15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In connexion with the forthcoming meeting of the Loan Council, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government proposes to submit to the representatives of the States any suggestion for implementing the resolution of the 1936 Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for an investigation into the subject of the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia? Will the Government have such an investigation made before committing the Commonwealth to the expenditure of large sums of money on large-scale railway projects allegedly for defence purposes?
– I shall he glad to answer that question to-morrow. I shall look at the conference agenda.
– The Melbourne
Herald and the Melbourne Argus have recently directed attention to the landing facilities for aeroplanes at Melbourne. Is it true that, last week, aeroplanes were unable, and forbidden, to land at Essendon, and were directed to land at Laverton! Has the department any policy for the provision of another airport for Melbourne for landplanes and seaplanes!
– It is true that one day last week certain airliners were, advised by officers of the Civil Aviation Department to proceed to Laverton, instead of landing at Essendon, because the visibility was better at the time at Laverton than at Essendon. ‘ As the honorable member will know, fog conditions are local, and often one aerodrome is completely out of fog when another is completely fog-bound. Consideration is now being given to the necessity for providing, in the near future, an additional aerodrome at Melbourne and another at Sydney.
– Recently, the Minister for Civil Aviation was making inquiries regarding the utilization’ of the services of aero clubs in the training, of pilots. Has the Minister any information to give to the House in regard to the matter, and, in the event of making arrangements with the aero clubs, will he consider accepting- the assistance of gliding clubs in regard to the preliminary training of pilots ?
– With concurrence of the Minister for Defence, -inquiries were recently initiated by the Air Board into the desirability of utilizing aero clubs and civil aviation schools to a greater extent than at the present time, for the training of a potential reserve of ob initio trained pilots. The department is making a survey of the potentialities of existing clubs and schools, with a view to increasing the training that they are now doing. For some years a grant has been available for gliding clubs, and, speaking offhand, I think that full advantage of it has seldom been taken.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation on the matter of gliding clubs. When consideration of the work of aero clubs and their assistance to aviation generally and the Air Force reserve is given by the Minister, will he also give consideration to the provision of greater financial assistance to gliding clubs, which are a valuable adjunct to aviation in Australia ! These clubs receive approximately £300 a year, which the Minister said he did not think was all being claimed, but in the United Kingdom they receive £10,000 a year. Will the Minister examine the correspondence from the gliding clubs to his predecessor in regard to the provision of greater financial assistance!
– The Air Board is inquiring into this matter of civilian training, with a view to making recommendations, but it is impossible for me to inform the honorable member as to whether recommendations will be made by the board regarding gliding clubs. I shall look into the matter and ascertain what correspondence passed between the gliding clubs and my predecessor.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House as to the intentions of the Government with respect to the meeting of this House next week !
– I regret that I cannot make a statement on that matter at the moment, but. I shall do so before the House adjourns to-day.
– A question without notice was submitted to me yesterday by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). In pursuance of that, I now lay on the table, a copy of the final report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition, together with appendices.
– Has the Treasurer any comment to make .on the unfavourable British press criticism of the new Commonwealth loan in London, making comparisons with loans to Northern Ireland and South Africa! What are the views of the Government in regard to this criticism, and does it feel satisfied that the advice received through its High Commissioner, or such other advisers as it may have consulted in London in regard to this matter, has been altogether satisfactory!
– Taking the concluding part of the question first, my reply is that I am completely satisfied with the advice given by the High Commissioner.
Itis quite true that the underwriters will take up 79.81 per cent. of the total amount.
– Then the loan is a completeflop.
– When the honorable member is a little better acquainted with the London loan market, he will not make such statements.
– It is clear that the interest rate was not too high.
– If Labour had been in office, the interest rate would not have been so high.
– Had the Labour party been in office, the loan would not have been underwritten.
– That shows a nice financial conspiracy against Labour policy.
– That is an admission which is not without some substance. I may state further, in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney, that if the interest rate provided for on this loan had been higher, no doubt an oversubscription might have occurred; but, as honorable members know, the position on the London market is that, with a very favorable interest rate, there is a great deal of operation by what are known as stags. There may be an oversubscription of a loan on a prospect of a quick realization of a short-range profit. In this case the High Commissioner’s negotiations were so successful that the interest rate was, in fact, shaded just as finely as it could be, and at the moment there is a high percentage left with the underwriters. It is not anticipated, however, that that percentage will be such as to prevent a proper digestion of that loan in due course by the London market. So the answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No. This loan was not, on paper, so successful as one or two of those to which the honorable member referred, but that indicates that the interest rate provided for on this loan was more closely in tune with what the market was prepared to regard as a reasonable interest return.”
– Will the Treasurer tell us who are the underwriters in respect of the loan, and why it was open for only one day?
– Usually the underwriters for Australian loans in London are Nivison and Company, but whether there were sub-underwriters on this occasion I cannot say without making . further inquiries. It is not the practice on the London loan market for loans to be open for such lengthy periods as is the case in Australia. In point of fact as the honorable member probably knows, the London market is very sensitive, varying almost from day to day. It has been the practice in the case of Commonwealth loans of the amount of the order of this one to open and close them in one day.
– What was the amount of brokerage?
– I shall have to ascertain that for the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether, following upon the Munich agreement, certain British financial interests made a gift of some millions of pounds, through the British Government, to the Government of Czechoslovakia for reconstruction work in that country? In view of the failure of the Australian loan on the London market will the right honorable gentleman approach the same interests with the object of having a similar amount made available under the same terms to Australia?
– I am aware, only through newspaper reports, of the matter referred to in the first part of the honorable member’s question. As to the second part of it, the honorable gentleman is in error in thinking that as the result of this loan the Commonwealth will not obtain money it requires. In fact it will obtain the money, although 79 per cent. of the liability will be left with a big firm of underwriters in the city of London.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he had any authority from Nivison and Company, underwriters for Australian loans floated in London, to make the statement he made a few moments ago to the effect that if Labour were in power in the Commonwealth Nivison and Company would not underwrite Australian loans.
– None whatever from Nivison and Company. oppositionmembers. - Hear, hear!
– I made my statement on the basis of the known facts of Labour’s financial record in Australia for the last twenty years.
– Is the Treasurer aware that a Labour Government floated the most successful conversion loan in the history of the world up to that date ?
– I cannot allow one question to be based upon another preceding it.
– This is a most shocking political gibe.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he thinks the Government is justified in paying 4.1 per cent., which is the equivalent of 5 per cent. in Australian currency, for a defence loan to protect, among other things, the properties and investments of overseas interests in Australia.
– I cannot agree with the assumption that 4.1 per cent. in England is equivalent to 5 per cent. in Australian currency. As a matter of fact, 4.1 per cent. is 4.1 per cent. in whatever currency it may be expressed. I am’ at a complete loss to follow the mathematics of the honorable gentleman.
– It is 4.1 per cent. sterling.
– Apparently the. Leader of the Opposition is also subject to the fallacy.
– The Government is proposing to borrow £7,500,000 for which it is to pay 5 per cent. in Australian currency.
– I am sorry. I am afraid that no mathematicians in the world would agree with that view.
– I dispute that.
– The honorable gentleman does not do himself justice on this matter. Iregret having to go into mathematics of this kind. Although £4 sterling is equivalent on exchange to £5 Australian it must also be remembered that £6,000,000 sterling is equivalent to £7,500,000 Australian. Consequently, the rate of interest is the same in whatever currency it may be expressed.
– All right.
Award by Public Service Arbitrator.
– Yesterday the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me whether 1 would lay upon the table of the House the depositions of evidence submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator in a matter which I took to be the Postal Workers case. I am now able to inform the honorable gentleman that I am arranging to have the whole of the papers in the case brought to Canberra and i shall lay them on the table of the library.
Salary of Sir Ernest Fisk
– Two days ago I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) a question relating to the salary and expenses paid by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to its managing director, Sir Ernest Fisk, and the Minister for Defence said that he would direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the matter. Has the Prime Minister’s attention been so directed?
– My attention was directed to the question, but there is nothing in substance to add to the reply that was given to the honorable gentleman the other day. The point is, as the honorable gentleman will appreciate, that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is a company incorporated under the law of New South Wales and it is in that company that the Commonwealth acquired shares. The Companies law of New South Wales provides for the publication of the remuneration of directors in a lump sum, and expressly excludes any obligation to publish the salary paid to the managing director. I suggest that it is scarcely reasonable to expect that in the case of this particular company, whose trading activities are extensive and are in competition with those of other companies, it should publish information which is not required of its competitors.
– Is that disgraceful?
– No, in my view it is entirely reasonable.
– Is Sir Ernest Fisk’s salary under £10,000 a year?
– Very much.
– What about his expenses?
– I have not asked for a return of expenses because expenses are merely a recoupment of money allowed to every director and servant of the company. I should be no more prepared to ask for a statement of the expenses of the managing director of that company than
I should be prepared to ask for a statement of the expenses of a Minister or a servant of this House. We must assume honesty in this matter, and in this case we ought to do so.
– I have received a telegram which suggests that the period of two years for the training of air force pilots is likely to be considerably reduced. In view of the danger that might result from a reduction of the training period, will the Minister for Defence guarantee that no such reduction will be made?
– There is no intention on the part of the Air Board to reduce the standard training of pilots.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation hope to be able to present to the House a complete review of the subsidies to internal air lines before Parliament adjourns?
– Yes, but it is impossible for me to say whether it will be complete, because negotiations are at present proceeding, and it is possible that they will not have been completed before the present sittings terminate.
– Will the Minister for Defence say whether the voluntary recruiting drive is still bringing in recruits to the militia, whether all recruits that are offering are being -accepted, and what is the total at present of the Australian militia force?
– The strength of the Militia is approximately 76,000. Normal recruiting has been resumed. No new training centres are being opened, but in centres which are already in existence, recruits are being accepted, except in certain specialized units which cannot absorb more than a certain number.
– Is the Prime Minister able to state the reasons, or if not, will he ascertain them, why the application made by the right honorable member for
Cowper (Sir Earle Page) on behalf of Captain A. J. Kenrick, who will shortly leave for a trip abroad, for the usual government letters of introduction was granted and subsequently withdrawn?
– I think a good purpose might be served in that matter if the honorable gentleman would speak to me about it after the House has gone on to general business.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day : -
A business man who claims to know Japan and the Japanese has just given the Federal Ministry this terse advice on its proposal to station a diplomatic Minister in Japan: - “ Don’t send a fat man. The Japanese don’t like fat men. Send some one tall and stately “.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey).
– In view of that statement, will the Ministry reconsider its decision to send the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), and substitute the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) ?
– Order! The Chair will not allow an ironical question put in this way.
– I thought it was a broad hint that I should go myself.
– I have received the following telegram from the clerk of the Douglas Shire Council: -
Rumoured locally that Port Douglas post office is to be closed and business to be handed to private firm. Wish you to register protest on behalf people this area if rumour correct.
Will the Postmaster-General have inquiries made in order to learn whether it is proposed to close this office, and if it is, will he take steps to ensure that such action is not taken?
– I have no knowledge of the matter. I shall make inquiries and furnish the honorable member with an answer..
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the press report is correct that prominent United Australia party supporters at Moree made strenuous efforts to obtain the sanction of the military authorities for a military escort for Mr. Bruxner, M.L.A., on the occasion of his visit to that town? If the report is correct, will he take steps to ensure that the military forces are not used for the purpose of boosting political personages ?
– This is the first intimation I have had of the matter, but I shall make inquiries. Should the hon- orable member himself wish to have a military escort at any time I shall consider his application.
– Is it a fact that the advertising for the internal Commonwealth loan is in the hands of the Gotham agency in Sydney, of which Mr. Sommerlad, United Australia party member of the Legislative Council, is the head? Will he make inquiries as to the form of discrimination which the firm is exercising in the distribution of advertising? Is the firm ‘discriminating in such a way as to make it probable that the bulk of the loan will be left with the underwriters, thus further forcing up interest rates?
– There is no foundation for the suggestion in the tail of the honorable member’s question. As to the other part of his question, I shall have inquiries made. I never heard of this firm before. T am informed by an interjection from the rear that the member of the Legislative Council referred to by the honorable member is a member of the Country party, which I take to be a sign of broadmindedness on the part of the Treasury.
Information Obtained from Recruits.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform me what questions are asked militia recruits upon their joining? Are they required to give particulars of their occupation, and to state whether they are employed or not ? Are those particulars kept on record? Is there any record of the number of persons who have joined the Militia, and subsequently retired from it before completing their period of training?
– I shall supply the honorable member with the copy of the attestation form signed by recruits. I am not sure what information the honorable member believes should be obtained. I cannot say offhand the number of persons who have joined the Militia, and subsequently retired before completing their period of training.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision regarding the site of the capital of New Guinea? Does it propose to endorse the decision of th<? last Government?
– No decision has been reached by this Government.
– Is it a fact that all military uniforms made up in Sydney are previously cut- out in Melbourne: if so, what is the reason?
– I am unable to sa,v offhand ; but, I shall make inquiries.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to furnish any information regarding the dismissal of a workman engaged on the construction of tunnels and gun emplacements on George’s Heights because he continually complained to an officer that, it was dangerous to use concrete in which the cement was in the proportion of only one to eight?
– This is the first 1 have heard of the matter. I shall be glad if the honorable member’ will give me further particulars, and 1 shall have inquiries made.
– 1 move -
That Standing Order No. 70 - U o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
Although I am moving for the suspension of the standing order, which provides that new business shall not be called on after 11 p.m., it is not proposed, as I understand the business at present, to ask that new business should be called on after midnight. The motion has been moved in order to give a little flexibility to proceedings.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition) [3.8]. - I feel under no obligation to bless this proposal. The carrying of the motion postulates that the House will be asked to sit very late at night. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not been able to tell me whether it is intended to sit next week or the week after, we may, if this motion is carried, be waiving the 11 o’clock rule in respect of a legislative period of several weeks.
– The motion refers to the remainder ofthis week only.
– Then it will apply only for to-night?
– I do not anticipate that the House will sit to-morrow night. I shall be able to state that definitely later.
– Then it must be anticipated that the House will sit all night to-night?
– Why does the honorable member say that? The only effect of the amendment is that new business may be called on after 11 o’clock.
– Why not make the motion apply only to to-night?
– I am not yet certain about to-morrow night.
– The Opposition is prepared to sit reasonable hours on as many days in the week as Ministers ask us to sit. We think at this stage that it would be better to sit four days rather than three, so that the Government may have a respite in which to prepare its budget, and toattend to other matters ahead of it.
– And to prepare for the wrath to come.
– And for the reason mentioned by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Perhaps one of the reasons why the Prime Minister wishes to have the rule suspended for this evening is to enable the Government to avoid sitting next week. If it is the intention of the Government to adjourn Parliament to-morrow, and to meet again the week after next, then I submit that that arrangement shows lack of consideration for honorable members from distant States such as Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, who will be unable to return to their homes and so will be obliged to remain in Canberra until Parliament re-assembles the week after next.
– The honorable member is anticipating trouble. Before I make any decision as to whether the House shall sit next week, or the week after, I shall discuss the matter with him and with the Leader of the Country party.
.- The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that no new business will be brought before the House after 12 o’clock relieves my apprehension with regard to an all-night sitting to-night, and I will support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
1 ) That a joint committee be appointed -
to consider the subject of unemployment insurance, the recommendations which on27th February, 1937, were submitted to the Prime Minister by Mr. G. H. Ince on that subject, the system of unemployment insurance operating in Queensland, and the principles appropriate to a scheme of unemploy- ment insurance for the Commonwealth, and to report accordingly; and
This motion is in pursuance of the policy recently announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this House, and I have much pleasure in moving its adoption. I hope it will be accepted, not only by this House, but also by the country generally as an appreciable step forward towards the objectives of national insurance, to which, in one way or another, practically every member of this Commonwealth Parliament has lent support. My own attitude on this subject is,I think, well known. I have studied it both here and abroad. and despite the differences of opinion that exist on the detailed aspects of its application, I have great hopes that the procedure now proposed will evolve a scheme acceptable to Parliament and to the people of Australia.
Honorable members will recall that when the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was passing through this House, the Government of the day gave certain undertakings, involving extensions of the then proposals. I was one who believed that we should introduce national insurance on a wider scale than that provided by the bill, and I am still of that opinion.
Speaking for his Government, the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), repeatedly informed this House and the country that the 1938 measure was but an instalment. We believe that the now inevitable delay in bringing that measure into operation, affords an opportunity to proceed with a larger instalment of this social service.
Apparently the late Prime Minister was not the only one who believed that a wider application of the principles of social insurance was both desirable and expedient. Only last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) informed this House that if the Government widened the scope of its insurance proposals to include unemployment, the Prime Minister would be astonished at the extent of the collaboration which would be offered by the Opposition.
I now present that promissory note for payment. But lest it be said that I am reading too much into the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition last week, let me go back to something much more specific. A year ago, when discussing the 1938 measure, that honorable gentleman said -
It would be tragic, if at this stage, the Commonwealth Parliament failed to do its utmost to accept a larger responsibility for the social services of Australia than it has hitherto accepted. I am glad indeed that, after nearly four decades of federation, we have reached the stage at which we can come face to face with a greatly enlarged plan to deal with the health and welfare of family life in Australia; but I submit that the general principles of the bill should be reconsidered. The Government should take cognizanceof the views of the Opposition, and of the friendly societies, and should endeavour to deal with the subject not as a party ministry but as the executive, of thenation, co-operating with all interests concerned in the working out of a better plan than the bill contemplates.
– I rise to a point of order.I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if it is in accordance with usage in this chamber, for an honorable member to quote from a speech made by another honorable member in this House, and reported in Hansard?
– The honorable the Minister was not quoting from Hansard. It is not in order to quote from another debate which has taken place in this chamber during this session.
– This speech was made twelve months ago, Mr. Speaker.
– It was made during the present session, however.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.This motion provides an unusual opportunity to do those very things, and every one of them, which were then suggested, should be done. It envisages a larger responsibility for social services by thisCommonwealth authority; it contemplates an enlarged plan to deal with the health of the family life in Australia; it provides for a reconsideration of the general principles of the bill; it proposes to take cognizance of the view of the Opposition and likewise of the friendly societies; it attempts to lift this human issue from the realm of party politics and in the honorable member’s own words - proposes to set up a National Executive which, in cooperation with all other interests concerned, will endeavour to work out a better plan than the then bill contemplated.
This motion, as I have demonstrated, conforms to all the stated requirements of the Leader of the Opposition, and of course we have gone even further. But we are still open to receive further suggestions “ for improvement from any worthwhile quarter.Surely we are entitled to expectsupport for this motion from the party which the honorable gentleman leads. I also hope to have active co-operation of the Leader of the Country party in assisting to. make the provisions of the present act more acceptable to those whom the right honorable gentleman and his followers directly represent. It has been claimed that the present actis inequitable in its application to the smallfarmer and his type who, whilst being required to contribute towards the benefits accruing to his employees and their families, is not able to qualify for any benefit for himself and hisfamily. It is claimed, and I would not like to combat the claim, that a farming proprietor, earning less than the prescribed income, should be entitled to the same treatment as his employees in respect of both contributions and benefits. It is, I am afraid, generally assumed that contributions of voluntary contributors must inevitably be loaded, but I have definite ideas on this matter which would probably not be challenged by the most active advocate of rural interests.
The setting up of the proposed committee affords an opportunity to propound this point of viewand others which affect those persons who, because they did not possess the qualifications of an employee, are excluded from the existing act. Itdoes more than that; it affords the Country party, through its selected representatives, participation in framing a measure conforming to one of the basic principles upon which they, in common with members of the direct Government party, were elected. During the debate on the National Insurance Bill in this House last year, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) reminded his colleagues that ever since he had been connected with the Country party, that party had given pride of place on its platform to some scheme of national health and unemployment insurance. In fairness to the honorable member I do not think that he has departed from that attitude in the slightest degree, even if the same cannot be said of some of his colleagues. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) was equally emphatic in subscribing to the principle of natiorial insurance. His complaint was in respect of the non-inclusion of unemployment insurance. The motion which I ant now proposing meets that criticism. Statements of this kind could be multiplied. I have referred only to typical statements which could be multiplied were that necessary. They encourage the Government, however, to believe that it can rely on the co-operation of honorable members generally in formulating a measure of social insurance which shall do justice to every section of the community, rural or urban, employer or employee.
It is not expected that the committee will need to call much formal evidence, and provision 13 made in the motion for the collaboration of special interests in regard to health insurance. The suggested procedure need not require many weeks of intensive work. It should be well advanced before Parliament reassembles after the recess, and a report is required not later than the 30th September next.
– Does the Government guarantee to give effect to the report of the committee?
– I shall deal with that aspect later. The motion includes unemployment insurance as a separate subject, but the proposed committee will naturally consider it in relation to the whole scheme of national insurance and report accordingly. It would be competent for the committee to suggest that unemployment should take precedence over the other two issues. The committee is asked to report on. the principles appropriate to unemployment insurance for the Commonwealth, and it must take into account the functions and activities of the States as they bear upon the subject. The Government will use its best endeavours to secure the cooperation of the States in this field, but the committee will not be expected to go into great detail in reporting on financial arrangements or methods of administration. It will be the duty of the Government to take up these matters with the States at a ‘later date, and this will be done when the report of the committee has been received. As soon as the proposed committee can meet, it will be supplied with copies, or summaries, of all relevant documents for its consideration. The question of reestablishing the royal commission on the remuneration of insurance practitioners and cognate subjects can be examined and reported upon in an interim report, thus averting possible delay.
The motion proposes the appointment, by the Minister of eight persons to be associated with the committee during its deliberations. Those appointments shall be made in closest consultation with the interests” they are designed to represent.
Each of the bodies proposed to be thus associated has indicated its enthusiastic readiness to co-operate. There will be suggestions that other bodies should be associated with the committee. I have already received representations to that effect. I point out, however, that all of these interests will be represented by the parliamentary members of the committee. The bodies which it is proposed to associate with the committee are chosen, not to protect - any special interests, but to bring to the committee their special and peculiar experience of the practice and administration of contract medical services. At a later stage when the Government is considering the financial implications of the committee’s report, I shall be equally ready to confer on these issues with representatives of potential contributors, both employers and employees, and any others who might be affected. Immediate representation on the committee, however, must be confined to those whose practical knowledge can assist the committee in its investigation.
The methods of financing any programme of national insurance are not included in the terms of reference to the committee. This must necessarily remain a matter of major government policy; but an important phase of financial implication to which the committee might fittingly apply some thought is whether, in view of the heavy defence commitments of the immediate future, any fund associated with national insurance might, during these years of heavy defence expenditure, refrain from building up reserves which would, under normal circumstances, be regarded as obligatory. By this means the contributions from all sources might be appreciably reduced during the early years of the operation of the scheme. By this means also it should be possible to minimize appreciably the financial burden OU all concerned.
I know that there are some who say, in effect, “We still affirm adherence to the principle of social insurance. We still think it is society’s responsibility to see that the sick are not denied medical service, that the aged must not be left to their own devices, that the widow and orphan are cared for in their distress, and that some’ decent method of sustenance should be provided for those who are innocent victims of industrial upsetment. All of these things must be done - yes! - but not just now. We must wait for another European speech or two to be broadcast before we know whether we can really afford to so indulge these humanitarian impulses “.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I hope that honorable members opposite will help me against those who say those things.
It is, perhaps, not irrelevant to suggest that some who are propounding that point of view are most vocal in suggesting the urgency of a scheme of insurance for members of this House, not when the war clouds roll away, but now. What is it that these people suggest we cannot afford to do - provide medical attention for our sick, provide 12s. 6d. a week to widows, provide 20s. a week sick pay to homes whose pay envelope has ceased to arrive, or that we cannot afford to provide oldage pensions at the rate of 20s. a week? Those who contend that we cannot afford these things because we must hypothecate the whole of our financial resources for defence purposes say, in effect, that the widow must contribute 12s. fid. a week to our warchest, and that corresponding contributions for the same purpose must be made by other potential insurance beneficiaries, who are being asked to’ wait for a more appropriate season.-
– Let the Minister see to it that they are not forced to do that.
– I look to the honorable member to help me in that respect.
– Icertainly shall.
– I am one of those, and I am sure I am not alone in this House who feel that a nation which can face an expenditure of £70,000,000 in order to ensure the security of Australian citizens against dangers from without, can, and should also provide assurance against internal dangers and insecurities. I do not propose to pursue this aspect of the case unless provoked to do so by discussion on the motion, although even this brief reference would be incomplete without drawing the attention of the House to present Australian social expenditure, unplanned and inequitable though some of that expenditure may be. Last year the total amount distributed by federal and State treasuries in assistance which might be expected to be covered by complete national insurance legislation of the kind contemplated in the motion amounted to no less than £25,000,000. This large disbursement suggests that Australia is not altogether indifferent to its social obligation, but I wish to see established some more regular, permanent and dependable system of social relief than that which now obtains. Any system which derives the whole of its financial backing from the current resources of any government treasury is not to be depended upon. We had a classic illustration of this fact not many years ago when an administration, against which no one could possibly suggest lack of heart, was compelled to review the payments to the pensioners of Australia. Nor is its impermanence the only criticism which can be levelled against our present method of social service.
Since I assumed control of the Pensions Department a few weeks ago, I have learned that it is a common practice for old-age pensioners to nominate post offices in districts in which they do not reside, in order to avoid the embarrassing publicity associated with the collections in localities in which they live. This attitude of mind is, of course, quite wrong, but so long as the payment of pensions remains on its present basis, even the most sympathetic administration will not altogether eliminate the feeling to which I have referred. I shall do my utmost to free the old-age pension system from this suggestion of indignity, but the aged citizens of Australia, and the sick and the unemployed, are entitled to protection against these social vicissitudes by a, method which is inherently dignified, and does not depend upon the personal whims of any Minister.
The Public Service recipient of superannuation, the retired police officer, and the railway officer do not have to apolo gize for collecting their allowances, and I want this principle to be extended to all sections of our community. But we are not discussing merely a method of protecting the feelings of social relief recipients, under existing practice. The larger question is, “Are we content to allow the present irregular and inequitable systems to remain, or shall we, as other nations have done, substitute for them a planned and equitable method “ ? The fundamental basis of our federal system is that all citizens of the Commonwealth shall enjoy equal rights; but differentiation must continue, so long as provision of social assistance remains a province of the States. Widows are more generously provided for in some States than in others; methods of unemployment assistance arc extremely variable; even the care of the indigent sick is on an unequal basis as between the States. This is not in accord with the federal spirit. This Government desires to see this corrected, and it can only be corrected by consolidated federal administration. Ofttimes in this House we hear expressions of regret that lines of party demarcation often obscure human issues. These occasions axe generally associated with the obituary notices of colleagues who have passed away. It is all for the good that on such occasions we can, and do, forget our party affiliations ; but is it any disrespect to the dead to suggest that respect for the living, the aged, the sick, andthe economically distressed, calls equally for the subjugation of our political selves?
I have heard it said that the proposal embodied in the motion would be more accep table if it were preceded by a complete repeal of the 1938 act. Such a contention seems to me to be inexplicable. On another issue to come before the House, I shall state the reason for maintaining some portion of the existing act, and I suggest that this reason will commend itself to honorable members, particularly those on the Opposition benches.
I invite each honorablemember to peruse the terms of reference, and then tell the House if he can honestly point to any restriction or limitation, expressed or implied. These terms have been drawn with a sincere desire to make possible the widest investigation, not to benefit or prejudice any interest or interests - not even the Federal Treasury. All that the committee is asked to do is to inves tigate and report upon the following matters : -
Could any charter be wider ? The committee could, under these terms of reference, recommend that all of the benefits contemplated in the 1938 act should be doubled, and that to these should be added additional benefits, the limits of which might be bounded only by its own imagination. It could recommend that every individual in Australia should be included for those benefits, or that they be confined to the members of the House of Representatives. It could recommend that the whole of the administration be taken from the Government and vested in the Opposition. It will not, of course, do any of these things, but the restraining influence will not be found in the verbiage of this motion.
The Government does not ask members of other parties to come into this matter because it is, of itself, inept, I could, personally, on the foundations already established, present a complete measure of social insurance which, I believe, would be generally acceptable to the Houseand to the wider constituency, and I could do this well within theperiod proposed for the committee’s inquiry. We believe, however, with the Leader of the Opposition, that this is a matter which transcends party politics, and by its very nature calls for the co-operation of all. No party in this House can claim a monopoly of solicitude for the physically and economically sick. This motion provides an opportunity for us to pool our solicitude so that, freed from some of the burdens which fall most heavily on the weakest shoulders, Australian home life may become a happier and a sweeter thing. The Government invites all parties to share in this effort. We invite them also to share in any credit which will follow its successful consummation.
– I am amazed at the nature of the speech which the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) has just delivered. He said, for example, that he desired a select committee to be appointed in order to ascertain, in regard to a system of national insurance, what protection should be provided, who should participate, how the scheme should be administered, and what it would cost. He desires the committee to answer these questions; but, in fact, they have already been answered. The Parliament has already legislated in regard to this matter, and we are now asked by the Government to agree to the constitution of a select committee, without any statement from the Government as to why this law has been placed in the refrigerator. Those of us who have looked at the history of the matter are unable to escape charging the Minister himself with a grievous personal culpability in regard to it. He asks that this select committee should consider the problem of unemployment.
– The honorable member asked for that.
– I asked for it on the 8th May, 1938,, and the Minister himself voted against it. The honorable gentleman knows that, when this matter was first raised in the Parliament on the motion of the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that he have leave to bring in a bill in respect of insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, at that initial stage I, on behalf of my party, moved that the order of leave be varied so that it would be within the scope of the Parliament, as representative of all interests in Australia, to consider unemployment, sickness, and partial and temporary invalidity affecting the people of the Commonwealth. Those were the widest possible terms, of reference which the Opposition suggested should condition the discussion of the matter in this Parliament; but the honorable gentleman voted against that. He wanted the discussion to be restricted to employees and their dependants. He shut out all selfemployed workers, all farmers, and all those engaged as small shop-keepers and traders and the like. They were not to bc brought into consideration of the question, even by the Parliament. From the social contingencies which the Parliament was to consider as carrying such a hazard as to involve the pooling of all resources to deal with individual dis abilities, the honorable gentleman voted to exclude the major malady of unemployment from any consideration,- despite the representations of the Opposition, and our urging that the matter should be considered in the widest possible way, without placing any fetters upon the legislature in its dealings with the problem. The honorable gentleman then, as now, sat with the Government of the day, and it lined up its supporters for party political reasons. This gentleman now talks of disregarding party political orientation, although he has regimented himself all through these discussions on those lines.
He invites the House to agree to the appointment of a select committee for the purpose of reviewing legislation that has been passed, but he has not explained to us what authority or justification the present Government has for having failed to put that law into operation. When this matter was discussed a year ago, the honorable gentleman said that it was an urgent one, and the Ministry of the day also declared that it was urgent. It put into operation the guillotine, so that this matter, which was to be legislated for in accordance with the narrow specifications of the Government of the day, should be placed on the statute-book, not later than the 30th June. It was placed there by that date, not by free and open deliberation, but by using the party machine to sup’press constructive amend? ments by the Opposition. This, matter was regarded as urgent last year, and no delay was permitted. I could quote speeches by Ministers of the day, and particularly by the then Treasurer, to show that the matter was regarded’ as urgent. Here is a statement that was made outside this House by the late Prime Minister, the Right Honorable J. A. Lyons -
The legislation was passed by Parliament, and was therefore no longer the’ proposition of either one side or the other, lt is the law of the land, and it is the duty of the Government to carry that law’ out and administer it. That is what the Government is doing.
No explanation was given to the Parliament as to why the law of the land has not been given effect.
– Does not the honorable member desire it to be improved?
– I wished it to be improved all through the discussion, but the honorable gentleman is not yet, even though he is a Minister of State, entitled to nullify the legislative acts of this Parliament merely on his own ipse dixit. This is the Parliament of a democracy, and however much I might have opposed the national insurance scheme before it was put in operation, I say that the Government which, at this moment, is threatening trade unionists with imprisonment for not obeying a certain law, should not itself for reasons of Cabinet turmoil and political disputation, attempt to sabotage the law. It is time the democracy was told these things. When both Houses of the Parliament pass a measure to which the Royal assent is given, it is no longer the function of the Administration to pigeon-hole the matter. But in order that certain honorable gentlemen may justify their acceptance of office in this Ministry, these things are being done. The present Prime Minister left the Lyons Government over this matter, and now some sort of accommodating machinery has to be constructed that will allow him and some of his former colleagues to come together again. The Prime Minister has himself made a declaration as to the merits of further conferences and- inquiries by committees or otherwise on this very subject. He made it, not in a speech, in which even the most gifted in the art of making speeches may sometimes say more than is intended, but in a letter which he wrote to the then Prime Minister, in the course of which he said -
I frankly do not think we can expect to be taken seriously if we start off again with conferences and drafting committees at a time when we have already so notoriously failed to go on with an act which represents two years of labour, a vast amount of organization and a considerable expenditure of public and private funds…
That was the declaration of Robert Gordon Menzies when he tendered his resignation as Attorney-General in the Lyons Ministry. Yet this same right honorable gentleman has now authorized the Minister for Social Services in his own Government to move for the constitution of a select committee which is intended subsequently to report to the Government. We have no tinder taking that the Government will act upon the report when it is received. All it promises to do is to hold further conferences and inquiries. The Minister for Social Services, in the speech which he has just delivered, said that at a later stage, when the Government was considering the financial implications of the select committee’s representations, he would be ready to confer .with representatives of potential contributors, both employers and employees. So that after the select committee has reported on the 30th September - if it does so report - the Government will then proceed to hold further conferences and to cause further delay, all out of considerations of political expediency in order that it may preserve at least some of the homogeneity that it still has, but which is rapidly vanishing. After the committee reports, a conference will be held with employers representatives and another with employees’ representatives. I suppose these conferences will continue until this Government passes from office. At any rate, we can be quite sure that it is not proposed to accept and act upon the recommendations of the select committee.
I shall now direct the attention of honorable members to some recent statements by present colleagues of the Prime Minister. I take it that the Minister for Social Services has submitted his proposition in good faith. He has said that this thing is not financially impossible, and that it can be done. But how can we be expected to accept the proposal to appoint this committee as bona fide, when we call to mind some of the statements made recently by certain honorable members of the present Government? The present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) must, I think he regarded as the most authoritative member of the ‘ Government in respect of the financial position of Australia, notwithstanding that he no longer holds the portfolio of Treasurer. While he was still Treasurer early this year, he said - ‘
Neither the Government nor the people can afford to embark on the national insurance scheme.
He went on to say -
At the present time the Government cannot afford to divert from the vital necessity of national defence large sums of money for any- other purpose’, however necessary or desirable they may be. The Government has no apologies to make, and I have no apology to make for the decision not to introduce the full scheme.
This scheme has a political history. The attenuated act passed by this Parliament was based upon guarantees given to the Country party that in the spring of last year legislation would be introduced either to widen the benefits of the scheme to include self-insured workers, or else to exempt certain farmers from the obligation to contribute. About the end of last year, or a little later, the government of the day apparently found that it was impossible to undertake the financing of the wider scheme that had been promised. Any impartial observer can well imagine the turmoil that must have occurred in the Cabinet at that time. The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) was the Deputy Prime Minister, and he had as his colleagues the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the then Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is the present Prime Minister, and the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who is now Minister for Supply and Development. It can well be imagined what kind of a dilemma these gentlemen found themselves to be in, but, in addition, certain political ambitions thrust themselves forward as facets of the situation. Unquestionably, the government of the day found itself obliged to abandon the promises made to the Country party, with the result that the Country party, in turn, found itself impelled for political reasons to abandon its adherence to the act that had been passed. So the government of the day had then also to abandon die scheme. I direct attention to the following statement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 27th February, 1939:- ‘
The Federal Cabinet, it was reliably reported last night, decided at its series of meetings in Melbourne last week to abandon the national insurance scheme.
That newspaper has always given a very good interpretation, sometimes in advance, of the intentions of anti-Labour governments. On the 2nd March. the same journal stated in a leading article^-
On Monday the ‘ newspapers revealed, not a« a- matter of speculation but as a fact, that the Government lad decided to abandon the scheme.’
The whole scheme would have been abandoned and we should have had no proposal for the appointment of a select committee to proceed to further investigations had it not been for the changes that fate made in the Government of this country through the regretted death of the late Prime Minister. This involved the entire reconstruction of the political parties other than the Labour party. The former Attorney-General, who had left the Lyons Government because of his adherence to the national insurance scheme, and also because of his lack of faith in the effectiveness of any further conferences, which he regarded as so much humbug, saying that the Government could not be taken seriously if it resorted to such devices, found himself the leader of the United Australia party and in the succession to the Prime Ministership. After he assumed office, he took into his fold as Minister for Social Services another honorable gentleman who has said that he stands for national insurance. So we have this political device of shunting the administrative obligations of the Government on to a select committee ! It is said that the purpose of this move is to inform the country of the probable cost of the national insurance scheme. I venture to say that the three members of the National Insurance Commission, in the light of their own fitness for the work which they were appointed to do, and with the help of the voluminous documentation and the innumerable reports that have been furnished from time to time, are fully competent to give the Minister and the Government complete information tomorrow about what any scheme would cost if the Government would only intimate what it wishes to be- covered thereby. 1 remind honorable members that not once, but dozens of times, while the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was before the House, it was stated that the actuarial calculations had been made with scrupulous thoroughness. Whenever we suggested that the scheme should be enlarged . in one direction or another to include additional persons, we were told that to do so would dislocate the whole of the actuarial calculations. The mathematics of the scheme were from the point of view of the then Treasurer, complete and thorough. It is, therefore, questionable whether any further inquiry would be of any value.
Ultimately, the bill was passed, the proclamation for its operation issued, the National Insurance Commission established, the approved societies formed, and the consultative council was functioning. Everybody expected that the law,, as passed by this Parliament, would shortly come into full effect, and it certainly would have done had it not been for .the inability of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer at the end of last year to satisfy the political demands of the Country party. Because the scheme had not been widened to include” self-employed workers and the Government found itself, for one reason or another, unable to widen it, the Country party turned around and said, metaphorically: “If we cannot have a scheme which will include self-employed workers and small farmers, we will not agree to the scheme already hatched, coming into operation.” A degree of political estrangement and conflict followed, which caused the resignation of the then AttorneyGeneral. The present Minister for Supply and Development, who was then Treasurer stated, as I have already said, that the situation had altered and the scheme could not be put into operation. He added that it was of no use referring to speeches which he had delivered on the subject previously to reply to the remarks that he was then making. I accept the genuineness of the view of the ex-Treasurer as to our financial situation. I believe he said what he believed. I think he usually does do so. As I have already observed, I think he is better equipped than any other member of the Ministry, including the present Treasurer, to make a statement, from the point of view of the Government, on the present financial position of the country. That being so, how comes it that the present Minister for Social Services now tells us that this proposed select committee will be able to inquire into the whole matter and propose even more generous terms than those provided in the act now on the statute-book, and also to suggest the payment of allowances to unemployed persons,, a thing that was. previously paid to be. quite impossible?How can the Minister say that we can go on conscientiously propounding such a scheme when the former Treasurer says that we cannot even finance the halfbaked scheme that Parliament has already passed. I do not believe that there is an atom of genuineness in the invitation to this Parliament to set up a further research bureau to review the multitudinous schemes that the governments have had submitted to them since 1928. Therefore, I say that for the Opposition to go on to such a committee would be to humbug the people into the unjustified delusion that they would get a scheme out of such a proposal. The onus is on the Government either to pitt into operation the law already on the statute-book, or to bring down an honest straightforward amending bill to alter that law in accordance with whatever considerations that it deems proper. This device of a select committee is not a genuine way of dealing with the situation. The Government is merely erecting a bridge so that the differences of opinion between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services oh the one hand and the other Ministers inherited from the Lyons Government on the other call be reconciled so that all will be able to accommodate themselves in Cabinet in which it is already difficult to find offerers to recruit those who might leave it. Every resignation brings nearer the destruction of the -United Australia party Ministry. Coalition with the Country party is impossible while this national insurance obstacle stands in the way. The Country party knows that it would lose the seats that it holds if it were unable to redeem the promises that it made to the people in justification for the support that it gave to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. The truth is that the country, haying examined this act, regards it as” being full of anomalies. It contains so much discrimination between sections of the- community and is so unfair in its incidence that there has been a widespread demonstration of opposition to the measure. On the one hand, the Country party, therefore, says, “It is’ unsafe for us to identify ourselves with’ it “. On the other hand, the Government face’s the definite and unequivocal statements of the Prime Minister that the national insurance. ought not to be abandoned and also the declarations by the Minister for Social Services, who wants something done. This is just a political device that the Government hasconjured out of the’ hat, very much in the same way as the conjuror produces rabbits, and dangled before the people and Parliament. No one will be satisfied by this procedure. Nothing much more can be learnt about national insurance, although I believe that we could learn something in respect of unemployment, and I see no justification for a royal commission or a select committee on health services and the pensions sides of the matter. If all of that information is not already available, the former Treasurer (Mr. Casey) spoke without the book when he spoke on the measure last year. All of that research has been completed. There is scope for examination restricted to unemployment, but I do not believe that the Government is more genuine in respect of employment insurance than it is in respect of any other aspect of national insurance. Therefore, I shall vote against the motion moved by the Minister for Social Services.
– Last night I spoke to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) in regard to the conduct of the debate on this important question and I pointed out it was only fair to the House that it should have before it all of the proposals of the Government. I was given to understand that immediately after the speech of the Minister for Social Services on this particular matter, the debatewould be adjourned to enable the Minister to make his second-reading speech on the bill so that every one would know, first of all, what the Government intends to do. Then we should know where we stand.
– If the right honorable gentleman desires the adjournment of this debate he may have it.
Debate (on motion by Sir Earle Page) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Frederick Stewart) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to annul certain proclamations made under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938, and under certain acts with which that act is incorporated.
. - This procedure is all very well from the viewpoint of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but I move -
That all words after the word “to” second occurring be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the fol lowing words: “repeal the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938 “.
By way of parenthesis, I understand that the right honorable member for Cowper desired that the secondreading speech be delivered before the debate on the motion for the appointment of a select committee went on, but, of course, the honorable gentleman may not reach the second reading.
– I realize that.
– I am convinced that it is the considered opinion of the people that this legislation should be repealed. 1 believe that no good purpose can be served by the process contemplated by the Government of annulling its application until some indefinite date, and in the meantime, awaiting events, which may include a report by another select committee or royal commission or innumerable conferences awaiting whatever state of affairs, economic or financial, that the Government would consider satisfactory to warrant it to embark upon a system of national insurance. When that time comes, it seems to me to be inevitable that the 1938 act will have to be very substantially amended. The motion moved by the Minister for Social Services a few moments ago does ask us seriously to contemplate the probability of far-reaching and drastic changes in that act. If that be the case, it seems to me far better to repeal the act in toto.
– Clean the slate altogether !
– Yes. Clean the slate and make a fresh and healthy start after the inglorious fiasco which has marked the 1938 act.
.- I second the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) because I think it is reasonable that we should have a clean slate before we give consideration to the proposal which has been thrown before us by the Minister for Social ‘Services (Sir Frederick Stewart). When the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was before Parliament last year,’ the Opposition strongly opposed it for very good reasons, and, in demanding now that the act be repealed, we are consistent. When the bill was before Parliament we opposed it, because it was not of a national character, numerous sections being excluded from its scope, including farmers, shopkeepers, and self-employed persons. We opposed it before and we oppose it now because it does not include provision for unemployment insurance, which is particularly necessary as a safeguard against malnutrition and sickness. We believe that the Minister for Social Services gave a great deal of consideration to this matter before he joined this Government, but that all of this shadow-sparring and time-wasting is designed to save the face of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister himself.
– It may not be much of a face, hut it is the only one [ have and it is worth saving.
– We propose the repeal of the act because it contains no provision for health benefits for wives and families of contributors. The fundamental of any health scheme is the care of mothers and babies. There is no guarantee that after this time-wasting committee has done its work the act will be amended in order to include such provision. The act contains no provision for hospital cases. It omits definite provision for casual workers, and it discriminates between males and females. We think that it is retrogressive as a social measure, because it ignores the cardinal feature of taxation, that those in the best position to pay should bear the cost. Under the act those in receipt of large incomes from property and investments, high wage-earners, those on large salaries, and professional men, are not liable to contribute towards the cost of the scheme. The act is designed to relieve the Government of the necessity for increased taxation on high incomes to maintain the existing law to provide wider social services. We believe 11mt in proposing the appointment of a select committee in order to waste time the Government is trying to get itself out of the cul-de-sac in which it has found itself. It is not prepared to face the issue. The people of Australia, when they come to consider the utterances made within the last six months by the Prime Minister, and the utterances that the Minister for Social Services has made previously and repeated now, will reach the conclusion that the attitude of these leading Ministers provides the greatest political somersault ever made on a major policy. The people will be astonished, but not members of the Opposition, who know the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services. We are not surprised at anything that members of this Government may do in order to cling to office. Ministers have taken up an attitude one day, and abandoned it the next. To-day they accept amendments which only yesterday they violently condemned. The Government has “squibbed “ the issue, but we shall not let it get out of its difficulties so easily as it thinks. The Government cannot make us a party to its time-wasting proposals designed simply to save its face, and I shall be amazed if the Country party falls into the trap which has been set for it. The Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear that the fundamental objection of the Labour party to the act in its present form is that unemployment insurance is excluded, and that widows pensions were to be put on a contributory instead of a non-contributory basis. “The Labour party believes that any national insurance scheme should include widows’ pensions, invalid and old-age pensions, and unemployment benefits. The act as it stands excludes the unemployed and intermittent relief workers, thus making no provision for the most needy sections of , the community.
The Prime Minister’s excuse for not going on with the scheme at the present time, and for proposing that a select committee be appointed, is very weak in view of his statement when he resigned from the Lyons government. At that time, he stated that he resigned with reluctance, and perhaps he did. He is no political neophyte, but a mature politician with years of experience in State and -Federal politics, as well as at the bar. We can well understand that such a man would not arrive at a hasty decision. He couched his statement in words which cannot be misunderstood. At the time of his resignation he stated-
I frankly do not think that we can expect to be taken seriously if we start off again with conferences and drafting committees at a time when we have so notoriously failed to go on with an act which represents two years of labour, a vast amount of organization and a considerable expenditure of public and private funds.
– We have never taken him seriously.
– No, but there is a danger that a section of the public may. The Prime Minister’s statement is a clear and definite one. In justifying his decision to resign at that time, he said-
It might possibly have afforded me a way out of this impasse if I had been able sincerely to state that the carrying out of the defence programme rendered necessary the postponement or abandonment of national insurance. But the facts are that on December 8th, when the Government’s announcement was made, our new three years’ defence programme of £63 million had actually been presented to, and approved by, Parliament.
The present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who was then Treasurer, stated -
We could afford the scheme in 1938, but we certainly cannot afford it in 1939.
Now he is sitting cheek by jowl with the Minister who stated to-day that the Government would probably come forward later with a fuller and more comprehensive scheme. The Minister for Supply and Development, who was Treasurer until quite recently, should have a fair knowledge of the financial position of the country. After having given months of serious consideration to the matter, he first said that it was the duty of the Government to go on with the national insurance scheme; then, after pressure had been brought to bear on him by. certain members of the Cabinet, he said that the country could not afford it. The present Prime Minister, however, brushed aside as a mere excuse the statement that the country could not afford it and he was so sure of his position and bis facts that he resigned from the Cabinet to show how strongly he felt on the matter. Several members of the present. Government have . made contradic tory statements on this subject. We, on this side of the House, have never believed that they could be regarded seriously, and the people are beginning to view with suspicion everything that is said by the Government in regard to this major matter of policy and others.
I used to give credit to the Minister for Social Services for being seriously desirous of putting a national insurance scheme into operation. I was amazed, therefore, when he accepted a position in the present Cabinet, because it seems quite evident that the Government has no intention whatever of going on with the national insurance scheme, notwithstanding the fact that the right honorable member for Kooyong is Prime Minister. The Government is merely advancing facesaving propositions in an attempt to gull the people. This is what the Minister for Social Services said when he first found that the national insurance scheme was to be modified -
What are the reasons advanced for this extraordinary turn about? It is suggested that the requirements of the defence programme make the financing of the scheme impossible. There are apparently a lot of people in Australia who do not accept that as the real reason, and I am one of them.
He stated, in effect, that he was not going to be fooled by the specious excuses of the Government, which makes it all the more amazing that he should have allowed himself to become the instrument of the Prime Minister in his attempts to cover his tracks. He may be successful in fooling a few of the people, but I shall be surprised if he is able to - get this motion through the House. On another occasion, the Minister for Social Services criticized the shiftiness of the Government in its attitude to national insurance. He said -
That shiftiness is the outstanding feature about the whole unhappy period.
The present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) was also outspoken. “ This “, he said, “ is the most vacillating government in the history of federation “.
– They are both back in the Ministry now, and that has quietened them.
– That is so. Now the honorable member for Henty is a member of a government which is continuing its vacillating methods, a government- which does not know whether it is coming or going, which makes decisions one day and wants to go back on them the next. In order to cling to office it will abandon legislation, or re- draft it so as to meet the whims and fancies of sectional interests.
I hope that we shall hear the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) take part in this discussion. Addressing the Graziers Conference in Sydney, he said that the Country party supported the bill while it was before the Souse, at the request of its leader (Sir Earle Page) but only after it had obtained a guarantee from the Government that certain anomalies prejudicial to primary producers would be removed. Is the honorable member satisfied that those anomalies have been dealt with?
– I believe that the honorable member is not satisfied, and I claim his vote. I feel sure that he will support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition that the act will be repealed. On the occasion to which 1 refer the honorable member for Riverina, went on to say that the Country party had been told by the Government that it could not carry out its undertaking to remove certain anomalies affecting primary producers, and bring in a supplementary scheme dealing with the selfemployed and small employers. There was, he said, no slur on members of the Country party in saying that, if the Government did not carry out its part of the contract, they could not support the scheme. I am anxious to see how the Country party will vote on the motion now before us. Last year, we were told that the national insurance scheme was an urgent matter; that the Government proposed to go full steam ahead with itThen we ‘were told that the scheme would have to be modified along the lines suggested by the leader of the Country party. That proposal provided for the elimination of old-age pensions and widows’ pensions, and for reduced sickness and disablement benefits. It is amazing to think that any government would ever suggest cutting out pensions to widows and dependent children. In his speeches on the bill the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) again and again referred to the advantages conferred in the scheme upon widows and dependent children. Se said that, while they were- by no means adequate, they were one of the few bright spots in the whole measure. It was a dastardly suggestion on the part of the Government to propose depriving those unfortunate women left without means of support of the -pension which they had been promised. As the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) said, “The mothers, potential and actual, are the most precious asset of Australia”. Yet the government of the day refused to assist them in any way whatever.
Can it be seriously suggested that any further inquiry into national insurance is necessary? In more than 30 countries national insurance schemes have been in operation for many years. At election after election the leaders of both the United Australia party and the Country party have promised to introduce legislation to provide for national insurance. We were told that it would not be sectional legislation, but that it would provide for unemployment, sickness, widows, orphans and. dependent children. Those promises have not been fulfilled. Instead, the Government introduced a sectional measure. Thirteen years ago, a nationalist government promised to introduce a scheme of national insurance which would include unemployment, benefits. From 1925 to 1927 a royal commission, which inquired into this subject, issued four reports. In 1923, the right honorable member for Cowper, who was then Commonwealth Treasurer, introduced a national insurance bill ; now he has gone back on everything he said in 1927.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th June (vide page 1426).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ operation “ he omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ after the people have been consulted “.
I move this amendment because the Opposition desires to protest strongly and effectively against this legislation. Honorable members on this side have given many reasons why this measure should not be brought into operation. We submit that it is unnecessary, and that, in its present form, it is a forerunner to compulsory military training and industrial conscription. There is ample justification for that fear existing in the minds of hundreds of thousands of working men and women throughout Australia. This iniquitous measure, aimed against the freedom of Australian democracy, should not come into operation until the people of Australia have been consulted. On more than one occasion, the Government has claimed that it stands for democracy, and that it believes in consulting the people on major matters of policy. Up to the present the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has been quite unsuccessful in his attempts to convince honorable members that there is extreme urgency for this legislation. Ministers have on occasions faced two ways on this question. When a sister measure was under consideration recently, the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) opposed an amendment moved by me one night, but next morning the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) accepted four-fifths of that amendment, having found that the numbers were against him. Similarly, in connexion with this bill, the Government has vacillated, and if rumours are correct, it will vacillate a great deal more. The Minister for Defence made a very eloquent speech, but he failed to justify the Government’s action in excluding from the provisions of this measure legislation for the taking of a census of wealth in addition to manpower. In my opinion the Minister will find that in this connexion also, a majority of honorable members in this House are against him. At any rate he will be obliged to put forward more cogent reasons and arguments if he hopes to convince the committee that it would not be advisable to postpone the commencement of this act until after the people are consulted.
.- We have heard much from the Government, particularly from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), of the democracy that exists in Australia to-day. We also heard from that right honorable gentleman his own defence of his action in not going to the war at a certain critical period of his life. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman exercised a right which, judging by this legislation, he intends to deny to other citizens of Australia. There is no doubt that the vast majority of the people of Australia agree that this bill is the first step towards industrial conscription, and conscription for service in the various arms of the defence forces. But we on this side of the chamber believe that with regard to this legislation the people of Australia should first be consulted in much the same way as the Prime Minister consulted his own conscience on the question of whether or not he should go to the war. The Opposition asks that before a farreaching measure of this description is put into operation, the people of Australia should be consulted in order to find out whether or not they are prepared to make the sacrifices involved. I know that the defence which will be put up by the Minister will be the same as that put up by the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), namely, that both the Country party and the United Australia party have pledged themselves not to introduce conscription into Australia.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– The speech made by the Minister for Defence dealt extensively with conscription.
– That was in reply to the arguments put up by members of the Opposition.
– I am endeavouring to show why the people of Australia should be consulted before the step proposed under this legislation is taken. We have been told by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Country party that at the last elections, they gave to the people definite pledges that legislation of this . description, which initiates conscription in Australia, would not be introduced during the life of this Parliament. I submit, therefore, that I am entitled to claim that there is a danger that those pledges will be broken. Surely if there is any aspect of this matter to whichhonorable members should be permitted to refer, it is the defence put up by the Government to allegations made by the Opposition.
– The honorable member is not entitled to make a secondreading speech at this stage.
– I understand that, Mr. Chairman. Had I been here earlier in the week honorable members would have heard more from me. The defence of this measure put forward so far by Government supporters, and by the Leader of the Country party, is even less convincing if we look a little further afield than election pledges given in this country. For instance, the present British Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain) gave a declaration that in no circumstances would he introduce conscription into Great Britain, A change of circumstances, however, over which that right honorable gentleman possibly had no control, led to a situation in which the Prime Minister of a country of vastly greater influence than Australia compelled him to renounce his pledge. By introducing this legislation, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Country party are definitely renouncing their pledges, and I submit that this bill should not come into force until the Government receives further endorsement by the people of its present policy. If, as the Government claims, circumstances regarding possible danger to this country have altered since the pledges were given and the situation is now so grave that the breaking of those pledges is warranted, then the Opposition merely asks that the people should be again approached and asked for their opinion. The Government need only say to the people “ Circumstances have arisen which we did not foresee. The position is now such that the conscription of the man-power of Australia is required, and we ask you for endorsement of that policy”.
– I rise to a point of order. This committee is not dealing with the question’ of conscription, and I submit that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is not entitled to discuss that matter.
– I rise to a further point of order, Mr. Chairman. I should like to know whether or not the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is acting in conformity with the practice of this House under its standing orders, in addressing this committee with his hands in his pockets?
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders which suggests that an honorable member may not keep his hands in his pockets when speaking. In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Barton, honorable members who know the Standing Orders will realize that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) was in order because of the nature of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I have been following the speech of the honorable member for Dalley very closely.
– I can understand the feelings of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) on this matter.I know that he at least is desirous of imposing conscription upon the people.
– The honorable member must realize that he is now not in order.
– It is my firm opinion that upon a measure which involves so grave a departure from an undertaking given by the Government and by the Country party, the people should be given an opportunity to express their opinion on the matter. The Government -should not use its nebular majority in this House to inflict this first instalment of conscription on the people, and in view of the definite pledges given, the enforcement of this interference with the liberties of the people should not be a matter for determination merely by this Government. The Government, therefore, should take its courage - if it has any - in its hands, and tell the people that the circumstances under which it gave those pledges have altered, and that it is prepared to leave to the people the decision as to whether this legislation should be brought into operation.
– There might be one big advantage in following that course. It would probably be shown that the people, at least, know more about this subject than honorable members opposite.
– The honorable gentleman may be right. That course has certainly one advantage to recommend it, because, after all, the question as to whether any man should sacrifice his life in any particular cause is peculiarly a question which only the individual can satisfactorily settle for himself. Since the Government has seen fit to break the pledge it gave to the people it should now go back to them, and ask for .their sanction to proceed with this legislation which, after all, is really the first instalment of conscription.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). In connexion with a measure which is as bad as this one, it is, perhaps, the only satisfactory amendment that could be made. The amendment proposes that the operation of this legislation be postponed until the people have had an opportunity to express their views upon the measure. The Government has the choice of either accepting the amendment and going to the people on that issue immediately, or waiting until it is forced to go to the country, which, in any case, will not be very long. One wonders why the Government considers this measure to be so urgent that it has departed from the usual procedure in fixing the date of commencement. It is usually provided that a measure shall not come into operation until one month after the Royal assent has been given. In this instance, however, the Government is over anxious to get its hands on the youth of Australia.
– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– Surely sufficient confusion already exists in the minds of the people regarding the obligations which will be imposed upon them under this measure to justify some little delay in putting it into operation. The number of measures which, within a few days, have lost their feature of urgency after the Go. vernment has described them as such is . remarkable. I fail to see. on what ground the Government claims it to be urgent to put this legislation into operation. After all, it already has its hands full dealing with matters with which this measure is concerned, and, therefore, it will not be able to implement immediately many of the provisions of this bill. However, honorable members on this side are most concerned that the bill be delayed for a period sufficient to give the people an opportunity to express themselves on it, because it will vitally affect all persons , between the ages of 18 and 65 years. Unfortunately, those under 21 will not have an opportunity to express their opinion on the measure through the ballotbox. The Government would be well advised to accept the amendment. If it does so, and secures the consent of the people to proceed with its proposals, no further objection can be taken to this legislation. The proposals embodied in this bill, however, have never been submitted to the democracy of this country. They -have not been mentioned in any election policy-speech. If the Government considers it necessary to implement this legislation as soon as possible, it should go to the country straight away on that issue. Alternatively, it can submit its proposals to the people by way of a referendum. The amendment is logical, and should commend itself to a courageous government.
.- Tinarguments advanced by honorable members opposite in support of the amendment are nothing but audacious propaganda. This bill does not contain one word about conscription, as we understand the word. To attempt, therefore, to lead any one to believe that it, involves conscription is absurd. The. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. . Curtin) himself, in the course of a debate in this House, and also in a press interview, declared that he considered it essential that thi: number of men able to carry out all forms of work should be known. .In making that statement, he could not have thought for one moment that such a proposal could be implemented without special legislation. Were the Labour party in power it would introduce a measure exactly along these lines.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause, which deals with the dato of commencement of this legislation.
– The arguments raised in support of the amendment are absurd; they are purely political propaganda.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) failed to convey any information to the committee to show that any urgency exists which would justify the immediate application of this legislation. I admit that the Minister is sincere in his efforts to prepare the defences of this country as rapidly and as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, I believe that this measure simply camouflages conscription.
– The honorable member will not be in order if he continues along those lines.
– The proposals embodied in this measure should be referred to the people, who have every right to say whether or not the Government should be permitted to use compulsion in the compilation of a national register. Any suggestion of compulsion in our defence preparations wi 1 only create dissension and chaos in the community. In fact, if proposals of this kind are persisted with, we shall probably find that it will set father against son. I feel sure that the Minister does not realize this aspect- of the measure ; if he did, he would not have introduced the bill.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the merits of the bill. He must confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair, which deals with the date of commencement.
– I appeal to the Minister to delay the operation of this legislation in order to give the people the right to say whether or not the Government should use compulsion in this matter.
– The question of compulsion is not involved in this clause.
The Chair will not argue with the honorable member.
– I am submitting that the people have every right to be consulted on a proposal of this kind. If the Government does not take steps immediately to give that opportunity to them, by way of referendum, they will certain y voice their opinion at the ballot-box. I appeal to the good sense of the Minister not to do anything which would cause disruption amongst the people in connexion with the efforts being directed to the adequate defence of Australia.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the bill generally. He must confine his remarks to the clause.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to this clause because he desires the committee to oppose conscription, which is a villainous policy. In this democratic country, the people should never he deprived of the right of freedom of action.
– I again ask the honorable member to obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I ask for your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether the committee is entitled to discuss an amendment that would involve the Commonwealth in the expenditure of money, since the Executive has not recommended any appropriation for the purpose of the amendment.
– I submit that the point of order cannot be sustained. If the amendment were agreed to, the result would be merely a postponement of the date on which the act would come into operation. The amendment would impose no obligation on the Government to eonsuit the people, and therefore, no expenditure of public money would be involved.
– No expenditure is directly implied by the amendment.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has suggested that there should be an appeal to the people before this measure is put into operation. The Opposition has consistently appealed to the Government not to divide the people by legislation of this kind, but the experience of the Commonwealth has been that there is no better divider of the people than a referendum.
– -What about a general election?
– That is not fought on a single issue, but involves many matters. This bill raises a minor issue, which I cannot imagine the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) would regard as more important than the opinions held concerning national insurance and one or two other matters. I hope that the Government will not weaken in its opposition to the amendment. The only lesson one may learn from some of the speeches by members of the Opposition in regard to this bill is that during the crisis last September, and again during the middle of March, they were veritable Rip Van Winkles.
– I support the amendment. I was given to understand at another stage of the consideration of this bill that the Government had, in fact, considered the withdrawal of the measure.
– In the light of the informative and diligent debate that has taken place upon it, to which the Minister listened with exemplary patience, I thought that it would be withdrawn.
– The clause under consideration contains no reference to the withdrawal of the bill.
– There is no hope, apparently, of that being done. I suggest that the proposal to postpone the operation of the measure until the people have been consulted is a reasonable one. The bill has ceased to be an urgent one, if it ever were of an urgent nature, and there is no longer any serious suggestion that the Government considers it urgent.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) seems to assume that consultation of the people upon the bill implies that they would be consulted by means of a referendum, but there is another and perfectly orderly way of ascertaining their wishes. I refer to the ordinary means of general elections, which occur about every three years. As the fact has been elicited that the bill would excite a vast amount of opposition and create great turmoil and ill-will in the community, I think that ‘if it were considered soberly by the people at the appropriate, time of a general election, they would have the benefit of the whole of this debate and of the . reconsidered views of those who have already expressed opinions regarding the proposal. This amendment is entirely in line with the opinion I expressed at another stage of the debate, namely, that the Government has no mandate for this measure. That, I think, is the strongest possible reason why the people should be consulted. The Minister referred last night to the fact that the Government had no mandate for the bill. He said that the Government had been returned on the policy of effective defence, and that that covered this matter ; but such a proposal as this was never mentioned at the last elections. Does the Minister suggest that a compulsory national register could in any way be assumed to be necessarily part of the defence plans? It is not. Therefore, I say that the people have not been consulted. Of course, it is always conceivable, although I have denied that it is imminent, that a state of urgency might arise which would make it desirable, in the view of Government supporters, to introduce some such measure as this. Parliament meets from time to time, and if a state of emergency occurred action could be taken. No such state exists at present, so we should proceed in a normal way. The people have not been consulted on this subject, and they should be consulted. The electors referred to by the mover of the amendment are our masters and they assume the authority, at intervals,, to direct Parliament. We, as their representatives, appear before them now and again to exchange views with them and to seek a commission from them. In a democracy they are the fountain head of wisdom. As this measure has lost any element of urgency that it ever possessed, as the Government has no mandate to introduce it, and as it will have an obnoxious and disturbing effect upon the people, I urge that the amendment be accepted.
.- I cannot understand why the Government should object to the proposal of the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), in moving the second reading of the bill, said that it was necessary in order to provide for the defence of this country. Surely one thing that needs defence is our democratic rights. One of these, although it was not actually mentioned by the Minister, is the right of the people to approve or disapprove of the policy of the Government. It may be true, as stated by the Minister, that at the last general elections the Government represented to the people that it desired authority to provide for the adequate defence of the country; but it cannot be denied that the Government and its supporters repudiated every suggestion that they intended to adopt compulsory methods in this connexion. They pinned their faith to the voluntary system. Compulsory military service was not the only thing that the people had in mind when they insisted upon an assurance that compulsion would not be adopted. They also contemplated compulsion in the industrial sense. I think it was the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who said that any element of urgency should be eliminated from our consideration of this measure.
– That is not so.
– One Country party representative made such a remark. Probably it was the honorable’ member for New England (Mr. Thompson). In any case, we have every justification for our request that the putting into operation of the bill, if it be passed, should be deferred until the people have been consulted. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suggested that the people would not be intelligent enough, or well informed enough, to deal with this question. He said that honorable members of this Parliament were better informed on the issues involved. If the whole question were submitted to the people, by way of referendum, the people would be furnished with full information on the whole subject. All honorable, members realize that when a referendum is taken both the affirmative and the negative sides are stated clearly in pamphlet form for the consideration of the electors. If a referendum were held on this bill that course could be pursued and the electors would have full information on the subject. Surely the Government does not wish to embroil this country in disturbances from one end to another ! Yet, if it insists on the passage of the bill in its present form, that will be inevitable. Neither the members of the Government nor the other honorable members of the Parliament can be unmindful of the reactions of the general community to the provisions of this bill. Every trade union organization which has considered the measure has carried resolutions of strong protest against it. They have also decided that if the measure becomes law they will obstruct its operation. The trade unionists constitute a very important, powerful and influential section of the whole community. As no mandate has been given to the Government to introduce this bill, and as we claim to be democrats, we should be willing to refer the whole matter to the people. Honorable gentlemen who support the Government do not represent a majority of the electors. That is another strong reason why the amendment should be adopted. No risk should be taken of causing violent turmoil in the community at large. As the trade unionists have intimated their determination to resist the operation of the bill the Government should agree to defer further consideration of the whole subject. I, of course, ally myself with the trade unionists in this connexion. It is improper for a government elected upon a declared policy to seek to give effect to a diametrically opposite policy. No legitimate reason has been given for pressing for the passage of this bill. Why cannot the Government agree to defer further consideration of it until a referendum on the subject has been taken or a general election held? If members of the Government genuinely desire to preserve law and order, and genuinely wish the people to obey the law, they must act so as to retain the respect of the people for the law. The people have no respect whatever for the provisions of this bill and as in a democratic community they should be the real masters of the situation. As we are simply their mouth-“ pieces and delegates we should act according to their wishes. I hope the amendment will be accepted. If a referendum on this subject is held the result will be as overwhelmingly opposed to this scheme as it was to the marketing proposals of the Government.’
.- The more I listen to the arguments of honorable gentlemen opposite the more convinced I become that no amount of arguing will reconcile their views with ours. The differences appear to be fundamental. I am not sure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was not correct when he said that they were psychological. If the questions proposed to be naked of the people in the event of the national register being compiled were asked at the time of the taking of an ordinary census, no objection would be taken to them, and no disturbance would be likely to occur. While I cannot say how the present psychological outlook has been created, I must admit that it exists. I cannot understand the reasons for it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said that the national register should not be compiled until after the people have been consulted and half a dozen of his colleagues have supported his views. The arguments they have used are identical with those advanced by them against the bill at the second reading. I replied to them as fully as I could last night and I do not wish to weary honorable members by repeating the statements I then made. The three points advanced in favour of the amendment were that the Government had no mandate to introduce the bill; that no state of urgency existed; and that the measure was obnoxious and disturbing. I submit that the Government received a mandate to provide for the adequate defence of the country. This proposal is necessary to that end. A certain degree of urgency does exist. Nothing can justify disturbances in relation to the provisions of the bill. I do not believe that the measure is at all obnoxious. For these reasons I cannot accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr
Korde’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (Thx Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Appointment of National Register Board).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Executive Officer of Board).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Removal from office).
.-Will the executive officer be appointed from the Commonwealth Public Service ?
– I should say that the chances are very much in favour of his being appointed from the Public Service.
– The Minister knows who he is.
– I do not, and I object to the honorable gentleman’s statement.
– Appoint the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party!
– I should be glad to take into consideration any names which the honorable gentleman may place before me.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 - (1.) The board or the Commonwealth Statistician may, in relation to any particular matters . or class of matters, or to any particular State, territory or part of tho Commonwealth, with the approval of the Minister, by instrument in writing, delegate all or any of its or his powers and duties under this act (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers and duties may be exercised by the delegate with respect to the matters or class of matters, or the State, territory or part of the Commonwealth specified in the instrument of delegation.
– If the fears about this measure which are entertained by the Opposition are borne out, this clause will have an important bearing on the administration of the legislation. The Opposition seeks information as to whom the board or the Statistician will delegate powers. Itis conceivable that powers will be delegated to such persons as military chiefs and police magistrates who in the war years were responsible for decisions and treatment of a character which, to say the least, was distinctly hostile, unjust and unfair to many workers in this country.
.- This is a very vague clause. First of all, we set up a board the composition of which is indefinite, although its powers are specific, and then we clothe that board with power to delegate its authority to any person or persons whom it may choose. It is up to the Minister (Mr. Street) to come out of his dumb seclusion and indicate to the committee to whom he anticipates the board’ or the Statistician will delegate powers. These appointees will have power to require citizens to provide intimate personal information, and, I have no doubt, to initiate proceedings against .anybody who is deemed to be infringing the law. They will have all of the powers with which the board is clothed. They may be members of the judiciary, magistrates, or, for all we know, dustmen. Unless the Minister is able to assure honorable members that the persons having the responsibilities which I have cited are capable of carrying those responsibilities, the committee should not pass the clause.
– I mentioned this matter on the second reading. This clause should be read in conjunction with clause 5, which reads - (1.) There shall be an executive officer pf the board “who shall be appointed by the Governor-General and who shall, subject to the control of the board, exercise and perform such powers and duties of tho board as it directs or as are prescribed.
We do not know even whether the executive officer is to be appointed from the Public Service or not. The Minister says that he may be. I say that he may not be. The persons to whom power is to be delegated under clause 9 will have extraordinary powers. If the board or the Commonwealth Statistician are of the opinion that a nian has not been aboveboard in filling in his card, it will be able to depute a sleuth to find information, perhaps from a neighbour.
– A clause similar to this appears in the Census Act. It is a usual provision in legislation of this character, because it would be physically impossible for a board or the Statistician to carry out the essential duties, especially in a country such as Australia where the distances are so great. One can imagine that the persons to whom powers would be delegated would be electoral ameers. I suggest electoral officers as a type that will be chosen for the work. There are safeguards to prevent the misuse of powers of delegation, which in any case, could be exercised only with the approval of the Minister.
– Can the Minister show me one safeguard? Clause 13 restricts officers of the Commonwealth or a State, but that does not refer to these gentlemen.
– They are or will be officers of the Commonwealth.
– The point made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is that appointees may not be officers of the Commonwealth or the State and that they would not be affected by clause 13.
– This is a similar provision to provisions contained in previous legislation of this character, and I have never heard of an abuse of power. I consider it to be a far stretch of the imagination to consider that power could be misused.
– Is it a stretch of the imagination to think that an officer of the State or the Commonwealth would misuse information?
– Then why have safeguards against officers of the Commonwealth or the State?
– Would not a person appointed under this clause be an officer of the Commonwealth?
– Once he was appointed, he would most certainly be an officer of the Commonwealth.
– The matter could be made perfectly clear by amending clauses 12 and 13.
– I cannot see why objection is being raised to what is actually a machinery clause, but if the Opposition so desires, I shall move an amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn).
– In my second-reading speech, I drew attention to the fact that honorable members had not been given any information concerning who would be appointed to these positions. That is a matter which I think should have been cleared up. The explanations which have been given by the Minister have been entirely inadequate. I can visualize a state of affairs in which an appointee to one of the positions might abuse the power conferred upon him. While we, on this side of the House, disagree with the bill in general principle, apparently we shall be forced to accept it because it seems likely that it will be passed. I submit, however, that the Minister should make an endeavour to clear up this point. I suggest that he might see his way clear to postpone this clause until after clauses 12 and 13 are dealt with.
– I move -
That after the word “ delegate first occurring., the words “ to any officer “ he inserted.
That, I think, will clear the matter up. Clause 3 which deals with definitions, provides - “ Officer “ includes the executive officer and any officer or employee whether temporary or permanent, of the Commonwealth or of a State, who is declared by the Minister by notice in the Gazette to be an officer for the purposes of this act, or whose office is so declared to be an office to which this act applies.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I have some very important objections to raise in connexion with this clause. I think that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will agree that in the consideration of clause 9, regard must be paid to clause 20 which deals with the power of an officer to ask questions, and to require that documents be produced. I understood from speeches made from the Government side of the House during the second-reading debate, that the filling in of the questionnaire provided for in the schedule to this bill would be all that would be required. I should like to know what questions these officers will be empowered to ask any individual citizen. Clause 20 states -
For the purpose of any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this act or the regulations, all persons shall, when required by the Commonwealth Statistician or by any officer authorized in that behalf in writing by the Commonwealth Statistician, answer questions and produce documents within such time as the Commonwealth Statistician or the authorized officer thinks fit.
No guarantee has been given by the Minister that the officers who will be appointed will not be military officers. Experience has shown that work such as that which will be carried out under the provisions of this legislation has, in the past, been done by military officers. Under the authority of legislation similar to this, passed during the war years, military officers, on occasions, terrorized people in an endeavour to secure information from them. In view of the fact that this measure provides for the imposition of a penalty of a fine up to £50, or imprisonment for a period up to three months, or both, we should like’ to know to what degree the powers to he conferred upon these officers may be used. According to the wording of this clause, the entire power of the National Register Board may be delegated to “ any officer “. That means that an officer to whom power is so delegated would have full and complete authority to approach citizens, some of whom probably will be conscientious objectors strenuously opposed to the operation of this law. I should like to know if these officers will be empowered to go into the homes of the workers and, by threatening the imposition of fines, or of imprisonment, he able to terrorize people into giving information which they do not wish to divulge. The Labour party is not prepared to support legislation such as this, and I submit that our opposition to clause 9 is justified. Honorable members on this side of the House should do their utmost to convince the committee that it should not give to the officers provided for in this bill unlimited power to terrorize people. I protest against this interference with the liberty of the people of this country, and I hope that sufficient honorable members will vote against this provision to bring about its defeat.
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Clause 10 (Arrangements with State governments as to execution of act).
Question put; -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The. Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Powers under Census and Statistics Act).
– I ask the Minister (Mr. Street) to explain what effective function this clause proposes to discharge. It is a reproduction of section 10 of the War Census Act 1915, of unhappy memory. Most of the powers contained in the Census and Statistics Act are specifically conferred upon one authority created under this measure, but this is a dragnet clause. Most of the foregoing powers are modelled upon the provisions of the Census .and Statistics Act, but there are some powers in that act which, if it be intended to confer them under this measure, should be explicitly conferred under this measure. My opposition to this clause is one of principle. I do not approach it on the suggestion that certain things might be done under it, but, unless it be omitted, how can the Government help creating the ‘belief that there are reserve powers which officers acting under this legislation can exercise? For instance, section 18 of the Census and Statistics Act gives an officer power to interrogate a person and the person is obliged, “to the best of his knowledge and ‘belief to answer all questions “ put to him. I do not think that that power should be given under this act. If it is the intention of the Government to do so it should make explicit provision in this measure. In addition to answering the questions shown on the form a person, under this clause, must submit to questioning hy an officer. That is not desirable, but if the Government intends to confer that power itshould do so explicitly in this bill. Under section 19 of the Census and Statistics Act an officer may at any time during working hours enter any factory, mine, workshop or place where persons are employed, and make such inquiries as are prescribed or allowed by the regulations. In addition there is the power under the Census and Statistics Act to make regulations. I submit that if it is not intended that these powers be exercised under this legislation the Government should omit this clause. If it retains the clause it cannot escape having the bill represented, and truly represented, as a measure to enable all sorts of inquisitorial powers to be exercised by all sorts of subordinate officers. Even a policeman may exercise such powers because a policeman may he a person in authority under the Census and Statistics Act. I repeat that this clause does not discharge any useful function at all. With two or three exceptions nearly all of the powers in the Census and Statistics Act are expressly conferred upon the authority created by this legislation, but this is a dragnet clause which says that any other power conferred by the Census and Statistics Act can be “exercised by an officer under this measure. It also enables an officer under this legislation, or a person having authority under the Census and Statistics Act, to do anything which could be done under the latter act. The Statistician is a person having authority under that act, and under this clause he will be given authority to exercise similar powers in respect of this legislation. His officers also will be similarly authorized in respect of this measure. They can interrogate, or cross-examine, any person on statements made in a return, and upon other matters. If that power is to be given to anybody it should be given expressly under this measure. I submit, of course, that, it should not be given at all under this measure. In addition, such officers will have the power to enter workshops and question men in connexion with this legislation. If it be the intention of the Government to confer that power it. should do so explicitly under this measure. I urge the Minister to abandon this clause. I cannot see that it serves any useful purpose as the powers which it confers are already expressly conferred under this measure. Furthermore, I do not think that the Minister wishes to confer by a referential provision these inquisitorial powers.
– I, personally, and the Government have no desire to confer inquisitorial powers by a referential provision under this measure, and in view of the representations just made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) I am prepared to withdraw the clause.
Clause 12 (Declaration by officers).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
An officer of the Commonwealth or of a State shall not, except as allowed by this act or the regulations, divulge the contents of any form filled in in pursuance of this act.
Amendment (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the words “ or the regulations “ be omitted.
– I am not satisfied with this clause. We should not confer on any individual the right to divulge information of this description. Clause 14 provides that officers of the board and of the Commonwealth Statistician may divulge this information with the consent of the Minister, if, in the opinion of the Minister, it is in the public interest to do so. My objection is that the information could be divulged for political purposes. I shall oppose the amendment because it would not prevent the divulging of information.
.- The honorable member is quite right in saying that the amendment would not prevent the divulging of information. Officers would be bound not to divulge it, except as allowed by the act, but that is our whole objection to the scheme. The Minister has said that our objections are psychological, but in 1916 the answers to questionnaires were widely known and could be announced publicly by speakers on recruiting platforms. We are legislating for a critical period, in which the lives of the workers may be placed in the hands of a government formed by their political opponents. The workers may be submitted to a process of organized bullying, which, during the last war, was called voluntary recruiting, or they may be subjected to conscription. Unless the result of this measure will be to obtain records which could be used by the Minister, or officers under his direction, it will be of no value at all. It is desirable to limit the power to divulge information, and, therefore, honorable members would be well advised to accept this clause, as proposed to be amended, but they should vote against the following clause, which deals with the disclosure of information.
– I think that the safest course would be to advise the workers not to fill in the cards.
– I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter at the present time. I am now concerned to see that whatever is imposed on the workers is done by the deliberate act of the committee, and not by regulations made behind the back. The amendment would certainly improve the clause, but the main attack should be upon the next clause, which gives the Minister power to divulge information.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 (Disclosure of information).
– In view of the fact that the Government proposes to accept an amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), I move -
That the clause he postponed until after clause 19.
Question put. The committee divided - (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Noes . . . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 15 - (2.) There shall be entered in the register such particulars as are supplied to the Commonwealth Statistician under this act or the regulations.
Amendment (by Mr. Street) agreed to-
That the words “ or the regulations “ be omitted.
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Clause 16 - (1.) A census or censuses of male persons or classes of persons who have attained the age of eighteen years and have not attained the age of sixty-five years shall be taken in such States, Territories or parts of the Commonwealth and on such day or days or within such period or periods as the Governor-General by Proclamation directs. (2.) The nature of the particulars required to be furnished by the persons or classes of persons of whom a census is taken under this section shall be specified in the Proclamation.
.- I request the Government to amend this clause to provide that the census shall not apply to persons under the age of 21 years. Young men of eighteen years should not be required to furnish returns in connexion with the proposed census. We live in a democracy which declares that only persons who have attained the age of 21 years shall be entitled to vote. It would be regrettable, therefore, if we in this Parliament, for whose election they had no vote, did an injustice to young men under that age. During the last eight or ten years this Parliament has entirely failed to make provision for the training and employment of the young men of the nation. Yesterday we debated a bill to devote £200,000 for the purpose of providing vocational and technical training for youths. The money was to be distributed all over the Commonwealth. Obviously, such a sum was totally inadequate for the intended purpose. Until the Parliament is able to make proper provision for the technical training of the young men of the nation it would be entirely unfair for it to force them to furnish information in connexion with a census such as is proposed to be taken under this bill. At present, young men of eighteen years of age are not only denied a vote, but they are also refused the dole, in New South Wales, at any rate, if the parents earn £2 10s. a fortnight. Apparently all that the Government desires of these young men is their bodies that they may be sacrificed on the altar of war for the purpose of maintaining an order of society which, in peacetime, denies them the right to live decently. So long as they are refused a vote for the election of the Parliament of the country they should be exempt from this , measure and any military service. It would be a callous injustice to oblige them to render military service seeing that many of them have not been provided with a proper standard of living and regular employment. Since the years of the depression, our young men have been most unfairly treated. Although they are intelligent, and willing and able to work, they have been denied work. Under this bill they will suffer additional disabilities. Young men who decline any longer to live on the bounty of their aged parents, and take their swags and go in search of elusive jobs throughout the Commonwealth, will become liable to a fine of £50 and/or imprisonment for three months if they fail to notify their changes of address. It seems to me that some honorable members of this Parliament may even become innocent accomplices in the committing of such offences, for frequently, when we are travelling through the country, we pick up these young men along the roads and take them perhaps 100 miles or so away from their previous addresses in order to assist them to reach a destination where they may obtain a few days’ work. If the men have not stamps to put on letters to notify their changes of address they will become liable to the heavy penalties that I have mentioned.. In all these circumstances, I urge the Government to introduce an amendment to the clause to provide that it shall not. apply to any persons who have not reached the age of 21 years.
– We have been told that the purpose of this bill is to authorize the making of a register of the man-power of this country so that it may be available for use in the most efficient manner in a time of crisis or emergency. It has been stressed again and again that the chief desire of the Government is to tabulate the capacity of the skilled men in the community. No doubt it is intended to make some provision for unskilled men, but actually the main purpose is to obtain a register of the skilled artisans so that their services may be used in the best possible way in a time of emergency. I, therefore, add another reason to those given by the honorable member for Hunter why the clause should not apply to persons under the age of 21 years. It is that men are not regarded as skilled artisans until they reach at least that age.
– The Minister for Defence challenged that statement when I made it in my second-reading speech.
– In many cases, men are not properly skilled until they are well beyond 21 years of age.
– That is so. In consequence of the failure of the Government in recent years to provide adequate facilities for the training of the young men of this country many get no training at all and many others do not complete their apprenticeship or period of training until they are perhaps 23 or 24 years of age.
– The higher the degree of skill required the longer the men must train.
– Sometimes they are in their late twenties before they are fully qualified.
– In any circumstances, they would not complete their indentures before reaching the age of 21 years.
– That is so.
– It is not only the skilled men who are wanted. Everybody is required to register.
– The interjection of the honorable member will add weight to my remarks. The Government has insisted throughout the consideration of this bill that its main desire is to obtain reliable information concerning the skilled tradesmen of this country, so that if the need arises they can be detailed to work where they can render the most efficient service. It is in that atmosphere that we have been discussing this bill. No one could truthfully say that young men of eighteen years of age are trained. Therefore, they should not be brought under the compulsory provisions of the bill. I am quite sure that if while I was a minor, I had been given the opportunity to vote years ago on the compulsory military training policy of the Government of the day I should have voted against it. I feel, therefore, for the honorable member who has talked about the rights of boys to exercise the franchise. At one time, I occupied a position in which I felt that it would be well if I were able to express my opinions through the ballot box.
– If the honorable member had had the vote at five years of age, probably he would not have gone to school.
– Perhaps not. Even going to school has not trained some of us in the technique of democracy. ‘The old school tie does not always lead us in the right direction. But that is by the way. The point is that at eighteen years of age no boy has reached a settled condition as to his capacity. Boys of eighteen are merely at the threshold of life.
– Many of them are apprenticed.
– Exactly. They could not claim skill in any trade or calling until their apprenticeship was completed. Many of them will not even complete their terms of the particular apprenticeship in which they may he engaged when they reach the age of eighteen years. Honorable members with military experience have said that during the Great War men were allocated to positions which they were not capable of filling. The Government’s view is that this proposed register will have as its purpose an avoidance of a repetition of that mistake. It would not, therefore, make for the success of that purpose to allocate boys of eighteen years of age to positions which, by reason of their inexperience, they could not be expected to fill. Consequently, the contentions of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) are borne out upon the further grounds that I have advanced.
– I move -
That after the word “ years “ sub-clause ( 1 ) the words “ and a census, of property “ be inserted.
This amendment is being accepted by the Government and we hope for the cordial co-operation of - the Opposition.
I’ should like to make it clear that the adoption of a census of wealth does not in any degree imply any intention to make a levy on wealth. A capital levy is a very doubtful expedient. Even the most radical monetary reformers have very little confidence in the value of what is generally called a capital levy. Capital varies; some of it is liquid, but the greater part of the capital of the community is represented in material assets, and, if a levy is imposed and realization on assets becomes forced, the effect of it inevitably would be to dry tip those sources from which governments usually draw their sustenance. A census of wealth was taken in 1915 and, on that occasion, Sir William Irvine, in supporting a census of wealth, made a speech which was for many years regarded as a classic. Referring to the fear which had been expressed that the government of the day intended to impose a capital levy, Sir William Irvine said -
No govern ment, no people who understand the situation, would for a moment attack that wealth which is actually the working capital of ti community. Nobody would attempt to do that. It would be as fatal to a community as it would be fatal to an artisan if the tools of his trade’ were sold in order to huy his daily bread.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) has indicated that he will move an amendment to make it unnecessary for persons having capital not exceeding £1,000 in net value to make a return.. I agree with the principle, because it is necessary that some provision should be made whereby small owners should not have to make irritating returns which would have results of small value and which would undoubtedly add to the cost of collating the returns. We can safely leave it to the Minister, after consultation with statistical and, perhaps, taxation officers, to determine where the line should be drawn so that the returns would be sufficiently wide as to give a survey of the wealth of the country, but, at the same time, not bring in a lot of little people whose wealth is negligible.
– What is the definition of “property”?
– Everything that has any value - an umbrella, a suit of clothes, a hat, anything at all.
– A jubilee medal ? . .
– -Yes. There must be some limitation of property, but that can safely be left to the Government.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat) [8.51 J.Like other honorable gentlemen I have decided objections to clause 16, particularly that aspect of it which requires the youth of this country to register. We have not been enlightened either as to how often these censuses are to be taken. The clause provides that a census or censuses may betaken. How often - every six months, twelve months, or just at the whim of the Government? The particulars to be asked for on the census cards will also be decided at the whim of the Government.
Clause 16 reads - (2.) The nature of the particulars required to bc furnished by the persons or classes of persons of whom a census is taken under this section shall he specified in the proclamation.
The argument that has been advanced by honorable members opposite, that it is necessary to have on record such information as will enable men to be placed in the niche for which their training fits them most, arises from that sub-clause. Many honorable members have emphasized that in the last war engineers, doctors, and members of all sorts of professions and trades served in the infantry, whereas their services would have been of greater value to the Empire in other sections of the army. That may be true, but it is undoubtedly true that, in the event of war, this clause will be used by the military authorities or the Government to draft men into various sections of the army, and it is my impression that the unskilled men will be drafted to the firing line in the trenches, where they will take the greatest risks, whilst the men who have specialized training will be placed in sections of the army for which their training fits them, where they will be in positions of comparative safety.’ In the last war, all sections of the community were represented in the infantry.” Men did not claim exemption because of their skill or training from serving in the front line. The lot of the unskilled man is unhappy. He has to do the dirty work in peace time and it would appear that he will have to do the dirty work’ in war time. Men are unskilled because they either have not the capacity or have never had the opportunity to acquire skill; usually the latter is the case. There was wastage in the last war of lives of skilled and professional men which could have been avoided, if the attesting officers had thoroughly done their duty. When a man enlists, he does not enlist in the light horse, engineers, or the infantry.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member must refer to the clause.
– I am endeavouring to show that what happened before may happen again, and I think that that is relevant. It did happen often that a man who was found to have special qualifications was asked if he would like to be drafted into positions where those qualifications could be advantageously used.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the committee.
– I accept the Chair’s ruling, but suggest that the point of view I am putting before the committee is important. Honorable members opposite have placed stress on the fact that this proposed census is needed in order that there shall be information available of the capabilities of our men, so that in the event of occasion demanding it they will be distributed to the best possible advantage.
– Order ! There is no reference to that in this clause.
– The information is required for a certain purpose, and I am drawing a comparison between what happened in the past, and what will probably happen in the future. I suggest that I am in order.-
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I think I have made a relevant point.
– The honorable member must not argue with the Chair.
– I ask the Chair for a ruling on the point I have raised.
– The Chair has given its ruling.
– Then I do not think much of it. I suggest that this provision will create in the minds of unskilled workers thebelief that they are to be made the victims of the next war, just as they are the victims of the existing social order. They cannot be blamed for thinking that they will be the first to be sacrificed.
– The honorable member is encouraging them in that belief.
– Of course I am encouraging them, because it is true. The Assistant Minister and his colleagues have laid particular stress on the fact that they do not want skilled artisans and technicians to be put into the infantry. Evidently, then, they want the unskilled men to go into the infantry, and bear the brunt of the fighting.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be further heard.
– The Chair cannot permit that motion from any one other than the honorable member for Ballarat.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be further heard.
– I feel that it is a reflection on the professional and commercial classes in the community that the Government should put forward a proposition of this kind. In the next war, as in the last, the artisans and professional men will want to take their places in the front line along with the unskilled workers. We should not insist that every doctor, for instance, should join the Army Service Corps. I object to the clause for the reasons I have stated.
– Various honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) have suggested that the word “ eighteen “ in this clause be omitted, and the word “ twentyone “ be substituted for it. It is said that no one can be a skilled worker until he is 21 years of age, and with that I agree. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said that, generally speaking, an apprentice would not finish his indenture until he was 21. I agree, but it would be disastrous to allow apprentices,- medical students, science students, engineering students, and others taking technical courses, to break their training, and join any arm of the service. Therefore, I suggest that the word “ eighteen “ should remain. There is really no substance in the point raised by the honorable member for Hunter, although I give him credit for meaning exactly what he said. I know that he is deeply interested in the subject of youth employment, which particularly affects his own electorate. I maintain, however, that if this is to be a survey of man-power, the age should not be placed higher than eighteen years, and I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who has advocated a voluntary survey, would have put the age at eighteen for such a survey.
The Government proposes to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn).
– What! the Minister a mazes me.
– Last night I said that the Government was in full agreement with the proposition that wealth should play its part alongside man-power in an emergency. I indicated that there was agreement on the principle, but that it was a question of method. It has been suggested that the Government is proposing to do something that will create an unfavorable psychology, and make the people hostile to the bill. Well, if that is so, and the inclusion of a wealth’ census will remove that hostility, the Government is prepared to include it. However, I stand by every word I said last night. . doubt very much the practical value of a wealth census, but if the acceptance of the amendment will secure co-operation - and I am sure honorable members will give me credit for being sincere when I say that I desire the co-operation of all sections of the community - I am prepared to go as far as possible to get it.
– The Minister will be disappointed, because they will not cooperate in any case.
– What will be the penalty for those who refuse to divulge particulars regarding property?
– It will be the same as for those who refuse to give information in the man-power census.
– Will the Government put the* penalty in the bill?
– It is there now. It is provided that the penalty shall be for an offence against the act.
– What kind of questionnaire is it proposed to submit?
– The statutory rules drafted in connexion with the War Census Act of 1915 contained a schedule in the form of a questionnaire. It is proposed to adopt a similar questionnaire for the purpose of this census. The first schedule to the War Census Act was a questionnaire to be answered by males between the ages of 18 and 60. The second schedule was in two parts; the first had to do with incomes, because, at that time, there was no federal income tax, while the second had to do with property. In general, that is the form that it is proposed to submit now. I give an assurance that the form will be submitted to the Senate. If it were included in the bill now, it would involve an enormous number of consequential drafting amendments. The Government has not yet had an opportunity to put the proposal into a suitable form, but, as I have said, a form will be prepared and submitted in the Senate. I do not ask the Opposition to sign a blank cheque, as it were.
– But if the form is submitted in the Senate, it must come back to this chamber for consider a-‘ tion.
– It is not proposed to include, it as a schedule to the bill. The Government is prepared to accept suggestions.
– If it is not- to be made part of the bill, how will this chamber be given an opportunity to consider it?
– Honorable members will be able to see it when the bill is returned to this chamber. It has been suggested that only those possessing property worth more than a certain amount shall be required to furnish particulars. At this juncture, I am not prepared to go beyond saying that the Government would not enforce anything that would be irksome to those who obviously have no property to declare.
– Does the Government apprehend any fresh instructions during the night which would involve another change of front?
– Will the limit be defined by regulation?
– Why not tell us now?
– I might say £50 or £100, but no decision has been reached.
– But if a certain category of property owners are to be exempt, this Parliament should determine the matter.
– If necessary I shall be prepared to exempt nobody, but I do not think that unfortunate individuals who have no property should be compelled to furnish returns. Obviously such returns would be of no use to anybody.
– Are the penalties to bo imposed in connexion with the wealth census to be heavier than those provided in the present schedule?
– The Government has not considered that aspect, but I point out that, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) said, these penalties may be continually imposed. They are, therefore, sufficiently heavy to meet any circumstances which might arise.
– A fine of £50 would be of little inconvenience to a wealthy property-owner.
– In addition to being fined £50, an offender would be required to register his wealth just the same. The War Census Act provided that “ There shall be taken a census of property “, just as clause 18 of this bill provides for the taking of a census of man-power. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has foreshadowed a specific amendment, and with the concurrence of the Chair, I have really been addressing myself to the proposals which will be raised by this amendment.
– The principle involved is included in the clause now under discussion.
– On behalf of the Government I give the assurance that the form in which this property census shall be taken will be substantially that of the 1915 property schedule. I undertake to have the form prepared and ready for consideration before discussion on this measure in the Senate has been completed. The form will be brought forward in the shape of a regulation under this bill, which may be amended or improved in any way by this chamber. I am endeavouring to meet the wishes of the Opposition in this regard, and if honorable members opposite can suggest improvements on the Government’s proposals they will be taken into consideration.
– When the honorable gentleman says that the registration card will be in substance the same as that provided in the War Census Act schedule in respect of property, he must bear in mind that the War Census Act was in respect of not only property, but also income.
– The honorable member is misunderstanding me. What he refers to was in the bill, whereas that which is now proposed by the Government was in the regulations to the bill. The 1915 census had two parts; one was a property card, and the other an income card. The proposals now being brought forward have no reference to income which, obviously, was included in the 1915 census,because at that time there was no Commonwealth income taxation.
– The statutory rules divided the second schedule of the 1915 bill into two parts, one for income and one for property. The proposal now being made by the Government is in respect of property only.
– Is any limitation to be imposed?
– I think that that point might well beleft tothe Government for decision. Surely unfortunate individuals who have no property should not be asked to furnish returns ! That would be irksome and objectionable to them.
– Then some limitation is to be imposed?
– Yes. I am notprepared to say - andI suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) cannot say - what limitation should be imposed. The Government of the day must be allowed to assess that figure.
– The Government should not be given statutory authority to impose a questionnaire in relation to a property census until the principle of imposing a limitation has been decided upon.
– I could suggest that the limit be £100, but it is impossible to say off-hand what a reasonable figure would be.
– That is only a shot in the dark. The Minister has noi given the matter sufficient thought to make u decision.
– The £1,000 suggested would be too high.
– What the Minister is asking is that the Government should be given authority to investigate what limitation should be imposed, before sanction has been given by Parliament to the imposition of any limitation at all.
– In the fixing of a limit due regard should be paid to the income tax limit impo’sed under the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– Perhaps I might meet the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition, and of honorable members opposite generally in this way : I have already given an undertaking that the property schedule will be prepared as soon as possible, and incorporated in a regulation. In that regulation I will include a limitation, and this House will have an opportunity to consider that regulation, and, if necessary, disallow it before the end of this session. I can think of no fairer way to meet the Opposition in this regard.
– Is the regulationmaking power of the Government under this bill sufficient to enable it to do what the Minister has announced his intention of doing?
– Yes, provided that the amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Perth is carried.
– The Government cannot make any regulation which is inconsistent with the body of an actTherefore, something will have to be put in the bill defining the wealth census which it is proposed to take.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) should read the later amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth.
– Honorable members on this side of the House listened with interest to what the Minister (Mr. .Street) has had to say with regard to this clause, and they extend their sympathy to him because of the difficult tangle which has arisen The Minister has announced his intention of declaring an exempt category of property-holders; but what the limitation is going to be he has not told us. He said that would be decided by regulation.
– As I said before, I am willing to have no exemption at all if it is so desired.
– In one breath the Minister suggests that a limitation of £100 be fixed, and in the next ‘breath he says he would be satisfied to have no exemption at all. I submit that the limitation should be declared in this bill, and then the committee would know what the Government has in mind.
– “Will the honorable member suggest a figure then?
– Surely it is not for the Opposition to do that, although I ‘think I could do it more effectively than the Government has done it despite the fact that this measure has now been under consideration for a long time. What a confession of failure it is for the Government to come along at this stage and say “ You suggest something and we will accept it”. Surely that is not the right way in which to carry on the ‘business of this Parliament. Cabinet is in charge of affairs and due consideration to all aspects of legislation should be given before it is introduced. I was amazed at the Minister’s announcement of the Government’s intention to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) ; indeed, I was astounded, and I believe the whole House was astounded. While not wishing to discount in any way the eloquence and persuasive ability of the honorable member for Perth, I am satisfied that the Government has been “influenced, not so much by arguments advanced, as by the fact that a majority of honorable members is in’ favour of the amendment.
While the Minister for Defence was speaking in reply to the second-reading debate last night, I made a few notes, and this is what he said : -
In its examination of the question of a national register, the Government gave exhaustive consideration to the question of a wealth census. A mere census of wealth, similar to that taken in 1915 would not be of great practical value from the point of view of its use as the basis of a capital levy.
– I stand by that.
– For how long will the Minister stand by that?
– That is the point. The Government is continually shifting its ground.
The Minister continued -
The necessity for the ascertainment at the present time of particulars of the manner in which the national wealth is distributed amongst individuals is not apparent.
To secure reliable results, it would be necessary to undertake a very comprehensive inquiry, the cost of .which would completely outweigh its value. Figures of wealth obtained now would be of little value for the purpose of any such emergency as might arise in future, for the ownership of wealth is continually changing.
– That is not a fair quotation.
– The Minister concluded by saying-
The Government does not consider that a census of wealth is necessary. The Opposition’s case for a wealth census would not achieve any material results.
When I heard those statements made I said to myself “ Apparently the Government knows where it stands at last “. The Minister also said that the threat of a wealth levy would keep overseas capital from coming to Australia.
– I did not say that.
– My impression is that the Minister did say that.
Despite the Minister’s eloquence this evening, I cannot see much merit in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). Although the Government may accept the amendment it will not be put into operation.
– Therefore the honorable member will oppose it.
– The Opposition will not oppose the amendment; on the contrary, we will support it for what it is worth. The Government has surprisingly reversed its attitude with regard to this matter. That shows that it does not know from day to day where it stands. It is not convinced by arguments brought forward either from this side or from its own side. But when the Government Whip hovers around and finds that the numbers are against the Government, there is a wild rush to the Cabinet room, and the draftsman works overtime, devising amendments which will meet the demands of the Country party. I put it to the honorable member for Perth that when he first proposed his amendment he was told in the Government party room that it was worthless. However, because he stood up to his convictions, and because the Country party intimated that it would support the honorable member’s amendment, the Government suddenly discovered some merit in the amendment. The Government, I suppose, is to be congratulated on its elasticity towards this and other proposals; but its actions lead us to doubt whether we can expect stable government from it in such circumstances.
.- An amendment which has been just circulated in my name proposes that a wealth register be taken of all persons possessing property whose net capital assets exceed £1,000 in value. After listening to the explanation of the Minister (Mr. Street), I propose to withdraw that amendment. My reason for so doing is because the Minister has definitely assured the committee that in the schedule which he proposes to introduce relating to a wealth census, a definite limit will be observed. In my second-reading speech I pointed out the necessity for placing some limit upon those who should be called upon to. furnish details of their wealth. I also pointed out that this principle was quite consistent with the principle set out in the bill with respect to the registration of man-power. A limit is set to the information that will be obtained in that respect. It is provided that persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years will be called upon to give the details set out in the schedule. Thus the principle of limitation is recognized. We do not propose to ask boys of 16 or 17 years of age, or the elderly man of 75, to give such details, because we know that such information is not necessary from them. T suggest that the same principle must be applied in respect of a wealth schedule because of the fact that a preponderance of wealth is owned, unfortunately, by a comparative few. In this respect Australia is no exception. Therefore, it would be quite unnecessary, ineffective and a waste of public money to take a census of the wealth of people on the lower strata of incomes. No use could be made of information obtained concerning the property of people on low incomes. Therefore, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) covers a wider field than is justified. No useful purpose could be achieved by asking a man on the dole what property he possesses, because quite likely he would not possess any property at all. With regard to the principle of limitation I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister. It is not the duty of a private member to set down an arbitrary limit, and declare that the census should apply to those who possess property exceeding in value, say, £1,000. As the result of statistical investigation it might be found that that figure should be increased or decreased. The Leader of the Opposition admits that. My only reason in suggesting a limit of £1,000 was in order to have the principle of limitation accepted in respect of a wealth register. The Minister has accepted that principle, and I’ am quite prepared to accept his assurance that the classes of people to whom I have just referred will be excluded from any wealth census that will be taken. That assurance will also dispel any alarm in the minds of poor people whose accumulated savings over many years amount to only a few pounds, but who, in the absence of such an assurance, might be led to think that the Government proposes to deprive them of some of their savings. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that at this juncture some definite figure cannot be arrived at, because while the matter is left undecided quite a number of persons might feel very uneasy. I arn quite prepared to accept the assurance given by the Minister in this matter. I believe that a rate will be struck on competent advice which will satisfy every section of the committee.
I wish now to reply briefly to some remarks made by the Minister in his speech last night in replying to observations made by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Referring to the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth, he said, in effect, that a capital levy would need to be made. The Leader of the Opposition asked, by way of interjection, who had made the suggestion to the Minister that the Government would require to make a capital levy if the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth were agreed to. I wish to make it quite clear that, in supporting the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth, and also in forecasting my own amendment, in no way did I indicate that a capital levy would be required after a wealth census is taken. There are other ways of surmounting that particular problem, apart from direct action, the door to which has already been closed by the Leader ot the Opposition, who says that he entirely disapproves of any form of compulsion. [ do not think that any compulsory capital levy would be necessary. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), dealing with the suggestion that, the problem, of introducing a schedule might be overcome by way of regulation, said that no regulation could be issued unless it was clearly in accordance with the principles set out in the measure. In theory that is correct, but, I cannot .refrain from taking this opportunity to point out that hundreds of regulations have been accepted by Parliament which are not in accordance with the principles of the legislation to which they relate. I refer particularly to regulations passed under the Wireless Act 1904, under which over 700 regulation have been issued affecting B class broadcasting stations. I would point out that broadcasting did not come into existence until 1924, so that the act of 1904 could not possibly have related to broadcasting. This is an abuse of power which should lie discontinued.
Another aspect of the wealth census relates to income .as distinct from property, and bad the Minister not given an assurance that the whole of the field in respect of wealth would be explored, I intended to move an amendment which would cover all persons in receipt of an income over a specified figure. Here again, one experiences some difficulty in arriving at the correct figure. But the principle involved in such a suggestion must be accepted, because a man in receipt of an income up to, say, £3,000 a year, could escape the property provision by renting a house worth £10,000, and a week-end cottage worth £3,000. Therefore, some provision must be made specifically in respect of income as well as property.
– I suggest that honorable members opposite are entirely wrong in their interpretation of this clause. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has shown that their fears that all of the young men in this country would be roped in immediately and prepared for the trenches are unfounded. The object of this bill is to prepare for an emergency. If this country were attacked we should not be given six months’”, or twelve months’, notice of such an attack. The world generally at present is in a state of flux. We do not know when war may be declared: It may be, as one honorable member suggested, a “Kathleen Mavourneen” possibility. But should war break out we do not wish to send a rabble into the field to face the pick of an enemy. There can be no doubt that if we are attacked the invaders will consist of the flower of the manhood of the aggressor nation, and their forces will be well equipped with modern weapons. This measure is designed to lay the foundation for such preparedness. . As the Minister has pointed out, unskilled men will be set tasks at which their special abilities can be best utilized. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) the other night gave an excellent illustration of what is in the Government’s mind in this respect. He described some of the things which happened in Palestine. He showed us how the pick of Australia’s horsemen ;ind bushmen were put in the infantry, and how men who had never ridden a horse before were provided with mounts ;ind rushed to reinforce light horse units. This measure is designed to avoid bungling of that kind. To some extent I sympathize with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in his appeal on behalf of the unemployed in his electorate. Despite their unfortunate circumstances to-day, however, they would definitely have something to fight for if this country is attacked, because if ever Australia is conquered their position will be infinitely worse under the tyranny of a conqueror than it is at present. The object of the bill is to enable Australia to be thoroughly prepared for any emergency. The abolition of slavery is an achievement of comparatively recent date. Only a little over a century has elapsed since boys and girls were sold in England as slaves.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause under consideration.
– It is necessary to have the man-power of the Commonwealth tabulated, so that, in the event of this country being attacked, it would be prepared for defence. Our liberty is at stake, and we must be ready to defend it at all costs. “Many honorable members have received letters recently from the friends of unfortunate refugees who are seeking permission to enter Australia, and whose liberty has been taken from them.
– I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude, but I cannot permit him to proceed on those lines.
– I object to a census that would involve prying into the private affairs of the people. All information relating to property and wealth could be obtained through the Taxation Department. I am not surprised at the Opposition supporting the amendment, because I recall interference by a. government with a certain bank in New South Wales. I strongly object to any inquisitorial investigation regarding the private property or the wealth of the people. Such an inquiry could be made, if necessary, in the event of a national emergency. I decline to support an amendment that would drive the people into a state of panic.
.- If the liberties which this clause is intended to be an instrument in defending are on the broad and generous scale allowed to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), they are certainly well worth defending. Some people are born great, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) was born great, but he has had other greatness thrust upon him by reason of the fact that he received from some source, either celestial or terrestrial, or possibly sub-terrestrial, an inspiration to submit an amendment conceived to be a popular one, and not considered at the time likely to bo carried, but one which would have great weight in the electorate of Perth. It was regarded as an outsider at that stage; but much money was put upon it, and it became a hot favorite. It received support from tho Opposition, but, worse still, from unexpected quarters in ministerial circles, and for a time it appeared likely to be carried. J.t was in these circumstances that I conceived an added admiration for the Minister for Defence. He knew that the honorable member for Perth was about to bring down this popular amendment, and he also knew the precarious hold that this Government has on the Treasury bench. He was aware that the honorable member for Perth was not afflicted by a super-effusion of friendliness for the Country party, and, in all these circumstances, and .in spite of them, he rose last night to deliver a carefully prepared and well-considered authoritative argument as to the reasons why the amendment could not possibly be accepted by the Government. For my part, I regarded the argument of the Minister as :i masterpiece of special pleading. I envied him, and had a feeling of professional inferiority. I regretted that such an ornament had been lost to the bar, and wasted on the Defence Department. I felt half convinced by the weight of the argument that he submitted, and. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Perth must have had mixed feelings and a certain sense of being the bad boy under discipline when he listened to the Minister. I do not know how the Minister did it. I know that he has had a classical training, and, may be, some legal training, but it was a masterly exhibition of reasons why the amendment could not be accepted by the Government.
Now what has become of the great agelong principle of Cabinet responsibility, ;ind, indeed, of responsible government itself when .a . Minister, speaking for the Cabinet, expounds a clause in the bill with special earnestness and with a special sense of .responsibility, because he knows that the fate of the Government is dependent upon the result, and who then, having counted heads, capitulates? I have had a long experience of parliamentary life. I have done some little reading of the slow growth, of government and cabinet responsibility, and never from the time when, as a blushing youth, I entered this Parliament to the present day have 1 known a case in which a Minister, speaking for a government, declared that a clause was vital, and that he would stand by it no matter how strong an array of reasons why he should not do so might be presented, and then deliberately capitulated for no other reason than that the numbers were against him. Frankly, I am disappointed with the Minister for Defence. I always thought that, under his peculiarly amiable and tactful bearing in this chamber, which inspires friendliness towards him and admiration of him, there was a will of steel - the will of a man who, when principle was assailed, would stand up for principle. I always thought that behind him there was a Prime Minister lurking somewhere in a back room who, in a grave emergency, could be dragged out of that room to stand up for his government ; but he remains in hiding and leaves it to the Minister for Defence to hear alone the discredit of surrender.
– I have listened with unusual interest to the honorable member’s somewhat impassioned and - to use his own words - special pleading on behalf of himself. I remind him of one or two points that I raised last night. I should not have risen now, except that the honorable member accused me of deserting a principle. I said, last night, that the Government is in agreement with honorable .members opposite that wealth must play its part in an emergency; but the point at issue is the method by which that part is to bo played. The present proposal suggests one method, but, personally, I do not believe that it would be the best way. As I have said, my only reason for rising is to deny that I have abandoned a principle. I stated the reasons last night why the Government did not include provision for a wealth census in the bill. I now ask honorable gentlemen opposite to explain exactly how a wealth census will be of any particular value. However, if they consider that the inclusion of this provision in the bill will help to offset the unfortunate psychological attitude that has been adopted towards the bill, I am prepared, for that reason, to accept it. I will gladly do anything to dispel the feeling which the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), in his maiden speech, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and other honorable gentlemen, declare exists.
– The inclusion of this amendment will not do it.
– I do not suppose that anything I can say or do is likely to remove the suspicion in the mind of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– Hear, hear! The only thing to do is to withdraw the hill.
– The Government has no intention whatever of withdrawing the bill. It hopes that the measure will be passed to-night. We are dealing, at the moment, not with a question of principle, but with a question of method. If a majority of honorable members think that the method of taking a wealth census suggested by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) will be satisfactory, the Government is prepared to accept it.
– I have followed the debate on this bill from its commencement with deep interest and, until to-night, I had a clear mind on the state of affairs; but after hearing the Minister (Mr. Street) speak to-night on the proposed census of wealth, I must admit that I am somewhat befogged. If I understood the honorable gentleman correctly,, he stated that a certain schedule in relation to this matter would be submitted for the consideration . of honorable gentlemen in another place.
– It will be provided for in the form of regulations, and it can he debated in this chamber. ‘
– Part of my trouble is that, while it is proposed to take legislative power for the census of man-power, it is proposed to take only regulation-making power for the wealth census. I perceive a vital difference between the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and the three amendments to this clause of which the Minister had previously given notice. I do not think it should he possible for any Executive to alter the method of taking a census of wealth, yet if this is to be governed only by regulations any future Executive will be able to alter it. Any alteration should require the approval of both Houses of the Parliament. With great deference to the Minister, I suggest to him that he is differentiating between different sections of this community. If a census of wealth is to he taken the conditions governing it should be clearly stated in the bill. They should not be left for determination by the Executive under its regulationmaking power. No one can foresee what political party will occupy the treasury bench in this House within the next couple of years. I wish to look at this subject in a purely objective way. I see grave dangers in allowing the proposed wealth census to he taken under regulation while the census of man-power must be taken under specific legislative enactment. If the bill is passed in its present form the Executive will have no power to alter the schedule appearing at the ba.ck of it. If the provisions for the taking of the wealth census are to be prescribed by regulation, the government in office at any time will be able to vary them without the authority of the Parliament. That is ‘a state of affairs that I cannot contemplate with equanimity. A further point requires some clarification. As I see it, the amendment of the honorable member for Perth will limit the proposed wealth census, to persons between the ages of 18 .and 65 years. .Obviously, it will not be competent for the Government to make regulations under this measure which are inconsistent with its provisions. All regulation-making power, so far as I am aware, is limited to the extent that the regulations must be not inconsistent with the act to which they are related.
– The honorable member is in error in thinking that the amendment will limit the taking of the wealth census in the way he has suggested.
– Well, I do not think I am in error.
– I assure the honorable member that if the clause is amended as proposed by the honorable member for Perth it will not have the limited application which he fears.
– I regret to say that I am not yet satisfied on that point, and I hope that the Minister will elucidate it. If the wealth census is limited in this way, the Government may find itself in a very awkward position. In fact, I shall go so far as to say that such a limitation would make any wealth census practically useless. I cannot see why the Government should have neglected torequire the committee to divide on clause 11. It seems to me that that clause could have been carried with just as effective a majority as other clauses on which the committee has divided this afternoon and this evening. [ urge the Government to be careful of its actions in connexion with this clause. It would be well advised, in my opinion, to take time to consider the full effect of what is proposed to be done. As ] see the bill at the moment, it is loaded with dynamite.
– Afterhearing so many extravagant statements from honorable members of the Opposition on various clauses of this bill I feel it incumbent on me to make a few remarks. Great bitterness has been arousedby the proposal of the Government that the proposed census should apply to persons from 18 years to 65 years of age. Honorable members of the Opposition have protested also againstyoung men from the age of 18 years having to furnish information in connexion with the proposed register of man-power. They have even suggested that if this proposition is insisted upon, the Government will be responsible for any law breaking that occurs in connexion therewith. We have been told, too, that certain trade union officials of this country will decline to obey the law if this bill is passed. I cannot see any logic in thearguments of the
Opposition. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made a strong protest against compelling young men to supply information in connexion with the register. Yet the compulsory principle is in common operation. The honorable member must be well aware that it wascompulsory for his parents to register his own birth. It is also compulsory for him to register as a trade unionist. He must also know that every man who marries is compelled to register the event. Even when a man dies his death has to be registered. It is complained by the Opposition that the Government intends to use the proposed national register in connexion with some system of military training, though no such proposal is included in the bill. Do they forget that it was a Labour government which was responsible, years ago, for the establishment of our citizen army, in connexion with whichall men between the ages of 18 and 24 years had to submit to training? The same Government called upon the boys of Australia between the ages of 14 and 18 years to register and serve as junior and senior cadets. In these circumstances I fail to see why the Opposition should object to this Government requiring young men between the ages of 18 and 21 years to furnish information for a national register requiring registration up to the age of 65 years. I can see no reason for suggesting that the young men of Australia should refuse to do so, and thus become law breakers. There is no validity in the Opposition’s argument that an injustice will be perpetrated by compelling the enrolment of youths. The mere fact that they are to be enrolled does not imply that they are to be called up immediately. The roll will be available Whenever it is required. Five years hence the Government will know the details of men’s ages and occupations because the roll will be kept up to date.
I have no objection to a census of property provided that no action is taken to create a suspicion, especially among those whose means are very limited, that the Governmentis likely to commandeer their property.
.-! regret that the Government has been stampeded into acceptance of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn).
– Will the honorable member vote against it?
– I shall. I can understand the need for a register of men from the ages of IS to 65, but I cannot understand the objection raised by the Opposition to the inclusion of youths between the ages of 18 and 21. The objective is the training of our men so that in the event of this country being imperilled by an invasion, say, from Japan, records would be available to enable the authorities to distribute our forces in the way best, calculated to serve our interests. The Defence Act imposes an obligation on everybody to fight in defence of Australia, but there is really no need for such a provision because there is not one person deserving of the name “ Australian “ who, seeing hostile warships off our coast, would not be ready to fight for our heritage. The same argument applies to our wealth. .Circumstances demanding it, there would not be the slightest obstacle to the Government’s being able to acquire the financial means necessary to conduct a campaign in defence of this country. For that reason, the people will not approve of the inclusion in this bill of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth. Its inclusion will create unrest in the minds of the people who invest the money for the reproductive works which absorb the unemployed and maintain the standard of prosperity and living of which we are proud. It will make for chaos. [Quorum formed.’] In support of this amendment, honorable members have cited the fact that a census of wealth was taken in 1 915. One cannot compare 1915 to 1939. In 1915 a war had been declared against Germany and we were recruiting. That is not the position to-day. We are not recruiting men for war; we are preparing them to meet any emergency that may arise. There is no need for a wealth census to be taken, because if this Government needs money it has the taxing machine at its disposal. The Ministry is seeking merely to mollify the Opposition arid certain honorable members on this side by accepting this amendment, but 1 should be sorry if I ever had to reach the conclusion that the Labour party would create chaos, distress and poverty.
– This is not the Opposition’s amendment.
– No, but throughout this debate the cry has been made from Opposition benches : “ If we are to conscript man-power, we must also conscript wealth “. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), in order to create among honorable members the psychology which would enable this bill to be passed, has pandered to the Opposition in this matter.
– I do not like the word “ pandered “.
– There is nothing wrong about the Opposition’s demand, but this is not the time for such action as this to be taken. The moment that we are at war Parliament can be called together and such measures passed as to enable the Government to have at hand the means to provide the sinews of war. Every man with £100 in his possession and every man who earns £5 a week will be fearful of this amendment! Such provision as this is not necessary until we are attacked. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision.
.- It does not matter to me what the Government puts into this clause or takes out of it; I do not intend to vote for it. Two points have been raised in the course of this discussion. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) contended that the obligation to make a return should not be imposed on youths between the ages of 18 and 21. .The object. of the return is to enable the Government, to requisition either the labour or military service of the persons who register. That is an obligation devolving upon citizens, and lads between the ages of 18 and 21 are not citizens. They have no power of punishing the Government for anything it may do to them. They should not be affected by this law. To that contention the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) answered that the Labour party introduced a system of military training affecting persons under the age of 21. That is not correct.
As a matter of fact, that system -was introduced, not by the Labour party, but by the last Deakin Government, which was in office before the Labour party came into power.
– But it was done under pressure from the Labour party.
– The Labour party stood for compulsory military training, but not of persons under 21 years of age. The Government’s scheme was to link up with the existing cadet system. The honorable member for New England also said, by way of interjection, that the Labour party had introduced compulsory military training. I am glad that he now knows the truth. “Whatever views the Labour party held before the war have been wonderfully changed by the experience of the war. It was one thing to talk about preparations for war, and compulsory military training, when one did not know what war was; it was another thing when one had been through the war, and knew what it meant to the workers. I agree that this obligation, which rests properly upon citizens, should not be imposed on those who do not enjoy citizens’ rights. When laws are made imposing obligations on citizens, they affect people whose votes can hold Parliament responsible for what is done. Lads under 21 are’ not able to do that. That was why compulsory training was adopted; because it was recognized that it would affect mostly those who had no votes.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) put the matter succinctly. He said that it is proposed to make a register of young men so that, if necessary, we may requisition their labour or their lives. In other words, the obligation is a most significant one. The register will provide the means by which the Government may in future compel them to render military or industrial service. The property census will not involve any obligation of that kind. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has been somewhat harshly treated to-night, but I can understand his position. He said that if, by a census of property, it was meant that the Government might impose an obligation upon those with property to hand that property over to the commmunity, the Government did not approve of it. Then the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and the honorable member for Martin said that that would not be necessary; they did not. want that. They did not expect that a register of wealth would lead to a levy on capital. In effect, they said that the present Government would continue to be in power, and it could be relied upon not to impose such a levy, which, in any case, they did not want. All they wanted was that the nauseous dose of a personal register should be sweetened for those, who had to take it. I was never one who said that I would accept a census of man-power if there were one of wealth also. We had that in 1915. They took a census of man-power, and forced the young men to go into camp, but they tore up the cards made for the wealth census. Even the Labour party did not impose a levy on wealth, and the Labour party was in power until 1916. The Minister says, in effect, that if the introduction of a wealth census will satisfy his critics, and recommend the scheme to the workers arid the people generally, he has no objection to including it in the bill. Of what use is it to make a register of property if it is not to be used? It will be merely a piece of impertinence and will have the effect of annoying people. The Minister made it quite clear that he has not changed his position. Last night he said that the Government did not propose to finance war preparation by any means other than the orthodox ones of taxation or loan. If the proposal of the honorable member for Perth meant that the Government was to give some kind of an undertaking that it contemplated financing war or war preparations by other means, the Government would not have anything to do with it. Now the mover of the amendment has repudiated the idea of a levy on wealth, and the honorable member for Martin, his partner in begetting this scheme, also says that he repudiates the idea. The Minister says that, if it is understood that no use will be made of the information gleaned by a register of wealth, then everything is all right ; he will accept the proposal. The register will be made, but the Government will make no more use of it than was made of the information gathered by the Fisher Government in 1915. In the meantime, however, the register of wealth will have served to reconcile many people to the register of man-power. For my part, I shall never be reconciled to it In any shape or form. This Government is wedded to the present system of finance, and will on no account depart from it. If the Government does not propose to do anything more with the information it obtains through a census of wealth than I have suggested, then the taking of such a census will be merely a nuisance to a great many poor people, as was the census of 1915. Of course, when the Labour party talks about requisitioning wealth it is not referring to the property of poor people, but to the wealth of great capitalists and corporations. During the war many people, Sir William Irvine among them, declared that they were in favour of the conscription of wealth and the conscription of life; but then they went on to say that, when they talked about conscription of wealth, they were referring to the ordinary methods of taxation. They did not mean that a charge should be imposed upon capital for the benefit of the community, but that wealth should be left in the hands of its private owners, and such part of it as was necessary for the use of the community should be taken by taxation. That is all that this Government means now.
Another touchstone by which we may test the sincerity of the Government in this matter is this : The Government says that it will prescribe by regulation what returns property-owners will have to make. Now, if the property-owning classes thought that this proposal were really loaded, they would not stand by and let the thing go through in that form ; they would insist that the proposal in its entirety be defined in the act, as is the proposal in regard to man-power. They know, however, that they can trust the Government. They know that this Government will, in no circumstances, impose a levy on wealth. I do not think that it is fair to the Minister to regard this, the acceptance of the amendment, as a reversal of form. He is of the same opinion as he was last night; but, if the honorable member for Perth, the honor- able member for Martin, and others, are satisfied with the proposal ,of the Government to make a register of wealth, and then do nothing more about it, they are easily satisfied.
– I very much regret that the Government has not adhered to the course which it said it intended to follow when it took office. At that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the Government intended to go full steam ahead, but, at the present time, instead of going straight ahead, it is weaving a most devious course at the behest of every one who whispers in its ear or threatens it with a gun. And, in the meantime, the interests of the people are being sacrificed. The first duty of the Government is to govern, and to take responsibility for its decisions.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s remarks may be very sound, but he is not discussing the clause.
– I am leading up to a reference to clause 16, and the adoption by the Government of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). Last night, we heard the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) say that the Government, after full consideration, had come to the conclusion that a census of wealth would be practically of no value at all. If that was his opinion last night, it is inconceivable that it is not his opinion tonight. In fact, he has said that he is of the same opinion still, and that the only reason for accepting the amendment is that it might placate those who are opposed to the register of man-power. He said that, if the acceptance of the amendment would achieve unity, the Government was prepared to accept it.
I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and others who have said that, if the Government really believes that a register of wealth will serve no useful purpose, then its only effect will be to harass and annoy tens of thousands of people throughout, the country. A person making a return to-day may state that he holds property in farms, or in flats in East Sydney or in Bondi, worth so many -thousands of pounds; but. in the event of war, the present values may alter very considerably. For example, a farm now worth £5,000, which produces wool or wheat for export, would not be worth that sum in time of a national emergency, because it would be unable to sell its products. Similarly, .flats at Bondi, or anywhere on >the Sydney waterfront, would not be worth nearly so much in time of war because of their exposed position. Therefore, an assessment of the nation’s financial ability to wage war will not be of much value unless it is taken when the actual crisis is being experienced. In my opinion, the Government should have adhered to its original attitude towards a wealth census. Possibly, the acceptance of the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is a. tribute to the Government’s political sagacity, or to the influence exerted by forces outside this Parliament. I referred last night to forces which were influencing the Labour party with regard to this matter. I referred also to the fact that while the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made one statement with regard to a wealth register, certain organizations-: - ~
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to pursue that line of discussion.
– The Leader of the Opposition made a certain statement with regard to the taking of a census of our man-power resources, but his party has adopted an entirely different attitude. 1 contend that the change of the opinions held by the honorable members opposite has been brought out as the result of influence exerted from outside this Parliament. One has only to read the newspapers in order to know that definite opinions have been expressed in trade union circles. These opinions are reflected in this Parliament. In the same way, the change of attitude on the part of the Government has come about as the result of influence being brought to bear. If the Government holds the view that a wealth census will be of. little value, and will only serve to harass thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth, then it should stand firmly in that attitude. I agreed in every respect with what the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) said in his speech last night, and
I was prepared to support the Government’s attitude. To-day, the Government asks honorable members to follow a course which amounts to see-sawing across the ocean. If the Government continues to set such a course in regard to its defence policy, then it will not retain the confidence of the people of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
.- My reasons for opposing this clause are different from those expressed by some other honorable members. My concern is not only as to what will happen to the young man who signs the card, but also as to what will happen to the young fellow of eighteen years who does not sign the card, and there will be many such people. When the national register legislation was brought into force in New Zealand - we might well heed the experience of a sister dominion - many young men refused to comply with its provisions. They were arrested and, after being arraigned before the court to have judgment passed upon them, some were sent to ordinary prisons to associate with the criminal element of the community. According to reports, some of these gaols were vermininvested. That is what the clean young manhood of this country may expect should the Government receive sufficient support to have this legislation passed through Parliament.
I was amazed to hear the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) admit that there was to be discrimination in the selection of men for certain work. I point out that on the last occasion when a government of this country attempted to impose conscription of human life, there was to be discrimination between various sections of the community. The Minister for Defence said that it would be a tragedy to take such people as medical students, law students, or any one pursuing professional studies, away from the universities. The majority of university students are sons of wealthy members of the community, and apparently these are the ones who are to be exempt from service. The people who are to be penalized are the sons of the unfortunate members of the community who have never had an opportunity to go to a college or a university. In this regard, let us consider what is taking place in the militia forces to-day. Discrimination is being shown there also. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) had been in the militia forces for only a very short time when he rose to the rank of lieutenant. I do not know how he managed it, but according to one. statement he rose to that rank because of his ability. If that is so, then, if I were to enlist, I should be a general in no time. I only instance this matter because it is an indication that even in the militia forces privileges can be bestowed on a favoured few, while the arduous tasks are carried out by the sons of the workers in the community. I agree with honorable members on this side who have said that, even if the Government did include in this legislation provision for the taking of a wealth census, the Opposition would not support the bill. I hope also that the workers will not be foolish enough to be gulled into supporting it. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) said that they did not want to embarrass the Government, but that the object of these amendments is to take away from the Opposition some of the arguments which the Government feared they might use outside Parliament in an endeavour to induce the workers to resist this measure. Will the Minister inform us what part wealth is to play in the defence scheme? The honorable gentleman said that the financing of the defence preparations would be carried out by ordinary methods, such as taxation measures and loans, but as we know from experience, those alleged super-patriots who own the wealth of the community will not be prepared to lend their money at a low rate of interest to the Government simply because the money is required for defence purposes. It is notable that, although the loans recently floated in London and in this country were specifically for defence purposes, they were heavily under-subscribed. The only way in which it is possible to obtain their support of loans is to raise the rate of interest. The big financiers take advantage of the country’s period of necessity, knowing that they will be able to get the rate of interest they want. I am not altogether in accord with the view that the taking of a wealth census would not serve some useful purpose. If a questionnaire on the lines of that suggested by the Minister were used, then the information obtained would not be of very much value, but the honorable gentleman said that he was prepared to accept suggestions and I intend to make some. I think that a good service would be rendered to the people of this country if certain information with regard to wealth accumulations were gathered. The Minister might be prepared to consider the inclusion of questions such as these: -
How much money did you inherit?
How much money did you acquire by marriage?
How much money have you acquired as the result of your own labour?
Give details ofhow you acquired the balance ?
How much of your wealth is representedby bonus shares?
If questions such as these had to be answered, the information derived would be very interesting to the community generally. Honorable members opposite said that a wealth census would be a national calamity and pointed out that, in most cases, assets were frozen and people would have to realize on them before they could make their money available. But let us examine for a moment what happened when money was required during the last war. It was not necessary to have liquid assets in Order to subscribe to war loans on that occasion. The banks were lending money on securities such as deeds of property, and thus enabled people to invest in war loans. I ask the Minister what is wrong with making wealthy people, many of whom obtained their money by very questionable means, disgorge some of their wealth in order that the defence of the country may be adequately provided for? When a young fellow volunteers for military service, he is given a uniform and a rifle, and, should hostilities occur, he is supplied with ammunition. When the war is over, if he is fortunate enough to secure employment, he is taxed so that he can pay for that rifle and uniform. We want something better than that. Personally, I believe in a census of* wealth, but not in the form suggested by the honorable member for Perth and accepted by the Government, because such a census would be innocuous. That amendment proposes only a census of such particulars of such properties as are prescribed by regulation. Thus the Minister, by reducing the number of questions to be asked, could make such a census less objectionable to that wealthy section of the community which the Go’vernment has been so anxious to protect during the whole of this debate. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made a very .good point with respect to the proposed wealth census. He pointed out that it would apply only to persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
– I suggest to the Minister that if a wealth census is to be taken according to the provisions of this measure it must be confined to persons who have attained the age of 18 years and have not passed the age of 65 years. This clause provides for the taking of censuses among persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
– The honorable member should read the further amendment in respect of clause IS which says that every person who owns property shall furnish a return.
– I submit that under the bill as drawn, a wealth census must be confined to persons of the ages specified in the bill. The census is to be taken in accordance with a proclamation, and the proclamation shall be in accordance with the provisions of this measure which specifies persons between IS and 65 years of age.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong. His fear is unfounded. I have checked up on that point very carefully.
– If I know anything at all about plain English a wealth census taken under this measure as it is now drawn must necessarily be confined to persons between the ages of 18 and 65” years. Therefore, this wealth census will allow some of the greatest boodlers in the country to escape, including many of the greybeards who grace the fashionable city clubs. I do not know on what authority the Minister bases his assurance, but I suggest that he might secure further advice with respect to this particular clause with a view to setting out the proposal in language which will dispel the unfounded fears which he said I entertain.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that he is wrong.
– It is all very well for the Minister to give me that assurance. No doubt he is sincere in the opinion he expresses, but the point is that once this measure becomes law it will be interpreted, not by the Minister, but by some other authority. Therefore, no room should be left for misunderstanding. The clause should be worded in the’ plainest language in order to ensure that there shall be no possibility of a misinterpretation of what is intended. Of course, I should hope that sufficient honorable members would be prepared to reject not only this clause but also the measure’ itself. The Minister was certainly correct in saying that nothing that the Government could do would remove the suspicions in the minds of honorable members od this side, because I, and my colleagues, are fully aware from experience of what anti-Labour governments are capable of doing. The only way in which the Government could remove our suspicions would be by withdrawing the bill altogether.
– I am afraid that we cannot come to an agreement on that point.
– I did not expect that we should be able to come to an agreement, but I assure the Minister that the Opposition will not end merely with the passing of this measure.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased that the Government has accepted the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) to provide for the taking of a census of wealth. Such action shows that the Government recognizes that the measure would be definitely one-sided if it provided only for a census of manpower. That would have been undemocratic. The Government should have proposed the amendment itself. This measure is designed to enable us to have h national stocktaking. It must be national in character. “We could not prepare effectively to meet an emergency by compiling only a register of individuals. One cannot help noting how closely the proposal now approximates the census of 1915. Personally, I think it is a great pity that. the Government has refused to accept an amendment to obtain information dealing with military service. The Minister (Mr. Street) said last night that such information was not required because the department possessed full records on that point. I say emphatically that the Government does not possess complete records in that respect. Even the Australian Imperial Force records do not show the present addresses nf the men who served in the Australian Imperial Force. Neither are the records with respect to the Militia complete so far as the addresses of volunteers are concerned. Only this week, I forwarded to the Minister a letter which I received from an ex-Australian Imperial Force man with distinguished service expressing his desire to re-enlist. He believed that he was still on the reserve of officers but was informed by the department that, because he had failed to notify the department of his address at the beginning of each year, he was no longer on the reserve.
– The department must be notified of addresses on the first day of each year.
– That man would be able to give valuable service.
– Yet he was not sufficiently interested to notify the department of his address in accordance with the regulations.
– I have been associated with the Militia for over 30 years, and this is the first I knew that the regulations provided that the department must be notified of addresses each year and I question whether the Minister knew it himself until he took over the portfolio. My own name was struck off the unattached list, and put on the reserve, and it was only because I protested that I had not been consulted about the matter that I was put back on the unattached list. Despite much evidence to the contrary the Government claims that its records in this respect are complete. That is a ridiculous statement. Apart from the incompleteness of the records with regard to the present addresses of ex-Australian Imperial Force men, and members of the militia forces, the Government has no record of ex-members of various services such as ex-Imperial servicemen now living in Australia or New Zealand. The Minister suggests that the latter will have an opportunity to become members of the Australian Imperial Force reserve, but I point- out that that is a voluntary reserve.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I support the amendment, but I suggest to the Government that it is not too late to provide for the return of information concerning military service. I hope that the Government will take an opportunity in another place to bring forward an amendment along those lines. Without such a provision the census of man-power would be purely a sham. I compliment the Government on accepting the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Perth. I accept the Minister’s promise that a schedule will be worked out before the bill is returned from the Senate, and I hope that, he will prepare a schedule which will be all-embracing. I do not think that people with comparatively little property should be harassed in any way by the taking of a wealth census. Our main objective should be to compile information concerning the great aggregations of wealth in this country with a view to enabling the Government to frame a schedule to finance urgent defence expenditure without increasing taxes unduly.
.- It has been said that in a time of danger every person in the community has an obligation to serve in some capacity in the defence of this country. I have no quarrel with that contention. As a matter of fact, the Opposition is at one with the Government in that respect. There are many ways in which the various sections of the community can assist in our defence. This problem involves munitions, man-power and money, and it would be difficult, I suggest, to determine which of the three would be the most important factor in a drawn-out conflict. The Government claims that this measure, and another bill, which was recently passed in this chamber, are steps towards making adequate provision for the defence of this country. It says that it will marshal the munitions factories, and that it will marshal industry to supply the requirements of our army and navy. We know that in marshalling these resources the Government took fine care to guarantee a very adequate profit to those whose help it is seeking. Now we are dealing with the second phase of our defence preparations, namely, the marshalling of our man-power between the ages of 18 and 65. It will be noted that the Government holds out no prospect of profit of any description to these people. As a matter of fact, the only thing it holds out to them is a threat that if they do not fill in the registration forms they will he liable to severe penalties. As has alreadybeen said, the Labour party regards this measure as the thin edge of the wedge of conscription. No inducement is to be held out to people who are to be asked to make personal sacrifices in the interests of the defence of this country. The next question which arises is what contribution will be asked from those people who, while not in a position to help physically, possess wealth which mightbe used for this purpose. When it cornea to this stage, the Government jibs and tries to shelter these people, who, after all, should be only too ready to make sacrifices in a campaign which is designed mainly to protect their wealth. In dealing with this problem, we have: first, those who will defend the country by investing their money in industry at a handsome profit; secondly, the individual who is to be asked to make personal sacrifices and who is threatened with penalties if he does not fill in the required forms; and, thirdly, the wealthy individual who, we are informed by the journalisticspokesmen of the Government, will be driven out of the country if a wealth census is taken. According to the admissions of the Go vernment itself, it would appear that the super-patriots, who would have the most to lose if this country were invaded, are. after all, the least patriotic, because, at the slightest suggestion of a census of their wealth, we are told that the f ear that it might lead to confiscation would drive them out of the country. The Government has decided to accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), despite the definite statement by the Minister that it was not only unacceptable, but also impracticable. The amendment is absolutely meaningless. The Minister assured us that he would accept it to placate the Opposition and others who thought that the bill was designedmerely to bring about industrial and military conscription. The amendment, to my mind implies a census of property, and I do not know whether property covers all possessions. Assuming that it means everything in the way of tangible assets-
– The intention is to take a census of wealth at the same time as a census of man-power.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- But the Government does not intend to use the information in respect of wealth, even if it is collected.
– How would the honorable member suggest using it?
– A census of the manhood is to be taken, and those who are indispensable to industry will not be used as cannon fodder, but those who are regarded as not indispensable will be so used. The honorable gentleman would have no scruples whatever about conscripting the manhood of the country. Will he say that, in the event of invasion, he has not the slightest intention to use this information for the purpose of applying conscription? If this information is not required for military or industrial conscription, why collect it at all? The Minister has the effrontery to accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Perth; but in the same breath he assures the committee that the information received would be useless, and that he does not propose to use it. He has accepted the amendment because he knows that it is valueless.
I draw attention to the difference between the proposed wealth census and that in regard to man-power, in which citizens between the ages of 18 and 65 years will be asked to supply the most intimate details? such as their age, their country of birth, their nationality, whether they are married, single or divorced, how many dependent relatives they have, whether their health is good, bad or indifferent, whether they are employers of labour or work on their own account, and their present occupation and what other occupation they could follow. In the case of the wealth census the whole method of collecting the information will be provided for by regulations, and people will be asked to supply such particulars as are prescribed. Even if the Minister agreed to submitting to the wealthy classes questions relating to the whole of the information for which the Opposition might ask, he has admitted that he has not the slightest intention to ask those people to make any sacrifice for the defence of the country. The amendment by the honorable member for Perth would restrict the wealth census to persons of the same ages as those to whom the census of man-power would apply.
– The honorable member is at variance with the Crown Law authorities.
– The clause provides for the taking of a census of male persons between the ages of IS and 65 years, and the only alteration that would be made, after acceptance of the amendment by the honorable member for Perth, would be that a wealth census would also be taken.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I object to this clause because it seeks to impose a serious obligation on lads between the ages of 18 and 21 years. It is characteristic of the methods adopted by a former government of the same political colour as that now in office in seeking to impose upon youths, who have no opportunity- to express their views at the ballot-box, obligations in excess of those which they might reasonably be expected to carry. Therefore, I consider that, fundamentally, the clause is unjust. If it be considered fair to bring lads of eighteen years of age under the provisions of this bill, it would not be asking too much to suggest that they should also have electoral rights, although I personally consider that they are not capable of mature judgment until they reach the age of 21 years. The Minister did not dispute my contention during the second-reading debate regarding the technical knowledge of youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and others that no practical benefit would result from the tabulation of information respecting the technical resources of the nation by means of questions submitted to youths between those ages. Between the ages of 18 and 21 years great changes occur in the lives and habits of young people in respect of their interests, their studies and their employment. I know that in relation to young people with whom I am in close contact extraordinary changes have occurred even between the ages of 18 and 19 and 20 and 21 years. In certain cases [ have in mind the whole outlook of these young people altered in those years. A census taken in respect of them when they were 18 or 19 years of age would have been of practically no use when they were between the ages of 20 and 21 years. It is fundamentally wrong and unjust to expect young people at this period of their life to furnish information that can give any real guidance.
As to the proposed wealth census, I support the views of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I doubt very much whether the clause, as proposed to be amended, will be all embracing. I cannot understand how the Government expects the words proposed to be inserted to affect people beyond the age of 65 years.
– I assure the honorable member that the Crown Law advises that the clause, as amended, will be all embracing both as to age and sex.
– We have had some experience of the efforts of certain people to evade the law. Even when we have made provisions that we thought were entirely unambiguous certain legal gentlemen have been able, in the courts of this country, to suggest entirely different interpretations.
– There should be a new clause dealing with this matter.
– That is so. The Minister is hardly fair to honorable members in declining to have a new clause drafted covering the point. He would have acted wisely had he accepted my suggestion earlier in the evening to report progress so that the whole matter could be reviewed quietly and a clause drawn up which would have satisfactorily covered the,-ground. I have respect for the advice of our legal authorities, but I know that the services of other legal gentlemen are available to members’ of the public who desire to evade the law. Every possible step should be taken to remove any uncertainty that is thought to exist; otherwise dissatisfaction is sure to result.
– I have consulted four authorities on the subject.
– Even though it may be true that “ in the multitude of counsellors there is safety,” I still am not satisfied. A specific provision should be inserted to the effect that persons of both sexes over the age of 65 years will be required to furnish information in regard to the proposed wealth census. Even if the clause be amended as proposed it will be ambiguous and unsatisfactory. I am not content with the assurance that the Minister has given in connexion with it. I ask that a new clause be drafted to deal with the matter and also that the questions proposed to be asked in respect of the wealth census be specifically stated for out consideration.
.- Having heard the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) on this clause, I feel it necessary to revise my views in respect of it. I confess that my limited parliamentary experience almost caused me to be ‘swayed by the subtlety of the explanation of the Minister (Mr. Street). We have been told that the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a census shall be taken of the wealth of the people of this country; but, as this discussion has continued, tlie value of the amendment, and also of the bill itself, for that matter, has become discounted. In view of the lack of urgency, and of the importance of our knowing the exact nature of the questionnaire to be drafted, I ask the Government to report progress. A good deal could be said in favour of the suggestion that the information which the Government desires should be gathered by means of the ordinary census, even if a few extra questions had to bc included in the questionnaire. In any case, the Government has given us no assurance that, if the proposed wealth census is taken, it will, in. case of emergency, be made the basis for imposing a levy on wealth. I maintain that the sacrifice of the men who may be called upon to bear arms in the defence of their country in a time of emergency will be far greater than that likely to be borne by those who merely provide money for war purposes. Unless the Minister is able to give me some assurance that will allay, my fears in connexion with this measure, I feel that I shall not be able to vote for the motion for the third reading. I have a vivid memory of the thousands upon thousands of young men that I have seen in our country districts who have been forgotten by the Government. Yet it is proposed that a census of all these persons shall be taken, so that in a time of emergency they may be regimented and called upon to take the greatest of all risks in the defence of the country. If a census were taken of these young men and the unemployed generally, with the object of providing them with suitable employment so that they could live decently, it would be a good thing. I believe that the Government would do far more for the effective defence of the country if it would take a census of the people who are to-day suffering from a lack of food, clothing and shelter, with the object of supplying these needs, than it is likely to do by insisting upon the passage of this bill. If the census were for the purpose of obtaining information about the financiallydistressed and impoverished farmers who have been the victims of an economy which has not given to them the justice to which they are entitled, I should enthusiastically support it. I concede that adequate defence is necessary, but first things should be attended to first, and this Government has been remiss in not basing its policy oh that view. Ithas been admitted that the taking of this census will be for the purpose of utilizing man-power in ways for which it is most suited, so that industry will not be dislocated. The neglected class of young men of eighteen and upwards would be regimented to bear arms in order to protect the interests of those established in business and those who have good jobs. It has been admitted by the Minister that the purpose of this register is defensive. If the Minister will not give me an assurance that the census of wealth will be used in order to make a levy upon the wealthy section of the people for the protection of the country, I shall have further justification for opposing the measure.
– Everybody who pays taxes contributes.
– Yes, but taxation alone is not sufficient. It is not comparable to the great sacrifices which will be made by the people in general. I must not be misunderstood. I favour adequate defence consistent with the degree of danger, but I believe that the danger to which we are said to be subjected is exaggerated. I should be happy to support the Government on this measure if certain assurances could be given. Defence is the policy of the party which I represent, with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), in this chamber. I have been referred to as an independent, but that is not so. The party of which I am a member is the governing party in Victoria, and its policy is the adequate defence of the country, based on equality of sacrifice. Unless the Government is prepared to implement this principle in the bill I will not be able to support it.
.- I dwelt on the implications of clause 16 in my second-reading speech. As this discussion has proceeded, it has become more obvious than ever that the fixing of eighteen years as the sage at which men must first register is because so many of the youths are unemployed. When the census is taken the Defence Department will be able to know those who are unemployed and when conscription is introduced, as a corollary to this legislation, by the repeal of section 49 of the Defence Act, they would, in the event of war, be seized upon and drafted to the front line. There is protection for the men in the key industries, and probably the sons of the wealthy supporters of the Government will all be in the key industries. It is no wonder, then, that the Opposition advocates a census of wealth and property if there is to be universal sacrifice to meet an emergency. This brings me to the reason for my rising to speak. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has moved an amendment which the Government has accepted for the insertion in this clause of a provision for the taking of a census of property. Wharton’s Law Lexicon defines property as follows: -
Property is of three sorts: absolute, qualified, and possessory.
Property is real or personal and it also includes choses in possession and choses in action. That is the legal meaning of “ property “, but I direct the attention of the Minister to the second schedule of the War Census of 1915. The front of the card is described as the “Wealth and Income Card “, and it demands details of “ income “, but the back of the card demands separate details as to “ property “, real and personal. The point I impress upon the Minister is the fact that in 1915 there was differentiation between “ wealth and income “ and “ property “. Is it the intention of the Minister to obtain from this proposed census information similar to that which was obtained in 1915?
– The details which were sought on the back of the schedule to which the honorable gentleman refers are substantially those which we shall seek under the proposed property census.
– I am concerned about wealth and income. The Government appears to be ignoring those aspects.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that differentiation in 1915 was due to the fact that in those days there was no Commonwealth income tax.
– But the information obtained by the Income Tax Department nowadays is confidential.
– As it applies to individuals, yes, but as it applies to bulk, no.
We have already the information which the honorable gentleman desires. Any rate of income tax can be imposed.
– Does the Government propose a census of property or of wealth? If there was a distinction in 1915 there is a distinction to-day.
– The honorable gentleman should read the questions asked on the back portion of the schedule to which he referred.
– I shall. They refer to: - Cash in hand; Money at current accounts in banks, &c. ; Fixed deposits in banks, building societies, &c; Government and other public debenture, &c. ; Shares and debentures in companies; Debts due to (a) mortgage on land, (b) other debts.
– That is not bad. That is the sort of information that we will seek under the proposed census.
– It is evident that the Government does not care whether it gets the information or not. There will be no onus on the Government to collect the information, or, if it does collect it, to use it. In that case, of what use is it to clutter up the act with this amendment? Is it that the Government is frightened to face defeat on the floor of the House? It is evident to me that the Government will be in the same position in regard to this measure as it is in regard to national insurance.
Friday, 9 June
Days of Sitting - Conciliatiok and Arbitration Amendment Bill - Air Service to Lismore - Annexe at Geelong.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
After consultation with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), it has been decided that the House shall sit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, commencing at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
– Two. days ago, there appeared on the notice-paper a notice of motion for leave to bring in a bill to amend the Commonwealth Arbitration andConciliation Act. That notice has now disappeared.I should like to know when the bill is to be gone on with.
to the dissatisfactionwhich exists in the northern rivers area in respect of air services. For many years, the towns of Lismore and Casino enjoyed the advantage of an air service to Brisbane and to Sydney. As a matter of fact, Airlines of Australia really had its beginning in Lismore. However, since the control of that company passed into the hands of a larger organization, the service has suffered. 1 direct the attention of the Minister to the desirability of trying to persuade the company to give a better service. The city of Lismore has expended £8,000 on the construction of an aerodrome, but no use is being made of it because it would be necessary to expend a further sum of money before the aerodrome is completed. I ask the Minister to grant some financial assistance to the council in order to complete the work.
– The honorable member has raised this matter several times by means of questions in the House, and by correspondence. He has also spoken to me personally about it. He is naturally most concerned that Lismore, which was the head-quarters of the Robinson Air Service and is the capital of one of the richest farming districts in Australia, should not now have the benefit of an air service. I appreciate the concern of the honorable member. The Robinson Air Service was one of the pioneer air services of Australia, and was run with great efficiency for many years. There ought to be plenty of traffic to maintain the service. Apart from that, the local authority has expended a great deal of money upon the development of the aerodrome. The facts, however, do not disclose that the people of that district gave to the last service the support which would justify its continuance. The last company commenced operations on the 2nd August, 1938, and the service was discontinued on the 11th March, 1939. During that period, 398 trips were made with an eight-passenger aircraft, and 465 passengers were carried. In fact, the air liner went in and out of Lismore once a day in each direction over the whole of that period, and the number of passengers averaged 1.1 for each trip. The company decided that it could not continue on that basis. There are four services a day between Sydney and Brisbane, and there is no objection, so far as the department is concerned, to the company calling in at Lismore if it wishes. The honorable member will agree, however, that the department could hardly bring pressure to bear upon the company, and pay a subsidy to it, for a service with Douglas air liners for an average of one passenger a day. Naturally, a service must depend upon the traffic offering. I assure the honorable member that I share his view that a line should be running there. I shall watch the position closely.
– In the press of this week appeared the statement that an annexe is to be built on the property of the Ford Motor Company Limited, at Geelong, in the electorate of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). I now ask the Minister if to-morrow he will make’ a statement to the House, setting out the centres, and on whose properties, whether Commonwealth, State or private, further annexes are proposed to be built.
– in reply - The matter referred to by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is at present under consideration by the Government, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has informed me that when the House reassembles next week he will notify it of the Government’s intention.
I shall consult with my colleague the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) and see if he is able to supply the information asked for by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Nutrition - Final Report of the Advisor)7 Council, with Appendices.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 44.
House adjourned at 12.12 a.m. Friday.
The following answers to questions were circulated: - >
Performing Right Fees.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Collinsville Post Office.
s asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The nature of Governmental action in connexionwith the National Fitness Campaign is now under Cabinet consideration, following certain recommendations by the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
Negotiations are proceedingbetween the department and the Consul-General for the Netherlands. It is anticipated that they will be finalized at an early date. The scheme involves the establishment of an organization in Australia for the reception and settlement of the migrants.
Duke and Duchess of Kent: Date of Arrival in Australia.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s. - On the 1st June, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
Net loss is inclusive of interest, depreciation and provision of maintenance reserves, as necessary.
Loan Flotation. .
s. - On the 7th June, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following question, without notice : - -
Is the Treasurer in the position to give honorable members particulars of the expenditure in Great Britain that will have to be met out of the £6,000,000 loan to be issued in London ?
The main heads under which the £6,000,000 loan will be expended are as follows : -
Commonwealth Railways : Administration .
s. - On the 2nd June, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), asked the following question, without notice : -
In view of the disquieting rumours current to-day regarding certain phases of the administration of the Commonwealth railways service, particularly in connexion with the higher executive positions of that public utility, will the Minister representing the Minister for Works, inquire if it be possible to make public the present private inquiry into many allegations, in order to allay any concern that may be felt?
This is a purely departmental inquiry.
n. - On the 7th June, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), asked the following questions, upon notice:-
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Imports into the Commonwealth of wool and fur felt hats during the ten months to the close of April, 1939, have been recorded as follows: -
Non-official Post Offices.
– On the 7th June, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), asked the following question, upon notice : -
What allowances are paid by the department for postal services rendered at the following non-official offices:- Apsley, Austin’s
Ferry, Bagdad, Dunorlan, Tunbridge, Conara Junction, Karoola,Mole Creek, Lilydale and Legerwood?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: -
Apsley, £37 15s. per annum; Austin’s Ferry, £37 per annum; Bagdad, £129 per annum; Dunorlan, £52 10s. per annum; Tunbridge, £122 15s. per annum; Conara Junction, £173 5s. per annum; Karoola, £48 15s. per annum; Mole Creek, £190 15s. per annum; Lilydale, £291 5s. per annum; Legerwood, £161 10s. per annum.
Automatic Stamp-selling Machines.
n. - On the 6th June, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the following question, without notice: -
Have any new stamp-selling machines been installed in Brisbane and suburbs ? If not, when are these machines likely to be made available ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that 36 stamp-selling machines have so far been installed in Brisbane and suburbs.
n asked the Minister for
Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390608_reps_15_160/>.