15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Defence left Canberra for Melbourne early this morning in an AvroAnson bombing plane of the Royal Australian Air Force?Was it intended that the Minister should return from Melbourne in. time to be present at to-day’s sitting ofthis House? Was the visit to Melbourne, undertaken for the purpose of further negotiations, or for re-arranging matters, in connexion with the overseas air-mail service? Is it a fact that the plane in which the Minister travelled had to land on reaching Albury and that the flight was discontinued? Is the Minister now returning to Canberra by motor car, and has the visit to Melbourne been deferred? If this is the case, is the rearrangement of the Minister’s itinerary due to a decision of the Government that his visit to Melbourne should not be made known to the House to-day?
-I am afraid that I cannot reply to all of the questions that the honorable member has asked. As I understand the position, the Minister for Defence had some matters to attend to in Melbourne, and it was necessary that they should be dealt with promptly. To avoid absence from the House for any period longer’ than absolutely necessary, the Minister decided to fly to Melbourne this morning and to return in time to be in his place in this chamber this afternoon. Unfortunately, owing to unfavorable weather conditions, the plane had to land en route, and the Minister is now, I understand, on his way back to Canberra by road.
– Is it a fact that the urgent business with which the Minister had to deal in Melbourne to-day will not be attended to, since, instead of proceeding to Melbourne by road, he is now on his way back to Canberra?
– It is advisable to trans act the business promptly, and, as I understand that it is now impossible to deal with it from Melbourne, I am hoping that it will be possible to do so from Canberra.
– In view of the report in the press that it is unlikely that a conference of State Premiers will be called to discuss the problem of a homeconsumption price for wheat; will the ActingMinister for Commerce state whether the Premier of South Australia has any concrete scheme for submission to a conference such as that suggested by him to the Prime Minister? Will the Minister state, further, whether the Premier of South Australia was not largely responsible for the defeat of the Commonwealth’s objectives expressed in the Wheat Act, and will the Minister take steps to convene a conference to consider immediately the urgent necessity for some practical scheme to give effect to a home-consumption price for wheat, or for the provision of an export bounty?
– The Premier of South Australia was in touch with the Government on the subject of the price of wheat, and he requested a conference in Melbourne, but he did not submit any concrete scheme for the consideration of the meeting. I can say, from personal knowledge, that the Premier of South Australia was opposed to the Government, when the last referendum was taken seeking an extension of the powers of this Parliament. As to whether steps will be taken to convene a conference to deal with a home-consumption price for wheat, I point out that this matter was thoroughly discussed at the meeting of the Agricultural Council which took place in Canberra last month, when it was agreed that the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States should formulate a certain scheme, come’ to an agreement among themselves regarding it, and submit it to the next meeting of the council, which is to be held in Perth in August or September.
– Has the Acting Minister for Commerce yet conferred with the Prime Minister regarding the request of the Premier of South Australia that the Commonwealth Government should call a meeting of Premiers to devise ways and means to secure a home-consumption price for wheat?
– I have conferred with the Prime Minister, and the right honorable gentleman has advised the Premier of South Australia that until the States had something concrete to bring forward he could see no good purpose in calling a conference.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the holding of a referendum on the subject of granting extended industrial powers to the Commonwealth, in order that the foundation may be laid for fixing a home-consumption price for wheat and other commodities, as advocated by the Agricultural Council?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of important public policy and cannot be dealt with in reply to a question without notice.
– Will the Prime Minis ter state whether the Cabinet has met to consider the overseas air-mail service; if not, whether it intends to hold a meeting in the near future; and whether the surcharge on overseas air mails will be removed ?
– I am unable to make any statement on this matter at the present stage, but I shall do so as early as possible.
Mr.FORDE. - Is it true that the trade talks with Japan were resumed at Canberra to-day, and is the Acting Minister for Commerce in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– These negotiations have never been broken off or abandoned, and, therefore, the question of their resumption does not arise at this stage.
Free Listeners’ Licences for Schools
– In view of the fact that the revenue obtained from wireless licences issued to listeners seems to be more than adequate for broadcasting purposes, will the Government, as a gesture to encourage national education, consider the granting of listeners’ licences free of charge to schools?
– The question raised is a financial one, and I can assure the honorable member that, in conjunction with other matters, it will be’ taken into consideration at the time of the preparation of the budget for the next financial year.
-I have received “the following telegram : - “
Section 23 Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act exempts income from primary production from Northern Territory until June, 1937, only. Is this exemption - to he extended for further period?
Will the Treasurer state whether it is proposed to continue the concession?
– Yes, the Government has decided quite recently to renew, in the first place for another twelve months, the concession which has been granted heretofore.
– Can the Acting Minister for Health say when the ordinance relating to the Canberra Community Hospital, which was published in a recent issue of the Commonwealth Gazette, will be laid on the table of the House?
– I shall go into the matter, and will advise the honorable member in due course.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce have prepared, for the information of honorable members, a statement showing the wages paid, the hours worked, and the housing conditions of workers on the dairy farms of the Commonwealth?
– I shall do my best to oblige the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the ignorance that has been displayed in some quarters in relation to butter prices, will the Acting Minister for Commerce publish a tame showing the prices charged for butter and other household commodities to-day and 20 years ago?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether twomen with the same names who were prominent in the socalled campaign against repudiation in 1931 are identical ,with Mr. E. Campbell and Mr. H. W. Lloyd, who were arrested in Sydney yesterday on a charge of being involved in fraudulent practices?
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs aware that, two years ago, when a duty was imposed on mo.tor chassis entering Australia, the Government promised that the matter would be referred to the Tariff Board for report, and can he say when the board’s report will be made availa bie to honorable members of Parliament ?
– In due course the report of the Tariff Board will come before the Parliament; but it must first be considered by the Cabinet. Later, it will probably be printed in the usual way..
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce endeavour to arrange for a monthly statement of the world’s wheat position in regard to production and surplus being supplied to country newspapers and broadcasting stations for the information of farmers?
– I do not know whether it would be practicable to supply the information to all country newspapers, as many of them are not particularly interested in the wheat industry, but I can see no reason why it should not be supplied to broadcasting stations and to such newspapers and organizations as indicate desire to have it. I shall go into the matter.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs aware that statements are being circulated that, owing to the departmental definition of petrol under the excise regulations, a great deal of spirit which is capable of being used as motor spirit is not taxable under the excise law as it exists to-day; that all the petrol distilled in Australia which complies with that definition is, in fact, .charged excise duty? If so, will he have the matter investigated with a view to issuing a statement which would clear up any doubt on the subject?
– I have heard rumours of the nature referred to by the honorable member and have had a preliminary inquiry into them. I am assured that there is no truth in the rumours and that the Government is not losing any revenue. However, investigations are still proceeding. I shall take the course suggested by the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that over 250 persons have been thrown out of employment in the cut-glass industry owing to a reduction of duty, can the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether arrangements have yet been made to enable the industry to recommence operations?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “. Investigations are still proceeding.
– In view of the fact that some hundreds of persons previously employed in the cut-glass industry have been out of work for over twelve months, can the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs give an undertaking that, the Tariff Board’s report on this subject will be made known to the House and acted upon before the present sittings terminate, in. order to avoid, if possible, further and continued unemployment ?
– I shall try to do so. The reason that the report has been withheld is that the Government has been trying to meet the industry in every way. The Government is anxious that work should be re-started as early as possible. The delay is in the interests of the industry.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Recommendations (December, 1937) of policy in Native Affairs, by Dr. Donald Thompson.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments of P. E. Disney and W. P. Jones.. Department of the Interior.
Land’s Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Adelong,New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Ararat,Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Ceduna, South Australia (2)- For Defence purposes.
Mr.FORDE.- Is it a fact, as reported in a section of the press, that an acute disagreement has arisen between the Commonwealth Government and the Administrator of Nauru, Commander Garcia, regarding the alleged refusal of the Government to provide for the safety of the British community there, including some hundreds of women and children? Did Commander Garcia raise the question of the defence of Nauru in correspondence with the Commonwealth or suggest that plans be madefor the evacuation of white women and children to Australia in the event of an emergency?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable gentleman, but I shall make inquiries into it.
– Has the Minister for the Interior given instructions that the Northern Territory Land Board shall cease to function?
– An ordinance has been promulgated to give effect to the recommendation of the Payne-Fletcher Committee that the Northern Territory Land Board should be abolished, and that the functions hitherto exercisedby that board should be vested in the Administrator. That ordinance having been promulgated, is effective.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for the Interior before this periodofthe session closes to lay on the table the report on the mining industry of the Northern Territory furnished at the request of the Minister by the UnderSecretary of Mines in Western Australia, Mr. Telford?
– It is not intended to table that report. It was made by Mr. Telford purely for departmental use. It contains only advice tendered by him in the light of his experience as the administrative head of the Mines Department in Western Australia to assist in the mines branch of the Department of the Interior to recast some of the Northern Territory mining ordinances.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the8th June (vide page 1966).
A juvenile contributor shall be insured under this act for the purposes of medical benefit only, and this act shall not, except where otherwise expressly stated, apply toa juvenile contributor.
– Clause 19 brings into insurance, for medical benefit only, employed persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. The Government believes that it is right and proper that young persons in this formative period of their lives should be looked after from the medical point of view.
.- I propose to move an amendment to widen the scope of this clause by granting juvenile contributors sick pay as well as medical benefits, but as such an amendment would increase the appropriation and would accordingly be ruled out of order, I have an alternative proposal to move that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to reconsider it with a view to widening it. The restriction imposed by the Government is beyond understanding. The young persons who start in industry at the age of fourteen years will have to contribute 4d. a week to the national insurance fund, but will be entitled only to medical benefit, and not to the other benefits which are provided under this bill. Throughout Australia many youths are the breadwinners of the families. Particularly in my own district have women been widowed or, as the result of their husbands being stricken in industry, left without support other than the earnings of their children. In many homes in the coal-mining districts the man of the house is a boy of about fourteen years of age. These young breadwinners are to be given medical benefits but are to be denied sick pay. On what are they expected to sustain themselves and their dependants? How will theybuy food without money when sickness occurs?
I protest, Mr. Chairman, against the way in which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), instead of listening to what I am placing before the committee, is conversing with the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Acting Minister for Commerce is the most persistent interruptor in this chamber. He sits at the table and continually attracts the Treasurer’s attention from what honorable members are saying.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !
– It is grossly unfair that private members should be called to order while Ministers who are conversing at the table go free.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– If you, Mr. Chairman, will stop conversation among Ministers
– If the honorable member persists in that line he shall cease to speak.
– The Treasurer is not conversant with the conditions in industry and I am. Instead of listening to mehe is listening to the Acting Minister for Commerce. Now that I have the Treasurer’s ‘ attention, I shall proceed to enlighten him as to what happens in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, qualified miners are able to take juniors on to the coal face for the two years’ experience that is necessary before they can qualify as miners. The. juniors are thus protected against any dangers that might be encountered. In these circumstances, these juniors often become the family breadwinners. This clause enables them to take advantage of the medical benefits of this measure on payment of 4d. a week. Furthermore, not only are they denied the other privileges of this bill but also clause 48 precludes them even from enjoying medical benefits until con tributions have been paid for fourteen weeks. Clause 48 reads -
Youths unable to carry out their customary duties will not be entitled to medical benefits until fourteen weeks have elapsed. A juvenile will pay 34s. 8d. a year while computed medical benefits would cost only 16s. How can the’ Treasurer justify such a provision, particularly when he said that one of the objects of this measure is to assist people to become useful and thrifty citizens? The clause precludes such persons from receiving any income with which to purchase the necessaries of life in time of” sickness. Surely honorable members opposite realize that many of the youths who will be affected if this provision be enacted are breadwinners, and in many cases are actually maintaining their widowed mothers and other members of the family. I move -
That all the words after “act” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “for all purposes of this act”.
If that amendment be adopted youths under sixteen years of age will be entitled to the same sick benefits as are enjoyed by adult contributors.
– As the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would extend the benefit and therefore increase the appropriation, I rule that it is not in order’.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I now move -
That the clause be postponed.
If that motion be agreed to it will be regarded as an instruction to the Government -
To re-draft the clause so that youths under sixteen years of age will be entitled to sick pay benefits
If the Treasurer or any other honorable member opposite investigates the conditions prevailing in the coalmining industry or in the metalliferous mining industry, they will find that a very sympathetic attitude is adopted towards boys whose fathers have been killed. Although the regulation’s provide that boys under fourteen’ years of age shall not be employed, youths under fourteen often sign a declaration that they have reached that age and are provided with employment. Such youths contribute to hospital, sick, accident, and funeral funds on a pro rata basis and are always entitled to benefits on the same basis. As this scheme will embrace many youths employed in the industries I have mentioned, I trust that the Treasurer will agree to postpone the clause and re-draft it so that no hardship will be imposed upon youths engaged in industry.
– If one did not have a knowledge of the other clauses which follow, one would think that this provision was inserted deliberately in the interests of juveniles inasmuch as the actuarial calculations for pensions are based on a 49-year period, that is to say, between the ages of 16 and 65, and it would be quite unfair to ask youths of fourteen to pay for the extra two years. That, presumably, is the idea behind this clause, and no exception can be taken. Indeed it would bo very much in the interests of juveniles. But there are some questions that will have to be answered, one of which has been asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Why should any one pay for medical attention when such attention will not be available for fourteen weeks? I am sure that that must be a mistake. It is also -a fact that financial contributions for medical benefits by these juveniles appear to be on an extravagant basis. It is proposed, for instance, to collect 4d. a week from juveniles and 4d. a week from the employer, or an aggregate of 8d. a week, while in clause 115, it is proposed to hypothecate, not 8d., but 4d. a week in order to cover the medical benefits. I realize that the 4d. includes the services to be rendered by chemists, but this is a small matter. I should like the Treasurer to indicate why it is necessary to extract so much from juveniles, particularly as the aggregate amount appears to be very much greater than the hypothecation for medical services in clause 115.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has asked why per sons fourteen years of age should not receive the full benefitsof the scheme. In general, young people in Australia do not enter industry under the age of sixteen years, and for that reason sixteen has been fixed as the age for starting insurance. We know that, in some cases, children begin work at as early an age as twelve years, but they are in the minority. Young persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who are employed cannot afford to pay more than a few pence a week. Moreover, they are not normally in need of sick pay. In almost all cases they are living in the home, and there is really no justification for requiring them to contribute for sick benefits which they will not need. What they may be in need of is adequate medical attention during that time, and for this provision is being made. If honorable members will look at some of the later clauses of the bill they will sec that considerable privileges are accorded these youths on reaching the age of sixteen. We all know that, unfortunately, many youths are put out of employment, when they reach the age of sixteen. If that should happen, a youth will be entitled to a free insurance period in respect of medical benefits until he reaches the age of sixteen and a half.
– That might represent a period of. only a fortnight.
– And it might be nearly twelve months. On an average, it would probably be about six months.
– Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) explain why contributions are to be exacted for medical benefits to which the insured person will not be entitled for a period of three months ?
– In respect of all these benefits a waiting period has been fixed.
– But what happens if the lad becomes sick in the meantime?
– There must be some waiting period if the fund is to be built up. The benefits which it is proposed to give under this clause are in line with similar benefits provided by friendly societies at approximately the same cost. This clause broadly enunciates the principle that youths shall come under the insurance scheme. More detailed infor- mation can be given when subsequent clauses are under consideration.
– The Treasurer ought to beable to give us the information now ; he isbeingprompted, from the back benches.
– I do not need to be prompted in regard to this matter.
– We do not need to be told by people from England what is good for Australians.
– I resent the remarks of. the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). It is the usual practice for Ministers in charge of bills before Parliament to accept advice regarding technical matters from experts and officers of their departments. In regard to a measure of such complexity as this, it would not be humanly possible for a Minister to carry all the necessary information in his mind.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) stated that most lads enter industry at the age of sixteen. That applies only to those who become apprentices, but a large number of other youths obtain employment at the age of fourteen. It often happens that a youth’s home conditions are such that he is forced to seek employment two years before he would be eligible to be apprenticed. Even though the number be small, their circumstances warrant the giving of that attention which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) proposes. The Treasurer argues that it is necessary to bring these boys in because their health should be sustained at a time when they are entering industry and may not altogether be fit to stand up to the rigours of industry. If it is desired to maintain their health the Government should at least provide them with sustenance should circumstances arise to prevent them from continuing in industry. I repeat that the provision of such’ sustenance becomes all the more important because of the fact that boys who are obliged to seek jobs come largely from homes which are in necessitous circumstances. Take, for instance, the position of sons of widows in New South Wales. In that State,widows are in receipt of a special pension and allowances for each child at a rate up to the age of fourteen years, and when a boy reaches that age, a corresponding reduction of the sustenance paid to his widowed mother is also made. What is the position of such a widow under this measure when her son becomes employed? When he finds a job he becomes insured, and should he fall sick all he can obtain is the medical benefit. Beyond that the Government does not propose to render him any assistance whatever, and, consequently, the boy’s home is left partially in destitute circumstances.,. Honorable members know that under present industrial conditions it is not infrequently the case that where a father is unable to get a job, his boy of fourteen or sixteen years of age is able to get employment. The tendency in a large number of manufacturing firms to-day is to cheapen costs by the employment of juvenile labour, and it is a common practice to sack boys when they reach the age of 21. Every honorable member can call to mind a number of homes in which the parent cannot get a job, whilst his youthful son can, simply because the low rates of wages for youths offer greater opportunities for the exploitation of cheap labour. As I have no doubt that such circumstances will continue in industry, I contend that anecessity exists for providing these youths with those benefits which the honorable member for Hunter proposes. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) indicated that the sum of 32s. will be collected from a youth covered by this clause, whilst the value of the benefits to which he will be entitled is only 16s. We do not know how the other 16s. will be used, although it must go straight into the general fund, although it will not be of any service to. these people other than for medical benefit. Looking at this matter reasonably, and with some measure of generosity, one would expect the Government to regard the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter favorably. The two points I stress are: First, the position of a widow who suffers a reduction of her allowance in respect of a son upon his reaching the age of fourteen years; and, secondly, the position of a parent who cannot get a job whilst his son can. In respect of the first point, I suggest that we cannot consider at this juncture the benefits which will be payable to widows when this scheme is under way.We must deal with conditions as they exist to-day, and must not confine the issue now before us . by taking into consideration the benefits provided for widows under this measure. Such benefits will not be provided for the many thousands of women, particularly those in New South Wales, who are in receipt of a widow’s pension only.
– I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to reconsider this clause. In New South Wales, if not in any other State, a widowed mother loses 10s. a week when her boy attains the age of fourteen years, whether or not the boy obtains work. In that State alone, about 10,000 boys and girls leave school annually at the age of fourteen years, and go into industry. As a matter of fact, we know that the tendency of the Postal Department is to take on as many boys as possible at that age, and employ them in most dangerous work delivering telegrams on bicycles in metropolitan areas. That department apparently follows that practice simply in order to get cheap labour, and I have urged that the Government should not allow it to employ boys under sixteen years of age. Much of the big profit made by that department can be attributed to the exploitation of cheap labour in this way. Looking at this matter from all points, I suggest that boys in employment at the age of fourteen years, whatever might be their wages, are entitled to some proportion of sick pay, as well as medical benefits. I sincerely hope that the Government will not remain adamant in respect of this provision, and thus prove that it does intend to yield a little in respect of the provisions of this measure. Honorable members are beginning to fear that it is its intention to stick strictly to just what is in the measure. Here, I suggest, is an instance in which it could yield a little, and I hope the Treasurer will reconsider this clause along the lines I have indicated.
– I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) either to give a more satisfactory explanation than he has already given, or to agree to the postponement of this clause with a view to reaching some compromise as between the proposal made by the honorable mem ber for Hunter (Mr. James) and the clause as drawn. The clause as drawn lays it down definitely that a juvenile contributor shall be insured under this measure for the purpose of medical benefit only, which is specified, under the amendment circulated by the Treasurer, as costing, for the first five years, 16s. in the case of males, and 17s. 6d. in respect of females.
– Approximately 4d. a week.
– That is the amount which the juvenile will have to pay, but his employer also will have to pay 4d., and the total contribution of 8d. a week represents 34s. 8d. for a year. It is proposed to collect that amount in respect of every juvenile who is an insured person, but under this clause all that will be given in return is medical benefit only, whilst the medical benefit fund is to be credited with only 16s. out of the 34s. 8d. paid in respect of a male, and 17s. 6d. out of the 34s. 8d. paid in respect of a female. I appreciate the fact that it would be unwise to charge the juvenile insured person with premiums in respect of widows’ pensions, or even invalid and old-age pensions, but I believe that, as a relevant benefit to medical treatment, there should be some reimbursement in respect of loss of wages while the juvenile insured person is undergoing treatment. The honorable gentleman would not find his actuarial basis greatly disturbed by adding sickness benefits to the clause. If he would do that he would not be open to the charge of taking more from the employers and the employees for the insurance of juveniles than he will have to spend in benefits for juveniles.
– Robbing the children of their pennies.
– I do not say that the proposal is to steal pennies from the juvenile workers, but I do say that, having regard to the fact that the revenue of the insurance fund from juvenile persons is greater than the disbursements presumably allocated, a case is made out for the extension of benefits to juveniles. The extension ought to take two forms - medical treatment for juveniles should start from the day of sickness, and payment should also be made for loss of wages, commencing on the same day or such other day as the medical practitioner certifies that the juvenile worker became ill. Not a large number of juveniles will come under the bill, for we are hopeful that the age for the employment of young persons in industry will rise, and that the school leaving age also will rise but at the same time it is of the first importance that juveniles working in industry should be encouraged to seek early medical treatment for sickness, so that permanent ill health may not result from delay. The Treasurer has the youth of Australia to serve, with an eye not only to the immediate effects, but also to the consequences in later manhood. The physique of adults is involved in the question of providing early medical treatment for young persons. If the Treasurer receives more from this source than he spends, he cannot logically resist the charge of exploiting the young people. His only answer can be to give them benefits that amount tQ as much as their contributions. He must show me that he is spending more than 16s. on benefits for them in order to convince me that he is not exploiting them. I submit that he will receive 34s. Sd. in a full year, and that be will pay in benefits an average of only 16s. I ask him to withdraw the clause so that he may consider the representations made on both sides of the committee and see whether he can concede what we ask. I believe he will do that out of his own goodness, a quality that I am sure he does not lack. I believe he is eager to do all that ought to be done for the young people of Australia, and as a gesture- in reply to the criticisms that have been advanced on this and other clauses, and in view of the fact that he has so far sat tight on the bill, I. urge him to adopt the suggestion.
– I would again point out to honorable members that the contributions in respect of the benefit we are discussing are not relevant to this clause. The committee may discuss the matter of contributions on the schedule, when we come to it, and if honorable members are then able to convince the Government by logical argument that the contribution of 4d. each by employer and employee is too much, the Government will reconsider the matter. I believe that the contributions are right, but if I can be convinced that they are unfairly high, then the matter will be reconsidered. I believe that, in general, youths between fourteen and sixteen years of age do not need sick pay. If sick pay is given it will have to be paid for by some one or other. I ask honorable members for the moment to neglect the amount of contributions as provided for in the schedule. 1 do not believe that sick pay is essential for youths between fourteen and sixteen, when they are living at home.
– If they were living at home they would probably be breadwinners.
– Iu the vast majority of cases if a youth were living at home he would be only one of the breadwinners in the home.
– He would not be working if the economic condition of the family was right.
– The necessity with young persons between fourteen and sixteen years of age is to make their contributions as low as they can be made. At that age the wages received are very small, and we should, therefore, take the least possible amount from them.
– The contribution of the employer will be reduced if the contribution of the employee is reduced.
– That cannot be helped, because we are in all cases making the employer pay the same amount as the employee. I have not the vaguest idea what would be the cost of any given sickness benefit for young persons between the ages referred to. Off-hand I cannot say what the incidence of sickness is in their case, and it could not be worked out in a hurry. The prime necessity is to keep their contributions as low as possible, and to apply them to providing the benefits most urgently needed. It is not usual in a national insurance plan to make any provision for young people under the minimum average age at which they enter into industry. In the first place, the bill was framed for persons between the age of sixteen and the maximum age. Then the Government on consideration, decided to bring in those between fourteen and sixteen years of age and to provide them with the benefit that it reckoned was most urgently needed - the medical benefit. There are only relatively a small number of these persons.
– But they are of the poorer class.
– Does not that emphasize the necessity for keeping the contributions as low as possible?
– We believe that the necessity is to give a young person an income while he or she is sick. Whatever the amount subscribed, it should have some relationship to the individual’s wages. Why not postpone the clause to enable the Government to consider whether it can provide for a juvenile sickness rate? It would seem that no one but the Treasurer can move an amendment to this bill with any hope of it being carried.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has contended that the arguments relating to this clause arc irrelevant because they deal with matters that are the subjects of other proposals. I remind the Treasurer and the committee that he invited the House to treat the three measures he introduced - that is to say, the two financial messages and the bill - as one, and that he, in his own speech, discussed them as one. We should discuss the machinery of this measure in relation to the rates proposed, and we are entitled to deal with it on the same basis as that adopted by the Treasurer in his explanation of the scheme. In fact, the argument of the honorable gentleman furnishes a perfectly valid reason for the postponement of the clause. The Treasurer has indicated that the clause should be considered in relation to clause 115 which deals with the medical benefit account. I therefore submit that consideration of the clause should be postponed until we have reached clause 115, because, if we are satisfied, as probably we shall be, that the cost of medical benefits will be less than the charge imposed on juvenile contributors, we might be in the mood to increase the benefits to be given to juvenile contributors. My own feeling is that there should be no compulsory payments by juvenile contributors at all ; but if there are to be compulsory contributions, the juvenile contributors should get more than is proposed to be given to them. They should get medical benefits at once and, in addition, something in the nature of sickness and disability benefits. The child of a widow or the child of a disabled parent will not be eligible for child allowance until he or she reaches the age of fifteen years. It is not unreasonable to make provision for either sickness or disability benefits in such cases, because the child worker is as much exposed - possibly more so - to sickness risks and disabling accidents as is an adult. I think the sense of the committee is that the Treasurer should reconsider this clause. It is useless to say that our argument can be met by reducing the amount of payments from juvenile contributors. If the choice were between 2d. a week and medical benefits after the expiration of six weeks, and a contribution of 4d. with immediate medical benefits, plus sickness and disability benefits, the choice undoubtedly would be for the latter. I feel sure that honorable members generally believe that this problem cannot be solved until we have disposed of the clauses relating to medical benefits. If the committee does not postpone the clause we shall be approving of a proposal to make juvenile contributors pay to the maintenance fund more than they will get out of it.
– The appeal made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has touched the sympathies of a great majority of honorable members, -and, I believe, also that it has enlisted the sympathy of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I hope that he will heed the appeal, and agree to an amendment of the clause, or postpone its consideration till other relevant provisions of the bill are disposed of. The Treasurer has suggested that there will be few contributors of school-leaving age upon whom widowed mothers depend for the maintenance of the homes. I entirely disagree with the honorable gentleman. I believe that throughout’ Australia thousands of homes in mining and other industrial areas are. being maintained, in part at all events, by the earnings of boys and girls of school-leaving age- I. know of three cases in my own. electorate, in connexion with which I Iia ve .been asked to assist in procuring work for lads whose widowed mothers find it difficult to keep the homes together. Obviously some such assistance is necessary, because the widow’s pension under th is bill is only 12s. 6d. a week, and even with a child allowance of 7s. 6d. a week, it becomes urgently necessary for widowed mothers or wives whose husbands are disabled, to supplement the home income by the earnings of children. I hope that provision will be made in this bill for sickness benefits for those boys or girls who are obliged to become wage-earners and contribute to the support of their homes. I would not narrow the provision to the children of widows because, as the_ honorable member for West Sydney has explained, many fathers suffer from broken health and are unable’ to earn sufficient to support, the home. They may 1m; out of work or in necessitous circumstances.
– If provision to meet these cases is made it must have general application; it would be difficult to apply a means test.
– I protest against the provision requiring contributions from juvenile contributors for fourteen weeks before they become eligible for medical benefit. In some instances this might be an extraordinary hardship. If friendly societies made this rule apply to its members they would be obliged to go out of business. We should hesitate to include in a compulsory scheme proposals which would not be acceptable to voluntary contributors or to friendly societies. I appeal to the Treasurer to reconsider the clause.
.- I support with much pleasure the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is quite wrong in his statement that only a few juveniles will qualify as employee contributors under this scheme. The force of economic circumstances compels a large number of juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years to accept work in factories and other establishments, although most parents are anxious to give their children the best .educational facilities possible and keep, them at school until they are over the age for entry to this scheme as. juveniles.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, it is unjust to extract from the juvenile and the employer a tax of 34s. 8d. a year, when the expense involved in the insurance of the contributor will be only 16s. a year, with no possibility of the amount increasing. If the benefitis to be left as provided in the bill, the Government will be taking twice as much as is necessary for the service to be rendered. I disagree with the honorable member for Henty that this sickness benefit should be provided only for juveniles in necessitous circumstances. The adoption of that suggestion would lead to tremendous complications and difficulty. The young people should receive the benefit as a right, or not at all. If it is to be granted, it should be general in its application, irrespective of the economic circumstances of the individual. The economic conditions are such that, in the majority of cases, the contributors will be found to be in necessitous circumstances. Apart from medical service, there should be a payment in cases of sickness.
– I agree to the postponement of this clause until a later stage. This will necessitate the postponement of clauses 4S and 49, which also relate to juvenile contributors.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon the decision reached by him in regard to this matter. The medical service to be provided is one of the cardinal benefits * of national insurance, ‘ and I congratulate the Government upon having included in the scheme juveniles under the age of sixteen years. This will fill the gap between the school-leaving age and the time when juveniles will be eligible for the full benefits of the scheme. While, in this instance, there is generally a waiting period for sickness benefits in operation in friendly’ societies, the position is different in regard to medical benefits:
– Is not the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) entitled to some credit for his proposal?
– Yes, and I am congratulating the Treasurer on his decision.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) suggested the provision of sick pay, as well as medical benefits, for juveniles, but the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has given no indication of what may he expected by the committee as the result of the postponement of the clause. It is a serious reflection on this National Parliament that the economic conditions of this country are such that we are called upon to consider the circumstances of juveniles employed in industry between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. Children are being almost dragged out of the nursery to earn profits for the “ bosses “. It is degrading to find that juveniles aire to be called upon to provide medical benefits for themselves, when the economic conditions should be good enough to enable their parents to do it for them. ‘The juveniles of to-day cannot become proper fathers and mothers of the future if the economic conditions under which they are employed, require them to provide protection of this kind for themselves. The necessity for this provision is a direct threat to our civilization. Talk about “ seeing red ! “ I do “see red”, when discussing a bill containing provisions of this kind.
– I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has seen fit to postpone the clause, but I am surprised that so much time elapsed before he realized the importance of taking the course he has now taken. In the second-reading debate, several honorable members, including myself, pointed out that, under the British scheme, 2d. a week is collected from a juvenile, and 2d a week from the employers, whilst the capitation fee is fixed at 9s. a yea>r, or, approximately, 2d. a week for each juvenile contributor.;. <I understand that when, the proposed contribution under this scheme in respect of juveniles was fixed at 4d. a week from the employee and 4d. a week, from the employer, the intention of the Treasurer was to include sickness benefit] I cannot conceive of any actuary suggesting, a contribution of 8d. a week for the provision of medical services costing only 2-^d. a week. How does the Treasurer account for the other 5½d. a week? There appears to have been a slip either in the computation of the contributions, or in regard to the benefits proposed to be derived. If the Treasurer takes more notice of the suggestions made in the second-reading speeches of honorable members a similar set of circumstances may not arise on future occasions.
– I am pleased that the Treasurer has agreed to the postponement of the clause for the purpose of considering my proposal, which was ruled out of order on the ground that it would increase the appropriation. I desire that provision should be made for juveniles in the form of sick pay or disablement pay. With all due respect to the Treasurer, I point out that he is wrong in suggesting that in only a few cases would this benefit be required. He should make himself conversant with the conditions obtaining on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales.
– I should like to do that.
– I invite the Minister to do so. Often a boy has to take the place of the breadwinner for a widowed mother and her other children. Sometimes 70 or SO lads take part in a ‘ competitive examination for appointment as temporary juvenile telegraph messengers. They are appointed from the ages of fourteen to sixteen years, and, when they reach the age of sixteen years, requests are received from all parts of Australia that these temporary employees shall be allowed to remain in employment. The contributions of a juvenile worker will be taken and yet he will not receive any benefit.
– He will get free insurance for a period up to a year.
– Should he become sick, he would get sickness payments?
– He would get medical treatment.
– Only provided that he had paid contributions for thirteen weeks. But should he become sick before the expiry of thirteen weeks, he would get no medical treatment. In such circumstances, who would pay the doctor? I arn pleased that the Treasurer has agreed to defer consideration of the clause, and I hope that when it comes before the committee again it will provide for both sick and disablement benefits for juveniles.
– Disablement benefits are not covered by this clause.
– I, too, am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has seen fit to postpone consideration of this clause, although, in my opinion, acceptance of the suggestions made would not increase the appropriation. On the contrary, it would adjust or reduce the reserve balance made up of contributions in excess of the visible and known expenditure. I hope that on further consideration of the clause a glaring anomaly will be removed. The point involved is the value to be received for the contribution made. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Curtin), the contribution will amount to 34s. 8d. a year, whereas benefits valued at a maximum of only 16s. will be available to the insured person. On the face of it, that is inequitable. The Treasurer may be interested to know that the contribution to a friendly society by a juvenile member is 16s. per annum, in consideration of which he receives sickness benefits immediately the society receives notice of his sickness. There is no lapse of thirteen weeks, as is provided for in this measure. Moreover, for lid. a week, or approximately 6s. a year, sick pay at the rate of 8s. per week is available to the junior member. Under this bill the contribution will be 8d. a week - 4d. a week each from the employer and the juvenile employee - and having regard to the general reserve that will be available, it should be ample to meet all requirements.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is to be congratulated on having brought forward this proposal to postpone consideration of this clause, and I am pleased the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has accepted the suggestion. This is one of the most important clauses of the bill. Although it is regrettable that so many youths of tender age are engaged in industry, all youths who are in employment should be entitled to cover under this bill. The bill provides for medical-, sickness, and disablement and other benefits, as well as pensions to aged persons, widows and orphans, and also allowances for dependent children. The first four of those benefits should be available to juvenile employees. It is not necessary to make the provisions in respect of oldage pensions apply to them, as they can contribute towards such pensions when they attain the age of sixteen years. 1 hope that when the clause comes before us again it will be in a form which provides for medical, disablement, sickness and other benefits for juvenile employees and not be left as it now stands, as the result of present discontent among supporters of the Government having been overcome. I am convinced that the granting of these benefits to juveniles would not increase the Government’s’ liability under the bill.
.- Honorable gentlemen who have criticized this clause do not fully comprehend the extent to which it protects juvenile employees. Such criticism as has been offered appears to be based on the assumption that a juvenile will be employed for the full period between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years, and that whereas the contributions to be paid in respect of his employment will total 34s. 8d. a year, the medical benefit payable to him will be worth only a maximum of 16s. Critics of the clause appear to assume that those are the only benefits which a juvenile employee will receive. That is not so, because a juvenile who has been employed between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years will become eligible for sickness benefits three months earlier than if he did not obtain employment until he reached the age of sixteen years. In that direction alone the youth who has been in employmentbetween the ages of fourteen and sixteen years will derive a considerable advantage.
– That is an empty argument.
– It is not; a youth who is employed between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years may receive sickness benefits three months earlier than if he commences work at sixteen years. If he has not been in employment between; the ages of fourteen and sixteen years, he will have towait six months, or double the period.
-He will have to wait three months at fourteen years, and a further threemonths at sixteen years, making a total of six months. He will have to wait six months in any case.
– The honorable member for Macquarie . (Mr. John Lawson) should sit down.
– Order ! Notwithstanding that the Chair has repeatedly called honorable members to order, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has persisted in interjecting. I warn the honorable member not to interject again.
– Even if the youth has been employed for only a short period between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years, he will be eligible to obtain sickness benefits earlier than it he docs not start work until sixteen. Further he will become eligible for the medical benefit if between the ages of fourteen and sixteen he has paid only one contribution after the qualifying period had ended. Those honorable members who say that youths willbe exploited under this bill do not fully understand the provision madefor them.
– I say so definitely.
– I emphasize the conditions under which medical bene fits will be made available to a lad over fourteen years of age who obtains employment. Should hepay one contribution after he has worked for three months, and then fall out of employment or become sick, he will get free medical benefits without any further contribution until he reaches the age of sixteen, and for a period of up to six months after he becomes sixteen and ahalf years of age. I suggest that the rates have been fixed, according to sound insurance principles, with those facts in mind, because obviously an insured youth cannot be charged merely the bare cost of medical benefit during the period that he is employed, when, after paying fourteen contributions, he may receive full medical benefits for a further two and a quarter years without paying a single contribution.
– Thecontributions under this scheme will be heavier than those payable to friendly societies, and yet the benefits will not be so great.
– That is not so.
– Only one member of the family pays contributions to a friendly society.
– Those who criticize this clause have not established that the benefits under this scheme are not commensurate with those obtained from’ friendly societies. The proposal is sound in every respect.
.- In my opinion, an error has been made in calculating either the contribution by the juvenile, or the benefit that he will receive, and, therefore, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) acted wisely when he agreed to defer consideration of this clause until a careful examination of the whole position had been made. . I have had an analysis made on an actuarial basis of how the adult contribution of 3s. is allocated. It is as follows: Medical benefit, 4d. ; sickness and disability,10d. ; oldage pension,10d. ; widows and orphans, 1s. The employer and adult employee will have to contribute 2d. each for medical benefit for the employee, but the employer and juvenile employee will have to pay 4d. each for the juvenile employee to enjoy the same benefit. The sickness and disability cash benefits for adult persons cost10d. a week and to put juveniles on the same basis as adults would mean that contributions in respect of them wouldbe1s. 2d. instead of 8d. a week. Some allowance must have been made for the fact that the riskwith juveniles is less, or some other factor of which we have not been informed must have been considered. I admit that the juveniles should get sick pay; but in considering this matter, the Government should bear in mind the fact that that pay should not be the same as that provided for adults. If a juvenile earning 15s. or £1 a week were to receive the same sick pay as the adult he would be encouraged to malinger as much as possible.
– It is not rot. That is human nature. If a boy is going to get, say, 5s. a week more to stop at home than he would get if he went to work it would be a business proposition for him to stop at home.” Although I impress uponthe Government the need to take that aspect of the matter under consideration, I feel that it has already done so. That is the only reason that I can see for fixing the juvenile contribution at 8d. a week. Consideration should be given to the payment of sick pay to juveniles, but the rate of contribution in respect of that sick pay should not be so high as to make it a hardship for the juvenile to find the premium. A good deal of the criticism against this measure has been based on the hardship that will be encountered by employed persons in finding the money to contribute to the fund.
.- We have reached the nineteenth clause, Mr. Chairman, and although I have jumped to my feet on every clause, this is the first opportunity on which I have been given an opportunity to say a word in committee.
– Order ! If the honorable member is trying to impute motives of partiality to the Chair, I assure him that he is entirely wrong. The Chair is impartial and gives full consideration to every honorable member who rises to speak. The honorable gentleman is out of order.
– I shall leave it go at that.
I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has agreed to postpone this clause so that at a later stage we shall have, I hope, an opportunity to discuss it fully. I am of the opinion that the clause could be amended merely by the insertion of the words “ and sick benefits “, but if that be not the case we shall have to deal with the matter when we reach clauses 48 and 115. I am impressed by the arguments that have been advanced in support of the inclusion of youths in the sick benefit provisions ofthis bill. I should not be surprised if there were honorable members of this committeewho themselves have had at an immature age to contribute materially towards the support of their homes. I have personal knowledge of many boys of tender years who are doing so to-day. Their omission from sick benefit should be rectified.
Clause 20 (Free insurance period).
– Clause 20 andclause 21, to an extent, have to do with an important aspect of this plan, that is, provision for the free insurance period.Very broadly, the proposal is that when, a man ceases to be employed, loses his job, and so loses the opportunity to pay contributions himself and to have contributions paid for him, his right to insurance does not cease. The object of the Government in these two clauses is to preserve for as long a period as is practicably possible theright of that man to insurance. The main object, of course, is to cover periods of unemployment. The free insurance period will be a very costly partof this national insurance plan, but, at the same time, it is an essential part of the general scheme. The Government has endeavoured to be as liberal as possible.
– Isan insured person required to make up contributions after having returned to work?
– No, not necessarily. In some cases, as I shallexplain later, in order to qualify for some of the full benefits, back payments will have to be made; but in the mainthat is not the plan. When a man falls out of employment and so ceases to be a contributor he will have a free insurance period of a maximum of from 18to 24 months, depending on when, during the insurance half-year, he loses his employment. That is to say, if a man loses his ability to contribute at the beginningof the halfyear and is unemployed for sufficiently long a period, he will , be entitled to free insurance for nearly two years; but, if that happens towards the end of the halfyear, the term of free insurance will be reduced proportionately. The, maximum free insurance period will average 21 months.
– Theperiod of free insurance then is dependent on the period of the year in which a man loses his job ?
– That is so. It is because the approved societies and consequently the commission cannot be certain of obtaining information as to when a man. ceases to be a contributor except at the end of the six months’ period when the insurance cards come in. Experience in other parts of the world - and. I daresay it will apply here - shows that many people are not prompt in notifying the approved societies if they lose their employment. The intention of the Government was to limit the free insurance period to eighteen months, but, on further consideration, it saw that in a number of cases an extra six months would be needed, and for the convenience of the administration, it was decided to make the maximum period, two years. .Some of the benefits under the free insurance period depend on a man’s or woman’s previous record of contributions. When I said a little earlier that one of the main objects in the creation of this free period was to keep a man in insurance, I meant that if a man is kept in insurance during a period of unemployment it will not be necessary for him to requalify for the benefits of insurance. But, after he has definitely been out of insurance, when he re-enters the scheme, he will have to qualify for benefits as if he had never been in insurance before. The Government has made the free period as long as is humanly possible.
– Even though a man may have been insured for 30 years, if he loses employment for more than two years and thereby passes out of insurance, he will have to requalify for benefits when he rejoins the scheme?
-Yes. In the free insurance period medical benefit will continue for the whole term. That is to say, the .individual previously a contributor who has lost his employment will receive free medical attention and free medicines irrespective of his record of previous contributions. Should a contributor start with a good record of contributions his sick and disablement benefits would continue for eighteen months without diminution. Should he have less than a full measure of contributions in the ^period .before his free insurance commenced
– What is meant by a “full measure of contributions?”
– A full measure of contributions means 52 contributions in twelve months. Should he have less, his sick . pay may diminish after a time.
That scale, on which it will diminish has yet to be determined, and will be covered by regulations. It may be of advantage to cite, say, two examples of persons losing their employment, and whose contributions cease. Assuming that this scheme is. in full operation, and a contributor . who has paid his contributions for twelve months loses his job during the last week in December of this year; his free insurance period will continue until the end of June, 1940. Throughout the whole of that period he will be entitled to free medical treatment and free medicine, although for eighteen months no contribution will have been paid by the employee or by an employer in- respect of him. He may possibly have been in arrears with his contributions.
– How could his contributions have been in arrears if they are compulsorily deducted from his wages?
– He may have been out of work for three months.
– If he has paid 26 contributions he is covered.
– I am speaking of the period before he loses his employment.
– There appears to be a qualification. A man is being penalized for causes beyond his control.
– We are extending the period to: the greatest extent. Should a man lose his employment at the end of December of this year, his sickness .benefits will not be affected until June, 1940, or for a period of eighteen months. He would be entitled to full benefits during that period.
– Is it not a diminishing benefit ?
– It is in certain instances. In order that honorable members may fully understand this provision, I refer them to clause 71 in which it, is sought to give the commission power to overlook arrears or deficiencies in payments to enable contributors to qualify for certain benefits. It is proposed to implement clause 71 in this way: In order to get the scheme properly started, and to get as many persons as is possible into insurance on as complete a basis as is practicable, it is proposed to direct the commission to overlook any arrears or deficiencies of contributions - assuming the scheme comes into operation in January,. 1939 - during the calendar year 1939. When a person by being in insurance employment has qualified for. sick pay for 26 weeks, the commission will overlook arrears with the object of giving as many persons as is possible a good start in insurance. As I have stated, that will be done under regulations to be framed under clause 71. That provision has a definite bearing on how the free insurance period will work in practice, particularly during the early stages. Of course I do not suggest that sick benefits will continue beyond that period—
– They will be in a trap.
– No, the ordinary operation of the measure will make full benefits available.
– There will be a general election in 194i03 and it might be bad business- to do otherwise.
– ‘Calculations have not been ma.de from that viewpoint.
– Does the Treasurer suggest that under clause 21 juveniles are entitled to a free period?
– Juvenile contributors get a very definite free period under clause 48, and, in fact, I believe that that is the reason for the waiting period of thirteen weeks. A juvenile would have to pay contributions for only thirteen weeks to enable him to get full medical benefit until he was sixteen and a half years of age, and beyond that age. The position will of course have to be reviewed. I do not know whether it is possible to maintain the same free insurance period under other conditions. When a person falls sick at the end of his free insurance period, and is certified as sick, he automatically receives six months’ extension.
– That will bring it up to two. years.
– An insured person could bD covered for up to two and a half years.
– Then how can the Treasurer say that the average period is 21 months when he says that it may be up to two and a half years?
– What I have said applies only to the man who is still sick at the end of his free insurance period.
– If he still requires the services of a doctor^ will such service be available for another six months?
– I think that I am right in saying that at the end of his further free insurance period of .six months, if he again finds himself indisposed, the period is extensionable for a further six’ months. That is a matter which I shall have to study more closely. If a contributor is unfortunate enough to be certified as sick at the end of his free insurance period, or at the end. of an extension of such free insurance period, he will still be entitled to benefits. I shall give another example. Should a contributor’s employment cease - assuming again that the scheme has been in operation for some time - in April of this year, his free insurance period would extend to the end of December, 1939, and during the whole of that time he would be entitled to free medical treatment and free medicine. In the circumstances I have mentioned, any arrears or deficiencies which had occurred prior to the contributor losing his job, would not affect the maximum rate of his sick or disablement benefit until after the 30th June, 1939. He would be entitled to the full rate for the first full year of his free insurance period, and also to a reduced amount of sick pay for the last six months of such period, unless, of course, he were able to pay up his arrears or have them paid for him before the end of the first twelve months of his free insurance period.
– If he were not at work there would be . no employer’s contribution.
– No, but there is a possibility of the arrears being p.aid
– Will employe.es be liable for arrears’?
– No. 1
– But they will still receive benefits?
– Yes. Should a contributor’s payments be. paid by a friend, or in some other way, the investment from his viewpoint would be go.od because he would be entitled to continue for the remaining six months. -,
– But the employee will not be compelled to pay?
– What would be the position of a voluntary contributor ?
-Voluntary contributors are dealt with elsewhere. I do not suggest for a moment that it is easy to get an accurate conception of the free insurance period ; but I, can assure honorable members that the Government has done its best to make this free insurance period as liberal as is possible in a real endeavour, particularly in respect of the interpretation of clause 71, to get as many persons as is possible into full insurance, and once having got them in, if they should lose their employment, to deal with them as generously as is possible. I remind the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who has made some calculations in respect of contributions and benefits, that possibly, he has not taken into account thecost of the free insurance period. It is definitely one of the benefits under this measure, and a fairly costly one.
– I am not quite satisfied with the explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) regarding the position of juvenile contributors. This clause states that the provision shall apply to all insured persons, other than juvenile contributors, who cease to be employed, &c. The Minister has stated that they will be covered under clause 48, but clause 48 states that -
A juvenile contributor shall not be entitled tomedical benefits until the beginning of the fourteenth week after the week in which he entered into insurance.
– I propose to ask for the postponement of clause 48, as well as of clause 19.
– Yes, but it is proposed to exclude juvenile contributors.
– In clause 49, there is a separate provision for a free insurance period for juvenile contributors.
– I should also like to know whether voluntary contributors will be covered in this’ regard in the same way as compulsory contributors.
-I believe they will, but there is a further provision enabling them to pay arrears.
– I should like to know just what is the actual position of voluntary contributors in regard to periods of free insurance. A voluntary contributor engaged in business may make losses during one year, and be unable to keep up his insurance payments. Would he be allowed a period of free insurance or would he be compelled to pay arrears before obtaining any benefit?
– There is no compulsion to pay arrears.
– I take it that a person could insure voluntarily under this act, and pay contributions for the full period, entitling him to all benefits. That would entitle him, on an average, to 21 months , free insurance. He could then pay his contributions for another quarter, and re-qualify for a further period of free insurance. Thus, outof every two and a quarter years, he might have to pay contributions for only six months. Is it possible under the scheme for an insured person to go on paying his contributions, and then “ wagging “ it in this way, for an indefinite time?
– I do not think it would be quite as easy as that.
– The more one looks at this clause, the more involved it appears to be. In the first place, I understand that,before a person becomes entitled to sickness benefit, he must have contributed for 26 weeks. If he should lose his job or the work upon which he is engaged should cut out after 25 weeks, he would get no benefit.
– He would be entitled to medical benefit. He would not be entitled to sick pay, but he. would be entitled to free medicine and free medical attendance.
– When does medical benefit begin?
– The insured person is entitled to medical benefit as soon as one week’s contribution is paid ; that is, after the scheme has been in operation for three months. Normally when the scheme is in full running order, one payment of1s. 6d. entitles an insured person to receive free medical attendance and free medicines.
– I am anxious to have this matter clearly explained, because I know that, when the scheme is in operation, a great deal of the time of Parliament will he taken up in discussing matters in connexion with the scheme, and in trying to find out just what benefits it was intended that insured persons should receive. Am I to understand, then, that a person, after making one payment of1s. 6d., is entitled to free medical attention and free medicine for a period of two years if necessary?
– Yes, and if he is still sick at the end of that time, the benefit will go on and on.
– So that, for a payment of1s. 6d., an insured person becomes entitled to medical benefit for an indefinite period?
– In the ordinary course of events, it would be for 21 months.
-Now there seems to be a disposition to limit the benefit. I admit that I am trying to tie the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) down to something definite.
– I have said that, on an average, the insured person would be entitled to medical benefit for 21 months. If his case became chronic, the benefit would go on until he died.
– Then we come to the question of who is to decide when a person’s condition becomes chronic. Will the certificate of his panel doctor be sufficient to satisfy the commission that the benefit should continue?
– Yes, unless there is a suspicion that anything is wrong.
– What steps are to be taken to determine whether any such suspicion exists ?
– That is dealt with in a subsequent part of the bill. In the ordinary course of events, if a certificate is honestly given, and there is no reason to doubt it, the benefit is paid.
– We know that, in the case of invalid and war pensions, scores of certificates are honestly given by doctors to the effect that the applicant is entitled to a pension, but those certificates are not accepted.
– They are rejected by departmental doctors of. inferior qualifications.
– Yes, by quarantine doctors, very often. Unless this matter is straightened out now there will be endless argument in the future regarding medical certificates. How isthe matter to be determined? Surely the panel doctor who has been attending the insured person over a period of 21 months is best entitled to state whether or not his condition is chronic?
– It is a matter for the approved society to which theinsured person belongs.
– Ido not think that the committee would agree that such matters should be determined by any one except the insured person’s own medical attendant.
– In any case, this matter does not arise on the clause now before the committee.
– This clause has to do with the length of time during which payments will be made. We are now considering the period of free insurance, and that must rest upon medical testimony.
– Imust refer the honorable member to subsequent clauses regarding the policing of the benefit provision by a local medical committee.
– I am able to deal only with the clausebefore the committee now. Therefore, as this clause precedes the others to which the Treasurer has referred, we should be informed now regarding the effect on it of the activities of the medical committee.
– The point the honorable member is making now bears, not only upon this clause, but also upon all the clauses which have to do with the rights of insured persons to medical benefit. It is, of course, of the greatest importance to the insured person how he shall establish his claim to the benefit, but I do not think that it has particular reference to the period of free insurance.
– I regard this as a matter of great importance. , We know that arguments about the right to receive medical benefit will inevitably arise, and I want to know to what extent the certificate of the panel doctor will be accepted in these cases.
– In the ordinary course of events, if there is no suggestion that there is anything wrong, the certificate will be accepted without question.
– I want to know upon whom the onus of proof will rest - on the insured person, or on the commission?
– The commission will employ regional medical officers.
– Similar difficulties arise in respect of applications for soldiers’ pensions. The onus is placed on the unfortunate soldier to prove, twenty years after the war, that his condition is due to war service whereas such onus of proof should be placed on the Repatriation Commission.
– It depends on the certificate of the panel doctor, but should there arise any suggestion that there is something wrong, the regional medical officer, who will be a servant of the Insurance Commission, may be asked to look into the case. In the vast majority of cases no such suspicion would arise.
– Assuming that the regional medical officer looked into a case, what steps would then be taken?
– We cannot take the whole of the bill when dealing with onlyone clause.
– But I suggest that the honorable gentleman should follow the point to its finish.
– I suggest that the honorable member for West Sydney refer to this matter later when the committee is dealing with the relevant clause.
– My next point deals with sub-clause (2). Upon what grounds did the Government arrive at the provision that if the approved society is satisfied, that within three days after the date when he ceased to be employed the insured person was incapable of work by reason of sickness, the period of two years shall be reckoned from the end of the contribution week in which he ceased to be so incapable of work?
– The approved society cannot be quite sure of getting such information within three days, and that is just a necessary precaution which has been taken on behalf of the insured person.
– If the period of three days is exceeded does it mean that the insured person is not eligible for benefits during the free insurance period ?
– That point is dealt with later.
– I cannot find any later reference to it. My point is that if an insured person falls sick within the period of 26 weeks, or after he has completed 26 payments, his free insurance will not continue to run until he reaches a point where he falls out of his contributions altogether. If he is in a job and falls sick, and remains sick for a certain period and then goes back to his job, no question of free insurance arises.
– Another aspect arises. Neither the employee nor his employer is obliged to pay premiums during the employee’s period of sickness, but the employee is deemed to be insured in respect of that period of sickness. That is not called free insurance.
– In that case he is deemed to be eligible to receive sickness, medical and disablement benefits, and in the event of his death his widow would be entitled to those benefits?
– If he had reached the qualifying period, yes.
– I did not quite grasp the observations made by the Treasurer as to what extent the free insurance period, which is said to be 21 months,, could be extended.
– That point is covered by clause 21.
– The Treasurer stated that the average duration of the free insurance period was 21 months, and that at the end of that period if certain circumstances, the nature of which I do not know, arose, such period might be extended for two years or longer.
– If a man loses his job on the 2nd July his free insurance period would be two years less two days; if he loses his job on the 29 th June it would be eighteen months and one day. If he is sick at the date of the expiration of that free insurance period, he gets an extension of six months.
– That is if he has not recovered from his disablement?
– It is not disablement, but unemployment that entitles an insured person to start on the free insurance period.
– If he goes on to the free insurance period which runs to eighteen months, and just before that period has expired, he falls sick and produces a certificate from his panel doctor, could his period be extended by six months? Could he go on to sickness or disablement benefits after the expiration of half that period?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Is an employee deemed to have paid his contribution once his employer has deducted it from his wages? I ask that question because under the Queensland unemployment relief tax legislation which provides for the payment of contribution by means of stamps as is set out in clause 42 of this measure, there have been cases in which an employer has failed to buy stamps, and similar cases may arise under this scheme.
– That point is covered by a whole set of provisions in this measure.
– But in some cases the commission will not be able to recover because the offending employer may go insolvent and leave no assets to pay his arrears. In cases of that kind will such failure on the part of an employer prejudice the rights of an employee?
– I refer the honorable member to clause 171 (2) which reads -
Any employer who -
– That is not my point. Such an employer is guilty of an offence but, assuming he has no assets for the payment of his arrears, are the rights of the insured persons protected?
– That is if the contributions have actually been deducted from the employee’s wages?
– I am fairly certain that provision is made in the bill to protect the rights of an employee in such circumstances, but whether that is so or not I think I can give the assurance that in such cases the employee’s rights will be protected. The responsibility for making the contributions rests on the employer.
– And if the employer fails to make the contributions the employee is not responsible?
– That is so.
– Is there any obligation on the part of the employee to see that the stamps are on his card?
– No; the responsibility rests on the employer.
– Reverting to the point which I was making previously, I ask whether, at the end of the period of free insurance, provided the panel doctor certifies to the condition of the insured person, it is within the power of the insured person to continue his free insurance period for another six months?
– That point is covered in clause 21.
– Can we say then that at the end of that period such an insured person, who has paid 104 contributions prior to entering the free insurance field, and whose condition qualifies him for disablement payments, can continue indefinitely to qualify for disablement payments ?
– Yes, until he reaches the maximum age.
– It may be argued at the end of the two years that he is sick . but not in such a condition as to be eligible for disablement payments.
– But there is no difference between medical qualification for sickness payments and the qualification for disablement payments.
– But is there not a difference in respect of the qualification for free insurance? If at the end of two years, which is the limit of the free insurance period for sickness, he passes out of the free insurance field, and is still unemployed, is it correct to say that, having paid 104 contributions, he passes into the disablement field and can then qualify for invalidity or disablement payments?
– If a man becomes chronically ill - he need not be permanently and totally incapacitated - before the expiration of his free insurance period, and his illness debars Mm from work, his disablement payments continue until he reaches the age of 65. years, when he becomes eligible for the old-age pension.
– But suppose his condition is not-certified as’ entitling him to enter the disablement field?
– It is not necessary to have any alteration of the man’s physical condition as between disablement and sickness; the only difference is that the disablement payment at the end of six months of sickness is 15s. instead of £1 a week-
– I am looking at this matter from the aspect of free insurance. Whilst the’ period of free insurance is limited, is there a limit to the time during which a nian can receive disablement payments so long as he ha% made contributions? What I am driving at is, will an argument arise at the end of two years as to whether the man should pass into the disablement class, or whether the expiration of the free insurance period must deprive him of further benefit?
– If -the honorable member will assume a case I shall do my best to answer him. Assume that a man, a month before the end of that part of his free insurance period in which he is able to pay full sickness contributions, becomes sick, he will then draw sick pay. If he is unfortunate enough to be sick for six months, he will go into disability, and the only alteration will be that he will receive 15s. a week plus allowances for his children, instead of £1 a week plus allowances.
– .Suppose the argument arises about, sickness instead of about disability, j& it possible that he could pass out of benefits on the ground that, having exhausted the sickness benefit, he is npt eligible to enter into disability benefit?
– The difference between sickness and disability benefits is only a matter of time. .If the- period of sickness extends beyond six months it is called by a different name and an insured person is paid a slightly different rate.
– There is a period of two years for- .free insurance for sickness benefit. There is an unlimited period for disablement- benefit, provided the in sured person has made 104 payments. If after, six months’ sickness the man will receive disablement benefit until he is 65 years of age, 1 am satisfied.
– Would not that .be decided on the report of the doctor ?
– The honorablemember for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) brings me to whore argument will arise. The argument will be on the determination of the question whether the person is entitled to indefinite disablement benefit. Should he pass into the field of definite disablement - he would go on the invalidity list. A man may be in insurance for years until he reaches the age of 40 or 45. What provisions are in the bill to give him benefits in keeping with what may be regarded as his equity in the scheme? I base my remarks on the statistics presented by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), who showed that a vast number of workers from 45 years onwards in industries have, for many reasons, gone out of specified industries. At the present day one of the main reasons is the introduction of improved machinery. To prove that, I” may add that the International Labour Office two years ago, in a report submitted by the Director, drew the attention of countries that are signatories to the treaty to the creation of a new unemployed class. The men forming that class are dislodged from 45 years onwards by the introduction of new machines. The previous years of their lives have been devoted to a particular operation in industry, and machines have taken their places. There is no room for them in other avenues of employment, because they are not suitably trained and are unable to compete with a large unskilled army of younger men. The International Labour Office drew attention to the fact that these unemployables arc the result of the mechanization of industry. As the world progresses, the conditions referred to in the report will become more widespread. I want to see whether something can be done for men who, having paid into the scheme for 20 or 25 years, and having been fortunate, in many cases, in not having participated in its benefits, are faced with the situation I have mentioned. A period of two years soon passes, and
I want to know whether some status in free insurance can he provided for the subsequent year’s to which I have referred.
– I know how difficult it is for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to answer hypothetical questions spontaneously. Even if he had been doing nothing elsefor twelve months but studying the scheme it would be impracticable and unfair to expect him to answer at once the questions that have been asked. There are two outstanding questions, however, I wish to ask regarding sub-clause (1) of clause 20. That clauseindicates the circumstances in which the two classes of contributors, compulsory and voluntary, can secure certain periods of free insurance. The sub-clause states the circumstances in which an insured person shall “ be treated for all purposes as if he were an insured person “.He must be unemployed. Does that mean that if he dies during the period of free insurance his widow will be entitled to a pension?
– Yes, subject to certain conditions having been fulfilled.
– If during the free insurance period he falls ill would he, on the certificate of a medical officer, be entitled to receive sick pay even though he is not in employment at the time?
– The second question I have concerns voluntary contributors. We know perfectly well the qualifications necessary for a compulsory contributor to become entitled to claim free insurance. Subclause (1) says that if a voluntary contributor ceases to pay contributions he becomes entitled to free insurance. Surely it will not be left to a voluntary contributor, on his own initiative, to say, in order automatically to come under the clause, “I am going to cease contributions”. I do not ask the Treasurer to reply immediately, but I hope he will do so before the discussion concludes.
.- If the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) will look at clause 177 he will see that the point he raised has a good deal of substance. An employee loses protection if the employer does not pay contributions in respect of him. The clause deals with cases where the, employer has failed to pay contributions; in which event the employee is deprived of benefits. It is quite clear that the employee’s rights should notdepend on whether the employer is discharging his obligation under the act.
The provision for free insurance gives the insured person very little indeed. It gives him, during the period of unemployment, the right to health benefits, but nothing beyond that. Sickness and disablement benefits, widows’ pensions, and old-age pensions have two conditions attached tothem. The claimant must prove not only that the insurance period has continued for a certain time, but also that a certain number of contributions have been paid. The clause that gives the free insurance period does not provide that during that period the insured person shall be in the same position as if his contributions had been paid.
– So long as he has passed the qualifying period;
– The bill should clearly say so. Allit says is that he shall continue in insurance.
– Shall “be treated for all purposes as if he were an insured person “.
-Certainly. If members ofthe committee will look at the qualifications for sickness or disability benefits, for old-age pensions and for the payment ofwidows’ pensions, they will see that not onlymust a person have been insured for a certain period, but also a certain number of contributions must have been paid. The free insurance period satisfies the first condition, but it is not provided that during that period his contributions are deemed to be paid. Consequently, giving a free insurance period means that the only thing guaranteed to himis the health benefit. That is the only thing that is not contingent on a certain number of contributions having been paid. Sickness benefit is contingent on a certain number of contributions having been paid. Disablement benefit is also contingent on the payment of a certain number of contributions. So, too, are old-age and widows’ pensions. That is to say, not only must a person havebeen an insured person, but during the period of his insurance he must have made a certain minimum number of contributions. The number of payments must have been 26 in the case of sickness benefit, and 104 in the case of disablement benefit. If a man’s failure to pay contributions is due to unemployment he has satisfied the first condition, that is to say, he is an insured person. But satisfaction of the first condition is not sufficient. The second condition requires that in respect of him the required number of contributions must have been paid over the prescribed period. In the case of old-age pensions the payments must have totalled 208 weeks, and in the case of widow’s pensions 104. I find in the bill no provision that a person in the free insurance period shall be in the same position as though his contributions were paid. This being so, in the absence of any other provisions, it seems to me that all that a person enjoying a free insurance period will get as a right, is the health benefit irrespective of the amount which he has paid. I hope that I am wrong.
– My proposed amendment will meet the situation.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has given notice of an amendment to clause 21, to the effect that a person who is enjoying a free insurance period shall be deemed to have paid his contributions as they fell due.
Mr.Ward. - He will not, because of the trap which the Government has deliberately inserted in the bill.
– Apparently the Government has not deliberately put a trap into the bill. I accept the assurance of the Treasurer that the position is intended to be as I suggest it ought to be. But as I read the bill, all that it gives, as a right, to a person who remains on the insured list, is the right to the health benefit. There are two conditions to be fulfilled before other benefits can be received. One is that a person shall be an insured person, and the other is that a certain number of contributions shall have been paid in respect of him. If a man is in the free insurance period, it seems to me that unless 104 payments have been made in respect of him, he cannot get the disability pension, nor can his wife, in the event of his death, receive a widow’s pension. Unless 208 payments have been made, he cannot get an old-age pension, and unless 26 payments have been made, he is not entitled to sickness benefit. I hope that I am wrong, but that is the position as I see it.
– The honorable gentleman is now saying something different.
– No, I am merely repeating what I said. I wish to put this matter in such a way that it cannot be misunderstood by the Treasurer. I think Ihave made it clear to the committee. Surely, except in the case of the health benefit, there is only one condition to be fulfilled; that is that the man be insured. He may be insured by virtue of the fact that contributions have been paid in respect of him or because he is in a free insurance period. To qualify for other benefits, he must not only be an insured person, in respect of whom a certain number of contributions have been paid–
– Does the honorable member mean in respect of each particular benefit?
– That is clear. I said that. If a man is to claim sickness benefit, he must show not only that he is insured but also that, in respect of him, 26 payments have been made since he last entered into insurance; to claim a disability pension, he must prove that 104 payments have been made; to claim an old-age pension, he must prove that 208 payments have been made, and prove also that, on the - average, for each of the last three years 39 contributions have been made. In the event of his death, if his widow claims a widow’s pension, she must prove that, in respect of her late husband, 104 payments were made since he last entered into insurance, and must prove also that 26 payments were made for each of the last three years. It is clear that a person enjoying a free insurance period gets nothing but the health benefit, no matter what he may have paid into the fund, unless, before his period of free insurance, he has previously fulfilled the conditions prescribed by the act. It should be clear to the committee that this free insurance period does not give an insured person very much at all. As a Scotchman might say, it gives “ nothing for nothing and damned little for eighteenpence “.
.- The amendment to clause 21, indicated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) should meet the position. The point which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) was endeavouring to make clear to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was that if an insured person had paid contributions for 102 weeks and then, because of unemployment, entered into a free insurance period in which he remained for twenty weeks, his widow, in the event of his death, would not be entitled to a widow’s pension. Similarly, if a person after paying contributions for 102 weeks became disabled, and subsequent to a free insurance period of twenty weeks became permanently disabled, he would not be entitled to the disablement pension. The point that should be stressed is that the period of free insurance should be regarded as part of the time for which a person is contributing. If a man had paid for 102 weeks prior to entering a period of free insurance and died after ten weeks, the total payment period would be 112 weeks.
– I remind the honorable member that the committee is discussing clause 20.
– That is so. I agree that the amendment indicated should be moved at a later stage.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that voluntary contributors could enter a free insurance period, whenever they pleased by merely ceasing their payments. That contingency is governed by clause 40, which states that the minimum number of contributions to be paid by a voluntary contributor within a period of twelve months shall be 45.
– Requiring him to pay 45 contributions out of 52 is pretty stiff. If he makes 43 contributions and is incapable of making the remaining two, he will receive very little.
– He can pay the remaining contributions and become eligible for the benefits.
– He could not do so if he were to lose his employment.
– A line must be drawn somewhere. We have to remember that he will not pay anything like full premiums for the benefits that he may get. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) argued that contributions are not deemed to be paid during a free insurance period. He is right. The scheme could not possibly work in such circumstances, because if it were so, a man could, by paying only one weekly contribution of ls. 6d., enter the free insurance period, and in the event of’ his death his widow could claim a- widow’s pension worth £700, as well as the entire range of other benefits which may be worth many hundreds of pounds. If a man, having qualified for any of the benefits, enters a free insurance period because of unemployment or sickness, then his rights to these benefits will continue.
– Only for a period.
– Yes, for the period of free insurance.
– Surely it is not suggested that some member of the Opposition has an amendment designed to bring about the state of affairs referred to by the honorable member for Bourke, namely, that it shall be deemed that during : a free insurance period all contributions shall have been paid. The scheme could not possibly work out along those lines. If, because of unemployment, a man enters a free insurance period, he carries with him benefits for which he qualified up to that stage.
.- The last statement made by the Treasurer is not correct. If a man had been covered by insurance for some time and had completed 26 weekly payments before the period of free insurance began, he would be entitled to sickness benefit.’’ Similarly, if he had made 104 contributions before entering free insurance, he would be entitled to disablement’ benefit. But the right to an old-age pension, or a widow’s pension, depends upon not only the payment of a certain number of contributions, but also upon a certain number of payments in each of the three years preceding the claim.
– That is a condition of these payments; it cannot be altered.
– “Why cannot it be altered? If it is unalterable, it is wrong.
– lt cannot be altered by unemployment.
– Evidently the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) does not understand my point. Suppose a person had made 208 contributions. If he then became unemployed, bo would get free insurance for two years. Suppose that at the end of that time he would bc entitled to claim the old-age pension. He would be told that he could not get the pension because he should have paid on the average 39 contributions during each of the three years preceding his claim and he had not paid during the last two years. His reply would be that he had been enjoying a free insurance period. But the bill does not take account of that.
.- The contention of the Opposition in regard to the free insurance period may be briefly summarized in this way: Whatever benefits a person may have under this bill, as the result of being insured, shall be unaffected by the free insurance period. If, when he became unemployed, lie would be qualified to receive the oldage pension, any inability on his part to continue the contributions during his free insurance period should not deprive him of eligibility for the old-age pension, sickness benefit, or a pension for his widow, merely because, as the result of unemployment, he was unable to maintain the continuity of his contributions. We say that having established certain rights under the bill while employed, whatever* those rights were when a person entered on the free insurance period, they should be secured to him during that period. We contend that this clause and the relevant clauses, as drawn, mean that a pensioner, as the result of the free insurance period, would be entitled only to medical benefit. Suppose a man had .reached the age of 63 years, and was eligible for the old-age pension, provided he could continue in employment until 65 years of age. If unem ployment overtook him, he would be entitled to medical benefit until of the pensionable age, but owing to the provision that he must make a certain number of payments in the three years prior to his application for the old-age pension, he would forfeit his eligibility for the pension. We should safeguard the insured person against any disqualification from benefits to which he would have been entitled if he had continued to make his contributions as an insured person ; otherwise the term “ free insurance period “ is meaningless. We say that the insurance status should not be lessened or impaired during any period of free insurance.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and, unless the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) can furnish a satisfactory reply to that honorable member, I shall vote against the clause. As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) pointed out, a person might become bankrupt, and be unable to continue his contributions.
.-L-There could be indefinite extensions, six months at a time, of the free insurance period, if a person happened to be sick at the time when any one free insurance period expired. It seems to me that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is somewhat confusing the free insurance period with the period when a contributor would draw a sickness benefit. The average length of the free insurance period would be 21 months. If a person happened to be sick for a week at the end of such a period, his free period would be extended for a further six months. If, at, the end of that time, he was again sick for only a week, he would receive a further six months’ extension of the free period. Then, if, miraculously, he became sick at the right time, every six months, the free period would be continued indefinitely. If a person had been drawing sickness benefit for six months in any circumstances, and if his panel doctor would give, a certificate to the effect that he was still sick and unable to work, he would receive the disablement benefit, which, subject to his condition, might continue indefinitely.
– Then there is no real difference between sickness benefit and disablement benefit.
– No, except in regard to the amount of the payment.
– What difference is there in the classifications of his condition?
– If he was certified by his doctor to be eligible by reason of his physical condition for sickness benefit, he would get that benefit for six months. Then, if he was still sick and unable to work, the doctor would again certify accordingly.
– Would that be done as a matter of course?
– The doctor must give a certificate at intervals, if the person continued to be sick. As long as he was certified by his doctor to be too sick for work, he would get the sickness benefit for six months, and the disablement benefit for the rest of the time.
– But, if he could not make the necessary contributions within the fixed period prior to his reaching the age of 65 years, he would not be able to qualify for the old-age pension.
– He could qualify for a non-contributory pension.
– There is a difference between the rates of payment provided for sickness and disablement. How will it be decided which rate is to apply?
– Time alone will show whether a man is entitled to the sickness benefit or to the disablement benefit. During free insurance, periods of sickness will be deemed to be periods of contributions; the contributions will be deemed, to have been paid.
– But not during a period of disablement?
– Yes, certainly. During periods of physical disability, when a man cannot work, his contributions will be deemed to have been paid.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 (Extension of free insurance period).
.- The debate on clause 20 has shown the need to keep the administration watertight. I therefore move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : -
For all purposes of this act, the contributions of an insured person shall be deemed to have been paid each week during his free insurance period.
– As the amendment would give a benefit to which the insured person would otherwise not be entitled, it would mean additional expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue, and therefore it is not in order.
– I wish to make a submission in respect of your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I submit that the assumption that it is impossible for a private member to move to increase a benefit under this bill is wrong. I say that without any disrespect to those who have accepted that position. Neither the Standing Orders of this chamber, nor the English practice, which we are directed to accept in the absence of Standing Orders, precludes such an amendment as that of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) from being moved. I propose to show that the English practice in connexion with bills such as this permits such an amendment to be moved.
– Order! If the honorable gentleman disagrees with the ruling that I have given, his only course is to move dissent from it.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– I rise to a point of order in connexion with the submission of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). A similar motion to dissent from the Chairman’s ruling, in which precisely the same principle was involved, has already been decided, and, therefore, the motion of the honorable gentleman must lead to wearisome repetition.
– The Chair is unable to uphold the point of order.
– I assure you, sir, and the committee, that I move this motion with the greatest deference to you personally and to the authority of the Chair. I should not do it if I did not think that the acceptance of your ruling would impinge upon the rights of private members in a way totally unauthorized, in my view, by the Standing Orders of this House, and also by the practice of the House of Commons, to which we are bound ‘by our Standing Orders to refer in the absence of directions. I refer, first, to our own Standing Orders. They have already been referred to several times. I differ from some honorable members on this side in that I agree that messages introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) do not in any way affect the rights of private members in this chamber. I agree with the contention raised by the Treasurer that the messages that were introduced, and the form in which they were introduced, did not take from honorable members any right that they would otherwise have enjoyed. Standing Order 171 reads -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax, rate or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill.
This bill does not propose any tax, rate or duty; separate bills are to be introduced for that purpose. Nor is there anything in this amendment to impose a tax, rate, or duty. A rate or duty is the same as a tax ; it means the sum of money which an individual taxpayer is called upon to .pay to the community, or to some other person, when called upon to do so. Standing Order 171 clearly has no application to this amendment. I come now to Standing Order 247, which was referred to earlier in the “. discussion on t,his”.bill. As the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker)’ remarked a few nights ago, Standing Order 247 is applicable only to a Committee of Supply or a Committee of Ways and Means. This Committee is not a ‘Committee of Supply, nor is it a Committee of Ways and Means ; it is a Committee of the Whole. 1 shall explain the- importance of the qualification later. I point out now that Standing Order 247 applies to Committees of Supply and of Ways and Means. Standing Order 171 applies to taxation. If anything .is to prevent members from, moving such an. amendment as that which has been ruled, out of order, it must be the practice of the English House of Commons to which we are referred in chapter one of the Standing Orders, where it is stated -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders, resort, shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland in force at thu time of the adoption of these orders, which shall be followed as far as they can ‘ be applied to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.
If there were anything in the English practice to prevent such an amendment from being submitted, the amendment would be out of order; but the English practice is entirely the other way. There is a distinction between a motion in the Committee of the Whole, and a motion in a Committee of Supply or a Committee of Ways and Means. A Committee of Supply deals with Estimates which ask for the appropriation of a definite sum of money, and a private member may not ask that the amount recommended by the Crown shall be increased. A Committee of Ways and Means deals with the methods of raising Supply - whether it shall he by. a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue or by the” imposition of a new tax. Where a definite amount is asked for, a .private member may not propose that it shall be increased. In a Committee of Supply or a Committee of Ways and Means, appropriations of specific amounts are asked for and it is not competent for a non-official member to propose that the amount for which the Crown has asked shall be increased”. That is clear. But here we have a message which has to conform to section 56 of the Constitution ; it asks merely that an appropriation be made, but does not state the amount. The wording is, “ That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made . . : “. The English practice is laid down in the tenth edition of Erskine Mai/, which was the edition in force when this House adopted these Standing Orders. The same passage is repeated, in almost identical language in subsequent editions.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 till 8 p.m.
– I am challenging the ruling of the Chair, not out of perversity or with ‘ a - - . mere desire to express an opinion,’ but because I believe that I am defending the rights of private members which a popular impression tends to destroy. If I am right, a private member is entitled to move such an amendment as has been moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) ; if I am wrong, he is not so entitled. Before dinner I referred to ‘Standing Orders 171 and 247 which have so often been mentioned in this discussion. Standing Order 171 deals with taxation. Nobody who reads the standing order in good faith can have the slightest doubt about that. It reads -
No amendment for the -imposition or for the increase of a tax rate or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill. “ Tax “ includes :< duty “, but it may not include “ rate “. For instance in this national insurance scheme, we have rates of contributions proposed; they are to be submitted in a separate bill because they may be ‘taxes. “ Tax “, “ rate “ and “ duty “ are words which mean some burden imposed upon the individual member of the public, a -liability to pay something. “Duty” may refer to customs duty, excise duty, and stamp duty - all taxes. The word is sometimes used in contradistinction to tax. “ Rates “ may be rates of tax or some other payment. Standing Order No. 171 prevents a nonofficial member from moving an amendment which seeks to impose a new tax or to increase the rate of the tax! .that is proposed. That is quite clear. The words used in our Constitution show that the word “ imposition “ is used in connexion with taxation. Standing Order No. 247, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) the other night, relates to proceedings in Committee of Supply and in Committee of “Ways and Means. Those committees deal with specific sums. In Committee of Supply the Grown asks Parliament to vote to it definite sums of money, and it is not competent for any non-official member to propose that the amount asked for shall be increased because to propose that increase would be to ask that money should be taken out of the Crown’s revenue, in excess of what the Crown had authorized or sought. In Committee of Ways and Means, honorable members deal with ways’ of giving the Crown the money already voted in Committee of Supply for its services. That may be done by authorizing the withdrawal of moneys from revenue. In each case a specific sum is being asked for or demanded by the Crown, and no non-official member can move for an increase of the sum which is asked to make good the Supply. But these rules have no application to the proceedings of the committee of the whole House. If we look for rules which have relation to the committee of the whole House, we must look to the practice of the House of Commons to which we are referred by Standing Order No. 1. As will be seen from a study of May, Standing Orders 171 and 247 merely state the English practice, lt is clear to me that Standing Order No. 171, because it relates to taxation only, and Standing Order No. 247 because it relates to’ Committee of Supply and Committee of Ways and Means, have no application. We, therefore, refer to the practice of the House of Commons, and the practice that was in force when our Standing Orders were adopted is set out at page 532 of the Tenth Edition of May. That is the edition we customarily use, but the relevant passages are repeated at page 461 of the twelfth edition and page 510 of the thirteenth edition, which is the latest. The point that I am trying to make is that there is not the slightest doubt that if there had been sent down to us a message from the Administrator, asking for the appropriation of a specific sum for the purposes of this bill, we would be limited in discussion by the fact that amendments, which we proposed to move, might increase the money to be expended beyond the specific sum for which the Crown had asked. But we have nothing of that kind before this committee.- First, we had a message asking for the appropriation of money for the bill, in accordance with the requirements of section 56 of the Constitution, which merely embodies the English practice. Then, because benefits to new classes are to be effected by amendments to be proposed by the Treasurer, a further message was brought down. I cannot see why it was brought down unless it was because new classes- were to be brought in. .’
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I thought that as the mover of a motion, I was entitled to speak for 45 minutes.
– The honorable member is entitled to speak in committee for two periods of fifteen minutes. He may take his second period now.
– I submit, Mr. Prowse, that I am entitled to 45 minutes.
– That only applies in the House. I refer the honorable member to Standing Order 257b.
– Then I hope that if necessary honorable members will grant me an extension of time, because this matter is important. I now quote from May, Tenth Edition, page 532 -
As is subsequently explained (see p. 580), the constitutional principle which vests in the Crown the sole responsibility of incurring national expenditure, forbids an increase by the Commons of a sum demanded on behalf of the Crown for the service of the State. This principle, however, is apparently disregarded when the recommendation of the Crown is given to a resolution empowering the expenditure of public money which, framed in general terms, places no limitation on the amount of expenditure to be authorized by the resolution.
That I say is this case -
As the resolution sanctions, without any specific limitation, the application of money to be provided by Parliament to certain purposes, when the clauses in a bill founded upon such a resolution arc before the committee, the freedom of action sanctioned by the resolution can be exercised. The committee is not bound by the terms of the provisions which the ministers of the Crown have inserted in the bill; and any member may propose an increase of the grants specified in these clauses, or to extend the application of the provisions of the bill, whatever may be the cost resulting therefrom, so long as the power conferred by the royal recommendation is not exceeded.
The principle laid down in May is that where the Crown has asked for an appropriation, without limiting the amount, members of the committee are at large in moving even to increase the expenditure. I exemplify that by reference to the English legislation of the same kind as that which we are now considering. In England there is a Health Insurance Act and a Widows, Orphans and Old-age Contributory Pensions Act. The method of financing the Contributory Pen sions Act is the same as is proposed in this bill. Clause 111 of this bill is almost a copy of section 14 of the English act; there are contributors and a subvention by the Crown. To the Widows, Orphans and Old-age Contributory Pensions Bill amendments were proposed in the House of Commons which, either directly, by raising the amounts, or indirectly, by bringing -additional persons within the scope of the bill, increased the amounts proposed by the Government. I quote from page 2034 of volume 186 of the British Hansard for the year 1924-25 -
Mr. DALTON: I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, to leave out the word “ ten,” .and to insert instead thereof the word “ twenty.”
I will follow your suggestion, Mr. Speaker, and be brief, but it will not be possible while this Bill is passing through the present stage not once more to raise the question as to the amount of the pension.. The purpose of the Amendment set down by honorable Members, including myself, is to increase the pension of the widow from 10s. to 20s. per week.
No objection was taken to that. The Minister did discuss the inexpediency of placing a greater burden on the Crown than was intended. He said that it would cost about £1,000,000 to do what the amendment proposed. The chairman did not rule the amendment out of order. The practice of the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons, when asked if an amendment is in order is to say, “I would not put it if I thought that it were out of order “. This amendment was not challenged. Page 2039 shows that a proposal was made to give a benefit to a child. One proposal was that 6s. should be substituted for 5s., and another amendment provided that 4s. should be substituted for 3s. On page 2043, Mr. Pethick Lawrence moved that the word “ widow “ be omitted and the word “ woman “ be inserted in order to bring all women within. the scope of the bill. On page 2050 Mr. Viant moved to increase the amount of pension from 7s. 6d. to 12s. In all these instances no objection was taken to the proposals. I now come to 1929-30 and quote from volume 231 of the English Hansard where a similar, bill was under discussion. An amendment was submitted by Mr. Brown, the member for Leith, that the words “ fifty-five “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ fortyfive.” The object of the amendment was to ensure that a widow would get the pension at the age of 45 years instead of 55, which obviously went beyond what the Government intended. Other similar instances occurred in committee, but as my time is limited I shall not be able to cite them. A specific practice has been laid down in the House of Commons that at the report stage of a bill an amendment cannot be proposed to increase the burden upon the public revenue. The practice is laid down in the Manual of Procedure prepared by the clerks of the House. I quote from page 161 of the 1912 edition-
On the consideration of a bill as amended -
a clause or amendment creating a charge on the public revenue, or imposing any tax, rate or other burden on the people, may not be moved.
The citations I made from volume 186 were at the recommittal stage; those from volume 231 relates to the committee stage of another bill; now I come to the report stage of the same bill as reported in volume 232. At that stage, where practice definitely forbids an increase of the charge upon the revenue, Mr. Buchanan moved, on page 327, to leave out “fifty-five “ and to insert “forty-five”. That was repeating the amendment that had been previously moved in committee. Mr. Buchanan said in explanation of his proposal “ This amendment, as will be seen, is intended to reduce the age of the women who receive the pension from 55 to 45.” The amendment was moved upon the consideration of the report, and had it been a proposal to increase the charge upon the revenue, it would have been definitely forbidden by the Standing Orders. Upon that bill the Chairman and the Speaker had ruled out of order certain amendments because, being outside the purpose ofthe bill, they would increase the charge upon the revenue which the Crown had authorized. In other words, although the appropriation was for no definite amount, it was definitely limited to the purposes of the bill, and the amendment, without a further appropriation, proposed something which was outside the purpose of the bill. For instance, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) last night was, in. my opinion, correctly ruled out of order because it proposed to extend the purpose of the bill, by conferring benefits upon classes of persons whom order of leave was not intended to cover, and whom the appropriation message did not cover. But in the amendment now before the committee, all that we propose to do is to give to persons within the scope of the bill increased benefits. I submit for the reasons which I have given, and which I could amplify if time permitted, that the ruling you have given, Mr. Chairman, is wrong. I say that with the utmost respect to you personally and with the utmost unwillingness to dissent from a ruling given by the Chair. I have been in a similar position myself, and I would not wantonly challenge a ruling of the Chair, but I believe that your ruling is wrong and if accepted by this committee will limit the rights of private members.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has moved “ That the ruling of the Chair be dissented from.” In doing so the honorable member has quoted from the House of Commons Hansard the debate on the Contributory Pensions Bill in 1924 and 1929. The honorable member has questioned rulings that have been upheld in this Parliament ever since the inception of federation in 1903. He has quoted some authorities, but none of them has overcome the “ fundamental principle which vests in the government - in this case, the Commonwealth Government - sole responsibility for the national expenditure. I should like to show what happened in the British Parliament in similar circumstances in 1911, when the National Insurance Bill was under consideration. I did not quite follow the honorable member for Bourke when he said that he agreed that the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports last night was correctly ruled out of order, because it extended to a class of persons not already provided for in the bill the benefits of the measure. Yet, having agreed to that principle, he says that to extend further benefits to persons already within the ambit of this bill is in order. The difference seems to be so fine that I cannot see any distinction at all. The main overriding feature is that both proposed a burden upon the budget in excess of what is contemplated in the bill. That seems to me to be the fundamental point.
– That is not the point.
– There is no burden on the budget, because we have not appropriated a single shilling.
– The amendment would mean an additional burden, and that is the point that we have to consider. The honorable member for Bourke said that if our Australian practice were the same as the House of Commons practice, he would withdraw his motion of dissent.
– No. WhatI said was that if the practice of the House of Commons at the time our Standing Orders were adopted authorized the ruling given by the Chair, I was wrong. I proceeded to show that the practice of the House of Commons in theory and in practice did not authorize that ruling.
– I apologize if I have misinterpreted the words the honorable member used. The honorable member for Bourke referred to our Standing Order No. 1, which provides that to the extent to which our Standing Orders are inadequate we shall have resort to the practice of the House of Commons. He then quoted from the 10th edition of May, published in 1893.
-I also said that the same passage occurred in subsequent editions.
– The honorable member did not quote what I think is the supremely relevant passage in May, which is to the effect that under the established practice every motion which in any way creates a charge upon the public revenue must receive the recommendation of the Crown before it is entertained by the House.
– Hear, hear!
– That seems strictly relevant. There is also Standing Order 66 of the House of Commons, which the honorable member did not quote. Introduced in 1866, it was current when our Standing Orders were framed and reads -
This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service, or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon the public revenue, whether payable out of the consolidated fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, unless recommended from the Crown.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not remember Standing Order 66 being quoted by the honorable member.
– I stated the principle.
– Surely that is directly relevant to the present case, because no honorable member will contest that the amendment would increase the charge upon the revenue.
– That is a different point.
– Dissent was moved from a ruling on an amendment which increased, in my opinion, the charge upon the public purse, and 1 say, with great respect, that I believe that the ruling of the Chair was correct. All the precedents we have in this Parliament and in the British Parliament support the decision of the Chair, and our own Standing Orders provide that where they are deficient we are to be governed by the practice in the British House of Commons. I should like to quote one or two instances which occurredin circumstances similar to this during the passage of the National Insurance Bill through the British House of Commons in 1911. During the debate, Mr. Foster said -
We desire the right to suggest slight increases in the grant by the Government to State contributions, and certain redistributions in the case of low wage-earners, because under the Government’s financial resolution these amendments will not be possible.
– That was introducing a new class of persons.
– The point is whether the burden will or will not be increased by any amount whatsoever. The class of persons has no relation to it.
– The Treasurer is evading the test which the honorable member for Bourke applied.
– The test is whether the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, if carried, would or would not impose an additional charge upon the public purse. That is the crucial and the deciding point. The class of persons has no relation to the matter:
Then Mr. Worthington Evans submitted an amendment, and Mr. Lloyd George, who was in charge of the bill, said -
I understand that it involves am increased charge to the exchequer. This is the only safeguard the Government has with regard to public finance, but, if I thought there was any other way to protect the exchequer, I would not rule it out of consideration.
There are many examples in which similar rulings were given. However, I’ propose to quote one further passage to prove that if there is any doubt in the mind of the Chairman that an amendment might increase the charge upon the Treasury it must be ruled out. When a certain amendment was moved, the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons said -
In other works it may be more, it may be less, and it may be the same. It may be more, and therefore it is not in order.
The mere chance that the amount might be increased was enough to ensure that the amendment could be ruled out. In this instance, however, it is not a matter of chance, because no one denies that the amendment, if carried, would impose a considerable additional burden upon the budget. Therefore, I submit that your ruling is in order, Mr. Chairman, and I commend, it to all honorable members.
– Two messages have been received from His Excellency the Administrator in connexion with this bill, and neither of them specified anything more definite than a sum of money.
– For amendments to be moved by the Treasurer.
– The first message recommended that a sum of money be appropriated for the purposes of a bill for an act,’ and nothing was said about the Treasurer.
– It referred to the bill as introduced.
– It merely said’ for the purposes of a bill.
– Yes, but it referred to this bill.
– Not necessarily this bill in the precise form in which the Treasurer introduced it, but a bill presented to Parliament to be deliberated upon by Parliament, and subject to the possibility of radical amendment. Obviously, the message could not curtail the’ authority of Parliament either to amend or reject the bill. The Treasurer is mixing up a number of things. First of all he assumes that this is a committee of ways and means.
– Not at all.
– Then he must believe that it is a committee of supply.
– If it is not a committee of ways and means, it cannot impose taxation. If it is not a committee of supply, it cannot appropriate money for the purposes of the Crown. Only a committee of supply can provide Supply for the Crown. When the Treasurer brings down a budget, he does so by virtue of a message from the GovernorGeneral, or the Administrator, as the case may be; recommending an appropriation of a sum of money which is specified, and immediately a resolution is carried appropriating such sum of money. The Treasurer thereupon circulates either his Supply Bill or his budget statement. Then any proposal to increase expenditure, such as a proposal to provide a newpost office where none previously existed, would be outside the terms of the message because it would involve increasing the expenditure specified therein. Although the practice supported by the Treasurer has been followed in this Parliament for. some years, I. submit that it is wrong, and’ has resulted in a grievous abridgement of the rights of members of Parliament to deal constructively with legislation.
Let me read again the passage from May, which was quoted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). At page 532 of the Tenth edition, May states -
As is subsequently explained (see page 580), the constitutional principle which vests in the Crown the sole responsibility of incurring, national- expenditure/ forbids an increase by the Commons of a. sum demanded on behalf of the* Crown for ,the service of the state.’ This principle, however, is apparently ‘disregarded when the recommendation of the Crown’ is given to a resolution empowering -the; expenditure of public money which, framed in general terms, places no limitation on the amount of expenditure to be authorized by the resolution.
What is. meant, by the words “general terms “ ? In this, instance, it means’, a message recommending a sum of ‘, money for the purposes of a bill for ah ‘act to insure employee’s: Obviously, any purpose is relevant which relates to the insurance of employed persons against certain contingencies, &c., as stated in the bill. So long as we are engaged in setting down conditions under which employees may be insured against certain contingencies, we are carrying out the purposes specified in the Administrator’s message. There can he no argument about that. Last night, I had misgivings about the purpose of an amendment because it proposed to provide insurance for persons who were not employees. This amendment, however, relates entirely to employees, and the dispute is as to whether the appropriation, .being of an unstated amount, can be increased by this committee without violating the purposes for which the recommendation was made. I submit that the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is entirely in accord with the purposes of the Administrator’s message. The committee has every right to increase the amount which the Treasurer contemplates to expend. On this point, May states -
The committee is not bound by the terms of the provisions which the Ministers of the Crown have inserted in the bill.
If Parliament were bound to accept the draft of the bill as submitted, it would have been superfluous for the writer to make that comment. May states f further -
Any member may propose an increase of the grants specified in these clauses, or to extend the application of the provisions of the bill, whatever may bo the cost resulting therefrom, so long as the power conferred by the royal recommendation is not exceeded.
– That is the original bill.
– No. Dealing with the original bill, May says that the committee is not bound by the terms of the provisions which the Ministers of the Crown have inserted in the bill. Therefore, the committee is free to vary the provisions Inserted in the bill so long as they maintain in their treatment of it the purposes for which the message was submitted to the committee. In this instance, the purpose of the bill is to insure persons against certain contingencies, &c.
– It is not the title of the bill that counts, but its contents.
– The Treasurer obtained leave to bring in a bill for certain purposes.
– I obtained leave to bring in a certain bill.
– No; we did not know what kind of bill the Treasurer was going to bring in.
– But the Administrator did.
– Parliament gave the Treasurer leave to bring in a bill for certain purposes, and neither the Treasurer nor any one else is empowered to depart from that purpose. As I have said, this is a bill to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows, and orphans of employees, and for other purposes. As this bill is governed by section 56 of the Constitution, it necessitated a message from the Administrator recommending that an appropriation be made for the purposes of the bill. As he did not know how much it was going to cost, and as the Treasurer did not know either, because Parliament had not deliberated the proposal, the message was for an unspecified sum. Because it was for an unspecified sum the practice of the House of Commons applies, as I have stated.
– Then why did I have to introduce a second message from the Administrator 1
– I contend that both of those messages were entirely different from an ordinary message of appropriation which specifies a certain sum of money. Those messages recommended the appropriation of an unstated amount, but for a specific purpose, and therefore the committee is not bound by the ‘draft .bill as submitted by the Ministers of the Crown, and is free to vary the amount. I quote once more from May -
Acting on this principle, when, in .1812, a committee was considering a message from the Evince Regent recommending, in general terms, provision to bo made for the family of Mr. Spencer Percival, amendments were permitted for increasing the provision proposed by the Ministers, and this practice has been supported by rulings from the Chair.
In the case of Mr. Spencer Percival, it was proposed that certain grants should be made to his dependants. A message came from the King recommending an appropriation, but no amount was specified, and Parliament increased the amount proposed by the Executive. That ruling has since been sustained. As the honorable member for Bourke pointed out, certain practices followed by this Parliament may not be always soundly based, and I submit that, having regard to the duty of Parliament to represent the interests of a free people, and not to be a mere recording chamber to carry out the wishes of the Executive, the committee will be upholding the principles of democratic government by dissenting from the chairman’s ruling.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- As my previous amendment has been ruled out of order, I now move -
That the clause be postponed.
If the amendment is carried it will be an instruction to the Government to add the following sub-clause : - (3.) For all purposes of this act the contributions of an insured person shall be deemed to have been paid each week during his free insurance period.
Dealing with clause 20, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) indicated clearly that persons who had been insured long enough to qualify for free insurance, would enjoy, during the period of free insurance, all the benefits to which they were entitled by such qualification. Sufficient has been said in this debate, however, to show that his submission is open to serious doubt, for it is quite evident that, in certain circumstances, a person, during his period of free insurance, is liable to lose certain rights which he formerly enjoyed. For instance, on becoming unemployed he may not be able to comply with other provisions of this measure in order to qualify for full free insurance benefits. My amendment is designed to put the position beyond doubt. The Treasurer should make specific provision for those things which he claims in a general way are covered by the measure as it stands. The honorable gentleman cannot reasonably refuse to accept my amendment, because he indicated that when a person falls sick and becomes a charge upon the scheme for sickness benefit, no claim is made upon either the employer or the employee for contributions in respect of the period of sickness. He said that an insured person would receive payments in respect of his period of illness as if he had actually contributed for that period. The honorable gentleman also said that a person who had not been eligible for the disablement benefit, could, under provisions which he claimed were a feature of the bill, qualify for sickness benefit by reason of the number of payments he had made, but if an insured person became unemployed, he could not qualify for sickness benefit. This bill makes no provision to enable persons who become unemployed, to qualify for full free insurance benefits, and that inconsistency, I submit, is indefensible. If there is any merit in the Treasurer’s statement, that an insured person is entitled to full benefits for the period of his free insurance, then no reason exists for rejecting my proposal. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) indicated this afternoon, a man requires to be qualified by two circumstances, namely, the period of time for which he has been paying, and the number of payments he has made. Itwill be possible under this measure as drafted, for a man to qualify for full free insurance benefits by reason of the time for which he has been covered, but to be disqualified . by the number of payments he has made. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was very persistent this afternoon in trying to point out what would be the effect on the insured person at the end of 26 weeks of sickness benefit. Would such a person be entitled to disablement benefit? The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that if the person was qualified by the condition of his health he would continue to receive benefits, provided he had made 104 payments. A man may have exhausted his rights to sick benefit, and may be in a condition of health requiring disablement benefit, but because he has not- made 104 payments the benefit may be withheld. Surely the committee will not permit that injustice to continue. I hope very earnestly that the committee will insist that what tho Treasurer says will be effected shall be effected. I hope it will accept the amendment, to ensure beyond all doubt that when a man is going through a period of free insurance he shall be covered as if he were an employee making payments. I hope the committee will do justice to those persons who, although not able to make payments, should be assured of a secure position.
– I remind the committee that we are dealing with the free insurance period. I have tried to explain previously that the provision has already been stretched to the utmost limit by the Government in order to bring as many men as possible under the clause, and to keep them insured for the maximum possible length of time. It K always possible for someone to think of a higher number - some further benefits that may be given. I assure honorable members that the Government has gone to the limit. Only after the maximum possible length of time has passed will the benefits begin to diminish. Let me give an example of how this will operate. Assume that the scheme is in existence, that in a few weeks a man loses his job, and that he had qualified by six months of contributions for sickness benefit. I want to outline briefly what his position would be, and I rely on honorable members to make their minds up on whether the provision as I outline it is generous or mean. The man would receive medical benefit, that is to say, free attendance by a doctor and free medicine, throughout the whole free insurance period of very nearly two years. He would receive sickness or disablement benefit for the whole of that time, and only after that period would those cash benefits begin to diminish. If, instead of having paid 26 contributions, he. had paid the necessary number to qualify for a widow’s pension he would carry to the end of the free insurance period the full rights of the widow’s pension.
– That statement is not. correct. He is required to have paid 26 contributions during the last three contribution years.
– I consulted the officers of the department on this point and obtained the information from them after they had made considerable research. This scheme is not, perhaps unfortunately, an unemployment insurance scheme; it is a health and pensions insurance scheme, and under it there must be some reasonable relationship between contributions and benefits. Consider, for a moment, what the position would be if the amendment were carried. Then a free insurance period could be started by one week’s contribution of ls. 6d., and by treating every week of the non-contribu-tion period as a week of contributions, the man would build up a title to a widow’s pension worth, on the average, £700. He would obtain that for only ls. 6d.
– Corresponding benefits are obtainable by paying one premium to an insurance company.
– That mightbe so, but this scheme would become quite unworkable if it were possible by making relatively insignificant contributions to obtain large benefits of that character. Throughout the whole period of 18 months, or possibly two years or more, a man could, merely by making one week’s contribution, have free medical attention and free medicine. If he had completed six months of contributions before the free insurance period he would be eligible for all the other benefits I have mentioned. I suggest that would place a tremendous burden on the scheme and, in fact, would practically wreck it.
– The Treasurer very carefully and very adroitly tells only the best about the bill, but two very great evils still remained to be explained away. He said that if a manpays contributions for a certain period and then, before the end of his first period of free insurance, dies, his widow will receive a pension. Is it not also true that a man may for 20 years pay all his contributions regularly, then fall out of work, exploit his first period of free insurance, begin work again, recommence paying contributions, und die before he pays the number of contributions necessary to ensure for his widow a pension? In that case the widow may receive no pension, although her husband has paid contributions for 20 years. Is it not correct that a man may pay contributions from sixteen to 50 years of age, and then strike a period of unemployment, take his first period of free insurance, reach 651/2 years of age and lose his right to an old-age pension? Such a man would not be allowed to make retrospective payments to make his contributions good. If those two features are in the bill it is not a good measure, and does not give a. fair deal to the workers. I urge the Treasurer to take those points into consideration before the clause is agreed to.
.- The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) raised on another clause a very important issue that disturbed my mind with regard both to widows’ and old-age pensions. The Treasurer has made it very clear that a subsequent pension of 15s. will be paid if the sickness continues beyond six months and becomes chronic. The Treasurer ignores the fact that the bill provides that before an application for the old-age or widows’ pension can be entertained, 26 payments must have been made in each of the three preceding years. If that is so, much of what the Treasurer says is wrong. The free period will rob the insured person of the old-age pension or his widow of the widow’s pension. The Treasurer keeps harping on one case, and that a rare one. He emphasizes that so long as the man has paid for 26 weeks he will receive the benefits, but he says nothing about the man who has paid for 35 or 40 years and receives nothing because of the intense brutality of the industrial system, which throws him out of work and putsa young man in his place. If a man in his forties becomes disabled, he has not a dog’s chance. There are thousands of such cases in the field of industry. If a man loses his employment at 40 years of age, notwithstanding this period of free insurance, he can thank this Government for nothing, because he cannot get back into industry, and cannot come again into the scheme as an employee contributor. All he can then expect to get is the old-age pension, and he will have to pass the means test to get that. I am satisfied that eventually the payment of old-age pensions under the existing act will be discontinued altogether. The Treasurer may talk as much as he likes about the generous features of this bill.* The simple fact is that if a man pays contributions for 20, 30, or 35 years, and then gets out of employment, everything that he has paid goes by the board. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) rightly said this afternoon that this measure contained a trap. If the clause is adopted in its present form, its effect will be to withhold benefits from a great number of persons who contribute to the scheme, and give some benefits to a few. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) tells us that he has been “ informed “ by those who are responsible for the drafting of the scheme that the contention of the honorable member for Bourke is not correct. The language of the measure permits of no other construction than that given to it by the honorable member, namely, that if, in each of the three years preceding the making of a claim, there has not been an average of 26 payments, all that the widow of a contributor will get will be the old-age pension. What is the use of the Treasurer saying that contributors will carry into the free insurance period all the benefits to which they would be entitled if they had continued their contributions’? Does he suggest that any person who is out of employment for eighteen months will be able to continue Ms payments? Every one knows that when a man is thrown out of employment he has to struggle very hard to get the necessaries of life, and, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has reminded me, if he wishes to continue as a voluntary contributor, he will have to pay the full amount of 3s. a week. I hope that the Treasurer will say definitely whether or not the contention of the honorable member for Bourke is wrong.
.- In- order to ‘clarify the discussion let me cite the case of a man entering the insurance scheme at 2S years of age. As an employee he pays regularly for, say 30 years. When he reaches the age of 5S yeow, he loses his employment, and remains in the free insurance period for eighteen months or two years. This carries him up to 60 years of age; if then ho dies, his widow claims a pension. She has to comply with two conditions. She has to establish the fact that her husband had been insured for not less than 104 weeks since his last entry into insurance, ^ and that contributions in respect of not less than 104 weeks Lad been paid by or in respect of him. Slip can do that, because he had been making contributions for 30 years. But the next condition with which she has to comply is to show that in respect of her husband there had been paid to the fund during each of the three contribution years immediately prior to his death an average of not less than 26 contributions. But she cannot do that because he had been out of employment for the last two years of his life. Therefore, he had been able to make only 52 payments in the first of those three years, and three into 52 does not give 26. The English act is more generous. It provides that if a. man dies at the age of 60 years, and he had been insured continuously for a period of ten years prior to his death, his widow gets the pension. This Government has not included in this bill the more generous features of the English act. Paragraph (b) of clause 77 does not apply to a person who has been insured for a period of less than 208 weeks, but it does apply to a person who has been insured for more than that time. Let us consider what would happen from the point of view of old-age pension benefits, to a man 2S years of age at the date of entry into this insurance scheme, and who dies shortly after reaching the age of 65 years. Let us assume that in the last two years of the contribution period he had been unemployed, and had the benefit of the free insurance period. He cannot get the old-age pension, because, although he has been continuously insured for five years, he cannot show that- his contributions in the last three years have averaged 39 ; in only one year was he fully employed, and three into 52 does not give 39. The position which I have put to the committee is clear. If the English language means anything, it means what I have said. This measure with all its circumlocution and ambiguous language, takes away with one hand from people benefits which it professes to give to them with the other.
– I should like to clea’r up one or two points that have arisen in the discussion. As has been stated, in order to sustain a claim for a widow’s pension there must have been an average of 26 contributions in each of the three contribution years immediately prior to the year in which the contributor died. A man may have been wholly unemployed and made no contribution for a full twelve months before his death. No contributions would have been made by his former employer, because the man had ceased to be an employee.” In the year before he could have been unemployed . for six months ‘ and made only 26 contributions, and in the year before that, assuming that he was fully employed, he would have paid his full contributions. If he died his widow would get a pension. If he were unemployed for eighteen months before he died, but fully employed during the preceding eighteen months, his widow would get the pension.
– How long would he be insured? mr. CASEY. - His insurance period could start from the beginning of his employment. If a contributor were not in full insurance for one year, in insurance for half of the next year, and in full insurance for the whole of the following year, his widow’s claim for a pension would be upheld.
– That is not the position as I put it.
– The Treasurer has selected the simplest case.
– I have cited a typical case. A claim for a widow’s pension necessitates an average of only 26 contributions, for the three contributions years immediately preceding the death of the contributor. Assuming that a person had obtained the initial qualification of 26 contributions, none of the situations which have been envisaged by the Opposition could arise, by reason of deficiencies of payments, until the middle of 1941. Anybody who had paid 26 contributions in 1939 would get the full rate of sickness benefit in any period of free insurance that followed, whether he had been in full employment or not. I suggest for the consideration of the committee that, in respect of this free insurance period, the Government has gone to the limit to which it can go in a health and pensions insurance scheme, if the scheme is to remain solvent. When we have anunemployment insurance scheme in this country, the position may be improved. Towards the cost of the scheme now proposed, the Government will contribute £2,000,000 per annum in the earlier years, and its payments in later years will rise to £11,000,000 per annum. These payments are necessary to ensure the solvency of the scheme, and, of the benefits already provided for, this free insurance period is by no means the least. I appreciate the efforts of the Opposition to have the scheme made more liberal still, and, if I were a member of the Opposition, I suppose that I should do the same. Nevertheless, this is a liberal and generous scheme, taken all round; in fact, it is considerably more liberal than the British scheme.
– The test of that is the sum which the Government proposes to put in each year on account of individual contributors.
– Evidently the Government has not obtained as much value for its money as was secured under the British scheme.
– The free insurance period is as much a benefit as are. the other features which are legitimately described as benefits. This proposal is much more generous than the British scheme in respect of wives’ and children’s allowances. The Government cannot possibly go further than it has gone with regard to the period of free insurance.
.- The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) mentioned the case ofa man who, having paid contributions for 30 years, then becomes unemployed and unable to continue his payments. The honorable member contended that if this person had failed, at his death, to pay 26 contributions in each of the last three preceding years, his wife would not be entitled to the widows’ pension. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) stressed that fact, and asked the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to clear up the doubt on the matter, but the Minister did not do so. I now ask him whether, if a man having paid contributions for 30 years, becomes ill or unemployed, and has been able to pay in the last three preceding years only 65 weeks’ contributions, his widow will be entitled to the pension ?
.- I am surprised at the attitude of the Treasurer, who has tried to convince the committee that a person enjoying a period of free insurance would retain ail the rights to which he would otherwise have been entitled. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has cited a case which definitely indicates that this is not so, and the Treasurer has not attempted to dispose of the honorable member’s argument. The Treasurer should not attempt to escape from giving a satisfactory explanation regarding points submitted to him by members of the committee. This scheme is not nearly so liberal as is the British scheme, having regard to the amount of the contributions to be made by the insured persons. In Great Britain, the weekly payment is. ls. 2d., for which - the insured person is covered with regard to not only medical and pension benefits, but also unemployment benefits and dental treatment. When the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) questioned a statement by the Treasurer, it was suggested, by the Minister that the honorable member had not made himself thoroughly conversant with the British scheme in respect of free insurance, and implied that this bill was more generous in that regard than the British scheme. I claim that the provisions of the British act are identical with those of the bill before us in respect of free insurance. As a matter of fact, the British measure affords greater benefits to insured persons than will this bill. The Treasurer has not explained that during the free insurance period, the benefits will be subject to gradual decline. I am informed that, after a considerable period of unemployment, there will be a definite reduction of the benefits of free insurance, and that if, at a later period, the insured person becomes employed again, and desires to qualify for the full benefits under the scheme, he will be required to pay special extra contributions yet to be determined, to cover not merely his own liability but also that of his employe]-. The Treasurer has said nothing about that aspect of the matter. He has sought to leave the impression that after a period of free insurance the contributor will have all the .benefits assured to him up to the time when he ceases to have any claim on the scheme. That is not how. the scheme will operate. I suggest that the only safe course to adopt is to accept my amendment.
.- As the discussion proceeds justification is found for my remark, on the second reading of the bill, that this scheme is devoid of merit. It seems from the explanations offered by the Treasurer that a. consider– able number of persons who imagine that they will be covered by this legislation will be grievously disappointed. A certain number of payments will have to be made before the insured person can get the alleged benefits of the scheme. In the event of a depression the scheme would definitely break down, and large numbers of persons who had paid into the fund for many years, but lost their employment,would be deprived of the benefits for which they had contributed. Let us consider the case of a young man who becomes insured at the age of sixteen. Should he work until he was 64 years of agc and then lose his employment, so that he could not make his contributions during the last twelve months, he would lose ali rights under the scheme, and if without means, would have to apply for the ordinary old-age pension of £1 a week on reaching the age of 65 years. Although he would get medical benefits he would bedeprived of other benefits which he believed would accrue to him because of his contributions for about 4S years. The Treasurer stressed that the purpose of the Government was to introduce legislation to meet certain contingencies against which people could not make provision. One of those contingencies is a period of depression and unemployment. Instead of imposing penalties upon persons who lose their employment through circumstances over which they have no control, the bill should have contained special provisions to protect them during a period of unemployment. During the course of his lifetime the average unskilled worker faces many periods of unemployment. Irrespective of the number of years that a man has paid into the scheme, should he be unfortunate enough to be out of work for two years, all the contributions which he has paid will avail him nothing, and before he can again qualify for full benefits he will have to secure further employment and be in the insurance field a further two years. The Treasurer would have us believe that the scheme is liberal, but an examination of it will show that the worker, or his widow, will not get much out of it. In New South Wales to-day, as the result of legislation passed by the Lang Labour Government, a widow receives £1 a week and 10s. for each dependent child without any direct contributions being required towards such pension. I should like to know whether her rights to a pension from lbc State will be affected by this scheme of national insurance. “Will the paltry amount that she will receive from the Commonwealth Government be regarded ;is income by the Government of New South Wales or will it supplement the amount received in New South Wales? The discussion has revealed that the measure is so surrounded with qualifications that many people who believed that the scheme would cover them will find that it does not; when they claim their rights those rights will mot be forthcoming. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), who I understand is a qualified accountant, showed that the contributions have been fixed at a scale higher than is necessary to yield the benefits of the scheme. The Treasurer will admit that this scheme is based on that in operation in the United Kingdom, which is in credit to the amount of £143,000,000. The contributions to the Commonwealth scheme have been fixed at rates which will enable an. enormous surplus to be built up. That surplus should be used to provide for payments to insured people over periods when they cannot meet their payments. On the basis of contributions set out in the bill, the Government could provide for this extension of benefits, lt has been said that this scheme will give to women a sense of security in that it will provide a national health service and n pension for a widow and any dependent children in the event of the death of the bread-winner. How much security will the wife of an employed man have under this scheme? No man in employment can guarantee that lie will retain his position until he reaction the retiring age. This scheme will not give to him and his dependants the sense of security that lie seeks unless the Government PayE that, irrespective of the circumstances which may prevent an insured person from, making his contributions, he ?hall not lose his benefits. Unless the Government is prepared to do that there win be no real security. The Government represents certain vested interests in the community.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the clause.
– The Government is unwilling to accede to the request of the Opposition, because it is in the hands of outside forces. In my opinion, every argument advanced by the Treasurer has been prepared for him by persons outside Parliament. The honorable gentleman has not submitted his own arguments. I am not concerned about what the actuaries may say as to the measure being wrecked or “thrown out of balance. It is the responsibility of the Government to guarantee the solvency of the scheme. Unless that be done, what will happen to the benefits under the scheme in the event of a depression, or a war ? Should this country become involved in war, men will be called upon to serve in the defence force, and. as during that period they will be relieved of the responsibility to make contributions, the funds will become depleted. The Government does not guarantee that the fund will remain solvent. There is no security. The Government wants to reduce to the minimum the benefits to be provided under this scheme and to restrict them to as few persons as possible.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is discussing the bill as a whole rather than clause-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already called the honorable gentleman to order.
– The anxiety displayed by Government members, particularly the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson)-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must not proceed along those lines; he must discuss clause 21.
– I maintain that I am in order in dealing with the objection of the Government to extend the provisions of this legislation in order to protect therights of people who are called upon to contribute compulsorily to this scheme. Workers are to be compelled to join the scheme, and to pay ls. 6d. a week. Notwithstanding that without their consent, a proportion of their wages will be retained, they, after having contributed for many years, may receive no benefits, because if they fall out of employment and are unable to continue their payments they will cease to he regarded as insured persons. Thus it will be seen that this scheme introduced by the Government is a fraudulent one.
– Unless the honorable gentleman confines his remarks to the clause, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– This clause provides for a free insurance period. In the opinion of the Opposition it is not free insurance at all. It should be made free insurance in the real sense. Full benefits should be provided and rights preserved as if actual payments into the fund had been continuous. There should be no limitation whatever to the free insurance period. A man who is able and willing to work, but cannot obtain employment, should be given free insurance indefinitely.
– That should be an insurance risk.
– This bill will provide insurance cover only in the years when people least need it- when there is comparatively plenty of employment and they are better able to provide their requirements out of their own earnings.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with interest to the arguments of the Opposition in support of the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). I accept the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who has shown that the interpretation placed on this clause by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) with regard to pensions and qualifications was wrong.
– No he has not.
– He has, to my complete satisfaction. I tell the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that this bill was never intended- to establish an unemployment insurance scheme. There must be a limit to the free insurance period. I agree that unemployment insurance, to run conjointly with health insurance, is imperative, but this is not a bill in which to introduce it. The Treasurer answered the various points made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and I should have been content not to speak had it not been for the fact that the honorable gentleman claimed that this scheme is to be 75 per cent, more generous than its British equivalent. Reference was made to the pension for widows. I point out that whereas under the British scheme the pension for a widow on a contribution basis of 5-Jd., is 10s., plus os. for the first child, the pension for a widow under this schemp. on a contribution basis of 10ld.. which is nearly double the British contribution, is 12s. 6d., plus 3s. 6d. for one child - 15.s. in Britain as against 16s. in Australia for about double the contribution The Treasurer, therefore, cannot claim for one moment that in this respect the Australian scheme is more generous than the British. In regard to oldagepensions, for a contribution of 5-Jd. in Britain the pension is 10s. for the husband and 10s. for the wife, a total of 20s., compared with 20s., plus 3s. 6d. foi1 one child, for a contribution of 10^-d. in Australia. The allowance of 3s. 6d. for one child in the Australian scheme can be discounted. The pension does not operate until the age of 65 in respect of men and 60 in respect of women, and I suggest that they would be supreme optimists who would, at those ages, expect to have any children in respect of whom the allowance would be payable. Again, the Treasurer, cannot claim generosity, because the British pensioners receive at almost half the cost benefits almost equal to those which are to be provided under this bill. The pension for an orphan in Australia is to be 7s. 6d. a week for a contribution of 10-^d. whereas the pension for an orphan in Britain is 7s. 6d. for. a contribution of 5½d. I concede that the pension for the second child in Britain is only 6s. Where is the generosity ? The comparison between the Australian and British health benefit provisions gives a similar result.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN This comparison, except in so far as it relates to the subject matter of clause 31, is not in order.
– The Treasurer has completely satisfied honorable members on this side of the committee and, it honorable members opposite had followed his reasoning they also would have been satisfied: This bill has no reference to unemployment insurance and there must, be a time limit to free insurance. The committee should be prepared to accept the Treasurer’s assurance that the cover imended by the-persons who drafted i.aU bill lias been given to the recipients of benefit under it.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The need for insured persons to have cover during periods of unemployment should be apparent to the committee. I direct the attention of honorable members to the revelations made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) who pointed out that, as the clause now stands, a person who has been insured all his life may lose his employment at the age of 58 years, be unemployed for 21 months, pass out of the insurance fund, and die, leaving his widow without the pension for which he had contributed during the whole of his working life. I should be loth to believe that that is the intention of the Government. A provision which could have such harsh results should not remain in the measure.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) last week cited census figures which showed that, in 1933, of the 1,478,040 male persons employed in industry in Australia, in the age group from 16. to 65 years, only 56,553 or 3.9 per cent., were from 60 to 64 years of age. Those figures show that not more than 4 per cent, of the persons who will contribute under this scheme for old-age pensions will ever draw them. This bill provides that for each of the three years before they qualify for the old-age pension under this measure, they must have contributed for 39 weeks, a total of 117 weeks. Of course, to qualify for the pension, they must also have contributed for a considerable period previously. The fact that only 3.9 per cent, of the males engaged in industry in Australia are . from 60 to 64 years of age, taken in conjunction with that provision of the bill, shows that the old-age pension provision is but an empty shell. The figures in respect of female workers are even more startling. The 1933 census showed that of the 527,440 employed females, only 6,036, or .87 per cent., were from 55 to 59 years of age. That lends force to my argument that, although workers, both male and female, will contribute for most of their working lives for the purpose of being able to draw an old-age pension at the ages of 65 and 60, respectively, virtually none of them will ever draw the pension. More prospect of deriving the benefits for which they have subscribed would be given to the workers, if the period of 21 months of unemployment were taken as a period in which contributions were deemed to have been made. I do not believe that the Government intends to exclude the persons to whom I have referred. If the clause is not amended in the direction suggested the only pensions that aged persons will drawwill be pensions under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, if they can pass the means test. Having directed the attention of the committee to these facts. I now ask whether it is prepared to pass the clause as printed. With conditions as they are, comparatively few will participate in the old-age pensions benefit, and no stronger argument than that could be advanced in favour of the acceptance of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
.- The proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is for the extension of the period in which the insured person shall be in receipt of free insurance. Ear from being generous, this scheme is one of the greatest “sell-outs” that I have ever encountered. If the people had the opportunity to decide - whether or not they would voluntarily come within the provisions of it not one in 100 would do so. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) laid stress on .the generosity of clause 21, but it. will be found that this generosity, if there be any, is entirely contingent upon certain conditions. Persons so unfortunate as to need free insurance will not get it as a right without the possibility of any objection. Clause 2L (1) reads-
It will be seen that an insured person will not get the alleged privileges as a right, because it is implied that an approved society may object to an extension, and in the event of the society so objecting, some other authority will have to adjudicate. The Treasurer would have us believe that the procedure will be automatic and that when a certain period has been reached a contributor who is ill, will receive a continuation of free insurance; but nothing of the kind will happen. The privileges which the Treasurer says the bill provides will have to be fought for. Should the free period expire in mid-December and tho insured person be still incapable of work all the concession which he will receive will be an extension of a couple of weeks, or until the end of December. If that position should arise in the middle of June, an extension will be made only until the end of June. Where are all the great gifts which this measure is to bestow on those unfortunate people who have exhausted their rights to benefits? The consideration they receive depends upon the time of the year at which they require an extension. Subclause 2 provides*-
If at the date of the termination of a free insurance period the person having the benefit of that period is employed, his free insurance shall continue until the 30th day of June or thi- 31 st day of ‘December, whichever date next follows the date on which he ceases to he so employed.
Briefly stated, the greatest concession which any contributor can receive, in the way of a free insurance period, is an extension for twelve months; but if it happens that he should become entitled to consideration in the middle of June or in the middle of December, the free insurance period can be reduced to six and a half months. It is easy for the Trea- surer to cite the position of contributors who have just come into the scheme and who may receive benefits after six months if the circumstances warrant. That will be the position in respect of only a small proportion of contributors. Let us consider the position of a person who has been contributing from 1G to 59 years of age - a period of 43 years - possibly without drawing a penny in the shape of sick or medical benefits. He gets within striking distance of the old-age pension, but if he loses his employment through sickness or for other reasons, he forfeits his right to a pension because there is no provision in the bill to suspend further his contributions. The only way in which a person who has contributed to the scheme for. 43 years and who then loses his employment can benefit, is provided in clause 74, which stipulates that a contributor must have been continuously insured for not less than five years immediately preceding the date on which he became entitled to a pension. A contributor has to be employed between the ages of 60 and 65 to enable him to reinsure. In these circumstances there is, as was stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), a grave danger of a vast majority of those reaching the pensionable age, losing all their pension rights under the scheme. Of course, we realize that, those who do receive a pension will not be submitted to a “means” test, but, those over 60 years of age who have been unemployed or sick will have to rejoin the scheme before they can claim a pension under clause 74. The census figures for June 1933, which are applicable to-day, disclose that 1,478,000 male persons were engaged in industry in that year, and of that number only 56,000 were between the ages of 60 and 65. Had this scheme been in operation at that time, only 3.9 per cent, would have benefited under . it. Of the 527,000 females in industry during that year, only 6,136 were between the ages of 55 and 59, and even if concessions in the form of extended periods for suspended payments were given, only about 1 per cent, of the females would benefit. All the Opposition is asking is that if through sickness or any other misfortune a contributor is. unable to contribute further, his contributions shall he deemed to have been paid during the free insurance period. In view of the claims made by the Government as to the generous nature of this so-called national health and pensions scheme, it is surprising to find that it proposes to’ accept contributions from workers when it knows that they cannot receive any benefits in return. I trust that the committee will agree to postpone this clause so that it may be amended to provide additional security to those who are compelled to come under the scheme.
– Many of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite in connexion with the free insurance period have a. good deal to commend them. The arguments of the Opposition in regard to this clause have something to recommend thom, but they must be accepted with reservation. For instance, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) contended that a person who had paid into the scheme for any period, however short, should be entitled to all its benefits. It must be remembered that this is an insurance scheme, and although it is subsidized from Consolidated Revenue, it is, in the main, like other insurance schemes, and must stand On its own feet. We know that benefits provided by friendly societies are paid for annually, and accrue annually. If the insured person does not need the benefit during the year, it lapses. It is recognized that he has received value for his contributions by being covered against sickness for the period he has been insured, and even though he makes no claim, it cannot be contended that he loses anything. In regard to the pensions scheme, however, there is n very strong argument in favour of safeguarding to the contributor the amount he has paid in. It is a recognized principle of life insurance that a person who has paid in several premiums, and then allows the premiums to lapse, becomes entitled to a paid-up policy to the value of the premiums paid. That, at any rate, is the practice of most of the mutual societies. (Quorum formed.’ It is regrettable that those honorable members who have argued on behalf of free insurance in certain circumstances should not be present now to hear the speeches of those who would, possibly, support the claims they have made. The contributions of insured persons to the old-age pensions scheme must be regarded as their savings, and if, because pf illness or unemployment they are unable to continue their payments, the contributions already made should bc safeguarded. Great Britain has had a national insurance scheme since .1911. and it has been continually amended in the light of experience. I quote the following extract from the Lancet, the British medical journal, to show what the British scheme provides for in this respect -
By the recently passed act of 1935. an important extension of benefits is made for insured persons in’ arrears on account of unemployment. “ On ceasing to be insurably employed nil insured persons arc to have a Free insurance period on an average of SI months. During this period insured persons are to be protected for all pensions purposes and entitled to all health insurance benefits - medical., sickness and disablement, maternity, and additional benefits. If at the end of the free period an insured person who has been continuously insured for ten years, up to the date when he ceased work, proves that throughout thu period he (or she) lias been unable to obtain insurable work, Ids insurance will lie extended so long as unemployment continues to be proved year by year . . .” 1 submit, therefore, that we should be guided by the experience of Great Britain over the last 25 years, and should endeavour to begin with this legislation where the Mother Country left off.
.- So far as this legislation is concerned, the Government apparently divides the community into two sections, first, the aristocracy of labour. constituted of those who receive over £365 a year, and, secondly, those who may be called the proletariat of labour, who are compelled to contribute compulsorily for their own insurance. The second section consists of employed persons earning under £365 a year and the unemployed. This clause affects the interests of those who through no fault of their own, become unemployed for a period, and thereby qualify for what is called free insurance. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has refused to accept any proposal to liberalize this clause for the reason, of course, that the whole solvency of this scheme depends, on the fact that the great majority of the contributors will be small wage-earners who will lose their benefits under it through becoming unemployed and, therefore, lose all the contributions paid in. The Government has promised to introduce an unemployment insurance measure. Apart from the fact that it will necessitate increase of the weekly contributions of employers and employees, such a scheme will tend to jeopardize this fund. Under this bill, no insured person is entitled to free insurance benefits until he has paid contributions for 104 weeks, and many persons after paying for slightly less than that period and then becoming unemployed will receive no benefit whatever. This may happen to the one individual constantly. In reply to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I point out that, in many respects, this scheme is worse than the British act. It is certainly very much worse than the scheme introduced into this Parliament in 1928 by a Government of the same political complexion as this Government, and it is vastly worse than that which the present Government of New Zealand proposes to establish. The reason why the Treasurer is not prepared to accept any improvements suggested by honorable members on this side is quite obvious. If it were not for the fact, as I have already pointed out, that many insured persons will pay into this fund and then being unable, because of lossof their employment, to continue their contributions, will consequently lose their rights to any benefits, this scheme would not be workable at all. The solvency of the scheme will depend on forfeiture of tens of thousands of pounds paid by such contributors. For that reason, every honorable member who honestly endeavours to represent, not merely his constituents, but the people of Australia as a whole, should oppose this measure in its entirety. The more this bill is considered clause by clause, the more I become convinced that it is totally opposed to the interests of the people as a whole. In respect of this particular clause, the Government, strangely enough, has not adopted its usual practice of making promises that, at some time in the far distant future, legislation will be introduced to implement improvements suggested by honorable members. It is prepared to oppose us altogether on this clause. We are not misled by the apparent sincerity of the rebel group of honorable members opposite, for we see how so easily they are satisfied by the Government’s promises. We draw consolation from the fact, however, that often out of evil cometh good. We, on this side do not ask for the votes of honorable members opposite who are putting up a pretence of opposing the Government; we want not their votes, but their
- (Mr. John Lawson) - Order! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I shall be interested, but not nearly so interested as the public of Australia, in watching how honorable members on both sides vote on this and other clauses, and in comparing their votes with the speeches they have made on this measure. Of course, we are accustomed to hearing honorable members of the Government speak with their tongues in their cheeks. It is their usual practice to vote contrary to the opinions they have expressed. In fact, onecan safely forecast that they will invariably vote in contradiction of their speeches. They have adopted that attitude time and time again in the past, but I point out that public interest in previous legislation has not been nearly so great as has been manifested in respect of this measure. Many more people are interested pecuniarily, politically, and in other ways, in this measure, than in any previous legislation introduced in this chamber, but on this occasion they are interested not so much in the speeches of honorable members as in their votes on every clause. This bill is of the greatest importance, not only to the welfare of the Australian public, but also the political well-being of every honorable member. For that reason, I am hopeful that this legislation, although it represents a retrograde step -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN I have already reminded the honorable gentleman that he must discuss the question before the Chair and I shall not repeat that reminder.
– This clause represents one of the most reactionary features of a retrograde measure, but I hope that, guided by the voting on it, the people of Australia will be enabled, at the next general elections, to place a new government on the treasury bench. A member who outstandingly poses as a mighty rebel is the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who led his misled electors through this building, telling them the while how he would speak but certainly not how he would vote. We have no doubt how he will vote to-night. He will vote in accordance with the instructions of the Government. Obviously, the Government will not give way on the clause because to accept the amendment would be to upset the unfair basis of the bill. All we of the Opposition can do is to try to make a very bad bill a little bit better.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Makin’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr Prowse.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Where any person ceases to be insured he shall, if subsequently he becomes employed, be treated as if he had not previously been insured.
.- I can foresee that this clause will affect quite a fair proportion of workers who follow more or less intermittent employment. According to the provisions of the bill, every person in employment will come within the scheme, and I can see that those in regular employment have a reasonable chance of securing the benefits provided; but there is another section of workers who will be less fortunately placed. They may remain in employment for 104 weeks, during which period they will pay two years’ contributions and thus be covered by the provisions of the clause. Later, they may cease to be employed and, if after a period, they come back into employment, they will’ be treated as new entrants. I can imagine a great number of employee contributors to this fund being thrown out of employment and after the period of free insurance ceasing to be entitled to the protection of the scheme until they are re-employed and once more contribute. A large number of them will have no hope whatever of enjoying its benefits. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that the proposal would cover 1,850,000 employees who have a reasonable chance of permanent employment. He anticipates that those people will receive the full benefit of the measure. But there are others who will not participate in the benefits. The census figures show that in 1933 there were in full time employment only 1 , 447,000 wage-earners, representing 69 per cent. of the total wage-earners in the Commonwealth, and 170,997, or 8.1 per cent. in part time employment. Included in this number are relief workers and men engaged in sustenance work. It is true that since 1933 some of these people have been absorbed in industry, and at the moment are in regular employment, but a considerable number of workers will not come under the scheme because of the intermittent nature of their employment. I had thought that this national health insurance scheme would make provision for those who need it most. The Treasurer reminded me of a very good insurance agent. The purpose of everything that he has said during the discussion in committee has been to emphasise only the best features of the bill. Always he has cited the cases most favorable to his scheme.
– No; average cases.
– The instances cited by the honorable gentleman do not represent more than 1 per cent, of the persons who will be covered by the scheme. He has told us that it will give greater benefits than are contained in the British Act, but even one of his own supporters, the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) showed us that the Treasurer was not strictly accurate. During the depression -years thousands of employees who never anticipated being thrown out of work were dismissed from their employment, and I can envisage the time when there will be a considerable addition to our present numbers of unemployed because, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has pointed out, recent advices from the International Labour Office indicate that every year a greater proportion of persons reaching the age of 45 years are losing their employment. This bill does not make adequate provision for persons who come into the scheme at an advanced age. I hope that the Treasurer will agree to liberalize the clause. I move -
That the clause be postponed.
If my amendment is carried it will be an instruction to the Government - to omit from the clause the words “ be treated as if lie had not been previously insured “ and insert in lieu thereof the words, *’ for all purposes be treated as if he had been previously continuously insured since he first entered insurance.”
If the clause is amended in this way it will give some protection to those workers whose employment is not continuous and who most need protection.
.- I support the amendment. If a person becomes unemployed and is unable to contribute to the fund at the end of the free insurance period, but is subsequently again employed and able to ^resume contributions he should be treated as if he had been insured continuously. Under the clause as it stands, an employee may have contributed to the fund for 30 years, but if he should then be out of employment beyond free insurance period he will have to qualify anew for the benefits of the scheme. The terms of the bill are altogether too harsh. The provisions relating to disablement benefit stipulate that an employee must have been insured for 104 weeks, a widow’s pension is not payable if the deceased husband had not been a contributor for the same period, and a person will not qualify for the old-age pension unless he had been a contributor continuously for five years immediately prior to the claim. A person who had lost the benefits of insurance by reason of unemployment must, on re-employment, again qualify in respect of both the number and duration of contributions. This clause, perpetuates one of the worst features of private insurance, in which the companies make huge profits out of forfeited policies. Returns published in the Commonwealth Tear Book show that, each year, about £10,000,000 is obtained by private companies, because unfortunate policy holders, owing to loss of employment, cannot pay their premiums, and are forced to surrender their policies. This is one of the disgraceful features of private insurance. But, bad though private companies are, a policy that has been in operation for over three years has a surrender value; in some circumstances the premiums paid entitle the policy holder, who falls into arrears, to receive a paid-up policy for a lesser amount? but, under this scheme, a person who ceased to be a contributor by reason of unemployment, might lose all the benefits of the insurance, and all hifi previous payments might go for naught.
The actuarial soundness of the scheme should not he obtained at the expense of the unfortunate unemployed. During the. last period of depression, over 30 per cent. of the workers were unemployed, many of them for more than the 21 months mentioned in the bill. It is highly probable that other periods of depression will be experienced, and very few of those who become unemployed in the future will be able to continue their contributions. The scheme should not make substantial profits at the expense of this unfortunate section. A person entering the scheme at sixteen years of age might be a contributor for a period of 40 years, without missing a single weekly payment; then he becomes unemployed, and has a period of free insurance. If, later, he is fortunate enough, at the age of about 60 years, to obtain further employment, he will have to pay 208 weeks’ contributions to qualify again for tie benefits under the scheme. I consider that to be most unjust. It is what might be expected from insurance” sharpers, but not from a government which claims to be desirous of conferring benefits upon the people. The clause should not be accepted in its present form.
– The course suggested by the honorable ‘ member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) makes it necessary for me again to point out the extent of the free insurance period made possible by this measure. It is a period during which a man who is out of work will not make any contribution at all, and yet will bo kept in insurance.
– For how long?
– The average period will be 21 months, and, after that, there is provision under two different sets of circumstances for an almost indefinite extension of the period.
– Only through sickness.
– Under sub-clause 1 of clause 21, if a man is sick at the end of the normal expiry of his free insurance period, he receives a further extension for six months.
– If his term was up on the 29th June he could get an extension of only one day.
– No. If a man who has reached the end of his normal period of free insurance is sick for one day, he automatically gets a six months’ extension of the free insurance period; but that is not all. Under sub-clause 2 of clause 21, if, at the end of that period, or any six months’ extension of it, he obtains a job, and again becomes an insured contributor, he can receive an additional six months of free insurance in order to enable him to build up the prescribed number of contributions, and again qualify for further free insurance for the full period.
– He would haveto satisfy the approved society.
– There would be no difficulty about that; he would only need to be sick or unemployed. All the discussion on clause 21 centred on sub-clause 1, which deals with the case of a man who, on the day of the expiry of his normal free insurance period, or any extension of it, is sick. In such circumstances, he would automatically get a further extension by six months of his free insurance period over and above its normal maximum period. Should similar circumstances again exist at the end of the six months, he will get a further extension of six months, and so on indefinitely.
– The Treasurer will not be in order in discussing clause 21.
– In a health and pensions insurance scheme, there must be some point in time at which a man drops out of insurance. The Government has gone to the greatest lengths possible to stretch that period of free insurance; it has attempted to deal with all imaginable circumstances which would justify a further extension of that period. This clause deals with the point in time at which the free insurance ends. Subclause 2 of clause 21 refers to the case of aman who is employed at the end of his free insurance period. By being so employed, he gets automatically a further extension of the free insurance period, thereby giving him opportunity to qualify for the whole range of free insurance all over again.
– The unemployed will be the greatest sufferers of all.
– This is a health and pensions insurance bill, not an unemployment insurance bill. But in spite of the fact that it does not specifically deal with unemployment, it does go to the limit to cope with situations that are incidental to employment; it copes with all the possible intervals of unemployment up to the limit that the Government can go.
– It is a most generous provision.
– If effect were given to the proposal of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), a situation would arise which, I suggest, cannot be met by this measure. Let us consider the case of a man who has been employed up to the age of, say, 30 years and then ceases to be a compulsorily insured person by reason of the fact that he starts in business on his own account. Let us suppose, further, that he does not elect to become a voluntary contributor. After a further 30 years, when he is 60 years of age, he realizes that his time for retire- ment is approaching, and, probably having sufficient savings to debar him from the non-contributory pension under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, he decides to obtain work as an employee for a number of years - five at the outside. In that event, notwithstanding that he had made no contribution towards the pension, except during a few years in his early working life, he would automatically become entitled to a pension.
– How could he be said to have been continuously insured in those circumstances? Clause 74 does not give that right.
– The amendment provides that for all purposes he shall be treated as if he had been continuously insured since his first entry into the insurance scheme. In some cases that entry might have been 40 years earlier.” It is not possible for the Government to accept the amendment because it would strike at the root of the contributory system.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) took an extreme case when he instanced a person who had been an employee contributor under this scheme and later was engaged in exempt employment or was self-employed.
– Or for any other reason.
– The object of the proposal is to relieve the person who has been employed, has been insured, has ceased to be employed at all, and therefore has ceased to be liable for compulsory contributions. All that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has moved is that the clause be postponed to allow certain things to be taken into account. The Opposition has in mind a person who has been employed, and has paid contributions, and who, through no fault of his own, ceases to be employed at all - ceases, in fact, to have any means of livelihood except sustenance. Subsequently at the expiration of his free insurance period, he regains employment. He should be entitled to be treated as if he had been continuously insured from the time that he first entered insurance. That by itself would not give him the right to the old-age pension, because he would have to prove to the authorities that in each of the three years previous to his applying for the pension he had paid 39 contributions. In the case of a widow applicant a similar position would arise. The man who had come into the scheme and had paid substantial contributions would not feel that everything had been jettisoned when he lost his employment. I am not citing extreme cases. This country has experienced times when men have been thrown out of work for very long periods ; Great Britain has also had the same experience. In Australia to-day there are men who have returned to work after having been unemployed for a period much longer than two years. In Britain special provision has been made at different times to cover such persons, and I think that we should learn from the British experience and make the same provision now.What we are asking is that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) shall give favorable consideration to the proposal that a person who has entered into insurance, has become unemployed and continued to be unemployed beyond the expiration of the free insurance period shall, if he returns to employment, be entitled to tack his past period of insurance on to his future period of insurance. We want every person, who insures under this bill, to know that he is protected against losing his contributions by a long period of unemployment. We have been told that this measure is a measure to encourage thrift, even though it be compulsory thrift. But what right have we to encourage a man, as we are proposing to, to gamble on the vicissitudes of the industrial labour market? What right have we to compel a man to pay into this fund for a number of years money which he might better spend upon himself or in contributions to, say, a voluntary society, and then, because, through no fault of his own, he becomes unemployed for two or three years, compel him to forfeit what he has paid in? We are not conjuring up improbable cases. There has been one recent economic crisis in this country. If we had another, this scheme would break down, because a vast number of people who had paid contributions would be unable to continue them and would pass through the free insurance period into their third year of unemployment and lose all. Their only consolation would be that if they ever became employed again they could start over again without credit for their past contributions.
– Does not the honorable member think that they would be extraordinary conditions ?
– Extraordinary ! I do not know in what Utopia the honorable member could have been living when Australia was in the throes of the depression. He cannot have been in New South Wales or Victoria. He must have been in some bland cuckoo land, carefully insulated from the rest of the world.
– That was when a Labour government was in power.
– The honorable member would not punish people for the faults of an opposing government? It does not matter what government was in power, whether it was a Premiers Plan governmentor an anti-Premiers Plan government. There were numbers of highly meritorious people who, through no fault of their own, lost employment.
– This is not an unemployment insurance scheme.
– I am contending, not for an unemployment insurance scheme, but for the principle that persons, forced to enter the scheme, who make contributions and who, by reason of their becoming unemployed, cease to be insured, shall, when they re-enter employment, be treated as if they have been continuously insured. We want the Government to protect, not men in the extreme positions referred to by the Treasurer,but persons who are intended to he protected. We do not want people to be forced to pay into this scheme and then find that in. an industrial crisis they have lost everything and have to start afresh.
.- I direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the fact that certain industries - I specify the coal-mining industry - are characterized by intermittent work. Sometimes men are employed for, say, twelve months, and then they are unemployed for periods of up to nine years. While in employment they would be compelled to contribute to the insurance fund.
No provision has been made in this bill to cover them. In fact, I am of the opinion that their conditions were never investigated when this bill was being prepared. I think that if the Treasurer defers this clause the circumstances of those men should be considered.
Had the national insurance scheme brought down by the right honorable member forCowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1928, come into force and contained provisions similar to those in this bill, what would be the position of thousands of coal-miners, some of whom have been unemployed for nine years? During that period they have gone back into industry for short spaces of time and then become unemployed again. The Richmond-Main Colliery in Maitland, the biggest coal-mine in Australia, has recently notified 250 men that they are to be thrown again on to the industrial scrap-heap. If the 1928 scheme had come into operation those men would have had the paper benefit of free insurance for up to two years, but it would be of no use to them. All they are concerned about is to ensure that their contributions towards old-age or sickness benefits will be continuous while they are in employment, and that in times of unemployment they will not be penalized. Miners and other industrialists, when unemployed, are not anxious to seek sickness benefits, although in some cases they are compelled to do so. The assistance they receive from friendly societies to which they belong enables them to meet some of their commitments. If, after a temporary disorganization of industry, such as a lock-out, which may extend over the free insurance period, contributors return to work, they will have to contribute for 86 weeks before they again become entitled to sickness benefits, for 104 weeks in the case of disablement benefit and widow’s pension, and 208 weeks in the case of an old-age pension. Some contributors who are approaching the age at which they are entitled to receive the old-age pension, may, through causes beyond their control, be deprived of the right to participate in the scheme. I trust that the Treasurer will give serious consideration to these aspects which are of great importance to a number of the people whom I represent.
.- There are aspects of this subject to which I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give very earnest consideration. In a system of national insurance under which contributions are compulsorily levied upon employees and employers, various services are given, including medical and sickness benefits, provision for a widow in the case of a contributor’s death, or should the contributor survive, an old-age pension. While it may be reasonable to provide that during the period a contributor is paying his contribution he is covered for medical benefits - that is something in which no equity can properly be preserved - it appears to be monstrous that should a contributor, who has paid into the scheme for ten or fifteen years for an old-age pension or a widow’s pension, be unemployed for a term beyond the free insurance period, he should, when he resumes his employment, have to make a fresh start as a compulsorily insured person. What happens? In a full year, during the first five years of the scheme, £3 18s. will be contributed by the employee, and £3 18s. by the employer, or a total of £7 16s. on a full year’s work. I know that the average for all employees will be less than that, but if we take the present volume of employment and reduce it by 10 per cent., the average will be 50 weeks at1s. 6d., which will give the figure of £7 16s. less 10 per cent. Of the £7 16s. for a year’s contributions, 16s. is presumed to be hypothecated for the purpose of medical benefits, and the balance of the contribution is to be used for the purposes of a fund incidental to sickness, disablement, and cash benefits. This balance should not be wiped out in a free insurance period ; it should be regarded as continuing the employee’s eligibility for pensions, &c.
Sitting suspended from 11.46 to 12.15 a.m. (Friday.)
Friday, 10 June 1938
– I ask the Treasurer to reconsider this clause, which reads -
Where any person ceases to be insured he shall, if he subsequently becomes employed, be treated as if he has not previously been insured.
An insured person, after serving a probationary period by making the required number of payments, may fall out of work, and cease to be entitled to benefits. That is all right, but then when he resumes work, he will have to serve the full probationary period again, before becoming entitled once more to insurance benefits. I suggest that he should, when he becomes employed again, and recommences his contributions, become immediately eligible for benefits, without having to serve another period of probation. There are thousands of men engaged in intermittent work, which, while not actually seasonal work like shearing, involv.es regular periods of unemployment. Some factory workers, for instance, are employed for a period of several months, then put off, and taken on again for a further period, and so on. As the clause now stands, such persons might have to serve probationary periods again and again.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and other honorable members, referred to contributors who might become unemployed after paying into the scheme for periods of ten years or more. I suggest that those contingencies are a very long way ahead of us. At the present time, no free insurance period can end, and sp bring about the condition of affairs with which honorable members are concerned, until two years after this bill comes into operation. Thus, if the bill comes into operation on the 1st January, 1939, no period of free insurance can end until the 1st January, 1941. The Government is not going to take into account in 1939 any arrears or deficiencies in contributions under the powers sought to be given to the Commission in clause 71. Therefore, the possibility envisaged by honorable members is reasonably remote. This bill does not provide for an unemployment insurance scheme. In Great Britain such a scheme is in operation, and it dovetails in with the health insurance scheme, and makes it considerably easier to meet situations of the kind referred to by honorable members opposite, so that payments will not be lost under conditions of real unemployment. There is, as honorable members will admit, such a thing as real unemployment, and unemployment resulting from a man not wanting to work. There is the man who is anxious to get work; there is also the man who is anxious not to get it. Both those classes, the good and the bad, would equally be brought within the sphere of government bounty in Australia in the circumstances visualized by the honorable gentleman. Without committing myself, I may say that the Government is not letting that subject drop. This bill is a good bill and represents a basic step forward in social insurance, but having said that, I do not suggest that in a democratic country it can survive in its present form, because it is most unlikely that it will not gain from some amendment in the years that lie ahead.
– Why is it proposed to offer certain concessions in respect of the year 1939 and discontinue them afterwards ?
– I have already explained that our object in that respect is’ to enable the scheme to get well started so as to get people into insurance with a good record of contributions during the calendar year 1939. We benefit by the experience of Great Britain in that respect, and by thoroughly examining what happens in what I might call the shoehorn period of a scheme of this kind. Suggestions are always put forward to absorb many, additional classes of persons in the early stages of such a scheme, but whilst such suggestions are simple when taken individually, they are complicated in the mass. Many classes of persons such as those mentioned by the honorable member will not be absorbed in the early stages.
– And many who will be reluctantly absorbed.
– In the early stages of this scheme many people will be contributionconscious, but that phase, will pass and they will become benefitconscious. Thus I concede the point made by the honorable member. The transitional provisions, clauses 86 and 87, are generously designed to enable persons of 60 years of age and over who- are within measurable distance of what is normally regarded as pensionable age to obtain the old-age pension easily. These are matters to which the Government has given special attention in order to get the scheme into operation. The provisions of the measure are generous in respect of the year 1939, and in respect of persons over 60 years of age and approaching pensionable age, and that generosity will be extended throughout the early stages of the scheme in order to enable those people to get their rights easily and effectively. The dire effects, which honorable members anticipate can wait a little for consideration. Let us first of all got some experience of the scheme. Except the two experts who came from overseas to help us with the scheme, the rest of us are simply feeling our way. I venture to suggest that within a year or two, not only I, but also the officers of the department to be established to control the scheme, will become very well versed in it, and actual experience will show how we can improve it. I assure honorable members opposite that honorable members on this side also are actuated by humanitarian motives in a matter of this kind. I ask honorable members not to press the amendment, because if we accepted it we would be taking a very dangerous leap in the dark. To use a popular expression, I ask them to “hold their horses” for a little while, and first of all concentrate on getting the scheme operating so that we may gain experience as early as possible. This is a democratic country and I do not think we can regard this measure as being in its final and cast-iron form.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.82 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.
Clause 24 - (1.) Where the Commission has issueda certificate under paragraph (&) of Part II. of the First Schedule certifying that, under the terms of any employment specified in that paragraph, persons engaged in that employment are entitled to benefits on the whole not less favorable than all the benefits provided under this Act, those persons shall not be insured under this Act in respect of that employment.
.- I move-
That after the word “not” the words “. while that certificate remains in force,” be inserted.
The effect will be that the exemption will be valid only while the certificate remains in force. There are three other amendments to be moved consequentially on this one.
. -I should like the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on one aspect of this matter. A man may be working in the country, say, 40 or 50 miles from a town. Under the clause action could be taken to exempt him from certain of themedical provisions. In my view that is not. right. A man working on a station property away from home should be entitled to the same privileges as a man working in a town. If he meets with an accident not associated with his employment, and therefore not covered by the workers’ compensation legislation, he would have to be taken to a doctor in the nearest town for treatment. The fact that he is working a long distance from a doctor should not make any difference to his rights under the scheme.
– The exemptions will in fact be confined to those persons in government employment where the benefits, broadly speaking, are equivalent to those provided for in the bill, and are guaranteed by a government. The question of granting exemptions to others than those whose benefits are guaranteed by a government is a different proposition altogether. The Government proposes to limit the exemptions to those whose privileges are roughly equivalent to the privileges given in the bill, and are provided by a government. Therefore, the situation referred to by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) does not arise.
– The clause is probably more important than the committee at first sight realizes. I suggest that the committee should consult Part II. of the schedule to ascertain what the clause really applies to. The amendment proposed really affects Part II. of the schedule and tightens up the whole field in regard to existing schemes. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) states that existing schemes will be accepted only where they are guaranteed by either a State or the Commonwealth Government. I suppose that guarantee would apply to such institutions as are governed by statute of a State or the Commonwealth, as, for instance, municipalities like the city of Sydney, county councils and electricity undertakings. A county council may have a superannuation scheme under which benefits are provided in return for deductions made from employees’ wages, and it is a statutory body operating under a State act. I suppose it could be re- garded as a body guaranteed by the State. The point I am raising ought to be cleared up at this stage. A request has been made by the Bank Officials’ Association to many honorable members that bank employees’ benefits should not bc interfered with. It is pointed out that there are schemes in operation in the different banks/ and that contributions have been made to them over a long period of years. Bank employees want to know where they stand. Honorable members will be able to recall many other existing schemes, and we ought to be told what protection will be provided for them. What steps will be taken to preserve for the employees tho equity they have already established? What responsibility rests on those who control the schemes to distribute moneys in hand if the schemes are to be no longer accepted under Part if. of the schedule? Employees ought not to bo left to the mercy of employers who may happen to have control of their funds. The equity established by employees may be very valuable. Is there provision in Part II. of the schedule for winding up the schemes and for- repayment of moneys to those who have made contributions? At this stage it is desirable to review Part II. of the schedule in conjunction with this clause so as to obtain a clear idea of how the clause will apply to bodies that are not regarded as capable of exemption because they are not guaranteed by a State or tho Commonwealth Government.
.There is no definition in the clause of a statutory body, and the debate on the point raised can quite well take place at a later stage. I am in agreement with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his desire to have a clear statement from the Government as to the exemptions that will be granted. I have received an enormous number of telegrams and letters from bank officials in my State, who have no desire to be brought under the scheme. ‘It may be that they have insufficient knowledge of its merits and demerits. Force should not be applied to those affected by an existing system of insurance that is equal to or better than that provided for in the bill. The passing of the clause will not prevent the committee from reviewing the question at a later stage.
– The clause deals with an essential procedure, namely, the issuing of a certificate.
– But it leaves the door open for the committee, if it thinks fit, to provide for exemption.
– There are in private firms in Australia a very wide variety of private provident schemes, of which the banks’ schemes are possibly typical, although they vary from bank to bank fairly widely. Most big companies and corporations, public and semi-public, provide provident schemes of some sort whereby employers and employees contribute to a common fund out of which benefits are paid in certain contingencies. I suppose there are some thousands of those schemes in the Commonwealth, and hardly two of them are alike. Some of them are completely solvent, beyond all doubt, while others are less good, and some are very shaky indeed. If the Government were to issue a broad exemption to employees covered by any or all of these schemes it would be tantamount to the Government guaranteeing the solvency of the private funds and the payment of the benefits.
– They have never asked for guarantees in the past, so what the Treasurer is saying is unfair criticism.
– It is not unfair criticism, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) apparently does not understand the purport of what I am saying. I am explaining that the Government cannot exempt these schemes or any part of them. The Government is trying to create a scheme whereby all employees in Australia, in return for certain weekly payments by them, are guaranteed in perpetuity certain benefits.
– Under this clause could the commission exempt the Bank Officials’ Association ?
– No, because the association is not guaranteed by a government. I have said on many occasions, in reply to applications for partial or complete exemption, that the Government could not consider excluding from the scheme private employees who happen for the moment to be in a company provident scheme. We are seeking to create conditions enabling men to moye from employment to employment and from place to place while still carrying the obligation to contribute and preserving the right to receive definite and uniform benefits. In the early stages of the bill, three or four weeks ago, there were in Canberra many representatives of private provident schemes, small and large, who came hot-foot from the capital cities seeking exemption ; but as soon as they were made aware of the Government’s proposal, most of them turned round and said, “ We have changed our minds completely. We do not want exemption. In fact, we ask you not to exclude us from the national scheme.” The Government’s proposal is that where the national scheme overlaps a private scheme those in control of the private scheme should ‘ adjust their contributions and benefits to bring them into line with the national scheme. That will be done to the extent of reducing the employers’ and employees’ relevant contributions to the private provident schemes. We believe that these private schemes can be adjusted to the relevant benefits under this bill.
– If the committee passes this clause will that affect our right to amend Part II. of the first schedule?
– No. Private provident schemes that are enshrined in legal agreements between employers and employees are operating under Statelaws, and we have been advised that it would be possible to insert in this measure provision to facilitate the legal adjustment of these schemes to the Commonwealth proposal. I have already tentatively discussed the matter with State premiers who have informed me that they will use their legislative powers, where this may be necessary, to adjust any legal contracts between employers and employees in order to bring about an adjustment of these private provident schemes to the Commonwealth proposal. We believe that there is no inherent difficulty to prevent this adjustment following the passage of this bill into law and before the scheme comes into operation, which I hope will be in about six months’ time. There is no reason to suppose that when these adjustments have been made employees under private provident schemes will be one bit the worse off; on the contrary, they will be very much better off on the whole, because they will get the benefits of this scheme plus the benefits under private provident schemes that do not overlap.
– Does the Treasurer say that bank employees have been reconciled to the Commonwealth scheme?
– I could hardly put it that way. I have had a great deal of correspondence with bank authorities on the subject and I have had many interviews with them in Canberra. I cannot, in a broad way, say that they are quite satisfied ; but I believe there is no inherent difficulty in what the Government proposes to do following the passage of this measure, to make the adjustments to which I have referred.
– The reason compelling us to refer to the second part of the first schedule is that the only cases of exemption with which this clause deals are exemptions provided in paragraph (6) of Part II. of the first schedule. It is probable that when we reach that stage in the discussion other cases of exemptions will be provided. I suggest, therefore, that we defer discussions of the principle of exemptions until we reach the second part of the , first schedule. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should intimate now that if other cases of exemption are inserted in the relevant schedule, this clause, if it is passed, will be recommitted for further consideration. Other exemptions have been suggested already. For instance, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has given notice of an amendment to exempt employees of hospitals who, by the terms of their employment, are given treatment in hospitals. Other cases will, no doubt, be mentioned when we are dealing with that part of the schedule, so it is desirable that we should have an assurance that the clause, if passed, will be recommitted. We are now embarking on a discussion of what is, in substance, the second part of the first schedule. If we continue consideration of this clause and pass it, we shall in the discussion of the schedule have a repetition of the arguments. The
Treasurer should give us an assurance that if the classes of partially exempt persons are enlarged by amendments to the second part of the first schedule, he will have this clause recommitted.
– I appreciate the difficulty of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) with regard to claims for exemption, and I understand how undesirable it is to establish a precedent which might seriously interfere with the scheme. I would, however, like him to give sympathetic consideration to a request for exemption from a very deserving and respectable section of the community -the Christian Scientists. Their request is based entirely on the ground of religious liberty, interference with which, as we know, is possibly one of the most prolific causes of trouble in the world. In conformity with their religious convictions the Christian Scientists have established a healing practice which they greatly value. They have their own practitioners who work along well-established lines in conformity with their religious concepts. They point out that the scheme will interfere with their liberty insofar as it will not give them complete freedom to observe their religious beliefs. Therefore they ask to be exempt, not from the whole incidence of the bill, but from that portion of it which requires them to make contributions for medical benefits. Their request is not unreasonable. If, however, the Treasurer feels that he cannot establish a precedent by granting exemption in full to this body, he might consider an appraisal of the services rendered by Christian Science practitioners to members of that religious body. He has precedent to guide him in the British Columbia Act which makes concessions in the direction indicatedand preserves to Christian Scientists their religious liberty. If the Treasurer feels that he cannot, without the risk of wrecking the bill, grant complete exemption to the Christian Science movement, I hope he will at least consider the desirability of relieving its members from contributions for medical benefits.
– How will this clause affect the employees of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, who are already covered by a wellconsidered provident scheme? I understand that there are about 900 contributors to that scheme. Married men pay1s. 4d. a week for which they get full medical and. hospital benefits and, as sickness benefit, receive £2 5s. a week; single men get £15s. a week. They are already covered by a scheme that is more generous than the Government’s proposal, and they are wondering how they will fare when this scheme comes into operation because, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has reminded me, they will then be called upon to pay double contributions if the Electrolytic Zinc Provident Fund continues to function. They are very much concerned about the future of their scheme and they are not at all pleased that under this proposal they will get reduced benefits. The Mount Lyall Company also has a more generous scheme. It provides for the treatment of members and their wives and families.
– How many employees are in that scheme?
– In Hobart I understand there are between 900 and 1,000. As their membership is less than 2,000, the provident fund cannot be declared an approved society. They are not satisfied with the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that members of existing provident funds will not be adversely affected by this scheme. I understand also that the Bank of New South Wales has a much better scheme. If its employees are to be forced to contribute to this proposal, they will have to make double contributions, assuming the bank scheme is continued. The private scheme in Hobart to which I have referred has given great satisfaction to the employees. Under it, as much as £50 has been paid for a specialist to attend an employee who has suffered injury. What guarantee would such employees have under the Government scheme that their equity in the private provident funds would not be lost?
– I think the Government and the Parliament would be well advised to proceed with the utmost caution in making exemptions at the behest of privately established provident societies. The most important benefit under the Commonwealth Government’s scheme is the pension which a contributor will receive at the age of 65 years, regardless of a means test. Perhaps the second in importance is the widows’ pension, and next to the pensions I place the medical benefits. Most of the private provident funds have been developed on the basis of contributions by both employers and employees. The private banks, and some of the big private industrial enterprises, are so solidly financial that it would seem absurd to imagine that a time might come when they might be insolvent ; but the scheme under consideration by the committee would operate for many decades, and who can say what may be the position of the most powerful and solidly-based private enterprise 30, 40 or 50 years hence, when the young men who are now contributing to the private provident funds hope to receive a pension ? We should look ahead in matters of this kind, and be assured that bodies to whom exemptions are granted will be able to fulfil their obligations 00 years hence. It is very wise to provide that certificates of exemption may be withdrawn if, in the opinion of the proper authority of the day, these institutions are not financially sound enough to justify their exemption. I regard all these provisions as affording protection for the worker himself. It is in t’o interests of the employee that he should be protected, and we should do everything in our power to ensure that he will receive his superannuation when he reaches the age to enjoy it.
– I strongly support the request that some provision should bc made for the exemption of the section of the community which practises a form of religious faith in which it has its own medical practitioners, and does not resort to the services of registered doctors. No Parliament should pass legislation which would cause a religious body to violate the principles of its faith. Tho people I have particularly in mind arc the Christian Scientists. They are a fine body, and they have great religious fervour. A safeguard could be provided in the bill to prevent imposition by persons who do not hold their particular religious beliefs. The members of this section have no faith in the ability or skill of the registered doctors. Although personally I have the greatest faith in these doctors, I recognize the right of any religious body to its own views in regard to the art of healing.
– Under the British scheme, exemptions are generally refused. In Great Britain one government exercises legislative control over all companies and private undertakings, and it was able to come to an equitable arrangement, on a friendly basis, in regard to private provident schemes. In Australia, however, difficulty arises because of the fact that control of companies is a matter for the States. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) remarked that he is in touch with the State Governments, and I hope that he will succeed in securing their co-operation. Some of those governments, however, are extremely critical of this scheme of national insurance, and may not cooperate with the Commonwealth. In that case, the Government might even set up an organization on a voluntary basis to co-operate with each private undertaking that has a benefit scheme, thereby endeavouring to bring both the national and private schemes together under a workable arrangement. This cooperation is essential, and any additional benefits which employees now receive under private schemes should be preserved to them. These extra benefits are due largely to the generosity of some employers. I know of a case in which an employee with a splinter in his eye was conveyed 200 miles by motor car in order to be treated by a specialist. It would be regrettable if that spirit of generosity on the part of employers was to any degree dampened. I see one great difficulty in exempting Christian Scientists. Exemption could not be given to employees only, and how could exemption be granted to a Christian Scientist ‘ employer whose employees were not of the same faith? I fear that such an exemption would be fraught with many difficulties. I leave that problem, with my best wishes, to the Treasurer. I was interested to hear the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) admit, tacitly, at least, the permanence of the banks in this country.
– I should hesitate to press for the granting of exemptions. If a precedent were once established, it would be very difficult to administer a huge scheme such as that contemplated. In my opinion, the local provident funds should be adapted to the national scheme rather than that the opposite should be done. But I believe that a good case can be made out for those who will contribute for certain benefits with little possibility of receiving them. I refer particularly to medical benefits for hospital nurses. Most hospitals, being semi-voluntary or semi-public institutions, experience difficulty in obtaining sufficient funds to carry on. Generally, members of hospital boards give their services voluntarily for the benefit of the community, and any relief that can be given to them with equity should be given. Although hospitals will have to pay 4d. a week in respect of medical benefits for each nurse employed by them, there is no likelihood of such nurses requiring special services by doctors outside the hospitals ; they will continue to get medical attention and medicine free at the hospitals. The hospital authorities should not be expected to pay contributions in respect of medical benefits for their nurses. I do not press, as some hospitals have done, for an entire exemption from all contributions under the scheme, because those contributions are in respect of pensions as well as medical benefits, but I do submit that relief should be given in respect of the 4d. a week payable by them in respect of medical benefits. That relief should be given to them not only as a right but also as a recognition of the fact that the passing of this legislation will impose additional financial burdens on them.
.- I should like an explanation of sub-clause 5. Let us suppose that a man who has been contributing to the scheme for, say, ten years, removes to another locality which is certified as being remote. Will his interests be protected under this bill? As I read the sub-clause, he would no longer be entitled to medical and sickness benefits, but his pension rights would continue.
– Not unless the Parliament so prescribed. An assurance from the Treasurer to-day may be worth nothing five years hence. In saying that, I de not intend . to reflect on the present Treasurer ; I merely point out that only what is actually in . the statute can be’ guaranteed.
– The member need have no fears on that score.
– Further consideration of sub-clause 5 appears desirable ; I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that it is impossible to give proper consideration to it without taking into consideration also the first schedule.
I support the representations of other honorable members for the exemption of Christian Scientists. Whatever our own views may be, we should respect the religious beliefs of other people. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) raised an important point when he said that if an employer were exempted from making contributions, his employees who were not Christian Scientists might suffer a disadvantage; but I point out that the objection of Christian Scientists to this scheme relates particularly to the medical service, and that it is the employee, not the employer, who will receive medical benefits. In my second-reading speech I showed how the scheme in operation in British Columbia deals with Christian Scientists. I rose particularly to ask the Treasurer for an explanation of sub-clause 5.
– If this legislation is to be workable, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will have to bc exceedingly cautious in granting exemptions. It must be remembered that, whereas to-day only about 450,000 persons are members of benefit lodges, this scheme will affect nearly 2,000,000 persons. A variety of reasons would probably be given by those who are no’, numbers of benefit lodges to explain why they have not sought health insurance. We should probably be told by many of them that their health is such that they do not feel the need to join lodges, or they have other means of protecting themselves in the event of a breakdown in health. Just as varied will be the reasons why exemptions should be granted under this bill. If private insurance schemes between employe* and employee are to be exempted, we shall have to devise ways and means to bring all of them under a common set of rules. To-day these schemes vary considerably; they vary in respect of pensions, superannuation payments, and medical benefits. I doubt whether two private schemes are working under rules which coincide. There is a further objection to any exemption at all in these cases. Whilst those who come
Tinder such private schemes might have sound reasons for believing they should be exempt from the operations of this “bill, the fact remains that those private schemes are not permanent. Irrespective of the period they have been in existence, they depend upon a working agreement between employers and employees. Should one or other of the parties to one of these contracts desire to smash the agreement, the scheme would fail. It is not so much the ability of the banks and other institutions which have such schemes in operation to finance them, that must be considered, as the permanent willingness of bankers and bank employees or of other employers and employees to continue them. The same argument applies to private insurance schemes between employers and employees in industry. These private schemes are dependent, not upon the solvency of the institution or business with which they are connected, but upon continued agreement between the employers and the employees to continue them. As long as these varying circumstances exist it will be most dangerous to adopt Na general policy of exemption. Another point arises in this connexion; a business concern may be entirely reconstructed, it may sell to other interests, or it may go into liquidation. Should it sell out, the organization which takes it over might not desire to continue the scheme. In that event its employees, some of them bad insurance risks, would be unloaded on to the Government scheme. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has cited, by interjection, the case of a company insurance scheme in Tasmania, but I remind him that there is nothing to prevent a private company from discontinuing an insurance scheme by way of a reprisal for an industrial dispute. In any industrial concern an increase of wages to employees might lead the employers to decide to discontinue an insurance scheme. Although, at the moment, these private schemes may give greater benefits to their employees than are provided in .this bill, the risk of such schemes being discontinued remains. I repeat that the Government would be well advised to scrutinize carefully the permanency of the private insurance schemes before it sets out on a general policy of exempting them from the provisions of this legislation. It may be found that some of these private schemes allow for the retirement of employees at any time, with possibly, a refund of some of the contributions made. For instance, a reconstructed firm might have no place for some of its employees. A man retired in such circumstances might be in the late fifties. Although he had contributed to the private insurance scheme, the fact remains that, when thrown out of employment, he had not been a contributor to the Government scheme. Should he obtain employment elsewhere, and remain in it for five years before attaining the age of 65 years, he would, under clause 74, be an insured person and therefore would be entitled to receive pension benefits at that age. It is not fair that such a man should receive a pension equal to that payable to another man who had contributed to the Government scheme during his whole working lifetime. It is not a fair proposition that a man should resist coming into this scheme because his employer provides something a little better–
– Yes, temporarily, and then, because late in life, as the result of a reconstruction, he loses his job, gets another, and pays contributions for five years to the pensions fund, becomes eligible for the same pension benefits as is the man who has been a member of the National Insurance Fund all his working life.
The Government should give serious consideration to the position of contributors transferred to remote localities. We’ are adopting a scheme for the whole of Australia, but the man’ who is transferred in a manner mentioned by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) through no fault of his own, has to follow his job and because of that transfer he would lose practically the whole of the benefit of his contributions. Some real effort should be made to prevent that from happening.
If it is possible to give the relief to the Christian Scientists that they desire - I understand that they desire exemption from the health benefits clauses - it should be given. I should not like to see any person taxed for a benefit which he never intends to use. At the same time I see another danger. “What test is to be devised to ensure that persons are Christian Scientists ?
Honorable Members. - A statutory declaration.
– A statutory declaration may answer the purpose, but persons who were determined not to take advantage of this scheme would sign any declaration and there would be no means of proving it false. Nevertheless, if this exemption can be granted - I doubt whether it can - I should like to see it given.
Although there is a good deal to be said in favour of all cif the voluntary schemes mentioned to-day and although there is a real temptation for honorable members to advocate their exemption because, temporarily, they give more benefit than the Government proposes to give under its scheme, if we are going to have a really national scheme-
– This is not a national scheme.
– No. I qualify it by saying if we are going to have a scheme to cover that section of the community to which the people referred to belong, let us have stability. We must go warily. Everything that has been said as to the danger of losing existing benefits by joining this scheme no doubt is true, but as a Labour member I shall never allow myself to be associated with any move which will permit an employer to crash the private insurance scheme as reprisal for an industrial dispute.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear ) on the extraordinary ability with which he has put the case against exemptions. I feel that if this measure of insurance that we are proposing to put into force is to be successful it is essential that there be no exemptions. I would go even further than the honorable member for Dalley has gone, and say that it would be unwise to exempt even government employees, State or Commonwealth. The honorable member for Dalley has very ably pointed out that there is danger of the schemes provided by various companies crashing for some reason or other, but I think that another point which he could have mentioned is that people leave one form of employment and go to another. It is possible that many people who are to-day employed, by banks, will, in an effort to improve themselves transfer to some other class of employment and, possibly, later,, be in very great need of the benefit provided by national insurance. That statement can be said to apply with equal force to those who are employed by the governments. Often a man leaves the public service in an attempt to better himself. If he -is successful, probably he will go beyond the range of this bill, .but very often men who have left the employment of banks and the public service with betterment in view find that success eludes them. Those persons will then often obtain employment within the wage group covered by this bill. For that reason I think it is most unwise to exempt any individual, whatever be the nature of his employment, if he comes within the wage or salary range specified.
Every honorable member must have the greatest sympathy with the Christian Scientists and others whose religious beliefs make it repugnant for them to be covered by health insurance; but, just as there can be no guarantee that those who are employed by the banks will always be employed by them, there is no guarantee that those who are Christian Scientists to-day will always be Christian Scientists. I happen to have some insight into this excellent religion through the fact that several of my relatives are distinguished in the sect. I remember one woman whose husband was one of the leading Christian Science lecturers and whose son, when he received a wound in his leg, consulted me ‘ as to the merits of the surgeon who was attending him. I know others who, while they were in good health, did not allow their faith to diminish, but, when their good health left them, placed themselves in the hands of medical practitioners. I do not suggest that there is anything basically wrong in the faith of the religion, but I mention these, what might be exceptional, cases, due possibly to insufficient faith on the part of the adherents, in order to exemplify the great care that is needed in considering the exemption requested by this religious organization. In fairness to the rest of the community, I do not think that the Government can grant those exemptions. I consider that it is definitely a case for the admonition “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s “ National insurance is a civil provision and, just as all people, whatever their religious beliefs may be, are compelled to keep the laws of the country, they should also be compelled to join in the scheme. No matter how sympathetic we may be, in justice, we cannot grant exemptions. I recall to the minds of honorable members of the committee the reference 1 made in my second-reading speech to the followers of Father Divine, a negro gentleman from Harlem, who, when he dies, possibly, may lose faith in his teaching and may also be very glad to take advantage of this insurance measure.
– I hope that the Treasurer *(Mr. Casey) will see his way clear to give careful consideration to requests made on behalf of the Christian Scientists. As was stated by the honorable members for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and Lilley (Mr. Jolly), persons of the Christian Science faith are exempted under the provisions of the British Columbian national insurance legislation. These people have conscientious objections to the health benefits of this bill and their religious beliefs should be respected. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said that if they were exempted it would be f,ir to exempt the Christian Science employer from contributing in respect of his employees, but I point out that this bill does not concern employers ; it is a bill for the benefit of employees. The honorable member’s objection, therefore, is easily overcome because the employer does not come into the picture.
– Christian Scientists should be required to contribute towards pensions benefits, but I join with other honorable members in asking the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to respect their religious principles by exempting them from the medical benefits section of tho bill. If that were done, it would meet the wishes of this sect. Its members are moved, not by a desire to avoid making contributions, but by their sincere religious beliefs.
.Several honorable members have referred to the position of Christian Scientists in relation to this scheme. I, too, have been approached by their representative with suggestions that they should be exempt from- contributing for medical benefits. T believe that everybody has a right to his own religious belief, and nothing should be forced upon them which is contrary to those beliefs. I have been shown documents indicating that in other parts of the world, in Canada, for instance, where national health insurance schemes are in force, Christian Scientists are exempt from contributing to medical benefits. I have no doubt that the experts who have drawn this hill have access to copies of the legislation in force in other countries, and they could, without difficulty, insert a provision excluding Christian Scientists as is desired.
Reference has been made to the position of contributors who are of an age when they are likely to come upon the fund for benefits at an early date. I am not sure that, under the scheme as it now stands, their interests are properly safeguarded..
– That position is covered in later clauses.
– In regard to representations that have been put forward for tho exclusion from the scheme of employees of firms that have their own provident schemes, I agree very largely with what- was said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr.
Fairbairn). It would, I think, be dangerous to provide total exemption in such cases, but some provision should be made to prevent private provident schemes of a satisfactory kind from being altogether destroyed. I have inmind the firm of Paton andBaldwin, which employs over 1,000 persons, about 700 of whom will be affected by this scheme. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will have difficulty in convincing these people that they will be satisfactorily provided for under the national scheme, which does not give any sickness benefits until after seven days, and then only £1 a week, while, under their own scheme, a married man draws £2 5s. a week from the day he falls sick’. It should be possible to safeguard such schemes without imposing undue hardship on either employees or employers. Other firms in myelectorate have provident funds also, but what I have said in regard to the firm of Paton and Baldwin applies very largely to them, also. An endeavour should be made so to amend the scheme that employees may continue to obtain the additional benefit under their own schemes, while, at the same time, obtaining whatever benefits are provided under the national scheme.
– I think that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) was right when he said that this clause should be considered in conjunction with the first schedule. I urge upon the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that this is the logical course to pursue, and I ask him to postpone consideration of the clause at this stage.
Inmy second-reading speech, I made two points; one had reference to employees of banks that have their own provident schemes, and the other to the position of Christian Scientists under this scheme. I agree that there is no reason, in general, why any firm or organization should be excluded from the provisions of the bill. The cogent reasons advanced by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) show the unwisdom of such a course. However, we should consider whether an organization which seeks exemption is one with complete permanency and financial stability, and I believe that the banks satisfy both those requirements. That being so, there is every reason why they should be exempt. They are able to look after themselves, and there is no need to extend the scheme to them. This is a matter which might be considered in conjunctionwith factors arising under the first schedule of the bill.
As for the claims of Christian Scientists for exemption, it is true that they represent a small section of the community; and while I do not happen to belong to their faith, I believe that it is a cardinal principle that where legislation impinges on the religious convictions of any section of the people, care should be taken to respect those convictions unless there are urgent reasons why they should be overridden. Several honorable members have spoken on this matter, and I hope that their protestations in favour of the Christian Scientists will be supported in a practical way. It is quite possible that a member may get up in this chamber and say that he hopes this or that section of the people will be exempted, hoping that the test will never he made by having the matter put to a vote; but, in order that this position may be clarified, I propose to move the following amendment : -
That the following sub-clause be added: - (7) The Commission may issue a certificate in the prescribed form to a contributor who makes an application for exemption and establishes to the satisfaction of the Commission that he is a bona fide adherent to and member of a duly constituted Branch of the Christian Science Church or Society and thereupon during the currency of the said certificate the provisions of this Act relating to medical benefit shall not apply to such contributor and the amount of contribution payable by such contributor shall be reduced by such amount as the Commission shall from time to time determine.
Provided that such certificate may at any time be cancelled by the Commission if the Commission is satisfied that the holder thereof is not such an adherent to and member of such Church or Society and shall be so cancelled at the request of the holder thereof.
That amendment provides for the setting up of machinery to enable the Commissioners to satisfy themselves, first, whether a person making a claim for exemption is a bona fide adherent, and, secondly, to cancel the exemption if they are satisfied that the person is no longer an adherent. It also gives the right to fix the amount by which the contribution shall be reduced in respect of medical benefits. Although this is a matter which affects only a small number of persons, I urge the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to my proposed amendment. He may decide to postpone consideration of the clause until the first schedule is before the committee. but, in any case, my amendment will give those honorable members, who have spoken in favour of the claims of Christian Scientists, an opportunity, to support their utterances with their votes.
Amendment (Mr. Casey’s) agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended.
– I should like the opportunity to deal with some interesting points raised by honorable members. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) said that we ought to be cautious about exempting even government employees. Government employees who may be exempted under the provisions of the bill will be only those who are already guaranteed, in the terms of their employment, benefits wholly or largely the same as are provided for in the bill. We believe that it would be gilding the lily to double up on: those benefits. The amendment just made covers the point. If in the future the conditions of service of any group of permanent government employees should be so altered as to cause the certificate to be withdrawn, those employees would then come under the national scheme. It is merely a justifiable attempt to avoid doubling the contributions and benefits. I agree with many honorable members who urge that exemptions should be as strictly limited as possible.
– Would not the Treasurer’s argument apply to members of friendly societies who are already paying for comparable benefits?
– No. The exemptions relate only to schemes that carry a government guarantee. That leads me to the question of hospital employees. Many members have received letters urging that hospital, employees should be exempt. Most hospital employees, particularly nurses, receive medical attention and free medicine in the hospitals where they serve. In that respect they need be under no disability, because they can go on the panel of a doctor at the hospital. The doctor at a hospital can start a panel and the employees can receive the same attention as they have been accustomed to receive from the same doctor in the same hospital. The effect on the doctor will be that he will receive the lis. fee. If the pharmaceutical department of the hospital is run by a pharmaceutical chemist the hospital will be paid for the medicines that it previously provided free.
– The. services mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) are now all included in the conditions of employment. The effect will be to make the employees pay twice.
– Possibly there will be adjustments of wages.
– Will the Treasurer guarantee the employees an increase of wages?
– I cannot do that, but I am seriously trying to give honorable members reasons why it is impossible to exclude persons of this class. The employment of nurses and other persons in hospitals is not permanent, and is not guaranteed.
– Free medical attention is guaranteed while they are employed.
– What happens when they leave their employment? We wish to ensure that nurses and other hospital employees, no less than every other employed section of the community, can move freely about from one employment to another and carry with them the right to benefits and to the free insurance period. Nurses, in particular, move about very much, and in the intervals between permanent employment they will be guaranteed by the scheme a freeinsurance period. That is particularly valuable. In fact, I believe that it isvital to such persons that they should, be included in the scheme.
– What happens to a nurse who goes out to do private nursing 1
– Nothing happens; she 13 an employed person. Another question that has been raised is: What happens, when a man moves from an area in which there are facilities for providing benefits to an area where there are neither doctorsnor chemists? An extreme example is that’ of a man who moves from a metropolitan area to the centre of Australia..
The Government has attempted in clause 100 to meet that situation.
– The flying doctor should be put on the panel.
– That is to be done.
– Hewill need more than the11s. fee.
– The patients he serves will be served like all others. In clause 100 the Government gives power to the commission to do everything possible to continue to provide benefits for such a man. There probably will be in the early stages of the scheme areas where medical and pharmaceutical benefits are not available. We should make those areas as small as possible, and the efforts of the Government will be directed to extending and improving the medical services outside the metropolitan areas. We hope to be able to increase the flying doctor services so that before very long there will be no part of the Commonwealth in which proper medical attention is not available.
– Would a person working 40 miles from a country town be exempted ?
– No, I think not. He would be able to receive the service. I cannot state the policy in terms of mileage, but all I can say is that every effort will be made to give medical benefits to as many persons as possible.
– Would a person who is outside the area of medical benefits be prejudiced with regard to sickness benefits ?
– If there are areas where it is not possible to give medical service, persons living there will have their payments reduced until the area is brought within the full scope of the scheme.
Some honorable members have referred to Christian Scientists. I have been in touch with one gentleman who is prominent in the Christian Science Church. He has been to Canberra and we have discussed the matter thoroughly together. Also, I have had quite a large correspondence with other persons interested. The argument has been advanced that a scheme in British Columbia exempts Christian Scientists. That scheme, however, has no relationship with the scheme provided for in the bill, because it is confined to medical service, and no cash benefits are given, and no. grant is provided by the Government. I believe it is a compulsory scheme but Christian Scientists are exempted. In our proposed scheme a contributor, for a payment of1s. 6d. a week, receives a very wide range of medical and cash benefits. The cash benefits cover periods when he is sick, a pension for his wife if she becomes a widow, an old-age pension, and allowances in respect of dependants. I am advised that the Christian Scientists are not solely, or indeed at all, troubled by the few pence a week that cover doctors’ attention and supply of medicine. The1s. 6d. a week paid by the individual employee is nothing like sufficient to cover the wide range of benefits provided, and only a few pence, 21/2d. a week or so, is relevant to doctors’ services and supply of medicine. The Christian Scientist could quite well regard the payment as covering something towards his own pension, something towards the possibility of his wife having to claim a widow’s pension, something towards dependant allowances, and something towards even sick pay,
– Would sick pay be paid without a doctor’s certificate?
– No, but my argument applies even if Ave leave sick pay out.
Mr.Curtin. - Then you must leave disablement benefits out also.
– And invalid pensions.
– The payment of1s. 6d. is not anything like sufficient to cover merely old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, and dependants’ allowances. Many Christian Scientists have written to me stating that they are completely satisfied with the arguments I have placed before them.
I ask the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) not to press his suggested amendment. In this country there are many Friends, or Quakers,who pay taxes, some part ofwhich is utilized for the supply of munitions and other defence measures as well as hospital maintenance. Taxes are also paid by Christian Scientists and part at least of the proceeds is used for the maintenance of services for the rest of the community. There has been some misconception in the minds of Christian Scientists as to what will happen when this scheme is in operation. Some of them have been under the impression that in time of sickness they would be compelled to enlist the services of a doctor. I have had statements to this effect in letters which I have received from them, but my replies have satisfied them on the point. If we establish the precedent of granting exemptions in the way now indicated we shall be starting on a rather dangerous and slippery path. I should say that the conscience of Christian Scientists can quite well be satisfied by the fact that a contribution of1s. 6d. a week is something that is less than is sufficient to provide old-age and widows’ pensions, or pensions for dependants, and that the health benefits might well be considered as coming out of Government funds. I have written anything from 50 to 100 letters in reply to requests from Christian Scientists for information, and every reply that I have received from them has indicated that they are quite satisfied.
- (Mr. John Lawson). - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has given notice of an amendment. If he wishes to proceed with it, I ask him now formally to move it.
– As requested by the Chairman, I move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ 7. The commission may issue a certificate in the prescribed form to a contributor who makes an application for exemption and establishes to the satisfaction of the commission that he is a bona fide adherent to and member of a duly constituted branch of the Christian Science Church or Society; and thereupon, during the currency of the said certificate the provisions of this act relating to medical benefit shall not apply to such contributor, and the amount of contribution payable by such contributor shall be reduced by such amount as the commission shall from time to time determine. “Provided that such certificate may at any time be cancelled by the commission if the commission is satisfied that the holder thereof is not such an adherent to and member of such church or society, and shall be so cancelled at the request of the holder thereof.”
– On a point of order, I submit that the amendment is not in order, because it gives power to the commission to reduce the amount of contributions which shall be payable from time to time by the members of the church or society referred to. Although, in all likelihood, the commission would not exact contributions which would be inadequate to meet the commitments in respect of such persons there is no guarantee, as far as the Government is concerned, that that would be the case. It is theoretically possible for the commission to fix rates of contribution which would be inadequate to meet the benefits which would have to be provided for these contributors, in which case the Government would have to provide a sum in excess of the amount contemplated in the appropriation message.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It appears to me that the amendment may affect the appropriation, but I should like to hear the Treasurer on the point.
– Since you have been good enough, Mr. Chairman, to ask for my opinion, I must say that I do not believe that this amendment would increase the appropriation because, as I understand the position, the medical services would not be availed of by members of the Christian Science Church, and the contribution would be reduced accordingly.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In view of the Treasurer’s statement that the amount of the appropriation would not be increased, I rule that the amendment is in order.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and endorse his remarks. If it can be shown, and I think it can, that members of the Christian Science Church are conscientious objectors to the scheme, they should be excluded from the scope of the bill. This issue touches a fundamental principle - the liberty of the individual. The only objection I have to the amendment, if I have any at all, is that it confines the exemption to a particular group of people. There may be others, I could name one myself - the Plymouth Brethren. I do not know if they have made a request for exemption. I have a great regard for the religious beliefs of people and for the maintenance of individual liberty. No person should be forced to swallow his convictions.
– The -Plymouth Brethren have not asked for exemption.
– I do not know. I merely cited that body as one which might -have asked for exemption. As an industrial officer 1 have on many occasions urged that members of the Plymouth Brethren order should not be compelled to pay union dues or contributions to factory benefit funds because it is an article of their religious belief that they must take no thought for tomorrow. Members of this order do not belong to any society or organization which compels its members to have regard for the future. I do know that the Christian Scientists have made a request for exemption. The -head-quarters of this organization is at St. Kilda-road, Melbourne, which happens to be in my electorate, and I have read the Christian Science Monitor for the last twenty years, so I have a thorough understanding of the guiding principles of the movement. Their request for exemption does not mean that they want to be relieved of monetary contributions. It is based purely on the ground of religious liberty. As employers, they always obey the law, and in this case will allow their employees to be covered by the Government scheme, but they do not want to be compelled to come under the scheme. Although I may not profess a particular religious belief myself, I respect the beliefs of others, and 1 would not force anybody to do something to which he conscientiously objected. The Christian Scientists are highly respected citizens of Australia. The majority of them are pretty wealthy. My contention is that if they have a conscientious objection to coming under the scheme their objection ought to be respected, and the request granted.
– The adoption of the amendment to exempt from the scheme the Christian Science Church would establish a dangerous precedent with respect to taxation generally. We could only justify this exemption on the ground that the tax was a specific one. If it were a general tax; if the purpose of the tax were not specific, as is the case with most forms of taxation, I am sure that, as a lawyer, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) would not have submitted it. Taxes imposed for health services of various kinds, which include medical treatment, must be quite as odious to Christian Scientists as the specific contribution contemplated under this legislation. A new ordinance was promulgated this morning requiring all workers in the Federal Capital Territory to pay a special tax for the maintenance of the Canberra Hospital. Should Christian Scientists be exempt from that payment?
– There are some Christian Scientists here, too.
– Should they be exempt from taxes imposed for the purpose of providing, sewerage and other services which ensure public health? The carrying of this amendment would lead to all sorts of demands and endless complications. I cannot see why a conscientious objection based on religious beliefs should make a stronger appeal to a legislature than one based on high moral grounds, or any other sound ground. If the object of the measure is the welfare of the overwhelming majority of the people, I should say that an objection would not be any stronger because it was based on religious convictions. The Christian Scientists are a well-to-do congregation, and, probably, the majority of them employ domestic servants. Under this bill they would be compelled to contribute to the insurance of their employees for medical benefits, and that would bc just as much against their conscience as to contribute for medical benefits for - themselves. I hope that the amendment will not bo agreed to, because it would lead to many inconsistencies, and would open the door to many applications for exemption.
– I am in agreement with the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). The validity of conscientious objections depends on whether the liberties of others are interfered with. The Christian Scientists, no doubt, expect their children to be healed by faith and prayer, but the children may not follow so closely in the footsteps of their parents as to embrace their religion. Cases are on record where persons have died because of their refusal to call in a doctor. Certain members of the community do not eat animal food but confine themselves to cereals and fruit. Labour organizations have taken exception to the fact that certain manufacturers of the special foods used by this section employed members of the congregation in their factories, and did not pay wages as high as other workers in the industry received. There is a law against a man taking his own life, and that amounts to interference with the conscientious objector who desires to end his life. The Latter-Day Saints sincerely believed in the plurality of wives. This was a cardinal feature of their primitive religion. But the Government of the United States of America declared that as the law of that country allowed a man to have only one wife, even the Mormons must observe that law. Troops were employed to compel the Mormons to haul down their own flag of the State of Deseret, and hoist the Stars and Stripes. We should not cater for cranks who might unintentionally endanger the lives of others as well as of themselves.
– I oppose the amendment, and protest against its form. With other honorable members, I was profoundly impressed by the remark of the honorable and learned member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that he would never be guilty of inconsistency, for which ideal honorable members on all sides will, I am sure, applaud him. Yet, within the short space of half an hour, he has been guilty of the most flagrant inconsistency, by asking for an exemption of the Christian Scientists whilst not suggesting similar exemption for the followers of Father Divine. It would not be difficult to form an organization of young people who do not conscientiously believe in health insurance until their health begins to fail. If we allowed exemptions at all, they would probably have permanent operation, otherwise there would be an inconsistency. A young man aged sixteen years might enter the scheme, and pay the usual contributions until he reached the pensionable age, whilst another youth might enjoy exemption for ten or fifteen years, and, after making far fewer contributions to the fund, eventually become eligible for the pension. At the inception of the scheme it is necessary to bring in men aged 60 years and over, butafter it has been in operation for some time, features that are necessarily inequitable at the outset will disappear. Those who obtained exemption would always have to be exempt.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has moved an amendment to exempt persons holding certain religious beliefs. I agree with the principle underlying the amendment because the wider the exemptions, the fewer the persons who will suffer from the enactment of this legislation. All persons in the community who have conscientious objections to the passing of this measure should be exempted from its’ provisions. That would be a proper test of the Government’s claim that the people of Australia desire this scheme. I firmly believe that if conscientious objectors were granted exemption, the great mass of the people would claim to be excluded from the provisions of this bill. Australia is proud of the religious freedom allowed to its people; that freedom has been given statutory confirmation in the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Australia has no established church; people of all religious beliefs are entitled to the fullest expression of their beliefs. But while I have considerable sympathy with the purpose of the amendment, it is only reasonable that, if exemption is to be granted to one section, the amendment should be widened to include members of other churches who have similar objections to this legislation. I have no intimate knowledge of the religious beliefs held by Christian Scientists, and while I hold that the members of all religious denominations should be free to express their beliefs, I do not go so far as to say that they should be entitled to break the laws of the land with impunity. The criminal code of Queensland, and possibly of the other States also, throws upon the guardian the responsibility for caring for a person who, by reason of ill-health or old age, is unable to care for himself. Although I believe in religious freedom, I am aware that one of the first actions of a civilizing nation, when brought into contact with native races, is to break down some of the religious beliefs of its people. That applies, particularly, to the offering of human sacrifices, but in other respects also native peoples are required to comply with the laws of civilization. I do not suggest that the widening of the exemptions should go beyond reasonable limits; nevertheless there are good reasons why favorable consideration should be given to the amendment. The latest census returns .divide the religious beliefs of the people of Australia into 42 sections. The first church mentioned is the Australian Church. I notice that the Australian membership of the Christian Science church is less than 5,000; the list also includes Buddhists, Mohammedans, Shintoists, and many others. Although the number of Christian Scientists in Aust tralia is small, that fact should not be used as an argument against the amendment. Unfortunately, issues are frequently determined by the number of votes affected. If preference is to be given, it would appear reasonable to give it to those sects whose adherents are few. It is easy to fight on the side of the big battalions, but not so easy to stand up for a minority.
– Does the honorable member believe that the principle of granting exemptions on religious grounds is sound?
– I have just said that it is so sound that it ought to be extended to cover all persons who have conscientious objections to this bill. Although the census returns enumerate 42 different religious beliefs, I was amazed to find one important omission from the list. No mention is made there of a church founded by an ex-Minister of this Parliament, who was responsible for some of the most monumental legislation on the Statute Book. I refer to” the Church of the Purple Water Lily of the Rockbound Lake of the Golden Mountain of the Cayuse nation. The argument has been advanced - I think wrongly - that, under the amendment, a Christian Scientist em ployer would not be called upon to make contributions in respect of his employees, and that, therefore, members holding other religious beliefs would be given preference. In reply to that contention, I point out that the bill specifically provides that although employees over 65 years of age are not required to pay contributions, their employers must continue to make contributions on their behalf. Another clause which provides for certain exemptions in respect of contributions by employees also stipulates that employers must continue to make contributions. The reason is obvious; in the absence of such a provision, exempted sections of the community would receive preference in employment over others. Therefore, that argument against the amendment falls to the ground. I am glad that it is suggested that special provision will be contained in the bill to cover blind persons, for no section of the community is more deserving.
This clause deals mainly with two classes of contributors who seek exemption. The first section includes persons in private employment. The granting of exemptions to them will be most difficult, but I realize that in legislation of this nature, it is difficult to avoid anomalies. I am, however, more concerned with the second section, which consists of employees of governments. There are in Queensland about 9,000 persons who are members of the Queensland State Service Union, the Queensland Professional Officers Association, and the Queensland Teachers Union. Those unions contain all the employees of the State government, with the exception of those in the railway and police departments, and they come under one scheme of public service superannuation. These people are concerned as to the effect of this legislation on them. Under the schedule they will be exempt, but as we have not yet reached the schedule I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that this clause should be postponed until the schedule has been dealt with. Under the schedule, the commission is empowered to exempt government employees in respect of whom the commission certifies that the terms of employment” provide benefits corresponding to, and on the whole not less favorable than, certain classes of benefits provided by this legislation. I should like to know the effect of that provision on those government employees who will not receive benefits equal to those set out in this bill. It would appear that such employees will have to pay to the State governments the contributions that they now make, and also their contributions to this scheme, because it will be held that the Commonwealth scheme will provide greater benefits than they are now entitled to. The Queensland teachers wish to know the effect of this scheme on their superannuation fund. They point out that under the national scheme a pension of £1 a week will be obtainable for contributions lower than under their existing scheme. According to a recent issue of a Brisbane newspaper, members of the Public Service in that State suggest that the State Government should subsidize its fund by an amount equal to that which would be received under this scheme had there been no superannuation fund in existence in Queensland.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), but that does not mean that I am any less appreciative of the appeal that has been made on behalf of the folk mentioned in the amendment, or that I have received fewer letters requesting support for the amendment, than have some other honorable members of this Parliament. The reason I am against it is that I am all for the widening of this reputedly national scheme of insurance. One is surprised to hear honorable gentlemen opposite who, for a week, have been pleading for the extension of the privileges and advantages of this scheme, talk to-day about restricting it to certain sections. One can understand the view of the adherents to the Christian Science faith, who feel that they are to be asked to pay for something which their faith does not permit them to enjoy. That is not unique in any civilized community. Hardly a tax that is imposed does not have the effect of making some persons pay for something that they do not want. No one would suggest that, the adherents of the
Christian Science Church, and of Father Divine, should be exempted from the payments of municipal rates, which are very largely expended in the promotion of public health. Honorable members who declare that members of the Christian Science Church should be exempted because they consult their own practitioners who are not medical practitioners as defined in this bill, overlook the fact that more than 400,000 members of friendly societies, who are now enjoying all the advantages which this bill contemplates, are to be forced to become contributors to the national insurance fund. We do not ask them if they want to come in. Though they may have conscientious objections to entering the scheme, because they- will be compelled to pay considerably more for fewer advantages than they now receive, they have not the option of remaining outside it. I intend to endeavour to prevent the clause relating to members of friendly societies from being agreed to in its present form.
I wish that this scheme were more of a community scheme than “it is. I am sorry that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not been able to concede the request made by some honorable members for the inclusion of public servants.
– I hope that that will come.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope so, too.
The Treasurer advanced a sound argument when he said that the allocation to the pension fund would be ls. 9d. per capita a week, supplemented by many millions of pounds of State money, whereas the individual would pay only ls. 6d. a week towards the pension benefit. I hope that honorable members will hesitate before they do anything to make this measure any less comprehensive than it is at present.
.- The longer that this bill is before the committee, the worse it seems to be. I understood the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to say to-day that people in the outback areas who cannot get medical attention, will not have to contribute for medical benefits.
– Not until we can. provide medical attention for them.
– How are they going to get on in the meantime?
– In the same way as they are getting on now. We cannot produce overnight doctors in every outback corner of Australia.
– The outback areas in Tasmania for many years have been struggling for efficient medical services. For a while the municipalities subsidized medical men to go to the remote parts of the State, but it was found that the right type was not attracted. . It was easy enough to obtain the services of men who had not been able to develop a practice in the more settled areas, and sometimes of elderly men who went to those districts for a rest more than for anything else. The scheme, therefore, did not have happy results. The State Government has now enlisted six efficient doctors in the Public Service whose duty it is to attend to the medical requirements of the people outback.
– The Chair would like to know the connexion between the honorable member’s remarks and the clause.
– I should like to know if provision can be made to exempt those persons who wish to continue to enjoy the medical benefits which the State is providing. As I see it, the only persons who will derive any benefit from this bill are the people in the big cities and in the more settled country districts. I feel that it will not be long before other States follow the Tasmanian example and appoint doctors to attend, to the medical needs of the. settlers outback. This can be done only with the monetary co-operation of the people who will enjoy the service. These people will not be able to make payments in respect of that service and also payments in respect of national insurance under this bill, which will mean that the State medical service will have to be abandoned. There is nothing in this bill or even, I think, in the mind of the Government to provide for its replacement.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has told the committee about the provident scheme conducted by the Electrolytic Zinc Company in my electorate. Employees of that company contribute ls. 2d. a week to a fund which provides them with benefits which are twice as substantial as those provided for in this bill, under which those employees will have to come. Under the Electrolytic Zinc Company’s scheme, dependants receive so many more . benefits than national insurance will give, that the employees of that concern will not be able to afford to jettison their own scheme. On the death of a contributor to the company’s scheme, his dependants receive £100 cash. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that the actuarial worth of national insurance was £600 or £700, but I point out that that money will not be paid in a lump sum. Workers’ compensation payments under the company’s scheme amount to £2 5s. a week; there are also medical benefits for the wives and families of contributors. A sickness benefit of £1 a week is provided under this bill. That comparison shows that, those employees will have to maintain payments to both funds.
I believe also that married and single members of friendly societies who have to maintain dependants, will have no chok’*’ but to contribute both to, national insurance and to the friendly societies, in order to protect their dependants. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) wants one section of the community to be exempt from this bill. I think that a good many sections should be exempted. This bill falls far short of replacing the benefits which are provided by friendly societies and provident funds.
Another aspect of this bill is the fact that it fails to give hospital benefits. I refer again to the ‘ Electrolytic Zinc Company’s fund which provides hospital accommodation for the workers and their families. A tramway man in Sydney told me recently that he paid 6d. a week for hospital benefits for himself and his family. Out of his fortnightly pay envelope he has to pay 12s. a week for union duos, superannuation and hospital insurance. This bill will burden him with another 3s. a pay, which is too much for him. When members of the Public Works Committee were inspecting the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, they were told by Dr. Sclink that that hospital would lose £20,000 a year as the result of national insurance. Someone would have to pay and it would have to be the insured persons; the hospital could not treat them free. That’ shows a very serious omission that should be rectified. Some provision should be made for the distribution of funds to the hospitals.
The Government is quibbling about exemptions, but I point out that two of the larger sections of the community, namely, the unemployed and the selfemployed, have been exempted, or rather, excluded, from this bill. It would be tragic if nothing were done for the people outback. This bill definitely is just for the thickly populated centres, and if the Treasurer found it possible to exclude everyone beyond a fixed radius of the metropolitan areas and the large country centres, he would facilitate the collection of contributions.
– Does the honorable member think the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah is wise?
– No. The honorable member is seeking on religious grounds to exempt a certain section of the people, but, as I see it, the people outback will be exempt for all time because no provision is made for medical attention for them. The State of Tasmania renders that service. This bill will go a long way to kill their scheme. The Minister would be well advised to withdraw the measure altogether, and have it re-drafted.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has moved an amendment to exempt from the obligation to contribute for medical benefit persons who profess the faith of Christian Science. I understand that members of this sect believe in faith healing in opposition to the application of the science and art of modern medicine and surgery. If thebill required such persons to swallow large doses of nauseous medicine, or to undergo operations which they did not believe to be necessary, I am sure that every honorable member would rally round the honorable member for Warringah in support of his amendment; but the worst that can be said from the point of view of the members of this denomination is that the scheme will require them to contribute something for a benefit of which they will not avail themselves. Their case is somewhat similar to that of a man objecting to paying unemployment relief tax on the ground that he did not believe in work. The actual contribution for which each person will be liable under this clause is 2d. a week. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) pointed out, in an able summary of the position, that anyone desiring exemption from these payments need only enrol as a Christian Scientist. He further pointed out - and in this I agree with him - that, in practice, it would be impossible to determine whether the person were a Christian Scientist for spiritual reasons, or had become one for economic reasons, the economy being 2d. a week. Therefore, having regard to the small financial obligation involved, and to the unwisdom of making unworkable exemptions, I. am opposed to the amendment.
.- I have some sympathy with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in the object he has in view, but Iv believe that he should go further, and exclude all persons who entertain, conscientious religious objections to coming under this scheme. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that Christian Scientists would not be compelled to avail themselves of medical services, so that there was little ground for their objection. I know very little about the faith of these people. For my part, I am quick to consult a doctor if I need it, and I have availed myself of the services of a surgeon, but it seems to me that the Christian Scientists object to coming under the scheme because it involves the recognition by them of orthodox medical methods, and that cuts right across the tenets of their faith. The mere fact of their having to identify themselves with something that postulates the ordinary medical treatment of illness is, apparently, offensive to them on religious grounds, and they object to it. Therefore, because I am opposed to anything that savours of religious intolerance, I support the amendment.
The Treasurer was mistaken in his references to the medical treatment of nurses, and other hospital employees, in New South Wales. Such persons do not receive free medical attention because they are employed in hospitals. Sometimes, it is true, a doctor will give free medical attention to a nurse for the reason that they are engaged in the same profession, just as one doctor may treat another, or doctors and dentists may treat one another, without charge. However, when nurses desire to he covered i» respect of all medical benefits, they pay 3d. a week into a fund for the purpose, just as any one else can, and married persons, as we know, pay 6d. a week into this hospital fund.
I do not agree with the proposal that certain employers should be exempt from tho provisions of this scheme, because they contribute to provident funds for their employees. We know that some limited liability companies, which employ big staffs, subscribe to schemes for the provision of medical benefits for their employees. I hope that this National Parliament will not tolerate the exemption of such firms, because it is a fact that some of them use their provident schemes as an aid to strike-breaking, and to brow beat their employees. It is a favorite practice of these firms to hold over the heads of their employees the threat that if they strike they will lose all right to benefit under the provident schemes into which they have been paying. This is one of the methods by which they seek to destroy the independence of their employees, and if this national insurance scheme has any virtue at all, it is that it will tend to put a stop to this kind of intimidation. I do not wish to be misunderstood in regard to this matter. I am not, and never have been, an advocate of wholesale industrial disturbance, but I do maintain that the workers can never surrender the right to strike, when the reason is sufficiently grave, and when no other remedy is available. If we exempt employers from the obligation to contribute to this scheme, we shall, in effect, be subsidizing a system for the browbeating of the workers, and the promotion of scabbery. I hope that the committee will have nothing to do with the proposal.
– I believe that there is a good deal of misunderstanding regarding the position of Christian Scientists under this scheme.
Like other honorable members, I have received communications from Christian Scientists, and, in addition, I have been in conversation with several of them. They are a most law-abiding section of the community, and I can understand and sympathize with their religious objections. It would appear that there is a general desire among Christian Scientists to be excluded from the obligations of this clause. During the luncheon adjournment, I was in touch with a staunch Christian Scientist in Sydney, who assured me that there was no general desire among them to be excluded, and he could see no reason why this should, be so. The following extract from a letter indicates clearly the misunderstanding that exists in the minds of many Christian Scientists in regard to the Government’s proposal -
The main point, so far as students of Christian Science are concerned, is that it is not so much a question of paying the contribution as that we do not wish to bc compelled to call in a doctor in case of need, but feel that we should be free to choose our own method of treatment.
Evidently they are under the impression that they would be compelled to submit to medical treatment, but that is not so. The contribution is 2d. a week, and a large number will not come into the scheme.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) suggested that employees belonging to this denomination should be excluded from the provisions of the clause, but what about the employers? Have they not religious scruples also? If we exclude employees on religious grounds, we must extend the exemption to employers also.
.- For the first time during the debate upon this bill, we have entered upon the delicate ground of religious and psychological reaction. When a popular assembly like the Commonwealth Parliament enters upon that controversial arena, it is immediately confronted with difficulties and dangers which show themselves in increasing number and complexity as the debate proceeds. If the amendment of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) be put to the vote, I shall support it, but I shall do so for reasons not entirely in harmony with those submitted by the honorable member himself. I shall support it because it tends to exclude a certain number of persons who do not wish to be brought under the compulsion of this taxing measure, and, inasmuch as they do not wish to be brought under it, and I have no wish that anybody should be brought under it, it follows that I shall take the one step in the direction of the fulfilment of my object which the proposal of the honorable member suggests to me.
– The honorable member is not fussy about the means so long as he attains his object.
– The means are entirely moral and constitutional, and are the product of the Parliament of this country. There is nothing wrong with the means, and the object is good. But when it comes to an argument on principle as to the exclusion of these very pleasant and desirable people - I speak of my own experience of them - I find myself in grave difficulty. Of course, I do not forget - and this is merely by way of passing reference - that in another debate on this subject I said that this bill is a taxation measure, and that the tax will be imposed on all employees irrespective of whether they are willing or unwilling. I still hold that view, but I point out that this matter of the conscience is something which is imponderable and unascertainable by any standard of inquiry that can be applied in the consideration of the bill or of any clause thereof. For example, a wage-earner goes ro collect his wages. He may be in debt. Wage-earners usually are in debt; they have serious unpaid obligations, perhaps merely to the grocer, or to the doctor. It may press urgently on a man’s conscience that he should get from his employer everything he has earned in order to satisfy his conscientious scruples in favour of paying his debts. The taxgatherer has no regard for conscience ; he is not interested in it at all.
– Have tax-gatherers a conscience ?
– It seems to be suggested that tax-gatherers have no conscience. That, again, is an arguable matter, as to which we have no means of determination. I may be asked, and this again is only by way of illustration - “ Do you not believe in the principle of the conscientious objector “ ? I do, especially in regard to war measures, but there again, I should say, I think a standard exists by which we can weigh the conscience. The conscientious objector to war points out that there is a definite commandment, “ Thou shalt not kill,” and that he is opposed, not only to war, but also to everything ancillary to war. He objects to everything that is destructive of the basic principle of the Divine commandment. There one can find a standard, but where on earth can we find a standard by which we can decide the present issue ? Let me examine the terms of the proposed new sub-clause. because if it is re-read and considered, it must be recognized that, however desirable the objective, and however certain it is that I shall vote for it, it is bound to create a world of doubt and difficulty, and will be entirely unworkable in practice. The amendment states -
Hie commission- may issue a certificate in the prescribed form to a contributor who makes an application for exemption and establishes to tho satisfaction of the commission that ho is a bona fide adherent to and member of a duly constituted branch of the Christian Science Church or Society.
That is a nice task we are proposing to set the commission! I assure you, Mr. Prowse, that if the commission had nothing else to do but to satisfy itself that a person who wants to get out of having his wages taxed is not a bona fide member of the Christian Science Church, it would be kept fully employed in that purely psychological inquiry.
– The honorable member appears to have come on to the other side.
– I am on the other side now. When that difficulty has been surmounted, other difficulties will arise, for the proposed new sub-clause goes on to say -
And thereupon during the currency of the said certificate the provisions of this act relating to medical benefit shall not apply to such contributor and the amount of contribution payable by such contributor shall be reduced by such amount as the commission shall from time to time determine.
Could anything be more absurd than to ask the commission to determine to what extent these pence shall be reduced by reference to> the fact that, to some extent, they ‘represent somebody’s conscientious objection? The commission has to examine the conscientious objection to decide how much in pence - in farthings, fractions, and decimals - shall bo allowed for it. It is enough to make Sir Archdale Parkhill turn in his political grave. The amendment further says -
Provided that such certificate may at any time be cancelled by the commission if the commission is satisfied that the holder thereof is not such an adherent to and member of such church or society and shall be so cancelled at the request of the holder thereof.
The inquisition has to determine precisely at what point the conscientious objector has fallen away from his adherence to this notable cult. That opens up a vista of great possibilities. The Australian inquisition, sitting on this nice question of whether an individual is a good Christian Scientist, would have a pretty difficult task. If the principle were extended, the result would be very interesting. . We could open an inquiry, demand for which often suggests itself, into the private lives of members of Parliament. The inquisition might determine whether certain honorable gentlemen are good members of the Anglican Church or good members of the Woman Catholic Church, or are merely professing members of those bodies. If they are good members, the question would remain to be decided, how good? How often do they go to church on Sundays? What is the, measure of their subscriptions when the plate comes round? To what extent are they responsible for those tokens that are not proper currency, but are often found on the plate? All these questions have to be determined by this new inquisition, set up in this new country, which is supposed to regard all religions as matters entirely of conscience and opinion on the basis of perfect equality. Those matters in the past have not been permitted to influence the tax-gatherer when he comes round with his forceps with the intention of extracting an unwilling contribution from the taxpayer.
– The honorable member for Bat man (Mr. Brennan) seems to be breaking away from the understanding that generally exists between members of the legal profession on on both sides of the House. First of all, he said he proposed to- vote for the proposed new sub-clause moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and then he took it word by word, comma by comma, and pulled it to pieces. He said, in effect, “ This is a particularly stupid amendment. Although it i3 badly drafted, and although I think it will be difficult to worK, if I can by so doing spite the Government, I shall vote for it.”
– I contend that the argument of honorable members on the
Government side is that the object to be gained is good.
– I oppose the amendment, and on the general question of exemptions I agree with what was said by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) earlier in the debate. He made a valuable contribution to the discussion of thi3 question. The amendment seeks to exempt a certain section of the community on the ground of religious belief. To the general principle of recognizing religious beliefs in this matter, one should pay some attention, but if Ave follow the idea of exempting particular sections of the community to its logical conclusion we arrive at some extraordinary results. What about the man who conscientiously objects to marriage? Ought the commission to exempt him from payment of contributions for widows’ pensions ? If the principle of the amendment be granted an examination will Show conclusively that it is not only unworkable, but also undesirable. I do not like exemptions in this form of legislation. In common with other members I have received letters from employees of a particular bank which has a provident fund. They ask that subscribers to the scheme should be exempt. I do not agree that they should be exempt. Provident schemes now in existence should be dovetailed into the national scheme, and every worker should be brought under the provisions of the bill, provided he can comply Avith the income limitation. I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment, and on the question of exemptions generally, I trust that great care will be exercised, in granting them.
– I have a lot of sympathy for the amendment, and I know that the persons who have made the representations to individual members are very earnest in their appeal, and are firm in their convictions. By opposing the second reading I supported the idea that everyone should be exempted from the bill, but when we are considering conscientious objectors alone, we must have regard to the consequences. This debate ought to impress on the Minister the necessity for giving some consideration to these people, and I hope that in the Senate, if not in this House, provision will be made so that the 2d. paid by Christian Scientists will go to further their own objective. I see the possibility of the Christian Science Church becoming an approved society, with the further possibility, in that event, of a great many more adherents being attracted to the church, merely to secure the exemption. There is also the possibility that some of the new adherents might not be so sincere in their beliefs and thus their admission to the church might do it some harm in the eyes of the community generally. I do not believe in the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr* Brennan). I have received letters from very many Christian Scientists who express their concern at the prospect of their being brought under the scheme, and cite some extraordinary instances of healing by faith. I am well aware that honorable members generally are inclined to give serious consideration to the request that these people be exempt. Whilst I cannot see how it is possible to grant wholesale exemptions, I hope that the Treasurer will be able to suggest some means whereby the Christion Science Church may be registered as an approved society to administer the benefits of this measure to its members in accordance with its own tenets.
.- I gather from some of the letters which I have received from Christian Scientists that they are under some misapprehension as to the effect of this national insurance scheme on their organization. Their chief ob jection to the scheme, I understand, is the possibility of their being compelled, in the event of illness, to obtain the services of a doctor. Everyone knows that no such compulsion would be exercised in respect of anybody, although there is some obligation to seek medical aid in a critical illness. The Government would be wise to resist this claim for exemption. I favour the scheme because it includes, among others, bank officials who may be regarded as the best class of risk, and because the purpose of the scheme is to provide a wide range of social benefits for the poorer people. At the end of the five year period, the surpluses in the funds of the approved societies will be distributed in the prescribed manner in order to equalize the benefits given under the scheme. There could be conscientious objections from nearly every section of the people in respect of almost any legislation that is introduced. If this scheme is to fulfil its purpose and serve all sections of the community, the Government should not grant exemption to one section and thereby invite further requests for exemption.
.- The amendment is more important than it would appear to be on the surface. Every member of the committee is agreed that national insurance should go much further than this measure takes it.
– The honorable member did not vote for the scheme to go further.
– It is possible that further measures will be introduced in this Parliament or the state parliaments and if exemption is now granted to the Christian Science Church on religious grounds, requests may be expected from other groups in the community when the later legislation is being considered. I sympathize with the objections of Christian Scientists from whom, in common with other members, I have received a large number of letters; but I would remind the committee, and particularly honorable members representing Queensland, that in that State a hospital tax is levied by the municipal and shire councils. If the Christian Science Church were exempted from this bill and the precedent established, the same arguments for exemption could be advanced against contributions for hospitalization, on the ground that members of that body would not use the hospitals.
– In Canberra the workers will have to pay a hospital tax and make contributions also to this fund.
– My remarks would apply equally to the attitude of Christian . Scientists in Canberra to the hospital tax. The fact that some concession has been given to Christian Scientists in the British Columbia Act is no reason why that body should be exempted from this scheme, because here we are tackling a much bigger problem. The contribution of 2½d. a week which the Christian Scientists will be called upon to pay in respect of medical benefit will not mean interference with their religious liberty. They will still be entitled to call in their own practitioners, the only difference being that they will contribute to a scheme from which they will not expect to receive direct benefit.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has suggested the possibility of members of the Christian Science Church being appointed an approved society under this scheme. The proposal, I think, is one which might well receive serious consideration as a solution of the difficulty that has arisen in connexion with this request for exemption.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) because I respect the conscientious objections of any section of the community. Honorable members may recall that the former member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) was a sincere believer in the efficacy of the Christian Science religion. He claimed that his faith had cured him from a very serious illness. Some years ago when I was also suffering from a severe illness, I had a long conversation with him; he was trying to rope me. Whilst I re- spected his point of view, I preferred to be treated by my own doctor. Any person who tries to belittle the religious beliefs of other people has very little else to do. The health insurance scheme of the province of British Columbia, passed in 1936, exempts the Christian Science Church from contributing to the scheme. The following is the relevant section -
Where an employee otherwise within the scope of this section makes application for exemption in the manner prescribed by the regulations and establishes to the satisfaction of the commission that he is an adherent or member in good standing of the Christian Science Church, the commission shall grant to him a certificate of exemption from the provisions of this act; but subject to the regulations, such certificate may be cancelled at the request of the employee or on the employee ceasing to bc an adherent or member of that church.
I understand also that a similar concession is provided in the English act. If the British Columbia act exempts all these people who are worshippers of Christ then-
An Honorable Member. - What about the worshippers of mammon?
– That applies to the Treasurer and the Government.
– I would not have said anything Mr. Chairman, if the Treasurer had not started laughing when I was referring to my conversation with the former honorable member for Riverina.
– As a matter of fact I was not listening to the honorable member at the time.
– Nevertheless there was a great deal of laughter and I resent laughter in these matters. I am not a carping hypocrite, although I have never made a great protestation of religion.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. Why was I not allowed to continue my remarks ?
– I made several attempts to call the honorable member to order; yet he proceeded, apparently in defiance of the Chair. Either he is deaf or he persists in disobeying the Chair.
– I am a little deaf, but it is very unfair that I am not allowed to proceed with my remarks.
– Order ! I shall name the honorable member if he does not resume his seat. ‘
– You would not do it outside.
– I name the honorable member for Hunter.
– I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that., if the honorable member expresses regret for the misunderstanding that has arisen, you should withdraw your naming of him.
– As tho honorable member for Hunter seems to be under the misapprehension that I played some part in tl.i is incident, I can assure him that I was not even aware of the remark made by him. Since there appears to be a misunderstanding, I ask the . honorable member, through you, Mr. Chairman, to make proper amends and so enable you to reverse your decision.
– I am sorry if I have offended the Chair.
– The honorable member may proceed.
– I am not a hypocrite. I believe in Christianity, and in the right of people to’ the religious beliefs which they hold. Members of a religious organization who have no faith in doctors, but believe that they can be healed by faith, should not bo compelled to contribute to a scheme of health insurance which would require them to pay for treatment by doctors. Members of religious bodies, despite the advice tendered to them, have been burnt at the stake for refusing to renounce their beliefs, and they would do so again.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) courteously showed me a draft of his amendment. He has done well in a. very difficult task, but the difficulties are not so great as they have been represented to be. A member of the Christian Science Church is a person who has set his hand to a definite statement of beliefs which is set out in the Christian Science Manual. There is no difficulty in ascertaining whether a person who claims exemption as a Christian Scientist is a member of the Christian Science Church. Some people are in the penumbra of Christian Science - those who are influenced by the views of that body, but are not actually adherents of the church. These would not be entitled, under the amendment, to exemption. Only those who had subscribed their nam’es to the essential tenets of Christian Science, as set out in the Manual, could become exempt. While their subscription to those tenets continued they would be entitled to have their claims considered by the commission. Apart from religious considerations, nobody would gain anything by belonging to the Christian Science body, or any other minority church. It is hardly to be believed that .any person would go through the empty form of subscribing to the tenets, and undertaking the obligations of membership, of that church to save himself the payment of 2d. a week. The honorable member for Warringah has suggested a means whereby the commission could examine the various claims of applicants for exemption. The bulk of .the members of this congregation is not composed of working people; if they are working people, they would probably be of one of the classes exempt from compulsory insurance.
Misapprehension has arisen concerning the obligations imposed by this measure. Probably the Christian Scientists thought that the bill would place upon them obligations which it will not impose. For instance, I dare say they thought that it would compel them to submit to medical treatment. That would be an outrage; no such proposal is made in the bill. As the measure stands, it provides that they shall be compelled to contribute towards the cost of medical treatment which they do not want, and which they believe it would be wrong for them to accept. The Christian Scientist believes that evil does not exist; that it is an illusion. He believes that an attempt to cure physical ills by medicine or medical treatment is wrong, because those ills do not exist. The congregations of Christian Scientists have their own practitioners who cure the body and the mind by dispelling the illusions of the mind. It is well known that cures have been effected by Christian
Science teachers, and cures have been experienced by persons who have become adherents of the church. The wrong that the bill proposes to inflict is that of forcing Christian Scientists to pay for the use by themselves of a system which they believe it would be wrong for them to use. 1 can quite understand them having a conscientious objection to that, and I believe that their views in that regard should be respected by this committee. I believe that the honorable member for Warringah has given us a method by which conscientious objectors could be protected.
This is not a question of whether a tax should or should not be imposed. In the case of a tax, whether a general impost or a tax for a specific purpose, one pays for benefits, not only for oneself, but also for tho community. In this instance we are told that the contributor would be paying for benefits for himself, and that the payments would be subsidized, so that he would get more than he had paid for. The Christian Scientist says that he does not object to paying for benefits for other people, but he objects to being told that it is proper for him to accept medical benefits. Take the point raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), regarding a hospital tax. A Christian Scientist could not validly object to that, because he knows that there are persons outside his congregation who do not believe that evil is a delusion. The Christian ‘Scientist would say that there should be medical treatment and hospital treatment for those persons who believe in it, because they could not be treated by Christian Science methods. lt would be improper and anti-social for him to object to contributions for that purpose. Every Christian Scientist I have met says that persons who do not accept the general principles of Christian Science tenets cannot be effectively treated by Christian Science methods. The only persons who can be so treated are those who have accepted Christian Science principles. Many of the Illuminati have become Christian Science practitioners; they tender spiritual advice to the members of their congregation, but only to persons who have accepted Christian Science teaching. No Christian Scientist would dare to treat a person who did not understand the beliefs of that body, and had not subscribed to its tenets.
Now I come to general taxation, of which several honorable members have spoken. We cannot take the income tax, and dissect it by saying, “I pay so many pence for this, and so much for that “. We cannot cut up a tax. If schools were . maintained by a municipality which imposed a special rate for .education, and said, “We shall apply that tax to the maintenance of schools in which there shall be no religious instruction at all I could conceive of members of that community, who believed in religious instruction in schools, objecting to contributing to tho cost of that kind pf education’ by means of a special tax. They would have every right to object, aud their position would be analogous to that of the Christian Scientists in regard to this bill. I hope that the committee will respect the objections of Christian Scientists to this measure. Although we may not be able to understand and appraise their- belief, it is something of weight and substance to them. The conscientious objections of even the smallest section of the community should be respected.’
.- At the present time, the members of the Queensland Public Service are divided amongst the Professional Officers Association: and the Queensland State Service Union. In addition, there is the Queensland Teachers Union. The total number of employees is approximately 9,000, and they all contribute to the Queensland Public Service Superannuation Fund. They are compelled to contribute to it, and it appears that the benefits which they receive under the State scheme are equal to those that would be obtained under the proposed legislation. They are not particularly anxious to be brought within the scope of this bill; in some respects their present scheme is preferred by them. Whilst they desire to be exempt from this bill, they point out that the State Government, as an employer, would be paying less towards the cost of their superannuation than would the Commonwealth Government under this bill. The Commonwealth Government will not pay one penny towards the benefits which they will receive. State public servants in Queensland contribute towards a superannuation scheme which provides for males an incapacity allowance of £50 per annum for each unit, an annuity of a similar amount on retirement, and an assurance benefit of £200 for each unit at age 65, or at death, according to the choice of the insured. As the contribution of each male is based on a minimum of 2 units of incapacity allowance, 2 units of annuity, and 2 units of assurance, it follows that under the State scheme he contributes for an incapacity allowance of £100 per annum, an annuity of similar value, and an assurance benefit of £400. Approximately . 18,000 railway employees in Queensland will not come under this bill, because the State superannuation scheme does not include them. I should like to know their position. Members of the police force of Queensland have a scheme with which they are generally satisfied, but the members of the public service are compelled to join a superannuation scheme towards which the Government pays only a negligible amount. In one year public servants in Queensland contributed £61 12s. for every £1 of Government subsidy. For the three years ended the 31st December, 1935, public servants in that State contributed almost £58 for every £1 of Government subsidy, the respective figures being £283,777 18s. 3d. and £4,910 9s. 8d. The cost of valuation and management, which is approximately £2,000 a year, is met by the Government, but even if that amount be added to the Government subsidy, the total cost to the Government over a threeyear period would be only about £11,000, compared with £283,777 18s. 3d. paid by contributors. My point is. that, under this legislation, the State Government will continue to contribute only a small proportion of the total amount, whilst there will be no contribution at all from the Commonwealth Government if these public servants are exempted, as is suggested. It is not that they object to being exempted ; but if they are exempted, arrangements should be. made for substantial subsidies to be provided. The provisions in respect of females in the employ of the Queensland Government differ slightly from those applicable to males, but no variation of principle is concerned. If the scheme to be launched by the Commonwealth Government is not to cover State employees, and if such schemes as the Queensland Public Service Superannuation scheme are to be approved schemes, running parallel with the Commonwealth scheme and exempted from direct contribution to it, public servants and teachers in that State who contribute to the State scheme will, unless the contributions made by the employer be greatly increased, be at a disadvantage compared with railway employees, who at present have no superannuation scheme. Of the benefit received by contributors under .the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation fund and under the schemes in operation in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, about 50 per cent, arises from their own contributions, and a similar proportion from contributions made by the Government as employer.. As there are no public service superannuation schemes in operation in Western Australia and Tasmania, public servants in those States are not so vitally interested in this scheme as are the public servants of Queensland. For the reasons which I have given, I ask that the claims of those 9,000 public servants be favorably considered.
The Federal Executive of the Australian Journalists Association has asked that members of the association be exempted from the provisions of this bill. They point out that as all journalists, including cadets receiving less than £365 a year, have every prospect of receiving more than that amount through their industrial awards, they should be exempted. I ask that favorable consideration be given to their claim also.
.- Exemption from the provisions of this bill should be made in respect of employees in hospitals who are entitled to receive free medical service. At a later stage I propose to move an amendment to safeguard their privileges, but I mention this matter now so that honorable members may keep it in mind when the second schedule is under consideration.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be added (Mr. Spender’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. FRANCIS brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works together with Minutes of Evidence relating to the proposed construction of a new building for the Canberra Community Hospital.
Ordered to be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 20 - Canberra Community Hospital.
No. 21 - City Area Leases.
No. 22 - Hospital Tax.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to bring before the Government a matter which is based on a question that I asked during the week as to the intention of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to dispense with one of the two assistant superintendents in the telegraph section of the Adelaide General Post Office. If, in the interests of economy, I should say, unwise economy, the second assistant superintendent is dispensed with, the efficient working of the branch may be impaired. For a great many years there have been two assistant superintendents in the Adelaide telegraph office which, for reasons that I shall advance, is a pivotal part of the Australian telegraphic system. If, for instance, the telegraph circuit between Perth and Kalgoorlie were to break down, the service would be conducted from Perth to Kalgoorlie via Adelaide. Similarly if there were a breakdown between Sydney and Broken Hill, telegraph communication between the two centres would be carried on through Adelaide. It may be contended that, as the Perth telegraph office, which does a little more business than is done by the Adelaide office, is carried on with the services of only one assistant superintendent, there should be no need for the services of two assistant superintendents in Adelaide, but I point out that the difference of the times at which work is done in both offices makes it easier to manage the Perth office than the Adelaide office. The analogy, therefore, is false.
An attempt was made five years ago to conduct the Adelaide telegraph office with only one superintendent, but, after a trial period, during which efficiency suffered, the second assistant superintendent was reinstated. I impress upon the. Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the fact that if efficiency was impaired five years ago because tho department tried to carry on the Adelaide telegraph branch with only one assistant superintendent it must equally be impaired in the same circumstances in the future. To dispense with the services of one of the officers will mean that between 12.30 a.m. and S a.m. the branch will he under the direction of a person known as a supervisor, who will receive no extra remuneration for the added duties and responsibility that will be placed on him. The unfairness of that must be apparent to all honorable members who are aware of the fact that between those hours some of the most important work that the telegraph office undertakes is done.
– With the test matches about to start, it is imperative that the telegraph service be efficient.
– Yes. The telegraph system will be used not only to convey information relative to the test matches, but also for other important business. I could give a lengthy description of the work done by the assistant superintendent and by the telegraph branch itself, but the department is just as aware of the need for the services of the second man as I am. It is merely seeking to effect an economy by placing the responsibility on a supervisor without extra reward. That is fair neither to the person who has the right to occupy the position of assistant superintendent, or to those persons who, for a less wage, will be required to carry out the supervision.
– I desire to bring before the House a matter which, while it may not appear to be one of great urgency, is, nevertheless, of considerable importance. It has to do with the general subject of food prices in the Commonwealth of Australia, and, in particular, with the recent increase of the price of a number of primary foodstuffs especially. This increase, and the public reaction, on the part of both the consumer and the producer, have once again drawn attention to the highly unsatisfactory method that we now have of arranging either for increases or decreases of the prices of primary foodstuffs, adequate quantities of which are essential to the well-being, not only of the individual person, but also of the community as a whole. I wish it to be clear that the suggestions that I shall make will be made in no sense of hostility to any section of the community or to the primary producer. I have always supported any proposal in this House for orderly marketing, and for example, those methods, such as the sugar agreement, of ensuring that the primary producers shall reap a fair and reasonable return for their labour and capital outlay. In this country we lag behind some other countries in the degree of control or supervision which exists in respect of the regulation of the. cost of primary foodstuffs. What I suggest to the House, and, in particular, to the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) is an examination of the question as to whether we can profitably set up in Australia a body similar to the Food Council of Great Britain. The Food Council was established following upon the recommendations of the Geddes Commission - a royal commission on food prices whose report was published in 1925. The report made by that council to the President of the Board of Trade for 19-36 stated-
The Food Council was originally appointed by the Prime Minister in July, 1925, with the following terms of reference: “To investigate and from time to time report to tho President of the Board of Trade on such questions as by reason of complaints from persons interested or otherwise appear to the council to require investigation in the interests of consumers or traders, or are referred to them by the President of the Board of Trade relating to the supply or price of articles of food of general consumption, and in particular the following: - Wheat, flour, bread, meat, bacon and ham, milk, butter, cheese, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables, sugar, tea.”
Tho only addition I would suggest to those terms of reference is the insertion of the word “ producers “ after the word “ consumers “. The producers are also entitled to refer to such a body any complaint they may have that they are not receiving a satisfactory return. In Great Britain, that body functions as an advisory body in respect of retail and wholesale commodity prices. It is made up from those consumers’ committees which have been set up under the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1931. These committees are appointed by the Minister, and from them he personnel of the council is chosen. The sphere of activities of the council vs somewhat wider than that of the consumers’ committees themselves.
That there is need for some such supervision in this country is indicated by the substantial rise of the cost of living that has taken place within the last twelve months. I have seen figures which indicate that this increase of the cost of living is approximately 5s. a week for a family of five. The latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician reveal the following increases of the prices of essential commodities : -
Beef, 2$d. per lb.
Mutton and lamb, lid. per lb.
Milk, Jd. a quart.
Butter, 2.3ad. per lb.
Eggs, a decrease of 3d. a dozen but, since April, an increase of 3d. a dozen.
In regard to vegetables, the increase of prices compared with this time last year lias been so rapid, because of the dry season^ that it is almost impossible to make a comparison. I am not suggesting that the increases of the prices of the other commodities are unreasonable or altogether unjustified, but I may claim that they have increased the cost of living by 5s. a week, estimated on the following estimates of the requirements of a family of five: -
Milk, 3-Jd. (seven quarts).
Butter, 7 id. (3 lb.).
Meat, 2s. (12 lb.).
Vegetables, ls. Od.
Eggs, 3d. (one dozen).
Such increases have a direct effect, not only on consumers and producers, but also on industry generally, because wage rates are affected by the cost of living. At the present time, whenever an increase is announced by the producer, there is almost invariably an immediate protest from the various consumers’ organizations, based, usually, not upon any detailed inquiry as to whether it is justified or not, but simply as a matter of course on the ground that there has been an increase. Then there follows the usual bickering in the press between the organizations of the producers and the consumers, and the general public can get no satisfaction whatever.
A body such as that which I have suggested would be able to investigate price increases as does the council in Great Britain, and could make recommendations which, while having no binding effect, would have a definite moral effect. It would also make a pronouncement regarding the reasons for any increase which took place. At the present time there is every reason to believe that, not only is the producer not getting a reasonable price, but also the cost to the ultimate consumer is unreasonably high. The gap between the return to the producers and the cost to the consumers, represented by the middleman’s costs, seems to be out of all proportion’ to any service rendered. Perhaps a body such as I propose would be able to make recommendations that would have the effect of reducing these intermediate costs. In Great Britain, the council does not act merely as a consumers’ organization. As honorable members will see, from a study of the council’s reports, the council has often pointed out to consumers how increases have been justified. In other cases, .it has been able to show that, while increases were justified in some localities, they were not justified in others. The result is that the public is much more likely to be satisfied that whatever charges are being made are reasonable. The matter is one of great importance. We have appointed a Nutrition Council, which has issued reports suggesting that some sections of the community are not getting enough of essential foods, and we should do whatever is necessary to make it easier for them to obtain adequate supplies of nutritious food. Therefore, with a view to remedying a state of affairs which is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction at the present time, the Minister should give consideration to the suggestion I have made.
– I desire to bring under your notice, Mr. Speaker, the treatment of temporary waiters employed in the refreshment rooms at Parliament House. This may not appear to be a matter of great importance with which to take up the time of a national Parliament, but it links up with the system of unemployment relief in the Federal Capital Territory. During the parliamentary recess these men, about eight in number, are either unemployed, except periodically, or are employed upon what, in the Territory, takes the place of relief work. In the latter case they receive the usual rates of wages, but have no guarantee of continuity of employment. When Parliament is in session, they are called upon to act as waiters. There is a suggestion now that, at the end of this financial year, the relief work upon which they are usually engaged during recess will not be continued, and they will then be subject to the system whereby single men in the Territory receive one week’s work in four, and married men one week’s work in three. While they are employed on relief work, they receive £4 12s. 6d. a week, but when they are employed as waiters they receive only £4 8s. 6d. a week, though it usually happens that, with overtime, they make up the difference. I suggest. that they should be permanently employed. They are efficient and capable, and it is unreasonable that they should be compelled during recess to go on to any kind of relief work that may be offering. If they are made permanent employees it will be to the benefit of Parliament as much as to the men themselves.
I also wish to raise a matter arising out of the last all-night sitting of the House. I do not wish to put ideas into the heads of Ministers in this regard. I understand that after a certain number of hours of work, certain employees in the House are paid overtime. On the last occasion they were paid for working all night, and after having their breakfast they went on with their work as if for a new day ; they did not receive payment at the rate of time-and-a-half for that day, as they should have done. That is unfair to men who are called upon to work for. such long hours.
An appointment was recently made to the position of second-in-charge of the parliamentary refreshment-rooms. This also may be considered a matter not of sufficient importance to bring before the national Parliament, but it is concerned with the basis of Public Service appointments. The principle observed therein is supposedly efficiency first and seniority next. The understanding generally in the Service is that the man who is next in seniority, and has done the job, is, in the majority of cases, the most eligible. I have no objection to the man who has been appointed to the refreshment-rooms vacancy; possibly he may be the most efficient. I am pointing out, however, that an employee in the Service is entitled to hope that when his superior officer steps out he will receive promotion. That is a fundamental rule of the Public Services of the Commonwealth and the States, and it is only departed from when another man has greatly superior efficiency. Appointments in contravention of this rule prevent men underneath from moving up. I suggest that in the making of all appointments, unless a very good reason “for doing otherwise is put forward, the next man in seniority should be appointed.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Perhaps it would be as well if I replied at once to the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) regarding employees of the House. His first request was that stewards temporarily employed during the sittings of .the ‘Houseshould be still employed when the House is in recess.
– I meant outside the House.
– If that is so, it is a matter that I cannot deal with. . I know of no work they could do in this building when the House is in recess.
Regarding the appointment in the refreshment-rooms, I assure the honorable member that the President and I went, into the matter very thoroughly. The qualifications of applicants were fully considered. The complaint that a man who has been employed in the refreshmentrooms should have been appointed, is answered by the fact that he was not considered to be qualified for the work. The contention that because the appointment was given to someone not already employed the opportunity of promotion for others would be restricted, is wrong. Applications have to be invited in accordance with the law governing the filling of a vacancy; therefore the men already employed must take their chance with the others. Obviously they would be given some preference, but, as far as I am concerned, efficiency is the first consideration. The appointment was given to the applicant who was considered to be best fitted for the job.
.- It is my duty, as representative of a large number of dairy farmers, to make some observations on the subject referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in advocating the appointment of a food council. He stated his case in a temperate and reasonable way, as he always doe3. I have never heard him express any views derogatory of Aus-i tralian industries. He takes a liberal view of this question. I am particularly anxious, that facts on the other side should also be made public. I rather fear that outside the House someone may get the idea that dairy farmers are doing something unreasonable, and extracting an undue toll from the people of Australia. The honorable member stated his case most temperately, I want to state my case equally temperately, and equally without bitterness, regarding those who are not playing the game aright. Outside this House there are persons and organizations that are hungering for publicity, and are prepared whenever any industry is subjected to extreme conditions which are breaking it down economically, torush into public print immediately in order to decry that industry, of which they usually know next to nothing. I want to speak on the present occasion in support of the dairy-producing industry, which has been suffering from extreme drought conditions for some time. Those engaged in it have had heartbreaking experiences. The quantity of the cream produced has been growing less, and its quality poorer, and stock have been getting weaker. That has been going on for at least two years. During all that period they have not, in spite of overwhelming justification, raised their prices. The price of butter has remained static. Certain women’s associations, without investigating the facts, rush into print with their propaganda. They have no thought for the dairy farmer’s wife who works 365 days a year, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and
Sundays and holidays included. Not a word is said on behalf of the women who are helping their husbands in remote parts of Australia to eke out a minimum pittance while they see their best stock deteriorate and die because of the drought. The president of the women’s organization who is protesting should be required to spend five years on a dairy farm. I have no doubt where her sympathies would be then. It is my duty to-day to raise a protest, and to ask the people of Australia to look on the other side of the question, and ignore the statements of a few publicity hunters in the capital cities. Many dairy farmers have had their dairy herds seriously depleted, in some instances to half their previous strength. They have not been able to raise their young stock, and they will be in Queer-street for a very long while. I ask the House and people outside the House, when examining the case, to be fair and reasonable, and not to make an unfair attack on the struggling dairy farmers who are deserving of every sympathy and good-will in the difficult conditions they have passed through in recent years. If the prices of dairy products in Australia are compared with prices of similar products in other parts of the world, it will be found that consumers in Australia have been supplied with first-class goods at very reasonable prices over a long period of time. Those who have made the sacrifice to provide the Australian consuming public with first-class butter at a reasonable price, or below a reasonable price, are the dairy producers. I do not wish to reflect on the honorable member for Fawkner, but I make these remarks because I have read in the newspapers in recent weeks unreasonable attacks on the dairy producers. I have travelled through dairy districts quite a lot. The Christian fortitude with which the producers have borne all their troubles in the last two years is pathetic, and I resent any attack on them.
.- I join with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in his defence of the dairying producers. I belong to a milk producers’ association that produces milk and butter-fat for the Melbourne market. Not only is the position of the dairy farmers pathetic just now because of the exceptionally dry season, but also the position of their employees and members of their families is pathetic at any time. I make bold to say that if the Arbitration Court, or any other impartial tribunal, were authorized to take evidence on the subject on oath, it would find that even the most efficient dairy farmers in Australia, who have been engaged in the industry all their lives, who have efficient appliances and employ uptodate methods, do not receive enough for their produce.
– Then the honorable member should accept my suggestion.
– I am not suggesting that there is any ulterior motive behind the suggestion of the honorable member. There is never any outcry when prices are depressed, but only when they are increased, even though the increased prices do not recompense the producers for their losses. In these circumstances my protest is not so much against the attitude of honorable members as against the action of persons outside this Parliament who suggest that prices are charged that are not in accordance with the costs of production. It has always been my particular grievance that too little notice is taken of conditions of labour in rural employment. There is hardly one State where any protection is given to rural employees. Their condition is so desperate that the younger generation of farmers are becoming seised of the need for some reform, and are actually suggesting that something should be done to bring the conditions for their employees into line with industrial conditions in other avocations. The move has actually been initiated by the producers’ organizations. In the State of Victoria, a, committee of inquiry should investigate conditions of labour on dairy farms, and should cover not only the conditions of employees, but also the conditions of the wives of dairy farmers and of members of their families. There may be some excessive charge between the points of production and distribution, or the system of distribution may be inadequate to meet the needs of the people; but rural producers, particularly our dairy farmers and wheatgrowers, are not receiving anything like adequate recompense for the services which they render. I protest against the attitude taken up by a certain organization in an endeavour to demonstrate that the people of Australia are being exploited by the rural community.
Another matter to which I direct attention has to do with the Defence Department. ‘Some weeks ago the Ballarat Aero Club asked me to get in touch with the Minister for Defence and request him to arrange for some machines of the Australian Royal Air Force to visit Ballarat and give demonstration flights during the centenary air pageant to be staged in that city in August. The request was made some time before the 24th May, because I’ have had an acknowledgment under that date signed by the Minister, to the effect that the matter would receive attention. I arn, of course, aware that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) is an extremely busy man, and may be unaware of the contents of the letter that bore his signature, so I do not hold him personally responsible for the matter of which’ complaint has been made. This aero club is doing very fine work by encouraging the citizens of Ballarat, particularly the youth, to become air-minded, which is important from the point of view of defence. That reply which the Ballarat committee received from the department stated that three Avro Anson bombers and three Hawker Demon machines would be allowed to proceed to Ballarat on a particular date to give demonstration flights, conditionally on the aero club paying £4 10s. for each flying hour in respect of the Avro Anson bombers and £3 5s. an hour in respect of the Hawker Demon machines. I should add that no charge was contemplated for the time occupied in travelling to and from Ballarat; but the demand that the’ Ballarat Aero Club, which is a comparatively young organization and is doing splendid work, should pay such rates is short-sighted ; it would mean a total charge of £23 5s. I hope that there has been some mistake, and that the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) will bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Defence. I hope also that he will be able to tell me that there will be no charge for this proposed demonstration flight, because it will be carried out in the normal training period of air force pilots. I admit that in some circumstances it may be necessary to make a charge in order toprevent aero clubs or any other body from making frivolous requests for visits by defence aircraft, but as there are comparatively few aero clubs in Victoria - there is one at Ballarat, one at Bendigo, one at Geelong and I believe one or two others in country centres - requests for visits by defence aircraft are not likely to be frequent or expensive to the department. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter and let me have an answer at the earliest possible moment, because members of the Ballarat Aero Club are incensed at the proposed charge.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) the unfair treatment that is being meted out to Commonwealth employees engaged on works in remote areas. I have in mind particularly the case of a man working at Rawlinna on the Transcontinental line. Some time ago he suffered an injury in the course of his employment, and he was th en in receipt of two-thirds of his wages plus 5s. for each child under the age of fourteen years, and a district allowance representing 12s. 3d. a week. I am also informed that his district allowance censed during the period of his illness.
– Even if he remains at Rawlinna?
– Yes. Every one knows that the district allowance payable to Commonwealth servants is less than the amount necessary to meet the added cost of living in those areas ; it is particularly unfortunate that the allowance should be withheld from this man just at the time when he needs it most. If he were a Commonwealth employee living in. Canberra, or even near Melbourne, where there is no district allowance, and suffered injury in the course of his duty, he would be on the same footing as a man employed at Oodnadatta or some other remote place. That, of course, is absurd. I trust that the Acting Minister will make representations to the Acting Minister for Industry (Senator A. J.McLachlan) and have this matter put right in the interests of men who are employed in remote areas where the cost of living is much higher than in the more settled parts of the Commonwealth.
– I shall bring the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) ‘ under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), and I feel sure that a full inquiry will be made. The honorable member will be informed as soon as possible of the result.
– The matters mentioned by those honorable members who have spoken this afternoon will be attended to, and the result of inquiries will be communicated to them in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The House adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Railways: Supply of Sleepers.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The Commonwealth has agreed to contribute £7,500 towards the cost of a Government scout drilling campaign for testing the Gippsland district for geological structure favorable to the occurrence of oil. The Victorian Government has provided a similar amount. A considerable portion of this joint fund remains unexpended, but it is anticipated that the boring programme decided on will take at least a further twelve months to complete.
The amount of £7,500 was made available to the Victorian Government as follows: -
1935-36, £1,500; 1936-37, £2,000; 1937-38,
£4,000. In addition the Commonwealth Government has made available for this joint campaign a new rotary drilling plant costing approximately £12,000. This plant will he available for work in other parts of Australia when the campaign in Gippsland is completed. It is anticipated that the full cost of this plant will be paid during the present financial year.
The following advances under the Petroleum Oil Search Acts 1936 have been approved to companies operating in Victoria: -
Lake Wellington Oil Co. No Liability. - Advance not exceeding £600 approved for drilling at Longford, Victoria. Instalment amounting to £314 paid during financial year 1937-38.
Austral Oil Drilling Syndicate No Liability. - Advance amounting to £404 16s. 4d. paid during financial year 1937-38 for testing of Midwest Bore, Lakes Entrance, Victoria.
Advance not exceeding £1,000 approved for drilling new test well Lakes Entrance, Victoria. No instalment of advance paid to date.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
y. asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s.- On the 26th May, 1938, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me a question relating to the amount of performing right fee to be paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the use of certain copyright material in radio programmes. In reply thereto, I stated that I was prepared to submit the matter to the commission, but, in view of the answer already given, I expressed doubt as to whether the honorable member would receive a reply. I am now in a position to state that, as the arbitration proceedings between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the commission were conducted under and in pursuance of the Copyright Act, I referred the honorable member’s question to the Acting Attorney-General for consideration. The Acting Attorney-General pointed out that the consent of both parties would appear to be necessary before disclosure of the arbitrator’s award can be made. The parties are being asked whether they have any objection to the facts being supplied.
y asked the Ministerrepresenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Can he say whether the Sunday Observance Act of any State or any act of the Commonwealth makes any reference to advertisements being broadcast on Sundays by commercial broadcasting stations?
– There is no such reference, so far as I am aware.
Civil Warin Spain : Commonwealth’s Contribution for therelief of Victims.
n asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting- Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
SenatorSirGeorgePearce: of Documents.
s. - On Wednesday, the 8th
June, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me a question, without notice, regarding certain papers which, he said, had been removed from Parliament House by Senator the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce. I have now received from Senator Sir George Pearce a telegram in which he definitely denies the allegation contained in the honorable member’s question. The documents retained by him, he says, are his personal papers, and ho adds, that if there is any doubt as to this he would welcome an inspection by the AuditorGeneral, the Solicitor-General, or any other officer appointed by me.
Importationof Motor Boats.
Mr.Perkins. - On Wednesday, the 8th
June, the honorable member for Pre- mantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1 and 2. As importsof all types of motor boats, yachts and launches are statistically recorded under one heading, it is not known what proportion of total imports during the last twelve months, were of the “ Criss Craft “ type of motor boat. Imports of all types of yachts, launches and boats, including motor boats, imported into Australia during the year 1936-37, and for the firstten months of the present financial year were-
With the exception of those boats, yachts and launches which are -
I as not aware that the existing rates of duty do not accord sufficient protection to the Australian industry. If, however, the interests concerned state a case showing that the present protection is inadequate, the question of reference to the Tariff Board will receive consideration.
Duty on Oregon Timber.
s. - On Tuesday, the 24th
May, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Commonwealth,even in the hardwoodproducing States of Tasmania and Western Australia?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380609_reps_15_156/>.