16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received the following telegram: -
All moneys raised for King George Fund for Sailors retained in Commonwealth since prior 1st April. Please make representation proper authorities place this fund same footing as Red Cross and Comforts Fund as regards allowance donations as deduction Common wealth income tax. Matter urgent. Large donation available if concession granted.
Can the Treasurer say whether, for Commonwealth income tax purposes, there is differentiation between the King George Fund for Sailors and the Red Cross Fund and the Australian Comforts Fund?
– I am unable to supply the information, but I shall have the matter examined.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House of what steps have been taken in respect of the employment of prisoners of war since the commencement of Government policy in this regard ? What percentage of the prisoners of war is engaged upon duties other than maintenance of their own camps?
– I shall obtain an uptodate report setting out how prisoners of war are engaged. A substantial number is engaged on works outside their own camps. The chopping of wood for all internment camps, which are principally situated in one or two States, and the growing of vegetables for military camps, necessitate the employment of quite a large number. For health reasons, quarantine requirements have to be observed before the men are taken out of camp and put to work.
– -Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give to the sugar industry the assurance that every effort will be made to supply the necessary labour for the harvesting of the forthcoming sugar crop ?
– Has the Prime Minister official confirmation of the rumour that the naval forces of the United States of America have had an impressive victory in the Pacific area?
Mr.CURTIN. - I hope to make a statement later in the day. I now say to the House and to all whom it may concern - including the press and the public - that announcements in respect of operations that may be the subject of a report - having occurred quite recently - and that may lead to further operations in the near future, should first come from those who have operational responsibility in the conduct of the war. honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Therefore, I have no announcement whatsoever to make at this stage.
– No announcement will be made by the Australian Operational Command for reasons which I need not disclose. However, the following announcement has been made from Washington regarding the naval engagement -
Very excellent news has been received. A naval engagement between United States of America and Japanese forces on 4th May resulted in the following damage to the enemy: - One light cruiser, two destroyers, four gun-boats and one supply vessel were sunk. One 9,000-ton aircraft tender, one light cruiser and one . cargo vessel were damaged. Six enemy aircraft were destroyed. This highly successful action took place in the vicinity of the Solomon Islands. It was accomplished with the loss of only three aircraft.
The communique goes on -
Submarines on coast patrol in the Far East have sunk the following enemy vessels: One medium sized cargo ship, one medium sized tanker, and one small cargo shin. This action has not been announced in any previous naval communique.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that, as the Sydney press reports, Mr. G. Sinclair, secretary of the Boilermakers Union, has been appointed to the position of liaison officer in the Department of Labour ? If so, will the honorable gentleman indicate to the House what duties will be carried out by Mr. Sinclair? Will he also have a list prepared, setting out the number of Labour members of Parliament, union organizers, and other Labour supporters attached to the Department of Labour at present!
– It is true that Mr. Sinclair has been appointed to the Department of Labour for the purpose of carrying out very important duties, the details of which I shall announce shortly. I shall also be pleased to secure for the honorable member the information he desires in respect of other appointees to that department. At the same time, I shall secure a list of the appointments of United Australia party supporters made by my predecessor.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware of the grave discontent that exists among the workers at the aircraft annexe, Eveleigh railway workshops, because they are unable to procure either beer or tobacco at the end of their day’s work? I have received a petition from 700 men in those work-shops, who state that they cannot procure this refreshment. Will the honorable gentleman take steps to remedy the position.
– At what time do they finish work?
– Some of them finish at 9 p.m., and others at midday. They want the facility to be available at the Boundary Hotel, Alexandria.
– I am not personally aware of the discontent mentioned, and do not know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs is aware of it, but I shall bring the matter to his notice, and ask him to furnish a reply to the honorable member in due course.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald a report from its London correspondent that, at a press conference. Dr. Evatt, in reply to a question as to whether he was satisfied with the British help that was being given to Australia, said “ You do not win a game by ignoring one of your partners”? Does this reply mean that Australia has been ignored by the British Government? Does it represent the view of the Commonwealth Government, or is it merely the private view of Dr. Evatt? If the latter, may such expressions tend to militate against the success of Dr. Evatt’s mission in London?
– I am entirely unacquainted with the report that appeared in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald. J do not know whether it is a correct report of what Dr. Evatt said. The communications that I have had from Dr. Evatt indicate that there is the closest consultation and collaboration between him and the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that service men who patronize army canteens are subjected to what is really an unauthorized sales tax because, in respect of certain articles, these canteens charge prices in excess of those charged by city stores ; for example, the prices of tooth paste, razor blades, boot polish, and other articles are from 1½. to1d. greater? Will the honorable gentleman inquire into the matter, with a view to ensuring that the lowest prices will be quoted for these goods to service men who patronize the canteens, thus enabling them to obtain the full benefit of this service and not be subjected to an indirect form of taxation?
– I am not aware of what the honorable member has stated, but I shall inquire into the matter.
– Has the Minister for Air seen in to-day’s Sydney press the report that Aircraftman Jack Dennis Arthur, of New South Wales, who is stated to have served with the Royal Australian Air Force in Papua for more than two years, contracted malaria, was discharged as medically unfit, and was denied a returned soldier’s badge, being given merely a volunteer’s ‘badge? Will the honorable gentleman examine the position in respect of this man and other members of the Royal Australian Air Force who may have served in the same area, and make a statement to the House next week?
– I have not seen the report. I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the information desired by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether an inquiry is held into each air crash that occurs in Australia? What form does the inquiry take? Is it a departmental inquiry? Is the personnel of the inquiring body similar in each case, or is a special tribunal appointed which deals with all air crashes *
– An officer is appointed who, I understand, is entirely independent of the Air Staff. He has full opportunity to examine all witnesses, and to make a thorough- investigation. He furnishes a report to the department, giving what is believed to be the cause or causes of the accident. A copy of the report is supplied to me. I am at liberty to ask that further inquiries be made, should that be considered necessary. Sines I have been Minister for Air, a complete and most informative report has been furnished in respect of every accident that has occurred. In my view, the two officers who have successively carried out these duties have made thorough inquiries and furnished very reliable information. I do not know of any reason for changing the existing system.
– I desire to know whether you, Mr. Speaker, exercise any kind of authority in respect of the censorship or alteration of the Hansard reports of speeches of members of this House, at the request of military or other authorities? If so, what is the authority?
– I had thought that the ‘ position in relation to the censorship of the official report of parliamentary debates was well established. No such censorship is exercised by any authority outside this House ; but it has been clearly understood that any remarks considered likely to be of advantage to the enemy shall be expunged from Hansard at my direction, 1 being the appropriate officer to take that action.
– Without consulting the member concerned?
– I have made it clear on two occasions that I shall not make any alteration without consulting the member concerned. I have not at any time exercised the power of censorship except after consultation with and the agreement of the member concerned.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that I have received a letter this morning from Mr. H. K. Nock, a former Commonwealth. Minister, stating that, in a drought stricken area in central New South Wales, farmers have been deprived of the use of water for stock because the military authorities have taken over a certain tank. He requests my cooperation in inducing the Minister to request the military authorities either temporarily to give up possession of this tank, or, to provide water from some other source, either by transporting it by rail or by a diversion of water from the Lachlan River. Will the Minister make inquiries from the authorities concerned, and ascertain whether it is possible to allow the farmers the temporary use of the water?
– The fullest consideration will be given to the representations and request made by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) are engaged in a survey of localities in which new wool appraisement centres may be established. Before any decision on this matter is reached. will the Minister consult with representatives of the wool-growing industry ?
– The honorable members mentioned are engaged in the survey referred to. In every centre visited by them, they have made contact with representatives of lie local graziers’ - association or other representatives of the woolgrowing interests. They will do everything possible to accede to the honorable member’s request by maintaining close collaboration with the representatives of the industry.
Call-up of Working Principals.
– Is the Minister for Labor and National Service yet in a position to make a statement regarding the position of working principals in small business undertakings in relation to the call-up for military service?
– by leave - At the pressent time exemption is granted to bona fide working principals engaged on full-time duty in connection with their businesses or farms. In commerce the practice has been to exempt a working principal over the age of 35 years, whether he is married or single. In rural industries exemption has been granted to all working principals without any age restriction. It has now been decided to extend the latter basis for exemption to all working principals in commerce. Accordingly, exemption will be granted to all working principals henceforth, without any age restriction, whether they are engaged in commerce or primary industries. An applicant for exemption must be able to satisfy the man-power authorities that he is a bona fide working principal working full-time in his industry, and, further, that he has occupied this position for at least two years prior to the date on which he makes application for exemption. The purpose of this proviso is to prevent men from dodging their military obligations by buying a business and with it the title of working principal,
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Go vernment has been finally advised of the rejection by the Millfield-Greta Lodge of the advice of the Central Council of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation that the Millfield-Greta miners should resume work. If that advice has been received, does the Government now intend to put into operation, as it has long threatened, the provisions of the National Security Regulations ?
– The reference by the honorable gentleman . to the “ longthreatened “ application of the National Security Regulations contains an implication that the Government has not yet exercised the powers taken under those regulations in respect of the mining industry, but that is contrary to fact. In one instance, the powers have been exercised against an employer, and in several instances, they have been used against trade unionists and other workers. I have had no report as to what has occurred on the coal-fields this morning. I regret to say that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) is ill to-day, and I have been unable at this early hour to ascertain authoritatively what the present position is on the coalfields. However, I can assure the honorable mem’ber that the Government will do everything that can be done to get coal in the greatest possible quantity, and I shall not hesitate to take every action requisite to accomplish that purpose. Whilst the coal-miners are governed by the laws of the country, so also is every other section of the people, and I put it plainly to the honorable gentleman that I have done better in getting coal for Australia than did the Government of which he was a member.
– Will the Treasurer indicate what progress has been made in the preparation of a bill to govern life assurance in this country?
– An investigation of the position has been made; no legislation is yet in course of preparation, but that matter will receive consideration by the Government.
National Security Regulations
-Has the Prime Minister given instructions for the enforcement of Statutory Rule No. 77 against striking workers since the Minister for Labour and National Service announced publicly that he did not propose to apply it to the workers? Having regard to the overwhelming vote of confidence given to the Minister for Labour and National Service last night by the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, does the Prime Minister think that there is neal danger of the Minister applying the regulations against him?
– -These clever political questions are beside the point. They have nothing to do with the urgent need for this country to concentrate on the war and get a maximum supply of coal, so that the war industries may carry out a full programme.
– We receive clever political answers.
– There would be no clever political answers if there were no questions containing clever political propaganda. As a matter of fact,’ the answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is, “ No “. The Minister for Labour and National Service will not have to apply Statutory Rule No. 77 to himself for two reasons: One is that I am the Minister administering the regulations, and the second is that I do not think it necessary to apply the regulations to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Will the Minister for Commerce consider the advisability of altering the personnel of the Australian Wheat Board with a view to having some of the members replaced by men who have the interests of the wheatgrowers at heart?
– I intend at the earliest possible moment to review the present personnel of the Australian Wheat Board, and also to reduce the number of members considerably. As the board is now constituted, I consider it to be unworkable. Therefore, immediate attention is being given to its reconstruction on sound workable lines, with a view to having upon it an absolute majority of representatives of the wheat-growers.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The object of this motion is to give effect to the announcement I made last Wednesday. Unless some extraordinary development occurs, the arrangement I have in mind is that the House shall meet next week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and in the following week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There will then be a long week-end, if the business of the House has not been concluded. I ask honorable gentlemen to try to dispose of the business before the House in a reasonably expeditious way, without cramping essential discussion. The administrative problems of Ministers are very great. As honorable gentlemen will, I am sure, realize, it is also imperative that there shall be, not only consultations among Ministers, but also formal meetings of the War Cabinet and of the Advisory War Council. However necessary it is for the Parliament to debate matters that it thinks should be debated, it is imperative that the debate shall be limited to the necessities of the situation, leaving the administrative machine as little impaired as possible.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who has not been conspicuous for his zeal in calling the Parliament together frequently, or in encouraging long sittings of the House, now suggests in kindly and moderate terms that discussion should be limited by reason of the serious and responsible administrative duties that fall to the members of the Government. I quite appreciate the importance of those duties, but I have said before that there is no reason why this House should not continue to sit without engrossing the whole of the time, or any considerable part of the time, of Ministers. Some Ministers, of course, must necessarily be in the chamber, and I quite appreciate that all Ministers might have some anxiety lest a hostile vote be carried in this House; but that is by the way. Ministers should continue their administrative duties and the Parliament should continue to attend to its duties. The electorate should be in touch with the Parliament, and the Parliament should be in touch with the Government. Many things have been done by the present Government which I pay it the compliment of thinking would not have been done if Parliament had been in session. Notwithstanding the anxiety of some of my critics opposite to be relieved of their part-time duties, in order that they may get back to their normal profiteering enterprises-
– Lawyers also profiteer.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is, I submit, out of order. He must not try to overawe me by his military uniform. I think it is objectionable that an honorable member should come into this chamber wearing the insignia of his military rank.
– If the honorable member will not proceed with his speech, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– It is much easier to ask me to resume my seat than to compel me to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Having regard to the difficulty experienced by members of Parliament in obtaining transport to Western Australia, will the Prime Minister give some indication of the probable duration of this sessional period so that arrangements may bc made in advance for travelling accommodation?
– I should be very glad to be able to mention a date, which might be regarded as reliable, upon which the House would rise for the next short recess. I appreciate the difficulties of honorable members -who represent constituencies in Tasmania, Western Australia, and parts of Queensland. Transport for them is a vastly different matter from what. it. is for honorable members who come from Melbourne or Sydney, and it is also vastly different now from what it used to be, [ agree that Parliament should meet frequently, with short periods of recess, and that honorable members from distant States should know with some definiteness the date upon which Parliament will rise so that they may make their travelling arrangements. I shall be glad, when some progress has been made in our legislative programme, to fix a date for the rising of the House.
Workers at Glen Davis.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that employees at the Glen Davis shale oil works were recently granted an increase of 3s. 6d. by a Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, whilst another section of workers, doing similar work, received an increase of only 23. a week from a judge of the State Arbitration Court ? Does not the Prime Minister think that the time has arrived when there should be uniformity of working conditions and arbitration laws? The action I have referred to i3 likely to lead to another serious stoppage at the Glen Davis works.
– I understand that two classes of men doing much the same kind of work belong to two different unions, one of which is registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the other under the New South Wales Arbitration Court. The judge of the Commonwealth Court has fixed a different rate of pay from that fixed by the State Arbitration judge. The men who received the lower rate may make comparisons between the work which they do, and the work done by those who receive the higher rate. All I can say is that “ uniformity “ is a word which appeals strongly to me at this time. I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Try to get the judges to agree.
– I shall endeavour to do that.
– Is the Minister for Home Security yet able to make a statement regarding the possible modification of the brown-out regulations, and has he been able to achieve a greater measure of uniformity in the brown-out and blackout regulations in force in the various States? Will he ask the State authorities to see that police officers in border towns exercise common sense and discretion in the enforcement of State regulations in such places as Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, where one set of regulations applies on one side of the border and a totally different set on the other side, causing much inconvenience and embarrassment to the people?
– There has not yet been time to consider the report of General Blarney regarding modifications of the brown-out regulations, and until that can be done the brown-out stays. In regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have already made representations to the State authorities in Queensland and New South Wales along the lines suggested.
– Will the Minister for Munitions endeavour to make available to garages in country areas supplies of oxygen and acetylene gas for oxywelding? It is impossible to get duplicate parts foi milking machines and farm machinery, and repair work must be done in garages.
– I have received similar requests from other honorable members. Unfortunately, supplies have been short even for defence work, but we hope that the position will improve this month, and that supplies will be available for country areas.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a pamphlet entitled The Rationing of Money, written by Mr. C. De Garis, and dated the 30th April, 1942?. If so, does he not consider that this is an infringement of the order gazetted on the 17th March prohibiting the use of paper for the issue of pamphlets? Will the Minister say whether Mr. De Garis was given a permit to issue the pamphlet, and, if so, why the permission was given?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who will prepare a reply as soon a* possible.
Debate resumed from the 7th May, (vide page 1023), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I support this bill which I realize is only a fulfilment of a promise by the Government party at the last election, and reaffirmed towards the end of last year. I do not regard it as an instalment of the new order, but merely as an attempt to treat the old people and invalids fairly. Legislation for the granting of old-age pensions in Australasia began with the New Zealand act passed in 1898. That inspired legislation in the Australian colonies. Speaking on the pensions bill in the New Zealand Parliament, Mr. Richard .Seddon laid down certain principles. I quote as follows from Sir William Pember Reeve’s book The Long White Cloud-
He took the human view that those who had brought up large families and worked hard all their lives for a daily wage had done their duty by the State. He held, too, that it was impracticable to try and compel the working man to set aside part of his wages towards a pension scheme during a period when every penny he earned would, in the ordinary course, be spent in the upbringing of his family. Such expenditure, Seddon maintained, was every bit as much for the benefit of the State as would be a forced contribution towards a pension scheme.
The lead given by New Zealand was followed in Australia by New South Wales and Victoria which passed old-age pensions acts in 1900. Both acts fixed the rate of pension at 10s. a week. Subsequently, there was an agitation for a Commonwealth pensions scheme, and the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was passed in 1908. In the same year, a pensions act was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The sum was fixed at 10s. a week as long ago as 1900. The Commonwealth Year-Booh 1940, at pages 698 and 6#9, show.? that while the nominal wage index number for adult males was 848 in 1901, it was 1846 in 193’9. That means that the cost of living had more than doubled over that period. During the last few years we have attempted to restore to the old-age pensioners the standard they ‘enjoyed 40 years ago. The preamble to the New South wales act is very interesting. It reaffirmed succinctly, the view accepted by the .people of Australia at .that time -
Tt is equitable that -deserving persons who, during the .prime of life, have helped to bear the public burdens of the colony “by the payment of taxes and by opening up its resources with their labour and skill should .receive from the colony (pensions in their old age . . .
That has been the principle upon which action has been taken in Victoria, and it was never assailed until the introduction of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 193S. Many honoraMe members axe -disposed to tait of contributory pensions as ‘if the contributory system were a novel idea. As a matter of fact the contributory scheme is much older than the non-contributory. In Germany, Bismarck ‘set ‘out to T>eat the Socialist parties by offering a policy of social reform. He introduced a contributory pensions scheme. ‘The first proposal of this kind to be made in Australasia was that submitted hy Sir Harry Atkin- son, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, in 1882. He proposed a contributory old-age pensions scheme on the lines of the German law. However, nothing came of that proposal. Again, in 1897, an .attempt was made to amend the Seddon pension bill in New Zealand to provide a contributory scheme. That proposal was not carried. Subsequently, the non-contributory principle became general throughout the world, although there was a partial supersession of that idea in England. Britain was avowedly following the social legislation enacted under the German monarchy. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had initiated a movement for protection, and one of his arguments was that the German worker under protection was much better off than the British worker under free trade. This led to an examination of the position of the German worker. The Liberal party, which stood for free trade, contended that the advantage which the German worker possessed over the British worker was due to -German social legislation. Consequently, in 1911 Mr. Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance Act, which was intended, as he said, to give every person 9d. -for 4d. This Parliament -should not adopt any scheme which makes the granting of invalid and oldage pensions conditional upon contributions. Honorable members on this side opposed the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill in 1938, because it was designed to finance the benefits to be given to the fortunate few at the expense of *he unfortunate many w.ho were not able to keep up their payments. That w.as a veT.y bad measure, and I am glad that it was not -enforced. I hope that the House will not abandon the noncontributory principle. The weight of evidence .taken .by the Joint Committee on Social Security was that the payment of contributions should mot be made a condition for the receipt -of benefits - -that there should not be a scheme by which a graduated ‘tax fell -upon , every body who received wages or income, but rather that persons should receive benefits whether or not they did, in fact, pay contributions. That was the preponderant view expressed to the committee, although I was rather -surprised to find that that was the case. However, the weight of opinion ki Australia is moving away from the view that people should be made to pay for social benefits. These benefits are given to them for the advantage of t3ie community, and payment should not be made conditional upon contributions as was provided in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938. As this measure is largely a committee measure I rose at this juncture merely to reply ito the contentions that we are making too -lavish provision in respect of pensions, and that a contributory scheme would be better than a non-contributory scheme.
.- 1 wish to make one or two observations on this measure. Although we are now confronted with very great difficulties, and are involved in tremendous war commitments, the sum of £1,300,000 is an extremely small contribution to make under this measure. Personally, I can see no objection to this provision. I bring particularly before the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) the claims of old-age pensioners who are suffering from miners’ phthisis. In Victoria the State Government pays a special pension of 12s. 6d. to these aged miners, and the Premier of that State has announced that, if the Commonwealth Government would increase the permissible income of pensioners to £1 a week, his Government would raise that special pension in respect of miners’ phthisis to that rate. I urge the Minister to give that matter serious consideration. Aged miners who suffer from this disease require special medical attention, and are involved in comparatively heavy expenditure for special medicines. Their disease is closely allied to tuberculosis. Such sufferers require special nourishing foods. Consequently, they are under an expense which the ordinary healthy oldage pensioner is not obliged to meet. I hope that if, at this juncture, the Government cannot take action along the lines I have indicated, it will make arrangements to do so in the very near future.
I also urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the provision of homes for married old-age pensioners. In these days it is almost impossible for aged couples, with small incomes, to secure suitable homes at anything like a reasonable rent. I know that the Minister is sympathetic towards the claims of these people. I sincerely hope that he will soon see his way clear ‘ to grant this request. [Quorum formed.’]
.- I wholeheartedly support the measure. 1 am very pleased that the Government has thought fit to bring down legislation of this kind at this juncture. I do not know of any section of the community more worthy- of assistance in these difficult times than the aged and needy. I disagree with the contentions . of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr.’ Archie Cameron) that we are treading on dangerous ground in passing legislation of this kind. They said that twenty years hence Australia might not be able to meet the liabilities which this Government is now incurring. I do not agree with that view. I think that twenty years hence this country will have developed to such a degree that it will be quite able to shoulder responsibilities of this kind. As the poet has said -
Onward, onward, must we travel,
Till our goal be won.
This measure will enable us to reach one of the goals at which we are aiming. It is one of the goals set out in the Atlantic Charter, namely, that we must remove the fear of want from our people, and give to them social security. Legislation of this kind will go a long way towards accomplishing the ideals for which we are fighting on the battlefield to-day. I have no doubt that twenty years hence this country will be well able to afford expenditure of this kind. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) pointed out that to-day our expenditure is of proportions previously undreamt of in our history. Honorable members who entertain any fears as to whether we shall be able in the future to meet commitments arising from legislation of this kind should bear in mind the tremendous developments which have taken place in recent years in every field of human activity. All of these develop-, ments have helped to improve the lot of the common people. It is not unreasonable to believe that much greater developments will be made along similar lines in the future. Our pioneers would turn in their graves if they were able to see Australia as it is to-day, and compare it with the Australia they knew as boys. This measure is only a step in the improvement of our social service generally. My only regret is that it does not go far enough. However, it is a step higher on the ladder of social progress.
I urge the Government to bring down further amending legislation with a view to increasing the permissible income of pensioners from 12s. 6d. a week to at least 30s. a week. Many old-age pensioners are able to do light work; but should they earn more than 12s. 6d. a week they become automatically disqualified from receiving a pension. I am particularly pleased that under this measure pensions are to be paid to aborigines. They are men and women like ourselves ; they, too, grow old and suffer hunger, they need assistance but their traditional mode of. life has been taken from them. To compel them to live in houses would be to commit them to the same restrictions as those imposed upon a white man who is sent to prison. The natural inclination of the aborigines to roam, whenever the spirit moves them, must not be hindered.
Other honorable members have analysed the bill so thoroughly that little remains for me to say. Despite the colossal war expenditure, the Government has not neglected the just claims of invalid and old-age pensioners, but this reform should have been made years ago. During the depression, the Scullin Government wished to borrow £18,000,000 for the purpose of providing employment and assisting distressed wheat-growers. The bill was defeated in the Senate on the ground that it was an inflationary measure. Although the Commonwealth Government is now expending £1,000,000 a day on the war, it is still able to grant to the pensioners an increase of 2s. 6d. a week in order to meet the rising cost of living. I disagree with the contention that the Government, by increasing pensions, is walking on dangerous ground. If the present financial system cannot meet the requirements of man and social progress, we must alter the system. As memories are short, I remind the House that in 1931 the British economist, Sir Otto- Niemeyer, warned the Commonwealth Government that it must “ tighten its belt” and reduce the Australian standard of living in order to meet our overseas indebtedness.
– Starve ourselves into prosperity!
– That is true. Accepting that advice, the Commonwealth Government reduced social services, and pensioners suffered great hardship. Listening to the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) last night, I would have been justified in concluding that it would be a crime for a pensioner to receive more than 2s. 6d. a week above the cost of living. In the opinion of the honorable member, it would be a tragedy if the pensioner had turkey for dinner on Sunday. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon having introduced this measure for alleviating the plight of the aged and infirm, and I appreciate the action of the Government, in these strenuous times, in caring for the parents of many of the brave men who are now fighting to remove insecurity from the world.
.- Whilst every honorable member will subscribe to the view that the proposed increase of pensions cannot be regarded as being extravagant, the House should give consideration to the additional burden that will be placed upon the Treasury. Parliament should be reminded of the fact that, since the outbreak of war, the cost of social services to the Commonwealth Government has increased by 100 per cent.
– Not enough !
– I remind the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the principal task of the Government is to win the war. Every increase of social benefits which we make to-day will be in vain unless we defeat our enemies. The contention that Parliament should increase social benefits because of the high cost of the war is patently absurd. It is true that we are finding, for the conduct of the war, colossal sums of money that were undreamt of in time of peace; but the plain fact is that we are eating up our reserves. Every prudent nation, like every prudent man, should put something aside for a rainy day. This is our rainy day. Regardless of our humane desires, we cannot ignore the burden that the increased cost of pensions will impose upon the country. In addition, we should not overlook the fact that the annual pensions bill will be increased, quite apart from the increases that Parliament will grant under this legislation. During the last five years, the number of applicants for invalid and old-age pensions has risen by 10 per cent. “pdr annum. For a number of reasons that percentage will grow. For example, many people are now maintaining relatives, who, though eligible, have not applied for a pension; but heavy income tax commitments and contributions to the war will soon compel sons and other relatives to ask aged dependants to claim this social service. Since the outbreak of war, invalid and old-age pensions have increased by 25 per cent., and as I stated earlier, the cost of social services has risen by 100 per cent., because the Commonwealth Government now finds £12,000,000 per annum for child endowment.
– Child endowment will be of great value, because it will stimulate the birth rate.
– I do not dispute that; I merelyremind the House that we have already done fairly well in bestowing social benefits at a time when we should devote every penny to the conduct of the war.
An effort should be made to place pensions upon a permanent basis. Personally, I consider that the best system would be to peg the pension to the Commonwealth basic wage. That contention is supported by two strong reasons. First, the basic wage can be increased only when the prosperity of the country justifies it, and no one would object to invalid and old-age pensioners sharing in the benefit of increased prosperity. Secondly, when the Arbitration Court increases the basic wage, the cost of living rises.
– It is said that prosperity is always round the corner.
– I am employing the argument that is used in the Arbitration Court by the representatives of the trades unions.
– Does the honorable member consider that pensioners should receive the basic wage?
– There are two good reasons why they should not receive the basic wage. First, as most of the pensioners do not work, they make no contribution to the economic prosperity of the country ; and, secondly, those who are employed are unable to do the same amount of work as younger men who are paid the basic wage.
In my opinion, the time has arrived when social conditions throughout the Commonwealth should be made uniform. Some States provide social services which have not been introduced in other States. When the Government achieves uniformity in income tax, uniform social services must follow. That position will be forced upon the Commonwealth Government in order to ensure equitable treatment in all States.
The bill will not affect hospitals so seriously as I thought at first glance, because, under existing conditions, hospitals receive no payment in respect of pensioner patients for the first four weeks that they are inmates. I have been informed that at least 70 per cent, of those who enter hospitals are discharged in less than four weeks. Under present conditions, hospitals may receive, but they have no direct claim on, the pension for the first four weeks of inmatecy, as they have under the act for a longer period. It would be a graceful gesture on the part of the Government to confer with the hospitals for the purpose of reaching a satisfactory arrangement. When a pensioner seeks treatment, the hospital is entitled’ to receive a contribution either direct from the patient or from the Government. Therefore, in the final analysis, the burden must fall either on the people or on the Government.
Because some of us are inclined to criticize officials who administer social service departments, I take this opportunity to praise the work of those who have arranged for the instruction of invalid pensioners. For example, departmental officers in Brisbane are most anxious that young crippled persons and other invalids should have an opportunity to learn a suitable trade, and they take great pains to see that these unfortunate people receive tuition. This interest is valuable because in time, the invalid becomes independent of the Government, and secures a definite interest in life. The results of the work undertaken by invalids after they have attended the training classes reflect great credit upon the department and the instructors.
In conclusion, I point out that those honorable members who contend that Parliament is granting a mere pittance to pensioners, should, not overlook the fact that, despite the tremendous war expenditure, at no time in the history of Australia have social services been increased to the same degree as they have since the outbreak of war.
.- Speakers on this side of the chamber have congratulated the Government upon having introduced this bill. I have no objection to offering congratulations to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), in general terms, upon a fairly long life mostly spent in the service of the down-trodden and the destitute; but, actually, I must chide the Government a little for having taken so long to present this legislation. If congratulations are to be bestowed, the favours might more properly be offered to the Labour party as a whole, and, still more, to the organization of the pensioners themselves, who have had the common sense to organize, and to present their claims in an intelligent and manly way. Among the specious arguments, if one may call them such, addressed in opposition to the bill, none is so futile or fatuous as that based on the assertion that this increase of money in the hands of the pensioners must result in increased spending upon what are known as luxury goods. I wonder whether people who speak in that way really know what the life of the ordinary pensioner is. Do they appreciate the daily struggle against fate that is involved in eking out an existence in a manner calculated to win the respect of neighbours on the miserable pittance of 25s. a week? Do such critics realize how the additional 3s. 6d. a week, which is what the increase amounts to, will be spent? It will, of course, he spent on goods the purchase of which has been too long deferred, but which are nevertheless the necessaries of life of the pensioner and his humble household. It may he spent in mending a hole in the roof, or it may be spent in acquiring on time payment clothing that has been long needed, but could not. be purchased previously because of lack of funds; hut however it is spent, it will certainly not be spent wastefully or in the purchase of articles that are not strictly necessary. So I cannot help thinking that those persons who urge that the increase of pensions means an increase of luxury spending are speaking ironically, or with their tongues in their cheeks.
After all, why should the pensioner at the present time be entirely forgotten in the scheme of economy? We have reached the stage - from one point of view happily, and from another point of view unhappily - when all workers are working, and they are working, of course, at the highest rate they can obtain. Nobody blames them for that. At work also are the manufacturers and the business men, and, in the very heyday of their achievement, the exploiter and the gogetter. They are all working with tremendous enthusiasm to see how much can be derived from the necessities of the nation. I blame the exploiter and gogetter, who are using the nation’s hour of adversity for their own enrichment. One sees these people everywhere. The present era is an era of great spending. If one goes to ordinary business places, one finds that, in spite of the difficulty of supplying the public with many articles, the current of business is flowing rapidly, and turnovers are excellent.
I do not know why, in such circumstances, there should be denied to those on” the very lowest rung of the social ladder the right to participate in this vast orgy of expenditure. Unless our avowed adherence to christian principles is so much make-believe, the invalid and aged, those people who in the ordi nary social structure are not able at the moment to look after themselves, should be a charge in a very special way on an organized community. The measure of relief that is offered to them must, as other speakers have pointed out, have some relation to the value of money and to the general conditions of the social structure. As a matter of fact, we are living in a land flowing, apparently, with milk and honey. There is ample production of wealth. Take, for example, the staple product of wheat, the basis of bread. We are informed that there is in stock three years’ supply of wheat without harvesting another acre. I do not approve of the proposal to restrict the planting of wheat, but the fact remains. Fruit is littering the ground, perhaps not so much so in the present season as in the previous one, but there is clearly a vast superabundance. Our wool supply is so great that we are able to sell it on terms to the British Government, and even now we are in communication with that government to see if we can obtain a better price for our vast exportable surplus. I ‘could wish’ that we were using more of it for clothing for the poor. The same considerations apply to butter, which is a staple article of food. There are ample materials for the building of houses to replace slum dwellings, so as to make the lot of the poorer classes happier and better than it is now. We are living in a. land which has an almost unlimited production of the essential commodities - a production certainly beyond the means, and it may be beyond tha requirements, of the common people. It would be a happier condition if the distribution of this wealth were equitable, and the goods which a bountiful nature has provided were wisely and honestly distributed. They are not, of course, equitably distributed.
I listened last night to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) speaking in his superior manner with nodding head and deprecating style. He lectured honorable members, and foretold the wrath to come if we continue along present lines. He ingenuously disowned the suggestions that he was drawing two salaries; but, after all, even the emoluments of a member of this House provide him with as much money in a month as it is proposed under the increased scale to allocate to an old-age pensioner for a whole year. If I understand the position rightly, the honorable member himself has an interest in the wheat-fields of this country, and he can afford to say with pleasure, in the words of Blackmore in Lorna Boone -
Then the yellow harvest came and brightened all the glad hillside.
The honorable member himself can reach out and garner a few pence from his fields, and what applies to him applies also to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), who made lugubrious forecasts of the effect at the present time of increasing the pensioner’s allowance. I am not one of those who believe that at this time we should resort to sackcloth and ashes. I am not favorable to a policy of down tails down and anticipating evil times ahead, although [ see with clear vision much evil in lie world. But I do believe that in the years to come this country, under its democratic institutions, will continue to progress, if that is the word, very much as it does to-day. In any case, I suggest that we should proceed along the lines - the very healthy lines - of “ business as usual “. Each to his task. A part of our task is social legislation. A part of our task - it is a hard task, I admit - is to equalize the burdens of life and to make the lot of the poor easier and the burden of the rich proportionately greater. I have not seen any tremendous enthusiasm on the part of honorable gentlemen for participation in the horrors and terrors of the battle-field. I have seen one or two furnished with the appropriate uniform of the battle-field, but they occupy alongside other honorable members their comfortable positions in this chamber, unchallenged, and, I suppose, unchallengeable. The horrors and terrors of the battlefield are not for us. It is our duty and responsibility to direct policy, to tell other people what they are to do, to lecture, and, apparently, if one may judge from the debates, to forecast all sorts of evils. Well, I simply say to honorable members that, if they have any faith in the future, let them manifest it, and let them start to-day to introduce the new order which is forecast for the future. The policy of Labour is socialism - I confess and deplore that one does not hear much about it now. That is our job, and it is in the highest degree desirable that, if we have faith in the future, we should now, in everything we do and at each stage of our effort, have in mind the reconstruction of the social organism on a new and better basis. The position, as nobody knows better than the Minister for Social Services, is that the old order has produced the chaos, misery and destruction in which we are now enmeshed. Can we hope to have a new and better order? Are we serious when we speak of a new and better order, or do we, like those who deplore luxury spending, talk with tongue in cheek? Are we, who have been returned as the representatives of the people in this Parliament in comfortable and relatively happy conditions, ready to continue the existing order ? If so, I remind honorable members that it is seriously challenged now.
– It is rocking.
– Yes, it is rocking, not only from internal causes, but also from the fact that it is threatened externally by forces which are seeking to obliterate that veneer of democracy which in the past has dictated our conduct and to which we have rendered so much lip service. At any rate, in spite of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and his double receipts from the wheat-fields and his parliamentary salary, which we may assume to be, in the aggregate, at least twenty times greater than the invalid and old-age pension, in spile of the opposition of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), who has the distinction of being from the State which itself is the pioneer amongst the mendicant States of the Commonwealth - in spite of all those things I am glad that a little belatedly, a little slowly, but still at last, the Labour party has redeemed its promise and will bring to the invalid and old-age pensioners of this country an additional measure of frugal comfort.
– The invalid and old-age pensions system has been debated many times in this House in my presence, and I should be interested to hear something new said on the subject. I should, therefore, be interested in my own speech, because. I intend to point out the grave inconsistency of the Labour party in its treatment of and attitude to the poor. I would draw the attention of Labour members of this House who claim to be the particular champions of the poor - the “ down-trodden “, as they describe them - to whom they for humane reasons from time to time grant increased pensions, to the fact that, whilst they better the conditions of one section of the poorer members of the community, they worsen the conditions of another section, the thrifty. I do not intend to say anything about the promises made to the invalid and old-age pensioners by members of the Labour party during the last general election campaign; for my purposes in this debate I accept what they say in this House, namely, that the aged poor should be given the means of livelihood, which, as many honorable members claim, they are not being given to-day. T compare the attitude of the Government towards the pensioners with what it has done to what I regard as the best section of the Australian community, the thrifty and frugal people who, in many cases, are very much poorer than those who draw the old-age pension. I exclude from what I am about to say, the invalid pensioners, because I take no exception at all to the payment of the invalid pension. But, by order under Statutory Rules Nos. 76 and 127, interest rates payable on savings banks deposits were arbitrarily reduced. I use the word “ arbitrarily “, because I can see no need for that reduction. I cannot see how there can be any special gain to the Government. I remind honorable members opposite that wealthy people do not deposit money in savings banks; those deposits are the savings of the workers. A person with property to the value of more than £400 is debarred from drawing the old-age pension. A person with £500 in the Savings Bank of Tasmania - I specify Tasmania because I am familiar with the rates paid there - on fixed deposit at 3£ per cent., received before the order came into force, £16 5s. per annum. The savings banks are now compelled to reduce their interest to £2 5s. per cent., which means that that person will now receive only £11 5s. per annum. The person who saved £1,000, prior to this arbitrary reduction compelled by the Government, received £32 10s. per annum. He will now receive £20 10s., which is less than one-third of what is to be paid under this legislation to an old-age pensioner. People who have been thrifty in their ways of living in order to provide for their old age are being savagely struck at in order that their opposites, the thriftless, may receive more. The aged people with savings banks accounts are those who have not gone into hotels to buy beer every time they have had a shilling in their pockets, or gone to picture theatres three times a week, or allowed their wives and children .to buy pretty dresses too frequently. They have foregone those pleasures which other people have had in order, as it turns out, to receive less than one-third of the income paid to old-age pensioners. Yet, Government supporters claim that they are the friends of the poor. They certainly are not and never have been the friends of the thrifty and hard-working people of this community, because never in their existence have they done one thing to assist them. This is a most important phase of this matter. The tree is known by its fruit, and we should judge what the Labor party does for the poor, not by what its members say in this House or on the platform, but rather by their actions.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred to the fact that the Labor party believed in socialism. I assume that he means that the Labor party would at least put every body on the same standard of living, but what are its actions? This measure, I suppose, represents what the honorable gentleman calls socialism. He will deliberately take from one section of the poor in order to better the position of another section. That is what is being done. The thrifty people at a time when the cost of living is constantly rising, as the result of increased indirect taxes and other causes, are being asked by the Government to reduce spending and to put their money into government bonds, not to prosecute the war, mark, you, but to provide such benefits as increased pensions, whilst they themselves are having their own incomes from savings cut down. In order to earn an income equal to the amount paid to an old-age pensioner, a person would need to have £4,000 invested in Commonwealth bonds at 3 per cent., because that is the rate which applies to-day.
– To be precise, £4,333 6s. Sd.
– As I never give to my opponents the opportunity to dispute with me on figures, I prefer to understate. At any rate, the amount needed to produce an income equal to that earned by the old-age pensioners would be at least £4,000. Few workers in this country, no matter how thrifty they may be, could ever save £4,000. This measure, then, is what my friends on the Government side call “ socialism “.
– Would the honorable member also give a pension to a man who had £4,000 invested?
– The honorable member believes in being conservative in all things.
– If the honorable member for Melbourne knew what “ conservative “ meant, I should perhaps discuss the subject with him, but I do not think that he has the foggiest notion of the meaning of the word. Therefore, it would be idle for me to debate it with him now. The only satisfactory solution for this problem would be a contributory form of insurance against old age. J remember well the occasion when a bill to establish a national insurance scheme was actually passed through this House, because the debate which took place on that occasion was the longest that has ever occurred in this Parliament, and I, as the Speaker of the day, had perforce to listen to it. The bill was not perfect. But could anybody expect a measure of that nature to be perfect from the outset? I considered that there were many weaknesses in it, but had I been on the floor of the House at that time, I should have supported it in the belief that we could have put right any mistakes in it as we learned about them from experience. The Labour party, which was then in opposition, opposed the measure on the ground that there should be no contributions for pension benefits. According to the ideas of its members, which, incidentally, change rather frequently, all pensions should be free. Their attitude encourages the frenzied spending of money that is going on in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities to-day. People in those places are spending as they have never spent before. They know that if they save money they will not be entitled to old-age pensions and that incomes from their savings would, in most cases, be much less than the pension rate. My views on this subject have never changed. I maintain that pensions should be on a contributory basis. Every body should contribute to a fund, and upon attaining a certain age every citizen should participate in benefits from that fund, whether he needs the extra money or not. The people will never be satisfied with any other sort of pensions scheme. Every worker should be able to contribute an amount of say ls. 6d. a week to an insurance fund. This would encourage the people to be thrifty instead of spending all their earnings, as many are doing to-day in the knowledge that it will be better for them to do this and be eligible for old-age pensions later, than to try to scrape together a few pounds to provide for their declining years. Most workers know that they have no chance of saving C4.,000 in order to provide a competence in their declining years, and, therefore, they spend their earnings now and rely upon the old-age pension for the future. They know that they will not be entitled to the old-age pension if they save £500, which would produce only £10 a year in interest. That is the effect of the Labour party’s attitude towards this problem. The party is most inconsistent. I say deliberately that it is not the friend of the poor and the thrifty, from whom it is taking money which it passes on to another more comfortably situated section of the people. The thoughtful members of this community are to-day spending their money so that, when they are old, they will be able to draw the old-age pension. I urge the House to consider what will happen to the nation if we continue to encourage this sort of thing.
.- There appears to be little or no opposition to the general principles of this bill. Consequently, it does not call for a lengthy debate. We seem to have developed a habit in this Parliament of conducting a full-dress debate on invalid and old-age pensions at least once a year. But, having regard to the Prime Minister’s appeal to us to expedite the business of Parliament, I propose to be brief, and I shall deal with only two or three aspects of the subject. Needless to say, I support this bill, as I have supported all social legislation which has had for its object the improvement of the conditions of the least fortunate members of the community. Those who are eligible to receive pensions are entitled to the highest rate that the nation can afford to pay. However, we should not delude ourselves. There is a great deal of make-believe in the proposals now before us, and it seems to me that we are creating a vicious circle. As the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) pointed out, the Government proposes to hand out a higher rate of pension with one hand and to take the increase away with the other hand. The Government’s policy of enormously increasing indirect taxation must have the effect of reducing the purchasing power of the people. Although invalid and old-age pensions will be increased by ls. a week as a result of this measure, the pensioners will not be able to purchase any more commodities than they could buy previously. Purchasing power is the real test of the value of a pension. Whether a pension is at the rate of £2 a week or £1 a week, what matters is its capacity to provide the recipient with purchasing power. Parliament could best help the pensioners by reviewing the amount of independent income allowed to recipients. This step has been advocated by honorable members on both sides of the House, and I associate myself with them. At present, if a pensioner has an independent income of more than 12s. 6d. a week, his pension must be reduced. That, of course, does not apply to blind pensioners, who are subject to special provisions. Why cannot we allow a pensioner to increase his personal income, and, at the same time, assist the nation to solve the acute man-power problem which exists to-day?
– If the honorable member’s plan were carried into effect, the number of pensioners would increase immediately.
– Unfortunately, that is true. However, I ask the Minister to consider my suggestion. At least for the duration of the war, the rate of independent income allowed to pensioners should be increased to 25s. or 30s. a week. Many pensioners are capable of performing light work, and are anxious to do so. It would he a godsend to some of the rural industries if such men were allowed to do farm work. I hope that the Minister will, at a later stage in the discussion of this measure, inform the House of the probable effect upon the nation of any increase of the rate of permissible income. I am glad that the anomaly in the existing law relating to the adequate maintenance of a pensioner will be rectified by this measure. The law now provides that the total income of an invalid pensioner’s household shall be taken into consideration in assessing the amount of pension payable to him. This bill stipulates that only the income of the father and mother of an applicant for a pension shall be taken into account.
It was unfair that the meagre earnings of children should have been allowed to affect the rate of pension payable to the pensioner parents.
– Children create extra demands upon the family purse.
– That is true. ‘ As the Prime Minister has asked us to expedite the business of the House, and as this matter has already been fully discussed, I shall not speak at greater length. I again ask the Minister to give special consideration to my suggestion that the rate of permissible income should be increased.
– This bill will have the support of the general community. Its objects are laudable and, in my opinion, the arguments that have been advanced in support of it are overwhelming. The objections to the measure which have been raised by some honorable members are the same as those which have always been raised against the general principle of pensions. I am concerned with two or three aspects of the bill. For the first time since federation, Parliament has decided to treat as human beings those aboriginal natives who are living under civilized conditions. It would be appropriate if, as a symbolic gesture, we passed this measure standing and with our heads bowed, because the white race in Australia has an awful record for its treat ment of the native population. The failure of the Commonwealth Parliament over a period of 40 years to recognize full-blooded and half-cast aborigines as human beings has probably no parallel in any country. We have no reason to be proud of our treatment of our aboriginal population. We have illused them and have even emulated the English colonists of America by bringing the coloured natives of other countries here in order to exploit- them. For many years the “ black-birding “ of kanakas was practised in a part of this country, and the very few remaining kanakas in Queensland are living evidence of a period in our history of which we have every reason to be ashamed. These few survivors of that awful traffic are a challenge to our vaunted Christianity and are an ever-present reminder of the shocking specimens of so-called white humanity who ill-used them for many years. They were brought to Australia in circumstances that were as revolting as the circumstances attendant upon slave trading in the most unenlightened days of other countries. At one time, when the conscience of the people began to assert itself in opposition to this traffic, agitation was commenced in Queensland for the establishment of a republican form of government there in order that the persons who were making money out of this trade in human flesh could break away from the Empire and thereby be free to continue their nefarious practice. Fewer than 100 kanakas are in Queensland to-day. I regret that it has taken so long for us to give to these people some recognition of their value as citizens and to recompense them in some way for the ill usage to which they were subjected years ago. Most of them are 70 or 80 years of age. It would almost seem that at the eleventh hour, when they are practically on their death-beds, we are offering to them some sort of apology for the way in which the so-called magnificent white race in Australia treated them and their fellows long ago. Full-blooded aborigines are not very numerous in Victoria, but there are a number of half-caste aborigines in my electorate. Although many half-caste and quarter-caste aborigines from Fitzroy are members of the Australian Imperial Force, and, although others fought in the Great War, until this bill becomes law their parents and grand-parents will not be eligible for an old-age pension. It is with pleasure that I also notice that in the bill provision is made that an aboriginal who is physically handicapped may become eligible for an invalid pension.
There is one aspect of the regulations governing invalid pensions to which I direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). I think that dwarfism should be regarded as a disability within the meaning of the act. Although some dwarfs may be physically and mentally alert, I do not think it right that the department should regard dwarfs as being subject to the same considerations as people of normal stature. I have taken up with the department the case of a young woman who is a dwarf and whose father is a soldier. He is obliged to maintain the girl, and to pay high prices for special shoes for her, and although she can help about the house, by no stretch of the imagination can she be considered a person capable of engaging in competition in a work-room with her fellows. Her capacity is greatly reduced and she is handicapped by her unfortunate physical deformities. There are not many dwarfs in Australia, hut I consider that they should be treated in the same way as blind people - as a class apart. They should not be made to prove that they are incapable of performing ordinary work that can be done by their more fortunate brothers and sisters who have not been handicapped from birth. Had time permitted I should have liked to have said something in reply to the speeches made by Opposition members regarding the increased cost of pensions - whether we should pay increased pensions only in times of prosperity, whether pensions should be increased in war-time, and so on. It is admitted that the number of pensioners is increasing and that, thanks to the advance of medical science, they are living longer. Admittedly, the annual pensions bill in relation to the annual value of production, both primary and secondary, is becoming disproportionately greater. One important reason is that the birth-rate in Australia has fallen considerably in recent years. I believe that actuaries and others who are interested in making comparisons estimate that the Common wealth has lost hundreds of thousands of citizens who otherwise would have been horn, had the birth-rate from 1931-32 to 1941-42 been maintained at the rate in the previous decade. If this and succeeding governments are to deal with the problem of the increasing pensions bill in conjunction with the necessity for increasing production in both primary and secondary industries, something must be done to ensure that Australia maintains an adequate working population. “We need more wage-earners and producers to provide the revenues from which to pay pensions. I said recently, in another debate, that in my opinion everything possible should be done to increase the population of Australia within the next generation or so to 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people. The Government should encourage the birthrate and not ignore the awful evils that confront it in connexion with this problem. Drastic action should be taken with the abortionists who are killing off unborn children, and it should be the duty of a government in a professedly Christian country such as Australia to restrict the advertising of contraceptives. For too long have we ignored these evils, and now we find that after only 150 years’ occupation of this country we, as a white race, are almost bleeding to death. In other words, there has been practically no increase of the population of Australia in recent years. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will take early action to rectify some qf the anomalies I have mentioned. I wish the bill a speedy passage through this House, and I trust that it will not be delayed in the Senate. I shall then expect the early introduction of complementary measures. “When all the social security bills that have been mooted become law, this Parliament will be able to say that it has done something to promote the social security of the nation and for the establishment of social justice in the country.
– I am always ready to criticize the Government for its errors of commission and omission, but on this occasion it- is with pleasure that I support the bill and congratulate the Government on its efforts to improve the social services of the country. The Social Security Committee went to considerable trouble to conduct inquiries on which to base recommendations to the Government on social security matters. It is with satisfaction that I note that the reports of that committee have not been pigeon-holed and that, without unreasonable delay, they are being given effect by the introduction of necessary legislation. The bill does not go so far as many social workers desire, but when we take it in conjunction with a former- Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, introduced by the Government, we find that it has disposed of many of the grave anomalies in the act which have caused dissatisfaction for years. I have listened attentively to the debate, and some Opposition members seem to be of the opinion that because of the war, social reforms such as are envisaged in the bill should not be undertaken. I do not subscribe to that view. Certainly we are involved in war, and both the Government and Opposition members realize that our main duty is to win the war. At the same time, we have to clear up certain urgent problems of social security. When the Social Security Committee visited different parts of the Commonwealth and took evidence it saw that much distress and hardship does exist among the poorer sections of the community. We are living in a rapidly changing world, and we must discard many of our conservative views, because the public will not put up with things that they have suffered in the past. I ask honorable members to compare the atmosphere in the House to-day with the atmosphere that prevailed some few years ago at the depth of the depression. I was one who firmly believed, because we were so told by the Treasurer of the day, that any attempt lit that time to find another £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 of revenue would result in the ruination of the country. We retained the disabilities during those years, and nobody suffered more than the old-age pensioners. Their pensions were cut clown to as low as 15s. a week, on which amount it is impossible for anybody to keep body and soul together. Those days have passed, and to-day the country is able to find approximately £1,000,000 a day for the prosecution of thu war. The Government now proposes to ask for an extra £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to assist old-age pensioners and others who worked and fought in years gone by to build up the nation. I shall support the bill as a first step in social reform, and I think that in the next two or three months, Parliament will be asked to do much more than increase old-age pensions. The Social Security Committee is preparing certain advice for the Government in connexion with housing. If that housing scheme be carried into effect, it will cost many millions of pounds; but it is absolutely necessary, if we are to have a country worth holding in the future. I shall be behind the Government in any scheme it introduces for that purpose. Unemployment insurance is also receiving attention. I do not agree with the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) that all social security benefits should be placed on a direct contributory basis. I say they are on a contributory basis to-day. The honorable member suggested that munition workers and others in Sydney, who are now receiving high wages and are wasting their money, should contribute something towards providing a pension for their old age. Every time a person spends a shilling he is paying sales tax, and that is a part of his contribution towards his pension. The more a man spends the more he is contributing. Whether he is asked to contribute ls. 6d. a week as a direct social security tax, or to pay ls. 6d. in sales tax is immaterial. If a special tax were imposed it would probably be necessary to build up another big government department, with the usual staff of public servants and, instead of the full ls. 6d. a week to be paid by the worker, the employer and the Government being available for social security purposes, much of the revenue received would bc absorbed in administrative costs.
The fact that the. Government does not pigeon-hole reports submitted to it by various committees demonstrates that the time of the members of those committees has not been wasted. I hope that the Government will continue to follow the course it has adopted, that the unemployment problem will be dealt with in due course, and that other pensions will be liberalized in a way similar to what is being done now. It will be the duty of the Social Security Committee to investigate fully any other anomalies in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act that have been referred to, with a view to submitting a report to the Government as soon as possible. Although the present Government has been in office for only six months, on two occasions already it has introduced legislation to give effect to the Social Security Committee’s recommendations.
.- I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon having introduced a bill which makes some attempt to overcome many of the administrative difficulties and anomalies in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The Minister personally has administered the act in a very sympathetic “way. He has given greater consideration to claims for pensions than was given by previous Ministers, and in that way he has dispelled much heart-burning amongst people who consider that they ought to be entitled to pensions but, because of some minor technical difficulty, are precluded from obtaining them. Recently I witnessed a play entitled “ The Man who Came to Dinner”, and the opening words of the play were, “I may vomit”. I think those opening words may be applied aptly to some of the speeches which have been made on this bill by Opposition members, and more particularly to that disgusting speech made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Apparently, that honorable member takes the view that whereas 25s. a week is too much to pay to old-age pensioners, the Commonwealth Government should continue to pay to him both his salary as a member of Parliament, and his military pay. I think the Government should not stop at 25s. a week for pensioners, but should grant a sum that will allow pensioners to live decently. Some Opposition members seem to think that pensions are not now on a contributory basis, and they argue that contributions should be made in cash.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I contend that those individuals who qualify for the oldage pension, and probably those who qualify for the invalid pension, are entitled, by virtue of their contributions to the national wealth and productivity of this country over a long period of years, to at least the pittance which they receive. Expenditure on invalid and oldage pensions amounts probably to less than 1 per cent, of our national income. Some honorable members opposite should recognize that had it not been for the work done in this country - by work I mean all kinds of services including even services in the home - by the men and women who have now reached the pensionable age, Australia would not be the nation that it is to-day. Therefore,I reject the contention that pensions in this country are not on a contributory basis. Men and women who have spent their lives working for the betterment of the nation as a whole should receive a pension as a right. Whenever pensions legislation has been before Parliament I have advocated the adoption of a system of universal superannuation. Such a system operates now under the Social Security Act in New Zealand, where superannuation is available to all citizens upon reaching a certain age, and to invalids. The old-age and invalid pension in New Zealand is 30s. a week, and the conditions under which it is payable are much more liberal than are the conditions in this country.
-. - Pensions in New Zealand are on a cash contribution basis
– That is true; but the contribution is mainly to cover medical, dental, and pharmaceutical benefits.
– That is not so. The main expenditure is on invalid and old-age pensions.
– To ascertain whether that is so, it would be necessary to dissect the amounts of money required to meet expenditure involved in the various sections of the scheme, but my own belief is that a contribution is levied primarily for the purpose of paying the capitation fees to doctors, dentists, chemists, and so on, who render services to people in various panels.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Darwin (.Sir George Bell) may be making his claim in good faith, but I suggest that if he wishes to challenge the veracity of my statement he should dissect the relevant figures.
– They have been dissected in this Parliament in previous discussions.
– The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act which was passed by this Parliament some years ago provided for a scheme of social services which was nothing like the New Zealand system. It was not nearly so advanced. The most desirable way to provide for invalid and aged people is by means of a system which would give to them a superannuation payment as a right earned by virtue of his or her citizenship in this country.
There is another anomaly to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services. I do not know whether it is created by the act itself, or whether it arises from a rule adopted by those responsible for the administration of the act. I refer to the case of applicants who are living apart from their husbands or wives without an order of the court. That is to say, they have no order for judicial separation, nor have they a decree absolute in favour of either party. In some cases, the applicant for a pension may not know whether his or her spouse is alive, or where he or she is residing, but that information may be in the possession of the department, and should the spouse be in receipt of an income, then half of that income is regarded as being the income of the applicant. In that way a person may he deprived of a pension although no financial assistance whatever is being received from the spouse. There are few such cases, and I suggest to the Minister that where satisfactory evidence is furnished that the parties are residing apart, a pension should be granted to an applicant.
– Discretion in that regard is exercised now.
– It is not so much a matter of discretion as of interpretation of the section of the act which provides that if the husband or wife of a claimant has an income then the claimant is deemed to be in receipt of half that income. My complaint is that that section still applies even when the two parties are living apart and, quite possibly, one does not know where the other lives. In one case which was brought to my notice the wife was endeavouring to trace her husband, and she asked me to obtain his address from the Pensions Department, because under this provision she had been disqualified from receiving a pension. In my opinion the Government should give to the pensioners, not merely 25s. a week plus adjustments in accordance with .the cost of living, but an amount which would allow them to live decently and honorably in the evening of their lives. The fact that the pension rate is so low is leading, in some cases, to the employment of subterfuge, and that is not desirable or necessary. I believe that the pensioners as a class are most honest people. The least that should be paid to them is an amount which would enable them to purchase at least the barest necessaries of life. Some honorable members have complained that the 30s. a day which they receive by way of travelling expenses as members of various parliamentary committees is little enough. If that be so, how can they believe that 25s. a week is sufficient for invalid and old-age pensioners who have no other assets?
– Why not reduce the travelling allowance paid to members instead ?
– I understand that the practice of paying travelling allowances to members of parliamentary committees has been in operation ever since such committees commenced to function, and I do not think that that is a bad principle. My argument is if that much money can be paid to members of Parliament merely for travelling expenses, then 25s. a week is little enough to pay to_ invalid and old-age pensioners.
Once again I commend the Minister for the introduction of this bill, and 1 hope that later on in his term of office, he will so amend it as to ensure that pensions will be payable with the minimum amount of discomfort to the claimant, and the maximum benefit so far as living conditions are concerned.
.- The remarks I desire to make on this bill will not traverse ground covered by other speakers, for the aspects of the subject of social service to which I shall refer have not been discussed during the debate. At present a progressive movement for the uplifting of the conditions of the masses of the workers is noticeable among nations throughout the world. This is particularly so in connexion with backward peoples whose lot should, if possible, be brought more into conformity with that of the more civilized communities. Britain itself is at present applying a social services policy, similar to that being applied in other parts of the Empire, based upon the principle that the State should provide more adequately for its citizens who, in the stress and strain of modern life, cannot compete with their more fortunately situated fellows. In support of this view I direct the attention of honorable members to a debate which occurred in the British House of Lords on the 9th July 1941, on certain steps of the British Government to implement the provisions of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act passed in 1940. My reference, which is extracted from the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire of October 1941, reads -
The Earl of Listowel said the Act enabled them to spend up to £5,000,000 a year for 10 years on raising the standard of living and improving the Social Services of 60,000,000 Colonial subjects. These were no longer to be the plaything of economic forces over which they had no control, for the financial assistance and scientific advice would be forthcoming from Great Britain to equip them to stand on their own feet.
Seeing that the Government of Great Britain has felt able, even in these times, to take such a step, it is only proper that a nation like Australia, which has been in the forefront of progressive thinking on these matters for many years, should also be making a progressive move. I therefore congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon having introduced this bill.
For many years a section of public men in Australia have supported the payment of invalid and old-age pensions on the humanitarian principle that would cause them to throw a piece of food to a starving animal. Such individuals regard the payment of an invalid or old-age pension in the light of a charity, find not of an obligation that one citizen bears to another or that the Government of the country should bear to citizens in general. I am glad to observe that a new principle is now being recognized by the British Government. In this connexion [ direct the attention of honorable members to a discussion that occurred in the British House of Commons, on the 13th February last, on a social services bill not unlike the one now before us. In speaking to the bill the Right Honorable F. W. Pethick-Lawrence, who represents Edinburgh interests, said, according to a report in the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire for April, 1941 -
The bill shifted in the main the obligation to look after those who were ill or out of work from the family and the household to the community as a whole. It marked the recognition that unemployment had ceased to be a private affair and was the public concern of the State as a whole.
Despite that emphasis on the new principle to which I have referred and which I consider should underlie all social service legislation, a few individuals in this country still refuse to accept that outlook. But, beyond any question, the nation in general now regards it as an obligation of the central Government to protect the interests of the weak, the aged and the infirm in the community.
Another matter to which I direct attention is the need, in my view, for the Government to provide that the ownership of a home by a pensioner shall not debar that individual from continuing to receive this pension or from suffering a reduction of it if it becomes necessary for him to leave the home and reside elsewhere. Under our pensions legislation as it stands, pensioners are required to occupy a house that they now own or else suffer a reduction, or possibly loss, of their pension if they receive rental from such a property. Whatever may be said for the existing practice in normal times, it surely must be apparent to all honorable members that a different procedure is justified to-day. Normally many old pensioner couples may safely live in a somewhat isolated area, because they have sons and daughters, or other relatives, living nearby, who, in case of need, would be able to assist the old people, and even secure medical attention for them, if such became necessary. In these days the situation has changed. Many young women have left their homes in rural areas to undertake munitions work in Hip cities, and practically all young men have enlisted or have been called up for home service. Consequently, aged parents who in the past have relied upon the proximity of their children for help in time of need are no longer able to do so, and have been compelled to leave their homes and go to reside in places where medical and other assistance is accessible when needed. If, in such circumstances, they let their homes for, say, £1 or £1 5s. a week, the income so received may cause a reduction of their pensions.
This, I submit, is most unfair, particularly as by removing to another place of residence the old people often incur increased expense in excess of any amount they receive as rental for the home they have vacated. The law should be sufficiently elastic to permit variations of practice in times of emergency. I hope that the Minister will be able to see his way clear to introduce an amendment of the bill to cover such cases at least during the war period.
– in reply - Perhaps if at this stage I reply briefly to some of the requests made by honorable members in the course of this debate, it may shorten the committee stage of the bill. It has been pleasing to me to note the tone of this debate. The measure has met with more general support than similar measures have obtained in previous years. That is a good sign. Honorable members, in fact, have been almost unanimous in their support of the measure, although some have been more wholehearted than have others. Yet a few rather strange points of view have been expressed.
It was argued by some honorable gentlemen with a conservative outlook that the Government should make provision for a larger permissible income for pensioners. I gather that they held the opinion that that procedure would be preferable to an increase of the rate of pension. However, if the desires of those honorable gentlemen were acceded to, the pensions expenditure of the nation would be increased more than will he the case by the variation of the rates now proposed, because such action would automatically and inevitably increase the number of persons entitled to a pension, and it would also involve an upward variation of the pensions of persons now receiving payments at broken rates. It would probably cost £500,000 to meet the added cost of applying such a principle to broken pensions alone. Immediately there was an addition to the amount of permissible income, by the exemption of payments on account of phthisis or for some other reason, the field of eligibility would be enlarged and the number of broken pensions would be greatly increased. I am not saying that that is either right or wrong. It is said that the weakness of the act is that a pensioner is not allowed to earn a greater amount than is stipulated. In normal times, because of the improvement of all the means of production and distribution, and in order to deal with technological unemployment, which increases with greater momentum every year, the tendency is to raise the school-leaving age and lower the age at which workers leave industry. The object of that is, not merely to satisfy humanitarian instincts, but also to keep in work those who ought to remain. For that reason, the idea is to keep fairly low the amount of permissible income. We do not want old men and women to work. Normally, there is not sufficient employment offering for the absorption of every fit person. But there is another logical answer in these times, when any man who is physically fit can obtain employment. Any man who can work is an asset to the community, because there is not enough labour to meet requirements. I have made appeals to old-age pensioners to accept employment.
– They fear that they would lose their pension.
– There is that fear. It is not so great now as it was previously. During the last six months, I have induced scores of pensioners to undertake fruit-picking for canning purposes in the Shepparton and other areas, and they have earned as much as £4 and £5 a week. Generally speaking, the offer of work is not accepted because of the fear that the pension will immediately be lost and might not be restored for several months.
– That fear still exists.
-Bu t not to the same degree as it did months or even years ago. It is being broken down by public statements in the press.
– I made a suggestion last, night.
– I am answering that. There is nothing to prevent an oldage pensioner from taking a job. He does not break any law unless he earns more than £32 10s. in a particular year. He can be employed at £5 a week. Having worked for two or three weeks, if he finds that his health will permit him to continue, and the joh does not peter out, he may ask the Commissioner to suspend his pension. He may continue to work until the state of his health obliges him to retire, or the work peters .out, when he may ask the Commissioner to have his pension restored to him. If he has any sense, he will replenish his wardrobe and provide himself with other needs while in employment.
– Is the permissible income always calculated on a yearly basis?
– Yes. Any man or woman in receipt of an old-age pension may have it temporarily suspended luring a period of employment, and have it restored at the termination of the employment.
– Because of the red tape of public departments, before a reply is received to an application for restoration of a pension the pensioner may be dead.
– When a pensioner asked1 for the pension to be restored, would the amount earned during the period of its suspension be taken into account in the annual calculation?
– Rot if he had spent it as he went along.
– It is done in practice.
– I cannot imagine how it could be done. The pensioner merely asks for the pension to be restored. His position is examined. If he has saved a couple of hundred pounds during the time he has been at work, it will be counted against him; but if he has not more than £59 in a bank, or has not bought another cottage, the full pension will be restored.
– But he has earned more than £32 in the year !
– During that time, he has not drawn the pension. He does not break any law.
– So long as that is clear, well and good.
– -I consider that it is. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has purposely exaggerated in order to have clarified the matter he has raised. He says that a man might he dead before the pension was restored. With 340,000 pensioners, there are bound to be some bad examples. Probably, special reasons could be found in such instances. Speaking generally, a pension could be restored within seven or eight days. During the last fortnight or so, I have been associated with applications for pensions that have been granted within less than a week. If that can be done in one instance, it can be done in all instance*. During the last six months, because of th.scarcity of man-power and the additional work caused by child endowment payments and other matters, there has been some difficulty. I am certain that the commissioner and his staff will agree that there need not be undue delay in restoring an old-age pension which had been temporarily suspended because the pensioner had obtained employment. 1 have made public appeals for labour !> overcome the fruit-picking difficulty, an.! many pensioners have raised the pot 11 with me. I have made it clear that an invalid pension could not be suspended, because the pensioner is supposed not to be able to work. Any invalid pensioner who relinquished his pension in order to accept employment would have to pass a fresh medical examination if he again wished to obtain the pension, anr! thus would take a risk.
I believe that I have answered the suggestion that the permissible income should he greater than it is. First, it is noi necessary; secondly, it is something thai the pensioner does not want. The result would be greatly to increase the aggregate amount of pensions, by a large addition to the number of persons entitled t<> receive them.
– Has there been a calculation of what it would cost to increase the permissible income from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week?
– A rough approximation is £500,000; but how many additional claimants there might be is not known. Every honorable member has had the experience of supporting an applicant for a pension, whose income was just sufficient to disqualify him. If the amount were increased, such persons would be entitled to a pension.
– Men suffering from miners’ phthisis need to he specially considered.
– I have been working for months in regard to that matter. The Government of Victoria pays to men suffering from that complaint a pension of 12s. 6d. a week, and it knows that if it paid more than that it would be making a present to the Commonwealth Government. If the 12s. 6d. received from the Government of Victoria were not counted as income for the purpose of calculating the old-age pension, a similar concession would have to be given in respect of such payments in all of the other States. The payment to men in Western Australia suffering from miners’ phthisis amounts in some cases to £2 10s. a week. The problem may be dealt with at some future date, but provision for such cases cannot be included in this bill.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has given his blessing to this measure, as I knew he would. First, he said that the proposed increase of the invalid and old-age pension should not have been made in time of war, yet he claims that at all times, and particularly in time of war, we should provide the maximum of social security for the people in order to build up their morale. I entirely agree with the honorable gentleman in that regard, and I consider that the greatest tonic we could give to the members of our fighting services, both in Australia and overseas, would be to make them feel satisfied that the invalid and old-age pensioners are being looked after on the home front. The honorable member said he was glad that the pension is to be extended to certain Pacific Islanders now resident in Australia. He feared that there might be an element of danger in this innovation, but the department has made a thorough investigation and has found that, as in the case of Syrians and Lebanese, there are very few kanakas in this country and that they are all over the age of 70 years. They are living under civilized conditions, and no harm will he done by granting the pension to them. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has urgently pleaded for the extension of pension rights to these islanders living in Australia, yet last night he referred to what he described as the danger of permitting an influx of young Pacific Islanders. I do not share the honorable gentleman’s apprehensions in that matter. Even if some of the Filipinos who have recently come to Australia remained in this country, a long time would have to elapse before the problem visualized by the honorable member would have to be considered. The kanaka, however, falls within a different category. Some of them were never repatriated, and some were sent to the wrong islands. There are only 200 Pacific Islanders in Australia, and I do not think more than 50 Avail be eligible for the pension.
– Will the Minister explain the proposed change of the law with regard to the aborigines?
– We have had some experience lately in dealing with child endowment. The problem is a difficult one, because there are very few aborigines to whom direct payment would be made, and who would know how to use the pension. To some of them, money would be of no use at all. I have travelled throughout the Commonwealth and have spent a few days in central Australia, where I inspected aboriginal camps. I offered a 2s. piece to a native who had picked up a box of food that had been lost by my party, and he looked at me as if I were mentally unsound. He attached no value whatever to the coin. I support the view of the department tha* the great majority of members of this Parliament, and many people throughout Australia, favour a little extra being done to help this dying race. It was thought that, because of the small number of aborigines who would be entitled to receive direct payment, the department should be allowed, in its discretion, to pay 5s. or 7s. 6d. a week in respect of each member of a group of aborigines which might be under the control of some authorized body for six, seven or eight months in each year. That would enable the guardians of the natives to provide them with extra food or clothing. If honorable members are not satisfied with the proposal, the Government will save some money, but it will be free from any suggestion that it has not made an attempt to confer an additional benefit upon the aborigines.
– We are fighting a war for justice, and Australia is the aborigines’ own country. Now the Government says that, because they would not know how to use the pension, they are not to be paid more than 7s. 6d. a week. That will not do at all.
– The full pension will be paid to those aborigines who live under civilized conditions.
– Of course. I know scholarly men in professions and in the churches who are aboriginals.
– There is no justification for treating as outcasts those who have a better right to this country than we have, If they do not know how to use money, we should give them something which they would know how to use.
– They would not be paid 5s. or 6s. a week in cash.
– We should allow them the full pension, but we should pay it in kind.
– It is intended to pay the full pension to the aborigines, provided it can be shown that they are able to use it to their own advantage.
– Many white men cannot do that.
– The next point raised by the honorable member for Parramatta and referred to by other honorable members related to another alteration to be effected by this bill. It has been decided to desist from making payments to hospitals in respect of pensioners who become inmates. We have found that 70 per cent, of pensionerinmates remain in hospital for less than 28 days, and unless a pensioner remains in hospital for more than 28 days, no deduction is made from his pension for the benefit of the hospital. The trouble involved in checking the time pensioners enter hospital and leave it, and in settling arguments between the hospital authorities and the pensioners, is more than the scheme is worth to the hospital. I believe that, as the result of this amendment of the act, the hospitals will actually get more money than before. The experience has been that some pensioners pay the hospitals whether they are, in fact, bound to do so or not. There is a wrong impression held by many people about pensioners. It is not true that, as a body, they are backward in meeting their obligations. Storekeepers say that their best customers are old-age pensioners, because they are methodical in their payments, and always pay cash. Many of the hospital authorities have said the same thing. I have not had a conference with hospital representatives, and that is the only weak point in my case, but I have invited public comment on the Government’s proposals, and no complaint has been received. Indeed, many hospital authorities have asked to be removed from the list of those proclaimed under the act, because they do not want to be bothered with the scheme for the deduction of a proportion of inmates’ pensions. Among the hospitals which have made this request are those at Maitland, Kurri Kurri, Rylstone, Canberra, Mareeba, Wallsend, Newcastle and Cessnock. My own opinion is that hospitals will not lose by the change.
– But will the patient lose ?
– How can he?
– He cannot afford to pay £2 a week to a hospital.
– That is the aggregate amount which a hospital could lose.
– But it costs more than 12s. 6d. a week to keep a patient in hospital ?
– The hospitals have never refused to take pensioners.
– Very well, we shall try this new scheme, and see how it works out.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who is chairman of the Joint Committee on Social Security, says that he was delighted that the Government was so quick to take advantage of the committee’s recommendations. The Government is very grateful to the committee, first because it did its work quickly; secondly, because it reported concisely upon those matters regarding which the Government urgently wanted guidance.
– What does the Minister mean by that?
– The Minister means that the committee judged the Government’s resources admirably.
– The honorable member for Bass expressed the hope that the Government would eventually be able to bring in comprehensive social security legislation. I assure the honorable member that, as soon as the legal draftsman has time to give the matter his attention, [ intend to get him to frame a consolidating bill. When it becomes law, we shall have one concise act which every one will be able to understand. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who is also a member of the committee, gave the hill his blessing. Nearly all’ those who have spoken on the bill have expressed the opinion that the amount which the pensioner is permitted to earn should bc increased beyond the present limit of 12s. 6d., but I think that I have disposed of that matter. A strange thing is that those who fought against an increase of the pension rate want to increase the permissible income although that would have the effect of bringing in a large number of new pensioners. Either they do not mean what they say, or they do not understand its import. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) did not make any reference to the bill at all. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) expressed fears regarding the extension of pension’ benefits to Asiatics. However, his fears arc groundless, because the number of such persons is steadily diminishing. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) said that the pension increase would be of no benefit to the recipients, and that it would be better to allow them to earn more money.
– I said that the increase would be of no benefit to them because increased indirect taxes would reduce the purchasing power of the pension.
– The honorable member’s case is weakened still further by that admission, because there is no increase of tax on 90 per cent, of the articles which pensioners use. Moreover, the honorable member overlooked the fact that the pension rate is adjusted according to the variations of the cost of living. It is provided in the bill that the rate shall not fall below 25s. a week. The rate of the pension will not be increased’ or decreased unless Parliament so decides ; but the amount will fluctuate in accordance with the cost of living index figure. The rate of 25s. stands in the same re lation to the cost of living as did the rate of 22s. Cd. Our object is to ensure that, the present purchasing value of 25s. shall remain to the pensioner. That dispose of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Wilmot.
Other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), expressed regret that provision is not being made to provide pensions in respect of inmates of hospitals for the insane. Such persons are about the only class of aged, or invalid people who are excluded from the provisions of this measure. However, inmates of such institutions could not themselves use the pension, and, therefore could not benefit by it. The care of the insane has always been regarded as an obligation of the States. At the same time, I am aware that, in many cases, private individuals are obliged to pay for the maintenance of inmates of hospitals for the insane.
– That i? generally the case.
– Our statistics do not bear out that statement. On that point I emphasize that the extension of the pensions scheme to embrace various institutions which have not hitherto benefited will alleviate this position. For instance, pensions will be paid in respect of mentally afflicted persons who are not certified as being insane, but who are inmates of State institutions. I also point out that the measure dealing with widows’ pensions, which the Government hopes to introduce next week, provides in certain cases for the payment of a widow’s pension to the wife of a person who is an inmate of an institution for the insane.
– Nevertheless, inmates of mental hospitals, whether they he partially, or wholly, insane, are still excluded from the provisions of this measure.
– We shall deal with that point in committee. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked that dwarfs be regarded as invalids for the purposes of this measure. Such claimants would have to pass the necessary test; and it would have to be proved that they are incapable of working. However, many dwarfs earn much higher incomes than honorable members do. For. instance, many appear on the stage and at exhibitions. These persons really come within the class of persons who are not quite fully classified as invalids, on whose behalf representations have been made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). Under the act such persons may obtain a temporary pension while they undergo vocational training for special kinds of work suited to their capacities. I recall that when this provision was inserted in the act. the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) expressed the fear that it might be used to intimidate pensioners. That danger certainly did exist. However, the provision has not been used in that way; and I am sure that it will not be so used.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Persons disqualified - oldage pensions).
– Am I to understand that “ an aboriginal native of Australia “ includes the half-caste?
– It embraces both full-bloods and half-castes provided that they are living under civilized conditions.
– The arguments that apply in respect of a full-blooded aboriginal do not apply in the case of the half-caste. When I last visited Alice Springs I inspected the three schools there, namely, the schools for whites, full-blooded aborigines, and half-castes. T could not detect any substantial difference between the mentality of the halfcastes and of the white children. I saw some half-castes who would bear comparison with the galaxy of talent and beauty on the other side of the chamber. In my opinion, a half-caste is entitled to all the rights of citizenship ; he is, indeed, more entitled than many white people because one of his parents is an original native of the country. To deny him the full privileges of a native of Australia is not compatible with the principles of justice.
– That is only an assumption. The right honorable gentle man does not know that they will bc denied those privileges.
– I invite the Minister to explain the position.
– The right honorable gentleman asked me whether a half-caste would be accorded the same treatment as a full-blooded aboriginal.
– I asked whether the exclusion which is contemplated in this clause will apply to half-castes.
– This includes them.
– What is the extent of this liberalization?
– Half-castes are . already included. For the purposes of the act, a half-caste is regarded as a white person. Of course, some half-castes “ go bush “, and they would have to show good cause why they should be paid the pension.
– It would be a good job if some white men “ went bush
– That is not the argument. A half-caste is accorded the same treatment as you and I would receive if we were eligible to apply for a pension. If one of us “ went bush “, he would not be paid a pension.
.- 1 cannot understand the contention of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that this clause introduces a new principle. It is impossible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule to govern the payment of pensions to native races. The amendment clearly provides that if an aboriginal or halfcaste lives under civilized conditions, either as a private citizen or under proper supervision, he is eligible to receive a pension. Obviously, some discretion must be allowed for the purpose of determining the difference between those who live a normal, civilized life and those who are nomads.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Limit of pension) .
.- I have yet to be convinced that something cannot be done to relax the provisions relating to permissible income. The contentions of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) are perfectly valid. I realize that if the permissible income of 12s. 6d. a week be increased, the number of pensioners would be increased, and that is undesirable. But the Government, because of the acute shortage of labour, must encourage pensioners ‘ to seek employment in various occupations. Working in factories, some of them might earn the basic wage whilst others might receive £1 .a week for doing odd jobs. However, pensioners are not encouraged to seek employment, because they realize that if their earnings over a period of twelve months exceed an average of 12s. 6d. a week, their pension will be affected. It should be possible for the department to grant to pensioners now on the roll a certificate of clearance for the purpose of permitting them to earn what they can over and above the pension. This proposal would not increase the number of pensioners, but would enable them to do many useful jobs in the community. I urge the Minister to reconsider the clause.
.- It is quite a good thing that members of the Joint Committee on Social ‘Security should not be unanimous upon every subject that they investigate. At present, a pensioner is permitted to earn £32 10s. a year before his pension is affected. If he desires to obtain employment, he may surrender his pension, and he has no difficulty in reestablishing his claim to it when the job ceases. I have acted for a number of constituents in this matter. Whilst I do not object to the proposal of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), many practical difficulties would have to be overcome before it could he given effect.
.- Last night I directed the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to the advisability of liberalizing the provision relating to permissible income in order to encourage pensioners to seek employment and thereby relieve the serious labour shortage.. Honorable members are aware that a pensioner is permitted to surrender his pension if he desires to engage in temporary employment. When the job ends, he is obliged to re-apply for the pension, and some persons fear that a long delay may occur before it is renewed. In South Australia the shortage of man-power is acute, but the adoption of my suggestion would assist to relieve it. I refer to munition workers. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men are employed on such operations as polishing and packing - shells, and similar work. Persons I have spoken to seem to fear relinquishing their pensions in case they may not be able to renew them. Why not insert in the bill a provision that would enable pensioners to work for the basic wage less 25s.? There are scores of old men who could do work, apart from munitions work, that young men have done in the past. They ought not to have to drop their pensions. I ask the Minister to give this matter favorable consideration.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the Minister should deal with the permissible income limitation. If there is an objection to making an appropriate amendment in the bill, the matter could be dealt with by a national security regulation. I have had several typical cases brought to my notice. An oldage pensioner who is a constituent of mine wished to assist in the war effort. He obtained employment that lasted for only two weeks. He had given up his pension, in the meantime, and not until two months after he had applied for a renewal was the new pension granted. He had incurred obligations in the meantime, and the pension was not renewed as from the date when he had relinquished his employment.
Another case brought to my notice was that of a man who is a justice of the peace and an alderman in the municipality of Granville. He has been an invalid pensioner for fifteen years, as a result of heart trouble. He was certified by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department as being completely incapacitated. A few years ago some one wrote an anonymous complaint about him, and his pension was cancelled; but, on the representations of my predecessor, it was renewed. Recently, he offered his services in connexion with the national emergency, and was appointed chief air raid warden for Granville district. Later, some kind person, because the pensioner had a position of prestige, wrote another anonymous complaint, and said that if the man could do the work he was doing he was not entitled to a pension. He was working, of course, in an honorary capacity. Possibly by occupying his mind in that work he would be diverting his thoughts from his own physical condition, and I understand that that is one of the reasons why he has taken up social and philanthropic work in the district. EEs work as chief warden was work for the community. When the report was sent to the department the case was referred to the local doctor, who, apparently, does not agree with the pensioner’s views. The result was that the pension was cancelled. I brought the case to the notice of the commission, and later the Minister, who appointed a medical board to investigate it. The hoard reported that the pensioner was 50 per cent, incapacitated. In spite of that, however, he does not come within the provisions of the act. He cannot obtain employment because, being 50 per cent, incapacitated, he is, for the purpose of obtaining employment, totally incapacitated. Cases such as these should be dealt -with under the national security regulations.
.- I should like to hear any logical reasons in support of the arguments that have been put forward, but the reasons advanced are not logical. The arguments seem to be based on a fear in the minds of honorable members. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and I are discussing means of remedying the long gap that sometimes occurs between the lodging of an application and the payment of the pension. I feel that the number of such cases has been exaggerated, although the facts stated in individual cases may be correct. I can give a promise that in all probability, within a week or two, the commissioner will he able to give effect to a principle already in the act, that the payment of the pension shall start from the first pay day after the application is made. Honorable members cannot expect anything better than that.
– The payment is now made on the first pay day after the decision to pay the pension has been reached:
– Not always^ but I think it sometimes is.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Assessment of value of accumulated property).
.- 1 am surprised that the clause does not make provision for an amendment that should be made in the legislation. The Government has provided for the exclusion of savings bank deposits from the assets of an applicant for a pension, and the Minister might, at the same time, have removed the anomaly that exists when a pensioner has worthless assets alleged to have a value of more than £400. An inquiry by me on behalf of one of my constituents elicited the reply that the Commissioner had no discretion to deal with the case, and that he knew of a number of such cases. The applicant, had land that had been sold to him by a go-getter salesman. It consisted of mountain blocks, the value of which had remained in the books of the shire at the original figure, which was in excess of £400. The land was not an asset to the man but a liability. He was unable to pay the rates on it, which had accumulated for a. number of years. Although the land was valueless, its nominal value of more than £400 precluded him from obtaining a full pension. I realize that this matter bristles with difficulties. When I considered it a few months ago, I came to the conclusion that the only thing to do was to give to the Commissioner some discretionary power, and that we should remove from the legislation the rigidity which compete him to grant cither a pension or nothing at all.
– The Commissioner has that authority now. It was given to him after we amended the legislation a few months ago.
– He was given discretionary power? Only recently cases have come to my notice.
– There is no provision in the act, but an understanding was arrived at.
– Will the Minister make inquiries so that if necessary this aspect can be dealt with when the bill goes to the Senate?
– If an administrative order has been issued to give discretionary powers to the Commissioner, well and good, but the act speaks for itself.
– Nothing definite could be inserted in the act; any new section dealing with that matter would have to be flexible.
– I realize that, but I suggest that the act should he amended in order to empower the Commissioner to grant pensions in such cases as I have cited. If the Government has already given that power to the Commissioner by administrative order, I have no more to say, except, of course, that an administrative instruction cannot override the act.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the Commissioner has full discretion.
– If the Government is making ex gratia payments, that is another matter, but, while the act is in the process of being amended, it would be a good idea to translate the administrative order into a section of the act so that the people who are now receiving a pension as the result of the Commissioner’s strictly unauthorized discretion will receive it as a legal right. Next week, I shall place before the Minister a certain case in order to ascertain whether it is covered by his administrative order.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Payment of pension where pensioner in benevolent asylum).
– I listened with interest to what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) had to say on the matter of hospitals, but he left me unconverted. The present position is that hospitals are defined in the principal act. The amount which they have been receiving hitherto has been 15s. 9d., and under the new provisions they would receive 16s. 6d. a week. It is proposed by the omission of the words “ or hospital “ from section 40a of the principal act to remove the obligation upon pensioners admitted as patients to pay to the hospitals that part of their pension which they are now obliged to pay. It will be left to the hospitals and to the pensioner patients to make their own arrangements as to payment. The Minister has said that, in his opinion, the hospitals will receive more under the proposed new arrangement than they have received hitherto.
– They will, possibly.
– It is perfectly obvious that the Commonwealth will have to pay at least as much as in the past.
– The Commonwealth will be involved in no extra cost beyond that provided for in the general increase of the rate of the pension.
– -Some loss must be incurred somewhere. Surely the Government does not intend that the loss, shall fall on the pensioners. The inevitable result will be that it will fall on the hospitals concerned, to which, in effect, a definite subsidy has been paid under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The loss will fall on the hospitals in the first place, but, ultimately, on the ratepayers, or, since the hospitals are subsidized by the State governments, on the States, and, accordingly, on the taxpayers, because the States will pass on to the taxpayers any losses that they sustain as the result of this proposed legislation. Has the Minister made any application to the Premiers and to the State Ministers responsible for the maintenance of hospitals for their views on this proposal? The Minister recited a list of about half a dozen hospitals which, he said, had expressed a desire for this change to be made. I have some slight knowledge of the names of Australian hospitals, and there were few names in the list he read of which I had ever heard before. I take it that the Newcastle General Hospital would probably be the largest hospital on the list. He named no big hospital in any capital city of Australia as having made application for this change. There is no suggestion that the change was applied for by the State governments. As I have said, somebody will lose, and I put it to the committee that this is not the time to impose additional burdens on the hospitals. They are passing through times of extraordinary difficulty, particularly on account of shortages of supplies and higher costs of such things as chemicals and wood and coal. Moreover, a great number of the doctors are serving in the armed forces. In every way, the working costs of the hospitals are rising. Inevitably, too, in present conditions, there must be a shrinkage of subscriptions as the result of increasing taxes and the multitudinous appeals to the public for subscriptions to this or that war objective. I suggest, therefore, that the losses that the hospitals incur will have to be borne by the State governments and, therefore, by the taxpayers.
– And by the community in cases of community hospitals.
– Whichever way one looks at it, the taxpayer will have to make good the deficiency. I understand that there is no charge against a pensioner patient until he has been in hospital 28 days. That is not right. A pensioner should be required in the same way as every other patient is required to pay from the time he enters hospital. I put it to the committee that, as the result of this proposal, the hospitals, which are already passing through a n exceedingly difficult time, will have their rights severely cramped by this proposal. Section 40a should stand as it is, and the definition of “hospital” should be restored, or something corresponding inserted. I shall vote against this clause, if other honorable members share my views.
Mr.ROSEVEAR, (Dalley) [3.54].- I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) will not look upon clause 12 as being as permanent and unalterable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians. I have mixed among pensioners and their institutions for many years, and I have not discovered amongst them any request for an amendment of this kind.
– Then the honorable member has not knocked about as much as he should have,
– I do not intend to argue with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I know the reasons in his electorate which actuate him in supporting this proposal, and I shall proceed to deal with them without the assistance or hindrance of interjections. I do not know of any demand amongst pensioners’ organizations for this amendment, and, as a matter of fact, although I approach this clause differently from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), I say I am not certain that it will improve the position of the pensioners. Under the old provision, when a pensioner went into hospital his pension was held in hand by the department for the first 28 days, after which a fixed proportion was paid to the hospital and the remainder to the pensioner. Then, when the pensioner came out of the hospital, and when he needed the money most, he was handed four weeks’ accumulated pension. The law fixed the fees chargeable to him by the hospital after the first 28 days. I consider that, under this proposal, immediately a pensioner applies for entry to a hospital the authorities, with the knowledge that his pension will be paid to him regularly throughout his period as a patient, will press him to pay something for the first 28 days. Furthermore, I am not sure that most hospitals will be satisfied to accept from the pensioner the amount which, up to the present, they have accepted from the Government in respect of the period after . the first 28 days in ‘hospital. In my opinion the pensioner’s position will be more insecure under this proposed provision than it was previously. Some honorable members may contend that there are hospital funds to which pensioners can contribute and from which they can pay their hospital fees. However, I remind those honorable gentlemen that, although these funds guarantee that they will pay for a pensioner’s upkeep while he is in hospital, they do not guarantee to secure accommodation for him in a hospital. In spite of the fact that pensioners’ fees have been paid out of these funds, the hospitals have never neglected to take from the Pensions Department the contribution that was normally paid under the old provision.
– But they refunded the amount.
– The honorable member’s thoughts do not seem to wander beyond the environs of his own electorate, where conditions are different from elsewhere. If he lived in a Sydney electorate he would know that the money is not returned to the pensioner, and the Pensions’ Department will tell him that it cannot recover the amount paid to a hospital on behalf of a pensioner, because that is a matter between the pensioner and the hospital. The Minister said that a number of hospitals had agreed to forego the pension payment. That is true, but nearly all of the hospitals mentioned by him are in the Newcastle and northern coal-fields areas, where the great majority of the residents, particularly the members of the Miners Federation, contribute to hospital funds. That is an act of charity on the part of those hospitals in the Newcastle district. Pensioners in that area probably contend that, as the hospitals do not want anything from the Government out of their pensions, they ought to receive full rates while they are in hospital. It is easy to understand their point of view. However, if they resided in other districts where hospitals require pensioners to pay fees, they might look at the matter differently. I know of no agitation in the Sydney area on behalf of this proposed change.
– Has the honorable member not been approached by the pensioners?
– I can produce evidence that a deputation of pensioners waited upon the honorable member.
– Apparently, the only good reason for this proposed amendment of the law is that it will entail less work for the limited staff of the Pensions Department, because, under it, pension payments will continue as usual, whereas, under the existing provision; there has been some difficulty with regard to the holding up of pensions and the disbursement of different amounts. I hope that the new arrangement will not be looked upon as a. permanent feature of pensions law, but that it will be considered in the nature of a trial. I know that the Minister is trying to do his best for the pensioners, but under the present law a pensioner received payment in full for the first 28 days of his stay in hospital and nobody had the right to make any claims against that payment, whilst, under the proposed arrangement, the hospitals, knowing that a pensioner will be paid throughout his stay, will claim some payment for the first 28 days of his stay. Under the present law, which fixes the rate of contribution, a pensioner knows how much he has to pay after the first 28 days, but in future he will not know how much he will be expected to pay. It is conceivable that, under the proposed arrangement, he will lose more than he would lose under the present system, unless he can strike a hard bargain with the hospital.
coral. Sea Naval Engagements - Export of . Meat - Rationing : Clothes and Textiles - Parliamentary Library - Dangerous Signposts - Repatriation Legislation - Wheat Industry - Country Train Services - Gas-welding Materials.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have received a communique from the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the South-west Pacific Area stating that a great naval battle is proceeding in the south-west Pacific zone. This battle arises from the operations which began on the 4th May and to which I referred in the House this morning. The events that are taking place to-day are of crucial importance to the whole conduct of the war in this theatre. I have no information as to how the engagement is developing, but I should like the nation to be assured that there will be, on the part of our forces and of the American forces, that devotion to duty which is characteristic of the naval and air forces of the United States of America, Great Britain and the Commonwealth. I should add that at this moment nobody can tell what the result of the engagement may be. If it should go advantageously, we shall have cause for great gratitude and our position will then be. somewhat clearer. But if we should not have the advantages from this battle for which we hope, all that confronts us is a sterner ordeal and a greater and graver responsibility. This battle will not decide the war; it will determine the immediate tactics which will be pursued by the Allied forces and by the common enemy. I ask the people of Australia, having regard to the grave consequences implicit in this engagement, to make a sober and realistic estimate of their duty io the nation. As I speak, those who are participating in the engagement are conforming to the sternest discipline and are subjecting themselves with all that they have - it may be for many of them the last full measure of their devotion - to accomplish the increased safety and security of this territory. In the face of such an example I feel that it is not asking too much of every citizen who to-day is being defended by these gallant men in that engagement, to regard himself as engaged in the second line of service to Australia. The front line needs the maximum support of every man and woman in the Commonwealth. With all the responsibility which I feel, which the Government feels, and which, I am sure, the Parliament as a whole shares, I put it to any man whom my words may reach, however they may reach him, that he owes it to those men, and to the future of the country, not to be stinting in what he will do now for Australia. Men are fighting for Australia to-day; those who are not fighting have no excuse for not working.
.- Having had the privilege of hearing the statement just made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), I must say that it cannot have any other effect than to make all nf us who possess a sense of responsibility feel how puny are the internal affairs of our country whilst these world-shaking events are taking place, events which, if i hey are determined in a favorable way io us will leave us a happier people. If the events proceed in an unfavorable way, however, as the Prime Minister has said, we may be placed in a position of having many years of toil and hardship ahead of us, with much suffering before we can reach the desired victory. I can only express my own view when I say that the commander of the allied forces in this area, and the Government of Australia have the sympathy and support of every loyal Australian, and whatever active help can be given by us, must be given unstintedly. It is our duty to-day to do what we can to help.
I desire now to refer to a scheme that was recently instituted by the Government, in relation to the purchase for export for the next twelve months of certain quantities of beef, lamb, mutton, and pig meat. Unfortunately, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) is temporarily absent from the Chamber. Until recently, a contract was operative under which the United Kingdom Government purchased the meat to which I have referred. In future, the Commonwealth Government will purchase and resell certain quantities of meat to the United Kingdom Government, and the return to the producer will be the Australian equivalent to the United Kingdom contract price, less 15 per cent. I desire to refer to that deduction of 15 per cent., and to ask that the Minister for Commerce should reconsider the scheme from that angle. I understand that the producer is to be paid 75 per cent, of the contract price when the Government takes over the meat, and is to be paid a further 10 per cent, on shipment. The balance of 15 per cent, is to be retained by the Government, which would give some service to the producer for that amount so held. The meat has to be stored until it is ready for shipment, and the Government has to meet the interest cost on the 75 per cent, of the contract purchase price that is paid to the producer. The storage charges may be considerable, and the interest cost may cover a long period, therefore, the Government is entitled to compensation for the outlay. In addition, the Government is properly retaining a portion of the money for the purpose of giving a subsidy of 16s. Id. « case on canned mutton in respect of some mutton not up to export standard. That subsidy does not apply to all mutton not up to export standard, but only i.’ such portion as is passed for canning purposes. I am informed that the 15 per cent, which is to be retained by the Government will amount to approximately f 1.030,000 in twelve months. That fi gum assumes that the Government will be abls to find sufficient shipping, space to deliver abroad the quantities which are intended to be delivered under the United Kingdom contract. The statement made by th Prime Minister a few minutes ago seriously affects the problem of whether suffcent shipping space may be available for that purpose. It may be assumed, however, that if shipping space be available for the quantity of meat that the British Government desires to be delivered, the 15 per cent. deduction from the contract price will realize £1,030,000 to the Government.
The view lias been expressed that the 15 per cent, deduction is too high. J take no personal responsibility for the figure which I am going to mention, but it has been supplied by a reliable authority in the industry. It is estimated that a sum of approximately £200,000 would cover the subsidy on canned mutton as well as interest and storage charges. 1 am not without some detailed calculations on how the £200,000 is arrived at. It is based upon the estimated proportion of mutton that would be canned, and in respect of which a subsidy would be given. It is also based on a knowledge of what storage costs would be entailed, and what interest charges on the capital outlay would have to be met over a period of six months. It is claimed that the Government is retaining from the producer approximately five times the amount that it is necessary to retain. I ask the Minister to examine this matter in order to ascertain whether the position is as 1 have stated. If so, I urge that there be a revision of the arrangements so as to provide the producer with a better return than he receives at present. A deduction of 15 per cent, is a serious matter to the grower under present conditions. In this country the fat lamb market is largely supplied by the comparatively small grower. The woolgrower in the large areas frequently if not a fat lamb producer, as honorable members are aware. I am informed that 75 per cent of the mutton and lamb that is dealt with under this arrangement is produced by growers who own fewer than 2.000 sheep, and to these people a deduction of 15 per cent, in times such as the present is a serious matter. Recent seasons in New South Wales, at least, have been extremely bad, and costs of production have risen very much in the pastoral industry. I do not suggest that wool-growers have done badly, because I am one of those who express gratitude for the agreement made with the British Government at the outbreak of war, and I believe that, generally speaking, the wool-grower has receiver! a fair average price for his product at a time when he might have encountered great difficulty in disposing of a considerable proportion of it. However, while his return has remained static, under present conditions his costs of production have risen inevitably, and the small mixed producers in the closer-in areas, who depend largely upon the production of fat lambs and mutton, have found themselves very much at a disadvantage because of rising costs, bad seasons, and this severe deduction of 15 per cent. As the Minister is aware, the local market for mutton and lamb is influenced very much by the export price received by producers, and when 15 per cent, is deducted from that price, it is naturally reflected in the homeconsumption price, and consequently the producer is at a disadvantage in both ways. The figures which I have quoted have come to me from a reliable source. It may be that the Minister can show that the Government’s outlay is considerably more than £200,000, but there is a big margin between £200,000 and £1,030,000, and if the Minister has in view the use of that balance for some other purpose, which will benefit the industry, I have nothing more to say; but if, on the other hand, there is a substantial difference such as I have indicated, I hope that the Minister will give the matter more consideration.
– Had I known that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) intended to raise this matter to-day, I should have had a detailed statement of the scheme prepared. The position as outlined by the honorable member is not quite correct, and in the near future I shall supply him with a full statement on the subject. Briefly, the position is that the 15 per cent, is deducted only in respect of the higher grades of lamb, mutton and beef. A complaint has been made throughout the grazing areas in respect of the extremely low price that is being paid for beef and mutton for cunning. We cannot possibly supply all t he canned mutton and beef that the United Kingdom has asked us to make available, and therefore the . Department of Commerce worked out this scheme. First of all, the levy was 10 per cent., and then, when it seemed evident that 10 per cent, would not be enough, a deduction of 15 per cent, was made. The money raised by means of that deduction is devoted wholly . and solely to the payment of a bounty on lower grades of mutton and beef required for canning purposes, because the price which was being paid for the lower grades of mutton and beef was not sufficient inducement to the producers to send meat to the market. As t he honorable member for Robertson said, in New South Wales, and also . in Queensland, seasons have been extremely bad in recent years, and consequently a much larger quantity of low-grade mutton and beef has been put on the market. The scheme does, to a great extent, benefit the lamb producer, including the small man to whom the honorable member referred, because he also, at certain periods, has to cull cast- for-age ewes which are placed on the market. I discussed the question of the 15 per cent, deduction with officials of my department and suggested that a deduction of 10 per cent, might be more equitable, but they asked me to let the present figure remain for a while in order to see if it would work out satisfactorily and facilitate a more equitable distribution of price. The scheme is on trial, and if we find that 15 per cent, is too great, the figure will be reduced immediately to 10 per cent.
– For some time past the Government has been giving attention to the question of ensuring an adequate supply of clothing for civilian requirements, and an equitable method of distributing that clothing amongst all classes, and all members of the population. Because of the requirements of the fighting forces, including those of our American allies, coupled with the restriction of imports brought about by shipping problems, it has been obvious for some time that the future manufacture and distribution of civilian clothing would have to be subject to careful control. The Government’s plans for the rationing of clothing are already well advanced, and, in fact, the printing of ration books has been put inhand, but the organization of such a large undertaking requires some time to perfect, and while a rationing scheme will be brought into operation in the near future circumstances have made it necessary to take immediate action to stabilize the position. As honorable members are no doubt aware, there has been an increasing intensity of civilian buying of clothing, and in order to check this and prevent the undue depletion of existing stocks before the introduction of rationing the Government is from Monday next bringing into force by regulations a temporary restriction of clothing sales. These regulations will limit all sales of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, and materials from which clothing can be made, to a weekly quota, calculated on the basis of 75 per cent, of the average weekly sales for the year of 1941. The commodities affected by these restrictions are briefly -
To remove as far as possible the incentive to buying, the advertising of all the restricted commodities is to be totally discontinued for the period of the restriction, with the exception that cards bearing the description and price of the article may be displayed at the place of sale.
The Government realizes that the restriction of sales as from Monday next will involve organization by retailers, who will need to determine immediately the value of their average weekly sales for 1941, and to adjust their selling to the reduced basis. The general clothing position is, however, well known to members of the clothing industry. Despite the difficulties that the restrictions may entail, the Government relies upon the effective co-operation of all retailers in meeting the position. The Government is also relying on the good sense and patriotism of the community to prevent further buying rushes and it appeals to people to refrain, during the next few weeksfrom buying any article of clothing that is not necessary for immediate needs.
– I desire to make reference to the following circular issued to-day by the Parliamentary Librarian: -
Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives,
It is suggested that members desiring to do any reference work or to borrow material should apply to the Library on Saturday mornings, so that they may have their material available in the party rooms.
The presiding officers desire to make it quite clear that this will not affect the keeping upon of the Library on non-sitting evenings from Monday to Friday during session, and the curtailment of the Saturday provision will only continue as long as the staff position remains as it is.
I offer no objection to the closing of the Library on Saturday afternoons and evenings under present circumstances;but I wish to make it perfectly clear that I shall offer the most vigorous protest against any attempt that may be made by you. Mr. Speaker, or by the President, or by tooth of you, or, for that matter, by any one else, to revert to the bad old days when the Library was closed immediately the House rose. A few years ago, the conditions in relation to the Library were intolerable for those members who re mained in Canberra after the close of the sittings and until the Parliament reassembled in the following week. No disposition was shown in those days to meet the convenience of such honorable members in any way whatever. The Library was closed and that was all there was to it. If an honorable member desired to study during the week-end any material obtainable from the Library, he had to secure it before the Library closed at 5 p.m. on Friday. It may sound all right to say that the Library will be open on Saturday mornings in the future, and that honorable members may obtain, during the morning, any material or books which they may desire to study over the week-end, but I wish to know what arrangements are to be made to enable honorable members from distant States to obtain access to newspapers that arrive in Canberra on Saturday afternoons, by air mail, from such States. It is only natural for honorable members who remain here over the week-end to desire to read the newspapers that may arrive on Saturday afternoon from the States in which they reside. I suggest that you, sir, together with the President and the Librarian should examine the position with the object of making it possible for honorable members in Canberra to obtain newspapers that arrive after the Library closes.
We all understand the seriousness of the situation in the south-west Pacific, as outlined for us by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and we all sincerely trust that the battle will go favorably for us. We realize, too. that our internal circumstances are becoming more difficult day by day. But I wish it to be clearly understood that I am speaking in deep earnestness when I say that I shall resist any attempt unnecessarily to reduce the Library facilities available to honorable members who are obliged to spend their week-ends in Canberra during the sittings of the Parliament.
.- I support, the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and take this opportunity to refer to another Library arrangement which is causing some inconvenience to honorable members who are not able to leave Canberra until the evening train on Fridays. Under existing arrangements the Library is closed for one bour during the dinner interval on Friday evenings. I appreciate the necessity for the members of the Library staff to obtain their evening meal, but it so happens that the hour the Library is closed would be the most convenient hour that honorable members who propose catching the evening train from Canberra could spend in the Library. They would be able in that period, if the Library were open, to read the newspapers which arrived by air mail during the afternoon. I suggest for the consideration of the Library Committee that although it may be necessary for the members of the Library staff generally to be absent from the Library during this period, in order to obtain their meal, it should be possible for arrangements to be made for the Housekeeper, or some other officer, to be in attendance in the Library during that time, so that honorable members who so desire may have access to the recently arrived newspapers, and also to the bookshelves, even though it may not be practicable for them to take out books in the ordinary way. I hope that consideration will he given to this suggestion.
An unhappy experience that I had while proceeding to my hotel during the black-out last night impels me to raise a matter that concerns the safety of honorable members. In the neighbourhood of Parliament House there are several concrete posts, rising to a height of 3 feet or more above ground level, bearing street names. Last night, I came forcibly into contact with one of these posts, which is on the path that leads to Hotel Canberra. Honorable members whose eyesight is not keener than mine, run the risk of having a similar experience. I have directed the attention of the Department of the Interior to the dangerous position of the particular post that I encountered. If the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has in his keeping the safety of members of Parliament, he might well look into the matter.
– I wish to advise the honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Morgan) concerning the two cases to which he referred on the motion for adjournment last night. One is that of Mr. W. W. Passmore, who was a member of the Permanent Air Force, and the other that of Mr. P. Holmes, who, I understand, was a member of the Militia Forces, and suffered incapacity as the result of an accident.
Yesterday, regulations were made for the purpose of removing certain differences that exist between different classes of members of the forces regarding eligibility for war pension. One regulation enables certain members of the Permanent Force who were not entitled to the benefits of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to come under that act. Such members as are discharged on or after the -7 th December, 1941, will in future be eligible for a war pension. If Mr. Passmore is within this class, I shall arrange to have his case reconsidered immediately.
The other regulation concerns the pension payable in respect of death or incapacity as the result of an accident occurring to a member of the forces whilst travelling on leave to or from his place of employment as a member. Previously, this provision applied only to those who had enlisted for service outside Australia; it has now been extended to apply also to members who have enlisted for service in Australia for the duration of the war. I shall ascertain whether the case of Mr. Holmes comes within the extended provision, and, if so, I shall have it investigated immediately.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to what I regard as the very serious hardship that is being suffered by primary producers in particular, and especially by wheat-growers. The present returns from wheat are very low. According to a computation that has been made, it is estimated that, despite the fact that certain figures have been stated as representing a guaranteed price, the net return from the present year’s wheat pool will be approximately 2s. 7£d. a bushel when the full amount has been received. I have had letters from time to time from persons in my own electorate, and from other parts of the wheat-growing belt in Australia in which I have contacts and friends. I suggest that action be taken to liberalize what is already provided under Statutory Rule No. 65. The regulations made by that statutory rule contain a cover which entitles a person who is hard pressed by his creditors to appeal to a local tribunal, which may be a court of petty sessions, or a county court, according to the amount of the debt. Regulation 4 reads -
Where a tribunal ia satisfied, on application by any person, that by reason of circumstances attributable to the war or the operation of any regulation made under the National Security Act 1030 or under that net us subsequently amended, the performance, or further performance, of a contract or agreement to which that person is a party, in accordance with the terms thereof, has become or is likely to become impossible or, so far as the applicant is concerned, has become or is likely to become inequitable or unduly onerous, the tribunal may make an order cancelling the contract or agreement or may make such order as it thinks just, varying the terms of the contract or agreement, or may provide for the repayment, in whole or in part, of any amount paid in pursuance of the contract or agreement.
That is a very useful piece of legisla-lion. The application of it is not so widely known as it might be, by those who are suffering from the hardships that I have mentioned ; but it has certain limitations, in that it lays down that the tribunal shall decide whether the difficulty that has arisen in respect of the creditor is or is not attributable to war causes. I should like it to be amplified, in order to meet the circumstances of persons such as the writer of the following letter-a constituent of mine - which is typical of many others that I have received :–
Perhaps I will be able to help you in your efforts to better the conditions of the primary producers, and you may be able to help me if I relate to you just exactly what I have been up against since last harvest.
I have two properties, each carrying a first mortgage, one a private investor, the other a bank, which is now termed an O.D.
Prior to last October both had been fixed for five years at 4 per cent. Now, I will deal with the private mortgage first. I have been trying ever since last October to arrange for an extension of the mortgage for three years and have offered ii per cent. But he will not agree to leas than S per cent, and insists on a special clause protecting -him from any deflation of the currency during the term of the mortgage. I have refused to agree to such an unreasonable demand, so the matter is just dragging on. I received a letter a few days ago advising me that if I did not agree to his terms he will be compelled to take some further action.
Well, now for the bank. On the 1st October I was told by the manager that the term of the fixed mortgage has expired and that in future I would be put on a limit, and interest increased by $ per cent., and that in February, 1042, I would be required to reduce the amount by £200. When this date arrived 1 told the manager it was impossible for me to reduce the O.D. Last week I was told that head office insisted on the reduction. That, I think, is plain enough for you to understand the position.
Now for myself : 1941 was a drought and I refused to take drought relief. I borrowed on my life assurance to pay my interest and other expenses. I am compelled to crop 400 acres of wheat each year to keep square. And now, here is the point that is making me see red: I have four sons, two of them enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force nt the commencement of the war. The third, nineteen years old, was called up last November. I applied for harvest leave for him, which was granted. I then realized that it would be almost impossible for me to carry on and meet my commitments with a lad of sixteen years, who ia not a bit interested in the farm, and is just about pining his life away because he has a “ kink “ for radio, I then applied for exemption for the nineteenyearold lad, pointing out that I already had two boys serving. I also stated that if they would grant exemption to the boy who would bc of some use to mc on the farm, the other one could go into training as a radio operator in the Air Force. To this the military authorities simply said: “No, we want your boys “.
Now, Mr. Wilson, I don’t want to make this letter too long, and I ask you: Is this the type of justice and equality of sacrifice we are fighting for? My boys, all fighting for the country and I am left to carry, at my time of life, the financial burden which was too heavy for at least three of us to carry.
On top of this, my interest has been increased, as I have already stated, and the bank insisting on a reduction in the amount owing to them.
I just thought I would like you to know these facts, which you are at liberty to use in the right place and at the right time. You may or you may not be able to offer me any advice.
Those blessed words “ security of tenure “ ; surely a man and his family who has played the game in this war to the extent to which we have are entitled to a little better treatment than this, and some immediate action is necessary by the Federal Government to protect Edi people from these unjust demands being made at a time like this.
That letter indicates a state of affairs which is more widespread than is generally recognized. The Government should consider the extension of more liberal protection to primary producers who are suffering in this way. Every mail brings to me letters from men who have been dispossessed of their properties or who are constantly threatened with dispossession of them. Owing to the low price received for primary products, it is impossible for many farmers to carry on their holdings, and they are reduced to a hopeless position through their sons or other employees having been called up for military service. I have made representations on this matter previously, and I hope that action will be taken by the Government along the lines suggested by me. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), like me, represents a rural constituency, and I hope to have his support in this matter.
– I am prepared to support the honorable member if he demands that action be taken.
– I may have to call upon the honorable member for his assistance, but that will depend on what action the Government is prepared to take. I trust that the Government will see that increased protection is given to those men on the land who are enduring patiently and without great protest the hardships that the war has imposed upon them.
– Some time ago, I directed a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) regarding the inconvenience caused by the curtailment of country train services, and the honorable gentleman said that on account of the war that must be expected. I find it difficult to understand why the State authorities have drastically reduced country train services. On the Cooma line, there were formerly six trains a week, and I recently saw a train arrive at Cooma from Nimmitabel with 16 or 18 persons in one compartment. Trains leaving Cooma for Sydney have been similarly crowded. The station-officer at Cooma stated that it was practically impossible of late to pack into the trains all of the persons who wished to travel in them. The Cooma service has been reduced to four trains weekly, and on the section from Cooma to Bombala only three trains a week are running. Bega, an important coastal town which is serviced from Nimmitabel on the Bombala line, has had a daily mail service from Nimmitabel, but this has now been reduced to three mails a week. In the last few days, the mail contractor agreed to carry the mail from Cooma, on the fourth day free of charge - but the Postal Department has declined that offer, although Bega is the largest town in Australia not connected with a railway. In the early stages of the war, Bega supplied more recruits for the fighting forces than even Canberra, which is four or five times larger in population. Cooma made the highest contribution per capita to the Liberty War Loan of any town in New South Wales, and the reward of both centres is to have their mail services curtailed. Can it be shown that much saving is possible by leaving an engine and carriage idle on alternate days? All that could be saved would be a few bucketfuls of coal. Railway transport has considerably increased during the war, because of mistakes made by various Government departments. Men who enlist in New South Wales are frequently sent to training camps in Victoria, while Victorians are often despatched to New South Wales for training. This has contributed largely to the crowded conditions now experienced on all trains. Passengers are frequently seen standing in the corridors. I cannot see that that is going to win the war, or help in the winning of it. It is very hard if country folk are to be punished by having railway services curtailed because coal-miners may go on strike. I ask the Minister to look into this matter with a view to seeing whether some relief cannot be granted while still maintaining our war effort. The people are prepared to pay their fares, and it cannot be claimed that there is a shortage of rolling-stock, because the carriages are idle when these trains are not running.
.- This morning I drew attention to the serious hardship experienced by country people because of a shortage of oxygen and acetylene gas for oxy- welding in blacksmiths’ shops and garages. Because it is impossible now to obtain duplicate parts for machines, broken and worn cogs have to be repaired by oxy-welding, and other damaged parts made good in the same way. I know that demands by the Munitions Department have been heavy, but with the cropping season beginning, and the dairying season in northern Victoria about to begin, it is necessary that supplies of this gas be made available as soon as possible.
– I assure those honorable members who have mentioned various subjects that their representations will be referred to the appropriate department for consideration. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) drew attention to the hardships of wheat-farmers. The Government recognizes that the honorable member has first-hand knowledge of their problems, and will take steps to afford what relief is possible.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) referred to curtailed railway services, particularly on the south coast. This matter concerns primarily the State Government. I am sure that the honorable member must recognize that there is no desire to inconvenience the country people more than is necessary, but, at the same time, some interference with our normal way of life cannot be avoided. Very heavy demands are being made upon the railways for the transport of men and equipment. However, if it is possible to do anything to relieve the situation, it will be done.
Full consideration will be given to the representations of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) regarding supplies of oxygen and acetylene gas. During the last ten days I received many letters from honorable members on the subject, and every effort is now being made to overcome the shortage. I am confident that during the next month we shall be able to relieve the situation somewhat, and the position should improve steadily from this time forward. I thank the honorable member for having emphasized the importance of this matter.
– Regarding the Parliamentary Library, it is regretted that there has to be any interference with the privileges of honorable members, but I am sure that they will accept any inconvenience in a good spirit if they are satisfied that it is unavoidable in the present situation. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the position of honorable members who remain in Canberra over the week-end. I realize their position, and I shall endeavour to see that the rights of such honorable members are preserved. I shall confer with the President and the Parliamentary Librarian, and I hope that it will be found practicable to give effect to the suggestions made by the honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1942 -
No. 19 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 20 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 21 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
House adjourned at 5.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– This matter will be decided by the Government after consideration of all factors involved.
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Does the following statement appearing in the Tasmanian press of the 1st April properly present the position : - “ The Department of Commerce would take the whole of the blue pea crop from Tasmania next year, whether it bo6,000 tons or more, at not less than 15s. a bushel delivered into store. Senator Aylett said yesterday that he had been given this assurance by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) before he left Canberra”.
– The Department of Commerce has not given any undertaking to take any blue peas from Tasmania next year. It is understood that the Department of Supply and Development has contracted with certain growers in Tasmania for the supply of 6,000 tons of blue peas at a price of not less than 15s. a bushel delivered into store.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Government has already given consideration to the subjectmatter of regulation 70 of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 9, and hopes to be in a position to make an early announcement after consideration of the committee’s report, which will be completed next week.
n. - With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) on the 30th April, 1942, relative to the activities of a firm which had been subject to a certain recommendation of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, I have been advised that the Department of Aircraft Production at the instance of the Air Board placed a contract with De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited in connexion with the construction of two prototype gliders and that portion of the work has been sub-contracted to the firm referred to by the honorable member. The contract made the major contractor entirely responsible for the fulfilment of the terms and conditions of the contract. Hitherto no restrictions have been placed upon contractors to sub-contract.
I propose to go thoroughly into the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Aircraft Production, and other Ministers in order that every care will be taken in the letting of contracts by the Commonwealth Government to ensure that contractors will have the capacity to perform the work efficiently and in the manner required by the Government.
Censorship: Sydney “Daily Telegraph “.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked me a question, without notice, in reference to a censorship instruction relating to an article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 6th May, 1942.
I have received a report from the Chief Publicity Censor in which he states that action to prevent copies of the Daily Telegraph of the 6th May from leaving this country was taken by him on his own responsibility. The Chief Censor’s authority was the Press Censorship Order, issued under National Security (General) Regulations. His reasons were that he decided that the article would adversely affect public opinion overseas, in a manner likely to be prejudicial to the efficient prosecution of the war, and to the cordial relationship now existing between this country find the United States of America. Moreover, it would undoubtedly have been welcomed by enemy propagandists. The article in his judgment was inflammatory, and likely to set up in the minds of the American people doubt about the wholeheartedness of our fighting men and of our war effort. It described politicians as inscribing on the Australian banner the slogans: “Save Sydney but not San Francisco “ ; “ Die for Darwin ; but why fight to rescue Bataan “.
The Chief Censor decided that the article, if read overseas, would convey the false impression that Australians were prepared to let others fight for them, but would fight for none other than themselves. Its purport is at variance with the record of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Australian Navy. The Censor, in the pursuance of his duty, decided that the article would create ill will abroad, and in the interests of allied unity he took action to prevent it from going abroad.
Escapees FROM Malaya.
e. - On the 30th April, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to certain escapees from Malaya. I made inquiries and found that the men had not been treated as deserters. On arrival in Western Australia they were accommodated in a part of the barracks. They were not given fatigues or deprived of smoking requisites. Three days later they were transferred to Claremont camp, where they performed ordinary camp fatigues. Except for three cases of offences committed at Claremont camp, none of the soldiers was punished. The honorable member will appreciate that evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding their escape from Singapore is unobtainable as the only persons who could give it are in enemy hands.
Australian Army : Use of Racecourses.
e. - On Wednesday last the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) directed my attention to an article in the current issue of Smith’s Weekly, alleging that military training had been interrupted at a racecourse camp near Sydney so that a race meeting might be held.
I have now had an opportunity to read this article, and have received a report on the allegations. The article contains numerous incorrect statements, and is quite misleading. The racecourse in question was the Canterbury racecourse, where 60 members of the Volunteer Defence Corps were receiving elementary training and where, in addition, about 50 administrative personnel were engaged on camp and depot duties. The ground is not low-lying as is stated, and although at the time it was damp after the rain, it is not damp now. There was only one meeting during the fortnight, not two as implied, and there was no interruption of training for, at the time, some of the men were on leave and others continued training elsewhere. The course was not evacuated on the Thursday evening, but the men trained all day on the Friday and left the course on Saturday morning. Work was resumed on Monday, not Tuesday, as stated. It is well to remember that more racecourses have been taken over and used exclusively for military purposes in the Sydney metropolitan area than in any other capital city of Australia. It must therefore be obvious that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, where the interests of racing and the Army have clashed, definite preference has been given to the training of troops.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420508_reps_16_170/>.