16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hob. “W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– I have received from Mr. P. Collier, M.L.A., a former Labour Premier of Western Australia, a telegram in the following terms : -
I resent Dedman’s dictatorship as does every one in Western Australia. His latest blunder concerning the rationing of clothing has resulted in goods being grabbed up by wealthy people. Working men’s wires and daughters are unable to obtain necessary clothing. 1 have a daughter, working from 9 to 5, and a married one with three children, the eldest five, the youngest one year. What chance hove they in this mad rush? This, applies to thousands of women working here.
In view of the continuance of the buying rush referred to in the telegram, which is not confined to Western Australia but is general throughout the Commonwealth, and the ability of those who have money and leisure to make purchases to the exclusion of working people, including those engaged in war industries, what action is proposed by the Minister for War Organization of Industry with a view to correcting the position?
– The Government’s action cannot in any sen.se be characterized as rationing of clothing, but is merely the restriction of sales with a view to the establishment of a pool pending the enforcement of rationing.
– Restricting sales to a few purchasers.
– I do not admit that the restriction of sales has enabled the wealthier sections of the community to obtain a greater quantity of clothing than they are entitled to have; “Workers, too, have participated in the buying rush. However, the Government is watching the position closely, and will later take whatever action it may deem necessary in order to effect adjustments.
– Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the statement published in yesterday’s Sunday 3v.il, that the secretary of the Builders Labourers Union in New South Wales, Mr. W. F. Thomas, had said that a repetition of the experiences of last Saturday and the previous Saturday, when builders’ labourers who had .taken time off in order to purchase -clothing had been -unable to obtain their requirements, would probably result in the refusal of his members to work on .Saturdays? In view of this statement, and the further remark of Mr. Thomas that 3,000 builders’ labourers had been unable to buy winter clothes, what action is proposed in order to ensure that these men, and others similarly placed, .may obtain the clothing that is necessary for their winter needs?
– I have not read the press statement referred to, but I shall peruse it and take the matter into consideration when deciding whether there shall be an alteration of the existing regulations in respect of sales.
– .Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry inform the House of the identity of the individual, stated to be one -of his economists, who gave ‘an interview in Melbourne to the representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the subject of clothes rationing? The interview was published iu the press on Monday last. On whose authority did this unnamed economist give the interview, and on what information did he base his statement that the Department for War Organization of Industry suspected that shops had not really sold their quotas ? In view of this and other statements by persons in bis department on the subject of rationing, will the Minister say upon whom the public can rely for authentic information regarding the position?
– I have asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry, in his own physical interests, not to answer .questions to-day. It must ‘be obvious to every one that the honorable gentleman’s voice is very much affected. He is not well. He spent some time in bed, and should have spent longer. I -ask the honorable member to put his -question on the notice-paper, and this applies also ‘to other questions which honorable members may have in mind to ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry.
– Is the Minister for Supply .and Development .aware that during the recent buying rush ion -retail clothing stores certain people with the means and time have been buying stocks much beyond their normal needs? Will he inquire into the activities of those people in order to ascertain their reasons for over-buying - whether they are buying in order to hoard or for black market purposes ? Will he take steps to see that ‘they are properly dealt with - .either prosecuted or forced to disgorge their excess purchases so that war-workers and others not so fortunately placed as they shall be assured of obtaining -their share of the available commodities?
– I have heard reports and rumours of excessive buying. lb is difficult, indeed almost impossible at the moment, to get specific cases or concrete evidence. I think the best approach in the matter would be not to pursue the people who have made overpurchases in spite of the appeal to them not to do so, compliance with which would be naturally expected, but to make such provision as will ensure that there shall be no repetition of what happened.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether a reduction of the price of bread was declared on Monday in respect of a very small portion of the metropolitan area of Sydney; whether the declaration was -made because zoning of bread deliveries had been instituted in such areas; and whether the allocation of the zones has militated very seriously against bakers -who are not members of the _ zoning committee, particularly in the Balmain district, who can obtain neither redress nor an adjustment of their zones? Is the honorable gentleman aware that some bakers have been allocated such zones that their deliveries have been - reduced by nearly 1,000 loaves a week, and that the reduced prices are operating on one side of the street but will not operate on the other side until the 1st June next?
– I have seen the press statement that a reduction of the price of bread has been made in certain suburbs of Sydney. This reduction was the result of a decision by the Commissioner of Prices. That gentleman has in my department a liaison officer, who keeps him in touch with our activities, in order that he may pass on to the public, by way of a price reduction, the benefit of any lowering of costs thus revealed. The Commissioner of Prices is under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is true that the reduction of the price of bread is due to the introduction of the zone system. Meeting the contention that the allocation of zones has been such, that some bakers have been placed at a disadvantage, I would say that in the early stages of a plan of this sort it is impossible to ensure that each baker delivering in a zone will be able to deliver the same quantity of bread as he previously supplied. Re-adjustments are being made from time to time, and it is hoped that inequalities in relation to the number of loaves delivered will be rectified at an early date.
– There is no committee to deal -with the matter.
– A committee is operating in the industry. It consists of representatives of the bakers and the trade union concerned, with an officer of my department as chairman. Readjustments must necessarily take some little time. However, they are being made; and it is hoped that the position will be stabilized at a very early date. I am not aware that the reduction of price is operating on one side, and not the other, of a street; but, as I have already said, that matter is within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs, because the reduction of price has been made by the Commissioner of Prices.
– Will the Minister for War Organization of Industry state whether a representative of the Abbco Bread Company, which was roundly condemned by a royal commission for defrauding the Government, has taken a prominent part in the allotment of zones for the delivery of bread in Sydney, and whether bakers who are dissatisfied with their allotment will have to make an appeal to this gentleman ? Does the Minister consider that in view of the record of this company it should have anything to do with the control of deliveries?
– I am not aware that a representative of the company is the sole arbiter of the zones to be allotted to bakers in Sydney.
– I did not suggest that.
– I am not aware that a representative of the Abbco Bread Company is in any way connected with the zoning scheme. My department has set up a committee consisting of equal numbers of representatives of employers and of employees in the industry, with an independent chairman appointed by the department. It may be that a member of the company referred to is one of the employers. I shall make inquiries into the matter, and advise the honorable member later as to the exact position.
Comment by SIR Frederick Jordan.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the comment by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Frederick Jordan, during the hearing of the Pankhurst- Walsh case yesterday, in which His Honour reflected upon the intelligence of members of this Parliament? As the Standing Orders prohibit members of this Parliament from reflecting on the judiciary, does the right honorable gentleman regard as proper reflection by the judiciary on members of this Parliament?
– -At an interview that I had a few moments ago, I was informed that His Honour the Chief Justice of New South Wales had made certain observations. I do not know exactly what His Honour said, but I am quite sure that he is as competent to deal with the matters that come before him as is this Parliament to deal with the matters that come before it.
PANEL ENVELOPES. Mr. HOLT- Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether restrictions have been placed on the use by commercial houses of panel envelopes, and does that imply that large stocks of those envelopes now in the possession of commercial houses are to be wasted ? Will the Minister give consideration to a three month’ extension of the period in which the envelopes may be used, so that an unnecessary waste of paper may ‘be avoided?
– I am not in possession of the information sought by the honorable member, but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and shall obtain a reply to the question as soon as possible.
– Will the Treasurer state whether many mortgagors are paying interest up to 7 per cent on first mortgages where the principal sum borrowed does not exceed 60 per cent, of the total value of the property mortgaged? Will the Treasurer say when a regulation will be promulgated to reduce the general mortgage rate to the same percentage as that permitted to be charged by the private trading banks?
– I am not aware of the interest rate charged on first mortgages in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. However, the matter of interest rates on mortgages has been under consideration by me, and also by previous Treasurers. I believe that it was referred by previous Treasurers to the Capital Issues Advisory Board for advice as to how the interest rates charged could be controlled. The ranges of rates and risks associated with first and second mortgages are extremely difficult matters to determine. It has been hoped, as I think it was hoped by previous Treasurers, that the control and reduction of interest rates on bank advances would influence the rate charged on first mortgages. The matter is being further examined, but I can give no indication as to the likelihood of a regulation being promulgated, in view of the many difficulties associated, with an equitable adjustment of the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement attributed to the general secretary of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, Mr. G. W. Grant, as reported in the Sydney Sun yesterday, that, when the miners’ leaders met the Prime Minister in Canberra to-day, they would warn him that if any attempt were made to apply regulations to miners without an investigation of anomalies in the industry, a serious situation might arise? Was that warning conveyed to the Prime Minister by the miners’ leaders to-day, and, if so, what was the right honorable gentleman’s reaction to such a threat? Will he make it .clear to those engaged in the coal-mining industry, irrespective of whether they are owners, miners’ representatives or miners, that in giving effect to the regulations to ensure a maximum production of coal, he will not be influenced in any degree by threats or warnings?
– I did read in the press that such a statement had been made but I do not know whether it has been made or not. The representatives of the miners will see me some time this afternoon. They do not need to warn me. Every body in the world has warned me.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the press report that Mr. Connell, chairman of the Local Reference Board in Newcastle, has severely criticized the chairman of the Central Reference Board for setting aside his, Mr. Connell’s, finding in connexion with the Millfield colliery dispute, and for inflicting coolie conditions on the employees ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Bellbird company, which has been operating collieries in Australia for 70 years, has negotiated an agreement giving the men better conditions even than those prescribed in the Connell award? Will the Prime Minister set up a committee of inquiry such as he promised on Friday last to consider, in an endeavour to bring about the smooth working of the coal industry; and last, but not least, to sheet home to the real culprits the blame for the trouble which is occurring in the mining industry?
– I am this afternoon having an interview with the representatives of the Miners Federation, and I have no doubt that they will make submissions to me. I can only say that I shall weigh them fairly and fully. I have no doubt that various tribunals do arrive at different assessments, but it is not the province of a government to set aside the decisions of properly constituted tribunals. The Government must leave the law to take its course, and the decisions of competent authorities must be respected. At the same time, I am satisfied that events on the coal-fields cannot be explained in terms of ordinary industrial disputes. Some of the stoppages cannot’ be explained by anything hitherto, known in the history of industrial relations, and I am most anxious to discover the. cause. To. this end, I shall be glad to avail myself of any help I can get. I shall consult with the representatives of the employees this afternoon. I shall, also be quite willing to hear what the owners have to say; but I. put it to the owners and to the workers, and to the country generally, that anything which has to be suffered at the present time, in order to- ensure the maximum! production of coal, is worth suffering, and must represent a smaller’ disability to those who suffer it than would be the consequences of not continuing1 to- produce coal. I say deliberately to the owners that it is their business to assist the Government to remove those irritations and exasperations- which,, in their knowledge: of the industry, lead to stoppages:; and,, on the other- hand, I put. it to. the miners that it is .their duty not to beeasily provoked into creating stoppages. I know enough about, this business to understand that all the fault is’ not on one. side. It, never has been, and. it is not so to-day. Therefore,, I ask. those associated with the industry, employers and employees alike, to put, aside their own sectional outlook,, and have regard to. the needs and welfare of the nation-.
– Has: the Prime Minister seen the report in to-day’s press of a statement, by the executives of theBurwood Miners Lodge that, some of the stoppages; in the mining industry have been “ridiculous and unconstitutional”?’ Has the right honorable gentleman any comment to make on that statement ? Are any mines stopped- or are any miners on. strike to-day?’ If so,, are they the same mines and miners as were not working yesterday? Are these continual strikes in the coal-mining, industry, after what the right honorable gentleman has pre viously said, not a flouting of the. will of the- Commonwealth- Government?-
– I did read the report of what the lodge- officials said’. I am’ not sitting in judgment of what they have said;.- they are an authoritative body and I accept what they have said as- being, no doubt, applicable to the circumstances that they were reviewing. There are miners on strike, to-day. They are* not the same miners as were on strike yesterday. As to whether that .is flouting the wishes of the Commonwealth Government, the answer is “Yes”. If the. honorable gentleman will help me to da more about it, I shall welcome his co-operation.
– What day does the Prime’ Minister propose *o set aside for the- debate on the coal-mining industry in accordance with his promise last Wednesday?
– We are most anxious to proceed with the legislative programme.
– We aTe’ most anxious- to produce coal, too.
– We are producing coal. If the honorable member has. the idea- that coal production now is not so high as’ it has ever been in Australian history, he is under an illusion. It is higher than ever before. It is more necessary than has- ever been the. case.
– Is it satisfactory?’
– It iis not satisfactory. The honorable gentleman was a member of a government which was faced with the stoppage of the. coal-mining industry for ten consecutive weeks, and he. did not know how to- deal with that.
– I did,, but my. colleagues d’id not.
– I am deeply sensible of the necessity to get all the coal it is possible for this country to get, and I am doing my very best to get it. I wish to thank the miners’ officials for the manner in which they have helped the Government. 1 am appalled at the causes which have been advanced for such stoppages as have occurred, and I hope to overcome them; but I have done more to overcome the deficiency of coal production than the honorable member, who says- that he knew, haw to. da it, but could not, get his colleagues to do it.’ To the- extent that we can get coal this Government is determined to get it.
– “Will the Minister for Labour and National .Service inform the House how many of the coal-miners in New South Wales who were retired from the industry under the coal-miners’ pension -scheme have responded to the invitation by Mr. Norman Mighel’l, Chairman of the Coal Commission, and to the subsequent invitation by himself, to return to work in the industry on account of the great need to produce coal for war purposes?
– I shall be pleased to supply to the honorable member accurate details on the subject. In response to the appeal by Mr. Mighell and myself the names of numbers of men have been furnished by the Miners Federation. These have been submitted to Mr. Mighell, so that he may place the men in employment, but so far I have not been advised of where they are to be placed.
Writings Quoted by Tokyo Radio.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain from the Broadcasting Division of the Department of Information, and inform this House, how many times extracts from articles written by Sir Keith Murdoch have been quoted by enemy radio stations? Will the Prime Minister also inform the House whether the title “ Australia’s greatest defeatist “ should not be conferred upon Sir Keith Murdoch, whose writings brand him as one stricken with fear at the possible loss of his private possessions?
– I do not know whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission can answer that question. I cannot say how many times Tokyo radio has quoted Sir Keith Murdoch, myself or anybody else. I am not interested as to how many times Tokyo radio quotes anybody, because it ought to be patent to the Australian public, and to the world at large, that what Tokyo says is not necessarily the truth, and that, in any case, Tokyo is prompted by the desire to advance the cause of the enemy. I know well that statements lend them-elves to quotation, but that is rarely done without either misquotation, the placing of a wrong interpretation upon what has been said, or the suppression of some essential part of the statement allegedly quoted. The people of this nation would do well to place no reliance on what is -said by enemy propagandists.
– -Is the Minister for Commerce in .a position to communicate the result of his consultation with the Government of Great Britain with regard to an increased price for Australia’s ensuing wool clips?
– I have no definite information that I can convey to the House to-day regarding the negotiations.
– Has the Minister for Munitions read the press reports that American production plans now aim at .the maximum output of war material in the next six months, and that, instead -of using available material for the equipment of new factories for a maximum production next year, the whole of the nation’s resources will be concentrated on existing plants, with a view to striking at the axis this year? Will the Minister state whether it would be advisable to f ollow such a policy in Australia, and to take up with the Minister for War Organization of Industry the subject of closing down non-essential industries? Would it not be wise to convert many of those industries to war production, instead of closing them down?
– Already the Munitions Department has adopted the policy that it must be satisfied first that premises that have been vacated, or are available by reason of action taken by the Minister for War Organization of Industry, are inadequate or incapable of providing for the needs of the Munitions Department before sanction will be given to the provision of new annexes for munitions production.
– Has the Acting Attorney-General seen press reports of the proceedings in the Central Police Court, Sydney, on Saturday last, when fourteen wharf labourers were fined for having had stolen goods in their possession? In view of the comment”! of the presiding magistrate and the police concerning the seriousness of cargo pillaging at Australian ports, will the Acting Attorney-General call for a report concerning the men who were fined with a view to determining whether their licences to engage in waterside work should be cancelled?
– I have seen the reports referred to, but I am not in possession of any further information on the subject. However, I shall call for a report, and a reply will be furnished later.
– In view of the business depression which has descended on towns on the north-west coast of Western Australia because of the war with Japan, and as the Debtors’ Relief Regulations do not cover all cases of hardship, will the Minister for the Army, who. last week gave an undertaking to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that consideration would be given to any case made out on behalf of the business community of Cairns for the proclamation of a moratorium, give a similar undertaking with regard to towns on the northwest coast of Western Australia?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s representations, but any decision reached by the Government must be made to apply to the whole of Australia.
SERVICES of Students. Mr. PATERSON.- ,Some young men possessing exceptional educational qualications, including two years’ successful study at a university, have been called up for service in the Militia, and are performing duties which make no use of their education. Will the Minister for the Army consider releasing them from the Army for service in the Royal Australian Air Force if they should make application, and especially if the Air Force authorities support the application, so that they might take a special course in radio location, or some other technical subject in which their education will be useful ?
– Sympathetic consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion which has a great deal of merit.
– In view of the strong public feeling on the activities of Myer Emporium Limited by which the people of Melbourne were robbed of £250,000 through breaches of the price- fixing regulations, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give further consideration to the question of prosecuting Mr. Norman Myer or some other principal of the firm for one or more of such breaches?
– The prices control regulations are the responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Customs before whose notice I placed several questions asked last week about Myer Emporium Limited. He has all the files and I asked him to furnish full information and to state whether any action is proposed to be taken by his department. As soon as that information is available, I shall let the honorable member know.
– On the 6th May, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) drew my attention to an order of the Probate Court of New South Wales that the estates of missing members of the fighting services who were presumed to have been killed should not be distributed unless the beneficiaries furnished a bond. The honorable member asked whether I would consider an amendment to Statutory Rules 1941, No. 318, to provide that grant of probate might be made in the ordinary way. As promised, I referred the matter to the Solicitor-General, who has advised that, where national security regulations impinge on the law of the six States, legal difficulties may be expected and, in the present case, difficulties have arisen in New South Wales. The question of amending regulation 25 of the National Security ‘(Supplementary) Regulations to remove these difficulties is at present receiving earnest consideration.
– Some time ago a statement alleging barbaric treatment of Australian prisoners by the
Japanese appeared in the press, and the Minister for the Army then promised that a departmental inquiry would be held. Can he say whether the inquiry has been held, and, if so, whether the charges have been proved, or otherwise? Further, has he had an opportunity to interview personally any Australians from New Guinea who were bound by the wrists with fishing cord?
– I have met a number of Australians from New Guinea, but not any who had been bound with fishing cord. An inquiry into the charges referred to is now proceeding, and evidence is being taken as to the happenings in New Guinea. I discussed this matter with the Chief of the General Staff, who informed me that as some hundreds of witnesses would have to be examined a fortnight would probably elapse before a report could be furnished.
No. 5 Pool. Mr. PROWSE - I ask the Minister for Commerce whether it is a fact, that although it has been reported that a return of 3s. lOd. a bushel for bagged wheat can still be expected from the No. 5 Wheat Pool, the price likely to be received by the growers will be about 2s. lOd. a bushel after freight and expenses have been deducted, and that the price for silo wheat will be 2d. a bushel less?-
– The interpretation given by the honorable member to reports as to the final payment from the No. 5 Wheat Pool is not quite correct. The guarantee of 3s. lOd. a bushel applied to an aggregate crop of 140,000,000 bushels whereas the wheat received has reached a total of 153,000,000 bushels. Spreading the total amount guaranteed over the 153,000,000 bushels the approximate price payable for bagged wheat will be 3s. 6d. a bushel, less costs which will represent about lOd. or lid. a bushel. The price for silo wheat will be 2d. a bushel less.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether in the original announcements made in respect of the 1941-42 Wheat Pool there may have been room for justifiable misunderstanding by a percentage of farmers as to the guaranteed price ? Will the honorable gentleman consider whether the excess yield has been due to increases of the acreage yield, or to sowings in excess of the quotas originally contemplated? If a combination of these circumstances is thought to have led some farmers to make sowings in anticipation of receiving 3s. lOd. a bushel, whereas now it has been stated that less will be paid, will the honorable gentleman submit the whole matter to
Cabinet for consideration of policy!
– Whilst some of the considerations mentioned by the honorable gentleman may have affected the position, it is beyond doubt that a definite agreement was reached concerning the conditions that should prevail for the 1941-42 harvest. I checked this point this morning with the authorities, and I am quite satisfied that a definite agreement was made between the former Minister for Commerce and representatives of the wheat-growers. However, I shall submit the honorable gentleman’s question to Cabinet, which, I am sure, will consider all aspects of the subject.
– In view of the statement made last Friday by the Minister for ‘Commerce to the effect that 153,000,000 bushels of wheat were received into the pool, and that the Government’s guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. was based on a crop of 140,000,000 bushels, I ask the Minister whether he will recommend to Cabinet that the guaranteed price be paid on 140,000,000 bushels, and that the amount actually received for the balance of 13,000,000 bushels be distributed to the growers as a final payment?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Is the Minister in a position to say what proportion of the additional quantity of wheat produced this year in excess of 140,000,000 bushels was grown on unlicensed wheat-land, and what effect the wheat grown on unlicensed land has had on the price payable in respect of the whole crop?
– I have been informed by the Australian Wheat Board that about 1,500,000 bushels of wheat was grown on unlicensed areas, but, at the moment, I am not in- the position to say whether that quantity is in addition to the 153,000,000 bushels already referred to.
Quota fob Soldiers on Leave - Activities of Voluntary War Organizations.
– In view of the fact that a soldier is entitled to two days leave a month or five days leave every two months, can the Minister for the Army state what arrangements have been made to ensure that, during his leave, the soldier may receive his proper quota of tea or of any other foodstuffs which may be rationed i
– Inquiries will be made, and I hope to be able to furnish the honorable member with a reply to his question to-morrow.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce aware that numbers of the voluntary women’s organizations which are doing valuable war work in providing cheap meals for members of the fighting services, having been in operation for less than twelve months, are being deprived of their ration quotas in certain commodities? Will the honorable gentleman see that these organizations are placed on the same ration footing as similar organizations which have been operating for more than twelve months?
– I shall be pleased to put the honorable gentleman’s representations favorably to the Minister for Commerce.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether it is a fact that the Government has promised to provide for a guaranteed minimum price for potatoes grown during the next season? If so, when does the honorable gentleman expect to be in a position to make a definite statement concerning th. price?
– No definite promise has been made that a certain guaranteed price will be paid for potatoes in the ensuing season, but a committee, which includes a representative of the Tas.manian potato industry, has been appointed to consider the whole subject. The intentions of the Government will be announced as early as possible.
– On the 8th May, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he would give to me details of the service to be performed by Mr. G. Sinclair, secretary of the Boilermakers Union, who had been appointed to a position in the Department of Labour and Nations! Service. The honorable gentleman promised to furnish the information. Is he yet able to make it available to me? I should also like to know from the honorable gentleman the names of all Labour members and supporters who have been appointed to assist him in departmental work during the last seven months? Will he indicate, in each case, the salary, allowances or other remuneration provided for these persons? The information will be of great interest to the House.
– I hope to be able, within the next day or two, to answer the honorable gentleman’s question in regard to Mr. Sinclair. The preparation oi the list of appointees to the department may be more difficult because of the large number of United Australia party supporters placed in positions by the previous Government.
– Can the Minister for the Army give me any information concerning the recent escape of certain prisoners of war from a Victorian internment camp? What action is being taken by the authorities to prevent similar escapes from other internment camps?
– On Thursday last, it was ascertained that six German prisoners of war were missing from a party which was employed in wood-cutting about %i miles from a camp near Murchison. The civil police and military personnel immediately commenced a search of the area, and all the escaped prisoners have since been recaptured. A court of inquiry has been assembled and is now sitting. It is anticipated that the proceedings will be completed by Friday of this week. Pending’ the receipt of the report ofthe court of inquiry, the camp commandant has been suspended. The circumstances under which these persons made their escape emphasize the risks associated with the guarding of active, youthful, prisoners of war when they are made available for labour outside of the prison camps. Great difficulty is being experienced in providing a.n adequate number of guards to control the prisoners and to make escapes impossible’.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1942.
Maternity Allowance. Bill 1942..
Child Endowment Bill 1942.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1942.
Sales. Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 90 1942.
Excise Bill 1942.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for fees for licences for commercial broadcasting stations.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s messages) :
Motions (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
) That it is. expedient that an, appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an. act to provide for the payment of widows’ pensions, and for other purposes.
That it is expedient that an appropriation of Eevenue bo made for the purposes of amendments to he moved by the Minister for Social Services in a hill for an act to provide for the payment of widows’ pensions and for other purposes.
Resolutions reported; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the15th May (vide page 1320).
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary appears - “ Deserted wife “ means a wife who has been deserted by her husband for a period of not less than six months; “Widow “ includes?-
a de facto widow;
a deserted wife;.
a woman who has been granted a divorce from her husband and has not remarried ; and
d ) a woman: whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane.
.- The interpretation placed on the provision in paragraph c of the definition of “widow”, in relation to a divorcee is regarded as too narrow, being limited to a woman who is divorced on her own application. I, therefore, move -
That in the definition of” widow “, paragraph (c) be left out, with a view to insert in Iieu thereof the following paragraph: - “ (c) a woman whose marriage has been- dissolved’ and who has not remarried; and “.
.- The definition of “deserted wife” is: “a wife who has been deserted by her husband for a period of not less than six months “. Does the Minister propose that a pension shall be payable to every wife who has been deserted, irrespective of who is responsible for the desertion? Under the New South Wales law, a deserted wife who is a claimant for relief payable under local charitable legislation must prove that at least she has endeavoured to compel her husband, by means of a court order, to observe his financial responsibilities. There is no such qualification in this measure. I raise the matter in order that the Minister may realize the possible result. Great difficulty will be experienced in proving that a wife who is living apart from her husband has been genuinely deserted, and that her husband is shirking responsibility for her maintenance, unless she furnishes to the Deputy Commissioner evidence that satisfies him that she is in fact a deserted wife and has taken court proceedings to compel her husband to maintain her if he is able to do so. There should be some proof apart from her own statement that she is a genuinely deserted wife. Many marriages are dissolved by mutual consent. A wife may be as willing to be apart from her husband as the husband to be apart from her.
.- The definition of “ widow “ should be extended so as to include the wife of a person who is in receipt of an invalid pension. I drew the Minister’s attention to this matter at an earlier stage of the bill. The honorable gentleman should realize that a woman whose husband is totally and permanently incapacitated, and is consequently in receipt of an invalid pension, should be entitled to receive a widow’s pension. Because she has no means of livelihood for herself and her children, she is probably in more unfortunate circumstances than a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane, or one who has been deserted by her husband, yet women in both of those categories will be entitled to be classed as widows. The wife of an invalid pensioner would receive child endowment in respect of any children after the first child, but would not have any assistance for herself or the first child. She might be in- the position of having to care for her invalid husband. Such a woman should be covered by the definition of “widow”. Where the wife of a man who is in receipt of the old-age pension goes out to work in order to supplement the family income, half of the income earned by her is deemed to be the income of the husband, and the amount by which the pensioner’s income exceeds 12s. 6d. is deducted from her husband’s pension. Therefore, this is an appropriate opportunity to provide that a woman whose husband is incapable of earning any sum towards the maintenance of his wife and family should receive the same financial assistance from the Commonwealth as will be granted to a widow under this measure. I ask for an assurance that an amendment to cover cases of this kind will be included in the bill.
.- This clause is deficient in another respect, apart from those mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). Provision should be made so that a woman whose husband is an inmate of a gaol or penal establishment may receive financial assistance. There is no good reason why a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane should be treated differently from a woman whose husband is an inmate of a gaol. In many countries such women are placed both in the same category. Some years ago, when I was a member of the Victorian Public Service, I was appointed investigating officer for a select committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly that made inquiries regarding the granting of widows’ pensions and child endowment, and I had an opportunity to ascertain the condition under which many unfortunate families live. Some harrowing stories were told before the committee, and about 40 cases were submitted by the Children’s Welfare Department to me to investigate. The conditions under which families were being maintained constituted a striking tribute to maternal affection under the most adverse circumstances. I can recollect hearing of women whose husbands were in gaol being compelled to work in order to maintain themselves and their children. In some instances they went to work at an early hour and left their children huddled together in school sheds from 7 a.m. until school commenced at 9 a.m. After school hours the children were left to play in the streets until their mothers returned from their work in the factories or shops. Women should not be treated as social pariahs, merely because their husbands have committed crimes against the State. If a husband is forced to go to gaol, and pay the penalty for his misdeeds, surely punishment should not also be visited upon his dependants. The Bible records that the iniquity of the fathers shall be visited upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation ; but there is no justification for a Labour government causing the iniquity of the erring father to be visited on his wife and children. If the Minister will not adopt my suggestion I shall submit an amendment to provide that a woman whose husband is in gaol shall receive the benefits of this measure.
In another part of the bill it is provided that a widow who has had five years’ residence in Australia immediately prior to the date of her claim for the pension shall be eligible for the benefit of this legislation. I am not opposed to that provision, but I visualize the possibility that payment of the widow’s pension may be made in future to many unfortunate European refugees who may settle in Australia. It might so happen that a woman who could scarcely speak English would be eligible for a pension under the bill, whereas an Australianborn woman with Australian-bora children would be denied the benefit of the legislation, because her husband happened to be in gaol. I do not believe that such a discrimination would be supported by the people of this country. Under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a person must have resided in Australia for twenty years before being entitled to the pension, but in respect of widows the residential qualification is to be reduced to -five years. I agree with that proposition, but we should not make an exception in the case of the unfortunate Australian-born woman whose Australian-born husband happens to be in gaol. As was mentioned by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the wife of an invalid pensioner would be far better off financially if her husband were dead. The invalid husband will receive 25s. a week, and will be expected to maintain his wife and himself on that sum. Of course, it is impossible for a wife who has an invalid husband to leave him unattended. If he died his widow would immediately become eligible for benefits to be provided under this bill. It is desirable in the interests of society that a mother should be with her young children, and that they should not be forced to roam the streets or be sent off early in the morning to school while the mother goes out to earn her living. Experience has shown that lack of parental control is often responsible for children turning to crime at an early age. Where the home influence is strong, there are fewer potential criminals. We do not want to see our gaols filled ; we want them to be empty. What a government saves by refusing assistance to destitute mothers it often pays out later in the maintenance of prisoners.
We have made provision for a divorced wife when she is the innocent party. I do not object to that, but I fail to see why the divorced wife of an erring husband should be placed in a better position than tho undivorced wife - if I may use the expression - of a man who has broken the law of the land, and has been sent to gaol.
– Provision is made even for a de facto wife.
– That is so. If Parliament can take cognizance of the fact that many unmarried people offend against the law of morality by living together-
– In sin.
– Yes, in sin, as the honorable member for Watson states, then surely we can make provision for a legally married wife whose husband, perhaps in a fit of passion, has broken the law and is imprisoned as a result. It is quite possible for men in these troubled times to be sent to gaol for political offences, and as the law now stands, their wives would be compelled to suffer for the opinions of their husbands. There are in this House to-day several honorable members who, at one time or another, have committed political offences against the law, and have been prosecuted. I ask them to think what might have happened to their wives and children if they had gone to gaol instead of paying fines. What would be their reaction to-day if they were not members of Parliament and heard that legislation was being passed that made no provision for cases similar to their own ? The legislation of at least one State in Australia provides that a woman whose husband is in gaol may receive some assistance from the State. In other States, there is no such law, and I believe that, whether there is any State provision of the kind or not, this bill should be amended so as to make eligible for pensions women belonging to the last two remaining classes unprovided for, namely, those whose husbands are in gaol, and who have young children in their care. I do not know whether the Minister has been sufficiently impressed with my arguments to be able to state now that he is prepared to agree to my proposal, or whether I should at this stage move an amendment to give effect to it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member would not be in order if he did move such an amendment because, if carried, it would increase the appropriation.
– Then can you advise me what further steps I must take in order to secure the Minister’s consent to my proposal? I have stated all my arguments as succinctly as possible, and I should now like to know whether the Minister intends to accept my proposal.
.- I remind the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that, in my second-reading speech, I said that the term “ deserted wife “ included a woman who had taken legal action against her husband for desertion. This definition is included in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but by some oversight it was omitted from this bill. I assure the honorable member that the omission will be rectified.
I cannot promise at this stage to give effect to the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell)’. I think that there is State legislation which enables assistance to be given to. women whose husbands are in gaol.
– Not in Victoria.
– No one can refute the logic of the honorable member’s argument, but I fail to see how the Government could classify as a widow a woman whose husband may be in gaol for six months, then out of it for a time, and then back in gaol again.
– It could be provided that a wife- would become eligible for a pension if her husband were sent to gaol for a period of two years or more.
– The provision might be made to apply to the wives of life prisoners, just as it applies to the wives1 of insane men, who are generally kept in institutions for the remainder of their lives. I cannot see how the honorable member’s proposal could be incorporated1 in this legislation.
– Why not? Similar provision is made in the legislation of other countries.
– I cannot give a promise now. The honorable member for Darling (Mr.. Clark) referred to a matter which on more than one occasion has been considered by Cabinet. To give effect to his1 proposal would cost £650,000 for the known cases. His arguments appealed very strongly to me, but the- provision be seeks cannot be made in this bill because of the budgetary position. I assure him that his proposal will be one of the next to be considered.
.- The observations of the two honorable members who preceded the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) cause me to direct attention to the fact that no Australian-wide scheme of widows’ pensions or child endowment will ever be complete unless accompanied by and. administered in conjunction with a child welfare scheme. In the State of New South Wales, where widows’ pensions have been paid for many years, a scheme of child welfare operates. I am not prepared to say that it is the best available, but it provides a wonderful opportunity for the Commonwealth Government to examine the matter of child welfare. I do not desire that the thorough work of the- Joint Committee on Social Security be duplicated; but there is need for some investigation to supplement the committee’s report. Evidence could be obtained from experts in child welfare. Without the operation of a child welfare scheme, widows’ pensions and child endowment will become, in many cases, mere financial hand-touts, and will not go to the root of the problem of the human and cultural rehabilitation of the family in need. I hope that the Minister will take that matter to Cabinet and set in motion such an investigation as. will cause to be brought into operation a child welfare scheme which will make the widows’ pensions and ‘child endowment schemes more successful.
– I understand that certain provisos as tothe eligibility of deserted wives to receive the widows’ pension are to be embodied’ in regulations; but the act is the place to which people will look,, and, with the agreement of the Minister, I propose to move an addendum to the definition of “ deserted wife “ to provide that the applicant must show that legal proceedings for maintenance had been taken against the husband.
– I agree to that.
– The present definition permits a woman who is living away from her husband by mutual consent to apply for and be granted a widow’s pension, although she may be satisfied with her mode of life. I have not the least doubt that, in such cases, a husband, knowing that no penalty was attachable to him, if asked by the Commissioner, or even by a magistrate, whether he had deserted his wife, would say that he had.
– What if a husband said “ No “?
– That would be the end of it. A woman who successfully made application for maintenance could not claim the pension. I do not think that it is the intention of the Government that women who are living apart from their husbands by mutual consent shall be entitled to draw the pension.
– It is not.
– Before the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) can move his amendment, it will be necessary for the Minister to withdraw his amendment temporarily.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Rosevear) proposed
That, in the definition of “ deserted wife “, after the word “months” the following words be added : - “ provided that the applicant can show that legal proceedings for maintenance had been taken against the husband “.
.-Before agreeing to the proposed amendment, the committee ought to be aware of what it means. Does the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) mean that all a woman would have to do in order to qualify for a widow’s pension would be to start legal proceedings for maintenance? What would happen if she succeeded in such proceedings?
– She would not qualify for the pension. A woman maintained by her husband could not draw the pension.
– I do not li’Ve the proposed amendment. There i.i sufficient protection already in the bill. The Commissioner of Pensions can order an inquiry into any application for a pension Women should not be forced tn take legal proceedings against their husbands in order to qualify for the widow’s pension. Many women are reluctant to apply to the courts for maintenance orders against their husbands. A magistrate taking evidence on oath or the Commissioner himself, under the provisions of the bill, would be able to satisfy himself as to whether a woman had been deserted.
.- I find difficulty in understanding the purpose of the amendment. The intention of the Minister is abundantly clear. What I also find difficult to understand is when desertion shall be deemed to have taken place. Will that date be when legal proceedings for maintenance orders were instituted, or will it be some other date which may be fixed as between the parties.
– The pension will become payable six months after a wife has been deserted.
– But how will that date be determined?
– The department will decide that.
– If that is so, the department will be equally able to determine what evidence shall be necessary to establish whether a wife has been deserted.
– Does the honorable member say that women living apart from their husbands by mutual arrangement should be entitled to the pension?
– No. Separation by mutual arrangement is not desertion. The definition is sufficiently clear. If the department is to reserve to itself the right to determine the date when desertion occurs, it equally has the right to determine what constitutes desertion, and what evidence shall he produced in order to establish that desertion has taken place.
– I agree with the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) which I understand the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) is prepared to accept, but, in my opinion, it needs strengthening in order to meet the possibility suggested by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). That could be done by providing that any proceedings for maintenance shall be bona fide to the satisfaction of the Commissioner. Obviously, it would be just as easy to make a pretence of the law proceedings as of the desertion.
– Why not let the Commissioner decide everything, and not force the parties to make application to the court?
– I do not agree with the contention of the honorable member for Watson that the bill as drafted will give sufficient protection. As the bill now stands the fact of desertion has only to be established for the claimant to be entitled to a pension, notwithstanding that the desertion may be more pretended than real. The suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley could be met by an amendment of clause 14 which deals with disqualifications for pension.
.- Evidently the committee is in favour of the proposal of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that the proper place to insert it is in clause 14. The position could be met by inserting a new sub-clause 6 to the following effect: - “A pension shall not be granted to a widow, being a deserted wife, unless the widow has taken such action as the Commissioner, or the Deputy Commissioner, considers reasonable to obtain maintenance from her husband “.
– That should meet the situation.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
.- I wish to move -
That in the definition of “ deserted wife “, after the word “ months “ the following words be added: - “or whose husband has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than three months “.
– As the amendment would increase the amount of the appropriation it is not in order, unless moved by the Minister.
– Would it necessarily increase the appropriation? At this stage everything is based on conjecture, and no one knows how much mona’ will be appropriated.
– There could be no purpose in moving the amendment if it would not increase. the appropriation. In the opinion of the Chair, the amendment would increase the appropriation, and therefore it is not competent for the honorable member to move it.
– Could .1 move it, Mr. Chairman, and thereby throw on the Minister the responsibility for not accepting it?
– The Chair is not prepared to put the amendment to .the committee. I rule that it is out of order.
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That in the definition of “ widow “, paragraph (c) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: - “ (o) a woman whose marriage has been dissolved and who has not remarried; and”.
– With the general purpose of the amendment I am in agreement, but in my opinion a proviso should be added in order to vest in the Commissioner the right to disallow pensions in cases in which a claimant is obviously unworthy. I do not suggest that every guilty party to divorce proceedings is unworthy of social benefits, but it needs little imagination to visualize a person who is entirely undeserving of a pension.
– Does not paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 14 meet that position?
– This is a matter which could more appropriately be discussed when clause 14 is before the committee.
– I shall reserve my remarks until a later stage.
– I again stress the necessity for inserting a provision to cover the wife of an invalid pensioner. The Minister’s argument that an amendment of this character would involve an expenditure of £650,000 is, in my opinion, justification for acceptance of the amendment, as it shows that numbers of women, whose husbands are incapable through ill health of providing for them, have difficulty in maintaining adequately themselves and their families. Would I be in order in moving that the definition of “ widow “ shall include “ a wife whose husband is totally and permanently incapacitated “ ?
– Such an amendment would not be in order unless it were moved by the Minister in charge of the bill.
– At this stage, I cannot accept such an amendment, but I shall discuss the proposal with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
– In the meantime, will the Minister agree to postpone the consideration of clause 4?
– The Government wishes to get this bill through the committee to-day, but I shall discuss with the Treasurer the possibility of introducing an amendment to give effect to the honorable member’s wishes.
.- I desire to know whether the word “ dissolved “ in the amendment is used in its legal sense, namely, that a marriage has been dissolved as the result of a petition for the dissolution of a marriage, or as a result of some similar application to a competent court; or whether the word is to be interpreted according to general usage to cover a wife who, having become dissatisfied with her husband, has separated from him. In such an instance would the marriage be regarded as having been dissolved, and would the woman be entitled to the benefits of this legislation ?
– The word must be interpreted in a legal sense.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Mr. Chairman, I ask you to reconsider your ruling that I may not at this stage move the amendment which I previously indicated that I desired to move. When the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Rill was under discussion, its scope was considerably increased, and that must have had the effect of increasing the appropriation required for the purposes of that measure.
– Under the Standing Orders, and according to practice, the Chair is not empowered to allow an amendment by a private member that would increase an appropriation. Manifestly, the amendment suggested by the honorable member would do so. Of course, the Minister for Social Services could move the amendment, but a further message from the Governor-General would be required.
– I moveThat further consideration of the clause be postponed.
I do so in order that I may consult certain eminent authorities, who may or may not agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I understand that I may submit such a motion without obtaining the Minister’s consent.
– The clause has already been considered and amended, and, under the Standing Orders, further consideration of an amended clause may not be postponed.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that you, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) cannot move to alter the qualifications required of a candidate for a widow’s pension under clause 4 of the bill, and that you have given as your reason that the proposed amendment would increase the appropriation. Clause 4 is not an appropriation clause. I ask that the message transmitted to the House by the Governor-General be read to this committee. It did not state whether the persons who were to qualify for pensions under the bill should be de facto widows, or women whose husbands were in gaol, or in Hong Kong or anywhere else. The message requested that an appropriation of money be made in order to provide a fund from which to pay pensions to widows. The definition of “widow” is a matter to be dealt with in the bill, and, therefore, it is a matter for this committee to decide. I ask that the GovernorGeneral’s message be read to the committee.
– I explain to the honorable member that an extension of the definition of “widow” in order to make another class of persons eligible for the widow’s pension as is desired by the honorable member for Melbourne, would necessitate an increase of the appropriation.
– -You are entirely wrong. Mr. Chairman.
– My ruling stands. The honorable member may move that it be disagreed with.
– If your ruling is to stand, Mr. Chairman, honorable members will be precluded from moving, in connexion with any bills relating to the expenditure of public moneys, amendments such as that which the honorable member for Melbourne has foreshadowed.
– The honorable member may not continue his remarks unless he moves that my ruling be disagreed with.
– I move -
That the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from.
The proceedings of this committee are becoming rather Gilberti’an.
– Order ! The honorable member has contributed more .than anybody else to this discussion.
– I have not done so. Your ruling, Mr. Chairman, is not, even founded on common sense.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question now before the committee.
– I am prepared to do so, but I do not want to hear any comments from you about my conduct in this place.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in criticizing the proceedings of this committee.
– There is plenty of cause for such .criticism. If your ruling is to stand, Mr. Chairman, the result will be that, no matter what measure comes before this committee, honorable members will not be permitted to move any amendment affecting qualifications for the receipt of public money, on the ground that any such amendment would increase an appropriation. The recommendation for an appropriation of .money for widows’ pensions provides, according to my recollection, “ for the payment of pensions to widows “. The word “ widows “ was not defined in that message from the Governor-General, nor was the amount of the appropriation mentioned. Two important matters must be considered by this committee. One is the definition of the term “ widow “, which should be considered now; the other is the amount of money to be appropriated for the payment of widows’ pensions, which should be considered at a later stage. Therefore, I say that your ruling,
Mr. Chairman, is utterly wrong. According to my memory, the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, which was considered in this place last week, were widened so as to extend the payment of old-age pensions to certain kanakas from the South Sea Islands. That amendment involved an increase of the appropriation.
– The payment of pensions to kanakas was provided for in the original bill.
– I understand that some increases were made.
– I say “ Yes “. En any case, amendments requiring increases of appropriations have been agreed to time after time in this place. If .this ruling is to stand, honorable members will be able to do nothing more than assent to or dissent from any recommendations for the appropriation of public funds. They will be prevented from deciding in detail the purposes for which appropriations shall be used. I should like to see the standing order which, according to you, Mr. Chairman, provides that in committee honorable members may not vary the qualifications required of a person who receives money from the Crown. Recommendations made in messages from the Governor-General are always wide, because this committee must have full power to decide what should be done with -appropriations so recommended. For the time being, I shall leave the matter at this stage, but I request that the Governor-General’s message, recommending an appropriation to meet the requirements of this bill, be read to the committee. Honorable members will find that it imposes no limitations. It is for this committee to decide the definition of “ widow “.
– I hope that honorable members will not allow their desires to overrule their judgment in considering the issue before the Chair. The Chairman’s ruling is undoubtedly correct, as the honorable member for Barker (Mt. Archie Cameron) must realize when he considers the matter carefully. The bill provides for the payment of pensions to a widow, a de facto widow, a deserted wife, a woman who has been granted a. divorce from her husband and has not re-married, and a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr:. Calwell) now desires to include in the definition the wife- of a man serving a term of imprisonment exceeding three months. Obviously, such a provision would increase the amount of money required to meet the cost of the scheme.
– No amount of money has been specified in the appropriation message.
– The amount was determined when the Government completed its plan to pay these pensions. If the classes of persons eligible for the pension be increased, obviously the amount of money necessary will also have to be increased. The honorable gentleman’s contention that the appropriation will not need to be increased is a quibble.
– I support the motion of dissent. If the Chairman’s ruling be correct, honorable members of this Parliament are obviously debarred from moving amendments to bills of this character. The term “ widow “ was not defined in the Governor-General’s message.. If the amendment which has been ruled out of order had proposed an increase of the pension from 25s. to 26s. a week, or the payment of pensions to children, or to other persons, an assumption that the appropriation would need to be increased would be justified. But how can an accurate estimate be made of the amount of money involved in this scheme, seeing that provision is being made, for the payment of pensions to persons in Australia who have been widows for five years immediately prior to the date of their claim?’ Pensions canbe paid to widows of enemy soldiers who come to this country with their children when the war is over because they believe that life under1 the. Southern Cross will be safer and. happier than in war-torn Europe. If this ruling be sustained the members of this Parliament will be reduced to the status of members of the German Reichstag and the Chairman of Committees will become a kind of Marshal Goering whose call for “ “Fni-1. “ must bo responded to by every one. My amendment to provide for the payment of pensions to women whose husbands are serving a term of imprisonment of more than three months, and also the proposal of the honorable member for Barling (Mr. Clark), have been ruled out of order on the ground that their acceptance by the committee would increase the appropriation, but how can it be assumed with any exactitude that the appropriation would be increased? There might be a saving in the amount of money estimated to be necessary to pay pensions already provided for in the bill. As no evidence has been submitted to the committee that my amendment would necessarily increase the appropriation I support the motion of dissent.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) .may, perhaps, realize that acceptance of the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) must necessarily involve an increase of the appropriation when 1 point out to him that when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) intimated that he was prepared to accept’ certain amendments suggested in the second-reading debate, he found it necessary to fortify himself with another message from the Governor-General
– All honorable gentlemen who have been private members of this Parlianient for any length of time know that on innumerable occasions they have been prevented from moving amendments to bills involving the expenditure of public moneys. I refer to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill as an example.
– And- a very good one.
– It is open to the Minister in charge of the bill involving the expenditure of public money to indicate that he is prepared to consider favorably suggestions for amendments the effect of which will increase the appropriation, but before even he may move them,, he must fortify himself with an additional message from the Governor-General. Such messages may be submitted for consideration at any stage of a bill, but the usual practice is to present the message when the bill is being introduced1. The message is always followed by a motion -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a biTT- in this case, for a bill for the payment of pensions to widows. When this bill was introduced the Minister for Social Services intimated that it was estimated that the cost of the scheme would be £1,600,000.
– That is an estimate.
– Of course it is an estimate, but it is the amount covered by the appropriation, for which the Government must make provision. The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that no expenditure of this character may be authorized by the Parliament except as the result of the consideration of a message from the Governor-General. Our practice in this regard has not varied since the inception of federation. As the Chairman of Committees has pointed out, when the Minister for Social Services indicated that the Government was prepared to accept two amendments suggested during the second-reading debate, the honorable gentleman had to fortify himself with an additional appropriation message. Although the Chairman of Committees rightly declined to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne, it would, nevertheless, be quite proper for that honorable gentleman to submit a case to the Minister in support of his proposal. If the Minister were convinced of the soundness of the case, and if the Government agreed to a proposal of the nature outlined, an amendment could be moved by the Minister himself, or else the Senate may be invited to request that the bill be amended in the desired direction. The point is that only a member of the Parliament who is qualified to present a message from the Governor-General providing for an increase of the appropriation is competent to move such an amendment. I do not see how public expenditure could be controlled except on that basis.
– The Prime Minister has explained very carefully the practice of Parliament, but he might have made the position clearer for those honorable members who have had little experience of parliamentary procedure, by explaining to them the underlying principle, namely, that responsibility for financial measures belongs to the Government itself. It is rather misleading to suggest that there is some mysterious procedure associated with the receipt of a message from the Governor-General in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution. The fact is that the Government is responsible for financial measures, and Parliament cannot amend those measures except by taking action which would displace the Government from office. In this instance, an amendment has been propose.-! which would increase the amount of money to be expended. The interesting piece of sophistry indulged in by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), namely, that in some other category the expenditure might not come up to the estimate, and that, therefore, the total expenditure might not be more than that contemplated in the bill in its present form, does not alter the situation. The Government must necessarily estimate future expenditure, and if an amendment be passed providing for increased expenditure in a particular category, then it must be assumed that the total expenditure also will be increased by that amount. It is surely straining the language to say that a woman whose husband is in gaol for a period of three months or more is a widow.
– The bill regards n divorced woman or a deserted wife as a widow.
– One might as well say that 1a woman is a widow whose husband has gone off to spend a week-end in Manly.
– The Prime Minister advanced a clever and specious argument. I remind honorable members, however, that the message of the Governor-General recommending an appropriation merely stated that this committee should provide a sum of money for the purposes of a bill, and that sum of money is not named in the bill or anywhere else. The only figure mentioned in the bill is the rate of pension or allowance that shall be paid to a widow. It is for this committee, and for no one else, to determine who is entitled to receive that pension. It is absurd for the Prime Minister to argue that every proposal is out of order which does not fit in with the Government’s ideas in regard to a bill which has not yet been passed by the Parliament. There may be important and honest differences of opinion regarding what a bill means. I have always had a great admiration for Charles I. and the other Stuarts, and it seems to me that their methods were, in some respects, much more intelligible than those of the Prime Minister.
– I trust that the honorable member is not trying to qualify for the role of Cromwell?
– That is the last thing I should like to do. Is it seriously suggested that when a bounty bill is before the committee, no one may move to vary the qualification upon which the bounty is to be paid ? The important point in connexion with this matter is that no specific sum is mentioned in the bill, except the weekly rate of pension.
– But the message must be read in connexion with the draft bill introduced by the Minister.
– What this committee agrees to becomes law, and it is for the committee to say to whom pensions shall be paid.
– The time to take action in that direction is on the motion for the second reading. It is then competent for an honorable member to move that the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for this or that. I have moved a dozen such motions, including one on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, but it was defeated.
– I say that the amount to be appropriated under this bill has not been determined, either by the Government or by this committee. If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) wants to press his point, he may, when the Appropriation Bill is brought down, move that the amount be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to do what he wishes. I am not expressing any opinion on the merits of the honorable member’s proposed amendment, but if the ruling of the Chair be allowed to stand, we might as well pack up and go home.
.- I desire now to press my proposed motion that the clause be postponed until a later hour this day.
– Such a motion would be in contravention of Standing Order 175, which provides that -
Any clause may be postponed unless the same has already been amended.
This clause has already been amended, and may not, therefore, he postponed.
– Would I be in order in moving it on the third reading?
– That matter cannot be decided by the committee. It would have to be dealt with by the House.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 - (2.) A person who has been summoned to appear before the Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner, a Magistrate or a Registrar shall not, without lawful excuse, and after tender of reasonable expenses, fail to appear in obedience to the summons.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
.- Are the powers to be given to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners under this bill the same as under the corresponding provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and in what respect does the penalty provided in this clause vary from that provided under that act?
– The powers are similar in both measures, but the penalty provided under this clause is £50, as compared with a penalty of £20 under the corresponding provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– Should we not have uniformity in measures of this kind? Is it necessary to impose a penalty of £50 in the event of a person failing to appear before the Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner, a magistrate or a registrar in answer to a summons?
– I do not mind whether the penalty is fixed at £50 or £20.
– Then, I move-
That in sub-clause (2.), the word “fifty” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twenty “.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Subject to this act -
a widow resident in Australia who is maintaining one or more children; or
a widow so resident who is not maintaininga child and is not less than fifty years of age, shall, while so resident, be qualified to receive a pension.
.- What would happen in the case of a widow who had been maintaining children until she had reached the age of 40 years or 45 years, and whose last child had passed the age of sixteen years? Would she be suddenly thrown on the world without a pension ? This provision would operate harshly in respect of widows who had spent the greater part of their lives in raising families and were suddenly cut off from all financial help. I suggest for the consideration of the Minister that some thought should be given to helping women in this category. They might be granted a period of, say, six months, in which to seek employment, before the pension is taken from them, or discretionary power might be given to the Commissioner to continue the payment of the pension in certain cases in which it appears that there is reasonable ground for doing so. I hope that the anomaly will be corrected.
.- I. support the request of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). The bill does not make clear what is to happen to a woman who has been drawing the pension under paragraph a, and whose child has passed the age of sixteen years or has died under that age. Clause 21, which is the disqualifying clause, sets out certain events upon which a widow’s right to the pension should be devested, but it makes no reference to the case where the child whom she is maintaining has reached the age of sixteen years or has died younger. It provides, inter alia, that the pension shall not be payable for any period after the pensioner ceases to be resident in Australia, marries or remarries, or, being a deserted wife, ceases to be a deserted wife otherwise than by the death of her husband. No provision is made for the woman who, having been entitled to a pension under paragraph a of clause 13, and whose child has passed the age of sixteen years, or has died before attaining that age, is deprived of the pension. Under clause 25 an allowance of 25s. a week for a period not longer than 26 weeks is provided for, but I suggest that the pension of the widowed mother should continue after the child’s death, or after the child has reached the age of sixteen years, either at the discretion of the Commissioner or definitely if the mother has passed a certain age. In my view, the pension shouldbe continued automatically to a mother who has passed the age of 45 years, even though her child has died or reached the age of sixteen years.
– I am not able to find in the bill any provision which states what course is to be followed in respect of a woman who receives a widow’s pension, when she becomes entitled to receive the old-age pension upon attaining the age of 60 years.
– Clause 33 provides that she shall not be entitled to both.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) A pension shall not be granted to a widow -
– I should like to know whether the Minister intends to provide that a widow who receives a pension under a State act shall be ineligible to receive a pension under this act.
– That the committee has nothing to do with State laws must be obvious. If States continue to operate schemes identical with a Commonwealth scheme, that is their concern, not ours. The Commonwealth cannot compel the States to act in accordance with its desires, or to desist from doing anything.
– Is it intended that widows who receive a State pension shall also receive a pension under this legislation?
– A pension under this act will be payable to those who are eligible to receive it, irrespective of what a State may do.
.- Does not the Commonwealth intend, under its uniform income tax proposals, to make certain grants to the States, from which will be deducted amounts representing the average expenditure by the States over a period of two years in respect of child endowment and widows’ pensions ?
– Only widows’ pensions.
– That answers the question put by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I should like to know what the position will be in respect of widows in New South Wales who will receive increased payments after the passage of certain legislation through the Parliament of that State. I am not sure whether the legislation has yet been passed, but I know that it was introduced in the Legislative Assembly. Is it intended to permit the benefit to be conferred under the Commonwealth Widows’ Pensions Bill to be augmented by the amount payable under the State legislation; or, does the Treasurer intend to deduct from the grant to be made by the Commonwealth to the State not” only the amount actually expended by it in respect of widows’ pensions during the last two years, but also the amount involved in the State legislation at present under consideration ?
– The bills to establish uniform income tax propose that there shall be deducted from the compensation to the State of New South Wales only the equivalent of £ 1 a week in respect of each widow and 5s. a week in respect of the first child.
– Then it would be possible for a widow in New South Wales to receive the benefit of this legislation and also the amending legislation at present before the Parliament of New South Wales?
– The Commonwealth proposal is concerned only with a simple means test - what a widow receives from any source. Payments under State legislation will be taken into- consideration.
– If a widow receives an additional benefit from the State, an equivalent amount will be deducted from what she would otherwise be entitled to receive under Commonwealth legislation.
– If warranted by the amount of income derived, such a deduction would be made.
– I have previously pointed out that the Government of Victoria. through the Charities Board, is able to profit because of payments made under Commonwealth legislation.
– That is true of all States.
– It ought not to be true of any State. Legislation of this kind should contain provision for the protection of the Commonwealth Treasury against State governments obtaining a benefit which this Parliament intended should be enjoyed by children, widows, or other persons. The Minister for Social Services has said that the matter will be raised at a Premiers Conference. That does not satisfy me. I am not assured tha t the Premiers would be in a receptive mood if the Commonwealth should tell them that they must not make such profits. Commonwealth legislation should be so framed that its validity may, if necessary, stand the test of appeal to the High Court.
I should be immensely intrigued to know exactly how the officers who are to administer this act ascertained the number of persons widowed, or likely to he widowed, during a period of five years immediately preceding the date of a claim for a widow’s pension. I said at an earlier stage that it is possible that quite a lot of persons will wish to come to Australia from European countries at the termination of the war. Many of them will be the widows of men killed in the conflict. After a residence of five years in Australia, they will be entitled to claim the benefits of this legislation, whether they were widowed before or after their arrival in this country. Whatever appropriation has been fixed; the Governor-General has been misled; because it is not possible for any official to say what this scheme is likely to cost. What irks me considerably is the thought that a number of refugees who will come to Australia because they think it will provide them with an asylum in which the conditions are much easier generally than they have experienced in the land that gave them birth will obtain an advantage over Australian-born subjects whose husbands happen to be in gaol or are invalid pensioners. I can see no reason why, in respect of future substantial social benefits, those who might never speak our language, but, on the contrary, may congregate in settlements and speak a foreign tongue, should receive better treatment than those of our own kith and kin who have assisted to advance the welfare of this country, and whose parents or grandparents laid the foundations of the prosperity which we of this generation enjoy. Several days have elapsed since I raised this matter on the second reading. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us more than has been vouchsafed to us so far in respect of the probable cost of this bill.
– I understood the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to say that as a. corollary to the uniform taxation we should have uniform social services in Australia, but we have no assurance that the uniform taxation legislation will be passed or that the State Governments will not be able to increase their social services. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) said that the Government would not take into consideration any pensions paid by the States.
– No; I said that we could not dictate to the States what they should or should not do.
– I take it that, if a State continues to pay pensions to widows, those payments will be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Pensions when he applies the means test to applicants for the Commonwealth widows’ pension. It should be laid down definitely that receipt by a widow of a pension from a State shall disqualify that widow from receipt of a pension from the Commonwealth. I, therefore, move -
That in sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (ff), the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (ft) if she is paid a widow’s pension under a widows’ pension act of a State.”.
– That would complicate matters. Any income of a widow, whether it be by way of pension from a State or not, will be taken into consideration under the means test.
– 1 differ from the Treasurer on that point. Some of the
States make an allowance to widows, but they do not describe it as a widows’ pension. The Parliament should make it clear that its intention is that there shall be a uniform widows’ pension throughout Australia. We cannot have uniform taxation unless ultimately we have uniform social services. The only thing to do is to amend the clause in the way I suggest.
. I oppose the proposed amendment, the meaning of which is that, if a widow receives a widows’ pension from a State, no matter what the amount may be, she shall be disqualified from receiving a widows’ pension from the Commonwealth. If that is to be the policy of the Commonwealth Government, it will simply mean that the powers of the State are to be dried up altogether. Is it the policy of this Parliament that the States shall go altogether out of the field of social service? Clause 15 provides that the permissible income from other sources of a recipient of the widows’ pension shall not exceed £32 10s. per annum, and that the annual rate at which the amount of the pension is determined shall be reduced by the amount by which the income exceeds that limit. That is sufficient safeguard, and we should be satisfied and should reject any proposal designed to forbid the States to provide social services. Some writers held that it would be possible for the States to pay an old-age pension at the same time as the Commonwealth Government was paying an old-age pension, but, of course, the States retired from the field when the Commonwealth entered it. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) warns the States off the field of social services altogether.
– -Must that not happen ultimately when we have uniform taxation?
– Not necessarily. I am opposed to uniform taxation, but the proposed amendment merely rubs salt into the wound. It would mean, if agreed to, that the States would never be able to offer anything by way of social benefits to their people. The Commonwealth would provide all social services and the States would be forbidden to provide an auxiliary benefit of the same kind, because, if a widow received 7s. 6d. from a State, sbe would, under the proposed amendment, lose 25s. a week from the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will not agree to amend the clause in the direction desired by the honorable member for Lilley.
– A feature of this legislation which appeals to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) no less than to me, because he referred to it in bis speech, is that it will create a social service uniform throughout the Commonwealth. I am not at all dismayed by the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that the proposed amendment would exclude the State governments from conferring a social service by way of widows’ pensions. I believe that is most desirable.
– But it would not achieve that.
– No, but the honorable member for Bourke was dismayed lest it should. No State persevered with old-age pensions after the ‘Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme was instituted. The State of New South Wales vacated the field of child endowment when the Commonwealth Child Endowment Act was passed. I am sure that the great majority of honorable members and of the community anticipate that there will be a similar result from the passage of this legislation. It is inconceivable, although I admit that it would not be illegal - I support this proposed amendment because I desire to make it illegal - to have operating concurrently in some States, State widows’ pension schemes and a Commonwealth widows’ pension scheme. The situation is made worse in this instance because in New South Wales at present there is a generous widows’ pension, in Victoria one much less generous, and none at all in the other States. I warn the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that unless action along the lines of the amendment be taken the effect on another bill which is to come before us will be serious. Prom the remarks of the Treasurer on Friday last, honorable members generally assumed that it was proposed to adjust the finances as between those States which had certain social services and the Federal Treasury. If, however, we take no steps to prevent New South Wales from running a scheme of widows’ pensions concurrently with the Commonwealth scheme, there will be no justification for making a financial adjustment with New South Wales in that connexion. No one will accuse me of lack of sympathy with widows and orphans, but it is almost Gilbertian to suggest that we should have a Commonwealth scheme of widows’ pensions operating throughout Australia concurrently with a scheme of widows’ pensions operating in certain States, but not all States. I shall support the amendment.
– I shall probably be compelled to support the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). At present there are schemes of widows’ pensions in operation in New South Wales and Victoria, although the basis of the schemes is different. Bills to provide for uniform taxation have been introduced to this Parliament. Should they become law, there will be only one system of income taxation in Australia. With that scheme of uniform taxation in operation, certain moneys would have to be allocated to certain States to pay for State pension schemes. That would mean that the Commonwealth Government would be paying two pensions to widows in New South Wales and Victoria and only one pension to widows in the other States. I emphasize that the whole of the money will have to be found by the Commonwealth once the States vacate the field of taxation. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to accept the amendment.
.- All honorable members are agreed that no citizen of this country should draw a pension on the same qualification from both the Commonwealth and a State.
– No Government would be generous enough to allow it.
– I agree with the principle underlying the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). The pension of a widow in New South Wales under the scheme in operation in that State is 25s. a week, whereas the
Victorian scheme provides for a pension of only 10s. a week. “We must be careful not to deprive a widow in Victoria of her Commonwealth pension of 25s. a week because she receives a pension of 10s. a week from the State. It would be better to accept the limitation included in the bill and recommended by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), namely £32 10s. per annum.
.- The amendment means that a widow who hitherto received a pension from the Government of New South Wales or Victoria would be disqualified from receiving a pension from the Commonwealth.
– No, but she could not have both.
– A widow who has no income but a widow’s pension would be debarred from obtaining from any other source, such as a State government, an amount in excess of £32 10s. a year. As the position is now, a widow in New South Wales or Victoria would be able to receive at least 12s. 6d. a week from the State Government. Before this legislation was introduced into this Parliament, no pensions were paid to widows outside New South Wales and Victoria, so’ that persons who now benefit from the legislation of those States will be in no worse position, relatively, than the persons who will benefit by the addition of this pension to the amount of 12s. 6d. a week. As the bill stands, without the amendment, widows in New South Wales and Victoria will be entitled to receive from the State Government an amountequal to 12s. 6d. a week. I believe that they should be allowed, to have that money. I do not agree that 25s. a week, or even 37s. 6d. a week, is an adequate payment to them.
.- I should not be prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) unless I were satisfied that it had been investigated thoroughly in order to ensure that there would be no unfavorable repercussions. It is unfortunate that, after the announcement of a Commonwealth-wide scheme of widows’ pensions, there should have been introduced into one State parliament a measure to provide for a pension to widows at the same rate as is proposed in this bill. I understand that in New South Wales a widow is entitled to a pension of 25s. a week for herself and 10s. a week for each child. This bill provides for 25s. a week for the widow and 5s. a week for the first child, any other children being covered by the existing scheme of child endowment. That will cause complications. In replying to one honorable member, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that the means test would protect the revenue of the Commonwealth. That is so. The application of the means test will ensure that a widow shall not receive the full Commonwealth pension while she is receiving more than £32 10s. a year from other sources, including any State pension scheme. There is no foundation for the fear which has been expressed by some honorable members that a widow may receive two full pensions. That position cannot arise.
– She can receive one pension and a portion of another pension.
– -Can she receive the Commonwealth pension and draw the permissible excess from a State pension scheme ?
– So far as I am aware, this Parliament has no authority to prevent the States from having widows’ pensions schemes of their own. I do not agree with what has been said about the effect that these pensions will have on the payment by the Commonwealth of compensation to the States under the uniform tax scheme. As- .1 understand the position, the uniform tax scheme provides that the cost of any service taken over by the Commonwealth shall be deducted from the compensation payable to the States.
– The scheme only takes into consideration the cost to New South Wales of paying pensions to widows at the rate, of £1 a week, plus 5s. for each child; it does not allow for any increase of the State pension rate.
– The New South Wales widows’ pension is £1 a week. The State will have that amount deducted from its compensation. If it decides in the year 1942-43 to increase the rate of widows’ pension payable under its own scheme, the Commonwealth cannot be expected to compensate it on that account. Compensation will be payable only in cases where a widow prefers to remain a recipient of the State pension. -Sir Frederick Stewart. - The Minister has told us that a widow may draw both pensions.
– The honorable gentleman has misunderstood the Minister’s statement. As I understand the position, if a widow applies for a Commonwealth pension, the means test must be applied to her. If she is in receipt of a State pension amounting to more than £32 10s. a year - as the New South Wales pension does - she will not be allowed to receive Commonwealth pension in excess of the allowable sum.
– No, she will be allowed to receive the excess.
– That is so. The Commonwealth pension will be reduced by thatamount.
– That is correct.
– Therefore, there can be no duplication of pension payments. However, it willbe possible for a widow to draw a Commonwealth pension and receive from the New South Wales pension scheme any excess to which she may be entitled.
– It will work the other way.
– That maybe so, with the same result. Under the legislation that has been introduced, the ‘Commonwealth will deduct from the compensation payable to the State the amount that has been lifted off the financial shoulders of the State. I am not satisfied that the proposed amendment will give effect to what the honorable member has in mind. In fact, I am not satisfied that there is any need for it at all.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to summarize the position that was discussed before dinner. It is unfortunate that after an announcement had been made that the Commonwealth Government intended to introduce a Commonwealthwide widows’ pension scheme, the Government of New South Wales, which was already administering a widows’ pension scheme, should have chosen to increase its pension rates. Under the amended legislation of New South Wales the widow’s pension will be 25s. a week, with 10s. a week for a child. Under the Commonwealth scheme the payment will be 25s. a week for the widow, and 5s. a week for the first child. I point out, however, that the allowance for the child will not be considered in the application of the means test to a widow claiming a pension. The means test will apply only to the income of the widow herself. Any moneys she receives for her children will be understood to be for the children and not for her. After the passage of this bill widows in New South Wales will be able to choose whether they will apply for a pension under either or both schemes, but the Commonwealth Parliament should be concerned with the effects of this legislation on the Commonwealth as a whole and not with its effects upon New South Wales only. If a widow obtains a State pension and then applies for a Commonwealth pension the Commonwealth authorities will apply to her a means test under which she will he entitled to receive £32 10s. per annum without detriment to her Commonwealth pension. It appears to me to be likely that the widows in New South Wales will apply for the State pension because of the more liberal allowance for children. In that case the Commonwealth authorities would apply a means test under which a widow might be granted a Commonwealth pension of 12s. 6d. a week, giving her 37s. 6d. a week in all. I repeat that any income she may receive in respect of children would be disregarded for the purposes of the means test. If a State government chooses to subsidize the Commonwealth widows’ pension scheme with a scheme of its own, it is not for the Commonwealth to interfere. I cannot support any amendment which will have the effect of imposing a limitation upon what a State government is doing. I believe that the ultimate and, in my view., desirable, effect of this legislation will be the disappearance of the widows’ pension scheme of New South Wales. But we are not likely to ensure equality of social service payments throughout the Commonwealth by refraining from passing such legislation in this Parliament. Our business, as a Parliament, is to provide a uniform Australian widows’ pension scheme. If a State government subsidizes that scheme the matter is beyond the control of this Parliament. The Treasurer has already foreshadowed certain compensation payments in connexion with the uniform income tax legislation that has been introduced into this Parliament. Amongst these will be a deduction from the compensation payable to New South Wales of an amount equal to £1 a week for widows, that being the amount payable under the New South Wales pension scheme during 1941-42. Here, also, payments in respect of children will be disregarded. That deduction will not apply in respect of States where there is no similar widows’ pension scheme. We must face the fact that, after the passage of this bill, a widow in New South Wales may receive a pension of 37s. 6d. a week, whereas a widow in another State may receive a pension of only 25s. a week, although she may have an income of 12s. 6d. a week from some other source. It will, of course, be quite competent for the Governments of States other than New South Wales to supplement the widows’ pension payable by the Commonwealth, although I do not think that that is likely, and I do not lend any support to the suggestion. It is not possible, constitutionally, for this Parliament to interfere with a pension scheme in a State, nor is it desirable that such a course should be followed.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) for reasons which have been plainly stated by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). I have very little to add to what the honorable gentleman said, except that I make it quite clear that in the means test only the income of the widow herself will be taken into account. In that regard the whole of her income will be considered, whether it be income from a State government, or a State superannuation scheme, or a provident fund, or, in. fact, from any source. Income that she may receive for and on behalf of children will not be considered.
– What about income under workmen’s compensation legislation?
– The situation in that regard is not quite on all fours. I am referring to income from State sources, or superannuation or provident funds, or property of any kind. If a widow has an income of, say, 25s. a week from any source other than the Commonwealth widows’ pension scheme it will be considered in fixing her rate of pension. It is a matter for any State government concerned to consider whether, after the passage of this legislation, it will continue any widows’ pension scheme that it may have in operation. It is certainly not for the Commonwealth Parliament to attempt to deprive widows of benefits which they may now enjoy under such legislation. The Government will not be a party to anything of that kind. The principal widows’ pension scheme in operation in Australia at present is administered by the Government of New South Wales, although modest schemes are also in force in Victoria at a cost to that State of about £30,000 a year, and in South Australia at a cost to that State of about £8,000 a year; but this Parliament should not try to interfere in such schemes or in any provident schemes organized by private firms.
– In any case the beneficiaries under those provident schemes pay for the benefits they receive.
– ^Sometimes they do; though I think in no case do they pay fully for the benefits obtained. Almost invariably a contribution, apart from the subscriptions of the beneficiaries is paid by the firm itself. It would create an intolerable situation if the Commonwealth Government interfered in such matters. The insertion of a provision in this bill which would have that effect would bring criticism upon the Parliament. For these reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I understand the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) to contest the statement that there would be a duplication of pensions, and yet to admit that if this bill passes there will be, to some degree, a duplication of widows’ pensions. The committee should attempt to avoid such duplication. The honorable member stated that under the amended New South Wales scheme it would be possible for a widow to receive a pension of 37s. 6d. a week in that State, aggregating the State pension and the amount of pension that would be obtainable from the Commonwealth. Consequently a widow pensioner in New South Wales would be in a much more comfortable position than a widow pensioner in any of the other States.
– Widows in New South Wales are better off in respect of pensions now than are the widows in other States.
-HUGHE S . - My view is that we should not duplicate pensions in this way. As the Government has already introduced certain measures to provide for uniform income taxes throughout the Commonwealth, we are justified in asking that, where practicable, pensions also should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. If we pass this bill we shall offer a direct inducement to States other than New South Wales to introduce widows’ pension schemes in order that benefits available to widows may be uniform in all States. It is not desirable, particularly in wartime when, in my opinion, the country cannot afford such expenditure, that we should offer any such inducement.
The Commonwealth Government has already taken steps in certain directions to avoid duplication of pensions. I direct the attention of honorable members to Statutory Rules 1942, No. 9, covering National Security (War Injuries Compensation) Regulations. Regulation 19 reads -
A pension shall not be granted or payable in respect of the death or incapacity of any person if a pension is payable in respect of that death or incapacity under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920-41 or the Seamens War Pension and Allowances Act 1940. or compensation is so payable under the Naval Defence Act 1910-34, the Defence Act 1903-41, the Air Force Act 1923-39 or the National Security (Civil Defence Volunteers Compensation) Regulations.
The object of the Government, in making that regulation, clearly was to obviate the payment of two pensions to the one person in respect of the same set of circumstances. I admit that, normally, both would be payable by the Commonwealth.
But surely the rule applies equally where one pension would be payable by the Commonwealth and the other by a .State ! I can see no difference; the result would be the same. The amendment is not only sound but also equitable. If adopted, a certain degree of uniformity would be maintained ; consequently, I intend to support it.
.- I support the amendment. It is not to the point to state, as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has done, that other income of a widow will be taken into. consideration under the means test, in determining the amount to be paid under this legislation. The vital principle is whether this committee, in considering for the first time social legislation of this character, which is designed to have uniform application throughout Australia, should, by refusing to adopt the amendment, encourage supplementary provisions on similar lines in the States. If there be agreement upon the principle that widows’ pensions shall be payable throughout the Commonwealth, there must also be agreement upon the hypothesis that the amounts payable are such as should properly be made out of public funds. The cold fact is, that this matter cannot be divorced from the uniform income tax proposals introduced by the Government. These moneys will come from the one source and, at least during the period of the war, from the one governmental source; because the Commonwealth, if its legislation be passed by this Parliament, will be the sole taxing authority. If the amount be a proper one, there can be no justification for any State being able to pay in respect of the same obligation an additional sum, which will vary and have a different incidence in the respective States. If it be not proper, either the committee or the Government should increase it. The matter is governed by simple propositions. The first is, whether this legislation is intended to operate throughout the Commonwealth on the basis of payment to a widow in respect of her needs, in accordance with the maximum sum which this committee considers should be payable out of public funds. If that be answered in the affirmative - apparently it must be - it is idle to contend that any State should then contribute an additional sum in respect of the same obligation. I understand that it is the Government’s desire to seek to have this field of social legislation taken over by the Commonwealth. True, it cannot be taken over immediately ; but, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Hollo way) has said, the Commonwealth desired to enter this field and ultimately to take control of it. That is an objective which I particularly welcome; but 1 cannot see how it may be attained if, concurrently, encouragement be given to supplementary legislation by different States, particularly as one State or another would, in effect, contribute to what would be payable in New South Wales. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has said that he is opposed to supplementary State provisions involving two parallel forms of legislation dealing with the one subject. Although I agree with that, his approach to the matter is different from mine. Refusal to adopt the amendment would encourage such supplementary provisions, and place on them the imprimatur of the committee.
– The honorable member knows that the Commonwealth cannot dictate to the States.
– With great respect, the Commonwealth would not be dictating to the States. For the first time, the Commonwealth is entering this field of social legislation.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member entered it for the first time with child endowment.
– But it did not expect the States to supplement Commonwealth payments.
– For the first time, the Commonwealth is entering a field of social legislation, apparently, with the intention that the States shall concurrently engage in. supplementary legislation in respect of that particular matter. It is amazing that this committee should be considering widows’ pensions at a time when a State legislature also is considering them. My simple approach to the matter is that, if the amount provided in the bill is not what should properly be paid to a widow out of public funds, it should be increased. If, in the view of the Government, it is sufficient, there is no justification for supplementary legislation by any State.
– I support the amendment, because J regard it as particularly bad to draw distinctions between Australians of any class. It would be utterly wrong to give preferential treatment to a woman who happened to be a widow in New South Wales, compared with a widow in Western Australia, South Australia, or any other State. For many years, the system of unification for Australia has been a part of the platform of the Government party. If effect were given to it, there would be only one parliament - a national parliament. That a national parliament would fix differential rates of widows’ pensions in various parts of the Commonwealth is inconceivable. Every effort should be made to have this pension rate uniform throughout the Commonwealth. If the rate be too low, let it be raised and let the Commonwealth pay it, but do not have a mixed rate, whereby widows in one State would receive more than widows in other States. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), have said that, to try to dictate to any State what it should do in regard to social legislation would be intolerable. Such qualms did not exist when bills were brought down to implement a uniform income tax throughout the Commonwealth; because I understand that, if a State levies an income tax, it will not benefit by the compensatory payments to be made by the Commonwealth. In effect, the amendment merely asks for what the Government proposes in relation to State income tax. I can see no reason why the States should not be coerced to the utmost strength of the Commonwealth. For goodness’ sake, let the people realize that this is the National Parliament, and that it intends to do national work! Do not kow-tow to the States, and whine and cry for fear that they will be upset. It is extraordinary that any government with a unification plank in its platform should shilly-shally, and not undertake widows’ pensions solely as a Commonwealth matter, blasting the States out of that field. If the rates are too low, let the Minister raise them; but do not have a bastard rate operating in some portions of Australia compared with other portions.
.- I am strongly opposed to the amendment, which is decidedly unfair. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) lias spoken of blasting the States out of this, that and the other field.
– Only out of this field.
– The States have certain rights, of which they cannot be deprived by honorable members of this Parliament without offering insult to the people in those States. This matter is not concerned with unification. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides for certain considerations. This bill has been brought in to provide for certain other considerations in respect of widows and orphan children. An invalid or old-age pensioner may have an income of 12s. 6d. a week without his pension being varied. I cannot see why a similar principle should not apply in this case. What does it matter to this Parliament whence the income is derived? It is no concern of the Commonwealth if the source be a State widows’ scheme.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be State old-age pension schemes?
– That is an absurd remark. If any State government were to continue a widows’ pension scheme, it would materially assist Commonwealth finances, because any amount received in excess of 12s. 6d. a week would be deducted from the pension payable under this scheme. The coal-miners of Queensland have a pension scheme, to which they make contributions and from which payments are made to the widows of former contributors. Is the Commonwealth to divest those persons of their rights? The Commonwealth Constitution does not permit the Government to filch the rights of the States without the consent of the people. Those who talk about unification should study literature on the subject in order to learn what it means. If the committee carried the amendment it would be acting unfairly to both the States and the Commonwealth.
– I see nothing in the amendment inconsistent with the general attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the States in recent times. If the view of the Government prevails, widows in New South Wales who have no other source of income whatever, and who simply have the widows’ qualification upon which to base their claims, will receive a maximum of 37s. 6d. a week. In Victoria, where a modified State pensions scheme is in operation, widows will receive from 31s. to 37s. 6d. a week. In the other States, the payment will be 25s. a week. That, of course, abrogates all federal sentiment, and prevents similar treatment for all Commonwealth citizens without regard to the artificial State boundaries. But there is also a mechanical difficulty that the Treasury will be called upon to face in connexion with this matter. It, is proposed under the bill that a certain rate of pension shall be paid to a widow with one child. The bill does not provide for the payment of so much for the widow and so much for the child, but it stipulates that there shall be a pension of 30s. a week for the widow and child. How is that provision to be correlated to the New South Wales or Victorian systems under which the provisions for the widow and children are separate and distinct? The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has told us that, in pursuance of the uniform taxation proposals of the Commonwealth, provision has been made for compensation to those States in which social benefits, including the widows’ pension in New South Wales, are being conferred. The Minister intimated that £1,600,000 was proposed to be taken from the New South Wales compensation payment in consideration of the Commonwealth Treasury assuming the obligations provided for under this bill. He said that the amount had been arrived at by calculating the pension at the rate of 20s. a week for the widow, which was the rate prevailing in New South Wales until the last few days. I am not sure that that rate does not still prevail in that State. But, if what has been said in this chamber in the last hour or so comes true, the Commonwealth will not pay 25s. to widows in New South Wales, as would seem to be the case under this bill, nor will it pay 20s. a week as is predicated under the Commonwealth’s uniform taxation proposals. The maximum payment under this legislation to widows resident in New South Wales will he 12s. 6d. a week, and even that sum will be reduced if, as happens in many cases, the widows have income from extraneous sources.
I draw attention to clause 33, which specifically states that no claim for a pension for a widow who is already in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension, will be considered. What justification is there for discriminating between the widows who are now receiving invalid pensions in all States and those who are receiving widows’ pensions in New South Wales and Victoria only? Under the Government’s proposal, a widow in New South Wales is to receive the widow’s pension provided under the State scheme, and is also to have the Commonwealth pension superimposed upon it, with, of course, certain income qualifications. I should like the Minister to attempt to justify that, discrimination. I agree with other speakers that perpetuation of such discrimination is not justified. If 37s. 6d. a week is considered the correct provision for a widow in New South Wales, which contains two-fifths of the population of Australia, let this Parliament be honest and make that the rate for widows throughout the Commonwealth.
.- The position has been well put by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner). The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) interjected that, when this Parliament provided for child endowment, it did not expect the States to continue such payments, but I contend that it did. I well remember the debates, and the fear was expressed that the Sta>te of Victoria, for instance, might cease payment of the allowance that it had granted for children as soon as the Commonwealth child endowment scheme came into operation.
– That referred to children in State institutions.
– No; those children are excluded. The act excludes from the definition of “ child “, a child maintained in an institution, but it does not exclude a child who is boarded out to his own parent or to a foster parent. It was said that as a result of the Commonwealth child endowment legislation the Government of Victoria would cease its child welfare payments. The Minister in charge of that measure stated at the time that that Government did not desire the State governments to act in that way.
– There is a great difference between family endowment and payments under the child welfare system.
– The honorable member is not so much concerned about the amount to be paid to widows as he is about the whole field of social service being reserved to the Commonwealth. According to my reading of the debates in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, that State is not likely to continue the payment of widows’ pensions under the State scheme once that field is occupied by the Commonwealth. That State could do much better for itself than directly compete with the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth could not prevent it. It could pay pensions under certain conditions. It could pay widows’ pensions at an earlier age than that at which they are to be paid under the Commonwealth scheme. If the Commonwealth provided that the pension was to be paid to the childless widow at the age of 50 years, the State could provide that a pension should be paid to the childless widow at the age of 40 years. The State now makes its scheme supplementary to the Commonwealth scheme of invalid and old-age pensions. The New South Wales act provides that, as soon as a widow becomes qualified for an old-age or individual pension, she loses her right to the widows’ pension. What is there to prevent the State from vacating the field now occupied by the Commonwealth and deciding that it will grant the pension to a widow on reaching the age of not 50 years, but 40 years? What was stated as the desideratum by the Opposition was that the States should be driven out of the field of social services altogether, and that, if that were not done, it would reconsider its attitude towards uniform taxation. I think that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said that without qualification. Then, subsequently, in reply to honorable members on their own side, objection was taken by members of the Opposition to widows receiving an extra payment. I do not believe that the widows in New South “Wales will receive 37s. 6d. a week. I cannot conceive of a State overlapping Commonwealth legislation in that way. The States may make their scheme supplementary to that of the Commonwealth. From my study of the New South Wales act, it appears to me that a widow applies for and obtains a pensions certificate. While she holds that certificate, she draws a pension. If she has children under the school-leaving age, in addition to drawing 25s. a week for herself, she gets 10s. a week for each child under the school-leaving age.
– Under the age of fourteen years.
– No, the age may go up to fifteen years in some cases. A widow has not two separate rights under the act. She has not one right to draw a widow’s pension and another separate right to draw an allowance for her children. She gets the allowance for her children because she holds a widow’s pension certificate. If the bill were amended to provide that the Commonwealth pension shall not be paid to a woman who is in receipt of a widow’s pension in New South Wales that would deprive the widow with one child, or with children under the school-leaving age, of the benefit of the payment of 10s. a week. T do not think that that is the intention of any honorable member. I suggest that we are over-anxious to drive the State out of this field altogether. The amendment submitted to the committee is merely provocative. If the scheme provided for in the bill is agreed to, the States will not have enough money to carry out double-banking schemes. If the New South Wales politicians are as astute as I believe them to be, and if they want to grant pensions to widows, I think that they will decide to grant them where the Commonwealth scheme makes no provision for them at all. The tenor of the debates in the New South Wales Parliament, on both sides of the House, seemed to be that New South Wales was getting in before the Commonwealth Government made its declaration, without any intention to compete with the Commonwealth.
– This debate will make it hard for the New South Wales Parliament to get out now.
– I do not wish to make things difficult for New South Wales in that respect. I should like to see pensions paid, at an earlier age than is provided under this bill ; but, in my opinion, the States will not. have enough money to carry on their social services on the same scale as in the past. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson that the amendment should be rejected.
.- A vital principle is involved in the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). We should not coerce the States, or, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) suggested, blast them out of this field; but this Parliament is entitled to legislate as it thinks fit. The honorable member for Lilley is seeking to introduce an entirely new principle into Commonwealth legislation. I remind the committee that invalid and old-age pensions were paid by some of the States before federation and for some years afterwards. Then, in 1908, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and from that year until 1942 no government has sought to amend the Commonwealth act by inserting a provision that no invalid or aged person is entitled to a Commonwealth pension if he or she is in receipt of one from a State. Child endowment has been paid in some States for years past; yet, in 1941, when the Commonwealth Child Endowment Act was passed, no attempt was made to insert in it a provision similar to that which the honorable member for Lilley is now seeking to insert in the Widows’ Pensions Bill. There seems to be a fear lest the States may, in special circumstances, provide additional benefits for widows. If they do, they will, having regard to the uniform tax proposals now before this Parliament, have to answer to their own electors for their action. I hope that the amendment will not be carried, and that the
States will not be unwise enough to do now what they have not done in regard to invalid and old-age pensions or child endowment. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) saw fit to quote Regulation No. 19 under Statutory Rule No. 9 of 1942, which is as follows : -
A pension shall not be granted or payable in respect of the death or incapacity of any person if a pension is payable, in respect of that death or incapacity, under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1941 or the Seamen’s War Pensions an:! Allowances Act 1940, or compensation is s<~ pr Table under the Naval Defence Act 1010-1 ‘>34, the Defence Act 1903-1941, the Air Force Act 1023-1939, or the National Security (Civil Defences Volunteers’ Compensation) Regulations.
All the pensions mentioned there are Commonwealth pensions. It is laid down that the Commonwealth shall not pay compensation twice, nor pay two separate pensions to the same person for the same . disability, but there is nothing to prevent the States from doing what they choose in the exercise of their own powers. I hope that we shall continue to legislate in regard to social services as we have done since 1908, and that we shall refrain from trying to coerce the States. They have their own problems, and should be allowed to attend to their own affairs.
.- Evidently the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) fears that New South Wales may continue to pay widows’ pensions even after this bill becomes law, so that a widow may be drawing a pension from both the State and the Commonwealth. I should say that that is far from the intention of the Government of New South Wales. I am glad that what has been described as the “ means “ test in the New South Wales Act has been omitted from this bill. In the New South Wales legislation the income of children living in a home wa3 regarded, up to 50 per cent., as the income of the mother, and in the case of children living away from home the amount was fixed at 25 per cent, and the assessment of a widow’s pension was arrived at on this basis whether or not the children paid. I have always objected to the principle that children should be made to contribute towards the pension of their parents. Great credit is due to the Government of New
South Wales for having introduced a widows’ pension scheme, and credit is due in particular to Mr. Lang, who was Premier of New South Wales when the measure was brought in. As a matter of fact, the measure was better when it was first passed than it is now, because it has been mutilated by various governments. New South Wales has led the other States in such social legislation as workmen’s compensation, widows’ pensions and child endowment, and has suffered because of its advanced social legislation. Its markets have been flooded by goods manufactured in States where wages are lower and social conditions not so good. I compliment the Government upon having introduced this measure which is long overdue. I was for many years associated with the coal-mining industry, and on more than one occasion it was my unpleasant duty to break the news to women when their husbands had been killed. Widows often had a hard struggle to rear their families. Sometimes their health broke down, and they had to go into hospital. From now on women similarly placed will have the benefit of a pension, and will be able to keep their homes together, and bring up their children in reasonable comfort. Widows’ pensions have been paid in New South Wales for some years, and it is very desirable that a similar scheme should be in force in all the other States. This is an example of humanitarian legislation, and I ask the Government not to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley.
.- I regard the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) as just plain common sense. Although some of those who have opposed it have tried very hard to convince themselves that they are right, I do not believe that they have succeeded in doing so. On other occasions we have heard a good deal from honorable members opposite regarding the desirability of the Commonwealth taking over all social services, of doing away with overlapping as between Commonwealth and State activities, and the desirability of operating on an Australian basis, instead of on a State basis. Nevertheless, some of those honorable members are to-night advocating that the States should be free to enter into competition with, one another in supplementing Commonwealth social legislation.
– We cannot prevent them under the Constitution.
– I have heard the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) say that something should be done to amend the Constitution to make Commonwealth authority all powerful. I believe that widows in all States should be entitled to the same benefits, just as are the aged and invalid, and the recipients of child endowment. I see no reason for differentiation in the case of widows. We must not forget that it is proposed very shortly to make the Commonwealth the sole taxing authority as regards income tax - the Commonwealth to make a grant to the States by way of compensation. Are we to understand that the Commonwealth is to pay such an amount to the States as may enable some of them to supplement the social benefits provided by the Commonwealth? If so, the Commonwealth, and. not the States, would be providing the additional benefits. There is only one common sense basis for social legislation of this kind, and that is to provide that widows shall be treated alike, irrespective of the State in which they live. For that reason I strongly support the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley.
– In the framing of legislation one of the first considerations is to make clear beyond doubt the intention of the legislature, but it appears, from ministerial statements upon the issue before the committee, that it is intended to leave this point indefinite. The Government wants to have it both ways.
The Government thinks that it will be extremely popular in New South Wales, because it will be able to say that, notwithstanding the fact that it instituted a system of widows’ pensions for the whole of the Commonwealth, it has not done anything to prevent the continuance of the system of widows’ pensions operating in that ‘State. The attitude of the Commonwealth in this matter is that it is the authority that should grant pensions. If the States like to duplicate tho Commonwealth’s efforts that i3 their own affair, but they have no standing. It was a very different matter when the very unpopular question of the control of liquor came up for consideration at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Government then said : “ Oh, no ! We leave that matter entirely to the ‘States. It is no concern of ours. We shall not interfere.” We had the spectacle of the Government whip, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), visiting Adelaide on the subject of horse racing. I wish the honorable gentleman had seen what the Stock and Station Journal had to say about him. But on the subject of horse racing the Government’s attitude was, “ That is likely to be unpopular. We won’t interfere. We won’t bring in any federal regulation or law on such matters.” But on the pensions question its attitude is entirely different. In a federation, particularly, one of the aims is division of legislative and administrative responsibility, but we endeavour to dispense with the overlapping to which the honorable member for Gippsland referred. On numerous occasions complaints have been made in this chamber that we have failed to dispense with such overlapping; yet the Government deliberately, with its eyes open, is perpetuating the system.
The laws of this country require an alien to be resident in Australia for five years before qualifying for naturalization, yet under this bill a widow from overseas, provided she complies with other requirements, will become entitled to a pension whether she is naturalized or not after five years’ residence.
– That is not so.
– Under this bill she would become entitled to a widow’s pension whether she is naturalized or not at the end of five years. In other legislation, now before Parliament, the Government says specifically that the State taxation officials, who will be taken over by the Commonwealth, shall not be entitled to both State and Commonwealth superannuation benefits but shall continue to make contributions to a State superannuation fund. To be consistent the Government must say that they shall be entitled to participate in the State superannuation scheme, if they like, and shall also be entitled to participate in the Commonwealth scheme.
Is it the intention of the Minister to pay to a widow of a soldier a widow’s pension in addition to the pension to which she is entitled under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act?
– Why not?
– That is the point. If it be just that the State of New South Wales shall have the right to supplement widows’ pensions payable under this legislation what will the Ministry do about the widows of soldiers? The Minister will have only one answer, namely, that the Government does not intend to allow soldiers’ widows to draw an additional pension under this measure. It is, therefore, the bound en duty of the committee to make clear to the taxpayers and to the States the intention of the Commonwealth legislature. One of the important points of the Australian Constitution is that when services and responsibilities are taken over by the Commonwealth, State services and responsibilities cease. When this Parliament passes a law in regard to banking, insurance, divorce or any other matter listed in the schedule of powers contained in section 51 of the Constitution, the corresponding .State law ceases to operate. Parliament must lay it down that a widow’s pension is to be paid only to certain widows with certain qualifications and exempt from disqualification. The amendment provides that a pension shall be payable to any widow who is not paid a pension under the act of a State.
– It still leaves it open for a State to pay pensions to widows, but it debars a widow from collecting two pensions. It conditions the Commonwealth payment.
– Yes. I say to the Minister and his supporters that it is not the intention of the Commonwealth to allow widows to draw a pension from the Commonwealth as well as from a State. So, what is wrong with expressing the intention in this bill ? The Government’s refusal to accept the amendment leaves it open to suspicion. When we are asking for so many things these days, it ill-becomes any government, even in a measure of this description, to try to obtain full credit throughout Australia for having introduced a scheme of widows’ pensions and special credit in New South Wales. A cry which dominates every federal election campaign in that State is : “ At any rate, whatever we did as a Commonwealth we did not interfere with what the tiger did in New South Wales.”
.- The Opposition is fighting shadows. There is no indication that New South Wales will persevere with its scheme of widows’ pensions. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) fears that, unless the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) be inserted in the bill, there will be competition amongst the States in providing social service. What are the facts? Widows’ pensions were introduced in New South Wales in 1925. The only other Australian State with any semblance of a widows’ pension scheme is Victoria, which operates a scheme on a very limited scale. There has been no competition amongst the other States to bring their social legislation up to the standard of New South Wales.
– I said, not that there would be competition, but that there might be.
– The honorable gentleman is still beating the air, because New South Wales is the only State which has what could be termed a full-fledged scheme of widows’ pensions. Who has ever heard an honorable gentleman opposite advocate, in the interests of uniformity, that the other States should fall into line with New South Wales and institute widows’ pensions? Under this bill a widow may earn up to 12s. 6d. a week without impairing her right to a widow’s pension, but honorable members opposite object to the thought of her receiving that 12s. 6d. from a State government. To be consistent, honorable members opposite must, irrespective of the possible sources of income, object to a widow receiving anything but a pension. I remind the committee that immediately the Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation for the payment of child endowment, New South Wales, the only State then paying child endowment, vacated the field.
– The same result followed the proclamation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– Yes. Once the Commonwealth takes over a. responsibility the States are only too glad to relinquish such responsibility.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) argued that, since invalid and old-age pensions are uniform throughout Australia, a widow’s pension ought also to be uniform throughout the Commonwealth and saw in the amendment a means whereby to achieve that uniformity. Commonwealth social legislation is introduced on the assumption that conditions in each -State are equal, but honorable members cannot hoodwink themselves that conditions do not vary as between States.
– The honorable member is splitting hairs.
– How does the honorable member explain why the Commonwealth basic wage varies as between the States ? I cannot be accused of splitting hairs. If we had unification, every piece of social legislation would have to contain a provision similar to that contained in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for adjustments to be made in accordance with the rise or fall of the cost of living in the different States. But we have not unification, and under the present conditions I do not see how I can logically support the amendment.
– The honorable member cannot logically oppose it.
– I have laid the basis for a very logical argument against the amendment. I point out. again that we have made provision in our industrial legislation for varying factors within the various States. The Commonwealth has accepted the principle of variations within the States, and therefore, when fixing the basic wage it takes into consideration factors within the States, and either increases or decreases the industrial rate accordingly. The ideal is an equitable widow’s pension throughout the Commonwealth, but that ideal has not yet been reached.
– If the honorable gentleman is correct about variations, the only way to put matters right is for the Commonwealth to make such variations as would meet the case of each State.
– I was coming to that point. Although I cannot possibly support the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) because it would not improve the position, I suggest that the committee should give serious consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland that provision be made to vary the pension so that it would apply equally in all the States. If that were done, I am confident that no honorable member would oppose it.
– What attitude did the honorable member adopt in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions?
– That legislation was on the statute-book before I entered Parliament. Like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who, no doubt, has frequently been confronted with a fait accompli, I accepted the inevitable. Honorable members who are aiming at uniformity throughout the Commonwealth can achieve that objective by means other than those suggested by the honorable member for Lilley. If a rate of pension is decided upon without taking into consideration the factors which I have mentioned, some persons in the community will be placed at a disadvantage compared with others. I cannot support the amendment, but I ask the Minister to give consideration to the suggestions that I have made. The sooner we realize that unification is inevitable and take steps to meet such, a situation, the better it will be for tile Commonwealth.
– Why not take one step along with the honorable member for Lilley?
– His proposal will not get us very far.
– I cannot but wonder what has happened during the last 24 hours to cause honorable members who until yesterday were fa.vora.ble to this measure to try to defeat it to-day. For the last twenty years, the States have tried to lay the basis for a scheme of widows’ pensions on a Commonwealth basis because they were agreed that it was a matter for the National Parliament. They hoped that, by refraining from introducing such legislation themselves, some Commonwealth government would be induced to do so. The BrucePage Government went so far as to appoint a commission which travelled all over Australia and examined witnesses in every State, involving the country in great expense. Some present members of this Parliament gave evidence before that body, but no scheme of widows’ pensions emerged. At last, New South Wales refused to wait any longer; it decided to introduce legislation providing for pensions to widows in that State, although legislators in the State parliament believed that it was a matter for the Commonwealth. Later, for similar reasons, New South Wales introduced its own scheme of child endowment. When a scheme providing for child endowment was introduced into this Parliament it was suggested that a coercive clause, under which the Commonwealth would be authorized to dictate to the States, should be inserted. With the enactment of Commonwealth legislation providing for child endowment, New South Wales gave up its own scheme. That the same result can confidently be expected in connexion with this legislation honorable members opposite are well aware. Why have some of the most astute politicians on the other side of the chamber seized upon this particular piece of legislation to cause dissension between the Commonwealth and the States? If ever there was a time when political unity and harmony was desirable in the Commonwealth, it is to-day.
– The Government’s proposals for uniform taxation are not producing harmony.
– The States would be delighted to see the amendment of the honorable member for Lilley incorporated in this legislation.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who is one of the most evenly-balanced men in this Parliament, must know that, the carrying of the amendment would amount to an insult to the Parliament of New South Wales. It would be a reckless thing to do, particularly at this time, and the Government will not allow it to be done. I am confident that with the passage of this legislation New .South Wales will discontinue its scheme of widows5 pensions just as it relinquished its child endowment scheme with the passing of Commonwealth legislation providing for child endowment.
– What is the reason for the activity shown in New South Wales in connexion with this matter?
– Probably the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was formerly the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, has a good idea of the reason. I urge the committee to reject the amendment, because it is both illogical and inopportune. It cannot do any good, and it may do a lot of harm. No State government would be bound by it, but some people who would benefit from this scheme would be placed in a false position. The carrying of the amendment would certainly lead to discord in the community, and therefore the Government cannot consider accepting the amendment, which is wrong from every point of view.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that the proposal of the Government would enable an alien who had been resident in Australia for five years, but had not become naturalized, to receive a pension. The honorable member for Barker, in whose electorate there are many aliens, should know that aliens are not entitled to a widow’s pension. I ask the honorable member for Lilley to withdraw his amendment, because it cannot achieve the purpose which he has in mind. The Commonwealth Government will continue with its policy of providing economic and social security by means of legislation, and whilst it hopes that the States will continue to co-operate with it to that end, it will not attempt to coerce them.
.- Whatever may be the result of this debate, it will at least serve one good purpose, in that it will make clear to the people of Australia that the Commonwealth is moving towards uniform social conditions throughout the whole of its territory. Uniform taxation proposals presuppose uniform social conditions. The committee which was appointed to consider whether the Commonwealth should be the sole taxing authority in the field of income tax for the duration of the war stated in its report -
If, during the war, the Commonwealth should decide to provide uniformly for the whole of Australia a social service provided at present by some or all of the States such, e.g., as widows’ pensions, .the Commonwealth should use the machinery set out earlier in the report to effect a reasonable reduction from the income tax compensation paid to those States relieved from the cost of providing such a service. [ agree that that paragraph supports what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said earlier this evening,, but I draw attention to another paragraph of the report in which the committee said that, in order to preserve flexibility, the following formula should be adopted: -
A State may submit a claim to the Commonwealth that its financial circumstances arc such as to warrant an increase in the amount of compensation for any financial year subsequent to 1042-43.
That recommendation means that, ultimately, the Commonwealth must accept the financial responsibilities of the States. Why is it that the Commonwealth Government, in opposition to the desires of the State governments, intends to introduce uniform taxation proposals? The reason is, not that the proposal is popular, but that financial necessity compels the Commonwealth to do so. It is being done to assure an equitable distribution of the burden of taxation throughout Australia. If taxes are to be spread equitably over the whole community, the members of the community should share equitably in the distribution of benefits .paid .for out of taxation. Those who make equal contributions to revenue .should share equally in social services. The clause as it stands will enable a widow in New South Wales to receive £97 1.0s. a year, whereas in any other State a widow will not be able to draw more than £65 a year. There is no equity in that. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that the time has come for us to adopt a true national outlook in these matters. I was amused at the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who said unblushingly that he was a supporter of unification. I remind him that, under unification, widows would receive the same rate of pension whether they lived in Darwin or Hobart.
– No. Rates would vary in different localities.
– I make no apology for this amendment, and I assure the Minister that I have consulted nobody in connexion with this matter. As a matter of fact, the honorable gentleman knows that I have already expressed to him privately my strong opinions in favour of introducing a uniform system of social services throughout the Commonwealth. I am a great supporter of uniform taxation,, but I am not prepared to subscribe to that policy unless, at the same time, we have a scheme of uniform social services.
.- I draw special attention to a point that has received too little emphasis in this debate; in fact, only one honorable gentleman has referred, to it. I am afraid that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) has not grasped fully the fact that under this bill £1 5s. a week is not regarded as- an adequate widow’s pension. Taking the various clauses in conjunction, it is clear that the measure contemplates £1 17s. 6d. a week as the minimum income on which a widow can live, and towards- that amount the Commonwealth is prepared to contribute £1 5s. a week. A widow may have an income of 12s. 6d. a week from other sources, but that will not be taken into account in computing the rate of pension payable to her. She may derive her 12s. 6d. a week from rents, contributions from relatives or friends, or in the form of board and lodging which she may receive to that value. The same principle applies to the New South Wales widows’ pensions scheme. If a widow in New South Wales has an income from rents of 12s. 6d. a week, and is entitled to receive the State widows’ pension, this bill will permit her to receive, in the aggregate, an income of £1 17s. 6d. a week. A widow in Western Australia receiving 12s. 6d. a week from rents is also entitled to a total of £1 17s. 6d. a week. It does not matter to the Commonwealth where the widow in New South Wales obtains her non-pension income.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added beso added (Mr. Jolly’s amendment).
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added: - “ (fi.) A pension shall not be granted to a widow, being a deserted wife, unless the widow has taken such action as the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner considers reasonable to obtain maintenance from her husband.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 (Rate of pension).
.- Provision is made in this clause for the payment of a pension at the rate of £65 per annum to a widow who is not maintaining a child under 16 years of age, and is not less than 50 years of age, and of £78 per annum to a widow who is maintaining one or more children. The extra £13 per annum is calculated at the rate of 5s. a week, and in that respect the provision is in accord with the provision for each child after the first child made in the Child Endowment Act. The amount of 5s. a week is, in my opinion, too small. Under child welfare schemes in operation in various States a larger amount is provided for the first child. In Victoria, for example, 10s. a week is provided for the first child. If this clause is passed without amendment a widow with one child will receive a pension of 25s. a week for herself and 5s. a week for her child. She will also be permitted to earn 12s. fid. a week. Therefore she will have £2 2s. 6d. a week on which to maintain herself and her child. Children are an expensive item these days, particularly if they are sickly. The cost of children’s clothing and footwear is extraordinarily high. 1 know that from my experience with my own family. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) told me a day or. two ago that his wife had recently visited a city store in order to buy a pair of pyjamas for a lad four years old. The only pair offered to her was marked 24s. 6d. She went to other stores to try to purchase a less costly pair but could not obtain a pair at any price. I mention this to indicate the cost of children’s clothing. I suggest that a larger sum should be provided for the first child with, perhaps, a diminishing amount for succeeding children, until a static sum is reached. It is highly desirable in these days that everything possible should be done to assist the mothers of families. Whilst the mother of a family of several children, or a mother with a child beyond tender years, might be able to go out and earn 12s. 6d. a week, I do not think that any honorable member would desire that the mother of an infant should be obliged to go out to work. We should be doing everything in our power to encourage family life, and to assist mothers to rear their children under reasonable conditions. We must make the preservation of child life our greatest care. Provision is made in widows’ pensions schemes in Germany, France and Italy for a larger payment in respect of the first child of the family. A diminished amount is provided for the second child and the rate is varied for successive children until the static figure is reached. That principle is also followed in widows’ pensions schemes in other countries. It may be argued that the Government desires to achieve uniformity in payments for children, but I can see no reason why we should slavishly follow uniformity in this case. There are reasons why widows with children should be given even more sympathetic consideration, perhaps, than old-age pensioners. Widows have a heavy responsibility in the rearing of their children and in discharging it they are performing an invaluable service to the State. Ministers who are receiving more than £2,000 a year as well as other valuable privileges including travelling expenses at the rate of £2 12s. 6d. a day, and private members of the Parliament, who receive an allowance of £1,000 a year, are far removed from the struggles and adversities of the average person in the community, and they should not deal with claims of widows in a niggardly way. It may be said that money is not available to make higher payments than those provided in the bill, but I remind honorable members that the Government is able to provide about £1,000,000 a day for war expenditure. The full cost of this pension scheme is estimated at £1,600,000 per annum. If, say, £200,000 per annum be added to the cost in order to provide more liberal payments for the first child of a widow, the money would be wisely expended. It certainly would not be wasted. I do not think any one will deny that quite a substantial sum of money is being wasted in defence expenditure these days. Money is also being wasted in expenditure on munitions. Perhaps some waste in these matters is unavoidable. My point is tha t we could well make an additional sum available to assist widows to bring up their children with profit to the nation. If we can finance the war in so liberal a way, we should also be able to finance social services. We should not hesitate to provide money for social services, because of any fear of th( future. We hope that we shall pass from this war into a new social order and a new financial system. Consequently the yardsticks of the past will not be the yardsticks of the future. I impress upon the Minister for Social Services the importance of making adequate provision for the maintenance of children.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 - (1.) Where a pension is granted, it shall be paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the date so determined shall not, subject to this section, be prior to the date on which the claim for pension was made.
Mr. ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [9.57 J. - I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the words “ prior to the date “ the following words be inserted : - “ or later than the pay day next succeeding the date “.
The clause would then provide that in the case of a claim for pension being approved the first payment would be made as from the first pay day after the date of the claim. I am aware that the clause, as it stands, is in accordance with a similar provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but that provision has not proved to be satisfactory. We all have known of instances of serious delay in the granting of pensions. Sometimes some delay is inevitable, but when the delay is due to no fault of the claimant, the claimant should not have to suffer. If it should take six or eight weeks to reach a favorable decision on a claim, for a pension, the claimant should receive her first payment from a date not later than the first pay day after the application was lodged. That appears to me to be a reasonable provision. I appreciate the difficulties in granting pensions from dates which would involve broken pay periods. My amendment would avoid any such trouble but would ensure that pensioners would not have to suffer for delays for which they were not responsible. I appreciate the difficulty of setting up a department of this sort. I realize that the administration of this act, in addition to the Child Endowment Act and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, will add enormously to the work of the department, and that many delays may be occasioned by reason of understanding on account of war conditions. I should not blame the department for such delays; but an applicant for a pension should not suffer in consequence.
– I understand what the honorable member is endeavouring to ensure. The clause is intended to achieve the object that he desires. In order to overcome certain difficulties, and to meet complicated situations such as the birth of a child or the death of a husband, which may mean that the mother or the widow may not be in a fit state of mind to make application quickly enough, the Commissioner is to be given the power to antedate for a period of three months. I shall accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 (Payment of pensions).
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne [10.3].- Sub-clause 2 provides that a pension shall be paid in such manner as is prescribed. I should like the Minister to say whether it is intended that, under the regulations to be issued under this section, a pension may be paid to the credit of a pensioner’s Savings Bank account if the recipient so desires?
– So far as I know, that is not done in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions.
– It has been the practice in relation to child endowment payments, and the Government wishes to encourage it in connexion with this proposal.
– I am glad to hear that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 (Pension to cease in certain circumstances).
.- This clause sets out the conditions upon which payment of the pension shall cease, but does not provide that a woman under 50 years of age who has been receiving a pension because she has been maintaining a child under the age of sixteen years, shall lose it. There does not appear to be any clause which makes such express provision. I suggest to the Minister that the pension should not be devested from the widow in such circumstances, and that something be done on the lines of section 38 of the New South Wales Widows’ Pensions Act 1928-1941, which provides that the right to, or the amount of, a pension shall not be affected during any period covered by a pension certificate, by reason merely of the fact that a child of the pensioner has, within that period, attained the school-leaving age, or by reason merely of the death of a child of the pensioner. Under the New South Wales scheme, the widow applies for a pension certificate. She may qualify for it because she is over 50 years of age and childless, or because, although she is under 50 years of age, she has a child. If, after she has obtained the pension certificate, the child should die, or pass the school-leaving age, she does not, by reason of that fact, lose the pension.
– What is the term of the certificate?
– Apparently, until it is cancelled.
– The pension is to cease when the child reaches sixteen years of age.
– The clause does not say so.
– Provision is made in clause 4.
– Clause 4 provides that that is a condition of obtaining a pension. The clause that I am now discussing, which contains the conditions upon which the pension right shall be lost, does not provide that it shall be lost by reason of the fact that the child has died or has reached the age of sixteen years. I suggest that this matter be favorably reconsidered, and that provision be made on the lines of the New South Wales section for the continuance of the pension, or that the Minister adopt the suggestion made this afternoon by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and myself, that the widows’ pension shall not be interrupted merely because her child has reached the age of sixteen years or has died. That seems to be what the bill contemplates, although it does not expressly make that provision. If a child in respect of whom a widow is receiving a pension should die or reach the age of sixteen years, the pension is to cease. That is not how the New South Wales act appears to deal with the matter. I should like further consideration to be given to it.
. - I support the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I see some ambiguity in the position of a woman whose child attains the schoolleaving age or dies. The matter might be cleared up in the manner I suggested when dealing with clause 4.
– I understand the aim of the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Flinders (Mr. Ryan). The matter is more difficult than they have inferred. A widow with one child, of whatever age she may be, is to become entitled to a widow’s pension. She may be only 20, 21, or 22 years of age at the death of her child. The general impression is, that she should fit into a profession or an industry. If not able to do so, she could obtain help from some other source. Surely it is not suggested that all widows, whatever may be the state of their health or mentality, need a widow’s pension !
– Alternatively, all pensions should cease, whether the widows are able to work or not.
– If unable to work through invalidity, they become entitled to the invalid pension. The Government’s view is, that a widow with a child is handicapped, and that when the child reaches the age of sixteen years its dependence on the mother ceases and it is able to engage in industry or a profession. The position of the widow then is not the same as it was previously. The Government considers that a healthy widow, 50 years of age, without encumbrance, may not be in need. Any one can visualize a first and only child dying when the mother is at an early age. There are thousands of such cases. There is a gap, I admit, which may be bridged when the act is made more nearly perfect. The honorable member for Bourke realizes that absolute perfection is not possible, and that what appear to be anomalies are always revealed. These two groups of widows are being fairly dealt with for a start. The adoption of the proposal of the honorable member would open the gate to much more than they have mentioned. The matter has been closely studied by the Government. Widows are of all ages. Provision is made in respect of group 0, because of the possibility of a young married woman losing her husband before the birth of the first child. The Government is able to visualize the difficulty in which such a widow would be placed. It is not suggested that she would never return to industry but, on the contrary, it is hoped .that she will return to the profession, trade or craft in which she was engaged before marriage. The belief is held that she should be nursed for a period of six months after the bereavement so as to enable her to think properly.
– Would it not be possible to give .to the Commissioner discretionary power to deal with cases of hardship, such as widows of the age of 45 years?
– That cannot be done under this clause.
Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [10.13’J. - The Minister thought that he had disposed of my point by saying that, a woman who was unable to work would receive an invalid pension. That does not f ollow. “ Unable to work “ does not necessarily mean physically unable; she might be unable to obtain employment. A woman who has given up remunerative work in order to marry and become a wife and mother, is not so easily employable as a widow. There would probably be no prospect for such a woman other than some badly paid form of daily household employment. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has suggested what would probably be the best course - that in the case of a woman of a fixed age, or, for that matter, any widow, the Commissioner should have the discretionary power to continue the pension indefinitely or for such time as he .thought would meet the circumstances. It would be very hard for a woman- passing through the very trying period of the middle forties to find that her pension had suddenly been stopped by reason of the fact that a child in respect of whom she had been receiving it had died.
– She would be no worse off than the average spinster in such circumstances.
– She would be a lot worse off, because the average spinster would have been working during the whole of her lifetime. She did not give up her career to become a mother, and she has much better prospects than a widow.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 and 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 (Cancellation, &c, of pension).
– This clause gives to the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner very wide powers. At any time he may cancel, suspend or reduce any pension if he considers it expedient to do so. The clause provides that any decision by a Deputy Commissioner shall be subject to an appeal to the Commissioner, but apparently there is no appeal to the Minister. A strong Commissioner would tell the Minister that he had no right to interfere in such a matter, if an attempt were made to exert undue political influence. Provisions making the Railways Commissioner immune from ministerial direction were included in the various railway acts of the States in order to protect the commissioners against the exercise of political influence. I do not know why this clause has been inserted. The provisions of clause 36 seem to be sufficiently wide. It provides that where the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner is satisfied that it is expedient that payment of any instalments of pension or allowance payable to a widow should be made to some other person for the benefit of the pensioner, payment may be authorized accordingly.
– Clause 5 provides that the Director-General shall, subject to any direction of the Minister, have the general administration of the act. An appeal by a dissatisfied person to the Director-General would be considered, even though the Commissioner had rejected it.
– A similar provision is contained in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– But should it not be explicitly stated that there shall be an appeal to the Minister or to the DirectorGeneral. The position of Director-General is a newly created one, and it seems to me that sufficient attention has not been given to the line of demarcation between the powers of the Commissioner and of the Director-General. Is the Commissioner to be subject generally to the authority of the Director-General? Would there be any objection to providing that any decision of a Deputy Commissioner shall be subject to an appeal, in the time and in the manner prescribed, to the Commissioner, and, in a case where the Commissioner has disapproved, to the Minister ?
– If appeals to the Minister were permitted there would be no end to them.
– Then, in my opinion, clause 36 should suffice.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 (Allowances to certain widows).
– This clause is taken in substance from the New South Wales act, and I offer two criticisms of it. It is not so generous as the provision contained in the New South Wales measure as recently amended. The clause as it stands, and as the New South Wales act stood before the recent amendment, provides that a widow not maintaining a child and less than 50 years of age, but still, in the opinion of the department, in necessitous circumstances, may, at the discretion of the department, get a pension for a period of not longer than 26 weeks immediately after the death of her husband. The New South Wales Parliament has inserted in the State act a provision that where, at the end of 26 weeks, it still appears to the Deputy Commissioner that the widow is in necessitous circumstances, he may grant the payment of the pension for a further period of 26 weeks, but not more than twelve months in all. I submit that proposal for the favorable consideration of the Minister. My second criticism is that the benefit of this clause is not extended to the widow who loses her pension by reason of the fact that her child has died or has reached the age of sixteen years. I suggest that the benefit of this clause be extended to widows in that class, and that if they cannot have their pension continued, it should be within the power of the Commissioner to grant to them the temporary allowance provided for in this clause. That would necessitate a redrafting of the clause.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). The clause might well be widened to give to the Commissioner greater power with regard to the period for which discretionary payments might be made. I also suggest that such payments be made to widows who, having been left childless, have formed alliances, perhaps of only of a temporary character, with the result that children have been born of the union. Such women might be deserted by the fathers of their illegitimate children, but they would have no claim to payment in respect of those children. The mothers may be left in necessitous circumstances, but, under the hill as it stands, they would not be regarded as entitled to a pension. In such cases, a discretion should be given to the Commissioner to make payments from time to time to such women until they could obtain employment, particularly during the first few years after the birth of the illegitimate children. If the Minister is not prepared to consider an amendment along those lines at this stage, I hope that he will do so later.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 (Allowance to cease in certain circumstances) .
– I suppose that this clause will have to be agreed to as it stands, but I hope that the Minister will be able to make reciprocal arrangements with the governments of New Zealand and other dominions so that it will be possible to delete subclause 2 of this clause, which provides that an instalment of an allowance shall not in any event be sent to any person outside Australia. I am not well informed as to whether success was achieved in the direction of concluding reciprocal arrangements with New
Zealand, or any other country, with regard to invalid and old-age pensions but it is unfortunate that people coming to Australia from New Zealand have to live here for twenty years before they become entitled to the old-age pension. I presume that widows from New Zealand will have to reside in this country for five years before they will be entitled to the benefit of this bill. .1 believe that, although New Zealand is close to Australia, no reciprocal arrangements have been m,ade with that country with regard to pension payments, and that even New Zealand 2s. pieces are not legal tender in the Commonwealth. Although Australia’s High Commissioner in London negotiates reciprocal arrangements regarding many matters with Great Britain, it seems anomalous that very few such agreements have been entered into between the Commonwealth and the sister dominion of New Zealand. An approach should be made to the Government of New Zealand, at any rate, in an endeavour to reach a reciprocal agreement in regard to invalid, old-age and widows’ pensions and child endowment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Payment of pensions and allowances to other persons).
– Is it the opinion of the Minister that any person who feels aggrieved because of the action of the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner should ultimately have a right of appeal in such a way as would enable the Minister to give a direction on general principle? In clause 24, there is a right of appeal from a Deputy Commissioner to a Commissioner, but there is no provision in this clause for a similar appeal. In the cause of uniformity such provision should be made.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 (Suspension of pension or allowance while recipient in hospital for the insane).
– I cannot allow this clause to pass without making a further appeal to the Minister to remove an injustice. This clause provides that the pension of a widow shall cease when she enters a mental hospital, and this applies, not only to the pension of 25s. payable to the pensioner herself, but also to whatever allowance she may receive in respect of her children. A widow who enters a general hospital will continue drawing her pension, and the same applies to one who enters an institution such as an eventide home. Therefore, I cannot understand why this discrimination should be practised against the widow unfortunate enough to enter a mental hospital. I know that it is argued that the maintenance of mental hospitals is a matter for the States, but until recently the same was said of widows’ pensions. It is also claimed that people, as a rule, stay in general hospitals for only a short while, whereas they usually stay in a mental hospital for a long time. However, they also stay in eventide homes for a long time, generally for the remainder of their life. Again, it is claimed that it would be impracticable for a mentally afflicted person to receive the pension. That is true, but in clause 36 it is provided that, in certain circumstances, the pension may be paid, not to the pensioner herself, but to some person approved by the Commissioner. The same could be done in the case of an inmate of a mental hospital.
– In clause 36, it is provided that the pension shall be paid to some person other than the pensioner in the event of the pensioner’s “ infirmity, ill-health, insanity or improvidence “. ‘ Sir FREDERICK STEWART. - Presumably that applies to the case of an insane widow who continues to reside in her own home, so why should it not also apply to the widow who is so unfortunate as to have to go into an institution for the insane? I am not permitted under the standing orders to move an amendment, but I suggest to the Minister that he remove this anomaly. I know that if the suggestion were accepted, there would be reactions in other spheres, but that would not deter me. As a matter of fact, there is every reason why justice should be done in those other cases also.
– I support the proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). Clause 36 is taken from the New South Wales act, and pro vides that the pension may be paid to some person nominated by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner should the pensioner herself be insane. Nothing in the nature of clause 37 appears in the New South Wales act, and there is no need for it in this bill, either. It should be deleted, leaving clause 36 to cover the case of an insane widow, whether she be an inmate of a mental hospital or not
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 43 agreed to.
Clause 44 (Acquisition of property and receipt of income to be notified).
– Is there a similar provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– Yes, it was included in the last amending bill.
– Then I am satisfied.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 45 agreed to.
Clause 46 - (3.) In any proceedings for an offence against this section the burden of proving the truth of the statement in respect of which proceedings have been instituted, or the genuineness of the document presented, shall rest upon the person accused.
. –The penalty prescribed in this clause, namely, £50 or imprisonment for six months, seems unnecessarily severe. In clause 44 a maximum penalty of £10 is prescribed for certain offences, and in another clause the penalty of £50 was reduced to £20. I suggest that the Minister should agree to a reduction of the penalty in this clause.
– Why shelter people who deliberately make false representations ?
– Quite recently, Myer Emporium robbed the people of £250,000. The firm was not prosecuted, but only made to refund an amount equal to that overcharged. If that logic were applied, we should be content with making offenders under this clause refund the money and then forget about it.
– This provision would seldom be enforced.
– I do not trust the judgment of police magistrates. Some of them are just as irascible and temperamental as honorary justices.
– The penalty provided in this clause is inordinately severe. It is easier to prove an offence under Commonwealth legislation than it is under the New South Wales act. For instance, this clause provides that any person who makes a false or misleading statement in support of a claim, either for himself or for any other person, shall be guilty of an offence. In order to obtain a conviction under the New South Wales act it must be proved, not only that the statement was false, but that it was wilfully made. That means that the accused person must have known :it the time he made the statement that it was false. I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Draftsman, having the New South Wales act before him, omitted that provision. The clause also provides that proceedings may be commenced at any time within three years after the commission of the offence, whereas the New South Wales act provides that proceedings may be taken at any time within six months of the facts coming to the notice of the Registrar. That means that all the Commonwealth has to do is produce the document and say, “ We say that this is false ; it is for you to prove that it is true, and, if you do not prove to the satisfaction of the magistrate that it is true, you shall be guilty of an offence and shall be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment, or fined up to £50 and also have to repay whatever amount the magistrate says you owe to the Commonwealth “. The burden of proof is not cast upon the accused by the act of New South Wales.
– The next clause provides that the Minister must give h’s consent in writing to any prosecution.
– -If the honorable gent lem ?n had had any experience of the way in which Ministers authorize prosecutions, he would not regard that provision as a safeguard. The Minister does not consider whether a person ought to be prosecuted : he acts on the advice of his officers. T move -
That sub-clause (3.) be loft out.
Mr. MORGAN (Reid) rin.46”). - I SUpport the contention of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that the onus of proof should not be thrown on the defendant. The corresponding section of the widows’ pension legislation of New South Wales provides that before the making of a false statement is rendered punishable the act must have been wilful. Under this legislation, however, all the Crown has to do is to aver that a false statement has been made. The onus of disproof is thrown on the defendant. That is contrary to all the principles of British justice. Unfortunately, however, the tendency in Commonwealth legislation seems to be to throw the onus of proof on the defendant. That is a tendency which ought not to be countenanced especially ‘where widows are concerned. It would be quite conceivable that a distracted widow could unwittingly make a false statement and thereby render herself liable to all the penalties of this provision.
– The corresponding section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act contains the word “ wilfully “. It contains no provision whereby the burden of proof is on the accused. The draftsman must have had the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act before him. It is curious that he departed from the provisions of that act to the detriment of the accused in every respect but one, the exception being a penalty of £100 instead of £50 for making a false declaration. The prescribed term of imprisonment is the same as that prescribed in this measure, namely, six months.
– I believe that on the honorable member’s own argument that section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was amended when it was passing through committee.
– I have never supported such a clause as this and I do not propose to start now.
– I shall accept the amendment. I do not like the paragraph myself. In the history of federation there has never been a case of a prosecution under such a provision as is contained in this clause and I hope that there never will be.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 50 agreed to.
New clause 33a.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That after clause 33 the following new clause be inserted: - “33a. - (1.) The maximum rate of pension per annum and the rate of allowance per week shall be reviewed in each quarter (commencing with the quarter ending on the thirtieth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two) by the Commissioner, who shall then determine the maximum rate of pension and the rate of allowance which shall apply from and including the due date of the first instalment of pension or allowance in the next succeeding quarter, in accordance with the following provisions of this section. “ (2.) If the price index number exceeds 1053 the maximum rate of pension per annum specified in paragraph (a-) or (b) of subsection (1.) of section fifteen of this act shall be increased by One pound six shillings, and the rate of allowance per week specified in section twenty-five of this act shall be increased by Sixpence, for every twenty-one units by which the price index number exceeds 1053. “ (3.) If at any time the price index number exceeds 1053 by not less than twenty-one units and subsequently falls, the maximum rate of pension per annum, and the rate of allowance per week, shall, where necessary, be reduced to accord with the maximum rate of pension per annum and the rate of allowance per week determined in accordance with the last preceding sub-section. “ (4.) The maximum rate of pension per annum shall not in any event be reduced to less than the rate specified in paragraph (a.) or (6) of sub-section (1.) of section fifteen of this Act, and the rate of allowance per week shall not in any event be reduced to less than the rate specified in section twenty-five of this act. “ (5.) For the purposes of this section - (a.) the expression ‘ price index number ‘ means the weighted average retail price index number for all items of household expenditure (‘C’ Series) for the six capital cities of the States as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician for the quarter immediately preceding the quarter in which the maximum rate of pension per annum, or the rate of allowance per week, is reviewed, based upon the average price index number for the calendar years One thousand nine hundred and twentythree to One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, inclusive, being expressed as one thousand units: and
) the expression ‘ quarter ‘ means the period of three months ending on the thirty-first day of March, the thirtieth day of June, the thirtieth day of September or the thirty-first day of December.”.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Business Conditions in South Australia - Rationing and Price Fixing - Interest Rates - Australian Army: Canteen Prices; Transfers from Australian Military Forces to Australian Imperial Force; Exemption from Military ServiceCountry Newspapers : Advertising Declared and Rationed . Goods - Country Storekeepers’ Deliveries - Myer Emporium Limited.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have received some rather disquieting information about the state of affairs in South Australia, which I am impelled to place before the House, particularly since in some respects the difficulties increased over the week-end. Matters will be serious unless the Government acts. The explanations of certain matters given by Ministers last week are not regarded as satisfactory or adequate. I shall not say very much about the clothing regulations, because their immediate effects have been brought thoroughly to the notice of honorable members, but there are serious complaints about the way in which the regulations operate, particularly as regards munitions workers. For instance, the State president of the Australian Railways Union, Mr. C. F. Page, points out that munitions workers and other people working overtime in South Australia are unable to buy essential clothing and boots. There are, however, more serious indirect effects from these regulations. Correspondents inform me that there is a considerable flight of currency and that people are patronizing shops whose trading hours remain unchanged, such as jewellers, in order to have something tangible rather than [bank-notes. There are whispers that the Government intends to ration food, and the people are beginning to acquire stocks. So far as the flight of currency and securities is concerned the Lord Mayor of Adelaide has contradicted the statement that the people are not disposing of war savings certificates in order to .buy clothing and other articles. Another development, which I do not think has been mentioned in this House, is that the large departmental stores hold the main stocks of certain essential articles such as toilet goods of various kinds. Those stores are closed for most of the time, or they will not sell. The small holders, such as chemists’ shops, have been depleted of stocks, and there is a demand that the large holders be permitted to dispose of their stocks in order to meet the need. The trouble in Adelaide is extending to country districts. For instance, Port Augusta complains of a clothing shortage. Another difficulty is the position of small businesses - the sellers of firewood, boot repairers and egg and milk suppliers. It is alleged - and I know of a number of instances - that these businesses cannot obtain supplies. Some of them, such as wood merchants, are beginning to close in disgust, and the public is being deprived of essential services. [Newspapers which arrived here to-day confirm what I have been told by letter and telegram. The position is very serious so far as wood, milk and, possibly, egg suppliers are concerned. The feeling in South Australia is summed up by a statement of the secretary of the Dairymen’s Association that if it were a case of the coal-miners the Government -would hurry to try to settle the problem. The third cause of the trouble is that Adelaide may be facing at least a partial meat famine. It is alleged that price fixing has already wrecked the businesses of many large wholesalers of meat. Master butchers in Adelaide have no reserves on which to draw, and recently they met to decide whether they themselves would not have to ration meat by 25 per cent. For some unexplained reason, South Australia and Western Australia are the only two States in which the price of meat has been fixed. On the 13th May, the price of lamb in the Adelaide market was lOd. per lb., but the butchers had to sell it at the fixed price of 8d. per lib. There are now hints that the price-fixing authorities in South Australia are contemplating fixing the price of live-stock; yet stock people in New South Wales say that if that happens there will be greater chaos than ever. I understood before I left Adelaide that part of the trouble was due to lack of transport, as the federal authorities were refusing to permit the back-loading of North Australian cattle from Alice Springs to the south.
A further complaint is in regard to the anxiety which has been created by the Government’s action in freezing capital. Although the position has now been remedied, the effects of the action taken are still serious. There have been long, unexplained, and seemingly unexplainable, delays in issuing detailed information about the Government’s decision to reduce interest to 4 per cent. Legitimate and absolutely necessary business on the Adelaide Stock Exchange remains stagnant. How can any one buy or sell 5 per cent., 6 per cent, or fi per cent, preference shares when the Government takes so long to decide what interest those different types of shares ought to carry, and how they are to be compared with ordinary shares as regards dividend payments ? Most of the 16,000 or 17,000 people who own shares of different kinds in the Adelaide Electric Supply Company Limited, for instance, are small investors. What is their position, and what is their view of the delays which have taken place? I know of an instance in which the trustees of a deceased estate are unable to realize their assets; they cannot sell securities owing to the long delay which has taken place. I also know of instances in which perfectly solvent people cannot pay their taxes owing to the delay of the Government in coming to a decision. The chaos which has been caused is largely due to the fact that the Government will not look before it leaps. I raise these questions because they are of considerable importance, and are causing great indignation and commercial disorder in South Australia. I assure the Government that the people of South Australia regard these federal muddles as a most discordant overture to the comedy of errors which, under the name of uniform taxation, the Commonwealth Government proposes to force upon the people of Australia next week.
.- Last week I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) a question in regard to alleged overcharges to members of the Military Forces for goods purchased by them through military canteens. To-day I received a reply in these terms -
I now inform the honorable member that the prices charged by canteens service throughout Australia should in no instance be higher than retail stores, but in the great majority of cases, the prices are lower. If the honorable member will indicate where this is not the case the matter will be immediately investigated.
Without going into individual complaints which have been made to me, I shall content myself with referring to the following paragraph which appeared in Smith’s Weekly of the 9th May -
Many complaints have been lodged at Smith’s Brisbane office by service men, who state that camp canteens are charging prices for certain articles in excess of those charged by city stores.
Specific instances quoted are such lines as 1/4-lb. blocks of chocolate which are priced at 10d. in any city shop but for which, it is alleged, certain canteens charge11d.
Toothpaste, razor blades, boot polish and similar articles are stated to be priced at id. to1d. dearer in camp canteens than the price charged by retail stores.
One man who has been employed in the canteen service for the past twelve months claimed that non-commissioned officers in charge of canteens price their goods to suit themselves. “ Only thing which concerns them is figures,” he claims. “The more profit they show, the more chance they have of being promoted. Camp canteens have developed into a gigantic system of chain stores with readymade customers. “ Profits of the canteens are supposed to be returned to the troops in comforts, but mostly the men have left camp long before anything in the way of comforts is supplied. “ Comforts consist of such things as butter and fruit dishes for mess tables, things which the Army ought to supply anyway. “ No explanation can be obtained as to how accrued profits are being distributed.”
Smith’s took these complaints along to Brisbane office of the Canteen Service and submitted them to Mr. Hall, manager and secretary, for comment.
Mr. Hall refused to say anything on the matter at all and stated that if Smith’s said anything about the Canteen Service without the official sanction of the Canteen Board we would find ourselves in serious trouble.
The proprietors of Smith’s Weekly then proceeded to relate the steps which they took to get to the bottom of the matter. It is clear that the prices charged for goods in military canteens are in excess of the rates charged for similar goods in city stores. I submit that the prices charged should certainly not be more than those charged in city stores, seeing that the canteens have a monopoly. Only reasonable charges should be levied. Should excessive profits be made, the money will probably eventually go into the coffers of the Government, as happened at the conclusion of the war in 1914-18, with the result that certain people were decorated with the Order of the British Empire, or honoured in other ways. I ask the Minister to inquire into these complaints as his reply to my question shows clearly that he does not know the facts. I urge that each canteen service should be required to supply a properly auditedbalance-sheet from time to time.
Last week, the Minister for the Army announced that members of the Australian Military Forces would be allowed to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force. In doing so, he made it clear that such action would be voluntary on the part of individual soldiers, and that no pressure would be applied to cause men to make the transfer. In spite of that announcement, information has been supplied to me which indicates that certain officers in charge of units of the Australian Military Forces are using coercive and intimidatory methods to prevail on men to join the Australian Imperial Force as complete units. One case which has come to my notice is connected with the Army Service Supply Column with head-quarters at Willoughby. I am informed that a certain officer parades members of the unit before him when he asks them whether they are willing to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force as a complete unit. He then orders those who express their willingness to do so to stand on one side and those who are not willing to make the change to stand on the other side and their names are noted. The position is put to them in such away that those whoare in the minority are expected to abide by the decision of the majority. Should the motion for transfer be carriedby a majority. the whole unit isexpected to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force. Thispractice in addition to being undemocratic, is entirely contrary to the announcement of the Minister that the decision to transfer would be left to men individually.
– At this “stage, I do not think it desirable to name the officer concerned, but I do ask that the complaint be investigated. In my opinion, it is not fair to name any one until after an impartial inquiry has been held. I have named the unit, and the officer can easily be identified. I am confident that an inquiry will disclose that the position is as I have stated. Moreover, the way in which the vote is taken is not democratic, because various sections of the unit are spread throughout the district and members do not know how their fellowmembers have voted. The officer concerned has told the men that they must not discuss this matter among themselves, it being regarded as of a political nature. Recently, when a debate took place in this House as to whether the Defence Act should be amended to enable members of the Militia to be sent overseas, this officer caused members of the unit to be asked to say whether they were prepared to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force and they were asked to sign a questionnaire. In that way, he tried to prejudice public opinion in this country. Such behaviour calls for action on the part of the Minister. I have advocated that members of the Australian Military Forces should be given the right to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force if they so desire, but I have always held that such a decision should be voluntary, as indeed the people of this country have decided shall be the case.
– The decision of the Government on the 12th May last to prohibit the advertising of controlled goods has had a serious effect on the country press, and may well prove disastrous to some sections of the press. At the best of times, a country newspaper is beset by many difficulties, whilst, particularly in war-time, costs rise considerably, and circulation falls owing to the transfer of population to the cities. In many country towns, businesses of various kinds are closing down. For in stance, ‘ many persons engaged in the motor trade have gone, or are going, out of business, new car advertising having practically ceased, with the result that advertising by those businesses has fallen off considerably. Petrol advertisements have also been withdrawn. Advertising of sports gatherings and entertainments generally have greatly diminished as owing to war causes many such entertainments can no longer be held. In addition to all of these difficulties the country press is now faced with the direction of the Government that goods subject to the sales restriction order, including all kinds of clothing and footwear, are not to be advertised. This means that very little advertising may be done. The country press is an important factor in rural life, and is necessary for the people who live beyond the metropolitan areas in order that they may exchange information of all descriptions. Moreover, the country press takes a large part in assuring the success of various war efforts and is eager to do everything in its power to promote the success of appeals for war loans, patriotic funds and the like. The Government itself uses the country press for propaganda purposes. In these circumstances, it is surely not too much to ask that some degree of advertising should be permitted even in respect of rationed goods. I can see no reason why any restriction should have been placed on the advertising of even rationed goods for, after all, storekeepers will only be able to sell the quantity of goods they are allowed, and the curtailment of advertising cannot affect the position greatly. Eventually, sales will be governed by coupons. I do not think it too much to ask that advertising should be permitted even though sales be restricted. Unless there is a lifting of the restrictions in relation to advertising, many country newspaper proprietors will find it extremely difficult to continue publishing their journals.
I wish now to bring to the notice of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson) the difficulties being experienced by country storekeepers in the delivery of goods. Instructions have been issued that meat and bread may be delivered on certain days but that groceries may be delivered only once a week. That procedure may be satisfactory in the metropolitan area, but it is entirely unsatisfactory in country districts where the local storekeeper is often not only the grocer but also the butcher and the baker. Country deliveries by the general storekeeper very often include bread and meat, aud even pollard and bran, and clothing and drapery as well as groceries. It is most unfair, therefore, to oblige country storekeepers to restrict their deliveries in the manner required ‘by the Government. If they are f orced to do so, they will have to stop delivery. In these days of petrol rationing farmers who live in outlying areas cannot visit their accustomed shopping centres as frequently as formerly. This makes it all the more necessary that facilities shall be provided for a more general delivery of goods than formerly by country storekeepers, yet the Government has restricted these activities. Not only do the country storekeepers deliver goods to farmers but also they often pick up cans of cream from the roadside and deliver them to the butter factories or railway stations. If the general delivery of goods be restricted, it will become more difficult than ever for farmers to get their cream to the f actories. I urge a more generous outlook in these matters.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) whether he will do his best to convene an early meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee which has been appointed to deal with Government policy in respect of exemptions for military service? I have in mind, particularly, the case of men who were obliged to take the oath when they were attested and who now find that magistrates will not deal with their applications for exemption because they have taken the oath. Many such oases have been brought to my notice. A few magistrates have dealt with applications for exemption but most magistrates have held that once a man has been attested he is removed from the jurisdiction of the. court. It is urgent that a decision a.= to policy should be reached by the Government on this important matter. I have been informed, unofficially, by certain Crown law authorities that magistrates have power to deal with these cases, but no authoritative opinion has been expressed publicly on the subject. I am aware that fifteen cases have been dealt with recently at North Melbourne, and two adjournments have been granted ; but that is an isolated instance. What we require is an immediate statement of Government policy on the question so that the men concerned will know their fate.
I support the protest of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) against military officers asking for mass decisions of units of the Australian Military Forces on the question of enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. If it be true, as stated by the honorable member, that the names of men who have refused to volunteer in the Australian Imperial Force have been taken, it is most improper and amounts to a form of duress. In fact, it savours of the press-gang method of another age. I understand that it is the policy of the Government to place no difficulty in the way of members of the Australian Military Forces volunteering for the Australian Imperial Force, but that is a very different thing from subjecting the men to ballots, plebiscites, and the like in order to obtain mass decisions by units on the subject.
The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) promised me this afternoon, in reply to a question, that the attitude of the Government towards Myer Emporium Limited would be reviewed. I am advised that that firm recently allowed members of the staff to purchase goods at marked-down prices under conditions which did not apply to the general public. In purporting to comply with an order to return £250,000 to the public which had been improperly taken from it, the management, on one day in particular, charged members of the staff only 2s. for every £1 worth of goods bought. These conditions were not available to the general public. Consequently, the slick Mr. Myer converted the order of the Prices Commissioner into something in the nature of a staff bonus at the expense of the genera] public. He is a most fruitful gentleman in adopting ways and means of ingratiating himself with his staff, but surely he cannot be allowed to divest himself of his ill-gotten gains in this way. My view is that the firm should be obliged to pay £250,000 into the Commonwealth Treasury. The same principles should apply to this big firm, and to other big firms for that matter, as those which apply to small shopkeepers. I can see no reason why the Government should treat Myer Emporium Limited magnanimously. The flimsy pretexts which the firm has offered in excuse for fleecing the public, such a3 the multiplicity of small transactions and the like, are ridiculous. Public opinion everywhere has been outraged at the manner in which this firm has been able to avoid the consequences of its actions. The report of the Joint Committee on Profits showed clearly that many small firms had been fined amounts ranging from £10 to £50 for breaches of the prices regulations, yet this big firm has been able to escape any penalty. If the Government wishes to reestablish itself in the esteem of the people, it should prosecute this firm without delay. Beyond question, the firm should be obliged to return the £250,000 which it has illegally taken from the general community in Melbourne.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of extending that treatment to the .Sydney firm that robbed the people of that city of £40,000, which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) tried to protect?
– I am not aware that the honorable member for Dalley tried to protect any firm that had robbed the people of Sydney. A firm guilty of taking from the public £40,000, £10,000 or £5,000 more than it was entitled to receive, should be treated as are small shopkeepers who rob the people of £5. My complaint is in respect of differential treatment being accorded to big business. I refuse to believe that the people of Australia would condone preferential treatment in the matter of the infringement of price-fixing regulations by Myer Emporium Limited or breaches of the censorship regulations by Sir Keith Murdoch.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) drew attention to discrepancies in the decisions of magistrates in cases they are competent to hear under the man-power regulations, and asked that an early meeting of the sub-committee of Cabinet be held in order to define the position. The committee referred to was appointed as the result of a decision of the War Cabinet, and I was added to it. The chairman of the committee is the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). with whom 1 shall be pleased to take up the matter in order to see whether a meeting of the committee may be held this week with a view to a decision being arrived at.
– in reply - I shall endeavour to have dissected the speech of the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price), in order to refer to the respective Ministers the very many matters he has raised. I rather gained the impression that the honorable member had collected a number of grievances, and thought that he would fire off a preliminary budget speech.
The honorable member said that the Lord Mayor of Adelaide had told him something in regard to the cashing of war savings certificates. All that I have to say is that there has always been a number of war savings certificates cashed. I replied to a question on the subject in this House recently. The opinions that I then gave were those of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which is as competent as the Lord Mayor of Adelaide to express views concerning the cashing of war savings certificates. That gentleman may have an axe to grind, and may have thought that some good would be served if he were to whisper in the ear of the honorable member. I have obtained my information, not from some person on a street corner or a lord mayor, but from the Commonwealth Bank Board, which has exact knowledge of such matters.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has asserted that undue influence is being used in order to obtain transfer from the Australian Military Forces to the Australian Imperial Force. If he has correctly stated the case, action by the Minister for the Army is needed in order to stop the practice. I shall bring the matter to the notice of that Minister.
I shall refer to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) the remarks of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) in regard to advertising. I am able to appreciate some of the difficulties of country newspapers, because of the knowledge that I possess concerning them. The other matter that the honorable member raised I shall refer to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson).
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has already referred to one of the matters raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). One of the remaining two in some degree affects my department. I shall have inquiries made into both of them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 190.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 194.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 227.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 192.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Administrative purposes - Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
For Defence purposes -
Murchison (near), Victoria.
York, Western Australia.
For Postal purposes - Sydenham, New South Wales.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 193.
National Security Act-
National Security (General) Regulalations - Orders -
Evacuation of area.
Prohibited places (2).
Taking possession of land, &c, (52).
Use of land (24).
National Security (Shipping Requisition) Regulations - Resolutions by Shipping Control Board (2).
National Security (War Damage to Property ) Regulations - Orders - Public authorities (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 216. 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 228, 229, 230, 233, 234.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 209, 210.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 191.
House adjourned at 1 1 . 35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice- -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Coral Sea Naval Engagements: News Censorship.
e. - On the 14th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked a question, without notice, in regard to the publication by Sir Keith Murdoch in the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers of an article in which it was alleged that certain facts had been revealed relating to the battle of the Coral Sea, but which war correspondents had, by censorship instruction, been precluded from using.
A report has now been received from the State Censor in Victoria to the effect that the article by Sir Keith Murdoch to which objection was taken, was passed by censorship after certain deletions were made in consultation with allied headquarters. Similar security deletions had been made by military censors from war correspondents’ despatches. When breaches of the censorship regulations have occurred action has been taken to prevent a recurrence.
Australian Army: Period of Leave.
e. - On the 15th May, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked whether members of the Australian Imperial Force recently returned from the Middle East had been given seven days’ leave, while personnel from Darwin and other northern stations were given one month’s leave.
I now inform the honorable member that the statement that personnel who have been serving at Darwin were to be granted leave of one month’s duration is the result of a press announcement which emanated from unofficial sources. However, action is at present being taken to devise a system of relief, compatible with the situation, in regard to these personnel, as well as other troops serving in isolated or tropical localities. Instances have occurred of personnel evacuated from islands adjacent to Australia being granted one month’s leave on return to Australia. This was done on the recommendation of the medical authorities in order to assist such members to regain their health in a domestic environment, in cases where the member’s medical condition permitted such a course to be taken.
Impressment of Rifles.
e. - On the 15th May the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) asked whether .22 repeating rifles recently impressed were being held unused, and if so, when they would be returned to their owners?
I now inform the honorable member that it is not proposed to return any of the impressed rifles to their owners.. Rifles not in military use are being either reconditioned or broken up for replacement parts.
e. - On the 15th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked me, without notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Army Canteen Prices.
e. - On the 8th May, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred to the prices charged for certain articles to Army canteens which he stated were in excess of those charged by city stores, and asked that the service men who patronize the canteens be charged the lowest prices for goods, thus enabling them to obtain the full benefit of this service.
I now inform the honorable member that the prices charged by canteen services throughout Australia should in no instance be higher than those charged by retail stores, and in the great majority of cases they are lower. If the honorable member will indicate where this is not the case, the matter will be immediately investigated.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
A new timetable, designed to provide for a more regular stream of traffic, is being prepared. It is hoped to introduce this timetable within about a month.
s asked the Minister for Home Security, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied by the Minister for the Interior, who is responsible for enemy raids precautions in the Australian Capital Territory.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many Australian-born persons are now in internment camps in Australia?
– The total number of Australianborn persons now in internment camps in Australia is 167. This number is exclusive ofchildren who have been permitted,on humanitarian grounds, to accompany their interned parents.
Preference to Unionists.
n. - On the 15th May, 1942, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me. without notice, whether forms required by the man-power authorities to be filled in by the tally clerks at the waterfront in Sydney were a means of effecting compulsory unionism. The honorable member’s question related to an arrangement made by representatives of employers and employees to review men employed as casual tally clerks on the waterfront prior to the 1st October, 1941. The form referred to by the honorable member was agreed upon by representatives of the Federated Clerks Union as a means of determining the number of tally clerks necessary effectively to maintain shipping transport services.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420519_reps_16_171/>.