16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether the amount provided for the construction of an annexe to the Launceston railwayworkshops was sufficient to cover also the cost of the adjoining tool shop? If not, has a further amount been provided for the completion of the work?
– Realizing that the amount of £30,000 originally provided for the annexe would not be sufficient to meet requirements, the department has increased the provision by £10,000. I have informed the Premier of Tasmania to this effect, and am pleased to make the intimation to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Who are the members of the Inventions Board who rejected the Owen gun? Does the Minister intend so to reconstitute the board as to ensure that it will be composed of men whose instinctive reaction to new ideas in warfare will not be stark hostility, and who will be prepared to make a thorough test of the value of ideas submitted to them? Are the members of the board responsible in any way for the present hold-up of production of the Owen gun? If not, who are responsible, and is it likely that they are acting at the instance of the Inventions Board?
– Full information on all of the points raised by the honorable member will be obtained and supplied to him.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me a question, without notice, in reference to the payment of child endowment for the period during which children are inmates of the institution conducted by the Far West Children’s Scheme of New South Wales.
I was then under the impression that the matter had been concluded, but really was not in a position to give a final reply. Institutions somewhat similarly placed are also under consideration by a conference which is now meeting in an endeavour to reach a satisfactory solution. Before finality is reached, it will be necessary to have further discussions in Sydney next week -with representatives of the other institutions concerned. Every effort is being made to find an answer to the problem, which is surrounded by legal, administrative and financial difficulties.
Institutions of this character, of which there are only three or four in New South Wales, are entered by children for only short periods, and the difficulty is to find a suitable method of payment as between the parent and the institution. Owing to the changeover from State to Commonwealth endowment, payment by the State has ceased, and some hardship has resulted. Every effort will be made to complete the matter as soon as possible. When further information is available, I shall supply it to the honorable member.
– Where a. number of children under the age of sixteen are living in separate establishments, although they are members of the same family, the Department of Social Services has adopted the practice of paying child endowment only in respect of each child after the first under the age of sixteen years in the. separate establishments. The act. provided that each member of a. family under the age of sixteen after the first, should be entitled to child endowment. I ask the Minister for Social Services, on what decision of government policy this ruling was based, as my own recollection is that the previous Government decided that each child after the first should be eligible for child endowment, regardless of whether the children were living in separate establishments?
– Although I understood that the act made all members of a family under sixteen years of age, with the exception of the first, eligible to receive child endowment, the interpretation which has been placed upon the legislation varies that procedure in respect of children of divided families.
– Is the decision based upon the act, or upon the departmental ruling?
– Where the children are living in separate establishments and are maintained by different members of the same family, other relatives, or an institution, they are not regarded as members of the one family. I understand that the previous Government made this determination. Whilst I have not departed from it, I agree that the anomaly should be removed, and I shall be grateful to receive the assistance of the former Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) when proposals forcorrecting the anomaly are under consideration.
Ohristmas Leave for Tasman ian Members.
- by leave - For the information of Tasmanian members who waited on me as a deputation last night and asked that leave and travelling facilities to Tasmania be granted to Tasmanian boys in Australian Imperial Force camps on the mainland who desire to visit their homes at Christmas time, I am now in a position to announce that arrangements have been made with Tasmanian Steamships Proprietary Limited, which runs the shipping service between Melbourne and Tasmania, to put on an additional ship, capable of carrying 400 passengers.
When the decision was made to grant leave to soldiers to visit their homes during the Christmas season it was decided that, owing to difficulties of transport, Tasmanian soldiers would not be able to leave the mainland for their eight days’ leave. The deputation which waited on me last night, and was attended by Mr. Brooker, Chief Secretary in the Government of Tasmania, urged that transport be provided for Tasmanian men to go home. I gave the matter very careful consideration to-day, and in view of the strong case made out by the deputation was able to arrange for the extra shipping facilities.
In granting Christmas leave to the troops this year, I arranged that all soldiers visiting their homes would be able to spend a minimum of four days with their families, instead of the minimum of three days which was allowed last year. It has also been arranged that the fares of troops proceeding to their homes for Christmas leave this year will be paid by the Government. Last year the troops in some States had topay second-class fares, less 15 per cent.; and those who travelled first-class had to pay half fare.
– Can the Minister for Munitions supply information in respect of the manufacture of Bren guns and Bren gun carriers? I asked a question on this subject on the 29th October, and on the following day the Minister replied that he was making an investigation. Can he now say whether Government factories are continuing the manufacture of Bren gun carriers, and whether any large contracts have been let to private firms for the purpose of increasing production ?
– I have had inquiries made in response to the question asked by the honorable member, as well as urgent representations by the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Victoria, Mr. John Cain, and others who have interested themselves in the matter. I understand that the Area Board of Management of Victoria has further reviewed the co-ordinationof this particular class of equipment. Although the arrangements finally made have not yet been placed before me, I believe that they will not interfere with the conditions that have so far prevailed in respect of the manufacture of the different parts, whether through the Automobile Association of Victoria by the different garages which have , undertaken a considerable volume of. the work, or in Government railway workshops or other branches of industry. Co-ordination is regarded as essential if the best results are to be achieved in the production of this equipment. So soon as I have received a submission from the Area Board of Management and my department, I shall supply complete information to the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Minister for the Army able to confirm the report that the allied forces are making an offensive in Cyrenaica, and can he say whether the Australian Imperial Force is engaged ?
– Information has been received that British forces have advanced on a 140-mile front in Cyrenaica. and that penetration to a depth of 50 miles has been achieved. It is also reported that eighteen enemy aircraft were destroyed in an offensive patrol over Cyrenaica. on the 19th November. Nothing is at present known regarding what troops are participating in the offensive. I shall give further details as soon as possible.
-On the18th November the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me, without notice, whether it was a fact that the previous Government had approved of the purchase by Mr. Essington Lewis of a drop hammer at an estimated cost of £100,000, but that to date it had cost over £300,000; whether the hammer was purchased on behalf of
The Australian Aluminium Company Limited, and what arrangements had been made to lease or lend the hammer to the company. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the drop hammer was purchased urgently in America under the Director-General’s powers at, a time when delay would have meant the loss of the equipment. This action was taken on representation from the Aircraft Production Commission. The original cost was £100,000, but operating plant, forging and equipment and installations have increased the cost to £350,000. The equipment was essential for the production of aircraft propellers in Australia. It was purchased by the Commonwealth and remains its property. It has been installed in an annexe to the Aluminium Company’s works at Granville, New South Wales, and is producing propeller blades. The annexe is under the control of the Department of Aircraft Production, which is at present negotiating regarding the fee to be paid for the technical and other services of the company. The arrangements made are for the period of the war, during which land, buildings and plant will remain the property of the Commonwealth. It is proposed to review the position at a later stage, and the plant may be adapted for large steel drop forgings, aswell as for aluminium.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a statement in the Sydney Morning Herald that, on Tuesday and yesterday, the State coal mine at Lithgow was idle as a protest against the holiday penalty in the award? I also saw a report that the taxi-drivers of Sydney had stopped work. Is this to be taken as an indication that the Minister was misinformed when he stated, in answer to a question on Tuesday that, so far as he could learn officially, for the first time in the history of the country there were no industrial disputes?
– There was a temporary stoppage of work at the Lithgow State mine. Immediately it was brought to the notice of the Government I communicated with the officers of the Coal and Shale Employees Federation and, as the result of negotiations, the men returned to work, and are still working. As for the stoppage of work by a. section of the taxi-d rivers of Sydney, these men arc the employees of one company only, and the first intimation I had of the trouble was when I read of it in the newspapers. I have already made inquiries regarding the cause of the trouble.
– Isit a fact that Mr. Samuels, the Recruiting Officer at Canberra, has resigned from his position, and that grave dissatisfaction exists regarding the operations of the local recruiting committee? Has the Minister received a request for an inquiry into the circumstances associated with the resignation of this officer?If a request is made for an inquiry, will the Minister order that a public inquiry be held?
– I have not heard of the resignation of Mr. Samuels, nor have I received a request for an inquiry. All the circumstances willbe considered before a decision is reached on the suggestion that a public inquiry be held.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development say whether there is any substantial foundation for persistentreports that very large rations of petrol arc being allocated to bookmakers in order to enable them to travel to and from race meetings? If so, will he investigate the position in its relation to the restrictions imposed upon those engaged in essential industries?
– From time to time, I have read allegations of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. The matter was referred to quite recently in Sydney by the State Minister for Transport, and it was decided that inquiries should be made. I agree with the honorable member that, if. the reports are true, some action must be taken. I have asked the Fuel Board in each of the States to keep a very close watch on the position, and to do what is necessary to correct abuses. I shall await their reports with interest, and shall supply the honorable member with any relevant information which I receive.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service yet had an opportunity to investigate the temporary hold-up of the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland,due to an alleged shortage of labour?
– Immediately the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) brought this matter to my notice a few days ago, I communicated with the officers of my department in order to discover the cause of the delay. I was advised that the hold-up was not due to any dispute, but to a difficulty in obtaining firemen. The matter was taken up with the union officials, since when a crew has been provided, and the ship has resumed its running.
-Has the Minister for the Army noticed in this morning’s press a report that a hitch has occurred between the Government of the United States of America and the Commonwealth Government in regard to the operation of the lease-lend arrangements? Having regard to the importance of these arrangements to Australia’s war effort, will the Minister make a statement on the subject as soon as possible?
– I have not heard of any hitch over this important matter, but inquiries will he made, and a statement made to the House as soon as possible.
Charges against Mr. Archie Cameron.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider the setting up of a court of inquiry for the purpose of examining the charges made in a section of the press against the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in connexionwith the censorship?
– Consideration . will be given to the suggestion.
– by leave - The questions which have been directed at the army censorship recently fall into three sections. The first concerns the publications which have been placed on the banned list prepared for the Army; the second relates to the alleged impounding of books that, are being imported as cargo; and the third is whether the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is associated, in his military capacity, with the banning of literature.
I shall deal first with the Army’s list of banned publications. At the moment, 171 publications, including books, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and cyclostyled circulars are on the banned list and are stopped at the point of entry on the ground that they are subversive. Of these,83 come under the broad description of “Leftist”; 16 have a distinct Nazi flavour; and the remainder consist of certain Japanese periodicals and material which is militantly pacifist or anti-British. Of the 171 publications, 16 are published in Japan, 2 in France, 57 in the United States of America, 2 in China, 9 in Russia, 1 in New Zealand, 64 in England, 3 in Manchuria, 3 in Mexico, 2 in Brazil, 1 in Argentina, 4 in Australia, 2 in Eire, 1 in Finland, 2 in Sweden, 1 in Switzerland, and 1 in India. Forty-nine are printed in foreign languages and the rest are printed in English.
Included in the list of banned “Leftist” publications are the Russian newspapers Pravda and Izvestia, as well as a number of the works of Lenin and others. I have ordered a review of the 171 publications on the Army’s banned list with a view to seeing whether any of them can be released for circulation, without any risk to national security.
Recently, two publications were removed from this list, because it was found that they did not contain any subversive or objectionable propaganda. They were the Moscow News, a weekly newspaper published in English in Moscow, and the Left News, a periodical published by the firm of Gollanez, in London.
The Army is responsible for the censorship of matter which passes through postal and telegraphic channels. At present, if any of the publications on the Army’s banned list are intercepted in the post, they are stopped.
Theprocedure which was adopted in compiling the list of banned publications was as follows: - Publications intercepted in the mail by postal and telegraphic censorship authorities, and suspected of being subversive or detrimental to the effective prosecution ofthe war, were submitted to the Department of Information, which is the press and publicity censorship authority. The Department of Information decided whether or not a publication contravened the provisions of National Security (General) Regulation 17. If the Department of Information considered that a publication contravened the provisions of the regulation, the Controller of Postal and. Telegraphic Censorship placed it on the banned list and it was stopped by the censors. All publications placed on the list were promulgated in general censorship instructions which are issued by the Controller of Postal and Telegraph ic Cens orshi p .
I shall now describe the procedure for removing a publication from the list. If, in the course of examining materials, a district censor considers that the tone of a listed publication has changed, the Controller of Postal and Telegraphic Censor- shi p submits it to the Department of Information. If the Department of Information finds that the publication is not subversive, it is removed from the list. The Customs Department is then advised through general censorship instructions and allows the entry of the publication if it comes in as freight.
The next matter is the impounding of literature after importation and before sale or distribution. I am informed by the military intelligence authorities that they go no further than the censorship action which I have outlined. The power to impound “ Leftist “ literature exists in National Security (General) Regulation 17, which provides that a. Minister may, by order in the Gazelle, declare printed matter to be a prohibited paper. The printed matter then becomes automatically banned and forfeited. Under National Security (Subversive Associations) Regulations, the Attorney-General has certain powers in regard to the property of associations which are declared to be subversive, but these do not appear to be relevant here, except where they relate to the impounding of the literature of those organizations which have already been declared subversive. The position regarding the impounding of literature is as follows: -
It is not true that publications originating from Russia are unobtainable in Australia. It is probably true that the number available is small, and I have already stated that a review willbe made of the censorship list on an equitable basis, having due regard to the paramount importance of national security. Complaints have been made that the Customs Department referred doubtful publications to the Army, which banned them without explanation, and which refused to inform booksellers whether or why the ban had been imposed. I am informed that the Army, in these matters, acts on the advice of the Department of Information.
Apart altogether from array censorship, the Customs Departmenthas power under the Prohibited Imports Regulations to stop certain types of Communist literature.
Regarding statements that the military intelligence organization in Southern Command, of which the honorable member for Barker is a. member, has taken action to impound or suppress literature other than that which is included in the banned list, I am in a position to state definitely that Southern Command has not at any time since the outbreak of war, either within or outside the scope of its powers, impounded any literature, imported or otherwise, cither on its own initiative or at the request of some other authority, or in any other circumstances. Southern Command has not been concerned in any way, in association with the Commonwealth Investigation Branch or with the police, in the impounding of literature.
It is true that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron), in his military capacity, was connected in name with intelligence censorship work for about a month, but his actual work was not very great. His absences from military duty were necessarily frequent, because of his work as a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The House of Representatives sat during two weeks of the month that he was connected with intelligence censorship. There are no instances in which he was concerned, in his military capacity, with the banning of literature.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to-
That the paper be printed.
Office Accommodation - Transfer of Departments
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will make a statement before Parliament goes into recess showing the steps taken by this Government to increase accommodation in Canberra for office staffs and to provide homes for public servants in order that this capital shall be in fact as well as in name the seat of Government? Can the Minister tell us what the long-range programme is for the transfer of departments located in Sydney and Melbourne to Canberra ?
– I shall place the honorable member’s question before the Minister for the Interior in the hope that I shall be able to give a considered reply at a later date.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral, or whoever is the responsible Minister, whether the Government has examined reports in the press that aliens in different parts of the Commonwealth are extensively acquiring property out of all proportion to their needs, including the property of Australian men in the fighting forces abroad?
– The only aspect of that matter with which I am concerned is that the consent of the Attorney-General must be given to any transfer of land to naturalized persons of enemy origin. I am endeavouring to ascertain what are the precise principles upon which those consents have been given or referred. I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member in order to see whether the question should be considered more broadly, because it is important that our policy in these matters should be a policy understood, not only by the AttorneyGeneral’s officers, but also by the people of Australia.
– Has the attention of the Deputy Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that a film is being shown in Sydney theatres advertising the Daily Telegraph in which Commonwealth Ministers are portrayed being interviewed by Daily Telegraph pressmen and in which it is implied that exclusive interviews are given to that newspaper? Was this film taken with the full knowledge of the Ministers that it was to be used for this purpose, and is the implication correct that exclusive interviews are given to that newspaper?
– An inquiry will be made and a reply furnished to the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question which touches on the accuracy of a report in Hansard.
On the 7th November, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) made a statement, concerning Mr. W. J. Smith, Director of Gun Ammunition, in which the honorable member said that Mr. Smith had taken technicians off work which was being done for the Government on a cost-plus basis and had. employed them at the Government’s expense on the construction of a horse float for his own use. The report in Hansard omits the words “ at the Government’s expense “. Will you inquire whether the report in Hansard is a full and correct transcript of the reporter’s notes?
– I shall make inquiries and report the results.
Mr;.CONELAN. - In view of the tardy interest shown by former Ministers in. the desirability of restricting expenditure on non-essential goods, will the Deputy Prime Minister have prepared a statement showing the numbers of Christmas cards which were distributed by them last year?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Ha s the Minister for Supply and Development received a full report from the Copper and Bauxite Committee concerning the investigation of the Wallaroo mines? If so, will he inform me of the result? If not, will he give to me all of the information that he has already received?
– The report has been received and various aspects have been considered. Some of the points raised have been, referred to the Government of South. Australia for its consideration. Upon receipt of the views of that government on aspects with which it is concerned, I shall be pleased to make the full information available to the honorable member.
– The Minister for Supply and Development has indicated to me by letter that he has referred to the Government of New South Wales, which controls the leases, the question of whether it desires to take some part in the development of the Baerami oil shale field. Will the Minister consider the application of a policy under which the Commonwealth Government will take direct action in relation to these leases and disregard any intermediaries, governments or companies, concerned in the leases, and endeavour thereby to stimulate production of oil from shale, which is so important at the present time?
– The Department of Supply and Development has followed the course of seeking advice of State departments in all matters connected with the search for flow oil, the development of shale, and the development of mineral resources generally. The honorable member is justified in considering that, sufficient technical examination should have been made by this time of shale deposits at Baerami. The trouble in this instance is the question of a decision between the Baerami interests and the Capital Issues Advisory Board. The Department of Supply and. Development has had something to do with that, matter. A deputation from the Baerami interests was in Canberra last week, and a discussion between the three parties took place. I expected thorn to arrive at a final decision, but I am. afraid that they did not. I repeat that the honorable member is justified in considering that this matter should be short-circuited and. an early decision made.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that in some capital cities of Australia there is no branch of the Crown Solicitor’s. Office, and that the work of the Crown Solicitor in those cities is done by private firms of solicitors. If these are facts, will the Attorney-General immediately consider the establishment of branches of the Crown. Solicitor’s Office in each of those cities where there is none at present?
– It is a fact that the work is done for the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor in three cities by private firms. That is being altered by a decision, I think, of the previous Government. A Deputy Crown Solicitor’s office is being established at Perth and Brisbane, and we propose, as soon as possible, to establish a branch at Adelaide. There is now a demand for a branch at Darwin, but I do not know whether that would be justified.
– by leave - With reference to questions asked and representations made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), in connexion with the sewerage scheme at the Hay Internment Camp, I desire to state that a proposal was received from the Hay Municipal Council to the effect that, if the Army was prepared to contribute £ 6,000 towards the cost of new sewerage treatment works for the town, the council would be prepared to take the whole of the sewage from the existing camps. Additional works would, however, be necessary in order to provide pipe lines, pump wells, sanitary fittings, &c, which would involve an extra £14,680, making the total estimated cost to the Army of the scheme put forward by the Hay Municipal Council £20,680. Complete sewerage of the camps, and construction of a separate treatment works to deal with military sewage only, would cost £22,180, but on the closing of camp activities, the military treatment works would meet the demand of the municipality and should have a minimum value of £5,000, if transferred to the council. I am also informed that, in view of the occupation of these camps by Italian prisoners of war, who might spread amoebic dysentery, the need for the sewerage scheme was so urgent that the Army scheme was adopted bymy predecessor. It was possible to complete the latter scheme much more expeditiously than the council’s proposed scheme because of the council’s inability to proceed with it immediately under the provisions of the Local Government Act. It has been stated that water supplies for both town and camp will be polluted if the Army sewerage scheme is given effect, but the site selected for the camp is half a mile further away from the river than that suggested by the council for its own works. The Army site has been approved by the State Health Department and the Public Works Department, and the scheme would be constructed by the New
South Wales Public Works Department. However, in view of the statements made in regard to this scheme, I have directed that a committee be appointed, consisting of an Army departmental representative, an engineer of the Department of the Interior, Mr. A. A. Joyce, consulting engineer, 56 Hunter-street, Sydney, and a representative of the Municipality of Hay, to investigate complaints regarding the internment camp sewerage scheme. This committee will meet at the earliest possible date and will submit its report to me, when I shall make a further statement in regard to this matter.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a. statement to the effect that the Army Ordnance Branch has finally adopted the British Standards Association’s 1940 war-time specifications in order to speed up the production of war equipment in Australia, and that previously most of the war equipment produced in Australia was made according to the British Standards Association’s 1918 specifications, with a few minor local alterations? Will the Minister, in pursuance of his laudable efforts to eliminate red-tape methods from army administration, make inquiries into this matter in order to ascertain why there has been such a long delay, first, in altering the standards from those in use in 1918, and, secondly, in adopting the standards adopted in Great Britain in 1940?
– Inquiries will be made.
MR. McCALL AND MR. MENZIES.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the House whether it is a fact that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) publicly stated that he Would not sit in the same House or party-room with the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) ? If so, what action can the Government take in order to ensure that this shall not happen ?
– I am not aware of such a statement by the honorable member for Martin. I. have not time nowadays to read many of the statements which that honorable gentleman makes.
– I move -
That Orders of the DayNos. 1 to9, Government Business, be postponed until alater hour this day.
The reasons for the Government’s wish to postpone further consideration of the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1941 are that a number of proposed amendments have been circulated, which require consideration, and that, in regard to the clause which deals with calls on mining shares, the Government is prepared to appoint a committee of the House, composed of three members from the Government side and three members from the Opposition side, to consider the clause and report upon it. The Government also desires this committee to consider and report upon certain aspects of the Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1941.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to validate, up to and including the 31st March, 1942, the collection of duties set out in the customs tariff resolution of the 2nd July, the 25th September, and. the 29th October, 1941. The proposals of the two former dates were introduced by previous governments, and the latter proposal by the present Government. Since this Government took office, time has not permitted the debating of these proposals in Parliament, nor the full consideration of the proposals of the 2nd July and the 25 th September, 1941, by the present Government. This consideration will be given as early as practicable, but unless validation be agreed to, the proposals of the 2nd July, 1941, will lapse as from the 3rd January, 194.2, and the revenue will be seriously affected. The object of including the proposals of the 25th September and the 29th October, 1941, in the present bill, is to bring all. Customs proposals at present before the House into line as regards the period of validation - namely, the 31st March, 1942. I understand that, in dealing with: customs tariff validation bills, the details of the items referred to are not usually discussed, and that the practice “is to allow sufficient time to elapse to permit of a full discussion of the items included in the tariff.
– The Opposition will agree to the validation of these duties, because it realizes that the Government is not in a position at the present time to stage a full-dress debate on. the various items. In fact, the former Government had decided to bring forward, for a full debate, all of the tariff schedules that had been introduced during its tenure of office. Whilst we shall agree to the validation of these schedules, we do not wish the Government to make a practice of bringing down validation bills from time to time without giving to the House an opportunity to discuss the various duties affected by them, as was done over a long period during the regime of the Scullin Government, when the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Fordo) was Minister for Trade and Customs. The principle of validation is wrong because it permits duties to be imposed prior to the discussion by Parliament of the items affected. The undue application of this procedure might affect industry disastrously. This was recognizedby the Lyons Government when it first proposed the adoption of the validation method, for it accepted an amendment amoved by the late honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to limit validation to a period of six months. Whilst the Opposition is not opposing this bill, and will not oppose the other validation bills which, we understand, are to be submitted to us presently, we trust that the Government will afford the House an early opportunity to discuss the various tariff schedules which have been tabled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
. -I move -
That the bill be nowreada second time.
This bill is incidental to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill that honorable members have just passed. It provides for the validation, until the 31st March, 1942, of the exchange adjustments consequent upon the customs tariff exchange adjustment proposals of the 2nd July. 1941. Item No. 289 of the tariff schedule, which coversglycerine, is involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the billbe now read a second time.
This bill has been introduced for the purpose of validating, until the 31st March, 1942, the collection of the special war duty of 10 per cent, imposed by proposals tabled on the 2nd July, 1941, to provide additional revenue for war purposes. Time is not available to debate the proposals at this stage, and in order to safeguard the revenue it. is necessary to validate the collections being made. The extra duty was imposed by the previous Government, and it is desired that the collections shall be continued.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate’; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the validation of the collection of the protective duty imposed on lifting jacks of Canadian origin imposed by the customs tariff Canadian preference proposals of the 2nd July, 1941. The period of validation will expire on the 31st March, 1942.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The customs tariff New Zealand preference proposals introduced on the 2nd July, 1941, and the 29th October, 1941, provide for the imposition of special duties on chewing gum confectionery of New Zealand origin. The purpose of this bill isto validate the collection of such duties until the 31st March, 1942.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The excise tariff proposals covered by the bill are those which were first introduced on the 2nd May, 1940, the 20th August, 1040. tlie 2nd July. 1941, and tlie 29th October, 1941. The two former were reintroduced on the .21st November, 1940, and the 11th December, 1940, respectively.
The proposals which were first introduced on the 2nd May, 1940, embodied increased duties on petrol, and formed a part of a previous government’s budget proposals for 1940-41. Those of the 20th August, 1940, gave effect to a previous government’s decision to grant protection to local producers of petrol and petrol substitutes from indigenous shale and coal. The proposals of the 2nd July, 1941. provided for the duty-free delivery of locally refined petrol to members of the diplomatic corps located in Australia, consular representatives, &c. Previously, duty-free delivery of petrol to these officials applied only to the imported refined petrol. Those of the 29th. October, 1941, embodied increased excise duties complementary to this Government’s budget proposals for 1941-42.
The four schedules mentioned are still in the proposal stage, and it is intended that the period of validation shall be the same as for the customs tariff proposals, namely, until the 31st March, 1942.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - Consideration has been given to the personnel of the special committee that is to consider the income tax and gift, duty proposals of the Government. The Government side of the House will be represented on the committee by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). Representing the Opposition side will be the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner).
Debate resumed from the 29th October (vide page 61), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That Hie bill be now read a second time.
– I am pleased that this Parliament is able to find the time to discuss a” measure of this character despite circumstances which have necessitated the introduction of a war budget of unexampled proportions. Its presentation explodes the idea that all matters of social reform must be deferred -until the end of the -war. Most of the proposals contained in the measure are the result, of the investigations and recommendations of the Joint Committee on Social Security, which was set up by a previous administration. That committee was given wide, powers of investigation, the terms of reference being “ to inquire into and report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia, and rectifying anomalies in existing legislation”-. I welcomed cordially its appointment because thereby the subject of social reform was for the first time in Australian history lifted out of the party political cockpit. During the ten years that I have been a member of this House, I have heard criticized much legislation designed to improve the social conditions of the people, not because .of inherent faults in it, but merely because it had been introduced by a party to which the critic did not belong and he believed that it was in accordance with tradition that he, as a member of the Opposition, should oppose it. I am very glad that this piece of legislation represents the first fruits of that change from a party to a nonparty attitude towards social reform. It is merely by political accident that I am not the introducer and sponsor of the measure; at all events, in respect of the majority of its provisions. I have never disguised my unbelief that maintenance of a healthy morale on the home front would mean subtraction from our war effort. I do not consider that the granting of a few extra shillings to invalid and old-age pensioners in Australia, even though the aggregate amount is approximately £2,000,000, is likely to have a serious effect, on our war effort. That view will be contested by some persons, who will say that if we did not distribute another £2,000,000 among pensioners we should be able to purchase an additional £2,000,000 worth of shells and other munitions. That would bc the case if £2,000,000 were saved on the national drink bill or totalizator investments, if the profits of ^munitions manufacturers, or the overtime payments to munitions workers, were reduced. Ways and means of increasing our war effort could be found in many directions other than by minimizing the benefits available to invalid and old-age pensioners. Those who argue that the Commonwealth has not the financial capacity to meet the proposed additional payment are the survivors of those who said only two or three years ago that Australia could not implement a monumental piece of legislation, dealing with national health and pensions insurance, which was introduced and passed through this House with much acclaim, on the ground that the financial structure of Australia could, not stand the expenditure of £2,000,000 a year on the project. At that time, the defence expenditure of Australia was approximately £13,000,000 a year. During the last several weeks two budgets have been introduced providing for a defence expenditure of, not £13,000,000 but £225,000,000. Both the ex-Treasurer (Mr. .Fadden) and the present, Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) indicated, in their respective financial statements that no difficulty would be experienced in raising that amount. The only difference between them was as to the method to bc applied. Apparently there are two methods by which the money needed for the defence of Australia may be raised - the Fadden method and. the Chifley method. Yet three years ago, it was considered that there was no method by which £2,000,000 might, be raised in order to put into operation a piece of social legislation which would have given security and comfort to tens of thousands of our aged and infirm people.
The outstanding feature of this measure, as the Minister (Mr. Holloway) has indicated, is the proposal’ to increase the rate of pension from 21s. 6d. to 23s. 6d. a week. The honorable gentleman pointed out, quite fairly, that the effective increase due to this legislation will be from 22s. to 23s. 6d., because an additional 6d. a week would have accrued to pensioners very shortly on account of a rise of the cost of living, under legislation passed by a previous Government. The Minister quite rightly said, that 23s. 6d. is the highest rate at which pensions in Australia’ have ever been fixed. It would be equally correct for me to say that this is only the second occasion, in the progress of the payment from 10s. to 23s. 6d. a week on which an increase- has been effected by a Labour Administration ; every other increase has been granted by a non-Labour Government. I shall not be accused of playing at party politics if I draw attention to the fact that, although’ the bill contemplates the raising of the pension to 23s. 6d. a week, one of the basic promises made by members of the present Government during an election fought not much more than twelve months ago was that, if they were returned to office, the rate of pension would be increased to 25s. a week. (Speaking on the budget presented by the previous Treasurer, the present. Prime Minister said that, upon assuming office, the Labour party would immediately increase the invalid and old-age pension to at least 22s. 6d. a week, and that, if he had charge of the Treasury, he would ascertain how far he could go beyond that figure, having regard to all of the requirements1 of the country. . It might have been better had that investigation been made before the rate of 25s. was promised, a little over twelve months ago. The extra few shillings a week now contemplated will mean very much to the thousands of pensioners who are to receive it, and I do not begrudge it to them. I also agree with the proposal to allow vs. 9d. of the pension to be paid direct to pensioner inmates of hospitals and other institutions. As the Minister has indicated, these institutions have suggested from time to time that, because the cost of maintaining a patient is very much greater than the full amount of the pension, at. least that sum should bc paid to them. I agree with the honorable gentleman that a moiety should be retained in the hands of the pensioner in order that he may be enabled to purchase personal comforts and amenities which are not usually provided in the regimen of institutions. One could remind the treasurers of those institutions that they might not be reimbursed at all for the service.; that they rendered if pensioners were not receiving Commonwealth assistance.
An important departure from present practice contemplated in this measure is a provision to grant invalid pensions to those who are able to prove So per cent, disability. At present it is necessary to prove total and permanent incapacity. However, the Minister is optimistic if he believes that this provision will enable the department to meet borderline cases.
– There must be always borderline cases.
– It is very difficult, sometimes, to establish total and’ permanent incapacity. We have frequently had disputes between medical referees on this subject, and I have frequently had to set up a medical board on which I always gave a place to the applicant’’.? medical adviser. If it was found difficult to decide whether a person was totally and permanently incapacitated, how much more difficult it will be to decide whether someone is 14 per cent, or 16 per cent, capable, or 84 per cent, or 86 per cent, incapacitated. I shall watch this provision with great interest, and I express the hope now that it will not create more difficulties for the department than it removes. In the past, pensions have been refused to applicants who, though they were unable to prove total incapacity, were physically incapable of providing for themselves. I speak of these matters as one who has had considerable experience of the administrative difficulties.
I approve of the proposal to remove from Asiatics, who are British born or naturalized British subjects, the disqualification which prevents them from receiving pensions. This provision will not affect many persons, but it will remove an injustice .under which some deserving citizens have laboured for years.
The same can be said of the proposal to amend that part of the statute which allows only £25 property exemption each to a man and his wife when both are receiving pensions. A single pensioner is allowed a property exemption of £50, but when a man and his wife both receive pensions, the custom lias been to reduce the exemption for each to £20. I trust that the Government will apply this new principle of recognizing the individual identity of man and wife to its income tax legislation.
Another recommendation of the Social Security Committee, to which this bill proposes to give effect, is that relating to vocational training of invalid pensioners. Up to the present, successive governments have neglected, this duty. If a critical survey of all invalid pensioners in Australia were made, it would be found that many of them could have been made self-dependent if steps had been taken earlier to train them in some vocation. Even now many of them could be restored to economic independence by proper training. I am glad that the committee made this recommendation, and doubly glad that the Government has embodied the recommendation in this measure.
I also approve of the provision designed to amend the family income provisions of the invalid pension statute. A great deal of the credit for this reform must go to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), whose insistence resulted in the passing of a resolution which finds its culmination in this legislation. It is only fair, however, for me to point out that, a similar provision was already part, of the previous Government’s budget proposals.
The treatment of encumbered property for pension purposes has caused continual trouble in the administration of the Pensions Act. The Government has made an attempt to remove anomalies, but I suggest that its proposals go either too far or not far enough. It is true that a person’s equity in his property is sometimes so affected by the declensions of value that it practically ceases to exist, and presumably the provisions in this bill are intended to meet, such cases. However, my experience has taught me that, even though property be unencumbered, a strict application of the property provisions of the act would be a grave injustice. I have known glaring instances of this. I know one old man in Parramatta who, by thrift and frugality, acquired two properties. He” did not claim a pension until he was 74, which indicates that he was not attempting to exploit the community. He and his wife lived in one of the houses, and he let the other for 20s. a week. However, the value of the second property was more than £S00, so under the statute, the department had no option, but to refuse a pension to him, because, even if the asset were divided between the applicant and his wife, each would still be credited with more than £400, the maximum allowed by law. This man and his wife had to subsist on an income of £1 a week, subject to all the risks and obligations of a landlord, whereas, if he had never saved his money and bought the second property, they could have been .receiving £2 3s. a week without any worry whatever. The fact that these seeming inequities have continued during the period of office of various governments does not indicate that those governments lacked interest in the welfare of the pensioners, but it does indicate that, so long as we are dependent upon the ‘Treasury for pension funds, so long will these property provisions remain, and unfair discrimination be practiced against some of the best elements in the community. I trust that it will not be long before we have a contributory pensions scheme to which every member of the community will contribute, and under which all members of the community will be entitled to draw pensions without account being taken of their efforts to make themselves independent. The Minister told us that, as a result of the recent pensions increase, the total pensions bill would reach almost £20,000,000. I remember that, not long ago, no less an authority than, the AuditorGeneral pointed out that unless something were done to stop the continual mounting of the pensions bill, the scheme would break down under its own weight. The same opinion was expressed by a royal commission, and that was when the total bill was a long way short of £20,000,000. The pensions scheme will always he in danger so long as we must depend upon the Treasury to find the money. Not many years ago, a Commonwealth. Treasurer was compelled most reluctantly to reduce the rate .of pension, because of the inability of the Treasury to find the money. That is why, in England, New Zealand and the United States of America, the pensions system has been supplemented, when it has not altogether been replaced, by a contributory system. There is on our statute-book provision for a contributory pensions scheme, and I .am now free to disclose the fact that, five days before the outbreak of war, the Government authorized mc tq reintroduce the old-age and health pensions schemes on a much more liberal scale than previously. Mr. Mulcahy. - The honorable member always makes his run too late.
– I am prepared to allow my career to be compared with that of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) so far as efforts on behalf of the poor are concerned. The Minister .said that another recommendation of the parliamentary committee, one which was not embodied in this legislation, hut which was under consideration by the Government, was that providing for the removal of the disqualification of aborigines to draw pensions. Still another was that war pensions should be disregarded when calculating income for pension purposes. I hope at a later stage to support a supplementary measure embodying these reforms. It has always seemed to me to be an anomaly that, among the very few classes of persons who arc denied the right to draw pensions, we should have placed our own Australian natives. This disqualification was removed- by the last Government for child endowment purposes, and I trust that the experience gained in the operation of that measure will enable the Minister to introduce a similar reform in respect of pensions.
The omission of war’ pensions from income calculations is a. necessary complement to action taken by me soon after the outbreak of Avar. It was pointed out to me that pensions enjoyed by invalid women whose husbands had enlisted li adbeen stopped because their maximum income, including the pension, would be more than £114s. a week, the maximum permitted under the statute. Upon enlistment, the husband always had to make an allotment of 3s. a day to his wife, who was also entitled to receive 3s. a day in her own right, so that her total income from both sources was £2 2s. a week. If the provisions of the statute had been strictly applied, the pensions would have been stopped. But as the result of action which I took, because I held that no invalid pensioner should suffer because her husband had enlisted for active service, those pensions have been continued. I hope that the Minister will not vary that procedure. If the husband were killed while he was on active service, the widow would lose the payment of £2 2s. a week from the Army, and would receive in its stead, only a small military pension. If she had been deprived of her invalid pension, she would be reduced to straitened circumstances. This provision, which I was bold enough to override - I knew that I was breaking the law, but 1 am prepared to answer for my action to Parliament and to my constituents - is one of the few surviving relics of the Financial Emergency legislation which was passed in 1 931. I shall be happy to support any proposal that is calculated to validate my action regarding this matter.
The Government, in presenting this bill to Parliament, is rightly building upon the foundations which were laid by the previous administration. The Minister will find in his office a number of other foundations for social improvements, which were laid by his predecessor, and I hope to have the privilege of assisting him to erect upon them a superstructure that will be of substantial benefit to the general community.
– I compliment the Government upon its decision to introduce this legislation. ‘ The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) appeared deeply to regret that he was not sponsoring the bill. Apparently, he had the misfortune to be Minister for Social Services in a very reactionary Government, which restrained him from proceeding with a beneficial progressive programme of social legislation. Unfortunately for him, he was associated with the Government that planned to introduce the national insurance scheme, which embodied drastic proposals to make people pay, during their working life, for the old-age pensions which they would claim upon retirement. After they had contributed for many years to the scheme, the pensions would have been paid to them, not as a right, but as a charity, because only a small percentage of them would have remained in industry until they had attained the age of 65 years.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the miners’ contributory insurance scheme in New South W ales ?
– No ; for 31 years I contributed to a superannuation fund. In passing, I may mention a grave anomaly that has arisen there. After contributing to the superannuation scheme throughout his working life, an engine driver is entitled, upon retirement, to a pension of £218s. a week for himself and his wife. Next year, the Labour Government will increase the invalid and old-age pension for a married couple to £2 10s. a week. I admit, however, that pensioners are permitted to receive a small income without forfeiting their pensions.
The honorable member for Parramatta approved of almost every chaise of the bill. For example, he offered no opposition to clause 3 which provides -
Suction four of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (2.) For the purposes of this acta person shall bo deemed to be permanently incapacitated for work if ho is permanently incapable of work or if the degree of his capacity for work does not exceed fifteen per centum.”.
He applauded the decision to make British-born subjects eligible to receive invalid and old-age pensions, and he endorsed the proposal to increase the £25 property allowance to £50. The increase of the family unit to £2 10s. a week, he also accepted.
– It would be surprising if I had opposed it because it was recommended by my committee.
– The decision to make British subjects, born in Asia, eligible to receive invalid and old-age pensions will include persons from “Mount Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Since I became a member of Parliament, I have consistently pressed “ their claims for recognition. A considerable number of them, who reside in. the electorate of Cook, are of a most sincere type of British subject, and are splendid business people. Their children, who were born in Australia, fought in the last war and are fighting in the present struggle.’ But many of the old folk, having been denied the right to receive an old-<age pension, have been forced to live on. the miserable pittance that is represented by the dole. Consequently, I am gratified to learn that this hardship has been .removed.
I take strong exception to clause 6 which provides -
After section twenty-three of the principal act, the following section is inserted in Part IV. :- “23a. Subject to this. act. the Commissioner, having regard to the age and ‘the mental and physical capacity of any claimant for an invalid pension or of any invalid pensioner and to the facilities available , for suitable training for a vocation or physical rehabilitation, may direct that a pension shall not ihe granted, or that a pension shall not he continued, unless the claimant or pensioner undertakes such training.
Invalids are not fit subjects to receive compulsory industrial training.
– Docs not the honorable member trust the Minister to be humane?
– His successors might not be so kindly disposed as he is towards this unfortunate class. But that is hardly the point. The .Commissioner for Pensions will control the scheme, which will be administered by deputyconmmissioners in each State. What regulations will be promulgated to. give effect to the scheme? What will be the cost? Has the expense been considered by the Minister? Is it the intention of the Government to pay wages to those invalids during their period of training? Will the Government provide for them facilities for travelling to and from the training centres, or is it proposed to train them in their own homes? It is sad and difficult enough to_ have an invalid in the family without watching him, under compulsion, endeavouring to learn some trade or calling. The parents will be in a constant state of anxiety, lest the invalid’s progress be so slow as to deprive him of the pension. If a person has not had the experience of tending an invalid member of the family, he does not realize what it involves. The strain, which is placed upon the parents, entitles them to some consideration. The clause should be deleted, because an invalid should not be compelled to learn a trade or calling, in constant fear that slow progress will disqualify him from receiving the pension.
– Does not the honorable member consider that in some cases, it would be greatly to the benefit of the invalid if he made himself independent of others?
– I do, provided that the threat of loss of pension were removed. The mind of an invalid reacts differently from that of a healthy person. To some invalids, the very thought of work, or the notion that they are compelled to do something, seriously upsets them. Under this clause, blind persons could be compelled to learn a« trade or calling. They should be objects for sympathy; and on no account should they be compelled to undergo a course of training. Because some schools are available for blind people, some persons, seem to think’ that every blind man or woman should be forced to attend the classes for the purpose of earning his or her living.
– That is not the intention of the bill.
– Whilst I agree with the honorable member the time may come when deputy commissioners will, take action to see that every invalid pensioner earns something towards his maintenance. The Minister has not stated that the Government will increase payments to the invalids during their period of training. In my opinion, the clause is equivalent to the imposition of a sentence of hard labour upon this most unfortunate class.
Clause 8 will be accepted by honorable members with general satisfaction. I know of an aged couple who possess a one-twelfth .share in a property valued at £22,000. The executor of the estate, who is aged 90, is a wealthy bachelor, and refuses to make any effort to sell it. While, he maintains that attitude, this aged couple have no opportunity- of realizing on their- share of the property, which is a highly valuable site in the centre of Sydney. Upon it stands a small one-storey shop, the rent from which is just sufficient to pay the rates. It yields no other return. Because their share in the property disqualifies them from receiving a pension, the aged couple have lived on the dole for many years. Repeatedly I have approached the Commissioner of Pensions and the DeputyCommissioner for New South Wales to grant relief in this instance. I believe that former members for Cook made similar representations, but, without success. Probably when this bill becomes law, the aged couple will at long last receive a pension, to which they are undoubtedly entitled. The property is not saleable in the true sense of the word, because of the restrictions which, since the outbreak of war, have been placed upon the erection of large buildings. .No one who purchased land to-day could erect, business premises on it. Many old people own what are known as “week-enders”, cottages in remote parts of the State in which they holidayed during their working lives and kept with a view to living in them in their retirement. The top value of those cottages would be about £250, but they are impossible of sale owing to the war. Petrol restrictions have rendered week-end cottages useless. Those people are entitled to the benefit conferred on them by clause S.
Although periods of up to six months elapse before the investigation by Deputy Commissioners of Pensions into the property owned by claimants for pensions are completed, successful claimants are entitled to receive only a month’s arrears of pensions. That provision, I think, was introduced into the pensions legislation in .1.930. Pension should be paid from the first pensions pay-day after the date of application, and I ask the Minister to see that that is done.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that he appreciated the payment of 7s. 9d. a week to a pensioner in hospital. The hospital receives the balance. I should like to see the position reversed ; particularly in the case of a married pensioner, the 7s.. 9d. should be given to the hospital, and the balance to the pensioner. When a married pensioner goes into hospital the» wife or husband, as the case may be, is left to maintain the home on her or his own pension, which, sometimes, is almost absorbed in paying the weekly rent. It would be of assistance if the wife of a pensioner in hospital were allowed the benefit of the proportion of her husband’s pension which would have been available to her for the maintenance of the home had he not gone into hospital. In many cases that would prevent the eviction of old-age pensioners, because, when their menfolk are in hospital for periods of six months or so, they frequently get into arrears with the landlord and into debt generally. Nowadays hospitals are paid by nearly everybody - very few people are admitted to hospital if they cannot pay - and even the old-age pensioners are required to pay two-thirds of their pension for hospital maintenance. I do not think that the hospital authorities really desire to take the pensioner’s money, because many sources exist from which they can obtain funds. In asking the Minister to take into consideration the points that I have made, I congratulate him on the measure which he has brought down, because under it the pensioners will fare better than hitherto, and the pension of 23s. 6d. a week will be a welcome Christmas gift to them ; but. I hope that before long the rate of pension will be 25s. a. week.
.- This bill gives me an opportunity once again to protest against the manner in which the invalid and old-age pensions are paid. I strongly object to pensions being the plaything of politics. It is a damnable practice that aged people who have rendered magnificent service to this country should have to rely on the whim of politicians for their pensions, and I appeal again for the establishment of some independent tribunal or court which would assess the rate of pension in much the same way as the basic wage is assessed by the Arbitration Court in accordance with the rise and fall of the cost of living. It is most objectionable that at an election or at the thought of an election, politicians, no matter what their political complexions, should seek to use the unfortunate pensioners as stepping stones to Parliament. Now that there has been a change of government, I again press the claims of the pensioners to be removed completely from the political field. I believe that in some directions at least I am winning sympathy from honorable members on behalf of the pensioners.
I strongly favour a. form of national insurance whereby pensions will be the right of the aged and infirm, whatever be their financial condition, and not a dole confined to a certain section of the people as at present. If a scheme of national insurance be not soon forthcoming, at least the whole of the pensions of this country should be entirely removed from the authority of Parliament and put in the hands of an independent tribunal which will assess the rate of pensions without fear of political consequences.
.- I dissent from the view of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mar wick), and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), that the payment of, at any rate, the old-age pension should be a part of a contributory scheme, which I understood the honorable member for Swan to advocate. The only really permanent achievement in the way of social advance in Australasia is the payment of the old-age pension to aged people as a right without contribution.
– It is not a right. The payment of the pension is very strictly limited.
– It is a right, subject to conditions imposed by the act. An up-to-date Constitution would provide economic guarantees of various kinds of people, and, amongst other things, would provide a guarantee that a person who had arrived at a certain age would receive a pension which would put. him beyond want, without any contribution at all by him. In the last 50 years we have had two schools of thought on this matter, one originating in Germany, and the other in Denmark. The German idea has been that all social benefits provided by the State should be paid for by the people who are to receive them and that the payment of benefits should be conditional upon payment having been first made by the beneficiaries, and that lapse of payments should disentitle them to benefits. The German idea was unsuccessfully advocated in Australasia, and adopted in some measure in Great Britain.
-What about New Zealand ?
– I intend to deal with the New Zealand system, which seems to be quite different. The British system is a system of paying a noncontributory pension at the age of 70. Pensions paid to people under that age must be contributed for.
– There is a means test.
– That is a different question. Means tests should be abolished. A man, whose name I have for the time being forgotten, has made the illuminating suggestion that pensions should be paid irrespective of means, and that the amount of pension received by a person should be added to the amount of income tax which he may have to pay. That seems to be a possible way in which to do away with the undesirable means test, and yet achieve the object which it seeks to achieve, namely, the refusal of the pension to those whose means do not justify their receiving it, At present, however, the means test is provided for in the statute, and any person who complies with the provisions of the statute has the right to the old-age pension. The New Zealand system seems to be noncontributory in principle, because, although everybody is bound to pay the social security tax, a person who, from one cause or another, has not been able to pay that tax, is not debarred from pensions benefit. It, therefore, does seem to me that the New Zealand scheme is not contributory in the sense in which the honorable member for Parramatta. uses the term.
– Every contributory scheme makes allowance for abatement to unemployed people.
– Yes, but under the National Insurance Act passed by this Parliament, a man might make contributions for years and years and find himself debarred from benefit. I think that that is why this country rejected that scheme which was sponsored by the honorable member. In an amendment to a bill introduced into the Parliament of New Zealand as long ago as 1S97 by Mr. Seddon, it was suggested that the German system of contributory social benefit .should be adopted, but New Zealand refused to adopt the scheme. Australia, Canada, and, I think, South Africa, followed New Zealand’s lead in that respect. I am not certain of what the position is in the United States of America, but I arn. inclined to think that the practice there is the same as that applied in New Zealand, in that every wage or salary earner is bound to contribute, but payment of contributions is not a condition precedent to the receiving of benefit.
The proposals contained in this measure are interim proposals in the ‘ same “way as the increase of the rate of pension is an interim increase. When Parliament reassembles next year a proposal to increase the rate of pension to 25s. a week will form a part of a bill designed to liberalize the system, of payment of pensions. This bill does very little in that way. The bill contains only two proposals for the liberalization of the pensions system. It proposes to widen t.he class of persons who may receive pensions by
Cringing within the pensions field a certain number of Asiatics who are British subjects and who formerly were excluded. My view is that we should pay, at anyrate, the old-age pension to persons qualified by age without regard to whether they are aliens or not, provided that they have lived in this country for twenty years. ‘The basis of receipt of the oldage pension is that one has been a useful citizen of the country in which one lives, and by serving that country one has been unable to make provision for old age. The feeling of the world has changed, and’, in my opinion, it is wrong to disqualify a -man or woman from receiving an invalid or old-age pension merely because he or she is not a British subject. I hope that the Government will go even farther than I have suggested, and apply the principle which was applied in the child endowment legislation, so that invalid and oldage pensions shall he made payable to detribalized Australian aboriginals.
I am dissatisfied with the provision in clause 3 for the assessment of the degree of a man’s capacity to work. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (.Sir Frederick Stewart) that this proposal involves an arbitrary test, which would exclude many people from benefits. I have urged, over and: over again, in this House and before the Joint Committee on Social .Security, that invalid pensions should be granted on the same basis as workers’ compensation. I refer -again to the case of the man who, having sustained an injury to a limb, was found to bc fit only for certain occupations in which the New South. Wales Commission had found that he would be extremely unlikely to be able to get employment. The High Court decided that, in those circumstances, the man was entitled to workers’, compensation on the basis of permanent and total disability. The case was that of Wicks v. Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited. I refer the House to the High Court’s judgment, as reported in 50 C.L.R. 33S-
Tlie commission was, therefore, called upon to decide whether the worker had. been permanently and totally disabled, an expression which, in our opinion, means physically incapacitated from ever earning by work any part of his livelihood, ‘.this condition is satisfied when capacity .for earning has gone, except for the chance, of obtaining special employment of h-ii unusual kind.
The court decided that tlie man was “ permanently and totally disabled “ within the meaning of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The only difference .between that phrase and the phrase contained in the Commonwealth’s act is in the use of the word “ disabled “ instead of “incapacitated”. I cannot see what satisfaction can lie given by clause 3. How is the “ degree of capacity for work “ to be assessed to the satisfaction of the claimant? I hope that the Government, in its next amending bill, will adopt the principle laid down in relation to the Workers’ Compensation Act. I should also like to see that principle applied to service pensions. There is no suggestion in the bill that the Government proposes to provide a scheme of vocational training or physical rehabilitation. In my opinion, it has put the cart before the horse. AVe should first have a scheme of physical rehabilitation for incapacitated persons, whether they .be incapacitated as the result of industrial accidents, or as the result of some other kind’ of accident.
Such a scheme would have to be very expensive and elaborate, and it- would require ‘many provisions that we have not yet thought about. A pamphlet by Dr. Hermann Levy; entitled War Effort and Industrial Injuries, published by the ‘Fabian Society, contains a passage that is apposite to my remarks -
Beal “recovery” does not mean just that the worker is ‘patched ‘ up sufficiently to make further treatment in hospital, or by his medical attendant., unnecessary; that lie walks out of hospital feeling “all right”, but neither well nor confident that he will be able to find any work or that he can hold down a job if he does fiind one. “.Recovery” of that sort is apt to end in crippledom - if by a cripple be understood one suffering from permanent partial incapacity for social and economic life. Real “recovery” means much more than that: as most progressive nations have realized, it implies some form of rehabilitation treatment, which in itSelf falls into two parts - first, medical after-care, including massage, physical training or other type of reconditioning, in order to make the disabled worker fit for a fresh start; and secondly, actual training for work, whether this be part of the man’s former job or some alternative occupation.
The pamphlet refers further to what is being done in a number of countries, particularly in some American States, and in the Canadian province of Ontario, where the Scheme of rehabilitation has been linked with the workers’ compensation scheme. Unless the Governmentfirst establishes a scheme of vocational training and physical rehabilitation, and proves that it can operate satisfactorily, it would be- unfair to apply the principle that is embodied in this clause. It should initiate such a scheme in connexion with the workers’ compensation acts of the Commonwealth and the States. I agree with the- honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) that any unfortunate invalid pensioner,- who was told that he would have to relinquish his pension unless he submitted to some scheme of rehabilitation, the efficacy of which had not- been tested, -would have reason to be apprehensive of the result.
I am glad that the rate of pension is to be increased by the’ small amount proposed, but’ I am sorry that the Government has not increased it in one step to 25s. a’ week.” I cannot see anything in this measure which deals with the matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta, and which has been raised in this House previously by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– It is not necessary; it can be clone administratively.
– One of the disadvantages of that policy is that the establishment of a man’s rights to a pension is a matter of administrative determination, upon which different administrators might take different views. In this connexion I am in agreement with the honorable member for Swan that the conditions of the grant of a pension should be laid down clearly in the act, where everybody could see them, so that there could be no doubt about them. There should be no means of evading the responsibility to pay a pension. The Government should take the bold course of removing from clause 17 and clause 22 the provision relating to the adequate maintenance of a claimant by his relatives. These matters should not be the subject of decision by administrators. As the bill stands its provisions might be administered conservatively by one Minister, and generously by another Minister.
– I shall refer to two points raised by this bill. The first is the rising cost of pensions to the taxpayers; the second relates to organizations which have begun a campaign on behalf of invalid and old-.age pensioners by endeavouring to force governments to grant increased benefits, and which claim that their efforts are responsible for any improvements that are effected. When the budget debate was in progress, a leading business man from Melbourne was sitting in the visitors’ gallery behind me, and, as I left the chamber, he said to me, “ Anyone who heard you fellows talking in millions would think we were a nation of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 people.” We heard that sort of talk this afternoon from both the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). The honorable member for Melbourne interjected and said, “ What is £20,000,000 in a budget of £322,000,000?” and the honorable member for Parramatta said, “After all, what is an additional £2,000,000 ov £3,000,000?” It is very dangerous to think in that way. There is a limit, from the financial viewpoint, to anything that we can do in this country. We arc becoming somewhat irresponsible as far as money is concerned ; we have begun to think in terms of millions of pounds, and have forgotten that the population and production of the nation are limited. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we must cut our. coat according to our cloth. If we do not do so, we shall drift into serious difficulties. We have been as generous as possible in the matter of pensions. Honorable members have not always approached the problem of social services in the proper manner; their motives have not been entirely disinterested, and political considerations have been allowed to affect their actions. In Australia to-day we are expending much more on invalid and old-age pensions than we are expending on education, for example, and education is one of the most important social services in any country. The taxpayers are required to find about £20,000’,000 this year for invalid and old-age pensions alone. That amount will be increased substantially early in the new year. All sections of the Australian public should, realize that the cost of pensions is so great to-day that, on a population basis, every household consisting of a husband and wife and four children contributes £17 2s. a year to the pensions fund or £2 3.7s. a head. I invite the attention of the honorable member for Melbourne to this fact. Shortly that figure will have increased to about £18 a year. As the Prime Minister (Mr.- Curtin) has frequently adopted the per capita basis for purposes of calculation, I also, feel justified in doing so in order to emphasize the cost of pensions in this country. The money required must come from, some where. There is a. limit to central bank credit and that limit is at present a matter of concern to honorable members on both sides of this House. Having in mind present, credit expansion, it must be obvious to all honorable members that additional control will have to be applied in this country in order to avoid inflation. I have heard the Prime Minister talk on. occasions of the per capita cost of indirect taxation. Persons with higher incomes contribute more in indirect taxation than do persons on lower incomes. It cannot be argued, with truthfulness that the burden is shared equally by all sections of the community. But every person contributes, through indirect taxation, to the pensions bill. If there is a general recognition of the fact that the huge sum which Ave are expending year by year in pensions must be .provided in the main through one channel or another by the great body of .the Australian community, there will probably be less tendency to make irresponsible statements such as “ What is a. million ipr two? “ It should be realized also, that Ave aire involved in a Avar, the end of which Ave cannot foresee and the cost of which avc cannot estimate, but which Ave must try to meet.
– Yet pensions were reduced in peace-time.
– I realize that the Scullin Government had to shoulder the unhappy task of reducing pensions, Possibly that course could have been avoided to some extent had some recourse been made to the issue of central bank credits. We have progressed some distance along that road since those times. But Ave must recognize that we cannot hope to maintain our existing living standards merely by drawing upon social credit resources, or by direct taxation of a restricted class of the community. Australia’s population has been divided, roughly, into three taxation groups - those receiving under £400 a. year, those receiving between £400 and £1,000 a year, and. those receiving in excess of £3,000 a year. Treasury officials have made figures available to honorable members which indicate that only about £95,000,000 of the present national income is earned by the section of the community receiving more than £1,000 a- year, and that only about £145,000,000 of it goes to the section receiving between £400 and £1,000 a year. As the total national income is estimated at about £860,000,000 a year, it will be realized that the greatest proportion of it goes to people who receive less than £400 a year. It may be assumed with safety that those (receiving the £95,000,000 a year., in the highest income group, have to pay about 60 per cent., of their income in Commonwealth, State, municipal and other taxes. Heavy imposts also fall upon persons in the £400 to £3,000 a year group. It will be impossible for’ the Government to obtain much more money in taxation from the persons in those two groups, even if all they have be taken from them, and no one is suggesting that that should be done. If it were done it would involve the collapse of the existing form of society in this country. It must therefore be clear that future increases of the pensions bill of this country will have to be met, in a large degree, by persons earning less than £400 a year. Honorable members should keep this fact in mind when they talk about the ease with which we may add £l ,000,000 or £2,000,000 a year to the pensions hill. Drawing upon our credit resources will not get us out of the trouble. It is true that recourse is being had to this method of finance in other countries of the world, and that we may be justified in adopting it to some degree, for we are entitled to maintain some kind of balance with the rest of the world in these matters ; but the time may come when we shall not be able to draw upon this reservoir. Even if the Scullin Government had taken greater advantage of central bank credits a. decade ago and by that means avoided the reduction of pensions, it would certainly have had to provide extra money for distribution among the primary producers of this country, or their industries would have collapsed. It would have beenimpossible for us to maintain anything like the 1929 price levels without giving to the primary producers much greater assistance than was being given to them, for their burden of costs had already become crushing.
We must remember too that, in these days, the general community is prepared to tolerate measures of control over their financial and trading systems which probably they would not tolerate in peace-time. All of the people realize to-day that they cannot do as they like. We have been run round by all kinds of control;, but Australia, notwithstanding its recent industrial development, rema ins largely a primary producing country, and it may be assumed that after the war our primary producers will still be subject to overseas price levels in respect of their export commodities. This means that local cost levels will continue to be of paramount importance. We cannot therefore run blindly into social service obligations, involving the expenditure of millions in excess of the present figures, without causing danger to all sections of the people. We simply must realize that the cost of social services has to be paid, speaking broadly, by the whole community. In the main, the public finds the money. We cannot expect money from heaven with which to meet our bills. Under the budget now before us the Government still has to bridge a gap of £13’7,000,000 between revenue and expenditure, and that will bs no light task. Even if the money be obtained from inflation of indirect taxation, the people will still have to pay it, and the pensioners themselves will, have to pay their proportion. They will do so whenever they buy a tin of tobacco, or fruit, or other goods of that description. Years ago it was possible to buy a good pair of boots for 5s. A similar pair of boots costs 22s. 6d. to-day. Such increased costs fall upon the invalid and old-ag pensioners as well as upon other sections of the community. Inflation may seem to be an easy way out, but in fact it isnot. Unless we exercise great care we shall expand our pensions bill, and the cost of social services generally, to an enormous figure.
-Hughes. - Perhaps honorable gentlemen opposite, think that the cost may be met out of reparations.
– -Some other honorable gentlemen seem to be prepared to allow the pensioners to starve, if that course were adopted the only expense would be in burying them !
– Perhaps the war may be paid for by reparations.
– Anyone who thinks so will be doomed to disappointment. At any rate, I invite the honorable gentleman to consider my point that we cannot impose very much heavier taxes upon persons in the higher income ranges. Such sources of revenue are rapidly evaporating. Unless we are careful we shall take away all incentive to national progress.
I wish now to deal with another point on which I confess some curiosity. Several organizations have been established in recent years in order, so it is said, to take up the cudgels on behalf of the pensioners. I am told that these bodies exercise considerable skill in extracting small regular contributions from pensioners, on the ground that the money so obtained will be used to fight the battles of the contributors.
– Mostly the organizations are run by undertakers.
– I do not know whether that is a fact. Assuming that there are 260,000 pensioners in Australia - the figure may really be nearer 300,000 - and that. 3d. a week is extracted from 100,000 of them, a sum of nearly £65,000 a year will be obtained. Even if the contribution were 3d. a fortnighta very large amount would be accumulated’. These organizations,by the way, are operating mainly in our metropolitan areas. They do not extend their operations to country districts.
– There are two organizations in some cities.
– I am told that a very large organization is operating in Adelaide. The agents of these bodies wait outside the post offices on pension days and succeed in obtaining from the great majority of the pensioners contributions of up to 6d. a fortnight. If only 20,000 subscribed, the total amount would be £13,000 per annum. There is here an enormous field for exploitation by individuals who wish to run a racket. Prior to the presentation of the budget, a lady named Mrs. Huntress, and a gentleman, visited Canberra. According to press reports, they travelled first class and stayed at Hotel Canberra ; and they were rather uncomplimentary in their references to certain members of the present Cabinet.
– They succeeded in getting what they wanted.
– Whether they did or not, I am inclined to be generous and give credit to the caucus instead of to the Ministry; because I believe that, with one exception, the members of the Ministry believe that there is a limit to social security payments. The Government should have the matter investigated. Some time ago, a gentleman of high repute pointed out to me that a racket was involved. I am referring now to Melbourne, not to Sydney. I hope that these operations will be watched, and that the Government will come down severely and quickly if any funny business is being practised, because that could not be tolerated.
I am as keen on social services as is any member of this House. In normal times, I shouldbe prepared to advance a most comprehensive policy in that respect. Education is in the forefront. Although that problem does not very greatly concern the Commonwealth Government at present, sooner or later it will have to go deeply into it. Housing, and cheap transport, are other matters in respect of which we could do a great deal for our people. Unemployment insurance could probably be tackled immediately. But let us have some responsibility. Let us envisage, if we can, the difficulties that may lie ahead of this country, and not rush blindly into something which we may not be able to maintain in the near future.
.- I support the bill, although it is of comparatively minor importance and is not likely to usher in the new social order that we wish to have established. For many years, Australia led the world in social reforms, and Victoria from 1854 to 1880 led Australia. To the end of the last century, that State made many desirable improvements in connexion with ‘the constitutional, social and industrial life of the community. It was the first to pass legislation to establish the principle of manhood suffrage, and the secret ballot at parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, Australia has lagged behind the world in recent years. For so long had we convinced ourselves that we were the leaders that we failed to realize that other countries were outstripping us. and it is safe to say that we now occupy a relatively minor position.
– Instead of being in the vanguard, we are in the guard’s van.
– We are well hi the rearguard. We could, if we would, learn from our enemies, particularly Germany and Italy, many things which would enable us to make easier and better the lot of our people. The German and Italian people are fighting for their dictator masters to-day, partly because of the improvement of their social conditions under those dictatorships. They have lost liberties, but have gained material advantages, and apparently measure their responsibilities according to the improvements effected since the advent of the dictatorships. We do not want dictatorships.
– Has the honorable member ever been to Germany? Does he know what he is talking about?
– I know what I am talking about, on this and all other subjects upon which I address this House. For a number of years, I was attached to select committees of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria which investigated widows’ pensions, child endowment, and related matters. It was a part of my duty on the Child Endowment Select Committee to draw up a questionnaire, for submission to the governments of European countries in which were in operation various- schemes which conferred social benefits. I submitted this questionnaire to the consuls of most’ of the European countries which had offices in Melbourne, and after a period received from each a voluminous report on the social conditions in their countries. Last year, I read to this House portions of the reports upon such schemes, together with an extract from an article published in the Economic Record, which is not a Labour organ, but a university production, with which no less a dignitary than the great Professor Copland is associated, and he is far from being persona grata with me. In that article, a university professor stated, among other things, that the birth-rate in Germany had increased by 1,200,000 in the five years which succeeded the rise of Hitler to power, compared with the preceding five years.
– The honorable member may also have read that the leaders in Germany were killing off the aged and invalid by means of concentration camps.
– I could tell the honorable gentleman quite a lot concerning what has happened and is happening in Germany. I could even warn him not to have any future association with a New Guard or other dangerous Nazi organization in this country, because it might commit similar atrocities in Australia. According to this Melbourne professor, the increase of the German birthrate was directly attributable to the institution of marriage loans, and the general application of the principle of child’ endowment under government auspices in that country.. It would be foolish of us not to take cognizance of happenings that are beneficial to humanity because of other detestable acts in those countries. Our policy should be to adopt whatever is worthy of emulation,
This bill effects a small number of minor improvements.. It is a pity that it should have been necessary to wait so long for legislation of this character. I have no doubt that, had the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) been left long enough in office - even a few months longer than he was - he would have “given effect to reforms which the present Minister (Mr. Holloway) desires to inaugurate. It is proposed to increase the invalid and oldage pension to £1 3s. 6d. a week, to give pensions to Asiatics, and to establish the right to an invalid pension with incapacity at 85 per cent.; this last-mentioned proposal is the best feature of the bill. The -provision that a person must be’ totally incapacitated before being entitled to an invalid pension was most inhumane. Every other part of the bill, although excellent in its way, does not give so much relief or do so much justice as that particular alteration.
Asiatics are to be given the right to receive a pension. There are not many of them, and indeed some who are classified as Asiatics are wrongly described. The Lebanese are a white race, and can rightly be regarded as mainly of European descent. They should not have been excluded from the benefits of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act for so many years. Asiatics who are naturalized and British-born subjects should also have been included many years ago. Their ranks have been thinned and to-day they ave very few. This belated act of justice by the Commonwealth Parliament is apparently the result of a twinge of conscience. We ought to go further, and make alterations to other legislation which adversely affects Asiatics. Although they have been paying taxes for many years, they have not been given full rights of citizenship. They are to be given an additional right of citizenship in ‘being made eligible for a pension, and I hope that a little later they will be given the further right to exercise the franchise. There are probably more Asiatics in my constituency than in any other. There is in Melbourne a population of Chinese and half-Chinese, practically the whole of which is congregated in the constituency that I represent. My illustrious predecessor, Dr. Maloney, was very friendly with them, and did a lot for them, as well as for invalid and old-age pensioners. I feel that I have the obligation to espouse their cause and the cause of pensioners particularly. There are 8,S00 invalid and old-age pensioners in the division of Melbourne, which is in the ratio of one to seven of the population, and. is more than twice the average of all Victorian electorates. They are congregated in Melbourne because they can be near to markets in which food is cheaper than it is in other places, and because, in the industrial districts, there are old and dilapidated houses which they can obtain at cheaper rents than obtain elsewhere. Generally, their conditions are not of the best. They live in a state of semi-squalor because of their poverty, not because of a disposition to exist in such surroundings. I hope that the Minister will do something to amend the bill so as to provide that aborigines who have become civilized shall be eligible to receive the old-age pension as they are now entitled to the benefits of child endowment. It is incongruous that “ an aboriginal or halfcaste mother may draw child endowment while her aged parents living in the same house are not qualified to draw the oldage pension. The Minister said that this defect would be remedied in legislation to be introduced next March* I cannot understand why old people should be required to continue in a state of semistarvation until next March. The Minis ter should accept an amendment now, empowering the Director-General of Social Services to grant pensions to aborigines when he is satisfied, that they have ceased to live a nomadic life. There is a whole settlement of these people in the suburb of Fitzroy in my electorate. Unfortunately, our treatment of the aborigines has been deplorable. Even yet, the public generally do not treat them as human beings. They regard them as undesirable socially and in every other way, and treat them as inferiors. The Government should at least ensure that these unfortunates, who cannot easily obtain employment, shall be entitled to a pension when they reach the age of 65 years. This could easily be done by accepting an amendment to the bill.
Honorable members opposite have stressed the fact that our pensions bill this year will amount to nearly £20,000,000. This year we are raising altogether £320,000,000, and if we cannot secure an increase of pensions at a time when we are expending hundreds of millions of pounds on war, we shall certainly be unable to do so in peace-time, when the normal custom is to reduce pensions. The history of old-age and invalid pensions has been one of continuous struggle, first to secure recognition of the principle, and then to secure increases of the rate from time to time. The old-age pension was first introduced by a non-Labour government supported by the Labour party and, strangely enough, every increase to date has been granted by non-Labour governments. However, I remind honorable members who might be tempted to rejoice on account of that admission, that most of the increases were granted on the eve of elections. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) generally announced an increase when faced with the possibility of electoral defeat. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), on the occasion of the last elections, disdained to make an offer to increase pensions, saying that he did not want to buy votes. However, the right honorable member for North Sydney was not above buying votes at an election, and when honorable members opposite speak of their generosity in the matter of pensions, it is well to reflect that they didnot wait until the elections were over; they granted the increases because they considered it politically desirable to do so, and politically unwise not to do so.
– Is that why the Labour Government has granted this increase ?
– We granted the increase because we believe that the pensioners are entitled to it.
– This is the first time that a Labour government has given an increase.
– It is true that nonLabour governments instituted old-age pensions, and. have given every increase, and it is also true that it was a Labour government which, confronted with very grave difficulties, created by the banking institutions, was compelled to reduce pensions. However, every member of the United Australia party in Parliament voted in favour of the reduction.
Mr.Fadden. - A reduction was inevitable.
– If , it was inevitable at that time, it was certainly not necessary in 1934 for an anti-Labour government, which enjoyed a majority in both Houses of Parliament, to bow to the dictates of the banking institutions and still further reduce pensions to 15s. a week. It was a United Australia party government that made that further reduction, that pauperized the pensioners, and that struck thousands of them off the list altogether, and kept them off for years. That is the whole story.
– It is too favorable to honorable members opposite.
– If I have erred at all it was on the side of generosity. It was a Labour government that first paid invalid pensions in Australia in 1911, and granted the maternity bonus. Child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government against the fierce opposition of four or five exMinisters of the Crown, members of the antiLabour parties, who were anxious to destroy the measure. The report of the Social Security Committee is an informative document, and I should like to read it to the House in order to confound the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Harrison), who believes that we should not increase social benefits in time of war. In this he is in disagreement with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who takes a more humane and realistic view of the matter. However, it is not proposed in this bill to give effect to all the recommendations of the committee, or even to a substantial part of them. For instance, the committee recommends that there should be a Commonweath scheme for widows’ pensions. In my opinion, widows with dependent children are in a. worse position than many old persons who have the right to claim an old-age pension. A select committee of the Victorian Parliament which inquired into this matter was supplied with evidence which emphasized the appalling conditions under which many widows are living. It was my lot to discover that some widows have to wake their children at 6 o’clock in’ the morning, cut their lunches, and take them to school at 7 o’clock, winter and summer alike, and leave them there where they will have some degree of safety until school opens at 9 o’clock, while they themselves go to work. After school, the children must wait about until 6 o’clock when the mother comes home to cook their meal for them. She must wait until Saturday and Sunday to do her washing and house cleaning. Only in two States is there provision for widows’ pensions; a partial scheme is in operation in Victoria, and a more complete one in New South Wales. There should be a scheme of Commonwealth-wide application, and I cannot understand why provision for the institution of such a scheme was not included in this bill. It would cost only about £500,000 a year at, the most, and what is that when we so freely vote £320,000,000 to be expended this year, of which £200,000,000 is far warpurposes? It is necessary that we should win the war, but we are not moved by altruistic motives when we vote money for that purpose; we are thinking of ourselves and of our property. If we thought more of the helpless people in the community than of ourselves, we should be quicker to do what is just to them. Even when Ave increase old-age and invalid pensions, we generally find that the increases have not been of much benefit to them. The’ rapacious landlord puts up the rent on the pensioners by ls. a week or so immediately the increase is granted. When the last government increased soldiers’ pay, many landlords in Victoria put up the rents of the soldiers’ wives. Though we increase pensions we cannot be sure that someone other than the pensioner does not obtain the major part of the benefit. Even the Government takes some of the increase in the form of higher sales tax. I have been supplied with figures which indicate that, because of increased sales tax and higher excise duties, the pensioners will find it more difficult to live next year than they did before. The increase of the price of tea to 3s. Sd. per lb. in Canberra is a very heavy burden on old-age pensioners. The increase of the cost of matches from 5d. to lid. a packet is also very severe. The Government should evolve a satisfactory method of pegging prices in order to prevent these extraordinary rises.
When the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) was referring to old-age pensioners’ organizations. I interjected that they existed mostly for the benefit of undertakers. That is the truth. Pensioners subscribe 3d. or 6d. a week as a form of insurance that they will receive a decent burial. Most people abhor the thought of being buried as a pauper, as a charge upon the State. No matter how poor a person may be, he will make sacrifices in order to ensure for himself a decent burial. A number of the organizations which began as protective societies for old-age pensioners rapidly fell into the hands of racketeering undertakers. These people saw a very great advantage to themselves if they could secure a definite fortnightly income, which would enable them to discharge certain responsibilities to those with whom they made the contracts, and at the same time create great opportunities to enrich themselves. One firm in Melbourne, Rayboulds Proprietary Limited, has grown very wealthy in this way. All of the organizations in Melbourne, with one exception, which is registered under the Friendly Societies Act of Victoria, are really undertakers’ 12*] societies masquerading as pensioners’ protective organizations. Other States are also ridden with them. These bodies, which are really carrying out functions similar to that of life assurance societies handling industrial policies, should be brought under the Friendly Societies Acts of the various States, or under the general insurance scheme, the introduction of which the Commonwealth Government has promised to consider during the next session of Parliament. That legislation should protect pensioners against those ladies and gentlemen who are earning a handsome living from their fortnightly subscriptions. In the big cities of the Commonwealth on pension payment days the representative of a firm of undertakers sits outside the post office and . collects the contributions. Sometimes a pensioner, working on a commission basis, performs this task as an agent for a firm of undertakers.
– Why not make the necessary provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– Tha t could be done. The Minister should certainly consider protecting the pensioners against these harpies.
I hope that the bill will secure a rapid passage through Parliament and that it is an earnest of better things to come. When the Government’s further proposals take legislative shape next March, I trust that they will be similar to provisions of the New7 Zealand Security Act, and include a clause to give effect to the promises , which the Labour party made at the last federal election to increase pensions to 25s. a week. That bill should receive from the Opposition as ready support as honorable members opposite have extended to the measure now under consideration. I hope that by that time the circumstances will not have altered so considerably, nor their courage have risen so high, that they will find it advantageous to give effect to the views expressed by the honorable member for Deakin, and call a halt to any more social improvements for the duration of the war.
.- I deeply regret that the matter of invalid and old-age pensions cannot be discussed in a non-party spirit, because even- ohe desires to do justice to the aged who need financial assistance, and to invalids who, because of a grave misfortune, are unable to earn for themselves a livelihood. Among the political parties represented in this chamber, no difference of opinion exists .as to the obligation to render justice to this unfortunate section of the community. The only real difference between Government supporters and members p’f the Opposition is that many of us believe that it is more kind to maintain the purchasing value of the pension, than to give to the pensioner a little more money which, because of unsound financial methods, will buy for him a little less. If 25s. a week raised by unsound financial methods will not
My principal reason for participating in the debate was to direct attention to an amendment relating to persons disqualified from receiving invalid and old-age pensions. Clause 4 provides that, among others who shall be .disqualified from receiving a pension, are natives of the islands of the Pacific. In Queensland particularly, and also along the north coast of New South “Wales, are many old South Sea islanders - kanakas - who were “blackbirded “ 40 years ago. “Shanghaied “ from their island homes, they were landed in Australia and set to work in the cane-fields. As hardworking citizens, many of them have lived very decent lives in this country. There are no women among them. For more than 40 years, their numbers have not increased. Speaking from memory, I think that one of the conditions which was imposed upon Queensland, upon the establishment of federation, was the cessation of this class of immigration. It now happens that 200 or 300 or these men, old and decrepit persons, whose ages range from 60 to 90 years, are disqualified from receiving any assistance from the Government. Living in tin shanties and bag huts they depend for their sustenance on a few vegetables which they can grow, and upon the good nature of farmers in the district. From time to. time, they have asked me to intercede with the Government on their behalf, but their applications for pensions have always been rejected because the act- disqualifies them. The time is now opportune to do justice to them. They have served Australia as faithfully and as industriously as have the white men. They cleared the land, tilled the fields, and helped to produce the national wealth. In their old age, they are’ entitled to receive sustenance from the country.
– They are a vanishing race.
– That is so. It will be only a matter of a few years before any commitment which the Government may now enter into in respect of them -will completely disappear. ‘
– They would not number more than 100.
– I have encountered some very sad cases among these people, and urge the Minister to make special provision for them.
I congratulate the Government upon liberalizing the act in certain respects. Whilst I should like to “see an extension of the concessions, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and in wartime, it is not possible to be too liberal with social services unless it be at the expense of those members of the community who can alford to make the sacrifice. If we decide to grant more generous treatment to invalid and old-age pensioners, Ave can achieve our objective only by taking a little more from other sections. Every person who is drawing a decent wage should be prepared to make some contribution by way of taxation, not only for the purpose of national security, but also for social security.
– The Government will not compel those persons to make a contribution for either one or other of those causes.
– That is the fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition. However, 1 do riot seek to make a political football out of the matter of pensions. It matters little which party in power increases or reduces pensions, because any variations are the result of the economic condition of” the country. During the depression the Scullin Government reduced pensions, but I believe that any other government in office at that time would have been compelled to take similar action, if it had been sensible of its responsibilities to Australia. When previous governments have increased pensions, political or financial circumstances have enabled them to do so. Therefore, neither side should be rebuked for having lowered pensions, and neither should claim a monopoly of the credit for having raised them. I ask the Minister to give special consideration to the claims of the old South Sea islanders.
.- I rise to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) on the opportunity that has presented itself to him to be associated with the improvement of the position of the pensioners. I am glad to be a supporter of the Government that has been able, in this critical time, to ‘bring down a proposal to increase the rate of the invalid and old-age pension, because for ten years, in spite of the declaration of the last speaker, with which I agree, that pensions should not be the football of politics, I have had to suffer criticism from political opponents, and ‘sometimes friends, because I was head of the Government that was associated with the reduction of the rate of pensions in the depth of the worst depression the world has ever suffered. I take some pleasure in scanning a . table of figures courteously supplied to me by officials of the Minister’s department. The extraordinary thing, which may surprise honorable members who examine this table, is that, when the pension was reduced to 17s. 6d., its ratio to the basic wage was higher than ever before, although Australia had passed through soma of its most prosperous years. When the pension was established in 1910 at the rate of 10s. a week, it represented 22 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1916 it was 19.7 per cent., 1920 16.9 per cent., 1923 20.7 per cent., 1925 23.4 per cent., and, in the first six months of 1931, 26.3 per cent. After July, 1931, because the basic wage had fallen, the ratio increased to 27 per- cent. In the next year, when the basic wage had fallen further, the pension represented 27.6 per cent, of the basic wage, and it stayed at that percentage until 1934, when the percentage fell to 26.5, only to rise again in 1935 to 27.3. The table for those and succeeding years is as follows : -
The present percentage i3 24.7, and when this bill is carried, it will be 27.0, exactly the percentage when the cut was made in 1931. My first purpose in emphasizing these figures is to show that’ in the depth of the world-wide depression the Labour Government maintained the purchasing power of the pensioners, at a higher level than ‘ever before. My second reason is the considerable criticism that « this Government, in the midst of war and financial difficulties, could see fit to increase the rate of pensions. In answer to that criticism I point out that the increase proposed will bring the pension only up to the standard prevailing iri the depth of” the depression. Surely, we can give to the pensioners now as much as we gave to them when every one suffered, when unemployment was acute, and single men were expected to live on a sustenance allowance of 6s. a week. I know of four pensioners who rented, for Ss. a week, 2s, each, a little villa in my electorate. That villa could not be rented to-day under 25s. Bent is the great, bugbear of the pensioners; housing is the problem. The cost of living figures that deal with housing do not represent the true position so far as the pensioners are concerned. They are unable to- obtain homes-
– Rents are taken into account in fixing the cost of living.
– Yes, but the figures do not represent the truth so far as that stratum of the community is concerned. I admit that8s. a week was not a true reflecti on of rent, and that it was not reflected in the cost of living figures. It was a false rent, due to the extraordinary conditions of the depression period.
I have always held at the back of my mind that, when we are dealing with reconstruction and social services, we ought to pay more attention to the problem of housing pensioners. We have thousands of them crowded together in congested areas in the cities, living in houses on land which, because it is in the congested areas, is highly valued. Some pensioners, I admit, may prefer to live in the environment they know, but many others would be glad to get . out of the congested environment of the cities where they are forced to pay exorbitant rents rising to as high as8s. and 10s. a week for single rooms. We could evolve a scheme, not at present perhaps, but when we are reconstructing after this war, whereby we could house the pensioners on the outskirts of cities, or around country towns - not in thebackblocks, of course - where land is sold by the acre at prices cheaper than city land is sold by the foot. Comfortable homes could be built, each with a half acre or quarter- acre of land on which the pensioners could have gardens which would provide them with a hobby and useful employment in the production of vegetables, flowers and fruit. It has been one of my dreams that some one with wealth would do something on those lines and, thereby, give a lead to the State and the Commonwealth Governments. At present housing is a problem in big cities. Many places which could be occupied by workers arc at present occupied by pensioners and people superannuated from public positions. If they were provided with homes on the outskirts of the cities and country towns, as I have suggested, workmen could be provided with accommodation near places of their employment. It is not feasible to build workers’ cottages away from their places’ of employment because of the high fares and the timewasted in travelling but pensioners and superannuated people would not experiencethose disabilities. If settlements for pensionerswere provided in theway Ihave suggested the occupants could have all the amenities of city life, and they would not have the objection to taking up residence there that they would have to going into the back-blocks. Shopkeepers would go to those settlements in search of business. There would not be much need for schools because the occupantswould be aged people, not many of whom would have families of school age. At least, they would be away from the congested areas of the city and the housing problem would be eased. The first problem in housing workers is the cost of the land. We should be able to build a home for the price thatwe have to pay for land.
– In South Australia fourroomed dwellings are available at 12s. 6d. aweek.
-South Australia has given a good lead. So has the Methodist Church in New South Wales. It has set up a little colony of cheap houses, very much cheaper even than those in South Australia. I am not putting forward this suggestion as anything new, because there are the Old Colonists’ Homes at Melbourne. When landwas cheap a philanthropist bought an area on which he erected a number -of homes, the qualification for occupancy ofwhich is the receipt of the old-age pension. There the people live happily rent free. We could not go so far as providing rent-free homes, but Ave could go very much farther than Ave have done. When the war is over thousands of returned soldiers and munitionsworkers will be looking for employment. Private enterprisewill require a certain period in order to pick up the threads of ordinary business, and Governments will have a responsibility. There is no betterway than for the Government to turn its energies to the provision of housing, and a beginning could be made by giving to the old-age pensioners and superannuated people a chance to get outside the environment of tlie slum to a brighter and healthier atmosphere of fresh air and glorious sun: shine. -
.- This bill goes a’ long way towards removing the anomalies in the existing pensions legislation, and I congratulate the Government on following to a very considerable extent the lead given by the previous Government. The bill will be widely popular with the possible exception of one particular point, namely, the increased rate of pension. On that point a great deal can be said. In considering the standard rate of the invalid and old-age pensions there are three interests to be considered. ‘ The first interest is that of the pensioners themselves. It is only natural that they will wish for the pension to be as high as possible. The second interest is humanitarian. The community, as a whole, wishes invalid and old-age pensioners to he reasonably well treated. The third interest is national. The people’s energies are directed to the successful prosecution of the war, which requires the wholehearted effort of all of us. Therefore, any diversion of energy to needs not directly connected with the war must be deprecated unless it can be fully justified. Opinions differ regarding this proposal to increase the rate of pension to 23s. 6d. a week. The needs of the pensioners must be considered in ‘conjunction with the needs of the nation. Nobody will dispute that 23s. Gd. a week can provide no more than a meagre existence for any individual with prices at their present level. At the same time, this increase will impose an additional burden of about £2,000,000 a year on the financial resources of the nation. Tha increase is justified, but I am worried by the tendency that exists to increase pension rates at short and regular intervals. Obviously, if we increase the rate to 25s. a week somebody will, in course of time, raise an outcry for a further increase to 30s. a week. There must come a time when the Parliament will say, “ This is the final rate of pension, which has been fixed in consideration of all of the circumstances.” I do not know when that stage will bo reached, but I hope that it will be reached soon. We should say now, not as separate . political parties, but as a united Parliament, that a certain rate is justifiable, and that, in present circumstances, it must not be exceeded.
I shall now refer briefly to t.he pension schemes of other countries. ‘ Two forms of old-age pension are. payable in Groat Britain. The first scheme is contributory, and under it aged persons receive 25s. a week. The second, which is noncontributory, was established for those people who cannot contribute to the first scheme. The non-contributory pension was inaugurated some years ago at 10s.’ a week, but the rate has been increased, since the outbreak of war, to 19s. Pen-: sion rates in New Zealand are somewhat higher than they are in Australia. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has said, two schemes operate in New Zealand. The first is a system of universal superannuation, which applies to every citizen on reaching the age of 65 years. At the present time, the annual amount provided for each pensioner under this scheme is £10, but the rate will be increased annually by £2 10s. until 196S, when it is intended to reach the maximum of £78. Nobody knows what will take place between now and then, and it is probable that many changes will be made to the scheme. Apart from this superannuation scheme, there is an old-age pension for which people may qualify at the age of 60 years, by passing a means and residence te3t. The pension for a single applicant is £52 a year. A married man is entitled to £73 a year, plus £.13 a year for his wife and for each child under the age of sixteen years. A married man’s income including pension may not exceed £4 a week. This scheme is more liberal than the one proposed in the bill.
I welcome this measure as being a small, but important, part of the comprehensive scheme of social security which I hope to see brought into effect some clay. Australia has lost the proud position which it held about twenty years ago as the most advanced country in the world in respect of social legislation. Invalid and old-age pensions were introduced in this country in 190S; the maternity allowance became payable in 1912. In 1906-07 the social expenditure of the
States - at that time there were no Commonwealth social services - was only £5,600,000, or 11.7 per cent, of the combined Commonwealth and State governmental expenditure. By 1913-14, the total had reached £12,000,000, representing 13.2 per cent, of the Commonwealth and State expenditure. I point out that these amounts included expenditure on the maintenance of law and order, which can hardly be regarded as social expenditure. After 19.13-14 there was a steady increase of the volume and variety of social services, and this increase was accentuated by the post-war depression. In 1939-40, when there was a great deal of wartime expenditure, the Commonwealth had a record social services budget of £57,300,000, which represented 22 par cent, of gross governmental expenditure from Consolidated Revenue and loan funds. Figures relating to Australia’s national income were not compiledregularly until 1920-21, but from that year till 1939-40 social expenditure increased from 4.1 per cent, to 6.6 per cent, of the national income, which itself had increased by more than half. It is interesting to compare these figureswith the figures relating to social services in Great Britain. In 1936-37, Great Britain expended £455,000,000 on social services, or 10 per cent, of its national income. The net cost to public fluids of social services for that year was £305,000,000, or 32 per cent. of public funds. The percentage in Australia for that year was 22 per cent., which shows that we lag far behind Great Britain in social service. Therefore, after the war is over, we should be able to spend on social services at least10per cent, more of our national income, and that would bring the amount to £100,000,000 a year. That figure, of course, would include the whole range of social security services, including unemployment insurance.
The increase of the rate of old-age pension to 23s. 6d. a week will be of great assistance to the pensioners. I support the suggestion of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), that we should not only provide a part of the incomes of old-age pensioners, but also endeavour to improve their environment. One way to do this would be to build small, cheap houses for them, which has been done already to a limited degree in Melbourne. In existing circumstances, when a man and wife in receipt of the old-age pension become infirm they have no option but to seek a haven in some institution. Few of these establishments will take both the man and his wife, with the result that in the twilight of their lives, when they are most dependent upon each other, they are torn apart and taken to separate institutions. From that time on they rarely see each other. Many oldage pensioners do not like to leave the places where they have spent most of their lives, and when they are taken away from their homes and friends they suffer greatly. Therefore, the proposal to build homes for old-age pensioners is commendable, and might well be considered by the Government, possibly in conjunction with its housing scheme.
At the present time the allowable earnings of an old-age pensioner must not exceed 12s. 6d. a week, if he is to continue in receipt of the pension. That amount is worth very little in these days of high prices. The demand for labour often exceeds the supply, and many aged people could secure some form of employment which would pay them more than 12s. 6d. a week. Therefore, in the circumstances, I suggest that the permissible earnings of an old-age pensioner should be increased to £1 a week, or even £2 a week.
SirGeorge Bell. - Of course, that would increase the number of pensioners.
-Not necessarily. The Government might now extend the rate of permissible earnings to £2 a week, instead of later increasing the rate of pension to 25s. a week.
Sitting suspended from6.15 to8 p.m.
– As the Government desires other business to intervene, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 4 -
The Second Schedule to the Principal Act is amended by omitting Division I., sub-items (1), (2) and (3) of Item 3, Item 4, Divisions III. and IV., sub-items (1), (5), (6), (8), (10), (12), (14) and (15) of Item 19; Divisions VI. and VIII. and Items 38, 39, 41, 42,45, 46, 47 and 48.
Leave out “sub-items (1), (2) and (3) of item 3”.
Motion (byMr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
.- Several objections have been raised to the proposal to increase the limit of earningpower of pensioners, among them being the’ contention that to do so would increase greatly the number of pensioners and so increase the pensions bill of the country. I do not consider that that objection can be substantiated. I do not think that such a step would encourage persons to apply for the. pension who would not otherwise do so. A second objection, that the benefits following an increase of the earning-power of pensioners would not be great, also appears to me to be unsound. It would be an excellent thing, in my view, to provide pensioners withan additional incentive to earn extra money, and I believe that, generally speaking, pensioners who arephysicallyable to do so would take advantage of the opportunity to do suitable work. I therefore’ commend this suggestion to the favorable consideration of the Government.
It has been frequently stated in debates: in this House that our invalid pensions scheme is too rigidly based. This afternoon the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that the method ofassessing the degree of incapacity of invalids wasunsound.He didnot approve of the numerical standard which, he contended, would leadto injustices. He suggested that incapacity should be determinedby methods similar tothose adopted in the administration of our workers’ compensation legislation.I agree that it is most difficult to make a judgment on the degree of incapacity of an invalid, and to say that a person is 10 per cent., 15 per cent., or 20 per cent, short of total incapacity, but after considering all aspects of ‘the subject, I have formed the opinion that the numerical method will give better results than the method suggested by the honorable member for Bourke.
The proposal of the Government to introduce’ some- form of vocational training with the idea of encouraging invalids to fit themselves to do work within their physical capacity is a step in the right direction.Such a scheme will serve at least two useful purposes. If work can be provided for a large number of invalids by affording them some initial training, it will be advantageous alike to the invalids themselves and to the community. Many invalids would be able to work if they were given some training in suitable occupations. I have in mind a girl who, in her early life, suffered from partialparalysis - a result of spinal meningitis. Her family had her trained as a milliner. The girl showed a considerable degree of skill and is now earning between £4 and £5 a week. Moreover, she is much better in herself because her mind is fully occupied, and she is no burden whatever on the community. I do not consider that that is an exceptional case. Many legless men could do useful work if they were given some training. Of course, they could not engage in primary production, but they could certainly perform many kinds of office work and they could also gain a degree of skill as tradesmen. Many people in the community who suffer from cardiac trouble could engage in quiet callings without any danger of accentuating their disability. -A scheme is in progress in Queensland, in a small way, which, in my view, offers great possibilities’. Between 20 and 30 persons have been given some technical . training under the scheme and are now engaged in useful employment. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) raised some objection to the proposed vocational training plan on the ground that it might lead to the bringing of pressure to bear on invalids in. order to forcethem todo work which they did not desire to do. He said that they might be taken from their families and deprived of the benefit of
Iiic invalid pension. I do wot -share the honorable gentleman’s fears in that regard. I consider that the scheme is eminently sound and that it offers good possibilities of benefiting the invalids who might take advantage of it, and the country at large, which would be relieved of certain financial obligations without hardship to individuals. .Invalids who engage in. some useful work must have a better outlook on life. I can imagine nothing worse f or a person than to be condemned to a life of complete idleness.
The honorable member for Bourke said that the Government was putting the cart before the horse in this connexion. He said that schools for training purposes should be established before proposals were made to invalid pensioners that they should undertake training. I hold the opposite view. In my opinion, it would be unwise for the Government to establish training schools all over .the country until it was quite sure that sufficient invalid pensionerswould be available to make such expenditure worth while. Under the Queensland scheme to which I have referred, invalids are trained by private firms, which undertake the work without cost, or at a quite nominal figure. I believe that openings could be obtained for suitable persons to be trained as milliners, secretaries, ‘and in certain professional and commercial capacities. That system would give more satisfactory results than any other that comes to my mind.
– .”Would the honorable gentleman favour paying to such pensioners the basic wage during their period of training?
– No; I would pay them their ordinary pension rate. If they could live on the pension as invalids, they could surely live on it as trainees. The honorable member for Bourke expressed opposition to any contributory pension scheme, but I am strongly of the opinion that the inauguration of a soundly based contributory scheme would be an excellent thing for the country. I realize, of course, that such a scheme could not be applied to persons at present receiving the pension, but. I can see no reason why, in any general social security programme that we may adopt, we should not include a contributory pensions scheme. Such a scheme would raise the dignity of people and encourage thrift. Most people realize that a thing they pay for is much to be preferred to a thing that comes to them as a charity. The contributions would help substantially in the financing of the scheme. Every single person should be imbued with a sense of responsibility for his own welfare, and should not rely entirely on the State to care for, feed and house him.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security recommended in it3 report that a social service bureau should, be set up to deal with the whole range of social services in this country. The Government might now very well consider the recruitment and training of a certain number of social workers for the particular task of dealing with invalid and old-age pensioners. Good though the staff is which deals with social services, it is engaged mostly on administrative matters, and has neither the leisure nor the opportunity to make individual contact with pensioners. The aged and invalid, require, not the administrative touch, but human sympathy. Anyone who has worked .among them will agree that social workers do a great deal of good, and, by advice and sympathy, can definitely mitigate the hardships of old age and the severity of invalidity. They perform a two-fold service, in that besides the comfort they give to the pensioner they also assist the administration to deal justly and sympathetically with - its problems.
– I “ - should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to give- the assurance that sub-section 1 of section 15 of the principal act, which makes provision in respect of a male person over the age of 60 years who is otherwise permanently incapacitated for work, will be administered in the same way as the proposed amendment which provides that an invalid pension shall bc granted if the applicant for it is 85 per cent, incapacitated. It would be particularly fortunate if the honorable gentleman were prepared to give that undertaking when lie is replying to the debate, in order that the matter might be cleared up immediately.
Some honorable members have mentioned various funeral funds to which invalid and old-age pensioners arc substantial contributors. The solution of this very real problem lies in an amendment of the act to provide that a nominal sum, in addition to the pension, be paid into a fund in order to provide for the decent burial of deceased pensioners. The proportion of pensioners who die within twelve months of receiving the pension 2.5 approximately 21.5 each 1,000; therefore, about 3d. a week in respect of each pensioner would be needed in order to provide burials costing £10 each. If the “Minister will consider this proposal when drafting a further amending bill to be introduced next March, he will bc moving in the right direction.
We have held for many years our present conception of pensions; but, being a progressive nation, we must advance; consequently, this House ought to concern itself with the consideration of further means of improving the lot of pensioners other than by a. straight-out increase of the pension. Some of my constituents have submitted to me that a possible method of achieving this end would be to provide pensioners with a half-acre block of land just outside the city boundary, on which they could grow a few vegetables and flowers and have a place that they could call their own. “Future legislation in respect of pensioners should embody a scheme along these lines. If this were done, a large number of pensioners would, bc enabled to cease their present mode of living, which obliges them to rent, a room, in a poor district at, say, 10s. a. week, leaving insufficient for food and clothing. As it seems beyond the power of the Government at present, if not later, to grant a larger sum by way of a straight-out pension, it should avail itself of the power to make available Crown lands to persons who have been resident- in Australia for twenty years and would thu.s~be imbued with a desire to assist in building up this country by reclaiming land not previously worked in any way.
The Government should consider a system of universal superannuation, to bo applied, to men as well as women of the age of 60 years, irrespective of the possession of real or personal property. Tin’s principle, I am pleased to say, has been applied in the sister dominion of New
Zealand for a few years, and as a part of its social-services scheme has proved extremely beneficial. Although it has not attained to full fruition, that point will be reached in a few years.
In the application of all legislation which comes under his department, the Minister has discretion to allow curtain, claims which are not strictly within the letter of the law. He should take power, under an amendment to the act, to allow the Commissioner to exercise a similar discretion, and thus rid himself of a lot of work with which he should not, bc troubled. The Commissioner could deal expeditiously with representations and claims. There are very many claims which, (from a human point of view, should be granted, and. any person with a humane outlook would exercise discretion in favour of the applicant, having regard not only to the national interest, but also to the very human interest associated with the assistance of persons who have to face what to them are tremendous problems. Poor persons, whom circumstances ha ve obliged to become pensioners, should bc given all the assistance that a liberal administration can devise, in order that they may bc able to provide themselves with three meals a day and a roof over their heads. If the Minister adopts this suggestion, he will do a very great deal for those who are subject to the act.
– I direct attention to- an anomaly in the application of the means test. If an applicant for a pension owns a property which returns- a net income of £30 a year, not only is that amount debited against him, but, in addition, the value of tlie property is taken into account. If the property be valued at £350, there is a debit of 10 per cent, on £300, which amounts to -£30, and the applicant is regarded as having an income of £60, which makes him ineligible for a pension. I should like the Minister to give consideration to this anomaly. The act, by section 24, presetiocs that, in applying the means test, there shall bc a deduction -of £1 for every complete £10 by which the net capital value of the accumulated property exceeds £50. The applicant is also debited with the net income derived from that property. This, to me, suggests double banking. I Lave explained the matter to pensions officials, but it has taken them some time to understand the exact position. It is most unfair to take into account the capital value of property in addition to debiting an applicant for- a pension with the revenue derived from it. in order to determine, whether or not his means debar him from receiving a pension. J. .trust that the Minister will consider that aspect of the matter. The proposed amendment to clause 8 deals with encumbered property, but I - support the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) regarding property which is unencumbered. A man may own property of an unimproved value of £1,000, but if he cannot sell it and cannot, get any revenue from it, it is a- liability rather than an a-set, especially when he has to pay rates on it. However, I understand that the department may exercise discretion in cases of that kind, and take over the property if the pensioner so- desires.
I regard as very sound the proposal to encourage- vocational training of invalid persons. This is not a matter merely . of saving money for the Government; what is more important, it is a plan for giving invalids an interest in life. I desire to pay a tribute to departmental officials for the humane way in which they have tried to encourage invalids to take up some sort of work. I have been impressed with the great interest taken by Deputy Commissioners in cases of .this kind. One honorable member this afternoon, stressed the need -for the humane administration of pensions legislation. I.n my .opinion, the officials who administer the3e provisions are - discharging their duties in a most humane manner. . -
Suggestions : have: -been made in the course of this debate that -our social services should -be -extended, but I believethat, before any action is taken in that direction, a survey should- be made pf the social sen-ices provided .by -the various States, as well- as those of the Commonwealth, in- order to avoid duplication and overlapping. For instance^ some States provide pensions for widows and -orphans, whilst others do not.’ It is desirable that there should be uniformity of social services, particularly in regard to pensions, and the only way in which that can be achieved is by the nationalization of all social services.
– I support this bill, which is one of the most important that has been brought before Parliament for a considerable time. I congratulate the Government, and especially the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), who is the right man in the right place - kind, humane, sympathetically understanding and understandingly sympathetic. The present act, which this bill proposes to amend, is rather brutal in some respects. For instance, it provides . that before a person shall be entitled to receive an invalid pension, he must prove that he is totally and permanently incapacitated. The question constantly arises: how is one to define total and permanent incapacity? A person who could lift an arm or move a foot could not be described as totally incapacitated. On one occasion I asked the Minister in charge of pensions whether it were necessary to wait for rigor mortis to set in before a person could qualify for a pension. One case that came under my notice was that of a beautiful girl of nineteen years of age who had suffered for years from osteomyelitis. She had been receiving a pension for some time, and then it was withdrawn. I am glad that the former Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) is present because I wish f> compliment him on his handling of that case. At ray request he assembled a board consisting of three medical officers, and promised to act on their report. They found that she was totally and permanently incapacitated, and she was given an invalid pension, payments to be retrospective for two years. I mention this case in order to show that the act is so rigid that it throws a very great responsibility on those administering it.-
Comparalively few people are born defective, cither physically or mentally. In. the case of invalidity, the defects develop because of bad living conditions, bad housing, bad or unsuitable food, bad nursing, or as the result of accidents in field or flood, or in the course of daily work. My point is that invalidity develops during tlie life of the person, and we should endeavour to remove the causes. To this end we should nationalize the medical service, as well as hospital and dental services. These services arc provided for mcn when they join the Army. Doctors, nurses and dentists are engaged to keep the men fit. Why not provide the same service for the people who march in the army of life? Prevention is always better than cure. We have been told by some honorable members that we cannot, alford to provide these tilings. Nothing makes me so tired as this parrot cry, “ We cannot afford it.” We cannot afford not fo afford it. This war is teaching us many lessons, and one of the mast important is that money can always be found when it is wanted. We must, find money now in order to protect the Empire. “ Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.” If we can find money in war-time wc can find it in peace-time. For too long money has been the master; it should be made the servant of humanity, and. from now on it will be. 1 regard this bill as another rung of the ladder which will lead us upwards to a system of complete social service from” which the nation as a whole will benefit in the end. Australia may be spared invasion during this war, but unless we have a greater population than 7,000,000 we cannot hope indefinitely to escape attack. When hostilities cease, the- warweary peoples of Europe will turn to this bright land under the Southern Cross. The Poles, for instance, are a very fine people. We hope that Poland will be rehabilitated, but there is considerable doubt of it, because Poland, lying where it is, is between the upper and nether millstones. The peoples of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, all magnificent races, will seek admittance to Australia.. During this war, thousands of people in Great Britain were anxious to send their children to Australia. After the war, they themselves, together with their families, will be anxious to come, and we must provide good conditions for them. I hope to live to see a population of 20,000,000 people in Australia. Then we may sit up and talk as a great nation.
I wish to speak for a few minutes about old-age pensions. We are under an obligation to look after not only our returned soldiers, but also the army of peace, which comprises those nien who have given their youth, health and strength to develop this great land. They should draw the pension’ not as a charity but as a right.’ Again and again, I have been told that Australia cannot afford to provide pensions on the present scale. I remind those who hold that view that during the current financial year, Australia’s national income from primary and secondary industries will total £1,000,000,000.’ That represents the private credit of the Commonwealth; the public credit is ten times that figure. Yet we are told that we cannot alford to give a little to the invalid or old-age pensioner ! Obviously that is not correct.
I was greatly impressed by the speech of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who said that we should endeavour to rehabilitate not only the returned soldier, but also the pensioner. People who love life in the open air should be able, when they retire from industry, to live in a healthy environment instead of in slums. They should be given a piece of land, with security of tenure, and encouraged to grow vegetables and flowers. They would gain strength from their new, pleasant mode of life. But when we advocate this, our opponents shrug their shoulders and say that the necessary land cannot be obtained. When I was visiting the south-western part of Queensland recently, I travelled along a stock route 1 mile wide and 54 miles long. That is to say, 54 square miles of country were available for a slock route; the owners of the land on each side of it were allowed to use it without cost to themselves. Sheep and cattle were driven along it at. a rate of 6 and 9 miles a day respectively.
– That was a pretty long paddock.
– Yes, and there are many others like it. Yet our opponents ask, “ Where is the land to be found for the purpose which you advocate? “ I suggest a scheme analogous to that of “ Boy-land “. Why should we not establish little settlements where pensioners, enjoying security of tenure, could engage in the pleasant pastime of gardening, and rejoice in the words of the poet -
This is my own, my native land.
The sentimental side of this matter should not be overlooked, whilst from the open air life, the pensioners would gain in health and strength. I am gratified that the Government decided to increase, the pension to £1 3s. 6d. a week. I am also pleased that we have the sacred promise of the Government to increase the pension early next year to 25s. a week. If that undertaking be not honoured I shall leave the party.
– I thought that that would make members of the Opposition sit up. The Government has promised, early next year, to increase the pension to 25s. a week. When the Labour party makes a promise, it keeps it.
Government Members. - Hear, hear !
– I regret that the bill does not make Asiatics, except those born in Australia, Indians born in British India, and the aboriginal natives of Australia, eligible to receive the invalid or old-age pension. In my opinion, all of them are entitled to it.
– Make the act retrospective so as to apply to those who have died.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) can be assured that notwithstanding the fact that he lives on the other side of the political fence he will be granted an oldage pension when he attains the age of 65 years.
This is a wonderfully humane measure. It is one step up the ladder to adequate social security in this great land. At this juncture, I should like to pay a tribute to the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Queensland, Mr. C. R. Burdeu, for the manner in which he has administered the act. Although I havenever met him, I have had a good deal of correspondence with him and have always found him to be most sympathetic. The administration of the Invalid and old-age Pensions Act depends upon such officers as he, and I feel sure, having met. many of them, that they will have regard to not only the letter but also the spirit of the law. When granting old-age pensions, we must not always count the cost. William Jennings Bryan, the great Democratic leader in the United States of America said -
Man is crucified on a cross of gold.
It is time that we put money in its proper place, and made it the handmaiden of the services that we need.
– No subject in this chamber causes greater interest, or at any rate, induces so many honorable members to participate in the debate, than that of invalid and old-age pensions. On countless occasions, the pensioner and his worries have been dragged into the debate by the hair of the head, the heels, the sleeve, or any part of the anatomy or of the clothing that provides a grip.
– Even by the beard !
– This is one of those rare occasions when the bill deals exclusively . with invalid
– What has this to do with pensions?
– The honorable member for Kennedy should hequiet. I am like the wise old cat. 1 like my mice playful, and I like them young. As the honorable member is one of the young, playful mice in this chamber, he had better be quiet.
On behalf of the pensioner the Government is prepared to say to one section of the taxpayers, “ We propose to conscript your income by taxes that will rise to 18:. in the £1. “. But it is not prepared to say to the other section of the taxpayers - ‘“In the direst necessity which faces the country to-day, we propose to increase the taxation of your incomes in order to provide something for the pensioners “. Nor is the Government prepared to .tackle the problem of manpower; but before long, it will be forced to do so, and my friends and I will be very happy to lend a helping hand in order to assist the lame dog over the stile. At this stage, the Government is, not prepared to call upon the men of the country to safeguard those conditions which, according to supporters of the Government, the pensioners must enjoy. ‘She
– That is true.
– I should not bc proud of it.
– It is not their fault. It is the fault of the system, which the honorable member defends.
– The honorable member for Melbourne is himself a legacy of this place. He was left to us in the will of the late Dr. Maloney. If I were the honorable member, I should not advertise the fact, that one in every seven of my constituents is a pensioner.
In every constituency one finds dozens of elderly mcn of approximately the same age. They lived their lives in the same district. One man saved his money and produced from his earnings, a competence on which he now lives. Another man, a pensioner, had a. very good time during his working life. If lie lived in New South Wales he attended the “ dogs “, went to the races, or had a “bob” or two on “Billy”. If he happened to live in the electorate of Watson, he would be most unwise to “back” the present member at the next election. One could find these comparisons in every electorate. But iv hat does the Government say to the elector when lie attains the age of 65 years? If he has saved nothing and. is “stony-broke”, the Commonwealth
Government says, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Here is 23s. 6d. a week “. If the tail be able to wag the clog next year, the revised budget will increase the pension to 25s. a week. But if the man has saved a competence of the value of £400, the Commonwealth Government says to him, “Get into utter and outer darkness. You can weep and wail and gnash your teeth until you have disposed of your equity of £400; but it has to last you a certain length of time “. A social system based on that foundation is utterly wrong and unjust. There is neither justice nor sense in a social system which says to the thrifty and provident “ You are to be socked. You will get nothing. We disregard you, you foolish fellow. You were thrifty. You took out insurance or bought a house or other property and received rent. No, we do not own you “, and to the man who has spent to the limit or beyond,
You are the sort of chap we want.We shall give you more”. That is the sort of thing that the Government proposes to encourage. Legislation of this type is wrong. I do not. agree with what was said this afternoon by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). He did not express my sentiments, and I hope that he does not express the final sentiments of the United Australia party.
– If he does, the honorable member for Barker will have to leave the United Australia party also.
– Not at all.
– Pensions are products of low wages.
– Pensions are not the result of low wages. It is thepride of the Labour party that in this country industrial conditions are better than in many other countries of the world. Members of the Labour party cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that as the result of their efforts, either in office or out of office, industrial conditions in this country compare more than favorably with industrial conditions in other countries and at the same time claim that pensions are owing to low wages. Whether there be an election or not my honorable friends opposite will be out on the hustings telling the electors, the poor misguided industrialists in the cities, of the wonderful things that they have done for the working men. At the same time, they cannot claim that the pensions are the result of low wages. Largely responsible for the rising pensions bill in this country is the inability or failure of people to make any provision for their old age. I am not sure whether the statement was made from this side or from the Government side of the chamber, because honorable members on both sides speak with the same voice on this matter, a voice which does not appeal to me, but it was said by someone this afternoon that this question would have to be gone into much more deeply and that shortly we should have to think of making it a universal rule that as soon as a man became 65 years of age he would become entitled to the pension. That is a very poor type of political gull for any party of this country.
– Why not compulsory insurance?
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) must remember that he is now attached to the Labour party. To quote a few lines which will be familiar to you, Mr. Speaker, “ Sold in advance hoof and hide, to the little black god on the mountainside “. The honorable member for Henty is over there for the sacrifice. His throat will soon be cut. The honorable member should sit down and study the history of compulsory insurance in this House.
– What did the honorable member do about compulsory insurance?
– I devilled for the then Treasurer, the former member for Corio (Mr. Casey), whom I assisted in putting the national insurance legislation through this House. I sat at the table for six weeks, except for one night, when the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell), the then Speaker, relieved me of duty. I had a very interesting experience in putting that legislation through. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act was a good piece of legislation.Sooner or later, if our friends opposite remain in office with the
– What about dealing with the bill?
-O! am dealing with the principles of the bill. This is a bill to amend tlie Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The honorable member for Barker is quite in order.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought that you would back me up. I was entitled to say what I had said, on this measure. I have heard from both the other side and this side of the chamber, but not from my friends immediately around me at present, about pensions for certain Asiatics and aborigines. Regret was expressed that the pensions scheme was not pro. posed to be expanded at present even further. Statistics in some quarters are not supposed, to lie at all, but in other quarters it is said that they are the offspring of Ananias. If Ave believe
It is time that this. House took a grip of itself. We should begin to face up to the stark realities of the war, which may be on our very doorsteps or on the hearths of our big cities before Ave are much older. It is time Ave stopped fiddling with these things and got down to urgent considerations. Look at what has happened in the last few days when this House has been told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who, only a few weeks ago, quickly and determinedly supported my suggestion that, Li en tenant-General Sir Iven. Mackay should be brought here, that it ia not necessary that the General Officer Commanding himself, General Blamey, should come here and say anything. It simply goes to show that this House is very much more concerned with the vote-catching possibilities of the legislation, before us to-day than about the war-winning possibilities of certain things that have to be done. I know that what I have said will be rather unwelcome in certain quarters. It Wi 11 grate on the ears of some of my friends, but it is time that Ave got down to a consideration of what Ave are up against. The tone of the debate so far would give to a visitor from Mars an impression that the war was 100 years off and 100,000,000 miles away.
.- More in sorrow than in anger I have to say a few words about the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on this very desirable and necessary bill to amend the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act. I hope that 20 years hence the honorable member for Barker, in spite of his virility and high moral tone to-day, will not have to go down on his knees in repentance for his hard-hearted attitude towards the invalid and old-age pensioners of this country. In my brief span of life I have had the opportunity to associate with both the poor and the rich of this country, and I tell the honorable member that I have found improvidence more marked amongst the wealthy than amongst the recipients of the old-age pension. A man’s capacity in this social order to become independent of the oldage pension 13 dependent on the gifts that Providence bestows upon bini and on his desire or capacity to exploit his fellowmen when opportunity offers. If by virtue of the Labour Government’s budget we take from the fortunate people in receipt of incomes of more than £1,500 a year, a great number of whom arc undoubtedly improvident, so as to be able to give to the. less fortunate people, improvident or unlucky as they may have been, I can say with sincerity that that in itself will have justified my support of the great Labour movement of this country. The honorable member for Barker, with his talk of improvidence, amazes me. Even the most improvident wage or salary earner, or small business man or woman, who eventually has to seek the old-age pension, deserves that pension, and, in all probability, has paid for it. I take it that when the honorable member talks of improvidence lie talks about those who take a glass of beer or’ a drop of whisky, or smoke cigarettes or a pipe. The people who do that contribute not less than £20,000,000 a year to Consolidated Revenue, and that contribution covers practically the whole cost of the pensions systems. What right has the honorable member to talk about thrift and providence? The most improvident contribute most towards the cost of the pensions which they will receive later in life. I have known many excellent citizens who have ultimately had to apply for the old-age pension through no fault of their own. Within the city of Ballarat, in my constituency, there are no fewer than 2,600 old-age and invalid pensioners. Many, of them are a .legacy from the gold-mining days, when the supporters of the gold-mining companies, and the gamblers and speculators on the Gold Exchange of Ballarat, exploited them and worked them under such shocking conditions that now they are practically destitute. Shame on the honorable member for Barker! The only good thing ifr. /’o/f<u-rf. that I can say about him is that he is candid; I know that many of his associates in opposition agree with him, but they lack the courage to say so. At least I can give credit to the honorable member for Barker for showing his true colours. When the Labour Government introduced its budget, including provision for an improvement of the conditions of invalid and old-age pensioners, a great cry arose from honorable members opposite that it was an “ electioneering budget “. What did they mean by that? They meant that the Labour party had provided for a. substantial betterment of the living standards of the pensioners; they meant that the Labour party had provided benefits, in the shape of increased pay and allowances, for our soldiers and their dependants. Honorable members opposite denounced the budget because they knew that an attempt by any government to improve standards of living would appeal to the hearts and minds of people throughout the Commonwealth. When the honorable member for Barker was Minister for Commerce in a former anti-Labour government, he had no compunction in supporting legislation which imposed the flour tax, with the result that the smaller a man’s wages were, the larger his family, and the less his ability to buy food and comforts, notwithstanding the service that he rendered to the community, the greater was the contribution that he had to make towards the support of the honorable member for Barker on his wheat farm, and others of his kind. The honorable gentleman talked about “ mealy-mouthed nonsense “, “ measures of sincerity “, and dogs and race-horses. The only times that I have ever been on a city race-course were when I got into the members’ stand “on the nod”. I did not find the invalid and old-age pensioners there. Nor did I find the basic-wage workers. I found those, people who are, in the main endeavouring to exploit the poorer sections of the community. I found the supporters of the United Australia party and the United Country party, the people earning £1,500 a. year and more, upon whom this Government has been courageous enough to impose extra taxes. It makes me tired and disgusted to hear the honorable member talk as he has talked to-night, indicating, however much he may profess to the contrary, that he does not believe in the elementary principles of Christianity. I ask him to view the matter from the point of view of the economic welfare of the community. With their enhanced purchasing power, the pensioners, almost without exception, will buy those commodities which the primary producers are to-day having so much difficulty in marketing. More butter, more eggs, more meat and more fruit will be sold to them by the primary producers. Only last year more than 7,000,000 cases of valuable fruit were allowed- to rot on the ground. Ministers of the Commonwealth and of the States are at. their wits’ end to know what to do for the primary producers in these days of economic upheaval. Surely it is better that those who are in the greatest need, whether it be in war-time or not, should be given an opportunity to consume some of the surplus food products of the country, with advantage to both themselves and the primary producers, even though the people earning £1,500 a year and more who crowd the members’ stands at racecourses may be thereby obliged to forgo some of the luxuries of life. I hope that these truths will soak into the mind .of the honorable member for Barker. He said to-night that we, on ‘ this side of the chamber, did not realize that we were engaged in a war. I point out to him that many honorable members on this side of the chamber served in the last war, and that our sons are serving overseas to-day equally with the sons of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Barker should be the last to rise and say, in effect, that we are hardly conscious that a war is in progress. Should this House devote the whole of its attention to war strategy when it. is essential that morale should be maintained at the highest level in those sections of the community whose members are ineligible for war service? If Hitler and Goebbels could have heard the speech of. the honorable . member to-night they would have said : “ Brother, how we would have loved to have had you in our inner councils, in order that we might have dealt in the most callous manner with those members of the least fortunate sections of the community.” It is gratifying to me that one of the first actions of the new Labour Government is to increase the rate of invalid and .old-age pensions. It is gratifying to u3 also to know that the Menzies Administration would have made no provision for an increased standard of living for the pensioners if pressure had not been brought to bear on it by the Labour party, then in opposition. The Fadden Government also made no attempt, of its own accord, to improve the lot of these people. I regret that some eminently desirable provisions are still lacking in our pensions legislation. I hope that the Minister will incorporate one provision which I shall mention. It involves Asiatics, about whom the honorable member for Barker spoke so contemptuously. This measure provides that Asiatics who were born in Australia shall tie eligible for invalid and old-age pensions. But it does not provide that other Asiatics, who may have had long residence here, and many of whom have been better citizens than Australianborn Asiatics, shall be entitled to pensions. I am acquainted with an Indo-Chinese lady, a lady in every sense of the term, who has resided in Australia for 48’years, but against whom the door to security in her old age has been closed. There are very few such people in Australia, and if pensions were granted to them, the additional cost to the Commonwealth would not be very great. I cannot submit an amendment to this bill, because it would involve extra expenditure, but I hope that the Minister will take any representations into consideration and make provision for these people. The woman whom I mentioned is 70 years of age. She has reared six children in Australia, but to-day she receives a dole of 6s. a week from the Government of Victoria. Everybody who knows her - representatives of church organizations and charitable organizations, neighbours and many others - - speak of her in the highest terms, and doubtless there are others like her. Other honorable gentlemen have suggested desirable amendments, arid I agree that they should be incorporated in the bill. However, as the Government has promised that the Invalid and Old-age
Pensions Act shall bc amended again in March, of next year, I am satisfied to leave the matter for the time being, with the hope that the Minister will make provision for’ the Asiatics whom I have mentioned. I commend the bill to the House. I’ hope that it is only the first of a number of steps .towards- the inauguration, of a social system infinitely better than that which we have hitherto enjoyed.
.- I am impelled to speak by .the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), with whose stupid statements the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has already very ably dealt. The honorable gentleman said something about the invalid and old-age pensioners expecting to “ get something out of the taxpayers “. That .remark is typical of the .mental attitude of honorable members opposite. It shows that they are concerned about this increase of the pension rate only because of the expense which they, as taxpayers, will have to bear. They do not consider the fact that many of the pensioners were exploited by themselves and. their forebears. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that one of every seven adult residents of his electorate was an old-age pensioner. The honorable member for Barker said that the honorable member for Melbourne ought to be ashamed of that fact. On the contrary, honorable members opposite ought to be ashamed to acknowledge that in Melbourne, the city which is referred to as the .financial hub of the Commonwealth, one-seventh of the population consists of old-age pensioners. These people are compelled to apply for pensions because they have been exploited in the past arid did not receive sufficient wages to enable them to provide for their old age. Victoria .is the lowest wage State in the Commonwealth to-day, and the Labour movement there has had to fight against fearful odds. But, fortunately, the Labour party representatives in this Parliament, even though they were forced to remain in opposition for many years, were able to exert sufficient pressure on anti-Labour governments to bring about gradual improvements of the social conditions of pensioners. Only last year, we were able to wring from the Menzies
Government an addition to the then existing rate of pension. Honorable members on -this side of the House move amongst pensioners and their families and know the conditions under which they live. These people were the pioneers of Australia, and we have to thank them for the conditions which we enjoy to-day. They fought for us in both the political and the industrial fields. There are men still living and drawing the pension who took part in the great industrial battles of 1891. I know some of them who live at the Eventide Home, Charters Towers. The honorable “member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was grossly unfair to many of the people to whom, he referred. He was also unjust to the members of the Labour party. We are not pandering to the pensioners in order to secure their votes. We are doing our best to help them, particularly in acknowledgment of their great service to the country. It is true that many pensioners are staunch supporters of the Labour .movement. That is because they have been through the mill and know that the Labour party is doing its best to improve the lot of the working mcn and women of Australia. We are looking for social improvements in these days. It is not sufficient merely to secure an increase of wages for the workers, for whenever an increase of wages is granted, the Prices Commissioner authorizes increases of wholesale and retail prices. Wage benefits arc thus quickly nullified. We consider that if social improvements- are effected, the people will be able to enjoy what is provided for them. In. these days we read a good deal in the press, and hear a good deal on the public platform, about social reconstruction. That subject is properly engaging the attention of the whole community. Action in this regard should be taken now; it certainly should not bo deferred until after the war. Our immediate aim should be to make the world a better place in the post-war era than it is to-day.
Some honorable members have spoken in this debate about the benefits that would flow from the adoption of a sound system of universal superannuation. I shall strongly favour any move in that direction. I trust that before our men are demobilized, and our munitions factories have ceased production for war purposes, we shall have made plans to prevent a repetition of the depression experiences of 1929-82. I am quite sure that if a universal superannuation scheme could be devised with a retiring age considerably lower than the age of eligibility for the pension, it would facilitate the withdrawal of older men from the working world and leave the way open for the employment of the men who will return from the war, and also those who will need to be transferred from war production to civil production. Therefore, this subject should receive immediate attention from the leaders of all political pa rties.
I support this bill, and am pleaded to know that it is to be followed in March next by another bill which will still further liberalize pension conditions. These measures will also have the wholehearted support of all honorable members on this side of the chamber, not with the object of pandering to the electors, but in order to ensure a greater measure of justice to a deserving section of the community.
– I feel impelled to say a few words in reply to statements made to-night by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I do not think that I have ever heard a more cowardly utterance in my life -
– Order ! The word “cowardly” is distinctly unparliamentary. The honorable member is making a bad start. This debate has already broadened considerably and, unless honorable gentlemen curb their utterances, it may be necessary to put some limit on the scope of the discussion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.I shall try not to go so far away from the bill as did the honorable member for Barker. That honorable gentleman spared no words in condemning certain people who are not here to defend themselves. He made accusations, right and left, of extravagance, bad. habits, and general delinquency. Let me tell him that there are still left in Queensland some descendants of the kanakas and ticket-of-leave men who were forcibly brought to Australia by the “ blackbirders “ years ago, and compelled to work for £6 a year. The honorable gentleman’s friends, the sugar barons associated with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and also others of the same character, treated the unfortunate kanakas in a most unchristian way, and I make a plea to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to do all that he can to improve the lot of these unfortunate people. Many of the kanakas who were’ forcibly brought to Queensland were worked to the point of exhaustion on a pay of only £6 a year, and when they died, utterly “ burned out “, they were then buried coffinless in trenches, in order that their remains might quickly decompose and manure the ground. That is a truth that cannot truthfully be denied. I know of plantation-owners in Queensland, . who, with deep-cutting ploughs, have turned up the bones of Kanakas buried in the district years ago. The descendants of these people are fully entitled to the pension.
I make a plea also on behalf of another class of people whose circumstances I placed before the former member for Corio (Mr. Casey) when he was Treasurer, in the Lyons Government. That honorable gentleman, and also succeeding Commonwealth Treasurers, made promises that the law would be amended to cover persons in the circumstances which I described to them, but it has been left to a Labour Treasurer to do the job. I have in mind a lady who has lived at Ingham for 40 years. Two of her sons went to the last war, and one is serving in this war. This lady married an Englishman in Fiji. She has never been able to obtain a pension. I congratulate this Government on having removed the provision of the law which hitherto has been fatal to her claims.
The Labour party, in seeking to liberalize our pensions legislation, is not pandering to any section of the community. It does not do that kind of thing. Its object is to try to improve the lot of what it regards as a most deserving section of the people. It is high time to give favorable consideration to the claims of many miners who, in the course of their employment, contracted miners’ phthisis. These people unquestionably deserve the pension.So, also, do many women who have reared large families in this country, but who, notwithstanding all their thrift and care, have been unable to makeprovision for their old age. The honorable member for Barkermade remarks that ill became a professed Christian and a good man. He attacked people who were not able to defend themselves. His sneers, jeers, and contumely were a complete condemnation of himself, and I do not hesitate to say so in the bluntest terms.
– I wish to make a few remarks on the general subject of pensions. First, however, I point out to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who has criticized the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) for having attacked people who are not here to defend themselves, that the honorable gentleman and his party have also spent a considerable amount of time in the last week or two in attacking people of another section of the community who are not here to defend themselves.The honorable gentleman, therefore,was guilty of exactly the same action as he attributed to the honorable member for Barker.
It was refreshing to me, as in fact it nearly always is, to hear the observations of the honorable member for Barker, who represents a constituency adjoining my own. The honorable gentleman faced the facts of the situation squarely as he saw them. I do not suggest that he is always right in his deductions, but, at least, he faces facts and puts his views bluntly and without ambiguity. When I first entered this House nineteen years ago I advocated that a national insurance scheme of a contributory nature should be enacted. Therefore honorable members will not be surprised to hear me say that I strongly support the views of the honorable member for Barker in that connexion. Our pensions bill is increasing year by year. I do not wish to say a word against pensioners, either as a class or as individuals. Everybody knows that there are fine people among them, hut there are also “ wasters “ who are in their present position simply because they would not make provision for themselves.
Our whole pensions policy is unsound. Of that there can surely be no question. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said this afternoon that our pensioners had led a useful life. What guarantee have we that they have done so? Of some of them that may be true, but of others it is true that they took no steps whatever to provide for their old age. The basis of our pension is purely a question of means and needs. Neither this country, nor any other, can afford to expend money on pensions at the rate we are expending it. In the last two decades our pensions bill has increased from about £5,500,000 to £19,000,000. Additional expenditure is now contemplated which will bring the total annual vote for pensions to between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000. With the honorable member for Barker I ask: Can we afford this expenditure at a time when we should be devoting all of our resources to the winning of the war? In times like these should an increase of the vote for pensions be the first call upon the resources at our disposal?
This afternoon, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) raised a point which, quite independently, had already struck me. There is a good deal in the contention that he advanced. An old-age pensioner is entitled to a certain income in addition to. his pension ; at present the figure is 12s. 6d. a. week. We live in days when there is considerable shortage of man-power. Many old-age pensioners would be glad to earn more than 12s. 6d. a week if they could do so without reducing or forfeiting their right to the pension. In the cities, it is extremely difficult, on account of the number of men who have enlisted in the different services, or who are engaged in making munitions, to get a casual man to do a’ little gardening, to wash down a car, or to cut a small quantity of wood. In the future, the loss of man-power must become greater, and if we really wish to make a whole-hearted attempt to win the war we should endeavour to make good the deficiency by every reasonable and proper means in our power. Many men of 65 years of age would be glad, not only to make a little extra money for themselves, but also to feel that in some small way, even though it be indirectly, they ave contributing to the general effort in relation to the war. Would it not be possible for the Invalid and Old-age. Pensions Act to be altered temporarily for the war so that the?e men might play some part in the community effort? I cannot believe that there are insuperable difficulties to the adoption of that course. It might be said that the idea would be to break down wages. The reply to that would be that there is no competition in this field of labour because the man-power needed would not be available except in this way, unless woman-power were enlisted in its stead. The question must inevitably continue to be canvassed. Woman-power would first be considered. Then the question would be, what can children do? When that field was exhausted, attention would naturally be directed to old men who apparently had passed their period of service, and they would be called upon to assist in the fight against the common foe.
.- 1 expected the honorable member for Wakefield to agree with the honorable member for Barker.; honorable members on this side of the House would be amazed if such were not the case when sympathetic consideration was being shown to the workers or the poor of this country. 1 am pleased that there is a sympathetic Minister in charge of health and social services. In the previous Government the gentleman in charge of this department merely gave lip-service.
A most important feature of the bill is that which proposes an alteration of the act which I asked the previous Minister to make. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) told this House to-day that he has every consideration for the pensioners of this country; yet when he was Minister for Health and Social Services he refused to consider the claims of the blind wives of blind men, even though their number is not great. I am pleased that their case is now being met.
There is another matter which I raised in this House several months ago, and I appeal to the Minister to see that provision in respect of it is made in the bill that is to be brought down next March to increase the pension to 25s. a week. When the son of an old-age pensioner who goes overseas to fight on our behalf makes an allotment to one of his parents who is a pensioner, the pension is not reduced ; but if he should be killed, any small, pension granted by the Repatriation Department to the bereaved parent is taken into account by the Pensions Department in assessing the income of the pensioner. I trust that the Minister will provide in the next measure introduced that those whose sons make the supreme .sacrifice shall not bo penalized, but shall continue to receive the full rate of pension, irrespective of any small payment made to them by the Repatriation Department.
– Does the honorable member say that there is to be a new bill in March, increasing the pension to £1 5s. a week?
– That is so. I trust that the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Parramatta, will approve of that increase to the. pensioners, who, by their pioneering efforts, have made it possible for them and me to bc here to-day.
– Surely we are not to be asked’ to agree to that !
– I would not expect the Leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for Parramatta to agree to it.
– We shall be “ running the show “ by March.
– I feel confident that this Parliament will approve of the payment of £1 5s. a week to invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Why not pay it now?
– The Treasurer had only three weeks in which to prepare the budget, and he had to make provision for this additional £1,500,000. Had I been Treasurer, or Minister for Health and Social Services, I would have given the £1 5s. a week. Appreciating the difficulties of the Government, I am satisfied with the definite promise that 25s. will be paid in March.
A further feature of the hill is the provision that S5 per cent, incapacity shall entitle a person to a pension. I have dealt; with many cases of persons who took epileptic fits. When the Pensions Office in Queensland was approached, its decision WaS. that these persons were not totally and permanently incapacitated despite the fact that they could produce numerous; -medical certificates to prove that they; were. I trust that the new provision will provide for these people, and that’ they will not bc denied privileges which a>re extended to others. I congratulate the Minister upon his generous and sympathetic outlook, and shall welcome next March the proposal to increase the pension to £1 5s. a week.
.- This measure of social justice is being extended to a section of the community which is entitled to it. The amendments proposed by .the bill may be small, hut1 they are very .important. I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Holloway) upon having so soon brought down legislation which straightens out many anomalies which have existed for a long time.
I am concerned: in regard to the future of social security in .this country, because I hold the position of chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security, and. my mind has been influenced by the evidence tendered to that committee, not by Labour supporters alone, but by all sections of the community. One of the aims of the committee has been to obtain .the reactions of all classes in respect of social services. Many of its recommendations are embodied in this bill. It did not recommend an increase of the rate of pensions, because it recognized that that was purely a matter of government policy. However, it did make recommendations in regard to a number of matters, including incapacity for work, payment of invalid pensions at the maximum rate to permanently incapacitated persons with not more than 15 per cent, of earning capacity, family maintenance, and vocational training of invalids. Wo heard valuable evidence in Brisbane on the subject of vocational training, particularly from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions - a very capable and conscientious officer. We were greatly impressed hy what he told us of the results that had been achieved, and how invalid, persons had been rehabilitated and given a fresh interest in life. I hope that the system will be extended, because it can result in nothing but good. So long as the department administers the provision sympathetically, as I am sure it will, no injustice can bc done to those who do not respond to training.
It would not be fair to suggest that the reactions of all honorable members opposite to this bill are the same as those of the honorable member . for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who always adopts an irritating attitude towards these matters. He does it for the purpose of baiting honorable members on this, side, and I must admit that he is fairly successful. I usually disagree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes), and while he was speaking I wondered whether it ever occurred to him to think any further ahead than the immediate problem of winning the war. I take second place to no one in my anxiety to win the war, if only for selfish reasons, but I am also interested in what is going to happen after tlie war to the thousands of men. and women now engaged in the making of munitions and serving in the military forces. The honorable member for Wakefield spoke in favour of raising the permissible income so that pensioners might bc able to earn extra money by chopping wood, washing the car or digging the garden. He was speaking in terms of the existing shortage of man-power, but what shall we do with these old people after the present temporary shortage of labour has passed, and those who arc now engaged in war work are looking for other jobs? The honorable member did not make that clear.
I am concerned wilh the extension of social services in Australia. For the moment, wo are concerned with pensions, but we should give some attention to the much wider field of social service that must be opened up after the war. It is not enough to concentrate on the winning of the- war to the total neglect of peacetime reconstruction. Tlie recommendations of the Social Security Committee, regarding the Invalid and. Old-age Pensions Act were unanimous, and the committee was composed of an equal number of representatives from each side of tho House. I invite honorable members. to read this very fine report which deals, not. only with invalid and old-age pensions, but also with dependants’ allowances, insurance policies, alienated property, maternity allowances, invalidity, Asiatics, aud “social service departments. Among the recommendations of the committee U the following: -
That ii Commonwealth Social Security Actto be administered by the Department of Social Services lie passed by the Federal Parliament, the scope of the act to be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all Commonwealth social legislation, including those measures now in existence sind those to bc enacted from time to time a.- part of a social security plan iii Australia.
The committee also inquired into housing, and found that the housing of aged and invalid pensioners was one of the most heart-breaking problems that came before it. The Minister knows something of this matter from the representations that hare been made to him from time to time by honorable members, and from information- given to him by his own officers. On this subject the committee reported as follows : -
We recommended that a Commonwealth housing authority should be established which would, take steps. to ensure that invalid- aud old-age pensioners were provided .with houses at reasonable rents. We were told of old- couples who were paying Ss. and 10s:’ a week, and even’ more, for a single room. We must think about’ these problems at the same time that we think about the winning of the wa r: If more’ thought had been devoted to them years ago pensioners would not now be compelled to live in” slum areas. I «m glad that the Government proposes to increase pensions. I know that some honorable mem bers do not agree that this is a suitable time for increasing pensions, but I believe that it is. This is a desirable measure, and will institute many reforms long overdue.
– in reply - Many honorable members have given me too much credit for having brought this bill down so shortly after taking office. It could not have been done out for the excellent work of the Director-General, the Commissioner, and the staff of my own department, and’ the assistance of the officers of the legal department. I was very pleased, though not, of course, surprised, at the manner in which the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) addressed himself to the bill. I was gratified that he took charge of the debate for the Opposition, because he was responsible for much of the contents of the bill. It is true that the Labour party at the last elections promised, if elected to office, to increase pensions to £1 5s. a week. This evening the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) chided the Prime Minister with having failed to keep that promise. But I think that the honorable gentleman appreciates the difficulties of the Government and is satisfied with what has been done.
The Government decided that the best course to adopt in the quickest possible time, was to remove the anomalies from the act and to give some increased pensions before the end of the year. Consequently, the Government decided to examine the ‘ act rapidly, but carefully, and place before Parliament amendments which would confer the greatest advantage, without loss of time, upon the people most in need of it. The outstanding improvement is the liberalization of the “ adequate maintenance provision “ relating to invalid pensions. “Borderline” cases have a special appeal. The department and successive Ministers for Social Services, being hound to observe the strict’ letter of the law, were compelled to reject many “ borderline “ cases, which were not totally and permanently incapacitated for work. The decision to allow a certain flexibility will mean that some of tlie “ borderline “ eases will now be granted pensions and much hardship will be alleviated.
The honorable member for Parramatta feared that the Government’s proposal to achieve this object would create greater difficulties than before. Even if that be correct, the amendment will bring into the field hundreds of deserving cases. “ Borderline “ cases will always be difficult, and cannot be avoided. We have to take the risk of making things more difficult in future, and at, least, by granting the 15 per cent, flexibility, we have brought into the field many people who should have been granted pensions years ago.
Most honorable members heartily supported the bill. The only really pessimistic note was struck, strange to say, by one of the youngest members, who threw a wet blanket upon the proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who was probably the most, reactionary member on this subject, found no merit in the bill. He still believes in that worn-out idea that you must starve your people to win a war. During the last six years he has consistently urged successive governments to follow the example of Great Britain. When he condemned the Government to-night for granting this small increase to pensioners he evidently overlooked tlie fact that Great Britain, where the necessaries of life have been rationed for eighteen months owing to the exigencies of war, recently increased the pension by a substantial sum a week. The pension in England, with an effective value of 19s., is greater than the Australian pension of 23s. Gd. a week. Great Britain has discarded the theory which it held a few years ago, that the most effective way in which to overcome a crisis is to reduce the standard of living to conditions of semi-poverty. Great Br i ta in now bel i e ves that, in order to get the best out of the nation, the people must be well fed and clothed. Despite that excellent example, some honorable .members desire the Australian Government to reduce pensions.
The honorable member for Parramatta was dubious as to whether the Government’s proposals have reduced the difficulties of applicants for invalid p«?.- sions, and he expressed the belief that the Government has bought a lot of trouble. I disagree with that view. But the clause which relates to the adequate maintenance provision met with his approval. This increase of what is termed adequate maintenance is a great improvement.
– Provision for that was made in the Fadden budget.
– Yes ; the committee also recommended some flexibility. The Labour Government followed that lead. Incidentally, honorable members on this side of the House have for years advocated some relaxation o’f the harshness of the term “ totally and permanently incapacitated for work”. When the honorable member for Parramatta was Minister for Social Services he evidently did not realize that an applicant for an invalid pension was placed in a somewhat, different position from that, of an applicant for an old-age pension. The claimant, for invalid pension may have to depend upon the charity of his .parents, but that condition does not apply to an old-age pensioner. As a recognition of his long years of service to the country and his clean record, an old-age pensioner is entitled to the pension regardless of the means of his relatives. But a. claimant for an invalid pension, who, if anything, stands in greater need of assistance than an old-age pensioner, lias to depend upon tha earnings of the parent with whom he resides. The amendment, which was largely due to the persistent efforts of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), is a wonderful thing for invalids, as it places them practically on the same footing as an “applicant for an old-age .pension.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) was the only speaker who feared t.he application, of the clause which introduces, for the first time, vocational training.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) supported the remarks of the honorable member for Cook.
– I am sorry that I overlooked the honorable member ‘ for Bourke. Those honorable members feared1 intimidation; but that is not the intention of the clause. The Director and the Commissioner have no intention of intimidating any invalid. The scheme is purely voluntary. The idea is that if an invalid, is capable, with a little training, of doing work, he should continue to draw tlie pension, and undergo a course of vocational training. No clement of compulsion is contained in the clause for the purpose of reducing the number of invalid pensioners.
– ‘Could the Minister amend- the clause in order to remove all doubt about the voluntary nature of the provision ?
– If, in practice, any danger of intimidation arises, I promise the honorable member that the act will bc amended in March for the purposes of safeguarding the position.
The honorable member for Cook also doubted the fairness of the apportionment of the payment df pensions to recipients who are inmates of institutions. Two-thirds of the pension is paid to the institution, and the remainder to the inmate. In my opinion, that basis is fair. Invalid and old-age pensioners who reside in an institution are regarded by the management as being the best-paying section of the inmates. The income from these people is constant; it is- paid automatically to the institution. No arrears have ever to be collected. The practice of paying these pensons to hospitals has assumed such dimensions, and involves so much time and expense, that the department is considering a proposal to pay the pension, without deduction, to the pensioner. Then, any contribution which the inmate might make to the hospital would be a matter for mutual arrangement between the management and himself.
– Will the matter be discussed with the State governments, who control many of these institutions ?
– Yes. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made an eloquent appeal on behalf of natives of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, who, he stated, were “ shanghaied” to Australia before federation and set to work in the canefields. This vanishing race, numbering several hundred persons, is not eligible to receive pensions. A dozen honorable members also urged the granting of the benefits to Asiatics who have resided in Australia for many years. I have gone to a. good deal of trouble, with the assistance of departmental officers, to make a complete survey of all people who are permanently resident in Australia but who are not eligible to receive the old-age pension. The Asiatics, who entered the country before the passing of the Immigration Act, have remained in Australia for 50 or 60 years. Their sons fought in the last war, and their grandsons are fighting in. the present war. As a class, they are highly respectable. Very few of them figure in police records. Many of them were pioneers who went to outback mining towns, carrying on their backs white-sheeted bundles containing clothing for the miners. They established the original stores on the mining fields and some of them became wealthy. The numbers of those people in Australia who have attained old-age pension age have been listed. There are 42 Afghans, 11 Arabs, 3 Asiatic Jews, 2 Asiatic Turks, 8 Baluchi, 1,930 Chinese, 69 Cingalese, 41 Phillipinos, 356 Indians, 60 Japanese, 25 Javanese, 99 Malayans, ‘4 Siamese, 216 Syrians and 26 of other description. After allowing for those rendered ineligible by the means test, it is estimated that 1,300 additional Asiatics could qualify for the invalid and old-age pension at an additional cost of £S0,000 a year if all present restrictions of race were removed.
– The charge on the Commonwealth would diminish every year as those people died.
– Exactly. They are dying off, and the Immigration Act precludes others from replacing them. In this matter we should not, make two bites at the cherry. It is our duty as a democracy to make all people who have been allowed to become permanent residents of the country equal in the eyes of the law. When the Right Honorable V. Sastri came to Australia several years ago I met, him at a conference, and when I asked him why he had come here, he said that he had done so to try to secure for the 4,000 nationals of his country in Australia the same rights and privileges as were’ given to other sections of the Australiancommunity. When he said that, I was ashamed on- behalf of Australia’s democracy.
-The principle with which the Minister is now dealing, was, accepted in theChildEndowrment Act.
– Yes, I promise to. consult all parties concerned. Moreover the- provisions of - the child endowment were extended to aborigines. Aborigines ought to -come first in this matter, because they are our own people, but the difficulty is to ‘discover., how many of them can qualify for the pension. Long before I ever thought that it would fall to my lot to introduce pensions legislation in this House, I spent three months in Central Australia, and paid particular attention to the Mission camps, and whatI learned thenmakes me realize how difficult it is to discover how to pay pensions and child endowment to aborigines so that they, shall-derive advantage from the payments. The experience gained in the administration of the . Child Endowment Act will guide us in framing the clauses of the legislation,whichis to be introduced. next. March further to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions-Act, in which we propose to’ insert sections ‘extending to aborigines.pensions benefits.
The right honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Scullin.) spoke- about the -real effective valueof pensions. Strangely enough, the proposed pension of23s.6d. will have” precisely t he same effectivevalueas the pension of 17s.6d. had. in 1931-32. That fact, answers :. those:- : . honorable members, -whohavesaid- that- theeffective value of the, pension is. the real. matter of . concern, not - the -cash value. The -honorable member for. Flinders laid. stress- on the. need for uniformity and -the maintenance - of -a satisfactory- figure.. The sections ofthe act’-which-relate to the adjustment of the- pension according- to. the rise and fall of the cost’of living willlook after that aspect. ‘ There was” only one aspect of -his speech with which -I cannot express’ complete agreement, and that dealt with the need to allow old-age pensioners to earn more than the addi- tional 12s. 6d. a week which they are at present allowed to earn without having their pension- reduced. The honorable member’s suggestion had support from other- honorable -members, amongst them the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who suggested that ‘ there were many old-age pensioners who -could . do gardening orother casual work, and that, in times like this,. their services ought to be employed. . The honorable member was of the opinion that there would be no danger if they’ were allowed to earn up to, say, £1 10s. a week. My answer to those contentions is that, under, the present act, an old-age pensioner may, without endangering his pension, earn £32 10s. a year, and that money can be earned in as short a space of time as the pensioner finds it possible to earn it’. That means that pensioners can do casual work. Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent an old-age pensioner from surrendering his pension when he gets a regular job and regaining it when he cannot work any longer. In that respect he is in a different category from theinvalid pensioner, who, once he has surrendered his pension, must again satisfy the Commissioner of Pensions as’ to his total and permanent incapacity before being able to regain, it. That means that an old-age pensioner can at any time takeemployment, provided that he surrenders his -pension if his earnings exceed the statutory limit. The tendency in the Englishspeaking world is to reduce the age- of . retirement and increase the school-leaving age. -That is the altruistic reason whypeople above -the : age at which old-age pensions become payable ought not to be in industry. The economic- reason, much.the -more powerful- reason, is that in normal “times there is -insufficient work tokeep all employable- men and women” in the community in employment.Rather than. to brave- old people working; the’ tendency is the other way.
– Does the Minister agree that in war-time someemergency arrangements must bemade?
– That has not been suggested.
– Will the Minister give consideration to that aspect?
– I have already answered that point. Departmental figures show that approximately 1,000 men have already voluntarily relinquished their pensions because they have obtained work. It is generally known that 10 per cent, of the people who take the old-age pensiondo so because they are unable to find work. When work is available, they take it.No need exists therefore for an amendment of the act to enable old people to go to work. They have two courses open to them : they may earn £32 10s. a year without suffering a reduction of pension, or they may relinquish their pension altogether and take employment.
-hughes. - Is that generally known among pensioners ?
– I should think so, hut perhaps not. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) at least knows that scores of superannuated engineers, toolmakers, fitters and turners of 65 to70 years of age have been called back into industry. The point raised by the honorable member. for Watson (Mr. Falstein) as to whether the flexibility extended to the invalid pensioners will be extended to old-age pensioners is easily answered. If people are 85 per. cent, incapacitated and not quite of the age at which they become entitled to the old-agepension, they become eligible for the invalid pension. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) used a twisted argument when he raised the subject of property qualifications. I do not think that honorable members who raised that argument had any evil intent, but, whilst theyfight strenuously against an increase by 6d. of the rate of pension, they are apt, as was done by the honorable member for Lilley, to claim that, because people of the pensionable ago have property to the value of, say, £1,000 from which they earn little or no income, they should: be entitled to draw the old-age pension. Why should a person who has property to that value be entitled to keep it and leave it to some one else and draw the old-age pension? The points made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) have already been well answered. I think that the bill appeals to honorable mem bers generally, and I hope that it will be passed through its remaining stages without delay.
-Could provision be made in this measure for the pensions to be paid into the savings bank accounts of the recipients?
– When I was Assistant Treasurer in a former administration that request was made, but the Government was inundated with protests from pensioners who did not desire their pensions to be paid into a bank. The practice couldbe adopted, but it would be expensive. Child endowment is paid into the banking accounts when the recipients so desire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Conditions of payment of invalid pension in certain cases).
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to paragraph 12 of the interim report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Social Security. This deals with the vocational training of invalids and suggests that they should go before a board which should consist of a senior Commonwealth medical referee, a medical practitioner who has specialized in the particular disability from which the claimant is suffering, a vocational adviser, and a representative of the Department of Social Services. The board would have the responsibility of determining whether the disabilities were of a permanent nature or whether they only partially incapacitated the claimant for work. The report stated that in Queensland considerable success had been achieved by voluntary endeavour, in association with the invalid pensions administration, and that it had been conservatively estimated that 3 per cent, of invalid pensioners could be trained for vocations, whilst the proportion, if applied to all claimants for invalid pensions, might be substantially higher. The recommendation premises that there would be voluntary co-operation on the part of the claimant. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) thought thatpensioners possibly might he conscripted to a course of vocational training, andwas most anxious that the Minister should give sin assurance on that point. I still consider that a provision should be inserted- in thisbill in the Senate to’ incorporate ‘ the germane portions of the report of the committee, so that people entitled to the pension will not feel that it is to be offered to them on the condition that they learn a trade. As the act stands, it does not contain the safeguards that it ought to include. Although thepresent Administration may be sympathetic, I desire to guard pensioners against the possibility of a literal interpretation of the act by an unsympathetic Minister. The clause as drafted does” not offer the protection desired.
– I admit that. There is justification for the honorable member’s apprehension, but I shall give the matter further consideration before March next.
– The necessary amendment could be inserted when the bill reaches the Senate. I am sure of the intentions of the present Government, but honorable members opposite speak with divers tongues, and I am not prepared to trust to them the interests of the pensioners in the future.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section twenty-five of the principal act is amendedby adding at the end of sub-section (1) the following paragraph: - “ (c) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where any claimant or pensioner, or the husband or wife of a claimant or pensioner, possesses property which is subject to any incumbrance and which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, cannot be realized except at a considerable loss, the Commissioner may, in assessing the net capital value of his accumulated property, disregard the value of the interest of that person in the property.”.
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That the word “ paragraph “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ proviso and paragraph:-
Provided that, if for any special reason the Commissioner is of opinion that this paragraph should not apply in any particular case, he may. direct that.it shall not apply:’”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9, 10 and 11 agreed to.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act, as amended by this Act -
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That in paragraph (b) after the word “ pension “, the words “ per week “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Bernard Corser) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) on the ground of urgent public business.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests : -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to9) . 1941.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1941.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill (No. 2) 1941.
Customs Tariff (Special War Duty) Validation Bill (No. 2) 1941.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill (No. 2) 1941.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Validation Bill (No..2) 1.941.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1941.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state whetherhe agrees with his predecessor that superannuatedpublic servants shouldnot be grantedan exgratia increase in their superannuation allowances to meet the increase of 10 per cent, in the cost of living?
– The superannuation scheme is on an actuarial basis mutually accepted by the Government and the contributor both as to contributions and benefits’. Any change might necessitate increased contributions by the employees. It is considered unwise to vary the pension rate with the cost of living. war Contracts: Royalties on Patents.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How muchhas been (a) paid, or (b) agreed to be paid, since the commencement of the war, in respect of royalties under war contracts to Australian or overseas interests, respectively?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the unsatisfactory state of the cash order businessas conducted by companies and individuals, other than retailers themselves, and his condemnation of it asan economic excrescence which creates an unfair charge on the trading community and the purchasing public generally, does he intend to take action under the “National Security Regulations to remove the abuses?
– This matter is at present under consideration, and an announcement of the Government’s policy will be made in due course.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– A reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Industrial Acceptance Corporation.
y. - On Friday, the 14th November,the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question,without notice -
Will the Treasurer make inquiries to ascertain whether there is any financial organization, with the exception of the Industrial Acceptance Corporation, that will make small loans to poor persons on the condition that, if their security is destroyed by fire, no further payments will be required of them? Will he also inquire whether there is any other organization that will make similar loans to persons who, if they lose their employment, are given an interest-free postponement up to a period of three months?
Inquiries have been made and the answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - .
It is not known whether other organizations make small loans to poor persons on similar terms to those offered by the Industrial Acceptance Corporation. It is believed that it is not unusual for extensions of time to be granted, without any additional interest being charged, to borrowers of small loans who are in indigent circumstances, through unemployment or other circumstances. In considering the relative merits of the conditions attaching to these loans, however, the rate of interest must also be taken into consideration.
CommonwealthBank Officers: Temporary Commonwealth Employees.
– On the 12th November, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), asked the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
MURRUMBIDGEE IRRIGATION AREA.
y asked the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice - 1 Will he inquire into the statements made bythe Rural Committee of the Murr umbidgee Electorate Council of the Australian Labour party which in effect said - (a) That thereportof Professor Prescott and Dr Dickson, of the Councilfor Scientific and Industrial Research, practically ignored the evidence br ought before them by that committee that the works, laterals, drainage,&c owned by the Water Conse rvation and litigation Commission were inefficient and that they were r esponsible for the major par t of the destruction of settlers’ orchards on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, and (b) That the majority of these men arereturned soldiers from the lastwar and that 75 per cent of them are bankrupt owing to the factorreferred to?
-Inquires will be made into the statements made by the Rural Committee of the Murrumbidgee Electoiate Council of the Australian Labour patty in connexion with the report of Professor Prescott and Dr. Dickson concerning settlers in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, and the honorable member will be informed as eaily as possible
New Road at Granville.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give early consideration to the following requests of the Granville Municipal Council submitted to the former Treasurer - (a) for a grant of half the cost of a load between Grand-avenue and Parramatta-road, the construction of which is urgently needed to provide access to the aluminium works and other defence industries operating in that locality, and (b ) for approval of the council itself raising the sum of £6,000, being theremaining balance of the cost?
– Construction and maintenance of roads is a matter for the States and local authorities concerned. These are assisted by a large Commonwealth giant under the Federal Aid Roads and Works Agreement Responsible Commonwealth authorities advise that special assistance by the Commonwealth in this case is not necessary in connexion with the war effort The requests therefore cannot be acceded to.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19411120_reps_16_169/>.