first instalment of legislation that will seriously curtail the activities of societies that have been doing good work in Australia and many other countries for a long period. It will preclude many people from continuing their membership of friendly societies, because those who have to subsist on the basic wage cannot afford to contribute to the cost of two insurance schemes. Clause 185 of the bill debars the Arbitration Court and other authorities from taking contributions and benefits into account when assessing wages. In my opinion the court will ignore that clause, but the fact remains that this Government desires that it shall make no allowance for these contributions. I have been told by the advisers of the Government that the number of friendly societies will not be reduced as a result of the passage of this legislation. Certainly the benefits enjoyed by the members of those societies will be lost, unless they are prepared to pay the increased contribution which will be necessary to finance them. Under this scheme, every employee will bc called upon to pay ls. 6d. ‘a week into the insurance fund. He will also have to pay his usual contribution to a friendly society if he desires his wife and children to receive the medical attention to which they are entitled. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that members of this chamber would have to make a considerable payment out of their parliamentary allowance if a direct income tax of ls. in the fi were imposed upon them.

I have received a telegram from the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association in Queensland, which states -

This association, consisting of a membership of over 3.000 cane fanners, asks you to impress upon the Government- in every possible way the absolute necessity for in eluding farmers of limited income in the benefits of the national insurance schemes. lt is generally thought that the sugarcane growers are a wealthy section, but. the proportion of them who pay income tax is lower than in the case of the wheatgrowers. As, the former have to employ labour to harvest their crop, they will be required under this bill to contribute to the cost of the scheme. There are many other men engaged in primary production who are in a similarly unfortunate position. Small business men will find it very difficult to make the contributions that will be required of them on behalf of their employees, yet other people in comfortable positions will not be required to make any payment, A vague promise has been given that another measure will be introduced later to widen the scope of the scheme.


– Under this bill only the father of a family will be entitled to medical benefits. In that respect the benefits of the scheme before us will be inferior to those now enjoyed by members of friendly societies. For about ls. 6d. a week, a working man who is a member of a friendly society can obtain medical treatment for himself and also for his wife and children, and, in addition, the free dispensing of doctors’ prescriptions. One of the harmful effects of this legislation will be a reduction of the membership of friendly societies. Young nien are not joining these societies in great numbers to-day. That is largely due to the activities of insurance agents who persuade people to take out industrial insurance policies. In my opinion industrial insurance is a subtle form of robbery. Many parents are persuaded to take out industrial insurance policies in respect of their children for periods up to fifteen or 20 years. The effect is to discourage young people from joining friendly societies.

Claims to be regarded as approved societies under this legislation are being made on behalf of certain organizations in the community. I hope that the Government will not allow these «so-called mutual insurance companies to be registered as approved societies. No doubt some “ go-getters “ associated with such companies are already in the field in anticipation of this legislation being passed. I shall not support any action to give to friendly societies a monopoly in this connexion. Many industrial organizations - some of them big unions - have funds for distribution among their members in case of sickness. As they have had years of experience in administering such funds, no good reason can be advanced for refusing to register them as approved societies, but I repeat my plea for the exclusion of the so-called mutual insurance companies. On other occasions I have questioned the mutual nature of their business. These concerns, instead of distributing their profits among their policy holders by decreasing the premiums charged, hide them by erecting huge buildings.

Mr Fairbairn:

– Surely those buildings are security for the policy holders?


– They are not of much value to the policy holders.


– Then who gets the money?


– It would he interesting to know who owns the huge buildings occupied by these so-called mutual societies. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) is ‘in a better position to know such things than I am. Should this measure become law the social services now provided for the people of Queensland will be seriously affected; the hospitals of that State will suffer. New South Wales also has a splendid hospital system. The payment of 6d. a week enables a man to secure treatment for himself, his wife and his children, should they need it. The passing of this legislation will not confer any benefit on such people; it will merely increase the weekly contribution from 6d. to 2s. without any corresponding advantage. As the honorable .member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) said last night, numbers of people in Queensland contribute regularly to the support of hospitals and ambulances; if this bill becomes law those contributions are likely to be discontinued. In one district of Queensland, members of the Australian Workers’ Union contribute regularly to the upkeep of the local hospital and ambulance, but they will probably discontinue their contributions when this scheme becomes operative. The inclusion of healthy young men among their members enables friendly societies and similar organizations to give fairly generous treatment to their members, but if these young men drop out of membership, the societies may have to curtail benefits. Undoubtedly, these societies will bc weakened by this scheme, although I am informed that that has not been the effect of national insurance in England. The honorable member for Darling Downs also told us that, notwithstanding that taxation in Queensland is heavier than in any other State, the Forgan Smith Government was recently again returned to power. That is an indication that the electors of that State approve of its legislation. That Government cannot but be concerned at the possible consequences of the passing of this legislation. Although the relief tax in Queensland is said to be the highest tax of its kind in the Commonwealth, excellent value is given for it. Persons who will be compelled to join this scheme will find it difficult to assist those organizations which now are conferring great benefits on the community. I was amused to hear the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) say to-day that when this scheme is sifted to the bottom it will be found that the worker will pay nothing. The honorable member can, at least, be complimented on having said something original.

Mr Badman:

– I did not say that; 1 said that the worker will pay less.


– I say that he will pay more. Under this legislation the workers, who produce all the wealth of this country, will be taxed, whilst those who produce least will get off scot-free because they are friends of the Government. Many honorable members on the other side of the House have both praised and condemned the bill. Their condemnation of it is sufficient to warrant its withdrawal.

Mr Lazzarini:

– At best, they have damned it with faint praise.


– I maintain that the existing legislation of Queensland confers greater benefits on the people of that State than they will derive from this scheme. With the exception of Tasmania, Queensland has the highest birth-rate in the Commonwealth. It certainly has the lowest death rate of any of the States. Those facts indicate that the health of the people is safeguarded better in Queensland than in other parts of the Commonwealth. There are some who profess to believe that the climate of Queensland is not conducive to longevity, but that assumption is incorrect. The health of the people of Queensland compares more than favorably with that of dwellers in the big cities of the Commonwealth. A healthy community is impossible where slum conditions exist. If conditions generally were better than they now are, the health of the people would be better also, and it would not be necessary to demand such large contributions as are provided for in this bill. Only in one State is the Labour party actually in control. The reason is that in Queensland there is only one House of

Parliament, so that whatever government is elected, it can do what it believes should be done. In the other States the Legislative Councils, consisting of-


– Order ! The honorable member is out of order.


– Whether I am out of order or not, the fact remains-


– The honorable member is defying the Chair, and is distinctly out of order.


– Nothing is further from .my mind. The fact that a Labour government has full control of the Queensland Parliament enables it to pass social and other legislation for the benefit of the people without hindrance.


– Order ! The honorable member must deal with this bill.


– I am trying to do so. I am trying to point out that social legislation in Queensland has been effective because there is no possibility of preventing it. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), in his speech the other day enumerated various defects in this bill, and asked if the Labour party was going to stand for this, that and the other. The Labour party, unlike the honorable member, is prepared to back up its views with its votes.. The honorable member has not been game to do so in the past.


– Order ! Votes of honorable members may not be reflected upon.


– The views of the. Labour party are adequately expressed in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), which directs the withdrawal and re-drafting of this bill. The Government itself should realize that, because it has promised various amendments to broaden the provisions of the measure. To have an intelligible bill placed before Parliament, it should be re-drafted. Honorable members opposite have said that they arc willing to accept the promises by the Government that anomalies will bc rectified, but in the last six years, the Government has made many promises to which effect has not been given. I venture the opinion that effect will not be given to the promises that have been made now. This bill was framed by the advisers of the Government on the definite under standing that only a certain amount of money was available to meet its purposes.’ Had they been told that more money would be available - because more moneywill be available if more people are encompassed within its ambit - they could have included many deserving people who at present are precluded from benefits. This bill precludes from benefits primary producers, and small business people who make up sections of the community which are just as deserving as any other sections. Women are excluded from certain benefits. We have been told by honorable members opposite that, generally,the people are satisfied with this bill. Honorable members opposite, who represent constituencies in New South Wales, must know from the experience of the meetings of women’s organizations which they have addressed that the womenfolk are far from satisfied. A clear indication of their dissatisfaction was given when they came to Canberra and interviewed honorable members in the precincts of the chamber.


– They did not interview the honorable member.


– The honorable member is in error. I know several of them and I hold them in high esteem. I spoke with them and know just how satisfied they were after they had met the honorable member and other honorable members opposite. The letters and telegrams that have poured in on honorable members, including myself, show the enormous discontent that exists in every part of the Commonwealth. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to beguile themselves into the belief that any section of the community is satisfied’ with the measure that has been brought down. One instance of dissatisfaction is provided in the staff of the bank of New South Wales, members of which have vehemently protested against their being compelled to become contributors to national insurance when they already have, for much less contribution, a better scheme of their own. They cannot afford to pay to both funds, and accordingly theirs must go by the board ; the government scheme is compulsory.

A scheme of national insurance should contain provision to protect the interests of women who, after having contributed for a specified period, marry. Under this bill, marriage disqualifies them from further participation in the funds. Contrasted with the position in which they are placed, is the position of male persons from overseas, who, when they arrive in Australia, if they come within the scope of the bill, will have its benefits for all time. The womenfolk are, in this way, treated as something not worth while. They are legitimately entitled to all benefits.

I .approve wholeheartedly of the amendment moved by my leader. If a contributory scheme is necessary, every person in the community should contribute. A universal contributory system would embrace everybody. The unemployed and unemployables who should be protected would then be protected. They are just as human as any of us, but the opportunities of life have not come their way. This bill offers them nothing. If they live long enough, they will be subjectto a means test before they can qualify to draw a Commonwealth pension. There should be no means test before people can become entitled to pension benefits. members opposite have declared that Australian men and women do not want pensions as a charity. The invalid and old-age pensions system was never designed as a charity; it was designed to confer a right upon the people.

I now propose to read an illuminating passage from the book Denmark, Kingdom, of Reason dealing with the Denmark pensions scheme, which is fairly similar to the invalid aud old-age pensions system of this country -

The last enemy of all, the Bible says, is death. But certainly more people are terrified by the pain of helpless or poverty-stricken life than by the oblivion of death. To remove that terror, to give every man and woman an opportunity to prepare, and prepare adequately, for any exigency of the future, is the noble objective of Denmark’s social legislation. (Not only to give them this opportunity, but to force them to accept it, is perhaps more accurate.)

The laws concerning social insurance, poor relief, and their administration cover 50 years and ramify into homes. The recent social reform is a codification of three insurance acts - one covering health insurance, invalidity, and old-age pensions, the second covering unemployment insurance, and the third being a workmen’s compensation law - and an act regarding public assistance. The codification is far from brief.- It is enormous and intri- cate, and, furthermore, it is being altered, modified, developed. But in spite of this, it is possible for the average visitor to, or reader about, Den mark to grasp the main ^outlines of the system.

The feature which is most immediately spectacular is the old-age pensions.

Apparently any sweet old woman or cross old man - disposition is not important - past sixty-five and below a certain income level, has merely to hold out a hand and receive a pension from the Government, payable in advance and monthly. After that they may live where they please, or move into a cheerful free hotel, which not only provides bed and board, medical and nursing attention, but laundry, entertainment, and u spot of pocket money. This is the impression gained by strolling into the Rand hus in Copenhagen and watching the men and women - neat, respectable, with no air of pauperism about them - who are receiving their pensions. It is the impression gained by visiting one of the many homes for the aged which bear uo relation to a. dingy poor-house, such as used, to be shoved into the wretchdest part of the city or the loneliest section of the village. A home for the aged in Denmark is a dignified building whose exterior is a credit to the community, and whose interior is arranged not only to keep its occupants alive, but comfortable,” and even happy. But although about one hundred thousand people are receiving aid under the old-age pension system, it must not be deduced therefrom that it is an extravagant freeforall panacea, paid for by juggling of public funds. The old-age pension system is the result of nearly ninety years’ careful consideration, revision, and modification. The Danish Constitution of 1849 was the first step, and the Law of 1.891. the second. While its object is to care humanely - even tenderly - for all aged men and women who need it, every effort is made to guard against its exploitation. lt sometimes fail3. Certain of the deserving arc too proud to confess their need. Certain undeserving are cunning enough to get what is not intended for them.

The same thing applies here. Some people, I do not know why, are too proud to confess their poverty, whereas others simulate poverty in order to draw the pension. The quotation continues -

Those with whom the decisions rest may be susceptible to political pressure. Even in Denmark, as Bishop Palle mildly observed, “ The people, unfortunately, are not so good us they ought to be.” Miscarriages of justice are inevitable in any movement organized and executed by mortal man. But taken ail in all, in its scrupulous and intelligent formulation and in its just application, the Danish oldage pension system, which is included in the Danish National Insurance Act, is worthy of respectful study.

Without entering into every technicality it may be broadly stated that an applicant for such a pension must be sixty-five years old, although in exceptional circumstances a communal council and the Minister for Social

Affairs may grant it at sixty. An applicant must have taken out health insurance, or applied for such insurance. He must not have deliberately put himself in the economic status for receiving the pension, by irregular or extravagant living, or led ft life offensive to public morals for live years previously. He must not have received aid under the Public Assistance Act- in a manner that involved loss of franchise. He must have met certain requirements of paying the arrears of his health insurance if he had let it lapse and regaining his legal rights.

The pension consists of a certain basic sura which is reduced in proportion to the income of the person entitled to the pension, but. which may be supplemented by certain additions. Those basic sums are different for different ages; different in the capital city, the towns, the rural districts, and to some extent they are regulated by the cost of living. Seventwelfths of the cost of old-age pensions is paul by the Government and five-twelfths by the municipality of the person in question.

An idea of the amount of such a pension may he gained from the fact that the highest collective income for a sixty-five-year-old marvied couple, when both are receiving a pension, amounts to about 1,720 kroner (about $430.00) annually in Copenhagen, and in the rural areas 1.185 kroner ($290.00).

There is also an invalidity pension for persons under the age of sixty-five who have health-insured themselves and whose earning capacity has been reduced to one-third of their normal earnings.

Those who are too infirm to live alone or cannot bc placed out for private nursing are admitted to homes for the aged such as are erected by most of the boroughs and by many of .the rural communes. The pensioner continues to receive his pensions as long as his economic status - and for the invalidity pensioner his health - remains unchanged.

No fault can be found with a scheme of that kind. It does not impoverish or pauperize any one, and free pensions are paid to all persons who are entitled to them.

I repeat that the Government would be well advised to withdraw this bill and re-draft it to incorporate the amendments which have been promised. If that were done, honorable members would have an intelligent grip of what is proposed, and it would be a good thing for the Ministry, private members, and the country generally. I should like to see introduced in the Commonwealth a scheme on the lines of the New Zealand Pensions Act as it is to be amended by the Savage Labour Government as from the 1st April next. This legislation was introduced by a government whose political leanings were somewhat similar to those of the present Commonwealth Government, but it was a much better government.


– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). In its present form, the bill is national only in name. I am strongly opposed to the principle of compulsory contributions in order to ensure for citizens of this country invalid and old-age pensions and pensions for widows. 1 also object to the bill because it provides unequal benefits for men and women and fails to give medical benefits for the wives and children of insured persons. And last but not least, it makes no provision whatever for insurance against unemployment. I am aware that you, Mr. Speaker, have already ruled that honorable members may not, in the debate on this bill, discuss unemployment insurance, so I shall not pursue the subject further, except to say that no measure of national insurance is worthy of the name unless it makes provision for unemployment. That should have been the first duty of the Government in framing this legislation. The proposal before the House is merely an apology for a truly national insurance scheme.

The Labour party has advocated some form of national insurance for the last 25 years, and we on this side are keenly disappointed at the scheme which the Government has introduced. I listened attentively to the speeches of many honorable members supporting the Government, particularly that of the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr). He declared that the Labour party had never taken the initiative in any measures of social reform. The honorable gentleman is either unaware of the history of social legislation, or prefers to ignore the record of my party. Labour in Australia and elsewhere has led the way. It may rightly claim credit for the introduction of the first old-age pensions bill in the Commonwealth Parliament. I well remember the agitation in Queensland for the payment of old-age pensions, and the introduction of a bill in the Queensland Parliament. The late Andrew Fisher and the late George Rymer were the prime movers on that occasion. Then, as it was realized that the payment of old-age pensions was properly a subject for Commonweallth legislation, an agreement on bella If of the Labour Opposition in the Federal Parliament was made by the late Andrew Fisher with the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, who promised to introduce a bill for the payment of old-age pensions if the Labour Opposition would support the Government in respect of other measures which it contemplated submitting to the House. That agreement was honoured, and the first bill for the payment of old-age pensions was passed through the Federal Parliament. Another important piece of social legislation, the Maternity Allowance Bill, was introduced and passed by a Labour government in 1912. I well remember reading of the bitter opposition to which this proposal was subjected by opponents of the same political colour as those behind the present Government. They endeavoured, by every means in their power, to prevent the passage of the bill, and

Predicted that all sorts of things wouldappen if it became law. Tt was even said that the payment of a maternity allowance would give an impetus to profligacy !

We on this side are strongly opposed to the principle, of compulsory contributory payments by insured persons in orde that, in later life, they may receive invalid, old-age, or widows’ pensions. Industry should bear the cost of national insurance. This morning, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) declared that the contributory principle was embodied in the national insurance schemes of the great majority of countries that had adopted this form of social legislation. Soviet Russia, he said, was the one exception. I have taken the trouble to examine the literature on this subject, and I find that the statement made by the honorable member for Wannon is not in accordance with the facts. I do not say this in disparagement of the honorable gentleman; I prefer to think that he had not fully informed his mind on the matter. Reports issued by the Labour Office of the League of Nations show that, as regards the payment of invalid, old-age and widows’ pensions, non-contributory schemes are in operation in Canada, Great Britain and Northern. Ireland, the pensions being paid out of revenue. The same may be said of Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Soviet Union, South Africa and the United States of America.

Mr Scholfield:

– I was speaking of health insurance.


– This bill enacts that contributions must be paid by employees, and, in certain circumstances, by others, in order that the insured persons may receive invalid and old-age or widows’ pensions. We contend that industry should carry the burden. Ministers and their supporters have declared over and over again that Australia is now in ‘ an exceedingly prosperous condition compared with the time when this Government took office. This being so, what objection is there to the argument that industry should bear the burden of the social services included in this scheme? At present, the payment of invalid and old-age pensions is on a non-contributory basis and, during the last five or six years, the Government has seen its way clear to relieve the wealthier section of the community from taxes amounting to many millions of pounds. We say that the taxes remitted should have been retained and the proceeds ear-marked to meet the cost of a comprehensive scheme of national insurance. It has- been said, and with a fair amount of justification, that in the final analysis the whole cost of the scheme will be borne by the workers, because the employers’ contributions will be passed on to the general community in the shape of higher prices for goods and commodities.

I am opposed to this bill because it differentiates between males and females. Under the existing pensions legislation, males and females receive an equal amount upon attaining a certain age. The payment under this scheme will be £1 a week in respect of males, and 15s. a week in respect of females. I cannot understand why the Government should take such a retrograde step as to reduce the pension of the female below the existing rate. The Government claims that the female will be in the same position as the male af ter she marries because, if she continues to contribute voluntarily to the scheme, she will receive £1 upon attaining the pensionable age. That will not always happen. A female insured person who subsequently marries will, in many cases, cease to contribute, because her contribution would represent a further tax upon the wages of her husband. In the majority of cases .the pension payments will be allowed to lapse, and the money paid in over a number of years will merely help to lessen the burden of invalid and old-age pensions on the shoulders of the Government. Very few male insured persons will be able to claim a pension, because the bill provides that an insured person must have been a contributor for at least five years prior to his reaching a pensionable age of 65 years. I feel certain that many thousands of men and women who will be contributors to the proposed national insurance fund as insured employees, will be out of industry for many years prior to reaching the age of 65 years. They will then have to take advantage of the provisions of the existing pensions legislation, and be subjected to a means test, in which case, in the opinion of government members, (heir pension would be regarded as a charity rather than as a right. That is wrong in principle. If a person becomes insured, irrespective of whether or not hu is employed for five years prior tq reaching the pensionable age, he should be entitled to receive a ‘pension without submitting to any examination of his financial affairs.

This bill has many shortcomings, one of which is its failure to provide for sick benefits for the wives and dependents of insured males. Friendly societies make provision equal to that proposed under this scheme. I have been very pleased indeed to hear various speakers commend the excellent work of these organizations. The average contribution to a friendly society is ls. 6d. a week, and it covers sick benefits for not only the member, but also his wife and family. Surely a similar provision can be made under a national insurance scheme. The friendly societies have done yeoman service in the interests of the people of this country, and their membership is largely composed of the working classes. I believe that if the bill is passed in its present form, many friendly societies will find it impossible to continue their operations, because an insured worker will be unable to contribute to that organization and at. the same time meet his compulsory payments to the national insurance scheme. Thus these deserving societies will lose many thousands of members. In the interests of that wonderful body of men who for many years have carried on the work of the friendly societies in a purely voluntary capacity, I hope that nothing will be done by this legislation to hamper their activities, but that, on the contrary, it will be so amended in committee that an impetus will be given to their efforts, and there will be an incentive to many insured persons to become members.

The bill provides that approved societies shall be those that have a membership of not fewer than 2,000 persons. My own view is that the only two organizations which are competent to deal with a scheme of national insurance are the friendly societies and certain trade unions. Honorable members have received hundreds of letters from friendly societies and other organizations throughout Australia, seeking assistance and protection from the anticipated adverse effects of the scheme. Although the friendly societies are urging that they be given a monopoly of the administrative work, I believe that they would be only too pleased to see provision made for the inclusion of certain trade unions, which in the past have also been doing very good work by providing sickness, accident, and medical benefits for their members. In my opinion, there would bc ample work for both of these organizations if they were accepted as “ approved societies “. I trust that the Government will not permit any of the insurance companies to participate in the administration of this scheme, because they would not act solely in the interests of the workers. As far back. as six or seven weeks ago, long before the bill was introduced in this House, a number of insurance companies in Queensland were evidently aware of the nature of its contents, or had a very fair idea of what it would contain, because they increased the strength of their staffs, particularly those engaged on outside duties, and have been canvassing for new business, allegedly with the object of operating in conjunction with this scheme. Insurance companies, particularly industrial insurance companies, are always seeking business for themselves and are not anxious to help the workers, or even to assist the Government to make this a workable undertaking. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not consider that this scheme which the Government has submitted will be of any benefit to the working classes. 1 trust that when a list of approved societies” is being compiled, no more than the two organizations which I have mentioned will he included. 1 have endeavoured to ascertain whether the thousands of relief workers, not only in Queensland, but also in other parts of Australia, will be assisted under the bill. I have been informed that there is a possibility of their being covered by regulations yet to. bc framed. It would be grossly unfair to ask nien working for only one day a week to pay ls. Gel . weekly in order to enable them to receive medical benefits when needed. They are unemployed through no fault of their own, and whim working only intermittently should not be compelled to pay the amount specified in the bill.

Another matter that is agitating the minds of those controlling friendly societies, is the position in which the Friendly Societies Medical Institute . in .Brisbane will be placed. The institute, which is conducted by friendly societies, permits members of such societies to receive free medical treatment and hospital service practically free of cost. If this measure becomes law they are afraid that they will be deprived of the benefits which they now receive through the institute, on which many thousands of pounds have been expended. A fairly large staff of nurses and other attendants is employed, and if the institute cannot be brought into this scheme, as an approved society, a good deal of the expenditure will have been wasted. T have endeavoured to ascertain whether that is practicable, and. I have been informed that there is a legal difficulty in the way. In -order to help friendly societies which are now carrying out a very noble work by giving hospital treatment practically free of cost to their members. I trust, that the Government will endeavour to overcome the legal difficulty which is said to exist.

I have received a good deal of correspondence from blind workers in Queens- land, who, though receiving an invalid pension, are employed at various trades at the Blind, Deaf and Dumb institution in Brisbane. The remuneration they receive- bring3 their total earnings almost up to the basic wage. I have been informed that these unfortunate persons, who wish to come under this scheme, have not- been overlooked, and that it is expected that by means of a regulation their interests will be protected.

Mr Thompson:

– They are covered by an amendment which has been circulated.


– I am glad to hear that that is the case.

In common with other honorable members, I have received numerous letters of protest from bank clerks and others associated with voluntary mutual organizations. I am not sure whether these persons have or have not a good case, but from my reading of the bill, they will be compulsorily included. 1 have -been informed that the benefits they now receive are greater than those provided for in this bill. As very ‘strong representations have been made to exempt them, ! trust that the Government will give careful consideration to their claims.

I believe that the majority of honorable members have received communications from the members of the Christian Scientist Denomination, who, in accordance with their religious beliefs, object to contributing to any health or medical scheme. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), said to-day, that under similar legislation in other countries they are exempt. The claims of conscientious objectors should be respected, arid I trust that the Government will give careful attention to their protests.

I regret that the Government has introduced this measure in its present form. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have never known a bill which has caused so rauch criticism, opposition, and interest, and I venture to suggest that the whole of the adult Australian population is watching its progress through this Parliament. I have received hundreds of letters on the subject. I have also conversed with hundreds of persons, and I have not yet met one who is satisfied with the bill. 1 trust that some of the amendments t,o be moved from this side of the House will be accepted by the Government, because, unless they are, the measure will not have the semblance of a national insurance bill.


.- Judging by the speeches of honorable members representing ail parties in this chamber the bill will be famous for its omissions and defects rather than for what it actually contains. The speeches of honorable members generally have shown clearly that it is only a skeleton of the measure that the Government should have brought down. It has been objected to by almost every organizationami interested individual in the Commonwealth. A comprehensive national health, pensions and unemployment insurance measure is long overdue. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in introducing this bill said that the Government wished to accelerate the operation of the scheme, for every day’s delay meant the withholding of these benefits from a large n umber of deserving people. That statement is somewhat ironical, for national insurance, health and medical benefits, child endowment, widow’s pensions and the like, have been promised to the people by anti-Labour governments for the last twelve years. In that period, many reports have been prepared on the subject at a cost to the country of approximately £69,000. Consequently, this Government has had ample time to prepare a thoroughly comprehensive scheme. It cannot excuse the deficiencies of this bill on the score of lack of time. The Treasurer in seeking to condone the delay of the Government in dealing with the subject, said it was not possible to get to real grips with the problem until the completion of the 1933 census. How can the honorable gentleman justify that statement in view of the fact that, in 1 928, the Bruce-Page Government introduced a. bill for a scheme of national insurance. The soundness of that scheme was certified to by three qualified actuaries, according to Sir Earle Page. Moreover, it is five years since the census was taken.

Social reform hits always been in the forefront of the Labour party’s policy. Labour realizes the hardships which our present social.conditions inflict upon large flections* of the community. Since the

Labour party became a force in politics, it lias continuously striven to improve the social and economic conditions of the people. T_o Labour must be given a great deal of credit for such improvements as have been effected in the social order. Labour has always fought for better wages, better working conditions, freedom of speech, the right to work, national insurance, decent homes, and adequate food and clothing for the people. We shall continue the fight, for we realize that the workers deserve a larger and more equitable share of the wealth that they produce. The burdens of the worker have not been reduced in the last year or two, and it is time that improvements were effected.

Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say recently about our small population and the decrease of the birth-rate. In 1925, Mr. S. M. Bruce, the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in his policy speech, said that as the man with a family was the greatest asset the nation had, it was desirable that greater encouragement should be given to him. Yet, under this bill many dependants of family men will be prevented from obtaining medical benefits available to other sections of the community. To call this a national insurance bill is to mis-name it. There is nothing national about the bill, for it will affect only some sections of the community. The Treasurer said that only a national scheme of insurance which provided for the co-operation of the Government, the employers and the. employees, could satisfactorily assist the wage-earner to cope with the vicissitudes of life. The term “ wage-earner “ does not include people not ill enough to obtain an invalid pension, but not well enough to accept employment. Such individuals should surely he covered in any scheme of this description. That they are not covered is a clear indication to me that the Government is not making the improvement of the health of the people its first consideration.

The British Medical Association issued a statement on this bill in which it declared : - ?<o measure onn he called national which does not provide a complete service and which excludes from its provisions not only the dependants of insured persons but also thu unemployed and unemployable.

The Government has not placed before ns a truly national insurance scheme. Although the Treasurer said that the motto of a large majority of our people was “ leave insurance until to-morrow “ he did not tell us that to-morrow is never likely to come for many of the people, for they will never have sufficient money to pay for insurance. The honorable gentleman also referred to 600,000 of our citizens who had joined friendly societies and other similar institutions in this country to provide medical services for themselves and their dependants, and added that voluntary insurance had failed to cater adequately for the community. I reply : So does this bill fail ! In actual fact those sections of the community which are in most need of insurance but are uninsured, Will not benefit. The honorable gentleman said that many people were either unable to afford insurance or else lacked the initiative to become and remain insured. Many of those who have the initiative to insure will not be permitted to insure under this scheme.

The attitude of the Government is utterly illogical. It first says that steps must be taken to improve the health of the people and then it introduces a bill so limited in character that many needy people will be unable to benefit by its provisions.

Provision should have been made, first of all, for the unemployed person and the relief worker, but they have been entirely overlooked. Even the people who, according to the Treasurer, should be insured will not be able to do so for the -Government declines to give them any assistance. At a conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers on unemployment insurance last August the Premier of New South Wales said that New South Wales was paying £6,150,000 a year to persons receiving sustenance or engaged upon relief work, Victoria was paying £4,300,000 and Queensland £2,300,000, making a total for the three States of £12,750,000 a year. The persons to whom that money was paid were in such dire circumstances that it was impossible for them to provide any medical services out of their meagre pittance. It might therefore have been expected that they would be covered by a scheme of this description, but it was not so. Under our existing social conditions ill health is inevitable to many people. This is borne out in a paper on “ Medicine and the Social Order “ by Dr. E. P. Dark, of New South Wales, in which he said -

The present social conditions are such that ill-health is inevitable for a large proportion of our people, and for their children.

According to the 1933 census 1,272,000 children were dependent upon parents who earned less than £4 a week. Surely provision should have been made for these, and for their mothers. Health benefits should not be dependent upon employment. The census figures also indicate clearly that the poorer people of our community have had the largest families. The good health of our people is a national asset, and the maintenance of the public health should be regarded as a national obligation.

The Royal Commission on National Insurance, which reported to the Government in 1925, recommended that amaternity benefit of 20s. a week should be provided for two weeks prior to, and four weeks after, a confinement for a voluntarily insured member or the wife of an insured member. That recommendation has been entirely disregarded by the Government.

Members of this Government have at different times expressed their concern about infantile mortality, and the malnutrition which is so prevalent in many areas today. The ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), in an address to the Millions Club in Sydney last year, declared that there was a danger of 40 per cent, of the population of Australia of to-morrow being weak, sickly children. He added that many children suffered from malnutrition and that nearly onethird of the people of New South Wales were being treated in the public hospitals of the State. He also said : -

We cannot alford to breed weaklings. We have to hold and develop this wonderful country. This can only be done by an Al class people, but it would appear that we are breeding a C3 class.

In the light of those statements by a right honorable gentleman who is still a member of, the Government it is difficult to understand why the scope of this so-called national insurance scheme is so limited. Poverty should not debar any individual from any medical benefits. People should not have to rely upon charity in this regard. One of the worst features of the bill is that it makes no provision whatever for medical treatment for the wives and dependent children of insured persons.

According to the 1933 census there are 1,150,000 married women in Australia. These also are excluded from the benefits of this bill. For what reason? In 1933 there were 1,930,000 dependent children under the age of sixteen years, who also will be debarred from receiving medical assistance under the scheme. Thus it will be seen that for two sections of the community to whom every assistance should lbc given no provision is made. The health of the race depends on the health of its mothers. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) was right when he said that the mothers potential and the mothers actual were the most precious asset Australia had; but in the bill no provision is made for them. From the time a female child is born until she grows into a girl and enters employment., she is outside the scope of the bill. As soon as she is employed she is forced to become insured, and must remain insured while she continues in work. When she marries she is again excluded, and can come under the pensions provisions only by becoming a. voluntary contributor. The only time in her life when a female is entitled to the benefits of the bill is when she is in employment, and yet the Minister states that the bill does not discriminate against women. It may be contended that it is the husband’s obligation to look after his wife and children ; but what chance has a man who is receiving the basic wage or less to provide medical attention for his wife and children? He has no chance whatever. Mr. S. M. Bruce, when he was Prime Minister in 1925, said in his policy speech that it ought to be recognized that even in the conditions existing at ‘that ‘tune, the wages of tile workers were not sufficient to enable them to provide against sickness, unemployment and old age. If that statement were true then, it is surely true to-day. Another point to be considered is that experience has shown that lodge doctors are called on to attend wives and children more often than to attend husbands. Friendly societies will corroborate that statement, which provides an additional reason why women and dependent children should be included in the bill. Recently a report was issued by the New South Wales Housing Board regarding slum areas in Sydney, which surely have some’ relation to the health of the community. Congested slum areas, producing ill health and squalor, cover 2,000 acres in the heart of Sydney. In one district there is an average of 90 houses to the acre. They are damp, unhealthy tenements rotting with age, each with a mean backyard and an approximate frontage of 15 feet. Health inspectors state that in certain districts 90 out of every 100 homes are unfit for human habitation. Of 1,500 dwellings recently inspected, S80 were found to be without bathroom and laundry. Those conditions must have a serious effect on the health of the people. The Government should consider the making of some provision, in connexion with this bill, for the proper rearing of children. The infant death-rate in the two areas I have mentioned is 63.5 per 1,000 births. The tubercular death-rate is 71 in every 1,000. Those figures are double the death-rate recorded in districts where good housing conditions exist. The relation of environment to juvenile crime has been definitely established.


– I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.


– Provision is made for the widow to receive a pension of 12s. 6d. for herself and 3s. 6d. for each dependent child under fifteen years of age. The pension in 1944 will be increased to 15s. The bill stipulates that a man must have been insured for no less than 104 weeks before his widow can obtain a pension. According to the provisions of the bill, if a widow is left with two dependent children she will receive only 19s. 6d. a jv.eek, which is less than the Government pays, to an old-age pensioner. If tlie Government considers that fi a week is necessary to provide for the needs of one person, how does it expect a widow with two children to live on a smaller sum? The Prime Minister said that for the first time in our history elderly insured persons would receive the old-age pension as a right. When the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was introduced it was clearly stipulated that the pension was to be given as a tight. Sir George Reid, when speaking on the bill, said -

I wish to heartily commend its character hi so far as it removes any suggestion of the old-age pension being a charitable allowance.

Sir Joseph Cook also said

I regard the old-age pension very much as a form of national annuity given to men, who are entitled to view it’ as a right and not as an act of mercy or charity.

The Prime Minister and his colleagues have denied that women are being unfairly treated in respect of the oldage pension, and they assert that any discrimination in the bill is in favour of women. They point out that when the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act waa introduced, no discrimination was made between the sexes, although a pension was granted to a. woman at an earlier age than it was granted to a man. An old-age pensioner came to see me recently and told me what it cost her each week to live. The items she gave me were: Rent, 10s. ; oil for lamps, ls. ; wood, ls. ; coal, ls. 3d.; -) lb. tea, lid. ; 1 lb. sugar, 5d.; meat, ls. 3d.; flour, 7d. ; bread, 8id. ; soap for toilet and household use, 6d. ; salt, Id.; vegetables, 8d. ; milk, 7d. ; and old-age pensioners funeral fund, 6d., making a total of 19s. 2d. That left the woman with lOd. with which to clothe herself and provide other necessaries. Those figures should give members of the Government some idea how old-age pensioners live. I agree that in a contributory scheme we ought not to expect a woman to pay as much as a man. Women’ do not receive as much in. wages as men, but when they are sick or need to be provided for on reaching the retiring age, they should be placed on the same basis as men in regard to benefits. The Government has stated that it intends ‘to submit- another bill to allow women to receive 20s. a week when they attain the age of 50, but from the meagre information we have received, it seems to me that a further impost will be placed on the insured person in order to secure the additional benefit. That is definitely wrong, in view of women’s less ability to pay. A person who is, say, 62 years of age, and

Comes within the provisions of the bill, will have to wait five years before he will be entitled to a pension, provided he has paid 104 contributions. Between the ages of 65 and 67 he will be entitled to an old-age pension under the present act provided he passes the means test. A person who has reached that age, and who has made contributions, should be entitled to a. pension under the insurance scheme, as well as to free medical attention. As a, matter of fact, I can see no reason why the Government should not make provision at once to give invalid and old-age pensioners free medical treatment. The health of the people is no less a national obligation than is the defence of the country, and there is no justification for citing financial difficulties as the reason why the Government cannot make greater concessions and provide greater facilities. From 1932-33 to 1936-37, Australia expended ?31,000,000 on defence, and during the same period the community contributed, through the operation of price stabilization schemes, such as those applying to dried fruits and sugar, approximately ?33,000,000. That added greatly to the already high cost of living borne by every section of the community. The cost to Australian governments of the high international exchange rate amounts to no less that ?39,000,000 a year. Here again the taxpayers have to find the money. Since the present Government has been in office, it has remitted taxes to land and property owners and companies aggregating ?39,000,000. It has collected the highest amount of taxation ever collected by any Commonwealth . government, most of it indirectly from the people as a whole. It has not only reduced taxation in respect of rich land owners, but has also steadily decreased the rate of tax on large incomes. In 1931-32, income tax yielded £13,500,000; last year, it yielded only £8,500,000. The burden of taxation has been borne very largely by the workers, who are now being asked to pay a further tax to finance the national insurance fund. The vice-president of the Chamber of Manufactures has said that the .manufacturers will pass on to consumers the cost of their contributions; but the bill distinctly provides that no court, when assessing rates of wages, shall take into consideration the additional expenditure which the workers will be called upon to meet under this scheme. The workers arc taxed to provide money for the assistance of primary and secondary industries, but they will be forced to bear the whole burden of the benefits contemplated by this bill. Many of the employees who will be forced to become insured are already members’ of friendly societies. The ‘value of friendly societies and those unions which have provided medical benefits of a similar nature cannot be over-estimated.

Many letters have been addressed to honorable members on this side of the House by workers all over Australia pointing out that, as members of existing societies, they are already entitled to benefits covering medical attention, hospital attention, and minor surgical operations for themselves, their wives and dependent children, and that if the national insurance scheme comes into operation they will be forced to contribute ls. 6d. a week over and above the amount which they already contribute to those societies. Many families will not be able to afford both contributions. In my opinion, approved societies under the scheme should definitely be confined to friendly societies and unions which have had long experience in connexion with the provision of sickness benefits for their members. There is no justification whatever for the inclusion of insurance companies in the category of approved societies. Friendly societies and unions operating schemes of medical and sickness benefits have done excellent work in the past, and they can do even bel ter work in the future. 1.1. has been fluid by those, who sponsored this bill that if it is placed on the statute-book the Government will save nothing in respect of expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions. I point out that, 40 years bence, the annual invalid and old-age pensions bill will amount to approximately £32,000,000. It will be safe to assume, therefore, that 50 years hence the total annual pensions bill’ will not exceed £35,000,000. The actuarial report in connexion with the national insurance scheme estimates that, after the scheme’ has been in operation for 50 years, the weekly contributions of employers and employees, amounting to £9,600,000 per annum, plus the Commonwealth grant of £.10,000,000, plus interest on the accumulated funds will total approximately £30,000,000 per annum, and will equal the cash benefits then payable. It has been said that, as the years go by, the Government will extend the scope of the bill, and it may bc safely assumed that 50 years hence very few people will be entitled to pensions under the present Invalid and Old-age Pension’s Act, and that the cost, of such pensions will probably amount to not more than £5,000,000 per annum. Thus, by that time, the Government will be relieved of invalid and old-age pensions expenditure amounting to over £20,000,000 annually. Eventually the whole of the cost, of invalid and old-age pensions in Australia will be met by the workers themselves.

Trouble has arisen between the doctors ami the Government in connexion with this measure. The doctors complainthat they were not consulted in regard to it, though it is admitted that, some negotiations proceeded with the executive of the British Medical Association. It is apparent that those who drafted the bill evidently did not take into consideration local conditions governing the operations of members of the medical profession throughout Australia. Whilst I am not conversant with conditions in other districts, I am aware of the conditions obtaining in Newcastle aird its suburbs. I point out that . a doctor with a panel of 1,500 patients would receive in capitation fees a total, of approximately £800 a year. It is not at , all likely that any doctor in the Newcastle district will have a panel numbering anything like 1,500, and, as has been pointed out by the British Medical Association, if a doctor has to have a large panel in order to make a decent living, patients on his panel will not receive the same attention as could be given if the panels were smaller and a more equitable capitation fee were paid. It has been said that doctors who complain of the inadequacy of the capitation payment have not taken into consideration what the Government terms a generous mileage allowance. In view of the compactness of the Newcastle area, and having regard to the fact that the allowance is to be paid only for travelling in excess of 3 miles, it is not likely that it will benefit doctors in that area. It is contended by the doctors with whom I have discussed this matter, that between 30 and 35 per cent, of their incomes is absorbed in expenditure incidental to the conduct of their practices; consequently, a practice covering 1,500 patients a year would absorb approximately £500 in incidental expenses. From those figures it will be seen that the capitation payment in respect of a large number of panel patients will be absorbed in expenses.

At present bank officers arc already covered by benefit schemes conducted by the banks themselves. Bank officers occupying junior positions will be compelled to contribute to the national insurance fund, but when they receive a Ba la ry in excess of £365 per annum, they will be no longer entitled to benefit from the scheme. I ask the Treasurer to give consideration to bank officers, and others similarly placed, who will be compelled to contribute to the fund for a short period, but who will be subsequently excluded from benefit without receiving any return for the contributions they have made.

I cannot commend this measure in its present form to the House or to the people of this country. When the bill is in committee I hope to have an opportunity to have more to say in regard to it.


.- I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that I have listened to more speeches on this bill than has any other honorable member. I understand that I am the last man in to bat, the last ‘of about 63 members who have spoken on the bill. Of that number only three - and they are Ministers - have supported it. Everybody else has castigated the measure.

I support wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and if all honorable members will vote the way they have spoken, there will be no doubt about the amendment being carried. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) state to-day that the party to which he belongs was the first to introduce a scheme of old-age and invalid pensions in Australia. He went on to say that when Sir George Reid was Premier of New South Wales, he was defeated in the Legislative Assembly by the votes of the Labour party, who challenged the expenditure of £300 to defray the expenses of an officer whom he had sent to investigate the pensions scheme in Germany. The honorable member has distorted the story. The fact is that the Labour party used their votes to defeat Sir George Reid because he refused to bring in an old-age pensions scheme. Neither the freetrade party led 11)V Sir George Reid, nor the Liberal party in New South Wales, included old-age pensions in their platforms, and it was not until the Labour party was formed in the nineties that the matter was taken up. The idea had its genesis at Cobar in the days when copper mining in that district was at its zenith. Hundreds of miners were working there, and on every pay day those who, because of illness or old age, were no longer able to work, used to stand outside the pay office holding out their hats in the hope that a few pence would be dropped into them. During crib time que day, one miner said to another, That is what will happen to us when we grow too old to work.” The other replied, “ Well, you are in the newly formed Labour party. Why not put an old-age pensions scheme in the platform of your party?” The idea was taken up, and at a meeting of the Labour League at Rydeville, a man named MacDillon moved a motion, which was carried, that an old-age pensions scheme be a plank in the plaform of the Labour party. This was remitted to the next meeting of the Labour Conference in Sydney, and was adopted by the party, which fought the ensuing State elections on this issue. At that time, the Labour members formed an independent party, as distinct from the freetrade party led by Sir George Reid. and the protectionist party led by Lyne. They told the electors that, if they were returned in sufficient numbers they would do their utmost to ensure that an old-age pensions scheme was placed on the statute-book. Sir George Reid was always inclined to vacillate. The Labour members told him that they would support him if “he would introduce a pensions scheme, and he agreed to do so. He promised to introduce it one week, broke his promise, and then said he would bring it in the next week. He was always saying yes and no, until eventually the Labour members got sick of him. They then approached William Lyne, and made a similar bargain with him. They said that if Lyne would introduce a pensions scheme they would join with ‘ him in throwing Sir George Reid out, and the point upon which the vote was taken was that line in the estimates which proposed to validate the payment- of £300 towards the expenses of a public servant who had gone abroad to investigate old-age. pensions schemes. After Sir. George Reid was defeated, the incoming government introduced and passed through Parliament an act instituting an old-age pensions scheme in New South Wales. After that, the Commonwealth act was passed, and invalid and old-age pensions became a Commonwealth responsibility.

The present Commonwealth Government reduced old-age pensions to 15s. a week, and also inserted the property sections in the pensions act, providing that the Commonwealth could recoup itself for pensions paid to a person during his lifetime out of the proceeds of any property he might leave at his death. Because of that provision, hundreds of pensioners were forced to relinquish their pensions altogether. This was the Government which also inserted a provision in the act compelling the children of pensioners to contribute to their support. They issued inquisitorial papers, asking, the sons and daughters of pensioners how much they could contribute to the support of their mothers and fathers. Then, on the eve of the election, this condition was withdrawn, and the Government promised that no further cuts would be made ju pension rates.

In a very little while, a vote will be taken in this House on the second reading of this bill which, if passed, will involve the abolition of the present invalid and old-age scheme.

Mr Paterson:

– Not at all.


– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) may profess to be concerned about the pensioners, but on two occasions he voted for reductions of their pensions.

The real reason behind the introduction of this measure is that the Government proposes to remove taxation from its wealthy friends, and place it on the backs of the toiling masses. That is why the compulsory contributory provisions have been inserted. I challenge the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) to justify the Government’s .proposals to the workers in their electorates, and I remind them that they will be judged by the workers on the votes they cast to-night. The Government is also shedding crocodile tears in respect of widows and orphans. In 1.925 the Labour party in New South Wales made widows’ pensions a plank of its platform. I remember canvassing in the election campaign at that time at Lidcombe, in the Auburn State electorate. At one house at which I called a woman emerged with four young children at her side, and when I asked her if she intended to vote for the Labour candidate, Mr. Lang, she replied that she had not been very long in thi3 country and was not taking an interest iu politics. She added that she had just lost her husband.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon G J Bell:

I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.


– I am pointing out that’ under the scheme proposed in this measure, insured widows will receive 15s., and 3s. 6d. for each dependent child. Furthermore, this is a contributory scheme. Compare it with similar legislation passed by a Labour government in New South Wales, providing for a payment of £1 a week to a widow and 10s. for each dependent child., when that legislation was introduced in the New

South Wales Parliament, certain gentlemen who are now members of this House castigated the widows of this country.


– Order! The honorable member is not in order.


– Those gentlemen were the honorable members for Barton ( Mr. Lane), Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), andCalare (Mr. Thorby). Since this measure was introduced, every honorable member has received numerous letters from various organizations and societies throughout the country. Nearly every friendly society in the Commonwealth has made a resolution urging that existing friendly societies should be the sole approved societies under this scheme, that they should have sole administration of medical benefits, and that no society should be accepted as an approved society unless it is a State-wide organization. I have received about 72 letters on this subject. Practically every doctor resident in the Reid electorate has sent tome a letter or a telegram asking me to use my influence in this Parliament and in the Labour party to secure the defeat of this measure. We on this side of the House believe that under this measure medical men will not receive that treatment to which they are entitled. At Bankstown, to mention only one district, over 1,000 people are on food relief. Poverty is acute in that area as in many other districts, and the local doctors are kept busy for practically 24 hours each day attending those who require their aid. It is from such doctors in the electorate which I represent, and in other industrial areas, that the letters to honorable members pleading that the Government should be prevented from proceeding with this scheme have been received. If this Government decides to antagonize friendly societies and the medical profession by going ahead with there proposals, it has something coming to it. Iam opposed absolutely to this measure. I believe that any national health and insurance scheme should be non-contributory. It should be paid for out, of taxation; it should not he a sectional scheme, but a truly national scheme embracing the unemployed; and instead of placing the burden involved in such a scheme on the shoulders of those least able to bear it, every one in the com munity should be asked to carry a share of the cost. If the Government forces through this measure, the Labour party will go on the hustings at the next election and promise to amend such legislation at the first opportunity, according to the wishes of the people as a whole. We shall fight on; the Government may win to-day, but Labour’s turnwill come to-morrow.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be omitted . (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) stand part of the question.

The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - How. G. J. Bell.)

AYES: 37

NOES: 25

Majority . . . . 12



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Treasurer · Corio · UAP

in reply - We have now reached the conclusion of the secondreading debate on this bill, and I should like, on behalf of the Government, to express appreciation of the many valuable contributions to the discussion that honorable members of this House have made. Whilst divergent views have been expressed from several quarters regarding the merits of particular sections of the bill, I think I may say that there has been general recognition of the fact that the Government has made an honest and earnest endeavour to deal equitably and comprehensively with a great national need, and that the passage of the bill will create and set in motion a widespread organization which will not fail to be conducive to the physical, social and economic betterment of the Australian people.’ The Government has no reason to be dissatisfied with the discussions that have taken place. The keenest scrutiny of the measure has compelled the admission, even from the most critical minds, that it offers to the people of Australia a carefully considered and balanced group of benefits, actuarially related, and financially sound. Only by means of a bill of this kind can absolute security for the due payment of the benefits be achieved - that security which, as past experience in Australia has proved, must be lacking in any scheme of benefits which is solely dependent upon the financial condition of the country from time to time. In drafting this bill, the Government has had to keep constantly in mind the importance of avoiding the imposition of contributions which would bc in excess of those which the lower-paid wage-earners and their employers could afford to pay, and also the financial burdens, present and prospective, of the Commonwealth. I believe that the great majority of honorable members recognize that these considerations impose limitations on the amounts of the benefits which can be provided if the solvency of the scheme is to be .preserved.

The main criticisms of the bill are precisely of the same kind as have continually delayed the introduction of a national insurance scheme in Australia. These are the objections to the contributions, and the demands for the distribu tion of greater benefits - demands to pay less and obtain more. It is beyond question that there is a strong general demand, and an urgent need for, a national insurance scheme in this country. Members of all parties have united in advocating national insurance. In the course, of this debate, numerous cases of hardship under the operation of the present Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act have been cited. It is obvious that the great and rapidly-growing cost under the present system is preventing any worthwhile extension of the social services for our people on an orderly and equitable basis. It follows that sorely-needed assistance is being withheld from very large numbers of people., who cannot afford to obtain the necessary security for themselves and their families against the misfortunes of life, without some help from the Commonwealth. It is easy for those who are not responsible for the government of this country light-heartedly to suggest that this national insurance scheme could be adopted without any contributions from employers and employees. It has already been pointed out that, if there were no weekly contributions, and the Commonwealth grants remained as provided in the bill, this scheme would rapidly decline and die. To remedy that indefensible state of affairs, the Commonwealth grants would, roughly, have to be trebled, until ultimately the total Commonwealth liability in respect of pensions under this bill - apart altogether from the costs of the health insurance scheme - would be £30,000,000 a year, in addition to the continuing cost of £18,000,000 a year under the present Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a total of £48,000,000 a year in respect of pensions alone. 1 suggest that no responsible person, having the interest of the Commonwealth at heart, could venture to support a scheme possessing such serious financial implications.

As regards the financial aspect of this measure, it would be quite wrong to blind oneself to the magnitude of the financial burden which national insurance will throw on the Commonwealth budget, not only in the few years immediately ahead, but also in the course of . the next two or three decades. A careful analysis of the future financial commitments of the Commonwealthompels mme to say that national insurance will place as great a financial burden on the Commonwea th as wc can possibly carry, if sufficient funds arc to be available for our many other important national functions. Indeed, it will definitely limit the possibility of extensions of Commonwealth Government activity in other directions. However, the Government has undertaken national insurance with all these facts before it, fully conscious of the burdens it may entail, and believing that, - even at the cost of other and less necessary and less humanitarian activities, this great scheme of social amelioration for our people should be delayed no longer.

Careful consideration has been given to the suggestions made in this House and elsewhere that the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are inadequate to support a measure of this kind. The Government has consulted its legal advisers on the points raised, and is satisfied that the proposals contained in the measure now before the House, and” in those which will be introduced to impose the obligation to pay contributions in respect of national health and pensions insurance, are clearly within the legislative powers conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution.

First, I shall devote myself to matters connected with the medical side of this measure. Part of the criticism of the bill now before .the Parliament takes the form of descriptions of the “ panel system “ in England which are almost as unreal as the uninformed Englishman’s view of Australia. There arc three probable origins of these stories. They may relate to pre-war industrial practice in England, which is precisely what the national insurance medical service was introduced to improve, and which is now obsolete. They .may be based on conditions in England during the war, when the civilian medical profession was strained to, and even beyond, the limit of safety in order to meet the necessities of the army in the field, or to conditions during the subsequent period before the insurance medi- i-al system , had recovered from the disorganization of the war and demobi- lization. FFinally, there are black sheep in every flock, and the noblest profession is not wholly free from incompetent and unscrupulous members. General statements that, under the panel system in England, patients stand in queues outside the surgeries; that there are insurance doctors with no equipment beyond a tongue depressor; or that diagnosis is based on a hasty examination of the tongue - all these tales are in circulation - arc, as anything approaching general descriptions of the scheme, quite wrong and misleading. One honorable member stated that he had been informed that conditions existed in national insurance medical practice in England under which patients were herded through the doctors’ consulting rooms in batches and that, after the most hasty and incomplete examination, medicines were handed out to the patients from four large bottles. Except in country districts at a distance from a chemist, the insurance doctor under the English scheme does not supply at all. Whether the informant of the honorable member was drawing on his imagination, or not, he was certainly not describing the insurance medical service under the insurance act in the United Kingdom. The description might possibly refer to the worst type of slum practice of the period before the British insurance act was introduced - a type of service that the National Insurance Act of the United Kingdom was largely introduced to destroy. There is ample evidence that the standard of service available to the part of the population affected by the health insurance acts in Britain has been greatly improved since those acts came into force, and it is unreasonable to suggest that the passing of this bill will degrade the standard of medical practice in Australia. But, in any event, all this propaganda against the insurance medical service in England, even if every word of it were true, is completely irrelevant. We are not introducing contract practice into Australia for the first time. If honorable members will read the authoritative statement in the Medical Journal of Australia for the 14th May, they will see that the agreement reached with the executive committee of the Federal Council of the British Medical .Association was not based on the fee paid in Britain at all. The agreement was a modification of the existing arrangements for the treatment of lodge members under a system of contract practice, a system long established in Australia. It has not been suggested that this friendly society system is incompatible with a decent standard of professional work. Indeed, the British Medical Association in Australia, in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd May, said that this service was of a high order and equal to the best general practitioner service in the world. In addition, I say that the medical .service that we propose shall be provided under our national insurance scheme will bc at least as good as, if not ‘better than, that provided under the present friendly society practice in Australia.

I now turn to the subject of remuneration under the friendly society system. The average capitation fee for the lodge member himself - whom alone insurance doctors will be required to treat under tha insurance medical service - works out at 9s. a head per annum. In arriving at that average, we have neglected two points, first, that the lodge member requires proportionately less treatment than do his wife and children, and secondly, the rates obtaining in Victoria, which the Federal Council of the British Medical Association considered too low. The rate was increased to lis. on account of some additional services that we propose to give to the insured person without extra charge, but for which the lodge member’ no w pays extra under the friendly society system. The simple issue, therefore, is whether this increase from 9s. to lis. is. or is not, adequate to cover the additional services that are to be provided free, taking into account the two points which I. have just said were neglected in arriving at the 9s. We think that it is adequate, and we agreed with the executive committee of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association that it was. I see nothing at all in all this to justify the prophecies of overcrowded .surgeries and a lowering of professional .standards. ;Such results have not .followed contract practice’ in Australia .hitherto, and there is nothing to suggest that they wi’.l do so in the future.

The Government has- been blamed because it did not consult the great body of general practitioners as to the terms on which service under the insurance acts should be given. How does one consult a large body of individuals? One confers with, their representative executive body; any other course can only lead to confusion. No satisfactory opinion on such a question can be obtained by a plebiscite. Within fairly wide limits, the answer to a . plebiscite will depend on how the question is put to the voters; and I have already referred to the atmosphere of misleading propaganda which surrounds this subject. We discussed this matter with the proper representative body, the executive committee “of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. We had. first, a discussion in Melbourne early in March, after which the members of the Executive Committee adjourned to their several States in order to consult with the local councils. Whenthe negotiations were renewed in Sydney, the chairman of the Federal Comic il said that they had come back with plenary powers and were in a position to come to an effective decision. Heexplained that, of course; they were noi in a position to bind all their members. No doctor in Australia need act under the scheme if he objects to doing so. A capitation fee of Ils. for each insured person per annum, plus allowances for mileage, was eventually unanimously agreed upon, and the representatives of the Federal Council stated that they would support this figure .as a reasonable settlement. After a few days’ interval, in order to enable me to place the matter before the Cabinet, a simultaneous announcement was made on the 16th April in the press and the Medical Journal of Australia giving the full terms of the settlement, including the scope of the service to be provided. The bill was prepared on the lines of the agreement so reached. After the introduction of the bill a full explanation of the negotiations wa3 published in tb( Medical Journal of Australia for the 14th May - although indeed this included -nothing of consequence ‘ that was not included in the statement’*’ published on the 16th April. I should add that we made clear during the discussions thai the payments for medical benefit would come from the health insurance contributions paid by insured persons and their employers, not from funds provided by the Government. An increase of the agreed rates will therefore mean either an ‘ increase of those contributions oi the reduction of other health insurance benefits that would otherwise be provided under the insurance act.

There have been some unfortunate references in the press to an alleged proposal of the Government to employ whole time doctors in areas where general practitioners refused to work under the insurance act. We have no such proposals in mind. The bill contains a clause which enables us to suspend medical benefit in any area where a satisfactory medical service is not available. In such an event, the proportion of contributions representing the cost of medical benefit would be refunded to insured persons.

Six months have been spent on the preparation of this bill, and even if it be placed on the statute-book at an early date, another six months of intensive work will have to be spent on the organization necessary to bring it into operation. The main outlines of the scheme, the payment of contributions for pensions and the limitations of the classes to which this initial bill will apply, have been known for many months. The objections to the contributory pensions we, on this side of the House, expected, and I have already dealt with them. The plea that the scheme should be now, at once, extended to other classes is recent. I speak of the proposals that farmers, shopkeepers and other self-employed persons, on the one hand, and those who are now unemployed, on the other hand, should be included in this bill. If the claim that these additional classes of persons should be provided for in this bill were accepted, there would be considerable delay, not only in the preparation of the new scheme itself, but also been use of the almost impossible, task of bringing simultaneously into operation the compulsory scheme embodied in this bill and the difficult problems represented bv the’ additional classes of persons that 1 have mentioned.’ We have embodied in this bill a health insurance scheme and a contributory pensions scheme to deal with the largest class of persons in this Australian community - the employed men and women who work for wages or salary. This is a good start; if we try to do too much at once we may well spoil a good beginning.

There has been some discussion of the question whether it is equitable to allow government employees to be exempted, wholly or partially, from the provisions of the bill, and, if it is equitable, why exemption should not be extended to other groups who have already made provision for insurance against some of the contingencies covered by this bill. The point is, I think, that in this bill we are providing an insurance which is supported by government funds and is backed by the Government. We need not provide that insurance for persons who are already covered by schemes similarly guaranteed, and therefore, we have provided for exemption in cases where the benefits are guaranteed by a. government. But in considering whether existing forms of cover are the equivalent of what is provided in this bill we must take account, not only of the amounts of the benefits, but of their security. Individual firms may provide a very substantial degree of security for their employees, under superannuation schemes and the like, but the commission should not, in fairness to the employees concerned, be required to assess the financial stability of private superannuation funds. If the commission made a mistake and exempted from national - insurance the employees of a firm whosesuperannuation scheme broke down later,, the employees concerned would be without the benefits of either scheme and might suffer serious hardships. The task is too invidious. We have, therefore, chosen the criterion that the benefits should have a government guarantee. Sofar as these other private schemes are concerned, I said, when moving thesecond reading, that the Government, proposes to ask State governments for theirsympathetic consideration of any legislative steps needed to facilitate what appears to us the best means of dealing with this problem, namely, that the members of existing funds should accept, insurance under this bill, with, its finan- cial assistance from Commonwealth, funds, and adapt, their schemes to provide such further cover as they may desire.

There has been but little criticism of the fact that we are requiring the employer to pay a weekly contribution in respect of each employee. I think it says a great deal for the employers of Australia that there has been practically no protest against having to contribute. It means that employers realize that a moral responsibility exists. The responsibility of an employer for his employee does not end when the weekly wage has been- paid. One hundred or two hundred years ago the relationship between the employer and his employee was more personal than it is to-day. The employee was almost one of the family and his employer generally accepted responsibility for him in sickness and in health in his working life and in his old agc. The evolution of modern industry has meant the decline of this personal relationship. The past cannot be re-built. The old days and the old- relationship cannot, he revived. The world marches on. But we can, to a useful and practical extent, recreate the responsibility of the employer through the machinery of this national insurance plan. This is what we have sought to do, and I believe that we. have achieved it. That some employers have already realized this responsibility of which I speak and have put it into practical form in the shape of provident funds and the like is readily admitted. Some employers have asked us, by reason of the existence of such provident funds, to exclude them and their employees from the operation- of this national insurance scheme. Regretfully we are unable to do this. If national insurance i3 to come about, it must be national; it must exclude the least possible number of people. ‘ It must be such that every employer and every employee has similar obligations and similar rights, so that an employee can move freely, if he so pleases, from employment to employment, from one place to another in Australia, and carry with him his same right to contribute and his same right to benefits. Anything short of this would lead to hopeless confusion. “We hope and believe that private provident schemes will continue and will thrive once they have been ;adjusted to our national scheme. This adjustment need in no case present insuperable difficulties, lt will need some thought and some give-and-take in the six months between the passage of this National Insurance Bill into law and the start of the scheme in practice. 1 should like now to refer to the request that small farmers should be exempted from paying the employer’s contributions in respect of their employees. I should be exceedingly sorry to think that this bill imposed upon any employer of labour a greater burden than he could reasonably be expected to bear, but I suggest that it will relieve many of the farmers from a quite considerable liability. Under this scheme, the farmer will be relieved of all costs in respect of the medical treatment of his employees when sick, and the sickness benefit will take the place of the wage.

I submit, also, that the extension of the medical services to the more remote country areas, which is contemplated under this scheme, will be of material assistance in improving the quality, and reducing the costs of, medical services for the farmer and his family. 1 suggest that the farmers will receive very tangible advantages under the bill in respect of their employees. They will be relieved of liability towards them during periods of sickness, and will pay no contributions while a man is sick. It should be a relief to many farmers to feel that the wives and children of their employees will be protected against the misfortune of losing their bread-winner, and that a guaranteed measure of security will be given to their employees in their old age. I submit that1 all these factors ought to constitute a substantial, if not a complete, set-off against the contribution of ls. 6d. a week - or a maximum of about £3 15s. a year - which the farmer, like all other employers of labour, is asked to pay under the bill.

The. rates of benefit for women have been referred to so frequently that I shall make only a passing allusion to the subject,. T think that we have at last satisfied the women that there is no sex discrimination in the bill. Anyhow, if there were at any time such discrimination, it has been effectively removed by the valuable, aud, may I add, rather costly, option which the Government proposes to insert by an amendment, giving to a woman the opportunity to qualify for an old-age pension at the man’s rate; but she will receive it five years earlier than the man. I am quite satisfied that women do not want, under this scheme, a special subsidy on the ground that they are women. I assure them that, to load the finances of the scheme with further discrimination in their favour would, in effect, be such a special subsidy.

At least one honorable member has drawn attention to the regulation-making powers provided by clause 1SS. This bill covers so wide a range of different circumstances, and must deal with so many possible contingencies, that any attempt to provide for all of them in the measure itself - even if every circumstance could be known and every contingency foreseen - would make this already bulky bill unwieldy. The Insurance Commission will, in any case, have a formidable task before it, and it is certain to meet with numerous difficulties, many of which cannot be foreseen. It must, in operating this complex new machine, have some reasonable measure of discretion. I assure honorable members that the powers conferred by the bill on the commission are moderate indeed, compared with those conferred by the English National Insurance Act of 1911.

Section 4S of the Acts Interpretation Act, 1901-1937 provides, among other things, that all regulations made under any act shall be notified in the Commonwealth Gazelle, and shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of the regulations. ‘ If any regulations are not laid before each House of the Parliament within that time, they are void and of no effect. The section further provides that, if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution - of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after any regulations have been laid before that House - disallowing any . of those regulations, the regulation so disallowed shall thereupon cease to have effect. In exercise of its power of disallowance, either House may disallow all or any one or more of the- individual regulations contained in. a set of regulations laid before it. Section 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act provides that where cither House disallows any regulations, no regulation being the same in substance as the regulation so disallowed shall be made within six months after the date of the disallowance, unless the resolution has been rescinded by the House by which it was passed. Any regulation made in contravention of this section is void and of no effect. These provisions, I think, give ample power to this House to consider and, if it thinks fit, to disallow the provisions of any regulation made under the National Insurance Act. They apply to all regulations made under any Commonwealth act, and have worked satisfactorily in respect of the very great volume of regulations which it has been necessary to make under the Defence Act and other statutes. It is thought highly desirable that the procedure. for parliamentary review of regulations should be uniform, and accordingly it is not proposed to provide special machinery for the review of regulations made under this measure.

In conclusion, I should like to put some questions to those members of the Opposition who are opposed to this bill. I would ask them in the first place : - Are they in favour of perpetuating the present restricted system of ‘invalid and oldage pensions - with its means test and its anomalies - simply because of adherence to the non-contributory principle which has been abandoned by nearly all the other leading countries- in the world?

I suggest that honorable members should analyse the numerous communications which they have received during the last week in connexion with this bill, the majority of them from sectional interests in relation to some particular point that concerns’ themselves. The great mass of the people who are to be covered by the bill have made no protest. They know that the scheme will bring to them benefits out of all proportion to the comparatively small contributions .they will be called upon to make, and in a spirit of hopeful expectancy - they await a favorable verdict by this House upon the measure.

I ask honorable members to treat the bill in a spirit of broad-minded toleration. Everybody cannot be pleased with every detail of a huge, comprehensive scheme which intimately affects the lives of over one-half of our population. Just because one’s own particular point of view is not dealt with to one’s own complete satisfaction is not, I suggest, sufficient reason for withholding support from a scheme which has received such a cordial reception from the people of Australia as a whole.

Question put -

That the hill be now read a second time.

The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)

AYES: 36

NOES: 26

Majority 10



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.

Message recommending appropriation reported.

Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -

That the foregoing message be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, forthwith.


.- I move -

That all the words alter “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words. “ the message bc printed and be taken into consideration by tlie committee of the who ( House on the sitting day following the House having adopted the report from the committee of the whole House on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill 1!)38.

I have submitted this motion because I have reason to believe that it will be argued by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in committee that no amendment can be accepted which hi his opinion will increase the appropriation. I shall, if necessary, join issue with the honorable gentleman at’ the appropriate time on that subject. In my opinion, the Government should defer the consideration of this message until the committee has considered various amendments which will be submitted by honorable members on both sides of the House with a view to improving the bill. I take this action because, in the words of the Treasurer himself, this is a measure of vital importance to over onehalf of the Australian people. Therefore, the members of the Opposition are of the opinion that honorable members generally should have complete freedom to move amendments, and that no attempt should be made to fetter them in their efforts to improve the bill when it is being considered in committee. We have been informed by the Treasurer, and by Ministers who spoke on the motion f or the second reading, that this is really a committee bill, that the Government would welcome amendments while the measure was in committee,- and that no attempt would be made to stifle discussion or to restrict the rights of honorable members. I am aiming at the parliamentary control of legislation, and am endeavouring to ensure that no attempt shall be made to restrict the efforts of honorable members to ‘ improve or liberalize the measure. 1 have moved the amendment in accordance with Standing Order No. 405, which reads -

The message may, If necessary, be at once taken into consideration, or ordered to be printed, and a future date fixed for taking the same into consideration.

My amendment, if carried, will fix the day following that on which the House has adopted the report of the committee of the whole House, and just prior to the submission of the motion”That the bill be now read a third time”. A precedent for action of this kind was established on the 26th March, 1931, when the Fiduciary Notes Bill was reported from the committee of the whole House to Mr. Speaker. The Treasurer then moved “ That the report be adopted,” and the motion was carried. At that stage the message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation was dealt with, after which the third reading of the bill was agreed to. I am aware of section 56 of the Constitution, whichreads -

A vote, resolution. Or proposed law, for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not he passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in thesame session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.

seek the support of honorable members on both sides of the House, who desire complete freedom at the committee stage of the bill, to move any amendments they wish. We emphasize that the message should conform to the requirements of the committee rather than that the committee should have to conform to any limitations which the Treasurer may allege to be inherent in the message.

Treasurer · Corio · UAP

– The course I have taken is in keeping with the usual practice of the House. This is the stage at which consideration is always given to a Governor-General’s message. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde, has suggested that if consideration of the message is delayed until after the committee stage is completed, honorable members may be able to move amendments which would have the effect of increasing the burden on the budget. That indicates a misapprehension of the real position. All the authorities I have consulted on this subject agree that the period at which a Governor-General’s message is considered makes no difference whatever to the power of private members to move amendments. The two Standing Orders which bear on the matter are - 171. No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall ho proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill. 247. No amendment whereby the charge upon the people will bo increased may be made to any such resolution unless such charge so increased shall not exceed the chargealready existing by virtue of any act of Parliament.

Both Standing Orders confirm the view that I have stated. The rights of private members are neither diminished nor increasedby the consideration of a Governor-General’s message at any particular stage of the bill. The only occasion upon which the course I am now following was departed from, was referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Theodore, when introducing the Fiduciary Notes Bill in this House, omitted to move the motion for the consideration of the GovernorGeneral’s message at the usual time. The motion was actually moved just prior to the third reading of the bill. I have consulted officials who were in the chamber at that time, and they have told me that the failure to move the motion at the usual stage was due entirely to an oversight. On no other occasion has the consideration of a Governor-General’s message been deferred in that way. The rights of honorable members will not be increased or decreased, or altered in any way. if we act in accordance with the normal practice of this House, and consider the message at this stage. I, therefore, ask that that course be taken.


.- The reasoning of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not convincing. The Standing Orders definitely provide for the adoption of the procedure suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). If the Treasurer is so sure that the rights of honorable members are not affected by the consideration of a GovernorGeneral’s message at one stage or another, why should he object to the procedure suggested in the amendment? No legitimate reason has been given for resisting the proposal to defer consideration of the message until a later stage in the bill.

Mr Casey:

– I am asking that the normal procedure be followed.


– The Standing Orders provide for the taking of the course proposed by the Deputy Leader of the. Opposition.

Mr Casey:

– But that procedure is never used.

Mr.MAKIN. - As we are endeavouring to mould this bill into the form which will be most acceptable to the majority of honorable members, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition feels that this purpose will be best served by deferring consideration of the Acting Governor General’s message, I cannot see why that course should not be followed, especially as the Treasurer has failed to give any satisfactory reason for opposing it. It is not sufficient merely to say that we should adhere strictly to the usual practice, for, as 1 have shown, the Standing Orders specifically provide this alternative. Is there any reason why we should not follow the course suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Treasurer desires to have the message agreed to now in order to restrict the opportunities of members on this side of the House to move amendments.

Mr Casey:

– I just informed the honorable member that that is not so.


– In the House of Commons the Government secured the passage of a resolution of this description and afterwards used it to block amendments moved by members to a bill similar to that now before this House, The Treasurer is not such an innocent abroad as he would have people believe. He is acting with a definite design. If he has no desire to prevent members from moving amendments that are essential in this legislation, he can have no legitimate reason for moving this motion. I therefore strongly urge on the House that the procedure suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is proper and desirable at this stage.

West Sydney

– If we now carry this resolution and the resolutions that usually follow, what position will members be in as the bill proceeds through committee? I have been in this House sufficiently long to know that after an appropriation has been agreed to, it is customary for points of order to be raised by Ministers when any attempt is made by honorable members to widen the scope of a bill. It has happened so often, and members on this side of the House have had so much experience of it, that they must view with a measure of suspicion, if I’ may be permitted to say so, any advice tendered at this stage from the Government side. Whatever may be said, and whatever interpretation may be placed on the Standing Orders, we feel that in our own interests we must play safe. We want to be left absolutely unfettered to move in committee any series of amendments that we may consider necessary to provide adequately for those who ought to be covered by the bill.From the character of the debate on the second reading it is almost to be expected that amendments will be moved to widen the scope of the bill. I do not want to see members opposite, who may believe that alterations should be made, prevented from putting their views forward because the appropriation has already been made. How often have we been faced with that difficulty before? If, asthe Treasurer (Mr. Casey) states, no attempt will be made in committee to block amendments to widen the scope of the bill, the present procedure is novel as far as my experience goes.

Mr Casey:

– I did not say that.

Mr Beasley:

– The Treasurer may qualify what he said. Will he now give an undertaking that no steps will be taken to prevent amendments being moved later?

Mr Casey:

– I have stated the facts. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear.


– Is the Treasurer willing to make a statement now to the effect that, whatever amendments may he moved in committee, even if they may widen the scope of the bill and increase the appropriation, no steps will be taken to prevent a vote of the committee being taken on them?

Mr Casey:

– How can I do that with the Standing Orders as they are? How can I alter the Standing Orders? The honorable member is not so simple as all that.


– I am not as simple as a child in, this matter, as the Treasurer apparently must think. I want to safeguard tuc situation that will follow later if we agree to the Government’s proposal now. I want the Treasurer to declare that whatever amendments may he moved to give greater benefits to those who will come under this scheme, no steps will be taken by him to prevent the committee from registering a determination.


– I cannot conceivably do that under the Constitution or the Standing Orders.


– We are now reaching a clearer stage, and I have become aware that it must be the desire of the Treasurer and of the Government to use the Standing Orders to prevent amendments from being made.

Mr Lane:

– The honorable member can use the Standing Orders himself to accomplish his purpose.


– Paney any one saying that, when he must know that the Standing Orders mean what they say, and that I have to abide by them!

Mr Casey:

– So have I.


– We are therefore taking steps now to avoid tying the hands of honorable members later. We want to leave the committee free and untrammelled to ‘do whatever it may consider necessary.

Mr Casey:

– My motion will not trammel the committee.


– If the amendment will not actually achieve what we hope to accomplish, at least it will hold up the procedure contemplated by the Government, and will enable us to go on with the discussion in the committee stage, unrestricted by the appropriation, message of the Acting Governor-General. , If the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition be agreed to it will prevent the Government from invoking the Standing Orders to limit amendments to those which would not increase the charge upon the revenue. It is of no use for the Treasurer to endeavour to make out that he is as simple in regard to this matter as he is, trying to make .me believe. It may be good tactics on his part.


– Tactics !


– It must not be forgotten that the bills with which we have been dealing are the most involved measures which have been discussed in this House for a long time. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill is certainly the most involved measure that has been presented for the consideration of honorable members during the ten years I have been a member of this Parliament. It affects the lives of many people and there has been a wide difference of opinion in regard to it. Consequently, I believe it is the desire of all of us to improve it in committee. Therefore, I ask honorable members who have not supported the Opposition at. the secondreading stage for reasons which, I have no doubt, they felt they had good ground to hold, and who are waiting for an opportunity later to express .views in line with the desires of their constituents, to realize what is in front of them. If they fail to vote for the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the, Opposition, they will be closing their own mouths, and robbing themselves of the right to vote on vital amendments of the measure in committee. Members of the Country party have certain ideas as to the scope of the bill, and believe that, certain concessions should be made in the interests of those whom they represent, I put it to them as well as to members of the United Australia party, that they should not allow themselves to be placed in a position in which the Standing Orders may be invoked to prevent them from expressing their views in respect of this important measure. I warn them not to allow themselves to be led into this trap. I urge them to leave us free and untrammelled to express our views and to record our votes in accordance with our conception of what the bill ought to be.


– There seems to be much ado about nothing in regard to this matter. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is following the usual procedure and it would be extraordinary if he did otherwise. I point out to honorable members opposite that their objective can be gained and that they can discuss and say more by moving to postpone a clause as an instruction to the Government to do certain things, just precisely as they can on any money bill.


.- 1 give the Treasurer full marks for “ tactics “ in opposing the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) ; but, after all, is it an occasion for the exercise of tactics, or is it not rather an occasion for consulting the convenience of honorable members on all sides of .the House, and of allowing them to give expression by motions and amendments, or otherwise to the views -that have been expressed in the course of the very long debate just concluded? The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) says that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is pursuing a course which is hallowed by custom. I agree that it is the usual course and that we need entertain no surprise that it did not occur to the Treasurer that by adopting the procedure suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, honorable members on his own side of tlie House as well as those on this side might be given opportunity to express, without fear of entrenching upon the Standing Orders, the views they have expressed with such eloquence and cogency in criticism of this bill. I submit, with great respect to the Treasurer, that he misapprehends the position from the viewpoint of the framers of the Standing Orders. I direct attention to the fact that the GovernorGeneral in the usual way conveys his recommendation that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill. Until that recommendation has been taken into consideration by this House the question of increasing taxation or increasing funds for the purposes of that bill cannot be considered and doe3 notarise. Therefore, the Standing Orders to which the Treasurer has called attention arc irrelevant in this case until that message has been taken into consideration. Standing Order No. 171 provides -

No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill.

Until the Acting Governor-General’s message has been considered’ by this chamber, the question of a tax rate has not arisen at -all and we can procee’d to the consideration of other clauses in the committee and propose amendments consistent with the arguments of honorable members opposite and on this side of the House without violation of the Standing Orders whatsoever. The same thing applies . to Standing Order No. 247, quoted by the Treasurer, which reads as follows : -

No amendment whereby the charge upon the people will be increased may be made to any such resolution, unless such charge so increased shall not exceed the charge already existing by virtue of any act of the Parliament.

The question of the measure of a charge, whether it is a greater charge or a less charge, cannot be dealt with by the committee until a message from the GovernorGeneral, has been taken into consideration by this House, and the fact of whether any money at all will be appropriated has been decided. My submission to the chamber is that the matter of increasing the vote cannot be dealt with until that preliminary has been complied with. It is true, possibly, that when the rule regarding the taking of the message into consideration at the stage now proposed was departed from, it may have been due to inadvertence. It does not matter what was the reason. It is sufficient to show that, as a matter of proper practice, it may be taken into consideration at any stage. If that be so, and the postponement will have the effect’ we desire, and will greatly convenience and liberalize committee discussion, what can be urged against a suggestion to that end made in good faith, if the Government, in its turn, is acting in good faith? But if the position should be otherwise, and it is known to the Treasurer that the heavy artillery, which will be discharged during the debate in committee from his own side will be loaded with blank cartridges, and that Government supporters who criticized the bill do not really mean to fight, and want an excuse to avoid fighting, then the attitude of the Treasurer is entirely comprehensible. Otherwise, I submit that the attitude of the Government is incomprehensible. “Whatever may be said about obstructive tactics by the Opposition on some occasions, it is certainly clear that. on this occasion, the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is designed to further the convenience of honorable members on both sides of the House. The bill has been much criticized, and honorable members should be able to move amendments without their being ruled out on purely technical grounds. If amendments can be moved without restriction, and discussed fully, so that we may obtain an honest assessment of the opinions of honorable members in all parts of the House, I am prepared to accept whatever decision is reached, but it is utterly wrong, simply on a technical point, to stifle material amendments regarding which honorable members hold strong views. Honorable members who would support such action are deliberately creating obstructions so that their expressed views will not be tested by a vote.


.- An assurance has been given by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that the procedure followed in regard to the introduction of this message to-night is the usual procedure. That assurance can be accepted, and we know that it is in accordance with the Standing Orders. I understand that the Treasurer further assured honorable members that the introduction of the message at this stage would hot have the effect of preventing the moving of any amendment. .1 interpret that assurance to mean that honorable members may move amendments even if their effect would be to increase expenditure under the bill.

Mr Forde:

– That is just the assurance which the Treasurer did not give.


– If I have misinterpreted what, the Treasurer said, and if the. Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has interpreted his words correctly, I feel that I must support the amendment. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said that members would not be precluded from bringing their proposals before the committee because the Standing Orders provided that amendments may be moved directing the Government to withdraw a clause as an indication that something should be added. Then, if that amendment were carried, the Government, presumably, would, act upon the direction accompanying the amendment. By interjection the honorable member for Hindmarsh - whose opinion as an ex-Speaker of the House, I respect on matters of procedure - stated “ The honorable member knows full well that such an amendment would be ruled out of order.” Before I cast my vote, I should like to receive an assurance that an amendment in the form suggested by the honorable member for Henty would not be ruled out of order. This is a matter of grave national importance, and honorable members must act and vote as they think proper in the best interests of the people who will be affected by the provision of any measure passed.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (BarkerAssistant Minister for Commerce) p 1.48]. -If the Acting GovernorGeneral’s message named a specific sum of money to be expended in connexion with the bill, there might be some force in the arguments of members of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite who have spoken on this subject know quite well that the rights of the people are not affected at all, but that this is merely a matter of the interpretation of the Standing Orders. I am confident that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) would have protested with sufficient heat to melt tie snow on Mount Kosciusko if the Treasurer had failed to introduce this message at the proper time, which is now. But even if he had failed to do so, Standing Orders 171 and 247, and section 52 of the Constitution would still govern the position, and no private member would be permitted to move an amendment that would have the effect of increasing the charge on the public unless upon a recommendation from the Governor-General in respect of that increase. Therefore, the argument of honorable members opposite that the purpose of the Government is to prevent private members from moving amendments does not hold good. The three honorable members opposite who have just spoken on the subject know very well that there are forms under the Standing Orders permitting them to move for the deletion of a clause, for the striking out of certain words, or for the reduction of the amount proposed by £1, as an instruction to the Government that Parliament desires something different from what the Government has proposed. They know that the purpose of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is to defer this decision in order to enveigle a few honorable members of the Government to vote with honorable members opposite. There is nothing else in it; it is simply an attempt at political trout fishing. If it comes to a question of “tactics”, the whole attitude of the Opposition is most amazing, because, after arguing for three weeks that this bill is incapable of improvement, they now plead that something should be done to improve it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who knows the Standing Orders better than 1 do, knows perfectly well that if the House agrees to the Treasurer’s motion to take the Acting Governor-General’s message into committee forthwith, nothing will prevent him or his colleagues from moving amendments in committee. I assure honorable members in all parts of the House that the Government has no desire whatever to curtail discussion in committee. Honorable members on this side have been anxious to get the bill into committee for the purpose of improving it and for. the purpose of getting the advantage of the brains of honorable members opposite, if they have any. I repeat the assurance that the Government in no way desires to curtail the rights of honorable members in committee, and I again assert, particularly for the benefit of the honoraible member for Hindmarsh, that, although the House is asked to consider this message, which names no specific sum of’ money, but simply says that, the Administrator recommends to the House of Representatives that, an appropriation ofrevenue be made for the purposes of this bill, it is absolutely open to any honorable member to move any amendment. Therefore, any attempt to stone-wall’ this measure at this stage is in. deliberate contravention of parliamentary practice.


– I understand that the honorable member for Martin (Mr.

McCall) asked me whether an amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) would be in order in committee. IfIweretogivearulingatthisstage, it would appear that I was taking sides in the debate. The question as to what amendments can be made in committee is one that comes entirely within the purview of the Chairman of Committees.


.- The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that because this message mentions no specific sum, honorable members will have the opportunity in committee to move an amendment which would have the effect of increasing this appropriation.

Mr Casey:

– The Acting Minister did not say that. He did not mean that.


– For the benefit of honorable members who intended to move amendments in committee, and particularly members of the Country party who desire that this, measure should embrace the small farmer, I point out that the pleading of the Acting Minister has no bearing on the subject. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) agrees with my view. Honorable members opposite apparently do not like my argument; they wish to get out by the back door, but we on this side do not propose to let them escape in that fashion. If a resolution based on the Acting GovernorGeneral’s message is agreed to, so soon as any honorable member moves an amendment in committee which has the effect of increasing this appropriation, he will be ruled out of order on the ground that the message has already been adopted to provide for the specific payments and collections arising under the measure. That is what the Standing Orders mean, and both the Treasurer and the Acting Minister are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has stated the position very clearly, and I prefer his opinion as that of a legal man to that of the Acting Minister. The Treasurer says, first of all, that under the Standing Orders, whether this message is taken now or not, any amendment which has the effect of increasing this appropriation must be ruled out of order. If that is so, we cannot prevent the Chairman of Committees ruling in that direction, but the point is that the Government has brought down this appropriation measure at this stage in order to have a second string to its bow for the express purpose of making watertight the bill in respect of which this message has been framed. For that reason I point out to honorable members who propose to move amendments in committee, that unless they vote for the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, they will be stultifying their efforts in that direction, and will simply be playing a game of hide-and-seek in the committee. The only way in which honorable memberscan be sure of an opportunity to amend the bill in the committee stage is by voting for the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Friday, 3 June


– The only interpretation which can be placed on the remarks of various members of the Opposition is that they are anxious, not to promote free discussion of thebill, but to jettison the Standing Orders, and to throw overboard every rule and form of this House, so that they may have unbridled licence in the debating of this measure. If ever properly formulated rules of debate are necessary, they are required when a bill of this character is before the House. Any move by the Opposition to evade its responsibilities under the Standing Orders should be resisted. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has asked what can he urged against the amendment. The chief reason why we should oppose it is that nothing would be achieved by it. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made that perfectly clear, and quoted the relevant Standing Orders. If we read them again it becomes obvious that whether an appropriation be made, or whether a message be brought down, is immaterial. “Whether this amendment be carried or not the Standing Orders covering debate or the rights of honorable members will be in no way affected. Those rights are still as strong and secure as those of the Treasurer. He cannot invoke the Standing Orders unless they exist, and, if they do, he has a perfect right to invoke them, as has every other member of this House; but the amendment will achieve nothing, and, I suggest that, when the Treasurer has given the House an assurance that he has acted according to regular usage, it is unbecoming of any honorable member to doubt his word.

Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [12.5 a.m.]. -The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) tells us that nothing could be achieved by this amendment, that it is so much hot air, and that it can have no effect on the passage of the bill through committee. If that be so, honorable members opposite should, in a friendly way, assist the Opposition to carry its amendment. If the amendment means nothing, why is the Treasurer sitting so tightly, and why is the GovernmentWhip so anxiously counting his numbers? The honorable member for Macquarie said that the Opposition is making an attempt to jettison the Standing Orders, in order that it may have unbridled licence in committee. All that we seek is the right of honorable members onboth sides of the House to submit in committee amendments which will make the bill more acceptable than it now is to all concerned. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) said that, out of 63 members who spoke on the second reading of the measure, 60 found fault with it. By the acceptance of the amendment the House will have an opportunity to consider numerous amendments to various clauses of the bill, which almost every honorable member has criticized. Some have advocated major and others minor amendments, and this suggests the possible necessity for an increase of the appropriation mentioned in the message from the Administrator.

I dispute the statement by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), that no particular sum was mentioned in the Administrator’s message. Although the amount was not expressed in pounds, shillings and pence, the message recommended an appropriation of sufficient funds for the purposes of this bill. I take that to mean a sufficient sum for the purposes of the bill as it stood at the time when the message was received, and that any amendment calculated to increase that appropriation wouldbe ruled out of order. It appears to me that the purpose of the Government, in submitting the message at this stage, is to sidetrack the Opposition, and, possibly, members who support the Government, by preventing them from giving effect in committee to the views expressed by them on the second reading of the bill. Practically every honorable member intimated that he would have something further to say about the measure at the committee stage. Wehavebeen told that no attempt will be made by the Government to stifle discussion in committee, but I point out that this is largely a machinery bill, and thathonorable members who have criticized it will desire an opportunity to submit amendments in committee for the purpose of giving effect to the views they have already expressed.What is required in committee is not unlimited debate, but unlimited opportunity to improve the hill. Promises of unlimited rights to talkabout it will not get us anywhere, and will not save the faces of those honorable members opposite who have said a good deal of what they intend to do in improving the bill in committee. Now we are warning them that if this amendment he not carried, they will have no opportunity togive effective expression to their views. The Treasurer has tried to prevent honorable members sitting behind him from doing what they said they would do at the committee stage of the bill. We invite those honorable members to helpus to carry the amendment so that any worthy proposal may be put forward in committee without the mover being embarrassed by the Chairman, at the instigation of the Treasurer, ruling that his amendment may not be accepted because it wouldincrease the appropriation.Iurge acceptance of the amendment so that at the committee stage honorable members will be free to deal with amendments as they think fit.


.Parliament must abide by section 56 of the Constitution which requires that a law for the appropriation of money shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same sessionbeen recommended by a message from the Governor-General . The Treasurer is not merely following the usual practice; he is doing something which is absolutely essential.

Mr.Makin. - No !


– This House cannot pass a law by which money is appropriated unless it has received a recommendation from the Governor-General.

Mr Makin:

– Not necessarily at this stage.


– The Standing Orders also provide that no motion to increase a tax may be proposed by a private member. The reason is fundamental. The control of public moneys must be in the hands of the Government. “Finance is government and government is finance “! Ifa motion relating to a money bill wore carried against the Government, it would bo equivalent to a vote of no-confidence. It is universally recognized that if the Government is to remain in office it must keep control over money matters. That is fundamental. Any proposals for increased expenditure must come from the Government. It’ is a rule which no government can waive.


.The honorablemember for Perth (Mr. Nairn)has said much of what I intendedto say. It isnot so much a case of misunderstanding the Standing Orders as of misunderstanding the requirements of the Constitution. Even the Governmentwould not be constitutionally entitled to introduce amendments of the financial provisions of this bill, which would increase theamount required under the bill, without first bringing down a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the objects of the amendments. Private members are not being denied the right of free discussion. Should a majority of members disapprove of a particular provision, they ran ask for its withdrawal or move for a reduction of the proposed appropriationas a direction to the Government to withdraw it. That being so, it is immaterial whether the message is brought in at this or some later stage. It is part of the constitutional machinery. The proper course tofollow is that which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has adopted. The rights of private members are in no way diminished by the actionwhich has been taken.


– The House has been told by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and other honorable members opposite that there is no danger of the things that we fear being done, but twoother honorable gentlemen opposite, who have had a legal training, have said that the Constitution makes this course necessary. They read only part of the Constitution, however. According to what was read by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) there is no necessity at this stage to do what the Treasurer has proposed. I ask the Treasurer whether the carrying of the amendment would make any difference. Is it not a fact that the amount involved is already known to the House, particularly to the Treasurer? Should any member, on either side of the chamber, move an amendment which would increase the amount necessary to meet the obligation imposed by the bill, would he not be told by the Chairman of Committees that it could not be accepted, because it would increase the appropriation?I suggest that the whole thing is watertight from the Treasurer’s point of view, and that he knows it. TheScullin Government did exactly the same thing; whenever an amendment which would have increased the appropriation was proposed, a representative of that Government asked the Chairman of Committees whether it was in order. On every occasion, it was ruled out or order. The amount involved is known, and therefore no amendment which would involve an increase of the amount would be accepted.


– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has taken the usual course in dealing with a measure of this kind, but the Opposition has endeavoured to cloud the issue by a series of half-truths. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) knows that the Treasurer is bound by the Standing Orders of this House and by the Constitution itself. Every private member has definite rights in this chamber; he may move for the deletion of a clause, as a direction to the Government, and thereby achieve his purpose.

Mr.Makin. - Why insist on that roundabout way of doing things?


– That is the correct procedure, and it is just as effective as any other action would be. The Opposition has made much ado about nothing. It has taken this step in order to make honorable members on this side who have criticized the bill and indicated that they will move amendments believe that their rights are jeopardized. I have taken some steps to acquaint myself withthe usual procedure in such cases, and I am convinced that my rights are fully safeguarded. I accept the Treasurer’s assurance.

East Sydney

– I feel perfectly safe in depending entirely on the legal opinion expressed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Supporters of the Government who have addressed themselves to this question described the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) as being an attempt to waste the time of Parliament. Let us examine what has happened so far. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has already admitted that any amendment which would increase the appropriation will be ruled out of order. If that is so, then it is not honorable members of the Opposition who have wasted time, but honorable members opposite, who, during the second-reading stage of the bill-


– Order! The honorable member is not in order in discussing what took place at the second-reading stage.


– May I say that those honorable gentlemen supporting the Government, who have indicated their intention to move amendments in committee, are those responsible for the wasting of time. Every one of the ‘amendments which they foreshadowed would increase the appropriation, and, therefore, according to the Treasurer, will be ruled out of order; it is my belief that they were aware that this House would not have an opportunity to record a decision upon them, and they were only talking with a view to impressing their constituents.


– Order ! That question is not before the Chair.


– What I am endeavourto do is to draw attention to the fact that although the Treasurer, in his reply, appealed to honorable members to devote their energies to improving this measure at the committee stage, and made it appear that honorable members would have an opportunity to amend the measure, he took questionable steps to prevent, not only members of the Opposition, but also members on the Government side-


– I remind honorable members that the right of the Treasurer to bring down an-appropriation message, is not the question before the the Chair.


– I am not discussing whether the Treasurer was right , in bringing down . an appropriation message. What I am discussing is the statement he made when opposing the request of the Opposition that this message be deferred sothat honorable members should be untrammelled in their consideration of the measure in committee. Reference has been made by honorable members to measures of a similar nature, but this is by far the most important measure of its kind that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. For that reason, I think that honorable members should have ample opportunity to move amendments, to give effect to the principles expressed by them during the second-reading debate. Honorable members opposite, at that stage, foreshadowed amendments which, if carried, would include within the scope of the bill, persons who are at present excluded, and would accordingly increase the appropriation. If those honorable members fail to vote for the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, they were sham-fighting, and had no desire to give effect to the principles for which they claimed to stand.


.- I rise to speak only because of the statement by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who did not know what he was talking about. I assure the honorable member that this issue has always been settled in one way in other parliaments besides this Parliament. The Standing Orders declare that only the Ministry has the right to increase a tax or a duty. Honorable memberson both sides of this House have pressed for the inclusion of wives and dependants in the national insurance benefits. We have been told that they cannot be in cluded in this measure, but that they will be included in another measure. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and his Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) are doing exactly what the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did; they are speaking only for the purpose of having their statements appear in Hansard, to be read at the next election. That is unworthy of them.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Forde’s amendment) stand part of the question.

The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)

AYES: 31

NOES: 30

Majority 1



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :

Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows and orphans of employees, and for other purposes.


– I submit that it is quite unfair to ask the committee to proceed further to-night. We have been in attendance here since 10.30 a.m. yesterday. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) cannot advance the excuse that he must get the measure through. Had it been urgent, Parliament could have been summoned at an earlier date than that on which it first met.


– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding on those lines; he must address himself to the motion.


– This is a very important motion, and honorable members should bo given the opportunity to deliberate on it after they have had a few hours’ rest. It concerns the revenue needed to give effect to a measure which affects certain employees, as well as the wives, children, widows and orphans of employees. Honorable members on this side of the chamber expressed their views on the measure at a previous stage of the bill. I ask the Treasurer to defer further consideration of the matter until the next sitting.

Mr Casey:

– Yes.

Progress reported.

page 1782


The following bills were received from the Senate, and (on motions by Mr. Casey) read a first time: -

Crimes Bill 1938.

Extradition Bill1938.

page 1782


The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -

Customs Tariff 1938.

Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill 1938.

Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1938.

House adjourned at 12.43 a.m. (Friday).

page 1782


The following answers to questions were circulated : -


Mr Anthony:

y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. What country newspapers in Australia have teleprinters installed?
  2. What is the distance of each newspaper from its particular transmitting centre or capital city?
  3. What are the rates charged for teleprinter service, and the principal conditions attaching thereto?
Mr Perkins:

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

  1. Northern Daily Leader, Tamworth; Sun. Newcastle; Newcastle Morning Herald, Newcastle.
  2. Tamworth newspaper, 281 miles; each Newcastle newspaper, 100 miles.
  3. For a simple two-point service, £166 annually for terminal apparatus, plus charges for channel and local loops, depending on mileage and extent of use. Services are leased in all cases for a minimum period of one year, subject to two hours minimum weekly and a minimum of fifteen minutes per call. Lessees provide operating labour at their own cost.

Canberra Housing

Mr Barnard:

d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. How many houses with eight or more rooms have beenbuilt in Canberra by the Government?
  2. Are any such houses at present unoccupied. If so, how many are unoccupied, and what is the number of rooms in each bouse?
Mr McEwen:

– The information is being obtained. ‘

Royal Australian Air Force Accidents: Use of Radio

Mr Forde:

e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Will he set up an open inquiry into the mishap to a Royal Australian Air Force aeroplane last Sunday in which two men lost their lives and three were injured?
  2. Is it a fact that in 1936 Royal Australian Air Force aeroplanes were involved in five mishaps, oneproving fatal, that in 1937 there were eleven mishaps, seven proving fatal, and that in 193S. so far, there have been four mishaps, resulting in four deaths?
  3. If these figures are’ correct, do they reflect an unsatisfactory state of affairs in the Royal Australian Air Force, and suggest that an open inquiry into the whole administration of the Air Force should be held so that the public may be Cully informed as to the causes of this disquieting position?
Mr Thorby:

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

  1. This occurrence is being investigated by an Air Force Court of Inquiry, by the Independent Air Accidents Investigation Committee, and of course will also form the subject of a Coroner’s Inquiry, which is open to the public. It is not considered necessary to super-impose any other form of inquiry on these.
  2. The number of persons who lost their lives as a result of accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force were: - 1930, 2; 1937, 7; 1938 to 31st May, 1938, 5. As previously stated in this House on the 29th April, it is not desirable in the public interest to disclose other statistics of Air Force accidents.
  3. Regrettable as Air Force accidents are, it must be obvious to the honorable member that the type of flying and aircraftmanoevring necessary in training for war involve greater risk to personnelthan other forms of flying. The Government and the responsible senior Air force officers deplore as much as any one the regrettable loss of life and in view of their responsibilities have constantly under review measures designed to reduce the incidence of Accidents. The Government feels that the explanation of the increase in accidents in the Air Force is to he found more in the large expansion in the size and activities of that service, with consequent increase in hours flown, rather than in any defect in administration or material.
Mr Price:

e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the British Air Force is using a mechanical voice recorder and. that pilots are being trained in voice production for radio purposes?
  2. Docs this recorder enable the speaker to hear his own voice and correct faults of diction and articulation, so that confusion may be avoided, even in the difficult conditionsin which radio is used in flight?
  3. Is it a fact that under existing’conditions radio communications arc carried on amid the roaring of engines which cannot be completely shut out by earphones?
  4. Will he have inquiriesmade, and, if necessary, see that the same provisions are made in theRoyal Australian Air Force?
Mr Thorby:

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

  1. All pilots in both the British Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force receive it measure of instruction in clear speech for radio purposes, if they are to be employed in situations where this form of communication is necessary. A speech recording apparatus has recently been taken into use in the Royal Air Force.
  2. Yes.
  3. The disability to radio communication or engine noise is inherent in varying degrees in all types of aircraft, whether civil or military. It is the constant endeavour of aircraft engine and radio designers to remedy this drawback to efficient radio communication.
  4. Technical developments in the British Air Force in all mutters affecting Air Force efficiency are closely followed. Details of the speech recording apparatus adopted by the Royal Air Force were received recently and the question of its adoption for use, where necessary, in theRoyal Australian Air Force is now under consideration.

Commonwealth Railways: Supply of Sleepers

Mr Makin:

n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice. -

  1. Has any contract for the supply of sleepers for the Commonwealth railways been made during the past two years?
  2. If so, what are the names of persons or firms supplying suchsleepers during that period?
  3. What were the dates, quantities and price of such supplies?
  4. What are . the number of sleepers at pre- sent in stocks held by the Commonwealth railways for maintenance purposes?
  5. What number is in stock to provide for the re-sleepering, as authorized by the Commonwealth Parliament, of the Commonwealth railways systems?
  6. What particular sections have been re- sleepered, and what total mileage has been completed?
Mr McEwen:

– The information is being obtained.

Destructionof Telephone Directory

Mr Mahoney:

y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact, as reported, that Count von Luckner has given a demonstration of tearing a telephone directory in halves?
  2. As such a directory is Commonwealth property and marked “ Not for Sale “, will the Minister lodge a claim for compensation for this destruction of Commonwealth property?
Mr Perkins:

– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. The department has no information on the subject.

Ratification of International Conventions

Mr Beasley:

y asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -

When does the Government propose to ratify the International Labour Conference Conventions decided upon at the 1936 Maritime Conference?

Mr Lyons:

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

Six international conventions were adopted at the Maritime Conference held in 1936. Five of these extend to Australian intra-state shipping, and the Commonwealth Government is at present in consultation with the State governments in regard to the question of ratification. The sixth convention (hours of work on board ship and manning) covers only Australian ships engaged on an “ international “ voyage. The Commonwealth Government has authorized ratification in ‘ respect of the Commonwealth subject to a declaration being made at the time of ratification concerning a few minor provisions in the convention not at present covered by Australian legislation or Arbitration Court awards, but observed in practice. The form of this declaration is now being considered by the Marine Branch of the Department of Commerce, and Hie convention will be ratified as soon as possible.

Ex-Soldiers : Ailments Due to Gas Poisoning

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -

What are the ailments suffered by ex-soldiers which are accepted by the Repatriation Department as being attributable to the effects of the inhalation of various forms of poisonous and other gases whilst on active service?

Mr Thompson:

– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as available.

Status of Abyssinia

Mr Blackburn:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will the Government give this House an assurance that no support will bc given by it to any proposal that Italian sovereignty in Abyssinia be recognized by the League of Nations ?

Mr Lyons:

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

The question of the recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia was considered hy the Council of the League of Nations at its last session. After a lengthy discussion the President (M. Munters) observed that a large majority of the members of the Council were clearly in favour of each individual State deluding this question for itself in the light of its own situation and obligations. Australia is not a member pf the Council, but should tlie question of the recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia come before the Assembly or be raised in some other manner with member States of the League, the Commonwealth Government will consider it in the light of the then existing circumstances.

New Guinea : Expropriated Properties

Mr Casey:

y- On Thursday, the 19th May, 1938, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the Treasurer the following question, upon notice : -

Will he obtain a statement showing in detail the present financial position of expropriated properties in New Guinea?

I would invite attention to page 37 of the Auditor-General’s report for 1936-37, where the financial position of the Custodian of Expropriated Property is set forth.

Australian Broadcasting Commission: Broadcasts bt Count von Luckner and Sib Harry Lauder.

Mr Perkins:

– On the 25th May, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following questions, upon notice: -

  1. What fees are to be paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Count von Luckner and to Sir Harry Lauder?
  2. Does the Australian Broadcasting Commission think that a talk on “ Buffalo Bill “ is an elevating subject, even though it is given by a German count?
  3. What is the title of the next talk to be broadcast by Count von Luckner?

The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers to the honorable members questions: -

  1. For obvious reasons, fees paid to all artists are confidential.
  2. The talk referred to the early life and adventures of Count von Luckner and the Australian Broadcasting Commission considered that listeners would be interested.
  3. The next talk is entitled “Many Reminiscences.”

Conversion of Overseas Loans.

Mr Casey:

y.- On Thursday, the 19th

May, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -

  1. What has been the total amount of overseas loans converted by Mr. S. M. Bruce since ho arrived in London in 1932?
  2. What is the average interest rate on the total so converted?
  3. What was the average interest rate on these loans before conversion?
  4. What has been the annual interest saving (a) including, and (6) excluding, exchange?
  5. What lias been the cost of these conversions ?
  6. At what average interest rate, was Great Britain’s internal debt converted?
  7. What was the previous average interest rata paid by Great Britain?
  8. Whatwas the annual interest saving effected by Great Britain as the result of the conversion ofher internal indebtedness?
  9. What hasbeen the total of loans raised on behalf of South Africa, Argentina and India in London since1932; and what was the average interest rate on these loans?

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

  1. £222,284,200.This includes loans of £ 12,360,959 and £11,409,965, which have been converted twice during the period. The amount of public debt converted was £198,513,275.
  2. £311s., per cent, per annum.
  3. £5 0s.11d. per cent. per annum. 4. (a) £4,130,737. (6) . £3,294,706.
  4. £3,038,558. .

6.From 1932 to date, Great Britain has converted about half of her internal debt atan average interest rate of approximately £3 5s. per cent. 7 and 8.The information is not available.

  1. South Africa, £32,000,000, average rate of interest £3 8s. per cent.; Argentina, £16,200,000, average rate of interest £4 14s. l1d. per cent.;India, £32,000,000, average rateof interest £3 14s.1d. percent. (These figures includenew money andcon- version loans.)

Surplus Militaryclothing.

Mr.Thorby.- Onthe 24thMay, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following question, without notice: -

As it has been thepractice in past years tor the Defence Departmenttomakelarge quantities of surplusmilitary clothing available to the unemployed,IasktheMinister for Defence whether, in viewofthe approaching winter months,he will ascertain if surplus military clothing will again be distributed ? Ifso, what quantity will be made available in Queensland?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -

All surplus stocks of military clothing were made available for distribution to unemployed some years ago. ‘ Quantities of part-worn clothing returned by troops become available from time to time, and this is handed over to the State authorities for distribution. It is estimated that the following part-worn clothing will be made available to the State authorities in Brisbane for distribution during the period June to September,1938 -

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