17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Treasurer read in a recent issue of the Standard the report of a statement alleged to have been mad-e by Mr. Balmford, a member of the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues, reading -
Of course, you know it is the policy of the Capital Issues Board not to permit any development in this country which is likely to undermine English interests that have been built up here over a long period of years.
If that statement is correct, will the Treasurer take steps to remove any obstacle that may hinder the progress of Australian industries?
– According to my recollection of this matter, some time in 1942 a deputation representing a development body in New South Wales discussed with Mr. Balmford, the Commonwealth Actuary, certain matters relating to production, and other matters that were being dealt with by the Advisory Com.mittee on Capital Issues. At about that time, the Minister for Trade mid Customs (Senator Keane) had prohibited the importation from the United Kingdom of certain goods which he considered were not. essential in war-time. Immediately after I became Treasurer, I changed the personnel of the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues, for reasons that I need not give now ; they did not reflect on the honesty or integrity of the members displaced. My understanding at the time was that Mr. Balm-ford, had intimated to the deputation that the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues would not consider favorably the granting of permission, for capital issues, or the provision of capital to enable firms to manufacture in this country during war-time goods which the Minister for Trade and Customs had declared to be non-essential and the importation of which he had prohibited. I discussed with Mr. Balmford at the time a remark said to have been made by him to the deputation and, upon an examination of the statements of some members of the deputation, was satisfied that what he had said had been completely distorted. His intimation to the deputation was that the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues would not consider favorably the granting of issues of capital for the production of goods the importation of which had been prohibited on the ground that they were nonessential. Mr. Balmford bad the entire support of myself as Treasurer in making that statement, and I have continued to support him since. There was some discussion of the matter in the Parliament of New South Wales. I consider that the body constituted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), as Treasurer, to deal with capital issues, did splendid work. In my opinion, such a body might have afforded considerable protection to investors in this country in the years prior to the war. For some time, I was a member of it, consequently I had an opportunity to study at firsthand the work that it did. I warmly applaud its actions. The functioning of such a body is absolutely necessary. As secretary of it, Mr. Balmford has done an excellent job. Honorable members who have had dealings with him will admit that he has always been most courteous. I have complete faith in his honesty and integrity and I am sure that his remarks were entirely distorted. I have no intention to accept the statement made in the press.
– In Great Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced proposals to encourage the establishment of new industries, or the conversion of old industries to peacetime use, by an allowance of 10 per cent, in respect of new buildings, and 20 per cent, in respect of the first year’s depreciation of new machinery, together with other liberal provisions for industry. There is an accumulated grant of £400,000,000 per annum under the deferred credit scheme to bc made available for post-war industry in Great Britain, Will the Treasurer, in framing his budget proposals, examine the British scheme, and sec whether, with suitable modifications, it would be applicable to Australian conditions?
– Some of the matters referred to by the honorable member have already been examined. I met representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures in Canberra some months ago, in company with the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who presided on my behalf and spent some days with them. The depreciation of buildings has always been a subject of discussion. Provision has already been made, of course, in the taxation legislation, with, regard to depreciation of war-time buildings. Previously I had conferred with representatives of the primary producing interests. It will be recalled that legislation Las already been passed covering deferred maintenance in respect of all taxpayers, including primary producers. I mention these earlier discussions merely to indicate that the problems that those sections of the community have to present to the Government have been given fairly full consideration. There will be further conferences on certain matters including, no doubt, the matters raised ‘by the honorable member.
PENICILLIN. Mr. HADLEY. - Has the Acting Prime Minister seen in this morning’s press that, owing to a strike among certain girls at the Crown Crystal Glass
Works, supplies of penicillin for members of the forces cannot be delivered? Will the right honorable gentleman take the necessary steps to bring about an immediate amicable settlement?
– I have not seen the report; but inquiries will be made to see what remedies can be applied.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed reports that a strike at the works of the Crown Crystal Glass Proprietary Limited is imperilling supplies of penicillin for the fighting forces in battle areas? Is it a fact that the strike is due to the provocative action of the company in refusing to pay women employees at rates awarded ‘by Judge Foster, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? Is it not a fact that the dispute is now of long duration and that the women employees concerned have been more than usually patient? Is it not a fact that this company has a bad record with respect to the observance of awards? Will the Government consider taking advantage of the offer made by these women employees to work under government control and at rates awarded by the Arbitration Court?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Labour and National Service and have the information furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Information whether the Government has imposed a censorship upon the publication of interviews with, and statements by Australian ex-prisoners of war repatriated through Russia? If so, does that order revoke a recent instruction that statements by them could be published? Will the Minister inform the House whether any action by the Government to impose censorship restrictions is the result of pressure from the Communist party?
– For a brief period censorship was imposed by the military authorities, not by or at the instigation of the Communist party. That censorship has been removed for some weeks, and interviews with ex-prisoners of war repatriated through Russia have appeared in the daily press. It is true, however, that any statement relating to a foreign power has still, for obvious, reasons, to be submitted to censorship; but there is no general censorship of interviews with ex-prisoners of war who came home through Odessa. I shall have a talk with the honorable gentleman later and tell him the reason.
– Can the Minister tell me whether a censorship instruction reimposing censorship on such interviews and statements was issued as late as the 29th June?
– There was one instance of the censor allowing certain material to be published which could have caused diplomatic difficulties with the Russian Government. It is not desirable in the view of the censorship authorities - and this has been the view throughout the war - to allow the publication of statements whose object is to cause dissension among the Allies. The honorable member asked me a general question, having a specific case in mind. I shall discuss the specific case with him and, if necessary, I shall make a statement to the House later in regard to the general position.
– I direct a question to the Acting Attorney-General relating to the manufacture of footwear below the prescribed standard and the apparent ability of the manufacturers, to escape the legal consequences of their action. Can the Minister give the reasons for the delay in prosecuting offenders, or the failure to prosecute, in instances which, have come to my knowledge? Is there a reluctance on the part of his departmental officers to prosecute manufacturers? Are the delays due to shortages of staff in his department? Does the law require amendment so as to give a reasonable prospect of success when prosecutions are launched? If the answers to the foregoing questions are in the affirmative, will the Minister take the necessary steps to remedy the position ?
– by leave- On Friday afternoon there appeared in the Sydney 81,n. under a double headline, a statement that the Attorney-General’s Department showed a “strange reluctance” to press for salutary punishment in connexion with charges of manufacturing footwear below the prescribed standard. That’ strange reluctance may be interpreted in many ways. It may mean that either the Acting Attorney-General or some officer of his department, is reluctant to prosecute. The cases to which reference was made can relate only to those with which the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney is associated. Honorable members know Mr. George Watson as well as they do almost any other public servant, and I am sure that they will agree with me that he is a most diligent officer, who would pursue to the best of his ability any tasks of this kind that may be entrusted to him. As Mr. Watson is not here to defend himself, it is my duty to do so, if the charge of a strange reluctance to press for salutary punishment of offenders has any application to him. The article in the Sydney Sun read -
Strong criticism of the Attorney-General’s Department, which, he said, showed a “ strange reluctance to press for salutary punishment “ was expressed to-day by the Controller of footwear, Mr. Rosevear. “ I regret that in all cases taken to court under Footwear Orders, there has been this strange reluctance on the part of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department,” Mr. Rosevear said.
Explaining what had happened to proposed prosecutions, Mr. Rosevear said that because of the Attorney-General’s Department attitude, ultimately only one case went to court. A lino of £5 was imposed with £3 lis. costs, which in my opinion, is quite inadequate,” Mr. Rosevear said.
I have received the following advice from my departmental officers: -
Actually, eleven cases were submitted to the Deputy Crown-Solicitor, and six convictions have been obtained, the fines ranging from £5 to £15. Two cases were dismissed, and two are pending. In the remaining case, the Department of War Organization of Industry was informed by the Deputy CrownSolicitor in August that the Order was defective, and that, no prosecution would lie against the defendant.
The position under paragraph 14 of the order was that a manufacturer of footwear was required to submit samples of the footwear he proposed to manufacture to .the Controller of Footwear within 21 days of the making of the order. The order made no provision as regards footwear which he intended to manufacture after the period of 21 days had expired.
That the order was defective was brought to the notice of the department in August, 1944, and it was not until November that the Crown Solicitor’s Office received advice that the order had been amended in order to meet this condition. The statement continues -
There has been no reluctance on the part of the Deputy Crown Solicitor to institute proceedings where the evidence in the possession of the department has been sufficient to constitute a prima facie case. So far as penalties arc concerned, these arc at the discretion of the magistrate, but care is taken to see that all the relevant facts are placed before him, and when the department regards the offence as serious the magistrate is so informed.
I am advised by the Crown Solicitor that no complaint has been received from the department that inadequate penalties were imposed. When, last Friday, I read in Sydney and Melbourne newspapers an extract from a letter written to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro by the Controller of Leather-
– Who is he?
- Mr. Speaker (Mr. Rosevear). The point which I emphasize is that no complaint has been brought to my notice regarding any strange reluctance in the Crown Solicitor’s Office to institute proceedings, and, naturally, I was rather disturbed that my first’ knowledge of this matter should be obtained from a newspaper article, following a letter which had been sent to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the Controller of Leather misled people?
– I am not suggesting anything. I am only taking what I consider to be the proper course in this matter. If the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney, or the Attorney-General’s Department, was showing some reluctance to proceed with prosecutions under this order, I should regard that attitude as very serious. We must endeavour to keep our law department entirely above suspicion in the performance of its duties, and the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney, Mr. Watson, might feel that he is involved in any suspicion that might be created by those statements. This matter should have been brought to the notice of myself, as Acting AttorneyGeneral, so that the necessary steps could be taken to discover whether the department is reluctant to institute proceedings under this order. Now, it becomes a public matter, and, from the standpoint of the officers of the Crown Solicitor’s Department, I must regard it seriously. If the honorable member for EdenMonaro will allow me to peruse the letter, I shall be in possession of all the facts contained in it, and shall not be basing my comments entirely on a newspaper article. At the same time, I must answer the statements contained in that article.
I am advised that the order was defective. This fact was brought to the notice of the department, and apparently the order was amended last November. After that, four cases were brought to the notice of the CrownSolicitor. In two of them, prosecutions were instituted, and in the other two. decisions are pending. It would be a bad thing if the AttorneyGeneral’s Department were called upon to bring pressure to bear upon magistrates in respect of their decisions. It may well be that these penalties are adequate; but the Attorney-General’s D epartment does not impose them. It presents each case, and the court determines the penalties. I do not think that it comes within the province of the Attorney-General’s Department to interfere in any way. All it can do is to state the case and point out the seriousness of the offence, leaving the decision to the magistrate.
It is truethat the work of the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Sydney is very heavy, due to the fact that all these orders and prosecutions with respect to blackmarketing and offences against the building regulations are dealt with in that office. Thestaff in that office is overworked. For instance, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has come to me at times and said, in effect, “I think that some of these cases should be pursued more vigorously, or at leastbe brought to the court”. He has discussed that matter with me, andI have discussed it with the Crown Solicitor, and as far as possible we have followed that course. The office inSydney could do with more staff.
– The business world mustbe full of crooks.
-I do not deny for a moment that a considerable quantity of shoddy footwear is being sold. I know that from experience in my own home.. The honorable gentleman is justified in raising that point; but the sale of shoddy footwear is no justification for the statement that there is a strange reluctance on the part of the Attorney-General’s Department to launch prosecutions. And if an attack be made upon magistrates it is not within my province to deal with that aspect. That is their concern.I regret that this matter should reach the public through the medium of a letter which was sent to an honorable member. I should have preferred that it had reached me directly, so that I could have taken it up with the SolicitorGeneral and thus obviate any suggestion of improper practice on the part of any member of the staff of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction any information to give to the House concerning a reported proposal to establish a sulphide mill in the vicinity of New Norfolk, Tasmania. Can he say whether local government, bodies have been consulted concerning the project, or whether residents in the area, which constitutes one of the historic beauty spots of Australia, have been fully informed of the obnoxious character of the fumes from such a plant?
– I have no knowledge of the matter- raised by the honorable member, but I shall investigate it, and later supply an answer to the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact, as stated in the press, that he has been investigating statements reported to have been made by the Australian Minister to Russia, Mr. Maloney, which were published in the Century of the 22nd June and subsequently reprinted in other newspapers? Can the Minister inform the House of the results of his investigations and indicate whether the published reports are a true expression of Mr. Maloney’s views?
– I can add nothing further to the statement which I have already made. I have no knowledge of anything which would change my view that the statements which have been made in the press are most inaccurate.
– As the secrets of various German special manufactures are now being investigated and made available to the Allies, will the Government interest itself in the method of producing synthetic petrol so that a similar industry may be developed in Australia?
– This very important question will be fully investigated, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
– Late last year, representatives of the Commonwealth and the States conferred regarding child migration to Australia, and the Prime Minister issued a statement saying that a scheme of child migration would operate. Has the Acting Prime Minister anything to report of a plan arising from that conference, and will he consider including Dutch and Polish children as well as British orphans.
-Some time ago the Commonwealth Government made a decision in favour of a child migration scheme providing for 17,000 children to be brought to Australia each year for a period of three years. The children will be brought from the United Kingdom if possible. However, I realize the difficulty of securing the number of children that we should like to have from Great Britain. I said yesterday, in the course of a statement on migration, that I hoped to make a further statement dealing with the whole question of migration within a few days. From my talks with British Cabinet Ministers, I know that no other dominion is so far advanced as Australia in schemes for post-war migration. Much greater progress has been made by the Australian Government than by any other dominion government. I shall deal with this matter more fully in a statement to the House on another occasion.
– This morning I received the following letter, dated the 2nd July, from the secretary of the Pastures Protection Board, Young : -
My board views with considerable apprehension the action of the Commonwealth Government in granting the release of unlimited quantities of . 303 cartridges, for the purpose of the destruction of certain pests, as the danger to valuable stock through the unrestricted use of the abovementioned cartridges is fairly obvious, and my board now respectfully appeals to you to use your best endeavours to have the release cancelled, and to place an embargo upon the use of same by irresponsible persons.
Will the Minister for Munitions make an inquiry as to the reasons why such dangerous ammunition is required by those requesting it, and will he watch the position closely in order to ensure that the ammunition will not fall into the hands of people who may require it for some ulterior motive or for subversive purposes?
– The Munitions Department controls the production of this class of ammunition, but it is not necessarily in charge of the issue or disposal of it. Permits for the use of certain types of ammunition are the responsibility of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. However, the matter may relate to the disposal of ammunition by the Army authorities. I shall have inquiries made, but I think I can say with full assurance that my department has no control over the actual disposal of this class of ammunition.
– In view of the importance of providing adequate housing for the people of this country, and in view of the statement reported to have been made to a meeting of the Australian Labour party by the Minister for Trade and Customs (SenatorKeane) that the Government could not build 50,000 dog kennels, far less50,000 houses, will the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is true, as reported in the newspapers that while overseas he discussed housing with the President of the United States of America? If so, did President Truman give any indication that America would be prepared to help this country in its endeavour to solve this problem, and what “would be the nature of such help?
– In the course of my travels I found that the housing problem was just as acute in other countries as in this country, if, indeed, it is not more acute. In fact, all countries which have been engaged in an all-in war effort, and have diverted civilian workers from peace-time occupations to war industries and to the fighting services, are passing through a period of great inconvenience so far as housing facilities are concerned.
– Does that apply also to New Zealand?
– There is a very acute housing shortage in New Zealand, also. The Government proposes to have 50,000 men discharged from the fighting forces by the 31st December of this year, and I am. sure that a substantial number of them will lie diverted to the building industry. However, this work requires, not only man-power, but also materials, and for some time all available supplies of timber have been used for war purposes. There is a great shortage of building materials generally, because of war demands. Inquiries are being made to ascertain whether materials can be obtained overseas, and I am hopeful that we shall meet with some success in that regard. I repeat that this problem i3 not peculiar to Australia ; it is most pronounced in the United States of America. An officer of the Department of Information stationed at San Francisco has been compelled to pay the equivalent of £A.lo a week for a house for himself, his wife and three children. He found it impossible to obtain accommodation at a more reasonable figure. The Australian Government is doing everything possible to grapple with the problem in this country, but preference must be given to the maintenance of an all-in war effort until Japan is overwhelmingly defeated.
– The price charged to import zinc oxide to Australia is £57 a ton, but the controlled price for it in
Australia is £37 10s. From inquiries, I have discovered that the local consumption of this product could be stepped up by one-third, simply by diverting eight men to one large factory handling the product. Can the Minister for Munitions take steps to ensure that the supplies of zinc oxide used in local production will be increased?
– On Friday last, I indicated to the House that, owing to shortages of carbon black which is used in the making of tyres, zinc oxide had been diverted to that class of manufacture. Because additional supplies of carbon black can now be obtained, it is possible to release more zinc oxide for the manufacture of paint than previously. I have received complaints about the serious shortage of paint and the Government is endeavouring to relieve that deficiency. Man-power is the greatest obstacle to an increase of local production, but as soon as this is available, I assure the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) that everything will be done to increase the supplies and use of zinc oxide.
Timber Concessions - Indentured LABOUR
– Can the Minister for External Territories inform the House whether concessions for timbergetting have yet been made in the Territory of Papua? If so, who arranged for that to be done and what is the nature of the concession? If concessions have not been granted, does the Government intend to grant them, and, if so. will the Minister make a statement as to the conditions under which the concessions will be made?
– No concessions have yet been granted, but the development of timber resources in the territory is being considered by the Government, and it is hoped to be able to make an early announcement on the matter.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories whether there has been a considerable increase of indentured labour in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea since the commencement of the war? Has the voluntary method of securing this labour been abandoned in favour of its straight-out conscription? Is it true that the labour so obtained and directed to industry, apart from military requirements, is not receiving the medical care and attention that it should have? Is the Minister prepared to make a statement on the subject?
-The condition of engaging native labour, as far as the civil authorities are concerned, has never varied. The great increase in the use of indentured native labour would be the result, I should think, of defence activities and of action taken by the Army itself. In order that the position may be fully explained to honorable members, I shall have an investigation made immediately. The Army is in control of the territory at present, and therefore it will be necessary for me to confer with the Minister for the Army in order to secure the fullest possible information on the matter.
Shortagesinnewsouthwales Country Districts
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that there is a shortage of sugar in many country districts, and will he take steps to see that supplies shall be increased ?I refer particularly to localities such as Ettalong andWoy Woy, where no deliveries of sugar have been made for the last two months.
– The honorable member’s question raises two issues. The first, relates to the quantities of sugar available to Australian consumers. Involved in that matter is Australia’s commitment to the United Kingdom. Recently, the United Kingdom has made requests for greater supplies,but in spite of that there is sufficient sugar available to supply Australian consumers. The second point relates to distribution, and I shall consult the Minister for Supply and Shipping concerning it.
– Having regard to the frequency with which the Minister for Munitions has been requested to step up the production of wire, wire netting, piping, and all other materials required by dairy farmers and other producers, and the proposal to release a number of men from the fighting services, will the Minister co-operate with the Minister for Labour and National Service in ensuring that adequate labour shall be made available to the firms that are producing such materials, in order that the nine months’ arrears of production of which he advised me a few weeks ago may be overtaken?
Call-up - Re leases.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister, who is also Minister for the Army, indicate when the Government proposes to cease the call-up of youths of eighteen years of age for service in the Army? The practice is that youths shall not be sent to a forward operational area outside Australia until they have attained the age of nineteen years, and the universal hope is that the war will have ended before youths now reaching the age of eighteen years will have attained that age. In view of the very acute shortage of youths for training in coal mines, and the non-release from the forces of competent and experienced mine workers who have been serving for more than five years, will the right honorable gentleman consider the cancellation of the regulations under which youths of eighteen years are now called up?
– All of us have the utmost sympathy with the view expressed by the honorable gentleman. I shall have his request carefully examined. But he must understand that, because of operations that are now in progress, it. is necessary to train reinforcements for the replacement of men who are wounded or killed, or become sick in tropical areas to the north of Australia. Furthermore, the discharge from the forces of an additional 54,000 or more up to the 31st December next will render it more difficult for the service organizations to maintain a steady flow of reinforcements.
– During the absence of the Minister for the Army, the administration of Army affairs has rapidly deteriorated, particularly in respect of representations by honorable members for the release of personnel. Prior to his departure, an excellent system operated, under which the matter was dealt with entirely by the Army authorities, and ultimately a satisfactory reply was received. The procedure has been changed, and invariably the response of the Army authorities to applications is that a reply has not been received from the Man Power Directorate. Thus there is a constant “ passing of the buck”. I cite a typical instance: On the Sth June, I forwarded n letter to the Army authorities, and on the 25lh June received the reply that a recommendation had not been made by the Man Power Directorate. 1 know that a recommendation was made. Will the Minister for the Army investigate the whole position, with a view to communications between honorable members and his department in respect of applications for the release of personnel being placed on a more satisfactory basis?
– I shall be pleased to investigate the complaint of the honorable member, and to do everything possible to expedite replies to representations by honorable members generally. I arn completely confident that my colleague. Senator Fraser, administered the department of the Army in a most capable manner during my temporary absence abroad.
Assistance 01? Private Enterprise
– Did the Acting Prime Minister, while in the United Kingdom recently, state that Australia was looking to private enterprise to reestablish industry in the post-war years? If so, when does the Government intend id give some indication of the implementation of a policy in this regard?
– While I was in London and America, I discovered that in certain quarters some anxiety had been caused to business executives with investments in Australia, by party political, and, indeed, false propaganda of the kind indulged in by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I had the opportunity in make a speech at a public func-1 Inn in London. I then stated very definitely that the Australian Government greatly appreciated the investment of British capital and “know how “ in Australian industry. I expressed the hope that there would be a continuation of such investments in the post-war years, because the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women, and war production workers, was too gigantic to be tackled . successfully by governments alone. Further, I referred to a speech that had been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) at a recent conference in Canberra between representatives of manufacturers and the Australian Government, in which the right honorable gentleman said that, in the post-war years, private enterprise would have greater opportunities than it had enjoyed previously, and the Government desired its co-operation in endeavours that would have to be made to solve the difficult problems thai, would be associated with rehabilitation and reestablishment. I believe that I was able in London to disabuse the minds of business executives, who intended to invest further capital in Australia, of the effect of the party political propaganda indulged in by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
T li ANS-AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY. Travel ung FAQilitiesMr. WARD (East Sydney- Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories). - by leave - From time to lime, honorable members from South Australia and Western Australia have urged an improvement of the rail travel facilities between Western Australia and the eastern States. I am nowable to advise that arrangements have been made by officers of my department, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Railways, the Western Australian Railways, and the Army authorities, to provide a second train, which will leave Port Pirie for Kalgoorlie each week on Wednesday, commencing on the 1st August next, and will leave Kalgoorlie on the return journey each week on Saturday, commencing on the 4th August next. This is in addition to the train that leaves Port Pirie on Mondays and Kalgoorlie on Thursdays in each week, and will alleviate the inconvenience that has been caused by the withdrawal during the war, for defence purposes, of much of the rolling stock previously used on this railway system. Contacts will be maintained with the authorities mentioned, with a view to effecting further improvements in the future.
Motion (by Mr. Drakeford) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring ina bill for anact to providefor the establishment and operation of national airline services by the Commonwealth and for other purposes.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short measure is designed to authorize the acquisition by the Commonwealth of freehold land in the town of Darwin and its environs. A full description of the area affected is contained in the schedule to the bill. It is proposed to acquire the land by either agreement or compulsory process, in accordance with the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936 as applied by the Lands Acquisition Ordinance 1911-1926 of the Northern Territory.
As set out in clause 3, land may be acquired for either or both of the following purposes : - (a) The replanning and development of the town of Darwin and its environs; and (b) the institution of a system of leasehold tenure from the Crown in respect of any such land. Clause 4 provides that the value of any land acquired shall be assessed without reference to any increase of value which might arise from the proposal to carry out the purposes specified.
Clause 5 authorizes the appropriation of the sums necessary for the acquisition of the land. By clause 6 land acquired in pursuance of the act becomes Crown land.
As a result of the bombing of Darwin, many of the houses and buildings were destroyed. Other property has been demolished to meet defence requirements. The whole of Darwin’s “ Chinatown “ has disappeared. The carefully considered view of a number of authorities is that all freehold land in the Darwin area should be acquired by the Commonwealth, and that in future town allotments should be made available under a system of leasehold tenure on a basis similar to that operating in Canberra. The proposal is strongly supported by the Central Hirings Committee, the War Damage Commission, the well-known town planner, Mr. R. A. McInnes, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral and the Inter-departmental Committee on Darwin. A group of army officers, all of whom have had experience in civil life in town planning and dealings in land, prepared a report on, and a plan for the town of Darwin, after spending a lengthy period in the north. They strongly advocated the institution of a leasehold system for the town. This report was fully endorsed by senior army officers in the area.
The acquisition is desirable to enable the future development of Darwin and the exploitation of its potentialities to the best advantage, from both civilian and defence points of view. The present time is most opportune for the acquisition of all privately owned property at a minimum cost. The Commonwealth is already committed to a substantial part of the cost, and there will be no disturbance of civilian activities. The civilian population has not yet been permitted to return, and at present no private businesses are functioning. Practically the whole of the existing buildings are still occupied by service personnel for defence purposes. The proposed alteration of tenure will also have the effect of conserving to the Commonwealth the unearned increment in the land arising from the heavy expenditure of Commonwealth funds which may be anticipated in the development of the town.
It is hoped that it may be possible in many cases to acquire the privately owned land at the unimproved capital value, and to arrange with the owners of the improvements to lease the land and retain the improvements on it. Some of the improvements are erected on blocks which will probably not fit in with the town plan that will ultimately be adopted. In such cases the compensation payable would be in respect of both land and improvements. In the town of Darwin proper 491 sections are held under freehold tenure, and 74 sections under leasehold tenure. Of these, 219 sections were unimproved at the 19th February, 1942, the date of the Japanese air raid on Darwin, and 214. sections had buildings standing on them at the 22nd April. 1944, indicating that 132 sections which were improved at the 19th February, 1942, carried no improvements at the 22nd April, 1944. In the area suburban to Darwin 65 sections are held under freehold tenure, and 121 sections under leasehold tenure. Of these, 97 sections were unimproved at the 19th February, 1942, and 59 sections had buildings standing on them at the 22nd April, 1944, indicating that 30 sections which were improved at the 19th February.1942, carried no improvements at the 22nd April, 1944.
It is not possible at this stage to give a firm estimate of the cost of the proposed acquisition, but the following tentative figures, prepared by the Central Hirings Committee, will give pome indication of the cost involved : - Unimproved value of land, £150,000 : value of improvements, £500,000; total, £650.000. Against this mm the Commonwealth is already committed to an expenditure of about £200,000 for damage by enemy action, fire, demolitions, occupation, &c. Thus it would appear that the net cost to the Com mon wealth of the acquisition may not exceed £500,000.
Mr.Holt. - Can the Minister state the estimated cost of the building programme?
– No. This bill provides only for the acquisition of the land.
– The plans have not been prepared ?
– They are on the way.
– Can the Minister supply me with a cony of the MacInnes Report on Town Planning?
– It is at the Department of the Interior. I shall try to supply a copy to the honorable member.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I move-
That the billbe now read asecond time.
Earlier in the year I announced that, the Government, after consultation with the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, Sir Thomas Blamey, had decided to restore civil administration to the Territory of Papua and that portion of the Territory of New Guinea south of the Markham River. The purpose of this bill is to give effect to that decision. At the time of the invasion of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea by the Japanese early in 1942 there were separate administrations for the areas, each with an administrator and executive and legislative . councils, a judiciary and a public service. Following the Japanese invasion all persons employed by both administrations who were not in the forces were suspended from office by National Security (External Territories) Regulations, and such functions of civil administration as were necessary to be performed in those portions of Papua and New Guinea not then in enemy occupation were vested by National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations in the officer commanding the Australian Military Forces operating in the area. The Australian New Guinea Administration Unit was formed as a part of the Australian Military Forces and commenced operations in Papua and progressively extended its activities to the Territory of New Guinea. For convenience, the Territories have been regarded as one administrative area while under military control.
Although the Government does not propose at this stage to consider the matter of the amalgamation of the two Territories, it considers that it would not be desirable immediately to re-establish two entirely separate Public Services and proposes, therefore, as a temporary measure, to create a single provisional administration to administer Papua and such portions of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea as are now available to be transferred to civil control. Other parts of the Mandated Territory which have been recovered from the enemy will continue to be administered by the Australian New Guinea Administration Unit until the operational position in those areas is such as to allow control to be transferred to civil authorities.
The administration of Papua was constituted under the Papua Act 1905 and that of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea under the New Guinea Act 1920. Although officers of the administrations of the Territories were suspended in 1942, all laws of the Territories have continued in force and such legislation as has been necessary during military control has been effected under National Security regulations. It is proposed that the Papua Act and the New Guinea Act shall continue in force so far as their provisions relate to the definition of the boundaries of the Territories and the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to the Territories. It is proposed, however, to suspend the provisions of those acts which relate to the Administrator, the Legislative Councils, the Judiciary and the Public Service. The bill contains provisions in relation to these matters similar to those in the separate acts, except that the power to make ordinances will be vested in the GovernorGeneral instead of the Legislative Councils. This course is necessary by reason of the temporary nature of the Provisional Administration and of the absence of normal conditions and a settled population. The position will, however, be kept, under constant review ‘by the Government, and, as soon as it becomes practicable to do so, legislative powers will be restored to the Territories.
The area covered by the Provisional Administration will be known as the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, and there will be one Administrator, one Supreme Court and one Public Service for the Territory.
The bill provides that the suspension of the provisions of the Papua Act and the New Guinea Act relating to the making of ordinances shall not affect the operation of any law made pursuant to those acts, but any ordinance made under the acts may be amended or repealed by ordinance under the proposed act. The proposed Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act will continue in operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war. When the act comes into force, the operation of National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations will be terminated so far as the Territory of Papua and the portion of the Territory of New Guinea that is being transferred to civil control art concerned, and certain sections of National- Security (External Territories) Regulations will be repealed.
The separate Public Services of Papua and New Guinea will be replaced temporarily by a Provisional Public Service under the proposed act. Officers of the former Services will continue to be regarded as suspended from office under National Security (External Territories) Regulations, but they will be entitled to appointment in the Provisional Service under conditions of service and salary not less favorable than those applicable to them as officers of their respective Public Services. The rights of such officers under the terms of their appointments in the separate Services will be preserved to them, and such rights will be safeguarded during the period of the Provisional Administration. The classification for the Provisional Service has been prepared on the basis of the salary scales for corresponding positions in the Public Services of Papua and New Guinea, adopting as a general rule whichever rate is the higher for analogous positions. Any disparity in salaries paid for positions with similar duties and responsibilities as between the two Services will thus be removed.
The occupation by the enemy of most of the Territory of New Guinea and a large portion of the Territory of Papua caused disruption to the native inhabitants and destruction of property that will require considerable sums of money to repair. Some of this money will be forthcoming’ from the Commonwealth War Damage scheme which applies to the Territories, but appropriations will also be necessary from the revenue of the Commonwealth to assist in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Territories. This Government is not satisfied that sufficient interest had been taken in the Territories prior to the Japanese invasion, or that adequate funds had been provided for their development and the advancement of the native inhabitants. Apart from the debt of gratitude that the people of Australia owe to the natives of the Territory, the Government regards it as its bounden duty to further to the utmost the advancement of the natives, and considers that that can be achieved only by providing facilities for better health, better education and for a greater participation by the natives in the wealth of their country and eventually in its government.
A comprehensive programme is to be followed for the rehabilitation and development- of the Territories having regard to the moral and material welfare of the native inhabitants and the strategic importance of the area to Australia. The Government has already made decisions on a number of matters, the most important of which is that relating to native labour. In the past native labour has been employed under the indenture system. As has already been announced, the Government intends to abolish this system as soon as practicable, and the decisions that have been taken and which are now outlined are designed to remove the indenture system from Papua and New Guinea within a period of five years or at an earlier date, as may be determined by the Government. As soon as the civil administration is restored a new Native Labour Ordinance for the combined Territory will be enacted. The major alterations to be made under this ordinance will be -
Although native labour is a very important item, it can be regarded as only a small part of any plan forthe benefit, of the natives as a whole. The native population of the territories is estimated to be about 1,000,000, and the greatest number of natives in employment at any one time has not exceeded 60,000. For the general benefit of the natives, much more must be done to improve conditions of living in the villages, and plans for that purpose are being formulated. The immediate need is to repair the damage caused by war to both native life and property. Some time ago, a committee was set up to investigate and recommend a just and practicable plan for compensating natives in Papua and NewGuinea for loss of, or damage to, land and property and death or injury arising from military operations, or arising out of causes attributable to theexistenceof a state of war in the territories. This committee has completed its investigations, and its report isexpected to be available at an early date. Thereafter, it will be the aim to improve the health of the natives generally, and by education to improve their conditions and the standard of living. In the past, much of the education of the natives has been in the hands of missionaries. Our plans provide for a vigorous programme of education in its broadest sense, controlled and directed by the administration. This does not mean that the missions will be excluded from that field. They have performed very valuable services in the past, and can continue to do so within the framework of the educational programme that is being developed.
Formerly. the economic development of the Territory and the extent to which industry might be expanded were limited only by the markets available and ‘ the supply of native labour that could be obtained. There has been some development by natives on their own account. In future, the basis for the economy of the territory will be native and European industry with the limit of non-native expansion determined by the welfare of the natives generally. Trading activities, particularly so far as they affect the natives, will be under much closer scrutiny and control than in the past but the policy of the Government in this matter has not yet been determined. Transport between Australia and the Territories, and within the Territories, is a major factor in the development of the areas, and the future of shipping and aviation activities is now being considered by the Government.
The magnitude and complexity of the task will be realized when I mention that practically all settlements in New Guinea, and many of those in Papua, will require to be rebuilt. Opportunity will be taken to bring to our assistance all technical aid that will .be necessary to provide suitable and attractive areas of settlement, by town planning and construction of buildings that are appropriate to the climate and equipped with modern facilities. To carry out the plans of the Government, an efficient and energetic administration will be required, and, although many of the experienced officers of the former administrations who have performed such splendid services in the past will be available, other officers will be required to fill vacancies that havebeen caused by war casualties and retirements from the services. The most important post to be filled is, of course, that of Administrator, and it has been decided to pay a salary of £2,000 and an entertainment allowance of £500 per annum to the occupant of that post. In order to have the widest possible field of selection, it has been decided to invite applications for the appointment, and this action will be taken forthwith. Among other important posts of the services for which applications will be invited are those of Director of Public Health, at a salary ranging from £1,100 to £1,200; Director of Agriculture, with a salary range of £1,000 to £1,200 ; and Director of Education, at a salary of £900 minimum and £1,000 maximum. The foregoing rates of salary have been fixed, having regard to the fact that residents of the Territories are not subject to income tas in respect of salary earned by them in the Territories. Plans for the return of the civil administration have so faT progressed as to make it possible to anticipate that the transfer of the control of the administration of Papua and portion of the Territory of New Guinea south of the Markham River can bt effected about the beginning of October next. It will be some time, however, before normal conditions can be reestablished, even in those areas, especially in relation to the supply of stores and the provision of transport between Australia and the Territories, and within the Territories. It will, therefore, be necessary, even after the civil administration has been re-established, to retain certain restrictions upon the entry of persons to the Territories and upon activities generally. Much reconstruction and rebuilding of public and private utilities and living accommodation will be necessary, especially in the Territory of New Guinea, before any large number of civilians can be accommodated in the town areas. So far as possible, authority will he given for the return of persons to plantations and essential industries, but such persons will, for the present, be subject to control of the Australian New Guinea Production Control Board under National Security (External Territories - Control of Industries) Regulations. former residents of the Territories and their families will be permitted to return to the Territories so soon as it is practicable to do so, having regard to the circumstances of each case. It is the aim of the Government, as the proposer at the San Francisco Conference of the establishment of the principle of trusteeships respecting dependent peoples, to set an example by the way in which Australia carries out its responsibilities in the Territories under its control. Naturally, many of the plans of the Government affecting native education, health, &c., are in the formative stage. From time to time statements will be made to the Parliament of decisions taken in respect of various matters.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd July (vide page 4001).
Clause 138 agreed to.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the instruments constituting, or in the articles of association or other rules of, any company not having shareholders, the company shall, within one year after the commencement of this Act, make arrangements for -
. -During the second reading, I suggested that a roll of policy-holders should be provided by mutual life insurance companies. Then, any person who desired to contest the position of director would be placed on an equal footing with the existing directors regarding the availability of the list of policy-holders. The candidate could then circularize or otherwise place his case for election before the policy-holders. Although I am not fully aware of the existing practice, I am inclined to think that no such facilities of any consequence are provided by the insurance companies, and that extreme difficulty is experienced by any person who desires to contest an election. In order to ensure that a roll shall be made available to such candidates, I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (c), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ ; and (d) the making of inspections of the postal voters’ roll and the taking of copies of, or extracts from, the roll, on and after the close of nominations and before the close of the voting in any such election, by any person nominated for election as a director of the company,”
– The Government has pleasure in accepting the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further verbally amended, and. as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 140 to 142 agreed to.
Clause 143- (2.) Where a company is incorporated outside Australia but within the British dominions, and renders actuarial abstracts and statements of its business to the Board of Trade in England in pursuance of any Imperial Act, the company may furnish copies of those documents to the Commissioner in lieu of the abstracts and statements required to be furnished under section fifty-two of this Act:
Provided that the company shall, at the same time as it furnishes copies of those documents, furnish to the Commissioner a statement showing, in accordance with a method approved by the Commissioner, the net liabilities of the company under its policies on Australian registers as at the valuation date to which those documents relate.
.- I move-
That, in sub-clause (2.), after the word “renders”, the following words be inserted: - “ accounts and balance-sheets “.
There is one British company which has a branch in Australia, and the parent company is incorporated under a special act of the Imperial Parliament. If this amendment is not accepted, the company must give detailed and relevant information of its business transactions in Great Britain and the other dominions to the policy-holders in Australia. The requirements of the Insurance Commissioner and the public will be satisfied by the amendment, without putting the company to the trouble of supplying information which does not really concern the operation of this act.
-Clause 52 refers to “ accounts, balance-sheets and abstracts so the amendment will reconcile clause 143 with the earlier provision.
– That is so. The adoption of the amendment will improve the working of this legislation, and minimize inconvenience.
– One British company and a small New Zealand company are affected by this clause. At this stage, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment; I desire a further opportunity to examine it. The British company did make representations to the Government when the bill was being drafted, and we endeavoured to meet its proposals in a reasonable spirit. In sub-clause 1 of this clause, we have made provision whereby the insurance commissioner may modify the requirements prescribed in the bill regarding the supplying of information under the schedules. The Government is entitled to get from every company that transacts business in Australia all relevant information regarding its Australian business. For that reason, the Government proposes that the Insurance Commissioner shall have power to modify the provisions of the schedules. As applying to Australian companies, the schedules cover a considerable amount of information, and we do not desire to put British companies to any unnecessary expense in providing any particulars other than what they should supply in regard to their Australian business. We do not ask them to provide all the information that they supply to the Board of Trade, but we contend that they must “ furnish copies of those documents to the commissioner in lieu of the abstracts and statements “ required under clause 52. However, I promise the right honorable gentleman that consideration will be given to the amendment.
– I should like the Minister (Mr. Calwell) to consider a consequential amendment. I believe that in sub-clause 2 after the word “and” (third occurring) the words “ accounts and balance-sheets “ should be inserted.
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that consideration will be given to the matter.
– I now move-
That, in the proviso to sub-clause (2.), the words “to the Commissioner” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “such additional information in such form as the Commissioner approves in respect of its life insurance business in Australia, together with “.
The amendment will clarify and facilitate the working of the clause, andI ask the Minister to consider it in conjunction with my remarks on subclause 2.
– Not having seen the amendment I am somewhat at a disadvantage and I am unable, therefore, to say whether it will be accepted. I assure the right honorable gentleman, however, that his amendment will be duly considered before the bill is dealt with in the Senate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 144 to 149 agreed to.
New clause 101a.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 101a. Where in pursuance of any provision of this Division a policy owner is entitled to receive, or a company is required to grant, a paid-up policy and there is any debt owing to the company under or secured by the policy, the company may elect -
to treat the debt so owing as a debt secured by the paid-up policy, and thereupon the paid-up policy shall be a security for the debt so owing; or
in the ascertainment of the amount of the paid-up policy, to reduce the amount by taking into account, upon a basis approved by the Commissioner, the debt so owing to the company, and thereupon the debt shall cense to be owing to the company.”.
The purpose of the clause is to provide that if an insured person owes the company a sum of money and desires to obtain a paid-up policy, he may secure it with the debt attached to it, or a paid-up policy, the value of which will represent the difference between what he is entitled to on an actuarial valuation and the amount owing to the company.
New clause agreed to.
New clause 119a.
.-I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “119a. Any term or condition of a policy issued after the commencement of this Act which limits, to an amount less than the sum insured, the amount payable under the policy in the event of the death of the life insured occurring on war service, shall not have any force or effect, unless the person who effected the policy agreed in writing to the insertion in the policy of that term or condition.”.
During the second-reading debate I pointed out a war condition of policy which was adverse to men serving in the forces overseas, as compared with those serving in New Guinea or Australia. The relatives of a serviceman who might be killed by accident in Australia or on active service in New Guinea would receive the full amount of his policy, but those of a serviceman who may have been killed overseas would receive only the amount of premiums paid, plus a certain amount of interest. That provision came into force in September, 1939. but it is anomalous and discriminatory. It places a penalty upon a serviceman overseas. The companies contend that they could not pay the full policy for all of the insured. I do not say that they are rapacious; on the contrary, such companies are of great benefit to the community because they are mostly mutual concerns. Nevertheless, I should like to see the provision made for them to pay the full value of a paid-up policy in respect of deceased overseas servicemen. That could be done by the means of a levy on other policies, as happens in South Africa, where 10s. per cent. is paid by an insured person on the value of his policy. On that basis the holder of a £1,000 policy would pay an extra £10. I consider that the companies have not given sufficient consideration to servicemen overseas in this matter, and even a little sentimental thought would have brought about a more equitable state of affairs. Insurance companies have been generous in other ways, as in recognizing the pilot of an aircraft as being within the same category as members of the crew. Relatives of personnel of air crews overseas have expressed great disappointment and bitterness in respect of the treatment they have received concerning the policies of their deceased insured. They have complained that they did not fully understand the terms of the policies. Another purpose of my amendment is that in every instance the insured must sign all the provisos to the policy and be fully aware of all its benefits and implications. Insurance policies are usually full of instructions and conditions, and sometimes, in his enthusiasm, the insurance agent does not fully explain to the proponent all that the policy implies. The new clause has been framed by the parliamentary draftsman, and I hop? that the Government will accept it.
– I support the amendment, which covers an important provision, and I trust that the Minister at the table will accept it. No discrimination should be shown between men serving overseas and those serving in Australia or New Guinea. Probably the principle was overlooked by the Government, but the amendment rectifies that anomaly and I hope that it will be accepted.
– After reading the amendment, and realizing the purpose of the new clause, the Government has much pleasure in accepting it.
– I am pleased that tie Government has accepted the amendment, because it will remove an injustice. Recently a case came under my notice arising from the death of an airman overseas. When his father went to collect the proceeds from his deceased son’s policy, he was paid, as the trustee of the estate, only the premiums that had been paid, plus, I think, 3 per cent. interest. That was the first intimation he received that he could not draw the full amount for which the life was insured. A qualifying clause was contained in the policy, and, therefore, he had no legal redress, but there is no doubt that he and his son did not appreciate thetrue position.
– The clause is never conspicuous enough.
– That is so. I am glad chat the amendment will compel the companies to do the fair thing.
.- I support the amendment. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has raised two important matters. I agree that statements made by insurance agents should be honoured by the companies which employ them. Very often, in an endeavour to obtain business, agents make statements which are not in accordance with facts, and the companies, of course, are not bound by those statements; they are bound only by what is written in the policies.I know it is difficult to prove that such statements have been made by agents, but, when proof is available, the Government should make the statements binding on. the companies. Frequently the written word is not read or understood by the person engaging in the contract. Recently, a case came to my notice of a minor company which issued a. policy on the life of a soldier. Because the premiums were not paid for a limited period, the company insisted on the insertion of a clause relieving it of liability in the event of the soldier being killed outside Australian territory. The soldier was unfortunately killed in Papua, and the company refused to honour its obligation, because Papua was not Australian territory. The major companies have honoured contracts in respect of soldiers who have been killed in Papua; they have accepted the moral obligation. That territory should be regarded as Australian territory for the purposes of insurance policies, and small companies should be forced to honour their obligations in cases such as I have mentioned. It might be difficult to make any such provision retrospective, but the Government should prevent companies from avoiding their liabilities in this way in future. I consider that the position will be met by the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Balaclava. Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne- Minister of Information) [12.18]. - In order that there shall be no doubt about the matter, I repeat that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), which I have accepted, will be effective as from the time of commencement of this legislation. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has referred to the obligations of companies in respect of statements made by their agents. The royal commission which inquired into life insurance in Victoria in 1938 made the following recommendation on this subject : -
Where an agent or officer of an industrial life assurance company wholely or partly fills in a proposal, he should be deemed to be acting as the agent for the company and not for the proposer, to the extent to which the proposal has been completed by him.
Some companies contended, when persons complained of misrepresentation by an agent, that the agent was, in fact, the agent of the person insured and not of the company, and thereby escaped responsibility for anything which the agent had said. The Victorian legislation has placed the obligation upon the company, and there can be no doubt about the equity of that. Clause 125 of this bill is in line, with the recommendations made by the Victorian royal commission. It relates to the avoidance of the provisions of a policy by reason of particulars in the proposal being written or filled in by the-agent or servant of a company. The Government has also used the Imperial Act of 1923 as a guide in this connexion. I promise the honorable member for Perth that, if it be possible to improve the position relating to persons killed on service, we shall do so.
– The responsibility it accepted by the major companies.
Mr.CALWELL.- I shall look into the matter to see whether anything can be done about it. The Victorian legislation passed in 1939 and 1940 is not effective beyond the boundaries of that State. However, the major companies, as a matter of policy, adopted the provisions of that legislation in regard to their transactions in other States. They did so, perhaps, for uniformity, but, perhaps, because they also recognized the fairness of the Victorian law. The major companies have done the reasonable thing as an act of grace, not for reasonsof necessity. Some of the smaller companies may not have fulfilled all their moral obligations, and I consider that it would be in the interest of life insurance busi- ness if some of the smaller companies were weeded out. As I said in my secondreading speech, I know of one company which, if sold up to-morrow, could pay its creditors only 6s. 8d. in the £1, and I also know of another company in a very insecure position. The responsibility for this state of affairs does not rest upon the Victorian Parliament. If it rests anywhere, it rests on the Parliament of New South Wales, which has never enacted any worthwhile legislation to control life insurance. It is to the credit of the Minister of Justice in Vew South Wales that he approached the Commonwealth Government early this year and said that, if the Commonwealth Parliament did not, pass appropriate legislation, the New South Wales Parliament would do so. The Commonwealth Government considered that it would be better to have uniform legislation in all States than to have legislation operating in one State alone. This Government was not impelled to introduce this bill by the solicitations of the N°w South Wales Minister of Justice, but they were a factor which influenced the early introduction of the measure. I appreciate the cooperation of honorable members in dealing with this measure. That co-operation has resulted in the speedy passage of this vital bill, which contains about 150 important clauses.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) fi 2.25]. - I strongly support, the amendment, but if may be necessary also to insert in the measure a definition of the words “war service “. For instance, will the amendment cover merchant seamen who in the course of their normal avocation sail into operational areas and whose ships may be torpedoed, or civilians who may lose their lives while travelling on war duties? This is a matter which should be determined before the amendment is accepted. The provision may .be so broad as to include the entire civilian community which has been exposed to bombing attacks. I understand that the British Government introduced legislation to undertake that kind of insurance.
– The Government will accept the amendment, and I promise the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that the point which he has raised will be taken into consideration before the bill is disposed of in the Senate.
.- J appreciate the acceptance of this amendment by the Government, and also the co-operation of honorable members on the Government side, particularly the honorable members for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) and Perth (Mr. Burke). 1 hope that when other measures are discussed by this chamber, the same co-operative spirit -will be shown. The amendment of course will date from the passing of this legislation; but there will still be a number of dependants who may feel embittered because those provision? were not brought to their notice previously. I hope that the insurance companies, which in the main are excellent institutions, will take a generous view in any case in which there is a doubt, and if a salesman who effected an insurance policy cannot prove that he did bring the matter definitely to the notice of an insured person, an ex gratia payment, satisfactory to that person, will be made.
New clause agreed to.
The First Schedule- [Form D.]
Note 3. - Assets and Liabilities not aliocated to any class of life insurance business and Shareholders Capital and Reserves, must be shown in the columns headed “Other Classes of Business “.
.- I move-
That, in Form D, Note a, after the word “ Liabilities “ the following words be inserted : - “and Shareholders Capital and Reserves”.
This amendment is rather technical. If not, made, a company which handles life assurance business only, and has no power to transact any other business, will b< required to separate the assets representing its capital from the assets representing its statutory funds. This would btan unnecessary and arbitrary distinction which in this instance would not serve any useful purpose. I agree that if the shareholders’ capital of a proprietary company is liable for any contracts within life insurance business, it should be segregated from statutory funds. The amendment will have that effect. I am sure that the Government’s legal advisers will be seised of the importance of this matter. The amendment is designed to improve the operation of the legislation, and to eliminate overlapping and inconvenience. If it be agreed to, I shall move a consequential amendment.
– I ask the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) not to press his amendment, but to allow the schedule to be adopted in its present form. I undertake to discuss the matter with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) before the bill is dealt with in the Senate.
Schedule agreed to.
Remaining schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by Ieave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.82 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 25th May (vide page 2151), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -Notwithstanding the heavy burden of war expenditure which the people of Australia have been called upon to bear, and will bear so long as the war continues, no person in the community will object to the provision of the amount involved in this measure as an expression of the nation’s gratitude to the men and women of our fighting services. Our fighting services have established a very proud record. They have served on the sea, on the land, and in the air - indeed, wherever His Majesty’s forces have been thrown against the common enemy. Our Navy has been in the closest co-operation with units of the American Navy, and with components of the navy of our noble ally, the Dutch. No navy of its size has been so conspicuous for bravery and so unrelenting in attack. The Australian
Navy has not only maintained the glorious tradition of the Royal Navy, but has also established new traditions for itself. Our Army has won high honours in the Middle East, Syria, Greece, Crete, Malaya and in all the islands to the north of Australia. In 1942 our Army joined forces with the Americans and played their part in the strategic defeat of Japan in New Guinea, New Britain, the Solomons and, in more recent clays, in Borneo. The soldiering of our men wherever they have served has been superb; and whether as the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia they have played an heroic part in all circumstances and under all conditions of total warfare. Early in the war Great Britain, in conference with the Dominions, brought into being the Empire Air Scheme, and quotas of trained and partly trained pilots, navigators, bombardiers and wireless air gunners left Australia to swell the rising tide of air supremacy that was to prove the deciding factor in the overthrow of the tyrannical dictatorship in Europe and will, no doubt, play an equal part in the imminent downfall of Japan. In the early years of the war they bore unflinchingly the brunt of the Luftwaffe’s challenge and the short-lived ascendancy of the Jap Zero pilots. Their losses were heavy. In those days their chance of survival was remote. Nevertheless, recruiting did not flag for one moment in respect of either ground staff or air crew. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force have truly distinguished themselves in this war.
Words are inadequate to express our gratitude to the members of our fighting services, to those who have stood between us and the enemy and to the dependants of those who have paid the supreme sacrifice. This measure is designed to convey in some small degree a grateful nation’s thanks to members of ourfighting services, not as a complete discharge of its obligations, because those obligations will continue and willbe discharged by Australians as long as a single ex-service man or woman remains alive. Their memory will be honoured by the nation for all time. The bill is an earnest of those things to which we have committed ourselves on behalf of the members of the fighting services . I have no hesitation in pledging the Opposition’s support of the measure.
The report of the all-party committee which inquired into this matter is generally approved. The Opposition is proud to have been associated with that committee, which approached this subject in a national and not a party spirit. On behalf of the Opposition I join with the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in complimenting the members of the committee on their work. They based their recommendations on a wide study of all the factors associated with the problem, and, so far as I can see, all of their recommendations are embodied in the measure.
Let me now examine the bill in perspective in order to see just what it is designed to do. The rate of gratuity recommended by the committee, and provided in the bill, is an amount of 3s.6d. a day in respect of overseas service, and 6d. a day in respect of service in Australia. Those payments represent a total commitment of approximately £63,000,000 up to the 30th June last, with an estimated additional liability of £7,000,000 for each succeeding period of six months. That is not an inconsiderable sum,but despite its proportions it is not too much to pay in recognition of the services rendered by members of the fighting forces who have interposed their bodies between us and the enemy. In legislation of this kind, of course, a minimum payment must be established, having regard to the staggering of enlist- ments during the war period. Therefore, the bill provides a minimum payment in respect of twelve months’ service at the highest rate to all those entitled to payment at that rate.
When one compares the gratuity to be provided under this measure with that provided at the conclusion of the war of 1914-1918, it will be seen that the provisions of this measure are much more generous. The rate of gratuity for service in the war of 1914-1918 was approximately1s. 6d. a day, whilst the total expenditure on that occasion was £27,000,000, compared with a total expenditure on this occasion of £63,000,000 plus an additional expenditure of £7,000,000 for each succeeding period of six months. The total gratuity paid after the war of 1914-1918 was a large amount, and was a fitting recognition of the service rendered by our soldiers in that war. But conditions prevailing to-day differ materially from those prevailing in 1914-1918 and subsequent years. Our economic standards to-day are totally different from those prevailing during and after the war of 1914-1918. Therefore, it was fitting that the allparty committee should take into consideration all those factors in determining the rate of gratuity. The rate proposed under the bill will be acceptable to all members of the fighting services and, therefore, should not occasion a lengthy debate. I believe that the committee has done a very good job. Its recommendations have been embodied in the measure which, therefore, should be acceptable to all parties. The bill provides that gratuity in respect of a member of the services who has lost his life as the result of war service shall be paid for a period of seven months after the date of notification of his death, for a minimum period of nineteen months, and for a period of not less than three years at the overseas rate to total dependants, whether the life was lost in Australia or overseas. That is fit and proper, because the dependants of members of the forces who have given their lives in the service of their country must be recognized in this connexion. There is to be complete disqualification for the gratuity in certain instances which are clearly stated and with which honorable members will find no fault. The bill also makes provision in regard to the eligibility of Torres Strait islanders, natives of New Guinea and Papua, aboriginal natives of Australia, and Chinese and other refugees who have had service with the Australian forces, and the basis of payment in their case is equitable. It would be unjust to disqualify any member of the forces, whatever his race might be. It is worthy of note that there is to be a departure from the method of payment adopted after the last war, when, as honorable members will recall, interestbearing bonds were issued. Those who participated in that war gratuity and have some knowledge of the exploitation practised, will welcome the method of payment that is to be adopted on this occasion. This illustrates the value of having the matter examined by a committee of ex-servicemen.. Having a firsthand knowledge of the problem, they have been able to avoid error. After the last war, many of the recipients of the gratuity did not derive full benefit from it because of trafficking in bonds. On this occasion the payment is to be deferred for five years from the date of entitlement, and interest on the amount at the rate of 3£ per cent, will accumulate during that period. That is quite proper. The date of entitlement will be six months after the cessation of hostilities. For this, and the other reasons that I have given, a register of war gratuities should be kept. Another departure that [ am pleased to note is that the gratuity will be free from income tax. Honorable members must have expected that, particularly in view of the present high rates of tax. A cash payment may be made after the date of entitlement, and before the expiration of five years, in certain instances. I shall have something to say in committee in regard to that matter. The Government must not be too strict in its interpretation of that provision. If the gratuity is to be used to its greatest effect, the recipient of it must be given the opportunity to use it to re-establish himself in civil life.
Very little objection can be taken to the definitions. One cannot help comparing them with those embodied in the Re-establishment and Employment Bill, which was described as the “ Bill of Right” and the “Charter” of the serviceman. Honorable members will recall the manner in which those definitions were challenged. There will be very little challenge of the definitions in this bill, because they are designed to cover service men and women exclusively. I mould like the Minister to state whether the reference to “voyage” in the definition of “ service abroad “ includes flights to and from overseas areas. That is important. If it does not, provision in that regard will have to be made. Even if a member of the forces had served for practically the whole of the time in Australia, he should be given credit for that portion of his service during which he engaged on such flights, because of the many risks that are run by the pilots of aircraft. The minimum period of service which will entitle a member of the forces to qualify for the gratuity iB to be six months. I can understand the reason for having a minimum period of service ; but I should like the Ministeto explain why in one case the gratuity is to be paid from the date following the expiration of the qualifying period when, in the case of overseas service, it is to be paid from the date of embarkation. That appears to be an anomaly. As the rate of 6d. a day is to be paid for service in Australia, it would be much more equitable, provided the service was in excess of the qualifying period, to date the gratuity from the beginning of the service or the 7th December, 1941, whichever was the later date.
– This provision is identical with a provision in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the War Pensions Act.
– Possibly it is. Bui this, is different from a war pension; it is a grateful nation’s recognition of service that has been rendered, and should be entirely dissociated from precedents set by other legislation.
– Does not the hill fix a commencing point in December, 1941. and exclude from the qualifying service members of the Australian Imperial Force who, prior to that date, had been sent to Darwin?
– That is quite true.
– That point wil: have to be explained in committee. Thenmay he a reasonable explanation. If there is, I have no doubt that we shall hear it in due course. Clause 16 setout the deductions that may be made from the gratuity, and the grounds for making them. Honorable members are aware that servicemen sign a receipt for certain articles of equipment which they do noi carry with them throughout their war service. A serviceman who loses equipment by reason of theft or carelessness has to pay for it. A man who may otherwise have a clean discharge may subsequently be reminded by an accountant at base head-quarters that he had signed a receipt for certain articles that he had nOt returned. If he does not make payment in lieu of returning the articles the amount, will he deducted from his gratuity. Quite frequently during the last war, claims were made against servicemen on account of equipment for which they had signed receipts. Indeed, the demands continued to be made for many years. A. classic example is that of an officer who, when signing for equipment in this war, was met with the demand for payment for a pair of leggings that had been issued to him during the last war. That is rather ridiculous: nevertheless, it is a fact. If similar circumstances are likely to arise on the present occasion, we can see where they may lead us. Some expert accountant may find ways of compelling unfortunate ex-soldiers who, through unconscious neglect or through the theft of their property, may have lost certain equipment, to suffer a deduction of the value of it from their gratuity. Clause 23 provides -
Except us otherwise provided by tit is Act, no war gratuity or part of a war gratuity shall be alienable, whether by way or in consequence of sale, assignment, charge, execution, bankruptcy or otherwise howsoever.
Clause 26 states -
Where a prescribed authority is satisfied at any time prior to the date of entitlement of any member that the member has neglected or failed to provide adequately for sonic or all of hie dependants, the prescribed authority may direct that the whole or portion of the war gratuity to which the member would otherwise be entitled shall he credited and payable to those dependants or to some person in trust for them upon such trusts as the prescribed authority directs which shall, if the prescribed authority so directs, be set out in a deed of trust executed i,Y that person.
The effect of those provisions is that, if a soldier has not provided for his dependants, a portion of his gratuity may be used to discharge his obligation in the matter. I contend that if the gratuity is to be regarded as a personal gift to the ex-serviceman, it should not be paid to his dependants except in the event of his death. The Government should not “ buy “ into the domestic brawls of exservicemen and their dependants. It should not interest itself in domestic matters of that kind, except in certain circumstances which should be set out in the bill. I shall not discuss the measure at great length now, but I shall refer to some of the clauses in detail when the bill reaches the committee stage. The Opposition is pleased to have been associated with the all-party parliamentary committee which has made the necessary investigation, and whose recommendations have, in the main, been embodied in the bill. It is appropriate that this measure should not be discussed on party lines, because it is designed entirely in the interests of ex-service personnel.
– It was not dealt with on party lines bv the committee.
– That is so. 1 hope that it will receive a speedy passage.
.-] support the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) concerning the work which the all-party committee has done. This bill will have a far-reaching effect on the lives of members of the fighting services. A formula for the gratuity for which provision is made was set after the last war, but J am glad that an approach to the problem has not been entirely governed by that precedent. The amount of the gratuity has been increased in conformity with the ideas of the present age. We must agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that the committee has taken a great deal of trouble in investigating the matter. It has engaged in considerable research, and after much discussion has arrived at 8 formula which, on the surface, appear? to be acceptable. There is not to be a single payment in hard cash for the services which have been rendered by the men and women of the fighting forcesWe could, not pay them adequately for that, service, but I think that the proposal in the bill goes to the limit, in most respects, of the financial capacity of the country.
I feel certain uneasiness regarding this matter, which I have attempted to quell. I have in mind, the distinction made between the service rendered in different theatres of war. There is no doubt that, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has said, those members of the forces whose bodies have been interposed between us and the enemy should receive the maximum payment, but there is a very sharp decline from the payment to be made to certain members of the forces and that to be given to others who were equally determined, valiant and patriotic. If the matter were referred to the people, and they were told that the payment of a more liberal gratuity would involve increased taxation, I have no doubt that they would say that Parliament should resolve the matter to the best of its ability and no objection would be taken to its decision on financial grounds. It has been decided wisely that 2s. 6d. a day shall be paid to men who have been actually engaged in fighting and defeating the enemy. The classic meaning of “gratuity” is derived from the old payment of blood money, and it is only right that the 2s. 6d. a day should be paid to our men who have taken part in the actual fighting. Then we come to what is almost a psychological problem. I have sympathy with members of the committee who had to make a recommendation on this matter. The members of the armoured division who were trained in Queensland were looked upon as our corps d’elite, and they were to be used in the forward thrust in Libya. Many of them were the flower of our manhood and were to resolve our difficulties in the Middle East and in the desert fighting in Northern Africa; but, when the Japanese struck in the Pacific theatre, they were not required as an armoured division. Then there are the men who were hurried to the western shores of Australia, because an assault in that area was considered imminent. Those men were to be our assault troops and were to meet the enemy if and when he. invaded our shores. They were to be the spearhead to meet any attack on the mainland of Australia. It was fortunate for the people of this country that those men did not get to grips with the enemy many months before lie was met in a different theatre of war. The committee, after considerable thought, decided that in view of the fact that these troops had remained on the mainland their gratuity should only be 6d. a day as compared with the 2s. 6d. a day to be paid to the other troops who had borne the heat and burden of the fighting. The money aspect alone is not all that will exercise the minds of these men who were detailed to do a certain job and were not subsequently required to do it. I draw attention to their probable psychological reaction in being practically told that they were not such good soldiers as other members of the forces. They will think that they have been classified in a certain category, and there will no doubt be certain mental anguish on their part about the matter. In future we should consider the incidence of these payments, because Parliament in passing this bill will provide for a payment which cannot be altered later. This bill will have tremendous repercussions on ex-servicemen and their dependants, and despite the fact that the all-party committee hasendeavoured to prevent an anomalous position from arising, I consider that the matter should he reviewed from ali aspects. Although this Parliament will probably agree to the payment a3 proposed in the bill, the matter should be reviewed after a year or two, in order to see whether an. adequate reward has been given to the mcn who held the fort in Australia. Some of these men had to stand up to air raids in Darwin, but they will nol receive the major gratuity. I have already referred to members of the armoured division, the cream of our trainees, and also to the men who served in “Western Australia. There are other categories of men in the forces also deserving of consideration, and I think that a satisfactory balance to all concerned could have been obtained by fixing the payments at 2s. 6d. and ls. 6d. a day.
Another .matter to which we should give attention is the safeguards which should be made to ensure that the recipients of the gratuity shall not be the victims of racketeering and financial sharks who will try to batten on the loose money which will bo found in th,pockets of ex-service personnel. After thelast war the gratuity took the form of bonds. I am pleased to know that ii* the present instance it will take the form of a bank deposit. The time when the gratuity will be made available will be important on the return of the ex-servicemen. After a member of the forces has been serving overseas for several years he is entitled to be consulted regarding plans for his re-establishment in civil life. 1 think that if the money became available in, say, three years rather than five, it would be very much more useful. I think, too, that for men who have already been discharged and have resumed their place in civil life but want to resolve their future the period of five years is a little too long.
Almost as serious a problem as is the problem of working out what we shall pay to members of the forces for their deeds is that of providing safeguards on the spending of the money, without giving them reason to think that the gift has too many strings attached to it, so that they shall be protected from the over enterprising businessmen of the community. As a representative of a metropolitan constituency, I can truly say that one of the most dangerous traps of all is that provided by the rosy advertisements that appear in the daily press in relation to small businesses. J know many members of the forces whose ambition is to open a small business instead of returning to the industries, many of them heavy industries, in which they were engaged before their enlistment. Their desire is to lift themselves and their families a little above the crowd and the advertisements of opportunities, which appear to them to offer the means of realizing that desire are very often fraught with danger. Brokers who trade in small businesses should be licensed, and there should be some surveillance of advertisements. Too often are false pictures painted of the return assured to purchasers. Ex-servicemen wishing to invest not only their gratuities but also their deferred pay and other savings in small businesses should not be allowed to go like lambs to the slaughter. The scope of the Legal Service Bureau, instituted by the Attorney-General to give legal advice to members of the forces, ought to be widened to include investigation of small businesses offered for sale in order that those men may not be allowed to pour their assets away on enterprises the value of which has been falsely represented to them. As I understand the dealings of certain small business brokers, it is considered quite fair to magnify the earning capacity of the businesses offered for sale. It was a lucrative trade after the last war, and, unless governmental supervision be instituted, it will be an equally lucrative but equally vicious black marketing practice after this war. At present, the price of a small business is inflated because, included in it, is generally a consideration for the fact that the purchaser, in these days of shortage of houses, will be assured of accommodation above the shop for himself and his family ; but, after the war, as after the last war, the price of, say, £200 for a business will include £100 for goodwill, whereas the goodwill may not be worth anything like that. So the need for government surveillance will be readily understood.
I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that, whatever faults we may find with this legislation, they are minor. We may take some exception to the scale of payments and to the date of payment, but the general principles of the legislation, which is based on the report of the allparty committee, can only earn the applause of all, both inside and outside Parliament. This legislation is born of the desire of the country to make a tangible recognition of the debt of gratitude that it owes to the men and women of the fighting services. I, therefore, impress upon the Minister for Repatriation that even when this bill has been passed, into law it should not be regarded as a closed book, because the anomalies inherent in all legislation are bound to crop up, and there should be some provision for their removal whenever they arise. I repeat my belief that the members of the services wherever they have served should be brought closer together, and that one means of bringing them closer together is by bringing the gratuities that they will receive closer together. Because the high command said to one man, “ You will serve there “, and to another man, “ You shall serve somewhere else “, is no reason why there should be such disparity between the gratuities for which their service has made them eligible. The amount of £63,000,000 is tremendous in one sense, but insignificant compared with the debt this country owes to those who fought for it. This is a hard cash token of what we hope to give to the ex-service men and women of this country, but I do not like the divisions that the Government proposes to make in their ranks by differentiating so greatly between them in the payment of the gratuities. While this bill is before us is the time to consider whether -we are acting wisely in making that differentiation.
.- I am very pleased that the Government has brought down this bill. I have not a great deal of criticism to offer, but what T have is very definite. One criticism is in relation to the matter raised by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) regarding the rates of gratuity. [ believe that the men with overseas service are entitled to a greater gratuity than those without such service. Men who volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force were prepared to go anywhere at any time to fight. I think they are unfairly treated in this measure and, in committee, I shall move an amendment with regard to the amount of money to be paid to them. I believe that 2s. 6d. a day for the period of service overseas is reasonable. My only criticism is in respect of the gratuity proposed for the period they spent in Australia on their return. It is proposed that the gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day shall be paid in respect of their period of service overseasperhaps two years in the Middle East- - and for 90 days after their return. Thereafter their gratuity will be 6d. a day. Those men came back to Australia at the order of the Government and were sent to Darwin, Atherton, and other parts of Australia, for training for future service. They did not ask to be sent; they enlisted to fight wherever the Government saw fit to send them. Many of our troops were for about two years on the Atherton tablelands, after having fought valiantly in the Middle East. The proposal that after they shall be paid only 6d. a day gratuity for all that period, except the first 90 days after their return, is most, unfair, and I am sure that the Government, when it looks into the matter, will decide to rectify the anomaly by ensuring that those men who were prepared to go anywhere at any time to place themselves between Australia and its enemies shall receive the full amount of the gratuity for the whole period of their service. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) will place that point before his colleagues and say that it is the opinion of the people of Australia that those men are entitled to their full reward. I also invite the Minister to tell his colleagues that those men will consider themselves unjustly treated unless this matter be righted. Otherwise we shall have great dissatisfaction. That applies not only to members of the Australian Imperial Force but also to the Navy and the Air Force, who have given gallant service to this country. I have no doubt that certain’ people will say, “But think of the cost”. To them my reply is : “ Think of the cost of the social security programme of the Government”. I interrupt myself to express my belief in a system of social security, but my disbelief in the Government’s method. I favour contributory schemes, but, under the Government’s proposals, many people who have not only given no service to this country but have really been a burden to it will benefit. I point out, too, that this £63,000,000 is not a recurring payment. Even if it were £160,000,000 it would not be too great an amount to express this country’s gratitude to not only the members of the Australian Imperial Force who served abroad, but also the members of the armoured division, members of anti-aircraft units, and members of the 8th Division who were sent to Darwin - all the men disposed to hold this country from within its confines. They have broken their hearts through not having been allowed to do the job for which they volunteered. Thousands of them are ashamed that although they have been in uniform for about four years, they are not eligible to join the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League’ of Australia. It is a very great grief to them. Many have been discharged because of illness after having served for four or five years. Many finally reached the stage of feeling that they were doing very little for their country in merely training at Seymour, Ingleburn or some other camp of that kind, and they went back to civil life, many of them back to the land to produce food.
– Many of them were recalled to industry.
– Yes, many were rec alled to essential industries. I agree that they are not entitled to the same gratuity as are the men. who. served in the field and risked their lives in battling against the foes of this country. A gratuity of1s. 6d. a day to those men would be fair. Members of the garrison battalions and other units, such as lines of communications units, left in Australia are entitled to at least1s. a day. I shall tell honorable members why. During this war they have had practically no increase of pay. Wharf labourers are paid 9s. 4d. an hour. Men unloading a. ship ashore off Wilson’s Promontory, which at low tide was on dry land, were paid 17s. an hour. Merchant seamen receive time and a half as a war-risk bonus. But what does the soldier get? He gets 6s. a day and certain allowances for his family. He is the only man in this country who has not had an increase in his pay equal to the rise of the cost of living. His reward in no way approaches the rewards for labour in other directions. This is the only opportunity that we have to give to members of the forces a just reward for their services. The men in the garrison battalion posted to Sydney Heads, Newcastle, Port Phillip Heads, or Western Australia honestly believed, as we believed, that they would have to fight, badly armed and without support. They believed they were in suicide units, but they were resolved to dig in and put up a fight. Many of those men left lucrative occupations, and accepted 6s. a day as members of the armed forces. To offer them a paltry 6d. a day for the period of their service is to insult them, and to assess contemptuously the service which they were prepared to render to this country, and their willingness to give their lives, if necessary, to protect Australia. I feel most strongly on this matter, and believe that when the Government re-examines it, the justice of my contention will be recognized.
I strongly disagree with the statement that this gratuity is not a right but a gift.On their discharge, many members of the Australian Imperial’ Force will not know that they are eligible to receive the gratuity. Some of them have had very little education, andpossibly will not be aware that they are entitled to the payment. Others will not know how they should apply for it. Honorable members would be astounded if they knew the number of illiterate persons in this country, despite our system of compulsory education.
– Will not the payment of the gratuity be automatic?
– No, the ex-serviceman must apply for it.
– The obligation to pay the gratuity should rest with the Government.
– I agree. A man’s service in the last war was assessed from his paybook or records, and the bond was sent to him. After this war, the Government should not compel exservicemen to apply for the gratuity as if it were a gift, but should pay it to them as a right. The gratuity will commence from the date of the entry of Japan into the war, and that may cause hardship. Many men served in the Middle East before that date, but unless they were serving overseas in the six months prior tothe 7th December, 1941, they will not be eligible for the gratuity.
– I do not think that the honorable member’s statement is correct.
– Although it may not be the intention of the Government, that is how I interpret paragraph b of subclause 1 of clause 9. My objection to this provision is that a man who had six months’ service overseas might have been discharged before the date of the entry of Japan into the war, and consequently, will not be eligible for a gratuity.
I agree with the view that the gratuity, which is practically “ blood-money “ in the case of men who served overseas against the enemy, should not be attachable in any way. The ex-serviceman has a right to the money, and, regardless of the circumstances, it should not be alienable. Unfortunately, many women have not behaved themselves very well during the absence of their husbands on active service. If such a woman is able to tell a plausible story to the prescribed authority, she maybe paid some or all of the gratuity. Therefore, I emphasize that a gratuity should not be alienable under any circumstances. Furthermore, the Government should not attempt to deduct from the gratuity the value of equipment that a serviceman did not return prior to his discharge. For example, a serviceman might have been issued with a compass in 1941, and if his discharge sheet does not show that- the instrument was returned an amount equivalent to its value might be deducted from his gratuity. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) recalled an instance of a man being asked, at the beginning of this war, to pay for his leggings which had been issued to him in the last war. Years after the conclusion of hostilities, when the exserviceman will have no opportunity of calling witnesses to prove that an article had been lost on active service, or worn out, and, consequently, was a. fair charge against the Government, a quartermaster might demand its return, or payment in Heu thereof. Apparently, there will be no end to such requests. The Government should not attach any strings to the payment of the war gratuity. The money should be the serviceman’s right, and under no conditions should any one else be permitted to touch it while he lives. After his decease, the full amount should .be paid to his next of kin. The Government or a private citizen should not have a claim to any portion of it.
I am gratified that the Government has taken action to ensure that investors and city “ toughs “ shall- not batten on ex-servicemen when they have received their war gratuities. After the last war, some persons purchased the bonds from ex-servicemen for an amount equivalent to 25 per cent, of the face value of the gratuities, and are living to-day in luxury. They robbed the men who had stood between them and slavery. The Government has taken definite action to prevent a repetition of that. Only in special circumstances, and with the approval of the prescribed authority, will the recipient be able to cash a war gratuity bond. I commend the Government for its decision to allow an exserviceman to cash his gratuity for the purpose of financing the construction of a home for his family. When they are demobilized, many servicemen will be unsettled, and inclined to move from one job to another. The very nature of their occupation during the last five years tends to create an unsettled feeling. Any soldier who fought in the last war knows that his greatest difficulty when he came home was to settle into his civil occupation. He missed the company of his comrades, the excitement of war, and the constant change in foreign countries. Exservicemen will find it most difficult to settle down in civil life, and for such men a home will be a veritable sheet-anchor. But the Government should also permit ex-servicemen to cash their gratuities if they desire to purchase a small business, or settle on the land. As the honorable member for Parkes pointed out, some danger may be experienced there, because many men might possibly be sold businesses of little value or at exorbitant prices. To overcome that difficulty, boards or committees should be appointed in various districts to advise a soldier whether the proposition is a reasonable one. But, definitely, the money should be available for that purpose. Many ex-servicemen do not desire to return to the industry in which they were employed before their enlistment. They hope to engage in poultry-farming, dairy-farming, or some other agricultural pursuit. Their war gratuity would be of great assistance to them. The Government should assist the men to re-establish themselves. Every man whom we can persuade to reestablish himself will be a great asset to this country. Every man whom we have to rehabilitate and to re-establish will be to some degree a burden to the country. Of course, ex-servicemen are entitled to any assistance that we can grant to them ; but, at the same time, the Government should encourage them to help themselves. For that reason, clause 22 should be broadened for the purpose of including the purchase of a small business.
– After proper investigation.
– I agree with the honorable member. Committees should be appointed to advise the soldier.
– But those committees should not take the place of a proper re-establishment scheme.
– Certainly not. Many ex-servicemen will never apply for reestablishment. By nature they are very independent, and will prefer to work out their own salvation. After the last war tens of thousands of men did not apply to the government for assistance. They did not desire to be burdened with the responsibility of repaying borrowed money and the interest thereon. Undoubtedly, if an ex-serviceman requires assistance he should be granted it. But, as I stated, if we can persuade him to re-establish himself, he will be almost certain to succeed in the employment that he selects. He will have better prospects of succeeding than will the man whom the Government has to spoon-feed.
– The local repatriation committees, in an advisory capacity, could advise ex-servicemen regarding the purchase of businesses and properties.
– If local committees were given adequate authority, they could render more valuable service than could any public servant. Even the most efficient public servant, though he may understand land values in the city, may have no knowledge of land values in country districts. He may know what the productive value of a farm is, but know nothing about business. No public servant is conversant with all trades, professions and businesses. But a local committee, if given statutory authority, could render most valuable service in the direction that I have mentioned. I am certain that thousands of men throughout Australia are publicspirited enough and grateful enough to members of the armed- forces to offer their services.
Air. Frost. - More than 90 committees are rendering that assistance in Victoria.
– Have they any statutory authority?
– The members of the committees act in an honorary capacity, but they have a certain status.
– In my opinion, their status is not adequate. They could be used with great advantage to the Government, the Repatriation Department and ex-servicemen. Many public-spirited men, such as members of the Fathers Association and of municipal councils, are prepared to give their time in thi3 good cause. The Government should take this fact into consideration. The bill provides that, if the prescribed authority is satisfied of certain conditions, persons other than the members of the fighting forces concerned may share in gratuity payments. It will be almost impossible for the prescribed authority to inquire into every claim, because many people will want to secure a “ cut “ out of the payments. It would be unfair if a wife living apart from her husband were allowed to secure a part of the man’s gratuity. The Government should say : “ No. This is definitely the property of the soldier in consideration of the service which he has given to his country, and no person or government may touch it in any circumstances.”
Many men will be debarred from receiving gratuity payments. I know of a man who had an excellent record. On his return to Victoria with his unit, he found that his children were not being properly looked after and he had to clear up a number of domestic troubles. His unit was posted to Darwin, and he applied for leave, which was refused. He then went absent without leave for about 36 days, and, having made arrangements for the care of his children and having dealt with other domestic affairs, he rejoined his unit at Darwin. His commanding officer, who was a sympathetic and reasonable man, and who knew the circumstances of the case, confined the soldier to barracks for 28 days. Of course, he forfeited his pay for the period during which he was ‘absent without leave. This man should not be debarred from receiving the gratuity.
– The authority prescribed in the bill will be empowered to decide whether gratuity payments shall he made to such men.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance on that point. I agree that the man whom I have mentioned should be called before the prescribed authority in order to show that he had a reasonable excuse for committing the offence; he should not be denied all chance of receiving the gratuity. I urge honorable members to consider the gratuity as being a just reward for the services which our fighting men have given to their country. We must not complain of the cost. The Government proposes to expend over £70,000,000 per annum on social services, and, therefore, there is no reason why it should not bear this non-recurring expense. The money will be disbursed in Australia, and, in any case, it will be a very meagre amount to pay our sailors, soldiers, and airmen for the dreadful risks and conditions which they have experienced during the last five years. Many of these men left this country strong and well at a time when they were able to- look forward to a bright and happy future, but they will return broken in health and nervewracked, with their span of life reduced, perhaps, by twenty years. Medical authorities say that members of the Australian Imperial Force of the 1914-191S war, who were the pick of Australia’s manhood, had their span of life reduced, on an average, by ten years as the result of their service. The men who have fought in this war have lived under worse conditions in the islands than were ever experienced by members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, with the exception, perhaps, of those who fought in France in the winter of 1916. Condition? in Palestine, the Sinai Peninsula, and Syria were much the same for men serving in both wars, but the conditions in the Pacific islands were frightful. Many soldiers will return suffering from recurring tropical diseases, which will affect them for many years. They deserve the best possible treatment. The paltry amount proposed to be given to them as a reward for their service is inadequate. They gave up their ordinary civil avocations and volunteered for service in any part of the world. They are first-class soldiers, and as good as any men this country has ever produced.
I have, in mind two men who enlisted in the Army; one as a private and the other as a gunner.. One rose to the rank of brigade major, and the other was appointed to command a company. They were able men, who could have succeeded ill any profession or job which riley undertook,, but they went into the Army on 6s. a day and served for a long time at that rate of pay. A payment of 6d. for each day of their service is not a just reward, but an insult to them. Men who volunteered for home service in the belief that they would be called upon to fight in defence of the country deserve better treatment. Non<5 of us knows just how close the threat of invasion came. At one stage our fate was in the balance. Ninety per cent, of our soldiers are worse off in the services than they would be in civil life, because there has been work for everybody at high rates of pay during the war. Farmworkers, who received £2’ a week and keep before the war, can now earn £6 or £7 a week. Unskilled labourers have been able to earn as much as £10 a week in munitions factories, and 9s. 4d. an hour on the wharfs, and coal miners have had to work only three days a week because, if they work longer, they receive so much money that high taxation makes the extra labour unprofitable. Nevertheless,, our soldiers considered it to be their duty to don. the uniform of the country and fight for our safety. I urge honorable members to insist upon the Government being more generous to them.. Let us not say, “ We cannot bear the cost; it would amount to £100,000,000 “. If the Government is not prepared to pay £100,000,000 as a reward foc the services that these men have given, in. the last five years, I say that, their gallantry has been wasted in the interests, of” people who- are unworthy of them.
Mr. FULLER (Hume) 1*3.3-5] . - I support the bill. The war- gratuity proposals are, in effect, an expression of the Government’s appreciation of the services rendered to the country by members of the fighting forces. In my opinion, no material reward can adequately express our gratitude to- these men and women, who have gallantly served on the field of battle. Our men went into the fight prepared to lay down their lives, for the nation. The Government, wishing to recognize their services, appointed a committee consisting of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), Senators Collett, Cooper, and Finlay, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) representing all parties of this Parliament. After full and careful consideration, the committee made recommendations which are incorporated in this bill.. Since the Labour party took office it has considerably increased the various payments made to service men and women and their dependants. With the elections drawing near, members of the Opposition have evinced an outward concern for the soldier.
– Keep the debate on a high plane.
– The honorable member will not close me off. ‘ This sudden concern of honorable members of the Opposition for servicemen, is in marked contrast to their actions when they held the reins of government. Where was their concern for the soldier and his dependants during the depression? They desire to forget about those things. Some of the first men who went into the firing line had to line up in dole queues in cavil life, and their only hope of earning a bare living income was to join the fighting forces.
– Does the honorable member suggest that they joined the fighting forces not to serve the country, but to escape unemployment?
-Certainly they enlisted for the defence of the country. Honorable members opposite allowed them to live in appalling conditions. The Labour party has considerably increased rates of pay and allowances for service men and women and their dependants, has granted proficiency payments and taxation concessions, and has promulgated moratorium regulations to protect the fighting man and his dependants. It is true that an anti-Labour government did grant a gratuity payment to soldiers who served in the war of 1914-18. Let us compare that payment with the payment proposed in this bill. The gratuity payment which was granted to men who volunteered for overseas service in the 1914-18 war, and who had embarked prior to the signing of the armistice, was1s. 6d. a day. The maximum payment that any man could receive was £134. Home service personnel were not eligible for that gratuity, but volunteers who had embarked prior to the signing of the armistice were given 1s. a day, with a maximum payment of £9 4s.
– I rise to order. Some time ago Mr. Speaker reminded honorable members that the read ing of speeches was not permitted under the Standing Orders. I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) is reading his speech.
– It is true that some time ago Mr. Speaker reminded honorable members that although they were entitled to refer to copious notes, they were debarred by the Standing Orders from reading their speeches. I have been taking notice of the honorable member for Hume and though he may be referring to copious notes, I cannot say that he is reading his speech.
– The honorable member is dropping his eyes every few seconds.
– As it is not apparent to me that the honorable member is reading his speech, I ask him to continue.
– Honorable members opposite will not debar me from saying what I desire to say in this House. They have attempted to make a political football of every measure that the Government has introduced. The repercussions of their conduct will be such as to dislodge many of them from their seats in the Parliament.
– This bill is based on the report of an all-party committee.
– I intend to make my speech whether honorable members opposite like it or not. Under the proposal of the Government, a gratuity payment of 2s. 6d. a day is to be made to personnel with service overseas and 6d. a day to personnel with service in Australia after the outbreak of the war with Japan. At this rate of payment a soldier with five years’ of service overseas will receive £225 compared with the maximum payment of £134 provided after the 1914-18 war. Those who serve in Australia will receive approximately £9 a year for the full qualifying period. The estimated cost of gratuity payments under this bill to the 30th June, 1945, was £63,000,000, whereas the total cost of gratuity payments after the last war was £27,500,000, which clearly indicates that this Labour Government is doing more for the soldiers and their dependants in this war than the Opposition proposed to do when it was in office in 1939 and 1940, or what it did for the soldiers after the last war.
– I repeat that this bill is based on the recommendations of an allparty committee.
– I do not believe that the soldiers will be misled by what honorable gentlemen opposite may say. I declare most emphatically that no honorable gentleman opposite’ would dare to oppose this measure. In my opinion, the payments and concessions provided in the bill would not have been made available had honorable gentlemen opposite reremained in office.
– That, is a contemptible statement.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite profess concern for the soldiers when they are sitting in opposition, and try to win their votes a.t election-time, but when a government which they supported was in office they tried to find all kinds of excuses for not treating the soldiers as they deserve to be treated. I am proud to be associated with a Government that is treating service personnel so well, and that has given practical proof of its concern for their welfare. No amount of talking will convince the soldiers that the Liberal party, dominated as it is by vested interests, will ever deal generously with them and their dependants. I invite honorable gentlemen opposite to refer to Hansard of the 30th November, 1939, at page 1870, where they will find in a speech by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the original proposal of the anti-Labour government at that time was to give the wives of soldiers a miserable 2s. a day with a meagre 6d>. for each child. That government eventually decided to make the payments 3s. a day in respect of wives and ls. a day in respect of each child. That is a true indication of the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite to the soldiers, and of their solicitude for welfare of servicemen and their dependants. This bill provides many generous concessions.
When I stood for election to this Parliament I made up my mind that if I succeeded at the polls I would do my best to ensure that our returned service personnel would be treated better after this war than they were treated after the “last war. I well remember after the last war that in my own town of Tumut, and in the surrounding districts, many ex-soldiers were treated almost like slaves by the people who waved the flags during the war. Many of the men were broken in heart and spirit as the result of the administration of the then Commonwealth Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite have shown that the outlook of anti-Labour politicians has not altered, for they have attempted to make a political football out of every legislative proposal of this Government for the benefit of returned, men. They have howled and groaned and squealed like stuck pigs against the Government’s legislation, but I am convinced that’ our ex-service personnel will know how to treat them when they get the opportunity at the polls. I have ‘been opposed most bitterly by anti-Labour parties in several election campaigns, but ray opponents have conceded that I am honest in my convictions. I have suffered for the stand that I have taken in the political life of this country. Now that I have the opportunity to help the soldiers, I shall do everything I can to save them from the pangs of hunger and the degradation to which they were reduced after the last war. I have been opposed also by the New Guard element which, some years ago, was led by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), but I intend to do my best for the men and women who were prepared to lay down their lives for their country. My own business premises were disfigured at one time by my political opponents, because I was fighting for the right of ordinary people to live decently.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine bis remarks to the bill.
– I am a good Australian and I intend to fight for Australians. I am happy to be associated with the Government that has introduced this bill.
.- Before discussing the bill I wish to reply to certain remarks by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). In my long parliamentary experience I have never listened to a more miserable speech than that just delivered by the honorable gentleman. His remarks will be resented not only by returned soldiers but also by many other people, for they were totally unworthy of a member of the National Parliament. Ever since this Parliament re-assembled early in the year, members of the Opposition have been doing their damndest to force the Government into doing something for the returned soldiers.
– Order ! 1. ask the honorable member to use parliamentary language, and to deal with the bill.
– I submit 1 am entitled to reply to the provocative remarks of the honorable member for Hume. I repeat that ever since this Parliament reassembled at the beginning of the year the Opposition has been trying to force the Government to do something for returned men. I regret that it is necessary for me to speak in this way, but the speech of the honorable member for Hume calls for a reply. “We had to force the Government to provide even the shabby measure of preference that may be made possible by the passage of the Re-establishment and Employment Bill.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to this bill.
– I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am entitled, under the Standing Orders, to reply to the brutal and unworthy attack of the honorable member for flume, which, I am sure, will be resented by every right thinking person in the community.
– The Chair is not denying the honorable member his rights.
– I have not been permitted to proceed.
– The honorable member must not indulge in argument with the Chair.
– Every honorable member of the House is anxious for this bill to become law, for the measure is based on the recommendations of an allparty committee, as was the measure that dealt with pensions’ for service personnel.
All the members of the committee were returned soldiers; the honorable member for Hume could not possibly have served on it. The bill gives some expression to the desire of the Parliament to acknowledge the magnificent service of the members of our fighting forces. Our Navy, Army and Air Force have served the Allied cause with distinction, and we all are proud of -what bias been done. The Australian Imperial Force has gained unstinted praise for its fighting qualities, and so have the members of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. Whether our men have served in the desert of Africa, or in the Middle East or in the snow country of Greece or Crete and Syria, or in the jungles and swamps of New Guinea and other Pacific areas, they have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction. Perhaps the highest tribute that has been paid to them came from Field Marshal Montgomery when, after the landing on D-Day, he observed that he had hoped that he would be privileged to .have some Australian divisions in the invasion force. His remarks indicated that he realized that with the help of the Australians his task would have- been easier and the success more rapid. In view of such a tribute, it is only proper that this Parliament should acknowledge, as it is doing, the services rendered to the country by our forces. The Royal Australian Navy has fought on every sea and has been where the fighting has been fiercest, in the forefront of every engagement, rendering service worthy of its great traditions. I also find it very difficult to express adequately my appreciation of the work of the Royal Australian Air Force, which, has grown from small proportions to an organization more than 160,000 strong under the Empire Air Training Scheme. It has done noble service. I am certain that, in conjunction with the other Allied Air Forces, it contributed greatly to the defeat of Germany and its satellites. Nothing should deter us from giving the maximum benefits by way of gratuity to the members of all of those services.
The bill provides that men who have served overseas shall receive a gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day, to commence from a date six months after their service began, whilst those who have not served outside Australia are to receive a gratuity of 6d. a day. It is estimated that the total amount of the gratuity will be approximately £63,000,000. Compared with the total war expenditure, that amount ife small. Nevertheless, the proposals of the all-party committee should commend themselves to the House.
In my opinion, certain of the provisions of the measure ought to be reviewed, because one group of servicemen is not to receive what I regard as reasonable recognition. If there is an explanation, I shall be glad to hear it. Some members of the forces who volunteered to serve in any theatre of war have been prevented from leaving Australia by decision of the Higher Command. This refers particularly to members of the armoured division and the anti-aircraft section. The armoured division was composed of members of light horse regiments, and they have been keenly anxious to get into action in which they can better serve their country than in their present environment. They consist of some of the best of Australia’s manhood, and, having been thoroughly trained, are perfectly fit physically. They have been kept in Australia for from three yearsto three- and a half years, and, despite; all their appeals, have not been allowed to go into action. The rate of gratuity to these men, and to others who volunteered for overseas service but have not been sent outside Australia, should be at least ls. 6d. a day. The position- of those- who have been satisfied to render home service only will apparently be met by the committee’s recommendation of 6d. a day. I ask that the bill be amended in that respect. It cannot be argued that an anomaly might thereby be created. There are- no anomalies which cannot be rectified in any legislation providing for gratuities or concessions.
I welcome the provision which will enable gratuities to be used for the purchase or building of a home. Housing will he one of the most acute problems with which this country will be faced’ after the war, and I look forward to the whole of the resources of the nation being harnessed for the provision of homes for the people. I trust that an amendment will be accepted enabling the gratuities to be supplemented by amounts provided by the Repatriation Commission or the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for the purchase of farms or businesses that are approved or recommended by local representatives of the Repatriation Commission who areacquainted with conditions and values, and can give sound advice to servicemen. An ex-serviceman in New Zealand has a dairy farm fully prepared for him, at a cost of approximately £5,000 - for a sheep farm this may be increased to £6,500 - yet the provision in Australia for land settlement is only about £1,500. The difference is extraordinary. Our ex-servicemen will have to supplement materially the amount provided by the Government. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will agree to provide that the war gratuities shall be used for such purposes.
I regard these proposals a3 the considered opinions: of. the ex-service members of the all-party committee, and accept them without opposition,, whilst wishing’ to effect improvements in certain, directions’. I resent, the inane allegations of the honorable member for Hume, who, in a tirade against the Opposition, sought to use the servicemen for party political purposes. I have never witnessed a more puerile effort. Ex-servicemen of the last war and thiswar are not foolish beings; they recognize the source from which, they receive most help. They will bitterly resent the allegation that some mew. joined1 the fighting’ forces because they were in need of food, not because- they wished to follow the colours. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender)1 challenged that statement immediately it was made. There is no justification for such “claptrap” on a measure of this character. With the exception of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) , who was the chairman, and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), the members of the aU-party committee were exservicemen. They ‘ were: Senators Collett; Cooper, Finlay and Allan MacDonald, and Messrs. A. G. Cameron and Pollard. The bill must commend itself to the House and the- country.-
.- Apart from the endeavour to mate some return to the men and women who have so valiantly served our country, the most pleasing feature of the bill is that it is founded on the recommendations of mem!>ers of this Parliament who served their country in. an -earlier war. The rest of us must experience considerable pleasure in associating ourselves with the non-party committee, and with the great work that it did. This gratuity will involve a payment of between £63.000,000 and £70,000,000. But whatever the cost may be, this country can regard itself as having been already amply recompensed. There are a few clauses which it re causing me some concern. One provision stipulates that the gratuity of a man who served overseas shall be reduced to the rate for home service after Lie has been returned to Australia and lias remained in it for a period of 90 days. I am acquainted with a unit which at one period served for 23 months in New Guinea and the adjacent islands before being granted any leave. Its members were then returned to the mainland for a well-earned rest, and remained here for six months. Those men had served outside the Commonwealth for perhaps the longest continuous period of any unit, yet they are to be reduced to t be home service rate of gratuity for the period that they spent in Australia. That unit is now again engaged in active service overseas. It seems wrong that those men should be reduced to the home service rate of gratuity for that short period. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) will correct me if T am wrong, but I understood him to say that there should not be the right provided in clause 15 to authorize the payment, of any part of the gratuity to those who had been disqualified in certain ways. I am in full accord with that clause, because, through no fault of their own, some very good mothers have been left without an Army allotment because their soldier husbands have, as it were, “gone into smoke” after having served h period of detention for some such offence as absence without leave, and cannot, bc traced. In my own electorate I know of women in that plight. It is only right that they should receive at least a part of the gratuity.
– My suggestion was not all-embracing. I said that certain cases would require discriminating treatment. The cases that the honorable gentleman has in mind may v require special consideration, but there are others -which ought not to be considered.
– Yes. I am glad that we are to pay a higher gratuity than was paid after the last war. That is a good decision because the gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day will enable those who qualify for it to re-establish themselves in civil life in whichever way they desire. I congratulate the all-party committee for that part of the recommendations on which this legislation is based. I now come to the gratuity for service in Australia. . I do not like and never have liked the term “home service”. Men join the forces to serve, and they serve according to orders. It is not a man’s fault if he has not been allowed to serve outside Australia. I do commend to the consideration of the Government the position of men who volunteered for service anywhere but were compelled to serve at home. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to the fact that men who had .served in Australia could not join the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. That is a matter in which the Government cannot intervene. It is a matter of internal policy for the league to determine for itself. T am hopeful, however, that the day will come when it will recognize this war for what it is, namely, an all-in war and accept as members with equal rights those, who were willing to serve anywhere but were prevented by military circumstances from leaving Australia. Hitherto we have looked on the term “ returned soldier “ as designating a man who has returned from overseas service, but in this war for the first time our own country has been threatened. I can safely say that when invasion seemed imminent every one in Australia was determined to do all in his power to resist the enemy. I have nothing further to say now other than that I have great pleasure in supporting this bill, the purpose of which is to make a small return to the people who made a free Australia possible.
.- I did not intend to address myself to this bill, but, as the debate proceeded, I concluded that, being an exserviceman of this war, I ought to add my commendation to the praise given to the all-party committee responsible for the recommendations on which this bill is founded. I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) on the most moderate and effective speech that I have heard from him. I regret that he is not here to hear me say that it was pleasant to see him adopt a temperate attitude which is not usual for him. As the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) said, this bill is one with which all sane people will agree. We owe some thing more than wages to the members of the forces. They deserve a token - and this is only a small token - of the nation’s gratitude to them. It is with no party political motives that I express my pleasure that the gratuity to be paid to members of the forces after this war will be greater than that paid after the last war. The all-party committee upon whose report this legislation is founded consisted .mainly of men who had active overseas service in the last war. When they returned to Australia they saw how the then Government failed sufficiently and efficiently to meet its obligation to those who had fought for their country. I say that with no party political purpose. The fact remains that the system of gratuity then adopted was not good enough. That was because Australia was inexperienced in these matters. Guided by experience, the members of the all-party committee resolved against a repetition of the errors then committed.
I agree with the bill as a whole, but I am a little disappointed that one arm of the fighting forces is not to receive the full benefit of a gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day. I refer to those who served in the Darwin area during the period in which 69 bombing raids were made on it. I particularly remember one unit which was really a petrol unit and which served between Alice Springs and Darwin throughout 1941. Late in 1940 some mem bers were transferred to other units and sent to Port Moresby. During the period in which Darwin was being bombed those men were under no greater hardship than their companions left behind at Darwin. Yet they will receive 2s. 6d. a day gratuity whereas the others will receive only 6d. I consider that an injustice to the men left in Darwin, because, during the bombing of Darwin, the men in Papua, although being bombed, were not engaged in any other fighting. For the life of me I cannot understand why the committee did not include the Darwin area in the areas in respect of which a gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day is to be paid, at least for the whole period from the first Japanese bombing raid to the last. It was not. possible for them to disperse to Adelaide River, Katherine or Alice Springs, as some people may think, because antiaircraft guns had -to be manned and stretchers carried to remove the wounded. Men serving in that area were subject to all the conditions which men. in Port Moresby were experiencing in that period, as any one would know who saw the military cemetery at Adelaide River or inspected the lists of the wounded, who were taken first to Katherine and later to the capital cities for hospital treatment. Many who served in Darwin were later transferred to other units and are in other parts of Australia or overseas. Long before the bill was introduced I hoped that consideration would be given to that section of the fighting services. Unfortunately that arrangement has not been made, but I am still hopeful that before this bill becomes law the Government will recognize the justice of making those men eligible for the higher rate of gratuity. Generally, I congratulate the committee on the scale of gratuities and the conditions under which they shall be paid. I am particularly gratified by the co-operative attitude that members of the Opposition have adopted. Treating the bill on a broad national plane, they have not indulged in party politics. This afternoon the honorable member for Wentworth delivered the most moderate speech that I have ever heard him make in this chamber, and it was easily his . mosteffective contribution to a debate. I’ commend the bill to the House and am confident that it will be passed without delay.
.- This bill shows that when representatives of political parties are united by a common bond and a genuine desire to do what is just and equitable, they can serve on the same committee and produce a unanimous report. Patriotism cannot be nicely calculated in terms of monetary value, and no one will contend that this bill is intended fully to recoup a soldier for the service that he has rendered to Australia. A gratuity would not be repayment for the loss of life or limb, or for shattered health. This paymentis intended to be an expression of the nation’s thanks for the services of the fighting forces. Most of the matters which concern ex-servicemen have been adequately dealt with by the all-party committee that investigated the subject of war gratuities and it compiled a generally satisfactory report. More than th at. I need hardly say, except to reply to a statement by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). He described this bill as being more generous in terms of money than the War Gratuity Bill introduced by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in 1920. I do not wish to start a controversy, but I remind him that money has not the same purchasing power now as it had 25 years ago. Then again the gratuity payable to the widows of servicemen under this bill is not so generous as was the payment in the War Gratuity Act. The legislation introduced by the Hughes Government provided that the widow of a serviceman who was killed on service should receive a gratuity for the period from the date of his embarkation until the declaration of peace. The provision that has been made in this bill is moderately good, although I prefer the original one. Under this legislation, the widow of a deceased serviceman will receive the equivalent of a gratuity pay- able for three years and seven months service. If the deceased left no widow, his next of kin, dependent on him, will receive the equivalent of a gratuity payable for one year and seven months service. That clause is open to criticism and the committee, which consisted of ex-servicemen, should have been more generous in that matter. Although I do not propose to submit an amendment, I suggest to the Parliament that the clause should be brought into line with the provision contained in the War Gratuity Act of 1920.
I contend also that a war gratuity should be inalienable. No deductions from it should be allowed. Any honorable member who has had experience of the services knows that quartermasters have long memories. When men are being discharged, their sheets may show that they have not returned equipment that was issued to them, and they will be compelled to pay for it. Yesterday I informed the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) that when Royal Australian Air Force personnel were being discharged, after four or five years’ operational service, they were forced to pay for torches, pocket knives, spoons and forks that had been issued to them years before. Although the value of the lost articles was not great, these demands for payment are irritating to the men. Therefore, I shall oppose clause 16. I direct attention to the word “ misappropriation “ contained in that provision. Although I am not a lawyer, I believe that the loss of an article of equipment could be interpreted as misappropriation. I hope that this clause will not be rigidly enforced. The bill is a good one and is the result of a co-operative effort which, I hope, will convey to service men and women an expression of our appreciation of their services. The money must not be regarded as payment in full for their services, but as a token of gratitude from Australia to those who served the country so well.
.- When the payment of a war gratuity to members of the fighting forces was raised some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in his wisdom, referred the matter to an all-party committee.
– The subject was firstraised by the Returned Soldiers Parliamentary Committee.
– The origin may be traced back even farther than that. The important point is that the Prime Minister agreed to appoint an all-party committee to recommend the payment in cash of an equitable gratuity to members of all branches of the fighting services. After considerable deliberation, the committee produced a unanimous report. I do not suppose that the members of the committee claim that the report provides for all contingencies, and deals equitably with all servicemen, but the report is evidence of a genuine desire to do the greatest good for the greatest number of service personnel. Any measure of this description, which is designed to cover such a wide field, must inevitably cause dissatisfaction in some quarters, and probably some members of the services will consider that adequate provision has not been made for them. The contention may be advanced for all sorts of reasons, political and otherwise, that some clauses are not so beneficial as they should be, or in some respects are too rigid; nevertheless, the fact remains that the all-party committee, after mature consideration, submitted its recommendations to the Government, and this bill is based upon them.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) objected to clause 16, which deals with deductions that may be made from a serviceman’s war gratuity. The honorable member mentioned that Royal Australian Air Force personnel had been compelled to defray the cost of knives, forks and torches which had been issued to them and not returned. In my opinion, this clause will not be interpreted in a mean and miserable manner for the purpose of depriving an ex-serviceman of any portion of his war gratuity. This provision will be used, if necessary, when much bigger problems arise. The clause will be interpreted more broadly than the narrow interpretation that the honorable member placed upon it. I hope that honorable members, when considering the clause, will not indulge in meannesses or party politics.
It is all very well for some honorable members to say that men who enlisted for overseas service, but who were unable to leave Australia because of certain service requirements, should receive the same rate of gratuity as will be paid to men who actually left Australia. I realize that, because of special circumstances, thousands of men were kept in Australia, although they wanted to be in the thick of the fighting. The Tank Corps is a typical example. Many of my relatives , and others whom I have known intimately since boyhood, enlisted in that unit, and . I know that they were anxious to gooverseas to fight. Most honorable members must know why the Tank Corps was kept in Australia although it was originally intended to serve overseas. These men and many others have had to mark time unwillingly for years, and because of this fact they will receive a lower rateof gratuity than will be paid to others who went abroad. It may be argued that, because they were willing to go, they should be paid a higher rate of gratuity. However, this , bill is based on a reportof an allparty committee, and I am prepared to accept the recommendation of the committee, which made a close and careful study of the problems involved. It decided that men who actually served abroad were entitled to receive a greater amount than those who served within Australia. I am not aware of all of the facts considered by the committee, but I believe that its recommendations were based on equity and justice. Therefore, I disagree with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). There may be some merit in the argument of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) regarding men who paid the supreme sacrifice, or suffered injury in air raids, while on service in Australia. There may ‘be some claim for higher payaments on behalf of such men or their dependants. Nevertheless, the committee could not be expected to select small groups of men who served in the same locality and say that one group should receive a high rate and another group a low rate. The committee had to make a broad survey of the general situation, and lay down certain lines of demarcation. Obviously, it could not provide for a few special cases. I imagine that the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Harrison) will agree withme on this point.
– Hear, hear!
– For once we are in agreement.
– Then I must be wrong.
– I know something of the operations of all-party committees, which do an excellent job. More such committees should be appointed to deal with controversial problems. I believe that, by means of this approach, better legislation would be produced than arises from consideration of questions on purely party lines.
– Would the honorable member like to read from the committee’s report ?
– Honorable members can read the bill and report for themselves. The bill is an expression in legislative form of the committee’s recom- mendations. There is no need for me to eulogize themembers ofour fighting forces. Their deeds are well known throughout the world. They haveserved on every battle front and their records speak for themselves. There are no better soldiers in the world than Australian fighting men; in certain classes of fighting, they excel. This bill will involve the expenditure of a huge sum of money. The present estimate is £63,000,000, and, by the end of the war, the amount may have increased considerably. It would scarcely be possible for a Government to provide, “out of the blue” immediately on the cessation of hostilities, sufficient money to. discharge all gratuity payments. In any case, such a procedure would be bad for the country. It would entirely upset the balance of our economy. With many people in possession of considerable sums of money, there would be too much competition on markets where goods were in short supply. I assume that the parliamentary committee took all of these factors into consideration when it decided that the gratuities should not be paid until five years and six months after the termination of hostilities. There has been some criticism of clause 22. Isee nothing wrong with it. It is an excellent provision that a member of the fighting forces should have the opportunity to apply his war gratuity credit to the purchase of a home.
– Does the honorable member consider that the credit ought to be available also for the purchase of businesses?
– The arguments against making it available for business purposes are very sound. The committee apparently considered’ it advisable to allow an ex-serviceman to apply his credit only to the establishment of a. home for himself and his. family. If the clause were widened to. enable the funds to be applied for business purposes, many men with very little commercial acumen might invest in businesses of a speculative character and lose their capital. That is only natural, human nature being as it is. Most men would invest their money wisely, but we must protect the interests of those who have had little business experience. There are many other sound provisions in the bill, but I shall not deal with them in detail. Theclause providing for payments to widows of servicemen is generous. It provides that a widow shall benefit at a higher scale than her husband would have enjoyed; had, he survived. I commend the bill as. an expression of our thanks to the men who served the nation so well in its, hour of need-. They all have made an excellent contribution to our security. Many of them have paid the supreme sacrifice, and the Government is doing all that it is able to. do to provide adequate pensions and other assistance, including special gratuity payments, for their widows and children! The bill should have the approbation of the fighting men themselves, andI am sure that it will have the approval of the people as being an expression of goodwill to our sailors, soldiers, and airmen for the services which they have rendered to the nation.
Sitting suspended from4.55 to8 p.m.
.- I join with other honorable members who have participated in this debate in paying tribute to the all-party committee on the recommendations upon which this bill is founded. The members of the committee gave this vexed problem a great deal of thought. The criticism that I shall offer of the bill does not necessarily detract from the merits of the committee’s work. Because all of the members of it were experienced ex-soldiers, the findings demand respect. I regret, however, that I cannot accept the view that the bill metes out even-handed justice to Australia’s armed forces. The all-party committee was appointed by the Government in order that the subject could be considered free from party politics, but I must reject the view that its recommendations should be automatically accepted by the Parliament. The Government apparently has adopted that view, because this bill seeks to give legislative effect to the committee’s recommendations in toto. I shall criticize some of the committee’s findings which I regard as quite unjustified. The points to which I direct attention chiefly are, first, the amount of money proposed to be distributed, and, secondly, the definition of eligibility for inclusion in the several categories. As the Government has acknowledged the desirability of collaboration by all parties in this matter I hope that it will not take the stand that the bill is unalterable, but will accept amendments which, by the consensus of parliamentary opinion, are deemed to be reasonable and just. I agree that the maximum rate of gratuity should be paid to all personnel who served in operational areas. I cannot agree that the minimum rate prescribed for home service is an adequate recognition of the value of the service rendered, particularly as the pay of such personnel was taxed. If a gratuity of only 6d. a day be paid to personnel on home service, the amount received by many thousands of individuals will not be sufficient to recoup the amount that they have already paid in income tax. I also disagree with the fine distinctions drawn in assessing the value of the services rendered. I find it difficult to distinguish between facing an enemy in New Guinea and facing the same enemy at Darwin. Surely all honorable members will concede that for a certain period of the war Darwin was definitely a battle area. The Royal Australian Air Force was in action there, anti-aircraft batteries were in action, and land forces were standing to arms night and day in readiness to repel the invasion which at one stage of the war seemed imminent. All troops who served in proclaimed operational areas, particularly in the areas in which battle was actually joined with the enemy, whether on the Australian mainland or on the islands of the Pacific, are entitled to the full rate of 2s. 6d. a day.
I consider niggardly the treatment meted out to personnel who returned to Australia from operational areas in order to recuperate and to be refitted for further active service. The bill provides that men who have qualified for the maximum rate in operational areas but who spend more than 90 days in Australia subsequently in recuperation or in order to be refitted for active service, shall be reduced, in respect of such excess days, to the rate of 6d. a day prescribed for home service. That principle is perfectly sound if those men remained in Australia for the remainder of their war service, but if, after recuperation and refitting, they returned to active service it is decidedly unsound to reduce their rate of gratuity. Quite recently in this House we listened to a Minister, in almost a frenzy of rhetoric, denounce criticism of what had been described as wasteful expenditure on war equipment. I have respect for proper methods of accountancy, but I also have some sympathy with the Minister, because in war it is the article that counts and not necessarily the amount expended in producing it. If we are to regard war from the point of view of credit and debit we must, in order to strike a proper balance, place a money value on victory. We must assess liberty in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. It is, obviously, impossible to do so. Therefore we must agree that the Minister had a certain degree of logic on his side.
In relation to the bill now before us, we are confronted with the anomaly that we are prepared to spend any amount of money, even running into many millions of pounds, in the provision of mechanical equipment, plus any further amount in order to repair equipment that has become battleworn ; but in human equipment we are being asked to say, in effect, to personnel who have become battleweary : “ For the time you were among the bullets, the bombs, the mines and the horrors of disease in battle areas you will be entitled to a gratuity of 2s. 6d. a day, but when, because of your tragic experiences it becomes necessary for you to return to Australia in order to recuperate and gain fresh strength so that you may again put your head into the furnace of war, we will pay you only 6d. a day. You can have the 2s. 6d. a day when you return to the battle zone “. To my mind that proposal is thoroughly illogical, and we should not countenance it for a moment because, in respect of the mechanical equipment, the money is spent in the real sense and disappears into the air, whereas, in respect of the human element, it is placed in cold storage for five years, and then released into circulation. The proposal is without any semblance of reason or justice. No distinction should be drawn between soldiers in the battle areas and those who, having been in the battle area, were returned to Australia to recuperate in order that they might again take up their arms.
I come now to the minimum rate. I consider it to be totally disproportionate to the value of the services rendered or to the sacrifices which so many of our service personnel were prepared to make and which very many of them actually did make. I am afraid that very many people, including not a few honorable members of this Parliament, have a false complex in regard to persons whom they describe as “ base wallahs “, that is, soldiers whose services to the nation did not entail particular hardship. In order to satisfy their feeling in regard to such personnel many people unwittingly do a grave injustice to tens of thousands of soldiers whose only purpose and desire is to come to grips with the enemy whenever and wherever the powers decree that they should do so. The low rate of gratuity proposed to he paid for home service is defended, in some quarters at least, on the ground that after the last war Australia paid no gratuity for home service. But where is the parallel between the last war and this war? In 1914-18, Australia was neither a battle area nor a base for operations against the enemy, whereas in this war very many places in Australia were vulnerable to the enemy and, for that reason, had to be guarded night and day, in winter and summer, not only against active assault, but against fifth columnists who, unfortunately, were not in short supply in this country in the early days of the war. Our coastline of 10,000 miles had to be defended. Every mile of it was vulnerable, but it was apparent to the most immature strategist that most of it was useless to an enemy who had to get quick results and to whom time was a vital factor. We had to concentrate our forces at the more vital points, where elaborate defences were erected and to which full firing power was allotted. The task of defending these areas fell to home defence units. Other forces had to be held in readiness to meet invasion, and we were at a disadvantage in that it was impossible to know where the attack would come. Our home defence forces had to be concentrated in strength in particular areas, but they had to be sufficiently mobile to relieve attacks at strategic points. The men comprising the units at specially dangerous places had to be prepared to meet the full brunt of an assault and to hold the enemy for a sufficiently long period to enable reinforcements to be sent to them. I have no hesitation in saying that in most cases they would have succeeded in their heavy task, but, if they had been called upon to fight, many thousands of them would not have been alive to celebrate the victory. We should be grateful that because of a combination of circumstances, in which Providence played’ a prominent part, our men were not called upon to make these sacrifices ; but the fact remains that they stood to arms night and day for six months or more in a certain period of the war. That there has been a general failure to appreciate the value of the services rendered by our home defence forces is shown very clearly in the assessment of a gratuity of 6d. a day for the personnel involved. No one could describe that proposed payment as magnanimity run mad. I understand that the committee considered recommending gratuity on the basis of 2s. for service in battle areas and ls. for home service, but it rightly concluded that such a difference would not adequately express the disparity in the risks taken. But in order to increase the maximum rate it adopted the simple expedient of reducing the minimum rate.
– That is not the true explanation.
– It is one explanation.
– It is not the right one. Let us have the right one if we are to have any.
– I repeat, that the members of the committee considered that the difference was not sufficientlygreat. I agree with them. In order to increase the overseas, rate,, they adopted the expedient of reducing the home defence rate. They may have considered that that would be sufficient. I submit that it will be a very poor national gesture in return for what might have been. Six brown* pennies, a day - not nearly enough to buy one small packet of cigarettes, or to pay a one-way tram fare .to an outer suburb in a capital city. If the recipients are lucky, they may be able, in five years’ time, to post three letters with what is considered to. be the daily value of the services of these men to their country. Why did the members of the committee consider that sixpence a day in five years’ time would be an adequate reward for the services [ have described? That they first, considered that the rates should be respectively 2s. and ls. a day, shows that they were uncertain. There are facts which point irresistibly to the conclusion that the maximum payment was a determining factor.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Both 2s. 6d. and 6d. and 2s. and ls. make a total of - 3s.
– That was never considered.
– It has been suggested that 3s. was considered the aggregate amount that should be paid, and it had to be allocated in proportions that would be suitable for the services rendered.
– That was never considered.
– At first, the members of the committee considered that ls. a day would be a fair recompense for home service. Why did they not adhere to that belief, and increase the amount for overseas service to 3s. a day? The honorable member, for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) says that the matter was not considered in the way in which 1 have stated it. There are pointers which support my contention, although I admit that that was not a decisive factor. A reasonably just gratuity scheme would provide for three payments - 2s> 6d. a day for overseas service; ls. 6d. a day as what may be described as the intermediate rate, and ls. a day for home defence. That is the policy of the Victorian Country party. The payment of an intermediate rate, it is claimed, would’ be a recognition of the fact that tens of thousands of men who- volunteered for overseas service and. have made every effort to be sent out of Australia, have been “eating their hearts out”’ because they have been frustrated. They are entitled ta ls. 6d. a day. I recognize that the administration, of such a scheme would present tremendous difficulty. Nevertheless, it is the ideal policy to which some of us subscribe. Nothing will shake my belief that the rate should be 2s. 6d. a day for service in operational areas, including any part of Australia that was threatened during any period, of the war, and ls. a day for home service. A division composed of three brigades, one in New Guinea, one in Norfolk Island, and one at Darwin, would be engaged by the one enemy. Darwin was much more a battle-ground than Norfolk Island has been ; yet the men who were sent to Norfolk Island, will be entitled to the maximum rate of gratuity, whereas the men who manned anti-aircraft batteries and other defences at Darwin, some of whom were killed or carried out on stretchers, are not. considered to be worth more than 6d. a day. Had the Japanese attempted an invasion of Australia at Darwin, probably two-thirds of those who would have faced them would not now be alive to tell the story. They are paid a poor tribute when they are regarded as being worth only 6d. a day, whilst their comrades who had no more contact with the enemy are to receive 2s. 6d. a day.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the matter should be referred back to the all-party committee?
– This Parliament can deal with the matter. The -debate has been conducted entirely on non-party lines, and mainly in confirmation of the views that I hold. Probably the estimate of £63,000,000 is regarded as the minimum, and will be increased during every month that the war lasts. There is no possibility of determining what the aggregate will finally be. The amount needed -to raise .the gratuity to- what I claim would be reasonable and just would be mere “ chicken feed “ if compared with full war expenditure for three or four months.
.- -When the Government appoints a committee representative of all -parties in this Parliament, as the committee which considered the matter of a gratuity to service personnel was, it ought in general to give legislative expression to the views expressed and the recommendations made by that body. My major comments will be directed to the remarks of the previous speaker (Mr. Bowden), and other honorable members who ‘have discussed ‘the differential rates of -gratuity. If it be the general opinion that the scheme propounded may be improved, action in that direction ought to be taken. It is desirable that those who face the enemy in the various battle theatres shall receive the greatest recompense we can make to them. When the endeavour is made to provide for differential rates of pay, allowances or gratuities, and to define battle zones, inevitably anomalies arise and hardship is caused to some of those whom it is sought to benefit. The honorable member for Gippsland has rightly drawn attention to the important part played by Darwin troops in the defence of Australia, and the lives that undoubtedly would have been lost there had Australia actually been invaded. Other parts of the continent are in a similar category, notably the north-west portion of Western Australia. In the darkest days of the war, these were in the foreground of possible battle zones, and those who served in them are entitled to the thanks of a grateful nation as well as the fullest recompense that can be made when a gratuity is being given to the Australian fighting forces. The honorable member foi1 Gippsland also rightly pointed out .that those who .had earned the name of “ base wallahs “, and the reprobation which it conveys, constitute a very small proportion of Australia’s fighting forces. Every honorable member, and all members of the community., know of the boredom that exists in the ranks of .base units throughout this country, their keen desire to participate in the fighting for which they enlisted, and their determination to play a full .part in the defeat .of the enemy, so that the hostilities in .which we have been engaged for so many years may .be .brought to a speedy conclusion. Many of these men, haying been posted for years in places where they could not serve their country as they wished, because of orders issued by the high command or the Army administration, have come to the conclusion that they would be far better employed in industry, providing essential services, and have obtained release from the fighting forces. We are well aware of that from the contacts we have made with members of different units and the experiences we have had during the war years. The Government might well heed the opinion expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House, that the lower rate of gratuity should be raised. The Treasurer is being urged on all sides, and on all occasions, to reduce the present high rates of taxation. No one in Australia would object to pay income tax if the revenue derived from it were used for the benefit of the fighting forces of this country, wherever they may be situated, in recognition of the work’ they have done and the services they have performed ,in defence of the nation.
Various other small matters have been raised. It has been claimed that deductions are sometimes made from the pay of members of the fighting forces on account of the loss of equipment, frequently through no fault of the serviceman concerned. Many of these items of equipment are indeed trivial. In some instances, however, deliberate fraud may be associated with their loss, and probably the provision which requires the cost to be defrayed by the serviceman is desirable at the present stage. I urge, however, that those charged with the administration of the gratuity shall exercise a wise discretion and ensure that only those servicemen who have been guilty of deliberate fraud shall be penalized.
There is little more that need be said. The House is unanimous as to the need for the payment of a gratuity. It will not argue about the amount involved. I do not believe - and the interjection of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) supports this view - that the committee adopted an amount of 3s. as the limit, and then allocated it between overseas service and home service. If that was the case, I do not think that it should have been. I hope that all ex-servicemen will be given this gratuity as the right of men who have done their best, whether on the battlefields or in units which, though willing and anxious to serve at the front have been directed elsewhere by the High Command. If that were done, we should be making an endeavour to mete out even-handed justice, regardless of the cost involved. The people will look to this Parliament for a real measure of justice to men who have sacrificed their peace-time pursuits to meet Australian and world needs in this great crisis which we all hope will end at an early date.
– As one who served on the allparty parliamentary committee in an endeavour to arrive at a just answer to the question submitted to it by the Executive, I think I should say a word or two. I regret not having been here this afternoon to hear the earlier speeches, but I am deeply grateful to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) for the way he presented his views. I shall deal with his points. The committee itself should first be considered. Of the members, only two had not seen active service in the former war. They were the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). It is only fair that I should make some reference to the others so that the men who will be receiving this gratuity shall understand the qualifications of the men who made the judgment. Senator Collett commanded the 28th Infantry Battalion in the 1st Australian Imperial Force. He was the only colonel to take a battalion away and bring it home. In that regard his record is better than that of any other battalion commander in the 1914-18 war. Next we had Senator Cooper, a member of the loth Battalion, who transferred to the Australian Flying Corps; so he had service in two arms in the 1914-18 war.
– And lost a leg!
– Yes. Senator Finlay was in the 5th Pioneer Battalion. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), my Highland colleague, who I am sorry is not here, was in the 14th Battalion. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr’. Pollard) was in the 6th Battalion. I saw service in the 27th Infantry Battalion. Those are the members of the committee that the Government and the party leaders in consultation agreed should adjudicate on this matter. I have not served on many committees, but I believe that the gratuity problem was one of the trickiest and stickiest any committee could have been given to solve. In the exceptional circumstances in which the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force have been obliged to serve in this war, it was a little difficult to get a starting point, because certain problems cropped up in relation to the gratuity this time which never ‘ entered into anybody’s calculations in the last, war, for the simple reason that they did not then exist. After the 1914-18 war the problem was, what are we to do by way of a gratuity to men who have gone overseas and come back? Had Japan not entered the war, that would have been the simple question this time, but, with the intrusion of Japan, an entirely different set of circumstances arose. First, the Government rightly called up tens of thousands of men for full-time active service for the duration of the war. I was one. My friends, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), were already in charge of units, but I received an urgent telegram on the day that war started telling me that I was to report for duty for the duration of the war. The Government was right in doing that, but immediately, a problem arose which had not arisen in the war of 1914-18 when a gratuity of ls. a day, with a maximum’ of 184 days, was paid to men who did not go outside Australia. I think, in almost every instance they were men who had been enlisted for purely camp duty. It was not intended that at any time they should proceed overseas. However, the moment Japan entered the war, not only did we have intruded into the problem what we were to do about militia units calledup and formed as the result, but also the whole policy regarding the use of the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force was changed. The Commonwealth Government was then faced with the question of what it would do to defend this country. In attacking that problem, we had to consider first what the Defence Act says about the defence of Australia. That act, passed by this Parliament in 1902, lays it down that every able-bodied man in the community is liable for war service in the defence of Australia from the age of eighteen years to the age of 60 years, whether he has had military training or not. The first matter the committee had to consider was how to fit in home service with the general picture of recognition of war service referred to us by the Government. I ask my two colleagues from Victoria and other honorable members, including the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) : is this gratuity to be paid for actual war service rendered or is it to be a gratuity for camp service rendered ? As one who saw war service in the previous world war. and only camp and head-quarters service in this war, I can speak with experience of both, and I say that the man who goes into the forward areas with the infantry, the artillery, the engineers, the pioneers, and the signallers - all those units that have to go right to the front - is in a category entirely different from that of the man who serves inside the Commonwealth, and I do not care whether that service was at Darwin or anywhere else. I have been twice in Darwin in the last couple of years, so I have had personal observation of the conditions there, and my youngest brother served in Darwin right through the whole “ show “ until his unit went farther north. I have had the advantage of discussing the Darwin problem with men who served in the first war and were at Darwin when the first “ blitz “ occurred in February, 1942, and thereafter. Both the 18th and 24th Battalions in the last war suffered more casualties in one hour at Pozieres, Fleurs, Bullecourt or Passchendale than was suff erred by Air Force ground staff and crew and the Army put together in Darwin during the whole thundering time that town was under threat. What were the living conditions of the forces at Darwin ?
– Were the casualties in New Guinea or the islands as great as they were in the last war when 3,000 were killed in one day?
– No. My battalion was practically wiped out at Fleurs and the 14th Battalion at Bullecourt.
– One good man was left in the honorable member’s battalion.
– I was not there that day. If honorable members cite Darwin because a certain number of bombs inflicted a few casualties on the Army and the Air Force, we must consider the claims of men at places like Broome, Port Hedland, Millagambi Mission, where we had a platoon, Mossman, at the tip of Cape York Peninsula which was bombed, and Townsville, which was also bombed. A submarine shelled Bondi and Newcastle. There were casualties in Sydney Harbour itself when ships were sunk by submarines in May, 1942. If Darwin is to be considered because a few bombs dropped there, the men on Garden Island that night have an equal right to consideration. That position has to be faced by my colleagues.
– I referred to proclaimed operational areas.
– The proclaimed operational territory in the Northern Territory extended 300 or 400 miles south of Darwin. Japanese aeroplanes may have flown over there once or twice. I think the last time the people of Darwin saw a Japanese aircraft was back in 1943. Darwin was an operational area at no stage except for perhaps a few weeks in 1942 when it appeared to be threatened. At no time was it an operational area to be compared with Queensland, especially north of “ the Brisbane line” about which wo have heard so much. There the troops had much more physical combat with the Japanese than did any man who served at Darwin, although there was reason for the maintenance of a considerable number of troops at Darwin at the time. So much for that point. I leave it by citing i lie principle that every able-bodied man from IS -to 60 years of age is liable for full-time war service in the defence of the Australian Commonwealth. Therefore, I draw this line of demarcation between those who were called up for duty or, having volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force, were at the discretion of the Government retained in Australia for duty in the defence of this country and those members of the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia who were sent outside Australia -to wage war against the enemy. That is the first point that I want to drive home. The next question addressed to the committee was : “ “What is the nature of the gratuity 10 be? “. As the Minister for Repatriation will remember, it was agreed that this question was in no sense related to the pay that the men were to receive. The committee was not asked to examine whether the troops were being paid enough. Every honorable member could cite instances of men employed in munitions establishments and elsewhere who received’ infinitely higher rates of pay than any soldier could possibly get, unless he was a high-ranking officer. So that was not our- mission. If that matter is to be adjusted, it will require separate legislative action by this Parliament at the instigation of the Government.
The next point was that in no sense was the gratuity to be considered as a repatriation measure. The repatriation measure is entirely separate from it. Our task, the more we studied it, resolved itself into a question of what a grateful nation should pay to men who had borne the heat and burden, and risks of battle. In other words, to quote the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), what, money value would the Commonwealth Parliament place on victory? Taken on that assessment, the money value that we are to place on victory is” to be paid to the men who achieved it. Whilst, it may be argued, with a certain amount of justification, that “they also serve who only stand and wait””, nevertheless victory is purchased by personal and physical contact with the enemy, and by no other method. Therefore, in any assessment of war gratuity that I have to make, I favour the men who ‘go outside Australia to wage this country’s battles overseas, and who come face to face with its enemies. I refer to the men who fightin the air, on the sea, and on the land, be it in North Africa, Syria, Italy, Germany or New Guinea. Had the stage been reached- when conflict occurred between the Australian Army and the Japanese Army on Australian soil - not just a matter of a few planes coming over - the position to which some honorable members have referred would have arisen. To date, however, that position has not arisen, and accordingly does not enter into the argument.
The next matter which the committee had to consider - it was a very difficult one - was that of the rivalry, in some cases almost hostility, between members of the Australian Imperial Force and militiamen. I have always deprecated this division in the Australian Army.
– It was encouraged by this Government.
– I do not desire to go into the political aspects. I have been a militiaman and a member of the Australian Imperial Force, and I contend that the Government should endeavour to avoid any discrimination between units and arms of our services. But, by an act of policy, that discrimination has prevailed throughout Australia since the outbreak of this war. It was a very bad rule. I am of opinion that if militiamen or members of the Australian Imperial Force serve outside Australia, they should be placed on the same footing. In the bill which is founded upon the committee’s report the Government has recognized the equality of those men who have gone to New Guinea, Bougainville and New Britain. Let us remember that as soon as the threat from Japan arose, certain units of the Australian Imperial Force were detached from the 8th Division - the whole of that division was not sent to Malaya - and were placed, as I said at the time, like lumps of cheese put out for rats- to collect as soon as night fell. One battalion was stationed at Kupang, another at Ambon and the third at Rabaul. In other words, our forces were divided, and were too weak to resist an invader.. Perhaps, if they had been concentrated at Rabaul, the town might never have fallen.
As soon as the danger became not merely apparent but so real that it was on our doorstep, militia regiments- and artillery were put on shipboard and sent into those areas. One of the officers was Senator Mattner, who was attached to the 13th Field Regiment in December, 1941. The regiment was sent to the islands to perform a certain service. The men went outside the territorial limits of Australia, and took the risks of the sea - risks which were very real, judging by the results of Japanese activity around our coast not very long afterwards. Those men were not properly trained or equipped for the type of warfare in which they had to engage the Japanese, or the country in which they had to fight. The very best battalions of the Australian Imperial Force, which were brought back from the Middle East, had to undergo a course of special training in jungle warfare. What they had learnt in the desert was in many respects of no value to them in the mud, slush and darkness of the New Guinea jungle. I point out these matters because the Parliament should recognize the justice of treating members of the Militia, the Australian Imperial Force, the Navy and the Air Force on an equal footing if they went outside our territorial limits. That is what the bill does.
– All speakers have accepted that.
– I desire to make it very clear. My prejudices, anc! I frankly admit that they are prejudices, are entirely in favour of the men of the Navy, the fighting units of the Royal Australian Air Force and the infantry, artillery, engineers, pioneers, signallers and other fellows who encountered the enemy.
– What about the Light Horse?
– I must not forget the gentlemen of the Light Horse, for whom I have a very high regard. The classes which I named encounter the enemy and take the greatest risk. Once men are sent overseas, they cannot determine what their sphere of operations will be. There are “-base wallahs “ overseas, just as there are in Victoria Barracks in St. Kilda-road Melbourne, or in Paddington, Sydney.
– They are very prevalent, overseas
– After the great “ smash “ in 1918, some fellows in my own unit who had been regimental sergeant-majors in Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said, returned with a rank. They had had’ no battle experience, but they had certainly had service.
– No advance without security !
– That was their slogan. Naval forces, the Air Force or ground forces,, when sent overseas, must have .bases. In the city of Sydney to-day, it is quite likely that there are more men of the British Navy engaged on shore duties than there are on the warships that they service. That applies in every force which is sent overseas. It was not possible for the committee to distinguish between men who have had a front line job, and those who are allotted a base job. Therefore, the committee had no other course than to come down on this very solid piece of ground, that as soon as men embarked for service outside the Commonwealth, whether they were members of the Navy, Air Force, Australian Imperial Force or Militia,, they must bc placed on the samefooting.
The committee was then faced with the question of what happens when a man returns to Australia. That, too, was a very “ sticky “ problem. The committee decided - rightly, in my opinion - on a principle accepted by both Houses of this Parliament. When men have returned to Australia from overseas service, and spent 90 days in this country, their exemption from taxation terminates, and they have the same liabilities in that respect as a man who had not been outside Australia. Another firm principle has already been accepted by the Parliament. If the man comes back to Australia wounded and is undergoing treatment for more than three months, he is still regarded for purposes of taxation us being on active service. Therefore, the committee decided that a wounded serviceman, on returning to Australia, shall still be eligible for the gratuity at, the overseas rate while he is convalescing and unable to take part in the ordinary activities of his unit.
Another “sticky” thing which the committee had to decide was the date of the commencement of war gratuities. The matter was easy in regard to members of the Australian Imperial Force the Royal Australian Air Force, or the Royal Australian Navy, who went overseas. As soon as a man embarks for overseas service and goes outside the 3-mile limit, he is eligible for the war gratuity at the higher rate. This Parliament has already instructed the Commissioner of Taxation, on account of the closeness of New Guinea and the other islands, that a man must be on service in those islands outside Australia for 90 days before he may qualify for exemption from taxation. Therefore, the committee laid it down that the same rule should apply in regard to the payment of the war gratuity at the higher rate. A serviceman must have 90 days’ service outside Australia before he may qualify either for the exemption from taxation or for the payment of the gratuity at the overseas rate. Again, the committee conformed to a principle which the Parliament had already laid down by statute, and if that principle is wrong, then the Parliament and not the committee is responsible for it.
A third “sticky” problem was in regard to the gratuity payable for home service. I do not want to put on to the shoulders of my colleagues anything for which they were not responsible; so I say that I, personally, was not in favour of the payment of a gratuity for home service. It might not be politic to make that, admission.
– It is very courageous.
– Anyway, it is the truth.
– Should not a gratuity be paid to members of the Australian Imperial Force who volunteered for service in any part of the world but who, through no fault of their own, did not leave Australia?
– No. The gratuity is a recognition of the country’s gratitude for services actually rendered in battle areas. That is the position. In view of the fact that the Defence Act renders men between the ages of 18 and 60 years liable for the defence of this country, the matter of a gratuity for home service takes on a different complexion altogether.
– Can the honorable member justify the unreasonable margin between the rates of pay of servicemen and the high wages paid to most indus- 1)1*10.1 lsts ?
– It was not the responsibility of the committee to deal with that. If an anomaly exists the Parliament can remedy it. If the legislature considers that servicemen were not being paid enough, it may adjust their remuneration in a different way. But if the Parliament decides to do that, any rate that it strikes will ‘be paid to the men for overseas service just as it will be for homo service.
– Quite right.
– We then come to what was to be the starting point for the gratuity for home service. Again, I have some responsibility in this matter. An easy method was to decide that no gratuity should be payable for home service until the entry of Japan into the war, because the military problem took on an entirely different complexion at that stage. Some militia units were called up for three months, disbanded for three months and again called up for further training. The committee laid down, first, that no man could qualify for the payment of gratuity in respect of home service before Japan entered the war, and, secondly, that a period of six months’ continuous service was a necessary qualification. These two principles cannot be questioned.
The next consideration was the rate of gratuity. In this connexion I refer to the part that was played by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The federal president of the league, Sir Gilbert Dyett, and the general secretary, Mr. Raymond, appeared before the committee. There can be no denying the fact that the league made no decision in regard to war gratuities until its federal conference was held in Adelaide last November, and I have a strong suspicion - once again I speak my mind - that the war gratuity plans of the league were never properly thought out but were thrown into the ring hurriedly, on account of the probable effects of friction over the Australian Imperial Force-Militia issue.
– Those gentlemen made submissions to the committee on two occasions, did they not?
– That was merely a matter of procedure. When a man such as the federal president of the league appears before a parliamentary committee to state a case, and the committee asks detailed questions, surely it is not to be expected that he will take the hidebound attitude that anything decided by his organization in conference shall be a3 immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. We should be very grateful to Sir Gilbert Dyett for the information which he supplied to the committee, and for the way in which he and the general secretary of the league were prepared to help. However, all my prejudices are in favour of the front-line fighting man, and, therefore, I say, with great respect to the honorable member for Gippsland, that the committee at no stage considered a total gratuity of 3s. a day, divided into either 2s. 6d. plus 6d., or 2s. plus ls. I did not hear such a suggestion at any stage.
– That is so.
– At no stage did the Treasurer attempt to tell the committee that there was any limit to what it could do. That was not the attitude of the Government, which wanted to obtain some satisfactory plan. I emphasize strongly to returned soldier members of this Parliament, that no member of the committee ever suggested that 2s. 6d. a day war gratuity would be sufficient monetary compensation for the experiences of men on, say, the Kokoda Trail, or in the “butcher shops “ of Sanananda, Gona, Buna and other such places, where in 24 hours a man’s hair might turn grey. It might be appropriate to refer to the question quoted in the Scriptures - “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? “ It would be just as diffi cult to arrive at a proper monetary reward for a man’s service against the enemy as to answer that question. However much I may particularize in favour of certain front-line units - especially infantry, artillery, pioneer and cavalry units - I know that men belonging to such units will agree that amongst their members some men are entitled to 100 times as much as others. All that we can achieve is some measure of rough justice, unless it be possible to secure the services of somebody considerably more astute than any member of the committee. I have dealt with some of the main points which the committee had to consider. If there be other points upon which honorable gentlemen desire enlightenment, I shall be happy to deal with them in committee. Honorable members may criticize each clause, and I undertake to give answers which, I believe, will be satisfactory to the majority of honorable members and to the majority of members of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
– What about the possibility of paying 2s. Gd. a day to soldiers who served overseas, Gd. a day to those who served at home, and an amount of more than Gd. but less than 2s. 6d. to the intermediate group of men who volunteered and wanted to serve overseas, but were not able to do so?
– That is one point on which the committee did not make a recommendation, although it considered the possibility. When a man offers his services in a voluntary capacity in the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, or the Royal Australian Navy, he places his time, his services, and his life at the disposal of the Government, but, if the Government does not see fit to send him to a battle area, I say that he is let off easily, however sorry he may be. He is spared the experiences of men who are sent into such areas.
– The honorable member must realize that at lea3t 33 per cent, of the men who go out of Australia never see the enemy.
– I have already dealt with the base units. The men of the Australian Imperial Force who did not leave Australia consisted chiefly of members of the Armoured
Division - the children of the light horse regiments, with which the honorable member for Bendigo served with distinction. As long as I live, I shall regret that the Armoured Division did not serve under Field-Marshal Montgomery on the Western European front. There i6 no place for it in the Pacific war. A few tanks -might be useful at Buna or on Bougainville, hut the type of country there is no more suitable for manoeuvring tanks than for cavalry. As a general rule, tanks can be used only in country where cavalry could be used. In my opinion, although I am not a light horse man, the Armoured Division consists of the cream of Australia’s country manhood, who have not been given an opportunity to see action of any kind worth mentioning during i he whole war. I have a brother serving in that division, and I admire its members. It is not their fault that they have been kept in Australia. At the same time, I could not honestly say that i hey are entitled to a gratuity equal to that of the men in our sea-going ships, and our operational aircraft, or our soldiers who have gone overseas. I also say to the honorable member for Moreton, without disclosing secrets, that one-half of the Australian Army has never been overseas during this war and is not likely to go overseas. One day these facts must be published; it is only right that the Australian public should know the truth.
– Yet the veteran soldiers are kept overseas.
– Yes. That is the unfair part. A similar state of affairs applies in relation to air force ground staff.
– Not only the ground staff. Many air crews also have never gone overseas.
– Order ! The honorable member must not interrupt the debate.
– Do not try to bounce me, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! I shall be forced to put the honorable member out if he is not careful.
– We shall see.
– 1 am grateful for the interjection, Mr. Speaker, because it enables me to clear up another point, Some day, the facts in regard to the percentages of fighting men who have never gone overseas will be known, and the people will realize how much more they owe to the men who have served overseas than to those who remained .at home. I repeat my statement that, in committee, I shall be willing to discuss any clause of the bill. I am prepared to defend it clause by clause, line by line, and word by word,, and if the Parliament does not like it, the Parliament knows what to do about it. I do not claim that anything which has been done by the all-party committee is above criticism. A case can always be put for the other side. Nevertheless, there is a defence for all of the committee’s proposals. I am sure that I shall be able to defend the committee’s recommendations if honorable members will ask questions on matters regarding which they are in doubt.
– Does the honorable member consider that the federal president and the general secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia were worthy to he consulted, in view of the fact that they tried to prevent members of the Militia Forces who served in battle areas from becoming members of the league ?
– I praised them for what they did before the parliamentary committee: They stated their case, the committee raised certain objections, and they went away and brought hack further facts. I am sure that had the league been in possession at the Adelaide conference of the information which was available to the committee, its 2s.-plus-ls. proposal would never have been submitted, or, at any rate, agreed to by the conference.
– I am worried about the fact that they did not want to accept as members of the league members of the Militia Forces who served in battle areas.
– That is an important poind; and I am willing to volunteer my opinion on it. I simply say that, if a man serves outside Australia, whether he be a member of the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia Forces, the Royal Australian Air Force, or the Royal Australian Navy,, he is entitled to be placed on the same basis as other fighting-, men who have served overseas, and is as equally entitled; to membership of the league as he- is to receive gratuity.
.- The House is indebted to the- honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) for his lucid explanation of the work of the parliamentary committee, upon whose recommendations this bill is founded. The committee had a very” difficult task, and the honorable member has clearly outlined some of the problems with which it dealt. It is easy to criticize the work of the committee, and I confess that I have voiced some dissent. However, honest criticism is a good thing. At any rate, now that the facts have been placed before us by the honorable member, we may agree that the committee has made a very valuable recommendation, which the Government has wisely accepted. We all have views which w> should like to have adopted,, but, if they were adopted, anomalies would doubtless be created in other directions. Most of the members of the committee are ex-servicemen, and they were able to compare the conditions of the last war with the conditions of this war. As the honorable member for Barker has observed, the problem was simple after the last war. But in this war our situation changed greatly after Japan entered the conflict, for many areas in our own homeland immediately became threatened. It is true that in the early part of 1942 Darwin was a dangerous place, and that its conditions were primitive in the extreme. Many of our men serving in that area in those days contracted tropical ulcers and other ailments attributable partly to an unsatisfactory diet. Vegetables, in particular, were in short supply. Even now Darwin, in some seasons of the year, is not healthy. I was there some time ago, after the worst danger had passed, but even then the men manning the aircraft guns had to live under hard conditions. The difficulty, of course; is to distinguish fairly between the different areas. If a certain area adjacent to Darwin had been defined as an operational zone, I have little doubt that personnel serving a little to the south of it would also have claimed that they were- in a- dangerous area. In all the circumstances, I consider that the committee submitted wise recommendations to the Government. Many of the’ hoys- who were in the Darwin area in 1942 are now in Borneo or New Guinea. The honorable member for Barker referred to the armoured unit, formed mainly of the members of the old light horse militia personnel, which was stationed in Western Australia when the danger there was greatest. That unit has since been, disbanded. Many of its members are to-day in Borneo or New Guinea. My own boy is among them. So far as 1 know, he is at Tarakan. All such personnel will now be eligible for the maximum rate of gratuity, although they will be entitled to only the 6d. a day for the period of their service in Australia.
As an old soldier, I have a bias in favour of the man who is actually in the front line. I consider that he should receive more favorable treatment than men who are in safe jobs behind the lines. Yet even these men are, at times, in danger. During the last war, my colleagues and I were often in greater danger when we were behind the lines resting than when we were with our units. The matter is difficult to determine with absolute justice to all, but I consider that the committee has made commendable recommendations, having regard to all the circumstances.
I have not heard of any complaints from executive officers of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia about the proposed rates of gratuity. The committee acted wisely, in my opinion, in conferring with the executive officers of the servicemen’s organizations. Probably, some of the recommendations of those individuals are incorporated in the bill. It has been stated in the course of this debate that requests have been made for the provision of higher rates of gratuity, and some honorable gentlemen opposite apparently favour an upward variation of the rates. I consider that nothing we can do would be too good for our soldiers, but we have to face facts. Extra money for gratuity payments can be obtained only from additional taxation. A test of the sincerity of those who desire higher rates to be paid would be whether they would support a proposal to impose a special tax to provide funds for more generous gratuity payments. Personally, 1 would support the imposition of a special tax for this purpose. After all, we must realize that our soldiers placed their bodies between us and the enemy. As the result of their heroic service our material wealth has been protected. For that reason we owe the soldiers more than we can ever repay. This gratuity cannot be regarded as an adequate monetary reward for service personnel; it should be considered more in the nature of an acknowledgment of the nation’s gratitude. In my opinion, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) was in error in stating that men who returned to Australia from active service overseas in order to recuperate would suffer a reduction of their rate of gratuity after they had been in Australia 90 days. The Government has intimated in an official statement dated the 31st May, 1945, that-
The gratuity covers the full term of service overseas and 90 days after return to Australia.
The statement continues -
Where a member of the forces is invalided back to Australia the period in hospital and until fit to return to his unit will be in addition to the 90 days.
That meets the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland.
The provision that tie gratuity shall not become immediately available except in special cases is sound. One of the mistakes in the System of gratuity payments after the last war was that the bond issued to the soldier was immediately negotiable. Commercial “ sharks “ did their utmost to entice soldiers to speculate in unsound propositions. I believe that many bonds were cashed for 12s. 6d. in the £1. Although the soldiers had ready cash for a time because of the receipt of their gratuities, many of them had very soon spent their money and had nothing whatever to show for it. Normally, the gratuity to be paid after this war will become payable after five years. One “ digger “ said to me a few days ago, “ “What is the good of the gratuity? We shall not be able to cash it “. I replied that in special circum- stances, where the money was desired for the purposes of sound investment or where the recipients were in necessitous circumstances, permission could be obtained for the payment of the gratuity without delay. I am confident that the gratuity would also be accepted assecurity by many financial organizations. Therefore, the recipients should not be under any serious disability because of the general provision that payment will not be made until the expiry of five years.
The people of Australia will welcome the provision of this gratuity as a national recognition of the services rendered by the members of our armed forces. I reiterate that if any honorable member who considers that the amount is not adequate will propose the imposition of a special tax for the sole purpose of providing additional money for gratuity payments I shall support him. That price would be little enough for the freedom we have enjoyed and the sacrifices which these men have made. I trust that before long there will be no further need for our servicemen to be absent from Australia.
– in reply - Both the Australian Country party and the Liberal party of Australia, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, agreed to the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee to deal with this very important subject, involving recognition of the work which has been done by our service men and women in defence of this country. The committee appointed can be said to have been fairly representative of all parties. However much we may disagree with the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) upon some points of general policy, at least we can admit that they bring to the consideration of such matters very able minds. Senator Collett is an ex-serviceman and an ex-Minister for Repatriation who has always been very active in guarding the interests of ex-servicemen. Senator Cooper has suffered very greatly as the result of the service that he gave to this country in the last war. From the Government side there was the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who is well qualified to appreciate the needs of ex-servicemen because of the many problems that come before his department. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), an ex-serviceman, is generally recognized as one who understands the problems of members of the forces. Senator Finlay brought to the work of the committee a very wide knowledge of the problem, which impressed all of us. The Opposition members of the committee will agree that the departmental officers presented information on all aspects, and earned the highest tribute for the work that they did. The Government appreciates the association of both Opposition parties with the deliberations of the committee, which were lengthy and exhaustive and involved the examination of every aspect. Schemes presented to the committee by persons who regarded themselves as well qualified to prepare them, were found to be full of anomalies. I am not prepared to join in auctioning the gratuity for the purpose of securing a little political kudos from members of the fighting services. A happier conclusion could not have been reached than that an all-party committee should investigate the problem and make recommendations to the Government, which adopted the report in every particular. Judging by comments that have been published in the press and made elsewhere, no proposal placed before the Parliament has been the subject of less criticism. ‘Certainly it has been much less than has been offered in respect of other proposals by parliamentary committees.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) to-day made a very fair and moderate speech. The issue, should not be made a party political one. I shall not attempt to “ tickle the ears “ of any one with the object of making a good fellow of myself. The Government’s adoption of the committee’s report has completely disposed of any likelihood of that occurring. Suggestions have been- made, and doubtless will be repeated in committee, for the alteration of verbiage here and there. I have always been opposed to accepting amendments without knowing all their implications, including their effect on other provisions. I have brought quite a number of bills before this House in the last four years, and have never ignored requests for the further examination of any valid point. If in respect of this measure any proposal advanced relates to more than a minor alteration of verbiage, it will not be adopted without further reference to the all-party committee. I wish that to be clearly understood. The Government warmly appreciates the work of the committee. I was the chairman of it, and can say that politics were entirely ignored. No chairman could have had warmer co-operation, or more constructive advice, than I received during the lengthy process of preparing the report. I promise to examine suggestions in regard to detail, but will not agree to alter any of the principles of the proposals that were made by the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Frost) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the payment of war gratuity to members of the Defence Force in respect of war service.
Resolution reported and. - hy leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
– The definition of “ service abroad “ reads - “Service abroad” means service by a member - and includes service during the period of any voyage to an overseas area commencing on and including the date of embarkation for that area and service during the period of any voyage from an overseas area up to and including the date of disembarkation;
I should like the Minister to say whether the term “ voyage “ covers ferry flights ? A unit used for the ferrying of aircraft may be in a forward area for only a short period, and may then return to Australia.
– Those flights are covered.
– Then I have no more to say.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Addition to war gratuity in case of death).
– I invite the Minister to state clearly what period of time will be taken into calculation in assessing the gratuity to be paid to the dependants of a member of the forces who died on the voyage overseas.
– The honorable member has in mind a man who died on the first day at sea?
’.- Thatwould be regarded as service overseas. The limitation is seven months. If death occurs while a man is in action the period is longer. I think the honorable member was referring to the ninety-day period. That is not taken into consideration, but,, if a man was wounded on the first day he was a.t say, Port. Moresby,, and was returned the- next day by plane,, he would be regarded a* having been on service all the time.
Clause’ agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
From the amount of any war gratuity to be credited there shall be deducted -
any amount, due to the Commonwealth by a member in respect of any period of service as a member unless’, in the case of a deceased member, the war gratuity is to be credited in whole or in part to a person, who, in the- opinion of a prescribed authority, was totally dependent upon the deceased member at the date of his death or is in necessitous circumstances.
– I see no reason for the inclusion of paragraph c in this clause which covers the deductions to be made from war gratuities. Paragraph, a provides for the deduction of any amount due to the Commonwealth as the result of the member’s fraud, deception or misappropriation.
That paragraph correctly places on the Commonwealth the onus of proof, but paragraph c throws it back on the member. I think the paragraph should be deleted. Dependants are covered in clause 14. When a member of the forces is discharged he is given a clean sheet medically, and there should be no question of outstanding liabilities to the Commonwealth that may be debited against the gratuity. Obviously he should not be discharged until all liabilities have been met. In any event, a war gratuity, which is a token of the gratitude of the nation, should not be attachable. A captain of an aircraft worth about £20,000 has to sign for that aircraft and all the equipment within it. He may wreck it on the runway. Then he has to- sign for another plane immediately. Compare him with a medical officer who breaks his thermometer. He has to produce the fragments before another is issued to him ; if ‘ he cannot do this he is charged with the cost of a new one. In my second-reading speech I cited the case of an- army captain who was asked to make payment to the Commonwealth Government for a pair of leggings issued to him in the 191-4-18 war. Under paragraph c it would be possible for deductions to be made from the war gratuity in respect of an- item of lost equipment. If this paragraph is deleted the responsibility will- rest entirely on the Commonwealth..
– I assure the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that there is no thought of deducting from, the gratuity amounts in respect of any- items of equipment such as he has mentioned. The only deductions to be made will be in respect of indebtedness due to embezzlement or overpayment.
.- Whilst the Minister for- Repatriation 4Mr. Frost) has cleared up one point, I regard his- assurance as being insufficient.. What, a paymaster considers is an overpayment may not be- so considered by the member concerned.
– The debt would have to be proved.
– Plenty of opportunity exists for adjustment of accounts long before the gratuity is to be paid. The gratuity will be paid years after the war, but pay books are adjusted within six months. All accounts can be squared l ben.
– If the accounts are squared no harm will be- done.
– Yes, but what is the need for the paragraph?
– The only claims would relate to overpayment or money wrongfully obtained.
– The paymaster has ample opportunity to square all accounts with a member before his discharge. It is not fair to hold over the member’s head for years the threat that some deduction may be made from his gratuity in respect of some item or other, whether it be overpayment or not. In the Air Force, elementary flying instructors had to make refunds because of a retrospective regulation regarding deferred pay rates. Numerous instances could be cited. That sort of tiling may suit the Treasury, but it does not suit the troops. The paragraph should be eliminated. A commanding officer signs for all the equipment carried by his unit. Long after the war ends it is possible that he will be adjudged by a court of inquiry to owe money to the Commonwealth Government in respect of that equipment. The amount could be deducted from his gratuity. That is a threat that we cannot tolerate.
. -I cannot accept the Minister’s explanation that paragraph c applies only to cases of overpayment and misappropriation. The paragraph says nothing about that. The Minister must realize that members are debited in their pay-books for lost equipment. There is no doubt that under paragraph c, as it stands, deductions could be made from the gratuity for equipment, notwithstanding the Minister’s assurance to the contrary. Courts would not be bound by the Minister’s assurance. They pay heed only to the wording of the law, and, whatever good intentions he may have, they would count for nothing at a court of inquiry. I suggest that no purpose can be served by the retention of the paragraph and I formally move -
That paragraph (c) be left out.
.- 1 agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I do not consider that money owed in respect of some item of equipment lost by a member of the forces to the Commonwealth Government should be deductible from his war gratuity five years after the war ends.
– I have already assured the committee that that is definitely not the intention.
– Well, in respect of pay or dependants’ allowances. I consider that if the Government has not discovered an overpayment before the adjustment of accounts prior to the soldier’s discharge it should not be able, five years later, to deduct from- his gratuity what it considers is owed. I see no reason why the Minister should refuse to delete sub-clause c, or to refer the matter back to the all-party committee, for the purpose of ascertaining whether it considers that this provision should be included in the bill.
.- 1 join with other honorable members in pointing out to the Minister (Mr. Frost) that a war gratuity is a gift by a grateful country to servicemen in recognition of their services rendered either overseas or in Australia. It is unusual, even in civil life, to present a gift and then deduct something from it to meet a counterclaim. If the soldier has lost any equipment, the matter should be adjusted when his pay-book is balanced or when he receives his deferred pay. If the Government seeks to recover the value of the equipment by deducting it from his war gratuity, it will do servicemen a serious injustice. From a war gratuity, the Government should not attempt to take any “rake-off”. The Minister should give to honorable members an assurance that this provision will be deleted, or that he will examine our representations with a view to having an appropriate amendment inserted when the bill is being considered by the Senate.
– I hope that honorable members will not press this matter too far. Wo have already agreed to clause 15, which deals with disqualifications. In dealing with the matter of deductions from any war gratuity, the all-party committee encountered one of its most difficult problems. As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) pointed out, a man may be indebted to the Commonwealth in various ways. He may have committed fraud.
– That is covered in paragraphs a and b.
– As a representative of the taxpayers, I cannot take the attitude that if a person is lawfully and morally indebted to the Commonwealth in a certain way, and the indebtedness is not discovered before his pay-book has been closed, he should never be called to account for it. That interpretation of the law is entirely novel. The committee has already decided that a serviceman shall not receive a war gratuity as a right. There is no right to a gratuity, because the derivation of the word shows that it is a payment as an act of grace or thanks. In my opinion, the committee may well leave this matter to the prescribed authority for decision.
– If the prescribed authority were to make the decision, I should not object. But no such provision has been made in the bill.
– The honorable member will’ find that, in practice, the prescribed authority will make the decision.
– If the Minister will give that assurance, I shall be satisfied.
– I give that assurance.
– The Statute of Limitations provides that a debt shall not be recoverable after six years.
– I am, a farmer, not a lawyer, but I have never heard it argued that the Statute of Limitations applies to a man who is guilty of a crime.
– This sub-clause refers not to a crime, but to indebtedness.
– I contend that the taxpayer, as well as the soldier, has some rights in this matter.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parra for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has apparently failed to grasp the significance of this clause. He said that this provision will be used only if a serviceman has been guilty of misappropriation, deception or fraud. But sub-clause c does not relate to such offences. Misappropriation is adequately dealt, with in sub-clause a. which relates to debts due to the Commonwealth as the result of fraud, deception or misappropriation. Sub-clause 6 deals with indebtedness to the Commonwealth because a serviceman has improperly disposed of property belonging to it. But sub-clause c deals merely with some obligation to the Commonwealth that the serviceman may have incurred.’ Obviously, subclause c cannot refer to fraud, deception or the improper disposal of goods. It is true, as the honorable member for Barker stated, that the war gratuity is an expression of the nation’s thanks to servicemen who suffered, and offered to suffer, to protect their country. In my opinion, we should be sufficiently thankful to forgo any claim against a serviceman, except where fraud, deception or misappropriation is involved, if the department was not sufficiently alert to discover the loss in time to make the necessary adjustment in his pay-book.
.- Whatever the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may have in mind, the clause means that if a man has not returned Commonwealth property which was issued, to him during his period of service, the value of it may be deducted from his war gratuity five years later. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) confirmed that view. This proposal is most inequitable. The Statute of Limitations provides that a debt shall not be recoverable at law after the expiration of five years. I shall cite two instances of what could possibly occur under this provision. During the last war, a unit of the Air Force to which I belonged, was attached to the Indian Army, and received Indian Army rates of pay. Most of the members of that unit were killed. ‘Subsequently, the pay office in Melbourne decided that we had been overpaid, because some one had omitted to explain that in India different rates of pay applied. We all had honorary commissions in the Indian Army, and had been taken on to its strength. By a stroke of the pen, our rate of pay was reduced, and that affected the payments due to the dependants of the deceased. Only after a very long fight, and the reference of the matter to General Birdwood himself, was this hardship corrected. That could occur again, because Royal Australian Air Force personnel are serving in 500 units of the Royal Air Force in various parts of the world.
The other instance has occurred in this war. ‘Courts of inquiry into deficiencies have been held three years after the deficiencies occurred. A commanding officer had handed over to, and obtained a clearance from his successor, and three years later, a court of inquiry discovered major and. minor deficiencies. The commanding officer could have been charged for them. Those instances could be multiplied one hundredfold. The Treasury, which is endeavouring to get money from some servicemen who have been overpaid, will he able to deduct the amounts from the war gratuities. I consider that this clause is a mistake, and shall vote against it.
– Honorable members should not think that by the inclusion of this clause in the bill the Government hopes to save money by deducting considerable sums from the war gratuities payable to servicemen. However, the Government must have a safeguard if indebtedness caused by fraud, deception, or misappropriation is discovered. A serviceman might embezzle money or alter a pay-book.
– Is a similar provision contained in the War Gratuities Act of 1920?
– I believe that it is. This matter has been thoroughly investigated, but the Government, which desires to be fair, will examine the contentions of honorable members before the bill is considered by the Senate.
– I again direct attention to the wording of this clause. If a serviceman has falsified the entries in a paybook or been guilty of fraud, deception or misappropriation, his crime will be covered by paragraph a. Paragraph c contains the words “ any amount”, so that if a man is charged with having lost equipment, the matter will be considered under this provision.
– Not in regard to the payment of debts.
– The Minister cannot determine how the courts will interpret this paragraph. It does not mention equipment. The provision could be improved by providing that a war gratuity shall not be attachable, in regard to matters of equipment, except at the discretion of the prescribed authority.
– ‘Although I had no doubts on the point, I shall examine the matter.
– The interests of the taxpayers, to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred, are not involved in this matter, because this will be not a recurring debt, but the gift by a grateful nation for services rendered. As it will be a gift, it should not be attachable. The mere fact that the Minister has stated that the paragraph will not cover equipment, does not meet the point. The words- are specific and they will be the determining factor.
– I have ascertained from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the War Gratuity Act 1920 includes paragraphs a and b of this clause, but not paragraph c, and I cannot see any reason for the inclusion of paragraph c on this occasion. Associated with the accounting systems in operation during the last war, were the muddles which are inseparable from a big new undertaking; but on this occasion we have available to us all the knowledge gained during the last war and we were able to instal efficient accounting machinery which should show clearly whether or not soldiers have been properly paid. Periodical audits and checks have been carried out. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) why this provision has been inserted? What is the sinister motive ; behind it? There must be some explanation’ of it.
– This matter was thoroughly examined by officers of the department, and I am assured that there is nothing in it.
– Then withdraw it!
– No. I have assured the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that we shall further examine this provision, and if any alteration is considered desirable, it will be effected when the bill comes before the Senate.
– The sooner this legislation becomes law the better. I strongly support its main principles. I have asked the Minister to indicate the reason for the insertion of paragraph c and all he can say is that there is nothing in it.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) also said that there was nothing in it. The honorable member for Moreton is making a . mountain out of a molehill.
– I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation. Honorable members should not be called upon to agree blindly to provisions such as this. If the War Gratuity Act 1920 could be administered satisfactorily without paragraph c, why has it been inserted in this measure? In fairness to exservice men and women, I ask the Minister again to further enlighten the committee as to the reason for the insertion of this sub-clause. If after a further examination of it, he is convinced that it is of no importance, will he have it withdrawn from the measure?
– I urge the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) to give a stronger assurance than he has given. Paragraphs a and b deal with fraud, deception, and even improper use of property, which does not go so far as fraud. Paragraph c .can relate only to matters in which mistakes have been made, not by the soldiers concerned, but by departmental officers. Surely there will be ample opportunity for these mistakes to be discovered and adjusted before pay books are finalized. In view of the fact that the Minister has said that there is nothing in this provision, and as it does not appear in the War
Gratuity Act 1920 it is difficult to understand why the Minister insists upon its inclusion in the bill. Unless the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is content with the assurance given by the Minister, I shall have no option but to vote for the amendment.
.- The reason why this provision is not in the War Gratuity Act, is that on that occasion the gratuity was not decided until two years after the war ended, and by that time all financial relations between soldiers and the Army had been finally adjusted. Under present conditions, the inclusion of this provision is regarded as essential. There is nothing wrong with it. The Government is not endeavouring to evade its liability to any one, but I am sure that no honorable member would like to see any individual receive more than that to which he is justly entitled. I repeat that we shall further investigate the matter while the bill is before the Senate, and if an amendment be considered desirable, it will be made in that chamber.
– Will the Minister consider the addition of the qualifying words, “ subject to the approval of the prescribed authority dealing with war gratuities”?
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has said that if there were any anomalies in the measure they would be referred back to the all-party parliamentary committee for consideration. The Government will not accept any amendments at this stage. The measure is based upon the recommendations of the all-party committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 20 agreed to.
In the case of a war gratuity credited in the Register of War Gratuities to the account of -
a member who is found by a prescribed authority to be blind or totally or permanently incapacitated, and in such other cases as are prescribed, payment in whole or in part may, at the discretion of a prescribed authority, be made at any time after the date of entitlement.
– I move -
That, after paragraph (e), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ (f) a member who desires to establish or re-establish himself in civil life and who is entitled to receive the benefits provided in Division 3, Part VI., of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945,”.
Clause 21 is designed to make possible in certain circumstances the payment of a war gratuity before the due date. Clause 22 provides that the application of a war gratuity towards the purchase of a home for a member may be made possible by the prescribed authority, before the specified period of time has elapsed. The amendment which I have moved will bring within the provisions of clause 21 all those members who are entitled to the benefits provided in Division 3 of Part VI. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. It will be recalled that section 91 of that legislation provided for the payment of re-establishment loans in certain circumstances and for certain specified purposes. Section 94 of that act provides -
Loans made under this Division shall bear interest at such rate as is prescribed.
I ask the committee to note that provision, because I shall return to it later. Section 95 states - (1.) Subject to this section, a loan shall not be made or guarantee given under this Division unless -
Under that legislation the loan must be applied for within a period of five years. That is the period for which the gratuity will be held by the Government. Under clause 22, provision is made to transfer the value of the war gratuity to the War Service Homes Commissioner, or any other approved authority, for the purpose of being credited towards the cost of the erection, or purchase, of a home. I agree with that provision. But my amendment is designed to enable the gratuity to be used for purposes which I maintain are equally important. The acquisition of a home is only one step in the re-establishment of ex-service personnel. Division 3 of Part VI. of the Re-establishment and Employment
Act deals with loans, and honorable members will recall that it will not be easy for ex-service personnel to obtain such loans because they are hedged around with all sorts of restrictions. The latest figures I have been able to obtain show that only one in three ex-service applicants have been granted assistance to enable them to set up in business since their discharge from the forces. So far as I am able to judge no loan is made available to an ex-service man or woman who is not acceptable to the Government. It is possible that an anomaly may arise should an ex-member of the services be granted a re-establishment loan after the date on which he or she becomes entitled to a war gratuity. Section 24 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act provides that loans made under that division shall hear interest at such rate as is prescribed ; and under the bill now before us, the war gratuity is to be held by the Government for a period of five years and will bear cumulative interest at the rate of 3¼ per cent. It is possible, therefore, that an ex-member of the services desiring to establish himself in business will not be granted the gratuity for that purpose, but should he apply to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for a re-establishment loan, and be lucky enough to obtain it, the rate of interest prescribed in respect of that loan might well be in excess of that which is accruing to him in respect of his gratuity. That would place him at a disadvantage. That cannot be the intention of the Government. Surely, the Government agrees that ex-service personnel should be enabled to use the gratuity to establish themselves in business, or in various ways, set out in the Re-establishment and Employment Act. That act provides that loans may be made for the following specific purposes : -
to engage in or resume any occupation, business or practice, whether on his own account, as an active member of a partnership, as a share farmer or as a contract worker:
That provision gives to a man the opportunity to re-establish himself fully in civilian life in any calling, or profession he may choose. At the same time, however, he has a gratuity which is to be held for five years bearing cumulative interest at the rate of 3¼ per cent., which he is not to be allowed to touch for any of those purposes. In addition to enabling an ex-member of the services to use the gratuity in payment for a home, it is most important to give him the opportunity to re-establish himself as quickly as possible in civilian life. Therefore, I put it to the committee that if the right be given to ex-service personnel to obtain a loan for the specific purposes I have mentioned at a rate of interest that may be greater than the rate accruing in respect of the gratuity, surely they should also be given the right to claim the gratuity and use it for any of the purposes set out under theRe-establishment and Employment Act. Such a provision would benefit the Government, because the majority of ex-service personnel would prefer to use the gratuity, which is theirs by right, rather than incur the liability of a loan on which they would have to pay interest. It is clear that the use of the gratuity in this way would facilitate the re-establishment of exservice personnel, particularly as it would obviate the inconvenience and delays involved in applications for reestablishment loans. My amendment will not give to ex-service personnel who prefer to utilize their gratuity in this way, any advantage over persons to whom the Government is prepared to make available re-establishment loans. I simply ask that ex-service personnel be given the right to use the gratuity for any of the purposes for which the Government is prepared to provide reestablishment loans.
should bring this matter forward. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his secondreading speech, stressed the advantage to both the community and recipients of the arrangement to withhold the gratuity for a period of five years.
– Although, at the same time, the Government will lend money to ex-service personnel.
– But the gratuity is a gift, and will bear the highest rate of interest practicable. The effect of the amendment will be that every one entitled to a gratuity will apply for it at the earliest possible opportunity. The Government agrees with the view taken by the all-party committee that that must be avoided. Therefore, the gratuity is not to be made available except in special cases, such as blinded persons, widows or disabled persons, and to other persons desiring to purchase homes. The Treasurer has pointed out the wisdom of withholding the payment of the gratuity for the period specified. Obviously, it will not be in the interests of either the nation or the individuals concerned to make the gratuity available upon the cessation of hostilities. The primary feature of the gratuity is that it is a gift. It will in no way affect the rights of ex-service personnel with respect to re-establishment loans.
– Those loans can be financed independently of the gratuity?
– Yes ; and the Government hopes that except in very special circumstances ex-service personnel will not claim the gratuity until the expiration of the specified period of five years at which date they will also be entitled to cumulative interest at the rate of 3¼ per cent. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will agree with me that the argument used by the honorable member for Wentworth in support of his amendment was thoroughly considered by the all-party committee.
– Indeed, I do not think that any honorable member can advance any argument which was not considered by that committee. Therefore, the Government cannot accept the amendment. I ask the honorable member for Wentworth not to persist with it.
.- I support the amendment. I agree with the wisdom of the Government’s decision to withhold the gratuity for a period of five years. However, we -should make provision for exceptional cases. This can be done by regulation. All we ask is that the Government shall give an assurance that in special circumstances it will relax the provision with respect to the five-year period. In reply to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) the Minister (Mr. Frost) said recently that of 2,194 applications by ex-service personnel for individual loans of £250, as provided under the Reestablishment and Employment Act, 642 were refused. All of those persons are now in civil life, and are desirous of re-establishing themselves. Possibly, they, and others, may wish to purchase furniture to set up a home or to startin business. Should they wish1 to use their gratuity for any of those purposes, it is unfair for the Government to refuse their application on the ground that they may obtain reestablishment loans. I was chosen as an original member of the all-party committee, but made way for another honorable member. In doing so, I emphasized the matter of the purchase* of property, which is related to the point which the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth i9 designed to cover. Provision is made to enable ex-service personnel to use their gratuity as a deposit on a war service home. I shall not irritate the Minister by inquiring how long an exservice man or woman will he obliged to wait for such a home; but in many cases the provision of a home and a business are synonymous. Take, for instance, the instance of a man who wants to attach a shop to his war service home; the structure would be both his home and his place of business. The amendment would cover the requirements of individuals of that kind. The difficulties confronting ex-service personnel upon demobilization ars legion. They have to do the grand tour of all the departments, including the Repatriation Department, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and the War Service Homes Commission. Surely, we should facilitate the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel who, in an emergency would prefer to utilize their gratuity in that direction. Therefore, the Minister should say that in special cases this will be done under the regulations.
.- There is some force in the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Nevertheless, the position is amply covered by the last three lines of the clause, which read - and in such cases as are prescribed, payment in whole or in part may, at the discretion of the prescribed authority, be made at any time after the date of entitlement.
– Will such cases be prescribed ? If so, by whom ?
– The purpose of this provision is to give to the prescribed authority the power to issue regulations after considering the whole position. Matters such as have been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Balaclava doubtless will be given consideration. There may also be many other cases which are not apparent at the moment. For example, furniture, must be purchased and loans for the purpose of reestablishment may need to be supplemented. An ex-serviceman may have the opportunity to clinch a very good business deal, or he may want to erect premises for use in conjunction with a business that he has purchased. There were restrictions against the alienation of the gratuity that was granted after the last war, yet racketeers and other vultures succeeded in preying on ex-members of the forces. They will always find means of circumventing any restrictions. Houses are now being built to a standard that is much higher than that needed by a worker. Obviously there are black market operations which effect adversely the ordinary members of the community. The gradual release of the gratuity over a period would be much preferable than the payment of the whole of it at one time. I cannot see the force of having it frozen for five years. The gratuity may be urgently needed, and may have to be drawn at a discount “under the lap “. At the end of five years, the aggregate amount will become a flood of purchasing power, and that will be more likely to cause inflation than its gradual release over a period. The prescribed authority should consider suggestions for release under proper supervision and control. Racketeers and others will be waiting like vultures to pounce on those who draw the gratuity at the expiration of five years. Prices will be likely to rise, and inflation may be caused.
– That would be much more likely if the money were released in the immediate post-war years.
– I am not suggesting that it should be released ad libitum. I agree that any distribution should be under strict control, in the interests of the men concerned. Members of the fighting forces and industrial workers, numbering 1,500,000, will have to be re-established at the termination of the war, and an increase of purchasing power under proper control would then be beneficial to employment. I hope that there will be a continuation of pricefixing. There is no occasion for the amendment, because the position is covered. I hope that the prescribed authority will give consideration to any proposals that may be made in the interests of ex-service personnel.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has anticipated me in drawing attention to the implications of the final three lines of clause 21. I should have thought that they would provide an opportunity for the prescribed authority to meet cases of the kind to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has referred. Had the Minister said so, the whole of this discussion would have been unnecessary, but he did not. On the contrary, he said that the specific objective towards which the amendment is aimed had been discussed and rejected by the all-party committee. We had the extraordinary spectacle of his appealing for support to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I am sure that the honorable member for Barker would be the last person to claim that the committee of this House would hand over its functions to an all-party committee or any other body. I hope that the Minister, upon reflection, will be able to say that the provision in the final three lines of the clause will enable the prescribed authority, at its discretion, to make an immediate payment of gratuity where an ex-serviceman has proved his eligibility to a loan under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. rt would be foolish to tell an exserviceman that he might borrow money from one Government department, subject to his conforming to all the conditions laid down in the Re-establishment and Employment Act, while another Government department held money belonging to him. There is the possibility of differentiation in regard to the rates of interest. In this measure, the rate of interest to be credited to the recipient of a war . gratuity is fixed, but under the Re-establishment and Employment Act the rate of interest on loans is not fixed The rate charged in respect of war service homes is greater than 3J per cent. An ex-serviceman might find that he was credited with interest at the rate of 3J per cent, on his war gratuity, but was required to pay a greater rate on a loan made to him under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. That would be both illogical and grossly unfair. I hope that the Minister will say that the final three lines of the clause do not deliberately exclude the cases to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred.
– I have said so.
– It was possible to admire the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) on the motion for the second-reading of the bill, even though it was astonishing to find him expressing such sentiments as that the bill would be viewed by the Opposition in a non-party spirit, and that the work of the all-party committee, which had considered the matter, was worthy of high praise. Both he, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who supported his amendment, are aware that this provision was considered by the all-party committee.
– We are not. What right has the honorable member to say that?
– The all-party committee considered every aspect of the matter, and recommended, the payment of gratuity before the expiration of five years in all cases in which that was found to be necessary, but it did not see fit to make a recommendation along the lines of the amendment. Therefore, the attempt now to embody such a provision in the . bill is calculated to undermine the whole purpose of the scheme.
– The meaning of the clause is fairly clear, but it should be considered in conjunction with two or three of the succeeding clauses. The intention of the all-party committee was to ensure that the purchasing power of the community should not be suddenly increased by placing in the hands of ex-service men and wemen an unknown sum, probably about £80,000,000. Such a large sum of money should not be released at a time when the recipients would probably be unable to get proper value for it. Arrangements were considered necessary to enable a prescribed authority to deal with certain classes of cases or with certain individual cases. The clause provides that in respect of a war gratuity credited to the account of any person where the amount credited is less than £10, the widow of a member, the widowed mother of an unmarried deceased member, the mother or an older sister of a deceased member who acted in loco parentis to him, or a member who is found by a prescribed authority to be blind or totally or permanently incapacitated, “ and in such other cases as are prescribed”, the gratuity may be paid at any time in whole or in part at the discretion of a prescribed authority. I point out that in the last three lines of the clause it is laid down that the prescribed authority may make the payment “ in whole or in part”. It may be that classes of cases should be considered, or that we may become aware of individual cases in which special action should be taken. The Minister will have power to refer such cases to the prescribed authority, who will make a decision regarding them. Personally, I do not think that any sound objection can be taken to the clause as it has been drafted. I believe that it will give effect to the intentions of both the all-party committee and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison).
.- This clause has been virtually taken from paragraph 31 of the all-party committee’s report. The committee recommended the adoption of the provision contained in clause 22, relating to the application of the gratuity towards the purchase of homes for members of the services. In addition to that provision I should like the Government to consider making provision that the whole or a part of the gratuity might be used in the settling of ex-servicemen on the land. Up to the present we are not aware of the Government’s proposals in that direction. Even in the Governor-General’s Speech, and on many occasions since that Speech was made, the only reference we have heard to this matter is that it is the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and the States. Clause 22 provides that the whole or a part of the gratuity may be transferred to the War Service Homes Commissioner, or any other authority approved by a prescribed authority, for the purpose of being credited by way of deposit or otherwise towards the cost of the erection or purchase of a dwellinghouse for a member of the forces. If he settles on the land he will be entitled to from £1,250 to £1,500, but in New Zealand the loan provided for an ex-serviceman who desires to purchase a farm and stock amounts to £5,000, whilst in the case of a sheep farm the loan may be increased to £6,250. As a high rate of interest will no doubt be paid in respect of loans for soldier settlement, I urge that the war gratuity might be made available to assist in financing soldier settlers on the land. Will the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) favorably consider my proposal?
– No. This clause will be confined to the recommendation of the all-party committee.
– The matter of land settlement may have been overlooked by that committee, and, if so, it ought to be considered at this stage. I appeal to the Treasurer to consider the matter.
– I am prepared to have a look at it.
– “We should not withhold the gratuity from those who are entitled to it, but of course if the whole of the money were made available simultaneously inflation would result.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: - 1, At present importation of watches and chronometers from Switzerland is limited to 75 per cent, by value of imports during 1038-39, but consideration is being given to possibility of increasing quota to 100 per cent, of base year imports. The extent to which import restrictions on the importation of Swiss watches can be eased is governed by availability of Swiss francs. Regarding watch movements, import licences are made available to regular importers to the extent of 125 per cent, of 1938-39 imports and the question of further relaxation is being examined. The importation of diamonds, semi-precious and synthetic stones from British Empire countries has been prohibited up to the present. In common with a large number of other items, requests for relaxation of import prohibitions are at present being examined. 2 and 3. The requirements of ex-servicemen formerly engaged as manufacturing jewellers, should, in the ordinary course, be met from sources which supplied them in pre-war years. Every facility will be given by my department to ex-servicemen who were importers in the base year to enable them to Te-establish neces sary quotas. If the honorable member knows of any cases where difficulties have arisen, I ask him to let me have the particulars and I shall inquire into them immediately.
y asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Meat Industry: Beef Prices.
y. - On the 5th June the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question relating to the price of beef.
I now inform the honorable member that it has not been found possible to vary the maximum prices for beef in accordance with the quality, but that efforts are being made to implement a scheme of maximum price fixation to achieve this purpose. Before this action can be taken it will be necessary for an effective scheme of quality branding to be introduced and this is now receiving attention.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– Printed copies of the Auditor-General’s report have not yet been distributed. As soon as they are available to departments, the AuditorGeneral’s comments in relation to claims for chattels, &c., taken over by the Army in evacuated areas will receive consideration with a view to determining the action to be taken in this matter.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Willhe have a statement prepared by the Solicitor-General setting out the effect of the recent High Court case ofGratwick v. Johnson in the interpretation” of section 107 of the Constitution in conjunction with section 51 (xxix), with special relation to any future implementation by the Commonwealth Government of the “ full employment “ amendment proposed by the Australian representatives at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco?
– The question asked by the right honorable member is purely hypothetical and it is not the practice of the Solicitor-General to give advisory opinions on any abstract question of law, particularly when no right or duty of any body or person is involved.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450704_reps_17_183/>.