15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the Pacific shipping service, and its subsidization by the various governments concerned ?
– Some time ago, when this question was directed to me, I think by thehonorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I said that no new development Lad occurred to lead the Government tobelieve that an early settlement of the matter was possible. Prom information I have since obtained from overseas, however, I am inclined to think that there is good prospect of a reasonably early settlement being reached. As soon as I am in a position to make a definite statement on the matter, I shall do so.
– A week or so ago, I asked the Acting Minister for Commerce whether the positions of Assistant Trade Commissioners at Tokio and Shanghai had been filled, and he replied that at that time they had not. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a paragraph appearing the Sydney press to-day, in which it is stated that, although the Commonwealth Government has thrown these positions open to the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service, only two applications have been received up to the present time, and that, apparently, members of the Public Service are reluctant to accept either of the positions? Has the Minister any comment to make on that report?
– I have seen the report published to-day, and it has also been broadcast over the air. I can only say that it is as false as J udas. The period fixed for the receipt of applications for these positions has not yet closed. Twenty-one applications have already been lodgedby members of the Public Service. The foul imputation that members of the Public Service are not inclined to go to Japan or Shanghai, on account of military operations there, is very unjust, and unworthy of the journal which published it.
– Has the attention of the Minuter for Defence been drawn to the statement published in the Sydney Bulletin to-day, in which the Prime Minister of New Zealand is alleged to have said that his Government does not accept, responsibility for the delay that has occurred in establishing a Trans. Tasman air-mail service, but rather lays the blame at the door of the Commonwealth Government? Can the Minister say whether lie has explored the possibility of Austraiian air mails going to London via New Zealand, in view of the fact that that dominion does not impose n heavy surcharge on London air mails?
– The subject of the Trans-Tasman air-mail service is under tho consideration of the Governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Commonwealth. There is no question of delay, because no time has been fixed as to when the service should, or could, commence. The necessary flying boats are under construction, but, at the present time, no company has been formed to conduct the service. The whole matter is being investigated, and the negotiations are being continued.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to state definitely when the overseas air-mail service will be inaugurated ?
– No, I cannot yet five the- specific date. As I stated in the [ouse yesterday, tho -whole matter is being discussed by tho authorities who will bo responsible for the running of the service, and, until they can give the Government advice as to when they will be ready to begin operations, and when the whole organization will be complete, it is impossible for the Government to announce a definite date.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether, prior to the inauguration of the Empire flying boat service, - tie Cabinet will give further consideration to the practicability of carrying all first class air-mail matter without surcharge?
– All the matters that have been referred to recently in this House in connexion with the overseas air-mail service are now under the consideration of t,ho Government, and the matter to which the honorable member has referred is, among them.
– Will tho Prime Minister state whether the report in today’s press is correct that, owing to the temporary abandonment of the AngloAmerican trade treaty negotiations, tho Australian ministerial delegation will leave England about mid-July without having achieved anything? In the event of the delegation leaving England in those circumstances, does the Government intend to permit Mr. Bruce, the High Commissioner for Australia in London, to carry on the negotiations with regard to the Ottawa Agreement?
– As far as I am aware, the Anglo-American discussions have not been suspended. The date of the completion of the negotiations between Groat Britain and Australia will depend to some extent on the progress made in the Anglo-American discussions. If there is prolonged delay, it will not interfere with the important discussions between the Australian delegation and the British authorities. These negotiations would have necessitated a ministerial delegation from Australia in any case, quite apart from the Anglo-
American discussion, because consideration had to be given to the review of the Ottawa Agreement. Therefore, if the delegation returns in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member - and I have no information as to when it. proposes to leave London - it will not come back without having achieved something, since it will have carried out very valuable negotions with the British authorities regarding the Ottawa Agreement.
– Has the Australian trade delegation, at present abroad, yer completed any negotiations that are likely to prove beneficial to Australian primary or secondary industries.
– Discussions are now taking place between the delegation and representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom. At a proper time a statement will be made in this House regarding the outcome of those discussions.
– Willthe Acting Minister for Commerce state whether he has been successful in obtaining a sufficient number of ships to load fruit at Port Huon, Tasmania, during the 1939 season,so that fruit-growers in the Huon district may be saved the expense of having their fruit sent by road to the port of Hobart?
– That question is now engaging the attention of the Department of Commerce and the Australian Overseas Transport Association. The negotiations have not yet been completed. As soon as they have, I shall inform the honorable member of the result of the deliberations.
– In view of the unsatisfactory outcome of the debate yesterday on the overseas air-mail service-
– In view of the very great importance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the whole of Australia, in both country and city areas, will the Prime Minister consider the transfer of the portfolio of the Postmaster-General from the Senate to this chamber, so that honorable members will be able to get at that Minister?
– If it is the desire of the honorable member to “ get at “ the PostmasterGeneral, my reply to his question is “No”.
– In view of the farreaching importance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and in order that members may have greater facilities in making representations to, and obtaining information from, the PostmasterGeneral, will the Prime Minister seriously consider the necessity for transferring that portfolio from another place to this House?
– There is not one honorable member in this House who is not in a position to have access to the PostmasterGeneral and to obtain all the information he desires regarding that department. He gets such information as a member of Parliament. He may ask questions of the representative of the Postmaster-General in this chamber, and replies will be furnished to him respecting the administration of the department, by either the PostmasterGeneral or his representative in this chamber, whilst matters of policy can be explained even in the absence of the Postmaster-General. Thus, honorable members are placed at no disadvantage by reason of the fact that the PostmasterGeneral is a member of another place. They can get all the information they want either in the Senate or in this chamber, or outside both the Senate and the House of Representatives if they wish to approach the Postmaster-General himself.
Mr.BLAIN. - I have received a copy of a. resolution passed at a general meeting of residents of the Darwin unemployed camp on the 29th May, 1938. It is as follows: -
That this general meeting of the Darwin unemployed camp request the Administrator to notify the successful tenderer for the laying of the water supply pipe line, that there are 30 men in this camp desirous of being engaged; and also, that the Administrator be requested to do everything in his power to absorb the Darwin unemployed on the undertaking.
I desire to ask the Minister -
– Regarding the first and second parts of the honorable member’s question, I shall secure the information he seeks, and furnish it to him later. In regard to the third part, I remind him that there is a regulation in the Northern Territory, as there is in the Federal Capital Territory, which stipulates a certain period of residence before a man is entitled to relief work. However, in view of what the honorable member has said, I am prepared to review the regulation.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce say what progress has yet been achieved regarding the efforts of theGovernment to secure for British shipping companies a larger share of the trade between Australia and the Far East? If negotiations have not yet been completed, will the Government endeavour to hasten them?
– Negotiations have not yet been completed, but the hold up has been at the Tokio end, not in Australia.
– Is it a fact that Senator Sir George Pearce removed from the storeroom of Parliament House four large trunks containing official documents and letters dealing with the administration of the various departments controlled by him during the periods in which he occupied ministerial positions in this Parliament? If so, who authorized him to do so ? Is it competent for an exMinister to retain such documents ; and, if not, will the Prime Minister take steps to have them restored to their proper custody so that they will be available to future governments, or to any historian who may consider them valuable when writing the history of Australia for the last. 28 years?
– I have no knowledge of what the honorable member refers to, but I shall make inquiries. I take it that no retiring Minister would remove anything belonging to the Commonwealth, and that if any documents have been removed they are merely the personal papers of Senator Sir George Pearce. In the light of his long occupancy of ministerial positions, lasting for nearly three decades, it is not surprising that he shouldhave accumulated a large number of private documents which he has a right to take away.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the Government has received an offer from the Greek community in Australia to provide an aeroplane for defence purposes? If so, has he any information to give the House in connexion with this important offer?
– I have received from the editor of the Greek National Tribune the offer of an aeroplane to the Commonwealth Government on behalf of his paper, and I have accepted that gentleman’s generous offer.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked whether work had been suspended some time ago on the construction of a new high school in Canberra, and had yesterday been renewed. I have to inform him that work was never suspended. The honorable member also asked whether the school was being erected on a site not set aside for that purpose. No special site was set aside in the original plan of Canberra for a high school. The site on which the school is being erected was chosen after full consideration, and after consultation with the Director of Education.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the site upon which the new high school is to be erected in Canberra is the site designated on the plan for a university college, and whether a street shown on the gazetted plan has been closed and the school is being erected thereon. Was this departure from the original plan made without the revised plan having been laid on the table of this House and having remained on the table for fifteen sitting days?
– The new high school is not being erected on the site set aside for a university. It is being erected on a site adjacent to a street separating this site from that set aside for a university. When the final plans for the building were prepared and the playing fields designed, however, it was found that the area selected was a little too small to enable the playing fields to be laid out according to specification, so an alteration was made moving the street a few chains. In accordance with the statute I approved of that alteration of the plan on 2nd December last, and on the 9th December that alteration as approved by me was gazetted. The gazetted alteration: was tabled in both Houses on the first day of the present sitting and has lain on the table in either House for the statutory period of time.
– In view of the reply which the Minister gave in regard to the work having been commenced
– Order ! The honorable member is basing his question apparently on a reply already given.
– The work having been commenced on the site of the new high school, the notification to proceed has not lain on the table of this Parliament for the statutory period of fifteen sitting days. The Senate has not sat for fifteen days since the gazetted alteration was laid on the table.
– The intention to build a high school on the site chosen is no digression from the original plan. The only departure from that plan is the proposal to alter the location of a road. The alteration which has been gazetted in accordance with the statute, was tabled in both chambers of the Parliament on the first day of sitting subsequent to its gazettal. It has lain on the table of this chamber for the requisite fifteen days during which it could have , been challenged by any honorable member of this House. No challenge, however, was made. I cannot say off-hand whether the other branch of the legislature has sat for fifteen days since the tabling of the alteration there. If not, it is open for any honorable member of that chamber to challenge the alteration of the plan.
– In view of the possible misunderstanding existing in the public mind regarding surpluses in the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral state whether all the profits of the department are being used for postal works, or does the Government regard the post office purely as a revenue-raising department ?
– It is true that the profit and loss account shows that a substantial profit was made last year by the post office, but when expenditure is taken into consideration, the discrepancy between receipts and outgoings is not so large. Last year there was a surplus of only about £500,000 after all expenditure on postal works had been met. It is thought that, within the next few years, expenditure will increase considerably, owing to the erection of new post offices, and the inauguration of new cable and telephone services, so that there is not likely to be any surplus in future. Whether it is good or bad policy to raise the money needed for such works by postal charges or by some other form of taxation is a matter for the Government to decide.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether, in the preparation of the profit and loss account of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the account is debited with interest on capital expenditure to date, and if so, what justification exists for taking capital expenditure into account when the annual expenditure of that department is being considered ?
– I am unable to say whether the interest is taken into account as suggested by the honorable member. I shall obtain definite information on that point. The second part of the honorable member’s question is a matter of Government policy.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether finality has been reached in connexion with the selection of a site for the proposed flying school at Brisbane ?
– No definite site has yet been proposed.
– Will the
Minister for the Interior inform the House as to which States are co-operating with the Commonwealth Government in its migration policy?
– The State Government of New South Wales is co-operating with this Government almost in complete entirety with our plans. The Governments of South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland are co-operating with limitations, whilst there is no co-operation on the part of the Governments of Western Australia and Tasmania.
– In view of the likelihood of another adjournment motion being submitted to-day, will the Prime Minister agree to the House sitting two hours extra to-night, in order to make up lost time ?
– The honorable member’s suggestion would have a good deal of merit if the figure two were increased. At any rate I shall give consideration to it.
– I understand that an agreement in respect of assistance to importers of pedigreed stock was made in 1935 between the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Bank, the State governments and the shipping companies, and that it was to operate until the 31st December, 1937. Can the Acting Minister for Commerce inform the House whether on the 31st December, 1937, this agreement was continued? Can he also, in the near future, make a statement showing to what extent advantage was taken of the opportunities offered under this agreement?
– That agreement is still in operation. I shall supply a statement on the lines suggested by the honorable member at the earliest opportunity. I might also add that at the last meeting of the Agricultural Council, an attempt was made to modify this agreement in certain directions, but the Commonwealth was unable to get all the State governments to agree to those modifications which were designed to extend the scope of the agreement, and, I believe, its usefulness.
– When I asked the Minister for the Interior some time ago if his department would assist in the repatriation of unemployed coal-miners to England, he said he would give consideration to the matter. I ask now whether he has made any arrangements for the chartering of a boat for the passage of unemployed coal-miners who desire to return to England ?
– My reply to the honorable member’s question on this matter on a previous occasion, was that I would be glad to give consideration to any individual case brought under my notice. I now inform the honorable member that no individual case has been submitted to me.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is calling for applications from university graduates in science or engineering to fill positions in the Patents Office at salaries ranging from a minimum of £200 to a maximum of £350 per annum? If so, does the honorable gentleman think that that is fair remuneration or reasonable encouragement to higher education?
– I shall look into the matter and give a full reply to the honorable gentleman later.
– Will the Minister for the Interior extend an invitation to the Institute of Surveyors and Engineers of Australia to assist him voluntarily in connexion with the Government’s migration policy, because of their unique knowledge of those areas in Australia where the optimum population has not yet been reached ?
– I am not convinced of the value that might accrue from extending such an invitation to the institute mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but any representations which may be made either to me or to the Government by that body will receive serious consideration.
-Has the Acting Minister for Commerce given consideration to the Agricultural Marketing Act of Great Britain, passed in 1931, under which it was proposed to establish a consumers’ committee and a committee of investigation for the schemes set up under that legislation? In view of the desirability of ensuring just prices to both consumer and producer for our main primary products, will the Acting Minister investigate the operations of those committees in order to ascertain if their activities are applicable to Australian conditions?
– I have given a great deal of consideration to those matters in the past, and I give an undertaking to investigate them still further in the future. In my opinion the most outstanding feature of those schemes was the success of the bacon industry, which, incidentally, was administered by a Hebrew.
– Is the Acting Minister for Commerce yet in a position to supply an answer to a question which I asked some time ago relating to the statement by the Auditor-General that there was some misappropriation of public moneys by the Victorian Government in respect of the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act? Has the Acting Minister yet inquired into the matter, and can he make a statement in relation to it.
– I have reported to the Treasurer on the five cases of slight infringements of the act which were brought under my notice. I am assured by the officers concerned that the Victorian Government has complied with the request of the Department of Commerce that the practice should cease. I think that before writing his report the Auditor-General must have been reading a copy of Much Ado About Nothing.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely “ The failure of the Government to encourage the manufacture in Australia of motor car chassis, &c., in accordance with the policy enunciated by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) on the 22nd May, 1936 “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I do so for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of the Government to encourage the manufacture in Australia of motor car chassis &c. in accordance with the policy enunciated by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) on the 22nd May, 1936. I take this action because most honorable members are tired of the vacillating policy of the Government on this important subject. Without success, I have tried to elicit certain information from the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins). Yesterday, when I asked him for a definite pronouncement during the present sittings of this House as to the intention of the Government, he replied that the matter was still under consideration, and that no assurance could be given that a decision would be reached before Parliament rises at the end of the present sittings. That reply is typical of replies given to honorable members on both sides of the House. Two years have elapsed since the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties announced the policy of the Government in regard to the manufacture of motor car chassis. Linked up with my indictment of the Government is :
I have in mind how resolute the Government was in support of the proposals of the honorable member for Henty. When they were introduced we were told that they would provide employment directly and indirectly to 10,000 people. The then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties said on the 22nd May, 1936: -
The determination of the Government to give strong, and, as we intend, decisive encouragement to the establishment of this industry in the Commonwealth is in our mind separate from and independent of the general scheme of trade diversion which I have outlined.
He further went on to explain that when he placed his proposal for the manufacture of motor car engines before the Government, Ministers were very much impressed, and the proposed industry was regarded as being of so much value to this country that it was separated from the general trade diversion policy. They said, “ Here is a winner, and we will back it for all it is worth “. They invited the Minister to go into Parliament and make a declaration on behalf of the Government. In announcing the Government’s policy, he said -
In our view the time has arrived - indeed it may be overdue - when this car industry should be established locally as a contribution to our existing protected industries. We have the market;we have the raw material; we have engineering direction and artisans second to none in the world.
The Government anticipates that satisfactory engine production can be commenced within two years, and that within five or six years Australia should be producing80 per cent. of its engine requirements.
That was the considered opinion, hp said, not only of himself but also of the whole Ministry. He went on to say, “ This is a matter that should not be held over, but should be proceeded with at once “, and he estimated that production would commence with 5,000 units in 1938, increasing to 15,000 units in 1939; 30,000 units in 1940, and 40,000 units in 1941. He also said that the opinion the Government had reached after careful investigation was that there was room in the Commonwealth for the profitable working of three separate units for motor car manufacture. He also said this -
Honorable members need scarcely be reminded that the value of this industry to Australia is not to be measured merely by the capital and employment given, or by the direct making of engines and of additional accessories. As this great modern industry is increasingly transferred to Australia it will call for increased activity and employment in the iron and steel industry and the coal mining . industry and in many other directions.
At the conclusion of one of the best speeches I have heard him deliver in this House, he said -
I assure honorable members that these proposals are submitted in every sincerity by the Government, and that they have been devised entirely free from any party political outlook whatever.
There were “ Hear, hears !” from all the Government benches. I believe he was sincere in his proposal, but he. was not able to give effect to his views because of outside pressure from importing interests. It is significant that he is no longer in the Cabinet. He was supported by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in a definite statement on the 17th September, 1936. Here are the Prime Minister’s words : -
The arguments used against the manufacture in Australia of engines apply with equal force to the manufacture of bodies and many accessories manufactured here. They also apply with equal force to every other established Australian manufacturing industry which has not a market as great as that enjoyed by similar industries running in other countries. There is good reason to believe that the Australian market for cars is as satisfactory for engine production as for body production.
The development of the manufacture of car parts in Australia has been steadily progressive. There is no sort of evidence that the cost of the Australian manufacture of engine or chassis parts now imported will relatively exceed the cost of bodies or of many accessories already being manufactured here.
The Prime Minister said that those were the considered opinions held by the Government. That speech was made nearly two years ago, and still the proposal is on the shelf. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), at the opening of the McGrath Motor Works two years ago, said this in support of his colleague: -
We will undoubtedly manufacture motor cars in Australia before long; and the Government is doing everything possible to hasten that.
We all thought that the Government was sincere. The Prime Minister, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, and the Minister for Trade and Customs said that the proposal was practicable. They agreed that motor car engines, like railway engines, aeroplane engines, and much other intricate machinery, could be economically and efficiently manufactured in this country. During the year 1935, 22 manufacturers in Australia made 4,700 internal combustion engines. Of those, S2 per cent, were petrol engines. It is interesting to note that no fewer than 20 types, ranging from 1 to 80 horse power, were made in Australian factories in 1935. Last year the Dominion” of Canada made 207,000. The scheme is a practicable one and the Government has failed to carry it out. I am trying to prove to the Government that it should not have hesitated for so long. A careful analysis, according to evidence before the Tariff Board, showed that the cost of manufacturing a motor car engine in Australia would compare favorably with the average cost of manufacturing one in Great Britain.
– As an instruction to the House, I point out that the merits of the question of manufacturing motor car engines in Australia cannot be debated on this motion, which deals solely with the failure of the Government to give effect to a certain policy.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. We have ample evidence that the Government, having brought down a proposal over two years ago for the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, and having collected approximately £775,000 for the purpose, and then having failed to go ahead with the proposal, is indeed deserving of severe censure by the House.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) must, in his own mind, if he dares to speak - if he fails to speak in criticism of the Government he is not so candid as he usually is-
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on another honorable member.
– Australia to-day absorbs 70,000 motor cars and trucks per annum, and the market is expanding so rapidly that it will not he long before the number will be 100,000. ‘ With that knowledge in mind, the Government could, with complete confidence, have carried out its promise to encourage the establishment of a local industry. The Government should know that the manufacture of motor cars is the greatest labor-providing industry of our times, and that its value to other industries is considerable, as it permeates through all industries and becomes a vital and dominating factor in the industrial life of a country. The Government, by its failure to go on with the policy so eloquently enunciated by the honorable member for Henty two years ago, has deprived of employment the large number of people who would have been employed in the manufacture of the raw material needed by such an expansion of the motor car industry. It must know that about £5,500,000 sterling in 1935, and £6,700,000 sterling last year went out of this country for the purchase of motor car engines and chassis. Its failure to establish the industry in this country has, as it were, knocked sideways- Australia’s . trade balance, The far-reaching consequences of its neglect can be seen in true perspective by the fact that £60,000,000 is spent annually in Australia on auto-motive transport. If the Government had gone on with that scheme, which, we were told by the honorable member for Henty, was introduced after full consideration had been given to it, and after all investigation that was necessary had been made, much of this vast amount of money would have been saved to Australia. The then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties and the experts of the Customs Department had conferred with the hig engineering firms best able to undertake the manufacture of motor cars’ before the proposal was made. When the honorable member for Henty brought his proposal before Parliament, we gathered from his statement to the House that it had received the unanimous endorsement of the then Ministry. I maintain that the failure of the Government to go on with its policy is a breach of faith, and is against the best traditions of honest government.
It is considered by those .best able to judge that motor car engines can be economically’ and efficiently manufactured in this country. The Government must be aware of that fact, and. must take the blame for the fact that no steps have been taken to establish the industry. In the statement made by the honorable member for Henty, to which I have already referred,’ no reference was made to the trade diversion policy. This was something apart, and it was intended to stand alone. The honorable member said that it stood as a beacon light. He elaborated the scheme, and urged the necessity to carry it out rapidly by saying-
To provide the funds needed to encourage the Australian manufacturer of. engines, steps will bc taken forthwith.
Has the Government done so? He proceeded - lt is proposed to impose an additional duty of .7d. per lb. on imported motor chassis and parts. Generally speaking, this additional impost will average over the range of imported chassis approximately’ ‘£5 each.
The honorable member said then that there was no need for delay, that the Government had made up its mind, and that there was no need to refer the proposal to the Tariff Board. The exact amount of the bounty on each engine was to be referred to the Tariff Board later, but the Government was making a definite declaration that the bounty in 1938 would be £38 and, in 1939, £26 on each engine. The exact payment necessary for subsequent years would be inquired into by the Tariff Board. He said-
We, after careful consideration, have come to the conclusion that this is a question of fur-reaching importance and there is no necessity for further delay.
The honorable member’s colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, was so enamoured of the scheme that he said) in reply to interjections when he produced the tariff schedule, that there was no need for further delay. The Government has raised £775,000 as the result of the bounty duty. So there is no need for dela’y on the score of not “having necessary funds. We know that the money is available. According to the Government’s programme, the work should have been put in hand two years ago. Intending manufacturers should have been able to go ahead with the production without fear of having their plans thwarted. The Government, I know, will claim that there is difficulty in inducing firms to go ahead with production, and that further inquiries are necessary. But the facts are against the Government. Does it expect the general manager of General Motors Limited, which has its roots in the United States of America, to say “ We can and will manufacture in Australia “ ? He would get the sack next day if he did so, because he represents a large organization whose interests are overseas and whose American factory manufactures for a world’s market. But if the Government had carried its plan out and had said “ This must be done in Australia ! “, General Motors Limited or Ford’s would have wasted . no time in establishing a plant in this country, because the demand for 70,000 cars and trucks per annum, which is increasing every year, is substantial. Some factories are operating successfully in other countries on a production basis of from 5,000 to 10,000 units a year. The honorable member for Henty is not a man who usually makes up his mind in a hurry. He made a searching investigation, and said that he was convinced that there was no need for further delay. In bringing this matter before the House, I have in mind the 10,000 people who would be employed directly and indirectly in an Australian motor car industry if the Government had the courage to go on with the scheme.
I do not blame the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs. He has not been in .the Ministry for long, and I have found him courteous and definite in his answers to me in respect of this matter. There has, however, been a recantation of policy, and side-stepping by the Government. This matter was referred to the Tariff Board in December, 1936, nearly two years ago. Reference of matters to the Tariff Board is a favorite means of side-stepping a thorny problem. The Tariff Board made its investigations and report. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that he had seen the report, but that his colleagues had not. I am not ready to believe that statement. The matter was sent back again to the Tariff Board and the Tariff Board made a further investigation and report which the Minister took with him to London. I have asked questions, but have not been able to get a reply. The vaccillation of this Government is deserving of condemnation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– With much of what has been said by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), I am in perfect agreement, and I venture the opinion that the Government would have been in agreement with much of what he would have said had Mr. Speaker given bini permission. The Ministry is . in full agreement with what was said by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) when he made his pronouncement in the House in May, 1936. The Government was ‘behind him and most of the House, I believe, was behind him. The proposal was brought in at the time when the unfavorable position of the trade balance between the United States of America and Australia was a matter of concern. The adverse trade balance with the United States of America, however, was not the only reason for the introduction of the policy; it was, as the honorable member for Henty said, “ Able to stand on its own feet “. The Government promised to take active steps to carry out that policy, and it did so. One of its first acts was to submit the matter to the Tariff Board.
– That was not the original decision.
– I was not a member of the Government at the* time, but it was not a surprise to me to learn that the proposal was submitted to the Tariff Board.” The proposal was sent to the board in December, 1936, and it was not until the 7th September, 1937, that the board’s report was received. When further information is required, as the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) are well aware, the report has to be referred back to the board. In this case the Government required additional information and the report was returned to the board for further investigation. When the additional information was received the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who was about to proceed overseas, had not time to study the latest report before he left Australia. Accordingly he took the report with him and later communicated his comments to the Government. It may be- fortunate or unfortunate that this additional delay occurred. Although the matter has been in hand for two years, it has come directly under my notice only since the Minister for Trade and- Customs left Australia. He has since had an opportunity to peruse the latest report of the Tariff Board, and has submitted certain suggestions to the department. Before action can be taken the Ministers suggestions have to be submitted to the Tariff Board, which is now sitting in Brisbane, and nothing can be done until the Government receives the board’s comments on the latest developments. There has been no unnecessary delay or change of policy on the part of the Government, and even if the honorable member for Henty were still a member of the Cabinet,, I do not believe that the, position would be in any way different from what it is to-day. The Government is anxious to proceed with the establishment of this industry, but does not wish to do so until it has all the available facts at its disposal. It cannot be accused of having delayed the proposal unnecessarily and the cause of the delay is well known. The Government will take the necessary steps to establish the industry if it is a practical proposition, but it does not wish to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds until it is satisfied that the industry can be established on an economic basis.
– ‘Did not the honorable member for Henty say that., the fullest possible investigation into the- .industry had been carried out before the proposal was submitted to the. Government? Did he not say that the policy which he advocated had the unanimous support of his colleagues?
– Possibly he did ; but the whole matter must receive the most careful consideration before any expenditure is incurred. The latest suggestions are now receiving the attention of the Tariff Board, and when that board’s recommendations are received they will be submitted to ‘Cabinet. I cannot undertake that the latest recommendation will be brought before the House during this period of the session.
– Can the Acting Minister justify delay of over two years when the Government previously said that it had already made up its mind in the matter?
– Yes. In the circumstances it is not unreasonable. I believe that the people of Australia will admit that the delay is justified.
– I do not think that any one can deny that there has been a good deal of unnecessary delay in establishing the motor engine building industry in Australia. The only opposition to the proposal submitted by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) two and a half years ago came from those who thought that the supplies should not he excluded from outside ‘ too hurriedly. I conversed with the representatives of many large engineering firms in Australia, who admitted that, regardless of their fiscal beliefs, they knew that sooner or later the industry would be established in Australia. Their only fear was that the Government would expect them to commence too soon, and they hoped that some months would elapse before they were expected to enter the business. Preparations were made in many directions. For instance, those controlling technical colleges began to select suitable youths to be trained to ‘ work in the industry. Several conferences were held with the idea of urging students to undertake vocational training so that they might become fitted for the work. A large company which purchased land .at Fisherman’s Bend,’ anticipating developments in this direction, selected a site close to the River Yarra, so that its supplies of iron and steel could be brought by water and discharged direct into its works. Regardless of the opinions which they knew would be expressed by their American representatives, they realized that eventually this work would be undertaken in Australia. In justification of the long delay the Government will say. that its attention has been concentrated upon its defence programme; but the development of this industry is essential to the defence of Australia. The members of the Opposition did not oppose the scheme because they knew that Australia could not be a self-contained nation until it is capable of building motor car engines and aeroplane engines in Australia. We knew that the establishment of the industry was inevitable, and, as aircraft and motor engines should provide our first line of defence, we supported .the Minister who first introduced the proposal. We have in Mr. John Storey a designer, inventor and engineer who, American experts agree, is equal to any one to be found elsewhere, and that gentleman and the company with which he is associated are anxious to begin the manufacture of motor car engines in their workshops at Fisherman’s Bend. Other companies which had not been manufacturing motor engine parts commenced their manufacture as soon as the Scullin Government imposed embargoes oh the importation of certain parts, until to-day practically the whole of the car except the chassis is built here, and these companies, if encouraged, are prepared to commence the construction of motor car engines immediately. They have been ready for some time. If the Government had proceeded with this scheme the industry would have been established now and would have conferred a great benefit on unemployed youths in the Commonwealth. Hundreds of young men are to-day anxious to be apprenticed to this branch of the engineering trade.
– The trade union movement would not allow them to be apprenticed.
– That is not so. The trade union movement is interested in all proposals for the training of’ youths in useful occupations. It has its representatives on the council of the Working Men’s College in Melbourne, and nearly every year a representative of some trade union is appointed as president of one of the technical colleges. Trade union organizations have done more than any other body in Australia to further the vocational training of our youths and returned soldiers. The engineering union is always willing to help this movement. Members of that organization would like to see the Government’s scheme put in hand. They believe that if the Government allows this proposal to lapse because it is so busily engaged on other war preparation work it will be guilty of a most serious blunder, because when these works cease those engaged in them will swell the ranks of the unemployed.
This scheme is the finest that the Government has ever propounded. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that no further time should be lost, and I am sure that his action will be endorsed by the people of Australia. When the scheme was first mentioned some of us, myself included, required further information. I remember speaking to the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) who was then the Minister directing negotiations foi trade treaties. I told him that the Labour party was behind him in the scheme, our only fear being that it might cause some unemployment if imports were ended too suddenly. He replied that there was no such intention, and that within the next two years the scheme would be in operation. This is proved by the fact that the amount of bounty was fixed on a sliding scale. For this year, the first year of production, it was fixed at £30 for each engine, for 1939 at £26. for 1940 at £8, and in 1941 at £3 15s. Unless this House makes some protest at the delay, and unless it urges the Government to put the scheme into operation at once, it will be missing an opportunity to do something in the interest of Australian industries and the people of this country. Only by establishing this industry for the building of motor engines can we expect to make Australia self-contained and secure. This is one of the key industries. Indeed, it may be regarded as our first line of defence. These things are so linked that the proposal to establish, this industry is one of the most important issues that has ever been raised in this House.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for ‘having informed me, by telephone, soon after 2 o’clock to-day, of the intention of the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to move this motion for the adjournment of the . House. That was the first intimation I had that action was to be taken. I do not think that I would have chosen this particular time to bring this matter before the House, but since it has been brought forward, I very warmly support practically everything that has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
I understand that in the debate on this motion we shall be confined to the question of the failure of the Government to establish the industry for the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia. I shall endeavour to keep within the scope of the motion.
At the outset I should like to go back to the origin of this proposal and to trace its progress, -because only in this way can I give force to my support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his contention that the Government has failed. This matter had its origin in the Department of the Treasury, as had the whole trade diversion scheme of 1936. It began with an intimation to the Customs Department that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was concerned about the adverse overseas trade balance.
– I regret the necessity to limit discussion of this topic, but it must be realized that . the motion relates to a definite matter of public importance, namely, the failure of the Government to do something that was announced .by the Ministry would ‘be done. Therefore, the origin of the scheme, the circumstances in which it was brought before this House, and whether or not it was justified, cannot be debated. Speakers must confine their remarks to the subject-matter of the motion.
– With all respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that as failure is charged it must ‘ be clearly shown that there was a - definite commitment on the pant of the Government. I propose to establish .briefly that such a commitment was entered into, otherwise there could have been no failure. Honorable members opposite have already attempted to establish this by quoting from the speech on this subject made by me whilst Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. The Government was very definitely committed to establish, this industry. As honorable members opposite have pointed out, it was committed first of all under its general trade diversion policy, but in addition to being a trade diversion measure, this scheme for the local manufacture of motor car engines was introduced and sponsored by the Government because of its great importance to this country. Further evidence of the Commonwealth Government’s commitment was the consent of the Government of the United Kingdom, conveyed by cablegram, to the proposal to offer a bounty on the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia. Had this consent not been given, the offer of that bounty would have constituted a breach of the Ottawa Agreement. The Prime Minister submitted to the British Government that this matter was of such great national importance as to warrant the British Government giving way and permitting the bounty to be offered.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I merely wish to establish the fact that defence was involved. To the best of my knowledge the question of Australian and Imperial defence was specifically mentioned when the matter was referred to Mr. Baldwin.
The original intention was that the scheme should not be referred to the Tariff Board. From the moment, some months later, when, against my strongly expressed wishes, it was referred to the board, the Government has been failing in its original intention to, encourage this industry. At the outset it was not referred to the Tariff Board for the simple reason that-, we knew, as has since been proved, . that the board could not obtain the necessary evidence in this country. Obviously importers, could not be expected to give evidence in favour of home manufacture, nor could overseas manufacturers exporting motor car engines to Australia be expected to give this evidence. It was therefore decided that no good purpose ‘could be served by obtaining a report from tho Tariff Board.
Cabinet then decided that the matter should not be referred to the board, but that it should be dealt with immediately as one of great national importance, and associated with the problem of defence. It was considered that the board should investigate the position of the industry soon after its establishment, when evidence would he available as to the relative costs of Australian-made and imported chassis. The failure of the Government is further emphasized by the obvious fact that the speech which I made in this chamber at the time was not in any way a personal one. No matter ever raised in this House was more completely discussed and endorsed by the Cabinet asa whole. Every word of my speech had been read by the Prime Minister himself before I came into the chamber.
I now come to the change in the attitude of the Cabinet to the proposed new industry. The wilt on the part of the Government with regard to the great importance of establishing a new protected industry began with the reference of the matter to the Tariff Board. All that I could say was that, although the matter should go before the board, the offer made by me in this House should remain. “We now have the anomalous position that the proposal is being subjected to every possible delay, even to the extent of being taken for a trip overseas by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). The Government could bring this industry into being immediately, because of the offer which it made in this chamber, and which is on record. The Government’s failure is emphasized, and is made completely mysterious, by the speech delivered here to-day by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins). I have no disagreement with that honorable gentleman. He was not a member of the Cabinet at’ the time, and, with all respect to him, he does not know what took place before the proposal was introduced; indeed, he admits that. Yet he says that the Government is still whole-hearted with respect to this matter ! If so, it has £750,000 in hand, collected under a special duty on motor chassis, tabled by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the 22nd May, 1936. If the Government has the desire to assist in the establishment of the industry, and as it has the necessary funds to provide the promised bounty, I can assure the House that manufacturers are now waiting to put the industry into operation. I knew, however, that once the proposal was sent back to the Tariff Board, exactly what has happened was intended to happen.
There is one matter on which I should like to inform the House, to show the keenness of local industry to engage in this task. I have been approached for advice by no fewer than three groups of men in Australia - representing, in one case, the highest achievement in motor car manufacture in the world - who are supported by plenty of capital. I admit at once that the British and North American companies are not prepared to manufacture chassis in Australia unless pressure is put on them. It was always my intention, and that of the Cabinet, to put that pressure on them. We began to exert that pressure when we brought the North American companies down to the quota that they had reached during the year ended April, 1936. These groups have asked for my advice whether it would be safe for them to go on with the scheme to manufacture chassis in Australia. Each time, unfortunately, owing to the inaction of the Government, and the lack of any further pressure, I have been impelled to advise them not to risk their money at this stage. [Leave to continue given.]
On each occasion when I have been approached, I have said to the prospective Australian manufacturers that, as long as the North American companies . stand out, they will be risking great sums of money in this enterprise. I pointed out that, immediately it became known that any local company was about to begin operations in Australia, the North American companies would smother them because of their greater wealth and backing, and their greater readiness to embark upon the industry. So this proposal is held up in this wretched manner to-day. In view of the important business awaiting the consideration of the House, I do not intend to detain honorable members longer at this stage, but I do say that the Government has failed. One must regard with the utmost suspicion its repeated assurance that it is wholehearted in the matter, and is waiting ‘for an opportunity to go on with the scheme. The whole of the party behind the Government is really on trial with respect to its adherence to the policy of protection. If this Government or this party stands for protection, it should ‘not hesitate to assist immediately any interests offering to engage in the manufacture of motor car engines in this country.
.- The importance of the motion submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is indicated by the able manner in which it has been supported by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), whose speech has been most illuminating to honorable members generally. In view of the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who has deplored the delay that has occurred in giving effect to the policy declared by the Government as long ago as 1936, a strong protest should be made against the Government’s failure to do its part in establishing this new industry. I believe that the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) has spoken in good faith, but he was not a member of the Ministry when this matter was first discussed, and the argument advanced by him has been effectively disposed of by the honorable member for Henty. It has been asserted by members of the Opposition that the matter was referred to the Tariff Board only for the purpose of delaying the establishment of the new industry. In the first place, the proposal was supported by almost every honorable member, and most enthusiastically by the Opposition. It is true, as. the honorable member for Henty pointed out, that it was never intended by the House that the matter should first be referred to the Tariff Board, because it was desired to establish a new industry that would be of value in connexion with the defence programme of the Government. For some reason, a change of policy on the part of the Government has occurred. It is amazing to hear that a report on the matter has been submitted to the Government, by the Tariff Board, and that the
Government intends, apparently, to await the return to Australia of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) before giving further consideration to the proposal. As the honorable member for Henty has stated, attention was directed to the desirability of establishing the industry because of the serious effect of importations of motor cars on our trade balance. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in a recent public statement, issued a warning regarding the danger of the heavy importation of goods into Australia, having an adverse effect on our trade balance. He remarked that we ought to “ build up a body of money in London as a shock-absorber against a bad season, or a number of bad seasons, in Australia “.
– It appears to the Chair that the honorable member is departing from the terms of the motion. The question at issue is the failure to give .effect to a certain proposal.
– I suggest that it is of the highest importance that the industry should be established at the earliest possible date. No effort should be spared to make this country economically self-contained, and we cannot be self-contained until the manufacture of motor cars in Australia becomes an accomplished fact. There is in Australia the raw material suitable for the manufacture of cars. I trust that the Government will take heed of what has been said, and that there will be no further procrastination. I support the motion of the’ Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to whom credit is due for having brought this matter forward.
.- The gravamen of the charge against the Government seems to .be that it has not, without inquiry of any sort, launched the country upon a new policy which might have the most serious economic effects.
– The charge is that the honorable gentleman has caused the Government to change its mind.
– That charge lies against the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), rather than against me. About two and a half years ago he came before Parliament with a trade diversion policy which he himself, only a little while before, had denounced more bitterly than any one else could have done. Included in that policy was a proposal for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. Immediately afterwards, the question arose as to whether the Government was pledged by the honorable member for Henty to put the new policy into effect without inquiry. Eventually, the Government agreed that the Tariff Board should inquire into the proposal. Honorable members would be justified in demanding an alteration of the law to require Tariff Board- reports to be presented to Parliament within a certain time after coming into the possession of the Government. Parliament and the public have a right to know what is contained in these reports. Under the law, as it now stands, reports are held back by the Government for months on end. Sometimes they are referred back to the board, and Parliament never sees them at all. This is a most important matter. We have to decide whether we should impose further taxation on the people to permit of the manufacture of motor cars-
– The honorable member is now discussing the merits of the proposal to manufacture motor cars. That cannot be done in the terms of the motion before the House.
– I was merely trying to point out the effect of this policy if put into operation. The report of the Tariff Board is not before us, but I assume it would point out that it would be uneconomic to manufacture motor cars in Australia, having regard to the limited output. We know that Great Britain is able to manufacture cars much more cheaply than Australia could hope to do, and yet British manufacturers, despite the advantage of lower wages, arc unable to compete against the manufacturers of the United States of America, because, in the latter country production is so much greater, and more scientific methods are employed. Cars can be manufactured in the United States of America at less than half the cost of cars made in Great Britain.
– Order ! A proposal was brought before the House to impose a duty for the purpose of providing a bounty to encourage the manufacture of motor cars. The honorable member for Henty outlined what was proposed to be done. The proposal was debated at the time, and a decision arrived at in committee. The proposal cannot be debated again.
– I did not hear the whole of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was allowed to say that various parts for motor cars were being manufactured in Australia, and to point out the great possibilities of the industry in the future. Am I not justified in arguing that the Government’s proposed policy in regard to the manufacture of motor cars would be bad for the country ?
– If the honorable member does that tie will be debating a proposal which has already been agreed to by the House.
– I am prepared to show the absurdity of the proposal to manufacture cars in Australia. Any attempt to do so would merely result in trebling the cost of the motor car.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) wanted the Government to rush into a course of action without proper inquiry. That is not true. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition merely called attention to the fact that the Government, after the most exhaustive inquiry, and after having come to a definite determination regarding a policy, has since that time refused to put the policy into effect. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is to be congratulated for endeavouring to make the Government shoulder its responsibilities, and to realize that any further delay is likely to be disastrous to Australia. The longer that delay lasts, the worse will the position become. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) said that the Government could not, without further inquiry, agree to the spending of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money. The fact is that, .because of the action taken by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) when he was in office, the money is already in the Treasury.
– But is it in the Treasury?
– The Government has collected the money, npt .from the general taxpayers, but from the moto:users, and £775,000 should be in hand for the specific purpose of paying a bounty for the encouragement of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. Where is that money? Can the Minister tell us whether it is still in the Treasury, or whether it has been diverted to other uses? If the Government has used the money for other purposes, that probably accounts foi- the- delay in putting this policy into effect. If the money has not been spent, there is already more in hand than would be necessary to carry out, during the years 1937 and 1938, what the honorable member for Henty proposed should be clone. It amounts almost to a dishonest use of public funds if the Government has used this money for purposes other than that for which it was collected. The honorable member for Henty v.sed strong language when discussing this matter. He said that the whole business was full of suspicion. It would he very interesting to know the reason behind the present delay. Have the big motor importers sufficient influence to delay the carrying out of this policy? We know the history of many of the combines that operate in Australia and other countries, and we know the immoral things they are prepared to do in order to hold their trade. They do not hesitate to prevent the economic development of a country if, by so doing, they can preserve for themselves a market for their goods. The big motor and machinery firms of the United States of America are notorious in this respect. If the Acting Minister had given a satisfactory reason for the delay, honorable members would not have been compelled to seek reasons for themselves. Why was not the report of the Tariff Board presented to Parliament? Why was it sent round the world to London ? In any case, surely there is more than one copy of the report in existence. We know that the manufacturers of petrol-driven internal combustion engines are concerned, not only because of the possible manufacture of such engines in Australia, but also because of the development of other kinds of engines. They have their agents all over the world who keep a watch on developments in every country. The Government, by thus delaying the manufacture of cars in Australia, is striking a- serious blow at the economic development of the country. The general development of this country is threatened every day we leave this industry at the mercy of outside interests. It will rest with those interests to say whether we shall be able to meet our transport needs in a time of emergency. In that respect this Government is failing in its duty to the country. Surprise has been expressed that an additional £30 is involved in Australian factory costs in respect of imported chassis frames, but is it not far more to the point that at present vc pay from £450 to £500 for cars which sell in the United States of America for £117. The Plymouth, Ford and other makes of cars sell in Australia at three times the price they bring in the United States of America., and the position is nearly as bad with respect to several makes of British cars. Australian users of motor cars will continue under such disadvantages until the motor-car industry is fully established in this country. Furthermore, these excessive purchase payments tend to pile up o”r debt to a country to which we can sell hardly anything in return. The Government should have developed this industry long before this, and I regret very much its failure in this regard. Above all, honorable members who claim to represent country interests should take this opportunity to make life easier for settlers in our outback areas. So long as they support the Government’s procrastination in developing this industry, they delay the day when these people particularly will be enabled to reap benefits from an Australian motor-car industry.
– We are making aircraft engines.
– That industry has been established largely because of its importance from the point of view of defence. I should’ say that the establishment of the motor-car manufacturing industry is also of great importance from a defence point of view. For want of such an industry our defence programme will be seriously held up. I raised this mat ter in connexion with the tariff, and 1 now repeat the views I then expressed. In view of the fact that an Australianbuilt car has been driven from Adelaide to Melbourne, involving a cost of only £1 for fuel, when American cars would use up to £7 or £8 worth of fuel for the same mileage, we need no further argument to be convinced of our ability to manufacture motor cars economically. I refer to the performance of a Dieselengined car, a report of which was published in last Sunday’s press. When it has inducements of that nature before it, combined with the fact that an amount of £775,000 has already been collected from users of motor cars for the payment of a bounty on manufacture, the Government, to say the least, is guilty of criminal folly if it refuses to’go ahead immediately with the establishment of this industry.
.- The motion before the House is specific, It charges the Government with failure to go ahead with the proposal to manufacture motor cars in Australia, and, in moving it, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) contended that the Government had committed a breach of faith in this respect. The relevant point to be considered at this juncture, I suggest, is whether the Government is definitely committed to this proposal, and whether there has been a breach of faith on its part. In order to deal with that aspect, some re-statement of the events leading up to the proposal is necessary. The tariff policy of this Government differs entirely from that of the Opposition. Generally speaking, the policy of this Government is to have a careful inquiry made by the Tariff Board before imposing a duty, whereas the policy of the Opposition is to allow a duty whether the industry proposed to be established promises to be economic or not.%
– That is quite wrong. The honorable member is misrepresenting the policy of the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable member must not interrupt the debate.
– The Government at the outset was prepared to get away from its policy that an inquiry by the Tariff Board should first take place, and that it con- templated imposing a duty on motor chassis entering Australia, the money derived from this source to be set aside for the payment of a bounty on manufacture when such manufacture was commenced. That, however, was not the last word of the Government on this subject. Its last word was not known until it announced its decision following all of the discussions which took place on this matter in Cabinet and in this Parliament. That decision was made known by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) when he was Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, in making his last speech in this chamber on the subject, which is reported in Hansard, Volume 152, page 2543; the honorable member said -
I give my assurance at this stage that if the Tariff Board after an inquiry arrives at the conclusion that I am totally wrong, and that this industry ‘would be uneconomic and expensive, I shall be finished with the proposal. In that regard I speak for the Government.
The question as to whether the Government has committed a breach of faith clearly rests, therefore, on what is embodied in the report of the Tariff Board.
– Where is that report?
– All of us are awaiting it. The point I make at the moment, however, is that the Government has committed no breach of faith, because it is not committed to go ahead with the proposal unless it is assured by the Tariff Board that this industry will be economic and will not involve a. tremendous expenditure. Until we have the report of the Tariff Board on the subject it is quite impossible to decide that point. It looks very much to me. however, and I think, to most honorable members, that the Tariff Board is not favorable to the proposal. We know that the board’s report has been received by the Government, and we can judge that, apparently, it was not acceptable to the Government for the simple reason that it was referred back to the board in order that additional information might be obtained. The board then handed a report to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) on the eve of his departure for Great Britain, and he apparently had digested its contents and returned it to the Government. It appears quite certain that the Tariff Board has, in the words of the exMinister directing negotiations for trade treaties, found this industry to be uneconomic and expensive.
Mr.Forde. - Has the honorable member seen the report? If not, is he justified in making that statement?
– Because of the delay which has taken place we can assume that what I have said is correct. We must remember that the Government, even according to a statement made by theActing Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) to-day, is anxious to go ahead with this project. If the report of the Tariff Board was conclusive on the point that this industry could be economically established in Australia, why is not the Government going ahead with the project? It can be deduced from its failure to do so that the Tariff Board has not been in complete agreement with the Government. I repeat that the Government cannot be said to be committed to this project until it has received the report of the Tariff Board, and as we can only guess as to the contents of the report, we cannot decide whether or not it has been guilty of a breach of faith. As the import duty of 7d. a lb. on motor chassis still exists, and already the sum of £775,000 has been collected by this means from Australian purchasers of motor cars, the Government should have made an early decision on this matter. The Tariff Board’s report should be liberated to honorable members, and if it does not favour the Government’s going ahead with the proposal, the duty should be removed at the earliest possible moment. It should, in fact, be removed immediately, because the total amount already collected by this means is sufficient for the payment of a bounty for at least twelve months, if not for a longer period. Even if the Tariff Board’s report proves the industry to be economic we must face the fact that it will take the manufacturers at least twelve months to commence operations. Should the existing fund not be considered sufficient, we shall have sufficient opportunity to reimpose the duty. I cannot, of course, discuss at the moment the question as to whether this industry -will he economic or otherwise; hut in regard to the point raised in the debate that its establishment is essential for defence, in reply to a question by myself, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) stated quite distinctly that in the opinion of the defence authorities this proposal was not essential for defence.
– Is the honorable member simple enough to believe that?
– I could argue that point but I do not intend to do so at the moment. I suggest also that honorable members were not surprised to hea’r that an officer of the department gave evidence before the Tariff Board that this proposal was not essential for, defence purposes.
– Did he act under direction of a Country party Minister who stands for free trade?
– He probably gave evidence at the invitation of the Tariff Board.
– The Tariff Board does not send out written requests to people to give evidence.
– It is only reasonable to assume that the Tariff Board would seek evidence from the Defence Department as to the value of this industry from a defence point of view. Apparently, the defence authorities were not. impressed with the necessity to establish this industry in Australia. But. even if it were necessary for the adequate defence of the Commonwealth, why should the users of motor cars pay for its establishment? To many persons, especially those living in country districts, motor cars are a necessity. Why should such persons have to bear the cost of establishing this industry if it is from the aspect of defence?
– Order ! That matter may not be debated on this motion.
– The argument is unsound.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has advanced some remarkable arguments. “I accept his word that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) informed him, in answer to a question, that the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia was not necessary for the defence of this country; but one does not need to have any great knowledge of warfare to realize that, in the event of war, transport in Australia would depend largely on motor vehicles. In such an emergency, we could not import them. In order to make provision for a possible future need,’ encouragement is given to the manufacture of numbers of articles which, at the moment, cannot be produced economically. The apology of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) for the Government’s inaction does credit to his heart more than to his head ; as a member of the Government he believes that it is his duty to stand by his colleagues. He has made the best of a bad case. He has told us that the delay, has been caused by the necessity to refer this matter again to the Tariff Board; but as the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) told us, it has been before that .body for about two years. Indeed, the Tariff Board has submitted a report, but it has been asked to give the subject further consideration. I do not say that there is anything suspicious about this matter, but I should like to know why we cannot obtain a copy of that report. We all know that, ever since the protectionist policy was put into operation, the big importing interests in this country have used their influence to discourage the manufacture of anything in Australia that they were importing. Although General Motors-Holdens Limited and other concerns manufacture motor car bodies in Australia, motor car engines and other parts are still being imported. When he was Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties the honorable member for Henty said that about 80 per cent, of every motor car in Australia was of Australian manufacture.
– No ; I said that about 80 per cent, of the cost represented Australian industry and profit.
– One has only to visit a motor show, like that which was held in Melbourne recently, to realize the capacity and versatility of Australian workmen. The old idea that, under free trade, commodities can be purchased more cheaply than under a protectionist policy, has been disproved; importers do not fail to make ample provision for their own profits. The Acting Minister said that in the absence of data, the Government had not yet made up its mind on this subject. It is therefore interesting to recall what the then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties said when he introduced his proposals on the 22nd May, 1936. He told the House-
The Government anticipates that satisfactory engine production can be commenced within two years, and that within five or six years Australia should bc producing SO per cent, of its engine requirements.
Not one member of this House would say that the Minister was deceiving himself when he spoke in that way. He spoke for the Government of which he was a member. The honorable gentleman has crossed swords with honorable members on this side of the House on many occasions, but no one will deny his ability to complete a task which he has undertaken. The trade diversion policy inaugurated by the honorable gentleman has been severely criticized, but I have seen nothing to supplant it. It was introduced because of the necessity to do something to adjust the balance of trade between Australia and countries which, while exporting goods of considerable value to Australia, bought little from us in return.
– Order !
– The then Minister went on to say -
At this stage, I do not propose to exhaust the House with excessive details, as these can bc announced from time to time as progress is made.
I now ask whether there has been any report as to the progress made. We have heard nothing. Indeed, the Government would have remained dumb had not this motion been moved this afternoon. Where is the Tariff Board’s report? If I were of a suspicious nature, I should say that the reason it has not been produced is that the Government has something to hide. In the speech to which I have referred, the Minister also said -
Important decisions have been made by the Government with the object of increasing our exports of primary produce, expanding secondary industry, and bringing about a considerable increase of rural and industrial development.
-Order! The Chair will not continue to remind honorable members of the terms of the motion under discussion. Had those terms not been definite, the motion would not have been allowed. I ask honorable members to confine their remarks to the motion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I must have put a wrong interpretation on the motion before the House. The purpose of the motion is to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of the Government to encourage the manufacture in Australia of motor car chassis, &c, in accordance with the policy enunciated by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) on the 22nd May, 1936. I was attempting to describe the policy enunciated by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, with a view to showing that the Government had failed to carry it out. The Minister pointed out the importance of the industry to Australia, and stated that- the diversion of the manufacture of motor chassis to this country would represent a value of over £4.000,000 per annum. There is no justification for the delay which has occurred. Over two years ago we were promised that in 1938 the production, of motor car chassis in Australia would reach 5,000 units, but the truth is that not one unit will be manufactured here during this year. Indeed, the Acting Minister’s remarks showed clearly that no effort will be made to proceed with the manufacture of motor car chassis in this country. The Government is faced with an adverse trade balance of £12.000,000. Were this industry producing motor car chassis to the value of £4,000,000 a year, not only would it be unnecessary to send that money out of the country, but in addition, large numbers of Australian workmen would be employed, thereby helping to keep this country solvent.
:- The proposals introduced by the then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in May, 1936, were laid before Parliament towards the end of a session when no opportunity for full consideration of them existed.
– That is not so. The proposals were introduced on the 22nd May, and the session ended on the 11th December.
– The fact remains that the proposals were not discussed by Parliament until long after they had been introduced. The honorable gentleman had succeeded in impressing his colleagues in the Ministry with the desirability of manufacturing motor car chassis in Australia, but he submitted an ill-digested scheme. [Quorum formed.] The Minister remained in office about two and a half years, but was unable to find any manufacturers who were ready and willing to commence the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, even on the attractive terms offered. At the end of that period the Minister retired from the Government with his ambitions unrealized, and he left the Government to carry the baby that he brought to the Cabinet door. The Government sought to give the youngster a decent burial by sending it to the Tariff Board, and I am inclined to think it would be pleased if the scheme did not reappear.
– The honorable member for Perth has heard something that the House has not been told. Wc want, the facts.
– I feel quite confident that when the Tariff Board report appears, if it over does, it will state that this is one of the uneconomic industries that should never be established in Australia. Being in need of a subject on which to base the daily motion for the adjournment of the House, the Labor party seized on the manufacture of motor car engines. By trying to resurrect the dead it tried to perform a miracle that could not be performed. The subject of defence has been mentioned rather freely, t am not surprised that the representatives of the Defence Department have reported that the manufacture of motor car engines is unnecessary for the purpose of defence. We have in Australia to-day sufficient motor vehicle engines to meet requirements for three or four years, and there was a similar state of affairs when the slump occurred. The slump caused a suspension of importations, and it became obvious that there were more motor cars than we required. I believe that if a war came the first thing the Government would do would be to put an embargo on the importation of motor cars. Therefore, I do not attach any importance to the argument about defence. What we do require for defence are aeroplane engines.
– Please do not discuss that matter on this motion.
– Aeroplane engines are being manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Port Melbourne. One point that is worth mentioning is the .7d. duty imposed on motor car chassis. About a month ago I asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) how long it was intended to keep the duty on. The reply I received was that the Government was waiting to peruse the report of the Tariff Board. That is not satisfactory. I feel that the Government is not at all enthusiastic about putting the proposal into practice, because it knows the effect of giving a monopoly to the manufacturers of motor bodies. Something like £1,000,000 a year profit ha3 been made by a manufacturing company, and motor users are paying about three times more than they would pay for similar bodies in other parts of the world. If a similar monopoly were given to manufacturers of engines the public would be charged still more for motor vehicles.
.- I believe that the Government has definitely failed to give satisfaction in connexion with the development of the motor chassis and engine industry in Australia. It is carrying out a contradictory policy, and that has created difficulties in giving effect to the original intention. It was on the 22nd May, 1936, that the Government brought down a proposal to place a special duty on motor chassis with a view to encouraging the manufacture in Australia of engines, chassis, and accessories. For the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1935, 54,499 cars valued at over £4,097,000 were imported. For tho twelve months ended the 30th April, 1936, immediately preceding the imposition of the special duty, the importations were 72,818 cars, valued at £5,329,000. The Government has not attempted to stem the tendency for importatations to increase, as later figures show. For the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1937, importations were 78,500 cars of a value of £5,592,000. More recent figures for the nine months ended March of this year show an increase of importations, compared with the same period of the previous year, amounting to £1,626,000. The increase is continuously going on. I received statistics to-day for the ten months ended the 30th April, 1938. The value of importations in that period was £6,769,666. Those figures show an increase of about £1,440,000 over the twelve months preceding the date when the Government brought down its policy. The importations for the concluding two months of the present financial year can be estimated at over £1,000,000, which means an increase of about £2,500,000 for this financial year, as compared with the twelve months immediately preceding May, 1936. These figures show that the Government has definitely failed to encourage the manufacture of motor cars in this country, hut has facilitated an increase of importations. Tho volume of imports indicates that the industry could be profitably established in Australia. For the twelve months ended the 30th April, 1935, 54,500 motor chassis were imported, and for the same period of 1937, 73,500. Of motor bodies- which are manufactured in this country - importations for the first of those periods were 2,300 bodies, and for the second period a little over 900 bodies. The motor-body industry has been established because of tho protection given by the import duty,, and to-day, despite the greatly increased number of new cars, the industry is quite competently meeting the demand. The policy of the Government is contradictory. The policy of granting special bounties has been countered by the action taken to license tho importation of certain chassis. As the result, firms selling those chassis have a complete monopoly, their quotas being based on their previous importations. It is not desirable for them, from a business point of view, to undertake the manufacture of motor cars, because they have a field preserved to them by their previous importations. Under the present system of licensing, a new brand of car cannot be imported because there is nothing upon which to base a quota. The method is entirely wrong. It encourages the importation of cars by those firms which already have an advantage. General Motors Corporation and the Ford Company arc not likely to undertake the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, because they already have enormous advantages. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that the Government had successfully buried its policy. I do not believe that the policy should be buried without reference to Parliament. I believe that companies should be forced to establish manufacturing plants in this country. The Tariff Board, I understand, is inquiring into this matter now. It was stated by the honorable member for Perth that the referring of the matter over and over again to the Tariff Board was a means of burying the proposal. I hope that that is not so. I do not know whether he is speaking with any inside knowledge or on behalf of the Government; but, if he is, he has made a sinister admission, ‘because the Tariff Board should not be used for this purpose. Ill-feeling between this country and other countries was created when the policy was first enunciated. That has to a large extent now been smoothed away, but the Government has not done its duty. Import figures show that there is an increasing market for motor vehicles in Australia, and if their manufacture were embarked upon in this country there would be widespread benefit.
.- The motion for the adjournment of the House is to allow the discussion of -
The failure of the Government to encourage the manufacture in Australia of motor car chassis, &c, in accordance with the policy enunciated by the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) on tho 22nd May, 193C.
I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the policy enunciated by the honorable member for” Henty had certain qualifications. The honorable member when he espoused the cause of the Government did so by taking into consideration the fact that the Tariff Board would have to inquire into the economic possibilities of the industry. This undertaking was extracted from the Minister by the then honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), now the honorable member for Deakin, and ako by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir
Charles Marr), both of whom asked the Minister specific questions and wrung from him the reply that the proposal would be proceeded with only if the Government were satisfied that it would be economic to do so. Replying to the then honorable member for Indi as the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) said -
The reference of this matter to the Tariff Board is undoubtedly a venture, but I give the committee my assurance at this stage that if the Tariff Board itself, after an inquiry, arrives at the conclusion that I am totally wrong, and that this industry would be uneconomic and expensive, I shall be finished with the proposal. In that regard I speak for the Government. It will not proceed with the expansion of this industry if the Tariff Board declares . that it will be uneconomic.
The honorable member for Henty in his speech this afternoon answered his own argument when he said that from the moment that the matter was submitted to the Tariff Board, the Government had failed to proceed with the project.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th June (vide page 1905).
Persons, not having attained the maximum age, shall, subject to this act, be insured, under and in accordance with this act as voluntary contributors, if -
they have been employed, and insured as employed contributors, for a period, whether continuous or not, of not less than one hundred and four weeks since their last entry into insurance;
they have given notice as prescribed that they desire to become voluntary contributors; and
they have paid contributions in accordance with this act.
– This is a fundamental clause because it deals with the insurance of voluntary contributors. I am opposed to it in its present form, and wish to amend it with a view to making it less sectional than it is at the moment by making it possible for a great many more people to come within its scope than is now possible.
That is my wish, but I am not sanguine as to my chances of the Chair accepting the amendment which I have circulated. As a matter of fact, I can already feel the sharpness of the axe on the back of my neck. Before the axe falls, however, I desire to direct the attention of the committee to the fact that, if this clause is allowed to stand as printed, thousands of people who are just as much entitled to enjoy voluntarily the benefits of health insurance as other persons now covered by the clause, will be excluded. The people I have in mind cannot become compulsory contributors, but I see no justice in preventing them from becoming voluntary contributors. I refer amongst others to the thousands of self-employed persons who do not average the maximum wage limit fixed under this bill - small shopkeepers, small contractors, small farmers, and those people engaged in viticultural and horticultural pursuits on a contract basis. In the rural industries there are thousands of persons who are never employed directly and never work for a fixed wage. All of those people will be excluded. There is a greater percentage of that class of work in the rural industries even than in the city industries, and accordingly what I am about to put before the committee should appeal to members of the Country party as well as to honorable members who represent city constituencies. This clause reads -
Persons, not having attained the maximum age, shall, subject to this act, be insured, under and in accordance with this act as voluntary contributors, if -
they have been employed, and insured as employed contributors, for a period, whether continuous or not, of not less than one hundred and four weeks since their last entry into insurance;
they have given notice as prescribed that they desire to become voluntary contributors; and
they have paid contributions in accordance with this act.
Paragraphs c and d would permit the people whom I have in mind becoming members of the insurance scheme on a voluntary basis, but paragraphs a and b exclude them because it is impossible for them to comply with their provisions. A great deal of the opposition to this bill arises from its sectional character. In order to widen the scope of the bill, I move -
That the following proviso be inserted at the end of clause 18 -
Provided that a person who has not been employed may be insured as a voluntary contributor if he complies with the provisions of paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) would have the effect of bringing in additional contributors and would result in additional expenditure from Consolidated Revenue, and, therefore, is not in order.
– I do not think, Mr. Chairman, that that is the end of it. I did fear that you would give that ruling because my amendment would increase the cost. I point out, however, that it would also increase the revenue. I accordingly move -
That the clause be postponed.
If carried, my amendment would be an instruction to the Government - to redraft the clause to include as voluntary contributors persons who comply with paragraphs (c) and (d) of this clause.
In reconsidering this matter the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should have regard to the fact that whatever increase of expenditure would be involved by increasing the number of voluntary contributors would be met by increased contributions. If 10,000 persons can contribute to this scheme, with contributions from the Government, I see no reason why 20,000 people should not be able to act similarly.
I point out for the consideration of the Treasurer the fact that many thousands of persons are employed on relief work by governmental and semi-governmental bodies. The employers of those persons, in my opinion, while they would be ready to contribute in respect of each of their permanent employees, will not be ready to do so in respect of temporary employees on relief work, which is a sort of charity, with the result that relief workers will bo discharged. I point out further that in the factories rationing of work is still in existence in spite of the fact that we are supposed to have entered on a period of prosperity. I instance the boot manufacturers, who, for value of production, are the largest employers of labour in the Commonwealth. Some of the employees work week on and week off, some a quarter time, some half time and some three-quarter time. The owners of these factories generally make only £10 or £12 a week -for themselves. What will happen when those employers are confronted with the need to contribute in respect of their employees to the National Insurance Fund ? I venture the opinion that there will be a great reduction of staffs and the lucky ones will be employed on a full-time basis. To appreciate what I am placing before the committee, it is necessary to have experience of the conditions of the industry. When I was apprenticed as a machine operator in a factory - this information is in evidence in the Arbitration Court - I worked nine months in one year without one full week’s pay. My position was not so bad as that of most of the other employees, because I could be switched over to four or five different machines, whereas they could operate only one.
I believe that the Treasurer is anxious to comply with the suggestions of some honorable members opposite that certain persons resident in country districts who are not now included should come under the scheme, and we shall discover later that he has evolved a means to do so. If that should be done another anomaly will be created, as persons who have not as strong a case for inclusion as those whom I have mentioned, will be covered. The only way is to include all those who wish to become voluntary contributors. There must be something wrong with the scheme if such persons are to be excluded, particularly as one of the main arguments advanced by the Government is that one of the fundamental principles of the bill is to encourage the people to become thrifty. I trust that the Minister will accept the suggestion I have made.
– As I stated previously, this measure does not seek to make a new heaven and a new earth overnight. It is confined to the task of coping with the problem of covering nearly 2,000,000 persons, many of whom are probably in need of the assistance which this measure seeks to provide. It is essentially a compulsory scheme for employees and it cannot be regarded as a voluntary scheme.
– Then why not call it an employees’ scheme and not a national scheme?
– If the honorable member will refer to the bill he will see that it is a scheme of compulsory national insurance to give a wide range of benefits to the largest section of the Australian community - those employed for salary or wages. The whole object of the scheme is to provide a form of compulsory insurance for employed persons. It is the ambition of the Government to include as many in the scheme as is possible, and having done so, to keep them there if it is humanly possible. Therefore, in order to round off the measure, this clause has been inserted in which provision is made that a man or woman who has been a contributor for at least 104 weeks or, generally speaking, has had two years of complete employment, or a somewhat longer period of less than complete employment, can benefit under the scheme. This provision is designed to enable those who have graduated out of the compulsorily insured section and who desire to continue as voluntary contributors to do so. This is one of the few instances in which voluntary contributions can be made. As soon as practicable a further proposal on a voluntary basis and covering self-employed persons will be submitted to Parliament. As has been stated before, by me and also by other Ministers, it is impossible to graft satisfactorily a complete voluntary scheme on to what is essentially a compulsory scheme. The voluntary scheme which should cover those to whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred will be introduced as soon as the Government is able to submit a complete plan. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports will realize that the Government is making every effort to include as many persons as is possible under its schemes. This is a simple provision, to allow those who have graduated out of the compulsorily insured section the privilege of continuing their cover. I believe that it will be recognized before long by those who are compulsorily or voluntarily insured, that it is a privilege to come under the scheme. Even at the full rates of 3s. or 2s. a week that will be paid by voluntarily insured persons, the cover is the best that any man or woman could get. I regret that I am unable to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I have not been convinced by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) raises the difficulty which the Minister suggests. He answered the request of the honorable member by stating that at a later stage the Government proposes to introduce an entirely voluntary scheme. This hotch-potch scheme now before the committee is not devoid of voluntary contributions, because in this clause provision is made for voluntary contributions.
– Only in the case of those who have graduated out of regular employment.
– I am not convinced of the necessity of contributors graduating through employment. If voluntary contributions can be accepted insome cases, why not meet the wishes of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports who seeks to amend the clause by adding a proviso to the effect that any person who has not been employed for a specific period, who complies with the provisions of paragraphs c and d of the clause, may become a voluntary contributor? These paragraphs provide that if such persons have given the prescribed notice that they desire to become voluntary contributors and have paid contributions in accordancewith the act;-
– The Minister does not want that class to contribute; he does not. want to cover them at all.
– The Treasurer has not shown why they should not be covered. Many would be willing to contribute.
– Their contributions would not cover the whole of their benefits.
– The only difference between a voluntary contributor and a compulsory contributor is that in the case of the compulsory contributor, two parties contribute towards the benefit, whereas in the case of the voluntary contributor, the insured is the only person who contributes. It does not matter out of which pocket the money is taken bo long as the amount is received.
– But the compulsory contributor’s amount is supplemented by governmental subvention.
– That is an additional argument why these persons ought to be covered, because others are paid from general revenue. The clause should be postponed so that it can be redrafted in order to cover the persons referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. What the honorable member has said assists my argument. The small farmer or business man and other classes of self-employed persons are not in the category of eligible persons, though their incomes, in many instances, may not equal that of the ordinary worker in industry. I know of no valid reason why they should be prevented from becoming voluntary contributors. The Treasurer has not advanced adequate reasons for his objection to the amendment.
– Would persons in that category have full coverage?
– They would be entitled to full coverage if, as employed persons, they had made 104 contributions. I am not convinced by the statements of the Treasurer relating to the exclusion of small farmers, to whom members of the Country party referred at great length in the second-reading debate. Nor should the casual worker bc debarred from the privileges of the scheme. Large numbers of men engaged in various occupations in country districts, such as mail contracts and other kinds of selfemployment, are taxpayers, and although their incomes may not exceed that of an employed person, their requirements in respect of sickness, disablement or pensions are not less; therefore, they should not bc excluded. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has made a very reasonable request, which should receive the support of the committee. The Treasurer has told us that later he proposes to introduce a scheme of an entirely volun tary character, which will cover all those classes of persons who are excluded from this proposal. I believe, however, that if such a thing is to be done it should be done at once. Therefore I support the amendment. Unless the Treasurer can convince me that the request is not practicable, I urge honorable members to vote for it. We may then discover the real reason for the exclusion of these classes of persons.
.- I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to define the position of relief or intermittent workers, whose claim for inclusion was stressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). The honorable gentleman has told us that if employees in this category wish to become voluntary contributors they must have been insured as employees for two years, and have made not less than 104 contributions.
– The period of employment need not be continuous.
– I know that, but where, in the bill, is the provision relating to persons on relief works?
– They will be dealt with in the first schedule.
– These men usually work two weeks in five, or one week in three, so their employment cannot bc termed regular.
– They are not necessarily excluded from the scheme.
– But are they included ?
– Not under this clause.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports realizes the clanger of their exclusion altogether, and he asks the committee to postpone consideration of the clause in order that provision may be made for them.
– My only answer to the honorable gentleman is that we cannot embrace the whole bill in one clause.
– I am well aware of that, and if the Treasurer will give me an assurance that these people are covered by the scheme, part, at least, of my objection to the clause will be removed.
– The point made by the honorable member is important, but it is not relevant to this clause. There will be ample opportunity to deal with the matter when the Committee is considering the first schedule.
– The real opportunity will come when the Treasurer brings down the next bill.
– I think that is what the Treasurer means. There appears to be some doubt as to whether relief workers can be included in the scheme as voluntary contributors. I wish that doubt to be removed.
– If they have made 104 contributions they certainly may be included.
– Some of these relief workers will be greybeards before they are able to make 104 contributions. The fact that these people are prepared to pay voluntarily the double contribution is an earnest of their desire to participate in the benefits of the scheme and I fail to understand why the Government is so niggardly as to refuse their request. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) theycontribute to the general revenue as taxpayers and they are entitled to consideration. In the debate on the second reading members of the Country party protested loudly against the exclusion of small farmers and other self-employed persons in rural districts. Are they now prepared to vote for the amendment? If they do not they will close the door and the people on whose behalf they have said so much will be excluded from the scheme. The majority live in sparsely populated districts and have not an opportunity to join a friendly society. Therefore their claim to be included in this national insurance proposal is irresistible. The same may be said of relief workers. Unless all these categories are embraced in the scheme it will not be national in character. The only way to make sure that they will participate in its benefits is to vote for the amendment. If it is carried it will be an instruction to the Government to redraft the clause tomeet the wishes of the committee.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has urged that the clause should be widened to include self- em ployed persons such as small farmers and others; the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has declared it should be widened to include casual workers, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has contended that it should make provision for the unemployed relief workers and others whose employment is intermittent. An approach to a subjectof this character necessarily involves a broad classification with certain classes and types of the people who might be covered by national insurance. The most readily classifiable type of person is the person who is employed. Unemployed persons and small farmers fall within another class.For obvious reasons, it would be extremely injudicious not to provide separate schemes of insurance for these distinct classes. Their modes of living and their needs are different, the class of life to be insured differs, while the incidence of illness among insured persons affects people of these different classes in various ways. When a small farmer, for instance, becomes ill for a few weeks, he does not suffer financially to the same degree as an employee, because his business goes on while he is ill. His illness may result in a slight increase of the cost of the management of his business, but he does not lose so heavily as a man who has to leave his employment on account of illness. Only by providing separate schemes for broadly classifiable groups can the scheme be freed from intolerable anomalies from the administrative point of view and from the point of view of the persons to be insured. The acceptance of amendments, such as that moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), would set up a disequilibrium in this measure which would render its proper administration impossible. Therefore, I urge honorable members of the Opposition to exercise a little patience, and realize that persons of the class which the Government proposes to insure under the bill are readily classifiable and require this kind of insurance; not the kind which would have to be provided for unemployed or self-employed persons, whose needs are to be provided for in due course.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) contends that it is wrong to include any voluntarily insurable person under this scheme, because this bill is only a first instalment, and a separate scheme is to be introduced later for voluntary contributors. But this clause implies that if a person has -been employed for two years consecutively, has paid contributions for 104 weeks, and has become a small farmer or self-employed worker or shopkeeper, he may then continue as a voluntary contributor under this scheme, in which it is argued that it is undesirable that there should be mixed classes of insured persons. If, on the other hand, a person has been a self-employed worker for 104 consecutive weeks, he cannot be insured under this scheme. It is’ only when he ceases to have economic independence and becoraes a worker for wages in a factory that he acquires the status necessary to qualify him to come under the scheme. Then, having acquired that status by becoming a member of the proletarian class, if he happens to have been continuously employed for 104 weeks and again becomes a self-employed worker, he receives what he did not have before - the right to become a voluntary contributor.
– “Would the honorable gentleman, deny him that?
– No ; the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and those who support him are the exclusionists. Honorable members of the Opposition realize that the easiest class to insure is that composed of employees. After an employee has been insured for 104 weeks, he can, by meeting the total liability, become a voluntary contributor. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) contends that if an insured person pays his own contribution and that which in other circumstances might have been paid by . an employer, he should be treated, in the same way as a person for whom the same contribution is made from two distinct sources. No actuarial problem arises in. this matter. It is true that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports seeks to extend the scope of the bill in its application to insured persons, but I understand that the Go vernment has already promised the members of the Country party that it will introduce a system of voluntary insurance, so that self-employed workers, small farmers and shopkeepers may participatein the benefits of this national schemeThat, I understand, is the price of those honorable members who support the bill. I put it to them that now is the time forthem to show that they are in earnest.
– But this amendment isonly a device.
– If the Minister means that the Opposition is inviting the committee to do what it understands the Government has undertaken to do, he is quite right. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggested a formula, and, because it was ruled out of order, he has moved for the postponement of this clause as an instruction to the Treasurer to give effect to his suggestion. I understand that the Treasurer has undertaken to do this in a different way at another time. He says that his object is to avoid anomalies, but anomalies are already present in the bill, and nothing he can do by resisting the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will remove them. Instead of eliminating anomalies, the Treasurer is providing an incubator in which they seem to be multiplying amazingly.
– This bill contemplates the provision of medical attention and certain other forms of security for 1,850,000 persons who possess the qualifier! don of being employees. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has somewhat overlooked the fact that this is made possible, not only by the employee’s own contributions supplemented by chose of the employer, but also by the super-imposition of a Government subvention. Nobody can deny that there are other folk in the community who are” as much in need of the protection to be given under this measure as are employed persons. Nor can we dc-ny their right to share in any Govern ment bounty or subvention by which the grant :ng of that protection is made possible. 1 sincerely regret that this measure docs not go as far as the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members desi,-. The British scheme was recently widened ‘:> include many thousands of persons “who were originally excluded because of their inability to conform to the employee qualification, and this has opened the door to an additional 2,000,000 potential contributors. The British Medical Association has lately proposed that the scheme should ‘be further extended to embrace still another 20,000,000 residents of Great Britain. Sir Henry Brackenbury, a past president of the British Medical Association, whose services were recently made available to the New Zealand Government, has suggested that New Zealand should not confine its scheme to employees. In the National Insurance Bill which was submitted to this Parliament in 1928, provision was made for the inclusion of contributors other than employees. These persons have as much right to the protection contemplated in the measure as have their fellow-citizens who are to be included, but I do not intend to wreck this bill. I should be prepared to take a very definite stand regarding this clause, were it not for the fact that at an early stage another measure will be introduced to extend the benefits of insurance to persons of the class particularly mentioned this afternoon. I hope that the time taken to promulgate the second measure will not be so long as that occupied in preparing the bill now before us.
Mr.MAHONEY (Denison) [6.5]. - I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). No ‘ class distinction should be made in connexion with the benefits to be conferred under this bill. I hope that the Treasurer will take into consideration the suggestions of honorable members on this side of the House for the improvement of the bill. It does not seem right that a person, merely because he has been employed for less than the stipulated period of two years, should not be allowed to participate in the benefits of the scheme. Those persons who most need the benefits which the scheme has to offer, and who are most likely to require medical attention, will be excluded. I trust that Government supporters who have spoken in favour of the inclusion of self-employed persons will now vote for the amendment. A few days ago the honorable member for Parra- matta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that the bill did not provide all the benefits which he thought it should, and that it excluded many people who, in his opinion, should be included. He was prepared, he said, to co-operate with other honorable members in attempts to have the bill amended in the directions he thought desirable. This afternoon, however, he said that he was not prepared to kill the bill by voting for the inclusion of those persons whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) proposes to include. The utterances of the honorable member for Parramatta are most inconsistent. In fact, his behaviour, ever since he has been an honorable member of this House, has been full of inconsistencies. , I trust that his conscience will prick him into voting for the amendment now beforethe Chair. Honorable members of the Country party have spoken strongly in favour of the inclusion of small farmers, but now it appears that they, too, are reluctant to kill the bill. Evidently, they would rather the farmers were killed. The honorable member for Parramatta has always boasted of his interest in the workers, and of his desire to help them, but the fact is that never, since he has been an honorable member of this House, has he ever done anything to help them.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to a point of order. While I am very anxious to hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I understand that, according to the Standing Orders, the Chair should call on speakers from either side of the House alternately.
– The calling of honorable members is entirely at the discretion of the Chair.
– Members of the Country party do not need any advice from the Opposition as to what is the right thing to do for their constituents. I have heard members of the Opposition, almost with the tears in their eyes, speak of the needs of the farmers, but they never fail to greet with jeers any proposal to help the farmers by the payment of a bounty. They, too, should try to be consistent.
This is one of the most important clauses in the bill. While I believe that the scheme is not so wide as it should be, 1 do not wish to delay the hill because I am anxious to see placed on the statute-book legislation which will be beneficial to large sections of the community. I feel that the people whom I represent are not getting the deal to which they are entitled, but I believe that voluntary contributors should be included, not in this bill, but in a supplementary measure.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 till8 p.m.
.- Honorable members opposite contend that members of the Country party are obliged to support the proposed postponement of the clause because of certain action which we took at an earlier stage of the measure. That is not so. One must consider what is the alternative to this particular provision, and whether any amendment of it would affect the bill as a whole or the interests of that section of the community which members of the Country party are considered particularly to represent. I claim to represent not only the primary producers but also a very large section of the rest of the community; in fact, to the limit of my ability as a parliamentarian, I claim to represent all sections in the electorate of Richmond. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that the only change which would be involved in permitting persons voluntarily to come under the scheme would be that insteadof an employer having to pay a contribution in respect of voluntary contributions those persons themselves would make a double contribution. At first glance that contention seems to be feasible, but on examining the measure one finds that it does not represent the position at all. If this scheme were made semi-compulsory and semivoluntary, its whole basis would be destroyed, for the reason that in respect of a compulsory scheme for employees, the actuaries know to within a reasonable measure of certainty just what the ages of the particular groups embraced in it would be. They know also how many of such persons are single, and how many are married, and on that definite information are able to arrange a basis of contributions, which shall govern the benefits payable. If a person were permitted to come under this scheme voluntarily, the likelihood would be that instead of getting an average risk oyer the whole of- the community we should get a large proportion of those known in insurance as the worst risks, such as family men with varying numbers of dependants, or persons getting well up to the age limit. It would be of vast advantage to such people to come in but the young person of sixteen, or the single person would probably stay out; ultimately a position would be created whereby the benefits which it is at present proposed to confer upon those already embraced in the scheme would be reduced. A voluntarycumcompulsory scheme would reduce the benefits available for the working community. One of the most important factors in a scheme of this kind is that it should be on an absolutely sound basis so that persons who become contributors in their youth, should, after paying into the fund for 40 or 50 years, be certain that when they reach 60 years of age they will receive the benefits promised to them when they entered the scheme.
– Somebody has got at the honorable member during dinner hour.
– Nobody has got at me. I am merely endeavouring to help members of the Opposition to secure a measure which will meet the requirements of that section of the community which they claim to represent. In spite of the objections which . I have to some features of this scheme - and they are very strong objections - I submit that the responsibility rests on every honorable member to endeavour to make this scheme as sound as possible. The inclusion of voluntary contributors as suggested by honorable members opposite would undermine the very fabric of the bill. A responsibility rests on every honorable member to ensure that persons who come under the scheme in youth shall be guaranteed certain benefits on reaching old. age; that widows and orphans, for instance, shall be assured of those benefits for which the bread-winners have contributed. If the scheme be made other than a purely compulsory one, by the inclusion of a considerable section of persons who are a bad insurance risk, the possibility of carrying through that guarantee in its entirety will be diminished. The views which I have expressed are not only those which I personally hold, but are also supported by the experience of other countries with their social insurance legislation.Other countries, notably France, have endeavoured to introduce a combined voluntary and compulsory scheme. In 1930, France adopted a scheme very similar to this, the original act including a provision similar to that which honorable members opposite wish to insert in this bill in order to enable a person to come under the scheme as a voluntary contributor. In his book, Security Against Sickness, published in 1-930, I. S. Falk, says-
Until recently, the law permitted selfemployed persons (and those who had been insured under the compulsory provisions but who became self-employed) to take out insurance voluntarily, provided they were French citizens under GO years of age, and their income was not in excess of the maximum specified in the law. These persons could insure for any or all risks covered in the law except that their total contributions could not exceed 10 per cent, of income. Persons who had been compulsorily insured but whoso incomes had come to be in excess of the statutory limit had been permitted to insure voluntarily against all risks if their wages did not exceed the statutory limit by more than 2,000 francs.
The insurance rates for voluntary subscribers were higher than for compulsory subscribers; there were no employers to divide contributions with them and their premiums were set higher in order to afford the societies financial protection against an excessive proportion of bad risks.
This voluntary insurance, practised since 1030, was ended for non-agricultural workers by the decree-law of the 28th October, 1035.
Thus, in spite of the safeguards provided in the French law, voluntary insurance in conjunction with compulsory insurance was abandoned by France.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the clause as drawn does not satisfy the stipulations set out in the recital of the French experience.
– Quite a .lot in this bill does not satisfy my stipulations, but I am endeavouring, at least, to see that the persons covered by this scheme will be assured of certain benefits for many years to come. I believe, also, that if the proposed amendment were accepted, it would destroy any possibility of a voluntary scheme such as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has promised to introduce at a later date. It is not possible to combine voluntary and compulsory contributors in the. one scheme. However, as much necessity exists for the protection of that large section including small employers and the self-employed as for the protection of the wage-earning section of the community, and it is the duty of the Government, therefore, to bring down a scheme which will not only cover those people, but will also be ‘based on a rate of contribution low enough to enable them to come within it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. As no other honorable member has risen, he may take his second period now.
– A sound scheme is needed to cover self-employed persons, embracing small farmers and shopkeepers, as much as any other section of the community, but I cannot see how such a scheme could he linked up with one of this kind, which is designed primarily to cover wage-earners. Although I shall support this clause, I reserve the right to determine at a later stage whether that very large section of the community not covered “by this scheme is being entirely neglected for the benefit of other sections. I am opposed to voluntary contributors being included in this scheme.
– But they are included.
– Some are included but only because the experience of actuaries has shown that they are only a negligible proportion of the number embraced, and also because they have been a part of the wage-earning community; consequently, they constitute a spread risk. It is the duty of the Government to indicate just what are the terms of the supplementary scheme which it proposes to introduce; in fact, the supplementary scheme should have been ‘brought down simultaneously with this, so that honora’ble members would have been enabled to examine both schemes side by side.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has suggested that this clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to introduce proposals to provide for the voluntary entry into the scheme of other groups of persons. It is difficult to devise a comprehensive bill which will include all classes of persons in the community and still remain actuarially sound. This is only the first step towards a complete scheme of national insurance.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– This measure will provide insurance in respect of ill health and old age for the insured person and his wife and family, as well as for orphans and the dependants of deceased insured persons. I desire to see such legislation placed on the statute-book as early as possible. Provision should be made for small farmers, shopkeepers, and selfemployed persons to come in at least on a voluntary basis, and I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that a second bill will be introduced to cover such persons. The right honorable gentleman has held office as Prime Minister for over six years, and he has never given a promise that he has not honoured to the full. A supplementary scheme cannot be prepared overnight.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with clause 18.
– In view of the promise of the Prime Minister, there is no need to postpone consideration of this clause. Not only because of the Prime Minister’s promise, but also because of the impractibility of embracing in one measure both compulsory and voluntary insurance, I ask the committee to reject the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– This clause deals only with voluntary insurance.
– Incidental to compulsory insurance.
– I urge honorable members to allow the clause to pass, so that the Prime Minister may honour his promise to introduce another measure to provide for the voluntary insurance of other persons. As I have said, it is not possible to draft overnight a comprehensivescheme of national insurance which is actuarially sound. Time must be allowed for its preparation. What is needed is a scheme which will meet every demand made upon it, such as increased cost of living, or difficulties caused by a depression. I propose to quote a passage from the Melbourne Age, which does not usually support the present Government.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s date does not support the Government.
– The Age urges the Labour party to allow this bill to be placed on the statute-book.
– Order ! The honorable member is distinctly out of order.
– I urge honorable gentlemen opposite not to press for a postponement. I had proposed to quote an extract from the Melbourne Age in which honorable members are asked to accept the basic principles of this bill, and to allow the other steps to follow as circumstances require. The present measure will confer benefits on 1,850,000 persons, and will make possible the introduction of a further measure to cover other sections of the community.
.- I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the Government should amend the clause to ensure evenhanded justice to all Australian citizens. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) told us that this measure provides for a health and pensions insurance scheme in respect of employees, but that information was not given to the Australian public when the bill was introduced.
– What is the title of the bill?
– Clause 1 describes it as the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill.
– That is only the short title.
– The electors were promised a national health and pensions insurance bill, but they were not told that it would cover employees only.
– Order ! The title of the bill it not now under discussion; clause 18 is before the Chair.
– Were the public to realize the true purpose of this measure, they would be forced to the conclusion that the Government is sailing under false colours.
– Order !
– Several speakers on this side of the House have revealed anomalies in this legislation, to the discomfiture of honorable members opposite.
– Order! The Chair will not continue indefinitely to call the honorable gentleman to order.
– I am convinced that the people of. Australia will not be satisfied with the assurance of the Treasurer that, in due course, another bill will be introduced to rectify the anomaly created by clause IS, in that it excludes many thousands of Australians from what is called a national .insurance scheme. There are 369,000 self-employed persons in Australia who, although equally as worthy of insurance benefits as are others for whom provision is made, are not included in this scheme. In addition, 270,000 employers, many of whom do not earn the basic wage, are excluded. “Were it not so tragic, it would be amusing to hear honorable members opposite plead for the exercise of patience, pending the introduction of another measure. What the people want is justice, not patience. I say emphatically that if it be possible at this stage to insure 1,850,000 persons, it should be possible to insure an additional 576,000 persons, who are now definitely excluded from the scheme. Throughout Australia there are thousands of unemployed and unemployable persons, as well as small farmers, shopkeepers and others, who believe that they will be covered by this measure. If the suggestion to include them be not accepted, they will be greatly disappointed. Do honorable members opposite think that the small farmers, shopkeepers and other self-employed persons in the community will be satisfied with the promise that, if they exercise patience, they will eventually be treated as other citizens are to be treated forthwith? I see no reason for any distinction between the different classes of people. Although now definitely excluded from the scheme, possibly one of the most worthy sections of the community are the 40,000 men and women who in the last census returns were classified as helpers. They are people who, without fee or reward, work in their homes, on farms, in shops and other places in order to help others. They are definitely excluded. Are they to exercise patience while being treated as inferior to other persons who are definitely included in the Government’s scheme? I listened to the riddle of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who told us of the practice and experience of other countries in national insurance. I am not concerned with the practices and experience of other countries. I am concerned with what the Australian Government is to do. I want to” see it show some courage and initiative, by giving to every citizen even-handed justice, irrespective of occupation or standing in the community.
– Why did the honorable member vote against the second reading?
– Because I knew that the people we are now talking about were not included. We had not been given any pledge, promise or intimation that at any stage of the discussion of the bill these people would be brought in. The whole bill is based on inequality and injustice.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I conclude by expressing the hope that even at this late stage some intelligence and understanding will be shown by those who are not inclined to support the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). Particularly do I hope that supporters of the Government will bring pressure to bear on the Treasurer to have the clause withdrawn and redrafted so that justice will be done.
– I am unable to accept the idea that the bill should not include the self-employed section of the community. In the true sense of the word the bill cannot be called a “ national “ insurance bill if it does not provide for this large and important section of the community. I am quite prepared to accept the assurances given by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that further legislation will be introduced to include these people, but I am not yet convinced that it is impossible to bring them within the scope of the bill. The Treasurer has not advanced any cogent reasons in support of t hat contention. I do not agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that the inclusion of selfemployed persons would make the bill actuarially unsound. It is very easy for an honorable member to say that this or that would make the bill actuarially unsound, but why would it do so? What evidence has the honorable member for Richmond or the Treasurer that this alteration will have that effect? A suggestion has been made that if the bill be amended in the direction desired, it will have to be scrapped. If it is so absolutely impossible to include selfemployed persons, I want to know why it was not thought to be impossible by Sir EarlePage, when he introduced a national insurance scheme in this House some years ago? Clause 42 of the bill presented at that time stated -
Any person of the age of sixteen years and upwards but under the age of forty-fve years who is not employed within the meaning of thisact, but who is engaged in some regular employment on which he is wholly or mainly dependent and whose total income did not in the preceding twelve months exceed four hundred and sixteen pounds shall be entitled to become a voluntary contributor under this act, and to receive the benefits conferred by this act, upon such terms and conditions as are prescribed.
Were it a question of avoiding actuarial disequilibrium, I can see no reason why a higher maximum income limit than that already applied to compulsory contributors should not be applied to voluntary contributors. The clause goes on to say -
Provided that in the case of applications for admission to voluntary insurance received by approved societies and notified to the board within twelve mouths after the commencement of this act, the rate of contribution payable by the insured person shall be 2s. per week in the case of a man and1s. per week in the case of a woman.
If that was possible then, it is possible now. The bill from which I have quoted was compiled on the advice of the most expert persons available at that time - actuaries and leading economists of the day.
Mr.Archie Cameron. - That was ten years ago.
– It does not matter if it was ten years, or even 50 years ago, the principle is the same. The bill was introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister, who was also Leader of the Country party, on this side of the House, on behalf of a government of the same political complexion as that which I support to-day. The honorable member for Richmond said that if self-employed persons were brought into the scheme, a great burden would be placed on the fund, because a large proportion of them would be bad risks. I submit that they will pay for what they receive.
– The basis of the bill is sixteen years of age.
– Even if the basis is sixteen years of age, the honorable member did not tell the committee how the scheme would be actuarially upset by the inclusion of these voluntary contributors. I desire to contrast the position of a selfemployed person under this scheme with the position of an employed person. The bill, to some extent, may be termed an employees’ scheme, but it is pleasing to have the assurance that the Government does not propose to stop at that. I am glad for a number of reasons. As an example, consider a self-employed person in a small business. In no State does he receive the benefits provided for employed persons by the various workers’ compensation acts. The workers of New South Wales receive wide and extensive benefits under the legislation of that State - benefits which the self -employer does not receive. In cases of total or partial incapacity, the compensation includes weekly payments and the cost of medical and hospital treatment; also ambulance service; - which is not provided for in the Commonwealth scheme. In the event of the death of a worker, his dependants are entitled to compensation. I could quote many more examples of the benefit the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales is to employees as compared with the person who is self-employed. Again, it must be remembered that the self-employed person is subjected to great fluctuations of income. The great majority of those who would elect to come under the bill as voluntary contributors would be those whose occupations are such as would bring about a complete cessation of income in the event of their incapacity. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) said that the majority of self-employed persons were not subjected to the same loss of income as the employed person. To an extent that is correct, but I believe that those voluntary contributors who would elect to come under the scheme and pay a considerable sum of money would be that section of self-employed persons who would suffer a complete cessation of income if they were ill or otherwise incapacitated. We ought also to be given an indication whether, in the supplementary bill which is promised, the benefits and contributions of self-employers will be similar to those prescribed in the present bill. We have had no indication of the conditions under which the self-employed person will be allowed to come under the scheme. I am far from convinced that the difficulties in the way of the inclusion of selfemployed persons in this bill are insuperable. Surely the hill is not immutable! Surely some means can be improvised to permit these people to enter! I should be pleased if the Treasurer, in his reply, would set out the reasons why self-employed persons cannot be brought under the scheme. The Government has accepted the principle that they should be covered by the scheme, and, therefore, I ask him to give categorical evidence of why they cannot be included in this measure.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). I have heard it said that certain sections in the House have been promised that the things they have complained about will be rectified by a bill to be introduced later. As I am on the “ outer “ at the moment, as far as my Country party friends are concerned, I have not been officially approached. I am not prepared, therefore, to accept promises of that sort. I do not question the sincerity of the Government, but there are possible obstacles in the way of the implementation of that promise. I doubt, for instance, whether it would be possible for a supplementary bill to be passed during this period of the session, and after the 30th June there will be a new Senate.
Therein lies the danger. It is not necessarily the function of the Opposition, with a majority in the Senate, to support the proposals of the Government, meritorious though they might be. If members of the Country party, who, during the second-reading debate, attacked the omission from this bill of small farmers and the like, were sincere, this is their opportunity to stand up for the principles that they enunciated. I have other objections to the bill, but this is the particular point that 1 wished to make. I feel that I should be unfaithful to the trust reposed in me, and that I should not be squaring with my previous attitude on this bill if I did not support with my vote the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I rise to oppose the amendment. I do that with certain qualifications. With other honorable members on this side of the committee, I have already made to the Ministry representations of a somewhat similar nature to those which the Opposition is making at the moment, and I suspect that the assurance given to us is what has caused < the suggestions that have been made by the Opposition. The Opposition realizes that ministerial supporters have stolen their thunder and, for political reasons, they feel it necessary to make a demonstration. The suggestions made by honorable members opposite have been very helpful, so helpful, in fact, that if adopted they would help to wreck the bill. For their purpose, honorable members have selected a clause inserted for the specific purpose of admitting those insured persons who at some time had been compulsorily insured in the scheme, and were entitled by their former contributions to continue their insurance by voluntary payments. There are limitations in the drafting of this measure with which I entirely disagree, and I feel with other honorable members that if this bill were, as it should be, a more national measure, the anomalies now objected to would not appear. This bill, however, is merely the first instalment of the national insurance scheme, and, as such, obviously cannot be comprehensive. I join with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) in appealing to honorable members opposite to have patience, and to remember that no first instalment can contain everything that every section of the community would desire. Honorable members who have made suggestions to the Government for the inclusion within the scope of the bill of self-employed persons, such as small shopkeepers and small farmers, cannot appreciate the problem that the Government would have in policing such a provision. Not one suggestion as to how it could be policed has been made by honorable members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has indicated that he wants clause 18 postponed as a direction to the Government to do a certain thing. The honorable member, in expressing his desire, has not said, “ This is an easy matter, because you can do it by adopting this or that principle “. He says, “ We want this done, and we do not care how you do it, or if the bill is held up indefinitely “. Something more concrete must be presented before the committee can take his suggestion into serious consideration. The very matter that he has raised is being considered at the moment by the Government, which proposes to explore the possibility of bringing the several sections of the community referred to under one comprehensive supplementary plan, not associated with the compulsory scheme, provided for in this measure. I am prepared to accept the ‘Government’s assurances, and my support is given on the assumption that those assurances will be honoured. If the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not prepared to carry out the assurance to the House that within a reasonable time the supplementary bill will be introduced, honorable members may have to consider their pos11;1011. I do not desire unduly to stress my reasons for the appeal I made in my second-reading speech, that the Government should make this scheme more national in its scope. All honorable members are fully aware that this bill is not intended to cover all sections of the community. If honorable members opposite can put forward some cutanddried scheme which will help the Government to implement the policy which they are now advancing, the Government will be very thankful to them for their help and, no doubt, will be prepared to hasten the legislation. I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Government that a further bill will be brought down, but I deplore the fact that the incidence and the coverage of this bill cause anomalies that invite criticism.
.- It is strange to hear ministerial supporters devote half of the time occupied by their speeches in committee to apologies for the speeches that they made on the second reading. I was not aware that we had in this chamber such a fine acrobat as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). When he made his secondreading speech the honorable gentleman made the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) shudder. Glowering savagely at him, the honorable member for Richmond, who, like myself, has a great number of small farmers in his constituency, declared, “I shall support the second reading, but you will have to bring down a bill to provide for the small farmers. Do something for them !” Yet to-night he made a complete somersault and the savagery which had characterized his second-reading speech had given way to happiness, despite the fact that the Government has completely forgotten to assist the small farmers, whom, the honorable member is pledged to support.
I, however, am not concerned as to what honorable members opposite do; I am here to represent the small farmers, of whom I have many among my constituents. Those people who employ two nr three hands are, as the result of the poor returns from the fruit crops of the last three or four years, living on a pittance. They will have to contribute to the national insurance fund in respectof their employees, but they themselves will not be able to enjoy any benefit from the scheme, although their circumstances demand they should. The small saw-millers in my electorate are in the same plight. They are making little more than the basic wage themselves, but while they will have to contribute to the fund for their employees, they will not be able to contribute for benefits for themselves. Another class of persons, of whom there are thousands in Australia, who have been overlooked are the daughters in large families who sacrifice themselves and remain single in order to care for their ageing parents. I remind the committee that the property clauses of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act operated harshly on those self-sacrificing persons; they are being treated just as harshly now. I concede that when the parents die, the girl who cared for them generally inherits a small home, but she is left with no means of sustenance. She cannot get a pension because she has not been employed, and must go out in the cold world in search of a livelihood. Fishermen, small storekeepers and others, who are earning only sufficient to maintain themselves, would welcome some assistance under a scheme such as this. A comprehensive national insurance scheme would be of great benefit to a majority of the Australian people, hut this proposal has been brought forward merely with the object of placing upon the shoulders of the workers the responsibility of finding the money to meet the cost of invalid and old-age pensions. If the members of the Country party wish to assist those whom they represent, they should support the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
.- Unfortunately I was absent from the chamber when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) gave his reasons for asking the committee to agree to the postponement of this clause; but I heard, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I think that I am representing his views fairly when I say that the gravamen of his case is that no actuarial problem is involved in the proposal of the honorable member foi- Melbourne Ports. If it can be proved that an actuarial problem is involved, I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition fair-minded and reasonable as he is, will inform his colleagues that they are basing their arguments on wrong premises anc suggest that the proposal be withdrawn. I shall prove to the committee that there is an actuarial problem which cannot be. disguised. The main basis of the scheme is. of course, compulsion, and the object, of compulsion in all national insurance schemes is to include good and bad risks, and by so doing enable the contributions to be reduced to a reasonably ‘low level. All employees are being brought under this compulsory scheme so that there shall be a wide spread of risks and so that the contributions shall be small. Under this bill, there is room for a number of voluntary- contributors, who, as employees, have paid a minimum of 104 contributions. It appears that the number to be included is likely to be relatively small, and that the actuaries have taken that fact into consideration in assessing the rate of contributions.
– What justification has the honorable member for saying that the number will be small? What evidence has he of that?
– The manual worker is involved, and it is admitted that as the majority of them earn under £365 a year they will remain under the scheme.
– Contributors who have ceased to be employed may become employers, farmers or shopkeepers.
– The ages specified in the bill arc from sixteen to 65 years, and the average age of those who will come under the scheme will be between 31 and 32 years. If we include any voluntary contributors we have to determine whether the average age of shopkeepers and small farmers will be similar to the average age of those who are to be covered by the bill. It must be admitted that the majority of the voluntary contributors would be between 30 and 50 years of age. Very few would be between 16 and 25 years of age, and therefore we can assume that as the average age would be higher, the actuarial basis of the bill would be seriously interfered with’.
– The proportion of married persons would be higher amongst the voluntary contributors.
– Yes. We also have to realize that a voluntary system would not have such a large number of contributors; the experience of friendly societies tells us that. Of the 1,850,000 to come under this bill we have been informed that only 400,000 are voluntary contributors to friendly societies. It is, therefore, fair to assume that possibly only 25 per cent, of the small farmers and small shopkeepers would insure, and this limited number of contributors would be of greater average age than that of the compulsory contributors; this would necessarily affect the actuarial calculation. Would this limited number at a greater age affect the benefits aspect of. this scheme? According to the statistics appearing in the Australian Medical Journal of the 14th May, the average age of contributors to friendly societies is about 41.9, but under this scheme it will be only 31.5. That being so, the sickness rate will be 30 per cent. less.
Mr.Curtin. - The honorable member misunderstands the scheme. This bill provides for a longer contributing period than under friendly societies’ schemes.
– I understand the scheme and the amendment perfectly. If we allow a large number of voluntary contributors to be included in this scheme the average age will be higher, the sickness rate will be higher, and the proportion of married men will be greater. In these circumstances I defy any one to disprove my contention that an actuarial problem is involved in the amendment. If the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports be adopted the bill will have to be withdrawn until fresh actuarial calculations have been made. If the class mentioned by the honorable member be included, the contributions of the workers will have to be increased, and if that is the aim of the Labour party it is just as well that it should be known. Self-employed persons and small farmers should be provided for apart from this proposal, and the Government has already given an assurance that that will be done.
.- I support the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the clause be postponed with the object of providing that voluntary contributors who comply with the provisions of paragraphs c and d of this clause may be covered. Honorable members opposite are sheltering under the promise made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that another bill will be introduced later in which provision will be made for those whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports seeks to include in this bill. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) should suggest that if the persons whom we wish to include were covered by this bill the scheme would be actuarially unsound. The honorable member endeavoured to show that the average age of the voluntary contributors would be over 30 years, but he failed to take into consideration the children of self-employed men ; many of the children would come in at early ages from sixteen years onwards, and they would help to offset the age factor which the honorable member stressed. Why should those who are sheltering themselves behind the promise made by the Treasurer to introduce a supplementary bill, be satisfied that the new bill will be more actuarially sound than would the present bill if amended as we desire? If it is possible to provide for voluntary contributors in another measure, why should they not come under this scheme? The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked how it would be possible to police a voluntary scheme associated with the compulsory scheme. How is it going to be policed under the now bill ? It is logical to assume that, if the Government intends to introduce a new measure to cover those people who are excluded from this scheme, it will make some arrangement to police the scheme. I submit that it is equally possible to do that in this measure. Obviously, those Government supporters who criticized this weakness in the scheme last week are now running to shelter because the Government has intimated, so we understand, that the bill must be passed. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) suggested that honorable members of the Opposition are perturbed because Government supporters have taken this matter up, and have cramped their style. I believe the honorable gentleman said that the Government had stolen our thunder. If he will examine the printed amendments circulated by the Opposition he will find that the proposal on this clause was decided upon before any action was taken by Government supporters, so it is logical to assume that pressure was brought to bear upon the Prime Minister by his own supporters. We have adopted the suggestion of the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), who appealed to honorable members on this side to co-operate with the Government.
We are offering constructive criticism of the hill with a view to improving , the scheme. But what do we find? The Treasurer sits hack and, apparently, is not prepared to accept any suggestions from this side of the chamber. The Commonwealth Year-Booh shows that there are 2,099,000 persons in the selfemployed group in the Commonwealth. The amendment has been drafted with a view to including not the whole of the people in this category, but at least some of the self-employed as well as those who have been for 104 weeks contributing to the insurance fund as employees. I fail to see how the adoption of the amendment would destroy the actuarial balance of the scheme. I appeal to the Treasurer to give further consideration to the amendment, so that even-handed justice may be meted out to the people.
– Had this bill been drafted on a purely national .basis, there would not have been occasion for the debate which has taken place this evening. Why those people who will be affected by the amendment were not included and adequately provided for in the bill is beyond my comprehension. I have always been a strong advocate of the inclusion of the small employer and self-employed person, and I was hoping that some amendment would have been submitted to include them.
Unfortunately, from an actuarial point of view, the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), though admirable in intent, is not practicable. I am afraid that its repercussions would be detrimental to the general scheme. In the first place, the actuarial calculations on which the bill is based are founded on the vital statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, and ‘ have definite relation to compulsory contributions to a national insurance scheme. Therefore, it is not actuarially safe to include in one measure, as is now suggested, provisions relating to compulsory and voluntary contributions, ‘because these must necessarily be estimated on different actuarial bases.
– Already we have that blemish in this bill.
– - That is not so. 1 think honorable, members of the Opposi tion have missed the point which I desire to develop, namely, that this scheme is founded on compulsory contributions. In other words, in order to become a voluntary contributor to it, the insured person must go through the gate, as it were, of compulsory insurance contributions.
– That does not affect my contention.
– It does, at least to this extent: the features or factors upon which the success of this national insurance proposal depends have been taken into consideration by the actuaries and they fixed the contribution rate of 3s. for males in conformity with parallel vital statistics. In order to make a proper actuarial calculation, it is necessary to have definite figures, particularly as to minimums and age groups. In their calculations in connexion with this proposal, the actuaries knew from the vital statistics at their command the age groups of the people who have to be provided for, and from whom contributions would be received. On that basis, they determined the amount of weekly compulsory contributions to the scheme. If, therefore, it is desired to include in this scheme a considerable body of voluntary contributors, it is important to know, first, the number to be provided for, and secondly, the groups or age compositions of those who are to be introduced. The actuarial calculations under the scheme introduced by Sir Earle Page in 1928 were on a different basis altogether, for the simple reason that that proposal provided for voluntary contributions, which is not the case in connexion with this scheme. This proposal definitely disregards as a base the voluntary aspect of national insurance, whereas under the former bill the contribution1 rate was based on a certain risk for voluntary contributors.
– This bill does not disregard voluntary contributions.
– I impress on some of my Labour friends that if we introduce into this scheme the principle of voluntary contributions, regardless of the circumstances and health conditions of the people to he included, and without accurate knowledge of their numbers and age compositions, the effect will be either detriment to the scheme itself, or an increase of the rate of general contributions.
– We believe in voluntary contributions.
– If we are going to open the door to voluntary contributions, we should be prepared to take the risk of undulyloading employee contributors whom the honorable member and his friends say they represent in this chamber.
I have been looking for a way to provide for that important section of the community, the small employer groups. The income of many of these people is below the basic wage. I confess that I have not much faith in the soundness of voluntary proposals to relieve properly this section of the people. I say quite candidly that I do not think that the Treasurer can bring down a measure to include these people that will be acceptable to me, at all events; but I think we can provide equitable treatment for those who are unfavorably affected by this measure, by limiting their responsibility as employers. In my opinion the amendment will upset the actuarial calculations on which the soundness of this scheme depends. My experience suggests that we should not take this risk, particularly when the alternative is to increase contributions. If the bill is actuarially sound, and is based on the exclusion of voluntary contributions, it is logically impossible, without adding to the risk, to include at the same rate, a large group of citizens making voluntary contributions. The bill is bad enough in its present form; I urge honorable members not to make it worse.
.- The substance of the argument of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) is that the actuarial basis of the scheme will be disturbed if the committee postpones consideration of the clause as an instruction to the Government to widen the range of voluntary insurance. I point out to the honorable gentleman that the Treasurer has already securedthe authority of the committee, re-inforced by a message from the Administrator, greatly to extend the obligations of the Crown. Therefore, from the time that this bill was introduced, we have seen its actuarial basis changed from point to point. When the Treasurer, after a series of caucus meetings, decided to frame amendments to his own bill, he found that the actuarial basis of the measure had been so disturbed as to make it imperative for him to get from the committee two appropriation resolutions in respect of the one measure.
– That does not happen to be the fact.
Mr.CURTIN.- It is a fact. When the second-reading stage had been passed, he obtained the approval of the committee to a resolution for an appropriation sufficient for the purposes of the bill as drawn. Then he prepared a list of amendments to his own bill, and because these would have involved a larger appropriation than had been provided for-
– Two of them.
Mr.CURTIN.- I do not care how the Treasurer narrows it down. The actuarial basis as originally framed has been shattered by the Minister himself, and one appropriation measure was inadequate.
The next point I wish to make is in relation to the contention by several honorable members opposite thatit is not practicable to have voluntary insurance under a bill which provides for a compulsory scheme. That is the argument of the Treasurer and of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). The answer is that clause 18, with which we are now concerned, deals exclusively with the persons qualified for voluntary insurance, and prescribes the conditions under which voluntary insurance may be effected. It also states what those who desire to be voluntarily insured have to do in order to come within the limiting qualifications which the clause specifies. The difference between the clause and the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is that the latter proposes that a wider section of the community than mere employees shall be given an opportunity to take advantage of the measure. Several honorable members opposite are anxious that that shall be done. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) remarked that one of the cardinal blots on the scheme is that many persons are to be prevented from voluntarily becoming insured. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) also said this, and went .on to point out that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer had promised to bring down a supplementary measure to cover the persons excluded by the clause as drawn, but who would be included if the proposal of the honorable member for Mel.bourne Ports were accepted. Ministerial supporters have accepted the assurance given by the Government. I do not know whether I am wan-anted in accepting the assurances of Ministers in this respect, any more than those with regard to air-mail services or a 40-hour week. Can the promises of the Prime Minister be accepted ? What did the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) say of assurances given by the ‘Government? Ho now sits at the table as Assistant Minister for Commerce, but on the 22nd October, 1936, he” quoted from a letter he had written to the Prime Minister, and remarked: - . i concluded the letter by telling the right honorable gentleman that it would be useless to tell the people in my electorate to trust the Government in this matter, because, speaking quite frankly, they distrusted it.
That is the certificate of credibility which the Assistant Minister gave to assurances tendered by the Prime Minister.
The issue is clear-cut and simple. Certainly the proposal .of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would involve the use of the power which the Treasurer obtained for himself yesterday, namely, the power to”., submit amendments which would have the effect of increasing the > appropriation. The Treasurer has authority, by virtue of the., decision of the committee, to move such amendments, even though they might increase the amount of the appropriation. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports proposed that we should postpone this clause, as an instruction to the Treasurer to bring down an amendment to, widen the scope of the clause as drafted. The Opposition ‘ quite recognizes that the burden on the budget would be increased by enabling an individual who. was not an employee to come in as an insured person by paying both the employee’s and the employer’s contribution. . That would put the person whom we might call A in the same relation to the Crown as another person, B, except that B would pay half the contribution, and B’s employer would pay the other half. In both instances the relation of the Crown to the insured person would be actuarially identical. I disregard the arguments of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Eadden). No proposal for the improvement of the conditions of the working classes has ever been advanced without statistics being submitted to prove the impossibility of giving effect to it, although, a year or so afterwards, experience has shown that what was said to be impossible of achievement could easily be done. Therefore, I decline to subject this important measure for improved social services to the decision of the mere arithmetical calculators. I prefer that this Parliament should use the resources of the nation to give effect to the kind of national insurance scheme which we believe should be the first and most important contribution to a general enlargement of Commonwealth services.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in his earlier remarks, said that this amendment would involve no actuarial problem.
– No insuperable problem.
– The honorable gentleman did not use the word “ insuperable “. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in supporting the amendment, said that he could see no difference between a voluntary contributor under the clause as now drawn and a voluntary contributor under the clause as it would read if amended as proposed. Those two statements, taken separately or together, seem to indicate rather a lack of appreciation of the principles underlying this measure. It surely must be well known to both those honorable gentlemen that in voluntary insurance we get a selection against the fund. In compulsory insurance we obtain an average cross-section of the working population coming in - the healthy and the sick, the old and the young, people with large families and those with no families at all. Voluntary insurance picks out those who have most to gainby becoming contributors. The persons who would tend to come in under the amendment would be the elderly, and not the young.We should attract those persons who would need a greater degree of medical treatment, and not those who are vigorous and healthy. We should get persons who are married, and probably have large families, rather than young bachelors. The factor of selection against the fund is to an extent inherent in this clause as now drawn, but the guarding qualification is that the persons to whom voluntary insurance is to be given will have already been employed, and, were, when in employment, part of the average cross-section of the Australian working community. Those persons will have been in work for at least two years, probably for considerably longer.
– There is no medical qualification for admission of the compulsorily insured person.
– No, but the average working man is reasonably healthy.
– Not more so than the average self-employer.
– Probably he is. It is quite right and proper that a clause of this kind, as now drawn, should be included in this measure, so that we could offer to those who had been compulsorily insured an opportunity, if they so desired, to continue as voluntary contributors. I should think that a large proportion of them would wish to continue their insurance. In other words, this clause permits voluntary insurance in a manner which is purely incidental to compulsory insurance. The persons who would come in under this voluntary arrangement would have previously been accepted by the Government as a risk and would have been insured. Therefore, the Government does the reasonable thing and continues their insurance when they happen for one of several reasons to graduate out of compulsory insurance. The introduction of voluntary contributors, who would come in because they had a great deal to gain, would upset the actuarial basis of the scheme, and, if the contributions remained as now proposed, the Government grant would probably have to be largely increased; in fact, the actuarial basis of the scheme would be grievously disturbed. I need not repeat what has been said regarding what the Government intends to do in the future.
– The Minister’s argument suggests a very definite actuarial problem with regard to the next bill.
– No. The Government is well able to cope with the problem, and it will introduce the second measure as soon as possible.
.- The Treasurer has stated that elderly and sick persons, and not the young, are the class likely to become voluntary contributors. He said nothing about people whomay be described as self-employed. They are not necessarily old; neither are they sick, and many of them are not married, yet no provision is made for them. The Treasurer said that the scheme was not going to usher in a new heaven and a new earth. There is no need to tell us that. The unemployed are quite well aware of it also, as are the doctors, who are being asked to give their services for 11s. a head, although in my district they are now receiving an average of 52s. from each industrial contributor to coverhis family. No provision is to be made in the scheme for daughters who remain at home and devote their lives to the care of sick parents. The bill makes no provision for them to become voluntary contributors, and so they are to be left out. Any person who has not an employer cannot become a voluntary contributor; this is unfair to many in addition to the unemployed. This has been called a national insurance scheme. It is a scheme, all right, and a very shrewd scheme, too. The Government proposes to take contributions by force from those people who, in the ordinary course of events, would never be able to save anything from their wages, and who must, perforce, rely upon the old-age pension when they can no longer work. Under this scheme, the Government proposes to make them contribute towards their pensions, but the Government is not fooling the people. It may be a shrewd scheme, but, thank God, honorable members on this side of the House have seen through it. The health insurance part of the scheme is being offered as a sop to the workers in the hope that they will overlook the fact that the Government stands to gain so much when the present old-age pension scheme, which is costing £15,000,000 a year at the present time, is abolished.
– It is not to be abolished.
– No, but the costs of it will be very small when this scheme is fully developed. No provision is made in the scheme for dairy-farmers, for instance, on whose behalf many honorable members opposite pleaded so eloquently. I notice that those same honorable members were brought to Canberra a day earlier this week to attend a party meeting so that the steam-roller might bs put over them, and all rebellion crushed out of them. It must be amusing to visitors in the gallery, who sat through the debate on the second reading of the bill, to see honorable members opposite turning somersaults-
– The honorable member must address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I do not know whether I am hard to understand, but that is what I am trying to do. I was pointing out that some honorable members on the other side had taken up a certain attitude during the second-reading debate, and had criticized this very clause. Now they are prepared to accept it, regardless of the hardship placed upon small farmers, business men and others. The motion by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has for its purpose the inclusion in the scheme of selfemployed persons, such as dairy-farmers, milk-vendors, small business men, auditors, &c, most of whom would like to come under it.
– Auditors are included now.
– I should be called to order if I answered the honorable member as he deserves. There is no provision made for auditors who have no permanent employers. The honorable member is the greatest hypocrite and twister in the House. The bill makes’ no provision for such self-employed persons as postal contractors, carriers, teamsters, taxi-drivers, fishermen, fruit barrowmen, hawkers and showmen, including boxers and “bone crushers “. They would like to come under the scheme, and not all of them are old or sick, or even married, and the Treasurer has suggested that only the old, the sick and the married will seek to become voluntary contributors. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that the purpose of the motion was to wreck the bill, but that is not true. Honorable members on this side of the chamber should be given credit for trying to improve the bill - for trying to make it a real national scheme.
Last, but not least, we come to the greatest tragedy of all, the exclusion from the scheme of the unemployed. Again and again on the hustings, government supporters have told the people what the Government would do for the unemployed if it were returned to office. The unemployed were told that, if they would vote for the ‘United Australia party, they would get- good jobs at steady wages. Now, the very Government that gave that promise, -proposes to exclude the unemployed from the benefits of this insurance scheme.
We have been told that the scheme is, in many respects, a replica of the English one. I do not know why it should have been thought necessary to bring an English expert to Australia to advise us. Evidently the Government has no confidence in its own advisers. Perhaps the idea was that the English expert, instead of the Government, should bear the odium for tho shortcomings of the scheme. We have always prided ourselves in Australia that we led the world in social legislation, but in regard to the number of contributions necessary to qualify for benefits Ave are definitely behind the legislation for national insurance schemes in many European countries. I have not heard a satisfactory explanation from the Treasurer why the number of contributions has been fixed at 104, or why it is stipulated that 26 contributions must be paid before a contributor shall be entitled to receive sick benefits. It is possible, that a miner, for instance, might have made only ten payments, or five, or even one, when he meets with an accident, or sickness for which compensation is not provided, that will put him off work for a considerable time. Is that man to receive no benefit at all? In the case of a fatal accident, of course, a miner would be entitled to compensation under State law, but in those instances not covered by State law, the injured person, apparently, would receive nothing unless he had paid 26 contributions. That is grossly unfair.
The Minister stated that inquiries had been made of friendly societies and insurance companies before the present scheme was drawn up. I have here the rule books of the Miners Federation, and if the Treasurer had read them he would be ashamed of the damned rubbish that ho is putting before the people as a national insurance scheme. It is a disgrace when an organization like the Miners Federation is able to operate a better scheme than the one which the Government proposes. The miners’ scheme covers, not only the miners themselves, but their families also, and by the payment of an additional 6d. they make provision for their unfortunate unemployed comrades to enjoy medical benefits for themselves and their families. I repeat that the Treasurer ought to be ashamed of himself for bringing in a scheme like this.
– I am not in the least ashamed.
– Members of the Government have said that all possible inquiries were made. We know that they brought from overseas experts who knew nothing about Australian conditions, and asked them to draw up a scheme for Australia. I have been asked to explain to the members of the Miners Federation this half-baked scheme of national insurance, although, before any of us in this House were bora, the miners had evolved for themselves a scheme that is infinitely superior to it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that he would disregard the arguments of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), but he did not attempt to refute them. The honorable gentleman also persistently asserted that the clause as drafted deals with voluntary ‘ subscribers, and, therefore, all voluntary subscribers might be covered by an amend ment of the clause. It is only a halftruth to say that this clause deals with voluntary subscribers; it deals with voluntary subscribers who have been, for a minimum period of two years - the period may be 20, 30 or even 40 years - compulsory subscribers as wage-earners. Whilst the minimum number of contributions is 104 in order to permit a man later on to become a voluntary subscriber, it may be that some of these people will have paid 1,000 or even 2,000 contributions.
– The honorable member is drawing a long bow
– Not at all. A subscriber will have paid 2,000 contributions in 40 years, and some of those covered by the scheme may contribute for a period of 49 years. It is probably safe to say that employees who become self-employed, and go on to the voluntary basis, will on the average have been compulsory contributors for about 25 years. In those circumstances, it is only elementary justice that these men should be able to retain their insurance by continuing to contribute voluntarily. It is to meet such cases that this clause has been drafted. I point out, however, that this is entirely different from the proposal to include as voluntary subscribers persons who have never been compulsory subscribers. Voluntary subscribers who have not entered as wageearners, will be provided for under another bill to be specially drawn to suit the circumstances of their case, and, in view of the promise given by the Government that such a measure will be brought down, the proposed amendment, is entirely superfluous.
– What special circumstances exist in their case?
– They have already been so fully described by other honorable members that I do not propose to go over that ground again. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) said that in the measure introduced in 1928, provision was made to include voluntary subscribers. Under that proposal they were to be admitted only up to the age of 45 years, a fact which, shows, I suggest, a recognition of the great difficulty which arises in respect of age where a voluntary scheme is concerned. I hope that in its promised bill to provide for self-employed persons, the Government will set a higher age limit than was proposed in the 1928 bill. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who, in his admirable speech, contended that it was advisable to keep the compulsory scheme and the purely voluntary scheme in separate compartments. If that be done, it will he very much easier to know just what the liability is under each, and if the liability under the voluntary scheme is found to be a great deal heavier than had been estimated, it can be more easily dealt with separately. Nearly all of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite seem to have been based on the premise that no provision is to bo made, other than what the amendment proposes, for small self-employers. If that were actually the case, at least some of their arguments would be admirable, but those honorable gentlemen know perfectly well that the promise of the Government to bring down a supplementary measure to cover such people, will be honoured.
– When was that promise made?
– It was made by the Prime Minister in the course of his second-reading speech on this measure. In view of that fact the adoption of the proposed amendment would mean, in effect, that we do not accept the Government’s assurance that such a measure will be brought down, and it would be charging the Government with acting in bad faith. I am not prepared to do that. I am just as much concerned as are honorable members opposite that some provision should be made for small employers generally, such as small farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers, &c. However, I know that, the supplementary measure is being prepared. We have been assured of its early introduction by the Treasurer as well as by the Prime Minister - I accept the Government’s assurance in that respect. For that reason, I repeat, the amendment proposed to this clause is entirely superfluous.
.- By his amendment the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) seeks to provide for voluntary contributors, embracing within the scheme unemployed persons and persons self-employed, as well as persons who have been in business, and for one reason or another have withdrawn from the employer class or retired from business altogether. It is amazing to hear repeated the same ingenious arguments put forward at an earlier stage by honorable members opposite, in an endeavour to convince somebody, even if they cannot convince themselves, that they have perfectly logical reasons for voting against a proposition which they advocated a few days earlier. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the honorable members for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) have been very hard-pressed to . show that the proposed extension of tho scope of the bill would be unworkable. So far as I can understand them, they say that the only people who would come under a voluntary scheme - and apparently they forget that this clause already deals with voluntary subscribers - would be the aged and the sick, and, generally, persons who are bad insurance risks. The Treasurer said that the principal argument against combining the voluntary contributors in this scheme with the compulsory contributors, was that the former would represent a selective class of contributors, who would merely invest in the scheme in order to make something out of it. I point out that the clause as it stands at present is selective because a person who, after having contributed for two years, becomes unemployed goes out of the employee class, has the choice of becoming a voluntary contributor or drifting right out of the scheme entirely. Such persons enjoy a selective risk as much as any who might be embraced in the scheme if the proposed amendment were adopted.
– But the average period for which such persons will have paid compulsorily, will be 25- years.
– No basis of calculation exists to show at what age people drift out of employment or business, a?nd any calculation the honorable member or his informants may have made in this respect is purely ‘speculative. Persons drift out of business at all ages and for all sorts of reasons. The point I emphasize is that the clause, as it stands at present, remains selective so far as voluntary contributors are concerned. After a person has contributed compulsorily for a period of two years-
– Or ten years or more.
– The minimum qualification under the bill is two years, and after having contributed for two years, a person has the choice of remaining a voluntary contributor or drifting right out of the scheme altogether. One such person may assume that he will remain healthy and, therefore, does not require insurance; another may be a sick man and may elect to become a voluntary contributor because he thinks he will get cheap insurance. Thus the only people who will be salvaged under this clause as drafted, are sick people who are looking for cheap insurance. Therefore; the conditions involved in the proposed amendment, which tho Treasurer contends will be fatal to the scheme, namely, that only the sick and the aged will insure voluntarily, applies with equal force to the clause as it stands at present. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) contends that it is impossible to blend a voluntary scheme with a compulsory scheme. I point out that such a blending has already been effected, because this bill contains a provision that all persons employed must remain contributors, and those who emerge from the employee class may exercise their own discretion as to whether or not they will remain in the scheme as voluntary’ contributors. Another objection raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs to the proposed amendment, is that the basis of this measure is compulsion. He asked how could an assessment be made of the voluntary contributors who would be offering for insurance if the proposed amendment were adopted. In reply, I ask the honorable member how an assessment could be made of the number of insured persons who would elect to remain as voluntary contributors under the clause as it stands. Actuarially that estimate would be just as problematical as the assessment of the number of persons who would be offering as voluntary contributors under the amendment. The honorable gentleman further questioned whether the financial stability of the scheme would be assured were the amendment adopted. Last week the honorable gentleman himself went to great pains to show that under the scheme generally there would be an enormous surplus annually, and he challenged the basis of the calculation made by the Government’s advisers in respect of the financial stability of the scheme. He suggested that this scheme is too heavily loaded with contributions and would produce an enormous annual surplus. The honorable member for Darling Downs admits that if a new bill is brought forward to cover all those classes which honorable members on this side desire to bring in under this amendment, the rate of contributions will be practically prohibitive. If the proposed amendment involves an extraordinary insurance risk because many voluntary contributors will view the scheme as a profitable investment, and as the scheme as it stands will show a huge annual surplus, then this is certainly the best opportunity to include small farmers or self-employed persons in a national insurance scheme. We should prefer to embrace them in a scheme which promises on its ‘ present basis to show an annual surplus, rather than to provide for them in a new hill by means of a purely voluntary scheme which will involve prohibitive contributions. This bill has been put forward as a health scheme, but if it is to be a health scheme in reality it should cover, not only those persons who are actually employed in industry, but also those who are competent to be so employed. One of the principal inducements held out to employers by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his second-reading speech-,1 as a set-off against the tax they will have to pay, was that the tax would be a profitable investment, because their employees would be kept in excellent health. If that is a good reason for taxing employers, it is an equally sound reason for providing for potential employees so that they will he in good health when they obtain employment. I have the same objection to the Government’s stand on this matter as to its refusal to cover the children of insured persons. I claim then, that any scheme that takes up a person only when he becomes a unit in industry, tackles the problem too late.
The Minister said that relief workers can come under the scheme, but the conditions covering relief workers make it virtually impossible for some of them ever to enjoy any real benefits under the scheme, as either compulsory or voluntary contributors. There are many thousands of relief workers in Sydney alone who work one week in four. If they have to contribute for 104 weeks before they can become voluntary contributors and enjoy certain other privileges, eight years will elapse before some of them will have a chance to share in the benefits of this scheme. Yet no workers are so greatly in need of a health insurance scheme as are the unemployed. Those who are least fitted to face the rigours of life are forced to maintain themselves on one week’s pay in four. They are the most underfed, the most poorly clad, and the worst housed section of the community. But if they can become voluntary contributors, the door should be left open for that to be done. If the amendment be carried, that door will be left open for them, whereas under the clause as drafted they will be excluded from the benefits of the scheme. E disagree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), who suggested that acceptance of the amendment would lead to intolerable anomalies. It is ridiculous to provide that an employer of labour can be taxed to pay contributions in respect of his employees and yet be prevented from becoming a voluntary contributor in the event of his failure in business. Such a man would have paid half the insurance premiums of each of his employees, and yet be debarred from enjoying any benefits of the scheme. Last week an employer of labour told me that, although he had paid £95 a week in wages to over twenty employees, he had drawn only £3 10s. to maintain himself and his family. Had this scheme been in operation, most of his profits would have been absorbed by insurance premiums, and yet he himself would be excluded from the benefits of the scheme, ifr. Rosevear.
.– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) stated that any honorable member who supported the amendment would, by that action, indicate that he did not believe the promise of the Government to introduce a second insurance measure to cover self-employed persons. I do not hold that view. I accept the Government’s promise, but in my opinion such persons could easily be brought within the scope of this measure. The Government has admitted that self-employed persons should be included in a scheme of national insurance. I desire to compare the contributions. of a self-employed person, if he were provided for in this measure, with the contributions he would have to pay under the legislation which the Government has promised to introduce. At this stage, the amount which he will be called upon to pay under the promised measure cannot be accurately estimated, because we have been given no definite information regarding the Government’s intentions in respect of this section of the community. Under the bill now before us the employer will pay ls. 6d. a week, the employee will pay a similar sum, and the Government’s subvention, on a flat rate, will amount to £1,000,000 a year. It is reasonable to assume that with the same benefits under the supplementary bill a self-employed person would be called upon to pay an amount at least equal to the combined contributions of the employer and the employee under the bill now before us, namely 3s. a week. Surely it is not suggested that under the future scheme there will be no government subvention! The flat rate subvention under the present bill works out at 2-i-d. a week for each insured person. If the benefits under the supplementary bill for the self-employed person are to be the same as under this bill, it is reasonable to conclude that the contribution will be not less than about 3s. a week, and that the Government’s subvention will be at least 2£d. for each insured person. If the statements made are correct, that the majority of persons who will elect to come into the voluntary scheme will be bad risks, the Government’s subvention will have to he much greater. As apparently estimates can be made of the number of voluntary ex-employees who are likely to come under the provisions of this bill,, it should- be possible to estimate the number of self-employed persons who would come under the supplementary bill. Then I say it is possible for the Government to bring down a message from the Governor-General providing for their inclusion and increasing the Government’s subvention accordingly. In order to cover self-employed persons, it may be necessary for the Treasury to provide an additional £250,000. If some such amount will have to be provided under the promised bill, why cannot it be done under this bill? Some age limit would, of course, be necessary. The bill introduced in 19.28 by the then Acting Prime Minister, Sir Earle Page, provided for an age limit of 45 years. In a future bill it might be found that the age limit would have to be higher or lower. There would, of course, have to be a government subvention. If that would be necessary under a supplementary bill, I do not see why similar provision cannot be made in this bill. If it were provided in this bill on the same basis as it will be calculated under any future measure, in what way would it upset the actuarial basis of the legislation now under consideration ?
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that no concrete proposals had been outlined by any honorable member. He asked how the selfemployed persons would be policed, if included in this measure.
– They would police themselves.
– Of course they would. I ask the honorable member for Wentworth how he thinks the commission which is to be set up under this legislation would police the employee who becomes a voluntary contributor. I submit that he would police himself. He would go to the nearest post office and purchase stamps to the amount of the payment required. If he did not make the necessary contributions he would automatically drop out of the scheme. The ex-employee who elected voluntarily to be included in the scheme would be induced to stay in it because of the fact that he had made 104 contributions. If, however, he dropped out of the scheme, because of an increase of his income, or a decision to become self-employed, or on account of unemployment,, he would still have to make his payments. Therefore, the argument advanced by the honorable member for Wentworth falls to the ground.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated that the voluntary insurance phase of the French scheme had been a failure. That scheme operated from 1930 to 1935, during which period France passed through the worst economic crisis in its history. It is only reasonable to expect that a voluntary insurance scheme would break down under such conditions.
I am not convinced that provision for self-employed persons cannot be made in this measure. It may take more time, and it may delay the passage of the bill, but a matter of this importance would justify the delay. I am most concerned that no intimation has been given to the committee of what lines the supplementary bill will follow. I believe that that could be done by the actuaries who have laid the basis of the present scheme. If the supplementary hill comes before Parliament and we decide that the contributions are too large, or that it does not provide for these people as we think it should, we shall then have to act as we might think proper at the time. For those reasons I should like to see the amendment incorporated in this bill.
– Before I try to reply to some of the contradictory remarks made by honorable members, I should like to draw attention to what is to me a most disheartening feature of the attitude to this measure. When the Government talked about introducing this legislation, it did so because of an urge from Geneva, and because of the reports of delegates who had attended conferences there. The urge was to spread and enlarge the field of social legislation, which was meant to raise the physical and economic standards of the people. It was not a question of minute actuarial calculation; it was a question of Australia advancing into line with other countries, after having been behind them for many years in social legislation. Every week we receive a report from Geneva showing that other countries are passing new and amending social legislation. The lust one that I received last week dealt with a poor and small country, with a population no larger than Australia - Yugoslavia. The scheme there has many better features than the one before us; it is more comprehensive, and it willbe no more expensive. My disappointment is because the committee, in discussing the bill, seems to have forgotten the fundamental requirements. Hearing one member after another telling the Government how to make the scheme more secure by getting rid of the dangerous risks and selecting the good ones, one would think that the discussion was taking place at a meeting of aboard of directors of an insurance company, or of a board of directors associated with a money-lending scheme. We are losing sight of the purpose of national insurance. I have read probably more than any other member of this committee about schemes of insurance passed in other parts of the world, and about amendments of schemes previously in operation. I admit that most of those schemes are not of a national character - that is to say, they are not run by the government of the country- concerned. They are either associated with groups of industries, or are run by municipalities or groups of employers, but they are more complete, they provide more safeguards, and they give larger and greater benefits to the people than the scheme now before us proposes. Every scheme in existence is a three-party scheme, which means that the Government stands behind it. The government concerned never did, and never will be able to calculate accurately all the losses and to estimate exactly the amount of money required. In all the schemes of which I have read it is mandatory for the Government to determine from time to time what its quota shall be in order to keep the scheme solvent. There is no fixed amount of government contribution. The Government may, from time to time, add to its subvention to meet the effects of bad seasons, depressions, and the like. It is impossible to calculate such things on a purely actuarial basis. I am disappointed very much at the turn the discussion has taken, and I believe that the people of Australia will be dissatisfied too. They believed, when the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) introduced the bill, that it was meant to be what he said it would be - something that would add to their economic security, something that would raise their standard of living and improve them physically, mentally and economically, both in their early years and in their old-age. But the bill does not mean that at all, according to the calculations made to-night. Having said that, and having expressed my disappointment, I should like to refer to two or three statements that have been made.
I think that the two most constructive speeches were made by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). They were both keenly critical and full of constructive arguments, but, even in them, there was a glaring inconsistency. In the first speech, he criticized the whole scheme and the Government’s outlook, and charged the Government with being too pessimistic. He showed, successfully, that the £10,000,000 budgeted for was in excess of what he considered would.be the requirements. He pointed out that the Government was too careful, and was either charging too much or giving too little Very cleverly and constructively, he backed up every suggestion, and proved to his own satisfaction, and to mine, that the Government had been too cautious and had made too sure of having surplus money to play with. To-night, he struck an entirely different note. He said we must be very careful and must work out the calculations exactly, and he tried to show that we could not include too many self-employed persons. He said that provision for both voluntary and compulsory contributors could not be included in the same bill. When answered on that point, he admitted that we are already, in this bill, grouping together compulsory and voluntary insurance; but he never, and neither did the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), explain why the two classes were not included in the scheme in its original form.
– Does the honorable member know any country that has successfully grouped them together?
– I know as much about schemes in other countries as the honorable member. I have read them and pondered them so much that I am sick and tired of them. Some one has said that there would be difficulty in policing the voluntary contributors. I answer that by saying that history and experience show that we have had to employ highly-paid inspectors, and we have had to invoke the aid of the police in order to enforce arbitrary law-made agreements. There is not half the difficulty in policing voluntary arbitration agreements as there is in policing compulsory awards.
– The friendly societies are also an admirable example of the success of voluntary schemes.
– I agree with the honorable member. Friendly societies are established on the same basis as I would have for the voluntary contributions under this bill, that is to say, if contributions are paid up, the benefits of membership accrue to the member, but, if they are not, the member’s name is removed from the list. Members of friendly societies penalize themselves; they do not have to be policed. The same state of affairs would exist in respect of this bill if my amendment were carried. There is no reason why this bill should not be extended in its scope in the direction that I desire; already it makes provision for not only compulsory, but also voluntary contributions. The Treasurer said that that was partly so, but added that the Government under this bill had selected the safest and strongest classes to enjoy the right to make voluntary contributions. This bill, therefore, was introduced to help, not the sick and needy, but those who least need it. That is a contradiction of the fundamental principle of national health insurance - assistance to those who most need it. The only inference that can be drawn from the Treasurer’s remark is this: “We are taking the best risks in under this bill, and the worst risks will be covered in legislation to be introduced later”. If it is impossible for the Government, with the help of all the contributions of the com pulsorily insured persons, who are the best risks, to accept more voluntary contributors, how will it be possible for it to introduce another scheme, which will not have that backing, to take in the worst risks amongst voluntary contributors? Honorable members who are pinning their faith to the assurance given by the Treasurer, that supplementary legislation will be introduced, should give close attention to that phase of the matter.
From what I have been told of the ability of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) I have the greatest respect for him. He has reached a high place in his profession, and has an aptitude for mathematics. I remember that the honorable gentleman cited figures to show that a gigantic surplus was to be accumulated in the national insurance funds. Yet, to-night, he advanced the theory that if the classes of persons to whom I have referred were included as voluntary contributors, the whole scheme might be thrown out of balance. After having forecast that the fund would have a huge surplus, the honorable member is now of the opinion that, if more voluntary contributors than are already provided for in this bill came under the scheme, the fund would not be able to remain solvent. He would, he said, pin his faith to the supplementary bill which will introduce a scheme to cover all the worst risks, which will not have the backing of the contributions from the best risks.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), in justification of his decision to await a further bill which will, we are assured by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), cover such persons as have been mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), said that if the clause were left as printed only a few voluntary contributors would come within the scheme.Does the honorable member know how many?
– Nor do we! One class of voluntary contributors already provided for in this bill has escaped the attention of the committee; I refer to women who, after having contributed on a compulsory basis, elect, when the compulsion disappears, to continue their membership of the scheme on a voluntary basis. I dare say that the time will arrive when two-thirds of the married women of Australia will be voluntary contributors to the national insurance scheme as it is proposed to-day. I have no statistics, but my wide experience of the country suggests that from two to seven years after taking jobs, girls, who, by reason of their employment, will be compelled to contribute to the fund, will marry. Under this bill every one of them will be entitled to make voluntary contributions to continue their membership of the insurance scheme. In justification of their opposition to the amendment the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) declared that we could not have two schemes, one compulsory and the other voluntary, running together, but - 1 point out that eventually about half of the adult population of Australia will enjoy the privileges of national insurance as voluntary contributors. That destroys the validity of their arguments.
I was astounded at the cold-blooded manner in which the Treasurer spoke. Before the elections he and his colleagues told the electors of what they were going to do for humanity by introducing a national insurance measure which would provide for all the people. The failure of the Government to carry out that pledge reminds me- of the fact that whereas, when our soldiers were going to the Great War, they were told that on their return, they would have everything that the country could give to them, actually every concession to them was measured with miserly care. Before the elections, ministerial supporters told the people that they were to be given health insurance which would cover everybody. Now they are telling the people that, like the insurance companies, they can take only the best risks.
– We told the country that we should do exactly as we are now doing.
– Nothing of the sort. I can bring to this chamber the pamphlets that were issued and fling them in the honorable member’s teeth. The Treasurer to-night was like a butcher weighing a bullock to see how much meat and profit it would yield. His statements were not humane, but cold-blooded commercialism, and showed no consideration for the sick and unfortunate. The Treasurer’s attitude is that he should go through the people like a drover, draft out the good lives, and throw the others aside to die. Honorable members opposite are steeped in the psychology of commercialism and profit. Not even in a measure which purports to be humane can they take any other attitude. I rose also for the purpose of expressing amazement at the way honorable gentlemen opposite have handled this question. I regret that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is not in the chamber. The honorable gentleman said that he approved of the whole of the proposal. Of course, he did! He has been whining “ national insurance “ all over the country, and has built his political career on it. He attends mothers’ meetings and discusses at. length the advantages of a comprehensive national insurance scheme, . but in this chamber he declines to support those whose claims he is alleged to advocate. He is the biggest political humbug and hypocrite in the Parliament.
– ‘Order! I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– I am referring to the honorable member for Parramatta, who has stated from time to time that he is anxious to assist all those whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports wishes to include in this bill, but when he has the opportunity to do so he declines.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not entitled to refer to statements made by the honorable member for Parramatta on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I am not doing so ; but surely I am entitled to refer to statements made in committee by that honorable member. The honorable member for Parramatta said that he wished certain self-employed persons and others in that category to be included, .but when he has the opportunity to assist to that end he runs away from his job.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is making these statements when the honorable member for Parramatta is out of the chamber.
– The Treasurer should ask the honorable member to be present.
– I have sent for him.
– When he returns I shall repeat what I have already said, and I shall also advise the electors of the attitude which he has adopted. The honorable member said that he would like the bill to include voluntary contributors, but when a vote is taken he will be absent. The honorable member is trying to square himself with his electors; but the people will be guided by the way in which he votes and not by what he says. The Treasurer has said that if the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports be adopted it will open the door too ‘ widely, and in effect some of the most needy cases will have to be included. The Treasurer also intimated that the Government intends to bring down another bill to provide for an insurance scheme based on voluntary contributions. It is assumed that those persons whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports wishes to include will be covered ‘by later legislation, because, according to the Treasurer, if they were included in this measure the scheme would break down. In effect we are told that we must swallow this bill “hook, line and sinker”, and that the Government will bring down another measure to include those whose inclusion in this measure would destroy it.
– The word of the Treasurer should be accepted.
– Does the honorable member think that the Treasurer is a magician, and that he has the power to make a scheme sound which he has already proved is unsound? Practically all the speeches -of honorable members opposite have justified the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the clause should be postponed as a direction to the Treasurer to amend the measure to make it a more humane piece of legislation instead of what it is to-day - a piece of plain, brutal commercialism.
.- lt is with some diffidence that I rise to support the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), because I have already condemned the bill and stated in the strongest language which I can command that it has no virtues. I believe that the most fortunate persons in Australia will be those who will be excluded from its provisions, but if there are any who think that some benefits can be obtained by coming under the scheme, we shall be acting unfairly if we exclude them. During the election campaign, and also during the speeches on the motion for the second reading, we were told that the object of the bill is to help that unfortunate section which is unable to help itself; but the members of the Labour party firmly believe that the bill has been introduced to relieve the wealthy section of the community of the responsibility which it is now called upon to accept in providing social services for the Australian people. We further said that this is not a national insurance scheme. If the Treasurer brings down a further measure to cover another section of the community who are not provided for in this measure and who he says will include the worst insurance risks, there will be a number of insurance schemes providing uniform benefits, but in respect of which the people will be making disproportionate contributions. ‘The members of the Country party contend that many primary producers who will get no benefits from the scheme will have smaller incomes than their employees in respect of whom they will be contributing to the fund, but when we ask the members of that party to support a proposal under which primary producers can come into the scheme as voluntary contributors, they shelter themselves behind the promise of the Treasurer that supplementary legislation to cover this section will be introduced at a later date. The supporters of the Government admit that it is proposed to include only the best insurance risks in this scheme, and, therefore, the worst insurance risks will be included in a supplementary proposal. Those who come in on a voluntary basis under the supplementary legislation will be compelled to pay higher contributions than insured persons under this scheme. Can the members of the Country party justify their action in this regard? The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) is the only member of the Country party who has been consistent in expressing the view of the country people. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) referred somewhat extensively to the actuarial position. I have heard a good deal about actuaries’ and about figures, but I do not know that figures in this instance prove a great deal, particularly when handled by unscrupulous individuals. It has also been said that “ figures can’t lie, but liars can figure “. When we examine the figures that have been put forward there is evidence of the fact that liars can figure. The honorable member for Darling Downs, when speaking earlier, said that the actuaries had failed to fix a contribution in keeping with the benefits which insured persons would receive, that the contributions had been based on too high a level, and that the Government would build up an enormous surplus. The honorable member now says that the actuarial calculations cannot be interfered with, and that the small farmers, although they are recognized by Government supporters as among the worst insurance risks, should come in under some other scheme under which they will have to pay higher contributions than will be required under this bill. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Darling Downs said that if the scheme were widened to include small primary producers and other small self-employed persons, the workers would have to pay a higher contribution, otherwise the scheme would be actuarially unsound. If his previous statement that contributions have been fixed on too high a scale, is correct then it must be possible to bring in additional classes, even if they are “bad insurance risks”, without increasing the contributions. Another honorable member said that any interference with the actuarial basis of the scheme would jeopardize the position of those who would come in at sixteen years of age, because there would be no guarantee that when they reached the age of 65 years they would receive benefits to which they would be entitled and for which they had contributed all their lives. There is no guarantee that the scheme will be able to do all that is claimed for it. The Government itself does not guarantee the solvency of the fund out of which payments are to be made. The actuaries who fixed the contributions were necessarily obliged to base their calculations on the available data and they were not able to say what calls would be made upon the fund in the future. I notice that in another part of the bill there is provision that persons who served in the military or naval forces will be relieved of the necessity to make contributions to the fund. That opens up a wide possibility, which I think should be considered. What will happen to the fund if, unfortunately, Australia becomes involved in another war, and large numbers of workers, who will be contributors to this scheme, are called up for naval and military service? The bill provides that they will be relieved of contributions to the fund, the soundness of which will therefore be affected. This reinforces my contention that the scheme is weak in that the Government does not guarantee the solvency of the fund, and the actuaries have had to depend upon the available data and cannot say definitely what calls will be made upon the fund in the future.
Let me examine the attitude of Ministers and some Government supporters. The Treasurer, when introducing the bill, said the intention was to place on the statute-book a scheme giving ample insurance cover for employees in the Commonwealth against certain contingencies. But what does the honorable gentleman now propose? He proposes a scheme entirely different from that which the Government promised the people at the general elections and upon which the actuaries based their calculations. His changed attitude shows conclusively that the Government’s purpose was to relieve its wealthy friends of the responsibility to provide, by way of direct taxes, the funds necessary for a full range of social services in this country. I have had some doubt as to my attitude to the proposal, because I recognize that benefits will be given to only a small proportion of those who will be covered by this scheme. I put it to the Government that if it is right to argue that the widening of the field of insured persons will increase the appropriation, it is equally right to contend that a reduction of the number to be covered by the scheme will reduce the amount of the appropriation. I suggest that instead of compelling workers, the great majority of whom do notwant to be covered by the scheme, to contribute to the fund, the Government should allow them to be excluded, and allow small farmers and other rural selfemployed persons, a great many of whom it is said by the Government supporters desire to be covered, to be included. If the workers were given the opportunity to express their opinion of the scheme they would tell the Government in no uncertain terms that they do not want to he included in it. It will satisfy nobody, because it includes workers who do not want the protectionwhich this Government says it is going to give them. They know, from bitter experience, that when this Government talks about bestowing benefits on the workers their position will as the result of such legislation be worse than ever it was. If members of the Country party are consistent, and want to have included in the scheme their small farmer friends, for whose welfare they say they are so much concerned, let them now vote for the amendment. I well recollect members of the Country party on other occasions making excuses in this Parliament for speaking in favour of a certain course, and. then voting against it. No doubt they will do the same in connexion with this scheme. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) is the exception. It is refreshing to hear a member of the Country party vote in accordance with his declared convictions. Up to the present, at all events, that honorable gentleman has not been side-tracked by promises of Cabinet rank, like the honorable member for Wentworth-
-Order! The honorable member must not discuss the motives actuating the honorable member for Wimmera or any other honorable member.
-I have said all that I desire to say about the honorable member for Wimmera. The Government, as I have said, is encountering many difficulties in connexion with this scheme. Take, for instance, the attitude of the British Medical Association to the per capita payment of11s. The Treasurer made certain promises which members of the British Medical Association are not prepared to accept because they cannot depend on the word of the Treasurer.
– On a point of order I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I was not observing what the honorable member for East Sydney said.
– If the Chair had been listening it would have heard him.
– The honorable member for East Sydney said that my promise to the British Medical Association was not dependable; that remark is offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I regret that I did not hear the remark.
– What I said was that members of the British Medical Association were not prepared to accept an assurance by the Treasurer, and some of them informed me that they could not accept his word because they could not depend upon it. And that is the attitude of the people generally, and the workers in particular who will be compelled to contribute to the fund. I ask honorable members not to accept any promise which the Government may give. The Ministry has proved that its word cannot be depended upon. If honorable members wish to do the right thing by their constituents they will vote for the amendment.
– I am not opposed to the principle contained in the clause, on which an amendment has been moved. Employee contributors, who later become employers, should have an opportunity to continue asvoluntary contributors if they wish to do so. The suggestion has been made that the scheme should be extended to embrace small primary producers and other selfemployed persons, but I do not consider that it would be right to require the farmers in this class, who probably have lower incomes than the average employed person, to make a double contribution. I suggested on a previous occasion that if the Government paid one of the contributions required of small self-employed persons, no grave injustice would be done to the taxpayers. No section of the community is in greater need of insurance and medical attention than are the small primary producers. Efforts have been made from time to time to induce the Government to bring them within the scope of the scheme on an equitable voluntary basis, and the suggestion is now made that, if this clause were postponed, it might be possible to devise a scheme in their interests. It has been said that members of the committee who favour such a proposal will indicate that they do not trust the Treasurer, who has undertaken to safeguard the interests of these producers under the second bill, which is to be introduced shortly. I do not subscribe to that view. I accept the assurance given by the Minister, although he has not given all of the information for which I had hoped. I realize that actuarial calculations are necessary, hut the scheme has been under consideration by the Government for a long period. Every effort should he made to provide insurance and medical, benefits for country dwellers, who do not enjoy the amenities of city life. They are heavily taxed to provide benefits for city workers. The farmer and the members of his family find it necessary to work for very long hours, and they have few, if any, holidays. I should like definite information regarding the benefits proposed to be given to this class under the measure to be introduced in the near future. I do not expect the Treasurer to furnish full details, but the committee is certainly entitled to more information than it has at the present time. The unhatched egg which the small farmers are promised may prove to be addled. I am inclined to support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports so that my vote may be consistent with my speech on the second reading of the bill. I hope £hat, before long, the Treasurer will be able to give honorable members some details of the supplementary bill which, we have been assured, will be introduced to cover primary producers and other self-employed persons in a voluntary scheme.
.- The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is sound, and is in accordance with the views expressed by most honorable members during the debate on the second reading of the bill. One speaker after the other protested” against the exclusion of certain groups of persons whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports now proposes should be brought into the scheme. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) stated that it would be necessary to introduce a new bill to provide for these groups, because it would be difficult to collect their contributions if they were included in this measure. I submit that there would be no difficulty if the contributions were collected by approved societies. I have great respect for the friendly societies, recognizing as I do the wonderful work they have performed in Australia during the last 50 years, and 1 am convinced that they would continue to do good work under this scheme if given the opportunity. The actuarial objections which the Treasurer advanced as reasons for not including these new groups in the present bill would, in fact, be much stronger if they were included in the separate measure. The purpose of the amendment is to enable unemployed and self-employed persons to become voluntary contributors. Those are the persons who, before all others, are entitled to the benefits of an insurance scheme. For that reason, I believe that the clause should be postponed so that the Treasurer and his actuaries may give the matter further consideration. It is claimed that the scheme, as it now stands, will affect 1,850,000 persons. Are we to assume that, if the number who actually come under it is, say, only 1,400,000 the scheme will be actuarially unsound, and will break down? If that is so, then the inclusion of these additional groups of persons, as suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, would help to make the scheme financially sound.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Hollo- way’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (Ch airman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In an answer which he gave to a question asked by me yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in effect, challenged my veracity. I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he had made a statement, reported in the press, that he would not put through the National Health and Pensions Insurance Billuntil the senators-elect had taken their seats. The Prime Minister replied that he did not make that statement.I now draw his attention to the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th January, 1938, published a report of an interview with him concerning the mortgage bank and health insurance proposals. The right honorable gentleman concluded that interview by saying -
No effort would be made to rush either measure through before the new senators assumed office. Both measures were so important that the Ministry believed that every section of both Houses should have an opportunity of expressing its views.
In view of that report, I submit, my question was warranted, and I was justified in inferring from theright honorable gentleman’s statement, as reported in the press, that there was no intention to put this legislation through this chamber until the senators-elect took their seats.
. -in reply - The honorable gentleman has just made a statement which is not in line with the question he asked. He has quoted my words that no effort would be made to rush legislation through this chamber, and that each chamber was entitled to an opportunity to discuss this legislation fully.
– The right honorable gentleman said the new senators.
– I did not say the new senators.
– Well, why refer to them?
– I said both chambers. In order to make the position clear I shall read the question asked yesterday by the honorable member. It was as follows -
Does the Prime Minister adhere to his statement that on no consideration will he allow legislation like the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill to be disposed of before the meeting of the reconstituted Senate after the election?
I repeat now that I never made such a statement. My reply to the honorable member was what I said to the press - that no effort would be made to force any legislation through and that every opportunity would be given for the discussion of this particular measure. That opportunity is being given now. Parliament was called together to deal with legislation ; legislation has not been rushed, nor was the assembling of Parliament rushed either. The statement I made to the press was that no effort would be made to rush through either of the measures mentioned before the new senators assumed office. I repeat that we are not attempting to rush legislation through. The Senate, as it is at present constituted, remains until the 30th June, and it is there to deal with legislation. Further than that we have launched legislation in the Senate as now constituted, and a bill which has already passed the Senate is awaiting consideration in this chamber. I challenge any unbiased person to interpret my statement to mean that I was going to hold up legislation here until the senators-elect took their seats. That is absolutely a biased interpretation of my statement. The honorable member is concerned at the possibility of this bill passing through this chamber and going to the present Senate. In the normal course of events, it will go there. The Government will make no special effort to force it through before the Senate is reconstituted, but, if an attempt be made to prolong discussion here unnecessarily, my undertaking will be withdrawn. I say, advisedly, that while the Government does not intend to prevent full and complete discussion of the bill, it is prepared to prevent any attempt at stone-walling in order to delay the sending of the bill to the Senate in the ordinary course of events. I repeat what I said yesterday, that I made no such statement as was included in the question of the honorable member. The quotation from the press makes that clear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Defence: Placingof Orders with Railway Workshops.
With reference to the undertaking given to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) by the Prime Minister earlier in these sittings regarding the placing of trial orders for defence requirements with State railway workshops, have any orders been so placed, and, if so, what is the extent of those orders?
The Government’s programme of industrial organization for an emergency includes the provision of armament annexes at selected establishments. Inquiries as to the assistance which might be forthcoming from railway workshops are nearing completion, and, as soon as finality is reached, the whole question of munition manufacture will be the subject of reports from the Advisory Panel of Industrialists, and also departmental experts. The Government, on receipt of these reports and after a decision thereon, will announce the action it proposes to take.
Tasmanian Paper Project: Tariff Board Report
Importation of Motor Boats
Wireless Broadcasting : Listeners’ LicenceFee.
In view of the big surplus disclosed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s report and balance-sheet, will the Government make a recommendation to the commission that listeners’ licence fees be substantially reduced?
The question of broadcast listeners’ licence fees does not directly concern the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is, however, unlikely that any change will bemade in the fee at present.
Mr.Casey. - As the National Insurance Bill is before the Parliament, I think it is more appropriate that questions in this regard should be discussed on the measure.
Canberra : Building Plan - Australian War Memorial - Housing
How many alterations have been made in the layout of the city of Canberra and environs since the 19th November, 1925, showing (a) number yearly, (b) date gazetted, and (c) date laid on the table of the House?
Has the Australian War Memorial at Mount Ainslie, Canberra, been built as originally planned and to a correct alignment, or is it a fact that it hasbeen built with one endfacing Parliament House instead of the front of the building facing Parliament House?
The building has been laid out on the axial line from Capitol Hill passing through the centre of Parliament House to Mount Ainslie in accordance with the scheme recommended by the Public Works Committee and adopted by Parliament. The front of the building faces Parliament House.
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: - 1. (a) 23; (b) 302. Probably an additional 80 houses will be required to meet the transfer of the Base Records, Department of Defence, to Canberra, and alsoto provide for the personnel of the national insurance.
Federal Capital Territory
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : - 1 . (a) £905,247 4s.11d.; (b) £3,900,033 6s. 10d.; (c) £4,581,9511s. 8d.; (d) £1,172,694 4s.6d.; total, £10,619,925 17s.11d.; (c) f 7,535, 764 19s.5d.; grand total, £18,155,690 17s. 4d.
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited: Applications for Employment
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380608_reps_15_156/>.