15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Q. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to make a full statement with regard to the further accident that happened near Londonderry, New South Wales, yesterday, when a Royal Australian Air Force Hawker-Demon plane struck a tree, resulting in the death of Pilot-Sergeant R. D. Pomery, and the serious injury of an aircraftman? What action will be taken by the department in regard to the matter?
– I have no information to convey to honorable members further than that furnished by me to the press last evening. The Air Accidents Investigation Committee is proceeding to Richmond at the present time, with a view to holding a full inquiry, and the Air Board is also making an investigation. I may remind the House that the Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Sir Edward Ellington, arrived at Fremantle yesterday, accompanied by two senior staff officers. They will reach Melbourne to-morrow, and I shall take advantage of their visit by asking them to confer with our own experts in tho Royal Australian Air Force to see if any further light can be thrown upon the causes of the serious accidents that have taken place recently in connexion with the air force.
– Will there be a public inquiry?
– The usual inquiries will be held by the AirBoard and the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, and there will also be the customary coronial inquiry.
– But not a public inquiry ?
– The coroner will hold a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the pilot. The sincere sympathy of the Government goes out to the relatives of the deceased in this and in every other similar case. Nobody regrets more than does the Government the unfortunate accidents which have occurred.
– In view of the large number of fatal accidents that have occurred in the course of the training operations of the Royal Australian Air Force, and the almost complete absence of such accidents in civil aviation training, will the Minister for Defence consider the setting up of an inquiry to determine whether air force trainees are required to take unnecessary risks, either in the training given to them or in the kind of machines used?
– The Prime Minister has already signed a commission authorizing Sir Edward Ellington, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, in company with Australian officers, to carry out a most searching inquiry into every phase of the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force. The investigation will cover the training of pilots, the whole of the mechanical organization, the work of those who service the machines, the kind of machines employed, and every other matter connected with the work of the air force. I can assure the House that Sir Edward Ellington is to be given full authority to investigate every phase of the training, as well as the operation of the equipment.
Appointment of Royal Commission.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the Government has formulated any proposals to overcome the deadlock that has been reached between the Government and the medical profession with respect to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill?
– I am grateful to the honorable gentleman for having raised this subject, and I would ask- the indulgence of the House to make a short statement. - By leave - The Federal Council of the British Medical Association has asked that negotiations be re-opened on the agreement previously made, but the Government can have no security that any agreement reached by negotiations with the association would be accepted by the profession generally, and it cannot proceed on the basis of the demands now being made. The Government has, therefore, decided to set up a royal commission to advise it regarding the proper payment to be made for the treatment of persons insured under the national insurance measure. The Government intends also that the commission shall investigate the financial aspects of the voluntary provision of medical treatment for the wives and children of insured men, to whom the Government has promised some assistance.The commission will be constituted as soon as practicable, and it is intended that the friendly societies, as well as representative members of the medical profession and the National Insurance Commission, shall have every opportunity to submit evidence.
– I move-
Thatthe document quoted from by the Treasurer be laid on the table.
I do that in order that the House may have further information regarding the commission’s terms of reference.
– A little further delay.
– The House is entitled to be informed in greater detail of the terms of reference in which certain matters are to be submitted to the commission for inquiry. All we know, as far as I understand the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), is that the commission is to inquire what would be fair remuneration of the medical practitioners for an unspecified service which they are to render to persons who are to be insured under the bill before the House. I understand that it is intended that the friendly societies shall be invited to give evidence on this matter. I suggest, however, that the commission’s terms of reference should be wide enough, and the Parliament ought to be satisfied that they are wide enough, to ensure that there will be available to the Parliament, when the report is submitted, findings which adequately cover not only the remuneration which the doctors will get, but also the nature of the services which the contributors are to receive. Further, I take it - although at this juncture I cannot be sure on the matter - that the pharmaceutical service also should bo the subject of examination by the royal commission. It would appear that the Treasurer’s statement has been made merely for the purpose of allaying the criticism which has been levelled against certain features of the proposed legislation. It does not convince us that the inquiry will be of a sufficiently comprehensive and precise nature as to afford guidance upon all the matters that are strictly relevant to the medical service aspect of the measure. At this juncture I would also say that, as a royal commission is once again to be invited to consider one phase of national insurance, the Government should give some indication as to whether or not, in its opinion, the inquiry will result in any radical disturbance of the actuarial basis upon which the bill has been computed.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! I do not remember action of this nature having been taken before. I do not know of any Standing Order that allows for it. Had a paper been tabled, it would have been in order to move that it be printed.
– A document has been quoted from. I moved that the document from which the Treasurer quoted be laid on the table. I submit that that motion is in order:
– It is a personal paper.
– The honorable gentleman read from a document.
– The Leader of the Opposition may proceed for the moment.
– Subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I submit that there is a Standing Order which covers the procedure which I have adopted. The appointment of a royal commission may have the effect of increasing the payments whichwe have been led to believe will be made to medical practitioners for the services that they will render. If that be so, either a greater burden will be cast on the consolidated revenue fund, or else, there is to be exacted from employers and employees a greater weekly contribution than that contemplated by the bill. In addition to measuring the value of the services of the medical practitioners, the commission ought to be authorized to inquire how far, if at all, the wages of the contributors warrant the exaction from them of1s. 6d. a week as their contribution towards the institution of a system of national insurance. As the Government has now decided upon a further inquiry into this subject, I submit that that inquiry should be sufficiently comprehensive to deal with all the matters that have been deliberated upon by the committee, but in respect of which we have not been able to come to a decision because the facts are not available to us. If it be true that the medical practitioners are dissatisfied with the rates of pay which it was intended to give to them, and if, in the opinion of the Government that is a matter for inquiry, ought not the proposed scale of contributions also be submitted to investigation ? No one has yet examined whether or not it is fair to charge employers 1s. 6d. a week in respect of each employee. Nor do we know what the impact of this charge upon industry will be. If certain phases of this actuarial structure are to be reconsidered, other relevant phases relating to the finances of the measure should also be reviewed.
– Order ! I take it that the claim of the Loader of the Opposition that he is in order is based on Standing Order 317, which reads -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
That Standing Order does not refer to a statement made by a Minister in answer to a question, or to one for which leave has been obtained, even though he had read the whole of it. I do not think that the Standing Order could possibly refer to such a statement as that made by the Treasurer to-day. I may say that, had I anticipated a discussion of this nature, I should not have allowed the statement in the first place. It appeared, however, that it was being made at the wish of the House. It certainly anticipates debate upon an order of the day, although that is not the point at issue now.
– I submit that the Treasurer obtained leave to make a statement and that, in making it, he quoted from a document relating to public affairs. The substance of the statement was that the Government intends to establish a royal commission. Surely that is a matter which comes within the ambit of the words “ relating to public affairs “. I also submit that the document was “ quoted from by a Minister of the Crown”. He did not say that it was “ of a confidential nature “. As a matter of ‘fact, it was the very opposite of a statement of a confidential nature, because it was a statement announcing Government policy. I submit that the difference between my motion, that the document be tabled, and the phraseology of the Standing Order, that it “may be called for”, is a difference without substance; both mean the same thing. If a motion that a document be called for be carried, obviously that means that the Minister must table it, and the phraseology of Standing Order 317 contemplates the procedure which I have initiated. If my motion be not considered satisfactory, another course will be taken.
– It appears to the Chair that Standing Order 317 does not refer to a case such as that now under consideration. The Treasurer was asked if he had any information to give to the House as to the procedure that would be adopted in dealing with certain matters. He asked for leave to make a statement, and he then told the House what he intended to do. He read from a paper which I do not think can be termed a document in the sense contemplated by the Standing Order. As I had never heard of a previous similar instance, I deferred giving a decision, but I do so now, because I do not think that it can be assumed that the Standing Order refers to a case such as this and, therefore, I rule that the Leader of the Opposition may not proceed further.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House what terms of reference are to be issued to the royal commission which is to investigate certain phases of national insurance and services incidental thereto?
– If I had had the opportunity to follow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in his observations concerning this matter, I should have made it quite clear that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has merely given a brief indication of the intention of the Government to submit this matter to a royal commission. In due course, before the royal commission is appointed, a full statement will be made by the Treasurer.
– In view of the fact that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a royal commission to investigate certain of the services incidental, indeed so incidental as to be an essential part of the scheme, to national insurance, does the Prime Minister intend to defer further consideration of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill until after the report of the royal commission has been received?
– No; the bill will be proceeded with as soon as the preliminaries have been disposed of to-day.
– As the Treasurer has indicated that the proposed royal commission will take evidence from medical practitioners and friendly societies, I ask him whether it will also be authorized to take evidence from representatives of trade unions providing sick benefits for their members? I wish to know, also, whether representatives of the unemployed will be given an opportunity to submit reasons why the unemployed sections of the community should be covered by the national insurance scheme?
– The terms of reference will be wide enough to allow the royal commission to take all relevant evidence which will help it to submit effective recommendations to the Government.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the proposed terms of reference to the royal commission will be submitted to Parliament for consideration before finality is reached ?
– I can give the honorable member no such undertaking. The Government will accept the responsibility for drafting the terms of reference.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to impart to the House concerning the press reports that it is the intention of the Japanese Government to take action against the Commonwealth for alleged breach of contract as the result of the embargo against the export of iron ore?
– I have no intimation from the Japanese Government that it intends to take action on the lines indicated by the honorable member for Newcastle.
– Has the Minister for the Interior yet received the report from Dr. Ward, the Government Geologist for South Australia, concerning the South Australian resources of iron ore? If he has received that report, can it be printed and made available to honorable members ? If it has not been received, can it be made available as soon as it has been received?
– The Commonwealth geological adviser, Dr. Woolnough, is in close and frequent consultation with Dr. Ward, the South Australian Geologist, and no doubt a comprehensive report by Dr. Woolnough embracing reports by Dr. Ward and other State geologists will be made available.
– In view of the wide publicity given in the press to the value of the activities of the geological and geophysical survey in northern Australia and of the announcement, through Sir Herbert Gepp, during the third year of this work, that huge iron ore deposits had been located at Portland Road in northern Queensland, will the Minister in Charge of Development ask the Chief Geological Adviser of the Government, Dr. Woolnough, for full information on the subject?
– I think that the honorable gentleman is labouring under a misapprehension.So far, the work of the geophysical and geological survey has been of general interest and a great deal of most useful information both positive and negative, has been disclosed, but it is hardly fair to say that there has been any spectacular find. I can see no reason why the work of one well-equippedgeo- logical and geophysical body should be referred to another geologist for his opinion.
-Can the Minister for Defence give any explanation of two apparently conflicting statements that have appeared in the press in the last few days, one being to the effect that no passengers would be carried on the first few flights by the Qantas-Empire flying boats and the other being a statement purporting to be from Mr. Hudson Fish, chairman of the Qantas-Empire Company, saying that the company had made preparations to carry passengers for the inaugural flight?
– There is no ground whatever for the statement that the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of Defence has refused to permit passengers to be carried on the first trip. It was not issued by me or by any officer of the department. It was the invention of some newspaper or person. The company’s licence allows it to carry passengers from the start of the flying boat service.
– In view of the fact that residents of Rose Bay object to the proposed fibro-cement construction of the Rose Bay seaplane base terminal buildings, and also in view of the fact that the Woollahra Councilbuilding regulations prohibit such construction, does the Minister for Defence propose to take any action to conform to the regulations of the council and to satisfy the residents of Rose Bay that their wishes will be respected ?
– The area in question is a reclaimed area, where it would not be practicable to erect large brick buildings.. Plans and specifications of the control building were submitted to the council for their information, and to meet the wishes: of the council we have decided to use corrugated fibro-cement for all the buildings. The original intention was to use galvanized iron for the roofing of the hangar. There will be no grounds for complaint. Every effort is being made to avoid anything ofan unsightly nature, but only two materials could be used, one being galvanized iron and the other corrugated fibro-cement. We have chosen the latter in deference to the wishes of the council and the community.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether it is correctly reported in the press that mail matter arriving in Brisbane by the overseas airmail service will be delayed in delivery for one or two days or whatever period may be necessary in order to ensure that the delivery will coincide with the delivery of air-mail matter in the capital cities further south? If this is so, is the Minister able to advance any intelligent reason for this differentiation?
– I say emphatically that there is no foundation whatever for such a report. When the Government reaches any decision on this subject it will be announced in the House. Mails will be distributed immediately they are available in the capital cities or anywhere else.
– Can the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the company which has made application for an increase of the tariff on cut glass is the same company as the company whose balance-sheets, which were published in the press on Monday, show that in the last three years the profits on its subscribed capital have been approximately 20 per cent., 23 per cent, and 28 per cent, respectively?
– The company is not the same company; it is a subsidiary company.
Jury Accommodation and Compound fob Natives - Land Defences.
– Arising out of the following remarks by Judge Wells in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, in a case in which, an aboriginal was charged with murder, as reported in the Darwin Northern Standard: -
If you are convinced you cannot reach a verdict by midnight there is nothing else I can do but discharge you. I am not doing it because I think you have given the matter sufficient consideration, but because there is no accommodation here for a jury. It is a serious matter, but it is the case. I have been endeavouring for years to have decent accommodation provided, but without success.
The plans have been twice submitted’ for prevision for accommodation and approved, but nothing further has been done in the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member may not proceed on thos* lines.” He is merely quoting statements made by some one and not asking a question.
– May I not refer to the report ?
– The honorable gentleman has been doing so at great length. He must ask his question.
– In view of the complaint by Judge Wells that money is being spent on a new compound four miles out of Darwin and only half a mile from the new Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome, where no doubt 500 men will be accommodated, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will immediately issue instructions to stop work on that compound and then choose a site from 50 to 100 miles from Darwin, where natives can be employed on stations and learn to be useful, and not be a nuisance, as they are to-day.
– As regards the latter part of .the honorable member’s question, the answer is “No.” With reference to the first part, I am unable to see how the providing of accommodation for a jury in Darwin has any relation to the construction of a compound for aborigines.
– In view of conflicting press reports concerning the intention of the Government to strengthen the land defences at Darwin, is the Minister for Defence able to give me any information on the subject?
– I cannot give (be honorable member any details of the works actually being carried out, but substantial provision is being made . to augment the land forces and the fixed fortifications in connexion with naval and air force activities at Darwin. Two air force squadrons have been provided for at Darwin, and the naval facilities there are being increased.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that statements have been published in this morning’s press to the effect that the locomotives recently provided for the trans-Australian railway service from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie have proved so unsuitable that they have been withdrawn for repairs? Is the honorable gentleman able to inform me of the exact position in regard to these locomotives?
– I have been informed that statements of the nature referred to by the honorable member have appeared in to-day’s Melbourne press. They are, however, quite incorrect. The locomotives recently provided for use on that section of the trans-Australian railway are still new and are not yet properly run in. Some slight troubles have occurred necessitating certain adjustments. The story that they are unsuitable for the service, and have had to be withdrawn from commission, is entirely without foundation.
– Is the Minister able to say whether, on the last three running days, the trains on the trans-Australian railway have reached their destination so late as to make necessary the running of three special trains from Adelaide to Melbourne? If this is so, who is footing the bill for the special trains?
– I shall make inquiries into the subject, and furnish the honorable member with information when it is available.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House of the plans either made or contemplated by the Government to ensure the safety of the white community at Nauru Island in ease of emergency?
– In view of the secrecy associated with defence plans for outlying areas from the Commonwealth, I do not feel it to be my duty to give public information on the organization and arrangements of the naval authorities for the safety of any particular islands or of the Mandated Territory.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me whether we may still hope that the report dealing with non-official post offices, which it was said would be available the week before last and, later, last week, will be made available at some time according to the original promises-
– The report has been receiving the consideration of the Government, but, owing to the pressure of other business, no decision has yet been reached in connexion with it. In order that no injustice will be done to any persons concerned, it has been decided that any favorable decisions following the report shall be made effective as from the 1st July next.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether provision will bo made in any contract let for the reconstruction of the forts at Newcastle, or for other defence works there, will include a provision that the necessary labour will be drawn from the Newcastle district? Will the Minister also inform me when any such works are likely to be put in hand?
– A contract involving an expenditure ‘of a little more than £6S,000 has been let for the construction of land fortifications at Fort Wallace, adjacent to Newcastle. The stipulations in respect of labour arc those usually made in such cases, and are to the effect that the contractor shall observe award conditions. Plans are being prepared for additional works adjacent to and in conjunction with the new fortifications at Fort Wallace. The works in contemplation should be completed within this financial year or, at any rate, within twelve months. It is anticipated that regular employment will be provided for between 130 and 140 men for twelve months, and that additional men will be engaged for certain periods during that time.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the criticism voiced by certain senior army officers concerning the physical standard of the militia forces as disclosed in the recent parade on King’s Birthday in Melbourne? Is the honorable gentleman satisfied with the present physical standard of the militia force? If not, has he in contemplation any action for its improvement?
– The conditions under which’ recruits are admitted to the militia force are not now as rigid as they once were, having been eased some years ago. The view has been expressed, and I agree with it, that it is to the advantage of the Commonwealth that even those persons who are not 100 per cent. physically fit should be encouraged to join the militia, in order that they may derive full advantage from the physical training available to them in that service. The honorable gentleman has directed attention to certain criticism against only a very small minority of trainees. These may, perhaps, not be quite up to the desired standard, hut they are, nevertheless, physically fit in the true sense of the term.
– [ have received from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The assault with violence on a person resident in Australia, named Frigo Orlando, who was temporarily on board the Italian Cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli on the date of the assault, namely, the 15th February last, by invitation of the ship’s command, upon which cruiser the assault occurred at the hands of certain ratings of the ship ; and the action and attitude of the Government regarding the assault and subsequent developments arising therefrom.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I desire your ruling as to whether an incident of the description referred to, whichis now four months old, constitutes a matter of either urgent or public importance ?
– The Chair does not decide in these cases whether the matter referred to is or is not of urgent public importance. The requisite number of members provided for by the Standing Orders having risen in support of the motion, it is in order.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [3.14].- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In the early part of the present year the Italian cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli was lying alongside the pier at Port Melbourne. She was a guest of the Australian Government. Indeed, as a ship of war, she could not have entered an Australian harbour other than as a guest or in furtherance of warlike operations. By the courtesy of those in charge of the vessel it was thrown open for inspection by visiting Australians, a great number of whom availed themselves of the opportunity thus presented, and went on board. On the 15th February of the present year one Frigo Orlando, by occupation a hire-car driver, many years resident in Australia, married to an Australian girl, and the father of children born in this country, went on board that warship as a visitor. It was natural that he should do so, as he had long been separated from his native land. Having boarded the vessel, he stood for a moment inspecting the first thing which aroused his interest. Then, in compliance with the request, “ This way, please,” addressed at large to the visitors on board, he accompanied others down a narrow passageway. Here he was set upon by certain of the ship’s ratings. He was struck upon the head, and hustled about. His face was prodded with a pointed instrument like a funnel. Generally, he received a severe manhandling, and was covered with blood. I am able, from personal observation, to depose as to the nature of his injuries, because I saw him a couple of days after the assault had occurred. His face was then an interesting mosaic of scabs and sticking plaster, and it was evident that he had been very severely handled. The other visitors who were in the vicinity when the assault took place, dispersed, doubtless finding the welcome too warm for them, and Orlando was conducted by an officer into a private room, where he was attended to by a ship’s doctor - as far as is known, in an efficient manner. Eventually, he was allowed to leave the ship. As the result of the assault ‘ he lost his earning power, to the detriment of himself, his wife, and his family, in addition to having suffered the personal injuries that I have described. There does not appear to be any dispute on the facts up to that point, or, indeed, on any of the facts which I am narrating. I know of none, not having heard from the Government on the subject. While in the private room to which he was taken, Orlando was interviewed by an officer of the ship, who cross-examined him as to his activities in Australia. Incidentally, this officer showed that he had a very accurate knowledge of the conduct and political practices of this person, and ventured the unsolicited information that he was aware that Orlando had been associated with the Matteotti Club, but it was to his credit that he had long since dissociated himself from that body. So much apparently was to the good. At that stage in the inquiry a Commonwealth investigation officer merely made some visual observations and retired. That led a number of us to believe that the life story of this Italian was. known to this Commonwealth officer and had been supplied to the Commonwealt’h. Well, the one courtesy for which we have to thank the Government in the matter is that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) at a later stage assured us that that was not so. I accept his assurance on that point. I, myself, cross-examined Orlando as to the incident and as to certain vague reports which I had heard of minor conflicts which it was alleged had taken place between Italian ratings and certain persons of Communist opinion in the suburbs of Melbourne. It was even suggested among the vague reports made about the matter, that the victim had circulated printed matter on the ship itself. There is no evidence, so far as I know or have been able to ascertain, in support of that. It seems to me to be a palpable untruth. Orlando himself states that he has been in Australia for many years, that he
Ifr. Brennan. had taken no part in politics at . all for a considerable time previously, that his interests were entirely confined to his calling, and that for the purposes of his employment he cultivated all classes of Italians, because, naturally, he thought he was more likely to get support from them than from others. He assured me that he had been in no brawl of anykind with any member of the ship’s crew, and that he was at least one mile away from a minor disagreement which was alleged to have taken place in a club in one of the suburbs, and had no connexion with it whatever. In considering what is really the major question, I think it seems to be agreed between myself and the Attorney-General, that these details are comparatively unimportant. The major question is: Was this Australian resident, with or without provocation, set upon in contempt of the law and grievously injured? I have thought it necessary to refer to these unimportant details because so many persons are inclined to decide issues of substance by reference to purely extraneous considerations. The fact is, that within call of the police, and within sight of the law courts with their legend engraven on their floor space “ Let justice be .done though the heavens may fall “, this man was so maltreated, and has had no more notice taken of it and has had no more recourse to law than if he had been a dog whipped by any person who thought fit to do so. He has had less consideration of his case than perhaps a dog would receive, because if a dog were ill-treated, a prosecution might be launched under the law which deals with cruelty to animals. Apparently, in connexion with this working class individual of Australia, no such protective law exists. There is the familiar attitude pf mind in such cases which prompts the statement, “ Oh, there must have been some reason for this; men do not set upon their fellow men without provocation or excuse of some kind “. Of course, my first answer to ‘that is that, even if provocation were proven, it would not justify hooliganism and lynch law in an Australian port. My second answer is that, if an explanation is called for, it would more appropriately come from the assailant rather than from the person assaulted. No authoritative statement has been made on behalf of the ship’s command. It is true that, apart altogether from the ship’s command, there has been speculation and gossip which, as is usual in these cases, has run rife; but no one has ever attempted to submit in evidence one single fact which might be urged even in extenuation of the incident which I have already described. If Orlando’s conduct on the ship were objectionable, the highly disciplined organization on the vessel was quite equal to .deal with him. He should have been restrained and, if necessary, contumeliously ejected, from the ship, or dealt with in any way considered appropriate by the organization on board the vessel. There is no evidence that steps of that nature were taken by the. ship’s command. As to his alleged association with the political cult known as communism, the truth is that neither communism, fascism, nor even ordinary tory imperialism arises in this case. In my view, it is intolerable to think that officers or ratings of a visiting warship should presume to discipline in Australia a resident Australian for his political opinions and, especially, by recourse to lynch law. I point out that the protection which we ask be afforded to an Italian national is not an unfriendly act towards the Italian Government, but is rather a friendly gesture. J am proud to be able to add that it is not the first time I have been associated with my fellow-members of the Labour party in (protecting Italian nationals in this country. On the other hand, visiting Italian sailors, of whatever rank, are assured of the protection of the laws of Australia when they .come here, and if one of them were subjected to attack or to public insult he could rely on the laws of this country being invoked for his protection, and even applied with a large measure of sympathy because of the fact that he was a visitor to Australia. Meantime, however, there remains Orlando’s emphatic denial of any impropriety of conduct, or of any association with politics, or of any offence whatever. It has been suggested that it was a case of mistaken identity. It may have been. It seems pretty certain that he was recognized as being an Italian national resident in Aus tralia. Even if it was a case of mistaken, identity, that furnishes the stronger^ reason why his case should be taken upand some compensation paid to him foi” what he has suffered. The policeauthorities, on being informed, .said that they could do nothing; and I think they were right. A visiting warship in Australian waters carries with it the law of” the country from which it comes. It is aminiature foreign territory in the country where it is a visitor. Process cannot beserved upon it, nor can an arrest of an offender be made upon it. That, of course, raises the very delicate question, which I do not propose to discuss on this occasion, as to the propriety of entertaining warships as emissaries of goodwill. A deputation consisting of my friends of the Labour party and myself waited upon the AttorneyGeneral and made representations to him. They asked, first, that the matter should be inquired into. It may be that the Investigation Branch knows much more about it than I do, and all I say ‘is that we are entitled to know what can be said in explanation or excuse. We asked the Attorney-General for such an inquiry, and we suggested that if the facts were as I have indicated, some compensation should be asked for in favour of Orlando from those who had done him this wrong, and that, failing compensation at their hands, the Commonwealth Government should compensate him, not because it was liable on legal grounds, but because it should, on moral grounds, compensate a man whohad been injured by the agents of a friendly foreign power. I have no reason to suppose that the Government of Italy would fall short, on proper representations being made, of what is reasonably required of a civilized people. Italy has a tradition of culture and politeness that goes much deeper than its present form of government. On another occasion I referred to some unfortunate consequences of this incident. ‘I pointed out that it was a most regrettable thing that the incident had unleashed violent attacks on the Italian Government.
Motion (by Mr. Gander) put -
That the honorable member have leave tocontinue his speech.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has moved this motion for a purpose which, no doubt, he was unable to divulge to the people of Australia owing to his having exhausted the time allotted to speeches on motions for adjournment of the House. The facts regarding the incident on the Italian cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli are not in dispute. The honorable member has referred, however, only to some of these. There are other facts which he did not mention. He led the House to believe that the assault upon Orlando was gratuitous, but that is not so, and I feel sure that the honorable member, upon reflection, will realize that there must have been in the minds of the ratings on the Italian ship some cause for their action; some provocation which explained, although it could not justify, the assault. As to whether Orlando himself had been associated with those persons responsible for the acts which the sailors on the warship so strongly resented, I express no opinion. There is no evidence to support such a contention. Orlando himself denied that he had taken any part in these demonstrations. However, that there had been provocation is undeniable. While the ship was in Sydney, for example, the officers and men from the cruiser were greeted at a meeting in the Paddington Town Hall by a demonstration from gentlemen who profess communist opinions. They greeted the guests on that occasion with cries of “Down with Mussolini ! “ and “ Stop the Italian invasion of Spain ! “ Other demonstrations followed. There was one in Melbourne before the news of the assault upon Orlando became known, and I believe that an effigy of Mussolini was burnt.
– Who burnt it?
– I did not interrupt the honorable member when he was speaking. Let him now hold his tongue. Regarding the merits of this affair, I have stated my opinion very definitely.
I had an interview with the Acting Consul-General for Italy, Dr. Arrighi, when we discussed in detail the incident on the Raimondo Montecuccoli. I made it clear to Dr. Arrighi that I was not primarily concerned with the question of the jurisdiction of our courts to deal with offences committed on foreign warships. That was a matter which had been dealt with by the Attorney-General. I said that I did not wish to exaggerate the importance of the incident; on the other hand, I could not ignore it. Had it occurred on shore, probably little or nothing would have been heard of it, and in any case, the police could have dealt with it, but the circumstances surrounding the incident compelled me to take notice of it.
This incident took place four months ago, and, during these months, many things have happened.
– The Government turned the honorable gentleman down; that iB the whole point.
– Order ! The honorable member for Batman must cease interjecting.
– Those four months have been, perhaps, among the most momentous in the history of the world. They have been crowded with great events. Wars have ‘been raging furiously, and thousands of men, women and children have been bombed to death. In Spain and China, thousands are daily being mangled and crushed. The nations of the civilized world have been trembling on the verge of a world war.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit .that the honorable gentleman’s observations have not the remotest connexion with the motion before the Chair.
– The motion of the honorable member for Batman contains the following words : “ The attitude of the Government regarding the assault, and subsequent happenings arising therefrom.” I conclude that the remarks of the Minister have reference to the subsequent happenings referred to.
– The honorable member for Batman is ever ready to exude vitriolic criticism from that side of the House, but when he is asked to accept criticism himself, he does not like it. This was a case of common assault on an Australian citizen. Had it occurred on shore, little or nothing would have been heard of it. In any case, the police would have dealt with it, and, had the matter come before a magistrate, the offenders might have been fined, or perhaps sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. Such incidents take place every day in this happy land of ours. I venture to say that, in the electorate of the honorable member for
Batman, many similar incidents occur every Saturday. As I have said, the four months that have intervened since the assault took place have witnessed events of immense importance to the _whole world. The nations have been tremblingon the verge of war, but the honorable” member for Batman has been silent. Tens of thousands of helpless women, children and inoffensive non-combatants have been killed, but the honorable member has not raised his voice in protest. Yet we are asked to believe that his soul has been and still is so cruelly lacerated by the assault on Orlando that he has moved this motion. Why? It is true that Orlando was suspected of being a communist, but he himself swore that he had turned his back on that creed. He had abandoned it ten years ago, we are told, and, since then, had devoted himself to his business. Frigo Orlando was assaulted four months ago : the assault was unjustifiable : but let us consider the incident in proper perspective; let us look at it in relation to the great, urgent, and vitally important problems which are confronting Australia and other nations’ which, we cannot ignore. The honorable member for Batman has brought this matter forward with the object of ventilating, what he terms, “ a cruel injustice “ - of righting a great wrong. I shall always be amongst the first to stand out for justice to all men. I regret as much as he does that any person - guest, visitor, or citizen - should take the law into his own hands. But I repeat that we must look at this incident in proper perspective. As I have said, the months that have elapsed since the incident on the cruiser have been pregnant with great events. Some of these bear directly on the relations between Italy and Britain. Since the incident .occurred, negotiations set on foot for an Anglo-Italian agreement some three months ago have been happily concluded by a pact which represents the greatest contribution towards the appeasement of Europe and general world peace that has been made for many years. It is of the utmost possible importance to the Empire, as it ensures, equilibrium in the Mediterranean and freedom of commerce in that region find through the Suez Canal to Australia.
– It does not ensure that an Australian citizen should be assaulted inan Australian port.
– The answer to the honorable member’s interjection is in the negative. Does the honorable member suggest that it is wise or prudent to raise such a matter when vital negotiations, in which Australia is directly interested, are proceeding?
– The Minister raised the subject; he wrote to the Italian Consul.
– The incident occurred four months ago, yet the honorablemember for Batman raises the subject to-day in order, so he says, to right a wrong. He is demanding justice for this man. What does he want us to do ? He did not tell us.
– I did.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should at once declare war on Italy?
– Do not talk rubbish; I shall not listen to such rubbish.
– The honorable member has occupied a good deal of valuable time discussing a matter that is dead; it has no relevance to the position as it now exists. At the proper time the incident will be the subject of representations by this Government to the proper authorities. I venture to suggest that the honorable member for Batman moved the motion merely to obstruct the Government in the conduct of its business.
Several honorable members rising to address the House,
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion put and negatived.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that this bill is an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
– I move -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage -
To the end of Part IV., until 6.15 p.m. this day.
To the end of clause 87 (excepting clauses 48, 49 and 63), until midnight this day.
To the end of clause 103, from the termination on Thursday, the 16th June, 1938, of the answering of questions, without notice, or from 11 a.m. on that day, whichever is the earlier, until 12.45 p.m. on Thursday, the 16th June, 1938.
To the end of clause 164, until 6.15 p.m. on Thursday, the 16th June, 1938.
To the end of Part VIII., until 10 p.m. on Thursday, the 16th June, 1938.
To the end of postponed and excepted clauses, until midnight on Thursday, the 16th June.
To the end of the now clauses, from the termination on Friday, the 17 th
June, 1938, of the answering of questions without notice, or from 11 a.m. on that day, whichever is the earlier, until 12.45 p.m. on that day.
To the end of the first schedule, until 4 p.m. on Friday, the 17th June, 1938.
For the remainder of committee stage, from the termination on Monday, the 20th June, 1938, of the answering of questions without notice, or from 3.30 p.m. on that day, whichever is the earlier, until 5.30 p.m. on that day.
For the remaining stages until 6.15 p.m. on Monday, the 20th June, 1938.
.- This is an outrageous proposal. Members of the Opposition have not had an opportunity to examine in detail the motion submitted by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), but I move -
That all the words after “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House declines to assent to this method of limiting the debate in respect of a bill which, while admittedly based upon principles novel and hitherto untried in Australia, will affect the futures of the great majority of the Australian people, and, unless its complexities are carefully considered, may inflict great hardships, without the knowledge and consent of this House, more particularly as the pro’ cedure involvedautomatically shuts out from consideration proposed amendments of which honorable members of the Opposition have given notice, and which have been drawn with a view to the improvement of the bill.”
Paragraph vi of Standing Order 262a makes it clear that, when the allotted time has expired, all government amendments, of which two hours’ notice has been given, will be submitted to the will of the committee, but the Standing Order goes on to say, “No other amendments, new clauses, or schedules shall be proposed “.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The amendment is not in order. Under the Standing Orders, an honorable member may move an amendment only to the periods specified in the motion.
– I draw attention to the fact that in the debate in the British House of Commons upon a motion for the allotment of time for theconsideration of the Unemployment Insurance Bill. Mr. Tom Shaw, according to Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, volume 211, at pages 739 to 834, on the 1st December, 1927, submitted an amendment, in declaratory terms, to the motion of the Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin, and I contendthat that amendment provides a precedent for the action I am now taking.
– The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) might be accepted as an amendment to the motion, “ That the bill be declared an urgent bill”, but the House has already decided that question. The amendment which the honorable member now desires the House to deliberate upon does not relate to the time proposed to be allotted for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill.
– With great respect, I submit that the precedent to which I have referred related to the allotment of time, and not to the declaration of urgency.
– I am guided by the Standing Orders of this Parliament.
– I have no alternative, Mr. Speaker, but to accept your ruling. I now move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ provided that clauses 36, 46, 47, 54, 57, 59, 61, 62,69, 73, 74, 75, 76, 95, 137, 183, 185, and the first, second and third schedules be eliminated from the timetable, and that one hour be allotted to each such clause and schedule to enable the committee to deliberate on the proposed amendments of which notice has beengiven by honorable members of the Opposition.”
The purpose of this amendment is to give to every member of this Parliament the same rights in respect of the remaining stages of the bill as are being claimed by the Treasurer himself. He has given notice of several amendments, and the Opposition agrees that it is right and proper that the Parliament should consider them, and, after examining them, decide whether it should pass or reject them. We desire equality with the Treasurer and also that our circulated amendments should be voted upon.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment. It has decided reluctantly to follow the course now proposed,which has become necessary because of the tactics employed by honorable members opposite.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I warn honorable members that, if they persist in interjecting, I shall be compelledto take action against them.
– There has been a waste of time.
– Any debate at this stage must be confined to the time that it is proposed to allot for the consideration of the various stages of thebill.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was permitted to complain that, although government amendments would be submitted to the committee, those circulated by members of the Opposition would not. I have only to say that members of the Opposition have themselves to blame. In the second-reading debate, 50½ hours were occupied in the discussion of the bill, and, in the committee, the measure has already been discussed for 29 hours. A period of practically80 hours has been devoted to the consideration of the measure, and much time has been wasted by tedious repetition. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has now submitted a motion for an allotment of time that will provide for additional discussion over a period of 20½ hours. Therefore, when the bill has been finally disposed of, this House will have devoted 100 hours to its discussion and consideration.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I again warn honorable members that I shall be compelled to take action, if they do not preserve order.
– Whilst I recognize that the Opposition has the right to oppose the Government, it is the duty of the Government to see that the policy endorsed by the people is given effect. That is the reason why, at this stage, the Government is compelled to take the action contemplated under the motion. After all, this proposal does not seriously limit the rights of honorable members to discuss the bill, since, asI have already pointed out, the measure will have been discussed, eventually, for 100 hours.
.- The remark of the Prime Minister (Mr.
Lyons) that honorable members have taken up too. much time of the House cannot, I think, be applied to me. Of the 61 speeches delivered on the second reading of the bill, about 25 came from members of the Opposition. That is my answer to the charge that the Opposition has wasted time. I rise to intervene at this point, because the motion seems to me to be entirely unfair. Apart from the time to be allotted to the discussion during the remaining stages of the bill, surely honorable members, other than the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), are entitled to have amendments considered and voted upon. They represent the people quite as much as any Minister does. If the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is defeated, no member of the Opposition will have the slightest opportunity to have an amendment voted upon.We have had experience of the guillotine in operation. The time allotted in each period would provide for discussion on only one or two clauses, and the remaining clauses would be voted upon en masse; but the amendments introduced by the Treasurer would bo voted upon automatically. I object to the rights and privileges to be taken by the Treasurer being denied to the Opposition. The Prime Minister has emphasized that, in his opinion, too much time has been occupied in the discussion of the bill; but, having listened attentively to most of the debate, I have observed so indication of stone-walling tactics.
– The motion submitted this afternoon for the adjournment of the House was a waste of time.
– I suggest that we should deal with matters that are relevant to the question before the Chair, which is the time to be allotted for the consideration of the bill. “Without discussing the merits or demerits of the measure, it is of such far-reaching importance that, after many months of inquiry, the Government now proposes to have a further investigation held. Yet this Parliament is chided because it does its duty, and discusses this bill. I offer my protest against the action of the Government.
.- I support the protests of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). The latter rightly pointed out that the number of members on the Government side who spoke on the second reading of the bill was larger than the number of speakers on the Opposition side. I am not objecting to that, because Government supporters have their rights; but I find that, in the committee, there were 73 speeches from Government supporters and 76 by members of the Opposition. Allowing for both the second reading and the committee stages, 108 speeches were delivered by Government supporters, and 104 by members of the Opposition, which shows that no organized stonewalling has occurred on this side of the chamber. In introducing the bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) announced that it was one of the most important measures ever submitted to Parliament, and that it marked the beginning of another epoch in the history of the Commonwealth. Is there any justification, therefore, for stifling discussion of a proposal that will directly affect 1,800,000 members of the community? The Government should bear in mind that members of the Opposition have their rights and responsibilities, and that they represent the people as much as do honorable members who support the Government. If the party now in office deprives the Opposition of its rights in matters of this kind, its action may result in repercussions when a change of government takes place. There shouldbe the freest discussion on matters of such far-reaching importance as this bill. Although the Government obtained a majority in this chamber at the last elections, the policy submitted by the Opposition won the approval of the people in the Senate contest in five out of the six States. Consequently, members of the Opposition are fully justified in demanding their rights as representatives of the people. The Opposition has given long and serious consideration to this measure and, as the result, 21 amendments to vital clauses have been drafted. If carried, those amendments would liberalize its provisions and grant additional benefits to deserving sections of the people who, under the bill as it stands, will not enjoy benefits to which the Opposition believes they are entitled.
– The honorable member is discussing the merits of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was giving additional reasons why the proposed curtailment of discussion should not be agreed to. The proposals of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey; are a negation of democratic government. I regard them as a disgrace to this National Parliament. If they be agreed to, amendments submitted by the Treasurer will automatically be dealt with en bloc, whilst amendments prepared by honorable members on this side will be ignored. I ask whether opportunity will be given to discuss amendments relating to small employers with incomes of less than £208 a year, of which the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory), Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and others have given notice. Are we to believe that, after all, those honorable members put up a sham fight, or did they mean what they said ? If they vote for this curtailment of debate, they will not have an opportunity to vote on the proposed amendments. I assure the House that the amendments proposed by honorable members on this side, of which notice has been given, were carefully considered; they are not put forward merely with a desire to oppose. Members of the Opposition have their rights as representatives of the people. I strongly protest against the action of the Government in regard to such vital legislation; it makes a farce of the proceedings in this National Parliament.
.- This is one of the most disgraceful exhibitions of the abuse of parliamentary powers that I have witnessed.
– I take exception to the honorable member’s statement. ‘
– When we reflect that the Government kept Parliament in recess for many months, when it could have been considering this legislation, the action of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to-day is the more reprehensible. His purpose is clear; he is endeavouring to defeat the expressed views of the electors, by having this measure dealt with by a Senate as now constituted, and not as it will be after the 1st July, when the Government will not have in the other chamber the slavish following that exists there now.
– I am pointing out the motive underlying the proposals of the Treasurer. I emphatically protest against any action which will prevent members of the Opposition from moving amendments which have been suggested by various sections of the community. Elected representatives of the people hav: their rights in this chamber, even though they sit in opposition to the Government. If actions of this kind are allowed to pass without protest, Australia will no longer be able to boast that it is a free democracy. The Government is deserving of the severest censure for this abuse of power. The country should know that in the discussion that has already taken place on this measure, supporters of the Government have spoken longer, and on more occasions, than have members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– This hill has already been before the chamber for a considerable time. After the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had been delivered, the resumption of the debate was postponed for a fortnight at the express request of the Opposition. If my memory serves me rightly, a second extension of time was granted, in order that the Opposition might have ample opportunity to consider the merits of the bill. It was given ample opportunity to understand the proposals of the Government.
– The postponement was asked for in order that the country might be informed of the nature of the provisions of the measure.
– On the second reading, members of the Opposition availed themselves fully of the opportunity to let the country know their views regarding the bill. From the stand adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) this afternoon, it would appear that, in his opinion, the later the country knows about the measure, the better. The Deputy Leader of the Oppo*sition (Mr. Forde) said that the number of Government supporters who had spoken to this measure exceeded that of members of the Opposition, but I point out that there are 44 members sitting on this side of the House, compared with 30, including one “ clean-skin “, on the other side. That shows that the Government has a good majority in this chamber.
– If the Acting Minister for Commerce intended his remark to apply to me, I ask him to withdraw it.
– The Acting Minister did not refer to the honorable member for Wimmera, but if the remark is regarded by him as offensive, I ask the Acting Minister to withdraw it.
– I was referring to the fact that there are 44 members-
Opposition Members, - Withdraw !
– I was referring to the fact that there are 44 members on the Government side of the House, and apparently only 30 on the other side.
– I thought that the Acting Minister was going to explain his remark. If he does not, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I am not going to do so.
– Name him!
– Order !
– I did not mention the honorable member.
– There are not two sets of Standing Orders for the control of honorable members.
– I did not know what the term used by the Acting Minister meant, but the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has said that it appeared that the Acting Minister alluded to him. I think that that was clear.
– The Acting Minister for Commerce is not a “ clean-skin “.
– Order ! I have asked the Acting Minister to withdraw a term which the honorable member for Wimmera regards as offensive. That is strictly in accordance with the practice of this House, and is in accordance with the Standing Orders. I again ask the Acting Minister to do so.
– Just as strictly in accordance with my practice, I shall not withdraw it.
– Unless the Acting Minister withdraws the expression, I shall be compelled to name him. Does the honorable gentleman do so?
– I do not.
– Mr. Speaker-
-I shall hear the Prime Minister.
– You would have turned me out before this.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I do not wish to infringe any practice of this House; if there is objection to my speaking, I shall say no more. ‘ I rise to appeal to the Acting Minister. I take it that he himself does not regard his remark as offensive to any one, but, as it is regarded as offensive by another honorable member, I hope that he will do what a private member would do in the circumstances.
The Acting Minister for Commerce not having withdrawn the remark,
– The position is perfectly clear. The Acting Minister made a personal remark, which was regarded by the honorable member for Wimmera as offensive. As the Acting Minister has failed to withdraw it when called upon by the Chair to do so, I name him.
– I regret the position in which I am placed - a position which, I believe, no Prime Minister has previously faced. Should a private member, after having been named by Mr. Speaker, and after an appeal had been made to him to do so, refuse to withdraw a statement to which exception has been taken, it is the duty of the Leader of the House to move that he be suspended from the service of the House. I do not think that honorable members of the Opposition desire that that should happen.
– Call the SerjeantatArms!
– In the circumstances,I am compelled to do, in respect of a colleague, what I would have to do were the offender a private member.
– The Prime Minister is very reluctant to do the right thing.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) would not know what the right thing was. With deep regret, I move -
Thatthe honorable member for Barker be suspended from the service of the House.
– Order ! The time allowed by the Standing Orders for the consideration of this motion has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) beso added.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 14th June (vide page 2106).
The employer of an employed contributor or 0/ an exempt employee shall, in the first instance, pay both the part of the contribution payable by himself and also, on behalf of thu employed contributor, the part of the contribution payable by thu contributor or exempt employee.
.- I think that before we proceed any further the Government should undertake to insert a provision in the bill to ensure that an employee who has actually made his contributions shall be entitled to all the benefits of the bill notwithstanding the failure of his employer to make his contributions. Otherwise it is perfectly obvious that, by refusing or neglecting to make his contributions, a dishonest employer could deprive his employees of the health benefits provided under this measure.
– I understand that it is the intention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to move an amendment to clause 177 to cover this point.
– That can be done.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That the word “ an “, second occurring, bc omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “a partially”; that after the word “ or “, last occurring,” the word “ partially “ be inserted.
.- I again ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for an assurance that the point I referred to a moment ago will be covered. A provision should be inserted in the bill to make it quite clear that an employee shall not be deprived of his benefits by reason of the fact that a dishonest or negligent employer may have omitted to pay his contributions. I understand that, it is suggested that the employee will be sufficiently protected if an amendment is made to clause 177, but under that clause it seems that an employee will be required to take action against the employer in a civil court for damages, and if the employer subsequently becomes bankrupt it shall be assumed that the employer’s contributions have been paid. That, however, would be small satisfaction to a workman. It would be utterly unfair to put employees to the expense of taking action for damages in such a case. A provision should be included in this clause to the effect that, if an employee can establish definitely that he has paid his contributions, no negligence, dishonesty or failure on the part of the employer should be able to disqualify him. from benefits.
– .ll] iS point is relevant to clauses 177 and 178, and I shall see that it is examined.
– I suggest that a provision should be added to the clause .to the effect that failure on the part of the employer to pay his contributions shall not disqualify the claim of an insured person from the benefits of the act. Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) give us an assurance that the substance of our contention will be considered, and the clause amended to ensure that employees who contribute shall be protected against employers who do not faithfully discharge their trust or who deduct their contributions from the wages of their employees.
– I shall see that the proper course is taken in this connexion when clauses 177 and 178 are under consideration.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32- (1.) Where an employed contributor receives any wages or other pecuniary remuneration from the employer, the part of any contribution paid by the employer on behalf of the contributor shall, notwithstanding anything contained in any other act or State act or in any regulation or any contract or agreement. . . .
– I move -
That the words “ or State act “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ State act or ordinance “.
This is purely a drafting amendment. The clause, as drawn, refers only to Commonwealth and State acts, but it is intended also to refer to legislation dealing with. Commonwealth territories.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 33 agreed to.
Clause 34 -
Notwithstanding any contract or agreement to the contrary, the employer shall not be entitled to deduct from the wages of the contributor or otherwise to recover it from him, the amount of contribution payable by the employer.
.- Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) inform me how it is proposed to insure that employers shall not deduct the amount of their contribution from the wages of the employees? Itis common knowledge that many employers throughout Australia pay substantially below the award rates of wages. The clause makes no provision to protect employees from unscrupulous employers. How does the Treasurer propose to police this provision? Hundreds of employers throughout Australia have had to be prosecuted for paying their employees less than award rates. Frequently employees have a pay-sheet put in front of them with an instruction to “ Sign here “, and they sign for a certain amount of wages although they may have received a great deal less than the amount stated. It is essential that some proper protection should be given to employees in this matter, otherwise unscrupulous employers will simply deduct an additional1s. 6d. a week from each of their employees and so will get offscot-free.
– The purpose of this clause is to ensure that employers shall pay their contributions. We are attempting to protect employees against unscrupulous employers. Inspectors will be appointed under the act and numerous penalties are prescribed for failure to comply with the requirements of the law.
.- I consider that many employers will deduct from the wages of their employees the amount of the employer’s contribution. Whether it is done in that direct way or not, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that some manufacturers will undoubtedly increase the price of their commodities to recoup their costs under the law. So the employees will, in a roundabout way, have to pay not only their own contributions but also those of the employers. Does the Treasurer propose to do anything to stay the hands of employers who increase commodity prices as an offset against the additional costs that will be imposed upon their businesses after this measure becomes law? I ask the honorable gentleman at least to give an assurance that the terms of reference to the royal commission will enable an inquiry to be made into this point.
.- Many employees throughout Australia are not protected by law in respect of the wages they receive. This clause should be of value to employees who work under awards or wages board determinations, but I do not see how it can protect in any way employees working under a verbal agreement or whose wages are not subject to some written contract. An employer who wished to avoid making the contribution required of him under this measure could say to employees not covered by awards or written contracts of some kind : “ I should have been prepared to engage you at a wage of 30s. a week had it not been for the National Health Insurance and Pensions Act, but; as it is, I am not prepared now to offer you more than 28s. 6d. a week “. It may be that every aspect of employment cannot be covered by the act, but Ishould like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to givean undertaking that he will endeavour to tighten up this clause in some respects. 1 am not suggesting that he should propose an amendment at the moment, nor shall I propose one, but the position of persons whose wages are not covered by an award or contract of some kind should be protected as far as possible.
– Where employees are working u n del’ a verbal agreement as to wages, and no wages book is kept, it seems to me that it will be impossible to give adequate protection. No provision could police a situation of that description. Even if a complaint should be made to mi inspector that an employer had made illegal deductions from the wages of his employees, it would not be possible to obtain proof. Section 173 provides penalties in respect of failure to comply with the provisions of the act, hut I cannot see that anything effective can be clone when there is no means to determine beyond dispute the amount of wages to which a particular employee is entitled.
– The clause covers the position of persons whose wages are regulated by law.
– I suggest that it is beyond the power of Parliament to cover employees whose .wages are dependent upon verbal contracts. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) will realize that an unscrupulous employer might leave out the first sentence of the hypothetical statement which the employee attributed to him. The employer might simply say “ I can offer you only 28s. 6d. a week “. In such a case no charge could be sheeted home to him that he had evaded the law.
.- By the statement which he has just made, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has proved the correctness of the contention that I advanced on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Nothing can prevent an addition being made to the cost of production by reason of legislation such as this. The employee and the public, indirectly, will pay the contributions of the employers. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), possibly in a generous spirit, has said that an employer cannot recover from the employee whose wages are regulated by law.
– The clause covers that.
– It does not. Thousands of men cannot obtain employment unless they sign for a greater payment than they receive. So immoral is the profitmongering system that private enterprise is able to take advantage of the economic position of the workers. Cases of the kind that. I have described are exposed in the courts day after day. Therefore, even where wages are regulated by law, there is no check on the dishonest employer. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that the employer will recover by means of increased prices the amount that he is compelled to contribute under this legislation. Whenever arbitration courts increase the purchasing power of the workers, or any other action is taken which involves additional’ ; expenditure, the capitalist reimburses himself by raising prices. Therefore, it is useless to say that the employer will pay one penny by way of contribution under this scheme. The Treasurer should not hide his head in the sand. He is as well acquainted as anybody else with the fact that private enterprise indulges in immoral practices. Nothing that either he or any other honorable member of the committee may say can disprove the fact that this scheme, instead of being a burden on, will be a benefit to, the employer. When fixing his prices, he will arrange not only to recoup himself for his expenditure by means of these contributions, but also to make his customary profit on that outlay. If his usual rate of profit is 25 per cent, and his contributions aggregate £400, he will so fix prices as to secure a return of £500. I notice that one or two honorable members are smiling. They are members of that class, and they stand for that kind of morality in private business because they have profited by it. This will be a burden on the consumers of the country, and, as the workers represent 90 per cent, of the consumers, they will pay not only their own contributions, but alio the contributions of the employers and the Government. This crazy system of exploitation will continue until the people make up their minds to establish a form of civilization which will be entirely apart from the profitmongering system.-
.-When an honorable member asks the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) a particular question, he should endeavour to answer it. The clause says definitely that the employer shall not recover contributions from the employee. In what way does the Government propose to prevent him from doing so? The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has followed the argument that I have already advanced. The captains of industry will recover the amount of the contributions they are compelled to make under this provision by raising the prices of commodities. The honorable member for Werriwa comes from a coal-mining centre, and his experience has been similar to mine. When, on one occasion, under an Arbitration Court award, the coal owners were obliged to increase by ls. Cd. a day the wages of 50 per cent, of their employees, they raised the price of coal by ls. Cd. a ton. Throughout the coal mining industry the whole of the employees, from manager down to trapper boy, produce three tons of coal a day. At the time to which I refer, I appeared before the Coal Board as the representative of the miners, and was able to show that the rake-off of the employers in excess of the additional charge imposed on them by the Arbitration Court award, amounted to over £900,000 per annum. As the honorable member for Werriwa has pointed out, the employers will not be content with recovering merely the amount they have had to contribute, but in addition will make a profit on their outlay. In what way does the Treasurer propose to prevent such a practice? Will he try to make it impossible to increase prices, or has he come to some agreement with the employers? The friendly societies and the medical profession have representatives in Canberra who are watching their interests during the consideration of this measure, because they are materially affected, but the -great captains of industry are not represented because they know that they have no need to worry. The Treasurer ably represents their interests and is merely trying to delude the people with a clause of this nature. The uninsured, as well as the insured, will bear the burden. This will be an- excuse for the employers to profiteer, and they will have no hesita tion in availing themselves of the opportunity to do so. Even after six months of preparation, the Government now finds it necessary to submit portions of the bill to a royal commission. Will the .commission be asked to devote its attention to tins particular matter? Could it-suggest any effective action if the matter were referred to it? It is well known that the Government cannot prevent the raising of the prices of commodities under- its present limited constitutional powers.
. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has been talking in rather an extreme fashion. The price of commodities is almost completely determined by supply and demand. If, by reason of the operation of this legislation, or for any other reason, the prices of commodities are raised, that ‘will be taken into account, because it will be reflected in the cost of living figures, which, in turn, affect the award, rates. Consequently, the matter will be adjusted automatically.
.- In his economics, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is about 100 years behind the times. Those who know anything about modern economics know that the law of supply and demand was dynamited 50 or 100 years .ago. The honorable, gentleman has had sufficient experience in the business world to realize that it is only a joke. Cartels and monopolies in the big manufacturing industries control prices. The prices of everything which the people need are determined by the manufacturers. The retailer can charge no less than the price fixed; should he do so, his supplies would be discontinued. I have been in the business world for some time, and have experienced the bushrauging which goes on among the big concerns that control the supply of commodities. There may not be fixation of price in regard to a few commodities which do not count, but if one were to inquire in 50 different stores the prices of the main commodities which the people need, one would find that there was no variation between them. The Treasurer will not attempt to explain the matter, because litis unable to do so. Take the history of this country, from the first day when wages were regulated by law; take the history of the economic life of Australia ; from the first day on which there was intervention in the affairs of industry by means of measures of this or any other kind, in not one instance have the employers had their costs increased without recovering, not “only the additional outJay, but also a profit on it. In this way, the coal industry raked off £9,000,000 in about seven years. The prices of bread, meat, butter, eggs, cheese, clothing, and everything else, will be increased immediately this scheme is thrown into the economic arrangement of the nation. The Treasurer and every other member of the committee will find that that will be the case. If an employer has to pay out £1,000 in contributions to this scheme he will add his profit of, say, 20 per cent, to the expenditure, and secure a return of £1,200, because it cannot be denied that all large employers will add their expenditure in respect of contributions on behalf of their employees to the cost of all the commodities which they soil. Although that will be done in every big concern, those small farmers, whom Country party members wore so anxious to protect before they cast their vote to apply the guillotine to this measure so that they would not have an opportunity to speak on it again, will not bc able to pass their expenditure on.
– The honorable member is not in. order in proceeding along those lines.
– The small farmers are not able to pass anything on. Only those who exploit the workers will be able to add their insurance contributions to the cost of the commodities in which they trade. The small farmers can do nothing to add this charge on their earnings to the price of their production.
– That is a very important point which should be forcibly put.
– These small farmers arc at a dead end. In every other succeeding line of the partial production of economic goods every penny of the cost will be added to the final price. At one end of the line of production you have the small farmers at a dead end in this respect, and at the other you have the workers who cannot pass on added expenditure to anybody. In between the two ends of the economic line are those who will be in a posi tion to add the cost of their contributions to the insurance fund to the price of everything they manufacture. Only those two classes in the community will he penalized in any way by having to surrender some of their purchasing power to establish the insurance funds. I challenge honorable members apposite, whose views are supposed to be supported by university professors, to debate the economics of this scheme before any tribunal of sensible nien. The Treasure may bleat as much as he likes about this bill; he cannot get away from the fac! that the cost of national insurance will, in the final analysis, have to be met by only two sections of the community, the workers and the small farmers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Contribution payable in respect of any employment in a week).
.- I should like some explanation from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) as to how this clause will affect casual employees. The clause provides that a contribution shall be payable for each week during the whole or any part of which an employed contributor has been employed. Many casual employees during bad times may not receive more than one or two hours work each week. As the clause stands at present, it means that out of their meagre earnings of from 2s. to 4s. a week, those men will be obliged to make a contribution of ls. 6d. to the insurance fund. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) at an earlier stage gave reasons why, in his opinion, certain people in the community with incomes not exceeding £208 per annum should be exempted from making contributions in respect of their employees. Equal consideration should be given to the claims of casual workers who are not in a position to make the contribution that will be demanded o* them under this clause. Their contributions should he borne by the Government either out of the ‘ Consolidated Revenue Fund or out of some other fund which the Government may determine. I am of the opinion that if this clause is permitted to be passed in its present form, it. will impose a distinct hardship on a section of those.workers who do not enjoy permanent employment. In my opinion they should be given the same measure of assistance as I understand it is proposed to give the section of the community for which the honorable member for Swan made his plea.
– Sub-clause 1 provides that contributions shall, subject to the regulations, be payable weekly. In the ordinary course of events contributions will, in the large majority of cases, be paid weekly; but in those trades or occupations where it is usual to pay wages at intervals other than weekly, contributions covering the pay period will be accepted under the regulations, although primarily in the bill they are normally payable weekly. As to the point raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) regarding the contributions of casual employees, I may mention that that does not arise under this clause. For the information of the honorable member, however, I may say that, for the purposes of the bill, intermittent employment for a day or a half-day is not considered as employment.
– What about the waterside workers ?
Other honorable members interjecting,
– I have not yet finished explaining the point in regard to casual employees. If I am to be constantly subjected to interruption by interjection, it is obvious that I shall be unable to reply to any of the points. Unless honorable members opposite are prepared to extend reasonable courtesy to me, I shall not answer any points raised by honorable members opposite.
Where there is no element of continuity in a man’s work, his employment would come under the category of excepted employments outlined in the first schedule. If, on the other hand, a man is employed regularly once a week digging a garden or work of that kind, he would come under the bill because there is the element of continuity in his employment. If he works for one employer one day and for other employers on other days, the contribution of his employers will be spread over the various employers. Many problems arise in connexion with casual and relief workers, and there are also many diverse types of employment in Australia in respect of hours of work and so on. All of these could more properly be dealt with when the first schedule to the bill is under discussion. I shall be glad to give full information in respect of any points raised when that stage has been reached.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey)has said that if a man works only one day a week he is presumed to have regular employment. There is also the case of workers who are employed for one day on occasions and sometimes for a couple of days, but who, nevertheless, have no regularity in their employment. The Treasurer says that such workers, because they secure work on one day a week regularly, will have to make contributions of1s. 6d. out of their miserable earnings.
– It is within the power of the commission to examine cases in which the provisions of the bill fall inequitably on certain persons.
– I have not very much faith in the powers of commissions generally. We have all had too much experience of the sympathetic treatment meted out by commissions, such as the Repatriation Commission, in the past. Apparently a relief worker who works one week in three, or two weeks in five, will have to make contributions to the fund because he is in regular work at intervals. He will be called upon to contribute1s. 6d., not only in respect of those weeks during which he works, but also for those weeks in which he is unemployed. Obviously he could not be provided with a free insurance period during the weeks in which he is out of employment.
– That does not come under this clause. As I said before, cases of this sort can more properly be dealt with when the first schedule is under discussion.
– Owing to the application of the “ guillotine “ honorable members may have no opportunity to bring these matters forward when the first schedule is being discussed. I take this opportunity - the only one that might be presented to me - to direct the Treasurer’s attention to the hardship that may be imposed on casual and relief workers by the clause now under discussion. The
Treasurer has said that if a man works for a number of employers during a week each employer will be called upon to meet his share of the contribution to the fund in respect of the employee.
– The Treasurer said that the first employer had to pay the lot.
– The honorable gentleman said that the contribution would be met by the different employers. If what the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) says is correct it certainly exposes the unfairness of this measure. I doubt very much if those who sponsor this bill have the milk of human kindness in them. Apparently with them it is a matter of hard commercialism.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !
– These unfortunate men cannot pay. Whether you call me to order or not, Mr. Chairman, that is an undisputed fact.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to defy the Chair in that matter.
– I do not intend-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
.- I am not at all satisfied with the explanation the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has given in regard to the contributions of casual workers. Like the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) I am of the opinion that unless we can secure a satisfactory explanation now we will have no opportunity to do so at a later stage when the Government, with the aid of the “guillotine “, is rushing the bill through. The Government has accepted the ultimatum of the Country party that small business people and small farmers with incomes not exceeding £208 per annum shall not be required to contribute to the scheme in respect of their employees. Surely the Treasurer will not say that there is any justification for compelling casual workers to contribute to the insurance fund out of the few shillings each week they may earn because their employment is regular. I could give numerous instances of men who on many occasions have been engaged for only two or three hours a week, or perhaps one day a week. Provided they are able to secure that employment every week they will be called upon to contribute ls. Gd. to the insurance fund. Honorable members supporting the Government will have great difficulty in explaining this impost on this section of the community to the people of this country. It will be a great hardship on them. Because they are receiving less remuneration they will be penalized as compared with those in full work. Let me examine for a moment the position of waterside workers. They work a certain number of days a week, but by no stretch of the imagination can they be said to be regularly employed, for they are not. guaranteed employment on regular days each week. They are, in every sense of the word, casual employees ; yet the Treasurer is not able to give>-a straight-forward answer to the question as to whether they will be covered by the provisions of the bill. Knowing the effect of the measure on the general community, I am hopeful that these persons will not be compelled to come within its scope. The majority of them are not earning very high wages, and they are not desirous of being insured under the bill, which, by making people pay for their social services, will relieve the budget and the Government’s wealthy supporters outside Parliament.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the whole of the bill.
– I am discussing how the clause will detrimentally affect a certain section of workers… Members of the Labour party supported the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and other members of the Country party, in their plea that small business people and farmers, who find, it difficult to make contributions, should be exempt from payment. The Country party and the United Australia party appear to have reached some sort of agreement on that point, and, to be logical, members of the Country party should now support, the . plea of the Labour party that many workers who do not receive even the basic wage should be exempt. For those low-paid workers who have come within the insurance field and have made some contributions to the scheme, but are unable to continue to contribute, the Government should make some provision to keep them in the scheme, if they so wish. The Government should postpone the clause so that consideration can be given to the request I have made. -Workers who receive low wages and are engaged in irregular employment should be given the same consideration as small business men and small farmers whose incomes do not exceed £20S a year. As we seem to he unable to get the satisfaction we want from the Treasurer, I move -
That the clause bc postponed.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is really seeking information, and not just seizing an opportunity to indulge in political abuse, lie should couch his questions in reasonably courteous language. He indulges in continuous abuse, he is always accusing ibo Government of making insulting remarks, and he has made innuendoes about ultimatums from the Country party. I do not propose to answer any queries put in the insulting and abusive fashion adopted by .the honorable member.
.- It is very evident that the utterances of the honorable member for East -Sydney (Mr. Ward) have got under the ‘skin of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who has retreated from the obvious obligation that rests upon him to explain the clause. He gave as a reason for not explaining the clause that the honorable member for East Sydney had made reference to an inter-party arrangement and had resorted to abuse. The honorable member represents an electorate where there is a large section of unskilled workers, most of whom are employed on the waterside, and he would bc remiss in his duty to his electors if he did not satisfy himself that those workers are properly provided for in the hill. His argument that when a man does not make a reasonable wage he should not be taxed is logical and reasonable. Surely if it is logical to say that an employer or farmer, who has some assets outside, the profits he makes, should not be called upon to pay contributions unless he earns £20S a year, it is also logical to treat the working man in the same way. In the vast majority qf . cases the working man has no other asset than his labour, and he ought to be given at least the same concessions as the small business man or farmer. The Treasurer has invited us to wait until we are considering the schedule,’ when, he says, we shall discover how these persons will be treated. I regret that the Treasurer is not here at the moment to answer the questions I propose to put to him. I have examined the schedule, and I can find no provision in it covering waterside workers or other casual workers. The Treasurer said that if a man obtained half a day’s work digging a garden, or other work of that character, and did it regularly, he would have to pay the tax. Apparently the Treasurer does not understand Part II. of the first schedule of the bill, where persons who do work of that character are distinctly and definitely excluded. As the Treasurer has tried to stall off the committee. until a later stage of the proceedings, it is interesting to note that in the schedule workers who are casually employed digging gardens are definitely exempt. I can find no reference in the schedule to the vast army of workers in industry who depend on casual .labour for their livelihood. I should say that we are justified in demanding for that section of the community the same consideration as has been promised for primary producers. If any section of the community receiving wages that do not amount to a reasonable sum is entitled to consideration, that section is the one referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney. I suggest that the committee, if it wishes to do simple justice to that section, would be well advised to postpone the clause. There is nothing in Part II. of the first schedule that would exempt the large bodies of men mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney. The reason why the Treasurer has gone off in such high dudgeon, after referring to the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney as abuse, is that he wishes to evade a particularly knotty problem, and hopes that the committee will suspend judgment until the schedule is reached, when it may be impossible to do anything on the lines desired.
.- I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not present to hear this discussion. The clause is one of the most important in the bill. It is a clause under which some measure of even-handed justice can be done to certain sections of the .community. The honorable members for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) have mentioned waterside workers. Those men are employed from time to time for part of a fortnight, part of a week, part of a day, or perhaps only part of an bour. If it is right that the Government should give special consideration to small business men earning an income of less than £208 per annum, it is likewise desirable that casual workers and others doing only intermittent work should be exempt. Let me state the case for men who work for primary producers. At different times ‘they are timber workers, potato diggers, harvest workers, and fruit pickers. They engage in every branch of primary production, often for exceedingly low rates of pay. If there is a case for exemption of any class, there is one for this class. If a concession is given to employers earning less than £208 per annum, it should be given also to employees earning less than that amount. The Labour party ought to be able to look for some reciprocity from the Country party on this occasion. We have indicated our willingness to support the Country party regarding employers e.arning less than £208 per annum, and -vo now ask them to support our claim for consideration for employees earning less than £208 per annum, and particularly for those in intermittent employment. The contributions for such workers should be met out of Consolidated Revenue. -Compare their position with that of the primary producers. Low as may be the incomes of the primary producers from time to time, at least they have a roof over their heads. The cow always has a drop of milk, and usually there is a pig in the sty. If everything else fails, there is a rabbit to be had, and firewood is probably available. But the man in industry, earning less than £208 a year, whether it be on casual or permanent work, has no resources of that kind to fall back on. When his income ceases, the demand for rent goes on,, and he must pay for all the commodities he uses. The milkman. the baker, the butcher, and the other tradesmen must all be paid. Therefore, I suggest to the Treasurer that if he has any justice at all in his make-up - and I believe he has - he will give consideration to the representations I have made. If he will not, then this Government can no longer claim that it stands for evenhanded ‘justice to all citizens. The Treasurer should make a declaration now that all those in receipt of less than £208 a year will be exempt. It is unfair to grant the exemption to one class, and deny it to another.
– I should like some information regarding the position of seasonal workers under this scheme. For instance, fruit pickers in Tasmania are employed for about two months in the orchards, and then they go on hop-picking for about six weeks. I should like to know for how long they must be employed before they come under the provisions of this clause.
– They are dealt with in clause 186.
– Some further explanation is needed regarding the stipulated period of employment in any one week. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has pointed out how this provision will adversely affect a large body of workers in Australia, including the waterside workers. It will . particularly affect the waterside workers of Queensland, because they already come under the Unemployment Insurance Act in that State. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) mentioned the case of casual workers who receive perhaps only one day’s work a week. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated ‘ that, provided such persons receive that one day a week regularly, they would be regarded as regular workers, and would be required to contribute. That is most unjust. In Queensland, there is a system of relief work in operation under which single men receive only one day’s work a week, yet out of that one day’s wages they will, under this scheme, be required to contribute ls. 6d.
– The point raised by the honorable member is dealt with in later clauses in the bill, and I hope to be able to satisfy him when those clauses are under consideration.
.- The longer this bill is under consideration the more convinced I am that it has no merits whatever. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has just admitted that a gardener who is employed for only one day a week, provided he obtains that employment regularly, must contribute ls. 6d. under the scheme. That is the most iniquitous form of class taxation that has ever been imposed on the workers of Australia. We have heard the representatives of the poor farmers complaining that primary producers who receive incomes of less than £208 a year should be exempt, but what of the worker with a wife and five children who is drawing sustenance, and receiving one day’s casual work a week? The position of the waterside workers has been discussed by various honorable members. Consider the case of a man who is picked up on Monday morning to do four hours’ work oh a shift. Out of the wage he receives for that work, he must pay his contribution to the insurance scheme. Then he is picked up again on Wednesday morning by another employer, and works through until midday on Saturday, yet the second employer need make no contribution to the fund. This is class taxation of the worst kind.
– The instances cited by the honorable member would not arise under this clause.
– It is our responsibility to ensure that unjust conditions shall not be imposed upon casual workers.
– Where is the reference to casual employees in clause 36?
– Sub-clause 2 of that clause reads :
A contribution shall be payable for each week during the whole or any part of which an employed contributor has been employed.
Surely that means that if a person has been employed for a part of a week he shall be responsible for a week’s contribution. Many casual employees are in a very serious financial position, and many of them are infinitely worse off than the small farmers on ‘ whose behalf such a strong and successful appeal was made by the members of the Country party. Casual employees cannot acquire their own homes, and being in receipt of small incomes, find it very difficult to so maintain a family. Honorable members opposite should realize that those on whose behalf I am speaking are the backbone of the nation in that they are rearing large families and assuming the responsibilities of citizenship to a much greater extent than the wealthy section of the community who, while living in luxury, maintain only small families. I trust that honorable members opposite will be consistent and will support the postponement of this clause to enable the Government to give further consideration to the claims of casual workers.
.- This clause will operate very awkwardly in that it may prevent the average employer from engaging casual workers. Employers will be induced to work their permanent staffs overtime as an alternative to engaging men on a casual basis for one or two days a week. If an employer should work his men at over-time rates without adding to his staff, he will not be involved in additional cost; but should he engage men for two days a week he will have to pay an additional ls. 6d. in respect of each casual employee so engaged, with the result that the rate of wage for those days will be increased by ls. 6d., and the worker who receives say, only one day’s pay a week, will also have his earnings reduced by that amount.
– The employment must be continuous.
– No. The honorable member imagines that the position is covered by clause IS 6, but that is only an enabling provision under which the GovernorGeneral may declare the conditions under which the act will apply in respect of employed persons engaged in casual or intermittent work. That clause does not clarify the point at all. As a matter of fact, it leaves the whole matter completely in the air because we do not know what conditions the GovernorGeneral may impose. The schedule to which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) referred, also leaves the position vague and indefinite.
Obviously the purpose of the clause is that where a man gets a day’s work, he shall, as an insured person, pay1s. 6d. weekly, as that is the weekly contribution of the employee, which has to be supplemented by the amount the employer will have to pay. The contribution is essentially a tax, and our objection to it is that the tax is computed on the assumption that a full week’s work has been performed by the insured person ; but in this instance a tax is being imposed regardless of whether an employee works for a part of a week or for the whole week. Even if an employee should not work for a whole week, he will have to pay the full rate of tax for a week. All the exemptions contemplated are nebulous and indefinite, and a case for the postponement of the clause has been established.
– It is quite impossible to include in the bill all the conditions of employment which obtain throughout Australia, even if we knew how to cope with all cases. In the circumstances provision has to be made by regulations. Subsequent clauses give the Government power to frame regulations under which it will be competent to deal sensibly and equitably with all border-line cases. Clause 186 gives the Governor-General power to state the conditions under which insurable employees shall be catered for.
– The Treasurer has not indicated the manner in which that is to be done.
– We have not yet considered clause 186. In many cases we do not yet know the procedure to be adopted. Awkward cases will arise and the commission will be guided by the circumstances and act in a common-sense way. That answers most of the points which have been raised by honorable members opposite.
– As the time allotted for the consideration of part IV. of the bill has’ almost expired, it is quite impossible for me to state various points which I wished to bring under the notice of the committee, particularly in respect of casual employees. The action of the Govern ment in limiting the time is most unjust as it prevents the representatives of the people from assisting their constituents.
– The time allowed for this portion of the committee stage having expired, I must put the question that is now before the Chair - “ That the clause be postponed”.
Question put -
That the clausebe postponed (Mr. Ward’s amendment ) .
The committee divided. (The Chairman -Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 36 to 45, and the circulated amendment of the Government, agreed to.
Circulated amendment -
Clause 38, omit “ in camp a period of continuous training in”, insert “a period of not less than six days continuous training in any branch of “.
Sitting suspended from6.24 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 46 -
Insured persons shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this act, be entitled to the following benefits: -
– This is an important clause to which, earlier in the discussion, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) sought to move an amendment. This scheme, to be national in scope, should include provision for the wives and children of insured persons, at least in respect of medical benefits. During the afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) gave what was described as a “Dorothy Dix” reply to aninquiry by an honorable member, when he stated that it was the intentionof the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into and report upon this aspect of the scheme; but his statement did not satisfy honorable members on this side. The Government should insert in this bill the necessary provisions. For the payment of1s. 6d. a week members of friendly societies, their wives and children up to the age of fourteen years, get a full range of medical benefits; in addition, a funeral allowance is made for both husband and wife. This national scheme should give the same range of benefits to all contributors. A well-known medical practitioner informed me that the wives and families of members of friendly societies require the services of doctors much more often than do the members themselves.
Mr.Casey. - If that is so, the11s. capitation fee must be wrong.
– I am opposed to the measure in its present form, and I move -
That the following words be added to paragraph (a) - “for the insured, his wife, and children “.
– The adoption of the amendment would increase the appropriation. Therefore it is not in order.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I move -
That the clause be postponed -
If it is carried, it will be regarded as an instruction to the Government - to consider and re-draft the clause for the purpose of making provision, in paragraph’ (a), of medical benefits for the wives and children of insured persons.
– This amendment, in practically identical terms, has been discussed on at least two prior occasions, and it has been fully explained, on behalf of the Government, why it cannot be accepted. The reasons have been given at great length. I do not wish to weary honorable members, but apparently I must repeat-
– The Treasurer has wearied the committee to the point of distraction. He has no answer.
– The honorable member for Batman knows that the Government has promised to introduce a further proposal to provide, among other things, medical benefits for the wives and children of insured persons.
.- It would be a convenience to honorable members if the whole group of clauses which have to be considered in this period of the guillotine procedure, were open to discussion in the same manner as the whole of a small bill sometimes is dealt with. I say this because I know that several honorable members on both sides wish to raise points on various clauses for the consideration of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). If the clauses are not taken in one group, the probability is that much of the limited time allowed will be occupied in the consideration of one or two clauses, whilst others, in regard to which we desire information, may not bo discussed at all.
– The honorable member will not be in order in submitting another motion until the question before the committee is disposed of.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), and I agree with him that this national scheme should include benefits for the wives and children of insured persons. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not advanced any valid reason why the clause should not be postponed. I am afraid that the honorable gentleman is losing his temper gradually, because, whenever questions are addressed to him he either leaves the chamber or declines to answer.
Mr.Casey. - Nonsense! If the honorable member is referring to a question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), my reply is that it was not couched in civil terms. I do not propose to answer questions that are clothed in abusive language.
– I was not referring to that particular incident.
– Which one, then?
– Many honorable members on both sides have asked the Treasurer for explanations of different clauses and I regret to say that they have not been given. In a measure which affects so closely the interests of all the people, it is desirable that we should have the fullest information which the Treasurer is able to give to us. Since the bill does not make adequate provision for the wives and families of insured persons, the word “ national “ should be erased from the title.
.- I support the amendment to postpone consideration of the clause as an instruction to the Government to have it redrafted so as to include at least medical benefits for the wives and children of insured persons. Because the Government has a majority, it can ignore the claims of wives and children, but it will not be very long before the wives, at any rate, will have something to say in this matter. This measure is called a national health insurance bill, but, I suggest, the Government’s only purpose in introducing it is to ensure that the wage-earner may be patched up like a piece of old machinery, in order to fit him to keep his nose to the grindstone. This measure has not been inspired by humanitarian motives; it is founded on base commercialism, and is primarily designed to keep the wageearner fit enough to earn more profits for the boss. Any doubt that may have existed in that respect is completely dispelled by this proposal, which callously ignores the rights of wives and children. Of what use is it to endeavour to patch up a working man in order that he might continue in employment, if we ignore entirely the health of his children, who later will take his place in- ‘industry? Must one continue to repeat the unpleasant facts which our vital statistics reveal in this respect? Does not the Government realize that the worker’s children of to-day will be the wageearners of to-morrow, and that if every provision is not made to protect their health right from birth, a third of our future children, as vital statistics indicate, will be physically sub-normal and mentally deficient ? That is not my statement, but the considered view of officers of the Health Departments of. New South Wales and theCommonwealth. Yet this so-called national health insurance measure makes noprovision whatever for the protection- of the health of Australian mothers by extending to them the medical benefits provided under this bill. If the Government wishes to make any pretence of establishing a national health scheme, it should start with the infant in the cradle, or the mother in her pre-natal period; at that stage more than at any other can we safeguard the health of our people. Judging by this measure, however, industry is not concerned with either the infant or the mother, because neither of them earn a wage from which contributions towards this fund can be made. Because employers and vested interests wish to pay as little as possible towards the financing of this scheme, the Government is not concerned with the claims of wives and children to participate in it. The Government may describe this as a national health scheme, but history will call it something else. Practically every honorable member is the father of a family, and he knows from experience what family life means. He is aware of the risks involved in motherhood. But this Government declares, in effect, that it does not care “ a tinker’s cuss “ about the mothers of the nation. It has gone so far, however, as to bring experts from overseas to advise it as to the least expensive method of patching up the carcass of a man who works alongside a machine in order that he may be enabled to continue to eke out profits for his employer. This measure is the worst example of cold-blooded brutality which this Parliament has ever been asked to perpetrate; for sheer base commercialism..! have not encountered anything like it during my parliamentary career, and such brutal disregard of the rights of mothers and children will go down in history, not only as a discredit to this Government and every one who supports it, -but also as evidence of the degradation of this Parliament.
.- The refusal of the Ministry to take cognizance of the views expressed on the secondreading debate with regard to insuring that in this bill provision shall be made for medical services for wives and children makes it imperative that, on this clause dealing with medical benefit, the Opposition shall now make its final stand in respect of this all-important question. Talcing what is contained in the bill with the somewhat vague and nebulous statements which have been made concerning what may be included in another measure, we are .forced to the conclusion that the Government proposes that there shall be compulsory insurance for the medical treatment of the husband whilst the husband shall have the option further to make provision for the medical treatment of his wife and children. He has had that option hitherto, because friendly societies have given to the wage-earners of Australia the opportunity to make payments to cover medical benefits for their wives and children. ‘ One argument which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) used in justification of the compulsory insurance of the men was the fact that only 400,000 wage-earners in Australia were members of friendly societies, the total number of persons embraced by friendly societies being approximately 700,000. Every one of those 400,000 members can be regarded as wage-earners, who have either felt the need to make this prudent arrangement for the medical treatment of their wives, or have felt that their income was such as to enable .them to make such provision. The Government, however, says, in effect, that this is a plan solely for medical benefits for employees, and it is compulsory for the husband to insure himself for medical ‘treatment. By its disregard of the principle of compulsion in respect of medical treatment for wives and children, however, the Government jeopardizes the whole proposal in respect of national health. An optional system does two things. First of all, it leaves the wife, as a citizen of the State, absolutely dependent upon what provision her husband makes for her, although her husband, as a citizen of the State, does have to make compulsory provision for his own medical treatment. I could understand that, in respect of a system of purely contributory insurance, the Government should say that it shall be compulsory for every employee to make full provision for medical treatment for himself, hut not for his wife and f amily. That, of course, would be a plan in which the community, as a community, would not be taxed in order to subvent it, and, therefore, the husband as an employee would not be drawing upon the taxpayers in any respect in order that he might have a better health provision for himself than would otherwise be possible. But this scheme distinguishes between the citizenship rights of the wife and the citizenship rights of the husband, in that the Consolidated Revenue of this nation is to be drawn upon to provide a fund out of which medical treatment will be made available to the husband but not to his wife. That is my. first point.
My second point is that in so far as the husband will have the option of making voluntary provision for the medical treatment of his wife, that option will be more apparent than real, because it has to be measured in relation to the resources of the husband. Already, the husband will be taxed ls. 6d. a week in order to make provision for his own insurance. Then he will be called upon to make an additional contribution should he desire to place his wife and children on an equal basis with himself in respect of medical treatment. Such a proposal calls to mind the remark of Anatole France : “ The rich, of course, are never accused of stealing bread because they are never under any necessity to steal bread; only the poor are convicted of such offences “. The man who is in receipt of from 10s. to £1 above the basic wage is warranted in making voluntary provision for the protection of his wife and family. I recommend all men who can afford to do so to make such provision for their wives and families, and I offer such advice not only in their own interests, but also because it is proper for them so to do. This scheme, however, has been born of the urge of the Government to give a national health service, by an averaging of the risks involved. But it violates the whole principle of averaging by excluding wives and children. It is a negation of the principle of national health insurance to say to a man on the basic wage : “ On your wage you will probably not be able to make a contribution,” and to a man in receipt of a margin above the basic wage: “ You ought to make a contribution “. The contention that this is a plan primarily intended to keep the worker fit in order that he may continue in production for the profit of his employer appears to be justified, when we find that it is the husband who is to be kept fit, whilst his wife, who has to stay at home and cook for him and care for bis children as an unpaid domestic - the sharer of all his risks and difficulties - is excluded from protection under this measure. The Opposition will not accept the assurance of the Government that, in another bill to be produced in the near or distant future, special provision will be made for the insurance of wives. As this is a scheme in respect of which the taxpayers in general, and employers and employees as classes, are to be called upon to make contributions, we say that this anti-feminist Government ought to be permitted no longer to exclude the wives of working men from the legal guarantees given to their husbands. “Wives are, at any rate, the equals of their husbands in the economic service they render to the country, for I reject the stupid argument that the husband alone earns the income. In the subdivision of labour, by which she does all the work in the home - cooking, washing, nursing and all the incidence of housewifery - the wife is a contributor to her husband’s earning ability. It is monstrous, therefore, that the income of the husband should be drawn upon, under the law, to ensure for him a service which is not to be made available to his wife. Every penny of the tax, which the worker would compulsorily pay under this scheme, would reduce the funds available to his wife for the upkeep of the home, and to that extent she would be deprived of means whereby she might make alternative provision. Any payment which reduced the husband’s wages would curtail his wife’s resources, and anything legally taken from the husband’s wage should be only for benefits which the wife is statutorily assured of being able to enjoy equally with her husband.
– The argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in favour of the inclusion of wives and children as beneficiaries under the insurance scheme does not seem to be in accord with statements made by him in his second-reading speech. On that occasion he said that the cost of the medical treatment of sufferers from occupational diseases and vocational sickness could be properly regarded as a charge on industry to which the employer might be expected to contribute, but he suggested, if ihe did not actually make the statement, that the cost of the medical treatment of an employee affected with illness which could not be ascribed to the occupation which he followed, could not be fairly regarded as the responsibility of this employer.
– Hear, hear ! I regard it as a social obligation.
– The honorable member regards it as a public responsibility. Now, however, he goes out of hi3 way to argue that, in a scheme which in its very essence is framed on a contributory basis, the employer subsidizing the payments to be made by the employee, the employer should help to defray the cost of the medical treatment of, not only an insured person suffering from an occupational disease, but also his wife and children. .
– That is because the employer is to be taxed, as I believe, wrongly, to provide a system’ of insurance for the husband.
– I am pointing out to the Leader of the Opposition, who is usually very consistent, that the argument which he is now advancing is diametrically opposed to that used by him in his second-reading speech. The friendly societies, which have rendered a great service to Australia, have, I understand, made strong representations that they should be left some part of this field undisturbed in which to carry on their work. The Government, in enabling them to do this, is determined to assist in the provision of medical treatment of the dependants of the employee who is the subject of the honorable gentleman’s indignation. The Government proposes to assist them, by a subsidy on a family basis, to reduce the contributions that the wage-earner would have to make to such bodies in order to have his wife and children covered for medical benefit. That seems to be an admirable and practicable method of overcoming the difficulty. The Treasurer gave an undertaking, on behalf of the Government, that a subsidy of some kind would be made to the friendly societies to enable them to reduce their charges to the wageearner, so that the two contributions he will be required to make will not total a greater amount than he can afford.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). It is ridiculous for him to suggest, at this stage, that there is anything inconsistent in the arguments used by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), whose first objection to this bill was that it failed to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of compulsorily insured persons. It was pointed out that this measure would undermine the stability of friendly societies, without bridging the gap which it would create. It was said that the real reason why workers join these societies is, generally, to provide medical treatment, not for themselves, but for their wives and children. The records of the societies show that most members join on the eve of their marriage, or shortly afterwards. The honorable member for Gippsland selected a statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the employer’s share of the contribution should be sufficient only to meet the risks in respect of his own employee, and not the family of the employee; but the Leader of the Opposition knew that, as the contributions were to be made by three parties, and would not wholly come out of the Consolidated Revenue, the scheme could not fairly be described as a national one. It does not cover everybody in the commu nity, and all are not required to contribute towards the cost of the scheme. Probably 75 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the people whom I represent would be forced to become contributors under this scheme, and the great mass of them, I am sure, are already members of friendly societies. The average worker has some security for himself under the state laws relating to workers’ compensation, and his real reason for joining a friendly society is, as I have already suggested, his desire to protect his wife and children. I protest against this measure, because it excludes the wives and children of insured persons from medical benefit. A hotch-potch scheme such as this should not be described, as a national one. 1 protest, on behalf of my electors, against their being compelled to contribute ls. 6d. a week under this scheme, although it will still be necessary for them to retain their membership of a friendly society in order to provide medical benefits for their wives and children. At least 80 per cent, of the workers whom I represent would not be provided for under this bill as well as they now are by the friendly societies, and, therefore, I object to tb« measure being bludgeoned through this Parliament.
– I stated in my second-reading speech that, in my opinion, the person responsible for the drafting of this bill either came from the ranks of the wealthy class, or was not a family man. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that a citizen’s first responsibility! is to his wife and children. The average worker joins a friendly society, not to protect himself so much as to provide medical benefits for his wife and children. The utmost consideration should always be shown for the mothers of families, because the nation owes them a great debt. During an epidemic of a disease such as whooping cough, the children suffer more than the adults. The fact of there being thousands of children in our hospitals suffering from infantile paralysis should have been sufficient to convince the Government that children should be included in this scheme. Honorable members opposite are neither logical nor consistent in their treatment of women and children. I regard it as my first duty to preserve the health of my wife and children, and every decent man holds similar views. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, many of whom have private incomes in addition to their parliamentary allowance, to jibe at honorable members on “this side who advocate the claims of the women and children. There are some who claim that the farmers are the backbone of the nation, but I maintain that the mothers, who bring into the world our future citizens, are the nation’s greatest assets. Any man who has in him a spark of manhood will protect the mothers of the nation; yet honorable members opposite laugh when their claims are advocated. A man who is not prepared to fight for the women of the nation is not worthy of his mother or his wife. Although, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) has said, the mothers are the reservoir from which the nation draws its manhood, this bill makes no provision for them. It is true that the Treasurer has promised to introduce other legislation later to deal with them, but, unfortunately, his promises cannot be accepted. I do not accept the statement that, following a meeting of caucus, the Government is prepared to rectify its neglect to the women and children of the workers. If this is to be in reality a national health and insurance scheme, it must include the whole of the people. Nothing is of greater importance to a nation than a high average standard of health, and, therefore, the care of the children should be our first concern. Even from an economic point of view, that is necessary, for, otherwise, a strong virile nation, cannot be. developed. Growing children require constant care. “We all know the serious effects of illness and neglect. Honorable members opposite talk glibly in praise of the women in outback districts, but this bill will not do anything to make their lot happier. There is no inconsistency on ‘ this side of the House, but honorable members opposite who have criticized this measure have allowed the steam-roller to be put over them to-day.
– Recalcitrant . members on the other side have been forced to accept this bill. Unless it con- tains adequate provisions to conserve the health of the women and children it cannot be regarded as providing for a national scheme of health and pensions insurance. I regret that honorable members opposite have been so scared by the steam-roller that they have accepted the Government’s proposals.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George. Lawson) which aims at providing medical benefits, not only for the insured person himself, but also for his wife and children. A somewhat similar proposal was put forward by the Opposition during the second-reading stage. The Opposition regards the health of the women and children of the community as of such importance to the nation that it is not prepared to vote upon this clause without making a determined effort to secure medical benefits for them. It is the duty of the nation to protect and preserve the health of its growing citizens. As I pointed out in my secondreading speech, there is a good deal of talk about the value of physical training of youth, but no system of physical training can be successful if the health of the children has been neglected in their early years. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that industry should not be called upon to provide for the women and children of the community.
– I merely repeated the argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
– Unless industry provides for the wives and children of the workers, for what purpose does it exist? Although .the mother of the family works in the home, she serves industry there just as effectively as if she were employed in the workshop. Therefore, any bill which purports to deal with the health of the nation, must provide for the family of the worker as well as for the worker himself. Under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, half of the income of the husband is considered to be the income of the wife; a woman is not entitled to a pension if her husband’s earnings are beyond a. certain amount. That is because half of the earnings of the husband arc considered to belong to ber. Any payment which a worker makes under this legislation ought to provide for medical services for bis wife and children, as well as for himself. I hope that the Government will agree to the postponement of this clause, with a view to making better provision for the wives and families of the workers. The Treasurer said that it is impossible to make that provision here. I should like to know his reasons. The production of this country is so great that ample provision should be made for all its citizens. The preservation of the health of the nation should be a charge on Consolidated Revenue. It is useless to talk of maternal and infant welfare unless we are prepared to do something under this bill for the health of the mothers and children in the community. I hope, therefore, that the Treasurer will agree to postpone the clause with a view to providing for medical services to the wives and children of insured persons, as well as to the insured, persons themselves.
.- The motion that the clause be postponed is both simple and reasonable. The motive underlying it is worthy. The precise meaning of the proposal to postpone the clause was laid down in a revised form Inst night by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). The honorable gentleman is opposed to the postponement because he is not prepared to accept the principle of an amendment which was ruled out of order. Last night he inverted that erroneous view of what was involved in a postponement, when the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved an amendment which was ruled out of order. It was found that a considerable measure of support was forthcoming for that amendment, but as it was ruled out of order, the honorable gentleman moved for the postponement of the clause. Only after he had made a careful count of heads did the Treasurer admit that it was desirable to give a more restricted meaning to the word “ postponement “ and he thereupon agreed to postpone the clause. In the light of those facts, which are indisputable, I suggest that this clause might very well be postponed until the fate of the motion by the honorable member for
Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has been determined. When we consider the list of benefits provided in this bill - medical, sickness, disablement, pensions and additional benefits, widows’ and orphans’ pensions, and allowances for dependent children - it is evident that the underlying reason for this bill is that the burden of pensions payments shall be transferred from the taxpayers of this country to the workers, and that pensioners shall pay for their own pensions. In other words, the pressure on wealth is to be removed by the representatives of wealth. Those who profit by the capitalist system are to take drastic measures to unburden themselves of a responsibility which they think that they have borne too long. That proposition is ratified and proven up to the hilt by an examination of this clause, because, when we turn away from the pensions aspect, which is easily understood, and examine other aspects, such as sickness benefit, for instance, with which we are particularly concerned, we find that the Government is not interested in the maintenance and integrity of family life at all. The worker will receive in benefit only part of the money which he has himself compulsorily contributed. When we turn to the schedule and examine the insignificant amount of the orphan’s pension, and the precarious conditions under which that benefit can be enjoyed, we realize that the majority of orphans will be cheated of the pension, by reason of the fact that under the vicious social system that prevails, their parents have been thrown out of work and have been unable to maintain the weekly payments which condition all benefits under the bill.
An amazing development has occurred in regard to the medical benefits. An announcement was made to-day, in answer to a carefully but not very artistically arranged question, that a royal commission was about to inquire into payments to the medical practitioners for services rendered. The remuneration of the medical practitioner is entirely in the air, and as the rewards of the medical practitioner remain uncertain and cannot be determined for another six or twelve months it follows that the nature and extent of medical benefits must also, in the meantime, remain in the air. Just as the committee was asked last night to discuss details of contributions before it had determined that contributions should be levied, so the committee to-night is asked to discuss the incidence of medical benefits when the major question of medical benefits has been remitted to a royal commission which may not furnish its report for another twelve months, if ever.
I think Mr. Collins, that you must be impressed by the utter futility of proceding with the consideration of this bill under conditions which oppress honorable members. In an hour or two the guillotine will fall and discussion will be cut off. Amendments proposed to be moved from this side of the committee will be incontinently rejected, without even being put to a division. Our honorable friends opposite will thus be saved from the embarrassment which otherwise would have oppressed them, of voting against proposals coming from this side of which, according to their speeches on the secondreading, they, nevertheless, heartily approve. In the circumstances I am very glad to note the increasing volume of evidence that the bill becomes more unpopular every day. The better it is understood, the more certain it becomes that ultimately it must be frustrated. I said last night that the bill was doomed. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is right when he says that knowing that the bill is doomed, and knowing that it has to save its face in difficult circumstances, the Government is determined by force of numbers and by extreme and unjust exercise of the Standing Orders, to force this bill through the chamber and to force it through Parliament before opportunity can be given for it to be considered in the Senate by the recently-elected representatives of the people.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. George Lawson’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Mr.Curtin. - I unreservedly accept the right honorable gentleman’s assurance.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to explain how the provisions of this clause are likely to affect itinerant workmen, such as shearers. I take it that such a worker will be on the panel of the doctor in the district in which he lives, but as his work takes him away from his home for six or nine months in the year it seems to me that it will not be of great service to him to be on the panel of the doctor where his permanent home is. What will be the position of a man living in Victoria who goes to New South Wales to work and becomes ill while he is there? Has any provision been made to enable a worker in such circumstances to receive medical benefit?
– Clause 52 provides that the commission may make arrangements in the prescribed manner for medical services to be rendered in accordance with the act and regulations. Under that clause arrangements will be made to protect itinerant workers of the class mentioned by the honorable member.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 47 -
Medical benefit consists of such proper and necessary medical services as are prescribed and the provision of proper and sufficient drugs and medicines mid of the prescribed medical and surgical appliances and the supply of such medical certificates as are required for the purposes of this act, but does not include medical services involving the exorcise of such special skill or experience as general medical practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess or treatment or attendance in respect of a confinement or such other medical services as are prescribed.
.- I had intended to move that all the words after the word “ act “ be omitted from the clause, but I understand that it would not be in order for me to do so. I therefore move -
That the clause be postponed.
I do this as an instruction. to the Government -
To amend thu clause to make provision for specialist treatment and also for medical services in maternity cases.
We have been told that this bill is modelled on the British act, but it is notable that that act docs not exclude contributors from specialist treatment. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in his second-reading speech, painted a vivid picture of the medical service that would be provided if this bill became law. He said -
It is the purpose of the Government steadily to develop the medical resources of thu country until it can bc said that not a life will be lost or avoidable suffering incurred for the lack of proper medical treatment.
The fact is, of course, that no such service is likely to be provided. The provisions of the bill fall far below the standard that might have been expected from the remarks of the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman went on to say -
It is no. longer a question of “the pouring of medicines of which we know little into bodies of which we know less”.
It has become increasingly evident, as the discussion of the measure has proceeded, that subscribers will be in grave danger of being placed on medical panels which will be far too large to enable practitioners to give even reasonable service. Neglect is likely to be the experience of many subscribers, not only in respect of general medical treatment, but also, and particularly, in respect of specialist treatment in connexion with industrial diseases and other disorders which may be held to bc outside the range of general practitioners. We have been told frequently during the last week or two that the British act has worked satisfactorily, but information available to us from other than Government sources is to the contrary effect. The Secretary of the Trade Union Congress of Great Britain, who has had a long experience of the operation of the British act, commented on the work of the general practitioner service in Great Britain as follows -
Sir Walter (Kinnear) recommends for Australia the same kind of medical benefit as we have here, namely, a general practitioner service as set out in paragraph 34 of his report. Our criticism of that service is that it is not by any means complete. The practitioner has no link with consultants or specialists of any kind and the range of services that he can give is strictly limited. This again is, in our opinion, a very serious drawback 5n the medical benefit, and although a royal commission as far back as 1925 recommended the provision of a consultant and specialist service, it has not yet been done.
Those observations indicate considerable dissatisfaction with the British law, yet the Government is offering us an inferior service. Moreover, as far back as 1925, a royal commission in Great Britain emphatically recommended that provision should be made for consultant and specialist services in addition to the existing, general practitioner service. The provisions of this bill therefore are at least thirteen years behind the most advanced thought in Great Britain on this subject. The rosy complexion which the Treasurer has sought to paint on the face of the British scheme will not bear examination.
Not only has that scheme been adversely criticized by the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress of Great Britain, but even medical practitioners working under it have condemned it as unsatisfactory. I direct attention to the following observations of Dr. Harrie Roberts which appeared in the New Statesman and Nation of June, 1935: -
But thu medical treatment officially provided for the wage earners of this country takes little account of the enormous development in practical therapeutics during the last 25 years. Commonly, the treatment means little more than that every insured person can have a bottle of medicine when he wants it and takes the trouble to ask for it. When the insurance act was introduced, the bottle of medicine was just about to settle down on its death-bed. The act rejuvenated it and to-day there can hardly bc a working class home in thu land without a- partly consumed or 10 oz. bottle of bitter or sweet, brown or pinkish, mixture composed of ingredient’s in the efficacy of most of which, not one doctor in 50 has thu slightest faith.
Dr. Roberts had an extensive practice as a panel doctor in Great Britain for many years, and he described the British general practitioner service as a “ bottleof.medicineservice “. He also wrote in the most disparaging way of the efficacy of the medicines prescribed. Yet the Treasurer, in spite of his statement that “it is no longer a question of ‘ the pouring of medicine, of which we know little, into bodies of which we know less’”, is advocating that we should adopt something even less satisfactory than the British service. Dr. Roberts also remarked -
No provision is made for a serious surgical treatment beyond such as is considered within the competence and skill of the average general practitioner - and thu medical organization has’ striven hard to keep that official standard as low as possible. The panel medi- i-al system should either bo scrapped or radically modified.
If is regrettable that in these circumstances the Government should even sug-gest a service less comprehensive than that provided in Great Britain as long ago as 1925 when the royal commission recommended extended benefits. Here we have a medical practitioner, with an extensive practice under the British act, advocating that the panel medical system should be either scrapped or radically modified. He further advocates that it - should he so organically linked with specialist institutions as to place within the reach of all who need them, in proportion to their need, all the medical knowledge and surgical skill available and should be free from the mass of useless rules.
Obviously, we want to avoid useless rules. I am moving for the postponement of the clause because I believe that the contributors to this scheme should have available to them not only the ordinary general practitioner service, but also, in case of necessity - which is ever growing because of the development of industrial diseases - such specialist care as is required. It may be argued by those who are opposed to the inclusion of this benefit that the money to finance it cannot be found. I am positive that the Treasurer has very greatly under-estimated the number of persons to be brought under this scheme. I believe also that he has considerably exaggerated the expenditure it involves. I am inclined to the view expressed by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) who, in an exhaustive examination of probable income and expenditure, showed’ that an enormous surplus will be available after all needs have been met. The provision of specialist treatment would not involve such a heavy financial obligation that the funds available would not be sufficient to meet the requirements.
My amendment also covers the provision of medical services in maternity cases. Under the bill as drafted, an expectant mother was to be precluded from obtaining either medical or sickness benefit for two weeks prior and one month subsequent to the birth of her child. The present intention of the Government is to delete that clause and to make available a sickness “ benefit to an expectant mother. I suggest this further amendment, of this clause to enable medical services to be provided. Anticipating the argument that this service is already provided for expectant mothers under the provisions of the Maternity Allowance Act, I point out that in 1936, the maternity allowance was granted in respect of only 79,254 cases out of a total of 116,000 births in Australia, the expenditure being £370,000. The allowance is given only in the most necessitous cases, and the amount of maternity allowance in individual cases falls far short of the financial requirements associated with such situations. In any event, as only those mothers who, being workers in industry and therefore contributors to this scheme, will be affected, I venture to affirm that not more than £30,000 or £40,000 per annum would be needed to provide medical attention to contributors in maternity cases. This attention is very necessary, “ because the rate of maternal mortality in Australia in 1930 was 5.30 a thousand. In only seven countries was the rate higher ; they were, Belgium, Northern Ireland, Greece, South Africa, Scotland and Egypt. From a national viewpoint, if only a proportion of the lives of mothers who die in childbirth were preserved, the expenditure of £30,000 per annum would be well justified. These mothers who have to work in order to maintain a family, and thereby become subscribers to this scheme, are the poorest section o” the female workers of Australia, because only absolute economic necessity drives them into employment, and in the vast majority of cases maternal mortality is caused by lack of proper attention at childbirth.
– An examination of clause 47 seems to me to indicate that it excludes many things the inclusion of which is eminently desirable. Therefore, the speech of my colleague, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), 1 believe, merits the consideration of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I understood that when this project was embarked upon, the idea was to endeavour to evolve a scheme which would be of substantial benefit. Apparently, however, the Government lias adopted a very rigid view as to what should be the benefits. It may consider that in the benefits proposed the maximum value, actuarially considered, is being given for the contributions that are to be made. A comparison with other schemes, however, shows how feeble are its efforts. I suggest that when it is considering the introduction of further measures, it ought to study the proposals of the neighbouring dominion of New Zealand. For example, clause 47 specifically excludes medical services involving the exercise of such special skill or experience as general medical practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess, or treatment or attendance in respect of a confinement or such other medical services as are prescribed. The New Zealand proposals include hospital treatment, sanatorium treatment, maternity treatment, anaesthetic treatment, laboratory and radiology - specialist and consultant - massage and physiotherapy. Prospective benefits are home nursing and domestic assistance. This illustrates the difference between the outlook of a democratic Labour government and’ that of a government which has no real consideration for the interests of the mass of the people. I regret that it is necessary to say that, I realize the unpleasantness of having continually to condemn the Government when endeavouring to make the best of the measure and do some constructive -work. However, we are not being allowed sufficient time to make proper comparisons which would show how very inadequate are these efforts to provide benefits for the people. Under die New Zealand scheme, a man on a basic wage of £4 16s. would contribute about 4s. 9d. a week, but in return he would receive every benefit. In Australia, a married man with a family wil have to pay approximately 4s. 3d. a week. In the first place, he will pay ls. 6d. a week on his own behalf. Then, if he makes provision for his wife and family through a. lodge, he will be involved in an average charge of ls. 3d. a week. If, in addition, he wishes to provide a pension for his wife, he will have to pay ls. a week for a pension of 15s., and ls. 6d. a week for a pension of £1. I deeply regret that the instructions given by the Government to its experts were of such a nature that the scheme brought down is at least thirteen years behind the limes when compared with what has been done in Great Britain. Surely we had a right to expect something up-to-date and all-embracing! Modern scientific treatment is available to those who can afford it, yet under this scheme, the greatest proportion of the cost of which will be borne by the workers, no provision is made for those matters which are absolutely essential to its success. There are many other references that I should like to make, and I strongly resent the limitation of the debate because it has prevented my constituency of 65,000 electors from having its views adequately represented on a number of clauses. The Government is afraid of criticism of this measure, which does not do justice to the people, notwithstanding the expenditure involved in it.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and support his proposal for the postponement of the clause. I covered a good deal of the ground in my second-reading speech, and wish now merely to emphasize the fact that the clause very definitely excludes certain necessary benefits. I have spoken to the Treasurer regarding the voluntary insurance scheme that is in operation in the industry in which I worked prior to entering this Parliament. That scheme includes the services of specialists. It is a pity that the experts who were brought from the Old Country were not conversant with its provisions, particularly as occupational diseases play such havoc in the mining industry. There is, for instance, an occupational disease known as nystagmus.
– That is covered by workmen’s compensation.
– In many instances it is not. Many miners have given up work underground in order to recover from that affliction. They already receive the benefit of treatment by an eye specialist and free glasses, by reason of their contributions to a voluntary scheme. Under this bill specialist treatment of that kind will not be provided as a medical benefit. How can the Government expect harmony in an industry such as coal-mining, when it introduces a measure such as this which does not provides an opportunity for workers to secure specialist treatment beyond what could be reasonably expected of their own general practitioner? This clause further denies an expectant mother the benefit of specialist treatment during the critical period of her confinement. I cannot understand why the Government’s expert advisers should have denied this benefit to women, especially in a country which boasts of the liberality of its social services. This is merely going back to the nigger stage of our development. It is high time that wesought the advice of our own experts rather than that of experts from overseas who know little or nothing about the condition of affairs in this country. These overseas experts during the consideration of this bill, have sat in this chamber grinning like Cheshire cats when honorable members on this side have endeavoured to improve the provisions of the bill. I tell them that they know nothing. 1 understand that they are to go tothe United States of America shortly. If they want to gain first-hand knowledge of what can be done to provide insurance for workers, they should first visit my constituency and examine the voluntary schemes in operation in the coal-mining areas.
– They are entitled to a little respect like any other officers advising the Government.
– I would not lay myself open to the charge of making what might be termed a cowardly attack on the Government’s experts, because they have not the right to reply, if it were not for the fact that they have sat at the back of this chamber and giggled at many suggestions of honorable members on this side of the House.
– I shall reply to the honorable member on their behalf.
– The levity with which they have treated our suggestions makes me hot under the collar. If this Government needs anybody to advise it, surely we have in Australia experts more cap1 able of giving sound advice.
– Order! I ask the honororable member to confine himself to the clause.
– It is monstrous to think that those persons engaged in the coal-mining industry will be precluded from receiving benefits under the national insurance scheme to which they are already entitled under their own voluntary schemes. The benefits contemplated by the bill do not nearly approach those to which the members of the organization to which I belonged are already entitled under voluntary schemes which have been in operation since before I was born. I have been invited by the mines management committee at Newcastle to explain this half-baked measure. I have replied that, because of the number of amendments that have been made or will be made to the bill, nobody could explain it. So altered is the bill from its original form, that Casey, Kinnear and company do not now know the child they conceived.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I cannot understand why treatment other than that which could be given foy an ordinary medical practitioner is not to be provided for an expectant mother during her confine- - ment, especially in view of the fact that in the past this Government has made provision for mothers by granting a. maternity allowance of £5.
– The maternity allowance will continue to be paid.
– In my opinion a woman should be entitled to special attention for a month before, and two months after, her confinement. The mothers of Australia are rendering to the nation the greatest .possible service within their power. I enter my emphatic protest against the failure of the Government to provide in this bill the fullest benefits for mothers, particularly during their confinement. All this clause sets out to do is to repair the injuries sustained by workers in industry. In contrast to the restricted benefits proposed under this bill, let me recite the benefits to which contributors to the voluntary scheme in my electorate are entitled: Provision is made for hospital treatment for a contributor and his family while he or they are in hospital. Further, in the event of the contributor’s death, provision is made for the payment of funeral benefits of £50 from the general organization and £50 from the local miners’ lodge. In the event of the death of the wife of a contributor a funeral benefit of £30 is paid, and ‘benefits are provided in respect of the death of children ranging down to £2 for a* child dying in its first year. In addition, provision is made for treatment by an eye specialist and free glasses for the contributor, his wife and family. This bill has been referred to as a great national insurance scheme; it is the rottenest piece of legislation that has ever been placed before the people of this country. It should be sent back to those responsible for it. So far as I am personally concerned, I would have nothing to do with it ; I would not try to amend it because it is not worth amending. The party to which I belong has endeavoured to amend it, in order to make it more acceptable to the people, but because of rotten party political considerations, the Government will not accept any suggestions that emanate from this side of the chamber. “With the assistance of its adherents, it hopes to gag the measure through this chamber, but I doubt if it will succeed. I trust that even at this eleventh hour the Government will agree to the postponement of this clause.
– I intended to move au amendment on a succeeding clause, but seeing the amount of time the Opposition has determined to take upon this clause, I fear that the people of the Northern Territory will have no opportunity to have their views expressed by their representative in this chamber if I do not speak at this juncture. [Quorum, formed.]
The amendment I have in mind could be embodied in clause 47. Of all the areas with which Sir Walter Kinnear is highly competent to deal, the coal-fields areas must be the most understood by him. Therefore, I deplore the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I . feel sure that he did not realize the meaning of the words he used when he made such uncomplimentary references to Sir Walter Kinnear, who, in my opinion, should be eminently competent to give valuable information to the Government, certainly in respect of the coal-mining districts. I rise to speak of the isolated areas in respect of which I would not expect him to have exact knowledge because they possess problems of a peculiar and remote kind. I propose to deal with those areas where the services of specialists are not available and where specialists would have to undertake a journey of about 2,000 miles to visit their patients. I point out, however, that the Northern Territory has a great number of people who are competent to give ordinary medical services in remote areas pending the arrival of a qualified medical practitioner. I speak particularly in regard to the special circumstances of the Northern territory and other inland areas contiguous to the Territory. As honorable members know, we have few doctors, but scattered through our pioneering community we have a number of splendid women who came to us as nurses of the Australian Inland Mission, and who have since married and become citizens of the Northern Territory. We have others, including members and wives of members of the police force, who can carry out all the ordinary simple medical duties until ii qualified doctor arrives to take charge of the patient. Most of these people are the first resource of the sick and injured in the Northern Territory, and I think I can say that they all act without any thought of gain, and that many of them would consider it a bitter insult if it were thought that they sought to gain by their freely given services. At the same time, however, in view of the principles which are being established under this bill, their services, in my opnion, should bc recognized. Such recognition would at least give them a status; it would make known that they at least exist, and the public would be informed as to where their services are available. Some of them may be prepared to take payment, and I can assure honorable members that they would thoroughly deserve it. Others may feel that their circumstances are such that they do not need payment. The Government should concede to them the right to collect fees if they so desire. However, I do not stress that point. Some of them might like to hand the money to that magnificent organization, the Australian Inland Mission, which, conceived and managed by the Presbyterian Church, knows neither colour, creed, nor class when medical* services arc demanded of it. Others might like to establish local medical services with their earnings, but in any case the offer should be made as a tribute to the self-sacrificing services of this gallant outback band of women and mon, who, unlike many city doctors, cannot keep rich homes in the suburbs and still have a surplus left to buy yachts. These people of the outback are willing to give their time and labour to save valuable lives, to steer new popu lation into Australia, and to prevent suffering in the Never-Never. I would emphasize that the whole of the people of the outback are interested in this subject of medical services. Some of them may be temporarily annoyed with me for raising the question at all, but I am not going to allow the bill to pass without doing what I consider to be ordinary common justice to them. There is nothing new in principle in the alteration I suggest. In ‘the New Guinea mandate there is provision for medical assistance by “lik lik doctors “, which is pidgin English for “ little doctors “, many of whom arc far less qualified than the retired nurses of the Australian Inland Mission, policemen’s wives, and others who give their services in the Northern Territory. I am merely asking the House to extend to the people of the Northern Territory what is already a recognized type of service provided for natives and others in New Guinea. The least tribute that Parliament can pay to the outback medical workers is to recognize them in the bill. 1. can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that in my country these people are far more honoured than any city doctor who, in his own sphere, reaps a. rich harvest from illness and suffering, and maintains a palatial home in the suburbs. So that honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss the later clauses of the bill, I merely ask that those persons who are qualified in the outback to render assistance before a medical practitioner arrives should be given a status. The bill should recognize them and allow payment for their services, and their stations should be listed so that the people of the territory may know where medical services are obtainable.
– A means is provided for doing what the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has suggested, and I hope we shall have an opportunity to give effect to it. If the honorable member will look at paragraph l> of clause 114 he will see that the Government seeks to give authority to the commission to assist in the provision of health insurance benefits in remote areas. Under that provision, of course, bush nursing services could be utilized, as well as the aerial medical services in inland areas. In those two directions the Government will seek to improve medical facilities in the outback.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) quoted from the works of a gentleman who is very well known as a writer on medical subjects - Dr. Harrie Roberts. I have read much of what he has written on popular medical subjects. He is popular in Great Britain as a writer on such subjects, and he writes in journals that come to Australia.
– And he is u reliable authority.
– I agree that that is so. Giving evidence before the royal commission, Dr. Harrie Roberts said -
In my experience, there can be no question an to the enormous advantage to insured persons resulting from the medical provisions of the Insurance Act.
That is a very valuable statement. Then, again, the honorable member for Dalley quoted from a report setting out the views of the secretary of the Trade Unions Congress on the scheme operating in Great Britain. I think th.-j honorable member will agree with me that the National Association of Trade Union Approved Societies would probably be more in touch with the medical side of the insurance problem, as it affects trade unions in Great Britain, than the congress he has cited. The report of the royal commission gives this as the view of the National Association of Trade Union Approved Societies -
The medical profession as a whole has rendered competent and conscientious service to insured persons.
I could continue to quote at very great length in the same strain. The honorable member made a very well-reasoned appeal to the committee for the broadening of the general practitioner service to something that would take in all the specialized services. He desired that an insured member of the community should have at his disposal specialists in dentistry, specialists in the care of the ears and eyes, and specialists in many other branches of medicine. I think that no person with red blood in his veins can demur to that ideal. It is a high and reasonable ideal, and I hope that one of these days we shall be able to give effect to it- Just now, however, we are only starting in this business of national insurance, and we are giving a general practitioner service in the first place. Out of the surpluses of the approved societies in the future we aim to extend the benefits set out in the bill, but I hope that even that will not be the end. As we gain experience, we should be able to improve generally, and particularly the medical services. At this moment, however, with all the goodwill in the world, and even if we had had the necessary experience, it would not be possible to launch such a scheme throughout Australia, because we have not the necessary number of specialists spread throughout the continent. Such a service is a matter for the future, but I hope that we shall be able to achieve it before very long.
In reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), I would inform him that the Government takes full responsibility for the bill, and for everything in it. If he wants to place the responsibility on a particular individual, I am ready to accept it. I ask him not to direct any unpleasant remarks at the two English officers who are sitting in the officials’ compartment in this chamber, and who are unable, because of the forms of the House, to reply to him. His action is an unsporting thing to do. Let the critics of the bill direct their shafts against me or against the .Government, but not against men whose mouths are sealed because they are the advisers of the Government.
– I am willing to repeat what I said outside the House or anywhere else, and I am willing to say it about the Treasurer.
– The honorable member may say it about whom he likes, but I tell him that the two English experts who are advising the Government have done yeoman service, and that the Government is extremely grateful to them for their invaluable work in connexion with the bill.
– “Why don’t they inquire from the unions in this country?
– It is not a question of inquiring from anybody. The Government takes full responsibility for the measure. The officers who advise the the Government do so to the best of their ability, and the Government accepts, amends, or rejects their advice. Whether the decision is right or wrong, the Government is responsible.
.- I regret that in respect of the benefits to be provided under this bill the Government is lagging behind other countries. It is now over’ thirteen years since a royal commission, inquired into proposals for national insurance in Australia. I was a member of that commission, but there were only two other Labour members besides myself. The chairman was Senator Millen, of Tasmania, and there were several other members holding political convictions different from ours. It could not be expected, therefore, that the commission would make any very radical recommendations, but its suggestions, were, in many respects, much ahead of the proposals in the present scheme. For instance, it was recommended that a maternity benefit of 20s. a week should be payable for two weeks before the birth of a child, and for four weeks afterwards. There is no provision at all in this scheme for pre-natal or post-natal benefits.
– A woman may receive benefit if she is laid up or ailing prior to the birth of her child.
– Yes, but the scheme does not provide for pre-natal and post-natal benefit as such. Senator Millen, the chairman of the royal commission, was a” very keen advocate of maternal welfare, a matter which is now receiving close attention throughout the world. Efforts are being made in Australia at the present time to reduce maternal mortality to the minimum. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the other members of the royal commission, signed the recommendations in common with the rest of us. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) in his speech this evening, referred to the vastly superior national insurance proposals that had been put forward in New Zealand.I do not propose to go over the same ground, and touch upon the matter merely in order to show that the Government is definitely lagging behind in regard to these matters, instead of bringing forward a scheme which is abreast of the times. The decline of the birth-rate in Australia is such that within 29 years our population will be stationary. Every one must admit that that is a serious condition of affairs for a’ country which is capable of carrying a population of 45,000,000. No matter how our people may work and strive to make this a great country, everything we have accomplished must inevitably be lost if this population decline is not stopped. We have tried to build up our population by immigration, and not only have we failed to do so, but we have been unable to hold even those Britishers who did come here from overseas. It is admitted that immigration is necessary, particularly from northern Europe and from Great Britain itself, yet the fact remains that, during the last few years, 7,000 more people returned to Great Britain from Australia than came here from Great Britain. Despite the expenditure of large sums of money to induce immigrants to come here, we have been unable to keep them because social conditions are not attractive. One reason is the lack of a national insurance scheme of the kind to which English people are accustomed. No doubt the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will say that the scheme now before us is equal to that of Great Britain, but apart from the welfare of our own people which is, of course, our first consideration, we should have something better if we are to attract and keep immigrants. This is a country worth staying in, and we should endeavour to make conditions so attractive that people will come here and remain.
A step in this direction would be the making of a more substantial Commonwealth grant for the maintenance of aerial medical services in the outback areas. At the present time, a small Commonwealth grant is made towards the cost of this work, and with its help medical services are maintained at several centres from which they cover practically the whole of the north-western part of Western Australia. From Wyndham twice a day wireless medical sessions are conducted so that people in the outback, and particularly women in need of advice, may keep in constant touch with the doctor in Wyndham by means of pedal wireless sets. If a larger grant were available this work could be extended.
.- Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) state when insured persons under this scheme will become entitled to medical benefit?
– Assuming that the bill comes into operation on the 1st January of next year, insured persons will become entitled to,medical benefit on the 1st April. After that preliminary delay, however, insured persons will be entitled to medical benefit after the first weekly payment of ls. 6d.
.- Can the Treasurer say what will be done to provide medical services for people living in the remote parts of Australia, such as those north-western towns of Queensland which are 150 miles and more away from the nearest doctor? The Sta te government has realized the difficulties confronting these people, and proposes to establish at Cloncurry a service similar to that provided by the Australian Inland Mission. A base hospital has been established at that centre, and two flying doctors will operate from there, covering an area of 300 miles in all directions. I should like to know, however, what provision is to be made for providing medical service under this scheme until the State scheme is in operation, and in areas which the State scheme will not touch.
– The Government proposes to give flexible powers to the commission to deal with outback areas. If it is impossible, in the early stages, to provide medical assistance, the contributions will be diminished, or there will be a refund of an appropriate amount. The Government hopes that the number of areas in which adequate medical treatment is not now available will be relatively few, and that the number will eventually decrease. The Government will, through the commission, endeavour to get medical men to settle in those areas where at present the service is inadequate, and will also make some financial provision where the services are now lacking. One of the indirect benefits of the measure will be a- distinct and progressive improvement of the medical and pharmaceutical services at present available in the more remote parts of Australia. It is not practicable to say what will be done in any particular area, but the commission will have definite directions to fill the gaps such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Kennedy. No doubt the attention of the commission will be directed to that part of the continent referred to by the honorable member.
– A portion of this clause which relates to medical benefits generally, reads -
Hut floes not include medical services involving the exercise of such special skill or experience as general medical practitioners cannot reasonably bc expected to possess, or treatment or attendance in respect of a confinement or such other medical services as arc prescribed.
I can understand why such services as are mentioned are excluded under this scheme. Provision has already been made for the payment of a maternity allowance in certain cases, and I believe that the Government considers that that allowance adequately covers all those cases that should be met out of governmental subvention. The Treasurer informed the committee this afternoon that the Government intends to refer the treatment of dependent women and children to the royal commission to be appointed; and I suggest that the terms of reference to the royal commission should also include the amount of subvention that will be necessary to embrace in the proposed cover for wives and dependants of insured men the ante-natal and post-natal care of mothers. In support of my contention, I direct the attention of the committee to the statements made by the ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) from time to time, and also to those made by experts who at the requests of various governments have conducted inquiries in Australia in an endeavour to ascertain the cause of the high rate of maternal mortality in this country. I realize the difficulties associated with the problem, but I consider this an opportune time to bring the matter under the notice of the Government. Speaking at the .National Health and Medical Research Council held at. Hobart from the 1st to the 3rd February of last year, the ex-Minister for Health said -
Many great problems confront the Commonwealth, but the declining birth rate overshadows them all. It is impossible to exaggerate its gravity. Australia is bleeding to death. The indifference of ‘ the general public to all that the decline in the birth rate involves fills me, as I am sure it does you, with dismay. I would that I could write thu solemn warning that the latest vital statistics convey in letters of fire on the walls of the heavens so that all should see, and seeing, take heed while there is time to avert national disaster.
Sir Walter Kinnear, in his report, referred to a similar state of affairs. He said -
The population of Australia is not now increasing at an appreciable rate, and a striking change in the age distribution is taking place consequent upon the lower birth rate and the increasing expectation of life. In this respect Australia is sharing in the experience of most other countries.
Sir Walter Kinnear, who is fully informed of the position in Great Britain, realizes that in Australia we are facing a serious problem. I regret, however, that that gentleman has not encouraged an increase of population in this country hy making the position of women under this bill more favorable. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when Prime Minister, arranged for Dame Janet Campbell, senior medical officer for maternity and child welfare in the Ministry of Health in London, to report upon the conditions obtaining in Australia. After passing some very severe strictures upon the method adopted in Australia to handle the maternity problem, she said -
But this is not the end of the story: for every woman who dies as the result of child bearing, many others are injured more or less seriously, more or less permanently. It is impossible to measure accurately this morbidity and the consequent amount of illness and suffering which women are called upon to endure. We can only guess at it from the records of gynaecological hospitals, though we know enough to be sure that in many ways this physical disability and the resulting loss of health and strength is an even more serious matter than the actual mortality.
No provision is made in the British national insurance scheme in respect of the ante-natal and post-natal treatment of mothers, but a definite maternal rate or subvention is given to mothers because of the insurance of the breadwinner, and, where the wife is also insured, an additional payment is made; but that is insufficient. Recently, a midwifery act was passed in the British parliament under which regional clinics have been formed throughout the country in an endeavour to overtake the lag that has developed in preserving the health of the mothers and children. I suggest to the Treasurer that instead of ultimately having to introduce some new scheme to assist in preserving the health of mothers and children by governmental subvention, perhaps he may see his way clear to include in the reference to the royal commission authority to determine to what extent the ante-natal and post-natal treatment of mothers can be covered by the bill which he proposes to introduce to cover dependent wives ‘ of insured persons. We are told by all the experts who have investigated this problem that, if mothers were given the proper treatment prior to and subsequent to childbirth, the mortality and morbidity associated with this natural function would decrease to a. remarkable extent. I trust that the Treasurer will dissociate the present maternal allowance from any future proposals which may be made, and that the Government will introduce some comprehensive scheme somewhat similar to that for which provision is made in the British midwifery act. This would obviate the passage at some future date of a measure similar to that enacted in England. I ask the Treasurer to consider the advisability of including this matter in the references to the proposed royal commission.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Rosevears amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I point out to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that under this measure, as it will be altered by Government amendments, it will be possible for insured women who are so certified, to claim sickness benefit, both before and after child-birth. I also inform the honorable gentleman that the royal commission to be appointed will consist, not of medical men, but of laymen, whose duty will be to determine the proper contributions to be made in respect of certain specified services.
– Who is the judge?
– He has not yet been selected. The points raised by the honorable member for Wentworth will be borne in mind.
Clause agreed to. 01 a uses 4S and 49 postponed.
Clause 50 -
.- I understand that sub-clause 1 has caused general practitioners some concern because, under it, they will be expected to give treatment for the cure of venereal diseases, illness resulting from drunkenness, and illnesses following illegal operations or attempted illegal operations upon women. I shall be glad if the Treasurer will tell the committee if services of this nature will be included in the prescribed medical benefits.
– This is a declaratory clause which, I think, is on the right lines, lt is just as necessary to cure diseases and disabilities of the kind mentioned by the honorable member as it is to cure other diseases. Still, this clause is ‘governed by clause 47 which states that what we are seeking to provide is the ordinary general practitioner’s service, and to the extent that these maladies are now Coped with by general practitioners we expect them to be coped with in the future. There must, however, be a dividing line somewhere, and it was proposed to draw such a line even if the Government’s previous agreement with the British Medical Association had come into force. Certain points were to be set aside to be more clearly defined than is the case in the clause as drawn, and that has still to be done before the commission is set up. 1 repeat that to the extent to which a general practitioner ordinarily copes with these maladies, he will be expected to cope with them under this measure, but not to any further degree.
– For his ordinary capitation fee?
– Yes ; but the extent of such services has yet to be made clear.
– Prior to appointment of the commission?
– The commission will require to have something in mind in order to be enabled to decide the fee to be paid.
. - I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). I am inclined to move for the deletion of this clause because honorable members recognize that even under present lodge practice such diseases are excepted. For that reason the Government should agree at once to the deletion of this clause. Cases of this kind can be otherwise provided for, but, I repeat, under present lodge practices sickness benefit or any other benefit is not allowed in respect of them. I yield to no one in my sympathy for the man who gets into difficulty as the result of his own misconduct, and I am always prepared to do what I can to help him. Medical practitioners, I believe, will come to his aid, but a special fee should be charged for the treatment of such cases. Special clinics have been established in metropolitan areas for the express purpose of dealing with them. Surely when the committee knows its mind on the subject, and the Treasurer has stated that the provision in the clause will be improved, the Government will not be so hide-bound as to refuse to delete this clause immediately. The Treasurer admits the desirability of this clause being dealt with by the commission, and I point out that the medical fraternity has no fault to find on that score. The profession, however, has declared that no case of this kind will be treated as part of the ordinary service and that special arrangements should be made for their treatment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 53 agreed to.
Clause 54 (Supply of prescribed drug’s, medicines and appliances).
.- I move -
That the following further proviso be added to sub-clause (3) - “ Provided further that an agreement may be made with a friendly societies dispensary for the supply by it of drugs, medicines and appliances to an insured person. In this section and the following sections ‘ friendly societies dispensary ‘ means a dispensary, medical institute or pharmacy conducted by a friendly society registered under the law of any State or by an association of such friendly societies for the supply of drugs, medicines and appliances “.
I point out that friendly societies’ dispensaries have been established in Australia for the last 50 years. Probably because they have no counterpart in the Old Country, no provision is made in this measure in respect of them. Sir W alter Kinnear said that in all of his investigations of social activities in Australia nothing had impressed him more than the work of these dispensaries, and he expressed the view that they would be a remarkably useful unit in any form of national insurance. I do not wish to stress what honorable members already know concerning the value of the work of these dispensaries. It is a great tribute to their management that they dispense prescriptions at prices equal to the rates allowed for this purpose under the British national insurance scheme. As the cost of drugs in Australia is 33 per cent. higher than in the Old Country, this is a remarkable service. It would be a tremendous blow to friendly societies if the work of their dispensaries were ignored under this measure. As it is, the societies themselves will suffer considerably, but as one who has been associated with their activities since boyhood, I am of opinion that as approved societies they willbe able to retrieve some of their losses under this measure. As a. rule, these dispensaries are situated, in back streets because of the lower price of land, and are readily accessible to the members of friendly societies. If the dispensaries are not embraced in the scheme, the societies which have embarked on this laudable venture will be almost ruined.
– I appreciate the argument advanced by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), but his amendment would make no new provision in the bill, because the Government intends to allow the friendly societies’ dispensaries to function under this measure. There is a slight difficulty in some of the States, particularly in Victoria, because these dispensaries are administered under State laws. I have been in communication with the Premier of Victoria, and I have asked him to agree to a certain amendment of the Friendly Societies’ Act that would remove this disability. As I understand the reply received from him, he is prepared favorably to consider my proposal. I have put the executive council of the friendly societies in Victoria in touch with the Premier on this matter.
– “What will be the position in the other States, where there is no such difficulty?
– In other States, these dispensaries will be on exactly the same basis as ordinary chemists. The only qualification imposed under the bill is that they must have a properly qualified pharmaceutical chemist in charge of them. Of course, they are all under the direction of a qualified chemist, and therefore they would bo as qualified to dispense medicines under this bill as other chemists would be.
– But the chemist need not be in charge of the dispensary.
– The requirement, of course, is that the medicine shall be dispensed by, or under the direct supervision of, a qualified pharmaceutical chemist. A difficulty arises in regard to some of the States over the amendment submitted by the honorable member for- Kalgoorlie. In certain States, particularly New South “Wales, the friendly societies’ dispensaries are incorporated as public companies, and so cannot be described as being conducted by friendly societies. I do not seek to make a debate point of this; I merely mention that my officers have found difficulty in arriving at a definition which would satisfactorily cover what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has in mind. I am advised that the dispensaries in New South Wales -would not be covered by the amendment as drawn.
– Could the difficulty be met by adding to the amendment the words “as approved by the Minister”?
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and honorable members generally, that the friendly societies’ ‘dispensaries, as long as they have qualified pharmaceutical chemists in charge of them, will have the same privileges as other chemists.
– As long as they are qualified, they will all be on the same footing?
– That is so. Any properly qualified chemist or doctor may come under this scheme. The insured person may be treated by any doctor whom he elects, and may obtain medicine from either a chemist or a friendly society’s dispensary.
– The doctors could not recommend particular chemists?
– They could do so, but the insured person would not be compelled to act on such a recommendation. I have been told that it is desirable to give some recognition in this bill to the existence of friendly societies’ dispensaries. I quite agree to that, but I suggest that the most appropriate place would be either in clause 57, in respect of which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has circulated a proposed amendment, or in clause 59, in regard to which I have given notice of an amendment providing for the insertion of “ friendly societies’ dispensaries “.
– ‘Could a doctor in an outback area dispense medicines?
– Only in remote areas where the doctor would normally have to do that work himself.
– I was glad to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) state that an effort will be made to give recognition in the bill to the friendly societies’ dispensaries. I suggest that the dispensaries should be given panels of contributors. They have been able to carry on their good work by reason of the fact that they have a large number of permanent subscribers. They do not conduct open retail shops similar to those of ordinary chemists, as their business is confined to the dispensing of medicines for their sick members. They have been instrumental in keeping down the cost of medicines, and preventing the chemists from exploiting the public. When the new insurance scheme comes info operation they will lose many of their subscribers, and it would be deplorable if they should be no longer able to carry on their useful work. The service rendered by them has been of a high order, and the drugs supplied by them are of the best quality. It is claimed that they operate only in congested industrial aims, but these are the localities in which the poorer classes, who, particularly, require cheap medicines of good quality, reside.
.- As I understand that there are to be flat rates for the dispensing of prescriptions, I should be glad to know whether provision will be made for a sliding scale of charges in order to cover the extra cost of drugs in country districts. Such extra cost would include freight, and, although the freight on drugs of relatively high value hut small bulk might not represent a great amount, it is probable that country chemists, who buy drugs in small quantities, have to pay more for them than is charged to the larger dispensaries in the cities.
– It is proposed that chemists shall charge the equivalent of the wholesale cost of the drugs used, plus a dispensing fee on a basis that has already been satisfactorily adjusted with the pharmaceutical chemists themselves.
– Will the basis be the wholesale cost in the city, or in country districts?
– I am not clear on that point, but I can assure the honorable member that any cases of hardship will be suitably dealt with. I am confident that the point raised by the honorable member did not escape the notice of the pharmaceutical chemists.
– Will that arrangement apply also to the friendly societies dispensaries?
– The cost of the drugs used in prescriptions will vary from a few pence to a few shillings, according to their nature. Added to that cost will be a dispensing fee, calculated on the basis of 40 per cent. above the equivalent dispensing fee in Great Britain in similar circumstances. That arrangement has been accepted by the organization.
– Will any allowance be made for containers and wrappings?
– I cannot give all the details of the agreement that has been arrived at. I can only say that it is satisfactory to the organization, and that the Government will not take undue advantage of the omission should that point have been overlooked.
.- As I understand that my’ amendment would more properly be included in clause 57, I ask leave to withdraw it.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 55 and 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 - (1)For the purposes of this act, there shall be a Medical Benefit Council consisting of -
.- Officers of existing friendly societies and provident societies wish to know whether they would be eligible for appointment to the Medical Benefit Council as representatives of members of approved societies. These societies have on their staffs highly competent officers who, because of their ability and experience, are paid salaries which preclude them from being insured persons. Particularly at the inauguration of the scheme these men will have the experience and ability to make them most valuable as members of the council. In order to remove any possibility of misunderstanding I should be glad to know whether sub-paragraph iv. of paragraph a of sub-clause 1 will enable such persons to represent members of approved societies.
.- I should like to know whether representatives of friendly societies dispensaries will be entitled to become members of the Medical Benefit Council referred to in this clause, and also of the District Medical Benefit Committees to be set up under clause 59.
Amendment (by Mr. Green) agreed to.
That after the word “chemists”, subparagraph ii.. paragraph a of sub-clause 1 the following words be inserted - “ (including pharmaceutical chemists representing friendly societies’ dispensaries)”.
– I can assure the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) that, if nominated by an approved society or a friendly society, an official of such body may act on the Medical Benefit Council.
– I take it that there is nothing in the bill to prevent an officer of an approved society who may not himself be an insured person from becoming a member of the council.
– No, so long as he is nominated by the society.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 58 agreed to.
Clause 39 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 60 agreed to.
Clause 61 -
If a Pharmaceutical Chemists Committee is appointed by pharmaceutical chemists the commission may, if it considers the committee tobe representative of the pharmaceutical chemists in the Commonwealth who are parties to such contracts or agreements, refer to the committee for report matters relating to the administration of medical benefit under this act, and shall consider any representations relating to such administration which arc made by such pharmaceutical chemists and submitted to the commission through the committee.
.-I move -
That after the word “ chemists “ second and third occurring the words “and friendly societies dispensaries “ be inserted.
This amendment is consequential upon amendments made in clauses 57 and 59.
. -I am not sure that there is not some slight misconception about this clause. The pharmaceutical chemists committee is not a mandatory body which the commission will set up. I remind the committee that the initial word in the clause is “ If “. The clause is a suggestion to the chemists that, if they so desire, they may form a committee through which matters affecting their occupation may be referred to the commission.
– There is a possibility that the private chemists will refuse to have anything to do with the friendly societies’ chemists. If a committee of pharmaceutical chemists is to be set up, definite provision should be made that friendly societies’ dispensaries must be represented.
– There must be a pharmaceutical chemist, in every friendly society dispensary. The term “pharmaceutical chemist “ is nor descriptive of a ny orga nization .
– No, but the Pharmaceutical Society will create the committee, and it may exclude representation of the friendly societies’ dispensaries.
– If there were bad blood between the two groups it would be better for the friendly societies’ dispensers to form their own committee. The commission, I assure the committee, would recognize it as a channel through which the friendly societies’ dispensers could forward complaints.
– I think that my amendment is important. The private chemists might discriminate against the friendly societies’ dispensers, claiming that they were an inferior group. There can be no doubt of that.
– I have a doubt, but I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 62 - (1.) Sickness benefit shall, subject to this act, consist of periodical payments to an insured person in respect of the period commencing on the seventh day of incapacity for work arising from sickness and terminating on the date when the incapacity ceases, or at the expiration of twenty-six weeks from that day, whichever is the earlier.
.- I move -
That the word “ seventh “ be omitted with a view to insert the word “first”.
In my opinion sickness benefit should commence on the first day of incapacity. That is the practice followed by the friendly societies in Australia. Section 32 of the National Health Insurance Act of Great Britain provides that sickness benefit shall commence on the fourth day of incapacity. The section reads -
Subject to the provisions of this Act, the benefits conferred by this Act upon insured persons . . . are: -
b ) Periodical payments commencing on the fourth day of incapacity and continuing for a period not exceeding twenty-six weeks . . .
If the clause be passed as it stands many thousands of subscribers who suffer from some disability will have to be off duty for seven days before obtaining any benefit whatever from the fund. The fact that benefits will not be payable for any period under seven days must obviously benefit the fund to the detriment of the subscribers. One of the great objections that honorable members on this side of the committee have to this scheme is that it is not sufficiently liberal. Why should subscribers who suffer from influenza, dengue fever, or colds, with a consequent disablement for any period less than seven days, be denied a benefit? The Northern Ireland act is much more liberal than this bill in this connexion. The Government should treat subscribers at. least as generously as friendly societies treat their members. The 400,000 members of friendly societies in Australia are able to obtain sickness benefits on the first day of their incapacity. They may obtain a certificate from a medical practitioner at once, and become eligible for benefits in respect of even one day’s sickness. The conservative view of the Government in this respect is not justified. As the amendment is reasonable, I hope that it will be accepted, particularly as the Treasurer has assured us that it is desired to treat subscribers at least as liberally as members of friendly societies are treated.
- (Mr, John Lawson). - As the effect of the amendment, if carried, would be to increase the appropriation, I must rule it out of order.
– In that case, I moveThat the clause bo postponed. 1 do this as an indication to the Government that, in the opinion of the committee, the word “ seventh “ in the clause should he omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ first “.
– In considering a point of this description we should not confine our attention entirely to the one matter. In drafting this scheme the Government had to face several alternatives in different directions. [Quorum formed.^ We must take a wide view of the general benefits proposed. Only a certain amount of money will bc provided, and we must determine how it may best be disbursed. The. Government decided to provide the maximum amount possible for disablement benefit. This meant that some curtailment would have to bo made in respect of other benefits. It was thought that it was in the public benefit to curtail sickness benefits to some extent so that disablement benefits could be made as generous as possible. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said that friendly societies allow sickness benefits from the first day of sickness, but I point out that in those organizations disablement benefits decline rapidly after the lapse of a certain period. In one society a payment of 15s. a week is made for 26 weeks, a payment of 5s. for the succeeding 52 weeks, and thereafter a payment of only ls. 6d. a week. In three other societies the payment dwindles to 2s. 6d. a week after eighteen months’ disablement, and in one society it falls to 6s. a week. The disablement benefit under the Government’s scheme is maintained indefinitely at 15s. a week for male subscribers. If the committee were to accept the view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and extend the sickness benefit, it would have to curtail certain other benefits in order to maintain the solvency of the fund. I direct, the attention of honorable members to an amendment that the Government has circulated which provides for the elimination of sub-clause 3. If that amendment be agreed to, the object of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be met to some slight extent.
– I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give further consideration to this clause. I have had a long experience with factory workers, and have discovered that there is little fear of malingering. A man will not sacrifice a wage of ?4 or ?5 a week, for a sickness benefit of ?1 a week. Workers are more concerned about the first week or two of sickness benefit than about the period during which total disablement benefits may be payable. It has been said that members of friendly societies begin to draw the sickness benefit of ?1 a week immediately the medical certificate is given. I should say that 75 per cent, of the workers who will como under this particular provision will be absent from work on account, of sickness for only a week, a fortnight, or three weeks. They do not wish to remain away from their work for longer than is necessary, because, while absent, they are losing ?3 or ?4 a week. If they have to wait for fourteen days before becoming entitled to one week’s sick pay, many of them will be deprived of any relief. I feel ashamed when I realize how much more generous is the provision that is made in Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, Finland and England. It is remarkable that, at a time when existing social legislation is being improved all over the world, this Government should introduce a measure which makes worse the_ conditions now enjoyed here and which provides for less benefit than that enjoyed under the scheme in operation in England. The Treasurer exaggerates the advantages of those provisions which will not cost anything, but does not emphasize those that are very important to the workers of this country. He should give further consideration to the matter.
– I add my persuasions to those that have just been uttered, although I do not know that I should be prepared to go quite so far as the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). As the bill is founded largely on the British scheme, we should at least adopt the corresponding provision in the British act, which makes provision for the payment of sickness benefit from the fourth day onwards. The statistics of the friendly societies suggest that the average period of sickness for which benefit is claimed and paid is from ten to twelve days. If six days is to be fixed as a waiting period, the man who has been contributing for many years without making any claim on the fund will be required to make too much of a concession. What the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said regarding the schemes in the Central European States is quite right. They have modelled their schemes on the British plan. We also have largely done so; but in this particular feature - and it is a very substantial feature - we have departed from the British act to a greater extent than may appear on the surface. It is less generous than the corresponding provision in the British measure, to an amount of at least £250,000 a year. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has pointed out that in some other respects the provisions of this measure are more liberal; for example, in the longcontinuing disablement benefit.
– And in regard to children’s allowances.
– That is true. But, after all, disablement benefit, fortunately, will be enjoyed by comparatively few of the contributors, while on the other hand the bulk of the contributors will, unfortunately, be in a position from time to time to establish claims in respect of short periods of illness. It would be a pity if their claims were mct by the refusal to recognize them until the seventh day.
– In big services, such as the transport service, a man who is absent from his employment because of sickness is required to furnish a medical certificate not later than, usually, the third day. To be effective the clause should provide for payment on the first day in order that those concerned will not be left for a week without payment. Many men suffer from short illnesses, and under this scheme they will derive no benefit. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has stated that fourteen days appears to be the average time for the claiming of sick benefits by members of friendly societies. I am quite sure that men who, in their service, have to submit themselves to medical inspection, and may therefore be regarded as healthy, nevertheless suffer from time to time from brief illnesses, which frequently arise from the nature of their employment: Under the clause as it stands, they will not derive any benefit. It is when men lose their wages for a week or more that they begin to find themselves in financial difficulties. I understand that one of the objects of the bill is to prevent that from occurring. The amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), therefore, merits consideration. Take the case of a. man who is absent from his work for seven days. Would it not he .reasonable to date the benefit from the first day of his illness? If thu proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were accepted, that would indicate that an appeal to reason can be made in these matters. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has referred to the greater disablement benefits which are provided for under this measure. Probably in those places with which he made the comparison, the contributions are lower. I do not wish to say anything to antagonize the Treasurer in regard to this proposal. As one who has had considerable experience oyer a long period in handling matters of this kind for men in trade unions, I give my assurance that these short periods of illness most affect the solvency of the men, particularly the lower paid men. During illnesses of short duration, they begin to get behind with their payments. Unless the suggestions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) are considered and adopted, this bill will not be as effective as i he Treasurer desires. If the honorable gentleman would give an assurance in the direction sought considerable satisfaction would result.
.-] sincerely hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will give sympathetic consideration to the request made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the time limit before sickness benefit becomes payable be reduced. A great number of people who will suffer from ailments which will be satisfactorily cured within one week will get no benefit under this bill. That will have a somewhat disastrous effect on a large number of workers whose employers are already prepared to continue their wages when they are sick for periods up to a week.
– Most awards prescribe for payment of wages up to a week in such cases.
– I had a practical case in point the other day. A man who was greasing my car said that he would like to know where he stood under the national insurance scheme. He said that his boss usually gave him “a fair go,” and if he were sick for a few days or for a period up to a week he was paid full wages. He said that the employees made concessions in return for that consideration, but that if the employer were called upon under the national insurance scheme to contribute ls. 6d.- a week in respect of each of his employees, an employee who became sick would probably be told that he would have to claim sick pay from the insurance fund. Those employees, however, will not be able to participate in the sickness benefit until after they have been incapacitated for a period of seven days. Like the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), I am amazed that the Government did not see fit to follow the provisions of the British legislation in this respect, particularly in view of the. fact that Sir Walter Kinnear recommended in his report that the sickness benefit should commence on the fourth day of incapacity and continue to be paid for a total of 26 weeks. In other respects this bill follows his recommendations practically line for line.
– In certain directions Sir Walter Kinnear’s recommendations have been liberalized.
– I should like to know why the Government saw fit to depart from his recommendations in this respect. If the more liberal benefit can be provided under the British legislation, there seems to be no reason why it cannot he provided in this bill. I trust that the Treasurer will give serious consideration to the matter, and. if he is not prepared to go as far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests and commence the sickness benefit on the first day of incapacity, he will at. least undertake to amend the bill to provide that sickness benefit commence on the fourth day of incapacity.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will see the justice of his request that the item be postponed until it is ascertained if it is possible to commence the sickness benefit on the first day of incapacity. It is perfectly true that the amendment circulated by the Treasurer has improved the position to some extent, but I suggest that the Government might very well go further and accept the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is true that some awards provide for the payment of sick pay for a few-days, but that provision is not common to ail awards, it is all very well for
Die ‘.treasurer to say that the provisions ot this bill are more liberal in some respects than the British legislation; those who have closely studied the British scheme claim that, in the main, its provisions are much more generous. Under this clause a large number of people, who become subject to minor ailments, will have to wait for a period of seven days before they will become eligible to participate in the sickness benefit. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that these illnesses of short duration frequently have disastrous effects on those in receipt of low rates of pay, and for that reason I suggest that the Government might very well give sympathetic consideration to the request made on their behalf. All the various societies that administer ..provident funds commence the sick pay benefit on the first day of illness. One firm which administers its own provident fund pays a sickness benefit, not of £1 a week, but of £2 5s. a week to male members, and a smaller amount to adult females, from the first day of illness. The fact firms such as that consider it desirable that The payments of, sickness benefit be commenced from the first day of incapacity should influence the Treasurer to be more -generous. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that to provide for the payment of sickness benefit on the fourth day of incapacity would be far better than the present provision; this would provide a benefit similar to that enjoyed under the British scheme. But at the same time I urge the Treasurer to agree to the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Deferment of the payment of sickness benefit in respect of those who become totally incapacitated does not affect the position, because the majority of such persons would subsequently be entitled to invalid pensions, lt seems to me that throughout i his bill the Treasurer’s aim has been to relieve the old-age pensions fund by placing a burden on this fund. I do not want, however, to use that for an argument, but I urge the Treasurer to do something to meet the representations that have been made from this side of the committee. With the utmost respect, I contend that members on this side have a more intimate knowledge of the requirements and difficulties of poor people than has the Treasurer. I support wholeheartedly the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that the Treasurer will give very serious consideration to the request made.
.- I suggest that the period should be made four instead of seven days. 1 do not think that such an alteration would make very much difference to the finances of the scheme.
– Why not come over here and compel the Government to make the alteration ?
– I am doing this job for the present. It would be quite a satisfactory compromise if the Treasurer would agree to four days, which, I understand, is the period provided in the British act.
– I do not want to repeat statements I made earlier, but I emphasize that the scheme must be considered as a whole. ‘ It is impossible to provide the maximum benefit under every heading. But, in response to representations from all sides of the chamber, I am agreeable, on behalf of the Government, to amend the clause so that the benefit shall commence on the fifth day. That is quite an expensive concession. Sir Walter Kinnear’s report, as has been said, recommended that the benefit should start on the fourth day; but I would direct attention to the fact that the report was written over twelve months ago, and that additional benefits have since been included. The scheme to-day is very different from the one dealt with in his report. The difference amounts to many hundreds of thousands of pounds. I consider that the Government is acting reasonably in altering the seventh day to the fifth day of incapacity, especially as it has given way on clauses 62 and 63.
– I support the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The compromise offered by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is of no importance whatever. If the Government wishes to compromise, it should have
.- The offer of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) means really nothing. Honorable members on the Government side who have been criticizing the provisions of the clause ought, not to be satisfied with the proffered compromise. They would not be if they^ knew what necessity there is for sustenance when poor people are sick. The Opposition should make Ministerial-, ists who have spoken in support of the amendment stand up to their professions. It is futile to talk about giving a mau medicine while he is sick if we deny him sustenance. If honorable members opposite had to live on the basic wage for a while they would know what it means to be denied sustenance.
– The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 46 to S7, excepting clause 63, has expired.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. I’obbe’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse. ) ayes . . . . 25
Majority -. . . .7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That clause 62, and the circulated amendment of the Government, he agreed to; that clause t>3 be postponed; and that clauses 04 to S7, and the circulated amendments of the Government, be agreed to.
The committee divided. ( Ch airman - Mr. Pro wse. )
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Circulated amendments -
Clause62, omit sub-clause (3).
Clause68, omit the clause.
Clause69, omit “ or State act or at common law or otherwise”, insert “State act or ordinance or at common Taw”.; at the end of the clause insert the following sub-clause: - “ (4) Nothing in this section shall prevent any person who is entitled ‘to such compensation or damages, and who satisfies the approved society of which he is a member that he is unable to recover the compensation or damages, from receiving, under this act, sickness benefit or disablement benefit (including dependent child’s allowance).”.
Clause 70, omit “ who is insured at the date of his death “, insert - - (a)who is insured at the date of his death; or “
Clause 77, sub-clause (2), omit “an” insert “ a partially “.
Clause 78, omit the clause.
Clause 70, after “ or “ (last occurring) insert “, but for the provisions of section ninetythree of this act,”.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. this day.
House adjourned at 12.14 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What number of railway sleepers was used for special re-sleepering purposes during each of the years 1933-34, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1930-37 and 1937-38?
– The information is being obtained.
Migrationof Refugees from Austria : Commonwealth Representation on Committee.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Mr.Price asked the Voting Minister for Tradeand Customs, upon notice -
s. - The answer to the honorable- member’s questions is as follows : - 1, 2and3. Imports of painters brushes from theUnited States of America in the yearand tenmonthsbetweenthe1stJuly,1936,and the30th April, 1938. amounted to only £19. [Ihave received no representations from the local industry, and the import figures do not indicate any necessity for an investigation. In the event of imports increasing unduly, however, I shall give consideration to any representations whichmaybe received from Australian manufacturers.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice-
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Perkins. - On the14th June, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) asked the following question, upon notice: -
Will the Minister supply the following information: - (a) The- excess of revenue over expenditure (excluding capital expenditure) of the Postmaster-General’s Department each year during the past three years: (6) The capital expenditure; made not of revenue during the same period: (c) The capital expenditure from loan during the same period; (d) the amount of interest paid each year during the same period: and (c) The loan indebtedness of the department on the30th June, 1037?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: -
Excess Revenue over Expenditure(in- cludingSpecial Appropriationbut EXCLUDINGCapitalExpenditure)..
s. - On the 7th June, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me whether I could make available any information regarding a report which appeared in a section of the
Australian press that Australians resident in England would be liable to beconscripied in the event of conscription being introduced intothe United Kingdom.
I desire to inform the honorable member thatthe Commonwealth Government has no knowledge of any proposals for the. introduction of conscription in the United Kingdom.
It may be mentioned that the British Military Service Act1916, applied to male British subjects (unmarried, and widowers without dependent children) ordinarily resident in Great Britain. Exemptions were provided in the act for, inter alia, men resident in Great Britain only for the purpose of their education or for some oilier special purpose.
Payments to Dr. G. L. Wood.
s. - On the 14th June, the
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been asked to furnish the information, sought in the latter part, of the honorable member’s,question.
Commonwealth Departments: :
n. - On the 9th June, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard)asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The information desired by the honorable number is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380615_reps_15_156/>.