17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister had an interview with the Dutch authorities in regard to the request of the Brisbane branch of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions for tho suspension of the penalty sections of the Immigration Act in respect of Indonesian seamen ? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Australasian Council . of Trade Unions proposes to instruct the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to intervene in regard to the conditions in Indonesia ? In the light of these circumstances and of the refusal of wharf labourers in Sydney to load vessels carrying food and medical supplies to sick and starving people in those territories, will the right honorable gentleman state the attitude of the Government?
– I have not read the press reports mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I conferred with tho Dutch authorities, and discussed with them the delay that had occurred in the loading of certain vessels. I learned that one vessel had been completely loaded, and that the delay in its departure was due to Indonesian seamen having left it. One hospital ship had been almost completely loaded, and no further difficulty will now be experienced in connexion with the loading of four other so-called mercy ships. Inquiry elicited that all of them had some arms and ammunition aboard, in addition to mercy stores. The arrangement made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, as the result of the discussions, is that there will be no interruption of the loading of vessels that are to transport only foodstuffs and medical supplies. Any ship that is to carry munitions and, I presume, military personnel, will be loaded by Dutch labour.
I understand that certain difficulties have arisen, in regard to Indonesian seamen, and the Minister for Immigration is looking closely into the matter. There are Indonesian seamen in Melbourne who came off a ship, but there is some doubt whether or not they are on strike. Some of them claim that they have no knowledge of being on strike. At any rate, they are not on their ship, and are being quartered at an hotel with the consent of the Dutch authorities, but whether at their expense I do not know. The Dutch authorities have asked that these seamen be allowed to go to Sydney so that they may be put on another ship for return to Indonesia, and the matter is now in the hands of the Minister for Immigration. In Brisbane, Indonesian seamen walked off their ship, and were at large somewhere in the city - I do not know where.
– It is suggested that they are at the Trades Hall.
– At any rate, they were not on their ship, but they had not taken their belongings with them. I understand that some technical point is involved in that fact. When a man takes his belongings off the ship he can be treated as a deserter, but when he just goes off the ship, leaving his belongings behind, it has to be proved that he is a deserter, even though’ he may be away for some days. That matter, also, is being examined by the Minister for Immigration, who is doing everything passible, under international law and under the law of the land, to get the Indonesian seamen back on to their ships and out of the country. The details of the matter I have left to him, and they are being examined either by him or by some one else to whom he has deputed the task. I have seen no cables, that may have been sent to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). Neither have I read the morning papers, and I have no further information to supply.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question arising out of the refusal of the waterside workers in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to load the Dutch food ships. Has the right honorable gentleman seen the statement of the president of the Sydney Waterside
Workers Federation, Mr. T. Nelson, in to-day’s press that “ Food is as necessary for an army of intervention as guns and other war equipment, and the loading of food on the Dutch ships would be as objectionable to Sydney wharf labourers as the loading of ammunition”? In view of these very unfriendly acts towards an Allied nation, will the Prime Minister take action to ensure that men, whether military, naval, or civilian, shall be made available to load Dutch ships when required, so that food may be carried to starving prisoners of war in Java, and to the civilian population?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable member. I thought I had made the position clear. The Government will take every possible step to ensure that ships loading only food and medical equipment shall be despatched. Four of the ships which were involved in this trouble were found to be loading arms and ammunition as well as food and medical supplies. I shall not go into the merits and demerits of the case, but I make it clear that the Government will do everything in its power to ensure that mercy ships loading only food and medical equipment shall be despatched.
– Is not the Netherlands Government entitled to arms and ammunition?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I shall not go into that matter.
Restrictions on Transport.
– On several occasions, I have asked that the restrictions be relaxed on the carriage of primary produce beyond a radius of 25 miles from the point of trucking. About a fortnight ago, in answer to a question, the Minister for Transport said that he would confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping on the matter. This morning’s newspapers publish a statement that the restrictions on tourist traffic have been somewhat relaxed. Country agricultural shows are now being arranged, and I am anxious that primary producers shall be allowed to send their produce for exhibition. Has the Minister for Transport consulted with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and has he a statement to make on the subject?
– Consultations have taken place, and it is regretted that it is not possible to remove all Commonwealth restrictions from transport immediately, but the matter is being kept constantly under review. It is hoped that within a short space of time the Commonwealth will be able to vacate the field and leave it to the States. Supplies of rubber and fuel must be taken into consideration even though the war is ended. The honorable member may rest assured that the Commonwealth is not anxious to restrict transport any longer than is strictly necessary. It is believed that within the next few months it will be possible to relieve all restrictions.
Use of Jeeps
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the report that the “Willys-Overland jeep has been redesigned primarily for farm use as a tractor, truck and mobile power unit, and that it is especially suited for ploughing and other heavy primary production work? Will he investigate the matter with a view to obtaining supplies of these units for Australian farmers or having the necessary experiments made to adapt jeeps at present in Australia intended for ultimate disposal?
– I have not seen the report. I understand the honorable gentleman is referring to a particular kind of tractor now in use in the United States of America. I shall have the matter investigated to ascertain whether action is possible along the lines suggested.
Mr.CONELAN. - Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army have a statement prepared for submission to the House before it goes into recess on service leave for men who served in the armed forces outside Australia, in order that every one may be aware of the details ? At present there seems to be some confusion.
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Army and ask him to see whether such a statement can be prepared for presentation to the House before it rises.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in the absence of the Minister for the Army, a question concerning the release of a soldier under the five-year rule. The facte of the case are that this man is a gunner, and has been in the Army for five years and eleven months. He served in Africa, where he was wounded, and in New Guinea. He contracted malaria, and is now classified as B2. He is married, and his wife is in ill-health. On three occasions he has applied for bis discharge, but bis requests have been ignored. When I took up this matter with the Minister for the Army, I received the following reply: -
I regret to advise that as this man is on the strength of the Detention Barracks and is regarded as a key man, it is impossible to release him.
I put three questions to the Minister: (1) Can be explain how it is that a man who has served for nearly six years in the Army as a gunner can be regarded as a key man? (2) Can he explain how it is that a position at a detention barracks, which is appropriate for a man of the lowest military rank, can be regarded as a key position? (3) Does not the Minister consider that the immediate release of this man is justified?
– I could speculate at some length regarding the position which this soldier occupies at the detention barracks. He might very well be a key man. For instance, he might be in charge of the lighting installation, and it might not be possible, at short notice, to replace him. On the facts given by the honorable member, it seems to me that there is justification for the early release of this soldier. As from the 1st October, men with long service in the forces will be released under the general demobilization plan. I believe that if, as Minister in charge of demobilization, I mentioned this case to the Director of Demobilization and Dispersal - let us assume that the director would be a highranking officer like General Savige - he would immediately give instructions to expedite the release of this man. In the meantime, I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Army with a view to seeing what can be done to secure the discharge of this soldier.
Report of Ms. Justice Lowe
– On several occasions I have asked for the tabling of the report made by Mr. Justice Lowe after his inquiry into the bombing of Darwin in 1942. The Prime Minister has given me a series of encouraging replies. His last was that the report had been made to the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, that it was in Melbourne, and that no copies were available. He told me that he would ask the Minister for Defence to arrange for the report to be sent to Canberra so that a precis might be made of it, I presume with a view, to laying it on the table. What is the position? Can the Prime Minister table it to-day?
– The facts are as related by the honorable gentleman. The report had not been previously submitted to Cabinet. The Minister for Defence had a summary available for Cabinet consideration last Tuesday. More important, business intervened and consideration had to be postponed. I hope that ‘ it will be reached at the Cabinet meeting next Tuesday. If Cabinet approves I shall table it on Tuesday afternoon.
Occupation op Japan: Australian Participation.
Mi-. MORGAN. - Has the Prime Minister received any official confirmation of the press report to-day that the United States of America demands a lone hand in Japan? The Sydney Daily Telegraph reports -
President Truman has rejected Russia’s proposal foi- an allied commission to advise MacArthur on the control of Japan. The United States of America was determined to dominate policy in Japan, he said yesterday. Truman said that the present system, under which policy in Japan was formulated by himself, was satisfactory.
Will the Prime Minister make an early announcement of Australia’s attitude and as to whether the use of substantial Australian occupational forces in
Japan is now necessary in view of the fact that Australia will have no share in the control of that country?
– In reply to the first portion of the honorable member’s question, I have not received any official information regarding the subject of the press report. Therefore, I am not able (o make any comment as to whether the report is true. In reply to the second portion of the question, I hope that next week the Minister for Defence will be in a position to make a statement regarding the participation of Australian forces in the occupation of Japan.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Army, will the Acting Attorney-General inform me who is responsible for the delay in dealing with the claim of the Fish Steam Laundry Proprietary Limited, Brisbane, for compensation from the Commonwealth ? Will the Minister call for the file on this matter, which, I understand, is in Canberra, and make a statement, if possible, before the House rises to-day? This is a very important matter. It is the outcome of a claim for compensation, and an appeal has been lodged with the High Court. But the plaintiff is not able to bring the case before the High Court, on appeal, until June, 1946.
– I have no knowledge of the case, but I shall ask the SolicitorGeneral what information he has, and perhaps he will convey it to the right honorable gentleman to-day.
Supply or Fats
– According to a statement that I have just received from Mr. Bankes Amery, of the United Kingdom Food Mission to Australia, the cooking fats ration in Great Britain has been reduced to 1 oz. a week. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether any specific consideration has been given by this Government to the possibility of increasing the supplies of fats that we are sending to Great Britain?
– The supply of cooking fats must be related to the whole edible fats ration, which in Great Britain has been 6 oz. a week. I have not heard that any reduction has been made, but I shall suggest to my colleague that contact be made with Mr. Bankes Amery to ascertain the exact position in Great Britain at present. If anything can be done by this. Government to assist the people of Great Britain to obtain a larger ration of edible fats it will be done.
– As the Minister for Labour and National Service is not present, I ask the Minister acting for him whether the Government is taking any action to counter the go-slow policy which is now being applied in the building trades in Victoria by the president of the Builders Labourers Federation and those associated with him?
– The subject has not been brought to the notice of the Attorney-General’s Department, although I read some press reports about it. The best I can do is to undertake to bring the honorable member’s question to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– With the object of obtaining advice for me next week?
House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the parliamentary committee that was appointed to investigate the circumstances connected with the eviction from a Canberra house of the wife of a prisoner of war, Mrs. Mary Pedvin, has yet presented its report? If so, will the report be tabled in Parliament before the approaching recess and will an opportunity be provided for discussing it?
– Some of the members of the committee have submitted reports. Unfortunately, one member is ill in Melbourne. An opportunity must be given to him to express his view on the subject. We are communicating with him in order to learn whether he is able to do so. The matter will then be completed.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the High Commissioner Act 1909-1940.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933-1935.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to provide for the constitution of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory by a person who does not hold any other judicial office under the Commonwealth, and who can thus be available at all times for the hearing and decision of matters coming before the court. Under the act as it stands, the court must be constituted of a judge of the Bankruptcy Court or of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Having regard to the large volume of business which those two courts are required to handle, it necessarily follows that the sittings of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory must be so arranged as to interfere as little as possible with the hearing of the matters before the court of which the judge is primarily a member. Up to date, no cause for complaint on the ground of delay appears to have arisen; but, whilst the present arrangement has so far worked satisfactorily, it appears to the Government that the time is now opportune for the appointment of a judge whose first duty will be the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, it is proposed that, instead of the judge of the Australian Capital Territory being a bankruptcy judge or a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, power shall be given to appoint a person who is, or has been, a practising barrister or solicitor of not less than five years’ standing. The qualification to be prescribed is similar to that provided in respect of judges of the Arbitration Court. It is recognized that, at the present time, the judge will not be fully occupied with the duties of his judicial office. The bill, therefore, provides that the judge may hold the office of Judge Advocate-General of any part of the defence force, or any other office, not of profit, which the GovernorGeneral may approve. It is confidently anticipated that the judge first to be appointed in accordance with the proposed provision will, pending the business of the court increasing to such degree as to demand the whole of his services, be able to give full and valuable service in other directions. In addition to performing the functions of Judge AdvocateGeneral of, say, the Army - for some time this position will make fairly heavy demands on his time - he will be available to make inquiries on matters which heretofore, in many instances, have necessarily been performed by judges of State courts. The Commonwealth is greatly appreciative of the co-operation of State governments in the past, in making judges available for these inquiries. It will, however, be invaluable to the administration to have a Commonwealth judge who will be readily available for some of these inquiries in the future. In view of the services which, it is proposed, the judge will be required to perform, it is proposed that the salary of the judge will be £2,500 a year, equivalent to that of the bankruptcy judge. His pension rights also are tobe similar to those of the judge in bankruptcy.
The measure represents an advance in the development of the administration of justice in the Australian Capital Territory. It will afford some relief to the judge in bankruptcy, who is fully occupied with bankruptcy matters, and will facilitate the general administration of the Commonwealth in various directions. I commend the hill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a Commonwealth office of education and a universities commission, to provide for the university training of discharged members of the forces, to provide for financial assistance to university students, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - [ move -
That the bill be now read a second time, [n the discussion in this House on the 26th July, 1943, consequent upon the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) relating to education, I took the opportunity to set out in some detail the action that had been taken by the Government, and the action that was proposed, in regard to various matters of education which concern the Commonwealth. Two of the main matters that I mentioned were the setting up of a Commonwealth Office of Education, and the introduction of legislation to make the Universities Commission a permanent body. The Government has pressed ahead with the preparation of legislation for these two purposes, each of which is very largely related to the other. In view of the general interest expressed on both sides of the House, and the general concern that the Commonwealth Government should assist, to the utmost of its power, education in Australia, no lengthy explanation is needed from me in introducing this bill. I have previously given to the House some indication of the amount of Commonwealth expenditure on educational matters in recent years. I have referred particularly to education in the territories of the Commonwealth, to assistance to universities and research, to physical, wartime technical, and pre-school education, and to service education. In view of the Commonwealth’s increasing interest in education, the late Prime Minister on my recommendation, established in 1944 a committee of senior Commonwealth officers, which reported on the need for a Commonwealth body to co-ordinate its educational activities. The office of education provided for in the present bill will meet that need, and the permanent Universities Commission will carry on special functions in association with th* office.
This does not mean, of course, that the Commonwealth should take over the control of education, but rather that it should co-operate with the States in fostering educational development. The Government believes, and I am sure that honorable members all agree, that by co-operation with the States we shall be able greatly to increase the nation’s educational facilities and resources.
Part I. of the bill calls for no comment from me. Part II. provides for the establishment of a Commonwealth Office of Education. The functions of the office are stated briefly in clause 5 (2) as follows : - i (a.) to advise the Minister on matter* relating to education.
The requests received by the Government for Commonwealth action, or assistance, in educational matters and the frequent suggestions made are in themselves sufficient to warrant the establishment of a competent Commonwealth authority in this field.
The development of official relations on educational matters between the Commonwealth and other countries is long overdue. This particular need is heightened at present by the forthcoming conference to be held in London to establish a united nations educational and cultural organization. “We have had inquiries from abroad as to the possibility of organizing exchanges of teachers with other nations. We must, too, ensure that Australia shall be visited by outstanding educationists from all parts of the world. I hope that it will also be possible to arrange for some of our own educators to travel abroad. Arrangements for continuous liaison with the States on educational matters are equally necessary. The liaison which can be developed through this office will, 1 hope, be continuous and effective.
This was one of the functions of such an office which was emphasized by the report of the interdepartmental committee to which I have referred. (ti) to undertake research relating to education.
There is, I aru convinced, great and growing need for the development of educational research. Some of the State Education Departments have carried out important educational research, as have some of our Australian universities, whilst Australia has benefited, too, from the work of the Australian Council for Educational Research. Here, again, it is not intended that the office should replace these several existing activities in education. But it is hoped that, in collaboration with these agencies, original researches on matters of national importance in relation to education will be conducted. The remaining principal purposes of the office are -
Already, this is a matter of urgency, and the particular need has been emphasized by certain requests made by the States at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. If the Commonwealth should decide to make additional contributions to educational development, it would be the responsibility of the Government to see that contributions so made should be allocated in accordance with a consistent policy, and in such a way as to provide the greatest benefits.
I think this short outline of the functions of the office has shown that the Government desires to establish a body which will not conflict in any way with institutions at present established, but which should provide a beginning in augmenting and supplementing the present educational resources of this nation.
The Government has been very fortunate in securing for the office of Director of the Commonwealth Office of Education the services of Professor R. C. Mills, whose record is well known to honorable members. His experience in the field of education, and also in the’ field of Commonwealth activities, is considerable and varied. His work as chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is well-known, and his successful chairmanship of the Universities Commission during recent years is also evi-
J/r. Dedman. dence of his wisdom and judgment. 1 should like to pay a tribute to Professor Mills and his associates for the splendid work of the commission to date.
Part III. of the bill provides for the establishment and constitution of a Universities Commission. As members are aware, the Universities Commission has functioned since the beginning of 1943 under National Security Regulations. One of the main functions’ of the commission has been the administration of a scheme of financial assistance which wasintroduced as a war measure, but which we believe should be continued in peacetime. The regulations under the National Security Act will lapse in due course. It has, therefore, become necessary for us to provide for the continuance of the administration of the scheme of financial assistance. This is one of the main reasons for the present bill.
In the recent debate on education, I said that the Government had no intention of continuing the direction of man-power so far as university students were concerned after the cessation of hostilities nor for any other reason. I pointed out that that direction had been a war-time provision and that as soon as the emergency had passed it was the firm intention of the Government to do. away with the provision. Before the Japanese surrender had actually been signed, an announcement was made that there would be no selection of students for reservation at universities in 1946. Members will see that the present bill makes no mention whatsoever of reservation or of man-power controls.
The Government has announced that it will continue to accept new students for financial assistance under the civilian scheme for at least five years after the cessation of hostilities. This means that new students will be accepted at least up to,, and including, the year 1950. The Government has also announced that students accepted in this way will be assisted, subject to the usual conditions, throughout the whole of their course. The Government has fixed this period of five years, not as the period in which it considers financial assistance should continue, but as a period of grace in which full discussions can take place with the States as to the method of providing the necessary finance, as to the means of administration, and as to the conditions of eligibility for assistance if the scheme is, as I firmly hope it will be, made a permanent feature of Australian education. For the present it is necessary to make some amendments in the method of administering assistance following the end of the war and the abolition of reservation, and the opportunity will be taken to spread the assistance more evenly between the various university faculties. Apart from this, the Commonwealth Government does not wish to be thought to prejudge the issue as to which should be the final form of a permanent scheme of financial assistance, and no sweeping changes will be made until after we have had the chance to consult fully with the various States.
In Part III. of the bill, clause 8 (2) provides that the commission shall be a body corporate, capable of suing and being sued in its corporate name. It was felt that this was desirable in a body set up under statutory authority. Provision is made for the Director of the Office of Education to be chairman of the commission, and for the appointment of three other members for periods not exceeding three years. The functions of the commission are set out in clause 14 in simple and concise terms. They are - (a.) to arrange for the training in Universities or similar institutions for the purpose of facilitating their re-establishment, of persons who are discharged members of the Forces within the meaning of the Re-establishment and Employment Act J 945.
The commission has been acting as a training authority under the Common-, wealth Reconstruction Training Scheme 3ince that began to operate, and the commission’s field of activities includes all training provided by universities and similar institutions. In general, regulations relating to reconstruction training will be made not under this bill, but under the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945.
in prescribed cases or classes of cases, to assist other persons to obtain training in Universities or similar institutions.
The conditions under which assistance can be provided to students will be pre scribed in regulations under this bill. In view of the need for alterations in minor matters as they occur, I think that no apology is” necessary for placing thidetails of this scheme in regulations rather than in the statute itself -
One important provision made in clauses 15 and 16 relates to State committees. The present Universities Commission found it desirable to set up committee? of advice in the various States. The appointment to these committees of the directors of education and of members of the staffs of the education departments has, of course, only been made after consultation with the State Premiers.
Finally, provision is made for an annual report by the commission to the Minister and for regulations to give effect to the matters dealt with in the bill. This. I think, will be sufficient to explain to honorable members the purpose behind the bill and the provision which it makes for establishing what will, I believe, become two very important Commonwealth instrumentalities in the field of education.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 5786), on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) explained when introducing this bill that its principal provisions related to the position of the judge in bankruptcy and that the effect of several of the amendments was to give statutory effect to practices which had been carried out since the appointment of Mr. Justice Clyne and which had, because of the absence of statutory provision, necessarily been done by way of executive minute. They relate in particular, to the salary and pension of the judge in bankruptcy. The Opposition has examined the bill and fully supports it. If I may introduce a personal note, I support the bill with more pleasure, because for the second time since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have found the long ann of coincidence stretching out and linking me with former associates. In my first case at the bar, I was a junior to the late George Maxwell whom I succeeded in the federal seat of Fawkner. After having graduated at the Melbourne University and taken my law articles, I spent a year in the chambers of the then
Mr. Clyne, doing my reading as a very raw barrister. I only hope that I attain the success as a politician that he has attained as a lawyer. I believe that the Commonwealth is extremely fortunate to have this most distinguished and able jurist in charge of the judicial side of the bankruptcy administration. He had the reputation of being one of the leading case lawyers in the Commonwealth, and I know that he enjoyed a tremendously high regard amongst his former associates at the Melbourne Bar.
As the law stands now no provision exists in respect of a judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy appointed from a State court or from the ranks of practising solicitors or barristers. The practise, I think has been to appoint a judge of a federal court as judge in bankruptcy. There is to be no increase of the salary of £2,500- which Mr. Justice Clyne has been receiving since his appointment. Provision exists in the bill for a pension to be paid on retirement at the same rate as the pension payable to judges in other federal courts with the exception of. the High Court. The proposed new section states -
Where a Judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy has served in that office for not less than fifteen years, he shall, on retiring, be entitled to an annual pension at the rate of one-half of his salary.
Where a Judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy was, immediately prior to his appointment, serving in any judicial office under a State, so much of the term of that service as does not exceed five years shall, . . be added to the term of his service as a Judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy.
That is for the purpose of calculating the rate of his pension. That will apply to Mr. Justice Clyne, who, prior to his appointment as judge in bankruptcy, was a County Court judge in Victoria. The remainder of the bill deals with machinery provisions designed to improve the operation of our bankruptcy law, and, as they should strengthen the capacity of the Judge, the court and the administration generally in dealing with bankruptcy matters, they have the full support of the Opposition.
.- Many things of special importance to the Attorney-General’s Department and the country should be said on the second reading of this bill. I am not satisfied with the practice of taking judges from State courts to appoint them to Federal courts. I think the rank and file of the legal profession should be served first. There have been notable cases of members of State Supreme, District and County Courts who have sought to improve their position by seeking appointment on a life tenure to the High Court, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Bankruptcy Court. I consider that that practice should cease. I do not know how much the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had to do with these particular arrangements. 1 am not going to challenge in any way the statements of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) about Mr. Justice Clyne’s capabilities, but, at the same time, in principle, it is wrong, I submit, that a man already on the bench of a State court should be appointed to the bench of a Commonwealth court. Federal judges should be appointed from the ranks of the profession. There are many men capable of filling federal judicial positions with distinction.
The act gives power to the Commonwealth Government to appoint two judges in bankruptcy, and that power should be exercised. At present there is one judge in bankruptcy, who has to serve the whole of the Commonwealth. 1 believe that there is some loose kind of arrangement whereby a hundred pounds or’ two is paid to a Queensland judge, I think Sir William Webb, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, to look after bankruptcy affairs in Queensland.
– Surely, they do not have bankruptcies in Queensland.
– The Bankruptcy Court deals not only with bankruptcies ; it alao deals with liquidations of companies and like matters. It is not purely an individual matter, as the honorable member for Fawkner well knows. At the moment all that Mr. Justice Clyne does is to serve New South Wales and Victoria. It is highly desirable that another judge should be appointed as is provided for in the act. I should think the best arrangement would be to have one judge head-quartered in Sydney and going on circuit to Queensland, and the other judge stationed in Melbourne and going on circuit to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, and, in that way, look after the affairs of the bankruptcy jurisdiction. The overloaded lists of the High Court and the Arbitration Court also indicate the need for another federal judge. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden ) said to-day that he could not get a High Court matter heard until about the middle of next year.
– I did. not say that 1 could not get it heard until the middle of next year. I got mine heard all right and [ got the cash.
– But the right honorable gentleman had to wait a long time before he was able to ‘ get his matter finalized.
– The need for another federal judge is intensified by the following considerations: - Mr. Justice Davidson, of the New South Wales Supreme Court, has been engaged on an inquiry into the coal industry; Mr. Justice Reed, of the South Australian Court, has been engaged on inquiries into the detention barracks at Grovely, and military detention generally; Mr. Justice Lowe was engaged in furnishing a report on the situation at Darwin and an inquiry into “the Brisbane line” episode; Sir William Webb, Mr. Justice Mansfield, and Judge Kirby have been occupied in preparing a report on Japanese atrocities; Mr. Justice Philp, of the Supreme Court of Queensland, has been engaged in furnishing a report on the recent air accident in which a Stinson aircraft was involved. That list of inquiries, which had to be undertaken by a judicial authority or some person possessing a knowledge of the law and capable of analysing the facts and assessing the probabilities, is by no means complete. The very fact that the Commonwealth has to seek the co-operation of the States to undertake such important investigations strengthens my claim for the appointment of another Commonwealth judge.
– The Minister has introduced a bill to authorize the appointment of another judge.
– I am aware of that. I am also fully aware that the judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory for the Seat of Government will be fully occupied in resolving many matters ‘ other than bankruptcy. Various problems in regard to aliens will arise, and as the Acting Attorney-General knows, they will occupy the time of the judge. When some honorable members suggest that I did not take those matters into consideration, I remind them that I am a member of the legal profession, and have a knowledge of the subject. I do not desire to elaborate on the appointment of Mr. Justice Clyne; I accept the statements of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). But all appointments to the Commonwealth Judiciary are for life. It should be possible, at some future date, to secure an alteration of the Constitution in order to put a curb on old men who seek to retain their positions on the bench to an age, when, though they may not be exactly senile, they certainly lack the vigour and perception which they had when they were appointed. At present, Mr. Justice Clyne is in the full flush of bis legal capabilities, but who is to say that 30 years hence, be will not be in the same position as one or two very old gentlemen who now sit on the High Court bench ?
– All of us will be rather wizened by then,
– The right honorable member for North Sydney is still with us, and he is SI years of age. Certain other provisions in the bill have been referred to rather glibly as “ machinery provisions “. I do not endorse that description of them. The fact of the matter is that because section SO of the principal act did not apply to deceased estates, there has been a great deal of heart-burning and difficulty in the winding up those estates.
– Did not caucus consider this bill before the Acting AttorneyGeneral introduced it?
– It may have done iO, but I was in the Royal Australian Air Force then and cannot say what happened. I do not consider that the proposed new section to be inserted in part 12, providing for the removal of trustees under deeds of arrangement, is a machinery amendment. What is required is the appointment of a parliamentary law reform committee. After all, we are dealing with various acts which relate directly to the legal profession. There are averment sections in the Income Tax Act and procedural sections in the Customs Act. Perhaps desirable amendments should be made to the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Bankruptcy Act. Because the Commonwealth Parliament is now exercising certain powers which it possesses under the Constitution, and the matters involved relate directly to the everyday lives of men and women throughout Australia, a parliamentary law reform committee should be appointed to examine various provisions such as those which have been included in this bill. I do not know that they would have been included in the measure if there had not been need to regularize the position of Mr. Justice Clyne.
– If the honorable member continues in this strain he will prejudice his prospects of ever becoming a judge of the High Court.
– At least I shall not prejudice the prospects of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) of becoming a judge of the High Court, because he has none. I desire to submit to the Acting AttorneyGeneral certain suggestions. First, the power already given to provide a second judge in bankruptcy should be exercised and he should be stationed in the manner which I have suggested, or in some other way to meet the convenience of all interested parties. If there is not sufficient work for him in bankruptcy he should be asked to conduct inquiries on behalf of the Commonwealth, because I contend that when Commonwealth inquiries are necessary, Commonwealth judges should make them. Secondly, the Minister should make an endeavour, when the opportunity is presented at a referendum, to alter the section, of the Constitution relating to the tenure of office of Commonwealth judges by requiring retirement at the age of, say, 70 years. Thirdly, having regard to the number of acts passed which relate directly to the legal profession, a parliamentary law reform committee should be appointed to examine relevant matters which arise from time to time. For example, the Judiciary Act would bear review; if possible, it should be amended during the life of this Parliament. If the Acting Attorney-General will adopt my suggestions, I commend the bill. But I deplore the cavalier way in which vital amendments of the bankruptcy law, referred to as “ machinery provisions “, have been introduced under the cloak of an amending bill that regularizes thi* position of one of the judges.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) said that the Commonwealth should appoint a second judge in bankruptcy. That statement amazed me. I understood that once this Government got into its stride, every citizen would have such a good job and wages would be so high that judges in bankruptcy would no longer be needed. The only bankrupt would be the Commonwealth Government. I make that suggestion knowing that the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) will regard it not as a political statement, but one which arises out of, perhaps, a quite inadvertent reference by the honorable member for Watson, due, no doubt, to the fact that his political experience is on just about the same level as is his legal experience.
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. Beasley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of the bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1933.
Resolution reported and. - by leave - adopted.
In commtittee: Consideration resumed.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7 th September (vide page 5227), on motion by Mr: Chifley -
That the bill be nowread. a second time;
– There is a degree of humour in the order of business this morning, for the National Welfare Fund Bill is being dealt with immediately after we have passed the Bankruptcy Bill, and, as I shall show presently, the National Welfare Fund is bankrupt. This fund is a trust account established pursuant to sections 62a and 62b of the Audit Act 1901-1934. Under that measure the Treasurer has complete control of the balances in such accounts, even to the extent that, without reference to the Parliament, he may direct that any trust account be closed, and thereupon the moneys standing to the credit of the fund’ shall, after liabilities have been met, be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Consequently the Treasurer can at any time abolish the National “Welfare Fund and appropriate the balance to its credit for general purposes.. This fund was established in 1943. as a political measure, and its establishment coincided with the reduction of the income tax exemption to £104 a year. It will be remembered that the Curtin Government resisted as long as it possibly could every suggestion that incomes in the lower ranges should be subjected to income tax, but, in the end, it reduced the exemption to £104 from £150, at which it stood when the previous Government left office. The Government, of course, was reluctant to take the step, but it realized that under war conditions there was no escape from it. The wageearners in the lower income range who had never previously paid income tax were assured, at that time, that £30,000,000 per annum, or one quarter of the total amount received in income tax from individuals, whichever was the less, would be earmarked and placed in the National Welfare Fund to provide increased social benefits. In this way the blow they had suffered by being brought into the income tax field was softened. They were given the promise of a return in kind for the money extracted from them by taxation. The terms of the bargain were not observed. In the first year of the operation of the fund, 1943-44, an amount of £27,889,572 was paid into the fund and £2,364,174 was paid out of it in benefits, leaving a balance of £25,525,398. Of this balance no less than £25,500,000 was immediately replaced by treasury-bills and spent. So much for the benefits which the workers were to receive during that year !
With a. mere £25,000 remaining in the fund in cash balances instead of more than £25,000,000, therewas not much hope of the basic wage workers receiving any benefit from this source unless, of course, the money was to be replaced by funds raised from loans and subscribed by the previous contributors, or by money obtained from increased taxation and also subscribed by the same people. This method of finance is naively described in high Treasury circles and by the Treasurer as “ the temporary use of Treasury balances “. As was to be expected, the same technique of painless extraction was employed again in 1944-45, when an additional £27,500,000 was taken from the fund. The aggregate withdrawals for the two years, by means of substituting treasury-bills or government I O U’s, was therefore £53,000,000. This illusory credit balance must ultimately be replaced by raising the money from the taxpayers who already have contributed the £53,000,000. The fund is bankrupt because it has been used for the general purposes of finance, and the amount withdrawn has been replaced by Treasury I O U’s. I concede that it is neither illegal nor improper for the Treasurer so to act, because the Audit Act provides that such funds may be represented by government securities, which are defined as including treasury-bills or the I 0 U’s to which I have referred. Nevertheless, I ventilate the matter so that no one will be deceived as to what has happened to the fund. The fact should be made clear to the public that the money contributed to the National Welfare Fund has been used for purposes other than those intended. In fact, the taxpayers will contribute twice for the social benefits which ultimately they will receive. The trust fund balances, including the National Welfare Fund, replaced last year by treasury-bills, amounted to £32,000,000, making a total temporary use of treasury balances of over £96,000,000. This method of Treasury finance has been used for so many years that, like the financial agreement with the States, it is almost humorous to describe it - as the Treasurer does - as “the temporary use of Treasury funds “. As far back as 1930, general trust funds amounting to about £3,700,000 were so invested at an interest rate of 4 per cent. When Mr. Theodore was Treasurer, the Parliament rejected his ‘ proposal for a fiduciary notes issue. What he could not get legally and constitutionally through the Parliament, he obtained partly by means of the “ back door “ method of using trust funds.
– The right honorable gentleman did the same thing later.
– This table, showing the state of the trust funds, indicates whether the honorable gentleman is correct or not and reveals the use that has since been made of them -
It will be noted that Mr. Theodore and other Labour ‘ Treasurers exploited this method of finance to a greater degree than any other Treasurer until the advent of the present Labour administration. In fact, Mr. Theodore’s method of finance, according to the budget speech that he presented in 1931, was based on reductions of wages, invalid and old-age pensions, the maternity allowance, waT pensions and repatriation benefits on the expenditure side, and a partial increase of revenue, by the replacement of trust funds with treasury-bills, on the revenue side. Since 1938, when the total amount used in this way was less than in 1933, no trust funds were so used until the Labour Government took office in 1941. A little history should prove interesting. It will be remembered that, as Treasurer, I endeavoured to tax the lower ranges of income, recognizing that that course was inescapable if the resources of the country were to be utilized fully for the prosecution of the war. I expected to raise an additional £2,000,000 by the reduction of the income tax exemption to £150, but my government was defeated in this House. The then Leader of the Opposition contended that we were proposing to tax the people out of existence, and to interfere with their standards of living. The Curtin Government then took office, but did not immediately reduce the exemption from £150 to the £104 which ultimately was reached. From what source did it obtain the £2,000,000 that it needed, and thus obviate the adoption of that course? It secured a” breathing space by withdrawing the money from trust funds - the first withdrawal that had been made since 1937. The position then deteriorated further, and in the following budget the exemption was reduced from £150 to £104; but in order to quieten the new taxpayers, the explanation was offered that the object was to establish the National Welfare Fund. During the terms of office as Treasurer of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), as well as during my occupancy of the position, no trust funds were replaced by treasury-bills, and the total of £10,700,000 remained constant from 1938 to 1941. In 1942, however, it rose by almost £2,000,000. It increased by £9,000,000 in 1943, by £42,000,000 in 1944, and by £32,000,000 in 1945, and has now reached the colossal total of £96,300,000, an increase of £S6,000,000 since the Curtin Government took office. Yet the country is asked to believe that this is a temporary method of finance ! If these treasury balances are being used temporarily, whence will come the wherewithal to replace them? The National Welfare Fund will have to be replenished out of the pockets of the very people who originally subscribed the amounts that have been abstracted from it. The fund has disappeared, and is represented by treasurybills. Can it be wondered at that the Treasurer has been reluctantly compelled to partition the general revenue, and to describe a portion of it as a social services contribution at the rate of ls. 6d. in the £1, which is estimated to raise £51,000,000 a year? He is creating a problem for the coming years. I suppose that future Treasurers will have to clean up the mess. I detect in this matter the hand that was apparent in the Financial Agreement fiasco. A little publicity in connexion with this temporary-permanent use of treasury balances will do no harm ; in fact, it may do much good, by shedding a little light on the ultimate destination of the so-called social services contributions of the average taxpayer after they have passed through the hands of the Treasury alchemists and have been transmuted into general revenue. The position of the National Welfare Fund i3 appalling. It was established only three years ago, but it and other trust fund balances are now represented by treasury-bills, which have increased from £3,700,000 in 1930 to £96,300,000 in 1945. That is a most dangerous method of finance. The Treasurer pointed with pride to the fact that the total of the treasury-bills issued had not been increased last year, but had remained stationary at £343,000,000. Yet, according to the answer given to a question that I asked recently, the old method has again been resorted to since the end of the financial year, and the amount has been increased by £20,000,000; consequently, the total on the open market tinder this heading is to-day £363,000,000, in addition to the £96,300,000 on account of trust funds. Yet Government supporter’s are satisfied with that method of finance! Honorable members who sit on this side of the House certainly are not.
.- There was very little substance in the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). He has indulged in a good deal of destructive criticism of the method now proposed by the Government to provide finance out of revenue for the National Welfare Fund. He has roundly condemned past Labour governments on account of their financial methods, particularly in relation to the issue of treasurybills, as well as Mr. Theodore’s proposal for a fiduciary notes issue in 1929-30. We may well ask what harm has come to the community by reason of the issue and extensive use of treasurybills. What harm would the community have suffered if the fiduciary notes had been issued then? After the Scullin Government was defeated, the proposal to issue the notes was abandoned. Mr. Theodore’s proposal was to issue £18,000,000 in fiduciary notes, £12,000,000 of which would be used for the relief of unemployment and £6,000,000 for the relief of wheat-growers. I have lived to see, not a mere £6,000,000 in credits issued by the Commonwealth Bank for the relief of wheat-growers, but £20,000,000. At the time of Mr. Theodore’s proposal, members of the Opposition said that the country would be ruined if the fiduciary notes were issued. Later, their own Government used the national credit to the amount of £20,000,000 for financing the wheat-growers, and the country was not ruined. Neither has any harm come to the country by the issue of treasury bills during the war. On the contrary, there has been prosperity and full employment. The people have had food and clothing, and if there have not been enough houses, the blame rests on previous governments - not necessarily federal governments, because the responsibility for housing is primarily a matter for the States.
The Government’s methods of finance has brought the country through the greatest crisis in its history. All this talk of ruining the country if its credit resources are used through the issue of treasury bills, or in somen ‘Other way, makes me tired. The” only proper test is the prosperity or otherwise of the people. The right honorable gentleman said that treasury hills had been issued against an amount of £96,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund, but there is nothing to fear in that. In any case, what would he have done? If the system of post-war credits which he advocated had been adopted, I have no doubt that he would have had to resort to treasury-bill finance, also, because the exigencies of the situation would have demanded it. Recent history has proved the falsity of many of the doctrines advocated by the supporters of orthodox financial methods. The right honorable gentleman condemned the Government’s financial methods, but had no positive suggestions to offer for financing our social services. It is the same old story - as soon as the war is over there is nothing that he and his friends want less than a new order. If we are to have a new order we must re-orientate our ideas.
The establishment of a National Welfare Fund is the first step towards the consolidation of social services. Money collected by income tax and the pay-roll tax will> be used for the payment of social service benefits. In its second interim report the Social Security Committee, discussing war emergency unemployment, stated -
The simplest and most equitable plan in the present circumstances is to impose a general tax on every income-earner in the community, with the exception of those on the lowest scale. This tax should be graduated according to the income of the taxpayer, with a small exemption limit varying according to the income and family responsibilities of the taxpayer. Juniors on relatively low incomes who have no family responsibilities are often in a better position than married men with larger nominal incomes, and they can quite equitably be asked to contribute. It. would probably be best, for reasons of convenience and in order to separate the operations of the scheme, to place the proceeds of the tax in a special unemployment fund, from which could be made all disbursements, both for benefit and administration. All deductions should be made at the source, where possible, in the same fashion as present federal income tax.
It was further recommended by the committee that this system should continue in. force after the war in order to provide a fund for the payment of unemployment and sickness benefits. .Similar recommendations were made in the third and fifth reports of the committee. In its seventh report, the following passage occurs : -
The committee believes that all social security measures should be financed by personal contributions from those to whom the benefits under the scheme will be provided.
Basing its opinion on the above principle, the committee believes it to be necessary that early provision be made for the consolidation of the existing social legislation in an appropriate Commonwealth act in which all future legislation of a similar legislation of a similar nature shall be included.
The committee examined people from all walks of life, the witnesses constituting a cross-section of the community. Therefore, when I speak on this subject, I am expressing not my own opinions exclusively, but those of a very large number of people in Australia. The witnesses came from universities, trades halls, the parliamentary Opposition, and from among old-age pensioners. We were careful to call witnesses representing organizations, including the Housewives Association.
– What about the primary producers?
– We heard their representatives, also. The committee recommended the consolidation of social services under one act, and I hope that a bill for this purpose will eventually be introduced. The committee believed that social services should ‘ be financed by a graduated tax on all income, according to ability to pay, the proceeds to go into a fund where it would be protected from Treasurers who might be tempted to use the money in times of financial difficulty. It is, of course, argued that as everybody pays so everybody should benefit. I have never subscribed to the fallacious view that all the money for social services can be or is collected from the wealthy. Such is not the case. The rich pay more individually, but they are relatively few in number. Most of the burden is borne by the section earning between £4 and £20 a week. This section, in addition, pays the bulk of indirect taxation which should be abolished or substantially reduced. This is not the appropriate occasion to deal at any length with that aspect, however. It may be argued that as all pay into the Welfare Fund all should benefit from social services. That the means test should be abolished I agree. There is much to commend its abandonment, and I hope that the means for that will finally be found. For the present “we can only work to that end. Under our present scheme, many benefits, such as maternity allowances, child endowment, pharmaceutical and hospital benefits are, in fact, paid to the whole community, irrespective of individual incomes.
I believe that finally the National Welfare Fund can, and no doubt will, develop into a national superannuation fund. As all pay so all will be entitled to benefit. I wholeheartedly support the measure. It is not perfect, but it is a mighty good start towards consolidation of our social legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer in a bill for an act to amend the National Welfare Fund Act 1943, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee : Consideration resumed :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section five of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section insertedin its stead: - “5. - (1.) There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund “ (2.) There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund -
Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945 as the amount of contributions assessed in that financial year under the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945 bears to the aggregate of that amount and the amount of income tax assessed in that financial year under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1945 on the income of persons other than companies.
Amendment (by Mr. Lazzarini) proposed -
That, in proposed new section five, subsection (2), paragraph (b) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: - “ (b) in the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-six - the sum of Fifty-one million pounds; and
in each financial year thereafter - the amount of the social services contribution (including provisional social services contribution)which becomes payable under the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945 in that financial year.”.
– I should like the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) to explain to the committee just what that means. It is all very well for him to move an amendment of the nature of this, but unless he gives the committee some idea of its intention, we shall have to demand that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) come into the chamber to enlighten honorable members.
.- This section provides for the income of the fund. Sub-sectionI provides for the fund to be fed on the present basis, i.e., for a full year £30,000,000, or a quarter of the income tax collections from individuals, whichever is the lesser. For the first six months of 1945-46 a sum of £15,000,000 on this basis has been adopted to pay into the fund. Sub-section 2 provides for the payment of social services contributions into the fund for the second half of the present year and each succeeding year. For the second half of this year £20,000,000 is provided from social services contributions, this being the estimate of five months’ instalments collections from employees and provisional contributions payable by non-employees in that period.
For 1946-47 and succeeding years, proposed sub-section 2 (&) provides for social services contributions to be paid into th fund, calculating by a formula : briefly that proportion of total collections of both income tax and social services contributions from individuals, equivalent to the proportion of assessments of social services contributions of the total assessments of income tax and social services contributions. The figures of actual collections of social services contributions could, of course, be obtained, and make any such formula as the one above unnecessary. But it would mean hundreds of additional officers in the Taxation Department to keep separate accounts of the .collections of social services contributions and income tax, and involve employers in keeping separate accounts of , instalments of social services contributions and income tax. Such a procedure is totally unwarranted. Further examination of the formula has shown it to be unsatisfactory, particularly for 1946-47, when the estimates of the social services contributions will of course refer to only six months of the previous year 1945-46 - thus distorting the proportion of assessments. Proposed new section 5 (2) (b) has accordingly to be amended. The amendment of proposed new section 5 (2) (&) clarifies the position. The new sub-section 2 (b) provides for the fixed amount of £51,000,000 to be paid into the fund for the full year 1946-47 in respect of social services contribution; this is the budget estimate of actual collections for that year. For succeeding years the new section 5 (2 ) (c) provides for a sum equivalent to the amount of social services contributions “ payable “ in each year to be paid into the fund. This method does offer a workable solution, for normally and in the long run the amount of social service contribution “ payable “ by taxpayers under the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945 will be equivalent to the amount collected, allowing for bad debts. Sub-section 3 provides for payment into the fund of the collections of pay-roll tax in 1945-46 and thereafter; child endowment is to be paid from the fund. On the above basis, and using the budget estimate for pay-roll tax, the income of the fund this year will be -
” Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) [12.23]. - I listened with great interest to my honorable friend the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) give us an explanation of this amendment. I am particularly interested in his observations concerning the incorporation of the payroll tax in this fund. If the Minister means that this money is to be considered as a contribution by the employers towards the general scheme of contributory insurance he should say so. The payroll tax was designed to provide money for the payment of child endowment. The revenue from the pay-roll tax is increasing. I think that there soon will be a big surplus of receipts from that tax over expenditure, on child endowment, especially when industries start to absorb demobilized members of the forces. Industry is entitled to look for a reduction of the pay-roll tax. But now the Government proposes to pay the receipts into the general social services fund, and I have no doubt that the pay-roll tax will be increased in order to help to bridge the gap between receipts and expenditure in respect of the National Welfare Fund, which, on the figures placed before honorable members to-day by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), must be almost bankrupt. I am disturbed that an amendment like this should be placed before the committee at the last moment. The Minister should “ come clean “ and let us know what he intends to do about the pay-roll tax.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 9 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th September (vide page 5302), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am glad again to see the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) in charge of the bill, because I am looking to him for some explanation of the failure of the Labour Government to implement one of the planks of its platform, namely, that the sales tax should be-
– Yes, abolished at the earliest possible moment.
– We still say that.
– I know. The Government says that it will do lots of things to carry its platform into effect, but so far it has moved to do so only in the direction of socialization. Last year the Commonwealth Treasury received by way of indirect taxes, of which sales tax is one, £98,844,248. That is a substantial sum of money to be collected from a tax which was introduced as a temporary measure during the economic depression nearly fifteen years ago.
Let us see this tax in its proper perspective. The Government has accepted sales tax as just another source of revenue. Last year, Commonwealth revenue from all sources totalled £345,661,286. Direct taxation yielded £239,075,319, and indirect taxation, which includes sales tax, yielded £98,844,248. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), when introducing this bill, said -
Although hostilities have ceased, the Government is still in need of very substantial revenue to enable it to carry out the heavy tasks that are ahead. For that reason, it is not yet possible to grant any relief from sales tax by way of general reduction of the rate.
The Treasurer has granted concessions totalling £1,900,000, which represents 7 per cent. of the total sales tax collections. Later, I shall show that the people have not been given any relief from the burden of indirect taxation as a whole. Indeed, it is estimated that an additional £3,000,000 will be received from this source. The reduction of £1,900,000 is equivalent to . 84 per cent., or less than 1 per cent, of the taxpayers’ total contributions by way of indirect taxation towards the extravagant administration of the present Government.When we refer to an amount of £1,900,000, it seems to be a large sum of money. But when we realize that it represents only 84 percent of the taxpayers’ total contributions, the relief is negligible.
Let us examine the incidence of indirect taxation during this financial year. The estimates of receipts from items which the Treasurer is pleased to call “ indirect taxation “ and which embrace customs, excise, sales tax, and flour tax, amount to £101,900,000, or more than £3,000,000 more than these items yielded in the last financial year. The estimated receipts from sales tax for 1945-46 show what a small reduction the Treasurer proposes to grant. Receipts last year totalled £29,671,802; the estimated return this year is £28,000,000. But when we take into account all forms of indirect taxation, the estimated yield this year is 3 per cent, in excess of last year’s figures. Therefore, these concessions do not mean a reduction of taxation on the whole. The yield from this indirect taxation will be greater than it was last year.
The proper thing to do, particularly now that the war has ended, is to see that no greater amount shall be collected this year from sales tax than the return in the last year of the war. That is only logical. When hostilities abruptly ceased, the Treasurer revised his budget and reduced the estimated expenditure by £100,000,000. Surely, then, the amount collected from sales tax this year should not exceed the receipts last year. But are these all the indirect taxes that affect the ordinary citizen? The pay-roll tax is described as a “ direct “ tax. It may be, but Iprefer to think of it as a tax which has been passed on to the people in the prices of consumergoods or services. The entertainments tax, too, is described as a direct tax. In my opinion, entertainments tax is no more a direct tax than is excise. It is interesting to note that it costs a man 12s. to take hiswife and two children to a motion picture theatre on a Saturday evening. He may be aware that the admission charges are 9s., and entertainments tax 3s., but he knows that he has to pay 12s. When those two items are added to the “indirect” tax acknowledged by the Treasurer, the total “ indirect “ taxes which the people of Australia will pay this year will be £117,900,000, or more than one-third of the total receipts from taxation, direct and indirect. Every one should realize that the amount which he pays asincome tax is. only a part of his total contribution to Commonwealth revenue. Half as much in addition he pays in the form of indirect taxation. When the taxpayer realizes that, he will appreciate what the Opposition has been contending, namely, that the Australian taxpayer is the highest taxed individual in the world.
The research officer of the Ironworkers Union, Mr. W. Baker, after having investigated the effect of taxation on working-class families, reported that many families paid in indirect taxation as much as 10s. a week. I emphasize that that contribution to Commonwealth revenue was in addition to their ordinary income tax. I cannot understand why the Treasurer of a Labour Government, who knows that indirect taxation imposes a heavy burden on the working class is not prepared to grant to them a greater measure ofrelief. He has reduced the sales tax burden by £1,900,000, which is less than 1 per cent, of the total collections from indirect taxation; and the figures which I have cited prove that indirect taxation will yield an additional £3,000,000. Among the goods normally bought by workers, and on which there are heavy customs and excise duties, are beer, 4s. 7d. a gallon; tobacco, 10s. l1d. per lb.; cigarettes, 20s. 9d. per lb.; matches, 8s. a gross; and on practically all articles of clothing there is a sales tax of 7½ per cent. Some lines of food were subject to sales tax of 12½ per cent, and many toilet preparations, to a tax of 25 per cent. Originally thesales tax on those lines was 2½ per cent. Razor blades and cutlery are among the many other requirements on which indirect taxation has been levied. How can the Government justify its attitude? Taking into account the reduction of sales tax by 7 per cent, which the Treasurer has so generously granted, the estimated return of revenue from this source this year will still be equivalent to the yield in 1943-44. When we consider that a great volume of purchasing power will be diverted to consumer commodities, most of which are subject to sales tax, I should not be surprised if the yield from sales tax this financial year should be considerably in excess of the estimate. In fact, I shall be surprised if the return does not exceed the yield for last year, notwithstanding the small concession granted by the Treasurer. I appreciate the degree of relief, so far as it goes; but I emphasize that sales tax was introduced as an emergency measure by the Scullin Government during the depression. Since then, the Labour party has always declared that the sales tax must be repealed as soon at possible. Why, then, has the Government retained it? Honorable member opposite retort that sales tax bears equally upon the wealthy and the working classes when they purchase food and clothing. Yet the Government is imposing an onerous burden on the working class by retaining the sales tax at its present high level on the necessaries of life. If the Government must have revenue from sources other than income tax, let it retain the sales tax on luxury goods. But it should abolish sales tax on food, clothing and building materials.
– That is being done
– Not in every instance.
– Will the honorable gentleman cite an instance?
– Household hardware is still subject to sales tax.
– Basic foods are not subject to sales tax.
– Certain health foods are not exempt.
– No, food for building up the constitution and increasing the vitality of the workers. The
Government may have had some justification for retaining the sales tax during the war, but this tax has become a permanent source of revenue - a “ super “ tax on a wide range of goods needed by the people. The repeal of sales tax on goods required for the home is most urgently needed. At present, every article from the front doormat to the kitchen sink is subject to sales tax. “Why has the sales tax on clothing been retained?
– That will be repealed.
– I do not think so. Household goods and clothing, in which ex-service men and women are particularly interested, are practically untouched by the proposed remissions. The effect of sales tax was graphically portrayed in an article which appeared in the Sydney Sum on the 7th August last. It reads -
In furnishing the lounge room in a young couple’s new home, the velvet-gloved hand grabs a tax of £10 5s.10d. on the expenditure of £97 7s. This is only one example that can be multiplied many times. Taxpayers hardly realize the full extent to which Australians have become the highest taxed people in the world. A brake on progress, a poison to incentive and ambition, the burden of taxation grows. How long will governments be able to ignore the people’s plight and its demands for some relief?
Let the Minister attempt to justify that! This is not the time to expect higher returns from sales tax. The Government should not take an ever-increasing amount of money from the pockets of the people through sales tax, especially when its financial commitments have been reduced by the termination of the war. Therefore, I look forward in the immediate future to the abolition of the sales tax from all goods and commodities which are required by the middle class and lower income groups. If the Government desires to retain sales tax as a source- of revenue, the tax should be imposed only on luxuries.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The Government is to be congratulated upon coming to grips with the sales tax octopus and compelling it to relax its hold upon the community. I hope eventually to witness the final liquidation of this iniquitous method of taxation, which is comparable to the bad old system of farming out the collection of taxes. It is a tax upon a tax. Country residents feel its incidence more severely than residents of metropolitan areas. They suffer by the fact that sales tax is imposed not only on the selling price of a commodity but also on the freight charged for its transport to the country. I have here a letter from the manager of the Molong branch of Wright Heaton and Company Limited, a firm of distributing agents which handles foodstuffs and farm materials. Recently, I was interviewed by branch managers of the firm who showed how the sales tax reacts harshly against country distributors in comparison with metropolitan firms. The manager of the Molong branch of the company wrote to me as follows: -
As you are no doubt aware, registered wholesalers in the country have to pay sales tax on freight, whereas city merchants simply add the tax to the invoice price, and the freight is paid by the country store to the railway department, and is then, of course, an item quite apart from the invoice and consequently non-taxable. You will readily see that this puts such companies as us, trading in the country, at a disadvantage to the city merchants’, and besides making the cost to country traders and consumers greater, is directly across the policy of decentralization.
He also cited the following examples of the effect of the sales tax on prices in country districts : -
Those are typical examples of the effect of the levy on the cost of living in country areas. It should be possible to administer the act so that freight charges will not be added to selling prices in assessing gales tax. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer said -
In 1936, the government of the day made provision for an exemption of consumable aidstomanufacture, that is to say, materials of a kind consumed in manufacturing processes. Tax continued to be payable in respect of plant and machinery for use in manufacture, the view apparently being taken that the allowance of exemption of such goods would involve substantial administrative difficulties. “ Administrative difficulties “ should not be used as an excuse for continuing the present method of assessing sales tax, and I ask the Treasurer to instruct his officers to that effect.
.- Two broad aspects of this bill, rather than the less important details, should be considered by the House. The first aspect is the actual revenue from the tax, which is very large. Last year it amounted to £26,671,802, and this year it is expected to amount to £28,000,000. Obviously, it places a very great burden on the general population, and on primary and secondary industries in particular. In addition, many other forms of indirect tax provide the Government with large amounts of revenue. This year, estimated revenue from indirect taxes is £5,000,000 higher than ever before. The second aspect, which emerged during consideration of the Estimates, is that the Government has made more than ample provision to cover estimated expenditure for this year. Tt is clear that expenditure will be reduced considerably below the level of last year. Taking these two factors into consideration, it is obvious that the Government could easily afford to reduce this burdensome tax. Everybody must realize the effect that it has on the country as a whole. In many instances, the tax has’ a double effect. It is imposed on the original cost of a. commodity, and it is also collected on the sale of the article to the consumer. The Treasurer, therefore, collects tax twice in respect of products of an industry.
Certain authorities are exempt from the provisions of the act, and I congratulate the Treasurer to a moderate degree upon those exemptions. They apply to municipal, shire and district council! and to certain public authorities, including harbour boards and trusts, maritime boards and fire brigades. I suggest, however, that other bodies are equally entitled to exemption from the impost. In discussing the budget to-day I referred to the experience of bush nursing hospitals in respect of the tax. I am given to understand that the Treasurer hai agreed to exempt them from it, and I should like to have a confirmation of that from him. Other institutions, such a* schools and universities, should be exempt.
– They are not paying sales tax on building materials, scientific equipment and text-books.
– That is so, but on a large range of other articles the tax i» paid by them. Educational institution* deserve all the encouragement that we can give to them, and it should take the form of financial assistance, which could be conferred by the removal of this tax.
I shall not ask for numerous concessions for primary producers, but, in respect of one item in general use by them, exemption from the sales tax would not cause an appreciable reduction of the total revenue obtained from this source, namely, £28,000,000. The primary producers should not be required to pay sales tax on concrete fencing posts. In Gippsland the primary producer* formerly used wooden posts for fencing purposes. They were not supposed to purchase iron posts, but were expected to resort to timber. Concrete posts, however, are far better than timber and iron, and a sales tax of 12^ per cent, is imposed on them. I understand this i* the only item of the kind on which farmers are required to pay this tax, and I see no logical reason why it should be retained. Concrete posts cost from 2s. 6d. to 3s. each. I hope that in the near future further concessions will be made by the removal of this tax from many other Articles. By this bill the Government proposes to afford a great deal of relief to the building industry and to householders, but the tax is still imposed on various goods which should be exempt, such as refrigerators, cutlery, carpets and flooring felt. All who undertake housekeeping require floor coverings.
– Particularly people living in the colder climates in southern Australia.
Mr.RYAN.- That is true. I hope that the Treasurer will give sympathetic consideration to the points that I haveraised
.- One of the most important materials used in the construction of homes is paint, but no provision has been made in the bill for its exemption from sales tax. In my electorate are some of the largest paint manufacturing establishments in Australia, and their representatives have brought to my attention certain facts regarding the production of paint and its importance in home construction and maintenance. Their request is that the Treasurer should consider an amendment of the act to provide for the exemption of paint, particularly that used for household purposes. Paint is the only basic raw material of importance used in building construction which is not already exempt from this tax. The approximate value of the annual production of paint in Australia is £4,000,000. It is estimated that, under present conditions, about two-thirds of that production is subject to sales tax, and, at the rate of 12½ per cent., yields £292,000 per annum. The remaining one-third, being for government, shipping and export use, is not subject to sales tax. The average cost of the paint that is used on a house newly constructed, taking into account brick, wood, and other forms of construction, and including exterior and interior painting, is estimated to be £20, the sales tax on which is £2 10s. On this basis, the additional burden on housing costs due to sales tax, on the erection of the 40,000 or 50,000 houses per annum now proposed, would be from £100,000 to £125,000 per annum. It is estimated that approximately 80 per cent, of the total houses erected cost less than £1,800. These, very largely, are privately owned homes, from which the owners get no relief in respect of the additional cost of the sales tax that is required in connexion with the painting maintenance of their properties. The balance of the houses, flats, &c, are largely owned by investors, who get some relief from the additional burden of sales tax, in that they are allowed to deduct from their incomes the cost of maintenance for income tax purposes. The estimated use of paint produced prior to the war was: New building construction, 10 per cent. ; building maintenance, 50 per cent.; shipping and export, 10 per cent.; and industrial and other uses, 30 per cent. The proportion of the total paint production used in connexion with new building construction during the next ten years is likely to be considerably higher than 10 per” cent. I understand that some consideration has already been given to the exemption of paint from sales tax. The information that I have furnished may be of assistance in a review of the position. The Government desires to reduce the cost of postwar building, and has taken action to exempt from sales tax other building materials. There are strong grounds for the exemption of paint. I urge the Treasurer to make that necessary provision, in the interests of the homebuilders of this country.
– The sales tax was introduced as an emergency financial measure when the Commonwealth Government was looking for means by which revenue might be increased, but, like the poor, it is still with us. Income tax was first introduced in the British Empire by Pitt, at the time of the Napoleonic wars, and was regarded as a temporary expedient, yet it, too, is still with us. We appreciate this bill, because it will afford some alleviation of the infliction that is designated sales tax. According to the budget papers, the estimated receipts from sales tax for the year ending the 30th June, 1945, are £28,000,000, which will be £1,600,000 less than was received for the year ended the 30th June,. 1945. It is obvious that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has based his estimate on the static economic conditions that existed during 1944-45. The war was waged during the whole ofthat period. It is apparent that no consideration has been given to the probability of an expanding economy during this year. We should bepessimistic were we to consider that the outlook for Australia during the unexpired portion of this year, and in future years, will be no better than were our experiences during the grave years through which we have just passed. Surely we are entitled to a feeling of optimism, based on the demobilization and civil re-employment of servicemen which must occur if the Government’s policy of full employment is to be implemented. There must be an increased production of goods, with a consequent expansion of the volume of sales, as the result of not only the proper implementation of full employment, but also the operation of the new conditions that we are about to experience in a period of peace. There must be large imports of manufactured goods to fill demands that have been held in check for six years, and as reciprocal trade for the heavy overseas demands that are anticipated for our primary products, especially foodstuffs. The lifting, or at least the alleviation, of rationing, in respect of goods and commodities on which sales tax is payable, should be an incentive to increase production. If all, or even some, of these factors be given due weight, the aggregate receipts estimated by the Treasurer must he exceeded; otherwise, we shall have little to hope for as the result of the cessation of hostilities. Consequently, larger concessions could be granted than are proposed under this bill, particularly in certain directions and in certain circumstances. A far-reaching effect of taxation in any form is that, if its incidence is too heavy, the object of revenue production is gravely impaired. This is known technically as the law of diminishing returns. An unduly heavy sales tax merely results in industrial stagnation, the non-production of useful and necessary goods, and a lower standard of living. As a matter of fact, we must appreciate that sales tax is a pernicious impost. We realize, of course, that it had to be introduced, having, regard to the few remaining avenues that were open to us for the raising of revenue. Nevertheless, it should be withdrawn as soon as possible.
A lessening of the burden pf tax, on the other hand, not only returns revenue of an equivalent or a greater amount, but also aids industrial recovery, provides markets and other facilities, raises consumption, increases the volume of employment, and ensures progressive relief from the frugal and austere mode of living which has been necessary during the war years. Bearing in mind these considerations, the Treasurer should study afresh utility items, the tax on which might be reduced to a greater degree than the reduction from 25 per cent, to 12^ per cent, proposed by the bill. That would be sound economy. I refer specifically to cutlery for domestic purposes, household refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Many housewives, especially those with young families, have been greatly inconvenienced during the war years, and some have suffered in health through lack of domestic assistance. They should now be given every encouragement to purchase mechanical appliances which will reduce household drudgery. Not only would that have beneficial economic effects, but also the provision of these domestic aids would tend to increase the population. An indispensable factor in natural increase is a lessening of domestic drudgery. For instance, a refrigerator is not a luxury but an absolute necessity in every home in tropical Queensland. Yet a tax of 12£ per cent, is imposed on refrigerators. That exorbitant tax should be removed, especially on keroseneoperated refrigerators which have to be used especially in the country, where no electric power is available. Other items in this category which are excluded from participation in the reduction of sales tax from 25 per cent, to 12^ per cent, are kerosene lamp3 and hurricane lamps of the wick-burning open-flame type. What is the reason! If it is an anomaly caused by an oversight, it should be rectified without delay. Sales tax on electric light fittings for domestic purposes, wash boilers, coppers, water heaters, and many similar appliances used principally for household purposes is still at the rate of 12^ per cent. If the Government’s housing plan is to be effective, many thousands of these domestic appliances will be purchased in order to reduce household drudgery, lt ha3 been estimated that the sales tax on the furnishings of a working-man’s modest home amounts to £45. It would be futile to pay a gratuity to a soldier with one hand, and take it away with the other hand by demanding sales tax on the furnishings with which his home is equipped and on the appliances installed to provide some relief to his wife. If, as is usual, finance has to be obtained to suable a home to be purchased, the heavy incidence of sales tax adds to the capital cost, and necessitates the payment of interest on a greater capital sum for many years. The principle is obviously both financially unjustifiable and economically undesirable.
Having regard to all these circumstances, and the probability of the revenue from sales tax exceeding the estimate, the Treasurer should adopt the suggestions which I have outlined. It is worthy of note that nearly £5,000,000 was collected from sales tax during July and August of this year. It will indeed be a poor prospect for this country if production and the volume of sales during the remainder of the financial year remain at the low level of the first two months. The logical conclusion is that the bill does not include concessions which a more accurate estimate would indicate could safely be granted. There is need for a more thorough survey of the items which affect the cost of living, and particularly the cost of providing shelter. There is need to review the sales tax on all articles associated with the building and furnishing of homes. If sales tax cannot be entirely removed, it should at least be wisely applied. There should be greater recognition of family responsibilities and the needs of country dwellers. Particular attention should be given to items which reduce domestic drudgery, so that housewives will be encouraged to have children. In my opinion, the articles on which concessions are to be made have not been wisely selected, nor has recognition been given to the prosperity which might reasonably be expected now that the war is over. I hope that, long before the end of the financial year, reductions of sales tax will be made on many other goods along ths lines that I have indicated.
with a request that consideration be given to them when the sales tax is again under review.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Can the Minister say whether exemption from sales tax has been granted on appliances used by bush nursing hospitals ?
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th September (vide page 5303), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The first war budget, which was introduced in September, 1939, provided for an expenditure of £100,000,000 for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, Federal income tax was then expected to yield £11,500,000. That was only six years ago, but to-day most of that £100,000,000 would be required for social services alone. Under this legislation citizens are required to contribute to a common pool on the chance that they will be able to draw something out of it should misfortune overtake them. It is obvious that the Government cannot give something for nothing. That fallacy may have been acceptable to those who believed that the rich only were being “ soaked “ to pay the cost of government at a time- when basic wage earners were free from the liability to pay direct taxes. Now, the percentage of people paying direct taxes is much greater. They are, in consequence, more conscious of the cost of government and of the fact that they themselves are paying for their own social services. Since so many people have a monetary stake in the social services contribution plan, they should at least be assured of value for their money. This measure is based on a contribution of ls. 6d. from every fi of income over £104, and it is collected without regard to the rights of the contributor. In fact, the contributor, when he seeks to benefit from the scheme, will be subjected to a means test.
The Treasurer has found- it necessary to raise money for social services and he proposes to do it through the present Income Tax Act, which was designed for a different purpose. When a person takes out an insurance policy, he enters into a contract which gives him the right, in return for paying premiums, to receive definite monetary benefits at some definite time in the future. The payments which he makes are scientifically calculated by exact actuarial methods, and bear a strict relation to the benefits to be derived. The Government’s scheme, however, has no such advantages. It is economically unscientific, it is actuarially unsound, and it is politically unjust. Many a person now contributing to a superannuation fund will also have to contribute for social services, but lie will enjoy no contractual right to receive subsequent benefits. Because of the means test, he will bo unduly penalized for his thrift and self-reliance. A man would have to save about £5,000 and invest it in government bonds at 3^ per cent, in order to obtain the equivalent of the old-age pension for himself and his wife. Under the present proposal, even if he paid his social services contributions regularly every year, -he would still not he eligible for a pension. On the other hand, a spendthrift and ne’er-do-well, who may not have contributed one penny to the social services fund, would be entitled to receive the old-age pension upon reaching the prescribed age.
Admittedly, many old people find themselves without means of support because of ill health or misfortune or some other unavoidable cause. Social justice demands that they be not left to starve; it also demands that the provident should not be unduly penalized for the benefit of the improvident. During the debate on the National Health and Pensions
Insurance Bill, Labour members expressed Labour policy in no uncertain terms. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said -
The Labour party is definitely opposed to any interference, or tampering, with the basis of our pensions scheme. Moreover, it considers that pensions should be provided for widows and orphans on the same basis as the invalid and old-age pensions. The money to provide these social services should be obtained by taxing the persons who enjoy high income* in this country.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) said -
He, the Treasurer, said that in the con r siof a few years the expenditure in respect of pensions would reach a.n alarming figure, which would perturb future governments. For that reason this Government is seeking to alter the policy of Parliament by transferring the burden of social services from the shoulders of the-whole community to those ot the workers, for whom the benefits have been chiefly provided. If, in such circumstances, Labour men were to support this bill as it stands we should be untrue to principles which have governed Labour policy since the party first became a power in Australia.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) stated -
The scheme appears to be nothing more than a swindle to place the burden of financing social services on the already over-burdened poor. The Government is asking the workers to increase their existing poverty in order to provide against their future destitution.
The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) expressed himself thus -
In every way possible the Government la seeking to levy from the people who can least afford it the cost of this insurance scheme, which should he nation-wide in its application as regards both benefits and costs.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) stated -
We, as a party, refuse to destroy the principles upon which the Commonwealth system of invalid and old-age pensions has been established for upwards of 30 years, and we refuse to agree to placing the pension for widowhood on a contributory basis. It should be made a charge on the Consolidated Revenue.
The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) had this to say -
Labour now says quite frankly to everybody that it believes that the reward for good service for those who are unable to” provide for themselves should be a pension from the nation, without any contribution other than the good service’ they had rendered over a lengthy period.
Finally, - the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, then Opposition Leader, declared -
The Labour party expresses its utter condemnation of individual contributions as a principle in regard to invalidity, old-age and widows’ pensions. These services should be a charge on the ‘Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth. To impose special levies, either on workers or employers, is utterly unjust. tt is evident that honorable members opposite have either suffered a change of heart, or they are trimming sails to the prevailing trade union winds. Yet, the problem is a simple one. If our social economy is to be based on a living wage, below which starvation is likely, this amount should be a guaranteed and irreducible minimum. For this purpose, a compulsory contributory scheme would he necessary. Those who are thrifty enough to build on that minimum should be allowed scope under the scheme. Such a plan would require much thought, skilled actuarial advice, and perhaps some modification in the light of experience, ifevertheless, it would be worth the effort in order to give a measure of social justice to many thousands of persons whose futures are to be mortgaged under the present scheme, while they will enjoy little or no chance of benefiting under it. There is no justice in making a man contribute year after year to a social services fund for other people’s security, when there is no guarantee of ultimate benefit to himself. ‘But the measure before us represents neither one nor the other. It does not provide for a solid, firmly founded economic scheme of contributions; and neither is it a voluntary scheme. I know that it is futile to urge the Government to take immediate steps to rectify the matter; but in order to place on record the policy of the Australian Country party, I urge the Government, first, to withdraw the present unsound plan; secondly, to introduce a contributory scheme on a sound actuarial basis; and, thirdly, to abolish the means test. Only by doing this can the Government be honest with the people.
, - In the course of my speech on the budget, I referred to the Government’s proposal in respect of the social services tax. That proposal is to allocate for every £1 of income ls. 6d. from income tax as a social services contribution. This measure has been introduced to give effect to that proposal. Let us see exactly how taxpayers who contribute social services tax will fare under the scheme. Taxpayers on certain levels of income will not bo entitled to receive benefits regardless of the amount of social services tax deducted from the income tax which they pay. In addition, taxpayers who are employers must pay pay-roll tax, which is to be paid into a particular fund to cover social services. As I said in my second-reading speech on the budget, the whole policy of the Government on this matter is designed to penalize the thrifty. It does not matter how much a man may save in order to provide against sickness or economic disability in his old age, he is to be penalized. On the other hand, the Government gives to the man who spends all the money he receives and enjoys himself to the utmost a guarantee that it will make thrifty people, who contribute portion of their income tax to finance the social services fund, provide benefits for them under this scheme. I again point out that a thrifty person who manages to save £5,200, and invests that amount for his old age, would receive from that investment £3 5s. a week, on which he would have to keep his wife and himself; but a man who does not bother to save, but relies entirely upon government charity, would receive exactly the same income as a gift from the Government. A benevolent Government proposes to give to the man who makes no attempt to save anything the same financial benefit under this scheme as another person, thrifty enough to save £5,200, would receive from the investment of that sum. In addition, the latter during his life pays high rates of tax, whilst the other lives in a happygolucky way, and enjoys himself, paying no income tax whatever. The Government recognizes the contributory principle under the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme. It compels public servants to purchase so many units under that scheme on. the ground that this encourages thrift. Yet many public servants, after contributing to the superannuation fund for many years, become entitled to a benefit of only £1 a week, whereas the old-age pension, towards which the pensioner makes no contribution whatever, amounts to 32s. 6d. And should a person be sufficiently thrifty to acquire certain property of a value exceeding £400 he is debarred from receiving the old-age pension.
– About 70 per cent, of the pensions now paid under the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme is being provided from Consolidated Revenue.
– Will the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) deny that public servants are compelled to purchase units under the superannuation scheme? That is the argument which he seeks to avoid. My point is that the public servant who is compelled to purchase units under tho superannuation scheme prejudices his right to obtain a benefit greater than that to which he would become entitled had he made no contribution at all. The Government should be consistent in this matter. It insists upon the contributory principle in respect of superannuation benefits, but ignores it entirely in respect of social services benefits. To be consistent it must either abolish the present method whereby public servants are compelled to purchase units under the superannuation scheme, or acknowledge the contributory principle in respect of social services benefits, and devise a social services scheme on an actuarial basis. The Public Service superannuation scheme is actuarially sound. If the contributory principle be correct, and obviously it is, no person in the community is entitled to receive benefits unless be makes some contribution towards them. He then becomes entitled to such benefits as u right and not as charity; but the benefits to be provided under this scheme bear the stigma of charity. I have heard ad nauseam the argument of honorable members opposite that all old-age pensioners have contributed towards the prosperity of the country by their pioneering efforts. As a matter of fact, they have done less to pioneer the country than those who by thrift have contributed to the nation’s wealth, and, at the same time, have sup ported themselves, and by their industry have contributed to the national welfare.
– Saving is the result of capacity to save.
– Does the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) contend that it is impossible for workers receiving the present basic wage to save? I can give him the names of dozens of people who, while they were earning- the basic wage, saved sufficient to establish themselves in business; and they have become what honorable members opposite sneeringly call big business men. The honorable member makes no contribution to this debate by uttering generalities of that kind.
– The honorable member had many opportunities to preach all these doctrines to the Government of which he was a member.
– And I did preach these doctrines at that time. The Treasurer will remember that I was a prominent member of a cave which arose in that Government over the provision of national health and pensions insurance. Therefore, I am consistent in this matter. I register my protest against this proposal. I have received considerable correspondence on the matter, and take this opportunity to place on record some of the views expressed in that correspondence. A correspondent of mine, when he could not work through illness, although he had contributed towards sickness benefits, was refused them, being told that, as he was 65 years of age, he could apply for an old-age pension. He could not have applied for and received an old-age pension, because he had a small amount of capital tied up in an industrial plant. Owing to the war restrictions, the plant is inoperable and thus is’ not returning him any income. So he cannot earn the income that he was earning before illness overcame him, he is refused sickness benefits, and, because he has capital, which is not, and cannot, under the conditions prevailing to-day, return him any income, he is also unable to draw an old-age pension. That is the result of the means test as applied by the Labour Government, which bears so harshly on public servants who contribute to superannuation and other thrifty citizens who save against their old age by one means or another. They should be encouraged, but this system gives no encouragement to people to be thrifty. The same means test also bears harshly on people who contribute to hospital benefits schemes and draw the benefits in cash, because the means test applies once a man draws £2 a week, which is the average amount paid to people in sickness by hospital benefits funds. These inequalities and injustices persist. The Government is taking ls. 6d. in the £1 from everybody.
– I concede that certain low incomes are exempt or are not taxed at that rate, but, in the main, taxpayers are to contribute ls. 6d. in the £1 of their incomes towards social services. The employers are doubly hit because they also have to pay the pay-roll tax. The sooner the Government establishes a contributory insurance scheme on a sound actuarial basis the sooner we shall have justice. Then those who have contributed from their resources to the National Welfare Fund and have also been thrifty, and those whom life has not treated well enough to allow them to contribute at the same rate or at all, or, perhaps, have been unthrifty, will all be on the same level in respect of social benefits. Only then will the Labour Government be entitled to the respect of the community, which it lacks now.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 12th September (vide page 5306), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That a social services contribution be imposed at the following rates: - (vide page 5304).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini and Mv. Chifley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Levels of Consumption in United Kingdom and Australia.
– by leave - I lay on the table a report which was prepared by a committee of officials and experts from the United Kingdom and Australia for the Combined Food Board with the object of comparing the levels of civilian food consumption in the United Kingdom and Australia in the years before the war, in 1943, and during 1944. A similar report had been prepared some months earlier regarding the civilian food consumption levels in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada. These comparisons were necessary in order to provide the Combined Food Board with a clear picture of the food position in the principal allied countries.
The figures in this report represent the average quantity of food available per head of population and do not take into account irregularities of distribution. Despite this limitation, the report does present an interesting picture of the conditions prevailing in the two countries. Before the war the average Australian diet was more varied and palatable than the average diet in the United Kingdom. Australia had more meat, sugar and fruit and also a higher consumption of milk and eggs. It is interesting to find in the report that even before the war there was a substantially lower consumption of “ visible “ fats in Australia than in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom also had a higher consumption of fish.
The introduction of full scale rationing in the United Kingdom was responsible for a revolution in food consumption habits and in the food consumption pattern of the people of that country, with the result that during the latter part of the war, particularly in 1944, there was a higher consumption of milk and milk products, fish, fats and oils, potatoes, and all vegetables in the United Kingdom than in Australia; whilst in Australia there was a greater consumption of meat, eggs, sugar and fruit. Within the fat group Australia had a considerably higher butter consumption than the United Kingdom, but in that country the consumption of margarine, lard and other fats raised the total consumption for the group above the Australian level. Margarine on sale in England is fortified with vitamin A and vitamin D. In the report, the figures for the average consumption of foodstuffs have been converted into nutrients, that is, into proteins, carbohydrates, faits, and vitamins, so that it is possible to study the actual nutritional value of the average diet available in the two countries. Also the nutritive value of the average diet was compared with a standard, which, it was considered, would guarantee adequate health and nutrition of the population. The report reveals that in both countries the supply of all nutrients was sufficient to meet this standard, with the exception of the consumption of calcium in Australia. The lower consumption of calcium in this country is closely allied with the comparatively low milk consumption here.
This finding was confirmed in an investigation conducted by the Nutrition Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council into the levels of food consumption in some 2,700 homes in Australia last year.
The report draws attention to the fact that, in the closely settled United Kingdom with its short lines of internal distribution, and because of the comprehensive food rationing programme in force in that country, the great majority of the -people were able to, and in fact probably did, consume a diet very close to the statistical average. In Australia, with its greatly scattered population, and the attendant transport difficulties, coupled with the comparatively arid nature of parts of the country, it is doubtful if anything like the same percentage of the population consumed a diet equivalent to the statistical average. People living in some parts of the country and in some sections of the community probably consumed considerably more than wa6 necessary for adequate nutrition, and other people considerably less.
The figures in the report covering the consumption in 1944 were prepared in October of that year. They have now been reviewed from data showing the actual disappearance of food and the figures are very similar to those in this report. The revised data and the projected consumption figures for 1945 will be available shortly.
The Government is concerned at the fact that calcium intake in Australia is below that considered necessary for adequate health of all sections of the community. It is well known that the principal source of calcium is milk, of which there is a comparative shortage at the moment. As soon as supplies are plentiful again and we can meet to the full our obligations to the British Ministry of Food, to our own services and to the Allied services, the Government will review the problem with the object of developing a scheme which will ensure an adequate supply of milk, particularly to those sections of the community who need it most, and especially expectanand nursing mothers, infants and young children.
The Government is arranging for Dr. Clements, the chairman of the Nutrition Committee, to bring the matter before his colleagues and submit a plan to the Government to be brought into effect as soon as supplies are sufficiently in excess of other insistent demands to justify such action. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Food Consumption Levels in Australia and the United Kingdom - Report of a Join Committee of Australian and United King dom Officials, and move -
That the paper he printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
– by leave - In view of the public interest in the recovery of prisoners of war, the following statistics, which have been compiled from advices received up to the morning of the 26 th September, 1945, are furnished for publication. The gross total of members of the Australian Military Forces who were reported during the. progress of the war te have been in Japanese hands was 19,968. Of this number 99 escaped or were recovered before the cessation of hostilities, while a total of 2,549 were reported to have died during captivity, leaving 17,320 members of the forces regarded as prisoners of war in Japanese hands at the cessation of hostilities. Of this number 8,769 were reported as recovered and in Australian or Allied bands from the cessation of hostilities to the 26th September, 1945, and a further number of 3,625 names of known prisoners of war but not yet in Australian or Allied hands had been advised to next of kin by the 26th September, 1945, making a total of 12,394 prisoners of war reported alive from the cessation of hostilities to the 26th September, 1945. Thus, at the 26th September, 1945, there was a balance of 4,926 members of the Australian Military Forces recorded as prisoners of war about whom no advices had been received since the cessation of hostilities. Lack of information from the Japanese regarding transfers of prisoners from one camp to another, and their extreme dilatoriness in reporting deaths is only one confusing feature of the task of tracing prisoners about whom no information is yet known. It is, therefore, impossible, at this stage, to make any reliable estimate of the number of prisoners of war out of the number of 4,926 still outstanding whom it might be expected may be recovered ; but new names to being received daily. It is regrettable, however, that, based on general reports received, the death roll in several areas may be expected to be heavy, and it will take some considerable time to ascertain with any degree of certainty the names of the members concerned, though naturally those working in the recovery areas are endeavouring to obtain authentic information regarding them as rapidly as circumstances will permit.
Since the commencement of the homeward movement of recovered prisoners of war, the names of nearly 700 members of the Australian Military Forces who have returned or are returning by air have been notified, while the names of over 4,700 who have returned or are returning by sea to Australia have alao been notified to next of kin, or have been published in press lists. Members of the Australian Military Forces comprise a relatively small proportion of the recovered personnel to be repatriated from the areas where major recoveries have or are being effected. For example, the Australian personnel on Singapore Island were only one-sixth of the total number of prisoners held there at the cessation of hostilities. Similarly, the number of recovered Australian personnel held in camps in Manila under the control of the Australian Prisoners-of-war Reception Group is also less than onesixth of the total of British Commonwealth recovered personnel in those camps. Those figures are mentioned to indicate that the recovery and repatriation of Australian personnel to their homeland is a small part of the task of great magnitude which is proceeding as rapidly as it is humanly possible to do so with the resources available.
It is understandable that Australian recovered personnel should wish to be returned to their homeland at the earliest possible date, and while it is noted that complaints are being made in isolated cases of the lack of transport facilities and the suggestion is being made in some quarters that more transport should be allotted for this purpose, it should not be ‘ forgotten that complete priority is being given at the present time to the transportation of recovered personnel to Australia, and that until this objective is secured the repatriation and demobilization of members of the Australian Military Forces overseas from all areas in the Pacific will remain practically at a standstill.
Every endeavour is being made to obtain additional transport to return prisoners of war and serving members of the Australian Military Forces to Australia. It is unfortunate that the demands on the available Empire and Allied resources are far in excess of the transport available; but the Government will continue to press for additional transport facilities.
I new to Sydney last night and at 7 o’clock this morning went on board the hospital ship Oranje. I had an opportunity to meet the 600 returning prisoners of war on that vessel. Addressing them over the loud-speaker system, I was able to extend to them on behalf of the Australian Government and on behalf of all parties in this House, a very hearty welcome back to their homeland. Although these men had been through very trying ordeals during the last three and a half years, they showed magnificent fortitude. Despite their sufferings, their spirits were high and they were delighted to be back in Australia. It will be some time before many of them will be restored to normal health. Unfortunately, many of them probably will never again enjoy good health, but I know I am voicing the opinion of all honorable members when I wish them a speedy recovery and a rapid return to community life. The whole of Australia rejoices in their homecoming.
Australian Prisoners of War - Com monwealth Disposals Commission - Animalfats - Australian Capital Territory : Parliamentary Representation.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The action of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in flying to Sydney last night for- the purpose of extending a welcome to returning prisoners of war on Oranje was a gesture which will be appreciated by all ; but the persons whom the prisoners of war are most anxious to see, and be welcomed by, are their own next of kin. The Government has made arrangements, which are not working satisfactorily, for the transport of next of kin from country districts to the disembarkation points, so that they shall be able to greet the men on their arrival in Australia. I have received complaints from residents of country districts, and notably from the Lismore branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that these arrangements are not satisfactory, as the result of lack of organization in providing means for the relatives to proceed to the disembarkation points. I com municated with the Minister of Transport in New South Wales, Mr. O’Sullivan, and various transport officials who might have been expected to advise me on procedure, and they informed me that the next of. kin of a prisoner of war should make application to the appropriate department - the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, or the Department of Air - and would later be issued with a travelling voucher. The Minister, who has an intimate knowledge of conditions in country districts, knows how difficult it is for farmers and others to obtain information regarding the exact procedure to be followed. They donot know whether to apply to a department in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. The result is that many next of kin have not been able to avail themselves of the facilities which the Government has granted to enable them to welcome returning prisoners of war.
The Lismore branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia suggests that shire clerks, town clerks, police officials, stationmasters or some other prominent local personality, who knows the exact position in regard to these relatives, should be authorized to issue a pass, under such conditions as may be prescribed by the service departments. This morning, I interviewed the secretary to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) regarding this matter, and was informed that about 90 per cent of the applications should be made to the Department of the Army, and the remainder to the Department of Air or the Department of the Navy. As numbers of prisoners will be returning within the next few weeks, it is urgent to resolve this matter without further delay in order that next of kin may avail themselves of the facilities which the Government has provided for them. I hope that the Minister will consider my suggestion. Although this facility exists in name, it does not really exist in fact.
– Does the difficulty arise in obtaining information about the arrival of ships bearing the returning prisoners of war. or do not the people know where to apply?
– The next of kin do not know where to apply. As I stated, I interviewed the Minister for
Transport in New South Wales regarding this matter, and I have not been able to ascertain where next of kin should apply for the vouchers. The Minister will readily understand now much more difficult it is for next of kin residing in country districts to obtain the information. They do not know where they should apply, and, in consequence, they cannot obtain the benefit of the travel facilities.
– I informed the Minister for
Defence (Mr. Beasley), who represents the Minister for Supply and Shipping in this chamber, that I proposed to refer to-day to the matter which I raised recently regarding the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I regret that the honorable gentleman is not present, because I do not like making this reply in his absence. However, it is not my fault if I have to do so. About three weeks ago, I placed before this House certain disquieting information which had been brought to my notice from widely separated quarters in Queensland regarding the activities of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I made it quite clear that I had no definite information, nor could I substantiate the allegations which had been brought to my attention. But I considered that it was my duty to raise the matter in the House, and I discharged it. The types of articles involved were refrigerators and motor vehicles, including motor cycles.
My statement was made in the House at 11.5 p.m. on the 6th September, and the very next day, early in the afternoon, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) read, in reply, a statement prepared by Mr. Chippindall, who, first, had obviously not read the Hansard text of my charges, and, secondly, had not bad time to investigate, in the half-day or less available to him, the transactions at Tolga, near Cairns, in north Queensland, and other happenings at Enoggera, near Brisbane, of which I had complained. My first point is proved by Mr. Chippindall’s reference to my having confused the Commonwealth Disposals Commission with the Salvage Commission. Whilst such an inference may possibly have been drawn from the short newspaper version of my speech, the position is perfectly clear and unambiguous in Hansard. Consequently, both Mr. Chippindall and the Minister concerned were not even careful enough to consult the true record of my allegations. My second point is that no real inquiry could have been made in the few hours which elapsed between the delivery of my speech and the Minister’s reply. It is fairly obvious that Mr. Chippendall, with a newspaper report before him, drew on his imagination instead of sending a competent investigator north with instructions to furnish a report based on observed facts.
Before dealing specifically with the Minister’s reply to me, I desire to make two very relevant observations. The first is that Mr. Chippindall is a most interested party, and his reply, delivered per medium of the Minister, must be read in that light. In other words, it is far more reliable to call in an outside auditor to certify to the accuracy of the financial statements regarding one’s business if any doubt has arisen, than rely upon the person who may be responsible for the position. My second observation concerns a well-known rule of evidence which has been incorporated in the Crimes Act. It is that the onus of proof lies on the person accused when the facts are peculiarly within his own knowledge, or if he is supposed to be cognizant of them. The application of this rule to both the ministerial head of the department concerned and the officer in charge of disposals needs no further elucidation.
I now come to the specific items which were the original subject of my complaint. The very day on which my allegations were made, the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping replied to one of my questions on notice stating that only eight refrigerators had been sold in the Brisbane area, and seven of them were wrecked machines. Not only did this so-called wrecked equipment become very valuable overnight, but also the number of refrigerators disposed of apparently increased rapidly, for the very next day the Minister stated in this House that no fewer than ten refrigerators had. been sold at £52 10s. each, and that another four, which were in need of repair, had been sold at as low a price as £32 10s. each. All of these transactions occurred in the Brisbane area, and there is a grave discrepancy, with respect to number, value and description, between the answer given to my question and the Minister’s subsequent statement, which were given within 24 hours of each other. My original allegation was that some refrigerators had been sold for about £7 each to friends of the commission’s officers. This information was checked when I was last in Brisbane and my informant, who unfortunately will not allow me to use his name unless he can secure a guarantee of protection, assured ure that at least two of the refrigerators were sold by a- lieutenant 18, Enoggera to friends - commissioned officers in base jobs - for £7 and £9 10s. respectively. These two refrigerators are now being repaired, the approximate costs of repair being £5 and £25 respectively.
I shall now quote some further allegations, which the Minister will be given an opportunity to disprove in accordance with a suggestion which I shall make. In late July or early August this year, there were at least twenty electric refrigerators at the Enoggera auction compound. Some were complete, and others had parts missing. I should like to know what happened to each of them, what prices were paid for them, and who purchased them. It is also alleged that, about June this year, a number of kerosene-operated refrigerators were sold to a Brisbane foundry which is known to me for about £10 each, well below their actual value. Is this information correct, and were they all sold to the same firm? Have kerosene refrigerators been sold minus burners, which makes them practically useless, and have the burners been sold to the same purchasers a fortnight or so later? Does this practice bring refrigerators within the category of “ wrecked machines “ as interpreted by the Minister’s advisers? The truth with regard to these refrigerators can be very easily determined. No machine can be taken from Enoggera without the production to the gate- keeper of an official receipt. The duplicates, or counterfoils, of such receipts obviously must be carefully preserved for audit purposes. Consequently, I make this very simple, yet effective, request to the Minister : That he obtain and lay on the table of this House for. my inspection, before the parliamentary recess, the duplicates or counterfoils of official receipts for the sales of all refrigerators, whether kerosene or electric, in Queensland during the past six months. Will he also arrange a conference between me and the Auditor-General, giving me authority to suggest the lines of an investigation to be made by Mr. Abercrombie’s officers with a view by ascertaining the truth or otherwise of the allegations made to me. If the Minister refuses these requests, it is a fair inference to draw that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is unable to face the acid test which I have proposed.
The second item concerns the disposal of motor vehicles, including motor cycles, and motor tyres. With regard to motor tyres, the Minister stated in reply to my question -
Every tyre made available to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is marketed as quickly as it is received, but, unfortunately the vast majority of releases at the moment, including the 13,000 referred to by Mr. Fadden, consist of non-commercial types of tyres, suitable only for use on war department designed vehicles.
I draw particular attention to the reference to “non-commercial types of cars, suitable only for use on war department designed vehicles “. I need do nothing more than to quote Army Activities Bulletin No. 2, issued by the Minister for the Army on the 15th September, which states -
Items iii excess of Army requirements due to obsolescence and the reduction in Army strength, and declared to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission between the 1st January, 1945, and the 25th August, 1945, included 35.231 tyres and tubes suitable for commercial vehicles and 17,383 motor vehicles.
Obviously, either the Minister for the Army and I are wrong, or the Minister for Defence has been misinformed. I leave it to the Ministers to resolve their differences. With regard to delays in the disposal of motor vehicles the Minister said -
The commission will continue to liquidate surplus vehicles at the maximum rate until the absorptive capacity of the Australian market has been reached.
In this connexion, the official bulletin sponsored by the Minister for the Army stated -
During the week ended the 25th August, 1945, 1,003 vehicles were declared for disposal, the commission sold 133 and purchasers took delivery of 152.
In other words, a mere 13 per cent, of the vehicles declared were sold. Is it surprising that speakers at a recent meeting of the Farmers and Settlers Association at Cowra complained that, although the Commonwealth Disposals Commission had announced a considerable time previously that Army trucks would be in the hands of farmers by harvest time, nothing more had been heard of the trucks, at least in country areas, although the harvest was fast approaching? This complaint was made about a week after the Minister, in reply to my questions, had stated that 70 per cent, of the motor vehicles sold by the commission went to country areas. Finally, the Minister stated that the vast majority of motor cycles sold were either wrecked machines or machines in need of major repairs. Are these the machines which were advertised by dealers, in the Cairns Post of the 22nd September, 1945, as follows?: - 1940 side valve 500 c.c. model Nortons, on which a few odds and ends have to he fixed up, price £57 10s.
I shall conclude by reading a letter which I have received from the managing director of a motor cycle firm in Sydney. The letter is dated the 7th September, 1945, and states -
For months we have been making approaches to the Disposals Commission in effort to obtain motor cycle salvage (i.e., incomplete motor cycles) for the purpose of selling the spare parts. Admittedly our main purpose is to make a profit, but by so doing we would give good service to thousands of users who are desperately in need of such - particularly outback workers whose only means of transport are their motor cycles. Always we are told that the “ Army has not yet released this material to us for disposal “. Meanwhile, individuals in Army workshops are spiriting whole engines, &c, away and selling such to members of the public who are “ in the know “.
Presumably, while such individuals are “on a good thing” they will always report to those in charge that such material should not be handed over to the Disposals Board - “ it is essential to retain the parts for Army reconditioning, &c”. (Probably.) We cannot give specific evidence of such, by letter, but being practically the pivot of anything relating to motor cycle spares, at least once a week we have convincing evidence of what is taking place - and could convince anybody whom you may see fit to detail to call on us. It is noi a matter for the police - one or two convictions of receivers would do nothing towards convincing the Army that the material should be handed over. We have copies of several letters written to the Disposals Board, stating our claims to be allowed to tender for such material, but always we have been courteously advised to wait. Meanwhile contraband material is circulating freely in Sydney - it goes to traders less scrupulous than we, and we have to compete against it in the city, while at the same time country riders go short.
I do not vouch for the accuracy of those statements. I merely discharge my responsibility as a member of this Parliament in bringing the matter to the attention of the Government. That my previous exposure of these matters has borne some fruit is indicated by an extract from a letter received by me from the Minister for Supply and Shipping and dated the 14th September. It states -
In the Army the disposals section has been re-organized and placed under the control of a very senior officer.
In view of all these circumstances, 1 await with much interest the production of the duplicate receipts which I have requested. , The conference with the Auditor-General, if the Minister will arrange it, will also prove fruitful, and an investigation by an independent person of the evidence which the Sydney motor cycle firm wishes to produce should be illuminating. If the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, through Mr. Chippindall, wishes to reply to my allegations, I advise it not to sacrifice care for speed or to rely on press reports instead of Hansard, as it did on the last occasion.
– This morning I addressed a question to the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) concerning the supply of certain foodstuffs to Great Britain. The question was replied to by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who did not appear to appreciate my purpose. I asked if any specific attention ‘had been given to the possibility of supplying more fats from Australia for Great Britain. I recognize that it would be difficult to provide more butter, meat, &c, but I am convinced that there is a great waste of fats which could be conserved and sent to Britain. When the problem of sending supplies to the Old Country became acute, and it was announced that rationing in Britain was to be further reduced, I made certain inquiries. In response to my request I have received a letter from Mr. Bankes Amery, in which he states -
Sir Ben Smith, the present Minister for food, announced upon the eve of V-P Day that there was very little prospect of increasing the meat ration above ls. worth a week before the end of the year, and that the reduction already made in the issue of canned meat under the points rationing scheme could not be increased. He added that serious difficulties would arise in regard to maintaining the reduced bacon ration of 3 oz. a week and that he could see no possibility of restoring the cut in the cooking fat ration from 2 oz. to 1 oz. at the present time. He added, too, that further national economies would have to be made in the use of sugar, but that he did not propose to reduce the domestic ration below i lb. weekly. He also said that in future the allowance of dried eggs would have to be on a lower scale, and he added that there was little chance of an increase in the cheese ration above 2 oz.
Most housewives are not careful to conserve, for use in other directions, all the small pieces of fat that are cut away from meat. If fats were not allowed to be sold in the retail markets, but were reserved for manufacturing purposes, a large contribution could be made for the purpose of increasing the supplies available to Great Britain. I am informed that about 5 lb. of solid fat, such as suet and kidney and caul fat, can be cut from a sheep of average size, and from 25 to 30 lb. from every beef beast. Housewives could easily manage with the quantity of fat now supplied with the meat purchased in butcher shops. I speak from experience of handling foodstuffs on a fairly large family scale, and am sure that from the meat now used by householders sufficient fat could be provided for domestic purposes without having to purchase suet or dripping from butcher shops. In Great Britain, under the latest reduction, the allowance of 1 oz. of cooking fat- includes the allowance of shredded suet. As fat is of tremendous value in the food supply, the Government should give consideration to thi? matter.
Literature supplied to me by Mr. Bankes Amery shows that the -lb. ration of sugar formerly allowed in Britain at Christmas-time cannot be granted this year. If the Government could sponsor an appeal to householders throughout the Commonwealth to make a voluntary contribution of sugar as a Christmas gif to the people of Great Britain, it would receive a ready response. If each householder donated only 1 or 2 lb. of sugar it would be a most valuable gift, and ii would involve very little sacrifice. 1 commend that suggestion to the Government for its consideration.
.- I draw attention to a matter of vital importance to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and make a strong appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) and the Government to approve, and take the necessary steps to grant, parliamentary representation to the people of this Territory. I urge the Government to consider the matter during the forthcoming parliamentary recess, as no delay should occur in granting the people’* request. This matter has been considered on several occasions. When it was last under review, the request was not granted on the ground that it would have to be deferred until after the war. The war now being over, the matter should be again considered. The opening ceremony in connexion with Parliament House, Canberra, occurred on the 9th May, 1927, and the Parliament assembled here for the first time in that year. Since that time, the population of Canberra has steadily increased and I am now officially advised that the present population is over 12,000.
When the Northern Territory had a population of between ,6,000 and 7,000, parliamentary representation was granted to it. The representative elected by the people of that Territory was entitled in those day3 to express his views and make appeals on behalf of that scattered community, but he was not accorded a vote Later he was granted that privilege.. but he was, and still is, restricted to voting on ordinances and other matters relating to the Territory. All organized bodies and public-spirited citizens in Canberra have urged the need for parliamentary representation of this Territory. Many government departments have been transferred to Canberra and the largest departments have still to be established here.
– What arguments can be advanced against the granting of the franchise to the people of the Australian Capital Territory?
– I am at a loss to know. The cardinal principle of democracy is that all who carry the responsibilities of citizenship are entitled to a share in determining those responsibilities. Canberra, as the National Capital, will never exert its proper influence on national life while its citizens remain disfranchised. In transferring the remaining Commonwealth departments to Canberra, the Government would commit an act of grave injustice if it allowed hundreds of officials and their wives and families to be deprived of the political rights which they now possess. Meanwhile, those born in the Australian Capital Territory are growing up without a proper appreciation of the responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic community. The need for representation is all the more urgent because resident of this Territory, unlike other Australians, have no opportunity to participate by democratic processes in the affairs of a State or a municipality. They are mere onlookers in respect of national and local affairs. The argument that the population is too small is too readily accepted as an excuse for perpetuating an injustice. Wide variations in the size of electorates are found in almost all democratic states. Big differences exist in such Australian States as Victoria and Western Australia, as well as in the Commonwealth. At the worst, such wide variations are anomalies; but disfranchisement is an injustice that is not suffered by any other capital city in the British Empire. In 1900, the Constitution envisaged the representation of the Australian Capital Territory when established. What figure was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution as one which would entitle the territory to such representation is indicated by a study of the figures I am now about to give. In 1901, six electorates in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland had fewer than 10,000 electors on the roll, namely, Darling Downs, 8,930; Gippsland, 9,888; Kennedy, 9,597; Maranoa, 8,72S; Riverina, 9,956; and Werriwa, 9,905. The average number of electors in the five Tasmanian electorates was 7,904. An additional twenty electorates, making 31 in all, had fewer than 12,000- electors. Fifty-seven members of the first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901 came from electorates in which fewer than 10,000 votes were polled. Of these, 42 members were elected by fewer voters than could be enrolled for Commonwealth elections purposes in the Australian Capital Territory to-day. Outstanding members of the first Commonwealth Parliament came from electorates in which the voting strength was less than 10,000. For example, Alfred Deakin was elected for Ballarat on a total poll of 6,278; Sir William Lyne was elected for Hume on a total poll of 7,142; Sir Isaac Isaacs was elected for Indi on a total poll of 5,549; Andrew Fisher was elected for Wide Bay on a total poll of 8,9«7 ; W. M. Hughes was elected for West Sydney on a total poll of 9,300; Sir Joseph Cook was elected for Parramatta on a total poll of 5,195; Mr. Higgins was elected for North Melbourne on a total poll of 8,476; and Sir George Reid was elected for East Sydney on a total poll of 9,143. In Tasmania, 4,720 votes elected Sir Edward Braddon, 3,940 votes elected King O’Malley, and 1,794 votes elected Sir Philip Fysh. As late as 1910, fewer than 10,000 voters returned a member for the Tasmanian electorate of Wilmot. In the United Kingdom, there are equally wide disparities in the strength of the electorates. In England, Oxford University, with 22,414 electors, returns two members; Cambridge University, with 33,608 electors, returns two members ; London University, with 16,907 electors, returns one member; and the combined universities - Durham, Manchester, &c. - with 26,809 electors, return two members. In Scotland, the combined universities - St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh - with 53,071 electors, return three members. The Welsh universities, with 7,325 electors, return one member. In Northern Ireland, Queen’s University, Belfast, with 3,792 electors, returns one member, and Antrim County, with 132,990 electors, returns two members.
Canberra is the only capital city in the British Empire which has not parliamentary representation. The citizens of Ottawa elect a mayor and a council for local government purposes, send two representatives to the provincial legislature of Ontario, and elect two members to the Canadian House of Commons. London, Wellington and Capetown have members representing them, as well as municipal organizations. The citizens of Washington do not enjoy the franchise, because of a gap in the Constitution of the United States of America which provides that the method of election shall be decided by the State Legislatures. Thus, Congress has no power to legislate in the absence of a State, and no State Legislature can govern the matter of the representation of the district of Columbia. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Constitution makes provision for the enfranchisement of territories of the Commonwealth. Thus, the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to provide for the parliamentary representation of the Australian Capital Territory, and there is no reason that I can assign for denying that privilege. The case made out is unanswerable. State electorates in Western Australia which have only a small enrolment are: Canning, 13,151; Nedlands, 13,437; Mr Hawthorn, 12,394; YalgarnCoolgardie, 2,670; Mr Magnet, 2,227; Pilbara, 812; Kimberley, 597; and Roebourne, 492.
The intervention of the war has been given as a reason for delay in dealing with this matter. Fortunately, the war has now terminated. I therefore urge the Government to consider the matter immediately, and to bring down the necessary legislation, in the next sessional period. There are two methods by which the Australian Capital Territory could be given parliamentary representation, namely, that which applies to the Northern Territory, the member for which may speak on all subjects but may vote only on matters that affect that Territory, and full parliamentary representation. I am sun that, whilst preferring the adoption of the second method, the people of the Australian Capital Territory would be prepared provisionally to accept the first.
– I have listened with very keen interest to the various speeches that have been made. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the desirability of assisting relatives of servicemen, by issuing passes to them and furnishing information, so that they might readily proceed to the nearest capital or port to meet their returning sons, husbands ot brothers. I have, and the Government has, the greatest sympathy for these persons, and the greatest desire to help them. Recently, the Government of New South Wales decided to grant free passes to relatives to enable them to proceed to Sydney. I am certain that any action taken would have the support of all members, irrespective of the party to which they belong. I shall make a further reply to the honorable member as to what additional facilities may be provided, when the matter has been carefully examined.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has made certain allegations. In the first portion of hit speech, he referred to disposals bv the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, an organization which, under the Department of Supply and Shipping, dispose* of stocks of equipment that have been rendered obsolete or surplus as the result of the cessation of hostilities. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) who, I am sure, wilt order a searching investigation of the allegations. In the latter portion of his speech the honorable gentleman asked for an investigation of the charge that certain persons in Army workshops are disposing of motor cycle engines, &c. I assure the honorable member that this matter will be probed to the bottom, and that if any person is found guilty of disposing illegally of
Government property, prompt and decisive action will be taken against him.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked that more animal fats should be supplied to the United Kingdom. I am sympathetic towards any such request, hut as some misapprehension seems to exist regarding this matter I direct the attention of honorable members to a report on food consumption levels in Australia and the United Kingdom by a joint committee of officials of both countries. The con- s ititution of the committee is evidence of ehe thoroughness of its investigations, It consisted of -
Australia. - F. W. Clements, Commonwealth Department of Health, Canberra, Australia, Chairman Australian Nutrition Committee (leader of the Australian Representatives) ; Henry Priestley, Professor of Biochemistry, University of Sydney, Australia; J. C. Stephen, of the Bureau of Statistics and Census, Can- berra, Australia; 1. Butler, Chief Officer, Economic Secretariat, Commonwealth Food Control.
United Kingdom. - J. C. Drummond, Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Food (leader of the United Kingdom representatives) ; P. Or. H. Barter, Deputy Director of Statistics, Ministry of Food; Miss Dorothy F. Hollings- worth, of Reconstruction Division, Ministry of Pood; W, D. Stedman Jones, of Statistics and Intelligence Division, Ministry of Food; F. Northam, of Supply Plans Division, Ministry of Food.
The report shows that the position in regard to food supplies is not so unbalanced as some honorable members would have us believe. In a summary of the report relating to butter and other edible fats, it is stated -
In the United Kingdom, consumption of butter was 7.7 lb. and of margarine and other edible fats 35.2 lb. per head. Whilst in Australia the figures were 27.1 lb. and 13.0 lb., respectively.
Those figures show that people in the United Kingdom received 42.9 lb. of butter fat a year, compared with 40.7 lb. in Australia.
– The people of Australia get more butter than do the people of Great Britain.
– Yes, but taking butter and other edible fats as a whole, the people in Australia receive less than do the people in the United Kingdom. The summary continues -
The per capita consumption of the nutrient fat was almost identical in the two countries, namely, 122.9 lb. and 121.1 lb. in the United Kingdom and Australia, respectively.
The honorable member for Darwin also advocated that Australia should send sugar to the United Kingdom as a Christmas gift. Compliance with that request would not be easy because of transport difficulties. When the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, was in Great Britain last year he offered an additional 100,000 tons of sugar to the British Government, but that Government could not accept the offer because of a shortage of shipping. The same reason underlies the placing of a limit on the weight of parcels which may be sent to individuals in Great Britain. That limitation was imposed in order to ensure the most equitable distribution of foodstuffs to the people of Great Britain rather than that favoured individuals should receive more than others. Realizing the ordeal through which the people of the Old Country have passed and are passing, the Government is sympathetic to these requests, and it will further examine the position. If possible, 1 shall supply the honorable member for Darwin with further information regarding it next week. In the meantime,I hope that she will read the report to which I have referred.
Consideration will be given to the granting of parliamentary representation to residents of the Australian Capital Territory to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 151.
National Security Act -
National Security (Medical Coordination and Equipment) Regulations - Order - Emergency medical services (Army medical officers).
National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations- Orders - Nos. 103. 105.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 153.
House adjourned at 4.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were, circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Health has supplied the following answers: -
After that date, the registration of medical practitioners and the control of practice becomes entirely a matter for each State. Except in its own territories, the Commonwealth has no authority in the matter.
At the Conference of Ministers for Health of the Commonwealth and States on6-7th December, 1943, it was agreed that each Minister would take back to his Cabinet a recommendation that the registration of alien doctors who have been licensed during the war should be continued after the war. It is understood that in no State has this recommendation been adopted. In two States legislation provision exists for a limited and regional registration of alien doctors. 2 and 3. See answer to 1 above.
t asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It is quite possible that some calling points were not fully equipped to meet the greatly increased flying commitments, but, having regard to the extreme urgency of providing all assistance to prisoners of war, everything possible was done with limited facilities at some places. See also reply to 5.
The Royal Australian Air Force is Tendering every possible assistance and outstanding service (both within and outside the Australian area of responsibility) in the supply of medical, &c, stores, concentrating and evacuating prisoners of war under most difficult conditions. Many high tributes, have been paid to the excellent work being performed by the -Royal Australian Air Force in that connexion.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I and 2. A total of 64 (of which ten were fatal) which is dissected as follows: - In training units - Seven major accidents, nine fatalities; sixteen minor accidents, six injured, [n operational areas - Six major accidents, four fatalities; eighteen minor accidents, nine Injured. In non-training units in nonoperational areas - Five major accidents, twelve fatalities; twelve minor accidents, six injured.
Yes. (i) at refresher pools, a three months’ pool of aircrew personnel is being retained against the estimated requirements of garrison forces and the constantly changing commitments of the - transport squadrons. These personnel are, in the main, volunteers and are continuing flying to the extent necessary to keep them efficiently trained, (ii) Operational training units are completing the courses of volunteers who were under training on V-P Day. The aircrew personnel involved, together with certain others undergoing training as necessary, will be used to relieve tourexpired aircrew now serving in operational or northern areas.
Instructions have been issued to training units to delete those exercises now considered to_ be no longer necessary. The exercise of this power has been left to the discretion of onit commanders. In operational areas, the amount of flying is governed’ by. local conditions. Aircraft suitable for transport work are now doing more flying than before V-P Day, e.g., in the transportation of prisoners of war and repatriation of tour-expired personnel to southern personnel depots for discharge.
The instructions referred to are regarded »s being of a purely intra-service character and as such it would not be appropriate to make them available to the honorable member.
Ahmed Forces: Releases
n. - On the 14th. September the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) raised a number of matters regarding releases from the services.
Between August, 1943, and June, 1945, recommendations by the Man-power Directorate for release from the services of approximately 65,000 men were approved. It is true that a number of other recommendations were rejected by the services. However, for the current half-year provision has been made for 33,000 service personnel to be released on occupational grounds on the recommendation of the Man-power Directorate. Quotas based upon recommendations made by the War Commitments Committee have been allocated in each State for various industries. All recommendations which had been rejected by the services prior to July, 1945, have been reviewed and where such a course was deemed to be justified, new recommendations have been made to be included is the 33,000 referred to above.
The War: Japanese Surrender at KOEPANG
– On the 14th Septem-. ber, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question relating to the non-participation of Dutch service representatives in connexion with the Japanese surrender at Koepang.
I inform the honorable member that the procedure adopted with local surrenders by Japanese forces conformed to international practice, under which it was not normal for more than one commander to sign. The Tokyo capitulation was a general surrender to the representatives of all nations which had been engaged in war against Japan. For this reason eli the Allied representatives signed the instrument of surrender on direction from their Governments. All other surrenders were those of a defeated enemy in the field to their actual conquerors in the field and were military instruments. As supreme commander of the Allied forces, General MacArthur had designated who were to take the surrenders. In the case of Timor, the
Commander-in-Chief, Australian Military Forces, delegated this responsibility to Brigadier Dyke. The commander of the Dutch forces, Lieutenant-General van 0yen had been invited to attend the surrender ceremony at Morotai and was represented by his Chief-of-Staff, Major-General van Straten. At Timor, an officer nominated by General van Oyen was present at the ceremony. No request was received from the Dutch authorities to sign the surrender at either Morotai or Koepang.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the sales tax on soap for dog washing is 12) per cent., whilst the sales tax on toilet soap for washing babies is 25 per cent, t
– Toilet soap for whatever purpose used is subject to sales tax at 25 per cent, under the’ Third Schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, Soap which cannot be classified as toilet soap is subject to the general rate of 12-J per cent., and this rate applies to soaps used for all general purposes including all household washing as well as the washing of animals.
Field Peas BOARD
e. - During the debate on the estimates for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture last night, the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked for information which I promised to obtain concerning the Field Peas Board.
This board is still operating. The reason why no provision is made for it in the estimates is that the cost of its administration is borne from the proceeds of sales of blue peas. The amount of £90,195, spent during 1944-45, covered the payment of compensation resulting from the High Court decision that the Commonwealth should have paid, in respect of the 1942-43 season, a price higher than that determined, and also the writing off of seed debts owed by growers whose crops, failed during the previous season.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450928_reps_17_185/>.