18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
AirCrash Near Townsville - Long Service Leave.
– It is reported in the press thatthe finding of the Royal Australian Air Force inquiry into the crash of a Mosquito bomber into Saddle Mountain, near Townsville, on the 25th March last, is not to be released to the press. Will the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Air state whether or not the report is correct? If it is, what is the reason for withholding the finding from the public?
– I have not Been the press report, consequently I do not know what it contains. It cannot be regarded as authoritative. I have just received the report of the Royal Australian Air Force -inquiry, and propose to examine it during next week-end. I shall then decide whether the whole or a portion of it shall be released to the public.
– I draw the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Air to the fact that permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force who retired at their own request after the war were not granted pro rata long service leave. I understand that these men, having in mind the intention of the Government to re-organize the Royal Australian Air Force and to effect retrenchments, retired for the purpose of ensuring their own future. No assurance was given to them that when the interim Air Force was being organized permanent members of the Royal AustralianAir Force would be re-engaged. In these circumstances, will the Government con- sider granting to these individuals pro ratalong service leave?
– This matter is somewhat involved. I shall have it investigated and give a considered reply.
Clothes - Commission Staff
Mr.GEORGELAWSON.- The Brisbane Courier-Mail yesterday published an article which was headed in bold black type “Drapers Moving to End Ration of Clothes”. In the article, Mr. H. G. Fielding, representing McWhirter’s Limited, and Mr. , J. H. Blakeney; representing Finney Isles Limited, two large and reputable drapery firms in Brisbane, stated that they are holding in their stores heavy stocks of rationed clothing which, they say, people cannot buy because of coupon shortages, and that the Retailers Association intends again to ask the Commonwealth Government to abolish clothes rationing, as the need for it no longer exists. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to that article? Has he any comment to make on this important matter, which is agitating the minds of many people? Has he any explanation to offer, so that the public of
Brisbane may know just where they stand in regard to it?
– The honorable member for Moreton yesterday asked me a question in regard to this matter. There is a very serious shortage of woven cloth in Australia. Increased quantities are being imported, but there is no evidence that sufficient supplies are coming to hand to enable rationing to be dispensed with. As the honorable member knows, knitted goods of all kinds, as well as hats, ties and various other articles of wearing apparel are unrationed. Inquiries are being made into the particular matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. I understand that an inquiry was held by the Commonwealth Investigation Branch into allegations by the honorable member for “Wentworth of bribery and corruption in the food rationing section of the Sydney Office of the Rationing Commission, and that a report has been submit:ed. Will the Prime Minister state what was the result of the inquiry, and’ whether the charges have been sustained? Will the papers in connexion with this matter be placed on the table of the House for perusal by honorable members? This matter has teen featured in all the Sydney newspapers, and if the charges have not been sustained, will the Prime Minister state the facts so that those trustworthy officers who have been maligned may be rehabilitated in public opinion? Some of the senior officers of the Rationing Commission in Sydney are permanent State public servants on loan to the Commonwealth Government.
– Reports have come forward, and although I am not familiar with all the details, I understand that the representatives of the Rationing Commission are satisfied that the statements were not correct in any particular. I shall have a full reply prepared and shall supply the honorable member with a general summary of the findings.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). The suggestion of the honorable member that I had made allegations ‘ in this House is entirely incorrect and misrepresents the position as far as I am concerned. I merely read a letter which had been sent to me. I regard it as the duty of every honorable member who has a letter sent to him containing important allegations in respect of which the signatory indicated that he was prepared to appear before a committee of inquiry and give evidence to substantiate them, to place such a letter before the House. I denied any responsibility for the statements made by the writer of the letter, and I made that perfectly clear when I read it. I offered to hand the letter to the Attorney-General.. The right honorable gentleman sent an officer of the Investigation Branch to my office to pick it up. No allegations were made by me and I made it plain that the letter should be taken at its face value. The tenor of the honorable member’s question completely misrepresents the position.
British Aircraft - Qantas Empire Airways
– Having regard to the necessity to conserve dollars, will the Acting Minister for Air say what consideration the Australian National Airlines Commission has given to the desirability of using such British aircraft as the De Havilland Dove and the’ 40- passenger Airspeed Ambassador instead of American Douglas Skymasters and Convair types?
– The need to conserve dollars is ever in the mind of the Government, and particularly of the Treasurer. Since I have been Acting Minister for Air, representations have been placed ‘before me on the subject of British aircraft. The decision to use American aircraft was not reached without very careful consideration. I assure the honorable member that the Government fully recognizes the need to conserve dollars, and’ the desirability of using British aircraft.
– Will the Prime Minister state the actual price per share paid for the half interest in
Qantas Empire Airways which the Government acquired earlier this year? What price is asked for the remaining half of the shares, which, I understand, the Government is now contemplating acquiring?
– Probably, the honorable member refers to the shares that the British Overseas Airways Corporation held in Qantas Empire Airways. Those shares were held not by private shareholders, but by the British Government, and Australia purchased them by agreement. My recollection, offhand, was that the principal payment was approximately 30s. 6d. a share, but I admit that I am speaking without having referred to the matter for some time. The agreement contained certain qualifications relating to accrued interest for broken periods. I shall endeavour to obtain the precise information for the honorable member. Negotiations are now .proceeding for the Government to acquire the privately held interests in Qantas Empire Airways, and, consequently, I am not able to say what the final settlement will be. When the negotiations have been completed, I shall supply the information which the honorable member requires.
Italian and Japanese Negotiations
– In the press to-day appears a statement that Australia is not to be represented at the talks concerning the disposal of Italian colonies. In view of the splendid part played by the Australian Imperial Force at El Alamein, the suffering of our troops at Tobruk, and the many other battles in which our forces took a prominent part during the North African campaign, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Australian Government has taken steps to be represented fully at the London conference to discuss the future of the Italian colonies? Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that the Mediterranean is an important link between Great Britain and Australia? Did not the Australian navy, army and air force make a most vital contribution to the defeat of the Italian forces in that theatre of war, and is Australia not entitled to a voice in the determination of the disposal of colonies in the capture of which its forces played so important a part?
– I have not read the press statements in regard to this matter. The disposal of the Italian colonies is regarded as being within the province of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Representations were made, through the High Commissioner for Australia in London, that the Australian Government should be represented in the council’s discussions on this question; but it was held that it was not within Australia’s right to participate in them. The Government has taken steps, through the High Commissioner in London, to ensure that the Australian view of these matters is placed before the council.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether Australia is experiencing considerable difficulty in inducing other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations to send representatives to Australia for preliminary talks regarding the peace treaty with Japan ?
– I do not know precisely what the honorable member means by “ difficulty “. Australia has asked the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations to 6end representatives to Australia for a preliminary conference on the peace treaty with Japan, as Australia has a vital interest in the Pacific settlement and was an active participant in the war against Japan. Requests that conferences be held in Australia are not always viewed favorably by other countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Canada. The reason is that they desire their high-ranking representatives to attend, and those representatives find it difficult to spare the time to come to Australia. In no sense do they intend any disrespect to this country. I understand that the Dominion of Canada feels that it would have difficulty to get a first-class representative to come to Australia. The United Kingdom Government is considering the matter, and hopes that two prominent members of Cabinet, one of whom is very well known and the other a promising younger man, will be able to make the trip, if the other dominions agree that the conference shall be held here. At the moment, I am not able to supply , any definite information on the subject.
– In view of the fact that Commonwealth loans are usually over-subscribed before t’hey are opened, does the Government intend to continue the employment of full-time loan organizers in the cities and in country towns?
– The honorable member makes an over-statement when he says that loans have been filled before t’hey have been opened. When the larger loans were being floated, the Government had to extend the time on a number of occasions during which subscriptions could be received. The last loan was fully subscribed very shortly after it was opened, but itwas only for a small amount. A number of other loans are to ibe floated before the end of this year. In view of thatand of our commitments next year and in the following years up to1950when large amounts fall due, it hasbeen deemedadvisable to retain the loan organization but with a very much reduced personnel. ‘The services of several members of the staff have been dispensed with. It is proposed to retain theorganization on a much reduced scale pending a greater need for its services.
PrivilegedAttacks on Officials - Charges byMr. F. A. Lush.
– In view of the need to avoid casting doubt on the integrity of public servants and in common justice to them, does thePrime Minister not consider that, as an inquiry is proceeding into the Land Sales Control, there should bean avoidance of questions and answers in this House on this matter until the inquiry is completed ? Would the Prime Minister be prepared to receive in writing any evidence on the subjectthat amember may wishto profferand so avoid prejudicingpublic opinionagainst any officer? DoesthePrime Minister agree thatthisis especially necessary in this case because of the publication in a
Sydney daily newspaper of a malicious letter later read in this Parliament and subsequently found to carry the signature of a person whose existence cannot be traced, which letter must have prejudiced the minds of all who read it?
– The maligning of public servants in this House by honorable members, particularly members of the Opposition, under privilege, from the coward’s castle, as it were, worries me. Public servants serve the Parliament regardless of the political party in power. I do not know of anything Icandotoensure the protection of not only public servants,but also other peopleagainstunwarranted attacks under privilege, except to appeal to the honour of honorable members. I hope that the , investigation by the Commonwealth InvestigationBranchofthe Land Sales Control will be completed at areasonably early date. Meanwhile, the proper thing for honorable members to do would be to refrain from discussing the matter until the Government has received . and considered the report of the investigating officers, and has indicated what action it proposes. Then if (honorable members considered that the proposed action was notadequate, the timewould be appropriatefor honorable members to raisethe matter again.
– IaskthePrime Minister whether any inquiry is being held into the charges made by Mr. F. A. Lush in the letter he addressed to the right honorable gentleman on the23rd May. If so, who is conducting the inquiry; if not,why not?
– The charges made’ by Mr. Lush were, in effect, charges against the Commonwealth Actuary in Canberra, , who deals primarily with the matters involved and with other matters thesubject of appeal direct to me, which are finally determined by theCommonwealth Actuary. No . inquiry is being madeinto the particular matter referred toby the honorablemember for Reid and I am unableto ascertain any reasons for such an inquiry. There is no intention tohold an inquiry into these matters until the reportof the officers of the Investigation . Branch relating to the Sydneyoffice isbefore the Government.
When that report has been received consideration will be given to the question of the honorable member for Reid.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statements published in to-day’s Sydney press by the former delegate of the Treasurer, Mr. F. A. Lush, in which he made further allegations in regard to the administration of Land Sales Control? He is reported to have said that “persons associated with all political parties in Federal and State politics had brought constant pressure to bear on him to influence his determination of land and property values “ ; that “ some Canberra instructions had resulted in sales being approved at a value far in excess of the value of properties determined by him and his advisory panel in Sydney “, and that, in other instances, “ prices which had been determined by the Sydney office in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Canberra office had been overruled by certain officials in Canberra, and that approval had been given to higher prices “. In view of these fresh allegations by Mr. Lush, involving members of this Parliament and the administration of Land Sales Control at Canberra, and in fairness to those members, Mr. Lush himself, and the Canberra officials, will the Prime Minister appoint forthwith a judge with Supreme Court jurisdiction as a royal commissioner, to inquire into the whole of the administration of Land Sales Control, and the allegations that have been made by Mr. Lush?
– I believe that I have made it perfectly clear that the Government proposes to take no further action in this matter until it has received the report of the officers of the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, who are inquiring into it. Neither the Government nor I will engage in any discussion of the matter until that report has been received. I disregard the reference to members of Parliament. I consider it to be a privilege of a member of Parliament to make representations, to a Minister, or, through him, to a departmental officer. It is not only his privilege but also, frequently, his duty and members of all parties avail themselves of it. Honorable members on both sides of the House have often represented to me that the fixed price of a property was far too low, and that there was no justification for the valuation which Land Sales Control had placed on it. Honorable members are quite entitled to make representations to me, to another Minister, or to a department, and neither Mr. Lush nor anybody else will induce me to discourage them from doing so. I again stress that no further action will be taken in this matter until the report of the investigating officers has been submitted to the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether the new Government of Western Australia has ceased to issue permits for the building of war service homes, whether that government is the agent of the Commonwealth Government in the building of war service homes in Western Australia, and what is the attitude of the Commonwealth to its agent’s action?
– The Government of Western Australia is the constructing authority and agent for the War Service Homes Commission in that State. I read in the newspapers that one of the first actions of the new Liberal Premier was to issue an order stopping architects from going on with plans for war service homes. I asked the War Service Homes Commissioner at Canberra whether he had been advised. As he had not, I wrote, as Minister in charge of war service homes, to the Premier asking why he had taken the action. If I do not get a satisfactory reply and construction does not proceed, I will give consideration to starting a branch of the Department of Works and Housing in Western Australia to undertake the construction of war service homes.
– Will the Treasurer exempt four-wheel trailers from sales tax? Some of my constituents, and persons in other electorates, have informed me that they are prepared to sign a declaration that they desire to use these trailers solely for farm work, such as carting stock to market, superphosphate to their farms, and hay. All agricultural machinery is exempt from sales tax, but four-wheel trailers are subject to an impost of 10 per cent.
– A question on this subject was addressed to me some little time ago by an honorable member of the Australian Country party, I believe, and the matter was fully investigated. I discussed in detail with the Commissioner of Taxation all the evidence for and against the proposal. At that time the Government was not prepared to accede to the request, and a lengthy . statement was prepared stating the reasons for that decision. I shall have a copy of the statement made available to the honorable member. The subject will be reexamined when sales tax is next under review.
Appointments by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether that . honorable gentleman is satisfied that preference was extended to ex-servicemen in the making of recent appointments to the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, having in mind the fact that a non-serviceman was appointed to one of the two positions in Launceston, whilst an ex-serviceman who applied for a position in Hobart was not even granted the courtesy of an initial interview, but simply received a formal note stating that his application had been unsuccessful, even though his qualifications as a journalist were at least equal to those of> the successful nonserviceman?
– I have not heard anything of this matter previously, but I shall ask the Postmaster-General to make inquiries about it and will furnish the honorable member with a reply to his question next week.
– Certain primary producers selling organizations have learned of, and appear to be affected by, a rumour that there is impending an alteration of the sterling exchange rate in relation to Australia. In view of the very serious effect which such an alteration would have on the valuation of all Australian primary produce, and, in fact, on the whole of the capital structure of Australian primary industries, is the Prime Minister able to make a reassuring or other statement on the subject?
– I should imagine that the rumour was originated by the honorable member for Fawkner, who spoke about the matter at some length yesterday. I then invited him to . conduct an inter-party debate on the subject between the Australian Country party and the Liberal party, so that I might have the benefit of their views. All that I can say at the moment is that there has been no discussion with other governments or treasuries, or with banks, including the Commonwealth Bank, in regard to an alteration of the present exchange rate.
– I am credibly informed that a large number of army motor vehicles will shortly become available for sale by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. In view of the great difficulty which ex-servicemen are experiencing in establishing themselves in businesses and professions by reason of lack of motor vehicles, and of the numerous applications for loans which lie in the Repatriation Department, will the Minister for Repatriation confer with the appropriate Minister, with a view to having a quota of these vehicles earmarked for that department, and by that means dispose of some of those applications ?
– The supply of motor vehicles to ex-servicemen by means of loans through the Repatriation Department is a matter that has given me a good deal of concern. The honorable member will appreciate that the number of motor vehicles available is not sufficient to supply the needs of the community, including former servicemen. I do not know whether a quota could be obtained, but I shall have the matter examined and let the honorable member know the result.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournmentof the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The international trade discussions now taking place, insofar as they relate to Australian export primary industries.
.. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is (She motion supported ?
Five honorable! members having risen in, support of the motion,
– The object of this motion is to give to the House a brief opportunity, while there is still time, to express its views - which I do not imagine will be determined by the party complexion’ of any honorable member- on one or two very important aspects of the Geneva trade negotiations. Those trade negotiations, being negotiations, are, of course,- matters which involve give and take* Every negotiator, representing all the countries at Geneva^ no doubt is seeking to bargain som-e concession for some other concession. Nobody can quarrel with that, because each side is aiming at a generally satisfactory result. Of course, the whole basis of the Geneva negotiation’s is an endeavour to stimulate world trade to the advantage of all the nations of the world, and not for the advantage of one to the disadvantage of another. The present negotiations, so far as they concern Australia, clearly contemplate certain matters. I do not propose to endeavour to state those matters exhaustively; but I want to mention very briefly two or three of them. In the first place, these negotiations contemplate the making of concessions in the Australian tariff. Any concession that is made in that tariff, quite obviously, is a matter of immense importance to Australian secondary industry. Again, the negotiations contemplate the modification of Empire preferences to Australia - that is to say, the preferences which nt present we enjoy in other British countries1 - and any modification of those preferences is naturally a matter’ of immense importance to Aus traiian primary industries, and in particular to such industries as sugar, dried fruits, and- canned fruits,, which- are well in what might he described as the fighting line in these discussions. The negotiations contemplate the modification of Empire preference to the United Kingdom, by countries like Australia - modifications of the preferential position which the United Kingdom now occupies in relation to our own tariff. In exchange for all those modifications, or for one or more of them, it is contemplated that there will be reductions of the United States of America tariff on British goods so as to enable a substantial entry of United Kingdom products into the United States of America market, and the modification of the United States of America tariff to provide for increased entry into the United States of America of Australian products, such as wool, dairy products, and meat, to take three outstanding examples. “We are dealing with discussions which are of first importance, not only to us, but also to other British countries, especially to the United Kingdom, and, of course, to the United States of America itself. All these matters are highly contentious. I am not going to rehearse them any more, except to say that already in this Parliament we have ventilated some of the difficulties, and have had substantial discussions about them. But the purpose of this debate - and I think I may fairly put it in this way - is to show that there is an area of common ground in the Australian Parliament and the Australian nation, and the countries with whom we are negotiating should .become aware from this Parliament of the strong feeling entertained by all of us on certain matters. As I have already indicated to the Prime Minister privately, this is designed to show that there is, on this vital matter, unity of thought, and it is not to be supposed that small attention is paid to these matters by some substantial section of the Austraiian people.
For example. Empire preference is a reality. Its advantages are a matter of record. They are very well understood in this country, and in other British countries. They have been closely woven into the total British Empire structure. There will be objection by Australians to any modification of the Empire preference system, but there will be overwhelming objection unless those modifications really foster international trade, and really serve to stabilize productive industries. They can do that only in two ways. One is by strengthening Australia’s economy by increasing its overall sales at reasonably profitable prices, and the other is by substantially increasing British export markets so that the United Kingdom is assisted materially in overcoming the economic crisis disclosed in the recently published white paper,, the Economic Survey for 1947. Unless those effects are produced by the negotiations now in progress there will be overwhelming objection in this country to the modification of the Empire preferential structure.
The United States of America has taken a prominent part in negotiations and proposals to free world trade a little, and to stimulate it. Ever since the beginning of the secretaryship of Mr. Cordell Hull, who was prominently associated with the matter, the United States of America has been the leading sponsor of tariff revision. I cannot say that it has been a leading practitioner of tariff revision, because it has not, but it has been a leading sponsor, and tariff revision it is said, is designed to increase international trade. The United States of America has put forward most of the modern documents on the subject, starting from the lend-lease agreement, of which article 7 is familiar to all honorable members, providing for a gradual reduction of barriers to trade, and finishing with the draft charter put forward largely by the United States of America as a basis of discussion for the establishment of an international trade organization. In that charter, the underlying assumptions are the same as in the famous article 7 of the lend-lease agreement.
Well, despite all that, and despite the position occupied by the United States of America, the Geneva talks have baited on the central and crucial matter of the United States of America duty on wool. Therefore, it is desirable that something should be said in this place on this subject. Wool, of course, is Australia’s greatest single, industry. Year by year, it constitutes more than 40 per cent, in value of all our exports. I heard it described admirably within the last few hours as our principal international currency, which is, indeed, a graphic and substantially accurate way to describe it. The present duty on scoured wool entering the United States of America is 34 cents per lb. My memory goes back to negotiations before the war in which attempts were made to obtain trade treaties with the United States of America, and at that time the duty on wool entering the United States of America was the stumbling block, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will well remember. That duty of 34 cents per lb. was, before the war, quite frequently greater than the price obtained by Australian growers for their wool. Therefore, in certain circumstances, it would amount to an absolute prohibition against the entry into the United States of America of certain kinds of wool. Now, in 1947, the wool duty is again up for discussion. The United States of America, as a sponsor of tariff revision for the purpose of increasing international trade, comes into the conference and, so far as Australia is concerned, the United States of America duty on wool is in the very centre of negotiations, this duty which has been a notorious stumbling block to success on previous occasions.
What could the United States of America do in the circumstances? In pure theory it could adopt any one of three courses. It could reduce the duty as part of a general international agreement to encourage the flow of trade. I venture to suggest that all the Australian representatives at this conference, when they were sent there on behalf of Australia, imagined that a reduction of the United States of America duty on wool would have been regarded as one of the obvious procedures if agreement was to be reached. A second possible course would have been to stabilize the duty at its present level. A third theoretical possi-bility is that the United States of America might increase the duty. Well, of course, to increase the duty at a time like this would be to show complete contempt for the Geneva negotiations. It would be to advertise to the world that America’s support of the International Trade Charter had weakened at the onset of the first practical difficulty to present itself.
Yet, at this moment, there is a bill before the Congress of the United States, of America which has been passed by the House of Representatives. I understand that it has been rejected by the Senate, and may now be the subject of negotiation. That bill proposes to make a large increase in the wool duty which is already - and I emphasize these words - so high that only uncommonly world high prices for wool can climb over it. The duty of 34 cents per lb. may, in the next twelve months, not have much effect on the entry of wool into the United States of America. That depends upon the demand for wool and on the price, because that must bear an important relation to the duty. As honorable members know, any substantial fall in the price of wool will at once emphasize the importance of the existing duty and make the additional duty being discussed in the United States Congress an almost absolute bar. We have lived long enough to know what happens when negotiations occur. It may be that this move in the United States Congress to increase wool duties is a part of what I may describe, without offence, as a manoeuvre. Having put forward the increased duty, somebody will say, “ We are prepared to make a compromise on this matter. If you are prepared to stabilize the existing duty we shall not go on with the proposal to increase it “, hoping that the existing duty will be stabilized. The stabilization pf the duty might be made to look like a compromise; but the stabilization of the existing wool duty cannot be regarded as a compromise, because it is not a concession and is therefore no quid pro quo for the weakening in Australia of the position of the sugar, dried fruits and canned fruits industries; every one of which provides extensive employment of a primary and secondary kind. I say, I hope with no extravagance, that responsible Australian opinion is alarmed and indignant. As a young country in point of development, we cannot accept any doctrine which requires us to “ stay put “. We want to see in this country, and in others, high levels of employment and purchasing power. We want to see higher levels of employment and higher purchasing power in other countries because, amongst other things, these mean for us growing markets, growing production, and growing population. But we are in no mood to drop the bone for the shadow or to impose difficult readjustments upon the primary industries of Australia or upon sections of our economy unless, on balance, the result of the trade negotiations is to enable us and Great Britain, and our sister dominions, to move forward with expanding enterprise. I believe that everything I have said could be said on behalf of every member in this House. We say these things in all firmness and in all friendship. We are, of course, in no position to dictate; but neither is the most powerful country in the world in a position to dictate. There can be neither peace nor safety, even for the greatest, unless there be mutual adjustment, genuine understanding, genuine willingness to give and take and, therefore, genuine and successful co-operation.
– The subject associated with the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) arises from the Mutual Aid Agreement, particularly from Article VII. of that agreement. As most honorable members know, freer world trade, and the reduction of trade barriers, had its conception in the mind of the late President Roosevelt, no doubt as the result of the advice and guidance of his very high and responsible officers. One of its objects was undoubtedly the bringing about of full employment by an expansion of world trade by making it, if not completely free, at least freer than had hitherto been achieved. President Roosevelt believed that that was the only way in which the economic problems of the nations could be solved. That concept had its origin in the economic circumstances in which many countries found themselves. It was a great concept which, from a theoretical viewpoint, had much to commend it. The world trade discussions at present in progress at Geneva present very difficult problems. We agreed to join them, but we refused to accept the American formula which was submitted for our concurrence prior to the holding of the conference at Geneva. Honorable members will recall that the American State Department issued for our acceptance a formula to which the United Kingdom Government had already signified its concurrence. There are many matters incidental to that formula which, in the short time at my disposal, I am unable to traverse. It will be recalled that the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the United States of America had been in negotiation in regard to certain financial matters. The United Kingdom Government was anxious to make such arrangements with the Government of the United States of America as would promote freer trade between the two countries and between them and other countries having regard to their economic position. The Australian Government merely agreed to be represented at Geneva on condition that we were uncommitted. We were prepared to participate in the discussions believing that they might resolve some of the difficulties that confronted the nations of the world. These discussions on world trade present grave difficulties to a country such as Australia. We are closely associated, not only in bonds of kinship, but also economically, with the United Kingdom. The representatives of the United Kingdom Government attended the conference in pursuance of the promise made to the United States Government, believing that the economic circumstances of Great Britain might be bettered bv such an arrangement as was proposed in the American formula. As the economic welfare of Australia is so closely wrapped up with that of the United Kingdom, we believed that Australia should be represented at these discussions in order to ascertain whether some of the proposals put forward would be of benefit not only to the United Kingdom but also to ourselves. We believed that whatever concessions Australia might have to make in imperial preferences it would receive other concessions to offset them and that the final agreement would be mutually advantageous to both countries. On that basic principle we went to the conference. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has, of course, covered some of the ground. No matter what government was in office in this country, I believe that there would be a general outlook in the same direction on this matter. No matter what party was in power it would be faced with a difficult and complex problem. We are most anxious to help the United Kingdom reach trade agreements with the United States of America and other countries that will enable it to improve its standard of living and develop an export trade that will make for a freer flow of British goods into other countries, particularly in the dollar area. Although we are anxious to do that, we are not prepared to give away something without receiving anything in return. In view of. the importance of wool in our economic life, I think, although not every one will agree with me, that a substantial reduction of the American duty of 34 cents on our wool would bring to this country an aggregate national advantage far and above any benefit that we get out of Empire preference. I am not saying that to certain sections of the community Empire preference is not vital.
– It is to the industries affected.
– That is what I am saying. It is not much use being told that the national economic position has been greatly bettered if some sections of the nation, such as the dried or canned fruits industries, find that their position is infinitely worse. With human nature being what it is, it would be difficult to convince them that we had gained a national advantage if we ruined them. What we should like to achieve at Geneva from concessions made in relation to Empire preference would be advantages to the national economy through the export of wool without detriment to any other Australian industry. We are anxious to help the United Kingdom to reach agreements with America and other countries to improve its trade particularly in the “ hard “ currency areas. We are prepared to go a long way to help Great Britain in that respect; but it would not be fair to the people of Australia to place before the Commonwealth Parliament for ratification proposals that meant that we should give everything away and not get anything in return. I am not saying that some proposals made by the United States of America about individual commodities would not be of advantage to the producers of those commodities. They would be; but still wool is the overriding consideration. I must confess my complete astonishment that the country that originated and preached the proposals under consideration at Geneva in all the councils of the world should have, at the time attempts were being made to negotiate an agreement, precipitated a proposal that to my mind is internationally provocative. It was made by politicians. They are of our own fraternity, so to speak. I am not complaining about the State Department. Withoutpretending to know all about it, I think the State Department was probably as astonished as we were at the proposals that have come from the Senate and House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America, because its representatives have been the preachers of the doctrine of international trade. The legislation proposed in America is a complete repudiation and contradiction of that doctrine, which, in a broad, general way, dates as far back as statements made by President Roosevelt. I have tried to avoid a general discussion of this matter, because we are determined to explore every avenue to discover whether a satisfactory arrangement, with concessions by all, cannot be made at Geneva that would be of great benefit to the United Kingdom in world trade and of common advantage to the British Dominions and the other participating countries. I do not ‘propose to go into all the details of the matter, because I feel sometimes that to make statements, particularly provocative statements, tends rather to disrupt negotiations at conferences than be helpful; but I know, or at least suspect, that, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, there would be strong feeling amongst producers of wool if they did not get concessions from the conference and among other sections of the primary producers if they lost their advantages. If Australia felt that it could not continue negotiations because of matters like the proposals of the Congress, it would place the United Kingdom in an embarrassing position. We are not anxious to do that except as a last resort. Miracles sometimes happen. A miracle may happen, or, at least, a more reasonable outlook may be taken in the United States. Negotiations are proceeding with a lot of other countries as well as the United States of America, of course. It is as well to pause and think what could be the consequences in view of the United Kingdom’s economic position if we withdrew and it felt compelled by the circumstances in which it found itself to go on. That involves what might be done about the Ottawa Agreement. My own feeling, which I do not want to voice too strongly here, is that, regardless of the circumstances, the Government cannot allow itself to enter into an agreement for presentation to this Parliament for ratification that gave away everything and did not receive anything in return.
– I endorse what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said concerning the object of this debate. I desire to direct attention to one of the primary industries that, in my opinion, are particularly menaced by the draft charter of the International Trade Organization- the sugar industry in Queensland and north eni New South Wales. From my reading of the agreement, I consider that there are certain dangers in it that strike at the pillars on which the economic structure of the Sugar industry rests. To smash any one of those pillars would be dangerous; to smash all would mean that disaster would overtake the industry. Those pillars are: first, the embargo against importation of sugar; secondly; the stabilized price received for home-consumed sugar under the agreements between the Commonwealth Government and the State government; thirdly, the policy of imperial preference, and, fourthly, the quota allotted to Australia on the export market under the International Sugar Agreement. I repeat that, in my opinion, the draft charter strikes at all those four pillars, and I propose .briefly to survey the position affecting each of them.
First, I refer to the embargo. This is dealt with under article 25. I shall not read the article, first, because my time is brief, and, secondly, because I believe that all honorable members have studied the charter, and, therefore, are aware of the danger involved in that article. The implementation of this provision will mean that the embargo on the importation of sugar into Australia cannot continue. Therefore, the sugar industry will be left open to the competition of sugar grown in countries with cheap labour. Under such conditions, the sugar industry cannot possibly survive on a scale comparable with its present standard. Admittedly, such a danger does not exist at the moment, because world prices are high, and many of the sugar-growing countries, such as Java, the Philippines and India, where the workers receive low wages, are not producing to any appreciable degree. Although their production is at present low, it is certain that, within a few years, they will return to their normal output, and will be able, with the embargo inoperative, to flood Australia with cheap sugar. If that occurs, Australia must inevitably lose an industry which has a great economic and defence value.
The stabilized home-consumption price is definitely menaced by article 30 of the charter. That article, when read in conjunction with the multilateral nature of the agreements, constitutes a considerable threat to the continuation of our policy of a stabilized price for the homeconsumed article. All political parties recognize it as an essential policy in the development of our primary production. So far as the sugar industry is concerned, this policy has not caused any hardship to the rest of the community. For many years, since the inception of this policy, sugar has been available in abundant quantities to Australian consumers. I make that statement advisedly, in spite of any belief to the contrary, due to sugar rationing. Abundant supplies of sugar have always been available at a most reasonable price - a price which, for several years, has been the lowest of any country in the world. The stabilization afforded by the home-consumption price has enabled the sugar industry to offer considerable assistance to another important primary industry, namely, the fruit growing and fruit-canning industry. Some honorable members may not be aware that during the eleven-year period, 1931-41 inclusive, statutory contributions and ex gratia contributions from the sugar industry to the fruit industry totalled £3,750,000.
The third pillar is the policy of imperial preference. This is dealt with in article 24. As the result of recent reports, it is now abundantly evident that any major agreement, which may be ultimately achieved at the discussions, will be at the expense of some part, at least, of the present policy of imperial preference. This policy is worth to the sugar industry £3 15s. a ton. That represents a considerable percentage of the net export price received when world markets are at a normal level. The importance of imperial preference will be more readily realized and assimilated if I point out that since 1925 its value to the sugar industry has been approximately £25,000,000. Immediately we return to normal world levels for sugar the continuance of the policy of imperial preference will be absolutely essential to the continuance of this industry, particularly to the export section of it.
Finally, the fourth pillar is the quota allotted to Australia under the International Sugar Agreement. Under this agreement Australia was, in 1937, allotted a total of 400,000 long tons. During the years of its operation, the agreement proved to be an entirely satisfactory arrangement. Even during the World War II., when it should have lapsed, various countries, which were in a position to do so, continued it from year to year by protocol, and it is still theoretically in existence. This matter is dealt with under chapter 7 of the draft charter. In fact, the whole of that chapter, which embraces fifteen articles, is devoted to inter-governmental commodity agreements. A study of those articles shows that, at present, they are confined to general principles, and, therefore, it is impossible to determine what will be the nature of the final decisions. However, it is certain that other sugar exporting countries will do everything in their power to improve their own allotments on the world markets. We can visualize’ Cuba, acting probably with the assistance of the United . States of America, doing all that it possibly can to increase its present quota. Cuba is already complaining bitterly to the United States of America about its sugar situation. Any such variation of the International Sugar Agreement must be at the expense of such countries as Australia. It is vitally important that the strictest instructions shall be given to any delegates who represent Australia on this particular feature.
This brief survey will be sufficient to show that considerable danger exists in this agreement to the sugar industry - a danger which, if fully realized, means one of two things. First. the industry might be compelled to produce for homeconsumption purposes only. That will mean reducing the industry by half. The second possibility will be a return to black labour conditions. Both of those courses are so untenable as to indicate completely the urgency of this matter. It is of vital importance to preserve the sugar industry, which employs, directly and indirectly, in Queensland 130,000 persons, and which supports directly approximately 200,000, or about one-fifth of the population of the State. Its assets amount to nearly £50,000,000. [Extension of time granted.’) I emphasize two vital points. First, no advantage can accrue to the sugar industry as the result of the discussions at Geneva. To us, that is most important. Secondly, there is the problem of markets. Limited markets are available for the export of sugar. America is not included. Indeed, the American market is already taken up with sugar from its own sources. Markets which may possibly develop a few years hence in the East will be taken up by. eastern producing countries as they recover from the effects of the war. Therefore, the world market is the only one that remains, and a fair share of that has already been allotted to Australia. I cannot see how our sugar industry can gain anything from the discussions at Geneva; therefore the sugar-growers are concerned at the prospect of being on the losing side in any agreement that may be reached.
– I do not think that sugar has come into the discussions bo far.
– Unfortunately, it has not.
– One must assume, however, that it will be discussed at some time. The object of this debate is not so much to convince honorable members of the facts of the situation as to indicate definitely the attitude of those engaged in the various industries which may be involved in any of the negotiations.
Another point I wish to make is that the Australian sugar industry would be satisfied if the United States, which is the principal sponsor of this conference, would adopt the same policy towards the sugar industry of the British Empire as it has adopted towards this industry in its own dependencies and colonies. It is important to stress this point, because I consider that the United States can have no tenable argument for interference with the present situation in relation to the sugar industry within the British Empire. “We need to realize that all sugar produced internally in America, whether from beet or cane, is accorded considerable support by the Government. America has a considerable tariff barrier against imports of sugar from countries other than those in which it has particular interests. Porto Rico and Hawaii, which are both colonies comparable with Fiji, in its relation to the British Empire, are permitted to export sugar duty free to the United States. The Philippines is now an independent country, but it has been granted special consideration. Under legislation passed in 1945, the Philippines may export 850,000 tons of sugar to the United States annually. For the first eight years, until 1954, the imports will be duty free. From then onwards for twenty years, until 1974, the imports will carry a gradually increasing duty. By 1974 sugar from the Philippines will carry the normal rate of duty. Cuba is not even a colony or a dependency of the United States, but may be described’ as an adjacent country; yet a preferential rate of duty has been granted in respect of its sugar. The full rate of duty, however, is applicable to sugar imported into America from British Empire countries. To summarize, Porto Rico and Hawaiian sugar is admitted into America duty free ; sugar from Cuba carries a duty of £4 8s. 7d. a ton; sugar from Peru and some other adjacent countries carries a duty of £5 4s. 6d. a ton; whilst the full rate of duty is £10 9s. a ton. I recognize that in the discussions at Geneva the United States may possibly object to the British preferential rate of duty of £3 Ids. a ton, although the full American duty is £10 9s. a ton. Such an objection, I submit, would be most unreasonable. I present these facts, not because I believe them to be unknown to honorable members, but because I believe that we have every right, in such a debate and at such a time as this, to do whatever we can to strengthen the hands of the Australian delegation at Geneva.
In conclusion, ‘ the Australian sugar industry desires to make it emphatically plain that it will not tolerate the whittling down of the conditions under which it is at present operating.
.- I support the proposal associated with the motion, which I regard as most timely, in view of the discussions that have taken place at Geneva and of the difficulties that are being experienced, not only by the Australian delegation, but also by the delegations from other Empire countries. It was most disappointing to find that the United States, which sponsored the proposal for a reduction of tariffs and the freeing of world trade from oppressive restrictions, should, almost immediately after the opening ot the conference, become the greatest stumbling block to progress in the negotiations. I wish to state plainly some of the problems that confront this country in con,nexion with the discussions at Geneva. This Parliament recently passed a bill ratifying Australian participation in the Bretton Woods Agreement. It was recognized, in the course of our debate on that measure, that difficulties would be encountered, and also, possibly, some dangers, in giving effect to the agreement; but it was also agreed that faithful adherence to the terms of the agreement would be beneficial to Australia and to the world in general. The Geneva conference is the natural outcome of the Bretton Woods Agreement. Australia is particularly interested, though not in relation to the
United States market, because we do not export goods in any large quantity to that market. As a matter of fact, in comparison with its population and purchasing power, the United States is normally only a small buyer of Australian products. I happened to be associated with officers of one of our government departments during some previous negotiations that were undertaken with the United States of America with the object of securing a reduction of duties on a small group of commodities which we were then selling to America in limited quantities. Our hope was that we would be able to develop the trade there into substantial proportions. On that occasion there was no question of our doing away with Empire trade preferences; we are engaged in straightout negotiations with the United States. Unfortunately, the negotiations failed. I understand that Australia is still interested in the products that were the subject of negotiation at that time.
One of the principal Australian exports which is being considered at Geneva is wool. It has already been stated in this debate that wool is the most important of all Australian primary products and that the wool industry is the largest industry of this country. It is important not only because of internal considerations, but also because of our export market. In view of the significance of this industry to Australia we should look ahead to ascertain what can be done to increase the production of wool and to enlarge our markets. At the moment the Australian wool industry is in no difficulty. Prices are probably higher than they have ever been in the memory of living man. The supply position is also relatively good. The carry-over of wool was much greater at the end of World War II. than at the end of World War I. Because of the experience that had been gained on the first occasion, such steps were immediately taken to organize the marketing of the surplus at the termination of the recent hostilities that a substantial proportion of it has already been sold, and a good deal of it has gone into consumption. Nevertheless, we have to realize that some countries which, in the past, were large buyers of our wool, will not be able to purchase it on the same scale in the future. Great Britain, of course, was much the largest purchaser in normal years. Other very important purchasers were France, Belgium and Germany. Japan, also, bought largely on occasions. I do not believe that anybody would imagine, in view of the difficulties that exist in all those countries, that for a long time they will have anything like their pre-war capacity to purchase wool or any other commodity. At the moment, undoubtedly, there is an intense demand for wool, as well as meat, butter, and all other foods; but I believe that many persons, as well as members of the Government, appreciate that that state of affairs may not continue for very long, and are looking ahead.
I have said that in normal times America was not a very large buyer of our wool. The American production of wool is approximately 400,000,000 lb. annually. Its normal consumption, if there can be a normal consumption in what is very variable - and I believe that it is more variable in America than in any other country - was of the order of 500,000,000 lb. or 550,000,000 lb. Australia occupied an important position, in that it supplied 35 per cent, of the normal importations of wool into America, other suppliers being Argentina 22 per cent., Uruguay 15 per cent., New Zealand 13 per cent., and South Africa 4 per cent.
– Those figures relate to dutiable wool.
– That is so; I had overlooked that qualification. The wool which bears the 34 cents duty that has been mentioned, is that which is above the 44 count. “Wool which is below that count bears a very much lower duty, and is used for entirely different purposes. Australia is particularly interested in dutiable wool, because the whole of its exports to America are in that class. New Zealand is in a somewhat different position ; nevertheless i t, too, has a considerable interest in dutiable wool. I have seen figures which show that of the higher and lower grades of wool which New Zealand exported to the United States of America, 60 per cent, was in the dutiable class. I have endeavoured to show that whilst the purchases of wool are not, on the average, large, they are important. It is also important to realize that, prior to the war, curious though it may seem, America was one .of the lowest users of wool of any country peopled by white persons. Pre-war, Great Britain used 8.8 lb. of wool per head, France 7.8 lb. per head, and the United States of America only 4.1 lb. per head, which is rather extraordinary, in view of the substantial purchasing power and the generally high standard of living of the people of that country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of next week.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the pur poses of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr.Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr.Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the States Grants Act 1946, which was assented to in December, 1946, Parliament authorized the payment during the current financial year of special grants aggregating £3,670,000 to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Payment of these’ grants was recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirteenth report, which was tabled in the House on the 14th November, 1946, for the information of honorable members. A further report, which has now been received from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and which was tabled to-day, contains a recommendation that further special grants amounting to £1,078,000 be paid during the current financial year to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission has over the years adopted the principle that special grants should meet the financial needs of the claimant States provided the severity of taxation and other charges and the scale of services in those States are not out of line with standards derived from the practices adopted in States not receiving special grants. To implement this principle, a thorough examination is made by the commission of the finances of both the claimant and the non-claimantStates. Since the information required for this examination is not available for some time after the close of the financial year, the grants assessed by the commission in any year are based in the first instance on the budget results of the States two years previously, and are designed to meet the financial needs of the claimant States two years previously. One result of this procedure is that by the time the assessed grant appears in a State’s budget it may, especially in a period of rapid change, be greater or less than the current financial needs of the State. Accordingly, the commission has, when considered necessary, followed the practice of recommending either that payment of portion of the assessed grant he deferred, or that a payment additional to the assessed grant be made.
In the light of such information as was available when it presented its Thirteenth Report in October, 1946, the commission formed the opinion that the grants assessed for South Australia and Tasmania on the budget results of 1944-45 would be insufficient to meet their needs in 1946-47. Accordingly, the grants recommended by the commission, and approved by Parliament in December last in respect of the current year 1946-47, were made up as follows: -
In March of this year the Premiers of the three claimant States applied for further special grants in respect of 1946- 47 on the ground that the grants already approved would prove substantially inadequate to meet their current financial needs. These applications were referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for report.
Prom the commission’s report, it is clear that the finances of these States have deteriorated this year to an extent not expected by the commission. The main causes of this deterioration, as explained by the representatives of the claimant States in evidence before the commission, may be stated briefly as follows: In the first place, a serious decline has occurred in the net revenues of the States’ business undertakings, particularly their railways. This has been due mainly to decline of defence traffic, to increased costs of wages and materials,, and to maintenance work which wasdeferred during the war years. Secondly,, the claimant States have incurred large cumulative increases of expenditure oneducation and other social services as a result of rising costs and expansion of amenities. Thirdly, there has been a general increase of expenditures by reason of increased costs arising from wage and salary adjustments. It wasalso submitted by the States’ representatives that it was difficult for the States to adjust their revenues to rising expenditures because, in accordance with the price stabilization plan of the Commonwealth, the States refrained from increasing the charges made for State services,, such as railway fares and freights.
After taking these factors into account, the Commonwealth Grants Commission: has reached the conclusion that the States’ financial difficulties this year have arisen in a large degree from circumstances over which the States had little control, and that further Commonwealth financial assistance is necessary to meet the financial needs of the claimant States this year. A cordingly, the commission has recommended that the following further special “ grants be paid in 1-946-47 : -
The total special grants payable in 1946-47 to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania would then amount to £2,000,000, £1,873,000 and £875,000, respectively, a total of .£4,748,000”.
The commission has indicated that if these further special grants are approved they will be treated by the commission as advance payments to be taken into account when the financial year 1946-47 is under review, and the grant for each claimant State for that year is assessed. In this way, the commission will ensure that the States do not receive a double benefit from the advance payments made this year. In the case of Western Australia, however, an amount of £153,000* included in the further special grant now recommended represents a payment which has been deferred since 1945-46. No- adjustment will, therefore, be made in respect of this amount in a future year.
The commission has taken an unusual step in recommending further special grants. Nevertheless, after considering carefully the special circumstances, as set out in the commission’s report, which have arisen (his financial year, the Commonwealth Government has decided to adopt the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s recommendation that further special grants be paid to the States concerned in 1946-47. Provision is made accordingly in the bill before the House for the consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the export of certain fortified wine, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Wine Export Bounty Act 1939-44, providing for the payment of bounty on fortified wine exported, lapsed on the 28th February, 1947, and it is not proposed to renew it. The bill now before the House makes provision for the payment of bounty in certain circumstances which I shall explain later.
In 1924, the Tariff Board first made a report on the wine industry, and as a result the government of the day approved the payment of a bounty on fortified wine exported from the Commonwealth with a view to establishing an export trade, and thus assisting Australian grape-growers.
From September, 1924, until February, 1947, a bounty at varying rates was provided under successive acts, and there is no doubt that the payment of this bounty achieved the purpose for which it was introduced, and has been of the greatest assistance to the industry. This will be fully realized when it is known that, prior to 1924, less than 1,000,000 gallons of wine were exported annually while, just prior to the recent war, exports were approximately 3,700,000 gallons per annum. The peak period was reached in the year 1936-37, when over 4,000,000 gallons were shipped. Naturally, the war interrupted the export trade, and from 1940 onwards there was a marked decrease of the quantity sent overseas. It was feared that the industry would suffer a severe setback due to the loss of overseas markets, but the predicted disaster did not eventuate, because the demand for wine within the Commonwealth increased to an unforeseen extent and, in fact, winemakers found it difficult to meet the demand. As a matter of interest, the following figures are given. In the year 1939-40, 3,619,000 gallons of wine were exported, and 3,960,000 gallons withdrawn from bond for home consumption; while in the year 1944-45, 1,550,000 gallons were exported, and withdrawals from bond for home consumption amounted to 8,330,000 gallons. In 1945-46 6,400,000 gallons were withdrawn for home consumption, reflecting a decrease from the previous year of some 2,000,000 gallons, but even the latter figure shows that consumption of wine in Australia is nearly twice as great as it was in the average pre-war years. The figures I have just quoted reflect the buoyancy of the industry in recent years.
In July, 1946, when consideration was being given to the future of the Wine Export Bounty Act it was decided, in view of the known circumstances of the industry, to refer the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. The terms of reference as submitted to the Tariff Board were as follows: -
If the payment of bounty is justifiable
The board took evidence in the main wine producing States in the Commonwealth and submitted a report in December, 1946, which honorable members have had an opportunity to peruse. In reply to the first question as to justification for the continuanceof the bounty the board replied in the negative with a reservation that provision be made for bounty to continue in respect of certain limited quantities of wine sold to overseas purchasers prior to the 30th October, 1946, but shipped after the 28th February, 1947. This conclusion removed the necessity for answering the second question submitted. The inquiry revealed, however, that a third question not included in the terms of the reference, namely, that of the disposal of the surplus in the Wine Export Encouragement Account, was so intimately bound up with the issue dealt with that the board was of the opinion that it required consideration. Briefly, the board’s report indicates that while the original purpose of the bounty was to induce wine makers to develop an export trade which would assist the industry generally, including the grape growers, continuance of the bounty was, in the main, requested on quite different grounds, namely -
The question of the disposal of the surplus in the Wine Export Encouragement Account which now amounts to approximately £l,110,000, has been given full consideration. Honorable members will be aware that under the provisions of the Wine Export Bounty Act an amount of ‘ 2s. 6d. a proof gallon from the excise duty on fortifying spirit has been regularly transferred to the account from revenue for the purpose of providing a fund for bounty payments. Section 5 (7). of the act requires that any balance standing to the credit of the account after cessation of bounty shall be paid to revenue. It was represented by various interests that this fund wasestablished by means of a levy on theindustry itself - at the industry’s sole cost - and that in consequence, no portion, beyond a small allocation to cover administration costs, should be treated asgeneral revenue. The industry requested that the money be used for publicity and propaganda purposes onbehalf of thetrade and for other purposes in the interests of the industry. The Tariff Board could not subscribe to the view that the excise duty on spirit used in. fortifying wine is a levy on the industry itself, buton the contrary regards an excise duty of this kind as a source of revenue which the consumer pays in the same way as he pays duties on other excisable goods. Neither could the board subscribe to the view that the industry is in need of government assistance, underexisting conditions, to enable it to further its interests either in Australia or overseas. Nevertheless, the possibility is recognized that, due to changes in economic conditions, the industry may become faced with difficult trading conditions. What those conditions are likely tobe, or what action on the part of the Government might be appropriate to meet them, cannot be forecast, but as a safeguard the bill now submitted provides for an amount of £500,000 from theaccumulated funds to be placed in a trust fund for the assistance of the industry at any time within the next ten years if such assistance be deemed to be warranted.
There were other issues raised at the inquiry and dealt with by the board in its report. Among these was the effect of the cessation of bounty on long-standing contracts with overseas purchasers. There may be cases where portion of the contract remains to be shipped but, through factors beyond their control, wine-makers have not been able to avail themselves of the usual commercial safeguards or have not been able to sell at sufficiently remunerative prices to return a reasonable margin of profit. It is recognized that an extension of the bounty to meet these cases is justified and this in effect is the main purpose of the bill now before the House. It is proposed to authorize the payment of bounty on wine sold to an overseas purchaser prior to the 30th October, 1946, but shipped after the 2Sth February, 1947, in respect of which the exporter satisfies the Minister for Trade and Customs that the price at which the wine was sold did not return a reasonable profit or that for some other reason the payment of bounty is justified. Due. to the varying aspects that will need consideration in deciding whether the payment of bounty is justified it is not possible to define more clearly in the bill just what wine will be covered. Each case will need to be examined on its merits, and in consequence it is essential to give the responsible Minister wide powers in the matter.
Honorable members will realize that the question of the payment of a fair and reasonable price to grape-growers for their product has at all times been intimately associated with the payment of a bounty to wine-makers. Previously provision was made that no bounty was payable unless the grapes from which the wine and the fortifying spirit, were made were purchased at minimum prices determined each year by the Minister for Trade and Customs. During the war period, under the National Security Act, legislation was passed requiring a certain minimum price to be paid for all grapes used in the manufacture of wine or spirit, irrespective of whether the wine or spirit was intended for exportation under bounty conditions. The legislation, that is, the National Security (Wine Industry) Regulations will remain in operation until the end of this year by virtue of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1946 but thereafter no provision is made in this respect. It may appear at first sight that grape-growers will, as a result of the cessation of bounty, suffer a reduction of the price paid for grapes, but it is an established fact that for some years past growers have regularly received prices far in excess of the minimum determined under the acts concerned and there is reason to believe that the enhanced prices paid in the past will continue for the next few years. If, at some future time, conditions should so change as to call for some control over grape prices, consideration can be giver to the question in the light of the conditions then existing. Such consideration might include the granting of assistance to grape-growers directly rather than by an indirect method as hitherto.
Another matter requiring adjustment consequent on the cessation of bounty is that of the rate of duty on fortifying spirit now dutiable under the Excise Tariff at 6s. 6d. a proof gallon. As previously intimated an amount of 2s.’ 6d. a proof gallon of this excise duty is, under the provisions of the Wine Export Bounty Act, transferred to the trust fund to provide for payment of the bounty, and as the payment of bounty is to cease there is no justification for the continuance of the present excise duty. It is intended, as early as possible, to take steps to amend the excise tariff to provide for the rate of excise duty on fortifying spirit to be reduced from 6s. 6d. to 4s. a proof gallon, the reduction representing the amount previously found necessary to maintain the bounty.
As is known to honorable members from a circular forwarded by the Minister for Trade and Customs in January of this year Cabinet considered the recommendations of the Tariff Board and decided that -
Some minor alterations to these decisions have been made in the bill in that the period for which the trust account for the benefit of the industry will be available has been extended, at the request of the industry, to ten years in lieu of five years, and the method of dealing with the balance of the Wine Export Encouragement Account, after establishing the Trust Account, has been altered at the request of the Treasury. In other respects the bill implements the decisions of Cabinet on the question and in routine matters of procedure follows the provisions under the previous legislation. In the light of the full and comprehensive report made by the Tariff Board it is evident that the continuance of a bounty on wine exported after the 28th February, 1947, is not justified, except in particular instances which this bill is designed to cover. I commend the bill to honorable members for their favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922- 1946. as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1947, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1922-46, in order to bring the Commonwealth superannuation scheme into line with modern practice and thereby improve the scale of benefits available to members of the Public Service. Honorable members agree that the Commonwealth should have a Public Service of the highest competence and reliability. Problems of government are daily widening and becoming more complex, and these trends are accentuated by the present unstable conditions. Sudden and extreme calls for national effort, as in the recent war, the obscure outlook for the world, and the inevitable deepening of Australia’s concern with international affairs, combine to emphasize the need for an administration staffed with men and women of high capacity, trained to serve the nation in varied and changing fields. Successive governments have a trust to maintain the standards of the Public Service, and if this is to be done the conditions must be kept sufficiently good to attract and retain men and women of the best type and provision made to enable them to develop their efficiency. There are three phases of this responsibility - to recruit suitable people into the Service; to retain them, and to preserve their contentment and morale at a high level.
Recruitment is not only a matter of entry at youth. Many people enter the service from higher age groups, as exservice men and women or specialists and professional people. It is of the highest importance that the Service should be able to select from the best available fields. Experience has shown, however, that superannuation provisions, which are examined intensely by applicants, are often regarded as not sufficiently attractive in comparison with terms of employment offering elsewhere. Retention of officers in the Service is bound up with the same factors. In its pension provisions, the
Commonwealth superannuation scheme lags behind the equivalent schemes of big private enterprises, and often private industry is able to offer a public servant not only more salary but far better retirement provisions. Similarly, the morale and efficiency of those who make careers within the Service is intimately related to the conditions upon which their welfare depends at the close of their active careers. Difficulty has been found in recruiting suitable officers to the Service. There has also been a most disturbing tendency for men of long experience and proven capacity to leave the Service for other occupations, and better provision for retirement elsewhere has been an influence in this respect.
The superannuation scheme was established in 1922, and I cannot describe its purposes more effectively than by quoting from the second-reading speech of the Minister who introduced the bill at that time. It was, he said - . . to provide payments for those who have given a life-long service to the State, so that when they reach the age limit for retirement they will not find themselves in a position of pecuniary embarrassment. Moreover, should they become permanently incapacitated, they will not altogether he without means of support, neither will their widows or dependants, should death overtake the breadwinners …. The Commonwealth should have an efficient, capable and contented Public Service, and should be able to retain in its ranks the best men obtainable . . . Experience has shown that the Commonwealth Public Service is not sufficiently attractive always to retain the best men. Therefore, it must be our object to provide our officers with a reasonable remuneration and a certain income upon retirement.
But the scheme which was regarded then as somewhat tentative has not been overhauled, and its provisions are now gravely inadequate. Many factors have changed. For instance, the cost of living has risen considerably. But pensions payable under the scheme have not been adjusted in keeping with the increase. Moreover, the marked extension of social services in the intervening years has created serious anomalies. For example, taking into account the old-age pension for which a man and bis wife are eligible, an officer who has been contributing for ten units of superannuation will have on retirement no greater weekly income than the officer who has been contributing for only four units. Because of these considerations the Government has made a thorough review of the superannuation scheme and now submits this measure to the House.
In framing its proposals the Government has been actuated by the principle that, as a good employer, it desires to provide for its employees an adequate scale of retiring benefits which compare favorably with schemes provided by other authorities and organizations. The Commonwealth Parliament itself has encouraged the establishment of superannuation schemes by allowing income tax concessions on amounts up to £100 a year contributed to such schemes by the employer and the employee. Broadly the proposals put forward by the Government in the bill are -
The main immediate benefits under these proposals will accrue to existing pensioners and recipients of payments from the Provident Account - that is to people who have completed their term of service in government employment.
The present cost of the proposals will be about £250,000 a year, which will be offset by at least £100,000 in respect of reduced social service payments. The cost in future years will rise, mainly because of the expected increase of the number of persons on the superannuation pay-roll. The additional cost in five years’ time will, it is estimated, be about £125,000 per annum.
The provision for an increase of the monetary value of the pension unit, in existing pensions, and in payments to Provident Account contributors by 25 per cent, is intended to compensate for the rise of the cost of living, since the scheme was established in 1922. The original pension unit of 10s. a week has not been changed. The Government proposes to increase it to 12s. 6d. a week. Persons now receiving pensions of £2 a week will therefore receive £2 10s., persons receiving £3 a week will receive £3 15s. and those receiving £4 a week will receive £5. Since the cost of the increase will be met by the Government without changing the scale of contributions by officers, the Government will meet 60 per cent. and the contributions of employees 40 per cent. of the cost of future pensions. The cost is now equally divided.
It is proposed that the maximum number of units for which officers may contribute, assuming salary eligibility, shall be increased from 16 to 26. The object is to give senior officers the opportunity of contributing for a pension more in proportion to the higher salaries now attainable and to their continuing obligations on retirement. No immediate cost to the Government will arise from thus raising the number of units allowable for officers now serving. The degree to which the Commonwealth may later be financially concerned in the variation will depend upon how many officers elect to contribute for the additional units. To the fewer than SOO officers now eligible, the cost of contributing for additional units would be relatively heavy, and that factor will bear on the degree to which the new scale will be availed of.
It is proposed that a subsidy shall be paid to the superannuation fund on an annual basis in respect of the amount by which the average interest yield of the fund’s investments falls below 3¾ per cent. per annum, subject to the condition that any profit disclosed by each fiveyearly valuation of the fund shall be offset against the subsidy. The necessity for this provision arises from the fact that whereas, when the Superannuation Act commenced, in 1922, it was assumed that the rate of interest to be earned would be 4 per cent., interest rates have, under the policy of the Government, been falling for a number of years. The fall has been most pronounced in the interest on war loans, in which, during the last seven years, the superannuation contributions have been almost exclusively invested. In consequence, the average rate received by the Superannuation Fund to-day is £3 15s. 9d. per cent. Contributions by employees were increased in 1942, mainly to compensate for the reduced rate of interest received by the fund, and the Government considers that it should now take action to stabilize the fund. The bill, therefore, provides that if the amount of interest received by the fund in any year is less than it would have received on a3¾ per cent. basis the difference will, with the approval of the Treasurer, be made up by the Commonwealth by way of a subsidy to the fund. It is not expected that this arrangement will involve the Commonwealth in any liability at present. By 1950-51, however, the Commonwealth’s annual contribution may be about £50,000.
In view of the special conditions relating to service in the forces, lower retiring ages, more rigorous standards of medical fitness, and so on, the Government is considering a plan for retiring benefits to replace the system of lump sum payments on retirement to Navy and Air Force officers and the pension scheme for Army officers. The details will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, members of the defence forces covered by the existing superannuation scheme will be eligible for the benefit? provided under this bill.
It is proposed that provision for increased pensions shall .take effect in. respect of the first fortnightly payment of pension made after the date of commencement of the act and in respect of all subsequent payments.
In commending this measure to the House, I may say that the Government has had in view the needs of the wide range of employees in its service, including manipulative workers and craftsmen, as well as clerical, administrative and professional officers.
– What is a “manipulative worker”?
– One who works with his hands, as the right honorable gentleman knows. ‘ By improving their conditions of employment, the measure is designed to ensure that the important administrative and business services of the Commonwealth shall be efficiently conducted in the best interests of the nation and of our democratic institutions. In its immediate effect’, the measure will benefit a group of people who have given valuable service to their country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2861), on motion by Mr. Barnard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Since the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) delivered his second-reading speech, I have taken the opportunity to examine this bill very closely, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a most extraordinary measure. I doubt whether any other Minister would have introduced it. Probably, his excuse lies in the fact that he is a junior Minister, and does not understand the forms of the House and the effect which a bill of this nature is likely to have. The bill proposes nine amendments to a non- existent act. For example, clause 11 provides -
Section ninety-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in. its stead the following subsection : - “ (1.) If an applicant for service pension is, or a service pensioner becomes, an inmate of a hospital for the insane or an institution which is a benevolent asylum as defined by section eighteen of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947,
I pause there ; I have chosen a very appropriate place to do so. “ The Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 “ does not exist. Yet, as I have pointed out, the bill proposes nine amendments to this non-existent act. Do honorable members wonder when I say that this is an extraordinary bill ?
– The honorable member should consult with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on this matter. He knows why the House is considering this bill before the measure mentioned.
– The Minister will have an opportunity, when he replies to this debate, to make the explanation which is due to the House, because the bill is entirely out of place. It should not have been presented to the House until the Parliament had passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and the measure had been proclaimed an act. At present, this House has not passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill. How, then, it is possible to amend a nonexistent act is beyond my understanding. This is an illustration of the positively indecent haste with which the Government introduces bills, in order to complete its legislative programme. No doubt the Government feels so secure, with its substantial majority, that, regardless of whether honorable members point out anomalies or injustices which may be created by a bill, it ignores them. The Government takes the view that the House will pass the bill “ this year, next year, sometime “, because it has the majority to enable it to do so. But, even this Parliament cannot amend a nonexistent act, which, for all we know, may be only a figment of the Minister’s imagination.
This is the atmosphere in which honorable members are required to debate a bill dealing with the repatriation of exservicemen. I emphasize that, because it is characteristic of the kind of consideration which the Government shows to all matters affecting ex-servicemen. The Minister lauded the Government for what it had done on behalf of exservicemen, but, at the same time, made an utter farce of the bill by proposing to amend a non-existent act. I could dilate upon that aspect, and make comparisons. I could also draw a moral, but I shall not do so. I leave it to honorable members and the public to judge the Government on its action.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister presented to the House what was virtually the annual report of the Repatriation Department. He expected that the Opposition would criticize the bill, and sought to forestall it by extolling the virtues of the Government’s administration on behalf of ex-servicemen. I admit, at the outset, that the act contains many provisions which should be extolled. Many of the benefits which it confers on ex-servicemen reflect great credit, notonly upon the various governments which have initiated or amended repatriation legislation, but also upon the community generally, who have made it possible to give this consideration to the men who fought to preserve our way of life against the onslaught of our foes. However, there is still room for criticisms and suggestions. This bill can be improved, as I shall proceed to show. The Minister made a general statement that war pensions would be increased by 5s. a week. I do not wonder at his failure to elaborate the provisions of the measure. Comparatively little material help * is given to the great majority of exservicemen who receive war pensions. In broad outline, the increases which this bill proposes will apply only to those persons who are in receipt of special pensions, the wives of servicemen who died as the result of war service, men who have suffered the double amputation of limbs, and service pensioners. The great majority of ex-service personnel who now receive pensions will not derive any benefit from- the proposed increase of rates. Pensions payable to wives on the death of their husbands as the result of war service under conditions set out in the first schedule of the act will be increased. Persons in receipt of special pensions under the second schedule, such as ex-service personnel who are blinded or permanently incapacitated will benefit. The increase will apply also to certain persons covered by the fifth schedule, such as double amputees, and those whose vision is impaired. In each instance, the Government proposes to increase the pension by an amount of 5s. weekly. In addition, the Government will - increase the service pension. The war widow who now receives the munificent sum of £2 10s. a week will, in future, be paid £2 15s. a week. Although she may have the responsibility of rearing a family, the allowances payable in respect of the children will not be increased. In effect, the war widow is told: “you must maintain your children in this year of grace 1947 at the same standard of living as that, which obtained in 1943 “. Honorable members know, by the representations that have been made to them that, in themain, the children of these war widows are under-nourished, because the payment, from the Government is totally inadequate to provide .a proper standard of subsistence. The bill does not grant an. increase of pensions to a widowed mother under the first schedule, and very cogent reasons may be adduced regarding the need to give consideration to that class. No increase of pension is provided for totally incapacitated members of the forces. Later, I shall show that all these pensions should be increased.
– The honorable member is wrong about pensions payable to totally and permanently incapacitated persons.
– I did not mention totally and permanently incapacitated persons. I referred to the totally incapacitated person who receives a pension of £2 10s. This class includes those who have lost a limb - the single amputees, under the fifth schedule. Many disabled ex-servicemen will not receive an increase of pension under this bill. As I have shown, no increases of the general pension will be granted to those who are classified under general pension rates. They will continue to receive a pension varying from 45s. to 9s. a fortnight, according to the scale laid down for their disabilities. Honorable members will have to give consideration to the amount of pension which is payable to these men who have lost their health in the service of their country.
The Minister went to some trouble to point out that, except for modifications in relation to the income and property of service pensioners, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has not been considered by the Parliament since 1943. When, however, the Parliament has an opportunity to consider an amendment of the act, the bill provides only for a meagre alteration of the rate of pension. The Minister and honorable members know that conditions have changed considerably since 1943. I recognize that a parliamentary committee, representing all political parties, inquired into this matter in 1943 and that the Government adopted, in the main, its recommendations. But conditions have altered considerably since 1943, and the Government has not kept abreast of the change. Four years ago, the general rates were increased by approximately 20 per cent. Compare this figure with the general increase upon which workers in industry insist. The increase of the basic wage reflects the increased cost of living. The basic wage has risen by between 30 per cent, and 50 per cent, in general industry, and the margin for skill in most awards has increased proportionately. A strong case can be made for an increase of pensions payable to ex-servicemen, whose efforts in the armed forces preserved our way of life, and made it possible for industry to enjoy these substantial increases. For example, let us consider the engineering trades. In 1939, the basic wage was £4 ls. a week; to-day it is £5 lis. The margin for skill in 1939 was the difference between £4 ls. and £5 lis.; today, it is the difference between £5 lis. and £7 6s., which includes a war-loading of 6s. and I understand that an increase of 9s. is imminent. Hence, industry has enjoyed an increase of approximately 40 per cent. The service pension was increased by 20 per cent, in 1943, and now that the Parliament has an opportunity to adjust it, the Minister passes over the matter lightly. In order to camouflage its omission from the bill, he spoke at length about the benefits which are contained in the act. As a smoke screen the honorable gentleman’s effort was valiant but it quite failed to hide what was behind it. The Minister has been recreant to his trust in failing to bring -war pensions into conformity with present day conditions. I shall give one illustration to demonstrate my point, and I am speaking in regard to general war pensions. I refer to the case of a wife whose husband had served in World War I. His application for a pension was rewarded by a grant of 2s. 4£d. a week. When his wife inquired from the commission how the pension was assessed she was informed that as she was earning £5 0s. 3d. a week - although in fact her earnings were only £4 Ils. - the commissioner had allocated half of her earnings to her husband, and had then added 2s. 4-Jd. in order to bring the amount up to £2 12s. 6d. a week, which was the amount to which he was entitled. These people were married after the 2nd October, 1931, so under the provisions of sections 83 and 85 of the act the wife is debarred from receiving a pension. Yet, because of her husband’s infirmity she was forced to go out to work, and when her husband applied for a pension he was granted only 2s. 4^-d. a week, on the ground that half of his wife’s earnings were regarded as belonging to him. The Government in this case, is taking advantage of the unfortunate position in which the wife finds herself, and is declining to pay the husband the reasonable pension to which he is entitled. I could bring other similar instances to the notice of the Minister and I shall refer to one or two minor matters before coming to those which are more complex.
I refer now to the manner in which war pensions are paid. We know that invalid and old-age pensioners and miners who have been granted pensions may now obtain their pensions by cheque; but the unfortunate war pensioner is still required to join a queue on pension day in order to collect his pension. It is high time that the system of payment of war pensions by cheque was adopted. The Repatriation Commission should set an example in matters of this description, but if it cannot streamline its administration it should at least fall in line with other departments which have shown a more progressive spirit.
– Tell us something about what the previous anti-Labour government did in this regard.
– I shall tell the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein) something about watches if he does not keep quiet.
Mr. Falstein interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson must cease interjecting.
– I also ask that the practice of considering war pensions in relation to the assessment of social benefits should be discontinued. This, in my opinion, is a most iniquitous procedure and it has the effect of converting the war pension from a right to a charity. The’ means test is being applied in relation to war pensions and that is entirely unjust. If a war pensioner becomes unemployed, he must make a statement of his income before he can obtain unemployment benefit. I submit that the war pension is the ex-serviceman’s inalienable right, and it should not be taken into account in connexion with the assessment of unemployment benefit.
Another complaint that ex-servicemen have is that costs incurred in connexion with successful appeals against the assessment of pensions are never given against the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. The ex-servicemen’s organizations, and in some cases the exserviceman himself, has to pay the costs of his appeal even though he is successful. This is most unsatisfactory and unfair. Some of these appeals involve considerableexpenditure in the preparation of new evidence and the like, and this cost should not fall on the appellant ex-serviceman. All such costs should be reimbursed. At common law a successful appellant is always awarded his costs, and that principle should be applied in proceedings before these appeal tribunals. I do not wish to labour this point, but the Minister must know that in some instances considerable amounts are involved.
– What does the honorable member regard as a considerable amount ?
– The figures vary in different cases. The Minister can obtain specific information from the exserviceman’s organization, but the honorable gentleman may accept my assurance that the amounts are often substantial. Surely the Minister is not so completely out of touch with ex-servicemen’s organizations that he cannot obtain this information. I believe that representatives of ex-servicemen were in Canberra yesterday.
– And they saw me.
– Yet, apparently, the honorable gentleman did not consider this point to be of sufficient importance to discuss with the representatives. I can obtain the information for the Minister if he cannot get it for himself.
I have some other specific information in relation to appeals which the honorable gentleman may not regard as pleasing. 1 urge that additional appeal tribunals should be established. The number at present operating is entirely inadequate to deal promptly with the appeals that await hearing.
– Another tribunal was appointed last week.
– I am glad to hear it; but one tribunal will not go far to meet the need. I have obtained figures which indicate that on the 11th April last 2,366 appeals were awaiting hearing. They were distributed over the various States as follows: -
Some of the appeals have been awaiting hearing for periods up to six months. It is a crying shame that men should have to wait so long in order to get a hearing. The whole administration needs re-casting in this connexion. Sometimes men may suffer severely owing to the delay in the hearing of their applications. This callous indifference to the welfare of ex-servicemen is entirely inexcusable, and an end should be put to it without delay.
The indifference of the Government to the needs of ex-servicemen is indicated also in the casual method of examining men for tuberculosis reactions. In many cases men are declared to have pulmonary fibrositis which, 1 understand, is the scarring of the lung, and appears to be a common condition, when, in fact, a more careful examination would indicate that they are positive tuberculosis cases. There appears to be a tendency to apply a declaration of pulmonary fibrositis to many men and to leave the matter there without further examination. Numbers of men who have been so declared have later been found to be actually tubercular. Too much time elapses also between the examinations and the declarations. Delay in this matter could prove fatal to the unfortunate sufferer. This is a most unfortunate matter and often has distressing effects. I bring to the notice of the Minister two or three cases of this nature. I can give him the names of the men concerned, though I do not desire to make them public. One case is that of an exserviceman who was working in a photographic room. He was examined for tubercular symptoms but no report was furnished as to his condition. Subsequently, he went to an anti-tuberculosis clinic and was there found to be a positive sufferer from tuberculosis. A tragic case was that of a returned man who had been examined and had received no declaration as to his condition, but who, later, was found to have transmitted the disease to two of his children. That could have been avoided had the man received a prompt report. Surely, this kind of thing will not be tolerated.
I wish now to refer to the secondreading speech of the Minister, in which he stated that additional accommodation for the segregation of patients suffering from mental disorders had been provided by the Repatriation Commission in the several States. I believe that there should be a special inquiry into the commission’s administration in this regard, particularly in New South Wales. Exservicemen are, I understand, being treated in civil institutions instead of being segregated in the Repatriation hospitals. At the present time, 300 exservicemen are mental patients in the Callan Park mental asylum, Sydney. This fact, in itself, would justify the establishment of mental hospitals which would be conducted by the Repatriation Commission and be staffed with psychiatrists. The segregation of the patients would tend to speed up their recovery. 1 shall deal now with service pensions. Men in certain categories are to be entitled to receive an additional 5s. a week. That increase is neither sufficient nor equitable. I have before me the particulars of the case of a man 57 years of age who left Australia in 1916 and saw service in France for three years. During the last fifteen months or so, he has been unable to work because of warcaused disabilities, and has been receiving a social services grant of £1 5s. a week for himself and £1 a week for his wife. After he had been receiving that grant for six months, he was referred to a medical referee, by whom he was classified as permanently incapacitated for work. He was then directed to apply for an invalid pension. I ask honorable members to note that this is only one of many cases of the same kind. That is why I contend that the department should be modernized. It should have the maximum attention of a Minister. This man instead of doing as he had been directed, applied for a “ burnt-out “ service pension. His application was rejected. Honorable members will recall that when the bill dealing with service pensions was before this House, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out that the ex-serviceman considered that he should not be classified as an invalid or old-age pensioner, but should be given a pension that would be commensurate with the service he had rendered to his country in a capacity entirely different from that of the ordinary civilian. I can understand the reason for this man’s not wanting to apply for an invalid pension. The Repatriation Commission advised him that his application had been rejected on the ground that he was not considered to be permanently unemployable. Evidently, it considered that he might be able to peddle a machine with his feet while in a sitting position. It can be charged with merely begging the question. Surely, if a Commonwealth medical officer decides that he is permanently incapacitated for work, he should not have to run the gamut of a further medical examination wi:h a view to determining whether or not he is capable of doing some work, however little it might be! He appealed against the decision of the commission, but unsuccessfully, and now has to appeal to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. His wife, who is 55 years of age, took a job as a cleaner. She had had six major operations in the last six years, and after she had worked for six weeks as a cleaner the strain began to tei! on her health. In a letter that she wrote to me, she said -
I a,m not complaining about my lot, but 1 do think my husband should receive better treatment. If he does any work at all for half an hour he has to lie down or sit down for a couple of hours. If he can find an employer who can give bini a job under these conditions he will be glad to take it.
One could find many more cases of this sort on the files. In the main, the Repatriation Department is a good one. Nevertheless, there are certain anomalies associated with its administration. The act is administered strictly according to the letter. Therefore, the task of the Minister is an onerous and responsible one. Generally speaking, the department has given splendid service, but it cannot escape criticism because of the need for moderninzing or streamlining its administration. I have with me a copy of the finding of the Department of Social Services in relation to this man. This is an extract from the letter which it wrote on the 31st October, 1946-
With reference to your sickness benefit, I wish to advise that the Commonwealth Medical Referee has certified you permanently incapacitated for work.
I am directed to request you to apply for an invalid pension immediately. Claim papers’ for invalid pension may be obtained from any post office.
Your sickness benefit will be continued subject to such claim for invalid pension being lodged within fourteen days of the date hereof.
I realize that the tendency of the department, having control of an expenditure of £15,000,000 a year on pensions, must be to safeguard its funds. If it considered that the burden of the pension payable to this man might be borne by another department, it would naturally try to induce him to take action accordingly. These men should not be treated in that way. The service pension was designed for a special purpose. This man immediately claimed that he was entitled to receive a service pension, yet the department denied that he had the right to be paid it, despite the opinion as to his physical condition which it had received from Commonwealth medical officers. He should not be obliged to lodge an appeal against the decision of the department. The “ burnt-out “ service pension is provided for those men who cannot follow their ordinary employment. No one can- say definitely what has caused neurosis to attack a man who fought during the last war. I would not be prepared to dismiss lightly any claim that might be made by an ex-serviceman, or to say that his physical condition was not attributable to or aggravated by the conditions under which he had served.
The bill should not have been introduced at this stage, because it seeks to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act a non-existent law and is therefore entirely out of place. I fail to understand how its introduction can be justified.
The Repatriation Department is doing a good job. It is composed of responsible officers who, in the main, are most sympathetic to the claims of exservicemen. But because of failure to bring the law up to date, anomalies exist, and no matter how sympathetic an officer may be, he has to administer the law as hefinds it. The act must be brought into line with modern conditions. I know that, after the passage of other legislation which has been introduced, ex-servicemen will not have the right to have their affairs administered exclusively by other ex-servicemen. At the moment, the department is doing good work, even though it is operating under great difficulties. The benefits which flow from it are considerable. That fact, however, should not deter us from suggesting an improvement of its administration, by the removal of anomalies and the modernizing of pension rates, which are at least 20 per cent, worse than what is paid in industry to-day. On that account alone, the bill is open to criticism by Opposition members.
.- This bill is intended to make certain amendments in the act, so as to bring it into line with other legislation, which has not yet been debated in this House. It is rather difficult to understand the reason for its introduction at this time.
Listening to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), in which he recited a number of facts and gave certain figures in regard to the Repatriation Department, I could
Dot but feel that he might have been reading from the annual report of the department. He spoke of the thousands of cases that had been medically treated, and the number of pensions that had been paid. He also eulogized the officers of the department and basked in the glory thus reflected on himself. There was no need for that. The whole subject of repatriation has been opened up. I am sorry that Le is not at present in the House to hear what I am saying, and I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is deputizing for him, will enlighten him. Above all, the department must be a humane one. The act, by and large, is generous and good, but the department should not he static, and the Minister should not be static-minded. As times change, and new problems come before him, he must be ready to adjust his outlook. I am expecting the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) to say, “ Why did you not adjust these matters before when you were in power ? “ Well, we did not have the chance during recent years, and when we were in power we did many excellent things. I was overseas when the all-party Repatriation Committee was appointed, but I remind honorable members that, before the war, I suggested over and over again that such a committee should be set up. I urge the Minister not to rest on his laurels, but to see how the administration of the department can be improved.
Two weeks ago, a deputation, of exservicemen representing the two Opposition parties waited upon the Prime Minister to ask him to review widows’ pensions. The pension is now £2 10s. a week, and it is proposed to raise it to £2 15s. That, however, is merely a consequential increase arising from the general increase applying to all pensions. The deputation stressed the claims of widows with children. A widow with two children receives a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week, which is not enough. Usually, a widow with two children cannot take a job. I had a secretary who was the widow of an air gunner. She had two children, and tried very bravely to carry on with her job, but had to give it up. The War Widows Guild has suggested that the pension for war widows should be the equivalent of the basic wage. At the time the pension was fixed it was 90 per cent, of the prevailing basic wage ; to-day it is only 45 per cent. The Prime Minister has asked the Minister for Repatriation to consider the present rate of payments in respect of the children of war widows. I hope that, as the result of this investigation, an improvement will be effected. If not, many worthy people will be disappointed.
I wish now to comment upon the auxiliary bodies functioning under the Repatriation Commission, namely, the Entitlement Tribunals and the Assessment Tribunals. They were set up so that an impartial body of exservicemen could review claims which had been rejected by the commission. In theory, they should have worked well, but we have been told that thousands of cases are awaiting hearing. The tribunals were an experiment, but the system has not worked out well. On two occasions, I have appeared before the Entitlement Tribunal on behalf of applicants. In both instances I was disappointed with the work of the tribunal, because I realized how difficult it was for the ordinary ex-serviceman, unfamiliar with the procedure, to place his case satisfactorily before officials. In the first place, the applicant probably has to wait an inordinate time in order to obtain a hearing. He may be a very sick man. When he finally appears before the tribunal, the members shoot questions at him, and he probably does his case less than justice. I know of one ex-prisoner of war who was actually exchanged by the enemy because of his infirmities. He died after his return to Australia. His widow was refused a pension because, it was stated, his death was not due to war causes. The tribunal allows the case to be re-opened within a year, this being the rule if fresh evidence is forthcoming. One member of the tribunal before which the case eventually came had a very legal manner, but he lacked humane instincts. However, the tribunal reversed the decision of the commission, and the widow was granted a pension and five children were saved from poverty in this case, which should not have taken two years to settle. Another man, who had served in the Middle East, was discharged from the forces medically unfit. He was refused a pension, although he had been discharged on the ground of ill health. The act provides that the onus of proof in such cases rests upon the department, but in practice it does not work out that way. This poor fellow was practically at death’s door. Indeed, he may have died since. He asked me to act for him before the tribunal because he did not wish to be represented by the ordinary advocate. Months passed, but he did not receive a pension. For these things, of course, the present Minister cannot he held responsible. He is new to his position, but he must not become smug. A war widow wrote to me explaining that her husband had received a gunshot wound in a lung in the first world war. He served in a minor capacity during the recent war, became ill, and died while an operation was being performed on him. Two conflicting certificates were issued regarding his death. The widow applied for a pension, hut was refused. I wrote to the department on her behalf, pointing out that the death certificates were in conflict. I did not receive a reply for two months, and then received an unsigned letter stating that the application had been refused, and that there was nothing more to say. I sent the letter back, asking that it be signed, and eventually it was returned to me bearing a signature, but it was not that of the person who should have signed it . This letter merely stated that there was nothing to add to the previous communication. Although things of this kind are going on, the Minister glibly tells us that so many millions of pounds are being expended, and that everything is well. I know that he has not much power under the act, but if he had the power he ought to sack officials if they fail to do their jobs properly. The Minister should ensure that the act is administered properly. If the regulations are at fault, they should be amended.
Recently, I asked a question about the Caulfield Military Hospital, because patients had written to me stating that it was proposed Jo remove them to Heidelberg. The Minister, in reply, wrote to me in these terms -
There is no intention whatever of handing this hospital over or completely transferring the patients from Caulfield at the present time. It may take a couple of years before any definite and final conclusion can be made as to what the future of Caulfield will be. In the meantime the hospital is being carried, on and if any of the staff is to go to Heidelberg then transport will be arranged for some time to come.
I noticed some reference in the Melbourne press at the week-end on the subject, but as the mutter had not been discussed with anybody in Melbourne, either by me or members of the commission, I have concluded that what was reported was a certain amount of kiteflying by interested parties in Victoria.
What did he mean by that. In spite of that reply, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) yesterday received a telegram stating that all patients, except tuberculosis cases, had been moved from Caulfield to Heidelberg. Last week, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the removal of the repatriation clinic from Grace Building, in Sydney. The honorable member pointed out the hardship inflicted upon sick ex-servicemen in being required to travel long distances to Randwick and Concord for treatment. Many of the patients in the Caulfield Military Hospital are cripples, who have been in the hospital for years. Their families have come to live near them, and the staff of the hospital also live in the vicinity. Nevertheless, the patients were whisked off to Heidelberg, in spite of the answer which was given to me by the Minister. It is evident that everything is not right in the Repatriation. Department. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the department, and of the act, but I am not enthusiastic about the muddling that takes place. Either the Minister does not know what his officials are doing, or he has supplied misleading information.
I now wish to draw attention to one deficiency in the act. In its present form, the dependent parents of a deceased serviceman are not eligible for a pension without undergoing a means test. At one time, the act provided that they, like the widow of a deceased soldier, were automatically eligible for a pension, but during the depression the means test was imposed. This was done by a Labour government, but I do not “throw that up “ to honorable members opposite. We know that, at that time, cuts were made in all directions. Subsequent governments gradually restored what had been taken away by those cuts, but the means test, as it applied to the parents of a deceased soldier, was never removed. I mentioned the matter from time to time, and notice of a motion dealing with it appeared on the notice-paper of this House in my name, but it was later removed. I know of a family in which the only two sons, one in the Air Force and one in the Army, were killed. The parents eked out an existence with the help of a small pension which the father received from the British Colonial Office, while the mother raised flowers on their small mountain property. When the boys were killed, the parents received a sympathetic official letter, and were told to apply for a pension. They did so, and a policeman was sent out to interview them. Afterwards, they were informed that they were not eligible to receive a pension. If they had sold up their property, and spent the money, they would then be eligible, but so long as they earned anything for themselves the amount would be deducted from any pension to which they might otherwise be entitled. As a matter of fact, the application of this principle results in a waste of money. The provision costs more to administer than any saving that may be effected in the payment of pensions. The matter can be remedied by an amendment to the bill now before the House, and I intend to move in that direction when the bill is in committee. This Government has inherited an excellent Repatriation Act, and an excellent department, but I do not agree that the department should have been absorbed into the general body of the Public Service. It should have remained separate, and under the control of ex-servicemen themselves. However, it can still be run efficiently, provided the Minister takes a real interest in it. He must see that anomalies are adjusted, thus showing that he is worthy of his trust. If he fails to do this, he will became a mere cipher, and should make way for somebody else.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Net capital value of accumulated property).
– The purpose of this clause is to repeal section 90 of the principal act and to insert in its stead a new section. Section 90 of the principal act, prescribes the method for determining the net value of accumulated property for the purposes of calculating the amount of a service pension. I understand that, under that section, a pension was paid without the application of a means test, but that the clause now before us brings the provisions of this legislation into line with the invalid and old-age pensions legislation in that a means test is to be applied. If that be so, we must be very careful before we authorize such a new departure. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to explain why this departure is necessary. If he is unable to satisfy the committee that it is in the best interests of the pensioners the Opposition will oppose the clause.
– Section 90 of the principal act sets out the basis for the assessment of the value of property in computing service pensions. It is based on a similar provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That provision has been reconstructed on approved lines in the Social Services Consolidation Bill now before the Parliament. In the reconstruction two doubtful points have been cleared up; first, as to whether, in exempting £200 of the surrender value of a life insurance policy, the provision means, in the case of a husband and wife, £200 in the aggregate, or £200 each, and secondly, the same point in respect of £500 of the value of the reversionary interest in a life insurance policy. In clause 30 of the Social Services Consolidation Bill it is made clear that the exemption applies to each of the parties and for this reason it is proposed to replace section 90 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by the proposed new section embodied in this clause, the wording of which is in conformity with clause 30 of the Social Services Consolidation Bill. That, briefly, is the reason for the insertion of this clause in the bill. It constitutes a liberalization of the existing legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Service pensioner in a public institution).
– This is the clause which I quoted in my second-reading speech, when I drew attention to the fact that it contains one of nine amendments to a bill which has not yet been enacted. These nine amendments are designed to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in such a way as to ensure that it accords with what is described in the bill as the “Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 “, which, in fact, has not yet been placed on the statute-book. During my second-reading speech, I drew attention to this departure from normal practice. As there is no such act in existence I cannot understand how it can be possible to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in the manner proposed. It is apparent that the bill we are now considering should have been placed on the notice-paper in a position lower than the Social Services Consolidation Bill. It is obvious that the Government is putting the cart before the horse by seeking the committee’s endorsement of a bill, some of the provisions of which refer to an act which is non-existent. An explanation is due to the committee, and I suggest to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) that this may be the appropriate time for such an explanation to be made.
– The honorable member is completely astray in his criticism of this clause. These proposed amendments are not intended to come into operation until after the 10th July, so that the honorable member’s criticism of the order in which the business of the Parliament is being taken has no point. He is well aware that the order of business in the Parliament is arranged in collaboration with the Opposition. If he desires to pursue this subject, and insists upon being told the reason why this bill is being considered at this stage, I shall oblige him ; but I prefer not to do so.
– The honorable gentleman cannot cloud the issue like that.
– One would think, to listen to the honorable member, that the whole thing was shrouded in mystery. The honorable member is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and knows perfectly well why this procedure has been followed.
– I do not.
– The amendments proposed in this bill will not become effective until after the 10th July. I think it is safe to assume that the committee will have before it, at a later stage during these sittings of the Parliament, the Social Services Consolidation Bill, to which this clause refers. That bill is to operate as from the 1st July, by which time the problem which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) appears to envisage will have disappeared.
.- Is the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) satisfied that, in dealing with this bill at this stage, we are proceeding in a constitutional manner? The mere fact that some arrangement is alleged to have been made with the Opposition does not satisfy me. The committee has its obligations to the Parliament, and when it consents to the amendment of an act of Parliament, which, in turn, refers to another act of Parliament, it must be certain that the latter act is in existence. It has been clearly pointed out by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that the act referred to in this clause is not in existence. The procedure prescribed for the conduct of the business of the Parliament should be strictly followed. The Minister has not treated the committee with the consideration to which it is entitled. I ask him to obtain an opinion from the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), or, in his absence, from the legal advisers of the Government, as to whether the procedure sought to be followed is constitutional. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he should postpone further consideration of the bill until the Social Services Consolidation Bill has been passed. This is typical of the haphazard and undemocratic way in which this Government presents its legislation to the Parliament. Having a majority in the Parliament, the Government is completely indifferent to the need for the observance of approved parliamentary procedure. It makes blunders of this kind and hopes that the Opposition will condone them.
– I am not at all satisfied with the explanation of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) in regard to this matter. The honorable gentleman has implied that some arrangement has been made between the Government and the Opposition. I do not know what that arrangement was; I was not a party to it. If the Minister wishes us to believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) have arranged that the Social. Services ‘ Consolidation Bill should be placed on the notice-paper in a lower position than the bill now before us, in order to give Opposition members a longer period to examine it, he should have said so. It would be quite in accord with the practice of the Parliament for the Leader of the Opposition to ask for an extension of time to enable him and his followers to consider any particular measure that may be presented to us; but it is not in accord with the practice of the Parliament to seek the passage of a bill which refers to legislation which is not yet on the statute-book. In effect, the Minister has said, “ We have a majority in this chamber. We know that the Social Services Consolidation Bill will become law because we propose to use our majority to ensure its passage, notwithstanding what debate on it may take place.” If that be so, the attitude of the Government bids fair to destroy the value of the Parliament as a deliberative assembly. Regardless of what the Minister has said about an arrangement between the Government £.nd the Opposition for the postponement of further consideration of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, the fact remains that this bill contains nine proposals to amend the Repatriation Act to bring it into conformity with the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947. There is no such .statute. That is the burden of my complaint. The Minister has no right to say, “ It’s all right boys, you know that in the fullness of time the Social Services Consolidation Bill will become an act because we have the numbers. So you need not worry about this bill “. On that principle the Government could bring down to-morrow a bill anticipating legislation not to be introduced for six months. The postponement of the debate on the Services Consolidation Bill would grant time to the Opposition to study it in accordance with parliamentary practice. This bill should be postponed, too, till after the Social Services Consolidation Bill has been placed on the statute-book. This process is another example of the slip-shod legislative methods of the Government. It shows indecent haste in producing bill after bill, suspending the 11 o’clock rule and doing everything possible to rush the legislation through the Parliament. I do not know how the committee feels, but I think it is justified in making the strongest protest against this departure from parliamentary practice.
.- I have no. doubt that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) will acquit me of any desire to embarrass him ; but it may well be that when we discuss the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which is a long bill, the committee will desire, regardless of party affiliations, to make some alterations of it, formal or minor, and I suggest, without fear of successful contradiction, that it is at least inappropriate to discuss this bill, which is intended to bring the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act into conformity with the Social Services Consolidation Act, as though the Social Services Consolidation Bill were the Social Services Consolidation Act when it is in fact not aw act but merely a bill. I am sure that the Minister does not suggest that, because the Social Services Consolidation Bill has been approved by the Cabinet, that is necessarily the last word to be said about it. It remains to be seen whether it will pass into law in its present form. Both the Government side and the Opposition side might together desire to change it, and I think it is a wrong procedure to anticipate what the committee will do. Surely the committee is not to be treated with contempt. I am sure that the Minister does’ not desire to regard it with contempt. I am not concerned with what the Opposition thinks; but, as Government supporters may, themselves, decide to make at least formal alterations of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, I think further consideration of this bill should be postponed.
.- I endorse what has been said by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) . In my short experience as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I have neither seen nor heard anything like the proposal before the committee that the Parliament should amend one act to bring it into conformity with legislation that is not yet in existence.
– Nothing of the kind is proposed, as the honorable member should know, even with his limited experience.
– The statement of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is ignorant and fatuous. Clause 11 amends the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to bring it into conformity with “the Social Services Consolidation Act “. There is no such act. Legislation cannot be amended to bring it into conformity with an act that does not exist. The Government is impudent, impertinent and acting illegally in trying to enact legislation this way. The honorable member for Batman, a well-known lawyer and a Government supporter, has put the matter clearly. So why does the Minister stay at the table trying to mislead the committee instead of giving way to some one who knows the legal position. We are witnessing another illustration of the fascist mind of the Labour movement. It does not care whether what it does is lawful or not.
– I hope the honorable member is not agreeing with me now.
– I do not expect the honorable member for Batman to agree with all I say; but I agree with what he said a few minutes ago. This proposal is impudent, and an insult to the Parliament. It is also unlawful. No doubt, this clause will be “ juggernauted “ through the committee in the usual way, but an interesting position will arise if, later, we amend the Social Services Consolidation Bill. As other honorable members have pointed out, the “ Social Services Consolidation Act “ does not exist. The High Court might have something to say about this matter in due course. The Minister should observe the proper forms of this chamber; but he will not, because he is asleep in his ignorance of the whole subject. If the committee were honest and democratic, and were concerned with the observance of proper parliamentary procedure, it would postpone clause 11 until the Social Services Consolidation Bill has become law.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to rule whether the committee will be in order in proceeding at this stage with clause 11 which attempts to deal with a nonexistent act. The Social Services Consolidation Bill, which no doubt will later be proclaimed an act, is still on the noticepaper. Frequently, honorable members have been told that when dealing with one bill, they must not refer to other bills on the notice-paper. Obviously, if we are to deal with this bill properly and thoroughly, we must deal also with the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which is intimately linked with clause 11 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. Standing Order 170 provides -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bil], or pursuant to any Instruction, and be otherwise in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House.
This is a “ bill for an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1946 as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1947. . . .” The Commonwealth Public Service Bill has been passed by this House. By the same reasoning, we cannot refer in the body of this bill to an act which does not exist, because the words used in clause 11 are “ the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 “. The Commonwealth Parliament has not passed this act. How, then, can we discuss bringing the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act into conformity with a non-existent act? Standing Order 173 provides -
The discussion shall be confined to the clause or amendment before the committee.
How Ave can discuss the non-existent, I do not know. How we can anticipate the passing of legislation, I do not know. Therefore, the Chair should rule that this clause should be postponed until the Parliament has passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill, the Governor-General has assented to it, and it has been proclaimed. That has not yet been done. Any discussion of clause 11 containing a reference to the Social Services Consolidation Act must be out of order. If the Chair is in doubt about the matter, progress should be reported and Mr. Speaker advised of the situation.
– I rise to order-
– Order ! The Chair can give a direction now, which may save time. The House has agreed to the first and second-reading of the bill, and referred it to the committee. This is not a matter on which the Chair should give a ruling. The committee may deal with it as it pleases.
– Although this doubt was raised before the sitting was suspended at 6 o’clock and honorable members had an opportunity to examine all the clauses of the bill, members of the Opposition have just realized that clause 11 contains a reference to the “ Social Services Consolidation Act “. If the contention of the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) be right, the Opposition should have raised this objection on clause 5, which also refers to the Social Services Consolidation Act.
– I raised this matter in my second-reading speech.
– Since the committee resumed at 8 o’clock, we have disposed of several clauses. Clause 5 provides -
Section eighty-four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ in pursuance of section twenty-four of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act 1908-1942 “ and inserting in their stead the words “ to an age pensioner in pursuance of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 “.
Reference to the Social Services Consolidation Act is also made in clause 6, and honorable members opposite voted for it. The same words occur in clause 8. Again, honorable members voted for it. If they are so desirous of observing the forms of the Parliament they should not have waited until clause 11 before challenging the references to the Social Services Consolidation Act. Had they challenged the words in clause 6, I might have doubted the wisdom of proceeding with the consideration of the bill at this stage. However, I remind them that this bill will confer substantial benefits on ex-servicemen. If honorable members opposite will be fair they will admit that.
– How does the honorable member know that the Social Services Consolidation Act will confer substantial benefits on ex-servicemen?
– If, in this chamber, the Social Services Consolidation Bill is amended so as to necessitate the renumbering of the clauses, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill can be recommitted, and necessary minor amendments made. Honorable members opposite have swallowed five clauses containing the words “ Social Services Consolidation Act “. In Rip van Winkle-like fashion, they slept through those five clauses, and did not wake up until the committee had reached clause 11. Then they protested that the Government was acting wrongly in proceeding with the bill until the Parliament had passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill. They .accused the Government of introducing legislation in a haphazard manner. By their own actions, they reveal that they did not read or understand this bill.
– The honorable member was obviously out of the chamber when I made my second-reading speech, because I directed attention to the number of times that the words “ Social Services Consolidation Act “ appear.
– Why did not members of the Opposition object to these words in clauses 5, 6 and 7? The interests of ex-servicemen will best be served if we pass this clause now. As the committee has already approved clauses containing five references to the Social Services Consolidation Act, I am prepared to do it on the sixth occasion.
.- The Government will have some difficulty in clarifying clause 11 in the absence of the principal measure, if some facts which have been brought to my notice by one of my constituents are found to be correct. Clause 11 deals with the service pensioner who is placed in a public institution. It reads -
Section ninety-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - “ (1.) If an applicant for service pension is, or a service pensioner becomes, an inmate of a hospital for the insane or an institution which is a benevolent asylum as denned by section eighteen of the Social Services Consolidation Act 15)47, and is maintained therein at the public expense, the rate of service pension payable to the applicant or pensioner so Ion’* as he remains an inmate shall not, subject to this section, in any case exceed an amount equal to the amount payable under section fifty of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1!)47 to an age or invalid pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent asylum.”
That means, in short, that the service pensioner, on entering one of these public institutions, will be paid the amount that an invalid or old-age pensioner receives in them. Is that correct?
– That is correct.
– I have received a letter from a constituent and in view of the ambiguity which arises out of it, I shall read it to the committee. It states -
I wish, to ask you if you could help myself and hundreds of parents who have relatives in mental hospitals to get the invalid pension for them. When the poor unfortunates are at home we can get the pension, but as soon as they are in a mental hospital their pensions are stopped and we have to pay the Public Trustee for their maintenance there. Also we have to clothe them otherwise they are dressed like a lot of convicts in clothes of the Victorian times.
I pause at that point because honorable members will recollect that the bill provides that a service pensioner, on entering a public institution, shall receive the rate of pension applicable to an invalid or old-age pensioner inmate. According to my correspondent, the pension ceases when a person enters it. The letter continues -
We also have to take extras in the way of food, for their menu is very plain. 1 am sure that if you would help us to get this anomaly before Parliament, as patients in public hospitals can bc there for any period and get the pension, you would earn the gratitude of many thousands of relatives of these poor and almost forgotten members of this great Commonwealth.
This person, who writes as a parent of one of the unfortunate inmates of an institution, states that once a pensioner enters an institution, his pension ceases. The clause provides that a service pensioner, on becoming an inmate of a public institution, shall not receive an amount in excess of that payable to an invalid or old-age pensioner. The point which I raise is this: If the facts stated in the letter be correct, the ex-serviceman will not receive a pension. Why, then, is this reference made in the clause to the “ rate of service pension pension payable “ ? It is possible that the Social Services Consolidation Bill makes some pension provision for invalid and old-age pensioners who are inmates of these institutions, and, therefore a service pensioner on entering an institution, will also continue to receive the payment. However, that only gives point to the difficulty which has been expressed by other honorable members that they were unable to examine this bill closely when they did not know what the Social Services Consolidation Bill will provide. I ask the Minister to clarify the position. Does the person to whom I have referred receive any pension at all if he is in an institution; if so, what is the amount of it?
– This discussion affords an interesting example of the way in which the collective Opposition mind works on these matters. This clause, as my colleague the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has said, contains an exactly similar reference to the Social Services Consolidation Act as appears in four clauses which the committee has already passed, yet no Opposition member rose” to object to the wording of any one of them. When this clause was reached, however, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr.
Harrison) took exception to the reference to the Social Services Consolidation Act. Had honorable members opposite been vigilant they would have taken such objection when the previous clauses were before the committee.
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
– I am sorry that I was not able to hear the interjection of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), so I cannot reply to it.
– I referred to this point in my second-reading speech, and I also referred to it when this clause was submitted to the committee.
– I “was not referring to the honorable member for Wentworth, but to other honorable gentlemen of the Opposition parties who have been merely echoing the point that he raised. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) gravely declared that the purpose of this clause is to amend an act which has no existence. When an interjection was made while the honorable member was addressing ‘he committee he at once endeavoured to change his ground. The position is perfectly clear. This clause refers to inmates of benevolent asylums as defined in the Social Services Consolidation Act. The Parliament may define such benevolent asylums exactly as it thinks fit. At present the committee is being asked to apply uniformly the definition that will be stated in the Social Services Consolidation Act. Similarly, clause 15 of this bill provides that whatever amount may be stated as the pension rate in the Social Services Consolidation Act shall be the rate that will apply to war pensioners. I repeat that Parliament has the power to determine these matters. Moreover, the Social Services Consolidation Act is to come into operation on the 1st July, whereas this measure is not to become operative until the 10th July. So the position is adequately safeguarded. The Parliament will be quite within its rights in defining benevolent asylums when the social services consolidating measure is before it, and it will be equally in order for this committee to enact that the definition which will appear in the Social Services Consolidation Act shall have effect in relation to pensioners involved in this clause.
– There appears to be some confusion in the minds of honorable members opposite on this subject. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has clearly stated the purpose of the clause, and he has also referred to another clause which will determine the rate of pension. The point is that we do not know what rate of pension will be prescribed in the Social Services Consolidation Act. We may not be satisfied with it.
– The committee will have an opportunity to deal with that point when the social services consolidating measure is under consideration.
– That does not alter the fact that the Government, at the moment, is asking us to sign a blank cheque, which is a procedure that is generally frowned upon. What would happen if a justice of the peace were to sign a document as a witness before the signature of the principal had been affixed? That also is a procedure which is frowned upon. We should not sign a blank cheque. I consider that if we agree to this measure in its present form we shall cast a stigma upon the Crown. This bill will need to be submitted to a certain gentleman for the Royal assent. It would surely be improper for the measure to receive the Royal assent unless the -King’s representative is fully aware of what it involves. The Parliament has not yet passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and therefore we should be signing a blank cheque if we were to pass this clause in its present form. We do not know what will be done when, the social services consolidating measure is before us. If we agree to this clause our action could be compared with looking at an egg and calling it a chicken. One never knows what will happen with an egg. A chicken might eventuate and it might not. Consideration of the clause should be postponed until the social services consolidating measure has been dealt with, and, in an endeavour to pour oil on the troubled waters, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
– It would perhaps be timely for me to clarify the position, particularly in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). I suggest to that honorable gentleman, who has not been a member of this Parliament for very long, that he still has something to learn, even as a lawyer, about the passage of legislation through the Parliament. The honorable gentleman apparently will not admit that he can be taught anything. I recollect that he has been referred to as the junior partner in the firm of “Fog, Fog, and Pettifog”. There is still something for him to learn about parliamentary procedure. I confess that I, too, still have a good deal to learn about it, though I have been a member of the Parliament for a number of years.
– What the Minister is saying about the honorable member for Parramatta is true also of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– The honorable member for Parramatta said that the purpose of this clause is to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act. That is not so. This measure is complementary, insofar as this clause and several others are concerned, to another measure which we are not entitled, at this stage, to discuss at length but may refer to only in passing. However, the Social Services Consolidation Bill has already been passed by the Senate, and is now before this chamber, though not, at the moment, directly under consideration.
– Why not deal with that measure before this one is dealt with?
– We are dealing with this measure first, because the Government considers that it is more convenient to do so. The other measure has been circulated and it will be considered within the next few days. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has stated the purpose of this clause more clearly than any other honorable gentleman has done. Honorable members opposite are, in fact, merely disturbed about the order of business.
– This clause refers to an act which, in fact, is at present only a bill for an act.
– The Government, in its wisdom, can deal with the legislation which it has on the notice-paper, and of which honorable members have been informed, in the order that is most convenient to it. When the whole of the legislation has been passed what will matter will be the order in which the bills actually become law. If honorable members will look at the Social Services Consolidation Bill, they will find that it is to come into operation on the 1st July. 1947.
– If it is passed by the Parliament.
– Quite so. Should this chamber, in its wisdom, decide not to pass it in the form in which it has been presented, the bill which the committee is now considering can be appropriately altered in the Senate. Honorable members whose knowledge of parliamentary procedure is equal to, if not greater than, mine are perfectly well aware that past governments have conducted’ the business of the Parliament in that way. It is all very well to say that this clause has come bef ore the committee because the Minister for Repatriation occupies a junior position and does not know any better.
– He does know better, but he still goes on.
– I would not attempt to question the wisdom of such an old parliamentarian as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). But I still say that the committee can pass the clause without any fear of endangering the bill or the men to whom it will apply, or of infringing in any way the practice of the Parliament in the passage of legislation.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has raised an important point, which ought to be explained in view of the fact that he has read a letter which appears on its face to have some bearing on the clause, even though, in my opinion, the bearing is not very great. The proposed new sub-section provides-
If an applicant for service pension is, or a service pensioner becomes, an inmate of a hospital for the insane or an institution which is a benevolent asylum . . . the rate of service pension payable to the applicant or pensioner so long as he remains an inmate shall not, subject to this section, in any case exceed an amount equal to the amount payable under section fifty of the
Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 to an age or invalid pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent asylum.
I have consulted my legal advisers, and have been assured that the proposed new sub-section has been so drawn as to avoid anomaly as between the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in relation to service pensioners and the Social Services legislation.
– Do they receive the pension ?
– They receive a portion of it.
– ‘Can the Minister say how much?
– I believe that some of them receive 12s. a week.
– Two-thirds of the total pension goes to the institution, a.nd one-third to the pensioner.
– The proposed new sub-section is designed to benefit pensioners, and not to withdraw from them anything which they have enjoyed. I remember this matter being raised when consideration was being given to amendments to bring this bill into line with another measure. Amendments had to be made to provide for increased payments to certain ex-servicemen. Several other provisions were included, the purpose of one of which is to remove an anomaly by providing for the eligibility of other service organizations in certain connexions. This anomaly in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was noticed, and I agreed to ask the Government to have this amendment made.
– The Minister has said that a service pensioner in an institution receives one-third of his pension. Then, if he is in receipt of a pension of £2 10s. a week he is entitled to 16s. Sd. a week. Will he receive that much under the Social Services Consolidation Bill?
– The payment has never been made under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to an inmate of a mental asylum. A service pensioner will receive payment under this provision.
– That is not quite true.
– I did not mind answering the question put by the honorable member, but when he accuses me of not telling the truth I decline to discuss the matter further with him.
– Will the pensioner receive the payment, or will it be held in trust for him by the Master in Lunacy?
– According to my understanding of the matter, the pensioner will receive it. I do not think that a man whose mental condition was seriously deficient would actually be paid the money, because he would not be able to handle it.
– Is the payment made to his people, or is the money held in trust for him ?
– I do not think that it is held in trust. The intention is that it shall be of some benefit to him, so as to overcome the difficulties referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner.
– Apparently, they are not receiving it now.
– Because the legislative provision has not yet been made.
– The explanation given to me is that an age pensioner who enters a benevolent asylum will receive a pension of 13s. a week as from the 1st July, 1947. Clause 11 proposes that the same amount shall be paid to a service pensioner who enters a benevolent asylum or a mental hospital. It has always been paid ‘.o such service pensioners. I hope that I have cleared up the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner, and trust that the committee will be satisfied with the explanations I have given. When this legislation has been passed, it will come into operation on the 10th July. It is contemplated that another measure, which has been before honorable members, will again come up for consideration at a convenient time. If the committee, in its wisdom, should see fit to alter any provision which has a bearing on this or any other clause, I give the assurance that appropriate amendments will be made.
.- It struck mo that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) was extremely half-hearted and apologetic about this amendment of the principal act in relation to an act which does not exist. He should be. The honorable member for
Batman (Mr. Brennan) put his finger on the point that matters. There is co such enactment in existence. I have never heard or read of a parliament attempting to pass legislation with reference to something which did not exist. I am reminded of the excuse offered by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) - that the commit’.ee had already passed clauses 5 and 6, which also make reference to the non-existent Social Services Consolidation Act 1947.
– Also clauses 7 and 8.
– What the number of clauses is, does not matter. The honorable member tried to persuade the committee that the Opposition has no case because it did not raise the point on those earlier clauses. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out that the matter was discussed in the party room.. The important point, however, is that it was specifically referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in his secondreading speech. Wherever else it is raised does not matter, so long as it is discussed in this chamber. According to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who was corroborated by the very pertinent remark of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the cutting of five men’s throats on five occasions justifies the murder of another person on a sixth occasion; in other words, if there are five breaches of the law, or the distortion and destruction of parliamentary procedure on five occasions, that justifies the commission of the act on the sixth occasion. Even in a parliament dominated by a Labour administration, as is this Parliament, that ought not to be allowed. But it is: I do not think that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in his heart, agrees with that.
– If the Opposition were vigilant, and if this is wrong, they would have tackled it on Friday last.
– We did tackle it during the second-reading debate. The honorable member’s real complaint is that it has been tackled at all. According to him, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) should not have spoken against it now, but should have spoken on clause 5. I say that it does not matter when the point is raised, so long as we draw attention to what is, in effect, a grotesque provision. This is unscientific legislation on a grand scale. It may be that some parliamentary draftsman has brought this to the Minister who, on his own confession, has done what the draftsman told him ; or it may be that the Minister, in his innocence, decided to insert this provision, despite the advice of the draftsman. I do not care how it was done; it is wrong; it is slovenly; it is cynical; and it is an insult to the Parliament. It is as if it were proposed to amend the principal act by saying -
If an applicant for service pension is, or a service pensioner becomes, an inmate of a hospital for the insane or an institution which is a benevolent asylum as defined by section eighteen of the Lewis Carol Pancake Act of 1909 . . .
.- Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to order. I want to know whether the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is in order in speaking at this stage seeing that, in his capacity a* Speaker, he may be required to give what the Parliament is entitled to expect will be an impartial ruling on the point under discussion.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is entitled to address himself to the clause in committee.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) expects a little trouble, and he will get it. Throughout the evening, we have been regaled with speeches by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Barker regarding the legality of passing a bill which contains a reference to an act not yet passed. I refrained from mentioning the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) because he was not a member of this House at the time when the event to which I am about to refer took place. However, if the honorable member is a sample of the legal profession, it is no wonder that our gaols are overflowing. The honorable member for Parramatta said that he had never heard of a responsible body doing such a thing as this Parliament is now being asked to do. He said that this was an example of unscientific legislation on a grand scale. In fact, he said, the Parliament could not do this thing, and he added that it was an insult to the Parliament to ask that it be done. Let me remind honorable members that on a number of occasions, including the specific occasion to which I am about to draw attention, the parties with which the honorable member for Parramatta is now associated, did exactly the same thing when they were in power. On the 4th May, 193S, a government supported by the parties opposite, introduced the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, in which the following passage occurred : - “ Contributions “ means contributions consisting of payments at the rates imposed by the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employers’ Contributions) Act 1938 and by the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Act 1938, and includes contributions made by or on behalf of voluntary contributors, and by special voluntary contributors and other contributions made voluntarily under this Act;
That act, which was introduced on the 4th of May, was contingent on’ two measures which were not introduced to the House until the 21st of June, and I do not suppose that there was ever a more far-reaching piece of legislation introduced to the Parliament than the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill of 1938, during the discussion of which the anti-Labour Government did the very thing that honorable members opposite now say is unconstitutional. I wonder what the honorable member for Barker was doing with his copy of the Standing Orders then? He quoted from it very freely to-night. He asked you, Mr. Chairman, for a ruling, and I understand that he proposes to ask me for one later; but I have now given him a precedent which occurred when he was a member of the Government. In the classic phrase of the honorable member for Parramatta, the clause now under discussion proposes to do something which was never before attempted by a responsible body. “Well, the Parliament in 1938 was either re sponsible or irresponsible. At any rate, it did exactly what the Government proposes to do now.
As for the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner, it is proposed in this measure to give to the service pensioner on the 1st of July an advance on the pension which he now receives. The position of service pensioners and of old-age and invalid pensioners who are inmates of a mental asylum is entirely different. The pension of an old-age or invalid pensioner entering such an institution is automatically stopped, but under this legislation the ex-serviceman will be in a more favorable position, because he will receive 13s. a week.
– But old-age and invalid pensioners may receive that amount under the new bill.
– They may; but I am now discussing the position of the ex-serviceman. The definitions of a mental asylum and a benevolent home are the same in the Social Service Consolidation Bill as in the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, and it is provided that the service pensioner will receive the same amount in a mental asylum as the oldage or invalid pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent home. This is an advantage to the serviceman, and assures him of something which the old-age or invalid pensioner does hot receive who becomes an inmate of a mental asylum.
.- We get into some curious situations in this Parliament when Mr. Speaker takes it on himself to come amongst us-
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the part taken by Mr. Speaker in this debate.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was that we were to be addressed in committee by the person to whom we would have to address ourselves later on a substantial point of order. I do not deny the right of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to participate in this discussion, and when the Government from time to time finds itself embarrassed-
– I think the honorable member might now refer to the clause before the committee.
– With respect, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that my comment is very much to the point. Although the honorable member for Dalley can cite precedents dating back for years, if he studied the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which has not yet come before us, with the same care as he has studied his precedents, he would find that he was wrong when he said that the effect of the clause under discussion was to give to the service pensioner something more than was enjoyed by the invalid or old-age pensioner. If he had been on the alert, he would have taken advantage of the kind prompting of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn).’ Although the Social Services Consolidation Bill has not been debated in this chamber, I find, by consulting the second-reading speech of the Minister who introduced it in the Senate, that the main relevent alteration effected by the measure is one which gives a concession to old-age and invalid pensioners. I quote from page 2420 of Hansard -
The maximum amount of pension payable to a pensioner inmate of a benevolent asylum has been increased from £29 18s. per annum to £33 lGs. per annum. Statutory authority is given for the balance of pension, if any, to be paid to the benevolent asylum authorities as at present.
Therefore, it is clear that the service pensioner will not enjoy any benefits to which invalid and old-age pensioners are not entitled.
– What about mental hospitals ?
– Under this clause we are referring to benevolent asylums, as defined in clause 5 of the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1947. If there is confusion it appears to be shared by honorable members in all parts of the House. I do not claim a greater knowledge of the subject than that possessed by the honorable member for Dalley. In fact, if I had not had an opportunity to refer to the speech made in the Senate, I would not have discovered the point that I have just made. This lack of knowledge is an embarrassment which effects all honorable members. I am not concerned with what was done by another government in 1938. What was done at that time does not make any more commendable what is proposed to be done now.
– The honorable member thought it was right then.
– We are not discussing that situation. At the moment, the committee is discussing clause 11, and honorable members are embarrassed because they have not before them legislation to which reference is made in the clause. The Minister told us that the money was payable to service pensioners. The honorable member for Dalley told us that they would receive something which invalid and old-age pensioners would not get. The Minister said that the amount was 13s. but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) thought it was lis. 6d.
– It is lis. 6d. now, but it will be raised to 13s.
– We are gradually narrowing the field of discussion. According to my correspondent, parents do not receive any of this pension, and they have to make a contribution to the Public Trustee for the maintenance of the pensioner.
– We cannot examine the matter at long range.
– I propose to examine it at short-range. I ask, do parents of service pensioners receive any payment at all while the service pensioner is an inmate of a mental asylum or a benevolent home ?
– The answer is “ Yes “. If the honorable member will supply me with details of the case I shall examine it.
– Under this clause the benefit a service pensioner is to receive is to be the same as that given to an invalid and old-age pensioner. If a service pensioner is entitled to such a benefit, are we to understand that after the 1st July the relatives of an invalid and old-age pensioner would also be entitled to it?
– The answer is quite obvious.
– Are we to understand that the answer is “ Yes “ ?
– The answer is quite obvious. If the honorable member cannot understand it that is his fault.
– I may be exceedingly obtuse, but I do not understand it. I again ask the honorable gentleman is the answer “Yes” or “No”?
– Order ! The Minister is not under cross-examination.
– With respect, Mr. Chairman, the Minister has taken it upon himself to say merely that the answer is quite obvious. I asked him, sir, if the answer were “Yes” or “No”? He refused to answer. Putting the position in a nutshell, he doe3 not know the answer, and if he does not know it, how then can the committee be expected to know it?
– The reason for all this debate is because two measures happen to be passing through the Parliament simultaneously. The Social Services Consolidation Bill has already been passed by the Senate, and the Minister’s second-reading speech on the measure has been made in this chamber and all members have had a copy of the bill. The bill now before us will be transmitted to the Senate when it has been passed by this chamber. It is expected that consideration of the Social Services Consolidation Bill will have been completed before the bill now before us is disposed of. Clause 11, which repeals section 90 of the principal act and inserts a new section in its stead, has been embodied in this bill in order to give effect to certain adjustments which are to be made in the law relating to service pensions. Service pensioners have been entitled to certain payments which are not made available to invalid and old-age pensioners. When an invalid or old-age pensioner is admitted to a benevolent institution two-thirds of his pension is paid to the institution and the remaining one-third to the pensioner for pocket money or for any purpose to which he desires to devote it. When, however, an invalid or old-age pensioner, is admitted to a mental asylum one-third of his pension is withheld from him. We do not want that restriction to apply to service pensioners who may be unfortunate enough to have to enter a mental asylum. The effect of this clause is to place a service pensioner who enters a mental asylum in the same position as an invalid or old-age pensioner who enters a benevolent institution.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked whether the parents or relatives of a service pensioner will be called upon to pay for his upkeep whilst he is in an asylum ; the answer is “ No “. In such cases the asylum authorities will be entitled to 24s., which is the equivalent of two-thirds of his pension; the remaining 13s, will be paid to the exserviceman concerned, if he is able to handle it, and if not, to some member of his family.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has satisfactorily explained the point raised by the honorable member tor Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He might have made his explanation earlier. The honorable gentleman has not, however, dealt with the main issue raised by the Opposition, namely, the incorporation in this amending bill of a reference to a measure which has not yetbeen passed by the Parliament.
– The Chair has ruled that that reference is in order. I did not defy the ruling of the Chair.
– I do not desire to defy the ruling of the Chair; but I remind the Minister that I am entitled to criticize the legislation brought before the Parliament. My colleagues on this side of the chamber have criticized the incorporation in this amending bill of a reference to a piece of legislation which has not yet been passed by the Parliament. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has not been able to rebut that criticism, and I can only assume that there can be no substantial rebuttal of it. Criticism of this clause has been advanced noi only from the Opposition side but also from the Government side for our remarks were supported by a former Attorney-General on the Government side.
– Where was the honorable member when the honorable member for Dalley spoke on this matter?
– I was present in the chamber. I am sorry that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is not here to listen to those who reply to his remarks. It is curious for the Speaker of the House to participate in a committee debate and then leave the chamber without waiting to hear the answer to his remarks. There is a most effective answer to the point made by the honorable member for Dalley, and it is probable that the honorable member left the chamber because he did not want to hear it. He is an experienced and skilled parliamentary debater; but the only occasions on which he addresses the committee are those when the Government find3 itself in a mess from which he is brought in to endeavour to extricate it. On this occasion the honorable gentleman had been running to and fro consulting every one about the place, and we expected that be might explain, on some basis of fact, an important point which had not been explained by government spokesmen; but, notwithstanding his earlier preoccupation in an endeavour to work .up a case, the honorable gentleman did not do so. He merely resorted to an old political device and attempted to turn a trick upon his opponents. Turning to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), he asked, “What happened in 1938 “? What happened in 1938 does not matter very much in respect of what is happening in 1947, but I am willing to examine what happened then. The honorable member’s speech indicated that he either does not understand the criticism levelled at the clause by honorable members of this side of the chamber, or, being unable to reply, he deliberately set out to mislead the committee as to what happened in 193S. In 1938 a government with which I was associated introduced what the honorable member described as some completely new legislation, the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, with which there was associated two supplementary measures, a tax assessment bill and a tax rates bill. Necessarily, there was a reference in the parent legislation to the two cognate measures, because the whole scheme of health and pensions benefits could operate only if all three measures were passed. It is history that they were never enacted, and therefore the reference in one of them to the other two, if it contributed nothing to our legislation at least it detracted nothing. The honorable member for Dalley wilfully, or otherwise, misled the committee into believing these cases to be comparable. The truth of the matter is that this bill, which the Government invites the Parliament to translate into law, seeks to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in a manner which, if the Social Services Consolidation Bill be not passed, would have the effect of eliminating service pensions. Clause 5 of this bill-
– I rise to order. Clause 5 has already been agreed to by the committee. Is the honorable member in order in referring to it again?
– The clause may not be debated, but passing reference may be made to it.
– I desire to do no more than make passing reference to it in order to establish my point in relation to clause 11. The Minister, having been driven to resort to a trick of parliamentary procedure - a device to which we all resort on occasions when we are at our wit’s end - has made it clear that unless the Social Services Consolidation Bill be enacted there will be no service pensions available in Australia. Clause 6-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to refer continually to the clauses of the bill already agreed to by the committee. He must confine his remarks to clause 11.
– Under the earlier clauses in the bill amendments have been made to the principal act, the effect of which, unless the Social Services Consolidation Bill be passed, would be to eliminate from the law of Australia certain provisions relating to service pensions. That is indisputable.
– Does it matter much, though ?
– It matters very much to honorable members on this side that something should be done that could result in the elimination of service pensions to those entitled to them, including the wives and other dependants of ex-servicemen in Australia. If the arguments of the honorable member for Dalley had been heeded by the committee it would have been completely misled as to the effect of this legislation. I understand the Minister for Labour and National Service when he says, “ Does it matter much, though ?”, because I frankly agree that it really does not matter, because, as I have said before, this is a chamber in which to make speeches but no longer a chamber in which to make decisions, for decisions are made before bills are presented to us. Here we have a Labour government enjoying the benefit-
– Order ! I do not think the honorable member is fair in trying to avoid clause 11, which deals with service pensioners in public institutions, and I insist upon his keeping to that clause. If he does not do so, I will ask him to resume his seat.
– I will endeavour-
– “ Endeavour “ is not sufficient. The honorable member must keep to the clause.
– I will endeavour for the remainder of my speech to keep to clause 11. The clause is designed to make certain provisions that will have no effect unless the Parliament subsequently carries the Social Services Consolidation Bill. But we know that it will be passed, because the caucus has decided that it shall be, and regardless of what debate may take place in this chamber, which was set up under the Australian Constitution as the forum for debate and as the place for decisions by the representatives of the Australian people, nothing can change the position, because the decision has been reached in the caucus room. We are reaching the ultimate in the reduction of the Parliament of Australia to contempt by the Labour party in the practice of this kind of legislative device. This is the latest example of the cynicism with which the Labour” party treats this erstwhile cherished parliamentary institution.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has almost expired. I am afraid it will be curtailed if he does not keep to the clause.
– I would not have risen but for the statement by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made a speech and then ran away. I have never known the honorable member for Dalley to run away from anything. He has been called away to meet a deputation. It is unfair of the honorable mem ber for Indi to take advantage of the broadcast of the proceedings in an attempt to make the listeners believe that the honorable member for Dalley has “squibbed” the issue. He has not “squibbed” the issue. The honorable member for Indi said that the analogy drawn by the honorable member for Dalley between this legislation and the national insurance legislation of the Lyons Government had no relationship to the measure before the committee and particularly this clause. I was a member of the Parliament when the national insurance legislation was passed. We are a party united, but honorable members opposite, on that occasion-
– You were not united then. You were in the Lang party when Lang was right !
– Order! The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) should set an example to the committee.
– You cannot allow him to get away with lies.
– Order ! I ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark and apologize to the Chair,
– I do, sir.
– If the right honorable gentleman does not contain himself, the Chair will deal with him, because I propose that he shall set an example to the committee.
– Members of the Australian Country party are the worst offenders in the chamber. As I was saying when I was interrupted, at that time the Opposition parties were not united. Five honorable members adopted a mutinous attitude and “ratted” on the national insurance scheme.
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is not entitled to discuss the legislation of some years ago. He must confine himself to the clause before the Chair.
– The proposal of the Government is that provision for all social service payments shall be incorporated in one act to be called the Social
Services Consolidation Act. Legislative provision for all the social services covered by that act is already on the statute-book. All that clause 11 does is to provide for the payment of the service pension to a pensioner in a hospital for the insane or a benevolent asylum at the same rate as the old-age or invalid pension is paid to qualified inmates of a benevolent asylum. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked what amount would be payable. If he were as conversant with Commonwealth law as he should be, he would know. When he was speaking I interjected that the amount was lis. 6d. Section 5 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1945 raised the amount from 9s. 6d. to lis. 6d.
– Is that payable to parents and relatives?
– The money would be paid to some one who undertook to visit the pensioner and take him whatever little luxuries he required - perhaps cigarettes.
– The invalid and old-age pensioners do not get that.
– They do if in ordinary benevolent institutions or hospitals, but not when in mental hospitals. The intention is clear. It is only because we are “ on the air “ that honorable members opposite are raising this hullabaloo. Let it be understood that we are united and will pass this bill. The honorable member for Indi asked, “ If it is not passed? “ I tell the honorable gentleman that it has been passed already by the majority in both chambers in the place where Labour members of both chambers meet, in the caucus room. As far as we are concerned this is already the law. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said many times, we have listened with tolerance, but our minds are made up.
– The honorable member is always very helpful to his Ministers !
– Well, I do not speak with my tongue in my cheek. I state the facts. The honorable member knows that I have done so on this occasion, and that the bill will become law. He wants to hold up the legislation because of pure cussedness. He has not contributed anything of value to the debate. I do not wish to weary the committee. Clause 11 merely provides for payments to be made to ex-servicemen who have to be sent to institutions; this provision is taken from an existing act. The clause is specific. I do not know how to make it any clearer to the honorable member for Wentworth,, unless I get a mallet and try to penetrate the centre of his receptivity.
– -For the purpose of his illustration of the alleged misdeeds and shortcomings of the Opposition when it was in power, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has chosen a battleground with which I am especially familiar. He referred to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act of 1938. If the honorable member will search the depths of his memory for details of events in those days, when he sat on the Lang party benches in opposition and I was assisting the Treasurer, he will bring to light a few interesting facts. According to Hansard of the 4th May, 1938, at page 7S7, the then Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, who represented the electorate of Corio, moved that he have leave to introduce a certain bill. A most extraordinary procedure was then followed by the then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. John Curtin. He moved an amendment to the Treasurer’s motion, seeking to widen the scope of the bill, which had not been introduced. Debate ensued, and, as recorded on page 7SS, the late Sir Henry Gullett, who represented the electorate of Henty, raised a point of order. This is what took place -
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the Leader of the Opposition is entitled to suggest amendments to a measure which is not yet before the House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Honorable G. J. Bell).The motion before the Chair seeks leave to bring in a bill to provide for certain things. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) seeks to add to those things. If the amendment is agreed to, certain words on the motion will be deleted. So far, the Leader of the Opposition is in order.
On page 790, Hansard records that Sir Henry Gullett raised another point of order, contending that the Leader of the
Opposition was delivering a secondreading speech on a motion for leave to introduce a ‘bill. Mr. Speaker, the Honorable G. J. Bell, ruled that it was unusual for debate to take place upon the question that leave be granted.
– He only said that it was unusual; he did not say that it was out of order.
– I have not said that it was out of order. I have raised this point because the honorable member for Dalley has endeavoured to show that the government of the day in 1938 did what this Government is trying to do now. He further said that two bills were introduced after the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill in order to give effect to certain things.
– On the 21st June, 1938.
– Yes. The honorable member, as Speaker of the House, should be conversant with the Commonwealth Constitution. Section 54 of the Constitution states -
The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.
Section 55 states -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
The reason why the other two bills mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley were introduced at a later stage, was that they could not properly be introduced earlier. I again refer the honorable member to Hansard of the 4th May, 1938. If he reads the report, he will see that the motion of the then Leader of the Opposition was defeated by the House and that the bill was introduced. The Treasurer made has second-reading speech, and, as soon as he had completed it, the House resolved itself into Committee of Ways and Means. The resolution which was adopted by the committee, and on which the bill to impose that tax was founded, appears on page 810 of Hansard. I sat at the table in this chamber for 3ix weeks and listened to every argument raised by the honorable member for Dalley and his friends, and I remember a great deal of what they said. There was an arrangement between the Government and the heads of the Opposition - and the Lord knows that the Opposition had as many heads as a Hydra, so that, whenever one was cut down another one appeared in its place - that the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means and the bill having been introduced, the whole national insurance scheme should be discussed as a complete entity. The reason was that, unless honorable members knew what was in the mind of the Government in relation to tax, they could not understand what was in the mind of the Government in relation to national insurance. In reply to the third point raised by the honorable member for Dalley, I say that the third bill could not be introduced until that legislation was passed, because it provided for the appropriation of money to give effect to the national health and pensions insurance scheme. Until Parliament had decided what amount of money would be required, and how that amount should be expended, the appropriation measure could not be introduced. The honorable member for Dalley is faced with a different issue to-night. In this case, the committee is purporting to deal with a bill which still appears only as an item on the notice-paper. For the benefit of the honorable member, who, as Speaker of the House, has often taken advantage of the opportunity to quote May’s Parliamentary Practice at me, I shall quote it at him. On page 249 of the twelfth edition of that publication, May deals with the subject of anticipation. No doubt the honorable member will set himself up as a superior authority to May, or will completely disregard the publication. Perhaps he may even prejudge May as Nero did the Christians in the ‘burning of Rome. This, is what May states -
A matter already appointed for consideration by the House cannot be anticipated by an amendment, while a notice of motion, as long as it remains upon the paper, whether for a specified day or not, prevents its subjectmatter being discussed by means of a motion . . .
If that means anything, it means that while a bill for an act to provide for the consolidation of social services remains only an item on the notice-paper, we cannot pass any other amending legislation referring to that measure. In other words, we cannot legislate in relation to an act which does not exist. The honorable member for Dalley will have to be a mental conjuror to extricate himself from this tangle.
– I am not in a tangle. The honorable member is the one who has tangled himself up.
– The honorable member would not condescend to come into this committee if his friends were not bogged up to their ears. They look upon him as a good, reliable draught horse who will pull them out of trouble. They only bring him into the committee when the Government knows that nothing else can save its face. He is the last resort.
– There is a standing order dealing with repetition. I have heard this statement from the honorable member twenty times.
– If the honorable member can prove that statement I shall give him a dinner. Furthermore, I guarantee that there will not be anything in it that he cannot digest. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) interjects, “ It could not be as indigestible to him as this speech “. The fact that the honorable member for Dalley has referred to the debate which took place on the national health and pensions insurance measure is ludicrous. In that case, if the three measures involved had not been considered together, none of them would have been understandable to honorable members. According to the Constitution, the provisions of the three measures could not have been included in one bill. Had the honorable member served in a State parliament, he would know that provisions of that nature can be dealt with in one bill in a State parliament, where there is no necessity for the multiplicity of taxation and appropriation bills that must be introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament owing to the two awkward sections of the Constitution which I quoted earlier. It is useless for the honorable member to refer to that battle-ground of 1938, because there he will find nothing but casualties from his own side.
– Have a look at the debate on the Flour Tax Bill afterwards.
– I recall1 that debate. That bill had to be introduced as a separate measure. There wasno alternative. The time-honoured procedure of this Parliament is that, when 8- tax measure deals with another measure and is, in fact, part and parcel of that other measure, the bill is introduced, the House resolves itself into Committee of Ways and Means so that the Government may disclose its tax proposals, and the two measures are considered as one. The general rule is that, having debated one of the bills, the House proceeds topass the other related measures without discussion. There is no analogy between. the cases to which the honorable member for Dalley referred and that which we are now considering. Comparison between them is utterly impossible. The honorable member attempted to draw a red herring across the trail. If that is the best he can do, 1 am not in the least surprised at some of his other efforts.
.- I have risen to participate in this discussion as a result of a remark by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. (Holloway). He said “Does it mattei much?”’ I do not propose to engage in the controversy whether the machinery bill should precede or follow the rates bill. Those are matters of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. The point which appeals to me is his question, “Does it matter much?” This bill will confer additional benefits upon exservicemen who receive war pensions. That is excellent. Is there any good in persevering with this argument? There may be. If we pass the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill now the Social Services Consolidation Bill will be the higher law, and that might be the means of debarring ex-servicemen from obtaining the benefits which we desire that they shall receive. There is a simple way out of this impasse. I suggest that we should complete the committee stage, and postpone the motion for the third reading of the bill until this House has passed the Social Services Consolidation Bill. By so doing we shall ensure that ex-servicemen receive the benefit which honorable members believe they should get.
The Opposition is not able to secure the adoption of an amendment without the assistance of a number of honorable members who normally support the Government. But, almost without exception, bills which pass the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Draftsman and are accepted by caucus, are extensively amended in committee at the behest of the Government. The amendments are drafted as the result of suggestions by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The Opposition does not force them upon the Government. The amendments are adopted with the good grace of the Government itself for the purpose of improving the bill. If the Social Services Consolidation Bill is amended in this chamber it will be returned to the Senate for its concurrence, and a danger will then arise of this House losing control of it. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill might then become law before the Social Services Consolidation Bill. I have suggested a simple solution, and I urge the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to adopt it.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has suggested a solution which I was about to propose. Two valuable hours of the committee’s time have been wasted as the result of the obstinacy of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) on a mere quibble. If he had reported progress, honorable members could have proceeded with the consideration of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and this valuable time could have been saved. In his second-reading speech the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) pointed out that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was contingent on the passing of the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which is on the notice-paper, and the Minister should have taken cognizance of that. When the Re-establishment and Employment Bill and the Banking Bill were introduced, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) folded his arms, and declared that the Government would not accept any amendments to them. Subsequently, the right honorable gentleman himself moved approximately 30 amendments to those bills. So far as I can recall, the Government has accepted only two amendments proposed by members of the Opposition, one by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the other by myself. Neither of those amendments was important. Perhaps that is why the Government adopted them. The Government might have a sheaf of amendments to the Social Services Consolidation Bill. If we pass the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill before the Social Services Consolidation Bill we might deprive exservicemen, who receive pensions, of some of their rights. The Government should introduce these bills in the correct order, and avoid all this nonsense. Of course, we know the real story. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who gives us the facts, because he has not th, guile which some of his colleagues possess, informed us that the Government has a majority in this chamber and in the Senate, and that caucus has decided that these bills must be passed. The honorable member made that statement less than an hour ago. We do not know whether caucus has decided that the Social Services Consolidation Bill must, be amended. I urge the Minister to report progress, and proceed with the Social Services Consolidation Bill.
.- During my temporary absence from the chamber, I was accused of having made a speech and run away, because I was afraid to listen to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I was not afraid. I left the chamber in order to escape from complete boredom. For many hours, I have listened to the honorable member for Indi, and have not heard him say anything new. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that the committee had wasted two valuable hours in discussing whether the Social Services Consolidation Bill should precede the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. I entirely agree that two valuable hours have been wasted. After one and a half hours had been wasted, I thought that I might bring some honorable members of the Opposition to their senses by indicating that the procedure which they were so volubly condemning this evening had been adopted by a government which they had supported.
– The honorable member told only half the story.
– I did not.
– “Well, one-third of i he story.
– The story which 1. told was most effective.
– Until the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) spoke.
– I listened to every word that the honorable member for Barker uttered. Most of them, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, had nothing to do with the subject. He referred to May’s Parliamentary Practice on a matter which had nothing to do with what his colleagues have been discussing. He also cited precedents, where Speakers had given rulings - very sound rulings in my opinion. The whole substance of the argument adduced by the Opposition has been that the Government has thrown parliamentary procedure to the winds. They talked that kind of stuff for one and a half hours before I intervened. After all, much of what has been said since I spoke has been not to justify the wasted one and a half hours, but a campaign of abuse against me because I dared to exercise my right as the honorable member for Dalley to speak in committee. If any one has traduced parliamentary traditions and made a mockery and pantomime of parliamentary procedure, it is the members of the Opposition who have tonight so volubly condemned a practice of which they were themselves guilty time and again. I do not have to go back as far as 193S, because exactly the same thing happened only a few weeks ago in connexion with the Stevedoring Industry Bill and relative measures. Reference was made in the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill to measures which were subsequently to be introduced, and members of the Opposition when they were debating that bill did not know what the provisions of the subsequent complementary measures would be. I referred to social service legislation introduced in 1938, and although members of the Opposition tried to confuse the committee by referring to points of order taken by the late Sir
Henry Gullett, what happened was that a period of six. weeks elapsed between the introduction of the main bill and the introduction of the subsequent measures, and Sir Henry Gullett was not taking points of order for six weeks. Contributions were imposed upon employees by the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 193S and by the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Act 1938, neither of which has been cited, yet they are both referred to in the measure then before the House. This legislation would be quite ineffective without the enactment of further legislation, and, conversely, subsequent measures would be quite valueless if this hill were not passed. Therefore, exactly the same position arises now as occurred in 1938. Members of the Opposition talked about wasting time. I can understand the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) not understanding the established practice of the Parliament. He has not been here long enough to understand the procedure, notwithstanding that he endeavours to make us believe that he knows more about it than anybody else does. I can only tell him these things; I cannot give him the intelligence to understand them. As I say, I exonerate him because he has not. been here long enough to understand the position. However, when I see members of the Opposition who have been here for many years, including party whips, like the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and former Ministers of the Crown, who know that the Government which they supported did exactly the same thing, acting in this way time after time, I am disgusted. When legislation which requires the passage of complementary legislation to implement it is introduced it is always necessary to refer in the original bill to the complementary measures. That is unavoidable.
– But it should be done only with the consent of the Opposition.
– Everything done in this House is done in accordance with the decision of the majority. If the honorable member for Parramatta has not learned that in the few months he has been here he is due to learn it now. That is the practice, irrespective of what parliamentary party occupies the treasury benches. Whenever a government has occasion to pass legislation which involves the subsequent passage of complementary legislation it is necessary for each measure to refer to the other, otherwise they would not be complementary. That is what is being done now. The honorable member for Barker complains of my referring to matters which occurred in 1938, but I cannot avoid that because the government of which he was a member has been out of office for many years, and in later years I fear I shall have to go back to times of comparative antiquity to discover what the governments of which he was a member did. In those days members of the present Opposition swallowed the camel; to-night they are straining at the gnat.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has come in for a second whack-
– I rise to order. Will the Chair inform me how many times an honorable member is permitted to speak in committee?
– An honorable member is entitled to speak twice in committee. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is now speaking a third time, but he is entitled to speak now because on one of the previous occasions he was addressing the Chair on a point of order.
– The honorable member for Dalley again referred to what happened in 1938. I shall tell him what took place in connexion with the passage of the two bills to which he referred. I did not tell him before because I thought he had had enough. After the passage of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938, which occupied six weeks, the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Bill 1938, was considered in Committee of Ways and Means. The speech of the then Leader of the Opposition occupied only about nine lines in .Hansard. He said, at page 2399- 1 confess that this matter has been thrashed out .fairly fully, and the motion now before the committee is in keeping with the clause that was passed by the House last night. 1 have no objection to its general principles, to the rate of tax, and also to the form in which the taxation is being imposed.
The honorable member for Dalley said that previous governments had introduced measures which referred to other bills which had not been introduced. The extract from Ilansard which I have quoted shows that as soon as the second-reading speech on the bill first introduced was delivered, motions were moved in Committee of Ways and Means to determine how its provisions would be applied in order that the committee would know exactly the financial implications of the bill then under consideration. In confirmation of that, I recall what the then Leader of the Opposition said. He did not contest the passage of the legislation, and when the second measure, the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Bill 1938, was introduced, his speech occupied only two pages of Hansard. On neither of those bills did he ask for a division. The two measures were passed without a division.
– That is exactly what 1 said ; the government of the day introduced those bills six weeks later.
– At that time the honorable member for Dalley was continually proclaiming, “ Lang is right” - it was his unvarying cry, like that of the Romans who said, “ Carthage must be destroyed “. But ‘the honorable member for Dalley said, “Lang must be built up “. At that time the Labour parties knew perfectly well the issues on which they were voting, so much so, that they did not even call for a division on measures which they had contested for six weeks.
– That proves my contention.
– It proves that it was a matter of agreement that there should be one debate on the measure, and that the other measures were regarded as purely complementary and were not taken into account at all.
– That does not alter the fact that the bills did not come forward until six weeks afterwards. The honorable member cannot get over that.
– The honorable member for Dalley cannot get over it that way. The honorable member has raised such a cloud of dust to obscure the real issues that be cannot see his way through standing orders or anything else; all he can see is the bright red light on the Australian Labour parly’s offices in Sydney. That is his guiding star. Nothing that he can say inside this chamber, either in committee or from the Chair, or outside the chamber, will get away from the fact that he came into the chamber to-night and presented a purely one-sided, oneeyed, partisan statement that was not in accordance with the facts.
– This clause has been fully debated. I appreciate the desire of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) to be helpful when he said that if this bill were passed before the complementary measure the latter would have the greater effect. That is so. When both measures have become law, the Social Services Consolidation Act will operate from the 1st July, whilst the amendment to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act will operate from the 10th July. The primary reason for the amendment is to increase the rates of pay. Other matters are either incidental or complementary.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Corser’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 13
– This clause appears to apply to the amount payable fortnightly as war widows’ pensions. It proposes to substitute for the figures “5 0 0’’ the figures “5 10 0”. In other words, it proposes to increase the fortnightly pension from £5 to £5 10s. I do not wish the clause to pass without again drawing attention to the fact that the pension, even when raised by 5s. a week, will still be too small. I understand that it has already been urged during the consideration of this bill that £1 a week should be added to the war widows’ basic pension rate of £2 10s. a week, to meet cases of special hardship. I believe, also, that in the Senate it was suggested that the Legacy Club should be asked for advice in regard to the selection of war widows who are in need of this special assistance. I would not agree that the Legacy Club should be asked for advice on the matter. If such advice should be necessary at any time, the war widows’ own organization should be approached for it. An average war widow, while her husband was alive and serving in the
Army, received £5 2s. a week in pay allotments and child endowment to support herself and two children. After the death of her husband, she was reduced to an income of £4 7s. 6d. a week, which included her pension and the child allowances. With the increase of the pension, which is to operate from the 1st July next, her income will be only £4 12s. 6d. a week, or 16s. a week less than the basic wage. I wish to have it on record that, in my opinion, no war-bereaved family should receive less than the basic wage. As their husbands are not now living, war widows may as well be considered totally and permanently incapacitated as far as the maintenance of their families is concerned, and such families should receive the same consideration as is given to the incapacitated man. A single man who is unable to earn a living is paid £4 16s. a week or thereabout. A widow who has a family to maintain should certainly not be required to earn a living as well as care for a family; yet she receives only £2 10s. a week, and consequently must go out to work. Even though there is no man to maintain out of her pension, a war widow still has to incur very heavy expenses in paying tradesmen to do all those small jobs about the house which the husband would do if he were alive. Where there are incapacitated exservicemen the wives are able to earn, because the husband can remain at home and look after the children. I do not consider that the increase of 5s. a week will be sufficient; in fact, I regard it as a paltry alteration. War widows are loudly exressing their disappointment in every tate of the Commonwealth. I urge the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to amend the bill even at this late hour. Nothing less than the basic wage would be a fair payment to make to the war widows of this country.
.- At the second-reading stage, I voiced the sentiments which the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) has just expressed. I point out again that a committee of ex-servicemen, composed of members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party, waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) a fortnight ago, and laid the facts before them, pointing out that the war widows’ pension, when instituted, was 90 per cent, of the basic wage. The amount now is only approximately 45 per cent, of the basic wage. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke that it should be restored to the proportionate level at which it stood originally. I said at the secondreading stage that the Prime Minister had listened to our representations, and had asked the Minister for Repatriation to consider the position of war widows who have children. They are the hardest hit, because they cannot go to work. The pension that they now receive is not adequate to maintain a home, and they have the greatest difficulty in securing war service homes because they are not regarded as a good risk. I ask the Minister to state what investigations he has made, and what likelihood there is of an increase being granted.
– I, too, should place on record some facts concerning the pensions of war widows. The rate of their pension was given its present base following an investigation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by an all-party parliamentary committee of exservicemen, which made recommendations to the Government. By and large, those recommendations were accepted, and formed the basis of the existing Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which was passed in 1943.
– May I suggest that it might have been different had there been a few women on the committee ?
– That might have made some difference. I question seriously whether it would, because the rate of pension was fixed, having regard to the old basis. Prior to 1920, war widows were paid a pension of £1 a week under the war pensions legislation of that time. In 1920 the rate of pension ranged from £2 7s. a fortnight for a widow of a private who received 6s. a day service pay, up to £4 9s. a fortnight for a widow of a serviceman who received 30s. a day, and £6 a fortnight for an officer who received 50s. a day. In those days the means test was applied, and, in many cases, after an examination of a widow’s affairs, she was paid only a proportion of the pension payable to those in indigent circumstances. The statement that the widow’s pension bears some relation to the basic wage is simply a myth. In 1943, the rate of pension was raised to £2 10s. a week. It bore no relation whatever to any basis for the fixation of wages; it was fixed arbitrarily. In 1943, the means test was removed. For that improvement honorable members on all sides of the chamber are entitled to credit, because it had been recommended by the all-party Parliamentary Committee. To-day, the relationship between the war widow’s pension and the pension payable to a civilian widow is not as the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) suggested when she said that the rate for the latter is £4 17s. a week. That is a special rate pension. The full pension for a civilian widow is £2 10s. a week, which is the =ame as the rate payable to war widows.
I am particularly concerned about the needs of widows with one or two dependent children. I agree that the present rate is somewhat low. Recipients in the class to which I refer must have a difficult task to make ends meet after paying rent. At the earliest opportunity, I shall look into their position, with <a view to providing additional assistance to them, ft is not our aim, in increasing this pension, to benefit widows without families to the same degree as those with families. To-day, in respect of World War I., war widows with children under the age of sixteen years total 1945, and those without children under the age of sixteen years total 9,970; whilst, in respect of World War II., war widows with children under the age of sixteen years total 6,955 and those without dependants total 2,145, making a total of 8,500 war widows with dependent children and 12,150 without dependent children. Although it is true that some war widows without dependants are now of advanced age, I believe that we should pay particular attention to providing additional assistance for war widows with dependent children. Today, a war widow receives a pension of £2 10s. a week in respect of herself, and 17s. 6d. for the first child under sixteen respect of the second child, including years of age, whilst the allowance in child endowment, is £1 a week, making f total income of £4 7s. 6d. a week. The total pension payment made to war widows with three dependent children amounts to £5 7s. 6d. a week, and with four dependent children £6 7s. 6d. a week, the allowances in respect of those children including child endowment. Thus, it will be seen that the war widow who has only one, or two, dependent children is at a considerable disadvantage compared with a war widow with three or four dependent children. I have in mind particularly the need to provide further assistance in respect of the children, say, for example, from the point of view of education. I hope to be able to recommend to Cabinet the granting of additional assistance along those lines. For the present, however, the rate of pension will be increased 5s. a week. Nobody suggests that it is as much as we ought to do for those who have suffered grievously as a result of the war. If we can do more later I shall be very happy, and I know that other honorable members will be, also.
– I am sure the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) knows that I have not discussed this matter with any idea of raising a political issue.
– I do not suggest anything of the kind.
– My only reason for rising was my concern over the plight of war widows with small children, because I know what the war widow is suffering, and what her child is suffering because of neglect for which she is not responsible. Therefore, I believe that I cannot try too often to get something done to ensure the better care of such children.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.
New clause 3a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 3, the following new clause be inserted: - “3a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, or any other Act affecting this Act, a pension may be granted to a parent of a deceased member of the Forces who was dependent upon the member at any time during the twelve months prior to his enlistment, or during his service, irrespective of whether the parent has adequate means of support.”
I am sure that this amendment will be received with approval by all honorable members, because it will remove a longstanding anomaly in the form of the last surviving cut to pensions made by the Financial Emergency Act 1930. This cut was made by the Labour government of the day, but I do not throw that up at it because any government would have’ had to do the same thing. Before the depression, parents who lost sons at the war were entitled to receive a pension assessed on the degree of their dependence upon those sons, this being determined by the amount of allotment and dependants’ allowance which they had been receiving. During the depression the act was amended to provide that they should, be eligible for a pension only if they had inadequate means of support. This means test should now be removed, and the parents of deceased servicemen should thus be no longer on the same footing as old-age pensioners in this respect. Old people should have comfort in their home. If their sons had not served in the war and lost their lives the position of the parents would be much better. Unless the parents pauperize themselves they are not, as the act now stands, eligible to receive a pension. I assure honorable members that the amendment has been properly drafted, and may be accepted in its present form. I ask them to support this proposal to right a wrong under which aged parents of deceased servicemen have suffered for so long.
Sitting suspended from 11 to 11. SO p.m.
.- The history of this proposal is that certain definite contributions are made by the Repatriation Department to the parents of deceased servicemen, who had been dependent upon those servicemen at the tame of enlistment or during the twelve months prior to enlistment. In the depression years, certain adjustments were made of pensions and like payments. Most of these payments were subsequently restored to their previous levels, but this is one phase of the repatriation legislation that was not adequately dealt with at that time. There are two payments in this category - that to which I am now referring, and, that relating to wives of
servicemen who married after the specified date, which was subsequently altered by the Lyons Government to October, 1!>31. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to examine this matter. The existing provision is most unjust. This is not the first time I have raised this question. I raised it as a member of the all-party committee on repatriation matters, but, as honorable members will realize, compromises are necessary in committee discussions in order that decisions may be reached. I have never been satisfied with this proposal. In some families two sons went to the wai” and made the supreme sacrifice, whereas had they been alive to-day they could have made some contribution to the upkeep of their parents. The Minister has undertaken to examine proposals to provide a more substantial pension for widows with children, and I ask him to treat this matter similarly if he cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). This provision operates harshly against parents of servicemen who made the supreme sacrifice. I am confident that if the Minister approaches this problem sympathetically he cannot do other than alter the present provision. I should tackle the ^problem by giving a much more substantial contribution to the parents. To-day the contribution is restricted in some instances to 30s. and in others to a little more. My view is that the payment should be the same as that made to widows, and an amendment on these lines would greatly improve this legislation, and would do justice to a section of the community which is not only needy but also has had to bear the loss of soldier sons. Again I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment; but, if he cannot do that, I ask him to consider the matter on the lines that I have indicated.
– Like other honorable members, I am rather concerned about this matter, because it relates to a section of the community that has suffered greatly. I can say that with some degree of feeling. Although I am not in the position that some less fortunate and perhaps older members of the community are in, I have a sympathetic feeling for them. Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendment. This is, in effect, a means test, and the Government is examining the whole question of the means test as it applies to social services generally. Already the test has been eased in some directions. The passage of this legislation will, unfortunately, accentuate the anomaly that exists in the present act. When I realized that that would be so, it was not possible to rectify the matter because the bill had been drafted. However, I give the committee an undertaking that the Government will ascertain how many individuals are affected by this provision with a view to determining the liability that would be involved in altering it.
– Forget that.
– I should require that information before putting the matter before the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who, as most members know, can be most severe on the question of finance. I am not impressed with the proposal to remove the means test entirely in relation to this matter; but I believe that the provision is rather meagre, and I think. we should be able to do something to extend more liberal treatment to everybody except those whose incomes are substantial and who do not really need the money.
– That is what would happen if my amendment were accepted. The very rich would not get anything at all. Payments would be restricted to the amount of the dependency of parents.
– The committee did not recommend the. abolition of that restriction.
– I was overseas at the time, otherwise I should have raised it.
– I shall look into the honorable member’s suggestion in order to ascertain what charge would be imposed on the finances of the Government if the permissible income and property qualifications were raised to a substantial figure so that people who would otherwise be financially embarrassed would be able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. I do not want it to be thought that I am in favour of the complete abolition of the means test. I do not agree that the Government should allow very wealthy people in the community to draw a pension of this kind. I shall sympathetically examine the honorable member’s proposal.
.- I thank the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) for his promise to give my proposal his sympathetic consideration. I hope honorable members will believe me when I say that my amendment was not submitted in any political party spirit. I know that they are just as keen as I am to have this anomaly rectified. I am afraid that the Minister does not quite understand the import of the amendment. In order to enlighten him I must traverse briefly the history of this matter. Prior to the operation of the Financial Emergency Acts which were placed on the statute-book during the regime of an earlier Labour government great reductions were made in the whole category of repatriation pensions. Subsequently - and .here I reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) - “ Why did you not do something about it?” - as it was able to afford to do so, the Lyons Government restored the pension cuts made during the depression. The service pension was introduced by that Government as the result of a submission which I had made urging that those who were unemployable and who served in a theatre of war should be entitled to a pension at an earlier age than that at which they became entitled to the old-age pension. I need not remind honorable members that at that time the Government did not have at its disposal the huge sums of money which are available to the present Government. It will be recalled that in those years taxes were very low. Unfortunately, the proposal which I now embody in my amendment was overlooked, because the number of persons who would benefit was by then dwindling very considerably. Since then, however, we have gone through another war. In 1943, when the committee considered the rectification of anomalies in the Repatriation Act, the importance of the proposal which I now advocate was not realized. The war was then in progress. I was not in Australia, otherwise I should have raised it then. The effect of the amendment would merely be to restore the status quo ante the financial emergency period. If a parent lost a son or sons in the war the family was entitled to a pension according to the de gree of its dependability upon the son or sons. The Repatriation Commission was empowered to grant such pensions, and appeals against the decisions of the commission were very rare. People not dependent on deceased servicemen would not be entitled to a pension if my amendment were carried. There are many people who own property valued at, say, £650 which might consist of a block of land on which they are unable to build, yet because they own such an asset they are debarred from receiving a pension. Do honorable members believe that to be just? This anomaly has not been dealt with in the past, probably because it is difficult to explain. If my amendment were accepted persons who were dependent on a deceased serviceman twelve months prior to his enlistment would be entitled to claim a pension proportionate to the degree of their dependence. It is apparent that the Minister has not realized how little the revenue would be affected if the amendment were accepted.
– What would be the position if, in the meantime, such a dependant gained a prize of £25,000 in a lottery ?
– I should think that such a person would be ashamed to accept a pension. I could cite cases of aged parents of deceased members of the forces who have existed on a mere pittance because they would not demean themselves by claiming pauperism as a reason why they should be granted a pension. Tie Minister has already indicated that he will view the amendment sympathetically. If honorable members on both sides of the chamber believe there is justice in the amendment, as they appear to do, they should support it. I appeal to them to do so.
.- It seems to me to be a rather small-minded attitude on the part of Government members to deny justice to a most deserving class of people in the community. I was not a member of the Commonwealth Parliament during the depression years, when severe cuts were imposed in pensions and many restrictions were placed upon their payment. If this be the last restriction to be removed, surely we can agree to extend to the dependants of deceased servicemen this modicum of justice.
– It is not the last to be removed.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has indicated that it is, and until his statement is refuted I must regard the position to be as has been stated by the honorable member, and I shall support his amendment in an endeavour to remove this injustice. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has said that the acceptance of the amendment would result in the abolition of the means test. If that be so, I am all for it, and every honorable member in the committee who believes in the abolition of the means test should vote for it. I do not want to be misunderstood. If the case is as the honorable member for Balaclava puts it, I shall vote for the amendment, and if it is as the Minister puts it, I am doubly bound to vote for the amendment.
– It seems to me that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) does not do what anybody wants. In the early years after World War I., as the honorable member reminds us, parents of deceased servicemen were paid pensions if it could be shown that they were partially or wholly dependent on their son or sons at the date of enlistment. That provision does not operate to-day. The amendment provides for the payment of a pension to a parent of a deceased member of the forces who was dependent upon him at any time during the twelve months prior to his enlistment or during his service, irrespective of whether the parent has adequate means of support. That would mean exclusion from pension benefit of parents who, in the twelve months before the enlistment of their sons or during their period of service before their death, were not dependent on them but whose circumstances have so deteriorated that their entitlement to benefit would be greater than that of parents who were dependent on their deceased sons in the period prescribed in the amendment but whose circumstances to-day are so improved that they would not be dependent on the earnings of their sons if they were still alive. If the amendment were agreed to all sorts of anomalies would arise.
– The difficulty in the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is that the parents of deceased servicemen who were earning and not dependent on their sons in the period prescribed in the amendment but have passed the age at which they can work would be excluded from benefit. I do not think the amendment” « ould meet the position.
– It wants proper examination.
– Yes. Dp to the depression in 1931 parents of men who died in World War I. were entitled to n pension of £1 a week without diminution of their old-age pensions but, under the financial emergency legislation, that pension was regarded as income in the calculation of the rate of the old-age pension to which they were entitled. 1 am familiar with the circumstances because I had a great deal to do with people affected by that legislation. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) ?aid that the amendment would do away with the means test, but that is not so, because to qualify for the pension the parent would have to show dependency on his son at the time of his enlistment or during his period of service.
– That is so.
– A means test would have to he applied to determine whether he was so dependent.
– That is not a means test. There is a big difference. Parents would only have to show that their sons contributed money to their homes in the twelve months before the war or made them an allotment during service.
– The proposal needs to be looked into thoroughly in order that a -provision may be drafted that will not exclude parents that were not dependent when their sons enlisted but have now finished their working days.
– The honorable member does not understand the position. Those parents are provided for.
– I think, the honorable member ought to accept the Minister’s offer to go thoroughly into the matter.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) intends the exclusion from benefit .of parents practically destitute.
– They are provided for in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– But, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has said, the honorable member’s proposal at first sight, rightly or wrongly, suggests that the only parents that could benefit from it would be those that were dependent on their sons twelve months before their enlistment or during their service, but I am sure that that is not the honorable gentleman’s intention and that he does not intend that parents that were independent of their sons then but later lost their money should not also participate.
– Any one without adequate means of support is provided for.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava is not entitled to make another speech.
– The honorable member for Wimmera asked me a question.
– When the honorable member for Balaclava was speaking, I asked by way of interjection what would happen in the case of a parent who, although he had been dependent on his son in the time prescribed in the amendment, had since won “ Tatts “. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has said that he will not accept the amendment. I do not know whether his words bear out what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said earlier.
– They have no relation to that. I do not propose to accept the amendment.
– Anyway, the Minister spoke sympathetically and indicated his willingness to consider a higher scale than that provided for at present. I agree with the Minister that wealthy people have no need for tha pension pro- vided for in the amendment. I think that is the general opinion. If the amendment cannot be accepted,I hope that the Minister will try to raise the property qualificationforapension to be paid to the parents referred to by the honorable member for Balaclava.
.- Irise to clear the misunderstanding of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). The group of parents referred to by the honorable member, that is those in necessitous circumstances, are provided for in section 23 (e) of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which provides that they shall be pensionable if without adequate means of support. The group coveredby the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.White) consists of those that in the twelve mouthspriortotheirsons enlistment or (luring their sons’ term of service: before death were dependent on them. The groupsareseparate. It is the second group that thehonorable member proposes tocover.
I am impressed with the undertaking given by the Minister for Repatriation. I realize that if the Opposition pressed foravote on this proposal it would have no hope of success. I am anxious to help the people I have mentioned, and therefore I am prepared to allow the Minister a reasonable space of time in which to prepare and introduce an appropriate amendment. I hope that he will do so when the Parliament meets again after the forthcoming recess.
New clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Friday, 39 May
Motion (by Mr. Barnard) proposed. -
That thereport be adopted.
– Certain matters were raised in committee that cause me to ask for a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker, with regard to decisionsmade by the committee. You, of course, have no knowlodgeof what happened in committee, and therefore I know that you will not prejudge the matter which I propose to submit to you. During the discussion in committee, the honorable member far Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) endeavoured to establish certain precedents. He quoted rather extensively from certain records of this House. He sought to show-
– Order ! The. question before the Chair is whether the report of the Chairman of Committees is correct or not., Did the committee decide to report to the House? “Yes” or, “No”?
Mr.Harrison. - I am endeavouring to show that certain actions took place in committee which, I think, were not in accord-
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order. The committee has to solve all its own problems. The question before the Chair is whether the report of the Chairman of Committees is. correct or not. Did the committee decide to report to the House?
– I have a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can I obtain a ruling from you in regard to this matter now?
-Not at this stage.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Barnard) - by leave -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I now address myself to the matter which I spoke of. earlier, Mr. Speaker., Am I in order in asking for a ruling from you-
– Not unless the committee refers, the question to the Chair.
– This is a point of order which I raise in an endeavour to get an indication as to whether certain matters contained in this bill are in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Standing Orders of the Parliament.
-It is quite permissible to raise a point of order on the motion for the third reading of a bill, but the Chair, of course, has noknowledge of what happened in committee.
– That is the point. I ask for your ruling.
– I explain to the honorable member that he may refer to the contents of the bill on the motion for its third reading, but not in the general terms of the debate.
– I want a ruling on certain provisions of the bill which propose to make amendments to an act in order to conform with an act called the “Social Services Consolidation Act 1947 “, which is not on the statutebook and which has not been agreed to by this House. The debate that occurred in committee on this point raised certain doubts in my mind.
– The honorable member may not discuss what happened in committee.
– I shouldlike you to give a. ruling as to whether it is competent for amendments to be made to an act in order to bring it into conformity with an act that is not yet in existence.
-Order ! There is in existence a long line of precedents for the action which has been taken, and I consider that the bill is completely in order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
United Kingdom Grant Bill. 1947.
Australian National University Bill 1947.
Aliens Bill 1947.
Services Trust Funds Bill 1947.
Debateresumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2873), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose, at this time of morning, to detain the House with a long speech on this bill. It is a consolidating measure and an amending measure. The consolidator of these statutes has brought within the scope of one bill, and ultimately within the scope of one act, 43 acts in toto and parts of seven other acts. It is proper to begin by saying that this is a piece of work for which the Parliament will be grateful. The social services of Australia have developed very greatly, and it has been difficult for most honorable members, if not for all honorable members, to find their way around among sucha mass of legislation. The Minister for Social Services(Senator McKenna), who introduced this bill in the Senate, and who was responsible for the consolidation, has therefore done a piece of work for which he is entitled to our thanks. From now on the social services of the country will be brought within the compass of one statute and will thereforebecome more accessible and, to that degree, more intelligible. Every consolidation of the statutes performs a very good service. The bill, in addition to consolidating earlier legislation, makes certain changes. Apart from changes in rates, they are not. of major importance. There may be some discussion upon them in committee,but it is not very much to the point, from my point of view, to endeavour to discuss them in second-reading debate. They are matters of detail. All that I want to do is to take the opportunity to say a few words about the general approach which the members of the Liberal party in this House have towards this problem. That general approach, of course, is quite wellknown. I had the opportunity, on behalf of the Liberal party, of stating it in a policy speech at the beginning of the last election campaign. Although those views were expounded freely, and, I hope, vigorously and clearly, they did not serve to command, at that time, the support of a majority of the people. But one cannot read the speeches delivered in the Senate, and in this chamber, on this matter, and review the total commitments that the country now has on social services, without being impressed by one or two features which should be made the subject of brief comment.
The social services bill has grown enormously in the last six or seven years, and there has been increasing comment from the public on what is described compendiously as the “means test”. The Government, while it has resisted the abolition of the means test under the existing system, has indicated that it proposes to take certain steps in that direction as those steps become practicable. There were approximately 737,000 people of pensionable age in the Common weal vh on the 30th June, 1946, and of those, 264,S00, or 36 per cent., were in receipt of pensions.
– In full or in part?
– That was the total number of persons receiving pensions, so it includes those in both categories. By 1949-50, on the figures which have been presented to us, the old-age pensions bill for Australia will be £27,600,000. That is computed on the increased rates which the Government has now put forward and, of course, without allowing in any way, as one cannot allow, for any possible future change in the sum. But on the basis which will be established by this legislation, the old-age pensions bill in the financial year 1949^50 will be £27,600,000. By the financial year 1950-51, if the means test were completely abolished, the figure would be £82,000,000. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has indicated that the annual expenditure five years hence on the existing footing - I mean the footing as modified by the bills which the House considered this week -will be of the order of £100,000,000. If the means test were completely abolished over the same period, the annual bill would be £160,000,000. When we quote figures of that kind we are reminded - at least I am, very vividly - of the fact that in 1939, in the budget which I as the Treasurer of the day presented to the Parliament, the total expenditure of the Commonwealth on all matters was, for the first time, £100,000,000. It will be readily appreciated that under the existing basis the social services bill will be enormous and that, with the complete abolition of the means test, the figures would be approximately twice the total Commonwealth expenditure for 1936-37 or 1937-38.
I mention those facts because we should have them in our minds when we consider the position of the country. I have no quarrel, nor has anybody on this side of the House, with ample provision for social services, but there are two aspects which we should do well to keep in mind. The first of them is that so’ long as social services continue to be provided out of the general revenue and, in that sense, by the Treasury, there will be, of necessity, a very high level of taxation. It is not to .be supposed for one moment that capital moneys raised in the Commonwealth can be usefully expended on recurring expenditures of this kind. It is not to be supposed that the revenues of the Commonwealth from sources other than direct taxation can be indefinitely expended, even though customs and excise revenues do .show a remarkable buoyancy. Consequently, the people of Australia must have in their minds that there is a direct relationship between what we shall provide from the Treasury and from general revenue for these social services and what we shall need to collect from the people by way of taxation. Whilst we may be in a mood occasionally to congratulate ourselves on expenditures of this kind, we must realize that, on the other side of the account, there is the prospect of an enormous continuing tax burden upon productive units in the community.
The second aspect of the matter is this: The capacity of any country to provide on a generous and growing scale for those who have some position of dependency in the community depends primarily not upon the goodwill of the Parliament or the willingness, generosity or pliability of Treasurers - I am not accusing the present Treasurer of undue pliability - but essentially upon what the country will produce. We must always have in our minds that what we want to spend upon our people cannot be produced merely by saying, “ Here is money from the central bank “. It can be produced only by saying, “ Here is the productivity of the country”. If we are to sustain growing burdens of a social services kind we may do so only by concentrating a great deal of activity upon increasing the ‘ production of Australia. The greater the production the greater will .be the national income. The greater the national income the lighter can the tax burden upon the individual be made, whilst maintaining the necessary volume of tax revenue to do what -we should like to do for so many thousands of our fellow citizens. Consequently, production comes back into this picture, as it comes back into every picture which we must look at at the present time. I shall not elaborate that subject, because the House is quite familiar with the view which I have expressed upon it from time to time, and for me to trespass upon the courtesy of the House by repeating those views under these circumstances would be quite wrong. I refer to it simply to indicate that we must keep these matters in out minds.
The .classical issue between members of the Opposition and Government .supporters is whether social services should be provided out e-f the Treasury - out of the general revenues of the country - or made the result of some f onn of national insurance. On that issue our views are well known, and have so far not found acceptance from the people of Australia, f merely desire ito say .that .so long ,as social .benefits are paid hy the Treasury out of general revenue it will be extraordinarily difficult to abolish the means test, because if the Treasury is paying benefits to people towards which payments they have not made ,a specific contribution the Treasury is bound, under normal circumstances, to say, “ The question whether you need this or not is material”. .That is .best proved by the fact that whilst the Treasurer’s programme comtemplates the expenditure of £100;000,D£)0 .that amount would be increased to £160,000,000 if the benefits were :to be distributed regardless of applicants’ actual needs. That is something to which we -cannot shut o.ur eyes. Lt has always seemed to me that the great virtue of national insurance is that it is something ho which each beneficiary has made a specific contribution, and he therefore receives it as his right, exactly as if he were collecting insurance moneys in respect of premiums paid .by :him. Under the existing system there can he no hint that he is receiving it as of right; all the plausible language in the world cannot get away from the fact that there is an element of dependence on the community.
One matter which I should like particularly to mention - and it is the only matter on which I wish to say anything at this stage - is the position of persons who suffer most in the ‘long run because of the implementation of general policies, particularly -fiscal policies, .and that is the position of the people who are loosely described as being in the “ middle income sections “. 1 do not mean .substantial incomes, such as we enjoy as members of Parliament; I refer to .people in the middle range of incomes, receiving, say, incomes of £400 to £600 a year. People in this country who cam £400, £500, or £60.0 are very commonly those employed in undertakings which provide some form of superannuation for their employees, and to which .they a.r« required io contribute. If they are not engaged in such a business, they still represent .that solid backbone of the country because they are the people who have a sufficient instinct for independence to save a little from their incomes to make provision for their future. It has always seemed to me that people of that type are the salt of the earth and the backbone of any .country.
Under the .present system a man with no dependants -who is in receipt of an income of £400 a year makes a weekly contribution for social service of lis. 6d., or a yearly ‘contribution of £30. If he has a dependent wife, his weekly contribution is lis. 6d., or £30 a .year.. If has a wife and child it is 6s. lid. a week, or £18 a year. A man with no dependants who is in receipt of -an income of £500 pays 14s. 5d. a week, or £37 10s. a year. He pays the same amount if he has a dependent wife, and the same .amount if he has a dependent, wife and child. A man in receipt of £600 is making a. contribution to social service of £45 a year. ![f that man, in addition to making that contribution, lives frugally and saves .his money - however small the amount may be - as a provision for his .own retirement, he is almost certain to fall foul of the property test for the old-age pension, The result will be that having paid his social .service contributions for all those years he will receive no benefit from the Treasury at all. If the wife of that man assists him in the accumulation of some modest competency by reducing’ household expenditure and the exercise of thrift, he will receive no benefit unless he is a contributor to some superannuation scheme in the business in which he is employed. Contributions amounting to a substantial sum, which he has made to social services over the years; go down the wind. That of course, is a state of affairs which will cause everyone to think furiously - and I have no doubt that it lias exercised the mind of the Treasurer himself. However, it is well to remember that, because ifr shows- that, whatever may be said of it, there is still something fundamentally wrong with our social service provisions in Australia. I know that it is said with great force from public platforms - and with much less force in close assembly - that since people have to contribute indirectly by the payment of taxes - and the number of taxpayers has been greatly diminished - that therefore the right thing- to do with social services’ it to pay them out of the Treasury. But there can be no real comparison between the system; under which a citizen, who- may not be a taxpayer and who may not have made any substantial contribution- to the fund, is entitled to receive social benefits which are- denied to citizens who have made contributions, and the system under which every person who is a contributor is of right a beneficiary. Under the latter system every man has the dignity which attaches to the position of one who has paid for services^ and because he has paid, is entitled to receive them. From the democratic point of view there is a very strong foundation for the proposition that we cannot found such schemes on a sound basis unless we say to the citizen, “ Yon are entitled to receive benefits from the community, but you also have a contribution to make to the community; and every contributor in due course will receive “.
As I said’ earlier, this bill is- an excellent conception, the consolidation of this legislation is a first-class achievement, and the amendments which have been made are not such as will excite a great deal of discussion. Every time social service measures involving these rather astronomical figures come before us for discussion I am confirmed in the belief which
I have always1 entertained, namely, that this country had a marvellous opportunity in 1938-39 to establish- social service on- a really splendid’ foundation’. However, it missed that opportunity, and it is apparently going to be a few years before we can recapture it.
Mr. LANG (Reid!) [12.30 m.m. - I cannot allow- this opportunity to pass without saying- a few words, on the important matters- covered) by this bill. Whatever the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) may say at election- time, be will never capture the imagination- of the electors of Australia: so long as. he holds the views that he has expressed in this chamber- this- morning. I regard this bill as being the justification or otherwise for- the existence of the- present Government. Ever since the Government has been in- office it has explained all. its back-sliding and lack of diligence in giving effect to the policy of Labour by saying that if the people’ exercised patience they would find that, in- due course, a worthwhile system of social services would1 be enacted’. In the meantime the Government has kept its penal taxation in operation, and has- claimed that the financing- of a social service plan would be impossible without taxing the workers. This is the legislation which has been promised and regarding which so much lack of diligence has been displayed. The representatives of the- people of Australia now have before them the legislation, which has. been awaited with both anxiety and pleasure.
– It is merely a bill which consolidates the existing legislation.
– It is more than that. Obviously, the- -honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) does not know much about the bill now under consideration. If it. were merely a consolidation measure there would be no ground for criticism of it,, except as to whether it correctly consolidated the- laws now on the statute-book. I repeat that this is the legislation for which tha country has been waiting ; it is the measure for which the workers of Australia have- been taxed, are now being taxed, and will be taxed in the future.
I shall deal with the bill as it affects the people of New South Wales. I ask what new benefits will come to the people’ of New South Wales as a result of its passing? First of all, the bill provides for invalid and old-age pensions. As we all know, legislation of that kind is not new. The people of New South Wales have enjoyed invalid and old-age pensions since before the inauguration of federation. The next benefit for which the bill provides is a pension for widows. Again, that is nothing new to the women of New South Wales, who have enjoyed such a pension since 1925. The bill also makes provision for the payment of a maternity allowance, but ever since the first Fisher Labour Government there has been similar legislation on the statutebook. The women of New South Wales have received family endowment for twenty years, so that the provisions of this bill for child endowment are nothing new to them. Last of all there is provision in this measure for unemployment relief. But that was previously provided for in every State, although under a different name - it was called the “ dole”. If we examine the list of benefits which this bill confers on various sections of the community, we find that those benefits have been enjoyed for from 20 to 40 years. Moreover, neither the State governments nor the Commonwealth Government found it necessary to impose a special tax on the workers to provide those benefits.
Let us now consider the claim that the social services for which this bill makes provision are more liberal and the benefits greater than when previous governments were in office. The Government and its supporters would be driven into a corner if they were asked to show what new benefits would accrue to the workers of New South Wales under this measure. For instance, the maximum rate of an age pension under this bill is 37s. 6d. a week. When old-age pensions were first provided for in New South Wales, the amount of pension was about equal to one-third of a journeyman’s wage at that time. The rate of pension to be paid under this legislation is approximately one-third of the minimum wage which the law requires to be paid to an adult worker, whether skilled or unskilled. It will be seen, therefore, that there is not much gain under this measure to those who are entitled to an age pension.
Next, I come to family endowment. As far back as 1927, mothers in New South Wales received an endowment of 5s. a week for each child in the family. The mother of two children received 10s. a week, and the mother of three children 15s. a week. Under this bill, no endowment is paid in respect of the first child in a family, so that the. mother of two children receives only 7s. 6d. a week, whilst a woman with three children receives the same as a woman similarly situated received in New South Wales in. 1927, namely, 15s. a week. If a mother in New South Wales ha3 one child or two children, she will get less than she received from the State twenty years ago. It will be hard to claim that any progress has been made- in that connexion. The New South Wales legislation was passed when the Labour Government of that State had a majority of one in the Legislative Assembly, and there was a hostile majority in the Legislative Council. We had to take what we could get from a begrudging anti-Labour Legislative Council, and it was not all that we wanted, or what the bill introduced in and passed by the Legislative Assembly granted to the mothers of the Stat?. This bill represents the full wishes of the Government of the Commonwealth. The bill passed in New South Wales did not represent the full wishes of the government of that State. The present Commonwealth Government has a huge majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and can secure the passage of whatever it chooses to incorporate in any bill that it introduces. On the face of the matter, the Government wishes to regard family endowment as not so liberal as that which could be wrung from a hostile State upper House twenty years ago. It is satisfied with that. I am well aware of the very specious argument that the first child is provided for in the basic wage. Once upon a time, the first-born was the favoured child in the family. In fact, it was a matter for complaint that the first son was the heir. That attitude was carried too far. It has now been corrected, by pushing the first child to the other extreme. So far as humanitarian legislation is concerned - and social legislation is humanitarian legislation - the first child does not exist; it appears in the legislation of the Commonwealth only as a digit in a statistical table for ‘fixing the basic wage. If the bread winner is on full wages constantly throughout the year, the first-born is supposed to be provided for; but, if that is not the case - if the father is not in full employment constantly throughout the year - the first-born sits by and watches his brothers and sisters being provided for while he goes unprovided for and miniinded by the Commonwealth. Nobody to-day believes in the basic wage argument. But it is a handy argument, and all that it is good for is to save the call on the Treasury which would be made if endowment were provided for the first child in every family. A scheme which fails r.o provide for the first-born in the family is not a family endowment scheme. If we compare this measure with what obtained before family endowment was taken over by this Parliament, we find that, under this bill, the mother in a worker’s home will receive less benefit than sh« received from the act that was passed in the State Parliament twenty years ago. Members can say what they like, they can hide in their cowards’ castles, but they cannot get away from the fact that for twenty years the mothers of New South. Wales were provided for to a greater degree under the act of that State than they will be provided for under this bill, and no worker was called upon to pay a tax for it.
I come next to widows’ pensions, lt seems that under this bill the widow’s children are to l>e the sufferers. When the New South Wains Government introduced widows’ pensions over twenty years ago, the payment in respect of each child in the family was fixed at 10s. a week. The Commonwealth having- taken over this service, the payment in respect of the children in the widow’s family is being reduced from 10s. to 7s. 6d. a week each.
Lastly, I come to the unemployment benefits. The unemployed, in the best circumstances it is possible to conceive under this measure, will be able to draw 25s. a week for quite a limited period.
That is a little more that the unemployment dole provided by the State governments. But this legislation, in comparison with similar laws in the State of New South W ales, is “ putting the clock back “ twenty years. The feeble, who twenty years ago had to depend on social service benefits to help them to eke out an existence, were better off in New South Wales than they will be under this bill, ls this the hest that a Commonwealth Labour government, with an overwhelming majority in both Houses of the Parliament, can do? Is that all that we can give them in return for the unfair and unjust burden of taxation they have to carry, and which Ministers have said they will have to carry for all time? Why is it that workers are to receive less, when they have to pay for it, than they received when the ordinary revenues of the Treasury carried the whole burden? What is the reason for that? Is it that the Government cannot afford to be as liberal to-day as the Government of New South Wales was twenty years ago? If it cannot afford it, what is the reason? We are entitled to know the answer. Today, every worker has to pay a special social service tax. Surely, that tax should be used to provide benefits in excess of those paid to the workers hy a State government which placed no special tax upon them for such benefits. To-day, the Commonwealth possesses full power to levy income tax. It collects, all the revenue raised by income tax ; and what is it doing with that money? It is not because of shortage of money that fuller benefits are not proposed. The only reason, then, is that the Government does not want to. pay fuller benefits.
This is the first complete social services bill introduced in this Parliament. It is the first comprehensive measure introduced by a Labour government with a huge majority in both Houses of the Parliament. In such circumstances, we, and the workers, have a right to expect that this measure would be of historic significance. We have a right to believe that it would be a measure that would be remembered by the people for all time. We have a right to expect that it would enact some new principles; that it would, for the first time, incorporate some fundamental labour principle ‘ on the statute-.book. But this measure does not do ‘amy <of those things. All it does is to provide , some benefits that have been paid by the .’leading States of Australia for oyer twenty years. The Government has put these benefits in the bril, and after snapping off a few shillings here and there, has called it a social services bill. Surely, if we are about to enter the much publicized golden age, we should .see .some signs of that .age in this <bill. It would appear from this measure that so far as social services are concerned the golden age was 192.5, the year in which :a Labour government was elected in New South Wales, because this bill barely brings the Commonwealth to the stage reached in that State in that year. Surely, there has been some .progress in Australia since then. The -people will be greatly disappointed with this measure. They expected .something more from this Government than a reenactment of existing benefits. I admit that honorable members from States other than New South Wales will be able to return to their constituents and boast that the Government has passed this legislation because benefits have not previously been provided in those States. Therefore, the people in those States will gladly aece.pt them, and rightly support those honorable Members when they advocate these ‘benefits on the public platform. But the people of New South Wales have a right to look around and ask, “What benefit do we ‘get out of this measure? What are the extra benefits to be given to the workers of New South Wales’? “ The people of New South Wales constitute half the population of the Commonwealth. They pay half the total income tax collected by the Comonwealth, and pay half the total cost of social services provided by the Commonwealth; but they are to receive not one penny additional advantage under this measure. We have a right to have that position explained; and the people of Australia have a right to say that, surely, some progress has been made in respect of social services within the last twenty years. But so far as the people of New South Wales aire concerned .no advance is made under -.this measure. On the contrary, there has been a degree of retrogression because the benefits proposed under this measure are not so liberal as the people of that State enjoyed twenty years ago.
– ft 13 regrettable that a measure of this importance is being debated in the present circumstances. In fact, it is not being debated at all by the Parliament; and what has been hailed by the ‘Government as a major event in the history of social legislation is to be scampered through the House in the early hours of the morning. In .an atmosphere of that kind I do not propose, therefore, to canvass the bill at length. However, there is a minor matter which at this stage 3 bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. I do so because although in correspondence it was suggested to me that a point I raised some time ago would be covered by this measure, that point does not appear to be covered entirely.
I commend the Government for the innovation in the .second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (.Senator McKenna), in that, at the .conclusion of his speech, he supplied a summary of the principal amendments of the .existing legislation effected by this .measure. This bill is more than a consolidation -bill. It includes -quite a number of useful amendments of existing legislation, and the amendment to which I refer is set out :at the .conclusion of the Minister’s second-reading speech on page 2421 of Hansard. Paragaph 37 of that summary refers to the residential requirement in respect of child endowment, and the amendment effected in that respect under the bill, apparently, provides that the requirement of twelve months’ residence in Australia., which applied in respect of -claimant children not born in Australia, is to be waived provided the children concerned are likely to remain permanently in this country. It has been brought to my notice that the ‘operation of the residential qualification .under the child endowment legislation has worked unjustly .on people who have come from England and taken up .residence in Australia. They find that while no child Endowment is payable ‘during their first year of residence here, -because of the residential qualification, they are ako denied under the income tax legislation the right to claim a rebate- of tax in respect of children other than the first child in. the family. Those honorable, members who were in the Parliament at the time will realize that, when the child endowment legislation was introduced, we repealed the provision allowing a tax rebate- for. the second, child and subsequent children because the idea- was’ that provision would be made for them., under the child endowment scheme. Itwas not contemplated that the residential qualification would work unjustly against those who had come to Australia, and who,, in their first year of residence, would receive neither child endowment dot the tax rebate. When I brought this matter to the attention of the Minister, he replied that the point would be covered in this bill; hut that does not appear to be so. Many people will come to Australia who will not be able to establish that they propose to remain here permanently. They may be here for two, on three or even ten- years, hut the nature of their work, or the fact that they are here as the representatives of some overseas organization, will require them later to return to their own> country, so that the benefit under- this clause, would not apply to them.. This is not a. major matter of policy, but since it has been, brought to my notice, and. since I am* sure that honorable members- do not. wish that such a state of affairs should continue, I ask. the Minister to examine the- point..
.The. honorable member for Reid (Mr.. Lang.) made- statements to-night which cannot be’ allowed to- pass- uncontradicted. He said, that this bill could not be- compared with’ the’ social service legislation” which’ his Government introduced in New South Wales twenty years ago.. I refutethis statement, particularly insofar, as it refers to- widows pensions-. Admittedly, his- Government introduced, and passedthrough the Parliament of. New South. Wales* a Widows’” Pension- Bill. He’ wa’S- given due credit for- it, because it represented a social service which- noether government, had introduced up tO’ that- time’.. However, it fell far short of what, 1.9 provided in this bill. The Widows’”
Pensions Bill passed (by the New .South Wales Parliament provided for’ a very drastic means test, as was appreciated1 by many of us who1 were” in Parliament at the; time-, or were taking an interest in public affairs. For instance; 50 per cent, of the earnings of any Guild living in the home of the widowed mother and 25’ pei: cent, of the income earned by achild living! a”w ay was deemed to be income received by her, and her pension was1 assessed accordingly. I’ remember that the honorable member for Reid himself once said, “When’ tie” capitalist press1 begins to’ cheer a” Labour’ man,, let us be> Suspicious’ of him”. The’ capitalist press is cheering.” the’ honorable member for Reid to-day; and honorable- members opposite dine with him. Tom Mutch before he left the Labour party said to him,. “ You b “ - you will die- without a friend “. It- is going that way now with the honor able, member for’ Reid.
Hilder the. legislation sponsored by the honorable member- for” Reid when he” was Premier of. New South Wales, a means test wa’S also applied, im respect of childendowment, whereas- no means test- isapplied’ under the Commonwealth, widows’’ pensions and child1 endowment schemes. The- New South Wales act provided, that if- only 5s’. over the basic wage was earned* by the parents that amount wasto be deducted from- the- endowment.
-The Honorable men>ber’’ for”1 Hunter (Mr: James) used to boast” of that legislation’ at. the time;
– It was better than’ any ether scheme then in-‘ existence, but- it was’ not better than- the* Commonwealth social services! “The’ bill now before usprovides for the’ payment of unemployment relief under conditions’, very different’ from- those- attaching to- the unemployment scheme’ sponsored by’ the’ honorable’ member’ for Reid iri’ New South Wales; He- criticized- the” Bavin’ Government- for levying an’ unemployment tax of’ 3d’, in’ the £1’, bub he’ in1creased’ it t’o ls! in; the’ £1’,- and it was deducted’ from every £1 earned by- a worker, even though he’ might be employed’* for” only a few monthsim the year.; When the honorable member was’ Premier of New South Wales he” appointed’ 90 dole inspectors, who had’ f,he right* to go’ into- people’s homes, even into their bedrooms, and count the beds in order to see how many people slept in the house. They had the right to go to the places where the children of the home were working, and to find out how much they were earning. Even the money which small children earned by selling bottles or bones was, under his employment relief scheme, counted as part of the family income. That was resented by many people. The unemployment tax that the honorable member for Reid imposed upon the people of New South Wales was ls. in the £1. If a person earned only £52 a year he was called upon to pay £2 12s. in tax. On the other hand, no single man whose income is less than £125 pays any Commonwealth social services contribution at all, and the exemption for a married man without children is £200. The State unemployment tax did not dascriminate between single men and married men. It is tragic to think what has happened to this man who built up such a reputation many years ago, and was so much respected by the people of New South Wales. I, too, respected him in those days; but I feel only contempt when he comes into this chamber and says with a snarl on his face that this measure is not as good as the one that he introduced twenty years ago. I am sure that at heart the honorable member realizes that this legislation is the best ever introduced in any Parliament in this country. I do not deny him credit for having pioneered certain social services in Australia ; but, in regard to child endowment at least, he obtained his cue from our late leader John Curtin, who was a. member of the royal commission that inquired into that -matter in the early 1920’s. As the result of the report made by John Curtin, the New South Wales child endowment, legislation was introduced in. 1925. Unfortunately, Mr. Curtin did not have an opportunity to bring down a similar bill in the Commonwealth Parliament, although in 1940, as Leader of the Opposition, he was able with the support of two independent members to force the Menzies Government to introduce child endowment legislation. Let us give to Mr. Curtin all the credit that is due to him for social reforms. It is gratifying, indeed, that he lived to see the enactment in this Parliament of legislation for which he worked so hard in his earlier years.
Everybody is anxious that this measure should be passed; but I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that in the early hours of the morning honorable members should not be called upon to pass important legislation in haste. I commend the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) upon this measure, which does something worth while for the people of this country. When Labour assumed office, the old-age pension was 21s. a week. From the 1st July next it will be 37s. 6d. a week; yet we are criticized by the honorable member for Reid. .1. am sure that the majority of honorable members will agree that every consideration should be extended to those members of the community who blazed the trails in the pioneering days of this country, and made possible the heritage that we enjoy to-day. I hope that before long the old-age pension will be not less than the basie wage, and will be considered not a charity payment but as a right.. The means test should have been abolished long ago, but that has been left to Labour. Whilst there are many people in the community who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to make provision for their retirement, it is hard for a person who has lived frugally and saved for his oldage to be denied a benefit that is enjoyed by others who, although their incomes during their working lives may have been greater, have wasted their money and made no provision for their retirement. We hope earnestly that that anomaly will soon be eliminated. According to statements made by the honorable member for Reid, who himself only masquerades as a Labour man, we on this side of the chamber may be regarded as the right wing of the Opposition; but regardless of the criticism that may be levelled at us from our flank, we shall continue to apply our policy, which, as in the past, will benefit the people of Australia as a whole. The honorable member for Reid has never been able to see beyond the boundaries of his own State. He is wholly and solely a State-righter. Australia as a whole does not concern him. As surely as I am here to-day, and will he here for many days to come, I believe, like Tom Mutch said, he will die without a friend in the Labour movement because the only friends that he has now are those honorable members opposite who dine and wine with him.
– There are two or three anomalies in our social services to which I should like to draw attention. The. first is the qualifying period of residence in this country for the old-age pension, which to-day is twenty years. I have always felt that that is a harsh qualification. Many British people come to this country with their families as migrants, at middle age or more, and, although they immediately become taxpayers, they have to wait twenty years before qualifying for the old-age pension. I know of English immigrants to-day who are either living on charity or are still working at the age of 70 or 80 years. . I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has a similar case in his own electorate of an elderly Englishman in his late 70’s or SO’s who is still working because he is not entitled to a pension as the result of the existence of the residential qualification of twenty years. The legislation should be amended by reducing the residential qualification to ten years.
– That could be done only if reciprocal arrangements were made with other countries.
– We have a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand in respect of pensions, yet if a person residing in Australia goes to New Zealand for a year or two that absence is regarded as a break in the continuity of residence in Australia for pension qualification purposes. That anomaly should be adjusted. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is shortly to proceed to Great Britain with a view to attracting more migrants to this country. Unless the honorable gentleman tells the people the facts many migrants who bring their families to Australia will say that they were enticed to come here under false pretences if they have to wait twenty years before becoming entitled to the pension payments payable under the Australian law.
– The Government is endeavouring to make reciprocal arrangements throughout the Empire in regard to these matters.
– I am pleased to hear that. I suggest that if the residential qualification were reduced to ten years the Minister for Immigration would have better scope for inducing migrants of the right type to come to Australia.
Another anomaly to which I desire, to refer relates to child endowment. There is even some confusion in the Department of Social Services in regard to it. It is laid down in the act that migrants who come to Australia under the free passage scheme for ex-servicemen are entitled to receive child endowment for their second and subsequent children, but that those who pay their own fares to Australia are ineligible for the benefit. I submitted a specific case to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). At first the department indicated that persons who paid their own fares were eligible for the benefit; later, it claimed that it had made a mistake and that such persons were ineligible; now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) says that, these people will be covered when this bill becomes law provided the commissioner approves. It should be stated specifically in the act that irrespective of whether a man comes to Australia under the free passage scheme or pays his own fare, the child endowment benefit shall be paid.
It is interesting to examine the differing rates of pensions payable to, and the different classifications of widows. A woman whose husband is in prison is regarded as a widow. A deserted wife also qualifies as a widow. Differing rates of pension are paid to widows classified in different categories. I am unable to understand why there should be a difference of only 23s. a a week between the pension paid to a deserted wife or a wife whose husband is in prison and that paid to a war widow. It seems to be completely out of proportion. We have been told that the position of war widows is being looked into again, but only in respect of those who have chillren. The Prime Minister is well aware of the facts concerning both civil and war widows and should reexamine the different scales of pensions being paid to them.
My third point relates to the long existing anomaly which could be rectified by a stroke of the pen, in connexion with what I call the deduction from the dole. It is not popular to use the word “ dole “ now; in these more enlightened days it is called an unemployment and sickness benefit, a much more high-sounding term. At the appropriate time I shall submit an amendment designed to rectify this anomaly. A great many people are receiving unemployment relief and many of them are ex-servicemen, but the exservicemen are mulcted to the extent of their pensions if their pensions amount to less than the unemployment relief payment. That is a wicked state of affairs. When the Unemployment, and Sickness Benefits Bill .was before the House, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) submitted an amendment designed to exclude such pensions from consideration in the grant of the unemployment benefit. The Minister for Labour and National Service was seised of the justice of the proposal and undertook to discuss it with Cabinet with a view to amending the bill suitably when it was before the Senate; but when the bill went to the Senate it was brushed off. I doubt very much whether the wording of the section in the act justifies the making of such deductions. Pensions are granted to ex-servicemen to compensate them for disabilities arising out of their war service and no deduction should be made from the unemployment benefit because of the receipt of such a pension. I have raised this matter in the House on several occasions in an attempt to have it adjusted. The Minister for Labour and National Service apparently raised the matter before Cabinet and later referred it to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) who replied by letter in the following terms: - 1 refer to my letter of the 27th February,
J 947, acknowledging your request that further consideration bc given to the exemption of war pension in assessing the income of claimants for social service benefits. As you are a:ware, this question has been brought forward from time to time during recent years and has received careful consideration. Whilst I am, personally, sympathetic towards any proposal for an amelioration of conditions lor those men who have become incapacitated in the service of their country …. . . . I cannot overlook the fact that, if it were decided to disregard war pension payments in assessing income for social service purposes, the Government would find it difficult to resist requests that other forms of benefit granted in respect oi injury <.n- illness, e.g., Workers’ Compensation, Mine Workers” Pensions, &c, be accorded similar treatment.
With due respect to the Minister for Social Services, that is sheer nonsense. Mine workers’ compensation and mine workers’ benefits are matters that concern the State governments. The Minister for Labour and National Service was so impressed by the case 1 had submitted that, in order to avoid a division, he agreed to discuss it with the Cabinet. If the honorable gentleman believed that there was merit in the case he should have put the matter right. A man who loses an eye, a finger or a hand as the result of war service, and receives a pension for his disability, when hebecomes unemployed receives the unemployment benefit less the amount of his pension ; but a man who obtains a benefit of some kind from a union or a friendly society is not subjected to the same deduction. That is grossly unfair.
– I strongly object to many clauses of this legislation because they are a deterrent to thrift, but I will not dwell on that. T support what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said. Any government, regardless of its political colour, that subjects a war pension to the means test is unworthy of being described as Australian. The law provides that the excess of any income over fi a week shall be deducted from unemployment benefit. A man receiving a war pension of £1 is receiving a 40 per cent, pension, and Labour members know, as does any other honorable member of this House, that no man can qualify for a 40 per cent, pension unless he has something seriously wrong with him. I have already directed the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to the plight of a man who was discharged from one of the services with arthritis in the feet, and was granted a 50 per cent, pension of 25s. He was able to do light work. While working he paid the social services contribution. The arthritis moved up his legs into his hips and forced him from work. He could not even do light ‘work. The Department of Social Services paid him the full amount of the unemployment benefit and the Repatriation Department paid him his full war pension. When it was discovered that the 5s. by which his pension exceeded the allowable income had not been deducted from the un- employment benefit, he was compelled to sign a document empowering the Repatriation Department to deduct from future payments of his war pension the amount that he had collected in excess of what he was, in accordance with the law, entitled to. He appeared before a tribunal, which admitted that he had arthritis in the hips. Honorable members ought to know what that means. He is entirely dependent on the war pension, plus the sickness benefit; but, if he is ever able to do light work again, and is then forced to go off sick, his unemployment benefit will bc reduced by 5s. a week. That injustice could bc easily remedied. To remedy it would not involve the Govern- ment in much expense. Thank the Lord, not many have qualified for more than a 40 per cent. pension. It is most dastardly that a Government should even think of applying the means test to a war pension given by a grateful country to a man who lost his health in fighting for it. I hope that the Government will remedy the situation of its own volition. Otherwise, I will wholeheartedly support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Balaclava and persuade as many other honorable members as I can to do likewise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- I rise to correct the misunderstanding of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) about the provisions of the Widows’ Pensions Act of New South Wales. No such things as he said weTe done by my Government. What he complained about was inserted in the act by amending legislation brought down by the Stevens Government. The honorable member for Hunter also said that the late John Curtin was resposible for child endowment. I correct him once and for all. At a Premiers conference I nominated Mr. Curtin as a member of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment. When that royal commission furnished its report, the Commonwealth Government would not carry out its recommendations. When it failed to do so the Government of New South Wales, under my leadership, carried them out.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Conditions of grant of invalid pension).
– I draw the attention of the Minister to a case which came to my notice recently and to which this clause applies. Paragraph g of sub-clause 3 states that an invalid pension shall not be granted to a person - if, in the case of a person under the age of twenty-one years, his parents, either severally or collectively, adequately maintainhim.
It seems to me that this provision will create great hardship in some cases, and that, therefore, the Minister should have power to exercise discretion in relation to it. The case I have in mind is that of the father of an invalid boy aged fourteen years. Professor Martin, of the School of Psychology in Sydney, has certified that the boy has a mental age of only seven years. A doctor has also certified that the boy is incurably epileptic. The father has to maintain the lad and must also pay a trained nurse to care for him. Furthermore, he is obliged to assist in maintaining his own mother and his wife’s mother. In a letter to me, he has stated that he has had to sacrifice his life insurance policies and is in financial difficulties. His application for an invalid pension for the boy has been rejected on the ground stated in the paragraph which I Have quoted. It is claimed that the boy is adequately maintained. This is a harsh and unfair provision to apply to a person in such straitened circumstances. I suggest that the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) investigate this matter with a view to providing for the exercise of discretion in such cases.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). I can testify to a similar case in which a pension, for which I applied an behalf of an invalid child, was refused. This child, who is aged sixteen years, is epileptic and has a mental age of about ten years. The doctor who has attended the girl for years has assured me that she will never he employable. Nevertheless, a pension was refused on the ground that it is not the policy of the Government to pay a pension to any person who ought to be able to earn some money, even if it “be not sufficient to maintain him. I have checked the details of this case very carefully. “The position seems to be that employers will not engage persons who are subject to frequent epileptic attacks. In the first place, this girl has not been trained for employment, because she has not been able to attend school since she reached the age of ten years. In the second place, nobody will employ an epileptic subject. The earnings of the father amount to about £6 a week. The mother has to work in order to raise enough money to pay for the child’s medical expenses.
– There would be an exemption.
– I was not able to get anything for the girl.
– That must be because the doctor will not certify the child as being 85 per cent, disabled. The income allowance made in assessing eligibility for pension is £2 10s. a week for every person in the family over the age of sixteen years and £1 5s. a week for everybody in the family under the age of sixteen years. Income below the total of these amounts is not taken into account at all. With a mother and father and a person eligible for invalid pension, the exemption would amount to £6 5s. a week.
– The father is earning that amount, but it is not sufficient to cover medical expenses arising from the sickness of the child.
– The income of £6 5s. a week would exclude the girl from obtaining a pension.
– Does the Minister consider that there should he a power of discretion to provide for such cases? The case which I mentioned is that of a resident railway construction engineer in northern New South Wales. He has to maintain a home on the job and another home in the city for his wife and children, particularly for the epileptic child. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) that epileptic subjects are completely unemployable. They can never have a chance of earning a livelihood. They are irresponsible; one never knows when they may be attacked by an epileptic fit. Consequently, they are permanently incapacitated. The Government should make special provision to give discretionary power to the Minister in dealing with such cases.
– These border-line cases can be dealt with under clause 124, which will give discretionary power to the Director-General of Social Services. Apart from that, permissible exemptions in respect of income which are applied in the assessment of invalid pensions are much more generous than many people believe. An amount of £2 10s. a week is allowed for every member of the family over the age of sixteen years and an amount of £1 5s. a week for every member under that age. The cases mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) must be border-line cases which the doctors refuse to pass, not because of the income restriction, but because of the nature of the disability concerned. Such cases can be dealt with under clause 124, which will give the Director-General power to exercise his discretion in relation to applications which are not adequately covered by other provisions of the bill.
– The application which I mentioned was rejected because the department contended that the child was adequately maintained.
– His family must he fairly comfortably situated.
– I raise a matter which I have referred to the Minister on more than one occasion. I refer to a man who has applied for an invalid pension for his son, who had a fall in youth and has been certified by doctors to be totally and permanently incapacitated. The application has been rejected on the ground that the father is in a position to maintain the son. The father’s income is £340 per annum. The family consists of the husband, wife and in addition to the invalid son two young children. On the Minister’s computation, they should receive a payment of £5.
– An amount of £2 10s. is paid in respect of each adult, and £1 ls. for each child, making a total of £7 10s.
– This family has been refused the pension on the ground that its income of £340 a year is adequate. On the Minister’s statement, the pension should have been granted to it.
– The income of £340 a year would probably disqualify it.
– It should not, and 1 ask the Minister to review this case.
– The Director-General of Social Services has power to do that.
– Some weeks ago, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a question regarding an invalid pensioner who, though unable to do regular work, may be able to earn a few shillings a week as a caretaker. Will it be possible, under this bill, to allow him. to do so? When I asked the question, the right honorable gentleman replied that the matter could be examined when this bill was under consideration.
– An invalid pensioner may have an income up to £52 a. year, but he is not permitted to do manual work.
– Not even as a caretaker ?
– If he is less than S3 per cent, incapacitated, he cannot receive the pension.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 (Allowances not to be paid in certain circumstances).
– I should like the Minister (Mr. Holloway) to explain the reasons for these exclusions. If a husband becomes an inmate of a benevolent institution or a hospital foi- the insane, his wife is not eligible for a pension. What provision is made for her? If she has to maintain a home and rear a family, she will not be able to earn her living. These neurosis cases occur’ as the result of accidents or some other disability, and the wives of unfortunate sufferers must be cared for. They are more deserving of assistance than the people whom the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned. By lack of thrift or wasting their earnings on drinking and gambling they become entitled to a pension.
– Clause 35 provides that a wife’s allowance or a child’s allowance shall not be payable - (</) to a woman whose husband is an inmate of a benevolent asylum, unless she has the custody, care and control of a child under the age of sixteen years or is not less than fifty years of age.
A woman whose husband is in a mental asylum, benevolent institution or prison is regarded as a widow, and if she is eligible for the widow’s pension she will receive it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 94 agreed to.
Clause 95 to 105 (Part VI.- Child
Endowment) - by leave - considered together.
.- 1 merely put to the Minister (Mi. Holloway) the question which I raised in my second-reading speech, and ask him to indicate that the point has either been covered or will be investigated. The honorable gentleman may need to consult with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the income tax aspect, but I should like to have his assurance that the matter will be examined.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated that child endowment was not payable in; respect of the children of persons who have newly arrived in Australia. The residential qualification of twelve month*, which the Child Endowment Act provides, has been waived so that the children of such persons shall be eligible for endowment if the department is satisfied that the parents propose to remain in Australia. The honorable member also pointed out that the husband suffers a financial difficulty because he is denied, for taxation purposes, a rebate in respect of the children. That is a matter for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner ) [1.59 a.rn.j.The Minister (Mr. Holloway) has dealt, with the persons who intend to reside permanently in Australia, hut there are many others who come here for business reasons and bring their families with them.
– They are excluded.
– Although they are excluded for purposes of child endowment, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) does not permit them to claim a rebate in respect of their children for taxation purposes. The idea, when the Parliament reduced the rebate in respect of the second and subsequent children, was that it should be offset by the child endowment payment. The persons to whom I referred receive neither the endowment payment nor the tax rebate. The Parliament did not contemplate that when it passed the endowment legislation. This anomaly has since been revealed, and I urge the Treasurer to examine this position. Ti, does not involve a large number of people, but there are many admirable visitors to this country, particularly from Great Britain, who come here for commercial reasons, and they are at a serious disadvantage because of the existing provision. I ask that the matter be taken up with the Commissioner of Taxation to see if something fan be done to rectify this position.
Mrs. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [2.1 :i.m. . - In a case where there are two or more children in a family, why should the endowment cease while a child is ill in hospital? A few days ago I quoted the case of a child suffering from tuberculosis. “While this child was in hospital for diagnosis, the endowment payments in respect of the second child were discontinued. The parents are in very poor circumstances and the withholding of the payments inflicted great hardship upon them. Is it the Government’s intention that when a child is in hospital payment of endowment in respect of the second child shall cease?
– I have never heard of such a case. The clause provides that the money shall be paid to the person who is deemed to have the custody, care and control of the child. The case mentioned by the honorable member is somewhat surprising.
– It was reported to me by the superintendent of the kindergarten which the child attended, and ‘1 am assured that the facts are as stated.
Clauses agreed to.
In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears - “ income “, in relation to a person, means any personal earnings, moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned, derived or received by that person for his own use or .benefit by any means from any source whatsoever, within or outside Australia, and includes any periodical payment or benefit by way of gift or allowance, but does not include -
That, in the definition of “income”, after paragraph (c), the following new paragraph he inserted: - “ (/) any pension received under the Australian Soldiers’ .Repatriation Act 1920-1047;”
I wish to include in the amount of income for which exemption is permitted :my pension received under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1947 because that would overcome the anomaly which has been mentioned so often. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) expressed himself as being in sympathy with military pensioners’ and this, is an opportunity for him to rectify this anomaly. Earlier I read a letter from the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) saying tha.t he sympathized with .these men, but gave only a very flimsy reason for not granting them the exemption which they ask. A letter from the Limbless Soldiers Association says - “ We sincerely hope that the hill will be so amended, as it is a matter which vitally concerns members of this Association.” Representatives of that body saw the Minister recently and pressed for the inclusion of this amendment in the bill. I have other letters in a similar strain which I could read to the committee, but I do not think that should be necessary. Surely, the omission must be an oversight,
. -I do not think this is an unreasonable request to make of the Government, because only men receiving pensions for upwards of 40 per cent, incapacity will be affected, and pensioners in receipt of that amount are not capable of working. The acceptance of this amendment will U0t cost the Government any considerable *nm, but it will allay the anxieties of a lot of these men. I was told that when the original act was passed it was intended to give this matter favorable consideration, and when this bill was being debated in .the Senate, the State secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Limbless Soldiers Association was informed that the matter would be adjusted before the bill- was passed. I now ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to implement this undertaking. I have here a letter from the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) saying that he won ld give the matter serious consideration and advise me of the result at a later date. In addition, I have letters from the Repatriation Commission referring to the case of a man suffering from arthritis in the hip, and other correspondence from the Department of Social Services saying it was regretted that thi3 man had been overpaid, and that because of an anomaly he would have to refund the overpayment. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
.I support the amendment moved by the: honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I pressed for its acceptance when the original legislation was being debated, and I remind the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that on that occasion he led the House to believe that he was strongly in favour of the proposal. He undertook to bring the matter before Cabinet and to have the suggested amendment embodied in the bill when it was before the Senate. From time to time representations have been made by members of the Opposition to the Minister of SocialServices (Senator McKenna) on thi? matter, and he intimated that he was entirely sympathetic although he gave the most flimsy reasons for not adopting the proposal. There is no defence for the omission of this provision, and I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to review the matter. Other people enjoy the benefit of exemptions when they apply for unemployment benefit, and I cannot see why persons in receipt of pensions for war disabilities should be penalized. Thcreal reason for the award of pensions te ex-servicemen is to compensate them for injuries they have received on war service. Payment of those pensions does not benefit them but merely provides compensation for the injuries they received in the service of their country. Therefore. I cannot understand the Minister not accepting this amendment, after the promise he made on former occasions to induce Cabinet to make this concession. I realize that members of the Opposition have only the right to make an appeal, and that the Government has the numbers behind ii to defeat the acceptance of amendments, but I urge the Minister to accept this amendment. War pensioners do noi relish the prospect of having to accept the dole, but if and when misfortune overtakes them they should not be penalized because they receive a pension for their war injuries. If the Minister does not accept the amendment we shall continue to press for it. I assure him that if this amendment is accepted the Opposition will raise no objection to the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– I well remember the occasion when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) urged the acceptance of this amendment in debate on the original bill. I moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition, and on that occasion the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) assured me that he would convey our request to Cabinet, and that he would urge Cabinet to accept it. We heard nothing more of it, and we naturally expected that when the opportunity presented itself the Minister’s undertaking would be honoured. I ask the Minister to honour that undertaking now and give to the committee an assurance that he will accept the amendment of the honorable member for. Balaclava; or, if he prefers it, that he will postpone the clause so that he can draft an amendment himself. Unless his promise is honoured he and the Government will be proved to be insincere. The promise of the Minister to which I refer was made on the 30th March, 1944, as reported in Hansard, volume 178, at page 2390- 1 ask honorable members to remember that this bill was introduced in the Senate, and that, as it is not my bill, I cannot accept the amendment, not because I do not think that there is justice in it, but because it is not a matter for me to determine. I promise that I shall sympathetically submit it to the Treasurer and Cabinet so that it shall bc discussed at the next Cabinet meeting, which will take place soon. I shall see that an answer is given.
– The Minister will not ask us to pass the bill until the answer has been given?
– I do not say that, but I do say that it will not be put into force until this provisions has been inserted or reasons against it have been given
– Parliament will adjourn to-morow for at least four months.
The House rested on the Minister’s assurance.
– No Minister can give an assurance as to what Cabinet will do.
– The Minister said that he would sympathetically consider the proposal and bring it before Cabinet.
– How does the honorable member know what the Minister said to Cabinet?
– The Minister at the table said that he was sympathetic;, the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) said the same; and a number of government supporters have spoken in favour of the proposal. It would appear that the Minister has either not. placed the proposal before Cabinet, or that he has done so unsuccessfully. I ask the Minister to say why no answer has been given.
– It is wrong to say that no answer has been given. This matter is raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) almost every week. He claims that he has not been given an answer, yet he has read to us the answer that he received.
– I have not received an answer, although I moved the amendment.
– The honorable member for Balaclava was given an answer. I kept my word to him. To-day, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) said that the question of permissible income would be reviewed from time to time. Since we last discussed this question, the permissible income has been raised from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week.
– There is no means test.
– There is a means test. The position to-day is that an exserviceman who cannot be fitted into employment can still receive £2 10s. a week whilst undergoing training. That is the only kind of ex-servicemen not employed.
– What about those under 21 years of age?
– There are no unemployed ex-servicemen who do not get an allowance. If there were an unemployment problem, the position would be different. The bill was given very careful consideration when it was being drafted and it was passed through the Senate in its present form. I cannot accept the amendment.
.-T- I am profoundly disappointed that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) will not accept the amendement. From time immemorial a pension for incapacityhas not been regarded a? income for income tax purposes. Provision is contained in the bill for benefits received from friendly societies and similar institutions to be excluded. That is right, because those benefits have been paid for. After the Minister said that he was sympathetic and would bring the matter before Cabinet, it is most disappointing to find that nothing is likely to be done. I cannot believe that careful consideration was given to the matter when I realize that the Minister is prepared to continue this grave injustice to men who have suffered, and will suffer for the rest of their lives, for their war service.
– I, too, am disappointed with the Minister’s reply. I had hoped that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) would have indicated his acceptance of the amendment. Clause 106 defines income in the following terms : - “ Income “, in relation to a person, means any personal earnings, moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned, derived or received by that person for his own use or benefit by any means from any source whatsoever, within or outside Australia, and includes any periodical payment or benefit by way of gift or allowance, but does not include -
a payment out of moneys -
The Opposition wants to include war pensions. If a plebiscite of the people of Australia were taken, I believe that 90 per cent. of them would vote in favour of excluding a war pension from income.
The Government has had plenty of time to consider this proposal. I, myself, wrote to the Minister about it more than six weeks ago. I am not concerned so much about what was said in the past as that something shall be done now. The Minister has said that he cannot accept the amendment. In my opinion, any fair amendment should be accepted. This is a fair amendment. The world has been told that this generous country and government have compensated these men. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) pointed out, the pension was bought by them with blood and sweat. Yet it is included in the means test in computing unemployment and sickness benefits. Its inclusion is a dastardly act by the Government. I am absolutely ashamed of the Prime Minister and the Government.
– I can understand the bitter feeling of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). I do not intend to prejudice the case by losing my temper. Had I not pressed the matter continually, in correspondence as well as in this Parliament, I would not have received an answer from the Minister (Mr. Holloway). During the last Commonwealth general elections I went into his electorate and spoke about it. He was anxious to do the right thing then, and advanced all sorts of excuses for its not having been done. I wish that I had his letter with me, because it was couched in terms as “ soapy “ as those of the statement that he made to-night. Finally, I received a copy of a letter written to the Minister by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna), dated the 28th March last. This is what Senator McKenna said -
As you are aware, this question has been brought forward from time to time during recent years and has received careful consideration.
When and where did we receive an answer to our representations? The letter went on to say -
Whilst I am, personally, sympathetic towards any proposal for an amelioration of conditions for those men who have become incapacitated in the service of their country, 1 cannot overlook the fact that, if it were decided to disregard war pension payments in assessing income for social service purposes, the Government would find it difficult to resist requests that other forms of benefits granted in respect of injury or illness, e.g. workers’ compensation, mine workers’ pensions, &c, be accorded similar treatment.
That is nonsensical. The matter is not mentioned in the acts of the States. The letter continued -
Your will recollect that when the Unemploy ment and Sickness Benefits Act was before Parliament the method of treatment of war pension in relation to the assessments of these benefit* was tully discussed ….
The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has read what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said on a previous occasion. If ever an assurance was given to ii.-‘; it was given then. I shall never again accept the word of the Minister on any matter in this Parliament. Honorable members who were present on the occasion in question will recall that some of us were not keen to withdraw the amendment that had been submitted. Honorable members on the back Government benches were sympathetic towards it. The Minister, adopting his usual technique, induced us by means of soft promises to withdraw it. The Prime Minister has said that the Minister could not bind the Cabinet. Nearly every honorable member on this side of the chamber has been a’ Minister. We would take such a matter to Cabinet and say. “ An undertaking has been given, and we would like it to be fulfilled”. Both the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Health and Social Services claim to he sympathetic. I do not .believe that caucus has discussed the matter. A deputation from the Limbless Soldiers Association of Australia came to Canberra and put the case for an adjustment. When I had again raised the matter in the Parliament, they wrote to me about it. Their letter of the 30th April last said -
We sincerely hope that the hill will be so amended as the subject in question is one which vitally concerns limbless soldiers.
Yet the Government proposes to take a portion of the dole of the limbless soldier if he is unemployed. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) does not often speak in this chamber. He has expressed disgust and disappointment. I hate to embarrass government, supporters, but I intend to call for a division, because I am resentful at my failure to have such a simple matter adjusted after three years of reiteration. We see at times representatives of powerful industrial pressure groups sitting in the galleries. We know how often they are received by Ministers, and the promises that are made to them. Every member of the Opposition who is an ex-serviceman is also a member of th<committee of ex-servicemen of this Par “liament, and has approved of the submission of the amendment. It also has the approval of the Commonwealth Council of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Australia. If an ex-service member brings up matters concerning exservicemen, he is vilified by government supporters, who -have no understanding of the matter, for having done so. They believe that he is trying to exploit somebody. Nothing is gained by a man who seeks in this Parliament fair treatment for men who have been injured in battle. A man would be recreant to his duty and to his comrades if he did not fight their case in the Parliament. The Prime Minister talks in millions, and makes an occasional tax reduction, yet he will not adjust a little thing of this kind, after three years of delay by the Minister for Labour and National Service who sits alongside him. I can only express disgust and contempt.
– It is worthy of note that not one government supporter has put forward any argument against this proposal. 1 believe that the majority of them are sympathetic towards the amendment. I recall that when we previously debated the matter, several government members supported the very argument that we are using to-night, notably the former honorable member for Reid, Mr. Morgan.
– It would appear not to have helped him very much.
– We do not aim to be helped politically.
– His conscience is perfectly clear. I remember very distinctly that the Minister who is in charge of this bill to-night was in charge of the committee on that occasion, and promised faithfully that if the measure was allowed to go through without a division he would do his best to meet our wishes. We do not know that he has not done bis best. He may have submitted the matter to Cabinet and argued in favour of it, and Cabinet may have turned it down. I want to be fair to him, because he was very concerned on that occasion and was so distressed as to be almost close to tears. The whole conception of the service pension is wrong. It is given because something lias been lost. If, for argument’s sake, a man loses a leg and is given a couple of hundred pounds, that is regarded, not as income, but as compensation for the loss of the limb. A war disability pension is paid to-day regardless of the wealth of the recipient, and should not be taken into consideration when assessing the amount of a social service benefit when one is needed. On the previous occasion to which I have referred, the matter waa debated at length. Benefits received from a friendly society, a trade union, a superannuation fund, or anything of that description, are not taken into account. Not one honorable member opposite can justify different treatment of an ex-serviceman’s disability pension, which he receives because of something that he lacks by reason of the service he has rendered to his country. I do not want to speak in terms as strong as those that have been used by other honorable members, but wish to appeal to reason. What reason can be advanced against our proposal? Every honorable member opposite believes that it is just. The Prime Minister, in his heart, knows that there has been an omission. [ am satisfied that honorable members opposite, in their consciences and in face of the tolerance of the Australian public to which we are responsible, cannot justify the attitude of the Government in this matter. I urge the Government to reconsider it.
.. - I am sure that no Cabinet could ever have considered a proposition of this kind seriously. If the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) will look at the basis upon which war pensions are paid, he will find that they have always been assessed according to the percentage of the disability which a man suffers as the result of war service. At whatever percentage disability is assessed, the pension, in the view of the tribunal, is paid for the purpose of putting the recipient on the same level as the man who has suffered no disability a3 the result of war. In this matter the Government is simply saying that those unfortunates who through war service have suffered disability are, in this instance, to be placed some distance behind scratch in comparison with other men enjoying full health. The Government says that if an ex-serviceman’s disability is assessed at 50 per cent, he must start to that degree behind scratch when he seeks unemployment benefit. I cannot believe that the Government has ever seriously considered this matter., because its proposition is utterly unjust, unfair and indefensible, particularly in view of its decision in respect of benefits received from friendly societies and trade unions. I make no complaints about those concessions. They are quite in order; but the Government cannot justify those concessions, and, at the same time, include the war pension in income in calculating the amount of benefit to be made available under this legislation. Therefore, without importing any heat into the debate, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to ensure proper consideration of this matter. I clearly recall that on the last occasion when we considered it, honorable members on this side were induced to call off a division on that matter. Frankly, I was not in favour of calling off that division. In view of what has happened to-night 1 believe that my colleagues will agree that we should have insisted on taking a vote on that occasion. If our request be notgranted, we have no alternative hut to record a vote against this provision to-night.
– I remind the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) of the occasion when I moved my amendment when this matter was previously before us. .1 shall recapitulate some of the arguments then advanced by honorable members on this side of the chamber, because they seemed to carry some weight with the Minister. I can see no reason why they should not carry equal weight with him to-night. A man who has fought in defence of his country and has lost a limb or the sight of an eye is at a very great disadvantage in seeking employment- in competition with those who remained at home, say, for example, to work in munition factories and war industries. The latter did a laudable -job while the war was on, but theY did not suffer any war disability or run the risk of losing a limb or the sight of an eye. To-day, exservicemen suffering from war disability must compete for employment with men in full health and strength; and, because of their war service disability, they may lose employment. I made that point very clearly on the previous occasion to which 1 refer. If, because of a disability suffered in protecting those who remained behind and who retained their health and strength, an ex-serviceman is unable to obtain employment the Government says to him, “ You cannot receive full benefits under this legislation “.
– The bill does not say that.
– It says that the war pension shall be taken as income in calculating the amount of benefit payable to ex-servicemen. Our arguments in that occasion so impressed the Minister that, in effect, he replied, “ The bill has gone through the Senate, and Cabinet has not had time to consider the matter “. When, I drew attention to the fact that some weeks had elapsed between the passage of the measure through the Senate and its introduction into this chamber, the Minister again assured me that he would refer the matter back to Cabinet. The arguments which on that occasion were sufficiently strong to wring that assurance from the Minister are equally strong on this occasion. These men, because of their disability, cannot compete with men in fall health and strength in seeking employment. The Government’s attitude on this occasion is illogical, therefore, after the Government has had three years in which to consider it we shall press this amendment. Our arguments are irrefutable, because the concession we seek for ex-service personnel is to .be extended to other sections of the community including the trade unions.Therefore, the Government is penalizing ex-servicemen in this respect. Our income tax department, which is ‘the greatest taxing machine in the British Empire, and extracts the last ounce from every section of the community, excludes war pension from the calculation of income for the purpose of assessing income > tax. These men have rendered a great service to the country. Notwithstanding that fact, the Government, in effect, says to these unfortunates: “If you unfortunately fail to obtain employment we shall assess the pension we pay to you in respect of the loss of a limb, or the sight of an eye, against the benefit which will be paid to you under this legislation “. I can well understand the disgust aroused among honorable members on this side of the chamber. I again urge the Minister to redeem the honour of the Government by accepting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
– I wish to address a question to the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway). I have always understood that more casualties are suffered in industry than in war. Can the Minister say whether that is correct? What will be the position under this legislation of persons who are torn on the wheels of industry and suffer the loss of a limb? That happens frequently in industry.
– It was bad enough to have to criticize the Government for the manner in which it treats war widows under its rehabilitation training scheme, when upon the loss of a husband, who received £4 a week, the Government says that the widow must be content with the mighty sum of 19s. 6d. a week in addition to her pension. That has to do with the loss of a husband, something which goes to the very heart of the matter, and I do not know how the Government oan pet away with that. But this present issue concerns the man who has lost a limb and survived. He was a soldier, and his body bears the scars of his service. When the Government refuses to agree to this amendment, it certainly does violence to my sense of justice, and it must do violence to the sense of justice of those who enlisted for war service, and were told about all the things that would be done for them when they returned. I am amazed that the Government should take up this attitude. Is it that the Government has grown so used to .its decisions never being successfully challenged - to the belief that everything it does must be right because it has an overwhelming majority? The attitude of the Government is not reasonable, and it is not just. I. ask the Minister to come down off his high horse. Members of the Government do not like to be told that legislative provisions have been carelessly drafted, perhaps, or is it that the Minister made a recommendation to Cabinet, which was turned down, and now, out of loyalty to Cabinet, he cannot disclose what his recommendation was? As the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) said, there can be no comparison between men broken in war and those who have suffered injury in industry. Pensions granted to servicemen have been well earned. The tribunals are very hard to convince. I know men who should be receiving pensions, but their applications have been refused. Those who have received pensions have been mercilessly examined by the doctors of the Repatriation Department. I know for a fact that many men have refused to ask for pensions. They have signed declarations that their health is Al, so that they could get out of the Army. Now, some of them are broken in health, and are finding it very hard to get pensions. In this way, the Government is being saved money which it ought to be paying. Therefore, the Government can well afford to concede this point.
.I think that the Minister ought to make a statement on this point. It is not a matter of party politics, but of coming to a decision. Some time ago, an assurance was given in respect of the matter now at issue. I stake my position on this issue, and I feel that an adjustment ought, in all decency, to be made. Concessions have been granted in other directions, but not to servicemen. The amount involved is paltry. If it is a convention that amendments to the bill cannot be accepted now, let the Minister (Mr. Holloway) say what will happen when he has an opportunity to do something about the matter. Honorable members opposite have made it clear by their speeches, as have honorable members on this side by their acquiescence, that there is something in this claim. Therefore, let the Minister make a statement explaining what he intends to do about the promise which he made some time ago, and what it is intended to do in respect of this clause.
– I am not trying to shuffle out of the promise I made. I promised that I would discuss the matter with the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna).
– The Minister said that Tie would take it back to Cabinet.
– I said that, with the Minister for Social Services, I would take it back to Cabinet. It has been discussed in Cabinet, which has not seen fit to agree to the amendment asked for. It has eased the position, however, by increasing the permissible income. The principal reason for refusing the request was that it could not be agreed to without a similar concession in respect of all other pension provisions. I agree that the granting of the concession would cost very little money. The majority of pensioners are able to go to work. In fact, the majority of male pensioners do not receive more than £1 or 25s. a week. The difference in the case of a married man with one child does not amount to more than 5s. a week.
– That strengthens our case.
– I agree. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked what would happen to a person who lost a limb in civil employment. Such a person would receive compensation. He might receive a lump sum, or he might receive so much a week, until he was fit enough to go back to work. After that he would get nothing. The injured person may elect which of these two forms of compensation he will take.
– So much a week for a period, but during that period they would still come under the social service^ scheme, and there would be no deduction from the pension.
– When they expend, all the money allowed to them under i lie Workers’ Compensation Act, they stand on their own feet. That is the answer to that. I kept the promise that I made last year.
– I remind the Minister that I moved the amendment on that occasion, and I have heard nothing from him for a year as to what decision has been made by Cabinet.
– That is true, but I sent a letter to the honorable member for Balaclava.
.- I am not familiar with what occurred in this House several years ago; but it seems to me that all that is required in this matter is a clear-cut decision. The Minister has admitted that this is a fair amendment and I am rather puzzled to understand why he has not accepted it, particularly as be spoke rather in favour of it. I shall not canvass the various points involved because they have already been fully dealt with. There is unanimity of opinion amongst members of all parties on this one point. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has expressed his view quite dearly. I urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to recognize the merit of the amendment and to give it favorable consideration. I do not have to remind honorable members that a war service pension is paid to compensate an exserviceman for his physical disabilities resulting from war service. I ask the Minister now whether he will accept the amendment.
– I cannot accept the a mendment.
– I could not possibly be honest with myself and allow this debate to be concluded without expressing my view. I said last night that there was nothing that this country could offer to ex-servicemen that was too good for them. Particularly is that so in respect of maimed exservicemen. Whilst I do not suggest that the Minister (Mr. Holloway) should accept the amendment, I ask in all sincerity that, in collaboration with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator McKenna), he give the matter consideration, with a view to having it clarified. The’ amount of money involved is infinitesimal compared with the principle at stake, and the Government would not be “justified in completely ignoring such an. important matter. I implore the Minister to give to it whatever consideration is possible, with the object of alleviating the position of limbless and maimed ex-servicemen.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has asked us to believe that he would do certain things. I have always found the honorable gentleman true to his promises. But unfortunately to-night has been an exception. We were told earlier in the sitting that the House would adjourn, at 2 a.m., and we agreed to sit until that time; but now, in spite of the assurance that, was given to us, the sitting has extended far beyond that hour. We are discussing a most important amendment, and it was interesting to hear the apology made by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). Apparently certain honorable members opposite are not sure that they are right in resisting this amendment which would mean the abolition of the means test on service pensions and other benefits. The purpose of the amendment is clear. We shall call for a division upon it, and I hope that honorable members opposite who have expressed themselves in favour of it will vote for it. We are not endeavouring to cause them embarrassment ; we are concerned only with doing what is best for ex-servicemen. The sole purpose of the amendment is to achieve justice. The means test has always been a difficulty, and we sincerely ask that the amendment be accepted.
– I have listened to this debate with growing amazement, first because it seemed quite impossible . to adduce any logical argument in support of the Government’s attitude. For some time, no reason was given for the refusal of the Government to accept the amendment. Finally, when die Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) did give a reason, I was even more amazed at its weakness. The reason given was that acceptance of the amendment would establish a precedent for the liberalization of other like benefits. If that be so, it is all the more reason why the amendment should be accepted. The Minister himself admitted that certain arguments that he advanced were actually in support of the amendment.
– There is little need for me to deal with this subject, Honorable members know my feelings about it, and what ray reactions are to it. I compliment the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) for supporting the amendment, and for standing behind honorable members on. this side of “the chamber, as he had so resolutely stood behind me in my efforts to gain some assistance for former prisoners of war. I also compliment the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) for supporting the amendment. I can understand why the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) cannot accept the amendment; it is not within his power to do so.
– The Minister is in charge of the bill.
– The Minister said what he means, namely, that he cannot accept the amendment. He did not say, ‘ I shall not accept it “ ; he used the word “ cannot “ advisedly. However, there is one man in the chamber who, if he cared to do so, could rectify the whole position. I refer to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Servicemen - and I believe I speak for many of them - expect the right honorable gentleman to accept this: amendment in the name of Australia.
– I make a final appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to accept the amendment. I am not at all impressed by the Minister’s statement that he cannot accept it because the bill originated in the Senate. I see no reason why that should be a bar to the acceptance of the amendment. The honorable gentleman added that he had taken these proposals to Cabinet, which had considered them. He also said that he had placed them before caucus. What have honorable members opposite to say about that? This proposal was put to caucus for decision, and apparently honorable members opposite endorsed the Government’s refusal to adopt it.
– Who said that caucus considered it?
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) should read Hansard. I listened very carefully to this debate, because I am gravely concerned at the unfair treatment which the Government is meting out to disabled ex-servicemen by its refusal to accept this amendment. The amendment has been supported by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). If the amendment be defeated, I appeal to those honorable members to raise the proposal again in caucus in an endeavour to move the Government to accept it.
– Let us vote on it!
– If we do, and the two honorable members opposite who have supported the amendment are placed in a difficult position, let it be on the head of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) ! Ex-servicemen of two wars are in receipt of pensions because of disabilities suffered in the course of their war service. These pensions are paid to them partly to compensate them for their disabilities and partly because such disabilities prevent them from engaging in their normal occupation. As these injuries are of a continuous nature, the fact that they are in receipt of a pension should not be held against them when they apply for unemployment, relief. The pension of a disabled exserviceman is not attachable at law. The Government is the sole authority responsible for making the pension deductible from the unemployment relief payments. I make a final appeal to the Prime Minister to reconsider this matter. The proposal which was submitted three years ago so impressed the Minister for Labour and National Service that he took the matter to Cabinet, and discussed it with the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). Obviously the- proposal is opposed by only a handful of Ministers. The honorable member for Griffith said that it had been presented to caucus.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– It is unfortunate that the honorable member should make a statement and not be prepared to stand up to it. If he fears to hold his ground, he may, if he so desires, withdraw the statement.
– I say that the honorable member is a liar.
– Order ! The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) must withdraw the remark, and apologize to the Chair for it.
– I withdraw it, but I alsoask-
– Order !
– I also ask that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) withdraw the statement that I said the proposal had been before the caucus.
– Order ! The honorable member for Griffith must withdraw his offensive expression and apologise for having made it.
– I withdraw it, and apologize. I now ask that the honorable member for Moreton withdraw the statement that I said the proposal had gone to caucus.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation at a later stage if he believes that he has been misrepresented. He is not entitled to do so now.
– Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Prime Minister to sense the feeling in the chamber and accept the amendment. The right honorable gentleman has good qualities. I appeal to those good qualities, and’ ask him to do the fair thing for those men who to-day are suffering grave injustice at the hands of the Government. I believe that he has a warm heart, and that his sole interest in public life is to do what he thinks best for the good of the community. Whilst I do not agree with some of his proposals, I believe that he has the courage of his convictions. If the right honorable gentleman remains adamant and the amendment is lost on the vote, I appeal to the two honorable members on the Government side, who have had the courage to state their views onthis proposal, to make even more powerful efforts in caucus to convince honorable members opposite of its justice.
– It appears to me that there is a deep feeling among all honorable members in regard to this matter. I suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that progress should be reported and the House be adjourned in order to permit the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to be reconsidered by Cabinet and caucus. The bill could then be brought before us again at a later hour this day. I understand the difficulty confronting the Minister. I appreciate his inability offhand to accept the amendment. It is within the power of the Cabinet, however, after testing the feeling of caucus, to accept the amendment. The amount of revenue involved by the acceptance of this amendment would be very small. Only this week the Prime Minister said in this chamber that he would bring down legislation before the Parliament rose to increase the salaries of members and senators by £500.
– Order !
– Honorable- members opposite may well shriek and howl. Progress ought to be reported in order that this matter may be reconsidered and justice given to ex-servicemen. The country will not stand the hypocrisy of a Government that moves to increase members’ salaries and at the same time treats in this dastardly way men that wear the scars of battle on their bodies, and get little enough as it is.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr. White’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 107 to 110 agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act -
Report ofthe Commonwealth Grants Commission on applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for further financial assistance in 1.940-47 from the Commonwealth under section 90 of the Constitution.
Norfolk Island Act - Census Ordinance - Regulations.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Cloncurry, Queensland.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 4 - Census.
House adjourned at 3.18 a.m. (Friday).
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Broadcasting : News Service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– After consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
B, one Grade C; Sydney - six. Grade A, eight Grade B, five Grade C, one Grade D; Melbourne - seven Grade B, four Grade C, three Grade D; Brisbane - two Grade B, three Grade
C, one Grade D; Adelaide - five Grade B, two Grade C, one Grade D; Perth - four Grade B, two Grade C, one Grade D ; Hobart - two Grade B, two Grade C, two Grade D. The National New Editor is the officer in charge in Sydney, whilst the officers in charge in the other capital cities are graded as under - Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane - Grade A; Perth and Hobart - Grade B.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, npon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has advised me that the information requested is being obtained, and will be supplied, as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has advised me that the information requested is being obtained and will be supplied as soon as possible.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows : -
Primary Production : Interest Rates on Farm Loans.
y. - In reply to the question which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked on the 18th March, concerning interest rates on farm loans by the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, I desire to inform the honorable member that substantial reductions in interest rates have been effected over recent years and the Commonwealth Bank, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon it, has constantly under review the rates of interest currently charged in respect of different classes of transactions. The. honorable member may therefore he assured that the rates charged by the Mortgage’ Bank Department will be kept under constant review and will be the lowest that from time to time are considered practicable.
y. - On the 8th May, the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked me whether I would consider a proposal that the Commonwealth Government should make a gift of money to assist Australia’s representation at the next Olympic games. In reply I desire to inform the honorable member that any representations on this matter which might be made by the Australian Olympic Federation will receive full consideration.
Civil Aviation: Sydney-Hobart Service; Cressy Aerodrome.
d.- On the 15th May, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) asked the following question : -
Some time ago, when I asked a question on the subject, I was informed that an air service could not be established between Sydney and Hobart because of insufficient beam and aerodrome equipment. As Skymaster airerait cross the Pacific and fly overland to Perth, not on beam all the way., and in view of the absence of a passenger boat service, will the Acting Minister for Air arrange for an air service by Skymaster aircraft twice weekly between Sydney and Hobart?
Iam now in a position to answer the honorable member as follows: -
– On the 2nd May, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked a question concerning the disposal of certain buildings at Cressy aerodrome. As promised to the honorable member on that occasion, I have had this matter re-examined and have discussed it with the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Works and Housing, and now reply to the honorable member’s question as follows : -
I would first point out to the honorable member that the difficulties surrounding rehabilitation have been almost insurmountable and no portion of the Government’s programme hasgiven more concern than the difficulty in locating suitable accommodation. Consequently, considerable satisfaction was felt when it was known that buildings at the Cressy aerodrome were available. These buildings are of a special type containing unusual features which are regarded as essential for the purpose for which they are intended and moreover will conform to the general plan for thu rehabilitation centre at Mount Martha where it is necessary to establish a remedial wing providing for medical, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and minor administrative activities. No other huts of this type are available in Victoria.
The buildings were made available to the Department of Social Services in October, 1946, and immediate action was taken to clear and level the area for their erection and to call tenders for the removal of the huts to the’ prepared site at Mount Martha. In spite of the high cost it is considered that the work should be proceeded with as the costs of erecting new buildings fulfilling the required specifications would, I understand, far exceed the cost of the transfer and in any case material and workmen are not available to do the job. . Moreover, already valuable time has been lost on this project due to unavoidable difficulties. If it were possible to obtain suitable buildings from a more convenient location this would willingly be done, but after an exhaustive search it has been found that the buildings under discussion are the only ones available and suitable. In view of all the circumstances instructions have been issued for the work to be proceeded with immediately.
n. - On the 22nd May, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked a question regarding the export of oranges by growers at Gosford and wished to know whether the Government would take all necessary steps within its power to ensure that the farmers should be protected and assisted to share in the lucrative prices now being obtained at Singapore and other places in the Far East. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
The only vessels with refrigerated space that jail with any degree of regularity from Sydney to Singapore are those of the British India Company and of Burns Philp Company. These companies advise that their refrigerated space is requisitioned by the Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom under whose auspices the Malayan and Burmese Governments’ food imports from Australia are arranged.
Apart from the fact, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government has no power to direct the use of shipping space, there is already a high priority use being accorded to (be refrigerated space in the vessels in this trade. The companies are anxious to secure the trade that the Gosford growers are desirous of establishing. With that object in view the companies suggest that the growers’ representatives should -maintain close liaison with them so that if an opportunity occurs to ship »t short notice the necessary arrangements could be made to ensure that all available refrigerator space is used to the best advantage. The possibility of exporting oranges as deck cargo and not in refrigerated chambers was also worthy of consideration, and the companies would be glad to examine this in collaboration with growers’ representatives.
– On the 20th May, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked whether, in view of the fact that smoking pipes of good quality are manufactured in Victoria, the issue of licences to import smoking pipes of British and French origin should be reconsidered. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Licences are not required for the importation of smoking pipes of United Kingdom origin. As regards imports from non-sterling sources licences are being granted only in respect of pipes of French and Italian origin and these are restricted to the equivalent in value of importations from those countries during the base year ended 30th June, 19.19. The supply position in the United Kingdom is such, however, that only small shipments are likely to be made from that source, - and owing to the increased prices importations from France and Italy are greatly curtailed as regards quantity. Prior to the war the United Kingdom, France and Italy comprised the major sources of supply as far as Australia was concerned.’ The Minister has drawn attention also to the fact that the Customs (Import Licensing) ‘ Regulations were not intended for protective purposes but were introduced primarily to conserve Australia’s resources in overseas exchange and to make the best use of available shipping. The removal of licensing control on most goods of United Kingdom origin is in accordance with an assurance given to the United Kingdom Government when licensing was introduced that restrictions would be removed as soon as possible. The Customs tariff is the recognized means of assistance to Australian industry and in this regard substantial duties are imposed on imported smoking pipes under Tariff Item 413(b), namely, 224 per cent, plus 5 per cent, primage duty (British preferential tariff), 40 per cent, plus fi per cent, primage (intermediate tariff) and 55 per cent, plus 10 per cent, primage (general tariff) .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470529_reps_18_192/>.