17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-In view of the widespread damage caused by floods in Western Australia, including the washingout of crops, the loss of many lambs, large losses of tomatoes and other vegetables and the evacuation of homes, will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government will consider relief measures similar to those being considered in connexion with the flooddamaged areas of New South Wales?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me some days ago, and I have also read newspaper accounts of the damage caused by floods in Western Australia, but I have not received any official intimation from the Government of that State, nor has any request been made for relief apart from the representations of the honorable member. During the week, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) raised the matter of Common wealth relief in necessitous cases in New South Wales. Mr. Baddeley, the Acting Premier of New South Wales, has sent to me certain proposals which I shall ask Cabinet to consider next Monday. If particulars of damage caused in Western Australia are furnished to me, enabling the circumstances to be surveyed, consideration will be given to the matter. However, as I have already pointed out, local troubles of this kind come within the province of the State governments, and the Commonwealth Government does not usually intervene in other than a great national disaster.
– Has the Acting
Primp Minister read the statement made by thePostm aster-General (Senator Cameron) in the Senate, that the Government may find it necessary to strike a capital levy on fortunes over a certain amount? Will the right honorable gentleman examine this pronouncement in the light of section 51, placitum xxxi. of the Constitution, which gives to the Commonwealth Parliament the power to acquire property “ on just terms “ ?
– I have not read, but have heard a broadcast announcement of, a statement regarding a capital levy purporting to have been made by the Postmaster-General. Whatever the Postm aster-General may have said on the subject would be merely his personal opinion.
– He is a Minister of the Crown.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), while a Minister of the Crown, made peculiar statements at times. The Government has not given consideration to any proposal for a capital levy. So far as I am aware - and I am familiar with most of what is in the mind of the Government - it does not propose to do so. Incidentally, the striking of a capital levy does not happen to be a part of the platform of the Australian Labour party.
– Will the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Army investigate allegations that servicemen, some of them B class, after having spent home leave, are being sent out of Tasmania, while A class men who have never been out of Tasmania during the war are allowed to remain? Does the Minister think that is fair treatment of men who have already served in operational areas?
– It is obvious that I cannot give a full explanation unless I know the details.
– All I ask is that the Minister shall investigate the allegations.
– It may be that men transferred from Tasmania to the mainland are key men needed for responsible positions, and that they have to be transferred notwithstanding that they have given long service overseas, because other men do not possess suitable qualifications.
If the honorable member will give me the details of .cases which he has in mind I shall have them investigated-.
– When making his promised statement to-day in regard to the discharge of service personnel with more than five years’ service, will the Acting Prime Minister state what procedure should be adopted by members of the services who desire to obtain their discharge? I have received approximately 30 applications from such men, and consider that I am not the man to whom applications should be made.
– I have already said that my statement will give particulars of a graduated system under which men will be released, and the general principles that are to be followed. I do not think that I shall be able to state the authority to which applications will have to be made, but I shall make a statement on that point later. i manufacture of cloth.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether it will be possible soon to discontinue the manufacture of single-weft cloth and change over entirely to double-weft in the quantities required to meet home and export requirements.
– I appreciate the keen interest taken by the honora’ble member in ensuring the provision of high-quality goods, but I want again to make it clear, as I have done on a hundred occasions, that I have never taken any action, by regulation or otherwise, at any time to prohibit the manufacture of double-weft cloth ; yet the press of this country continues to publish the misleading and false statement that I have. Nor has any other government department taken action to prohibit the manufacture of double-weft cloth. The honorable member asked me whether it would be possible at some future date to discontinue the manufacture of single weft cloth. The Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power to prevent the manufacture of single weft cloth, but State governments have that authority. If it is considered that only double-weft cloth should be manufactured, the necessary representations should be made to the respective State governments.
– “Will the Acting Prime Minister discuss with the Government of the United Kingdom the advisability of raising the Australian High Commissioner in Great Britain, and the High ‘Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, to the status of Minister ?
– These matters are constantly under review. When the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) resumes duty, I shall ask him to discuss the subject with the Minister for External. Affairs.
– I understand that cabled press reports have been received stating that the British Government has prepared a White Paper on migration, and that the Commonwealth Government has reached an agreement with Great Britain on the matter of free passages for British ex-servicemen, and assisted passages for civilians who desire to migrate to this country. Has the Acting Prime Minister any knowledge of the issue of that White Paper? If it has been published, will the honorable gentleman make its contents known to honorable members?
– Earlier this week, in reply to a question on migration, I intimated that discussions had taken place between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth regarding the migration to Australia of adults and children. On the major points agreement has been reached, and at one period it was understood that the British Government and the Commonwealth Government would simultaneously release statements on the subject. For some reason which I do not recall now, that statement was deferred. I am familiar with the details of the agreement. In my earlier reply, I promised to ask the Minister for the Interior, who is responsible for migration, to prepare a statement on the matter. The usual practice, when agreements are made between two countries, is for the details to be released simultaneously by the two governments, and as soon as possible I shall arrange for the necessary statement to be presented to this Parliament.
Subdivisionof Large Homes
– In the metropolitan area of Sydney there are many large homes which the owners are desirous of subdividing, but they are prohibited from doing so by certain municipal council ordinances. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consider promulgating a national security regulation to give power to councils to suspend such ordinances for the duration of the war, if they consider such action to be desirable, in order that large homes may be subdivided so as to relieve the acute housing shortage ?
– It is a fact that, in the metropolitan areas of Australia, there are numbers of large houses which could be subdivided in order to alleviate the shortage of accommodation. At this time, when there is such a critical shortage of homes, large houses should be subdivided-
– Why not let the people build houses? That is the way out.
– The Commonwealth Government has already taken action in this matter by providing finance to enable owners to subdivide such houses if they volunteer to do so, and by giving permits almost automatically to anybody who applies for a permit for that purpose.
– That is not correct.
– That is correct.
– It has not been our experience.
– If the honorable member will produce one example of the refusal of a permit to subdivide a large house, I shall deal with the matter immediately. I challenge him to produce a single case. It is easy for him to make generalizations, but when he is challenged to produce specific cases he is unable to do so.
– Applications have been before the Minister’s department for months, but have not been dealt with.
– Municipal regulations probably prevent the subdivision of large houses in some cases, and, if so, it appears to me that the State governments, from which these municipalities derive their powers, are the proper authorities to alter the regulations. I am tired of having every problem thrown onto the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. The State governments are close to this problem. They know how many large houses there are in their capital cities, and it is their responsibility to take action in the matter.
Man-power, Machinery and Materials.
– Owing to the difficulties of local governing authorities arising from the continued shortage of man-power, materials, and machinery, will the Acting Prime Minister consider their desire to be treated as essential services so that they may receive priority in connexion with the release from the services of man-power, materials and machinery?
– As a member of a shire council, I know something of the difficulties of local governing bodies as the result of shortages of man-power and machinery. It has not been possible to provide them with road-making machinery owing to the requirements of the defence services, and some time must elapse before their needs can be satisfied. I know that roads have deteriorated because of the inability of local governing bodies to obtain machinery. Probably that disability will exist longer than the disability caused by man-power shortages, but, in most cases, the two problems are linked. I shall have the matter examined, with particular attention to the shortage of machinery, to see whether it is possible to release from stocks already held by the Allied Works Council sufficient machinery to meet the needs of local governing authorities until such time as new machinery comes onto the market.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Air been drawn to a routine order reported to have been issued in Brisbane by Wing Commander L. J. K. Holton, on the 12th June, in the following terms: -
Notwithstanding previous instructions, frequent ministerial inquiries are being received at Air Force Head-quarters as the result of private communications between members and their parliamentary representatives with the object of securing favorable consideration of applications or alleged grievances. Air Board views this conduct very seriously, since it is a direct contravention of Air Force Order 12/A/21.
Is it to be understood from the inclusion in that order of the words “ frequent ministerial inquiries “ that responsible Ministers are using their Cabinet rank in an endeavour to institute a system of political preference in the Royal Australian Air Force? Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made into the reason for the issue of the order?
– Ministerial inquiries are frequently made, but, so far as I know, only by myself. They are made often at the request of honorable members, including, on occasions, the honorable member for Moreton. I am not responsible for reports that appear in the press. Many newspapers are expert in misrepresentation, a procedure which they use to full capacity. The inquiries which I make from time to time are fully justified.
– Was that routine order issued ?
– I do not consider that I need to make any explanation on this matter other than that inquiries which I make are frequently rendered necessary by the requests of honorable members of both sides of the House.
Man-power for Saw-mills.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to direct the officers of his department who recommend releases from the Army for employment in saw-mills to ensure that a proper proportion of the releases is directed to employment in country sawmills. I make this request because it has long been recognized that a timber combine exists in Australia. The Timber Advisory Panel, which makes recommendations in relation to man-power, is well aware of the position. I am afraid that independent country saw-mills get short shrift from the timber combine.
– Probably next week, an aggregate quota of men willbe allocated to timber -getting purposes. I shall ask the Timber Advisory Panel, as well as the Director-General of Man Power, to ensure that country sawmills shall share equitably in the allocation.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping read in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald the report that it is not possible to release to the public many small British motor vehicles, because no government department can advise the owners of what the landed cost or the sale price will be? Will the Minister look into the matter, and make an early decision? Will he also make a statement in regard to the immediate future of the Australian motor trade, setting out the number of motor cars that will be allowed to be imported, the exchange that will be available, and whether or not price control will continue to operate ?
– The honorable member raised this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House about a fortnight ago, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) also complained that the Prices Commission had failed to fix a price for a number of these vehicles which already are in Australia. According to my recollection, an answer was given to the honorable member for Barker. It was not conclusive, I agree, because some particulars in relation to costs overseas had not been furnished to the Australian authorities. I realize the need for an early decision, and shall ask the Department of Trade and Customs to take the matter up again immediately; also, to inquire into the second part of the honorable member’s question.
Government Ownership of Interstate Air Lines
– According to the press, the Acting Prime Minister said last night that notice would be given next week of the bill for the nationalization of interstate air lines. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether or not that is correct? If it is, will he. see that the report of the inter-departmental committee on civil aviation in Australia, which has been held by the Government for more than a year, will be tabled for the information of honorable members before the bill is brought down?
– In response to an inquiry as to when the bill was to be brought down, I said that I understood that the Minister for Civil Aviation would be in a position to give notice of its introduction during the coming week. The report referred to by the honorable gentleman was a report of departmental officers that was made for the information of the Government, and was not intended to be tabled in the Parliament.
– The House should have the fullest information on the subject.
– I should not mind the House having information that was correct. A lot of incorrect information has been supplied from different sources. I shall discuss with the Minister for Civil Aviation the tabling of the report.
Meeting in Sydney Town Hall.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the list of speakers at a non-political meeting in the Sydney Town Hall last Wednesday night, held for the purpose of protesting against the Re-establishment and Employment Bill? Is he aware that it included MajorGeneral Maguire, a disgruntled contestant for leadership of the executive of the Liberal party ; Captain Stewart, a defeated Democratic candidate for Bondi; and Lord Mayor Neville Harding, a member of the Liberal party executive, who once said that Australia would be better off under the Japanese?
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) drew my attention to the fact that this meeting had been held, and I answered certain questions thathe asked in connexion with it. I have since read references to a statement by a Dr. Maguire - who, I suspect, had political aspirations. I confess that what he had done or said did not seem to me a matter of great moment.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state what steps have been taken to settle the industrial dispute at the Crown Crystal glass works, the subject of which, I understand, has been before the Women’s Employment Board since May, 1943? Is it true that ampoules - glass containers for penicillin and serums that are urgently needed for the fighting services - cannot be made because of the existence of this dispute?
– Unfortunately, it is true that that dispute has been going on since May, 1943. It has been going through the process of legal argument ever since. It has now become very serious. Although only sixteen or seventeen women workers are involved, they were making urgently needed containers. This establishment is the only one in Australia which can make them. That makes it serious. A conference will be held in Sydney this afternoon in the hope that we shall be able to find some means to end the dispute quickly.
– Mosthouses in country districts of New South Wales are wooden. For the last five years they have not been painted. Storekeepers in various towns tell me that it is practically impossible to get sufficient quantities of paint. I have received a letter from one retailer in which he states -
Paint manufacturers inform us that the position cannot be improved without an increased production of two basic pigments, viz.. carbonate of lead and zinc oxide. Imported pigments are also in short supply, but given increased quantities of the two pigments mentioned, paint manufacturers could increase their output and so assist to meet the urgent need.
Will the Minister for Munitions thoroughly investigate the question of increased production of basic pigments in order that paint supplies, so necessary in country districts in particular, may be made available.
– Several members have mentioned this matter to me, and I intend to make a statement on the motion for the adjournment this afternoon.
In committee: Considerationresumed from the 28th June (vide page 3852).
Clause 30 (Operation of Part).
.- This clause provides that this part shall come into operation by proclamation, whereas the previous clause provides for the making of regulations. I should like the Minister assisting the Treasurer to explain why the procedure laid down in this clause was not laid down in the preceding clause.
– The only answer is that this part is to come into operation by proclamation and that the other is to be operated by regulations.
– I know that, but why the difference?
– Simply because the Government considers that proclamation of the part will be better.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 38 agreed to.
Clause 39 - (1.) The Commonwealth Bank may, with the approval of the Treasurer, make regulations -
providing that interest shall not be payable in respect of -
. - I move -
That, at the end of sub-clause (1.), the following provisos be added: - “Provided that such regulations shall be made solely for the purpose of the regulation of credit and currency in Australia in terms of the general objectives set out in section eight of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945: “ Provided further that nothing in this Part shall be construed as empowering the Commonwealth Bank to make regulations for the control of interest rates with respect to any transactions between a bank and any member of its staff or trustees of its pension, provident or like funds.”.
Clause 8 of the Commonwealth Bank Bill empowers the establishment and operation of the Commonwealth Bank. In this clause there are many unnecessary and mischievous provisions. The’ provisos I am moving are necessary safeguards. All the Associated Banks have pension or provident funds for their employees, with which it is most undesirable that a hostile organization should be able to interfere. Those provident funds are among the best in Australia in the provision of benefits. There is no reason why the Government should be able to prescribe rates of interest with respect to such funds. We agree as to the necessity to control interest rates generally, but object to the possibility of the Commonwealth Bank being able, if it so desired, to tamper with those funds, or even smash them.
– I cannot see any reason at all for paragraph c, unless the Government intends to use it as a means by which to destroy the deposits sections of the trading banks. I invite the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) to try to justify it. The advances programme of a private trading bank is regulated by the amount of its fixed deposit business. If the Commonwealth Bank, particularly with the approval of the Treasurer - in other words, with political control and manipulation - can prescribe the period for which fixed deposits may be lodged in the trading banks, and fix the interest rate payable on them, the Commonwealth Bank will be able to take very effective control of the basic machinery of the trading banks. However, I recognize the justification for the provision to prevent big depositors from placing their money in the Savings Bank for the purpose of getting a higher Tate of interest than the rate payable on fixed deposits in the trading banks.
Professor Melville, who is economic adviser to the Commonwealth Bank, believes in rigidity of interest rates. But that view is not held by those who have had long experience of the general banking system of Australia. They recognize that interest rates should not be rigid, as no doubt they will be under the regulations, but should be flexible, so that they may be readily adjusted to meet rapidly changing conditions. Seasonal conditions, overseas markets and open markets for buying and disposing, of securities must obviously regulate interest rates. I invite the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) to explain why this clause has been included in the bill.
– I cannot accept the amendment now; but I shall ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to examine it, and if he considers that it should be incorporated in the bill, the necessary action will be taken in the Senate.
– What is the Minister’s opinion of the amendment?
– I believe that it merits consideration.
.- Although, the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) has made some comment on the matters raised ‘by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), he ignored the very pertinent comment by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). To mc, it is astonishing that on a measure of this kind a former Prime Minister and Treasurer should be treated with such discourteous casualness. This clause embodies the most sweeping powers. Inasmuch as it introduces rigidity in interest rates, it represents a departure from the central banking practice of other countries. Honorable members arc entitled to some explanation from the Minister as to why methods which have been tested and found satisfactory in other highly developed industrial communities, which are adopting central banking practices daily in’ order to keep their economy functioning smoothly, are not suitable for Australian conditions. Yet that is what this clause implies. The Minister said no word in explanation of the remarkable provision in sub-clause 1 (c) (i) enabling the Commonwealth Bank, by regulations, to prohibit the charging of interest on deposits repay able on demand. That could be used in such a way as to destroy the present practice of paying interest on fixed deposits. The committee will be treated in a most cavalier fashion if the clause embodying those sweeping powers and departures from accepted banking practice is to be adopted without a word of explanation by the Minister as to why they have become necessary.
– Rigidity of interest, rate3, to which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred, may affect a certain class of borrower in the community. At long last, as the result of action by the private trading banks and not by the Commonwealth Bank or any government, some persons have been able to get relief from the high rates of interest that they were forced to pay to money lenders in the past. In New South Wales, under the Money Lenders Act, the rate of interest that may be charged shall not exceed 48 per cent. Many civil servants, artisans, unionists and other workers who had no security to offer for a loan other than their personal security, were forced to go either, to a pawnshop or to a money lender for financial assistance. One of the money lenders, who had a large business with civil servants in New South Wales some years ago, was found murdered in his office. I do not imply that he was murdered by a civil servant, but the authorities never discovered the criminal. In the course of the investigation, it was found that he had been charging extortionate rates of interest. Throughout the community, there has been that exploitation of the people who have no security to offer other than the wages that they receive from week to week. After the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems had presented its report, the Bank of Australasia established a personal loans department. Some time later the Bank of New .South Wales and the Rural Bank of New South Wales created similar facilities for the purpose of assisting the general public. Subclause 1 a empowers the Commonwealth Bank to make regulations “in relation to the control of rates of interest payable to or by banks, or to or by other persons in the course of any banking business carried on by them “. Under that provision, a rigid rate of interest may be fixed on the basis of a loan advanced on first-class security, giving ample coverage to the lending institution, or on trade bills representing first-class paper discountable by the Bank of England on a very fine rate indeed. In those circumstances, a bank cannot be expected to lend money to the class of borrower who has no security to offer other than his personal honesty. I believe that financial institutions should accommodate that class of borrower. Very few of them have failed to meet their repayments of principal and interest. But it is impossible for any financial institution to lend money to unsecured borrowers at the same rate of interest as it would charge to persons with first-class security. I ask the Treasurer to consider what has been done under the central banking law of Canada, where these loans are treated on a discount rate, which liquidates the loans over the period for which the money has been lent. By this means, it is possible to prevent a rise of interest rates in other categories. The Minister may say, “ We shall fix an interest rate, and we will not allow any interest rate to rise above that level”, but he cannot force the banks to lend money. and, therefore, he will drive the borrowers back into the hands of the usurious money lenders and the cash-order companies, which charge interest up to 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, in addition to obtaining discounts in respect of goods purchased with the cash orders. He will permit these companies to borrow money from the banks at a low rate of interest, whilst preventing individuals from borrowing from the banks at a slightly higher rate. The clause requires careful examination. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for paragraph c (i). The London bill market takes money on the shortest possible terms. Anybody who has been in a London bank must have seen those top-hatted gentlemen who are sent out by the discount houses to obtain money for investments for 24 hours. The rate of interest for such accommodation is the finest in the world. Nevertheless, the market is very extensive and has helped to develop British trade and industry. The Royal. Commission on Monetary and Banking .Systems discovered one such market in Australia. I refer to the deposit market established in Sydney by the Mutual Life and Citizens Association of Australia, which accepted money on a nominal seven days’ deposit. The deposit was not supposed to be broken for seven days, but the association would allow it to be broken if pressure were being brought to hear on the depositor. The rate of interest paid in that market was the same as the three months’ rate paid by the trading banks. The amount of money held in the market over a twelve-month period on weekly balances, varied between £1,100,000 and £1,400,000, and probably varied also according to the receipt of funds from London as the seasonal crops and wool clips of the year were sold. The market performed a very great service. It meant that institutions such as the gas company, the sugar company, the power corporation at Balmain, and the Sydney Municipal Council had the opportunity to place their funds in the market for seven days and draw the equivalent of the bank rate of interest on deposits lodged for three months. Furthermore, they could break those deposits if necessary. This assisted business, tended to keep down interest rates and cheapen costs, and was generally beneficial to the entire trading community of Australia. It would be infinitely better to have bill markets such as operate overseas than to enact the provision in paragraph c of sub-clause 1. One of the barriers to the establishment of bill markets in Australia is set up by the stamp duties imposed by the State authorities on bills when they are issued. I ask the Treasurer to consider the facts which I have submitted and discuss them with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, with a view to establishing bill markets in Australia, instead of proceeding with this power.
– I shall investigate the statements of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), and, if they warrant further consideration, I shall refer them to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who may discuss them with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The reason for including this clause in the bill is set out in the explanatory notes circulated by the Government. The honorable member for New England is aware that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems recommended that the Commonwealth Bank should control interest rates. The National Security Regulations under which interest rates are controlled at present have been very beneficial to the nation during the war period, and the Government considers that the fixing of a low rate of interest will be generally acceptable.
– I want to secure flexibility.
– I realize that. Any suggestions to achieve that result will be considered. I agree that flexibility is desirable; interest rates should not be rigidly fixed. Paragraph c of subclause 1 is included to prohibit the payment of interest on current accounts repayable on demand or at very short notice. It does not refer -to fixed deposits. I know of no case in which banks’ have paid interest on current accounts. They charge the customers for keeping such accounts.
– The Primary Producers Bank of Australia paid interest on current accounts.
– There may have been one or two such cases. The Government does not consider that to be a wise practice, and this power is included, in the bill in order to prevent it. The amount deposited in a savings account in, respect of which interest may be paid has always been limited. The honorable member for New England asked why a provision for such a limit was included in this clause. He himself gave the correct reasons.
– “We are entitled to a more complete explanation of the provisions of this clause than the Minister has given. I desire to know, in particular, whether it is proposed to fix a rigid rate of interest, or a ceiling rate below which fluctuations will be permitted.
– Interest rates have varied considerably during the war.
– But they have been controlled, and we are now considering legislation under which control will be continued. It is important, therefore, that we should know the intentions of the Government. The discussion of this clause would, be shortened probably if the Minister would inform us whether a rigid or a ceiling rate of interest will be fixed. The point is of great importance to the people, particularly to those engaged in primary industries. The pastoral finance companies, as the Minister knows, do business with certain clients on a daily balance. Often their rates of interest are lower than those of the private banks, and they accept collateral security not acceptable to private banks.
– There is nothing in this clause to prevent a financial institution from fixing as low a. rate of interest as it desires.
– It will not be able to do so if the Government ‘fixes a rigid rate.
– If the maximum rate should be fixed at 4 per cent., the Government is not likely to object if a financial institution makes money available at 3 per cent.
– The Minister did not say that in his speech.
– Surely it is obvious.
– The members of the Labour party suffer great hallucinations in regard to interest rates. They frequently tell us that interest rates are the most crushing burden on industry. That, of course, is rubbish. Interest rates certainly affect costs. During the depression the Lyons Government caused interest rates to be reduced. Our minds probably go back too frequently to the depression years. The depression was caused by a calamitous fall in the national income, which caused industry to stagnate. Ohe incentive to the revival of industry was the reduction of interest rates. We are passing through a period of low interest rates at present due principally to war conditions and government control measures. One reason why the interest rate can remain low at present without economic damage is that the Government is taking practically the whole of the people’s savings for war purposes, and the people are prepared for that to be done. In the postwar years, however, the situation will be entirely different. The immediate postwar years may “be boom years. If that should be the case, low interest rates will have the effect of continuing the boom. I consider that in the six or seven years following the cessation of hostilities there will be a strong demand for the whole of our exportable surplus of foodstuffs and perhaps an equally heavy demand for all kinds of raw materials for building purposes and the like. We know that a comprehensive housing programme will be necessary, andthat maintenance measures which could not be taken during the war years will be undertaken in a wholesale way in industry generally. In these circumstances adherence to unduly low interest rates may stimulate and continue the boom.
– Not with proper prices control measures.
– Is our pricefixing policy tobe continued into the post-war years? I asked a question on this point to-day with particular reference to the motor car industry. The prices control regulations are already having certain ill effects. Importers, for example, havebeen compelled to hold stocks for five or six months which they could have disposed of quickly had they been able to obtain prompt decisions from the Prices Commissioner.
– Is the honorable member an advocate of high interest rates?
– I believe that our present interest rates will prove to be too low in the years following the war. I do not think that any member of the Government can be satisfied that the people generally regard the existing interest rates on investments as satisfactory. It is true that our huge war loans have been filled, but a story that is at present “ off the record “ may be told some day in that connexion. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said on numerous occasions that he is not satisfied that a sufficiently large number of ordinary citizens are, investing in war loans. At present, in any case, the people have only the liberty urge and the victory urge to spur them on, for the money that they invest in government loans yields them only a negligible return.
– The honorable member may advocate high interest rates; the Government believes in low interest rates.
– I am pointing out that the low interest rates at present in operation are not attractive to the general public, even allowing for the liberty urge and the victory urge. As a matter of fact, the present situation in that regard is an invitation to unrestricted spending by the spendthrift and a direct discouragement to the thrifty. Somepeople are saying that as they get such a small return for the money they lodge in the savings bank, or place on fixed deposit, they prefer to spend it. For this reason we are witnessing an orgy of spending on racing and “ booze “. Thrift is not encouraged. In my opinion a continuance of the present low interest rates into the post-war period will stimulate any boom that may occur. Another consideration should weigh heavily with the Government in relation to the fixing of interest rates. Australia is a country of very great natural resources which, so far, have not been developed in a marked degree. It is necessary to attract capital to this country for the development of our natural resources. We need a policy of “ more and more people, and more and more work”. Surely that is the ultimate aim of any government! Make no mistake, capital has a great deal to do with interest rates. In fact, interest rates are the price and the regulator of capital. We know that during some of the prosperous periods we have experienced in the past, interest rates have been higher than they are at present. We do not want rigidity of interest rates, because that would affect interplay between competing lenders. Pastoral companies should not be prevented from charging an interest rate lower than that charged by the banks. But too low a rate might cause a boom and thus could easily depreciate capital. There is ample scope under this measure for considerable depreciation of capital if the powers be not wisely used. We are entitled to an explanation of what the Government has in mind. So far, we have had only vague generalities from the Minister. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is best qualified to give the explanation that we need and he should bc in the chamber for that purpose. This clause, like other clauses, if used unwisely, could do tremendous harm, but if used wisely will do a lot of good. There has not been a real explanation of sub-paragraph i, which provides that interest shall not be payable on certain demand deposits. The only demand deposits on which interest is now paid are those entrusted to trading banks by charities and churches, and certain trust moneys held by solicitors pending the winding up of estates. The interest rate in certain cases, I believe, is $ per cent. Why is the Government pursuing funds belonging to charities and churches, and trust moneys awaiting distribution? Does it propose to follow a man into his grave ?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Exorbitant interest rates have been a burden on mankind throughout the ages and have retarded the development of human society. Experience in various crises has shown the necessity for control such as is proposed in this clause. In past crises, the tendency has been for interest rates to rise when labour and materials have been in adequate supply. Not long ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) as Prime Minister, said that in the post-war period, all would have to share “ honorable poverty That was a dismal prophecy indeed. We realize, of course, that further sacrifices will have to be made in the post-war period. It is only fair to expect that the banks shall share in them. After all, they have done well during the war period in comparison with those who have sacrificed their lives, health, careers and businesses. As a matter of fact, their assets have increased. Large sums belonging to the private banks have been placed in the custody of the Commonwealth Bank for safe keeping during the war period, and the interest on them has returned a profit. Already, the people are heavily burdened by the interest bill on the national debt which increased from £1,289,581,000 on the 30th September, 1939, to £2,588,762,000 at the 31st March last, and the interest now payable is £70,000,000 per annum. The interest rate has been reduced from £3 15s. 10d. per cent, at the outbreak of the war to £3 0s. 8d. per cent, at the present time, but it is still high compared with the rate in Great Britain, which has dropped from 2.66 per cent, in 1939 to 1.85 per cent, at the present time. The people cannot afford to be saddled with a further burden in the days of peace. The re-establishment and employment of 1,500,000 industrial workers and members of the fighting services will have to be effected after the war, and a flow of cheap money will be needed for reproductive works, including housing. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has pointed out that, by the utilization of national credit through the Commonwealth Bank, money for housing could be provided at the cost of issuance. According to the London Economist, it has been estimated that the cost of service in the issuance of credit is one-half per cent. Therefore, if a rate of one per cent, were charged a substantial profit would be returned. The Government will look to private financial institutions to play a part in the post-war period. Although it may not adopt the radical suggestion of the Minister for Transport, it will have to ensure the provision of funds at a much cheaper rate than has been charged in the past. If any of the special funds now controlled by the Commonwealth Bank” were returned to the private banks, and were used in connexion with reproductive works, a moderate interest rate would have to be adopted. The Government appreciates the need for protecting existing contracts, such as insurance policies and superannuation funds.
– The subject of interest rates offers a wide field for discussion, did time permit. I should like to be told the reason for the prohibition of the payment of interest on current accounts. If the banks, by good management, can afford to pay interest on them, why should the practice be prohibited? Possibly, I shall have the moral, if not the actual, support of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) in this connexion; if not, he will let down his own State. Two financial institutions in Australia which pay interest on current accounts are the Launceston Bank of Savings and the Hobart Bank of Savings.
– Only on amounts up to £300.
-Exactly- the deposits of the small people.
– Payment of interest is not to be prohibited in their case.
– Those institutions will not be permitted to pay interest on such deposits. Theclause reads -
Providing that interest shall not be payable in respect of -
If that means that interest may be paid on current accounts, it is most ambiguously worded. I am speaking on behalf of well-managed institutions such as the Launceston Bank of Savings and the Hobart Bank of Savings, which, by virtue of the narrowness of their field of operations and the personal supervision that they can give to the loans they make, are able to pay on current accounts. The evidence given to the royal commission by the manager of the Launceston Bank of Savings shows that that bank was able in 1926 to pay 4½ per cent. interest on current accounts. In 1931, the rate dropped to 2¾ per cent. for current accounts and 3 per cent. for fixed deposits.
– It also pays a shade higher rate now.
– Yes. I am speaking in the interest not only of those two banks, but also similar institutions which, under excellent management, may be able to give customers the facilities of a current account bearing interest. I ask that the Government examine that aspect before the bill takes its final shape.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr.
Hutchinson) said that it was erroneous to believe that interest was the major burden on primary production, but if he had ever engaged in primary production in which fortunes fluctuated, he would know that the uneconomic interest rates charged in the past have been the greatest single factor in breaking the hopes and hearts of farmers. Control of interest is vital, and, contrary to what was said by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), it is a regular feature of banking legislation in other countries. Both Canada and the United States of America have included in their banking codes provision for the control of interest rates. The “honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) recently quoted from an interesting publication which contains the following extract from the Canadian legislation: - (4.) Amendments to section91, reducing the maximum rate of interest or discount which banks may charge from 7 to 6 per cent.
The honorable member for Fawkner referred to the open market operations as being the best controller of interest rates. That control does not come into effect except when certain conditions prevail. Moreover, opportunity for open market operations does not exist to a sufficiently great degree in this country to have the effect envisaged by the honorable member. The main reason for non-payment of interest on current deposits would be to encourage lending for long periods instead of having money at short call which, if withdrawn, might embarrass the banks and industry.
– That would stabilize the position.
– Yes. Commercial Banking Legislation and Control, of which the principal author is A. M. Allen, assistant secretary to the Institute of Bankers in London, makes a worthwhile comment on interest control measures -
These measures are the result of a common experience - competition in time of stringency to attract liquid resources by raising rates of interest. The danger of such action lies in the fact that the public cannot create deposits and that one bank can only gain at the expense of another; for it is very unlikely that net saving could be appreciably increased in this way, though it might result in a diminution in hoarding.
On page 419 the following comment is made : -
The prohibition of the payment of interest on demand deposits is in the interests of the banks. The offering of competitive rates of interest in order to attract deposits has led many a bank to adopt unsound practices, with the object of making such deposits pay.
Therefore, the common experience throughout the world indicates the necessity, first, to limit interest rates and, secondly, not to pay interest on current account deposits. I agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Wide Bay that it is a moral sin if not a legal sin for money lenders and operators of cash order systems to charge exorbitant rates of interest. In order to curb them a special small loans department of the Commonwealth Bank should be established. I commend to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the matter of setting up such a department to advance money to unsecured creditors in order to free them from the grip of money lenders and cash order system operators. Worry and grief occasioned to the families of those unfortunate enough to be within their grasp has. an adverse effect not only on them but also on the national economy.
– The honorable gentleman is quite right.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 40 to 47 agreed to.
Clause 48- (l.) Except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer, a bank shall not conduct any banking business for a State or for any authority of a State, including a local governing authority.
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “including a local governing authority “ be left out.
It is definitely wrong that it should bo mandatory that a local governing authority shall bank with the Commonwealth Bank, particularly when that bank provides no service. In Queensland, the Commonwealth Bank has 26 branches outside the city of Brisbane.
Fourteen arc in towns or cities, leaving only twelve to give service to local authorities in rural districts. Obviously, it can give no service to the hundreds of municipalities and shires throughout the State. That applies also to the other States of the Commonwealth. It is obviously silly to make it mandatory for local authorities to bank with the Commonwealth Bank when it provides no facilities, and although there is provision for licences to be granted to trading banks in the meantime, I submit that no mandatory direction should be included, at least until the Commonwealth Bank is able to provide service. In Queensland, local authorities requiring loans must apply to the State Treasurer for approval. Loans are generally raised from the State Insurance Company, other insurance companies, or, in some instances, up to a limited amount, from the Treasury itself. I should like to know whether this clause also involves an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Bank to ensure that all such loans shall be provided from the Commonwealth Bank. This, to my mind, brings into being a conflict of authority. If local authorities must bank with the Commonwealth Bank and, in turn, must secure their loans from that source, then I would like to know if this act supersedes the State act whereby the local authorities must seek approval from the State Treasurer to raise loans, and of the source from which they are to be secured. The present system by which the local authorities operate under the State Local Authorities Departments, works satisfactorily, and, after all, final authority over the loan-raising of local authorities rests with the Loan Council through the medium of the State Treasurer. . I strongly object to a clause which destroys a democratic right of a democratically elected body.
.- The committee has about nineteen minutes in which to discuss the remainder of this bill, and the farcical nature of the proceedings is nowhere better demonstrated than in the utterly inadequate time provided for the discussion of this important clause. This proposes a thoroughly unwarranted intrusion not merely into the rights of individuals, as do so many clauses of this bill, but also into the rights of democratically elected bodies representative of the people. I agree with the amendment of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) to the extent that it is an improvement, but my criticism is based on the objection that can be raised to State governments and local authorities being compelled, as they can be, whether they like it or not, to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. That criticism gains all the more potency as the result of the passage of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, because whereas hitherto transactions between State governments and local governing, authorities on the one hand and the Commonwealth Bank on the other were subject to the supervision of the democratically appointed Commonwealth Bank Board, they are now to be under the supervision of a politically controlled instrument. The Treasurer is to be in supreme political control of the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. So a State government of a political complexion different from that of the Federal Treasurer of the day could be embarrassed by a clash of views with the Commonwealth Government because the control that the politically appointed Treasurer is able to exorcise over the Commonwealth Bank would enable him to coerce the State government. I should like to elaborate the very serious matter of principle which this clause raises, but time will not permit me to do so. However I put it to the committee as a matter which we hear in this chamber for the first time, but which we shall reconsider after the provision has operated for a while. The Minister has not given to the committee any explanation as to why these institutions are to be deprived of a reasonable banking service, and are to be placed in a position where they can be coerced by the political instrument which the Commonwealth Bank is to become.
.- This clause is not so mandatory as honorable members opposite pretend to believe. Sub-clause 1 provides that the Treasurer “may” exempt a local governing authority from this provision.
– And the Treasurer will be political controller of the Commonwealth Bank.
– This clause will not come into operation until a date fixed by the Treasurer by notice published in the Gazette. In the meantime, it will apply only to those local governing bodies and State instrumentalities that are prescribed by the Treasurer from time to time. I assume that the Treasurer will not act arbitrarily in this matter, but will consider whether a private trading hank in a certain district can render better service and offer better conditions than can the Commonwealth Bank. After all, it is the responsibility of local governing authorities to get the best possible terms and conditions for the ratepayers that they represent. They are in an entirely different position from that of private business men, who. may please themselves where they conduct their banking. They may pay to a private trading bank for financial accommodation, a higher rate of interest than they would pay to the Commonwealth Bank, but that is their own affair. Howover, the representatives of local governing authorities arc in the role of trustees, and must get the best possible terms on behalf of those’ whom they represent. I assume that before the Treasurer took action under this clause, he would consult with the representatives of the local governing authority concerned, with a view to ascertaining the kind of service that they were receiving from a particular bank. In addition, some local governing authorities, when this bill becomes law, will voluntarily transfer their business from private trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank. But it is certain that the Treasurer will not act arbitrarily in applying this provision.
– It is very pleasing to hear this lastminute repentance of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), and his sudden fear that this clause will not be brought into operation so easily as at first appeared. When we are dealing with the machinery of the Commonwealth Bank, we assume that the bank is created for the convenience of the people and the local authorities, not that the people and the local authorities are created for the convenience of the bank. But the principle adopted in this clause contradicts that assumption. Throughout Australia, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 local governing authorities, and if they make an endless procession to Canberra for the purpose of applying to the Treasurer for dispensation, the right honorable gentleman’s time will be fully occupied with them. The Commonwealth Bank has not established branches in every part of the country, and some local authorities will be put to great inconvenience if they are compelled to transfer their business from a private bank near their head office to a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in another town.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) raised an important point when he contended that this clause should provide for two-way traffic. If a local governing authority is to be compelled to bank with the Commonwealth Bank, that institution should be compelled to meet all the legitimate financial requirements of the municipality or shire, or advise the applicant body to seek any additional accommodation from the private trading banks. Under a “ gentleman’s agreement “, local governing bodies no longer raise loans on their own behalf, but apply to the Loan Council for their financial requirements.
– If the Commonwealth Bank will not meet the legitimate requirements of local governing bodies, presumably the Treasurer will allow them to obtain financial accommodation from the private trading banks.
– The Treasurer might have other ideas, and the local governing bodies would not be able to carry on their activities. This clause could easily destroy the foundations of democracy.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) visualized a fantastic spectacle of local governing authorities, in endless procession, arriving in Canberra to interview the Treasurer for the purpose of obtaining dispensation from this clause. The principle embodied in it is a matter of government policy, and I cannot accept any amendment designed to vary it. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) considered that this clause, if given effect, would cause local governing bodies great inconvenience. I remind him that the Treasurer may exempt a local authority from the operation of this provision, and I say definitely that he would exempt any local authority from the obligation to do business with the Commonwealth Bank if that institution had no branch in the town where the head office of the municipality was situated. Obviously the Treasurer would not expect a municipality or shire to do business with a branch of the Commonwealth Bank some miles from its head office, and the right honorable member for Cowper knows that.N or will this clause interfere with the granting of loans to local authorities. The right honorable gentleman, who was a member of the Loan Council for many years, knows that the raising of loans is determined by the Loan Council, and the money is apportioned between the Commonwealth and the States. Some of it is made available to local authorities. When this legislation comes into operation, municipalities and shires will be able to obtain money at a cheaper rate then they have been charged by the private trading banks.
– The remarks of the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) suggest that he should accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). Having had long experience of local government, I assure the Minister that the methods of local authorities in handling business problems compare favorably with those of Commonwealth and State Governments. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that municipalities will always obtain financial accommodation in the cheapest market, and in the manner that best suits their purpose. He may well leave it to their good sense and judgment to handle this problem in their own way. The record of local government, particularly in Victoria, is particularly good. Instead of hampering the efforts of local authorities, the Commonwealth should assist them. The honorable member for
Maranoa pointed out that the Commonwealth Bank has not established branches in many parts of the country, and that some local authorities conduct their banking business with private trading banks that have branches near their head offices. The local authorities make their own arrangements, which are suitable not only to the municipalities but also to their employees. If the Minister believes that the Treasurer will not compel municipalities to transfer their business to the Commonwealth Bank, he should accept the amendment.
– This provision is an insult to local governing authorities, which are the best judges of where they can obtain financial accommodation on the most advantageous terms. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) agreed that they are entitled to the best possible terms and conditions. We have made that claim; and the best possible terms are produced only by competition. But the honorable member considered that local governing authorities should be compelled to place their business with the Commonwealth Bank, although that action would destroy competition. Is the Government afraid that the private trading banks will offer to municipalities and shires better terms than will the Commonwealth Bank? That is apparently the reason for this proposal. Although the Government is instructing local authorities to bank with the Commonwealth Bank, it is significant that it has not compelled trade unions to do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49- (2.) The Treasurer may at any time direct the Auditor-General to make an investigation of the books, accounts and transactions of a bank specified by the Treasurer and to furnish to the Treasurer and to the Commonwealth Bank such reports upon the affairs of that bank as the Treasurer directs and the AuditorGeneral shall make an investigation and furnish reports accordingly.
.- I move -
That the following proviso be added to sub-clause (2.) : - “ Provided that no such investigation shall be directed by the Treasurer unless he believes on reasonable grounds, that the bank is in financial difficulties or that it is wilfully avoiding its obligations under this Act.”
The arrival of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) at this stage is an ominous sign that the “guillotine” will shortly fall. Before this discussion is so abruptly terminated, I desire to improve this clause. We have been taught to believe that successful banking and public confidence go hand in hand, and it is the obligation of every honorable member to avoid any action that might tend to disturb that confidence, and thereby inadvertently injure a financial institution. The danger of this proposal lies not so much in the Government’s intentions as in the possibility of an unfavorable public reaction to any investigation of the books, accounts, and transactions of a bank. When a bailiff enters a person’s house, that fact alone means that the householder must re-establish public confidence in himself before he again becomes creditworthy. An investigation of the affairs of a bank would be in itself a perfectly simple matter, but the news would spread like wildfire, and irreparable damage might be done to the institution. Because of a sudden withdrawal of deposits, a bank which was perfectly sound when the investigation began could become unsound as the result of it.
– Order ! The time allotted for the remainder of the committee stages has expired.
Clause 49 and the remainder of the bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- In order to show that opposition to this measure is not so great as honorable members opposite would have us believe, I quote the following telegram, which I received this morning, from the president of an organization in New South Wales : -
The Australian Women’s party urge that the date of the restoration of the Commonwealth Bank be set aside as a day of public rejoicing and to pay tributeto the pioneers of the bank which is destined to liberate the people from the enemies of peace and progress. - Pauline Budge, President.
.- I move-
That the word “ now “ be left out of, and that the words “this day six months” be added to, the question.
I do this because it is the only means which I can use to focus attention on the Government’s action. I wish to give the Government an opportunity to rectify what honorable members on this side of the House have proved to be the loose drafting and unsound principles contained in the bill. The Government has been unreasonable in its treatment of the Opposition. Its action in employing the guillotine on this measure has created a legislative “hat trick”. This is the third occasion on which debate has been stifled by the imposition of a time limit during the current sittings. The first occasion related to the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, and the second occasion to the Commonwealth Bank Bill. The Opposition had a number of farreaching and important amendments which it proposed to submit during the committee stages. These amendments were formulated as the result of careful thought and diligent research into each clause. We have been deprived of the opportunity to move these amendments by the unfair methods adopted by the Government. Such action is definite evidence of the degree to which democracy is being undermined in Australia. Recognized principles are being replaced by totalitarian principles. Legislation such as this will have an important and far-reaching effect not only on our internal economy, but also on our international relations. The bill was introduced only after the Labour party had received instructions from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. These instructions were passed on to caucus, which decided what should be done and, finally, the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) was instructed that, during consideration of the bill in this chamber, no amendments were to be accepted from the Opposition in any circumstances. That is obvious, because the Minister at the table has consistently stated that the Government - which means caucus - has decided upon this measure and that no amendments will be accepted from Opposition members, even though they talked until they we’re black in the face. Let us consider the history of amendments moved by Opposition members in connexion with this measure and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. They were not paltry, nor were they submitted merely for political purposes.Our object was to fulfil our obligations to the people.
– Order! The right honorable member must not refer to proceedings in committee. The amendments were moved in committee.
– Ishould like you to review your ruling, Mr. Speaker, having regard to the nature of my motion. I have moved that the third reading be deferred six months. Surely I have the right to establish my reasons for doing so. The Government should reconsider its decision and not rush this legislation through.
– The right honorable member may use any arguments or state any reasons, so long as he does not debate what happened in committee.
– I am referring to amendments which I did not have a chance to move in committee, and my purpose is to expose the misconduct of the Government in forcing not only this legislation but also all other important bills throughwhat should be regarded a deliberative, democratic assembly.
– Whether the right honorable gentleman moved the amendments or not, he is referring to what happened in committee.
– I am stating reasons why this bill should not be passed through its final stage now. It should be reconsidered six months hence. I cannot develop my arguments unless I give my reasons for submitting the motion.
– The right honorable member may give his reasons, but he must not refer to what happened in committee.
– The committee should have been enabled to consider every aspect of the bill and to hear the Opposition’s views about it. Interpretations of many clauses of the bill have been given by a Minister who has no intimate knowledge of their probable effects. He has had. to depend upon his advisers. I can imagine that, when he has gone to them, they have said, “Now what did caucus intend in connexion with these matters ? “, and after he has answered them, they have advised him accordingly. In this connexion it is appropriate to refer to what was said by Lord Halsbury, then Lord Chancellor, about bad parliamentary draftsmanship, and the fact that it made interpretation of legislation both costly and inconvenient -
I have more than once had occasion to say that in construing n statute I believe the worst person to construe it is the person who is responsible for its drafting. He is very much disposed to confuse what lie intended to do with the effect of the language which, in fact, has been employed. At the time he drafted the statute, at all events, he may have been under the impression that he had given full effect to what was intended, but he may be mistaken in. construing it afterwards, just because what was in his mind was what was intended, though, perhaps, it was not done.
Those comments are applicable to what has just occurred in this chamber, and it should warn us of wha t is likely to happen in the future.
.- The Leader of the Australian Country pa>rty (Mr. Fadden) has made a noble but vain attempt to fulfil a prophecy made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) not long ago that this legislation would never come into operation. It seems that the Leader of the Opposition himself is not sufficiently interested in the measure to be present on this occasion. He has failed as a prophet on previous occasions, and will fail on this occasion. The purpose of the amendment is obviously to frustrate the Government’s intentions, in accordance with the tactics of the Opposition over the last few months. The Opposition would have had ample opportunity to consider this and other hills had it not delayed the business of Parliament by resorting to formal adjournment motions and other dilatory tactics. The same tactics were employed in connexion with the original bill to establish the Commonwealth Bank, as have been used in connexion with this measure. Even after that legislation became law, attempts were made to undermine the prestige of the bank. It showed a loss for the first twelve months of operation, but then war broke out and it proved its value to the nation. This measure also will prove its worth during the years of reconstruction after this war. We have had examples of the benefits to be derived from co-operation in war-time between the Government, the people and the financial institutions of the country. If such co-operation can be successful in time of war it can be successful in time of peace. The financial institutions should reconcile themselves to this legislation, which the people support, and collaborate with the Government for the good of all and the progress and development of the nation..
Government and its supporters become very touchy whenever they are attacked by the newspapers or the general public. If ever they have merited the condemnation of the public, they have done so by their treatment of this legislation. I second the motion of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), because, whatever justification there may have been for applying the “ guillotine “ to the Re-establishment and Employment Bill - and there have been many protests from all parts of the country against the hasty passage of that measure - there can be no justification for treating the banking bills as urgent measures. The powers provided in these bills are covered by the National Security Regulations, and, so long as they continue to operate, these bills need not be enacted. The Government could have deferred these measures so as to provide for adequate consideration of them by this Parliament. Instead of doing so, it has brutally used the majority which democracy has given to it, and I hope that democracy will inflict appropriate punishment at the first opportunity.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That thebill be nowread a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 1967), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill sets out to remove certain anomalies that have become apparent during the operation of the superannuation legislation. There have been two recent amending bills, one in 1942 and the other in 1943. The Minister has informed us that war-time experience has revealed the need for liberalization in certain directions, and further amendment of the machinery provisions.
The presentation of such a measure gives to honorable members the opportunity to review legislation which, perhaps, is deserving of more consideration than it receives from this House. We are accustomed to devote a good deal of time and thought to matters involving party controversy, but many measures which are of consequence to large sections of the community do not receive the same close attention, because we are in general agreement with the principles that they embody.
The superannuation legislation was first introduced in 1922 by Mr. Littleton Groom, a well-known federal identity who later became Sir Littleton and a Speaker of this House. Some honorable members may be interested to learn that its introduction followed an election promise by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes’) during the election campaign of 1919. Therefore, it can fairly be claimed that that was one election promise that was fully honoured. It is interesting to note how the scheme has since developed. It aimed to give a reasonable measure of security to members of the Commonwealth Public Service, from a fund to which the employee was to be a contributor, the Government subsidizing it on a £1 for £1 basis. The Minister in charge of the measure said it was estimated that 23,000 permanent employees in the Commonwealth Public Service would come within its scope. Twenty-five years have elapsed since that estimate was made - the 30th June, 1920. Now, 51,000 permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service are contributors to the fund, the investments from which amount to £12,000,000. All honorable members have supported and will support the principles of the basic legislation. We must bc concerned to see that the conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service shall be no less attractive than are those enjoyed by persons of comparable capacity in private industry; because, on the basis of responsibility there is no less a burden on a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, especially when he reaches the higher ranks, than there is upon his opposite number in private employment. All honorable members will have in mind what has occurred during the war years, -and will thus realise the necessity for making the conditions in the Public Service attractive in the post-war years. There has been a vast expansion of the tasks which governments have assumed in relation to the community. Ten years ago, when I first entered this Parliament, it dealt with a comparatively small range of matters, and their impact on the domestic lives of the Australian people was comparatively slight. To-day, in consequence of governmental md war-time developments, scarcely a human activity is not directly affected by what is done in this place and does not come within the: ambit of Commonwealth administration. Those of us who sit on this side of the House hope that, in the years -after the war, there will be a tapering off of government interference - or supervision, if that expression is more pleasing to my friends opposite - and a lessening of the part played by governments in the lives of the people. But, however high our hopes may aspire in that regard, taking a realistic view of what lies ahead we must concede that, for a considerable period - longer than we can clearly see at the moment - the role of government will be considerably greater than it was in the years prior to the war. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to the people and the Parliament that there shall be an efficient Commonwealth Public Service, which will do good work because it will have some measure of security and a degree of satisfaction -with the conditions under which it is working. The Public Service must be able to maintain its integrity under the very strong pressure which can be exerted by outside interests to whom government action can mean so much. If such conditions and results are to be maintained, we must ensure to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service employment which, broadly, will be no less attractive than that which can be obtained outside thi; Service.
Prom time to time, there has been a weakening of the Administration, due to the fact that promising members of the Public Service, who would have risen to influential rank in the departments, learn from their contacts with outside interests that they can obtain poets better paid and more liberally en. dewed, from their point of view, in private industry. This has taken some of the best talent from the Commonwealth Public Service. I take this opportunity to express^ what I believe to be the feeling of appreciation which all honorable members have of the work of permanent members of the Service. From time to time, we make rather caustic references to bureaucrats and their influence, and some public servants may assume that we are reflecting on them personally. I am certain that they do not attach undue weight to such comments, as applying to the Service generally. As far as the permanent officers of the Service are concerned, every one of us who has been a member of this Parliament for any length of time will have a warm regard for the courteous and efficient assistance be has received from the various departments.
– When they are good, i bey are very, very, good.
– It is undeniable; however, that the goodwill enjoyed by the Service has- been affected by the avalanche of newcomers into the ranks, not of permanent employees, but more particularly- those engaged in the mushroomlike war-time departments, from whom, one has reason to believe, the same degree of civility and service has not been forthcoming.
– Most of them were formerly members of State public services.
– As one who had a part in the formation of at least three of the war-time departments, I assure the Minister for the Navy that the greatest difficulty was experienced in securing the transfer of officers from the State services because of the manpower depletions there, due to war service and other causes. The State services did their best to help, but many of the temporary appointees had no Public Service background, and consequently little knowledge of Service traditions. That is no charge against any particular party, because that circumstance arose during the period of office of the government of which I was a member. It was one of the unfortunate, but, perhaps, inevitable consequences of the need to expand those departments rapidly during the war period.
I welcome the bill on behalf of the Opposition, because it will improve the legislation relating to the Commonwealth Public .Service. It is mainly a machinery measure, but before it reaches the committee stage I wish to focus attention on what appears to me to- be an unsatisfactory alteration of Commonwealth social service legislation in connexion with the Public Service. A great deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed in the. Public Service because some of its members - particularly in the lower salary groups - who have been required to make regular contributions to the superannuation fund over the years, find they are no better off than persons who-, without exercising the same thrift, have become eligible to receive the old-age pension. By way of illustration, I wish to read a letter written by a woman member of the Service which was brought under my notice recently. It states* -
With reference to Government legislation raising the rate of old-age and invalid pensions to a maximum rate of 32s. Od. a week, I should like to point out the unfavorable position in which the women of the Service, together with their male colleagues, arc now placed.
We. have now contributed since 1922 at a rate of 3s;. lis. per week out of a. medium salary enabling us to receive- £2 per week superannuation, that is, we hara paid altogether to date approximately £200 to receive a benefit of 7s. 6d. per week as compared with old-age pensioners, who have paid nothing.
The superannuation scheme is, therefore, now of no benefit - in fact, we are out of pocket, because if the money contributed to the fund had been put into property we could have a home in addition to a free pension of 32s. 6d. per week.
As the Government contributes half of a superannuation pension and the Service personnel pays the other half, I would suggest an amendment to the Old-age Pensions Act exempting the contributor’s half of his superannuation pension from “ income within the meaning of the Act”.
Alternatively, the Commonwealth Government should be approached with a view to making the National Insurance a contributory scheme, where all members of the community pay something, if only a small amount, into the fund, and the pension benefits be made available- to all, regardless of income or property.
It is perhaps common knowledge to all honorable members that an old-age pensioner and his wife will be able, after the 1st July, to receive between them £3 5s. a week in old-age pensions. Each of them will be entitled to earn, in addition, 12s. 6d. a week, so that their total possible income will be £4 10s. a week. They are also entitled to own their own home and to have £59 each in the bank before any reduction of pensions is made. I shall now read another letter, which will provide a contrast to that position. The writer states -
As a railway employee I find this to be my position (which is typical of thousands of others ) .
To provide myself and my wife with £5 per week on my retirement at 05 years of age (present age 49 years), I have eight superannuation units - five compulsory. Cost to me per fortnight £1 15s. 7d. Two pounds per week of his £5 would be taxable.
Admitting that other benefits accompany superannuation, of which I presume you are aware, I maintain I am providing my own and my wife’s old-age pension at a very dear cost, whereas a man (perhaps a neer-do-well ) , free from superannuation payments, and his wife, on reaching the ages of 60 years, on present indications will be eligible to draw per week between them £3 5s. pension and can supplement that amount by earning 12s. Gd. per week each, non-taxable. I do not begrudge them any of it, but our position is almost intolerable.
A uniform pension scheme should bc created, an agreed upon amount of pension to be non.contributory and additional pension if desired to be contributory.
The financial struggle to maintain superannuation payments, life assurance premiums, benefit lodge dues, income tax, rates of all sorts, education of children, costs, &c., and to live reduces the £400 salary earner to a level worse than the basic wage earner.
General dissatisfaction is becoming more evident every day amongst those of us concerned.
No doubt honorable members have received similar correspondence on this subject and it seems unfair that this solid element in the community, who, by their thrift and effort over the years to provide for their old age, should find themselves in no better position - or in even a worse position, as the first correspondent pointed out - than an old-age pensioner who has his own home and other persons who, not having made such provision, are eligible for the benefits of the old-age pension. Not only should the lower-salaried public servants be considered in this- matter but some thought should also be given to those at the opposite end of the salary scale. Between the two extremes all .Service personnel will be affected. Many of the departmental heads and senior officers of the Service are approaching retiring age, and by the time the war is ended they will have given seven, eight,, or even more yeaTS of most rigorous service. Undoubtedly they will have been subjected to a much greater physical and mental strain on that account than would have been the case if the war ha.d not occurred. As a result, they will probably leave the Service in a less sound state of body and mind than if conditions of peace had persisted. Instead of being able to enjoy their superannuation payments, supplemented by their own savings as a competence on which to spend the rest of their days, many of these senior officers will find that, as a result of heavy taxation - which would not have been imposed in normal times - they will have paid out hundreds of pounds a year from their salaries which otherwise they could have saved. It has been virtually impossible for officers in the highest salary groups to save anything because of the heavy taxation - in fact they have possibly had to draw upon their capital to keep going. That same problem has probably been shared by many members of the outside community with large, incomes. In the case of the permanent public servants this is a matter to which the Government should give special consideration. In order to have the most successful administration, it is important that the -best-qualified officers available should be secured. To do so, salaries and conditions should be such as to attract them to the Public Service as a permanent vocation, in preference to lucrative positions which may be offering in other walks of life. I invite the Minister in charge of the bill to discuss with his colleagues the points ~I have raised. I welcome the measure as a further improvement of the superannuation legislation which has proved to be such a valuable security to members of the Commonwealth Public Service.
.- It has been pleasing to hear the speech of the “new Leader of the Opposition” in support of the bill. Experience has proved that amendments of the Superannuation Act are necessary from time to time. Since the legislation first began to operate it has worked satisfactorily, but anomalies have been discovered as time has passed. Because of that, and also because at times the government of the day considers that certain additional benefits should be granted, the act has been amended accordingly. The amendments for which this bill provides are not numerous, and some of them may not appear to he of great importance, but they will remove anomalies and lead to a smoother operation of the act. In certain instances, additional benefits will be granted. By the proposed amendment of section 13 of the act, members of the Public Service who are returned soldiers will receive an additional benefit. I draw attention to the amendments embodied in the bill for the purpose of altering the method of fixing the amount of superannuation payable to contributors to the fund on retirement, who, on joining the Commonwealth Public Service, had State rights entitling them to superannuation. The provision in the bill provides a more reasonable and better system of assessing the payments to these officers. The bill also ensures additional benefits for widows and dependent children. Certain retired officers who are already receiving superannuation will get increased payments.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) express satisfaction with the work of members of the Commonwealth Public Service generally. He also made a plea for an improvement of the conditions of employment in the Service. The Commonwealth Government is the biggest employer of labour in this country, and it should set a standard for employers in private industry to emulate, rather than be ‘content to follow in the footsteps of private enterprise. The Government should be a model employer, and it is the duty of the Parliament to ensure to the members of the Public Service the best possible working conditions and rates of pay. The amendments for which the bill provides will slightly improve the conditions of retired members of the Service, but, as the honorable member for Fawkner has pointed out, additional anomalies may arise in future. He has referred to the decisions of this Parliament and to the policy of the Government in increasing social services, and he believes that, because of that policy, the financial position of members the Public Service may compare unfavorably with that of invalid and old-age pensioners, who are to receive an increase of their pensions as well as increased benefits in respect of sickness and unemployment. Members of the Service who are contributing for superannuation on retirement, at the rate of £2 or £3 a week, will find themselves in a less favorable financial position than other members of the community who are in receipt of invalid and old-age pensions. I do not ask that this anomaly should be rectified immediately, but it should be taken into consideration in the near future, with a view to the adoption of a scheme which would place both of those classes on a similar financial footing. The honorable member for Fawkner read two letters from constituents drawing attention to the fact that, if a contributor to the Public Service Superannuation Fund was entitled on retirement to superannuation at the rate of about £2 a week, he would be prevented from receiving the old-age pension. An old-age pensioner and his wife will soon be in receipt of £3 5s. a week, and will be entitled to augment their income to the amount of £1 5s. a week, making a total weekly income of £4 10s. ; thus they will be in a better financial position than a member of the Public Service who may have contributed for 40 or 50 years for a small superannuation payment. I submit that a contributor to the fund, with a dependent wife, should be entitled on retirement to receive at least as much as an old-age pensioner and his wife. All of the amendments for which the bill provides are reasonable, and may be accepted with confidence by this House. They are not over generous to any section of the service and, if adopted, will lead to improved administration of the act and remove certain anomalies.
.-I approve the bill, and I am glad that certain superannuation benefits are to be extended to temporary employees in the Public Service whowish to take advantage of the scheme. Those likely to be employed for ten years may be accepted as contributors to the superannuation fund. Like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I pay tribute to the work rendered by public servants. The repute and stability of government in Great Britain is largely due to the soundness, wisdom, and wise recruiting of the British Public Service. Australia has modelled its Service on the British system. It has adopted most of the essential features of that service, and this Parliament should endeavour to maintain a high standard in the Commonwealth Public Service. We undoubtedly have within the Service many eminent men who, in anyother walk of life, would have made names for themselves. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) that we must ensure that legislation covering them shall be as generous as conditions governing outside employment. I am glad to note that medical examinations are not to be so strict. I have pressed for that before. Hithertocrippled men have been able to become temporary public servants, but neverpermanent. That provision has adversely affected crippled returned soldiers and others. I should like tosee provision made, as in South Africa, for the reservation of certain divisions in the Public Service for ex-members of the forces, particularly disabled men. The Government is the biggest employer in Australia - the Post Office itself employs many thousands of men and women - and it could, I should think, easily arrange for that to be done. There are many light positions which limbless men couldfill. They should not be fated to be merely the caretakers and lift attendants of the community. Given the opportunity, they could achieve as much as the more fortunate man with all his limbs intact. Another provision is that commissioned warrant officers in the Air Force may receive deferred pay or pension, but not both.
– It was done at the request of the Air Force.
– Then I am satisfied. The bill is’ an improvement, but there is room for still further improvement.
.- This bill is designed to remove anomalies from and make necessary adjustments in the working of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. Clause 7 deals with deserted wives and children of pensioners, for whom previously there had been no provision. The clause, however, provides only for cases of actual desertion, whereas, especially these days, when opportunities to obtain accommodation are so limited, cases occur in which., although the family still lives under the one roof, the husband, for all practical purposes, has deserted his wife and childrenbyno longer providing for them. In the Deserted Wives and Children Act of New South Wales provision is made to cover such cases. I commend to the Government the need for itto consider between now and the committee stage the inclusion ofa similar provision in this bill. The Deserted Wives and Children Act provides for the making of a magisterial order for the maintenance of wives and children, obligations to whom are not being met by the men concerned. Another aspect requiring consideration is the case of a deserting husband or father who cannot be traced for service under process of law. I suggest that the Superannuation Board be given discretionary power to make an interim payment in such cases, in the same way as magistrates frequently, before the hearing of the facts in maintenance issues, make interim orders. Public servants who resign in order to contest parliamentary elections automatically lose their rights. I know that the Government is ‘Considering an amendment of the Commonwealth Public Service Act to enable such former public servants to return to their positions with seniority rights unimpaired should they be defeated and desire re-engagement. I do not know whether that legislation will also provide that their superannuation rights shall be restored, but I commend that for consideration. I endorse the views expressed by other honorable members that, in the light of the social security benefits now payable to others on a non-contributory basis and in the light of the increased cost of living, the Government should give sympathetic consideration to the superannuation payments made to public servants. I look forward to the day when there will be universal superannuation for all workers inside and outside the Public Service. The profits of private industry should be applied to ensure the security of workers.
Mr.HUTCHINSON (Deakin) [2.59]. - For once the barrier separating the Opposition and the Government is down and all parties are unanimous, but I wonder whether such unanimity is real. Superannuation involves the payment of contributions by the beneficiaries, but this Government does not believe in contributions. It believes in free “handouts “. There was a time when the people recognized the virtue and value of thrift and possessed a sense of sturdy independence. Out of that spirit the superannuation schemes were born. Under a superannuation scheme, persons contribute towards the benefits which they hope to receive, and so they accept their retiring allowances as a right, not as a charity. In many instances their contributions are subsidized by their employers. That is the basis upon which all social service legislation should be founded because only in that way can the funds stand up to the stress of difficult times. During the depression it was found that funds built up by the payment of taxes on incomes could not meet the demands made upon them; yet this country is going ahead in the same old way, and making social service payments dependent on taxes higher than the people can continue to pay. Should the world again experience a period of low prices, our social service structure may crash. If the Government believes in the principle of superannuation which underlies this bill, why does it not apply the same principle to all social service legislation? Why does it continue to undermine the morale of the people by making “ hand-ou ts” until the people who receive them believe that the State is under an obligation to them? That is the state of affairs which we are approaching in this country. The proper basis of a sound system of social services is that which is incorporated in this bill. We may think that the superannuation benefits under this bill are generous, but we would hold a different opinion if we compared them with benefits paid to public servants in Great Britain. In this matter the Old Country acts much more generously towards its public servants than do most younger countries. For instance, a Commonwealth departmental head may retire on a pension of about £8 a week, whereas the head of a department in Great Britain who at the time of his retirement was paid £3,000 a year, receives after 40 years’ service a retiring allowance of £1,500 per annum and a cash payment of £4,000. At the moment, I pass by the fact that the British scheme is noncontributory. The retired officer in Great Britain, therefore, has an income which enables him to maintain something of the standard to whichhe was accustomed during the closing years of his official life. I much prefer the contributory basis of superannuation benefits in this country to the system in operation in Great Britain, but there can be no doubt that the British system is much more generous.. I should like an explanation from the Minister as to why the Government does not apply the principle embodied in this legislation to social services generally.
.- This is a bill to remove some of the anomalies that have existed in the Superannuation Act for a number of years. During the discussion of this measure, which the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) admits is of a non-party character, the Government has been accused of a lack of sincerity ; but ever since it came into office it has aimed at improving social services and removing anomalies to which the Social Security Committee has drawn attention. I hope that before long we shall have before us a measure to consolidate the legislation providing for social benefits. The honorable member for Deakin compared the principle embodied in this bill with that underlying social service legislation generally. I remind him that successive governments have accepted the principle that invalid and old-age pensions should be on a non-contributory basis. NonLabour governments have had charge of the Commonwealth legislative machine for most of the period of federation, but they did not attempt to alter the basis on which those pensions are founded. But, whatever we may think of that basis, we must accept the existing legislation until it is altered. The only legislation which embodied a different principle was the National Health and Insurance Benefits Act, but it was never put into operation. It is not correct to say that our social service legislation is non-contributory. I remind honorable members of the existence of a National Welfare Fund to which every taxpayer contributes. I hope that the time is not far distant when taxpayers will know how much of their taxes goes to provide social service benefits to the community generally. Much of our social legislation is based on the ability of people to pay. That is to say, taxes are levied on persons who can afford to pay them ; and some of the amount which they contribute goes into the National Welfare Fund. I am sorry that in this bill we cannot deal with taxes paid on superannuation benefits, because there is no doubt that an anomaly exists. One of these days it may be corrected. I am gratified that the Minister has brought in this bill which does correct at least some of the anomalies in existing legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of
Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act
– Of all the public servants of the Commonwealth, the highest is the chief executive, namely, the Prime Minister; and at this stage, I suggest that honorable members should give consideration to the advisability of providing a pension or superannuation payment for retiring Prime Ministers in future.
– Why not apply the principle to all honorable members?
– At present, I am referring to the chief executive of the country. Failure to make this provision in the past suggests lack of appreciation of the value of the services that the chief executive renders to Australia. He devotes many years of his life to public administration, with very little financial reward, and with no possibility of building up a private fortune. When, through ill health or some other cause, he vacates his office, he and his dependants are sometimes left in straitened circumstances. Australia owes something to the “men and women- who put public service before their private interests. This Parliament should make provision for its chief executive similar to that which has been made in Great Britain, where generous pensions are payable on retirement to the Lord Chancellor, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Commons. But in Australia, the chief executive, on retiring, is sometimes relegated to the human scrap-heap, and few people care what happens to him or his dependants. Honorable members had an example of that when a former chief executive of the Commonwealth, the Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, died. Upon conditions which the Parliament may prescribe, a pension or superannuation payment should be provided for a retiring Prime Minister as a recognition of the public service which he rendered to the community. I hope that honorable members will study this problem sympathetically, so that in future Prime Ministers may know that, upon their retirement, they will have no financial worries.
Mr. MORGAN (Reid) [3.141.- All honorable members will endorse the views expressed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), because we know all too well how the health of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers has been undermined during the last five critical years. I believe that a retiring allowance should be paid to every member of Parliament. According to popular belief, members of Parliament enjoy all kinds of privileges, including exemption from income tax, but the truth is that we have the same responsibilities as the ordinary citizen. Upon retiring from Parliament, some honorable gentlemen may be able to return to their own businesses, and enjoy a certain degree of independence, but other honorable members are not so fortunately situated. They depend upon their parliamentary allowances to maintain their families’. Their election expenses are considerable, and often they are poorer on retiring from the Parliament than they were when they entered it. “When an honorable member has been a member of Parliament for years, he finds it difficult to return to his former occupation. Those matters should be considered, in the interests of public life generally. Since this session began, honorable members have been away from their homes for many months, and they do not receive any allowance to defray their hotel expenses. Civil servants, when travelling on departmental business, receive a special allowance. I hope that these matters will receive early and favorable consideration.
. - We are indebted to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for having raised this matter. A Prime Minister, when defeated or compelled by ill health to retire from this Parliament, may have little prospect of earning in private business an income with which to maintain himself and his dependants in circumstances worthy of the dignity of his former position. Some of our Prime Ministers, including Messrs. Watson, Fisher, Hughes, Lyons and Curtin, did not come from any high estate, and did not have private means. When a Prime Minister retires from this Parliament broken in health after having rendered valuable public service to Australia, he should not have financial worries. Honorable members should carefully examine this matter, and the Parliament should meet the situation by providing a suitable pension for former Prime Ministers. The way in which ex-Prime Ministers have been treated is shocking. It derogates from our dignity as a nation. Many of our Prime Ministers neglect their private interests and some suffer in health, with the result that when they are obliged to relinquish office. either as the result of the verdict of the people, or because of failing health, they have no resources to fall back upon, and have lost all opportunity to earn a reasonable income. The late Mr. Alfred Deakin, for instance, never regained his normal health, which was impaired owing to his arduous work as Prime Minister. This matter deserves urgent consideration, and I hope that the Government will make a pronouncement upon the subject at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed. The bill.
– I should like the Assistant Minister to clear up two points. Reference is made to the exclusion of female employees upon their marriage, and the Assistant Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to the fact that a contributor who was debarred from contributing for additional pension units, on account of physical or mental defects, will in future be permitted to do so, provided such defects are the result of war service. Will the Minister indicate the limits placed upon entry into the Public Service of persons who have served in the armed forces and have either become disabled or suffered illness as the result of their service ? To what degree will they be prejudiced, first, in respect of entry into the Service; and secondly, with respect to their right to contribute to the superannuation scheme ?
– Obviously, if women who contribute to the fund when single were allowed to continue to contribute after their marriage, the scheme would break down. Upon marriage, women are obliged to resign from the Public Service; but they are entitled to recover the full amount of their contributions to the fund.
With respect to the second point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), a contributor may not elect to take an additional unit unless he passes a medical examination. Offhand, I cannot indicate the degree of disability observed by the Public Service Board in this respect. That aspect is covered by the Public Service Act; hut I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member.
– I understand that there is an arrangement whereby such personnel when admitted may contribute and recover in a lump sum their contributions plus an equal sum contributed by the Government. I take it that that arrangement will remain in force.
– Yes. However, the Government will examine the matter raised by the honorable member.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Rill - by leave - read a third time.
AUSTRALIAN Army: Releases; University Tuition; Prisoners in Civil Gaols; Legal Students; Call-up - Manufacture of Paint - Galvanized Ikon and Piping - Building Materials - Horse-shoes - Toys - Housing - Trade with MIDDLE East - Refrigerators.
. T move -
That thu House do now adjourn.
In my progress statement to the House on the 19th June, on the special release of at least 50,000 men from the services by the end of the year, I intimated that the apportionment of the reduction between the Army and Air Force and the definition of operational service to govern the release of long-service personnel had been referred to the Defence Committee, and the conditions of release to the War Commitments Committee. I now inform the House of the recommendations which have been made by the Advisory War Council and approved by the War Cabinet on the reports of the Production Executive, War Commitments Committee, and the Defence Committee.
The release of at least 50,000 men by the end of 1945 is to be apportioned between the Army and the Air Force on the genera] basis of two-thirds Army and one-third Air Force. However, ‘the Defence Committee envisages that the effect of mandatory- releases of long-service mou. prisoners of war, surplus aircrew and air-crew trainees may result in 34,000 releases for the Army and 20,000 for the Air Force, or a total of 54,000.
– What about releases from the Navy?
– The releases from the Navy would be comparatively few, because naval personnel, as a rule, enlist for specified periods. As the original decision was for the release of at least 50,000 nien, the total of 54’,000 has been adopted as an objective for attainment.
On the basis of the information available at present, bearing in mind that the figures are estimates which are necessarily provisional, because they are based on the exercise of the option of discharge, the release of 54,000 will be broadly as follows: - 35,000 long service men, comprising 29,000 from the Army and 0,000 from the Air Force; 6,000 repatriated prisoners of war, of whom 5,200 are Army personnel and SOO Air Force; 13,000 surplus air crew and aircrew trainees.
Releases of long-service men are to be determined by reference to (a) the amount of operational service; (b) length of service, age and dependency. Subject to operational requirements, the option of discharge will be given, in the first place, to personnel attaining five years’ service who; in the case of Army personnel and Air Force ground staff, have had two years’ or more operational service overseas, and, in the case of air crew, have had more than- one tour of flying operations against the enemy, and within these categories the order of precedence will depend upon length of service, age and dependency. The War Commitments Committee reports that a requirement of at least 50,000 men for high-priority industry must be mct during the period from July to December, 1945. The committee estimates that 10,000 can be obtained from sources other than the special service releases, such as normal discharges and the possible contribution from the reviews of the services material and works programmes, and that the total special releases from the services suitable for high-priority industry must reach not fewer than 40,000. As the primary objective of the special releases from the services is to restore an appropriate balance between the direct military effort and its industrial basis appropriate to the present and immediately prospective stages of the war, it has been decided that an additional 10,000 men are to be released from the services on occupational grounds irrespective of serviceThis will bring the total special releases during the period from July to December to 64,000. There is also a normal wastage, which, on the present figures, will be approximately 20,000 by the end of the year. An occupational survey is being made of long-service men, who, it is estimated, will be released in accordance with the approved definition of operational service and of prisoners, of war, surplus air crew and air-crew trainees, [n the light of the survey, the War Commitments Committee will report the variations of the present provisional estimates of the releases, which will fulfil the needs of high-priority industry. Lt will also submit any recommendations for new figures for releases that may be indicated to be necessary to achieve the objective of 40,000 men for high-priority industry from the services.
The following are to be the progressive totals of the minimum number of special releases to be effected by the dates mentioned : -
As stated previously, the releases are to be made on a graduated scale in order to avoid disorganization of units and interference with operational plans. On the recommendation of the Defence Committee, it has been decided that the recruitment of men and women into the services should be continued in order to maintain the strengths necessary to meet military commitments. The monthly intake from the 1st July will be reduced from 2,800 men to 2,00.0, and from 700 women to 550. In the light of these decisions, the War Commitments Committee and the Production Executive are to submit an allocation of man-power for the period from July to December, 1945, for high-priority industry. Detailed instructions regarding the pro.ced.jire t.o be followed in connexion with the release of long-service men, prisoners of war, surplus air crew and air-crew trainees, will be issued by. the services. The procedure relating to the release pf men on occupational, grounds will be laid down by the Director-General of Man Power after consultation with the services.
– Several questions were asked this week, which at the time I could not answer in detail. I take this opportunity to do so. Some, pf the questions related to pigments for paint and materials essential for their manufacture. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me particularly about supplies of zinc oxide. The supply of all these materials is being watched carefully by my department, with a view to improving the position wherever possible. The supply of zinc oxide has improved slightly as the result of the arrival in Australia of quantities, of carbon black, which i3 normally used in the manufacture of byres. Zinc oxide has been used in the absence of carbon black, and now, additional supplies of zinc oxide can be diverted to the manufacture of paint. Alao, shipments of zinc oxide are expected from overseas shortly and this should greatly assist the production of paint. Every attempt is being made to furnish additional operatives to the industry in order to step up local production.
I have been informed that all piping that is being produced in respect of current quotas for Queensland, except a Small quantity for Rockhampton, has now been lifted from Newcastle. Difficulty has been experienced in transporting materials to Queensland, but representations are continually being made to the shipping authorities to provide space for shipments to that State. With reference to supplies of galvanized iron, I have been informed that a shipment of 180 tons was despatched this month, and a total of 600 tons is still awaiting shipment but will be forwarded to Queensland as soon as space is available. I inform the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) that the
Materials Supply Directorate of the Munitions Department in Adelaide has been instructed to give the highest priority to the supply of materials for rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by recent gales. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked, me a question about horse-shoes. The production and distribution of horse-shoes is being administered by the Directorate of War Organization of Industry. The Munitions Department is concerned only with the supply of the necessary bar iron to enable permitted sizes and weights of horse-shoes to be produced. I have investigated the matter and have learned that, despite man-power shortages, production of horse-shoes for civil requirements has increased by 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, within the last ten months. In addition, approximately 300 tons of material have been released from Army stocks for civil purposes. The head office of the Directorate of War Organization of Industry is investigating the position in the locality mentioned by the honorable member for New England.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a request, which deserves the most sympathetic attention, relating to supplies of toys for children during the next Christmas season. Most children have been denied these ordinary pleasures during the period of the war, and, unfortunately, childhood will be too short for them to experience many of the delights usually associated with Christmas. I have conferred with the chairman of the Secondary Industries Commission, who is also head of the Munitions Department, about the matter. While the manufacture of toys cannot now be undertaken in munitions establishments, as suggested by the honorable member, we are endeavouring to have such war-time contracts as are held by peace-time toy manufacturers diverted to government factories so that the other establishments can fully supply the toy market. The Administration is endeavouring to the best of its ability to meet the situation referred to by the honorable member for Parkes and others, and to ensure that by next Christmas there shall be an adequate supply of those articles which mean ‘ so much to children.
.- There is general agreement in this country to-day that education should be on the widest possible basis; yet we find that under the Government’s rehabilitation and re-establishment scheme, certain restrictions are placed on young men who have reached a high standard of education and wish to undertake university courses. For the information of honorable members I shall quote two cases. The first concerns a young man, Private McGavin, whose circumstances are set out in the following letter from the legal firm of which he was a former employee : -
I enclose certain correspondence regarding a former clerk of mine, Private P. McGavin, 2nd/] 4th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, who had intended to commence a law course at the Melbourne University, an intention which was postponed on his enlistment shortly before his eighteenth ‘birthday in June, 1940.
He was recently invited by a circular promulgated in his unit, to apply for discharge in order to commence ti university course. He accord i ugly applied, and his application was forwarded to the Universities Commission by Irs commanding officer.
Hu comes within the category described in paragraph 2 of yie Universities Commission circular enclosed.
Subsequently, by a change in government policy his category was excluded from the scheme. This fact is referred to in the enclosed copy letter of the secretary to the Universities Commission of 1st inst. in paragraphs 3 and 4.
The hardship of this case consists of the fact that a 3’outh may have been enrolled for a university course at the time of enlistment, and so may be discharged after one year’s service; whereas the best that is offered Private McGavin is that after the war is over (he having already served nearly live years and being now nearly 23 years old) may then be assisted in a law course.
Allowing a further two year’s duration of the war the merely nominal act of university enrolment by a youth now nineteen with a year’s active service would enable the latter to be admitted to practice at the age of 28 years and 6 months, and gain all the advantages in life over one who cannot expect to commence his course until after an interruption of “seven years and may at best expect to qualify four years thereafter which would be in the year 1951, and it may thus be difficult for him ever to establish himself against the competition of ex-servicemen of one year’s service who will by then have been in practice two years. The principle is one of preference to short-service men, and formulates a principle of facile “ preference “ such as after the last war made any real preference either superfluous or inoperative.
Had this young man chosen to attend a university even for only a month or two prior to enlisting, and had he served only one year in the forces, he would have ‘been entitled to complete his law course. Because of his enthusiasm in enlisting immediately on his eighteenth birthday he is not entitled to this concession, even though he has served five years in the Army. This is a serious anomaly which should be eliminated. It means that these young men will start their university courses some years behind their comrades who attended universities prior to enlistment.
The second case concerns a young man who had a brilliant scholastic career and won many scholarships. Not being an affluent individual, he was unable to undertake a full-time course at the university and had to attend night lectures as many prominent men, including Mr. Alfred Deakin, have had to do. This man has now been discharged from the Army. He finds that he can attend the university, but that the allowance payable to him will only be half of that payable to students, who, prior to enlistment, were undertaking full-time courses. That does not seem to be logical. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to investigate the cases which I have mentioned and to have those anomalies adjusted.
I have received from the Fathers Association of Victoria a protest in the form of a resolution, complaining that the housing commission is ignoring section 15a of the National Security (War Service Moratorium) .Regulations. The resolution reads -
That, this branch, whilst appreciating the difficulties confronting the Housing Commission in their task of housing the people, is of the opinion that compulsory acquisition of land owned by servicemen and their dependants, is distinctly out of harmony with the principles for which the men are fighting, and that a strong protest be sent to the Housing Commission at the exercise of their powers of acquisition of land owned by servicemen.
The Housing Commission is building homes for rental purposes. They are not to be sold. Men on active service who own blocks of land on which they hope to build homes some day, or perhaps that the War Service Homes Commission will build houses for them, are having their land compulsorily acquired in their absence by a government department which is building houses for rental purposes. The regulation to which I have referred specifies that this cannot be done without the consent of the Attorney-General or of the person concerned. I ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) to examine this matter.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) to two cases to which I have already referred in this House. I hope that he will bring the matter before the appropriate Minister. One is the case of a soldier named Cornish, with which I dealt in some detail on the 29th May, and the other is the case of a soldier named Holcombe, with which I dealt earlier this month. These men have been sentenced to fairly long periods of detention for being absent without leave. In the case of Cornish I have already given detailed information to the House showing the serious physical disabilities which he suffered. That was the primary cause of Cornish being absent without leave. The facts that I submitted in regard to Holcombe were designed to prove that he was taken in a somewhat high’handed manner, and dealt with improperly.- He had a small farm, to which no one but himself could attend. As there are on it cows, pigs and other animals which need daily attention, he might well be allowed to return to it. Both of these soldiers were sentenced to detention for two years. Although Cornish has been discharged from the Army, his detention continues. This afternoon, I am . merely soliciting the kind interest of the Minister for the Navy. Holcombe should be permitted to return to his farm, because the tendency in the Army is to release men to engage in primary production, especially where it can be shown that the soldier is the only person who can take charge of operations on the farm. I submit that Cornish should not have been enlisted. I am not at all satisfied with the statement that he will receive medical ‘attention during detention, because he should be given specialized treatment for his extraordinary wounds and physical defects. I hope it is not a fact that preferential treatment is exercised against the owners of small farms, on the ground that they are working only an inconsiderable area. I take it that the Government is anxious to conserve the interests of those who are on small holdings; at least, I hope so. I am sure that the Minister will bring these cases to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army. Presumably, the Minister himself will be back with us soon; I hope so.
– I gladly give the assurance.
-I am very glad to have the Minister’s assurance that he will direct attention to these cases..
.-I bring to notice the case of young men studying to be barristers who, because they live outside the metropolitan area, cannot attend a university. They serve as articled clerks, some with their fathers and others with legal firms, studying at homo and by correspondence, and having to pass exactly the same examinations as those who are much better circumstanced by having the opportunity to attend a university. A young man whom I know has only one examination to pass to complete his studies, but because he does not live in the metropolitan area and thus cannot attend the university, the official decision is that he is not eligible for discharge to finish his studies and take his degree. That young man suffers the great disability of having to study without assistance and by correspondence, and apparently the still greater disability that he does not live in an area in which he can enlist the aid of a professor in securing exemption. No matter how brilliant a’ young man may be scholastically, or how far in advance of normal ability, he is not given any consideration if he is not attending a university. This is most unjust, and the Government might well look into the matter.
I understand that, at present, samples of goods or goods weighing more than 10 lb. cannot be exported because the British Ministry of Shipping will not make transport available. I have many friends in Egypt, Palestine and Syria, who are most anxious to obtain from Aus tralia butter, flour, tinned and cured meats, blowlamps, primus stoves, rare earths, and practically everything else that we produce, but it is impossible to send them. Yet Britain and America, particularly the latter, have representatives in the Far East to-day who are capturing the market and definitely and deliberately excluding Australia from it. We are losing a golden opportunity. Action is essential to ensure that an opportunity shall be afforded for the export to these markets of at least reasonable quantities of food and other commodities. The market for our production is tremendous, It is time the Government made strong representations to the British Ministry of Shipping so that we may be able to send at least samples, with a view to enabling our secondary and primary industries to obtain a proportion of the trade when the war is over. I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) will bring the matter to the notice of the appropriate Minister, with a view to action being taken.
.- Many representations have been made to me, particularly from people living in the far-western parts of Queensland, concerning their difficulties in obtaining keroseneoperated refrigerators, but their applications are refused by the Division of Import Procurement, which states that it has sufficient applications onhand to absorb the supply for the next eight months. I understand that some time ago about two thirds of the refrigerators manufactured were made available to the fighting services, and the balancewas supplied to civilians, but the position should have changed within the last year. I should think that the number of these refrigerators now being manufactured should be sufficient to meet, to some degree, the needs of country districts. Some people in the outback areas rely on the delivery of food supplies by mail contractors, and they are urgently in need of means of preserving their food. This can be done only by using keroseneoperated refrigerators. I understand that a limited number of refrigerators has been made available in city areas, but no doubt they are of the electrical type. I am wondering whether manpower could be diverted to the manufacture of kerosene-operated refrigerators in order to meet the peculiar and urgent demands of people in. outback districts. 1.’ suggest that the man who lives “ 50 miles from nowhere” should be considered in preference te city residents.
– The matters referred to will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers.
Question resolved, in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 4.4 p.m..
The following- answers to questions were circulated :. -
Fodder.: Transport; TASMANIAN Oaten CHAFF
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
n asked the Minister for Commerceand Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. See tables below.
Coal Mining Industry: Electricity Rationing; Stoppages.
y. - Yesterday the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question regarding the threat of electricity rationing due to the shortage of coal stocks. I now inform the right honorable member that the threat of electricity rationing still exists, and that its’ removal is dependent, first, upon the continuity of coal production and, secondly, on the exercise of the strictest economy in the use of power and light,, both in the home and in industrial operations. The present indications are that it will not be necessary to put into operation the rationing scheme that was suggested. There will be no rationing next week. Action has been taken by the Government to hold a meeting of the Fuel Co-ordination Committee, which consists of representatives of all the Commonwealth authorities concerned. The committee will review the situation in the light of coal production and consumption, after which the Government will decide what steps are necessary in order to ensure the least discomfort and inconvenience to the community, while maintaining services essential to the war effort.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me a. question regarding a report in the Sydney newspapers concerning a stoppage which occurred at the Metropolitan Colliery. The report stated that the strike was due to miners refusing to work with a new employee who was a returned soldier. This matter has been investigated by the Minister for Supply and
Shipping, who has supplied the following answer: -
The colliery manager appointed an experienced miner to fill a vacancy. Miners work in pairs, and the remaining miner refused to accept the now appointee as his workmate, and all federation members left the mine. I understand that the miner who refused to accept the new appointee as his workmate was under the impression that he was notan experienced miner. The new appointee is a soldier of the 1914-18 war and has served in the Garrison’ Battalion in this war. I am informed that the miners’ lodge held a meeting that night and. unanimously resolved that the new appointee was to commence work and the remaining miner would have to work with him. Work was resumed at the colliery on the following day.
Rationing: Women’s Garments; Linen Goods.
y. -On the 15th June the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked a question concerning the coupon scale for women’s clothing, in the course of which he drew attention to certain statements in the Adelaide Advertiser relating to household linen.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
The: answer to the honorable member’s question is that supplies of clothing generally are not at present considered sufficient to meet the demand that would be created by a considerable relaxation of the ration scale. The position is, however, being carefully watched and reductions will be made whenever the supply position of the various types of clothing are considered capable of meeting the increased consumer demand that will result. The honorable member may have noticed that very recently reductions in ratings have been made for a number of articles in the coupon scale, including piece goods, knitting yarns, all underwear, men’s and women’s stockings and men’s caps. The specific instances quoted by the honorable member containa number of inaccuraciesin the coupon rating. A letter will be forwarded to him detailing the coupon position of the articles quoted.
-On the 19th June, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked the following question : -
In order to encourage women to take up employment on the domestic staffs of private hospitals, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to a suggestion which has been made by the Private Hospitals Association of South Australia, that coupons be issued to such hospitals to enable them to obtain suitable uniforms for their domestic servants?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
Provision is made under rationing to enable employers, including hospitals, to obtain permits from the Deputy Directors of Rationing for the purchase of clothing for issue to the staff. Where that clothing is for use by the staff during the major period of their working hours the permits are issued subject to a condition that coupons are to be collected from the staff when the clothing is issued to them by the employer. Clothing suitable for use by domestic staffs in hospitals is obtainable under these conditions at concessional coupon ratings equal to those applying to industrial workers.If the hospitals were permitted to issue clothing to their staff without the collection of coupons it would be placing the staff in a favoured position compared with all other workers who are expected to surrender coupons for clothing used by them at work.
n. - On the 5th June the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question in regard to the supply of butter and margarine to civilians in the Northern Territory.
The Acting Minister for the Army has now supplied the following information : -
There are three methods of rationing in the Northern Territory -
There has been a shortage of butter in the Northern Territory due to shipping delays and the limited number of freezer ships available.
The supply of fresh butter to the Northern Territory has only been possible since ships have been able to enter Darwin; previously “tinned butter” was sent by road and rail. Attempts to supply fresh butter to thearea by rail and road have proved unsuccessful.
The normal ration of 1¾ oz. of butterper diem to service and civilian personnel was accordingly reduced and for purposes of comparison the following scale in operation on the 14th Mayis set out -
Margarine is the normal substitutefor butter.
In order to ensure that an appropriate substitute is available in the event of any essential commodity becoming short in supply it is necessary for the Army to carry large stocks of these equivalent supplies. When an actual shortage does occur as in the present case it is necessary that substitute stocks be drawn upon as freely as possiblein order to assist in the regular “ turn over “ of such stock and it is reasonable to expect civilians in the area to share with service personnel in this regard.
In view of the complaints received, however, instructions were issued on the 16th June to the Army authorities at Darwin that all Australian personnel drawing rations through Army will share equally any commodity in short supply and that margarine issued to civilians, acceptance of which was mandatory, will be accepted back by Army and credit allowed subject to sound condition.
Thirty days’ supply of butter is now being unloaded at Darwin.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450629_reps_17_183/>.