15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Church Service at Ithaca.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement in the press, telegraphed from Brisbane, that Anglicans arc annoyed by the refusal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to allow Archbishop Wand to broadcast from St. Barnabas’ Church, Ithaca, on the church’s jubilee, and that, in the opinion of these people, the excuse given by the general manager of the Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, that the broadcast could not be arranged on the score of expense is somewhat absurd? Will the Prime Minister make inquiries into the matter and sec that this concession is granted, as it appears to bo a very reasonable one?
– I shall make the inquiries that the honorable member has suggested.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to a report published in the Sydney Sun yesterday, in which it was stated by Alderman Griffith, of the Woollahra Council, in referring to the hangar erected for flying-boats at Rose Bay, that thu site was dotted with numerous tin humpies? He went on to say -
The old open gun-room, used in the days of thenaval training ship, Tingira,hadagain been brought into use, the sides having been built up with the galvanized iron.
The alderman further suggested that a brick building should have been erected, instead of one of fibro-cement, in view of the general architectural features of the surroundings. The members of the municipal council further said-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I again ask honorable members not to frame questions in such a way as to invite Ministers to comment upon opinions expressed by persons outside this Parliament. The question now asked does that at length, and the Minister obviously is invited to comment on those views. The honorable member should ask a definite question without giving the opinion of any one.
– Are the two humpies complained of to be classed as permanent buildings associated with the establishment of the air-mail base, or are they regarded as being of a temporary nature only? Is it intended by the Minister that the fibro-cement hangar and the administrative buildings shall be regarded as permanent or temporary? Has the Minister received any objection from the Municipal Council of Woollahra with regard to the plans submitted by him to that body prior to the erection of the buildings ?
– The whole of the buildings and structures at Rose Bay arc considered to be of a temporary nature. The galvanized iron buildings referred to by the honorable member are merely temporary ones to meet the requirements of the authorities for the storage of the materials being used in the construction of the slipway, the wharves and the other buildings, and particularly, for the housing of cement, a large quantity of which is being used in the construction of certain roadways and approaches. The materials used in erecting these buildings are the most suitable for temporary structures of this description. The whole proposal was submitted to the local council, and was discussed by me, personally, with the Mayor and the TownClerk in my office in Sydney. The plans and specifications were referred to the council to give it an indication of the nature of the Government’s proposals at Rose Bay.
– Were they objected to?
– Isthe Treasurer aware that, for the first quarter of this year, over 37 per cent. of the volunteers offering for service in the British Army and Navy were rejected as physically unfit, and docs that bear out his contention that tho health of the people of Great Britain has improved generally since tho inauguration of the national health scheme in that country?
Question not allowed.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the report in the Canberra Times this morning with regard to the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits ? Has the Government yet come to a decision regarding the latest overtures made to it by the Yampi Sound Mining Company?
– The matter will be completed shortly, and a statement will be made to the House regarding it.
– Is the report in the Canberra press correct that the Government is adamant in regard to the embargo placed on the exportation of ironore, and is determined not to grant the amended request for permission to export 1,000,000 tons yearly for fifteen years, which would amount to about onefifteenth of the supplies in coastal areas ?
-I have alreadystated, in reply to a similar question, that the matter will be settled by the Government at an early date, after which a statement will bo made to the House.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) asked mc yesterday if Icould give an indication of what was in the mind of the Government regarding the business it desires the House to complete during the remainder of the present sittings. I shall now mention the measures which the Government proposes to nsk the House to dispose of before the adjournment. Some of them are already on the notice-paper, and notice of others will be given in due course. The list is as follows: -
It is expected also that the Government will be in a position to submit a bill dealing with the Empire air-mails service. Naturally, the Government hopes that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, which is now before the chamber, will be finally disposed of. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) will introduce, either in the form of a bill or in some other way, a proposal which will enable the House to express its views on the subject of the new capital of New Guinea.
– I had overlooked that measure.
– Will the Government dispose of that?
– We hope so, with the assistance of the House.
– For how many more weeks will the Parliament sit?
– I am afraid that I am in the hands of the House itself in that regard. The Government can merely indicate the amount of business it proposes to ask the House to dispatch. Its intention is to ask honorable members to sit on four days in each succeeding week.
In the list of bills proposed to be dealt with, I overlooked the Electoral Representation Bill, which will be submitted by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). It is necessary because of the putting forward of the date of the next census, and its discussion should not take long.
– In view of the fact that it is reported that it is proposed by the New South Wales Government to establish a standards laboratory, will the Treasurer state whether he has been in communication with the New South Wales Government on this subject, and whether, in the event of such a laboratory being set up by the New South Wales authorities, its work will be co-ordinated with that of the laboratory proposed to be established by the Commonwealth Government ?
– I have seen a press report regarding the matter, but I have had no communication from the New South Wales Government regarding it. However, I am not dismayed by the prospect. There will still be a very considerable sphere of work for the States, as there has been in the past, with regard to standards, and the Commonwealth Government hopes that there will be no difficulty in the way of co-operation with the State Governments in this matter.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs state when the Tariff Board’s report on the paper pulp industry will be presented?
– The board has completed its inquiries regarding that matter, and its report is now under the consideration of the Cabinet.
-Will the Prime Minister state whether the item on the notice-paper, “ Foreign affairs - Ministerial statement “ will be discussed again, before the House goes into recess?
– That, I think, will depend on the progress made in dealing with other measures.
– During the present sittings I have asked a number of questions regarding the development of Canberra, and the setting up of a special committee to ensure that, in the building of the Federal Capital, the city plan will be adhered to.Will the Minister for the Interior state whether such a committee is to be appointed?
-It has been decided that a committee shall be appointed for this purpose, and I hope to be able to announce its personnel early next week.
– The Prime Minister has mentioned that, among the measures which the Government hopes will be passed during the present sittings, is a bill for an appropriation on account of invalid and old-age pensions. Will the Treasurer give consideration to the repeal of para. (A) of sub-section 1 of section 22 of the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, which specifies that an invalid living in the home of, or adequately maintained by his parents, shall not receive a pension ? This provision was inserted in the act by the first Lyons Government.
– The bill to be introduced will be the ordinary, formal appropriation bill for a certain sum of money, and will have no relation whatever to the conditions under which pensions are paid. I cannot at the moment recall the section to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall look into the matter and advise him later.
Mr.FROST.- Will the Acting Minister for Commerce be able to visit Tasmania during the forthcoming parliamentary recess to confer with the Fruit Board, and with primary producers in that State?
– The Prime Minister has already arranged that I shall visit Tasmania shortly after Parliament adjourns. I hope to leave in the second week in July, and to spend between ten and fourteen days in Tasmania attending to certain matters connected with my department.
– Will the Government consider the granting of concessions for aerial travel to enable members of Parliament, who live in distant States, to visit their homes occasionally during long sessions of Parliament?
– I shall look into the matter, and advise the honorable member later.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following report in the British press: -
The Australian Government has now put before tho British Government a proposal of thu greatest strategical importance. This is to set up a Southern Pacific Defence Board to evolve a complementary strategy and ensure proper co-ordination in the event of emergency. The suggestion is that the Southern Pacific Board should consist of navy, army and air force representatives from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Can the Prime Minister confirm this statement, and if so, does he propose to give Parliament any information on the subject?
– I am unaware of any such proposal.
– Has any recent report been received regarding the investigation by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research into methods for the control of the rabbit pest?
– No further report has been received. Experimental work is still being conducted at Wardang Island, and as soon as any conclusive results are obtained I shall inform honorable members.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that recently the Commonwealth Bank, with the support of the Treasurer, withheld treasury bills from the Bank of New South Wales, and requested that bank substantially to increase its liquid cash reserves?
– I have no knowledge of any such occurrence. Such matters are entirely between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. I have certainly made no representation of the kind mentioned, nor have I any knowledge of the trading figures of any individual bank.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 16th June (vide page 2249).
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted. 39 a. - (1.) Any insured woman may, at any time not later than -
the expiration of one year from the date on which she first became employed; or
her attainment of the age of twenty - one years, whichever last happens, elect to pay, from thu prescribed date, an additional contribution of sixpence a. week. (2.) The right of a person to continue to pay additional contributions under this section shall be subject to the provisions of section forty of this Act as if the person were, in respect of those contributions, a voluntary contributor. (3.) Contributions paid in accordance with sub-section (1.) of this section shall not be taken into account -
for the purpose of determining the right of the contributor to benefit under this act other than benefit under section seventy-five A of this act: or
For the purposes of sections one hun dred and seventeen to one hundred and nineteen (inclusive) of this net.
The purpose of the clause is to give effect to the Government’s promise to allow women, by paying the full contribution of ls.6d. a week, instead of ls., to qualify for a pension of £1 a week instead of 15s. This will be a voluntary contrition, and will entail the use of another card on which a 6d. stamp is placed.
– Is it intended to increase the voluntary female contribution by 50 per cent., and to increase the benefit by only 25 per cent. ?
– The benefit will be increased by 331/3 per cent.
– This will be a costly benefit to the Government. The extra contribution will not nearly cover the extra cost. It is estimated by the actuaries that every woman who options to come in on the ls. 6d. basis will cost the Government, on the average, an additional £30. Of course, all women will not avail themselves of this provision.
, - I know that the Government, in proposing this amendment, is yielding to requests made on behalf of women’s organizations, but unfortunately the granting of this request has created an anomaly to which attention: should be drawn. Thus, women who exercise the option to pay the additional 6d. will be placed in a position of equality with adult males in regard to contributions, but not in regard to benefits, until they attain the age at which they are eligible to draw the old-age pension. They will not be entitled to the same benefits in regard to sickness, disablement, &c.
– But they will be entitled to draw the old-age pension five years earlier.
– That is traditional in Australian pension practice. I appreciate, however, that this will be a tremendous boon to women, particularly to those who arc already well up in years. A woman who is now 50 or even 55 years of age, may, by paying the extra 6d., qualify to receive at 60 an extra 5s. a week.
– And there is no age limitfixed.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.That is so. I wish, however, that we could remove all discrimination between the sexes with regard to benefits.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following now clause be inserted : - (i4.fr. A person who lists been insurer! as a juvenile contributor, and who, either has not attained the age of sixteen years, or has not been employed since attaining the “ age of sixteen years, shall be eligible for sickness benefit for so long only as he remains entitled to medical benefit by virtue of section fortynine of this act, but, during the period during which he is so entitled, notwithstanding anything contained in section sixty-two ot this act his right to receive sickness benefit, during any period of incapacity for work arising from sickness, shall continue until the termination of the twenty-sixth week from the date upon which he became entitled to receive that benefit, or until he attains the age of sixteen years, whichever last happens.
This clause has been introduced in accordance with a promise which I made last night as the result of representations by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The purpose of the clause is to continue the payment of sickness benefit to juveniles after the expiration of 26 weeks, so as to avoid the hiatus that might otherwise occur between the cessation of sickness benefit and the commencement of disablement benefit. Juveniles will now be entitled to receive sickness benefit until they reach the age of sixteen, at which age they will be qualified to obtain disablement benefit at the rate for juveniles.
.- I thank the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Many of the juveniles on the coal-fields would be adversely affected if the new clause were not inserted. I do not say that there would be a great number of accidents which would have results of such lasting nature as the amendment provides for, but, at the same time, eventualities must be covered, and, now, in the event of a juvenile meeting with a serious accident, which is not compensatable, this new provision will cover him up to the age of sixteen years, if need be.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 75a. A woman who is entitled to pay additional contributions under section 39a of this act. and who is entitled to an old-age pension under this act, shall, subject to this act, receive an addition to that pension of os. per week.”
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 75n. On complying with the .conditions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- l!)37 other than those relating to means the wife or widow of the recipient of an old-age pension under this act shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937.”.
I suggest that the Government should experience no difficulty in accepting this amendment. It follows the principle laid down in the British act, which reads -
The following persons, that is to Ray, any person -
Provided that a women shall not be entitled to an old-age pension by virtue of paragraph (ft) of this section, unless she immediately before the marriage was, or but for any disqualification for the receipt of a pension contained in section twenty-four or section twentyfive of this act, would have been in receipt of a widow’s pension, or unless or until three years have elapsed since the date of the marriage.
The residential and nationality provisions in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act are harsh compared with those contained in the British pensions law. I gave the Treasurer a case the other day of a woman, born in Samoa, who is married to a Cornishman and who, for 35 years of her 46 years of married life, has been a resident of North Queensland. She is, by virtue of her nationality, debarred from receiving the invalid pension. I hope the Treasurer will make it possible for the wife or widow to secure the old-age pension when she has qualified by age without the means test being applied.
– In my second-reading speech I dealt at somelength with the many aspects of, and alternatives to, the benefits contained in this bill. I set out in general to describe the alternatives with which the Government was faced and informed honorable members that the Government believed that it had chosen the most worthwhile alternatives to make the money available from contributions and from the Government subsidy go as far as possible in the directions where it would do the most good. It is true, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), that the British act contains a provision something similar to that contained in his amendment, but our bill and the British act are by no means the same. In some directions, relative to contributions, the British act is more liberal than it is proposed that this bill should be, but, in other directions, our bill is more liberal than the British act. Over the whole range, as I have already shown by figures, our bill is the more liberal of the two schemes. The principle behind the amendment moved by the honorable member was definitely considered by the Government, but it was thought best to frame our benefits in the way they have been framed in this bill. The amendment would seek to give to the wife of a man in receipt of a pension under this bill, or to the widow of such a man who had been in receipt of a pension under this bill, a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act without a means test. In other words, a special concession is sought to be given to widows who are in receipt of a pension under this bill or wives of men who are in receipt of the old-age pension under this bill. That would in many cases lead to duplication of pension. Some widows would receive a double pension.
– I suggest a double pension for nobody. The proposed clause merely sets out that where a widow or a wife applies for a pension she shall not have to undergo a means test.
– The national insurance scheme cannot afford this innovation which probably would be a source of considerable additional cost. “Whilst having considerable sympathy with the motive of the honorable gentleman, the Government feels that it has gone to the limits in the various directions including the direction of wives and widows. I regret that the Government is unable to see its way to accept the amendment.
.- I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will reconsider his decision not to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who is to be commended for bringing it down. If accepted, the amendment would enable the wives and widows of persons entitled to pensions under this scheme to receive, when they were able to comply with all conditions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act other than the means test, a pension as a right. That is not an innovation in schemes of this kind. Provision of a nature similar to that sought in the amendment is contained in section 11 of the British act. I can understand that it would cost the national insurance scheme more money, but one of the chief objections to this measure from this side of the committee is that it does not go far enough in giving concessions to insured persons and their dependants and that, particularly, it discriminates in various ways against women. The Australian scheme in this respect should be at least as generous as the British scheme. Furthermore, we believe that in this scheme there should be no residential or n ation ality disqualification.
– There is none.
– It is a disability under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The honorable member for Herbert cited one case in which this disability operates. Wo submit that the amendment is reasonable and that the Treasurer should reconsider his attitude. If he cannot agree to the insertion of the amendment in this committee he could have it inserted in the Senate. The amendment would not cost as much as the Treasurer has estimated.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 92a. Any reference, in the provisions of this part relating to orphan’s pension or to dependent child’s allowance, to the age of fifteen years shall, in respect of a child who on attaining the age of fifteen years, is permanently incapacitated, be read as a reference to the age of sixteen years, and those provisions shall apply to that child accordingly.”.
I am indebted to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for drawing my attention to the need for this provision. The Government is glad to bring down this proposed new clause to cope with the situation which, as the honorable gentleman was good enough to point out, might exist in certain cases. The purpose of the proposed new clause is to do away with the hiatus in respect of an orphan or dependent child who is permanently incapacitated between the age of fifteen years, when the pension normally payable to orphans or dependent children ends, and the age of sixteen years, at which age persons may qualify for the invalid pension by reason of total and permanent incapacity under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
Mr.FRANCIS (Moreton) [11.15].-I appreciate what the Treasurer has done. I raised this question on a previous occasion because I had noticed the more liberal provision in the British act. There are many cases that will be affected by the proposed new clause. In my opinion the repatriation legislation should contain a similar provision, and I hope that when the opportunity occurs it will be inserted.
Proposed new clause agreed to..
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “95a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a pension payable to a blind person under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937 shall not be reduced by reason of the receipt by that person of benefit under this act.”.
In the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act blind persons are dealt with as a special class to the degree that the income limit allowed is £227 10s. a year compared with £84 10s. in the case of old-age pensioners who are not blind. The proposed new clause, which is in keeping with the special provision in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, makes a further concession to blind people by excluding national insurance benefits in the calculation of income under the Invalidand Oldage Pensions Act. There are about 2,500 blind pensioners in Australia, and about 500 of these, being in work, are likely to come under the provisions of the national insurance scheme. The concession will, of course, involve additional cost, but it is a cost which the Government is willing, and indeed glad, to bear in order to alleviate still further the disabilities of blind people.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 96a. Any benefit payable to a person under this act shall not be taken into account in the calculation of the income of that person or of the spouse of that person, for the purposes of either the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act 1908-1037 or the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1937.”.
This proposed new clause takes into account the proposal made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford).
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 178a. - (1.) 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 bo 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. (2.) Where the commission has certified under this section the amount of any contribution which an employer has failed to pay, and that amount or any part thereof is subsequently recovered, the amount recovered shall be credited to such fund as the commission determines.”
This proposal is in substitution for the proposed new clause 178a previously circulated. I believe I am indebted to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) for the proposal, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) also discussed the question. The proposed new clause is designed to secure that an insured person shall not suffer loss of benefits by his employer’s failure to pay contributions due under the act. It is supplementary to clauses 173 and 175, which provide for the prosecution of defaulting employers, and clause 177, which allows an insured person, backed if necessary by an approved society, to prosecute his employer if loss of health benefits follows the employer’s failure to pay his part of the contributions. Clause 178 gives priority of claim to an insured person, in the event of the bankruptcy of the employer, for contributions that the employer has omitted to pay. The employee has to satisfy the commission that the deductions have been made from his wages, and in that event he will be protected by a certificate of the commission from loss of benefits.
– Even without proceeding against the employer?
– Yes. The commission will use every possible means to recover contributions from the defaulting employer. The second paragraph of the proposed new clause enables the commission to credit to the proper fund any sums recovered from defaulting employers.
.- The proposed new clause is almost identical with an amendment I moved. I. think it is as good as we can make it, and I commend it to the committee.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “183a.- (1) This act shall not apply to any person employed by a public authority if and so long as such person is a member of a society of persons so employed in Tespect of which society upon its application for exemption the commission certifies that the benefits provided by the society together with benefits by way of superannuation or retiring allowance provided either by the public authority only or out of a contributory fund are on the whole not loss favorable than the benefits conferred by this act. (2.) If the commission refuses to certify under this section the commission shall state its reasons and the society shall be at liberty to renew its application for exemption. (3.) If the commission is satisfied that, by reason of a change of the rules of the society or of the terms of employment of its members, the grounds upon which the certificate was given no longer exist, it shall cancel the certificate and this act shall thereupon apply to persons employed by the public authority notwithstanding that they are members of the society. (4.) In this section “public authority” means an authority under the authority of the Commonwealth or a State constituted by or under any act or State act.”.
This proposal deals with a situation for which the bill makes no provision. The second part of the first schedule enables the commission to exempt, in whole or in part, public employees if the commission is satisfied that the terms of the employment correspond to those provided for in the bill. The cases I want to bring under notice arethose in which the benefits are partly subscribed for by the employee and partly by the employer. The employees form a benefit society. The employer does not require them to belong to that society, but as a matter of fact all the employees do belong to it. The employer, acting under powers conferred by act of Parliament, makes provision for a superannuation fund. Specifically, the case is that of the Mutual Benefit society of the employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. It would be impossible for that society to be recognized as an approved society, because the employees are in Melbourne and not in the whole State.
– That would not be a bar.
– That is a point we may consider later. An employee pays into the benefit society 9d. a week, and the board pays another 9d. There is also a benefit fund to which each member pays ls. a quarter, and the board another is. a quarter. Every member who is sick receives fi a week from the society and a similar amount from the board, making :i total of £2 a week. Members receive health service not only for themselves as members of the society, but also for their wives and children if they are married, and for their widowed mothers if they are unmarried. Nasal, eye, and dental treatment is also provided. Acting under the powers conferred upon it by act of Parliament, the board has created a superannuation fund, out of which it makes liberal payments to employees. An employee who is retired at .60 years of age after ten years’ service is entitled to the equivalent of two years’ salary. If his service has been shorter he is entitled to proportionately less. There are probably a great number of similar societies in Australia, and their position ought to be considered loy the commission. I am making my present proposal because I am assured that, if the bill becomes law without provision being made for the benefit society I have referred to, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board will discontinue its contributions to the society. In that event the employees will he much worse off than they are at present. The organization they have built up provides them with, better benefits than those provided for in the bill. There is a danger that the society will collapse and that the hoard will content itself merely with making contributions under the act. The hoard is not bound as a matter of law to continue its contributions to the benefit society, or to continue its superannuation fund. I am assured by members of the board that it will not be able to continue its contributions either to the society or to the superannuation scheme if it is brought within the scope of the hill. I am proposing that if the society applies for an exemption the commission may examine the position and, if it certifies that the benefits provided by the society, plus the’ employer, are on the whole not less f favorable to the employee than the benefits’ provided for in the bill, the commission may exempt members of the society from participation in the national scheme. Further, the commission will be able to refuse to certify and may state its grounds for refusal, and the society may apply again later. If the board makes an alteration in the direction of giving additional protection I suggest that the society, in the altered circumstances, ought to be empowered to apply again. Also, I suggest that the commission should have power to withdraw a certificate if it finds that the conditions have been so changed as to be unfavorable to the employees. The commission will have power to investigate. I submit to the committee and to the Government that it does not appear from the bill that the commission can take this action. It could exempt them if it thought that the terms of their employment gave to them benefits equivalent to those given under this scheme, but it is not” a matter of terms of employment because the men are not required to join the society, although, as a matter of fact, they do join the society. The board does not say to the employees “ You must join the mutual benefit society “ ; it has declined to give that direction. But if they do join, it assists them by contributing an amount equivalent to the contribution. In addition, it makes a superannuation allowance in respect of its employees, whether they are members of the society or not. I suggest that this measure does not contemplate such a position; yet it is a position which exists not merely in the tramway service hut also, to my knowledge, although I am not acquainted with the details, in the railways service and other public bodies. There is a railways benefit society. I think that the commission ought to have the power of exemption, so that it could say whether or not it thought that members o£ the society ought to be exempt. In addition, it should have the power to revoke any certificate of exemption it had given, if it were satisfied that the benefits were no longer as good as those here prescribed. All that I propose is that the commission shall have the power to investigate and if satisfied with the result of its investigation to act upon it. There is no doubt that this scheme will be very unpopular in many quarters if it deprives those concerned of any better benefits. In my opinion, the benefits given by the society, to which I have specifically referred, are in considerable degree better than those proposed under this scheme, and the scheme of the society will collapse if the measure is passed in its present form.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) revives a very considerable discussion which took place on clause 24, in the matter of what bodies or groups of employees should or might be exempt from the operation of the act. As honorable members know, the proposal in this bill, which has been accepted by the passage of clause 24, is to the effect that the commission shall have the right, upon application, to exempt from the operation of the act, in whole or in part, bodies of employees whose benefits are guaranteed by a government and which are, either wholly or partially, the equivalent of the benefits to he given under this act. That is the general principle. The Government, for what it believes to be good reasons, has set its face against the exemption of other than those types. T.his proposal again raises the whole question as to whether or not the power of exemption should be extended beyond those employments in which the benefits ure guaranteed by a government. “We believe that the minimum number of persons in Australia should be exempt from the act; that in its operation the act should be as broad as possible. We are seeking to invest persons who come within the scope of the act - that is, all persons doing manual labour and all other persons up to a certain income limit - with the obligation to contribute and the right to receive benefits. They carry those personal rights with them even though they may move from employment to employment or from one place to another in Australia. We believe that that is the right thing to do. Were we to accept this particular amendment, it would be but a very short step indeed to the exemption of a very large number of persons in all sorts of provident schemes in private employment throughout the Commonwealth. As I have said earlier, some of these schemes are very good, some are indifferent, and some are quite bad. By giving exemption to such persons we should, in effect, guarantee the schemes as far as the employee was concerned. The honorable gentleman himself takes account of the fact that schemes such as the one he particularly has in mind may deteriorate, in which -event the commission would be called upon, by reason of the changed circumstances, to revoke the exemption it had given. In that case the employees concerned would be obliged to come into this scheme, and laboriously establish through the respective waiting periods the right to the respective benefits prescribed. Therefore, we believe that the best course is to maintain the present position of having a very limited exemption in respect of government employees, where governments make application and the terms of employment provide roughly the equivalent of the benefits of this scheme. Were we not to exempt those classes we should be gilding the lily, by duplicating the benefits. This scheme makes provision for certain benefits. If the same benefits, or roughly their equivalent, are already provided for by other governments, we see no call to duplicate them. For these reasons, while quite respecting the honorable gentleman’s viewpoint, the Government regrets that it cannot accept the amendment.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not, read my amendment. I have definitely limited my proposal to employees of public authorities.
– I am aware of that.-
– I have defined them in the same way as they are defined, in effect, in the schedule.
– Why should the proposal be so limited?
– For the simple reason that, in connexion with a public authority, although there may not actually be a legal guarantee that the provisions will be continued, there is more likelihood of their being properly administered than there would be in the case of a private society.
– What about the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Commonwealth Bank is a public authority.
– What about a trading bank?
– A trading bank is not a public authority. My desire is to limit the proposal as far as possible. I understood the Treasurer to say that the bank officials are perfectly satisfied with this scheme.
– No, I did not imply that.
– I understood from the honorable gentleman that he had dealt with objections which had been raised by the bank officials, and that they now accept the position.
– I do not know that they are yet resigned to it.
– At all events, the Treasurer states that their first consideration is that the bill should pass. Is that so ?
– That is so.
– The reason for my insertion of the provision in connexion with the certificate is that there is power to withdraw; the certificate even where the law provides for the benefits. The Treasurer claims that the committee has already discussed this matter. It has not done so, except incidentally. The provision to which he has referred has yet to be reached in the second part of the first schedule. When it is reached, honorable members will see that it is very similar to this proposal, the only difference being that under the Government’s proposal all the benefits enjoyed by the employeesof a public authority must be a part of the terms of their employment. My proposal is that they shall be partly in connexion with the terms of their employment and partly as the result of their own provision. If the Treasurer is not prepared to accept my amendment, I should like him to consider the definition of “ approved societies “, to see whether it cannot be extended to cover the employees of one public authority which has a benefit society: . On the present definition, it appears to me that this benefit society could not be held to be an approved society, because its employees are confined to Melbourne and suburbs, and an approved society must operate over the whole of Australia, or at least over the whole of a State.
– I should like the Treasurer to consider the matter, because the blow might be softened if these people could be told that they can obtain approval as a mutual benefit society. Subclause 5 of clause 137 prescribes a minimum area. It reads -
Subject to the requirements of thissection in respect of minimum membership, a society may be approved for an area comprising -
the whole of Australia;
any State or States or any Territory; or
a combination of any State or States and any territory.
I should like to know whether a society of persons employed in one city could or could not be recognized as an approved society. I believe the Treasurer realizes that the position is a genuine one. This society of the Melbourne and metropolitan tramway employees is in danger of collapse if the bill goes through in its present form.
– I can satisfy the honorable member on the last point. An approved society may be registered in respect of the different areas to which he has referred, but it need not necessarily cover the whole of the minimum area. A society might be approved in respect of a State, but there would be no obligation on it to spread its tentacles all over the State; so long as its membership was sufficient, and it complied with the rules, it could be confined to an area of a few square miles.
– I am not sure about that.
– It could be confined to a town, or to any area at all;- even to one factory.
– According to my reading of sub-clause 6 of clause 137, it appears to me as though the area must be not less than that of a State, having received approval in respect of which a part of the area could be relinquished.
– A society need not have members all over the State; but, if it were approved for the State, it could, if it wished, spread its tentacles over the whole of the area.
– I should like the honorable gentleman to make sure that that is actually the case.
– I shall do so; but I tell the honorable member now that it is a. fact.
There is another point to which I omitted to refer earlier. Judging by the cases that have come to our notice up to the present, I do not believe that any provident scheme, fund, or employees’ organization will experience any insuperable difficulty in adjusting itself to the national insurance scheme.
– They can become approved societies.
– That would be the case even if they did not ;but it would be easier if they did. To the extent that this national insurance scheme treads on the toes, as it were, of these other schemes, we believe it is possible to adjust the latter in respect of both contributions and benefits. It may be, as the honorable gentleman suggests, that some of these schemes may offer greater benefits in certain directions, but I find it difficult to believe that for the limited contribution of 9d. any scheme could provide on the whole benefits equal to those provided under this scheme, or would be nearly so broad or generous as this scheme.
– The Melbourne tramway scheme provides sick pay of £2 a week.
– But does that scheme also provide old-age and widow’s pension benefits, or a free insurance period ? The honorable gentleman will admit, I feel sure, that such benefits could not be provided for so limited a contribution. I have just been informed that the benefit society at Yallourn,, consisting of employees of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, will be eligible as an approved society.
– That commission might have employees anywhere in Victoria.
– I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give further consideration to the case of the society mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I feel sure that the Government, in implementing this scheme, has no desire to harm any existing organization. I point out that whenever an application as between the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and its employees comes under review, the industrial tribunal takes into consideration the benefits enjoyed by the employees as members of this mutual benefit society when calculating the value of their services. Recognizing that many difficulties would be met with in the initial stage of this scheme, the Government, I arn sure, intends to implement it with as little disorganization as possibleof existing benefit societies. That being so, it should consider exempting, temporarily at least, such bodies as are so sound and permanent as the mutual benefit society of the employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. The board is a semigovernmental body ; its employees enjoy retiring allowances and are awarded certain marks and badges in respect of their services. They are not temporary or casual employees. The average contribution to their benefit fund is approximately 10d. If the Government cannot exempt this society altogether for a while, it should at least ensure that these employees are not done any injury in respect of any benefit they now enjoy, at tbe same time giving them the opportunity to insure immediately under this scheme for such long-term benefits as the pension benefit. A sick pay of £2 a week is very generous indeed, and nothing like it can be given under this scheme. One reason why this society can provide such a. generous benefit and at the same time be run so cheaply, is that doctors employed by the board are always on the spot to attend to injuries caused by accident, and their services generally are available to the society. The scheme is a two-party scheme, and the immediate benefits provided are much greater than its members could hope to receive under this national insurance scheme. I admit that no national scheme of insurance could pro- vide benefits to the poorer sections of the community and hope to succeed unless it embraced all of the best risks. That is a fundamental feature of such a scheme, and no government could afford to exempt all of the best risks simply because they happen to he catered for in a better way under some individual scheme. I again suggest that in the initial stages of this scheme, the Government should recognize this society in respect of the benefits it now provides in sick pay and unemployment allowance, and at the same time give its members the opportunity to insure immediately for those benefits which are provided under the national scheme but not under their own scheme. Let these particular employees continue their society until such time as it is decided that they should como completely under the national scheme, otherwise considerable injury will bc done to a large number of people. I repeat that whenever industrial applications as between the board and its employees come under review, the advantages received by the employees as members of this society are used as an argument against the granting of improved working conditions, and if their society is forced OUt of existence they will have no chance of receiving increases of pay in order to compensate for benefits lost.
– Similar provision would have to be made in respect of other organizations.
– If other bodies as stable as this society exist they are entitled to such treatment.
– Who is to be the judge of stability? The banks’ scheme, for instance, has accumulated funds of £10,000,000.
– The trouble with private company schemes is that they do not operate under act of parliament; under such schemes most arbitrary things are done, payment of benefits being refused on all sorts of grounds.
– There is no comparison between the scheme of the mutual benefit society of the employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and that of a private company. The board’s scheme is backed by a government, and no personal influence or suggestion of intimidation enters into it, as it has been stated in the Arbitration Court is often the case in respect of private company schemes.
– The Victorian Commissioner of Taxation stated that the Metropolitan Gas Company’s scheme did not give any protection to the employees at all.
– I feel sure that the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and its employees would be prepared to confer with a view to seeing how these employees could be brought under the national scheme without jeopardizing the benefits they now enjoy under their own scheme.
– The Government believes that it would do a real injury to a large number of employees if it left them out of this scheme. Between the passage of this measure and its actual coming into effect, a period of at least six months will elapse, and if, within that, period, such schemes as that of the mutual benefit society of the employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board cannot be adjusted to this national scheme, then, to use an unparliamentary expression, “ I will eat my hat.” No difficulty will be involved in adjusting a company scheme or any other scheme to this scheme. A number of these schemes, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is aware, are the subject of legal contract between the employer and his employees. In the case of the Metropolitan Gas Company, which he mentioned, the company claimed certain deductions from income tax, but under the Income Tax Assessment Act and its regulations no company is entitled to deductions in respect of contributions to an employees’ provident scheme unless such a scheme is watertight and irrevocable. In order to “comply with the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act, a very large number of these schemes have been placed on a proper basis as between employer and employee. In the case’ of these funds, I have approached the State governments to pass legislation to facilitate the adjustment of these schemes to the Commonwealth’s scheme, because it is not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to make any such provision in this bill as is provided inthe British act. We believe that it will ultimately be to the advantage of all these persons to be brought within a Commonwealth scheme, because no private scheme can be so satisfactory to the workers as a national scheme. I do not know of any private provident scheme in respect of which the contribution is on other than a 50-50 basis. We have that principle embodied in this bill, but in. addition we have very considerable and increasing governmental subventions to this scheme. There can be no doubt, therefore, that with very few exceptions this national scheme must operate much more in the interests of employees than any existing private scheme, notwithstanding the fact that in one or two directions non-governmental schemes may provide greater benefits. Broadly considered, they cannot possibly be as beneficial as a national scheme.
– As State public servants in Western Australia have no superannuation scheme, will they come under this scheme ?
– They might come partially or wholly under the scheme. The bill makes provision for partial exemption, but such employees may be brought under the scheme on the health side, as wellas for pension benefit.
.- In reply to the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that in the interregnum between the passage of this measure and its coming into effect, an opportunity would be given to adjust schemes of the kind mentioned to this national scheme. I wish to draw attention to the Victorian Railways employees mutual benefitsociety’s scheme. This is backed by a government department, but whether or not it has sufficient members to qualify as an approved society under this measure, I do not know. In one respect it has an advantage over the scheme of the mutual benefit society of the employees of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board in that its members are scattered throughout the State. Furthermore, various societies are run by employees themselves. These provide for payment to members only in respect of time off for sickness or injury. They are operated cheaply because they do not provide medical treatment for members, which is paid partly by lodges of which the particular employees are members. These societies do not pay for such services in the same way as benefit societies, and, therefore, they do not compete with the latter societies in that respect. Since the introduction of this measure, I have been informed that these particular employees’ organizations, such as the rolling-stock branch of the Victorian Railways Department at North Melbourne and similar bodies at. Jolimont and Newport, have large memberships. I take it that they will be able to amalgamate inorder to qualify from the point of view of strength of membership as an approved society under this measure.
– Are they Government employees ?
– Yes, but the benefit schemes I am now referring to are not backed by the Government. However, they have been in existence for over 20 years. Will it be possible for them to amalgamate in order to comply with the membership qualification of an approved society under this scheme, or must they go out of existence altogether? These men are very concerned on this point. There are well-conducted railway benefit societies; but I do not suggest that they can be regarded as competitors with established friendly societies because they do not cover the same field. They do provide benefits for railway men in regular employment which the employees desire to retain. The Treasurer contends that in many instances it would be better for such employees to come under the national insurance scheme, and that it may be possible before the act becomes operative for some of these societies to amalgamate and to some extent retain their identity. The tramways benefit society, to which the honorable member for Bourke referred, is a very worthy organization. Many tramway employees who live in my electorate are known to me personally, and I know that they are anxious that their present organization shall not be disturbed. In view of all the circumstances I trust that the railways’ benefit society, which has been in. existence for 50 years, and the tramway benefit society should be allowed to retain their identity.
– An application for exemption of the society mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) would have to be made by the State government, as it is a society operating within a State government service. Speaking offhand, I should say that so long as the conditions of employment of the men whom the honorable member mentioned do not guarantee them benefits wholly or partially equivalent to those provided in the bill, the State government would be guided as to whether or not they applied for whole or partial exemption, or in fact for any exemption at all. Assuming that the State government did not apply for exemption in respect of the employees referred to by the honorable member, there would be no disability placed upon them in that they could amalgamate their various societies into one approved society. I have received letters from members of such societies, some of which are very illuminating, particularly as to the amounts they have to contribute on a rate-for-age basis in order to qualify for certain benefits. One correspondent said that he was paying 8s. 6d. a week in order to qualify for a pension of 20s. a week.
– The employees to whom I referred contribute ls. a week.
– I am informed that some -who pay on a rate-for-age basis are paying contributions which are appallingly high.
– ‘Will the Treasurer consider the practicability of arranging for societies such as I have mentioned becoming approved societies?
– I am willing to give that undertaking.
– In those circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the proposed new clause.
Proposed new clause - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - 1.83a.. Notwithstanding anything in this act contained the employer’s contributions in respect of any persons employed by a hospital or other charitable institution shall be provided by the Commonwealth.
The object of the proposed new clause is to provide that the employers’ contributions in respect of persons employed by a public hospital or other charitable institution shall be paid by the Commonwealth and not by the institution. In New South Wales, and also in other States, hospitals are maintained by contributions usually of 6d. or ls. a week. Various hospital schemes are in force, hut when the Government’s proposals become operative most of these schemes will have to be abandoned. Employees will not continue to contribute to hospitals because some of the medical benefits for which they are at present contributing will be provided under this scheme. The hospitals will be substantial losers as they will not receive a subsidy under this scheme for the services rendered. This scheme will involve many hospitals in substantial losses by reason of the fact that they will also have to pay the employers’ contributions in respect of their employees. This will make it even more difficult for many hospitals to carry on the good work they are now performing.
– Is it not a matter for negotiation between the States and the Commonwealth ?
– Provision should be made in this bill. In the Family Endowment Act of New South Wales, passed in 1927, it was provided that in the case of public hospitals and. public benevolent or charitable institutions- employers’ contributions should be exempted. There is no reason why a similar provision should not be inserted in this bill. If these institutions are not assisted in the direction suggested, it will- make it very difficult for local committees to raise sufficient funds for the maintenance of hospitals. No obstacles should be placed in the way of hospitals and ^benevolent or charitable institutions, which, under this bill, will be responsible- for the payment of employers’ contributions. I have received a number of letters from various hospital authorities in my electorate complaining of the imposition of an employer’s contribution, and asking for exemption. Many hospitals which are now finding finance a difficult problem do not know to what extent they will be affected. They feel sure that they will lose a considerable amount particularly in respect of voluntary contributions of 6d. or ls. a week. They will not receive any subsidy under this scheme, and will have difficulty in meeting their liability as employers. The Broken Hill hospitalis financed largely by contributions from the miners and by the mine owners; it is a form of compulsory contribution. The employees receive medical benefits through that hospital, but when this scheme is brought into operation the employees will be compelled to further contribute for medical benefits which they now receive through the hospital. Hospitals will be involved in a considerable increase of expenditure and a large proportion of their contributions will be discontinued. The position is quite clear and I think that this is an appropriate occasion to provide that in the case of public hospitals and other charitable institutions the employer’s contribution be paid by the Commonwealth. I trust that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will accept the proposed new clause.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) means the proposed new clause to apply only to public hospitals.
– The words “by a hospital or other charitable institution “ are used. Does the honorable member intend it to apply to private hospitals?
– No. It relates only to public hospitals.
– The proposed new clause is not clear. We must admit that some hospitals will find it more difficult to raise the necessary funds to enable them to carry on. If the financial responsibility wore placed upon the Commonwealth it would create a precedent and requests for similar exemptions would be made by other authorities. Australia should fall into line with Queensland, where deficiencies in hospital finance are met by the State government paying 60 per cent, and the municipal authorities 40 per cent. I am opposed to the proposed new clause, because I feel that it would create a bad precedent and would result in other bodies and institutions seeking similarconsideration.
– I allowed the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) to explain the purport of the proposed new clause, but obviously, if adopted, it would increase the appropriation from Consolidated Revenue and therefore is not in order.
Sitting suspended from 13.15 to 2 p.m.
Quorum formed.] [The First Schedule.]
Part I. (Insurable employment) -
– The first schedule is divided into two parts. Part I. contains a list of employments which, subject to the exclusion of classes or groups specified in Part II., are insurable employments. Paragraph a of Part I. covers the main groupsfor which provision is to be made, that is, those employed within the Commonwealth under contract of service or apprenticeship. Paragraph b deals with the first special group to be insured, that is, those employed on board ship. Persons in this group are essentially part of Australia’s industrial activity although they are, necessarily, for a great part of their time technically outside the Commonwealth. Paragraph c contains the second special group, namely, out-workers, as defined in the schedule. These people are actually employed under contract of service, and the commission is empowered, at its discretion, to include them. The intention of the Government, and, of course, of the commission which is to administer this legislation, is to endeavour to include as many classes of persons as possible under the national insurance scheme. Naturally, with the very great diversity of employments throughout Australia it is impossible to cover specifically all contingencies that may arise in the administration of the provisions of this bill. Consequently it is necessary to give certain discretionary power to the commission to deal with border-line cases. Paragraph d covers the third special group to be insured, namely, employees such as shearers, canecutters, share-farmers, and others engaged in manual labour and working under substantially the 3ame conditions as persons under contract of service, but not covered by paragraph a.
The fourth special group to be insured is stated in paragraph e and covers, where practicable and with reservations, certain classes of workers employed by or under “ any authority under the Commonwealth or a- State, constituted by or under any act or State act” whose circumstances correspond, broadly, to those of insured people generally, but who are not technically under contract of service. The fifth group specified in paragraph / includes employees whose work entails plying for hire in taxis or other vehicles belonging to other persons. These people are technically not under contract of service. Taxi-drivers are typical of this class.
.-I hope that in excluding certain categories or types of employment from the operations of this bill the commission will be careful to see that it does not give an advantage to one branch of an industry which may be in competition with another branch or with other industries producing much the same commodity. If outworkers, as specified in paragraph c, are to he excluded, I fear that some employers will be encouraged to use them extensively in production to the detriment of factory workers who will be forced to contribute under this scheme. The commision should bear in mind the fact that to the extent that it exempts an industry from the application of this act, it will reduce the tax on employees in that industry by approximately ls. 6d. a week for each male employee, and, in respect of female operatives, by a lesser amount. This is a real danger. Exemption from the provisions of this legislation should be granted only as the result of the most careful inquiries to ascertain whether or not the interests of employers of insured persons will be prejudiced. An administrative difficulty should not be sufficient justification for exclusion, and exemptions in themselves should not be allowed to become an element of competitive unfairness in industry. I confess that, with regard to out-workers, considerable administrative problems are likely to occur, but, from the stand-point of national policy, exemptions should not be made except for the strongest reasons. Obviously, resort will be had to out-work if it can be done more profitably than factory work. I regret that Ave were precluded last night from discussing clause 1S8, which deals with regulations. Under this schedule, the commission may, by special orders, specify conditions under which workers may be included or excluded from the scope of the bill. To the extent, therefore, that there is an absence of parliamentary authority, the commission will become a quasi-legislative body. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should if possible, even at this stage, give us some indication of what form he thinks the regulations will take. If he cannot do so, an early opportunity should be provided for Parliament to consider the regulations, foi-, in this matter, they will be of almost as much importance as the will of Parliament expressed in the bill itself.
.- I also hope that some indication of the nature of these regulations will be given, because it is in these regulations that the power of the commission to exempt outworkers will be specified. The astounding amount of sweating connected with outwork in Melbourne was exposed some years ago in the Melbourne Age. More recently a similar state of affairs was shown to exist in Sydney. Employers of the worst type let out work to women who have power machines in their homes. By this means awards of the court are avoided. It seems to me that these employers may obtain exemption from the provisions of this bill, and that the exploiting of labour by means of out-work will thus be continued. I strongly suggest that the Treasurer should endeavour to ensure that no such exemptions shall be made. I do not wish permaturely to criticize the commission’s administration, but it is obvious that the policing of the scheme will be very difficult. In the capital cities the out-work system is one of the worst features of industrial competition. Large departmental stores are having products made in sweating hells under the most revolting conditions, and I hope that some action will be taken to ensure an effective check on such activities. No exemptions should be granted by the commission until the most exhaustive inquiries have been made. I move -
That the following words be omitted from paragraph (c) : - “except in so far as such employment is excluded by a special order by the commission “.
I feel that this paragraph to the schedule presents a very serious danger. Despite the policing activities of trade unions and industrial and arbitration inspectors, employers are “ getting away “ wholesale with sweating, and only in isolated cases are convictions secured. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that if this paragraph is allowed to go through as it stands, the system of out-work will be given a great impetus, and one of the most objectionable features of our industrial system will be perpetuated. By the deletion of the proposed words the commission will not have power to exclude any of these people. That is the sole purpose of my amendment. I am not concerned with its effect on one or two people here and there; while it may impose a little hardship on a few individuals, it will prevent wholesale hardship from being inflicted on a great number of persons associated with the industrial system in the cities. If the schedule be passed in its present form, many sweating employers will be given open encouragement to carry on activities which constitute such an undesirable feature of the factory system in Australia.
– Speaking only a few clays ago the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made a prophecy. He suggested that whereas at that stage, apparently, many people in Australia, including their representatives in this chamber, were contributionconscious, they -would shortly become benefitconscious. Few of us then, thought that that prophecy would be completely fulfilled within the short space of a few hours; the proposals now being made, however, suggest that that prophecy has already been completely fulfilled.’ I am glad to know that there is a desire to bring more people into the scheme, so that they may participate in its benefits.
– And also to prevent competitive unfairness as between groups of employers.
-That is quite a worthy objective. I rose, however, to express my pleasure at the fact that already the prospective benefits of this measure are becoming apparent. I hope that that will be the attitude of the whole of the Australian public towards this measure in the not distant future.
– The object of the amendment is to try to prevent some 8,000 or 10,000 people, mostly women, employed in the great clothing industry of this country, from being excluded from the scheme because of the nature of their employment. For the last four or five years Judge Drake-Broekman, of the Arbitration Court, the officers of the Clothing Trades Federation - which by the way is anxious to become an approved society - and the best employers in the clothing industry have pooled their efforts to stamp out the sweating evil. Their sole aim is to place all manufacturers on a fair footing of competition. It is not the best, but the worst, employer who makes the pace, with the result that, very often, the best employer is put out of business. The best employers have pooled their interests and have appealed to the court; Judge Drake-Brockman has promised his assistance in dealing with this problem. Evidence given before the court discloses that most of the 8,000 or 10,000 persons employed in “the clothing industry are classified as out-workers. The difficulty in dealing with employers of labour of this sort is that they sell the material to out-workers to be made up into garments. They will continue to do so, and will use every device not only to beat the court, but also to be able to avoid responsibility for contributions to the National Insurance Fund in respect of outworkers in their employ. I am anxious to help the commission to safeguard the interests of the best employers and the. employees. The employer in this industry who will not stand up to the resolutions of his chamber of manufactures, and who seeks to undermine the decent employer by this means, will do anything to defeat the commission or the court, or anybody else, if it is to his advantage.
The number of women who take cotton, silk, and other materials to their private homes for manufacture is being constantly added to. Their private homes are, in some instances, registered as factories, and employers assist some of them to purchase electric motors or other driving gear to operate their machines with the object of evading their being classified as his employees. I suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that his officers should co-opt the services of representatives of the employees and the best employers to assist them in safeguarding the interests of employees of this description and to classify them as insurable persons, thus making all employers of out-workers liable for contributions to the fund in respect of those employees.
– Does not the second paragraph of paragraph c show that the Government is fully alive to the need for the protection of those employees?
– Yes, I believe it does ; but there is no harm in showing what the court is endeavouring to do at the present time. I hope that the commission will be given unlimited powers, so that it may co-opt the services of any person who may be able to assist it.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to endeavour to see eye to eye with the honorable gentleman in this regard. Legitimate manufacturers justly complain of the small sweating employers who sub-let certain contracts to outworkers, who, in the main, use the labour of their own families. In some instances, the numbers of persons employed in these homes are not great enough to constitute these establishments of factories in the meaning of the Factories Act. It is those people whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports desires to be covered. I do not agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that they would be covered by paragraph c.
– Paragraph d covers them.
– I am endeavouring to point out that safeguards can be evolved in order to overcome the diffi culty in connexion with contracts sublet to out-workers. I know that that practice is in operation at the present time, and that contracts or sub-contracts are let to out-workers for the completion of a garment. Only that portion of the garment is covered by such contracts. I suggest that the widest possible power should be given to the commission, even to the extent of power to. investigate all contracts of this nature, sub-let by employers in order to see that they are classified as employers of labour and brought within the scope of this bill. In the main, out-workers do not earn more, and, inmany cases, earn considerably less, than the average employee who works in a factory, even though, in an endeavour to make the average living wage, they work extraordinarily long hours day and night.
– And pull everybody else down in the process.
– That is so. I do not object to fair competition, but an employer who indulges in these ruthless practices forces down the whole standards of labour. I suggest to the Treasurer that this practice is one cancerous growth that might very well be cut out by a judicious distribution of power to the commission which will enable it to carry out investigations of the kind I have suggested.
– I appreciate the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in respect of competitive anomalies between employers. I claim to know something about them by having” had to administer the sales tax acts for some years. I believe that if the sales tax acts, which are extremely difficult to police, can be effectively policed, we should have no greater difficulty in policing the provisions of this bill. Like the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), I am glad to see the change of heart on the part of the Opposition, in that honorable members opposite are now greatly concerned, even though it be on the pretence of being anxious to avoid competitive anomalies, to see that as many persons as . possible shall , be -brought within the scope of the bill. I know something about those who distribute “out-work”.
– The honorable gentleman should do so; they are his supporters.
– Not at all. I suggest to the committee that the words proposed to be omitted from the schedule be allowed to stand, because the commission has been given definite instructions to bring in as many persons as possible under the bill.
– I do not think the amendment will achieve the desired result.
– The commission must have some little discretion in this matter because an infinite variety of work, not only in the garment industry, but also in the engineering industry, for instance, is done outside. In some instances, persons are employers on their own account; they have their own businesses as self-employed persons, but to supplement their incomes, they take in outwork which may not yield to them more than 5s. or 10s. a week. It would be unwise to deny the commission discretion in these matters. The commission can be relied on not to exclude from the scheme persons who properly should come under it. If, however, we deny to the commission discretionary powers, we shall create hardship by bringing under the scheme people who should not be called upon to make contributions. It would be unwise to make these provisions rigid; a measure of elasticity should be allowed.
– How is it proposed to give these powers to tho commission?
– It is proposed to give to the commission the small measure of discretion contained in the words: “except in so far as such employment is excluded by a special order by the commission,” which the amendment would strike out. Any attempt to evade the order by selling materials to out-workers could be coped with under paragraph d. It is impossible, in an act of Parliament, to cope with every case that might arise. T ask honorable members to rely on the commission to bring into the scheme all persons who should properly come into it. If the commission be denied this small degree of discretion, hardship will be created and the goal which the
Opposition is aiming at will not be reached.
.- 1 am concerned on behalf of low-paid and special workers, especially women who are classed as outdoor workers because they make pyjamas, shirts and other articles of clothing in their own homes. These women work long hours for very low pay, and they earn so little that they cannot afford to make any contribution to this scheme. Nevertheless, they are entitled to protection. When I reflect on the conditions under which these women are forced to work, I am reminded of the lines in Thomas Hood’s immortal poem : The Song of the Shirt -
Stitch, stitch, stitch,
In poverty, hunger and dirt,
Sewing at once, with a double thread, A shroud as well as a shirt.
It is strange that, whenever an honorable member rises to advocate the claims of oppressed workers, he is subjected to jibes from honorable members opposite. Those who sweat these unfortunate workers are supporters of the Government. Those who need a scheme of national health insurance most are denied it by this measure. Honorable members may ask why these women endure such conditions. The answer is that economic necessity forces them to do so. Unscrupulous employers take advantage of their need, and this bill will not protect them. Unfortunately, the Treasurer is obsessed by the desire to bludgeon this legislation through the Parliament, regardless of its effect on the workers. He is concerned only with relieving the wealthy section of the community from the necessity to contribute towards pensions for deserving needy people. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knows of the sweating that exists in the clothing trade ; his contribution to the debate was most, valuable. I hope that the claims of these workers will be- recognized, and that they will not be left at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. The conditions under which many of them work are so deplorable that it is no wonder that their health breaks down. The bill should be sufficiently comprehensive to include all classes of workers who need the benefit of a national health insurance scheme.
– Paragraph c defines “outworker”. Obviously, that definition includes every class of person who can conceivably be regarded as an out-worker.
– Does it include a person working under a special contract ?
– I think so, because it is wide enough to include every worker.” Indeed, the definition is so wide that it includes certain persons whom it was not intended should be covered by this legislation. The effect of the amendment would be to throw on the draftsman the responsibility of defining precisely those persons who should be regarded as out-workers, and, by inference, the classes of workers that should be excluded. The amendment would introduce into the schedule a rigidity that would make proper administration impossible. The granting of a discretionary power to the commission will avoid much trouble in the future. In my opinion, the commission must have that discretionary power because it is not possible in an act of Parliament to define every class of person who should be included or excluded. The definition should be made as wide as possible, with power for the commission to exclude those sections which cannot reasonably be included. Parliament would have the right to discuss the regulations providing for such exclusions.
– No ; the exclusion would be by order, not by regulation.
– If difficulty is experienced, adjustments will be made to enable Parliament to deal with any such exclusion.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) is right in saying that the definition of “ out-worker “ covers all classes of persons, but there is one thing that binds them together - they are persons to whom work is given for the purposes of the business of the givers. In the clothing trade, for instance, work is performed by persons who obviously are direct employees, and are, therefore, covered by this scheme. But an employer may also let some of his work to contractors or sub-contractors. Should such persons do the work individually, they will be covered by paragraph d.
An employer may also give work to outworkers - persons who work in their own homes, or elsewhere, outside the factory of the person who supplies them with the work. There are, therefore, three classes of workers. The amendment of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has been misrepresented as an attempt to bring certain persons und.er this legislation. That is not the desire of the honorable member or, indeed, of the Opposition. My opinion of the bill has been expressed earlier; the more I see of ir, the more I dislike it, because it will not confer any substantial benefits on those who are supposed to be beneficiaries under the scheme which it sets up. The purpose of the Opposition is io protect employees who may -be brought under the scope of this measure from the unfair competition of other employees who will not come under it. A manufacturer should not be able to say, “ If I have this work done in my own factory, I shall have to pay ls. 6d. a week in respect of every employee. I shall, therefore, give the work to out-workers, and thereby evade making any contribution “. The Opposition is afraid that orders made by the commission may enable employers to give preference in employment to out-workers as against ordinary workers. As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knows, the position in the clothing trade became so acute that representatives of the employees and of the employers conferred with a view to the practical abolition of out-work. It is almost impossible to control out-work in the clothing trade. The Opposition does not want to encourage manufacturers to give preference to out-workers over general employees. Any order that; exempts out-workers from making contributions, or that exempts employers from making contributions in respect of their employees, would encourage employers to have as much of their work as possible done by out-workers, rather than in their own factories. A special order is not a regulation. If . a” special order by the commission is made the House should have an opportunity to review it. I understand that the Treasurer says that, if necessary, he will include provisions by which special orders may be treated as regulations and made subject to review or disallowance by either House of the Parliament. But the honorable gentleman will -find it difficult to do that. A special order might be made in respect of one out-worker or one industry.
– Or one employer. Mr. BLACKBURN.- That is so. And as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has just reminded me, Parliament might not be in session when the order is made. We do not wish to inflict injury on the out-worker. Our concern is to protect the ordinary employer from unfair competition by those who resort’ to out- work.
– The committee will recognize that the commission must be vested with some broad power of exclusion if circumstances warrant it. There is that provision in paragraph j.
– What circumstances has the Treasurer in mind?
– I am speaking in general terms, and I have prefaced everything that I have said on this point by stating that the commission will receive instructions to bring under the scheme as many persons as may be practicable. Having in mind the complexity of modern industry and the almost infinite variety of circumstances under which people work, the commission should have some power of exclusion. Under paragraph j the commission will have power to exclude “ employment of such classes and in such areas as are prescribed “.
– If that were done by regulation the position would not be quite so bad.
– We can make provision for the Parliament to have the right to discuss these matters in connexion with the regulations that will be issued. I ask the members of the Opposition not to press the amendment, because, if carried, it would unduly restrict the commission in the exercise of its authority.
.- As a half-way contribution to meet the point which the Treasurer has taken against the rigidity of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and because of a strong desire on this side to retain parliamentary authority over outworkers, I suggest that the Treasurer should agree to amend the paragraph to read -
Employment in Australia as an out-worker except in so far as such employment is excluded by regulation.
The commission has wide regulationmaking power under clause 188; indeed, it is given almost legislative authority. I suggest that, if anybody is to be excluded, that should be done by regulation. The Acts Interpretation Act authorizes certain procedure by members of Parliament if objection be taken to any regulation by a statutory authority, but I know of no procedure by which the Parliament may challenge a special order of the commission. I cannot see how a special order could even get before Parliament.
– The making of special orders is dealt with in clause 187.
– Although I agree with what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has said, I am inclined to think that he has not gone quite far enough. It must be obvious to the committee that the amendment is too rigid in that it takes from the commission the right -of determination in specific instances. The commission should have authority to determine whether certain classes of employers should or should not be defined as outworkers. I have in mind such firms as David Jones, Anthony Hordern and Sons, and other large firms in Sydney and other capital cities in the Commonwealth, which manufacture in their own factories and also let out from those factories orders to a large number of small manufacturers. If those persons whodo this class of work were defined as out-workers many hundreds of employees would automatically become the responsibility of the larger firms which gave the contracts to smaller manufacturers. I do not think that that is the intention of the honorable member for Werriwa, and I approve the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I accept the suggestion.
– I think it is an excellent one, because I consider that this
Parliament should not forego its right to determine what classes of employment should.be excluded. If the Treasurer will accept the suggestion of the Leader of tlie Opposition, the position would be met.
– I accept the suggestion.
– With the consent of the committee I withdraw my amendment in order that the Treasurer may move another amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That the words “ a special order by the committee “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the regulations”.
The paragraph will then ‘read -
.- I should like the Treasurer to tell me whether an out-worker will have the right of appeal against inclusion in this scheme. I ask this question because I realize that very few persons who to-day are classed as out-workers will continue as out-workers until they reach the maximum age. This is true particularly of «women. The average woman who to-day is an outworker is so because she is contributing to the income of the home for the purpose of rearing a family. In most instances when the children have ‘grown up, the mother ceases out-work and the members of the family keep the home going. I do not wish this class of out-worker to be brought under the scheme at all, and I should like to see included in the bill some provision to give out-workers the right of appeal, otherwise a great injustice will be done to a large number of people. Official figures show that only .0S7 per cent, of -women in Australia over the age of 60 years will derive any benefit from the scheme. As to the proposal that effective measures should be taken to prevent employers from evading responsibility for contributions imposed on them by this scheme, we know quite well that any charges on employers a*e always added to the cost of production. The Treasurer will admit that the sales tax, of which he can speak with some authority, is paid by the general public - mainly by the workers. In the same way this con tribution of ls. Cd. from employers will be passed on to the consuming public. I should like the Treasurer to say definitely if out-workers will have a right of appeal against inclusion in this scheme.
– The legal provisions give them full rights.
Amendment agreed to.
Part I. as amended agreed to.
Part II. (Excepted employment) -
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the word “ certifies “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “lias certified by a certificate which remains in force.”.
.- I move -
That, after paragraph (6), the following new paragraph be inserted - “ (6a) Employment by a hospital in respect of which the commission certifies that the terms of employment provide health insurance benefits on the whole not loss favorable than the health insurance benefits provided by this act.”.
This amendment has been asked for by hospital authorities, who assert that their employees now enjoy certain forms of health insurance. This, of course, differs in various institutions. In some hospitals, the employees are entitled to medical treatment when sick, and in other institutions they receive financial aid as well as medical treatment when incapacitated.
– Would this amendment exempt hospitals from the payment of the pensions portion of the contribution ?
– The exemption would apply only to the portion of the contribution providing for health insurance. Nurses, wardsmen and assistants in hospitals are already assured of medical attention, under the terms of their engagements. If the institutions were required to contribute to the national insurance fund in respect of these employees, it would be an extra and unnecessary payment which would cause a serious inroad upon their revenues. The need for this amendment has been brought under my notice by the authorities of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. Under this legislation, hospital services will be availed of by a larger number of persons than in the past, and in addition these institutions will lose a substantial part of their revenue which has been derived heretofore from voluntary subscriptions. The exemption for which I am asking would not impair the efficiency of the insurance scheme. It would simply mean that, if a hospital did. not cover its employees for medical benefit at least equal to that provided under this measure, its employees would come under the present scheme; but, if it gave medical aid equivalent, or superior to, that contemplated under the bill, it would be exempt from the provisions of the measure in’ respect of medical benefit. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will see the wisdom of accepting my amendment.
– I hope that, in pursuance of the policy of widening rather than restricting the ambit of this scheme, the Government will adhere to tho schedule as it stands. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has suggested that medical attention and hospital attention are pa.t of the emolument of hospital employees. In most cases this service is given as an act of grace, and is not recognized as a right. There is no certainty that this privilege will always be extended to the employees, and, if the amendment were accepted, it might well be that some hospital employees would fall within the ambit of this legislation, as regards medical benefits, and others would not. Much has been said concerning the disability which the measure will impose on hospitals because of the extra contributions they will have to make in respect of their employees, but not a great deal has been heard regarding the offsetting advantage in that hospitals are among the institutions which do not suspend payment of the wages of their employees on account of illness, when they are unable to carry out their duties. The sickness and disablement benefits to bc provided under this measure will save the hospitals a considerable expenditure in sick pay, and this will enable them to recoup themselves to a substantial degree for the outlay represented by their contributions as employers. I was hoping that the trend of the discussion since lunch time towards a recognition of the desirability of having an all-embracing national health insurance scheme would have been maintained. I trust that, instead of restricting the scope of the measure, the committee will rather widen it.
– This amendment might easily prove to bc the thin end of a wedge for relieving the employers - in this case the hospital authorities - of the payment required for medical benefit. As I have previously explained, not all nurses are permanently employed. Generally speaking, they move about a great deal. Their occupation is by no means static. A nurse may be in a hospital one day, and attending a case in a private home on the following day. We want ‘to bring about a situation in which all working persons will carry about with them from employment “to employment, and from place to place, their full obligation to pay under the scheme, and also their full rights to all benefits. The amendment, if agreed to, would disturb that situation, and, therefore, the Government cannot accept it. The hospitals will be no worse off under the scheme, because doctors, who now give free medical attention to hospital employees, will be able to set up a small panel on to which those employees can come. If any question of emolument arises, it can be adjusted between the nurses and the hospitals.
– The public hospitals have to be financed either by public subscription or out of the consolidated revenues of the States.
– That is an argument which tends to show that their situation is not desperate.
– This scheme will kill voluntary aid to hospitals.
– I have considered that, and I do not believe that the effect will be as the honorable member says. Under the Government’s proposal, the nurses can, as I have said, go on to the doctor’s panel, and the hospital will receive payment for the medicines prescribed, provided a properly qualified pharmaceutical chemist is employed.
– That would not be the case in some country hospitals.
– We desire to limit the number of exemptions as much as possible. We believe that it is in the interests of the nurses and other hospital attendants that they should be under the scheme, and be eligible for the widest possible benefits.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle) [3.13 J. -I admit that, having regard to the principle of the bill, there is something to be said for the argument of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that all employees should be brought under the scheme. On the other hand, we must take into account the fact that there arc a great many public hospitals in Australia engaged in providing a health service which this scheme does not cover. The bill does not provide for hospital services, and will, therefore, afford no relief to the budgets of the hospitals.
– Except in regard to outpatients.
-That may help to some extent, hut so much treatment is given in hospitals without payment that but little relief will be afforded. In New South Wales, there are 174 public hospitals; in Victoria, 63; in Queensland, 113; in South Australia, 47; in Western Australia, 93; and in Tasmania, 19. All of these are managed by boards, either appointed by the Crown or elected by subscribers, and all, I understand, are in financial difficulties. Within the. last two years there have been citations before State industrial tribunals by unions representing hospital nursing staffs, in which claims have been made for increased pay and fewer working hours, particularly a better rotation of hours, and those claims have been resisted on the ground that the granting of them would impose an undue burden upon the finances of the hospitals. I remind the Treasurer that the budgets of the States, which improved steadily during the last four years, are now showing signs of going the other way. Having regard to the general prospect before Australia, there appears to be no ground for optimism regarding the financial outlook, so that the Treasurer cannot be indifferent to the effect of this scheme upon Sta.te finances. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said that hospital nurses in South Australia are at present receiving health services, the equivalent of those provided in this scheme, without any cost to the hospital in which they are employed. It is regarded as part of the remuneration due to nurses, and as compensating them, to some extent, for the inequality between their conditions and those in other industries. If the Government insists that the State governments shall contribute ls. 6d. in respect of each hospital employee, and that the employees themselves shall also contribute ls. 6d., in order to provide a medical benefit which they now obtain free, the proposal will not be popular.
– Only 4d. will be collected from employees for health services.
– And another 4d. from the employer, making a total of Sd. Even 8d. represents more than the value of the medical benefit that will be provided. It should be possible to make an adjustment to assure these employees of their pension rights without imposing conditions that will threaten the stability of hospital finance. If the Treasurer will not be moved by the effect which the scheme may have on State budgets, let him at least be influenced by the fact that so many of the hospitals, although subsidized by Sta.te governments, are administered by philanthropically-minded citizens, who devote a great deal of their time and energy to this work. If the Government imposes an intolerable burden on hospital administration, it will be impossible for these public-minded citizens to carry on. Private citizens cannot be expected to continue interminably the almost hopeless task of trying to administer a hospital when there is no prospect even of paying wages and giving services. I ask the Treasurer to reconsider his attitude to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) present the case on behalf of the hospitals, but at the same time I appreciate the position of the Treasury. I accept the principle that national insurance should cover as many employees as possible, and it is upon that principle that I agree with the Treasurer’s decision to reject the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). If, however, the Treasurer had been prepared to accept the honorable member’s amendment, I should have pressed for consideration to be given to the ambulance services. In New South Wales, the ambulance service is carried on by a group of individuals on a grant of £22,000 from the State government, supplemented by tens of thousands of pounds made up of weekly payments by persons who feel that they should insure against the possibility of having at some stage of their lives to avail themselves of the service. The ambulance service not only conveys persons to hospitals, but it also renders first-aid in street accidents and the like. I imagine that its financial stability will suffer as the result of the introduction of this scheme. Emphasis has been laid on the fact that experience in Great Britain has shown that panel doctors send to hospital patients whom they cannot or have not time to treat. If a similar condition obtains in Australia - and obviously it will - the ambulances will be called upon to convey to hospital a greater number of persons than hitherto. The insured employees will feel, too, that their contribution to the insurance fund should entitle them to free conveyance to hospital, and will accordingly cease their contributions to the ambulance service, whose revenue will consequently be seriously reduced.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member will connect his remarks with the clause.
– This amendment has to deal with the exemption of hospitals. Linked with hospitals is the ambulance service, which also renders first-aid.
– What is the honorable gentleman seeking?
– I suggest that the amendment is not wide enough because it does not cover ambulance services. The Treasurer, when he is able to extend the benefits of the scheme, should give consideration to the provision of ambulance benefits for contributors.
I wish now to direct the attention of the Treasurer to what I consider to be a glaring anomaly in paragraph d of Part II. of the first schedule. The paragraph excludes from national insurance -
Employment otherwise than by way of manual labour -
The anomaly is contained in the words “ otherwise than by manual labour “. The Treasurer cannot be aware of the large numbers of manual labourers who earn considerably more than £365 a year and who can afford to avail themselves of medical attention at the prevailing rates. The provision thatI have cited differentiates between them and other workers to the detriment of the medical profession, on whose behalf I appeal to the Treasurer to give further consideration to the matter. It is well known that, particularly in mining districts, men are engaged throughout the year at rates exceeding £365 a year, but in substantiation I submit to the Treasurer the following table prepared by Dr. F. W. Carter, of Western Australia -
Wages of Miners, Woodcutters, etc., in Western Australia.
On the Golden Mile. - 3,000 men receiving an average of from 20s. to 30s. per shift.
Lake View and Star. - 1,500 men receiving 23s. to 30s. per shift.
Wiluna. - 1,100 men receiving an average of 30s. per shift.
No one on the mines receives less than £4 13s. per week. Six shifts per week throughout. Many miners make £4 10s. a day on piece-work - machine miners.
Woodcutters commonly make £14 to £16 per week - piece-work.
Total number of miners employed in the State-
Those figures relate to the State of Western Australia, but I should say that similar conditions obtain throughout the Commonwealth. In many instances these men are not in employment of a temporary nature or of a nature which is likely to be varied. It is constant throughout the year and years. The anomaly of which complaint is made could he overcome if the Treasurer could see his way clear to amend paragraph d by omitting all the words after “ employment “ in the first line and words “ a rate of “ in the second line. The- exclusion of the word “ rate “ would obviously bring within the scheme those manual labourers whose sporadic work earns for them less than £365 per annum. I readily acknowledge that some men may receive remuneration at a weekly rate exceeding. £365 a year, but, owing to the intermittency of the work would not earn more than that amount in a year. If the paragraph were amended as suggested there would be excluded from benefit that huge number of manual labourers who work constantly for more than £365 a year. A great deal of the objection of medical practitioners that they will lose money as the result of the introduction of this scheme, would be removed if a large number of persons who can afford to pay the ruling rates for medical attention were excluded from benefiting from the cut rates which will be imposed on the profession when this scheme operates.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is reluctant to accept the amendment, but it seems to me that his view, although it may be correct of hospitals in Victoria, is not correct of hospitals in some of the other States. Hospitals in Tasmania will suffer very severe hardship if the schedule be carried in its present form. Launceston hospital, which is subsidized- by the State,, is on all fours with other subsidized hospitals. The board controlling it is a nominee body of public-spirited citizens, who receive no remuneration in return for their services. They have very great difficulty in financing the hospital, and it frequently happens that they have to appeal to the Government to make good a financial deficiency at the end of the year. It is not a very large hospital”, it has about 400 beds. The national insurance scheme will impose on it an additional expenditure of something like £600 a year. The increased burden will have to be borne by the State, as the hospital deficit will be increased by that amount. There may be a small offset in the amount of money received from employees covered by the scheme, but it will be negligible.. Extra payments from those who attend the hospital will also be very small. Launceston hospital is typical of many other subsidized hospitals throughout Australia. It is true, as the Treasurer has said, that many nurses after receiving their training in hospitals, pass on to other work. I remind him that the nursing staff represents only a percentage of the employees of a hospital, and that ought not to be regarded as a determining factor. Some_ of the nurses remain for years, hut I agree that in the main they leave after receiving their training. There are many other permanent employees, however, who remain on hospital staffs for years, and, in the ordinary course of events will be there until they reach the retiring age. Launceston hospital employees receive free medical attention and free hospital treatment when they are sick, just as if they were covered by the provisions of the bill. For the first week or two of sickness they still receive their wages or salaries. The Treasurer has suggested that they could obtain medical attention from a panel of doctors at the hospital. That idea would not work in practice. There is a permanent staff of doctors, and they are assisted by honorary doctors. Therefore the Treasurer’s reply to the arguments of the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) breaks down. I speak from knowledge of the conditions that obtain in the Launceston hospital, and I know how the national insurance scheme will affect it. I ask the Treasurer to accept the amendment.
.- I notify the Government that I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). I do so on the broad ground that the Federal Government should make a gesture to the State governments regarding the class of employees referred to. It is true that the State governments provide large sums of money for the upkeep of hospitals. If we were dealing only with governments, perhaps it would be a matter for negotiation between the Commonwealth and the States, but associated with, the administration of every hospital is a band of individuals who year in and year out devote much of their time, in a voluntary capacity, to its management. In order to raise funds, entertainments of all sorts are organized by citizens who value the work of the hospitals in their districts. Frequently, the field in which they are able to raise funds is very limited. This is one direction in which the Government should give assistance. I nstitutions such as St. Vincent’s Hospice for the Dying, the Home of Peace for the Dying in Marrickville, and the Home for Incurables .in Ryde, are entirely dependent on voluntary subscriptions for their upkeep. I am concerned, not so much about their employees as about the voluntary boards which manage their affairs on behalf of the general community and the Government of the State. The commission ought to bt empowered to waive the contribution in respect of these institutions. A large percentage of those who enter them are unable to make any payment for the treatment they receive, and those responsible for the upkeep of the institutions have to rely wholely upon the voluntary subscriptions of the residents of the district, often comparatively few in number. I should like ambulances also to be brought within, .the scope of the amendment. They, too, render valuable service to people who are unable to make any payment for it. Humanity demands that this Government and Parliament shall make a generous gesture to the sick and the afflicted of the community. Therefore, the committee ought to vote for the amendment.
– Do ambulances provide a medical benefit or a health benefit for their employees?
– They do not provide any medical benefit or health benefit for their employees.
– They would have to do so to be brought within the scope of the amendment.
– My concern is for the boards *of management more than for the employees. The Government ought to hold itself responsible for the payment of their contribution, or enable the State government to do so.
In regard to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), I cannot understand why a number of miners in Western Australia should be singled out for preferential treatment. The Government is acting severely even in demanding that the members of the medical profession shall render a cheap service to every employee, other than manual workers, receiving up to £365 a year; yet thousands of manual workers in the mining industry, who are earning more than £365, will be brought into the scheme. Why should that be done? [Quorum formed.’] I hope that the Treasurer will exercise his authority in this matter and not include manual employees who are receiving over £365- a year. If he can give any valid excuse for their inclusion I shall be glad to hear it.
– I direct attention to paragraph b (iii) of Part II., which relates to employment of a permanent nature by any corporation constituted by any act or State act. 1 have received ‘ telegrams from a large number of bank clerks who have no desire to be brought within the scope of the act., their contention being that they have better conditions under the bank schemes than they would receive under this scheme. If they do not wish to be included, why should they be compelled to become contributors? I should like the Treasurer to state whether it will be within the power of the commission to exempt these persons under the paragraph to which I have referred.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [3.49 1 . - .Several honorable members have referred to the exclusion of hospital employees. I believe that I have already said sufficient to expose the mind of the Government in regard to this matter. I do not delude myself that there will not be a certain creaking of the machine as the community adjusts itself to this scheme within the next six months. But Australian people have adjusted themselves to much more difficult reforms’ in the past. I cannot see how hospitals will be confronted with any real difficulty in this respect. Neither should it be difficult, as suggested by the honorable member for
Swan (Mr. Gregory), to adjust the bank schemes to this scheme, and 1 have replied to that effect to hundreds of letters which I have received from employees of bunks.
– All the banks have benefit schemes for their employees.
– I understand that they are very good schemes, but that is no reason why such employees should be debarred from the very obvious benefits offered under this scheme. In reply to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), I point out that the position of manual workers under the scheme who are in receipt of more than £365 a year has exercised the mind of the Government for some time.
– I mentioned ambulance services.
– The honorable gentleman will notice in the Fourth Schedule that that class of service - expenses of travelling to and from hospitals - is included among the additional benefits which may be brought into force in the future. One must admit that there is a certain number of persons engaged in manual work who earn more than £365 a year, such as certain employees in mines.
– They will not be doing it until they are 65.
– That is one point. Another point is that they receive relatively high pay because their employment is not continuous. The number of these manual workers who will be insured, however, will not represent an appreciable proportion of the total number who will be insured. In any event, this problem may be included among the matters to be referred to the royal commission for inves’tigation.
– That would be satisfactory.
Air. CASEY. - As to the suggestion that income should be reckoned on the total of pays earned during the year and not on the rate of pay, I point out that sin insuperable difficulty in that regard would be that an employer would have to wait until the end of the year in order to know whether an employee should be :i ti insured person.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that the Government has repeatedly indicated its mind on the suggestion that hospitals should be exempt, but honorable members are equally entitled to indicate their mind on the subject, particularly in view of the experience which many of them have had in hospital work. I should not press for the exemption of any class if I thought that such employees might be deprived of advantages offered under the scheme, and, therefore, I am not suggesting that hospitals should he exempt in respect of any benefit other than medical benefit. Hospitals already extend medical benefits to their employees, and I suggest that we should avoid overlapping in thisrespect when dealing with this clause. I have been a member of a hospital board for a long time, and I know that theseboards generally experience great difficulty in carrying on. Hospital finance isobtained from three sources - subsidies from the State Government, fees paid by patients and voluntary donations.
– The honorable member is now talking about hospitals in New South Wales.
– My observation applies to hospitals in practically all of the States, with the possible exception of Queensland. I point out that voluntary contributions are decreasing, and that income from this source threatens to disappear entirely. That tendency is evident throughout Australia. The hospital with which I was connected did not derive 5- per cent, of its revenue from voluntary contributions. Under this scheme, hospitals will be faced with a two-fold -burden ; their costs of administration will be increased, and they will be compelled toprovide for greater numbers of patients in view of the attitude of the medical profession to the health side of this scheme. Under the scheme, more patients will be sent into public and non-paying wards than has even been thecase before, and hospitals will be obliged to find increased funds in order to provide extra nursing staff, medicine, bedding and other requirements. As the service rendered by hospitals is unique and cannot be compared with any other health service, the Government would no*- establish a precedent if it agreed to this amendment. Public- hospitals are the foundation of a national health service, and, I- suggest, one of the worst mistakes made by the Government in connexion with this scheme is its failure to recognize this fact. Hospitals have a very strong case for exemption, under clause 47, in respect of medical benefit, because they should not be asked to contribute in respect of a service which they already provide for their employees. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) suggested that doctors provide this treatment in an honorary capacity; I have no doubt that they will be just as much prepared to continue to give that service without fee as they will be to continue their honorary work in public wards. There is no substance, therefore, in the statement by the Treasurer that hospitals boards can put their nurses, who are insured persons, on panels. If they did so, they would be obliged to go through a ritual which, I feel sure, no hospital would bother about. If the Government cannot see its way clear to accept this amendment, it should at least include this matter among the subjects to be referred to the royal commission for investigation.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that this clause will not affect hospitals to a very great extent, but those who have had actual experience in the management of hospitals say that it will very seriously affect those institutions. He also said-
-Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the first schedule having expired, I must put the question now before the chair.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Makin’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of Part II. of the First Schedule and the circulated amendments of the Government, agreed to.
Circulated amendments -
Paragraph (&) - omit “company” insert “ corporation “ ;
Paragraph (t) - omit “that remains unrevoked “, insert “ which remains in force “ ; at the end of Part II:, add the following paragraph :- ” (k) employment of aboriginal natives of the islands of the Pacific under such conditions and in such localities as are determined by the Commission, and employment of aboriginal natives of Australia under such conditions and in such localities as are so determined, after report from the authority of the State or Territory in which the natives are employed, which is responsible for the protection of those natives.”.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to.
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
Emergency Landing Ground at Umbrella Elat, Georgetown - Pais in Division - Foreign Affairs : Opportunity to Debate - Invalid and Old-age Pensions: Miners’ Phthisis - Ballarat Aerial Pageant - Rifle Clubs.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn. Mr. BARNARD (Bass) [4.9].- On the 14th instant, I directed a question, upon notice, to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) concerning the landing of the Douglas air liner Kurana at the emergency landing ground at Umbrella Flat, Georgetown, Tasmania, where it became bogged, owing to wet weather. The Minister in his reply stated that that landing ground was provided to enable a machine to land in cases of emergency only, and under normal weather conditions had proved very suitable. He further stated -
Financial considerations make it difficult to ensure that all emergency landing grounds throughout the Commonwealth shall ‘be of the same standard as capital city and other aerodromes in regular use as stopping places.
While I agree that emergency landing grounds cannot be placed in as good condition as the regular landing grounds adjacent to the capital cities, I ask the Minister to inquire further into the circumstances of the bogging of this plane, and to see whether this ground cannot be made fit for planes to arrive and depart in all weathers. Western Junction aerodrome is, of course, the recognized landing ground for Launceston, but in a country of wide open spaces, it is highly desirable that ‘ landing grounds capable of accommodating modern machines in all weathers should be provided at appropriate places between terminal points. It was only after I had made repeated representations to the Government concerning the necessity for an emergency landing ground at some point close to the Tasmanian coast that something was done. Under existing con ditions a certain amount of trepidation must be in the mind of passengers by air who, in uncertain weather, have to leave either the mainland for Tasmania or Tasmania for the mainland, and they should be assured that a suitable emergency landing ground is available if difficulties should occur during the flight. Although the landing ground at Umbrella Flats was made available by the Government after frequent requests by myself, it is not yet in a satisfactory condition, otherwise the Douglas liner Kurana, with 24 passengers on board, would not have bogged there. It is necessary that travellers between Tasmania and the mainland should be made confident of the fitness not only of the permanent landing grounds but also of the emergency landing grounds that planes on which they are travelling may have to use. I ask the Minister to ascertain what cost would be involved in improving the Umbrella Flats landing ground.
The necessity to take prompt action in this connexion is emphasized by reason of the fact that on Wednesday last the Kurana, which left the Western Junction aerodrome for Melbourne, could not land at Essendon owing to unfavorable weather conditions and had to be flown back to Flinders Island in the Furneaux Group. It landed at Pat’s River aerodrome after having been five hours in the air.
– It is because I regard the Minister’s reply as unsatisfactory that I am now making these representations. The honorable gentleman said that the Umbrella Flats landing ground was satisfactory under normal weather conditions. Of what earthly use is a landing ground which cannot be used under abnormal conditions?
– Planes have landed there in wet weather. Mr. BARNARD.- That is so. Planes frequently land there in wet and bad weather; but on the occasion to which I have referred the Kurana was bogged. I have seen the newspaper photograph of the plane after it landed, and it seems to me that it was only because of the skill of the pilot that it did not capsize. It takes little imagination to realize what might happen when an aeroplane carrying 24 persons bogs on landing. It could very easily turn over on its nose with probably fatal results. I ask the Minister to investigate the cost of providing satisfactory runways at Umbrella Flat to enable aeroplanes to land there whenever inclement weather prevents them from landing at either Western Junction or Essendon. The people of Tasmania are entitled to a satisfactory aerodrome at this point.
.- This afternoon I was asked to pair with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) in a division which was distinctly and definitely confined to contributions. That was the only point on which I was consulted. , It has been suggested that the pair was intended to cover other divisions during the afternoon, but I could not have given a pair under those conditions for there were certain matters before the committee on which I distinctly wished to vote. It ‘ was only after careful consideration, and on the understanding that the pair related only to contributions which I did not wish to be altered, that I gave a pair at all.
.- I ask the Minister in charge of the House to convey to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) a request, which I- know is supported by honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber, that an opportunity be afforded before this period of the session ends, for a discussion on foreign affairs. The right honorable gentleman said this morning that the Government wished the consideration of certain items of business to be completed before the House rose, but he ma.de no reference to external affairs. Later when I addressed a question to him on this subject, he said that he was afraid that my desire could not be complied with, but that it would depend upon the progress made with the business to which he had referred. T wish to make the request more definite than is possible by way of a question, “that the House be given an opportunity to discuss this subject before this period «f the session closes.
.- Prior to the passing of the Financial Emergency Act, persons receiving pension on account of miners’ phthisis from the Victorian Government, and from the governments of the other States, were subjected to no deduction in respect of that pension when income for invalid and old-age pensions purposes was being calculated. Following the passing of the financial emergency legislation, the position was changed, and the receipt of such a pension is now taken into consideration in assessing permissible income, with the result that sufferers from .miners’ phthisis are subjected to an unfair penalty. In view of the fact that restorations have been effected of the salaries of members of Parliament, and, in fact, almost complete restoration of the financial emergency cuts has now been made, I suggest, that the provision, under which a pension for miners’ phthisis is included in the earnings of an applicant for an invalid or old-age pension, should be repealed. The pension was granted to these unfortunate people primarily to enable them to secure the medical attention and nursing which their complaint made necessary; it was not given to them as a payment on which they were expected to live. Therefore, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to give very earnest consideration to the representations I have made on behalf of these unfortunate people.
Three days ago, I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) if he would be good enough to see me for a few moments later on that evening in regard to a request I had conveyed to him from the Ballarat Aero Club. In forgetting all about the appointment, I feel sure that the honorable gentleman intended no discourtesy to my constituents.
– My week has not yet terminated.
– That is so, but I expected that the honorable gentleman, in courtesy to my constituents, would keep that appointment. When I first approached him, I asked if he could see me for a few minutes. He replied that he was too busy at the time but he could see me at about 8.30 p.m. and would let me know when he was ready. Since then,
I have heard nothing from him. I was prepared to give the honorable gentleman credit, at least, for having forgotten all about the appointment; I know that he has many onerous duties which occupy fully h’is time; but now the honorable gentleman, in a spiteful way, says that his week is not yet finished. I do not object on the ground that the honorable gentleman has shown discourtesy to me, but I protest on behalf of my constituents, who, I think, are entitled to a little more courtesy towards their elected representative than the honorable gentleman has displayed. I think they might reasonably expect that I would have the opportunity to see the Minister at any time.
– “When convenient.
– The Minister’ for Defence is the most offensive Minister that it has ever been my unfortunate experience to meet.
– I take exception to the remark that I am the most offensive Minister the honorable member for Ballarat has met.
– I repeat it.
– I take exception to the honorable member’s remark. I ask that it be withdrawn, and that he be called upon to apologize for his insulting language.
– I withdraw it, but I tend el- no apology for having made it. At the outset of my remarks I had no intention of offending or abusing the Minister. I recognize that he is very heavily worked and has many momentous matters troubling his mind; but when he offers in extenuation of his discourtesy, the explanation that his work is not yet finished, I take it as a further discourtesy, .to say the least of it.
– My. staff is still on duty and my office is still open.
– The honorable gentleman is the first Minister I ever heard whine about that sort of thing.
– We have never seen the like of the honorable member before.
– That is what sticks in the Minister’s gizzard. I hope the honorable gentleman will live to see a lot more like me. The matter which I proposed to discuss with the Minister was in connexion with the charges which the Air Board proposed to impose on the Ballarat Aero Club for aeroplanes that will visit Ballarat in connexion with its centenary air pageant. As the proposed air pageant is to be a special feature of the Ballarat centenary celebrations, I ask the Minister if the charges to be imposed for the use of defence aeroplanes, can be reconsidered. I have no hope, however, that my request will be acceded to.
– The honorable member does not deserve it.
.- Some time ago I addressed a question to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) regarding the membership of rifle clubs. 1 may have misconstrued his reply, but I gathered from it that it was not the Government’s intention to reduce the personnel of rifle clubs in Australia. On the 14th May last, however, I received from the Secretary of the National Rifle Association of Western Australia, a letter which states -
The Defence Department has issued instructions that the number of active members oi rifle clubs in Western Australia must ‘ be reduced from the present strength of 6,500 to 5,805, which was the number at the end of June, 1937.
I respectfully suggest to the Minister that the value of rifle clubs in the defence organization of Australia is very great. I know that in the minds of certain military officers expenditure on rifle clubs is not considered to be as important as expenditure in other directions. Although I do not agree with that view, I have no desire to be drawn into a discussion of the relative values of the various arms of the services. It is undeniable that in the event of an invasion of this country men trained in the use of small arms ‘ will form a very effective nucleus of the defence scheme. The amount provided by the Defence Department for the encouragement of rifle clubs is altogether too meagre. I plead with the Minister on behalf of these rifle clubs, particularly the Rifle Club Association in Western Australia of which I am patron. A recent rough census of rifle club members shows that 75 per cent, of thom are of military age; the remaining 25 per cent. are excellent rifle shots. Many of them fill executive positions in the movement, but only four are paid for their services, namely, the secretary of the Commonwealth Council, and one man in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. That shows their enthusiasm.
– They spend a good deal of their own money.
– That is so. It is true that the clubs receive from the Defence Department 200 rounds of ammunition free for each efficient member, but, as the Minister knows, that consists of ammunition two or three years old. In addition to that quantity of free ammunition, the clubs receive 5s. for each efficient member, except that where military ranges are used, the grant is 2s. 6d. a. member, and that in respect of militia rifle clubs, the members of which are also members of the military forces, the grant is ls. 6d. for each efficient member. In addition to spending their own money, riflemen devote a considerable portion of their own time to training. Generally, their Saturday afternoons are spent at the butts. When I was younger, I travelled every Saturday from Ringwood, Victoria, to the North Williamstown butts in order to make myself proficient as a rifleman. I am glad to say that I passed the prescribed test. A rifleman’s initial expenditure can be set down at approximately £7 for the purchase of a rifle, aperture sight, etc. ; in Western Australia his minimum expenditure would be about £10 per annum. Lost time and travelling expenses would add considerably to that expenditure. I trust that when the Estimates for the ensuing financial year are under consideration the modest request which I slia.ll submit to the Minister by letter will be acceded to.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) for a review of the treatment of sufferers from miners’ phthisis. This matter has been mentioned on a number of occasions by honorable members on both sides of the House. During the depression the whole of the amounts received by these men in respect of their ailments was taken into consideration when determining their old-age pension.
Later, a change was made, and the commission was instructed to take such receipts into consideration only when some additional income was received by the applicant. Generally, some small deduction from the pension followed. The time has arrived for the full pension to be paid to these men, regardless of these small receipts. At present most of them receive only 14s. or 15s. a week because of these reductions. I ask that the claims of these men be given earnest consideration.
– in reply. - The honormember for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the landing of an aeroplane at the emergency landing ground at Umbrella Plats in extremely wet weather, and the subsequent bogging of the machine. When the honorable gentleman first made representations to me, I had a careful inquiry made in order to ascertain the facts. The aerodrome at Umbrella Plats is not a regular landing ground, but one for use only in an emergency. The ground is situated in an area where suitable landing places are not plentiful; I understand that the surrounding district is uneven and that difficulty would be experienced in obtaining a more suitable area for a landing ground.
– That is so.
– Moreover, the area is subjected to flooding and a considerable amount of seepage in very wet weather. The difficulty confronting the department is that only on rare occasions does the ground become as wet as it was when the emergency landing had to be made recently. The fact remains, however, that the aeroplane landed successfully, and only subsequently became bogged. The purpose of an emergency landing ground ‘is to avoid disaster, and whilst it is regretted that the machine subsequently became bogged, the ground served its purpose and enabled the machine to land safely. If the Commonwealth Government were to accept the responsibility of putting every emergency landing ground in first-class order, so that, irrespective of weather conditions, aeroplanes could land without difficulty and take off again, the cost would be beyond the funds at its disposal. The department is endeavouring to establish as many emergency landing grounds as possible along the main air routes within the Commonwealth, but, obviously, emergency grounds cannot be put into the same condition as is necessary at standard aerodromes which are used regularly by all classes of machines in all weather conditions. The honorable member will admit that the machine that landed successfully, was one of the heaviest aeroplanes in use in the Commonwealth - a large Douglas machine.
– It was the machine which usually flies over that route.
– Phenomenal rains had made the emergency landing ground unusually wet.
The honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has asked that honorable members be given an opportunity to discuss foreign relations before the House rises for the winter recess. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will sympathetically consider the request.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) spoke of the deductions made from the pensions of certain persons suffering from miners’ phthisis. I shall bring their remarks under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) who deals with these matters, and see that his attention is directed to the point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, namely, that a large proportion- of the pension is absorbed in the purchase of medicines so necessary to combat lie disease which these unfortunate people have contracted in their employment. I cannot say offhand what is the reason for the deductions, except that it is the general practice to take into account the total income of the pensioner in assessing pensions payable under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I have no doubt that the matter will be sympathetically considered. I am aware that the heavy expenditure to which these pensioners are subjected is directly attributable to the disease which entitles them to compensation.
– The deductions from the pensions of persons suffering from miners’ phthisis were made under the Financial Emergency Act, and the full pensions have not been restored.
– I have no doubt that that point will be considered by the Treasurer when the request comes before him.
The honorable member for Ballarat has accused me of being discourteous to him and his constituents in connexion with representations which he made concerning the visit to Ballarat of a number of air force planes for the purpose of giving demonstration flights during an air pageant to be held in that city. If the honorable member will consider the circumstances calmly he must admit that no charge of discourtesy can be sustained. I have always given as much time as is humanly possible to the consideration of requests from all honorable members. No honorable member can say that he has been denied an opportunity to interview me in connexion with any matter in which he is interested. If the honorable member for Ballarat wishes to be fair he must admit this.
– I have tried to be fair to the Minister.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman was fair when he accused me of being discourteous to him and to his constituents. He first brought the matter under my notice in my office in Melbourne. On that occasion I granted him an interview, lasting probably half an hour, during which we discussed a number of other subjects. Then he put his request in writing and received the official reply. Subsequently in the House he asked a question, and I gave him a very full reply stating the reasons for the attitude taken up by the department in connexion with these requests for visits by air force machines to take part in air pageants in different parts of the Commonwealth. Following on that question he asked me, whilst I was crossing the floor before or after a division, if I would grant him an interview. I said that I could not do so immediately, because I had other appointments to keep, but that if he would- see me in my office at halfpast eight I would again discuss the matter with him. I have no record of his keeping that appointment or making a further request for an interview. I therefore think that the honorable gentleman was not fair in accusing me of discourtesy. I did all that was humanly possible to meet his wishes in the time available after dealing with official business. I cannot promise to vary the decision that has been arrived at, because it is in conformity with the policy of the Defence Department in connexion with requests of this nature. If, however, the honorable member has additional facts to show that the request made by the Ballarat Aero Club is of a special nature which would justify reconsideration of the matter, he can rest assured that his request will receive the same consideration as that of any other honorable member.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) referred to the reduction of membership of various rifle clubs. That reduction is the result of a decision by Parliament, in connexion with last year’s Estimates, to make provision for 50,000 riflemen. It is difficult, because of resignations and enrolments, to keep the membership of rifle clubs to a particular figure. As the total number had been exceeded, the department sent a circular to all rifle clubs informing them that their membership would have to bc reduced, in conformity with the decision of Parliament. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as an ex-Minister for Defence, will know that if the Estimates had provided for a specific number, there would not be sufficient money for the subsidising of any excess riflemen. The subject of rifle clubs finance is under consideration in connexion with the preparation of the budget for the next financial year.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I regret that the Minister for Defence has made remarks that are not true.
– Order !
– The Minister has, perhaps unintentionally, made a statement which reflects on the truth of the complaint which I made.
-Order! If the honorable member has been misrepresented, he may explain wherein he was misrepresented. Beyond that he may not go.
– I wish to make it clear that I did not, as the Minister said, speak to him when he was crossing the. floor of the House. I spoke to him while he was sitting on the Opposition side of the chamber during a division. He told me then that he was busy, and asked me if I could see him in his office at half-past eight. I said, “Certainly I will”. He then said, “1 will send a messenger to you and let you know”. That he did not do. As the messenger did not come to me, naturally 1 did not go to see the Minister.
– Order ! The honorable member is now disputing what the Minister has said. He is not making a personal explanation. The honorable member will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I and 5. The information will be obtained. il. ‘i.’lie Government does not propose to expend money in experimenting in thu trentment of T,n 1 Lal iron ore.
dasked Iiic Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the action taken by the Government In placing an embargo on the export of iron ore. unit the reason advanced that such action was necessary in order to provide that ample supplies of iron and steel would be ;i m i 1st Iiic for future national development, can bc furnish any reasons why the Government Iki–* not. extended the embargo to include pig i roti and steel ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
A* up to the present date the quantities nf pig iron and steel products exported from Australia aro comparatively small viewed in relation to contemplated exports of iron ore, iiic Government has not considered it necessary at this juncture to restrict the export of these commodities. Tlie position is, however, being watched closely.
n asked the Minister in Charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
What is the latest progress made by the officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in their endeavour to find a means of exterminating the Australian-wide household pest known as “silverfish”!
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
An effective method of treatment of silver, fish has been developed by thu Council for Scientific and Industrial “Research. This method consists of preliminary spraying to red nco the initial numbers of the pest, followed by the exposure of a poison bait on cards. Any ordinary commercial pyrethium or derris fly spray cun bc used for the purpose of spraying, and the poison used for the bait is a paste containing barium fluosilicate. This treatment has now been extensively adopted.
Railway Time-table between Capital Cities.
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
y.- On Thursday, the 16th June, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon, notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380617_reps_15_156/>.