16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker- (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the followingbills reported : -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1943.
Income Tax Bill 1943.
National Welfare Fund Bill 1943.
Commonwealth Bank Bill 1943.
– Has the Prime Minister bad an opportunity, during the week-end to consider the matter of a centralized food authority ? If so, is he able to make a statement upon it?
– I have given the matter consideration,but am not yet able to make a statement upon it.
– In view of the strong protests voiced by the United Fishermen’s League and individual fishermen against the price fixed for fish, will the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Prices Branch have the matter further investigated?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister for his consideration.
– As it would be very difficult for fishermen to attend at either Sydney or Melbourne in order to state their case, will the Minister have the investigations conducted in the neighbourhood of their work, if that be possible ?
– The right honorable member considers it desirable to take the investigations tothe fishermen and to examine the conditions under which they work.
– I shall represent that view to the Minister.
– In the event of the personnel of the Repatriation Commission being increased to five, in the terms of the amending measure now before the Parliament, will the Minister for Repatriation provide to members of the fighting services in the present war, both male and female, an opportunity to be nominated for appointment?
– The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and any other soldiers’ organizations may submit nominations of persona, or a panel of. persons, from whom a selection may be made, for any position that has to be filled.
– Last month, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to advise me of the stage that had been reached in the negotiations with respect to Beaumaris Gardens, Hobart. The matter has been outstanding for some considerable time. Has finality yet been reached ?
– I cannot answer the question offhand, but I shall obtain the information from the Minister for the Interior by to-morrow, if possible.
– by leave - It is with deep pleasure that I announce the safe arrival in Australia of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force. On behalf of the Government and people of Australia, I extend to the officer commanding, Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, the officers and men of the division a warm welcome after their distinguished service in the Middle East.
The Government has received the following message from the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill -
I was very glad to learn that your fine division arrived home safely. In a letter which I gaveLieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead before his departure from Cairo I said that the division had left behind it a record of energy, courage, enterprise and daring which will be an imperishable memory among all the nations of the British Empire who, in the Western Desert, fought in true comradeship. In their new sphere of operations may all success accompany their arms.
Australians can be justifiably proud of the 9th Division. In the famous defence of Tobruk and in the recent memorable victory in Egypt the men of the division played a glorious part. We all can be deeply appreciative of the worthy manner in which they fought for the cause of the United Nations overseas.
The presence in Australia of this splendid fighting division at a time when our homeland is threatened by Japan, will be a source of deep satisfaction, and will be a valuable stimulus to all Australia’s forces and to the people of Australia inthe operations that are ahead.
I am certain that I echo the feelings of the troops when I pay tribute to the magnificent work of the British, Dutch and Australian warships which carried out the hazardous work of escorting the convoy and to those of the Merchant Navy which brought back our men. Gratitude is felt, too, for the work of the allied air forces.
That this major operation was carried out without a single loss of any description reflects credit in the highest degree on all concerned for their planning, resource and devotion to duty.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition, I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in extending a warm welcome to the officer commanding, the officers, and the men of the 9th Division, Australian Imperial Force.
The men of the 9th Division, in common with all the Australian fighting forces, have covered themselves with glory. They have brought honour to the country of their birth. Their fellow Australians will share the gratification that I feel at their safe return.
That such a glowing tribute as the Prime Minister has read should have been paid to these courageous Australians by the British Prime Minister is striking evidence of the way in which the men of “ the 9th “ have carried on the tradition of their countrymen whose exploits on the field of battle made the name “ Australia “ ring round the world in the war of 1914-18.
The return of the 9th Division should cause the Australian people to stiffen their determination to devote all their energies to the task that must ultimately result in victory for the Allied Nations.
The Opposition also desires to express its appreciation of the work of the warships engaged in the escort and to the vessels of the Merchant Navy which brought the men of, the 9th Division safely home. Our gratitude goes out also to the men of the allied air forces for their heroic part also in this operation.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Leader of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliamenthave given well-deserved praise to the 9th Division, will the Minister for the Army consider the desirability of releasing from the Holdsworthy Detention Camp the small number of members of that division who have been detained for minor military offences?
– In response to a previous inquiry, I have asked for the files of papers dealing with those cases, but I think that it would be better if the honorable member would interview me privately in my office rather than make this matter the subject of questions in Parliament.
Report of Sir Harry Brown -civil Constructional Corps: Arbitration Court Award;Statement by Mr. Fallon.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Allied Works Council - Report by Sir Harry Brown upon certain allegations concerning the administration of the Allied Works Council.
A limited number of copies of the report has been placed in the library for the information of honorable members.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to move that the report be printed?
– I think the report ought first to be read, and then we might consider whether there should be a discussion upon it.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [3.11] - If a motion be not made now, a debate upon this subject might be frustrated. Therefore, I mo ve -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement of Mr. F. Thomas, secretary of the Builders Labourers Union, that at the congress of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in Sydney to-day, he would move that civil constructional workers in the Brisbane metropolitan area, Victoria and New South Wales should hold stop-work meetings to discusstherecent awardforthe
Civil Constructional Corps, and that, if these meetings are held, about 100,000 workers will be involved ? Because of the seriousness of the position, can the Prime Minister inform me whether hehas yet received from the State secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. Fallon, an explanation of his reported statement advising members of the Australian Workers Union not to work under the new award?What action does he propose to take in the matter ?
– I think thatI sent a letter to the honorable gentleman.
– I have not received it.
– I have received from the executive of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Workers Union a letter containing this -
For your information, Mr. Fallon forwarded the following wire to our district secretaries: -
Advise C.C.C. men continue work have prepared papers variation award remove injustices expectearly hearing.
I assume that Mr. Fallon has filed an application for variation of the award because of what is held to be an injustice in it. He expects an early hearing. According to the communication, he has advised the men concerned to continue at work. This is in accordance with the traditional policy of the Australian Workers Union to observe an award and apply to the court for such variation of it as the union desires.
– I am glad of that.
War in Pacific Area.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had time to read the recent speech of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and, if so, has he any comments to make upon the war situation in the South-West Pacific?
– I have read the speech very carefully, but I do not feel that I ought to make any comments at this stage. A week ago, certain important communications were sent by the Government of Australia to the heads of other governments, and I prefer to wait for a, reply to them before offering comment upon the position as a’ whole.
AD Dl T 0RGENERAL’S REPORT.
– The annual report of the Auditor-General has been tabled in this House and has been made available to the press of Australia, yet honorable members have not been able to obtain a copy of it. Can the Treasurer state the reason ?
– The House has ordered that the report be printed. Copies of it will become available to honorable members.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement of the Auditor-General that waterside workers engaged in salvaging cargo from a vessel ashore on the Victorian coast received approximately £12 10s- a day? Has the Prime Minister also seen the subsequent explanation of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, that these men work at times waist deep in water and in danger of losing their lives? As apparently the award under which they worked took into account this risk, is it to be understood that the Government favours paying 17b. 6d. an hour to every Australian who risks his life, and will it apply the same principle to the men of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force who run much greater risks in theatres of war?
– I have read a great deal of the report of the AuditorGeneral, though not the whole of it. As for the point raised by the honorable member, I point out that no departure has been made by this Government from the practice of its predecessors, namely, that employees shall work under the awards appropriate to the kind of work upon which they are engaged.
– Does the award prescribe a wage of 17s. 6d. an hour?
– I do not know the facts, but I shall obtain them. I merely s?:y that this Government has not varied the practice which was followed by the previous Government.
– I understand that these rates were prescribed by a board of reference.
– That is a part of the legal machinery In regard to the making of awards, .and their application and interpretation. ‘
A vDITORGENERAL’S R e 1’0 I t.
– by leave - Parts of the AuditorGeneral’s report perturbed me, lest the public should, perhaps, place a wrong construction upon thom. For example, the statement in the Auditor-General’s report that “a £2,000,000 depot when almost completed was practically vacated in favour of another locality, owing, it is understood, to operational necessity “, is quite correct. The erection of this depot was recommended by the ChiefsofStafF Committee for the United States forces in January, 1942, the work being carried out by the Allied Works Council.. It is incorrect to say that this money has been wasted. The entire aerodrome and buildings, with the exception of seven buildings which are required by the American forces, have been taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force for purposes which require the provision of accommodation for over 5,000 persons.
In regard to the operational considerations which involved the diversion of the use of this establishment from the purposes originally intended, the AuditorGeneral is quite correct in describing it as an operational necessity. It is essential to bear in mind, in connexion with strategical works, that the following factors have operated successively to influence the general strategic situation in the South- West Pacific Area, and I am glad to say that the trend in this situation has been continuously beneficial bv shifting the centre of gravity always more towards the north : The. first stage followed the outbreak of war with Japan and the disablement of a large part of the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, together with the loss of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, and the capture of Singapore. At this stage, Australia was wide open to attack. The next stage was the return of the 7th Division of the Australian Imperial Force and the arrival of the American forces in Australia, which enabled strategical concentrations to,be made which were noi possible with the previous strength of the Australian forces: Then followed the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway Island, in which the Japanese suffered severe reverses, which had a marked effect upon the strategical position of Australia.
Finally, we moved to the phase of a limited offensive action which enabled us to make strategical concentrations in northern Queensland and New Guinea with the satisfactory results recently demonstrated in the campaign in Papua and the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to the Australian people that installations which were originally prepared as a vital part of the scheme of defence against invasion have been able to he diverted to other purposes because of the removal of the immediate threat of invasion.
The Air Force has increasingly used this depot, and 1 have no doubt, .because there is nothing certain in war, that, should there be imposed upon this country a prolonged struggle and should we meet, as I hope and believe we shall not meet, important reverses, to the concentrations that we have in the Army in New Guinea and north Australia,- this depot, which was originally planned as a base from which the air forces of -the United Nations would operate for the defence of Australia,, would again be used for that specific purpose. I submit that -no man would regret having to pay last year’s insurance premiums merely because he did not collect on the policy. That £2,000,000 depot was necessitated by the then situation of Australia. It was decided upon by the chiefs of staff. As the result of stronger forces being available in Australia and as the result of the enemy meeting with reversals just outside Australia, his march forward was retarded and our capacity to move forward was greatly increased. The very fact to which the Auditor-General drew attention is in itself a tribute to the success with which this country has so far confronted the enemy.
– With regard to the comments df the Auditor-General on the cost-plus contracts, will the Minister for Munitions make- available to the House a list of the firms referred to in the Auditor-General:s report, the years ito which ‘tha report refers, the. amount’s voluntarily refunded and the amounts refunded as the result of negotiations? What action has been taken to remove the ground for criticism contained in the report ?
M«r. MAKIN. - I have not yet had an opportunity to read the Auditor-General’s report and, therefore, I am not aware of the matters referred to in the honorable member’s question, but I undertake that all information, will be made available and that no facts will be withheld from the House.
-.- Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House copies of the agreements which the honorable member for Dalley declared on Friday -morning last would prevent the Curtin Government or any subsequent government from giving effect to a policy of preference to returned soldiers?
– The Minister for Labour and National Serline advises mc that he has asked for the agreements to be brought to Canberra. , They will be tabled immediately they arrive.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the Prime Minister whether he would lay on the table of the House the copies of the agreements which would prevent the application of the principle of preference to returned soldiers, and the honorable member said that I had made that statement,” among other things, in a previous debate. What I said is contained in Ilansard, which has not been sub-edited. It reads -
I cha lunge honorable members opposite to deny the fact that the previous Government of which they were members made an agreement with the trade unions, particularly tho A111alga.111a.ted .Engineering Union, which must be repudiated before the policy of preference to returned soldiers can operate in the way that honorable members opposite now hope to apply it.
I am not so foolish as to believe that tho Government could not, in spite of those agreements, apply by legislation, the principle of preference to returned soldiers. The only implication in what I said was that whilst the Government could legislate to give preference to returned soldiers, such an act would constitute a complete repudiation of the contractual obligations which the Government had entered into with the trade unions of this country.
– Who authorized the employment of four workmen in these days of grave shortage of man-power and the use of material that had to be brought from Sydney on the further construction of the aesthetic monstrosity just outside the front door of this Parliament? In view of the certainty that that memorial will eventually have to be moved, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior direct that no more work be done thereon until the war ends ?
– I shall place the question before the Minister for the Interior.
– I ask the Treasurer on whose instructions officers of the Taxation Department are visiting men, who were formerly engaged in small business enterprises, but who, through the exigencies of war, have been compelled to relinquish those businesses and take employment, with threats of garnisheeing their wages in order to collect amounts of sales tax owed by them.
– I assume that whatever instructions are issued in respect of the recovery of tax are issued by the Commissioner of Taxation. I shall have inquiries made and supply a detailed answer to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Aircraft Production been drawn to the comment of the Auditor-General that the accounts at the air screw annexe were most unsatisfactory and indicated a lack of supervision and control ? Will the Minister make a statement on the subject before the end of the week ?
– I have not had an opportunityto read the report and I suppose that that applies to the Minister for Aircraft Production. Also, I shall ask the Minister for Aircraft Production to supply the information desired by the honorable member.
– Early this session, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction promised the House that he would deliver a statement on the work of his new department, in order to allow honorable members to debate the subject before the Parliament went into recess. When does the Treasurer propose to make that statement, and what opportunities will be afforded to honorable members to offer their views upon this most important subject?
– I shall give consideration to the matter of setting out the details of the work that has been accomplished to date in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and other proposals now in hand; but I do not intend to present to the Parliament a lengthy statement about all the things which might be proposed at this stage. As many of them would be matters of Government policy, it is not competent for me to express an opinion upon them.
– Will honorable members have an opportunity to discuss the statement?
– That depends on how long this session lasts.
– The Prime Minister will recall that after H.M.A.S. Sydney was sunk, a fund was inaugurated and subscriptions were received from all parts of the Commonwealth for the purpose of replacing the lost cruiser. The Auditor-General’s report reveals that £464,000 is now held in a trust account for that purpose. As this money is insufficient to replace the cruiser, will the Prime Minister indicate what the Government proposes to do with the money ?
– Iam not able to indicate what the Government proposes to do with the money. It is very difficult for the Government to consider anything other than the purpose for which the money was subscribed. The public gave the money for a specific purpose.
– Put the money into the NationalWelfare Fund!
– I do not know why the honorable gentleman should make that statement. I am sure that if he were on this side of the chamber he would want to think, as I need to think, twenty times before he would divert moneys subscribed for a particular purpose, to any other purpose. The matter is very difficult; but as the purpose for which the fund was established does relate to the provision of naval strength for the Commonwealth, I shall have the matter examined.I should need to consult the trustees of the fund before the Government could reach a decision to divert the money to purposes other than that for which it was raised.
-.- Will the Prime Minister inform me what is the difference between profiteers, who attempt to make large profits out of their businesses as the result of war conditions, and workers who earn wages up to £12 10s. a day under the same conditions? Why should any differentiation be made between the two classes?
– I do not know whether any differentiation has been made between the two classes. If there has been any differentiation, I do not know what it is. I believe that it is not in order to ask questions which merely invite expressions of opinion.
– That is so. The question was purely argumentative.
– As Chairman, I present the fifth report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk and - by leave - adopted.
Suspension of Non-unionist.
– I have received from a Mr. Ernest Smith a letter which contains such an extraordinary statement that I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that on the refusal of Mr. Smith, who is an employee of the Australian Aluminium Company, at Granville, to join the Iron Workers Union, the other employees threatened to go on strike. Is it also a fact that thisman was thereupon suspended and the man-power authorities refused to deal with the matter as his services had not been terminated? Because of the acute shorttage of man-power, does not the Minister consider that denying an employee the right to work is detrimental to the war effort?
– I am not aware of the circumstances. If the honorable member will hand the letter to my department, we shall first ascertain whether it is authentic, and, if it is, we shall then make the necessary inquiries.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to provide £23,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. Appropriations of this nature are sought from time to time to enable amounts to be paid to the credit of a trust account, from which the actual payments of pensions are made at the rates already approved by Parliament. The balance of the previous appropriation of this nature is sufficient to meet expenditure up to the end of May, and the Parliament is now being asked to appropriate £2-3,000,000, which will bc sufficient’ for approximately a year’s expenditure. This amount will not be withdrawn- from revenue immediately, as only sufficient funds are paid to the trust account ‘as are required to meet each periodical .payment to pensioners.
This bill has no relation whatever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid. Its purpose is merely to appropriate funds to enable payments to be made on the basis already approved by the Parliament. The total expenditure on these pensions was £17,366,000 in 194.0-41, and £19,257,000 in 1941-42. The estimate for the current financial year is £22,400,000.
– The Opposition offers no objection to this hill, which provides for the USUal method of supplementing the appropriate trust fund for the purpose of meeting the expense incurred in the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. On this occasion £23,000,000 is being allocated for this purpose.
.- The trust fund into which this amount is intended to be paid is the fund hitherto used for that purpose. I take it that it has nothing whatever to do with the National Welfare Fund.
– That is so.
– When does the Government propose to establish the National Welfare Fund ? After that fund is established is it intended to continue the trust funds into which amounts are now paid from time to time to meet pensions expenditure, or is it intended to amalgamate all such funds and to have one fund from which all social service payments may be drawn after certain legislation has been passed by this Parliament? Some information on this point will be of interest to honorable members and to the country.
.- I consider that this is an appropriate occasion for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to provide honorable members with some information as to the method by which the Government intends to make social service payments in the future. I understood from remarks made on other occasions by the Treasurer that the purpose of the Government in establishing the National Welfare Fund was to give an unquestionable assurance to beneficiaries from, various social welfare- measures that payments would be met as they became due. W-e already have in existence trust funds from which invalid and oldage pensions, maternity allowances, war pensions, and certain, other benefits are payable. So far as I am aware, no one has ever doubted that Parliament would continue to make appropriations for the continuance of these funds. Succeeding governments have always observed the existing practice. For that reason, I have not, been able to understand why the Government should consider it necessary to establish the National Welfare Fund. We have had no difficulties in respect of social service payments in past years, and it appears to me to be desirable that the Government should explain clearly to the House why there should be differentiation between disbursements for invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions and certain other social benefits and the disbursements intended to be made from the National Welfare Fund.
– I hope that the Government will consider amalgamating the various funds from which social benefits are payable to the people. I consider that those sections of the community which receive pensions of one kind or another under our social service legislation should be placed in a position similar to that of people who receive payments from the Public Service Superannuation. Fund and like funds. I hope that consideration will be given to the augmenting of the National Welfare Fund by contributions from private employers. Some time ago, the Government had under consideration a scheme for the limitation of profits, but it was found to be not practicable. It appears to me that we could effect a. true limitation of profits if we obliged private employers to pay a proportion of their profits into a fund that would be held in trust for the benefit of their employees. In certain industries, voluntary welfare funds are already being accumulated with the idea of insuring to persons engaged in those particular industries certain payments after they have been in those employments for a prescribed number of years. Unfortunately, many workers are i:or, able to retain their employment for the prescribed period, and so lose the benefit of the contributions that they have made to such funds. I am aware of one firm which took the opportunity of war conditions to dismiss certain employees who had been contributing to such a fund and who, had they remained in their employment for a few months longer, would have become entitled to benefit from the funds. We have no guarantee that some of our war industries will continue into the post-war period, and something should hi; done to ensure that the employees in such industries who lose their employment after the cessation of hostilities shall have some financial assistance available to tide them over a period of transition from one industry to another. I cannot see any difficulty in the Government providing for and administering such funds in the interests of those workers. Instead of receiving under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act what is in the nature of a charity, the workers would receive superannuation benefits as a right, and upon reaching the retiring age would bc on a basis comparable with that of Commonwealth public servants.
– I am sure that no section o? the House will refuse the authority to make this appropriation, because already the Parliament has approved the principle of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This justifies the attitude adopted by the Opposition last week, when it pointed out that it was quite unnecessary for the Government to establish a new trust fund into which large sums should be placed in order to meet the obligations of hypothetical social services to be inaugurated legislatively in the near or distant future. The Government need apprehend no difficulty in securing the approval of every section of this House to the appropriation of any sum to meet an obligation already approved in principle by enactment of the Parliament. That this can be done proves that it was unnecessary to establish the National Welfare Fund.
– I direct the attention of the House and the country to the alarming increase of thi- cost of invalid and old-age’! pensions. Before long, the whole of our social services will have to be placed on a much sounder basis. When I first entered this House, in 1932, the Commonwealth budget provided for an expenditure of approximately £60,000,000 and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was £10,643,196. In 1933-34 it totalled £10,836,263, and increased by approximately £1,000,000 a year until’ in 1935-36 it amounted to £12,634,706. At about that time the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth was between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000. To-day we have a war expenditure of £540,000,000 apart from the ordinary expenditure. Yet the Government is proposing an appropriation of £23,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions, an increase of approximately £13,000,000 compared with 1933-34. It would be completely fallacious to argue that we can add indefinitely to the “cost of pensions. Sooner or later, without an alteration of the system or an entirely, new system, the financial structure will collapse, as it did in 1931. There would appear to be to-day an entire absence, of responsibility in connexion with government finance. The issue of treasury-bills, which aggregated £1,700,000 no longer than fifteen months ago, amounts to-day to more than £300,000,000. Undeniably, that is the principal source from which the Government is discharging its commitments. A colossal problem will eventually confront us. I am not so much concerned about the early post-war years, because there will then be something in the nature of a boom throughout the world, but I am worried when I consider what may be the position seven or eight years later, when the world attempts to return to some degree of sanity. The inflationary tendency is continuously growing, and a settling will have to be faced at some time in the future. There has been a lot of talk about post-war reconstruction. Seven or eight years after the termination of the war, if we review the predictions of to-day regarding the wonderful advance that is likely to be made during those years, they may appear to us as so much nonsense. A tremendous financial problem will result from the complete absence of any sense of national responsibility in regard to finance. 1 The sooner the whole of our social services are based on a really rational financial system, the better will it be for the nation as a whole, and particularly for those who hope to obtain, in the future, a reasonable meassme of social benefits.
.- This is a bill to appropriate £23;000,000, which is to be transferred to a trust fund to meet national commitments in respect of invalid and old-age pensions approved by this Parliament. I shall not oppose the measure, but I shall make some observations upon the machinery through which it is to operate, I shall not suggest a change at this stage, because I realize that a good deal of preparatory work would be needed in order- to effect one. I do net know how many trust accounts are in existence. The* Government recently had legislation passed in order to establish a new one - the National Welfare Fund - which will not operate to any great degree for a long while, other than in receiving money which may be drawn upon by the Government for use in other directions.. I wish to place on record the views which I hold in regard to trust funds generally. I consider that they are wrong in principle, and should be discontinued. I am not aware of how long the trust fund for invalid and oldage pensions has been established. I cannot conceive why the obligations in respect of that and any other social service should not be met from time to time out of Consolidated Revenue. It appears to me that the principle is to earmark certain moneys from revenue, and to discharge from the trust fund any obligations which the Parliament has approved:
– That has been the practice from time immemorial.
– That does not alter the fact that it is wrong. If it be correct to establish a trust fund for invalid .and old-age pensions, why would it not be correct to establish one for defence expenditure ?
-art. - There is a trust fund for defence expenditure.
– The honorable member will recall that the system of trust funds was initiated largely in order to avoid the existence of surplus revenue, which had to be paid to the States. Revenue appropriated to a trust fund was not surplus revenue.
– I understand that trust funds were established late in the financial year in order that revenue, which would be returnable to the States in the event of a surplus, would reside in them’, and that consequently there would technically be no surplus in the accounts of the Commonwealth. But does that mean that this Parliament passes into a trust fund the interest on, for example, the public debt? Does it pass into a trust fund the amount that is needed to pay the salaries of public servants? There is just as good a case for meeting both of those obligations from a trust fund, as for meeting in that way expenditure of this class. Obviously, this is not the time to suggest structural alterations in the method of public finance, but I suggest that the system of transferring money to trust funds, and meeting expenditure out - of those funds, should be examined carefully in the future. The practice may have arisen because of constitutional provisions, and have been one method of preserving Commonwealth surpluses, instead of their having to be paid back to the States under the provisions of the Constitution. If so, there is now a clear case for a new financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to overcome the difficulty, because this method is definitely wrong. It might happen that half-a-dozen major items of expenditure arc financed out of trust funds, whilst the rest of the country’s expenditure must depend upon what revenue is left over - and there might not be enough left over. The system, if unduty extended, would lead to absurdity. “ However, I realize that this money is needed, and I do not oppose the bill.
– ‘Although the scope of the bill i3 limited, I cannot let it pass without a word of comment. I was interested to read the speech of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, this morning, and to note that he takes a different view of post-war social problems from that taken by this Government. He takes a common-sense view that governments of the future will have to deal with the position as it exists in the future, and that the revenues of the future will have to meet future social service commitments.
– He also said that the Government of Great Britain would have to deal with monopolies.
– Yes, and he said that no one ought to go into parliament bound to an outside body from which he took his instructions. Recent events in this country, which received much publicity, may have served as a warning to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. However, I rose, not to discuss Mr. Churchill’s speech, but to suppert the remarks of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). This is not the first, time that members of the Opposition have had occasion to lecture the House on the impending reckoning between the taxpayers and the Government - and the Government’s beneficiaries. We cannot go on increasing the cost of social services while the country is becoming progressively poorer as a result of the war. The volume of wealth available for the satisfaction -of human needs is steadily decreasing. Year by year, so long as the war lasts, it will decrease, but the attitude of the Government is that it will be able to go on drawing four pints out of a pint pot. The fact is that the country is being financed to-day on promissory notes. I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to be present during a discussion on the country’s finances, so that we might learn exactly where he stands on this matter. Sooner or later the matter must come to a head. It is easy and popular for a government to give the public this and that, and to reduce the qualifying age for the franchise so that youngsters may have a vote. There seems to be no reason now why the age should not be so far reduced as to enable the children to -vote as soon as they obtain their qualifying certificates. The country cannot continue increasing taxation and piling up liabilities, and at the same time go on extending social services. The day of reckoning will come. No doubt honorable members opposite, remembering their experience on a former occasion, will take care that ‘the Labour party is in opposition when that happens. Having voiced this warning, I leave the matter at that.
.- For the first time in my parliamentary experience, an animated debate ‘has taken place on this bill, a debate which, under previous Speakers, as to similar measures, would not have been permitted to occur. Judging by a reminder which I heard you utter a few moments ago that this was not to be a discussion on. pensions generally, it seems that even you, Mr. Speaker, had entertained a private hope that honorable members would not digress into the field of invalid and old-age pensions in general. This is a bill to appropriate an amount of £23,000,000 for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. I am entertained by the fact that, although members of the Opposition never previously manifested the slightest interest in bills of this kind, having allowed them to go through unchallenged and undiscussed, they now, true to their instinct when they see an opportunity to embarrass the Government, hector and lecture the Government on its social service prosposals. The opportunity was much too good for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to miss. On such occasions, caustic sarcasm shoots out from him like electric spark’s. Far transcending my- own view of the scope of the debate, he actually regarded himself as free to enlarge upon a speech by the Prime Minister of Great Britain on the general subject of post-war reconstruction. That was a degree of licence which I, myself, had never envisaged in connexion with this debate. I am not complaining about it. I quite agree that this is a serious bill for a serious purpose. I even agree that if we are not marching to our Sedan, as a leading Labourite once said we were, at least, we are marching on with comparative lightheadedness to a period which, according to the views of honorable members on both sides of the House, must necessarily present us with a financial problem of colossal magnitude. _ I quite agree that that is so. I do not believe that we can continue for an indefinite number of years along those lines. I do not propose to enter into an elaborate disquisition on why we cannot continue. I think it is sufficient to agree with ray honorable friend opposite that, at any rate, althoughwe may pass this motion lightheartedly with hopefulness for the future, nevertheless, the general drift of our policy is one which is based, and can only be based reasonably, upon the assumption that the colossal obligations of war are to come to an end at an early date. I say that there is not the slightest indication that that will occur.
– in reply - I do not propose to deal with all the matters raised by honorable members. I must confess that I am not aware of the reasons for the establishment of some of the trust funds. They had a good purpose, or Parliament would not have adopted that method. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) proposed that the Government should consolidate all the trusts associated with social security. That had some consideration, but it is a big problem which must be left to the future.When the Joint Committee on Social Security has completed its investigations, Parliament may well consider a consolidation of all the measures associated with social security in order that there may be no way of overlapping and that anomalies maybe removed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommendingappropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide relief to primary producers by stabilizing the price of superphosphate and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Beasley and Mr. Chifley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Beasley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There is no need for me to go into details in connexion with the necessity to apply superphosphate to soil in Australia, because all the facts are already well known to honorable members. The difficulty confronting the Government is the” obtaining of supplies of superphosphate. The lack of superphosphate will naturally lead to all sorts of difficulties in raising crops and maintaining pastures for livestock. The Government has fixed certain production goals for essential crops, but these goals will be difficult of attainment unless the most efficient use be made of the limited quantities of superphosphate at our disposal. Steps have already been taken to ensure adequate supplies of fertilizer for crops essential to the war effort; and a crop priority rationing plan is already in operation. However, in addition to recognizing the claims of particular crops, we must ensure that those crops actually receive full dressings. We must ensure not only that superphosphate shall be made available to consumers, but also that it shall be made available at a price which the primary producer can afford to pay. The price of superphosphate has been rising steeply since the outbreak of the war, due mainly to substantial increases of freight charges on imported rock phosphate, and also to increases of manufacturing costs. The primary producers cannot be expected to carry the full burden of the increase of price of a commodity which is so essential to the efficiency of our agricultural production. Therefore, we make superphosphate available to the primary producer at prices which he can afford to pay. I trust that honorable members will recognize the Government’s responsibility in this matter, and agree that it should shoulder at least a portion of the increased cost of superphosphate.
The main purpose of the bill is to assist primary producers. During the year 1941- 42 the Government assisted them by the payment of a superphosphate bounty at the rate of 253. a ton. That bounty was distributed in the form of a reduction of the list price of superphosphate, manufacturers being directed to invoice the superphosphate at the list price determined by the Prices Commissioner, less the subsidy at the rate of 25s. a ton. The primary producer received the full benefit of the Government’s assistance in that manner, and the manufacturers were recouped the loss they incurred in selling at the fixed price. In respect of the season 1942-43, the Government again decided to assist the primary producer in regard to his purchases of superphosphate. However, the Prices Commissioner was unable to grant a uniform increase of price to the manufacturers to meet further increases of costs of . production, because those increases vary between manufacturers. The fixation of a uniform rate of bounty for the season 1942-43, as waa the case in the preceding year, would result in some manufacturers making relatively large profits, whilst others might actually incur loss. Therefore, the fixation of different selling prices for different manufacturers is now impracticable, as the Government has already decided that the prices for 1942- 43 should remain the same as those for 1941-42. This has meant that since July, 1942, all manufacturers have operated at a loss, and that the degree of the loss has varied between manufacturers. In these circumstances, it is obvious that a uniform rate of subsidy would not be equitable.
The Government has set up a Superphosphate Industry Committee to ascertain the actual financial result of each manufacturer’s operations in 1942-43, and to recommend the basis on which he should be recouped.
– “Will the whole of the increase of cost to the manufacturer be made good?
– Has the depreciation of the quality of superphosphate been taken into consideration?
– Those matters will be considered by the Superphosphate Industry Committee. As I have already said, the main purpose of the bill is to fix the price for 1942-43 at [ the price ruling last year. Last year, the price was about £6 6s. a ton in four States, and, because of greater transport costs, slightly higher in “Western Australia and Tasmania. On the basis of a subsidy of 25s. a ton the net price was £5 ls. to the producer. This year it is proposed to alter the system of paying, the subsidy to the manufacturer, because of the varying costs of transport, and also the varying prices of priority crops in the different .States. The priority crops are : Potatoes, vegetables, blue peas, navy beans, cotton, tobacco, flax, berry fruits and vegetable seeds. Tasmania is the principal producer of several of those crops. Due to the varying conditions ‘ existing in respect of those priority crops, it may happen that the amount of subsidy payable to one manufacturer may be approximately 5s. a ton extra, and to another manufacturer an additional 30s. a ton. However, the Superphosphate Industry Committee will investigate details of that kind. It is estimated that up to the 3lst June next 4SO,000 tons of superphosphate will be made available, and, possibly, the subsidy will be paid in respect of that tonnage. However, last year 624,000 tons was made available, and the amount of subsidy paid in respect of that production was £7S0,000. It is interesting to note that under the bill a sum of £900,000 is to be provided in respect of the smaller supply of 480,000 tons for this year. It is apparent, therefore, that the cost in individual cases this year will be much higher than the rate of 25s. a ton provided last year.
– Is the price fixed by the Prices Commissioner?
– The Prices Commissioner fixed the prices last year. In July he granted an increase of 32s. a ton, of which the Government found 2,5s. However, the Prices Commissioner cannot fix the price for this year on the basis on which he fixed it last year, because special provision must now be made in respect of priority crops. In the past, we have obtained our supplies of superphosphate mainly from Ocean Island and Nauru, but those sources are now closed to us.
Therefore, the rock has to be shipped from Red ‘Sea ports. Most, if not ail, of the rock now secured by Australia is obtained from those sources. The voyage is longer than it was from Nauru to Australia and, consequently, the cost is greater. In June, 1941, the price of rock was £2 12s. a ton. In the following months, the price rose to £4 15s. a ton, at which it has remained ever since. In. 1941-42, the Prices Commissioner permitted the selling price of superphosphate to be raised by £1 12s. a ton in order to offset the greater cost of the rock, and higher working costs generally. The Commonwealth Government paid £1 os. of the increase of £1 12s.
In 1942-43, although the actual cost of the rock did not increase, the rock supplied to manufacturers was of lower grade, and more expensive treatment was necessary in order to produce superphosphate from it. This increased cost operated generally throughout Australia. The higher cost of ‘ bags was another item which was applicable in all States in 1942-43. The principal items of cost in 1942-43, operating differently as between the various States, were : First, costs due to alterations of the tonnage allocations following the introduction of the priority crop system of rationing. The quantity of superphosphate sold in 1941-42 was 624,000 tons, and in 1942-43, it was 480,000 tons. The reduced quantity for 1942-43 was divided among the States in proportions differing from those obtaining in 1941-42. Secondly, imported brimstone is used in Western Australia in the production of acid for the manufacture of superphosphate, whilst other States use cheaper local materials. In 1941-42, this difference was adjusted by a special grant from the Commonwealth, in addition to the bounty of £1 os. a ton. Thus, a different rate was set for Western Australia; and I assume that the committee will examine it in these circumstances. I do not say that a flat rate of £1 5s. will be fixed,, because the figure might be £1 10s. or £2 12s., according to the determination of the Phosphate Industry Committee after an examination of local conditions. The preliminary investigation by the Prices Commissioner in the current year indicated that a3 a result of those conditions, manufacturers considered that costs would be increased over a range from 3s. lOd. to £1 5s. 4d. a ton. . The wide variation of the estimated costs was one of the principal reasons for the establishment of the committee to .advise on the basis of the payment of the subsidy. Honorable members will appreciate that as manufacturers have been selling at the net figure for 1941-42, namely, the list price less £1 5s., and have not received the £1 5s., the subsidy for 1942-43 will have to allow for the increase of costs, including rock phosphate since July, 1941. In other words, the manufacturers have been called upon to offer superphosphate at the rates prescribed less the subsidy of £1 5s.; but as they have not yet been paid the subsidy this provision must be made retrospective to July, 1941, in order that the manufacturers shall be recouped the losses they have incurred in the meantime.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marwick) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth Public Service Act provides for the grant of long-service leave, commonly referred to as furlough, to permanent officers with twenty years’ continuous service. The underlying principle of this leave is that it is granted for recuperative purposes. It can be regarded as an extended period of recreation leave, as in the year in which furlough is taken the normal recreation leave is not allowed, vide section 73 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
Under that act, provision also exists for payment in lieu of leave to permanent officers on retirement or resignation, and to the dependants of deceased officers, of asum equivalent to the salary that would have been involved had the furlough been taken prior to retirement, resignation or death. Leave, or pay in lieu, on a pro rata basismay also be granted to permanent officers with less than twenty years’ service who die, retire after attaining 60 years of age, or are retired on account of ill health, not being due to misconduct or causes within their own control, before attaining 60 years of age.
It is expressly provided that temporary service shall not be counted in computing the length of service for furlough purposes, although temporary service continuous with permanent service was allowed to appointees prior to the commencement of the present act on the 19th July, 1923. In the Defence Department, a limited number of temporary employees, who commenced duty prior to 1924, were eligiblefor furlough under the Civilian Staff Regulations. These rights have been preserved, but the employees who commenced temporary service since 1924 in the Defence Department or at any date in other departments are not eligible for long-service leave.
Usually, temporary employees, other than employees of the Defence Department, were not retained for exceptionally long periods; but since the last war, a practice has grown up of retaining employees, particularly returned soldiers, for long periods, mostly in positions which are not usually regarded as permanent positions in the Public Service.
– No provision was made then for applying the prinicple of preference to returned soldiers.
– This bill has nothing to do with preference to returned soldiers. There are staffs of full-time male cleaners, who are not on the permanent staff but whose work is permanent in character. Again, in the Australian Capital Territory many classes of work are of a permanent nature, such as the provision of lighting, water, transport services, and other facilities, but the workmen engaged thereon have not been permanently appointed, as the class of work is not such as, normally, Public Service offices are created for.
The Government considers that if employees are retained for twenty years they can hardly be regarded as temporary employees although, technically, they are not on the permanent staff, and believes that it is reasonable to make uniform provision for long-service leave for all em ployees who give the stipulated period of service. This bill, the provisions of which follow the principle already expressed in the Public Service Act relating to permanent public service officers, and in regulations applying to repatriation and war service homes’ officers, makes the necessary amendments.
Adoption of the present proposals regarding temporary employees will involve an amendment of section 73 of the Public Service Act relating to permanent officers, as the latter, if appointed subsequent to the 19th July, 1923, are not at present credited with prior temporary service for furlough purposes. The effect of this amendment would be that some permanent officers with prior temporary service, but not yet twenty years’ permanent service, would at once become eligible for furlough, and others would become eligible at an earlier date by combining temporary andpermanent service.
The cost will not be great. Relatively few temporary employees are retained for twenty years. It is estimated that about 150 employees will be immediately eligible and the liability will be about £20,000. If circumstances necessitate the continued employment of the present temporary staffs, a number of other employees will gradually qualify for furlough, as there are approximately 750 employees with service of fifteen but under twenty years. On the basis of these employees qualifying, it is estimated that the cost would be about £20,000 annually for the next five years. With the diminution of temporary staffs the numbers qualifying would be reduced, affecting the cost accordingly.
Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick Stewart) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to rectify an anomaly which has arisen in connexion with those Commonwealth loans, the interest from which enjoys the . concessional rate- of income tax granted by section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act and section 52b 2 of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. As honorable members are aware, the provisions mentioned operate to limit the rate of income tax on interest from Commonwealth loans to which those sections apply to the rate applying in assessments for the financial year 1930-31. In the case of a company this rate is 16d. in the £1. “War-time company tax was not regarded by the Commissioner of Taxation as an “ income tax “, consequently any interest received by a company from these securities was, in common with the rest of the company’s taxable profit, subject to the appropriate rates of war-time company tax. This procedure did not operate to the disadvantage of any company because a deduction of the prescribed 5 per cent, was allowed on the capital invested in the loans, whereas the interest received did not represent a return of more than 4 per cent, on that capital. Actually the inclusion of the interest in the taxable profit and of the amount invested in the securities in the calculation of the company’s capital operated to benefit the company. This was due to the fact that the low earning rate of the income from the capital invested in the loans reduced the average rate of profit earned by the whole of the company’s capital, and consequently reduced the rates of war-time company tax payable on the whole of the taxable profit. The departmental procedure recently became the subject of an appeal to the Board of Review by a company which objected to its assessment on the ground that war-time company tax was an “ income tax “ as defined in the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act, and that the interest was accordingly not subject to war-time company tax and should be excluded from the company’s taxable profit. The board held that as the maximum rate of income tax that could be imposed in respect of such interest had already been imposed in the assessment of ordinary income tax, a rebate of the war-time company tax attributable to the- interest must be made..
The board’s view has been upheld by the. Crown Law authorities. Although the interest is, by the board’s decision, made free from war-time company tax it forms part of the company’s taxable profit and the effect of the decision is that the company, whilst paying no wartime company tax on the interest, is entitled to have the amount invested in the loans included as part of its capital employed. In order to rectify this anomaly, the bill now before the House contains provision for the exemption from war-time company tax of Commonwealth loan interest to which section 20 of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act or section 52b of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act applies, and -for the exclusion, from the capital employed, of the capital invested in the loans from which the interest is derived. This is in conformity with the general principle of the act. For example, dividends received by a company from its shareholdings in any other company are exempt from war-time company tax, but the capital invested in the shareholdings is not taken into account as a part of the capital employed by the company. The amendments which it is proposed to make to the act will apply to the assessments for the current financial year and for subsequent financial years. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– The Opposition raises no objection to the bill which obviously effects an adjustment made necessary by the discovery of an anomaly_ that was not apparent when the act was originally before Parliament. A war-time company tax assessment is based upon the ratio that a defined profit, or taxable income, bears to a defined capital. The higher that capital basis is, the lower is the ratio, and consequently the lower is the grade, and the lower the tax payable. It is obvious that, if we deduct from the total taxable income a certain income of the nature described in the bill, we must deduct also from the capital basis the particular capital which has earned that particular nontaxable income. It is purely a matter qf adjustment, with’ the circumstances of “which I am” very conversant. The object of the bill is to establish a proper basis whereby only the capital employed in the earning of the taxable income shall be taken into consideration. It will be noticed also by honorable members that it is intended not to make the adjustment retrospective to the date of the passing of the act, but to apply it only to current assessments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th March (vide page 1475) on motion by Mr. Hollo way -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill will not provoke opposition from any party in the House. Although there may be some honest difference of opinion as to whether the present is the most appropriate time for any elaboration of our social services, I find no difficulty whatever in concurring with the three proposals which are contained in the bill. It first proposes to reduce the time lag between the declaration of an increase of the cost of living, and its application to the pensions. In the second place it contemplates providing allowances for the wives and the unendowed children of invalid pensioners; and, thirdly, it proposes to provide a funeral benefit for old-age pensioners. I repeat that with each of these three objectives I completely concur. Dealing first with the reduction in the time lag, if there is any justification at all for recognition of the increase of the cost of living by an increase of the pensions rates, then surely it is also just that that application should be made at the earliest possible moment. Under the. act as it now stands, a period of something like three months generally elapses before pensioners are able to obtain the benefit of the small moiety of increase due to them as the result of the increase of the declared cost of living . Asonly a proportion of’ the increasewill go to the pensioners, there is even less justification for delay. I am in complete accordance with the views which the Minister expressed on this point last week.
Thebill provides also, for the first time in Australian history, for a sustenance allowance to be paid to the wives of invalid pensioners and in respect of unendowed children. I refer, of course, to the first child in the family of an invalid pensioner. I was at a loss to understand the remark of the Minister relative to the application of the “ means “ test in such cases, and I hope that the honorable gentleman will clarify that remark when he replies to this debate. For some years I had the honour to administer the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Branch, and I am aware that, from time to time, medical authorities have suggested that strong efforts should be made to rehabilitate many invalid pensioners in order to enable them to resume their placein the economic life of the community. Until recent months, a great difficulty in the way of doing anything to achieve that end was that, immediately invalid pensioners revealed that they were able to earn even a small amount of money, their pensions were cancelled. That difficulty has now been removed. Certain impediments still make it difficult to do anything effective with the object of restoring invalid pensioners to a state of health which will enable them to resume their place in industry. The spectre of poverty must be removed. The proposal in this bill will do something to relieve the strain caused by fear of the economic future. The removal of that fear is a condition precedent to the restoration of invalid pensioners to economic activity. Obviously, some one has to support the wives and children of invalid pensioners, who are not provided for by our legislation. Usually the. children are supported by some governmental activity. Because the provision in this bill will ease the situation in that regard, I give it my benediction.
– The lot of wives of invalid pensioners is an unhappy one even under the best conditions.
– That is so, and for that reason I am confident that the honorable member for Melbourne will support this provision.
Another amendment which will be effected by the passage of this bill aims at assuring invalid and old-age pensioners of dignified burial. I have pointed out on other occasions that, in order to ensure that they will receive decent burial, many invalid and old-age pensioners pay, out of their meagre pensions, at very great personal sacrifice, a small amount weekly to provide for their burial expenses.
– Those funds have assumed considerable proportions in some instances.
– That may be so, but the pensioners have no assurance whatsoever that they will receive decent burial. I know that some of the funds are not bona fide, and that the amounts payable to pensioners will not ensure proper burial. There is no guarantee whatever that the private interests which have organized these funds will carry out their contractual obligations.
– That is not true of such funds in Tasmania.
-well. - In many instances the funds are organized by undertakers’ associations.
– That is so.
– I know of one fund from which a contribution of £1,000 was made to a war loan.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) has a much greater confidence in these funds than I have, if he thinks they will adequately serve the purpose for which they have been established.
– What will happen to the amounts already contributed to these funds if this amendment be agreed to?
– I do not know. The position became so scandalous in New South Wales that the State Government had to take cognizance of it. A complete investigation was ordered. I am sure that invalid and oldage pensioners throughout Australia will be glad to know that this amendment is being made to the act, because it will remove from them the fear of a pauper’s funeral. ,
– The subscribers to these funds have no protection whatever under existing legislation.
– That is true. For that reason, I warmly approve of the amendment contained in this bill.
Some anomalies still remain in our pensions legislation. On several occasions I have referred to certain aspects of the law relating to pensions payable to inmates of benevolent institutions, mainly State government institutions. Under the existing rate of pension, pensioners in such institutions receive 9s. a week.
– The amount is usually one-third of the pension rate.
– A quite erroneous impression is abroad that in every instance the institution concerned receives the remainder of the pension - at present 17s. a week - in respect of such persons. The fact is that that payment is made only in respect of persons who had qualified for and been granted the pension prior to their entry into institutions. But even in respect of those individuals the payment is ex gratia ; it is not a legal obligation. That limited ex gratia payment has been’ made ever since our pensions system was introduced in 1908, but all efforts to ensure that the payments shall be made also in respect of persons who are granted pensions after their entry into the institutions have failed. This anomaly has continued from year to year. As I believethat only about 1,300 pensioners are affected, I urge the Government to take steps to remedy the anomaly. I am concerned not so much about the recouping of the State Government, as about helping the relatives of such pensioners, for under existing conditions they are required, in Very many instances, to make payments to the institutions concerned. I draw the attention of the Minister to that anomaly in the hope that he may be able to do something to eliminate it. j I shall support the measure, and I have no doubt that whatever may be the personal feelings of, some .honorable members as- to , the appropriateness. [ of , introducing a measure of this kind at the present time, the hill will receive a speedy passage.
-I am pleased to know that the Opposition will offer no objection to this measure.
– The honorable member should not be too sure about certain honorable members opposite.
– I realize that some of the Opposition invariably oppose every measure that is brought before the chamber, particularly- legislation which seeks to improve social services ; but the bill having been favorably received by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) whose generous outlook towards the more unfortunate sections of the community is well known, it would seem that the Opposition will offer no real objection to the measure. The honorable member said that there would be no serious opposition from any section of the House.
– I forecast that that would be the case.
– That is so, and I agree, but doubts have been expressed by certain members of the Opposition in regard to the appropriateness of introducing this bill at present. I believe that now is the time for us to put our House in order by removing anomalies in existing social service legislation, and, indeed, introducing new legislation. It is generally agreed! that improved social services will be an integral part of the new order which .is to follow the cessation of hostilities, but whether that be so or not, I believe, - as do many people with whom I have come in contact, - that reforms are not only desirable but also necessary now, I do not make that statement without some knowledge of the subject. During the past eighteen months the members of the Social .Security Committee have made an extensive investigation of social services and social problems throughout Australia. In that time we have had before us as witnesses a representative cross section of the Australian community. We have visited every State of the Commonwealth and endeavoured to contact representative organizations which we thought ‘Wight- have useful views to express, ‘ and1 individuals who-‘’ are regarded as. leading thinkers on social questions. The outstanding result of these investigations was the revelation that not only among people from whom we on this side of the chamber normally obtain our support, but also among those who, because of the very nature of their associations, are normally ‘supporters of honorable members opposite, there is a belief that our social . legislation should be improved, and that it should be improved now. I was somewhat surprised, as were several other members of the committee, to find that that was the state of mind of so many people in the community; but, that being the case, the measure now under discussion can be said to represent the views of a strong section ‘ of the people of this country. Australians have become socially conscious ; they believe that for too long anomalies have been permitted to exist in our invalid and oldage pensions legislation. The time has gone when people dismissed the notion of a national parliament accepting responsibility for the aged and infirm, although it is true that that attitude dies hard in the minds of some individuals. So it can be said that the views of the great majority of the people who wish to see immediate improvements in our social legislation are embodied in this measure.
The first point of importance which emerges from the speech by the Minister fdr Social Services (Mr. Holloway) is the .time lag. That is something that should have been remedied years ago; indeed, it should never have been in the act. The honorable member for Parramatta put it nicely when he said that if it were right that pensions should be subject to cost-of-living adjustments,there should be no’ time lost in making those adjustments. With that I agree entirely.
The next feature of the bill is the sustenance allowance for the unendowed child, and the dependant’s allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner. The Social Security Committee took much evidence in relation to this particular section of the act, and Ave advised very strongly upon the matter in our first report. It might be appropriate to draw the attention of honorable members to just what was stated in the interim report presented to Parliament on the 24th September, 1941: -
Since the inception of the Act, the Pensions Commissioner has interpreted “ Permanently incapacitated for work” as “Totally and permanently incapacitated for work “ and the Act is administered accordingly.
The appointment of Medical Appeal Boards by the Minister has removed causes of complaint in a number of border-line cases. The official interpretation referred to, however, imposes considerable hardship upon a number of persons who suffer permanent disablement to a degree which, while it cannot be classified as “ total “, precludes the earning of more than’ a small percentage of a living wage. Many such persons are refused an invalid pension under the existing provisions oE the Act.
That is one anomaly that has been removed by a liberalization of that section of the act. Instead of a person having to be permanently and totally incapacitated before receiving a pension, he may receive a pension if he is 85 per cent, incapacitated. “We also reported as follows on the “ adequate maintenance “ provision in regard to the deaf and dumb: -
Adequate Maintenance. - Under the present calculation of adequate maintenance of a totally and permanently incapacitated invalid a full-rate invalid pension cannot be paid if the family income, divided among .the adult members and an invalid over the age of sixteen years, exceeds £78 per annum each. A half pension is paid where the income figure docs not exceed £104 per annum. Part allowance is made for children under sixteen years of age, viz.: -
Under fourteen years - £39 per annum, and fourteen to sixteen years - £52 per annum, in calculating income.
This imposes real hardship in many cases where the family income does not come’ within these prescribed limits, and it is considered that the basis for calculating adequate maintenance should be increased from £78 to £130 for a full pension and from £104 to £15G for a half-rate pension.
The committee recommended that a system of vocational training should be instituted’ for invalids. On the subject of dependants’ allowances the committee, in paragraph 19, stated -
Dependants’ Allowances, - Most countries which have awarded pensions for old-age or invalidity have supplemented these amounts by allowances to the dependants of pensioners. The usual pension is insufficient to cover more than the bare needs of the pensioner, and where he has a dependent wife or children these must seek charity in the absence of. other income or more adequate provision. This principle, based not on the amount given to any individual pensioner so much as on the needs of the family, is firmly established in Australian policy by living wage declarations, supplemented by child endowment.
Commonwealth old-age and invalid pensions in themselves were not intended, nor have they been held to be sufficient to provide adequately for a pensioner and his dependants. If an invalid or old-age pensioner has to support a wife or children, hu, and certainly the family, will suffer undue hardship. When, the wife of an old-age pensioner reaches sixty years of age she will also be entitled to receive a pension, but it is probable that in the period immediately before she attains pensionable age she will lie undergoing some hardship, especially if hm husband is getting a pension, the payment of which is conditional upon the somewhat severe limits of income prescribed under the act. There is, therefore, justification for payment of an allowance to the wife of an old-age pensioner, when she readies the age of 50 years, and previously in cases of hardship.
The case of invalid pensioners is clear-cut and even more pressing.’ At present an invalid pensioner is not permitted to earn any money at all, and if, as is often the case, he has little property or income, and in endeavouring to support a wife and children general family distress may be anticipated. In such cases the present position is probably that the family is receiving voluntary or State charity. Many cases are known where the invalid husband has seriously endangered his chances of recovery by remaining at work instead of undergoing treatment for fear of leaving his family destitute.
Members of the Social Security Committee were familiar with many cases which had come before them in their capacity as members of Parliament. In addition, very strong arguments were’ advanced by witnesses representing all sections of the community. I am glad to be associated with a Government which is responsible for this much-needed reform. The extra amount involved is relatively small. The Minister, in his second-reading speech said -
From statistics in the possession of my department, it has been estimated that approximately 14,000 wives and 7,000 unendowed children of invalid pensioners will- benefit by this bill and the cost of the allowances, which will commence on the 8th July, 1043, will be in the neighbourhood of £040,000 foi a full year.
In,- these days, when millions do not count for much, an amount of £640,000 should not distress us when it is to be expended, for the purpose of removing a grave anomaly. Its expenditure is amply justified, seeing that it will relieve the distress of a deserving section of the community.
I agree that the provision for funeral benefits to pensioners is an excellent one, although the Social Security Committee did not recommend it. However, the committee does not claim credit for all the good points of the bill. This is the first time that a provision of this kind has been included in social service legislation. I was surprised to receive a letter from an organization of pensioners objecting to the provision. I admit’ that the arguments advanced had some substance, but I believe that, in the long run, this provision for making an allowance of £10 for the burial of pensioners will prove a boon.
– The man who wrote that letter was quite disinterested.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) said that one pensioners’ organization had a sum of £1,000 invested in war loans. I do not doubt it. As a matter, of fact, evidence was given before the Social Security Committee that one society of pensioners had invested £3,000, all of it collected in the form of weekly contributions of 3d. and 6d. This organization has a very capable man as secretary. He had a knowledge of accountancy, and judging by the evidence submitted by him to the Joint Committee on Social Security, he had had a long experience in dealing with financial matters and had invested the funds of his organization wisely.
– Those funds also carry liabilities which an investment of £3,000 at interest cannot discharge.
– I was coming to that point later. By the collection of 3d. or’ 6d. a week from pensioners, no organization could be expected to accumulate sufficient funds to enable it to meet a funeral liability of £10 or £12 10s. I believe that in most cases the cost of burial is £12 10s., and no fund could remain under contract financially sound on such a basis!’ A similar organization in Launceston has accumulated ascertain sum for this purpose, but the fund would hardly be described as actuarially sound.
– The Registrar of Friendly Societies in New South Wales has definitely stated that some of the funds in that State will not remain solvent.
– Obviously that will apply to all such funds, because of the age of entrance, namely, 60 years in the case of a woman and 65 years in the case of a man.
– One society in Melbourne, which is registered under the Friendly .Societies Act, has a fund which is financially sound.
– That may be so, but litany such funds are not financially sound. They will render good service by continuing to make up the leeway that will be necessary in providing the funeral expenses of members of the pensioners’ organization. Some of the pensioners are greatly concerned as to whether, at the time of their death, they will have sufficient money to .enable their funeral expenses to be met. If the sum of £%0 can be made available for that purpose, they will obtain’ peace of mind. I congratulate the Minister upon the provision that has been made in the bill in that regard.
I refer also to the anomaly in the principal act in respect of payment to the inmates of institutions. A week or. two ago, I visited a certain institution- in New South Wales, and was surprised to find that some inmates received the full pension, whilst others did not. The inmates of this institution are sufferers from tuberculosis, and unfortunate differences between them have been caused by reason of the fact that on pension day some of them receive about 9s. a week, whilst in respect of others the full rate of pension is paid. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that this anomaly should be taken into consideration, and that the Minister should seek to remove it. The expenditure involved, would not bc large. I trust that the bill will receive a speedy passage, because it will bestow substantial benefit on a very worthy section of the community.
.- I SUPport the bill and congratulate the Government upon its introduction. I understand that this is the 24th occasion upon which a measure has been submitted for the amendment of the principal act. Although the amendments already made have been of great benefit, many other improvements are necessary. Some amendments that I have in mind might well have been included in this bill. The provision in this- measure to- overcome the time lag in the adjustment of the pension’ to compensate for increases of the cost of living is most’ desirable. Pensioners consider that there has never been any justification for requiring them to wait nearly three months for an adjustment. I desire particularly to refer to the amount by which- the wife of an invalid pensioner may increase her income. Under the act she may earn only 12s. 6d. a week or £32 10s. a year, as in the case of an old-age pensioner. The wife of an invalid pensioner is to receive 15s. a week, and her husband £1. 7s. a week. If the wife were permitted ito earn £1 a week and if she were in receipt of family endowment in respect of one.child the income of the family would amount to £3 7s. a week. I see no reason why the sum of £32 10s. a year should be rigidly adhered to, and why the wife should not be permitted (to earn £5.3 a year. The wife of an invalid pensioner .could, perhaps, earn £1 in one day by giving her services in the neighbourhood where she resides. If she were permitted to earn only 123. 6d. a week, the income of the family would not be sufficiently increased. If she were allowed to augment the family income by £1 a week, her husband need not be denied the attention required by him. It is recognized that the wife of an invalid pensioner is tied almost hand and foot to her home, but there -are many instances in which the wife of an invalid pensioner might be able to earn £1 a week and still give the necessary attention to her , husband. Whilst some . invalid pensioners may need the undivided attention of their wives, others may be able to do for themselves to some degree.
– A married couple can have an income, apart from the pension, of 25s. a week. ‘
– An invalid pensioner is not permitted to earn any sum at all. If the wife of an invalid pensioner were known to be earning 25s. a week, she could be called upon to refund a part of that money to the Pensions Department. Th’e wife of the invalid pensioner is permitted to earn 12s. 6d. a week, but the pensioner himself may not earn anything.
– He is allowed to have income from property.
– Not many invalid pensioners have income from property.
– They may earn between them 25s, a week. If the wife earned 25s., that would be classified as the income of both.
– What I have proposed would not add to the cost to the Government. I am pleased to learn from the Minister that the wife of an invalid pensioner may earn up to 25s. a week.
I should like the provisions of the bill in relation to funeral benefits to be slightly altered. Proposed new section 4Sa provides -
No payment shall be made under this section to a person ( not being a friendly society . . .).
I favour the insertion of the words “ or trade union “, my reason being that many trade unions have big mortality funds as well as superannuation funds. An exrailway employee who receives superannuation amounting to £2 a week may also obtain an old-age pension of approximately 19s. a week, and his wife a like amount. As old-age pensioners, they are eligible to receive a funeral allowance of £10. As a member of a trade union, the husband is entitled to participate in the benefits of its. mortality fund. Therefore, the trade union should have the distribution of the funeral allowance.
– It is fairly certain that that will be done.
– There is one anomaly which ought to be rectified immediately. Only this week I had evidence of its operation. An old-age pensioner, 70 years of age, who had led an exemplary life and’ had never had a conviction recorded against him, was convicted of stealing brass to the value of 2s. or 3s. The magistrate took such a lenient view of the matter that he merely bound him over to come up for sentence if called upon; yet the Pensions Department cancelled his pension, and thus fined him £67 10s. a year.
– When did that happen ?
– The court hearing was on the 8 th March, and the pension was cancelled on the 18th March.
– I have not seen the case.
– The act states that a pension may be cancelled if a pensioner is convicted of any crime for which the penalty is imprisonment for twelve months. Section 51, sub-section 2, reads -
Where a pensioner is twice within twelve months convicted of any offence punishable by imprisonment for no.t less than one month, or where any .pensioner is convicted of any offence .punishable by imprisonment for twelve months or upwards, then, in lieu of forfeiting any instalment of the pension, the Deputy Commissioner shall, by order, cancel the pension certificate.
The crime for which this man was convicted came within that category. That part of the act should be so amended as to make the punishment fit the crime, and should definitely. , state that the sentence of imprisonment must be twelve months before the pension shall be cancelled. An old woman who, some five or six years ago, served a sentence of imprisonment for twelve months, has not since received the pension, although she is now almost totally blind and is living on the dole.
– The Pensions Act should not be made an instrument of penal law.
– It is not, now.
– This was one of the first cases which I handled when I entered this Parliament. The old woman has made numerous applications for the restoration of the pension, but, until recently, the department had always refused her application. The period of imprisonment served should be the measure of the penalty imposed by the department. Those who are not worthy of a pension, I agree, should not receive it. I have much pleasure in supporting this hill.
.- I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Holloway) on the further concessions that are being offered to pensioners. It has been stated that an invalid pensioner may earn a given amount a week. A person who is invalided, however, must be totally and permanently incapacitated for work of any kind before he becomes entitled to a pension. That means that he must be practically bedridden. An invalid pensioner is permitted to earn a few shillings casually, but not permanently. When the Minister is reviewing the matter, he should consider the advisability of enabling a person to earn regularly a specified amount in an occupation such as that of caretaker, without interfering with his pension rights. I agree with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) that, under present conditions, an old-age pensioner should have the right to earn £1 a week without interfering with his pension rights. That condition was imposed when the amount of l’2s. 6d. a week was fixed. That was done so that a pensioner should not be able to accept employment to the detriment of other persons not entitled to a pension. At the present time, and probably for some years to come, that position is not likely to arise, and therefore there is no reason why the permissible income should not be raised to £1 per week. Some pensioners are able to do a day’s work occasionally, and if they could earn, say, £1 a week in addition to their pension, without interfering with their pension rights, they should be permitted to do so.
From time to time instances arise in which an elderly man who applies for a pension is unable to produce evidence that he is of the age which entitles him to a pension. That is because at the time of his birth the registration of births was not so well organized as it is to-day. Some applicants, however, are able to support their claims by submitting the testimony of other elderly persons that they are old enough to qualify for a pension.
– There must be very few such cases.
– There are probably not many cases, but one came to my notice recently. Although three justices of the peace testified that an applicant for a pension was over 65 years of age, their testimony was not accepted, and the application was refused. Whenever evidence of that nature is presented to a magistrate he should accept it as evidence of the applicant’s right to a pension. I ask the Minister to look into this matter.
.- I commend the Government for having introduced this legislation, and I congratulate the Joint Committee on Social Security for its recommendations for the removal of anomalies in our legislation. I desire also to compliment- the officers of the department on. their administration of the fund from which pensions are paid. I have always found them most sympathetic and efficient. I support the plea of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) on behalf of pensioners who have been convicted of some offence. A case which was brought to my notice recently related to an old-age pensioner who purely as an intermediary for the real culprit was assisting a man engaged in. starting-price betting. He was brought before the court and bound over for a period, with the result that his pension was cancelled. I am glad to say, however, that following representations made on his behalf, the pension was restored. I arn sure that the benefits which this bill provides’ will be welcomed by pensioners, and particularly by the wives of pensioners. The provisions for funeral benefits and for pensions to rise with any increase of the cost of living are valuable additions to our social legislation. The bill is evidence that the Government has the welfare of the old-age pensioners at heart and does not regard them as a forgotten legion. Many pensioners are in the war effort, assisting to the utmost of their capacity, and these benefits are a recognition of their services.
The present limit on the value of property which a pensioner may own causes hardship in some instances, particularly where the property consists of. vacant land, or of shares in companies which are not paying dividends. The Government would do well to consider raising the limit beyond the £400 at which it now stands.
The permissible income which a pensioner may earn and still be entitled to a pension has remained at 12s. 6d. a week for many years. The rate should be increased. Many invalid pensioners, although unable to perform regular work, are able to do light work occasionally, and they should be permitted to augment their pensions in that way. Recently, a case came to my notice in which a man who had been in receipt of an invalid pension for about fifteen years had his pension discontinued because some one reported that he had been doing voluntary national emergency service work. This man was previously employed at the Clyde Engineering Works, but while there ho strained his heart and could not undertake heavy employment, with the result that he was granted an invalid pension. This was cancelled, following an anonymous complaint, but I am glad to say that following representations made on his behalf by my predecessor, his pension was restored. Recently, however, his pension has been again cancelled following a report sent in to the department that he was acting as chief warden for his district under the National Emergency Service regulations. This man, who has always been active in organizations for the benefit of his district and in work of a philanthropic nature, has been chief warden in his district since the outbreak of war. He gives his services in an honorary capacity, but following a report that he was able to do this class of work, he was medically examined, and a report was submitted that he was incapacitated to the degree of only 50 per cent., with the result that his pension was cancelled. His service to the community, for which he receives no payment, is worth probably £10 a week as there are 900 national emergency service workers under him. For many years he has been an alderman of the local municipal council without remuneration, and at present he is mayor. He is a married man with a large family of young children - nine in all - and recently the residents of the district, who know the facts of the case, organized a benefit’ fund, and I was placed in the invidious position of having to listen to strong criticism of the Government for having reduced his pension.
The Minister for National Emergency Services in New South Wales said that this man was the only one who had given up his means of livelihood in order to take charge of national emergency services in his district. That illustrates the need, particularly in wartime, for the Minister for Social Services to be given discretionary power to allow invalid pensioners to do some work, even of an honorary nature. They should do something which would take their minds off their disabilities rather than worsen their condition by fretting about them. In this case, although the Minister for Social Services was sympathetic and went as far as he could, the act prevented him from exercising discretion. He set up a medical board to examine the man, but it also reported that he was 50 per cent, incapacitated. I venture the opinion that a man whom the doctors regard as 50 per cent, incapacitated is 100 per cent, incapacitated so far as his chances of obtaining regular work are concerned. No employer will take a man who is certified as suffering from heart trouble because of his fear of becoming liable for workers’ compensation, or some other responsibility, should anything happen to the man while employed by him. Yet such a man may be able to do some useful work in the community as this man was doing.
– Other than manual work.
– Yes. That is what this man was doing. He was secretary of philanthropic organizations, and he thereby kept his mind occupied.
I hope that the Government will consider the desirability of compelling industries to set aside a part of their profits in order to create funds from which the old-age pension may be supplemented in order that aged people may receive a real living allowance instead of a pittance which enables them to eke out only a bare existence. In order to show the impossibility of an invalid pensioner living properly on his pension, I cite the following letter to a newspaper above the- signature “ Com passionate “ : -
I should like to draw attention to how ;i poor invalid pensioner spends his £2 3s. a fortnight: Kent of room per fortnight, fi; chemist, (is.; seidlitz powders, 2s. 0d.; i lb. tea, 10d.; matches, 3d.; bread, J loaf nearly every day, 3s.; meat, 3d. a day, 3s. Od. ; milk, i pint a day, 2s. 4d. ; potatoes, Id. a day, ls. 2d.; soap for washing and laundry, ls.; $ lb. butter, 9-Jd.; 2 lb. sugar, 8d.; tramfare to get pension, 4d. Total, £2 2s. 6$d. No tobacco, no beer, no vegetables, no boots, no clothes, no friends, can’t work. 1 maintain that the invalid pension should be 10s. a week more than the old-age, because the invalid can’t work and is compelled to spend 3s. to 4s. a week at the chemist’s.
-r-Some honorable members would say that he was overpaid.
– Yes. W7e have made very little advance from the conditions which obtained in the last century, when the worker progressed from the sweat shop to the work-house. Certainly there are no work-houses to-day, only benevolent institutions, where the inmates are not required to work, but where many of them do odd jobs, of a voluntary nature, especially around the gardens. I hope that the Government will link with the National Welfare Fund provisions which will ensure that with the aid of private industries an adequate living allowance shall be paid to pensioners. The Arbitration Court, in fixing the basic wage, allows £2 a week for the bare necessaries of life of each adult in a family unit of three.
Of course, money is not everything. There are other things to which the pensioners are entitled, particularly facilities designed to maintain or improve their health. Whilst certain benefits have been extended to the oldage pensioners attending hospitals, I submit, that any national health scheme should include provision for medical services for the old aged. When the war ends, before the Government considers dismantling the military camps and hospitals, it should give consideration to the desirability of using them for all sections of the community, young as well as old, in need of life in the open air. Travelling facilities would be needed. The Government, of New South Wales has given a. lead, which could be well followed by the Commonwealth Government, by providing concessional rates on the railways for invalid and old-age pensioners. They should be given some measure of comfort in their declining years. Many of these people, although physically feeble, retain surprising strength of mind. I have been surprised . at the standard of speeches made at meetings of pensioners. Their discussions of social and financial problems are informative and interesting. Indeed, some of these old people can give pointers on these subjects to members of parliament. By providing amenities of the kind which I have mentioned, we can enable many of our old people to continue as useful citizens. From their long experience, they can teach many lessons; and, provided, that we do not put them aside to fret away under their financial anxieties, many of them can pass on a message of value to coming generations.
.- So far as I have anything to say on the bill, I commend it, notwithstanding what I said at an earlier hour this afternoon on the broader aspects of our social legislation. I cannot help thinking that if the strain imposed on our social structure by the war is to continue, as it promises to do, for five or six years, or even longer, there is a grave possibility that the whole structure will develop a dangerous crack. While the going continues to be comparatively good, I naturally offer no objection to such legislation. Representing, as I do, so large a number of poor people, I have no objection to the amelioration of the lot of those on the lower social scale, whose hardships are, necessarily, more intense than those affecting others on higher social scales. I am happy to think that the Minister has been able to satisfy his own natural instincts of goodwill, and at the same time, to extend the benefits of this legislation to those who need them most. The bill extends certain benefits to the wives of invalid pensioners up to the very moderate sum ‘ of 15s. a week, and also provides additional benefits in respect of the children of invalid pensioners. It contains a new principle in relation to what is known as funeral benefit, providing for the payment of the cost of the funeral of a pensioner, or the sum of £10, whichever is the less. In my own experience, I have never known the cost of a funeral to be so low as £.1.0; but. perhaps, that is possible. On this subject the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) quoted the views of Mr. Mead, .whose intimate experience in industrial matters, and the intelligent interest which he has for so long displayed in the special class suffering destitution, or partial destitution, eminently fit him to speak as an authority on this matter. He rather deprecates the provision of funeral benefits, pointing out that a number of organized funds for the provision of such benefits are already in existence. It is very curious that many pensioners have a deeply-rooted aversion to the thought that their bodies after death may be subject to what they are wont to describe as a pauper’s funeral. Many contribute to funds to ward off what to them is a dreadful possibility. That is creditable. Nobody likes saddling an unnecessary obligation upon the taxpayers, and nobody wants to impose on anybody the stigma, if indeed it be a stigma, of having been buried, as the saying is, as a pauper. If one were to analyse the objections which Mr. Mead expresses in this regard, I think that it would be found to reside in this prejudice against the pauper’s funeral, and the view that the bill pauperizes the efforts which pensioners were willing to make to pay for their own funerals. In that regard we must bear in mind that the pension itself is paid out of public revenue. Pensioners themselves have always contended that it is not by any means a pauper’s allowance, but a just debt which society owes to those useful citizens who contributed by their labours - very often ill rewarded’ - and their taxes to its maintenance. It is not to be regarded as a pauper’s allowance.
– The old-age pension is as much a right as a judge’s pension.
– I shall not dissent from that view. I have had occasion to tell people who have been too sensitive, though qualified, to apply for a pension that they should accept it as being lawfully belonging to them. . That view is accepted widely. I do not intend to offer any opposition to this additional benefaction, which will assist some persons who have not been able out of their meagre earnings to establish a fund for the purpose of maintaining them in their old age.
When this House discussed national insurance in 1938, some very interesting figures were submitted by various speakers to show that because of the declining birth rate and because the aged were living longer, Australia was becoming a nation of old men and old women. Those statements were correct. The trend is in that direction. The birth rate is unsatisfactory and the expectation of life has increased, with the result that the pensions bill is increasing alarmingly.
– -The capacity to produce the necessaries of life is ako increasing.
– Unfortunately 1 have no time to elaborate the argument on the basis of the interjection of the honorable member who represents the electorate of Ballarat so ably. As a rule, I do not think that.it is necessary to congratulate Ministers when introducing bills of this nature; but I consider that the Minister for Social Services has done good work, which I recognize. Accordingly, I place my recognition on record.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I support the bill and commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr. ‘ Holloway) on his humane outlook. The proposal to grant the wife of an invalid pensioner 15s. a week, plus 5s. a week for the first child of the family is highly commendable.
I wish to direct attention, mainly, to an anomaly in the administration of the pensions law relative to pensioners in asylums. Section 47 of the act provides -
If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum he shall not, so long as he remains an inmate of such asylum, be entitled to receive a. full pension, but shall be entitled to receive a pension at a rate calculated in accordance with this Act.
At present the amount is 9s. a week. Section 4.5 of the act provides that so long as the pensioner is an inmate of an institution his pension shall be reduced to the rate that I have already mentioned. The remainder of the pension, approximately two-thirds of the total, is paid to the institution.
– It is an ex gratia payment; it is not made under any provision of the act.
– At any rate the pensioner gets 9s. of his pension, and the institution receives the remainder. In respect of inmates who become pensioners after their entry no such payment to the institutions is made. This interpretation of the act causes considerable dissatisfaction among the inmates of institutions who are subject to the variation. I can see no justification for making fish of one and flesh of another. I ask the Minister to examine whether the practice cannot be altered by regulation. If that be not possible, I ask that an amendment be made to the law. The practice applies to certain government and semi-government institutions.
– Are these not State institutions ?
– Some are.
– I consider that the States are doing very well under existing conditions.
– There is a tendency on the part of some institutions which receive no payment in respect of certain inmates to call upon relatives to make up the amount.
– There should be no need to treat pensioners differently in this regard.
I wish to refer, also, to the permissible earnings . of pensioners. At present the income of a pensioner is limited to £1 18s. 6d. a week, of which £1 6s. may be pension, and the remaining 12s. 6d. earnings from other sources. I ask the Government to consider whether it would not be practicable to allow pensioners to earn, for the duration of the war, a larger amount. The shortage of manpower and the innumerable opportunities there are for pensioners to pick up odd gardening jobs and the like suggests that a variation of the law in this respect is desirable. As a matter of fact,’ many pensioners are to-day earning something in excess of 12s. 6d. a week, and they feel like petty criminals for doing so. I consider that, under the circumstances, pensioners should be permitted to earn up to £1 a week.
– If a pensioner is a married man he may earn up to 25s. a week.
– That would include the 12s. 6d. which his pensioner wife would be permitted to earn. At present many pensioners are worried over the situation, especially since those who do domestic work must register. I compare this law with the former prohibition law in America., and say that if it cannot he properly policed it should be repealed. We ought not to keep on our statute-book a law which we cannot properly enforce. ‘ Under existing circumstances it would be in the best interests of the community to permit pensioners to earn up to £1 a week.
.- Australia is fortunate in having as its Minister for Social Services the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who is a man with a wide humanitarian outlook. As the result of his administration of our social service legislation the lot of many needy people in this country has been greatly eased. I hai] the bill with enthusiasm.
I support the request of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) that a variation be made, either in the law itself, if necessary, or in the administra tion of the law, if that will be sufficient, relative to the inmates of certain benevolent institutions. As the honorable member has pointed out, persons who were in receipt of the pension before entering these institutions receive 9s. of their pension after their entry therein, the other 17s. being paid to the institutions; but persons who apply for and are granted pulsions after their entry receive only 9s. a week, and the institutions receive nothing for their upkeep. This has caused considerable heart-burning among inmates. At Ballarat we have one of the most modern benevolent institutions in Australia, and I know that some of its inmates who are subject to differentiation in relation to pension payments feel very uri’ comfortable about it. The same is true of an institution at Castlemaine, of which I have some knowledge. Some of the inmates have felt the position so keenly that they, have intimated to the management that they are prepared to pay something out of their meagre 9s. for medicines and treatment which they receive. Such an invidious position should not be allowed to continue. I have known of persons subject to thi” differentiation leaving the institutions for a sufficiently long period to be able to qualify outside for the full pension.
After approval has been given to their claims they have returned to the institutions. “While they have been away they have lived under deplorable conditions. There should be no need for such action on their part. I therefore hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to these representations I am not greatly concerned about the effect on State .finances of any alleviation of the position. It seems to me that under the existing uniform tax law the money will come out of the Commonwealth coffers in any case. The Government should re-move the anomaly. It would thereby contribute substantially to the comfort and peace of mind of these unfortunate people.
– I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) on having introduced this bill, but I strongly support the request of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) that for the duration of the war, at any rate, pensioners should be permitted to earn more’ than 12s. 6d. a week. I would increase the amount to 25s. or 30s. a week. The honorable member for Henty referred to the possibility of pensioners obtaining odd jobs in the cities. A similar situation exists in the country. Many old-age pensioners understand bush life 100 per cent, and, in the summer time, can look after stock, particularly sheep, equally as well as a young man. Yet, because they are honorable they do not care to earn money “ under the lap “. I earnestly recommend the Minister seriously to consider enabling the old-age pensioner to earn at least 25s. a week, particularly during war-time. The nation would thereby be assisted, as well as the individual farmer, stockraiser, and pensioner.
.- This bill has some good features, but viewed generally it does not provide much cause for enthusiasm. During the debate on the bill which appropriated £23,000,000 for payment into a trust fund for the payment of pensions under this legislation, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr.
Hutchinson) assumed the Mephistophelean role which so well fits them when matters of the sort are under consideration.
– Order ! The honorable member’s contribution to that debate should, have been made during the progress of it.
– This is a delayed action bomb.
-I cannot allow the honorable gentleman ito reply to arguments advanced on a bill, the consideration of which has been completed.
– The arguments advanced by those honorable members in regard to the amount expended by this country on invalid and old-age pensions is equally bad, whatever measure may be under consideration. According to a return which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) was kind enough to supply to me, the expenditure under this legislation in the next financial year will total £23,500,000. The honorable member for Deakin stated that -the expenditure in 1932 was £10,000,000.
Mir. SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member is entitled to examine the scope of the bill, and to claim that the proposed reforms or concessions should be either greater or less; thus he has considerable scope for comment. He is not entitled to revive the debate on a pre-: 170US bill.
– The cost under this legislation has risen from £10,000,000 in 1932 to £23,000,000. In the opinion of some honorable gentlemen, that is too great an increase and one which, in their mistaken view, the country can ill afford to pay. I believe that I heard the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) remark that invalid and old-age pensions are being paid out of overdrafts, meaning thereby the amounts raised by the issue of treasury-bills. That indicates the type of mind of some honorable members.
– Order ! The mind of honorable members, expressed on another bill, may not be discussed on this measure.
– I read in to-day’s press a speech by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in which he spoke of a four-year plan after the war - a plan envisaging certain improvements of the social conditions of the English people. Although the speech in other regards contains much that is unpleasant reading for Australians, it is notable in that it shows that England is more advanced than Australia in regard to social legislation. Our achievements in this field, during the last 20 or 30 years, have not been such as to give us cause for pride. We have lagged behind the rest of the English-speaking world in the provision that we have made for those who. through old age and. invalidity, or because they are too young are unable to fend for themselves. We boasted at one time that we led the world in this respect. This bill does not do very much to bring us up to date.
M.r. Barnard. - Nevertheless, it is an advancement.
– It is a step in the right direction. But I do not always walk in the spirit of Newman’s famous hymn - Lead Kindly Light - “ One step enough for me “. That is not quick enough. I want to make a few strides, and would not mind a hop, step and jump in social legislation. I do not belong to that school of belief in this. Parliament that the only important thing is the winning of the war, and that all else will be added unto us after .the victory. There are some honorable members who consider that we can win the war, and at the same time throw out palliatives to the masses who in consequence will be quiet and subdued when the war is over. It is quite passible that peace will break out one of these days, as an interlude between wars. I consider that we can simultaneously win both the war and the peace; but if we do 1101 prepare to win the peace while we are waging the war, victory may be of very little use to us, because, although we may overcome an external enemy, we may have in ‘our midst such conditions that the forces of unrest and subversion may gain control. It has almost become a matter of which would be the worse for the country, war, or political and social upheaval. If we «re wise, we shall advance rapidly with social legislation, making provision, such as is contained in this bill, to meet the conditions of not only the war period, but also the post-war world, even at the cost of a few more millions of pounds; and we shall broad base our plans, and order the whole of our economy, in such a way that there will not be any unemployment after the war, and the social system of that day will be vastly different from that which we know to-day. Under this piece of legislation; the pension payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner is niggardly. She is to be told that she may earn 12s. 6d. a week in addition to the pension of 15s. a week, whilst her invalid husband must do his best to live on the pension of 25s. a week which this Government and its predecessors have decided is adequate for his maintenance. It is not adequate. The additional cost of medicines and other means to assuage his pain is considerable, and is subject to the manipulations of markets to a greater degree than are the necessary foods of life. To say that the increase of the cost of medicinal products, compared with the pre-war period, is very much greater than the increase of the cost of ordinary foodstuffs, is not to exaggerate. The value of 2,5s. to the invalid pensioner has been considerably reduced since this war started. Therefore, the concession , that we make to public opinion, in granting his wife a pension of 15s. a. week in order that she may remain at home to nurse him and maintain her own existence, is nothing of which we can feel proud. The amount should have been at least 25s. a week. If an oldage pensioner is entitled to 26s. a week and his wife also may get a pension of the same amount, it cannot be argued that an invalid pensioner who receives 25s. a week, and because of his circumstances cannot earn anything in addition, should be placed in an invidious position through his wife receiving only 15s. a week and being permitted to earn only 12s. 6d. a week instead of the 25s. a week which the old-age couple may earn supplementary to their income.
– She may earn 25s. a week.
– She may not. The proposed new section ‘ 23b, sub-section 2, provides -
The annual rate at which an allowance under the last preceding section is determined-
That is the section which provides for the payment of a pension of 15s. a week - shall he reduced -
– There is an overriding provision in the principal act, which presumes that the earnings of the husband and wife are equally divided.
– The presumption would be wrong in this case. I have made inquiries, and have learned that the 12b. 6d. is divided; consequently, 6s. 3d. is charged against the earnings of the husband and the wife respectively, and the lesser amount only is taken into consideration in determining the amount by which the pension of the wife shall be reduced when she earns more than is permitted under the act.
– But the act says that the income shall be deemed to be one-half of the income of both.
– That is in relation to the old-age pension, not the invalid pension. There is no provision which permits an invalid pensioner to earn 253. a week. A man who is an invalid pensioner cannot earn anything. Where there is income from- property, a joint income of 25s. a week may be possible; but the number of invalid pensioners who own property is negligible. The vast majority of them have nothing. Whatever they may have had, probably was realized for the payment of doctors bills and the like, before they became eligible for a pension. I made inquiry of officers of the department, and was informed that the 12s. 6d. is equally divisible between the husband and wife. Although this provision may appear contrary to that advice, the departmental practice, according to the present attitude of mind of officers, will be to divide the 12s. 6d. and not the 25s. We have been told that there are only 14,000 wives and 7,000 children who are in this unfortunate position. The 7,000 children are to be provided for by the payment of 5s. a week. That is as it should be; at least, the principle is right. In the circumstances, however, it would not be too much to pay to each child the sum of 10s. a week. The total cost would not be great, and such a payment would be a recognition of the fact that a child should not be expected to exist on the meagre amount that is paid to the invalid father or the mother. That there are on’.y 14,000 wives who, with their husband;, have votes, is probably one of the reasons why we have not worried to enact such legislation before. If the matter affected 200,000 or 300,000 old-age pensioners whose electoral power was of some consequence in many electorates, we would have acted much more promptly. Still, it is to the credit of the present Minister that this legislation has now been brought forward. I merely complain of the timidity of the approach to it, and the inadequacy of the proposed provision. I hope it is not too late for us to do something even better. In view of the increasingly bellicose attitude of the Opposition, which has not hitherto fought at all, I am afraid that if we do not make adequate provision for these unfortunate people now, it may be months, or even years, before further legislation dealing with them comes before Parliament. What we did the other day in regard to war widows’ allotments which had been cancelled upon their receiving notification of the death of their husband, should inspire us to do something more for the widows of men who die, not in war or as a result of industrial accident, but from natural causes. The lot of such widows is often very sad, indeed. We inserted a provision in the Repatriation Act that a war widow with three children should not suffer any loss of income for six months after being notified of the death of her husband. Having thus generously and properly dealt with the claims of the .woman who loses her husband while he is serving with the forces, let us not be niggardly towards the widows and children of those who die prematurely.
There is another provision in the bill which is interesting, and also somewhat humorous. The draftsman has provided that the department shall pay “the actual cost of the funeral of the pensioner, or a sum of Ten pounds, whichever is the less “.. I cannot imagine the department finding any undertaker in these days to bury a person for £10. Very few undertakers will bury a person for less than £25 or £30, and friendly societies have, for 30 years or more, been paying their members funeral benefits amounting to £20 - and £20 was worth a great deal more 30 years ago than it is to-day.
– Do not the societies pay the £20 to the next of kin?
– They do. However, if an old-age pensioner were a member of a friendly society, and entitled to funeral benefits by virtue of his membership, his heirs and successors would not be paid £10 funeral benefit by the department.
– I do not think that the honorable member is correct.
– It is provided in the bill that the department shall pay the actual costs of the funeral of the pensioner, or an amount of £10, whichever is the less. It does not say that an amount of £10 will be paid in addition to any benefit to which the deceased may have been entitled as a member of a friendly society. Many friendly societies dispense certain benefits to their members when they reach the age of 65 years. They are carried on the books of the societies for the remainder of. their lives without having to make further contributions. The provision in the bill for the payment of funeral expenses by the department will be of no value to such persons.
– The payment by the department will be in’ addition to any payment from a friendly society.
– That is not so.
– I hope that it will be, anyway.
– It is obvious from the wording of the provision that the pensioner’s heirs will not receive £10 from the department in addition to £20 from the friendly society. I hope that the Minister will clear up this point before the bill goes to the Senate. In my opinion, the present capitalist system cannot last. It is bound to fail, and the longer the war lasts the more certain will that failure be. The social service provisions which we have so far made are mere palliatives, and small in comparison with what the State will have to provide for all the members of society in the new order. We are not going to improve the position one bit by making the workers pay for their own old-age pensions and other social benefits. We recently passed legislation under which workers receiving as little as £2 a week are to be taxed in order to establish a welfare fund of £30,000,000 for the payment of social service benefits. If that is a sample of our social service planning, it doe3 not make one feel very enthusiastic about the treatment which the workers are to receive after the war. Evidently, the workers are to be made to contribute out of the basic wage in order to meet those contingencies against which society itself should protect him, the cost being borne by those best able to do so. It is true that, after the war, taxation mav be reduced somewhat, though I hope that the present tax of 18s. in the £1 on big incomes will not be reduced for twenty years or thereabouts. However, I am not very hopeful that taxation will be substantially reduced, even on the lower incomes, now that the principle has been conceded by a Labour government that the workers must contribute towards their own social services such as invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment and maternity allowances. Under legislation in New Zealand in 1930, the workers contribute towards the cost of a social security scheme, but in that dominion the benefits received are much greater than those Ave have provided here. For instance, males become entitled to draw an old-age pension .at the age of 60, and the amount of the pension is £78 a year, or £1 10s. a week. The Joint Committee on Social Security, under the able chairmanship of the honorable member for Bass (Mt. Barnard), might well devote some attention to invalid and old-age pension rates, and report later to Parliament. The first report of that com- mittee was largely accepted by the Government as the basis of this legislation.
– How much does the individual in New Zealand contribute towards his pension of £78 a year ?
– I do not know, but, of course, it is a contributory scheme. However, the benefits include medical attention, free hospital treatment and superannuation for all citizens. New Zealand introduced an old-age pensions scheme before Australia ‘did, its act being passed in 1893. In 1898, its maximum pension rate was £18 a year; in 1925 it was raised to £45; in July, 1936, to £52 a year;, in December, 1936, to £58 10s.; and in 1939, to £7S. Thus, the tendency for the cost of pensions to increase is not peculiar to Australia.
– In New Zealand there is a general superannuation scheme.
– Yes, but the Australian Parliament has not yet seen fit to tackle that matter. In New Zealand, superannuation benefits are paid to all citizens without regard to income, and whether the recipient’s income is derived from persona] exertion or from property.
– The workers are more heavily taxed in New Zealand than they are here.
– Perhaps, but they receive greater benefits.
– The New Zealand worker in receipt of £2 a week pays just twice as much taxation as does the worker in Australia on the same income.
– I repeat that he gets very much more for it. During the depression we saw unemployed people carrying their sick children to hospital in their arms because they were unable to pay for a taxi. We shall need to improve our social services in Australia a good deal before we have any reason to be satisfied with them. Although I am in a critical mood, I admit that we are slowly, if somewhat painfully, making progress.
I ask the Minister to consider the possibility of instituting reciprocity in respect of pensions payments with the United Kingdom and New Zealand, both of which countries now have High Commissioners in Australia. It should not be necessary for a citizen of the United Kingdom or of New Zealand to be a resident of Australia for twenty years before qualifying for the old-age pension.
– In 1913 New Zealand passed legislation providing for reciprocity.
– Similar legislation is now under consideration by Cabinet.
– An Australian citizen should not have to live in New Zealand for twenty years before qualifying for a pension. It is certainly not to the credit of ihe various governments that have held office in this country that we have not acceded to the request of New Zealand and passed legislation which would have established that complete reciprocity that is desirable. In regard to Great Britain, the problem of reciprocity is much more difficult, because the standard of living and the basis of social service legislation there are somewhat different from ours, but it should not be impossible to make an actuarial calculation that would enable people to come from Great Britain to this country or go from this country to Great Britain - the latter would not be very numerous - to receive the benefits of the legislation of the country in which they, reside.
I deplore the fact that there is no provision in this bill to adjust superannuation payments in accordance with fluctuations of the cost of living. Invalid and old-age pensions follow the cost of living, and I see no reason why people who have paid half, or more than half, of the cost of the benefit that they receive should be deprived of adjustment of their superannuation in accordance with upward movements of the cost of 1 iving
– Order ! This bill deals with invalid and old-age pensions, not superannuation.
– -A superannuation bill is to be introduced.
– That being so, I shall discuss that matter at a more appropriate time. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the fact that many old-age pensioners have been persuaded to contribute amounts ranging from 3d. to 6d. a week to funeral benefit funds which are miscalled Old-age Pensioners’ Benefit Funds. As the honorable member pointed out, the payments are not sufficient to ensure that the pensioners shall receive the benefits which the organizations conducting those funds persuade them to believe that they will receive. By interjection, when the honorable member was speaking, I said that I knew of only one such Organization which is registered under the Friendly Societies Act of Victoria, and that it, therefore, was the only society whose system “was actuarially sound. We are in this extraordinary position to-day that this system of paying 3d. or 6d. a week for funeral benefits is akin to the system of industrial insurance under which people pay 3d. or 6d. a week against a contingency, and yet we have no legislation to cover them. It is high time that we had another insurance bill passed by this Parliament to protect policy-holders generally, and to protect old-age pensioners who contribute to funeral benefit funds in order to ensure that they shall receive the benefit for which they believe they are contributing. Many of the old-age pensioners have been given contracts which are worth nothing. If an undertaker found that he was in difficulties with a fund all he would need to do would be to sell his business and disavow all obligation. The purchaser would not be legally bound to take over the liability, and nobody could be prosecuted for having defrauded the old people.
– That has never happened.
– No, but I think that the old people should be protected against the possibility. It has been said thatsome of these societies have invested up to £3,000 in war loans, but that amountis insignificant in comparison with the obligation of a society to the people to whom it has contracted to supply funeral benefits.
I am convinced that the worker in future will be made to pay for all the benefits that he will receive under social security legislation, for £23,000,000 out of the £30,000,000, which will be annually paid into the National Welfare Fund, will be provided from the taxation of the lower incomes. I, therefore, cannot wax enthusiastic about this particular legislation. The bill ought to be amended in the directions I have indicated, and the improvements suggested by the honorable members for Henty (Mr. Coles), Cook (Mr. Sheehan) and Reid (Mr. Morgan) ought to be taken into consideration. The Government should place this measure on a non-party basis. There is no particular reason why it should insist upon making no concessions to the view of the House on a matter of this sort, even though the cost be large; but we can rectify a number of the anomalies without the expenditure of much more money. The Government would enhance its reputation if it were prepared to be even more generous than it obviously has been in framing this legislation. The Labour party went before the electors at the last general elections with a promise of a pension of £1 5s. a week to the invalids and the aged. We have redeemed that promise, but no more. In view of the temper of the House, and the desire that we should be generous, the Government should consider what additional benefits it can confer on invalids and the aged. It should not be deterred by the ultra-conservative attitude -of some honorable members, who do not mind how much money- we raise for war, but object to any more money being expended on social services. We are spending £400,000,000 on war this year, but what we propose to spend on social security is negligible in comparison. The cry in the depression that money could not be found for social security and other purposes will never again be accepted. If we can provide hundreds of millions of pounds in order to protect the country against invasion, and save lives and property - particularly property - we can find enough to pay social benefits on such a basis that it will no longer be possible for some people in the community to have more than they know what to do with, whilst other people are deprived of nearly everything.
.- I commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) and his colleagues in the Ministry for having brought down this bill as an early instalment of the Labour party’s social services programme. I have no doubt that the zeal of the Minister for Social Services is so great that this bill will be merely the forerunner of other legislation which will enable this country to overtake other English-speaking countries in the field of social security. There is no doubt that the long absence of the Labour party from the treasury bench in this Parliament and its occupation by anti-Labour parties has resulted in Australia lagging behind in the provision of social services. This bill should have been introduced years ago. Probably it would have been had the number of people whom it affects been greater, but, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out, only about 14,000 people will be affected by it. Our predecessors in office were mainly concerned about the effect of their legislation on the ballot-box.
My main criticism of this measure relates to the clause which limits to £39 a year the allowance to be paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner. That is altogether too small an amount. She should receive a sum at least equal to the oldage pension. I do not know on what basis that figure was arrived at. Before he can qualify for the invalid pension the husband must be totally and permanently incapacitated. Therefore, his wife is compelled to spend a great part of her time in looking after him and has not much time to spare for supplementing her allowance. Moreover, she must be subject to greater expense in maintaining her home and looking after her husband than is the case with some old-age pensioners, yet she is to receive only 15s. a week as against the old-age pension of 25s. a week. Another shortcoming of this bill is the provision that the wife of an invalid pensioner may earn only £32 10s. of additional income, whereas a couple, each drawing the old-age pension, may earn conjointly £65 a year. I think that the permissible income of the wife of an invalid pensioner should be doubled. That would place them in the same position as the pensioned old-age couple. I make that suggestion because, owing to his total and permanent incapacity, the invalid husband cannot earn, and his wife therefore has to provide all the extra money that the couple need in order to buy the bare necessities of life.
Mir. Holloway. - The- honorable member will realize that the word “ income “ applies equally to the invalid as to the old-age pensioner.
– Does the Minister mean to’ say that the wife of an invalid pensioner is permitted to earn £65 per annum ?
– The husband and wife may earn that sum between them.
– The bill does not make that position clear; but I accept the intimation of the Minister that the wife of- an invalid pensioner may earn the sum of £65 per annum on behalf of her husband and herself.
– The bill will have to be amended to make that clear.
– I desire to refer briefly to the matter of funeral benefits. The problem to-day is not so much the high cost of living as the high cost of dying. Proposed new section 48a (1) provides that -
Subject to this section, there shall be payable in respect of an invalid or old-age pensioner the actual cost of the funeral of the pensioner or the sum of Ten pounds, whichever is the less.
Although funeral expenses will considerably exceed that amount, at least the payment of this sum will ensure that a pensioner will not be buried as a pauper. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) mentioned that invalid and oldage pensioners’ leagues in Tasmania have a system under which members contribute 3d. or 6d. a week towards a. fund for meeting their funeral expenses. Similar leagues have been established in Queensland. Proposed new section 48a (4) provides that -
No payment shall be made under this section to a person (not being a friendly society registered as such under the law of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth or any other person in relation to whom the Minister or the Director-General of Social Services directs that this sub-section shall not apply) administering a contributory funeral benefit fund.
Stripped of its legal obscurities, this provision means that no payment shall be made to a person administering a contributory funeral benefit fund unless the Director-General of Social Services so directs. I should like the Minister, when replying to the debate, to explain to the House what will be the position of the various leagues of invalid and old-age pensioners who have established contributory schemes for the purpose of meeting the funeral expenses of members. Will the payment of the sum of £10 to such organizations be left to the discretion of the Director-General of Social Services? Or will the money be paid to some person who will be responsible for meeting the funeral expenses and who will be able to claim from the league the amount that it would have expended on the funeral of the member? Many of these organizations are not friendly societies registered as such under the law of any State, but they have been in existence for a considerable period. I have had correspondence with the Minister on behalf of one of these organizations, which is in a fairly sound position and which is vitally interested in the effect of this provision. Presumably the Director-General of Social .Services may, in his discretion, decide whether .the money shall be paid to these leagues. I assume that the money will be paid to reputable organizations. Apparently this proposed new section is aimed at funeral directors; but I believe that the Parliament of Queensland has already passed certain restrictive legislation.
– The purpose is to prevent anybody from being paid twice.
– Then it is safe to assume that reputable organizations of pensioners, which hold themselves responsible for the payment of the funeral expenses of members, will be able to claim this money and the Director-General will, in his discretion, decide whether the payments shall be made to them.
The Minister should consider the advisability of removing the restrictions that have been placed upon the earning capacity of old-age pensioners. The fact that a man is qualified to draw the old-age pension is an indication that employers no longer require his services. If they would employ him, he would not be receiving the pension. That is a safe assumption. At present, the shortage of manpower is acute, and many old-age pensioners could perform useful light work, especially in the agricultural and pastoral industries. Unfortunately the restriction which has been placed upon the amount of income that old-age pensioners may earn, discourages them from seeking employment, lest their pensions be cancelled. Some of them might not be able to work continuously for more than a few weeks, but many of them, who for years were employed in the nural areas, could perform useful light duties. But they fear that even if their pension be suspended, some weeks will elapse after they cease work before it will be restored, and they will be put to considerable inconvenience in the meantime. By a regulation under the National Security Act, the Minister could lift the restriction for the duration of the war on the amount of income that an old-age pensioner may earn. By that means, he will make available labour that: is urgently required by the 1 agricultural and pastoral industries.
.- The acute shortage of man-power at the present time suggests that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) would be well advised to increase the permissible income which invalid and old-age pensioners are allowed to earn from 12s. 6d. in the ease of a single person, to £1 a week. I understood the Minister to say, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), that the wife of an invalid pensioner is permitted under the present railing to earn up to 2>5s. a week on behalf of her husband and herself. I should like to know whether that is possible in the case of an old-age pensioner. If so, I have no objection to this provision.
– If they are married, the income is halved and the wife or the husband may earn 25s. a week.
– On the understanding that the other spouse earns nothing?
– Whatever the income of both may be, it is halved and one-half is attributed to each of the parties. It does not matter whether one earns the entire income or only a part of it.
– Where an invalid pensioner can earn nothing, the wife is restricted to the amount that she can earn, namely, 12s. 6d. a week.
– According to the Minister, that interpretation is not correct.
– If my interpretation is not correct, I cannot read English.
– The honorable member for Melbourne and I disagree as to the meaning of the word “ earning “. The honorable member declares that the invalid cannot go to work and earn, because of a physical or mental disability; but he can have income from an annuity or a retiring allowance.
– I repeat that if the invalid husband has no income and cannot earn anything, the wife is restricted to an income of 12s. 6d. a week.
– If the invalid husband or wife be permitted to earn 25s. a week, why is it impracticable to permit an old-age pensioner to earn £1 a week. Labour is urgently required in many industries, and old- age pensioners would help to ease the shortage. Of course, I realize that an increase of the permissible income to £1 a week would enlarge the scope of eligibility for old-age pensions.
– It would admit thousands more people.
– Because of the acute shortage of man-power, the Government should consider the advisability of increasing the permissible income for the duration of the war. I ask the Minister to give to the matter more sympathetic consideration than he has to date.
.- I am glad to see that the Government has made this advance in the direction of extending the benefits of pensions legislation. This form of legislation, particularly that part which relates to old-age pensions, is . the great contribution that Australasia has made towards social security. It is really the only permanent and unprecarious advantage that has been gained. All the efficacy of Labour legislation depends, not upon administration, but upon the strength of the trade unions, by their own acts or vigilant representations, to ensure that it is enforced. But old-age pensions stand on their own footing. I am glad to see that the benefits will be extended.
I desire to express my concurrence with the view expressed by various honorable members that the position of the inmate of a benevolent asylum should be liberalized, and that a person who becomes of pensionable age in a benevolent asylum should receive the full pension. Under present conditions, when a pensioner enters a benevolent asylum, his pension continues; but, under section 40a of the act, a part of it is paid to the authorities, and the remainder is paid to the pensioner. If a person becomes a pensioner after entering the institution he receives no pension.
– Oh, yes he does; he receives a personal pension, but the institution receives nothing.
– That position should be remedied. But I ask the Government to go further and remove the irrational distinction between benevolent asylums and mental hospitals. It may be said in reply to this request that the Commonwealth Government should not shoulder an obligation that rightly belongs to State governments. I point out that it. is not a State government obligation to maintain patients in mental hospitals. That obligation rests upon the relations. Under State laws the Master in Lunacy is able to compel relatives to contribute towards the maintenance of patients in mental hospitals. Let us look at a case of the kind I have in mind. A man reaches 65 years of age, and is granted a pension. At 70 years of age he becomes insane and is placed in a mental hospital. At once the Master in Lunacy may demand that the man’s children shall contribute towards his support. That is often done. The Master in Lunacy can .bring pressure to bear on relations to oblige them to make contributions. I have in mind a man whose father became insane and was placed in an institution. The Master in Lunacy forced the son to contribute towards his father’s maintenance,, although the son could not afford to do so. I know of a similar case in which a daughter was compelled to make a like contribution. The Government should remove this anomaly. When we reach the committee stage I propose to move for the insertion in this bill of an amendment similar to a provision in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in relation to inmates of mental hospitals.
I .also intend to move for the insertion in this bill of a provision relating to incapacity which is ako based upon the provision in the Australian .Soldiers’ Repatriation Act dealing with that subject. A person may not be totally incapacitated, but may not be able to obtain regular work. I refer, for example, to a girl who may be subject to epileptic fits. There are two kinds of epilepsy ; one form renders a person totally and permanently incapacitated, but .the other .form is more or less intermittent. A girl suffering from this intermittent form of epilepsy may, when a fit overtakes her, do an injury to herself or to the children of a family for which she may be working. Once it becomes known that she is subject to these fits she finds it impossible to obtain employment. Evidently, the department takes the view that if a girl is able to sweep the floor or wash .the dishes in her own home she is capable also of doing such work in the home of other people; but that does not at all follow. In any case she would not be able to get the work.
– At present a person can obtain a full pension if he or she is S5 per cent, incapacitated.
– I intend to move that the present provision be omitted and (he words which we have used in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act be inserted in their stead. The effect of the provision will be that if a person, because of invalidity, cannot obtain regular employment he or she shall be regarded as totally incapacitated.
I wish to make a few observations on the subject of burial expenses. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to three works that have been published jointly by Sir Arnold Wilson, M.P., and Professor Hermann Levy. Sir Arnold Wilson’s unremitting social service was terminated when he lost his life in an air raid in France. The death benefit which these writers recommend to be provided under the national insurance scheme of Great Britain was not less than £10 and not more than £25. Burial charges are lower in Great Britain than they are in Australia. These writers, in their book, Burial Reform and Funeral Costs, make some interesting observations concerning the position in Switzerland. They say -
The movement for the public control of funeral services originated in Switzerland, where burial and cremation have long been regarded as communal services. Swiss cantons have operated since 1890 under an article of the Federal Constitution which enables municipalities to establish communal burial service upon democratic lines free to all persons holding certificates of residence regardless of citizenship, supported in part by the municipality or canton and in part by the State.
The writers also state that in Switzerland -
Interments are made in the order of deaths as they occur, the bodies placed in turn in the row of graves where openings are being made. On one day it may he some rich man, a Counsellor of State, who is laid in a numbered grave; the next in turn laid at lt is side may be the body of the poorest citizen. Another cantonal regulation limits the height and size of gravestones to a modest scale. [ hope that the Government will make a close examination of the various burial funds that are in operation. The Minister already has power to make contributions towards the burial expenses of persons in certain instances. Unfortunately, many of the burial schemes that are in operation are merely traps for the unfortunate poor, although I admit that some of the funds are operated honestly. Mr. Mead, whose name was mentioned by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is, in my opinion, an honest man and he has written a very interesting letter urging that consideration be given to various burial schemes. But I am much afraid that although some of these schemes have been honestly conceived, others are anything but honest.
– What is the position in regard to cremation?
– It would be much the same, I take it, except that cremation costs are different. It is unfortunate, of course, that we have not been able to agree upon a common standard of frugality and simplicity in relation to funerals, but the fact is that we have not been able to do so; and, consequently, many people fear that they will be buried as paupers or, as it were, in the potter’s field. I am glad that the Government is aware of the position in this regard, and I hope that it will make a close investigation of the situation.
.- T ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to state whether the permissible income that a pensioner and his wife may jointly earn, at present 12s. 6d. a week each, must be earned in regular weekly sums or whether, without any risk to the continuance of his pension, a pensioner may engage in seasonal work such as harvesting or shearing for, say, three months, and earn as much as, say, £5 a week, which is four times the permissible sum, without endangering his pension. There is a good deal of misapprehension about the position.
– I have been trying to clarify it for three months.
– I wish to know whether a pensioner may earn the permissible annual income by working hard during a limited period and cease work altogether during another period?
– Yes, he may do so, provided he acts honestly by the department, and informs it of what he is doing.
– I am pleased to have the Minister’s assurance.
– in reply - This is essentially a measure for consideration at the committee stage, but 1. desire to refer to several points that have been made during the debate.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and others have referred to the position of benevolent institutions in relation to persons who enter as pensioners and those who become pensioners after entry. The position at the moment is that the payment of 17s. a week is made to benevolent -institutions for the maintenance of pensioners who were admitted as such, but no such payment is made in respect of persons who became pensioners after admission. I have always considered the present position anomalous and I know that it has led to considerable discontent and heart-burning among pensioners who are subject to the differentiation. On occasions pensioners have left institutions and gone to live with relations) or to live as best they may, for several weeks outside the institutions in order to qualify for pensions. On receiving the pensions they have returned to the institutions. Bedridden persons are not able to do this. The Government would have rectified this anomaly long ago, but it desired to deal with the more important anomalies first which affected people for whom nothing at all was being done. It considered, moreover, that the State governments had some responsibility in the matter. However, as the result of a consultation with, my colleague the Treasurer, I am. now able to give an assurance that this anomaly will be rectified.
The next subject to which- I shall refer is the permissible earnings of pensioners. There was considerable logic in the claim advanced on behalf of inmates of benevolent institutions, but I cannot find the same degree of logic in the claim in relation to permissible earnings. I have pointed out on other occasions that if pensioners act fairly by the department, and give information frankly as to their earnings, they may earn the full amount of permissible income which, by the way, is stated on an annual, and not on a weekly basis, by working hard during a limited period and ceasing work altogether after they have earned up to the annual limit. In fact, they may even continue to work, so long as they notify the department of what they are doing. In those cases, the department would arrange for any necessary adjustment of their pension during the period they are engaged in fairly constant work of this character.
– The fear of the pensioners is that after they cease work a considerable period may elapse before they will be able to obtain a restoration of their pension to the previous figure.
– That point has been dealt with already by the department, and arrangements have been made to ensure that immediately after a pensioner who has been earning more than the prescribed amount ceases his work he can have his pension restored. There need be no doubt at all on that point.
– What is the position in relation to a couple, of whom the husband is not receiving a pension and the wife is receiving a pension?
– The amount of £1 5s. may be received into that home without affecting the pension of the wife. Pensioners have asked me at deputations whether they could work without risking the loss of their pension. I have told them that of course they could, so long as they notified the Deputy Commissioner of their employment. They have said, “ If we do that, we shall not get the pension back”.
– The majority of those who cannot obtain the full rate of pension earn only £1, £1 5s. or £1 10s. a week. Therefore, they do not consider it worth while to forego their pension in order to earn the small additional amount.
– They can continue at work until they have earned the maximum amount they are permitted to earn in a year. They may do casual work without a breach of the provisions of the act.
– At £1 10s. a week, they could work practically throughout the year.
– They may earn £1 10s. or £1 15s. every week, and still receive some pension. They cannot have it both ways. I have said to them, “ If you want to work in order to help the country, why not do so? Tell the Commissioner to suspend your pension. When you consider that you cannot carry on any longer, or your employer says that he cannot continue to employ you, your pension will be restored. If you are not unwise, you will spend what you earn in providing comforts for yourself; you will then receive the full pension immediately you apply for it “. The matter is not nearly so difficult as some honorable members, as well as the pensioners themselves, * believe that it is. A good deal may be earned without loss of pension rights. Some honorable members have said that an increase from 12s. 6d. to £1 or £1 10s. of the amount which a pensioner may earn would not increase the cost to the taxpayers. I point out that, so soon as the income limit had been raised the door would be opened to thousands of other persons who cannot now obtain a pension because of the amount of income that they earn. If the first report subsequently issued showed that 25,000 or 30,000 pensioners had been added to the list, there would be a howl from honorable members opposite.
– If the amount earned from personal exertion were raised to £1 5s. a week, and no increase were made of the property qualification, the number of additional pensioners would not be large.
– An increase of either would lead to a large addition to the list of pensioners. Many pensioners now receive one-quarter, one-half, or three-quarters of the full pension rate. If the amount they are entitled to earn were increased, they would become entitled to the full pension. What the cost would be, cannot be imagined. I am not contending that this should not be done, but am merely answering the statement that the increase would not make a substantial difference to the cost.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mi-. Riordan) is very greatly concerned about the funeral benefits. I have received several letters on the subject. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has had one, and a communication has also been sent to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) by an excellent man in Northcote with whom 1 am acquainted–the secretary of a large pensioners’ organization which, in conjunction with funeral directors, has formed funeral associations all over Australia. I am not arguing that there is anything wrong in what they are doing, or that such institutions are not quite honest. They canvass the pensioners, who pay 3d., 6d. or ls. a fortnight in order to have the cost of their burial guaranteed. This matter causes considerable worry to pen- “sioners. The Government is not a bit concerned about funeral associations, but it does not want invalid pensioners to fear that they will not have a proper burial. It contends that the grant of £10 towards the cost of a funeral ought to ease their minds. It does not want the pensioners to continue to make contributions to funeral associations, which are really insurance bodies. If a pensioner died the day after making his first payment, he would be entitled to be buried, but if he became unfinancial in the week before has death the money he had paid would not be of the slightest benefit in connexion with his burial. The scheme is said to be actuarially based, the contributor who lives for a long time making up for the one who has to be buried shortly after becoming a member. The associations are extensively organized, and have developed into monopolies. They are using a lot of rubber which could be put to better use. The undertaking industry will not lose by the provision that we are making; just as many pensioners will die, and there will be a guarantee of £10 towards the C03t of their funerals. The pensioners will gain, if they are wise, because they will discontinue their contributions and will use the money towards defraying the cost of their upkeep. The organizations that, have been established will not lose what they have already made, but their power to make more will be ended. The Government is not concerned about the future business interests of a group of undertakers who have organized themselves into a monopoly, and have agents who induce pensioners to become contributors to their scheme.
– Will the £10 be sufficient to meet the cost of burial?
– It will not be sufficient for a lavish burial. Some day funerals will be part and parcel of a general health scheme all over the world. I have read the statement that man should be protected from the cradle to the grave. Mr. Churchill is now using that expression, and it is also being used in the United States of America and Canada. When that occurs, contracts will be entered into by the Government with the funeral directors, who will fall over themselves to obtain them at £10 each. Some State governments are now making contracts of that kind. If the matter be handled on a large scale, a decent burial can be given for £10 to those who do not want a lot of show.
– It would not pay for the lead in the coffin.
– I have been informed that the funerals of some pensioners -cost much less than £10. It is said that 10 per cent, of the contribution which they make is paid to the agents who induce them to become members of funeral associations. Because the agents receive this commission, they argue that this concession ought not to be given to the pensioners. On the platform during a meeting of old-age pensioners, I have heard the representatives of two funeral companies expatiate on the funeral benefits, even describing the type of coffin and the fittings which the pensioners would have. That is disgraceful. The Government wants to remove from the old people the fear that they will not have a proper burial. They are to be given to understand that they will be entitled to £10 towards the cost of their burial, and need not be afraid that their relatives will have to pay for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Suction’ four of the Principal Act is a mended -
.- I move -
That the following paragraph be added after paragraph (c) : - “ and (d) by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words ‘ or if the degree of his capacity for work does not exceed Fifteen per centum ‘ and inserting in their stead the words in any remunerative occupation in which he can reasonably be expected to obtain regular employment ‘ “.
Ihave circulated two amendments, but do not propose to proceed with the first because of what occurred on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. The existing provision, inserted in 1941, was an advance on what previously obtained, under which the Pensions Department refused a pension to an applicant who was not completely incapacitated for exertion, but I still regard the position as unsatisfactory, because it does not touch what I consider is the real difficulty. It ought not to be required that a person shall be completely incapacitated for work. He may retain some degree of incapacity for work, and yet not be able to get work. Dealing with the service pensions last week, I referred to what are described as “ odd lots “ - the men who cannot ordinarily be expected to get work, yet may get it. These are in addition to the epileptics whom I mentioned. A man who had no power in his limbs below the hip joint was given an invalid pension. A report was sent to the department that he had been seen sitting outside theColonial Bank in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, selling the Melbourne Herald. He lost his pension. This casual work probably demonstrated to the department that he was not permanently incapacitated. I should think that a man in his condition ought to be treated as permanently incapacitated. The test ought to be, does the man retain so much capacity that one may reasonably expect him to have regular employment? I am proposing that the definition be amended so that it will not be sufficient that a man may be expected to obtain casual employment; he must be reasonably likely to have regular employment. This covers the case of the epileptic girls to whom I have referred, and, I believe, practically all the cases that come before honorable members. It seems to me that a rule-of-thumb test is applied. A man is sent to a doctor, who is asked to say whether or not the man is totally and permanently incapacitated. The doctor says that he is not, that he can do some kind of work, but the doctor is not asked to say whether there is any real likelihood that the man will be able to get that kind of work. The only redress the applicant has is to seek the opinion of another doctor, who probably arrives at the same medical conclusion. In my opinion, that is not satisfactory. The department ought to consider whether, in the state of the man’s health as disclosed by the medical report, he could be reasonably expected to earn his own living. If not, he ought to get a pension.
– I cannot accept the amendment, which would only make confusion worse confounded.
– How does the Minister arrive at the 15 per cent, now provided for in the bill?
– That provision serves to qualify the “ total and permanent incapacity” requirement. It has disposed of a great many borderline cases, though, of course, there must always be a borderline whatever degree of incapacity is specified. The amendment refers to “ remunerative “ occupation. What occupation is not remunerative? No one would be interested in it if it were not. Some discretion must be left to the Commissioner in these matters. No one would expect a weak man of poor physique to take employment lumping wheat onthe wharfs. I could understand an amendment which sought to substitute 60 per cent, for the present 85 per cent., but I cannot accept the amendment in its present form.
.- The amendment is a reasonable one, and the Minister should accept it.If the Repatriation Commissioners can apply the principle in the case of service pensions, why cannot the Director-General of Social Services do so?
– This has nothing to dc with repatriation.
– I know, hut Parliament has inserted a similar provision in the Repatriation Act in connexion with service pensions paid to “ burnt-out “ soldiers whose earning capacity has been reduced or lost. Why should not a similar test be applied in respect of applicants for invalid pensions? I cannot follow the Minister when he says that the amendment, if accepted, would only create greater difficulties. In my opinion, it is much more difficult to assess the degree of incapacity in terms of a percentage than to say, in a general way, that a person shall be deemed incapable of securing full-time, remunerative employment. The cases cited by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) are quite common - that of a man supplementing his income by selling newspapers, or the epileptic girl who is able to sweep floors and do a certain amount of other housework. It is probably true that many epileptics receive pensions now, but others, whose attacks are more rare, do not. However, because they are subject tr, epileptic attacks, they are unable to obtain continuous employment. Indeed, they are afraid to accept employment, particularly if it involves the handling of vessels containing boiling water. The amendment of the honorable member for Bourke should have met with an immediate and ready acceptance.
– I could not accept responsibility for it.
– Then, will the Minister postpone consideration of this clause so that he may discuss the amendment with his advisers?
– The matter was considered to-day, ,and the principle involved in the amendment was considered to be almost impossible of application.
– If the Minister considered the amendment to-day, he should by now be in a position to explain more satisfactorily why it is unacceptable. It does not seem to be that he is giving the consideration which he should to suggestions put forward by honorable members. He is inclined to dismiss them too summarily. If he will not accept the amendment now, I hope that the Senate will come to our ,aid as it did in the case of the “ grab-the-change “ provision in the Income Tax Bill. If the proposal of the honorable member for Bourke comes back to us in the form of an amendment by the Senate, the Government will, no doubt, accept it without demur, but it finds all sorts of difficulties when amendments are submitted by members of its own side in this chamber.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) said that he could not under: stand my amendment. Well, I think I can explain it fully. At present, the test applied to an applicant for a pension is a purely medical one. The doctor before whom he appears is asked to decide whether the applicant is permanently incapacitated for work; he has not to concern himself with whether there is any likelihood of his obtaining employment. Then, under the terms of the present act, the department says, “ Unless this applicant is’ at least 85 per cent, incapacitated, he must be ruled out. We are not concerned whether or not he would, in fact, be able to obtain work “. I propose to take the matter a step further, by applying the rule which governs the granting of workmen’s compensation and service pensions. I propose to stipulate that it is not sufficient for a doctor to say that the applicant is capable of doing some kind of work. The pensions authority must decide whether he can, in his physical state, be reasonably expected to obtain regular employment in a remunerative occupation. The point is that it must be remunerative. It is not sufficient, for instance, that an epileptic girl, whom no one would employ, is able to do some housework in her own home. I have used the word “ reasonably “ in the amendment in order to ensure that the commissioner shall take all the circumstances into account. The department must be the judge of these matters, but I wish to impose upon the department an obligation- to take these matters into consideration. I have used the word “ regular “ because I wish to exclude merely chance employment. After obtaining a medical report on the case, the Pensions Department should, in the light of the report, decide whether the claimant can, in his state of health, be reasonably expected to obtain regular employment in a remunerative occupation. The provision is really taken from the interpretation placed by the High Court on the same phrase in the “Workers Compensation Act. In the case which I previously mentioned, the court ruled that the man was incapacitated, totally and permanently, if his condition permitted him to obtain employment only now and then. In the case in question, a man of 60 years of age had been employed on outside work for 40 years. He suffered an accident to his leg, as a result of which he could stand on it for only short periods at a time. Medical evidence was to the effect that he could follow a sedentary occupation, but the High Court ruled that he was, in fact, totally incapacitated because there was no chance of his obtaining employment in such an occupation.
– That case involved compensation because the man was hurt at his work.
– Yes, but the words are the same in the two acts, and the principle involved is the same. I trust that the committee will make this alteration, even if the Minister will not adopt it. Its effect would be to give justice to persons who hitherto have been denied it. I do not accuse the department of withholding justice from them; the department has to administer the law as it stands. I wish the department ‘ to be permitted to do what is right in the circumstances.
.- This matter of total and permanent incapacity has always been a source of anxiety to the general public, and to the Pensions Department. “Within my recollection, some liberality has been imported into the interpretation of the phrase, “ totally and permanently incapacitated. “, so that persons who are not, in fact, totally and permanently incapacitated have none the less been allowed to enjoy the benefits of the act. I realize the difficulty of it, and I realize too that the burden on the Treasury would certainly be largely increased by a statutory liberalization of this provision.
– “ Regular employment “ cuts out all casual work. I should have to put the matter to the Government.
– A claim for workers’ compensation arises out of a normally healthy man meeting with an accident which is deemed to be temporary in its effects, or, if permanent, at least there is a sharp limitation imposed by the statute upon the absolute liability of the taxpayer or the insurance company. I am prepared to grant in favour of the Minister that the circumstances are somewhat different. But I have always considered that there is much point in the argument that it is quite idle to tell an applicant for a pension that he is not altogether unemployable when in fact he cannot get work to do.
– Because of incapacity?
– Yes. In the special circumstances I shall be content if the Minister will take up this matter with Cabinet in the light of the views expressed. I think, or at least hope, that those views will be found to be widely shared, although the amendment has not excited honorable gentlemen opposite to any great degree. I nevertheless think that it should excite interest and sympathy. I should be content, having regard to the man who is administering this act, if he would give me an assurance that the matter will be further considered before the bill passes to the Senate.
– I certainly could not do more than that. I promise the honorable member for Batman that I shall do that, but I shall have to take the matter to Cabinet.
– I think that something ought to be done about it and that the Ministry should give the matter further consideration.
.- This section of the act has cried out for a long time for- amendment. I am sorry that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) is not prepared to go even further than he has proposed, although I can quite see the difficulties of the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). The provision that a person shall be totally and permanently incapacitated has been a bugbear of the invalid andold-age pensions act for many years, particularly as an applicant for an invalid pension may become entitled to a pension or have the claim rejected on the view held by a departmental doctor who sees him for the first time after he has made application for the pension. It is true that, in recent years, the section has been liberalized in that the applicant needs to be only 85 per cent, incapacitated instead of 100 per cent, as previously. I have not discovered a ease in which a doctor has been able to find the difference between the old 100 per cent, incapacity and the new 85 per cent, incapacity. I should have thought that the Minister would have paid attention to the section dealing with permanency. I have known of many people whom the family doctors regard as being permanently incapacitated, yet whose claims have been rejected because the departmental doctor, seeing the applicant for the first time, has reached a different conclusion. I regret the fact that although, when in opposition, we battered this section of the act, now that we are in power we have not taken the opportunity to remove the difficulties arising out of total incapacity and permanency. People who, because of infirmities, are unemployable, are deprived by the result of a more or less cursory examination by a departmental doctor of the pension to which they are entitled, until such time as they make further application and are re-examined by, perhaps, another departmental doctor who takes a view different from that taken by the first doctor. In two years, a person would lose about £150 to which he was entitled but from the collection of which he was disqualified on the report of a doctor examining him for the first time. I know that the Minister is sympathetic, and so I am more disappointed that he has not taken this opportunity to liberalize this section.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the 85 per cent, should apply both ways?
– No. The Minister knows that in a competitive labour market it is impossible for a person who is75 per cent, incapacitated to obtain remunerative work and that the margin between 85 per cent, incapacity and 100 per cent, incapacity is so fine, that if six doctors were asked to define incapacity within those limits they would be equally divided in their views. The very purpose of the act is to make some provision for persons who are to all intents and purposes incapable of obtaining work. The opinion of family doctors expressed on medical certificates that a man is 100 per cent, incapacitated, but may become well after, say, two years, has reacted against the interests of applicants for pensions, because the department says, “ Your own doctor says that you are not permanently incapacitated and that you will get well “. I agree with the Minister that it would be very difficult for any one to determine whether any one can obtain remunerative and regular work. Before the war nearly 100,000 physically fit men and women in Australia could not find work. Regular remunerative work is something that is not guaranteed even to physically fit people. I endorse the principle enunciated by the honorable member for Bourke, but I do not see how it could be given effect by means of the amendment. What the Minister ought to do is to provide that a person who is 75 per cent, incapacitated shall qualify for the invalid pension.
– How much better would that be than the present provision?
– The further we get away from 100 per cent, the greater becomes the elasticity and the greater the opportunity of a certain section of the people, including epileptics, to qualify for the pension. The epileptics are the most unfortunate section of the community.
– I agree.
– No doctor will certify that aperson is epileptic unless he sees him during a seizure, and it is not always possible for a doctor to be present on such an occasion. In any case, it is frequently impossible for an average family to afford to have an epileptic member looked after by a doctor. Therefore, thousands of people are denied the invalid pension, simply because no doctor has been present when they have been in seizures. I have known businessmen to dispense with the services of employees because of their being subject to epileptic fits; and yet the victims have been unable to convince the authorities that they are subject to epilepsy and therefore qualified for the invalid pension. A medical opinion must be obtained. After the invalid has secured a certificate from his own doctor, he has to convince the departmental doctor regarding his disability. But the departmental doctor is not prepared to be convinced unless he actually sees the patient in one of. his seizures. If the degree of incapacity were reduced to 70 per cent, or 75 per cent., this class of invalid would be benefited, including “marginal” cases who have satisfied their own doctors, but who have just failed to convince the departmental doctor that they are totally incapacitated. If the Minister can see his way clear to amend the act for the purpose of covering this class, he will have a definite provision that can be administered. Whilst I admire the aims of the honorable member for Bourke, I foresee the difficulty of administering a provision which seeks to determine whether a person has a reasonable chance of obtaining regular employment, because during a depression, hundreds of thousands of physically fit men cannot get that guarantee.
.- The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) contains considerable merit. Years ago when I was Commonwealth Treasurer, I tried to overcome . the difficulty by endeavouring to get a standard examination of invalid pensioners by specially qualified doctors. A certain number of cases was tested in order to determine whether any margin of difference existed between the diagnoses of local and departmental doctors. Honorable members will recognize the difficulty of assessing whether a man i3 85 per cent, incapacitated, because in that condition of health, he is so close to being 100 per cent, incapacitated. Yet doctors, especially when dealing with certain diseases of the heart, are reluctant to pronounce that a man is totally and permanently incapacitated, because he might easily get better. In such cases the Government should grant a pension, for a year or two years. If some discretion could be allowed in this matter, it would be of advantage, and. might result ultimately in the saving of money and in the restoration of certain men to health, enabling them to participate again in remunerative employment. But whether the proper course to adopt is that suggested by the honorable member for Bourke, I cannot decide. The Minister would be wise to examine this matter carefully for the purpose of determining whether a temporary pension can be paid in cases where an element of doubt exists. If a person is slightly less than 85 per cent, incapacitated, he should be granted a pension for say, twelve months, after which he should be reexamined.
.- This matter has been decided by ‘Cabinet and caucus.
– It was not decided by caucus.
– Caucus knew what was being’ done. I assure the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that I shall discuss the matter with Cabinet to see whether his suggestion can be adopted later ; but it would be inadvisable to delay the passage of the bill at this juncture for the purpose of considering the implications of his amendment.
– I accept that assurance.
.- I am glad that the Minister assured the committee that he will submit the amendment to Cabinet for consideration, because the proposal of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is meritorious. When I was a member of the Senate, I made strong representations to the department on behalf of a girl whose invalid pension had been withdrawn. The department and the medical officer asked her a series of questions, such as whether she did any work in the home. She replied that occasionally she helped her mother to wipe the dishes and occasionally she swept the kitchen. Because she did that little bit of work, her pension was cancelled. She was suffering from a terrible skin disease, and her arms, legs, face and neck were in a shocking condition. Although she could do a limited amount of work, no one would employ her because her appearance was repulsive. I asked the doctor, who examined her, whether he would employ the girl in his home among his children and he replied, “Certainly not”. I directed the same question to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Western Australia and he was equally reluctant to employ her. If the Minister desires me to state her name, I am prepared to do so. This case is recorded in the department, and the girl is still receiving a pension. Although she could do lightdomestic work occasionally, any effort on her part apparently increased her blood pressure and brought out the rash in a greatly aggravated form. She never, in person, collected her pension, and she was reduced almost to a state of collapse at the thought of having to appear before the departmental doctor when her pension was being reviewed. Possibly, there are many people who, through not having a good friend to bring their case to the notice of the member for the district, are deprived, by the nature of the departmental questionnaire, of the invalid pension to which they are entitled. If the amendment be accepted, the onus will rest with the department to declare that the applicant could be occupied remuneratively. I hope that the Minister will impress upon Cabinet the necessity for accepting the amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Who may receive old-age pensions).
.- This clause repeals section 15 of the principal act and substitutes therefor the following new section: -
Subject to this act, every person who is not receiving an invalid pension and. being a man, has attained the age of sixty-five years, or being a woman, has attained the age of sixty years, shall, whilst in Australia, be qualified to receive an old-age pension.
A number of men under the age of 65 years have been granted a “ compassionate “ pension at the discretion of the
Commissioner, or Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. Section 15 (3) of the existing act provides that -
No old-age pension shall be granted to any person who is under the age of sixty-five years unless and until his claim is recommended in writing by a deputy commissioner.
I ask the Minister whether the repeal of the existing section will interfere with the granting of such pensions as I have mentioned to men who have not yet attained the age of 65 years, but who, through some degree of infirmity, are considered as being entitled to receive it.
– The purpose of this amendment is to correct something which was done two or three years ago for statistical purposes. Pensions had been granted to men between the age of 60 and 65 years, and the recipients were classified as old-age pensioners, when they were really invalid pensioners. The alteration was made for statistical purposes, as it looked bad to list so many invalid pensioners. The present amendment is to correct that position, so that they will be declared what they really are, namely, invalid pensioners. A later provision will enable the wives of these invalid pensioners to receive the allowance, although they have been classified for statistical purposes as old-age pensioners. The amendment will have no detrimental effects upon existing pensions.
.- I am not quite satisfied with one matter. I have had practical experience of section 15 of the principal act, which is now repealed by this clause, and I cite the case of a man who, being over 60 years of age and unable to work, succeeded under that section in obtaining a pension. He is at present drawing the pension. I desire to be reassured that his pension will not be interfered with as the result of this amendment.
– There is no intention of interfering with those pensions.
– I am sure that the Minister has no intention of interfering with those pensions, but I direct his attention to an important matter. The proposed new section does not mean, of course, that a man, at 65 years of age, has anything more to do than to prove his- age, or that a woman of 60 years of age has nothing more to do than to prove her age. The new clause uses the phrase “ subject to this act “. But the existing section 15 refers to a person “who, being permanently incapacitated for work, has attained the age of 60 years “ and provides that he shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension.
– The person referred to in that section would not be qualified to receive an old-age pension except for that provision.
– Quite so. That emphasizes my fear that if we repeal the existing section we shall do an injury to a person who is receiving an old-age pension but is not 65 years of age, for we shall take away his qualification. From inquiries that I have made in the Pensions branch, I understand that the existing section 15 was inserted, in the act because invalid pensions did not become payable - that is, were not proclaimed - until after old-age pensions became payable.
– Invalid pensions did not become payable until 1910.
– nl consider that section 15 in its present form does not safeguard the rights of certain individuals who are in receipt of old-age pensions although they have not reached the prescribed age. If We intend to insert the proposed new section 15 instead of the existing section 15 we should delete from it the word “ invalid “.
– The fears of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) are groundless. Section 15 (1) was inserted in the act to cover the case of men who had not reached the age of 65 years but were suffering from a serious incapacity which, although not entitling them to an invalid pension, made it desirable that they should be granted a pension. The section in the principal act could have been repealed nearly a quarter of a century ago, because the need for it had ceased to exist. The qualification in the existing act in relation to permanent incapacity for work would entitle a man between 60 and 65 years of age to a pension, so there is no need for him to rely upon the present section 15 (1).
.- The Minister has stressed the point that it is necessary to cover certain individuals who might be refused an old-age pension because of some technicality as to age. He has also said that very few cases are involved. I agree with him. During my twelve years as a member of this Parliament I have not had more, than four or five cases of the kind brought to my notice, though no doubt a proportionate number of such cases occurs in every electorate. The point is, however, that the existing section 15 protects certain people who, not being 65 years of age, are not legally entitled to an old-age pension, but who, because of some serious incapacity, may be granted such a pension by the Deputy Commissioner exercising a certain discretion in that matter. By what authority he exercises the discretion I cannot say. The existing provision reads -
What the honorable member for Batman fears is that if this provision be eliminated, such persons who are now receiving a pension under the provision, may be required to make application for a new pension. The proposed new section 15 says that such persons shall be “ qualified “ to receive an old-age pension. That surely suggests that the individuals concerned will have to apply afresh for a pension. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that, even if technically such individuals might be required to make a fresh application, they will, in fact, not be required to do so.
.- To prove the accuracy of my statement that persons who may come within the provisions of section 15 will not be required to apply afresh, I point out to honorable members that in the year ended the 30th June, 1940, the invalid pensioners transferred to the list of old-age pensioners numbered 32,000. In the following year 2,000 were transferred, and last year 1,174 were transferred. I assure honorable members that the substitution of the proposed new section 15 for the section at present appearing in the principal act will not inflict an injury on any one.
– Honorable members may rest assured that no one will lose by it.
– That is so.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) desires to make sure that no man who, though under 65 years of age, is at present receiving an old-age pension under the existing section 15, will be deprived of it by the substitution of the proposed new section 15 for the existing section. He wants to make sure, also, that such persons shall not be required to make fresh applications for pensions. The use of the expression “ qualified to receive an old-age pension “ certainly suggests that a person, not 65 years of age, who is in receipt of such a pension at present will be required to make a fresh application. A more serious point relates to a discretionary power which, hitherto, has been exercised by the Deputy Commissioners in relation to persons between the age of 60 and 65 years. It seems to me that if we agree to the proposed new section we shall imperil the continuance of the pension to certain persons under the age of 65 years.
– I am forced to disagree with the Minister. Sub-section 3 of existing section 15 reads -
No old-age pension shall .be granted to any person who is under the age of Co years unless and until his claim is recommended in writing by a Deputy Commissioner.
Under that provision a Deputy Commissioner may recommend a pension to a person under the age of 65 years who is suffering from some degree of incapacity. Apparently that discretionary power will disappear if proposed new section 15, which does not contain sub-section 3 of the present section 15, be substituted for the present section.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) [10.45 . - The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) persists in saying that it is not necessary for the incapacity to be permanent. I direct his attention to the text of sub-section .1 of section 15, to which sub-section 3 is complementary. It specifically uses the phrase “ being permanently incapacitated for work “.
– -The honorable member does not quite see the point. According to the Minister the pension granted under the provision as it stood was an old-age pension.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Only because of the delay in the operation of the invalid pensions part of the act. The provision in sub-section 1 of section 15 should have been deleted immediately the invalid pension became operative many years ago, because it was no longer necessary for a man to be 60 years of age in order to ‘he entitled to the pension. I cannot understand the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley.
– Fresh applicants between the ages of 60 and 65 years were not of an age that wau Id entitle them to receive the old-age pension. According to the medical evidence, they were not totally incapacitated. The Deputy Commissioner,, in exercise of his discretion, said that, although not totally incapacitated or of the age of 65 years, they were unable to work.
– I do not know where the Deputy Commissioner obtained the discretion to act in that way ; certainly not from sub-sections ^ and .3 of section 15. In any event, the Minister has assured us that whatever may have been, the motive behind the exercise of discretion, no such pension will be cancelled.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Allowances to wives of invalid pensioners).
.- This clause proposes to insert in the act a new part containing several proposed new sections. These sections provide for the grant of allowances to the wives of invalid pensioners, and lay down rates and conditions, &c. In order to make the position clear, it is necessary to deal with each proposed new section separately.
Under the proposed new section 23a, sub-section 1, the wife of an invalid pensioner, provided she is not herself an invalid or an old-age pensioner, will be eligible to receive an allowance, while in Australia, so long as her husband remains an invalid pensioner. She will not have to satisfy any qualifications in regard to age, length of residence, incapacity, &c. The mere fact that she is the legal wife of the pensioner will be sufficient, subject to the means test and the conditions laid down in the other proposed nev/ sections of this part. Under sub-section 2, the wife will not be entitled to receive an allowance if she is living apart from her husband. The chief reason for granting these allowances is to provide some relief for a wife who has to care for an invalid husband. Where the wife lives apart from her husband, she is free from that responsibility; therefore, she should not participate in the benefit.
Under the proposed new section 23b, sub-section 1, the proposed rate of allowance for a wife is £39 per annum, or 15s. a week. The rate may, however, be less in some instances because of the operation of the means test provided for in subsections 2 and 3 of this section. Under sub-section 2, the means test to be applied in the assessment of a wife’s allowance is to be exactly the same as is now applied in assessing an invalid or old-age pension. This is necessary, in order to avoid anomalies which would otherwise arise. For example, if the means test were not applied in assessing a wife’s allowance there would be instances in which a wife who was an invalid would receive an invalid pension at a lower rate than the allowance payable to a wife in similar circumstances who was not an invalid. Under sub-section 3, in assessing the value of property and computing income for the purpose of determining the rate of the wife’s allowance, the same provisions will apply ‘ as now govern the assessment of an invalid pension. Briefly, the position is that the home will be excluded, and the amount of the wife’s property and income will’ be deemed to he half the combined total of the property and income of husband and wife.
Under the proposed new section 23c, an allowance of 5s. a week for a child, under the age of sixteen years is to .be paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner or, in certain circumstances, to the invalid pensioner himself. An allowance is to be payable in respect of only one child, because any other children are provided for under the Child Endowment Act. Under sub-section 1, an allowance for a child may be paid to an invalid pensioner’s wife who is in receipt of a wife’s allowance, or who would be in receipt of a wife’s allowance but for the operation of the means test, or who is herself an invalid pensioner. In order to qualify for the allowance she must have the custody, care and control of the child. Under subsection 2, the wife will not be entitled to receive an allowance for a child if she isliving apart from her husband. Subsection 3 enables an allowance for a child to be paid to an invalid pensioner who is a widower, or whose wife is not living with him, provided he has the custody of the child. There is no similar provision for a widow, because she is already provided for under the Widows’ Pensions Act. The effect of sub-section 4 will be, that where both husband and wife are invalid pensioners and are living together, any allowance granted in respect of a child will be payable to the wife. Under sub-section 5, the allowance for the child is to be payable only while the person to whom it is granted continues to have the custody, care and control of the child. Under sub-section 6, the rate of the child’s allowance will in all cases be £13 per annum, or 5s. a week. This rate is not affected by the means test, which is applicable only to the husband’s pension and the wife’s allowance. Under the proposed new section 23d, paragraph a, an ex-member of ‘the forces suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis not due to war service may receive both a service pension and an invalid pension within the statutory income limits. His wife, if otherwise qualified, will also be paid a service pension for herself and for a child. In such an event, the wife will not be entitled to receive, in addition, an allowance under this legislation, either for herself or for the child. Under paragraph b, where the wife of an invalid pensioner is an inmate -of a benevolent asylum or hospital for the insane, she will not be entitled to receive an allowance either for herself or for a child.
Neither will she he entitled to receive ‘an allowance if her husband is an inmate of any such institution. However, should the husband become an inmate of a hospital for the insane, the wife will be entitled to apply for a pension under the Widows’ Pensions Act. The reason for the provision that a wife shall not be paid an allowance if her husband is an inmate of a benevolent asylum is that she is free from the responsibility of caring for him and is therefore in much the same position as a woman who is living apart from her husband. As I have already explained, a woman who is living apart from her husband is ineligible to receive an allowance.
The proposed new section 23e is selfexplanatory.
The proposed new section 23i? is much the same as section 37 of the principal act. It is considered necessary that the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner should have the power to cancel or suspend .an allowance if he considers that there ‘are adequate reasons for doing so.
– I should like the Minister to take steps to have the amount of 15s. a week raised to £1 5s. a week. As a private member, I may not move an amendment that would increase the appropriation. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to obtain from the Governor-General a further message recommending an additional appropriation for the purpose. The amount of 15s. a week is altogether too small to give to a mother, even if we accept the statement of the Minister that these unfortunate people are being given some relief. “Some relief” may not necessarily be adequate relief. A woman who is attending, to an invalid husband is entitled to relief at least similar to that given to an old-age pensioner. The provision in respect of an invalid pensioner, his wife and one child, under this measure, will permit of a. combined income of £2 5s. a week. If the husband should die, the widow, strangely enough, will become much better off financially, because, as a widow, she will receive £1 5s. a week in addition to 5s. a week for her child ; thus, she will receive only 15s. a week less than was received into the home during the lifetime of her husband. Yet we expect her to live on 15s. a week while he is alive. I do not know the reason for the differentiation between the wife of an invalid pensioner and his widow.- Under the Widows Pensions Act, what is euphemistically described as a de facto widow - she may also be described as a never-married widow, a non-married wife at the time of her widowhood, a natural widow, or any other paraphrase of the expressions used in the debate on the Australian -Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill last week - is treated better than the woman who stands by her husband during his invalidity and nurses him until his death. Man and wife who are old-age pensioners are paid £1 5s. a week each. They may live for many years; fortunately, the period of longevity is increasing. Yet, under this legislation, the wife of an invalid pensioner is to receive only 15s. a week, although in all human probability, because of the very nature of the man’s invalidity, he is destined to die early; few invalid pensioners draw the pension for more than five or six years, and certainly the average would not be anything like that. The cost, therefore, would not be so great that the Minister should refuse to consider the matter further. I repeat an earlier remark - that if we do not do the thing properly now, we may have few opportunities for amendment later. I do not envisage the likelihood of another amending bill being brought before this Parliament for some years ; consequently, I do not propose to allow this opportunity to pass without claiming the absolute right of the widow of an invalid pensioner to receive the same consideration as is given to the wife of an old-age pensioner when she reaches the age at which she becomes eligible to apply for a pension. ‘ There is as much demerit in proposing that the wife of an invalid pensioner shall be asked to live on 15s. a week as there would be in asking the wife of an old-age pensioner to exist on that amount. A comparison of the situation of the two women- is greatly to the disadvantage of the wife of an invalid pensioner; because, as I stated earlier, an invalid pensioner has to .purchase out of the meagre pittance which this Parliament gives to him not only the necessaries of life, but also medicines and other requirements in order to alleviate his sufferings.
.- This clause is based largely upon the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Social Security. All the arguments used by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in support of making the rate 25s. a week could be used with equal logic by some one who, wishing to vie with him for space in Hansard, advocated that the rate be increased to £2 a week, or even to £5 a week. These matters were discussed in another place where it was agreed that certain proposals should” be submitted to Parliament. When proposals are accepted by the party, and then members of the party get up in this chamber and argue for the acceptance of a higher rate than was agreed to, their action amounts to scoring off their mates. It is time that a member of the rank and file told some of these honorable members-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member is discussing matters outside the scope of the bill.
– This bill provides for the payment of an allowance to the dependants of invalid pensioners. It goes further than any proposal of the kind has ever gone before, and it has been introduced by a Labour Government. For my part, I propose to support what the party decided on, which is what the Government has submitted.
.- It is provided in proposed new section 23 d that an allowance shall not be payable ‘to a person who is, or whose husband is, an inmate of a benevolent asylum or hospital for the insane. I understand that the wife of a person in a hospital for the insane is eligible to receive a widow’s pension, but there appears to be no provision for the wife of a person in a benevolent asylum.
– In that case, the husband who is an inmate of the benevolent asylum would continue to draw an invalid pension.
– But why should his wife be excluded from any benefit?
– The purpose of the pension is to make it possible for the wife of an invalid pensioner to look after the pensioner. The pensioner himself will continue to draw his pension, while the wife will be free to go to work.
.- I accept the assurance of the Minister in regard to the amount of the allowance, but I want to know whether a wife who is receiving an allotment from her son in the Military Forces will be eligible to receive an allowance under this provision.
– An allotment received from a soldier is not regarded as income for the purposes of this provision, but a war pension is.
.- If the wife of an invalid pensioner, who is an inmate of a benevolent institution, has young children to look after she cannot go out to work. Therefore, I believe that this clause should be reconsidered by the Minister.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who is temporarily absent from the chamber, is apparently conscience-stricken because of his behaviour in another place, and therefore he proceeded to lecture me-
– Order ! I directed the attention of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) to the fact that there is no reference in the bill to the matter which he was discussing. This applies also to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– The honorable member for Bass made a statement which was not challenged at the time. He said that some members of the Labour party were attempting to score off their mates.
– Which is true.
– It is not true. I have not challenged the vote or criticized the attitude of any honorable member.
– I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to direct his remarks to the bill. Otherwise he must be seated.
– Certainly. My support of the proposal to increase the allowance from 15s. a week to 25s. is quite consistent with my attitude in this chamber and elsewhere. Unlike the honorable member for Bass, I did not vote four times in the caucus against the proposal to fix the rate of old-age pensions at £ 1 5s. a week, and then come into this House and make the longest speech in favour of it. I have not diverged from the policy of the Labour party on the matter of pensions. All these mock heroics from Ministers and from some other members of my party–
– Order ! The honorable member must be seated.
– What about the proposal to increase the allowance?
– The honorable member would not discuss the clause, and therefore he must be seated.
– Do you mean that I may not further discuss the proposal to pay an allowance of only 15s. a week to the dependants of invalid pensioners?
– I invited the honorable member to discuss that subject, but he declined to do so. I now invite him to resume his seat.
– I tried to discuss the matter, but you were so intolerant.
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That, after proposed new section 23f, the following new section be added : - “ 23g. For the purposes of this Part, invalid pensioner ‘ includes an old-age pensioner who is permanently incapacitated for work.”
– I understand the intention of the Minister, but it seems to me that he is going a roundabout way to achieve it. If this amendment be accepted we shall have three classes of pensioners - old-age pensioners, invalid pensioners, and old-age pensioners whose wives are drawing dependants’ allowances. If an old-age pensioner is permanently incapacitated, he should immediately become qualified to draw an invalid pension.
– That is the purpose of this amendment.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Yes, but, as I said, the Minister is doing it in a roundabout way.
– Will the Minister at some future time consider the inclusion of a provision to pay an allowance, not only to the wife of an invalid pensioner, but also to a female relative who attends to him ? This principle is recognized in the case of deductions allowed under our taxation laws.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Limit of pension).
.- I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the committee an anomaly which I think should be removed. The permissible income provisions react to the detriment of some men who are not themselves pensioners but whose wives are pensioners. A man in the back country might earn 38s. 6d. a week - many men do receive as little as that. Half of that amount is charged against his wife as income received by her. She therefore receives 6s. 9d. a week over the permissible income of 12s. 6d. a week and her pension is accordingly reduced from £1 6s. a week to 19s. 3d. a week. The total income of the husband and wife is £2 17s. 9d. a week. I now cite the case of a husband and wife, both of whom are pensioners. The husband may receive from a superannuation fund or a life assurance annuity £3 a week. Half of that is charged against each as income. That reduces his pension to8s. 6d. a week and her pension similarly. Their combined income is £3 17s. a week as against the £2 17s. 9d. a week earned by the couple, of whom only one is a pensioner. A third case showing the inequality with which couples, only one of whom is a pensioner, may be treated as compared with couples, both of whom are pensioners, is this : the husband earns £1 18s. 6d. a week, reducing his pension and his wife’s pension to 19s. 3d. each. Their total income is £3 17s., 19s. 3d. a week more than that of the non-pensioner and his wife. No income of the husband should be charged against the wife unless his total income a week exceeds 38s. 6d., that is the amount of the pension and the 12s. 6d. of permissible income. My point is that a wife of. a person who is not a pensioner but who is earning a small income, is at a substantial disadvantage as against the wife of the pensioner. The Minister is familiar with this matter?
– I should like the act to be amended to overcome this anomaly.
– A new amendment would be needed.
– Then let us have it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
Section forty-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ a pensioner “ and inserting in their stead the words “ an invalid or old-age pensioner “.
– Section 45 of the principal act provides for the suspension of the pension when the pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane. Section 40a provides that the pension may be paid to a benevolent institution for the benefit of a pensioner inmate. The Master of Lunacy, or the person corresponding to him, has power under the State laws to sue the relatives for the maintenance of a patient in an asylum for the insane. What I suggest is that when an invalid or old-age pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane, the Pensions Commissioner shall have power to pay for his maintenance a sum not exceeding the amount of the pension, that is, any sum he chooses up to that limit. That would relieve a few cases in which oldage pensioners have been committed to asylums for the insane and their children have been required to maintain them. Two cases have come to my notice. In the first, an old-age pensioner was committed at the age of 70 to an asylum for the insane. . His pension was suspended. The Master in Lunacy claimed from his son 10s. a week for his maintenance. In the second case the daughter was the one on whom the claim was made for the maintenance of her parent who had been committed to an asylum for the insane. That is wrong. The Commonwealth should make a contribution towards the maintenance of its pensioners who are committed to asylums for the insane. Accordingly, I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “and (b) by adding the following proviso: - Provided that the Minister may direct that an amount, not exceeding the amount of the suspended pension, may be applied, on such conditions and for such period as the Minister directs, towards the cost of maintenance of the pensioner while he is an inmate of an asylum for the insane
– We cannot accept that amendment. It would have to be considered.
– Will it be considered?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Funeral benefit).
.- The subject of funeral benefit was dealt with in general terms on the second reading, but I should like to be clear as to the meaning of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 48a which provides -
I wish to be certain that that means that the Government will pay a sum not exceeding £10 to the person who has paid, or is liable to pay, the cost of the funeral, notwithstanding that that person may be a contributor to a funeral benefit fund. I direct attention to sub-clause 4 of proposed new section 48a which reads -
No payment shall be made under this section to a person . . . administering a contributory funeral benefit fund.
Usually a person “ administering a contributory funeral benefit fund “ is a firm of undertakers.
– Or a friendly society.
– Friendly societies are especially provided for in the proposed sub-section. I wish to know whether a relative of a pensioner who arranges for a funeral for such pensioner which costs more than £10, and is a contributor to a funeral benefit fund will be entitled to any payment. The Minister said that he wished to discourage contributions by pensioners to funds of this kind, and he cited an instance in which an administrator of a funeral fund addressed a meeting of old-age pensioners on the type of funeral that would be provided if they contributed to a certain fund. The majority of contributors to such a fund will continue to make their payments because they wish to have a better type of funeral than can be provided for £10. So long as I am assured that the Government proposes to pay to the relatives of a deceased pensioner an amount up to £10 in respect of a funeral which costs more than £10 I shall be satisfied. My view is that a contributor to such a fund is not “ a person administering a contributory funeral benefit fund “.
– The honorable member asks that if the relative expends £15 on a funeral, the Government will pay £10?
– So long as receipts are produced.
– I hope that that will be the case.
– A pensioner might have contributed to a friendly society, and under its rules his heirs might be entitled to claim a benefit of £20. The funeral expenses might total £30, which has been the average cost of a funeral for a number of years. I should like the Minister to inform me whether the Government will supplement the friendly society’s grant of £20 with a payment of £10.
– Yes, that is the position.
– Then the position is better than I thought, and is better than a scrutiny of the bill leads one to believe.
– A contribution of £10 will be paid upon the production of the receipts for the funeral expenses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to;
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
University Students : Medical Students and Services - Profiteering in Tobacco - Loan Publicity: Newspaper Advertisement; Map of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to direct attention to some phases of the activities of the Universities Commission, of which I am a member, although I do not propose to deal with the set-up, work and functions of that body, because those aspects have already been covered by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), under whose jurisdiction the commission operates.
Abraham Lincoln, a president of the United States of America, and the saviour of the Union, in the opening sentence of his world-famous Gettysburg address, gave expression to the following sentiment : -
Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are born equal.
The exact meaning of the expression “ all men are born equal “ is a moot point, and has been the cause of much controversy and disputation. We do know, however, that no two leaves of ivy are exactly alike, and that in the same family one child may be constitutionally strong and mentally well-equipped whilst the second may be a weakling. This Government believes that every boy and every girl, every youth and every maid in this Commonwealth is entitled to the training and education befitting his or her capacity and ability. Each is entitled to his or her birthright. Under the Government’s scheme, boys and girls of considerable natural ability, whose parents cannot afford to give them a university education, will have their fees and expenses paid by the Government. At present a “means test” operates, but we nope that, within a short time, it will be abolished. The standards of our universities are high, and the graduates compare favorably with those of the universities of the old world. Naturally, we desire those standards to be maintained. The university is no place for mediocrities. Unfortunately, in Australia, as in other countries, many students are not of sufficient mental Calibre to be worth a university education. The poor in pocket, the poor in mind and the poor in spirit are always with us.
A week ago, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) criticized the work of the Universities Commission. One of his chief complaints was based on the fact that the number of first year medical students taken at the beginning of the current year was smaller than the number last year. For example, at the Queensland University, the quota this year was 40, compared with 48 last year, a diminution of approximately 17 per cent. At first sight, this falling-off appears. to be very serious, and merits careful investigation. It is natural that the Universities Commission should incur a certain amount of blame for the position, and that is my reason for speaking on this subject to-night.
The present position is serious. That we should have trained personnel in Australia is a vital necessity, and the commission was established as a war-time activity. We hope that it will continue in peace-time. Its present object is to train young men and women for the urgent necessities of war. We find ourselves in extremis juis rebus. We were and are still in urgent and imminent danger. The quotas for the various universities’ were fixed by the commission in close collaboration with the man-power authorities. Young medical students at the beginning of 1943 will be of no use as medical practitioners until the end of 194S.
– They will be very necessary then.
– No one appreciates more than I do the necessity for doctors; I lived in the Far North for many years. But I emphasize that when a house is on fire,- the urgent necessity is not to be thinking how the walls should ‘be decorated, but to extinguish the flames. To-day, we are short of engineers. These are urgently required in iron and steel works, and for the manufacture of aeroplanes and munitions, as well as for the construction of harbours, bridges, roads and railways. That work is behind the operational areas. I need hardly detail the duties of engineers in the operational areas. An engineering course at a university takes three years. We need dentists even to a greater degree than we require medical men. We also urgently require more general scientists, veterinary scientists and agricultural scientists. The agricultural science and veterinary science courses take three years.
Some people might ask why we should bother about training these scientists.
Only recently in this House we discussed the necessity for ensuring adequate supplies of food for members of the fighting services and the civilian population. I read a report recently that the United States of America expected to despatch 4,000,000 trained soldiers overseas within the next twelve months. Many of those soldiers may come to this country. Therefore, we shall require to increase our agricultural production and the production of foodstuffs generally. This involves an intensive study of soils, the application of fertilizer and the rotation of crops and grazing, as well as irrigation projects. At the same time, we shall depend largely upon the veterinary scientist to maintain adequate supplies of meat by the systematic raising of cattle, sheep and pigs.
The commission was set up as a war measure. We must train the personnel which I have described as soon as possible. I have said that the commission fixes the quota of students in close collaboration with the man-power authorities. Should a young man or woman fail to gain entrance, he or she has the right of appeal to the commission.
– Many young students under military age are- being refused admission to the universities.
– Our universities should not be homes for mediocrities. Many first-year medical students have failed to obtain higher than 40 per cent, marks in such subjects as chemistry and physics which are compulsory subjects for the medical course. I assure honorable members that every application for admission to a university is decided on its merits. In cases of illness, students are required to produce medical certificates. The acid test is whether a student has a reasonable chance of reaching the required standard in the maximum period, plus one year. No university will reject the application of any student except on very good grounds, because we need as many trained personnel as we can possibly obtain. Therefore, good material will not be cast aside. However, students who would not reach the required standard would only act as a bottleneck in preventing more promising students from obtaining entrance to the , university. I repeat that the universities apply the tests and the commission determines appeals. The commission was appointed in November last. It started from scratch. I do not say that it has not made any mistakes. Indeed, any person, or body, which does not make some mistakes, does very little else. The commission is resolved to help the universities tomake the greatest possible contribution to the war effort. I think that I speak for the commission as a whole when I say that it will welcome constructive criticism and helpful suggestions. I hope that it will develop a national outlook, and move from strength to strength, becoming a powerful factor in the development of an enlightened democracy in this country.
I take this opportunity to place upon record the commission’s appreciation of the arduous work which has been done on its behalf by the chairman, Professor Mills. I read in to-day’s press the following paragraph : -
In his dramatic broadcast on the evening of Sunday last, the 21st inst.. Mr. Churchill said, “ The world’s future is to the highly educated races who alone can handle the scientific apparatus necessary for pre-eminence in peace and survival in war.
At the endof his address, he added, “I hope education will become broader and more liberal”.
I said that this was a war measure. I hope it will also be a great factor in our post-war reconstruction.
On the 2nd October last on the motion for the adjournment I referred to the profiteering that is taking place inthe sale of loose tobacco. Similar representations were also made at that time by the honorable member for . Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) . Both the honorable member and I had previously made representations on this subject to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) as the result of which the Minister took two steps to improve the situation; first, the price of loose tobacco was fixed at 91/2d. an oz. ; and, secondly, vendors were obliged to register with the Prices Commissioner the price of each blend together with the prices of various tobaccos which were made in those particular blends. As I pointed out on the 2nd October the position from the public’s point of view was still most unsatisfactory. As a result of further representations whichI and the honorable member for Melbourne made on that date the Minister took additional steps. First, approval was given to the maximum retail selling price of 91/2d. an oz. regardless of quality; and, secondly, in order to enable manufacturers, should they desire to do so, to make arrangements to market their tobacco in packets, and also to enable retailers to sell stocks on hand, that price was not to operate until a month after the 7th February. Two months have since elapsed; but the situation has not improved. I have in my hand seven samples of this class of tobacco. These were bought in various suburbs of Melbourne including Richmond, Fitzroy, Windsor and South Yarra. They consist almost entirely of stalks, bits and pieces and dust. Yet for this tobacco the public is expected to pay exhorbitant prices ranging from1s. 4d. to1s. 6d. an oz. and, in some cases, up to 2s. an oz. Not long ago the association controlling the supply of tobacco announced that there would be a shortage of lower-grade tobacco leaf, and of some of the cheaper brands of tobacco then offered for sale. On this point the Minister for Trade and Customs stated on the 27th January that, simultaneously with the cut in the quota, steps would be taken to meet the increasing demand for higher-grade leaf and the falling demand for lower-grade leaf. An increased demand for better tobacco than that which is being pushed on to the people at present is natural. The cheaper brands of tobacco were withdrawn from sale, but, unfortunately, tobacco was offered for sale at higher prices which was a very poor quality article. This exploitation of the. public is still proceeding. There is a widespread tendency to put all the blame on the retailers, but the retailers complain that they are unjustly accused. When they make a protest about the poor standard of tobacco supplied to them, they are told, “If you don’t like it you can lump it. You can have this or nothing at all”. I suggest that the root of the trouble lies with the manufacturers and the wholesalers. Generally speaking, the retailers are scrupulous in their dealings.
Except in isolated cases, they do not attempt to exploit the public. A more rigid control of prices is necessary, but, associated with it there must also bc control of quality. How far such control exists to-day I do not know. There may be no control. Obviously, however, control is essential. The institution of pricefixing will get us nowhere unless there is also control of quality. Price-fixing without control of quality must lead to profiteering. I ask the Government, therefore, to make another investigation bt’ the whole position with a view to effecting improvements. The manufacturing and wholesale branches of the trade need attention. It is bad enough for smokers to be put on short rations, but it is adding insult to injury to compel them to buy inferior tobacco at exorbitant prices. The public is properly demanding an improvement of the methods of control.
.- I bring to the attention of the Government two matters relating to the publicity activities in connexion with the third liberty lean. I refer first to an advertisement which appeared in the Launceston Examiner on “Wednesday, “the 3rd March, 1.943. There appears to be no authorization for the advertisement, although a line appears at the bottom of it which reads, “Advance subscriptions to the war loan “. The. advertisement is headed, “ Saboteur at work “, and includes a photograph of a lady signing a cheque. There is written across the advertisement the words, “ I enclose herewith my cheque for carpets, furniture and furnishings supplied by you. Yours faithfully, Mary Quisling”. The suggestion is that this hypothetical person is buying luxury goods when the money so spent should be invested in 6d. war savings stamps, fi war savings certificates, or £10 national savings bonds. The designers of the advertisement seem to lack imagination. Such appeals are unlikely to help to raise the money necessary to prosecute the war. I suggest to the Government that if the persons who prepared this advertisement are unable to do something more effective, they should be replaced by other persons with more imagination.
My next complaint relates to a map which purports to be a map of Australia.
I have not seen copies of this map, but many references to it have appeared in Tasmanian newspapers in the last few days. The map is being circulated with the abject of assisting in the war appeal, but it shows only the five mainland States of Australia. It does not show Tasmania, or even suggest that Tasmania exists. I ask whether any honorable member can imagine a greater insult to the people of Tasmania than to circulate a map purporting to be a map of the Commonwealth, which does not show Tasmania?
– I do not think that “ any State should be excluded. This is a serious matter to the people of Tasmania. Australia is supposed to be a federation of six States, and persons who expect to encourage subscriptions to the war loan from the people of Tasmania should not ignore Tasmania in this way. This does not appeal to Tasmanians, but rather helps to put their backs up. This is not the first occasion on which I have had to bring under the notice of the Government the publicity adopted in appealing for subscriptions to loans, which has not only antagonized the persons to whom it was addressed, but has also hurt their feelings.” I regard this latest offence not as being due merely to an oversight, but as an unpardonable blunder. I do not know who is responsible for it, but I raise the question tonight with all. the emphasis at my command, because I know the feeling of Tasmanians on the subject. You, Mr. Speaker, know as well, as I do that federation has for many years been a sore subject with the smaller States, particularly Western Australia and Tasmania, because they feel to some extent out of things. That has been so right down through the years since the colonies federated, and incidents of this character do not strengthen the federal bonds. 1 believe that this matter comes within the Treasurer’s department. I know that he has been approached by the Premier of Tasmania as well as by the Lord Mayor of Hobart in regard to it, and I desire him to take immediate action to have the map withdrawn from circulation. If it is desirable to use this form of advertising as an appeal for the loan, a real map of Australia, and not one of part only, which is an insult to the parts that are left out, should be circulated.
– I support the representations of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) in regard to the rubbish being sold as tobacco in city markets.
– Has the honorable member tried it?
– As a non-smoker I have not, but the very look of it is enough to excite disgust. How the State health authorities, the Prices Commissioner, or the Trade and Customs Department allow the stuff to be sold to the public is beyond my comprehension. With the honorable member for Flinders, I have drawn attention to the subject for the past twelve or eighteen months. Some of this socalled tobacco consists of pieces of wood. I know, of course, that in recent years the tobacco which has been sold for the use of the public has steadily deteriorated. At one time the pure leaf was used, but of late stalks have been chopped into pieces, treated with treacle and sold to the public as tobacco. That has been done by most respectable firms in Australia, but what the honorable member for Flinders complains of is much worse than that. It is no wonder that one of those respectable firms, Carreras Limited in Mel- “ . . bourne makes exorbitant profits out of the stuff now sold to the public, which, bv the way, is mostly Australian-grown. In 1932 Carreras had only £37,000 in reserves. In 1939 it bad. £98,000 in reserves, and paid a dividend of 33-J per cent. In 1940, which was a war year, when people were making big sacrifices, or were supposed to be doing so, to assist the war effort, the profits of the firm rose to 52^- per cent. In 1941, when still greater sacrifices were demanded, the rate of profit rose still higher to 71 per cent. In 1939 the amount which Carreras had in reserves was, as I have said, £98,000, but in 1942 it had risen to £155,000. In 1942 the rate of profit was still 45 per cent., at a time when the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was talking about, permitting no profit of over 4 per cent, to be made. The idea of limiting profits to 4 per cent, was dropped, but the profits of this firm have never dropped to anything like reasonable proportions. I cite Carreras Limited because it is one of the worst examples of the exploitation of the smoking public. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) ought to do something really practical in answer to the protest made by the honorable member for Flinders. At one time stuff was exhibited by the honorable member and myself which actually consisted of street sweepings. It. was rubbish taken out of the butts of cigarettes picked up in the streets, remade into tobacco, and given a fancy name. Because it was not given an ordinary trade name, the Prices Commissioner did not fix a price for it, and apparently, it was regarded as being beyond price control.
I desire also to refer to the comments of the honorable member ..for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) in regard to the Universities Commission pf which he is a distinguished member. I heard his plea in defence of the decision of the commission that the number of students in Australian universities should be reduced on an average by 27 per cent, in 1943 as compared with 1942. The matter arose recently from a statement by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) which. I immediately challenged and criticized. Since then I have had the opportunity of consulting Professor Mills, the chairman of the commission, and other people. I say now, definitely, that the report- of the Universities Commission and the Director-General of Man Power is not worth the paper on which it is written. Not only does Australia need every medical student that it can obtain at the present time, but more if possible. The decision to reduce the number of students in the medical faculties in the three universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane is entirely unwarranted. It is a retrograde step and definitely against the best interests of the Commonwealth. I find from discussions with people who are in a position to know that the Commonwealth Director-General of Health was not consulted by either the Universities Commission or the Director-General of Man Power. No State Minister for Health and no chairman of a State health commission was ever consulted by the Man Power Directorate or the Universities Commission. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane were not consulted, nor was the ViceChancellor of any of those universities. The Of n tral Medical Co-ordination Committee working under the aegis of the Department of Defence, and containing in its membership some of the most distinguished medical men of the Commonwealth, was not consulted. No State branch of the British Medical Association was consulted. In fact nobody having any knowledge of the subject at all was consulted, but a decision was arrived at by people, none of whom was a. medical man, and none of whom knew anything about the medical needs of Australia. It would be a scandal to allow the position to remain as it is. There were 490 medical students in Australian Universities last year. With the quota determined by the Universities Commission we 3hall have less than 400 this year. It was said that the reason why this decision had to be made was that we lacked teachers, accommodation and equipment. We have the same teachers, accommodation and equipment to teach the same or a greater number of students this year as last year. I do not need to elaborate the argument in regard to the greater health measures which we propose to take, during this Avar and in the post-war years. I say nothing about the State medical services or the greater concern of all governments, Commonwealth and State, for the health of the people, but I do say that if we do not make greater provision than is proposed in the years that are to elapse between now and the end of the war we shall be sadly in need of doctors when the war is over. I know that when this war broke out the British Government appealed to the Australian Government for doctors to go to England to help them in their need in the first years of the blitz. We could not spare any doctors from Australia because we ourselves were short of them and Great Britain had to turn to America to obtain much-needed medical aid. We were short in 1939 and we are short now.’ Of our 6,000 doctors we have 2.000 engaged full-time in connexion with the armed forces, and only 4,000 are left to attend the needs of the remaining 6,500,000 people. The outbreak of typhoid fever in Melbourne has to be attended to by a medical staff which is two-thirds of the pre-war strength. The suggestion that there shall be a further reduction of 25 per cent, of the number of medical students is fatuous. I shall not use a stronger term, although much stronger language would be fully justified. The argument that an engineering course is completed in three years and that, therefore, it is desirable to turn out two engineers to every doctor, is not convincing; because, although engineers are necessary, doctors are equally -needed, to attend to engineers as * well as to other people. If we could have engineering students last year, .we can have the same number this year. It is not suggested that the number shall be increased. If it be necessary to increase the number let that be done, but not at the expense of those who are studying medicine. Fortunately, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is looking into the matter. I have a good deal of faith in him and believe that he will place the position before .the Director-General of Man Power in a way which that gentleman has not so far learned to appreciate. I am confident that the needs of the community will be studied and that the medical authorities I have named will be consulted before a final, decision is made. Leaving the position where it is would be really scandalous. Therefore, I raise my voice in support of the claims of the common people who need doctors, rather than on behalf of those persons who are medical students. I do not disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) that the entrance standards are still set by the universities themselves. That is perfectly true. The matter relates, not to university standards, but to the quotas which shall be admitted to each of the essential faculties - medicine, dentistry, agricultural science, engineering and veterinary science - in the three universities which do the whole or a portion of the courses of those faculties. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who is in charge of the House, will note what I have said. I am in a position to have greater knowledge of the subject than most other honorable members because I am the nominee of the Prime Minister on the Central Medical Co-ordination Committee. I assure the honorable gentleman that the members of that committee must have been astounded when the decision was reached, without their having been consulted, that the number of medical students in Australian universities was to be reduced at the most critical period of Australia’s history. The argument advanced to me by Professor Mills - that the views of the Director-General of Health, Dr. Cumpston, had been taken into consideration - was unconvincing when it was discovered that the estimate made by him for a somewhat different purpose was the only thing the committee had to go on. He could at least have been consulted so that the commission might have had the benefit of his views, based upon a long period of useful service in the employment of the Commonwealth.
– in reply. - I have not seen the “ Quisling “ advertisement, associated with loan publicity, concerning which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has spoken. It is but natural that a large number of advertisements should appear without coming to my notice. The matter is under the control of a very competent body, one of the members of which is a first-class journalist who has been associated with a leading Australian morning newspaper. I assume that he is not entirely ignorant of what is likely to catch the public imagination.
I apologize for the omission of Tasmania from the map that was published. I am informed that it was printed in Sydney and was distributed before the omission was noticed. The distribution of it was immediately stopped in order that the mistake might be repaired. I shall ensure that no further copies of the incomplete map will be printed.
I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) the marketing of inferior tobacco to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). The subject is one in which I take some interest and of which I have first-hand knowledge.
It is not suggested that the students who are now being taken into the medical faculty of the different universities are likely to be able to assist us during the present war; at least, I hope that the conflict will be over before they have completed their studies. I agree, however, that the matter oughtto be examined in order to ascertain whether the provision will be sufficient to meet post-war needs. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) raised the matter last week when the Minister who controls the Universities Commission was present. I shall ask my colleague to examine it further.
– I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service to look into it.
– I do not know in what way that Minister is associated with it.
– The report of. the commission was based upon recommendations of the Director-General of Man Power.
– I am informed that the allocations were made by the commission, based on the previous quotas. I shall direct the attention of the Minister to the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Common wealth pu rposes -
Adelaide River. Northern Territory.
Lidcombe, New South Wales.
Manton Gap, near Darwin, Northern Territory.
Sandy Bay, Tasmania.
National Security Act -
National Security (Civil Defence Workers’ Compensation ) Regulations - Order -
Eligible persons (Western Australia).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Manufacture of baby carriages.
Taking possession of land, &c. (162). Use ofland (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943. Nos. 58, 59,60,61.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 57.
House adjourned at12.23 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– On the 17th
March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether a newspaper called The Standard had been registered for transmission by post for a period of approximately 38 years.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
With regard to the question of registration of the publication known as The Standard Weekly, it is desired to point out that the title of a newspaper is not a subject in which the Postal Department is normally concerned. The provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act relating to the registration of newspapers make no stipulation respecting the matter of the name or title of a publication submitted for registration.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.No.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he arrange to lay on the table of the House the report or any documents in possession of the Government setting out the views of the Central Wool Committee relating to (a) the selection of country wool appraisement centres, and (b) the future handling of the Australian wool clip?
– The Central Wool Committee has not communicated to the Government its views on the subjects mentioned by the honorable member. Thesematters are not within its province. The committee is the instrumentality which manages in Australia the United Kingdom Government’s scheme of acquirement of our wool by appraisement. After appraisement, it stores and ships the wool as directed by the United Kingdom Government. “ Smith’s Weekly”.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Smith’s Weekly received accreditation as war correspondent for a member of its staff?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army - Misappropriation of Funds : Clothing.
s. - On the 26th February, the honorable member forLang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me a question, without notice, in regard to a defalcation in certain military accounts in Sydney. I desire to advise the honorable member that I have seen a full report on this matter and that the officer concerned has been proceeded against in a civil court. A full inquiry is being made into the whole matter with particular reference to the accountancy systems in force.
With reference to the honorable member’s suggestion that inquiries should be made into the civil record of all military officers, I desire to advise the honorable member that in this connexion, a very close liaison exists between the military authorities and the civil police.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1. (a) Is it a fact that only one each of the nineteen items of clothing is issued to each member of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces? (b) If not, how many of each item of clothing are issued at the one time?
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f ollows : - 1. (a.) No. (b) Authorized issue scale for major items is - One hat, one steel helmet, two pairs boots, one beret (armoured units), one greatcoat, one cloth jacket, one working dress juniper, one cloth trousers, two drill trousers, one pair web anklets, three pairs woollen socks, two towels, two military shirts, two worsted or flannel shirts, two cotton drawers (summer), two woollen drawers (winter), one jersey pullover, two cotton singlets (summer), two woollen singlets (winter). All items are authorized for issue on enlistment. Additional working dress is issued to personnel engaged as cooks, butchers, &c. 2. (a) No. (b) No. (c) No.
n. - On the 16th March, 1943, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Warwick) asked, without notice, whether the Government would make available the report and finding of Judge Payne who inquired intothe matter of barley contracts inWestern Australia. I desire to inform the honorable member that it is not proposed that this report be made public.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430323_reps_16_174/>.