16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hoa. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is with regret that I record the death of Mr. Joseph Francis Hannan, a former member of this House and of the Senate, which occurred in Melbourne on Sunday, the 14th March last.
A stalwart member of the Labour party, Mr. Hannan was elected to this House for the division of Fawkner at the general elections in 1913 and 1914. He was defeated at the general elections in 1917, but was subsequently elected to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria for the constituency of Albert Park at a byelection held on the 13th May, 1918. He held this seat in the State Parliament until October, 1919, when he resigned to contest again the Fawkner seat at the Commonwealth general elections ; on that occasion he was defeated. On the death of Senator Barker, the Parliament of Victoria on the 22nd July, 1924, chose Mr. Hannan to fill the Senate vacancy, and he was a member of that chamber until his defeat at the general elections in 1925.
The deceased gentleman was a former president of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party. He served the Labour movement in Australia with zeal and ability. Since his retirement from active participation in political life, he has been engaged in commercial pursuits.
Many members of this Parliament will have had personal knowledge of the late Mr. Hannan. When I was quite a young man, he very generously accorded to me his friendship. On one occasion when we were candidates for neighbouring constituencies, he helped me very greatly, but his help was unavailing, although he himself was returned with a handsome majority. To my knowledge, he gave to the public of Australia, and particularly of Victoria, a devotion which was marked by very great ability. He was also a man of strong integrity, and he had a winning personality. I regret very much the passing of a friend to whom I owed a very great deal.
I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. Joseph Francis Hannan, a former member for the division of Fawkner and of the Senate for the State of Victoria, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his relatives in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion and endorse the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). It was my privilege to know very well the late Mr. Hannan; for some years we were fellow members of the same political party. I knew him in both the industrial and .political spheres of the Labour movement. He was a fine specimen of Australian manhood, upright and honorable. He had great ability and, as the Prime Minister has said, a winning personality. I have not seen him in later years, and the news of his -death comes to me as a great shock. Labour has lost a stalwart champion who devoted his life to its service and strove zealously and loyally to advance its interests; and Australia is the poorer for his passing. I deeply regret his death and extend my profound sympathy to his relatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I ‘have received the following message from the Senate: -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the bill for “ an Act to impose a Tax upon Incomes “, and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate has considered message No. 188 of that House in reference to such bill.
The Senate has resolved to press its request for amendment No. .1, and again requests the House of Representatives to make such amendment, as shown in the annexed schedule.
I feel that I should direct the attention of the House to the constitutional question this message involves. The right. of the Senate to press a request for amendment has never been admitted by the House of Representatives, though on. previous occasions this House, having regard to the fact that public welfare demanded the passing of certain legislation, has refrained from a determination of its constitutional rights and -obligations. It rests with the House to determine whether it will receive and consider the message.
That the consideration of the message by the House be made an order of the day ‘for a later hour this day.
Rail PRIORITIES to Members - Eureka Youth Club.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen the statement attributed to Mr. J. B. Miles, general secretary of the Australian Communist party, published in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, that 50 interstate delegates had been granted rail priorities to attend the thirteenth national congress of the Australian Communist party? If so, will the honorable gentleman state what class of priority has been granted to these delegates and, if the issue of such priorities indicates that the need for imposing restrictions upon travel is not so pressing now as it has been, will he consider the extension of similar facilities to the wives of soldiers?
– I have not seen the statement, but I shall read it and reply later to the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral see a report in the press at the end of last month that members of a club known as the Eureka Youth Club have been carrying out extensive training operations in guerrilla warfare in the vicinity of Monbulk? This club, I understand, has Communist affiliations. If the Attorney-General has seen the report, has he made any investigations of the matter? If lie has not done so, will he at once take steps to have the matter fully investigated ?
– This is the first I have heard of it, but ! shall have investigations made.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the statement in the last issue of the Sunday Telegraph that sessions of the national congress of the Australian Communist party in the Balmain Town Hall next Saturday and Sunday will be closed to the press and public? As section 42 of the National Security (General) Regulations provides that persons shall not endeavour to influence public opinion in a manner likely to be prejudicial to the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, will the Attorney-General instruct members of the Security Service to attend the meeting for the purpose of seeing that no breach of the regulations is committed?
– The Security Service investigates alleged breaches of the provisions of section 42 of the National Security (General) Regulations without any specific instruction from myself. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the chief of the Security Service.
CIVIL Constructional Corps: Leave to Employees - Arbitration Court Award: Comments by Mr. Fallon.
– Last week, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. ‘Calwell) asked questions concerning leave said to be owing to employees of the Allied Works Council.
– The Prime Minister read a statement concerning that matter last Friday afternoon.
– The Minister for the Interior has forwarded to me the following answer: -
The matter of leave for members of the Civil Constructional Corps serving in the Northern Territory has been under consideration for some time. In the early stages an undertaking was given to a very limited number of men that leave would be granted at the end of six months. This has never been applicable to all uren of the Civil Constructional Corps in the Northern Territory. The granting of leave involves serious problems of transport, and the matter is one for consultation with the Army authorities in the Northern Territory. The problem is ‘.being considered as sympathetically as possible in the light of ‘the prevailing difficulties, and having regard to the extreme urgency of many of the projects involved. The DirectorGeneral of Allied Works is working out a scheme to ensure that all the men concerned are treated as equitably as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in to-day’s Courier-Mail by the State secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. Fallon, that the Australian Workers Union was advising its members not to work under the new award of the Federal Arbitration Court, which fixes wages for members of the Civil Constructional Corps? In view of the fact that Mr. Fallon’s statement must be regarded as an incitement to strike, and to hold up vital war work, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take to ensure that the award of the court shall be obeyed ?
– I have not seen the report, but I shall ascertain whether it is reliable. I shall ask Mr. Fallon what he has to say about it, and in the light, of his reply I shall decide what action is required. I have known Mr. Fallon long enough to ask him to tell me precisely what he did say. He is a responsible officer of a responsible organization. I am not prepared to judge Mr. Fallon on a. statement that comes to me indirectly, however bona fide may’ be the intentions of the honorable member in putting his question.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, and so that he may understand the sense of it I quote a telegram which I have received from a colleague of mine in Sydney -
Bread is off, milk is rationed, fish is unobtainable, fruit and vegetable prices prohibitive, meat position precarious. What are you doing?
As the Prime Minister has been entrusted with the running of the country I ask him now, so that I may give an intelligent reply to my colleague in Sydney, what is he doing?
– I do not know whether I could obtain any guidance in this matter from the parable of the loaves and the fishes. The problems which the honorable member has stated so shortly require very serious consideration. Insofar as shortages are due to seasonal conditions, they are beyond the control of the Government. Insofar as they are due to the demands of the fighting services on the man-power resources of Australia, it is inevitable that if a choice has to he made between fighting the enemy and tightening our belts, we must decide in favour of fighting the enemy, and to that end we must not deprive the fighting forces of the man-power which will enable them to defend the country.
– This is not a matter of tightening belts, but of settling the bread strike.
– The honorable member mentioned fish as well as bread. Insofar as shortages are due to remedial causes, I take it that the Government will act. I do not know what has taken place in regard to the bread supply of Sydney - whether the trouble is due to strikes, or to other causes. However, I shall make inquiries. The honorable member, in asking this question, has piled together a number of commodities which are alleged to be in short supply, but the explanation for the shortage would differ in every case. He, however, has compounded them for a compound objective.
– Yesterday, in Sydney, evidence was tendered before the Social Security Committee to the effect that hospital staffs were set down by the Department of Labour and Social Security as priority No. 12.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member, who is a member of a parliamentary committee, entitled to ask a question based on evidence given before that committee - evidence which is not yet the property of this House?
– The point is a good one. No member of a parliamentary committee is entitled, before the committee has made its report, to disclose evidence tendered to the committee.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service what priority is given by his department to staffs employed in hospitals?
– In each State a Labour Allocations Committee has been appointed consisting of representatives of the Department of Munitions, the Department of Aircraft Production, the Department of War_ Organization of Industry, the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Shipping Board, and the Man Power Directorate. In .order to deal with allocations of labour, these State committees meet at least once in every four weeks. Industries have been divided into nineteen groups, and hospitals are in what is known as No. 12 group. That, however, does not indicate the order of priority in respect of labour. It is very difficult to make a strict allocation of labour, but I assure the honorable member that full regard is had to the needs of the hospital services. At the moment, urgent investigations are being made so that the labour requirements of hospitals may be fully met.
– The kitchen staffs of some hospitals are not sufficient to provide meals for the nursing staff. As hospitals generally are understaffed as regards female labour, will the Minister for War Organization of Industry consider the advisability of tightening up the ban on the employment of domestic servants in order to divert to hospitals the necessary volume of female labour?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service is responsible for the ^administration of the Restriction of Employment of Domestic Servants Order. He has been watching closely the number of domestic servants who have been released by the operation of the order, and I understand that he is preparing a report for submission to Cabinet upon the advisability of applying further restrictions. If the Minister advises that the staffing problems of hospitals can be alleviated by placing additional restrictions upon the employment of servants in private homes, his report will receive careful consideration from the Government.
– A few days ago, 1 asked the Minister for the Army a question about the censoring of the film, Moscow Strikes Back. I now ask whether steps will be taken to have the film shown without cuts, as has been done in other countries?
– When the honorable member first mentioned the matter, I ordered that the complaint be immediately investigated. I have not yet received a report, but I shall make inquiries, and shall let the honorable member know the result later in the day.
Hobart Gaol: Detention of Military Prisoners
– On the 12th March, I gave an answer, based on an interim report from the Commander, Tasmania Force, to a question, without notice, by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck), concerning the number of soldiers serving sentences in Hobart gaol. I have now received from the Department of the Army a full report with regard to the matter. The total number of military personnel in the Hobart gaol on the 17tn December, 1942, was 21. Of these, four who were awaiting trial have since been discharged. Of the remaining seventeen, ten were serving sentences ranging from six months to two and a half years imposed by civil courts for civil offences, including stealing, false pretences, breaking and entering, and assault. The remaining seven were serving sentences ranging from fifteen months to four years imposed by military courts. Their offences were military breaches of the graver kind, such as desertion, assault and violence, maliciously wounding, mutiny, and stealing. With the exception of one mental case on remand, all the sentenced prisoners, whether convicted by civil or military courts, were engaged in work, some at the gaol farm, others in general gaol work, bootmaking, baking, and woodyard and workshop duties. The present number of military personnel in the Hobart gaol is eighteen.
The honorable member also raised the general question of the employment on useful work of military personnel undergoing sentences. He will appreciate that there is a distinction between imprisonment which follows from more serious military and civil offences and for which civil gaols are used, and detention which is served in military barracks for lesser military offences. There is no difficulty associated with the useful employment of those serving substantial sentences in civil gaols. With those sentenced to military detention, however, the matter is more difficult. These sentences are usually short, being for lesser breaches of military law, and are corrective rather than punitive, and are served in detention barracks. The purpose of such sentences is to ensure that the men will return to their units more efficient and more amenable to proper discipline. The intensive military drill to which they are subjected during detention i3 designed to that end, and is considered to be effective, although naturally restricted in scope because of the limited numbers of personnel in any detention barracks. The possibility of diluting this intensive military training with other useful work is being investigated.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a little pamphlet entitled Dr. Evatt and Social Credit purporting to be a report of a speech by the Attorney-General at a recent luncheon? Will the right honorable gentleman admit or deny that the Attorney-General has spoken in accordance with the policy of the Government at that very delectable little luncheon?
– I did not catch the whole of the question.
– The Prime Minister will have some difficulty in catching the Attorney-General when he reads the pamphlet.
– When the AttorneyGeneral is explaining bills, he expresses the views of . the Government. The speeches which he makes cover a wide range of subjects, and with whatever the Attorney-General says, 1 find myself generally in agreement.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that a Captain Ramsay has been impressing typewriters from business establishments in Brisbane without possessing authority in the form of an . impressment notice? One firm, when several of its machines had been impressed, advertised for other typewriters to replace them and was inundated with replies from persons who desired to sell typewriters at prices considerably below those paid for the impressed machines. Will the Minister investigate the matter with a view to introducing more businesslike methods, and effecting very desirable economy ?
– I am not aware of the occurrence, but I shall immediately investigate the honorable member’s complaint.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to a statement made by Mr. R. A. Rowe, who presided over a conference of the Associated Stock Exchanges recently, that the regulations controlling that section of public investment tended to destroy the liquidity of finance, and thereby had severe adverse effects upon the post-war situation? Mr. Bowie added that the existing regulations militated against the raising of war loans, with a resultant adverse effect upon the war effort. As other members of the British Empire, including New Zealand, which has a Labour government, have not considered it necessary to control that section of the financial system, will the Treasurer review the position in the Commonwealth and repeal the regulations?
– I have read the article to which the honorable member referred. Some months ago, I had numerous conferences with representatives of the Associated Stock Exchanges and we reached an agreement on the basison which the regulations should operate. I assumed at the time that the agreement was, in all the circumstances, as satisfactory as the stock exchanges could hope for. I do not think that the regulation of the stock exchanges militates in any way against the effective filling of war loans.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House on whose authority Mr. J. S. Garden instructed three Commonwealth peace officers, who were taking short-hand notes of the proceedings at a meeting of textile workers at the Leichhardt Stadium, to withdraw?
– The honorable member for Wentworth asked a similar question a few days ago. The individuals referred to were not Commonwealth officers, but State officers; no instructions were given to Commonwealth officers by any person connected with my department.
Public Relations and Publicity Branch
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact, as reported in the Melbourne and Sydney press last Saturday, that the Department of Labour and National Service is establishing a public relations and publicity branch, and that Mr. Vance Palmer, the well-known author, and also an employee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will be associated with this branch, which will be staffed by journalists? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform me what will be the size of the staff, and the cost and the purposes of the new branch? Could not the necessary publicitybe undertaken by the Department of Information?
- Mr. Vance Palmer is engaged on loan to the Department of Labour and National Service in order that the vexed problem of absenteeism might be the subject of some positive educational activity. I am quite sure that he will render useful work for Australia. I shall ascertain what other cost is involved.
– In the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will make available the report of the findings of Judge Payne who inquired into the barley industry in Western Australia ?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Last year the Minister for Supply and Shipping arranged for 80 per cent. of the citrus fruit production to he reserved for the manufacture of juices to be supplied to members of the fighting services. Has the Minister for the Army received any complaints from members of the fighting services that they have not received an issue of citrus fruit juice? Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that so far only a small quantity of citrus fruit juices has been made availablethrough the canteens to members of the fighting services ? If this be so, for what purpose has the remainder of the fruit so reserved been used?
– I have not received any complaints from members of the fighting services with respect to that matter, but as the result of a request made to me by the honorable member last week I ordered an immediate inquiry into it, and I hope later to-day to be able to supply the information for which the honorable member asks.
– I move-
That Standing Order No. 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
– What about morning sittings?
– The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1943, which is on the notice-paper for to-day, is a bill which this country, regardless of any other contingency, owes to the men whom it concerns. I believe that the House wishes that that bill, without restriction of debate, shall be adequately debated and expeditiously dealt with. The motion is to enable that to be done.
.- I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to adopt the rule, which has been previously observed, that on the first day of sitting each week, when members have travelled considerable distances to attend Parliament, and are greatly fatigued, we should not sit through the night.
– I agree with that view.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the suggestion made last week that the House should sit in the mornings?
– I shall consider that suggestion. It is undesirable that the House should sit to an unduly late hour.
I, personally, do not favour late sittings. At the same time, Ministers must attend to urgent work, some of which at present is of very grave importance. Therefore, I ask the House not to inflict upon me at this stage a reform which has been long delayed.
– I suggest that, upon the first night of sitting in the week,the motion for adjournment should he moved at an hour which would enable honorable members to communicate to the House and the Government grievances of their constituents. Honorable members, when they return to their constituencies during the week-end, are informed of various matters which they desire to bring to the notice of the House, the Government and the public as soon as possible on. their return to Canberra. At present, we do not get an opportunity to discuss such matters until the motion for adjournment is moved on Friday afternoon. That is altogether too late.
-Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government that Parliament should rise this week?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 1588), on motion by Mr. Frost -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [8.88].- I congratulate the special committee on its comprehensive report. It has done an excellent; job. It has ironed out many anomalies in our repatriation legislation, and has laid a soundbasis for the development of that legislation. I also congratulate the Government on its acceptance of the main recommendations of the committee. As the bill can best be considered in committee, I propose to confine my remarks at this juncture to three main points, namely, vocational training, the provision of pensions for disabled soldiers, and soldiers who find themselves in difficult circumstances because of age, and pensions for dependants of such soldiers. However, another and more important aspect of repatriation which is not dealt with specifically in the bill forms a part of the committee’s report. The committee’s investigation was most thorough. Its report provides a basis for the solution of the repatriation problem generally. That problem will demand the closest attention of the Parliament, and positive action by the Government. That positive action can be taken only after exhaustive inquiry into all the facts and their consideration in conjunction with many other factors which will affect the future of this country. The committee has already given considerable thought to this matter and has made certain suggestions, particularly about vocational training. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) indicated the lines along which the matter of vocational training was being approached -
A sub-committee of the inter-departmental committee, which some time ago gave consideration to the various phases of post-war reconstruction, outlined a. training scheme of a most comprehensive character.
In the matter of vocational training, let m« say that there is complete co-operation between the Repatriation Commission and the Department of. Labour and National Service, which controls the Commonwealth training plan for munitions production, and certain phases of the technical side of the Army and the Air Force, as well as in other spheres. Training committees, upon which are skilled technical training personnel, a medical officer, a vocational guidance expert and others, exist in each State, and their wisdom is brought to bear in selecting the avenue into which the war-damaged soldier should go.
There is more in this problem than the provision of work for men discharged from the forces because of disabilities or injuries suffered by them in the course of service. The solution of the problem is not simple. Men who have served for years will have changed fundamentally from what they were before they enlisted. Many of them have gone untrained into the forces from farms and schools, and others, who were in industry will have lost much of the skill they had acquired and forgotten much of what they had learned. They will return to civil life completely unfitted for it, as compared with other men of the same age who have been serving in the munitions industry. The men who will have spent the years of the war in industry instead of the Army will have gained considerable skill and will be completely fitted for ordinary peace-time life, and the returned soldiers will be at a great disadvantage. It is true that when a man goes into the armed forces he entirely changes his style of life. The soldier in the ranks is looked after. He is fed and clothed and has very little need to think for himself. All he has to do is to learn his job as a soldier and obey orders. On his return to civil life, he will be fundamentally and psychologically different from the man who has never left civil life. He will also find that the life he has come back to is different from that which he left, because the whole structure of life is changing. The munitions worker does not see the changes. He unconsciously fits himself in with the changing conditions. That is an aspect of the matter which .must be taken into very careful consideration by the Government when it is working out its greater plans for the rehabilitation of men after the war. The whole problem of repatriation in its widest aspects interlocks with that of reconstruction of our country after the war. We all wish to ensure that soldiers on their return shall receive employment, but the returned soldier will need not just a job, but a job in which lie can be happy and prosperous. Such jobs will not be available unless the country is contented and prosperous. Therefore, the repatriation of our soldiers is closely tied to the reconstruction of our country as a whole. Post-war re- construction is now being tackled by the Government. The Treasurer (“Mr. Chifley) has been appointed as Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and under his direction committees are dealing with the various aspects of post-war reconstruction. In the first place, the Joint Committee on Rural Industries is considering the matter of land settlement. All those who have had experience of land settlement know that that is a very important problem, and I hope that the committee will lay down a policy on which the settlement of soldiers on the land can be efficiently carried out. Secondary industries are being dealt with by the
Tariff Board. Unless secondary industries are developed, or maintained on something like the footing they are on to-day, it will be difficult to find jobs in them for our men. It would be impossible to absorb on the land 500,000 or more men demobilized from the fighting services. Only a small percentage can possibly go into primary industries. Jobs will have to be found somewhere else for the others; and secondary industries will have to provide for most of them. Sir Harry Brown is considering the problem of public works, which should also absorb a large number of our men on their discharge. I think that while each of these committees is dealing with one aspect of the problem of post-war reconstruction, it is also necessary that there should be a comprehensive consideration of the whole problem and that the work of each committee should be co-ordinated. The Repatriation Commission has certain duties in regard to the vocational training of men who are under its care. In addition to that the Mighell Committee, which has not yet operated, will be examining the possibilities of vocational training generally for repatriated soldiers. The special parliamentary committee on repatriation considered the matter of vocational training and made two important recommendations which I hope will be put into effect as early as possible -
The committee considers that training should be available not only for the classes eligible in 1918, viz.: - Those incapacitated by war service to the extent of being unable to follow their pre-war occupations, and those who enlisted at an early age, but also for the following classes: -
While each committee is dealing with its own phase of the problem, it is essential that some authority be set up to consider the matter as a whole with the object of ensuring that our men when released from war service shall find suit able positions. That authority might well be the Repatriation Commission or some special body which would work in conjunction with it, and he in close touch with the committees which are already dealing with particular aspects of the matter. That seems to be very important, and I hope that the Government will give full consideration to the suggestion. As regards rehabilitation, I urge upon the Government the necessity for defining its attitude in the question of preference to soldiers. We have talked a lot about it, and I am sure that every body on each side of the House is in agreement with the principle, but up to now not much has been done to give effect to it. The principle not only requires definition - and it is not easily defined - but it also needs to be considered from the practical point of view - how far we can make the preference absolutely certain for soldiers, as well as how far we can put it into operation at once, because the problem is not one which we can put off indefinitely. It must be dealt with now. The men are coming back from the front and being discharged in quite large numbers, and as time goes on the release of men from the fighting services will take place in greater and greater volume. The matter should be tackled immediately, and some definite action taken in regard to it.
Then there is also the matter of the rates of benefit for war pensioners. The committee has expressed a general opinion on it, recommending an increase of the rates by approximately 20 per cent. T. like other honorable members, have found it difficult to discover on exactly what grounds the 20 per cent. increase has been proposed. The committee in its report on the rates of pension pays attention to one particular aspect in relation to pensions to members of the forces, widows, parents, and other dependants. It says -
The committee found that there was reasonable ground for a general increase of the rates of war pension. An outstanding factor in this regard was the comparison of rates of pay to members of the forces and allowances to their dependants with the same items in respect of the 1.014 war. In the case of death of a member the rate of war pension in most cases is considerably below the payments received by the dependants, particularly widows with children,, by way of members’ allotment and dependants’’ allowances, up to the time- of commencement of pension.
I understand that the members of the committee have in some way linked up the increase of the rates with the increase of the cost of living, but it is all very vague, and I am at a los3 to discover on what grounds it has recommended the 20 per cent, increase. Since the report was issued on the 4th September last, the cost of living has risen by something like 4 per cent. In addition the Government and Parliament have proposed certain benefits for the population as a whole, consisting mainly of maternity allowances and funeral expenses, and have foreshadowed the allocation of a large sum of money for improved social services. I am, I hope, doing the committee no injustice in suggesting that, if it were making its report to-day, it would probably recommend a greater increase than the Government has included in the bill. The public as a whole, seeing the changes that have taken place since the report was issued and the bill was brought before the House, believes that, while the Government is being extremely generous to various sections of the population, it might at least be a little more generous to the soldiers. The members of the committee have at various times informed me that the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is completely in favour of the 20 per cent, increase, but the fact remains that several branches consider that it is on the meagre side. 1 need not refer to the views of the New South Wales branch, which have been ably and strongly presented by the honorable member . for Warringah (Mr. Spender), but I draw attention to the view expressed by the Victorian branch of the league when dealing with the rates of pension. The Victorian branch’s recommendation was, I understand, submitted to the committee at - one of its earlier sittings. It proposed that the rates of pension should be increased proportionately with the increase of the pay of a private soldier at the present time compared with his pay during the last war. It goes on to say -
It is felt that the rates set down in this column were those which it was considered would compensate a man for disabilitiesreceived as a result of war service according to the standard of living prevailing in Australia, at that time.
That is a definite recommendation, which, if worked out to its logical conelusion, means an increase by something like 41 per cent, of the rates of benefit. There are quite a number of ways of measuring what the increase of the rates of benefit should ‘be. The Victorian branch has used one, referring back to the increase of the rate of pay of the soldier now as compared with what it was in the last war. Other reasons have been brought forward, particularly by the New South Wales branch. One particular yard-stick which it has used is that the nominal wage in New South Wales at the end of the last war was £3 14s. lid. compared with £5 10s. 8d. to-day, which is an increase of 47 per cent. On those grounds it asks for an increase in the. pension rates by 50 per cent. Another comparison could be made. After the 1914-18 war the soldiers’ pension amounted to 62£ per cent., and the widows’ pension to 66 per cent, of the basic wage. Under the act as it at present stands, the pension for a totally incapacitated soldier is about 47£ per cent., and for a -widow 49 per cent., of the basic wage. This comparison shows very definitely that we are less generous to-day in our pensions than we were at the end of the 1914-18 war. My own view is that the increase of 20 per cent, now proposed is too low. I am not prepared to recommend an increase as high as 50 per cent., but I do think that a reasonable increase would be approximately 33^ per cent., which I hope the Government will consider favorably before the bill leaves this chamber. I do not recommend the very high increase of 50 per cent., although I think that there is some justification for it in places, because . we must remember that the greater the amount of pensions which we give now to our soldiers, the heavier will be the burden on the country. We cannot know yet what the future will be, and how prosperous the nation will be, but we do know that, at the end of the war, great financial burdens will be imposed on Australia in relation to not only the soldiers, but also the population as a whole. We propose, and with this I quite agree, to proceed with the increase or extension of general social benefits. Heavy increases of expenditure in this regard must place great burdens on the finances of the country. If the benefits accorded to any particular section of the population are something more than is fair and reasonable, although from some points of view justifiable, we may find, after the war, that we are unable to sustain the payments, and reductions may be necessary all along the line. I should be very sorry if that occurred. I consider it better, therefore, that we should move cautiously now, and for that reason I favour a 33-& per cent, increase.
One question relating to pension rates is whether it is advisable or not to relate the pension to the cost of living figures. This is done in connexion with practically every other form of pension. I know that objections have been offered to the proposal, not only by branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but also by some members of the Parliament. Their argument is that war pensions are not granted as a sustenance allowance, but as a tangible expression of the gratitude of the country to the men who fought for it. Yet war pensions, in my view, should bear some relation to the real value of money. Unless that be regarded as a principle, the pensions may become of very little value. A good case can be made for relating war pensions to the cost of living index figures. The index figures, after all, are merely a yard-stick for the value of money. If we provide a pension of, say, £4 a week at the present purchasing power of money and the value of money diminishes by half, the pension will be worth only £2 a week. Such a fall in - the value of money is likely to occur if the Government continues to apply its present financial policy. In such an event, the value of the pension will be far below what it was intended to be.
– I do not.
– Then how could the rise and fall be met?
– It could follow the fluctuations of the value of money.
– If pensions were stabilized, how would it he practicable to apply the cost of living index figures?
– I suggest that the pension should be stabilized on the present- index figures, and that it should vary according to fluctuations of the present figures. The subject deserves close consideration.
I wish now to deal with the case of soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. The special parliamentary committee proposed that special medical boards constituted of the best specialists in pulmonary tuberculosis in each State should be appointed, and that these should examine any member, claimant, or appellant. I understand that the Government has agreed to accept that recommendation; but I do not think that the soldiers will benefit very greatly from it. It will simply mean that they will be examined by one board instead of by another. Their position will not be improved. To effect any improvement we must take a wider view of the problem. For that reason I intend to support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Moreton, the purpose of which is to ensure that every soldier suffering from tuberculosis shall be granted a pension, irrespective of the date on which he may have contracted the disease or of whether his complaint can be proved to be due to war service. From a fairly intensive study of this problem as a member of the Joint Committee on Social Security, I have learned that it is difficult to determine whether tuberculosis can be attributed to war service or not. It is simple enough to diagnose a case of tuberculosis, but it is most difficult to say when the disease was contracted. In the interests of the soldiers and their dependants, and also of the country as a whole, we should take a wider view of this problem. I hope that when conditions improve internationally it will be possible for us, in Australia, to make an investigation of the problem in relation to the whole community. I believe that if such an investigation were undertaken it would be possible to eradicate the disease. This appears to me to be a suitable opportunity to begin our attack. Figures furnished to me show that, annually, 3,000 people die from, and about twice that number are affected by, the disease. Ten per cent, of the general body of children are affected, but 60 per cent, of the children of tubercular parents are affected. It is significant, however, that among the children of tubercular parents who are cared for by the Repatriation Commission only 40 per cent, are affected This shows an improvement of 20 per cent, in cases which receive proper treatment. I submit, therefore, that it would be in the best interests of the community as a whole for the Government to accept the foreshadowed amendment.
.- Having acted as deputy chairman of the committee of honorable members of the Parliament who made the recent investigation of the ramifications of our repatriation legislation, I wish to offer a few observations without, at this stage, discussing the details of the bill. I express my appreciation of the assistance given to the committee by the acting chairman of the Repatriation Commission, the senior clerk of the Repatriation Department, and also by the Clerk of the House, Captain F. C. Green, who was the secretary of the committee. All the members of the committee were returned men who had seen war service, and not one of us could be accused of any lack of sympathy with soldiers and their dependants. Some of us suffered considerably through the service that we rendered in the last war in endeavouring to defend the Empire. In the course of its inquiry, the committee consulted the central authorities of all returned soldiers’ organizations, the heads of service departments, and every other authority which it was thought might be of assistance. The speeches of certain honorable members, both upon the committee’s report and upon this measure, have disgusted me. I remind the House that the committee sat for 32 full days before making its report. One criticism that has been levelled is that the committee did not visit each State of the Commonwealth to take evidence. The reason for that was that the report was required urgently by the Government. The committee was called upon to present a report which would provide a reasonable basis for an amending repatriation act, a:nd not one which would be calculated merely to secure for members of the committee political favour with returned soldiers and their dependants. As the chairman of the committee said, we had to do the job as practical men, and, as one of the signatories, I consider that the report was a good one. I hope that the Government will see- its way clear to set up a standing committee on repatriation so that all matters affecting returned soldiers and their dependants may be examined from time to time.
– What authority would the honorable member give to such a committee ?
– Full authority to inquire into every aspect of repatriation. It is all very well for some honorable members opposite to criticize the committee’s report at this late stage. I remind the House that although the committee wrote to every honorable member and to every honorable senator, asking for suggestions as to how the lot of our returned soldiers and their dependants could be improved, a reply was received from only approximately 3 per cent, of the recipients of those letters; yet now that the committee has finished its job certain honorable members have had the temerity to criticize not only the report but also this bill. If there was a weakness in the report, it was due entirely to their apathy. In view of these circumstances, it is .most unfair for an honorable member to rant as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ddid a few days ago in response to political pressure from New South Wales. The committee did the job that it was asked by the Government to do, and I remind the honorable member for Warringah that this is the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to alter our repatriation legislation in a general way to benefit the conditions of returned soldiers and their dependants. Instead of delivering speeches that ring with insincerity, as does his appointment to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he should remember that while he is spending his time in this chamber firing verbal bullets, our fighting men, who are in the front line firing real bullets, know what repatriation means. The honorable member for WWentworth (Mr. Harrison) also made a violent speech supporting the agitation from New South. Wales for ;a 50 per cent, increase of pensions. I remind the honorable member that the service that a soldier renders to his country cannot be measured in terms of money.
– At least the Government could try to give him a reasonable reward.
– We are trying.
– Why did the honorable member, for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) resign from the committee?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) knows quite well that my military duties would not permit me to remain on the committee. My -apology was conveyed to the Prime Minister and it ill becomes the Minister to ask such a question.
– Naturally all members of the committee would like to see the returned soldiers and their dependants receive all the assistance that it is possible to give to them, but I repeat that the committee’s task was to bring in, as quickly as possible, a report which would be reasonably sure ‘ of acceptance. ‘Repatriation is something more than the mere payment of pensions. In reply to the criticism that has been expressed in -this chamber because this measure will effect only a 20 per cent, increase of pensions and dependants’ allowances, I point out that pensions and allowances are not in any way connected with the basic wage ov the cost of living. A pension is granted to a returned soldier because of -the disability that he suffers as a result of his war service, and the increase of 20 per cent, merely represents a commonsense decision by the committee. I would like to make particular reference to those returned soldiers who are suffering from tuberculosis. On medical evidence it is practically impossible to determine the origin of this disease, and although I a.m. a signatory to the report that forms the basis of this legislation, I consider that more generous treatment must be given to tubercular -returned soldiers, not only in the interests of the sufferers themselves, but also in the interests of the -nation.
– The honorable member is finding fault -with his own report.
– No ; I am merely making a suggestion. Incidentally, I remind the honorable member that a returned soldier suffering from tuberculosis receives not only his service pension, but also an invalid pension, and that his wife and dependants receive allowances. It is important also that the rate of pension be considered side by side with rehabilitation. We must not engender in the minds of returned soldiers other than those who are totally and permanently disabled the belief that they can sit back and do nothing all their lives and receive a pension. They must be encouraged to rehabilitate themselves as far as possible. Actually the committee has gone further than that and has recommended not only vocational guidance, but also post-war training in many spheres of activity.
In conclusion, I point out that this measure is not unalterable, but may be amended by either House. If honorable members believe that they can improve the bill they should endeavour to do so. I recommend the measure to the House and, at the same time, I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to consider the setting up of a parliamentary committee on repatriation to deal with all repatriation problems that arise from time to time.
.- I compliment the joint parliamentary committee on the excellence of its report and the care which evidently was1 bestowed on its preparation. A report in such detail reflects the greatest credit on its authors, because it furnishes evidence of an examination of the matter in the proper spirit, for the purpose of presenting material that would appeal to the Government and give necessary assistance to those who are rightly entitled to it. In common with other honorable members, however, I consider that the proposed increase of the pension by 20 per cent, is, for various reasons, totally inadequate. Because of the higher pay which present-day soldiers receive compared with those who fought in the last war, the increase of the cost of living, and the inadequacy of the .pensions paid after the last war. I shall support a move to raise the rate still higher. I shall listen carefully to the debate in committee, and shall then advocate what I consider will bast suit the interests of returned soldiers themselves, the wives of incapacitated members of the forces, the widows of men who have made the supreme sacrifice, those who have been made limbless or in other ways totally incapacitated, and the dependants of men who, on account of their war disabilities, are no longer able to provide the amenities which they might have enjoyed in other circumstances. I also congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) upon having introduced a bill based on such an ably prepared report. The pensions granted after the last war were in the pauper class, especially in respect of many men who had been decorated for the gallantry they had displayed. I mentioned recently in this House a winner of the Victoria Cross who had been compelled to tramp the country seeking food. That should not happen.
– Is he a pensioner?
– He is not. He was seeking work. I have received to-day a letter from another winner of the Victoria Cross who was responsible for heroic deeds in the last war. His decorations include the .Distinguished Conduct Medal with bar, the Distinguished Service Order, and the Victoria Cross. He advanced from the rank of private to that of lieutenant. He is only 44 years of age, and is physically fit and well, yet is unable to secure acceptance of his application to join the service. He has been working in the Civil Constructional Corps. I hope to discuss the matter with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), and shall then .place before him the particulars that have been supplied to me. Cases of this kind must be examined. The men who are fighting for the preservation of our rights and privileges, and the freedom that we esteem so highly, have the greatest stake in the country. In other spheres of activity associated with war operations, there is wastage of millions of pounds. In many instances, waste cannot be avoided: but much of it could be prevented by the exercise of greater care. Because of what our soldiers have done and are doing in the cause of Australia and the Empire, the pensions which they may later be obliged to seek should be commensurate with their sacrifices. I shall await the committee stage to make further remarks along these lines.
.- In my view, the men who have given of their best in defence of this country and its democratic institutions in time of war are entitled to expect from the nation its utmost endeavours to rehabilitate in civil life those who are fit and well, and a just assessment of the disabilities of those who are sick, maimed, or invalided from other causes, with adequate compensation in the form of a pension. Those are the premises upon which I base my approach to the consideration of this measure.
In the first place, I offer congratulations to the Government upon having set up an all-party committee to examine the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and to report to the Parliament as to how it could be improved. The act has been a controversial subject ever since 1 became a member of this Parliament, and doubtless for many years prior to that event. In the appointment of the joint parliamentary committee, the Government made an excellent first approach to the matter. The decision that the committee should be composed wholly of returned soldiers was well conceived; because of the experience which they had had of active service conditions it could not be argued that there was any likelihood of their being unsympathetic to ether soldiers who were less fortunate than they. The committee, too, deserves the highest praise for the report which it presented to the Parliament; and the Government acted with commendable wisdom when it accepted broadly the recommendations that were placed before it. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) and his staff also must be congratulated upon the preparation of the splendid comprehensive secondreadding speech which the honorable gentleman made to this House in explanation of the provisions of the bill.
– Its comprehensiveness has never previously been equalled.
– I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). It was certainly a very fine exposition of the bill, enabling honorable members to be fully informed of its provisions. “With certain of the provisions I entirely agree; they are excellent, and are certainly an improvement of the act. For example, clause 6 provides that the number of commissioners shall be increased from three to five. Three commissioners may have been sufficient in days gone by; but the subject of repatriation in the early postwar years will confront the commission with tremendous problems, which will need the attention of at least five members. Whilst it has not yet been definitely stated, I believe that the Government contemplates the appointment of a woman to the commission. There should be a woman member of it, because this war is entirely different from the last conflict, at all events in this country. In Australia we have marshalled, not only manpower, but also woman-power, and our women have made a valuable contribution to the war effort. In fact, their help has been invaluable, and they are entitled to have a woman on the commission in order to watch the interests of women who have given war service. The provision in the bill relating to the onus of proof is a great improvement on the present law, and the Government is to be commended for its action in the matter.
The bill gives effect, broadly, to the recommendations of the special parliamentary committee, but no monetary payment is adequate compensation for men who become incapacitated as the result of war service. All that we can do is to make a token payment to them. I credit the committee with having been conscientious in its recommendations, and I accept its opinion as to the amount to which service pensions should be increased. It has recommended that the present rates be increased by 20 per cent., but, as 1 have already said, we cannot adequately compensate men for disabilities arising from war service by a mere monetary reward. Like my friend, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), I am deeply interested in the rehabilitation of returned soldiers and other ex-service men. I regard that as an important aspect of the repatriation work that has been undertaken since the last war. The Repatriation Commission has done valuable work for returned soldiers, particularly ;n the provision of vocational training for their children. Consideration could be given with advantage to the extension of that benefit to the civilian population, in the interests of both the present generation and posterity. We should not overlook those who, because of their skill and ability, have been required to serve in the workshops. Owing to the important work performed on the factory front, the conditions in this war are not on all fours with those in the last war. Many of the womenfolk who have joined the fighting forces will also have to be rehabilitated, and I am glad to notice that the committee, in its recommendations, has not overlooked their interests. After this war, I hope that we shall not have the spectacle, referred to by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), of the soldier or the munition worker being reduced to the dole, because of inability to obtain work. The repatriation of soldiers and the rehabilitation in industry of both returned soldiers and industrial workers interests me greatly because of my close association with the work of the Social Security Committee, and my knowledge of what its investigations have revealed. I trust that before the life of this Parliament expires it will have achieved good results with regard to this problem.
I look upon the repatriation benefits contemplated under this bill as closely related to social benefits generally, and I draw the attention of honorable members to what has been done in the United States of America in this matter. An article in the January issue of the International Labor Review, dealing with the proposed extension of social insurance in the United States of America, shows the trend of the mind of thinking people throughout the world regarding, not only the repatriation of soldiers, sailors and airmen, and the women who are serving in the forces, but also social services generally. That journal, referring to a bill introduced in September last to extend the scope and benefits of insurance under the United States Social Security Act, states -
The bill establishes a Federal Social Insurance System, consisting of two branches: (1) old-age survivors and permanent disability insurance; arid (2) unemployment and temporary disability insurance, both administered by the Social Security Board.
That is a provision for social security of a general character. The International Labor Review further remarks -
Unemployment benefit and temporary disability benefit are calculated in the same manner, namely, at about 60 per cent, of the average earnings during that quarter of the previous year in which the earnings were highest. A supplement of $1 to $2 is added for each dependant. Benefit is payable in respect of each contingency for a maximum of 20 weeks.
The social security benefits in the United States of America apply, not only to exsoldiers, but also to the whole of the population. It indicates the trend of thought among people living in democratic countries. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) - with whom I am often in agreement on these matters - on the subject of vocational training. The rehabilitation of our soldiers after the war is of paramount importance, and vocational training is an important part of this work. Indeed, it cannot be overemphasized.
The honorable member for Flinders pointed out that there were 3,000 deaths from tuberculosis in Australia each year, and the fact that these deaths occur among an average number of 30,000 infected persons, is evidence that we should sit up and take notice. In many instances, the condition of returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis is not due to their war service. Other factors are responsible for their contracting the disease, factors which are common to them and other members of the community. It is the opinion of eminent authorities that tuberculosis could be not only controlled, but even totally eradicated within a couple of generations. In the meantime, however, the returned soldier sufferers require adequate protection.
The Government must tackle the problem of the rehabilitation of our soldiers in civil life, and to this end must give attention to the vocational training and guidance of soldiers and their dependants. I trust that we shall be able to broaden our approach to the problem of repatriation by linking it up with social services generally, so that not only the soldiers who fought in the war, the women attached to the various services, and men and women engaged in the manufacture of munitions will benefit, but also the citizens of the community generally. “We should not regard the winning of the war as an end in itself. We must keep in mind after the war the great ideals for which we are now fighting, including the establishment of a better way of life.
.- 1 congratulate the Government upon having brought down this measure, and also the parliamentary committee which collected evidence and submitted the recommendations upon which the (bill is based. Amendments to the Repatriation Act were long overdue. It contained many anomalies which operated harshly against the returned soldiers on whose behalf it was originally introduced, namely, those who fought in the last war. Some honorable members opposite have criticized this bill on various grounds and I do not wish to reiterate their statements. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who was once Minister in charge of Repatriation, criticized the measure, but I ask him what he did while he was Minister to improve the act. He did nothing to remedy the shortcomings against which he is now ranting. Why was that? It was either because he feared that he could not give the soldiers what they wanted, or because he was afraid that any bill which he introduced might produce political reactions against himself or the government of which he was a member.
I could suggest some improvements to the bill ‘but, taking it as a whole, it is worthy of acceptance by honorable members. It would, appear, from listening to the speeches of honorable members, that the most controversial provision in the bill is that relating to the rate of pensions. The Government, in providing for an increase of 20 per cent., accepted, the recommendations of the parliamentary committee. The chairman and various members of the committee have said that they wished to make recommendations that would be readily acceptable to the Government. For my part, I believe that they have done the soldiers a good service. Many of us would like the increase to be greater. The honorable member for Wentworth criticized the Government for not having made it greater, hut what did he do when he was Minister for Repatriation, and what did the Opposition as a whole do when it was in power? An increase of 20 per cent, was recommended by the parliamentary committee. We must assume that when the original legislation providing for rates of pension was before the Parliament those rates must have been regarded as fair, otherwise I am certain that a move would have been made for an alteration. Having sought to ascertain the basis on which the rates were fixed originally, I have come to the conclusion that the cost of living was not taken into consideration. Nor was the pension regarded as a charitable gift. The subject was considered, not on a strict actuarial basis, but with a view to making some recompense to men who, in risking their lives in the service of their country, had been broken in health or had suffered physical disabilities from which they would not recover. In some instances, an increase of the pension by 20 per cent, may he sufficient ; in others, it may not be so. The cost of living should not enter into this matter at all. The purpose of the pension is to grant some small measure of compensation to men who have suffered disabilities as the result of their war service. From time to time increases of pensions in various other countries have been referred to, but I am convinced that an increase of 20 per cent, will be acceptable to the majority of Australian service men. The honorable member for “Wentworth had so much to say .about the pension not being a charitable gift that as I listened to him I came to the conclusion that he was endeavouring to convince himself that he was right. I again emphasize that the pension is a small measure of compensation’ for the sacrifice that a member of the fighting services has made, and the disabilities and losses that he has suffered. Some honorable members opposite are seeking to make political capital out of this measure.. I am aware that suggestions emanating from various sections of the community have not been accepted in their entirety ‘by the Government, but it is significant that the honorable members who have been loudest in their clamour for greater increases of pension rates, occupied the position of Minister for Repatriation in previous ministries, in which position they did nothing to increase the rates.
I wish now to refer to the administration of the act as I am not desirous of referring to matters already fully dealt with by various speakers. The act, and the regulations under it, vest great powers in the Repatriation Commission. Recently, a case was brought to my notice in which inquiries in regard to an application by a member of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force for a pension were made, not by an officer of the commission, but by a member of- the Queensland police force. An entirely wrong impression may be gained by neighbours or workmates of a service man should a member of the police force call at his home, or at his .place of employment, in order to make inquiries regarding his application for a pension. In my opinion, all investigations on behalf of the commission should be made by its own officers ; they should certainly not be made by members of the police force.
The State boards have been charged with the responsibility of investigating applications in the first instance. When an application has been rejected by a State board, there should .be no necessity for an appeal to the commission. The appeal should go direct to the tribunal for determination should the applicant so desire.
When the original act was drafted it was not expected that so many organizations of returned soldiers as exist to-day would be formed. Some of the organizations whose membership is comparatively small are of the opinion that they have not been given the recognition which is given to organizations with a larger membership. I hold no brief for any particular organization, but I submit that every organization which is representative of members of the fighting forces should be recognized by the Government. Many organizations which have a comparatively small membership are rendering valuable aid to service men of the 1934-18 war as well as of the present war, and to their dependants. All organizations of returned men should he recognized by the Government, and when a representative of service men on any board or tribunal is required there should be a Commonwealth-wide election at which every service man should be entitled to vote. Even if the numerically smaller organizations were outvoted by the larger ones at the election, the system would be more democratic than is the present method and the smaller bodies would feel that they were not being overlooked. If the Minister cannot on this occasion make the necessary amendment, I hope that be will give the matter serious consideration. In the administration of this new legislation, anomalies are bound to arise, and they must be corrected. In fact, the various returned soldiers’ organizations should be invited to submit proposals from time to time for the rectification of anomalies as they are revealed.
The provision of vocational training for returned soldiers will be one of the most important duties that will devolve upon the Repatriation Commission. The neglect of the interests of returned soldiers, which occurred after the last war, must not be repeated. Men who were cheered to the echo in 1914-18 were afterwards forgotten. The commission should give every consideration to this matter, because the re-entry of discharged soldiers into civil life will present tremendous difficulties. The Government will have its hands full in dealing with the rehabilitation of service personnel and the restoration of munitions workers to civil life. Therefore, a comprehensive post-war rehabilitation plan must be devised now. To wait until the conclusion of the war before evolving such a plan would be worse than useless. If we allow this opportunity to slip from our grasp, the sad neglect of returned soldiers’ interests which was experienced after the last war will be repeated. We owe a duty to those who go into battle on our behalf, to do everything in our power to place them in profitable employment after the war. Opportunities must be provided for vocational training, and eligibility to receive this form of departmental assistance should not be confined to men who have served outside Australia, but should be extended to all personnel of the fighting services. The position to-day is vastly different from what it wa3 in the last war. This country was never threatened in 1914-18 as it is menaced to-day. If we had dreamed that the Japanese would make such a powerful thrust, southward, we would have made better preparations to defend Australia. Eligibility to receive vocational training should be placed upon a wide and generous basis. Already, the Repatriation Commission has done excellent work in finding employment for returned soldiers, but the existing staff is not large enough to carry out the desires of the. commission. As this is purely a matter of administration, the Minister and the commission should consider the advisability of appointing experienced, full-time employment officers to assist in finding positions for personnel as they are discharged from the services. Such officers would have to appreciate the debt that is owed to the soldier. Members of the fighting forces should not be relegated to dead-end jobs, or placed in temporary positions. If there is to be rehabilitation in the true sense of the word, employment officers must be appointed. They will have a tremendous responsibility.
A barrister or solicitor attached to the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s Department should be made available for the purpose of assisting soldiers to prepare their applications or appeals to the Repatriation Commission, the War Pensions Assessment Tribunal, or the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. He should have a wide knowledge of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and his services should be provided free of cost to soldiers. Consideration might also be given to enabling an advocate employed by the Commonwealth to appear for the applicant free of cost to him. Whilst I am mindful of the good work that has already been done by the various returned soldiers’ organizations, a legal officer of the Crown Solicitor’s Department would be in a better position to secure documents which at present are not made available to a soldier in the preparation of his case. A precis of the contents of the applicants’ files is available to the applicant or his representatives at the present time, but this is not always satisfactory. Those files may contain confidential reports, but information which would be of help to an applicant could be made available to him through a departmental officer whose services, I suggest, should be placed at the disposal of appli-cants. Many soldiers have complained to me that they do not know what they have to meet when they go before the tribunal. One old “digger “ put it this way, “ When you go before the tribunal you feel you are fighting a ghost. You do not know whom you are up against; you do not know just what evidence might be brought against you”. If the services of such an officer were made available to applicants the latter would benefit very greatly.
I shall now cite a case which discloses another anomaly. In 1941 a soldier was called to Rosemount Military Hospital, Brisbane. He came from north Queensland, where he resided. On his journey home he had the misfortune to contract food poisoning. He was taken from the train at Townsville, more or less unconscious, to the Townsville Hospital. After he had paid his fees at the Townsville Hospital he applied to the commission to reimburse him that payment, but the commission refused. Had he been making that journey as an employee in his employer’s time he would have been entitled, under his award, to reimbursement of those fees. He contends that because he travelled to Brisbane at the express wish of the commission, the least the commission should do is to pay expenses he incurred while an inmate of the Townsville Hospital. Provision should be made to protect any ex-service man or ex-service woman who sustains injury or contracts a complaint while travelling to and from any military hospital to which he or she has been called for treatment by the department. Such injury should be deemed to have been sustained, and such illness to have been contracted, while under the direction of the department. A similar provision should also apply to ex-service men and women while travelling to or from departmental offices for medical examination. Although such incidents may be infrequent, any ex-service man or woman involved in them should be treated fairly, and should be recouped any expenses incurred in the circumstances I have indicated. I am surprised to learn that the commission refuses to reimburse applicants such expenses. The cost involved would not be very great.
I support the measure. The Government has done an excellent job in framing it. I also congratulate the committee on its report and recommendations on which the measure is based. I hope that Parliament will be given every opportunity to remove anomalies as they become apparent, and that as the result of the Government’s attitude towards repatriation the ex-soldiers of this war will receive better treatment than wasmeted out to the soldiers of the war of 1914-18.
– This debate has revealed widely differing views as to the steps we should take in order to do justice to our men who fought in the war of 1914-18, and also the men who fight in this war and will qualify for benefits under this measure. Despite those differences, however, complete unanimity exists as to the necessity for making a complete review of our repatriation legislation. Indeed, it would be surprising if that were not so. Frequently, advocates in the Arbitration Court complain that wages awarded by the court to enable the workers to meet the increased cost of living lag several months behind the incidence of the increased cost. Several measures, which now appear on the notice-paper, are designed to reduce that lag. I refer to the proposal to enable invalid and old-age pensions to be adjusted in accordance with the variations of the cost of living. That measure contemplates reducing the lag from a couple of months to a couple of weeks. I am in favour of such action being taken. However, in respect of our repatriation legislation, there is a lag, not of a couple of months, or a couple of weeks, but a quarter of a century. Therefore, it’ would be surprising if complete unanimity did not exist among honorable members concerning the necessity to provide for the adjustment of benefits to be provided under this legislation. The issue now before us is what is the proper adjustment necessary in order that we shall do justice to our disabled soldiers and their dependants. Under the measure, it is proposed to increase the rates of pensions by 20 per cent. An amendment has been foreshadowed to increase the present rates by 50 per cent. I support the latter proposal. It has been said that the proposal to increase the rate by 50 per cent, has no scientific basis. That is true; but the same argument applies to the proposal in the bill to increase the rates by 20 per cent. I agree that a closer examination of the position would better enable us to do real justice to our ex-soldiers and their dependants. Perhaps such an examination would reveal that we should give to some people allowances at rates 50 per cent, above the present rates, and to others allowances at a lower rate, whilst some allowances should be given to ex-soldiers and dependants who do not now receive any repatriation benefit whatever. However, in considering this legislation, we must now choose between an increase of 20 per cent, of the present rates, and an increase of 50 per cent. I support the latter, proposal. In order to assess correctly the adjustment which is necessary to deal more fairly with recipients of benefits under this legislation, several factors must be considered.
The first consideration, to which I do not think adequate attention has been given, is : was the original fixation of repatriation payments in 1920 fair and reasonable? Secondly, what increase is necessary to relate the 1920 terms of repatriation to existing conditions? Thirdly, regard should be paid to the general liberalization of civilian pensions and social services. Fourthly - and this is one on which I hope to achieve complete unanimity amongst honorable members - what devaluation has taken place of the allowances recommended by the committee and embodied in the measure since the report was signed in September last? It is unchallengeable that the disposition throughout the world to-day towards the responsibility of the community in matters of social import is much more generous than it was in 1920. I have not the slightest doubt that if the pensions fixed in 1920 were now assessed de novo they would be on a more generous scale than has obtained in the last 23 years. .For instance, in 1920 the invalid or old-age pension was 12s. 6d., whereas to-day it is £1 6s. a week. In the course of. those 23 years, we have come to recognize our responsibility towards children, and we have initiated child endowment. We have instituted pensions for widows and, as was said by the previous speaker, ‘ this House has passed legislation for the establishment of a national welfare programme involving the expenditure of £30,000,000 per annum. All these things confirm my statement that the community to-day has a more complete and generous recognition of its responsibilities to its weaker members. That justifies me in asserting that if the repatriation benefits framed 20 years ago were framed de novo, they would be much more generous than they are. It naturally follows that the amendments proposed to-day would be even more generous. Several reasons have been advanced in this debate as to why repatriation pensions should be increased by the 20 per cent, provided in the measure. Others have argued that they should be increased by 50 per cent. The cost of living in 1920 has been compared with the co=.t of living to-day. The rates of pay for soldiers in the first world war have been compared with those which obtain in this war. Without repeating all the arguments, I think that I can judicially say that the argument has been very much in favour of the 50 per cent, as against the 20 per cent. I digress to say that I join in commending the special parliamentary committee on repatriation for the general terms of its recommendations. The fact that I disagree with it in one important respect does not mean that I question its motives or judgment. The members of the committee will agree that if they were making their recommendations to-day they would pay regard to the fact that, since September last, when the report was signed, the basic wage has been increased from £4 15s. to £4 1.8s. a week.
– Does the honorable member imply that the members of that committee ido not move with the times?
– No ; because they do move with the times I say that to-day they would have regard to the increased basic wage. I intend in committee to give honorable members an opportunity to see the justice and equity of that proposal.
– The co?t of living has increased by 2.3 per cent, since the report was signed.
– The basic wage has increased to £4 18s. It has been urged , that the House should adopt the bill as it stands, because it closely follows the recommendations of the committee. I hardly think- that that is an adequate reason. Although I appreciate the general work that the committee did, I do not think that I am justified in blindly accepting all its recommendations. One honorable member,, urging the adoption- of the bill in its entirety, said that it would be dangerous for soldiers’ pensions to be liberalized over their whole ambit, because that would probably mean a widening of the means test, and that some of the men who were now receiving the maximum pension might have their pensions reduced. Surely, there is nothing in that argument. In any case, all that it means is that the present rates of pension should be maintained for some not seriously in need of a pension at the expense of those who do not receive pensions at all.
– Does the honorable member consider that there should be a means test?
– Absolutely no! I shall have something to say about that. It has been urged that we should have regard for the taxpayers. We have heard that before. Four years ago we were ‘told that the financial structure of Australia could not provide £2,000,000 with which to bring into operation the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act which was passed by this Parliament with acclaim. I am no longer prepared to listen to any suggestion that this country cannot afford to give equity to those who have a claim upon it. Since we were told that by the same financial advisers as are advising this Government, we have expended £11,000,000 on child endowment, £4,000,000 on widows’ pensions, other millions on increasing the old-age and invalid pensions, and other millions on increasing the maternity allowance. The Minister has told us that to finance the increased provisions now embodied in the bill will cost about £1,600,000. It is therefore only a simple sum in mental arithmetic to calculate that to pay the 50 per cent, increase would not involve us in more than an additional £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. In view of the many millions of pounds which are so recklessly thrown about to-day, no suggestion that the taxpayer or the Treasurer should be protected should prevent u3 from doing justice to the men by granting them the increased pension which some of us are advocating.
I am sorry that the bill still perpetuates the wretched means test. It is not very widespread in its incidence throughout this measure, but the time has arrived when we should eliminate it from all our social legislation. The trend is in that direction. We eliminated it entirely from the Child Endowment Act; we propose to eliminate it entirely from the maternity allowance, and I suggest that, if there is any other realm from which it should be at once excluded, it is that of repatriation benefits. An industrially disabled workman, who is entitled under the compensation acts of the various States to recompense for his injury, does not suffer a diminution of benefit merely because he has some financial resources available to him, and I strongly urge upon the Minister that even now he should take appropriate steps to eliminate entirely all consideration of the means test from our repatriation benefits.
– In respect of service pensions? Is that the only case in which the honorable member would abolish it?
– In respect of service pensions and dependants’ pensions. I have before me now the papers in the case of a widow in my constituency who lost a son, a naval rating, when the destroyer Waterhen was lost in the Mediterranean. She was receiving, as the result of his death, a not very substantial pension based on the ordinary terms of the repatriation law, but when his death was accepted as proved, and probate granted, she received from his estate the sum of £204. For that reason her pension was at once reduced by £12 or £13 a year. The sum of £204 invested in the ordinary way in a safe security would return only £6 or £7 a year; yet, because she received that amount of money from the estate of her deceased son, who gave his life fighting for his country in the Mediterranean, she lost £12 a year of her pension. It would have been better if he had taken the £204 with him to the bottom of the Mediterranean. That is a circumstance which should not leave us unmoved. I have before me the case of another constituent, who is resident in the repatriation home for tubercular soldiers at Turramurra, iri my electorate. He was originally in the employ of the Railway Department, and, as such, became disabled, and inability to carry out his work entitled him, under the Railways Superannuation Act”, to a pension of £1 16s. 3d. a week. If he had not had that superannuation allowance he would have been entitled to £1 18s. 6d. a week. His service pension, plus a proportion of the invalid pension, would have brought li is earnings up to that figure, but he received only £1 16s. 3d. from the Railways Superannuation Fund, to which he contributed for many years and he also had the prudence to insure his life. I have no fault to find with the officials of the Repatriation Department, who are only interpreting the law as it now stands, but, because he made those two provisions for the future, it is computed that, under the repatriation provisions, he is not entitled to any consideration for even the service pension which the other nonaccepted tubercular men in the home receive. I strongly urge the Minister to take such steps as are necessary to eliminate entirely all regard for the means test when calculating any of the benefits which are provided in the act or in this bill.
That brings me to what I consider the principal part of the bill upon which I should make an appeal to the Minister, and that is the treatment of returned soldiers who, after their discharge - sometimes many years after - have been found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Until now, a man whose tuberculosis has been established and accepted by the tribunal as being due to his war service, has been entitled to the full pension of £4 a week for himself, with allowances for his dependants, ‘but many men have been refused recognition in that way. It has been very difficult for them to prove the association of their ailment, which did not develop immediately after their discharge, with their war service, and, as a consequence, they have been refused any pension. It is true that they have been given treatment under the Re patriation Act, and the right to residential treatment in the various sanatoriums operating under the Repatriation Department. Most of them, being unable to secure the repatriation pension, have had recourse to the service pension, plus a moiety of the invalid pension, and, as I said before, are receiving £1 18s. 6d. a week in that way. The result is that this inability to live appropriately and to obtain the nourishing food3 so essential to combat tuberculosis, so long as they live outside and try to subsist on the £1 183. 6d. a week, has driven them into sanatoriums. The proof of this is contained in statistics which I have been able to get. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), incidentally, said that this plea was merely made on behalf of a number of men who, one month after enlistment, were found to be suffering from tuberculosis.
– You are a liar. I never said anything of the sort.
– I ask for a withdrawal of that remark.
– The honorable member for Ballarat must withdraw it.
– Certainly, but I will think it. I also ask for a withdrawal of the distinct untruth which the honorable member for Parramatta uttered about me.
– The honorable member for Ballarat will be given an opportunity to make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– The honorable member for Ballarat distinctly referred to the fact that many men were detected with tuberculosis one month after they enlisted and never went near a theatre of war. Let me inform him that there are in Australia over 1,200 men who fought in the Great War 25 years ago, not one month ago, and who have not had their ailment accepted as being due to their war service. I spoke recently to :i man who has been almost three years in continuous residence in one of the sanatoriums of the Repatriation Department. He receives £1 18s. 6d. a week. Hesaid: “I cannot live outside and secure the necessary food; I am therefore compelled to go into a sanatorium, but if you increase my pension to £4 a week, which means only £21s. 6d. a week more, I shall keep away from the home.”Whilst in a sanatorium, a man costs the country £4 3s. a week if in New South Wales, and up to £511s. a week in some of the other States. Quite apart from humanitarian considerations, and equity to soldiers, it would be a good investment for the Government to pay all ex-soldier sufferers from tuberculosis the full pension, which will probably be £4 16s. a week, after this bill is passed, rather than practically oblige them to remain in sanatoriums. I should be glad also to see something done for civilian sufferers from tuberculosis. That, too, would be to the advantage of the community at large. When I was Minister for Health I was assured by my medical officers that, given proper financial assistance and disciplinary conditions for patients, it would be possible to eliminate tuberculosis within two generations. Only yesterday the following report touching this subject appeared in a section of the press : -
Tuberculosis was essentially an economic problem, for the disease definitely thrived under conditions of poverty, Dr. Bruce White, of the Anti-Tuberculin Association, said yesterday. “ Those patients whose economic status is good on the whole do far better than the poor. I attribute this largely to freedom from want and to a certain extent freedom from worry “, said Dr. White, addressing the Federal Parliamentary Committee on Social Security.
Here is a way in which the Government could at once give effect, in part at least, to two of the provisions of the Atlantic Charter. It could free these tubercular people from want and fear. As corroboration of my statement that the tendency is for non-accepted tubercular soldier claimants for pensions to enter sanatoriums, I point out that whilst 2,199 claimants are accepted tubercular exsoldier patients, 1,141 are non-accepted ex-soldier patients. The average number of tubercular accepted ex-soldier inpatients maintained full-time in repatriation tuberculosis hospitals and sanatoriums during 1942 was 156, whereas the number of non-accepted exsoldier patients so maintained was 182. I believe that if the Government would pay a full pension to all ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis the number of inmates of sanatoriums would be greatly reduced. It is impossible for many ex-soldiers who may have contracted tuberculosis in the last ten or fifteen years to prove that their complaint was due to war service; but it is equally impossible for the repatriation authorities to prove that their complaint was not due to such service. Those of us who have seen pictures of our men fighting in New Guinea must agree that the conditions predispose the men to attacks by this insidious and fell disease.
– Men are liable to contract tuberculosis at any period of life.
– I agree with the honorable member, and for that reason I submit that ex-soldier patients should not be obliged to prove that their complaint was due to war service.
– Will not the removal of the onus of proof from the ex-soldiers to the repatriation authorities help such men?
– I believe that it might exist, but I wish to make assurance doubly sure, and for that reason I would like the Minister to announce that the Government will grant the full pension to all ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis.
– The Government should accept my amendment.
– Quite so. I hope that the amendment will be considered on its merits and not according to party affiliations.
I am pleased that more emphasis is being given to the necessity to provide vocational training for returned men. Lieutenant-Colonel Madgwick, Director of Education and Vocational Training in the Department of the Army, has referred to the great disabilities that service men suffer compared with that of civilians. It is obvious that skilled tradesmen who enlist and serve in the forces must lose considerable skill, whereas those who remain at home and who may have had very little skill at the beginning of the war may acquire considerable skill in consequence of their service in crafts throughout the period of the war. I trust, therefore, that every effort will be made to ensure that ex-soldiers do not suffer because of any loss of skill incurred through war service. It will be impossible> to remove every disability and disadvantage from skilled tradesmen who enlist in the services, but everything possible should be done to protect the interests of such men.
I trust that the Government will consider that I have been constructive in my criticism of this measure. I intend to vote for the second reading of the bill, because I believe that it will do a measure of justice to the soldiers who unfortunately have been called upon to leave their usual callings to take up war service. The greater the benefits we can accord these men the greater the credit te Australia. I hope, therefore, that amendments on the lines I have suggested will be accepted by the Government.
.- A wise man once said, “ From all cant and humbug, good Lord, deliver us”. We have been getting a fair issue of cant and humbug from some members of the Opposition during this debate.
– Only from some-.
– That was what I said. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) had a good deal to say about tubercular soldiers. J point out that tubercular soldiers are receiving much more generous treatment than tubercular civilians, _ and I do not begrudge it in any way. The Repatriation Commission provides treatment for all tubercular soldiers, and even those who receive only the service pension get £1 18s. 6d. a week, plus 18s. for their wife and 2s. 6d. for each child under the age of sixteen years who is wholly maintained by the pensioner. Tubercular civilians receive only £1 5s. 6d. a week. Under this measure, tubercular soldiers will receive an additional 20 per cent, in pension payments. The honorable member also said that he hoped that the “ means “ test would be abolished from all social service legislation. For a number of years, while he was a Government supporter sitting on the back benches, he could have done something to achieve that objective. During the time he was a supporter of the Menzies Government he had several opportunities to vote for the elimination of the “means” test, but he left the chamber rather than record a vote against his party. It has been suggested that returned soldiers’ pensions should be increased by 50 per cent., but I point out that the basic wage has risen only from £4 15s. to £4 18s., which is about 3 per cent. Governments formed by the party of which the honorable member for Parramatta is a member have been in power almost continuously since the last war, yet they made no attempt to rectify these matters ; but now that the honorable member is in opposition, he appears to be most concerned about the conditions of returned soldiers and their dependants.
– He has been free with his own money and not merely with public money, as are the honorable member for Herbert and the Government which he supports.
– I would not say too much about that. The honorable member was a Minister when the Repatriation Act was amended in 1940. His Government had an opportunity then to increase ex-soldiers’ pensions, but I did not see him shed, any crocodile tears on that occasion. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) moved an amendment to the effect that if an ex-soldier made out a prima facie case for receipt of a pension, the onus would be on the Repatriation Commission to prove that he was not entitled to it, but every honorable member opposite who was in this House on that occasion voted against the amendment, with the exception of the late honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), the former honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). Several nights ago the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that he had not voted against the amendment, but when his attention was drawn to his name among the “ noes “ in the division list, he said that the bill had been passed by honorable members who are now sitting with the Opposition, but, with the exception of the three honorable members whom I have mentioned, that was not so. It does not matter what the honorable member for Parramatta has talked about for the last 20 years or the last 50 years, neither does it matter what he has done with his own money. Apparently he is prepared to draw upon, tie public purse ad libitum to-day. I take more notice of the special parliamentary committee which was composed of returned soldier members representing both the ministerial and Opposition parties than of the honorable member for Parramatta, who has talked a lot but has done nothing. I agree with speakers who have stressed the need for ‘a complete overhaul of our repatriation legislation. There are many anomalies in it. Much that should be done for returned soldiers and their dependants cannot be done under the act as it stands at present, and further amendments will have to be made. Obviously it is impossible to compensate returned soldiers for what they have endured. The proposal to increase pensions 50 per cent, is merely a vote-catching election cry, and from what I have gathered from talks with many returned soldiers during the past few weeks, the extended benefits granted under this hill will be generally acceptable.
– I do not think that the honorable member would say that at Bondi.
– I am prepared to say it anywhere. I have talked with many returned soldiers and 1 am just as au fait with their ideas as is the honorable member for Parramatta. I have done more to assist them than the honorable member has ever done.
The proposal to grant legal assistance to ex-soldiers in necessitous cases is an excellent one. It is only fair that an exsoldier in receipt of a small pension, or an indigent applicant for a pension, should have access to free legal advice on repatriation matters, in the same way as assistance is rendered by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in certain other directions. Another matter to which I should like to refer relates to an occurrence during the term of office of the “honorable member for “Wentworth, who now sheds crocodile tears and asks for a “fair go” for wives and dependants of returned soldiers. It concerns a woman at Bondi, in his own electorate, whose claim to the Repatriation Department in respect of the death nf her husband was rejected. The Entitlement Tribunal described the case as one of the worst on record, and refused a pension, but granted a compassionate allowance of l’8s. a week. I may say that the death certificate of the soldier in question does not support the allegations of the tribunal. I asked two medical men at Bondi if the soldier’s death certificate could in any way support the tribunal’s claim that the man had died from syphilis, and they said, “ No “, but the Entitlement Tribunal adhered to the opinion of another -doctor. This woman was most unjustly treated. I have seen letters written by the then Minister for Repatriation stating that he had no power to interfere in the matter, but that he agreed with the tribunal’s decision. The fact remains that blood tests did not reveal that the husband or the wife had ever suffered from the disease. It was a false decision. The honorable member for Parramatta talks glibly of what should be done by way of social services, but what did he do when he was Minister for Social Services? He secured the passage of a certain measure, but subsequently he was told that the money to finance it could not be obtained. Now he says that he will never believe that again.
– Is the honorable member’s knowledge of political history so weak that he does not know who put that measure through? I was on a back bench at the time.
– At any rate, the honorable member supported it. I say candidly that the special parliamentary committee has done an excellent job. Its report has assisted the Government materially in preparing its legislation. The returned soldiers’ organizations welcome it wholeheartedly in every State, with the exception of New South “Wales, where there always appears to be internal trouble.
– Then why does the honorable member live in New South Wales instead of in his home State of Queensland ?
– Queensland is a long way from here, and my electorate is farther away still.
– And it will be farther away if the honorable member and his colleagues bring about a dissolution of the House.
– My electorate will not be any farther away than that of the honorable member for Barker if this House is dissolved. I am not worried about a dissolution. I support this measure because I believe that it will be of real benefit to returned soldiers and their dependants. It provides for more than mere pensions. It covers the education of children, and provides for improved medical assistance in many directions. I am not complaining about past deficiencies. Progress has been made in that direction, in that betterment is to be given monetarily and in every other way. I believe that the soldiers who return from this war will be given a better deal than those who returned from the last war; otherwise the deal will be a “ raw “ one.
– I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) on his secondreading speech, and the committee which was set up by the Government to investigate and report on the disabilities, if any, under which ex-soldiers and their dependants may suffer. The committee did an extraordinarily good job. For too long have party politics played a prominent part in repatriation matters and the treatment of ex-soldiers generally. I have been associated with this Parliament for more than 23 years, and can affirm that the soldiers’ pensions have been ‘the plaything of politics for almost the whole of that time. Whenever a government of which I happened to be a member or a supporter introduced measures dealing with the subject, the Labour Opposition set out to be the highest bidder. That has applied to invalid and old-a.ge pensions and all others. I congratulate the Government upon having succeeded in appointing, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), a committee, every member of which, according to that honorable gentleman, devoted the whole of his time to the solution of the problems with which they had to deal, and made unanimous recommendations. We did not have similar success when our party occupied the government benches. I was the chairman of a committee set up by this Parliament to investigate matters relating to the ex-soldiers.- The two Labour members appointed to that committee, who were returned soldiers, declined to sit on it. But why should we weigh what might have been in certain circumstances? We have had presented to us a remarkably good bill. Whatever criticism of it I may offer will be phrased in such a way as not to do harm to the ex-soldiers and their dependants, or the cause which I espouse. If amendments cannot be proposed without heat being engendered, a wrong will be done to the ex-soldier and his dependants. I, as an ex-Minister for Repatriation, and every honorable member of this Parliament who has held that office, know what problems have to be dealt with hourly, and the onerous nature of the work which has had to be undertaken by repatriation commissions past and present. From all soldiers’ organizations and others interested in the welfare of the soldiers in any respect, I, as the Minister, received the greatest support it was possible for them to give. Every one who has been Minister for Repatriation will agree that the organizations of returned soldiers, including those representative of the blind, the tubercular, and the limbless men, have rendered notably good service on behalf of their members, and have given all the assistance that lay in their power to whatever government has been in office. Honorable members on this side of the House share with government members the hope that the bill will quickly become law.
I commend the decision of the Government to set up a standing committee for the consideration of the problems that may arise from time to time. There is need for the clarification and simplification of many of the regulations. That is a task which the standing committee should undertake in co-operation with the commission immediately the bill becomes law. It is suggested that the existing committee, which consists of six members, should be confirmed in office as a standing committee. I suggest that the number of members be raised to nine - six from this House and three from the Senate - so that all parties, and perhaps the different States, may be represented on it. Whilst not holding a brief for the Country party, I point out that it is not now represented on the committee. It is conceivable that the members of that party could improve the work which the committee has already been able to do. The parliamentary committees which, within recent date, have been set up on non-party lines to investigate pensions, broadcasting, and various other subjects, have proved of great value, not only to the Parliament but also to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. I commend the system of standing committees. The position legislatively would he greatly improved by its extension. Some committees have made unanimous recommendations to the Parliament. With half a dozen men devoting a considerable time to the solution of a given problem, or assisting in the drafting of regulations for the department and the Minister concerned, benefit would accrue to the people, because the legislation enacted would become much more effective. In past years, we have witnessed the auctioneering of promises. I hope that such a practice will cease in relation to ex-soldiers or any other section of the community.
Having commended the Government and the committee on their labours, I now express the hope that the Government will recognize the wisdom of widening the scope of the measure. The proposals that I intend to advance will be submitted in the friendliest manner, for the sake of the people whose cause I espouse. The bill is essentially one for consideration in committee, not for lengthy debate on the second reading; consequently, I shall reserve until that stage has been reached some of the remarks that I wish to make. I commend the Government and the Repatriation Commission upon the proposed extension of the vocational training system by means of which an inestimable amount of good was done during and after the last war. Returned soldiers were trained for various positions, and jobs were found for them, and, although some lost their jobs, I should like to see that system extended. No man should be discharged from the Army without being trained for a position or without work being found for him.
– A tentative scheme has been drawn up, and consideration is nowbeing given to it.
– I am glad to hear that. Such a scheme would receive the support of all honorable members. Recently I have seen discharged men walking about the streets almost without a penny in their pockets, no work having been found for them. My attention was directed to the fact that two men had been seen sleeping in an empty carriage at the Central Railway Station in Sydney, but I do not suggest that that incident was attributable to defects in the present repatriation system. A returned man recently came to Canberra at his own expense, looking for a job. He had been in the Army for three years. As the result of an explosion, he had lost his left eye, and the whole of his left shoulder was badly affected. His body is badly deformed and there is hardly a portion of it free from skin-grafting operations. After five months in hospital, he was discharged by the Army last Friday week. It was stated on his discharge form that he was a member of the Citizen Military Forces, but he was actually discharged from the Australian Imperial Force. It was said that he had a wound on his right side, whereas most of his wounds were on his left side. With a month’s pay still owing, he was discharged, and told to see whether he could find a job.
– That man was away from his- home and could not be found. He resided at Double Bay, but did not leave a new address.
- His address was not changed, but I do not blame the Repatriation Department for what happened in that case.
– The day after a soldier is discharged he comes under the notice of the Repatriation Department.
– I believe that the Repatriation Department has an officer who inquires into cases of that kind. The ex-soldier is informed, on applying to the Repatriation Department for assistance, that although his discharge from the Army may indicate total disability, he is not necessarily classified by the Repatriation Department as totally incapacitated for work; but there should be no break between his discharge and the time when he’ is taken under the care of the Repatriation Department.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Following upon .Mr. Speaker’s statement earlier to-day on the message received from the Senate on the Income Tax Bill (vide page 1737), I move -
That this House takes note of the statement of Mr. Speaker in relation to the constitutional questions raised by message No. 171, received from the Senate in reference to the Income Tax Bill 1943, but refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights in respect of such message and resolves to consider it forthwith.
I move this motion with all the greater pleasure because, earlier to-day, I directed a letter to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), suggesting that perhaps a consultation between representatives of the two Houses might overcome the difficulty. That letter is as follows: -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
In view of the situation that has arisen between the two Houses in respect of the Income Tax Bill and the proclamation clause which h’as reference to the National Welfare Fund Bill, I desire to conform to practice and believe that a consultation between representatives of both Houses would be an advantage. It may even resolve the difficulty.
I suggest that at the consultation ‘both Houses should have equal representation, say five from each House, and that the majority of opinion in each House should be represented by a majority of representatives from that House. I would suggest, subject to any comment or variation you might submit, that the representatives of the House of Representatives should comprise myself, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden),, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes). In regard to the Senate, I would suggest that the representatives of the Government be the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Collings) and the Minister in charge of the hill ( Senator Fraser) and that the Opposition should be represented by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay), the Deputy Leader (Senator McBride), and Senator Spicer (who moved the request to the House of Representatives). It would be an advantage if the consultation could take place as early as possible to-day.
Mr. Fadden waited upon me, after which I wrote to him a second letter, which is as follows : -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
With reference to your oral intimation to me a few minutes ago that the proposal contained in my letter to you of to-day regarding the holding of a conference of five representatives of the House of Representatives and five representatives of the Senate was agreed to with the modification that the members to represent the Senate Opposition should be chosen by that Opposition, I desire to inform you that this modification is acceptable to me. I should be glad if you let me know at your earliest convenience to-day the names of the members to represent the Opposition in the Senate.
Mr. Fadden then sent to me a letter confirming his oral intimation, and enclosing n letter received by him from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate relating to the suggestion for a conference. Senator McLeay’s letter is as follows: -
The party have given consideration to the letter from the Right Honorable the Prime Minister to you of even date in which he makes certain suggestions with a view of resolving the difference that has arisen between the Senate and the House of Representatives in respect of the Income Tax Bill.
With every respect to the suggestion of the Prime Minister, wc cannot concede that a conference between the Houses in respect of this matter conforms to any practice which ha,s heretofore been followed.
May I point out that the Senate has expressed its complete agreement with the Government’s taxation proposals.
The point to which the Senate takes exception is one of considerable importance - the invasion of the rights and privileges of the Senate.
No question arises at this stage as to the National Welfare Fund Bill, save that the Senate insists upon preserving its right to discuss that measure unfettered, and on its merits.
Having regard to the wishes of the Prime Minister, and out of courtesy to him, we are prepared to meet in conference as suggested. I anticipate that the rights of the Senate to select its own representatives will be respected.
As the Prime Minister has communicated with you as Leader of the Opposition, I send you this communication, which you are, of course, at liberty to pass on to him.
Later, Mr. Fadden sent me another communication enclosing the following letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate: -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
With reference to the further letter of to-day’s date, addressed to you by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister. I now have to advise you that the following Senators have been selected to represent the Opposition in the Senate: -
Senator the Honorable George McLeay,
Senator the Honorable F. A. McBride,
Senator J. A. Spicer.
The consultation took place this afternoon, and, as a result, it was agreed that this submission shouldbe made to the parties concerned, and to the Houses involved -
The consultation has been concluded. It has been agreed that the House of Representatives, while reserving its rights under the Constitution, accepts the request of the Senate in respect to the Income Tax Bill and that the Senate, while reserving its rights under the Constitution, immediately thereafter will consider the National Welfare Fund Bill and will complete the consideration of the bill by the termination of Thurday’s sitting.
I lay on the table the following papers in connexion with the constitutional aspects of the matter: -
Constitutional opinions -
On whether clause 2 of the Income Tax Bill 1943 contravenes section 55 of the Constitution -
By Sir Robert Garran, K.C., Sir George Knowles, Professor K. H. Bailey and Mr. G. B. Castieau.
By Sir George Knowles and Mr. G. B.
By Mr. David Maughan, K.C.
On whether the Senate has a right to press a request for the amendment of a money bill - By Sir Robert Garran, K.C., Sir George Knowles, Professor K. H. Bailey and Mr. G. B. Castieau.
.- It is not my intention to oppose this motion; but I do not think that a matter of this kind should be allowed to go through without comment. For the last four or five days the press and the air have been filled with references to a political crisis, and the possibility of an early election. However, the Government had a sufficient supply of white calico to make a white flag, which it hoisted when the pressure was put on. There is this to be noted about white flags : they may also be used as shrouds for those who do not survive the battle. It is interesting to note that several legal opinions have been obtained in regard to this issue. This morning, every honorable member received a copy of those opinions, though, apparently, in the final analysis, they had no more effect on the resolution of the crisis than on those honorable members who read them- or on those who did not. A great deal of intellectual sweat was wasted, and much paper and ink used, in producing something which in no way influenced the outcome. We cannot overlook the fact that, among those members of the Government who adorn the front bench to-day, is one of Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), and it is interesting to observe that a government which enjoys the advantage of such a fount of legal knowledge on constitutional law should have got itself into a succession of constitutional tangles during the last few months. First, we had the fiasco over the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill, which is still on the notice-paper, though it has not been considered by the House. We were told that it was a measure of the very first importance, and that if Parliament did not pass it all sorts of dreadful things would happen. Eventually, however, the Government seems to have thought that it was not worth while going on with the bill, although it has created arguments in every State parliament in Australia. We are entitled to ask just what is meant by these constitutional meanderings of the Government.
In the present instance, the Senate has had a 100 per cent. win. I met Senator McLeay in the precincts of the House to-day, and, although I did not look at his boots, I should say that they ought by now to be very clean indeed. No selfrespecting government should raise such an issue unless it is prepared to go on to the bitter end. From now on, we on this side of the House will be entitled to treat the Government, on matters of this kind, at any rate, according to the valuation it has placed upon itself, having regard to the surrender that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has announced to the House to-night.
.- I am not quite clear whether we have been hit or whether we ducked. That is a question which must be left for final settlement at some future date. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), true to the traditions of his clan, and in a manner appropriate to his martial habiliments, seems very sad at heart that the fight should .be off.
– I never expected it to be on. I have been saying that all the week-end.
– He appears to imagine that, once he is accoutred in the habiliments of war, the battleground should naturally be transferred to the floor of the House of Parliament, which is supposed to be a deliberative assembly. I cannot join with him in his vain regrets. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that we are here, in somewhat difficult circumstances from the standpoint of the political balance of parties, for the purpose of discharging very serious duties. No one has denied that, and I thought that the proposition was accepted, if not universally, then at least with enthusiasm by the Opposition. But apparently it is not so. I think the course outlined by the Prime Minister is correct. Speaking not for this side of the House, but entirely on my own behalf, I consider that the Senate, as a corporate body, had some grounds for dissatisfaction with the way in which the two bills were linked and presented to it. I make that statement with the greatest respect to those who have expressed more or less considered opinions to the contrary.
– “ More or less “ considered opinions.
– If the honorable member for Warringah is supporting me, I am placed at a great disadvantage. Obviously, the constitutional issue involved in the bill was missed ‘ by the lawyers in this- chamber. I speak as one of them, in a humble way, as a -general practitioner. But the matter does not appear to have been adverted to by any layman or lawyer in this House. As a general practitioner, I am inclined to take the view that on the practical side, and regarding the spirit, if not. the letter of the law, to use the very carefully chosen words of the right honorable member for Kooyong when he spoke on this matter under protest at 1j30 a.m.-
– They got him out of bed.
– He had a just grievance that a constitutional issue should be forced on him at that hour. No eminent lawyer likes to express a considered legal opinion, at short notice, in his pyjamas. One does not like to he taken by surprise in these matters. But the right honorable gentleman did take the safe course of saying that if not according to the letter then at least according to the spirit of the Constitution, this was the kind of political offence known as “tacking”. Inasmuch as the consideration of the Income Tax Bill by honorable senators involved a knowledge of the details of another measure which they had not discussed, I think that at least in the spirit if not according precisely to the written word, it did amount to “tacking”. That leads me to mention that we have at last discovered what we had concluded was the undiscoverable, namely, something which really is a non-party question.
I express my view without presumption or any degree of positiveness, because I have not studied the question. As a general practitioner, and a representative of the working class in a working-class constituency, I have put aside the study of straw-splitting constitutional questions. I have left them to the masters of that art. I say that without disrespect to the eminent lawyers who specialize in these matters.
The honorable member for Barker, with his airy persiflage, which he would have us believe was really a serious contribution to debate, referred to the number of legal opinions that have been submitted to this chamber. Opinions were written by the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, and the Assistant Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, Mr. Castieau; and even Sir Robert Garran was awakened from his well-earned rest in order that he might contribute a very mature legal opinion on the same subject. We are drifting into a dangerous practice. Far be it for me to appear even remotely to censure my eminent friend, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), for whose opinion I have the greatest respect; and specialists’ share that opinion with me. But it has always been the custom for the AttorneyGeneral to apeak entirely upon his own responsibility regarding legal issues involved in legislation. Where a layman has been appointed to the position of Attorney-General, it is naturally assumed that he has been advised. Some of our best Attorneys-General have been laymen.
– Queensland deliberately debars lawyers from holding the portfolio of Attorney-General.
Mir. BRENNAN. - I do not think that the honorable member for Melbourne is correct.
– I am. I can cite a number of instances.
– I am quite aware that my old friend Johnnie Mullan, a layman, has been Attorney-General for many years in Queensland.
– So also was Jack O’Keefe.
– It may be that some Attorneys-General were laymen ; but I should hate to think that a great and progressive State, through its successive Labour governments, has been guilty of prohibiting trained men from occupying the position of Attorney-General.
– That is the effect of the practice.
– When a layman is Attorney-General, it is taken for granted that when he speaks as the law officer of the Crown, he has been advised by the legal authorities behind the scenes. But those who work behind the scenes should not be brought before the footlights. That is not the place for them. The Attorney-General is himself eminently well qualified to withstand the slings and’ arrows even of outrageous fortune if it should come to that; and even the joint opinions of the eminent men advising him behind the scenes might not’ be followed on the floor of the House by such an authority as himself. But whether or not that is so, we have the advantage of being supported by a highly intelligent, industrious and loyal Public Service. To no department is that statement more applicable than that over which, in a political sense, it was my privilege to preside for two or three years. We should stick fast to the old rule. Let the politicians take the buffets. The Public Service should remain immune from personal criticism. I hope, with great respect to my learned friend, if he will allow me in my junior capacity to call him so, that that practice will be followed in the future, as it has been respected in the past.
.- The principal matter which I wished to discuss was covered at some length and in some detail in the latter remarks of the honorable member for Batman (MV. Brennan).
– Is the honorable member for Fawkner another constitutional authority?
– I do not claim to be a constitutional authority. But those who did express a view opposed to the opinion of the constitutional authorities a few days ago, have had the satisfaction of seeing their view upheld by the action of the Government in adopting the course which we so strongly urged at that time. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in support of the general statement that he made, laid on the table of the House a number of opinions of eminent legal gentlemen. I do not challenge either their eminence or their learning, and I concur in what the honorable member for Batman said as to the conspicuous public service rendered by the officers of the Crown Law Department. But I entirely share, his view that the practice of quoting the opinions of Crown Law officers in support of government legislation should not be encouraged or even permitted. It has not been the practice in the past. I understand that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in the fifteen years in which he was Attorney-General, never put forward the views of his own officers in order to strengthen any particular case or view which he advocated. As the honorable member for Batman has pointed out, the AttorneyGeneral takes the responsibility, and, although he should seek the best advice that he can get from Crown Law- officers or eminent counsel outside, the views he puts forward should be the views of himself and the Government. The Government should accept the responsibility and not shelter behind those who are unable to speak in this House in support of their views. The practice of putting forward the opinion of Crown Law officers has been, indulged in more than once by this Government, but, subject to criticism as that practice is, even more subject to criticism is the fact that such advice is only forthcoming when it is believed to support the view of the Government. We have reason to believe from press statements, if they can be accepted as a guide - and the press is one of the few sources of information open to the Opposition - that the Crown Law officers tendered certain advice to the Government on the matter of the so-called tax lag. Honorable members on this side of the House have pressed the Government to make available to the House the legal opinions of its advisers on that matter.
– Pshaw !
– We felt justified in doing that in view of the fact that the Government has adopted the practice of citing the opinions of Crown Law officers that happen to suit its own case. If the Prime Minister, by his snort, is suggesting that, on the one hand, we are condemning a practice and, on the other, inviting its use, I point out that we shall be quite prepared to take our stand on the advice which the Attorney-General fairly and honestly gives us as to his view of the tax lag. If the AttorneyGeneral says that there is nothing in the claim that income tax is paid concurrently with the earning of income, we shall be able to analyse and, if necessary, criticize his opinion. But, if he comes along some times and tenders the legal opinion of his eminent advisers in the Crown Law ‘Office, and on other occasions declines to make that advice known, he lays himself open to the strongest criticism. I think that five legally trained members of this House, including the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) on the Government side, a few days ago, when this matter was before us previously, expressed the general view that, whatever might be the technical interpretation of this matter, in substance, it did amount to the practice of “ tacking “ and was an attempt to coerce the Senate in its consideration of another measure. By its action, the Government has entirely justified that view. If it has not justified it, what is the reason for its reversal of attitude?
– Lack of courage.
– I give the Government the benefit of the doubt on that score. Probably it has seen, as the honorable member for Batman points out, that the attitude of the Senate was constitutionally sound and justified. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has pointed out as crisply as usual that the opinion of the constitutional advisers of the Government on this point had nothing whatever to do with the final decision, because that decision was, in effect, contrary to the advice tendered to the Government.
I invite the Prime Minister to reply to this point. When discussing these matters the other night the right honorable gentleman said -
The provision which the Senate asks us to omit from the bill is integral to the Government’s tax plan. The two not only stand together, but fall together.
The Senate has now given an undertaking to complete consideration of the National Welfare Fund Bill by the end of its sitting on Thursday. The Opposition_in this House and in the Senate is entitled to know what is now the attitude of the Prime Minister. Do these bills stand together and fall together ?
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has dealt with the general question, but I should like to explain to honorable members why the opinions of the legal advisers of the Crown were furnished. I thought that they would bc for the benefit of honorable members. I did express my own opinion, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) should recall, when the debate took place. Honorable members will recollect that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) raised the point by asking me what my view was on a question of pure law. He asked me whether clause 2 of the Income Tax Bill was a breach of the Constitution.
– Yes, I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he did not consider that that clause was an infringement of section 55 of the Constitution.
– The honorable gentleman asked whether the reference in’ clause 2 of the Income Tax Bill to the National Welfare Fund Bill was an infringement of section 55 of the Constitution. That was a pure question of law. Frankly, I do not think the AttorneyGeneral should be called upon at a moment’s notice to answer a question like that.
– Others have had to do it.
– Other honorable members with legal training answered the question.
– That is different. The Attorney-General has a special responsibility. I want to be perfectly frank with honorable members. I gave the honorable member for Warringah my opinion to the best of my ability. I thought that there was no infringement of the Constitution. I made it clear that I was not addressing myself to the other question, namely, the discretionary powers of the two Houses. I did nothing more than address myself to the question of law. Well, I plead guilty to the fact that, on the question of pure law, I did obtain the opinions of eminent constitutional lawyers, for the benefit of the House as I thought. I do not think that there is any absolute rule which should preclude that. I am sure that the honorable member for Batman did not intend to cast a slight upon one of the most eminent constitutional lawyers in the history of Australia, Sir Robert Garran, ex-Solicitor-General. Sir Robert Garran is an author of the leading text-book on the Constitution published in the early days of the federation. I obtained and cited his opinion and those of others. I thought that those opinions on the question of law, if placed before honorable members, would be of interest and importance. Every opinion which I obtained was disclosed to the House. If any opinion contrary to the views that I expressed had been given, I should have disclosed it also.
I resent what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said about the tax lag. Neither he nor any one else has ever asked me a question about that. I do not believe that there, is any formal opinion in my department dealing with that matter. I say to the House with the utmost frankness, that I feel a great difficulty in answering publicly questions of pure law in which the Government may have to litigate with the citizens. Yet I have done my best, on every occasion on which I have been asked, to make my services available to the House. It should not be laid down as an absolute rule, and I do not think there is an absolute rule, that the Attorney-General shall be prevented from placing at the disposal of the House the opinions of eminent constitutional lawyers, even if those eminent constitutional lawyers include members of the Public Service.
– In that case, the Attorney-General should make available to the House all the advice tendered to him by his officers and not merely such advice as will bolster up the case of the Government.
– I have never used the opinions of our Crown Law officers merely to bolster up the case of the Government. For instance, I was asked by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) a question about the legal rights of growers as the result of the decision of the High Court in a case relating to the acquisition of property. The opinion of the Crown Law Department in that case was given to the House. On matters of that kind, without being absolutely bound by a rule, I regard myself as the servant of the House.
– I am sure that the right honorable gentleman has no desire to imply that I spoke disrespectfully of Sir Robert Garran.
– Not the slightest.
– Does the right honorable gentleman not think that we are entitled to assume that when a bill is presented to this Parliament it has been thoroughly considered not only by the Attorney-General, but also by the officers of his department?
– Generally, that is correct, but there are degrees of thoroughness. With the enormous pressure of work on the department to-day it is not always possible for a matter to be as thoroughly canvassed as in ordinary circumstances. It is more thoroughly canvassed when a doubt is raised. I do not dispute with the honorable member for Batman that as a general rule it is not necessary, or perhaps desirable, to place other legal opinions before honorable members. But, on this special occasion, I placed the opinions before the House in order to make the views of eminent lawyers available to honorable gentlemen. Those opinions involved research into specially difficult matters. The position now is that nothing that this House is doing is contrary to any ruling of law. The House refrains, in the special circumstances narrated by the Prime Minister, from proceeding to determine this question. It could not, in any event, determine the question of law. That can be determined only by the High Court. So far as concerns the interpretation of the Constitution involved by our receiving a message from the Senate for the second time, that, of course, is a question on which no court would pronounce. But Sir Robert Garran, an eminent authority, has stated his view clearly. I placed that view before honorable gentlemen. I take notice of the views of honorable gentlemen on both sides possessing much greater experience of the House than I do, but I felt it my duty to explain why I did this. I assure honorable members that it was done solely for their information and benefit and in order to assist them in the consideration of their rights and duties.
.- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is correct in saying that I have not directed a question to him in relation to the Income Tax Act and the operation of the alleged lag in payment. But I did direct a series of questions to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in whose administration the Income Tax Act lies, and later I asked the Treasurer whether he would obtain the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral. I believe that I am correct in saying that the Treasurer said that he would take that opinion.
– He said that he would consider it. At any rate I do not know of any considered opinion on that matter, and I do not think that there is one in the department.
– I also do not know whether there is, but I do know that the Treasurer said that he would take the opinion of the Crown Law authorities upon the series of questions that I had asked him about the Income Tax Act. After hearing what has been said I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Batman - though I do not always do so - that the Attorney-General should take the responsibility for stating the law on questions that arise in the House. The officials who advise should not be brought into the front-line of politics by having their opinions given as the reason for government action. But the Government cannot blow hot and cold. The Treasurer promised me that he would take the views of the Solicitor-General on a point I raised. If he has obtained that officer’s opinion he should circulate it as the Attorney-General has circulated the opinions which he claims supported the view that he expressed last week regarding the Income Tax Bill. The Government must adopt one course or the other. In my view the opinions of the Crown Law officers should not be given as the reasons for government action. However, in the light of what has happened I do not think it can be said that I am unreasonable in asking that if ah opinion of the Crown Law officers on the point I raised has been obtained it should be made available to honorable members.
– I disagree with the view of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the Senate has won a 100-per cent, victory. At the best I should put it down as a 50-50 result.
– “ One horse, one rabbit.”
– In my opinion the Senate has made an excellent case to the electors of this country for its own abolition, or for an alteration of the Constitution which provides for its existence. This House, and, in fact, the country, has been ablaze during the last few days over the prospects of an early election.
– The blaze has been pretty fierce.
– I agree with the right honorable member. I do not mind admitting for myself, even if my colleagues are not prepared to make such an admission, that I am relieved to know that an election will not be thrust upon me over this issue; but I think I can say of both Government supporters and Opposition members, generally, that many of them also are relieved. I am quite certain that the electors, too, will be relieved.
As to the Senate, I must say that when it amends a bill it frequently becomes a menace to the country and to the members of this House, and when it confirms a bill it might just as well not be in existence. When it agrees with us we do not need it, and when it disagrees with us it upsets us. I consider that some alteration should be made in the authority of the Senate. If the Government submits questions to the people by referendum it should seek their opinion on the continuation of the Senate. In my opinion it would have been the height of absurdity if the House which had agreed to a certain -bill had been forced to the country on it, while the other House which had disagreed to it could, as we say, “sit pretty “. There is something wrong with the Constitution on that point. The people are entitled to ask of what use the Senate is. It is all very well for the senators to pose as heroes. We too could have been heroic if the Senate could have been forced to an election! I therefore disagree with the opinion of the honorable member for Barker that the Senate has had a victory. I suggest to the Government, in all seriousness, that if, when the elections take place, it submits questions to the people by referendum, it should seek an expression of their view on whether the Senate should .be abolished or should be subject to recall.
.- I dissent from the view of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr; Perkins). I consider that the Senate was justified in taking its point on this issue. The provision in the Constitution under which action was taken, was inserted in order to protect the Senate from being coerced in this way. I do not think that the provision in the Income Tax Bill to which objection was taken was inserted simply for the purpose of coercing the Senate; it was more likely to have been put there in order to influence certain honorable members of this House. But, the Senate properly resented its inclusion and properly asked that it should be left out. I do not think that the question which we have been considering is one of pure law. No courts could have decided it; the two Houses of the Parliament alone could decide it. Even if the Senate was technically wrong, I consider that, in the spirit of intercameral comity, its view should receive consideration. I do not assess the proportions of the so-called victory. I do not regard what has happened as a victory. The Government is asking the House to do the proper thing. The Senate and the House will come out of the dispute very well if this motion be agreed to.
I consider that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) acted properly in publishing the legal opinions given in connexion with the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill, because questions at law were involved upon which honorable members desired information. I do not regard the issue now before us as a matter of pure law in the strict sense of the word, because it is a matter which the two Houses of the Parliament may decide for themselves without troubling about the niceties of legal distinctions. We all are well aware that on several previous occasions this House has refused to define or determine its rights on this issue. Previously, it has yielded the Senate’s point. I consider that the Senate was right in raising the point and that the House will be right in taking the course set out in the motion.
.- I support the view that the Senate was justified in the attitude it adopted on this subject. The trouble arose because the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) expressed a view in the House last week from which he has now receded. He said, in unequivocal terms, that the Income Tax Bill and the National Welfare Fund Bill must stand or fall together. He made the statement in the plainest possible way. It has since been made clear by the opinion of several constitutional authorities that the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution had been completely violated. In saying that the Parliament must take the two bills as applying to one scheme, the Prime Minister was at fault, and he must take responsibility for the position in which he has put his party.
The right honorable gentleman said when the request first came from the Senate, that the bills must stand or fall together. He was asked in this chamber : “ What harm would be done if the Government agreed to the request ? “ It was pointed out that the Government would still have power to proclaim the times when the bills should come into operation. As a matter of fact we have been given, once more, a show of strength which the people of this country are coming to regard as a mere bluff. Like morning mists before the sun, the “ strength “ disappears when the pressure is put on. The Prime Minister is now asking us to agree to a course which is the very reverse of the one he proposed last week, so that he, as well as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), must be regarded as being at fault.
Concerning the view expressed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I do not agree that the Attorney-General should take responsibility for any answers he gives to questions of law that are put to him in this House. The position of the right honorable gentleman is entirely different from that of Ministers holding other portfolios. In other departments questions turn on policy and administration, and it is traditional that Ministers shall accept responsibility for declarations on such matters; but in respect of questions of law, I do not agree that the same principle should apply. The Attorney-General should not be expected to answer questions of law in the course of debate. What might be called a snap opinion may be expressed on such an occasion, as in fact occurred recently in the early hours of the morning. I can see nothing wrong with the publication, by the Attorney-General, of views expressed by the Crown Law officers. The Solicitor-General holds a unique position in this country. It is upon his opinion that the Government relies in respect of questions of law involved in legislation and constitutional issues. His opinion on such questions should be made public.
There is a subject on which I should like an opinion. Has the SolicitorGeneral expressed a view as to whether the National Welfare Fund Bill infringes section 83 of the Constitution? Is the appropriation proposed a proper appropriation for Commonwealth purposes? As a cold fact, some of the subjects referred to in that bill do not fall within Commonwealth powers, and will not do so until the Constitution is altered. I challenge the opinion that certain powers referred to in that bill properly fall within the authority of this Parliament. Because of views expressed in the House on this subject in the early hours of the morning recently, tension, or so-called tension, has been caused over the weekend throughout Australia. That tension has been eased because the Government has receded from the ground on which it stood last week.
I consider that an attempt should be made to resolve the constitutional questions that arise periodically between the two Houses of this Parliament. It is not proper to adopt the pretence of a strong attitude by saying, as the Government has said, in effect, “ These two measures stand or fall “. Thereby a purely fictitious tension was caused, which the Government has now eased by a retreat. The whole fault in respect of this matter rests with the Government, for it could have acceded to the Senate’s request last week, as it is now doing. I make it clear also that I consider that the views expressed by the SolicitorGeneral have been properly made available to the public.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the foregoing resolution be incorporated in the message when the bill is returned to the Senate.
That the Senate’s message, No. 171, be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation, not being earlier than the date upon which the National Welfare Fund Act 1943 comes into operation.
Senate’s request No. 1. - Leave out all words after “ Proclamation”.
Rouse of Representatives’ message. - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’s message. - Request pressed.
Motion (by Mr.Curtin) agreed to-
That the requested amendment be made.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1763).
– During the debate this afternoon, I regretted to hear accusations made against some honorable members on this side of the House, particularly the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart). I do not know of any one in this Parliament, and few, if any, outside it, who has played a greater part than has the honorable member for Parramatta in connexion with ex-soldiers and their dependants. His generosity is well known. The debate should be devoid of personalities, and the great problems which confront ex-soldiers and their dependants should be discussed on their merits.
In my view, the most important proposals in the hill relate to widows and children. All of us have the greatest sympathy with the men who served so nobly in the last war, as well as those who are serving in the present conflict. Consideration of the areas in which they have had to serve, the diseases from which they have suffered, and the trials they have had to endure, naturally impels us to give to them all the help that we can. But so long as a soldier is alive, his wife and family may look forward to a happy reunion on his return. On the other hand, as has been pointed out previously, the woman who receives official notification that her husband has made the supreme sacrifice is to have her income reduced by 14s. a week. “Whilst admitting the finer features of the bil], I suggest to the Minister, the Government, and the committee which played an important part in the initiation of these proposals, that that matter should receive immediate attention. If a vote were taken throughout the Commonwealth, the people would show themselves almost unanimously in favour of granting to widows and children more than is proposed in the bill.
The Government proposes to improve the educational facilities that are to be available to the children of returned soldiers. Those who have studied the act - which has stood the test of time - in connexion particularly with the educa tion of the orphans of soldiers, will agree that extraordinarily fine results have been achieved. To-day, in many of the professions as well as in the business world and the sphere of education, children of soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the last war are playing an important part. The provision that an educational allowance shall be payable, in addition to the grant of other facilities, merits our commendation, and I congratulate the Government on its inclusion in the bill.
Every one will agree that the Legacy Club has done noble work throughout the Commonwealth. It was formed with the object of looking after children who were made orphans in the last war. Although I have not personally played a prominent part in its affairs, I have noted its operations and the work it has done. Its noble efforts have earned the commendation of this Parliament and the people of Australia, and it has been recompensed a thousandfold for the service it has rendered by the fact that boys and girls for whom it has cared now occupy important positions in the affairs of the nation.
I shall support the increase which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) intends to propose for a 50 per cent, increase of the rates of pension. In regard to children who have lost both parents, the father having been killed and the mother having eventually died, the proposed payments to children are 12s. 6d., 15s., and 18s. The department and the Minister should consider a slight increase of those amounts. A widowed mother with three children to educate is to have an income of £5 a week; but as soon as she dies and the children are left to their own resources, the pension is to be reduced. The Minister must agree that the proportion of the total income required for .the upkeep of the mother is not so great as is implied by the proposed reduction of the total sum subsequent to her death.
A payment of £1 a week in respect of each child would be little enough in these hard times, particularly as the cost of living has risen and doubtless will continue to rise. If the Minister cannot agree to the increase now, the proposed parliamentary standing committee should recommend it later. I am sure that the Minister would act if there were justification for acceptance of the proposition. Our great care should be devoted, to the mothers and children. The most deplorable feature in Australia and other countries is that, when a woman loses the breadwinner, we are so little concerned for her welfare’ that she is frequently obliged to earn her living at the washtub, and the national assets she has the responsibility of raising to manhood and womanhood are left to her own resources alone. The financial position of the country should not debar the giving of every facility for the education and training of the children.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta concerning tubercular soldiers. The tubercular soldier is a pitiable being. I say that with sympathy and kindness of heart. Years ago, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was passed. I agree that time has revealed the justification for every provision then enacted. The times have changed, and they will continue to change; consequently, the act will need further amendment in the future. It was most difficult to meet the circumstances of tubercular .men in the last war. It is essential that a man thus afflicted shall be relieved of worry. We put him in a sanatorium, keep him there for six months, and then say, “ You may go, but you must live quietly”. What mau can live quietly and in comfort on £1 18s. 6d. a week? What such a man needs is ease of mind as well as of body. I heard the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) say recently that he would accept responsibility not only for the soldier of the last war or this who developed tuberculosis subsequent to discharge, but also for those persons in civilian life who have this complaint. I agree with him. For the safety and health of the nation as a whole we should care for all those who fall by the wayside .recognizing that they have the most to lose. If it be possible, even at this late stage, the Minister should give further consideration to tubercular men. I would give to them a full pension for as long as they may live - it would still be a short life - in order that they and their families may be made as happy as possible.
There is to be differentiation between the dependants of members of .the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force. I am concerned to learn who is to give a ruling as to whether a man is a member of the Citizen Military Forces or a member of the Australian Imperial Force. In either case will the Minister or the department say whether a man has or has not been in a battle area ? I remind honorable members that an attack was made on Sydney a little while ago, when a submarine entered the harbour and blew up a vessel on which men were asleep.
– About eighteen men were killed.
– That is so. The majority of those men belonged to the Navy. They were in an Australian port. An aeroplane which flew over Broome some time ago bombed aircraft oh the ground and flying-boats in the water. The nation should accept responsibility for any civilian who was hit, and the responsibility is greater in respect of members of the fighting forces’, including the Citizen Military Forces. The Minister, if he is to be the arbiter, will experience difficulty in determining whether a man is a member of the Citizen Military Forces or of the Australian Imperial Force.
– There will not be any distinction if he has been in combat with the enemy.
– Who is to say whether or not he was in a battle area?
– It need not be a battle area, so long as a man has been in combat with the enemy.
– I have brought cases to the notice of the Minister. According to the act, the men concerned were not eligible for a pension. A typical case which arose recently is that of a young man who volunteered for the Citizen Military Forces and was subsequently drafted into the compulsory service. He was sent away with an anti-aircraft battery. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force, but was told that he could not be released. He was sent from one place to another, and finished np on the south coast, where one of our important industries is situated. As a result of his service there in the cold and the wet he developed tuberculosis. He was told that there was no bed for him in any sanatorium, and that he should go away and rest for six months. Under the act as it stands, he has no pension rights at all, although he had been accepted for service, and although his condition developed while he was on service. Contrast that with the case of a man who was serving as a clerk in the Defence Department in Melbourne. He was not in the Australian Imperial Force, although he had served in the last war. One evening, when he left his office, he was knocked down by a motor car and sustained injuries for which he was awarded a full pension. Why is that? Is it suggested that he was injured in a battle area? If enemy aeroplanes come as far south as Melbourne or Hobart and drop bombs, the Government must accept responsibility for injury to citizens. I say that the repatriation benefits must .be widened so as to cover all men serving in the Australian Military Force.
– That point is covered by a provision in the present bill. In paragraph 22 of its report the committee recommends that the act should cover any condition, “directly attributable to the member’s employment, or arising from infection or disease due to the member’s service “.
– The man hp whom I referred has been out of the forces for five months and nas not yet drawn a penny by way of pension. This matter again raises the issue of one army as against two. . I know some of the objections, but if there were one army it would be a much easier matter to administer the Repatriation Act.
– This bill provides the same benefits for members of the Militia serving in Australia as were provided for members of the first Australian Imperial Force who never left Australia.
– Yes, but that is not the law at the present time.
– lt is to be made retrospective to September, 1939.
– That will cover men who serve in this war, but the act must also cover men who served in the last war. The Broadmeadows camp during the last war was the greatest death-trap in Australia. There were more cases of pneumonia and other lung diseases among men in that camp than in any other camp in the country. I have known as many as eleven men to be buried from there in one week. Things occurred during the last war which should not have occurred. It is my wish that men already discharged from the Army should receive the benefits provided in this bill. If that be assured to them, I shall be satisfied.
– Is the honorable member still in favour of having one army?
– I am.
– We are just out of one crisis, and the honorable member wants to precipitate another.
– If the Government were able to get out of a crisis over the army issue as easily as it got out of the last crisis it would have little to worry about. As a general rule, men who have served in an operational area are somewhat worse after they come back than before they went. Their resistance to disease is lowered, and they suffer a mental change which makes it difficult for them, in many instances, to go back to their old jobs. Young fellows who have been used to intensive training, and to rushing about the country in motor cars, will not wish to go back to the office stool. I am glad to note that it had been recommended that a special committee should be set up to consider the settlement of returned soldiers on the land after the war. In my opinion, there should be even more soldier land settlement after this war than there was after the last,
– The conditions will need to be different this time.
– I hope that the men who are fighting in this war will not be subjected to the same rotten treatment as ex-soldiers of the last war suffered at the hands of the State Governments. The Commonwealth was not to blame; all it had to do was to provide the money. Many soldiers were required to pay far too much for their land.
I remember the then Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir Earle Page, saying on one occasion that it was proposed to put large numbers of returned soldiers on land along the Murray River to grow grapes for drying, but no one had given any consideration to the problem of marketing the fruit after it was grown and dried. A committee should be set up to go into the matter of land settlement, and also the settlement of ex-soldiers in businesses.
– The committee has already been set up.
– We do not know how long the war will last, but the quicker the committee begins to function the better. The Commonwealth must control any scheme of land settlement that is put into operation, and particularly it should be responsible for the expenditure of money. I intend to vote for the second reading of the bill. I propose to move some amendments in committee which, I hope, will receive favorable consideration.
.- This is the first attempt by any Government to amend the Repatriation Act since I have been a member of this House. I am .very pleased that such a bill has been introduced. Judging by the remarks of some honorable members opposite, they appear to be actuated by party political motives and a desire to catch votes. Honorable members should consider the bill on its merits. We all are deeply indebted to the men who fought in the last war and to those who are fighting this war in order to save Australia and the Empire.
Some honorable members were of the opinion that the pension rates should be increased more than is proposed. As a matter of fact we all would like to see pensions made as high as possible. It is a regrettable fact that many men who returned from the last war were not treated very well by their country. I believe that we cannot treat the returned soldiers too well. I should have liked the pension rate to be higher, but apparently the returned soldiers are satisfied with a 20 per cent, increase. My experience of returned men from the last war has been that they are not so much concerned about the amount of their pensions as about the difficulty of getting them. They resent the obstacles that are placed in the way of their getting any pension at all. Therefore, though I should have liked the pension rates to be increased still further 1 am prepared to support the present proposal, having regard to the report of the parliamentary committee and to the opinion of the returned soldiers themselves. A circular letter, which was sent to every honorable member by Mr. David J. Berry, honorary pensions officer of the Air Force Association, reads -
I am instructed by the organization, which X have the honour to represent, to inform you that we consider the proposed increase of 20 per cent, in war pensions to be a fair and adequate rise in these times of world war.
In expressing this view, we have in mind some idea of the post-war problems which will arise, and visualize to some extent the enormous financial difficulties which will confront the Government, and the community in general, in the rehabilitation of the men and women who have fought, and are now fighting, in defence of their country. We do, however, feel that there are others, a,part from ex-members of the forces, who are worthy of consideration and in the following two recommendations we plead their cause.
The two recommendations mentioned in the letter were for an increase of the allowance to widows. When I have discussed repatriation matters with returned soldiers from the last war, they have usually mentioned that their principal difficulty is to prove that their disability was due to war service. I hope that soldiers returning from this war will receive more consideration. During the last twenty years thousands of” men, who applied for pensions, were sent to specialists for the purpose of determining whether their disability was due to war service. It is almost impossible for any specialist to say that a disability of a returned soldier who endured indescribable hardships and sufferings on the battlefield under extreme climatic conditions, was not due to war service. A medical man who gives a definite opinion against an application, does a soldier a great wrong. The benefit of the doubt should always be given to the applicant.
The Repatriation Commission claims that it possesses a complete record of every man who fought in the last war. Speaking in the Parliament of New South Wales a few years ago, General Lloyd declared that in the evacuation of
Gallipoli, men were thrown on board ships’ like rotten sheep. There was no opportunity to take a complete record of their injuries or suffering. Consequently, the claim of the Repatriation Commission to possess a complete history of every soldier is an exaggeration.
One of my constituents suffers from a terrible complaint known as Parkinson’s disease. “When he enlisted for active service in the last war, he was a strong healthy young man. He was wounded and became a nerve case. For years, his condition became worse, but the Repatriation Commission rejected his applications for assistance. Eventually he became so much a physical wreck that his sister had to undress him and put him to bed. After strenuous representations on my part, the Repatriation Commission granted to him an attendant’s allowance and a recreation allowance. No sooner had he been granted these payments than he began to feel independent of his family, and his condition improved. Though still an invalid he is in a better state of health than he was when the Repatriation Commission refused to recognize that his condition was due to war service.
I could cite many repatriation anomalies. An honorable senator once told me of his own experience. For years he fought for a pension, but his application was always rejected. Eventually he was sent to a specialist in Macquarie-street, Sydney. The specialist said, “ What are you here for ? “ The man explained, and the specialist replied, “ That is all right. You can go away.” This man had been shot through the lungs, but the specialist never examined him. Some of the medical men who are selected by the Repatriation Commission to examine cases, do not give the service that is required of them. Incidentally, many medical officers in the Army are not giving to the troops the medical attention that they need. When the soldiers wish to attend a sick parade, they are told, “ You are all right, so you cannot see the doctor “. A little immediate attention from the medical officer in charge of a unit may save the country large sums of money in future.
During the last war Australian troops were despatched to New Guinea, but after German resistance had ended, the zone was not regarded as a theatre of war. Consequently, the soldiers who later contracted malaria and other tropical diseases in New Guinea were denied pensions. That was a serious anomaly. Admittedly the administration of the repatriation law is difficult, and many cases of hardship have come to my notice. For example, a young man who helped to support his widowed mother, -was killed in a motor accident near Goulburn. Because two sisters in the home were earning a few pounds a week, the Repatriation Commission considered that the mother was not wholly dependent upon the earnings of her son, and declined to grant a pension to her. The “ means test “ should be discarded and the widowed mother should be granted a pension.
The Parliament cannot do too much for pensioners who are suffering from tuberculosis. I sometimes visit the Randwick Military Hospital, and the section in which sufferers from tuberculosis are patients, is a pitiable sight. Any man who served overseas and who has contracted tuberculosis, should be granted a pension without even a medical inquiry into his history. In addition, our troops who have fought in malaria-infested tropical regions should be eligible for pensions if their health becomes impaired. Persons who are suffering disabilities and whose claim for pensions have already been rejected should be given another opportunity to place their claims before the Repatriation Commission. I have much pleasure in supporting -the bill because the benefits that it will confer will be a boon to the men returning from this war. [Quorum formed.’]
– Although I was a member of the parliamentary committee appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to investigate repatriation matters, I neither sought nor desired the position. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had been appointed a member of the committee, but because he was unable to obtain leave from the Army, he was compelled to resign. A.t the last moment, I was invited to fill the vacancy, and I accepted with pleasure. I desire to pay a tribute to the members of that committee. It was a unique body, consisting wholly of returned soldiers from the last war. All had been front-line soldiers and had been wounded. ‘Some have sons in the armed forces of this war. The committee consisted of a colonel, a captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant, a sapper and a driver in the last war. With their background and knowledge of the problems of soldiers the members of the committee would naturally want the comrades with whom they shared many dangers and hardships to have the very best that could be given to them. We had to approach this matter from a practical standpoint. We have heard various criticisms of the committee. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was kind enough to pillory us and to ask many questions. He constituted himself the prosecuting counsel, the jury and the judge, and I think that, without exception, he found all of us guilty. He said that he could not understand how we ever arrived at the decision to have such a pension - one that would not vary.
– I said nothing of the sort. I asked how the committee reached a decision to recommend an increase of the rate of pensions by 20 per cent.
– “ How can you agree to pegging soldiers pensions in this way ? “ was what the honorable member said. I shall not tell the honorable gentleman what I am reading from. I invite him to look at his own speech.
– The honorable gentleman is not quoting from my speech as reported in Hansard.
– The fact that the honorable gentleman is not able to understand the motives which actuated us in recommending an increase of - 20 per cent, or in pegging pensions is not a matter for wonder. I know that the honorable member does not have the background that every member of that committee had. What I do object to is the honorable member’s blaming the committee for his own lack of comprehension. It was not fair of him to put the responsibility on us for the fact that he was unable to understand why we adopted the increase of 20 per cent. The honorable member went on to say that the increase should be 50 per cent.
– Tell me where I said that.
– I shall tell the honorable member a lot before I am finished. We were anxious to know whence came the figure of 50 per cent. We were told at first that it came from the Manly branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in the honorable member’s constituency, but the honorable member provided documentary evidence to prove that, on the 23rd July, 1941, he communicated to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) his view that the pension should be raised by 50 per cent. At that time, the honorable gentleman was Minister for the Army, and members of the Australian Imperial Force were receiving 7s. a day - 5s. down and 2s. deferred. If he based his submission that pensions should be increased by 50 per cent, on the rate of pay ruling in the Australian Imperial Force at that time, I find it difficult to reconcile his figures.
– I did not.
– The honorable member did not tell us how he arrived at the figure of 50 per cent. It is like the mystery of the hen and the egg - which came first? Did the honorable member for Warringah, or was it the Manly branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia first suggest that figure? If the honorable member was not the first to suggest it, did he suggest to the Manly branch that it should? If he did, that is probably the cause of all this stir. We invited all Federal and State ex-servicemen’s organizations to make their representations to us.
– Time was of the essence of the contract. Orally? The federal organizations, yes; but the State, no. When it was suggested that, as we were sitting in Melbourne, the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia might give oral evidence, I was the one who opposed it. I said that we could not allow one State branch to submit evidence orally, and refuse to hear oral evidence from other State branches. It was impossible in the time for us to visit every State. We were told that the report was needed as soon as .possible in order that legislation might be introduced to give a greater measure of justice to exservicemen than they had received in the past. We sat continuously and obtained all the evidence we could. Those organizations which did not’ have the opportunity to submit evidence orally did have the opportunity to submit documentary evidence. The honorable member for Warringah had the same opportunity. The only organization which submitted evidence favouring a greater increase than that recommended by the committee was the Victorian Branch of the Returned Sailors, .Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. There was merit in that proposal, because that branch compared the rates of pension with presentday rates of pay, not the rates that the soldiers were receiving when the honorable member for Warringah was Minister for the Army. The rate of pay operating when the honorable gentleman occupied that position was only 17 per cent, greater than the rate that operated in the last war. It was also said that there had been a 20 per cent, increase of the cost of living since the pensions were established, but that is not so, for, in 1919, the index number was 1,022, whereas, in December, 1942, it was 1,122, an increase of 11.2 .per cent.
– I suppose the people of the country will accept the contention that the cost of living has increased by only that much.
– I am using the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. Possibly that authority will be accepted by honorable members. The point I emphasize, as one who has been actively associated with returned soldiers’ organizations since my return from the last war, is that I have always found that the “ digger “ does not want his pension to vary according to the rise and fall of the cost of living. What he asked for, had the right to expect, and received, was a pension commensurate with the disability he suffered as the result of war service. For that principle, I am prepared to fight for ever. In 1939, the £1 was worth considerably more than it was worth in 1919, when the pensions were fixed. So, what the returned soldiers lost on the swings, they got back on the roundabouts. The honorable member for Warringah produced documentary evidence that 21 months ago he advocated an increase of repatriation pensions by 50 per cent. In doing that, the honorable gentleman was trying to show what a model of consistency he was. I remember that it was only about three weeks ago, that between sunset and sunrise, he turned a complete somersault. He holds the world’s record as a mental contortionist. He came back to this House to say that one thing be had advocated before he was now opposed to. What a man to boast that he was a model of consistency !
– Get back to the bill, and tell us how the committee arrived at the figure of 20 per cent.
– Yes. Every man on the committee was a front line soldier who had experienced the dangers, hardships and trials of modern warfare, the difficulties of being restored to civilian life, and the risk of being submerged in that sea of selfishness which actuate many citizens of this country. We have learned that the “ diggers “ must be prepared to fight for themselves, if justice is to be done to them. Here, I pay tribute to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I believe that it has done a remarkably good job. I do not concur with the views of those people who believe that the returned soldiers have had nothing from the country. If honorable members look at the second-reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), they will find that, since the cessation of the last war, more than £27*5,000,000 has been expended on behalf of ex-service men. What people fail to realize is that because of the strain imposed on them, those men were not able to meet fierce competition on their return from the war. They had been under a system of discipline for three or four years. They were not allowed to think for themselves in the Army. All they did was what they were told to do. On their return to civil life they had to be safeguarded. Relatively few were totally and permanently incapacitated. We agreed that those men should be given a sum that would allow them to live in comparative comfort. I believe that this bill will do that. People overlook the fact that SO per cent, of the returned soldiers are receiving good wages. Some are on big salaries. Those wages and salaries rise in accordance with rises of the cost of living, but the cost of living bears little relationship to the pension paid to them. But we did think, on review, that the basis of 1919 was a little too low. Instead of increasing the rate by 11 per cent., according to the index number, we recommended that it be increased by 20 per cent.
– I submit that if our report had been considered by the Government and embodied in legislation six months ago, it would have received the plaudits of every section of the community.
– But I want to know how the committee arrived at 20 per cent. ?
– I have already told the honorable’ member. We found that the cost of living had increased by 11 per cent. We considered that the rate of pensions fixed in 1920 was a little too low and for that reason we suggested an all-round increase of 20 per cent., with increases of 25 per cent, and 66 j per cent, in special cases.
I do not say that the committee has said the last word on repatriation problems. We shall have problems that have not even been considered. The committee carried on its deliberations entirely free from party politics, and it is a pity that this bill cannot be debated in a similar way in this chamber. If it were, justice would be done to the returned soldiers, and advantage would accrue to all. I shall not deal with many aspects of the bill, because I realize that it is a measure which can be more easily discussed in committee, but I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to adopt most of our recommendations. I regret that, at the present juncture, it has not seen fit to accept our recommendation that preference shall, wherever possible, be given to returned soldiers, and I hope, that before this bill leaves the House, the Government will have made up its mind that that principle shall be included in it. I have heard some say that preference should be given only where other things are equal. That is not preference at all. Men who have given three or four years of the best years of their lives in the service of their country should not be asked to do the same as can be done by men who have stayed behind and lived in comparative luxury. Where a returned soldier is able and willing to do a job it is the bounden duty of the Commonwealth Government to set the example and give preference to him.
The honorable member for Warringah asked whether the committee considered that the suggested rates of pension were fair. I say quite frankly that I do. We must be practical in this matter. It would have been of no use to suggest rates that might frighten the Government. I asked myself, “If I were a member of the Government how much would I be prepared to recommend ? “ I considered that was a fair attitude to adopt. Oh the evidence submitted to us by the representatives of the organizations that appeared before us, I formed the opinion that they would be entirely satisfied with the recommendations that the committee has made.
– Should not the recommendation be brought up to date?
– I do not dispute it, but I make it clear that I intend to stand by the report of the committee. I referred to the policy of preference to returned soldiers, because that is mentioned in the report.
– This is not a bill to deal with that issue.
– I consider that a provision of that nature should be inserted in the bill. If it were there, we should meet with less difficulty. I do not consider that such a provision could be described as “tacking”.
– Returned soldiers sit on all repatriation tribunals.
– i am aware of the fact, and I pay tribute to the fine work that the Repatriation Commission has done. I do not think that any commission appointed in this country has done a bigger or a better job. We hear a great deal of criticism of the commission, but not much about the fine work that it has done for many thousands of returned men and women. A few disgruntled people complain, but nothing is beard from th many who are satisfied. .Individual cases of hardship cannot be avoided. In my experience every applicant who appears before the commission or its tribunals receives sympathetic treatment and a good hearing if he can submit a reasonable case. We have been most fortunate in the personnel of the commission. Those who appeared before the committee to give evidence were asked whether they would prefer the commission to be abolished and a board appointed to administer the act, or whether they would suggest that repatriation should be placed under the Department of Labour and National Service. The witnesses were unanimously of the opinion that the commission should be retained. They made it perfectly clear that they did not want the bill to be damaged in any way ; they wanted it improved. They left us in no doubt of their opinion that the Repatriation Commission had done excellent work during the last twenty years.
I do not say that the bill is incapable of improvements. Obviously, the combined wisdom of the whole Souse should be able to suggest some improvements, but, for my part, I intend to stand by the recommendations of the committee.
.- This bill has been drafted as the result of numerous conferences between the present Minister for Repatriation, former ministers in charge of the department, many experienced groups of returned soldiers and representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations, and also as the result of the report of the committee of exsoldier members of this Parliament. All contingencies have been visualized by men of experience in repatriation. The approach to the subject has been practical and realistic, and I believe that the provisions of the bill are such as to make possible an effective rehabilitation of war-weary and war-broken soldiers. Foi that reason I wholeheartedly support the measure.
I wish, however, to refer to one or two aspects which seem to me to have been given a little less than full consideration.
The Minister in his second-reading speech said -
Other important legislation relating to the welfare of soldiers was the introduction, .under the National Security Act, of regulations whereby an employer is compelled, having regard to the state of his business, to reinstate a soldier in the position which he previously occupied, or a similar one. This applies to all services - Royal Australian Navy, Australian Imperial Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the women’s auxiliaries. Other regulations have been made under that act for the benefit of ex-soldiers, such as the War Service Moratorium Regulations.
In view of the implications of that statement, the bill inadequately meets the needs of the case. We have to remember that it will be necessary to rehabilitate not only the men and women who have been broken by the harsh realities of war, but also many others who, after the war, will need to be absorbed into our national economy as rapidly as possible. Figures published in the Commonwealth YearBooh show that about 300,000 young men and 300,000 young women in the important age group 20 to 24 years have been diverted from civil to war activities of one kind or another. If such an absorption continues for four years, it is obvious that a complete age group will disappear from the ranks of civilian life. Unless we can do something to counter that loss, we shall be in danger of an economic collapse of a serious character. It is in the age group 20 to 24 years that our young men and women complete their post-graduate study or their training in the arts and crafts of life. Immediately following those years, these young people, as a rule, gain the practical experience which fits them to take their proper place in the life of the nation. This is true whether they be professional men and women, mechanics, or artisans. Obviously, if they do not receive their complete training during the years in which they are in that age group, it must be provided for them as effectively as possible immediately they are demobilized. It has been made quite clear to us that the fighting forces need the services of all these people, and we know from practical experience that as soon as young people reach an age approaching twenty years, they are called up for service. Up to the end of last year, only a very small number of those called up have been released from the armed forces for return to industry. The Minister told us a few days ago that the number so released had been only 4,982. While these young people remain in the armed forces, they are completely out of touch with normal life in our economy. All their attention is devoted to -war-like operations. We can repair the loss of their services only by an immigration of a similar number of young people from other nations, or by ensuring that immediately they are demobilized, they will be afforded opportunities to complete their training. It is clear that we shall not be able to obtain such a large number of people of this age group from any other nation. We must, therefore, do everything in our power to provide for the training of our own young people immediately they are able to return to civil life.
We must face the problem, also, that when these people are released, 1/hey will he less qualified to take up their study than they were to continue it at the time they were withdrawn from industry or study. The years 20 to 24 are most important in the life of young people, and their prospects in civil life will not be nearly so bright on their demobilization as they were on their enlistment. They will have been living in an unnatural environment, and they will need to reorientate themselves. Recently, I had the opportunity of a conversation on this subject with an eminent university professor, and he referred to the difficulty that many of these people would encounter in trying to revert to the discipline and study of normal life. It was suggested that those who had left school and had gone into industry at the age of sixteen or seventeen years should be returned at the age of 20 or 21 years in order to train afresh. He said : “ It is a physical impossibility “, and cited instances to prove his point. He went on to say : “ Only the other day I had a look at the mathematics paper for the leaving certificate examination. I should have to go to school for two years before I would be able to pass that examination “. Honorable members can picture the task that would confront the young man or woman who had not had the advantage of strenuous mental training up to the age of 30 years if, having left school at the age of fourteen or fifteen years, he or she had to resume studies. A commencement would have to be made at the stage normally reached at the age of about twelve years. Such a task will confront the Repatriation Department after this war, and will prove more gigantic than any other covered by the bill for the purpose of rehabilitating the physical wrecks and those who are war-worn. How that is to be done, I do not know. The condition of affairs to-day is completely different from what it was after the last war. Young men volunteered for service on that occasion, and the number of them taken out of each age group could probably be spared from it; because in our economic set-up, which has been continued to the present day, there has always been in each age group in every industry a surplus of man-power which could not be absorbed. We are hopeful that that state of affairs will not prevail after this war, even though our honorable friends opposite are sceptical concerning the four freedoms and our belief in a new order. That, however, is beside the question. The point is, that in our economy there is a complete gap of four years at the most valuable stage in the life of a human being - from 20 to 24 years of age. When ex-service men and ex-service women, for the purpose not only of rehabilitation but also of again picking up the ordinary threads of industry, have to be trained, the job will be in front of the Repatriation Department, or some other department which may be set up to deal with it. That is really the sphere of the Repatriation Department ; because, after all, it is the duty of the commission to deal with the physical and mental circumstances of the soldier. The skilled personnel, including doctors, scientists, psychologists, and others trained in industry, have been entrusted with the task of rehabilitating the soldiers, and it is their natural forte. I direct attention to that phase, which so far has merely been touched on, because I believe that neither the Minister nor the Parliament is cognisant of the implications of this tremendous task. When the standing committee which is to be set up to watch various developments in connexion with repatriation begins to function, I hope that it will pay some attention to the matter, even if, in order to do so, it has to neglect some other phase which, on the surface, may appear even more important.
.- The Parliament has been greatly assisted in its consideration of this very important measure by the committee of ex-soldier members who have investigated the problem and have made a series of recommendations which the Government has, in the main, adopted. One could not fail to be impressed by the speech of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) who, as a member of that committee, has been able to give to us further enlightenment as to the reasons which actuated it in coming to some of its decisions.
Although the measure is essentially one for consideration in committee, there is an aspect of it which, to me, is perhaps, the most important of the whole problem. It is not dealt with fully in the bill, or, for that matter, in the second-reading speech of the Minister; but because of its importance one may profitably spend a few minutes in dealing with it. I refer to the matter of rehabilitation. The majority of honorable members will agree that whilst the matter of pensions is in itself very important, the pension, after all, merely represents compensation for any disability suffered and, in a sense, a palliative for any injury caused. I am sure that, to the great majority of men and, for that matter, women who are engaged in the different services in this war, the supreme consideration will be the likelihood of their finding a proper and useful niche for themselves in the society which they have been compelled by their duty to leave. I am very glad to learn that the Government proposes to continue the special parliamentary committee - that the committee is not to disband with the passage of this bill. I have gathered that from a Government announcement. The committee will watch this problem for an indefinite period. I now express the hope that it will devote a very great deal of its time in the immediate future to the matter of rehabilitation, upon which the Minister has touched in the course of his very comprehensive second-reading speech. The following passage from that speech is worthy of repetition : -
Thu recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee, in connexion with vocational training, are being investigated by the Government and as a result of the amendment proposed in this bill, which will permit of regulations being made to provide assistance for ‘ all members of the forces under certain conditions, the necessary power will exist to allow of the Government’s plans in this connexion being given effect to, when a decision is reached as a result of the investigations which are now taking place.
When a full training plan ie commenced there arc two factors which will be uppermost in the minds of those who implement it. The first is that the individual is suitable for the calling, and the second is that there is room in that avocation for him. Any training given will be designed to bring the man to full wage-earning capacity in the trade or calling.
I understand that the reference in the bill is to an amendment of the act which will enable regulations to be made covering the matter of rehabilitation. It will be noted that that matter had only a brief, even a scanty, reference in the Minister’s speech. I do not suggest that the honorable gentleman is not alive to its importance. He had a tremendous area to cover. “While attached to the Department of Labour and National Service, I gained some slight experience of the problem. An attempt was made to inaugurate a scheme. Knowing how difficult it is to plan ahead effectively, particularly when the planners are busy men who are engaged daily with the exacting tasks of administration in relation to the general problem of repatriation, I suggest to the Minister that there must be both special caution and a special effort in order that planning shall not be neglected, and that, beyond the planning, machinery shall be established and be ready to function smoothly when pressure is applied to it.
– A committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Mighell is now dealing with the matter.
– Mr. Mighell is a man for whom every member of this House has considerable admiration. We are acquainted with the value of the work he has been able to do. But he has alsoother very important duties to perform at the moment; he is closely concerned. with problems relating to the coal-mining industry. I believe, too, that some of the members of the committee have regular and quite arduous tasks to perform in connexion with other aspects of the training of the soldier. I therefore express the fear, which I have felt for a considerable time, that there is danger of the planning for rehabilitation and the establishment of machinery for the effective placement of men and women in suitable employment being either overlooked or not being given sufficient attention because the men whose responsibility it is to deal with the matter are engaged in other work which is making a full demand upon their time. In order to emphasize my view of the importance of the matter, I bring to the notice of honorable members - if they have not already had an opportunity to study them - a few brief passages from what I regard as a most instructive and authoritative pamphlet entitled Helping the Incapacitated Soldier, which consists of a report by a committee of the Society of Returned Medical Officers of Queensland. Honorable members will note that it is a society of, first, returned men, and secondly, medical officers; consequently, it is especially well equipped to express a view in respect of some of these problems as they affect the returned soldier. The foreword to the pamphlet, although in general terms, is worthy of repetition. It reads -
When we as a society considered the question of repatriation it soon became apparent that it was an enormous task and our discussions have ranged from the care of the individual returnee to the re-organization of the whole social structure.
There were approximately 366,000 enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force in the last war. To-day, 236,000 persons are drawing war and service pensions - approximately 2.20,000 war pensioners and 14,000 service pensioners. Arising out of the present conflict, in addition to problems relating to pensions, there will be repatriation problems relating to male and female members of the forces which on a reasonably conservative estimate will make the aggregate number of persons concerned between 700,000 and 1,000,000. If the num ber of pensions is to he in the same proportion as after the last war, it is obvious that the problem of providing compensation for disabilities, and medical care and treatment for those in need of it, will be a great and continuing one. It is only just that a full measure of rehabilitation should be available to those discharged from the fighting services and, in the long run, an effective policy of rehabilitation will reduce the country’s liability in respect of pensions. The committee of the Society of Returned Medical Officers expresses some interesting opinions -
We believe that the present arrangements for dealing with incapacitated soldiers do not promote their future welfare because -
There is an insufficient realization of the part which psychology plays in their disabilities and their treatment.
They have in mind, I think, the fact that, although a man may be able to establish his case for a pension, it may not be in his best interests to give him one, lest he develop a pension complex. If, by occupational therapy, his disability can be overcome, so that he may undertake work that is both pleasurable and profitable, he will be better off than if he were given a financial palliative in the form of a pension. The report continues -
We believe that men should be discharged from the Army as soon as it is evident that they will not again become efficient soldiers.
They believe that the keeping of men in the Army longer than is necessary has a bad effect upon them. and makes more difficult their absorption into civil life again. The report states further -
We believe that, in many cases, the mere granting of a pension is shelving official responsibility. Par more attention should be given to rehabilitation.
The committee defines rehabilitation as making a man fit to return to his previous occupation, or to some occupation in which he can compete on equal terms with others. The committee suggests that, by vocational training, the more severely handicapped would be equipped with an occupation that would give them both an interest and a livelihood more or less complete. Such men would probably need a subsidy in the way of a partial pension. The committee defines the expression “ occupational therapy “ as follows: -
Hie use of an occupation primarily to arouse interest, and so to improve the function of disabled limbs and bodies. This occupation may, however, be a means of livelihood later. This, therefore, has a twofold character of being recreation and useful work, but is primarily not intended as a means of livelihood.
I have quoted from this report because it may not have previously come under the notice of the Minister, and because, since it represents the opinion of medical men who are themselves returned soldiers with much experience in dealing with their fellows, it warrants the close consideration of the Minister and his department. The Minister has stated that certain machinery is already in existence for dealing with men and women discharged from the forces. It concerns itself with the replacement of such persons in industry, and some aspects of the work come under the Department of Reconstruction, presided over by Dr. Coombes. There is also provision for occupational therapy. I have quoted the opinion of the medical committee to the effect that men suffering from disabilities should be discharged from the Army as soon as possible. I have been informed that a very large number of men, who have been classified as B2 physically, are still being held in the Army although they would be better off, both physically and mentally, and would be rendering greater service to the country, in civil employment. There are many hundreds of such men waiting at the Caulfield camp after a period of convalescence. Some of them have been there for months without .being suitably placed. They know that they have been classified as B2, and that they are unlikely to see operational service again. The officers among them have great difficulty in being placed in positions in the Army to which their rank entitles them, and the effect on their minds is easy to imagine. The Repatriation Department should take up with the Army and the other services the matter of having such men released.
Although the Government has done something to provide for the rehabilitation of discharged men, I repeat that too little attention has so far been devoted to this problem. There are nearly a million men and women in the Services at the present time, and there is a steady trickle of discharges. The persons concerned have to be replaced in civil life. Later, this trickle will increase, and so will the need for adequate machinery to deal with them. It is desirable to have this machinery in existence and working smoothly before general demobilization begins. The importance of this overshadows even the important matter of pensions.
.- The purpose of the bill before the House is to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The Government appointed a parliamentary committee to inquire into and report upon the act, and to recommend such amendments as it thought desirable. The present bill is based upon its recommendations. I am glad that the Government appointed an all-party committee of which all the members were returned soldiers. It is evident from the committee’s report that it investigated the act thoroughly, and it is to be commended for the reasonableness and general acceptability of its recommendations. No very drastic alterations to the act are suggested. The original act is a good one, and it has been well administered. It provides those benefits which all reasonable citizens believe should be provided, and an administration has been set up which effectively carries out what the act prescribes. Where it enjoys discretion, the administration is guided by the experience of a quarter of a century. It assists demobilized members of the. forces to become once again citizens of the community leading useful and happy lives. Its purpose is to enable men - and in this case, women - who have been living for so long under conditions different from their normal experience, to accustom’ themselves once more to civil life. It provides sustenance for all discharged members of the forces for a period of three months, but it is proposed to extend this period to six months while awaiting employment. It is possible that this provision will have to be reviewed in the light of what may happen upon general demobilization.
The bill provides for the vocational training of members of the forces who cannot be reinstated in their ordinary occupations because of their disabilities. It also provides a scale of pensions for those partially disabled. That scale of pensions is not intended to sustain soldiers completely, but it does provide something in the nature of a compensation payment for a disability. It ensures also tha,t the soldier shall have some income when ill health causes him to absent himself from his employment. If his earnings were not equivalent to the amount that he could expect to receive as a normally healthy member of society, the pension is supposed to make up the deficiency. As has been stated by many honorable members, 80 per cent, of the recipients earn the full amount that they could expect to earn if they were not incapacitated, and in such cases, the pension is purely compensation for their injury. For those who are totally and permanently incapacitated, the act is more generous, as it should be. Its purpose is to provide full maintenance for that member and his dependants in a reasonable standard of comfort, and the recommendations of the committee will enable that object to be ‘achieved. The act also provides a special payment for a man with certain disabilities, and special educational facilities for children.
In addition to war pensions, the act provides for the payment of service pensions. Any man, even if he did not suffer a disability, who has served in a theatre of war, is entitled to receive, at any age, a pension equivalent to the invalid and old-age pension, if unemployable. However, the applicant is subject to a “means test”. The act also provides for the payment of a service pension to sufferers from tuberculosis who have not had the disability accepted as being due to war service.
Those, by and large, are the facts that the committee must have considered when making its investigations, and it recommended to the Government some small amendments of the act. I call them “ small “ amendments. They mean a good deal to those who will benefit by them, but, when considered in relation to the whole act, they are not very great. They may be considered under three headings. First, some of the amendments are of a purely administrative character for the purpose of facilitating the operation of the act. They include provisions for increasing the membership of the Repatriation Commission, and the number of appeal tribunals for the purpose of enabling appeals to be heard more promptly. In addition, the onus of proof that a soldier’s disability was not due to war service now rests entirely with the commission. Those and similar recommendations are gladly accepted by the soldier community.
The second group relates purely ,to altered conditions of service in this war compared with the last war. A large percentage of our soldiers may never serve outside the territories of the Commonwealth, and, in addition, there are the women’s services and all the kindred organizations. The committee’s recommendations are designed to bring all those persons within the scope of the act. The third group of recommendations deals with increases of the rates of .pension. The rates have been widely discussed. I assume that the recommended rates are related to the spending power of money. They appear to me to have been thoroughly investigated, and the committee has reached a wise decision. There is no doubt that the rates will ‘be exhaustively discussed in committee, and some honorable members may not entirely agree with the recommendations. I may participate in some of those discussions. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has already forecast an amendment designed to secure a full pension for sufferers from tuberculosis whose applications have been rejected. If the Government accepted the amendment, the additional cost would not be substantial, but the effects on the nation would be extraordinarily good. A sufferer from this dread disease must enter a sanitorium from time to time. When he returns to civil life, he requires proper nourishment and good living conditions, otherwise he will be obliged in a short time to seek further treatment. The Minister should consider the advisability of accepting the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Moreton. Incidentally, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) would do well to consider the wisdom of introducing a .similar provision so that every member of society suffering from tuberculosis may obtain this advantage. If that were done, we might expect, within a reasonable period, to free the community of this scourge. T suggest to the Minister, even though this matter might be outside the scope of a repatriation hill, to regard the proposal a? a progressive step in national health and to set an example to other departments by adopting a more enlightened outlook on this terrible disease.
– The cost of the pensions would not be so much as the expense of maintaining sanitoriums.
– The Government would not be able to do away with the sari.toriums.
– I congratulate the Government on having accepted in the main the recommendations of the committee. The parliamentary ex-servicemen’s committee considered carefully the recommendations of the original committee, and, as a result, a few points which the Government had not. accepted have since been adopted. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) mentioned, there remains one very contentious point, namely, the question of preference to returned soldiers. I am anxious for the Government to make an early pronouncement of policy on this matter. The committee recommended that, where practicable, preference should be granted to returned soldiers. That principle would be widely acclaimed if the Government made the announcement immediately.
– Preference in government employment or in employment generally.?
– Preference in employment. It would facilitate the work of the Repatriation Commission if the principle of preference to returned soldiers were established in this or another bill.
In submitting its recommendations, the committee has not claimed that the act, when amended, will be perfect. Many anomalies are expected to arise in future. The Government has adopted a very sympathetic attitude to the whole subject of repatriation. The committee has done excellent work of major importance, and the Prime Minister has indicated, although I have not heard him refer to the matter in this House, that a permanent standing committee on repatriation will be appointed. I urge the Minister to include in the bill a clause appointing a standing committee on repatriation. If necessary, I may move such an amendment. The reason is that if the committee is established by regulations issued under the National Security Act, it will cease to function at the end of the war. But the benefits conferred by the act will continue for many years, and if the committee be given permanent status, returned soldiers’ organizations will be able to approach it instead of individual members, thus making repatriation a political football. That is the last thing the soldiers want. They wish to approach this problem in a non-political manner. It is unfair and an insult to them that matters relating to rates of pension should be made a political issue by one party or a few honorable members. As a body, soldiers wish to be responsible citizens. They are just as much interested in the welfare of the whole community as they are in their individual problems, and how legislation will affect their pockets. No government can gain any particular advantage by advocating unjustifiable benefits to soldiers, who take their responsibilities as citizens very seriously.
– The Government intends to retain the committee.
– One of the subjects raised during the debate relates to the inequality of the payment made to widows, and the contentions of some honorable members contain a good deal of merit. If a totally and permanently incapacitated soldier has a wife and two children, he receives a pension of £6 16s. a. week. If he dies, the pension payable to his widow and two children is reduced to £3 los. a week. Similarly, if a soldier is killed on active service, the allowance to his widow is substantially reduced. That is unfair. Before her husband enlisted, she may have enjoyed a high standard of living, but from patriotic motives she willingly accepted an inferior standard. It is not very nice- for a woman who has come back to that standard to contemplate that, if her husband is killed, she will have to go to a still lower standard. I think that, if this question be properly considered, a grateful country will say that that woman should be carried on as a widow in circumstances equal to those which she enjoyed as the wife of a serving soldier.
The provisions of the repatriation act that the wife of a returned soldier shall be pensionable only if the marriage takes place within fifteen years of his discharge operates harshly in the case of blinded and totally incapacitated men whose wives die. They need to marry again for they cannot get along without helpmeets. Are they to be deprived of the money they need to support their wives or must they do without the assistance that only a wife can provide? I think that that point has been overlooked. Service pensions were granted because men had been incapacitated by war service in a battle area. The pension is only 26s. a week. I concede that the allowance in respect of their wives and first children have been increased in the aggregate by 9s. a week. But those men live under the same conditions as old-age pensioners, and, including their pension, may not earn more than 38s. 6d. a week. An unmarried man would live in penury on that amount. Frequently, service pensioners can obtain odd jobs and I think they would be helped if they were allowed to earn an additional £1 a week without suffering a reduction of pension.
Having regard to the number of men being demobilized from this war it does not seem that in our life time, we shall have a shortage of old soldiers requiring assistance in some form or another. I seriously suggest that the Minister for Repatriation should give consideration to the desirability of establishing in each State hostels for service pensioners. I have in mind something on the line of the old soldiers’ homes in the United States of America. At those homes, the Confederate soldiers live in state and are look up to as national heroes. All the service pensioners have served the nation in a war zone. They consider that there is some degradation in entering an ordinary State benevolent asylum. Hostels established for them in each State would be welcomed by them. They would not be expensive to administer because the service pensions received by the men would go to the cost of their upkeep.
– The Returned Sailors and Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has established such hostels.
– Yes, but many of these men are being compelled to enter State institutions. I do not say that they are not well looked after in those institutions. On the contrary, they are well looked after. But they are institutions and the service pensioners, having a pride of service, do not like going into them. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Abbott) adjourned.
Policeofficers at Private Meetings - Medical Students and Services - Food Supplies : Shortage of Bread in Sydney; Milk Rationing; Fish; Fruit and Vegetables - Cost of Living: Prick Fixing - Land Transfers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I raise a matter that was referred to today in a question asked by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) which was followed up by questions asked by another honorable member. The honorable member for Hume suggested the Commonwealth or State police should intervene in meetings of a private character. He talked about a conference of the Communist party from which the public were to be excluded. The other honorable gentleman suggested that Mr. J. S. Garden had had no authority to require the police, whether ‘they were Commonwealth or State, to retire from what was to be a private meeting of members of a trade union. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) in dealing with these matters, did not dispose of them in a way that I should have liked. Because he did not give a definite answer to them, I speak now, for I am afraid that, if these arguments go by default, serious injury may be done to the cause of public liberty in this country. People, whoever they may be, have the right to hold private meetings and to exclude every body but members of their party or organization, or people whom they invite to be there. The police have no right to interfere, unless they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a breach of the peace is likely or that a crime is in meditation. For a long time the Australian Labour party held private conferences in different States. Only those persons whom it deemed desirable to admit were admitted. Even in the days when feeling ran highest during the last war the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) never attempted to interfere with the privacy of those meetings. I hope that the Government and Parliament will take steps to ensure that there shall be no interference with the privacy of such meetings. The meeting- of the Textile Workers Union was called for the members of the union, not the public, and the police would have no right to be there, unless they reasonably apprehended that a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned by what was said or done, or that something unlawful, seditious or criminal was likely to be done. I hope that the Attorney-General will make it clear that he will not lend support, open or passive, to interference with private meetings in the way suggested by honorable members to-day.
– At question time on Friday last the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) asked me was I aware of the unfair discrimination against the University of Queensland in respect of medical students, and asked whether I would have the matter reviewed so as to increase the Queensland quota and place it on a basis comparable with that of other States. The simple answer to the honorable member’s question is that there has been no discrimination whatever against the University of Queensland. Its proportion of the total amount of medical students entering the various universities throughout the ‘Commonwealth this year is greater than it was last year. A true picture of the position cannot be obtained by making a comparison with New South Wales, as a number of medical students who do their training in New South Wales come from Tasmania where medical students are not catered, for.
So much for the point raised by the honorable member for Lilley, but in view of the fact that there has been a good deal of comment on this matter over the past week or two, I have other information which might be of interest to honorable members. In arriving at the quotas, which were fixed by the Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, upon the advice of the Universities Commission, it was necessary to estimate the output of qualified students likely to be needed in the respective professions at the end of each course. As a result of the higher quality of students likely to be admitted with the inauguration of the system of financial assistance on a basis of academic merit, it could reasonably be expected that the number of failures should be less than in previous years. The number of first-year medical students admitted in all Australian universities this year was considerably greater than the total recommended bv some competent authorities. In view of the estimated likely demand at the end of six years, and other possible developments, a more liberal view was taken. Still the figure appears to have been not so high as that desired by certain universities. However, the chairman of the Universities Commission, Professor R. C. Mills, advises me that even had the Universities Commission and the Man Power Directorate been willing to fix higher quotas of medical students, limitation was imposed by the fact that, in all technical faculties, physics and chemistry are compulsory subjects, and the available accommodation, equipment, and teaching facilities are almost fully taxed. Any increase of the number of medical students above the figure indicated wouldentail a corresponding decrease in the other faculties. The total basic quota fixed for Queensland was 160, including a basic quota for medicine of 40, which was a reduction of 17 per cent, on the 48 first-year medical students taken by that university in 1942, to be compared with an average reduction of 27 per cent, for all Australian universities. I would ask honorable members when considering this reduction to bear in mind, that even though the intake of students might be smaller than previously, when allowance is made for the improved type of student that will result from the Government’s scheme for providing financial assistance the number of actual passes will be few, if any, below that of other years.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the complaints that have been voiced against certain shortages of food, and ask what action the Government will take to ensure the swift settlement of strikes involving basic foodstuffs. I refer particularly to the strike which has caused a bread famine in Sydney, and generally to other food shortages which have arisen as the result of seasonal and other conditions. I know that the Government has no control over seasons, but the shortages caused by strikes and seasonal conditions have accentuated the general difficulties of the supply of food to the people of the metropolitan areas. At question time I read a telegram on this subject. Since then I have received a number of other telegrams including one from the Woollahra Council ‘ representing the complaints of citizens in the municipality about the bread famine which is due to a strike of operatives in the baking trade. According to the award, they should start at 3 or 3.30 a.m., but they refuse to do so and are thereby holding up other operatives who start at 6 a.m. The result is that the whole metropolitan area of Sydney is without bread. This is a matter of immense importance. I expected that immediately the shortage of bread became obvious the Government would have ordered an investigation. I ask the Treasurer now to give the House an assurance that conditions which involve a shortage of basic foodstuffs in Sydney will not be tolerated. Those who are working in our food producing industries should observe their awards. Any failure to do so should be dealt with drastically by the Government. In present circumstances it behoves every person in the community who is concerned with the supply of foodstuffs to consumers to do his best to meet the needs of the situation.
It is regrettable that milk rationing has had to be resorted to in Sydney. It will be said, no doubt, that this is due to seasonal conditions, but that is only a part of the story. The requisitioning of men from dairy farms for army and other purposes has caused a shortage of milk supplies. Many herds have been dried off and valuable cows have been sent to the slaughter-houses. Milk is a vital foodstuff, and the supply should be maintained at the highest possible point. I believe that if persons properly informed, on the needs of the dairying industry had dealt with the man-power position there would not have been any need for rationing. Bungling man-power procedure is again blameworthy.
Fish is another basic food which is in short supply. The shortage was due, in the first place to the requisitioning of trawlers by the Navy. This caused a reduction of the supply of fish and the fixing of prices by the Prices Commissioner on a basis which was not at all commensurate with the work done by fishermen. In my electorate certain fishermen who have been operating on Sydney beaches for many years have been unreasonably hindered in their activities, and have been refused permission to fish in certain areas. This has contributed to the shortage.
The fruit and vegetable position is also most unsatisfactory. Fruit is almost unobtainable at times owing to the control methods adopted by boards and other authorities appointed by this Government. Fruit prices are ridiculously high in some localities and housewives are not able to afford the prices demanded by fruiterers. I have no doubt that the shortage of supplies is partly responsible for the high prices. The difficulty in obtaining vegetables may be due partly to seasonal conditions, but it has been aggravated by unsatisfactory control methods.
I do not want to speak at length about the meat position for it has already been brought to the notice of the House. I shall, therefore, conclude by urging the Treasurer to take prompt steps to ensure a satisfactory supply of bread. I ask the honorable gentleman to compare the position of the strikers in this industry with that of the members of the fighting services in New Guinea, who are expected to “ hop over “ at zero hour whether it be 3.30 a.m. or any other hour. If the activities of the fighting services were not co-ordinated and synchronized, our nien would lose every battle. Of course our fighting men do not say when zero hour’ arrives, “ We will not go over because it is too early to fight”. They do their job. I can seen no reason why a set of conditions should obtain on the industrial front different from those which apply to the fighting services, and I ask the Treasurer to give me an assurance that foodstuffs will be made available in satisfactory quantities to the consuming public of Sydney.
– I desire to refer to the statement made a few moments ago by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in reply to comments of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) at question time last Friday concerning the unfair discrimination against the University of Queensland in respect of medical students. I am indebted to the Minister for a copy of his statement. Its contents compel me to bring to the honorable gentleman’s attention the unsatisfactory condition in relation to the control of medical students in all our universities. We have about 6,000 doctors practising in Australia, of whom 2,000 are devoting full time service to the members of the armed forces. In our armed forces there are about 800,000 men and women. This means that 4,000 doctors are left to meet the medical needs of about 6,500,000 people, including the aged-, the chronic invalids, the acutely ill, and all the children of the community. The burden placed on the 4,000 doctors left in civil practice is very great, and it is doubtful whether any of them are able, in these days, to obtain even temporary relief from their onerous duties. If the war continues for much longer I do not know what will happen to our medical services. The doctors are working under great nervous tension and are giving most devoted service over extremely long hours.
– And orders cannot be issued that confinements shall not take place at 3.30 a.m. !
– The position in relation to maternity cases in Sydney is tragic. I have heard of infants having been born on the trolleys on which expectant mothers were being taken into the operating theatres. The situation is not much better in Melbourne. I do not accept the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry that the position in relation to medical students is satisfactory. With all due respect to the Universities Commission, of which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) is a distinguished member, and to the man-power authorities, I regard the position in relation to medical students as most unsatisfactory. In making their investigations these authorities have completely ignored the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston.
– On whose authority does the honorable member make that statement?
– I read a statement to that effect in the press. Dr. Cumpston has said that he was not invited to consult with the university or man-power authorities on the situation, and I know that the ‘Central Medical Co-ordination Committee was not consulted. The Minister said that the basic quota for 1943, compared with that of 1945, showed a reduction of 27 per cent, of medical students in all Australian universities. I regard that situation as entirely indefensible. If there is one university faculty which should be given special consideration, it is the faculty of medicine. If epidemics occur after this war such as occurred after the last war, we shall need a great many more doctors than will be available for the treatment of patients.
– If our promised public health schemes are provided we shall also need many more practitioners.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has anticipated a point which I intended to make. If well balanced public health schemes are put into operation many apparently healthy people in the community who do not consult doctors regularly will take the opportunity to do so. I consider that thirdyear medical students who do not pass in half their subjects, or who fail twice in one year, should be allowed to continue their studies. It is most undesirable that students who have completed three years of a medical course but have not passed their examinations should be drafted into the armed forces without further ado. These persons have reached a stage in their medical education when a lapse should be tolerated. If the failure be due to ill health the students should be treated generously. Fourth year medical students may become thoroughly qualified by two more years of study and if they fail in their fourth year examinations they should not be drafted into the army as sergeants in a medical corps, where they might be required merely to handle bandages. In his apologia the Minister said -
The number of first year medical students admitted into all Australian universities this year was considerably greater than the total recommended by some competent authorities.
I should like to know who the competent authorities were. They were not the Commonwealth Director-General of Health or authorized officers of the British Medical Association. I do not believe that any State Director of Health was consulted on this subject. The Minister also said -
In view of the estimated likely demand at the end of six years, and other possible developments a more liberal view was taken. Still the figure appears to have been not so high, as that desired by certain universities.
I suggest that the faculty of medicine in each of the State universities is more competent to advise on this subject than are the Universities Commission and the man-power authorities. The DirectorGeneral of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, may be competent to advise on some subjects, but I do not consider that he is competent to determine this issue. The chairman of the Universities Commission, ProfessorR. C. Mills, is not a professor of medicine but of economics, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) was formerly a distinguished school inspector, and Mr. Darling, the headmaster of the Geelong Grammar School, is a competent educationist. However, not one of these gentlemen has any special qualifications to determine the number of medical students that Australia requires. The Minister continued -
However, the chairman of the Universities Commission, Professor R. C. Mills, advises me that even had the Universities Commission and the Man Power Directorate been willing to fix higher quotas’ of medical students, limitations were imposed by the fact that, in all technical faculties, physics and chemistry are compulsory subjects, and the available accommodation, equipment and teaching facilities are almost fully taxed.
Arrangements have had to be made at short notice for many things, and it is not beyond our capacity to make whatever arrangements may be necessary in respect of accommodation, equipment and teaching facilities to provide for a greater intake of medical students. I do not desire to be hypercritical of those who have made this decision, but it is entirely wrong, and the Minister should have the matter reviewed. He should seek the views of, not only the man-power authorities and the Universities Commission, but also Dr. Cumpston and the Central Medical Co-ordination Commission, which includes in its personnel prominent medical men, as well as others who have important information which they could tender upon this subject, so that the mistake may be repaired before it is too late. Although the students have commenced their studies, the number may still be increased. Instead of having a reduction below the number admitted in 1942, there should be a rapid increase, as there has been in other countries. It is a most retrograde step for any government department to take, that the number of students doing the medical course in all Australian universities in the coming year shall be reduced by an average of 27 per cent.
.- I have listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The Minister should take up the matter with the man-power authorities, in order to ascertain the reason for the anomaly that exists. Quite recently, the fact was brought to my knowledge that many young men have been dragged out of their second year course at Armidale, and at the Sydney Teachers Training College upon attaining the age of eighteen years, in order to undergo military service, whilst others have been accepted for their first year at the age of nineteen years. A strong protest has been voiced in connexion with the matter in the Newcastle and Maitland districts in my electorate.
I have given a good deal of thought to the matter of price-fixing during the regime of not onlythe present Government, but also the two preceding administrations. I have been an advocate of the appointment of inspectors for the policing of prices, in order that consumers may not be fleeced. The Government has appointed men and women inspectors; yet the price of living is still soaring. What is the reason? It has lately been reported to me that the fault does not lie with the inspectors or with the branches of the Prices Commission in country districts. The inspectors have to report to the State Deputy Prices Commissioner. Even that officer cannot take action, but must refer the matter to Canberra. Who in Canberra is responsible? There are clear instances of deliberate fleecing of the public by the charging of exorbitant prices, yet the authorities in Canberra say that no action is to be taken. I want to know who is responsible. The inspector is in the same category as a policeman ; it is his duty to see that there is not a breach of the law. The prices of different commodities are fixed. A perusal of the invoices may prove to an inspector that there has been an overcharge. The matter has then to be submitted to the authorities in Canberra, who may or may not instruct that a prosecution shall be launched. It is time that the inspector was given the power of a policeman to prosecute if, in his opinion, a breach has been committed. A man who has been found by an inspector to have overcharged may approach a member of Parliament and say: “I am in a bit of trouble. The Prices Inspector has made an investigation of my affairs. I admit having overcharged. Can you get me out of it ? “ Is it at Canberra that the decision is made whether or not he shall “ get out of it “ ? We pose as the champions of the working class. If we allow that state of affairs to continue, we shall never prevent the cost of living from rising. I say clearly and definitely that no member of Parliament has the right to make representations on behalf of such persons. Furthermore, it is time the regulations were amended so as to empower an inspector to launch a prosecution if he has evidence that a breach has been committed. The Deputy Prices Commissioner cannot, at present, take action ; the matter has to be referred to. Canberra.
Who is the person in Canberra to whom these matters must be referred? Is it Professor Copland? I have stated what has been reported to me, and I believe that what I have said is correct. I do not say that these things have happened during the regime of the present Administration, but if they have occurred, I ask the Government to rectify these matters and give the inspectors in the States the right to prosecute. Throughout Australia a good deal of money is being expended in preventing profiteering. There is strict policing of the regulations governing the transfer of land. A person may not sell a piece of land at a price more than 10 per cent. above the valuation of the Valuer-General, without first obtaining approval. Moreover, a person may not sell a piece of land unless he gets a certificate from a licensed valuer, who may charge five guineas or ten guineas for his services. That is not right. As the regulations in relation to land transactions are so carefully policed, at least the same should be done in connexion with the supply of foodstuffs. Members of the legal fraternity are reaping a great harvest from workers who are endeavouring to purchase homes. I have a good deal to do with land transfers as I desire to assist poor people in these matters. If Ned Kelly lived at the present time, his mother would say that the lawyers were too bad for her son to play with. They fleece unfortunate people who are trying to buy homes. When death occurs in a family lawyers sometimes ask as much as fifteen or twenty guineas for advice in connexion with probate matters when all that the State charges is a lodgment fee of 26s. plus the cost of certain advertisements. Even in such a matter as a death in a family, the country is at a disadvantage compared with the city. It is cheaper to die in a metropolitan area, because a probate advertisement need be inserted in only one metropolitan newspaper whereas in the country it must appear in two newspapers. I repeat, that when inspectors find cases of overcharging in connexion with foodstuffs they should be authorized to take action against the offender, and not have to await a decision from some person in Canberra.
. -in reply - The matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) will be brought to the notice of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to the taking over of trawlers by the Navy. For security reasons I cannot state all the circumstances which led to that action, but I assure the honorable member that the matter was carefully considered before any trawlers were requisitioned.
The honorable member also referred to the shortage of milk. There were shortages of milk in this country before the present Government came into office. It is ridiculous to say that people had to turn their cows out only since the present Government came into office. In my electorate there is a fairly extensive area of dairying country, and I know that many dairy-farmers went out of production long before the present Government assumed office. The cause was not lack of man-power. This matter will be referred to the appropriate Minister.
The honorable member forWentworth also referred to stoppages in industry. I understand that some of the matters to which he referred are under consideration by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) complained that decisions to prosecute offenders against price-fixing regulations had to be made in Canberra. Whilst I do not speak with a complete knowledge of the subject, I understand that, in some instances, the approval of the Attorney-General must be obtained before a prosecution can be lodged. I believe that ever since federation it has been the practice to refer cases to the legal authorities of the Crown before authority to prosecute is given. This matter has been raised previously, but I shall again bring it to the notice of the appropriate Minister.
The matters raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will be dealt with by the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), both of whom heard his remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - By-law No. 83.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of rubber.
Taking possession of land, &c. (105).
National Security (War Damage to Property ) Regulations - Order - Declaration of indestructible goods.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 54, 55, 56.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 42.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Tasmanian War Industries Committee.
War and Service Pensions.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
The reason for the reference to the assessment tribunal in this question is not clear, but the figures quoted may be those required although they have no direct application to the terms of the question.
e. - On the 25th February, 1943, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked the following question, upon notice: -
With reference to the information given by the Minister on the 16th February to the honorable member for Parkes that the Middle East canteens distribute, monthly, 8 per cent. of the monthly turnover of sales to unit trust funds and 2 per cent. to the General Officer Commanding Special Trust Fund, and that the balance has been accumulated to assist in meeting the capital requirements of the service, will he furnish a detailed statement giving -
the amounts so distributed each month since the Middle East canteens were first established, under each of the first two headings, also the balance accumulated;
balance-sheets and profit and loss accounts, drawn up half-yearly; and
receipts for each month since the canteens were first established.
I now furnish the honorable member with the following reply: -
The precise amounts distributed each month since the Middle East canteens were first established cannot be furnished without reference to the books kept by the Middle East Canteens Board which are not available in Australia. The following distributions were, however, made in respect of each of the following periods: -
For the period ended 30th June, 1940 - To unit trust funds and General Officer Commanding’s special fund, £4,996 13s.5d.
For the year ended 30th June, 1941 - To unit trust funds, £77,430 9s. 10d.; to General Officer Commanding’s special fund, £20,611 15s. 8d.; special amenities, £1,253 6s. 6d.
) For the year ended 30th June, 1942 - To unit trust funds, £171,33411s.1d.; to General Officer Commanding’s special fund, £42,833 12s. 9d. ; special amenities, Christmas cheer, &c, £45,945 16s. 8d.
For the half-year ended 31st December, 1942 - To unit trust funds and General Officer Commanding’s special fund, £63,690 0s.1d. (Note. - Dissection of total between the two funds has not yet been received from the Middle East.)
The Middle East Board has hitherto functioned mainly as a separate body, and, apart from the provision of necessary reserves, has had the authority and responsibility for the disposal of profits in such manner as it deemed advisable without control or direction from the Central Canteens Control Board. Amendments to the Australian Military (Canteens Service) Regulations are at present under consideration, whereby the Middle East Board will act in all matters as the agent of the Central Canteens Control Board, in the same way as any other overseas canteens board. The amount of any accumulated assets of the Middle East Board, which are largely represented by stocks, and the other information requested by the honorable member, cannot be fully furnished without reference to the books kept by the Middle East Board. Those books are not yet available in Australia. Under the amendments to the regulations now being considered, the assets of the Middle East Board, after the necessary realization has taken place, will be controlled by the Central Canteens Control Board and provision will be made for governing the disposal of profits and surplus funds.
Salary and Staff Increases under Uniform Taxation.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With regard to the reduction in staffs of taxation departments purporting to be effected by the Income Tux (War-time Arrangements) Act 1942-
a ) What increase in salaries of staffs of the State Taxation Departments temporarily transferred to the Commonwealth Government under this act has since been made in each State?
What salaries have been increased in each State, and by how much have they been increased ?
What increase in staff has been made in each State or is contemplated?
Has any simplification in the form of return been effected? and
What, if any, additional expense is now involved in collecting tax?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430316_reps_16_174/>.