16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the refusal of Chief Judge Piper, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, on the 24th March, to grant a claim by the Federated Clerks Union for the application of the principle of preference to unionists, will the Prime Minister state Why, in a census form for tally clerks issued under the National Security (Man Power) Regulations, information is sought as to whether the employee is a member of the Federated Clerks Union, and, if so, what is the number of his union card? May the House regard this as an attempt on the part of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.Ward) to intimidate men into joining the union; or is it a part of the Government’s policy to effect compulsory unionism other than by a decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
– I shall have inquiries made, and reply to the honorable gentleman at the next sitting.
– Will the Prime Min ister say whether the press statement is correct that a committee has been appointed, consisting of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway), the President of the Senate (Senator Cunningham), and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), to inquire into the matter of Werribee beef? Is the composition of this committee a reasonable one, in view of the fact that three of its members have already expressed themselves in respect of the sale of Werribee beef?
– Inquiries are being made on behalf of the Government in respect of the beef supply of Australia. The gentlemen named have been asked to make a special investigation in order that such evidence as has been given to the Government may be checked before a further decision is made.
– Including Werribee beef?
– All beef.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House what butchers supply beef to the military camps at Royal Park, Darley and Seymour? Has any of the beef supplied to those camps during the last three weeks come from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works farm at Werribee ?
– The supply of beef to the various military camps does not come within my personal province, but I shall make inquiries, and an answer will be supplied to the honorable member later.
non-essential goods- sydney offices of Department.
– This morning’s press states that Mr. Ifould has made the declaration that a prohibition is to be issued in relation to 61 non-essential goods. Is it within the province of this officer to make such pronouncements? Should they not be made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry.
– The only press report that I have seen in respect of the issue of the regulation in question is that I, the Minister, had issued it. I am not aware that any press report has stated that Mr. Ifould made such a declaration.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry state whether the office of Mr. Ifould, in Sydney, is. as reported in the press, now located in premises which were formerly used by the Japanese Bank? Is it true that Mr. Ifould’s staff is wholly composed of university graduates? Ifthat be so, how did these men escape the military call-up? Does the Minister think it wise to have such a staff composed of university graduates who have possibly had no business experience ?
– It is a fact that my office in Sydney is situated in a building that was formerly the office of the Yokohama Specie Bank. I am not aware whether any or all of the members of the Sydney staff are university graduates, but if they are I do not see that the holding of university degrees is any good reason why they should not be members of the staff in that office. I take it that the question implies that these officers, if they are university graduates, are young and inexperienced persons. That certainly is not the case. The average age of the members of the staff is about 40 years.
– Mr. Ifould is 70 years of age. That would bring up the average.
– The average age of the officers, exclusive of Mr. Ifould, is about 40 years. I am quite satisfied that the staff is carrying out its difficult task in an excellent manner.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether many . 22 repeating rifles recently impressed are being held unused ? When will such rifles be returned to their owners, in accordance with the promise made by the honorable gentleman about two months ago?
– Inquiries will be made immediately as to whether such rifles have been returned. If any of them are not being used, it is but reasonable that they should be restored to the persons from whom they were impressed.
Stoppages of Work
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, as the result of a broadcast request made from Canberra as late as midnight last night, all mines in New South Wales are working to-day, and that the resumption of work by many miners has involved the sacrifice of conditions that they have enjoyed for 25 years? As the miners have responded to the appeal of the right honorable gentleman and, because of the grave danger in which Australia is placed, are prepared to forgo such privileges for the time -being, will the right honorable gentleman immediately set up a committee, in accordance with, the request of the miners, to inquire who are really responsible for the many disputes that arise in the coal-mining industry?
– I am glad to say that, with the exception of a small mine which produces 20 tons of coal a day but has been prevented from continuing production by reason of a fire that broke out in it a few days ago, all coal mines in New South Wales are working to-day. I thank the miners as a body, as well as the officers of the Coal Miners Federation, the mine managements, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and all others in the country that have exerted their influence in the direction of encouraging the continuance of coal production.
– Does the right honorable gentleman include the employers in his expression of thanks?
– Yes. Many employers have behaved admirably. Some of the officials of the employers, however, have not conducted themselves as well as they might. I say that quite frankly. Certain miners, too, are not free from that reproach. I assure the House and the country that the Government is conscious that some fundamental cause isoperating to produce the irritation, confusion, and state of mind that have led to so many stoppages of coal production in New South Wales. I shall give the most earnest consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development furnish information as to what progress, if any, has been made with the production of aluminium from Australian bauxite?
– The production of aluminium in Australia is a matter that has been and is under almost constant attention. The problem that has confronted this and the previous Administration is that of obtaining the necessary equipment for the manufacture of aluminium. As the war has become more intensified in relation to Australia, and shipping difficulties have consequently been accentuated, the problem has become more acute. The real difficulty is to procure electrical equipment, which in the United States of America is in short supply outside the high priorities laid down for other works. At the moment, the closest approach that can be made to the production of aluminium in Australia is in the extension of the rolling plants already established for the purpose of dealing with ingots. The Secretary to the Department of Supply and Development, as I remarked the other day, made it one of his particular tasks during his visit to Washington, to inquire what progress could be made in this matter. We have not relaxed our efforts in the slightest degree, and shall continue to press to have this electrical equipment made a high priority for Australia. It is hoped that eventually the industry will be established in this country.
Penalties - Myer Emporium Limited - Prosecutions
– I ask the Prime Minister what additional machinery has been set up since the present Government assumed office in order to deal more effectively with profiteering? Will the right honorable gentleman immediately gazette a regulation providing that persons convicted of profiteering shall be imprisoned, that their excess profits shall be confiscated, and that they shall be obliged to discontinue trading during the term of their imprisonment?
– I shall give consideration to the steps that are necessary in order to stamp out profiteering. I agree that profiteering, wherever it is discovered, can be checked only by prompt and salutary punishment.
– In view of the statement made in the Senate in connexion with the profiteering activities of Myer Emporium Limited and the difficulties of the Government in launching prosecutions against that firm, -will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is to be taken as a general rule that only small traders are to be prosecuted for profiteering, whilst firms with big interests are to be allowed to escape?
– I think that I can safely say that the Minister for Trade and Customswould not grant preferential treatment to particular firms in connexion with the control of prices. If there be any suggestion of the kind, I shall ask the Minister to supply to me, for submission to the honorable member, a full statement regarding the procedure adopted and the decisions already reached.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen schedule A of the report of the Joint Committee on War Profits in which there is set out a list of goods that have been declared, the firms to the number of 110, controlling those goods, and a list of prosecutions under the National Security Regulations showing that 50 prosecutions have been launched successfully against firms for making excess charges for goods sold to the public? Does the Minister propose to take any further action against firms which, during the last year or two, have exploited the public in this way?
– I cannot say, offhand, whether the Minister for Trade and Customs has considered in detail the matters raised by the honorable member. Probably he will do so in due course, but, in any case, I shall draw his attention to them. It is not possible, without an amendment of the National Security Act, to provide greater penalties than those already prescribed. The matter will be reviewed, and a reply furnished to the honorable member later.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is true that last night the Minister for Trade and Customs made the following statement in the Senate : -
In the case of prosecution it is necessary to proceed on each individual sale, and in a large company it would mean an enormous amount of detailed work and the presentation of many thousands of cases to bring before the court the magnitude of the total overcharges made by a company. A store of the size of the Myer Emporium Limited handles nearly 2,000,000 transactions per month, representing about 40.000,000 individual sales from the outbreak of war until the firm was “ declared “.
Are we to understand that the Government is unable to devise means to penalize large firms like Myer Emporium Limited, and that, because of the number of times such a firm exploits the public, prosecution of it is impossible?
– If Myer Emporium Limited, or any other firm, has violated the law, action must be taken to impose the prescribed penalty. If a statement was made in the Senate on the subject - and the honorable member appears to have been quoting a venbatim report-
– Is it not out of order to quote what is said in the other branch of the legislature?
– Is the number of offences to militate against a prosecution ?
– If a trader overcharges for soap, for instance, it is necessary to prove that fact when prosecuting him.
– The Prime Minister is mistaking my point deliberately.
– I do not think that the honorable member is entitled to say that I am deliberately misunderstanding him. I am explaining the law.
– The Prime Minister is not entitled to interject.
– We are only trying to be helpful. The statement made in the Senate will be examined with a view to interpreting the Minister’s meaning accurately.
– On the point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the reference in this instance to what was said in the Senate related to a matter of fact, and did not involve comment upon proceedings in the other branch of the legislature.
– Has the Department of War Organization of Industry evolved any scheme whereby, during the period that must elapse before the rationing of clothing comes into operation, an opportunity to participate in what may be described as the scramble to make purchases will be available to all sections of the community, not merely to those who are able to visit the stores between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. ?
– The Department of War Organization of Industry has not yet been able to evolve any scheme to effect what the honorable member suggests. This, however, in no way obviates the necessity to conserve stocks of clothing in order that they may be available when rationing is actually brought into force.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry inform the House whether one of the key men spoken of by him as having given advice with regard to the rationing of goods, was Mr. Norman Myer, the managing director of Myer Emporium Limited? If such was the case, why did the Minister refuse to divulge that information last evening in the course of his address to the House? Will he now inform the House and the country as to who were the key men who gave advice to him with regard to rationing, so that the advice may be assessed at its true value ?
– I do not propose to satisfy the curiosity of the honorable member.
– Last night, in this House, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.Calwell) made some very serious allegations regarding the part played by Mr. Norman Myer in connexion with the introduction of the scheme for the rationing of clothing. The Minister for War Organization of Industry should, in fairness both to Mr. Myer and to this House, state the facts, instead of withholding them?
– I submit that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has, by substituting comment for a question, departed from the rules of the House.
– The honorable member should not offer comment when asking a question.
– Does not the Minister for War Organization of Industry consider that, in fairness to Mr. Myer, and in the interests of good government in this country, he should admit the facts in connexion with the clothes rationing scheme, and Mr. Myer’s participation therein ?
– I shall at least satisfy the honorable member’s inordinate curiosity to this extent: Mr. Norman Myer was not consulted in regard to what action my department should take in connexion with the rationing of clothes.
– Does the Minister propose to allow the allegations to go unanswered ?
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last night I said in this House that the Minister for War Organization of Industry had consulted, or been consulted by, Mr. Norman Myer in connexion with the Government’s scheme for rationing clothing. The Minister has stated in reply to a question that he did not consult Mr. Myer. The statement I made to the House was based on a conversation within my hearing in which the Minister for War Organization of Industry admitted to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that he had been consulted by Mr. Myer.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation. These are the facts regarding what took place between the representative of Myer Emporium Limited and my department in relation to the restriction of sales: The representative of Myer Emporium Limited was asked what was the position in regard to stocks, and he supplied the information. He was not consulted in any way as to what action my department proposed to take, or in regard to what would be the probable effects of any such action. In no sense can it be held that there were consultations with Mr. Myer. He was asked to supply information, and that is all he did.
Branches in Richmond Electorate - Petrol Allowance.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry how many banks are still operating at Tweed Heads? What distance is Tweed Heads from Murwillumbah? How far is Coolangatta from that centre? How many banks in Coolangatta have been closed? Are three banks still operating there? Are the Bank of New South Wales, the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, and the Commercial Bank operating at Mullumbimby, 26 miles from Murwillumbah? Has the Commonwealth Bank a branch in each of those centres for the conduct of both commercial and savings bank business?
– The town of Murwillumbah is situated in an area in which there are several other towns; in particular, one 18 miles, one 19 miles, and another 26 miles distant from that centre. At each of- those three towns, there are several branches of trading banks. For that reason, it would be untrue to say that persons who live within a radius of 20 miles of Murwillumbah are dependent solely on the banking facilities that are available in that town.
– I rise to a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– I understand that the Minister said that a statement made by me last night was untrue.
– It was perfectly untrue.
– I ask for the withdrawal of those words.
– The honorable member for Richmond is not making a personal explanation.
– I rise to a point of order. When the honorable member for Richmond was attempting to make a personal explanation, a statement which he had made was declared by the honorable member for Bass to be untrue.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether that was in order, or whether a certain degree of licence is to be extended to honorable members on the other side of the House. Why did you not request that the statement be withdrawn?
– The honorable member for Richmond was given an opportunity to make a personal explanation. He claimed that he had been misrepresented, but he was doubtful whether he had or not. He seemed to be asking the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) whether the statement had been made or not. The honorable member must make up his mind as to whether he has a real grievance.
– Mr. Speaker, you have not answered the point of order that I raised. When the honorable member for Richmond was attempting to address you, the honorable member for Bass said that a statement made by the honorable member for Richmond was untrue. Was that in order?
– That was not in order.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the words.
– A request for a withdrawal should be made by the honorable member concerned.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, have misunderstood the position. I rose to make a personal explanation and, when I was in the course of doing so, the honorable member for Bass interjected that what I was saying was perfectly untrue. I then asked that the words be withdrawn; but you caused me to resume my seat before I could proceed with my personal explanation.
– I did not hear any request for a withdrawal of words, nor did I hear the statement attributed to the honorable member for Bass.
– I now ask that the words be withdrawn.
– Does the honorable member for Bass admit having used the words attributed to him?
– I do not.
– I rise to a personal explanation. The Minister for War Organization of Industry, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Bass, suggested that I had made a mis-statement last night of the position regarding banks in iba towns of Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads and Mullumbimby. I said that three banks had been closed in Murwillumbah, and in oases where clients could not get other banks in the town to take over their overdrafts, they had had to go to the nearest branches of the banks that had been closed. The two banks closed were the Union and the National, and their nearest branches to Murwillumbah were at Lismore, which is 60 miles distant, and not at Tweed Heads or at Mullumbimby, which is 19 miles away.
– In connexion with the closure of branches of trading banks in certain country towns, will the Minister for War Organization of Industryendeavour to meet the difficulties thereby created for customers who had overdrafts at those branches, and are now unable to persuade other banks to take them over ? Will he consult with the Treasurer in order to ascertain whether the branch of the Commonwealth Bank in such towns will take over the overdrafts?
– I make it clear that no branch of any bank in Australia has been closed with the authority of my department, or because of any pressure by my department. What we have done is to ask the . trading banks to prepare plans for the release of man-power from their industry. All the trading banks have not yet submitted such plans. Any bank that has so far closed its branches in country centres has clone so without the sanction of my department, and solely at its own discretion. Therefore, those banks must bear the responsibility for such action.
– I ask the Minister -for Supply and Development whether an increased petrol ration can be made available in country districts to people who wish now and again to visit the nearest town where there is a branch of their bank in order to transact business? Will he endeavour in some way to overcome the utter disorganization of business in country areas caused by the action of his colleague in closing down bank branches in country towns?
– Petrol rationing is controlled by the Liquid Fuel Control Committees in the various States, and in order to meet special needs agents of the committee have been appointed to consider claims. We try to make the administration as elastic as possible, and it is admitted that inconvenience is caused from time to time by the administrative acts of other departments. I assure the honorable member that we shall do our best to overcome the difficulty to which he has referred.
Period of Leave
– Will the Minister for the Army state whether it is correct that members of the Australian Imperial Force recently returned to Australia from the Middle East have been given seven clays’ leave, whereas men from Darwin and other northern stations are given one month’s leave? If that be so, will the Minister take steps to see that no discrimination is made between different branches of the fighting services with regard to leave?
– I know that members of the Australian Imperial Force who have recently returned from the Middle East are given seven days’ leave. I had a complaint from one man stationed at Darwin that he had been given only seven days’ leave. I am not aware that men from Darwin have been given a month’s leave, but I shall inquire into the matter. Much time is occupied in travelling overland from Darwin to Queensland or New South Wales, and it would be impossible for men to make the journey and return to their home stations within seven days. Members of the Australian Imperial Force who recently returned from the Middle East were sent, to their battle stations, from which they were then granted seven days’ leave. However, the whole matter will be approached with an open mind, and justice will be done.
– Can the Prime Minister say when the present sessional period is likely to terminate?
– It is not possible to fix a precise date, but having regard to the business which the Government desires to complete during this period, I have said that the House will meet next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In the following week it will meet on Wednesday, and I am hopeful that we shall be able to finish that week.
– Why have a long weekend if it is intended to finish during the following week?
– Because I am honouring the undertaking I gave to the House at the request of many honorable members. If we cannot finish by the date indicated, we shall have to sit longer, but I hope that business will be disposed of with reasonable rapidity. We desire to have an interregnum early in Tune for two reasons : So that we may concentrate upon the conduct of the war, and also prepare the budget as early as possible in the next financial year.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the head-quarters of the newly appointed Rationing Commission is to be in Melbourne? If so, why has this arrangement been made, in view of the fact that two out of three members of the commission are residents of Sydney, and there is no need to correlate the activities of the commission with those of any department already in Melbourne?
– Decisions regarding what articles are to be rationed will be made by the Production Executive, and decisions as to how the rationing is to be done will be made by the Rationing Commission. The administration established in connexion with the Department of War Organization of Industry and the Department of Trade and Customs for rationing purposes is located in Melbourne. I remind the honorable member that, when the lease-lend organization was set up by the last government, its head-quarters were established elsewhere than in Canberra.
– Yes, and the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, protested.
– The point is that accommodation cannot be found in Canberra.
– .That is so.
– Can the Minister for War Organization of Industry say whether proposals for the rationalization of industry will be submitted to the firms concerned? I ask this question because, at a recent meeting of representatives of the electroplating industry, the proposals put forward for rationalization were rejected as unsuitable. Will the Minister give individual firms an opporunity to comment on the department’s proposals before they are put into effect?
– The procedure followed by my department is to ask the industry to put forward plans for its re-organization. These plans are examined by a committee consisting of an equal number of representatives of the employers and of the employees, with an independent chairman appointed by the department. Should any individual firm in the industry concerned take objection to the plans submitted, it is given an opportunity to state its objections to the department. However, the department has the task of diverting from nonessential industries a certain volume of labour, and it cannot agree that individual firms in any industry should be allowed to continue operating on the same scale as they have been operating in the past.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that a man known as Gregory Foster has been appointed secretary to certain coal-owners who control production at a group of important mines in New South Wales? Can the Minister inform the House whether Mr. Foster was ever down a mine prior to this appointment ? Is it a fact that industrial trouble has arisen at mines now under the control of this “ Johnny Comelately “-
– The honorable member’s question is out of order; it consists entirely of comment.
– Does this man display a houndlike eagerness-
– I ask the honorable member for Hunter to resume his seat.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service gazette a regulation under the National Security Act empowering the Arbitration Court to fix a basic wage for rural workers throughout Australia?
– I am very favorable to the suggestion made by the honorable member, and at an early date I shall take the matter up with other members of the Government with a view to having it implemented.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Air Board has recently given a decision reducing the rates of pay for minors in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force? Has any case of hardship arising from that decision yet been brought under his notice ?
– The Air Board has not made a decision on that matter recently. However, a decision was made some time ago reducing the rates of pay for minors from 18 to 21 years of age in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force. Various bodies in the different States have made representations to me on this matter, and I have given consideration to them. I am now considering the fixation of a minimum rate which will prevent hardship from being caused to any minor in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force. I expect to reach a decision on the matter in the near future.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision relating to the collection of taxes during the present war, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
. - by leave- - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth to-day is confronted with the task of mobilizing the complete resources of the nation to withstand the most terrible ordeal to which it has ever been subjected. Its financial obligations have increased to such a degree that its expenditure on war materials and war services has assumed a magnitude far beyond anything previously imagined. During the last three years, war expenditure has totalled £515,000,000, and next year it is likely to amount to £360,000,000. The Government believes that in this emergency it must have available to it the maximum taxable capacity of the nation. The whole of the taxable field is not available to the Commonwealth while State taxes are levied upon incomes at various levels. If a single income tax be imposed to raise revenue for the requirements of both Commonwealth and States, it will be possible to levy that tax on every section of the taxable field, and apply it to the nation as a whole on the basis of equality of sacrifice and equality of citizenship.
The colossal sums which the Commonwealth has expended in the manufacture of munitions of war, and on the many services utilized for war purposes, have enlarged the field of income available for taxation. The government takes the definite view that the increased national income should be used solely for the benefit of Commonwealth revenue. The increased taxable capacity created by the Commonwealth’s war expenditure has greatly increased the revenue of the States, and has absorbed the unemployed in respect of whom the States carried responsibility. The position, therefore, is that whilst the obligations of the Commonwealth have multiplied, the obligations of the States have diminished. In order to meet these conditions and this emergency, the Commonwealth has made two serious attempts in the last twelve months to find a solution to the competition between Commonwealth and State Governments in the income tax field. On both occasions its proposals have been summarily rejected on the plea that they represented an invasion of State rights.
No proper or due consideration has been given by the States to the national objective that should be reached during a time of war, nor have any acceptable alternatives been put forward for a solution of the problem.
Every honorable member who has occupied the position of Treasurer can testify that the differing rates of Commonwealth and State taxation form a maddening maze of figures which must be studied whenever the preparation of a budget calls for additional Commonwealth revenue. The position has become so serious that strong and definite action must be taken by the Commonwealth to cut this gordian knot, if any simplification of Commonwealth and State taxes is to be achieved in the interests of the war effort. During the serious crisis through which the nation is now passing every benefit which one section of the community has over another must be surrendered in the interests of total war. This measure and the accompanying bills to be introduced subsequently, are designed to achieve this purpose. Nothing short of complete control by the Commonwealth during the war will meet the huge demands that have to be faced. National rights must take precedence over all State rights. The rights of the sovereign people are paramount to the sovereign rights of States.
The Uniform Taxation Committee, appointed to consider the matter, has made unanimous -recommendations. The committee was composed of three members. The chairman was Professor R. C. Mills, who occupies the chair of Economics at the Sydney University, and as chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, possesses a wide knowledge of public finance and the problems of the States. Another member was tha Right Honorable J. H. Scullin, a former Prime Minister and Treasurer, who possesses considerable political knowledge of the incidence of income tax as affecting the Commonwealth and States, owing to his many years of office and his association with taxation legislation. The third member, the Honorable E. S. Spooner, was formerly Acting Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer in the largest State of the Commonwealth, and was asso- ciated with the uniform taxation legislation as a representative of New South Wales, following upon the royal commission’s report of 1932-34. This, combined with his professional knowledge as a public accountant of many years’ standing, made him eminently suitable to act as a member of the Uniform Taxation Committee. No three gentlemen possessed of greater breadth of view for the task confronting the committee could have been found in the whole of Australia.
The Government, having carefully considered the committee’s report, has decided to adopt the recommendations with a view to bringing about a single taxation authority for the period of the war, and one year thereafter. In order to achieve this result the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill 1942, and bills for the amendment of the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Assessment Act will be introduced to accompany this bill.
The bill now before the House provides machinery for the temporary transfer to the Commonwealth of the trained staff and the accommodation and equipment used by the States for the purpose of collecting income tax. The Government is charged with the full responsibility of protecting Australia from invasion, and of producing all the munitions of war which are required. It must be able to command the full resources of the nation in revenue, manpower, and efficiency. This legislation is necessary for the purpose of collecting the revenue required with a minimum use of man-power and a maximum of efficiency. (The Government does not seek to take away from the States their power to impose taxes upon incomes, but proposes to make a payment of financial assistance to any State which agrees to suspend that power in the interests of the national defence. Another bill will provide for the payment of that financial assistance. I
It must be obvious to every honorable member that, short of the measures proposed by this Government, it is impossible to strike a satisfactory and equitable Commonwealth rate while the present varying rates of taxes in the various States remain. The proposed overriding
Commonwealth rates of taxation will, in themselves, it is estimated, give an added yield to the Commonwealth of from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000. The field of income from which this added yield will be derived consists mainly of the increased income due to Commonwealth war expenditure, the aggregation of interstate incomes, and those sources of income which are at present exempted from State taxation. It cannot be stressed too strongly that the Commonwealth need is to get the maximum yield from the income tax field. No scheme which does not give this to the Commonwealth can possibly be acceptable. With the heavy imposts of taxation required, it is more than ever necessary that contributions by taxpayers for Commonwealth and State purposes should be equalized according to their ability to pay. Even the present rate of Commonwealth tax cannot be equitably maintained as an impost additional to State income tax, because in some cases the total taxes payable amount to more than 20s. in the £1. Some relief from this position has been attempted by the provision in the Commonwealth law for a rebate of tax in any case where the combined rate of Commonwealth and State taxes exceeds 18s. in the £1. This provision is not fully effective, partly because it has not been adopted by the States, and partly because it applies only to the rate over the whole of the income, and not to the rate on the highest part of the income on which taxpayers may still pay more than 20s. in the £1. This and other difficulties can best be overcome by a single uniform taxation system administered by the Commonwealth.
This bill is to be commended for the measure of assistance that it will render to Commonwealth finance. It calls for the full support of all sections of the community because of the relief that it will afford from the complexities of taxation that commerce and industry, and the taxpaying public generally, have to face at the present time. Admittedly, some sections of the community will be required to pay more, but only those sections which can afford to pay. When the scheme is fully in operation, every taxpayer in the Commonwealth will be required to pay only one income tax instead of the many different taxes that he may be required to pay at present. On a given amount of income, the amount of tax payable will be the same in all parts of the Commonwealth. One universal code of rules will be used to assess and collect all income tax. This will make it reasonably practicable for every taxpayer to estimate the amount of tax for the payment of which he must make provision. At the present time, a taxpayer is required to pay both Commonwealth and State income taxes, and, in some States, may be required to pay as many as four State taxes on income. The provisions of the laws under which these taxes are assessed vary considerably, so that the taxpayer has a complex problem in checking his assessments or in estimating the amount of tax for which he must make provision.
It will be apparent to honorable members that the simplicity which this measure will achieve will result in the more efficient use of man-power employed by the taxation administration. It will also release a great deal of man-power now used by taxpayers by the elimination of much of the work involved in the preparation of taxation returns, in the checking of assessments, and in the conduct of taxation correspondence with the department. Certain of the income tax staffs of the States will be transferred temporarily to the service of the Commonwealth and the accommodation, furniture and equipment of the States will be used by the Commonwealth. In providing for the transfer of State officers, the bill preserves their existing and accruing rights and fixes a remuneration at least equal to their remuneration in the service of the States. Provision is made also for adequate rent or other payments to be made to the States for the use of office accommodation, furniture and equipment. Records which relate to Commonwealth income tax and which are in the possession of the States will be transferred to the possession of the Commonwealth. As those records also relate to State income tax, authorized officers of the State will be given all reasonable access to them.
The reform introduced by this bill supplies a long-felt want and I am confident that it will receive the approval of all sections of the House, and the community generally. It is designed to achieve the most efficient use of the resources of the nation at a time when all those resources are required to meet the armed might of our enemies.
Debate on motion (by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for tin act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to States and for other purposes.
– I assume, in the absence of an explanation by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), that the committee is now considering the appropriation message relating to the annual measure that grants financial assistance to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
– No. The appropriation message now under consideration relates to the compensation that will be payable to States under the uniform tax scheme.
– In my opinion, the Treasurer is putting the cart before the horse, because the uniform tax plan has not yet been accepted by this chamber. The introduction, at this stage, of legislation to reimburse the States, before honorable members agree to the far-reaching and vital Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, is out of order.
– The State Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill will not be passed before the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill is accepted by this chamber.
– Let us take one hurdle at a time.
– The compensation that will be paid to the States constitutes an indispensable part of the whole scheme.
– I am aware that it is indispensable. We might very well dispense with the whole plan.
– Honorable members cannot intelligently consider the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill without knowing the arrangements for compensating the States.
– If Parliament accepts the principle of a uniform income tax, the legislation providing for the payment of compensation to the States will then be required; but, until the principle is accepted, the other matter does not and cannot arise. Consideration of this motion is utterly out of order, and I propose to vote against it.
– The objection that has been raised by the honorable member can only be described as perverse, because the legislation to compensate the States is a corollary to the bill, which establishes the principle of a uniform tax. Every one will want to know what provision is being made to grant to the States the financial assistance which they require for the purpose of meeting their commitments. I submit that the present procedure is completely in order, and a denial to this chamber of the right to consider the present proposal before the principle of the uniform tax is accepted will create in the minds of honorable members and the public a great deal of confusion.
– The explanation given by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is not helpful. This chamber must decide whether a uniform income tax plan shall be adopted before it considers the measure of compensation to be granted to the .States for vacating the income tax field. The Commonwealth Government proposes to impose - I use the word “ impose “ deliberately - a uniform income tax on the States. The subject of taxation offers great scope for debate, and the Treasurer will not contend that the Standing Orders would prevent honorable members from discussing, in relation to the principle of a uniform tax, the reimbursement of the States. This motion is unnecessary at this juncture.
– I cannot understand the reasoning of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill defines the view of the Government upon the necessity, in this crisis, for imposing a uniform income tax, and asks the Parliament to accept the principle.
– What clause contains that provision?
– The Government, in introducing the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, asks the House to decide that a uniform tax is desirable. In order to determine whether the uniform tax shall be substituted for the existing forms of Commonwealth and State taxes, honorable members must know the details of the scheme, and the measure of compensation to be granted to the States. That knowledge can be supplied only by introducing the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill.
– The order in which these measures are being introduced is the reverse from that which an observance of proper procedure would dictate. The Income Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Bill is a machinery measure, which is based upon the assumption that this chamber will agree to certain allied measures. I contend that honorable members should possess a complete knowledge of all the proposals of the Government in order to be able to debate the proposal intelligently. I listened attentively to the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and I hurriedly read the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, but I found in that measure nothing to prevent the States from imposing income tax during the operation of the uniform tax plan. The Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill simply provides for State machinery to be placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer admitted that, if the States so desired, they may continue to impose an income tax, but that, if they refrained from so doing, they would receive compensation from the Commonwealth. It is most desirable that all the bills relating to the uniform tax plan should be discussed together. If that be done, no honorable, member can reasonably object.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that all the uniform taxation measures should he debated together, but the only way in which to accomplish that purpose is to introduce them separately. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has taken that course. Each measure is contingent upon the other. The bill in respect of which this motion has been made is complementary to the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, the debate on the second reading of which was adjourned. I submit to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that, if the Income (War-time Arrangements) Bill had been proceeded with to a conclusion without this motion having been made for the purpose of introducing the proposed States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill, he would have been the first to complain that no provision was being made to compensate the States. This motion, and the bill which will follow it, prove the bona fides of the Government much more strongly than would the mere statement of the Treasurer that the States were to be compensated. Not only does the Treasurer announce that the States will be compensated for the forfeiture of their taxing rights, but also he has taken the initial step to bring down a bill which will set out the amounts of compensation. It is true, as the honorable member for Bourke has said, that none of the measures declare that a State shall not continue to levy income tax. It is laid down, however, that, on a State agreeing to vacate the income tax field, it will be compensated according to the amounts set out. in the schedule to the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill. The four measures needed to bring about uniform taxation ought to be debated almost simultaneously and it is intended that they shall be. After this motion has been agreed to and after the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill has been presented and taken to the stage at which the Treasurer has made his second-reading speech and the debate has been adjourned, further complementary bills to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Income Tax Act, the latter imposing uniform rates of taxation, will be introduced. Rut all have to be introduced separately.
– In order to conform to the Standing Orders.
– Yes. They have to be introduced separately in conformity with the Standing Orders, but they will be debated conjointly. It would not be fair for the first measure, the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, to be carried on its own. because it would be possible then for the complementary legislation not to be introduced, and for the States to be left high and dry. In the interest of the States as well as of the Commonwealth, that procedure ought to be followed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Holloway do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be read a second time.
This bill is one of several measures required to give effect to the recommendations of the Uniform Taxation Committee. The other measures are the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill 1942, the Income Tax Bill 1942 and the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1942. It has been suggested to the governments of the various States that they should refrain from imposing taxes upon incomes for the duration of the war and a period of twelve months thereafter. The Government has undertaken to make to each State agreeing to that proposal a grant of financial assistance to compensate for the income tax revenue lost to the State, and this . bill provides the machinery by which those grants will be made. The financial assistance that will be granted to the respective States which do not impose income taxes will be the amounts set out in the schedule to the bill less any arrears of State income tax collected during the year in respect of which a grant is made. The amounts set out in the schedule are -
In the proposed grants, the Government has approached the problem reasonably and even generously so that no charge of interference with normal State functions can be seriously put forward by those opposed to the plan for a single taxing authority. In arriving at the amounts of the grants proposed, the average income tax collections of each State over the past two years has been taken as a basis, and from it there has been deducted the estimated saving to the State in administrative and collection costs consequent upon the establishment of a single taxing authority. As the Government is introducing a widows’ pension scheme to commence on the 1st July, 1942, a further saving will be effected in the expenditure of those States whose existing schemes for widows’ pensions will be replaced by the Commonwealth scheme. This further saving is estimated to be £427,000 in the case of New South Wales; £30,000 in Victoria; and £8,000 in South Australia. These amounts of further savings to the States therefore have also been deducted in determining the proposed grants set out in the schedule.
At the Premiers Conference held in Melbourne recently, an undertaking was given to the States that the grants of financial assistance which this bill would provide could be increased on a claim being made by any State that its financial circumstances were such asto warrant an increase. The Premiers were invited to make representations to the Commonwealth setting out any disability of that nature which the States might suffer, and were promised that their representations would be referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for that body to determine the degree to which the grants provided in this bill should be increased. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) pointed out that the Commonwealth Parliament has not once rejected a recommendation made by the Grants Commission.
In addition to the amounts set out in the schedule to the bill, the Government is providing for a payment of financial assistance to the States equal to the amount of State taxation arrears collected during the currency of the legislation. This payment, with interest, will be made immediately prior to the termination of the measure and will in effect give to the States in that year the amount which they would normally collect from arrears, It has been urged that compensation to the States for retirement from the income tax field should be on a per capita basis. That would seriously upset the budget of some States and in other States provide them with more money than they have budgeted for. Moreover, per capita compensation cannot be regarded as a just basis because of the geographical and physical disparities between States. Those who insist on a per capita system of compensation should also be prepared to agree to per capita war expenditure in each State. That, of course, would be absurd. War expenditure has to be placed where it is most efficiently used, just as our forces must be disposed wherever they are of most strategic value. State rights and State boundaries are an ignoble conception when a nation is in danger.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1941.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is submitted as a part of a plan formulated by the Government for the purpose of facilitating the raising and collection of revenue urgently needed for the efficient prosecution of the present war. Some of the other parts of that plan are embodied in the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill, the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Bill and in the Income Tax Bill, which have been or are to be introduced. Realizing the degree to which anomalies and differences in State and Commonwealth income taxes were retarding the war effort, the Government appointed a committee to consider the matter of the Commonwealth becoming the sole taxing authority in the field of income tax for the duration of the war. After a thorough examination of the matter the committee presented a report, the very first paragraph of which contains the recommendation that for the duration of the war and for one year afterwards, the Commonwealth should be the sole taxing authority in the field of income tax. In its report the committee records its conclusion that the varying rates and the conflicting principles of taxation applied throughout the States have created anomalies that operate to the detriment of Commonwealth revenue and to the confusion of taxpayers. It recommends that a system of uniform income taxation should take the place of all existing State and Federal income taxes, and should apply only to those income groups at . present within the field of federal income taxation. A further recommendation of the committee is that, in future, concessions in respect of dependants, viz., spouse, children, mother, and also in respect of life assurance and superannuation, medical and funeral expenses, gifts and calls, and rates and taxes paid on property not producing income, should take the form of a rebate of tax calculated at personal exertion rates, instead of deductions from assessable income. The Government has decided to adopt these and other recommendations of the committee for the establishment of a uniform income tax system throughout the Commonwealth, but the bill now before the House is designed to implementonly those recommendations which apply generally and which require to be embodied in the Income Tax Assessment
Act. A most difficult task of the committee, however, and one that it carried out most faithfully and efficiently, was to blend the varying concessional allowances provided for Commonwealth income tax and war tax and for the various State income taxes. After an exhaustive investigation of this problem it recommended that rebates be allowed on amounts which, broadly speaking, will preserve to taxpayers approximately the same tax concessions in respect of dependants as they have enjoyed under th, existing multiple taxing system. The Government proposes that the particular amounts recommended by the committee shall be adopted. As honorable members and the community generally will be interested in the concessional allowances which will be provided under the uniform taxing system, I shall give in detail thu particular items in respect of which it is proposed to allow such rebates.
Provision is made for a rebate of tax, calculated at the personal exertion rate appropriate to the taxable income of the taxpayer, to be allowed, in respect of rates and land taxes paid on property not producing income, and also in respect of gifts and contributions, medical and funeral expenses, life assurance and superannuation. It is also proposed that the amounts on which the rebates shall be based shall be limited, as at present, to £50 for medical expenses, £20 for funeral expenses, and £100 for life assurance and superannuation. The amounts on which it is proposed that the rebates for dependants shall be based are £100 for spouse or female relative, £100 for the mother of the taxpayer, £75 for one child and £30 for each other child. With regard to the concessional allowance for spouse or female relative, however, I explain that the amount will be £100, except where the taxable income is between £200 and £300; within that income range, the concessional allowance will vary from £100 to £125 according to the size of the taxable income. In accordance with the recommendations of the committee, it is also proposed that the maximum rebate allowed for spouse, female relative, mother and one child, respectively, shall not be greater than £45 for each such dependant, and that the maximum rebate for each child in excess of one shall be limited to £5. It is provided that the sum of all rebates allowable shall be limited to the amount of tax otherwise payable by the taxpayer. In this bill the Government also proposes to exempt the pay and allowances earned in Australia by the armed forces of any other country associated with us in the present war. A further proposal is to exempt income derived by a visitor to Australia from the carrying on of an occupation if, in the opinion of the Treasurer, the visit is primarily and principally directed towards assisting in the defence of Australia.
A departure from the committee’s recommendation has been made in the case of life assurance companies. In the Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act there is a special concessional deduction allowing life assurance companies a deduction of 4 per cent, of their calculated actuarial liabilities. This provision is not common to any of the States. The objective aimed at by the committee was to obtain substantially the same yield in income tax for Commonwealth purposes as is now being collected from life assurance companies by the Commonwealth and the States. By adopting the State basis of assessment and by repealing the special Commonwealth deduction a much larger taxable income would result, which, at the proposed ordinary rate of company tax, would give a yield much in excess of the present total tax liabilities of these companies. To offset this the committee suggested a reduced rate of ls. 6d. in the £1. This proposal was in keeping with the practice in some of the States to concede a special rate in the case of mutual life assurance companies. However, consequent upon representations made by the Life Offices Association, the Government has agreed to continue the special Commonwealth concessional deduction under section 115 of the Income Tax Assessment Act but to reduce the amount of the deduction by lowering the percentage rate applied to the actuarial calculated liabilities from 4 per cent, to 3 per cent. This is virtually a reduction of 25 per cent, of the amount previously allowed. The retention of this concessional deduction, therefore, necessitated an increase of the rate recommended by the committee from 1s. 6d. to 5s. in order that the objective aimed at, viz., the same yield of taxation, should be obtained. These proposals put forward by the Life Offices Association have been accepted by the Government and implemented in the bill. I would point out, however, that, as time did not permit of a thorough examination of the situation, the Government has reserved to itself the right to re-examine the positionduring the next financial year and to make any further amendments that may be deemed to be reasonable in the circumstances. By clause 25 of the bill it is proposed to adopt the committee’s recommendation that pence shall be eliminated from the sum of the rebates. A similar provision is proposed in the Income Tax Bill regarding tax assessed. The bill also makes provision for the allowance of a rebate in respect of gifts to the American Centre, which provides comforts for the American troops in Australia. Excepting clauses 8 and 30, the other clauses of the bill consist of consequential drafting amendments.
By clause8 it is proposed, on the recommendation of the committee on uniform taxation, to withdraw the deduction at present allowed for State income taxes, because, with the introduction of the uniform income tax, the need for State income taxes will disappear. However, as there will be some cases where State income tax will have been paid after the 30th June, 1941, in respect of earlier financial years, it is proposed, where necessary, to re-open federal 1941-42 assessments and allow a deduction for any State income tax paid after the 30th June, 1941, and before the 1st July, 1944, in respect of State income taxes assessed for the financial years 1938-39, 1939-40 and 1940-41, respectively. This should meet all normal cases of delay in payment by the taxpayer or delay in finalizing assessments by the State Commissioners. Honorable members will agree that this is quite a. reasonable proposal, particularly as the deduction will be allowed at the relatively high rate of tax payable for the financial year 1941-42. The Government has also decided that a rebate should be allowed to those taxpayers who derive interest from
Commonwealth and State Government, and also semi-government, securities, which were issued on the understanding that the interest would be free of State income tax. While a uniform tax operates no State income tax is imposed, and there is no legal obligation upon the Government to make a rebate. The Government, however, decided to honour the undertaking which it regards as a moral obligation. The committee on uniform taxation, after investigating the question of the value of the benefit enjoyed by these taxpayers under the multiple taxing system, reached the conclusion that the taxpayers concerned, whether individuals or companies, would be adequately compensated if they were allowed a rebate at the rate of 2s. for each £1 of such loan interest included in the taxable income. The Government has decided to adopt this recommendation of the committee, and. it is proposed by clause 25 to give effect to it. This rebate, of course, will not apply to Commonwealth loan interest which is subject to section 20(2) of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act 1931, or section 52b of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1940, and thereby enjoys freedom from income tax in excess of that payable at the 1930-31 rates. I also draw the attention of honorable members to clause 30 of the bill, which provides that payment, of federal income tax shall have priority over payment of State income tax assessed during the period of the war and for one financial year thereafter. All taxpayers, and all trustees, liquidators, &c, will be obliged to observe this priority. A provision of this nature is required in order to establish an effective uniform taxing system.
In submitting this measure to the House I advise honorable members that the entire bill is designed to assist in the establishment of a system of uniform taxation for the purpose of the effective prosecution of the war. It is put forward as a measure designed to remove anomalies in the income tax legislation of the Commonwealth and the States. No attempt has been made in this measure to follow the current practice of any State or any average practice. That, I agree, would defeat the object of uniformity. The bill will establish a workable uniform system.
It is, therefore, a most important measure, and one which I warmly commend to honorable members.
– Will the Treasurer have copies of his speech circulated to us as soon as possible in order that we may study it?
– The Standing Orders do not provide for the circulation of copies of Ministers’ second-reading speeches, and, as the Government Printing Office is working under great difficulties owing to the brown-out, proofs of this speech will not be available for some time. Could not some arrangement be made for the circulation of informatory data whenever a bill of this nature is introduced? The business of the House would be facilitated, in this case, if Hansard proofs of the Treasurer’s speech were prepared as quickly as possible and posted to honorable members in time to reach them before they leave Sydney and Melbourne next Monday night to return to Canberra.
– Everything possible will be done to satisfy the request.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Division A. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
If the taxable income does not exceed £200, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £150 be 8 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £150 be 8.12 pence increasing uniformly by . 12 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £151.
If the taxable income exceeds £200 but does not exceed £250 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £200 be 9.5 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £200 be 50.08 pence increasing uniformly by.08 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £201.
If the taxable income exceeds £250 but does not exceed £600 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £250 be 18.4 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £250 be 58.02 pence increasing uniformly by . 02 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £251.
If the taxable income exceeds £600 but does not exceed £2,500 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £600 be 45.5833 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £600 be 72.033 pence increasing uniformly by . 033 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £601.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,500 but does not exceed £4,000, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,500 be 113.312 pence and the rate of tax for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,500 be 198.006 pence increasing uniformly by . 006 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £2,501.
If the taxable income exceeds £4,000 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £4,000 be 148.445 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £4,000 be 216 pence.
Division B. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Property.
If the taxable income does not exceed £200, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £150 be 10 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £150 be 10.15 pence increasing uniformly by . 15 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £151.
If the taxable income exceeds £200 but does not exceed £250 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £200 be 1 1.875. pence, and , the rateof tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £200 be 62.6 pence increasing uniformly By . 1 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £201.
If the. taxable income exceeds £250 but does not exceed £600 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £250 be 23 pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £250 be 72.525 pence increasing uniformly by . 025 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £251.
If the taxable income exceeds £600 but doss not exceed £2,100 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £600 be 56.9791 pence and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £600 be90.04125 pence increasing uniformly by . 04125 of one penny for every pound by which the taxable income exceeds £601.
If the taxable income exceeds £2,100 the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £2,100 be 124.7619pence, and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £2,100 be 216 pence.
DivisionC. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property. (a.) For every pound of taxable income derived from personal exertion, the rate of tax shall be ascertained by dividing the total amount of the tax that would be payable under
Division A if the total taxable income of the taxpayer were derived exclusively from personal exertion, by the amount of the total taxable income.
Division D. - Rates of Tax by Reference to an Average Income.
Division E. - Rate of Tax by Reference to a Notional Income.
Division F. - Tax Payable on Certain Incomes of less than £200.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last five preceding Divisions, where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax payable in respect of a taxable income of less than One hundred and seventy pounds would, after deducting all rebates to which a taxpayer is entitled in his assessment, be greater than fifty per centum of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds One hundred and fifty-six pounds, the income tax payable in respect of that taxable income shall be fifty per centum of the amount by which the taxable income exeeeds One hundred and fifty-six pounds.
DivisionG. - Tax Payable Where Amount Would Otherwise be Less than Ten Shillings.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last six preceding Divisions, where, apart from this Division, the amount of income tax which a person would be liable to pay after deducting all rebates to which he is entitled in his assessment, is less than Ten shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Ten shillings.
Division H. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, pursuant to either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936- 1942, to be assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A, B, C, D or E, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to bo assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division1. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Company.
Subject to the last preceding Division, for every pound of the taxable income of a company the rate of tax shall be -
Division J. - Tax Payable inhere Amount would Otherwise Include Odd Pence.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding Divisions, if, apart from this Division, the income tax which a person, before deducting any rebate to which he is entitled in his assessment, would be liable to pay, leaves an amount of pence remaining when expressed in pounds and shillings -
if the remaining pence exceed six - the income tax payable by that person shall be the amount so expressed in pounds and shillings plus one shilling.
Provided that this paragraph shall not ap ply-
to so much of that part of the taxable income of a life assurance company which has been derived from its life assurance business as bears the same proportion to such part of the taxable income as the amount of the profits divided for the same year of income among the life assurance policy holders of the company bears to the total profits of the company’s life assurance business for the same year of income.
This motion is a part of the Government’s plan for the introduction of a system of uniform income tax to produce substantially the same amount of revenue as is received at present from the combined Commonwealth and State income taxes. It is proposed, however, that the uniform tax shall apply only to those income groups which are at present the subject of federal income taxation. It is not intended that incomes below the present federal minimum should be brought within the scope of the proposed tax. As a result of uniform taxation the whole increase of income tax arising from incomes inflated by Commonwealth war expenditure will now accrue to the Commonwealth instead of increasing State revenue. The Committee on Uniform Taxation, after its exhaustive examination of the problem, has compiled a schedule of rates that will produce, with as little change as practicable, the amount of revenue that the Government desires to raise, and I now submit this schedule for adoption. The estimated yield from the scale of rates now submitted by the Government is £129,000,000, which is the same as the present income taxes, State and Federal, were expected to produce. The Committee on Uniform Taxation estimated that the uniform tax would produce £130,500,000, but that estimate included an amount of £1,500,000, which the committee recommended should be obtained from the goldmining industry. The Government, however, has decided to defer the problem of the taxation of the gold-mining industry until the budget session later in the year. A feature of the schedule is that revenue from particular income groups will approximate very closely the amounts which would have been obtained from those groups under the present multiple system. The schedules for the personal exertion and property rates were designed to give a reasonably close approximation to the taxes at present payable in the six States. The taxes at present payable are a combination of numerous rate schedules based on widely varying principles, and it is not surprising that a single rates scale to replace the present combination appears rather complex. The schedule does, however, avoid the anomalies and irregularities of those combined scales and carries out the fundamental principle of a progressive income tax, namely, that each additional £1 of income should pay slightly more tax than the preceding £1. In respect of personal exertion incomes the proposed scale commences at 8d. in the £1 and increases to l48.445d. in the £1 when the taxable income reaches £4,000. For every £1 in excess of £4,000 the rate of tax is 18s The rates of tax on incomes from property are, as formerly, 25 per cent, greater than the personal exertion rates on taxable incomes up to £2,100. Where i;he taxable income exceeds £2,100 the rate nf tax is 124.7619d. in the £1 on the first £2,100 and 18s. in the £1 for every £1 in excess of £2,100. In order to avoid anomalies in those cases where taxable income is slightly above the minimum taxable amount, provision is made that the tax payable after deducting the concessional rebates shall not be more than i me-half of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds £156. An innovation suggested by the Uniform Taxation Committee which has been adopted is the elimination of the pence in the computation of the tax, which will, under the proposal, be calculated to the nearest ls.
Copies of tables, which were prepared by the committee on uniform taxation, have been circulated to honorable members. These tables illustrate the amounts of uniform tax that will be payable by taxpayers with varying domestic responsibilities in different income groups (vide pages 1298-1302).
When honorable members have examined the tables they will see that in the lower income groups taxpayers will pay less tax than they pay under the present system. This is due to the fact that in certain States the rate of tax on the lower incomes is’ abnormally high, and a reduction of tax payable was necessary to bring the income tax payable in those States into line with the uniform system. It is realized that consideration of these tables will show that to some degree the amount of tax payable by some taxpayers will be increased. But other taxpayers will pay less. Such variations, however, are relatively slight, and are unavoidable in the imposition of a uniform tax throughout the Commonwealth.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that despite the disparities in the amounts of income tax payable on particular incomes in different States under the multiple taxing system, the amount of the uniform tax will approximate fairly closely to what might be regarded as the average of the amounts at present payable.
One matter which has troubled Treasurers since the war is that high rates of Commonwealth taxation have become necessary and have imposed undue hardship on taxpayers in some States, because the total combined taxes, State and Federal, have been much higher in some States than in others. Another difficulty, as honorable members are aware, is that the deduction of State income tax from taxable income for federal income tax purposes has meant that in States where income tax is low this deduction is less than in other States. Therefore, the taxpayer’s contribution to Commonwealth revenue is greater in that State. Under the uniform system every one in the same group will make the same contribution to the Commonwealth revenue.
It is also proposed that the rate of tax payable by companies he increased from 4s. in the pound, as at present, to 6s. in the pound. This rate also is expected to produce the same revenue from companies as would be derived from the present Commonwealth and State rates. The rate of super tax imposed on companies remains unaltered at the rate of ls. in the pound on the taxable income of a company in excess of £5,000. The rate of further tax imposed on the undistributed profits of a company also remains unaltered, that is, at 2s. in the £1.
The resolution proposes also that a departure from Commonwealth income tax precedent be made in regard to the rate of tax imposed on the taxable income of life assurance companies. It is proposed that the rate of tax on the income of mutual life assurance companies be at the rate of 5s. in the £1. Non-mutual income will pay the ordinary rate of 6s. These rates are expected to produce approximately the same amount of revenue from life assurance companies as is now paid to the Commonwealth and States. I commend the resolution to honorable members.
Debate resumed from the 14th May (wide page 1241), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I welcome the bill that we are now considering, for several very good reasons, not the least of which is that it is one more milestone along the road of progress towards complete absorption by the Commonwealth Government of responsibility for the social services of Australia. Our nation has not been niggardly in the past in dealing with those members of the community who have required community assistance. [ recall that a little while ago I had figures collected that indicated that about £40,000,000 a year was distributed by the Commonwealth and States Treasurers in affording relief to various categories of beneficiaries under social legislation. Unfortunately, there has been no organization and no standardization of treatment throughout the Commonwealth, and, quite obviously, some of the social services operating in the different States have been dictated not so much by the needs of the beneficiaries as by the political pull, power, and influence which some potential beneficiaries have been able to exercise. For instance, in connexion with the provision for widows, for which the Commonwealth is now assuming responsibility, there has been, since 1925, in New South Wales, a liberal, and even generous, provision for widows with dependent children ; and in Victoria there is legislation of more moderate generosity. Those are the only two States, however, in which provision for payments to widows is made. Therefore we have the contrast provided by the fact that at Coolangatta, on the Queensland side of the Tweed River, no provision is made for the sustenance of widows and dependent children, and that at Tweed Heads, on the other side of the river, such provision is made. Unemployment insurance is in operation in Queensland, hut not in any of the other States.
These differences are a complete abnegation of the federal spirit, and it is time Australia began to adopt a national policy in matters of this kind. Australia has not hitherto been able, in the international councils of the nations, to adopt a national policy and to have a national voice. In 1933 the International Labour Conference dealt with the matter of widows’ pensions, and it adopted a convention recommending to the members of that conference the introduction of legislation providing for the Daymen t of pensions to widows and orphans. The Australian representative at that conference concurred in the convention, but he was not able to assure the conference that the A.ustralian Commonwealth Government would implement the recommendations. All that he could do was to give an undertaking that the proposals would be passed by the Commonwealth Government to the State governments with an appropriate recommendation.
We have been hearing much lately, particularly during the last half-hour, of the disability associated with the lack of uniformity in State taxation, and it is common knowledge to honorable members of this House that that lack of uniformity, which has been causing much trouble to the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in these strenuous times, is largely due to the variability of the social service commitments of the different States. I am glad to support the proposal enunciated by the Commonwealth Treasurer this morning, and also the principle implicit in the legislation which we are now considering. Let the Commonwealth Government accept the responsibility for expenditure in connexion with the essentials of government, and no State government will dare to continue to collect taxation on the present basis. I have never cloaked the fact that I am an unapologetic advocate of the complete unification of legislative functions in Australia. My only regret is that the colleagues of a Government supporter who has just exclaimed “ Hear, hear “ are not a little more enthusiastic in implementing the unification plank of their party’s platform. I hope that this reform will not remain merely a plank in the platform, but will be translated into reality. It is a strange spectacle that only a month ago the Premiers of four Labour administrations in the States protested strongly and bitterly against a moiety of unification; but if Australian citizens are to suffer because of lack of unity, either complete or partial, for goodness’ sake do not let us start by penalizing those of our citizens who are least able to bear the burden, and do not let us refrain from standardizing those social services of the Commonwealth which are of such tremendous benefit to the weaker sections of the community.
I trust that the continuance of the Joint Committee on Social Servicesand I take this opportunity to congratulate the committee on its work - will be the means of bringing more and more into the Commonwealth field responsibility for controlling and financing the various social services. I also welcome the measure because it indicates that the Government does not propose to wait until the end of the war before correcting some of our most obvious social ills. I am sure the great bulk of the Australian community will approve of the Government’s action in this regard. I know that there are still some members of this House who feel that legislation of this kind should be suspended until after the war, but let me point out to them that the very circumstances of the war have been responsible for improving the economic conditions of the majority of Australia’s citizens. No one can question the contention that never before has the economic condition of the rank and file of the industrial population of Australia been more flourishing than it is to-day. That is due entirely to the circumstances of the war; and we should not allow these very circumstances to affect detrimentally the conditions of widows and orphans. That would not be an equality of sacrifice, for which the Treasurer has appealed. The burden that is placed upon Australian taxpayers to-day is a tremendous one, and action had to be taken by the Commonwealth Government to limit the maximum rate of income tax to 18s. in the £1; but .if we listen to those who contend that whilst the payment of a pension to widows is desirable, such a Boheme should not be introduced until after the war, we shall be doing what i& tantamount to taxing widows and children for the duration of the war, at the rate of not 18s. in the £1, but 20s. in the £1. I am confident that that view will not find favour on either side of the House. I welcome this bil] also because it provides in a measure for the standardization throughout Australia of benefits for those people who are in need of our most practical sympathy, namely, women and children who have lost their breadwinners. I am afraid, however, that the bill still makes certain discriminations, although it is pleasing to note that the long-standing discrimination against aborigines which has been a feature of much of our social legislation in the past, has been eliminated. Now. under certain approved conditions, aboriginal wives will be entitled to the same benefits as their white sisters. I wish that there had been no exclusions from this legislation. There are still certain exclusions dictated by the means test. I thought that when we passed the national insurance legislation of 1938, which was acclaimed in this House and declared to be the most monumental piece of social legislation ever enacted in this country, we had seen the end of the means test, and I regret that even at this late hour, social legislation such as that now before the House, is still besmirched by it, the effect of which will be that only certain widows will be entitled to the pension. 1 am glad to know that the property qualifications have been made more liberal than those which obtain in similar legislation now on our statute-book. It is also gratifying that authority is vested in the Commissioner to disregard those property conditions entirely in certain circumstances, where the reputed asset represented by property held by an applicant for a pension is not, in fact, a real live asset. Therefore, whilst I appreciate the fact that, this legislation will bring comfort, and security to many women and children in the Australian community, 1 regret that it is still hedged around with the limitations to which I have referred, and I hope that very soon it will be possible for the Commonwealth Government, no matter what its political colour may be, to bring out of the political refrigerator that comprehensive legislation which was enacted by this Parliament three or four years ago, but which, unfortunately, was not allowed to operate. Quite apart from any benefit that a national insurance scheme would confer upon direct beneficiaries it would prove a most valuable war chest at the present time because of the accumulated funds which it would produce. Only this week, I received a document from Great Britain giving statistics of the national insurance fund in that country. The document reveals that for the month of January last, contributions to that fund amounted to nearly £8,000,000, whereas payments out of the fund, including costs of administration, totalled less than £500,000. Therefore, during that month alone, the fund was increased by approximately £7,500,000, and if increases in succeeding months were on the same scale, the total for the year would be something like £100,000,000. If a similar fund were established in this country, the annual yield in proportion to our population would be probably £14,000,000 or £15,000,000. Such a scheme would be a form of compulsory saving, and would help to divert the purchasing power of the people which is one of the main objects of almost all our war-time financial legislation. I trust that ere long this Parliament will introduce, a compulsory national insurance scheme, not necessarily by re-enacting the existing dormant legislation, but if possible, by passing a measure providing for a more liberal scheme. Five days before the outbreak of war, I was authorized by the then government to resurrect our national insurance legislation, but on a much more generous scale.
I regret exceedingly that this bill perpetuates an injustice which has operated for many years, and which, in fact, has been perpetuated in other legislation passed through this House last week. I refer to the treatment of inmates of mental hospitals. Clause 37 of this measure provides that a pensioner who becomes insane shall have her pension suspended upon admission to a mental hospital, and that upon the pensioner leaving hospital, the Commissioner may grant four weeks’ pension to her; under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act it is obligatory upon the Commissioner to grant that four weeks’ pension. Why we are making the injustice greater in this hill, I cannot understand. By an impish irony of fate, clause 36 immediately preceding provides that in the case of an improvident widow who cannot be trusted to handle her pension, the pension shall not he suspended but, at the discretion of the .Commissioner, shall be handed over to some approved person. Clauses 38 and 39 provide that a pensioner may be sent to gaol without haying her pension cancelled entirely, unless she previously had been in gaol. Certainly, the pension is suspended during the period of her detention, but in all other similar legislation such as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, it is provided that even in the case of a pensioner who has been declared unworthy to receive a pension, the Commissioner may grant a reduced pension of 8s. 6d. a week.
– Provided that the pensioner goes into an institution.
– Yes. I admit that there are certain provisions, but if a pensioner becomes mentally afflicted, there is no provision for the exercise of discretion ,by any one, and the pension ceases. The position is aggravated by the fact that not only is the pension of the widow herself terminated, but also the allowances for her children are stopped. The pension prescribed for a woman with one child is £1 10s. a week, whereas the pension for a widow without children is £1 5s. a week. Surely, it is a fair assumption that the additional 5s. is payable in respect of the one child. But it is not only the pension of £1 5s. that is suspended, when a recipient enters a mental hospital, but the entire £1 10s. I am sure that the Minister will see the gross injustice of that provision, and I urge that the matter be reviewed. It is not competent for me to move an amendment in this regard, because an increase of the appropriation would be involved, otherwise ‘ should take the opportunity when this clause is under discussion to move an amendment. In New South Wales last year, 656 widows were admitted to mental hospitals. Obviously, all would not have remained in hospital throughout the year,nor would all have been able to qualify for a widow’s pension owing to property and residential qualifications, &c.
-Is the honorable member referring to new admissions to those hospitals?
– I am referring to the total number of widows treated. I mention that in order to indicate that after all the payment of pensions in respect of these unfortunate people would not be a matter of very great consequence, although I would hesitate to think that judgment in this matter would be affected by the amount of money required.
– How does the honorable member suggest that pensions could be paid to insane people?
– I do not suggest that. I point out that while a widow is an inmate of a hospital, she is a charge on her relatives - the authorities of the mental hospital see to that. There is provision in this measure for treating a woman as a widow for the purposes of the act if her husband is an inmate of an institution, and I heartily applaud that, but I cannot see why the principle should not be extended, because the maintenance of a woman while she is in a mental hospital is a charge on the members of her family if they have any resources which are known to the authorities of that hospital. The Minister and the Government should give serious consideration to this matter in order to see whether something can be done to correct what I consider to be a very great injustice and a blot on what otherwise is a beneficent piece of legislation. Despite the weaknesses which I have indicated, this legislation represents a great advance in our social services and I strongly commend it to the House. I trust that it will have a speedy passage.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
[2.151. - The House is grateful to the Opposition for the strong supporting speech delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir FrederickStewart) to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). It is a happy occasion for me, as the head of the Government, to see a measure of this nature launched in the House. In 1927 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce was good enough to ask me to serve as a member on the royal commission appointed to survey the problems of family allowances, wage standards and so on in Australia. It is true that the royal commission took a considerable time to prosecute its inquiries and to furnish its report. The subjectmatter of the inquiry was much wider than pensions for widows with dependent children; it included the whole question of family allowances and general conditions arising in the domestic life of the community from the working of our economic system. The minority report to which I subscribed did not ask fora general plan of family allowances, but the second signatory to the minority report, Mrs. Muscio, of Sydney, thought that there should be included, as an integral part of the legislation, provision for widows who had dependent children.
I recall that as a private member 1 moved a motion in this House on the 6th December, 1934, in which I asked thai legislation be introduced to give effect to what I considered to be an imperative need in the social programme of a civilized community. I do not doubt that in time of war - perhaps more so then than at any other time - the importance of family life brings itself home to every intelligent citizen. It is for the defence of family life that the present war is being waged; it is also for the preservation of social life in time of war that the degree of agreement between the Opposition and the Government has been obtained. That is reflected in the- all-round support of social legislation which the Parliament has given in recent weeks. But we should look at this as a real problem both in time of peace and when we are at war. It is undoubted that the stature of the nation, as developed in time of peace, represents the quality it must invoke when war is brought to it. We cannot do better than use the material at our disposal; whatever the standards of the nation may be, improved standard.cannot be conjured out of the air when war comes. They have been developed as a result of national evolution, and that evolution is generally regarded as being due to the way in which the families of the nation have been dealt with in the social structure as a whole.
It is unfortunate that each year in Australia a number of comparatively young married men die. Statistics disclose that in the age-group between 20 and 40 years there are 16,000 such deaths annually. It is in that category that widows and children without a breadwinner are to be found. The widow’s position excites the compassion of all. Let me picture what usually occurs. A young woman falls in love with a young man; they marry, and, according to statistical records, in the course of from two to five years children are born. During that period the husband is not able under any arrangements we like to contemplate to make adequate provision for the future of his wife and children. If he be of the best type - and I presume the majority are of that type - he is usually engaged in buying furniture and saving to secure a deposit for the purchase of their home, and for other costs incidental thereto. He does not wish to forgo all the social amenities that he and his wife enjoyed prior to marriage, and it is desirable that they should not do so. It is out of the question for the nation to expect that, unaided, the husband should be able to safeguard his wife and children against the contingency of his death, for on his death the family income ceases. If he does take out an endowment policy at that time, normally it would be inadequate cover, and in any event it is almost certain that on maturity its value would be required to discharge the debt on their home. In the circumstances, we have the spectacle of a young girl just coming to womanhood who probably had earned her livelihood before marriage. She has given up her role as a wage-earner and has become a housewife. That transition is of great national value. She has become a mother of a family and no longer is she self-reliant. Whatever theorists may say about it, she becomes in fact dependent upon the r earning capacity of her husband, and her future life is linked up with whatever be his ability in that respect. When that source of income is cut off, not only does the widow become obliged to assume the role of breadwinner for herself and her children, but where there are children she also has to accept the heavy obligation of nurturing them. Her obligations as a mother do not diminish, but to those obligations are added the role of breadwinner. That is nationally undesirable, and, in effect, it is detrimental to the welfare of family life. It forces the widow again to become a competitor with other women in the economic world, hut her competition cannot be as free as that of women against whom she would be contending for a livelihood. She has interrupted the continuity of her earning capacity; the world has moved on and in all probability she has been to some extent outmoded. There is a further human factor to be considered. She has undergone not only a physiological revolution by marriage and child-bearing, but she has inevitably accomplished for herself an entirely new relationship to the world at large. She is a changed woman, both as a wage-earner and as an individual. The burden of becoming a wageearner in addition to her maternal obligation is too grievous a load for any nation to impose upon her. The price that she must pay is also the price which her children must pay. They suffer in consequence and where the children of a nation suffer, inevitably the nation itself is weakened.
I conclude by identifying myself with this measure. I believe that it is the hope of the majority of the people that the Commonwealth will increasingly accept the responsibility for social services, thereby creating uniformity and equality in the advantages of this class of legislation, and at the same time assuring that the financial responsibility will be borne fairly by the community as a whole. I believe that the Parliament which is representative of the nation must itself be satisfied that the components that make up that nation have a fair share of the help which it is possible for Parliament, in its wisdom, to provide. Many countries have gone ahead of us in this respect. Australia was once in the vanguard in the matter of social legislation. That is not so to-day, but we are now overtaking the leeway to which a variety of causes have contributed. I offer ray congratulations to the Minister for Social Services upon the introduction of this bill. I should like to express to the chief spokesman for the Opposition on this measure the pleasure with which I heard his speech, and I should like also to pay tribute to ray former colleague on the royal commission, Mrs. Muscio, for the splendid work she has done. I share with her gratification at the consummation of the work we set out to do.
.- The bill should meet with universal approbation. It provides a long-felt want to widows who have been, to some degree, out of the minds of parliaments for some time. It is true, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said, that Australia has fallen behind other countries in caring for women and children. Social service schemes have been in operation in Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand, France, Germany, Denmark and Scandinavia for many years. In practically all the schemes in those countries the underlying principle has been one of contribution. The population as a whole has contributed and I believe that must be the underlying principle of any scheme of widows’ pensions or plan for the betterment of social services in Australia. I have little criticism to offer about the details of the scheme. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Social Security and my name is subscribed to the recommendations of the committee. The bill follows closely the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Social Security, and in one instance has gone slightly beyond its recommendations. There arc three points that I think might be taken into consideration. The first point, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), relates to the loss of the pension by widows in mental homes. It is not necessary to enlarge upon the very clear statement of the position by that honorable member. The second point is that the practice of adding 6d. a week to the invalid and old-age pension rate for every 21 points by which ‘the cos* of living index figure rises above the base figure of 1053 is not to be followed in connexion with a widow’s pension. I can see no reason for differentiation between a pension paid to a widow and one that is paid in respect of invalidity and old age. This matter should be taken into consideration before the bill is passed. The third point is one about which I am not quite clear. I believe that, as the bill stands at present, a widow with two children will receive the full pension of 30s. a week, plus the pension in respect of each child under the age of sixteen years, until the younger child reaches that age, when she is suddenly to lose not only the pension for the child, but also the pension paid on her own behalf. There should be some provision that would prevent this sudden change from the receipt of a pension to the non-receipt of financial aid.
I wish to touch upon some of the broader aspects of this subject. There are in this country quite a number of persons who have certain misgivings as to whether it is appropriate at present to introduce such a measure. Others have misgivings as to whether such legislation should be passed at all. Those who hold the long-range view are of the opinion that, by reason of such big extensions of social services, we are undertaking a liability which, sooner or later, will drive us into bankruptcy; that we are raising a race of pensioners who will look to the State for everything; that the cost will mount year by year until it- will become so great that we shall not be able to meet it without detriment to our economic position. I have held that view. I purpose quoting some figures, because there is a good deal of ignorance in this country as to the actual degree of our obligation in respect of social services. The first of Australia’s social services was introduced in 1906-7. when the social expenditure for the States amounted to £5,600,000, corresponding to 11.7 per cent, of the combined expenditure from loan and revenue funds. By 1913-14, this expenditure had reached £12,000,000, which represented 13.2 per cent, of the combined expenditure of £91,000,000. These figures, I should say, include the costs of the maintenance of law and order, in addition to ordinary pensions, and other social services such as education. After 1914, the expenditure on social services mounted very rapidly, and was increased by two economic depressions, the first of which occurred just after the war, and the second during the years 1930-33. In the year 1939-40- in which, as we know, there was a large amount of war expenditure - there was a record expenditure on social services of £57,300,000, or 22 per cent, of the gross expenditure from revenue and loan funds.
– Including repatriation.
– It included everything. The figures in relation to national income were not regularly available up to 1920-21; but between that financial year and .1939-40 the expenditure on social services rose from 4.1 per cent, to 6.6 per cent, of the national income, which itself had increased by 50 per cent, over the same period. The principal increase, up to 1939-40, was in respect of invalid and old-age pensions, which then amounted to £16,500,000, or 30 per cent, of the total expenditure on social services; the expenditure on education was £12,300,000, and on unemployment relief £10,500,000. Since then, child endowment has .been introduced. It was estimated to cost £13,000,000, but the amount was subsequently proved to be slightly less than that figure. It may be thought that, because of this large expenditure, Australia is holding its own in respect of social service.?, compared with other countries; but, as has been pointed out by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), we still lag a, long way behind certain other countries. The expenditure per capita on social services in Great Britain is considerably in excess of ours. Great Britain has four different kinds of social services. The first is what might be termed consumptive community services, which consists of education, health and medical services, and the welfare of people who are sub-normal and destitute. These services are available to every body; no question of contribution or insurance is involved. En the second category are subsidized services, which are restricted to people who are destitute or have a low income. These include the provision of milk for mothers and children, the supplies in some instances being free, the cost being defrayed from general revenue. In the third category is social insurance, which includes insurance in relation to health, unemployment, old-age and invalidity, and widowhood. In the fourth category are social assistance services, which cover all the services that are not included in the insurance schemes. These embrace supplementary pensions for those widows and other persons who do not receive sufficient from insurance schemes, and include additional unemployment assistance and poor relief. The gross cost of all these services for 1936-37 was £455,000,000, or 10 per cent, of the national income. The net cost to public funds was £305,000,000, or 32 per cent, of the aggregate expenditure of the central and local governments. There has been some increase since the war began. If the costs of our social services of a similar nature be placed on a comparable basis, it will be found that they represent only 6 per cent, of the national income and 20 per cent, of the aggregate expenditure by the Commonwealth and the States. Recently in this House an honorable member stated that he looked forward to the time when the national expenditure on social services would approach £100,000,000. That aroused astonishment on the part of some people, both inside and outside this chamber. As we now have a national income of about £1,000,000,000, the raising of £100,000,000 for social services should not have a serious effect on the economic stability of the country. If Great Britain expends 10 per cent, of its national income for that purpose, surely Australia could do so.
– Before the war, that was the amount for which the government of the day budgeted.
– Conditions have changed since then. Up to the present, a. great deal of the social insurance now proposed to be given effect by legislation has been provided by charitable institutions or private individuals. We have long passed the times when elderly or useless members of the community were knocked on the head and put away, and when unwanted children were disposed of. Certain psychological factors should be taken into account, but, from the economic point of view, it does not matter much whether the funds required for social services are provided by private individuals and institutions or are taken from the coffers of the State. In reply to those who contend that the cost of social services is mounting so rapidly that we are drifting towards national bankruptcy, I point out that both here and in Great Britain social services have been provided by governments for many years, yet, up to the beginning of the war, we were better off than 20 or 30 years ago.
I shall now refer to what I call the short view of this matter. It has been said, and I myself have said it, that this is not an appropriate time to bring in measures of this kind, because all of our resources are required for war purposes. It is claimed that, as this country has been populated by Britishers for 150 years without pensions being granted to widows, this measure should not be introduced at a time when the whole of our resources should be concentrated upon the war effort. I had grave doubts on the matter, but, having considered it carefully, I am in full agreement with the Government that this is an appropriate time to introduce widows’ pensions. My first reason for holding that opinion is that the granting of this pension has been made possible by the fact that the cost of the child endowment scheme has proved to be about £1,600,000 less than was anticipated. That sum will be sufficient to cover the proposed expenditure on widows’ pensions.
– Why not reduce the tax?
– There is another way. I see no reason why one section should be neglected, while benefits are given to the rest of the community. Honorable members may object to a general scheme of national insurance which would entail heavy expenditure and seriously diminish the funds available for Avar purposes, but I contend that there is ample justification for granting assistance to widows and children. The widows themselves have a trusteeship for the future, because they have the responsibility of caring for the future citizens of this country. Why should we not provide at least a reasonable standard of living for them? Many thousands of young men and women are now earning from £5 to £7 a week in the munitions and other factories, and many of them have no family responsibilities whatever. These workers are able to enjoy life, and it would be most unfair to compel widows to fend for themselves, or be dependent on private charity, or charitable institutions.
The proposed pension is to be granted on a non-contributory basis. That, I believe, is wrong.
– The Joint Committee on Social Security, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, recommended granting a pension.
– I was not in favour of a pension provided on a non-contributory basis. The only objection I have to the introduction of the pension in the form proposed in this bill is that I do not desire to see a wrong precedent established. It is high time a plan was set on foot to place the whole of our social services upon a contributory basis. Two important principles ought to be considered. They are fundamental. The first is that no person capable of working should be allowed to remain idle, either because of laziness or voluntary unemployment; the other, which proceeds from the first, is that every body should have the right to be maintained in a reasonable standard of living commensurate with the resources of the country. Therefore, I believe that the time has come when we should change the whole basis upon which old-:age pensions and other social benefits rest, and bring in as soon as possible some kind of contributory scheme in which every one will participate. Private persons have obligations as well as rights, and I believe it to be proper that every individual should contribute directly to the fund, from which he or she hopes ultimately to benefit. This would impress them with a sense of their responsibility, and of their position as integral units of the social structure. If a man expects, in certain circumstances, to be helped by the community, it is up to him to contribute directly to the fund from which he is to be helped, rather than rely upon receiving assistance from an amorphous, intangible thing like the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Therefore, I hope that, before very long, it will be possible to review the whole of our social legislation with a view to placing it upon a better basis.
– I support this measure. I listened to the various speeches which have been made on this bill, and realize that most of what can be said in support of it has been already said. I, together with my colleagues on the Joint Committee on Social Security, had an interesting experience in listening to the evidence placed before the committee regarding widows’ pensions and other matters listed for consideration. The witnesses represented a very fair cross-section of the community. “We were particularly interested in the replies received to the questionnaire which has been publicly circulated. One of the questions was whether widows’ pensions should be introduced at all, and, if so, whether they should be introduced now or after the war. I was surprised at the large number who answered that a widows’ pension scheme should be inaugurated, and that it should be done now. It is true that some witnesses expressed the opinion that widows’ pensions should not be introduced at all, on the ground that a measure of that kind should not be sponsored by the National Parliament. They were comparatively few in number. Others believed that widows’ pensions should be introduced, but not until after the war.
– Let the widows help to pay for the war !
– Exactly. There were not many of them, either. Those who supported the proposal for widows’ pensions, and believed that it should be introduced immediately, far out-numbered those who did not want such a scheme at all, or wanted to postpone its introduction until after the war. We examined witnesses from every State in the Commonwealth. We particularly tried to get witnesses who were qualified to speak for public bodies. They were given ample time to prepare a case, so that they might give us the benefit of their considered opinions. I am confident that the Government, in introducing this measure, has the support of the great majority of the people of Australia. I am not thinking now only of those who hold political opinions similar to my own. We tried, of course, to get the Labour view, with which some of us were already pretty well acquainted, but we ako tried to get the opinion of those associated with organizations other than Labour.
I was particularly pleased to-day to hear two speakers from the opposite side of the House support this measure almost without qualification. I do not suggest that the Opposition is entirely with the Government in this matter. Some members of the Opposition do not favour the proposal at all; but there is a strong section of opinion on the Opposition side which is prepared to join with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) in expressing wholehearted support of .the measure. Indeed, the honorable member for Parramatta said that, in some respects, the measure did not go far enough. I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who was my colleague on the Joint Committee on Social Security. I do not agree with his view that pensions should he contributory. We have had discussions on this subject on many occasions; and 1 was glad to hear the honorable member speak at length to this measure. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated -
The object of this Bill is to provide pensions and allowances to widows and unendowed children, subject to compliance with prescribed conditions regarding age and means. In preparing the legislation, the New South Wales system has been closely adhered to and while eligible widows in that State will probably benefit very little, if at nil, under the federal scheme, widows in other parts of thi: Commonwealth will receive the federal proposed benefits with considerable pleasure. It has been decided to include as widows, de facto widows who lived on a bona lider permanent domestic basis for three years immediately preceding the death of the man with whom she lived; a deserted wife who has taken legal action against her husband for desertion; a woman who has been granted a divorce and has not remarried; and a woman whose hus band or de facto husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane.
I believe that the measure embraces all classes who should be regarded as widows for the purposes of this legislation. I congratulate the Minister and the officers of his department upon the framework of the measure. I am also pleased that the Government has seen fit to take this opportunity to improve upon the. widows’ pensions legislation in -Vew South Wales. We are to benefit from the experience of that State in this field of social legislation. The measure avoids some of the obvious anomalies existing in the New South Wales act. I do not suggest that this bill is perfect. Nevertheless, it makes provision for all classes of people whom we might expect it to embrace; and it represents an important advance in our social legislation. The honorable member for Parramatta described it as a standardizing measure. I agree that we should consolidate the whole of our social services with a view to establishing uniformity. Indeed, we could with advantage apply that principle in respect of many other governmental activities, such as education and health.
The Minister referred to the part played by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as a member of the royal commission which inquired into the subject in 1927. The Prime Minister himself ably covered many aspects of the subject, particularly the importance of family life in relation to the well-being of the nation as a whole. I do not propose to cover that ground. However, it is opportune to consider briefly the history of widows’ pensions in this country. What I believe to be the first reference to be made in the national parliament to the subject of widows’ and orphans’ pensions was made by exSenator D. J. O’Keefe when, on the 30th November, 1911, he submitted a motion on the subject in the Senate. From the manner in which the subject was raised, it would appear that we have made considerable progress since those days in dealing with matters of this kind. Apparently, it was then considered necessary to alter the Constitution in order to enable the Commonwealth Government to introduce widows’ and orphans’ pensions. Incidentally, I point out that ex-Senator O’Keefe was one of the original Tasmanian senators. He is now a member of the State Assembly of Tasmania, of which he was Speaker for six year.;. On the occasion to which I refer he moved -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, Section 51 of the Constitution should be amended so as to permit of legislation for the payment of pensions to widows of any age.
In submitting that motion he said -
My desire is that that section of the Constitution should be so enlarged that thi* Parliament will have the power to provide for the payment of pensions to widows irrespective of age, and that is how my motion is worded. Of course, I do not mean to suggest the payment of pensions to all widows; but that it should be in the power of this Parliament to provide for the payment of pensions to widows in certain conditions analogous to those which now surround the payment of pensions to persons of a certain age, and to invalids.
Ex-Senator O’Keefe received no support for that proposal ; but he renewed his efforts in this direction in July, 1912, when he moved the following motion in the Senate: -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, Section 51 of the Constitution Act should be amended to give the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to grunt pensions to widows with young children dependent on them; and that the necessary referendum of the electors of the Commonwealth lie taken in the next geneva! election.
That referendum was not taken ; and I do not think that the subject was again raised in this Parliament until many years later. When we are considering the benefits that this legislation will confer upon widows and their dependent children, we should not forget those pioneers who moulded public opinion until it accepted the principle of widows’ pensions. Thirty years ago, ex-Senator O’Keefe received very little support, but now honorable members of all parties are in favour of this excellent social legislation, which will be a godsend to many thousands of persons.
I support the bill, because it is an excellent instalment of our social legislation. From time to time, Parliament will doubtless amend the act in order to meet changing conditions. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services upon introducing the measure, and I hope that it, will have a speedy passage through the House.
.- I support the general principles of the bill for a number of reasons. It is designed to help a really deserving and, in some cases, poverty-stricken section of the community; women who, through no fault of their own, have seen misfortune fall it only upon themselves but also upon their dependent children. The Joint
Committee on Social Security reported that these people are in a particularly unhappy position and form a large proportion of the applicants for assistance. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) stated, this proposal will strengthen the family tie which, fortunately, is still the basis of our Christian society, for, only too often, a family disintegrates when its financial circumstances are weakened by the death of the father and breadwinner. Honorable members can recall many instances where a family, following the demise of the male parent, has separated. The children have been boarded out and the mother has been obliged to seek employment, perhaps as a domestic servant, for the purpose of earning money to support them.
This proposal is most important from the standpoint of maintaining the nutrition and health of families, and in preventing some of them from becoming centres of moral and physical infection in the community. Recently, honorable members received from the Legacy Club in Sydney a little pamphlet which contained some distressing examples of the results of under-nourishment and ill health in New South “Wales. Having studied the subject of under-nourishment and ill health among small, isolated white settlements in tropical areas, I can bear witness to the great harm which can come to a community that allows the health and nutrition of a section of its citizens to fall below the average. Safeguards are particularly necessary in a country where the birth-rate is falling and the proportion of older citizens is increasing. We may succeed in holding Australia this time, in spite of our blindness to the preparations which more prolific countries have been making against us for years; but, sooner or later, Australia will be overwhelmed by the increase of the population of our neighbours unless we can adequately increase our white Australian population. Anything that we can do to protect and develop Australian children is of the utmost value on the grounds of humanitarianism and is vital on the score of sheer biological necessity.
The destruction of private charity is another reason for’ the introduction of this legislation. I do not propose to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the system of maintaining institutions by private philanthropy, which is now disappearing, but new social ideas, the pressure of war taxation and all the effects of the war will force the State to take over a great deal of that work. Hospitals, orphanages, and homes for unmarried mothers, which have been wholly or partly supported by private philanthropy, will ultimately become the responsibility of the State.
The Joint Committee on Social Security reported that this class of legislation called for early action on the part of the Government. The committee, which stated the case fairly and moderately, recommended a Commonwealth noncontributory scheme for widows in necessitous circumstances, and dependent, children, providing for the payment of a pension of £1 ls. a week for the mother and 10s. a week for an orphan or one dependent child under the age of sixteen years. I remind honorable members that this kind of social service has been introduced in countries with more advanced social systems than that of Australia. For example, Great Britain has a contributory scheme under which a widow and her children receive a pension if th<? insured father died after 1926.
I have enunciated a number of strong arguments in favour of the principle of the measure. My criticisms are prompted by exactly the same reasons as those which I advanced against the manner in which the Government increased invalid and old-age pensions. I agree with the opinion of the Joint Committee i«n Social Security. Although it recommended a non-contributory scheme for widows in distress, it admitted the psychological advantages of a contributory scheme and the bad effects of the “ means “ test. Those points were emphasized very ably by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). Moreover, the Joint Committee on Social Security urged in its first and third interim reports that the Commonwealth should consolidate social legislation in a social security act embracing a complete plan of social service. Such a plan, probably organized with a combination of contributory and non-contributory systems, as in Great Britain and the
United States of America, is now essential to the Commonwealth. It is essential that that be done before this Government has made a long series of hand-outs, which will make the introduction of an up-to-date plan difficult, if not impossible. It is essential because of the increasing average age of the population, and the burden that is going to be thrown on us by old-age pensions. It is essential because of the decreasing proportion of our people of working age. The people of the working age of this country will soon be supporting the injured and the invalids and the dependants of the fallen of two great wars. They will be supporting a very high proportion of old-age pensioners and widows and children. They will also be supporting a very large number of those who up to the present have been supported by private philanthropists. The best method by which social security can be financed is still a subject of very serious dispute and discussion. I join issue with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) who, in an able speech, recently advocated entirely noncontributory schemes of pensions. The uniform taxation proposals now before Parliament are designed to decrease the taxing of lower incomes, although, under various suggestions, lower incomes are expected to contribute to social services. On that point the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was very interesting. He referred to his minority report as a member of the royal commission on child endowment and family allowances in 1929. It is interesting to note that the right honorable gentleman recommended the payment of widows’ pensions and child endowment but said that, in order to obtain funds for the purpose, the statutory exemption from federal income tax should be reduced to £200 and that the grades of tax on higher incomes should be steepened. In other words, his idea in that report was that there should be a contributory scheme by means of taxation. I submit that in the circumstances and in the state of our scant knowledge of the financing of social service, it is equally foolish for the Labour party to assert that it is irrevocably opposed to the contributory system as it would be for the
Opposition to say that it was opposed to non-contributory. That being so, I would ask the Government to hold up this policy of hand-outs until it has procured competent advice on three matters : First, it should obtain counsel as to a social security act which, as the joint committee recommends, will form a legislative frame-work for a complete plan. Secondly, it should obtain advice on a complete social security plan which will cover health, unemployment and other social security plans as well as other problems which are being investigated in other countries and which countries such as Great Britain and the United States of America have already put into effect. Thirdly, it should investigate through competent authorities the best means of financing social security with particular regard to the fact that the age of our population is likely to increase and that the proportion of our active workers is likely to fall. I am delighted that the party now in Opposition introduced child endowment. Unless this question is dealt with scientifically and systematically our children who will carry the burden will not arise and call us blessed! Indeed, they may well say that we have visited our sins of generosity upon them to tha third and fourth generation.
.- 1 congratulate the Minister for Social Services upon having introduced a fine bill. Honorable members will recall that for many years Australia and its sister dominion New Zealand were in the forefront in social legislation. Then there came a thin time. For various reasons there was a slowing down of social legislation and we seemed to have become becalmed in the doldrums, entangled in the weeds of Sargasso Sea, and we moved little or not at all. Recently, however, there has been a very encouraging and heartening move forward. I am wondering whether the war is responsible. The struggle in which we are engaged has taught us, amongst other things, the value, the sacredness and the greatness of the home and home life. Everything that is worth while - Christianity, civilization, sanctity, art, and all such things - have their source in the home. That, I believe, is the reason foi the quickening of tha conscience of the people. More and more human life has come to have greater value. As John Buskin said, there is no wealth but the home life.
I am delighted that members of the Opposition1 are supporting this bill. It proves that there is no monopoly of goodness or humanity on any side of the House. I was struck particularly with the expressions of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan).’ Pensions for widows and orphans has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform for many years. The policy was restated in the amended platform decided upon at the federal conference of the Australian Labour party held at Canberra in May, 1939. Child endowment was recently introduced, and, earlier this week Parliament passed a bill to make important amendments to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This bill represents another rung in the ladder of a complete plan of social security. Wc must build the entire ladder in order to make this country a place to which our soldiers will be happy to return and in which destitution will be unknown. The bill foreshadows, in a small way, the conditions to which Tennyson referred in these lines from his poem “ Locksley Hall”-
Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do: l.n this age of mechanized industry, when every nerve is strained, the slightest lack of co-ordination between hand and brain on the part of a worker may cause instant death. A young man and a young woman who love each other may decide to fulfil their destiny and make a home together. If the man makes one slip at his work, the woman who started married life with high hopes may become a widow, and her children, with all the promise of the world before them, may be made fatherless. We in this Parliament should be custodians of these widows and children; that is virtually wha t we will become when this bill is made law. In these days there are many fatal accidents by field and flood. I was not astonished to be told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that 16,000 deaths occur annually amongst males between the agc of 20 years and 40 years. We must look after the widows of these workers, and we must care particularly for their children, because each of these little ones is worth more to the nation than his. or her weight in gold.
I understand that the scheme proposed in this bill will provide for payments to approximately 30,000 widows and 21,000 orphans. A widow’s pension will be at the rate of 25s. a week, and she will receive 5s. a week for the first of her children, if any. The other children are already provided for in a small measure under the child endowment scheme. I am pleased that the term “ widow “ will cover any wife whose husband is in an institution for the insane and to any wife whose husband has deserted her. I am pleased also that orphanages will he paid allowances in respect of the children whom they are maintaining.
I agree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the rate of pension should increase as the cost of living rises, and I believe that the Government will eventually give effect to that proposal. The total cost of the scheme will be £1,600,000 a year. That is not very much when we consider that we have already expended millions of pounds on the war. Widows’ pensions should not be regarded as a charity. Widows and their fatherless children are entitled to financial help, and I hope that they will accept the pension as a right. I am confident that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) and the Director of Social Services, Mr. F. H. Rowe, will administer the scheme in the spirit in which it has been conceived.
– I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) upon the introduction of this measure.
– Why stonewall the bill?
– I do not wish to stone-wall. My duty as Government Whip is to endeavour to accelerate the passage of legislation. I merely seek an assurance from the Minister that cost of living variations will be taken into account in connexion with these pensions as will be the case in future with invalid and old-age pensions.
– I give the honorable member that assurance.
– I thank the Minister. That is the only reason why I rose to speak.
.- [ do not. wish to delay the passage of cbe measure, but I should like to make some suggestions to the Minister now in order that he may consider them before the bill reaches the committee stage. I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the pension should not be discontinued in the case of a widow, who has qualified on account of the fact that she has a child, when the child reaches the age of sixteen years. The bill does not contain a definite provision that the pension should be discontinued, but I presume that the Pensions Department will take the view that, if a widow has received a pension while her child has been under the age of sixteen years, the pension should be discontinued when the child reaches that age, provided that the woman is still under the age of 50 years. I hope that the Minister will favorably consider the propriety of continuing the payment of the pension to widows in such circumstances. I also suggest that the definition of the word “ widow “ should be widened. Clause 4 of the bill states -
*’ Widow “ includes-
A woman who has been granted a divorce from her husband and has not remarried;
Apparently that refers to a woman who has petitioned successfully for a divorce. It is unfair to disqualify a woman who may have been a respondent in divorce proceedings. Anybody who practises law knows that some women will not themselves petition for divorce, on religious grounds, but will not defend divorce proceedings taken against them by their husbands, although they may be innocent parties. A woman, whose marriage has been broken up by .the fault of both parties, may at some time or other come to the divorce courts. Her religion may forbid her to petition for divorce, but she may accept the position of respondent because she cannot truly deny that the marriage ought to be terminated. Such a woman will not be able to qualify for a pension unless the bill is amended. I should like the definition of “ widow “ to be altered in order to include any divorced woman who has not remarried. The definition should also be enlarged to include a woman whose, husband is insane, whether he be an inmate of a hospital or not. A number of people who have been under the care of lunacy departments in the States have returned home to their families. Wives often make efforts to have their husbands released on probation to live with them at home, but by doing that they disqualify themselves for a pension. Whilst her husband is in a mental hospital, a wife can receive the pension, but not so after she has taken him home, although he is still of no more use to her as a breadwinner than he was when in an institution. There are also mental patients who are sent from asylums to old men’s homes and similar institutions.
– They would receive pensions.
– But the women do not receive anything. The husband or the institution receives the pension, but not the woman. A woman whose husband is, by reason of mental disease, unable to support her, ought to be treated as a widow, whether the husband is in an asylum or in her home.
– If he is in a hospital for the insane, he cannot receive a pension, but if he is in any other institution, he can.
– But that does not protect the woman in the least. Another suggestion I should like to make is that the bill should be amended to provide for a woman whose husband has been totally incapacitated and who cannot work for her. I think, also, that a woman whose de facto husband has died should also be included.
.- 1 am gratified by the introduction of this measure, and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of the several joint committees that were recently appointed to review a number of subjects for the benefit of this Parliament. The committee that dealt with this subject, and other committees too, have rendered valuable service to this Parliament. Although I am chairman of one of the committees, I think that I can stress the view I have just expressed. I am happy to say that although we are passing through extraordinarily difficult times, this Parliament has not forgotten the many people of this country who are having a lean time because of ill health or other disabilities. The unfortunate persons covered by the bill are women who have lost their breadwinners. I make these observations regarding widows with particular force, because I live in an industrial area, and represent an electorate containing many industrial areas. From my experience 1 know how hard at times widows’ circumstances can be, and how difficult it is to give them all the assistance they need. The bill will lift a big load from the minds of those members of this House who have a charitable nature, by assuring them that the problem has been tackled in a national manner. I believe in this case, as in that of invalid and old-age pensions, that the rise and fall of the cost of living should be taken into account in assessing the pension.
I wish to make special reference to one feature of the. debate. An honorable member who spoke this afternoon suggested that the present scheme should be adopted because the pay-roll tax introduced by a previous government to finance child endowment has produced a surplus of £1,600,000. I do not share that view. The proposal, on the contrary, should be put forward on its merits. I regard widows’ pensions as indispensable to the national life of this country. My objection to a pay-roll tax to provide for child endowment is being borne out by this early experience. The figures show that £1,600,000 has bee”l extracted unnecessarily from the pockets of the people, and I believe that the proper method of financing all such proposals for the relief of the sick, the injured, and the poor of the community, should be, in the first instance, by payments from general revenue; but only until a broad scheme of national insurance has been built up on a contributory basis. In view of the surplus revenue received from the pay-roll tax, the contributions should be reduced.
I suggest to the committee that has brought in the recommendations on which the bill and other amendments to our social legislation have been based, to concentrate on recommending to Parliament a broad, general scheme of national insurance to cover the whole ramification of social activities, including invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, child endowment, health, medical and hospital benefits, dental treatment, and unemployment. Those matters have been considered on previous occasions. There are reports in the Parliamentary Library dealing with them, and I suggest that in the light of accumulated experience, and of the action taken in other countries, the committee and Parliament should take early action. For a long time we have taken pride in the belief that we lead the world in social and industrial legislation, but until we have devised a broad, national insurance scheme, we shall be well behind the rest of the world. Already 33 or 34 countries have schemes of national insurance covering the social services that have been before this Parliament during recent weeks. Even the republics of South America have their national insurance schemes. We cannot claim to have done anything towards a new order in this country until we have tackled the problem systematically, in a broad and national way. By lending its aid the committee will help to confirm the good reputation it has already earned. I commend the Government for its action in introducing the bill and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
.- I support the bill and congratulate the Government upon its introduction. When all men’s minds are turned to war and destruction, it is gratifying to find that the Government has brought down social legislation to help those members of the community who are in need. I also appreciate the general acceptance of the bill by the House. I wish, however, to appeal to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to agree to an amendment being made in committee. In clause 4 of .the bill a widow is defined as a de facto widow, a deserted wife, a woman who has been granted divorce from her husband and has not remarried, and a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane. That definition should be extended to cover the. wife of a man who has been totally and permanently incapacitated, and is in receipt of an invalid pension. A wife whose husband is a total invalid and is unable to earn any income whatever i9 in practically the same position as a woman whose husband is in a mental institution or has deserted her. It should not require much argument to impress upon honorable members the state of a woman under such conditions, and I make a strong appeal to the Minister to consider amending the bill to remove this anomaly.
.- [ congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, which is long overdue, and I congratulate also the Joint Committee on Social Security for its part in helping to create the right atmosphere for the introduction of such legislation in war-time. There are two or three aspects of this measure that I should like to canvass. The first concerns the future of the existing widows’ pension schemes in New South Wales and Victoria. I have not had an opportunity to peruse the second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) because under our antiquated Standing Orders when a second-reading speech is being delivered honorable members are not furnished with adequate information. As only 24 hours have elapsed since the Minister made his secondreading speech on this bill, there has been no reasonable opportunity to study the measure or the explanation of it given by him, but I presume that, should the States concerned so desire, they could continue their own widows’ pension schemes in addition to the scheme proposed under this legislation. I take it that the Commonwealth has no constitutional right to demand that existing State legislation be repealed. On several occasions, I have complained about the actions of certain government instrumentalities in Victoria which have defied the desire of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that benefits provided under Commonwealth legisla tion shall be paid in addition to existing benefits provided by State legislation. The Minister for Social Services has promised to have that matter raised at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, with special reference to the action of the Hospitals and Charities Board in Victoria in reducing grants from the charities fund to certain charitable institutions, by an amount equal to the benefit which is paid to those institutions under the Child Endowment Act. I am not sure that similar happenings are not likely to occur under this legislation. It has been stated in the press that the Minister for Social Services in the New South Wales Parliament has introduced a bill to increase benefits payable under the widows’ pension legislation of that State, and I understand that these increased benefits will make the scheme of even greater value to the people of New South Wales than this legislation can possibly be. Therefore I should like to know whether the two acts are to be related in any way, or whether action is being taken to persuade the Premiers of the various States to allow the Commonwealth to have complete control of the social services field insofar as child endowment and widows’ pensions are concerned. I should like to know also if any other State is contemplating introducing a scheme similar to that which we are now discussing. We are on the verge of a conflict with the States in regard to uniform taxation legislation - I understand that the States intend to proceed with their ordinary budget legislation, providing for the payment of widows’ pensions and other benefits - and it may be that, in some way, the whole scheme that we are discussing to-day will be associated with that conflict, in which the High Court may have to determine the validity of the claim made by this Parliament to have the right to legislate on such matters. When the bill is in committee I should also like to hear something more about this legislation than what we have already been told. So far as I can remember, the Minister’s second-reading speech was an explanation of the history of pension benefits in England and this country, and a recital of arguments in favour of the passing of this bill in view of the improved social conscience of the Australian people for legislation of thic kind. There are two schemes in operation in Australia - the smaller one in Victoria has operated only in recent years - but a preliminary examination of the problems shows the necessity for Commonwealthwide legislation. I have no doubt that when this legislation becomes law we shall have reason to be satisfied with the action that we have taken, in view of the fact that people in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania who have been bereft of their breadwinners have fought an unequal fight for many years, and have had to depend on public charity which at the very best has been meagre, and in many cases almost no-existent. It is a reflection upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth that this legislation was not introduced many years ago. When we look back upon the awful depression years and think what could have been done had the Parliament of those days had the courage to grapple with its financial problems an;! to introduce legislation such as this we realize how beneficial it would have been to the community. I am anxious that some record should be made of the fact that a Labour government in New South Wales first introduced a widows’ pension scheme and that the subsequent general elections in that State were fought on the question whether the scheme should continue. The issue in that State has now been settled beyond nil doubt, and all governments have recognized not only the desirability but also the absolute necessity of such legislation. In that respect at any rate, New South Wales leads. I hope that when the Minister introduces further legislation to give effect to other recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Social Security, it will contain plans for a national scheme of home building. It is most essential that the people of Australia should have proper homes.
– The honorable member for Melbourne should wait until the next report of the Joint Committee on Social Security is presented.
– I am pleased to receive the assurance of the chairman of the committee that a suitable recommendation on the housing problem is forth coming. I know that at present it is necessary to utilize all available materials and labour on war work, and that the small number of workers available in Australia cannot be employed simultaneously on our war programme and a home-building scheme. It is essential, however, that munitions workers in the capital cities who are homeless should be properly housed. Many homes are becoming substandard because of overcrowding and unhealthy congestion, and as soon as possible a Commonwealth housing scheme should be instituted. I hope that the Government will emulate the example set by the New Zealand Government in connexion with its social security legislation. In that country almost every possible contingency and problem with which man may be confronted during his life has been provided for.
– This Government cannot do what a New Zealand government has done.
– It is true that there are certain constitutional difficulties to be overcome, but things that are not normally possible in peace become possible in war-time. Everything depends upon the decision given by the High Court of Australia. In time of war members of the High Court Bench lean in their judgment towards the Commonwealth Parliament and to the acts of the Commonwealth Executive, which is highly desirable. Once a decision has been given it becomes a precedent for future guidance. Shortly, the Commonwealth Government may be faced with a High Court action to test the validity of the uniform taxation legislation, and I hope, when the time comes, that the Commonwealth Government will successfully defend its action. If the validity of this legislation be questioned I trust that it will be found that the necessary power is available and is being properly used. In a nation comprising 7,000,000 people, surely the Commonwealth Parliament is capable of exercising its powers fairly, courageously and successfully. For generations State Parliaments have had an opportunity to introduce social legislation such as that now before the House, but have failed to accept the responsibility. Perhaps it has been the stultifying actions of the upper Houses in the State Parliaments which have prevented the passage of such legislation. The Government has a splendid opportunity <it present, while it is spending approximately £1,000,000 a day on the war, to implement a social security scheme which will cost in the vicinity of £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 per annum. War expenditure is rising at such a rate that within twelve to eighteen months figures will probably lose their meaning. We should be more receptive now than ever to the laudable social service schemes which were frustrated in the past by the alleged inability to obtain funds to finance them. There has been little worry about the source of finance for war purposes and, as the revenue-raising problem has not been mentioned in connexion with this bill, we should not worry about it. The same applies to any other social security legislation which the Government, in its wisdom, may contemplate placing before Parliament.
and the Prime Minister (Mr, Curtin) I can now promise that an automatic adjustment clause relating to the cost of living will be included in the bill, and a wider interpretation will be placed on the use of the word “ divorcee “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Housing of Munitions Workers - 1941-42 Wheat Pool: Payments - Prisoners of War - Censorship of “Hansard” - Public Works: YassCanberra Railway - Transport of Members of Parliament - Nonofficial Postmasters - Profiteering : Penalties - Australian Army : Dockers’ Units - Firewood Supplies. Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring before the appropriate Minister a matter relating to the housing of munitions workers in Adelaide. More attention has been paid to alleviating housing problems in South Australia than in any other State. With the object of clearing up slum areas, four or five years ago a housing trust was inaugurated in that State, without political control, its function being to provide homes for the people at a reasonable cost. I have previously recommended to this House that a similar scheme should be adopted and made applicable to all States. There is a great shortage of homes in South Australia, and munitions workers have suffered as a consequence. Each month the position Ls becoming more acute. Towards the end of last year the Housing Trust proposed that it should build 500 homes for munitions workers on the same principle as it had adopted in providing homes for the people. The trust builds the houses in pairs at a cost of approximately £900, each house containing four rooms and conveniences, fences, water tank and all essentials. The cost of the land is included in the £900 and the homes are rented at 12s. 6d. a week. The rent includes a provision for sinking fund, interest on money loaned, rates and taxes, and so on. The scheme has become very popular and the trust has recommended that a similar type of home should b;; constructed for munitions workers under a Commonwealth housing trust scheme. However, something went wrong. I believe that there was some argument about the material for the houses being exempt from, sales tax. At all events, there was bungling; and now, I understand, the houses are not to be built.
But that is not the matter that I wish chiefly to raise. I understand that the Commonwealth Housing Trust intends to build 600 houses, called “ cabin cottages “, in South Australia. I have not, seen the plan, but I believe that they are to be of four rooms, with a flat roof, sloped just sufficiently to carry off rainwater. They are supposedly to be built of fibrolite or, it has been said, of heavy fibrous plaster, which in my opinion would not withstand the weather conditions. They are to be ceiled, but unlined.
In those parts, the weather is intensely cold in the winter and, at times, intensely hot in the summer. A stove for cooking purposes is to be installed, but no fireplace is to be provided in any other part of the house. It would be almost impossible to live in such places during the winter months, and they would be insufferable in the summer months. There is to be one set of wash troughs for every six houses. How are people to live under such conditions? A bath is to be installed in each house, but there is not to be drainage from it. They are not to be sewered, but an earth closet is to be provided. Conditions of this sort are likely to cause disease. Should they bc tolerated for the duration of the war, however long that may be, they will be merely of the value of scrap junk, if then sold. I am opposed to slums, and have heard almost every honorable member opposite condemn those that are said to exist in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. I have inspected the so-called slums in Canberra. The houses to be built in Adelaide will be far worse, even when new. I ask the responsible Minister to give the matter consideration and, whether it be the Commonwealth Housing Trust or the Housing Trust of South Australia that is to undertake construction, to see that the houses will be of a permanent character and of some use after the war, when assuredly they will be needed. If present intentions be adhered to, grave discontent will be caused among those who will have to inhabit the cottages, and there will also be considerable ill health and disease. I very seriously urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to get in touch with the Housing Trust of South Australia in order to see whether houses of a reasonable type may not be built.
– I desire to make a short statement in reply to a question that I was asked yesterday by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in regard to the position of the 1941-42 wheat pool.
The guaranteed price under the wheat stabilization plan is 3s. lOd. a bushel, free on board bagged basis, for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. During the past season the crop has been larger than the average, and the quantity of wheat received by the Austraiian “Wheat Board to date is 153,000,000 bushels. There is still a small quantity of wheat that will probably be received; but as the board has received some wheat grown on excess areas, to which the guarantee does not apply, it appears that the figure of 153,000,000 bushels may be taken. Consideration has been given to the method of dealing with the payments where the crop exceeds the quantity guaranteed. Wheatgrowers5 representatives who were consulted in the matter agreed that in such cases the total amount of the guarantee should be spread over the whole of the crop. It has been decided to adopt this course. As the guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels requires a total payment of £26,S33,000, that amount will now be paid on a pro rata basis to growers who have delivered wheat to No. 5 pool. The effect of this is that growers who have delivered wheat to No. 5 pool will receive a guaranteed payment on the basis of approximately 3s. 6.1d. a bushel. This payment will, of course, be increased should the receipts of the pool exceed 3s. 6d. a bushel; but honorable members will realize that sales conditions at the present time are particularly difficult and that the greater portion of the crop will be carried over to next season. Consequently, it is impossible at present to make any reliable estimate of the final receipts of the pool.
– I rise merely to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) information that I have received to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has under consideration the holding of some form of inquiry into what happened to the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia, and Australian nurses, after the invasion of Rabaul by the Japanese in January last. Since the Australian press on the 6th April published the story of the struggle in which the garrison had been engaged, and the privations they had suffered, the parents of many of those concerned have had no intimation as to their whereabouts or their fate, other than could be gained from rumours. I can vouch for this, because I have a nephew who is an officer in the battalion, and no word has .been received in respect of him. I, therefore, ask the Prime Minister if he has any information that may, consistently with the requirements of national security, be given to the House, and whether some form, of inquiry is to be set up? I trust that the right honorable gentleman will be able to relieve the anxiety of those who have no information whatsoever.
– I am moved to say a word or two in the matter of the censorship of Hansard. It is very well dealt with, up to a point, in that excellent little booklet prepared by the then Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. J. .S. Weatherston, and circulated among honorable members; but recent occurrences and observations suggest that it would be well if the matter were brought up to date and recorded in the present numbers of Hansard, especially in relation to the state of war that now exists, most of Mr. Weatherston’s observations necessarily being applicable to the previous state of war.
A short resume of the position may not be out of place. On the 2lst May, 1915, Mr. Speaker McDonald was asked by an honorable member whether it was true that reports of the proceedings of the House were censored ; to which Mr. Speaker replied -
Nobody has any authority to censor anything that takes place in this chamber but tlie House itself. No alteration of any kind is permitted in Ilansard unless it is one that I would personally sanction, and I would not censor anything that takes place in this House except by the direction of the House itself . . All we (the President and Speaker) are responsible for is the official publication, and of that no censorship is allowed either by the military or by any other department, apart from a decision of the House itself.
On the 27th May, 1915, in the Senate, Senator Pearce, then Minister for Defence, declared -
I have, so far, seen no reason for censoring of parliamentary speeches . . . But at any time a member may make an indiscreet utterance. When such n. thing occurs we shall have te deal with it in the best way we can … If that position arises, the Government should not hesitate to take the responsibility of censoring the statements and asking Parliament to endorse their actions.
The then President of the Senate (Sena tor Givens), about that time, made the following observations : -
There has never been any censoring ot Ilansard. If anything has been kept out of Hansard, it has only been with the consent of the member who made the speech. Thai has been known to honorable members oi both chambers for twelve months.
That statement was reported in volume 80 of Hansard, at page 10,035. That, shortly, represents the position as to the censoring of the official reports up to that time; that is to say, there was no interference with the record, except, in certain particular cases, by direction of the particular branch of the legislature affected. But the reprints of members’ speeches and their dissemination caine within a slightly different category. Some of these reprints had, in fact, been removed from the then Opposition party room by persons to whom no assistance had, by Mr. Speaker’s direction, been afforded. Indeed, members had declined to give any such assistance. Mr. Speaker Elliott Johnson seems to have been in some doubt as to his authority in respect of parcels of reprints. He stated -
I do not feel justified in authorizing any action involving interference with parcels of such matter (reprints), the personal property of members, in their absence and without their consent.
Apparently the then Minister for Defence had intimated to Mr. Speaker that the contents of the reprints were detrimental to the safety of the Commonwealth, and that the printing and publishing of such were, he was advised, a breach of the War Precautions Regulations. A motion that seizure of reprints of speeches within the precincts of Parliament was a breach of privilege was negatived on a party vote of the House.
In the Senate, ex-Senator Gardiner raised the same question, to which ex-Senator Pearce replied for the Government that the law officers of the Crown advised that reprints from Hansard were not privileged documents, and must be censored. The President (Senator Givens) said that all tha t the presiding officers could do was to see that Hansard was not censored, and that, beyond the publication of Hansard, their authority ceased. On the 25th September, 1918, the Senate passed a motion in these terms - that, during the progress of the war, Mr. President be authorized at his discretion to direct the omission from Hansard of any remarks made in the Senate to which his attention maybe directed by the law officers of the Crown as being calculated to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with a foreign power, or the successful prosecution of the war or to imperil the safety of the Commonwealth.
That motion must be taken as confirming the action taken up to that date, namely, that each House should maintain the inviolability of its own official reports. In other words, no interference could be made with the official record of a member’s speech except by direction of the branch of the legislature concerned. A similar motion was agreed to in the House of Representatives. Thus, in the clearest terms, the principle was laid down that the official record of a member’s speech could not be changed or mutilated without that member’s consent or the direction of the House. With that determination, I entirely agree.
Since the beginning of the present war with Germany, Mr. Speaker Bell laid down the position on the 1st of May, 1940, in reply to a question asked by an honorable member. He said -
There is no censorship of Hansard,. An occasion arose last week when the Minister for the Navy directed the attention of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to some remarks made by certain honorable members, andhe was asked by the Minister if the remarks could be deleted. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter informed the Minister for the Navy that that could bo done only on the authority of Mr. Speaker, and with the consent of the honorable members concerned. The consent of the honorable members was obtained, and the remarks were deleted. T here will be no censorship of Hansard without the authority of the House. (Volume 163, page 416.)
The position therefore is made clear again. My observations would not be necessary but for the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, on a recent occasion, whether at the request of the military . authorities or others I do not know, did, in fact, heavily censor a speech of an honorable member without consulting him! I emphasize that no censorship can be properly exercised by Mr. Speaker on any authority, without the consent of the member making the speech or by a resolution of the House concerned.
– Will the honorable member mention the name of the honorable member whose speech was censored without his consent?
– It was the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). I should add that the matter excised was of a technical nature. The speech was unexceptionable in tone, from the point of view of loyalty to the British cause, but it was thought undesirable by Mr. Speaker that it should he published. I cannot imagine any member, if he were assured by Mr. Speaker, and more particularly if Mr. Speaker were fortified by the advice of a military or other public authority, insisting on the publication of words that were considered dangerous or helpful to the enemy or to contain matter that should not be published. I would oppose a resolution of the kind which, as I have shown, was passed in the Senate, and immediately afterwards passed through the House of Representatives. I would oppose it because I believe that there should be no interference with the record. I believe that dependence should be placed on the good sense and judgment of honorable members and that when their attention is directed to it, they will allow offending matter to be excised. I suggest that the matter rest there, but I would run the risk of such a motion being passed - and I take the risk now of precipitating such a motion by these observations - rather than that the passages should be excised from the records upon the advice of any one outside Parliament, whether attached to the military, naval or air services. It is better that this Parliament should control its own conduct than that such control should be handed over to any one else. It is for that reason that I have addressed myself to this matter, bringing it up to date, and re-declaring the accepted practice of the House, namely, that it should control its own publications. I am not concerned with what may happen to reprints of members’ speeches. I think it is right, in general, that if parts of speeches are reprinted they should pass under outside control. My concern is that this House alone should do its own censoring, and that neither Mr. Speaker inside the House, nor any authority outside it, should presume to interfere with the sanctity of the records of this democratic chamber.
– “When the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) says that the House should do its own censoring he is suggesting something that is quite impracticable. This House, sitting as a House, has not the time to be bothered with deciding what parts of a speech ought to be omitted from the record. The matter would have to be referred to some individual, or some small number of individuals, for consideration. As for censorship in general, there is no censorship of Hansard in the sense in which the term was used by the honorable member for Batman. When observations are made in this House which are deemed by me, or by some one who may bring the matter to my notice, .as likely to be of advantage to the enemy, I consult the honorable member who has made the observations and, with his consent, I excise those parts from Hansard. This has happened on several occasions. In no instance have I taken action without consulting the honorable member who made the speech. Apparently, exception is taken to what was done in the case of a speech made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). It would be much more satisfactory if a complaint had come from the honorable member himself, because he knows the facts. The speech was made on a Friday afternoon. I told him that the greater part of his speech ought not, in my opinion, to be published, and that I proposed to confer with him afterwards in regard to it. He said that he was sorry he had to leave Canberra immediately, but would leave it to me to eliminate such parts of the speech as I thought fit. That was the substance of our conversation. Therefore, it is clear that I had his consent to do what I thought proper. I remember that the speech was packed with information that might be of use to the enemy. He was putting forward a plea for the development of power stations in areas west of the Blue Mountains. He prefaced his remarks with a quotation from a statement made by a Mr. Smith, who had said that most of the important power stations in
New South Wales were situated in certain localities. He also said what he thought would occur to Australia if those localities were attacked. In the course of his argument, the honorable member mentioned every one of the important power plants in New South Wales, giving their precise locality, and stating what would be the effect if the enemy were to strike at them. Such information should certainly not be published. The honorable member for Calare went on to advocate the installation of a power plant at Wyangala Dam, and again discussed the various power plants in New South Wales. He stated the actual number of kilowatts which each station was able to generate. He also stated where a certain munitions factory was getting its power from. I have no hesitation in saying that information of that kind should not. be allowed to appear in the official report. If the House thinks that I was wrong, 1 very much regret it, but I feel quite confident on the matter. The speech was an interesting one inasmuch as it conveyed a very clear picture of the power resources of New South Wales, but the details which were given constituted the danger. Therefore, in my opinion, parts of the speech were properly eliminated.
– In the event of an honorable member making a deliberate and calculated statement which might be regarded as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and then refusing to give his consent to the elimination of such matter when called upon to do so, do you hold that the offending passage should remain in the record?
– Such a situation has not arisen, but I can imagine that it. might. In such a case, it might not be practicable to consult Parliament, and the publication of Hansard ought not to be delayed. Therefore, I would take the responsibility of doing what I thought proper. It is of no use having a referee unless he is empowered to give a decision.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) the need for national planning in regard to public works, so that a number of schemes may be ready to put into operation when peace comes and members of the fighting services are being demobilized. One work that might well be placed on the list is the construction of a railway between Canberra and Yass in accordance with the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. The agreement was signed on the 18th October, 1909, and was embodied in the first schedule of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act However, very little has been done to implement it.
Mr.Curtin. - Surveys have been completed.
– I am aware that surveys and preliminary inquiries have been made; but, to our discredit, nothing further has been done. I ask the Prime Minister to submit the project to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Section 9 of the agreement to which I have referred provides -
In the event of the Commonwealth constructing a railway within the Territory to its northern boundary, the State shall construct a railway from a point near Yaas on the Great Southern Railway to join with the said railway, and the Commonwealth and the State shall grant to each other such reciprocal running rights as may be agreed upon or as, in default of agreement, may be determined by arbitration over such portions of that railway as are owned by each.
No one who travels from Goulburn to Canberra can fail to notice the bad grades, the abrupt curves, and the uneven railway bed. The line runs through some very rocky and barren country. The journey is most uncomfortable, and leaves a most unfavorable impression, particularly upon visitors to Canberra. The suggested line from Yass to Canberra would consist of 16 miles 48 chains within the Australian Capital Territory, and 27 miles 54 chains in New South Wales. We should now make preparations in order to enable this work to be undertaken as an immediate post-war project, with a view to absorbing members of the fighting forces on demobilization. We know from experience at the end of the last war that, so soon as peace is declared, the great majority of members of the fighting forces, having served the purposes for which they enlisted, will be most eager to return to civil occupations. In fact, it can be said that they will develop this eagerness practically overnight. We should now prepare broad, general plans, in order to be able to undertake immediately the war ends projects which will serve to repatriate the majority of our soldiers. I also emphasize that the present time-table causes very great inconvenience to travellers on this line. Personally, I have no complaint to make in that respect, because I am comparatively youthful; but, in view of the exhaustion caused to older members of Parliament, who art.’ obliged to make this journey tothe National Capital, every effort should be made to improve it. I repeat that rail travellers from Albury to Canberra must receive a very unfavorable impression of the National Capital, and I again urge that this work be referred for investigation and report to the Public Works Committee. However, I suggest that in the meantime sleeping cars conveying passengers from Albury to Canberra should be shunted to a siding at Yass, and that a bus leaving Yass at8 a.m. should be made available to convey honorable members to Canberra. This would enable them to reach this city at about 9 a.m.
– And the same bus service should be provided to convey members from Canberra to Yass on their return journey southwards.
.- It gives me very great pleasure, indeed, to hear any honorable member speak strongly in support of the development of the National Capital. I agree that the proposition mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) cannot be undertaken immediately. However, I can see no reason why it should not be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report for the reasons mentioned by the honorable member.
On previous occasions in this House I have raised the subject of allowances to non-official postmasters and postmistresses. The work of non-official post offices has increased substantially during recent years in respect of petrol rationing, war saving certificates, child endowment, invalid and old-age pensions and soldiers’ allotments. It is true that some pensioners are paid direct by cheque; but the work of these officers has increased considerably. In addition, they will soon be obliged to handle the distribution of widows’ and orphans’ pensions. The allowance of these officers has not been increased commensurate with the additional work which they now perforin. [ believe that they have the sympathy of the Government, but that sympathy should take a practical form.
The Joint Committee on Profits, in its second report, discloses that the increased cost of living results principally from the higher prices for clothing. On page 7 of the report, it is stated -
It will be observed that by far the most substantial rise in prices still occurs in the item of clothing. This shows a percentage increase for the six capitals of 41.4 per cent., and accounts for more than two-thirds of the total rise of 12.3 per cent, in retail prices since the outbreak of war. The rise in clothing, as shown in the figures for the six capitals, has increased from 32.1 per cent, to 4.1.4 per cent, since our first report.
Because of the war, some of the increase may be justified, but I am of opinion that the whole of it is not legitimate. On page 15 of this excellent report appears a long list of declared goods, in respect of which a specific price has been fixed, and very few articles of wearing apparel are shown. On pages 29-31 are published the names of 50 persons and companies who have been prosecuted and fined for breaches of the National Security (Prices) Regulations. Offenders were found in every State, and the fines ranged from £2 to £10, with costs. Recently, the Prices Commissioner was reported to have said that the penalties which were imposed for this class of offence were too low. According to information supplied to me this morning, the regulation provides a maximum fine. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that magistrates who hear these cases should be granted discretionary power to impose in glaring cases heavier (fines than are at present permissible. Some traders grasp every opportunity to fleece the public and if they are caught, they should be dealt with most severely. Although the Prices Commissioner receives a good deal of abuse, I consider that he is performing excellent work. I do not agree with every decision that he has made; for example, I disagree with the price that he fixed for Tasmanian blue pens.
But when he suggests that magistrates should have discretion to inflict heavier fines upon traders who exploit the community, the Government should grant the necessary authority without delay.
– I desire to support and amplify the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) regarding the offer of the Government of South Australia to erect 500 suitable and well-constructed Workers Housing Trust dwellings for munitions workers. This subject has been thoroughly ventilated in the press and in addresses from broadcasting stations, and the correspondence is so voluminous that I do not propose to go .through it in detail at this hour, even at the risk of condens ing my remarks to the few principal points. Last week, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a question without notice on this subject, and I received a more comprehensive reply than I expected. .1 make no complaint as to his reply, but in the nature of things, the Treasurer tender! to stress the point of view of the Commonwealth. Therefore, I propose to explain the attitude of the Government of South Australia. The Treasurer did noi make it clear to the House that the Go.vernment of South Australia requested the Commonwealth to remit sales tax on building materials used in all cottages that it erected under its housing scheme. That request did not apply only to the 500 dwellings under discussion which will be erected, 300 at the expense of the Commonwealth and the remainder at the expense of the State. In rejecting the proposal, the Commonwealth Government declared that it would not allow the remission, except in respect of the 500 houses, unless the State amended its Housing Act in such a manner as to make the South Australian Housing Trust a governmental body. The South Australian Housing Trust is, in fact, a government instrumentality, but it has been deliberately kept clear of all governmental control. The State Government is not prepared to amend its legislation in order to get this remission of sales tax.
– The Commonwealth Government would have to amend the Sales Tax Acts in order to give effect to the proposal.
– That course was suggested to the Commonwealth Government, but it declined to follow it, and then the State Government said that it would not interfere with its Housing Trust because it refused to bring it under political influence. It believed that the Housing Trust of which Sir William Goodman is chairman should remain a State instrumentality free from political control. The Prime Minister (Mi-. Curtin) lias, I understand, admitted that the housing scheme in South Australia, as at present administered, is the best in the whole of Australia.
– I agreed with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that, whilst we could not remit the tax under the act, we could return to the Housing Trust the amount of tax it would have paid, but the State Government would not agree to that.
-But only in respect of those 500 houses.
– That is correct; they are being built for us.
– The State Government wanted a remission of sales tax in respect of all housing -undertaken by the South Australian Housing Trust, claiming that it was a governmental body similar to, though not exactly the same as, the housing trusts in Victoria and New South Wales. There is room for a difference of opinion, I agree, but that was the point at which negotiations broke down. The Commonwealth Government was to lend the State £150,000 to erect 300 well-constructed houses in South Australia, but now it is to pay the larger sum of £180,000 for 600 of what has been described by the Premier of South Australia as “ contraptions “. It seems to me, as it seems to the Government and people of South Australia, to be deplorable that by governmental action there should be an increase of slum troubles in a State which has made a great effort to dispense with slums and where, in fact, the construction of ordinary houses is on a standard higher than that in other States. In place of that, this Government is to have badly constructed buildings with wretched conveniences. These are being foisted on the State by the Commonwealth even if with the best motive. When the war is over, the cabin cottages will be useless, whereas under the other proposals permanent residences would have been available. I do not want to say anything more on the subject. It is deplorable that it was impossible apparently for the two goverments, owing to amendments of acts being involved, to come to some agreement. The only good feature that I can see out of what has taken place is that I am informed that the Commonwealth Housing Trust and the South Australian Housing Trust are still on the best of terms and that they both hope that, when the war is over, they may be able jointly to resume the erection of good houses such as have been built in the past.
.- I wish to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), several matters of importance. First, I protest against the action of the military authorities in forming dockers units in the Australian Imperial Force and using as wharf labourers soldiers who have volunteered to fight. There are three dockers companies in the Melbourne unit composed of men compulsorily transferred from units to which they were first allotted. They work on the waterfront. They are stationed in St. Kilda, Caulfield, and Batman-avenue, Melbourne - in all 1,200 of them. They are not all employed as wharf labourers, but a majority of the men are so engaged. Recently, after a day’s drill and other military work, members of those units were suddenly told that they were to go to the waterfront to unload ships. They were sent there about midnight, and worked continuously for thirteen hours unloading ships. They did not have the breaks that waterside workers generally have. They did not receive hot meals and were not permitted to leave the waterfront to obtain them. They were fed from mobile canteens and principally on “ ersatz “ coffee and ham sandwiches. They were so tired when they went back to their camps that, in many instances, they fell down and went to sleep in their clothes.
– Many members of the Australian Imperial Force slept like that during the retreat from Greece.
– Yes ; but what was necessary in Greece surely was not necessary in this instance.
– It was if the wharf labourers would not work.
– The honorable member cannot visit on me the sins alleged and otherwise of people ordinarily employed on the waterfront. Surely, it is not necessary to use members of the Australian Imperial Force as dock workers. It should not be necessary to transfer men against their wishes, from units to which theyhave been attached, to work on the waterfront. If they are so transferred as a matter of expediency, they should not be worked the hours that these men were worked. Had this happened to ordinary workers in peace-time there would have been great industrial trouble. Protests have been made and when the men threatened that they would not work, they were put on lorries and told that they were to be taken to Southern Command to be dealt with. At the gates of the wharf compound they were told by a corporal that it is a serious thing in the Army to refuse work and that the colonel would give them another chance, but otherwise they would be punished.
– How many men were involved ?
– There are 1,200 men in the unit.
– Will the honorable member find 1,200 alternatives? That would help us.
– It so happens that members of the forces have threatened to refuse to work under the conditions under which they are employed. Now the Government is recruiting labour battalions composed of friendly aliens. I commend such action, but, by agreement with the trade unions, the Government has provided that members of the labour battalions shall be paid award rates of pay. Men in the dockers units, however, are being paid 6s. a day for a period of twelve hours’ work. The men to whom I have referred worked for thirteen hours, which works out at 6d. an hour.
– That in itself ought to be conclusive evidence to the honorable gentleman that it would not have been done had there been any possibility of getting the work done otherwise.
– That might be the right honorable gentleman’s conclusion, but, to follow the matter further, men ordinarily employed on the waterfront at night on that class of work would receive 8s. 6d. an hour.
– Which is a disgrace.
– I shall not argue with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) whether the rate is too high or too low, but who gets the difference between the 8s. 6d. and 6d. an hour? Are the shipowners getting it?
– Are the importers getting it?
– Where is the money going ? Is the Army obtaining the benefit of this difference, or is the money being paid into a trust fund?
– The Army ought to get the benefit of it.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman would have no objection to an extension of that principle to all classes of work.
– I would extend it to the wharfs at Melbourne.
– I would not.
– I would not extend it anywhere if civilian labour were available to do the work. At the same time, I am not prepared to have ships held up in port, having regard to the seriousness of the shipping position, so long as any class of labour under the control of the Government is available to be used to effect a quick movement of ships.
– Apparently the Prime Minister believes that the labour shortage in Melbourne is chronic and is likely to remain so for a long time. Unless he holds that view, there is no necessity for the formation of permanent dockers’ units within the Australian Imperial Force to perform this class of work. The members of the dockers’ unit are being ill-used, and the officers in charge pay little regard to their needs. They work for long hours and are fed indifferently, whilst their housing conditions on the St. Hilda ground are disgraceful.
– That may he so. They are also disgraceful iu South Australia, according to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey).
– I heard the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide, and I agree with his general contention. If the men’s living conditions are disgraceful, they should not be ignored. The Government should not take up the attitude, “ There it is, and there it will remain “. I tell the Prime Minister that there is a strong objection to the use of Australian Imperial Force men on the waterfront amongst both the men themselves and the general body of unionists. The army officers also do not desire enlisted men to be used for any purposes other than those for which they enlisted.
– Neither do I. I am in complete agreement with the honorable gentleman on that point, but I will not allow ships to lie at the wharfs for days on end when they are needed on the high seas.
– What I have said has not been controverted by any of the interjectors who have seen fit to endeavour to assist me to make my speech. I have no need of their assistance. I am certain that if I had the opportunity to assist the honorable member for Bendigo with some of his speeches I would improve them beyond recognition.
I refer now to the shortage of firewood in Melbourne which I have mentioned in this House several times within the last fortnight. I have asked, on two occasions, for a statement to be made in regard to the position, but so far I have not received any intimation that anything is being done to overcome the grave fuel shortage that exists. Because of that shortage, many Melbourne people are going without wood for cooking, heating and other domestic purposes. The position is so desperate that conferences of suburban mayors have been held in an endeavour to find a solution of the problem. I have received a letter on the subject from a councillor from which I desire to read the following extracts: -
In a normal year Melbourne consumes 540,000 tons. At the present time there are 6,000 tons available. I was at a meeting of mayors held at the Municipal Association Rooms on Thursday last, which was convened to consider this matter.
It transpired that of wood, mallee roots, coal, coke and briquettes, some 750,000 tons a year are required. It was admitted that there isn’t any coal or mallee roots, very little coke and only briquettes for hot water service. The dearth of wood is causing hardships which will increase during the colder months.
The Mayors of Brunswick, Coburg, Fitzroy and Cr. Angus speaking for the Mayor of Collingwood, told a heart-rending story of prevailing conditions and said that worse might he expected. The poorer classes haven’t the electrical apparatus for cooking or heating, and gas stoves are strictly limited among these people.
It was determined to approach Mr. Dunstan and put the case to him. Excuses were made that rail transport is incapable of dealing with the matter. It transpired that there is a good deal of wood within a reasonable distance of Melbourne. Petrol - which is controlled by a federal authority - is not available.
We are told from time to time in the news that in enemy capitals and large towns that, as the. result of military activities of ours, people in those cities would spend a miserable and cheerless winter. I suppose we feel heartened by visiting such discomforts upon an enemy and believe that resultant breaking down of morale will occur. If I am right in that presumption, why on earth do we wish to visit the same miseries on ourselves - and in this land of plenty? Organization would overcome this difficulty and that seems lacking.
It is stated in last night’s Herald that a number of laundries are to be closed. What a folly this is! Here are businesses organized and equipped with all the modern means of speedily dealing with large quantities of soiled clothing. Putting them out of operation simply means that thousands of women who are at work, many of them doing war jobs, are going to have a heavy burden thrown on them lessening their ability to contribute to national production and well-being.
It seems an extraordinary thing to me that men will be called up for military service who are at present engaged in operating machinery and equipment designed for labour saving purposes, and that we are to go back to the drudgery of the old wash tub - so exacting and difficult for many women. This is especially so when we come to think of the change that is taking place in our mode of living. How are the thousands of people in flats to do this washing, and how are those other people who are engaged in munition work to do theirs? It all seems too ridiculous.
The removal of advantages which have been built up and regarded as necessary to our everyday life is not going to help either national production or maintenance of morale. On the contrary, the effect will be to throw greater burdens upon the fewer people available for the work and breed discontent. You will agree that modern washing machinery which is being scientifically evolved has had the effect of lightening the drudgery of housework. This at the present time is important in as much ‘is so many people are engaged in munition making that there are fewer people to carry out household duties, and when it comes to a woman being perforced to undertake the laborious task of washing, it nigh approaches the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Can anybody fail to agree that this is the throwing away of a mechanical means of doing heavy work? In short, it is a retrograde step and will re-act detrimentally to the health of women, and mechanically is unsound in as much as it will take more time and hours from those who are now engaged in all sorts of war and patriotic work.
I refer now to the matter raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who advocated the construction of a railway from Canberra to Yass, or alternatively, the stopping of the Sydney train at Yass on the journey from Albury and the conveyance of passengers therefrom to Canberra by bus. We hear many complaints in this House about the shortage of coal. Thousands of tons of coal must be wasted annually in hauling railway sleeping cars, which weigh about 45 tons each, fi-om Yass to Goulburn and then from Goulburn to Canberra. A great saving could be effected by adopting the alternative proposal of the honorable member for Moreton. Honorable members spend more than four hours unnecessarily between Melbourne and Canberra as the result of having to travel via Goulburn. The Prime Minister facetiously remarked that, if the Canberra- Yass railway were bu.il t, it might be possible to arrange for a train to leave here at 4.15 p.m. on Fridays for the convenience of honorable members who come from Melbourne. If that could be done, it would be possible for passengers from Canberra to Melbourne to arrive home at midnight, and they would not have to go through the nightmare journey of which the honorable member has complained. I ask the Minister to do something about it because I have a fear, based on recent experience and upon my knowledge of what is happening in the railway services, that there will be a serious accident on the New South. Wales section of the southern line. The railway employees are working unduly long hours, and rolling-stock and engines are in continual use without having the necessary periodical inspections. The whole position is becoming very bad, due, of course, to war circumstances, and it seems that a deplorable accident is almost inevitable. It should be possible to provide buses fitted with producer-gas units to convey passengers between Yass .and Canberra, or to re-arrange the time-table to permit the “large number of members and public servants who are now travelling between Canberra and the other capital cities to be transported by a different system. In regard to the general question of constructing a railway between Yass and Canberra, I hope that the plans will be prepared now, so that when the war is over., a start can be made immediately, and it will not be necessary to have a large number of men remaining without employment for many months while plans are being drawn up.
– in reply - In regard to the representations which have been made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes), I have only to say that the Commonwealth Government could not amend its sales tax legislation to cover the large number of bodies which are not governmental instrumentalities, and which would have the same light to claim exemption from sales tax as would the South Australian Housing Trust. We pointed that out to the Premier of South Australia, and suggested that he should amend his legislation, but he was .adamant that the South Australian act should remain. He said that we could amend our legislation. I then offered him a rebate of sales tax in respect of houses being constructed’ in South Australia for the Commonwealth, but he would not agree to that. Materials and labour .are now in such short supply and the type of house which the South Australian Housing Trust has been building .cannot now be built. That is the information which has been given to me on the subject. To build sufficient houses to accommodate munitions workers in the areas where it is desired to house them is beyond the ‘Capacity of anybody in South Australia having regard to the quantity of labour and materials available. Therefore, to provide some form of shelter from the winter cold, it has become necessary to consider the construction of cabin cottages. They come within the sphere of the munitions programme in the same way as hutments come into the sphere of the Army programme in the provision of accommodation for men undergoing training. They are an essential war requirement, and whatever may be their subsequent use, it is quite wrong to represent them as anything other than a special provision to meet a war-time emergency. Admittedly, it would have been preferable to have continued with the South Australian Housing Trust’s plans, had that been possible. Any one who has studied the designs will concede their superiority over the type of cottage proposed for munitions workers at Salisbury, but the fact remains that we cannot get the materials, and it is now a question of whether we shall not do anything or whether we shall provide some sort of cover. The answer is that theCommonwealth intends to make the best of a bad job.
-. - Does the Prime Minister wish to perpetuate these dwellings?
– I do not wish to perpetuate them, and I acknowledge all that has been said by the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Adelaide in regard to them. Undoubtedly, it would have been far better, both in regard to a sewerage system and their value as a permanent asset, to have constructed homes of the type designed by the South Australian Housing Trust, but nobody can provide the materials or the labour. I asked the trust for houses that would be comparable with those built had we been able to obtain labour and material.
With respect to the matter raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), we have experienced the utmost difficulty in obtaining from the enemy any list of war prisoners. That applies to New Guinea, Malaya and Java. We are endeavouring with all possible energy to obtain that information, which we all agree is most desirable, particularly in the interests of the next of kin and other relatives, whose state of mind we can all appreciate.
– Is an inquiry proceeding?
– Yes, but the honorable member will appreciate that I cannot make known its exact nature.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the necessity to plan for the post-war era, and I agree with him. It is true that certain projects are in contemplation, but just how far they can be advanced depends on the freedom that we have from our Avar duties. Owing to the shortage of petrol I do not think that it wouldbe possible to provide buses to convey members to and from Yass, and even if petrol were available its right use would be in carrying firewood to Melbourne where it is very scarce.
Mr.CALWELL - I suggested the use of producer-gas units.
– There are not sufficient producer-gas units for essential requirements now. Should there be a surplus of such units they could be used more effectively in transporting firewood to Melbourne where it is urgently needed. I say quite frankly that this Parliament has been sitting in Canberra since 1927, and the transport service which honorable members are now receiving is that to which they have been accustomed for some years. Ordinarily, I should endeavour to improve the service, but in the present circumstances, I am inclined to think that any man who does not have to put up with something worse than inconvenience in transport is very lucky indeed.
– What of the suggested inquiry by the Public Works Committee?
– I am giving consideration to the general question of whether the Public Works Committee might be asked to look into the matter, and also others. There is, for instance, the whole question of the water supply for Australia to be considered.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) spoke on behalf of those individuals who are conducting non-official post offices, and who are experiencing difficulties owing to the higher cost of living, and the added responsibility of their duties. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) to review that matter. It has been the subject of constant appeals in this chamber, and I acknowledge that in many instances something should be done.
With regard to the alleged inadequacy of fines imposed upon profiteers my impression is that the penalties are set out in the National Security Act, and are not prescribed by the regulations. Therefore, any variation of the penalties would require an amendment of the act.
I cannot say much more to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about the dockers units than I have already said by interjection. The Government has no desire whatever to use military labour where civilian labour is available. Providing labour for the port of Melbourne has been entrusted to a responsible authority, of which the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation is a prominent member. I know of no instance of the Military Forces having been introduced to do work without the knowledge and approval of that authority.
– The men put up with it.
– Of course they do. The only men who are being subjected to injustice on this account are certain members of the Military Forces. No civilian has been kept out of work in consequence of what has been done.
– I did not suggest that.
– The employment of members of the Military Forces in this way is one of the measures necessary for the defence of Australia. I say coldly and pitilessly - but I must say - that, after all, war is war. Every hour that a ship has to spend in port that it should not spend there is an hour in which the transportation services of this nation on the highways of the ocean is being rendered less effective than it need be. I, and other honorable members, have explained this to those concerned. What we face is a problem of management. I do not fix the hours, or the working conditions provided in the awards. Awards for civilians are made by a properly constituted authority which prescribes the conditions of employment. The rates of pay for soldiers and members of the other services have been approved by this Parliament. With the assistance of the honorable member for
Melbourne, and other honorable gentlemen, I have been able to do something to increase the rates of pay in the various services. It is indispensable to our defence needs that the ships shall be worked as rapidly as possible. The members of the Military Forces are being used by the appropriate authority in order that we may make the best use possible of such ancillary labour as can be secured, and I have had no protest from the trade unions about what is being done. The trade unions put up with it because they know that it is inevitable. It is accepted as one of the unfortunate circumstances of the war.
– I made a complaint about the way in which the men were being used.
– I understand that they were provided with a mobile canteen. No doubt they were sent down to do a fatigue job and the mobile canteen was provided for them. If there be any way in which we can make their work more comfortable we shall be glad to adopt it. If steps can be taken to reduce the duration of the shift, that will be done. I agree that everything possible should be done to ensure that the work shall be no more arduous than it need be. Everything that can be done to make the work easier should be done, and we shall take steps to see that it is done.
The honorable gentleman referred to the shortage of firewood in Melbourne. Why should that subject be wheeled up in this Parliament? Victoria has many members in the State Parliament. If some of the people of Melbourne are cold and hungry because they cannot get firewood, surely the State Parliament can do something about it.
– It is said that the Commonwealth Government took 50 trucks away on a certain occasion, and that insufficient petrol is being allowed to cart wood to Melbourne.
– Is the wood cut?
-it is, in many instances.
– If the Premier of Victoria will inform the Commonwealth Government that he desires so many thousand tons of firewood to be shifted from a given place to a given place, and that it will require so many gallons of petrol to shift it, we shall make the petrol available for the purpose if we can afford to do so.
– “Well, we are making progress !
– I say, however, that if railway services are available for this purpose petrol should not be used. I can see no earthly reason why railway services should not be made available on Saturday afternoons and Sundays to shift firewood and to save petrol. If the use of petrol is absolutely necessary for the purpose it should be made available if possible. I agree with what the honorable gentleman said about the lowering of morale in the city in consequence of the absence of fuel and the inability of people to cook their meals. That is a problem that the Premier of Victoria should tackle. If he has a workable plan by which firewood may be made available in Melbourne, the Commonwealth Government will help him to apply it if it can do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Ninth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1940-41.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Defence purposes -
Burwood, New South- Wales.
MountEba, South Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Control of tomato pulp.
National Security (Man Power) RegulationsOrders - Protected . undertakings (22).
National Security (Minerals) Regulations - Order - Control of mica.
House adjourned at 6.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What remuneration does each of these members receive in addition to his parliamentary salary -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australian Air Force: Mails and Cables for Personnel Abroad.
d.’ - On Thursday, the 7th May, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister for Air inquire into the reason for the lengthy delays in the transmission of mails and cablegrams to Royal Australian Air Force personnel on active service overseas?
I am now in a position to- supply the the following information : -
The chief cause of delay in the transit of mails for Royal Australian Air Force personnel abroad is the difficult shipping position in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. It will be appreciated that, owing to the present war situation in those waters, frequent changes in the course of ships and variations in the length of their stay at ports are unavoidable. Statistics show that the time taken in transit varies considerably, but advice furnished by the Postmaster-General’s Department indicates that the normal time taken for transport of mail, partly by sea and partly by air, totals 80 days, and, wholly by sea, varying between 50 and 90 days. Some delay in transit is also occasioned after mail is received at overseas establishments for despatch to forward units, owing to the many changes and transfers of personnel to the several theatres of operations. Inquiries from the Eastern Extension Cable Company reveal that the time occupied in the despatch of cables from Australia to the several overseas destinations now averages two days. On receipt, they are forwarded on the same day to the unit to which the airman concerned is attached. In this regard, steps are being taken to accelerate deliveries by the retransmission of cables wherever possible by telegraph. I can assure the honorable member that I regard the subject of mail and cable deliveries as being of the highest importance, both to the sender and the recipient, and in that connexion every means of improving existing services and facilities is being given constant attention by the Royal Australian Air Force Postal Services Directorate.
y. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked me, without notice, whether I would consider a scheme of rationing in connexion with milking ware.
I now desire to inform the honorable memberthat the restrictions imposed by my department in relation to the allocation of rubber for the manufacture of this equipment have been lifted and investigations are being made in regard to the supply position generally.
Manufacture of Munitions.
n.- On the 7th May, 1942, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the delegation by the Department of Munitions of greater power to the Sydney Board of Area Management to deal with local matters relating to payments for war contracts.
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the responsibility for the approval of expenditure under the munitions production programme is vested in the Director-General of Munitions. There is no limitation upon the authority which has been delegated to the Board of Area Management in New South Wales in respect of claims of expenditure incurred in the production of munitions under war contracts and for progress payments in connexion therewith.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420515_reps_16_170/>.