18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Spk&keb (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and’ read prayers.
– In the event of this country suddenly becoming’ engaged’ in. war- with Russia, will the Prime Minister state’ whether officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service w.ould have, power to detain known traitors immediately, or would it be necessary for the Parliament to re-enast the National Security Act before any such action was legal i
– It is obvious that if Australia suddenly becamo involved in war with any country the security provisions of the law would be immediately put into operation. The officers of the’ Commonwealth Investigation Service would make recommendations to the Attorney-General, who would take appropriate action under existing laws, apart altogether from the regulations promulgated under the National Security Act. In the event of an emergency arising such as that indicated by the honorable member, comprehensive laws to safeguard the security of Australia would be immediately operative.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to a report that a board is sitting in Sydney at present for the purpose of selecting cadets for the Royal Military College at
Duntroon. Is it true> as reported’, that the board will visit all capital citiesexcept Hobart? If so, can the Ministersay why Tasmania is to be omitted from, the itinerary of the- selection board!
– I am aware that a committee is to visit the States for thepurpose mentioned by the- honorable member, but I did not know that it intended1 to omit Tasmania from its- itinerary.. Immediately after questions without notice have been disposed of, I shall contact the appropriate authorities toensure that Tasmania shall be included in the itinerary of the committee;
– I direct a question, to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it ‘true that deaf and1 dumb people do not receive an invalidpension? Does the Government extend’ to such people the- rehabilitation training: facilities that are available to invalid pensioners? If not,, will’ the Minister consider extending to adult and teen-age deaf and dumb persons whowish to engage in employment, the benefits of the splendid Commonwealth, scheme of rehabilitation- training now given to invalid pensioners?
– I cannot speak on this ‘subject with any degree of” certainty; but I assume- that the benefitsavailable to blind and other invalid pensioners’ are also available to- deaf and dumb people. I shall discuss the subject with the Minister for Health and advisethe honorable member of the position in. due course.
– Will the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Shipping; and Fuel indicate whether it is true, as reported, that the permitted’ sales of liquid fuel’s for all oil companies for the year ending the 31st March, 1949-, represent a reduction, as compared with sales for the year ended the 31st March, 1948, of power kerosene amounting to- 59,528 tons, representing 19.9’ per cent., lighting kerosene, 29,290 tons, representing 25.8 per cent., and distillate fuel, 2,394, representing 2.1 per cent? Is it also true that there is no- restriction on the sale of crude diesel oil, bunker fuel oil and white spirit? If those are facts, why are the fuels consumed by farmers in the production of food and those used by open-cut coal operators reduced while the fuels consumed in the cities and for shipping and clothes-cleaning are not restricted?
– The nature of the honorable member’s question is such that it is quite obvious I cannot answer it immediately. I shall refer his question to my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and ask him to supply an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Information arising from the following paragraph published recently : -
At a meeting of the Australian Association of Advertising Agencies held in Sydney there were suggestions made that the’ Government should organize through the Department of Information an annual Greater Australia celebration movement to arrange for the proper observance of Australia Day. At present the day has no significance and is regarded by most Australians merely as another holiday.
Has the Association of Advertising Agencies approached the Minister on this’ matter and will he consider the question of co-operating with them for a greater and more significant Australia Day?
– I have been ‘approached by that association and its suggestions are receiving consideration. Various organizations in different States are interested in this matter. One of them ia the Australian Natives Association, which is a very strong friendly society, particularly in Victoria. That society discusses matters of national importance from time to time and hae been very active regarding this particular matter. About a year ago it formed an Australia Day Council and engaged the services of General Sir Thomas Blarney to popularize the movement. Various representations have been made to the Government on this matter and I hope that the rising tide of Australian nationalism will ensure that the day which all Aus- tralians regard as their ‘ own particular day shall be fittingly celebrated and no longer be regarded, as heretofore, . a* merely another holiday.
TRADE WITH JAPAN.
– Some considerable time ago I raised with the Prime Minister the question of negotiations with Japan with a view to arriving at a basis on which some trade might be started between the two countries. The Prime Minister answered my question from memory and said that he would endeavour to supply a fuller answer later. 1 now ask whether he has any further information to impart on that subject?
– The honorable mem ber’s previous question was put to me the day after the Government had received certain proposals concerning trade’ between the two coun-tries of an estimated value of aboui £6,000,000 annually in each direction, though there might be a slight balance in favour of Australia. The general arrangement has been made with SCAP through the Supreme Commander.’ hut 1 am not able, offhand, to furnish the details of it. I shall arrange witb the appropriate officers to set out the details as soon as possible and will then have the information supplied to the honorable member.
WAR DAMAGE FUND.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether war damage insurance was collected for the Australian Government by local government bodies in the. States during the war? If so, will the Government consider returning the money so collected to the municipalities to enable them to undertake housing schemes for the accommodation of aged, homeless -.persons within their boundaries?
– During the war the Government made arrangements through the War Damage Commission, for localgovernment bodies to act as agents for the collection of war damage insurance. The staffing of regional collecting offices in different parts of Australia would have involved the diversion of man-power from more pressing work and local government bodies undertook to collect insurance payments as .a patriotic effort. No “ tags “ were attached to the offer of the local government bodies, and they carried out the task most ably. As the honorable member is aware, the Government has already introduced a measure to divert the accumulated profits from war damage insurance to a reserve fund for payment of war gratuity, and I am afraid that I cannot undertake to make any diversion cf that money into the channel suggested by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether a nation-wide iearch was commenced early last month for 45 Italian prisoners of war and two German ex-internees whom it was desired to arrest and deport? If so, is it a fact, as stated in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph that 500 investigation service officers were engaged in the search under the direction of the Department >f Immigration-
– Five hundred security officers?
– That is the number mentioned in the Sunday Telegraph report. Will the Minister inform the House of the annual cost to taxpayers of the huge army of investigation service officers which is being maintained ? What results were achieved by the search mentioned in the report to which I have referred ?
– If we had 500 investigation officers we should have found by now the stolen or forged documents about which so much has been said recently. The investigation service is much smaller than the report in the ‘ Sunday Telegraph suggests, [t is true that we have been trying to re-capture the escaped Italian and German prisoners of war and exinternees, and we intend to deport them from Australia when we apprehend them. None of them will be allowed to remain in this country. [ gave ample opportunity te those who had escaped to surrender themselves. I made two announcements that if they surrendered they would be sent back to Italy or Germany, as the case required, and could then apply for re-admission to Australia as migrants, in which event their applications would be considered. At the same time I stated that those who did not surrender would be deported summarily and no application for their re-admission to this country could be considered. We are now seeking those prisoners of war and internees who did not surrender. Only yesterday the Acting Leader of the Opposition asked a question concerning two of them, Duerkop and Schmidt. I am referring not to the human bloodhound from New England, but to the particular persons whose arrest we desire to effect. Following mention of those persons yesterday departmental officers called on the news editor pf the Sydney Sun, Mr. King, and interviewed him. They tried to glean some information regarding the whereabouts of the two men who were reported to be working in Sydney-
– One is a jeweller and the other is working in a leather works.
– The Sydney Sun had made the statement that they were so employed. Mr. King told my officers that the reporter who wrote the article was away from Sydney and would not be back before the end of the week. He said that he would question the reporter on his return, but he expected that it would not be until Monday or Tuesday of next week that he would be in a position to supply any further information. Mv officers pointed out that they required the. information urgently and that such a delay would not be helpful in trying to trace Duerkop and Schmidt, who would be already aware of the disclosure that they were in Sydney and that the authorities were searching for them there. The officers accordingly asked Mr. King to give them the reporter’s- name and hie present address, so that an officer of the department could interview him at once. However, Mr. King refused to divulge the reporter’s name or his whereabouts, but promised that if contact could be made he would question the reporter and then advise our office. It is obvious therefore that my officers will be getting little or no assistance from the Sydney Sun on the matter. They left the interview with that feeling.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware that damage of about £8,500 was done to fishing fleets in South Australia during the -violent storm last Sunday and Monday? Government members may smile but-
-The honorable member must complete his question.
– Is the Minister prepared to consider further the matter of providing boat harbour facilities for the fishing fleets’? I point out that it is of no use to send a newsletter monthly to the fishermen in my electorate telling them how to catch more fish, which the Minister said should be done, if the Commonwealth is not prepared to do something to protect boats which they require to carry on that work.
– In reply to the honorable member’s question-
– The Minister has said that increased efforts should be made to catch more fish sud has tried to advise them how to do it.
– The honorable member must cease interrupting; when he asks a question he should -at least have the courtesy to listen to a reply.
– Everybody is naturally disturbed at the damage suffered by the fisherman in those storms. As I understand the situation, the responsibility for providing adequate harbour accommodation on the coasts of the various States is the duty of the respective State governments, and not that of the Australian Government. I understand that there is provision in the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act, which is administered by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, whereby in certain circumstances money may be allocated for the provision of shelters for fishing fleets. If the honorable gentleman were to direct a question to my colleague regarding that aspect of the matter, I am sure that he would be given a most satisfactory ;answer.
– I have received from the Western Australian Onion Marketing Board a communication concerning the export of onions. Is the Minister aware that Victorian onions imported into Western Australia are being exported from Fremantle to Singapore, with the approval of the export division of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture? Is he further aware that, because these onions were pruned of quite lengthy shoots before shipment, they would continue to shoot during the journey to Singapore, where they undoubtedly would arrive in bad condition? As Western Australian onion-growers were financially affected last year as a result of the Ceylon authorities having placed an embargo on Australian onions, because the export of poor quality onions had been permitted from the eastern States,, will the Minister investigate this matterand ensure that steps will be taken to prevent damage to Australian markets, to the detriment of the Western Australian onion-growers ?
– It is not usual, nor would it be constitutional, for the Australian Government to attempt to prevent the shipment of onions from one State to another, and I am sure that the honorable member will agree that such action should not be taken. In view of the fact that the onions mentioned were Victorian onions., which have established a good reputation overseas, I see no reason to prohibit their free export from another State, provided that they are in such condition as to be fit for export. But I remind the honorable gentleman that inspection of onions to determine fitness for export is carried out. by officers of the Departments of Agriculture in the respective States. If there has been any remissness in this instance, it will be a matter for consideration whether it has been due to neglect on the part of the State officers. However, I should not imagine that there has been any neglect on the part of such officers. I shall make further inquiries into the matter.
– I am informed that an Australian National Airways Skymaster aeroplane flew to Italy about the 2nd October to bring Italian migrants to Australia and that that aeroplane was under charter to the Australian Government. I am ‘ also informed that that aeroplane left Australia empty. I ask the Minister for Immigration whether these are the true facts?
– I ask whether these statements are true. “Was that aeroplane under charter to the Australian Government, and was it permitted to go empty to Italy to bring Italian migrants to this country? If so, can the Minister inform the House of the circumstances, and explain how it was that Italian migrants were brought by air to Australia prior to British people who are waiting in England to come here? Why was that aeroplane permitted to fly empty rather than carry passengers, or food parcels to Great Britain?
– I am not much of a purist in language, but a statement is either a fact or not a fact. If a thing is true it must be a fact, and the honorable gentleman has not got his facts right. I am sorry that he has raised this matter in such a way as to create the suggestion of xenophobia in the minds of some people in this country. No aeroplane has been chartered by the Australian Government to bring any foreign nationals or any British migrants to Australia. We have used the magnificent Convair aeroplanes which TransAustralia Airlines purchased, to bring British migrants to Australia. I understand, subject to correction by my colleague the Minister for Air, that two Convairs are leaving Great Britain today with British migrants for this country. Aeroplanes do leave Australia under charter to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other non-governmental bodies to bring people here. Those aeroplanes leave this country empty because the Australian Government is not going to allow charter flights to interfere with the ordinary tyf rs.] activities of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and such organizations-
– Could not such aeroplanes be used to transport food parcels to Great Britain?
– In some instances they are used for that purpose, but in no instance are they permitted to carry passengers. People who travel by those aeroplanes have their fares paid by relatives in Australia. No governmental assistance is afforded to them at all. It is purely a private deal. I am glad to see those migrants coming here. They are coining to relatives who have guaranteed them accommodation in their own homes and undertaken to find them employment in this country. Many of them are going to work in the sugar industry in Queensland. Others will go to the irrigation areas, where they will help to produce food which, if not needed in Australia, will be available for shipment to Great Britain. We want many more people in Australia. If the honorable member proposes to ask any more questions of this kind I advise him to come and see me first.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say whether it is the intention of the Government to transport 100 migrants from Britain to Australia on the delivery flights of four of the five Convair aircraft that were purchased by Trans- Australia Airlines? Will each of these migrants be required to pay a fare of £260 sterling, or any fare at all? If so, will the Minister inform the House why the Government considers it to be necessary to turn the transport of migrants into a money-making venture for Trans-Australia Airlines, and why desirable migrants who cannot afford to pay such fares are not given first preference in the allocation of seats in aircraft travelling to Australia on delivery flights?
– As I announced in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta a few moments ago, the Australian Government is using the magnificent Convair aircraft that were purchased by Trans-Australia Airlines for the purpose of bringing, on their initial flight to Australia, some migrants to this country. The fares that will be charged to the migrants who travel on the machines will be those that would ordinarily be charged less the amounts that would be paid by the British Government and the Australian Government respectively, if the persons had travelled by sea. This is not a money-making venture.
– Will the money go to Trans-Australia Airlines?
– The money will be paid to Trans-Australia Airlines. If we can utilize seats in these aircraft to bring more people to Australia, it is right and proper that we should do so. It would be ridiculous if the aircraft travelled from the United Kingdom to Australia without passengers when they could be filled with people who can afford to pay the fare that I have indicated. The Australian Government is under no obligation to fly any person to Australia free of charge. The migrants who come to this country under the assisted passages schemes pay something, and the British and Australian Governments also pay something. There is nothing in the mistaken idea of the honorable member that we are trying to make Trans-Australia Airlines pay by bringing people from the United Kingdom in these four Convair aircraft. Trans- Australia Airlines is becoming a very profitable organization, and will shortly be paying its way. As a matter of fact, it will soon beat its competitors out of the skies entirely. We shall bring as many migrants as we can by air to this country under this scheme and T also hope, under another scheme that is at present being negotiated. I am sorry if the honorable gentleman feels that we should work on such an equalitarian basis that, although a person can afford to pay for a passage from the United Kingdom to Australia by air, he must nevertheless take his place at the back of a queue of persons who are waiting for berths on ships.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether it is true that Dr. Keith Barry, federal controller of programmes for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has been nominated by the Australian
Government to represent Australia at a meeting convened in Paris by Unesco of broadcasting experts representing eighteen nations? What isthe nature of the conference? Will Dr. Barry investigate overseas programme arrangements, and bring back new ideas for the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the British Broadcasting Corporation and other organizations?
– I believe that Dr. Keith Barry has been appointed a delegate to the conference convened in Paris by Unesco. I understand that approval for his attendance at the conference was given by my colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, on the advice of the Commonwealth Office of Education. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to provide me with answers to the questions asked by the honorable member, and I shall let him have the information as soon as possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which is founded upon a report that Mr. R. A. King, M.L.C., a director of 2KY, a radio station in New South Wales, announced a decision by his board of directors in these terms -
The Government has suggested that it is going to nationalize radio, so it would not pay us to purchase property for new studios.
In view of this announcement, by a leading Labour personality, of a decision not to proceed with the expansion of the radio station owned by the Labour party because of an authoritative report, that the Government intends to nationalize radio, will the Prime Minister state whether it is the policy and intention of the Government to nationalize commercial radio stations?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Mr. King. I announced in this House a few days ago that the proposed legislation which had been recommended to the Parliamentary Labour party, and which, of course, will not come before the Parliament until the party has made its decision, had nothing to do with the nationalization of radio stations.
– Not yet !
– People who gaze into the crystal ball always have an advantage over line. 1 assure the honorable member that the nationalization of radio stations has not been considered by the Government.
Australians in J apas,” : Housing for Return rso Fa m i lies.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a report in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald in which it was stated that a woman, who had just returned from Japan with her daughter on the ship Duntroon, intended to “ squat “ on the vessel until the Army had honoured its promise to find her a home? Can the Minister say what specific promises in regard to housing were made in this and similar cases ? Is it true, as stated by Major A. C. Irwin, officer in charge of personnel arriving from Japan, that the Army had agreed to find accommodation for all who intended returning from Japan, but that sometimes objection was raised to the kind of accommodation offered? What kind of accommodation has been offered, and in what locality?
– It. is true that the Army arranged to provide accommodation for those wives and families of members of the occupation force who returned from Japan if they have not homes of their own to go to. The accommodation offered is in guest houses, hotels, &c, and I have not previously heard that objection had been taken to it. It is the only kind of accommodation available. Because of the difficulty of providing accommodation for returning families, the Government has decided not t,o send any more wires and families to Japan:
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. In his capacity as Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, he has, f presume, some control over the Waite Institute in South Australia. My question relates to the dust cloud which has enveloped the eastern areas of Australia during the last few days, and which received much publicity in the press. In view of the dum age caused by overstocking of the western areas of New South Wales, northern South Australia and the channel country of western Queensland - an area, which it is proposed to over-develop still more - can the Minister say whether Professor Prescott, a well-known authority on soil erosion is in Australia at present, will he arrange for the professor to be seconded to investigate the problem, and if possible lay down a comprehensive policy to combat erosion in the central areas of the continent, where the rainfall does not exceed five inches a year ?
– When the honorable member began to ask this question, “I thought that he was about to add to the various criticisms of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which had been voiced recently in this chamber, and to blame that organization for having been the cause of the recent dust clouds over the eastern States. Offhand, I am not able to inform the honorable member whether Professor Prescott is in Australia at the present time. I believe that he is, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable gentleman. The honorable member has also asked that Professor Prescott be seconded to some unspecified body for the purpose of recommending practical measures to combat soil erosion, but I noticed that, in asking his question, he mentioned certain parts of the Commonwealth, including western New South Wales, south-western Queensland and the northern part of South Australia. Primarily, the responsibility for preventing soil erosion in those areas rests with the respective State governments, and if they require the services of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as an organization, or any of its officers, they should make a request to the Australian Government in the usual way.
– Professor Prescott is a State officer.
– That is so. He has been associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the conduction of various experiments, but he is not an officer of that body. The proper proctdure is for the State governments concerned to approach the Australian
Government with a request for the services of the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch, as an organization, to combat soil erosion. If the States adopt that procedure, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Besearch may enlist the services of Professor Prescott or any other State officers who have been associated with it in that kind of work.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for the Navy a question about an incident in which ratings of H.M.A.S. Kanimbla were involved in Genoa, in Italy. One Australian naval rating was killed, and others were injured. Has the Minister for Immigration seen a later report to the effect that the captain of H.M.A.S. Kanimbla was threatened with firearms, beaten and thrown into gaol? The Minister for the Navy did not have that information when I addressed my earlier question to him, but in the mean.time H.M.A.S. Kanimbla has arrived at an Australian port and additional information may be available about the incident. Until the matter is fully investigated and the Italian Government makes suitable amends, will the Minister for Immigration consider the imposition of sanctions against ex-enemy Italian migrants and refuse landing permits to them ?
– The honorable member is prejudging the matter on a newspaper report.
– Does not the Minister believe the report?
– I believe very little of what I read in the press, and I am not the only person in this country who is of opinion that newspaper reports are generally spiced with prejudice and misinformation. The Minister for the Navy has advised me that an official report has not yet been received from the captain of H.M.A.S. Kanimbla or the Naval Board. Unfortunately, an Australian naval rating was killed in the incident at Genoa. That fatality was most regrettable. Nobody will sympathize with the action of any person who was responsible for his death, even if it occurred in hot blood or in the midst of a brawl, no matter who was responsible for the brawl.
I have the natural prejudice that all of us have in favour of Australians, whatever may happen to them anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, in a matter of this sort, we must wait until we get the official report. I promise the honorable member that I shall give consideration to his request after the Minister for the Navy has received the report of the Naval Board, studied it and made an announcement to the Parliament..
– I lay on the table the following papers : -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Report, with maps, by thecommissioners appointed for: the purpose of redistributing the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives approves of. the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. J. M. W. Anderson, W.V. Fyfe and J. G. Kilpatrick, the commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 30th day of Sep tember, 1948, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted. except that the name “ Curtin “ be substituted for the name “ Stirling “.
– Has the
Minister for Civil Aviation read the report of evidence given at the Lutana inquiry yesterday that traffic at Mascot airport has increased to 220 aircraft daily and that more officers and recorders are required in the operations section at the aerodrome? Has he also seen the report of evidence to the effect that the installation of long-range radar equipment would be a valuable contribution to the safety of the present flight control system? As some time may elapse before the report of the court of inquiry is presented to the Government, and as safe flying is of paramount importance, will the Minister take immediate action to increase the staff at Mascot airport as suggested, and will he state what the Government intends to do about the suggestion that long-range radar equipment be installed ?
– I have seen several press reports of evidence that has been given at the court of inquiry into the Lutana accident, but I do not regard what I read in the newspapers as authoritative. I have requested that the transcript of the evidence given at the inquiry be forwarded to me from time to time, but it is unlikely that I shall take action before the finding of the court has been supplied to me, unless there is a desperate necessity for action. Whilst statements may be made about shortages or the inadequacy of certain safety provisions, I am of the opinion that the safety of air operations in Australia has been proved. That does not suggest that the system is infallible and, if improvements can be made to increase safety, I shall be prepared to take action to have them, made without delay. Until the report of the court of inquiry is delivered to me 1 shall regard the matter as being sub judice. In those circumstances, I am not prepared to take any action at this stage.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The impairing of friendly relations with the United States of America by reason of allegations made by the Minister for Immigration to the effect that the United States authorities have violated an agreement respecting certain Australian women engaged in post-war work for the United States Government.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen hi support of the motion,
– I desire to point out that because of the clumsy blundering of the Chifley Government, it is well on the way to wrecking our friendly relation? with the United States of
America. The future security of Australia depends upon the maintenance of a thorough understanding between those two countries as primary Pacific powers ; but the Chifley Government has allowed its Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) to engage in verbal warfare with the State Department of the’ United States of America. Also, because of the failure of the Chifley Government to deal with Communists in government departments, the Government of the United States of America has had cause to express doubt about Australia as a good security risk.
– Order ! The honorable member’s motion deals with a specific matter, which is the alleged violation of an agreement by the United States of America “respecting certain Australian women engaged in post-war work for the United States Government “. He must confine his remarks to that matter.
– I am pointing out that the already disturbed relations between Australia and America have become further disturbed, and that the matter is now very urgent. The latest Calwell incident is merely an attempt to gain international publicity at any cost. A handful of Australian girls are working in the United States of America. They are not in that country as indentured labour. They went there of their own volition. They assisted in very important wartime jobs. They are earning good money in important positions. They carry Australian passports, and have not offended in any way against the laws of either this country or the United States of America; yet the Minister temporarily in charge of the Department of Immigration has issued instructions that are tantamount to extradition orders. The girls are to be dragged back from the United States of America. Australian diplomatic representatives in that country are being used in exactly the same manner as the Russian diplomatic representatives were used in the two recent incidents concerning Soviet schoolteachers in New York who were ordered back to Moscow. Those incidents caused international friction, and culminated in one of the teachers jumping out of a window and the Soviet consul getting lm inarching orders from the Government of the United States of America to leave that country. How can we uxpect American public opinion to differentiate between the Australian and Russian incidents? In both cases those immediately concerned had expressed a preference to remain in the United States and their respective governments attempted to force them back to their own countries. Is the Calwell attitude any different from that adopted by the Russians? Equally grave is the substance of the charges levelled by this Minister of the Chifley Government against the United States administration. The American authorities have been accused of breaking an agreement, but, so far, no evidence has been produced that such an agreement ever existed. As to the existence of an agreement we have only the say-so of this Minister of the Chifley Government. Yet the American State Department, the American Army and four other United States Government departments have been directly involved by these wild, unsubstantiated charges of had faith. No Minister of any Australian government has the right to sign any agreement interfering with the free movement of Australian nationals. This is not the Soviet Union, and thank God, we are not yet behind the iron curtain. So, if the Chifley Government signed any agreement with an officer of the American Army, it did so in complete violation of (he constitutional rights of the Australian citizens involved. That phase of this country’s history ceased with the ending of the kanaka trade. The liberties of Australian nationals are not to be bartered away by a Minister or by n government as if our people were merely cattle. By recklessly accusing the American Government of violating the text of an agreement, and by directly involving responsible American public servants employed at the American Embassy at Canberra, without a scintilla of evidence to support these charges, the Chifley Government is destroying the goodwill developed between the two nations by the close association of war. Such action is a slur on Labour’s own former leader, Mr. Curtin, who offered the hand of comradeship to the United
States of America when he appealed for help in his broadcast directed to that nation when things looked black in the South Pacific. He, too, made commitments that are being recklessly violated by the actions of the Minister for Immigration. The Chifley Government is repudiating the commitments made by the Curtin Government. If the Minister gets his way, and these women are dragged out of jobs in the United States, it will be at the cost of the loss of American public opinion. The only difference between the Australian girls and the Russian women is that our girls are typists and the Russians were teachers. These lime-lighting tactics of the Minister come at a most inopportune time. They happen at a time when grave doubts are being expressed by the United States Government whether Australia is a good security risk. Apart altogether from the source of certain documents produced in this chamber recently, there is certain knowledge that their contents were authentic and that the Government of the United States has its doubts of us. The United States Government is fully informed of Communist activities in this country., Its congressional committee investigating communism recently reported that some of the leading enemies of the United States of America came from Australia. The American Embassy in Canberra would be remiss in its duty if it failed to report to Washington that the decisions in relation to these Australian girls were made not by the Parliament but by the Minister for Immigration and the Chifley Government. If these matters are not reported it is well that this Parliament should make clear to the United States of America that the Parliament as a whole does not approve of the Minister’s actions. There is a feeling in the United States of America that Australia is not to be trusted and that the Australian Government and the Minister for Immigration are irresponsible. The Minister should be curbed immediately. His impetuosity should be restrained. He should be prevented from further injuring the good relations that exist between the two nations. He should withdraw his affronts to the American State Department. The Australian girls should be allowed to remain in the United States of America without ministerial interference. Even more urgently, the Chifley Government should clear out the Communists, that it admits are employed in key security departments. Then the way will be clear to reestablish good relations with America. Finally, is the Minister for Immigration in charge of the international affairs policy of Australia? I challenge the Prime Minister to say whether he endorses the Minister’s action. Has the right honorable gentleman abdicated in favour of the Minister for Immigration? l!f the Prime Minister remains silent, it is obvious that the Minister for Immigration directs the Government and that his policy prevails. The Parliament should be informed whether the Minister for Immigration consulted the Cabinet on this matter or whether both the Cabinet and the Prime Minister are dragged in as consenting parties to every brawl in which the Minister involves the Government. Finally, in particular, I desire to know whether the Prime Minister and the Cabinet endorse the following statemerit made by the Minister in this House last week: -
There would hu ve been no trouble if the United States Army authorities had honoured vim obligation they had entered into .
I seu no reason why I should make it easier fur anybody, particularly the representatives “f a great power, to escape the obligations which they entered into with the Government if this cou ii try.
The Prime Minister must either answer rhat, or be silent. If he is silent, then the country will know the inference to draw from his silence.
1 11.30]. - According to information that I have received, the motion which the chamber is debating was intended to be placed before the House yesterday. It appears, however, that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) wits not able to obtain the necessary support from the Opposition to make it advisable for him to submit the motion at that stage. There has been a considerable mount of manoeuvring around the corridors of the House to ensure that there would be a sufficient number of members opposite who would rise to support such a worthless and ridiculous motion.
– Has the Government’s gestapo been at work again ?
– It is significant that not one member of the Liberal party rose to support the motion, and that those members of the Australian Country party who did so were so ashamed of their action that instead of standing straight up like men they rose in simian fashion, using their hands to propel themselves upwards.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order .’
– The motion, which has been placed formally before thu House, is without substance and is designed, not to promote good relations with the United States of America, but rather to poison them. Those honorable members of the Australian Country party who have lent themselves to this manoeuvre to-day have every reason to be ashamed of the part they have played. Let us consider the content of this motion. It deals with the question of the alleged impairment of friendly relations between the United States of America and Australia. The girls are dragged in only as an afterthought, the whole emphasis being placed upon the alleged impairment of good relationship. As I stated recently, Australia’s relations with America are so good that we can afford to be perfectly frank in discussions relating to our mutual problems. We have not, damaged our relations with America by representing to the United States authorities that agreements, expressed and implied, which were entered into by their representatives in Australia, should have effect, given to them.
– The frankness is very one-sided.
– We on our part are perfectly frank at all times, and the American authorities also have always been frank and helpful. The American Embassy has in its files a copy of a letter sent to the Australian Government by Mr. Harold Shantz, who was counsellor at the American Embassy at Canberra when Mr. Butler was Ambassador, in which he acknowledged that an agreement in regard to those girls existed.
There were both oral and other agreements between Mr. John Minter and American army officers and myself. Everybody knew that the arrangement was that the girls should leave Australia for a period of six months to serve with the American forces and then be returned to Australia at the expense of the American army. An explicit undertaking was given that during that period of six months the American authorities would train their own girls to take the places of the Australian girls. The Australian Government did not disturb that arrangement even at the end of six months, but allowed it to continue. Almost two years passed before the Government officially raised the matter of the return of the girls. There would have been no publicity in respect of this matter had it not been for the action of the Melbourne Herald in either “cracking “ a cable or stealing a telegram and using it as the basis of a story. The information used could only have been obtained from a cablegram from the Australian Government to the Australian Embassy in the United States; or from one sent by that Embassy to the Australian Government. No other document existed upon which the Melbourne Herald could have based its story, and I may state that the Government has not completed its investigations as to how the newspaper obtained the information on which its story rested. The proudest day of my life will be that on which I see the editor of the Melbourne Herald in the dock charged under that section of the Crimes Act which provides for seven years gaol without the option. I personally would also like to see punishment meted out to other people who have used stolen documents which deal with our relations with the United States of America. As I stated, those girls left Australia with the full knowledge of the conditions attaching ‘to their employment by the Americans. If those conditions were not satisfactory to them they could have said that they did not desire to go. They went however, and they have no right to alter the conditions which were made between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America, and which were not agreements made with the girls themselves. They knew that the American army would return them in due course to Australia. The American army authorities at Guam returned about 100 Australian men and women who served there with them, and on that occasion, no attempt was made in this house by honorable members opposite or their de facto leader the honorable member for Reid, to drag the poison cart around this chamber and thus impair, or try to impair, our relations with the United States of America. The honorable member for Reid publishes in Sydney a newspaper known as the Century, which is the most violently antiAmerican publication in this country. During the war, through the columns of this newspaper, the honorable member attacked General MacArthur to as great a degree as the censorship provisions would allow.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, called the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) to order and declared that he must adhere to the terms of the motion. I submit that the Minister is now departing very widely from its terms.
– The honorable member for Reid spoke of the impairment of relations with the United States of America. The Minister is entitled to show that the honorable member’s actions in the past were along certain lines, but he is not entitled to deal with that aspect at great length. So far, however, the Minister is in order.
– I have only adopted the police court tactic of showing the bad faith of the propounder of the motion which refers to the impairment of our friendly relations with the United States of America. The honorable member for Reid is the last person entitled to talk about friendly relations with America because he has never wanted them to continue. He, and others associated with him, hate the name of America and hate to be reminded of what America has done for the defence of Australia. The pretext on which the honorable member moved his resolution does not exculpate him from his guilt over the war years and up till recent times in the matter of impairing friendly relations with the United States of America. The arguments which he used about a security risk are beside the point. The American authorities, on the ambassadorial level, the military level, the consular level or on any other authoritative level, have never said anything to this country regarding any of the matters canvassed by the honorable member for Reid. The Government has always been proud of its relations with the United States of America, and realizes that without that country’s assistance in the Pacific in the year’s that lie ahead Australia has little hope of happiness or prosperity. Australia needs to shelter under the broad wing of the American eagle if it is to survive, and everything that has been done by the Government has been done in good faith and with the desire to reach a quick and satisfactory settlement of any problems that may exist between the two countries. The Government’s action in asking the American authorities to return those girls to Australia was reasonable and all the attempts made by the press and certain honorable members in this chamber, particularlysome members of the Australian Country party and the honorable member for Reid, to stir up trouble on the issue are damaging to Australia’s good name and can only give satisfaction to those who are enemies of both America and Australia. The Government has done nothing of which it has reason to be ashamed. It certainly has not impaired friendly relations with America and has no intention of doing so. Only those who continue, either for political or other reasons, to talk the nonsense that has been talked here to-day. are guilty of impairing such relations or trying to do so.
– Will the Minister tell us why it was decided to bring these girls home?
– I have already told the honorable member that, in the first instance, an agreement was made that the girls were to remain abroad for six months, and, in the meantime, Americans were to be trained to take their places. We allowed those girls to remain abroad for two years.
– Why has the Minister raised the matter now?
– We wanted the matter settled because some of the girls now find themselves stranded and are appealing to the Australian Government to bring them back. In one unhappy instance, to which I have already referred, we shall probably be involved in heavy expenditure in returning the girl to Australia. I have not the slightest doubt that ultimately all those girls will approach the Australian Government and ask to be brought back at its expense.
– Cannot the Government make a new agreement with them ?
– The Government does . not run away from its agreements, and it accepts full responsibility for what it does.
– I did not mean that–
– I think that I know what the honorable member had in mind. The honorable member is suggesting that the Government might very well adopt the attitude of saying to the girls, “ You are over there now, and it does not matter to us what happens to you”.
– That is not at all what I had in mind. I was thinking of the way in which service personnel are discharged after a war.
– The American authorities have not expressed any disagreement with or dissent from the action taken by the Australian Government. If there is any concern in the minds of American authorities it is at the press campaign which has played up the matter, not in order to serve the interests of the girls or to, improve relations between the United States of America and this country, but in order to cause trouble. In conclusion, I congratulate members of the Liberal party on their sanity, political acumen and good sense in having refrained from associating themselves with the motion now before the House, which was initiated by the de facto Leader of the Australian Country party, and who may also be the de facto Leader of the Opposition.
Las been an interesting experience to hear the Minister for Information and Immigration (Mr. Calwell) defend the action of the Government, which has ordered the girls to return to Australia, and to listen to his assertion that at any time the Government of Australia or of any other country has the right to say to any of its citizens working abroad, “Now is the time when you must come home “, because no honorable member has had more to say about human rights than the Minister. It is ironical that the Minister should adopt such an attitude, because he is the Minister responsible for attracting people to Australia from other countries. How will the Department of Immigration function, and how will the Government settle this country, if governments abroad, act as he has acted in this matter? How we are going to attract people to Australia and keep them here if other governments are to be free to say to the Australian Government at any time. “ You must send all our nationals home”? In fact, we had a recent example of that when the Communist Government of Yugoslavia arbitrarily recalled some. 5,000 Yugoslav nationals who were living in Australia. As honorable members realize, their sudden withdrawal from our country was a serious matter for Australia. It is outrageous that the Government, and particularly the Minister for Immigration, should take the stand which they have taken in this matter. The only other countries in the world which adopt a similar attitude are Russia and Yugoslavia, which are under Communist domination.
Furthermore. I consider that the action taken by the Minister, who has the support of the Government, in this matter, constitutes a breach of the fundamental rights of the people. Those rights are expressly guaranteed by the Atlantic Charter and by the Charter of the United Nations which provides that a citizen of any country has the right to leave his country and work wherever he likes, provided that he engages in honorable employment and his action is not such as to prejudice his country’s security. I remind honorable members that the present Government, and particularly the Minister, have paid lip service to that principle again and again. Not very long ago twenty or thirty young Australians who were members of the Eureka Youth League, or some other youth movement, went to Yugoslavia to work on the construction of a railway line in thai country. It was revealed that their real purpose in going to Yugoslavia was to he indoctrinated in the techniques of communism, and that unfortunately they will seek to put into practice those technique? on their return to this country. The matter was brought to the attention of the Minister at the time, and in thicourse of his defence of the attitude adopted by the Government in the matter he said, in effect - “ This is not a Communist government. I will be quite honest about it “.
He also said - “ We deplore young: people going abroad -l.” learn Communist techniques, but at the sunntime it is none of our business where our nationals go provided they do not infringe the law. They have a right to go where they like “.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who supported the Minister’s attitude on that occasion, made similar statements when he was questioned regarding thivisits of Mr. Sharkey, the well-known Communist, to Malaya, India and other places. The present Government, which has stated repeatedly that it is not entitled to interfere with the freedom of movement of its citizens, and has refused to do so in the case I have cited, did not hesitate to intervene in this instance and dictate to these girls.
The circumstances surrounding the departure of these girls from Australia have been outlined by both the Minister for Immigration and by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). The girls went abroad with the United States forces to assist in carrying out essential work after the war. They were to return to Australia after six months, and I admit at once that, the Minister allowed them to remain abroad for a considerably longer period. It is true that most of them have returned to Australia, but others have remained abroad. Undoubtedly, they had in mind their right as citizens of a. free nation to go where they wanted and to work for a country which had been onr ally. Of course, in refusing to return to Australia they defied the Minister. They apparently believed that they could go where they pleased. They had their passports extended, and went from the Philippines to the United States, where t,hey continued to defy the Minister. They insisted on their normal civilian right to live and work where they wished. But now is the Minister’s opportunity. Yow his opportunity has come. Those girls have ‘defied him; now they shall suffer for it! Look at the steps he has taken. First of all, he wrote to the Government of the United States and asked that the. girls be dismissed from their employment. That is a nice thing for a government which has assured us, time after time, that people have a right r,o work wherever they wish ! The members of the Government pay continual lip service to the workers. Let it apply the principle of freedom to these girls, lt is despicable for a Minister of the Commonwealth to write to a foreign government about a few unfortunate girls working for their living in that country, seeking to have them dismissed from their employment. The girls have passports, nothing can be said against
I hem, and they are a credit to their country; yet the Minister has now begun negotiations to have them extradited from America. I cannot criticize his action too strongly. 1 also want to say something about the means which the Minister has employed to achieve his purpose, and the manner in which he has defended his action in this House. He has not hesitated to throw the blame on the Government of the United States of America. He referred to agreements and to breaches of agreements made with our war-time ally, the United States of America. He deplored the friction which he alleged members of the Opposition were creating between the two Governments in this matter. The explanation is that the Minister found himself in a corner when he was called upon to defend his action in this matter, and he did not care what lie said. He knows that the differences between the Governments of the United States of America and this country have attracted great interest and have received considerable publicity abroad. A great deal . of publicity has also been given to the matter by the Communist presses of Russia and its satellite countries. The Minister’s conduct is worse than irresponsible and despicable; it is cowardly, because yesterday he reflected, by innuendo, on the girls. Yesterday, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked him a question about a Mrs. Garrett, one of the Australian girls who married a United States lieutenant in the island of Guam. She was one of those ordered home. When she sent a reply-paid cablegram to the Minister, he did not reply, and she had to return. On her arrival in Australia, as the Minister told us yesterday, she was told, “ You can either go back to Guam to your husband, or he can come to Australia “. The Minister implied that this marriage had been broken up through no fault of his. The truth of the matter is that the man was a serving officer who could not come to Australia. He was ordered back to the United States. What was the use of this girl returning to Guam when her husband was no longer there? It is futile for the Minister to say that although he does not wish to go into the matter, he is acting in the best interest of the girls. It has been said that some of the girls were in trouble there. Even if they were in trouble, I hold that they have the right to remain abroad. If they get into trouble that, is their business. The Minister should not set himself up as an arbiter of morality and people’s interests before issuing them with passports or permits to go abroad, and passports having been issued to them, they should bc permitted to stay abroad.
– I shall deal very briefly with this matter, concerning which there has been more hypocrisy by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) than I have ever before known in this House.
– That is not a sufficient answer.
– The honorable member for Reid has done more to promote ill-feeling between the United States of
America and Australia, and between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, than has any other person in this country. During the war period, journals that he controlled indulged in a campaign of hatred of people from the United Kingdom. I rose merely to support what the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said and not with the object of carrying this argument between Australia and the United States of America to international levels. The honorable member for Reid asked whether I accept responsibility in this matter. I support the Minister. On one occasion the Minister came to me, accompanied by a representative df ‘ the American Embassy in Australia, who inquired on behalf of the American army authorities whether the Government would permit certain girls, who were then employed by them, to go abroad and work for the American army. The Government was averse to the girls going abroad for that purpose because difficulties had arisen from time to time, when girls who had gone abroad had subsequently become stranded, and all sorts of pathetic and sentimental reasons have been advanced why they should be repatriated at government expense. I discussed the matter fully with the Minister and the American representative. It was requested that girls should be permitted to go abroad for six months, at the end of which period suitable female assistance would be forthcoming from America to release them. At the time the American army authorities were experiencing difficulty in procuring female assistants from the United States of America. Despite what honorable members have said about a written agreement and other matters, I assure the House that the American authorities gave a complete assurance to the Minister and me .that within six months, the Americans would obtain their own citizens to carry on the work when the Australian girls would be returned to Australia. That was a completely clear arrangement, with which the girls themselves were in agreement. It is only reasonable that an agreement of that character should be honoured.
– Were the girls a party to the agreement?
– The girls distinctly understood the conditions under which they were going.
– Have they signed the agreement ?
– It is not a matter of signing an agreement. The honorable member for Reid suggested that the Minister has no right to sign any agreement, or to make any agreement involving the movement of Australian nationals. Frequently, however, the honorable member suggests that the Minister should refuse to issue passports to certain persons who desire to leave the country. Have honorable members ever before heard of such hypocrisy? That is entirely the reverse of what the honorable gentleman is asking the Minister to do to-day. I wish merely to make clear what the Minister has already said about the girls. The understanding between the representative of the American authorities and the Australian Government was a gentlemen’s agreement. I do not claim that the American Department of State knew all about it, but the representative of the American Embassy here, on behalf of the American army authorities, certainly entered into a simple gentlemen’s agreement, of which the girls were fully connizant. There is one thing I do like, and that is that people should keep their word. Nothing more than that is asked should be done in this instance. The whole matter could have been straightened oux quite amicably if it had been left to the Minister and the American authorities to handle. The reason that this was not done is that there was something about it which could be used for political purposes. When some people talk about relations between America and Australia, they do not really care what the relations .are, so long as they achieve political publicity, which they hope will react to the detriment of the Government. I shall not enlarge on that except to make it perfectly clear that, in conjunction with the Minister, I was a party to the arrangement made in regard to this matter, which was a gentlemen’s agreement - or a ladies’ agreement. The Government does not propose to enter into a lengthy discussion on the matter.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That the question be now piit.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the .12th October (vide page 1468), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I warmly commend the Government for introducing this “measure to liberalize social service payments at an additional cost to Consolidated Revenue of £15,000,000 a year. No doubt, some will say that an expenditure of £80,000,000 for social services for hospital, pharmaceutical and tuberculosis benefits, in addition to the present expenditure of £10,000,000, is more than the country can afford; but the Labour Government can take great pride in the fact that it has so consistently and generously pursued its policy of liberalizing social service benefits that to-day its expenditure on social services is £90,000,000 annually compared with an annual expenditure of £17,000,000 when it assumed office seven years ago, or an increase of (73,000,000 annually. When the Government assumed office in 1941 the only social services provided by the Parliament were old-age and invalid pensions, maternity allowances and child endowment. The Government has not only greatly liberalized those classes of benefits, but has also introduced benefits for the wives and children of invalid pensioners, funeral benefits, pensions for widows and deserted wives and women whose husbands are inmates of prisons or mental institutions, and unemployment, sickness, hospital, tuberculosis and pharmaceutical benefits. As honorable members aTe aware, the Government also has well under way its plan for a national health scheme. The people of this country, including even the political opponents of the Government, must agree that it has taken Australia much further along the road to social security than has any other government in the history of the Commonwealth. When the Menzies Government was defeated in October, 1941, the maximum rate of invalid and old-age pensions was £1 ls. 6d. a week, whereas under this measure those pensions will be increased to £2 2s. 6d. a week, or an increase of nearly 100 per cent. At the same time, child endowment is being increased by 2s. 6d. a week to 10s. a week, which also represents an increase of 100 per cent, since the Government assumed office. In addition, the Government has abolished the means test for the payment of maternity allowances and has substantially increased the amounts of those allowances. In 1941, the allowances payable under that heading were £4 10s., £5’ and £7 10s., according to the number of previous children under the age of fourteen years, and the Government has now raised those amounts to £15, £16 and £17 10s., according to the number of previous children under the age of sixteen years.
I am pleased that the Government is now able to take a further important step in the relaxation of the means test for pensions. About two years ago, when speaking in this chamber., on the bill which provided for the first easement of the means test by raising the permissible income from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week and the property limit from £400 to £650, I expressed the hope that that measure would merely be the forerunner of further steps towards the removal of the means test, and thereby encourage thrift, stimulate the will to work and guarantee to the people of this country complete social security. The bill now before us represents an important step further in that direction. It permits a pensioner to have an income of 30s. a week in addition to the full pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, or a total income of £3 12s. 6d. a week. A married couple, both of whom are eligible for pension, will be permitted to earn an income of £3 a week between them in addition to their combined pension of £4 5s. a week, making their total combined income £7 5s. a week. Should they have an income of £4 a week they will be eligible to receive a combined pension of £3 5s. a week, making a total combined income of £7 5s. a week; and should they have an income of £5 a week they will be eligible for a pension of £2 5s. a week, still making their combined income £7 5s. a week. All honorable members will agree that this measure guarantees to aged couples possessing a little income of their own a reasonable degree of comfort in the eventide of their lives. In addition to the permissible income, a couple will be allowed to own property, <«r assets, to the value of £219, in addition to their home, without suffering any reduction, of pension. 1 am pleased that the increase of the permissible income by. 10s. a week is also to apply to blind pensioners. Notwithstanding the fact that blind pensioners are already in a favorable position in that respect, this measure will permit a blind pensioner to have an income of £5 17s. 6d. a week in addition to the full pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, making a total income of £S a week. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) pointed out in his second-reading speech, a. blind married couple will be eligible to receive a pension of £4 5s. $ week between them and will be permitted to earn an additional income of £5 17s. 6d. a. week, making a combined income of £10 2s. 6d. a week. No one in the community will begrudge to- blind people this concession in respect of permissible income. The property exemption has been raised from £50 to £100, and the property limit above which no pension will be payable has been .raised from £650 to £750. Those alterations are not spectacular, but the new limit of £750 represents an increase of 87 per cent, on the limit of £400 which stood for 23 years up to 1946. [Quorum formed.’] I hope it will not be long before the Government is able to raise the property limit still more, so that aged persons with small incomes from property, who are now prevented from drawing a pension because the value of the property is just over the limit, may have their incomes supplemented by the payment of a partial pension.
This Labour Government is the only one in Australia which has done anything for widows. It was a Labour government which introduced the widows’ pension scheme in 1942, and since then it has steadily increased the rates of pensions payable to the various classes of widows. This bill provides that a class “ A “ widow, that is, a widow with one or more children under sixteen years of age, shall receive a pension of 47s. 6d. a week, an increase of 58 per cent, above the original rate of 30s. The new rate for a class “ B “ widow, that is a widow over 50 years of age with no children under sixteen, will be 37s. a week, an increase of 4S per cent, on the original rate of 25s. a week. The percentage increase is greater still for a class “ O “ widow; that is, a widow under 50 years of age without dependent children, who is entitled to a pension for six months after her husband’s death if she is in necessitous circumstances. The bill provides that she may be paid 42s. 6d. a week, an increase of 70 per cent, on the original rate of 25s.
I intend to make a. brief reference to the limits which it is proposed to place on dual Commonwealth payments of war pension and civil pension. Upon a casual examination, it might appear that it is somewhat unjust to impose a special restriction on income comprising a war pension, when a similar restriction does not apply to income from other sources. However, when the proposal is examined more carefully, it will be seen that no injustice is done. I am certain that no honorable member who advocated an increase of the permissible income for civil pensioners ever contemplated that it might have the effect of substantially increasing pension payments by the Commonwealth to any person. The intention of the Government was to enable a pensioner to earn a little more money without his pension being affected. The Government certainly did not contemplate the payment of pensions amounting to £7 5s. a week to married couples. In my opinion, the limits stipulated in the bill are reasonable for the time being, and I rely on the promise of the Government, given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), to have the limits further examined from time to time. The Minister has also given an assurance that in no case will there be a reduction of the combined amount at present being received by way of war pension and civil pension.
As I have already indicated, the bill will give the people of Australia a further substantial measure of social security. Since 1941, Labour governments have doubled the amount of the age and invalid pensions, and have eased the means test. They have trebled the amount of maternity allowances, and doubled the amount of child endowment payments. They have introduced widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, special benefits to sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants, allowances for wives and children of invalid pensioners, and funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners. A comparison between present and past social service payments is informative. In 1.938-39, the last pre-war year, a nonLabour . government paid back to the people-, in social service benefits only £16,4138,000. The budget for the present, financial year provides for the return to the people of the vast amount of approximately £90,000,000 from the proceeds of taxation. Money paid out in social service benefits has the greatest velocity of circulation, and gives the greatest impetus to employment. The Labour Government, by introducing truly Christian legislation, has gone far towards its goal of social justice for all. It has given to the people of Australia security against the social ills of unemployment, sickness and age, and has helped to give them freedom from worry and want.
– Although I consider that some of the provisions of the bill are inadequate, I shall support any proposals which will assist to alleviate the sufferings of age and invalid pensioners. Before I direct attention to certain anomalies that arise under the social services legislation, I shall deal with some of the statements which honorable members opposite have made in this debate. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) pointed out that in 1938-39, expenditure on social services was £16,43S,000, and that in the current, financial year, the cost will be approximately £90,000,000. But the honorable member failed to complete the comparison. He should have admitted that the total Commonwealth budget in 1938-39 was less than £100,000,000, whereas for this financial year it is approximately £500,000,000. Therefore, the figures which he cited cannot be accepted as a fair comparison between the provision for social services in 1938-39 under a Liberal party- Australian Country party Government and the cost during the current financial year under a Labour Government.
Last night, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), at the commencement of his speech, assured the House that he would keep cool, but he quickly worked himself into a fever heat, and made certain statements which will not bear examination. For instance, he said that in 1932-33 the Lyons Government had a. surplus of £4,800,000, and, in the following financial year, a surplus of £6,100,000, and he complained that that Administration had not, increased old-age and invalid pensions. He did not state that, at that period, the old-age and invalid pension of about £1 ls. a week, had greater purchasing power than a pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week has to-day. The honorable member for Werriwa rarely makes a speech without copious references to the actions of anti-Labour governments, and, on- this occasion, he did not depart from custom. He endeavoured to show that because the Lyons Government had two small surpluses in 1932-33 and 1933-34, it should have increased old-age and invalid pensions. The honorable member avoided directing attention to the fact that revenue for the first three mouths of the current, financial year exceeded the estimate by £22,000,000. L wholeheartedly agree that. Australia must pay pensions to the less fortunate section’ of the people who need them, but I point out that social services are dependent on the returns from the sale of our primary produce overseas, and not on an increase of the number of bank notes in circulation. Obviously, a substantial increase of social services is justified at the present time, because Commonwealth revenue is so buoyant as the result of the high prices ruling overseas for our primary produce.
As members of the Opposition have consistently emphasized, social services should be considered on a non-party basis. “Whilst I agree with that view, I desire to indicate certain anomalies in the social services legislation. Only a comparatively small percentage of the people have any knowledge of the conditions of eligibility for pensions. The fact should be made known that a person is not entitled, to an age or an invalid pension if the amount of his property, other than his dwelling and other exempt property, exceeds £100, and that the property limit prescribed in this bill above which no pension will be payable is £750. However, a person who owns and occupies a house valued at £3,000 is eligible for a pension. Obviously, a person who has no house or any other possessions is in a worse position than a person who owns a house.
Recently, my attention was directed to the circumstances of a woman who has a property in the northern part of Victoria, and is financially embarrassed. Being without any means, she applied for an age pension, but because her interest in the property exceeded the permissible amount of £750, her application was refused. At the present time, the property is unsaleable at any figure approximating the valuation placed upon it. The result is that she is disqualified from receiving the age pension, she cannot sell her interest in the property, and she is without means. The act should contain a provision to confer on the Department of Social Services discretionary power to alleviate such conditions of hardship. Then again, a person may sell his home before he moves to another part of the country. Although he may intend to use the proceeds of the sale to purchase another house for himself he is not permitted to receive a pension in the interval.
– That is not correct.
– He is not eligible to receive a pension until he buys another home, because he is in possession of a money in excess of the permissible amount.
– The Department of Social Services is allowed considerable latitude in such a case.
– I am led to believe that the act does not provide’ that such a person may retain the age pension while he is in possession of a sum of money in exces of the permissible amount.
– The act does not contain any specific provision to that effect, but the administrators of the department do allow a reasonable time.
– If a man and his wife have a sum of money exceeding £1,500 they are not eligible to receive age pensions. Some of my constituents, for instance, hold amounts to enable them to build houses for themselves at a suitable opportunity when building costs decline. A person who desires to erect a dwelling at an economical price will not attempt to do so at present. I suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Social Services in this House, that provision should be made to enable that class of person te pay the money into a special fund, pending an improvement of building conditions and be permitted to receive an age pension. If those people proceed to build houses now, they will be eligible for age pensions. Why, then, when they are debarred by high costs from building a house at the present time, should they be disqualified from receiving the pension until they have reduced their capital to the maximum permissible amount? The establishment of the special fund to which I have referred would meet any possible objections to my proposal. I ask the Minister to consider the suggestions which I have made.
I support the bill. There are many aspects of social services which do not have the complete approval of all honorable members. We desire that age and invalid pensioners shall receive the best possible deal that this country can give to them. Many of them have played their part magnificently in developing Australia, and deserve the most liberal treatment that the Parliament and the people can provide.
.- I arn surprised that this measure does not provide for any amendment of sections 106 and 114 of the Social Services Consolidation Act, which relate to the means test that is applied to a. war pensioner if he is forced to claim sickness or unemployment benefits as the result of illness or inability to work because of war injuries. Last year, there was a very heated debate on the subject in this House when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and I submitted an amendment to the consolidating bill for the purpose of removing that means test. A division was forced on the issue and, of course, it was conducted on party lines, with the result that the amendment was defeated. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) then said that he would seriously consider amending the legislation to meet our wishes. He said that, if I would ask a question on the subject when the House met again, he might be able to give me further information. Such a question has been asked, but he has not yet announced his intention to gratify our request. Obviously, the honorable gentleman must have reviewed the provisions of the act when this bill was being drafted, and I am. surprised, therefore, that he has not included any provision for the removal of the means test which I have mentioned. Our request is both reasonable and just. Everybody realizes that war pensions are granted to compensate persons who suffer from war disabilities. In other words, it is an attempt to “ make the left leg as long as the right “. Such pensions are a small token of Australia’s gratitude for the sacrifices of the recipients. The Government’s persistence in refusing to abolish this means test is beyond my comprehension. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service will re-examine the act and agree to introduce an appropriate amendment when this bill is being considered in committee. Unless the honorable gentleman does so, I propose to raise the subject again. I earnestly appeal to him and to honorable members who support the Government to give serious attention to this matter and remove from the existing law the horrible provision by which a means test is applied to a war pensioner who applies for sickness or unemployment benefits because of the effect of war injuries.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). The
Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is well acquainted with this subject. It was raised previously when the legislation providing for the payment of pensions to persons in sickness and unemployment was introduced into the Parliament, and the honorable gentleman then expressed himself in favour of removing the means test. He said that he would consult his colleagues with a view to having an appropriate amendment made. I urged then, over three years ago, that immediate action be taken. The honorable member for Swan and some honorable members on the Government side of the chamber supported the amendment which I proposed when the matter was again discussed a year ago. In order that the situation may be perfectly clear, I again explain the unfair effect of the provision. If an’ unemployed man happens to be an ex-serviceman in receipt of a pension - or, more correctly, compensation - for a war-caused disability such as the loss of fingers or a hand, the amount of his pension is deducted from his unemployment relief payments. Far from being an example of preference to exservicemen, that is a reversal of the principle of preference. Ex-servicemen are the only persons who can be penalized in this way. If an unemployed man draws union fees or lodge benefits, such payments are not treated as income for the purpose of assessing his unemployment allowance. But a man who has suffered in the defence of his country is not permitted to draw the full amount of unemployment relief as well as the pension to which he is entitled.
– Lodge payments up to £1 a. week only are excluded from the means test for unemployment relief.
– That is so, but the honorable member will not deny that it is wrong that one class of persons should have the full amount of their pensions deducted from unemployment relief payments. Such discrimination is unjustifiable. High employment is a corollary of high prices, and there is little unemployment in Australia to-day. Therefore, this injustice is scarcely noticeable. Almost any man, no matter what his disability may be, can obtain work. However, when prices fall, unemployment will begin to stalk the land and these disabled ex-servicemen will be penalized. The Minister for Labour and National Service expressed himself years ago in favour of the removal of this injustice. He has been recreant to his duty in failing to amend the law in the meantime. Last year I quoted in this House a letter written by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to an organization of disabled ex-servicemen stating that he favoured the removal of the means test from war pensions. He said, in effect, that he had all the sympathy in the world for disabled ex-servicemen. But sympathy is not enough. The remedy is at hand. The Minister for Labour and National Service could draft a pencilled amendment now and pass it to the Clerk of the House, and I am sure that such an amendment would receive the support of honorable members generally. I thank the honorable member for Swan for having raised this matter again. It would have been overlooked if he had not done so. The Minister and some of his colleagues have expressed approval of our suggestion. They rejected it last year because, on principle, they could not support an Opposition amendment in a division of the House. But we do not care who gets the credit for removing the anomaly as long as it is removed. This matter is above party politics. It involves a high principle of human justice. Therefore, I exhort the Minister to draft an appropriate amendment now. I am sure that, if he does so, his party will spring to his support.
– I support what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) have said about the application of a means test to war pensioners who draw unemployment relief. It is a shocking anomaly. A similar injustice affects the widows of servicemen. I referred to an instance of such injustice in this House last year, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) took an active interest in the case. A war widow with two children, who worked in the precincts of this House, had the amount of her earnings as an employee in the Parliamentary Library deducted from her income from the war widow’s pension. Such wrongs should be righted without delay. I have been surprised at the tenor of the remarks of some honorable members in this debate. Political questions should not be related to social services, and many honorable members on both sides of the chamber have treated this measure, as I do: as being entirely non-political. However, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) yesterday worked himself up to fever heat as though he and his colleagues had a mortgage on humanitarian principles. He went back into history in order to relate what Labour governments had done in the past and to declare that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) had deserted Labour principles when he was Premier of New South Wales. None of the honorable gentleman’s remarks could be substantiated, and I was surprised that he dealt with this subject in such a biased way. I believe that we are not here to criticize those who have gone before us or to condemn what has been done in the past. We should now he doing what we would have wished our predecessors to do in similar circumstances if they had been possessed of our present knowledge. That is, I think, the attitude that every honorable member should adopt in respect of this matter.
I do not think that any honorable member can seriously criticize the endeavours of the Government. to alleviate the distress that has been caused to age pensioners by the deterioration that has taken place in the purchasing power of the £1. The position was mercilessly dissected yesterday by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). In her brilliant speech, the honorable member showed that, although some people may regard the present rates of age pensions as generous, when their relationship to the basic wage now is compared with that which existed twenty years ago, the Government has very little to boast about. However, it will probably be generally agreed that it is on the right track in seeking to increase pensions by an amount that will, in comparison with the present basic wage, restore them to their previous comparative value. The Government is, however, by its policy of educating people who are in their twenties or early thirties to rely upon age pensions to provide for tliam in their old age, undermining the morale of our young men. The longer it remains in power, the greater will be the deterioration of their morale and their will to look after themselves in their old age. The Government attempted to break down the morale of our young men lief ore World War II. by urging them not to fight if a war occurred. It is again doing so by destroying their desire to make provision for their old age. We should urge every young man in Australia to hold his head high, to throw out his chest and to do something to help himself. In the great cities of the southern States the term “ self-help “ seems almost to be a foreign one. If one talks to many people in the bigger cities about doing something for themselves, they reply, “ It is the ‘ Gov’ment’s ‘ job to do that “. They have reached the stage when they cannot even pronounce the word “ government “ properly. They ;ire so anxious to use it on every possible occasion that they pronounce it as if it were a word of two syllables. I propose to relate to the House one instance of what is occurring in my electorate in order to prove that the people of the Northern Territory are still capable of self-help. The Australian Inland Mission, under the leadership of the Rev. Mr. Partridge, intends to build twilight homes at Alice Springs for the agc pensioners of the Northern Territory, who have given lifelong service to the back country. They have not asked the “ Gov’ment “ - if I may use only two cf the three syllables, as do many honorable members opposite in their anxiety to articulate the word - to do it for them. The people are raising the necessary money themselves by public subscription. All that was asked of the Government was to provide the land and survey it. They were informed that no government surveyor was available, so I _ travelled 3,000 miles in order to undertake the survey myself. When I arrived, I found that a young surveyor was engaged upon the task of subdividing the land for this home, which is about 3 miles out of Alice Springs.
Silling suspended, from 12.J)5 to S.’! f> p.m.
– I have been emphasizing the difference between the spirit of self-help and the modern tendency amongst many people to lean on the government. This dependence upon the government seems to have been inculcated in the minds of a great many Australian people by this Labour Government. 1 have been induced to speak in this strain because, yesterday, the honorable member for Werriwa made some heated remarks and chastized members of the Opposition for allegedly trying to cadge votes from pensioners.
– Not all members of the Opposition.
– He mentioned the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) but, as I have said, I believe that that honorable member made out an admirable case, particularly by his reference to the position of retired engine-drivers, railway employees, schoolmasters, and the like. Undoubtedly, those people are penalized because of their participation in superannuation schemes. By paying taxes they are contributing to free social services, including pensions, for other members of the “community, many of whom have made no effort to provide for their old age. In contrast to this dependence upon government support is the spirit of most people in the outback areas that I represent. They have not yet had their morale undermined as the Government has undermined the morale of city dwellers, and as it endeavoured to undermine the morale of the young men of this country before the war by urging them not to fight for their country.
– That is not true.
– Honorable members opposite know that that it is true. Hansard proves it. Yesterday, the honorable member for Werriwa charged the honorable member for Reid with cadging votes from pensioners; but. the honorable member for Werriwa did not miss a trick himself. In fact, he did not miss a beat. He also crawled to the pensioners. He took very good care not to offend any of them. I am prepared to offend 20 per cent, of the pensioners regardless of how they may vote, because when duty calls there is only one road to take. One should speak straight from the shoulder to those people who lean on the government and deliberately take advantage of our pensions legislation. I have the greatest sympathy for people who are genuinely in need of a pension. Many of them 3aved during their lives to provide for their old age, but were deprived of their savings by unfortunate circumstances. In the outback areas, many people who are eligible for an age pension do not ‘seek it until they are well over 70 years of age, and are almost decrepit; yet, as I pointed out earlier in my speech, some young men in their thirties, or even in their twenties, are eagerly awaiting the day when they will be able to demand a pension. They are making no effort at all to provide for their old age. They have no pride. Government speakers have not painted a true picture of the present state of affairs. How many members of this House have been courageous enough to point out that old people to-day are being neglected by their children? Only one, and that was the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). I could give several instances of this nature. Some of my sisters and nieces are in the nursing profession, and they come in contact with that sort of thing. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) seems to think it a joke that I should refer to this matter. Let him go to the Brisbane Hospital and ask the senior sisters whether or not what I am saying is true. He will he informed that sometimes elderly people are brought in by their younger relatives for treatment, but when their ailments have been cured, and they are ready to be discharged from hospital, the hospital authorities find that the relatives who were looking after them have done a “ moonlight flit “ and cannot be located. The old people then have to be put into a government institution.
-ds. - Those are strong words.
– They are true. They apply only to a minority of people in the community, but such things do occur. The honorable member for Werriwa did not say” so because he was afraid he might lose some votes.
– He probably does not know of it.
– All honorable members opposite know about it. If they do nol they must be mummified or chloroformed. We should endeavour to present a complete picture. Honorable members should be prepared to tell the minority who deliberately lean on the Government that they will get short shrift if they do not look after their own folk instead of following the Russian system under which old people are sent to Siberia: That is a state of affairs of which all Australians should be thoroughly ashamed. In Central Australia, conditions are vastly different. There, the spirit of self-help prevails. I have mentioned previously the twilight home now under construction at Alice Springs by public subscription and sponsored by the Reverend Mr. Partridge of the Australian Inland Mission. So far. the Government’s only contribution has been to provide the land and have it surveyed. I would have surveyed it myself had not an official surveyor been released for that work. Six designs were submitted by architect? for the lay-out of the twilight home, which will occupy 20 acres on the Todd River at Alice Springs. The design which was finally selected will give the pensioners the privacy of their own small comfortable homes separated by hedges. In addition, there will be a community centre where they will be able to meet and talk over their experiences covering half a century. I have asked the Government to reserve more land 200 miles south of Darwin, at Katherine, where a new town is being laid out a few hundred yards from the old town. 1 trust that the large estate-holders in the north will subscribe to the proposed twilight home at Katherine just as the small holders in the southern areas have supported the Alice Springs project. Unfortunately, there are few great pastoralists in North Australia like the late Mr. Cunningham, of Strathmore station on the Bowen River, Queensland, who did such a marvellous job in financing control by ex-servicemen of Scar.twa.ter Trust station. That work is the talk of North Queensland from Charters Towers to Townsville. And what of the women folk of the Northern Territory? There is a branch of that fine organization, the
Country ‘Women’s Association, at DaTwin, where ‘members are building a club-bouse for themselves similar to establishments in -the capital cities and in the larger towns. In Queensland, the Country Women’s Association builds its club houses with the aid of a government £1 for £1 subsidy. In Darwin it is proposed to build a club-house costing £15,000. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) will recall that during his visit there I introduced to “him a deputation consisting of representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Darwin Civic Committee, the ‘North Australian Workers Union, and other bodies including, in particular, the Country Women’s Association. Mrs. Miller, the president, and Mrs. Moss, the secretary of that association, made a strong plea for the ^rant of a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis, for the establishment of the club. The Minister promised to place the request before his colleagues,, but I am certain that he has forgotten to do so. I notice that the honorable gentleman shakes his head. If he did not forget to do so I should like to know what has been done in connexion with this request. Is it intended to finance the activities of the association in Darwin as is done in Queensland by the Queensland Government? The president of the Country Women’s Association in Queensland, Mrs. Sterne, O.B.E., of Warwick, in Queensland, has visited Darwin and has put the club there on a sound footing and has arranged to keep it under the wing of the Queensland association until it is able to stand on its own feet. Money is being received from all over Australia. Mrs. Sterne is within the precincts of this House at the moment, having come to Canberra to interview the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on many matters. These women believe in self-help, but it is not fair to ask them to bear the whole cost of _the humanitarian work which they are performing in the community. Surely the Australian Government, which completely controls the Northern Territory, can be as generous as is the Queensland Government and subsidize the establishment of this club on a £1 for £1 basis. 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services to state what action bar been taken following the representations made to him by the Minister for Work? and Housing relative to the establishment of the club in Darwin.
In an outstanding speech the honorable member for Darwin made an appeal, not so much for a medical scheme, as for a health scheme. I was intrigued by her remarks, which recalled to my mind the health .scheme which I asked the Government to institute on behalf of the children of far western Queensland and the Northern Territory. As honorable members know, the Bush Children’s Health Scheme has operated in Queensland for many years. The small pastoralists of south-west Queensland have established a target of £20,000_ to finance the scheme, the purpose’ of which is to bring undernourished children from Boulia, Cloncurry, McKinlay and other western towns to Townsville, Emu Park and other coastal towns, or to the Lady Wilson Institute at Redcliffe, where I liad the honour some ten or twelve years ago to deliver some lectures in an appeal for funds to finance the scheme. One of the chief medical officers associated with the institution, Dr. Watson Brown, of Longreach, who was a member of the Queensland Parliament for some years, was a pioneer in research into the causes and cure of undernourishment in children. Honorable members representing constituencies in western and north-western Queensland seem to have been so uninterested in this vital subject that they have not even mentioned it in this House. Dr. Watson Brown trained two young ladies to make blood tests of children in areas extending from Longreach to McKinlay, Cloncurry and down to Dajarra and Urandangie. and Burketown, and good results are expected to flow from their work. I congratulate this Government upon having sent two trained nurses to the Northern Territory last year to conduct similar tests. I have not yet seen any report of the results of their work nor, I regret, has any provision been made on the Estimates this year for the establishment of a nutritional service. When I discussed this subject with my constituents at Tennant Creek, a town far more remote than the towns in northwestern Queensland to which I have referred, I discovered that a civic committee had been formed by the residents i.here under the chairmanship of Mr. Richards, the mining warden, and that intense interest had been exhibited in the scheme. The committee was anxious to evolve a scheme whereby under-nourished children from the Tennant Creek and Mount Isa areas could also be sent to coastal towns in Queensland for treatment. The members of the committee wished the scheme which I had propounded ten or twelve years ago to be resuscitated. I undertook to obtain for them all the information I had collected and distributed several years ago concerning the Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme. Mrs. Stern, who is also president of the Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme, will be able to give the Minister some first-hand information on the causes and cure of malnutrition. I understand that malnutrition causes trachoma and a diminution of the red corpuscles in the blood with consequent anaemia, and that the treatment consists of regulation of the diet to include fresh vegetables, fruit, milk and butter, much of which are not available to the people living in the far north. In the bigger cities malnutrition among children is frequently caused, not through inability to obtain the proper foods but through lack of knowledge on the part of parents of what constitutes a balanced diet. 1 trust that before long many more women will be elected to this Parliament so that they may join with the two women members of this House, the honorable member for Darwin and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) in their efforts not only to represent the interests of women in the Parliament but also to deal with problems that fall principally within the province of women. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health to give the most sympathetic consideration to the request of the country Women’s Association for the subsidization of the establishment of a. country women’s club in Darwin on a fi for £1 basis and to inaugurate a complete nutritional survey throughout the areas under the control’ of the Government. I trust that consideration will be given to the establishment, not so much of a medical scheme,, as of a truly health scheme, as the honorable member for Darwin has suggested.
– I was disappointed to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) applaud the pioneers in the Northern Territory for their spirit in preferring to suffer hardships rather than apply for the age pension, and at the same time sneer at those in middle life-
– Who sneered?
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory sneered.
– I did not sneer at any one.
– Order !
– The honorable member sneered at those who, in middle life, were frankly looking forward to the enjoyment on their retirement of the social service benefits provided by the Government.
– The honorable member is merely trying to catch votes.
– Order ! The honorable member for the Northern Territory has completed his speech and must cease interrupting.
-The honorable member appeared to be applauding old people in the Northern Territory who preferred to suffer hardship rather than to apply for the age pension. I disagree with that attitude.
Mr. Blain interjecting.
-Order! If the honorable member for the Northern Territory interrupts once more I shall name him.
– The honorable member referred to such people as having to sink their pride before they could apply for an age pension. I was disappointed to hear such a remark because I had hoped that that archaic conception of the age pension had disappeared, and that there was to-day a general recognition that whatever demands are made on the community for the payment of age pensions to those who have rendered to it a lifetime of service, are made by right. People who receive these payments are j’ust a9 much entitled to them as they would be to receive payments from an insurance company in respect of contributions they had made to it. Age pensions are payments which are made as a return for the effort the recipients have made on behalf of the whole community. There is nothing to be ashamed of in accepting such payments and there should he no question of any one having to sink his pride to apply for an age pension. It ought, on the other hand, to be a matter of pride to people who have reached the retiring age, that they are able to draw some recompense for the productive effort-they made during their working lives, but I know that there are people who refuse to apply for an age pension, which could give them some modest comforts in their later life, largely because of the out-dated and mistaken ideas still being altered by such individuals as the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I hope that honorable members will hear that kind of statement less frequently and will give more encouragement to old people to apply for and receive the age pension as a matter of right. The honorable member stated earlier that matters of this nature should be regarded as nonpolitical and be treated on a non-political basis. Again 1 entirely disagree with him. Everything with which this Parliament deals is political, and none of thu social service benefits already obtained by the community could have been obtained except by political action. I also disagree that this matter ought to be treated on a non-party basis. I think that any honorable member who fails to point out to the electors that our social security legislation has been very largely brought to its present position, as a result of party activity would be failing in his duty to those electors. To suggest to the people of Australia that they have any hope whatever of obtaining equally fair and just treatment from a government composed of members on the Opposition side of the House as they would obtain from a Government drawn from this side of the House would be to ignore completely the entire history of our social services. In fact, the great difference between the political parties in this matter is that the Liberal and Australian Country parties have continually given lip service to the principle of social service benefits, and the Labour party has consistently translated words into action. The Labour party, as every one who has studied the matter knows, was the party that was responsible for the original introduction of age and invalid pensions.
– That is not true. It was the Liberal party.
– A study of the matter would show any unbiased observer that my statement is true. Let us look at the political history of the last 25 years. In 1923, when the Bruce-Page Government was in its first year of office, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, promised the people of Australia a full plan of unemployment, sickness and health benefits. On behalf of his party he made most elaborate and worthy speeches about it, but absolutely nothing was done by the government of the day to give effect to his promises. In 192S the present right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who was then Treasurer, introduced, at least by word of mouth, a national insurance plan which he described as an honest, endeavour to combat want and misery in the community, ajid again long speeches were delivered but again absolutely nothing was done. In 1937 the anti-Labour government of the day, once again facing an election, brought forward a national health insurance plan and took it as far as the second-reading stage in this House before dropping it because, it was said, the community could not afford £2,000,000 of that year’s revenue which it would have cost to implement. In fact, as far as I can recollect, the one contribution that the Opposition parties have made to social services legislation was the provision requiring those who received age pensions to sign away to the Government any small amount of property they might possess. The antiLabour parties attempted to give effect, to that legislation in 1932 but were compelled to withdraw it because of the pressure of public opinion. I give credit to the Minister of the day for an honest intention in the introduction of the child endowment scheme, but I know also that the support he gained from his own side of the House on that occasion was given only because the scheme was regarded as a lesser evil, involving a smaller cost, than an increase in the basic wage would have been. I agree with the honorable member for the Northern Territory that every one in the community should realize that social service benefits can be paid for only in proportion to the community’s productive efforts. Every £1 spent in social services means £1 levied in taxes. Expenditure on social services has risen from £16,000,000 in 1938 to over £80,000,000 in the current year, and most people, whatever their politics, agree that the existing benefits should be increased and that additional benefits should be introduced. I think that that is very creditable to the people of this country because they have to find from their pockets and pay envelopes the cost of any increased social services benefits. Straight thinking is essential to solve the problems which confront the community in venturing into new fields of social service, and the most important thing to be realized is that social services cannot be financed from loans or central bank credits, but can be provided only to the degree to which the community, by hard work, can produce the physical goods and services necessary for any increased social service benefits. The provision of social services is therefore related directly to the working and earning capacity of the community as a whole.
The cost of social services to the community in round figures in recent years has been as follows : -
During the present year more than £80,000,000 will be required for this purpose, and before long the expenditure will be £100,000,000 a year. Those sums relate only to national social services and do not take into account the expenditure on social services by the States, which amounts to £40,000,000 annually. The Commonwealth is now spending as much on social services as was spent by all governments, Australian and State, in the year before war occurred.
When Labour assumed office, age and invalid pensions and the maternity allowance were the only social service benefits conferred by the Australian Government, and I remind honorable members that those benefits had been paid for 30 years. Since then, apart altogether from extensions of widows’ pensions and child endowment, ten new kinds of social services have been provided. Those new services include funeral, unemployment, hospital and tuberculosis benefits, rental rebates and other special services. What honorable member would dare to oppose, at any rate openly, the continued payment of any of those benefits? Who does not say that some of them ought to be increased, either by increasing the rate of payment or by making the terms which regulate their payment more liberal? However, it is clear that we cannot stop at payment of the present benefits, and new and additional benefits must be provided within the next few years. Australia has been reproached for having lagged behind New Zealand in some aspects of social service. As an example, New Zealand now has a free medical service, a partial national superannuation scheme and other benefits which do not exist in Australia. I point out to honorable members that the provision of those benefits costs the people of New Zealand more than £40,000,000 annually, and the provision of similar services in Australia would cost at least £160,000,000 annually. The complete abolition of the means test would add another £54,000,000 a year to the cost, so that our total expenditure under these headings would certainly exceed £200,000,000. I emphasize, however, that the present Government has by no means completed its social service programme. At the moment, it is considering the introduction of a national dental service, an extension of the national fitness service, a free optical service, the provision of greater ante-natal care, an augmented child welfare service and other projects. Those social services are in accordance with the ideal of a charter of economic freedom for the ordinary man and his family to protect them from the vicissitudes of life. The cost of such services can be met only by a great redistribution of national income, or, in other words, by a transfer of purchasing power. [ am proud to support the present Government which has done so much to bring about a redistribution of wealth. In a sense such a redistribution is simply a transfer from the surplus of the rich to the deficiency of the poor. The money involved in the transfer is an excellent tonic for trade and industry because such a spread of purchasing power represents a guaranteed market for the necessaries of life. However, that process of transfer cannot be pursued beyond certain limits, and to suggest that £100,000,000 worth of social services can be financed in that way is merely to play with the problem. Although it is still possible to apply a heavier levy on unearned increment, the bulk of the funds required for social services must be supplied by the whole community and must cost every one something, whether they realize it or not. The new social services plan - I say “ new “ because it has existed only for the last seven years - should, in my opinion, be based upon certain denned principles. Because every one is required to bear the cost directly or indirectly, every one should have the right to enjoy social services regardless of their assets or income. For that reason the means test should be abolished as soon as possible, which is just as soon as the increased costs can be absorbed. That is in accordance with the present policy of the Government, and I am pleased to support an administration which has taken two substantial steps towards the abolition of the means test, and is committed to further steps as soon as opportunity offers. Since contributions to social services should very in accordance with ability to pay, the services should be financed by direct taxes rather than by indirect taxes, which weigh as heavily upon the poor as upon the rich. Next, the formula for computing the basic wage should be varied to include provision for social services contribution. Every income earner would then pay directly his assessed share. He would have the benefit to which he had a right, and would know how much it was costing him. Finally, there should be a recognition of the fact that the creation of social service benefits does not add anything to the total wealth of the community, and that the only way in which the living standard can be raised is by increased production and the efficient and fair distribution of production.
The increases of social service payments contemplated in the present legislation will bring the provision for social security to a higher mark than has ever been reached before even after making full allowance for changes in money values. Extremely buoyant revenues have enabled the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to distribute tax and social service benefits this year without much difficulty, and they even leave him the prospect of being able to make a further popular distribution next year. But how long will such a state of affairs continue? As the cost of social services reaches £100,000,000, which exceeds even the dreams of a few years ago, there must surely be occasional doubts of the future, particularly if the present high prices for our exports tumble. For that reason social service finance must be placed on a secure basis. I do not suggest for one moment that Australia cannot afford to provide the full physical needs of all those within the social security charter. As long as this country is capable of producing all the food, clothing, shelter, medical services and other basic needs of the people, no one should have to go short of those needs, and the problem remains one of internal production and distribution. However, now that social service costs involve such a large proportion of national expenditure it is clear that they must be placed on a firmer and more permanent basis than is provided by the present social service contribution tax. I have already pointed out that the costs of social services are sure to rise more in the next few years than they have in the past few years, notwithstanding that the increase which has already taken place has been most extraordinary. The costs of social service benefits must rise with every increase of prices, and increases of prices are sure to occur. Costs must also rise through the further amelioration of the means test to which the
Government is committed. Statistics furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the proportion of the community which is entitled to age pensions is steadily increasing. The Government’s plans to establish new kinds of social services will increase the costs of
I lie services. Finally, the public demand, which grows by what it feeds upon will demand still further social service extensions.
As long as the payment of important social sservice benefits, particularly the age pension, is dependent upon a. means test of any kind, some people will object to making social service contributions on the ground that it, does not give them a right to a return for money contributed or the right to enjoy the services for which they have to pay. This objection will grow stronger with every increase in the rate of social services contribution, yet it is very hard to see how a further increase in the rate of contributions can be avoided in view of the rising cost to the Government of providing social services, and the extension of the range of social services contemplated by the Government. The step now being taken by the Government to ameliorate the means test is the second of such steps. The Australian Labour party is committed to abolish the means test by successive stages. The present Labour Government is the only government that has taken any step whatever in this country to ease the means test. There would seem to exist very strong reasons for successive steps to be taken with the object of the ultimate abolition of the test altogether. If the steps were spread over a reasonable number of years, public approval of the plan would be probable. The rates of contribution would then be varied according to the capacity of the individual to pay, and the scheme would probably be endorsed readily by most people because they would know in advance to what their subscriptions would entitle them. In my electorate I have found complete agreement among the people that they would not mind paying quite a substantial a mount, according to their income and their capacity to pay, if they knew for certain that should adversity overtake them, or advancing years prevent them from working any longer, they would be entitled to draw a payment without the necessity of answering 43 questions.
– Does the honorable member mean a flat-rate payment?
– No, a charter of social security, giving every body the right to draw appropriate benefits without the application of the means test-
– Does the honorable member mean a flat-rate of benefit?
– I do not mean a varying scale of age pensions. I mean that everybody would receive the same basic amount, and would be entitled, also, to whatever assets they had been able to accumulate during their working life.
I suggest that when the next amelioration of the means test is being considered by the Government, it will be reasonable to endeavour to raise the property bar substantially.
– I contend, as have other honorable members, that all matters relating to social benefits should be dealt, with on a non-party basis. I shall refer to one or two Government members who have endeavoured to treat this debate as a political electioneering subject, to the disadvantage of the interests of the pensioners. I believe that every individual in this Parliament hopes by his efforts to improve the facilities that this country can make available to its pensioners, and would on every occasion endeavour to increase their emoluments, in keeping with the capacity of the country to meet these responsibilities. 1 congratulate the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) on his contribution to the debate last night. The honorable member said that we can advance if this subject is approached from a non-party point of view, and many of his submissions were valuable. That is a great contrast to the contribution to the debate made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), whomI regard as a “ pensioner’s hack “. Ever since I have been in this Parliament I have noticed thai when pension matters arise for consideration the honorable member introduces a party point of view which is of no value to the pensioners, but is usually lo their detriment. Quite unfairly, he claimed that nothing has been done in the interests of the pensioners by the parties opposed to Labour. I point out to honorable members that the first pension payment made in this country was made by a non-Labour government. The subsequent increase in the pension .rates, also, was approved by a mon-Labour government.
– Who forced that?
– If it can be said that a minority in the Opposition can force the Government, then the present members of the Opposition should claim that they have forced this Government to introduce the present proposal to increase the pension by 5s. a week- I do hot like to use the expression “non-Labour” because there is not really such a thing, but governments that were not Labour not only introduced pensions in this country, but-
– They were anti-socialist governments.
– Yes, I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that that term is apt. Up to the time of the Scullin Government, no government had ever reduced the pensions, but the Scullin Labour Government, did so.
– What did the Lyons Government do?
– No government had the audacity to reduce the age and invalid pensions of this country prior to the Scullin Government doing so, yet the honorable member for Werriwa suggests that there is antagonism to pensions by the parties now in Opposition. I am only introducing these unfortunate sidelines in answer to suggestions which were made by the honorable member for Werriwa.” Whenever pension matters are introduced he endeavours to “ ride in on the pensioners’ backs “ to score something for himself or his party. It all depends, of course, which party the honorable member is in, because he had to vote the Scullin Government out of office. He endeavours to make it appear that every party, other than the party he supports, is unfavorably disposed towards the pensioners. The honorable gentleman referred to un limited capital. As honorable members are aware, he wrote a book about imaginary credits, and it is only by the means he referred to therein that he could give them £7 to £14 a week. I think the contribution to the debate by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was in direct contrast to that of the honorable member for’Werriwa, who said that the Lyons Government had introduced the scheme of adjusting pension.according to variations in the cost of living. This increase of 5s. to the pensioners follows on the principle laid down by the Lyons Government, which was kicked for it at the tune. That principle has proved to be a benefit to the pensioners of Australia ever since. Thus, the Labour Government cannot properly claim the credit for the 5s. increase. It was granted in accordance with a principle established by the Lyons Government. Pensions can be paid only out of the earnings of the people and from the proceeds of industry and commerce. They are paid out of the national income, the volume of which depends upon the uninterrupted progress of primary and secondary industries. Too many people in Australia are determined to prevent the wheels of industry from turning, by holding up work on the railways and wharfs. They have helped to reduce the national income, and thus to reduce the fund out of which pension; are paid. They have, in effect, prevented the pensioners from receiving even more than it is now proposed to give them. If the volume of production and of exports could be doubled, it would be easy to double pension rates. However, then.’ have been too many strikes and industrial stoppages. The Government has no reason to boast about paying age and invalid pensioners £2 2s. 6d. a week, seeing that so much is being taken from the people by way of taxation. The amount paid in pensions before the war represented a considerable proportion of the national expenditure of the day. At the present time, the budget is more swollen even than the war-time budgets, when hundreds of thousands of men were under arms, when the nation was engaged in the manufacture of munitions, and when we had to meet all the expenses incidental to the active prosecution of a war. For the first three months of the present, financial year, revenue returns were higher than fcr any corresponding period in the history of Australia.; yet the Government claims that it is doing a great deal hy increasing the pension to £2 2s. 6d. a week.
I do not want to be hard on the Government, as I consider this to be a nonparty matter. The honorable member for Werriwa consistently attacked the Opposition, parties. He referred to the national insurance scheme in operation in New Zealand. I hope that we shall eventually be able to introduce an effective national insurance scheme in Australia. He mentioned the fact that, under the New Zealand scheme, some people were able to draw as much as £7 a week, but we should remember that beneficiaries under the New Zealand scheme contribute to the national insurance fund. I should not mind if a man drew £15 a week under an insurance scheme if he contributed adequately towards it. Whilst the honorable member for Werriwa commended the New Zealand scheme, which is a contributory one, he opposed any suggestion that our social services in Australia should be placed upon a contributory basis. Moreover, under the New Zealand scheme, benefits are not paid upon a flat rate. The amount received varies according to the income of the recipient from other sources. In other words, a means test is applied there, but the honorable member for Werriwa is opposed to the application of a means test in Australia. As I have said, I hope that a national insurance scheme will eventually be put into operation in Australia, but it must be different from the one which was introduced just before the war, under which primary producers and the members of their families, while contributing towards the cost of the scheme, were debarred from benefiting under it. The national insurance scheme was lost mainly because of that provision.
– The bill was passed.
– It did not get through the third reading.
– It is an act of Parliament now.
– If it was passed by the Parliament, why has not the present Government put it into operation ? Social services should not be made a subject for party politics, and when some honorable members have attempted to make political capital out out it, I have condemned their action.
Certain anomalies still exist in the social services legislation and I hope that the Department of Social Services will carefully consider action to correct them. For years, I have advocated, with little ‘ result, that a daughter who must remain at home to care for cue or both of her aged or invalid parents should be eligible for a pension. By accepting that domestic responsibility, she is not able to earn her own living arid perhaps carve out a lucrative career for herself. In earlier debates on social services I have cited the instance of a daughter who looked after both of her parents who were in receipt of full pensions. When one of the parents died, the income available to the home was immediately reduced by one half, and was completely inadequate to support the remaining parent and the daughter. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Social Services in this House, is invariably sympathetic towards people who are suffering hardship, and 1 urge him to give further careful consideration to the class of case which I have cited. I contend that the daughter should receive a full pension, because she would never be able to earn her own living while the remaining parent was alive.
The means test should also be reexamined. One honorable member who has spoken in this debate declared that the means test should be abolished by progressive stages. No one could honestly make any other proposal. The immediate abolition of the means test “would impose a tremendous burden upon Consolidated Revenue, necessitating substantial increases of taxes which the Australian people would not be prepared to pay. When the Minister for Labour and National Service was asked why the increases of pensions were not made retrospective to the 1st July, 1948, he answered that it would not be possible to do so.
– My answer did not mean that the payments would not bo made retrospective. I meant that the increases could not be paid on the 1st July.
– That was not the interpretation which I placed on the Minister’s answer. Perhaps Opposition speakers have caused him to change his mind. He stated that it was impossible to make the increased payment earlier than November because of a shortage of staff.
– The Minister stated that it was a physical impossibility.
– He cannot get away from that.
– I do not want to change my statement.
– I hope, from the hint that the Minister has given, that Opposition speakers have convinced him that the increased payments should be made retrospective to the 1st July. He certainly stated that, because of a shortage of staff, it was physically impossible to adopt that procedure. Never before in our history have Commonwealth departments had such large staffs. Surely some of the officers who were formerly employed in the Prices Branch, could be assigned to assist other departments which are said to be short-staffed. Only a few additional officers would be required to arrange for. the payment of the increased pensions to be made retrospective to the 1st July. The present proposal is that the increase shall not. be payable before November. If administrative difficulties are a real problem, the Australian Country party will accept the responsibility for making, the. necessary calculations for payments, retrospective to the 1st July, and will not charge for its services. When the Prices Branch was issuing new orders almost daily, private businesses throughout Australia, from the small corner shop to the big wholesale and retail stores, had to make prompt adjustments, and shortage of staff was not accepted as an excuse for failure to do so. However, the Minister has made the excuse that because of administrative- difficulties, including shortage of. staff, the increased pension cannot: be. paid until November. I contend that the payment must immediately be made retrospective to the 1st July. Shipowners, mine-owners and employersgenerally must adjust increases of wages from the date on which a court varies an award. They would not be permitted to wait for three months before making the adjustment. During World War II., weexperienced government by regulation, and despite staff shortages, all private businesses had to comply promptly with alterations in orders, or be liable to a heavy penalty.
– Order! The honorable member has carried that argument far enough and. I ask him to return tothe bill.
– Private enterprise has to make prompt adjustments to comply with new awards, but evidently the Department of Social Services cannot make an adjustment of” pensions in three months because of the shortage of staff. As I have pointed out, many Commonwealth departments’ are already over-staffed and, if necessary,, additional clerical assistance could be supplied from the over-staffed departments to the Department of Social Services to enable pensioners to receive theincreased payments without further delay.
Mi-. DUTHIE (Wilmot) [3.22].- A government is judged at the bar of public opinion on what it does or fails to dofor the health, education, family life and social security of the people. From the text of speeches in this debate, even including those by honorable membersopposite, I feel that this Government, although it has faults as all governments have, has not failed the people of Australia on those fundamental Christian principles. Social security is a fundamental Christian principle.
– Is the honorable member1 making a speech or delivering asermon ?
– It would not do thehonorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) any harm if it were- a sermon.
– Order !
– The honorable member has the right to leave the chamber if he does not desire to listen to my remarks.
– And I propose to exercise that right.
– Order! The honorable member for Henty will leave the chamber in any event if he does not behave himself.
– For centuries the aged, the temporarily sick, the temporarily unemployed, invalids, the broken in mind, the halt, the lame and the blind, mothers at childbirth, people stricken with tuberculosis, and widows and fatherless were not considered by governments to have any significant place in the scheme of things, and great tragedy, suffering and hardship was imposed [hereby upon successive generations up to the beginning of this century. As the result of the consistent agitation of a small band of Labour men who were elected to the. Parliament of New South Wales and another small band who subsequently were elected to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, the government of the day had to introduce the original Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions legislation in 1908. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) ridiculed the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) that it was the members of the Labour party in the Parliament who were responsible for the passing of that wonderful act in 1908. That statement, however, was correct. There were then three parties in the Parliament. Two of them were loosely referred to as the Free Traders and the Protectionists. The other was the Labour party, which was at that time a minority or cross bench party. Its members engaged in an agitation for the introduction of legislation to help aged and invalid people. In return for the support of the Labour party, the Deakin Government brought down the bill for the Invalid -and Old-age Pensions Act of 1908 and so was able to remain in office. The Deakin Government was forced to choose between bringing the bill down and suffering defeat as a result of the withdrawal of the support of the Labour party. It may be of interest to recall what was said by Senator Mulcahy, of Tasmania, in the Senate on the 3rd June, 1908.
– He was not a Labour on an.
– As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) says, Senator Mulcahy was not a member of the Labour party. He left no doubt in the mind of any one as to who was responsible for the passing of the first pensions act. He said -
I inn prepared to give the Labour party every credit in the matter, and I assert that if a scheme for the establishment of an old-age pension is approved, the whole of the credit will be due to the Labour party and not tin’ Government.
Other strong political opponents of the Labour party at that time contended that it was due to the action of the Labour party of that day, small though it was. that the Old-age Pensions Act of 190S was passed. I think that answers the contention of honorable members opposite that the Labour movement had nothing to do with the passage of that legislation.
In the years before the Curtin Government assumed’ office in 1941, Australia was governed almost entirely by nonLabour governments. Between 1908 and 1941, a period of 33 years, age and invalid pensions were increased from 10s. a week to 21s. 6d. a week. Between 1941, when the Curtin Government came into power, and the present time, which is a period of only seven years, such pensions were increased by 21s. 6d. a week. The Labour party increased age and invalid pensions by double the amount that they were increased by the non-Labour parties, and did it in a quarter of the time. Even the Opposition is prepared to say that this legislation is good. It contains anomalies, but that is inevitable in such a comprehensive measure. Although honorable members opposite are not anxious at the moment to make this matter a political issue, I thought it only fair to those who have gone before us to relate the facts that I have just outlined.
Having regard to its record in the fields of health, education and social services, the Government must surely be returned to power at the next general election. In my opinion, the greatest, insurance scheme in which anybody could participate is our present social security scheme. Thousands of our people who live on low incomes are receiving maternity allowance, child endowment, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, widows pensions and the like, without making any direct contribution for them. Surely there is no greater insurance scheme in the world than that. It entails, however, that those people who enjoy financial independence must make a contribution to help those who cannot help themselves, or those who are not financially free to do as they like. Chat is a sound principle. It is the principle of the strong helping the weak, the rich helping the poor, those who are well helping those who are sick, and those who have their sight, hearing and the full use of their limbs helping the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the lame. When I hear a person moaning because he has to pay social service contributions, my immediate reply to him is, “Why do you not, regard the payment of your contributions as a thanksgiving to God that you have your health and strength?” That is the way in which I regard my social service contributions. In the eight years during which I was a minister of religion, I visited many hospitals and saw many human beings who bad been wrecked mentally and physically. Our social service scheme is a great insurance for broken humanity and the greatest practical expression of Christian beliefs. The main complaint of the rich people is that they do not receive anything in return for their social services contributions. They say it is always somebody else who receives help. As I have said, they should regard their contributions as a thanksgiving that they are not in hospital and, therefore, have no necessity to receive benefits that have been provided for hospital inmates. The aged, infirm, lame, blind and sufferers from tuberculosis and other diseases who are assisted by the operation of the social services scheme, many of whom are widows and many of whom are broken in mind as well as in body, are the victims of the ruthless economic system that was in existence when World War II. began, thousands of people have to receive the benefits and to be assisted by the Government, because in pre-war years they were broken by that system. The system has been modified to some degree by the Government, but not as extensively as one would wish for. It is morally right and proper that a government should spend some of the taxpayers’ money to assist the victims of such a ruthless economic system.
I refer now to the attempt made by the United Australia party Government in 193S to assist the people by introducing the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. That legislation provided for the contribution of ls. 6d. a week by all wage earners and contained provisions for medical benefits and a free medicine service - which honorable members opposite ridicule to-day - and for a pension of £1 a week for contributors who reached the age of 65 years. It also provided a payment of 3s. 6d. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years. That, in the light of present-day conditions, does not sound like a very generous measure of social security. It represented, however, an attempt to provide some measure of social security. In the legislation now before the House the Labour Government has offered the people something infinitely better than was offered to them by Mr. Casey when he was Treasurer in 193S. Is it any wonder that the Opposition does not wish to make this measurpa party political matter?
Any measure of social security should have some relation to the encouragement of the birth-rate. In his book, Women and Children First. Dr. V. H. Wallace states that, the greatest factor in the falling birth-rate to-day is the economicfactor. I do not entirely agree with him. J think that there should be some modification of that view. At page 143 of his book, Dr. Wallace states -
As economic considerations constitute by far the greatest single factor in family limitation our social legislation should aim at removing all financial burdens which the rearing of children entails. In other words, society should be willing to pay for its ownsurvival. We, as a people, should be prepared to pay for our continued existence. I regard this as a fundamental principle which cannot, and must not. be disregarded. It is the duty of each adult member of the community to shareequitably in the cost of rearing children. No self-centred., luxury-loving person should beallowed to shirk his economic responsibilities in this matter. No man or woman without children should evade making an adequatefinancial contribution towards tlie maintenance of the young generation. This just and fundamental principle is not accepted aswidely as it should be, but we must all recognize its survival value and introduce social 1 legis 1 a t i o 1 1 a ceoordingly.
There are at least three ways in which we may help financially those young men and women who desire to marry and have children. We may assist them .by furniture and all the varied but essential goods necessary for thein to set up house and start married life together. We may help them to meet the high cost of childbirth with its hospital fees, medical expenses and the purchasing of all those articles and supplies which the advent of a baby entails. Finally, we may help them, to maintain -their offspring until those children are old enough to earn .a living for themselves. We must be willing to do all three if we, as a people, are to survive, and we should make the assistance generous enough to be effective. Some critics refer contemptuously to assistance as a “ hand out “. They say that it is spoon-feeding young couples and that such treatment destroys the spirit of independence. This criticism is evidence of a complete misunderstanding of the position.
Dr. Wallace also says that mutual aid must be the underlying principle if society is to survive in this modern age. In that, I entirely agree with him. In a book entitled Mutual Aid, Prince Kropotkin shows that only by cooperation and mutual assistance ‘can social groups .flourish, whether ‘they belong .to the human or to the lower animal species. The principle of mutual aid has never been fully established. The system under which w.e live, whether we call it a capitalistic or .an individualistic system, has been a selfish system, the fundamental principle of which is self first and others last. It is .difficult to establish and operate a system of mutual aid under these conditions. However, by legislation such as that now under consideration, Labour governments during the last seven years have endeavoured to imbue the people with the principle of mutual aid to the less fortunate members of the community. ‘The three methods by which Wallace suggests we may assist the birth rate are, first, the provision of marriage loans; secondly, maternity allowances; and thirdly, child endowment or family allowances. He deals with each in separate chapters, and he covers his subject very well indeed. There are some aspects of the economic factor in family life to which I wish to draw some attention. During the depression years 30,000 couples who otherwise would have married did not do so. According to’ the statistics, the fact that those marriages did not take place is one of the fundamental causes of the problem of the teen-age group in industry which is so handicapping our industrial progress. “Whilst it is true that the economic factors of the depression years did result in fewer marriages, I cannot, however, help feeling that the influence of the economic factor on the birth rate is somewhat over-emphasized. In places where poverty is rife, children are most numerous. In many European countries where the people, f ar from enjoying any measure of social security, have always been on the bread line, there are to be seen millions of children. It cannot be said that children are numerous in these countries because of the social security afforded to their peoples. Indeed, the birth-rate is high in countries where poverty, bewilderment and misery are the lot cf the common people. In China, Japan and India, where poverty and malnutrition are rampant, the birth-rate is extra-ordinarily high. In out great cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane the largest families are to be found not in the better-class suburbs, but in working-class suburbs and. slum areas. In our poorest and shabbiest suburbs children are to be seen playing in the streets every day ;by the hundreds. I know that that is so because I have worked in the slums of Melbourne. I know that the largest families are to be found not in the best suburbs, such as Toorak in Melbourne, and at Darling Point in Sydney, where in general the people enjoy the greatest measure of ‘social security, hut in the poorer areas. iSo, in my opinion the economic factor in relation to the birthrate is definitely overrated. There are several factors which contribute to the lack of child birth in the middle and upper class groups in this country. That is where the failure lies, not amongst the lower groups at all. The lowest average number of children in a family is found in the middle and upper class groups who cannot plead economic reasons for their failure to have children. They cannot plead that they are poverty stricken, or that they have not amenities in their homes because they have the lot, but still do not have children. They are more prepared, in many instances, to look after pomeranian dogs, to engage in social life and to try to climb the social ladder, and to indulge in sport and pleasure.
-Order ! The honorable member should confine his remarks to the subject of the debate.
– I place these facts before the House to show that the economic factor is grossly overemphasized to-day as a reason for the falling birthrate.
Dr. Wallace stresses that encouragement could be given to increasing the birth-rate by the provision of marriage loans. However, we have discussed that matter in the caucus, but so far nothing further has been done in that connexion. Before the war the authorities in Germany went thoroughly into the principle of marriage, loans and that aspect of the matter is dealt with fully in Women and Children First. Although the birth-rate did increase following the granting of marriage loans, other statistics- show that that increase was. not: due entirely to that incentive.
– Can the honorable member tell us how the Germans were treated ?
– I shall now refer to the maternity allowance. On page 158 of that book the following appears as a quotation from the official Year-Booh for 1939 at page 232:-
Under the provisions of the Maternity AllowanceAct 1912-1937 a sum of. £4 10s. is payable to tha mother in respect of each confinement at which a living or viable child is born, provided the total income of the claimant and her husband for the period of twelve months preceding the date of- the birth did not exceed £247. Where there are already one or two children under fourteen the amount payable is £5, with an income limit of £2G3, and where there are three or more other children under fourteen the amount payable is £7 10s. with an income limit of £338. [ quote that as evidence of conditions in Australia in 1939. Dr. Wallace then comments -
What niggardly parsimonious payments! And what caution is displayed! The Government seems to have been afraid of paying a few shillings too much. New life, the source of our future strength and greatness, is involved. We are here concerned with tlie citizens of to-morrow who will develop this great country, advance its culture, defend it against foreign aggression and play a prominent part in the progress of civilization. If it was worth while spending many hundreds of millions of pounds on unproductive war-time activities surely it is worth while investing a few modest millions in the removal nf the economic disabilities nf parenthood.
That was the maternity allowance provision when the present Government came into office. Now, when the first child is born in a family, £15 is paid altogether as a maternity allowance. The sum of £5 is paid for the child, £5 to the mother before the birth, and £5 after the birth. For the second child £16 10s. is payable, and for the third child, £17 10s. This has been a tremendous help to mothers and the Government is to be commended for having trebled the amount payable to mothers at child birth, to help finance the coming of the baby into the world. It is important for honorable members to realize that motherhood is the greatest achievement of womanhood, upon which nationhood is founded. Upon that depends the very survival of’ the nation, and anything that the Government can do to encourage parenthood must be of great service to the country. It may be that the maternity allowance will be increased in years to come. I hope that’ it will be. All of the benefits provided are of tremendous assistance to families. In his reference to child endowment, Dr. Wallace quoted the words of Miss Eleanor E. Rathbone, who wrote on this subject in The Case for Family- Allowances. She says that there are three different methods by which family allowances should be paid. These are a State-paid system, a contributory insurance scheme, and the method of equalization funds or pools. She shows that, the best scheme- is undoubtedly a wholly State-paid national scheme covering the entire child population. That is the scheme this Government has adopted, and Dr. Wallace commends us for having raised child, endowment from 5s. a week to 7s. 6d. a week. Now this legislation is raising the amount payable to 10s. a week for every child after the first. The principle is sound. As a result of this increase, in a family comprising six: children, the child endowment entitlement for five of them would be £2 10s. a week. That amount would come into the. home over and above the wages of the husband. Prom every point of. view the endowment scheme is good. It has been suggested that there are mothers who should be criticized because of the wasteful methods they employ. Of course there are mothers, and also fathers and. members of Parliament who are wasteful in their methods. There are members of every community who are wasteful. Perhaps we will never be able to teach them otherwise. Should we condemn the thrifty mothers who wish to use this money for their children, merely because some other mothers may squander it wastefully? In principle, the scheme is sound. The only change that will be made to it -while this Government is in power is that the amount payable will be increased still further. It will not be reduced. I have now referred to the main factors on the economic side whereby we can assist family life in this country and encourage an increase of the birthrate in Australia. As I said previously i he economic factors can be over-stressed as the principal cause of the falling birthrate.
Another matter to which I wish to refer was raised by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) in the able speech she delivered yesterday. She suggested that we should relate pensions to the cost of living. Whilst that is an admirable objective, it is not easily done. I shall refer to the years 1919 to 1921. Was there any attempt by anti-Labour governments in those postwar boom years to relate pensions to the cost of living? No.
– There was ah automatic provision in the act.
– It was only just prior to the second world war that any thought wa9 given to the desirability of relating pensions to the basic wage or the cost of living. That was done at the rate of ls. increases at a time. Though the principle may be good, the working out of it in practice is not easy. If the cost of living is high in relation to the value of the pension, the actual value is less than it would otherwise be. The cost of living is not going to keep on rising. It is inevitable that the cost of living will come down as production increases. A fall may be expected next year or the year after. I point out to honorable, members that whilst the pensioners of this country may be feeling the pinch in a certain sense to-day because of the high cost of foodstuffs, and rentals, the time will most assuredly come when the costs of those items will be lower. The amount of the pensions will not then be reduced.
– How does the honorable member know?
– This country would be in a serious financial- state if the Australian Labour party ever reduced pensions.
– The honorable member should not commence electioneering already.
– Honorable members cannot deny that fact. It is of no use to try to get around it. The cost of living will ultimately come down and as it does the value of pension payments will increase. The pension itself will not be decreased while this Government remains in office.
– Can the honorable member guarantee that?
– Yes, the Government has established a reserve to maintain pension rates, and the pensioners may feel happy about that aspect of the future.
The benefits that the Government is providing to-day cover a very wide range indeed. They include funeral benefits, hospital benefits, tuberculosis benefits, pensions for the blind, free medicine, allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner, widows’ pensions in three classes, maternity allowances, child endowment, sickness and unemployment benefits and a host of smaller benefits that the public are not very conversant with. Under this bill we propose to raise invalid and age pensions by 5s. a week, and to increase from 25s. to 30s. a week the permissible income which all classes may receive without pensions being affected. In the case of a blind pensioner the increase of permissible income has been raised from £5 7s. 6d. to £5 17s. 6d. a week. The property bar is to be raised from £650 to £750, and the rate of child endowment has been increased from 7s. 6d. a week to 10s. a ^yeek.
I refer particularly to what is proposed to be done for the blind. Many blind persons earn a considerable amount. The amount of income which a blind person may earn without affecting the amount of his pension has been increased from £5 7s. (icl. to £5 17s. 6d. n week. Blind pensioners will thus, in many instances, be able to retain their income, and in addition receive the pension. In effect, this will mean that they may receive a total income of £8 a week instead of £7 os. a week as at. present. Where both husband and wife are blind they will be permitted to earn between them £5 17s. 6d., and in addition will receive the full amount of pension. The total income they may thus receive will be £10 2s. 6d. a week instead of £9 2s. 6d. as at present. The total cost of all these recent increases will be considerable The increase of 5s. per week in pensions will cost the Government an additional £15,000,000 a year; the liberalization of the means test, for which this Government must be commended, will cost an additional £2,300,000; and the increase in the rate of child endowment will cost £6,700,000. Pension payments will increase by £6,000,000.
Later on, the purchasing power thus released by these pensions will have the full effect within the homes to which it goes, as the cost of living decreases. The real life blood of a nation is its purchasing power. To draw that off would mean financial and economic death. I claim that by the provision of £SO,000,000 for social services the Government is ensuring that the nation will be kept healthy, virile and happy. I have great pleasure in commending this legislation to honorable members.
.- My comments on this bill will be short. They will be all the shorter, because I had intended to comment on the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and. I have decided that he, as Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker at the moment is either too well, or too unfavorably, situated to warrant my replying to him. This bill provides for increasing age and invalid pensions by 5s. a week, and a pensioner’s permissible earnings from 20s. to 30s. a week. Provision is also made for small increases to war pensioners. No one can object to the bill. The Minister who introduced it (Mr. Holloway), and many honorable members on both sides of the House, did their best when discussing the measure to avoid party politics and electioneering propaganda. However, the debate was apparently going too smoothly, and it became impossible for some Government supporters to refrain from saying how marvellous the Labour party was, and from claiming that if it were not for the Labour party the whole world would collapse. Therefore, it became necessary for honorable members on this side of the House to answer them. Some honorable members opposite speak of members of the Opposition as savages who would like to see people standing around the doors begging for crumbs. I remind them that there is as much humanity on this side of the House as on the other. I commend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (M’r. Thompson), who succeeded in keeping party politics out of his speech. He did not seek to give the Labour party credit where credit was not due, or to blame the Opposition when blame was not deserved. Later, some other government back-benchers spoke, and we have had to listen to some extraordinary statements from them. They have tried to convince the pensioners that the Government, is really doing something worth while for them. Actually, the bill merely represents an attempt to keep pensions abreast of the cost of living, and. even in that it has nor, succeeded very well. However, to hear honorable members opposite, one would think that the millennium had arrived. After all, it is only proposed to raise age and invalid pensions to £2 2s. 6d. a week. Some honorable members opposite have attempted to paint a false picture by saying that an old couple could draw between them £7 5s. a week, while living in their own home. To achieve this, each would have to earn 30s. a week. If they are unable to do this, they will have to be content, with £4 5s. a week for the two of them, an,d if out of this they have to pay rent for a home they will not have much to come and go on. If the Labour party is responsible for that, it has nothing much to boast about.
I was disappointed in the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who tried to discredit the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) because he referred to certain old people in the Northern Territory who still have the pioneer spirit, and fiercely resent anything in the nature of charity, because they like to believe that they have the capacity to provide for their own old age. I do not say that their attitude is always right. It is a pleasure for us to help them when they cannot help themselves. But to decry the independent spirit which made this country great, and. which built the Empire, is to do disservice to the nation. The Labour party has encouraged people to believe that they need make no effort to meet a crisis. All they need to do is to lean against the post and hold out a hand, confident that some one - the Government, most probably - will put something in it. No one is encouraged to save in order to provide against old age or decrepitude. It would be a tragedy if the spirit of independence were to disappear from among the people. Some Government supporters have tried to create the impression that, but for the Labour party, there would be no pensions and no social services. As a matter of fact, it was the Deakin Government, which was non-Labour, that put the original Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act through the Parliament. Honorable members opposite claim, of course, that it was done under Labour pressure.
– Sir ‘John Forrest, who was Treasurer in the Deakin Government, resigned over that issue.
– It is absurd to suggest that a handful of Labour members were able to bring enough pressure to bear on the Deakin Government to influence its policy. If the Deakin Government had been defeated on the issue, the Labour party would not have been strong enough to form a government, and there would have been no pensions scheme. The present Opposition parties have, in the years gone by, built the bridges, and the Labour party is trying to claim credit for all the water that has run under them. It is time that the public knew and understood what hypocritical stuff is talked by honorable members opposite. At the present time, the pensions of ex-servicemen are not high enough. Indeed, they are a disgrace. Widows are complaining that they have not enough to live on. Yet, according to .honorable members opposite, everything is rosy, and no one has anything to worry about under this .marvellous Government ! It is sickening to hear them talk in that fashion. If the Labour Government were to introduce a sound social service scheme on a permanent basis I should be happy to support it.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) declared that social .service payments, no matter how great, could not be met out of loans. They must be paid out of revenue. The significance of that has not, apparently, registered with backbench supporters of the Government. To every one else it is obviously unsound to base a social service system upon such a fluctuating quantity as the national revenue. At the present time, revenue is high because prices for our wool, wheat and butter are at an unprecedentedly high level. However, if prices for our primary products were to fall by 50 per cent., the national revenue would decline correspondingly, and where then would the Government get £100,000,000 a year for social services ? Some honorable members opposite have referred to -the New Zealand social service scheme, which is a contributory one. Such a scheme ‘may well be . sound enough, ‘but it is not sound to -rely upon revenue to maintain a social service system; yet honorable members opposite talk as if increasing the cost of social services from £17,000,000 to £100,000,000 was something clever. The whole system will collapse if prices for our export commodities should seriously decline. If there should be a general economic depression, the position will become even worse. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) claimed that, as long as the Labour Government was in power, pensions would not be reduced. It might be possible to maintain pensions at their present level, but if the national income falls pensions can be maintained only at the cost of other social services.
A previous speaker cited figures which emphasized the ever-increasing number of pensioners in the community, and the decreasing number of those who are earning. It is estimated that by 1960 every four persons who are earning will be supporting an age pensioner, in addition to which the community will have to support the blind, the halt, the sick and the maimed. It is a terrifying thought and the burden may well prove to be too heavy for the younger people to bear. Because of scientific discoveries, the average expectation of life is greater now than it used to be, but for some inexplicable reason the birth-rate is falling. I am glad that the honorable member for Wilmot demonstrated the absurdity of the guff that is talked about the birth-rate being influenced by economic conditions. He very properly pointed out that the birthrate was higher among people living in the slums than among those who live in big homes where they have every comfort. The birth-rate is higher in India and China, where economic conditions are generally low, than in countries where the standard of living is higher. Obviously, the raising of the standard of living is not the solution of the problem of the declining birth-rate. Every year, fewer children are being born, while every year more and more old people become pensioners of the State.
If *;he means test were abolished, an extra £52,000,000 a year would have to be found for pensions, and it is ridiculous to suggest that, this could be done all at once. However, no one can deny the right of those who pay the taxes to share in their distribution. I admit that the means test cannot be abolished in one, two or three years. We should need to make the necessary provision for it. Tie only honest and wise way in which we can help those who cannot help themselves is by adopting a scheme with a sounder backing than that provided by a fluctuating overseas market. We should adopt a scheme similar to that which is in operation in New Zealand, where the means test has been abolished and a contributory system has been introduced.
– The means test has. been only partly abolished in New Zealand.
– I understood that it had been completely abolished. However, we in Australia must evolve a permanent scheme which will stand up to any test. Instead of doing so, honorable members opposite are boasting about the virtues of the present scheme, and are completely overlooking the fact that Commonwealth revenue is now the greatest in our history. I should feel assured that social services will always be maintained at the present level. I should feel much happier in my mind that the people, of Australia were being less deceived ^ if a scheme were introduced that could operate in any economic circumstances. I do not, propose to criticize any social services schemes which have been introduced by this or any previous government with that objective in view. Unquestionably, a scheme can be evolved which will remain soxmd under any economic conditions. Under the present system, that is not possible, and no honorable member can honestly pretend that it is. All that we are doing is to dig in a number of leaning posts. We are discouraging people from being thrifty and providing for themselves. I agree with the statement by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that not all the people who are receiving pensions deserve them. I have in mind the “ boozers “ and “ guzzlers “, who, during their working life, did not save a penny but swilled away their earnings on- alcohol. I would not care what happened to them. They did not contribute one penny to the development of this country. However, I realize that if we were to penalize them, we should also penalize hundreds of thousands of worthy people. Therefore, on the principle of British justice that it is preferable that nine guilty persons shall go free than that one innocent person shall be made to suffer, I agree that all persons who conform to the conditions of the means test should receive a pension. However, I do not wax enthusiastic about trying to help those who have never saved a penny but have squandered everything that they have received. Every citizen has the responsibility to do his best to relieve the nation of the obligation to maintain him in his old age, and when he is “ down and out “. An obligation devolves on him to help himself, and he should apply to the Government for assistance only when he has not sufficient means adequately to provide for himself!
Some honorable members opposite probably considered that this debate waa proceeding too smoothly, and that the Labour party was not receiving sufficient credit for its share in introducing or expanding social services. Therefore, they endeavoured to discredit the Opposition and to give all the credit to the Labour party. They reluctantly admitted that the Menzies Government introduced child endowment, but they qualified that admission with the words, “ under pressure from the Labour party “. They sought to claim for the Labour party all the credit for every social improvement, that had been in the country. They were, in effect, trying to claim all the water that had run under the bridges built by the political parties that now constitute the Opposition in this House. The Labour party adopted those tactics in regard to defence and later in regard to pensions. The purpose of honorable members opposite in doing so was to endeavour to convince the people before the nert election that the Labour party and not the Liberal party and the Australian Country party was their friend.
The bill has my approval, and the approval of every member of the Opposition, but the measure could have had a speedy passage, free from party bias, had some honorable member opposite not introduced party politics into the debate. Last night, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) began a tirade. I am not able to deal with that speech, because, as Mr. Deputy Speaker at the moment and not as the private member for Werriwa, y.ou, sir, are in a favorable position to protect yourself.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - The Chair has no objection to the honorable member criticizing the speech; he may go ahead.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory disposed of the speech by the honorable member for Werriwa most effectively. In my opinion, it was a most objectionable speech, because an atmosphere of harmony existed in the House and no honorable members objected to the bill. Indeed, who can object to an increase of pension urn onn ting to a miserable 5s. a week? Honorable members opposite scoff. Any pensioner listening to the debate can be excused for thinking that, in the minds of honorable members of the Labour party, the increase of pension is sufficient to enable a recipient to buy a mansion. Honorable members opposite are scratching their backs with pleasure because of a miserable 5s. a week. They should return to reality. I approve of the bill, but I hope that, in future, social services will be discussed outside the realm of party politics and that members of one political party will not claim a monopoly of all the charitable emotions in the House. During this debate, honorable members opposite have pretended that the members of the Opposition are like savage beasts, and want to grind the pensioners down at every opportunity. Some, educated gentlemen opposite should be ashamed of themselves for having tried to create that impression.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) deplored the party political controversy on the subject of social services. It, would he true to say that there has been very little party controversy about the proposed increase of pensions, the nature of the pensions, and the classes of people who should receive them, but there has been a good deal of party controversy about, the method of financingsocial services. When discussing that aspect, the honorable member for Gippsland suggested that revenue was not. a solid base for the scheme. He did not really tell us what he considered to be a more solid basis, but I am not doing him an injustice when I say that he consider? that a contributory scheme will be a sounder basis for social services than n scheme financed out of proceeds for taxation. If the honorable gentleman is arguing that it is sounder ethically for a person to be directly aware that he is contributing to his future benefits, as he would be if he were contributing to an insurance scheme, he has made a statement that it will be very difficult. to, refute. But, if he is trying to inform the country that contributions make a sounder financial basis than taxation to safeguard pensions in the event of an economic depression. I advise the honorable gentleman to read a. report produced and signed by members, of the two political parties which now constitute the Opposition. The principal signatory was a former member for Parramatta, Sir Frederick Stewart. That report made an exhaustive examinalion of contributory schemes throughout the world. If there is an economic depression or a serious fall in national income, a system of social services based on contributions is no safer than a system of social services based on tax contributions. Sir Frederick Stewart pointed out that when 2,500,000 persons were unemployed in Great Britain it was obvious that they could not contribute to a contributory scheme any more than they could pay taxes to a tax-financed scheme. The contributions that an individual can make are no more independent of his income than the taxes that he can pay are independent of his income. Quite clearly, under depressed conditions, a contributory scheme is as unsafe as is a scheme financed out of taxation. Sir Frederick Stewart pointed out that fact, and also dealt with the ethical argument in favour of a contributory, scheme, but I shall not deal with that aspect.
Another matter to which I propose to direct attention is the pensions which are payable to sufferers from tuberculosis. At the Wooroloo Sanatorium in Western Australia a. brilliant doctor who was appointed not long ago has started occupational therapy. He has established some kind of industry within the colony of people suffering from tuberculosis, and they have developed it. Many of the patients are able to earn quite a reasonable income, and the interest which they have, in their jobs helps to cure them. But the operation of the means test has the immediate effect of reducing their invalid pension. I am not making an attack on the Government, but am merely pointing out, an unexpected anomaly. However, the reduction of pension acts as a deterrent to the sanatorium patients and authorities alike in relation to the earning of income and the expanding of the industry that the colony has developed. There cannot be a large number of tuberculosis sufferers in Australia, and I cannot believe that the abolition of the means test on their income, when earned under the control of a sanatorium for work done as a part of the hospital treatment, can make a significant dent in the Commonwealth revenue. I am certain that it is possible to abolish or drastically modify the means test applicable to. the earnings of invalid pensioners in the circumstances which I have described.
The honorable member for Gippsland complained that the community was becoming pension-minded and that the virtue of thrift had been forgotten. The emphasis which members of the Opposition sometimes place on that point creates the impression that they are hostile to the payment of pensions, and the emphasis which they also place on the necessity for abolishing the means test has caused their strictures to be regarded as an unfair attack on the Government. That belief has led many members of the Labour party to defend the social services record of the Labour party compared with that of the Opposition parties, f propose briefly to examine the subject of thrift. Savings are dependent directly upon the capacity to save. As a member of the Parliament, I am able to save more than I was able to save when I was a teacher but that does not mean that I am now more virtuous than I was then in that respect. The explanation is that I now have a higher income than I previously had. But I have not become more virtuous. The wife of a man in receipt of the basic wage, which, after all, is the wage computed to purchase only the basicneeds, can save only at the expense of her family. In those circumstances, the statement that thrift is a virtue is utter rubbish. But wise, intelligent expenditure is definitely a virtue. A person in receipt of the basic wage cannot possibly save a sum of money that will guarantee to him an income in his old age. When we talk loosely about thrift, and say that those who have happened to save are, ipso facto, more virtuous than those who have not, we are talking utter nonsense, and obscuring the problem. There are other matters to be considered. Let us examine the child endowment. A person with dependants does not need to have a high income now before he finds that his social services contributions equal the child endowment payments that his wife receives. The exception to that statement, of course, is provided by the wageearner with a large family. A man in receipt of quite a moderate income can be making a social services contribution of 10s. a week and be receiving a similar amount in child endowment. A great social advantage of child endowment lies in the fact that the expenditure is put into the hands of the woman. It seems to me to be true to say that in the main women make money go further than men, and insofar as child endowment makes a transfer of expenditure into the hands of women it is a great social advantage. Of course, in the case o.f large families it also has the great advantage of assisting in the bringing up of the children.
The question of a contributory scheme has been raised on several occasions. I have dealt with the argument that it is more soundly based than a scheme which is dependent on ordinary revenue. If there is a depression and consequent mass unemployment in Australia, it is quite clear that tax contributions to an age pensions scheme will not be kept up and :at some point the Government will be forced to revise all social service benefits downwards. That would apply as much to a contributory scheme as to one that was financed out of taxes. I feel that honorable gentlemen opposite, in dealing with this matter, ought at least to refer- to the existence of a fund, which now amounts, I believe, to £79,000,000 and which is intended to act as a reserve in a period when there may be a decrease of revenue. Since the National “Welfare Fund is not, as it were, living from day to day or from hand to mouth, it at least provides a reserve that would cushion the shock of any sudden fall in government revenue in the event of a depression.
T congratulate the Government upon the proposed increase of the age and invalid pension, but I agree that it will not do anything more than to offset the rising cost of living. The pensioners in Western Australia take the view, and it is a difficult one to refute, that the age and invalid pension should be fixed at 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage.
– To ‘rise and fall with costs of living?
– Yes. That would follow if it were always to be 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. The amount of money that pensioners would receive at the present time if that proposal were adopted is approximately £2 9s. weekly, or 6s. 6d. more than they are now receiving. An old couple would get £4 ISs. a week. To ask that pensions should be fixed at 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage does not seem to me to be making a demand for .something that would jeopardize the present fund. As I say, there is now a reserve of £79,000,000. If the cost of living fell, pensions would be decreased ; if it rose, they would be increased. I realize that there are revenue difficulties. Governments like- to be able to anticipate expenditure for a year ahead, but I think that that is an obsolete concept. It is possible, in relation to certain items in the budget, to estimate expenditure for a period of more than a year ahead. It is possible to budget for a longer period than one year ahead and to allow for contingencies such as variations in the cost of living and in fact we are doing it by building up a reserve. The amount at present in the fund is £79,000,000, and it will, I presume, be increased further. If the proposal of the Western Australian people were adopted, it would help those people who are concerned about the rising cost of living.
It is difficult to be dogmatic about pensions. . An old couple who are receiving between them an age pension of £4 5s. a week to-day are not badly off, if they have their own home. They are not involved in the clothing and travelling expenses that have to be borne by people who go out to work. If, however, from that £4 5s. a week they have to pay 25s. or 30e. a week for rent, their position is entirely different. We have to face the fact that 85 per cent, of age pensioners have no means other than their pensions. Some of them may own their own homes, but they are probably in a minority. I consider that at some time in the future the means test should at least be modified in its application to a pensioner who has to pay rent. The means test will operate in exactly the same way in respect of a pensioner with his own home who is earning 35s. a week and a pensioner without his own home who is earning the same sum. but the position of the two people is entirely different. In making modifications of the means test the question of dead loss expenditure, such as rent, ought to he taken into consideration.
This measure will do something to enable the pensioner to get nearer to the rising cost of living and therefore in common with other honorable members, 1 support it.
.- I have listened with interest to the debate on the motion for the second reading of this bill.
– Did the honorable gentleman listen to it in- Tasmania?
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) is indulging in cheap gibes. It is not possible to educate ignorance out of such people, whatever is done. I was particularly interested in the remark of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) tbat women make money go further than men. Like the. honorable member, I have recently entered into the bonds of matrimony. I have had some breathtaking experiences. I do not want to dilate upon them, but I think that neither my heart nor my pocket will stand it if they continue for much longer.
– The honorable gentleman should have married for money.
– I may try the next time. For some years we concentrated upon fixing a basic wage, and later provision was made for the payment of child endowment. I have never been able to understand the purpose of child endowment. I hope to make that remark clear as I proceed. In the famous Harvester award the learned judge, having regard to the size of the average Australian family of that time, fixed the basic wage at a level which would provide for the needs of five people. I think that award was made in 1907. “When another learned judge investigated the position in the early days of war he found that the size of the average Australian family had decreased, and his award provided for the reasonable needs of three people. The Harvester award was made on the basis of the reasonable needs of a man with a wife and three children, but the later award related to the needs of a man with a wife and one child. Honorable members opposite have explained that child endowment was not provided for the first child because it was covered by the basic wage. “We can only conclude, therefore, that the purpose of child endowment was not to encourage the growth of family life in this country, but to implement the basic wage by making payments in respect of children other than the .first a charge upon the national revenue and not upon industry. If that is true, it is a sad commentary upon the decisions of the Arbitration Court in the years between 1907 and 1940 or 1941. I do not want to cast slurs upon judges, but Ave must take the facts as we find them. We can only conclude that, instead of child endowment being designed to encourage the growth of family life in this country, its purpose to-day is to implement the basic wage. There are fundamental differences between the two principles, and I shall endeavour to explain them to the House. The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied me withsome very illuminating figures relating to the number of persons in Australia who have dependent children under th<» age of sixteen years. The figures are compiled to the 30th June, 1947. In round figures, in New South Wales there were at that time 176,000 families of one child, 121,000 families of two children, and 23,000 families of four children. It has been said that families of two children are not sufficient to maintain our population at its present figure. In thp nineties the average Australian family consisted of 6.2 children but to-day it consists of two children. If the purpose of child endowment is to encourage the growth of family life, we must approach the problem in a different way.
If honorable members will consider the facts that led to the outbreak of the South African war they will find that it had its origin in a curious piece of legislation that was introduced by a South African Government many years ago. The Government discovered that if it extended the franchise to all the people who were entering South Africa, those people would be able to out- vote the native Boers. One of its actions was to impose intolerable conditions upon people who wanted to enter the country, to make it their home and to rear their families there. The Government disfranchised them because it realized that if they were given full voting power they would be able to outvote the native Boers. If there is a large influx of migrants into Australia over a period of years, it may not be long before they will be in a position to out-vote the Australian equivalent of the native Boers. That may produce another kind of problem altogether which has not been thought of, or at least which I have not heard discussed in this chamber. If, on the one hand, we have a steadily declining natural increase of population and on the other a. gradually increasing population in consequence of our migration policy, the time must come, in the not-distant future, when the impact of the migrant on the Australian-born must be materially felt. I do not say that that would be a bad thing, but it is a sad commentary on our own people if we cannot maintain our own natural growth of population. Although the population is increasing it is increasing because of greater longevity among our people and by migration, and not by an increasing birth-rate. So, child endowment for that reason alone should be given an entirely new meaning. It should not be regarded as a supplementation of the basic wage, but as an encouragement of the growth of family life in this country. Honorable members can visualize some idea of the picture from these figures. Out of 392,000 families in New South Wales, there are only 23,000 families with four or more children. Of the 263,000 families in Victoria, only 14,000 have four or more children. In Queensland the comparative figures are much the same. In that State out of the 147,000 families only 10,000 have four or more children. The estimated figures for the Commonwealth are 9S7,000 families and only 58,000 families of four or more children. That indicates how little the Australian-born will ultimately control the destinies of their country. Child endowment should be given an entirely different significance. I do not want to touch on some of the political issues in this proposition because when party politics reach their full impact on the community reason seems to go outside the door. It is no use to try to reason with people when the press chooses to cause them to panic. 1 believe that when the people at the last referendum rejected the Government’s proposal to control rents and prices rbey did their country a very great disservice. If the Commonwealth has power to fix the basic wage it should also have power to control the prices of essential commodities upon which the basic wage has to be expended. It should not lie possible for the Arbitration Court to raise the basic wage to, say, £7 a week, only to find that on the day after the judgment is delivered the prices of meat and bread rise to offset the increased wage. lt should be possible for the Government, to say, “ The court, has fixed the basic wage at £7 a week; we now fix the prices of bread, meat and other essential commodities within very narrow margins of fluctuation “. The basic wage would then mean something. In. criticizing honorable members opposite for advising the people to reject the GovernmentV proposals at the recent referendum I do not do so merely because of party alinements. Results have proved that they did this country a singular disservice because after having agreed to allow the Arbitration Court to determine the minimum basic wage they refused to allow the Government to control the prices of essential commodities that that basic wage must be used to buy. I believe that the day will come when Unpeople will approach this problem, not with a mind biased hy party politics, but with sanity. They will apply themselves to the solution of this problem on rational lines because they will be forced to realize that, it is of no use for them to hide their heads in the sand. Political change is in the air, and instead of trying to hold it back we would do better to attempt to guide it on rational lines. Just as the struggle for democracy, great and enduring as it was, ultimately succeeded, so the struggle for newerthought in politics must win through. We must not be hidebound in our approach to this problem; rather must we be prepared to adapt ourselves to the change with a considerable degree of flexibility. Rather than have things happen by a process of revolution we must achieve them by a process of evolution. The time has arrived when we should reconsider the whole subject of child endowment not as a supplement to the basic wage, as it is regarded to-day, but as a means of encouraging the growth of family life in this country. If the Commonwealth Constitution enables us to do so, I should like the determination of the basic wage to be referred back to the Arbitration Court. We should say to the court, “ You must determine a basic wage which makes provision for a man, his wife and two children “. Some one may ask, “ What about the man who accepts no family responsibility?” My answer is that we can look after the responsibility of such a man by taxation. If we did that and then said to the people, “We shall remove from the field of legislation the need for providing for the second child ; if you are prepared to have a third child we will give you 25s. a week; if you have a fourth child we will give you £2 » week “, we would encourage in this young country the growth of Australianborn population that is so urgently needed to ensure our future safety. During the last ten years, the whole Australian picture has changed. Ten years ago, we were a people living close to the southern-most portion of Asia, carving out our own destiny in our own way. To-day, we no longer enjoy that freedom. The world is becoming conscious that we have vast open spaces and potential resources waiting to be developed. A population of 7,000,000 people, a large percentage of which is moving into the oldage group, cannot adequately protect this country. It behoves us to admit that new movements are in the air. We should apply ourselves diligently to understand them. As a first step, granted that we have the necessary machinery and the necessary constitutional power, we should refer back to the Arbitration Court the fixation of the basic wage and direct thu court to fix a basic wage adequate to meet the needs of a man, his wife and two children. Next, we should provide for child endowment to be paid solely for the purpose of promoting the growth of fumilies.
– The States could do that.
– The States have the requisite constitutional power, but they would not be able to exercise it because of the operation of uniform taxation. That is not the only way by which the problem of our dwindling birth-rate could be tackled. There are many others. For instance, the efforts of the department administered by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) have been directed towards making provision at the earliest possible moment for larger families. That avenue could be further explored. In terms of size, family life in Australia is deteriorating. We are maintaining our numbers by increasing longevity and by enabling an everincreasing flow of migrants to infiltrate our population. I trust that the migration policy of the Government will be continued. No honorable member of this House in my time has pushed with more vigor than I have the necessity for attracting migrants to Australia, for I realize that because of our geographical situation .and increasingly significant of the place we are taking in the scheme of world affairs the world is becoming far more conscious of our importance. I offer these comments in no carping spirit, but solely because I believe that I am suggesting the correct approach to our social services problem insofar as it is affected by child endowment. I. do not wish to bore honorable members any more on the subject except to emphasize that it is indeed tragic that, of approximately 1,000,000 families in the Commonwealth only 5S,000 have four or more children and only 2.11 have ten children or more. This problem demands the attention of every person in the community. I am aware that it would be an unpopular move for the Government to try to upset a principle that is well established as part and parcel of our social services programme. However, to provide for the second child in the basic wage would represent no innovation. Indeed, as early as 1907 the court provided a wage which was estimated to cover the needs of the second and third child. We should make the child endowment an inducement to people to have large families, a purpose for which it was established.
I propose now to discuss social services from another angle which may he of interest to the House. Increasing longevity is producing all kinds of complex problems for the medical man. So complex, indeed, are some of these problems that they appear to be almost insoluble. For example, people in their 80’s who suffer from comparatively minor ailments are now filling the wards of our public hospitals. What can we do with them? They have no other place to go to and many of them have no families to look after them. These people are occupying beds in our institutions and preventing the hospitals from functioning to full capacity. I agree with the honorable member for- Freemantle (Mr. Beazley) that old couples should be cared for. If they are in reasonably good health provision should be made for them to remain together and they should be afforded such comforts as the nation can afford. In increasing numbers old men and old women’ who have no homes and no families are occupying much needed bed space in our public institutions. Before the next election’ the Government might well consider the desirability of providing in all capital cities inexpensive accommodation for old people in which they may spend the evening of their lives with some degree of comfort. I believe that this would be the cheapest and most effective way of dealing with the problem presented by these old people. I am sure that such a proposal would commend itself to all sections of the community. Its adoption would relieve the burden on our public hospitals and enable them to provide beds urgently needed for the treatment of acute cases. I make the suggestion for what it is worth and, as honorable members know, I have had some experience in this domain, having been Minister for Health in a State government for some . years. My suggestion should be given the consideration it merits.. I admit that the total capital expenditure involved .may be high but the problems must be tackled in one way or another.
I wish, now to touch on a highly controversial subject which I desire to approach in a non-party spirit. I refer to what are termed, for want of a better description, “B” class widows. A widow of that class comes into the pension field at the age of 50 years, but the wife of a worker does not come into the pension field until she .has reached the age of 60 years. I believe that that will lbc admitted by all honorable members. I should not like .to tell a widow 50 years of age that she was ‘decrepit and could not do a .day’s work. Here is a field that requires a lot of examination by the Department of Social Services. One of the matters that is being discussed in this country at the present time, and one concerning which I have a great, deal of sympathy, is that of home help. I do not know what can be done in regard to it. There are times -when a mother of three or four children expecting another child cannot obtain domestic assistance. T believe that an approach should be made to widows in their early fifties in something like the following terms: -
We shall have you medically examined, and if you are physically fit to perform such work we shall provide you with a course of training Von can perform home help duties for a portion of the year. We shall pay you a full salary, and sO that you will not oe taxed unduly we shall deduct from your total annual earnings the pension that you would nave received as a widow if you did not work.
If that were done I believe that many of them would respond to the appeal. If such an inducement were offered and the women could be adequately trained in certain branches of nursing and home help generally, I am sure that the scheme would prove successful. I am referring not to the widow with two or three children, or even with one child, but to the widow who is receiving a pension and has no encumbrance of any kind. I believe that if the Department of Social Services offered an attractive salary, some degree of education, and a tax concession equivalent to the widows’ pension in return for sendee for a part of the year, a number of these widows would agree to serve and considerable benefit would accrue to the community. I hesitate to believe that a woman would accept 27s. or 30s. a week as a widow’s pension in preference, to performing a public service for which she: would .receive a reasonable salary, knowing always that if she were out of a job she could again obtain the pension without having to do a full, year’s work. That is. a field that should be explored.
– Many women in receipt of widows’ pensions would not like to start work again.
– I am not competent to give an opinion upon that matter; [ merely suggest that the Department of Social Services give the proposal a trial and observe the result. It may be that only those- persons who are decrepit seek the- pension and that they have not the physical capacity to do such work. If so; we should^ not achieve worthwhile- results. But if there are widowed, pensioners in their fifties who could perform, this very useful service to the community-, such ;t scheme- should- be introduced.
– Their main complaint is that they ha ve lost touch with the commercial world. The honorable member’s proposal would overcome that.
– It should be possible to introduce such a scheme in every country town in Australia. If, after an exhaustive examination, it were found that such pensioners were not physically capable of doing the work,, I should not press the matter. I make the suggestion because I cannot get out of my soul the conviction that it is grossly unfair to say to a woman of 50 years of age, “Because you are a widow you are entitled to a pension “, and. to the wife of a working man, “ You must work until you are 6.0 years of age before you can get a pension “. That is not right.
I was very interested to hear the claim of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that wool,, wheat, meat and other primary products enable the Government to provide to. so great a degree social services in Australia. In this connexion, my mind goes back to the days of the depression. I recall having heard spoken the words, “ When wool prices go up everything will be all right in this country “. Yet in one of the depression years an exceptionally good wool crop did not improve our economy. The great value of social services, apart from the benefits conferred upon those who are pensionable, is the stability that they give to the consuming and producing community. The retailer and whole saler, are assured that, every, year they will be able to dispose of £100,000,000 worth of consumer goods. If that money were merely being- taken from the community, set aside, and not used, the complaints of Opposition members would be justified; but every penny taken from the community at- present passes back into, circulation immediately and is used to pay rents and buy consumer goods, thus ensuring stability to the producers. Thai is another- aspect of the matter- that should be explored.
I have endeavoured to show that social services can confer very great benefits upon the community. I believe that we are entering a new era of social and political activities. There will be no new isms “ in the world which will be detrimental to the people as a whole if- we develop an evolutionary capitalism. For the last 50 years we have stagnated in our capitalistic approach to many of pur problems. That is why present-day social services appear revolutionary. Many honorable members will recall the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. Many people then claimed that it was only a euphemeral experiment. Subsequently, a similar attack was made on arbitration. I was a member of a cabinet the Premier of which continually referred to- “ the birth-pangs of a new idea “. Perhaps social services are experiencing birth-pangs. I. believe, the time is not far distant when all governments and all- parties will endorse social services as the new, progressive and. evolutionary approach to a better system of capitalism and as a first-class antidote to some of the dangerous “ isms “ that now prevail iia Europe in consequence, of the non-existence of a satisfactory social services scheme.
-It is pleasing that, generally speaking, the House has approached consideration of this bill in a fairly broad and non-party spirit. After all, whatever might be said about social ser/vices, every government in the past has played some part in the provision of social services for the community. It is true that Australian Labour party governments have underlined the social services plank in their platform for a longer period than have any other parties. I suppose that is because, in the main, the Australian Labour party has been more closely associated with the masses of the people who are not fortunately situated in the community. The honor- able member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) has made a contribution to this debate which is entirely free from party considerations, and has made a wise approach to the problem as he sees it. One or two aspects of this matter which have been mentioned during the last day or two ought to be clarified. One was mentioned by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser). I interjected at the time because I thought he had inadvertently made reference to the National Insurance Health and Pensions Act when he spoke of the measure passed by the Lyons Government, but he persisted in his attitude that the bill had never reached the statute-book of this country. I remind the honorable member. I said by interjection, that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was passed, in 1938 and the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employers’ Contributions) Act and the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees’ Contributions) Act were passed in 1939.I remember the occasions very well, and the honorable member for Wide Bay should also remember them because they provided some interesting debates, and they were very interesting sequels. Those acts which were all repealed by the Social Services Consolidation Act No. 26 of 1947 were placed on the statutebook by the Lyons Government. The only matter that had to be attended to in connexion with them was their proclamation. The machinery was all set up to deal with the subject, but it was never set in motion. The then Opposition, the Australian Labour party, said that it was not possible to operate measures of that kind. Although the acts were passed by the government of the day, they were never implemented. I make that point because I wanted to correct the assertion of the honorable member for Wide Bay that the acts did not pass the third reading stage.
I have a good deal of interest in social services, as have also some honorable members of the Opposition who were associated with me on the Social Security Committee which operated in this country for a period of about five years. It is particularly interesting to-day to see unfolding before our eyes the implementation of many of the recommendations that were made by that committee over a period of years. In all, the committee made nine reports, which were unanimous, except in one detail concerning the payment of certain unemployment benefits during the course of the war. The honorable member forFlinders (Mr.Ryan) will remember that very well because he was one of the members. He rendered good service on that committee. Today, we see being translated into legislation the recommendations of the Social Security Committee. The committee, in its first report dated the 24th September. 1941, recommended that a social security act should be passed. To-day, there is on the statute-book the Social Services Consolidation Act, which this bill proposes to amend. That act brought oursocial service legislation up to date, and the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) is deserving of praise for his part in the framing of the. measure. Previously, social services were covered by a number of independent, acts, which made the schemesdifficult to administer. The Social Security Committee also recommended -
That the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1940, and, where it applies, the Maternity Allowance Act, be amended to provide that- -
Payment of an invalid pension at the maximum ratebe made to a permanently incapacitated person whose disability precludes the earning of more than 15 per cent. of a living wage, provided that such person would otherwise be entitled to receive an invalid pension.
A former member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, attempted several times to obtain an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act so as to remove the dissatisfaction arising from the fact that borderline cases arose in which the persons concerned were prevented from qualifying for a pension. That recommendation has now been adopted. Any invalid who is85 per cent. incapacitated may qualify for a pension by obtaining the certificate from a medical officer.
Regarding deaf and dumb persons, the committee recommended as follows: -
Deaf and dumb persons be granted similar income rights to the totally blind in the payment of invalid pensions. The definition “ deaf and dumb “ to include those who are so deprived of the ordinary faculties of speech and nearing as to be precluded from earning more than 15 per cent, of a living wage.
That recommendation has been enacted to the great benefit of the persons concerned. On the subject of adequate maintenance, the recommendation of the committee was as follows: -
The basis for calculation of adequate maintenance in respect of invalids, otherwise entitled to an invalid pension at the maximum rate, be increased from £78 per annum per member of the family to £130, a half rate pension to bc paid where the income per member of the family does not exceed flafi per annum, with similar income allowances for children to those at present granted.
The’ Government considered that recommendation, and a measure of relief has been provided. As a matter of fact, I think the benefits at present in force are even greater than those recommended by the committee. Our committee considered the subject of vocational training of invalids, and submitted the following recommendation : -
The Minister be empowered to appoint a committee or board whose function it would be to investigate the disability of an invalid pensioner or a claimant for an invalid pension, who is willing to be, or is considered capable of being, trained for a vocation or physical rehabilitation.
During recent months, I have ha.d great pleasure in visiting centres such as those at Mount Martha, in Victoria, and Victor Harbour, in South Australia.,, where invalid pensioners are receiving training to enable them to become selfsupporting members of the community. When the Social Security Committee was in Queensland, we were told by a deputy commissioner of pensions that he had himself trained men and women pensioners until they were able to support themselves, thus regaining their independence and self-respect. I am able to pay a high tribute to the officers of the Department of Social Services for their humanitarian treatment of aged and invalid persons. Nowhere else have I seen a body of men with such a human approach to the problems confronting them. In this regard I could say some thing about my own department, also, but to-day we are considering the Department of Social Services, and I confine my remarks to it. Throughout Australia there are carefully selected men who are doing an excellent job in the department, with great patience, sympathy and understanding. In every way possible, they help those who come before them for relief.
– That comes badly from the Minister who abolished the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement tribunal.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has an obsession on that point. Later on, he will have plenty of opportunities to discuss the subject, and I shall be able to explain satisfactory to the House, if not to the honorable member, my reasons for doing certain things. However, I am not going’ to be led away from ray subject. I was paying a tribute to the men in the Department of Social Services with whom f came into contact as a member of the Social Security Committee, and also, as a private member for the Parliament. I have not by me the figures regarding the number of persons who have been given vocational training by the department, but it is considerable. Those persons have become an asset to the community. They never had any desire to be pensioners. They wanted to be restored in health, and to become economically useful. Now. some of them have married, and have taken their normal place in the community. The department, without any fuss or advertisement, is doing a remarkably fine job. The Social Security Committee made the following recommendation on the subject of accumulated property : -
The amount of permissible income which an old-age pensioner may receive without reduction of pension be increased to £1 per week.
That recommendation was given effect to and the Government now proposes to raise the limit of permissible income f rom. £1 to 30s. a week. When that is done by the passage of this bill the Government will have raised the limit from 12s. fid. a week to 30s. a week.
– The Government taxes in millions, and hands the money back in ten “ bob “ notes.
– The Government is able to raise millions in revenue because of the high level of employment. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) had listened to the speech of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) on this subject, he would have had a better understanding of it. It is not a matter of handing back ten “ bobs “, but of providing a better standard of living for pensioners. On the subject of homes for pensioners, the Social Security Committee recommended -
Inquiries be instituted by the Minister for Social Services to determine the most suitable means of caring for old-age pensioners under satisfactory living conditions and at a nominal rental only. Such accommodation as might bo provided to include provision for the attention and care which the increasing helplessness of old age or infirmity renders necessary.
Much difficulty has been experienced in implementing that recommendation. In the first place, the Government may not, under the Constitution, build houses for any one except ex-servicemen. The provision of housing for the general community is a function of the States. Under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, however, this Government has been able to a degree at least to participate in projects for housing the people.
-Why is the Minister stone-walling?
– Order ! All social services are covered by the bill before the House. The Acting Leader of the Opposition must not interrupt the Minister.
– The Social Security Committee also recommended as follows : -
Dependants’ Allowances. - Allowances as under be paid to the dependent wives and children of invalid and old-age pensioners: -
Fifteen shillings per week for the wife and 10s. per week for one dependent child under sixteen years of age not covered by child endowment, provided that the wife of an old-age pensioner, has reached the age of 50 years or has adependent child or dependent children under sixteen years ofage.
Tenshillings per week to a widowed female pensioner forone dependent child under the age of sixteen years not covered by child endowment.
Such allowances not to be taken into account in calculation of income for determining pension claims.
The Government adopted that recommendation, and included that humane provision in social services legislation a few years ago-
– Why is the Minister stone-walling ?
– He is stone-walling to enable the Minister for Labour and “National Service to have the advantage of the call at 8 o’clock for broadcasting purposes.
– It is nauseating
– This is a deliberate stone-wall. I move -
That the questionbe now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The organization created under the control of the Director-General of Man-power provides the nucleus of an efficient system of employment exchanges which may be expanded to carry out any function associated with unemployment benefits. Under any scheme of protection against post-war unemployment, the principal day-to-day work would necessarily rest with the employment exchanges, upon whom would devolve the registration of all unemployed persons, and in the event of their failing to obtain work within the prescribed waiting period, the payment of their weekly benefit. When fully organized the notional services offices in each State would be the appropriate agency through which to apply a work test - one object in establishing such offices being the fullest possible employment of all labour.
That recommendation for an organization to control employment in this country was another important feature of the work of the Social Security Committee. Last night, the Acting Leader of the Opposition stated that the committee’s recommendation for financing social services was similar to the method advocated by the Liberal party. I inform the honorable gentleman that the Social Security Committee, in its third report, proposed, as an urgent war measure -
Subsequently, we developed that recommendation, and expressed the opinion that it should beapplied to the peacetime set-up. It is now a feature of the method of financing social services.
Old-age pensions were introduced in 1908 but, the invalid pensions did not become payable until later. For the information of honorable members, I shall place on record a table showing the increases of the old-age pension during the last 30 years. On only one occasion was the rate of pension decreased. The table is as follows: -
I have heard the opinion expressed that we have not increased the : age pension in relation to the increased cost of living. Actually, the cost of living index cannot be applied to the age pension. When we used the CommonwealthStatistician’s figures to determine whether the pension should rise or fall in relation to fluctuations of the cost of living, organizations representing old-age pensioners asked the Government to discontinue that method. Their request was granted. I believe that the purchasing power of pensions bears a reasonable relation to the cost of living. The Labour Government can justifiably claima great deal of credit for the improvement of social services, and the people appreciate increases of age and invalid pensions, dependents’ allowances, maternity allowance, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, and hospital benefits. In the social services field, the Labour Government has done an exceedingly good job not only in war-time but also in peace-time. I do not propose to delay the passage of this measure, but, in view of the interest that I have taken in social services for many years, I felt that I should say something before the motion for the second reading was agreed to. My remarks do not seem to be appreciated by honorable members opposite. However, I am sure that they will agree with what I have said about my interest in these matters, even although I have had to say it myself. It has been a pleasure to me to see this scheme unfold, first as a member of the Parliament and later as a Minister in the Government that is responsible for it.
I should like age and invalid pensions to be paid at a higher rate than is proposed. There are, of course, imperfections in the present system. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, everybody is not in the same position and, undoubtedly, pensioners who own their own homes have an advantage over those who have to pay rent. Despite the anomalies that still .remain, the bill represents a great step forward in the provision that is made for our aged people. It is by no means an end in itself. Some of the anomalies to which reference has been made by honorable members on both sides of the House will have to be rectified later. The subjects dealt with by the honorable member for Frementle, the honorable member for .Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will be dealt with during the term of the next Parliament, when a Labour government will still be in power. The people will not dismiss a government which has done so much for them. Like the honorable member for Wilmot, I shall be very happy if I receive nothing in return for my social services contributions. The contributions are paid to help less fortunate members of the community, and should be regarded as a thanksgiving for good health and the strength to do something to help one’s fellows.
.- Although this bill has been endorsed by members of all parties in this House, four of the last five speakers are supporters of the Government. Although the people desire legislation to be passed only after it has been fully discussed by the Parliament, they do not wish the time of the Parliament to be wasted by Minister? and other honorable members stonewalling bills.
– Order ! That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I submit, with respect, that it is not a reflection on the Chair. Your function, sir, is to call the first honorable member who rises to speak, and in this debate you have done so. It is a reflection on the Government, because it is the Government and not you, sir, that is stone-walling this measure. You have not spoken in this debate. If you had, you might have been charged with stone-walling. I submit that my remarks are strictly in order.
It is urgent that the increased pensions shall be paid to age pensioners as soon as possible, but the stone-walling tactics of honorable gentleman opposite may prevent that from being done. The pension increases that are proposed in this bill are sufficient only to compensate the aged and infirm people of Australia for the inflation and consequent decrease of the purchasing power of the pound that has been caused by the .maladministration by this Government of the country’s affairs. The purchasing power of the increased pensions will be equivalent only to the purchasing power of those that were paid in 1920. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has stated that a further four months must elapse before the increased pensions can be paid. The honorable gentleman said that, owing to a shortage of staff, it will not be possible to pay them earlier than that. The Department of Labour and National Service is a large organization. Its task is to find employment for unemployed people. Employers are crying out for men, but they are not available. During the war our industrial effort was diverted from the production of the goods and services that the people required to the production of war materials. When the war ended, the shelves of our warehouses and retail stores were almost empty, and since then we have been concentrating upon building up stocks of the goods that the people require and which were denied to them during the war years. Production is still not sufficient to meet the demand, although almost every available man and woman is in employment. As a result, the staff of rite Department of Labour and National Service has very little to do. I ask the Minister whether any officers of his department can be loaned to the I Apartment of Social Services to assist in the clerical and administrative work that must be completed before the increased pensions can be paid. The increases were decided upon by Cabinet a considerable time ago, and, if the Government really wished to give effect to them quickly” the preliminary work could have been completed before the bill was brought down so that the proposals could be implemented immediately it was passed. The Government is only toying with the aged and infirm people of this country, and by its stone-walling tactics in this chamber it is endeavouring to delay the payment of the increased pensions to them. T say that the underemployed officers of the Department of Labour and National Service should have been set to work to prepare the ground so that the payments could have been made as soon as the bill was passed by the Parliament.
– So they will.
– -I am glad to note that the Government proposes to yield to the pressure that has been brought to bear upon it by honorable members on this side of the House- If .we had not “ punched “ at the Government, it would not have done so. The Department of Labour and National Service is supposed to find a job for everybody who is out of work, but nobody is unemployed. As a result, the officers whose task is to find jobs for the unemployed are themselves, in effect, without jobs. I contend that they should be used to do the administrative work that is involved in giving effect to these proposals. One useful outcome of this debate, during which the Minister has been “ strafed “ by honorable members on this side of the House, has been that the Government apparently no longer proposes to delay the payment for .the increased pensions for four months. I arn sure that the aged and infirm people of this country will thank honorable members on this side of the House for that. They have not much to thank the Government for, because the amount by which the pension is to be increased will only raise its purchasing power to the 1920 level.
Although the bill proposes increases of the pensions that are payable to the aged and infirm., the children have not received the consideration to which they are entitled. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have stressed again and again that the taxes payable by family men should be reduced and that concessions in respect of their wives and children should be increased. I urge that the provisions of the bill which relate to children should be reviewed, because they are inadequate. There is a lot of make-believe in this bill. It has been suggested that because a pensioner is entitled to earn 30s. a week without affecting his pension, the total weekly income of a married couple may be £7 5s. One has only to look at many of our aged and infirm people to realize that they are not capable of earning any money at all.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had been discussing the proposal in the bill now before us to increase invalid, age and widow’s pensions by 5s. a week and also to increase the amount paid by way of child endowment. I had said that all parties in this House support these proposals. Indeed, they could do nothing less than that because what is proposed in this legislation represents only a stepping up of the amount of pension and child endowment to meet the increase of the cost of living or, in other words, the falling off of the purchasing power of the £1 caused by, or contributed to by, inflation resulting from the Government’s maladministration of tlie affairs of this country, its extravagance and the loss of production consequent upon the excessive taxation imposed upon industry. As this measure is designed solely to meet these conditions it should have had a speedy passage through this House, but the Government has stone-walled it. Of the last five speakers, four were Government supporters, and when I rosa the Minister
I’m- the Army (Mr. Chambers) also rose id discuss the bill. It is remarkable to find speaker after speaker on the Government side discussing a proposal with the principle of which all parties are in agreement. I rose mainly to protest against the delay in making available to certain deserving sections of the Australian community badly in need of assistance the additional money that this measure will provide to enable them to meet the increased cost of living. Even now the Government proposes to give to invalid and aged persons and widows the purchasing equivalent only of the pension which: they received in 1920. There is nothing magnanimous in these proposals. I protest at the delay which has marked the introduction of this measure into the Parliament. The inflation which the increased pension rates are designed to cover has already been in existence for a. long time. I point out that payment of the pension out of the proceeds of revenue, and also from the social services contribution is a very insecure method of providing for the needs of these people. Indeed it is possible for the Government to increase the rates of pensions to the scale proposed only because nf the high incomes enjoyed by the people to-day, principally because of the high prices obtained for our exportable primary products, such as wool and wheat, and the high prices ruling for manufactured goods. If the incomes of persons engaged in industry generally, particularly in primary industry, were to drop because of falling prices, the security of any pension^ scheme financed in this way would be jeopardized. I urge the Government to completely re-examine these proposals. It is not the duty of the Opposition to frame the Government’s legislation. Our task is to point out to the Government the weaknesses of the legislation it introduces into the Parliament. We have done that in this instance by pointing out how insecure is the financial basis c-n which the increased pension rates are resting.
Another matter to which 1 wish to draw the attention of the Government is the increasing number of pensioners, a subject which was dealt with early in the debate by the honorable member for
Dai- win (Dame Enid Lyons).. Probably the Minister, having heard so many speeches since the point was raised, has forgotten about it. In 1910, there were 65,492 pensioners. Ten years later, in 1920, the number had increased to 99,170. In 1930 it increased to 155,196; in .1940, to 272,896.; and in 1947, the last year for which figures- are available, it had increased, to 290,173. Analysing these figures in another way, for every 10,000 of the population in Australia, there were 150 pensioners in 1910, 1S9 in 1920, 240 in 1930, 38S in 1940 and 384 in 1947. Having regard to the rapid rise in the number of persons in the community in ‘ receipt of pensions generally, and to the dwindling number of persons who are to provide the funds from which pensions are to be paid, the whole basis of pensions should be reviewed by the Government. For a long time honorable members on this side of the- House have pressed the Government to> give greater consideration to the needs of a married man with a wife and family. We have urged, among other things, that such people should be granted substantially increased tax concessions so that they may have available more money with which to meet their family responsibilities. Only now have we been told of the sudden acceptance by the Government of the vital principle that a married man with a family should be granted further assistance.
Another unsatisfactory feature of this legislation is the provision for widows and children. Under the present proposals an “ A “ class widow is to receive £2 2s. 6d. a week. She is also entitled to receive 5s. a week for the first child, or a total of £2 7s. 6d. a week by way of pension for herself and her child. The total amount of pension and permissible income allowed to such a widow is £3 1.7s. 6d. a week. To-day, however, a couple each receiving the age pension are each entitled to receive £2 2s. 6d. a week and to earn 30s. a week or a. total of £7 5s. in pension and permissible income. The difference between the total pension and permissible income allowed to the- widow with one child and to a. married couple each receiving the full age pension is :E3 7-s. 6d. a week. I believe that the fixa tion of a permissible income for people in receipt of the age pension is entirely useless. “Very few of them on account of their age are able to work. Yet the Government proposes to allow them a permissible income which, with their pension, will enable a married couple to enjoy a total income of £7 5s. a week. The principle’ underlying the whole of these proposals is wrong. I focus the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services on the weakness of the Government’s proposals by citing some other figures which were mentioned earlier in this debate. The total amount of income and pension for widows with children is as follows : -
A widow would have to have eight dependent children in order to secure for herself the same amount of pension and permissible income as is allowed to a couple receiving the age pension. The Government, has obviously given very scant consideration to these proposals. There is far too much makebelieve in them. The whole of the legislation as it applies to children should be recast. If it were not for the need for the aged, the infirm and the widows to receive this additional money at once I would have moved that the bill be withdrawn and recast in order to give a greater measure of justice. Honorable members on this side of the House have repeatedly pressed for greater consideration to be given to children and married people with family responsibilities.
I protest at the delay in the payment of these increases to those who will benefit from them. I and the members of my party urge that the increased payments should be made retrospective to the 1st July and that payment of the arrears be made forthwith. The Minister by interjection last night made it clear that it was impossible to pay the increased amounts forthwith because of insufficient staff to work out the details. The proposals contained in this measure have not been suddenly accepted by the Government. They have been known for a long while and there has been- ample time to prepare all the necessary data to ensure that payment would be made immediately the bill was passed. The officers of the Department of Labour and National. Service cannot be fully occupied. To-day there is a great scarcity of men available for employment. The officers of that department might well be made available for this work. During the war almost the whole of the activities of industry and commerce were devoted to war production. Consumer goods were largely out of production. With the ending of the war our factories concentrated on the production of consumer goods and consequently there is little or no work for the Department of Labour and National Service to undertake. Almost the whole of the personnel of that department should be directed to the task of preparing the data necessary to enable .immediate payment of pensions ‘ at the increased rate to be ‘.made. Now we are concentrating on the goods that .the community wants. The raw material which was being used, for manufacturing goods for war has only just become available for the manufacture of goods required by the civil community. Accordingly, to-day everybody is crying out for more and more men to make the goods which are in demand. Based on claims that have been made about full employment, the staff of the Department of Labour and National Service should be almost entirely unemployed, and available to be switched over to prepare this data to enable these funds to be made available immediately. There should be no delay in making available to the people, money that is long overdue to them. I hope the Government will give consideration to the matters raised by honorable members on this side of the House, with a view to ensuring that these amounts will be paid immediately, and also that more equitable provision will be made for widows and their dependants. This has been constantly urged by Opposition members.
.- I n giving my general approval and commendation to this bill that provides for social services, I do so in the belief that that should be a practical part of real life, when necessity exists. I do not intend to- engage in a discussion of the arguments which have been advanced by honorable members on either side of the House about which party brought this or that measure into being, or failed to meet this or that particular need. It must be recognized that all parties claim to believe in this principle. I shall leave it at that. I speak rather from the point of view of trying to make some practical contribution towards this debate and to put forward some practical suggestions. I shall also point out some anomalies which [ do not think have so far been mentioned in this discussion; or if they have been mentioned they will bear repitition. . shall deal with one aspect of sickness benefits. Some months ago [ asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) whether he would amend the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act to provide a longer term in which application could be made for sickness benefits. The Minister replied that he would do so if he considered that there was any necessity for such an amendment. Subsequently the Minister explained that he considered that the discretionary power vested in the officers administering the act was sufficient to meet all cases. I regret to say that that has not been so. In at least two instances of genuine illness, country workers were debarred from a major portion of the sickness benefits to which they would have been entitled had their applications been made within the period of six weeks specified in the act. I point out that country workers are not in the same favorable position as those working in the closely settled areas who have the advantage of hospital facilities and the direct assistance of union organizers. Should they not be acquainted fully with the provisions of the act they can draw on the knowledge of their fellow workers, who will help them out. That does not apply in many instances to country workers. Frequently when workers take sick in sparsely settled districts, it isimpossible for the men concerned to lodge their applications within the specified time. I think it is general knowledge that many such workers are dependent on the advice of the flying doctor, and: it is impossible for such people, in many instances, to secure the attendance of a doctor. They have to make contact with the flying doctor by pedal wireless, obtain his prescription, and do the best they can. In circumstances where they have only one mail delivery a week, or perhaps in some instances only one delivery a fortnight, these genuine workers in the sparsely settled districts are debarred from obtaining sickness benefits. I repeat that in at least two cases, notwithstanding that I inquired into them fully and submitted the facts to the officers who were administering the provisions of the act, for review, those workers were denied their rights. The facts were placed before the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna), but discretionary power was not exercised in those instances because the applications were made too late. I consider that- an amendment should be made to the act to cover that situation.
– That has already been provided for.
– Why should those workers be denied a review of the circumstances I have outlined?
– Those cases are out of date.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has apparently no concern for the workers who live in sparsely settled districts. I. on the other hand, have a great concern for those who live in country areas, and I make an appeal now that provision should be made, by an amendment of the act, for a longer period in which such workers may lodge their applications. As long as a. case is genuine, and supported by a doctor’s certificate, a sick worker should be granted the benefits.
– That aspect has already been adjusted.
– In many of those cases, the wives of the sick workers know little about the provisions of the act, and in any case have their hands full bearing the entire responsibility of running the household while the breadwinner is away ill, if it has been possible to get him away from those remote places and into hospital. Irrespective of what the Minister now says, I repeat that in the two cases I have mentioned the sick workers were denied the benefits to which they were entitled. When I asked the Minister a question on this matter, he was quite favorably disposed and answered me genuinely, but his reply does not exactly meet the position.
– Provision has been made to provide for such cases.
– That was apparently subsequent to my question to the Minister.
wish to mention an anomaly concerning the interpretation of the provisions regarding the payment of pensions. Under the act a pensioner is entitled to. augment his income. To take advantage of that provision, many pensioners have taken in boarders. The total amount of board received has then to be regarded by the authorities as income, which is totally wrong. Everybody knows that if 30s. is paid for a week’s board, the net income of the person who provides the board is considerably less than that figure. “With the present high prices ruling for foodstuffs, in order to obtain a net income of 30s. a week, the pensioner would have to charge the boarder no less than £3 or £4 a week. Only the net amount should be taken into consideration. If that were done, and allowance made for the cost of the goods required as food (or the boarder, obviously the pensioner would not then be penalized, because the amount would be insufficient to bring about any reduction of his pension.
There is an anomaly in regard to the unemployment allowances, to which 1 shall draw attention. Unemployment allowance is not payable to any person over the age of 65 years. I point out. however, that many persons over that age prefer to work. According to the taxation schedule, they are taxed on their earnings, whatever their income may be. If unemployment or sickness should overtake them, they are debarred from securing any benefits for which they have contributed.
– The honorable member must have an unfortunate position in his district.
– Although the act says that, I know that there is an alternative method by which they can draw the pension.
– An appeal has been made to such people to work.
– I think we should encourage everybody physically able, to work. Apart from .the fact that a man is better off, financially, if he is working. I think it is better for him from a health point of view that he should work. He would be permitted to work as long as he desires, provided that he is not forced to do anything against his will. Many such persons recognize that it is beneficial to their health to perform a certain amount of work.’ When, however, the only interest that the Government takes in the matter is the rate of tax applicable to them, I contend that the Government is discouraging a measure of production and doing an injustice to those people who are physically able to work.
There is one way in which the breadwinner is worse off than is a pensioner. A man and his wife, both pensioners, can earn up to the maximum amount allowable, which would result in a total income to the couple of £7 5s. a week. “Whilst it would be only on odd occasions that both would be able to earn the full amount of 30s., we find that this amount would be tax free in the case of the pensioner. In the case of the worker, however, varying amounts of tax are paid ‘ according to the number of his dependants. A worker receiving an income equivalent to that of the pensioners, where both the husband and wife are in the home, would have to pay £15 a year under the new proposal. If he has two dependants, a wife and one child, he would still have to pay £7 10s. If he has a wife and two children, he would pay £3 15s. It is hard on the working man, but I do not suggest that the law should be amended to make pensioners pay tax. Pensioners are generally regarded as being free from taxation, and they are, indeed, free from direct taxation, but it is very wide of the mark to suggest that they pay no taxes at all. They pay all the indirect taxes, including sales tax, customs and excise duties, amusement tax, &c, an<J the Government, by withdrawing price subsidies, has increased the cost of many articles which pensioners have to buy. Whatever may bc said about tlie rate of pensions paid in 1939, the fact is it that the pension would buy as much in 1939 as the present pension will buy. The Government has withdrawn the subsidy on potatoes, with the result that the -price has increased from 1½d. to 3d. per lb., and it has been suggested that, as a consequence, the basic wage may be increased by ls. a week. The subsidy on wool has been withdrawn, and although prices for woollen goods have not yet increased, every one knows that they will increase as soon as present stocks are exhausted. The present rate of pension is no more than it ought to be, and the present pension will not purchase more than did the pension of 1939.
.- I had not intended to participate in the debate, but because of the obvious intention of members of the Opposition to hold up the bill by stone-walling tactics, I find it necessary to say a few words in reply to ti e criticism directed by honorable members against this bill, and against the record of the Government in regard to social services. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred to the cost of living and its effect upon the purchasing power of pensions. The honorable member must accept full responsibility for the increased cost of living, because he advised the people to vote against the Government’s proposal that it be given power to control prices. If pensioners are in a sorry plight to-day, tlie blame should be laid at the door of honorable members opposite, who advocated the abolition of price controls which would have kept down the cost of living, and preserved the purchasing power of pensions.
Non-Labour governments were in power for the greater part of the 48 years since federation, and except in 1928, and again in 1938, when half-hearted attempts were made to institute a system of national insurance, not one worthwhile social service measure was put on the statute-book by any anti-Labour government until 1941, when child endowment was introduced, and that was done only to avoid granting an increase of the basicwage. So far as social service legislation is concerned, the 30 years between 1912 and 1941 during which nonLabour governments were in office were barren years. The attitude of honorable members opposite and their supporters is easy to understand. Most of those who support non-Labour parties do not believe in social service schemes at all, and they have climbed on the social service band waggon merely to win the votes of the people by advocating something of which they do not really approve. Another section of non-Labour supporters are those wealthy members of the community who believe that men and women thrown on the industrial scrap heap should look after themselves as best they oan; or, at any rate, they should be supported by social benefits financed by the lower-paid workers. Honorable members opposite have advocated the introduction of a contributory scheme of social services, as if that were the solution of all our problems. They also advocate a flat rate of income tax, irrespective of the income of the taxpayer. This would place the burden of social services on that section of the community least able to bear it, who are in receipt of the lower incomes, whereas the burden should be borne to a large extent by the wealthy section of the community who can well afford to do so. Honorable members opposite would have us believe that the introduction of a contributory system of national insurance would immediately lead to the abolition of the means test. They lose sight of the fact that, under such a scheme many retired people, including public servants, would not qualify to participate in its benefits unless they had been contributing for a certain number of years. That was the situation in Great Britain when the national insurance scheme was introduced there. To tell the people that under a contributory system every one would qualify immediately to participate in the benefits is sheer political dishonesty. As a matter of fact the scheme which was introduced into this Parliament in 1938, and which was not preceeded with for reasons best known to the Opposition, provided for the payment of benefits much below those which this Labour Government has provided. The present scheme may, in fact, be called contributory in one sense, and it has the advantage that the person who qualifies for a pension under the terms of the act may draw that pension irrespective of the period during which he has been paying social services contributions. The interest of the Opposition in these matters is purely political. Since federation, non-Labour governments have had plenty of opportunity to put into, effect social service schemes. Labour governments have been in office for only about seven years, during which time a better social service system has been introduced than obtains in other countries which had a big start on Australia. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the Parliament should not discuss this subject on party lines, that honorable members should not bicker about rises in the pension rate, but should co-operate in evolving the best social service scheme possible. Apparently, he overlooks the fact that, in 1941, an all-party Social Security Committee was set up upon which were representatives of the Labour party, the Australian Country party and what is now the Liberal party. That committee did excellent work. Its deliberations were most harmonious, and its recommendation were, for the most part, unanimous, and formed the basis of some of the legislation introduced by the Curtin Government and the present Government. However, after the. 1946 election, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party refused to sit on the Social Security Committee. The Labour party has nominated- four members to sit on the committee, and they are awaiting the co-operation of Opposition members. The Labour party does not regard social services as a subject for party politics, and we have invited the Opposition to co-operate with us to evolve a scheme for social services which will confer the greatest possible benefit on the people of Australia.
I have no desire to delay the passage of this important bill, for which many people are waiting so that they may enjoy the benefits which it provides. However, supporters of the Government have an obligation to answer the false assertions of honorable members opposite on the subject of the means test. The Labour Government is committed to the gradual abolition of the means test. We are not so foolish as to believe that we can substantially reduce taxation, and, at the same time, enter into commitments which would .involve greatly increased expenditure. It is estimated that, during the first year, the abolition of the means test would cost £54,000,000, in addition to the £S0,000,000 already being paid out in social service benefits. We cannot have it both ways.
The Opposition has also advocated the endowment of the first child of a family. When an anti-Labour government introduced child endowment - for which I give it due credit, bearing in mind the reasons which prompted it, it, could have endowed the first child if it had wanted to do so, hut the honorable member for Fawkner CMr. Holt), who was in charge of the measure, explained that to endow the first child would upset the formula for the assessment of the basic wage. If honorable members will read the report of his speech, they will notice that, his excuses for debarring the first, child from receiving financial endowment occupy nearly a column in Hansard. However, his principal reason was that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child would have resulted in a reduction in the basie wage. If endowment were now payable in respect to the first child, the additional cost would be £24,000,000 a year. To adopt that suggestion and to abolish the means test would increase dlt total social services commitments to £1 66,000,000 a year. Honorable members opposite know that, the whole proposition is fantastic, but they are endeavouring to gull the people into believing that the means test, can be abolished over-night. In a deliberate attempt to gain votes, they are making all kinds of specious promises, and hoping that the people will fall for them. The Government believes in the honest, approach. During the last seven years it. has modified the means test. The increased cost of social services is an indication cf its sincere desire to completely abolish the. means test. Some people say that the Labour Government is not sincere in this desire. My reply to them is that we should compare the scale of pensions that prevailed a few years ago with the present rates. The amount of pension has been doubled, and its purchasing power would be even greater than it is had the Opposition not, advocated a ‘relaxation of prices control. A man and his wife arc permitted to have an income of £3 a week before their combined pension* of £4 5s. a week are affected. That increase of the permissible income is extraordinary when we recall that an anti-Labour government allowed only 25s. a week for a married couple. A man and his wife are eligible to receive age pensions even though their joint bank accounts may amount to £200. and they are not completely disqualified until their joint assets exceed £1,500. The fact, that they own the house in which they live does not debar them from receiving a pension. The Labour Government has a ‘remarkable record in improving social services during the last, seven years compared with the barren record of anti-Labour governments during a period of 30 years. I agree that even the increased rate of pension may not allow the recipients to live adequately, but, we must not forget that every increase of the pension by ls. a week represents a total cost of £1,000,000. That financial factor must be borne in mind when, we are considering whether pensions should be substantially increased. The Labour Government has done everything possible to modify the means test, to assist those people who urgently require pensions, and to ensure that justice is meted out to other sections of the community. Approximately SO per cent, of recipients of age and invalid pensions have no income other than their pension. The abolition of the means test would not assist the big majority of pensioners who are completely dependent on their pensions, although it would substantially benefit many people who are now disqualified but who already have sufficient means to live in reasonable comfort without pensions. The Labour Government has no apology to make, and does not need to offer any excuses for its actions during the last seven years in modifying the means test on age and invalid pensions.
T do not, desire to delay the deliberations of the House on this bill, and I shall conclude my speech with a brief comparison. In 1938-39, expenditure on social services amounted to only £16,000,000. In the current financial year, the expenditure will be approximately £SS,000,000, on the most comprehensive scale of social services that this country has ever known, including substantial child endowment, maternity allowance, widows’ pensions, funeral benefits for invalid and age pensioners, allowances for the wives of invalid pensioners, unemployment and sickness benefits, rental rebates under the CommonwealthStates housing agreement, payments to sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants, and an extensive hospital benefits scheme. Provision has also been made for a free medicine scheme, but it is not operating because of a strike by members of the medical profession aginst the democratic Pharmaceutical Benefits Act which has been passed by this Parliament. Payments are also made to disabled persons and in respect of mental patients in institutions, thus relieving their relatives cf that obligation. The Labour Government has achieved a magnificient record in social servies during seven years compared with the barren record of anti-Labour governments during a period of 30 years. I commend the bill to the House. I am sure that the people will judge fairly the great record of the Labour Government, and recognize as insincere the criticism which honorable members opposite have levelled at it.
.- Unquestionably, every honorable member desires to support the Government in assisting invalid and age pensioners, provided the country can bear the financial burden. I desire to direct attention to certain interesting facts. In 1938-39, the total Commonwealth budget was approximately £90,000,000. In the current financial year, expenditure on social services, including invalid and age pensions, widows’ pensions, child endowment and unemployment and sickness benefits, will be . approximately £S8,000,000. Honorable members must he realists in these matters. We must recognize that the price of wool may return to an average of approximately lSd. per lb., the price of wheat to 5s. a bushel or less, and that of butter to ls. 3d. per lb. Some honorable members opposite believe that in the event of such, serious reductions of prices, our secondary industries will enable i he country to continue social serviced payments at the present high rate. That belief is stupid, and cannot be sup ported. Australia is a primary producing country, and a large measure of its prosperity is dependent upon returns from the sale of its primary products overseas. The only sound method by which we can assure the continuance of an adequate social services scheme, in the event of a decline of the prices’ of our primary products abroad, is by the introduction of a contributory scheme. Employers, employees and the Australian and State Governments should contribute to a general fund. I am sure that, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Social Service? (Senator McKenna) in this House, sincerely desires to assist the less fortunate section of the community, and that, in his heart, he agrees with my contention that the only sound system of financingsocial services is by a contributory scheme. For political purposes, however, the honorable gentleman expresses the opinion that the wealthier sections of the community should support the recipients of social services.
I am gratified to learn that, undei this bill, a person who has contributed to a superannuation fund for a small pension on his retirement will not be disqualified from receiving an age pension. In the past, a railway employee, for example, who contributed for two, three or four units of pension, was in a worse position on his retirement than a man who had not contributed to any funds, and who, being without means, was eligible to receive the full age pension. In thiopinion of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), the Opposition parties in this chamber do not desire to assist the aged and invalid people. He likes to remind honorable members that the Lyons Government, reduced old-age and invalid pensions. What he would never state was that the Scullin Labour Government in 1930 was the first administration ever to reduce invalid and old-age pensions. It also reduced the wages of public servants.
– And the allowance of members of Parliament.
– That is so. 1 referred to thu action of the Scullin Government merely to disprove the statement by the honorable member for
Martin that the Lyons Government was tlie only administration which had reduced social services. Members of the Opposition desire that pensioners should receive a fair deal, but we contend that a contributory basis is the only sound method of financing a social services scheme. People who are earning- a reasonable income, employers and the Australian and State Governments, who are large employers, should subscribe to the fund. If our social services were placed on that basis, other countries would adopt it for assisting their own aged and infirm people to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. Honorable members opposite should face the facts and tell the truth.
– We have a contributory scheme now.
– That is not so.
– There is the social services contribution.
– It is not a contributory scheme. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is perfectly well aware, some working men can avoid the social services contribution.
– I do not know anything of the kind.
– One section of the community to-day is in a most unfortunate position. Under the present means test, a person may receive a pension if he is living in the house that he owns and if the value of his property does not exceed £750. Let us consider the position of a man who heeded the Labour Government’s exhortations and invested his total capital of £1,000 in Commonwealth loans. The best rate of interest that he can get is 3$ per cent. I know of a man who has a capital of £1,500, every penny of which is invested in government loans at 3^ per cent. The return from his investment is £46 12s 6d.. a year, which is approximately one-half of what he could get if he were in receipt of an age or invalid pension. When he wrote to the department and complained about it, he was advised to spend his capital over and above the £750 that he was entitled to have and then apply for a pension. Is that an inducement to the people of this country to prevent inflation? The Minister knows blf. well as I do that that is the worst propositionthat could be put to these people. TheGovernment needs to consider this matter very seriously and to decide- what it wants. “Does it want the people to work and save to provide for their old age, ordoes it want them to depend solely upon the Government? Does it want to say to them, “ Never mind about the future. Speud your money, because you will belooked after. There are many wealthy people in this country. We shall tak« money from them and give it to you “. The honorable member for Griffith. (Mi*. Conelan) says “Hear, hear!”. The honorable gentleman’s idea is that money should be taken from people who have worked and saved and given toloafers such as himself. That is the story that the Government is putting out. It is doing so in order to get cheap votesand for no other reason.
Honorable members on this side of the House will support any scheme that is proposed by the Government to assist thepeople who deserve to be assisted. The Government, must, however, abandon the stupid idea that we can afford to pay pensions which are equal to or approximate to the basic wage topeople who are not producing, unless they contribute to a pensions schemeduring the years when they are working. I contend that those who work and produce can afford to pay ls. 6d. or 2s. a week to such a scheme. The primary producers can afford to pay 2s. or 5s. a week in respect of their employees, and the Government can afford to pay its share. That is the only way in which we shall be able to accumulate a fund which will put the pensions scheme on a sound basis. I admit that the composite Government of 193S is not without blame in this connexion. In 1938 an act was passed by the Parliament. It was a poor one, but it could have been improved. I believe that if we had had the courage to go on with that scheme during the war,, when every man was employed, we should without doubt have accumulated a fund that would have secured our position for the next twenty years. However, the measure was not proceeded with.
Honorable members opposite moan about the rising cost of living. The Government had authority to continue [.iricss control until the end of this year, but when the referendum on rents and prices was defeated the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers showed their ill temper. Without giving the State governments a reasonable opportunity to take over, the Chifley Government cast its prices control powers from it, except with regard to one or two items. The people of Australia are disgusted with Ministers on that account and they are also disgusted with the two gentlemen who sold our wheat to New Zealand.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Honorable members on this side of the House desire that age and invalid pensioners shall be dealt with fairly, but we also desire that the scheme should be put upon a sound basis. The only way in which that can be done is to make it a contributory scheme. En no other w.ay can we hope to give security to .the .aged and invalid people and the widows. It must not be forgotten that although the people to whom I have just referred have been given a great deal of assistance, the service pensioners have had their payments increased by only 5s. a week since 1919. It is disgusting that men who fought for this country and saved it should be dealt with less favorably than those who were, in many instances, loafers.
– I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The honorable gentleman said that the only way successfully to solve the problem of social security finance was by means of a contributory system. I do not think that I am misinterpreting the remarks of the honorable gentleman when I say that he visualized a system under which every worker, irrespective of his income, would contribute to the scheme on a flat rate basis. That provision was the very keynote of the 1938 national insurance scheme, which was brought before the Parliament by Mr. R. G. Casey, who was then Treasurer in the Menzies Government.
– I rise to order. I did not make any such suggestion.
– There is no point of order involved.
– I repeat that I did not make any such suggestion.
– Order ! There is no point of order involved. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is merely putting forward a point of view.
– The Minister is putting words into my mouth that I did not use.
– The honorable member for Bendigo must resume his seat.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Bendigo considers that I have misinterpreted his remarks. I said clearly that I did not think I was making a mistake when I interpreted his utterances as meaning that he believed in a contributory scheme under which every wage earner in the community would contribute to a social security fund.
– The Minister suggested that I said that the contributions should be at a flat rate.
– At a flat-rate incidence of taxation. That is the scheme that was introduced by Mr. R. G. Casey, the Treasurer in the Menzies Government.
– That is quite wrong.
– I stand corrected. It was the Lyons Government. The honorable member for Bendigo and the other members of the Australian Country party were placid and meek followers of the Lyons Government at that time. The keynote of the scheme was that every worker who was in receipt of an income of not more than £7 a week should, in respect of himself, pay a contribution to a social security fund of ls. 6d. a week. If he desired to secure benefits for his wife and family, he could pay a contribution of up to 4s. 6d. a week. In return for those contributions, he was to receive a very meagre benefit. Notwithstanding the sneers of the Opposition and thosewho are behind the British Medical
Association, those benefits included a free pharmaceutical benefits service.
– How could it be free if the people were contributing to the scheme?
– The keynote of the scheme was that, irrespective of income, people were to pay on a flat rate if they were in receipt of more than £7 a week. The anomalous, unjust and iniquitous part of the scheme was that it had no application to any individual who derived his income from any medium other than the employment of workers. Politicians, medical practitioners in the higher ranks of the medical fraternity earning between £2,000 and £5,000 a year, individuals owning 20 houses and deriving an income of ‘perhaps £20 a week from them, and investors with a weekly income of £20 or £30 a week who perhaps employed only a stenographer were not, under the Casey scheme, required to contribute a penny piece. On the other hand, a man who owned a factory in which 100, 1,000 or even 2,000 people were employed was required to pay ls. 6d. a week in respect of every employee. That was the scheme that was put forward by the government of the day, backed by the Australian Country party, as a satisfactory method of dealing with the problem of social security in Australia. Underlying it was the fantastic idea that in that way it was possible to accumulate a reserve fund - a mere book entry - so that after 20 years there would he sufficient in the “ kitty “ to pay to all those who needed it a certain sum each week in respect of the disabilities from which, they suffered. If we look at this matter factually we must admit that, stripped of all humbug, the situation that really confronts us is that at any specified time there will be in the community a certain number of aged people, unemployed people, people requiring treatment for tuberculosis, people requiring dental treatment and people requiring medicine. AYhether the wherewithal he provided by relatives or from some other source, in the final analysis it must come from the current annual production of the country. By no other means can it be provided. We may write figures in a book until we become blue in the face-
– To save certain people from the necessity for contributing.
– I suggest that under the system operated by the Government it is possible to finance the scheme of social service benefits without the necessity for everybody contributing on a flat ratebasis. The flat rate basis was proposed in the scheme introduced into the Parliament by Mr. Casey and supported by the honorable member for Bendigo.
– I did not support it.
– This Government lias amply demonstrated that it is possible to car© for the aged, the sick and the unemployed by imposing a graduated tax levied in accordance with ability to pay. Let us be honest about this. In respect of the last income year a man with a wife and two children in receipt of not more than £300 per annum, every penny piece of which he needed for the ordinary necessaries and amenities of life, paid no.t one single penny into the fund used by the Government to finance the aged, the sick and the infirm in the community, to finance hospitals to the amount of 6s. a day for each occupied bed, to relieve the unemployed and to pay the various subsidies provided by the Government. But what did the people pay who are in the position of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and myself, with our parliamentary allowance of £1,500 a year in addition to an income from our farms? I am not. sure, but if my recollection is correct I paid approximately £160 in tax lasyear, and well I might have done so. That is the difference between the outlook of those who sit on the Opposition side and those who sit on this side of the House in regard to their responsibilities to the aged, the sick, the infirm and the widows of this country. Honorable members opposite would thrust upon married men with family responsibilities who receive less than £300 a year a share of the burden of financing these commitments of the Government. By contrast this Government places the heaviest burden on the shoulders of those most able to bear it. Is any honorable member opposite courageous enough to say that people like the honorable member for Bendigo and myself are not in a better position to pay the requisite money to provide the revenue with which to meet these commitments than is the married man with a wife and two children in receipt of an income of £300 in- less? The honorable member for Bendigo and other honorable members opposite have snivelled about the iniquity of paying social security benefits to the people of this country-
– That is a deliberate lie.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini).- Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark arid to apologize to the Chair for having made it.
– I withdraw it and I apologize to you, sir, but.-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw and apologize without qualification.
– I do so, but the Minister knows I mean it.
– The honorable member misjudges me. I had not finished my accusation. I was about to say that, honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Bendigo, take strong objection to the payment of social service benefits to people in this country who. having wasted their substance, when they reach old age have no material resources behind them.
– Keep to the truth.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) made similar remarks, lt is, unfortunately, all too true that, in the community, there are people who waste their substance in riotous living, who drink too many :< pots “ of beer, or at least more beer nhan is good for them, and who smoke too many cigarettes; but for every “ pot “ of beer they drink, they pay 3d. into revenue, and for every 2s. they spend on cigarettes, they pay ls. into revenue. To the extent that they are living riotously and are wasting tbeir substance on beer and cigarettes, they are paying tbeir own contribution to Consolidated Revenue in order to provide for their old age, sickness or disabilities from which they may suffer.
– Is that the reason behind the Government’s policy regarding indirect taxes?
– These are the facts. Nobody justifies riotous living, but to theextent that people indulge in it, they domake a substantial contribution to the moneys required by the Government topay for social services. All the talk about the thrifty in the community having tosupport the thriftless is so much humbug and drivel when it is analysed and viewed in proper perspective. I have pointed out the iniquities of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act which. the Lyons Government placed on the statute-, book in 1938. Thanks to the opposition of members of the Australian Labour party, the government of the day did not proceed to give effect to those proposals.. Even the succeeding government led by the right honorable member for DarlingDowns (M’.r. Fadden) did not have thecourage to proclaim the act. The objections which honorable members oppositeraise against the proposals now before usare arrant humbug. Under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, theLyons Government intended to impose a flat rate of contribution which would bear heavily on the workers, to the advantageof the more fortunately placed people in. the community.
Mr. Rankin interjecting.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bendigo is interjecting too much. If heinterjects again, I shall take action against him.
– I interjected only once.
– Order 1
– 1 have only stated the situation as I see it. I have reviewed” the historical facts only to show why honorable members opposite - have been critical of this legislation… The Government has adopted the policy of placing the burden of “ taxes on the shoulders of those who, by virtue of Divine Providence, good luck or some other factor, have substantially greater incomes than those less fortunatemembers of the community and, therefore, should bear the heaviest burden in respect of social service contributions. [ agree with the view of the honorable member for Bendigo that a big percentage of our social services benefits, which are of great magnitude, are directly related to the income which this country receives from the sale of its exportable primary products.
Honorable members opposite have accused the Scullin Labour Government of being instrumental in reducing pensions.. That action was taken at a time when the Parliament was entirely unbalanced in the Senate, which was at that time the final authority in this Parliament, there was- a gentleman, now unfortunately deceased, who was a member of the Country party. When the Treasurer of the day submitted a proposal to provide assistance for poverty-stricken primary producers, and to relate the volume of money to the possible production potential, that member of the- Australian Country party opposed the granting of monetary assistance to the Government to enable it to give effect to its proposals. As- the result of his opposition, the government of the day had no alternative but to make slight reductions of the pension rate payable at that time. When the honorable member for Bendigo attacks the action of the then government, he should tell the whole story. He knows that what I have said is the truth.
– -lt is not the truth. Who was the gentleman to whom theMinister has referred?
– Order! The honorable member for Bendigo had better leave the chamber if he does not want to get into trouble.
– I should not like to see that happen. I have recorded my views on the subject, and they are in marked contrast to those expressed by honorable members opposite.
is the second Minister I have heard speak to-day. He has come to the assistance of his rather weather-beaten colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is in charge of the bill. I cannot remain silent after hearing some of the statements which the honorable gentleman has just made. He criticized the Lyons Government for having placed on the statute-book the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, and for not having proceeded to implement it. I have in my possession a copy of that act. To listen to the Minister, one would think that nothing was contained in that act. When that legislation was passed by the Parliament, the honorable gentleman was sitting on the Opposition side of the House, and was a voluble opponent of the scheme. Section 46 of the act provides for. medical, sickness, unemployment, invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, orphans’ pensions and dependent, children allowances.
– Tell us the proposed rates of pensions?
– That is one thing which the members of this Government cannot afford to have quoted. The maximum contribution to be paid by any person under that scheme was ls. 6d. a week. The maximum rate of the social services contribution levied by this Government is ls. 6d. in the- £1. What the Lyons Government was prepared to do for ls. 6d. a week, this Government will do only for ls. 6d. in the £1. It is of no use for the Minister to look a little annoyed about what I am saying. Let us glance at some of the other benefits provided under that legislation. In these days we are considering war pensions, which was a part of the Menzies’s scheme in 1938. Another important item was child endowment, which to-day is net financed out of the 18d. in the £1 which this Government takes out of the taxpayers’ pockets. It is financed by the wage tax.
– Only partly.
– It is financed by the wage tax that was imposed by the Menzies Government in 1941 in order to finance child endowment. If that does not finance child endowment to-day, the present Government is the guilty party, not the Government which put it on the statutebook. To hear the Minister talk about rich and poor one would think that there are hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of rich people in this country who are contributing to social services. Before we proceed to consider the comtributions of these people according to the official government returns, we should further consider social services. [ believe in the old conservative doctrine of self-help and thrift, and I contend that people should look after themselves, and only expect the Government to look after them in the event of misfortune overtaking them. Whilst that might he old-fashioned and out of date, nevertheless it is my view. For any social services scheme to be satisfactorily administered it must be based in very much the same way as a friendly society is based. I have been a member of a friendly society for many years. My parents arranged my membership without consulting me and I have remained a member ever since.
– Is that the only thing the honorable member did that hia parents told him to do?
– I would not say that it is the only thing, but we are all responsible to our parents for many things. The Government should be prepared to found social services on a satisfactory basis. The only fair and just basis, is one under which a person who hopes to get something out of the scheme will contribute to the fund during the times when he able to contribute. But what is the position to-day? At what stage of income do people start to contribute at all? I have not the taxation returns before me- at the moment, but I have other documents here which do not deal with taxation. From memory, under the old taxing scheme which will be out-dated in a few days’ time - or a few weeks’ time judging by the present rate of progress - a man who with a wife and one child received £5 10s. a week was called on to contribute only 3d. a week .to the social services fund. If a man expects to get benefits out of the social services fund he should be prepared to pay something towards building up that fund. Every man in receipt of wages or salary ought to be compelled to contribute to the fund. That is the first matter on which I and the Government fall out in regard to social services. All wage and salary earners should contribute. That is the policy that I put into force at one time when I was acting as Minister for Health, perhaps in quite an unorthodox way, in this city. I insisted on every wage-earner in this city contributing for hospital benefits. In return they were entitled to free treatment in a ward of the hospital. I was told on Sunday last that that scheme has since been abolished. My informant was a gentleman who is a supporter of the Australian Labour party, and. he said that he considered the scheme should have been continued because it was well founded and based on common sense.
Let us consider the size of the fund required for the provision of social services. Last year the figure approximated £70,000,000. Speaking from memory, this year the provision of social services will cost the Government approximately £80,000,000. The cost is rising by leaps and bounds every year and the Government is taking a great credit to itself for the fact that the figure is on the increase, and the cost of providing social services is gradually rising. At the same time the Government claims that the “golden age” has arrived, that there is 100 per cent, employment, and fJiat so long as this Government remains in office that will continue to be the state of affairs. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) may well nod his head, but Ministers propose to remain in office everlastingly-
– They are indigenous.
– Government members time after time suggest as a proposition that full employment is going to be maintained from now on, and that the present Government is going to be in office to see that that happens. The Government claims that, the present system of social services and pensions is the greatest and most beneficial that has ever been introduced.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order!
– We are discussing finance, and it is one of the oldest privileges of the lower houses of parliaments in British communities to refuse to vote money for the use of the Crown until grievances have been discussed, including the way in which the money is to be raised.
-That applies to budgets and estimates »nly.
– No, it applies to all financial matters.
-Well, the Chair thinks otherwise.
– I am prepared to admit that truth may sometimes be found upon the throne, but I
Hm sure that a study of the British parliamentary system will bear out what i. have said. I trust that the day is not far distant when the Parliament will take an objective view of social services. Otherwise, the time will come when a Labour government may have to reduce pensions again, as a Labour government had to do during the depression. That, as I have said, would be only poetic justice, because the policy of this Government has brought about the very conditions that made an increase of pensions necessary. The Chifley Government, by a deliberate although undisclosed policy, has brought about an increase of wages, costs, profits and prices in order to get out of the difficulties arising from its borrowing policy during the war.
– The borrowing policy of the Chifley Government during the war has nothing to do with this bill.
– It will have a lot to do with the capacity of the Government to meet its obligations in the future. However, to borrow a term from the footballers, I realize that I am kicking against the wind. If this Government remains in office, which I hope it will not, it will have to do something to rectify the follies for which it has been guilty under the guise of promoting social security. The Government ha.been deluded, whether by itself or not .1 do not know. The worst form of delusion is self delusion, and I hope that the Government is- not a victim of that kind of delusion.
.- It must be enlightening to the public to listen to the present debate, because the speeches of members of the Opposition conclusively establish the truth of what we have been saying for years, which is, that it is the wish of the Opposition thai the workers should pay for their own social service benefits. On the other hand, the Labour party believes that the burden of taxation should be borne by thosebest able to pay. The last two Opposition speakers are both wealthy farmerswho, in addition to their income from their farming operations are receiving a parliamentary allowance of £1,500 a year, but they do not want to pay anything towards defraying the cost of the excellent social services which the Labour party has introduced. Qiorum formed.]
On a recent occasion, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), when dealing with social services, said -
In view of what lias transpired in tlie international sphere we must regard ourselves nvery fortunate indeed that national insurance was not inflicted on the people. Those of us who strenuously opposed the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill and were to some extent responsible for the subsequent abandonment of the scheme have done the country a great service.
– When did 1 say that?
– On the 22nd September, 1.939. I refer honorable members to some significant details of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act which was introduced by Mr. R. G. Casey Avhen he was Treasurer in the Lyons Government. Under the scheme of that Act it was proposed that every adult should contribute ls. 6d. a week, and also: in the case of married men, ls. 6d. a week in respect of the insurance of a wife. At the same time, no individual who was in receipt of an income in excess of £7 a week could qualify for any benefit under that scheme. The magnificent benefits which were to be provided to contributors included a benefit of 12s. 6d. a week for widows, a sickness benefit of £1 a week for an adult male and 15s. a week for an adult female, and the magnificent sum of 5s. a week for a juvenile. [Quorum formed.’] Under that scheme a benefit of 3s. 6a. was to be paid in respect of a dependent child of a married man whose income exceeded £7 a week. Any young man, or woman, under the age of 21 years, could qualify for a sickness or unemployment benefit of only 5s. a week. Yet. honorable members opposite who sponsored that scheme still advocate the contributory principle in respect of social services. A contributory scheme means that each employee would contribute a certain sum each week and his employer would contribute a like amount, whilst the Government also would contribute a certain amount to the insurance fund. The scheme sponsored by the Lyons Government provided that any employer who contributed to the scheme could automatically pass on that cost. The burden of such a scheme would fall upon the worker and, ultimately, upon the Government.
The social services established by this Government are proving a great boon to the people. To-day, a married man with a wife and two children, a family unit which is not covered by the Harvester award, is not obliged to make any contribution in respect of social services until his income as at least £7 a week.’ Hundreds of thousands of people whom this Government is endeavouring to help come within that category. At present they make no contribution whatever towards social services. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) advocated a contributory scheme. The honorable member, who is a single man and has not contributed anything to this country, is typical of those who advocate a contributory scheme.
– I rise to order. The remark just made by the honorable member is offensive to me, and I ask that he withdraw it. The fact that I am a single man enabled me to fight in two wars in defence of this country, whereas the honorable member did not have the “ guts “ to serve in any war.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been offensive to the honorable member for Griffith, and so I think he has evened up matters.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory has just told an untruth. I volunteered for service in defence of the country and was passed as medically fit, but was placed on the reserve list. I suggest that the honorable member for the Northern Territory also, in view of his age, should have been placed on the reserve list. Much has been said about the withdrawal of price stabilization subsidies, but the Government, to its everlasting credit, hatnot withdrawn subsidies in respect of tea and sugar, the two commodities most essential to pensioners. So long as the Government remains in office it will continue to safeguard the interests of persons dependent upon social services. Unlike the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I believe that the Government will remain in office for many years to come. When the Government assumed office seven years ago, the honorable member predicted that it would be ejected within six months. In making that prediction he revealed himself to be a bad judge, and he is still a bad judge in such matters. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) dealt with the percentage variation of the pension in relation to the basic wage. When tlie invalid and old-age pension was established, it represented 22 per cent, of the then basic wage of £2 5s. 6d. Before the Labour Government assumed office that percentage had decreased to 19.5 per cent., and, subsequently, it rose to 20.7 per cent. The fact that the percentage relation of the pension to the basic wage was lowest during the regime of antiLabour Governments reveals the weakness of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite in this debate, because when the present Government assumed office in 1941 the basic wage was £4 Os. 6d. and the maximum pension was 21s. 7d. The increase of ls. was granted under pressure exerted by the Labour party in this Parliament. At that. lime, the pension represented only 25 per cent, of the basic wage. Next month, the basic wage will be £5 16s. a week and the pension will be 42s. 6d. a week, representing 36 per cent, of the basic wage, the highest it has ever been in our history.
The Labour Government .has also introduced numerous other forms of social services. I was instrumental in assisting to lui ve one of them adopted, and I congratulate the Government on accepting the proposal. An amount of £15,000 is provided for the development of a home help service, which will be available to households the mothers of which are absent in hospital or are unable, through illness, to attend to their domestic duties. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) made a sound point when he suggested that widows in the second category, which includes those who reach the age of 50 years and have no dependants should be trained in mothercraft or nursing. They would then be available to assist in homes where the mother of a family was ill and there were a. number of children to be cared for. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Denison suggested that the remuneration which they received for that service should not effect their widows’ pensions. Such a service would, be of inestimable benefit to families when the mother was ill. I congratulate the Government on its magnificent achievements in the social services field during the seven years in which the Labour party has been in office in this Parliament. The people of, Australia are very grateful to it. The Labour Government will give even better service in the future than it has done in the past, and, at the next election, the people will reward it with the words “ Well and faithfully done “.
– in reply - This bill provides that the initial payment of the pensions at the increased rate shall be made on the first pay day after the legislation becomes effective. Most of the speakers in this debate have considered that point, and desire that the bill shall become law as quickly as possible. I heard . a suggestion that somehonorable ‘ members have indulged im stone-walling. J do not subscribe tothat view. Eighteen members of the Opposition and twelve members of the Labour party have spoken in the debate.
– The bill could have been passed last night, had the Governin en t desired it.
– Any accusation of stone-walling cannot be justifiably levelled against honorable members on this side of the chamber, because the Opposition has provided eighteen speakers compared with twelve Government supporters.
M!r. Harrison. - This afternoon, four habour members spoke in succession.
– I have made that statement only to reply to the suggestion about stone-walling. I do not suggest that any honorable members indulged in stone- walling. The debate on this bill has been very fine. The criticism has been fair, and honorable members on both sides of the House have made wise suggestions which deserve careful consideration. The outstanding feature of this debate has been the challenge to the present method of financing social services. Having assessed the various arguments for and against it, I have come to the conclusion that opinion is evenly divided as to whether the present system can be safely continued in future. Some honorable members do not favour the abolition of the means test, because they consider that the cost involved is excessive. A discussion of that subject is worthwhile, and I should like to add my contribution at a later stage. Al this juncture, however, I desire to place on record some historical facts associated with social services so that we shall not continually argue, sometimes with heat, about who was responsible for placing certain legislation on the statutebook. To me, it is immaterial who introduced the legislation. The important point is the value of the legislation. The chronological details which I am about to read are not opinions, but are facts culled from history. Any honorable member who reads the debates ob social services which tck place in the early yeaiis of the Commonwealth Parliament, must come to the conclusion that there was a bargain, or “ gentlemen’s agreement” between the Opposition led by Mr. Fisher and the Government led by Mr. Deakin on the introduction of the first social services legislation. It is true to say, as members of the Opposition have pointed out, that the Deakin Government was responsible for the implementation of the legislation. Before the Commonwealth Parliament assumed its responsibilities, the Parliament of New South Wales and Victoria had introduced old-age pensions in a minor way. The age limit was considerably higher than that prescribed in the present act. The historical record of social services is as follows: -
July, 1909. - Old-age pensions, introduced by the .Deakin Government.
December, 1910. - Invalid pensions, introduced by the Fisher Government.
October, 1912. - Maternity allowances, introduced by the Fisher Government.
July, 1941. - Child endowment, introduced by the Menzies Government.
July, 1942. - Widows’ pensions, introduced by the Curtin Government.
July, .1943. - Allowances for wives and children of invalid pensioners, introduced by the Curtin Government.
July, 1943. - Funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners, introduced by the Curtin Government. 1945. - Unemployment and sickness benefits, introduced by the Curtin Government. 1946. - Hospital benefits, introduced by the Chifley Government. 1947. - Tuberculosis benefite, introduced by the Chifley Government. 1948. - Pharmaceutical benefits, introduced bv the Chifley Government.
That is the history of Commonwealth legislation in the field of social services. I put it on record so that honorable members opposite need not argue about it in the future. I do not think that any of them wish to cling to an argument that is not based on a firm foundation.
The history of the relationship of the age and invalid pensions rate to the basic wage also should be placed on record. I have obtained the relevant figures, because I want to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who opened this debate. The honorable member made a very fine contribution to the discussion and offered some useful suggestions, but, quite unintentionally I am sure, some of the things which she said were not founded on fact. She declared that a comparison of the basic wage established by Mr. Justice Higgins in 1907 with the pension rate then, and a comparison of the present basic wage with the proposed new pension rate would show that pensioners in 1907 were at least no worse off than pensioners are to-day. In the first place, there was no age or invalid pension in 1907. Those pension.were introduced in 1909 at the rate of 1.0s. a week.
– That rate still applied when the Harvester award came into operation.
– That is right.
– Be perfectly fair.
– If I were to be technical and tie the honorable member for Darwin down to the figure of £2 lis., her case would appear in a much worse light. The following table indicates the relationship of the rate of age and invalid pensions to the basic wage at variousdates since 1909 : -
In 1931, during the depression, the basic wage had fallen and the pension had been reduced to the original comparative level of 1909. In 1948, under this legislation, the pension rate will be at the highest level in relation to the basic wage in the history of the Commonwealth. Those figures illustrate the position of unmarried pensioners. A. married couple in receipt of pension will receive a combined income this year equivalent to 72 per cent, of the basic wage. Their conditions are much better now than they have ever been.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and others have asked. “ Does the Government consider that £2 5s. a week is enough to keep a man or a woman in decent comfort? The answer to that is “ No “. I say that on behalf of the Government without any hesitation. That is why we must reconsider whether we should add to the incomes of those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Such people have no independent income and they need our help much more than do the people on whoso behalf members of the Opposition have made their sentimental appeals. I was also asked during the debate whether I. considered that 10s. a week was enough ro provide for the keep of a child under the age of .16 years. I answer “ No “ without hesitation. The Government does not declare that child endowment at the rate of 10s. a week is sufficient to maintain a child. Its policy is to make the income of the bread-winner, the father of the child, so high that he can keep his family in comfort. The endowment is a little addition to the family income to help the mother to save somer.hing, as many mothers like to do, for the higher education of her children. All these facts should be placed on record. The honorable member for Darwin made a good suggestion which also was emphasized by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). Both honorable members asked, “If we cannot provide free medical attention for everybody, cannot the Government establish some scheme which will provide free medical services for pensioners?” The answer to that question should be well known to everybody. The Government lias tried to establish a free medical scheme on a national basis. It has done its best, but so far has failed. It has provided for free hospital accommodation for the people. That scheme was first thought of because of the needs of pensioners who, more than anybody else, are likely to go io hospital when they fall sick because many of them have no homes and live only in rooms and have nobody to care for them. The fact that they cannot obtain free medical attention is not the fault of the Government. We overcame the constitutional barrier to the introduction of such a scheme by appealing to the people at a referendum, but we have vet to overcome the barrier raised by the British Medical Association, which main tains an attitude of non-co-operation with the Government. Perhaps we shall overcome that final barrier soon. At any rate, we shall try to do so. These facts show that the suggestion made by the honorable member for Darwin is in line with the objective of the Government, which will be achieved sooner or later.
The honorable member complained that the Government was doing much more for aged couples than it was doing for growing children and, in support of her argument, referred to the unusual case of a widow with eight children under the age of sixteen years. She said that this woman was in a terrible plight and was having great difficulty in supporting her family. Naturally, everybody agrees with that statement. However, the honorable member’s argument ought to be analysed. She said that the Government does more for aged couples than it does for this woman and her children. Let us consider the relative situations of a married couple drawing the age pension and of the widow and her children, assuming that they have no private sources of income. Under this bill, the married couple will have a combined income of £4 5s. a week. The widow will draw a pension of £2 7s. 6d. for herself and her first child, and will also receive £3 10s. a. week endowment for the other seven children. She will therefore, have an income of £5 17s. 6d. a week, compared with an income of £4 5s. a week received by the married couple. Thus, there is little ground for the honorable member’s suggestion that the Government is unfairly discriminating against a widow with a large number of children in favour of an aged couple. Both the honorable member for Darwin and the honorable member for Bourke suggested that home* should be provided for aged people they asked whether special homes, cottages or centres could be provided for old people who are dependent upon age and invalid pensions, because many of them have no homes of their own. We are faced with two difficulties. The first is that, under the Constitution, the Australian Government is not allowed to build homes for people other than its employees and soldiers. The second is a physical difficulty, which it is almost impossible to overcome, at the present time. We have obtained plans from other countries, including New Zealand, which has in the last decade made more progress than any other member nation of the British Commonwealth in the building and planning of new homes and villages. The Government intends to build homes for our old people and will do so as soon as possible. We have believed for a long time that one of the greatest benefits that can be bestowed upon age and invalid pensioners who have no homes of their own - and thousands of them have not - is to provide them with comfortable cottages, situated close to markets where they can shop cheaply. They should not be isolated from the rest of the community. Those who are not able properly to look after themselves should be accommodated in small groups of cottages and a trained matron should be employed to care for them. Although the Government plans to do these things, it must first overcome the difficulties to which I have referred. The constitutional difficulty may be overcome by co-operation with the State governments, which will, [ believe, join forces with this Government, because the. objective is so laudable. Cf that problem is solved, the formidable obstacle of the lack of building materials will still need to be surmounted.
The honorable membeT for Reid (Mr: Lang) made one or two exaggerated statements that were not based upon facts. I am afraid that his dislike, almost hatred, of some- members of the Government sometimes leads the honorable gentleman to indulge in reckless statements that do not do him justice. He referred to the unfair treatment of people who are in receipt of small superannuation benefits. He took as an example a head schoolmaster who is receiving weekly superannuation payments of £2 10s., having paid contributions to the superannuation scheme for many years* He did not say whether tlie schoolmaster was married or single. The majority of retired State and Commonwealth public servants such as schoolmasters, railwaymen and other who are in receipt of small superannuation payments are married. If the man to whom the honorable member referred is married, he and his wife are entitled to the payment of age and invalid pensions and, in addition, to receive £3 weekly from other sources. If, putting it at its worst, the schoolmaster is a single man, he may draw more than £1 a week of the age and invalid pension and still be entitled to receive a weekly superannuation payment of £2 10s. The position is not nearly so. bad as the honorable member for Reid made it out to be. He can see no good in this legislation at all. I do not know why he adopts thai attitude.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr: Hughes) doubted whether the country could continue to carry the load that the payment of these pensions is imposing upon it. He further said that lie did not favour the abolition of the means test because, in his opinion, the national finances could not bear the added burden. He went on to say thai Australia and other countries have learned that it is necessary to improve economic and social conditions if we wish to be freed from the fear of war. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that, whatever any government does in connexion with economic, and. social security, it must be based upon international justice. In other words, not only must we do it in our own country, but. if we. are to escape from the fear of war, we must try to. see that it is done in all other countries. The policy of this Government is based upon social justice for all. On every occasion on which it has gone to the people, the first plank of its platform has been fnll employment for the whole of the year. Every time that we send a delegate abroad to attend an international conference dealing with industrial or economic matters we instruct him to emphasize on every possible occasion that, whatever conclusions are arrived at, the principle of full employment must be in the forefront. A policy of full employment involves social legislation. Social security will cost less as full employment, becomes more of anaccomplished fact. Although there will always be the necessity to pay some sickness benefitsj full employment will, I am sure, result in less sickness. The cost of unemployment payments will fall. Indeed, they are costing practically nothing h i the present moment. It is only those who have heen unable to work except on odd days during the last ten or fifteen years who are now applying for unemployment benefit. That is the result of the Government’s policy of full employment, which provides economic security. To achieve social security, legislation must be passed to deal, for instance, with people who are temporarily out of employment because they are changing from one job to another or because some accident has held up the work in which they are engaged. Legislation is necessary to deal with annual leave and holidays at Christmas-time and other periods. The granting of annual leave has been made compulsory in all States of the Commonwealth. The object is to dovetail all. these things together and to ensure that in some way or other every one in the community receives a regular income for 52 weeks of the year. If that objective can be achieved, it will be of the greatest benefit to the small shopkeepers of this country, who denend for their livelihood upon the money that is passed across their counters. They are beginning to appreciate the benefits of this Government’s full employment policy, which means regular incomes, and therefore regular spending power.
– Does the Minister claim that full employment is the result o( the Government’s policy and has not resulted from war conditions?
– That is a fair question, but it is not put in a sensible way. What the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) asks is whether “the success of the Government’s policy has been due to the Government’s good judgment and management, or to other factors.
– The Minister .claimed that full employment was the direct result >f this Government’s policy.
– No one can doubt i be Government’s policy because it is stated clearly in all Labour’s manifestos, lit is full employment for the people: but I admit quite frankly that because of the unnaturally high prices that are prevailing overseas for our primary products, it has been possible to implement our policy more quickly and more successfully.
– The shortage of commodities has had something to do with it.
– I am admitting that. This legislation is in accordance with the Government’s policy, and the Acting Leader of the Opposition should know very well that it is of no use to appeal to the Minister in charge of the bill to accept amendments. The Government’s policy has been definitely determined. It is the policy upon which a majority of the people have decided. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) frequently appeals to the Minister in charge of a particular measure to accept an amendment of it.
– The Minister has agreed with my suggestion.
– ‘That is quite true.
– Order! The Acting Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Balaclava seem to be determined to interrupt the Minister’s speech. Even at this late hour I shall not permit them to do so. I ask the Minister not to answer any further interjections.
– I was emphasizing that when a bill is introduced into this House -it embodies government policy, and that the Minister in charge of it has to put it through to the best of his ability. It is useless for honorable members to ask that amendments be accepted. They can seek further consideration of certain proposals, and the Minister can promise further consideration, but he cannet accept an amendment on the spoilt is foolish to suggest otherwise. No matter how much a Minister may oppose a particular clause or provision in a bill, he cannot agree to alter it when the bill is before the House. He has had hi* chance to have the measure drafted to suit his wishes, but the majority has been against him. He has to abide by the will of the majority. If he does not do that, how can we have democratic government ? This measure will be passed in its present form, but that does not mean that the Government will not listen to suggestions from the Opposition, and perhaps have them discussed by Cabinet or caucus. Should a suggestion appear to be a good one, an amendment may be made when the bill is before the Senate.
– The Minister said that three years ago.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava must not interject again.
– When a similar measure was before the House some time ago, I was asked whether I would suggest that the Government should reconsider the application of the means test to soldiers’ pension. I agreed to ask the Minister to re-examine the matter, and I did that. The Government decided, however, that it could not alter its policy at that time. I kept my word, and I do not know how any honorable member can say, year after year, that I did not. If I promise before this legislation goes through the committee stage to ask the Minister to reexamine any particular clause, I shall do so, but that is no guarantee that the Government will agree to amend the bill.
The right honorable member for North Sydney suggested that our legislation should be based on the international concept of social justice for all people. That is the policy of the Government. It begins with full employment, and is completed by the passing of social legislation where it is necessary for social security. Economic security means guaranteeing an opportunity to earn a living to everybody who is willing and able to work. Social security means security for those who fall by the wayside a’nd are denied employment because of illness, injury or infirmity. Both social security and economic security are necessary to a successful society which will guarantee to every one an income sufficient to purchase the goods and services that are necessary for himself and his family. Having answered one or two outstanding criticisms and made clear how Labour’s social services programme originated, and how each measure fits in with the basic wage and pensions - without saying that pensions are adequate - I shall reserve any further remarks until the committee stage. However, there is one matter that I should like to make clear. On several occasions it has been suggested that we should follow the lead set by New Zealand. If there is anything good in that dominion, we should be silly if we did not copy it; but in the course of exchanges in this chamber, several honorable members have said that there is no means test in Nev Zealand. That is not so. In that dominion, a long-range plan is being followed. People over 65 years of age may receive a universal superannuation payment of £30 a year. That amount is being increased each year- by £2 10s. Person.* over 60 years of age may be granted an age benefit at the rate of £2 5s. a week, subject to a means test in respect of both income and property. No person can receive both the universal superannuation and an age benefit. Therefore, in New Zealand both systems operate. 1 do not believe that we should change our system. The method that we follow today is the cheapest and most efficient way of achieving our end. Taxes artimposed on a sliding scale and we meet our social service payments out of general revenue. This saves the enormous cost of collecting and tabulating statistics showing the amounts contributed by each person. That would mean employing double staff. The cost of administration of the two methods in Australia is as follows, age, invalid, and widows’ pensions. 0.8 per cent, or 16s. per £100 paid out. while the total cost, inclusive of sickness, unemployment and maternity benefit payments amounts to 1.2 per cent, or £1 4s. per £100. In the United Kingdom, tinadministration cost of social benefits is 4.3 per cent, or £4 6s. per £100 paid out. I would oppose any alteration of the present system whether proposed in Cabinet, in Parliament or at any public meeting outside the Parliament. 1 believe that we should adhere rigidly to the system we have adopted. Unless 1 am defeated in logical debate, I shall never support the abolition of the means test in its entirety. I believe that we have reached a stage now where we cannot improve the means test and at the same time do justice to the people on the lowest rung of the social ladder who have no income at all. Every member of this House undoubtedly wants to do his most for people in the greatest need There are 430,000 people to whom these additional payments must be made. An honorable member spoke about a “flat rate “ increase of 5s., and asked how long it would take to work out such an increase. Criticism of that kind is based on ignorance of the problem involved. There are no fewer than 430,000 adjustments to be made and the increase ranges from a flat rate of 5s. to 17s. Indeed, a married couple may receive a joint increase of 34s. as the result of this legislation. Scores of people will receive an increase of 17s. Many intricate adjustments have to be made. I had no intention to convey the impression which honorable members seemed to have gained from my statement that there was a physical difficulty involved in paying at the increased rates on a specified date. What I said was that payments at the increased rate will be effected when this bill becomes law, but that it would not be possible to work out the increased rates in a few days. The act provides -and this provision will be strictly adhered to - that the increases proposed in this bill will be paid to the people entitled to them on the first pay period after the act receives Royal assent The sooner we pass the measure the sooner the increased benefits will be paid.
– Is payment at the increased rates to be made retrospective to the 1st July?
-No. The bill does not provide for retrospective payments and I feel sure that the Government will not alter the existing provision that payment will be made on the first pay day after the bill receives the Royal assent-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives theRoyal Assent.
– I was interested to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Molloway), in replying to the secondreading debate, skip lightly over some observations made by me last night rela- tive to the need for making the increases retrospective to the 1st July. Unfortunately for the Minister, he made certain interjections during my secondreading speech, and in doing so made it perfectly clear that there was no financial difficulty associated with the making of retrospective payments, but that there was some staff difficulty. I wish to deal with that aspect of the matter, because I believe that it should be cleared up. It is most important that we should have a clear-cut statement of government policy. In dealing with the necessity for making retrospective payments, I pointed out that the Government had already agreed in the budget to make retrospective the application of certain income tax reductions and that I could see no reason why, as the Government had in the National Welfare Fund approximately £28,000,000 more than it had last year, the invalid, age and other pensioners, who were to benefit from this proposed consolidation of the social services legislation, should not at least be given the same consideration as had been extended to companies and individuals in respect of income tax concessions announced in the budget. I based my argument on the fact that it was generally conceded that invalid and age pensioners were not getting sufficient to keep body and soul together. In his reply to the second-reading debate the Minister said that every member of this chamber agreed that the pensionwas insufficient to provide sustenance and a reasonable amount of comfort for its recipients. I expected the Minister to add that the Government, having granted retrospective concessions to one section of the community, those whom it regards as comprising the most deserving section of the community would at least be extended the same consideration. The Minister having said that it is a physical impossibility to make the increases retrospective to the 1st July, I said that I could see no reason why there should be a physical impossibility because of the existence of an amount of £28,000,000 standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund in excess of that available last year. By interjection - and Hansard will bear out the accuracy of my recollection - the honorable gentleman replied -
I did not say it was a financial impossibility.
That interjection gave us the impression that the finance necessary to make retrospective payments was available and accordingly that any delay that might occur in effecting payment had nothing whatever to do with the financial situation. When I took the Minister to task and pointed out that when he said it was a physical impossibility, I assumed that he meant it was a financial impossibility, he said -
The staff of the department could not possibly do it.
Later, when I drew his attention to the great increase of the Commonwealth Public Service - and I shall return to that point later - the honorable gentleman said- -
I am speaking of the time in which the Acting Leader of the Opposition says the payment should be made.
These were the interjections made by the Minister, who is gradually getting himself deeper and deeper into the mire.
– I am quite happy about it. I think this is all a waste of time.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to answer my comments. In effect, he asks, ““What does it matter if the age and invalid pensioners have to wait four months for payment of their pensions at the increased rate ? “ Honorable members will have an opportunity to show by their vote in division where they stand in relation to this matter. The Minister made it clear that there is no financial difficulty associated with this proposal and that the only difficulty in effecting retrospective payments is a staffing difficulty. I shall have something to say in regard to that. In the course of my answer to the last interjection made by the Minister, I said - [ an; not concerned with the time. The Government lias the money. The figures that I have given prove that. Expenditure on social services this yeaT will be- £29,000,000 more than last year.
The Minister again said -
It is not a question of money.
Commonwealth departments” employed 44,000 public servants. In Junej 1948. the total reached 169,200 in 25 departments, or nearly four times the number employed in pre-war years. It was upon these figures that I based my statement to which the Minister replied that staffing difficulties would prevent payment at the increased rates being made retrospective to the 1st July. Later, in hia answer to the second-reading speeches the Minister said that there were many complexities associated with making these payments which range from 6d. upwards. I say to the Minister that he can defer the payments and make them retrospective to the 1st July last. It is not necessary to make the payments immediately should he consider that his department is not sufficiently staffed to handle the necessary work. The amounts involved could be established as credit for the age pensioners and might possibly become due for payment at the Christmas period when they would be like a Christmas box from the Government to each pensioner. That is a reasonable approach to the matter. Following the Minister’s claim regarding the staff position I took it upon myself to examine it. I found that the number of persons employed in the age and invalid pensions and maternity allowance branch of the department was 311 in the year 1939-40. 591 in 1947-48, and in 1948-49 is to be increased to 636, which is more than double the 1939-40 figure. If by doubling the staff the Minister cannot at least ensure that he has the necessary administrative machinery, then I give Mm the logical answer which is, as I have already stated, to defer payments and create credits for the pensioners. By doing so the Minister will give age pensioners exactly the same consideration as is given to_ those who contribute to the country’s revenue by paying income tax. The Minister has made it clear that finance is not the problem. As I have pointed out before, the Government has about £29,000,000 more in the “kitty’” than it had last year. There is no doubt whatever that in the minds of many honorable members of this committee and of people outside who take an interest in this matter, the difficulties mentioned by the Minister are purely a figment, of
Lis imagination and can be overcome.
F move -
That the words “”’ day on which it receives tie Royal Assent” be left out, with a view <> insert in lieu thereof the following words: - first day of July, One thousand nine hundred md forty-eight”.
The clause, if so amended, would read -
This a.cfc shall come into operation on the tirst day of July. One thousand nine hundred md forty-eight. nhat will give an opportunity for retrospective payments to be made, and the necessary consequential amendments can he made so as to defer the payment until such time as the staff of the branch is ible to make the necessary computations. During the intervening period a credit can be established for the age pensioners.
– I think I should make it clear to the committee at the outset that the Government does not propose to accept any amendments to this bill. In saying that I refer not only to the matter under discussion but also to other payments provided in the bill. General principles have been laid down by the Government regarding the various types of benefits proposed in the legislation, which covers an annual expenditure of about £20,000,000 for additional benefits. The Government does not propose to depart from those principles. Whatever may be said, we believe we have made a fair judgment and a very liberal advance in the way of social service payments.
. -f heartily support the amendment but it appears, from what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has just stated, that he is quite definite that no amendment will he accepted. That is the kind of barrier the Opposition has been faced with in this Parliament during the short time I have been a member of it, and in fact, during the seven years the Government has been in office. Judging by what the Prime Minister has said it would not make any difference to the Government if an amendment were brought forward’ that would be for the benefit not only of the pensioners con- cerned in the bill but of the whole of the people. Even if the wisest person in the world were to put. forward an amend ment, the Prime Minister would still say that he would not accept it. That is the barrier which the Opposition faces in its endeavours to improve this legislation. I support the amendment for several reasons, the first of which i3 that if the increases to he made under the bill are necessary because of the rising cost of living, then they are necessary from the first day of the current financial year. If the Government believes it to be just to make the increases during the second half of the financial year, what argument can it possibly advance to justify its refusal to pay them for the months of the current financial year which have already passed ? Pensioners throughout the country will tell the Prime Minister or any one else who troubles to inquire that they regard the Government’s action as a. flagrant injustice. Indeed, one does not need to inquire of them because one hears it discussed wherever people congregate. T cannot understand why aged and invalid people, many of whom have done much for this country, should be penalized so unjustly. The date of payment of the increased rates will depend on the actual date of passage of the bill. The amendment proposes to correct that anomaly by providing that on the passage of the measure and signification of the royal assent thereto the increased rates shall be made retrospective to the 1st July last. If the Parliament had met early in July and the Government had then introduced the bill, the probabilities are that pensioners would have received payment of the additional amount two months earlier. However, the Parliament did not meet until the beginning of September and pensioners are, in consequence, debarred from receiving any increase in respect of the months of July and August. The explanation of the Government’s attitude cannot be that the Treasury is financially embarrassed and that the Government is anxious to delay payment in the interest of the national finances. I again stress the fact, that Treasury statistics just ^released reveal that the national revenue for the first three months of the current, financial year is more than £22,000,000 higher than estimated. Instead of an anticipated debit of more than. £4,000,000, in respect of defence and postwar charges, which would have required to be financed by loan money, the national finances are in credit.
The three points which I have made are dearly unanswerable. The Prime Minister stated a short time ago that he would not agree to any amendments which may be moved to the measure. He was obviously trying to raise a barrier to discourage members of the Opposition from speaking r.o the bill, and I object strongly to such an attitude. Even such an important person as the Prime Minister should realize that he does not know everything that passes through the minds of members of the Opposition, and he cannot anticipate the nature of amendments rhat may be moved. He should not attempt to pre-judge matters by adopting such an attitude, and I consider chat he was acting in a dictatorial fashion.
– I remind the honorable member that the decision which I announced was made by the Government - T am merely a cog in the machine.
– The Prime Minister says that the decision is that of the Government, and now he is running for cover.
– Running from the honorable member !
– I am pleased that iven the right honorable gentleman realizes that my arguments have some merit. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) interjected to the effect that he was surprised that the Prime Minister should run for cover from me, but even I may be able to make a good suggestion. The Minister has not a monopoly of ideas for improvement of our social services.
– There is always some wheat in chaff.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) realizes that there is some merit in my suggestion.
– No, I classed it with the chaff.
– Then . I am pleased to know that the honorable mem ber agrees with the rest of my speech. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. Even at this late stage I appeal to the Prime Minister to give sympathetic consideration to my request. I think that even supporters of the Government realize that the suggestion that payment of the increases to pensioners be made retrospective has much to support it. 1 consider that the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) should be agreed to, and 1 give it my whole-hearted support.
.- In the course of the speech which I made on the second reading of the bill, I drew the attention of honorable members to the proposed differentiation between the treatment of the wealthy and the poor. I pointed out that the Government proposes to give to wealthy tax-payers full advantage of the reduction of taxes by making that reduction retrospective to the 1st July last, whereas pensioners will not receive the benefit of any increase of their pension.* until after the measure is passed. Withholding of the lowest increase of pension, which is a flat rate of 5s:, will deprive each pensioner of at least £4 during the financial year, and I asked what sort of a miser government, it was that would deprive the poorest section of the community, about whom we hear so many sob stories from members of the Government, of their right while it had millions of pounds at its disposal. I raised that matter in all sincerity, and I raise it again now because I believe in. what ] am saying, and I shall vote accordingly on the proposed amendment. In the light of the speech which I made on the second reading of the bill, I consider that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) showed by his speech in reply that he has no sense of social justice. Whilst it is true, as he said, that some of the pensioners will receive an increase, not of 5s., but of an amount as great as 23s. - indeed, I think he. went so far as to say that the increase would amount to 34s. in some instances–
– In the case of married couples.
– Let us halve the amount of the maximum increase, and call the increase 17s. It is evident that some of the unfortunate pensioners are to be deprived of 17s. a week for a period of fourteen weeks or more. Does that decision square with the statements made by the Minister and other members of the Government concerning the means test? Members of the Government have asserted that they cannot remove the means test because they must ensure that, those who have the greatest need receive social service benefits, and Ministers are constantly speaking of those who receive the lowest incomes, the poorest people in the community. Because those pensioners are the poorest, the Government is going to rob them of a paltry £4, and its excuse is that payment of the increase from the beginning of the current financial year would involve some arithmetical difficulty. I point out to the committee that pensioners are paid fortnightly and the amounts which they receive are constant. Once calculations are made of the new amounts to which pensioners are entitled no further calculations will be required, and in the case of nearly all classes of pensions the calculations which will be made a. fortnight hence could easily have been made before the first pension payment, day in July last. Therefore, the real reason why the Government has not paid pensioners their increases at the proper time is that it is deliberately withholding their money.
I know from my association with many deserving people whom I meet that the matter of the increase of pensions was mentioned long before the 30th June last, and that people who were drawing pensions were expecting that any increase of their pensions would be payable from the 1st July of this year. In a number of instances they mentioned it to me. Although I had nc authority for saying it, I suggested that the increase would be paid from the 1st July. I never for a moment thought that we were dealing with a lot of misers who would be so niggardly in their approach to a matter of this kind. It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to say that the collective mind has been made up. It is not my mind. The Minister for Labour and National Service says that it is not his mind either, but that it is the majority mind. That majority mind will be tested and those who comprise it will be counted and noted. The people who consider that they have been unjustly and shabbily treated will not be deceived by people who will come around at the Christmas feast. They will not be choked listening to the words of those who sympathize with them, because it will be on record who constituted the majority. The Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of the measure have stated what they think. The Minister says that, what he likes is not always what he gets, but that it is the majority mind. The Government will not be able to shelter behind that excuse, because in division, this chamber will - show where the majority lies. It will very likely be found that that majority is a fairly uniform vote that some pensioners are to be deprived of at least £4, and others fourteen or fifteen times 17s. That is not a small amount of money. It is not a small thing for those who need the money most, ,and who will suffer mostYet they are the people who will be deprived of it. Even now, the Government should consider whether it will do this little act of justice and make the small amendment: which is necessary. It ha.= ether amendments to make, and this one could easily be added. On the motion for the second-reading I did what I could to ensure that the pensioners would get the amount to which they are entitled.
.- I urge the Government to accept this amendment. This is an indication of how the Government works ; the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a dictatorial statement that nc amendment, will be accepted. We have seen that happen in connexion with many bills, lt means that the Parliament ceases to be n deliberative assembly. If the Government of the day adopts real “ starchamber “ methods and decides that there shall be no amendment to a bill, there is no deviation from that course. I contend that if a mistake has been made, that fact should be admitted. Let us consider what will happen if no amendments are ever approved. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) indicated that he had an amendment to move, which is in line with the one I moved in May, 1947.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke).- In the meantime the matter to be dealt with-
Mr.WHITE- The honorable member for Swan said-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member for Balaclava must refrain from speaking when the Chair is indicating the line to be followed.
– The Deputy Leader of t he Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has made his plea and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who is quite consistent in these matters, has pointed out what a miserable attitude it is for a Government which is spending about £500,000,000 a year, not to make this light concession to people who are so deserving. After the Prime Minister said that no amendment would be accepted,he left the chamber. It how is a matter for his party. When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was speaking, he tried to escape responsibility by saying, “It is not my fault; I am rather in favour of it “. He has said things like that before, and it is typical of his attitude. He expects that this superappeasement will go down. Many honorable members will remember, however, that he has acted in this way many times over the. years. If the Minister does not agree with the other members of the Australian Labour party, then he should resign. When the Prime Minister w as asked by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), what his attitude meant, he said, “I am not the only one”. Hansard will reveal the full text of what the Prime Minister said on that occasion. If the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of the bill cannot accept a simple amendment, what sort of people do they think Australians are, and how long do they think that the people of this country will tolerate that attitude ?
– The only reason given by the Minister as to why he cannot do it is staff difficulties.
– The Minister admitted that over £500,000 a year is paid to maintain an employment bureau, yet he cannot say what the staff of the bureau is doing. When he is challenged on this matter he talks about an industrial dispute. Members of the Opposition do not accept that explanation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Harbison’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. T. P. Burke.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section eighteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding at the cud thereof the following definitions: - “ ‘ unmarried person ‘ means a person who is not a married person and includes a widower or widow and a person whose marriage has been dissolved but who has not remarried
– I move -
That, in paragraph (c), before the definition of “ unmarried person “. the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘ service pensioner ‘ means a person in receipt of a service pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1020-1947;”.
This amendment inserts a definition of the term “ service pensioner “ which is necessary for the purposes of the amendments to be proposed to clause 7.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section twenty-eight of tlie Principal Act is a mended - id) by adding at tlie end thereof the following sub-sections: -
the rate of the age or invalid pension payable to a pensioner who is a married person and whose husband or wife is also a pensioner would be such that the aggregate of the rates of the age or invalid pensions of that married person and of the husband or wife and of the rates of any war pensions payable to them would exceed Three hundred and seventeen pounds four shillings per annum, the rates of those age or invalid pensions shall be reduced by amounts equal in the aggregate to the amount of the excess.: and
– I move -
That, in paragraph (6), after the word “ pensioner. “, second occurring, the following words.be inserted: - “or a service pensioner”.
This amendment and a later consequential amendment are designed to allow a married couple, where both are receiving service pensions, and the husband, being a sufferer from tuberculosis, is also receiving an invalid pension, to have the benefit of the higher ceiling rate applicable to a case where both husband and wife are civil pensioners - that is, £317 4s. a year, or £6 2s. a week - instead of the lower ceiling rate applicable to a case where only one of a married couple is a civil pensioner, when the combined pension would be £260 per annum, or £5 a week.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Kate of widow’s pension).
– I take this opportunity to reply to the remarks of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in answer to the speech which I made on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Unfortunately, I was absent from the chamber during part of his speech, but J” understood that he said that, whereas 1 had discussed the position of two age pensioners, a man and his wife, in relation to their whole permissible income, he thought it would have been fairer, because of the great number of pensioners who had no income other than their pensions, to have discussed the matter on the basis of pension income only. If two age pensioners have no income whatever apart from their pensions, their combined income will amount to £4 5s. a week, and many such couples will be living in their own homes. I do not say that all of them will have their own homes, but many of them will. The widow with one child will receive £2 7s. 6d. a week, consisting of a pension of £2 2s. 6d. for herself, and 5s. for her only child. I said in my speech that, allowing the permissible income to both groups, the widow would have to have eight children before her income would reach that of the two age pensioners. As a matter of fact, it would just slightly exceed their income. However, placing the matter on the basis of actual pension payments, the widow with eight children would receive £5 17s. 6d. a week, and it is extremely unlikely that she would have her own home. The chances are that, in a family of that size, the husband would not have been able to provide the price of a home seeing that he had to leave his widow dependent upon a pension. The Minister, I understand, argues that there is not such a great difference between the position of the two aged people living on £45s. a week, and that of the widow and eight children living on £5 17s. 6d. a week. I can only express my great astonishment at such a suggestion. I can understand that the difference would not be so great, considered on the basis of pension payments alone, as if permissible incomes were taken into account, but even on the basis of pensions only the suggestion of the Minister is absurd. When persons attain the pensionable age, their needs become less. I speak with some experience. At the present time, my family relations are such that I have to deal with four generations and their needs. I know that those at the lower end make certain demands upon the family’s general financial position which those at the other end do not.For instance, the latter do not require so much clothing and food, whilst the diversity of food they require is not so important. I again point out that the amount of rent payable by two old people is much less than that payable in respect of a house to meet the needs of nine people. Therefore, a very good case indeed can be made out for the claims of a widow with a family ; and I suggest that the endowment payments be increased in respect of children who are dependent upon a widow. Again, I insist that in the light of every statement made on behalf of the Government by either the Minister or his colleagues, there is every ground for increasing the allowance of 5s. in respect of the first child either of a widow or invalid pensioner This need has been completely ignored under this measure. I spoke on the Estimates deliberately to draw the attention of the Minister to this position, and asked that my suggestion that the allowance of 5s. he increased be considered before this measure was introduced. Nothing has been done. I am perfectly convinced that the urgency of my representations is not yet apparent to the Government. Is it fair to suggest that an allowance of 5s. even begins to cover the cost of rearing a child of any age at all? And the child of an invalid pensioner also is in exactly the same position as are the children of a widow pensioner. Again I urge upon the Government the necessity to review this matter in the light of the real need that exists in relation to these children. As I have already said. if we care for the aged as we must and should, we must also care for the young upon whom the whole future of this country rests.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19 agreed to.
New clause 17a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 17, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 17a. Section one hundred and six of the Principal Act is amended by adding to the definition of ‘income’ the following para gra ph : -
a war pension;’”.
The object of my amendment is to enable unemployment and sickness benefit to be paid to an ex-serviceman in receipt of a war pension without application of the means test. At present the definition of “income” does not exclude “ war pension “. This matter was discussed more than twelve months ago. At that time the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) promised that the amendment I now propose would be effected at the first possible opportunity. This is the first opportunity we have had since that time to discuss the matter, and I regret to note that no reference whatever is made in the bill to any proposal of the kind embodied in my amendment. Everybody is aware that a war pension is granted by the country to men who suffer disability as the result of service in defence of the country. That pension is paid with a view to making the recipient an even target on the labour market and it is also regarded as a measure of compensation for loss suffered by the recipient during service in defence of his country. Therefore, it comes as a rude shock to war pensioners to discover that should they become ill or cease to be employed because of their war disability they are not eligible for full employment or sickness benefit if they are in receipt of more than 40 per cent, disability war pension. At the same time, they contribute while in employment towards unemployment and sickness funds. All ex-servicemen know that no man is awarded a 40 per cent, disability war pension unless there is something radically wrong with him. In those cir- . cumstances it is a disgrace to any government to apply a means test to such persons should they be obliged to apply for unemployment or sickness benefit particularly as a result of their war disability. I do not propose to deal with the matter at length, because t believe that all honorable members fully understand the point T make. My request is reasonable and just. I cannot see for the life of me why the Government will not accept the amendment. Some honorable members opposite have said that so few men would come into the category I have indicated that my proposal is not worth’ bothering about. If that be so, why is r,he Government fighting shy of it? The cost involved would not be very great. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated that the Government would not accept any amendment to this measure, I believe that he was not aware of this anomaly.
The matter raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) was first brought up long before twelve months ago. When the principal act was under consideration in 1944, 1 moved an amendment along the lines of that now proposed by the honorable member. At that time the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who was in charge of the bill, said -
I 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 be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting, which will lake place soon. T shall see that an answer is “iven.
The then honorable member for Parramatta, Sir Frederick Stewart, interjected -
The Minister will not ask us to pass the bill until the answer has been given?
The Minister replied -
I do not say that, but I do say that it will noi be put into force until this provision has been inserted or reasons against it have been given.
Sir Frederick Stewart then interjected ;
Parliament will adjourn to-morrow for al least four months.
The House rested on the Minister’s assurance. I again raised the matter in 1947 when I had the support of a number of honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and you, yourself, Mr. Deputy Chairman. It has been made abundantly clear that the Government is acting cruelly in ignoring the claim now made on behalf of war pensioners. The deduction which is made from their war pension under the means test, should they be given unemployment and sickness benefit under this measure, is really a deduction from a dole. But when the honorable gentleman gave a solemn assurance in his characteristic, selfsatisfied, soft-soaping way, we accepted his word on that occasion. Last year, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and others made strong comments on the subject. The honorable member for Swan said -
The duty of any government, regardless of its political colour, which subjects war pensions to the means test, is unworthy of being described as Australian.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition made a similarly strong comment. He resented the manner in which the proposal had been shelved, and invited the Government to salvage its honour. The spirited discussion which took place on the amendment dragged on, as this debate is dragging on, until finally the committee divided at 2 a.m. I was sorry that a division was called, because I knew thai it would discomfit some members of the Labour party. I do not make that statement for the purpose of twisting their feelings on this occasion. I know that their hearts were in their words when they spoke in favour of the amendment. However, the discipline of the party was :oo strong. Earlier this evening, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) entered the chamber and announced that the Government would not accept any amendments. I know of the fate that would befall a member of the Labour party who dared ro place his feelings and conscience before the iron discipline of caucus.
Doth the- Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for Social ‘Services (Senator McKenna) nave expressed their sympathy towards “lie objective which the amendment seeks to achieve. I understand that the Minister for Labour and National Service wrote most ingratiating letters to assure people that within a short period the natter would be adjusted. Although 1 raised the matter four years ago, the position has not been altered. I shall explain the situation clearly to the chamber so that there can be no equivocation. When speaking on this subject last year, the Minister said, in effect, “I am not -helving the proposal; it is not my “ault “. He used practically the same words this evening. A soldier who has lost an eye or is otherwise disfigured is under a great disability when seeking employment. He may receive a pension of m few shillings a week. An exserviceman who has lost a few fingers or. a hand is also in that category. The pension which is payable is only compensation, and is less generous than my other form of social services. I propose to deal extensively with that aspect when repatriation benefits are under consideration.
Undoubtedly, the time will come when some of those unfortunate ex-servicemen will be unemployed. Australia’s general prosperity is dependent on the continuance of high prices overseas for our exportable primary produce. Should a slight recession occur, men will become unemployed. Many ex-servicemen have received treatment in hospitals and are now battling for employment. Others n.re undergoing rehabilitation courses, and are receiving mere pittances. Should an economic slump occur, they will be on the labour market. Par from receiving preference in employment, they will be at a disadventage. A member of an industrial organization may receive unemployment benefits from his union or a
Ifr. White. friendly society when he loses hig job. and this is not deductible from unemployment relief whereas that of a partly disabled ex-serviceman is deductible. What is the reason? [ have been considering that question during the last four years. I speak with considerable feeling at this stage because previously, I accepted the Minister’s assurance that an amendment to give effect to my proposal would be incorporated in the act. Now, the honorable gentleman is trying to fob us off with additional assurances, and he had his leader enter the chamber to announce that the Government would not accept my amendments. If this amendment be rejected, the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day will be a mockery. They will give a new significance to “ Lest We Forget “. I speak with intense feeling on this subject because I say that we have been fobbed off with humbug and hypocrisy. Year after year, when we have raised this matter, we have received assurances that the position would be rectified. The Minister, by scribbling an amendment, can meet our wishes now.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable gentleman said last year that the position would be rectified and be gave an assurance that he would discuss it with other Ministers. He has given a similar assurance on this occasion. Are we able to accept his word? If he fears that he cannot prevail upon a majority of members of caucus or Cabinet, he should show his manhood by resigning from the Ministry.
– Has any honorable member opposite resigned from the Ministry on a matter of principle?
– Yes. The Minister either agrees or disagrees with the proposal. If he refuses to accept the amendment, he must bear his share of the odium which will overtake the Labour party. Honorable members opposite are not unanimous in opposing the amendment. I respect the attitude of those honorable members who spoke last year in support of it. Should the Government refuge to accept this amendment, it will he damned because of its attitude towards exservicemen and itshonour will be impugned.
.- livery honorable member on this side of the chamber believes that an injustice is being done to certain ex-servicemen. This subject has been debated on two previous occasions, to my knowledge and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has consistently promised to endeavour to induce Cabinet to alter its decision. I have no doubt rhat he has submitted it to his colleagues.
– That is so.
– However, the honorable gentleman has failed to convince them. If honorable members opposite were allowed to vote according to the dictates of their consciences, I am certain that the majority of them would support the amendment. On a previous occasion, sevaral honorable members opposite spoke just as vehemently in favour of the proposal as any member of the Opposition did. I am inclined to challenge the Government to submit the issue to caucus. If it were to do so, I believe that the amendment would be carried. The Government cannot legitimately and with justice continue to regard a disability pension as income. A government which pretends to be humane should not be less generous to ex-servicemen than it is to citizens in other walks of life.
– That is not quite the position.
– During the secondreading debate, members of the Labour party constantly boasted about the lavish expenditure on social services. They pointed with pride to the increased expenditure from £17,000,000 to £88,000,000 in a decade. Nearly everybody is receiving social services in some form except those whose sacrifices in war-time made the collection and spending of that amount of £88,000,000 possible. Under the social services legislation, exservicemen have received a worse deal than any other section of the community. I shall not say that they are in that plight because they are ex-servicemen, but because they have done their job and are no longer wanted. It is so easy to forget what the country owes to them. When the fighting was at its hottest there was much cheering and many emotional tears were shed. Now, All that is forgotten. It is so easy to forget immediately the fighting has ended. The Government has had four years in which to consider this matter. I understood, when the proposal was originally made, that it might not have been practicable for the Minister to accept the amendment immediately. However, he has had four years in which to consider it. During this financial year, other social services will be considerably increased, but ex-servicemen will continue to suffer injustice. That is disgraceful, and cannot be justified. If caucus were given an opportunity to consider this proposal, a majority of honorable members opposite would approve of it and the necessary amendment would be inserted in the bill. I should like to know the names of the Ministers who are opposed to it, and to examine their background. How dart1 they oppose a proposal which is so manifestly just? The purpose is to grant to ex-servicemen who fought for their country a benefit at least equal to that enjoyed by those who did not fight for their country. Some of them would not have fought for their country under any conditions. Other men went away in the service of their country and lost limbs, and, for their sacrifices, the Government considers they are entitled to compensation of a few shillings a week, according to the degree of their disability. Yet the Government has the effrontery to class such a pension as part of a man’s income. Government supporters have been talking about removing the means test. Here is a means test on unfortunate men who have lost limbs and some of the strength and vigour that might have enabled them to earn a comfortable living. Why not at least impose the same means test to other people? Apparently the exserviceman does not count. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that he had heard that the Government would not accept the amendment which we are considering because the men affected are only few in number. It seems that, because of their small numbers, they have little votingvalue and therefore are not important in the eyes of Ministers and their supporters. It is a disgrace that any government should treat a payment of a few miserable ^hillings a week as part of a man’s income and so prevent him from obtaining benefits that are readily granted to other -actions of the community, including, I repeat, some men who have never lifted a hand to contribute to the development >f this country or its defence when it has Keen assailed by enemies. Even though ; be Government refuses to accept the amendment, I should not like the discussion to end without the Minister for Labour and National Service at least explaining its attitude. It would be an affront to the Parliament if the measure were passed without any reply being made to our representations. I know the Minister. My opinion of him is different from that held by many other honorable members. I believe that he really feels that we are in the right. I believe he would like to accept our amendment. He spoke to his colleagues four years ago in favour of this proposal. He has a chance to say to them now, “ You have had plenty of time to think thi3 over. Now, come my way, accept the amendment, and put an end to this terrible injustice to men who are entitled to everything that Australia can give them “.
– I do not want to evade the challenge issued by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). I shall put the case clearly. This matter has already been decided by the Government. This is a democratic government, and it sticks to its decisions. That does not mean that members of the Parliamentary Labour party do not examine, and discuss problems for hours, but like loyal members of any other united party, they stand by their decisions once they have been made. The situation is not exactly as the honorable member for Gippsland has described. He has accused the Government of discriminating between ordinary civilians and ex-servicemen. That is not correct. The amendment refers to the unemployment and sickness benefits provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act, and to nothing else.
Under those provisions, the income of an ex-servicemen is exempt to the same amount as that of anybody else. Therefore, it is not true to say that the exserviceman is the subject of discrimination. The real point at issue, as I believe the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will agree, is whether war pensions paid to disabled ex-servicemen ar«to be calculated as income for the purpose of assessing benefits under the Social Services Consolidation Act. Is not that so?
– That is the principle involved. An ex-serviceman who ha.a disability pension of not more than fi a week can qualify for the full benefit under the act. However, if his pension exceed sthat “figure, the amount of the excess over £1 a week is deducted from the benefits payable to him. Not many ex-servicemen receiving a disability pension of £1 « week are able to work.
– Yes they are.
– Not many.
– That is all the monreason why the Government should accept the amendment.
– I am trying to examine the matter properly. The real issue is whether pensions paid to compensate ex-servicemen for the loss of their ability to compete with their fellows should be regarded as income in the ordinary sense of the word for the purposes of assessing a social services benefit. Up to the present, the provision in the act has been regarded as fair and just. The committee is not considering the unemployment and sickness benefits legislation now.
– That is included in the Social Services Consolidation Act.
– It is not dealt with in the bill before the committee.
– Yes it is.
– There is no real need for the committee to discuss the unemployment benefits legislation at all now. Should we ever drift back into an economic depression, though we hope that we shall never do so, that legislation will have to be re-examined because its scope is not wide enough to provide for the needs of men who might he unemployed for long periods. If any such re-examination should become necessary, the issue which has been raised to-night could then be discussed. The Government cannot accept the amendment. The bill must remain as it stands.
.- The reply of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has disgusted me. He was quibbling when he said that the legislation dealing with unemployment benefits was not under consideration. I remind him that, when the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill was before the Parliament in 1944, we discussed the proposal embodied in the present amendment at six minutes past three o’clock in the morning. “We are again discussing the same subject almost on the hour of midnight. In 1944, the Minister said that he was strongly in favour of the Opposition’s proposal. He approved of it so heartily that he promised to submit it to Cabinet.
– And I did.
– Yet to-day, four years later, when the Minister is again asked to accept it, he merely brushes it on one side. Nobody with any regard for the rights of ex-servicemen could say that a disability pension should be treated as income. Disability pensions are granted to men who have been wounded in action, in order to compensate them for the handicaps that they suffer in civil life in competition with able-bodied men who did not go to war. It is shameful that such payments should he treated as income. There can be no foul in any government that treats legislation of this sort in this way. The Prime Ministers action, in entering the chamber without having listened to the discussion or studied the amendment, and declaring that no amendment will be accepted, is a mockery of democracy. That, is a form of dictatorship, and I am satisfied that the electors will not stand for it. It is time that the people realized that this Parliament is not being treated as a deliberative assembly. “What happens is that caucus meets, obtains its instruction from the Trades and Labour Councils, registers its decisions and then forces them upon the Parliament. I again ask the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Prime Minister to consider the representations that we have made on behalf of disabled ex-servicemen. Those representations were first made in 1944, when almost every ex-service member on this side of the chamber spoke twice on the proposal. On that occasion, the Minister for Labour and National Service undertook, in effect, to make » strong recommendation to Cabinet in favour of our amendment. He expressed his approval and sympathy, but apparently his views had no effect upon caucus, which is indifferent to the claim.of the ex-servicemen of Australia, and it is as well that the community should know it.
Thursday, 14 October 19Jf8.
– Honorable members may recall that on the 30th March, 1944, I addressed myself to this question in the committee stage of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill 1944. I then moved the following amendment : -
That, in the definition of “income”, after paragraph (6), the following paragraph he inserted : - “ (6«.) in relation to a person qualified to receive unemployment benefit or sickness benefit, any payment not exceeding One pound five shilling? per week made under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1.943 in respect of a pension other than a special pension; or”.
My reason for doing that was because a set of circumstances then obtained that was similar to those that obtain to-day. I. drew attention to the fact that the war pension that was paid to an ex-serviceman who had lost an arm, or a leg, or an eye. was taken into account in assessing his eligibility for unemployment or sickness benefit. I pointed out that that provision did not apply to persons who received pensions from trade unions, friendly societies or similar organizations. My amendment was designed to ensure that an incapacitated ex-serviceman who was in receipt of a war pension not exceeding fi 5s. a week under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act should be treated on the same basis as other members of the community. The report of my speech is to be found in Hansard of the 30th March, 1944, at page 2384. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.Holloway) said, as reported on page 2390 of the same volume of Hansard-
I ask honorable members to remember that this bill was introduced in the Senate, and chat, as it is not my bill, I cannot accept the amendment, not because I do not think that chore 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 be discussed at the next cabinet meeting, which will take place soon.I shall see that an answer is given.
We know what happened. The Minister promised that he would sympathetically submit the amendment to the Treasurer and the Cabinet. I hope that the honor- able gentleman did so. If he did, he apparently found that Cabinet had no sympathy for ex-servicemen.
– I should not say that.
– It is a trite expres sion, but . actions speak louder than words. If Cabinet had been sympathetic to them, the amendment wouldhave been made to the bill. We know that it was not made.
In 1947 the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) again drew attention to this matter and, in committee, movedanamendment similar to that to which I have just referred. The same arguments were adduced. On that occasion honorable members on the other side of the chamber supported the honorable member for Balaclava. Again the Minister gave an assurance, again the assurance was accepted by the committee, and again it was dishonoured. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has now moved an amendment that is couched in much the same terms as those which were moved by the honorable member for Balaclava and myself on those occasions, and designed to have the same effect which is to secure justice for those who fought and sacrificed to make possible the facilities that arenow enjoyed by age pensioners. The sum of money that would be involved if justice were extended to these men is infinitesimal in comparison with the huge amounts that are being expended at the present moment. Incapacitated ex-servicemen are, however, singled out as a section of the community that mustnot receive any consideration from thisGovernment. It is fitting that honorable members on this side of the committee should ask why this body of people should be treated less favorably than others. I have no doubt that the amendment that is now before the chair will be met with lip-service from honorable members opposite. Doubtless the Minister will run true to form. He will rise in his place and tell the committee with all the unctiousness at his command that he has a great deal of sympathy for these men, that something should be done for them and that he will sympathetically submit it to the Cabinet. That will not mean a thing and this section of the community will again be singled out as one that must not reveive any consideration from the Government in this connexion.
Honorable members opposite who are ex-servicemen feel keenly about this question. The honorable member forParkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who is now occupying the chair,have great sympathy for these men, but their sympathy is confined to words. If they took action in caucus they might achieve some result. The Minister will no doubt say that Cabinet is sympathetic towards these men, but we want practical results. What is the use of saying to a body of men. “ We know that you are placed at a disadvantage. We know that, by your sacrifices, you have made it possible for us to do many things. We shall give you sympathy, but we are not going to do what you ask us to do “ ? Other sections of the community have the sympathy of the Government, but that sympathy takes a practical form and is entirely different from that which is accorded to the exservicemen. Honorable members on this side of the chamber haveaccepted the Minister’s assurance on previous occasions, but on. this occasion we propose to divide the committee in an attempt to secure justice for these men. We propose to invite honorable membersopposite who have on other occasions expressed their sympathy in words, to translate it into action and to see if they cannot persuade the Governmentto give these men the justice to which they are entitled.
, - I support the amendment and record my amazement at the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has not seen fit to accept it. On the last occasion when this question was debated, the honorable gentleman clearly indicated that he was, in his own mind, sympathetic to the amendment that had been moved, and he 3aid that an amendment might be proposed in another place. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said on that occasion -
Some time ago, an assurance was given in respect of the matter now at issue. I stake my position on this issue, and- 1 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.
Cbe honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) said -
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 ex-servicemen. Whilst I d’o 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.
That was an ambiguous statement. The Minister oan offer no real reason why this amendment should not be accepted, ft is clean: that the service pension should not be considered as income, and I say that if the Minister had any real humanity in him, he would accept the amendment.
.- [ rise to associate myself briefly with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). It is extraordinary that a very moderate and humane proposal . such as this to which, even the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) pays some form of lip service, should not be the subject of any other comment whatsoever by Government supporters. It is amazing, when one considers that there are some ex-servicemen among honorable members opposite, and indeed, others who have good cause to be grateful to, and, no doubt, wish to help, those unfortunate men who are suffering- from severe disabilities, that they and other Government supporters have had not the decency at this juncture to associate themselves with this reasonable proposition. The service pension is a. payment to ex-servicemen for certain definite disabilities such as the loss of limbs eyes, hands, and so on. Do they not still suffer from those disabilities whether they are in work or out of work? I say they should be paid this money as some little compensation. No one will suggest that the service pension is particularly generous. Every day of their lives honorable members opposite see in the federal members’ rooms in the various capitals and elsewhere, men suffering from war disabilities. Some of them are young men in the prime of their life, and it is astounding to think that a government which disburses public money on such a lavish scale, should seek to cut expenditure in this paltry way. I repeat that it is shameful that with the exception of the Minister for Labour and National Service, not one honorable member opposite has had the manliness and decency to speak on this simple proposal.
– This matter has received the consideration of the Government on several occasions following representations by the Opposition. After mature consideration, it has been, rejected. No good purpose can be served by honorable members opposite arguing that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said this, that, or something else on some other occasion. The Minister made a promise to the House in 1944 and again in 1947, and on both occasions he honoured his promise. He referred the Opposition’s proposal to Cabinet, and Cabinet decided that it was not prepared to agree to the request.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The Minister is proceeding to give his reasons, and he must be heard in silence.
– I suggest to honorable members opposite, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that I am not under crossexamination. I have been here too long 10 bc baited.
– Then why did the Minister rise?
– To exercise the right that I, as well as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), possess. I propose to exercise that right is often as I think it desirable that I should do so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! And the Chair proposes to ensure that the Minister shall be heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Chairman. This question has been argued very fully by members of the Opposition. It has also been canvassed very fully by Cabinet -mci by caucus, and the view of the majority of members of both Cabinet and the caucus is that the concession -ought by the Opposition should not be made.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Parramatta has heard the general warning that I have given. Interjections must not continue.
M!r. BARNARD.- I am not embarrassed by the honorable member’s question.
– The Minister does not know the answer.
– I realize that in the opinion of the honorable member for Warringah, nobody knows anything. He is full of his own conceit. The claim that lias been made to-night is, of course, one that can be made easily from the Opposition’s benches, where no responsibility lies. If ever honorable members opposite rake over the reins of government, they will have many things to answer. It is quite easy to argue matters such as this when one is in Opposition. But let us look at the position. This problem did not arise until the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act became operative. lt did not arise, therefore, while the parties now in Opposition occupied the treasury bench, because they did not do anything for the unemployed whether they were ex-servicemen or not. In those days, ex-servicemen were given the great privilege of carrying their swags, drawing the dole, and searching in rubbish tins for something to eat. The Labour Government put the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act on the statute-book. That legislation gives to every section of the community certain rights in the event of unemployment or sickness. It provides that an income of £1 a week from a friendly society or any other source shall not involve a. reduction of the unemployment and sickness benefit. However, any greater amount, whatever its source, will reduce the benefit. I cannot see in that any particular injustice to ex-servicemen.
– The Minister does not understand it.
– I understand it very well indeed. I know, too, that this Government has done something for those people whereas the Opposition parties did nothing during their term of office on the treasury bench. If an exserviceman who is in receipt of a small pension, not exceeding £1 a week, becomes unemployed he is entitled, as “is any other member of the community, to the unemployment benefit. “What disadvantage would he suffer by comparison with other members of the community if he became unemployed? In those circumstances he would be eligible for the payment of the unemployment benefit. If he became unemployed through war-caused sickness he would be taken care of according to the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. If his sickness were of a normal kind he would be entitled to the sickness benefit. Thus he would be on equal terms with other members of the community. Honorable members opposite may make a great play of this proposal in their attempts to secure the votes of ex-servicemen, but their attitude is purely mercenary.
– Did the honorable member say that our attitude is mercenary?
– Yes. Because of my position in the Cabinet I have some responsibility for looking after the interests of ex-servicemen. I have examined this proposal closely and I wholeheartedly support what has been said bv the Minister for Labour and National Service in relation to it. The honorable gentleman has indicated plainly that the Government, vy.ill not accept the amendment because the Government doe9 not regard ex-servicemen as being .placed in a disadvantageous position by comparison with other members of the community in their eligibility for the sickness benefit.
.The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) convicts himself out of his own mouth when he says that disabled exservicemen should be able to compete on equal terms with other members of the community. That principle of equality is one which honorable members on this side of the chamber will not accept. We believe that if any one in the community is entitled to preferential treatment it is the disabled ex-serviceman. Surely some measure of justice should be extended to the men who fought for their country and lost what no one of the members of this chamber has lost - a limb or an eye. In return for their disablement we give them what is called a pension, but which in reality is compensation for their injuries and their loss of something r,he possession of which would make life comfortable and happy for them. That compensation should not be taken away from them in any circumstances. I join in this debate solely to express .my regret that the Government will not concede the justice of a claim which we have fre- quently submitted on behalf of disabled ex-servicemen during the last four years. Some honorable members opposite have indicated that they share our views on this subject. I can only assume that they rely on the statement of the Prime Minister that the Government will not accept the amendment to still the urgings of their consciences. I deplore the refusal if the Government to accept the amendment.
– On looking through the Ilansard record, I find that when this subject was debated last year the debate took place after midnigbt. Very few Government supporters have spoken on the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that when a similar proposal was submitted last year some honorable members on the Government side frankly stated their views in relation to it. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) mentioned that one of them was the honorable member for Parke.(Mr. Haylen). Another was the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) . who spoke at 2.54 a.m., clearly demonstrating that he must have been fairly keen on the subject. I compliment him on the sentiments he expressed on thai occasion. Amongst other things tinhonorable member said - 1 could uot possibly be honest with myself and allow this debate to be concluded without expressing my view. I said last night that there was nothing this country could offer to ex-servicemen which was too good for them
That is a splendid sentiment. Tinhonorable member continued -
Particularly is that so in respect of maimed ex-servicemen. Whilst I do not suggest thai the Minister will accept the amendment, I ask in all sincerity that he should confer with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and tinMinister for Health and Social Services (Sena tor MeKenna) to give the matter further con sideration.
Those are very fine sentiments which I supported on that occasion at three o’clock in the morning, as the Hansard record will show. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan refers to. the income allowed to person.in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits. Section 106 of the principal aci defines income in relation to a person a.meaning -
Any personal earnings, moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned, derived or rr ceived by that person for his own use or beni’ fit by any means from any source whatsoever, within or outside Australia, and includes am periodical payment or benefit, by way of gift or allowance-
Then follow certain exclusions. Tinhonorable member for Swan has proposed than an additional exclusion be inserted, namely, war pensions. I do not think there is any misapprehension in the minds of members as to the purpose for which war pensions are paid. All of u? are aware that war pensions are paid in order to raise to the level of other members of the community the earning capacity of those who have suffered by reason of their war service. The Minister for Repatriation has said that this measure inflicts no injustice on exservicemen by comparison with other members of the community. The purpose of the amendment is not merely to place disabled ex-servicemen on the same level as other members of the community, but also to extend to these ex-servicemen some degree of preference. Why should a disabled ex-serviceman be placed at a disadvantage if he becomes eligible for the payment of unemployment and sickness benefits? I heartily support the amendment. What I have said has been amply demonstrated by the Minister earlier during the committee debate. VVhen the honorable gentleman says that cbe Government cannot accept the amendment, he is speaking truthfully. It cannot be accepted because the decision has been made by the majority of the Labour caucus.
-> - Dominated by whom ?
– Whether the Minister wants to accept an amendment or not he is in the position that he cannot accept it, and that is what the Opposition faces when it fights for better conditions for ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said that he was amazed that the Minister at the table would not accept the amendment, f am not amazed, because I expected that to happen, as the Prime Minister had already signified that the Government would accept no amendments to the bill. The Government’s attitude cannot be regarded as being other than unsympathetic to ex-servicemen, in the same way as it is unsympathetic to anything put forward on behalf of former prisoners of war, as T pointed out some days ago.
. Any one would think that the Opposition had a monopoly of sympathy for exservicemen. I am just about sick of hearing such hypocrisy and I shall remind honorable members opposite of some general facts about ex-servicemen and the Government’s attitude towards them. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that the Government was not concerned with improving conditions for ex-servicemen.
– I said the Government was unsympathetic.
– It is strange how honorable members opposite become sympathetic to ex-servicemen when they are in Opposition. When they occupied the treasury bench they were not so sympathetic. In Opposition their generosity is exceeded only by their hypocrisy. When I first entered this Parliament as a member and even before that when I was on the hustings seeking election, I was charged, as was the Labour party, with offering bribes to ex-servicemen,. because the party had stated that its policy was to increase the miserable amount paid to them, which at that time was even lower than thai paid immediately after World War ] . However, the people put the Labour party into power.
– I rise to order. Only ohe clause of the Social Services Consolidation Bill is now under discussion, and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is rambling over the whole of the bill. If he is allowed that liberty’ ] intend to speak in answer to him. I ask that he be called to order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Wannon must relate his remarks to tlie clause that is under discussion.
– It has been stated thai the Government has no concern for exservicemen, and statements made as long ago as 1944 were used against the Minister. I shall refer to something that occurred prior to 1944 when the Labour party was fighting for improved conditions for ex-servicemen. Had it not been for this Government much of the present beneficial legislation would not be on the statute-book. It was this Government which removed the “ onus of proof “ provision which had been included in legislation passed when the anti-Labour government was in power. Until the removal of that provision a man had to have a 16- in. shell sticking out of the back of his neck before he could prove that he was entitled to a pension. I have seen men who were actually dying on their feet and had been unable to prove their entitlement to a war pension. The
Opposition voted against the removal of that provision and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was one of those who did so.
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may ask that the words used by another honorable member be repeated. I ask the honorable member for Wannon to say what it was I voted against, as [ did not distinguish his words.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman has not raised a point of order.
– I said that the honorable member for Balaclava voted against the removal of the “ onus of proof “ provision. I have always taken any opportunity to help ex-servicemen, 80 per cent, of whom are workers whom the Government claims to represent. I warn returned soldiers that this legislation will soon be removed from the statute-book if the Labour Government is defeated. At present an ex-serviceman is permitted to receive a payment from a friendly society of £1 a week and a pension of £1 a week. Honorable members opposite have tried to make some capital out of exservicemen, but let them examine their own murky past in respect of their attitude to ex-servicemen. I have not words strong enough to tell honorable members opposite my opinion of their record. While honorable members opposite were in office before the last war, they were more concerned about getting the last ounce of interest out of ex-servicemen. On many occasions. I have met men on the roads asking for jobs and I have had to tell them that I had no job to give them because of the necessity to pay interest.
– As a rule I do not speak on matters concerning soldiers as there are so many honorable members who have a more intimate knowledge of such matters. The matter now being debated, however, is one about which I have felt very strongly ever since the experiences of a man in the district in which I live came to my notice. He was an ex-serviceman who became ill and was admitted to hospital. He applied for and received the sickness benefit, but while he was in hospital a. decision was given on an appeal concerning his pension. As a result of that decision his pension was increased. When he was discharged from hospital he received a bill from the Department of Social Services for a few shillings that he had been overpaid. I hardly believed that such a thing could be possible until I heard the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) speak to-night, and I was astounded to hear him say that there was no question of injustice to exservicemen as against any one else. The whole question revolves around the exact meaning of “war pension”. A war pension is a compensation, or an attempt at compensation, for a disability incurred by the recipient on behalf of the people of Australia. It can never be complete compensation for a disability. Could any man ever be repaid for the loss of an arm or be replaced, by a payment of a sum of money, on exactly the footing he would have occupied had he not lost his arm? He did not suffer his disability merely through an accident in industry, but because he went out into the field of battle either as a volunteer or at the behest of the Government. To pretend for a moment that that can be placed on the same basis as any other kind of pension or compensation payment is sheet nonsense; indeed, it is utter hypocrisy. Any one who deludes himself into believing that that is so is false to all the decent instincts of most people. I wa.surprised to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) say what he did. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have felt particularly sympathetic towards supporters of the Government who believe in doing justice to exservicemen and have spoken in favour of proposals similar to the present one. On prior occasions no vote was taken, and in this debate, which involves so much real sentiment and feeling, I should not have referred to any individual supporter of the Government, because I do not regard that as a decent way of conducting a debate. However, after listening to the honorable member for Wannon, I consider that the matter must be discussed. Until the honorable member spoke members on this side of the chamber were under the impression that the Government’s attitude was simply tlie result of a cabinet decision, but the honorable gentleman implies that the decision was made by caucus. L appeal to those members of the Australian Labour party, who supported our proposal in caucus, in fairness to themselves, to stand up now and explain their position.- They should do that, not only to make their position perfectly dear to the House, but also to enable the ex-servicemen of the country to know where they stand. I assume that they recognize the justice of the claim of service pensioners, and they should support the proposed amendment.
. -I should not have spoken again but for Lhe wild and rambling utterance of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod). The only question to be decided by the committee now is whether the anomaly disclosed in this clause should be rectified. Honorable members m this side of the chamber have brought the anomaly to the notice of the committee on previous occasions, and the Government gave some kind of undertaking that it would be removed. To-night the honorable member for Wannon alleged that when the matter was before the Parliament in 1943, I opposed the principle of casting the onus of proof upon the Repatriation Commission. I point out to him that at that time I was serving overseas with the Royal Australian Air Force. I support now, as I have always done, the principle that the burden of proof should lie upon the Repatriation Commission. My views on the subject nre well known, and I mention them nowonly to correct the mistatements of the honorable member, which will be reported in Hansard. He was hard-pressed to make out any sort of case, and. he resorted to making assertions which he Cannot substantiate. The dumb show made by rhe Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) falls in the same category as the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon.
Is the Government now prepared to correct an anomaly which it admitted in 1943 needed rectification. The proposal contained in this clause will have a very direct bearing on the happiness of many people. I said before that I did not want to embarrass supporters of the Government who have previously expressed themselves with considerable feeling in regard to this matter. No honorable member on this side of the chamber is seeking to gain political credit by supporting the proposed amendment; all thai, we desire is to rectify an injustice. The Government can promise now to rectify the matter, and consideration of the clause can be postponed. My impression is that caucus did not properly consider this matter, and that Cabinet unexpectedly rejected the proposal which had previously been supported by some honorable members opposite and is again supported by members of the Opposition. The matter is not one of major importance to the whole community, but it is of importance to those who will be affected by it, and I appeal to supporters of the Government to reconsider the matter in caucus and submit their recommendation to the Cabinet for reconsideration by thai body.
– I rise to correct what I believe to be a misconception by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who stated that when the present clause was drafted every consideration was given to exservicemen. Receipt of a war pension by an ex-serviceman simply places him on u level with -a civilian when he is seeking a job in the labour market, so that no special consideration will be extended to ex-servicemen if the proposed amendment be adopted. The reason why I spoke on the matter last year, and why I have raised it on this occasion, is that the Government has not honoured the promise which it gave twelve months ago. The ex-serviceman on whose behalf I spoke on that occasion was discharged from the armed forces suffering from arthritis of the feet. He was paid a weekly pension of 24s. 6d., which is higher than a 40 petcent, pension. He was forced into unemployment because he could not continue working but had to rest. He did not enter the Repatriation General Hospital at Hollywood because there was no occasion for him to enter hospital at all. His condition was such that he could not work, and he was paid unemployment allowance during the period he was unable to work. Later he attempted to work, but the arthritis from which he suffered affected his legs and eventually his hips were affected. The terrible feature of his case is that after he resumed work he received a notification from the Department of Social Services that since he received a pension of 24s. 6d. a week and had drawn the maximum unemployment pension during the time he was unemployed he had been overpaid. The notification also informed him that the department had instructed the Repatriation Commission in Perth to deduct instalments from his war pension until the overpayment was repaid. The Repatriation Commission had to carry out a job which it did not relish, simply because the ex-serviceman had been paid more than he was entitled to receive under the act. I prefer that the matter should not be discussed on a party political basis. Indeed, I did not mention it to-night when Government supporters opposed the amendment which I have moved. I had an opportunity to mention this matter during the budget debate, but I did not desire to embarrass individual supporters of the Government. However, the clause now under consideration may have far-reaching effects, and it is my duty to put the case of exservicemen who are receiving a pension >f more than 40 per cent. Those who receive less are not affected, and that is why I now do so.
– I should not have risen a second time but for the case mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton)-
– I can furnish the name of the ex-serviceman concerned.
– I shall be glad to have his name, but not at the present, moment. The honorable member referred to an ex-serviceman who was suffering from arthritis of the feet when he was discharged from the armed forces. He was given a pension of 24s. 6d. a week. Because of his disability he was compelled to cease work and he applied for and was granted unemployment benefit. The official who handled his case, whoever he was, handled it badly. The nature of the complaint from which the ex-serviceman was suffering at the time of his discharge from the services obviously entitled him to admission to the Repatriation General Hospital at Hollywood. If he had entered that hospital-
– But he did not.
– That was because he -was badly advised. The honorable member is trying to connect that case with his argument that the proposed amendment should be accepted. I point out to him, however, that his contention is ill-founded, because the ex-serviceman was entitled to admission to the Repatriation Hospital at Hollywood, and had he gone there he would have received a pension, not of 24s. 6d. a week, but at the maximum rate of 100 per cent. It is not a matter of only a £1 a week, but a rise from 24s. to £2 10s. Instead of the arthritis travelling up his leg, it may be that with proper attention the arthritis could have been checked and he would have been able to go back to work earlier. Whatever merit there may be in that claim, I contend that the case submitted by the honorable gentleman is not well founded. This former soldier was badly advised. Whoever advised him deprived him, by wrong advice, of thibenefit, to which he was entitled as a returned soldier, not of another £1, but of treatment in the first place, and of 100 per cent, benefit while he was sick-
– But he could not work.
– If I may say so. the honorable gentleman does not know anything about this matter. I have been studying it for quite a while.
– But the man was not able to work.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member for Parramatta does not behave I shall have to name him.
– In this case the Department of Social Services quite properly asked for a refund of the amount that the beneficiary was overpaid. The former soldier did not get the benefits to which he was entitled under the Repatriation Act. . Had he gone into hospital and received treatment, no question of a refund would have arisen. If the honorable member for Swan has stated the ease exactly as it happened, this former soldier was entitled to the benefits I have outlined. I think that the honorable member admits that. If that is the basis of the case that he is presenting to the chamber to justify an amendment of this section, then his case is not well founded.
– Does the Minister rer quire more evidence?
– If the honorable gentleman wishes to get these matters rectified, I remind him that my office door is always open to him. I like to deal with individual cases personally. They are not rectified by bringing them forward in this chamber. I have never refused to see anybody, nor have I declined to have a case examined on its merits. This applies equally to members of the Australian Labour party, and to Opposition members. No honorable member can say that I have not accepted facts presented to me and examined specific cases willingly. The case for the amendment has been presented on entirely false premises. Whilst [do not want to detain honorable members unduly in connexion with this matter, I wish to correct one statement made by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). If I heard her correctly, she suggested that caucus had not considered this matter. When I was speaking earlier I said that this matter had been very fully considered by Cabinet, and also by caucuSj and that both Cabinet and caucus had decided it in the light of the fact that the Government had provided- unemployment benefits for people who were out of work. This is something that did not arise when honorable members opposite comprised the Government, because at that time nothing was provided for returned soldiers or anybody else–
– Yes, there was.
– There was no provision for unemployed persons when the honorable member was in the Government except that made by some of the States. At that time I saw many men, who were seeking jobs in order to earn money to keep their- wives and families, led by returned soldiers. The honorable member cannot deny that, because it is true. One mass demonstration was led by a son of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes).
– What has that to do with the amendment?
– It has a lot to do with it. This Government has provided something for people who are out of work. It is a very good system because every unemployed man who registers is entitled to 253. a week for himself, a further 20s. for his wife if he is married, and 5s. for the first child, a total of £2 10s. a week. That is his right. The only qualification is that he must be out of work. I know that the honorable gentleman does not like this, but we say to the people who are out of work and who register “You can have an income of £2 a week before anything is held against you, whether you be a returned serviceman or a civilian “. That has been done for all sections of the. community by this Government. Had it not been for that provision,, this question would not arise at all. We say to the people in general that whether they are ex-service personnel or not, we will give them something if they are out of work. If the honorable member for Swan bases his case on the experiences of this particular ex-soldier, I say that his premises are false, and that the case is wrongly based.
– But it happened.
– Yes, because the man was badly advised. There are any number of men in the community who could have given him some advice on such a matter.
– The Minister should see my correspondence in the matter.
– If the honorable member bases his case on those premises, it is worse than. I thought.
– I rise to express the obvious. I think we might look upon it as axiomatic that there is no need to do anything unless there is a special reason for it. I was under the impression that it was obvious to other Australians, and particularly to the members of the Government, that this concession should be granted to a wounded soldier, and particularly to one who had lost a limb. To my amazement, however, I find that war pensions payable to ex-servicemen who have lost a limb, or suffer some disablement, are taken into consideration when assessing their eligibility for unemployment and sickness benefits, and may, in some instances, debar them from receiving such benefits, ft is shocking to think that such a thing could happen. The Minister has admitted that the matter goes back to caucus, but [ say it goes still further. I say it goes back to the pressure groups outside Parliament, which the Minister has not the intestinal fortitude to resist. The Minister refuses to accept the amendment because of the pressure brought to bear upon him, but if his heart were articulate, he would confess that he really agrees with the Opposition. However, I ask the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) whether he, too, agrees with the Opposition on this matter. The question of preference to ex-servicemen is involved. When I was on Moratai Island, [ read in a volume of Hansard a most remarkable speech by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) on the subject of preference to exservicemen. I also read the miserable exposition of the Minister for Transport. His attitude was that work would be provided for all, but that there would be no preference to ex-servicemen. The pressure from outside was too great. The attitude of the Government to this amendment is dictated by pressure from the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I know that I am right in saying that, because of the shamed-faced attitude of Government supporters. Very few of them have risen to defend the stand taken by the Government. Last year, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) was guilty of a faux pas in defending the rights of returned soldiers, but although he was challenged to-night by another prisoner of war, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), to state his attitude, he has refrained from doing so. When this subject was discussed in the prison camps, I told my comrades that we could never hope for preference from this Government, but that when men returned they ought to be placed in the position that they would have occupied if they had never gone away, ft is a disgrace that any government professing to have an Australian outlook should bring forward a measure of this kind. The amendment should be accepted. No ex-serviceman should be placed at a disadvantage because of the injuries that he received on service.
– I make a final appeal to the Government to reconsider its attitude to the amendment. At all times, the pension of a disabled serviceman has been regarded in the light of compensation for his war disability. It has been sacrosanct. It has been inalienable and unattachable, it cannot be garnisheed by any court. It is not regarded as income for taxation purposes. This is the first time that any government has grabbed at exservicemen’s pensions, and it is a despicable act. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) said that this legislation would not place the disabled ex-serviceman at a disadvantage when compared with any one else. I remind him that it will place the disabled ex-serviceman at a disadvantage when compared with a man who was not disabled. The serviceman’s pension has been fixed by the Repatriation Department or by an appeal tribunal, yet the Government is grabbing at it in a way which the courts have refused to do, and which even the avaricious tax-gatherer cannot do. The debate on this subject has been conducted in a temperate manner, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) entered the chamber and declared that no amendments to the bill would be accepted, although he did not know the purpose of the amendments which might be moved.- He instructed caucus that it would not be allowed to do the fair thing by ex-servicemen. When this subject was discussed in 1947, some members on the opposite side said that it had not been considered by caucus. To-night, the Minister admitted that it had been before caucus, so that caucus must accept responsibility for the present attitude of the Government. Any government that breaks such well-founded traditions as are at issue in this matter will have a lot for which to answer. The Minister for Repatriation said that the soldier to whom the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) referred had been badly advised. My only reply to the Minister is that before the next measure dealing with repatriation is introduced, he should table the report of No. 1 Entitlement Tribunal. I repeat that up till now the war pension has been considered absolutely sacrosanct. I again appeal to the Government to honour that tradition. If it persists in its refusal to accept the amendment it will do a great disservice to the country as a whole.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to he inserted (Mr. Hamilton’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.) Ayes . . . . 23
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 1.17 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.No. The Trans-Australia Airlines Convair aircraft is flying on a programme of crew training and route familiarization prior to its introduction on scheduled services. Certain modifications found desirable as a result of experience of operation of Convairs in the United States of America have been brought to the notice of Trans-Australia Airlines and it was decided to embody these before putting the aircraft into regular passenger service.
y. - On the 21st September the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked whether further assistance could be given to augment the airlift of supplies to Berlin. The- Minister for Air has informed me that the matter has been examined and that it is not at present intended to make any arrangements to despatch further Eoyal Australian Air Force aircrews overseas to assist the Berlin airlifts.
d. - On the 1st October, the lionorablo member for Flinders (Mr. Ky an) asked whether it is a fact that wire netting is being imported from Japan for primary producers ? If so, what quantity is to be imported and what is the approximate price at which it will be sold ? The Minister for Trade and Customs has -supplied the following information : -
On the 27th .August, 1948, approval was given for the issue of a licence for the importation of Wai tons of wire netting of Japanese origin. The c.i.f. & e. price of this wire netting is approximately 100 per cent, above the mill selling price of available supplies of local manufacture, but below prices quoted by other overseas suppliers, e.g., Belgium and the United States of America. The selling price to the user is not yet known but’ it is reasonable to expect that it will approximate double the price of locally made wire netting.
– On the 6th October, the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr.
Duthie) asked a question concerning the shortage of sugar for the Midland Districts of Tasmania. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information, regarding sugar shipments to Tasmania.
The honorable member mentioned shipments nf sugar to Launceston but it is understood that sugar for Midland Districts is usually supplied from Hobart. The following shipments from Sydney have been made. The vessel Karuah sailed on the 7th October for Launceston and hod on board 500 tons of sugar which it is understood is to be railed from Launceston to Hobart. The vessel Talune with 750 tons of sugar departed from Sydney on the Sth October and arrived at Hobart on the 11th. The Colonial’ Sugar Kenning Company Limited has notified that it will be able t<> make 1,500 tons of sugar available for Tasmania and the Australian Shipping Board and the Central Traffic Committee are at present endeavouring to fix a special vessel to load this sugar at Sydney together with other cargo. The honorable member may be assured that the commercial companies engaged in the Tasmanian trades and the Australian Shipping Board which is co-operating with them to supplement their tonnage arc desirous of maintaining regular services and are working to achieve this objective. It is essential that ships be run fully loaded to ensure that these arc used to their best capacity. This factor militates against complete regularity being obtained. Additional factors such as the bod weather at present being experienced,, congestion in ports and other matters not under the control of shipping operators are encountered from, time to time. Nevertheless there are frequent and it is considered, sufficient Tasmanian fixtures to meet Tasmanian needs generally. Tt is frequently found of course that supply and not shipping is responsible for temporary shortage; nf goods at particular places
Shipping : Transport of Steel Products ; Proposed Government Line.
Mr.- Dedman. - On the 8th October, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked a question concerning the delay in the shipment of steel products from Newcastle to “Victoria. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
From various causes there has been an . accumulation of steel products at Newcastle and Port Kembla which the Central Traffic Committee (on which the Australian ShippingBoard is represented) has been doing its best to lift with the facilities available. One of the factors contributing to the difficulty is shortage nf labour, both at Newcastle and Port Kembla, and at the ports through which the vessels tn load at Newcastle and Port Kembla must pass.
Thislabour shortage is not peculiar to the waterfront but will be found at present in. industries throughout Australia. A special’ examination of rate labour position at ports principally involved has been initiated at. my direction and it is expected that this action will result in the position being relieved. In the meantime the Central Traffic Committee is continuing to allocate as much tonnage as can be worked and during the last two weeks thebacking of steel products at Newcastle and Port Kembla hasbeen reduced by over 15,000 tons. The honorable member may rest assured that the necessity of transporting steel products is appreciated by the Government and close attention is being given to the position, in. collaboration with all participating agencies and authorities.
y. - On the 22nd September, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked, a question regarding the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping; line. Further to my oral reply on that date I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The Government’s proposals in. regard to the setting upof a Commonwealth line of steamers and generally to carry out the Government’s plans for the future of the shipping and ship-building industries have now reached an. advanced stage but. have not yet received final consideration by the Government.. It is expected that the draft bill will be completed in the near future and.it is hoped thatit will be possible, to introduce this legislation into Parliament at. an early date. It. is proposed to set up a board to.be known as the. Australian Shipping Board with the power to operate shipping services both on the Australian coast and in the overseas trades. The board would be empowered to carry on the general business of ship-owner and in addition have such ancillary powers as may be necessary. The legislation is not intended to prevent the operation of commercially-owned shipping lines on the Australian coast. The Government intends to place the Australian Shipping Board, as far as possible, in the same position as a private company operating ships, and the various acts, e.g., the Navigation Act, Customs Act, Wireless. Telegraphy Act, &c, which are applicable to private ship-owners will apply in like manner to the Australian Shipping Board. The board will be given no powers of control over shipping services conducted by the. private shipping; companies. In addition to providing for the setting up of a board to operate the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, it is proposed that the legislation will contain provisions designed to foster the shipping and ship-building industries of the Commonwealth.
y. - On the 1st October, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked questions regarding the salaries on appointment of the Commissioner and
Deputy Commissioner of Prices as shown in the Commonwealth Gazette, of the 9th September. AsI informed the honorable member I answered a question by the Acting Leader of the. Opposition (see Hansard of the 30th September), regarding the reasons for the creation of the twenty positions in the Prices Branch. la reply to the remaining question,. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
Mr. M. E. McCarthy, previously Tariff Revision Officer, was promoted to. the position of Commissioner of Prices and. would be immediately eligible for the maximum salary range. The standard salaries and the actual salaries of the two positions are as follows: -
Tariff Revision Officer- Standard. £840 £912, actual£l,080-£ 1,176.
Commissioner of Prices- Standard. £1,082- £1,212, actual £l,363-£l,551.
Mr. H. E. Bishop, Chief Investigation Officer in the Taxation Department, was promoted to the position of Deputy Commissioner of. Prices. The standard salaries and the actual salaries of the two positions are as follows: -
Chief Investigation Officer - Standard £696-£768, actual £906-£996.
Deputy Commissioner of Prices - Standard £880-£l,012, actual 1,146-£1,301.
The gazettal in parenthesis of the minimum actual salary of £1,363 and £1,146 as the salaries on promotion of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner respectively was an error and action is. in course to correct it to read £1,551 and £1,301. It is not proposed to retain the new created positions for any length of time, as the officers who were appointed to them will be. absorbed in the Department, of Trade and Customs and other departments.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481013_reps_18_198/>.