15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in this morning’s press a statement to the effect that the Government of the United States of America proposes to introduce the legislation necessary to provide fora maximum 40- hour working week, and, if so, will the right honorable gentleman consider with the other members of the Cabinet the introduction of a similar measure in this Parliament?
– My attention had not previously been drawn to this matter,, but [ shall now look into it, in order to ascertain the facts regarding it.
– Is it not a fact that the American legislation provides that the 40- hour week is to be introduced gradually overa period of seven years?
– I shall inquire regarding the circumstances under which the legislation was submitted.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to advise the House whether the Government intends to bring clown a bill this session to make money available ata low rate of interest to small manufacturers and fanners, as announced in his policy speech ?
– The matter raised is one of policy, which will be dealt with in due course.
Appointment of Royal Commission.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House when the royal commission to be set up in connexion with the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill will be appointed ?
– The Government will give attention to the matter at the earliest possible moment, and as soon as its present preoccupations permit.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any indication of the business likely to be dealt with on the completion of the consideration of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill? On what days is it expected that the House will be sitting next week, and, incidentally, will the Treasurer be in a position to introduce the banking legislation during the present sittings, so that it may be considered during the coming recess, thus possibly avoiding any speeding up of the debate when the House meets subsequently ?
– I expect to be in a position to make a statement to the House to-morrow, indicating the programme which the Government hopes will be adhered to during the remainder of the present sittings, and the days on which the Government intends to recommend that the Parliament should meet.
– Recently I asked a question regarding the transference of the Department of Health to the Institute of Anatomy. The Government reviewed the instruction originally issued, and is reserving the institute for the purposes for which it was established. I now read in the press, however, that it is proposed to establish in this building a nutritional research laboratory. Would that involve any breach of the agreement under which the institute was established, and is this another attempt by the Health Department to get control of the institute, and to establish its head-quarters there?
– That is notso. The purposes of the nutritional research laboratory, for which a small portion of the institute will be used in the near future, are in accord with those tor which the institute was established.
Incident at Port Melbourne.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is true, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 28th May last, that the Government proposes to communicate with the Italian Government, through the British Ambassador to Rome, with reference to the assault alleged to have been committed on one Frigo Orlando recently at Port Melbourne?
– My attention has not been directed to the paragraph referred to, and I am unable to afford the honorable gentleman a coherent reply.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from the 15th June(vide page 2170).
– Is that the wish of the committee.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Clauses 88 to 103.
.- I move-
That, before the word “ including “ in clause 95 the word “ not “ be inserted.
I think it will be agreed that it would be unfair to include a dependent child’s allowance in calculating the benefit that would be given under the measure. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has regarded the child allowance as an additional source of income of a family; but if it were included in the calculation of the benefit, the value of the measure would to a considerable extent be destroyed. I do not know whether the Treasurer will contend that the acceptance of my amendment would adversely affect the actuarial calculations upon which the billis based, but a careful analysis of the position will show clearly that very little, if any, additional burdenwould be inflicted upon the fund. If the amendment be not agreed to, an obvious injustice will be done. I therefore hope that the Government will see its way clear to accept my proposal.
– The purpose of this clause is to fulfil an undertaking the Government gave that the operation of the national insurance scheme would not result in any person entitled to a full invalid pension receiving less under this scheme than under the existing invalid pensions law. The Government cannot see any reason for differentiation in the various forms of benefits provided in this measure. The benefit to a married man with dependants is increased under the bill to 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child. That payment goes to the insured person. There can be no valid reason for differentiation between benefits received by a man in respect of himself, and those received by him in respect of his dependants. In the drafting of this bill we have gone to great lengths to ensure all round equity if not actual liberality. Apart from the fact that the acceptance of the amendment would increase the appropriation I regret that I cannot accept it.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Drakeford’s) he agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for some enlightenment as to the effect of clause 95 in the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated person. In certain circumstances such an individual would be entitled to an invalid pension of £1 a week from the Government under our existing legislation, but the purpose of this clause, it seems to me, isto oblige approved societies to pay 15s. a week to such persons,while the Government will pay only 5s. a week, to bring the total payment up to £1 a week. Consequently, totally and permanently incapacitated insured persons will, if this clause is agreed to, become a heavy responsibility on approved societies, whereas they will burden the Consolidated Revenue to the extent of only 5s. a week as against £1 a week at present. If that be the case, an obvious injustice is being done to approved societies. I ask the Treasurer to explain, the position, and, if it he as I have suggested, I ask the Committee to reject the clause.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to what appears to be an unwarranted omission from the exemptions granted under clause 96. I refer to soldier pensioners who receive either Imperial pensions or pensions under the various provisions for repatriated returned soldiers in the legislation of other dominions of the British Empire. In most matters which concern returned soldiers no distinction is made between those who served in the Australian Forces and those who served in other forces of the British Empire. Although this omission may not affect a great number of individuals, it is only just that an Englishman, residentin Australia, who receives a wounds pension from the Imperial Government or the Government of another dominion, should be entitled to the same exemptions as returned soldiers who receive pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. As I brought this matter under the notice of the Treasurer and also the Acting Commissioner for National Insurance some time ago, I hope the Treasurer will now be in a position to inform the committee what the Government proposes to do to rectify this apparent oversight.
– I have circulated a further amendment to clause 95. I move -
That the following sub-clause be added to clause 95 - “ (2.) The amount of the benefit received under this act by any husband or wife shall not be taken into account in computing under paragraph (b) of section twenty-six of the Invalidand Old-age Pensions Act1908-1937 the income of the other spouse.”.
I understand that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has in mind another amendment which it is claimed will meet the situation. As the Government’s amendment is on somewhat similar lines, in all probability the Treasurer will indicate that he is inclined to accept my amendment. Under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act an applicant for a pension is deemed to earn one-half of the income earned by the other spouse. I do not know whether the Treasurer has given consideration to my amendment and I should be glad to know the Government’s intention with regard to it. If the amendment is agreed to a considerable amount of difficulty which will arise under clause 95 will be removed.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer; [11.5]. - The committee will realize the difficulty with which I am confronted in attempting to deal with amendments to a number of clauses. I crave the indulgence of the committee because I am, at the moment, endeavouring to cope with four different amendments two of which have been printed and the others just brought to my notice. It is not easy to deal effectively with amendments to a number of clauses in this way.
– The amendments should be dealt with in their proper sequence.
– That is so. I believe that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is under a slight misapprehension as to the meaning of the terms “ disablement “ under this bill and “ permanent and total incapacity “ under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The two terms by no means are necessarily synonymous. As the honorable member knows very well, under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act pensions are paid for “ permanent and total incapacity” whereas “disablement” under this bill need not be anything like such a distressing physical state.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman did not take much notice of what I said. I referred to the case in which a doctor declared that a person receiving a disablement benefit was totally and permanently incapacitated. In such a case 15s. will be taken from the approved society and only 5s. from the insurance fund. Is not that so?.
– I think that would be so.
– Then responsibility for the payment of 15s. will be placed on the approved society.
– It is recouped from the central fund. In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), I can see no reason why the Government should not accept his suggested amendment.He mentioned that he had brought it under my notice some time ago but I have no recollection of hi3 having done so. I am, however, getting the Parliamentary Draftsman to attempt to put in the form of an amendment the sense of the honorable member’s suggestion.
– The question now before the Chair is that the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) be agreed to.
Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [11.8 J I suggest that as the Government’s amendment to insert a new clause 96a is satisfactory up to a certain point the committee should first pass it, and when the bill goes to another place the Government can then give consideration to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). Although proposed new clause 96a is a definite advance upon the present position, it may not cover the position under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in which, in assessing the pension to be paid each spouse, either husband or wife has attributed to him or her one-half of the income of the other. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department acts without check; there is no appeal from its decisions, and it applies the act in a very technical way. Notwithstanding the adoption of proposed new clause 96a, the department may easily say that a wife who applies for an invalid or old-age pension is deemed to receive onehalf of the contributory ‘pension her husband receives under this scheme and consequently reduce her pension to that extent. I suggest that proposed new clause 96a should be dealt with immediately. After conference with the officers of the Pensions Department the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) might be- able to give us an assurance that the act will be interpreted in the sense we think it ought to be. It would be a strange anomaly if the wife’s pension under the noncontributory pensions scheme were to be reduced because she was treated as receiving one half of her husband’s contributory pension. That is the point which the honorable member for Maribyrnong wishes to make clear.
– Would it be possible to take the clauses in groups of five or so?
If that were done it would limit the extent to which one is asked to deal with proposed amendments.
– Can we not have a general discussion first, and then formally deal with all amendments at a specified time later on?
– The committee has agreed to take clauses 88 to 103 in globo.
– Does that take into account the moving of these amendments?
– Cannot the amendments be taken as a whole at some stated hour?
– The time allotted for the consideration of these clauses expires at 12.45 p.m.
– The Opposition has only one amendment in this block. The honorable member for Maribyrnong will withdraw his amendment if the Treasurer will give an undertaking that the Government will give it serious consideration when the bill is in another place.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I feel that the committee is being placed at a very great disadvantage. I myself misunderstood the purport of the proposal of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). I understand that his object was to enable the committee to discuss, as honorable members might choose, any one of the clauses falling within the group he mentioned. I did not imagine that that meant that the question would be put that the whole of the clauses in that group be agreed to. That, I submit, places the committee at a very great disadvantage. It does not enable honorable members to consider each clause on its merits as we go along. Inasmuch as the time at our disposal is very limited we should at least have an opportunity to represent our views in respect of each clause. I am not considering the Treasurer in this matter because he has .brought this on himself.
– The committee decided without dissent that clauses 88 to 103 be taken as a whole. It is only possible, therefore, for the Chair to put the question that those clauses as a whole be agreed to. The decision was made by the committee itself, and there can be no blame on the Chair in connection with this matter, and no point of order.
– Obviously we cannot proceed very far on the lines we are now going. I suggest that a quota of the time allotted for the discussion of this group of clauses might be devoted to general discussion with forewarning of amendments that might be in the minds of honorable members, and then, at a specified hour, we could deal with each of the amendments in their appropriate order.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) simply says to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) “Do you think that what you fear could possibly happen?” We do think that it could happen.
– I shall not permit the Treasurer to gag me. The honorable member for Maribyrnong made it perfectly clear in his amendment that the receipt of the pension under the national insurance scheme should not be taken into account when determining the pension to which the other spouse is entitled under a non-contributory pension scheme. For the Treasurer simply to ask if that is likely to happen is not good enough for us. There should be a guarantee that appropriate action will be taken in another place to ensure that no such difficulty will arise. Nothing less than that will satisfy honorable members on this side of the chamber. I hope that the honorable member for Maribyrnong will persist with his amendment unless the guarantee is forthcoming. The receipt of a pension under the national insurance scheme should not prejudice the right of the other spouse to secure a full pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is concerned about new clause 96a. The intention of the Government is to do what the honorable gentleman desires. I am advised that the present wording wouldgive effect to his intention, but, in order to put the matter beyond all doubt, I shall move to insert the words “ or of the spouse “ when the new clause comes before the committee.
– In view of the Treasurer’s undertaking, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendmen t -by leave - withd r awn.
.- In order to meet the point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) it would appear that an. amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will be necessary, because that legislation provides that half of the income of the husband is regarded as the income of the wife.
– If necessary, action will be taken to meet the point raised by the honorable member.
.- The undertaking of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has clarified the position to some extent. We do not want to find later that persons who are entitled to pensions under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will be deprived of their rights because of some benefit payable to an insured person under this legislation. I hope that the position will be placed beyond all doubt.
As the discussion has proceeded, it has become increasingly evident that the Government intends to place the burden in respect of invalid and old-age pensions on persons with incomes under £365 a year who will come under this legislation. The people of Australia should be told definitely what the Government intends. The Treasurer may be able to distinguish between persons who are incapacitated within the meaning of this legislation and persons who are permanently and totally incapacitated within the meaning of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but I foresee considerable difficulty in administering this provision when it becomes law. I enter my emphatic protest against the intention of the Government to make the poorer sections of the community pay the greater portion of invalid and old-age pensions in the future.
– Clause 95 reads “ A person in receipt of a benefit under this Act shall be entitled to receive…….. “ whereas marginal note reads “ Pensioner under this Act not also entitled to pension under Invalid and Old-age .Pensions Act 1908-37 “. There appears to be a minor typographical error. The marginal note surely requires amending.
– There is an error in the marginal note; it can be put right by omitting the word “not”.
– The marginal note is not a portion of the bill.
– That is so. The error will be rectified when the bill is again printed.
– The marginal note is correct.
.- Many old-age pensioners pay the whole Of their pension to institutions which, care for them. Under sub-clause 1 of clause 94, the pension of an inmate of an institution is reduced to 6s. a week. I should like to know whether the full amount of pension will be payable to these institutions, as otherwise many of them will cease to exist, thereby causing great inconvenience to many old-age pensioners.
Clause 100 provides that where the commission has issued a certificate of remoteness, the benefits to insured persons may be reduced. I desire to know whether it is likely that such a certificate will be issued on the application of an employer, or whether the employee himself must apply for it. A man who is living in a remote area, away from doctors, is just as much entitled to medical benefits as is a mau living in a town. Should he require the medical treatment he would have to be taken to the nearest doctor, and, therefore, he should not be precluded from receiving medical benefits under this legislation. He certainly should not be debarred from receiving them on the application of his employer. Only at his own ..request should a certificate be issued.
Under clause 95, it would appear that a person entitled to a disablement pension of 15s. a week under this scheme would, if without dependants, receive an additional 5s. a week should he qualify for an invalid pension. If, however, he had one dependent child, in respect of which he received 3s. 6d. a week child’s allowance, making his total receipts 18s. 6d. a week, he would be entitled to only ls. 6d. a week from the invalid pensions fund. If he had two children, and received 7 s. a week allowance in respect of them, his total receipts would be 22s. a week, and, therefore, he would not be entitled to the invalid pension of 5s.- a week. It is ridiculous that a person without dependants may have his pension increased from 1.5s. to £1 a week whilst a similar concession is denied to a person with dependent children. If that be the correct interpretation of the clause, it should be amended. I do not think that the Government desires it to apply in that way.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) referred to inmates of institutions who pay the whole of their pension to the institution in which they live’. I take it that he referred to their noncontributory invalid or old-age pension. Persons who hand over their noncontributory pensions to an institution will not be affected by this legislation. In any case, they are presumably without dependants. Otherwise, how would those dependants exist? The purpose of the clause is to ensure, first of all, that the person himself receives something out of the pension, then that his dependants receive something, and, finally, that something should, if possible, go to the institution. That, I think, is a worthy objective.
The other point raised by the honorable member relates to clause 100. It is provided in paragraph (i) of the first schedule as proposed to be amended as follows :-
– That provision should not be applied to those who work on stations in the back country.
– It would not be invoked except in localities where it is impossible to administer benefits because there is no doctor within practicable range.
– A provision in clause 94 to which I enter- fain the very strongest objection is that an insured person in receipt of a pension, who enters a hospital or other institution, will be entitled to draw only 6s. a week, while the dispersal of the remainder of the pension, is to be at the discretion of the commission. We must remember that this is a pension for which the insured person has himself contributed, and he should, therefore, have the right to dispose of it as he thinks fit. If it were a matter of a superannuation payment, no one would question: his right to do so. To deny that right to the pensioner is to argue that he is incompetent to dispose of his pension in a proper way. I have always objected to this provision in the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but at least pensioners under the existing scheme do’ not contribute towards their pensions. To include a similar provision in the present scheme, however, under which the pensioner will pay for whatever benefit he obtains, is to aggravate the offence. I hope that other honorable members will see the justice of my observations, and will help to amend this provision.
.- I should like some further information regarding the position of pensioners who become inmates of public institutions, such as hospitals and benevolent homes. Under the present Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, pensioners in such circumstances may retain 6s. a week for themselves, while the sum of 14s. a week is paid to the institutions. Under this clause, the pensioner will receive 6s. a week for himself, and the remainder will be retained by the commission, which may either pay it to his dependants or keep it as accrued pension, and pay it back from time to time in small amounts to the pensioner himself. I agree with that, but I must point out that a very grave injustice will be done to the public hospitals and benevolent institutions, and to the State governments which are responsible, iu part, for financing them. Under the present act, the institutions receive 14s. out of the pension, but under the new scheme, they may receive nothing. I do not say that 14s. a week should be paid to them under this scheme, but I believe that the Commonwealth Government should compensate the hospitals and other institutions for the loss they will sustain. The Treasurer may argue that, because pensioners will be entitled to medical benefit under the scheme, not so many of them will seek hospital treatment, but I do not think it will work out in that way. Wo know that as people grow older they become susceptible to various ills, and. under the scheme, they will be entitled to call in a doctor at any time of the day or night. There may be a tendency to do so more frequently than is necessary. I make no reflection upon the doctors, but it is only reasonable to assume that there will be a tendency on their part to order such pensioners into public hospitals. Therefore, it is possible that there may. in the future, be a greater number of pensioners receiving treatment in public hospitals than is the case now, and I should like to know whether the Government proposes to do anything to compensate the hospitals for the loss they will sustain under the scheme.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to an anomaly contained in clause 99, which reads -
Sickness benefit and disablement benefit shall not be paid to any person in respect of any period during which he is outside Australia.
Many persons engaged in seasonal occupations, such as shearing follow their occupations from State to State, and even to New Zealand and the Mandated Territories. They do not live in New Zealand long enough to qualify for sickness and disablement benefit under the dominion law, because when the shearing season ends there they return to Australia to resume their accustomed itinerary. Despite the fact that they may have subscribed to the national insurance fund for years, if they should be taken ill or disabled during their absence in neighbouring countries, they will be disqualified from reaping the benefits for which they have contributed. Some provision should be made to ensure that nomadic workers who contribute to the national insurance fund, shall be entitled to the full benefits of the. proposed legislation irrespective of the fact that they may ‘he temporarily domiciled elsewhere when sickness overtakes them. I suggest that possibly a reciprocal arrangement could he made with New Zealand. It appears to. me that the object of the Government is to use every possible means to filch shillings from those who are insured and to dodge giving benefits in return. I wish it to be understood that my remarks refer only to those persons, itinerant workers who travel Australasia in pursuit of their vocations, and not to persons who go abroad, say, to England or to the United States of America. It is no answer for the Treasurer to say that only a. few persons are affected because, no matter what their number may be, persons, who contribute for sickness and disablement benefit and, who, in order to obtain employment, have to go for short periods to neighbouring countries, should be entitled to receive the full benefits for which they subscribe. As a matter of fact, however, the number of persons of the classes mentioned is considerable.
I wish to know the purpose of clause 102 which reads -
Every assignment of, or charge on, and every agreement to assign or charge, any allowance or benefit payable under this act, shall be void and, on the bankruptcy of any person entitled to any benefit, the benefit shall not pass to any trustee or other person acting 011 behalf of his creditors.
Does that mean that bankruptcy will disqualify a person from benefit under this bill?
– No, it means the reverse. It will protect the contributor.
– That satisfies me. I support the contentions of the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that the financial welfare of public hospitals and other similar institutions should be protected and not damaged by this bill. In my second-reading speech I called attention to the fact- that the hospital authorities in New South “Wales have declared that- this measure will impose upon them a burden which they cannot bear. Par from safeguarding the welfare of the hospitals this bill will intensify the already severely congested, conditions that exist in those institutions. The mater nity hospitals in New South Wales to-day are so congested that within a couple of days of childbirth, mothers have to be removed from the maternity wards and placed in beds on verandahs, sheltered only by the roof and canvas blinds. Con- .ditions in the other hospitals are just as bad. For that reason, the Commonwealth Government should do everything possible to assist in the provision of more accommodation instead of, as this bill will do, increase the demands upon the existing accommodation. According to the authorities in New South Wales, this bill will deplete the revenues of hospitals in that State by between £500,000 a year, besides requiring them to contribute to the Commonwealth tens of thousands of pounds for which they will get no return. Chaos in hospital management will result. The Commonwealth Government boasts about its surpluses, and it should be in a position to recompense the hospitals for any loss which they may incur as the result of the passage of this bill.
.- I support the appeal by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) on behalf of the shearers and other persons whose occupations periodically take them to New Zealand and other neighbouring countries. Clause 98 debars persons from enjoyment of sickness and disablement, benefits- whilst they are. outside of Australia, but the practice of friendly societies is, on the production of a doctor’s certificate to recoup to a member any medical costs incurred in respect of the illness or disablement of himself or members of his family while he was absent from Australia. I think that the Government’ should adopt the practice of the friendly societies. The clause at present means that, because no payment can be made to the fund, either by the contributor’s employer or by himself, while the contributor is absent from Australia in pursuit of his occupation, he cannot, if he falls ill during, such absence, . receive the benefits for which he may have contributed for many years. It is unmitigated nonsense to describe this as a national health measure when it excludes people from that protection for which they have subscribed when they happen to become ill while they are doingseasonal work in a neighbouring country.
I object to clause 98, which reads -
Whore a person in receipt of, or entitled to, a pension under this act dies, payment of any amount of pension accrued but not paid prior to bis death, shall be made only in such manner and to such extent as are prescribed.
My objection is that, as with the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the payment of pension after the death of a pensioner shall be made, in accordance with conditionslaid down, not by this Parliament, but by the Executive in regulations, which may prevent certain things, which should be done, from being done. Members of Parliament will not know that these limitations exist until they bump their heads against them, when trying to do something for their constituents. Clause 99 is harsh and the Government should be ashamed of it.
.- I am pleased to have the opportunity to join issue with the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) with respect to his contradiction of a statement that I made in my secondreading speech to the effect that under this scheme a person would be ineligible to obtain the full benefits of the invalid pension under existing legislation as well as the benefits conferred by this bill. The marginal .note of clause 95 reads “ Pensioner under this act not also entitled to pension under Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act “. “The Treasurer said that that was a draftsman’s error. If the Treasurer had looked at this measure more carefully and intelligently he would have ascertained the fact that it was not the draftsman who was in error at all because, despite his explanation in answer to the contentions of honorable members of the Opposition, it is now apparent that men and women cannot draw both the invalid pension and the benefits of this bill. In order to show just to what extent the Government would go in order to deprive the people of rights which they have acquired as the result of the activities of the Labour party in years gone by, we find that the invalid in New South Wales to-day who has two dependent children, actually receives more under the existing legislation of the State and the Commonwealth, than he will be able to receive under this socalled wonderful scheme of the Government which is supposed to bestow so many benefits on the people.
In New South Wales, as a result of the activities of a Labour government, an invalid pensioner with two dependent children receives £1 17s. 6d. a week, which is made up of £1 under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and 8s. 9d. child welfare allowance for dependent children. If the measure does not interfere with the rights of citizens to draw old-age and invalid pensions, why is it that a person applying for a pension is not qualified to receive full benefits under this scheme and for which he has paid? He has, in fact, contributed also for the old-age and invalid pension by the payment of income tax on his past earnings or by indirect taxation on everything he purchases. There is another point that should concern tlie friendly societies. Why should the burden of maintaining the permanently disabled worker be made a responsibility of the approved societies instead of being borne by’ the pensions fund? Clause 130 states -
Old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, orphans’ pensions and dependent children’s allowances payable to persons in receipt of old-age or widows’ pensions shall be paid out of the Pensions Insurance Fund.
There is no reference in the clause to invalid pensions. That means that the friendly societies, out of the funds provided for defraying medical benefits, will be compelled to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining invalid pensioners. In the opinion of members of the Labour party it is wrong to expect the friendly societies, out of moneys made available for medical benefits, to provide 15s. in every fi made available to invalid pensioners. There is ample evidence of the truth of the statement made by members of the Labour party that the purpose of the scheme is to relieve the ‘Commonwealth budget, so that the Government may remit taxes and relieve its political supporters amongst the wealthier sections of the community. Therefore, I am of opinion that the Treasurer, if he were able to speak the truth - I know it is difficult for him to do that - would admit that I was right when I said in my secondreading speech that the contributors to this scheme will lose certain of their rights under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. When the legislation becomes operative honorable members on all sides of the House will receive requests from unfortunate people who will ask them to make representations to preserve their benefits under existing legislation. The question is not whether the worker is entitled to certain benefits because .he has exercised thrift. No worker who is receiving the wages available to him in this country to-day is able to save to any great extent, and the lower-paid workers find it absolutely impossible to do so at all. The average worker has to exercise considerable thrift in order to exist at all. He is quite unable to make provision for the future out of savings from his meagre earnings, and the Labour party believes that the wealthier sections of the community, who, with the assistance of antiLabour governments, have exploited the workers in the years of their employment, should shoulder the responsibility of any social insurance scheme. Any contribution which a worker makes to the scheme must lower his living standard. The Government has designed the national insurance scheme in order to protect Commonwealth revenues. No doubt the Treasurer has been in touch with his colleagues in Sydney, who constitute the Government of New South Wales, with respect to the effect of this measure on the State budget. If the scheme becomes law, what effect will it have on existing social services in New South Wales ? Will the .people there have the right to receive also the benefits under New South Wales legislation, which are greater than those provided for in the bill? Has the Commonwealth Government, in order to secure the support of the Government of New South Wales, made an agreement whereby, if the bill be passed, the anti-Labour Government of New South Wales will feel that it is relieved of further responsibility foi- the maintenance of widows, and their dependent children, and of dependent children of sick or invalid parents? Has the Government by agreement with the the Government of New South Wales acquiesced in the repeal of existing legislation there, so as to take away from the people the benefits they now enjoy and make the Commonwealth act the only legislation of this character operating in the Commonwealth?
.- I move-
That the following new sub-clauses be added to clause 96: - “ (11) The application of this section shall extend to any person who was engaged in active service during the war which commenced on the fourth day of August One thousand nine hundred and fourteen, as ;i member of the Naval, Military or Air Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions, other than the Commonwealth, who is bona lido resident in the Commonwealth and who is in receipt of benefit under the law of that part of those Dominions in respect of that service.
For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section any reference in this section to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1020- 1937 shall be read as a reference to the law under which the person is entitled to benefit.”
– Is not the Treasurer going to give any explanation of the amendment?
– Not to the honorable member.
.- The attention of the Treasurer has been directed to the marginal note to clause 05 - “Pensioner under this Act not also entitled to pension under Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1937”. At first glance, and quite excusably, it appeared to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) that, that was a draftsman’s error, and the Treasurer, failing to read the clause and the marginal note with that care or intelligence which might reasonably be expected of him in the circumstances, upheld the view of the honorable member. I had the honour for a considerable period of presiding over the department in which are employed the draftsmen who prepare bills for submission to this House, and I found that they did not usually, or even at all, make errors of that kind. I think it was a little ungenerous of the Treasurer to put the blame on to the Parliamentary Draftsman when, in fact, no error has been committed. A careful perusal by the Treasurer of the clause should have satisfied him that the marginal note was entirely correct. The clause was made the subject-matter of very scathing criticism, during the second-reading debate, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and to-day, when the clause itself is under consideration, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has also directed destructive and logical criticism against it. The truth is, of course, that invalid pensions, and pensions under this bill, are not to be paid additionally one upon the other. It is true that, to the extent by which the pension payable under this bill falls short of that prescribed by existing legislation applicable to invalid pensions, the bill proposes to make up the difference, providing the pensioners have no dependent children. It is clear and emphatic that no one is to receive the two pensions. The honorable member for Dalley pointed out, too, that the intention of the clause is entirely consistent with the general purposes of this legislation - the purpose being to shunt the responsibility for the payment of pensions, both invalid and old-age, from the backs of those who have hitherto borne it to contributors and approved societies. The burden is to be borne in the future with due regard to the susceptibilities of wealth. The clause makes special provision for the payment of 15s. in every ?1 of pension by the approved societies out of the contributions mainly of the workers and employers in industry. Clause 98 provides that the payment of any amount of pension accrued but not paid prior to the death of a pensioner shall be made only in such manner and to such extent as are prescribed. Under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the practice is not to make payment of any amount accrued but not paid prior to the death of a pensioner. I apprehend that a similar practice will be followed under this legislation. It is a mean provision. Usually, on the death of a pensioner his or her immediate relatives are in straitened circumstances, and any amount due should go to them.
– The clause says “ as prescribed “.
– The Minister is quite right. But my submission is, that the practice will be to pay such amounts into the revenues of the Commonwealth, as is done in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Otherwise, why does the clause not deliberately state that they shall be paid to dependants, who are most entitled to them? The responsible authorities should give consideration to this matter. “I join with those honorable members who have criticized the provisions of clause 94 in respect of inmates of hospitals and other institutions. I am aware that there is like provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; but that does not free it from the charge of being mean and unworthy. As we know, public hospitals ordinarilyand to a substantial extent are maintained by public funds. The unfortunate pensioner who finds himself obliged to enter a public hospital or similar institution should continue to receive the full amount of his pension. The burden of being stricken down by illness is sufficient for him to bear, without having his pension reduced.
– There is to be only partial reduction, and the amount withheld will go towards the cost of the maintenance of his dependants.
– It is like dividing the atom - a very difficult scientific problem. The pension is so small that it will be a niggardly action to divide the amount and deprive the pensioner of control over a portion of it, merely because he has the misfortune to need the services of a hospital.
– Or an institution.
– I assume that it will be a hospital of some description. Nobody realizes better than I do the position in regard to these institutions. The matter might very well be left to arrangement between the patient and the institution - which, as a rule, has a much more generous outlook in regard to its self-imposed obligation than has the Government. I deplore this provision, and take this opportunity to say that, because of the manner in which the clauses have been grouped for the consideration of the committee, it is impossible adequately to consider the details of each of them. Is it to be understood that each honorable member has the right to speak twice to every individual clause, as he would have were they taken individually, or merely the right to make two speeches on the whole group of clauses?
- (Mr. John Lawson). - As I understand the position, each honorable member has the right to speak twice to the question before the committee.
– I raise a point of order in relation to the new sub-clauses to clause 96 proposed by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). The usual procedure of circulating proposed amendments has not been followed in this case. I therefore direct attention to paragraph (VI) of Standing Order 262a, which has application to this particular case, because it relates to proceedings consequent upon a limitation of debate having been imposed and times allotted. Paragraph (VI) lays it down that the Speaker or the Chairman shall, at the time appointed under the motion for the conclusion of the proceedings, put any clauses and any government amendments and new clauses and schedules, copies of which have been circulated by the Government among honorable members two hours at least before the expiration of the allotted time, and any other question requisite to dispose of the business before the House or committee. The point to which I direct particular attention is that any proposed amendments must be circulated two hours at least before the expiration of the allotted time. The paragraph concludes with the following words : -
No other amendments, new clauses, or schedules shall be proposed.
I am not concerned with either the merits or the demerits of the Treasurer’s proposed new clauses. I have not had an opportunity to study them, and do not know whether they are advisable or inadvisable, but according to the wording of the standing order, which could not be more definite than it is, they must come within the category of “ other amendments, new clauses, or schedules “. As this group of clauses has to be passed by 12.45 p.m., it is impossible to give the stipulated two hours’ notice of amendments.
– I refer the honorable member to the opening portion of paragraph (VI), which reads -
For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion on the expiration of the time allotted under any motion passed under any of the preceding paragraphs of this Standing Order, the Speaker or the Chairman shall, at the time appointed under the motion for the conclusion of those proceedings, put forthwith the question on any amend ment or motion already proposed from the Chair and, in the case of the consideration of any bill in committee, shall then put any new clauses …
I feel obliged to rule that there is no substance in the point of order raised by the honorable member.
– In that case, the words that I have quoted have no meaning?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.They have no meaning in respect of the amendment now before the committee, which has been moved by the Treasurer and proposed from the Chair.
– When was it proposed from the Chair ? I did not hear it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It was moved at eight minutes past 12 o’clock.
– But it was not proposed from the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It was, immediately.
.- Although the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has made certain promises, he has not covered the whole range of the difficulties which will arise under the provisions of clause 95. I feel sure that, under the operation of these provisions, persons entitled to an additional benefit under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will be deprived of it. The Treasurer has said that he will make sure to safeguard the position in the case of married couples, so that the income of the husband will not be taken into calculation to the detriment of the rights of the wife, and vice versa, but nothing has been said in connexion with the disablement allowance, to which is added a certain payment in respect of each child. It is said that if the total amount paid to the insured person under this legislation does not equal the £1 a week to which he or she would be entitled under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the balance will be made good. According to my reading of clause 95, if a man with two children receives a disablement pension of 15s. a week he will be deprived of the additional 5s. a week to which he would otherwise be entitled, because the amount of 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each child will be added to the 15s. I do not believe that that was intended. Is that what the Treasurer means?
– In those circumstances a man can get the extra 5s. ; if so qualified by his disablement, he can get a minimum of fi, and he may get more than that by an allowance of 3s. 6d. for each child.
– The clause does not say that. It reads -
A person in receipt of a benefit under this Act shall be entitled to receive, at the same time, a pension under the Invalid and Old-age 1’ciuioiis Act 1008-1037 to the extent to which the benefit under this Act, including dependent child’s allowance, is less than the pension to which, but for this section, lie would have been entitled under that act, but not otherwise.
– The child allowance prevents him from getting an invalid pension of £1 a week.
– Under this measure he can get 15s., plus 3s. 6d. in respect of each of his children, which means that, irrespective of invalid or old-age pension, a man with ten children would receive 1.5s., plus £1 15s.; or a total of £2 10s. a week. This clause is designed to ensure that whilst no man gets less than he would be entitled to receive under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, it may bc possible for him to receive any given extra amount.
– The bill makes it quite clear that the child allowance under this measure will be held against the contributor when he applies for the extra 5s. in respect of old-age pension.
– He can get the old-age pension of £1, or the benefit under this bill, whichever is the greater.
.- I am particularly concerned with the effect of this provision on inmates of certain charitable institutions. At the State hospitals at Lidcombe and Liverpool, the Women’s Home at Newington, and the Waterfall Sanatorium, certain men are employed as gardeners, or driving a bus or doing other work of a general hand. The probability is that such persons receive from £1 to £1 5s. a week with board and lodging. Other persons in these institutions are employed around the yard, and these receive approximately 6s. or 7s. a week. Will such men, and the institutions as well, be obliged to contribute ls. 6d. a week under this scheme? Furthermore, certain inmates of the Women’s Home at Newington, who are not pensioners, receive probably not more than 6d. a day, or a shilling a week. Will they also, and the institution as well, be compelled to contribute ls. a week under this scheme?
– The class of persons mentioned, by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) is covered by clause 186, subclause 2 of which reads -
Tills Act shall not apply to or in respect of employed persons engaged in any insurableemployment specified in an order under thissection or to and in respect of the employers of those persons, except in accordance with theconditions specified in that order.
That power is designed to cope with circumstances such as those referred to by the honorable member. Clearly, it would be impossible to bring the persons he mentioned under this scheme.
.- If this clause as drawn is agreed to a person with two children in New South Wales who falls so sick that he would ordinarily be entitled to an invalid pension, will be in an infinitely worse position, although he has been a subscriber to this scheme, than he would be at present under the noncontributory scheme at present in operation in New South Wales. Under the State law he gets £1 a week and 8s. 9d. in respect of each child, making his total income £1 17s. 6d. a week. Under this bill, a man entitled to disablement benefit in similar circumstances will receive the additional 5s. in respect of invalid pension only if he has no dependent children; if he has two dependent children, he will receive 3s. 6d. in respect of each of them, and will thus be debarred from receiving anything directly in respect of invalid pension. He will get 15s. disablement benefit - which might just as well be called invalid pension - and 3s. 6d. for each child, and no more. That means that with two children a man will receive only £1 2s. under a scheme to which he has contributed, whereas at present in New South Wales he may receive £1 17s. 6d. a week without having to make any contributions at all. The effect of this clause will be twofold. First, it will reduce permanently to 15s. a week the invalid pension payable in respect of such a case; that fact cannot be disputed. Secondly, it will make the invalid pension a burden on the medical benefit. Sub-clause 1 of clause 130 provides -
Old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, orphans’ pensions, and dependent children’s allowances payable to persons in receipt of old-age or widow’s pensions shall be paid out of the Pensions Insurance Fund.
It will be noted that no reference whatever is made in that clause, which deals with the utilization of the pensions insurance fund, to invalid pensions. Thus the invalid pension will be called a disablement pension. Consequently, the invalid pension of 15s., which would normally be paid out of Consolidated Revenue, will become a charge, not on the pensions side of this scheme, but on the medical benefit, and will thus be borne by the approved societies. Furthermore, the maximum obligation which the Consolidated Revenue will bear in future in respect of invalid pensions payable to subscribers under this scheme will be 5s.. whilst in respect of subscribers with two or more children, the Commonwealth’s contribution in respect of invalid pensions will be nil. The whole responsibility for the maintenance of invalid pensioners who come under this scheme will fall on contributors who, generally speaking, will be workers. No argument which the Treasurer has yet advanced, or, I believe, is capable of advancing, can refute the fact that a subscriber under this scheme, who receives 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each of two children and whose physical condition is such as to entitle him, ordinarily, to the invalid pension, will be permanently on an invalid pension of 15s. Such a proposal, I submit, is absolutely unjust. Digressing for a moment, I point out that a few years ago, when we were dealing with the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions in respect of persons who had income of any kind, the Government agreed that any allowance made for the maintenance of children should not be taken into consideration as income of the pensioner. Despite that fact, this proposal is brought forward to-day under which a man, who would ordinarily be entitled to receive an invalid pension of £1 a week, will, because he receives an allowance of 3s. 6d. in respect of each of two or more children, get no more than 15s. on account of his invalidity.
– Listening to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), one would think that this clause took something away from the contributors whom it affects. On the contrary, however, it gives something. It ensures that a person who is permanently and totally incapacitated will get the maximum possible under either this measure or the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That is the plain simple point involved in this clause. It does not take anything away from anybody, but ensures that any person in the circumstances described by the honorable member will get the maximum which it would be possible for him to receive under either this measure or existing legislation.
– If he has two children.
– Let me take that point. A contributor with two children will get 15s. plus 3s. 6d. in respect of each child.
– That means that he will be living on his children.
– But he has not to be permanently and totally incapacitated in order to get that.
– Suppose he is totally and permanently incapacitated?
– At present that man would get £1, whereas under this measure he will receive £1 2s.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the consideration of this part of the bill has expired.
Amendment agreed to.
Question put -
That clauses 88 to95, clause 96, as amended, and clauses 97 to 103, and the circulated amendments of the Government, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses88 to 95, 97 to 103, and clause 96, as amended, agreed to.
Circulated amendments -
Clause96, omit “either on his own account, or on account of himself and his dependants, may if those benefits” sub-clause (1), insert “ may, if those benefits, together with any benefits tinder that act received by his dependants,” ; omit “ insured person “, subclause 9, insert “returned soldier”; omit “an insured person”, euh-clause 10, insert “a returned soldier “.
Clause 97, omit “or has been invalided”, sub-clause (1.); omit sub-clause (5.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (5.) For the purposes of this section -
.- I move-
That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
I am submitting the motion in order that the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) may make an explanation with reference to an incident that occurred in the committee yesterday.
– The Acting Minister could have made this explanation earlier to-day.
– On a point of order I submit that, as a time-table has been fixed for the consideration of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill until Monday at 6.15 p.m., no other business can be introduced until that measure has been disposed of.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time to be occupied by the Acting Minister for Commerce in the manner indicated by the Treasurer, will not impinge on the time allotted for the consideration of the bill mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa.
– Who says that it willnot? The Acting Minister for Commerce had an opportunity at the beginning of the sitting this morning to make an explanation and could have clone so without abusing the privileges of the House or interfering with the time allotted for the consideration of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill.
Question put -
That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Does the Acting Minister for Commerce desire to make a personal explanation?
– Mr. Speaker -
– On a point of order, I should like to know from you, Mr. Speaker, what business is before the House ?
– I understand that the Acting Minister for Commerce wishes to make a personal explanation.
– The House has already agreed to a time-table for the discussion of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. That time will not expire until 6.15 p.m. on Monday next.
I submit that until then it will not be in order to transact any other business.
– As the time-table fixed by the guillotine is not affected by the motion to report progress, I rule that the Acting Minister for Commerce will be in order.
– Since, Mr. Speaker, you did not read this morning the message contained in the letter that I wrote to you last night, I shall make this brief personal explanation-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that, under Standing Order No. 258, the Acting Minister for Commerce must obtain the indulgence of the House before he can be heard.
– It has been the practice of this House - I believe from its inception, but certainly since I became a member of it in 1919 - to permit an honorable member who rises to make a personal explanation to do so, providing he does not interrupt the speech of another honorable member.
– If he has been misrepresented or misunderstood.
– To explain any of his words or actions which may have been misrepresented or misunderstood, and I shall be surprised if the Acting Minister for Commerce be not permitted to do that now.
– On a point of order, I understood the Acting Minister for Commerce to make some reference to a private letter.
– Order ! I asked the Acting Minister for Commerce if he wished to make a personal explanation and he proceeded to make one. I must hear him further before I can consider the point of order. .
– A Minister or member is permitted to make a personal explanation only if he has been misrepresented. There was no misrepresentation of the Acting Minister for Commerce, who merely wishes to speak in extenuation of his behaviour which resulted in his suspension yesterday.
– The Chair has not heard sufficient to know whether the Acting: Minister for Commerce is mak- ing a personal explanation on the lines suggestedby the honorable member for Hindmarsh. If the Minister wishes to make a personal explanation he may do so.
– All that I wish to say is that the term “ cleanskin “ that I applied yesterday to an honorable member was not used offensively. I think that had the term been understood by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) he would not have taken exception to it. My only regrets in the matter are that I placed the Leader of the Government (Mr. Lyons) in the embarrassing position of having to move for my suspension. Through that I was forced-
– I rise to a point of order. My point is that the matter of disorder referred to now by the Acting Minister was finally dealt with in the House yesterday, and cannot be revived by way of extenuation or apology to-day.
– The Acting Minister is entitled to make a personal explanation.
– I used the term “ clean-skin “, and I say frankly that I did not employ it with the intention of being offensive towards the honorable member for Wimmera. It is a term which is well understood amongst stockmen. As I said, my only regrets are, first, as to the position in which I placed the Prime Minister as the head of the Government, and, secondly, my own personal feelings in having been suspended for the remainder of the sitting. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that the explanation which I now make will be accepted by you in the same spirit in which my written explanation was accepted last night.
– The Chair does not wish to comment upon this, but I must make it clear that it was by resolution of the House that the honorable member was suspended. Therefore, any explanation or apology is made to the House and not to the Chair alone.
– In view of the explanation of the Acting Minister, I am satisfied.
Sitting suspended from 1.7 to 2.15 p.m.
In committee:. Consideration resumed (vide page 2188).
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).That is entirely a matter for the committee to determine.
– Is it the wish of the committee to deal with the clauses in this group in two sections?
Honorable Members. - No.
Clause 104 (Reserve value and transfer value).
– There are a number of financial provisions under the heading of “ Central Finance “, and, for the convenience of honorable members I prepared a little time ago a schematic representation of the main provisions of the financial clauses, copies of which have been circulated, and which I ask leave to have embodied in Hansard with minor alterations at as early a date as possible.
Leave granted (see page 2313).
.- The committee is entitled to an explanation of what the plan actually means. Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) can explain briefly its main points so that honorable members may follow it more intelligently.
– In the centre of the plan honorable members will see a reference to a national insurance trust account. All the funds that accrue in respect of national insurance flow through the bottle neck ofthat account. These funds will consist of contributions from employers and employees - that is the left hand top rectangle - and all payments by the Government, namely £1,000,000, in respect of pensions and 10s. a head on account of health, about £925,000 plus £100,000 in respect of administration. The total of this, which is £2,000,000, represents all the contributions of employers and employees and from the point of view of book-keeping is the National Insurance Trust Account. The fund then immediately begins to flow to the left of the plan, where honorable members will find “ the proportion of the contributions attributable to health, plus 10s. a head, and £100.000. That represents payments in respect of health which at once flow into the Health Insurance Fund, which can be termed a trust fund. On the right of the plan is the proportion of the contributions “attributable to pensions, plus £1,000,000 paid by the Government. On the right are all references to pensions. Referring now to the left-hand side of the plan we find that out of the Health Insurance Fund money flows in various directions. Money is, of course, flowing into and out of this fund all the time, but a check is kept by proper ledger accounts. From the Health Insurance. Fund is taken the amount to be passed on to the approved societies, in order that they may meet their obligations in respect of sickness and disablement benefits. Medical benefit is 16s. for each man and 17s. for eachwoman. This payment goes straightinto the medical benefit account, from which payment for all medical benefit is to be made. The 10s. a head shown on the left of “ Health Insurance Fund “ passes into a sinking fund account, and is the amount necessary to liquidate, over a term of years, the reserve values.
– And is, in fact, the Government contribution.
– Is the object of this explanation to prevent the discussion of later clauses?
– Of course not; but it is not an easy matter to describe the diagram. The contingencies funds account and the special risks account are selfexplanatory. It was originally intended that the funds should be invested by the trustees of the National Debt Fund, but the bill has been amended to place the moneys in a National Insurance Investment Account.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 105 (Board of Trustees for National Insurance Funds).
.- I shall be glad if the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will explain the constitution of the Board of Trustees for National Insurance Funds. I take it that the fluids will be transferred to the board, and that the board will be absolutely independent, so that it will always be impossible for the government of the day to utilize, even temporarily, any of these funds. Can the Treasurer now assure the committee that the contributions by employers and employees, which, I understand, are to be collected through the Postal Department, will be under the sole control of the board ? I hope that the system to be adopted will not resemble that followed by the Postal Department with regard to licence-fee’s paid by wireless listeners. Before many years have elapsed, the National Insurance Investment Fund will have reached such magnitude that the Treasurer of the day may be sorely tempted to use some of this money. Every precaution should be taken to see that it will be impossible for any government to encroach upon the fund, because, in the past, money collected for specific purposes has been diverted to other uses. It seems to me that it would be advisable to give the contributors a direct representative on the board. I understand that the contributions will be collected through the post offices, and paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. At that stage, the money would be under the control of the Government. It is necessary, under the Constitution, that the contributions should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, otherwise I would urge that they be paid directly into the trust fund.
– I agree entirely with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). The Government has gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure the inviolability of the funds of the commission. All funds other than government contributions are to be collected by the Postal Department through the sale of stamps, and the Government does not propose to make any recompense to the Postal Department for that work.
– That may not always be the position.
– Any bill could be amended as the result of action taken by a subsequent government. The contributions of employers and employees would flow in through the sale of stamps by the post offices, and, at regular intervals, would be remitted by cheque to the Treasury for payment into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, from which the money would flow out at once to the National Insurance Trust Account.
– Why at once? Will it not flow out under statute?
– Yes. Under this bill, it will go straight into the trust account.
– Who will administer the fund?
– A select body of individuals, and there will be no politicians on the board. The Board of Trustees for National Insurance Funds will consist of the Chairman of the Commission, the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Statistician, and the Commonwealth Actuary. With the exception of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the officials I have mentioned are public servants with a high degree of responsibility. The Government believes with the honorable member for Lilley that these funds should be placed, as far as possible, beyond political control of any kind, except, of course, legislative control. We have laid down conditions in respect of the personnel of this body, and have indicated the kind of investments for which the funds may be used. The Government considers that, while the measure remains in its present form, all will he well with those funds. I believe that it is necessary in the interests of insured persons to make the funds as inviolable as possible.
– Has the Treasurer considered the advisability of placing a woman on the board?
– I think that the interests of all insured persons will be adequately safeguarded by reason of the personnel of the board. It would not be permissible for the trustees to invest the funds directly in any newly-issued public loan. The funds can be invested only in loans already on the market, and falling within the category of the highest grades of trustee investments”. They could not, for instance, be made available to complete subscriptions to a public loan that either the Government or the Loan Council might put on the market.
– We have been discussing the methods by which the funds which will accumulate in due course may be safeguarded. I hope that consideration will be given by the Government to the provision of means to prevent these funds from being too strictly guarded. Some of us have an idea that the financial implications of the fund are drawn on such a safe scale that it will be necessary in the future to see that the safeguards provided are not applied too rigidly. I am thinking of the action taken in connexion with a similar measure in Great Britain. Incidentally the funds accumulated during the 27 years of the operation of the British health insurance scheme amount to about £140,000,000, which shows an actuarial surplus of nearly £40,000,000. This result has been achieved notwithstanding that in the intervening years about £60,000,000 has been disbursed in additional statutory benefits. The care of the solvency of the unemployment insurance fund of Great Britain has been placed in the hands of a statutory advisory committee, with instructions from Parliament to see that the fund is kept at only such a level as will insure its solvency and no more. In other words, if undue balances accumulate year by year, that committee is called upon to make a recommendation to Parliament for the disposal of the surplus funds, either by diminishing contributions, or by increasing benefits. Year by year such a recommendation is made to Parliament. So concerned was the British House of Commons that this fund should not become, as funds had become in days gone by, the plaything of politics and of political parties, that even the Minister for Labour, who administers the unemployment insurance scheme, and has to transmit the recommendation of the advisory committee to Parliament, cannot vary the financial implications of the recommendation. If, after its annual investigation, the committee finds that a surplus of £2,000,000 is available - incidentally its last recommendation suggests that £62,000,000 has been accumulated in the fund - it is called upon to recommend to Parliament tie method to be followed in dealing with the disposal of the surplus. The Minister, in transmitting that recommendation to Parliament, may suggest variations of details, but may not depart from the substance of the recommendation. Parliament has thus ensured that present-day contributors to the fund shall not be called upon to accumulate an unconscionably huge surplus for the benefit of future generations. I suggest that in dealing with this fund it is possible for us to be too keen to conserve and save accrued surpluses. Some of us have no doubt whatever that a large surplus will be quickly accumulated in this fund. Obviously it is impossible to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) this afternoon to give additional consideration to this point, but I hope that before the measure is passed by another place steps will be taken to ensure that present-day contributors to this fund - and after all it is their money with which we are dealing - shall not be compelled to continue to make unnecessarily large contributions because of the whims of the government of the day. The responsibility for recommending what should be done with any disposable surplus, should be vested in some inde- pendentbodysuchasthatwhichnowhas control of the unemployment insurance fund of Great Britain.
Mr.CASEY (Corio - Treasurer) [2.50]. - I appreciate the points raised by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). There is, however, a substantial difference in the “ setup “ of this fund and that of the unemployment insurance fund of Great Britain. The money contributed under this scheme will be invested from time to time. It will, by no means, go out of public circulation. It will flow straight back to the Australian community in the shape of either Commonwealth or municipal bonds.
– The Treasurer is wrong there. What will happen is that,as the money flows out, other money will flow back. The money will be invested by purchasing stocks already on the market. It will just be a transfer of cash.
– The money will not go out of circulation. The point I wish to make is that there will be no deflationary effect in this regard. I expect that future governments will shape their policies in the establishment of corporations, semi-governmental institutions and the like, in such terms as will allow them to make use of this money. The controlling body of the fund will be empowered to invest in, say, municipal water bonds, or, perhaps, in the mortgage branch of the Commonwealth Bank which it is proposed to establish. No doubt debentures will be made available under conditions which will permit this commission to invest the money accumulated under this scheme.
– That might be very dangerous.
– It might be if a discretion rested with individuals who were dangerously minded.
– We contend that the authority proposed to be set up will not necessarily be competently minded to exercise this trust.
– The Government has gone to great trouble in selecting the individuals who will have charge ofthe National Insurance Trust Account. We have not selected, as we first intended, the members of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission. That body performs a somewhat similar servicein respect of the National Debt Sinking Fund as that which the Board of Trustees for National Insurance Funds Trust Account Commission will perform for this fund. We did not select the members of the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission, which includes the Chief Justice, representatives of States, and, generally, persons in no way connected with theoperations of the national insurance scheme. We thought it best to set up another body altogether to perform these functions. It will include persons in Commonwealth employ whom we believe to be suitable to be members of such a body.
.- The points raised by the honorable member forParramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) deserve the careful attention of the committee. Whatever we may do in this Parliament, we shall not be able to protect this trust fund against the one great enemy of trust funds - Parliament itself. Everybody who has had any experience of politics realizes that, however carefully a trust fund may be hedged about, it cannot be protected from Parliament. In Victoria we have a Transfer of Land Act Insurance Fund which is supposed to be a fund out of which persons wrongfully deprived of their land by the operations of the Titles Office may be compensated. That fund is periodically raided by act of parliament. Another fund of the same kind is contributed to by hotel licensees for their own protection in case the Licences Reduction Board may close their premises as the result of local option polls. This fund also is being constantly raided by act of parliament. It has, in fact, been so reduced that, during the Victorian prohibition poll of 1930, a strong argument used against no-licence was that insufficient money remained in the fund to allow for the compensation of licensees whose premises might be closed. If we pile up a big fund, needy treasurers will always be tempted to have resort to it. No big fund will ever be safe. . If we have topass through a financial crisis, such as we have passed through in the last few years, we shall have treasurers turning at once to such big funds for assistance.
– That is why the Treasurer is noton this commission.
– That does not matter. This provisionis no protection. The fund can be protected against an impossible Treasurer who has not a majority in Parliament,but it cannot be protected against a Treasurer who has a majority against Parliament itself. This is a protection against a Treasurer who has not a majority in Parliament; but it is not a protection against Parliament. The fund cannot be protected against Parliament. That is the big danger. I shall refer later to another curious provision and ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for an explanation of it. My point at the moment is that weshould not aim to amass a large fund, because if we do, it will not be of any benefit to the contributors, but will simply be a temptation to the Treasurer of the day. Rather should we set out to keep the contributions as low as possible and the benefits as great as possible.
– I agree with the view of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) as to the necessity for providing the maximum protection for this fund, and I realize the existence of the very grave danger outlined by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I come from a State which is rather famous, or infamous, for its manipulation of trust funds. If the history of the trust funds of Queensland were traced and the exact position set down, I think it would be discovered that the liabilities on the funds have in some years exceeded the real or true assets.
– What has the State Auditor-General to say on that point?
– He says the same thing about the “dud” assets of these funds. I emphasize that, while we may protect contributors against the actual manipulation of the trust fund. I fear that a means may be found to use the funds in another way. The money of the contributors goes first, as is required by the Constitution, into Consolidated Revenue. From there it is paid into the National Insurance Trust Account. There is nothing to stop a treasurer or a. government from asking Parliament to appropriate money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; nor call treasurers be prevented from levying the fund to an unfair degree for administrative costs. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has told us that this Government does not propose to charge anything against the fund in respect of the generous extra services which the Postal Department will necessarily have to render in connexion with the scheme. I do not think that that is a sound procedure. The Postal Department should receive proper credit and adequate consideration :ind compensation for whatever services it may be called upon to render, so that its financial activities may be seen in a clear light. Apart from that, we do not know how long this generous outlook of the Government will last, nor can we have any .assurance that succeeding governments will adopt the attitude of this Government. In fact, an undue loading or apportionment of costs may be made later in respect of the work of the Postal Department for this scheme. This danger should be avoided. No “ hard-up “ Treasurer should be subjected to the temptation to place an undue charge against this fund in respect of services rendered by the Postal Department. I have no misgivings personally as to how this fund will stand in the course of a few years, nor have I any doubt as to the conservative policy that has been proposed to accumulate reserves in this trust account. My view is, however, that reserves should be available only to the extent that they are wisely necessary to give the maximum protection to the subscribers. Only time will prove whether undue pessimism in the future of Australia has been displayed in the making of the actuarial calculations upon which this fund is based. 1 wish now to ask the Treasurer for some additional information about the probable administrative costs of this scheme. An allocation of £100,000 has been made under the heading of Health Administration, in addition to. 10s. per capita in respect of 1,850,000 persons, but certain other factors will need to be taken into account to measure the actual present-day cost of ^administering this fund. This is an extremely important point. We should have specific information at the outset as to the probable administrative expense that will be incurred in administering the Health Insurance Fund and the Pensions Insurance Fund by the National Insurance Commission. It would be of benefit if we could have the per capita cost. I take it that some consideration was given to administrative costs in fixing the amount of contributions.
– I agree with practically everything the honorable member has said. In the first place, we thought that the contributions would not have to pass through the Consolidated Revenue Fund at all, but Ave found we were limited by section SI of the Constitution, which provides that all revenues or moneys raised or received by the executive government “shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by the Constitution. We were told by our legal advisers that there is no way of overcoming the provisions of that section. It will be found that the budgets of the future, after all income and outgoing is provided for in the budget summary, will show the total receipts received through the Postal Department in connexion with the national insurance scheme. Offset against those receipts will be payments made into the National Insurance Fund. The debits and credits will then balance. I cannot inform the committee what the per capita administrative cost will be; the only information I can give is that the estimated expenditure in connexion with health administration will be £100,000.
– That is only ls. a head.
– There will also, of course, be expenditure in connexion with payments to approved societies.
– That will be included in the 16s. The amounts that make up the 16s. are Ils. for doctor, 4s. for the chemist, and ls. for administration.
– The ls. is the mileage fee. It is proposed that the National Insurance Commission shall have much wider scope in respect of health administration than is the case in Great Britain. In Great Britain approved societies, I believe, do practically all sick visitation.
There you get the anomaly that in any one street there may be three or four sick visitors from different societies visiting patients. It is just as uneconomic as having four or five milkmen delivering milk in one street. We are getting over that by drawing up a scheme whereby one visitation staff will do practically all the health visitation for approved societies operating in the district.
.- The question of the constitution of the board, of trustees for the National Insurance Fund is one of very great importance. The board will have the responsibility for controlling one of the largest funds in Australia, running into very many millions of pounds. It is suggested that its members will be beyond political control, but I point out that, as every member of the board is a public servant, although he may be beyond direct political control, he will he, to some degree at any rate, under political influence. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) suggested that some effort should be made to provide representation of an effective character for those who will be called upon to contribute to the fund. As the board is proposed to be constituted under clause 105, neither employers nor employees will have representation on the board. I do not think that a representative should be placed on the board merely for the purpose of giving those sections of the community formal representation, but I do suggest that the Government should co-opt the services of a representative of those organizations which are now practically administering similar activities. The Government might very well, for instance, co-opt the services of a representative of the mutual provident life assurance companies. The difficulty is to select a proper representative. In my opinion, a representative of the employers and employees will have to be selected by some means or other. I suggest that it would be of great benefit to the board if included among its members was a representative of the contributors, whose presence would act as a check on the civil servants who, under the clause as it now stands, will constitute the board.
– I am afraid my point was not quite understood by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Perhaps I might be permitted to explain it further by saying that I urged that we should refrain from piling up an unconscionable surplus from contributions during this generation in order to provide a good-looking surplus for future years. It has been pointed out that no trust fund is inviolable so far as Parliament itself is concerned, and various suggestions have been made that the fluids which will accumulate from national insurance contributions might conceivably be appropriated by some future Treasurer. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened in Great Britain, and that is why the statutory unemployment insurance fund committee to which I referred was- appointed. The unemployment insurance measure came into operation in Great Britain in 1911-12. By 1921, the national insurance fund, after meeting all obligations, had a surplus of £22,000,000. The fund was accumulated on the assumption that a maximum liability for fifteen weeks’ unemployment benefits was normally adequate. Most men in ordinary times of industrial security were able to get back to work within fifteen weeks; but in 1921 a wave of unemployment began to sweep over Europe,’ and men were not getting back to work within that period. As a consequence, having exhausted all they were entitled to collect from the fund, they fell back on the Government for sustenance. The government of the day, instead of assuming that responsibility, cast covetous eyes on the £22,000,000 in reserve in the unemployment insurance fund, and said “ That belongs to these people; we will extend the period for the payment of benefits from 15 to 26 weeks “. It did that without increasing contributions to the fund. That is one way in which a Treasurer, with a parliamentary majority behind him, can unload on to such a fund responsibilities which should be met- by other means. That extension not only swallowed up the surplus but during the ten-year period, 1921-1931, involved the borrowing from the Government of £110,000,000. It was to conserve the finances of the fund and to place a check on any further accumulations at the expense of present-day contributors that the statutory committee to which I have referred was appointed. That committee does not wait for the government of the day to amend the rates of contributions or benefits; every year, under statute, it makes recommendations to Parliament designed to preserve the correct actuarial balance of the fund. In that way the present generation of contributors to the unemployment insurance scheme in Great Britain is protected against unnecessary or excessive contributions. I hope that before this bill becomes law the Government will give some attention to the desirability of protecting contributors to the Australian scheme in this way.
– I find myself in sympathy with the views of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in respect of this particular clause. I do not share the inferior complex of some honorable members with regard to officials of public departments. I believe that the officers who aTe to form the Board of Trustees of the National Insurance Fund could not be more wisely chosen. I feel sure that no body of men could more effectively handle the funds than those named in the bill. In my opinion the proposed board is an excellent one, and I do not think it could be improved by the inclusion of a representative of private insurance companies. A good many shady things have been sheeted home to men occupying high positions in the business world. Many of them have appropriated to their own use large sums of the peoples’ money, thereby causing widows and orphans much unnecessary suffering. With the board selected by the Government I cannot imagine anything like that happening. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) presented us with a picture painted on both sides. He said that it was wrong for the Treasurer to establish a large fund, even though the circumstances were extraordinary; yet in pointing out what happened in Great Britain in connexion with the utilization of the unemployment insurance funds to extricate the Government from a difficulty in which it was placed owing to the depression, he said that the government of the day had to borrow a large sum of money to replenish the fund. After all, the people themselves contributed that fund. What was wrong with using it to help those people who established it? The fund belonged to the people. I think it wise to have sufficient elasticity in connexion with the fund to be able to utilize it in that way. It should not be administered as if it were established for money-lending purposes. If it be wisely administered it will earn interest, and it will not be necessary to make an additional levy on contributors to meet unusual expenditure. I am not in favor of the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony (that once a fund has reached beyond a safe actuarial level the surplus should be distributed among the contributors. The honorable member for Parramatta said that the administration of the fund should be so tightened up. as to prevent a Treasurer from making a raid upon it, and quoted the experience of such raids in Great Britain to show the danger in that direction. In my opinion, in view of the circumstances surrounding the depression in Great Britain, that so-called raid, was warranted. If .those funds had not been utilized, people living in the distressed areas at that time would have suffered considerably more than they did.
– Pensions could not be distributed in that way.
– We could extend the benefits. Surely honorable members do not believe that Australia will never reach the position in which it will be possible to provide a pension of 25s. instead of £1. I trust that nobody will be canvassed from outside organizations to sit upon the Board of Trustees to administer the national insurance funds. I think we can all be perfectly satisfied that the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Statistician and the Commonwealth Actuary will form a very excellent board for this purpose. All of these officers are capable of administering the fund wisely. If they do not suit honorable members, I do not know what body of men would do so.
– I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) understood the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). As I understood him, the honorable member for Parramatta was not concerned with tightening up the funds so that they could not be used for any other purposes; the honorable gentleman’s sole concern was that the fund should not be tied in such a manner as to make it inflexible. As I understood him., he was objecting to the contributions of the present generation being so excessive as to pile up a huge surplus for the benefit of future generations. I suggest that the methods spoken of as being applied in Great Britain were based on experience there, particularly during a period of acute depression. Should an epidemic make its appearance in Australia, it might be found necessary to supplement the health insurance fund from other sources. It should be possible for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in consultation with the experts, to ascertain the effect of previous epidemics which have swept Australia, Avith a view to estimating the number of persons who might call upon the fund for relief, thereby placing themselves in the position of being able to determine the minimum amount of surplus funds that should be held by the commission. The honorable member for Parramatta made some valuable suggestions to which the Government should give careful consideration.
– There is an essential difference between an unemployment scheme and a health and pensions scheme. The latter is very much more amenable to actuarial calculation than an unemployment scheme can be. The only investments set aside are those set aside in the names of these approved societies - amounts necessary to meet the obligations that will fall on them in the future. We are not proposing to take away, any more than is necessary to meet the actuarially calculated reserves of future groups of members in each approved society. Everything else will be at the disposal of the approved societies at five-yearly intervals for the creation of additional benefits.
.- When we on this side asked for further concessions for contributors, we were told that the benefits would- exceed the contribu tions. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was emphatic on that point, is now afraid that a Treasurer will find the surplus at his disposal so large as to be embarrassing. The whole scheme is a device to extort money from the workers and the employers in industry in the interests of persons with big incomes who do not employ labor. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) seems to be afraid to give to a Treasurer the control of such large sums of money, but like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) I am confident that the fund will be safe in the hands of the commissioners. Should there be a. huge surplus, it could be distributed among contributors by either increasing the benefits or reducing their payments. The honorable member for Parramatta is not consistent; at one time he said that the benefits would exceed the payments, and later he expressed the fear that a big surplus would accumulate.
– That is because employers also will contribute to the fund.
– The altered outlook of some honorable members opposite is astounding.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 106 and 107 agreed to.
Clause 108 (National Insurance Trust Account).
– This clause follows the usual form for trust accounts, but it seems inappropriate in this bill. It reads -
For the purposes of this act, there shall be a trust account, to be called the National Insurance Trust Account; which shall be a trust account within the meaning of section 02a of the Audit Act 1901-1934.
Section 62a of the Audit Act contains some provisions which are entirely inappropriate to such a fund as will be established under this bill. Sub-section 4 of that section provides -
The Treasurer may direct that any trust account be closed, and thereupon the moneys standing to the credit of the account shall, after all liabilities of the account have been met, be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Other sub-sections also appear to be inappropriate. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) give consideration to an alteration of the drafting of this clause. For some purposes certain provisions of section 62a of the Audit Act do apply to such a trust fund,but other provisions do not apply at all. It seems undesirable that a trust fund established within the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act should be subjected to the power of the Treasurer to close it. I do not say that that is intended, but I suggest that the wording of the clause be reconsidered.
-Would the provision control the board of trustees?
– Under the subsection that I have read the Treasurer would have the power to close the trust account. That is not intended. Section 62b of the Audit Act deals with provisions for investments which are not consistent with this scheme.
– That section does not control the board of trustees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 109 to 114 agreed to.
Clause 115 -
– The clause as it now stands specifies certain amounts which are to be allocated to the medical benefit account, and from the fund so created the cost of medical benefits is to be paid. As honorable gentlemen know, those amounts were calculated on the basis of an agreement arrived at between representatives of the Government and the Federal Committee of the British Medical Association. I do not need to rehearse the incidents which have occurred since that agreement was entered into, as only yesterday I announced on behalf of the Government, its intention to set up a royal commission to investigate the terms and conditions under which members of the medical profession should be asked to give their services under this scheme. That makes necessary an amendment to this clause. I, therefore, move -
That sub-clause ( 1 ) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause: -
There shall be kept in the Health Insurance Fund an account to be called the Medical Benefit account to which shall he credited from time to time, out of the moneys standing to the credit of the Health Insurance Fund, such amounts as are, in the opinion of the commission, necessary to meet the cost of medical benefit under this act.”
Obviously, the amount must be dealt with by regulation. That is the purpose of the amendment.
.- The rates fixed in sub-clause 1 are 16s. in respect of men, and 17s. 6d. in respect of women. It has now been decided by the Government that the rates shall be determined by a royal commission, and fixed by regulation. There has been a great deal of discussion on this phase of the scheme, and now Parliament is being asked to pass the clause without fixing any rates at all. The rates are to be fixed by regulation, and Parliament will have no say in the matter.
– The regulations can bo discussed in Parliament.
– Perhaps, but that is not the right way to do the job. The doctors have indicated very clearly that they will not accept less than the Government offered, and, therefore, if a figure is to be agreed upon, the royal commission must recommend more. Otherwise the doctors will reject the recommendation, and Parliament cannot do anything about it. The doctors are subject to the laws of the States in which they live, and cannot be coerced by the Commonwealth. If the rates recommended by the commission are higher, which I submit they must be, then the contributions under the scheme will have to be raised, or an inferior medical service will be provided. I submit, therefore, that the whole of this clause should be omitted, and then, when the royal commission has submitted its recommendations, the matter can be dealt with by Parliament.Women are being given a raw deal right throughout the scheme, and in this clause it is proposed that they should have to pay1s. 6d. a week more than men for medical attention.
– Women will not have to pay that amount.
– It must be paid on their behalf. No doubt the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will say that the employer pays part of it, but, in practice, the employer will pay nothing. The income of the employer will not be reduced by one penny because of his contributions to the scheme. All costs will be passed on to the consumers, that is, the workers, who, in the end, will pay for everything either by direct contribution or in the form of increased prices.
.- In view of the developments which have taken place since the making of the agreement with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, the amendment which the Government has now brought before us cannot fail to give satisfaction, not only to members of the medical profession, but also to the public generally. I commend the Government on its action.
The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated that, after the royal commission has made its recommendation, the rate of remuneration to doctors will be fixed by regulation. That would appear to leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the Government, but I presume the Government would feel itself bound to accept, within very narrow limits, any recommendation which the commission might make, and, in subsequent quinquennial periods, the recommendations of the board of inquiry. I hope that the Treasurer will be able to give an assurance to this effect, and thus allay any uneasiness which members of the medical profession may entertain on the point.
The scheme provides that there shall be a revision of rates, &c, every five years, and while I agree that that will be satisfactory once the scheme is properly in operation, I submit that the first revision should take place after three years. The Treasurer must recognize that the royal commission, when considering rates, will be traversing unexplored territory, so far as this country is concerned. No doubt it will be guided by English conditions, insofar as they apply, and by the experience of the friendy societies, but, making all allow ance for this, its recommendations must be based largely upon hypotheses which cannot be definitely fixed. I suggest, therefore, that the first revision should take place after a period of three years, and that thereafter there should be a revision at the end of each quinquennial period. The royal commission itself should consider this suggestion, and, if it favours’ revision after three years, its recommendation to that effect should be adopted by the Government.
.- It is interesting to note that the Government is looking around for a way out of the situation in which it finds itself astheresult of its negotiations with members of the medical profession. I have heard the doctors’ side of the dispute, and 1 think that they have a very good case. For that reason Ido not propose to quarrel with the proposal that a commission should inquire into the matter, but I suggest that the scope of the commission should be extended to inquire into the position of contributors to the fund, as well as that of the employees of the fund, which is what the doctors will be.
I am not satisfied with the provisions under which the approved societies may, or may not, grant additional benefits when they have amassed surpluses. If it is a good thing for a royal commission to consider the question of remuneration for doctors, it might also be desirable to lay down a general principle for the granting of the benefits’ to all sections affected by the scheme. I understand that, in theBritish act, there doesnot exist the same provision for pooling and redistributing the surpluses of the approved societies. If may so happen that, although all contributors have to pay the same amount, they may not all receive the same benefits because, while one society may decide to distribute surpluses by way of increased benefits, another might desire to retain its surplus in order to pile up its assets. Since a commission is to be set up to determine the remuneration of medical practitioners, the principle should be extended and a commission should be set up to determine at each five-year period when there is a re-appraisement of the assets of the approved societies that additional benefits must be uniform among the approved societies. I understand that in Great Britain there are difficulties because some parts are healthy and some unhealthy, and some trade unions cover healthy trades and some unhealthy trades.
– We will surmount that difficulty by pooling half of the profits.
– I agree that this is an improvement on the British scheme, but, having devised a method of pooling half of the profits, I think there should be some compulsion on approved societies to give additional benefits to their members. As all persons are taxed equally, all persons should get equal benefits ; and the only way in which we can ensure that is by the establishment of some authority which will determine first, whether there should be additional benefits, and, secondly, if additional benefits are decided on that they should be uniform among all approved societies.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is covered by clause 161 (4). Approved societies are to be compelled to distribute their surpluses on the valuation reached by a valuer. If the honorable member refers to the clause, he will see that reference is made to a valuer who, I understand, will be an actuary; he will see that his objections are not valid. I agree that there should be some provision to ensure that, if surpluses exist, additional benefits shall be granted ; but I do not agree that, if one approved society determines on a particular additional benefit, another society should be compelled to determine upon the same benefit. The additional benefits to be conferred should be in accordance with the needs and wishes of the members. One group may desire additional dental benefits, whereas another group may desire an additional benefit of another form. I assure the honorable member for Dalley that the re-distribution of one-half of the surpluses of approved societies is compelled under clause 161.
– That does not meet my objection that one society may decide to confer additional benefits on its members whereas another may not.
– That cannot be so, because half of the surpluses are taken over and the balance must be re-distri buted. As a matter of fact, as I see it, if one society has no surplus from which a distribution can be made the distribution from the pool will be used to provide the necessary funds.
– The honorable member will note that the clause says “ may “ and not “shall”.
– I have no fear about that, but, if the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) feels that “ shall “ should be substituted for “ may “, he can move an amendment.
I support the request made by the honorable’ member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) for a quinquennial review of the basis for the capitation fee for medical practitioners reached by the royal commission which, as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has announced, is to be set up to determine that basis. Provision for a review was contained in the first proposal submitted by the Treasurer, but there is no mention of it in the circulated amendment now before the committee. Such a review is necessary, because I can easily foresee that the whole basis recommended by the royal commission will be altered after the passage of few years. The alteration may or may not be to the advantage of the medical practitioners, but whatever alteration occurs must be unfair either to the doctors or to the contributors. I suggest that the first review should be made three years after the royal commission’s recommendations have been acted upon, and that further reviews should take place every five years thereafter. I impress upon the Treasurer that this is a new field of endeavour in this country and that we have no knowledge of the conditions that will operate. We have the basis on which the friendly societies operate, but that is far from being sufficient for our needs. Accordingly, I hope that the Treasurer, when referring this matter to the royal commission, will not tie the commission down to such terms of reference as will compel it to give consideration to the claims of the British Medical Association along certain definite lines. If the Treasurer gives a direction that the basis to be adopted should be arrived at after consideration of the capitation fees now paid by friendly societies, he may cut right across the charity - I do not like the word - or the consideration that has been given by the British Medical Association to friendly societies that have set out to help themselves. The doctors have certainly endeavoured to fit in their practices to the treatment of members of those societies on a concession basis. I remind the committee that the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association has reacted against the capitation fee suggested in the bill to the extent of asking for an increase of 100 per cent. If the Treasurer tied the royal commission down to the British practice he would find that the British capitation fee of 9s. would represent, when the difference of the value of currencies was taken into consideration, something like l1s. 3d. in Australian currency.
Mr.Casey. - That has no relation.
– It has a certain relation. Also there is the incidence of the high tariff.
– That has been taken into account.
– I suggest that the averaging of the friendly societies’ figure at 9s. plus 2s. for extras made no allowance for the tariff or the difference in the cost of living.
– All of those factorswere taken into consideration.
– I stand correctedI foresee a multiplicity of anomalies if the Treasurer ties the commission down to strict terms of reference. I suggest an open inquiry.
– How could the royal commission proceed with a calculation unless it were given some basis on which to act?
– I suggest that the basis could be the medical benefits that are likely to be conferred upon the contributor and the approved charges that are levied at the moment by the medical profession.
– Contract practice?
– The Treasurer could not tie the royal commission down to definite contract practice fees. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told the committee about the conditions that operate in the coal-fields.
I have made investigations there myself, and I find that the medical practitioners receive considerably more from the miners than is proposed under this scheme, and considerably more even than is paid by the friendly societies. The Treasurer must give an open inquiry. The fixing of a basis would not be beyond the capacity of members of the commission.
– In reply to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the capitation rate of l1s., provided for in the bill, was arrived at on the basis of the average contract practice in Australia. At the same time, the Government’s advisors went into the respective costs of a medical practitioner maintaining a practice in Australia and in Great Britain. We did not commence our calculations on the basis of the English figure; but in order to inform our minds, and in order that our advisers might inform their minds, the costs of a doctor in Australia on a certain level of income were compared, with the costs of a doctor similarly circumstanced in Great Britain. The honorable member is quite right when he says that the amendment that I am now moving to Clause 115 takes the place of an amendment previously tabled before the decision was reached to refer the matter to a royal commission. It is our intention, although the terms of reference have not yet been framed, to refer the point now raised to the royal commission. It was intended to ask the commission to indicate at what intervals of time, in its opinion, benefits should be investigated, and how they should be investigated. I do not suppose that it will be necessary to set up a commission every three or five years, and I do not think that there is any. set period in Great Britain. Sometimes there is an interval of ten or fifteen years between investigations in Great Britain, but at other times the interval is much shorter. Sometimes there is a downward and sometimes an upward movement of doctors’ fees. If the commission reports as to the need for investigation the Government can, ad hoc, from time to time, set up a body to make the investigation.
– Does the Treasurer not think it possible to come to some agreement with the British Medical Association as to the terms of reference? Although I ask that question, I do not want to inveigle him into making a statement in that regard.
– I would rather not be lied in that respect. I should like to have a free hand and, in proper time, to sit down and think the matter over in a way that will give us as nearly as possible the right answer.
.- The efficient handling of the medical problems associated with the bill is one of the most important essentials if the health benefits arc to be of any consequence to the contributing community. If the medical practitioners refuse to render service under the bill the whole of the health benefit provisions will break down. I, therefore, consider that the Government has made an advance by deciding to remove the clause from the sphere of immediate contention by handing it over to a royal commission, but that decision does not go far enough. We should be given some indication of the terms of reference to the commission. I am particularly concerned about the country medical practitioner, for I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to impress on the commission the need for considering the special conditions under which doctors in the country practice.
– Most specifically that will be done.
– I am glad to hear that. The Government would be making a very great mistake if it stood absolutely on the terms of the report of the .royal commission when endeavouring to arrive at a decision with the British Medical Association. Although the commission may make a report, no obligation rests on any doctor to undertake service under the conditions specified.
– The Government would not be bound absolutely by the recommendations of the commission.
– The general atmosphere I have sensed is that, the British Medical Association having refused to carry out the agreement arrived at, there is now a danger of the Government stand ing on its dignity. The result of that may be that the health benefit clauses may become inoperative, because of the failure of the two parties to agree. There is much more than 2£d. a week hinging on the question. The Government must give the doctors fair and even generous treatment because, when all is said and done, it is they who will decide what weekly payments have to be made to the sick contributors. If only inefficient doctors undertake the service the Government may lose more than by paying higher fees to better-class doctors.
– I said in my secondreading speech that the Government was aiming at a contented medical service. I still stick to that.
– The Treasurer, as I am, is aware that the medical men would be anything but contented under the proposal that has been made.
– There is a great deal of misapprehension as to what the Government requires.
– I should say there is some substance in the complaint of the British Medical Association. The Treasurer mentioned that much of his information was gathered from a study of conditions obtaining in Great Britain. E have a copy of the report of the British Ministry for Health for 1934-35, which shows that physicians’ fees in Great Britain accounted for 21.9 per cent, of the whole of the contributions. As nearly as I can calculate it, the percentage in Australia would be about 15.
– Of what total?
– The total given in the book from which I am quoting is 147.000,000 dollars.
– Would that include sickness benefit?
– I am merely basing my argument on percentages. The services included in the 21.9 per cent, were - payment to physicians, including capitation fees, mileage allowances, remuneration for medicines used in practice, payments to non-insurance practitioners for services rendered to insured persons allowed to make their own arrangements, and subventions for postgraduate study. I submit that the country doctor in Australa has a particularly good claim, and I ask the Government to keep that fact in mind even after receiving the report of the commission. I do not know how the commission will be constituted, and Parliament will have no opportunity to express an opinion on that matter. I take the only opportunity I shall have by speaking now. Clause 47- states -
Medical benefit consists of such proper and necessary medical services as are prescribed and the provision of proper and sufficient drugs and medicines and 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 - and this is the point I particularly want to emphasize - 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.
I suggest that the country medical practitioner must exercise a larger amount of special skill than the doctor practising in the city, because he has not the same facilities for sending his patients to hospital for special treatment. He has to be every kind of practitioner combined. I believe the Government intends to be fair, and it has already shown it by announcing its intention to appoint a royal commission. But I sincerely hope that, for the safety of the health clauses of the bill, the Government will seek to make a rapprochement with the British Medical Association, so that when the scheme comes to be administered we shall Iia vo a contented medical service.
.- I support the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and add to his hope that the terms of reference to the royal commission will ask the commission to indicate how soon after the commencement of the act it may be desirable to review the conditions and scale of fees. There is great uncertainty in the minds of members of this committee, and of the public, as to whether the medical side of the bill will improve the facilities available for medical treatment. Quite definitely it will enable a considerable number of people who at present pay medical fees, and can afford to pay them, to come in “ on the cheap.” On the other hand, in certain areas it will provide capitation fees for work done- by doctors who at present do that work for nothing. Whether that averaging down of fees for some people, and averaging up from nothing for others, will extend and improve the service will mainly depend on the method of working the act, and the extent to which really useful, friendly service is obtained under it. It is most important that the royal commission should start with an absolutely open mind, so that the doctors will have a feeling that it intends to find out, without previous bias, what are the necessary fees to enable doctors to give a service at least equal to that available to the people now. Also, the doctors should be assured that if, in the light of practical experience, the original decision is found to be wrong, there will be no unnecessary delay in holding a subsequent inquiry, and making necessary adjustments. The pension side of the bill is universally applauded, except by a few people. It is only on the medical side that there is confusion and doubt; and because there is doubt there is misunderstanding and opposition. If this national insurance scheme is really to bring benefit to the people it needs to be operated with goodwill, and the conditions need to be as good as they have been in the past for both doctors and patients.
.- I agree with those who state that the whole scheme of national health insurance will break down unless we have an efficient medical service. To obtain that service the medical practitioner must be treated fairly in the matter of remuneration, so that the tasks imposed .on doctors will not be more than their remuneration fairly justifies. Although in his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) emphasized the need for a contented medical service, it has been found impossible to secure the co-operation of the general medical practitioner at a remuneration of lis. a head of insured persons. Whilst the proposal for the appointment of a royal commission to report on what is a fair remuneration for the doctors is generally welcomed, I point out that there are many objections to that expensive method. I realize that the Treasurer was on the horns of a dilemma, and probably the appointment of a royal commission was the only way open to him to avoid having to jettison the scheme. I hope that, at a very early date, he will lay down the terms of refernce to the royal commission, and place before the Federal Council of the British Medical Association a list of the duties which the general medical practitioners will have to perform for the proposed remuneration.
– We shall have to interpret for the royal commission the provisions of clause 47. We shall do that in considerable detail, so that there may be no doubt about the matter. We have already done so to a large extent with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association.
– If that be done, the Federal Council of the British Medical Association will be in a better position, when preparing its case for submission to the royal commission, to indicate what it considers a fair and reasonable rate to charge. The complaint has been made that the general medical practitioners were not consulted by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, which body, they say, consists of specialists who are not in general practice and are not conversant with the work of the general medical practitioner. From my observations and study I am able to say that the general medical practitioner in Australia undertakes all kinds of surgical work, and generally is a much better all-round man than is the panel doctor in England, where the people are more specialist-minded. There is in the British act, or in the regulations made under it, provision which makes it impossible for the panel doctor to conduct an operation on a panel patient unless he receives permission to do so from a certain board.
– The object of that is merely to safeguard the patient.
– But there is the danger that a “ring” may be formed among Australian surgeons who are members of the Australasian College of Surgeons, and there may be an attempt to make all surgical work the sole prerogative of the members of the college. When the Australasian College of Surgeons was formed in, I think, 1924, quite a number of men were admitted to it who held no major degree in surgery overseas but who, in their general practice in Australia, had acquired a certain degree of skill as surgeons. In 1932, however, it was laid down that there should be no new admissions to the Australasian College of Surgeons of other than applicants who held a senior degree in surgery. Many men who, while carrying on a general practice, had done quite a lot of surgical work, did not then apply for admission to the Australasian College of Surgeons. Some of them are better men than others who hold a degree, and their interests would, be detrimentally affected if the Australasian College of Surgeons were able to wield sufficient influence with the Medical Practitioners Advisory Committee or the Federal Council of the British Medical Association to prevent the general practitioner who is a panel doctor from undertaking surgical operations unless he receives the permission of the college or of some subsidiary body over which it is able to exercise authority. There is great anxiety as to how this scheme will affect general medical practitioners, many of whom have established large practices and are very efficient surgeons, because of the fear that some “ ramp “ may be worked by the specialists for the purpose of diverting from the general practitioner to the specialist quite a lot of the work which the former is now doing. Some general practitioners have large family responsibilities, or are paying heavy insurance premiums. Others have partners to whom they pay high salaries. There is grave danger that they will be seriously interfered with if the Australasian College of Surgeons is able to exercise an influence over some body which has the authority to say that surgical work shall not be undertaken by the panel doctors, but must be given to specialists. That applies also to other work which in England to-day is not done by the average panel doctor, who in many cases has not had the hospital experience which the average general practitioner in Australia to-day invariably has had. In England, a young man just out of the university, upon becoming a panel doctor, tries to avoid ‘th<i responsibility of ‘ conducting any major surgical operation; he sends all such cases to specialists. The Australian general practitioner is in a different category. He devotes a couple of afternoons a week to a hospital, in an honorary capacity, and becomes a qualified surgeon. Is he to be adversely affected under this measure? I hope that the Treasurer will take early steps to make clear the proposed terms of reference to the royal commission, so that there may be no misapprehension and general practitioners will be in a position to calculate what is a fair remuneration for the services they will be called upon to perform.
– I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Government upon having decided, to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the fees that are to be paid to the medical profession. I have no doubt that the terms of reference will be wide enough to embrace all the matters that have been brought before the committee by those honorable members who have already spoken. I agree with previous speakers that the proposed period of five years for a re-examination of the position would be too long. Chemists are in like category. Consequently their case also might be considered, because costs are being based to a greater or less . degree on the experience of the British scheme, and the amount fixed in respect of drugs and dispensing may prove to be either too high or too low. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that the doctor who practises in the country is entitled to higher fees than are paid to the city man, because he has greater distances to travel. I am not doubting the desire or the anxiety of the Treasurer to do the fair thing by the doctors and everybody else. No one has worked harder than has he to bring this scheme to fruition, and I congratulate him upon his performance, but I urge him to make such provision as will enable an earlier review than after five years to be made of the fees paid to chemists and friendly societies dispensaries, so that, if the amount be too high or too low, it may be either lowered or raised.
– I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when deciding upon the terms of reference to the royal commission, not to restrict the investigation merely to an arithmetical calculation. There are elements outside an arithmetical calculation which have caused the trouble that now exists. We all know that one reason for disturbance in the minds of the doctors is that, when this scheme comes into operation, they will no longer draw a substantial fee from the man who has no dependants. For the most part, persons of that class will be covered by this measure, and the medical fee in their case will be on the basis of a one-person service, whereas up till now the medical practitioner has received in respect of the unmarried person payment equal to that obtained from the family man. I urge the Treasurer to make the terms of reference sufficiently wide to enable the royal commission to recommend the perpetuation of that practice. That would necessarily involve some contribution from the insurance fund towards the ultimate cost of providing medical service for families.
.- I understand that medical practitioners in out-back localities are to be allowed a mileage rate. Will that apply also in metropolitan areas?
– Yes, for all distances over three miles, on the basis of 6d. a mile each way. That, on a very generous basis, is regarded as the .cost of running a car. Then there will be 12s. 6d. an bour in respect of running time, based on a travelling rate of 25 miles an hour.
– I do not regard that as too much. Will there be the same rate in respect of suburban areas in which there are concrete roads?
– That is all discarded now that the matter is to be referred to a royal commission.
– The royal commission should be instructed to consider the case of out-back districts in which it is difficult to travel in a car at a rate of even two or three miles an hour.
– The outback doctors will have an opportunity to press that claim.
– Tlie out-back doctors, as a rule, are not consulted, and their number is not large.
– Representative men will be called to give evidence.
– I think that they should bc called, not only in New South Wales and Victoria, but also in the other States. Difficulty was experienced in providing medical attention in country areas in Tasmania, and it was overcome only by having the service provided by government doctors. In a recent issue of the Hobart Mercury it was reported that the scheme had proved most successful and that, for the first time in the history of the State, proper medical attention had been provided for people in out-back districts which previously had never been visited by doctors, the calls numbering many hundreds every month. In one country district, a person who was asked “How do you get a doctor out here in the winter time?” replied, “We do not get a doctor; we let the people die naturally “. The out-back settler has not had any encouragement. Several sawmills in my electorate are right out in the bush, where it would be impossible to take a car, and a doctor would have to pay his visit on horseback, or perhaps would have to walk. Those are the places in which medical attention should be provided. Doctors in such districts cannot be adequately provided for on the basis of so much a mile or so much an hour; some special arrangement should be made in their case. If residents in a city or suburban area cannot get one doctor, they can approach another, or go to a chemist. In an all-Australian scheme special facilities should be provided in respect of the medical treatment of people living in outback areas. If it is not possible to make such provision from the funds available under the scheme then the Government should come to the rescue.
.- Most honorable members are glad that the Government has decided to appoint a royal commission to inquire into, among other things, the payments to be made for medical treatment of insured persons under this scheme. It must be remembered, however, that the royal commission will only be able to form opinions and that facts based on actual experience will not emerge until the scheme has been in operation for some time. It is upon such facts that the periodical review will be based. I hope, therefore, that, in case the findings of the royal commission may not prove to be as sound as at first thought, provision will be made to facilitate the holding of these reviews as quickly and as frequently as possible. 1 agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), that, as far as the effect of the scheme on chemists,, for instance, is concerned, it is most desirable that the first review of the operation of the scheme should be made as soon as possible. For this reason I was pleased to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) express the opinion that a fiveyear review period would be too long.
Another matter which should be urgently considered is the differentiation between the rates of payment to country doctors and city doctors. In view of the ‘ obvious difficulties under which country doctors are obliged to work, I feel sure that the Treasurer will agree that a real need for such differentiation exists. I again urge that the royal commission should be appointed as soon as possible, and that honorable members should be informed of the terms of reference.
.- It. is obvious that doctors in sparsely populated areas will be obliged to travel much longer distances than city doctors in order to attend patients on their panel. The medical profession generally agrees that the claim for higher rates for country doctors is justified. Discussing this matter in its issue of the 28th May, 193S, the Medical Journal of Australia states:
In the first place an increase in the capita-‘ tion fee will bc proposed by the Federal Council. The Commonwealth Treasurer will be informed that 14s. per annum in metropolitan areas, and an additional 25 per cent, (making 17s. 6d.) per annum in country districts, are the minimum rates acceptable to the profession.
I do not propose to suggest what rates should be paid to medical practitioners, but I hope that the Government will indicate to the royal commission that in its view the rate payable to country doctors should be at least 25 per cent, more than that payable to city doctors. I am informed that the medical doctor at Ben- cubbin, Western Australia, has recently been obliged to leave that district, because, although he has been there for only a short period, he has been rendered practically insolvent, debts owed to him amounting to £3,000, because of continued bad seasons and the low prices of wheat. Under this scheme doctors should be enabled to continue in practice in such districts, the residents of which consist mainly of small farmers whose incomes do not exceed £200 a year, and who should not be asked to pay the1s. 6d. a week for employees. If the Government pays this1s. 6d. a week the scheme would be beneficial in the country.
– It is generally recognized that a scheme of this nature cannot be operated successfully if harmony with the medical profession is not maintained. Therefore, the decision of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this aspect is welcome. I should like to know from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) whether, if it is found impossible under the scheme itself to make adequate provision for the payment of doctors in sparsely settled districts, the Government would be prepared to grant a subsidy in this respect. In any case, I trust that a reasonable compromise will be arrived at in order to ensure that the greatest benefits possible will be enjoyed under the scheme by residents of country districts. I am pleased to hear that the Treasurer is of opinion that a review period of five years would be too long. As far as the effect of this scheme on dispensaries is concerned, I suggest that the first review at least should be made at the end of the first year, because the longer that review is delayed, the greater will be the danger of wrecking friendly societies’ dispensaries and the businesses of private chemists.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
– In order that the committee may have reasonable time to discuss Part VII. of the bill, I suggest that clauses 116 to 136 inclusive, with the Government’s amendments thereon, be taken as a whole. Judging by the progress of the debate so far itis quite clear that unless something of this kind is done, the committee will have very little time indeed to deal with the very important clauses covering approved societies. It is in the interests of those honorable members who are particularly concerned with the effect of this scheme on such societies, that I make my suggestion.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) in the hope that a vote will be taken forthwith on the remaining clauses of Part VI., and the committee thus be enabled to proceed to Part VII. immediately.
– Is it the pleasure of the committee that clauses 116 to 136 inclusive, together with the Government’s amendments thereon, be considered en bloc?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Clauses 116 to 136.
. - I wish to discuss briefly clause 132 which deals with the investment of the Pensions Insurance Fund. Under clause 105 a board of trustees for national insurance funds is set up, and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) pointed out that that body is admirably equipped for its particular task. This clause, however, I suggest, restricts too rigidly the field of investment which will be open to that body, bearing in mind such factors as yield. mobility and security. In Great Britain, the boards may invest their funds in government housing schemes or other forms of social help provided there is a guaranteed return from such investments. I understand that the provision in this clause is open to that interpretation, but I would point out to the Treasurer that investments of this form would be exposed to a grave risk as the result of government policy in favour of devaluation of the currency, which would have the effect of depressing the value of government stocks. In this event the fund would suffer. The practice of large insurance companies is to spread their investments over the whole field of industrial and land securities. I suggest that as we shall have an authority which willbe admirably equipped to deal with these funds, it will be unnecessary toincur risk by restricting it to investment in securities that may be affected by a policy of inflation. The Treasurer should give to the board power to spread its investments over the whole field.
– The range of trustee investment provided in the clause is quite wide. It includes securities which have been issued by the Government of the Commonwealth, or of the United Kingdom, or by any public authority constituted by any act or State act. When we establish the mortgage branch of the Commonwealth Bank with power to issue debentures, that will provide another avenue. There are also the securities offered by State housing authorities. water and sewerage boards.
Clauses 116 to 136, with the circulated amendments of the Government incorporated, agreed to.
Circulated amendments -
Clause 116, after sub-clause (1.) insert the following sub-clause: - “ (1a.) Payments to an approved society of amounts standing to the credit of the society in the Health Insurance Fund may be made to the society at such times and subject to such conditions as are prescribed.”.
Clause 129, omit “ or “, third occurring, paragraph (a), sub-clause (2.); after paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: - ” (aa) by the conversion of any securities purchased by the board under the last preceding paragraph into new securities issued by any such Government or authority ; or “.
Clause 1 32, omit “ or “, last occurring, paragraph (a), sub-clause (2.); after paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: - “(aa) by the conversion of any securities purchased by the board under the last preceding paragraph into new securities issued by any such Government or authority ; or “.
Clause 137- (1.) The commission may, by notice in the
Gazette, declare -
– I move -
That paragraphs (a) and (b), sub-clause (1.), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: - ” (a) any friendly society registered under the law of any State or Territory;
any society (not being an insurance society) existing at the commencement of this part which, though not So registered, is deemed by the commission to be qualified for its approval by reason of its experience in the management and distribution, among its members, of benefits of any of the classes provided by this act; and
any trade union.”.
The object of this amendment is to exclude insurance companies from participation in this scheme as approved societies. Such companies have not evidenced any desire to engage in social work. They operate solely for profit, and I propose that registration as approved societies should not be given to them. Friendly societies have for the last 100 years been administering sickness and other social benefits to the working people of Australia. During all this time they have acquired valuable experience in this field of social activity. We are greatly indebted to all these bodies for the services which they have provided without remuneration to their members, or profit from the investment of their funds. If insurance companies and other commercial organizations having a membership of 2,000 are, as is at present intended, to be approved societies, a great hardship will be inflicted on friendly societies whose members will also be required to contribute to the National Insurance Fund. This will seriously affect the membership of these bodies. To-day, friendly societies have a total membership of approximately 600,000 in 5,755 branches. These branches are not a loose conglomeration, but are consolidated under a grand council which includes representatives from every State. The friendly societies distribute approximately £2,000,000 per annum in sick benefits. Apart from the disbursement of this large sum, lodge representatives, when on visiting rounds, are always ready to give a cheering word to the sick. The visiting of the sick by representatives of insurance companies would be a cold callous commercial inquiry to find out whether or not the patient was malingering. I have been a member of friendly societies, and I have been in hospital, so I can speak from personal knowledge of the encouragement resulting from these friendly visits by lodge representatives. Probably many other honorable members, including some Government supporters, have also had a similar experience, ‘ and know how beneficial are these visits on the health of the sick in a hospital. Lodge representatives with many years of experience in this kind of work can, without any discomfort or embarrassment to the sick, ascertain whether a patient is a malingerer. Friendly societies and certain trade unions, to which I referred in my second-reading speech, have, for very many years, made adequate provision against sickness, not only for- insured members, but also for their families or dependants. They have provided for ordinary sick benefits, and also, in some cases, for treatment by specialists of patients suffering from occupational diseases such as miners’ phthisis and nystagmus.
In Great Britain there are 6,955 approved societies under the national insurance scheme, including friendlysocieties and trade unions. The only qualification specified for an approved society under the bill is that it must have a membership of 2,000. Why should commercial organizations which have never provided for the community the benefits contemplated under this measure be permitted to participate in the administration, of the funds? Surely they cannot be considered as deserving as friendlysocieties, which in addition to providing substantial benefits for their members, have provided medical benefits for members’ families and have “from a health point of view rendered valuable service to the nation? They have educated men to have a high regard for law and order, and have been instrumental in giving many of their members a grounding that fitted them to take their places in responsible walks of public life. By mutual help and assistance to members less fortunately situated, friendly societies practise the true ethics of Christianity, and give expression to the highest principles of brotherhood. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” may be truly described as the spirit of their service. The nation is deeply indebted to these societies for their assistance to sick and indigent workers for many years past, and it is imperative that this work should not be rendered impossible by the operation of this scheme. I have no doubt that suitable arrangements can be made to enable them to continue their contribution to the health and progress of the nation. By arrangement with the medical profession, trade unions, in conjunction with friendly societies, have set up dispensaries in almost every town on the coal-fields and free medical treatment has been given to unemployed workers and their families.
It is generally recognized that the system of social insurance benefits provided by the Miners Federation is based wholly and solely on the experience which many miners have had as members of friendly societies. These organizations co-operate with one another. Many thousands of members of the Miners Federation are also members of friendly societies. The services rendered by dispensaries, hospitals, eye and other specialists, particularly in the case of those suffering from occupational diseases, have been of great, benefit to members of the Miners Federation and friendly societies. Since the termination of the Great War, friendly societies - have provided the widows and children of deceased soldiers with medical benefits. The Repatriation Department having considered it desirable to enter into contracts with friendly societies for the treatment for deceased soldiers’ dependents, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should allow friendly societies and industrial unions,, which have had so much experience in administering sick benefit funds, to be the only approved societies. Life insurance societies should be definitely excluded. It is provided that approved societies shall not cany on for profit, but is there any reason why organizations should form approved societies, or bother with the scheme’ at all, unless they are going to gain some advantages in so doing? It may not be a direct profit, but indirectly they will undoubtedly gain substantial advantages, otherwise there would be no inducement for them to come into the scheme. Many large companies which advertise extensively or employ paid canvassers, would find it worth-while to form an approved society merely with the object of bringing them in touch with a large number of insured persons who could thus easily be canvassed for business apart from that of national insurance. On the other hand, friendly societies arc established merely for the purpose of enabling members to help themselves, and to provide security against sickness and distress. The whole of the funds belong to the members. If a surplus is shown on valuation, it is used only for providing additional benefits or to enable contributions to be reduced. Friendly societies do not pay exorbitant directors’ fees, excessive salaries or commissions, and the remuneration of the principal officers and of members of the staff is kept down to the lowest possible minimum.. A great deal of service is entirely voluntary. I have been a member of a friendly society since I was sixteen years of age, and have passed through the various chairs. I know that much of the work is performed voluntarily, and I am sure that that cannot be said of the life assurance societies. I understand that the Treasurer intends to move an amendment to include life insurance companies, which under State laws would be excluded from forming approved societies. As life insurance companies carry on their operations only for profit, and cannot render the same service as is rendered by friendly societies, they should be excluded from the list of approved societies.
– I feel no embarrassment whatever in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. .Tames). A similar amendment has been in my mind, and, in the minds of other honorable members on this side of the chamber for some time, but there has been delay owing to the protracted, but friendly, negotiations which have been proceeding between myself and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to see whether some solution could be reached under which friendly societies could be fully protected without excluding other organizations from the list of approved societies.
Unfortunately those negotiations have failed. But for that fact I should have submitted an amendment similar to that, moved by the honorable member for Hunter, the object of which is to exclude life insurance societies from the list of approved societies to be embodied in the bill. If such societies are not excluded we shall be setting up an insurance scheme very largely at the expense of great national institutions in the form of friendly societies. In my secondreading speech I dealt with the value of such societies to the Australian nation, and it is therefore unnecessary for mc to repeat what I then said. Friendly societies are one of our finest assets, and their achievement in providing medical and other benefits for about 1,250,000 persons is extraordinary. The extent of such an achievement can be measured when we consider the prodigious volume of work which has been necessary in preparing this bill, and the almost insurmountable difficulties that have been experienced during its discussion in this chamber. The first national insurance scheme was introduced into this Parliament ten years ago, but it was abandoned: While friendly societies are providing benefits for 1,250,000 persons the Government has sought the assistance of distinguished British officials and highly competent actuaries in an endeavour to formulate a national insurance scheme to provide medical benefits for 1,850,000 persons. That should be sufficient to emphasize the value of the work voluntarily done by these societies without governmental assistance or the aid of experts from abroad. I am not, of course, belittling in any way the valuable services performed by overseas experts ; on the contrary, I praise them. The efficiency of established friendly societies cannot be challenged, because, as I have said, they are to-day providing medical and many other benefits for 1,250,000 Australians. The Government recognizes the value and efficiency of these societies, because it proposes to hand over to them the work of providing medical benefits to the dependants of those who are to be compulsorily insured under this scheme. In these circumstances the Government cannot say on any ground whatever that the friendly societies are not completely competent to handle medical benefits underthe national scheme. If this measure becomes law all friendly societies will immediately be prejudiced. Indeed, after some months of cool and dispassionate deliberation and investigation I have come to the conclusion that these societies will actually be destroyed in consequence of the increased burden of providing medical and other benefits for the dependants of those who will be covered by this measure. Under this measure, friendly societies arc threatened with the loss of their single men. One-fourth of the members of such societies are single men, who, for medical benefits, pay an amount equal to that paid by married men. In other words 27s. a head is collected from each member, but, as the medical benefits of an insured man cost only 9s. a head, therefore for each 27s. paid by a single man 18s. of that amount benefits the dependants of three married men. If a single man is excluded from the friendly societies, each three married contributors will be deprived of the advantage of that 18s. which will then be distributed in the form of an old-age pension or a widow’s pension to others provided for in this measure. Every married man insured for medical benefits in friendly societies will thus be at a disadvantage of 6s. In addition, a single man also pays the flat rate of about 8s. a head for medicine, and of such payment only 2s. is required to cover him. He therefore contributes 6s., or 2s. each for three dependent families. We shall, therefore, be robbing the dependants of members of friendly societies of 8s. for each insured married man. The friendly societies cannot possibly carry on insurance for medical benefits in such circumstances. The Treasurer has suggested a contribution of 5s. to each dependant family under a voluntary insurance scheme; but in all probability that would still leave dependants of members of friendly societies in a much worse position than they are to-day. The bill as it is now framed will have a crippling effect upon friendly societies.
– We are not limiting it to that amount.
Mr.Curtin. - But we do not know what you are doing.
– The Government will be forced to make some financial contribution, but no one knows the amount. If the Treasurer could have stated the amount, possibly I would not be supporting the amendment, but he has been unable to give me any assurance on that point. I believe that the committee is most anxious that dependants will be brought under the compulsory scheme at the earliest possible date. If there are two major organizations in the field of the approved societies, the transfer of the dependants from a voluntary scheme to a compulsory scheme will be deferred indefinitely. Friendly societies operating on a voluntary basis will not give up their members to approved life assurance societies, but they would probably be willing to transfer them to another approved friendly society. In speaking of friendly societies I include also trade unions which have benefit funds, and organizations established by employers and employees.
I cannot see any justification for the inclusion of life insurance societies under this measure, for, in my opinion, they have shown no very great sympathy for the workers of this country. The term “ mutual “ is in some measure a misnomer. The so-called mutual societies are heavily loaded in favour of the wealthier classes of insured persons. I think that I can establish that fact in a few words. In the first place, there was the dramatic statement in the secondreading debate by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), who said that the money paid out by the companies in respect of industrial insurance policies was actually less, because of lapsed policies, than the money paid in. That is a serious charge to make against these great societies, for which I have as much admiration, in a broad sense, as anybody. During the depression, the only asset of scores of thousands of men was their life policy. They lost their jobs, or were given part-time work, their businesses partially failed, or failed altogether, and they borrowed money on their life assurance policies; but they were charged interest at the rate of6 per cent., and 7per cent, if they were late with their payments, right up to the time of the introduction of the financial emergency legislation. That showed no disposition on the part of the life insurance companies to aid the small man during the time of the greatest stress this country has experienced. In 1933, the then Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) brought down a budget which remitted taxes to the amount of £750,000 to the life insurance societies. The undertaking required of the societies was that they would reduce their interest rates, which they did, hut to whom did they make the reduction? Not to the policyholders, not to the thousands of men who w<>re forced to borrow money during the depression, but to outsiders who produced securities for assets such as land. If a policy-holder desired to raise a loan. from one of these companies, he was required to pay 5 per cent, interest, and that rate has continued to this day. Where do all these profits go? They go to the wealthier policy-holders who have never found it necessary to borrow. These societies arc not truly .mutual, and their record shows that they have never manifested any sincere sympathy for the workers. This bill is designed for the benefit of the workers, and the life insurance societies, having shown no great disposition to help them, have no claim to come under this scheme as approved societies. Under the measure, as drawn, these societies, with their great wealth and elaborate overhead organization, which would never be charged against the national scheme, would come into the field in the next six months before the friendly societies would know on what terms they could offer insurance of dependants of contributors, and in that period I believe that the friendly societies could bc ruined.
.- In the establishment of approved societies, we should make quite certain that Ave do not give to existing organizations a second prop with which to support their present enterprises. That ought to be clear and definite. I agree too, as a member of three mutual life societies, with the greater part of the comment of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). I invite honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber to read the names of the directors of the .great life insurance corporations in Australia, and then to note the manner in which those names are dove-tailed into the directorates of the large banking and -financial institutions, with the result that the financial policy of the life insurance companies strongly supports what one might describe, in broad terms, a3 the moneypower of the Commonwealth. The political influence of these companies is enormous. The experience in GreatBritain affords an indication of. what would occur as the result of action by this Parliament to admit insurance companies as approved societies under this scheme. I am informed by Sir Walter Citrine, secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, that the approved societies in England and Scotland ha.ve i7,000,000 members, of whom 8,000,000 are members of approved societies formed by insurance companies. I make a practice of verifying, as far as possible, all information supplied to me, and I am told by those competent to advise the Government in this matter that it may be said that of the 16.000,000 members of approved societies in the Old Country, 7,000,000 are members of approved societies operated by insurance companies. There are 3,000,000 members <*« ‘ the approved societies operated by trade unions, 5,000j000 in the friendly societies, and 1,000,000 in the rural mutual help societies, church organizations, and the like. Thus, in Great Britain, approximately one-half of the insured persons are covered through approved societies controlled by insurance’ companies. That is the fact which the friendly societies have to face in Australia.
It has also been pointed out by Sir. Walter Citrine that it is true that the companies are not allowed to conduct the approved societies for profit, but that it is equally true that, being in close contact with millions of people through their approved societies, the companies get a definite advantage, because the same agent does both sides of the business. Then Sir Walter Citrine goes on to say that, although the approved society cannot be operated for profit, the sum allowed to it helps to pay the agent of the insurance company which is an approved society, and the result of the haphazard enlistment of members is bad from several points’ of view. The insurance company that becomes an approved society will probably have members of the society distributed throughout the Commonwealth, whereas what is desirable is that in each locality a particular approved society should- have the greater part of the responsibility of dealing with the residents of that locality.
– As a fraternal society.
– Yes. We have to consider this problem more from the point of view of the people in sparsely populated areas- than from that of those living in the larger towns or great cities, because it is in the country areas that the medical side of this service will be most difficult to administer. I decline to believe that, in a small town in Australia, the representative of an insurance company is a better citizen, or a more vigilant administrator, than an officer of a friendly society. As a matter of fact, more often than not, the work of representing an insurance society is a sideline which the agent mixes with a dozen other commission agencies. For the most part, if we look for the “gogetter” in the average country town, we shall find the representative of an insurance company to be that person. His qualities as a citizen are not to be compared with those of the gentleman who takes part in the organization of the friendly societies in country places. The friendly society would be anxious, not only to get “ insured persons “ as members but also to have protection so that it would be able to provide a health service for those insured persons who used their option to pay the extra amount for cover for medical benefit for their wives and children. The insurance company would deal only with persons insured under this legislation. I hope that the Treasurer will give the committee some guarantee that, if insured persons are to be dealt with by an insurance company which constitutes an approved society, the society will also organize a medical service for those insured persons who exercise their option to have their wives and children covered for medical service. The friendly societies have done all the optional health insurance in Australia up to date. They have laid the foundations of a national health service for this country. They have given us an excellent experience of what is required in the elaboration of a system of this kind. Instead of placing them in jeopardy, the Treasurer should regard them as the very core around which the administrative structure of this .scheme should be built.
It is desirable that trade unions, to- should be brought into this field; but even there, although I have the strongest desire to see the trade unions as strong as possible for other reasons, I believe that these bodies which have had experience in the administration of provident funds are better able to help in the initiation of this scheme than those which have had no experience in this direction. Obviously we have to be guided by British experience, which is that, notwithstanding the great strength of friendly societies in Great Britain, their long history and their social significance, the fact ‘ is that, out of 16,000,000 persons insured under the British scheme, the approved societies controlled by the insurance companies have practically one-half of the field as a monopoly. That is a clear indication of the difficulties which the friendly societies have to face, even .in the Old Land. I am told that the difficulty which the trade unions have experienced in getting members into their approved societies is due to the tactics which the canvassers of the, insurance companies employ in order to attract business. The canvassers engaged in the ordinary life insurance activities of these companies - and the industrial insurance side of their operations is a most mischievous thing - would be more concerned ‘ with that side of their work than with: carrying out the obligations incidental to the medical service, should the insurance companies become approved societies. It is probably true that in certain places throughout the Commonwealth the insurance companies have .representatives, but those individuals have not had any experience analogous to friendly society work. Notwithstanding the great wealth of the insurance companies they are capitalistic in character, and it is idle to deny it. The enormous amount of accumulated and reserve funds’ which they hold are used in various ways for ordinary capitalistic investment for the most part, and not to make possible reductions of premiums. The insurance companies have, in fact, maintained their premiums and increased their bonuses. That means that the wealthier sections of the Australian people are better able to pay the premiums and therefore obtain an excellent return for their investments. If premiums were reduced, .even though it meant that bonuses were also on a lower scale, the poorer classes of our people would be able to take up insurance policies; but, as it is, they arenot able to do so. The directorates of the insurance companies are more concerned to pay large bonuses than to reduce premiums. It 3s true, as. the honorable member for Henty has said, that the insurance companies serve the wealthier classes in a far better way than they serve the poorer classes.
Many of the 23 insurance companies of Australia, which may be mutual within the definition given by the Treasurer to the honorable member for Henty, are, in actual fact, profit-making enterprises as well as insurance companies. They are called upon to pay dividends on the capital invested in them.
– And we arc asked to leave the selection of the companies to a royal commission not yet appointed 1
– I should not agree to that course. As I said in my secondreading speech, we should not allow this great departure from the - existing social organization of Australia to be used by the insurance companies as a second fiddle to facilitate their present business activities. Our friendly societies devote themselves exclusively to welfare work and we should do our very utmost to ensure their continued stability during the next decade. While it is quite true that the membership of the friendly societies of Great Britain has not fallen since the institution of national insurance in that country, it is also relevant to observe that the insurance companies include in their organizations between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 insured persons who, but for the existence of such companies as approved societies, would have become members of the friendly societies or trade, unions registered as approved societies. As approved societies, the trade unions and friendly societies would give just as good service to insured persons as would the insurance companies.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [5.35 . - In building the framework on which to hang this national insurance scheme, the Government was not actuated by motives favorable to any particular group. It approached the subject in n judicial spirit, and set out to give the people of Australia a completely free choice as to which approved society they would join. The simple facts of the case are these: The friendly. societies of Australia, which some of our citizens have chosen as the means by which to protect themselves against certain eventualities, have a membership of about 600,000; while the life insurance offices of Australia, which other citizens have chosen to render them a similar service, have issued more than 1,5.00,000 policies. These persons have chosen the life insurance offices in preference to friendly societies.
– That is not true.
– I am attempting to state a few simple facts in a calm and non-controversial way.
– Some individuals are interested in both friendly societies and life insurance offices.
– Many of the million and a half policies current in Australia are for amounts of £100 to £150, maturing at death or on a specified date. Generally speaking, they are twenty-year policies. Obviously, therefore, hundreds of thousands of workers .are paying each week amounts which vary from ls. to 3s., in some cases, as the weekly premium on their policies. One of the anxieties of the Government in regard to this whole subject has been the position of workers holding insurance policies who will have to pay an additional ls. 6d. a week under this bill. To meet the situation it is proposed to make certain very definite conditions precedent to permitting life insurance offices to become approved societies. These will have to be complied with. One of the conditions is that any man compelled to contribute under the national insurance scheme who holds n current policy in a life insurance office, shall, if he so desires, after paying his life insurance premiums for two years, have the right to receive from the insurance company a paid-up policy in respect of his contributions. This condition will relate to both industrial and ordinary life insurance. Insured persons who take advantage of this condition will not be required to continue weekly contributions to life insurance offices after the lapse of two years. The value of the paid-up policy to be issued is to be determined, in advance, by a government actuary, and not by an actuary or any other person connected with the company concerned.
– The Treasurer will not be able to force the life insurance companies to accept that condition.
– They have already agreed, in writing, to accept it. Another condition relates to persons who, during the depression, could not maintain the premium payments in respect of their life insurance policies and were given the privilege of resuming their payments when they could afford to do so. The second condition precedent to life insurance companies forming approved societies will be that this privilege must be continued to such persons.
– Would that be contingent upon such persons becoming members of the life insurance approved society ?
– A person who has a current policy with a life insurance office may!, therefore, continue his payments under the policy for two years, after which he will be entitled to receive a paid-up policy, or he may retain the right to resume payments on a lapsed policy when he is able to do so. I notified the life insurance offices that acceptance of those conditions would be mandatory if they wished to form approved societies, and they have accepted them. The positionin relation to current policies was the only point on which I have received criticism from working men who will come under this scheme. They asked mo how they could continue paying 2s. or 3s. a week in respect of the insurance of their own lives or that of their children, and also1s. 6d. a week in respect of national health and pensions insurance under this scheme. The undertakings I have received from the life insurance officesare such as justify me in saying that difficulties of that kind will be overcome.
– This must be a very juicy plum for the life insurance offices!
– The Victorian royal commission on life assurance showed these companies up.
– Another condition which the Government is making is that life insurance offices which form approved societies shall not accept as members insured persons who are members of friendly societies.
– They do not want them.
– In the light of what 1 have said I think it will be agreed that many of the difficulties which honorable members fear are not likely to arise. I wish to make it clear that I am not partial to either life insurance offices or friendly societies. Iam dealing with the situation objectively. I believe that this scheme will be much more effective if life insurance offices are allowed to form approved societies under the conditions specified than if they are not allowed to form them.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) said that friendly societies would be destroyed if life insurance offices were allowed to form approved societies. I do not think that that would be the case. Many other persons, some of them connected with friendly societies, support my view. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following paragraph which appears in a leaflet entitled “ The Rechabites and National Insurance”, issued by the Victorian district of the Independent. Order of Rechabites: -
The District Officers arc of the firm opinion that there is not the slightest justification for anything approaching panic on the part of members of friendly societies. It has to he remembered that nationalinsurance has been in force in Great Britain for over26 years, and the friendly societies are not only still in existence there, butare numerically as strong as they were at the inception of national insurance, and financially arc definitely much stronger. National insurance in Great Britain did not put the friendly societies out of business. On the contrary it brought into close contact with friendly societies a large section of thepeople who were not previously associated with friendly societies.
I should also like to quote briefly the views of Mr. Lloyd George who, in a recent speech, outlined the situation which faced him when he introduced the national insurance legislation into the British Parliament in 1911. Mr. Lloyd George said -
It was only whenI decided to avail myself of the services of the industrial. Assurance Offices with their extensive and highly trained organizations, that I was able to feel that I had taken a long step towards the solution of this problem.
The experiment was fully justified by results, for working with enthusiasm and setting themselves to- educate the people in the benefits of health insurance, within a few months they brought no fewer than5,000,000 peopleinto the self-governing approved societies which they set up. That was a great achievement and one for which I still have feelings of gratitude after 21 years.
Since that time, 21 years ago, the industrial offices have maintained these societies on a sound footing. During the war, when depletion of staffs threatened to produce a crisis, they started training schools . . .
He goes on maintaining the point that only with the greatest difficulty would the scheme have been inaugurated in Great Britain without the assistance of life offices. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked how many life offices will come into the scheme. A number of questions have been asked by some societies in regard to it, but we have every reason to believe that the great mutual societies, the Australian Mutual Provident, the Temperance and General, and the Colonial Mutual, will probably come in.
– And the National Mutual?
– That is still doubtful.
– What about the City Mutual?
– I have no information concerning that office. All of those I have mentioned are mutual offices. The Mutual Life and Citizens, which, although admittedly not 100 per cent. mutual, is practically mutual in that out of its assets totalling approximately £18,000,000, its paid-up capital is only £200,000, will also probably come in, and possibly the Australian Metropolitan Office. Those are the only societies which have given an indication that they would come into this scheme. I should also like to make this additional point: Friendly societies carry on life insurance business in competition with life offices! In the New
South Wales Friendly Societies Act reference is made to insurance of the payment of money on the death of a member, within a limit of £200. In Western Australia, a friendly society may insure for the payment of money on death, and for the endowment of members, up to the limit of £300. In Victoria the limit is £100 and the references are somewhat the same. I have given these particulars in order to make it clear that life insure ance is definitely mentioned in the various pamphlets of the friendly societies of Australia. It is life insurance business and nothing else.
– And nothing else?
– It is definitely life insurance.
– Thehonorable gentleman holds a brief for the insurance companies.
– I hold no brief for any one; I am endeavouring to give an objective picture of the facts. I believe, in conclusion, that if we exclude life offices from the national insurance scheme it will be a less effective scheme than it would otherwise be.
Government members interjecting,
The CHAIRMAN (Mr Prowse).If honorable members do not cease interjecting I shall take strong action. They understand the Standing Orders and they know that such interjections are disorderly.
– Put them out!
– I name the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) .
– I appeal to the honorable member for Denison to withdraw his remarks and to express regret for having given offence to the Chair.
– I withdraw it and express my regret.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the Treasurer has been speaking for 17 minutes while the Standing Orders provide that he may speak for only 15 minutes. .
– There is no point of order; the time taken by the Minister in charge of a bill in committee is not limited by the Standing Orders.
– I honestly believe that if we keep life offices out we shall get an appreciablylesseffectiveschemethan otherwise. Secondly, I believe that if we do so we shall inflict great hardship on all those who now have current industrial life policies in respect of which they will have to continue their weekly premiums in. addition to making a contribution of 1s. 6d. under this bill.
– Or forfeit them.
– That is so. Thirdly, a grave indignity will be imposed on the great thrift societies for which Australia is’ famous. I ask all honorable gentlemen, without distinction of party, to give weighty consideration to these matters. I assure them that I have not been talking controversial politics, but am urging what I believe to be absolutely true. One of the great worries’ I have had in the last few months is how to deal with the hundreds of thousands of men who arc currently obliged to pay amounts varying from1s. to 3s. a week to maintain existing policies. If they default in their payments they will forfeit everything they have paid in. This proposal is a concrete part of a scheme under which their interests can ho safeguarded. All those people will be able to carry on in comfort and will get full value for everything they have put in if the Government’s proposal is carried. That value will be determined by the Government Actuary and not by the companies themselves.
– If that is so, why has the honorable gentleman found it necessary to propose an amendment of the clause as printed in the bill?
– I shall reply to that in a moment. My third point is that Australia is famous throughout the world for the great thrift institutions that have been established in this country, the most important of them on a mutual basis. I believe, that for many reasons which I cannot go into now, it would be greatly against the public interest to exclude those companies from this scheme.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the meaning of an amendment I had circulated a few hours ago in connexion with this clause. I believe that some, if not all, of the great mutual societies would, owing to the existence of certain provisions in the State laws, be prevented from forming approved societies. Therefore, in order to implement the Government’s proposal, it would be necessary either to seek the cooperation of the States to amend their legislation or to amend the present bill in such a way as to make it override the laws of the States. The amendment will affect only mutual companies. I make a final appeal to members on all sides of the chamber to consider carefully the matters I have raised. For reasons which the Government believes to be perfectly sound, I would regard itas a tragedy to exclude life insurance offices.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I feel sure that if the bill goes through in its present form it will spell the doom of friendly societies in Australia. For my part, I shall do everything in my power to defend the interests of the friendly societies which have done magnificent work in looking after the health of the people of Australia for many years. In his final appeal the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) endeavoured to induce honorable members to believe that lodges would not be interfered with by this bill. I have been in conversation with representatives of many lodges during the last month and they have satisfied me that they will suffer considerably as the result of the introduction of the national insurance scheme, which would greatly handicap their future work. The position as I see it at the moment is that friendly societies are quite capable of carrying any further burden that may be placed upon their shoulders by the acceptance of greater responsibilities in connexion with the health of the people. Hundreds of thousands of persons at present enjoying medical benefit rights as members of friendly societies will not surrender their rights for the mere sop which this bill proposes in their place. Trade unions’ which extend to their members medical and health benefits are entitled to be brought within the category of approved societies along with friendly societies conferring similar benefits; but although I am a policy-holder in a life insurance office, I am not prepared to include insurance societies in that category. I am satisfied that they cannot cater for the wants of the poorer sections of the community, because the premiums demanded for an insurance cover of £100 are beyond the capacity of the ordinary workingclass individual to meet. “ Go-getter “ canvassers for these companies will be able to destroy the friendly societies by making it impossible for them to gain new members. It would be disastrous if, after having served the country well for many years, the friendly societies were forced out of existence. It is significant that two Ministers in the present Government are directors of life insurance companies. Life insurance “ go-getters “ should not be allowed to destroy the friendly societies in order that they themselves may exploit the people. The life insurance companies exist chiefly in the interests of the more wealthy sections of the people, and I hope that when the vote is taken they will be denied participation in this scheme.
.- I ask leave to alter my amendment to read -
That paragraphs (a) and (b) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: -
a separate section of any friendly society registered under the law of any State or Territory or of any trade union, and
any other society (not being a body carrying on life insurance business) which is deemed by the commission to be qualified to be an approved society.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The life insurance companies concerned have virtually held a gun at the head of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), knowing that he is in a difficulty because many small policy-holders who have incurred obligations in respect of industrial insurance beyond their financial resources will have to make contributions under this scheme. A similar situation was effectively met in Queensland by an alteration of the act whereby life insurance companies which dealt in industrial insurance were compelled to provide an actuarially ascertained surrender value in respect of such policies. Probably the difficulty of the Treasurer could be met in a similar way. These companies are under an obligation to make a substantial contribution to this great national scheme of insurance. The most effective contribution that they can make, particularly those which have done so well in the industrial insurance field, is to remove the obstacle confronting the Treasurer without imposing any condition that they be authorized to form approved societies. Friendly societies have contributed much to the amenities of country life, particularly in remote areas. They provide means whereby men holding similar views may meet together regularly, and their wives and children enjoy social intercourse from time to time. Such societies deserve the support of all honorable members who desire to stop the drift from the countryside to the city, to the disadvantageof the productivity of the country, and, indeed, of the welfare of the nation. We should lend all possible encouragement to these friendly societies which have rendered such valuable service to Australia. Many years ago they laid the foundation of a scheme which the National Parliament is now asked to extend to other societies. If the life insurance companies are really desirous of helping this great national scheme, they can do it without imposing the condition that they be allowed to form approved societies.
.- I have never heard such specious and humbugging pleading as that of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to-day.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw that remark.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- I withdraw it in order to save time.
– The honorable member must withdraw it without qualification.
– I do so. If the arguments of the Treasurer -to-day be sound, why were not the life insurance companies originally incorporated in the bill?
– They were.
– Had not the guillotine provisions of our Standing Orders been in operation, the latest proposals of the Treasurer thrown in at the last moment would not have come before us. To-day the Treasurer has indulged in special pleading on behalf of societies whichhave proved inimical to the working of the national insurance scheme in Great Britain. These life insur- ance companies are prepared to make certain concessions to policy-holders on the condition that they are accepted as approved societies under this legislation. The imposing of that condition indicates that there is something which they do not wish to disclose.
– Nonsense !
– The offer of a bait by these insurance societies at this late stage shows that there is something, amiss. Much more than efficiency in the collection of contributions is necessary ; there is need also to police the scheme. However efficient the organization may be in gaining new members and collecting contributions, unless it is able to keep in intimate touchwith the people, as the friendly societies do, the scheme will break down. No other organization can police this scheme as effectively as can the friendly societies. The life insurance companies want to come into this scheme in order to get access to a large body of potential policy-holders in order to tout for insurance business. What they have done in Great Britain they want to do also in Australia.
– 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 amendment (Mr. James’s) be agreed to.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 137, as amended, and clauses 138 to 164, and the circulated amendments of the Government, agreed to.
Circulated amendments -
Clause 147, after “benefit” (second occurring) insert “ (including dependent child’s allowance)”.
Clause 149, omit “ insured persons who, within the prescribed times, are not”, insert “ persons who are entitled to be members of approved societiesand who, within the prescribed time, have not become “.
Clause 152, omit sub-clause (4.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (4.) The application of this section shall extend to juvenile contributors but nothing in this section shall apply to partially exempt employees or to special voluntary contributors.”.
Clause . 157, omit “State Act”, sub-clause (2.), insert “of any State Act or Ordinance”.
Sitting suspended from6.28 to8 p.m.
Clause 165 agreed to.
Clause 166 - (1.) If any question arises -
whether any person is or has been employed, is or has been entitled to be insured, or is or has been an exempt employee to whom section twenty-four of the act applies;
.- I move-
That after the word “ exempt “ the words “ or partially exempt “ be inserted.
This is purely a drafting amendment.
.- The corresponding section in the English act provides for an appeal to a judge of the High Court. This clause does not provide for an appeal to any court at all.
All that oan be said is that provision is made by which the commission’ can, instead of deciding cases itself, refer them to referees who will be appointed by the Government, and will have no independent tenure of office. If in England they can operate, as they have been operating for a good number of years, a system that provides that ultimately important questions of law affecting nationally insured persons shall be dealt with by the High Court - and apparently are dealt with under the m forma pauperis rule - I do not see why we should depart from that practice in Australia. Section 161 of the British act reads -
Provided that -
if any person is aggrieved by the decision of the Minister-
The Minister corresponds to the commission in this bill - on any question arising under paragraph (o) or .paragraph (d), he may .appeal therefrom on any question of law to a judge of the/ High Court selected for the purpose by the Lord Chancellor, and the decision of that judge shall he final :
There is nothing like that in this bill. Important questions of law, on which the rights of the people depend, are to be decided by the commission or by referees of whose independence of the commission I have considerable doubts. It is very undesirable that there should be this provision. The Government should reconsider this matter, and see if it cannot provide for an appeal to at least a judge of a Supreme Court. The Treasurer possibly will object that that would involve heavy costs to the appellants, but I remind the honorable gentleman of tra forma pauperis rights that are granted to them in Great Britain. Furthermore, in England approved societies take up the appeals. Important questions of law which limit the liberty, and, in some instances, affect the pecuniary rights of numbers of people, should be disposed of by an independent judicial authority, instead of being finally disposed of by the commission, or by referees who are not judges, and of whose standing and independence there is no guarantee.
.- I think that the point taken by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) would be met if the discretionary powers of the commission were widened to enable it to take into consideration all of the facts appertaining to disputes, in order to give the insured employee the opportunity at least to get the benefit of a decision from the commission instead of from referees. Hardship may result to the insured employee from the regulations and rules of approved societies or any other administrative body set up under this bill. There may be neglect or default by the employer which would cause hardship to the employee. All of these matters could be dealt with by the commission if its discretionary powers were widened.
.- This clause, in effect, means that the approved society itself is to be the judge of whether the claimant has paid his contributions. The other two provisions give to the claimant the right of appeal, which is to be determined by the commission itself, and not by the panel of referees. All this relates, I should say, to the determination of whether a person is or is not a contributor, or as to whether or not an employer has paid the contributions. It appears to me to be vitally necessary to ensure that the’ claimant shall be properly represented and given necessary assistance for the adequate submission of his claim. Thousands of the claimants will be men, and to a less extent, women, who probably have not had all the advantages of education or experience in the submission of facts to a jurisdiction. In repatriation cases it has been found desirable to permit an aggrieved returned soldier to. be represented, not necessarily by a lawyer, but by the secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Aus tralia, or some other person of whom he approves. Honorable members of this Parliament have acted as the representatives of returned soldiers who felt not able systematically .to sift the evidence or examine files adduced in rebuttal of their submissions. In national insurance cases stamped cards’ will have to be located, and accountancy difficulties will have to be overcome. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has a responsibility to ensure that his department details an officer of requisite qualification to assist the claimant in the presentation of his case. ‘ Otherwise, many applicants will be liable to injustice, merely by their failure adequately to present their claims. Apart from the nature of the jurisdiction, the aspect that should concern the committee is the need to ensure the submission of all facts in favour of the claimant.
– There are three main classes of legal questions to be determined under this bill. First, whether decision on a claim for the pension is in accordance with the law and facts; secondly, whether the person is or has been in insurable employment or is otherwise entitled to participate in benefits; and thirdly, the settlement of disputes between an approved society and its members. With the exception of the last class, where questions will be mainly of minor importance, and on which it is proposed that there shall be an appeal to the commission, these questions affect the insured person entitled to a pension. It is essential that questions of such financial importance, both to individuals and to the scheme itself, should be determined on law. Clause 165 provides for a panel of referees appointed by the AttorneyGeneral, who shall be barristers or solicitors of not less than five years’ standing. Clause 166 deals with the question of insurability and the rates of contributions. Determination of rates of contributions by the individual cannot be a matter of very much doubt.
– Why not? The employer may not pay his contributions.
– The question of default is dealt with in a subsequent clause. The question of rates of contributions by the individual which are determined by the type of benefit to which his particular condition is applicable cannot be a matter of very great discussion.
– There is the question of whether or not he has maintained the continuity of his payments.
– I am dealing with the rates of contributions. This question may be dealt with in the first place by the insured person’s approved society, but the question as to whether he is or has been in insurable employment or is otherwise entitled to participate, and also the question as to who was the employer of the insured -person, are in the first place to be submitted to and decided by the commission. There are so many kinds of possible employment that questions, strictly questions of law, as to whether any person is or is not in insurable employment, must be frequent in any insurance scheme. In the absence of express provision, such questions would be left, for decision normally by the courts, but it is felt strongly that this procedure would give rise to great diversity of rulings by different courts. The commission would be faced by a whole series of different rulings which would create administrative difficulties. This diversity of rulings by the lower courts would be settled eventually by appeal to the High Court, but, in the meanwhile, the workers and the employers, the persons affected in any particular question, would not know whether they were liable to pay contributions or not. The plan, therefore, is, in such cases, to empower the commission to decide legal questions subject to the right of the insured person or persons claiming to be insured, who do not agree with the ruling of the commission, to appeal to a legal referee. It is not intended that the decision of the commission or of the referee shall be final, and the bill does not make it so. A decision of the commission is an administrative decision and the decision of a referee has the quality only of a decision of the commission but will enable the claimaint or appellant to present his case, without the cost of fees to a legally qualified person, and thereby to avoid the cost attendant upon his testing the case in the first instance in the courts. This is similar to the general broad provision made in respect of income tax in the shape of the Income Tax Board of Review, which provides a rapid and inexpensive method of having a tax assessment reviewed. If, however, any aggrieved person is not satisfied with the decision of the commission, he has the ordinary or usual right of appeal to the appropriate court. In other words, he has the rights of an ordinary citizen.
– Where is that set out in the bill?
– There is no need to have it set out. It is the common right; nobody can take it from him.
.- That is the whole question - whether a claimant has the right of appeal against the decision of a referee. If he has that right, the argument of the Treasurer is destroyed. The argument that there would be inconsistent decisions by different judges, and that there would bo difficulty in reconciling the inconsistencies, would apply with still greater force to decisions by referees. Not merely one referee, but a panel of them will be doing the work, and they will probably give inconsistent decisions. It is much more likely that a judge will follow the decisions of his brother judges than that a referee will follow the decisions of other referees. If it is the intention of the Treasurer that there shall be a right of appeal from the decision of a referee on points of law, I should like him to consider whether the bill makes provision for it, and, if he finds that it does not, I ask him to have the provision inserted when the bill is in the Senate. I cannot find anything in the bill that gives an aggrieved person the right of appeal from the decision of a referee.
– An insured person has that right, anyway, at common law. What can take it away from him?
– I think the bill makes the decision of the commission, in substance, final, except where the commission refers the dispute to a referee. In England the decision rests with the Minister, who corresponds to the commission in Australia. There can be an appeal to a court on a point of law, and the decision of the court is final. The Minister, instead of putting persons to the trouble and expense of appealing to the court, may himself refer a question in dispute to acourt. The Minister also has power to reconsider a decision himself. If it intended in the bill now before us to give a man the right of appeal to a court on a point of law, we might as well give it to him at. the beginning as at the end. I cannot discover that there is in the bill any right of appeal from the decision of a referee. The provision cited from the In come Tax Act is not on all fours with the position under the bill. Under the Income Tax Act an aggrieved party has the right to go to aquasi-judicial body, or to the court. I agree that there ought’ to be in the bill what the Treasurer says is in it, and all I ask at present is that he shall reconsider the matter with the object of seeing whether the right of appeal to a court can be provided for.
.- The question which arises under this clause is whether an aggrieved person has any right of appeal other than to a referee, as provided for in clause 167. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) asked the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), to point to any provision in the bill which takes away the ordinary right of recourse to the courts. Normally the way a court views a matter of this kind is that if specific machinery is provided by an act of Parliament for the determination of appeals, that machinery, and that alone, must be resorted to for the settlement of a dispute. The question is, not whether the view put by the Treasurer and his advisers is right or wrong, but whether there is any room for doubt. It is sufficient for me to say that a doubt does exist in my mind as to whether a right of appeal is open other than as provided, and consequently an aggrieved person may conceivably be prevented from appealing fromor testing the decision of a referee or referees as provided for in clause 167.
– I undertake to have that point examined.
– I do not think it is possible for the provision to be inserted anywhere in the bill except in this clause.
– I am assured by the Government’s legal officers that what I have told the committee is correct. I have asked them to go into the matter further, and if what I have told the committee turns out on further investigation to be incorrect, I undertake that the doubts will be resolved properly in the Senate.
– It is not a question of whether the opinion of the Government’s legal officers is correct. It is merely a question of whether thereis a doubt.
.- The provisions of the bill have to be construed not by the present legal advisers to the Treasurer, but by an entirely different authority. We have to make sure that what we intend should be in the bill is prescribed in it. If we do not express our intentions in the bill we cannot express them anywhere. If Parliament desires that a certain course should be open to claimants it must make the necessary provision in some clause of the bill. Otherwise we shall be negligent, and our negligence will cause loss to claimants, and perhaps futile expenditure by them in an attempt to establish a right which Parliament thought they had, but which another authority decided they had not.
.- It is almost elementary that where a provision is made in a section of an act ‘of Parliament for determining a matter, that matter has to be determined in that way only, unless some other machinery has been provided. It is suggested by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that ordinary rights at common law would permit of an aggrieved person invoking the courts to redress his grievance. I should like to know from the Treasurer where in the bill a tribunal is provided for that purpose. It is very common in an act of Parliament to set up a tribunal for the purpose of determining a question of fact and/or law, and it is true that the section making the provision sometimes states that from the decisions of the tribunal there shall be no appeal. On the other hand, if an appeal is regarded as possible, provision is made for the creation of a tribunal, or an existing tribunal is vested with the necessary jurisdiction to hear the appeal. In the bill no tribunal is named. To what tribunal would the Treasurer suggest aggrieved persons should have recourse? A person making an appeal cannot make his own choice of a tribunal. He cannot decide to go to a court of general sessions, or the Supreme Court, or the High Court. He must be bound by the statute concerned, which must set out the court of appeal to which he must go. While there is much in what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) hassaid, I am not particularly wedded to the principle of an appeal to a court. I must confess that the Labour party as a rule has frowned on appeals to legal tribunals, and has looked rather for rapid decisions in the administration of an act of this kind. Notably in connexion with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Labour party has always set its face against any method that would lead to what it feared would be interminable litigation. If it is generally felt that a right of appeal by insurance claimants is desirable, then J submit that it is unanswerable that provision must be made for it in the bill, and that it must be stated to what tribunal the appeal lies. The view very modestlyput by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) as being possibly doubtful, I, with greater audacity, suggest is beyond all doubt.
– I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give some assurance that assistance will be provided for claimants to state their cases before referees. In dealing with repatriation claims, the Repatriation Department, I understand, gives that assistance. The request is only reasonable.
– I am advised that nothing that the Government could put in the bill would make the decision of the commission or of the referees final, because their decisions will not be judicial decisions; and any attempt to make them so would be a violation of the judicial power. It would be beyond our province to do anything of that sort in this bill. Judicial decisions can be obtained only from a court. Section 56 of the Judiciary Act 1903 states-
Any person making anyclaim against the Commonwealth, whether in contract or in tort, may in respect of the claim bring a suit against the Commonwealth in the High Court or in the Supreme Court of the State in which the claim arose.
There is nothing in the bill that does, or can, take that right away from any citizen.
– Would a claim of the kind referred to be a claim against the Commonwealth ?
– Yes, because the commission will be an instrumentality of the Commonwealth. The right to sue the
Commonwealth is given in the Judiciary Act, and any aggrieved person may take legal proceedings, notwithstanding any decision against him by the commission or a referee.
Regarding the assistance desired for claimants by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde), that can in the first place be given by the referees, and the Government can also, by regulation, make provision for the assistance that the honorable member desires.
– He would be a paid advocate, the payment to be provided out of the fund?
-His function would be to assist the claimant in the presentation of his case.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 167 to 176 agreed to.
Clause 177 (Civil proceedings against employer for non-compliance with act).
.- Under this clause the attempt is made to provide a remedy for the employee who, by reason of the dishonesty or neglect of his employer, has been deprived of benefits under the act. The submission I make is that no employee who can be proved to have made his contributions should be deprived of the benefits to which he is entitled under the act, by reason of any negligence or dishonesty on the part of his employer. The employer may have made deductions from his wages and failed to make the necessary contributions to the Government, in consequence of which the employee may be deprived of benefits to which he is entitled. Year in, year out, deductions may have been made from his wages every week, and when he has occasion to claim benefits he may find that he is not protected. By this provision the Government says that the injured man may bring an action to recover damages from the employer because of the injury he has sustained. By a later amendment it proposes that, if defeated in his effort to obtain damages by reason of the bankruptcy of the employer, upon the commission being satisfied that the deductions have been made from his wages, he shall be treated as an insured person. Isuggest that, if the commission is satisfied that the deductions have been made and that the employer has failed to make the necessary contributions to the commission, the employee shall thereupon be entitled to the benefits of the act without having to bring an action against the employer. Clause 177 should be postponed until the committee reaches the proposed new clause 178a, because the two clauses naturally hang together. The proposed new clause, 178a assists the employee only to the extent that, if he brings an action against the employer, has judgment pronounced in his favour, and is defeated by the bankruptcy of the employer, he shall be treated as having been properly insured. I suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the substitution of 178a for 177, with the omission of the words “ In the event’ of the bankruptcy of the employer (or if the employer is a company, in the event of the company being in liquidation)”. The clause would then read -
Where the commission is satisfied that an employer has deducted from the wages of an employee an amount of contributions payable by the employee under this act and has failed to pay those contributions as required by or under this act, the commission shall certify in writing the amount of the contributions which the employer has so failed to pay and thereupon the employee shall not be subject to any disqualification for or reduction of benefit under this act by reason only of the failure of the employer to pay that amount of contributions.
Then would follow sub-clause 2. There could be no suggestion of collusion, because the commission would first have to. satisfy itself that the man had actually paid the contributions to the employer.
– How could the commission satisfy itself on that point?
– How does it satisfy itself in regard to other matters? By requiringevidence to be given, and by examining the employer’s books?
– The cards would be the only evidence.
– An examination of the wages paid to the man would show whether the deductions had been made. The commission could make its own conditions as to the manner in which it should satisfy itself. If it was satisfied that deductions had been made from the employee’s wages, it ought to be empowered and directed to treat him as though he had been properly insured. It would be no consolation to the man to be told that his remedy was to bring an action against the employer and wait to see whether he could recover from him, and that in the event of the bankruptcy of the employer, the employee could be treated as though he had paid the contributions. The trouble might arise, not out of the bankruptcy of the employer, but out of the inability of the employee to find him.
– There would be only the evidence of the six-monthly card . or of the employee himself. Would that remove the possibility of collusion?
– The commission is directed to be satisfied oh the point. The amendment that I propose would rule out all possibility of collusion. Clause 177 should be postponed, so that the Treasurer may have a look at the. matter.
.- There is danger in that. At the expiration of the allotted time, the remaining clauses have to be automatically disposed of. This might happen to be- one of the many sacrifices involved in that process. Now is the time for the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to tell the committee whether he accepts the view of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). Without that assurance, I fear that the exigencies of the debate may lead to our having lost the opportunity to have the matter cleared up. I put it to the Treasurer that, by compelling the employee to pay his contribution to the employer, he gives to the employee no alternative but to depend on the employer satisfactorily to account to the commission for the money so paid. Therefore the employer is the agent of the Government for the collection of the employee’s contribution, and the Government should be responsible for any negligence or dishonesty on the part of its agent. It would be monstrous to require an employee who had paid his contributions to the employer to go to a court to prove that he had done so, and that the employer had defaulted. Surely the policing of this act must be a charge on the Crown, not on the contributors who are to receive benefits under it. There is another aspect. The Treasurer appears to fear collusion between the employer and the employee. If collusion should take place, obviously the employer, no less than the employee, will be a guilty party. In that case, no claim will be made because the mere submission of one will involve the conviction of both parties of an act of fraud in respect of the tax to beimposed under the rates act. In any event, I am not ‘prepared to pass theclause at this juncture, unless theTreasurer clearly intimates on behalf of the Crown that he will accept full responsibility for the failure of his taxgatherers to account for the money paid to them. That is what it amounts to: The employer is to be the tax-gatherer appointed by the Government for the purpose of collecting the contributions of the employees. If I paid money to the Commissioner of Taxation and he embezzled it, the Treasurer, as the Minister administering the Taxation Department, would not require me to sue the Commissioner of Taxation before being exonerated from my tax liability for a given year. Similarly, if the employee pays an employer in this connexion, that is the end of the employee’s obligation to the nation, and the commencement of his right to the benefits specified by this legislation. What happens between the defaulting employer and the Crown should in no sense violate the rights of the employee under the act.
– I see some difficulty. The course proposed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) would remove the whole of the interest of the employee in seeing that his card was stamped. Although the final responsibility will be on the employer, the employee himself will be a very interested party, and he should take regular notice of the stamping to which his card has been subjected.
– All that I propose is to substitute the new clause 178a, with the omission of certain words, for clause 177.
-One of the obvious safeguards embodied in the scheme would be removed, and abuse might be introduced, because the employee would be left without any interest in whether or not his card was stamped.
– If there were collusion, his card would be stamped.
– So long as the card was stamped, there could be no collusion.
– We are considering the case of an employee who has paid his tax and had his card stamped, the employer then defaulting by failing to pay the money to the commission.
Mr.CASEY. - The money would have been paid to the commission when the stamps were bought.
– Suppose that the employer did not buy the stamps, yet deducted the contribution from the employee’s wages.
– That is where I say the employee’s interest cannot be divorced from these proceedings.
– But the Government wants him to police the measure in this respect.
– The employee must be alive to his own interest. Under an earlier clause it was provided that final responsibility in this matter should rest upon the employer. In a small minority of cases, however, a dishonest employer may, not stamp the card after deducting the contribution from the employee’s wages. Once he puts the stamps on the card no harm can be done; the transaction is completed, because he has bought the stamps, and the Government has the money. If we relieved the employee of all responsibility, I think we should leave room for abuse, and thereby possibly create an evil worse than the proposed remedy, because it would become known very soon that the employee had no responsibility at all.
– This clause, when amended as I suggest, will leave the employee with a great deal of responsibility. He still will have to satisfy the commission that his contribution had been actually deducted from his wages.
– I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s point, but his suggestion does not ensure that the stamps will be put on the card.
– Well then, the employee must do more than just see that his contribution has been deducted from his wages ; he will have some interest in knowing whether the 3s. stamp has been put on his card.
– He will be able to check up on that when the cards are collected and handed to the approved society.
– But that will be done only every six months. An employer may fail to stamp the card for an odd week, or for a month, and may have completely disappeared by the time the six-monthly review takes place.
– During that period of six months will the employee have any opportunity to know that his card has or has not been stamped properly?
– He will have the right to see his card.
– The employer might say that he had bought the stamps; and would put them on the card in the following week; in that case, the employee would have to stand up to his employer. I am not too sure that this clause does not put responsibility in this matter upon the employee entirely, and for his pains in endeavouring to see that his card was properly stamped he might get the sack on the score of impudence.
– As I understand it, the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is that the committee should omit clause 177, and substitute the proposed new clause 178a, less certain words. If we strike out clause 177, we shall omit the provision which enables the employer to be sued.
– Of what use is that?
– I think it is valuable. Sooner than accept the honorable member’s proposal, I would rather let clause 177 remain as it is, and accept the honorable gentleman’s suggestion for the amendment of proposed new clause 178a.
– That would satisfy me entirely.
– That is the better of the two proposals. In the meantime, I shall need to. have the honorable gentleman’s suggestion for the amendment of proposed new clause 178a examined.
– I have no objection to such a delay so long as the Treasurer undertakes to give effect to my suggestion either here or in the Senate. I am not wedded to any formula. I wish to get a certain result, and I do not care in what terms the amended clause is couched so long as it achieves that result.
– There should be some provision to retain the interest of the employee to see that his card is stamped.
– That could be made obligatory on the employer.
– Would the honorable member for Bourke agree to leave his suggestion stand over for the moment?
– Yes, on the understanding that effect will be given to it either hero or in the Senate.
– I undertake to have the matter investigated ; it may benecessary to insert an additional provision in order to retain the interest of the employee in the protection of his rights.
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). Honorable members may recall that I raised this point on an earlier clause, when I urged that the rights of an employee should not be prejudiced through any default on the part of an employer. The system of stamping cards as embodied in this measure is identical with that now followed under the unemployment relief legislation of Queensland. Under that legislation the employee, in theory, should see that his card is stamped week by week, but, in practice, that is very rarely done because the cards are kept in the employer’s office. An employee can demand to see his card. Some of the gentlemen who are to control this scheme appear to believe that it is going to be easy for the employee to see that his card is stamped every week. That, however, is impracticable. Under the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke, an employee will be protected not only when his employer fails to stamp his card week by week after deducting the contribution from his wages, but also when his employer defaults. It is all very well to say that an employee can go after an employer who has defaulted. In this matter, the employer is really the agent of the commission for the collection of the employee’s contribution. For these reasons, I hope that the Treasurer will carefully consider the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bourke. I agree with the Treasurer that no collusion between dishonest employers and employees should be made possible. Honorable members generally will agree that it would be very unfair if the rights of an employee were to be forfeited simply because his employer failed to carry out his part of the contract.
.- Under the Queensland unemployment relief tax legislation, the responsibility is placed entirely upon the employer to see that his employees’ cards are properly stamped. If an employee were to endeavour to carry out his obligation under this clause as drawn, to see that his card was stamped week by week, he would be looked upon as a lunatic.
– I think we could make it mandatory on the employer to see that the cards are stamped, but, so far as I am aware, no provision is made in the Queensland legislation to safeguard the rights of an employee whose employer defaults and then goes bankrupt.
– Irrespective of any default on the part of his employer, an employee is entirely protected under the Queensland legislation ; I am sure of that.
.- If this procedure is carried out in the way obviously intended by the strict terms of the measure, no injustice can be done to the employee. I am surprised, however, to hear that, under existing similar legislation in certain States, the stamp book is not handed to the employee weekly when it is stamped, but is retained by the employer. If that be the case, it would be very simple to deal with the matter by making it a legal obligation upon the employer to return the stamp book to the employee.
– That is impracticable; many employees lose their books.
– It might be practicable to make some provision whereby the employee would have not only the right, but also the obligation to see, say, every fortnight or every month, that his book had been properly stamped.
– I should have thought that it would be as simple a procedure in cases of this kind as it is for a tenant to present his rent book to his landlord when the latter collects the rent.
– Could not the employee initial the stamp each week and return the book to the employer ?
– I have some knowledge of the operations of shop stewards and union organizers and, as inspectors will be appointed under this legislation, perhaps a little educational work can be carried out to impress upon the employee the necessity for watching his interests in this matter. If the provisions of this measure were faithfully carried out, the employee would certainly be protected in respect of this point, but perhaps -things will be different if, as honorable members suggest, many employees will damage or lose their books.*
– When this legislation comes into operation, Queensland employees will have three books to look after - one for unemployment insurance, another for unemployment relief tax, and a third in respect of this scheme.
– Quite a considerable library!
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 178 to 1S4 agreed to.
Clause 185 (Rates of wages not to be affected by contributions and benefits).
– I move-
That clause 185 be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 185. Any authority having power under any law of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a Territory to fix rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances which, in fixing the rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances of any persons who ave or may become contributors under this act, takes into account the payment of contributions by those persons under this act, shall also take into account the provision’ of benefits for those persons by this act.”.
.- This is a very important clause and affects intimately the whole of the working classes in Australia. It is important also because it introduces a principle new to this Parliament and one which all other governments have studiously avoided, namely, it gives a direct instruction to our arbitration courts, wages boards and other wage-fixing tribunals that, when determining wages, they must not take into account the contributions made by employees to this scheme. Hitherto Parliament has religiously refrained from authorizing legisla tive interference with the Arbitration Court or other industrial tribunals or in any way telling the court what this Parliament desires. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), I imagine, was somewhat ashamed of the original proposal, possibly, because of the criticism directed against it in the speeches on the second reading of the bill, and he has submitted a new clause to take the place of the original proposal. It has been very carefully worded in order, no doubt, to make it seem a little less offensive to the workers by providing that if the court takes into account the amount of contributions paid, it shall also take into account the benefits accruing to the insured person under this scheme. I strongly objected to the clause in its original form and I object to the amended provision. There is no reason or justice in it, because it will interfere with a principle for which this Parliament has always stood. In all earlier legislation, this Parliament has laid it down that there must be no interference with the work of our Arbitration Court or* wages boards. This proposal is a deliberate violation of that principle. Personally I would, not take up the attitude that the Commonwealth Government or this Parliament should not, in any circumstances, interfere with the work of the court. But this clause is a deliberate attempt by the Government to prevent the Arbitration Court or wages boards from increasing the wages of employees on account of their contributions under this scheme.
– And it is at variance with the Government’s professed policy.
– Of course it is. The original clause reads as follows -
Any authority having power under any law of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a Territory, to fix rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances shall, in fixing the rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances of any persons who are or may become contributors under this act, take into account the benefits provided by this act in consideration of the contribution payable by and in respect of those contributors, and shall not, by reason only of the payment’ of contributions by those persons or of. the provision of benefits for those persons by this act, vary the rates which would otherwise be payable.
That was meant to be a direct instruction to the court. It is well known that the’ formula adopted by the Arbitration Court for the fixing of wages is copied largely by wages boards, so that if the clause had been passed in its original form there would have been little hope of wages fixed by these tribunals being adjusted to meet contributions made under this scheme, even though the court, in its wisdom, thought that they should be adjusted. The clause was at direct variance with the secondreading speech of the Treasurer, who told us that at last this Government had framed legislation to improve the social status of the people of Australia - not to give a little with one hand and take it away with the other. We all had hoped that this bill was to be regarded merely as a first step in that direction, because the fundamental purpose of all legislation of this nature, not only in Australia but also in other countries, is to improve the social condition of the people. Its purpose should not be to make automatic adjustments in wages or working conditions; to take something away with one hand and with the other put something else in its place. The intention should be to raise the social conditions of all persons in the community, and particularly the working classes. This principle is in conformity with the provision in clause 13 of the Peace Treaty, which declared that in the absence of legislative proposals in all countries to improve the social condition of their people, there could be no hope of industrial or international peace. Subsequently, the International Labour Office at Geneva evolved a set of principles to guide the different governments whose representatives assemble there from year to year. This clause is an insult to our wage-fixing tribunals. I feel certain that some of the judges of the Arbitration Court will regard it as an unwarranted invasion of the functions of the court, because it instructs that tribunal to take into consideration not only the payments to the fund by contributors, but also the benefits which they will .receive under this scheme, the purpose being to stop a rise of wages in order to meet .the contributions.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parra surer (Mr. Casey) will heed the appeal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and will agree to omit the clause instead of endeavouring to amend it. Two reasons prompt me to make this suggestion. One is that it is a departure from an established practice of this Parliament not to interfere with the industrial sovereignty of the States. Some of us have, from time to time, asked the Government to take certain action in industrial matters, but always we have been met with the reply that the Commonwealth would not interfere with the States in the exercise of their sovereignty in the realm of industry. I was always under the impression that the various conciliation tribunals or committees fixed the minimum wage required to provide those things which were considered to be necessary to the maintenance of the average Australian home life; I now find that this Parliament, through the medium of this measure; isdecreeing that certain new elements shall be regarded as among the necessaries of home life. Surely it is just as necessary to provide the wherewithal to secure to the individual these new elements as it was previously to provide for shelter raiment and food? If this clause be allowed to remain in the bill it will cut across the method of procedure in at least one of the State courts. I have in mind a declaration made by the Arbitration Commission of New South Wales in April, 1936, that in ascertaining the wage necessary to provide for the requirements of a normal family it took into account the cost of light, food, clothing, rent, &c., and under the heading “miscellaneous,” it also made provision for groceries (not food), the renewal of household utensils, drapery, crockery, union subscriptions, medicines and dental treatment. Obviously, that tribunal was of the opinion that it was merely carrying out its duty when it added to the basic wage otherwise arrived at a sum adequate to provide for medicines and dental treatment. If, under this scheme, the commission is told that it must no longer follow that principle, an injustice will be done to that section of the community for whom the Arbitration Commission of New South Wales functions. I hope that the Government will be consistent and will refrain from inserting in the bill any provision which will be at variance with the stand which it has always taken up to refrain from impinging on the industrial sovereign rights of the States. Otherwise I shall have to vote against the clause.
, - The criticism of the clause should convince the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) of the wisdom of not including it in the bill. During the second-reading debate, honorable members on this side declared that this provision would be an interference with the functioning of the Arbitration Court and the other wagefixing tribunals, while this and other governments have always said that they would not do. I pointed out that the basic wage commission which had made an inquiry as to what should be a fair wage laid it down that provision should be made for payments for insurance and other social benefits. This clause direct*) the court to take into consideration not only contributions to the fund, but also the benefits which will accrue to insured persons. The Government should not offer any direction of this kind to the courts; they should be completely unfettered in deciding the matters with which they have to deal. The representatives of the workers in the Arbitration Courts know that the members of unions have felt that such courts work under directions, but when the matter has been brought under the notice of anti-Labour governments they have always alleged that they would not dare to suggest to the courts the way in which their work should be carried out. In the original proposal the Government intended to interfere directly with the work of the courts, by suggesting that certain factors should be taken into consideration, but doubtless in response to the criticism offered by honorable members on both sides of the chamber ‘during the debate on the second reading, the Treasurer has now introduced a new clause which provides that the court shall take into consideration not only the money paid by way of contributions, but also the benefits to be conferred upon contributors to this scheme. As one who has had a very long experience in the Arbitration
Courts, I ask the Treasurer to remove the increasing suspicion which is developing in the minds of those who represent the workers, by deleting this provision, because if it is embodied in the bill i; will only intensify that suspicion. I believe that the public feel that courts should be entirely unfettered, and that they can be relied upon to give a decision according to their lights as to what is a fair wage for the worker.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Port3 (Mr. Holloway) and other honorable members on this side of the chamber who have opposed the insertion of a clause which embodies a direction to arbitration tribunals. The Queensland Arbitration Court ta]des into consideration contributions to lodges and many other factors, but it acts without direction from any outside authority. When the late Justice McCauley was President of the Queensland Arbitration Court he laid it down in one of his early judgments that it was the right of any union advocate to submit whatever he thought proper in favour of an increase of the basic wage. The original clause contains a very definite indication not only to Commonwealth courts, but also to all arbitration tribunals in the Commonwealth as to what they shall and shall not do. There is a direct intimation to courts that they are not to take into account the contributions paid to the National Insurance Fund by the employees unless they also take into consideration the benefits which are to be bestowed under the scheme. I have had a great deal of experience in arbitration courts. A court considers whether an employee receives a benefit and, if so, to what extent. A portion of a contribution to a lodge is excluded by the court in Queensland, and a portion is taken into consideration in arriving at a basic wage. The courts should be allowed to exercise discretion in such matters, particularly as this Government, and those which have preceded it in recent years, have always maintained that they do not wish to interfere with the courts, which they maintain should always be entirely unfettered. In this instance the measure pro- vies that the tribunals shall consider the contributions .paid and also the benefits which a contributor receives. There is a definite feeling abroad that the work of the courts is interfered with by governments, and the State Government of Queensland is not immune from that suspicion because the employers have blamed it for certain decisions given by the court. It has been alleged that one or two members of the bench represent only the views of the employers. If this provision be adopted, it will be a definite indication that the Government desires to interfere with the functions of the courts. I trust that the Treasurer will agree to the deletion of this clause, and thus leave the courts free to operate without outside interference.
.- The original clause and the proposed new clause are both objectionable, and I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will take the initiative and ask the committee to reject it. Surely the Minister realises that in submitting this provision he is acting contrary to the professed policy of conservative governments over a period of years. I recall a request made by an industrial union to a conservative government that legislation should be passed limiting the number of hours in which a man should work to 44 and in some cases to 40 hours a week. ‘The conservative members of this Parliament said that such a matter should be left entirely to the Arbitration Court, and that it would not be right to interfere with the work of the court. I also recall a certain act of windowdressing some years ago, when in amending the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the BrucePage Government provided that the courts should take into consideration the economic condition -of the industry involved. The Scullin Government, in which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was Attorney-General, introduced amending legislation to delete that provision. The Federal Arbitration Court held that it did not make any difference to that court whether such a section was or was not in the act, because in the course of its work it always took such matters in consideration. I believe that this provision is an affront to the intelligence and impartiality of our Arbitration Court judges. The Treasurer will, I believe, expedite the passage of the bill if he asks the committee to reject the clause because it is an insult to the courts.
.- This subject is of particular interest to me owing to the fact that a similar provision was in operation when I occupied a seat on the opposite side of this table. I persuaded the House to omit a section in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which had been inserted by the Bruce-Page Government. That section provided that the Arbitration Court should take into consideration the economic conditions of the industry with which it was then dealing. It was stated with tremendous emphasis by those then in Opposition, that I was endeavouring to direct the courts to disregard altogether economic conditions, and that the court would be expected to fix rates of wages regardless of the ability of the employers to pay. My answer to that suggestion wa3 that that was not my intention, but that on the contrary it seemed to me to be indecent and improper to direct the court how its mind should run ou matters which were peculiarly within its own province. That was a perfectly sound and logical view, and we at least succeeded in getting this House to accept it and the section disappeared. I said that we should not presume to dictate to the courts. That should be the attitude of the Parliament in thi* instance. We should noi presume to dictate to the courts in respect of matters coming within their discretion, particularly as they hear all the evidence relevant to the subject under consideration. When it was argued before the Arbitration Court that the act had once contained a provision relating to economic conditions of the industry concerned, but that it had been wiped out by a ruthless Labour government, the court very properly said that it did not matter whether such a provision was or was not in the act, because it would disregard it. The Commonwealth is based upon three foundational bodies - the executive, the judiciary, and the Parliament. It is needless to say that the independence of the judiciary is one of our most treasured traditions, and one of the most inviolable conditions upon which government is carried on. When once a matter is remitted to the appropriate judicial tribunal, the legislature must not presume to dictate to the judiciary how its discretion shall be exercised. The reasons are obvious, the most obvious being that the court alone hears evidence in respect of a matter, and the court alone is in a position to judge. In addition, it is specially constituted for the purpose of judging and therefore should judge. It will be said that in this instance the honours are equal. I mentioned in my second-reading speech that a tribunal may have regard to the fact that ls. 6d. a week is contributed by the employee and a similar amount by the employer, but that does not alter the argument. I hardly know why the Government has put thi3 clause in the bill. Since in any event, because of the fact that employer and employee alike have to contribute, I suppose we may take it that the direction to the court would not have very great influence on the court. No doubt this benefit would be considered together with a number of other matters, but I think that the Treasurer would do well to drop the clause, because there is an invasion by one arm of the governmental machine of the functions of another arm, and each arm is rightly jealous of its own powers and prerogatives under the Constitution.
.- Under the clause as drafted, it is proposed that the Government should dictate to the court that it should not take into consideration certain conditions. A good deal of criticism has been directed to that proposal, and now the Government wishes the committee to provide that the court “ may “ take into consideration the contributions to the insurance fund, and, if it does, it must have regard also to benefits in assessing the basic wage. I have no fine feelings about interference with the Arbitration Court, because I believe that it largely reflects the views of the government of the day. If the government in power has wage-slashing tendencies, or is in favour of increasing or maintaining the existing hours of labour, the court directly reflects the- policy of the Government, and I believe that, from time to time, both Commonwealth and. State governments have influenced the courts. If I had power to do so, I should dictate to them, and if judges did not do the job in line with the policy of the Government they would not remain long in their positions. It is pure humbug and hypocrisy to say that courts are not influenced by the views of the government of the day. The point I am most, concerned about is the impossibility of giving effect to what the Government desires, even under the amendment. In my opinion, the employee is the only person who will make a real contribution to the found out of his own pocket. It is idle to say that the employer will make any contribution. Although the bill provides that he must pay half the total contribution, he will actually pass on the cost of his contribution to the public by increasing the prices of commodities, and he will add. a little extra for interest on the money laid out. Therefore the employer will make no real contribution at all. The general public will make it for him, and, in the final analysis, the worker will have to bear the cost of the employer’s contribution as well as his own. How could the court assess the benefit that an insured person would derive under this measure? In certain industries, which may be classed as unhealthy, there is probably three or four times as much sickness among the employees as in other industries. Obviously, a person employed in an unhealthy industry would receive rauch more sickness benefit than another engaged in a healthy industry. If the court took into consideration the difference between the benefits received in healthy and unhealthy industries, the wages would vary in those industries in accordance with the benefits derived by the workers under this legislation. There is another interesting point. If the court took any notice of the talk from the Government benches in the last three weeks, there would be a reduction of the basic wage, because we have been told, day after day, by honorable members opposite that this scheme offers the workers an extraordinarily good investment. It is said that for every ls. con- tributed by him, he will receive 3s. or -ls. worth of benefits. It seems to me that the whole clause should be rejected, because it would be impracticable to give effect to it.
– All that this clause states is that when a wage-fixing tribunal or authority takes into account the contributions made to the insurance fund, it shall also consider the benefits received. No mandatory instruction is given to the court; the clause merely draws the attention of the court to the fact that for every contribution there is a corresponding benefit.
– One-half of the insured persons may not need any of the benefits.
– Then they will be very fortunate.
– If the direction to the court is not mandatory, why is the word “ shall “ employed ?
– Many instances are found in our legislation of much more mandatory directions than this. In the Land Tax Assessment Act, this Parliament has provided that every contract or agreement which, so far as it has, or purports to have, the effect of directly or indirectly altering the incidence of any land tax, or of relieving any person from liability to pay land tax, shall be absolutely void. The validity of this law, which states that land tax shall be payable by the proper individual, has Deen constantly upheld by the courts. It is not suggested that this Parliament can directly legislate in respect of wages and conditions of employment ; that is not its function at all, but in many instances it has, in the past, given directions to the court. Section 25c of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1934, provides:-
Tn determining any industrial dispute under this act in which the rates of pay, or condi tions of employment, applying to apprentices in any industry are in question, the court or conciliation commissioner shall take into consideration any scheme of apprenticeship provided by or under n.ny State law.
That is a much more stringent direction to the court that that given tinder this clause.
– The Treasurer would be able to order the court to bring in a 40-hour week.
– Not at all. Section 38ba of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which was inserted at the instance of the Scullin Government, provides: -
The court shall not include in any award or order a provision requiring a person claiming the benefit of that award to notify his employer that he is a member of an organization bound by the award.
The act is full of directions to the court, some of which have been given in legislation sponsored by Labour governments.
– No matter which government had those provisions inserted, the fact remains that they are a part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Quite so, and this clause is to be part of this measure.
– We suggest that the only way in which the Commonwealth court should be directed, if at all, is in accordance with the conciliation and arbitration power.
– The honorable gentleman knows that three out of every five of the acts passed ‘by this Parliament are amended by other acts. The Financial Emergency Acts and the Financial Belief Acts amended many other acts. This is a simple provision to suggest to the court that the ls. 6d. is not a clear outgoing and that a. good deal may be put on the credit side. The actuarial report on the financial provisions of the bill indicates the value, at different stages, of the pension to be provided for the contribution of ls. 6d. A man entering the scheme at the age of 32 will get a pension benefit valued at 5s. 9d. ; the comparative figure for entry at 37 years is 7s. 5d. and for entry at 42 years 9s. lOd.
– Does the Treasurer suggest that the basic wage should be reduced accordingly?
– Not at all. I suggest that the contribution should be taken into account and that the corresponding offset should be borne in mind. No mandatory direction is being given to the court. This is a contributory system of national insurance in which three parties, the employees, the employers, and the Government, are concerned. In such circumstances it would be. quite unfair for the court to increase the basic wage by ls. 6d. a week immediately the scheme became operative, for that would completely deprive the scheme of its contributory character. It would not be at all outrageous to give a direction to the court - though it is not suggested that we should do so - that it should not in any circumstances take into account the amount of the contribution. Each party is expected to make its own contribution. If wages were increased by1s. 6d. a week immediately the scheme became operative, the entire load would rest upon the employers, except for the Government’s contribution. That would be quite unfair, and completely out of harmony with the basic object of the bill, which is to provide a contributory system of pensions. If the Government had had action of that kind in mind, it would have been much simpler to frame a measure placing on the employer the whole burden of the contribution of 3s. a week.
-Why not omit any reference to wage-fixing tribunals?
– I take it that the court will recognize the extent to which the cost of living will be raised - if it will be raised at all - by the operation of this measure. Any adjustment of that kind can be made in a relatively short time.
– This is really a subsidized saving scheme.
– Talk about a lowwage government !
– There can be no question of a low-wage government. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and his friends on the Opposition side of the committee are frankly opposed to anycontributory scheme of national insurance.
– Why attempt to create a court psychology by harping on the point expressed in the clause?
– The honorable member is talking nonsense. As this is a contributory scheme honorable members are definitely opposed to it, although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) declared himself on one occasion to be in favour of a contributory scheme of insurance.
– In respect of health only. The Treasurer’s chief concern is to relieve the Consolidated Revenue, in the years to come, of the payment of pensions.
– Actually the Leader of the Opposition has been found out in a grave inconsistency.
– The Treasurer cannot have read the whole of the report to which he is referring.
– This amendment is completely reasonable. No mandatory instruction is being given. In effect we are saying that although a contribution of1s. 6d. is being required from employees, certain benefits are being given in return.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member for Wentworth.
– I rise to speak. It is perfectly monstrous that another honorable member from the Government side of the committee should be called by the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition must be aware that five members of the Opposition were called consecutively before the Treasurer spoke. I ask the honorable gentleman to be fair in his comments.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to this discussion. I do not wish to pose as a legal authority-
– This is absolutely outrageous and utterly unparliamentary! The Chairman may order me out if he likes, but I point out that when the Treasurer sat down another honorable member from the Government side was called, although I rose and have not spoken once on the clause. Is there to be no answer to the Treasurer?
– I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition, but if he will allow me a moment or two in which to put my point, I shall be obliged. It appears to me that the proposed new clause isultra vires the Constitution, section 51 of which provides -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to . . .
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
Although the Parliament has power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration in disputes affecting more thanone State, it has no jurisdiction over State industrial courts and other State wage-fixing tribunals. The Treasurer should consider this point. I would wish to elaborate my contention, but in deference to the Leader of the Opposition, whose objection in all fairness ought to be considered, I reserve the right to continue at some future time.
.- The Treasurer says that as this is a contributory system of national insurance he wishes to ensure that the employees shall themselves pay their contributions. Therefore the court must not do anything in the way of wage revision-
– No, no !
– Well, he says that the court ought not to do anything of that kind. Butthe real purpose of the new clause is to say to the court, “ You have to equate this matter “. If that is not so, the clause is meaningless. The Treasurer really wishes to ensure that the employee shall pay1s.6d. a week and not pass it on to the employer by means of a wage increase. But the scheme should be equally contributory for the employer. Therefore, if the Treasurer wishes to act logically he should take power to fix prices so that employers shall not add their contributions to the prices of their commodities. The new clause is, in effect, an invitation to the court to say to the workers “ You are paying1s. 6d. a week for a benefit of 5s. 6d. or more a week; therefore you are getting a great deal more than you are entitled to get “. This is a flag, as the Treasurer has said to me, under which the Government is urging the court to adjust wages.
– That is nonsense. It is a deliberate untruth.
– On a point of order. The observation of the Treasurer is not only personally offensive to me, but it is also obviously utterly unparliamentary and unbecoming a Minister.
– Order ! I ask the Treasurer to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. I wish to make a personal explanation.
– No! I submit that the purpose the Treasurer has in mind is to indicate to arbitration courts and other wage-fixing tribunals the course that they should take. He says to them, in effect: “You shall take cognizance of the value of this insurance scheme in fixing wages. The employees are being given certain benefits and wages should be adjusted accordingly “.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the committee stage of the bill to the end of Part VIII. has expired.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Casey’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 186 to 188 agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 (Definitions).
.- The definition of “ adopted child “ is faulty in that it refers only to de facto adoption. In some States, I think in all of them, there is also de jure adoption, that is, a child can he adopted by law. I suggest that the word “ includes “ be substituted for the word “ means “ in the definition, so that an adopted child would include not merely a child legally adopted, but also a child de facto adopted.
Amendment (by Mr. Blackburn) - by leave - agreed to -
That in the definition of “ adopted child “ the word “ means “ he omitted with a view to jnsert in lieu thereof the word “ includes “.
. -Does the definition of “ adopted child “ cover a child who is adopted by a person who is not married?
– The definition is not confined to children born in wedlock.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That in the definition of “ contributions “, after the word “ by “, third occurring, the words “ or on behalf of “ be inserted, and that after the word “ contributors “, second occurring, the words “ and other contributions made voluntarily” be inserted.
That in the definition of “ employed “ after the word “ engaged “ first occurring, the words “ , at or after the commencement of this act, “ be inserted.
That after the definition of “ medical practitioner “ the following definition be inserted: - “ Ordinance “ means an ordinance of a territory, and includes a State” act in force in a territory;
That in the definition of “pharmaceutical chemist “the word “any” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ the “ ; and that after the word “ Commonwealth “ the following words “ in which he supplies drugs, medicines, or appliances, in pursuance of a contract made under this act “ be inserted.
– The definition of “medical practitioner “ does not go far enough. Any person may practice as a medical practitioner, but not as a legally qualified medical practitioner. . I suggest that the words “ legally qualified “ be inserted.
– That is not necessary, because the definition includes the words “ under the law”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 19 -
A juvenile contributor shall be insured under this act for the purposes of medical benefit only, and this act shall not, except where otherwise expressly stated, apply to a juvenile contributor.
– This is the first of a number of clauses which deal with the insurance of juveniles. Honorable members will remember that in the bill as originally drawn a juvenile was required to pay a contribution of 4d. a week, and his employer a similar amount, in consideration of which the juvenile would receive medical benefit only. The actuaries have advised the Government that if the total contribution were increased to10d. a week - 5d. each from the juvenile and his employer - several things could be done. First, the waiting period in respect of medical benefit could be dispensed with; secondly, a sickness benefit of 5s. a week could be made available; and, thirdly, what may be described as the junction of the juvenile scheme and the adult scheme could be cemented, so that the juvenile employee could then go straight through from the juvenile contribution period, namely, from fourteen to sixteen years of age, into the adult period, without any further waiting period, and in addition, he would get medical benefit; also sickness benefit to the amount of 5s. a week.
.- Do I understand that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) proposes to take another1d. a week from the juveniles in return for a benefit of only 5s. a week? This is most unfair, in view of the fact that the adult benefit is 15s. a week. The juvenile benefit should be at least 7s. 6d. a week, thus bringing it into line with that paid by other organizations, such as those on the coal-fields, to what are known as half members, that is, juniors who pay half the rate of the ordinary contribution, and receive in return for it half the usual benefit. If an organization of. miners can provide such benefits for its junior members, surely the same can be done under this national scheme. Many of the youths who will be affected under the national scheme are actually the breadwinners of their families. Admittedly 7s. 6d. a week would not go very far, but it would be better than 5s.
– I hope that the committee will not accept the Treasurer’s proposal in regard to juveniles. This afternoon honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) spoke glibly of the millions of pounds that would accumulate in the insurance fund and how it would be inadvisable for one generation to contribute unnecessary millions for the benefit of the next generation. Now the Treasurer wants to steal the pennies from the kids - a disgraceful proposal. From the juveniles’ contributions of 32s. a year, 18s. 8d. will go towards the accumulation of a surplus. Now it is proposed to take a further Id. a week from them in return for a paltry sickness benefit of 5s. a week. No doubt we shall be told that the employer will have to contribute an extra Id., but, as I have pointed out before, the employer will, in fact, contribute nothing; he will pass the cost on to the public. It is bad enough to force children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen to go to work, because their parents cannot afford to keep them, without passing legislation to take their pennies from -them. When this clause was under discussion before, honorable members indicated that they were prepared to demand justice for juveniles. I appeal to them now, and particularly to honorable members opposite, who draw good salaries, are well clothed, well housed, and well fed, to realize their responsibility as national representatives in this Parliament to the extent of demanding that the Government shall abandon this proposal. If they do not, then anyone who votes for their return to Parliament at the next election should be ashamed of himself. We need another Dickens to point out the inhumanity of proposals of this kind. Dickens would be able to find worse characters than the Gradgrinds and Pecksniffs of his novels if he were to write of social conditions to-day. Honorable members opposite, who claim to be Christian gentlemen, would no doubt argue with much logic to prove that the Good Samaritan was a bad economist. I trust that honorable members will refuse to allow this thing to be done. It is worse than a Jew’s bargain. Shylock would blush for sham if he had done what the Treasurer now proposes to do.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the words “ only, and this act shall not, except where otherwise expressly stated, apply to a juvenile contributor “, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu ‘thereof the words “ and sickness benefit only “.
.- I strongly object to the proposal of the Government to impose upon juveniles an obligation to pay an increased contribution. Greater benefit should be provided at no additional cost. If there is one section which is exploited more than another in this scheme, it is the juveniles. I stated some time ago that juveniles would be able, as members of friendly societies, to obtain greater benefits, for smaller contributions, than they will be able to get under this scheme. Widespread indignation must be aroused at the monstrous proposal of the Treasurer that juveniles, many of whom contribute substantially to the upkeep of fatherless, or otherwise distressed, families should be saddled with the need to pay from their meagre earnings even more than is provided for in the bill in order to qualify for the miserable amount of 5s. a week as sickness benefit. Words are inadequate to express the indignation which must be felt that this Government, which at all times has sought to preserve the interests of the wealthy class which is capable of making more substantial contributions to national insurance than it is called upon to make, should bring down a proposal of this nature. The amount of 8d. a week which will be taken from the juvenile employees and from their employers is more than adequate to provide the slender extra benefit which is proposed to be given. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and those honorable members who have supported him, that the very minimum of the sickness benefit for juveniles should be 7s. 6d. a week, if not half of the benefit provided for adults, and that in order to provide that benefit- they should he required to contribute no more than the amount which is now specified’.in the bill. The Government intends to use the contributions from and in respect of juveniles to boost the fund from which it will pro- vide benefits to adults. The miserable way in which the juvenile employees are to be treated contrasts with the treatment that will be given to the newcomers to this country who, even though they may be foreigners, will after 26 weeks of contribution, be entitled to the full benefits of the scheme. The Government should be ashamed to come forward with such a proposal.
.- For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Government has brought down this proposition as an alleviation of the already onerous contributions required of juvenile contributors by the bill as drafted. One would have expected that the Government, in the face’ of the patent hostility of the committee, when the clause was originally under discussion, would have brought forward an amendment that would have conferred an advantage on the juvenile employees instead of adding to their burdens. The Government has come forward with a proposal which means that for the contribution of an extra penny each by juvenile employees and their employers, increasing the already top heavy contribution of 8d. to 10d. a week, they will qualify for a sickness benefit of 5s. a week.
– The waiting period also will be reduced.
– Yes. Contrast this proposal with the practice of the friendly societies ! They have been associated with this class of business for many years, they have stood the test of time, and developed such reserves that they were able to weather the depression. For the contribution of 51/2d. a week they, from the day of notification of sickness, pay 8s. a week to a juvenile contributor. I certainly cannot agree to this proposition as an honest attempt to meet the wish of the committee that juvenile contributors should, under less onerous conditions, receive more than the originally intended benefits. This amendment will increase, not only the already top-heavy burden on the employee, but also that on the employer. The margin between 51/2d. and10d. a weekwould lead one to expect that the Government would provide for juveniles at least the amount of 8s. per week, which is now provided by the friendly societies. In view of the shortcomings of the. amendment, I cannot associate myself with it.
.- I am not satisfied with the amendment. This clause was postponed because of the determined attitude taken by the committee in favour of more liberal provision for the juvenile employees. The committee had no intention to increase the contribution of juveniles, I believe, because most honorable members expressed regret that there was need for so many young people of from fourteen to sixteen years of age to be employed in industry. For the payment of an additional contribution, the juvenile employees will qualify to receive the miserable sum of 5s. a week in sickness, but no provision is made for disablement benefit. Adults who are ill for more than 26 weeks pass from the sickness benefit to the disablement benefit, but no such provision is made for the young person, who after the expiry of26 weeks will not participate further in the benefits conferred by the bill. Juveniles should be entitled to disablement benefit. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) told the committee that the friendly societies pay 8s. a week to juvenile members if they become ill. State aid in New South Wales provides children with8s. 9d. a week. Even orphans, under this bill, are to receive 7s. 6d. a week. All of these comparisons show how miserably inadequate the Government’s proposal is. The committee, I believe, will not be prepared to accept it. Paragraphs c and d of clause 46 should be extended to juveniles. Paragraph c provides for the payment of disablement benefit to adults after they have been drawing sickness benefits for 26 weeks, and paragraph d provides for future additional benefits, possibly the treatment of eyes and teeth, services which are even more essential to young people than to adults. If juveniles contribute to a national insurance scheme, they should be entitled to the full benefits of the scheme. The benefits available to them should not be restricted to medical and sickness benefits. The Government is making an axtra allowance, but it ought to reconsider the amendment with a view to giving full medical, sickness, disablement, and other benefits to juveniles without any increase of contributions.
.- I spoke at some length on this question previously, and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) finally agreed to postpone the clause. I am not satisfied with the amendment he has now proposed. Let me contrast it with the practice of the friendly societies. From persons between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, they require contributions of 2d. for sick fund and Id. for funeral fund, making a total of 3d. a week. For that, the contributor receives sickness benefit of 10s. a week for the first 26 weeks and 5s. a week for the next 26 weeks and in addition funeral benefit to the extent of £10. 1. do not want to go again over the ground I covered when, I last spoke, but I want to emphasize that I look on the matter as one of great importance to young people. I said previously that there’ were probably in this House many men who had assisted, .when they were young, in the upbringing of a family. The parent may have died, and, as a result, the children may have had a very great responsibility forced on them. In a bill of this kind, we do not want to do anything detrimental to young people. Wc shall’ be collecting 17s. 6d. a year from juveniles and a further 17s. 6d. will be contributed by the employers. I believe that the Treasurer should agree to preserve the rate of contribution and raise the sickness benefit for juveniles. When I take into consideration what the friendly societies are doing, I do not think that the payment under this bill of sickness benefit of 7s. 6d. a week would bc too high.
– I propose to explain at greater length the difference between the present proposal and the earlier one. The proposed increase in benefits is quite considerable. In the original proposal, the contributions were 4d! from the employee and 4d. from the employer. There was provision for a three months’ waiting period in respect of medical benefit, and no sickness benefit was available. There was a further similar waiting period after reaching the age of sixteen in order to qualify for further benefits. In the new proposal, three things have been done.
First, the three months waiting period for medical benefit has been deleted, and 5s. sickness benefit -has been provided. That has been calculated after inquiry as to the upper and lower limits of rates of pay for juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. We have been informed by authorities in the various States that the limits vary broadly between 10s. and 18s. 6(1. a week. ‘Considering . the relationship between sickness benefits for adults and their wages, the 5s. sickness benefit compares quite favorably with the adult sickness benefit. Further, the juveniles will be able to qualify immediately they reach sixteen years of age for the further and, of course, very much increased benefits that will then be available. Their sickness benefit will then be 15s. for males and 12s. 6d. for females. [Quorum formed.] Similarly, after having made the necessary number of contributions, they will become eligible for disablement benefit, and, should they marry and have children, they will become eligible for widows’ pensions and dependants’ allowances’ at a very early age. They could actually become eligible for all those benefits, which are quite costly, at the age of sixteen. I assure honorable members that the new proposal will cost very much more than the previous one.
– -I suggest, with due respect to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), that we ought to clear our minds regarding what we are dealing with. The purpose of the amendment is to increase juvenile contributors’ benefits. The other things to which the Treasurer has referred will be dealt with later. The original clause related to health benefit only, and, as a result of representations by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), it was postponed. The Treasurer now proposes that the juvenile contributor shall receive sickness benefit in addition to medical benefit. If we are unable to obtain anything further - and obviously we- are, because we cannot propose an amendment to give to the child a disablement benefit - I am in favour of accepting the amendment to clause 19 as itstands. The contribution to be imposed on the juvenile contributor is to be dealt with by another bill, and the committee will have an opportunity to vote upon it when that’ measure is being considered. We should” not now obscure the issue, W hit h is whether or not we wish to increase the benefit to be given to juvenile contributors. The Government has met our wishes to a certain extent, by saying that it is prepared to pay a sickness benefit as well as a health benefit. Later we shall have the opportunity to decide whether the contribution of the juvenile contributor shall be 4d. or 5d. I am not in favour of voting against an additional benefit merely because I do not like some of the conditions attaching to it, which conditions I may vote on later. It seems to me that those who have been endeavouring to secure an increase of the benefit to be given to juvenile contributors will stultify themselves if they vote against this increase merely because they do not like some other clause upon which they will have an opportunity to vote later.
.- I am impressed by the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke. The Government has met the representations of various honorable members to the extent of proposing provision for a special sick benefit of 5s. a week in addition to the medical benefit. It has also acted very generously in regard to the deletion of the provision for a waiting period of three months before medical benefit could be obtained, and a further three months at the age of sixteen years before the youth could be regarded as entitled to the benefits of the adult. I think that we cannot ignore the necessity for making all of these arrangements on an actuarial basis. The Government has given very reasonable consideration to this proposal, and its action has impressed itself most favorably on the honorable member for Bourke. The committee would be well advised to accept the advice which he and the Treasurer have tendered. It would thereby genuinely serve the interests of the juveniles, on whose behalf this provision has been framed.
– It is all very well to argue that this matter is to be dealt with in another measure. The honorable member for
Hunter (Mr. James) moved for the postponement of the clause, as an instruction to the Government to bring in an amendment that will give juvenile contributors additional benefits for the same contributions. Now the Treasurer tells us that the calculation has been made on the basis of the upper and lower payments for juvenile labour, ranging from 10s. to 16s. a week. Apparently the calculation has been made on a purely commercial basis, and in accordance with the worst traditions of the capitalist system. A sick payment of 5s. a week is little enough in all conscience, even for a contribution of 4d. a week, but it will be miserly in the extreme if the child contributor is compelled to pay an additional Id. in order to obtain it. I submit that too much is to be taken from, the child. The Treasurer has made the absurd statement that by paying an extra Id. the juvenile contributor will qualify for the widows’ pension *at 16 years of age. That is ridiculous, and demonstrates ‘ the extremes to which the honorable gentleman has to resort in trying to push this measure through the committee. The contention of the honorable member for Bourke may be right, but the point is that we do not know what will happen when the other bill is brought down. We have no assurance that we shall, have an opportunity to discuss this matter or to move any amendments in relation to it. Even if we were to move to reduce the rate of contribution, we should probably be ruled out of order on the ground that the actuarial basis of the scheme as well as the Consolidated Revenue would be affected. The Treasurer has deliberately “ put it ‘ over “ the honorable member for Hunter and every other honorable member . opposite who expressed sympathy for the children in the debate which preceded this one, and wish to give them a fair deal. By subterfuge, the honorable gentleman has taken advantage of the forms of this branch of the legislature in order to get himself out of an awkward position. During a lengthy experience in this Parliament, this is the best sample of political trickery that I have witnessed. We may be gagged here, but we shall not be gagged outside. The people will be told of all that has occurred. Honorable members opposite will have to face in their electorates criticism of their actions here.
– I have just heard the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) say that this is a piece of political trickery. If that be so, it is the kind of trickery which will be appreciated by those juveniles who will come under this scheme. They would be delighted if more of it were applied to them. Let us contrast the first proposal of the Government, with the present proposal. Under the clause as it originallystood, a juvenile between the ages of 14 and 16 years was to have paid 4d. ‘ a week, and the employer a similar amount. After a. period of three months the juvenile became eligible to receive medical benefit only, and on attaining the age of sixteen years he had to start off afresh under the higher contribution in order to qualify for medical, sickness and disablement benefits and, in the event of marriage, widow’s pension benefit. That was the effect of the original clause. Let us now consider the clause as re-drafted. The juvenile will have to pay an additional Id., and the employer also an additional Id., making a total combined contribution of lOd. On the payment of one contribution of that amount, however, the juvenile will immediately become eligible for full medical benefit, and sick pay of 5s. a week - which, I suggest, is proportionate to the sick pay allowed to adults - and the free insurance period which is one of the finest provisions of the scheme. If a youth comes into the scheme at the age of fourteen years, and continues in employment, paying his contributions all the time, until he reaches sixteen years of age, he will once again be entitled at the latter age to full medical benefit without having to wait for any period at all; he will go straight from the juvenile section into the adult section with no break whatever, and receive full medical benefit. But the most important point is that, during this period, he will have paid 104 contributions, and thus become eligible for the full sick pay of 15s. a week allowed for unmarried minors. Furthermore, should he marry, and on death be survived by his wife, the latter will be eligible for a widow’s pension. Is that political trickery? This is one of the finest things that could possibly be done in the interests pf the young people of this country, and if the Opposition succeeds in defeating the Government’s intention in this respect, it will strike a severe blow at the welfare of our young people. In view of the position as I have described it, I suggest that, far from practising any form of trickery on these juveniles,” the Government is treating them most liberally indeed.
– I intend to vote for the clause as re-drafted because it is an improvement upon the original. However, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) did not put the new proposal before the committee quite frankly. For instance, the suggestion that later a widow’s pension will be available does not enter into this discussion, because we are considering the benefits which it is proposed to give to juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. Strictly, the point at issue, therefore, is whether such benefits are worth while. Personally, I believe it would have been better to have omitted children from this scheme altogether. Boys and girls are employed in factories and workshops under the age of sixteen yeaTs only when they can get a permit to be so employed, and such permits are given only because of extreme economic stress in their family.- In deciding whether this proposal is worth while, the point to be considered, I suggest, is whether an amount of 5s. a week is sufficient to help to keep in good health a boy or girl of fifteen years of age. When the Treasurer says that the payment of 5s. a week in return for the additional contribution of only Id. is liberal, as compared with the amount contributed by an adult for his 15s., he approaches the matter from the wrong point of view. The real ‘issue is whether a ‘boy at fifteen years of. age can exist on one- third of what a young man of eighteen years of age requires, and from that point of view this proposal is hardly worth while. I should exclude every child under sixteen years of age from this scheme, preferring to agitate for the raising of’ the school leaving age to sixteen years in order to discourage youths from entering industry. That tendency is apparent in all Englishspeaking countries to-day.
– That is not a matter upon which the Commonwealth can legislate.
– I am aware of that fact, but enactments of this kind will ‘ only encourage youths to enter industry.
– Would not this scheme tend to alleviate unemployment ?
– No. Our unemployment problem has become a permanent problem, and the sooner we prevent children from entering industry, the sooner we shall improve our unemployment position. I again protest against the contention of honorable members opposite that it is worth while to increase the juvenile’s contribution to 5d. a week in order, to provide side pay at the rate of 5s. a week. So small a sum is practically useless to a boy or girl who for the most part is obliged to go to work at an early age because of economic stress at home. When boys and girls are forced to enter industry they are not concerned nearly so much with what they will receive when they reach the age of 30 or 40 years as with what they will receive immediately. I regret that the Treasurer seems to be actuated by the consideration of whether or not this proposition will be profitable and will balance the ledger actuarially. To a great extent such an attitude is responsible for the present unrest apparent among the people of Australia as a whole, in respect of the health of our youth, particularly when their fears in this regard are confirmed by the decline of the physical fitness amongst our cadets and militia volunteers. Instead of providing- for a payment of 5s. a week in return for a contribution of 5d. a week, it would have been better to charge an extra 2d. and give in return a payment of 10s. a week. The best way, however, to have dealt with this matter would have been to recognize that most boys and girls who enter industry are forced to do so because of economic stress in their homes; therefore, the first consideration should have been to provide them with sufficient to sustain themselves in the event of their becoming unemployed.
[11.101. - One or two points which have been raised in the discussion call for comment. Honorable members who have been comparing benefits to be given under this scheme with those obtainable from friendly societies have hardly made a fair comparison, because juvenile members of friendly societies are selected risks and have a strong probability of continued good health, whereas those juveniles who will come under this scheme will be the remainder, and therefore not such good risks. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) spoke of the unsatisfactory health standards of so many of the younger generation. That, I contend, is one good reason for caution in connexion with the benefits to be given under this scheme. It is gratifying, after the deluge of criticism from honorable members of the Opposition, to find that at least two of the most capable critics can see virtue in this measure to the extent that they intend to vote for this clause.
– The improvement of the scheme is due to criticism of it.
– It is satisfactory that some honorable members of the Opposition acknowledge that there are, in the Government’s proposal, good points which cannot be ignored even by those who object to the proposed contribution by juvenile contributors of 5d. a week, in return for which they will get sickness benefit of 5s. a week. Surely the sooner the younger generation of this country is made to realize that benefits in this life have to be paid for, the better it will be for the community generally. We should instill into the minds of everybody that the idea, which might suit some of our friends opposite, that benefits are to be got merely for the taking and without paying for them, is not sound in principle. If the surplus which will be accumulated under this scheme proves to be as large as honorable members opposite contend, evidence of such a trend will soon be manifest and adjust^ ments can be made accordingly. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also urged the raising of the school lear. ing age. Many honorable members on this side have the same idea, but we realize that the Commonwealth has no power, under the Constitution, to determine that matter. Nor has it the right to say at what age children shall be taken into employment. These are the responsibilities of State governments. With regard to the proposed higher contribution from juvenile contributors, if it is the desire of honorable members opposite and those Government supporters who intend to vote for this clause, that there should be less juvenile employment in industry, it stands to reason that if employers have to make higher contributions the inclination to employ juvenile labour will be lessened.
– There will still be sweating by employers.
– That may be true. The proposal of the Treasurer has much to commend it. There is one other point, namely, the sickness benefit of 5s. a week to be payable to juvenile contributors. This payment should bear the same relationship to the total wage or average wage of those juveniles in employment as the 20s. a week sickness benefit for adult male contributors bears to the average wage paid in industry. This balance has been arrived at after a careful inquiry, and it should not be lightly upset by this committee.
.- The amended ‘provision is certainly an improvement on the clause in its original form, when I successfully moved for its re-consideration, but I am opposed to the suggested increase of the contributions; in fact, I am opposed to contributions of any description by those on the basic wage. I wish to make that clear. When the opportunity is presented in another bill to be introduced for the payment of contributions I shall endeavour to have them reduced. Evidently the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) is not conversant with the activities of friendly societies, because he was at some pains to impress on us that juvenile members of these bodies are a better risk than juvenile contributors to this scheme. He based his argument on the assumption that juvenile members of friendly societies are subject to medical examination on entry. He overlooked the fact that youths in industry are exposed to accident risks, and that friendly societies make adequate provision for sickness benefits in addition to compensation payments which they may receive. Because many accidents, especially in the mining industry, are not compensatable, friendly societies and industrial lodges make payments from their funds to disabled members. The Government could very well improve this clause by providing disablement benefit for juvenile contributors. It is unfortunate that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is absent from the chamber. I know that the honorable gentleman has a big job to do in piloting this bill through the committee, but when honorable members on this side rise to speak we like to have the ear of the Treasurer. I assure him that we do not speak merely for the purpose of filling the pages of Hansard. Some of us would like to get a little more enlightenment in regard to many clauses in this important bill. Why should not these youths be entitled to the disablement benefit? I know that they will receive sickness benefit for six months.
– They will qualify for disablement benefit at the cheaper rate after having paid 104 contributions. They can qualify for the married minor disablement benefit at the 5d. rate, and it is extremely good value.
– I admit that they can qualify for the married minor disablement benefit after they have reached sixteen, but what willbe their position when they are under that age?
– They will come in under the juvenile rate. If they happen to marry early they will qualify for the potential widows’ pension.
– I do notadmit that they will be entitled to the disablement benefit in the way that the Treasurer , suggests.
– Can they get the disablement benefit before they are 16?
– No, but they can qualify for the senior disablement benefit at the junior rate of contribution.
– The Treasurer is cutting out sub-clause 2 of clause 63, and that will mean that a juvenile, fully paid up for two years, will qualify for disablement benefit?
– He can qualify for all of the benefits after the specified number of contributions, but at a cheaper rate.
– A youth will be entitled to sickness benefit for six months, but what will be the position if his incapacity extends beyond six months, and he has not reached the age of sixteen? In those circumstances, he will not be entitled to the disablement benefit. There are many instances in which youths are incapacitated for that period, due perhaps to a serious sickness or, say, rheumatism, that affects youths as well as adults. Also, a youth may meet with a serious accident, for which he may not be properly compensated. Consideration should be given to this fact, particularly when we remember that youths will be paying an additional1d. a week, which is 4s. 4d. a year, and that the employer will also be paying 4s. 4d., making 8s. 8d. The total contributions by juveniles and employers will amount to £2 3s. 4d. a year, whereas the benefits, actuarially computed, will cost only 16s. a year. I ask the Treasurer to provide for youths to be entitled to the disablement benefit before they are sixteen years of age. The amount involved will not be large, because youths, as a rule, are more healthy than adults, and consequently the period of incapacity in their case is less. Only in the event of a serious accident would a youth be incapacitated for more than six months. Although it is said that some adults are malingerers, I do not think that many youths can be placed in that category.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has raised a material point, in that provision has been made in the amendments now before the committee, and in others yet to be discussed, for sickness benefit for the normal period of six months at a weekly rate of 5s. But the honorable member is quite right in saying that provision has not been made for a disablement benefit after the six months has elapsed. The whole matter will involve some work, but I give an undertaking to the committee that, in the case of juveniles, the commission will continue the sickness benefit up to the age of sixteen. I do not suppose that there will be many instances in which that will have to be done, and I am grateful to the honorable member for having brought the matter under my notice. The necessary amendment will be made when the bill is before the Senate. It will mean extending the sickness provision so that there will not be a hiatus. There may be individual cases of juveniles, who having passed the specified period entitling them to sickness benefit for 26 weeks, and having drawn sickness benefit at 5s. a week for a further 26 weeks, will be left unprovided for should disablement continue for a further twelve months. In the case of adults and married minors, there is provision for disablement benefit to be paid for a further period after six months’ sickness, but in this instance it is not worth while to split straws, and I undertake to have an amendment inserted to meet the position when the bill is in the Senate.
.- The increase of the juvenile rate from 4d. to 5d. a week suggests that those responsible for fixing the rates are not family men. If the Treasurer had conferred with the friendly societies, which are performing excellent work in the interests of children and adults, the measure would be more attractive than it is at present. It is cold-blooded and ridiculous to increase the rate of contribution by juveniles. I remind the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Cameron), who endeavoured to justify the 5d. rate, that the Rechabite Lodge in South Australia, of which he is a member, pays juveniles from six to fourteen years of age sickness benefit of 5s. a week for a weekly contribution of 4d., which also entitles them to medical and other benefits. From fourteen to sixteen years of age, the same lodge pays youths 7s. 6d. a week. For the same contribution there is also a funeral benefit of £10. I am entirely opposed to the increase of the contribution of juveniles under this scheme, from 4d. to 5d. a week. No boys should be employed in industry under the age of sixteen years. The sooner we provide social services which will enable the parents to support their children up to the age of sixteen years, the be’tter it will he for the community generally. The Independent Order of Oddfellows in South Australia, which charges only 4d. a week for sick benefit for juveniles, has accumulated reserves amounting to £6,000. The Treasurer states that care should be exercised lest the contributions are not large enough to establish the insurance fund on a reliable basis, but it seems to me that the Government is displaying too much caution in this matter. I hope that the Treasurer will provide in the clause for the full benefits of medical attention and sick pay for the 4d. a week which is charged in South Australia. I have come to the conclusion that this measure is drawn on ultra-conservative lines, and that the insurance fund will accumulate large surpluses.
– I should like to be able to believe that the honorable gentleman’s forecast will prove correct.
– Each year since the Treasurer has been in office, he has produced large surpluses in connexion with the general finances of the Commonwealth, and the surplus millions have been distributed among the farmers instead of being used to increase social services.
– The benefit to be given under this proposal will cost appreciably more than that provided by the total amount of 10d. that we shall collect from the juvenile and his employer.
– If the Treasurer would produce figures in support of his statement, we could check them.
– I say definitely that this will cost appreciably more than 10d., without taking into account the imponderable factor of the free insurance period ; after one contribution of 5d., an average free insurance period of 21 months will be obtainable.
– Lads who are sent out to work at the age of fourteen years, are usually among the poorest in the land. They are placed in industry only because their parents cannot afford to keep them at home. Mothers call at my house every week looking for work for children who have reached the age of fourteen years, and I try to persuade them to send their children back to school. This scheme ought to be big enough for us to reduce the contributions of juveniles by Id. a week instead of increasing them by that amount. The Treasurer should be willing to provide for juveniles all the privileges which they receive to-day under the friendly societies’ schemes. I am not oblivious of the fact that boys and girls who work under these hard conditions do not always turn out well in later life; nevertheless, adequate provision should be made for them. A boy of thirteen who goes OUt to work on a farm will be obliged to pay an extra Id. a week, yet everyone knows that from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, of the boys who contribute 4d. a week to this fund will not draw a penny out of it while they are between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I hope that, before the subsidiary bill dealing with the amount of contributions is put before us for consideration, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will examine the case now being submitted to him. It has been difficult to check some of the actuarial calculations on which this bill is based, but it is possible for us to compare the practice of friendly societies in connexion with juveniles with that proposed in this bill. In Victoria and New South Wales, family benefits are grouped together in friendly society accounts, and it is not easy to dissect the various pay ments; but, in South Australia, juveniles contribute 4d. a week between the ages of six and sixteen years for medicine, medical treatment, a sickness payment of 5s. a week, and funeral allowance of £10. These benefits are not identical with those provided under this bill, and I am quite ready to admit that certain provisions of this scheme are on a more liberal basis, but it seems to me that the benefits for the contribution of lOd. a week required under the bill are not proportionately greater than those provided by friendly societies for a contribution of 4d. a week. Certainly they are not two and a-half times greater, though they should be, as the contribution is two and a-half times greater. While it is difficult to dissect the accounts of some friendly societies, one large society shows an accumulated surplus of £6,000 in its juvenile department. This suggests that the society’s charge of 4d. a week is ample for the benefits provided. The medical fee payable under this measure compared with that which is at present paid to doctors by friendly societies for services to juveniles is another matter which has caused me a good deal of anxiety. The present fee in South Australia is 7s. 6d. Under the contract proposed in connexion with this bill, it will be11s. That increased amount may be justified on the grounds that it offsets the greater attention to be given for the same fee later in l if e when the risks a re greater. It must be borne in mind, however, that, if the medical practitioners are to receive this fee of 11s. for juveniles at the age which we have in mind, it will be difficult for friendly societies to maintain their existing conditions and lower fees in respect of these young people.For these reasons, I ask the Treasurer to give further consideration to this aspect of the subject.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield, indicate clearly that this scheme is not nearly so generous as the Treasurer would have us believe it to be. I admit that the amendment which the Treasurer has moved has some slight flavour of generosity, but the whole subject deserves more consideration from the Government. In the original clause, a payment of 8d. a week would have to be made into the fund by the juvenile employee!) and their employers for a benefit which costs only 4d. a week under the British scheme. I pointed out in my second-reading speech that only 2½d. of the total amount would be allocated for medical services, leaving 5½d. to be allocated for administration charges, medicines, &c. The Treasurer should give us more information as to the specific allocation of that amount. Under the amendment now submitted, the contribution is being increased to10d. a week, being 3d: each from the juvenile and his employer. True, increased benefits are also being given, such as sickness benefit, and a further promise has been made in regard to disablement benefit, but I contend that these benefits are not proportionate to the contribution exacted.It may be true that juveniles will automatically carry over into the adult scheme on reaching sixteen years of age, but the additional benefits should be provided for them in the meantime.
Mr.Curtin. - We are all agreed upon this clause, whereas considerable disagreement is manifest in respect of other postponed clauses, the vote upon which has to be taken by midnight. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) should not delay our consideration of those controversial clauses by occupying time unnecessarily in discussing this clause.
– The Leader of the Opposition does not appreciate the fact that, quite early in the committee proceedings, I curtailed my remarks in order to givehim an opportunity to take part in the discussion.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I ask the protection of theChair from these interjections.
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I consider thatI have every right to voice my views in regard to this important matter.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– I was directing the Treasurer’s attention to the fact that this scheme is not nearly so generous as the various schemes already operated by friendly societies which exact approximately half the contributions from their members for benefits somewhat similar to those proposed in this bill. I join in the appeal made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) that, before the promised measure is introduced, very serious considerationbe given to the points he raised with regard to the capitation fee and the amounts to be made available for medical services.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 26 -
Subject to this act, contributions at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid by the persons by whom the contributions are so declared to be payable.
.- This clause was postponed with the consent of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I do not know if the honorable gentleman has any statement to make in regard to it or whether he has given consideration to the representations I made on behalf of employers with an income not exceeding £208 per annum.With a view to securing a decision of the Parliament on this matter without delay, I may say that the amendment was moved as an instruction to the Government to provide that an employer whose assessment under the Income Tax Assessment Act during the last preceding year was less than £208 per annum might apply for a refund of contributions made by him under the bill, and if the commission was satisfied that the employer’s assessment was less than £208 a refund of such contributions might be made. As I pointed out earlier, the amendment was designed to remove an injustice inflicted on many producers who have smaller incomes than their employees and whose costs of production must be increased by the operation of this bill. I have received very many telegrams from producers on this subject, the most important being the following from Koo-wee-rup, in Victoria: -
Congratulations on your determination to light national insurance as at present proposed are Victorian members asleep I estimate potato-growers alone this State will contribute £50,000 annually our disorganized industry unsheltered and derives no benefit from exchange as we do not export we cannot pass on costs show all country members and fight on.
I move -
That the following words be added tothe clause: -and refunds of contributions may be made in accordance with conditions declared by the Parliament.
– Order ! The Chair has already ruled that amendment out of order, because it would increase the charge on the revenue.
– Then, I move-
That the clause be further postponed.
– I suggest to the honorable member that it is not possible in a contributory insurance scheme of this sort to undertake to make refunds of contributions. If the principle of refunds of contributions were accepted, the procedure would never end. It would be the beginning of the end of the contributory plan. On financial grounds a contributory plan is essential in order to provide the proposed benefits. As the Prime Minister has already announced, the Government has in hand plans for a scheme for self-employers.
– It would be of no useto these people.
– I think it is of somerelevance to what the honorable gentleman proposes. When the Government has finalized plans for that scheme it. will do its best to attempt to give a preferential position to those persons whoare in the economic position to which the honorable gentleman referred, and who, at the same time, are employers of the equivalent of one or two men per annum. It will thus make it easier for the self-employed man on that relatively low level of income to get some advantage, at least by reason of the fact that he is contributing under the compulsory scheme in respect of the labour he employs. I ask the honorable gentleman to take that into account.From theinformationwe have at present - it is not complete - the scheme which the Government has in mind for self-employers will be very costly, and even more costly if the Government is able to give this amount of consideration to the small employers of labour under the compulsory scheme. I appeal to the honorable gentleman to bear that fact in mind, and to realize that it is not mere stubbornnesson the part of the Government which makes it resist the granting of refunds in respect of the compulsory scheme.
Mr.FROST (Franklin) [11.58].- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The bill as itnow standswill inflict grave injustice on a long-suffering. , section of the community. Members of the Country party have given the Government plenty ofwarning as to theirviews in regard tothis matter, andwe hope to give them an opportunity to give practical expression to thoseviews when a vote is taken on the motion. The majority of the small farmers in my electorate have already drawnadvances on their next season’s crops in order to keep their employees at work, and they now find that under the national insurance scheme they will be called upon to pay an additional1s. 6d. a week in respect of each employee. It is more than they can afford. A great number of them have to go out to work for other farmers during part of the year in order to keep their homes going, and in spite of the fact that they have to bear the whole responsibility of the working of their farms, many of them are not in receipt of incomes equal to the wages paid to their employees. I trust that honorable members generally will lend their support to the honorable member for Swan who has been most persistent in his efforts on behalf of the small primary producers.
– I take this opportunity to deny the suggestion contained in the Koo-wee-rup telegram read by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that Victorian members have been asleep. Most of us have been active -on behalf of the small farmers, potatogrowers and workers generally. I do not know what has been done by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), or by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), in whose electorate Koo-wee-rup is situated.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The time allotted to the consideration of postponed clauses has expired. The question is that clause 26 be further postponed.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that that motion cannot be dealt with at this stage. In support of my contention I quote from StandOrder 262a, paragraph (vi) of which reads - (VI.) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion on the expiration of the time allotted under any motion passed under any of the preceding paragraphs of this Standing Order, the Speaker or the Chairman shall at the time appointed under the motion for the conclusion of those proceedings put forthwith the question on any amendment or motion already proposed from the Chair and, in the case of the consideration of any bill in committee, shall then put any clauses, and any Government amendments and new clauses and. schedules, copies of which have been circulated by the Government among members two hours at least before the expiration of the allotted time.
I submit that the proposed amendment was not circulated two hours ago.
– It was circulated two days ago.
– Apart from the fact that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) himself gave a similar ruling a few clays ago, the motion that I have repeated had already been put to the committee, and therefore, under the guillotine provisions of the Standing Orders, must now be put.
– I was not permitted to complete my statement. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) submitted an amendment, which was ruled out of order, and a few minutes before the time allotted for this portion of of the bill expired, he submitted another motion. The Chairman did not put that motion from the Chair until after he had said that the time allotted for this portion of the bill had expired.
– The honorable member for Swan moved an amendment which I reminded him had already been ruled out of order. Thereupon he moved that the clause be further postponed. I then said, “ The question is that the clause be further postponed “. To that question the Treasurer spoke.
Question put -
That the clause be further postponed (Mr. Gregory’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Postponed clauses 26, 49 and 63 and the circulated amendment of the Government, agreed to.
Postponed clauses 29 and 48 omitted.
Circulated amendment -
Clause 63, omit sub-clause (2).
The following paper was presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 16 of 1938 - Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen; Australian Workers’ Union; Boilermakers’ Society of Australia; and Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
House adjourned at 12.12 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister in charge of Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No moneys have yet been advanced to National Oil Proprietary Limited by the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales in terms of the National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Act 1937.
National Oil Proprietary Limited has conducted surveys to determine where the works should be located and how the products should be transported for marketing. The company has decided that the works should be located in the Capertee Valley, and it is now negotiating for the purchase of a suitable area of land for this purpose. In connexion with transport, the company has decided to pipe its product to some centre near Sydney.
The mine manager has been appointed and the company is now considering applications for appointment of senior members of the technical and manufacturing staff. Further appointments will be made as plans progress.
In connexion with a project of this kind, which involves all sorts of engineering and other technical problems, it is necessary to make very extensive arrangements and to plan operations in considerable detail. For these reasons the company has been allowed, under the agreement, up to the 1st January, 1940, to have its plant in operation subject to a penalty.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to place a ban against the export of manganese ?
– The Government has not yet given this matter consideration, but when full information is available concerning Australia’s resources and requirements of manganese, a decision in regard to the export of the commodity will be made.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Had the money for its conversion to be again borrowed in1936; and, if so (a) at what price was the conversion loan floated;
y. - The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
I am not aware of any such loop-holes, but if particulars are furnished to me I shall be pleased to have the matter investigated.
Australian Chilled andfrozen Beef.
t asked the Acting Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Canhe supplement the information recently given to the House concerning the results of the negotiations of the present trade delegation now in England, with regard to ship ments of chilled and frozen beef ? Can he give any figures for estimated arrivals for this present year, and, if he can, how do these figures compare with shipments forlast year ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Imports of chilled and frozen beef into England from Australia for the third quarter (July-September) were recently agreed upon as follows: -
The figures in the corresponding quarter last year were: -
Estimates for the fourth quarter are not yet compared.
The following figures are furnished, however, comparing last year’s arrivals with those of this year - the third quarter - based on estimates : -
e asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the great importance of the cotton industry, and the advisability of enabling the Tariff Board to inspect personally the cottongrowing districts of Central Queensland, will he ask the Tariff Board to arrange to visit the Dawson Valley, Callide, and Burnett districts at an early date, as the last proposed visit was abandoned owing to wet weather?
– The manner in which the Tariff Board conducts its inquiries is a matter for the board itself. I am not in a position to direct or request the board concerning how it shall carry out its investigations or as to what visits to industries it shall make. I shall, however, be pleased to bring the question under the notice of the chairman of the Board.
n. - On the 15th June, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) askedthe following questions, upon notice. -
The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Three. 4 The CommonwealthRailways Commissionerhas provided96 houses at Port Augusta, which under normal conditions meets the reasonable requirements for railway purposes. It is understood that the State Government is investigating the question of workers homes for Port Augusta.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380616_reps_15_156/>.