18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hoa. 7. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I -present a petition from 623 citizens of Barraba and district, in New South Wales,”’ praying that immediate steps be taken to make available payments of sustenance money to ex-prisoners of war and the dependants of deceased prisoners of war at the rate of 3s. a day for the total period of their incarceration by the Japanese, such payments to bo met from reparation money due for payment by ihe Japanese Government.
Petition received and read.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to give to the House in regard to the charges -which the honorable member for Wentworth made recently in this House. concerning the quantity of luggage that had been brought into Australia by public servants returning from abroad?
– On the 8th May, the honorable member for Wentworth asked for information regarding public servants who, returning to Australia from America, had brought with them luggage exceeding 1 ton in weight. On the 13th May, the Minister for Trade and Customs replied that if the honorable member could furnish a reference to the case or cases which . he had in mind, he would obtain . and supply to bin the details sought. Speaking on the motion for the ad journment of the House on the evening of the 13th May, the honorable member for Wentworth supplied some particulars of three instances in which public servants returning from .me.rica had brought with them personal luggage exceeding 1 ton in weight. The Minister for Trade and Customs has had inquiries made. With the aid of the information given by the honorable member for Wentworth, on that evening, he has been able to ascertain the circumstances in each case, and has asked mc to inform the House accordingly
The first case mentioned apparently refers to Mr. L. C. Scarborough, who was appointed to the Australian War Supplies Procurement staff in March, 1941, by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The conditions of his appointment provided that both he and his wife would be sent to New York and returned to Melbourne at public expense. Having been resident in America for about four years, they returned to Australia in Mirrabooka, which arrived at Sydney on. the 3rd June, 1945. Their personal luggage, consisting of ten cases and six barrels, was returned on Trevanian. These packages were entered at the Melbourne Customs House on Import Entry No. 1650, dated the 23rd August, 1945*. A statutory declaration waa furnished at the same time by Mr. Scarborough to the effect that- the luggage consisted of personal effects and second-hand household effects. The luggage was inspected by a customs officer, and found to be in accordance with the declaration.
The second case to which the honorable member apparently refers is that of Mr. F. J. Marcusson, who, in June, 1945, was transferred to America. Before leaving Australia, Mr. Marcusson sold all his furniture, and as it was intended that he should stay for three or four years in America, he and his wife and daughter set up home there. Due to the reduction in staff of Australian War Supplies Procurement in America, following the termination of the war, it later became necessary to transfer Mr. Marcusson to Australia. The luggage for himself, his wife and daughter was sent to Australia on Whistler, and was landed at Sydney. It consisted of seven cases of household and personal effects, which were entered at the Customs House, Sydney, and a statutory declaration made regarding those goods which were entered as household effects.
The third case seems to refer to Mr. P. J. Winspur, who was appointed to the staff of Australian War Supplies Procurement in America. The then Minister for Trade and Customs, Senator Keane, and the Public Service Board approved of the removal to Australia, at public expense, of Mr. Winspur, his wife and child when his services were no longer required in America. The luggage for the three of them was despatched to Australia on City of Capetown, and consigned to Melbourne. As the ship is not due in Melbourne until the 25th May, 1947, details regarding the luggage will not be available until that time. However, Mr. Winspur has been living in America for six or seven years and, therefore, sixteen cases of household and personal effects do not, in the circumstances, appear to he an undue amount of luggage. It is regrettable that the honorable member for Wentworth, when asking these questions, should have, by innuendo-
– The Minister may not debate the matter.
– I rise to order. Proceedings in this House are governed by the .Standing Orders, .and by recognized precedents which you, Mr. Speaker, have very rigorously and justly upheld. The procedure just now adopted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) was nothing more or less than a subterfuge-
– Order ! If the honorable member takes a point of order, he may not debate the question.
– The precedents of the House are being by-passed.
– What is the point of order ?
– My point of order is that the precedents .and Standing Orders of the House are being by-passed, and I will say how. Honorable members from either side of the House have the right to ask questions on notice, or without notice. The practice has been that if a Minister could not immediately reply to a question, the reply was tabled in the House at some subsequent time. Now, instead of tabling the reply, the Minister gets another honorable member to ask him a question relating to the same matter. Such a practice is entirely out of order, and should not be allowed.
– This matter arose yesterday. For some years past, the practice has been growing of Ministers replying to questions some days after they were asked, when there were other methods by which. the information might be conveyed to the House. I stopped that practice, I thought, by ruling that, in these circumstances, a Minister should ask for leave of the House to reply. I pointed out yesterday when a similar instance occurred and an honorable member had asked directly on that day for information, that the Standing Orders do not prevent the Minister from giving an answer. A similar incident has happened again to-day. If the House wishes to remedy the position, the Standing Orders will have to be amended. While the Standing Orders remain as they are I shall continue to administer them.
Dismissal of Officers - -PRIMARY Producers’” Requirements.
– During a debate in the House on Wednesday last, the Attorney-General, in dealing with dismissals from the Prices Branch, is reported to have said -
The facts in the matter are that the Prices Branch recently commenced inquiries, in cooperation with the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, in relation to four officers of the Prices Branch. These four officers subsequently tendered their resignations to the Prices Branch, and they were accepted.
J.’ have received a telegram from _ one of the officers concerned, Mr. Leslie R. Horsey, which reads as follows : -
Protest untrue statement by Dr. Evatt allegedly reported Sydney newspapers concerning resignation. In my possession notice of dismissal signed Herlihhy, D.P.C.
– I received a telegram similar in terms from Mr. Horsey complaining of what I had said. During the debate I did not mention his name or the names of any of the other men concerned. Mr. Horsey’s telegram indicated that his services had been terminated. I accept the position that there was a, termination of his services. That, however, had nothing to do with the point raised in the debate, which was that, when inquiries were approaching finality, the references to the inquiries made by the honorable member for Wentworth had tended to interfere with their completion. As to Mr. Horsey’s position, T accept the facts as stated in his telegram. The Minister for Trade and Customs informed me last night that there had been a termination of the services of these men. They were temporary and not permanent public servants. In each case there ‘wap a termination of services and not resigna tion. I was in error, and I am glad that the honorable member has given me an opportunity to correct it.
– Does the Prime Minister know .that earlier this year the then Acting Prices Commissioner Mr. H. E. Bishop, intimated that the increase of the basic wage would affect primary producers, requirements of such items as wire, nails, wire netting, and fencing wire, by, in some instances, up to 60 and 75 per cent.? In view of that increase and other increases in the costs of the requirements of primary producers, will he consider .the appointment of an authoritative body to make a speedy report on what are reasonable prices, having regard to cost, profit, capital and other conditions ? If so, will he arrange that the body be constituted in such ‘a way as to safeguard the interests of the States and to preserve the principles of producer representation in all its inquiries ?
– I do not remember any particular statement by Mr. Bishop. When the Prices Commissioner, Mr. McCarthy, was ill, Mr. Bishop temporarily replaced him. The sub-committee of the Cabinet that reviewed the position at the time of the increase of the basic wage by 7s. a week gave a general indication of policy to Mr. Bishop. That was the proper thing to do in all the economic circumstances. After :the meeting, Mr. Bishop issued a statement. The policy intimated to Mr. Bishop has been carried out. I will not delay the business of the House by covering everything dealt with or the general principles laid down. It is known bv honorable members that the Prices Commissioner operates under powers given to him by regulations. Some of the information supplied to him in the course of his operations is not even available to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is ministerial head of the Prices Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs, or, indeed, to me. . It is thought desirable that that should be so. No one should be in ‘a position to use in any argument information about purely private business affairs supplied by business men. I will examine his suggestion and see if it contains anything that would warrant an investigation of the kind he has asked for, but I do not at the moment see any need for it.
Cane Cutting Knives
– Several weeks ago the honorable member for Moreton asked me a question relating to the alleged shortage of cane-cutting knives for sugar growers in Queensland. I am in possession of information of the most valuable character. If the House will grant me leave, I am prepared to furnish the information for the information of the honorable member.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No !
– Well, the honorable member will not get the answer.
– I have it already, and it is not worth anything.
– I hope there was no prior arrangement between the Minister
Andthe honorable member for Moreton.
– No, sir.
Supplies of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement credited to Mr. Keith Butler, manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Newcastle, about the shortage of coal which, I think he said was the greatest for 33 years. The present shortage has resulted in the closing down of batteries of coke ovensand other sections of the plant. Has the Prime Minister been in communication with Mr. Butler ? If not, will he do so through the Joint Coal Board in order to ascertain whether a greater allocation of coal can be made to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other industries?
– I have not seen any statement by Mr. Keith Butler, manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle, but I wasinformed by the Minister for Supply and Shipping that the position was difficult as regards coal supplies for not only the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but also Stewarts and ‘Lloyds (Australia) Pro prietary Limited and other plants at Newcastle. The difficulty arises, of course, principally from the industrial trouble at the Burwood Colliery and another colliery. Every effort was made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Joint Coal Board to overcome the difficulty. I understand from further inquiries this morning that as the production of coal is now better than it was last week, further consideration is being given to the closing down of the works of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I understand that the most difficult position is at the works of Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited. The Minister for Supplyand Shipping and the Joint Coal Board are doing everything possible to alleviate the position.
Prices in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Will the Minister representing the Ministerfor Trade and Customs provide me with information disclosing whether fruit sold in the Australian Capital Territory is subject to prices control ? To explain what I mean, I noticed at Kingston this morning that the retail price of apples of good quality was1s. 2d. per lb., which is equivalent to £2 6s. 8d. a bushel case. That is a high price. In addition, the price of grapes was1s. 8d. per lb., which is equivalent to £186 14s. 3d. a ton. For the best Gordo grapes the price fixed by the Commonwealth for the wineries is about £6 a ton. Will the Minister ascertain whether prices control, like so many other matters, does not apply alongside the head-quarters of those responsible for its administration?
– I shall be glad to obtain the information which the honorable member requires, and if I am not granted leave to read a prepared statement in reply to his question I shall give a verbal answer.
– In view of the concern of relatives of servicemen who lost their lives in Malaya and Thailand, can the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior inform me of the progress which theWar Graves Commission is making in its muchappreciated work in those countries?
– Malaya and Thailand are under the control of not the Anzac agency, but the Imperial War Graves Commission. I shall ask the SecretaryGeneral of the Anzac agency, whose head office is in Melbourne, to obtain from the ImperialWar Graves Commission the information which the honorable member requires.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that modern developments in acoustics enable hearing aids to be provided for deaf children ? Is he also aware that the British Government proposes to supply portable hearing aids to all deaf children in that country? Will he make a sympathetic examination of this matter for the purpose of ascertaining whether we in Australia can follow that example ?
– When I was in London I discussed briefly with the responsible authorities their proposals for providing hearing aids not only for deaf children, but also for deaf adults. I understand that the British Minister for Health, Mr. Aneurin Bevin, intends to make provision, in the general health scheme for Great Britain, for deaf persons to receive hearing aids at a cost of approximately £10 sterling. The existing price is considerably in excess of that figure. I am not aware that any special provision is being made in Great Britain for deaf children. Officers of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services are now in London discussing the matter of reciprocal benefits between countries constituting the British Empire, and I shall ask the Minister for Social Services to give sympathetic consideration to the honorable member’s questions.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as stated in a report from London in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, and attributed to the Geneva correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, that Australia’s attitude towards its own protective tariffs has contributed towards the. “ complete impasse “ in discussions with the United States delegation at the international trade talks. Can the right honorable gentleman give an assurance to the House that Australia is not delaying the trade talks by refusing to lower its tariffs on manufactured goods of the United States of America and other nations?
– The international trade negotiations at Geneva, including requests from Australia to other countries and from other countries to Australia, in regard to tariffs have been the subject of long consideration by a special Cabinet sub-committee, which had advising it an important inter-departmental committee. This matter has been the subject of many meetings during the last twelve months. At some periods two meetings a week have been held. It would not be possible, in answering the question, to cover all the ground, for the subject is most complex. The Cabinet subcommittee has conveyed information to our trade delegation at Geneva regarding the maximum concessions that Australia can make not only to the United States of America, but also to the United Kingdom and the fourteen other countries associated in the discussion. The determination of the maximum length to which Australia can go in these matters, having regard to its own economy, involves many complex considerations in regard to what we can give to other countries and what other countries can give to us. The Government is not prepared to make concessions without getting some reciprocal benefit. Australia has not been responsible for delaying the general discussions and negotiations at Geneva. A difficult problem has arisen in regard to wool, and I shall not go into it at length now. We regard wool as very important. It is, of course, our most important exportable primary commodity and, in our view, it is essential that there should be a freer use of wool throughout the world. The United States of America, and some other countries, allow the cheaper types of wool, the poorer grades and long staple wools free entry. I understand that the greater proportion of New Zealand wool has free entry into the United States of America.
– That is not true.
– It is true of a considerable proportion of the New Zealand clip. South African wool is of finer grade and it has to meet the same bar that applies to Australian wools. These issues cannot be discussed at great length in reply to a question. No aspect of the subject has been overlooked. In endeavouring to determine the arrangements which we are prepared to enter into with other countries to ensure a freer trade throughout the world, and having regard to the importance of the matter in the economy of this country, the smallest details are being taken into consideration.
PURCHASE of Vessels.
– I notice a report in today’s press that the Prime Minister is again considering establishing a Commonwealth Government line of steamers. If this is a fact, will the right honorable gentleman indicate what steps he proposes to take to protect public moneys that may he invested in the project, so that our former experience, when the Commonwealth line of steamers was practically given away, will not be repeated? What guarantee will the taxpayers have that if another line of steamers is acquired the ships may not later be practically given away?
– Yesterday afternoon the Minister for Supply and Shipping and I received a deputation of representatives of the shipowners. They desired, generally speaking, to he apprised of the Government’s policy in regard to the de-requisitioning of ships that had been operated by the Commonwealth in pursuance of war-time arrangements. Other matters raised were, shipbuilding in Australia; the price which possibly will have to be paid for ships because of higher costs, having regard to the cost of construction in the United States of America; and freights. United Kingdom and, perhaps, the They said, I believe with justification, that inevitably, due to increasing costs, freight rates will have to be increased or a. subsidy will have to be paid by the
Government. I did not give them a direct answer on that matter, because it is the subject of a special inquiry. They also asked whether it was likely that the Government would engage in interstate seaborne trade with its own vessels. 1 replied that possibly it was, but I should not be able to announce the policy of the Government until it had been finally determined, and I was merely giving my impression of what might happen. I believe that other matters also were raised. My reply to the latter portion of the question is that nobody can guarantee what a future Parliament will do. That matter will be governed by the views that are held by those whom the people elect to the Parliament as the Government of the country.
– Will the Prime
Minister state whether the Government has reached a decision in regard to the objection by the Government of South Australia to complete control of possible sources of atomic power being handed over to the Commonwealth? Will the right honorable gentleman assure the House that any decision will safeguard the rights of those States which wish to ensure that such sources of future power shall be available for industrial purposes ?
– The honorable member knows that legislation has been passed by this Parliament giving to the Commonwealth certain powers in respect of the minerals in question. I indicated some time ago, that Mr. Playford had submitted to the Commonwealth requests in relation to certain matters. The Minister for Supply and Shipping, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister for the Army and I met Mr. Playford in Canberra, and he submitted certain proposals to us. They did not very greatly impress me personally, having regard to the need generally for nation-wide control of these minerals, and the possibility that they will be required for military use in the years that lie ahead. An agendum has been submitted to Cabinet on behalf of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, whose department controls mining projects, and the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which body is responsible for scientific investigations. Until a decision has been reached on that, agendum, I shall not be able to give any indication of Government policy. However, that decision should be reached very shortly. I shall then endeavour to let the honorable member have a complete answer.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a press message from Melbourne which states that the Women’s interstate executive of the Australian Labour party has asked the Commonwealth Government to investigate the subject of marriage loans? In view of the fact that the right honorable gentleman mentioned this matter in the policy speech that he delivered prior to the last Commonwealth general elections, can he inform me why the Social Security Committee of this Parliament, which could inquire in’.o marriage loans and similar matters, is not functioning? Did the Leader of the Opposition refuse to co-operate in the constitution of a joint committee on social security? In view of the extravagant promises that were made by the Opposition at the last Commonwealth general elections, can the Prime Minister explain the strange reluctance of the two parties which compose it to help the Government in any way in regard to the provision of social security for the people ?
– I have not seen the press message mentioned. Some examination has been made: of the subject of marriage: loans by officers of my department and the Department of Social Services. I understand that some difficulty was experienced in constituting a, social security committee of this Parliament. Every party is entitled to exercise the right to determine whether or not it shall be represented on any parliamentary committee;, and I offer no comment on the merits or de-merits of any failure to co-operate in the constitution of a. committee.. I assume that thehonorable member considers’ that the matter should be examined as early as possible. That will be done;
– In view of the Government’s intention to extend for a. year the potato marketing, scheme, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, give the assurance, that rising costs of production will be taken into account when determining the contract price for the forthcoming year, particularly the increased costs of sacks and. fertilizers,?
– As the honorable member knows, the growers of the: potato crop that is now being produced are under contract to sell at a certain price. It; is possible that, during the digging of the current season’s Crop; consideration will have: to be given to the increased price of sacks that will have to be paid by those who need them. That matter will be examined. When the contract for the forthcoming season is entered into it will be a firm contract; but, in the event of anything unforeseen happening which will have a definite influence on the contract price, I am sure that, being a matter of government policy, it will be examined in the light of all the knowledge which the Government has.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement attributed to Mr. T. G. Paterson, federal secretary of the Australian Automobile. Association, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, the 22nd May, to the effect that comparable retail prices- of petrol, excluding the- petrol tax, ar.e l£d.. a gallon more in Australia, than, in New Zealand for the same quality- spirit from substantially the same sources; that, this additional impost coats Australian road transport £1,500,000 a year; and that’ the Australian Automobile Association has yet to receive a. satisf actory statement, as to whether this amount has been “ tucked away “ into a secret fund cr represents uneconomical handling charges? .Since road transportation accounts for 75 per cent, of Australia’s total transport economy, that the retail price of petrol, 2s. 4-Jd. a gallon in capita] cities, is appallingly high, and that the cost of living is, inflated by such uneconomical methods, will the Prime Minister indicate whether Mr. Paterson’.* statement is factual and’, if it is, will the’ right honorable gentlemen take immediate steps to have the retail price of petrol in Australia reduced to, say, 2s. 3’d. a gallon?
– I have not seen the statement mentioned by the honorable member, but I have had conversations with Mr. Paterson from time to time in regard to a number of problems, which, in some degree, touch the matters which she has raised. The most that I can do at the moment is to promise the honorable member that I shall consider the matters she has raised and try to let her have full information later. I cannot give any guarantee in regard to the price of petrol or anything else.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a bill for am act. to amend the Coinage Act. 1009-1936.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give authority to the Treasurer to issue Australian: silver coins containing a reduced silver content. At present, our silver coinage contains 92£ per cent, fine silver. The- balance of 7i per cent, consists of alloy, a mixture of copper, zinc and tin This, bill provides, in lieu of the present provisions of the Coinage Act, for the issue of silver coinage of 50 per cent, fine silver, the- balance being, alloy. The reason fon the alteration is the increase of the price of silver.
The Australian price of silver is based on the London price. Before the war, the London price was 2s. 1 1/2 d. sterling per fine oz., the equivalent Australian price being 2s: 7£d. In September, 1945, a rise of price in the United States of America forced the London price to 3s. 8d. sterling per fine oz., which was. equal to 4s. 7£d. per fine oz. in Australian currency. A further increase of price in the United States’ of America in August, 1946:, sent: the London price to 4s. 7£d. sterling, or 5s. 9£d. Australian currency, and we were paying this price for our silver bullion until early in February, when the price fell to 4s: 7d. Australian. Towards the end of February, the’ Australian price rose again to 4s. 9£d. Since then, the price has fluctuated, and the present Australian price is- about 4s.. aid.
The increase was due to action taken to raise- the price of silver’ in the United States of America. This action was influenced no doubt by the “ silver bloc “ States, which desired to lift the priceeventually to over a dollar per oz. But the increased price brought repercussions, notably from the United Kingdom and India, which caused a halt, followed by a decrease of the price. The Government, of the United Kingdom began to use cupro-nicol instead of silver for making coins.
Some action is now necessary to adjust the silver content of our coinage and the Government has decided to adopt 50 per cent, silver as the basis of the new silver coinage. This basis is the same as that currently adopted in New Zealand, and is the same as that which was adopted in the United Kingdom for many years.
I believe that coinage with a silver content of 50 per cent, should give ns adequate protection, particularly as the price of silver has steadied somewhat. Moreover, a reduction of the silver content of our coinage will assist us to build up the stock 6f 11,000,000’ oz. which we obtained from the United States for coinage purposes during the war. This quantity must be returned within a period of five years from the date when the President of the United States declares the war emergency to have ended.
We are buying- practically the whole of our local production which is available after allowing- for demands of industry. This is roughly 6,000,000’ oz. per annum, and any amount not required for coinage will be used to build up a reserve to meet our obligation to the United States. For a time, of course, the new silver coins will circulate with the old ones, but the latter will gradually be withdrawn- and melted down to provide bullion for the new issue-. Sample coins of the new minting- show that their appearance; is little different from that of the existing coinage, and technical advice is that they will wear well.
During the war, there was not enough silver in Australia to meet the demand for silver coinage. Even our minting capacity was not sufficient to produce enough coins. Before the war, the value of silver coins in circulation in Australia was £9,500,000; now it is £26,500,000. It was found necessary to arrange with th e Government of the United States of America to obtain silver from that country, and to have it minted there into our coinage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Abbott) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian. National University Act 1946.
. -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a machinery measure, but it is important to those who are, or will be, employed by the National University. Under section 27(t) of the National University Act, provision was made for “a scheme of superannuation”. The interim council of the University has found from its early experience that more than one arrangement for superannuation will, however, be required. The council finds that most, if not all, of its academic and scientific staff will be covered by what is known as the F.S.S.U. Federated Superannuation Scheme for Universities a British and Australian scheme evolved by the universities, and a group of insurance bodies to which most scholars and scientists coming to the National University will already belong, and will want to continue to belong.
However, the office and administrative staff, and some of the technical staff, cannot be provided for under that scheme. It is proposed that they should come under the Commonwealth superannuation’ scheme. Provision will be made under the existing Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1922-47 for the National University to be proclaimed an approved authority for the purpose of that, act, and members of the staff of the university to come under that act will be gazetted from to time. This, incidentally, will enable members of the Commonwealth Public Service who join the office or other staff of the National University to continue unbroken their membership of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. Moreover, an amending superannuation bill shortly to be brought down will include provision for similar continuity of superannuation rights in the case of a State public servant joining the university staff in much the same way as did State taxation officers on transferring to the Commonwealth Service after the uniform tax scheme was adopted. The sole purpose of the present amending bill is to permit a dual superannuation arrangement to be made by the National University so that all members of its staff can he covered.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat- Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture) [11.21]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under existing legislation the excise duty on beer is paid by the use of stamps hearing monetary denominations purchased from the Department of Trade and Customs. Upon delivery of beer from. a. brewery, the stamps are required to be affixed to vessels containing beer with respect to bulk beer and to the prescribed cart note with respect to bottled beer. The Beer Excise Act provides that the stamps may be bought at their face value. Consequently, stamps are provided in various monetary denominations, the value of each stamp being determined by the rate of duty on each gallon of beer in force at the time of removal of the beer from the brewery and the number of gallons covered thereby. Whenever a change in the excise duty on beer takes place, considerable time and labour are involved in surcharging stocks of unsold stamps on hand. The use of stamps showing denominations in gallons would obviate the need for surcharging stocks of unsold stamps on hand when changes in the duty are made, and would fully meet the requirements in collecting the duty and safeguardingthe revenue. It is proposed, therefore, to amend section 26 of the Beer Excise Act to provide for the stamps to be purchased for an amount equal to the duty payable, at the rate of duty in force at the time of purchase, on the number of gallons shown on the stamps, and thus permit of the omission from the stamps of a monetary denomination.
The next matter with which the bill deals concerns the exportation of beer. The Beer Excise Act as it now stands provides that the duty must be paid before the removal of beer from a brewery or from a delivery store connected with a brewery. As a result, when beer is exported, the brewer must first pay the duty and subsequently claim drawback for the amount involved. As will be realized, this is a cumbersome procedure, involving the outlay of money by brewers and a considerable amount of superfluous work for both the exporter and the Department of Trade and Customs in dealing with, drawback claims. Provision exists in the relative acts for all other excisable goods to be exported under bond by means of export entries, and there is no reason why the procedure should not apply to beer also. Honorable members will note that the drawback provisions of the act remain in force and can be availed of by any exporter who so desires, but the additional avenue for exportation under bond will facilitate the business of the exporter, and, in no small measure, assist in the administration of the act.
A further matter dealt with in the bill is the delivery of beer for consumption in Australia, which is non-dutiable in accordance with the provisions of the Excise Tariff. The Excise Tariff makes provision for the delivery of beer free of duty for certain purposes, but the act in its present form makes no similar provision. This creates an anomalous position, and the amendment provides clear legislation by which the Excise Tariff can be implemented.
There is also the question of dilution of beer. It is an offence under section 60 of the Beer Excise Act for any person to add any liquid to beer after its removal from a brewery with fraudulent intent to increase its bulk. The maximum penalty prescribed for such an offence is £20. The watering of beer constitutes a fraud against the revenue and against the consumer, and it is considered that the penalty provided is inadequate, particularly as such offences are extremely difficult to detect. In order to protect the revenue against frauds of this kind and, incidentally, to protect the public as well, the maximum penalty provided should not, it is considered, be less than £100, and it is proposed to raise the maximum penalty to that sum.
I commend the bill to honorable members as a most desirable measure, as it will overcome difficulties of administration, provide additional facilities to exporters ofbeer and make it unprofitable for a person to defraud the revenue by diluting beer.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports-
Minister for Labour and National Service) [11.25]. - I move -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Quarantine Act 1908-24 in several particulars, which, for convenience, may be grouped into two parts, one dealing with human, and the other with animal quarantine.Clause 6 of the bill refers to quarantine of humans, and is designed to confer on quarantine officers additional power to control the movements of travellers from overseas, who may be a menace to health, until it is established that they are not infected with any serious communicable disease. The Quarantine Act provides that an oversea vessel or aircraft arriving in Australia is subject to quarantine and remains so subject until pratique has been granted. Any person who is, or has been, on board such a vessel or aircraft is also subject to quarantine, but ceases to be so subject when pratique has been granted to the vessel. The act empowers quarantine officers to vaccinate or inoculate oversea travellers only whilst they are “ subject to quarantine “. Travellers who refuse to submit to this process may be prosecuted ; conviction involve) only a monetary penalty.
Immediately after arrival of an aircraft at a first port of entry in Australia a quarantine officer enters the aircraft and examines each person on board. If no one presents any evidence of disease, if there are no suspicious circumstances, and each traveller has a certificate of successful vaccination against smallpox, pratique is granted to the aircraft, and travellers are then free to land and go where they will. There may, however, be a passenger who has spent the previous week in, say, Calcutta, where small-pox is rife, and who cannot satisfy the quarantine officer that he is protected against small-pox. This person may actually be incubating the disease, but shows no evidence of it and may not -do so until several days later. The present law stipulates that he shall be vaccinated, but it does not provide for him to be kept in quarantine or under surveillance unless pratique is withheld from the aircraft. The quarantine officer may, therefore, be faced with a decision as to whether he should withhold .pratique, to the great inconvenience of all travellers on board, or grant pratique and risk the entry into Australia of a person about whose freedom from quarantinable disease he may have a doubt. The amendment proposed by the bill will remove this difficulty by enabling him to grant pratique but place in quarantine or under .surveillance a traveller about whose freedom from disease he may have doubts. I mention at this point that section 84 of the act states that a quarantine officer who maliciously, and without reasonable cause, orders any vessel, person, goods, animal or plants into quarantine is guilty of an indictable offence, for which a penalty of two years imprisonment is provided. The vast increase of air traffic from overseas into Australia has drawn attention _ to the necessity for this amendment, which will strengthen the hands of those who are entrusted with the responsibility of guarding Australia against the introduction of diseases which do not exist in this country. The bulk of overseas air traffic originates in, or traverses, the very countries, in Asia especially, where smallpox, cholera, plague and typhus are so prevalent.
Because Australia is an island, and far from other lands, it is in a unique position to provide an effective quarantine guard against importation of disease. The effectiveness of this barrier may be gauged by our freedom down the years from the major quarantinable diseases. On rare occasions some of them have gained a foothold here, but they have always been eradicated. For about a quarter of a century none of these diseases has passed our quarantine barrier, although on many occasions they have been detected on vessels arriving at our seaboard. Australia and New Zealand are the only countries of considerable area in the world completely free of small-pox, cholera, plague and epidemic typhus, diseases which cause tremendous loss of life and efficiency in other lands.
Sir Andrew Balfour, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a foremost authority on public health, referred to Australia’s quarantine service as “possibly the most advanced and efficient in the world “, and no less an authority than Sir William Macgregor, physician, colonial administrator, explorer, author and former Governor of Queensland, stated that “In Australia, quarantine safeguards are established on a firm and scientific basis “. Australia may take pride in this international reputation, but the greatest satisfaction of those responsible for our happy position is to know that their efforts have helped to keep our country free from these scourges.
Until comparatively recent years our quarantine defences have had to operate only with respect to comparatively slow moving maritime traffic. The advent of air traffic has introduced a new factor into the problem. No longer can we rely on the lapse of time, involved in a sea passage from port to port to assist us in our efforts. A traveller may be in Calcutta to-day and in Sydney within :a few days and even this speed of travel may be soon eclipsed. Air travel has speeded international communication to such a degree that it is possible for a person infected with small-pox or other exotic disease to arrive in Australia during the incubation period and, unless adequate precautions existed, to traverse the length and breadth of the land before the disease becomes manifest. Such a happening could cause a major disaster in this country. Medical, science has provided, in prophylactic vaccination and inoculations, a means of protecting individuals against infection with certain diseases. The most important bulwark in Australia’s protection against the eventuality I have indicated is strict insistence on travellers themselves being protected against these diseases by proven prophylactic measures.
Clauses’ 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 of this bill relate to animal quarantine, and, in the main, are designed to embody in the Quarantine Act, powers which it w.as found necessary to grant under National Security (Control of Animal Diseases) Regulations during the war years, and which are, at present, contained in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1.946. During- the war years the abnormal shipping, conditions vastly increased the risk of introduction into Australia of animal diseases. This increased risk drew attention to certain omissions from the legislation which were rectified temporarily by regulations under the National Security Act which the bill now proposes to incorporate in permanent legislation. To illustrate the real danger to . which Australia is exposed in this respect, I shall mention some of the animal diseases against which protection is needed. Rabies, or hydrophobia, is a frightful scourge, and Australia is the only continent which is completely free of it. It is: widespread in Asia, Africa,, the Americas and in many parts of Europe. All mammalian animals can be infected with rabies, but carnivorous animals, chiefly dogs, are the main source of infection. Dogs are also the principal means by which humans become infected with rabies. Encephalomyelitis occurs in horses and allied species. This disease may be transferred from animal to animal, to many varieties of birds, and to- man, by insect vectors, mosquitoes being the commonest. This disease does not exist in Australia, but is prevalent overseas, notably in north and south America and in parts of Asia. The names, at least, of rinderpest and foot and mouth disease are known to most Australians. If these diseases became established in this country, they would cause chaos in our animal production. Both are highly infectious and are spread by animal contact and by animal products and contaminated materials. In 1923, Western Australia had an experience of rinderpest, fortunately confined to a small area and. eventually eradicated. As a result of this experience a prohibition was placed on the importation into any port in Australia of all clovenfooted animals unless they were for regulated importation. However, some difficulty has always been experienced in dealing with cases in which this prohibition was flouted.
Ship’s pets, such as monkeys, dogs, cats and various birds are required by regulations to be kept in confinement while a ship is in Australian ports. If these regulations are not observed, the ship’s master is liable to prosecution. Such prosecution, however, does not render the animal any less menacing to Australia’s animal health, and power is sought to have such animals seized and destroyed if they are not securely confined on board. This power existed under National Security (Control of Animal Diseases) Regulations Nos. 9 and 10, and it- is considered that it was largely responsible for the effective way in which serious animal disease was prevented from gaining entry here during the war years. The bill provides for the permanent retention of .this power, so that Australia may be preserved from the tremendous economic loss which would result from the introduction of diseases of the type I have mentioned.
This bill will enable the quarantine service to maintain a closer guard against introduction of those diseases which have never become established in this country, but which are a constant threat to the national health and economy. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass- Minister for
Repatriation) [11.38]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act at various points, mainly in consequence of the decision of the Government to increase the pensions of certain classes of members of the forces, and widows of members who have died as a result of war service. The increase will be, in each case, 5s. a week, similar to the amount of the increase to age and invalid pensioners, and widows within the scope of the Commonwealth scheme for widows under the bill to consolidate the social services legislation.
Members in receipt of service pension will participate in the increase. Service pensions are really a scheme of age and invalid pensions for members of the forces. Theprovisions are more liberal, in certain respects, than those of the civilian scheme, but generally the provisions of both must necessarily conform to each other,and the provisions of the Repatriation Act relating to service pensions contain both direct and indirect references to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Tha t act is to be repealed and replaced by suitable provisions in Part III. of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and therefore, apart from the increase of service pensions, it is necessary to effect other amendments to the Repatriation Act to bring the references into conformity with the new legislation relating toage and invalid pensions.
The increases will apply, of course, to the same classes of pensioners of both World War I., and World War II., as the pension provisions are common to both wars, including the material alterations which weremade by the amending net of 1943. Except for the amendment made last August whereby modifications were made to the provisions relating to income and property of service pensioners, the act has not been before Parliament since the general revision in 1943. Now that the demobilization of the forces is practically completed, it will be fitting to give honorable members a resume of the activities of the Repatriation Department arising out of the war. My purpose is mainly to show what has been done for those engaged since 1939, but I ask honorable members to keep in mind that, all through, the welfare of members and dependants of members of World War I. has been attended to, with but little dislocation, by the Repatriation Commission along with the heavy task of administering the responsibilities which were assigned to the commission in respect of World War II. in the way of re-establishment, pensions, medical treatment, and other measures for the welfare of members and their dependants.
The act was amended in 1940 to extend the pension provisions and the existing general benefits to the forces of World War II., and in 1941, regulations were made for the purpose of assisting members back into employment. These regulations were the first direct reestablishment measure; they provided for unemployment sustenance, the granting of tools of trade and payment of fares when the member was placed. In 1942, a parliamentary committee consisting of members of both Houses and of all political parties gave exhaustive consideration to the existing repatriation legislation and as to what further measures should be adopted by the Government, and undertaken by the commission in the way of re-establishment of members of the forces. As the result of the committee’s report, the act was substantially revised, and the regulations were completely re-written so as to include new benefits and to effect general improvement of existing provisions. The main alterations effected to the act were a general increase in all classes of pensions; a widening of the grounds relating to eligibility for pension; a generous interpretation of the provisions in the case of a doubt as to entitlement to pension; the inclusion, as pension, of certain allowances previously payable under regulation; and modification of conditions attaching to pensions.
The new benefits provided in the regulations were as follows : -
Plans for a general scheme of reestablishment were commenced at about this time, and were eventually laid down in the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. Under that measure, the commission was charged with the administration of business loans, reemployment allowances, and allowances to apprentices during the completion of apprenticeship all of which were previously covered in the repatriation regulations. Loans for agricultural occupations, previously administered by the commission, were continued for a little longer, until the director of War Service Land Settlement was in a position to undertake them under the new act.
Figures show the extent of the commission’s activities in respect of the reestablishment of members in World War II. and their dependants. I shall give the figures to the nearest round number. They relate to the position at the end of April last.
The ordinary work of the department has continued steadily, as figures show. They relate only to members in World War II. and their dependants. With the permission of the House, I shall incorporate them in Hansard -
As at the end of March, 1947 -
No. of claims (members and dependants) -422,200.
No. of grants (members and dependants) -242,830.
No. in force (members and dependants) -224,580.
To cope with the additional work, the staff of the department has been increased considerably. At the end of March, 1939, the total staff was 1748, of that number 743 being engaged on administrative work, and the remainder, 1,005, on the staff of the hospitals and other institutions controlled by the commission. At
I he end of March, “l947, the position was: administrative, 3,720, of whom 1,661 were classified, and 1.609 temporary employees; institutions, 4.308, of whom 1,350 were classified, and 2,958 temporary employees, a total of 7,578. Further increases since then are being made as the commission takes over the military hospitals in each State.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has frequently criticized the Department of Repatriation, and when he is supplied with factual data ‘he appears to question the wisdom of providing it. The taking over of the military hospitals, being a transition from war to a state of peace, is a most interesting stage of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities. It is also a difficult stage. .Nevertheless, the arrange-, ments are proceeding satisfactorily and, with the formal taking over last Monday of Concord Hospital, New South Wales, and Heidelberg Hospital, Victoria, the task is, in effect, completed, although many matters of detail will require attention for some time to .come by the departments concerned. By the transition, 3,5S0 .beds additional to .those in other institutions controlled by the commission have become available. As to these other institutions, to cope with the additional numbers of members requiring treatment after discharge during the war years, some new institutions, and extension and rebuilding of existing institutions were necessary, and in this way the maximum bed strength was increased from 1890 to 2914.
New sanatoriums for the treatment of patients were provided at Kenmore, Queensland, and Belair, South Australia. Additions were made to repatriation sanatoriums at Turramurra, New South Wales, and MacLeod, Victoria, and still further accommodation is being planned. Additional segregated accommodation .for patients suffering from mental disorders, whose condition is such as to necessitate their being kept under restraint, has been pro vided in New South Wales, Victoria,, ,and South Australia, and segregated accommodation for such patients is nearing completion at Wacol in Queensland and similar accommodation is being planned in Tasmania. [Quorum formed].
Additions, alterations and improvements have also been made to repatriation artificial limb factories to meet the increased demands on such facilities. These include the entire re-building of the factory in South Melbourne, Victoria. Additional accommodation, both for patients and staff, also the remodelling of the other services, has been carried out at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart. The increased accommodation for patients of repatriation medical institutions has, of course, necessitated in many cases additional accommodation for staffs and the provision of greater ancillary services.
Honorable members will know at least one, and .some may know all, of the excellent hospitals that have been taken over from the Army. These institutions are familiar to the servicemen and to the community generally under their popular names of Greenslopes, Queensland; Concord, New South Wales; Heidelberg, Victoria; Springbank, South Australia; and Hollywood, Western Australia. The commission is now more advantageously placed than ever before fox the purpose of providing high-degree medical treatment. In the course of time, certain existing institutions will be dispensed with, but the present position is as follows” The older repatriation general hospitals in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South- Australia cannot yet be entirely dispensed with. In Queensland and South Australia,- for instance, out-patients’ facilities ‘are being retained at Rosemount and Keswick respectively, whilst at -the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales, it has been found necessary to retain accommodation for in-patients and also the out-patients’ department. Caulfield Repatriation General Hospital, Melbourne - and this will interest the honorable member for Balaclava - will be utilized for some time to come for the accommodation of cases of pulmonary tuberculosis and for X-ray and pathological facilities required in -connexion with the out-patients’ department at St. Kilda-road.
– Are the other patients being taken away?
– Yes, they are going to Heidelberg.
– Within the next few days.
– What about the previous statement of the Minister?
– -I said the hospital would be retained for about two years, and that statement still stands. In Queensland, an additional chalet is being erected to provide 32 additional beds for sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis; and recently a chalet was opened at the Queen “Victoria Memorial Hospital, Thirlmere, near Sydney, for the treatment of women .sufferers from tuberculosis.
The X-ray and laboratory equipment and facilities at the military hospitals taken over arc being supplemented and extended. The commission has always provided visiting specialists at its institutions, but the expansion of its responsibilities in connexion with the newly acquired hospitals will render it necessary to increase their number, so that -there will be .215 specialists visiting the commission’s institutions throughout the Commonwealth. In this figure are included specialist physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, anaesthetists, allergists, thoracic surgeons, neuro-surgeons, plastic surgeons and dentists, dermatologists, orthopaedists, gynaecologists, and specialists in ear, nose, throat and eye diseases. A well-qualified and experienced specialist in psychological medicine has been appointed to the full-time staff to advise on any additional treatment measures “that may be required in this branch of medicine. He is at present proceeding by air to- Melbourne from Britain, where he has been engaged in further post-graduate study following his demobilization from the Australian Imperial Force. A well-known ear, nose and throat specialist of Melbourne, who hai teen one of the visiting staff of repatriation institutions in that city for some years, was sent by the .commission to the United States of America to study the methods used in various clinics in the treatment and rehabilitation of the deaf, with particular reference to the fenestration operation of otosclerosis. Already a number of army and repatriation patients -requiring this latter operation have undergone the necessary surgical treatment. A survey relating to the efficiency of paludrin to the suppression of recurrences of malaria has been in train since August, 1946, with encouraging results.
To sum up, it will be seen that from this account of the activities added as a result of this war, the Repatriation Department has an appreciable task. I have not mentioned some of the general benefits which apply to pensioners and beneficiaries of both wars, although earlier 1 asked’ honorable members to keep in mind the fact that this work has proceeded steadily. Some idea of the overall task, however, will be realized when I say that the total annual liability on war pensions is at present £15,000,000. The enlarged services referred to in the bill, to which we are now giving attention, will increase the liability by about £460,500. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second .time.
The Seamen’s Compensation Act, as honorable members are no doubt aware, deals with a. shipowner’s liability for accident to a seaman in the course of his employment. While employed on the high seas a seaman is outside the scope of any of the various State workers’ compensation acts, unless he is employed on a ship engaged only in intranstate trade. This explains the necessity for Commonwealth legislation in this field. A Commonwealth ‘Seamen’s Compensation Act was passed by this Parliament in 1909, but it was challenged in the High Court, which held that one section was invalid because it purported to cover seamen employed ou all Australian ships - intrastate as well as interstate. The section in question referred to “ ships engaged in the coasting trade “ ; but, as is now well known, the Commonwealth power as to trade and commerce, including navigation and shipping, is limited. It does not extend to intra-state trade and commerce. As the court decided that the particular section could not be severed from the rest of the act, the whole measure was held to be invalid. The case, Owners of SS. Kalibia v. Wilson , was heard in 1910, and is reported in 11 C.L.R., page 689. The 1909 act was, therefore, replaced by another in 1911. It was supported by all parties, and I hope that the present bill will receive the same general acceptance.
It was 27 years before any amendment was made to the 1911 act.’ By 1938 it was agreed that the act had become out of date in a number of respects, chiefly in regard to the amounts of compensation payable, and an amending bill was then passed. Now, after another nine years, the Government has decided that further amendments should ‘be made.
The Commonwealth Government, of course, has workers’ compensation legislation in regard to its own employees, and it has a number of ordinances fixing employers’ liability in its territories. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was substantially amended in 1944, and the intention of the present bill is to prescribe for seamen the principles then introduced. The more important provisions prescribed in 1944 were (1) Greater benefits to dependants in case of death ; (2) greater benefits for the family of an injured employee; (3) increase in maximum aggregate total of weekly payments; (4) compensation for injury sustained while travelling to or from employment; (5) widening of the scope covered by industrial diseases; (6) greater benefits for specified injuries. “When the 1944 act was passed, seamen legarded the new provisions as representing the Commonwealth view of what was equitable compensation for injuries. The Government considers that a reasonable point of view, and by the bill it is proposed to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act on very much the same lines.
For instance, the maximum amount payable to dependants when the injury sustained by a seaman results in his death is being increased from £750 to £S00, plus a payment of £25 for each dependent child under sixteen years of age. This follows the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Weekly payments during incapacity will be two-thirds of the seamen’s weekly pay, with a maximum of £3. In addition, £1 will be payable for a wife or a housekeeper dependent on the seaman, and Ss. Gd. for each dependent child under sixteen years of age. The total payment, of course, will not exceed the seaman’s pay at the time of the accident-
Consequent upon the increase of the weekly benefits, it is necessary that an increase shall be made in the maximum which a seaman who is not totally and permanently incapacitated may receive in weekly payments. This maximum i* therefore being increased from £750 to £1,000. Otherwise, weekly payments in some instances could not continue for so long a period as under the existing act.
Again, following the 1944 Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, cover will be provided against injury by accident while the seaman is travelling to or from his place of employment. This feature of workers’ compensation is also embodied in some State acts.
The list of specified injuries in the Third Schedule, in respect of which lump sums are payable, is to be expanded, and the appropriate sums increased. They are based on a maximum of £800 in case of death, instead of £750 as previously.
The list of industrial diseases in the Fourth Schedule is to be added to, by providing that compensation shall be payable in respect of any infectious disease contracted as the result of employment involving contact with the infections sources of the disease.
There are two provisions in the bill which have not been based on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The first is a provision taken from the English and New South Wales acts that where a dependant dies before a claim under the act has been made, or, if a claim has been made, before an agreement has been arrived, at, or award made, the legal personal representative of the deceased dependant shall have no right to payment of compensation, and the amount of compensation shall be calculated and apportioned as if that dependant had died before the seaman. The second provision relates to the procedure for recording whether a seaman is righthanded or left-handed. This is because higher compensation can be claimed for the limb, the loss of which causes the greater injury.
There are necessarily some provisions in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act which are not applicable to seamen and have not been included in the bill. For example, there is a great variety of occupations under the Commonwealth, and this results in a longer list of industrial diseases than is necessary in the case of seamen; and, of course, the machinery clauses vary. In the main, however, the present amendments will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into harmony with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I shall be glad to explain all of these amendments in detail during the committee stage of the bill.
I am sure that the bill will have general acceptance in the House. It will give to seamen a compensation law not inferior to that covering Commonwealth employees, and generally in line with State acts on the same subject. The Government has not attempted to take the highest rates of compensation payable in Australia, and incorporate them in the bill. “Workers’ compensation legislation throughout the States, the Commonwealth and the territories, is very irregular. This is receiving consideration, however, and already there have been discussions with a view to achieving uniformity. It may, therefore, be necessary later to submit further legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. HOLLOWAY) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
All honorable members will be pleased that it is now7 possible to introduce to the Parliament a social services consolidating measure, although it is also in many important ways a creative one. As a consolidating measure, it repeals the whole of 43 acts, and portions of seven others. The 50 acts affected are listed in the schedule. The bill consolidates the law in relation to social service benefits under five well-known headings : - Invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits.
With the passage of time, certain portions of the existing legislation have become obsolete, making their repeal desirable whilst differing provisions in sections of a somewhat similar character in the acts relating to the various benefits have produced confusion and anomalies. Even departmental officers find them complicated, whilst to members of the public and overseas administrations they are highly perplexing. Without detailed explanations, they might easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted. The main objectives in the consolidation are to eliminate obsolete sections, remove anomalies, simplify drafting, amalgamate certain sections of the administration, modernize the legislation, and present it as a part of a well-defined pattern of social security. At the samo time, the Government is providing for substantial increases of the rates of invalid and old-age pensions, wives’ allowances and widows’ pensions, and is improving many of the existing provisions. In all except very few cases, the substantive alterations of the present law constitute improvements to and extensions of the various services that arp embraced in the scope of the bill.
In recent years, there has been developed in the peoples of enlightened countries a recognition of the fact that care of the aged, the infirm, the widowed, the unemployed and the sick is a matter that cannot properly be left to individuals and to organizations that are set up for charitable purposes. It is now ari accepted principle that the matter is one of community responsibility and that it must be implemented and administered at the governmental level.
When the Constitution of the. Commonwealth of Australia became operative ou the 1st January, 1901, it contained only one direct power in relation to the provision of social services, namely, the power to make laws with respect to the provision of invalid and old-age pensions. However, section 96 of the Constitution, which authorized the making of grants to the States, cither with or without conditions, enabled the Commonwealth to provide indirectly through the instrumentality of the several States, various benefits of a social service nature. The power that is contained in section 81 of the Constitution, permitting the Australian Parliament to appropriate moneys from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purposes of the Commonwealth, has also been used from time to time to achieve the same result in a more direct and comprehensive way. Doubts as to the validity of the legislation implementing several of these benefits were raised by the decision of the High Court of Au3<tralia towards the end of 1945, in what is now commonly known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. This decision threw grave doubt on the validity of child endowment, funeral benefits, wives’ allowances, child allowance and widows’ pensions, as well as other aspects of social service legislation. Following a referendum which was conducted by the Commonwealth on the 28th September last, there became embedded in the Constitution as from the 19th December, 1946, the date upon which the Royal Assent was given to the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill, a new and direct power in relation to social services. This new power conferred upon the Australian Parliament the power to make laws with respect to “ the provision of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services - but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription - and benefits to students and family allowances “.
This alteration of the1 Constitution not only confirmed the Commonwealth power to provide social service benefits of a type already in existence, but also has given to it almost unlimited power in new and important fields of social service.
When war broke out in September, 1939, the Commonwealth provided only two forms of social benefits, namely, invalid and old-age pensions and maternity allowances. At that time, the maximum rate of the invalid and old-age pension wa3 21s. 6d. a week, whilst the maternity allowance had a range- of from £5 to- £7 10s., the amount varying according to the number of other children in a family unit. The total cost to the Commonwealth of providing these two services during the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1939, was £16,428,396.
Child endowment was introduced in 1941, and was provided at the rate of 5s. a week. The cost to the Commonwealth of this benefit for the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1942, was £11,302,863. That was the position when Labour assumed office in October, 1941, on the eve of the outbreak of war with Japan. Since that date there has been a truly remarkable development of social services by the Commonwealth. The rate of invalid and old-age pensions has been increased by successive alterations from 21s. 6d. a week to the present-day maximum rate of 32s. 6d. a week. The bill proposes that there shall be a further increase of 5s. a week, to operate from the 3rd July next, thus bringing the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to 37s. 6d. a week, representing an increase of more than 70 per cent, since October, 1941.
In 1942, widows’ pensions were introduced by the Commonwealth for the first time. These pensions were available to three classes of widows : - A pension at the rate of £1 10s. a week for a widow of any age who had one or more dependent children; a pension at the rate of £1 5s. a week for a widow without dependent children, but of at least 50 years of age; and an allowance at the rate of £1 5s. a week for a period not exceeding 26 weeks for a widow in necessitous circumstances who is less than 50 years of age and has not the custody, care and control of a child. Several increases have already been made. The present pension rates are 37s. Gd. a week and 27s. a week respectively, whilst the allowance payable in respect of a widow in necessitous circum-stances is 32s. 6d. a week. These rates will each be increased by 5s. a week by the bill now before the House, the increases being operative from the Sth July, 1947.
The bill also proposes to provide a benefit for a new class, namely, the wives of men undergoing sentences of imprisonment. . Pension in this case will be at the rate of 32s. a week.
In 1943, allowances at the rate of 15s. a week were provided for the wives of invalid pensioners. The bill proposes that the rate shall be increased to £1 a week as from the 3rd July next. In the same year, also, child allowance at the rate of 5s. a week was instituted for the child of an invalid pensioner. A funeral benefit not exceeding £10 was also introduced to provide for the burial of an invalid or old-age pensioner. Maternity allowances, which then had a range of £5 to £7 10s., were increased to a range of £15 to £17 10s. In 1945, the rate of child endowment was increased from 5s. a week to 7s. 6d. a week.
In 1945 a major advance towards social security was made when unemployment and sickness benefits were, for the first time, provided. In August, 1946, important steps were taken in relation to invalid and old-age pensions - by raising the permissible income to £1, by lifting the property bar from £400 to £650, and by the introduction of a graduated scale between the sums of £400 and £650.
The total annual cost of social services in recent years is indicative of the extensive growth that has taken place. The figures are as follow: -
It is expected that the total expenditure by the Commonwealth on social services during the coming year, 1947-48, will amount to £72,060,000.
In July, 1941, when Sir Frederick Stewart was Minister for Health and Social Services, the Government of which he was a member appointed a social security committee. This committee has presented a series of valuable reports on this subject. During the course of its investigations, the committee commented upon the intermittent and unrelated development ‘ of social services in the Commonwealth, stressed the value of a truly national scheme, and suggested that the method of combining planned social security in codified legislation of the type adopted in some other countries could, with considerable, advantage, be followed in Australia. The Government acknowledged the advantages of the principle, and announced that it would be given effect as soon as practicable.
Since then, the Government has, from time to time, introduced many major social reforms recommended by the committee, such as pensions for widows, unemployment and sickness benefits, and prepared a national scheme of social security in its widest sense. The bill now before the House represents the latest important instalment of the Government’s plan. The acceptance of so many recommendations must be pleasing to those who devoted much time, thought and energy to the committee’s work.
Turning now to the bill, I have circulated for the information of honorable members a list of the main alterations proposed to the existing Jaw. This will, I trust, facilitate the examination of the measure. With the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate the memorandum, in Hansard at the end of my speech.
The bill does not cover other social service benefits such as hospital benefits, allowances for sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants, and matters such as national fitness grants. When the Government’s plans for pharmaceutical benefits and a national medical service have been developed, these, and other aspects of a purely medical or health nature, will be brought together in convenient legislative form. Ultimately, one measure covering all the social service activities of the Commonwealth in a scheme of national welfare may eventuate. The Government recognizes that all the social service benefits are merely aspects of health administration which, in its widest sense, makes for the mental, physical and social well-being of our people.
The total cost of the increased pension rates, and the other improvements effected to the existing legislation, is estimated at £6,185,000 per annum, made up as under : -
For very many years, the old-age pension was regarded by some as being somewhat in the nature of a charitable grant. However, with increased rates and a higher permissible income, the age pension is now generally and properly regarded as a retiring allowance, based upon age, to persons who have made contributions over a long period to the economic life of Australia.
Increases of the pension rate, and modification of the means test, have created many anomalies, and have induced many representations from superannuated persons and from others with independent incomes. The Government recognizes the strength of many of these representations, and intends further to ease the means test with a view to its ultimate abolition. The Government is also exploring the possibility of setting up a national superannuation scheme.
A brief statistical statement will convey to honorable members an idea of the vast growth of social services in recent years. During the financial year ended the 30th June, 1939, the department dealt with only two kinds of benefits, invalid and old-age pensions, and maternity allowances. In 1939j there were 327,000 pensioners, the cost of their pensions being approximately £16,160,000; during the same period, 81,000 maternity allowances were paid, totalling £437,000. At the present time there are approximately 358,000 pensioners, the annual cost of whose pensions amount to £29,500,000. This year, it is expected that there will be more than 197,000 maternity allowances, costing very nearly £3,000,000. Child endowment is paid in respect of nearly 1,000,000 children, and the cost is approximately £20,000,000 per anum. There are about 43,500 widows drawing pensions at a yearly cost of £3,300,000.’ There are fewer than 10,000 people receiving unemployment benefit, and about 9,000 receiving sickness benefit, the two benefits costing, at present rates, approximately £1,750,000 per annum. This year, it is estimated there will be more than 22,500 funeral benefits, involving the expenditure of about £220,000.
Honorable members will notice that a new part has been included in the Consolidation, namely, Part VIII., “ Training and Physical Rehabilitation of Pensioners and Beneficiaries “. The provisions contained under that part are not new, but appear in the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. These provisions were inserted originally on the recommendation of the Social Security Committee.
The training, rehabilitation and reconditioning of those who suffer some incapacity is of considerable consequence both to the individual and to the nation. In spite of the limited facilities available during recent years, since the 1st July, 1944, about 500 invalid pensioners have been trained and placed in employment, while 364 are in course of training. The rehabilitation of the 500 invalid pensioners cost the Commonwealth about £6,000, and resulted in a saving in invalid pensions of approximately £40,000 per annum. Perhaps an even more important feature i3 the fact that former pensioners are now earning their own living. They are important units in the economic structure. They are putting into the Commonwealth revenue, and not taking out of it. They have a new psychological approach to life, and are a complete justification of the scheme.
As honorable members know, reciprocity has been established between Australia and New Zealand in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions. Agreement has been reached with New Zealand for reciprocal arrangements regarding widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits and child endowment
We are now awaiting acceptance of draft acts and agreements which have been submitted to the dominion. At the moment, a conference of officers from ali parts of the British Empire, including Australia, is meeting in London to explore the possibility of providing reciprocal benefits in social services throughout the British Empire.
I propose now to deal with the more important new clauses of the bill. In the committee stage, there will be ample opportunity for detailed discussion. Perhaps the most important effect of the bill to individual beneficiaries is that the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions is to be increased by 5s. a week to £1 17s. 6d. a week. The first payment at the increased rate will be effected on the 3rd July next.
Pensioner inmates of benevolent institutions will receive an extra ls. 6d. a week, and an extra 33. 6d. weekly will be paid to the management of the institution towards the cost of maintenance. The additional cost of the increased rates of invalid and old-age pensions is estimated to be £5,200,000 per annum.
The conditions under which absences from Australia shall count as residence have been relaxed considerably.
The permissible income has been increased by 10s. a week in respect of each dependent child under sixteen years of age - less any amount received by, or in respect of, the child.
For the purpose of the act, it will in future be permissible to regard a claimant for invalid pension as having become permanently incapacitated or permanently blind if the incapacity or blindness occurred during temporary absence from the Commonwealth.
In this connexion, too, the provision accepting permanent incapacity or permanent blindness occurring outside of Australia as the result of a congenital defect, if the claimant arrived in Australia under the age of three years, or has resided here for at least twenty years, has been extended to cover similar cases where the disability was not of a congenital nature.
At present, the child’s allowance is payable only to the wife of an invalid pensioner or to a male invalid pensioner who is married, or to a widower. It is now provided that a female invalid pensioner who has the custody, care and control of a child under sixteen years of age will get this benefit. Similarly, a child’s allowance may be granted to an unmarried man who has the custody, care and control of a child.
The time limitation of six months for lodging claims for funeral benefit may, under the bill, be extended where there are reasonable grounds for failing to lodge the claim within that period. It is intended also that the funeral benefit may be paid in respect of a deceased person who was a claimant for invalid or oldage pension, and who, but for bis death, would have been granted a pension.
An increase of 5s. a week will be paid to widows of all classes. The. first instalments at the new rates will be paid on the 8th July next. The total cost involved in this increase is estimated to be £570,000 per annum.
An important new provision in the bill is that which qualifies a woman for a class A widows’ pension subject, of course, to the means test, if she has the custody, care and control of one or more children under sixteen years of age. The act at present requires that she must be maintaining one or more such children. The Government has taken the view that from a practical point of view the person who has the actual care of the child, and who is responsible for its food, clothing, education and general attention, is usually the proper person to whom payment should be made. An innovation of importance is that the permissible income has been increased by 5s. a week in respect of the widow’s first child and by 10s. a week in respect of each additional child, less in each case any payments received on account of that child. The bill provides that from July next widows’ pensions will be paid fortnightly instead of each four weeks as at present. This will be a great convenience to the tens of thousands of widows who are to-day in receipt of pensions. The bill also confers a discretionary power upon the administration to continue the pension of a widow for a period not exceeding two years beyond the date on which her youngest or only child attains the age of sixteen years, provided Abe -child is undergoing full-time education, and is dependent on the mother.
It is provided that when the bill becomes operative pensions will be payable to the wives of men imprisoned for six months or more.
I now turn to a consideration of the new provisions relating to maternity allowances. Discretionary power has been given to extend the period of six weeks during which payment should be collected ; payment of the higher amounts of maternity allowances will, in future, depend on the number of children under sixteen years of whom the claimant has the custody, care and control. At present it is possible for the same child to be reckoned twice in different families, and the Government considers that this should be altered. In future it is intended to grant the maternity allowance to an alien mother provided either she or her husband has resided in Australia for at least a year, and payment in respect of a birth which occurs within twelve months after the mother’s arrival here may be made on the expiration of a year from the date of her arrival. The times for payment of maternity allowance have also Deen altered so that £5 may be paid at any time within a period of four weeks prior to the expected date of the child’s birth, and the balance of the total benefit, namely, £15, £16 or £17 10s., or more, as the case may be, will be payable immediately after the birth upon lodgment of a claim. This will operate in lieu of the present provision which stipulates deferment of the sum of £5 until the expiration of four weeks after the birth of the child. The provision under which payment of a maternity allowance in respect of the birth of a still-born child or a child which lives for less than twelve hours may be made only on satisfactory evidence that the child was viable has been altered to provide that the amount may be paid where the period of intra-uterine life of the child was at least five and a half calendar months.
In reviewing the act as a whole, the Government decided to make certain changes in the child endowment system. Those of major importance are that here too, custody, care and control, instead of the maintaining of children, has been adopted as the criterion of entitlement. A new provision is that the requirement of twelve months’ residence in Australia may be waived where there is satisfactory evidence that the claimant and the children concerned are likely to remain permanently in the Commonwealth. The restriction on the payment of endowment in respect of the children of alien parents has been removed where it is established that the children are likely to be permanent residents in Australia.
The review of the legislation directed the Government’s attention to certain anomalies in the present Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, and some amendments are being effected by the bill. An important one is that the requirement of twelve months’ residence may be disregarded if the claimant is remaining ‘permanently in Australia. The provisions governing the period during which a sickness benefit may be paid have been liberalized considerably. In future, payment will be made from the seventh day after the date of the incapacity, if a claim is made within six weeks after that date, or in special circumstances, within such further time as the DirectorGeneral of Social Services permits. It has been decided to vary the present procedure in applying the means test for unemployment benefit where the claimant’s spouse is in receipt of a pension. This will correct an anomaly which has given rise to some dissatisfaction, because at present the spouse’s pension of 32s. 6d. a week, not only prevents any additional benefit from being granted in respect of the spouse, but also causes a reduction of 12s. 6d. a week in the benefit of 25s. which would otherwise be payable to the claimant. In effect, £1 of the pension has been used twice in restricting the amount of benefit payable. Provision is also being made for additional benefit in respect of a housekeeper where no such additional benefit is payable in respect of a wife, and provided there are one or more children under sixteen years of age, and the housekeeper is substantially dependent on the claimant but is not regarded as his employee. In future, the only payments in respect of the incapacity for which sickness benefit is claimed which will be deducted from the amount of benefit otherwise payable, will be amounts in the nature of compensation, damages or other amounts payable by law, but not including any such payments for which the claimant has made contributions.
Other substantial alterations of the law are noted in the memorandum which has been circulated to honorable members. In addition, there has been considerable rearrangement and re-drafting of the present acts to simplify both interpretation and implementation. The operation of the bill has been postponed to the 1st July, 1947, to allow time for necessary departmental arrangements to be made and topermit of the issue of fresh instructions. I suggest that the bill constitutes an instalment of social justice, and is a further step towards the goal of social security which our people deserve and require. I feel sure that the broader approach to the question of social services, which is the basis of this measure, will have the general approval of the House.
Following is the memorandum to which I referred earlier in my speech : -
BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE MAIN ALTERATIONS TO EXISTING SOCIAL LEGISLATION EFFECTED BY THE SOCIAL SERVICES CONSOLIDATION BILL 1947.
Part 1. - Preliminary.
Title. (Clauses 1 and 3.)
Social Services Consolidation Act. All exist ing Social Services Acts detailed in the Schedule are repealed.
Definition. (Clause 6.)
The title “ Deputy Commissioner of Pensions “ will become “ Director of Social Services “ and the title “ Registrar of Pensions “ will become “ Registrar of Social Services “.
Part III. - Age and Invalid Pensions.
Definition of income.
Payments from a “ provident society or other society or association “ have been removed from the exemption from income. Existing cases willnot be disturbed.
The exemption from income of gifts or allowances from a claimant’s husband or wife has been omitted as being unnecessary.
Benefits provided under the Hospital Benefits Act 1945, or Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1944-1945 or the Tuberculosis Act 1945-1940 are excluded as income.
Persons qualified. (Clause 19.)
Existing disqualifications directed against particular races have been removed.
Residential qualifications. (Clause 20.)
The residential provisions have been clarified.
Conditions under which absences from Australia shall count as residence have been broadened by including any period of absence -
during which the claimant’s home remained in Australia, or
which was attributable to a war, or
during which the claimant remained a resident of Australia for the purposes of Commonwealth income taxation.
Conditions of grant of age pension. (Clause 22.)
The period of desertion disqualifying a claimant for age pension has been reduced from twelve to six months immediately preceding the date of the claim. The disqualification in respect of neglect to maintain, or desertion of, children under fourteen years, will now apply to children under sixteen years.
Conditions of grant of invalid pension. (Clause 25 (1)).
A claimant is to be regarded as having become permanently incapacitated or blind in Australia if the incapacity or blindness occurred during his temporary absence from Australia. (Clause 25 (2) ).
A claimant will be regarded as having be come permanently incapacitated or blind in Australia if the incapacity or blindness occurred before his arrival in Australia if he was brought into Australia before attaining the age of three years, or if he has completed twenty years residence in Australia.
Bate of Pension. (Clause 28.)
The maximum rate of pension has been in creased from £84 10s. per annum to £97 10s. per annum.
Computation of income. (Clause 29.)
Permissibleincome has been increased by 10s. per week in respect of each dependant child under sixteen years of age, less any amounts received by or in respect of the child.
Wife’s allowance. (Clause 31.)
A wife’s allowance is to be paid to the “ de pendent female “ of an invalid pensioner.
Amount of wife’s allowance. (Clause 33.)
The maximum rate of wife’s allowance has been increased from £39 per annum to £52 per annum.
Child’s allowance is to be paid to a single invalid pensioner (male or female) who has the custody, care and control of a child under the age of sixteen years.
Payment of wife’s allowance or child’s allowance is to continue if a pensioner enters a benevolent asylum and has a wife and child or his wife is not less than fifty years of age.
The date of commencement has been ampli fied to ensure that it is not later than the first pension pay-day after date of lodgment of the claim, except where the determination has been delayed by neglect or default on the part of the claimant.
The period during which instalments of pension may be collected without forfeiture occurring has been extended from three weeks to six weeks. Discretionary power has been taken under which forfeiture may be waived where there were reasonable grounds for noncollection.
The maximum amount of pension payable to a pensioner inmate of a benevolent asylum has been increased from £2918s. per annum to £33 16s. per annum. Statutory authority is given for the balance of pension, if any, to be paid to the benevolent asylum authorities as at present.
The provision which enables insurance moneys received in respect of the destruction of a pensioner’s home to be disregarded for a reasonable period has been extended to include a home owned by the spouse in which the pensioner resides. Moneys received for damage to the home and the value of the land are also to be disregarded during the period determined.
Payment of funeral benefit is to be made in respect of a deceased claimant for pension who, but for his death, would have been qualified to receive a pension. (Clause 55.)
Where the cost of funeral is greater than a payment from a contributory funeral benefit fund (other than a contributory funeral benefit fund of a friendly society) funeral benefit is to be paid to the extent of the amount by which the cost of the funeral exceeded the amount received from the fund, but not exceeding £10. Funeral benefit is not to be paid to a person administering a contributory funeral benefit fund.
Part IV. - Widows’ Pensions.
The definition of income has been broadened and is the same as for invalid and age pensions.
The requirement that a widow for class A pension shall be “maintaining” one or more children has been amended to provide that she shall have “custody, care and control” of such children.
Any child not living with the widow, but whom she is maintaining by regular contributions will be regarded as within her “custody, care and control “.
Provision has been made for the payment of a pension equivalent to a class B widow’s pension to a woman whose husband has been imprisoned for at least six months, provided the wife has the custody, care and control of one or more children or is not less than 50 years of age, and otherwise eligible.
Conditions relating to residence and absences have been brought in line with those for invalid and age pensions.
The maximum rates of pension have been increased as. follows: -
Class A widow from £9710s. per annum to £110 10s. per annum.
Class B widow from £70 4s. per annum to £83 4s. per annum.
Class C widow from £84 10s. per annum to £97 10s. per annum.
The maximum rate of allowance provided for the class D widow is £83 4s. per annum.
Permissible income has been increased by 5s. per week in respect of the widow’s first child and by 10s. per week in respect of each additional child less any amount received by or in respect of the child. In the case of a deserted wife or a divorcee, any payment of maintenance for a child in excess of £39 per annum is to be included as income.
Widows’ pensions are to be paid fortnightly in lieu of four-weekly.
The provisions relating to the forfeiture of pension instalments due to non-collection have been made the same as for invalid and age pensions.
In the case of a class A widow payment of pension may be continued for a period not exceeding two years beyond the date on which the youngest or only child reaches sixteen years where the child is undergoing full-time education and is dependent on the pensioner.
The provisions relating to payment of pension to and maintenance in respect of benevolent asylum inmates have been amended on lines somewhat similar to those for invalid and age pensioners.
A widow in receipt of a war widow’s pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is excluded from receiving, in addition, a civilian widow’s pension. Existing pensions will be continued at present rates.
Provisions have been brought into line with those for invalid and age pensions.
Part V. - Maternity Allowances.
Payment of the higher amounts of maternity allowance is to depend on the number of children under sixteen years of whom the claimant has the custody, care and control. At present the children who count for this purpose are previous living children under sixteen years whether or not they are living with the claimant and children of her husband by his previous marriage maintained by him.
A maternity allowance is to be paid to a mother who, at the date of the birth, is a resident of Australia and satisfies the administration that she intends to remain. At present the mother must be “an inhabitant of Australia” or “intends to settle” in Australia. Payment is to be made, not only in respect of a birth which occurred in Australia or on board aship proceeding from one port in Australia to another port in Australia (as at present), but also on board a ship proceeding to Australia, provided the mother receives no maternity benefit, in respect of the birth from the country from which she has come.
In respect of a still-born child or a child which lives for less than twelve hours, payment is to be made if the period of infra-uterine life was at least five and a half calendar months. This is in lieu of the provision under which payment of maternity allowance in respect of such birth may be made only if the child was a “ viable “ child.
A maternity allowance is to be paid to an alien mother provided either she or her husband has resided in Australia for at least twelve months. Payment, in respect of a birth which occurs within twelve months after the mother’s arrival is to be made on the expiration of twelve months after the date of her arrival.
Payment of £5 on account of a maternity allowance may be made available, upon application, within a period of four weeks prior to the expected date of birth of the child. The balance will be paid immediately after the birth in lieu of the present provision which requires payment of £5 to be deferred until the expiration of four weeks after the birth.
Part VI. - Child Endowment. 36. Qualifications for endowment. (Clause 95 (1.).) The children in respect of whom endowment may be granted are those of whom the claimant is deemed to have the “ custody, care and control’”, in lieu of the children whom she is deemed to be “ maintaining “. (Clause 95 (2.).)
The present restrictions on the payment of endowment in respect of the children of alien parents have been removed. Payment is to be made on the same residential basis as that proposed for other persons. (Clause 94.)
Where the parents are making reasonable contributions towards the maintenance of a child in a mental hospital the mother is to be deemed to have the “ custody, care and control “ of the child.
The requirement of twelve months’ residence in Australia (which applies in respect of claimants and children not born in Australia) is to be waived if the claimant and the children concerned are likely to remain permanently in Australia.
In lieu of the present position, under which a new grant of endowment is paid from the beginning of the four-weekly endowment period during which the endowment becomes payable and an endowment ceases from the beginning of the endowment period during which a child dies or reaches sixteen years of age. a new grant of endowment will commence from the beginning of the first endowment period after the birth of the child, and an endowment terminating on a child’s death or sixteenth birthday will cease from the end of the endowment period in which the death or birthday occurs.
Payment is to be made to qualified Australians temporarily abroad who fulfil particular requirements.
Part VII. - Unemployment and Sickness Benefits.
The definition of “ friendly society “ has been amended to include any body or society which is similar in character and provides benefits similar in nature to a friendly society. Existing approvals will not be affected.
Benefits provided under the Hospital Benefits Act 1945, or Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1944-45 or the Tuberculosis Act 1945-46, are excluded as income.
The requirement of twelve months’ residence can be waived if the claimant intends to remain permanently in Australia.
Provisions relating to absences have been deleted but any period of absence due to a war will be treated as residence.
Under the present act a person “ in receipt of, or qualified to receive “ an invalid or age pension, a widow’s pension or a service pension is disqualified for unemployment, sickness or special benefit. The words “ qualified to receive “ have been omitted to permit the payment of benefit to an eligible person who,though possessing the qualifications for a pension, is not a claimant.
The provisions under which payments made to certain specified relatives who act as a claimant’s substitute during sickness were excluded in determining loss of income have been broadened. Bona fide payments to any substitute may now be accepted as a loss of income if made during a period of sickness.
Provision has been made for payment of benefit at such rate (within the maximum) as is deemed reasonable where a woman’s husband is only able to maintain her partially. A married woman legally separated from her husband or living apart from him in circumstances which amount to a permanent separation is eligible for benefit.
The provision under which additional benefit of £1 per week may be paid to a claimant in respect of a dependent spouse has been amended-
to restrict the amount of additional benefit to the amount of the claimant’s contributions where the parties are living apart and to permit payment of the additional benefit direct to the spouse.
Provision has been made for the payment of additional benefit (not exceeding £1 per week) in respect of a claimant’s housekeeper, where no such additional benefit is payable in respect of his wife, provided there are one or more children under sixteen years of age and the woman is substantially dependent on the claimant but is not an employee.
In the case of a claimant and spouse per manently separated any income received by the claimant’s spouse will be disregarded. If the question of payment of additional benefit in respect of the spouse has to be decided, however, regard may be had to the amount of the spouse’s income.
Where the claimant’s spouse is in receipt of a pension, £1 per week of the pension is to be excluded from income. This has been necessary to correct an anomaly. At present the spouse’s pension of 32s. 6d. per week not only prevents any additional benefit from being granted in respect of the spouse but it also causes a reduction of 12s. 6d. in the benefit of 25s. which would otherwise be payable to the claimant.
Under the present act the rate of sickness benefit which would otherwise be payable must be reduced by the amount of any other payment received by the claimant whether by way of compensation, damages “ or otherwise “ in respect of the incapacity for which he is qualified for sickness benefit. The range of such payments which must be deducted from the rate of sickness benefit has been limited to compensation or damages or any payment under any Commonwealth or State act or other law, received in respect of the incapacity for which sickness benefit is payable, but not a payment for which the claimant has contributed.
The provisions under which sickness benefit may become a charge upon any compensation or damages awarded have been broadened to include any payment under this clause.
The period within which a claim for sickness benefit must be lodged has been extended to six weeks after the commencement of the incapacity. If the claim is lodged after the expiration of six weeks payment will commence from the date of lodgment unless the claimant demonstrates that the delay was due to some sufficient cause.
Part VIII. - Training and Physical Rehabilitation of Pensioners and Beneficiaries.
The provisions relating to the vocational training and physical rehabilitation of invalid pensioners and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries have been combined in this part.
Pabt IX. - Miscellaneous.
An application to any Commonwealth department or authority for assistance is to be regarded as a claim for a benefit under the Social Services Consolidation Act, provided a claim on the appropriate form is subsequently lodged and investigation shows the applicant to be eligible.
Any pension or benefit under the Social
Services Consolidation Act accrued and unpaid at the death of a recipient or a claimant is to be paid, at the discretion of the administration, to the person best entitled to receive the money, provided application is made within six months from the date of death or within such further period as may be allowed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill received fromthe Senate and (on motion by Mr. Dedman), read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 2826), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is one which, in my opinion, is most peculiarly worded, and which has a history that has not been disclosed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) who presented it to the House. If I am any judge of the political weather in international affairs, this bill arises out of certain discussions which have taken place between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America in relation to financial matters. I believe it is fair to assume that those in authority in Washington have intimated to the Government of the United Kingdom that, in their opinion, it is high time that the dominions shouldered some responsibility in respect of financial commitments arising out of the war, and, in particular, certain theatres of war. There are two clauses in the bill, clause 2, which is the vital one, reading as follows : -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, whichis hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, the sum of £25,000,000 as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations and in and around the Pacific.
We are entitled to very much more information than was given by the Treasurer as to the reasons for the inclusion of that restriction in the bill. The Australian Commonwealth was engaged in war in theatres other than the Pacific. We were engaged in the Middle East, our air and naval forces were engaged in the United Kingdom and in the Atlantic, and we were engaged in a training capacity in Rhodesia, and in Canada, where we were fairly heavily committed. The full effects of the benefits that Australia has received from other dominions have not been stated to the Parliament by the Treasurer. Only a few days ago, the Sydney Morning Herald published the following statement under the heading, “ Canada’s aid to Britain “ : -
The Canadian Government, under an agreement made with Britain last year, cancelled a debt of £A130.7 million owing by Britain for the British Commonwealth air training plan.
This was mentioned in the British House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr. Dalton’, in reply to a question about monetary gifts from the Dominions to Britain between August “1, 1045, and April 1, 1947.
Dr. Dalton said that mutual aid from Canada continued to September 1, 1945. The total from April 1 to September 1, 1945, was £A206.1 million. Britain for the most part, he added, received munitions and military supplies, foodstuffs and farm products.
Australia had made a gift <A £A25 million to Britain this year and New Zealand has given £A12.5 million.
I am sure that the opinion of Dr. Dalton, a good Labour man, will be accepted by the Government and its supporters. That is an interesting statement. According to it, the aid granted by Canada to the United Kingdom, for a period of only five months, was valued at no less than £206,100,000. However, Canada has not stopped at that. I refer honorable members to the Auditor-General’s report for 1945-46, paragraph 125 of which is as follows : -
Reference was made in previous reports to the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and Canadian Governments regarding the training of Royal Australian Air Force air crews in Canada. In paragraph 113 of last year’s report the total liability of Australia to Canada under the two-year agreement which expired on 31st March,’ 1945, was shown as $30,247,000 (£A8,560,311 ) , which amount, less certain credits to Australia, it was stated, was being met by the Canadian Mutual Aid Board. The amount actually paid by the board to the Canadian Department of National Defence, Air Force Services, was the dollar equivalent of £7.909,754, the reduction of £050,557 in Australia’s liability representing payments by the Commonwealth in Australia under the Air Training Scheme. It is anticipated that this expenditure by Australia will be slightly increased when certain intransit vouchers have been received and analysed.
I presume that the Auditor-General’s statements will not be challenged or qualified by the Government. According to him, the Commonwealth has received in one item from the Canadian Government almost £8,000,000 in respect of moneys which were due by it to the Canadian Government under the Empire Air Training Scheme. I have examined the AuditorGeneral’s report closely, but I have not found reference to any liabilities that we may have contracted, or any benefits that we may have received, from the air training depots in Rhodesia, where many Australians were sent. The £8,000,000 that Canada has given to us is almost one-third of the amount which we propose to give to the United Kingdom. After the suspension of the sitting, I intend to cite certain other figures from Government documents, every one of which has been laid on the table of this House.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.S5 p.m.
– Coming, to the section of the Auditor-General’s report headed, “Department of the Navy “, I take naval shipbuilding. According to the Auditor-General -
Although final financial adjustment has not been effected with the Governments of the United Kingdom and India in respect of minesweeping vessels built on their behalf during the war, a further progress payment of £274,999 was made by the British Government in March, 1940. Total progress payments received by the Commonwealth to 30th June, 1940, were -
In addition, a sum of £80,000 was received from the British Government in respect of technical supervision and other services performed by the Department of the Navy in connexion with Royal Navy construction. This amount has been credited to Division 190o - Credits arising from War Expenditure.
That is a nice little item. Then we get the “Allocation of Hospital Ships’ Expenses Paragraph 114 of the report states -
As reported in paragraph 105 of last year’s report, agreement between Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa was reached on the division of costs of hospital ships operated by those countries and employed in the Middle East Hospital Ship Pool. Since the date of agreement, the use of hospital ships has been extended beyond the scheme then envisaged and the British Ministry of War Transport has suggested a revision of the original agreement, and proposes that liability be assessed on the basis of a capitation rate for personnel carried. Negotiations are proceeding.
No sums are mentioned ; but what I read into that is that the agreement under which we operated the hospital ship pool was unduly favorable to the Commonwealth of Australia and that the British Ministry of War Transport has therefore asked for a revision. Until we get a statement from the British Ministry about the hospital ship position we shall not know what our income may be - if I may use that term - from that source. I come now to - “ Fleet bases and works for the British Pacific fleet.”
The vital paragraph is -
To 30th June, 1940, expenditure on fleet bases and other works amounted to £16,2(10,0:39, of which £10,695,000 has been reimbursed by the United Kingdom Govern ment. Additional expenditure subsequent to this date is dependent on government policy in respect of incomplete projects, but is not expected to exceed the estimate of £17,559,050.
It appears from the Auditor-General’s report that in connexion with the operation of the British Fleet in the Pacific, the area that the Treasurer himself has named in clause 2 of this bill, commitments have been entered into totalling £33,819,000. Of that the United Kingdom Government has already paid us £10,695,000. It looks to me from the wording of the Auditor-General’s report that we are now presenting the United Kingdom with a bill for the balance. In other words, we want cash out of the Old Country and will keep the bases as well.
– A miserable attitude!
– Yes, if you can imagine a more Shylock-like or a more miserable attitude than that in regard to the conduct of the war, I should like to know what it is. The next paragraph deals with the naval stores section -
Several Royal Australian Navy store depots were extended and additional depots constructed to provide for the handling of both Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy stocks. Running expenses, charged originally to Royal Australian Navy appropriations, are shared with the United Kingdom Government in the estimated proportion of the supplies handled in respect of each administration. Tentative adjustment involving a contribution by the United Kingdom Government to 31st March, 1946, of £2,085,000, has been effected, the amount being credited to Division 190c.
Here again we find that the United Kingdom Government i3 contributing to the naval expenses of the conduct of the war in the Pacific. If it had not been for the Royal Navy in the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and every lane in the “ seven seas “, we should not be meeting here to-day. Yet, we find that in respect of the miserable administration of a naval store the Commonwealth Government has the effrontery, to put it mildly, to collect £2,085,000 from the United Kingdom. I should like the Treasurer to submit to the House a statement showing the financial position in regard to our troop, Air Force and Navy arrangements in the United Kingdom. Did the British Government charge us fees for the use of its bases when our cruisers were working in the Atlantic and adjacent waters? Did it charge us for the occupation of camps in the United Kingdom when our 18th Brigade was there for a time? Did that Government charge us rent for the use of air bases in the United Kingdom? I say the thing is preposterous, and the only occasion in military history when such a thing has ever been done before was in World War I., when the British armies had to pay rent for the trenches in which they fought in France.
Mr, Pollard interjecting,
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture can come in, if he wishes to contribute to the gaiety of the House, but I say that his attitude is wrong. Turning now to the Department of the Army, the report of the Auditor-General under the heading “ Internment camps for overseas internees and prisoners of war “, states - 120. Expenditure during the year in connexion with overseas civilian internees and prisoners of war, recoverable from other administrations, was £1,941,736, making the total expenditure £9,463,770 to the 30th June, 1946. Of this sum £7.529,004 has been reimbursed to the Commonwealth, leaving £1,934,766 to be recovered.
In addition to the abovementioned expenditure, an amount of £568,128 has been charged to reciprocal lend-lease in respect of prisoners of war detained on behalf of the United States of America. Since the termination of the Reciprocal Lend-Lease Agreement, further expenditure totalling £241,554 has been incurred in respect of these prisoners. This sum, which is included in the amount of £0,463,770 quoted above, is held in suspense pending the result of negotiations with the United States Government.
I want the House to realize the difference in treatment we are extending to Great Britain and that which we are according to the United States of America. Under the terms of the lend-lease agreement we were financially responsible for any commitments entered into on our own soil, so that costs incurred in connexion with prisoners of war interned on behalf of the United States of America were charged against reciprocal lend-lease; in other words, we bore those costs. “When it was a matter of interning prisoners of war sent here from the Middle East, most of whom had been captured by the 6th And 7th Australian Divisions, we housed, fed and guarded them, and then sent in the bill to the United Kingdom Government. This is one of the most amazing transactions in the history of warfare. Wo take part in military operations, capture large numbers of enemy troops - of which the whole nation is so proud - and then we send in an account to the British Government, whose country has been so badly battered and smashed. I have never heard of such a thing before ! Turning now to the cost of British naval operations in the Pacific, every honorable member opposite knows the value to this country of those operations, and no one will suggest that the naval protection was ineffective in saffeguarding this country. It was well worth paying for, but in respect of that naval defence we have collected from the United Kingdom Government the sum of only £10,695,000, and we are billing the United Kingdom for another £17,500,000.
– That is the fault of the Australian Country party; it wants its pound of flesh.
– But the Minister could only give a pound of hide. In addition, we have been paid £2,085,000 in respect of naval stores. In regard to the internment of prisoners of war - many of whom were, doubtless, taken prisoner by our own troops - we have been paid £7,529,000. For the cost of construction of mine-sweeping flotillas in Pacific waters we have been paid £4,172,000. In addition, the Commonwealth is to receive a sum, not yet determined, in respect of hospital ships. Another matter which has not been mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report is the fact that when the Australian cruiser Canberra was sunk the Royal Navy gave us the cruiser Shropshire to replace it. That gift was worth approximately £3,000,000. If we had to build a similar vessel to-day it would cost us double that figure. However, leaving out of consideration that generous gift of the United Kingdom, we find that we have already received from that Government in respect of war credits the sum of approximately £24,000,000. We have received from the Dominion of Canada by a very generous gift, about which nothing has been said in this Parliament, a sum of £7,909,000. Now, out of the depths of our generosity, we propose to give to the United Kingdom the sum of £25,000,000 - an amount which we have already collected in advance. I say that this is one of the most amazing bills ever introduced, even compared with other remarkable pieces of legislation introduced by this Government. I say that this gift should be looked at merely from the viewpoint of clause 2 of the bill. That clause states -
What does the term “ operations in and around the Pacific” connote? Does it include the expenditure sustained by Great Britain in Burma ? The campaigns in Burma, including the one which we lost in 1942 and the victorious campaign of 1945, were as essential to the safety of Australia as any campaign conducted in the Pacific. Does Trincomalee come within the definition of “operations in and around the Pacific “ ? A considerable naval base was established there after the fall of Singapore, and that base was just as vital to the defence of this country as the base established in Sydney. But there is no suggestion that we should bear any of that expenditure. We have received no account in respect of the huge cost of maintenance of our forces in the Middle East.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the bill.
– I was merely pointing out that operations in the Middle East were as vital to Australia’s security-
– I think the Middle East is a little too far removed to come within the ambit of discussion on this bill.
– But it was not too far removed for our military operations-
-Order! The Chair thinks otherwise.
– I am endeavouring to ascertain the mind of the Government, and I think we are entitled to know what is connoted by the phrase, “ operations in and around the Pacific “.
– Temporarily, the Chair has ruled on the definition to be applied to that phrase.
– If Mr. Speaker’s definition is correct, may we expect the Government to introduce another bill to deal with our moral responsibilities for matters not mentioned in this bill?
– The honorable member cannot anticipate the future in the course of this debate.
– In that case my remarks must be confined to expenditure incurred by the British Government in respect of operations “ in and around the Pacific” without knowing what those words mean. This does not meet the obligations of Australia towards the United Kingdom, but merely touches on the fringe of them.. Those obligations extend to other parts of the world, on land, in the air and on the sea, where Australian forces were engaged throughout the war. We cannot pass over those obligations by saying that we confined ourselves to the war in and around the Pacific. To the Pacific area, towards the end of the war, were, sent some of the heaviest units of the British Navy. To the Pacific area, if the war had continued, there would have been directed, in addition to naval and air forces, many big land forces of the United Kingdom.
-Order ! The honorable member is now admitting that he is out of order by saying that, if the war had continued, something would have happened, and proposing to elaborate on that. Obviously, that is out of order.
– The items which I have discussed had relation to arrangements which were being entered into in preparation for the continuance of the war; but, nevertheless, we are asking the United Kingdom to pay for them. 1 have shown that Canada has been fairly generous, not only to the United Kingdom, but also to Australia. It is regrettable that the Commonwealth Government is not prepared, for once in its life, to imitate, if not emulate, the example set by the Canadian Government, and supply the food to which reference was made in the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday. That is the point at which the Government baulks. The Government tries to convince the Australian taxpayer, and the world at large, that its obligations will be met in full as soon as the bill making a gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom is passed. If the accounts are produced, they will show that Australia has received from the United Kingdom more than £25,000,000 in cash, which it is now proposing to write off. Australia has that money, and, in addition, has received a “ pretty fair cut “ from Canada.
– Is the honorable member prepared to pay heavier taxes in order that the Commonwealth may make a bigger gift to the United Kingdom?
– I have never protested against heavy taxes imposed for war purposes. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will read some of the speeches which I delivered in the early part of World War II., he will find that I said that all man-power and money power in the community should be available for the winning of the war, and I did not put any “ tags “ on it.
– Is the Minister’s question any reason why we should rob the United Kingdom?
– Of course not !
– The honorable member for Barker said, before the outbreak of World War II., that a strong air force would not be required.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member did. He contended that the defence of Australia depended upon the Navy.
– What I said on that occasion still stands. I do not have to take back anything that I said then.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Barker declared, before the outbreak of World War II., that Australia should rely upon a strong army and navy.
– I did not say that, either; but I shall tell the honorable member for Hunter what I did do. In 1935, as the records of the Department of Defence, will show, I proposed to the government of that day that Australia should undertake, as a part of its liability for the defence of the Pacific, the supply of one-third of the garrison for Singapore. The reply which I received amounted to this : What would Mr. Lang think about it? Even in those days, although the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) was not a member of this Parliament, some people feared his shadow. Our sister dominion of New Zealand, according to a press report, is making a donation or gift to the United Kingdom of £12,500,000. According to statements which I have heard, the amount was £10,000,000. I do not know which of those statements is correct; but the statement which I read was a cabled report from London of a remark by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr. Hugh Dalton. I should say that he would know.
– What amount does the honorable member consider that the Commonwealth should grant to the United Kingdom?
– When I am in office and have all the facts before me, I shall name the figure. The Minister cannot say that, when I have been a Minister, I have been backward in ex pressing my views. Whether the figure be £10,000,000 or £12,500,000, it is altogether out of proportion to the relative wealth and population of the Commonwealth and New Zealand.
– -“What amount does the honorable member name?
-Order! I shall name the Minister if he continues to interject.
– New Zealand, in respect of armed forces, the supply of commodities, the general war effort, and the theatre in which its troops fought, including the Italian campaign, contributed a greater percentage of its man-power to the purchase of victory than did Australia. That statement is undeniable. Regarding the gift to the United Kingdom, the dominion of New Zealand is contributing substantially more, on a per capita basis, than is the Commonwealth. But New Zealand, per capita, in potential resources, manufacturing output and primary production, does not rank so high as does Australia. Although we have greater resources and industrial potentiality than the smaller dominion has, it is prepared to make a gift of £10,000,000 or £12,500,000. If the amount is £12,500,000 as stated by Dr. Hugh Dalton, it is half the amount which the Commonwealth is presenting to the United Kingdom. Perhaps the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) can inform me what payments the Government of New Zealand accepted from the United Kingdom Government. If New Zealand has a record like Australia’s record, as disclosed by the Auditor-General, I shall be greatly surprised. The attitude of the Government of New Zealand towards the war, the conduct of the war and the problems of the war, set an example which the Commonwealth Government should have followed on more than one occasion.
– Did the honorable member ever examine New Zealand’s rationing scheme?
– This bill is not a satisfactory discharge of the Commonwealth’s moral obligations towards the Government and the people of the United Kingdom. The bill should be withdrawn, or, alternatively, it should be the forerunner of other bills which will deal with other theatres of war. I shall not deal with the agricultural position of the United Kingdom because that was ably explained last night by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I trust that after three Ministers visit the United Kingdom before next September, Australia’s appreciation of its obligations to the country which saved civilization will be keener than is disclosed in this bill.
.- The measure before the House is a piecemeal measure. It is trifling with a problem that should be tackled in a realistic way, and on a realistic basis. The very title of the bill introduced a wrong note into the relationship which should exist between Australia and the United Kingdom. The approach has been that the United Kingdom is in sore financial difficulties, and that the only way in which we can help is to make a grant of eA.25,000,000. That is reducing the United Kingdom to the status of a mendicant. How is the £25,000,000 to be paid to Britain ? Had the Australian Government decided to send to Britain food valued at £25,000,000 there might have been some merit in the proposal, but all that is proposed is that a bookkeeping entry shall be made. Our balances in London are to be reduced by £20,000,000 sterling. How much better off will the people of Britain be for that bookkeeping entry? Britain’s external liabilities were increased by £3,500,000,000 during the war. Compared with that sum £20,000,000 sterling is almost an infinitesimal amount; it represents about 2 per cent, of the recent loan to Britain from the United States of America, and it will not provide any real substance to Britain. According to the Government, Australia is already sending to Britain the maximum quantity of food that can be sent, and so this measure will not assist the people there by so much as one mouthful of food a day. Thus, the measure fails to satisfy the only test that would justify the use of the word “ grant “ in the title of the bill. The real problem, therefore, is one affecting the financial relations between Australia and Great Britain. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told the Parliament that Aus tralia has in London balances amounting to £170,000,000 sterling, but he did not tell us that Australia’s public debt to Britain is £487,27.1,000 sterling. When on a former occasion a partial scaling down of Britain’s debt in favour of Australia was proposed, there was an immediate howl of “ repudiation “ throughout the length and breadth of the land.
The Prime Minister did not tell us that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer had requested this action, and therefore we are entitled to ask what is the background of the proposal. Let us examine the true position. It is suggested that because American servicemen spent a lot of. money in Australia during the war, and as we made those dollars available to the sterling bloc, we now have large credits in London. But even if we agree to wipe out £25,000,000 Australian of Britain’s indebtedness, we shall still not improve Britain’s position in relation to the dollar pool. Britain’s need to-day is dollar currency, .not Australian currency. Britain would prefer to sell to Australia goods to the value of £25,000,000 than have Australia wipe that amount off the slate, because in that way Britain would be helping to re-establish its own overseas markets, which is that country’s most urgent need if it is to survive as a major industrial power.
The next argument that has been advanced is that Britain expended a lot of money in fighting the war in the Pacific. That statement places a very sordid interpretation on the responsibilities of partners in a total war. It would be just as logical to suggest that Britain should recoup this country for the total expenditure in connexion with Australian forces which participated in the Battle for Britain or in the North African campaign. That argument, is not fair to Great Britain, and it should never have been allowed to intrude itself in this discussion. The Prime Minister said that it is proposed to make this contribution towards the war costs . incurred by the British Government in and around the Pacific. That is as much as to say that the Pacific campaign was. of no real concern to the British Government. By raising this argument the Government reduces Australia’s war effort to a materialistic basis. Surely, it is possible to approach, this problem on a practical basis. Instead of thinking in terms of £25,000,000 Australian, it should be possible to review the entire incidence of the financial relationships between the two countries. Although we have a temporary liquid balance in London to-day, experience shows that such balances can vanish as quickly as they are created. A fall in wool prices, an increase of imports from Britain, or a drought, would wipe out the whole of our London balances. But there should be nothing to prevent an overall adjustment of the debt structure. At the present time Australia owes £487,000,000 in London and £40,000,000 in New York. On the other hand, we have £170,000,000 available in London, in balances that are held as liquid assets.
The average rate of interest we are paying in London is £3 12s. Id. per cent., whilst the average rate in Australia is only £2 15s. 8d. per cent. At the present time we have to find over £16,000,000 sterling each year for our interest payment’s to London and New York on government debts. Is not the practical approach to this problem, then, a twoway funding of the two debts ? Instead of Australia retaining the whole of its £170,000,000 in the form of liquid balances in London, why not use the major portion of it to reduce the longterm debt? That would reduce our interest payments abroad, and would also lessen the drain on the sterling balance each year. That means that the London debt would, perhaps, have to be replaced by loans raised in Australia. Instead of the interest having to be paid in London, it would have to be found in Australia. That some such arrangement could be made was demonstrated by the Funding Arrangements Act of 1921, under which the total Australian war debt to Britain arising out of World War I. was funded. Again, during the depression a moratorium was granted in respect of the payment of interest on war debts. Britain stopped paying to the United States of America, and we stopped paying to Britain. Even so, we are still paying interest on the* war debts in connexion with World ‘War I. which were funded with the British public. So there is both precedent and sound common sense in favour of tackling the entire problem, not in this piecemeal way, but on a nation to nation basis. Let us forget all this most unfortunate talk about making a grant to Britain. It sounds too much like a hand-out, or charity. It cannot help Britain with its major financial problem.
Can the Treasurer tell us how much interest Britain must find if we main* tain the whole of our £170,000,000 sterling intact ? Let us tackle something more than this, which is an empty book-: keeping entry. Let us survey the financial and economic relations between our two countries on a long-term basis. I said in this building many years ago, and I now say it again to this Parliament because I sincerely believe it, that the only real basis is an exchange of goods between the United Kingdom and Australia. We must buy more of each other’s products. If our credits in London are too large, or our debt is too great, those positions are barriers to trade. I ask honorable members to consider that. Every £1 that we have to divert for interest means £1 less spent on British goods. Every £1 held in London is £1 that we could have spent. That, to my mind, is the crux of the problem. This bill, at its best, is an empty gesture. Let us make a substantial contribution towards the establishment of a sound basis for trade between our two countries. Let us overhaul the debt structure. Let us - I put this seriously to the Treasurer, who is also the Prime Minister - repatriate as much as possible of our overseas loans. That would be in accordance with Labour’s financial policy. It would be in the best interests of Australia’s future, as well as a fillip to that which is most desired and wanted by the United King. dom. namely, trade.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 13th May. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr, Chifley) whether he would ensure adequate supplies of black coal to Victoria, and whether he had had conversations on this subject with the Premier of that State. He said that he had had such conversations, and later supplied the following answer: -
Further to my reply to the honorable member’s question … I desire to inform him that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has nd vised me that the Joint Coal Board regularly reviews the whole question of distribution, and has decided that, in present circumstances, a fair quota for Victoria would be 30,000 tons a week, by sea and rail. This target has now definitely been set by the board and arrangements have now been made by the Australian Shipping Board for the appropriate tonnage.
Since I received that reply another state of emergency has arisen in Victoria. In Melbourne, gas is to be rationed for at least the next ten days, when householders will be allowed to use gas for only four hours daily. This is a recurring trouble due to production and distribution factors in New South “Wales. However, when the Prime Minister makes a promise that something will be done one should be able to give credence to it. But what do we find ? Yesterday the Australian Shipping Board, in spite of what the Prime Minister said, announced that it had allotted tonnage to take 22,000 tons of coal weekly to Victoria. Thus, even should coal be available the Shipping Board has arranged to move only 22,000 tons a week. How many tons will be carried by rail I do not know. It is time that the Prime Minister followed up his promise to ensure that Victoria shall receive its proper quota.
– The Prime Minister is doing the best he can in the matter.
– We have heard that reply many times previously. However, this is the Government’s responsibility. It is not a party political matter. It was brought up originally by the Labour Premier of Victoria, who was given the specific promise I have indicated. Of all honorable members, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who has just interjected, should be most interested in this matter, considering that he represents the electorate of Melbourne.
– And a good member, too.
– As the representative of the Melbourne electorate in this Parliament, the Minister should ensure that housewives, in that city shall not be dependent for gas upon the whims of New South Wales. If he listens to the radio news to-night he will probably hear something along the following lines. “ If the collier so-and-so which is now battling up the bay reaches south wharf by 2 a.m. tomorrow, Melbourne may not be rationed the week after next”. We get this every week, and we are sick of it. Victoria has not black coal deposits of the quality of New South Wales deposits. Surely, the Government, which controls shipping, can arrange effective deliveries.
– The Government does not control shipping; most controls have been restored to private enterprise.
– The Minister is out of his depth when he makes that statement. Some time ago when I asked a question relating to the distribution of tons of steel held at Newcastle, and stated that ships only half loaded were leaving Newcastle for Victoria, I was assured that full freight would be loaded by all available vessels. Therefore, the Government has some control over shipping. I do not raise this matter in any party political spirit, but as a representative of a Victorian electorate, and because I am fully aware of the disadvantage suffered by Victorians in this respect. Years ago, when the late Sir John Monash undertook the brown coal project at Yallourn, he said that when that project was in full operation Victoria would be no longer be the industrial vassal of New South Wales. To-day, although that great engineering work has been brought to fruition, and from it the people of Victoria are supplied with electric power when Mr. Brown, or other notorious Communist leaders do not cause a strike, Victoria is still dependent upon New South Wales for black coal of a quality required for making gas and on the railways. The Prime Minister should give urgent consideration to this matter, and ensure that Victoria shall be supplied with its quota of coal.
– A few days ago I had occasion to complain of the very slow method of repaying refunds of tax to taxpayers who had overpaid tax. Later, I received from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), an answer to a question which I ashed upon notice, in which he stated that there were about 350,000 taxpayers awaiting refunds, and that refunds would be paid within a few days after personal, or written, application had been made. I have since received from one taxpayer a volume of correspondence dealing with his claim for a refund of tax. He paid his tax on the 3rd June, 1946, and the amount overpaid was £4 3s. Since that date nothing has been done. The latest letter he received is dated the 17th May, in which he was informed that the department was still dealing with his claim. If departmental officers can sit down and write letters over a period of twelve months, it might be easier for them to write out a cheque for the amount which is clearly owing. This is the kind of treatment which exasperates taxpayers. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say they can make personal application for refunds ; but any one who visits a taxation office in any of the capital cities and sees the queues of claimants will get a fairly correct idea of their chance of having their claims dealt with. I assure the Treasurer that these cases are serious. As I said earlier, whilst a few pounds may not seem much to the department which handles hundreds of millions, it may represent an important consideration to a taxpayer who is overcharged that amount.
Some time ago I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) if he would table the papers in connexion with the prosecution of a man named Rudkin in Western Australia in 1940. I again ask the Attorney-General to attend to this matter. Possibly he will tell me next Tuesday whether he will comply with my request.
, - I take this opportunity to protest against the reimposition of the levy on rabbit skins which was reimposed last Saturday at the rate of ls. 6d. per lb. The Government’s policy with regard to this matter is short-sighted. According to press reports, the United States of America, which in 1945-46 imported 13,000,000 lb. of Australian rabbit skins, worth approximately £5,000,000, is hoping to c»- operate with Australia in a cam paign for the promotion of an increased demand for rabbit skin coats, in which case America would double its present imports of rabbit skins. The point I emphasized is that the rabbit is the most serious menace to primary production, because it destroys grass, which is the most valuable of all crops. In addition, it destroys young crops. The rabbit is also responsible for much of our soil erosion, because its burrows give a start to wind and water to set up erosion. Ten million pounds sounds a lot of money, but no one can estimate the number of millions of pounds lost to Australia through the damage caused by rabbits. It may be argued that the price of rabbit skins is -high, and that it will not affect the matter much if a levy of ls. 6d. per lb. is imposed. I can imagine hearing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) saying that. I maintain, however, that we should encourage the price nf skins to remain as high as possible so as to induce persons who ordinarily do not bother about rabbits at all to go out trapping them, especially now when labour is short and rabbit-proof fencing is scarce and dear. This pest must be eradicated of at least restricted if we are to obtain the full benefits of our fertile soil, and to derive benefit from irrigation projects. The effect of neglecting the control of rabbits will be felt not to-day or to-morrow but in ten or twenty years time. It is argued that by re-imposing the levy it will be possible to reduce the price of hats by 10s; each, but those hats are worn chiefly by people in the cities. The policy of the Government will have the effect of preventing the destruction of rabbits in the country so that people in the cities may have cheaper hats. If we weigh the benefits and disadvantages of this proposal it will be seen that no sound grounds exist for re-imposing the levy.
– I bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Barnard) the position of medical officers in the Royal Australian Air Force. They enlisted for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter, hut they are finding it practically impossible to obtain their discharges. I understand that contemporary medical officers in the Australian Military . Forces have been released, and those in the Royal Australian Air Force wish to be released also. I recognize that there are certain commitments which have to be honoured. There must be some medical officers with members of the Royal Australian Air Force in the occupation forces, and doctors are needed to staff hospitals and permanent establishments. However, I have been informed that permanent establishments controlled by the Army are staffed largely by civilian doctors. There are about ten Royal Australian Air Force stations on the mainland where flying takes place, and I recognize that medical officers must be attached to those stations. At the present time it is very rare for any medical man to apply for a permanent commission in the Royal Australian Air Force, and it is not difficult to believe this when one knows the circumstances of the service. The pay is very poor - about £500 a year, which is the same as is earned by many skilled and semi-skilled tradesmen. There is no inducement for married medical men to join the service, because suitable living quarters are not provided. Medical officers transferred from one State to another find it very difficult to obtain accommodation for their wives and families. This discourages the recruitment of medical officers, and, in turn, prevents the release of those officers who are already serving. The Repatriation Department pays £862 a year to medical officers, whilst the Commonwealth Medical Service pays about £1,000 a year. This is in marked contrast to the £500 a year paid in the air force.
A possible solution of the difficulty would be to get young medical graduates to serve in the air force for a period of, say, six months after graduation, so that there would be a constant succession of them entering and leaving the service. This would relieve those men who have been in the service for years, and who are anxious to return to civil practice. The position of a medical officer attached to a flying station in peace-time, where all the men are young and healthy, does not provide many opportunities for becoming proficient in his profession, with the result that he tends to become stale pro fessionally. I trust that the Minister will give favorable consideration to my suggestions.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has voiced some objections to the imposition of a levy on rabbit skins exported from Australia. I think I should tell the honorable member the history of that levy. It was imposed in 1941 by the Menzies Government, and was supported by the party to which the honorable member for Wimmera belongs. Its purpose was to ensure the stabilization of the price of hats for the Australian civil community, and for members of the defence forces. There is some logic and common sense in this levy. If Australia were to submit to the imposition- upon its population of prices ruling in other parts of the world, our own internal economy, as it affects both city and country dwellers, would crash. In these circumstances, the Government has decided to continue the levy to which it is committed under legislation introduced by the Menzies Government. The levy operates in this manner: Babbit skins are sold by auction, and the sales are attended by both export buyers and local hat manufacturers who compete for the skins which are available. After a sale, the skins purchased for export at prices related to the internal economy of the countries represented by the buyers, are subjected to a levy which is determined by the Commonwealth Government from time to time. At present it is ls. 6d. per lb. There is then a readjustment between the price of the export skins and the price of skins bought by Australian hat manufacturers, who are subsidized by the amount by which the price that he bid at auction exceeded the price fixed by the Australian Prices Commissioner.
– It makes the price of Australian skins lower.
– What the honorable member overlooks is the fact that the Australian hat manufacturer competes with the export buyer at the auction sale. If that were not so, the Australian hat manufacturer could have his parcel of skins set aside for him and there would not be any benefit to the trapper. The view expressed by the honorable member for Wimmera is stupid. If we were to allow the prices of all other products to go to the extreme limits ruling in the United States of America, Great Britain or France, the Australian economy would be ruined, and our own stabilization schemes would go “ haywire “. The first sufferers would be the Australian primary producers and other members of the community dependent upon primary production. In these circumstances, there is no legitimate case for the removal of the levy. The honorable member’s argument, in effect, is that the imposition of this tax of ls. 6d. per lb. on exported skins makes trapping unattractive. The fact is, however, that at the rabbit skin sales recently held in Sydney, a price of 9Sd. per lb. was realized. At eight skins to the lb.. that is ls. a skin. When I was a youth, the price of rabbit skins was 6d. per lb. If the honorable member for Wimmera maintains that the imposition of a levy of ls. 6d. per lb. will discourage the trapper and the farmer from chasing “ brer rabbit “, he does not know his subject. It is true that some Australian primary producers and others are submitting a case that the imposition of this levy will result in a great increase of rabbit numbers in rural areas, but that is not so. Last year, Australia exported rabbit skins to the value of £9,000,000. The average pre-war figure was £600,000. In these circumstances, the honorable member’s case is entirely fallacious.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre1sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (79).
House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. I am informed that no separate statistics are available as to the actual transactions handled or advances made in any given period by the various banks, as- between government and semi-government and other classes of business. It is not possible, therefore, to supply, the information required by tas honorable member.
Textiles: Imports from Japan.
y. - On the 22nd April the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question regarding cotton and silk textiles from Japan. I am now able to inform the honorable member that the Department of Trade and Customs has no knowledge of any cotton and silk textiles having been sent from Japan to America before being imported into Australia. Any Japanese goods required by Australia are purchased in Japan by Australian Government representatives who have been sent there for that purpose. The goods are shipped direct to this country and payment is made in dollars to the Supreme Commander, Allied powers, from whom dollars are received in payment for wool exported to Japan. Payment is thus being made in the same currency as that received in exchange for our wool.
DEPARTMENT of Trade and Customs: Refund of Deposit.
– On the 16th May the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question concerning the delay in the refunding to the Melanesian Mission of a deposit of duty of £200, lodged with the Department of Trade and Customs in respect of a launch which arrived at Sydney in September, 1D46, for transshipment to the New Hebrides. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Although the launch was shipped from Sydney in December, 1940, the agent for the mission at that port did not apply for refund of the deposit until the 14th Millen, 1947, that is, three months after the launch had been shipped. This was the principal cause of the delay in the refunding of the deposit; but a further delay resulted because the claim, through pressure of work in the department, had not been dealt with by the end of March and the deposit was automatically transferred to -revenue, thus involving a complication in dealing with the refund. The claim was ultimately forwarded, duly certified, to the SubTreasury, Sydney, on the 12th May and was paid to the mission on the 16th May.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470523_reps_18_192/>.