16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Use of Wheat.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development been directed to the efficiency and economy that may be achieved by the use of wheat instead of charcoal as a producergas fuel? Will the honorable gentleman have an investigation made of the possibility of this product being used for that purpose?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, but i shall have pleasure in making the fullest investigation and informing the honorable member of the result.
-Has the Prime Minister read in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald the report that the seventh stoppage on the northern coal-fields since the visit of the Minister for Labour and National Service, just overa fortnight ago, occurred yesterday, when the MillfieldGreta miners, for the fourth time in ten days, went on strike? Has the right honorable gentleman, seen the further report that ‘the secretary of Northern Collieries Limited has forwarded to the Coal Commissioner the names of the . Millfield-Greta strikers, with the request that action be taken against them under the National Security regulations which render them liable for labour service under military discipline? What attitude will the Government adopt towards this request?
Mr.CURTIN. - I propose to make next week a complete statement covering the whole of the coal situation. The Government knows whatis occurring on the coal-fields. A report in regard to Millfield came before the federal executive of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation at its meeting yesterday. That is the executive government of the union throughout Australia. It ordered the men to resume work. I am not in a position to state authoritatively what has happened to-day, but I believe that the men did not commence work. The federation was to have dealt further with the matter this morning. What I propose to do in respect of the whole problem will be indicated next week. Millfield is one mine at which production has ceased by reason of an industrial dispute. Another mine has ceased to produce today because the men insist that means shall be provided which would enable them to enter the adjoining mine in the event of a shaft in the mine being so damaged by an air raid as to make it impossible for them to escape from it. Some little time ago, the workers employed in the mine which it was proposed to enter objected to this being done, on the ground that it was contrary to the mining law of New South Wales. That is correct. Those are the only mines which to-day are not working because of what may be described as industrial disputes. I am conscious of all the difficulties, and understand the situation thoroughly. I accept the responsibility of the Government to obtain supplies of coal. In respect of that aspect of the matter, I have to say that more coal has been produced during each week since I acted in the matter than was produced during any week in the previous ten years, f ask the House and the country to bear with me. I am doing my very best, and my best is not inferior to the best that any one else has done.
– Has the Minister for Commerce been informed of the decision of the High Court of Australia, given, to-day, under which a sum of £320 was awarded to a plaintiff named Tonking against the Apple Pear Board, being the difference between what was paid to the plaintiff by the hoard and what was obtained by the board from the sale of his fruit? Is the Minister in a position to make a statement in regard to the matter, particularly in relation to the effect upon other growers who have been paid less than their fruit actually realized ?
– I have been informed of the judgment. The whole matter will be fully considered, and a decision made at a. later date.
– Yesterday the Sydney DailY. Telegraph published an article dealing with the advisability of amending the Defence Act along the lines discussed in this House last week. Is the Prime
Minister aware that a censorship instruction was given that do issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of yesterday’s date was to be sent overseas by the proprietors? Was that a ministerial instruction? If given by the censor, under what authority did he act? In either event, for what purpose was it given?
– The instruction was not the result of any decision by me. There has not been any interference with the censor in the discharge of his duties. I shall ask that gentleman why he issued the instruction, and I have not the least doubt that he will furnish an adequate reason.
– In view of thu statement published in the press a few days ago, that 153,000,000 bushels of wheat had been received into the No. 5 pool, will the Minister for Commerce state whether that quantity will participate in the £26,750,000 guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, thus reducing the net price received by the growers; in other words, making the estimate of total cost approximately ls. 4d. a bushel?
– A specific sum was made available under a guarantee given by a previous government to cover 140,000,000 bushels. The quantity received has ‘been greater than had been estimated. The distribution of the amount of the guarantee over the 153,000,000 bushels received into the pool would considerably reduce the guaranteed return per bushel. The whole matter will be reviewed by the Government, and a decision will be reached with regard to the excess quantity of 13,000,000 bushels.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the South Australian Government offered to erect 500 suitable and! well-constructed Workers’ Housing Trust dwellings for munitions workers, and whether the Premier of that State, Mr. Playford, said that the only material condition was that sales tax should not be charged in respect of the materials used, as nas been done in Victoria and New South Wales? Was that condition refused, and why was such a discrimination’ made between States?
– Arrangements were made for the construction of 500 houses for munitions workers in South Australia. Some of the houses were to be built by the State Government and some were to be erected on behalf of the Commonwealth Government through the Workers’ Mousing Trust in South Australia. A request was made by Mr. Playford that the Commonwealth sales tax legislation should be amended so that tax would not be collectable in respect of the materials necessary for the building of those houses: The Government pointed out to Mr. Playford that, if he desired to obtain exemption from sales tax in respect of the materials, as in the case of the Victorian Housing Board, all he had to do was to secure an amendment of the State Act which specifically declares that the Workers’ Housing Trust in South Australia is not a Government body. If that trust wore declared by law to be a government body, no sales tax would be chargeable on the building materials used by it. Mr. Playford refused to do that, but asked that Section 74 of the Commonwealth Sales Tax Act be amended to exempt from sales tax charges a body which was specifically declared in the South Australian act to be not a government body. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) wrote to Mr. Playford, stating that the Government was not prepared to amend Section 74 in the direction desired by him. He said that such action would involve the remission of the sales tax now being paid 1,v several semi-governmental bodies, and therefore he could not agree to the exempt <.ion from sales tax of materials purchased by one body in South Australia. As the Government was anxious to have these houses built, the Prime Minister told Mr. Playford that, although sales tax would be collected as provided in the act, the Commonwealth Government would rebate to the Government of South Australia, or to the housing trust in that State, the full amount of sales tax chargeable on the materials required. Therefore, the houses could have been erected without any alteration of either
Commonwealth or South Australian law, if Mr. Playford had been prepared to accept the Prime Ministers offer. Since then a review of the position in South Australia and other States has shown that sufficient labour and materials are not available for a full-scale housing scheme, and, in consequence, it has been decided that it will be necessary in all States, except Tasmania, to erect temporary accommodation for munition workers.
SOLDIERS in Java, Amboina and Timor.
– by leave - Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked a question regarding the number of Australian soldiers engaged in. Java, Amboina and Timor, who had not been accounted for, and whether the next of kin had keen supplied with any particulars regarding them. I am now in a< position to advise the honorable member that it is not in the public interest to disclose information as to the number of Australian personnel still unaccounted for in these areas. The names of missing personnel, however, in accordance with advice sent from General Head-quarters to District Records Offices, are to be communicated to next-of-kin, and it is anticipated that, if letters of advice have not yet reached the next-of-kin they should arrivewithin the next few days. In the meantime, next-of-kin have been requested to forward particulars to General Headquarters of any information whatever which may be received by them from any source. It is hoped by this means to gain some information of value to supplement or verify the results of official investigations which arc being made.
Steps have also been taken to obtain statements from all personnel who have escaped from enemy-occupied territory, and this information also is communicated to District Records Offices for transmission to next-of-kin. Owing to the nature of the recent operations in the theatres of war in which these forces were engaged, and the difficulties which have arisen in connexion with units which are located in territory now held by the enemy, the utmost endeavour will continue to be made through every available channel, including the International Bed Cross, to obtain at the earliest possible moment definite reports which, when received, will be conveyed immediately to the next-of-kin by telegram.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement in the Melbourne Herald following the announcement that a report was to be submitted to the Prime Minister by the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces, southwest Pacific area, with regard to brownout conditions, that some relaxation of the conditions will he authorized? In view of the conflict that exists between the statement by the Minister for Home Security and the action taken by the State authorities, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House setting out clearly the Commonwealth Government’s wishes on this matter?
– The matter has been under consideration for some time, and the whole of the arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth have been made as the result of the decisions reached in the interests of security. There has been a re-assessment of the measures that are required to effect that purpose. The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces in Australia has furnished a report to the Government. It has just been received, and it is under consideration. The States have been asked to do, and the Minister for Home Security directs that they shall do, only those things which the military authorities regard as essential for civil protection.
– The Prime Minister stated that brown-outs are instituted in each State upon the advice of the military authorities whose directions are conveyed to the State authorities by the Minister for Home Security. I should like to know whether the State authorities consult with the military authorities in the respective States as to the degree of brown-out considered to be necessary. In Victoria, brown-out conditions are wasteful, unnecessarily irksome and dangerous.
– The honorable gentleman certainly did more than to ask a question on this matter. I can only say that we have just received a report upon the subject from the Commander of the Allied Land Forces.
– Do the military authorities in the respective States confer with the State authorities as to the degree of brown-out?
– I have already explained that what has been done has been as the result of directions given by the military authorities to the Minister for Home Security and communicated by the Minister to the State Premiers. We came to the conclusion that this matter should be reconsidered, but only by the man most competent to deal with the matter. He has now done so, and the Government will give effect to his report at the earliest opportunity.
Development of Bauxite Deposits
– In view of Australia’s grave and urgent need of aluminium, can the Minister for Supply and Development indicate whether, and when, the high-grade and valuable deposits of bauxite in Tasmania will be developed?
– I have said on several occasions that the progress possible in the development of bauxite deposits in Australia for the production of aluminium is dependent on the quantity of the necessary equipment that can be obtained from overseas.
– The Government is not making much headway in getting equipment.
– As a matter of fact, the secretary of the Department of Supply, who went to Washington, regarded the getting of this equipment as one of his special jobs. I do not think that we can do more in the way of pressing our claims. I remind the honorable member that we are confronted with many difficulties, particularly in regard to obtaining electrical equipment necessary for the production of aluminium. Frankly, this equipment is not obtain - able.
– I realize the difficulties, but I want to know what progress is being made.
– Steps have been taken to obtain additional rolling machinery for the plant already in Sydney. That is as far as we are able to go at the moment, but we have not given up hope, and are not slackening in our efforts to obtain the equipment needed to establish the industry in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Supply seen a statement in the Sydney newspapers that Dr. Murphy, a metallurgical chemist at the Sydney Technical College, has discovered a method for recovering aluminium metal from bauxite? If so, will the Minister have an expert investigation made in order to determine whether it is possible, by means of Dr. Murphy’s formula, to recover aluminium in commercial quantities?
– I have not seen the statement, but, as the demand for aluminium is so great, I shall have an investigation made.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that the British Government has now followed . the example of the Government of the United States of America by setting up a directorate of production with a view to co-ordinating effort and expediting war production? If so, will the Prime Minister consider the setting up of a similar organization in Australia ? Will he state whether the direction which he recently gave with a view to increasing the authority of the Sydney Area Board of Management in regard to payments for war contracts has been acted upon in accordance with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure? According to my Information, nothing has yet been done in the matter, and Mr. Nixon, in Melbourne, still retains control over such payments, thus hampering production.
– If it is true, as the honorable member has said, that the Governments of the United States of America and of the United Kingdom have set up production authorities quite recently, all I can say is that such an authority was appointedby the Commonwealth Government a considerable time ago. The matter is under the direction of a production executive consisting of a group of Cabinet Ministers who have officers working under their authority. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I shall have inquiries made, and shall supply an answer to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Mails and Cablegrams : Alleged Delay - Record of Achievements
– Will the Minister for Air inquire into the reason for the lengthy delays in the transmission of mails and cablegrams to Royal Australian Air Force personnel on active service overseas ?
– As Australian airmen are serving with great distinction in many theatres of war, will the Minister for Air inform me whether action has been taken to record their exploits so that, on the conclusion of hostilities, the history of the Royal Australian Air Force may be written?
– Records of the achievements of Australian airmen are being forwarded to the appropriate section within the Department of Air, and are being noted for use after the war.
– Has an official historian been appointed to record the exploits of the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will make available to Honorable members a summary of the views expressed by State Premiers at the recent conference on uniform taxation?
– Press representatives were at the conference. In addition, an official record of the proceedings was prepared, but it is for the Prime Minister to say whether the transcript can be made available to honorable members.
– I want a summary only.
– The views expressed by the Premiers could be summarized in a few lines. They were opposed to the Commonwealth Government’s proposals on the ground that, if put into effect, they would interfere with the sovereign rights of the States. Very little comment was made regarding the detailed proposals themselves. As the Prime Minister has explained, the Premiers objected on principle to the Commonwealth Government’s proposal.
– Representatives of the press were present during the whole of the proceedings.
– I should think that very little would be gained by making summaries of the proceedings available to honorable members.
– It could be done, if necessary.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is yet possible to make equipment, such as rifles, machine guns and, possibly, trench mortars, available to the larger units of the Voluntary Defence Corps, particularly in country centres, in order to enable these units, which are so enthusiastically playing their part in our defence, to be more effectively trained to meet any emergency*
– I am aware that there is a shortage of equipment for the Volunteer Defence Corps throughout Australia. All possible steps are being taken to expedite supplies of military equipment but, necessarily, preference will be given to the Australian Militia Forces and the Australian Imperial Force. However, as the war establishment of those forces and the Volunteer Defence Corps has been greatly increased, it has not been possible to supply all of them with the necessary equipment. I assure the honorable member that special attention is being given to the requirements of the Volunteer Defence Corps and that priority is being given to branches of the corps which are established in areas which the Government’s military advisers consider to be the more vulnerable. I shall keep in mind the strong representations made by the honorable member on this matter, not only to-day but also on several previous occasions.
Colour Patches - Call-up of Working Principals.
– On Friday last, and again yesterday, I asked the Minister for the Army whether members of the Australian Imperial Force who have not been permitted to go overseas will be permitted to wear colour patches with a grey background indicating that they are members of the Australian Imperial Force. The Minister indicated that he hoped to make a reply on the matter to-day. Is he now in a position to do so?
– I have listed this matter for consultation with General Blarney, the Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, during the weekend. I hope to be able to announce a decision early next week.
– Some months ago, the Defence authorities requested storekeepers to lay in three months’ supply of food in order to prepare against any emergency. Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that many storekeepers are now being called up for military service, and their businesses are being closed ? What action will the Minister take for the purpose of securing their exemption, from military service under the classification of “working principals “?
– I hope to make a statement to the House to-morrow on the subject of working principals.
– In view of the reply given by the Attorney-General to a question which I asked during a recent sessional period - that he intended to submit a hill during this session to ratify the Statute of Westminster - can the Acting AttorneyGeneral state whether such a measure is to be introduced this session, or what stage has been reached in the preparation of the measure?
– I was not aware that any undertaking had been given by the Attorney-General on this matter. I shall ask the Solicitor-General what action has been taken in the preparation of such a measure, and give a reply to the honorable member later.
Successors on Government Bodies.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Justice Owen, of New South Wales, and Judge Clyne, of Victoria, have been appointed to succeed’ Sir Owen Dixon on important boards? If so, what are the exact positions to which these learned gentlemen have been appointed?
– No appointment has yet been made to fill any position vacated by Sir Owen Dixon. Arrangements are being made to fill such positions; but [ am not in a position to indicate the probable appointees.
– As the cutting and milling season in the sugar industry will commence next month, I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether sufficient labour will be available for this work.
– That matter was brought to my notice some time ago and r instituted certain inquiries. I hope to be able to let the honorable member know the result of those inquiries within the next few days.
– In view of the large number of conscientious objectors who are seeking exemption from military service, particularly in New South Wales, will the Minister for the Army consider employing such persons as stretcherbearers with front-line units, thereby giving to them an opportunity to save life, seeing that they claim to object to taking life in the defence of their country ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Is the Treasurer aware that an excellent opportunity to raise funds for patriotic purposes was missed on Friday evening last when a no-decision contest was reported to have taken place between a certain Minister and an ex-Minister? Will the Treasurer arrange to have an exhibition bout under Marquis of Queensberry rules between these honorable gentlemen with a view to devoting the “gate” to patriotic funds?
– Order !
Question not answered.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, in view of the many requests that have been made by owners for the return of firearms which have been impressed, he will consider the granting of such requests, particularly by applicants who are members of the Volunteer Defence Corps?
– Some time ago, when the shortage of rifles was acute, a number of non-service rifles was impressed, but many of them have since been restored to their owners.
– Members’ of the Volunteer Defence Corps urgently require rifles.
– Honorable members are being constantly reminded of the fact.
– Apart from the requests by the Volunteer Defence Corps, I have received urgent representations from farmers on the western coast of Western Australia and the north-eastern coast of Australia. All of these demands will receive consideration.
– Is the Minister foi the Army aware that a big pile of buildings at Cooma, which is owned by the Government of New South Wales, is unoccupied? Could not these premises bc used by the Army, . instead of incurring the expense of erecting buildings, or causing inconvenience to tenants by asking them to vacate their offices?
– I shall be glad to bea/ in mind the suggestion of the honorable member. Several honorable gentlemen have protested to me against the acquisition by the military authorities of large buildings in their electorates, and it is very encouraging to have one honorable member report the existence of empty premises in his constituency, and urge the military authorities to occupy them.
– Will the Minister for the Army explain to the House at an early date the demarcation of the duties of the Director of Security, Mr. Mackay, and Military Intelligence?
– For security reasons, it would not be wise for me to make a statement to Parliament on this matter; but I shall be pleased to explain the arrangements to the honorable gentleman.
– Has the Commonwealth Government undertaken to purchase the whole of next season’s blue pea crop in Tasmania at 15s. a bushel, or does it propose to purchase only a limited quantity? If the Commonwealth Government will not buy the entire crop, what will become of the surplus?
– The Department of Supply agreed to purchase 6,000 tons of blue peas next year at 15s, a bushel. That is the only undertaking which, to my knowledge, has been given.
– A statement was published t hat the Minister for Commerce had announced that the whole crop would be purchased by the Commonwealth.
– Although the Commonwealth Government has agreed to buy 6,000 tons, that decision should not be interpreted as implying that it wishes the crop to be restricted to that quantity. The honorable gentleman will agree with me that Australia must produce as much food as possible.
Liberalizing of Regulations
– The National Security (Contracts Adjustment) Regulations afford a certain measure of protection to persons whose businesses have been affected by the war. Will the Treasurer favorably consider the liberalization of the regulations for the purpose of extending the protection to primary producers and others who are able to attribute some of their present difficulties directly or indirectly to war causes?
– I shall, in conjunction with the Acting Attorney-General, consider whether the regulations can be liberalized without creating anomalies, or opening an entirely new field by granting a semi-moratorium.
Deposits Paid on Cottages.
– Some time ago, the
Minister for Labour and National Ser vice announced that persons who had paid deposits upon cottages for the Christmas holidays and had forgone their vacation for the purpose of continuing the production of essential goods were entitled to claim the return of the money. Is the Minister aware that many coalminers have not yet received a refund and that some landlords have refunded only 50 per cent of the deposits? What action will the Minister take to ensure refunds in full, as expeditiously as possible ?
– The Department of Labour and National Service does not deal with that matter. The honorable member should direct his question to the Acting Attorney-General.
– by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made a reference to a photograph appearing in the press under the caption “Aliens get down to work at Labour Camp”, and showing the members wearing the Australian uniform with the rising sun onhat and shoulder. The honorable member asked whether, from the point of view of safety, enemy aliens should wear the same uniform as our troops. I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that no person is enlisted in a unit of the Australian Military Forces, including labour units, unless the military authorities are fully satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to serve therein, and that no risk to the safety of the nation is involved in his service in the forces. I emphasize that the persons serving in these labour units are the nationals of countries in alliance with us, or persons who come under the category of aliens of the refugee class. In these latter cases, particular care is taken to ensure thatno securityrisk is involved by their service in the forces. After complying with all the conditions which are prescribed for enlistment in the forces, and having been accepted for service therein, these members are required to wear the standard military uniform, and become subject to military control and discipline in the same manner as are all other units of the Australian MilitaryForces.
– As members of the labour battalions formed from friendly aliens enjoy the same privileges, and take the same oath of allegiance as the Australian Military Forces, do they receive the same rates of pay also?
Man-power in Western Australia.
– by leave - The Government has decided upon the policy it intends to apply to the goldmining industry in Australia, and I take this opportunity to inform the House and the country so that those concerned may know what lies ahead of them. The Government’s decision has not been taken without full inquiry into every aspect of the matter. I was deputed by the Prime Minister to visit Western Australia, and to confer with the Government of that State, the representatives of the mine-owners, the employees in the industry, and any others whose interests would be affected. All the points advanced by the various parties mentioned were fully considered by the Government before a final determination of policy was reached. The paramount consideration, however, must be the most effective use of the nation’s man-power in the prosecution of the war. Because of this, I now announce, first, that no protection can be given to the industry from the call-up for military service of men directly or indirectly engaged therein. Exemptions on a very limited scale of key men responsible for maintenance of safety in the mines will continue. Secondly, the industry must be prepared to have withdrawn from it, for service in connexion with allied works projects, a proportion of the men remaining after military requirements havebeen satisfied. Whether this proportion will be large or small depends, first upon the scale on which these projects are developed, and, secondly, upon the extent to which labour can be released from other non-essential activities to meet the requirements. The method of withdrawing these men will be a matter for consultation with the mineowners and the union so as to ensure that as little disturbance as possible is caused to the industry.
I want to pay a special tribute to the attitude adopted by the workers in the industry with whose organization the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is connected. The Australian Workers Union informed me, categorically, that the retention of men in the mines was, for them, a question of secondary importance in the present crisis; that they supported wholeheartedly the Government’s proposal to use the man-power in the mines in the way which would most effectively secure the successful prosecution of the war. I hope that the House and the country generally will support the Government’s proposals in the same spirit that the workers in the industry have done.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Ministerial Statement of Policy in relation to the Gold-mining Industry.
- by leave - I welcome very much the statement by the Minister for War Organization of Industry particularly because of the effect of the many vague statements that have been made recently regarding the future welfare of the gold-mining industry. While in Canberra during the sessional period before last, I approached the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on taxation matters, and discussed the effect of taxation on the gold-mining industry. During that interview, I was informed of some confidential facts concerning the future of that important industry - I say “important “ because it is to-day the major industry in Western Australia, although if cannot be compared with the gold-mining industries of the other States. In Western Australia, goldmining has been responsible for the establishment and maintenance of many important towns which could not otherwise exist. Because of this I was deeply impressed with the information disclosed to me by the Treasurer.
I had three courses open to me as the member representing the constituency of Kalgoorlie. T. could have remained dumb, without divulging the information. I could have gone back to Kalgoorlie and conducted a campaign on the lines of “ Hands off the man-power of the gold-mining industry “, and by taking that attitude I should have received widespread support. I had no doubt, however, that my duty lay in taking the unpopular attitude with the people concerned, and in advising them that there was every possibility of the gold-mining industry being called upon in the near future to release the major portion of its man-power for defence works. Having made up my mind to take that attitude, I went to see the Prime Minister before I left Canberra. I said to him, “ I have been given some information of a most important nature affecting the gold-mining industry. How much of it can I use ? “ The Prime Minister’s reply to me was, “ You will not be using the press or the radio, and when you are talking to responsible people tell them the truth “. I carried out that advice.
I met the executive of the miners’ union on the night I arrived in Kalgoorlie, and representatives of the Chamber of Mines the next day, and of local governing bodies and various organizations that evening. The persons I saw were representative of Kalgoorlie and Boulder municipalities, and of all the people affected. I explained fully to them, as far as I was able, the position of this country. I said that the defence authorities were calling out for every man that could be made available. “ To-morrow “, I stressed, “may be too late. Efforts have to be made, and they must be made immediately “. I had to appeal to miners who were receiving substantial wages to give up their mining work and to leave their wives and families in order to work in the labour corps for the basic wage. Both the men and the Chamber of Mines unanimously responded, and I have yet to believe that the chamber has repudiated the promise given to me that morning. I met the full executive of the Chamber of Mines at Kalgoorlie, and representatives of the men throughout the mining towns. Later decisions, I understand, have been made by the chamber, but not by its full executive. I am sure that the chamber will never repudiate the undertaking given to me.
I was careful throughout the campaign to see that no politics were introduced. T approached every section of the community. My telegrams convening meetings were sent to the chairman of the
Roads Board, the local governing bodies, and the union, appealing to them to cooperate so that there would be representative meetings to hear my story. I did the job throughout the Kalgoorlie electorate. On my return to Perth, I met the available members of the State Parliament who represent the goldmining districts, and they, too, agreed to co-operate. My task had been done, and in every centre I had visited the meetings carried resolutions, not only unanimously, but also enthusiastically, instructing the chairman of the meeting to telegraph to the Prime Minister that “ This centre is behind you in any effort that has for its object the defence of this country”. The whole of the industry displayed a co-operative spirit, and showed that it was prepared to help by coming to the country’s call, despite any sacrifices that might have to be made. The miners realized that the call was to them, and they showed in every place I visited that they were ready to obey.
After the work had been done, Senator Allan MacDonald, who had not been out of Perth and had not worked in the industry, went to Kalgoorlie, but at no inconvenience to himself, for he got off the train on his way from Perth to Canberra. He said, “ This will spell ruin to the gold-mining industry. Your towns will collapse, one after another. You must fight against this demand. You must protest against the Government taking any men out of the mines “. That was a very easy attitude for any one to adopt. I could have filled the role of the hero of the hour, but it was not my purpose to do that. My duty was to do something in the interests of this country, and I did it. I resent the attitude of Senator Allan MacDonald in going to Kalgoorlie. He was responsible for a deputation that went to Perth to endeavour to get the unions and the Trades and Labour Council for Kalgoorlie district to co-operate with him, but he failed. What is thought about the matter by the workers is shown by the following letter dated the 28th April, which I received on Tuesday from the Eastern Gold-fields District Council of the Australian Labour party: -
At a meeting of the above council held last night I was directed to convey to you the message that this council placed their fullest confidence in you, and were steadfastly behind you in the action you took with reference to the gold-mining industry, and we sincerely hope that the resoluteness which you displayed whilst placing your case before the workers will long be remembered.
The workers of Kalgoorlie know that they are no longer entitled to live as formerly in a state of false security. They are aware that the sword of Damocles hangs above their heads. They are ready to go out of the gold-mining industry and to give of their best in order to create whatever defence works are necessary. And defence works are urgently necessary in many districts of Western Australia. I appealed in vain to the former Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), and to the former Government for the completion of many works which are essential to the defence of the State. For instance, I appealed to him to order the construction of a strategic road from Meekatharra to Marble Bar, the completion of the half-constructed concrete bridge built by the Roads Board over the DeGrey River at Port Hedland in order to destroy a bottleneck, and a strategic road between Alice Springs and Halls Creek. On the north-west coast State shipping cannot go beyond Point Sampson. The people in the north-west will be starved, even without enemy action, unless facilities be provided to replace the sea route for the carriage of foodstuffs. According to newspaper reports the Treasurer, after I had done the job on the gold-fields, said that only sheer necessity would compel the Government to take men out of the gold-mining industry. The sheer necessity exists. It existed when I went to the gold-fields. So great was the necessity that I braved the floods in order to keep my appointments. I am proud of the co-operation which the people on the gold-fields offered; but I am distinctly upset at the trend which affairs have taken. Senator Allan MacDonald has raised a hornet’s nest in order to derive political kudos. In the Parliament of “Western Australia certain members have adopted a parochial attitude for which they will not be thanked by the people of Kalgoorlie in time to come. The defence of this country is the greatest need, not parochialism. A man in Geraldton said to me, “ I do not know why we are doing this work. We ought to leave it and clean up the Japs bo that we can return to it later.” Much more can be done towards the defence of this country than is being done, and the Government should stand up to the job regardless of what interests it may for the moment injure in doing it. National security regulations which, in normal times, would be abhorrent to me, come into being every day. I remain silent because I realize that, however distasteful they may be, they are necessary for the effective defence of th» country.
– Order ! The honor able, gentleman obtained leave to make a statement regarding the gold-mining industry.
– I am sorry if 1 have trespassed beyond the scope of the leave given to me, but the whole matter is wrapped up in the transfer of manpower from the gold-mining industry. My reputation as a member of the Labour movement and as a citizen of Western Australia is at stake. I am proud that men, whatever else they may think of me, say “ Johnson has always taken up an honest attitude in whatever he has taken on “. I do not want that reputation to be destroyed. The policy stated in the paper tabled to-day by the Minister for War Organization of Industry will consternate the gold-mining and business interests on the gold-fields, and they will thank me for the early warning I gave. The gold-mining industry is of major importance, not only to the Commonwealth Government but also to the State Government and the various State instrumentalities, because of the wealth it yields. Consequently, 1 am deeply interested in the welfare of the industry. In order to show the attitude of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia (Incorporated), I shall read an excerpt from a letter sent to me by that body on the 11th March last -
My Executive Council fully appreciates th« seriousness of the present position, and I have to confirm the assurance given this morning that those responsible for the direction of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia arc not only willing but eager to co-operate to the fullest extent with the wishes of those directing the war effort. In fact, the Chamber of Mines, which has for many months past been anxious to have a definite decision from the Government regarding the position of the industry, appreciates the action of the Government in permitting you to make this confidential information available at the earliest possible moment, so that the various gold-mining companies can give immediate consideration to the preparation of the steps which will have to be taken when the Government’s scheme is put into force.
That was handed to me two hours after the meeting was held.. A copy was sent to the Treasurer. In a covering letter to him I gave all the information I had as to the number of men employed in the gold-mining industry. I flatly contradict the suggestion that I represented myself on the gold-fields as having been deputed by the Government to do the job. I was not the representative of the Government, and atno stage did I suggest that I was. No such interpretation could have been placed on anything I said. I considered it my responsibility to warn the industry to avoid dislocation by making itself ready to meet the position when it arose and not to wait until regulations were promulgated.
A matter of great concern is the number of enemy aliens employed in the gold-mining industry, and in my letter to the Treasurer I had this to say: -
New developments, however, in the war situation had altered the position and a greater supply of labour in the near future would be required to complete a defence works programme, and the mining industry would be called upon to release its quota. I dealt with the help that was coming to the aid of Australia and explained that labour was needed to provide defence works that would permit the quick movement of our troops and equipment from point to point as the occasion demanded. The spirit of the people was wonderful, in fact the only complaint being that the move was overdue. Regarding the enemy alien question, I found a deep concern of the people in connexion with this question, and there is the definite possibility of friction arising out of racial differences if this important fact is overlooked. Numbered among those employed in the gold-mining industry arc men from almost every European nationality, and even in normal times some illfeeling simmers underneath what appears on the surface to be desirable relations. Having the above in mind, I feel that it is imperative that enemy aliens, neutral aliens and naturalized foreigners should be adequately represented in the initial drafts of labour drawn from the gold-mining industry.
If the aliens are allowed to remain in the industry and the other men are transferred there will be great agitation and trouble. If the Government will take advantage of the local knowledge of the mine-owners and the miners in order to draft these aliens out of the industry, it will find that it will have their full support, so long as it treats all industries, both essential and non-essential, alike.
– (Hon. W. M. Nairn). - I have received from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The inevitable serious decline in the production of vital foodstuffs and other commodities essential to the needs of our military forces, our civilian population, our Allies in this country and of Great Britain, consequent upon the depletion of labour in our rural areas and elsewhere “.
I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– There is no more urgent national problem at the present time than the provision of adequate food supplies for our military forces, our civil population, and the Allied Forces serving within the Commonwealth. This problem is not new to the Government; it has been mentioned in this House on many occasions by myself and other honorable members, and on the 25th March last, I pointed out to the Government the danger of taking too confident a view of our food stocks, particularly in view of the serious decline of production in the primary industries. The Government seems to have a Maginot Line complex in regard to the rural industries, and a serious shortage of vital commodities may occur as the result of lack of foresight and a certain degree of maladministration. Another warning was issued to the Government by the Chairman of the Rural Industries Committee, which is composed of representatives of all parties in this House. The Government party is represented by such practicalminded men as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), the honorable member for Ballarat .(& Pollard) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who have a thorough appreciation of the difficulties of the rural industries. They were so seised of the danger of a food shortage that their chairman, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) wrote a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the 25th March, stating that early action should be taken to conserve stocks of foodstuffs, vegetables and fodder. On the 18th April, I further endeavoured to impress the importance of this matter upon the minds of Ministers by writing direct to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Supply and Development, the Minister for War Organization of Industry, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for Commerce. However, my representations have so far been unheeded. I say this in spite of the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service earlier this af ternoon that the labour problem in rural industries had been solved. The action which the Minister has taken so far has failed to produce results. I shall show that some of the Minister’s orders had not been acted upon by his subordinates even a month after they were issued. If that be the kind of administration which is supposed to be protecting the vital food industries of the Commonwealth, it is time that this House heard all about the matter. The old dictum that “ an army marches on its stomach “ is still true, despite all the changes that have occurred in methods of warfare, and, without proper food supplies, our armies could not hope to be successful. An indication that the Government is at last giving recognition to the serious danger of a food shortage was given on Sunday night last when the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) gave a broadcast in which he drew attention to the depleted man-power of our rural industries.
The declarations and promises of the Minister for Labour and National Ser- vice have not been borne out by the actions of the man-power officers in rural areas. On the 12 th March last, the Minister published a list of reserved occupations in rural industries. Managers, foremen, wool appraisers, farm hands singly employed, and many other classifications, of all ages, were to be exempt from the military call-up. I have proof that, even a month after that date, the list was being completely ignored by man-power officials throughout the country districts. Of what use are such decisions if they he not implemented? Early in April, representatives of primary producers’ organizations waited upon the Director-General of Man-power, Mr. Wurth, in order to impress upon him the seriousness of the labour shortage in the rural industries. Mr. Wurth has been consistently sympathetic to the needs of the primary industries and has been as helpful as it is possible f or him to be with his limited powers. On the 6th April he wrote a letter in which he gave a ruling that one fit male must be left on every dairy farm with twenty milking cows, and two fit males on every farm with more than twenty milking cows. But that decision is not being implemented. Only to-day, I received letters complaining about this matter. I have here a letter, dated the 4th May, from a farmer in the Lismore district. It states -
I have received your letter of the 15th April, stating that my best plan was to appeal to the local Police Magistrate, which I did, results of which they allowed une from the above date (4th May) till the 30th June. 1942, to sell my going concern.
As the stock and plant are under mortgage of £535. and at this time of the year it is very hard to sell a going concern with the approach of winter.
It would bc a great help to me if you could get in touch with the military authority and see if I can get an extension of time to sell my going concern.
P.S. - I am the only male on the farm.
Although the decisions of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Director of Man-power have been announced, magistrates and man-power authorities in country districts apparently have not been informed of the decisions. As a result, at late as Monday last farmers were still being taken from their farms for war work.
The next letter was written by a man in the Mullumbimby district -
I am the owner of 34 milking cows and dairy plant which I work alone (I also live on the farm which I have leased). Four brothers in the Army (Middle East), I also had total exemption given me by Colonel Board (Man-power Officer, Lismore) some five weeks ago, but was given notice by Area Officer, Captain Eden, since to state my case in Exemption Court on 27th April at Mullumbimby, which resulted in my exemption being refused by Magistrate Bryant, who told me to dispose of my cattle, &c. Have I to go to camp while these publications prevail in Primary Producers Union paper and other newspapers? Is my exemption refusal in accordance with your rules as Director-General of Man,power ? ls effect being given to government decisions in country districts? It is the responsibility of the Government to decide how many primary producers shall be left on their farms to produce essential commodities ; how many shall go into munitions factories ; and how many shall be called up for military service. An adequate food supply is a necessity, and its production should be left to men who have had experience in the primary producing industry all their lives. There would be no ground for complaint if an over-abundance of foodstuffs were available, or if the position were so safe that producers could be taken from their farms for war work after they had killed or otherwise disposed of their stock. But if the position be as I believe it to be, that we are fast approaching the stage where there is likely to be a serious shortage of foodstuffs as a result of the short-sighted policy adopted by the man-power authorities in country centres, then instant action should be taken to rectify the position.
– What proof has the honorable member that there is likely to be a shortage of foodstuffs in Australia ?
– I shall refer to that subject more fully when I am dealing with the Department of War Organization of Industry. The position has arisen that while the man-power officers in various centres may make one decision, officers of the Department of War Organization of Industry may make a conflicting decision, and the position is becoming intolerable. In January last representatives of the food distributing trades in Sydney waited upon the Deputy
Director of Man-power Priorities, Mr. Funnell, and urged that key mou iu the food distributing industry should be granted exemptions. They pointed out that it would be useless to produce food on the farms and then rail it to the capital cities, where it would rot on the stations unless the distributing organization were available to deal with it when it arrived. The Deputy Director of Man-power sympathetically received the requests of the distributors and granted temporary exemption to key men. The Deputy Director of War Organization of Industry then intervened and representatives of the distributing industry had to repeat the process. Who is supreme in this matter, the Department of War Organization of Industry, or the man-power authorities? It is a responsibility of the Minister for Supply and Development to ensure adequate food supplies, and the Minister for Commerce is also directly involved. A chaotic condition has arisen, and in an effort to determine who shall accept the responsibility for the adequate production and distribution of foodstuffs I have brought this matter before the House. The trouble seems to be that, although reserved occupation lists have been drawn up they have not been regarded by the authorities as final. Men in exempted categories are still being called up for service, and the decision of whether the reserved occupation lists shall be applied in individual cases is left to the judgment of local man-power officers or police magistrates, and not to the Government itself. It is apparent that there has been a lack of finality in transmitting to the appropriate authorities the decision arrived at by the Government.
The Director-General of Man-power has been very sympathetic and helpful, but I believe that his powers are limited. He has certain demands made on him for priorities which must be complied with, and he is required to find men for allied works, a section which is under the charge of Mr. Theodore. He is also required to allocate men for munitions works, for aircraft production, and for the Army, and so far as I can gather he has been given very vague instructions. As to the primary need of food production. T ask the Minister to inform the
House what authority the DirectorGeneral of Man-power has to return men from the Army to the important work of producing sufficient foodstuffs for civil and military use.
In the selection of man-power officials little effort has been made in country centres to appoint men with practical experience of the job they are expected to do. No attempt seems to have been made to co-opt the services, even in an advisory capacity, of men who have had experience in primary production. Usually a public official, a bank manager, or a business man has been appointed man-power officer in a particular area, often with little practical knowledge of farm problems. As a consequence, there has been little sympathetic understanding of the national need for maintaining an adequate food supply. The man-power officer, in many instances, says to an applicant for exemption: “Is it not your duty to go into the Army?” If the applicant states that he has other responsibilities his position is made so uncomfortable that he is virtually branded as a shirker.
Various Ministers have stated from time to time that the production of a particular foodstuff is necessary, and that the commodity will be protected. All foodstuffs are inter-related. If there be an over-production of potatoes, while the public are eating more potatoes they are eating less of something else. If there be a shortage of potatoes there is a demand for some other vegetable. One class of foodstuff is substituted for another in times of shortage, and when the principle of granting a blanket exemption is being considered it should not be .the aim of the authorities to grant the exemption only in respect of certain selected commodities. The Minister for War Organization of Industry asked, by way of interjection, what proof I have that there is likely to be a shortage of foodstuffs in the near future. ,So far as I am aware Australia has not been able to meet its contract with Great Britain for the supply of 60,000 tons of butter for the year. The Minister for Commerce is more familiar with that matter than I am, but so far as I know butter production for the first eight months of the year has not been sufficient to meet the con- tract that has been entered into. In the first eight months of the financial year 1939-40 butter production in New South Wales totalled 720,000 cwt., and in the corresponding period of 1941-42 it had dropped to 483,000 cwt. In Victoria production dropped from 1,171,000 cwt. to 1,002,000 cwt. in the same period, whilst in Queensland there was a reduction from 829,000 cwt. to 488,000 cwt. [Extension of time granted.] Those figures indicate that the production of butter is a serious problem to-day. New South Wales has never been self-sufficient in butter production. For eight or nine months of the year butter has to be imported from other States, as local requirements can be met only during the peak spring period. I represent a district which is responsible for probably one-third “f the total butter production of New South Wales. There is increasing difficulty in securing interstate transport for goods, and in the near future it may not be possible to carry produce from one State to another. In view of that possibility it is desirable that every State should be as selfsupporting as possible. The position in regard to young stock is also very alarming. It has been reported to me from many parts of my electorate that the number of young stock being offered at saleyards is much less to-day than it was two years or even twelve months ago. The full adverse effects of that decline will not be felt until two or three years hence when the young stock of to-day will be the milk-producing cows.
The position in the sugar industry also warrants examination. In 1940 we produced 804,984 tons of sugar, half of which was exported, and I am informed by Mr. Curlewis and Mr. Muir, of the Sugar Producers Association, that by the end of 1943 Australia will be barely selfsufficient in regard to sugar, and that within two years, should the present decline continue owing to the shortage of fertilizer and scarcity of labour, we shall not be growing enough sugar to meet our own requirements. The foundations of primary production have to be laid a long time in advance. Production of a crop of any kind requires months of preparation. If butter is to be produced, then years of preparation are necessary.
That is why I am raising this matter at the present juncture. Already we have seen what dire results can be caused by the shortage of labour. To-day there is a scarcity of many essential commodities, but it is nothing to the shortage that will exist if corrective measures be not taken immediately. Shortages are upon us now, but how much more acute will they be if the matter he neglected We must eat to live, and to fight, and unless we retain sufficient men in our rural industries to ensure the production of sufficient food to meet the requirements not only of our troops, but also the civilian population, serious difficulties may occur. It is just as essential to feed the people as it is to enlist men in the fighting forces.
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has seen fit to submit this motion to-day, in view of the fact that yesterday the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) announced that a blanket exemption had been granted to men employed in primary industries. Whilst the Government does not dispute many of the facts stated by the honorable member it seems that he is not yet fully aware that this nation is1 at war, and that conditions to-day are far from normal. If the men who arc being called up from the primary industries for military service were being -wasted then there might be some excuse for this motion, but we are passing through the most critical period in the history of our nation and every man is vital to the protection of our soil. Man-power is being depleted not only in rural areas, hut also in every other avenue of employment, and I see no justification for this attack upon the Government. In fact I consider that the Government is to be commended for doing everything possible to meet the demands of the defence authorities for recruits. The Government is not pursuing its present policy haphazardly. It is doing what it considers to be best in the interests of Australia, just as its predecessor did what it considered to be best. To-day we are dependent on our armed forces for our very existence, and I am sure that the honorable member for Richmond ‘does not realize the significance of the position. Does he suggest that, contrary to the recommendations of its military advisers the Government should accept the responsibility for withdrawing men from our armed forces? Honorable members can visualize what chaos there would be if men were withdrawn from the forces in large numbers. This is solely a matter for our military authorities, and it would be unthinkable to attempt to interfere with our national defence at this stage. Had this motion been made prior to the statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service yesterday, there might have been some justification for it. I assure the honorable member for Richmond that the Government is just as alive to the position of the rural industries as are honorable members opposite, and every effort will be made to overcome the drift before it reaches danger point. The honorable member claimed that many local man-power officers had no practical knowledge of the primary industries in respect of which they were called upon to give decisions when applications were made for exemption. The ‘Government realizes that, and after a lengthy discussion, the Cabinet sub-committee which was appointed to examine this problem, decided to overcome that difficulty by granting a blanket exemption to all rural industries.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by “ blanket exemption”?
– The man-power engaged in those industries is exempt from the call-up. Those industries are the production of dairy produce, wool, wheat, meat, pigs, sugar, potatoes, rice, vegetables, tobacco, fruit and several other commodities. I, as Minister for Commerce, and the Government, are indebted to the Rural Industries Committee, for the valuable work it has done and the reports it has submitted. The Government has. acted upon its recommendations in the decision it has made. No government’ could do more than is being done at present. The man-power resources of the primary industries may be strained to breaking point; but it must be remembered that we are at war, and that the men from rural districts are playing an important part in the defence of this country in the critical period through which we are passing.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has adopted the procedure of moving for the adjournment of the House in order to direct the attention of the Government to a matter that he regards as of outstanding importance to our national well-being, namely, the serious decline in the production of foodstuffs, consequent upon the depletion of labour in the rural areas. I am chairman of the Rural IndustriesCommittee, which is composed of members of all political parties in both branches of this legislature. That committee has made a number of representations to the Government on this subject. The first was on the 17th September, 1941 ; and the committee regarded the matter as so urgent that further representations were made on the 25th March and the 29th April last. Those representations were made unanimously, in the belief that it is imperative that we have in Australia three armies. First, there are the fighting forces. Secondly, there is the industrial army which produces clothing for those forces, and arms and equipment to enable them to fight. Thirdly, it is equally important to have an army of food producers, to provide what is needed in order to feed the fighting forces and those who are engaged in the manufacture of munitions. Adequacy of food supplies must also be maintained for the civil population; and a very important obligation rests upon Australia, which hitherto has been regarded as one of the granaries of the world, to produce those foodstuffs which we undertook to make available to Great Britain and our allies. There is a special obligation to see that, so far as may be practicable, the food army shall be adequate to meet all those requirements. Having regard to these considerations, the Rural Industries Committee considers that the number of persons engaged in the production of food in Australia is far from adequate. I pay a tribute to the rural industries for the extraordinarily large number of voluntary enlistments they have furnished to our fighting forces. Any one who has been in the slightest degree associated with enlistment and recruiting within recent years knows that the percentage of recruits in rural districts has been infinitely higher than in metropolitan areas. Despite this, in the call-up proper regard has not been paid to what rural industries are producing. The owners of farming properties belong to the army of food producers. Young men in country districts are remote from the attractions of the cities, and have not available to them picture shows and all other forms of organized entertainment. They do not wish to be away from their homes every night, as do many young men in the cities, but listen to the broadcasts of war news and commentaries on the war position. Practically alone in their rural work throughout the day, they reflect upon what they have heard or read. Their minds are daily concentrated on the war, and the position in which Australia is placed. They have responded to the call to the colours as has no other group, and to a dangerous degree the country districts have thereby been denuded of man-power. I pay tribute to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), who has given the utmost consideration to the representations of the committee of which he was at one time a valuable member and deputy chairman. But I still affirm that notwithstanding such consideration, and the representations of the committee, the Government is not regarding the matter as seriously as it should. If time permitted, I could read at length evidence that it attached to the report of the committee, which proves overwhelmingly that the primary producers, who are well aware of market requirements, realize that they are unable to produce anything like normal supplies. Our fighting forces to-day are exceptionally large, and in addition an ever-increasing number of allied troops is coming to Australia.
I shall quote one or two pertinent extracts from the evidence given to the Rural Industries Committee. John Henry Cavanagh, general president of the Agricultural Bureau of New South Wales and a member of the Australian Wheat Board, said -
I agree that if steps are not taken within the next three months to offset the shortage of man-power there is a very real danger that we shall experience a shortage of foodstuffs. That is not an overstatement of the position. There will certainly be a shortage of dairy products.
The Economic Adviser to the Department of Agriculture, New South Wales, and Economist to the Rural Bank of New South Wales, John Grenfell Crawford, said -
There are many signs that the danger point has come in many areas.
Discussing the shortage of man-power, Mr. Cavanagh said -
The shortage of man-power is becoming acute in the rural areas … as the result of heavy enlistments and the call-ups, it has now become acute and many farmers are able to carry on only with great difficulty. We have lost many of our skilled men by enlistment and in the call-ups . . . Further, quite a number of workers in the industry have entered munition factories. Most of these were of great value in the rural industries as machinery experts.
Mr. Albert Alexander Watson, chief of the Division of Marketing in the Department of Agriculture, New South Wales, said -
I have been seconded for duty with the Director-General of Man-power in relation to the man-power requirements of rural industries. We elicited the information that vegetable-growers in the County of Cumberland, which is the principal producing area in New South Wales of bunched vegetables and salads, are experiencing a shortage of 1,000 employees.
Mr. George William Gordon, general president of the Primary Producers Union of New South Wales stated -
Man-power is another real problem. The dairying industry has largely depended on family labour to meet its needs. Since the war this type of labour has been seriously depleted, due in the first instance to heavy enlistments and also to the fact that farm labourers, and in some cases farm families, have found other avenues of employment with very much brighter prospects than dairyfarming. Furthermore, up to date, those entrusted with the responsibility of granting exemptions from military training do not appear to have appreciated the serious depletion of man-power in the dairying industry, and hosts of farms have been left without adequate labour. This has resulted in a decrease in production and the neglect in many instances of essential work on the farm.
A striking case came under my notice a few days ago. A man who had invested his life’s savings in a valuable property, on which there were 4,000 sheep, had put his son in charge of the farm. He had built up in recent years a herd of 40 stud Jersey cattle, and he also had 180 pigs. One employee after another enlisted, and others were called up, until finally his son only was left to look after the property.It was impossible for the son to attend to 4,000 sheep, 40 cows, and the calves and the pigs. Consequently he had to sell the pigs at a great sacrifice. He could not carry on with the dairy herd, and he reduced the number of the sheep by half. That is a picture of what is taking place in many areas, and it seems certain that our food supplies will become hopelessly depleted. 1 fear that Australia will be unable to meet its obligations in providing the foodstuffs required by Great Britain and our allies. The fighting forces must be supplied with adequate food of the best quality obtainable. They need food full of vitamins, in order to help them to carry out the important job ahead of them.
– The ‘ honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- Like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. As Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach, the contention that our fighting forces will not do their work properly unless they are well fed needs no elaboration. The man-power of the nation may be divided into three divisions - those engaged in actual warfare, those employed in the munitions factories and those growing food and other requisites for the fighting forces. Perhaps we should place first in order of importance those who grow foodstuffs, second, those who make the munitions, and, third, those who do the actual fighting. Honorable members will recall that when war broke out and particularly when the Japs joined in the struggle, a great cry went up in Australia for the enlistment of men. A psychology was developed which led people to think that those who did not get into uniform were shirkers and cold-footed. Many of those who, greatly to their credit, joined the colours, were young men from the dairying, grazing, fruit and wheat farms, and from the mines, and, in my opinion, men of that type make the best soldiers. They have initiative, and the environment in which they have lived makes them hardy and well fitted to carry out the strenuous activities of warfare.
Later, the Area Officer became the pivotal point of enlistment, and naturally he was prepared to grab as many ablebodied men as he could. The lads who remained on the farms were described as shirkers, and white feathers were sent to many of them. The result, naturally, was that enlistment was stimulated. This happened six or eight months ago before the present Government assumed office. It was said at the recruiting rallies that Australia had a surplus of primary products such as sugar, wheat, meat and butter. We certainly have a surplus of some commodities, but most of them are stored in coastal areas in what may be regarded as danger zones where they could be quickly destroyed by enemy action. Owing to the arrival of allied forces from the United States of America, and the return of many members of the Australian Imperial Force from the Middle East, conditions have changed, and, instead of a surplus, we are likely to experience a shortage of foodstuffs. Our inability to obtain phosphate from Nauru and Ocean Island has resulted in a shortage of fertilizers, and that will seriously reduce primary production. The farmer must work according to the seasons. The land must be cultivated and fallowed, the seed sown, the crops tended, and the harvesting done. All this involves the employment of workers over considerable periods, but where are we to get the men who are needed for this important task? I maintain that the Government has taken, and is taking, active measures to meet the position. It has appointed committees to go into the matter, including the committee charged with the control of food supplies. Recently, I received the following communication : -
Owing to the strong representations made to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), we are informed by the Minister that no more mcn employed permanently in rural production are to be taken into the Army for the present, but the’ position will be reviewed from time to time in accordance with the war position.
I have faith that the present Government will do its work, and the work before it is not easy. Men must be found for the fighting forces, and it is also necessary to leave sufficient men in the primary industries to ensure adequate supplies of food. That can be done only by the careful planning of primary production.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) upon having raised the question of depletion of labour in rural industries. In spite of the opinion of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) that, in view of the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) yesterday, that “ blanket “ exemption would now dp given to workers in primary industries., there is no longer any need to discuss thi subject, I believe that the honorable member’s action is fully justified. I am convinced that the harm is already done and that the calling up of rural workers for military service, particularly during th* last few months, will make it necessary to ration butter next year if we are to continue supplying our civil population, our military forces, and those of our allies in this country, as well as sending supplies to Great Britain. We must remember that it i? becoming increasingly difficult for Britain to obtain materials for the mann facture of margarine, so that the future demand for butter is likely to be greater rather than less. In a good season, Australia produces approximately 200,000 tons of butter, of which about one-half is consumed here, and the other half if exported to Great Britain. Our export quota to Great Britain has now been reduced to 60,000 tons, but I understand that we could not supply even that quantity during the current season.
– We could supply the butter, but there is a shortage of shipping.
– I understand thai, even if shipping were available, we should be hard put to it to find 60,000 tons of butter for export. In all the dairying districts of Australia, the size of the herds is being reduced, not because the farmers do not want to produce butter, but because they cannot obtain labour to work large herds. We are rapidly approaching a position in which wc shall not have enough butter to supply civilian needs, the needs of our military forces and those of our Allies in this country, and also fill our export quota to Great Britain. The Government mus decide what quantities of the various food commodities are needed, and then ensure that sufficient labour shall be available to enable such quantities to be produced. I realize that all industries will have to go a little short of labour ; every body must work a bit harder, but there is a limit beyond which labour supplies cannot be cut down without seriously endangering die country’s food supply. I have in mind the case of a man who, with a delicate wife, has been left to milk 78 cows, and the military authorities have refused to release his son from the Militia to help him. I join issue with the Minister for Commerce when he says that it is unthinkable that the Government should suggest to the Army authorities that certain men now in training might be better employed’ in the production of foodstuffs. I am one of those who would like to see as many young men as possible receiving military training, but we are faced with the possibility of a serious food shortage unless more labour be provided for the rural industries.
Even in the fishing industry, there is a shortage of labour. In one fishing village on the south coast of Gippsland, twelve men were formerly employed fishing. The number has now been reduced to six, and another man, who had been exempt, was recently called up, reducing the number to five. Fish is an important item of food, but there is likely to be a shortage of it unless a sufficient number of fishermen be left on the coast.
The motion before the House refers not only to foodstuffs, but also to other essential commodities. One such commodity which I have in mind is wattle-bark for tanning. In years gone by, the tanners depended largely upon supplies of bark and tanning extract imported from South Africa. A certain amount of bark has been gathered in Australia from wattle trees that have sprung up after fires, but the industry has never been organized. There is no need to stress the demands which the war is making upon our tanneries for the production of leather for military purposes. A situation might arise at any time when it would be extremely difficult to obtain supplies of tanning material from South Africa. A few years ago, a small company, with commendable foresight, planted the right kind of wattle trees on Sunday Island, off Port Albert, and it is expected that, within the next eighteen months, this company will be able to supply substantial quantities of wattle-bark to the tanning industry. The company was employing 27 men. It has now only twelve, and the directors are afraid that some even of those twelve will be called up, thus making it impossible to carry on. An industry such as that should be protected against further loss of staff, so that supplies of tanning bark may ‘be available if imports from South Africa should be cut off. I urge the Government to recognize the great importance of this matter, and the fact that we are morally obliged not merely to grow sufficient food for ourselves, but also to do as much as we possibly can for the Mother Country which is now in dire need of all we can supply.
– This is another instance of the Country party missing the bus. Had successful representations not been made to the Government by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) for relief to be given to the primary industries in respect of man-power, I am perfectly sure that this move would not have been made by members of the Country party in this chamber. No member of this Parliament has been more conscientious or active, or more persistent, in his advocacy on behalf of the country interests than the honorable member for Wimmera. Had honorable members opposite who now protest so much paid equal attention to their duties as representatives of primary producers, probably much more would have been accomplished in the past on behalf of our rural industries. This motion means nothing more than a sheer waste of the time of the Parliament and the Government. Honorable members opposite who talk so much about not playing the game of party politics, have submitted the motion merely in order to try to save face with their constituents.
Let us examine the position. Only a few days ago these honorable gentlemen advocated that every man should be flung into the Army. They proposed conscription. They wanted the military authorities to reach out and drag every man into the fighting services. To-day, however, they protest that too many men are being thrown into the fighting services. They say that men are wanted in the country districts to stem the fall in the production of food. Evidently, they believe that the Australian people as a whole are so foolish as to think that we can put every man in the fighting services, and, at the same time, supply the labour requirements of industry. Whenever the Labour party has put forward proposals to establish and maintain a proper balance in the distribution of man-power, they have declared them to be unsound, and, despite the fact that the Army could not feed or equip them, have contended that every man should be in the fighting services. They described the Labour party’s proposals in this respect as disloyal.
Here are the facts: Yesterday the Government announced to Parliament that certain definite action had been taken in order to relieve the acute shortage of man-power in primary industries. Now, within 24 hours of that announcement, honorable members opposite submit a motion of this kind. Thus the House is called upon to waste two hours of valuable time in discussing the need for doing something that has already been done by the Government. Obviously, I repeat, this motion has been submitted for no other purpose than to enable members of the Country party to save face with their constituents. The Government has constantly kept this problem under review. Take, for instance, the matters raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I do not deny that cases of hardship have been caused in country districts, as well as in cities. However, it will be recognized that the Government has done everything possible to retain sufficient mcn in essential industries, and, at the same time, has given special attention to cases of hardship arising from this policy. Unless we immediately cease altogether the call-up of men for the Army, it is impossible to prevent cases of hardship. Practically every man who is called to the fighting services suffers hardship in some degree. But ou this ground alone, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who submitted the motion, declared that the Government had lacked foresight, and had been guilty of maladministration in handling this problem. The honorable member for Gippsland stresses the need for building up food reserves. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) could readily produce figures to show that our reserves of food of the classes mentioned in this debate are now greater than before this Government took office. The Government may leave itself open to criticism in respect of some of the primary industries which it has declared to be reserved occupations, because some people are bound to hold the view that those particular industries are not indispensable. The wheat industry is included in the list of industries which are to be given complete exemption under these regulations. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) raised no objection to that decision. At the same time, however, he advocates conscription. The facts in respect of the wheat industry are that we now have in store sufficient reserves for three years. But whilst the honorable member is worried about what might be the position three years hence, the Government is concerned with what might happen within the next three months. The honorable member wants man-power made available to certain primary industries for the purpose of building up reserves to meet possible requirements ten years hence or for some uncertain period. The Government has taken a very liberal view in dealing with this problem. It has gone out of its way to assist primary industries. Events of the past show that the needs of primary producers have invariably been met by this Parliament through the efforts of honorable members who are not members of the Country party.
The honorable member for Richmond read the list of reserved occupations which he said was issued on the 12th March last. He declared that the list was not strictly adhered to by the man-power officers. I have had many complaints that the decisions of those officers do not conform with the Government’s general policy in this matter. It is only to be expected that occasionally such decisions will be given. Our man-power organization is entirely new. It has been established in record time, and must be administered by officers many of whom are not acquainted with the general policy of the Government. Therefore, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. However, I cannot recollect one single instance in which the honorable member for Richmond has complained to me that decisions of the Government in respect of reserved occupations have not been strictly adhered to by man-power officers. If an honorable member does not bring to the notice of the Government complaints of the kind which he now mentions, how can he expect them to be remedied ? That is the position. The honorable member also said that whilst Mr. Wurth, the DirectorGeneral of Man-power, was disposed to deal sympathetically with applications made to him under these regulations, his powers were limited. No doubt the honorable member implied that the DirectorGeneral was hampered by some higher authority. It is true that the regulations provide that the organization of man-power is primarily the responsibility of the Minister, who determines what decisions shall be implemented. That is as it should be. In my opinion, no government organization should be removed from the control of Parliament.
What do members of the Opposition, particularly members of the Country party, who seem to be playing a prominent part in this particular drive against the Government, hope to achieve? The Government has already decided to grant a measure of protection which probably exceeds their expectations, due, to a large degree, to the logical case submitted to Cabinet by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). The Government also resolved that the exemption shall be only temporary, and it appointed a committee to examine the whole of the requirements of primary industries for the purpose of enabling it to obtain a proper estimate of the per sonnel that must be retained in them in order to continue production. Ministers recognize that the fighting forces must be properly fed and equipped, and that a proper balance must be preserved between the various industries. The Labour Government requires no prompting from the Opposition as to what should be done in the interests of the people, whether they reside in the cities or in country districts.
– Order I The Minister’s time has expired.
– Although the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has just assured the House that the Labour Government requires no prompting to look after country interests, I remind him that he has just informed honrable members that if it had not been for the logical case presented by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), the country people would nave been neglected. The Minister cannot have it both ways. If one of his statements be right, the other must be wrong. Probably both of them are wrong.
People tend to overlook the fact that the man-power of country districts has been depleted, first, by voluntary enlistments, secondly, by a steady stream into the munitions industry, and thirdly, by the compulsory call-up for military service. In my opinion, primary production should be classed as one of the essential services. The best-equipped army in the world will not defeat its enemies unless it is adequately victualled. If the Government fails to act, we may discover, in the not distant future, that we are unable to provide sufficient food to meet our own needs. Evidently the Minister was not aware that only last week, arrangements were made to transport from Queensland to Victoria 1,000 tons of butter and a large qua.»-“.4«y of cheese. In normal times Victoria produces more butter than any other State. A member of the Dairy Products Control Board assured me on Tuesday that before long, Australia will be obliged to import cheese from New Zealand. When that become* necessary, something will obviously be wrong with our primary industries. T also remind the Minister for Labour and National Service that Australia has little prospect of fulfilling its contract to supply Great Britain with large quantities of butter.
– That is because of shipping difficulties.
– We cannot ship the butter until we produce it. It is because we have not produced the butter that we are unable to ship it.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out earlier that Great Britain will require, in future, a larger quantity of dairy produce than hitherto because the fact that certain products from the islands are no longer available will seriously affect the manufacture of margarine. Another factor which must be borne in mind is that the productivity of large areas will be greatly impaired as the result of the lack of adequate supplies of superphosphate. Some of the country in areas with a high rainfall, which has had an excellent productive capacity, will revert to its virgin condition and will barely keep a snake to the acre. Lack of superphosphate will have a most adverse effect upon the production of essential primary products, which the Army requires just as much as equipment and munitions. The time may not be far distant when men now serving in the Army will have to be diverted to produce food. That will be one more step in the conscription of man-power. To date, the Government has introduced conscription in the military and industrial spheres. What is the objection to extending it a little by diverting experienced men to grow food?
The Minister had no justification for complaining bitterly about the advocacy by the Opposition last week of an amendment of the Defence Act in order to permit the Australian Military Forces to serve in distant theatres of war. In my opinion, the Government wilfully misrepresented the attitude adopted by the Opposition. Honorable members on this side of the chamber did not suggest that the Labour Government should introduce conscription, because it has already done so. We merely suggested that the Government should remove the impediment which would prevent the despatch of the Australian Military Forces from Australia to distant theatres. With the Government rested the decision whether to use the authority that the Opposition urged it to take. Other honorable members who possess a long experience of rural industries will persist in their endeavours to convince the Government that this is a matter of vital importance to the nation.
– The Government has been mindful of this situation for some time, and has not been idle. A month ago, in order to cause the Army to realize that there were limitations to the enlistment of manpower for the fighting services, Cabinet appointed a special sub-committee to examine the problem. The personnel includes some of the most competent members of the Commonwealth Public Service. That was the first occasion, since the outbreak of war, that steps were taken to bring the Army close to the representatives of the departments that are associated with supply and primary production. No honorable member will deny the tendency in Australia has always been for people to adopt a pioneering attitude toward most of their problems. For example, when they require wood, they take an axe, go out to the countryside and obtain the timber by their own efforts. Never before, have we faced any serious problem in obtaining food, but that position has now changed. Really, everything centres in time, and the calendar. Although I do not wish to blame previous governments for the present position, it could be said that the Menzies and Fadden Administrations did not expect the present situation to arise and, therefore, made no preparations, perhaps because they did not know that large bodies of Allied troops would be despatched to Australia.
– Large numbers of men have been called up since Japan entered the war.
– And enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force have also increased during the last six months.
– Before the advance of Japan threw us back on to our own resources, we did not regard these matters in the same light as we do to-day; hence ay observation that time and the calendar determine our course. At the present time, man-power is a real problem. Unfortunately, this continent has only a small population. Perhaps the debate should centre upon the reason for our lack of numbers. That point is worthy of mention at this moment, because, in our efforts to preserve the country for the white races, we now realize the difficulties which are caused by a shortage of population. This House appreciates now, if not ever before, the importance of this problem, and a month ago the Government set up a special committee. The Army was brought face to face for the first time with certain realities that had not previously been properly understood. Et was the first time that there had been such a meeting of representatives of the different fighting forces - the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force - round the tame table. I am not blaming them for their previous lack of appreciation of the problem; the matter had merely drifted. The committee has brought forward some of its conclusions and we propose that it shall become a standing committee, because we regard its work as being of the highest importance.
The Supply Department’s task was to feed the fighting forces. It was not called upon to provide for the needs of the civilian population, but it realized that it could not continue ad lib. to take food from the reservoirs of the people without having regard to their needs and the need to maintain production so that the contents of the reservoirs could be kept at a safe level. That question exercised my mind when the Americans arrived in this country, and we saw them buying on our markets at prices we thought they ought not to pay. This was seriously affecting the general supply without compensatory methods being applied to replenish the goods. That is why the Allied Supply Council was first suggested. We were not letting the business slip from our grasp, but were watching it at each stage. The activities of the Allied Supply Council have developed beyond the supply of foodstuffs, but the council actually had its origin in the case
I submitted to the Government regarding foodstuffs. The Americans were bringing into this country 60 days’ rations per unit, and we thought that if we could supply those rations there would be so much more shipping space available for fighting equipment. The Americans do not want to sit round a table to discuss food-supply questions only, and therefore the Allied Supply Council will now deal with all problems connected with the needs of the fighting forces in Australia.
I realized that, in order to meet the problem of supplying foodstuffs to the fighting forces, the Supply Department must ally itself with the Commerce Department, which has activities connected with production. Last week, that matter was finally resolved, and next Monday the first meeting of the Central Food Council will be held in Sydney. The object of that meeting will be to tie together the civilian and services needs in regard to foodstuffs. It will include the Department of Commerce, the Prices Commissioner, the Department of War Organization of Industry, the representatives of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and an allied services representative of the American Government. I have made provision for the chief ordnance officer of the United States Army to be present.
A civil emergency control organization was set up in each State by the Department of Commerce some time ago, probably during the regime of the previous Government, and a representative from this body is included in the council. The object of this body was to arrange for the storage of emergency supplies of food in different parts of the country. Steps were also taken to secure the co-operation of the States, which have important local organizations dealing with agriculture. They have in the service of their agricultural departments competent men, and it behoves the Commonwealth to make use of them. As 1 6aid last night, we are anxious to use such bodies, particularly in such a State as Western Australia, which is far removed from us. In each of the States,- therefore, we have set up an advisory committee, of which the Minister for Agriculture in that State will be chairman, and which will have representatives of the canning industry, meat interests, and trade unions. The latest State to complete this arrangement was South Australia. I am referring to this aspect because I want the House to know that the subject has not. been neglected. .Whilst I recognize that it is the duty of honorable members to raise this question to-day, I am anxious to let the country know that the Government has not neglected the problem. The discussion to-day may help me to fulfil the ideas behind the broadcast I made a few nights ago, and may bring the public to realize its duties in adequately meeting the many problems that must arise. Most of the arguments have centred in the man-power question, which is a serious one.
– Unless that be adequately dealt with, all else will be useless.
– We have an army asking and even demanding man-power here and man-power there, and we have people in the north of Queensland clamouring because there is not sufficient military strength in that area, and people in Western Australia asking us to augment our forces everywhere in that State. We all know what a long coast line Australia has to defend, and we cannot know which part of it the enemy may select for an invasion. Any government is naturally reluctant to rebuke the Army when it asks for more man-power. [Extension of time granted.’] There is a big problem in the movement of foodstuffs from one State to another. During the next three months we shall be shipping beef from Queensland to Western Australia. That has become necessary because there has been an influx of troops at one point beyond what we anticipated, and it has created almost a meat famine in Western Australia. The Central Food Council has been established to deal with problems like that. It is obvious that no State can continue as a separate unit. If it has a surplus of anything, that surplus must be made available wherever there is a shortage.
– If transport is available.
– In the matter of transport, we have to strain all the energies we have. I regard foodstuffs as vital. The Department of Commerce has sent me this information since this debate started -
Butter. - British Ministry of Food wants 70,000 tons this year. Large quantities are held in cool storage in all States of Australia, considerably more than in the corresponding period last year.
Cheese. - Up to 40,000- tons required by United Kingdom. Storage position same as butter. Exports of cheese considerably greater than pre-war.
Meat. - 110,000 tons of carcass neat and 73,000 tons of canned meat will be exported to United Kingdom this year.
I do not like to quote these figures because I suppose that there is some risk in giving tonnages, but only yesterday for forces not far from here, for which we recognized a responsibility, I sanctioned the shipment of very large quantities of meat. I realize that it is our bounden duty to take every step we can to send foodstuffs to help the British forces wherever they are fighting. We may have our differences with Mr. Churchill and others, but we are able to arise above them and say, “ If you want coal or food, or anything else, we shall do our best to give it to you “.
– Yes. There is an urgent need to feed the people of Great Britain. The defeat of Germany in th« last war was largely contributed to by the British blockade. The statement continues -
Wheat. - Owing to shipping difficulties very little will be exported.
Barley. - Same as wheat.
Canned Fruits. - Small quantities being exported. These are not desired by United Kingdom. Total output can be consumed locally.
Dried Vine Fruits.- 44,000 tons will go to United Kingdom this year. This quantity slightly above normal.
Apples and Pears. - No exports.
Wool. - Full clip will be exported if shipping available.
Well, there is no shipping available for wool.
Eggs. - 4,000 to 5,000 tons of egg powder will go to United Kingdom this year. Export of eggs in shell and egg pulp cut out.
Fruit Pulp.- 10,000 tons will go to United Kingdom this year. An order for 20,000 tons of jam was refused and the commodity went into local consumption.
I had to deal with a problem recently when I found myself unable, because of the requirements of our own allied troops in this country and ourselves, to comply with Britain’s order for 20,000 tons of jam. My main reason for speaking to-day was to bring to the notice of the House and the general public the fact that we are mindful of the importance of the food problem and are evolving practical means to safeguard the country against food shortages.
. - This country owes a deep debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for bringing this matter up for discussion. What was said by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) interested me greatly. It is late in the day to bring his plan forward, because only last Saturday the Canberra Times contained the following report of an interview with one of his colleagues: -
” The rural industries, with regard to manpower, have been cut more than they could possibly bear”, stated the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), yesterday, who viewed with alarm any further attempt to call up men from the industries for military service. Mr. Scully was commenting on a statement by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), who said that the rationalization of industry plan his department was handling would reduce man-power to the barest possible operational minimum. “Any further drain on this man-power “, said Mr. Scully, “ would cause the collapse of the necessary forms of primary products that were essential for the maintenance of our civil population and also for supplies to the services “. So far, there had not been any collaboration between the Department of War Organization of Industry, the Department of Labour and National Service, and his department to try to solve the situation that had arisen. The Cabinet Man-power Sub-Committee now had the matter under survey, and Mr. Scully was hopeful that it would evolve the solution.
– The statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) that the Government had taken a liberal view of the needs of primary industries contrasts strangely with the view of the Minister for Commerce that those industries have been bled white. I fully realize, with the honorable member for Richmond and the Minister for Supply and Development, that all sorts of plans can be drawn and all sorts of machinery created, but that nothing can be accomplished without man-power. The man-power of the Commonwealth is limited. Not only the armies, Australian and Allied, but also the people must be fed. We also have the duty to supply to Great Britain as much food as we can spare. I put our needs in this order: Fighting forces, armaments, food, and the maintenance of public morale. Food, however, is not less essential than men or munitions, because without it armies cannot fight and public morale collapses. I well remember marching 240 miles on the heels of the beaten German Army in 1918. When we reached the Rhine, it became apparent to us that the collapse of the armed resistance of the German Empire had been largely owing to the collapse of the spirit of the people as the result of the food shortage brought about by the British blockade. I should not say that a similar collapse could occur in this country, but it is conceivable that it could occur in other countries which are fighting on our side unless they be supplied with sufficient food. The Minister for Supply and Development has told us about the appointment of the Central Food Council. The scheme seems sound, but I hope that the council will get on to the job quickly in order that the primary producers may learn what is required of them. The general secretary of the Primary’ Producers Union, New South Wales, Mr. J. L. Shute, is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day as having said -
The position has become so serious that primary producers must have an authoritative statement about future requirements of essential foods. If normal production of dairy produce, pig meats and vegetables is necessary, the Government must make adequate manpower available, and guarantee farmers an equitable price for the goods produced. If these products are not required in normal or increased quantities, producers should be informed.
I suggest to the Minister for Commerce, who is the vice-chairman of the Central Food Council, that that is one of the things that this council must ascertain at the earliest possible moment. I hope that a fairly heavy percentage will (be added for war wastage, because losses in wartime are terrific.
This war is one and indivisible, and I was pleased to hear the Minister for Supply and Development say that he fully realized that we had to extend ourselves to the utmost in order to send supplies to Great Britain and to other Allied countries as well as to feed ourselves, because, if Great Britain, Russia or the United States of America should go down, this country of 7,000,000 people will be forced to stand up unsupported against the Japanese hordes. We must, therefore, strain ourselves to the limit in order that we may throw our primary and other products into the battles of the Atlantic and Europe. Up to the present time there has been very little planning of food production in Australia. The Minister for Supply and Development was right when he said that Australians had been living in a kind of pioneering age. Almost until the end of last year the acute shortage of man-power which is noticeable to-day had not occurred. The Government must make every effort to achieve an adequate balance of manpower in the different industries. Probably some of the reserved occupations deserve closer examination. I cannot believe that it is essential to have men collecting tram and bus fares in New South Wales when women are doing that sort of work in Melbourne, and doing it very well. It is anomalous that men should be tied to jobs like that, while other men are being torn away from the task of producing commodities that are vital to this country, to our Mother Country, and to the other nations with which we are waging this war of the democracies against the totalitarian States. The Minister for Labour and National Service should review this matter, and, if he does not do so, Cabinet should examine his methods of administering his department. Cases have been cited in this House to-day of men being called up for military service from dairy farms and having to put their herds up for sale on markets that cannot absorb cattle during the winter period. I should like to read to honorable members a letter on this subject which I received only this morning from the wife of a farmer in the Glen Innes district of the New England electorate.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I want to analyse the case that has been submitted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in support of his motion. The honorable gentleman made much of his contention that we are faced with an imminent shortage of food; he even: said that a shortage was already upon us.
– That is true in certain instances. Take . potatoes as an example.
– The honorable gentleman did not adduce any evidence in support of his statement.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that there is no shortage of potatoes?
– The honorable member mentions one article of diet by interjection now, but during his speech he did not mention any product of which there was a shortage.
– What about bacon? The Minister for Supply and Development confirmed my arguments in his appeals to the farmers to grow more primary products because of existing shortages.
– Letus examine the position of some of the primary products. Both the honorable member for Richmond and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred to butter. The truth is that large quantities of butter are held in cool storage in ‘all States. Stocks are considerably larger than they were at the corresponding period of last year.
– We do not know what stocks were held last year. The Minister’s statement might mean anything.
– The stocks held last year were the responsibility of the Government which was supported by the honorable member forCorangamite. It had its own policy about man-power.
– There might have been only 10 tons in storage last year, and the Minister’s statement might mean that we have only 20 tons in stock now.
– The honorable member suggests that there was an inordinately small quantity in storage last year. If that be the case, the Government which the honorable member supported must take the blame. The fact is that the butter position is very much better now than it was last year. One of the great difficulties in planning butter production is that of trying to comply with the wishes of the British Government, which has changed its demands from time to time. In the first instance, it asked for a certain quantity of butter.
– How much?
– I am not dealing with figures at the moment. The British Government first asked for a certain quantity of butter. Later, it said that it did not want so much butter, but wanted more cheese.
– That is generally known.
– I am pointing out the difficulty of arranging for the production of butter when the British Government cannot give us any definite information, and, in fact, changes its demands from time to time.
-We shall not be able to produce either cheese or butter if the cows go dry.
– I shall deal with that point in a moment.
– Did not the British Government revise its orders because so many ships with refrigerated space had been sunk?
– I am dealing with the difficulty of arranging for supplies of butter when one of the chief consumers is so indefinite about its requirements.
– The honorable gentleman ought to complain to the German Navy about that.
– I am not complaining; I am merely stating a case. The honorable member for Richmond, by interjection1, mentioned potatoes. Last year there was a record crop of potatoes, and we did not know what to do with them. Now, simply because there has been an abnormally bad season this year, there is a very small crop of potatoes. It is impossible for a government to order weather conditions to suit its requirements. With such a large crop last year, it was inevitable that some of the people who had grown large quantities and received low prices for them should decide not to grow potatoes this year and to switch to some other crop.
The Government is confronted with many difficulties in planning the production of foodstuffs. First, it must assess the scale of production which it requires to be carried out. It must take into consideration the size of the civilian population, the numbers of Allied troops who have come here in order to assist in the defence of Australia, and also the demands made by the British Government. In peace-time we had a surplus of primary products for export, but the British Government cannot take all that surplus now, which means that the outlet for a large proportion of our crops is considerably restricted. Having decided what scale of production is required to meet these various needs, the Government must decide how much manpower shall be left in the primary production field in order to enable that scale of production to be reached. That decision eventually is given effect by the granting of exemptions from military service.
– Nobody has been making general decisions. Each man-power officer has been making his own decisions.
– That is incorrect. The Minister for Supply and Development has mentioned the various authorities that have been set up to examine this matter. I wish to make it abundantly clear that the Government has to deal with a very difficult problem. Having assessed the scale of production that will be required, it must estimate what exemptions from the military callup will permit sufficient men to remain on the land in order to achieve that scale of production. Since this is a matterof judgment, there must be differences of opinion about it; the honorable member for Richmond might not agree with me about the man-power requirements for a particular scale of production. Some of the claims for exemption from military service which have been brought to my notice are of such a nature that it is obvious that those honorable members who support them are not endeavouring to use the man-power of the nation to the best advantage, but rather are endeavouring to secure favours for some of their electors. A case was brought to my attention not long ago in which a member of Parliament wanted an exemption to be granted to a primary producer. This man was leasing 100 acres of land on which he had 22 cattle, 40 sheep, and 3 horses. If exemptions were granted to all persons operating on a similar scale throughout the field of primary production the Government would not have enough men in the Army to meet the military requirements of the nation.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I regret that the time allowed for the discussion of this motion is limited.We all welcome the speeches by Ministers on this important problem, but the fact that four ministerial speeches were made has reduced the length of time available to other members who wish to participate in the debate. Nobody can take exception to what the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) said about the difficulties which confront the Government but one may emphasize to the latter that this problem cannot be solved merely by appointing committees of co-ordination and investigation, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has pointed out. The problem involves not only man-power questions, but also the question of whether the primary commodities concerned can be produced profitably or not. If the producers cannot make any profit from their goods, the consumers will not be able to buy them. I welcomed the statement by the Minister for Supply and Development with regard to the Government’s attitude towards Great Britain. Throughout this war Great Britain has done the majority of the Empire’s fighting, and, if the Empire should be success ful, the Mother Country will have been chiefly responsible. Surely, therefore, it is our duty to maintain the output of our primary industries at the highest possible point, and ensure that Great Britain shall not be deprived of its share of our products.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Great Britain has been so deprived?
– No; I am thinking of the future. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. [Ward) said that this was a party question, but I contradict him. I repeatedly criticized previous non-Labour Governments for not paying proper attention to what I regard as the third important part of our war effort. The first part is our fighting forces, and the second is out munitions programme, the third is the provision of adequate supplies of food and raw materials, and this necessitates the allocation of reasonable manpower resources to the primary industries. Therefore, I do not regard this as a party question. This Government has no doubt done a great deal of work, although much still remains to be done. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that honorable members on this side of the chamber who advocated conscription wanted to put every man into the Army. That was a ridiculous statement. No conscriptionist ever dreamed of putting every man into the Army. If there be any justification for the motion submitted by the honorable member for Richmond, it exists in a statement made by the head of the department which the Minister administers. On the 18th March, the Adelaide Advertiser published details of a letter written by the DirectorGeneral of Man-power, Mr. Wurth, appealing to the South Australian Trades and Labour Council for cooperation in finding sufficient labour for important seasonal industries. The report stated -
The letter stated that the Department of Labour and National Service felt that steps should be taken to make available for seasonal industries a mobile army of men, who, while on a seasonal register, should be exempt from military service. Recent call-ups had seriously depleted the amount of labour available, and the department felt that there was a grave danger of employees not being available for shearing, cane-cutting, cotton-picking, cold storage of meat and dairy products, slaughtering of meat, vegetable and fruit growing, jam and sauce making, wool-broking establishments, condensed milk production, egg-drying, salt harvesting and fruit picking and packing.
Those statements by Mr. Wurth justify the submission of the motion now before the House. This matter has been forced upon the attention of the House by the demands of consumers. Since the beginning of the war the primary producers have protested without avail against the lack of consideration shown for their man-power requirements. I first raised the matter when I wrote to the then Minister for Labour and National Service on the 27th February of last year, and I have been persistent in my efforts ever since, but very little has yet been achieved. However, governments are paying more attention to the problem now, because the general public is beginning to realize that there is likely to be a severe shortage of food products in the near future. What is the use of urging people to produce dried fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs if they are not provided with the labour necessary for production? Every body knows that the man-power resources of all branches of primary industry have been whittled down until only owners of about 60 to 65 years of age and youths are employed on most farms? I introduced a deputation to the Minister for War Organization of Industry in Melbourne in January, asking him to provide internees or prisoners of war for fruitpicking in the river Murray irrigation areas.
Some internees were made available to work in Victoria but, unfortunately, not in South Australia. Apparently our loss was Victoria’s gain. Despite the many protests that have been made to date very little has been done, and what has been achieved has been the result of the silent and slow but very effective pressure of public opinion. The people generally realize that neither for the troops nor for the ordinary civilians of this country, has adequate provision been made for the future supply of foodstuffs.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 709), on motion by Mr. Hollow ay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Despite the curiously held opinion of some members of the Government that they have a monopoly of consideration for the interests of invalid and old-age pensioners, I wish to say quite clearly that honorable members on this side of the House share the enthusiasm of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) in regard to this measure. We are pleased indeed that, amidst all the turmoil and financial stresses and strains of the war, the Government has seen its way clear to finance this measure. At some time or other, almost all the belligerent nations have claimed that they are fighting for a new social order and that unless there occurs a change of social relationships, the sacrifices that are now being exacted of the peoples of the world will be very largely in vain. I know that there are some people who will say “ Amen “ to that, but hold the opinion that the commencement of this new social order should be deferred until the sound of battle has died away. I do not agree with that view. I believe that we are more likely to succeed in this conflict if we are able to maintain the morale of the people by giving at least an instalment of this new social order by eliminating those inequalities which are most obvious and blatant to-day. The Minister was quite justified in pointing out in his second-reading speech that that has been the attitude of quite a number of the belligerent nations, particularly those which are included in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is true that in our invalid and old-age pensions legislation, provision is made for increases of pensions in accordance with rises of the cost of living, and, no doubt, some honorable members - they are not all on this side of the chamber if rumour be correct - think that because of this provision, no further enhancement of the pension rate should be made until the termination of hostilities. But that argument is equally true of the whole of our industrial wage system. There is specific provision in Arbitration Court awards for increases of wages to offset increases of the cost of living ; yet, are we not hearing, day ‘by day, of war loadings being granted to various workers, quite apart from automatic increases of the basic wage? If these loadings are presumed to be compensation for the anxieties and stresses of war exigencies, surely the invalid and old-age pensioners who share these anxieties and stresses with other sections of the community are also entitled to some consideration. At any rate, a pension of 25s. a week will not allow very much riotous living on the part of the recipient. Therefore, I wish to make it quite clear that I find no difficulty whatever in concurring in the increase of pension provided for in this measure. However, whilst that increase and the improvement of other conditions, are very satisfactory to the limited number of people who are able to qualify for the invalid and old-age pension, they are not quite so satisfactory to that very large body of people who are unable to fulfil the qualifications relating to property and income. So long as the social services of the Commonwealth depend for their continuance upon the provision of treasury funds, so long must there be a means test. I appreciate that; but the time has arrived - in fact it is long overdue - when that system of finance by treasury provision should be supplanted by some other system which would enable the means test to be forgotten. Security in old age will be a grossly incomplete thing in Australia until it is available ‘to all, and no*, merely to the few who are able to conform to certain, tests. Even the most sympathetic administration cannot overcome the difficulties which arc inherently associated with a pensions scheme such as that operating in Australia to-day. For instance, take the case of a person who, through care and thrift has been able to aggregate a sum of, say, £400, and has invested it in war 1-ans which give a return of about £14 a year or a little more than 5s. a week. That individual is automatically excluded from participation in the pen-
Sir Frederick Stewart. sion scheme, whereas if he had not made any effort to save that money, he would have been entitled to 25s. a week, paid fortnightly through the post office. It if not necessary for me to cite to honorable members instances of the many inequalities which arise from time to time in om pensions legislation, but I express the hope, which I am confident is shared by many honorable members, tha< very soon we shall see the present system of social services superseded by one which is more universal in its application. It if true that we have on the statute-book today, national insurance legislation which is designed to do the very thing which I am now advocating. “Why is that measure not in operation now? Because the Government of the day was told by financial advisers that it would be impossible to provide £2,000,000 per annum to finance the scheme without seriously disturbing the financial structure of the Commonwealth. I wonder what these financial advisers are thinking to-day. Since thai time, the Parliament of the Commonwealth has passed legislation providing for the expenditure of up to £13,000,000 a year on child endowment, and expenditure on the war has reached the colossal figure of approximately £1,000,000 a day. I am afraid that . far too long has the treasury view that social services can be financed only by means of surplus funds, prevailed. The care and sustenance of the aged and infirm is as much a charge on the national pool as is the wage of the workers in the community who are fit and well. Whilst the increase of the pensions rate is undoubtedly one of the most important features of this bill, that, of course, is not the only aspect from which it should be considered. Of the present increase of ls. 6d. a week now proposed to be given to pensioners, 6d. is due to legislation enacted during the regime of the Menzies Government, and of the total increase of 4s. since the rate was fixed at £1 ls. a week, ls. 6d. a week is due to legislation enacted at the instance of that Government, 2s. 6d. being due to legislation brought down by the present Government. Other features of the bill are also important. I am glad to know that this measure will remove what has been a blot on our social legislation ever since the passage of our pensions legislation. I refer to the removal of the disqualification for the pension of Australian aborigines. I am glad that I was a member of the Government that established the precedent of recognizing the right of aborigines to participate in the benefits of our social services. They are now obtaining the benefit of the child endowment legislation passed by the Menzies Government, and I am glad that that principle is being followed in the present bill, which will enable aborigines, at the discretion of the Commissioner of Pensions, to receive the pension. I am also glad to know that provision is being made to pay the pension to those persons who are described in this measure as “kanakas”, being the residue of imported labour used in Queensland many years ago in the production of sugar. There may ‘be some danger in leaving the definition of “kanaka” as it now stands in the bill, and I suggest that the matter should receive consideration at the hands of the Minister. It is gratifying to know that provision is being made to increase the permissible income of blind persons. The present legislation provides that all grades of pensioners may earn up to 12s. 6d. a week without affecting the pension, but there has always been a special provision with regard to blind persons. As the law stands at present, they may earn up to £3 17s. 6d. a week. I understand that that limit was fixed when it represented the amount of the Commonwealth basic wage, and the bill proposes to take that wage as the figure representing, the permissible total income of blind persons. That is also a feature of the bill with which I am in hearty accord.
Another provision of the measure, however, is not so acceptable to me. I refer to the method of computing the payments to pensioners who find it necessary to enter hospitals. The present practice under the statute is for pensioners who enter hospitals to have their pension suspended entirely for four weeks, after which they are entitled to a special hospital pension of 7s. 9d. a week, the other 1.5s. 9d. a week being paid direct by the department to the hospitals concerned. It is now proposed that the department should take no cognizance whatever of the entry of pensioners into hospitals ; in other words, the pension will continue, leaving the pensioners to make such arrangements as they desire with the hospitals. “When I was Minister for Social Services. I received many complaints from hospitals that they were being unfairly dealt with because during the first four weeks in hospital the pensioner received no payment from the department. Of course, the pension is payable on the patient leaving the hospital, but the hospital had then lost its opportunity to secure the portion of the pension to which it was entitled. If discussion* have not already begun with the hospitals on this matter, I suggest that they should be consulted before such a serious departure is made from the present practice. Whilst some hospitals have not been keen on taking even that portion of the pension to which they are entitled under the act, seeing that hospital financee are affected, they should have been consulted regarding this proposed amendment of the law.
It is not proposed to alter the arrangement whereby inmates of benevolent homes are paid a partial pension and the balance of the pension is paid direct to the homes. I regret that the longstanding discrimination against patients in mental hospitals is not to be removed under the bill. The present provision has never pleased me, and if an opportunity such as this bill provides had been presented to me, I should have seriously contemplated the removal of the discrimination against those patients. Even when this bill has been passed, patients on entry to mental hospitals will lose their pensions altogether, and these will not be restored until they leave the institutions, whether the time be two, four, six, or even eight weeks or years, later. I find difficulty in understanding why there should be any discrimination against a person suffering from a mental affliction as compared with one suffering from a physical affliction.
– The discrimination is really against the pensioners’ children.
– The answer (o that would be that the pension is paid for the maintenance of the pensioner, and not that of his children. The joint committee has dealt with the matter, and has recommended that certain allowances be paid to the dependants of pensioners.
– The children of the inmates of mental hospitals have to maintain the elderly patients, even though they be 70 years of age.
– The mental hospital authorities are a great deal more insistent on payment being made for the maintenance of inmates than are the hospital boards in respect of the maintenance of the inmates of ordinary State hospitals. I hope that the Minister will consider whether it is possible to remove the discrimination. If, as I believe it to be, the explanation is that the care of the physically afflicted is the responsibility of the State, that is equally true of the mentally sick; but, under this bill, it is proposed that the pension shall continue while the physically sick are inmates of hospitals and the pensions of the mentally sick shall be stopped immediately.
– It was for that reason that the Parliamentary Social Security Committee recommended that a consolidation of the Commonwealth social security legislation should be undertaken.
– In his second-reading speech the Minister indicated that it was the intention of the Government to proceed with the consolidation of the social security legislation. For too long have the artificial barriers of State boundaries created disparities in the treatment of persons living in different States. I hope that the Government will pursue its policy of taking over the various social services throughout the Commonwealth so that citizens in each part of Australia will be able to share equally in the benefits of the legislation. [ trust that the present system of social services, based as it is on Treasury benevolence, will soon be supplanted by a system under which every member of the community will contribute during his working years and be able, in time of affliction or old age, to obtain the benefits provided for him.
.- I agree with much of what has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) who has spoken on behalf of the Opposition members. It was with pleasure that I heard him say that some Opposition members shared the enthusiasm of Government supporters for this measure. I am also in agreement with his remarks in regard to the need for a new social order, and the reasons he advanced for improving our social services. Although it may not be generally accepted, many leading thinkers of the day are advocating social reforms at present rather than at the end of the war. He also subscribes to this view. In my opinion, we should proceed systematically to improve social services, not only old-age pensions, but also in many other ways. The claim that the time is not opportune for the Commonwealth to deal with social legislation has always been used by those who are opposed to such reforms. There are still many anomalies in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, and I am not unmindful of the fact that previous governments did something to rectify some of those anomalies, particularly while the honorable member for Parramatta was Minister for Social Services. Had he had his way on all occasions probably many other improvements would have been made. The anomalous provision of a £400 property limit has prevented many people from obtaining old-age pension. Because of their thrift, they have been able to accumulate a small amount of property and have thereby been precluded from participation in the benefits of the act. I have been interested to hear of the fate of the National Insurance Act. It is not permissible at this juncture to discuss that act at length, but when the bill dealing with that subject was before the House Opposition members of the day, particularly the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), persistently and effectively pointed out the anomalies in that measure which would prevent it from functioning as a satisfactory national insurance scheme.
Proper provision for social services is as important as wage rates, and I am in entire agreement with the honorable member for Parramatta on that subject.
It was with pleasure that I noticed that aborigines are provided for in the bill. I commend the Minister for Social Services and the Government for their prompt action in honouring the promise of the Labour party that invalid and old-age pensions would be increased to £1 5s. a week. Even in the present critical stage of the war, when all the resources of the nation are needed for the war effort, I believethat the increased benefits to be granted to pensioners under this bill are fully justified. Nothing less should be granted. In his secondreading speech the Minister gave a broad outline of the social services policy of the Government, of which this bill forms part. The Government regards the social welfare of the people as of secondary importance only to the demands of the war, and there is nothing incongruous in its determination to put its policy into effect concurrently with the nation’s war exertions.
The urgent need for consolidation of our social security legislation is appreciated by all members. The Parliamentary Social Security Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, dealt effectively with that question in its first interim report presented in September last, when it recommended that the consolidation should be undertaken as soon as possible and that a Commonwealth Social Security Act administered by the Department of Social Services be passed, the scope of the act to be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all Commonwealth social legislation. Any legislation passed in the future should be included from time to time as part of the social security planfor Australia. I trust that the Minister will take early action to have such a measure drafted, and that it will be presented to this House in the very near future. In its first interim report, the Joint Committee on Social Security drew attention to the advances in social legislation that bad been made in other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America. It stressed the need for Australia to make up the leeway by a plan of social development, incorporating protection of the family against poverty and hardship. Implementation of the policy underlying a Commonwealth Social Security Act would be a first step in this direction. In urging its early introduction and adoption, I wish to make it clear that I fully appreciate that the first call upon our resources must be for the successful prosecution of the war, and that during the present critical stage of the struggle, we cannot hope to introduce all the social security measures that we regard as necessary to the contentment of the Australian people or the provision on their behalf of essential safeguards against social insecurity. A number of these must be deferred until the war situation and economic circumstances permit their introduction. It is important at this stage, however, that a legislative framework of social legislation be introduced, embracing basis principles, and allowing for the incorporation of security measures as they are adopted by Parliament in the future. If this be done, a contribution will be made towards post-war social security, which, as time goes on, will prove increasingly beneficial and provide an essential basis upon which to develop post-war security. The Government has already gone a long way by removing objectionable anomalies that existed in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, under the measure now before the House. This represents a considerable liberalization of our pensions legislation. 1 should like to have the Ministers assurance that administrative action in regard to a number of important constructive proposals in relation to social security development will not be deferred. First, there is the matter of homes for pensioners. I realize that the shortage of labour and materials, in conjunction with the man-power question generally, makes it very difficult to give effect to these proposals at present; but I put it to the House that pensioners are grossly exploited by unscrupulous land-lords, who charge extortionate rents for single rooms with the most meagre and even crude conveniences.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– Members of the Joint Committee on Social Security inspected some of the homes of old-age pensioners, and found that, in many instances, there was a total absence of those amenities which should properlybe enjoyed by the pioneers who now, in the evening of their lives, have fallen on hard times.
The bill also provides for the vocational training of invalid pensioners, and for the training of invalids who have not yet reached the age of sixteen years, when they become eligible for an invalid pension. There is also a provision for the engagement of trained social workers to assist in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and other social legislation. These are positive measures which will confer important benefits, psychological and economic, upon the sick and indigent.
The bill provides for an increase of the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions to 25s. a week, and the Government is also to be commended upon having provided that the pension shall not fall below 25s. without the express approval of Parliament. I am glad that the Government has retained the provision for the automatic variation of the rate of pension in accordance with the cost of living index figure, because this will entitle pensioners to an increase should there be a rise in the Cost of living. The benefits of this far outweigh any additional administrative cost that might be involved.For the first time in the history of Australia provision is made for the provision of social benefits to aborigines.
– Not the first time ; child endowment has been paid to aborigines.
– That is true, but aborigines have not, up to the present, been eligible to receive invalid and oldage pensions. This measure, therefore, represents an improvement of our attitude to the original owners of Australia, and confers upon them a measure of justice which has been too long delayed. Surely no one has a greater right to be protected against destitution than has the Australian aboriginal. Because of the extremely primitive conditions under which most aborigines live, it is necessary to restrict these benefits for the present to those whose living conditions are more or less similar to our own. This measure will, I believe, help to inculcate a higher standard of citizenship in large numbers of aborigines. I believe that the Government is justified, particularly in view of the comparatively small number involved, in providing for the payment of pensions to kanakas who settled many years ago in the northern part of Australia.
I am convinced that the action of the Government in thus providing greater benefits for invalid and old-age pensioners will meet with general approval in this House and throughout the country. Australia is a country blessed with great natural resources, and we must move forward - perhaps slowly at present - towards the provision of improved social conditions for every one as a guarantee against hardship and poverty. We must ensure that every adult is physically and mentally equipped to assume the responsibilities of citizenship, and that every child has sufficient food and clothing, and the opportunity to fit itself to take its proper place in the community. To this end we must plan for the future so that, as we approach the period of post-war reconstruction we shall have schemes developed for the re-employment of the large number of men and women who will be released from the fighting service* and from war-time industries, and who will be seeking to re-establish themselves in the economic life of the country. There is a real danger that, owing to the gravity of the war situation, we may be tempted to overlook this important aspect. In conclusion, I cannot do better than quote briefly from the remarks of President Roosevelt to the recent International Labour Office Convention at Washington. He said -
In the process of our working and fighting for victory, he said, we must never permit ourselves to forget the goal that is beyond victory. The defeat of Hitlerism is necessary so that there may be freedom; but this war, like the last war, will produce nothing but destruction unless we prepare for the future now. We plan now for the better world that we aim to build.
If that world is to be a place in which peace is to prevail, there must be a more abundant life for the masses of the people of all countries. In the words of the document that you know of under the name of the Atlantic Charter, we “desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security.”
There are so many millions of people in this world who have never been adequately fed and clothed and housed. By undertaking to provide a decent standard of living for these millions, the free peoples of the world can furnish employment to every man and every wowan who seeks a job.
And so we are already engaged in surveying the immediate post-war requirements of a world whose economies have been disrupted by war.
We are planning not to provide temporary remedies for the ills of a stricken world; we are planning to achieve permanent cures - to help establish a sounder life. [ hope that this bill is the forerunner of other social legislation designed to improve the living standards of the people. I hope, also, that we shall not allow ourselves to be deceived by assertions that we lack the money necessary to improve social conditions. The theory that things cannot be done because of a lack of money has been exploded during the last year or two, and the people of Australia and of the other democracies will never again be content with things as they were. On the foundation of their democratic institutions they will build a fuller and better way of life.
.- This bill will meet with general approval throughout Australia. I do not propose to discuss -the measure in detail, but content myself with suggesting that the amount which oldage pensioners are allowed to earn without disqualifying themselves for a pension should be increased beyond 12s. 6d. a week. I say that in spite of the fact that such a provision would increase the number of pensioners. As against that, it would have the advantage of releasing for war work a large number of men who, though not representing firstclass labour, would be able to make a valuable contribution to production. I should like to see the amount increased to at least £1 a week.
I desire to address my remarks particularly to the part which this bill will play in the general scheme of our social services. Naturally enough, the winning of the war comes first at present, but after that our programme is very vague. It has been said that we should put our own house in order before setting out to establish a better world order. Victory is essential, but victory alone is not enough ; we must decide what we want, economically and socially, and then set out to achieve it. The Atlantic Charter prescribes the four freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of religious observance, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Those are the four sides to the square, but the square has to be filled in in greater detail. We should start now on the work of filling it in, and we should encourage other democratic countries to do the same. Hitler’s new order has been long proclaimed, and Germany is making war, not only with the sword, but also with ideas which are, in many instances, stronger than the sword. Hitler’s new order cannot be bought for 6d. at the bookstalls, but its principles are more clearly understandable than are those of the new order which the democracies talk about. His new order is founded on a very low estimate of human nature; it has its roots in the Nazi conception of the State, namely, that the State is the only thing that matters, that the individual lives only for the State, and that the spiritual outlook and morality of the individual can be moulded by compulsion. That order is being broadcast to-day, not only in Germany, but also throughout the world, as one of the highest ideals of humanity. The state of affairs which that particular order has brought into being in Germany has actually produced much of positive value in that country. The worker has been given security of employment, reasonable stability of prices, housing, and amenities during leisure; and he has been promised a people’s car. The industrialists in Germany have been given new industries and security of markets. Under this order, Germany as a whole has recovered self-respect, and a considerable measure of prestige in the eyes of the world by force of arms. On the economic side, Germany’s plan means the domination of Europe, the breaking down of all trade barriers, and control of finance, industry and markets. Supply will be provided by the countries subject to German domination, and Germany will be the consumer. This new order has attained wide acceptance in not only Germany but also in other countries, for instance, South America. If we are to fight Germany we should fight it not only with arms but also with ideas. We must work out these ideas ourselves. What has happened in Germany is this : While, no doubt, hundreds of thousands of Germans hate the new order, at the same time, hundreds of thousands - and this is undeniable - are imbued with fanaticism in the carrying out of Germany’s new order, not only inside, but also outside, Germany. The latter see in that new order a messianic mission; and it is this fanaticism which represents the main difficulty we are up against to-day. We must, therefore, evolve ideas which will capture the mind of the world to a greater degree. It cannot be denied that Germany is achieving a large measure of success by force of arms. It is our duty to do something to counteract, not only Germany’s arms, but also its ideas. Whatever we may say about Germany’s new order, and the fanaticism which that order produces, it is nevertheless true that, to-day, there is to be found among the people of Germany an inspiration which far transcends anything that is to be found among the democratic peoples. The Germans have ideas for which they are fighting. Our ideas, apparently, are still negative. I repeat, therefore, that we must set about working out ideas of our own new order to counter-act Germany’s ideas and in order that w» may carry our mission throughout the world, as we have done in the past. In ibis country, to-day, many people do not realize the imminence of the danger that confronts us. It has been truly said that the strongest urge within man is the urge for existence. However, thousands of people, either because of their remoteness from the scene of conflict, or because of their inability to understand the implications of present events, are unable to comprehend the danger in which our country stands. Many of these people are obsessed by the difficulties which they have experienced in the past, and are imbued with the new theories which have swept through the world during the last twenty years. They are discontented with the present social order. They are fearful that when this war comes to an end they will still be faced with the same old order. Moreover, they are unconvinced by the pious platitudes which fall from the lips of politicians, and are published in the press. What these people require is some indication that something definite will’ be done to alter the present social order, and that their leaders are planning a better future for them and their children. I do not think that we can expect to go forward with brave and hopeful hearts to the conflict if we think that we are going to come out of it as destitute as we went into it.
It has been said that the present is not the time to plan; that, in the turmoil of war, it is impossible to lay down foundations for any future order, because such foundations would be unstable. The bricks are lying about us to-day; but these people argue that the site for the proposed construction has not yet been surveyed, and, in many respects, no site at all has been decided upon. Therefore, it is impossible now to plan for the future. I cannot agree with that contention. I believe that now is the time to plan for the future. Unless we start to do so immediately, we shall not be able to give the inspiration essential to the development of a strong and healthy society in the future. The sooner we start to plan comprehensively for the future, the greater the scope of our planning, the greater will be the likelihood of its acceptance by the people as a whole, and the greater the measure of inspiration we can hope to impart. History shows that ideas are stronger than the sword. Whilst in the last war, we triumphed by force of arms, it is certainly true that that triumph was accelerated to a very great degree by the ideas put forward by the democratic countries, in particular, Wilson’s fourteen points. They had an enormous effect upon German opinion. It is something of that kind that we should put forward to the world to-day. So far we have not done so.
The second point I wish to make is in respect of social legislation in this country. So far, this legislation has been dealt with in piecemeal fashion. The first step was to institute the old-age pension in 1908. That has been followed by a number of other measures; but these have been entirely unconnected, and, so far as I am aware, they have emerged as the result of bargaining by political parties endeavouring to outbid each other. The result has been that our social services are not connected, and are not based on a scientific plan.Whilst twenty years ago, Australia was able to make the proud claim that it led the world in social legislation, to-day we have fallen far behind many countries in that respect. I mention, for instance, Great Britain, the United States of America, the Scandinavian countries and New Zealand. The time has come when we should make up that leeway, and set to work to devise a coherent and comprehensive plan to coordinate our social services in an efficient and practical whole. The sooner we start upon that work the better. During the last two decades the greatest cause of social insecurity has been the fact that so many individuals have been filled with a sense of frustration and anxiety. This has produced political and social instability and unrest. These causes have been mainly responsible for the rise of Nazi-ism in Germany, and Communism in Russia. We must realize that, it is the business of a democratic country to ensure that not one of its citizens shall fall below a certain standard of health and economic security because of forces over which he or she has no control. That can, and must, be done. Many people strongly object to the institution of any large scale social service system. They urge that such paternalism on the part of a government will breed a race of irresponsible citizens ; that the principle of giving too much for too little will destroy initiative, and reduce the resourcefulness of the individual. I suggest that two principles should be applied to every individual in respect of social services. First, every citizen has with certain rights, certain obligations. To-day; we hear too much talk about the rights and far too little about the obligations. However, I believe that it is possible to establish a broader system of social services which will not produce the evils which certain people fear. This system can be established on two principles. The first is that every individual who comes under such a scheme must bear a financial responsibility in respect of the benefits he receives. He must make contributions towards the scheme. The second principle is to broaden our educational methods in order to teach the individual not only how to earn his living by the acquisition of technical and material knowledge, but also how to become an effective unit in the social system to which he belongs. If those two principles are preserved, the evil which many people fear will not eventuate. In Great Britain and in other countries it has been found, after social services have operated for many years, that this evil has not occurred. Great Britain has a large range of social services, and the savings of the general public are now far greater than they were before the introduction of social services.
I recommend the Government to formulate, without delay, a comprehensive scheme of social services. As I stated earlier, our objective, which is total victory, when it is reached, will be barren unless we find some way in which to achieve a total peace. The democratic countries seek no territorial gains; they do not propose to enslave other nations. But many thousands of people are longing for some form of security in the future and look to their leaders to show them the path that they should follow. Our road is well defined. The only way in which we can obtain a full realization of our aims is through the gates of victory. If we formulate our plans now, we shall produce that inspiration for the people which, at present, seems to be lacking.
.- I congratulate the Government upon introducing this legislation for improving the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and I am gratified that the Ministry has honoured its promise to increase invalid and old-age pensions to 25s. a week. Although the amount is not a princely sum, it will assist pensioners to meet the cost of living which has risen sharply from month to month since the outbreak of war. It is pleasing to note that 25s. a week is the minimum pension, because provision is made for the rate to increase automatically as the cost of living rises.
I welcome the clause that entitles aborigines, who live under civilized conditions, to receive an invalid or old-age pension. This provision will remove a hardship that had been inflicted upon a considerable number of persons. Before they were granted a pension they had to prove that they were not predominantly of aboriginal blood. The proposed benefit should have been granted to certain aborigines many years ago and though belated, it is most welcome. In respect of other social benefits, the practice has been followed, where the recipients live in mission compounds, for the money to be paid to the authorities, who administer it on behalf of the aborigines. In1 my opinion, any person of aboriginal blood who is considered to he capable ‘ of handling, the money wisely, should receive the pension personally. The equivalent should not be doled out to them in the form of rations, tn their active years, they contributed to the development of the country, and are entitled to receive a pension on the same basis as any other citizen.
At present, an old-age pensioner is permitted to earn up to 12s. 6d. a week before his pension is affected. En my opinion, that amount should be increased, as I believe that the maximum permissible income, added to the pension1, is little enough to pay for rent,, clothing, blankets and the necessaries of life. This contention applies particularly to invalid pensioners, upon some of whom this restriction has inflicted considerable hardship because of the need of medicines, &c. An invalid pensioner is permitted to receive 12s. 6d. a week, provided the money comes from a source upon which he is not required to expend any effort. If the amount of 12s. 6d. is a gift, or income from property, the invalid pensioner is permitted to draw the full pension. But if by some slight effort he earns 12s. 6d. a week, the department deems him not to be totally and permanently incapacitated.
– An invalid pensioner is no longer required to be totally and permanently incapacitated before becoming eligible for a pension.
– I believe that the department now allows 85 per cent, incapacity; but if the invalid pensioner earns a small income, his pension is reduced. He is placed on a different footing from that of an old-age pensioner. I should like to see an extension of the pensions scheme on the same basis as family endowment. Endowment is paid in respect of all children of a family with the exception of the first and regardless of the income of the parents. That is an excellent idea, because it removes the impression that a person must be almost a pauper before he may receive a social benefit In my opinion, the pensions scheme should be extended to all persons in the community. Regardless of their earnings, they should be entitled to participate in the national dividend. If they became unemployed, they would still share in the national dividend and would not be compelled to apply for the miserable dole, as people were during the economic depression. One of the greatest fears in life is economic insecurity. Many people live from day to day in fear of what the morrow will hold for them. I recommend that 25s. should be paid to the husband, 25s. to the wife, and 5s. in respect of each child. That would be a guaranteed income to a family whether or not the husband had employment. The adoption of this plan would represent a remarkable social advance. Wages would be affected accordingly, and industry could be taxed for the purpose of providing this national dividend.
At present, an aged couple experience great difficulty in providing from their combined pensions rent for a comfortable and respectable dwelling. Government housing schemes should include homes for invalid and old-age pensioners at reasonable rentals, and I hope that in the very near future, legislation will be introduced to achieve this objective.
Another matter to which I desire to draw attention is most important. A husband might be receiving an invalid pension, and his wife might decide to seek employment in order to augment the family income. If the husband is receiving the proposed full rate of pension of £1 5s. a week, his wife will be permitted to earn a similar sum before his pension is effected. If the wife should earn £2 a week, onehalf of that amount would be charged as income to the, husband and his pension would be reduced accordingly. He would be permitted to receive an income of 12s. 6d.” a week but because of the wife’s earnings, his pension would be reduced by 7s. 6d. a week. That is> definitely an anomaly. If the husband and wife were each receiving a pension and one of the parties were earning £2 a week, each of them would be entitled to £1 17s. 6d. a week, which includes the pension and earnings, and their combined income would be £3 15s. a week. If the husband alone receives a pension and his wife works, the combined incomes would be reduced by 17s. 6d. a week. ‘ I am sure that the Minister will rectify that anomaly, now that I have brought the matter to his notice.
I join with other honorable members in stating that, although war expenditure has increased the Commonwealth budget to £350,000,000 a year, this is the appropriate time for Parliament to increase social benefits. As I stated earlier, £1 5s. a week is not a princely sum, and pensioners are not likely to be accused of being guilty of extravagant spending upon non-essential goods, thus absorbing man-power that is required for war industries. The invalid and old-age pension is one of the most important payments that Australia is making to the people. Aged persons, during their working life, contributed to the national wealth. For their great pioneering work, the country owes them a substantial debt and the pensions which they are granted are something to which they are justly entitled. The payments are definitely not a charitable gift to them from the nation. [ hope that the Minister will cover the points that I have raised regarding a wife and invalid husband, the payment of pensions to aborigines, the income limit and provision for housing and other social benefits for pensioners.
– My views upon the subject of invalid and old-age pensions are well known to honorable members. The title of this bill is wrong. It should read “Bigger, better, brighter and more beautiful pensions for everybody “. There must be some limit beyond which even this Government cannot go in the payment of pensions and when I refer to “this Government” I do not confine my remarks to honorable members opposite. There are quite a few honorable gentlemen, who, somewhat mistakenly, remain on this side of the chamber. No doubt their true judgments will bring them some day over here, where they belong. The argument that now, when this country is struggling for its existence, and when the Japanese are threatening a major invasion of our coasts, is the time to talk about a new order and to increase the burdens on the shoulders of the taxpayers, is an argument to which I cannot subscribe. It is only in a community like this, which is pervaded by a sense of complete and utter irresponsibility, that such a proposal could be made. There is no sense of reality about these matters in this Commonwealth. There are many problems facing the nation, and there are many obligations that this Government and this Parliament can honour. I know that the Government carries many obligations, and later it will carry many more. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has been pressed in such a way this afternoon that I am sure the Government will have to attach a label to him, so that he will know himself.
– He is at least constructive, not destructive, as the honorable member for Barker always is.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is getting red in the face. The old Rome Beauty certainly comes from Tasmania. When the honorable member for Wimmera and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) sat on this side of the House, important contracts - if I may use that term in this place - were entered into between the Opposition, my friends, and the wheat-growers of Australia. As the expenditure of public money is involved in this bill, may I ask the honorable member for Wimmera to stand up and say what he intends to do about those contracts? It is time some one in authority stated what it is intended to do to honour the obligation freely and publicly entered into between the present Government, its supporters, and the wheat-growers, who were asked to do a certain thing at a certain price, but who have not received their money. Before we entered the war, I said that certain things would be changed if war broke out. I told the then members of the Opposition, who are now members of the Government, and who opposed the compilation of a national register, that if they were in power they would turn around and do what they would not to agree to do at that. time. I told them that if the country were faced with invasion, and if an invasion took place, they would not he able to maintain arbitration court awards and the then conditions of employment.
– The honorable member said that this country would never be invaded.
– I did not say that. I am one of those who believe in doing my bit overseas, and not at home. Some of my friends think that when we are engaged in war we should bomb and blast our own territory, but I believe in bombing the other fellow. The Labour party cannot expect to increase social benefits while terrific burdens are being placed on the people by the war. It is doing certain things, the effect of which will not appear for a little while, and it is my earnest wish that when those effects do appear, it will still be in power to deal with the difficult and delicate problems that it is now, with the assistance of one or two members on the Opposition side of the House, creating. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) likes to talk about the new social order, but that does not help when we have an overdraft of a few millions and have more millions to pay than the overdraft limit permits. We cannot divert man-power, materials, and other elements of production into destructive channels and, at the same time, give everybody better and more attractive benefits.
I am not one of those who say that the world order is perfect; nothing in this world is perfect, but I agree entirely with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that a definite relationship should be established between social benefits and social obligations. There is too much talk in this House about what people are entitled to receive from the Government, but too little about what people are expected to do, not for the Government, but for themselves. If there were a greater measure of thrift and self-help, there would be less necessity for a bill such as we have before us to-night. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has talked on this subject, and I am amazed that he has not, with his usual eloquence, suggested that where an old- age pension is granted a brand new bright house should be added. That suggestion could be further improved, and if the Government wishes me to do so I will make further suggestions in committee. In that event even the Government might say that the cup of benefits was full to the brim, or even overflowing. I know that the numbers are against me. I realize that certain people in the community, and a large majority of members of this House, have decided that the Government is an everlasting Father Christmas, who can come down the chimney every night, it necessary, so that everybody can live happily for 24 hours. A day of reckoning is coming, and I am afraid it may be with us before we are through with the war.
– The honorable member receives his share from the Commonwealth Government.
– How much salary does the honorable member receive from the Commonwealth ?
– I am not receiving any military pay while I am here, but I have no doubt that if the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) were in uniform, he would be drawing two salaries. For his personal information, he can receive his cheque from the pay office if he likes. I do not want anything out of the war if I am not entitled to it.
– We want to be quite clear as to whether the honorable member is receiving two salaries.
– The honorable member for Watson would be prone to think of something like that.
– The honorable member is complaining because pensioners are to receive 25s. a week.
– I happen to be one of the poor men in this Parliament, but I am one of the proud ones too. Whether it is the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson) or some one else, I can look him and the whole thundering lot of them in the face, inside or outside this House, and that is something that some members on the other side would not care to do to me at times. The Government is going too far with its benefits. It has declared that the hospitals will not receive payment from pensioner patients. In that event, who will maintain the hospitals, which cannot be built and maintained without money? If people go to a hospital, whether they be pensioners or not, they should be prepared to pay something towards the upkeep of the institution. It is all very well for the Government to say that the money can be obtained by a wonderful method of juggling with the currency, but there is an old saying that
The cards beat the player “. If the Government juggles with the money system, the money system will beat the Government before it has gone far.
There are aborigines in my electorate, and I do not agree that the Government should extend benefits to them. I know something about them, and, taking them as a class, they are not over-enthusiastic in doing a little toil. If social benefits are handed out, there is a strong suspicion that much of the money will not be used in a desirable way. Therefore, £ have to take my stand with the small majority of members of this house and say that the Government has gone too far. The time is coming when we should have inspections of the areas where the benefits are to be paid in order to find out what is being done with the money. For that purpose, we shall require persons with a clear insight, who do not accept statements on trust. I have no doubt that there are members in this House who, if they would state what they know, could cause the House to pause and think before it agrees to the proposal before it. This Parliament is proceeding in a happy, caref ree manner, but we await the day of reckoning. When that day comes, there will be a few members on the Opposition side who will have an account to render, for which I at least will accept payment in the only coin that is politically recognized in this place. My friends on both sides know what that is.
– I commend the Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) for bringing down this important proposal for social legislation. I do not agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that it will fill the cup of social benefits for the people who are helped. If is in some respects only a very small contribution to their amenities of life, but it will be welcomed by them pending the introduction of a wider measure of social security as advocated by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who dealt with the various matters recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security, in the work of which he took a prominent part. There is no need for us to take the negative attitude adopted by the honorable member for Barker. It may be appropriate for him to lament the cost of social legislation, but there is a more effective way to meet the situation. The time is approaching when some constructive proposal should he presented to provide a plan for social security, and for something in the nature of national insurance. National insurance legislation was passed by this Parliament, but, except for insignificant parts, never proclaimed. The cost of social services is increasing considerably. This year invalid and oldage pensions will absorb about £20,000,000, repatriation pensions about £10,000,000 and child endowment about £12,000,000, a total of more than £40,000,000. As the result of this war the cost of repatriation pensions will rise greatly, and I dare say that it will not be long before Australia’s annual social services bill will amount to £100,000,000. Honorable members will remember that the first war-time budget introduced by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) contemplated the expenditure of about £100,000,000 on normal need’s and on the war. The only way out of the situation is a system of national health insurance under which the people will in their working years contribute to a fund which will enable them in their declining years to receive something - call it a national dividend or anything you like. The aged people would much rather receive the pensions as a right than as charity as at present. 1 agree with the honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that now is the time to prepare for the new era of social justice. The honorable member foi Flinders appropriately contrasted our approach to the lot of the less fortunate people of the community to the approach of our enemies. Not long ago I read that in Germany about 100,000 aged and infirm people were quietly slain because they were of no further use to the community. Australians could never adopt such callous measures, not even the honorable member for Barker.
Another welcome provision in this legislation is the long overdue increase of the permissible income of blind pensioners. There are many anomalous provisions in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act which should be amended now, and should not await the promised wider measure of social legislation. One” anomaly is the limitation to £400 of the value of property, other than their homes, which may be possessed by recipients of a pension. That creates many inequalities. A couple who put their savings into a home for their old age cannot apply for and obtain a pension unless they live in the home, but had they invested those savings in assurance policies or in shares, or even in a vacant piece of land, the value of which exceeds £400 each, they are denied the pension. That provision reacts harshly on such people, but especially on those whose savings are invested in a vacant block of land because of the restrictions imposed upon the transfer of land under war-time conditions. Having no income, and being debarred from drawing a pension, they have to rely on outside support. I submit that the permissible property limit should be raised. Likewise, I agree with the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) and the honorable member for Flinders that the permissible income of pensioners should be raised. The limit of 12s. 6d. a week is very small. Many invalid and old-age pensioners are desirous of helping the war effort. In my electorate the Lidcombe Old Men’s Home and the Newington Home for Women house about 5,000 pensioners, many of whom are most anxious to help in the war effort, but, without surrendering their pension, either in whole or in part, they are not allowed to earn more than 12s. 6d. a week. That with their pension is a mere pittance, .and is wholly inadequate to enable them to live sufficiently well to work. Most of these old people would rather wear out than rust out.
.- I am in agreement with certain of the views expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The time has arrived when people who derive social service benefits should contribute in some measure, during the years in which they are able to provide for themselves, to a fund which will enable the old-age pension to be paid to them irrespective of their financial position. If we are to go on year after year in this way with governments seeking to catch votes by the promises of greater and greater benefits, the time must come when our financial system will crack under the weight imposed upon it, and the very benefits which are desired to be bestowed will be lost. It is very easy to be generous, but when one is being generous one ought to be in a position to know that one’s generosity will be lasting. The Government by introducing legislation of this character shows that it is more concerned with vote-catching expedients than with the economic possibilities of the legislation. I doubt whether the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) or the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) have given much consideration to the financial implications of this legislation. It has been said thai we could have done what is proposed to be done in this measure long ago, thai if we can expend £1,000,000 a day on the prosecution of the war, surely we can expend a. few million pound? on conferring social benefits on the people; but there are many reasons which make it extremely difficult to do so without imposing upon the community a burden which it is not, in a position to carry, and which in effect will create business stagnation and slown down thieconomic activity of the community. It is impracticable for this country or any other country to extend social legislation beyond a certain limit. Every country would be glad to make life easier for its citizens; but there are limits, and I do not think that the Government ha* given sufficient thought to that aspect of the matter. Its thoughts have been bound by the vote-catching possibilities of increasing the rate of invalid and old-age pensions by a further 2s. 6d. a week. On the one hand, we have the Prime Minister (Mr.
Curtin), the Treasurer, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and most senior ministers constantly exhorting the community to reduce expenditure on civil goods, and on the other hand the Minister lor. Social Services introducing legislation which will add £500,000 to the purchasing power of a section of the community and increase the demand for civil goods. Is this then an appropriate moment to increase pensions, not in accordance with the rise in the cost of living, for pensions have already risen in that respect, but in order to increase the spending power of the pensioners by an extra 2s. Gd. a week? That cannot square with the Government’s policy to reduce the consumption of civil goods and it is completely out of accord with the general war policy of the Government. Every member on this side is in favour of granting to the pensioners all that can be granted, but, if that means more than the country can carry, the ultimate effect will be to do injury to the very people whose support is being sought by this specious means. It is necessary to take a long distance view, not a view of to-day or to-morrow, but a view of what will happen in, say, 20 years’ time. Having been a president of a hospital board for a number of years and knowing, therefore, something about the needs of hospitals, I dislike the proposal to remove the necessity upon pensioners immediately they enter hospital to contribute a substantial part of their pension to meet the cost of their maintenance.
– Some hospital committees have refused to accept payment for treatment given to pensioners.
– I do not know of any such hospital committee, but I am aware that most of the hospitals throughout Australia are in a dire financial position. Most of them have strained their bank overdraft to the limit. Many patients who are treated in hospitals are old-age pensioners.
– Are the hospital committees to be dependent on contributions from old-age pensioners to restore them to a sound financial basis?
– No self-respecting hospital would deny admittance to an old-age pensioner who sought sanctuary within ils walls, but it is proper that a pensioner should be expected to contribute towards his upkeep while he is receiving treatment, because he would be under the necessity of maintaining himself if he were not in hospital. If pensioners are to be treated free, where are the hospitals to get the finance that would normally come from that sources - and it amounts to a considerable sum in the aggregate throughout the Commonwealth. The burden of financing hospitals will be placed on the State governments because they will have to make up the deficits. It means that the Commonwealth Government at the present critical juncture in the nation’s history is placing a burden upon the States which, I hazard a guess, will amount to approximately £250,000 annually.
– That is a very rough guess.
– A substantial amount will be involved. When the question of increasing invalid and old-age pensions was being considered some, time ago, I directed attention to the plight of many old South Sea Islanders in. the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, and in Queensland. I suggested that when an amending Invalid and Oldage Pensions Bill was under consideration, those people who were brought to this country 30 or 40 years ago - in many cases “ black-birded “ or shanghaied from their homes in the Islands to work on the sugar-cane fields in New South Wales and Queensland - should be granted a pension.
– That is provided for in the bill.
– I express my appreciation to the Minister for having included certain of those people in the bill. They are members of a fastdiminishing race; the youngest is approximately 70 years of age, and any grant that is now made will be of a temporary character. The small amount involved will disappear within a few years. But it will mean a lot to a comparatively few islanders who should, as a right, be entitled to. a pension. The bill sets out that certain specified classes of persons shall not be eligible to receive an invalid or old-age pension. In that category, the Government has included aliens ; Asiatics, except those who are British subjects; or aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific or New Zealand. The bill then provides further that nothing in the preceding sub-section which I have paraphrased shall apply to “ an aboriginal native of an island of the Pacific known as a kanaka “. I realize that the Minister is faced with great difficulty in this matter.
– The honorable member should not attempt to make the difficulty greater, because the bill might embrace a broader interpretation than he desires. I think it is quite safe as it is.
– I do not think it is safe. I understand that all natives from the South Sea Islands are regarded as “ kanakas “. I do not believe that a “ kanaka “ who comes to Australia at present should be entitled to an invalid or old-age pension at the expense of this country. I do believe, however, that South Sea Islanders who come within the category I have previously mentioned should be granted an old-age pension. The difficulty could be overcome by providing that any aboriginal native of an island of the Pacific known as a “ kanaka “ who was not in Australia prior to, say, the 31st December, 1915, which is 27 years ago, should be entitled to a pension.
– How many “ kanakas” have come to Australia in the last 20 years ?
– I do not know. Whilst I appreciate what the Minister has endeavoured to provide for in the bill, I am suggesting a qualification of the class of “ kanaka “ who should be granted this privilege. They are provided for in one clause of the bill, but are disqualified in another clause. The Government must accept all responsibility for this measure; undoubtedly it will take all the credit, but I hope that the time is not far distant when Opposition members, as well as Government supporters, will see the wisdom of placing the whole of our social security legislation on a contributory basis, which would give a sense of security to all who may expect to become beneficiaries.
.-I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon the introduction of a measure that will give effect to a promise made by the Labour party to the people before the end of last year. Opposition members have asked me if the promise would be honoured and I have replied that the Labour party always carries out its promises. 1 added that if the party’s promises were not carried out on this occasion, I would leave the party; but I did not say that I would cross the floor of the House. It is with much satisfaction that I find that the increased payments are to be made retrospective to the 2nd April, 1942. It reflects great credit on the Government that in a time of national crisis it has introduced legislation that will have the effect of making the Commonwealth a better place to live in, and a country to which the members of our fighting forces will be proud to return. Those who have borne the heat and burden of the day should have the sunset of their life made easy. It has been suggested that people should save for their old age; but I should like to know how a worker on the basic wage, with a wife and family to support, can hope to save sufficient to provide for his needs in his old age. It is the anxiety caused by the likelihood of need in their old age, when they are no longer able to work for their living, that causes many people to fail before their normal time. Aged parents who have given their sons and their grandsons to fight for the defence of democracy must be cared for by that democracy. They have spent the best part of their life in pioneering and building up a great Commonwealth, and have received little remuneration for the work they have done. I regard an old-age pension as deferred pay for services rendered to the nation.
I hope that this measure is a forerunner to a long line of amending social legislation to be introduced by the Government. We have already in existence a child endowment scheme, and widows’ and orphans’ pensions and pensions for soldiers who have suffered the privations of war in the defence of Australia are being considered. In addition, we shall provide what should be the birthright of every person in this country - the right to work. One effect of this measure will be to quicken and stir the moral conscience of the people. We should be ashamed to think that in a land of plenty there are destitute people in our midst. After all, we are our brother’s keeper and there are certain obligations in life from which none of us can escape. We have a duty to perform to the aged, the young and the helpless.
I do not agree with the bogy raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who have claimed that the time is not ripe to increase pensions. When will the time be ripe for us to bring about this muchneeded reform ? It should be the aim of “very body to leave this world a better place than when he came into it. The honorable member for Richmond has stated that the economic system of the country cannot carry this added expense. That is typical of the viewpoint of certain members of the United Country party. If the present economic system cannot carry the burden, let us get a new one. We are gradually discarding the system that will not carry the load. The honorable member for Richmond has claimed further that we should take a long-distance view in these matters. I am afraid that he took such a longdistance view of this matter that he could not see anything at all. He is like the Pharisee who passed on the other side of the road and did not see what was wrong. However, in this world of plenty, shame will make us ensure that changes are made in our social order. More and more we are recognizing that there is no wealth but human life, and no values but human values. I am confident that when this measure becomes law it will be administered in a sympathetic and humane manner. The Minister will be bound not. only by the letter, but also by the spirit of the law. I hope that in due course the minimum age limits will be reduced from 65 years for males and 60 years for females to 60 years for males and 55 years for females. It has been suggested that we cannot afford to increase invalid and old-age pensions, but I point out that a nation is wealthy only if it has a contented and happy people. One of the outstanding lessons of the present war is that if money has to be found then it can be found. We are spending approximately £1,000,000 a day on the war, and no doubt even this huge sum will be exceeded in the near future. If we can find such a colossal sum for war purposes, surely we can find a few hundred thousand pounds to benefit our aged and helpless. I am glad that the Labour party has been able to introduce this bill, and so to carry out its promise to the people of this country.
A discordant note in this debate was struck by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who suggested that in legislating for an increase of 2s. 6d. in invalid and old-age pensions, the Government is doing something sinister or with an ulterior motive. Such a suggestion is unworthy of the honorable member. If I gave bread to a hungry child, would it be suggested that I had an ulterior motive or was acting in a sinister manner? I regret exceedingly that the honorable member made that suggestion. I am proud to be associated with this measure.
.- Before dealing with the main object of this bill, I should like to congratulate the Government upon one special feature of it, namely, the further extension of social services to the native people of Australia as recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security. One realizes that the management of these people and the granting of assistance to them involves extremely complex problems such as distinguishing between tribalized and detribalized natives. Nevertheless, 1 am very glad to see the Government continuing the process of remedying some of the defects in our social legislation which have cast a reflection upon the Commonwealth ever since it assumed control of the Northern Territory in 1911, and began to introduce nation-wide social services in 1909. Dr. Charles Duguid, a very skilled and experienced worker among aborigines, presented an excellent summary of the case for them in a pamphlet published last year. Dr. Duguid says that our treatment of the aborigines during the past 150 years has been cruel, thoughtless and selfish, as has been the treatment of the Red Indians in “North America, the difference being that during comparatively recent years the Americans have -spent tremendous sums in a successful endeavour to redeem past errors. He goes on to pay a tribute to the work cf some of our past governments and ministers for improvements which they have effected in the conditions of aborigines, and mentions particularly the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). He notes also that by gaining exemption from the Aborigines Protection Act, many natives have acquired the white man’s freedom and are receiving from the Commonwealth Government, regular payments under the child endowment scheme, but he goes on to point the finger of scorn at an anomaly which, I am glad to say, this measure will remedy. He says, “ Why any people born in Australia, who have accepted the responsibilities of full Australian citizenship, are still denied invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity bonus is a question no logic can answer. Colour is no bar to these benefits if it is Asiatic or African, but if it is Australian, one has to prove to the satisfaction of government officials that the Australian blood does not predominate “. The writer adds that, in his opinion as a medical man, the fact that so many aborigines fall victim to the terrible scourge of tuberculosis and other white man’s diseases is not because the aborigines have not established immunity, but simply because they are undernourished. Sub-nutrition among our native peoples, he says, is the main reason why they are dying off, and he supports his case by citing reservations such as Swan Reach and Ooldea Soak which he declares are wholly inadequate.
It has been hinted during the course of this debate that at least part of the money which is to be distributed under this legislation may be paid through the various mission authorities and no doubt some honorable members will want to satisfy themselves that the money will be well spent. There need he no misgivings on that score because anybody who has read Bleakley’s report on the appalling state of the aborigines in the Northern Territory, will realize that these missions, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and of other denominations have stood out like a beacon light in helping these unfortunate people. No one ‘can doubt that the missions will use the money in the best interests of the aborigines. The cost of extending these benefits to aborigines will be very small. There are only 50,000 full-blooded aborigines, of whom 25,000 are migratory. If the pension were granted to one-twentieth of the nonmigratory aborigines, the cost would be only about £30,000 a year, in a total pensions expenditure of about £19,000,000 a year. I hope that some day when the war is ended, we shall go further in this matter and copy the magnificent work that is being done in America - work that I was i::v titrating prior to the outbreak of the war - and that we shall see in Canberra, a separate Aborigines Department similar to the Department of Indian Affairs at Washington which, with the advice of scientific experts, doctors and so on, cares for the native peoples in the United State; of America. I should like to see our aborigines and the native peoples of our territories outside Australia, handled by one department which, with the assistance of experts, would undertake the task of raising these unfortunate individuals from the degradation to which they have been debased, in many cases by the white people.
While one can have nothing but praise for the- extension of social services to the aborigines, I contend that the main proposals of this legislation - I am not opposing them - require very careful examination, not because we are at war, or because other sections of the community, such as the wheat farmers, also have claims, but because we must examine thi? bill as part of our system of social services, and see how far that system is adequate. Can Australia be satisfied with its federal system of social services, consisting mainly of invalid and old-age pensions, maternity allowances, and the child endowment scheme which was added by the previous Government? Surely we cannot satisfy ourselves that our system, which the Joint Committee on Social Security called a system of piecemeal development, is satisfactory when we compare it with rite systems of other countries which have made more progress. For instance, not only has Great Britain all the social services that we have to-day, hut also ithas medical benefits, optical and dental benefits, unemployment insurance and widows’ and orphans’ pensions. In 1935 the United States of America passed its Federal Social Security Act, which provided for a tremendous scheme of social benefits. The system in that country is that the Federal Government supplements and assists the work of the states, and the adoption of a scheme of that kind in Australia was recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security in its first report. The American system also emphasizes the importance of having its social workers trained in social research. I was very glad to see the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) moving in that direction in an address which he gave recently to the universities. In America, highly expert organizations such as the Rockefeller Institute are beginning to realize that in the past far too much money has been spent on medical and physical science, in proportion to that spent on social science. No doubt some honorable members believe that the hour when a nation is fighting for its life is not opportune to improve social services, but there is a great deal of argument against that view, because in war-time, more than at any other time, men and women are thinking, and demanding improvement and progress. That has been the experience of Great Britain, as the Minister for Social Services indicated in his second-reading speech. Since the outbreak of war social services in Great Britain have been improved by means of emergency powers covering national health insurance, contributory pensions, unemployment insurance, unemployment assistance, invalid and old-age pensions and widows’ pensions. Britain has done what the Joint Committee on Social Security recommended to this Parliament: It has made arrangements to cover temporary unemployment and to assist old-age pensioners and widows in the existing state of affairs. T need hardly stress the truth of the remark made by the Joint Committee on Social Security, that social services are important to our war effort in respect of morale and a willingness to work. In spite of terrific taxation, Britain has been prepared to improve its social services system. There is taking place in that country an immense social change, which is expressed in a spirit of co-operation and service among all classes of the community. A tremendous wealth of literature is being published, which shows that this is happening. The change is due to mutual danger, community life in the fighting services, hospital work among (he victims of Nazi savagery, home defence organizations such as the Air Raid Precautions, and community life in the shelters and the munitions factories. That sense of service and co-operation is bringing to the forefront in Britain a new class of skilled persons - technicians, schoolmasters, the lower grades of the public services, -junior officers of the fighting services, and members of the women’s se: vices. These, and thousands of others, are thinking about social changes that will ensure social security. One notices a similar spirit in our services and among the people of Australia. Members of the Australian Imperial Force who have returned to Australia, members of the Australian Military Forces, workers in munitions factories, and all other sections of the community, young and old, are beginning to think about this subject. We should not be misled into the false belief that the desire is to supplant individualism by socialism. The people want to see what English writers call “ a people’s minimum “, which will provide social security to a certain level, above which individualism and private initiative may still operate. I agree with those views. It would be tragic if we destroyed individualism and enlarged a defect that has been apparent in some degree during the course of the war. It has been shown that the great majority of the people have magnificent qualities for cooperation, service, and sacrifice; but there is no doubt that some others have been turned into selfish slackers and leaners against posts.
A study of the bill will disclose two grave faults. The first is that it consists of a part only of a complete system. No one will say that our social services, so far as they go at present, provide a complete plan for a “ national minimum “. That will not be attained until we provide services that are already in operation in Britain and the United States of America. In many respects, one agrees with the critics who say that, in respect of social services, Australia has fallen behind the times. In addition to the gaps in our social services, there are other faults. For example, in regard to State services, the percentage of attendance at our universities is lower than in England, Scotland, or the United States of America, and our free library development is infinitely below the development of other countries. But there is another great danger, apart from the faults in our social services ; that is that, as at present constituted, they may destroy initiative, individualism and thrift, because the federal services are wholly dependent upon State help, charity and relief. It was stated to-night that they are paternal in type. I admit that it is right that the general revenue and the general taxpayer shall be responsible for the provision of the greater part of social services; hut, as has been stated by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and others, in certain instances, such as the receipt of pensions, help should be claimable not as a State charity only but in some degree as a return for payments made, either under a contributory scheme or by means of a special tax - which the Joint Committee on Social Security recommended in its third report on unemployment relief during the war. Its wholly paternal and charitable character is a fundamental fault of our social services system. That view is supported by leading authorities in the United States of America, where there is the same conflict between paternalism and thrift. The same difficulty is recognized in Britain, in which, in respect of oldage pensions, a contributory scheme and a State gift scheme are operating side by side. In general, according to most authorities, it would seem that any plan to gain the national minimum security that we need should be a combination of both systems. For that reason, I consider that there were advantages in the scheme passed by this Parliament in 1938, which partially included a contributory system. I do not want to see any plan which would impose unfair burdens on the lower incomes, or would not give every consideration to those who might meet with misfortune; but it would be a tragedy if our national character were made to suffer because of a system which allowed even well-to-do people to waste their resources and then fall back on public relief.
– The workers get a lot to waste !
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that a large number of those who receive pensions were not basic-wage earners.
Consideration of old-age pensions raises the vital matter of the future cost of social services, which are being extended in what the Joint Committee on Social Security has described as a “ piecemeal fashion “. In 1919-20, there were 134,000 pensioners in receipt of £4,500,000. In 1939-40, there were 332,000 pensioners in receipt of £16,500,000. It is estimated that in 1978 there will be 1,250,000 pensioners in receipt of over £32,000,000. This enormous estimate for 1978 is due to the growing expectation of life in the Australian community which, whilst an excellent thing, will throw an increasing burden on the citizens of the working agegroups, who will have to support an increasing number of aged persons. Even before the war, with its toll of casualties, the declining birth-rate waa making the percentage of younger income-earners and taxpayers relatively smaller. In 1938, it was estimated that there were 1-00 wageearners supporting every 26 pensioners. Et has been estimated that in 1978 there will be 100 wage-earners supporting every 54 pensioners. If we continue to meet the cost of each new social service, and to increase the present social services from ordinary revenue, the burden will be higher than, the estimated Treasury contribution of £32,000,000 in 1978. The United States of America has done a lot of work in regard to this problem. At present, about 8,000,000 of a total population of 140,000,000 in that country are of 65 years of age and over. It is estimated that in 1980 there will be 22,000,000, or one-seventh of the total population, in that age-group, and that. with a declining birth-rate, not more than one-third of the population will be in the best productive years - from 18 to 45.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) has just said that he hoped to see the time when men will be able to retire at the age of 55 years, and women at the age of 50 years. The Americans are looking forward to the time when they will have to re-adjust their economic system in order that the older people may be able to continue to do light work for a longer period.
There is another point of very great importance, and it is the last that I want to mention : The danger of political pressures evolving as the result of a noncontributory pensions scheme. Such political pressure groups always seem to evolve in a democracy under such schemes. The classic example of a pressure group is the war veterans’ organization, which is one of the strongest political forces iu the United States of America. When 1 was in America some years ago, I was told that they still have on their list dependants of veterans of the Civil War of 1861-65. It was also stated that there were still left a few dependants of those who took part in the British-American War of 1813. [ found that this was possible. The Americans are very anxious, because the old-age pensions groups in the United States of America have already begun to exert political pressure. The position had become so serious that the Social Security Board had been forced to file formal charges and withhold federal assistance until political abuses by old-age pensioners had been remedied. American experts say that the outlook for the future is ominous. One authority says that the political strength of the old-age movement in the United States of America has been amply demonstrated during the last few years, both in the Federal Congress and in many of the States. But this is only a beginning. It is said that in 1980 thos, citizens who are 50 years of age and over will command nearly as many votes as citizens who are under 50 years of age. One authority has written that without exaggeration it may be said that the aged of that day will be able to dominate the political situation so completely that tha only limitation on their power will be that of their self-restraint. One can fairly say that signs are not wanting that in this country, with its declining birth-rate, the increasing length of life of its citizens, and its increasing number of pensioners, the same thing may take place. It would be tragic if the increasing political strength of the pensioners led to competitive offers by rival political parties, or induced members of Parliament to vote, not according to conscience, but in the interests and under the pressure of any group. Even in war-time I am in favour of improvements in our social services. Indeed, I believe that progress is necessary. This view is held by other members of the Opposition, as is shown by the fact that the previous Government, which we supported, introduced the child endowmentscheme now in operation. The bringing in of this bill by the present Government is also evidence that progress is particularly vigorous in periods of violent upheaval such as war-time. Nevertheless, I believe that our present methods of providing social services have fallen behind best modern practice, in that they are so ill considered and piece-meal in character that they may bring us- face to face with grave dangers in the future. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in 1938 moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill introduced by the Government then in office. It contained the following words : -
The hill should be withdrawn and redrafted and a more liberal bill decreed from the defects now enumerated should be introduced without delay.
Those words could be applied to this bill. My argument in this connexion is in accord with the findings of the Joint Committee on Social Security, which has recommended the Parliament to pass a social security act and to develop Australian social services on an organized plan, which would provide us with an adequate and up-to-date system.
.- I pay tribute to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) for having introduced this bill. His action is consistent with his record over a long period of years, during which he and other members of the Labour party have endeavoured to effect reforms in our pensions system. I also congratulate the Government for having drafted the liberal conditions set out in the bill. The honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) seems to fear what might happen in this country in 50 years time. He told us that 50 years hence so many million people would be in receipt of pensions, and so many million pounds would be required to foot the bill. He need not disturb himself about the situation in half a century. I do not think that his prophecies will be fulfilled. I hope that ive shall be living under a new order of society long before then. But even if the present order of society be continued, many workers will continue to make provision for their old age, as they are doing” to-day. I am a believer in a proper system of contributory pensions. The previous Government introduced a bill to give effect to a contributory pensions scheme, but its basis was not equitable. The members of the Miners Federation have been agitating for a pensions scheme through their organization for many years. In case the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and the honorable member for Boothby are not aware, of the facts, I take pleasure in informing them that the miners, by arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, are paying as much as 4s. a fortnight to a pensions fund. The workers are often condemned for not making provision for their old age, hut, as I have shown, many of them have taken appropriate steps to this end. The miners pensions scheme, which is in force by arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, is designed to enable miners to retire at the age of 60 years on a pension of £2 a week and £1 a week for their wive3.
The ‘honorable member for Barker had a little to say about the financial difficulties of certain hospitals. He may not be aware that for many years the miners on the northern coal-fields have paid regular contributions to the Newcastle, Wallsend, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Maitland, and other district “hospitals, and that the hospital committees in those localities do not take any part of the pension of pensioners who may enter those institutions for treatment. The miners contribute 6d. from each pay to a hospital fund, in consideration of which they are entitled to treatment for themselves and their families. I have retained my membership of the Miners Federation, and 3 also pay my fortnightly contribution. The funds accumulated through these payments have been sufficient not only to maintain the various institutions which benefit from them, but also to build new hospitals. If the hospitals in localities which the honorable member for Barker had in mind are in such financially straitened circumstances I recommend honorable members to take steps to organize a contributory scheme for them such as the industrialists have organized in the coal-fields districts of New South Wales.
Unfortunately, considerable difficulty has occurred at times in obtaining refunds of pensions for pensioners who have had part of their pension improperly deducted in consequence of their entry to hospitals for treatment. I have written many letters to the Pensions Department on this subject, and I trust that the amendments now being made to the law will overcome these troubles. The hospitals that have been built in some coal-fields areas are a monument to the workers. The system in operation or. the Newcastle coal-fields is also in operation at Lithgow, and there is no reason why it should not be applied in many other districts.
The honorable member for Barker ha* said that this liberalization of our pensions system is inopportune. It appears to me, however, that as millions of pounds can be provided for war purposes it should be within the capacity of the nation to provide at least £1,000,000 more for pensions. Who will be helped by this liberalization of our pension? legislation? None other than the mothers and fathers of the men who aw to-day fighting to retain our liberties. It might be assumed from the remarks made by the honorable member for Barker that he is bard-hearted, hut I do not believe that his speech reflects hie true feelings. He would have us believe that he is a “tough guy,” but from conversations I have had with the honorable gentleman I have concluded, that he is not nearly as hard-hearted as his words would suggest. If we cannot do something to make the lives of our old-age and invalid pensioners more comfortable we ought at least to take steps to put them out of their misery, and not starve them to death. It would be preferable to provide a lethal chamber in which they could be put out of their misery.
The increase in the rate of pension about to be sanctioned is in fulfilment of a promise made by the present Prime Minister in the policy speech he delivered prior to the last election. The proposals contained in this measure have been placed before the people and have been endorsed by them. The honorable member for Barker is associated with a party that supported a government that reduced the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. a week, and also placed a lien on the properties of pensioners, to enable the department to recover from the estates of pensioners on their death, money paid to them by way of pension.
– The ‘Scullin Government reduced the old-age pension first.
– The honorable member helped in the reduction of the pension when he “ ratted “ on the Labour party.
– I would rather “ rat “ on the party to which the honorable member belongs than “ rat “ on the country.
– The Labour party at least has never tried to recover money paid to the pensioners. I remember some of the supporters of the honorable member warning the anti-Labour Government, which brought down legislation to deprive pensioners of their right to their own properties.
The old-age pension was introduced in 1908, at the request of the Labour party, which was then a third party in the Parliament and bartered its support to an anti-Labour government, and a former member for Darling Downs, the late Sir Littleton Groom, piloted the measure through the Parliament. Various members of the Labour’ party, such as the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, congratulated the government of the day on having introduced the bill, and the late Sir Littleton Groom often recalled that the pension had been given as a right and not as a charity, but he pointed out that, unfortunately, it had come to be regarded as a charity. It was actually a loan on their property because the Lyons Government provided by law that when a pensioner died the amount of pension paid would be recovered when the property was sold. The old-age pensioners have blazed the trail in Australia, and have handed down to us an inheritance of which we are proud. In the evening of their lives, they are entitled to at least a reasonable standard of comfort. Even though they are now to receive improved pension conditions, this legislation will not be perfect. I should like it to be taken a little further than is now proposed. I believe that an oldage pensioner should have the right to earn, in addition to his pension, fi 10s. a week, if a single man, and double that sum if married. I pay a tribute of praise to the old-age pensioners in South Australia, where there is a dearth of labour for the munitions factories and annexes. In that State, many of the pensioners have given up their pensions, and have accepted employment in munitions works. These patriotic elderly citizens are entitled to public appreciation, particularly in view of the fact that their sons are equally patriotic and have taken their places in the fighting forces of this country.
When a pensioner has property apart from the home in which he resides which is non-revenue producing, it is assessed against his pension as if it were revenueproducing. If a property is worth over £50, for every £10 in excess of that Bum the pension is reduced by £1 a year, despite the fact that it may not be revenue-producing. The ordinary citizen is taxed only on income derived from personal exertion or other sources, but an old-age pensioner is taxed on property that is non-revenue producing by reducing his pension according to the improved value of the property. Often an elderly couple spend the evening of their lives in the old home in which they have reared their family. The house, however dilapidated it may be, has a sentimental value to them, recalling to their minds the struggle that they have undergone in raising their family. Naturally, they are disinclined to leave the house. When one of the old couple dies, the remaining partner probably agrees to reside with a son or a daughter. The property is then assessed against the pensioner. Thi3 is unfair as it is not tenanted or revenueproducing. Often the valuation is an inflated one, and if the property is valued at £400 or more, the pensioner is deprived of his pension. There is also the case of the wife of an invalid pensioner, or a man with an invalid wife. Take, first, the case of a wife who is looking after an invalid husband. She may be able to go out and work. If she earns £2 a week, the pension of her invalid husband is reduced. If he is so incapacitated that he needs her attention day and night, she has to live on his pension. Surely some provision should be made for a wife in such circumstances. Then there is the other case in which the wife is an invalid. The husband goes out to work, while a daughter stays at home to look after her mother. I know of one such case in which the man earns only the basic wage, and the daughter, who is 35 years of age, devotes all her attention to looking after her bed-ridden mother. No pension is payable in respect of the wife because the husband is earning the basic wage, and no taxation relief is given to the father in respect of the daughter whom he supports. When the act was amended to increase the permissible family unit income from £1 10s. to £2 10s. a week, it was never expected that the provision would apply only in the case of invalid children. I moved that amendment and claim it was intended by me to cover all invalid wives or husbands. I trust that the Government will rectify these anomalies in the near future. It, has already done a great deal for the pensioners.
– I have often protested against the way in which pensions are doled out as the result of promises made at election time. Social services, including pensions, should be removed altogether from the sphere of politics and placed under the control of an independent commission or tribunal. I now protest against this proposal for honouring still another election promise.
– Does not the honorable member believe in honouring election promises?
– I do not believe in pandering to old people at election time by promising to raise their pensions. I am not opposed to improving social services, but I do protest against the manner in which it is done.
The Government has been extremely generous this week. In fact, its generosity is astounding. This is the second measure of the kind presented this week. I read in the newspapers some days ago that unemployed persons are to receive pay for a period of three months. I do not think that anybody should be out of employment for three months, but I admit that that has something to do with the bill. I have in mind one promise that has nol so far been honoured, namely, the promise to the wheat-farmers. They delivered the goods months ago, but the promise made to them has not been honoured. Within the next three weeks, we shall be asked to provide means to meet the cost of improved social services. The Government, we have been assured-, is in such dire need of money that Parliament will be asked to pass legislation to take from the States certain rights that they have enjoyed since federation. The fact that the Government has brought in these measures to grant greater benefits to pensioners does not seem to indicate that it is in dire need of money.
Our present approach to this matter of pensions is altogether wrong. The man who, during his working life, has been industrious and thrifty, and saved up a few hundred pounds, which he was patriotic enough to invest in Commonwealth bonds, is debarred from receiving a pension in his old age ; but the person who has been a spendthrift all his life is entitled to receive a pension of £1 5s. a week upon attaining a certain age. It is not right that a penalty should be placed on thrift. I am glad that provision has ‘been made in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to adjust pensions according to variations in the cost of living. I welcome that provision, and I believe that it will have the approval of the great majority of pensioners.
I wish now to say something about the aborigines, whose welfare, I consider, should be the concern of this National Parliament. I believe that it would be better if, instead of paying them a pension, the money were allotted to institutions that would look after them properly. It is of little use giving an aboriginal £1 5s. a week and leaving him to shelter under the trees in the cold. A considerable number of aborigines live in the district where I reside. I know the conditions under which they live. Many of them obtain work for two or three weeks and then go bush, to live for a considerable time in the open. That happens very often in the winter. I do not think that this payment of 25s. will help those people. I should prefer to see the money used to provide commonages on which these people could live in comparative comfort and peace in their declining years. Since the outbreak of the war, they have been able to render a service to the community by trapping rabbits, and by engaging in seasonal work. However, since the institution of child endowment, many half-castes do not want to work.
– They live on child endowment?_
– Endowment has been paid in respect of very few children of half-castes who are not inmates of some institution.
– Investigations at York and Quairading will substantiate my statement. At those places families are living under the conditions I have described. The nation has shirked its responsibilities to the aborigines for too long. Instead of providing financial assistance to them in this way, the Government should construct commonages in order to enable these people to congregate in an environment similar to that which they have been used to all their life. Under such an arrangement, they could be given proper medical attention. We have been content to leave this responsibility to religious bodies; but it is time that the Government shouldered it.
– Clause 13 empowers the commission’er to pay the pension direct to institutions.
– I sincerely hope that he will exercise that power in cases’ of the kind I have described. I do not think that the present is an opportune time to introduce legislation of this kind. Australia is struggling for its very existence; and we shall require every available penny for expenditure on defence requirements. The attitude that Parliament should at this time worry about honouring election promises made two years ago under entirely different conditions is wholly unrealistic.
– I support the measure. I was particularly pleased to hear the speech made by the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price). It was a very valuable contribution to the debate. The honorable member showed conclusively that we are far behind many other countries in respect of social legislation, and that this measure does not go nearly far enough. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) said that any attempt under existing conditions to honour election promises could not be justified. All I can say is that this measure falls very far short of the promises that I made at the last general election in respect of invalid and oldage pensions. Regardless of circumstances, I should not at any time ask a human being to live on £1 5s. a week. We can find unlimited sums of money for war expenditure; but, surely, we shall not win the war if we be content to let many of our people starve. The honorable member for Swan objected to any increase of invalid and old-age pensions.
– No. I objected to the manner in which it is. to be made available to aborigines and half-castes.
– I have never heard the honorable member object to the payment of a bounty on wheat. I urge the Minister to give careful consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that old-age pensioners should be allowed to earn at least 30s. a week over and above the amount of their pension. If that were done, large number, of aged people would be enabled to render valuable service to tlie country. Only last week an old-age pensioner, approached ]ne and told me that he had the opportunity to do some air raid precautions work. It was to put up a protective covering over plate-glass. He asked me whether he would lose hi? pension if he received payment for this work. I was obliged to tell him that if il1S earnings throughout the year averaged more than 12s. 6d. a week, he would be disqualified from receiving a pension. Surely, there should be no objection to permitting an old-age pensioner do work of that kind. Such an arrangement would not involve the country in any cost; but, on the other hand, many able-bodied men perhaps could be relieved for more urgent work. The honorable member for Hunter also instanced the case of the wife of an invalid pensioner who i3 obliged to remain at home in ord’er to attend to her husband. Some provision should be made in respect of a woman placed in that position. I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept amendments dealing with cases of the kind I have mentioned. I am hopeful that later, many medical benefits which the Government of New Zealand has granted to pensioners in that dominion wilt be introduced in. the Commonwealth; and that our social’ legislation will be greatly improved by the Labour Government.
.- I congratulate the Government- and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon introducing this legislation to improve the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. Some years ago in this chamber, I advocated an increase of invalid and old-age pensions,, and the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) assured me that the necessary legislation would be introduced. It has been left to a Labour Government, in war-time, to give effect to my wishes.
In my opinion the position of the aborigines in Australia would not be so bad as it is if all governments had done as much for them as has the Government of Queensland. Comparatively few aborigines a-rc walking about in that
State. Most ‘of them live on mission stations-. The honorable member foi Swan (Mr. Marwick) declared that the Government, instead of paying to aborigines a pension of £1 5s. a week, should use the money to provide- permanent shelter for- them. Prom my extensive knowledge of the habits of aborigines, I contend that the quickest way to kill them is to place them in a home. Even on the mission stations, some of them at times become unmanageable and insist upon “ going walkabout “. However, many of them on mission stations, such as Lockhart, Mapoon, Arakun and Weipa missions, work among the stock and their efforts return to the establishment a considerable sum of money from the sale of cattle. The aborigines are treated well, and lead a better life than they would if left to their own devices. I see no objection to granting assistance in those cases, and I doubt whether the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan would be of advantage to tlie aborigines,, because I am under no illusion as to who would ultimately get the money. They would not belong to the Labour party 1
Kanakas, who were “ black-birded “ to Australia many years ago by undesirable elements who claimed that they were developing the country,, will be entitled, under this legislation, to receive the pension. These old men, few of whom are under 70 years, of age, would not number more than 100, and they a<re living in small groups- in New South Wales and Queensland. From the Government, they receive weekly a small grant of rations valued at a. few shillings.. I am- happy to say that in several places iris Queensland, assistance has been extended to them by farmers who have made available small plots of land on which they build mlami as and grow vegetables. A pension of £1 5s. a week will be an enormous boon to them, and I congratulate the Minister upon his humane action in extending to this small group the benefits of the: act.
Like many honorable members, I should like invalid and old-age pensions to be further increased but I consider that in view of the circumstances, the Government has done a wonderful job. The honorable member for Boothby (Dr.
Price) stated that in 1938, certain benefits were granted and more were promised. The conditions that existed in that year were vastly different from those prevailing to-day, when the Government has to provide for enormous war expenditure. But it has not forgotten the claims of the pensioners. The Lyons Government bad an opportunity in 1938 to introduce these benefits, and I keenly appreciate the fact that the then Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) would have been much more liberal had certain influences not been brought to bear upon him to restrain him from acting upon his personal inclinations. On that occasion I invited him to record his vote against the coterie which then governed the country. In conclusion, I appreciate the introduction of this legislation, which will be a boon to invalid and old-age pensioners.
.- At present, there are, in South Australia, thousands of pensioners between the ages of 65 and 70, who could render invaluable service in munitions annexes and factories, and I invite the Minister for’ Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to consider the advisability of using this reserve of man-power. They should be paid the basic wage, less the amount of the pension that they receive. It is utterly impossible to find the manpower that is required in South Australia for its munitions industries, but thousands of pensioners who are willing and able to work would relieve the position. However, they fear that if they engage in this work, they will forfeit their pension and experience considerable difficulty in having it restored at a later date. These men possess considerable ability and can. do the work as capably as a man aged 25 years.
Many young persons are compelled because of disability, to apply for the invalid pension, but they could be trained in some light work. This instruction would provide them with an interesting life and would enable them to become independent of Government assistance. I ask the Treasurer to give earnest consideration to those two matters.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Government to an important matter, which demonstrates the urgent necessity for bringing the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act into line with conditions due to the present war. Honorable members have heard a good deal about a “ lost legion “ of Australian soldiers who were reported to have landed in Java. It will appear from the facts that I shall place before the House that there is in this country a lost legion of men who have served in the present conflict and have been discharged because of disabilities that have rendered them of no further use in the fighting services. No provision has been made for their welfare, despite the assurance given to them - an assurance similar to that given to men who enlisted in the previous war - that on their return they would find Australia to be a land fit for heroes to live in, instead of which they found it a land of broken promises, unemployment, and doles.
The case I wish to refer to relates to a constituent of mine, who was an original Anzac in the Great War, in which he served for four years. He was at the landing on Gallipoli, and served for a considerable period during this war as a member of the Australian Military Forces. He was injured in an accident while riding on a military truck with 22 other men, and as a result he was disabled, probably permanently, and was discharged from the forces. On his discharge he found that the department had not a civilian suit to fit him, and he had to wear his military uniform for some time. He applied for a pension, and was told that none was available because he did not come within the provisions of the Repatriation Act. He could not obtain work, and he had to accept food relief. He was faced with unemployment and the dole as a reward by a grateful country. He is married and has two young children, who, he hoped, would have a brighter .future as a result of his joining the forces. I wish to cite the facts in his own words, as expressed in this letter to me -
Just a few lines to let you know of the treatment I have received from the Defence Department; on the 28th March, 1941, I was in a military truck with about 22 others, when it turned over between Casula and Liverpool. I sustained broken bones in my right instep and also head injuries. I was taken to the 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord. I was discharged from there at the request of my unit, who wanted me back on the 18th August, 1941, and I resumed full duty on the 21st August, 1941, wearing a felt slipper as I could not wear a shoe or boot, and I was walking with a stick issued to me on the 7th December (I think). I was sent to the Showgrounds to be medically boarded. I appeared before tlie board, and I was declared medically unfit because of my injuries. I was to be discharged on the 22nd December, 1941, but I objected to the medical officer on the grounds that I was not in a position to earn my own living in civil life. The doctor agreed, and deferred my discharge. I was called up for examination on the 17th January, 1942. The medical officer told me that my foot would never get any better and advised me to be discharged, and assured me that if I reported to the Repatriation Department they would look after my welfare. So I agreed to be discharged. Captain Jackson, another medical officer signed my discharge sick report and he also (when I asked him) said that I was to report to the Repatriation and all would be well with me. So I accepted my discharge which took effect on the 22nd January, 1942. When I returned my equipment, the discharge wing at the Showground did not have a civilian suit to go within six inches of my waistline. They measured me and told me it would take about three months to make. I had no other clothes of my own, so that after a big fight with them I got a signed paper allowing me to wear my uniform until such time as they can secure a civilian suit for me. So that now I am a civilian walking around in uniform.
As I could not put in my uniform they booked me with £2 12s. 3d. until I do return it. At that time I had £2 5s. Gd. due to me on my pay-book, which they withheld until they get the uniform.
I reported to the Repatriation and I was first told that I had no claim upon them as I was a .F.T.D. man on home service, but my accident occurred in the Army and I thought it was up to them to do something for me. Anyhow I filled up a form of application for pension, but I could get no sustenance. So that after seeing Mr. A. L. Lamb, M.L.A. (he advised mc to write to you), I drew my first food relief to-day. I have now no money or clothes. I cannot get a job because I have only a uniform to wear. I have seen the legal adviser at the District Finance Office, and he has gone into my case and he is very definite that I must receive something as I have a definite claim. He got in touch with Captain Forsythe, Q Section, Victoria Barracks, and explained everything to him. He (Captain Forsythe) is writing to my unit and to Army Head-quarters, Melbourne, and I believe their decision is final.
I would appreciate anything you can do for me, as I don’t know what will become of us. I have taken over a war-service home and got furniture on time payment. I have a wife and two children, aged six and four years. I served four years in the last war. I was at the landing at Gallipoli, and I have been in the R.A.F. at the School of Military Engineering at Liverpool for sixteen months.
I would appreciate if you could give me an interview, when I could explain everything more fully and make my case more concise.
I contend that myself, my wife, and kids have received a very raw deal. I was enlisted at the request of Lieutenant-Colonel C. T. Madigan, my Commanding Officer, and pushed out just at their pleasure without any consideration of me and mine.
Thanking you in anticipation,
Your faithfully, (Signed) Percy Holmes.
Every honorable member on hearing those facts will agree with the writer that he and his family have indeed received a “ raw deal “. I wrote to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on the 30th January last in these words -
I am in receipt of a communication from Mr. Percy Holmes, of Price-street, Merrylands West, New South Wales, wherein he sets out the following facts regarding his service in the A.I.F. On 28th March, 1941, he was in a military truck with about 22 others when it was overturned near Liverpool and he sustained broken bones in right instep and also head injuries, and was admitted to 113th A.G.H. On 21st August, 1941, he resumed full duty with his unit but was unable to wear shoe or boot and got along with the help of a stick. Early in December he was medically boarded and declared medically unfit. His discharge was deferred by the medical officer until 22nd January, 1942, when he was recommended to report to the Repatriation Department. When he returned his military equipment the department was unable to provide him with a civilian suit and he was given a signed authority allowing him to wear uniform until such time as a civilian suit could be issued to him, but debited him with £2 12s. 3d. pending return of the uniform. An amount of £2 os. Gd. to his credit in his paybook was withheld. On applying to the Repatriation Department, Mr. Holmes was informed that he had no claim on the department as he was an F.T.D. man on Home Service. He filled in a pension application but could get no sustenance. He is now on food relief. He has neither money nor clothes and can get no work as he is in uniform. He has made inquiries at the District Finance Office and been advised that inquiries are being made into the matter. Mr. Holmes is a returned soldier of the last war and had been at the School of Military Engineering at Liverpool for sixteen months prior to his accident. He has a wife and two children, aged, respectively, six and four years. You will realize that, as he is in receipt of food relief from the State government, the family are in dire straits.
The letters “ A.I.F.” in that letter should have been “ A.M.F.”. I proceeded in the letter to relate the other facts, and to point out the unfortunate condition of this discharged soldier. I received a tentative reply on the 3rd February, in which the Minister said -
The history of the case as set out in your letter has been noted by me and I am having inquiries made in regard thereto. I will advise you further as soon as I am in a position to do so.
On the 17 th March I received a further reply in which the Minister said -
I regret that I am not yet in a position to advise you in regard to this matter, as the necessary investigations are not yet complete. Immediately finality is reached, I will communicate with you further.
Finally, on the 28th April, the Minister sent a letter to me in which he indicated that the matter had been fully investigated, but inquiries showed that the soldier waa a member not of the Australian Imperial Force, but of the Australian Militia Forces, and that the discharge was not effected until the 22n.i January, 1942. The application for a war pension was rejected on the grounds that his condition - fracture of the third metatarsal of the right foot and a wound on the right eyebrow - was not directly attributable to his employment as a member of the forces. On the day of his discharge, the letter said, he could not be fitted with a civilian suit, but this had since been supplied and he had been asked to collect it. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) regretted that a sustenance allowance could not be granted. That is a clear case for the amendment of the Repatriation Act in order to bring it up to date and into line with the conditions prevailing in this war. The need for the appointment of a select committee has been brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation several times by me and other honorable members, but he does not see the necessity for it and claims that the returned soldiers’ organizations are satisfied with the Repatriation Act as it stands. Certain “ brass hats “ in control of those organizations may be satisfied, but the rank and file of the returned soldiers are not; complaints about the administration of the act are rife. Men discharged after active service in this war are restive. They will not take the treatment that was meted out to the men who returned from the last war. There are many other ways in which the act should be amended. The sections dealing with onus of proof are not being complied with and there should be an inquiry, not only into the provisions of the act itself, but also the way in which it is now being administered. Another matter which indicates that the Repatriation Act is out of date is the following reply which I received from the Minister for Repatriation in respect of a case which I brought to his notice : -
With further reference to your inquiry concerning the case of Mr. W. W. Passmore, of 7 Hartington-street, Granville, New South Wales, I desire to advise that I have inquired into the matter.
My inquiries reveal that Mr. Passmore was a member of the Permanent Air Force, in which he enlisted on 21st February, 1930, for six years, and was re-engaged on the 21st February, 1936, for a further six years. Because he was a member of the Permanent Air Force, and did not have service overseas, he does not qualify as a “member of the forces” within the meaning of the relevant definition in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. and it was for this reason that the pension claim submitted to the repatriation author: ties was necessarily rejected.
It is not within my province to comment on the reasons for which Mr. Passmore was diecharged from the Royal Australian Air Force or the question of compensation for his condition of health, and any inquiry in that connexion would be one for attention by the Air Board, Melbourne.
We are going round in circles. The case does not come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Repatriation because it does not come within the four corners of the Repatriation Act or within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) because the man concerned has been discharged from the Air Force. I am glad that the Minister for Repatriation has now come into the chamber. I hope that he will take up the matter of amending the Repatriation Act in order to bring it up to date.
– I told the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein) yesterday that Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Proprietary Limited had refunded to the Commonwealth Government £40,925. Actually, I should have said that the company had refunded £29,073, and that the balance of £11,852 represented an adjustment of ascertained costs. I amplify what I said yesterday in order that honorable members will not be misled as to the position.
.- According to reliable evidence in my possession, some army officers are imposing savage sentences on members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces guilty of trivial offences. A member of the Australian Imperial Force who served for two years in the Middle East, and whose record was clean, was one of those who on returning from abroad spent a considerable period in Adelaide before being told that leave would be given to visit other States. This man’s wife who lived in Melbourne had pneumonia and ‘ pleurisy and, being anxious to see her, he was absent without leave for sixteen days during which time he travelled to Melbourne. He was advised to return to Adelaide, but feared to do so - although he eventually did - because it was customary for Major Bertram to confine men to barracks for 28 days when absent without leave for over 24 hours. The case of this man is similar to that of a number of other members of the Australian Imperial Force who, having returned from abroad, were absent without leave. I understand that Major Bertram is known among the troops as “February”, because he never imposes a sentence of less than 2S days. I hope that the Government will give him long leave without pay, and that he will not he recalled until his services are wanted for another war.
– Does the honorable member contend that there should be no punishment for breaches of discipline?
– No; but there is a limit, and, if a man who returns from the Middle East finds his wife sick and takes leave, he should not be confined to barracks for 28 days when he returns to duty.
– Many others were without leave.
– Each case should bt deal with on its merits. Such punishment seems unreasonable.
– As to who should be given leave must be a matter for the commanding officer.
– Yes. But if the honorable member for Bendigo were imposing sentences sweet reasonableness would always prevail. LieutenantColonel Friedman, officer in charge of the Broadmeadows Camp, who was only recently promoted, is known to the troops as the “ Mad Major “ because every body who appears before him receives a savage sentence. One of my constituents was in the Heidelberg Hospital for twenty days, where he had his tonsils removed, fitwas given sick leave, and then told to report in Melbourne to some doctor who gave him a further five days sick leave. He overstayed his leave because he was sick. His family said that he looked sick when he went back to camp after having been absent without leave for seven days. He was con-fined to barracks for 28 days. He required medical treatment, not confinement. I know of other cases of men being absent without leave for brief periods who received heavy sentences. Parenthetically, I say that I realize the necessity for discipline, but surely it is not right that for trivial offences men should be fined £4, and have to subsist on ls. or 6d. a day until their fine has been paid.
– The honorable member will realize that the medical officers decide whether men should or should not be given sick leave. They cannot decide for themselves.
– I appreciate that, but in my district there is a doctor 80 years of age who regards it as a patriotic duty to pass every man into the Army. He even passed one man subject to epileptic fits.
I directed the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr, Beasley) last night to the lack of firewood in Melbourne. I understand that the situation in Canberra is no better than it is in Melbourne. I have a letter from a man who served throughout the last war, and who would not protest without cause. This man says that in Pelham-street, Carlton, there is a wood-yard which has been owned and operated by the one family since 1914, that the owner has been called up for service, and that the people in the locality will now be without wood for the winter. The letter adds -
This man has been able to get wood when the other yards have had to close down. In the past, the majority of the people around here have had to rely on wood for warmth and cooking. They have been too poor to buy gas stoves.
Whilst I am not at this stage making a particular plea for exemption for the man concerned, I cite the letter as evidence of the fact that there is a grave shortage of fuel in Melbourne. I trust that whatever inquiries are being made by the Minister for Supply and Development they will be expedited so that we may obtain an adequate fuel supply for Melbourne as early as possible. I hope, also, that representations that have been made to the honorable gentleman by wood merchants in Canberra will receive prompt consideration, and that the merchants will receive sufficient petrol supplies to enable them to bring in the wood before the winter rains start, so that the people ofCanberra will not suffer from the rigours of the climate any more than is necessary.
– The matters mentioned by honorable members will be referred to the appropriate Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders by State Premiers - New South Wales (14), Queensland (22), South Australia (8), Tasmania (7), Western Australia (4), Victoria (28).
National Security (Man Power) RegulationsOrders -Protected undertakings (16).
National Security (Road Transport) Regulations - Order - Use of motor vehicles.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations Orders by State PremiersNew South Wales (2), Queensland (5), South Australia (5), Western Australia, Victoria (6).
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420507_reps_16_170/>.