House of Representatives
23 November 1950

19th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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Mr.HAYLEN. - Can the Treasurer inform me whether anyaction has yet been taken to ‘pay parliamentary attendants for the overtime that they work? I remind the right honorablegentleman that those members of the parliamentary staff worked 183/4 hours yesterday whilst honorable members discussed the road to Kapooka Loop and other items of national importance in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1950. I informhimthat they receive an additional three weeks’ holiday a year as compensation for the hours of overtime that they work, that they have already worked the equivalent of sixteen weeks’ overtime this year, and that the amount of £87 would normally havebeen paid to them for it if they had been getting a fair deal. I have raised this matter with the Treasurer previously, and I again ask him whether he will take action to adjust it before the end of this session. He also promised to place an item on the notice-paper in a more appropriate position, but that has not been done.


– Order!


– I shall discuss that matter with the responsible officers with a view to having the anomaly adjusted. I thoroughly appreciate that it is an anomaly, but I remind the honorable member for Parkes that the parliamentary attendants concerned come under the jurisdiction of Mr. Speaker. However, I shall examine the position with the desire to expedite the matter satisfactorily.

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– Is the Ministerfor Labour and National Service aware that waterside workers in the port of Sydney yesterday decided to continue” their strike, and thereby to hold up shipping for the remainder of this week? Is he also aware that theCominform journal recently instructed Communists throughout the world to launch a militant offensive of Marxist-Leninist propaganda intimately linked with revolutionary practices? Does the honorable gentleman see any connexion between those instructionsto Communists and the strike in the port of Sydney? If he does see a connexion between them’, will he inform the House of the action that the Government proposes’ to take in what is becoming a national emergency?

Minister for Immigration · HIGGINS, VICTORIA · LP

– I am, of course, aware of the very serious development that has occurred in the port of Sydney, and also of the fact that shipping is tied up in the port of Melbourne as a result of an industrial dispute. The Government, naturally, is most disturbed at those serious developments, and at the effect that they will have upon the transport of goods and the movement of ships in Australian ports. No doubt, opinions will differ about whether a definite link exists between those developments, and the propaganda issued by the Cominform journal to which the honorable gentleman has referred. Although the waterside workers at the port of Melbourne have shown, in other episodes this year, the militancy that one rather naturally associates with waterfront affairs, they have not been caught up in Communist propaganda moves, and therefore I should be reluctant to believe that their action on this occasion was part of a Communist plan. The way in which the dispute at the port of Sydney has developed, and the manner in which the typical Communist technique of shifting the grounds of the dispute when the men have been brought out on strike has been applied, associated with the leadership of Mr. Roach, who is well known to honorable members, have left little doubt in my mind that that strike has been Communist-inspired and that it. has the purpose that the honorable member has mentioned. I hope that I shall bc able later to-day to make a statement on the course of action that the Go*vernment proposes to take in relation to the matter.

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– In view of the fact that Formosa is likely to become a real trouble spot in the near future because its future status and control are at stake, and because Asia is in such an unsettled state, I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government is prepared to recommend to the United Nations the establishment of a commission, similar to that which operates in Korea, which could proceed to Formosa and, after making a careful and impartial analysis of the situation there, could submit recommendations to the United Nations that could lead to relief of the tension in the area and perhaps prevent armed conflict?

Minister for External Affairs · WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The situation in Formosa has been listed for discussion by the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations but has not yet been debated. I cannot promise that the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member will be adopted, but I shall examine it.

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– Is the Minister for National Development aware that power blackouts in Sydney are having a serious effect upon our production drive and are contributing materially to the rising cost of living? Is he also aware that, despite the false accusations that were made against the Sydney County Council by the New South Wales Government when the council gave a warning of impending difficulties, the expenditure of large sums of money by the Government on setting up and giving control to an emergency commissioner, and the further interference of the Government in establishing a State generating authority, the power supply situation is becoming completely out of hand? Does the Minister realize that no priority for the supply of steel or other essential materials has been given in order to expedite the completion of the Pyrmont power station, notwithstanding the fact that all necessary generating equipment has been awaiting installation for the last year or more? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire whether the defence power of the Commonwealth should be used in order to overcome this very serious situation?

Minister for Works and Housing · LP

– I do not think that it would be an exaggeration to describe the power position in .Sydney as being almost disastrous. I entirely agree with the honorable member in that respect. The situation in relation to the Pyrmont power station, which the honorable member has described, applies also at five other power stations in the Sydney metropolitan area. The generation of adequate power necessitates a great deal of foresight. Plans and estimates of consumption must be made at least five years, and sometimes even ten years, in advance. I can only believe that such foresight has not been exercised in the past. That is why the situation is now almost disastrous. No fewer than six power stations in the Sydney metropolitan area are being extended at present, but the work has been gravely delayed largely because of the lack of structural steel. Unfortunately, this Government has no control over the allocation of steel although, if an approach were made to it through me, it would do its utmost to give assistance. A great deal of the steel that is required in Australia, possibly one-half of the total, has to be imported. This Government could perhaps assist the New South Wales Government or any of its instrumentalities to import steel if necessary. At any rate, it would be very willing to try to do so.. The situation has been described by the honorable member in reasonably moderate terms. I understand that the situation at Pyrmont and all metropolitan power stations is caused partly by a lack of adequate maintenance during the war years. There has been not only a lack of adequate equipment due to the failure to exercise foresight five or ten years in advance of requirements but there has also been a lack of good quality coal. The poor quality has been more of a difficulty than the inadequate tonnage supplied. I am grateful to the honorable member for having raised this matter which I think should be brought much more prominently to notice than it has been. The Government will do everything possible to assist in coping with the situation but I do not believe that the defence power could be successfully evoked under these circumstances.


– I ask tho Minister for National Development whether he is aware that power plants at Zara-street, Bunnerong: and White Bay often have to shed their load of electricity owing to their inability to maintain steaming power because of the quality of the coal ? Will the Minister endeavour to obtain particulars of power losses in all power houses during the past five years in order to ascertain whether the quality of the coal or the ineffectiveness of the machinery has been mainly responsible for losses of power?


– As I have just said, the quality of coal is one of the factors involved. I shall endeavour to obtain the figures for which the honorable member has asked, although I do not think that they will reflect the reasons for the power shortage.

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– I should like to draw the attention of the Minister for Health to the publicity that has been given to the new drug which is known as cortisone and to the clinical research that is being carried out in the United States of America which indicates that this drug may be of considerable benefit to sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis.

Will the Minister tell the House whether cortisone has been the’ subject of research and experiment in Australia? If tests are being made and the results are encouraging, will the Minister consider the immediate inclusion of cortisone in the list of free drugs available under the national health scheme and so ensure the maximum possible attention for sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis?

Minister for Health · COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– Many questions have been asked and many letters have been received in recent months concerning certain chemical substances which, it has been stated, have been used for the treatment of several rheumatic and other conditions. Those two products are known by the names ACTH, which is an abbreviation of adrenocorticotrophic hormone, and cortisone. Both drugs are at present produced from natural materials. ACTH is extracted from the pituitary bodies of pigs, and cortisone is obtained on a semi-synthetic basis from mammalian bile, chiefly ox bile. Efforts to make cortisone by a process of total synthesis have so far been unsuccessful. The relationship between ACTH and cortisone is interesting. The basic principle of ACTH is stimulative therapy. The drug stimulates the adrenal gland to form cortisone in the body itself. The basic principle of cortisone is replacement therapy, and the drug replaces or supplements the lowered amount, formed by the adrenal gland. If an illness is due to inadequacy of pituitary gland function, ACTH will stimulate the adrenal gland to form cortisone; but if the adrenal gland is unable to produce cortisone, even with added ACTH stimulation, cortisone itself will be required to meet the body’s needs. Careful study of the individual patient will bc required therefore to determine which form of therapy will be appropriate.

Mr Ward:

Mr. Ward interjecting.


– Order ! If the honorable member for East Sydney is not interested in the answer being furnished by the Minister to a question, he might at least be good enough to allow other honorable members who are interested to hear the answer.


– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.

Minister for Health · COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– Considerable research has been undertaken into the efficacy of the two substances mentioned in the treatment of various conditions. While some dramatic effects have been produced in certain types of rheumatoid arthritis, the date available are still very incomplete, and inconclusive, and even potentially harmful effects and reactions, have been observed. For example, after cessation of treatment, medical supervision has been found to be most necessary as there is a possibility that the drug may continue to act after discontinuance in stimulating glandular activity, and even a recurrence of more severe manifestations of the disease has occurred. Clinical investigations are gradually increasing as larger supplies of ACTU and of cortisone become available. The drugs are at present in very short supply, and because of the elaborate processes used in manufacture their cost is very high. These costs are decreasing, and are expected to be reduced further. I noticed in the issue of the Economist of the 11th November that the cost of these drugs has now been reduced from 250 dollars to 35 dollars a gramme. Research workers such as Kendall and Hench, of the Mayo Clinic, who have been in the field from the beginning, have expressed the opinion that it may be some considerable time before the many problems which arise in the use of these potent and potentially harmful hormones can be solved. In the meantime, the knowledge of their efficacy in treatment is growing, as also is the understanding of the pharmo-physiological effects of the drugs. Experimental studies are expanding, and results are becoming more measurable. Having regard to all the circumstances, the time has not yet arrived when these drugs can be recommended in the treatment of certain types of rheumatic and other diseases, and considerable additional experimental research is necessary before an exact appraisal of their effects can be determined. The Government is fully alive to the possibilities of the drugs. It has already approved of the importa tion of the limited amounts available for experimental purposes in this country. In addition, it has nominated a ranking Australian investigator to attend the clinical conference to be held by the Armour Laboratories in Chicago on the Sth and 9th December next, when the results of recent research and the clinical evaluation and appraisement of both ACTH and cortisone will be fully discussed. The conclusions of such discussions will subsequently be available to the Government. In the meantime, the public may retain confidence that, at the appropriate time, when more definite information is available about the clinical results following additional research, the Government will, take steps to ensure that supplies will be made available for treatment. When clinical results have shown that these substances can fulfil the claims made for them, and detrimental side effects have been reduced to a minimum, the Government will be prepared to consider their addition to the list of lifesaving drugs made available as pharmaceutical benefits.

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– In the absence of the Minister for Defence, I address a question to the Prime Minister concerning defence preparations. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Department of Defence proposes to establish immediately a reserve of strategic supplies and materiel’1. Will the right honorable gentleman also say whether the materiel will be supplied by Australian manufacturers, or whether the department intends to call tenders from other parts of the world for the supply of war materiel? Will the department exclude ex-enemy countries from the list of countries invited to submit tenders?

Prime Minister · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

– The problem referred to by the honorable member is one for the Department of Supply. I shall take note of the honorable member’s question and direct the attention of my colleague the Minister for Supply to it.

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– I direct to the Minister for National Development a question that arises from questions which the honorable member for Bennelong and the honorable member for Shortland have asked him and which he has answered. In view of the general breakdown in the provision of electricity, transport, education, hospital and other services and utilities in Sydney, and the fact that cities such as Sydney are not permitted to function adequately as concentration points of commercial and industrial activity, in consequence of which their existence can neither be justified nor defended, will the Minister consider the evacuation of such proportion of the metropolitan commercial and industrial potential of Sydney as is still deemed to be of value as a whole, to the town of Booligal, on the Lachlan River in the electoral division of Riverina, where both hope and dignity can be restored to urban life and living ?


– The burden of the honorable gentleman’s question is that Sydney is too big. I understand from popular reports that there are other cities in the world that are larger than is Sydney and that they manage to maintain themselves with some usefulness to the communities in which they are situated. However, I am quite sure that the honorable gentleman’s question deserves attention in the interests of decentralization, and I shall certainly bring what he has said to the attention of the Prime Minister to see whether he is willing to approach the New South Wales Government in connexion with the honorable member’s suggestion.

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–Can the Minister for Immigration say whether there is any truth in rumours that new Australians are quickly transferring, after their contractual period has expired, from employment in the heavy basic industries to employment in luxury businesses in the metropolitan area? What action is the Government taking to ensure that new Australians remain in rural employment and employment in the heavy industries that are vital for the development of this country?


– I saw in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day a letter that contained statements similar to the rumours mentioned by the honorable member. Whatever else we may be short of in this country we are not short of “ knockers “ who do not miss an opportunity to attack the larger policies that are endorsed by all the major political parties in Australia. .Speaking in general terms it is not correct to say that new Australian immigrants who have completed their contractual periods drift away from basic to other industries and from rural areas into the’ cities. There is naturally some movement to jobs that some new Australians find more congenial than the jobs in which they were employed during their contractual period, hut a big percentage of new Australians remain in the particular industry, and usually in the particular occupation, in which they have been engaged during that contractual term. It was because the Government was fully aware of the importance of maintaining an adequate labour force in rural areas that this year we adopted a system of building hostels in country areas. As far as our immigration planning for the future is concerned, we are hoping to bring to this country the kind of people who will go on the land and so assist in decentralization.

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– Oan the Prime Minister inform the House, or will he be good enough to ascertain from his colleague, the Attorney-General, the existing position with regard to the legal action concerning the payment of airport dues or route charges by private airline operators, which was instituted by the previous Government and in connexion with which there has been a long delay? Can he also ascertain from the Minister for Civil Aviation when the report of Trans-Australia Airlines, the government airline which has paid and is paying its dues and charges with promptness, will be available and will be presented to the House?


– The second of the honorable gentlemen’s questions should be more properly addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As to his first question. I shall obtain from the Attorney-General a statement about the exact position in relation to the litigation that I understand to be on foot, and will let the honorable member have it.

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– In view of the conflicting reports circulating at the present time concerning Indonesian claims to Dutch New Guinea, will the Minister for External Affairs indicate whether Australia’s point of view was put to the Netherlands Government before the Dutch-Indonesian conference commenced? “Will the Minister also make to the House a statement on the future of Dutch New Guinea as soon as possible after the conclusion of the DutchIndonesian conference?


– As soon as the results of the conference become known to me I shall certainly make a statement to the House. I think it is known that when I was at the Hague I made clear the views of the Australian Government on this very important matter. I indicated those beliefs to the Netherlands Government and also to the Indonesian Ambassador, now the Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was then at the Hague. I do not think that there is any doubt at all in the various capitals of the world, where an interest has been taken in this matter, on what is precisely Australia’s attitude. All I can say is that we have done our utmost to make known our views on this question, and we have made it quite clear that in our judgment no claim by Indonesia to Netherlands New Guinea can be justified. We have also made clear our own vital interest in this area. “We are watching closely all that is taking place and the public may rest assured that, insofar as we can do so, we are doing everything practicable to protect the interests of Australia.

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– Will the Prime Minis ter inform the House whether the system of education in the Australian Capital Territory is under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Government, or whether it is administered by the Australian Government? Are women school teachers paid the same rates for their work as men school teachers, and if not, why not?


– So that I may be precise in my answer, I shall treat that question as being on the notice-paper and answer it accordingly.


– I ask the Prime Minister a question that relates to a statement that appeared in the press in which it is said that the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty, had objected to a pamphlet that had been published by the Commonwealth Office of Education on the subject of the gold industry and which contained a string of commonplace sentiments that have been expressed over the last 50 years but which do not refute the fact that real goods are given in exchange for gold. Has the right honorable gentleman acceded to Mr. McLarty’s request that the Government take disciplinary action against the Commonwealth Office of Education and that supervision be exercised over the publication of its pamphlets or has he in his reply to Mr. McLarty vindicated the freedom of action of the Commonwealth Office of Education?


– I forwarded a reply to the Premier of Western Australia yesterday on the matter that the honorable member has raised. In that reply I indicated the approach of the Government. No action of a disciplinary kind is being taken. Indeed, my communication to Mr. McLarty indicated that the publication does not purport to be an expression of Government policy or of anybody’s policy, but merely contains material for discussion and, therefore, contains statements of various views.

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– I draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration to the recent much publicized disturbances at the Cowra migration centre. I ask the Minister whether an investigation has been made into the circumstances of this disturbance, and if so whether he is in a position to issue a statement on the cause of the trouble and the action that he proposes to take?


– The Leader of the Opposition has made some representations to me regarding this matter, or has indicated that he has received a petition about it. As it will take some time to give the details, I shall seek leave to make a statement on the matter at the conclusion of question time.

Mr.FAIRBAIRN. - My question to the Minister for Immigration refers to a recent court action at Albury, as a result of which one new Australian was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment and a second to two years’ imprisonment. Will the honorable gentleman inform me whether those men, who have proved themselves morally unfitted to be adopted by Australia, will be deported to their native countries on the expiration of their prison sentences? Are any new Australians who are sentenced to terms of imprisonment automatically deported on their release?


– It is the practice to deport a migrant who has been convicted of an offence which is punishable with a sentence of at least twelve months’ imprisonment. A migrant may be deported if the sentence is for a shorter period but is of a kind that might have been punished with a sentence of twelve months. I should imagine, in view of the facts set out by the honorable member for Farrar, that the two new Australians in question would be deported, but I shall have the matter investigated.


Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration · Higgins · LP

by leave - As the result of some rather sensational reports at the week-end of a demonstration at the Cowra immigration centre, which was said to have reachedthe proportions of a mutiny, I arranged for the Director of Immigration Centres, Mr. Schroder, to visit the camp and conduct a full investigation into the circumstances of the disturbance. I have now received a complete report on the matter from Mr. Schroder. I do not propose to weary the House by reading it in its entirety, but I shall make it available to any honorable member who may be interested in it. I shall read the conclusions that were reached by Mr. Schroder. His report states -

After fully investigating the position at the Centre and interviewing members of the staff as well as a complete cross section of the

New Australians in “ A “ Block, I have reached the following conclusions: -

The reference to A block is significant’ because, although there are seven blocks in the camp, only the occupants of A block were involved in the episode. The statement of Mr. Schroder’sconclusions is as follows : -

  1. Ample food has always been supplied for consumption and no changes have been made in the quantities provided for in the Tation scale either before or since the 17th November.
  2. Three ringleaders agitated amongst the women some 30 of whom joined with them out of a total of 216 in “ A “ Block. This minority succeeded in intimidating the remainder from attending breakfast and lunch on the 17th November. The trouble petered out of its own accord about 3 p.m. in the afternoon since when there have been no further incidents and from the evening meal on the 17th November everything has been normal in “ A “ Block.
  3. There are seven accommodation blocks in the Centre and all the New Australians therein live under the same conditions and are subject to the same food rations as the people in “A” Block. In all blocks other than “A” representing some 2,700 women and children, no complaints have been received about either the quantity or quality of food supplied. Had any real cause for complaint existed in “ A “ Block it would have applied equally to the other blocks.
  4. The whole incident has been greatly exaggerated. It was in fact purely a domestic matter within only one part of the Centre and was settled on that basis without recourse to either the Centre patrol or outside police assistance.
  5. At no time was the position out of control so far as the Director and his officers were concerned nor were they at any time in danger of personal violence.
  6. The Centre is managed by the Director in a very efficient manner and he has the complete confidence of easily the majority of New Australian inhabitants. His administrative methods maybe regarded as stern but just. However, he has not the facility for getting on well with many people outside the Centre and this may have been the cause of the incident being ‘magnified in the expectation that it would reflect on the Director. The cleanliness, hygiene and general standard of maintenance and administration is particularly high at this Centre and the Director practically works round the clock in the interests of the establishment. His main drawback appears to be lack of tact in dealing with the outside public.

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– I refer the Prime Minister to a newspaper advertisement authorized by the Liberal party and issued during the last general election campaign under the caption, “ We give this firm promise to young couples”. The advertisement is over the signature of the Prime Minister and it reads in part -

The Liberal party will not allow any public works except those of extreme urgency to be given priority over home-building.

It was further claimed in the advertisement that young couples in search of homes had been penalized by the Chifley Government giving priority to extravagant building plans for government departments. I ask the Prime Minister what particular departmental building plans were referred to, ‘ and what works commenced by the Chifley Labour Government have been discontinued by this Government?


– The question based on an advertisement a year ago can hardly be regarded as one of urgent and current public importance. It merely goes to show how gravelled is the honorable member for matter. The second question, which related to works and asked for a statement in relation to works, I shall refer to the Minister for Works .and Housing. Meanwhile, it may be worthy of note that during this year the number of houses that have actually been made available to the Australian people is the highest for any year in the history of this country.

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– I address my questions to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. First, I should like to explain that there is great public concern about the ever-increasing cost of meat and that pressure is being brought to bear on State governments to fix the retail price below export parity. Further, the effect of the meat agreement with the United Kingdom Government and the prospect that the State governments will impose additional local restriction threaten to deprive beef producers of the present high export market prices. Does the Minister think that it is reasonable that the beef producers and the cattle industry generally should be asked to bear this loss? Will he recommend that the scope of the subsidy that the Government proposes to pay in respect of the manu facture of woollen goods should be extended to the retail meat trade in order to enable the producer to enjoy the benefits of a free market and, at the same time, to give protection to the consuming public and retailers?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– The last question asked by the honorable member involves a matter of policy and it is not the practice to answer questions of that nature. However, apart from considerations of policy, the payment of a subsidy on meat would involve a tremendous problem of administration.’ No method for the sale of meat has yet been suggested that would effectively replace the method of public auction of livestock or retail sale in butcher shops and at no point in those processes would it be possible administratively to contemplate the payment of a subsidy on meat. In answer to the first of the honorable member’s questions I point out that the level of meat values in this country is determined primarily by the price that is paid by butchers at public auction and for the greater part of each year the floor price is determined by the price that is being paid under the United Kingdom contract. The price level under that contract for beef, sheep and pig meats is probably the lowest in the world and for the greatest part of the year that is the price that the Australian consumers are required to pay. When the price under the United Kingdom contract is not the determining factor the price to the Australian con’sumer is determined by competitive buying by Australian butchers. Whilst I admit that current prices for meat are higher than pre-war prices, the Australian public is still able to buy meat at the lowest prices prevailing in the world.

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Treasurer · McPherson · CP

. - by leave - As honorable members are aware, disastrous floods have occurred this year over wide areas of New South Wales, whilst floods of a somewhat lesser magnitude have occurred in Victoria and Queensland. The State governments are primarily responsible for the provision and distribution of flood relief but, where the damage is widespread, previous

Australian governments have adopted the practice of joining with them on a £l-for-£l basis in making funds available for the relief of householders and primary producers in distressed circumstances as a result of flood damage. A similar policy has ‘been adopted by this Government. Considerable assistance has already been approved by the Commonwealth and further financial aid to the States for flood relief purposes is under consideration. I feel it is appropriate therefore that I should inform the House of the steps which have been taken by the Government in this matter. Shortly after this Government took office, requests for Commonwealth financial assistance towards the cost of providing flood relief were received from the Governments of Victoria and New South “Wales. It was agreed that the Commonwealth and the Government of Victoria each would contribute up to £15,000 to assist persons in distress as a result of floods in that State. When the Riverina and the central western districts of New South Wales were beset by floods in the early part of this year, the Commonwealth agreed to contribute up to £20,000 for the relief of personal hardship. This grant was increased to £25,000 as the flood devastation spread, and the extent of the damage was assessed. In May and June of this year, disastrous floods occurred in the coastal areas of New South Wales, and the Commonwealth agreed to make a further grant of £60,000 to assist in providing immediate relief to those in distressed circumstances.

Each of those grants, which amounted in the aggregate to £100,000, was made on the understanding that the States concerned would contribute equal amounts. Special flood relief committees appointed by the States administered the relief schemes and determined the measure of assistance to be provided in individual cases of distress. Commonwealth assistance to the States in respect of floods is confined normally to the provision of grants for relief of individual hardship. However, in view of the extent of the damage caused by the floods in the coastal areas of New South Wales in May and June of this year, the whole matter was considered at a conference of certain Commonwealth Ministers and representatives of the State Government, and the Commonwealth decided to take further special action.

On the physical side, steps were taken to mobilize and make available Commonwealth equipment and personnel, both from the services and from other departments, to assist in clearing away the flood debris and in re-establishing road and bridge communications in the devastated areas. Assistance was provided by the Commonwealth free of charge. Roads under the control of local government authorities were severely affected by the floods. The restoration of these roads would have involved many local authorities in financial difficulties. The Commonwealth therefore agreed to join with the New South Wales Government in an arrangement under which each government is making a special contribu- tion of up to £200,000 to assist local authorities in repairing roads damaged by floods on the understanding that the local authorities provide £100,000 in the aggregate from their own resources. As the State Government is responsible for local authority matters, the Commonwealth contribution is being paid to the State, which will be responsible for the distribution of the grants and for the detailed administration of the scheme. At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, some of the Premiers asked whether the Commonwealth would be prepared to provide further grants for flood relief. The Premiers were informed that the Commonwealth would be prepared to give consideration to any itemized statement of claims submitted by the States for damage caused by floods or other unusual disturbances, subject to the understanding that the States concerned would themselves contribute towards the relief involved. Since the conference, further floods have occurred in New South Wales on two occasions. In respect of those which occurred several weeks ago, arrangements have been made for the Australian Government and the State Government to provide between them £20,000 on a £l-for-£l basis to assist persons in distress.

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– Can tho Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement to the House about the progress of. the negotiations that are proceeding for the disposal of our surplus dairy products to the United Kingdom, and indicate when they will be completed?


– Negotiations are still proceeding for the sale of our butter and cheese to the United Kingdom during the current year. The basic contract provides for an annual review of prices and, subject to agreement between the two parties, for a price movement, upwards or downwards, of not more than 1 per cent, in any one year. The Commonwealth, upon the basis of increased costs of production, asked the United Kingdom Government to grant an increase of prices, but that request was declined. The basic contract makes no provision for resolving a deadlock between the two parties concerned, and, therefore, the contract prices remain in force. That is the present position. It is not acceptable to the Australian Government, but no provision to resolve a deadlock is made in the contract that the Government has inherited.

Mr Pollard:

– Is the Minister endeavouring to make party political capital ?


– I have merely made a statement of fact. I suggested to the British Minister of Food that such a position was completely unsatisfactory in respect of not only current contracts, but also future contracts, and that the two governments should endeavour to arrive at the method, not of resolving deadlocks, but of avoiding them. I suggested that a formula devised on our costs of production, and with some other components, would provide an acceptable basis for the contracts. The British Minister of Food accepted that suggestion in principle, and we shall submit a formula on those lines to the United Kingdom Government at an early date, and endeavour to obtain agreement upon it.

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– Now that the Minister for External Affairs, after a lengthy period of globe-trotting, has returned to Australia to celebrate Christmas in his palatial home at Palm Beach, will the Treasurer give the House a detailed list of the moneys which have been expended on jaunts overseas by various Ministers and parliamentary secretaries since this Government assumed office? Such a list would give the taxpayers an opportunity to examine the manner in which public moneys are being squandered, and would enlighten the recipients of age, invalid, widows and war pensions about the reason why the increases of pensions were not made retrospective to the 1st January last.


– If the honorable gentleman’s question is prompted by his desire for strict economy, we should investigate the money that is wasted on him as a member of the Parliament. I would be prepared to lay on the table a statement of the expenditure on ministerial visits abroad during the last five years. Such details, of course, would include the cost of globe-trotting in which a number of members of the Labour party engaged.

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– I desire to inform the House that the Government, in view of the volume of business that has to be dealt with, is obliged to ask honorable members to sit on Fridays in future, beginning with next week. The House will sit all day on Friday, instead of adjourning at 1 p.m., as was the practice last year. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has discussed the prospective business with me, and I shall supply him in a few minutes with a list of the bills which, so far as the Government can see, should be dealt with.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 2903), on motion by Mr. Holt -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- The degree to which the people of any nation may justly claim to be Christian, civilized and humane may be gauged by the degree to which they take care of their aged, their sick and their young. Australians have always endeavoured to provide for the security of the unfortunate and the helpless in the community. Age pensions were introduced at the instigation of the Labour party. Initially, they were not so generous as they should have been, but as a result of the continuous efforts of the members of the Labour party, both inside and outside this Parliament, the situation of the aged, the invalid and other pensioners has been gradually improved. During the last general election campaign, the present Government parties, realizing that the people believed in the adequate and proper treatment of the aged and infirm, made a special appeal on their behalf in order to secure as many votes as possible. That appeal included the following statement, which was made by the present Prime Minister on the 10th November : -

Existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.

That is the ground upon which this proposal for an alleged improvement of pensions should be considered. “Will the purchasing power of the age pension be greater when the pension is increased by 7s. 6d. a week than it was before the general election? I say distinctly that the answer is in the negative. The position of the pensioners will be considerably worse than it was before this Government came to power. It will also deteriorate still further after the basic wage increase of £1 a week is fully implemented and after prices are increased, not as the direct result of the basic wage rise, but as the result of certain members of the community using that development as an excuse for increasing their profits. Therefore, the Government has not redeemed the promise that it made to the people on behalf of the pensioners. Honorable members who support the Government have on various occasions referred to the buoyant finances of this country. They have said that during the period of their occupancy of the treasury bench more money than ever has flowed into this country. But, in reality, the age and invalid pensioners are not to receive any of that money.

It is proposed that they shall receive a nominal increase of 7s. 6d. a week, but the purchasing power of that amount will he far less than it was prior to the 10th December, 1949, and almost immediately after they commence to receive it its purchasing power will be further depressed because of the higher prices which will result from the increase in the basic wage.

It is not sufficient for a government to defend its policy ,by contending that although its proposals are not as advantageous as have been alleged at least it will have done more than a previous government has done. That would not ‘be a defence but an evasion, even if it were true, and it is not true. Yet that is the effect of 90 per cent, of the arguments put forward by honorable members opposite. When they are challenged concerning the advantage that will accrue to pensioners from the proposed increases they allege that some other government did not increase pensions at some time in the past by as great an amount as this and that if some other government occupied the treasury bench at present that government because it made no such promises to the people at an election, would not do as much as the present Government proposes to do. That is merely camouflage. In order effectively to fulfil its policy the Government should prove that the proposed increases in pensions will represent a real increase in purchasing power.

Let us consider the age pensioner who is in the worst position because he has no family to assist him and no opportunity to enter a home maintained by the State and who has to live alone in a room. The price that he must pay for accommodation is more than half his pension. An honorable member has pointed out that the price of meat has skyrocketed during the last few weeks. It skyrocketed considerably before that. The price of vegetables and of every other necessary of life has also increased three or four times during the past few years. These old people who have to do their own cooking and provide themselves with all the necessaries of life are unable to do more than eke out a miserable existence. In the midst of winter they had to pay more than 5s. a fortnight for fuel out of their pension of £4 5s. a fortnight. This bill will not do what the Government has declared it will do. The Government has promised that it will progressively eliminate the means test. There is no attempt to do that in this bill. The Government should grapple strongly with this problem. From the taxes that have been collected it should pay the age pension as a right to every member of the community upon the attainment of a certain age. I know that honorable members opposite will produce astronomical figures to prove that the Government would make the country bankrupt by such action and that it is not possible to tax the people sufficiently to provide pensions for all at 65 years of age.

Mr Calwell:

– Is the Minister in charge of the House listening to the honorable member?

Mr Thompson:

– Yes. I am listening.

Mr BRysoN:

– There is not a Minister in the House.


– I do not know that that does not improve the House. At least it improves the appearance of the treasury bench.


– The honorable member for Port Adelaide is in his wrong place. I ask the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) not to continue his speech until there is a Minister present.

The Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration having entered the House,

Mr Holt:

– I apologize for my temporary absence, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Quorum formed.’]


– Were I a Minister of the present Government I, too, would leave the chamber when a discussion of age pensions was taking place. I should go away to some place of solitude where I would not have to listen to scornful references to my sins of omission or commission. I believe that the time has arrived when the Government should introduce a system of age pensions that will be free of the means test. The age pension should be paid automatically when a man or woman reaches the prescribed age. T know that honorable members opposite will produce from their hats, as it were, authoritative statements and astronomical figures to support their contention that the expenditure of millions of pounds upon defence, development and migration will render the Government unable to provide sufficient funds to eliminate the means test. Of course, that sort of excuse is familiar to all the older members of the Opposition and to a great many people outside the Parliament. I recall similar excuses made by anti-Labour governments during the depression when appeals were made to them to do something to alleviate the widespread suffering at that time. Nothing was done, of course; but a lot of promises were made. One of those promises was that when conditions improved age pensions would be paid without imposing a means test on applicants. I also recall other promises made by anti-Labour administrations even prior to the depression. Honorable members opposite do not like to be reminded of these matters, but it is necessary in the interests of truth that they be reminded of them from time to time. I recall very vividly an occasion at Dandenong when Mr. S. M. Bruce, who was the leader of an anti-Labour party that was then seeking re-election, stated from a public platform that if his political party were returned to office it would initiate a scheme whereby pensions would be paid to every one on their attaining the prescribed age, irrespective of their means. The party which he led was returned to office at the subsequent elections, but what happened ? The proposal was forgotten and nothing was done. To-day, the people of Australia are demanding that a proper system of pensions shall be introduced.

Mr Hulme:

– Why did not the Labour party do something about the matter?


– I was not a member of the last Parliament, but I am doing everything that I can do now to have the injustice of the means test removed. At the moment I am endeavouring to inspire the only member of the Government who is present in the chamber with the urgent need to rectify this long-standing injustice. However, after observing the effect that my appeal is apparently having upon the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), I think that even if my powers of persuasion were multiplied a thousandfold I could not inspire the honorable gentleman to take action. Nevertheless, I place on record the fact that the popular demand is that age pensions should be granted without the application of a means test.

At the outset of my remarks I said that it was no excuse for the present Government to say that Labour had not removed the means test while it was in office, and it will not avail the Minister to raise the same defence.

Mr Hulme:

– “When did the members of the present Government undertake to eliminate the means test?


– They said that they would progressively eliminate the means test and that they would ensure that the purchasing power of pensioners’ incomes was maintained, or even improved. The Government is certainly not carrying out either of those undertakings. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) knows very well that the Government has not honoured its promises. In fact, its path, since it attained office in December, is littered with broken promises. However, even now it is not too late for the Government to remedy this injustice, and I appeal to its members to adopt a courageous, statesmanlike and progressive attitude and do something for the ageing members of our community. If it does so, its action will be like a beacon light in the darkness. After all, the price of wool is booming, and millions of pounds are flowing into this country. Now, if ever, is the time when the Government can afford to do something in this vital matter of providing a proper scheme of pensions for aged persons. Surely it can at least remove the means test.

I am reminded that the Government recently introduced legislation to increase the salaries of the judges and certain other high officials by £500 a year, and that that increase was made retrospective to July last. However, the paltry increase of the age pension of 7s. 6d. a week is to be payable only from the first pay period in this month. Is there any justification for such differentiation in the treatment of two sections of the community? After all, the increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the income of pensioners will not compensate them for the increased cost of living and the depreciated purchasing power of their pensions. The increase of £500 a year granted to the judges and certain other high officials will more than compensate them for any monetary loss that they have suffered because of the depreciated value of their incomes.


– Of course, the judges and officials will pay income tax on the increase of £10 a week.


– I assume that the honorable gentleman is implying that the increase of salaries should be free of tax?


– No, I do not suggest that.


– I should think not. After all, we all have to pay taxes on our incomes. I was pointing out that the judges have actually gained substantially from the increase of their salaries, whereas the unfortunate age pensioners will not even receive sufficient increase to compensate them for the depreciated purchasing power of their pensions. Such an attitude cannot be regarded as either Christian or humane.

I have endeavoured to express my convictions on this matter as clearly and as definitely as I can, and I realize that repetition will serve no useful purpose. However, I appeal to the Minister for External Affairs, who is representing the Government in the chamber at the moment, to think of the plight of the age pensioners and to compare their lot with that of other sections of the community when he communes with his conscience in the solitude of his room. Perhaps he will compare it with the position of the members of the Government and its supporters and will feel, as I do, that something should be done to make a definite radical and real improvement of the conditions of pensioners.


.- I am sure that every member of the Liberal and Australian Country parties is proud to support this measure that proposes to make the largest increase of age and invalid pensions that has been -made in Australia’s history. We all are conscious of the debt that we owe to the pioneers of this country whose efforts have made it the finest country in the world. Honorable members would find it interesting if it were possible for a few of the recipients of the age pension to come to this House and tell us of Australia as it was when they, as small boys and small girls, trudged, along dusty roads and tracks to work long hours in the primitive factories that then existed or on farms with the primitive equipment that farmers then used. Through their toil and sweat and, on occasions, their tears, they transformed this virgin country, as it then was, to the country that has the highest standard of living in the world and that is the envy of people all over the world. The payment of age and invalid pensions is not an act of charity. Those pensions are payments that are provided by the younger members of the community in gratitude to the aged people who made this country what it is.

It may be interesting to trace the history of social legislation in relation to the payment of age and invalid pensions that Australia pioneered while it was still a young nation. The first age pension was introduced by the Deakin Liberal Government on the 1st July, 1909, and was at the rate of 10s. a week. . It was increased twice by the Hughes Government and it is pleasing to know that the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) who led two governments that increased the age pension, is still an honorable and distinguished member of this House. Age and invalid pensions were further increased by the Bruce-Page Government to £1 a week and we are privileged to have the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) still with us to see this great social service brought up to date and thus enable the pioneers of this country to have a reasonable standard of living. On the 23rd July, 1931, the pensions were reduced by the Scullin Labour Government from £1 a week to 17s. 6d. a week. That was the only occasion on which they have been reduced by legislative action. No honorable member would be unkind enough to blame that government for that action, because it had to face a situation that was unprecedented in the history of Australia - the onset of the great economic depression. I am simply reciting facts and dates because probably nothing has been more misrepresented than has the history of legislation in relation to age and invalid pensions. The facts and figures that I am giving are official and have* been compiled, I trust, without bias.

On the 27th October, 1933, theLyons Government introduced a legislative provision that several honorable members opposite have suggested* should be re-introduced through the? medium of this measure; that was, pensions should vary in ratio with the cost of living index. Age and invalid pensions at that time were at the rate of 17s. 6d. a week that had been fixed by the Scullin Labour Government. As a result of variations of the cost of living index figure the pensions rose stage by stage until they reached the rate of £1 7s. a week in 1944, in which year the Curtin Labour Government abolished the principle that many honorable members opposite now say should be re-introduced by means of the present measure. During the term of office of that Government the provision that pensions should rise with rises of the cost of living was repealed. According to Hansard, volume 177, page 445, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who. was AttorneyGeneral in the Curtin Government, began his second-reading speech on the Invalid and Old Age Pensions Bill on the 23rd February, 1944, with the following words : -

The main purpose of this bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to abandon the principle of linking the rate of invalid and old-age pension with the costofliving figures.

Therefore, any honorable member opposite who complains that the pension is not now linked with the cost of living index should blame for that fact the right honorable member for Barton and the Labour Government that severed that link, the continuance of which would have enabled the pension to rise and fall with variations of the index figure. It may be interesting for honorable members opposite who have been going round their electorates stateing that pensions should be linked to the cost of living index to know what the position would have been to-day had the pensions remained linked to the. index.

I hare obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician interesting figures that show that on the 3rd April, 1944, the pension rate was £1 7s. a week when the “ C “ series index, to which it was tied, was 1,125. By September, 1950, the “ C “ series index had increased by 39.9 per cent, and had reached the figure of 1,572. They are the latest figures. Therefore, if the pension had remained linked to the cost of living index and nothing else had been done about it, to-day it would amount to £1 17s. 9d. ; whereas the Menzies Government under this legislation proposes to make it £2 10s.


– That is entirely wrong.


– The figures that I have cited were supplied to me to-day by the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Roland Wilson. Those figures cannot be disputed. The younger people of this community are truly conscious of the obligation that they owe to the pioneers of Australia. It is completely fallacious for people to imagine that any government pays pensions. All that the Government does is to levy taxes upon the younger sections of the community in order that they may discharge their obligations to those who have made it possible for them to enjoy the amenities that they have to-day. I am sure that the younger people of the community are to-day willingly paying in taxes the large amount of £51,000,000 per annum that is required to pay the age pension at the rate of £2 10s. a week, and the other social services provided in this measure. The amount proposed to be paid in social services this year and the amount of the age pension have never been higher. The amount of the increase of the age pension is the highest ever granted during the history of the Commonwealth. We are proud to pay that increase to the pioneers of this country, and we are not afraid to levy the necessary taxes to enable that to be done.

Another pleasant feature of this bill is that it proposes to take the first step that has been taken to ease and finally to abolish the means test. The electors will remember that the Prime Minister (Mr.

Menzies), in the policy speech thatt he delivered before the last general election, pointed out the abuses of the means test that is attached to the age and invalid pensions, and promised that during the life of this Parliament legislation would be prepared to put the pensions on a contributory basis and to provide for the eventual total abolition of the means test. He also promised that that legislation would be submitted to the people prior to the next general election. That promise will be kept. In his policy speech the Prime Minister also stated that in the meantime efforts would be. made to ascertain whether anything could be done to ease the means test. With other members of the Liberal and Country parties I recently attended a deputation that waited upon the Minister for Social Services and requested that insurance policies taken out by people in their younger days, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of their wives and children, should not be taken into account as capital or income in the computation of the means test for age and invalid pensions purposes. It was very pleasing to me to discover that the Minister and the Government had acceded to that request to the extent that insurance policies having a surrender value of up to £500 are now totally excluded from the calculation of the means limit for age and invalid pensions.

Mr Cremean:

– But how many people will that affect?


– It will benefit hundreds of people in my electorate, and I was delighted to be able to write to those people and point out that as a result of this legislation they will receive a pension increase of anything up to 16s. a week. I suggest that when they get their increases they will not be unmindful of the fact that a Liberal-Country party Government did something for them that a- Labour government refused to do. In addition to the exclusion of certain insurance policies, the means test has been eased to the extent that the war pension which should be sacrosanct is no longer taken into account in calculating the means test in respect of unemployment or the sickness benefit. It was wicked that it ever should have been taken into account, but the Labour party refused repeated requests from honorable members in the Parliament, and from deputations last year and in previous years, to remove this blot on our legislation. A war pension, which is compensation for a man having risked his life in the service of his country, should not be taken into account when such action might deprive the recipient of sickness and unemployment benefits. The Government has in all respects carried out its policy promises so far as age and invalid pensions are concerned. It said that it would do justice to the age and invalid pensioners. It said that it would do justice to the aged and infirm, and it has given to them the greatest increase of pensions that they have ever received. The Government said that it would ease the means test, and it has done so. The Government will, at the next general election, in accordance with its promises, submit to the people a comprehensive scheme for the ultimate abolition of the means test.

I shall deal now shortly with the means test itself. At no time has it been more urgent than it is at the present time to encourage savings. All our social legislation of the past has discouraged saving. If a man puts aside a few shillings each week in the savings bank or in property or shares, when he reaches the age of 65 he will find that he will be deprived of the pension, or a part of it, because he has done the patriotic thing and has saved his money. Throughout the war years most of the advertising hoardings and newspapers consistently exhorted the people to “ Save for security “, “ Save for war “ and “ Save for Victory “. Yet the legislation on the statute-book, supported by the then Labour Government, did everything possible to penalize the man who saved. I have always felt that the means test is an absolute blot upon our communal effort. It is not a problem which affects age and invalid pensioners alone. It affects the national economy as a whole. If we continue the policy of discouraging saving, inflation will swell until it bursts. There are only two way of checking inflation which is caused when insufficient goods are produced to meet the demand. The first way is to increase production, that is, to remedy the shortage of goods by producing more goods. The second way is to reduce the spending of the community and that can be done by encouraging the community to save. The Government should launch a national campaign to encourage every man and woman to save. However, it is useless to base such” a campaign on fullpage press advertisements, large posters on hoardings and public speeches by politicians if, at the same time, our social legislation as a whole penalizes the individual who does save. One of the greatest problems that confronts the nation to-day is the need for an urgent and immediate plan to encourage saving. In the first place, the Government must assure the people that if they save they will not be penalized for doing so. Thu bill is one of the finest pieces of legislation that has been introduced into the Parliament for many years. It does justice to a section of the community that has largely been responsible for the development of this continent. It takes the first step towards erasing the means test which is a blot upon our social legislation. Therefore, I hope that every honorable member will whole-heartedly support it.


.- Whenever honorable members opposite deal with the achievements of the present Government parties they rely on history only to the degree to which it favours their claims and is to the disadvantage of the Labour party. The fact is that the Labour party was responsible for the initiation in Australia

Of social services benefits for the people. The age and invalid pension was first provided in New South Wales as the result of the agitation of the Labour party which at that time held the balance of power in the Parliament of that State. The Premier of the day, Mr. Lyne, in order to hold the reins of government, promised the Labour party that he would introduce age and invalid pensions in return for that party’s support of his government. Eventually, the Australian. Government copied that legislation as it has since continued to copy State legislation dealing with social services. It was a Labour government in New South Wales that first introduced child endowment in Australia and it did so many years before child endowment was placed on the Commonwealth statute-book. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr.’ “Wilson) said that the Scullin Labour Government had reduced the age and invalid pension. He condemned the principle of relating the rate of pension to the current cost of living rate. I remind him that it was the Lyons Government which in 1933 introduced the principle of adjusting the rate of pension according to changes of the cost of living. Under that system the pension was increased in 1935 by 6d. a week to a maximum rate of 18s. In 1936 and 1937 the Lyons Government increased the pension by ls. in each case and those adjustments restored the maximum rate to the 20s. a week that had operated in 1935. The same government repealed the cost of living adjustment provisions in 1937, its object being to reduce the rate of pension. If those provisions had not been repealed the rate of pension to-day, as the honorable member for Sturt said, would be fi 17s. 9d. However, it was because the Chifley Government repealed the provisions which related the cost of living adjustments to the pensions that the rate of pension rose to £2 2s. 6d. a week which represented an increase of 100 per cent, on the rate of £1 ls. 6d. a week which operated when that government assumed office.

In dealing with this legislation we must get down to realities. No one can say that the rate of £2 10s. a week, to which the pension is to be increased under this measure, will be adequate to meet the needs of pensioners. The Government has not treated pensioners fairly. The proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week will he paya’ble to 458,000 pensioners, that is, to 416,000 age and invalid pensioners and to 42,000 widow pensioners. Therefore, we must not underestimate the importance of this measure, which determines the amount of sustenance that is to be provided to so large a number of persons who pioneered this country. A pension of £2 10s. a week is poor enough compensation to them for their efforts from which the nation as a whole is now reaping full benefit. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has claimed that Government has acted sympathetically and generously towards pensioners. Appa- rently, the Government finds it easy to satisfy its conscience in this matter. The pensioners are entitled, as a matter of justice, to more liberal treatment. Most of them got off to a bad start in life. The great majority of them have never been able to afford to own their home. The new rate of pension will be entirely inadequate to enable them to make ends meet.

Dr Nott:

– Hear, hear! They will starve on it.


– The pension is sufficient to provide only sustenance for recipients. However, out of their pension they will have to pay rent. I propose to examine Government policy on this matter in the light of the promises that members of its parties made during the last general election campaign. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech, which, I have no doubt, he delivered with characteristic eloquence, said -

We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test and of the penalty it imposes in many cases upon thrift. There are also great anomalies associated with the position of persons who have contributed for their own superannuation benefits.

The present Government parties in their election advertisements proclaimed -

Progressive social services - removal of present, social injustices.

Apparently, the Prime Minister believes that he can satisfy the people by putting eloquence into his speeches rather than by putting value back into the £1. He believes that so long as he gratifies hig ego he -has solved the nation’s problems. He forgets that the people demand from governments, not eloquence, but sincerity. In the face of rising costs, the right honorable gentleman, like Nero, fiddles while Rome burns. He is playing with the nation as if it were unbreakable. One day, it will burst like a pricked balloon, and the Labour party will be sent for to pull it out of the fire again, as it did in 1941. I can visualize the following newspaper headlines announcing the advent of the new Labour government: - “Menzies and Fadden fail again. Labour comes to the rescue “. The reduction of the sustenance of pensioners will not strengthen the defences of this country. The Government claims that, because it has heavy defence commitments, it must reduce expenditure in other directions. It is bad policy to economize at the expense of the pensioners. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in his second-reading speech stated that this bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to increase age, invalid and widows’ pensions, and to make certain other concessions to pensioners and to other recipients of social services benefits. He pointed out that it may be considered under two headings; first, the increase of benefits, and secondly, the liberalization of the means test.

I shall analyse the Government’s proposals. The social services that come within the meaning of the act are child endowment, widows’ pension, invalid pension, blind pension, maternity allowance, wife’s allowances, child allowance, funeral benefit, unemployment and sickness benefits, health benefits, hospital benefits and the rehabilitation of invalid pensioners. I point out that the Australian Labour party initiated all those social benefits.

The decision of the present Government in respect of social services is a complete breach of the promise that it made to the people in the last general election campaign. Only four of the thirteen principal social services benefits are increased by this bill. The remaining nine have not been varied since the Labour Government went out of office. The Labour party was responsible for the introduction of all the social services that are enjoyed by the people to-day. At this juncture, I wish to make specific reference to the liberalization of the means test. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the means test would be liberalized under this bill, but the Government has relaxed it only to such a degree as to give to it some vague ground far making such a claim. Under this bill, 458.000 age and invalid pensioners will receive an additional £8,250,000 and 42,000 widows will receive an additional £700,000. The total cost of all the other benefits and concessions that will be granted under this bill is only £115,000. Those figures illustrate the slight degree to which the Government has liberalized the means test. If that amount of £115,000 were divided equally among the 458,000 pensioners, each would receive- 4s. a year. Yet the Government has th«audacity to claim that it is liberalizingthe means test. One Opposition memberhas pointed out that only 1 per cent, of the pensioners will benefit from that action.

When Opposition members direct attention to such facts, Government supporters ask in chorus, “ What did theLabour Government do for the pensioners?” An examination of its record will show that it considerably relaxed themeans test in the eight years during which* it was in office. For instance, a husband/ and wife who were age or invalid pensioners were permitted to have an income, including the pension, of £3 7s. a week, at the time the Labour party came into office in 1941. As a result of progressive amendments made from time to time by the Labour Government., tire amount had been increased to £7 5s. a week by 1949. The Chifley Labour Government in 1946 increased the permissible income limit from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week, an increase of 60 per cent. In 1948. the same administration increased that limit from £1 to £1 10s. a week. That is to say, the means test was substantially relaxed in the eight years during which the Labour Government was in office, because the permissibleincome limit was increased by 140 per cent.

The Labour Government liberalized the means test in other directions in the eight years during which it was in office. It granted certain exemptions in respect of gifts that pensioners received from their children. Before 1941, the pensioner wasobliged to account for such money in an annual statement of income, and his pension was affected correspondingly. TheLabour Government made it permissiblefor a pensioner to continue to receivemoneys due to him from friendlysocieties without affecting his pension. The value of food and clothing provided by the humane Labour Government in New South Wales, hearing aids, and special medicines and medical treatment,, were no longer taken into account in thecomputation of the pension. As a result of action by the Labour party, child endowment was excluded from the calculation of permissible income, and pensioners were also allowed free hospitalization. That was an important advance in the social services sphere. For many years, a pensioner who was admitted to a hospital ceased to receive the pension, with the exception of a minor allowance of approximately 6s. a week. The Labour party liberalized the means test in that respect, and a pensioner who is now admitted to hospital receives the full rate of pension. The Labour party, during the period 1941-49, also increased the permissible property limit. Before that time, a pensioner who owned property the value of which exceeded £400 was ineligible to receive a pension. The Labour party increased that limit first to £650, and later to £750. At present, a man and his wife are permitted to own property the total value of which is -£1,500, before their pensions are affected. The present Government has not liberalized the means test in that respect. ^Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party should not overlook the fact that the Labour Government financed Australia’s participation in a total war for four years, but it did not neglect to provide important social services for the people. It increased the value of social services benefits by 100 per cent., and liberalized the means test in the various ways I have recited.

From time to time during the last eleven months, I have directed the attention of the Government to various anomalies in the social services legislation, but it has not rectified them. One provision of that legislation reacts harshly against widows. For example, a widow under 60 years of age who owns property the value of which exceeds £1,000, apart from the house in which she is living, i3 ineligible to receive a pension. A widow over 60 years of age is similarly disqualified if she owns property, other than the house that she is occupying, the value of which exceeds £750. A widow may own the home in which she lives, and a little property that returns her a small amount by way of rent. She may receive only £2 a week as rent from such property, but that makes her ineligible for a pension. A person in that category is having great difficulty in making ends meet. She pays rates and taxes on the house that she occupies, and on the other property from which she derives rent. Bills for repairs and maintenance are often high. She is in a most difficult financial position, and the Government should improve her circumstances.

A person who may be otherwise eligible for a pension may be deprived of it en’ the ground that she is of doubtful character. I believe that the Government should not withhold sustenance from such a person because she may have some social weakness. It is a harsh punishment. The Government has also failed to increase the allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner. Before the latest increases of pensions, an invalid husband received £2 2s. 6d. a week, and his wife £1 4s. a week, making a total income of £3 6s. 6d. The invalid husband had to be nursed by the wife, and that would prevent her from earning a few shillings with which to augment her meagre allowance. That position has been met only to the degree of increasing the husband’s pension by 7s. 6d. a week, so that in future the weekly income will be £3 14s. Rent would absorb £1 5s., and fuel 5s., leaving only £2 4s. for food and clothing. The position of that class of person is desperate. Steak costs approximately 2s.- 4d. per lb., and a tailor-made suit costs at least £20. I mention in passing that the quality of clothing has deteriorated to a serious degree since this Government came into office. The invalid pensioner and his wife will derive cold comfort from this bill. They deserve better treatment than the Government is granting them.

The Government is deserving of severe criticism for having failed to make the increase of pensions retrospective to at least the beginning of this financial year. It has seen fit to increase the salaries of justices of the High Court of Australia, judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and senior public servants by £500 a year as from the 1st July last. Without that increase, their salaries range from £3,000 to £4,500 per annum. I do not claim that they are overpaid, but I consider that the interests of the pensioners should have been considered first and that the proposed increase should have been made retrospective at least to the begin-, ning of the present financial year. The,N people are disgusted because the Govern-^ ment, which made many promises to the pensioners, has dealt generously with the judges, to whom it made no promises, but has broken its pledges to the pensioners. Pensioners’ associations throughout Australia claim that the rate of pension should be not less than 50 per cent, of the basic wage. That is fair and just. Learned judges fix the living wage of the worker to-day on the basis of the minimum amount required to enable two persons to live at a reasonable standard of comfort. Therefore, the least that should be paid to pensioners is 50 per cent, of the living wage so that a married couple in receipt of the age pension would be provided with not less than the minimum living wage. The Government promised the pensioners that it would improve their standard of living, but the increase of 7s. 6d. a week will not overtake the leeway that has been caused by rising prices. A comparison of the proposed new pension rate with the basic wage proves that pensioners will be worse off, even after the increase becomes available to them, than they were in the period from 1945 to 1949. In 1945, the basic wage was £4 16s. a week and the rate of pension was 32s. 6d., or 33 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1947, the basic wage was £5 6s. a week, and the pension rate of 37s. 6d. represented 35 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1948 the basic wage was £5 16s. a week and the pension rate represented 36.64 per cent, of that amount. Under the terms of this bill, the pension rate will be £2 10s. The basic wage is now £8 2s. a week, and it will soon be increased to £8 4s. a week. Therefore, the higher pension rate will represent only 30 per cent, of the basic wage. That exposes the falsity of the Government’s claim that it is giving the pensioners a bigger increase than has ever been granted to them before. On the basis of its relationship with the basic wage, the new rate of pension will be the lowest that has applied for the last five years. early and determined action to improvethe living conditions of pensioners. This legislation will effect a very substantial improvement of their circumstances. It provides primarily for an all-round increase of the rates of age, invalid and: widows’ pensions by 7s. 6d. a week. The maximum pension for aged citizens will be increased from 42s. 6d. to 50s. a week. Furthermore, the permissible income for such pensioners will be raised to £4 a week for single persons and £8 a week for married couples. The previous limit was £7 5s. a week for married couples. This increase will also be of benefit to persons who are receiving payments under government superannuation schemes and who are also in receipt of a proportion of the age pension. The bill will remove in part an anomaly that has existed for a long time. Aged persons in receipt of superannuation payments, for which they contributed during their working lifetimes, are debarred by the permissible income limit from the right to receive the full pension. That anomaly can be removed entirely only by means of the abolition of the means test. [Quorum formed.]

I am indebted to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for the compliment to me that was implied in his interruption of my speech in order to call for a quorum, thus depriving me of some of the time to which I am entitled in speaking on the bill. Although it is the duty of the Government to maintain an adequate attendance in the chamber, I remind the honorable gentleman that only three members of the Opposition were in the House when he called for a quorum.

Mr Ward:

– That is not true.


– There are only six members of the Opposition in the chamber now.


– Order ! This discussion has nothing to do with the bill.

Mx. OSBORNE (Evans) [12.34].- I **Mr. OSBORNE.** - As I have said, the represent an electorate in which there bill deals in part with the anomaly that are many pensioners. Therefore, I arises from the application of the means congratulate the Government upon its test to superannuated pensioners. I hope that the means test will be abolished in the not distant future as the result of the introduction of a scheme of contributory national insurance. However, in the meantime, this measure will afford some relief to a special class of citizens. The bill also provides for substantial benefits to blind pensioners and war pensioners with which I shall not deal 3n detail. The increase of the age ^pension will be the greatest ever made by any government since the pension was introduced in the federal sphere by the Deakin Liberal Government. I should "not have laboured this point but -for some extraordinary statements which were made by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley)** yesterday. The whole burden of the right honorable gentleman's speech was directed to an attempt to prove that the proposed increase would be rendered nugatory by the effect of the prices increases that had occurred during the last ten months. He had the effrontery - and I use the term with due consideration for the right honorable gentleman - to declare that this Government should have granted an immediate pensions increase of 5s. a week when it took office. Before I became a member of this Parliament, I could not have imagined a more irresponsible and insincere line of criticism by the leader of a political party and a former Prime Minister. I have good reasons for saying that the right honorable gentleman's attitude is insincere. He knows very well that prices have been increasing steadily since 1947. They received their greatest fillip when the Government of which he was the leader withdrew all subsidies in a fit of pique. It is well known that the rate of increase has been reduced since this Government came into power. "What did the Chifley Government do to restrain prices increases during the last three years of its administration? It gave the pensioners a miserable concession in 1948 but left them to face the rapidly accelerating prices increases for two years without doing anything to help them. Now the Leader of the Opposition says that this Government should have increased pensions as soon as it took office! The test of the right honorable gentleman's sincerity lies in the answer to the question, "What did his Government do for the pensioners before it went out of office ? " The truth is that the Labour party cannot bear to see any measure introduced by a Liberal government for the benefit of the aged' and the needy. Any measure of that kind cuts the ground from under the extraordinary theory they have erected so elaborately that the Labour party is the only organization that ever helps the poor. Members of the Opposition have reiterated this claim so often that many of them even believe in it, although it is not widely accepted by the people. The truth is that social legislation in Australia began before the Labour party was even formed. In the first place, old-age pensions were introduced 'by a Liberal government in New South Wales in 1901. The Labour party has invented the theory that that law was enacted only because the government of the day was forced to do so by a Labour Opposition. An examination of the facts explodes the theory. Legislation for old-age pensions was first introduced, though not carried into effect, by a non-Labour government in Victoria prior to 1901. I acknowledge that a Labour government introduced tb* widows' pension. Unlike members of the Opposition, we do not claim to be the exclusive providers of social benefits. I shall expose the falsity of the assertion that the invalid pension was introduced by a Labour government. In fact, it was introduced by a Liberal government in New South Wales in 1908. In the federal sphere, the Liberal Deakin Government introduced the pension in 1910. Child endowment was initiated in New South Wales by a Labour government, but it was introduced in the federal sphere and made applicable to families throughout Australia by the Menzies Government. In the federal sphere, health schemes were first formulated by the Bruce- Page Government. *Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.* {: .speaker-KMD} ##### Mr OSBORNE: -- I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. Leave granted; debate adjourned. {: .page-start } page 3029 {:#debate-19} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-19-0} #### WATERFRONT EMPLOYMENT {: #subdebate-19-0-s0 .speaker-009MC} ##### Mr HOLT:
Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration · Higgins · LP -- *by leave* - As I said at question time to-day, the Government has viewed very seriously the developments which have had the effect of paralysing the waterfronts in Sydney and Melbourne and which are interfering so seriously with interstate trade and commerce and with trade with overseas countries. The present legislation affecting waterside workers provides for them to have special privileges. Consequently the Government considers that they should accept the responsibility which those privileges carry. {: .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr Curtin: -- All things being equal. {: .speaker-009MC} ##### Mr HOLT: -- It is the function ofthe Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the industrial tribunals to determine the justice in any particular case. The Government's complaint on this occasion, in relation to both Melbourne and Sydney, is that the process of arbitration either has not been used, or that, although the judge has been prepared to act in the matter, the court has been deliberately flouted. Included among the ships affected is one which is due to leave shortly in order to embark troops and supplies from New Zealand for Korea. The Government views this development so seriously that counsel have been instructed to make an urgent application to Judge Kirby after the luncheon adjournment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to-day. Judge Kirby constitutes the special tribunal which has been set up under the Stevedoring Industry Act, and it is his function to deal with industrial disputes affecting waterside workers. Counsel have been instructed to convey to the judge the views of the Government and to indicate a course of action. Counsel will move for the summoning to-morrow of a compulsory conference of the parties to the disputes in Sydney and Melbourne. In view of the fact that proceedings have been commenced I consider that it would be inadvisable for me to deal in detail with the issues involved, but I assure the House that the Government will continue to watch developments closely and to act as speedily as it can in any way which will contribute to the satisfactory settlement of the dispute. {: .page-start } page 3029 {:#debate-20} ### SOCIAL SERVICES CONSOLIDATION BILL (No. 2) 1950 {:#subdebate-20-0} #### Second Reading Debate resumed. {: #subdebate-20-0-s0 .speaker-KMD} ##### Mr OSBORNE:
Evans .- Since pensions were first introduced by the Deakin Liberal Government in 1929 no increase so great as the one now proposed by this Government has been made. Instead of recognizing frankly the virtue of this measure the Opposition has adopted a mean-spirited and mealy-mouthed attitude and has contended that the increases will give no benefit because their value will be swallowed up by rising prices. Prices have been rising since 1947. That movement received an enormous fillip in 1948 when the Chifley Government, in a fit of pique because of the decision of the people on the occasion of the prices referendum, withdrew arbitrarily all subsidies from cost of living items. The effect of that action on prices was much greater than anything done by this Government. Governments can do. little to restrain rising price levels, but if the blame for the present situation can be laid at the door of any government it can be laid at the door of the Chifley Government, which had been in office for the last three years during which prices have risen. What did that Government do to assist the pensioners ? It gave them a miserable increase of half a crown in 1948 and then forgot them. Yet the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley)** has the effrontery to say that this Government should have increased all pensions by 5s. a week immediately it was returned to office. The real reason why the Labour party cannot approve of this measure openly and frankly is that it is endeavouring to cultivate in the minds of anybody that it can mislead the idea that the Labour party alone looks after the needy and the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Social legislation was introduced in this country before the Labour party was formed and before it was thought of. {: .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr Curtin: -- "When was that? {: .speaker-KMD} ##### Mr OSBORNE: -- Old-age pension legislation was first introduced by the Liberal Government in New South Wales in 1901. Honorable members of the Opposition have put forward the theory that that government was forced to provide old-age pensions by the Labour Opposition. Whoever heard of a government being forced into introducing a measure by an Opposition? In this Parliament we have the ridiculous situation of a Government with a large majority having measures which it has introduced for the benefit of the people frustrated by a majority in another place which was not elected by the people at the last election. In 1901, when old-age pensions were first introduced in New South Wales, there was already a history of old-age pension legislation in Victoria which had been initiated by a Liberal government. Invalid pensions were first introduced by a Liberal government in New South Wales and they were brought into the federal sphere by the Deakin Liberal Government of 1910. Invalid and old-age pensions were the creation of Liberal thought and government. I concede that child endowment was introduced in Australia first by a Labour government. The Liberal party does not claim to be the sole authors of all social services legislation. It is nonsense to say that the Labour party alone has intro1duced social services. The Liberal party does not claim that it has exclusively introduced social services legislation but it has introduced by far the greatest bulk of ir. Labour theory on this subject is nothing but an elaborate sham and the sooner it is exposed and the truth stated in this House the better it will be. The pensioners know to whom to look Cor help, succour and support. The whole history of liberal reform, electoral reform, trade union reform and of pensions and social services reform reveals that by far the greater part of the benefits were introduced by Liberal and Conservative governments, not only in this country but also in England. In England the laws against combination which prevented the growth of the trade union movement were removed by individualists, by Liberals and by Conservatives. The great electoral reforms were carried out by the Liberal, Gladstone; the Conservative, Disraeli; and the. Liberal, Asquith. Asquith was responsible for the introduction of oldage pensions in England and Lloyd George, a Liberal, continued and developed the pensions scheme. The great civil service advisor in connexion with these reforms was the present Lord Beveridge who is now a Liberal peer in the House of Lords. Socialist Labour governments are not concerned with the life and welfare of individuals. They are concerned with theories of socialism, with doctrines of class war and with theories of a master State under which the individual counts as nothing. The welfare State itself is not concerned with the individual but with the State. The Labour party has lost its soul. It thinks of the Labour movement and not of the people who make up the movement. It thinks of the State, not of the men, women and children who make up the State. The people of Australia know that, as they showed last December. They look to the Liberal party for the recognition and maintenance of their human and individual rights. There are thousands of pensioners in my electorate and many of them have informed me that they are grateful to this Government for its prompt and ready recognition of their needs. The attempts of the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley)** and his followers to belittle this measure and to suggest that the Government has done less than its duty will not obscure this. The pensioners know who is their friend and they will remember. It is time that the Labour party tore from its eyes the blind-folding cloth which prevents it from seeing the great reforms of Liberal governments. The Opposition would do better clearly and frankly to recognize the justice of the claims of the pensioners and the necessity for this measure. They would do better to recognize frankly that the Government is benefiting the pensioners to the greatest possible extent and allow the measure tobe passed quickly through this House instead of delaying it by unnecessarydebate. If they did so they would ensure that the proposed increases would be put into operation immediately. {: #subdebate-20-0-s1 .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON:
Brisbane -- This measure is in my opinion one of the most important that has been introduced for some considerable time. Before proceeding to discuss it in detail, I express my satisfaction that the Government, after a delay of nearly twelve months, has honoured the promise that it made to age and invalid pensioners during the last election campaign to increase their pensions. Nevertheless, I consider the amount of the proposed increase, 7s. 6d. a week, to be most paltry. {: .speaker-L0V} ##### Mr Wight: -- The proposed increase is greater than the increase of pensions made by Labour when it was in office. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- I shall deal with that contention presently. The cost of living has increased since the present Government attained office by at least 10 per cent.- {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr Kekwick: -- The honorable gentleman should go back to school and learn a little arithmetic. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- My arithmetic is quite satisfactory, and I hope that if the honorable gentleman remains here a little longer he will learn something about politics. The Opposition has laid great stress on the fact that previous non-Labour administrations were responsible for the introduction of certain social services legislation. Unfortunately for the anti-Labour parties, the claims made by their present supporters that their predecessors were responsible for providing social services benefits for the people are not borne out by the facts. The honorable member for Sturt **(Mr. Wilson)** stated that the present Government is the first administration that has made any attempt to relax the operation of the means test. Despite the claims made for this measure by the Government, that its implementation will do something to relax the means test, the pensioners will realize before very long that nothing effective has been done to help them. Notwithstanding the assertion made by the honorable member for Evans **(Mr. Osborne)** that most of our social services legislation was introduced by anti-Labour administrations, the fact is that the Aus tralian Labour party was really responsible for the introduction of most of that legislation. Indeed, the only two measures for which the present Liberal party and its political predecessors can rightly take credit are those which provided pensions for aged people and endowment for children. I repeat that those two measures are the only ones that were introduced by anti-Labour administrations. When the honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues opposite, who were first elected to the Parliament last December, have been here a little longer they will, I hope, learn a little more of the real history of the social services legislation of this country. At present it is apparent that they do not know very much about the matter. For example, the honorable member for Evans and some other honorable gentlemen opposite attributed to an early Liberal administration the credit for having introduced the first social services legislation. The story behind the introduction of that legislation by the Deakin Administration is that Andrew Fisher and George Rylands, Labour members of the Queensland Parliament, had for years attempted to- have legislation introduced to provide pensions for aged and invalid persons. Subsequently, it was considered that the introduction of a pensions scheme for a particular State, or even a number of States, would not fulfil Labour's purpose. From that time forward Andrew Fisher, who was the leader of the Labour party in the Commonwealth Parliament, consistently advocated the passage of legislation by this Parliament to provide pensions for aged and invalid persons. Alfred Deakin, who was the leader of a Liberal administration, later entered into a political pact with Andrew Fisher to introduce the desired legislation in return for the support of the Labour party of certain legislation in which the Liberal party was specially interested. That is the real story behind the introduction of the original social services legislation in this country. Later, when Labour attained office and Andrew Fisher became Prime Minister, legislation was introduced by it to provide for the payment of the maternity allowance. On that occasion, as on most other occasions when social services legislation has been introduced, the anti-Labour parties were bitterly hostile. The honorable member for Evans also sought to make a comparison between the proposed increase of pensions proposed in this measure and the increases made during Labour's recent administration. I remind the honorable gentleman that between 1941 and 1949, when Labour was in office, it increased age and invalid pensions by more than 100 per cent., and those increases were made notwithstanding the disorganization of our economy caused by war. Some honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Sturt, attempted to discredit Labour by asserting that the first and only reduction of age and invalid pensions was made by a Labour administration. Of course, it is true that the Scullin Administration did reduce pensions by {: type="1" start="23"} 0. 6d. a week. However, that reduction was made during the depression, and the Scullin Government was virtually compelled to introduce legislation to authorize the reduction. The preceding BrucePage Administration had left the finances of this country in such a parlous condition that Australia was verging on bankruptcy. When the Scullin Government took office it found that there were only sufficient fund's in the Treasury to enable it to pay 12s. 6d. in the £1 on Government commitments. In fact, a number of honorable gentlemen opposite who were then members of the Parliament supported the reduction of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. When the honorable member for Sturt mentioned the reduction of pensions made by the Scullin Administration, I interjected and invited him to continue his account of the history of the legislation dealing with age and invalid pensions. It was significant that he declined to do so. Had ho continued his account he would have had to admit that the Lyons Government, which was an anti-Labour administration, further reduced pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, and that the pension then amounted to only 15s. a week. The Lyons Administration went further, and did even more harm to pensioners. It introduced legislation under which the Government acquired a lien on the property of pensioners, so that it could seize any property left by pensioners at the time of their death. Those facts are not very pleasant, and honorable members opposite do not like to be reminded of them. However, when they criticize Labour's record in providing social services for the people it is only fair that they should be reminded of those facts. When the Parliament passed the legislation introduced by the Lyons Government which authorized it to seize pensioners' property on their death, many thousands of deserving pensioners surrendered their pensions rather than give the Government the right to seize their homes when they died. My statement is confirmed by the admission made by the Minister for National Development **(Mr. Casey)** in answer to a question that was directed to him on this matter. The introduction of the legislation referred to enabled the Lyons Administration to save many millions of pounds. That is typical of the treatment meted out to pensioners by the socalled Liberal party. Although those who support that party have changed the name of their party on numerous occasions, the fundamental characteristics of that party have not altered, and the present Liberal party is as bad as any of its predecessors. Dealing with the present measure, I repeat that the meagre increase of pensions proposed in this bill is not commensurate with the loss sustained by pensioners because of the depreciation of the currency that has taken place during the regime of the present Government. Furthermore, the decision of the Government to continue to apply a means test to applicants for age and invalid pensions must detrimentally affect many thousands of deserving people. Let me remind the Government of some of the undertakings given by its members when they were in Opposition. Approximately two years ago the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** stated that he favoured the abolition of the means test. I reminded him of that fact during the life of this present Parliament, when I directed a question to him about the undertaking that he had given previously to remove the means test, and in reply to my question he repudiated his undertaking. Nevertheless, it cannot bc denied that the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues did undertake to abolish, or at least to relax substantially, the operation of the means test. Of course, I realize that members of the Government claim that the passage of this measure will have the effect of relaxing the means test. Apparently the Government considers that its proposal to widen the eligibility provisions by increasing the permissible limit on the surrender value of life assurance policies held by applicants from £200 to £500 will be a sufficient remedy for the present injustice. Many thousands of people are deprived, because of the means test, of the privilege of receiving full pensions. If the Government were sincere in the promises that it made those people would receive the full amount of pension. Government supporters have used the argument that, as we are advocating a relaxation of the means test we should have provided for such a relaxation when we were in office. I say in all seriousness and without fear of contradiction that Labour governments have done more to relax the means test than anti-Labour governments have ever done. As a matter of fact, the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments were the only governments that relaxed the means test, because when they came into office they repealed the obnoxious provisions that were included in social services legislation by an antiLabour government in 1932, 1933 and 1934. They also increased the permissible income from 12s. 6d. a week to £1 a week and, later, to 3Os. a week. They also increased the permissible assets in property or money from £400 to £500, and later from £500 to £750. I know that it was the intention of the Chifley Government, had the people been sensible enough to return it to office last December, to relax the means test still further and to give the recipients of all social services an increase of pension during the first session of this Parliament. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr Treloar: -- But it was too polite to say so! {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- It was not a question of politeness, but of not attempting to bribe the people during the general election campaign. The Labour party had done so much for the people during its term of office- {: .speaker-KCD} ##### Mr Davis: -- That they threw it out. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- We believe that it was the poisonous, untruthful propaganda of the present Government parties that threw the Chifley Government out of office. The people were misled and beguiled by the malicious, untruthful, wicked propaganda that was published in the newspapers and over the air, and canvassed from door to door, for months before the general election, in which the parties now in office made promises that they could not hope to carry out and have no intention of carrying out. If the people were given an opportunity to-morrow to vote on even this measure many would vote for the Labour party candidates. Thousands of pensioners who normally voted Labour prior to the last general election voted for the anti-Labour parties at the general election because those parties had promised that they would abolish the means test. The Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** made that promise in his policy speech, and the Treasurer **(Mr. Fadden)** also did so. {: .speaker-F4T} ##### Mr Fadden: -- They did no such thing ! {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- Of course they did! Pensioners to-day are only awaiting their opportunity to cast a vote against the parties that misled them with wicked, foul, untruthful propaganda. Never again will they fall for it. As far as I am concerned honorable members opposite can face the people at any time they choose. {: .speaker-BV8} ##### Mr Calwell: -- And make this a farewell session. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE LAWSON: -- No doubt it would be a farewell session for the Government. Government supporters claim that the increase of invalid and age pensions by 7s. 6d. that i3 proposed in the measure is wonderful. The Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments made more valuable increases than that to pensions, because the increases that they made were worth more in purchasing power than are these proposed increases. During the war period heavy expenditure was incurred to enable this country to make an all out war effort, but despite that fact the Chifley Labour Government increased pensions by 5s. a week on several occasions. The honorable member for Evans **(Mr. Osborne)** who has just resumed his seat asked at the end of his speech why that government did not increase pensions in 1949. He also stated that it had increased pensions by only 2s. 6d. a week in 1948. That is absolutely untrue. The Chifley Government increased age and invalid pensions by 5s. in 1948, and that amount of increase was sufficient to enable pensioners to maintain a decent standard of living and comfort at that time. In my opinion it would take an increase of at least 15s. to bring them up to that same standard to-day, because of the fall in the value of money. {: #subdebate-20-0-s2 .speaker-K7J} ##### Mr CRAMER: -- The honorable member's opinion does not count. {: #subdebate-20-0-s3 .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE ' LAWSON:
BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND -- My opinion counts just as much as does that of the honorable member for Bennelong **(Mr. Cramer)** and probably more. I listened carefully to the honorable member's speech on this measure. He made some rash statements on matters of which he knows nothing. His statements were absolutely incorrect. I turn now to the discrimination between the rates of pensions proposed to be paid to widows. Widows' pensions are another social service that was introduced by the Chifley Government. Formerly the introduction of widows' pensions had not been considered by any government. In fact such pensions were frowned on by anti-Labour governments. I notice that discrimination is shown in relation to the amounts of increase of pensions to be granted to widows. I wonder why an A class widow is to receive an increase of 7s. 6d. a week whilst a B class widow is to receive only a 5s. a week increase. The B class widow has to live and clothe herself and keep a home going just the same as the A class widow has to do. The Government should have provided the same increase for both classes of widow. Another important piece of social services legislation that was introduced by a Labour government is that which provided for the payment of allowances to the wives of invalid pensioners so that they would be in a position to care adequately for their husbands. Whilst I have always maintained that the amount of £1 4s. a week was not sufficient for that purpose I admit, nevertheless, that it was helpful to those unfortunate wives. There is no mention in the bill of any increase cf the allowance for the wives of invalid pensioners. Why should those unfortunate women not receive the same increase, and perhaps an even larger increase, than is to be accorded to other social services beneficiaries? The Government should try to treat them much better than it has treated them. I turn now to unemployment and sickness benefits in regard to which the measure provides for no increase. As a result of the administration and legislation of Labour governments we are fortunate that we have no unemployment problem. No physically fit man or woman need be without a job in Australia, and therefore the unemployment benefit is not as important at the moment as is the sickness benefit. The honorable member for Bendigo **(Mr. Clarey)** pointed out last night that there is always some sort of epidemic in course that compels numbers of people to be absent from their work. The Minister for Labour and National Service **(Mr. Holt)** will bear me out when I say that there are always certain numbers of people drawing sickness benefits. Such people are to remain on the low level of benefit that was fixed about two or three years ago and which should have been increased in ratio with the increase of other social services. I feel very keenly about those matters, and whilst I welcome- the small increase of pensions for which the measure provides I hold, nevertheless, that the Government has fallen down on its promises. It has not put value back into the £1, and it has not increased pensions by an amount that is commensurate with the rise in the cost of living that has occurred since it took office almost a year ago. {: #subdebate-20-0-s4 .speaker-L19} ##### Mr LESLIE:
Moore .- The bill contains one anomaly to which I wish to draw attention in the hope that an explanation will be made which will indicate whether it has arisen from an oversight or whether it was designed. If it was designed, why has it been included in the measure? However, before dealing with that particular point I shall make some reference to the constantly reiterated suggestion that the Liberal and Australian Country parties were elected to the treasury bench as a result of promises to provide relief for pensioners. Honorable members opposite are constantly saying that the statement of intentions made by the Government parties at the last general election was a bribe to the electors. That is, of course, far from the truth. The position is that the Government parties indicated to pensioners that they had a realization of what was due to them. The electors accepted that statement in preference to the absolute rejection by the then Labour government of repeated requests by pensioners for some consideration. We simply refused to reject the claims of pensioners who had been endeavouring to have their claims at least considered. We promised that if we were returned to office we would do whatever we could do in relation to those claims. That was a far better way in which to deal with the matter than complete rejection. It is all very well for honorable members oposite to say that the Government has not done enough for pensioners. It is astonishing to find party leaders who have held responsible offices, expressing such thoughts. Governments do not obtain money out of thin air. It is useless for honorable members opposite to condemn the Government on the one hand for imposing too heavy taxes and for not reducing taxes sufficiently, and on the other hand for not providing something for nothing. They cannot have it both ways. If the people wish the Government to assume more and more of their personal responsibilities than they must realize that they will have to contribute in fair measure towards the cost; but if they are prepared to carry those responsibilities themselves they may expect the burden of govern-' ment to weigh more lightly upon them. Much has been said during this debate about the introduction of social services by Labour and Liberal governments. I am not much worried about which governments introduced social services, because the present-day Labour party is quite different from the original Labour party. I freely acknowledge that the Labour party, during the early days of its existence, contributed largely to the introduction of many social reforms. The Labour party in those days was either directly responsible for the introduction of such reforms or was indirectly responsible through its political agitation. In fact the Labour party was formed for the purpose of introducing reforms, and of alleviating the sufferings of those people who were working under what was then a real capitalistic system. In those days the workers had no voice in the conditions of their work, and had nobody to whom they could turn for help in their struggles against economic adversity. At that time the social conditions under which people worked certainly needed some reform. When the Labour party was formed, if employees went on strike they did so in order to do some hurt to the employer. To-day the trade unionists strike, not to the hurt of the employers, but to the hurt of themselves and their fellow employees. The objective of the strike weapon it therefore different to-day from what it was in the early days. When the Labour .party's objective had been achieved and the old capitalistic system had been altered and people had begun to recognize the necessity for some form of State-controlled social welfare, the Labour party allowed socialistic and communistic influences to infiltrate it and to alter the original Labour movement until it became no longer recognizable as the robust and useful thing it was when it was first formed. The socialistic Labour party of to-day cannot therefore lay claim to having been responsible for the alleviation of the social conditions of 50 years ago. The organization which is doing much to provide better working conditions for employees in Australia to-day is the Australian Workers Union. That organization is a trade union, not a political organization, although I suggest that it is the true Labour party of Australia to-day. The Australian Workers Union does not indulge in communistic and socialistic tactics, nor does it pay allegiance to either of those philosophies which deny to the individual the right to exercise his own initiative and responsibility. I agree that we must provide for those people who cannot look after themselves. However, is it not possible - and I put this forward as a serious suggestion - that in trying to attain that desirable objective we may fall into grave danger? There is one human virtue that does more than any other to place the human being above the plane of the animal, and that is consideration for our fellows or, to put it in another way, the recogtion of the truth that we are our brother's keeper. The voluntary acceptance of that principle by mankind has moulded and guided our civilization. But, where are we drifting at present? Under the new social theories, may we not reach a stage when the individual will soy, *' I am not my brother's keeper, he is the responsibility of the government '". The fount of charity, and I define charity not in its cheap sense but as a virtue in the heart of man, is drying up through the propogation of the socialistic principle that it is the State's responsibility to look after our fellow citizens and that we are all mere cogs in the machine of the State. I suggest that we are steadily moving down to the level of the apes. Of course, there is some community spirit among the apes; they do at times assist one another. But if we continue on the lines that we are now travelling along, we shall reach a stage when we shall feel justified in absolving ourselves individually from responsibility for the welfare of our fellows. We shall say, " This is not my business ; it is the business of the government ". {: .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr Curtin: -- And so it is the business of the Government. {: .speaker-L19} ##### Mr LESLIE: -- We need to guard against that state of mind. We have an inescapable responsibility as individuals towards each other. It is my individual responsibility just as it is that of the honorable member for Watson, and I do not think that he is inhuman enough to try to dodge his responsibility. We must look at social services as not absolving us from our social duties. When that gospel is preached again as it was by the original Labour party, we shall get a system of social services in this country of which we can be proud. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr George Lawson: -- The Labour party to-day is the same as it always was. {: .speaker-L19} ##### Mr LESLIE: -- I say definitely that it is not. The Labour party's policy is to make the right of the State supreme over the right of the individual. That policy has nothing about it which can be recognized as part of the policy of the original Labour party. {: .speaker-KCM} ##### Mr Drakeford: -- The great Australian Workers Union supports this Labour party. {: .speaker-L19} ##### Mr LESLIE: -- I suggest that it does not support this Labour party, it supports its ideal of what this Labour party should stand for. Another aspect of social services that should be borne in mind is the tendency for complete social services to kill the spirit of thrift among the people. The people adopt the attitude that they need have no care for the future and need not bother to put by for a rainy day, because if a time of adversity comes the Government will look after them. If governments foster that attitude of mind the time will come when people will rely on the State as their mother and father and will stop making any effort for themselves. Such a state of complacency implies a retrogressing and an eventually decadent race which will end in extinction. We must leave with the people sufficient to ensure that their sense of individual responsibility towards their neighbours will be kept alive and will be exercised. Future security for everybody must be our objective, but we must make our plans very carefully. It is the hope of reward that makes us all work. Similarly, it is the hope of profit, something more than our bare living, and the hope of security in the future. "that spurs us to greater endeavours. We need that spur if this country is to progress. The incentive to secure our future is lacking to-day. One of our troubles is that there is no necessity to worry about the future, and consequently the effort necessary to ensure our own security is not put forth. If we are to have a comprehensive contributory system of social services, I believe that everybody who contributes is entitled to participate in the benefits. If our actions are to be guided merely by legal principles, which we have heard so much about to-day in the discussion of the means test, then we shall not get very far. I agree that the means test should be abolished, and that the only way in which it can be abolished is by the provision of a compulsory contributory scheme which will provide sufficient money to ensure that everybody who contributes will get a return for his contributions. Governments do not get money from the air. They have to collect it from the people. If the people want a lot of money, from the government they must pay a lot of money to the government. If they want the abolition of the means test they must be prepared to pay for it. I am in wholehearted agreement with the institution of a compulsory national contributory scheme of social services provided that the benefits are not on such a scale as will completely kill the initiative and essential responsibility of the individual and stop him from providing at least in part for the security of himself and his family. In connexion with the ceiling which has been provided in this bill for a pensioner receiving a service pension and a war pension, I point out that the ceiling for a pensioner and his wife, who both receive a service pension and 100 per cent, war pension, was previously £6 2s. a week. That was made up of £2 15s. a fortnight from the war pension and £1 ls. 6d. from the husband's service pension plus £1 4s. from the wife's war pension and £1 ls. 6d. from her service pension. With the increases given under this measure, and under the provision of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Bill, which will be brought down later, the pensioner will receive an increase of 15s. a week in his war pension and 7s. 6d. a week in his service pension, which will amount to a total of 22s. 6d. a week. Yet, the combined ceiling rate payable to war pensioners and their wives ha9 been raised from £317 a year, or £6 2s. a fortnight, to only £338 a year or £6 10s. a fortnight. Thus, such pensioners will receive a net increase of pension of only 4s. a week, whereas the rate of pension payable to other classes of ex-servicemen is to be increased by 22s. 6d. a week. I submit that war pensioners should receive at least the basic increase of 7s. 6d. a week. I urge the Treasurer to examine that anomaly. Another anomaly is that many war pensioners who are, in fact, totally un employable are not classified as being totally and permanently incapacitated because their disability is deemed not to be attributable to war causes. The disability may have developed a considerable period after their discharge from the forces.. Those pensioners would normally be entitled to receive the invalid pension, but because of the application of the means test they cannot qualify for the full invalid pension without suffering loss of portion of their war pension. But for that technical difficulty they would be eligible to receive a pension for total and permanent incapacity. However, they receive only a 100 per cent, war pension plus a service pension or age pension; and now they are to be further penalized by being given an increase of pension of only 4s. a week whereas in some instances the combined pension rate is to be increased by 22s. 6d. a week. I repeat that that class of pensioner should receive at least the increase of 7s. 6d. a week that is being provided in respect of age and invalid pensioners. They should not be deprived of portion of that increase simply because they are in receipt of a 100 per cent, war pension. Perhaps the attention of the department has not previously been directed to that anomaly. Possibly, it has inadvertently been overlooked. I support the bill and commend the Government for its courage in increasing these benefits which, having regard to existing circumstances and its possible commitments in respect of defence, must be regarded as being very generous indeed. {: #subdebate-20-0-s5 .speaker-JPE} ##### Mr BIRD:
Batman .- At the outset of my remarks I shall reply to some of the extraordinary statements that were made by the honorable member for Moore **(Mr. Leslie).** He said that, whilst he admired the old Labour party, he could not admire that party as it is now constituted and represented by the Opposition in the Parliament. He said that the old Labour party was actuated by the highest ideals which the present members of that party had abandoned. If one perused the newspaper files of 30 or 40 years ago one would find that the conservatives of those days levelled exactly the same kind of criticism against the Labour party. When the Labour party was formed in the 'nineties it was severely criticized by the conservatives at that time. Reference to *Hansard* will show that the Fisher Labour Government which held office from 1910 to 1913 was subject to the same kind of abuse by the conservatives. One can only conclude that the Liberal party will always criticize the Labour party in the strain that the honorable member for Moore has indulged in this afternoon. I assure him and his colleagues that the Labour party is still actuated by the ideals for the achievement, of which it was formed. All members of the Labour party are desirous of correcting obvious injustices in the community and of doing all that they can to uplift the community. We wish to remedy injustices and eliminate practices which tend to degrade the individual. That was Labour's policy in the nineties, and it is Labour's policy to-day. Therefore, members of our party make no apology for being in the vanguard of every movement the object of which is to improve the lot of the ordinary citizen. Labour has always supported legislation for the provision of social services benefits because it realizes that those benefits will be enjoyed in the main by the less fortunate sections of the community. I approach this measure with conflicting feelings. Whilst I am pleased that an anti-Labour Government has at long last increased the rate of pension, at the same time I am disappointed that the proposed increase is so meagre. The consensus of opinion in the community is that a pension of £2 10s. a week which the Government proposes to provide under this measure is entirely inadequate when examined in the light of rising living costs. Supporters of the Government have waxed eloquent in emphasizing that the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week is the largest single increase that has ever been effected in the history of the age and invalid pension. The existing rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week was provided by the Chifley Government in July, 1948. Since that date the cost of living of the average citizens has risen by much more than 7s. 6d. a week. Indeed, it has risen to that degree since the present Government assumed office in December last. Consequently, despite this increase many pensioners will still have to deny themselves many of the necessaries of life.. The majority of single pensioners live in a room for which they pay, on the average, a rental of 25s. a week. After meeting that commitment and purchasing basic foods such as butter at 2s. 2d. per lb., eggs at 3s. 3d. a dozen and milk at 6d. a pint they will not be able to> afford tineordinary amenities of life. All governments have been at faultin determining general pension rates in a somewhat haphazard manner. It would appear that the practice has been simplyfor governments to think of a fixedsum and to accept that sum as being sufficient without relating it to the- needs of pensioners. The pension rate should feedetermined in relation *to>* the basic wageDespite the obvious imperfections of thepresent method of computing the basicwage that method seems to Be the fairestway of taking into account changes- in thecost of living. In July,. 1945, the pension* was £1 12s. 6d. a week and it was 33.8S- per cent, of the basic- wage at that time-.. On the 21st October, 194S, when the Chifley Government increased the pension to £2 2s. 6d. a week it was 36.4 per cent., of the basic wage and when that Government went out of office on the 10th December last the pension was only 32.95 per cent, of the basic wage whilst in August of this year that percentage had decreased] to 30.8 per cent.. When the pension isincreased under this measure to £2 10s.. a week it will be only 30.18 per cent, of the present basic wage which is- £8 6s. a week for Sydney. Therefore,, supporters of the Government cannot justify the praise that they have heaped; upon the Government for introducing this measure. The Government should increase the pension to at least 36.4 percent, of the basic wage, and preserve that basis from year to year. I predict that large increases will be registered in thecomputations on which the basic wage is determined during the next three or four quarters. Therefore, precautions must be taken to ensure that pensioners will not be submerged in a plethora of living costs. The Government should make allowances in the pension for those increases until the budget is introduced; towards the end of 1951. The honorable member for Sturt **(Mr. Wilson)** made an incorrect statement that should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. He said that the Lyons Governmnent introduced the cost of living adjustment provision for pensions in 1933, and that the Curtin Labour Government abolished it in 194)5. The honorable gentleman should have stated that the Lyons Government abolished that adjustment provision in 1935. I do not know whether he was ignorant of that fact, but I have now informed him of the true position. The Lyons Government introduced the cost of living adjustment provision for the purpose of increasing the pension, and ^abolished it because its retention would have brought about a reduction of the pension in 1935. Of course, the Lyons -Government was not in favour of that. The Curtin Government re-introduced the provision in 1942 to meet the cost of Jiving, and abolished it in 1945 at the request of pensioners' associations, in order that the pension might be increased. Those actions were necessary on two occasions, and I believe that similar action is necessary now. A person does not need to be a prophet to foretell that the cost of living will increase substantially during the next twelve months, and provision should be made to ensure that the pensioners shall not be adversely affected *hy* it. The Government should introduce *a.* cost of living adjustment as a safeguard for the pensioners. Such an act would definitely improve the present position under which pensioners are dependent on the whim and caprice of a government for increases of pensions. The present spasmodic method of varying the rate of pension by amending the social services legislation could seriously affect pensioners during the next twelve months, ^because their pensions could not keep pace with the expected increase of the cost of living. Let us suppose that the basic wage will increase at the rate of 4s. or 5s. a quarter during the next twelve months. I mention, in passing, that the increase of the basic wage will be passed on by manufacturers to the consumers, and probably within a few months the boodleiers will have taken the lot. The Parliament must safeguard the interests and welfare of the pensioners. If the basic wage should be increased every quarter by 4s. or 5s. a week, the pensioner should be paid at least an additional 2s. a week every quarter to compensate for the increase of living costs. The Parliament might find it necessary to repeal a cost of living adjustment provision in th, interests of the pensioner in two or three years time, as was done by the Lyons Government in 1935 and by the Curtin Government in 1945. However, the Parliament must legislate in accordance with modern current requirements, which show plainly that the cost of living will rise considerably during the next twelve months. Therefore, the pensioners must be protected without delay against unnecessary hardship. Some members of the Liberal party have stated that they are in favour of abolishing the means test, whilst others cloud their opinions with qualifications. But the people of Australia have had every reason to believe that the Liberal partyAustralian Country party Government will substantially relax the means test. They recall that those parties, when they were in opposition, criticized the manner in which the Labour Government administered the means test, and the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies),** in his policy speech during the last general election campaign, certainly gave the people cause to hope that his Government would liberalize the means test. He said - >We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test, and of the penalty it imposes in many cases upon thrift. There are also grave anomalies associated with the position of persons who have contributed for their own superannuation benefits. . . We desire, however, to adjust anomalies I have referred to, and to make such modifications in the means test as we find possible pending a contributory scheme. The people naturally concluded from those words that a Liberal government would substantially modify the means te.=t. I concede that it is not possible to abolish the means test in one fell swoop. Many people seem to believe that the Government can airily dispose of it by passing an act of Parliament. But we live in a world of reality, which imposes limitations upon the attainment of human desires. We must discriminate, perhaps reluctantly but nevertheless remorselessly, between desire and practicability. The desire is that the means test shall be abolished overnight, but the practicability is that it cannot be done. However, the Government should make a reasonable attempt to liberalize the means test. The Labour Government approached the problem from a sensible and practical stand-point. The honorable member for Sturt has said that the present Government, in this bill, is making the first step towards abolishing the means test. I do not think that the honorable gentleman really believes that statement. The preceding Labour Government liberalized the means test in many directions. It increased the permissible income of a pensioner from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week in 1946. According to the honorable member for Sturt, that was of no consequence. The same administration increased that limit from £1 to 30s. in 1948. In other words, the permissible income was increased from 12s, 6d. to 30s. a week by a Labour Government, and that action certainly represented a liberalization of the means test. The value of property that a pensioner was permitted to own before his pension was affected was increased in 1946 from £400 to £650, and in 1948 from £650 to £750. Those examples are tangible evidence of the way in which the preceding Labour Government relaxed the means test. The present Prime Minister and his supporters promised the people during the last general election campaign that they would continue that good work if they were returned to office. They have not done so in this bill. A strong case can be stated for the lifting of the means test, because it undoubtedly imposes hardship and injustice upon persons who make provision during their working life for their retirement. The Government has not displayed any sympathy towards them. This bill relaxes the means test by a microscopic degree, yet the Government endeavours to make it appear that it is acting generously to many people. The Labour party certainly supports the small concessions that are made in the bill, but emphasizes that only a comparatively small number of people are affected by them. The Government, in view of its pre-election promises, Ifr. *Bird.* should have increased the limit of permissible income to £2 a week. The people certainly expected it. I remind Government supporters that the present limit of 30s. a week has not been varied since 1948. It is beyond my understanding why the Government did not increase the property limit to £1,000, in view of the general increase of costs. Even Government supporters have made somecritical comments about that matter. The present position relative to the means test is definitely wrong. A person who, during his working life, saves a little money or contributes to a superannuation fund is usually ineligible to receive a pension on his retirement, whereas another person, who has a similar income during his working life but who has spent it, is permitted to receive the full pension. Before I became a member of the Parliament, I contributed, to a private pension scheme at the rate of 12s. 6d. a week, and the amount of pension that I should have received on my retirement would have debarred me from the age pension. Government employees, who contribute to superannuation funds, are particularly aggrieved about the means test. I addressed many of them during my election campaign, and the first question that they invariably asked me was, " Are you in favour of relaxing the means test?" The anomalies that arise from that source cause serious discontent. A superannuated railway employee in Victoria was receiving a pension of £5 a fortnight, for which he had .contributed for many years, and an age pension of £2 5s. a fortnight. The Government of Victoria, in recognition of the steep increase of the cost of living, increased the superannuation benefits for its former employees by 20 per cent. The railway employee to whom I have referred then received a superannuation payment of £6 a fortnight but his age pension was immediately decreased to £1 5s. a fortnight. He is in much the same position now as he was before the State Government increased the superannuation payment. The basis of the whole system is definitely wrong, and government employees in particular feel most aggrieved about it. I should like to obtain some information about pensions payable in respect of persons who were killed or injured while employed by the Allied Works Council during the war. A woman whose husband was killed in Queensland in 1943 while he was working for that authority was granted a pension of £2 2s. a week under National 'Security Regulations. Those regulations were repealed after the war, and she now receives the same pension from the Department of Social Services. Other pensions have been increased in the meantime. The pension payable to the widow of an ex-serviceman has been increased from £2 10s. to £3 10s. a week. I understand that 107 other persons are in the same position as that widow, and I ask the Treasurer to give sympathetic consideration to their plight. There are not many of them, but their claims deserve the most sympathetic consideration. The citizens who are most vitally concerned with the provisions of this bill are those who have to subsist upon the pension alone. At least 80 per cent, of the pensioners will have to maintain an existence on allowances of £2 10s. or £2 15s. a week under the new scale. Those rates are not high enough and, irrespective of the financial situation of the Government, they should be further increased. The minimum should be not less than £3 a week. Our age pensioners are largely the product of an era when any suggestion that wages should come before profits would have been regarded as rank economic heresy. In fact, industry has passed on to the community a burden which should be borne largely by industry. The assertion that increases of the age pension tend to discourage thrift, which was repeated by the honorable member for Moore, is ridiculous. The average family man could never have made adequate provision for his security after retirement from the wages that were formerly paid in industry. Social benefits merely restore partial balance to an unbalanced structure, and they should be regarded as the right of all unfortunate citizens. The interests of the workers have never been properly served and workers are, therefore, entitled to be treated with generosity when they fall upon evil times. Profits and dividends have reached almost astronomical proportions in recent years, even after the companies concerned have made extravagant provision for depreciation. Therefore, industry could well afford to pay for higher rates of pensions by means of an excess profits tax. It should be made to finance an increase of pension rates to a minimum of £3 a week so that people in the evening of their lives might enjoy a modicum of ease and comfort in this socalled civilization. {: #subdebate-20-0-s6 .speaker-KXW} ##### Mr PEARCE:
Capricornia .- The honorable member for Batman **(Mr. Bird)** has joined in the discordant Opposition chorus against this fine measure, which provides for the payment of increased benefits to the members of the community who most need our help. The principal claims that have been made by the Opposition are that the high cost of living demands a greater increase of pensions than is proposed and that, in any case, the level of pensions is too low. It is time that somebody reminded the Opposition of its responsibilities in relation to the present economic situation. Disregarding the antics of the Labour party when it was in power, which led to a rapid increase of the cost of living, an examination of the world economy discloses that the basic cause of inflation has been the Communist activity that has been inspired from Moscow. During the last seven or eight months, members of the Opposition have deplored in pious tones the rapid increase of the cost of living. *[Quorum, formed.~* I express my sincere thanks to the honorable member for East .Sydney **(Mr. Ward),** who has provided me with a suitable audience by calling for a quorum. I am only sorry that the sound of the bells apparently did not awaken his colleagues from their slumbers, because I should like them to hear what I have to say. The Government places fairly and squarely upon the Labour party the responsibility for the present high cost of living. Its behaviour in playing the Communist game in this Parliament during the last seven or eight months has had the effect of robbing the pensioners, who constitute only one section of the community, of a large portion of the value of their incomes. I hope that we shall hear no more of the humbug and hypocrisy that we have already heard from members of the Opposition during this debate. They have claimed that pension rates are entirely inadequate. All Australians should realize that the community can never hope to repay the debt that it owes to its older members. We cannot do enough for those citizens who have helped to establish and maintain the prosperity of the nation. I am proud to be a member of a political party that acknowledges its responsibilities to such citizens and is prepared to discharge that responsibility in the way that is provided for in this bill. Let us consider the cold facts. This Government has been in office for less than a year, but in that period it has increased the total bill for social services of all kinds by £24,000,000. Members of the Opposition, of course, with their habit of thinking in terms of a cockeyed economy, will probably say that £24,000,000 is not a large amount. But I recall that, in 1937, when I made my first income tax return, the Treasurer of the day presented to the Parliament a budget which provided for the expenditure of £100,000,000, which was then a record figure. This measure and other measures that have been introduced by the Government during the short period of its administration provide for social services expenditure amounting to nearly £112,000,000 annually, which is £12,000,000 more than the total amount of budget expenditure only thirteen years ago. Members of the Opposition should consider this bill in its proper perspective and give credit where credit is due. They should put party politics aside and stop trying to engender self-pity amongst the age pensioners merely for the sake of gaining a few votes at the next general election. Throughout the years, people holding the same political views as I hold have consistently acknowledged their responsibilities to unfortunate members of the community. The stalwarts of social reform have always been of the same political complexion as the Liberal party to-day. They have been in touch with the ordinary man, but the Labour party has been completely out of touch with him because of its desire to make of him the servant of a socialist dictatorship. As the public conscience has been awakened to the need for social services, so successive governments have been eager to dis- **Mr.** *Pearce.* charge their responsibilities in that respect. The first move was to introducean old-age pension. Pensions for widows and other unfortunate citizens were established later. One of the most recent: innovations in our social services system, has been the introduction of endowment, for children, who constitute an important part of every family unit. The ideal' state in the community is that in which the family unit is sacred and every member of the unit accepts his responsibility to it. As a social worker for many years, I have often deplored the growing tendency for families to disintegrate, and to leave the aged members to the care of theState. Many sons and daughters declare that, by paying taxes, they discharge their full responsibility to their parents, whose care should be a duty of the Government: My heart has never been more deeply touched than when I have visited hornet for elderly people at the Christmasseason. Mothers and fathers who have faithfully discharged their duties to their sons and daughters sit lonely in such establishments while others celebrate the festive season. As the Government acceptsits responsibilities, so should every member of the community, with sturdy independence, accept his family responsibilities. The young and strong should' provide for the care and protection ofthose who are too old or weak to bear their burdens any longer. As time goes on the public conscience will awaken, and' as this Government continues in office itwill be able to do more and more f ot theunfortunate ones in the community. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- It had better hurry up. It will not be in office for too long. {: .speaker-KXW} ##### Mr PEARCE: -- That puts it in the category of the honorable member. {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- I have been here a long: time. {: .speaker-KXW} ##### Mr PEARCE: -- Party politics should1 not enter into this question. Every honorable member has a responsibility towards these people and I deplore the action of honorable members of the Opposition in trying to make political capital' out of this bill. This is a good measure. It is a step forward. The pensioners havebeen given an increase of 7s. 6d. a week, the greatest single increase .that they haveever been given. I regret that it will be- given to them in a single sum instead of in small sums over the last eighteen months. While the pensioners of Australia will rejoice this Christmas over the money that has been handed to them by this Government, they will look back on the previous Christmas and realize that the money of which they have been deprived was withheld from them by a government that could have afforded to pay it but which neglected its responsibilities. As long as this Government is in office, it will be regarded with hope by the pensioners because it will continue to discharge its responsibilities, not only to the pensioners, widows and other people, but also to the children of this country in the hope that, by stimulating a sturdy family independence it will establish a strong and independent Australia, willing and eager to take its place in the family of nations. *Mi.* MINOGUE (West Sydney) [4.2]. - I am sadly disappointed with the bill before the House. On the 2nd March, in this House, I stated - >My one wish for the present, as a member oi this Parliament, is that the age pensioners shall be given some relief before very long. The members of this Parliament should bo -ashamed of the way in which aged pensioners are treated. If we do not do something for them we shall have widespread semistarvation in a land of plenty. "The increase in pensions which the Government proposes to grant is a downright scandal. Only two months ago the basic wage was increased by 4s. and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has since declared itself in favour of =a further increase of £1. Why should not the pensioners be treated in a similar manner? This Government made many promises at the last general election which it has *not* fulfilled, but I am only concerned at the moment with the plight of the poor old people to whom the Menzies Government promised to give something better. The ls. a day rise which it is : proposed to grant will not buy them very much. As the honorable member for Bennelong **(Mr. Cramer)** knows, the shortage of Sousing and the price of clothing are :not the only problems which confront :age pensioners in Sydney. As other honorable members have stated, in 1931 pensions had to be reduced because the country could not afford to maintain them at their existing levels. Honorable members are now told that the country is prosperous but the only people who are not sharing in the prosperity are the pensioners. Who can live on £2 2s. 6d. a week? I said twelve months ago that pensioners should not receive less than £3 a week. Since then the Menzies Government has come to power and everybody knows what has happened to the value of the £1. Pensioners should now have their pensions increased by at least 15s. a week. I have spoken previously in this House of the desirability of making the rise in pensions retrospective to the 1st June or the 1st January. The right honorable member for Bradfield **(Mr. Hughes)** replied that that could not be done. But something similar to that has been done. The justices of the High Court have received a £10 a week rise which will be made retrospective to the 1st July. If that can be done in their case, why cannot it be done in another case ? I have an applicant for an invalid pension in my electorate who is one of a family of seven. He is nineteen and a half years of age and he had to give up work about seven months ago. The doctors at Sydney Hospital said that he would never work again and the Commonwealth doctor told him not to dare to come -into town because his condition was so bad. His father and mother have six other children, five of whom attend school while the other earns £2 10s. a week. This family lives in Jones-street, Pyrmont. Although this lad applied for a pension five months ago he has not yet received it. The father of the family is a wharf labourer and the amount of his wages will be considered in assessing whether this young man will be paid a pension. The applicant had £22 in the bank when he left work seven months ago, but he has been paying his mother £1 a week towards his keep and he has not yet received the pension, although he is suffering from a disease from which he will possibly never recover. The case indicates the value of the promises that were made by the Government last December. The honorable member for Bennelong who spoke on this subject last night has nothing in common with the pensioners in Sydney or anywhere else. The blackouts in Sydney are not relevant to this bill but the honorable member for Bennelong had a black-out every time there was a by-election in Sydney. I was sitting on the Sydney County Council with him and when he was elected- {: #subdebate-20-0-s7 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER:
Mr. Ryan -- Order! The honorable member should direct his remarks to the bill. {: #subdebate-20-0-s8 .speaker-JUX} ##### Mr MINOGUE:
WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES -- Those pensioners would like to have some light. I remember that when I was sitting on the council with the honorable member for Bennelong he disputed the wisdom of the expenditure of a fair amount of money on Bunnerong Power House. Later, he told the contractors that they could go ahead and that it did not matter what the work would cost. He changed his mind. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill. {: .speaker-JUX} ##### Mr MINOGUE: -- Very . good, sir. When the council met to decide what should be done about the Communist party, the chairman of the council, who was the honorable member for Bennelong, asked the press to leave the room while we talked the matter out. Reverting to the subject of pensioners, I was present at a meeting the other night at which I was asked when something would be done for the pensioners. I did not like to be critical of this House so I said that something should be done before Christmas. At that meeting it was decided to hold a dance in order to obtain funds to alleviate in some small way the lot of 1,700 pensioners in that area. The dance was held in Sydney Town Hall. The proceeds amounted to £280. The Sydney City Council has itself given £6,000 for the purpose of tiding the pensioners over Christmas. That council has often waived its right to collect rates from pensioners who have been unable to pay them. The Sydney City Council has done more in its own way for pensioners than the present Government. The honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Jack),** with whom I sympathize, went from house to house in North Sydney during the last general election and said, "Now ladies, if **Mr. Menzies** gets in, prices will come down ". Let him go. back to the housewives now and tell them about prices. What will he be able to say to them at the next general election? The British Medical Association has been the greatest strikebreaker that Australia has ever known. This Government should be honest enough to inform the people of its social services and medical and pharmaceutical benefits plans. Pensioners are asking what can be obtained under the Government's national health scheme. Very little can be got from doctors and .chemists under this Government's scheme. In this budget of £738,000,000 provision has been made for an increase in defence expenditure of £79,000,000. I do not oppose defence but, at the same time, the age and invalid pensioners are receiving only £2 2s. 6d. a week and another £10,600,000 would enable them . to be paid an extra 10s. a week. This Government can provide an additional £79,000,000 for defence, but it allows age pensioners to starve. The basic wage in Sydney is now £8 4s. Surely the pensioner should receive half of that amount ! Honorable members opposite have spoken of the good that the Government has done for the pensioners. Itis an insult that their incomes should be increased by only 7s. 6d. a week, in view of the price of commodities and the fact that the £1 is now worth less than 10s. The honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Pearce)** accused the Labour party of not desiring a general election. I can assure the honorable gentleman and his colleagues that members of the Opposition would welcome the opportunity of a general election. Furthermore, I prophesy now that as the result of such an election Labour would be elected to office. When Labour regains office it can be relied upon to do the right thing by persons in receipt of invalid and age pensions, because one of the fundamental tenets of Labour's creed is that people should not be allowed to starve or to go in want during a time of plenty. Sr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) [4.15]. - I shall not detain the House at any length because I do not propose to discuss the details of the present measure in other than a general way. I desire to state quite clearly my view of the approach that should be made to the provision of social services. Surely nothing has been gained by the claims made in the course of this debate by members of different political parties that the party to which they happen to belong was responsible for the introduction of a particular piece of social services legislation. After all, the introduction of social services in the modern State has been a gradual process, and has been due in the main not to the activities of any political party, and to a growing social consciousness and to the realization of modern communities that it is the duty of the State to assume a large, and perhaps an increasing, measure of responsibility for the support of its aged and sick members. That is why social benefits have been provided, and the driving force responsible for the provision of those services has been supplied not by the politicians but by the social reformers. In England the writings, utterances and activities of such persons as Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were responsible, not directly but indirectly, for the introduction of social services. However, it should not be forgotten that social services, which have become an increasingly costly factor in the modern State, must be limited by the financial resources of the nation concerned. As the honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Pearce)** pointed out this afternoon, the present Government has provided an additional amount of £24,000,000 for social services. For invalid and aged persons it proposes to provide an additional sum of £8,250,000. Surely the provision of so much money refutes the criticism of honorable members opposite that the present Government has been niggardly in its approach to this problem. As I said previously, I cannot understand what benefit can be obtained by canvassing the claims of rival political parties to the credit for having introduced various social service measures. In fact, no particular credit accrues to any political party for having first introduced the several social services. The fact of the matter is that the economic requirements of the community and the force of publicopinion at a particular time have been responsible for the introduction of social service measures. Some members of theOpposition asserted that the Australian Labour party was content to be judged on its record in providing social services, but I shall not discuss that claim other than to point out that theLabour party's record was proved to have a very ricketty foundation. During the last general election campaign the political parties now in office promised the people that if they were elected to govern they would provide certain additional social services, and the introduction of the present measure represents one result, of the majority of votes cast for them at ' the election. If we desire to be honest in giving credit to those individuals who were responsible for havingoriginated various social services, wemust give credit to two individuals of" whom the Labour party is not particularly fond. The first individual to whom I refer is Prince von Bismarck, thefamous, or infamous, German Chancellor, whose motto was " Blood and iron ". Germany was the first country in Europeto provide social services, and Bismarck was responsible for their introduction in that country. The other individual to whom I refer is **Mr. J.** T. Lang, theformer Labour Premier of New South. Wales, who was responsible for the introduction of child endowment in New South Wales many years ago. Unfortunately for him, I understand that he is not. now held in very high regard by honorable gentlemen opposite. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- The honorable gentleman apparently forgets that when **Mr. Lang** introduced social services legislation in the New South Wales Parliament he did not receive any assistance whatever from the political party to which: the honorable gentleman belongs. {: #subdebate-20-0-s9 .speaker-JU8} ##### Dr DONALD CAMERON:
OXLEY, QUEENSLAND · LP -- In reply to that interjection, I point out that theLiberal party, which is responsible for the introduction of the present legislation, is not receiving any support from Labour- members of the Opposition; but, on the contrary, it is encountering opposition from them. I desire to deal now with two matters that appear to me to be of considerable importance. The first matter is the contention that pensions for age and invalid persons should be calculated in relation to the basic wage. I point out that it is remarkable that the Australian Labour party, whose members now advocate that pensions should be fixed in relation to the basic wage, was responsible for repealing the legislation which provided that pension rates should be determined on that basis. Concerning war pensions and pensions for ex-servicemen, it is interesting to note that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, which is the most influential organization of ex-servicemen, has always advocated that those pensions should not be related to the basic wage. It cannot be denied that the passage of the present measure will make a notable contribution to our social services. The Government deserves even more credit for making such liberal provision for social services when we recall the unprecedentedly high expenditure that it is called upon to meet in connexion with the defence of the country and other commitments. However, I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services **(.Senator Spooner),** to two classes of pensioners who appear to warrant more generous treatment, and I trust that the Government will make better provision for them. The first class of cases to which I refer concerns young widows with dependent children. The pension payable to a widow with dependent children ceases when her youngest child attains the age of sixteen years. Very frequently it happens that payment of the pension ceases when the widow is between the age of 40 and 45 years and is, perhaps, in indifferent health. Most widows of that age would certainly have great difficulty in obtaining or engaging in regular employment. Although payment of the widows' pension Ceases in such cases when the youngest children attain the age of sixteen years, most widows still have to play some part in supporting or caring for their families. I need not labour the point that the maintenance of even the humblest home to-day costs a considerable sum of money, and that, in consequence, the financial burden borne by many widows is very considerable. Furthermore, the widowed mother of a child who has attained the age of sixteen years frequently still has to provide a home for her child. Unfortunately, a widow whose pension ceases when her youngest child attains that age receives no assistance whatever from the Government until she reaches the age of 50 years, when she again becomes entitled to receive a widows' pension. I urge the Government to make some financial provision for such widows during the period that elapses between the payment of the two types of pension. The second class of case to which 1 direct the attention of the Government concerns single women who devote their lives to attending to invalid parents, and unfortunately for them there are many such women in the community. Because they have to be in constant attendance on their invalid parents they cannot earn a livelihood for themselves, and many of them pass from youth to middle age without having the opportunity to equip themselves to earn a livelihood. While the invalid parent of such a woman is alive a special allowance of about £1 a week is paid to her, and an invalid pension, which has been increased by the present Government to £2 10s. a week, is also paid to her parent. The total income of families in such circumstances is about £3 10s. a week, which is not adequate in view of the present cost of living, and something should be done by the Government to alleviate the hardships suffered by women in such circumstances. I point out that many young women who devote themselves to the care of their invalid parents spend many years in nursing them, and that in consequence many of them are 40 years old before they are released from their self-imposed duties by the death of their parents. The economic plight of such women after the death of their parents, when all income from the Government ceases, is considerable. However, now that the hardship suffered by them has been brought to the notice of the Government I have no doubt that it will do something to mitigate that hardship. The ultimate solution of the problems associated with the provision of adequate social services does not lie immediately at hand. In common with many other Australians, I believe that the only really satisfactory solution of the problem is to introduce a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, although I realize that it is not practicable to do so at the present time. However, whilst I do not pose as a prophet, I believe that future generations will look back with gratitude to the political parties that are now in office, and to the Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** who leads the present Government, as the architects of a scheme of national insurance. National insurance, of course, is based on co-operation, and perhaps the best example of co-operation that members of the Parliament could give to the nation would be for all political parties represented in this House to make the utmost effort to introduce a satisfactory scheme of national insurance. The introduction of such a scheme would be, I repeat, the only final and satisfactory solution of the problem of caring for aged, and invalid persons. {: #subdebate-20-0-s10 .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN:
Hoddle .- The honorable member for Oxley **(Dr. Donald Cameron)** certainly told the truth when he said that the care of the aged and the infirm is the responsibility of an enlightened community. It is with that thought in my mind that I rise to make my contribution to this debate. Members of the Government have advanced a number of arguments in support of the proposed increase that do not accord with advanced pensions practice and with certain pensions provisions that are in operation elsewhere. Their statements are also at variance with the promises that they made prior to the last general election. I can speak with some knowledge on this subject because not many years ago I was associated with the department that administers pensions. I occupied various positions in it and my duties included the review of pensions, the determination of eligibility and the investigation of the circumstances of applicants. Nearly 90 per cent, of pensioners to-day are entirely dependent upon the Commonwealth and on the degree of humanitarianism that the government in office displays. {: .speaker-KCQ} ##### Mr Graham: -- What percentage did the honorable member say ? {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- I said, and I repeat, that nearly 90 per cent, of people in receipt of invalid pensions are completely dependent on the pension that they receive, because they have no other income. {: .speaker-KCQ} ##### Mr Graham: -- That is an incredible statement. {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- 'The honorable member may think so, but it can be proved to be a fact. The average rate of pension paid to the 414,000 persons in receipt of age and invalid pensions is £4 ls. a fortnight. By averaging that figure out, we shall find that as the maximum rate payable is £4 5s. a fortnight, therefore about 80 or 90 per cent, of those in receipt of pensions must have no other means. There is no contradicting that fact. I suppose I have a greater number of pensioners in the electorate that I have the honour torepresent than there is in any other electorate, because my electorate is in s ' long-settled district that was formerly a heavily industrialized section of Melbourne. The homes in it are old and most of the people who inhabit them havebeen workers all their lives. In the evening of their lives they are dependent upon a pension for their continued existence.. I have been supplied, through the courtesy of the pensions authorities, with details that show that there are about 3,200 persons in my electorate who are in receipt of age and invalid pensions. That figurewould be hard to beat. It is because I am familiar, both as a former officer of the department that administers pensions and as a former paying officer of the postal department, with the circumstances of those people with whom I came intoclose contact, that I can say quite sincerely that the great bulk of age and invalid pensioners and those in receipt of other government assistance are, generally speaking, the salt of the earth. They have laboured in the burden and heat of the day. Generally they raised families and' now they have no independent means and are dependent for their livelihood upon pensions and consequently on the vagaries of the government in office. The determination of whether their lot shall be comfortable or indigent is a matter for the government of the day. I approach this subject in the belief that my contribution may be of some assistance to the Government in relation to this measure. I do not say for" one moment that the proposed increase of the rate of invalid and age pensions by 7s. 6d. a week will not be acceptable to pensioners. Anything that will increase the modest income of those people, who deserve so much, will be an improvement, but the proposed increase does not accord with the encomiums that have been lavished upon it by Government supporters. It is necessary for me to take to task those Government supporters who have made certain claims about the pensions record of the parties now in office and I shall again draw upon my own departmental experiences. If members of the Government parties can take pride in what they claim to be the achievements of anti-Labour governments in relation to pensions then all I can say is that their idea of humanitarianism differs from mine. It was the Lyons Government which in the years between 1932 and 1935 introduced two obnoxious provisions into the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act that were a scandal to the community and a reflection on the Commonwealth. They became section 52c and section 52e of the act. Section 52c provided that when the amount of a 'pension that had been applied for was assessed the capacity of the applicant's relatives to contribute towards the cost of the pension was also to be assessed. I was associated with the administration of that particularly iniquitous section and I know that there were many heart-breaking cases of decent working people being bilked out of a contribution to meet the cost of a pension. Those cases were deplorable and unforgettable. {: .speaker-JPA} ##### Mr Berry: -- That was not so .bad as the reduction of the pension by the ^Scullin Government. {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- I shall come to that matter later. {: .speaker-L08} ##### Mr Rosevear: -- Every member of the anti-Labour parties in this House voted for the reduction that was made during the Scullin regime. {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- Now I turn to the next page in the story of the present Government's record in relation to the administration of pensions. Under section 52e of the act to which I have referred pensioners who applied for pensions after the 10th March, 1932, were compelled to sign an . undertaking that, if they owned any property, when they died the first claim on their estate, which was generally a meagre one consisting of a house that they had slaved to purchase, would be in satisfaction of the repayment of the total amount that they had received by way of pension from the government from the 1st December, 1932, to the date of death. If that is what the Liberal party regards as a humanitarian approach to social services, it is not a matter for wonder that it has proposed the present beggarly and miserly rate of increase which does not accord with what should really 'be paid. One honorable member referred, by way of interjection, to the reduction of pensions by the Scullin Government in 1931-32. Nobody denies that the Scullin Government reduced pensions at that time, but I direct the honorable member's attention to the fact that they were reduced at the behest of the private banking system, which controlled the resources of this Commonwealth and applied a stranglehold on the elected representatives of the people. At the time when the pension rate was reduced from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week in 1932 the basic wage had also decreased considerably, and actually the proportion of the pension to the basic wage was higher than it had been prior to the reduction of the pension, and was as high as it had been at any time before the Scullin Government took office. Members of the Liberal party who were in the Parliament at that time voted for the reduction of the pension. I turn now to the statement by the honorable member for Sturt **(Mr. Wilson)** that the only reduction of the pension rate that had ever been made occurred during the regime of a Labour government. I have already replied to that argument. In 1931, the ratio of the pension to the basie wage was 26.3 per cent. {: .speaker-JPA} ##### Mr Berry: -- Was not the basic wage reduced at that time, when a Labour government was in power? {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- The rate of pension was reduced by only 12£ per cent. {: .speaker-JPA} ##### Mr BERRY:
GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND · LP -- The Scullin Government reduced both the basic wage and the pension. {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- That argument displays abysmal ignorance of the principle under which the basic wage is assessed. {: .speaker-JUP} ##### Mr Clarey: -- The employers sought the reduction. {: .speaker-K7O} ##### Mr CREMEAN: -- That is so. I refer now to the remarks of the honorable member for Batman **(Mr. Bird),** in the course of which he said that pensions should bear some relation to the basic wage. The effect of the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week will make the ratio of pension to the basic wage 30.8 per cent., whereas that ratio was 30.64 per cent, when the previous Government left office. In other words, the value of the pension will have deteriorated, and it will deteriorate further. If the ratio of the pension to the basic wage were to be maintained< at the level that existed when the previous Government went out of office the pension rate would be £3 a week and not £2 10s. a week as is provided by the measure. Now I turn to some of the anomalies and weaknesses that are associated with the administration of pensions, the rectification of some of which the Government might very well have considered. At the present time a pensioner who owns a house that he is compelled to vacate through illness has the full value of the house taken into account in assessing the degree of his eligibility and in some instances his pension is cancelled. I believe that any benevolent-minded government should introduce a provision which would ensure that when a pensioner vacated a property because of circumstances beyond his control and could prove that the property did not thereby become a producer of revenue for him, the value of the property should not be used against him in relation to his eligibility for a pension. I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that, despite its pious promises prior to the general election, many of the anomalies in the pensions legislation have not been dealt with in this measure. 1 now refer to the iniquitous adequate maintenance provision. That vision applies to cases in which an infant child applies for an invalid pension and is refused the full pension or a part of it because the wageearner in the home of the invalid receives more than a certain limited income. I desire to bring to the attention of the House the details of some cases which will indicate the harsh way in which this adequate maintenance provision operates. The first case is that of a father who earns £10 a week and supports his wife, one child aged ten years and the applicant invalid child. In addition, this man has an invalid mother and an invalid sister who do not reside with him, but are maintained by him. When his child applied for a pension the adequate maintenance provision was applied and a pension of only 10s. a week was granted to the applicant girl. The second case is that of a father who earns £9 10s. a week and maintains himself, his wife, two children of school age and the applicant child aged seventeen years. The invalid child in that case received the magnificent pension of £1 a week. I submit that application of the adequate maintenance provision to such cases is a travesty of justice, and a system that should not be allowed to continue. That illustrates the contrast between the things that happen under a Liberal government and those that have happened under Labour governments. I have had some experience of the administration of the Department of Social Services, and have come in contact with the very reputable and decent people who apply for pensions. I say that there are enough injustices in the present Social Services Consolidation Act to warrant a complete review of the whole act. Every honorable member of this House should pay a tribute to the administrative work of the Department of Social Services. I do not think that any government department throughout the whole of Australia is better administered than is this department. The officers of the department are men who have given their lives to the administration of social services. They know their work thoroughly, and during the course of their very competent public service they have not only conferred a benefit upon the community and upon the applicants for pensions, but also have done credit to themselves. The 7s. 6d. increase proposed in this measure is not so valuable as it appears to be at first acquaintance. No practical attempt has been made to solve the problem of the means test. I admit that that is a great problem. No attempt has been made to ease the position of recipients of superannuation or retirement pensions who, because of their income from that source, are debarred from receiving social services benefits. Neither that anomaly nor any of the many others has been dealt with, and yet the Treasurer **(Mr. Fadden)** and the members of the Government have the audacity to suggest that this measure is a great achievement and a milestone on the road of human progress, whereas in actual fact it is a very small contribution to the programme of social services, the advancement of which should be the desire of every enlightened community. {: #subdebate-20-0-s11 .speaker-KCQ} ##### Mr GRAHAM:
St. George .- I rise to support the Social Services Consolidation Bill (No. 2) 1950, which will extend the benefits provided in the Social Services Consolidation Act. I have not been impressed by the standard of the debate on this measure and the tendency to utilize the legislation for party political propaganda. In expressing the view that legislation of this type should be dealt with from a national and not from a party stand-point, I think that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of honorable members on this side of the House and, I suspect, of the majority of honorable members of the Opposition. I agree with the honorable member for Hoddle **(Mr. Cremean)** that the time is now ripe for a review of the whole matter of social services. I believe that the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee, which could prepare a contributory scheme and arrange for the abolition of the means test, would be a very good move. With all parties represented on such a committee, the representative brains, if not the selective brains,, of the community, would be able to concentrate on the preparation of a scheme to place before the Parliament. That would have the effect of divorcing the social services programme from politics. I do npt propose to deal with the history of social services, because that has. been quite ably dealt with by the honorable member for Sturt **(Mr. Wilson),** the honorable member for Evans **(Mr. Osborne)** and other honorable members. They have proved that no single political party can claim the sole right to be praised for the introduction of social services legislation. I believe that the Government should be congratulated for increasing the provision for social services from the £44,500,000 expended last year to the £55,500,000 which it is expected will be expended in this financial year. Earlier this year, when I was speaking during the debate on the child endowment legislation, I said that I thought that it would be a fit and proper indication of our progress and civilization if we developed a social awareness and improved the living standards of all classes and groups in the community. During the last 45 or 50 years the standard of living of the people of this country has improved tremendously. In that connexion I direct the attention of the House to the arguments put forward to-day by honorable members of the Opposition in relation te this particular measure. The basis of their criticism is that such is the rising cost of living that the increase of the pensions contemplated by this measure will be insufficient, to meet the increased needs of the pensioners caused by therise of the cost of living. During the last four or five months I have endeavoured to make a study of the cost of living. I am sure that most honorable members have done the same. Therefore. I say that whilst we are prone to-day tocompare the Australian £1 with the £1 of some ten or twelve years ago and to speak about the decrease of its purchasing power, we are inclined to overlook the fact that if the Australian £1 to-day is worth 10s. compared with its 1938 value, it is worth about ls. 6d. compared with its 1905 value. However, no intelligent Australian will disagree with me when I say that the standard of living in this country has improved greatly over the last 45 or 46 years. As this matter is of vital importance to the House and, is the basis of the criticism that has been levelled by the Opposition against the Government in regard to putting value back into the £1 and in regard to social services legislation, that fact should be remembered together with the fact that we are living in an inflationary world. I desire to quote some figures that were collected by the Reynolds Agency, which is a pro-Labour organization and has in the past been affected by the tory castigation of the British Labour party. According to those figures, which were published a short time ago, a dozen eggs cost in Britain 3s. 6d., in Australia 2s. 6£d., in the United States 5s., in Canada 5s. Id., in South Africa 3s., and in New Zealand 3s. A pound of tea cost 3s. 4d. in Britain, 2s. 8d. in Australia, 8s. 9d. in the United States, 7s. 6d. in Canada, 7s. in South Africa, and 6s. 2d. in New Zealand. A number of other items were mentioned in the report, and they all indicate that the inflation which affects all pensions and all fixed incomes is not local but is world wide. The cost of living has risen during the last 50 years and I believe that the £1 to-day will purchase about as much as 2s. 6d. or ls. 6d. would buy in 1905. That being so, it is not possible to say that our standard of living as distinct from our cost of living is lower to-day than it was in 1905. I am confident that all honorable members will heartily endorse that point. The old ladies and the old gentlemen who are to be helped by this legislation, as the honorable member for Sturt and the honorable member for Evans have said, have made a great contribution to the welfare of our country. They have produced the sons and daughters who went overseas to participate in the fight for our freedom and thus gave to us that great national heritage which is a part of our way of life. It is a gross affront to the dignity of those people that their rights should be bandied about in the Parliament for the purpose of party political propaganda. It is an indication of the not very high level of politics in this country. That is another reason why I believed it would be a desirable thing if the whole matter of social services were divorced from party politics. A parliamentary all-party committee could be set up to consider social services legislation for the next ten years. I do not believe it to be correct to say that pensions should be tied irrevocably to the basic wage, because I regard a pension as being, not a sum that is provided to sustain life, but an individual portion of the total amount that the country can afford to devote to this purpose. I believe that the 'best social and economic advisers of our country would advise this Government against tying the pensions to the basic wage. These pensions should be reviewed 'by some form of arbitration tribunal, and it would be a very desirable thing if some form of court were established to deal with them. I am not impressed with the Opposition's argument that the pension should be tied to the basic wage. I challenge the accuracy of several statements that the honorable member for Hoddle made. Figures that I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that if the age and ' invalid pension had remained tied to the basic wage it would now be 4s. 9d. less than the existing rate and correspondingly lower than the pension that will be payable when the rate is increased by 7s. 6d. a week to £2 10s. a week. However, in 1949, when the Chifley Government was in office the right honorable member for Barton **(Dr. Evatt)** introduced legislation to divorce the pension rate from the basic wage In that year it amounted to £1 7s. a week. If the pension had remained tied to the basic wage that sum would have been related to a cost of living index figure of 1125 and in September of this year it would have been increased to £1 17s. 9d. so as to relate it to the then cost of living index figure of 1572, the cost of living having increased by '39.7 per cent, between those dates. Thus, had the old system of tying the pension to the basic wage been retained, the pension would now be 12s. 3d. a week less than is to be provided under this measure. The honorable member for Hoddle also said that 90 per cent, of pensioners will b* absolutely dependent upon the age pension of £2 10s. a week. If that is actually a fact, the Government should review the subject of pensions as a whole, because in view of existing prices pensioners would have a very limited expectation of life. The proposal to increase general pension rates is in line with the action that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took recently when it announced an increase of the basic wage by £1 a week on the ground that the minimum wage payable in industry should reflect the increased prosperity of the nation as a whole. If the country could not afford to increase existing pensions rates, .the Government would be morally bound to refuse to do so. During the last general election campaign I criticized the present Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley),** who was then Prime Minister and Treasurer, for his refusal to increase all classes of pensions including those payable to ex-service personnel. If the right honorable gentleman sincerely believed that he was justified in coming to that decision he was morally bound to adhere to it. However, the present Government parties view this matter from a different stand-point. On the recommendation of the Treasurer that the country can afford to increase pensions the Government has introduced this bill, which in due course will be supplemented by other measures dealing with social services benefits and thus will do much to develop the social conscience of the nation. I have said in this House on previous occasions that communism, socialism and intense militant unionism owe their existence to the failure of our forefathers, particularly during the last century, to develop a national social conscience. I trust that in the near future the Government will liberalize social services benefits still further. I repeat that the whole subject of social services should be entirely removed from the odious atmosphere of party politics. {: #subdebate-20-0-s12 .speaker-JVA} ##### Mr MORGAN:
Reid .- I commend the Government for having introduced this bill, which will provide a measure of relief to needy sections of the community, including the aged, the invalid, widows, the unemployed, the sick and the blind. However, its introduction is long overdue. Having regard to the degree to which the cost of living has risen during recent years the Government has not gone as far as it should have gone. It has overlooked the claims of many deserving pensioners to more generous treatment. The proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week will be helpful to those who are in receipt of income in addition to their pension. Pensioners who are also receiving superannuation, or retirement benefits have an income on the average of approximately £8 a week, and, particularly if they own their own homes, are in a fairly comfortable position. In view of the vagaries of the economic system they are indeed fortunate. In the main, they are persons who have retired from the public service or have had the good fortune to have been employed by wise employers. However, such persons are the least numerous of those to whom relief is to be given under this bill. Other pensioners will find it difficult even to subsist on the pension of £2 10s. a week. I urge the Government to liberalize the means test in order to enable pensioners to receive an income, including the pension itself, equal to the basic wage. Under that provision many persons would be enabled to reap the benefit of thrifty habits in the years during which they worked. It would encourage thrift generally on the part of individuals and also encourage liberal-minded employers to provide allowances for their employees when the latter retire. I also commend the Government for its proposal to exempt from the means test in respect of unemployment benefit the disability pension paid to ex-service personnel. That improvement is long overdue. When the principal act was being considered I strongly advocated that it should be made. I also welcome the liberalization of the means test in respect of blind pensioners who will thus be permitted to earn an income of £8 a week in addition to the pension of £2 10s. a week. Under that provision a blind person who is single may have an income of £10 10s. a week and married pensioners in that class an income of £13 a week. However, the Government should grant more generous assistance to blind pensioners generally because the majority of them are not able to earn very much income by their own efforts although they are anxious and willing to do so. During the war many blind persons were engaged in munitions factories, in which they rendered yeoman service for which they were officially commended .by the government of the day. The average blind person is of stout heart and makes up in spirit what he, or she, lacks because of blindness. The Government should provide greater opportunities for the employment of blind persons whose contribution to the community in peace-time is just as valuable as that which they made to it in war-time. Generally, private employers are not prepared to employ blind persons because of the risk of accident and accident insurance companies are not inclined to accept policies in respect of them. In addition, the regulations of many public utilities, such as, the railways, specifically preclude blind persons from entering their employ. I have endeavoured without success to obtain employment for many blind persons who reside in my electorate. Their difficulties are illustrated by the case of the blind pensioner who set up a stall in a city street to supplement his pension by selling various articles. He was obliged to be in attendance at his stall in all sorts of weather, and he endeavoured without success to persuade various business people to allow him to set up his stall in an alcove attached to their premises. The welfare of another section of the community also has been entirely ignored in the past. The matter has been raised in this House on several occasions, and I cannot understand why the Government does not give sympathetic consideration to it. I refer to invalids under twenty-one years of age, who reside with their parents, and in respect of whom the invalid pension is not payable because of the operation of the adequate maintenance provision. Briefly, the pension is not payable when the income of a family exceeds the rate of £2 10s. a unit. To indicate the anomalies that arise from the operation of that provision, I cite a case that came to my notice in my electorate. The lad concerned i3 nineteen years of age, and resides with his parents. The father has an income of £9 or £10 a week. The lad is permanently incapacitated as a result of an accident at birth. His eyesight is impaired, and the muscles of his limbs are so seriously affected that he cannot properly control them. This is an amazing case, and emphasizes the need for the appointment of a social security committee, as was suggested by the honorable member for St. George **(Mr. Graham),** to examine cases that are not covered by the existing legislation, and to make recommendations to the Government about them. An extraordinary number, of anomalies have arisen from the case to which I refer, and I shall mention them. They are: (1) The operation of the so-called adequate maintenance provision makes him ineligible for the invalid pension. (2) He is also ineligible for the unemployment benefit because he has never worked, and, indeed, is never likely to work. The unemployment benefit is payable only to a person who is temporarily unemployed. (3) He is ineligible for the sickness benefit because, being a permanent invalid, he is not covered by the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. (4) His doctor recommends the use of certain drugs for his medical condition, and the account for them is approximately £5 a month. Because those drugs are not included in the formulary of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the parents are not able to obtain them free of charge. (5) The lad was taken by his parent to an osteopath or chiropractor, but because he is not receiving orthodox medical treatment, the father is not able to claim a deduction of income tax in respect of that expense. Actually, he has expended £75 on such treatment during the last eighteen months. (6) As the lad is over sixteen years of age, the father is not entitled to claim a deduction of income tax for maintaining him. The Government is making provision in the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1950, under which parents may claim as a deduction for income tax purposes certain amounts in respect of children over sixteen years of age who attend school, but this lad will not be covered .by it. (7) The father was recently stricken with pneumonia, and his application for dependants' allowance for the boy with the sickness benefit was rejected by the Department of Social Services. (8) The father, because the boy's eyesight is seriously impaired, applied for a blind pension on his behalf. The decision was adverse on the ground that the lad was not completely blind. I consider that some allowance should be made for partial blindness. (9) In desperation, the parent applied to the New South Wales Department of Social Services for an allowance, only to be informed that no provision was made to cover such a case. However, the State Minister for Health offered to place the boy in an institution, but he would have been put with mental defectives, and such a situation would have been impossible. He is in possession of his mental faculties. {: .speaker-KCC} ##### Mr Davies: -- His luck is out. {: .speaker-JVA} ##### Mr MORGAN: -- Yes, completely. The parents took the view that the boy should remain in their care, and should not be placed in an institution in which he might be pushed round from pillar to post among mentally afflicted persons. (10) His mother is now a nervous wreck, and, as I have indicated, the father's health is breaking down. Their condition is attributable to anxiety, and to their financial responsibilities for the lad. The social services legislation does not provide means by which the mother may obtain assistance in the home. As I mentioned, she has to take the lad for medical treatment from time to time. Voluntary organizations such as the Australian Women's Mutual Aid are trying to assist in such cases, but governmental help is also needed. The act should contain a dragnet provision giving to the Minister or to the Director-General of Social Services discretionary power to deal with hardluck cases of that kind. The present policy is short-sighted, because the health of the parents of that lad will break down, and they will become invalids and a charge on the Commonwealth. My criticism of this bill may be summed up in the words that the Government is spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar by the niggardly policy that it is adopting in certain respects. A new practice has apparently been adopted by the Department of Social Services of calling upon age and invalid pensioners to answer questionnaires about their private lives, activities and incomes. It appears to be completely contrary to the Government's apparently sympathetic policy, as is indicated by its decision to increase pensions. I cannot understand the purpose behind the issue of those questionnaires. Age and invalid pensioners are being subjected to crossexamination, and, in short, are being called upon to go to work. The Minister for Social Services, in a public statement recently, expressed the opinion that it was better for aged people to have some kind of work to do. I do not know whether he was referring to the economics of the position, whether he was eager to conserve Commonwealth revenues, or whether a new medical theory has been evolved to the effect that it is better for people to wear out than to rust out. However, a deliberate policy seems to have been put, into operation in the Department of Social Services, the officers of which appear to be acting under definite instructions to get pensioners to resume work. It was brought to my notice last week that an invalid pensioner, who resides in my electorate, has received that kind of attention from the department. He was compulsorily retired from the New South Wales Railways Department in 1948, because of a heart condition. The medical officer of that department certified that he would be permanently unfit for employment. He successfully applied for an invalid pension, and the inference is that the Commonwealth medical officer, acting for the Department of Social Services, certified him to be totally and permanently incapacitated, or at least 85 per cent, incapacitated, because that is the qualification for the invalid pension. That man was astonished last May to receive a notification to visit the Commonwealth Medical Officer at Parramatta for a further examination. He was examined on the 19th May, and heard nothing more about the matter until he received another notification from the department in July warning him that if he did not attend for a medical examination his invalid pension was likely to be suspended. He immediately went to the doctor, who commented that something must be wrong, and advised him to communicate with the department immediately. His wife, acting on his behalf, explained to the department that he had been medically examined, yet he received a communication from the department on the 6th August informing him that his pension had been cancelled. He immediately went to the Commonwealth Medical Officer, and informed him of the position. The doctor advised him to see the department at once. He accepted that advice, and saw a departmental officer, who telephoned the doctor and ascertained that he had been examined. But he received a notification that his pension had been suspended, and a month elapsed before it was restored. His wife's allowance was also suspended. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr Treloar: -- Did he not approach the honorable gentleman about the matter? {: .speaker-JVA} ##### Mr MORGAN: -- He did. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr Treloar: -- Did not the honorable gentleman have it adjusted for him? {: .speaker-JVA} ##### Mr MORGAN: -- He came to me only a week ago. He was instructed to go to the doctor for an examination on. the 6th September and he received a notification from the department on the 10th November to the effect that his pension had been cancelled, but that payments would be continued until the 14th December. "Why did the department decide to pay the pension until that date if it considered that he was not entitled to it? A footnote to that notification may provide the answer. He was told *to* report to the Commonwealth Employment Officer at Granville for employment. Something must be radically wrong. There has been a change for the worse in the social services administration. Honorable members will readily appreciate the nature of that man's dilemma. Three medical officers have certified that he is totally and permanently incapacitated on account of heart trouble, but now he has been told that he must work. There is no need for me to stress the seriousness of his ailment or the depressing psychological effect of those circumstances upon him. He cannot even do light work without grave risk to himself. The employment officer in his district will be informed by the Social Services Department that he is fit for work and will have no option but to direct him to some sort of job. The man's condition must be aggravated by the worry and anxiety that have been caused by the department's decision. Its actions seem to be in brutal conformity with the opinion of the Minister for Social Services that pensioners will be better off if they work. What sort of work can they do when they have one foot virtually in the grave? In fact, if they work at all, they will be digging their own graves. There should be a searching inquiry into the conduct of the Department of Social Services in relation' to this matter. I agree with the honorable member for St. George **(Mr. Graham)** that the Parliamentary Social Security Committee should be reconstituted. It could investigate many of the anomalies that still mar our social, services legislation. The all-party committee that was established in 1943 by the Labour Government of the day did excellent work. Very properly it took the view that social services should be above party politics and it submitted many useful recommendations that were eventually embodied in the statute-bows. I regret that the present Government is not prepared to re-establish the committee. In fact, the parties that compose it refused to co-operate with the Chifley Government from 1946 onwards in continuing the work of the committee. Recently, I asked the Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** a number of questions on this subject and urged him to re-appoint the committee with a view to helping those unfortunate members of the community who are in need of help but whose problems are not dealt with by the existing social services legislation. I am sure that all honorable members are sympathetic towards these persons and that many of them would be willing to serve on such a useful body as the Social Security Committee. **Mr.** ROBERTON (Riverina) [5,341.- I rise to speak with a twofold purpose. First, I want to atone, if I can, for my excesses in the early hours of this morning when I was discussing another bill. The best way in which I can do that is to confine my remarks on this measure to a very brief space of time. Secondly, I express my satisfaction that the Government has seen fit to introduce this measure, which will provide increased benefits for people who richly deserve our help. My task will be comparatively easy because the honorable member for Reid **(Mr. Morgan)** has generously accepted the Government's proposals, subject only to certain minor qualifications that are shared by honorable members on both sides of the House. I was deeply touched 'by the circumstances of the last pitiful case that the honorable member mentioned. He said, in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Treloar),** that he had had only a week in which to deal with the case. I think that it is my duty to suggest to him that, if he cannot obtain a satisfactory result within a week in such an urgent case, he might avail himself of my services. I shall be glad to do whatever I can to assist him. The bill is designed to increase age, invalid and widows' pensions and to make certain other concessions to the recipients of those and other social services benefits. It is another public demonstration of the political good faith of the Government, because it represents the fulfilment of a promise that was made to the electors last December. Members of the present Government parties told the community that, if they were elected to office, the whole social services scheme would be thoroughly examined and its benefits would be increased if that were financially and politically possible. After having been in office for eleven months, the Government has presented this measure, which will give effect to that undertaking. It is merely one of a long sequence of bills which will fulfil the pledges that we made to the people. Many people, unfortunately, have been deluded into the belief that there need be no limits to the social benefits that they can obtain without having to pay for them. The time has come for every good Australian man, woman and child to realize that, notwithstanding the classconscious magnanimity of the Labour party from time to time, the people themselves must pay in the final analysis for their own social services. Furthermore, they can pay only in two ways. They can pay, as they are doing to-day, through production, or they can pay by means of some sort of inflationary process that will inject into the economy of the nation incredible sums of money that will not reflect the value of production. The latter expedient would endanger the economic security not only of every individual in the community but also of the nation as a whole. Therefore, the only satisfactory way to finance social services is by means of production. . The Government has been able to provide for the payment of increased social service benefits and for other concessions to nearly 500,000 citizens only because its programme is backed by production. Unhappily, the production of the nation is being maintained to-day only by one section of the people - the valiant men and women who are engaged in the primary industries and are still playing the game of life according to the old rules of true democracy. {: .speaker-KCC} ##### Mr Davies: -- What about the miners? {: #subdebate-20-0-s13 .speaker-KZE} ##### Mr ROBERTON: -- There is no need for members of the Opposition to interject. They have only to cry *touche* and I shall know that they have been mortally wounded. Some members of the Opposition have spoken to-day of the wealth that is pouring into the country. But they have shown only one side of the picture. It would be much more accurate to say that wealth is pouring out of the country. All the primary export industries are working at full blast. That cannot be said with truth of many of our secondary industries and tertiary industries. Only because our primary industries are functioning according to the old rules and the export parity prices for their products are relatively high is the Government in a position to introduce legislation such as the measure that we are now considering, thus increasing its financial commitments to a degree that the previous Administration could not even contemplate. The people are paying for these social benefits with production, and I fervently hope that they will continue to do so. However, the time has come to warn Australia that, should anything happen to our primary industries, as the result of either adverse seasonal conditions or adverse economic circumstances, the national income will fall. In that event, it would he impossible for us to provide adequate relief for the old, the bereft, the sick and the unemployed. Members of the Opposition have brought up a generation of Australians to believe that social services can be extended indefinitely with impunity. They preach the gospel that all that is necessary is to sting the rich. Unfortunately, our rich are not rich enough or numerous enough. Therefore, sooner or later all the glorious social services of which members of the Opposition speak so glibly must become anti-social and strike at the very people whom they are intended to serve. That is typical not only of many social services but also of many of our public utilities to-day. Members of the Opposition believe, because of their spurious political philosophy, that incidental costs can be raised in order to meet every difficult financial situation. The result of that belief can be seen in our congested city areas, where public utility services have become so costly to operate that their maintenance has become a penalty upon the lowly men and women who, of necessity, are obliged to use them. The owners of motor cars, for example, are not obliged to bear the burden of supporting State transport services. I emphasize the fact that ultimately all such projects must become anti-social and lead to the ruin of the people whom they are designed to serve if they are carried to extreme limits without regard for political, social and economic consequences. Honorable members of the Opposition have led me to believe that they presuppose that production will remain constant no matter what happens to the primary industries and that export parity prices will also remain constant. That is not and has never been the true position. If conditions become too onerous for primary industries those who are engaged in them will resort to the only measure of defence available to them. They will contract their production just as secondary and tertiary industries have contracted their production to the bare minimum necessary to enable them to operate. That would spell disaster for this country. The Government has no control over the prices structure. It has no control over prices so far as export industries are concerned. Primary industry is chained to the chariot wheels of export parity prices and must go wherever that chariot goes. I know that there are anomalies in this bill. But this is a truly democratic Government and I have every confidence that those anomalies will be corrected as rapidly as possible. It is necessary thai there shall be sympathetic interpretation of a measure such as this and I' believe that that sympathetic interpretation will be made. Like other honorable members, I could mention harrowing cases in my electorate. It is the manifest duty of all honorable members to do what they can as rapidly as they can to correct these anomalies. I favour the quick and total abolition of the means test which can only be described as a penalty on thrift. It is a penalty on the provident and on the acceptance of the social responsibilities which are fundamental to democratic society. If the people of this or of any other British country ever become entirely dependent on the State for their subsistence they will lose the freedom that was so dearly won for them by those who have gone before. They will lose all that they have had to defend twice in the last 50 years and will become serfs of the socialist State. I therefore support this bill which will give aid to the sick, the maimed and the unemployed and will enable them to keep their places as reputable members of a democratic society. I support the statements of the honorable member for Reid **(Mr. Morgan),** who accepted these proposals without reservation. {: #subdebate-20-0-s14 .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS:
Shortland -- Having lived all my life in the greatest industrial city in Australia I have had the sad experience of seeing men and women grow old many years before their time and I have seen them fall by the wayside of industry because of the conditions under which they have lived and worked. I have witnessed the struggle of our aged and invalid to survive. I am disappointed by the measure that is now being debated because it will do nothing whatsoever to improve the lot of these people. I am sure that if the honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Roberton)** would act in the interests of the aged and invalid as well as he has talked about them he would do a good job, but honorable members who support the Government have used this piece of legislation as a political football. Like the honorable member for Oxley **(Dr. Donald Cameron)** I do not care who initiated age and invalid pensions but I do care about the failure of the Government to honour its promise to the people. Prior to the last general election the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** said that when his party was returned to office it would set about adjusting the anomalies that existed in social services legislation and would increase the value of pensions 4>y raising their purchasing power. The Government has done neither of those things. It has in no way tried to ?halt the spiralling of prices. This measure could be the most important piece of legislation introduced into this Parliament during this session, but Government exporters have used it as a political toy because they have been unable to satisfy the requirements of the aged and the invalid. This afternoon the honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Pearce)** cried with crocodile tears in his eyes while pleading the cause of the age pensioners and relating how the dear old mothers and fathers of this nation had helped to populate the country and to carry out the pioneering work that had to be done. He claimed that they were receiving too little' at present for the service that they had rendered to the country. Yet in the same breath he told the House with a feeling of pride that the Government proposed to increase the pensions of these old people by 7s. 6d. a week. I do not know what the pensioners of Capricornia will think if they read the speech of the honorable member. During the time that this Government has been in office, while it has been considering whether it should give pensioners an increase of 7s. 6d. a week, the Arbitration Court has increased the basic wage by more than 30s. Yet Government supporters point with pride to this proposal to give the pensioners an additional 7s. 6d. ' a week. Pensioners are now in a worse plight than they have been in at any time since the depression. The Government has given a retrospective increase of salary of £500 to the Chief Justice of the High Court who could not see fit to give the workers a penny piece. Yet this paltry increase of 7s. 6d. a week for pensioners will be paid only from the 1st November. Many honorable members on the Government side of the House have chided the Opposition with having reduced pensions. It is true that during the year 1931 the Labour Government did reduce pensions, but it is also true that that reduction was made as a result of pressure by State Premiers at a time when the country was suffering from a depression. In discussing the Commonwealth Bank Board and the private trading banks of Australia from whom the Government was seeking assistance in order to get the country out of the depression **Mr. Scullin,** the then Prime Minister, said - >Interest is the big burden that is pressing on the community to-day, and that burden is rendered the heavier because of dropping prices, it is probably the greatest burden because it produces nothing. A direct cut in interest would be termed repudiation. Yet we are actually asked to cut pensions. Is it possible for any government to take that action while people are benefiting from high interest rates? > >The only alternative to the scheme suggested is to declare bodily that we will arbitrarily cut rates of interest, whereupon we should be charged with repudiation. How can the Government cut old-age and soldiers' pensions? We undertook to pay certain pensions to those who went into the trenches on behalf of their country and who came back crippled. How can the Government now tell these men that we intend to cut their pensions, while the man who lent his money in order that the war might be carried on is getting more than the interest that was given to him when he purchased his bonds. At. that time the Commonwealth Bank Board agreed to co-operate with the Government on certain conditions which included the re-absorption into industry of unemployed workers, the maintenance of national solvency, the maintenance of budget equilibrium and the equal spread of loss of income over all sections of the community. *Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.* {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- Before the suspension of the sitting I had acknowledged that in 1931 the leader of the Labour government of that time, the Eight Honorable James Scullin, was compelled by the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks to reduce pensions for aged and invalid .persons. The trading banks regarded that reduction as a part of their reward for assisting Australia to recover from the depression. However, within twelve months an administration led by the Right Honorable Joseph Lyons, who had " ratted " on the Australian Labour party in order to become Prime Minister, made a further reduction of 2s. 6d. a week, which lowered the pension to 15s. a week. He also introduced amending legislation, the effect of which was that close relatives of applicants had to submit to an investigation of their affairs in order that the government could determine whether they should undertake the duty of supporting their aged and invalid relatives. In 1937 the pension was restored to £1 a week, which was the same amount as was paid in 1925. Between 1937 and 1941, under an anti-Labour administration, only ls. was added to the pension rate. However, when Labour assumed office in 1941 it immediately increased the pension rate, and while it was in office it granted several increases, until in October, 1948, it raised the rate to £2 2s. 6d. a week. During that period, pensioners also had the benefit of the protection afforded to them by the National Security Regulations under which the government controlled prices. The present tragic predicament of pensioners is due almost entirely to the attitude adopted by the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** and a number of his colleagues when they were in Opposition. In 1947 the present Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley),** who was then Prime Minister, became convinced, as a result of his expert knowledge of economic matters and from information that he obtained during a visit abroad, that Australia would probably be affected by the world-wide inflationary spiral if the regulations under which .prices control was exercised, were invalidated. For that reason the right honorable gentleman introduced a bill to authorize the conduct of a referendum on rents and prices control, and urged the people at that referendum to confer on the Commonwealth permanent power to control prices. Notwithstanding the grave threat presented to the national economy by inflation overseas, the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now Prime Minister, and his colleagues determinedly resisted the Government's appeal for permanent power to control prices? {: #subdebate-20-0-s15 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order ! I do not think that the honorable member's remarks are related to any provision in the bill. {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- The soaring cost of commodities since prices control was discontinued is a matter that affects every member of the community, and it has had a particularly severe effect on persons in receipt of pensions. For that reason I submit, **Mr. Deputy Speaker,** that the referendum on control of prices has a direct relationship to the measure we are discussing. Although Australia now has a huge surplus of foodstuffs which it is exporting, and from which, incidentally, the national income benefits by hundreds of millions of pounds annually, persons who are dependent on pensions cannot afford to purchase the food that they need. Before you called me to order, **Mr. Deputy Speaker,** I was pointing out that because of the attitude adopted by the anti-Labour parties when the referendum on control of rents and prices was held in 1948, the people refused to give to the Commonwealth the permanent power to control rents and prices. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr Treloar: -- The people did not trust the Labour Government of that time. {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- The honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Treloar)** knows that what I am saying is true, because he has engaged in one of the biggest rackets in relation to prices. Ask the people of north-western New South Wales what they have to say about the honorable gentleman, who has just interjected to the effect that the people did not trust Labour. He organized for three years in the electorate of Gwydir so as to defeat. the former honorable member for that electorate, **Mr. Scully.** He made plenty, of money out of the people of the electorate while so engaged. The defeat of the referendum on rents and prices control had most disastrous consequences for the people of Australia, and particularly for the pensioners and others who are dependent upon fixed incomes. Perhaps I can explain most forcefully to honorable gentlemen the consequences to the people of that defeat by citing official statistics which indicate very clearly the sharp and unjustified increases of the prices of certain everyday commodities. They have been compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and make a comparison of the cost of certain basic commodities in Sydney between March, 1948, when prices control was discontinued, and July, 1950. They are as follows: - >Of course, honorable members opposite do not like to hoar those figures because they indicate the alarming degree to which the cost of living has increased in the last two years. One has only to insider the present prices of the commodities in the list that I have read to realize that they are beyond the reach of pensioners. Yet the present Government proposes to give to the pensioners a miserable increase of 7s. 6d. a week to offset the increased cost of living ! I should imagine that the statistics that I have just cited disprove absolutely the contention of the Government that the cost of living has not increased since it attained office. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable gentleman is entitled to make a passing reference to the increase of prices insofar as it concerns his argument, but I will not permit him to make a lengthy speech on the increase of food prices, which has nothing to do with the measure now before the Chair. {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- I am not endeavouring to make a speech on the increase of prices, but am merely pointing out that the increase of the cost of living, which is affecting pensioners so seriously, is due to the fact that the present Prime Minister and his supporters opposed Labour's proposal in 1948 that the people should confer on the Commonwealth permanent power to control rents and prices. I have developed that branch of my argument in order to demonstrate the inadequacy of the increase of pensions proposed by the Government in this measure. Instead of offering to pensioners a miserable increase of 7s. 6d. a week, the Government should bring the pensions up to the level of the basic wage. I realize that Labour has been criticized because it introduced legislation to repeal the provision that pensions should be varied in accordance with rises and falls of the basic wage. However, I do not think that Labour was wrong in introducing legislation to release pensions from their relationship to the basic wage. I do not believe that pensions should be fixed in relation to the basic wage until age pensions are increased to the level of the basic wage and are granted, not only to aged and invalid men but also to their wives. Although pensioners are unable to purchase fresh vegetables, fruit and other commodities that are necessary to maintain a decent standard of living, growers are ploughing vegetables back into the ground because there is not sufficient demand for them at the present high prices. What is the Government doing to correct that situation? {: .speaker-JLU} ##### Mr CHARLES ANDERSON:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP -- The allegations made by the honorable gentleman concerning vegetable growers are completely unfounded. {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- It cannot be denied that farmers are ploughing vegetables back into the ground because the present prices do not suit them. It i3 equally clear that pensioners cannot afford to pay the present prices of vegetables, and I say, therefore, that they are being deprived of them. Although the Government introduced a budget to authorize the expenditure of approximately £738,000,000, which, incidentally, is an increase of £127,000,000 over the expenditure for the last financial year, it offers pensioners a paltry increase of 7s. 6d. a week! *Government supporters interjecting,* {: .speaker-KFG} ##### Mr GRIFFITHS: -- It is all very well for honorable gentlemen opposite to interject, but we know that most of them are waxing fat on double incomes. They are receiving their parliamentary allowance of £1,500 a year, and, in addition, they are receiving huge incomes from their grazing and other interests. If some of them had been forced to live on the bare necessaries of life, as ordinary persons have been forced to live, they would have understood that it was necessary to ensure that pensioners should receive a proper increase of their pensions. Although the Government parties promised that they would take steps to give some stability of living conditions to pensioners they have done nothing to increase the purchasing power of pensions. The promise to do so was made through the medium of the GovernorGeneral's speech at the opening of this Parliament, in which the following statement occurred: - >My Government realizes that the increase in the cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners in particular have to contend. . . . My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to see what can be done to' remove them. It believes, moreover, that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency, so that pensioners, as well as other fixed income groups, will benefit. The Government has done nothing to rectify the numerous anomalies that exist in social services legislation, because of which many people are unable to obtain the full rate of pension to which they are really entitled. Recently I came into contact with the case of a pensioner aged 67 years, who has a" wife aged 59 years. Although he was unable to work his wife failed to obtain a wife's allowance. Upon applying for the allowance the applicant found that she was not deemed to be 85 per cent, incapacitated and, therefore, was not eligible to receive the allowance. It was even indicated that the pensioner himself was not 85 per cent, incapacitated, and so his pension rate was left at £2 2s. 6d. a week, on which sum he had to support himself and his wife. Yet that pensioner who was considered not to be 85 per cent, incapacitated died within eight months. I believe that many of the difficulties of pensioners and applicants for pensions are due to the fact that many of the administrative officers of the Department of Social Services interpret too strictly the legislative provisions that govern pensions. I know of a case that occurred in Newcastle recently; it concerned a deaf person who personally visited the Department of Social Services in connexion with an application for a pension and asked for the address of the federal members' rooms in that city. The girl who attended to him wrote down the address for him. On the same piece of paper she also wrote "Don't come back again unless you bring someone with you ". I brought that incident under the notice of the officer in charge, and he took action upon it. That girl is typical of the social services officials with whom the public has to deal. A Newcastle doctor who is the Commonwealth medical referee, is one of the worst doctors that it would be possible to find in the whole of Australia. Dozens of women have come to me in tears and have said that they would not go back to consult that individual again because he is not prepared to deal with their cases as they should be dealt with. Much unhappiness is caused to pensioners and applicants for pensions .because some of the officers in the Department of Social Services do not know how to deal properly with the general public. I have admitted that there are decent officers in that department, but there are also others who are not prepared to do the job as it should he done, for the reason that this ,Government has already put the screws on and has told them that they have to examine each case closely. It is interesting to note that members of the Government try to excuse those individuals by saying that they are only trying to do their job properly. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable gentleman's time has expired. {: #subdebate-20-0-s16 .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK:
Bass .- I rise to commend this bill to the House and to congratulate the Government upon having made provision for the largest increase of age, invalid and widows' pensions in the history of Australia. We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite to the effect that the increase is not enough. I should like the increase to have been greater, particularly for pensioners who do not live in their own homes, had it been economically possible for that to have been done. [ know of many instances of pensioners who own - their own homes being unable to gain possession of them and being forced to pay higher rents for the premises they occupy than they receive from their tenants. That anomaly needs rectification. I urge the Government to give the earliest possible consideration to means of overcoming that injustice. My experience is that most pensioners are very grateful for the proposed increase. I, and, I understand, other honorable members on this side of the House, have received letters from pensioners' organizations expressing themselves as happy about the proposed increase. At least the Government has honoured its pledge to them. Twice before the suspension of the sitting the honorable member for Shortland **(Mr. Griffiths)** stated that this Government had done nothing to assist pensioners. I suppose he said it the first time because it sounded good and on the second occasion possibly in order to convince himself that it was correct, because I am certain that he convinced nobody else. He also said that in 1931 the then Prime Minister, **Mr. Scullin,** was under the direction of the Commonwealth Bank Board and was forced by it to reduce pensions. I point out that had **Mr. Scullin** been strong enough he could have insisted on maintaining the pension rate and effecting economies in other directions. But he was not strong enough. The comprehensive shopping list that the honorable member for Shortland o noted failed altogether to disprove that in 1949, when the Chifley Govern ment was defeated, prices were approximately the same as they are now. No appreciable increases of prices have occurred since this Government took office, with the possible exception of the increases of the prices of certain vegetables, which, of course, are subject to the fluctuations of seasonal demand and to the shortages of supply caused by the recent disastrous floods. The " C " series index for the September, 1948, quarter was 1,311 and for the December, 1949, quarter it was 1,466. In the ratio of 1.466 to 1,311 the amount that would have been necessary to give the pension in December, 1949, the same purchasing power as it had in September, 1948, would have been 47s. 6d. The " C " series figure for the September, 1950, quarter was 1,572. In the ratio of .1,572 to 1,311 the pension would now have to be 50s. lid. a week for it to have the same purchasing power as it had in September, 1948. {: .speaker-JSW} ##### Mr Bryson: -- That contradicts the honorable member's own statement. {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -- I need not comment on the rest of the speech of the honorable member for Shortland because of its illinformed nature. I personally consider that the present measure is most important. I have always taken a very keen interest in the problems of pensioners because I regard them as a section of the community that deserves the support and sympathetic consideration of everybody. One of the first tasks that I engaged in after my election to the Parliament was an investigation of the circumstances and conditions of pensioners. My investigations showed me that there were many cases of extreme hardship and distress. I consider that the present measure, containing as it does provisions for increases of pension rates and other concessions, shows very clearly that this Government has the interests of all pensioners well and truly at heart, that it is showing its interest in a practical manner, and that it is prepared to assist pensioners in every possible way. Age pensioners in particular seem to me to be of a very fine type and the fact that they have qualified for the age pension indicates in itself that they have contributed a great deal to this country in good citizenship. For that reason alone they are entitled to all that it is economically possible and reasonable to give to them. So many deliberately misleading statements have been made by honorable members opposite that I propose to quote briefly from the Liberal party's platform on social services, which reads, in part, as follows: - >Generous provision by means of an effective social insurance scheme, for superannuation, incapacity, sick pay, medical and the like expenses, unemployment, widowhood, and family endowment. All children to be provided for by child endowment . . . > >No means test. The means test is the inevitable consequences of non-contributory social services, and of a deterrent to thrift. Finally it states - >Adequate and permanent social services will necessarily require contribution by all persons in receipt of income, supplemented by grants from the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund. I consider that unless and until we can introduce such a scheme no government will be able to eradicate all the anomalies that exist in pensions schemes. I commend the excerpt that I have read to honorable members opposite who obviously are not aware of what the Liberal party stands for. I also have taken the trouble to examine closely the Labour party's platform. It has only one objective, which is the complete socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. {: .speaker-JPE} ##### Mr Bird: -- The old bogy ! {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -- The honorable member cannot deny the fact. I defy any member of the Opposition to deny that I have stated correctly the objective of the Labour party. I now turn to the present Prime Minister's policy speech, which has been so grossly misquoted by honorable members opposite. I shall give the House one quotation in relation to social services ; it is- >Australia still needs acontributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and oldage. It is only by such a system that we can make allbenefitsa matter of right, and sogetcompletely rid of the means test. During the new Parliament we will further investigate thecomplicated problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval. Meanwhile existing rates of pension will of course, be at least maintained. The right honorable gentleman undertook to prepare during the life of this Parliament a scheme to abolish the means test and to present it to the people. At the same time he said that the then existing rates of pension would be at least maintained. He did not, as honorable members opposite continually claim, promise unlimited increases. {: .speaker-JSW} ##### Mr Bryson: **Mr. Bryson** *interjecting,* {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable member for Wills **(Mr. Bryson)** must cease interjecting. {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -- He said that the pension rate would be maintained, but in fact the Government has granted the substantial increase of 7s. 6d. a week, which is the largest increase of pensions ever to have been made in this' country. The Prime Minister said, further - >We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test, and of the penalty it imposes in many cases upon thrift. There are also grave anomalies associated with the position of persons who have contributed for their own superannuation benefits. I quote that for the purpose of answering some of the deliberate misstatements that have been made from time to time by honorable members opposite. Unfortunately, one of the features of all social services schemes is that all expenditure on them has an inflationary effect. That is because so much more purchasing power is released into the community and there is no corresponding increase of the production of goods. Therefore, desirable though it is to assist pensioners and other sections of the community, all social services payments must in effect, be inflationary. For that reason economic difficulties lie in the way of granting some of the fabulous increases suggested by honorable members opposite. It should be noted that during the last twelve months of Labour government, when honorable members opposite were in a position to increase pensions, they turned a deaf ear to all requests that they should do so. That was despite the fact that during the last three years of their term of office prices roseto a higher level than they had reached at any other time in Australia's history. Because there has been so much distortion of the history of social services in Australia, I have ascertained the correct details and I shall recite them for the benefit of honorable members opposite, who apparently do not know their social history. At one time Australia led the world in social reform. That was before the birth of the Labour party, definitely B.C.- "before Chif." Non-Labour governments, during their periods of office, maintained that lead over the rest of the world in social services legislation : I say this despite the claims of honorable members opposite. Old age pensions were first paid in Australia in 1901, by a non-Labour Government in Victoria. The Deakin Government first introduced a Commonwealth pensions scheme in 190S, the first payment under which was made in 1910. That scheme superseded the existing State schemes, none of which had been introduced by a Labour government. Paradoxically, the honour of being the first and only government to reduce pensions is attached to the Scullin Labour Government of 1931. Pensions were not restored to their original level until the Seullin Government was defeated, and the Lyons Government assumed office. It is quite clear from a reading of the history of the social services movement in Australia that non-Labour governments have consistently given the aged, the sick and the widows more consideration that has been given to them by Labour governments. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Brisbane **(Mr. George Lawson)** eulogizing the late Andrew Fisher. I venture to say that everybody in this House has the greatest respect and admiration for that gentleman, but the present Labour party can validly claim no connexion, either historical or other, with the Fisher Government. The difference between Andrew; Fisher's ideology and the ideology of the present Labour party is well exemplified by the incident which -took place in Queensland, when official Labour candidates were opposed by candidates known as the Andrew Fisher Labour candidates. They were members of a party which was endeavouring to restrain the extreme element that had crept into the Labour movement. Since this Parliament got down to business I have discussed the problems of pensioners with my colleagues on this side of the House, and we have advanced all sorts of suggestions designed to improve the lot of pensioners and to relieve their hardships. I have had several interviews with the Minister for Social Services **(Senator Spooner)** and the honorable member for Sturt **(Mr. Wilson)** was a member of several deputations which approached the Minister with most urgent pleas on behalf of pensioners. As a result of the interest and keen enthusiasm displayed by honorable members who interviewed the Minister and pointed out the difficult circumstances of pensioners, much was done towards securing the substantial increases embodied in the bill. We suggested increasing the permissible insurance policy surrender value from £200 to £500, and both the honorable member for Sturt and myself have since received letters of appreciation from pensioners on that point. I ask the House to consider the case of a married couple who are both pensioners. They will be able to draw £5 a week in pension and if able to work they may supplement their income by £3 a week, which will make their total income in cash £8 a week. If they are living in their own home their position will be still more satisfactory. In addition to all that they will be allowed to own £100 worth of property or cash, plus a life insurance policy with a surrender value of £500, and will soon be in receipt of free medicine under the Government's health and medical services scheme. The only medical fee that they will ever be nailed upon to pay will be one-fifth of the doctor's travelling expenses. I suggest that this scheme will be worth from 3s. to *is.* a week to each pensioner. War pensioners have been generously treated by the Government, and it will now be possible to draw an age pension as well as a war pension. I express my own personal appreciation of the Government's action in making a generous increase of the rate of pension allowed to ex-service personnel. The Government has shown quite clearly that it has a right and a realistic approach to the problems, of ex-servicemen. Much has been said about the cost of living. The greatest increase of the cost of living occurred during the regime of the previous Government. I point out to honorable members opposite, who have made the fantastic suggestion that pensions should be increased by another £1 or so. that the Government must have revenue before it can pay pensions or meet any other commitment, and that the whole transaction is based on the laws of pure economics. It would no doubt be very nice in one way to increase pensions by another £1 or so, but in order to do that the Government would need greatly to increase taxation. Therefore, the rate of pension payable is a matter that involves common sense and economics. It can hardly be held against this Government that the cost of living has not been reduced, because the Communist Party Dissolution Act is not yet law. {: .speaker-KVT} ##### Mr Thompson: -- The honorable member is in error. The Communist Party Dissolution Act is now law. {: .speaker-KUG} ##### Mr Spender: -- Its application is being held up by the right honorable member for Barton **(Dr. Evatt).** {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -- That legislation is connected with the cost of living, and it is due to the right honorable member for Barton **(Dr. Evatt)** that the cost of living cannot now be attacked by it at certain points. It was a trump card in the Government's plan to reduce the cost of living, because its application would have resulted in increased production. The people who have been most affected by low production are the pensioners and those who are on thelower incomes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh **(Mr. Clyde Cameron)** and the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. Ward)** declared outright that they would refuse to co-operate with the Government in its endeavour to secure increased production. Such statements could be expected from those gentlemen, but it is deplorable that any honorable member should stand up in this House and refuse point blank to help his fellow men. The solution of the whole problem of production will be found in co-operation. Irrespective of what government is in power it must have the full co-operation of all sections of the community if it is to obtain full production. A further concession in the bill will safeguard the right of workers who inadvertently defer lodging claims for sickness benefit while awaiting determination of claims under the Workmen's Compensation Act. That is a very good provision, and a most necessary one. A claim for compensation made within thirteen weeks of incapacity will be treated as a claim for sickness benefit in determining the date from which the benefit will be paid. That is for the purpose of giving to the workers an opportunity to take advantage of social services. Another generous social .service is the allowance granted to sufferers from tuberculosis. A sufferer who is single is to be entitled to £3 12s. 6d. a week, and a married sufferer to £6 10s. a week plus 9s. a week for each dependent child. That is a *most* progressive step. I now refer honorable members to a newspaper article in which the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have said - >Everybody knows what has happened to the purchasing power of the £1 in the past 10 months. But I remind honorable members that statistics prove that the value of the £1 had dropped to 10s. during the term of office of his own misguided Government. The Leader of the Opposition continued, according to this report - >I think that immediately it came into office the Government should have made a 5s. increase all-round in pensions. The right honorable gentleman, when he was Prime Minister, had ample opportunity to increase pensions before his Government was ejected from office; but that Government persistently refused to heed the pleas of the pensioners. I know that he refused even to see a deputation representative of the pensioners that endeavoured to interview him in Canberra. The Government parties have an excellent record in respect of social services and this measure is further proof of their intention to give the most sympathetic consideration to the problems of the aged and the infirm. The Government, since it assumed office, ha? provided endowment for the first child in a family and has given the most generous recognition to ex-service personnel in the liberalization of war pensions. The objective of the Government is, eventually, to abolish the means test. I believe that members of all parties agree that the means test should be abolished. However, to do so at the moment would involve the Government in an expenditure of over £70,000,000. If the means test is abolished the additional expenditure will have to be derived from some new source. I suggest that it could be provided under a contributory scheme to which the Government, the employer and the employee would each contribute ls. a week. Under such a scheme no individual would be obliged to undergo the indignity of a means test. Social services benefits would then be paid to recipients as a right. {: .speaker-KVT} ##### Mr Thompson: -- Does the honorable member suggest that under such a scheme it would be possible to provide a pension at the rate of £2 10s. a week? {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -- Yes ; actuaries have estimated that it would be possible to do so. The Government is well aware of the anomalies that exist in respect of social services benefits, but until a complete contributory scheme, which will envisage the abolition of the means test, is implemented, anomalies cannot be wholly avoided. This year the Government will expend £108,000,000 in the provision of social services benefits and an additional £9,000,000 for endowment of the first child in a family. Thus, the Government has treated pensioners generously; and it will take every opportunity to review the social services scheme as a whole. The pensioners can be assured that so long as the present Government remains in office it will serve their interests best. Indeed, the pensioners know that they can rely upon it to do that. During the last general election campaign I found that the great majority of pensioners in my electorate had lost faith in the Labour party. {: .speaker-JVA} ##### Mr Morgan: -- Propaganda. {: .speaker-KE8} ##### Mr KEKWICK: -Does the honorable member for Reid **(Mr. Morgan)** suggest that all electors are fools? Honorable members opposite fail to realize that the electors are good judges of government. They have been moaning about their defeat ever since the last general election. They fail to realize that the people decreed their defeat because they found the Labour party wanting. I repeat that while the present Government remains in office the pensioners will have nothing to fear. Indeed, they realize that the Government will review social services benefits from time to time in order to give to recipients of such benefits the most generous treatment that it can mete out to them, having regard to its other commitments. {: #subdebate-20-0-s17 .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr CURTIN:
Watson .- The honorable member for Bass **(Mr. Kekwick)** in the course of his remarks said that the pensioners are perfectly happy in the knowledge that their plight will be sympathetically considered by the Government. The pensioners want not sympathy but action from the Government. They want the Government to put value back into the £1 that they already receive. Whilst supporters of the Government have spoken in millions of pounds, they have applauded the Government for at last having decided to increase the rate of pension by a miserable 7s. 6d. a week. Those honorable members speak in millions until they become dizzy. The pensioners will become dizzy trying to make ends meet on their pensions. I have in my hand a document that was issued by **Mr. Stanley** E. Card who stood as the Liberal party candidate against me in the electorate of Watson at the last general election. That document reads - {: .page-start } page 3066 {:#debate-21} ### TRAGIC FATE OF THE OLD-AGE PENSIONER All this Can Happen to You {:#subdebate-21-0} #### By Stanley E. Card An 84-year-old pensioner who poisoned himself with arsenic told police before he died that he had nothingtolivefor. He said his invalid wife was in hospital and he could not look after himself. That is how the Liberal party candidate in my electorate tried to win the votes of pensioners, who, however, showed in no uncertain manner that they did not trust the Liberal party. The document continues - {: .page-start } page 3066 {:#debate-22} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-22-0} #### CHOP LASTS THREE DAYS It is common for one chop to represent three days' meat ration in a pensioner's pantry. Besides being eaten for its meat value it is used as the basis for a pot of soup. Scrag ends which butchers flatter with the title of dogs' meat are eagerly sought by pensioners who use them for stews. Like honorable members opposite that representative of the Liberal party cringed to gain the sympathy of the pensioners. He tried to win their sympathy by deliberately telling them falsehoods. Despite the proposed increase of the pension, many pensioners will not be able to buy the necessaries of life. During the last twelve months the price of bread lias increased by 144 per cent., potatoes by 100 per cent., eggs by 28 per cent., milk by 43 per cent., beef by 52 per cent., and mutton by from *9i* to 12 per cent, whilst the overall increase of the prices of foodstuffs during the same period averaged 33$ per cent. {: #subdebate-22-0-s0 .speaker-K7J} ##### Mr CRAMER: -- Since when have those increases taken place? {: #subdebate-22-0-s1 .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- In the last twelve months, during which the pensioners have been waiting for the millennium that the present Government parties promised to introduce. Do those parties believe that the proposed increase will enable pensioners to overtake that 33$ per cent, increase of the prices of staple commodities? Numerous reports have been published in the press dealing with rising prices. The Sydney *Sun* of the 13th August last, published the following report : - >PENSIONER IS *' STARVING ". > >Woman's STRUGGLE on £2 2s. Gd. Weekly. > > **Mrs. Violet** Crosbie, 71, whose sole income is her £2 2s. Cd. weekly pension, claims she is slowly starving to death - That report was published nine months after the present Government assumed office! - >Her late husband, a Boer War and World War *I.* veteran, bought the home through the War Services Homes Department about 32 years ago. > >It cost £850, and **Mrs. Crosbie** is still trying to pay it off . . . That woman will not have much left out of her pension to buy essential commodities after she has paid her weekly instalment on the home that she is endeavouring to purchase. The following report was published in the Sydney *Daily Telegraph* of the 14th August last: - >"NOT ENOUGH FOOD " ON PENSIONS. > >Many old-age pensioners and invalid pensioners' were dying from malnutrition because they could not afford to buy enough good food, **Mr. S.** E. Davison said last night. > > **Mr. Davison,** who is general secretary of the Old-Age and Invalid Pensioners' Association of Australia, said the old-age and invalid pension was 42s. 6d. a week. > >He said the lives of many pensioners who relied completely mi their pensions were nothing but a slow process of starvation. The honorable member for Bass said that deputations representative of the age pensioners had waited on many supporters of the Government. I inform him that members of the Labour party live with the pensioners. They are the pioneers of Australia and we are their descendants. "Wei realize the misery that they have been obliged to suffer over the years in order to keep body and soul togther while they reared young men who defended this country in World War II. and who are now fighting in Australia's name in Korea. I quote the following from a report that was published in the *Sunday Telegraph* of the 20th August last : - >VITAMIN TABLETS OFFERED TO HUNGRY PENSIONERS. > >A city firm has offered the Rev. G. R. Van Eerde 2,000 vitamin tablets to give to old-age pensioners, who, he says, are slowly starving because they cannot afford to buy enough to eat. {: .speaker-KDH} ##### Mr Eggins: -- That is what is happening under the McGirr Labour Government in New South Wales. {: .speaker-K8B} ##### Mr CURTIN: -- The Australian Liberal Government is mainly responsible for those conditions and its supporters in this chamber have not raised their voices in protest against the treatment that it is meting out to the pioneers of this country. Whilst the honorable member for Lyne **(Mr. Eggins)** represents the exploiters of the people, and is well fed and complacent, he will not give a moment's thought to the plight of the poorer sections of the community. The Sydney *Sun,* on the 29th August last, published a news item under the heading, " Pensioners Should Work, is Argument ". It was a report of a speech by the Minister for Social Services **(Senator Spooner)** and read, in part - " Why it is that 95.5 per cent, of those who receive the age pension cannot earn more than £1 a week in addition to that pension?" he asked. " The answer is not entirely that they are too old to work." The Minister, who is sleek and well fed, asks pensioners over the age of 65 years to return to work. Does he believe that those people would have applied for a pension if they had been fit and able to work, as they did in their younger days, to advance the progress of their native land? But the time comes when the worker becomes ill, and he has then to rely on the meagre sustenance that is provided by this miserable Government. The Minister insults age pensioners when he asks, " "Why do they not go back to work ? " Have honorable members ever heard the like? I hope that the day will never come when my mother will be compelled to go back to work. Some of the members of the original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of Australia have announced their intention to challenge the Government to find work for them. The secretary of the North Sydney Old Age Pensioners Funeral Fund cited the case of a pensioner who surrendered his pension and returned to work. His action was in conformity with the wish of the well-fed Minister for Social Services. But worry about his health, and the strain of his job, proved too much for him, and he committed suicide. The Government should " chew over " that sad occurrence, and give more sympathetic consideration to age pensioners in the future. Perhaps it will realize that it has acted meanly in increasing pensions by only 7s. 6d. a week. Under the Chifley Labour Government, the adequate maintenance provision of the social services legislation was altered to apply only to persons under the age of 21 years. Prior to that amendment, the provision applied to all persons, irrespective of their age, who could be adequately maintained by their families. An exception was not made even if a claimant were 40 years of age. I have been a member of the Parliament for less than a year, but I have often heard Government supporters ask, " Why can't relatives support invalid persons ? " I warn the people of Australia that that idea is constantly in the minds of various Ministers, who are eager to translate it into practice. It has been done before. It will be done again. The Chifley Labour Government increased the adequate maintenance provision in 1948 from £130 to £156. That provision is based on an income of £156 a year for the father, £156 for the mother and £78 for each child, other than the claimant, under sixteen years of age. The amount of £156 is deemed to be adequate maintenance for the claimant. For the purposes of clarity, I cite an instance of the operation of that provision. Suppose a family consists of the father, the mother and the claimant. The father's gross income, without deduction of tax, is £435 a year. The figure is approximately the new basic wage rate. Then £156 is counted for the father, £156 for the mother and the total - £312 - is deducted from the full income of £435. The remainder, £123, is deducted from what is deemed to be adequate maintenance, that is, £156. The difference, which in this instance is £23, is payable as pension annually. I mention here that no amount under £13 per annum is payable under the adequate maintenance provision. How miserable ! Can that be regarded as sympathetic consideration? The anomaly is that an ordinary pensioner can have permissible income of £78, and receive the full pension, which at present brings his income to £188 10s. a year. When the increase of pension is paid, the total permissible income and pension will be £208. However, if there is provision in the family income for a claimant under 21 years of £78 a year, the claimant will be able to receive only the difference between that amount and £156, which is £78, compared with the full rate of pension of £130 a year, that the ordinary pensioner will receive. To obviate that anomaly, the Government should increase the adequate maintenance figure for a claimant under 21 years of age to £208. This figure- debars the ordinary pensioner from receiving a pension and, in my opinion, the same should apply to pensioners under 21 years of age. In respect of the sickness benefit, there is no adequate maintenance provision for girls or boys under 21 years of age, and the family income is disregarded, yet their incapacity is merely temporary. Suppose a girl or a boy is totally and permanently, that is 85 per cent., incapacitated. The claimant for an invalid pension under 21 years of age is deemed to be adequately maintained if £156 of the family income is left. I cite a case that was brought to my notice. The father was receiving £8 a week about twelve months ago, and his invalid son aged eighteen years was receiving an invalid pension of 24s. a week. The father's income was subsequently increased, because of the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, by 12s., and the son's invalid pension was reduced by 50 per cent, to 12s. a week. Suppose the father receives the new quarterly basic wage adjustment of 4s. and the £1 increase of the basic wage that was granted recently by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The son's pension should be increased by 7s. 6d. a week when the new scales come into operation, but I regret to say that he will not receive it. Because of the father's increase of income, even though it comes only from basic wage adjustments, the son will no longer be entitled to a pension. The whole family will be victimized, and will be worse off financially. Twelve months ago, the combined income of father and son was £9 4s. a week. The son will lose his pension. The father will receive the new quarterly basic wage adjustment, and if he receives the £1 increase of the basic wage, which is problematical, his income will be approximately £9 16s. a week, a difference of only 12s. a week gross. Tax will be deductible from it. In effect, the family will lose 24s. a week non-taxable income, and receive 36s. a week taxable income. I urge the Minister for External Affairs **(Mr. Spender),** who is in charge of the House, to refer those matters to Cabinet, because they are most important. So far from ameliorating the means test, the Government has actually tightened it. If invalid or age pensioners have a dependent child, there is a permissible income of £26 a year in addition to the ordinary permissible income of 30s. a week. That permissible income of £26 is to be reduced by the quantum of any other payments made in respect of the child. Thus, when this Government granted endowment for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, the extra permissible income was instantly and automatically reduced by the amount of the endowment, namely, 5s. a week. The same principle has been applied to widows. Section 64 of the act provides that, in addition to the ordinary permissible income of 30s. a week, there may be an additional permissible income of 5s. in respect of the first child, less any amount paid in respect of that child. Accordingly, the mere granting of 5s. endowment for the first child wiped out that extra permissible income. The Government, instead of puffing its chest with pride because it has decided to increase pensions by 7s. 6d. a week, should formulate a new scheme under which justice will be done to the recipients of age and invalid pensions. {: #subdebate-22-0-s2 .speaker-LLW} ##### Mr DEAN:
Robertson .- The object of the Government in respect of social services is to formulate a scheme which, to all intents and purposes, will be national insurance, so that all those who contribute to it will derive benefits therefrom. I realize that the lot of the pensioner in the past has not been happy. However, I felt, when listening to the speech of the honorable member for » Watson **(Mr. Curtin),** that his criticisms were applicable to the preceding Labour Government and not to the present Government. This is a good bill. The Government believes that the people should receive the various social services, not as a charity but as a right. After all, the introduction of social services was the result of a general acceptance by the majority of the people of their responsibility towards those whose position, through no fault of their own, does not enable them to support themselves. Therefore, it requires a government that can appreciate the desires of the people, to introduce legislation which will give practical expression to them. Throughout this debate I have listened to the apologies and excuses that members of the Opposition have offered for their failure to increase pensions when they were in power. An examination of social services history" discloses that a liberal government introduced the first Australiawide old-age pension scheme, and that another liberal government first provided child endowment throughout the Commonwealth. Now a Liberal government is providing the biggest pensions increase that has ever been granted in Australia's history. Members of the Opposition may argue as they will, but the fact remains that this Government, not a Labour government, is granting the increase. The measure will translate into practice certain promises that were made on behalf of the present Government parties during the election campaign last year. The present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** said in his policy speech that Australia still needed a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age. He promised that a LiberalAustralian Country party government would investigate the complete elimination of the means test with the object of presenting such a scheme to the electors for their approval at the general election of 1952. The right honorable gentleman also acknowledged that grave anomalies were associated with the position of persons who had provided for their retirement by means of superannuation and other schemes How far will this measure carry us towards the objectives that were stated on behalf of the present Government parties? It will increase the maximum rate of pension to 50s. a week. A single pensioner will be able to have a total income of £4 a week, inclusive of the pension, and a married couple will be permitted to have an income of £8 a week. This provision will also benefit retired persons who are receiving superannuation payments and the age pension as well. A blind pensioner will be able to have an income of £8 a week in addition to the pension, so that his total permissible income will be £10 10s. a week. The permissible income for a married blind pensioner will be £13 a week. These increases will benefit approximately 3,200 blind persons who are already receiving pensions and will also affect others who have been excluded from benefit up to the present by the application of the means test. For the purposes of the means test in relation to applicants for age and invalid pensions, the surrender value of life insurance policies up to £500 will be disregarded. The existing limit is only £200. The bill also provides for an increase of the pension payable to civilian widows. As an ex-serviceman, I am deeply gratified by the inclusion of a provision that will exempt war pensioners from the application of the means test when eligibility for other pensions is being considered. Many honorable members on this side of the House fought for a long time to secure that right for war pensioners. The bill also provides for other .benefits relating to sickness, but I shall not discuss all the measures that it embodies. The examples that I have mentioned are sufficient to show that the Government has again proved that it keeps its promises. Members of the Opposition have said that the increases will be inadequate. I remind them that the Labour Governmentraided the National Welfare Fund, about which they have had so much to say, in order to redeem treasury-bills. The real purpose of that fund was to provide a reserve for future social services commitments. However, as the result of the Chifley Government's action in using for another purpose the cash that had been taken from the public in order to establish a social services fund, this Government will have to obtain additional money for social services, probably by raising loans. Great difficulties have beset the Government in its attempts to improve the social services scheme. For instance, it is committed to a costly programme of defence works. However, it would be a mistake to believe that this bill represents the final step in the progressive development of social services. Further adjustments of pensions rates will have to be made in the near future, and I now ask the Government to investigate the position of superannuated persons and others who have endeavoured to provide for their security upon retirement. I also direct attention to the situation of a married couple with liquid assets worth, say, £1,500. Assuming that the money had been invested in government bonds, which earn interest at the rate of 3-J per cent, per annum, the annual income of those two persons would be only about £47. Such persons must live on their capital until the amount is eventually reduced to the level permitted under the means test. As the honorable member for Evans **(Mr. Osborne)** has said, members of the Opposition have adopted the role of the champions of the needy. Many of them have referred to cases of hardship amongst the poor in the electorates that they represent. I, too, know of many deserving fellow citizens in the division that I represent who are suffering from severe hardships. However, social services problems must be considered with a broad outlook and in the light of the practical limitations that are imposed upon the Government under present conditions. I ask the Government, in any further review of social services, to give consideration to the exemption from the moans test of all income that is derived from compulsory superannuation schemes. Such income merely represents a return of the contributors' capital, and I hope that it will be treated as such when further consideration is given to these matters. The bill marks an important stage in the development of enlightened social services, and I support it wholeheartedly. {: #subdebate-22-0-s3 .speaker-KDA} ##### Mr DUTHIE:
Wilmot -- I congratulate the honorable member for Robertson **(Mr. Dean).** The honorable gentleman does not speak often in this House, hut I listened to him with great interest to-night. It is a relief to hear a speech by a supporter of the Government who does not seek to tear the Opposition to pieces. I hope to emulate the example of tolerance that the honorable gentleman set. Social security has its roots sunk deep in Christian ethics and morality because it rests upon the principle of the strong helping the weak, the rich helping the poor, the privileged helping the under-privileged and the healthy helping the sick. Broken humanity is truly the nation's tragedy, and it is truly the nation's responsibility as well. Great numbers of our citizens may be classified under the heading of broken humanity. There are the sick, the aged, the mentally ill, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the physically crippled, the injured, the limbless, the paralysed, and the deformed. In addition, there are the widows and the orphans in another group, and the prisoners in our gaols and their wives and children. The care and treatment of such unfortunate people was originally a family responsibility only. Much later in history, the care of the crippled and the sick became the responsibility of the Christian church in various parts of the world. Many years after that, it became a community responsibility. The history of the dark middle ages tells an apalling story of tragedy, agony and complacency. The cemeteries were filled almost to overflowing with the bodies of people who need not have died if their troubles had been a responsibility of the nation. Not until the nineteenth century did nations begin to realize that they owed a debt to broken humanity. Social legislation and health laws were not' placed on the statute-books of any English-speaking nation until the turn of the twentieth century. Two thousand years had to elapse before Christ's message reached the state! Premature deaths from disease, accident and coInmon illness, and childbirth mortality, were everyday occurrences until the dawn of the twentieth century. Like slavery, this national deathroll was accepted as being inevitable. During the nineteenth century Pasteur and Lister did much to arouse the conscience of the world in relation to health and ignorance, just as Wilberforce and Elizabeth Fry had aroused the conscience of English people to the evils of slavery and the terrible conditions in prisons. Progress from individual family responsibilities to the acceptance of national responsibility for the care and protection of broken men and women was slow and painful. To many honorable members and to many people outside this Parliament the word " pensioner " is hideous. It is time that we removed it from our vocabulary. I suggest that the assistance given to the aged and invalid should be referred to as the " age and invalid allowance " or " age and invalid superannuation ". This word " pensioner " has associated with it all kinds of unhappy associations. The word " allowance " or " superannuation " would do a lot to remove the psychological slur on the name " pensioner ". For too long have aged and invalid people looked upon the receipt of the pension as being a degradation which should be hushed up and suppressed as would be a contageous disease. Thousands of pensioners have forced themselves, at it were, into a dark and dingy room, afraid to turn on the light and meet people - afraid of publicity - talking of their plight in a hushed whisper, being forced by their condition and the attitude of society to them to live in dangerous isolation and tragic unhappiness. Like a thief in the night they come seeking assistance. That has been the manner of their approach to me. They have almost been afraid to mention that they have come concerning a pension and have asked me not to mention the matter to a soul. "Why should they act like a thief in the night in order to obtain a pension? Many of them have locked themselves away from the world and become introverts. Why? Because our society is full of class distinctions. Money talks louder than manners and social status overshadows social security. This is a society, in which clothes are more important than character, and income divides us into groups. Amid all this the pensioner, so often a pioneer of this country, and a fellow human being who has been broken and buffeted by circumstances over which he has had no control, is pushed out into the cold, shunned and forgotten. An inferiority complex forces him into a life of dull, soul-destroying seclusion. We must teach our pensioners that this is wrong; that this allowance is their fundamental right, not a dole or a charity; it is an allowance that is paid to them by a nation that is proud of them and grateful for their nationbuilding work in days gone by. We want them to believe that they are human beings, equal to their fellows who live in nice houses, wear beautiful clothes, drive smooth limousines, earn big salaries, run big businesses, and attend exclusive clubs and expensive entertainments. Our society is so ruthless that we put them on the lowest rung of the ladder. {: .speaker-KWP} ##### Mr Turnbull: -- Who does? {: .speaker-KDA} ##### Mr DUTHIE: -- Many people do so. Our aged folks were young once and for them life was glad and free and exciting. But we all grow old and cynicism is shown towards old age. Sometimes there is ' a very great ingratitude and a rudeness to the aged which deserves the severest censure from us who believe that age is a grand and a wonderful thing. The crippled were active once and many were champions in sport but they may never walk again. Let our selfish age pause and remember these things. Let us realize that life's real values are not reckoned in terms of dividends, wealth, reputation, fine clothes, spacious homes or education, but in terms of honesty, character, friendliness, kindness, thoughtfulness, manners, courtesy, humility, unselfishness and sacrifice. I have found more of these fundamental qualities amongst our grand body of pensioners than amongst those who have wealth, position, comfort and power. That is one of my criticisms of this capitalistic state. Let us re-establish the confidence of these broken men and women. Let us restore their faith in themselves so that they may have greater happiness and contentment. Higher pensions will not, of themselves, solve this human psychological problem, but a new approach, and a more understanding attitude to our pensioners will contribute much to breaking down the dread that they have when they apply for the pension, which is just as much their right, as our pay envelope is our right at the end of a week's work. These folk do count in our society and they are important units of it. We do not want them to feel that they have been left forgotten in the backwash of life. Churches, missions, pensioners' leagues, Legacy clubs, youth clubs, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Red Cross, and other organizations are doing much to brighten the lives of our pensioners, but many men's clubs and societies could and should organize functions or trips for age pensioners who have no relatives to care for them. Many of these people are members of pensioners' leagues and can easily be contacted through the secretary of those leagues. Governments can help to solve this problem and I am proud that the Tasmanian State Labour Government is embarking on a most ambitious plan to build what it is rightly calling " twilight homes " for aged people. Tenders will be called within a week or so for the construction of the first twenty of these homes, which will be self-contained units built in a settlement of their own. This is a very fine forward move in an endeavour to bring happiness and comfort to these people. I have been pleased to hear that New South "Wales also has embarked upon such a plan, because many of these people are shut up in dingy rooms and death is coming to them much quicker than it would do otherwise. I was amazed to hear recently elected honorable members opposite try to give the impression that Liberal governments have done everything for age pensioners. I do not think that honorable members should argue this matter from the standpoint of party politics. Honorable members opposite have wrongly given the impression that the Opposition party has done nothing of lasting value for pensioners. I am not going to enter into the foolish argument of who started pensions. However, during the Labour Government's eight years of office, from 3941 to 1949, it increased expenditure on social services from £18,000,000 to £100,000,000 a year. This Government has now increased that amount to £111,000,000, which is good, although the shrinking value of the £1 will not make it worth as much as might be imagined. The Labour Government doubled the age pension between 1941 and 1949, so it is astounding to hear honorable members opposite say that this bill proposes to give pensioners the biggest increase in Australian history. In the 30 years during which Liberal governments were in office they increased the pension by only lis. a week. The Labour Government raised pensions by 21s. a week in eight years. It also introduced allowances for wives and children, the widows' pension, and unemployment and sickness benefits. It paid the maternity allowance, abolished the vicious means test that was attached to the allowance when it came into office, and doubled child endowment. It relaxed the means test in other respects, outstripping the present Government's efforts in that direction. The Government may do more in this respect next year if it survives until then. Its action in regard to the means test has been a sham. The Labour Government instituted a scheme for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons. It established acoustic laboratories throughout the Commonwealth in order to assist ex- servicemen and provided hearing aids at one-quarter of their commercial cost for children. It legislated for the payment of a funeral allowance and introduced pharmaceutical and medical benefits. It provided an allowance for sufferers from tuberculosis and instituted hospital benefits. It assisted in the establishment of a chair of health at the Sydney University and of an industrial hygiene unit for the purpose of conducting research into the industrial problems of the workers. It consolidated the 50 social services acts in one Social Services Consolidation Act. That represented a very fine effort. Perhaps more could have been done, but that is the answer to honorable members opposite who do not understand what the Opposition party has done in this field during the last eight years. The previous Government's social services work was a solid and permanent achievement. Under this bill it is proposed to increase age and invalid pensions by an aggregate amount of £8,250,000, but the additional concessions over a fairly wide field will add to the expenditure by only £115,000 whereas merely £700,000 has been provided for increases of widows' pensions. The problem of the means test has not been tackled. The position remains the same as it was when the Labour party was defeated in 1949. The bill does not provide for any increase of the pension of the wife or the allowance of the child of an invalid pensioner. That is a very grave omission. No provision has been made for an increase of sickness and unemployment benefits. That is a serious omission. Because of the depreciation of the value of the £1 that has occurred the plight of age pensioners will be worsened. Indeed, the situation not only of pensioners, but also of all persons dependent upon fixed incomes, is already very serious and must become even more serious if the value of the £1 continues to dwindle. This matter of the " perishing £1 " would have confronted a Labour administration if Labour had won the last general election, because in many respects the causes of the depreciation of the £1 are beyond the control of the Government. However, the matter that concerns me now is that the increases of the prices of food, clothing, and medicines that have occurred, and the increase of rents for housing accommodation, are having an appalling effect upon our unfortunate pensioners. In Tasmania the plight of the pensioners may even become worse because the Legislative Council of that State is already considering legislation to authorize a very substantial increase of house rents. . This action is being taken by the Legislative Council notwithstanding the fact that the Legislative Assembly of that State has already passed legislation approving of an increase of rents of 12 per cent. If the undemocratic and reactionary Legislative Council has its way rents will be increased by 20 per cent. I shudder to think of the consequences of such an increase to the unfortunate age pensioners, who are already struggling to pay a rent of 15s. or fi a week for a couple of rooms. The Labour Government of Tasmania is gravely perturbed about the possible consequences of a further increase of rents, and has already made plans with the Agricultural Bank to build homes for the large number of persons whom it expects will be evicted from their houses because of their inability to pay the increased rents. Broadly speaking, age pensioners may be divided into two groups: those who can, and those who cannot, earn any money. Those unfortunate persons who are unable to earn money greatly outnumber those who "can do so; they constitute 65 per cent, of the total number of age pensioners. The problem of providing for aged and invalid persons who are unable to earn any income has been exercising the minds of members of the Labour party for a long time, and had it been returned to office at the last general election it would have implemented proposals designed to solve the problem. The present Government should have included in this measure a special provision for pensioners who are unable to earn anything at all to supplement their pensions. {: .speaker-KIF} ##### Mr Hulme: -- "Why did not the Labour party do something for them when it was in office? {: .speaker-KDA} ##### Mr DUTHIE: -- The preceding Labour Administration was preoccupied with a number of very serious considerations, including the prosecution of a war and the winding up of the national war effort in the aftermath of war. The interjection made by the honorable gentleman lends point to the fact that the substantial increases of pensions, and of expenditure upon social services generally, were effected by Labour notwithstanding the disclocation caused by the war and its aftermath. The present Government cannot excuse itself for its failure to provide properly for our pensioners by suggesting that it is handicapped by conditions that have resulted from the war. The fact that Labour was able to do so much for persons who are dependent upon pensions, notwithstanding the war and its aftermath, demonstrates that in prosperous times such as we are now enjoying, the Menzies Administration has failed lamentably to make proper provision for aged and invalid persons. Dealing with social services generally, I express the view_ that we should do more for crippled persons that we are doing. For instance, no real assistance is provided by the Government for limbless persons. The plight of such persons generally has been brought home to me by my acquaintance with an unfortunate woman in the electorate that I represent, who is crippled because one of her legs is 9 inches shorter than the other. Notwithstanding the very grave disability from which that unfortunate woman suffers - she is married and has to struggle to carry out her household duties - she is not entitled to any assistance from the Government. She cannot afford to purchase a surgical appliance, and although I have made inquiries throughout Tasmania in an endeavour to obtain a surgical boot for her, without charge, no firm is prepared to provide one for her. The consequence is that that unfortunate woman is condemned to endure discomfort for an indefinite period. The Commonwealth should establish a factory for the manufacture of artificial limbs, and should supply such appliances to all those unfortunate persons who have lost limbs. Incidentally, I consider that the documentary film exhibited to members of the Parliament a few nights ago should have inspired the Government to do something to help the thousands of crippled persons in the community. That film, which dealt with only one aspect of the British Government's free health scheme, showed the magnificent effort that is being made by the Labour Government of that country to compensate, as far as it is possible to do so, people who have lost their limbs. It also demonstrated the tremendous advances that have been made in the manufacture of artificial limbs, which now enable people to work and to engage in sport with a minimum of disability. Another matter to which I direct the Government's attention is the hardship imposed on pensioners by the present high cost of travel in trams, trains and omnibuses. Travel vouchers should be issued to pensioners who have to go some distance to attend doctors, because it is obvious that those who have to travel considerable distances for medical treatment cannot afford to pay the fares entailed in frequent journeys to their medical advisers. Another very serious matter is the grave disability that is suffered by aged persons who are held to be ineligible to receive a pension because they have let their homes and are residing elsewhere. The reason why most of them are not living in their own houses is that under the tenancy laws they cannot evict tenants who have been residing in them for some years. The houses of many aged persons are occupied by ex-servicemen, who are entitled, under the law, to retain possession of them. Many pensioners are paying more in rent for rooms and for other forms of housing accommodation for themselves than they receive in rent from their own houses. I have raised this matter several times during the last two years, and have recently discussed it with the Minister for Social Services **(Senator Spooner),** who has undertaken to consider the representations that I made to him. In order to overcome the hardship suffered by pensioners who are not residing in their own houses, I suggest that the regulations which debar such persons from receiving n pension should be waived. I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Watson **(Mr. Curtin),** that the Government should review the regulations that relate to invalid pensions, and, if necessary, amend them, or introduce new regulations to provide that the parents of crippled children of adolescent years shall receive some payment to compensate them for the added expense to which they are committed because of the disability suffered by their children. I regret that the previous Labour Administration did not do something for such people when it was in office, 'because I fear that a long time may elapse before the present Government will do anything for them. I strongly advocate that the permissible income of applicants for the age pension be increased from the present amount of 30s. a week. I do not think that any harm would be done if it were increased to £3 or £3 10s. a week. In conclusion, I emphasize that the matters that I have raised and the suggestions that I have put forward, have been actuated by a sincede attempt to assist the present Government to improve our social services. After all, one of the highest tasks that the Parliament can perform is to improve the lot of those unfortunate people who are suffering because of sickness, age and other causes over which they have no control. {: #subdebate-22-0-s4 .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr TRELOAR:
Gwyder .- I support the hill. I believe that in introducing it the Government has done the best that it can do in the existing circumstances. It is easy to give away other people's money. When a government introduces a budget it proposes to disburse the taxpayers' money, and its duty to endeavour to do justice, not only to those persons who will benefit from its expenditure, such as the recipients of social services, but also to the taxpayers, whose money it proposes to disburse. I think that a measure such as the one that we are now considering should not be the subject of party political controversey. I join with the honorable member for Wilmot **(Mr. Duthie)** in deploring the fact that the debate on this measure has proceeded along party lines, in the course of which members of the Opposition have done their utmost to convince the age and invalid pensioners that they are not being treated fairly by the present Government. Of course, it is easy to stir up discontent in a section of the community, but it is not so easy to remove that discontent when it has been aroused. I say at once that I do not believe that the Opposition expected the Government to increase pensions for age and invalid persons by 7s. 6d. a week, and was astonished when the Government announced its intentions. Indeed, before the budget was introduced, the honorable member for Cunningham **(Mr. Davies)** presented a petition from certain persons in his constituency, who are dependent upon age and invalid pensions, urging that their pensions be increased by 7s. 6d. a week. That is precisely the sum by which the Government had already decided to increase pensions. It is clear, therefore, that the present proposal of the Government to increase pensions by 7s. 6d. a week coincides with the view expressed by certain pensioners. As I have already said, members of the Opposition were astonished when the Government announced, in the course of its budgetary proposals, that it intended to introduce legislation to increase pensions. Certainly a few members of the Opposition greeted the announcement with jeers, but they were rather feebly uttered. It is a fair assumption, I think, that most members of the Opposition were satisfied with the amount of the increase proposed when the Government first announced its proposals. However, since then the Opposition has gathered its strength in order to attack the Government for the alleged inadequacy of the increase of pensions, and its members are now endeavouring to convince age pensioners that they are not being given a fair deal. Unfortunately, some pensioners will be influenced by this criticism of the Government, but I believe that most of them will agree with me that the Government has helped them considerately, and that even if the current increase of the cost of living will prevent them from obtaining the maximum benefit from the increases, they can confidently expect the matter to be reviewed before the next budget is introduced. The Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley)** and other honorable gentlemen opposite have .raised the oft-repeated cry that the present Government has not honoured its undertaking to restore value to the £1. {: .speaker-KZX} ##### Mr GEORGE Lawson: -- That is a very effective criticism. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr TRELOAR: -- That may be so, but I suggest that the Opposition is deliberately attempting to obstruct the Government in its efforts to restore value to the £1. Another matter that is causing serious concern to the community generally is the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the recent increase of the basic wage. I remind honorable members that the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to increase the basic wage was not made until after the budget had been introduced. It was not possible, therefore, for the Government to include in its budgetary proposals safeguards against, any harmful effect that the increased basic wage may have on our economy. That increase will, of course, raise the cost of living generally, and it is inevitable that it must have some detrimental effect on people who are dependent on fixed incomes, including age and invalid pensioners. However, I express emphatically my belief that if all sections of the community make a genuine effort by increasing production to prevent any further substantial increase of the cost of living, no harm will result from the increase of the basic wage. Most people realize now that they will not obtain any real benefit from the additional printed notes placed in their pay envelopes unless their increased remuneration will enable them to purchase more goods. I agree, therefore, with the view held by the Government that if production is increased the recent increase of the basic wage can be a real boon to the wage-earners. An increase of production would inevitably reduce the cost of living, and pensioners, in common with all other sections of the community, would benefit therefrom. As I have already said, the Government has been twitted with not having done anything to restore value to the £1. However, I believe that it took the most important and necessary preliminary step to restore value to the £1 when it endeavoured to establish harmony in industry by introducing legislation to prevent the Communists from continuing to disrupt industry. Unfortunately, in consequence of the defeat of the Labour party at the last general election, members of the Opposition are so bitter that they do not care what happens to the age pensioners or any other section of the community so long as they can work their will. Their only objective now is to seize every opportunity to discredit the Government in the hope that they will regain the treasury bench. The honorable member for Wilmot **(Mr. Duthie)** claimed that no organized relief was provided for aged and invalid persons until the twentieth century. In reply to that assertion, I remind the honorable gentlemen that as long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, organized relief was provided - for the indigent poor. Certainly, the administration of poor law relief was carried out, not by the Government but by local government bodies, and whilst no one would contend that that arrangement was perfectly satisfactory- {: .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr Ward: -- It was not satisfactory at all. {: .speaker-KWJ} ##### Mr TRELOAR: -- That is so, but I remind the honorable gentleman who has just interjected that many of our presentday arrangements are also unsatisfactory. However, I mentioned the poor law relief in Tudor times merely for the sake of pointing out that that was the starting point of organized assistance for poor and distressed persons. The honorable member for Oxley **(Dr. Donald. Cameron)** pointed out this afternoon that the development of social consciousness in the community and the provision of social services have come about gradually over a number of generations, and that the introduction of social services has been due not to the efforts of any 'one political party, but to the general desire of the community to improve the lot of its less fortunate members. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wilmot both pointed out that the expenditure by the Commonwealth upon social services has increased from £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 in 1939 to £111,000,000 at the present time. Whilst I believe that the increased expenditure mentioned is necessary, I deplore the existence of the conditions which make/ such expenditure necessary. It is all very well to hand out pensions to alleviate distress and to assist people in their old age, but I consider that the Government would be rendering a greater and more practical service to the community if it were to stimulate our economy to such a degree that people could earn incomes sufficient to support themselves in sickness, as well as in health, and in their old age. Many people are to-day compelled to accept the age pension as a consequence of the present state of our economy. I know many men who worked hard all their lives, saved money, built their own homes and, perhaps, one or two more cottages, from which they hope to obtain sufficient rent to support themselves in their old age, and on which their widows might subsist after they had died. By doing so, those men were providing social security for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the sacrifices made by so many of those people, and their aspirations, have been frustrated by economic developments over which they have had no control. One of those developments was that rents were pegged to offset the effects of the increased cost of living. The consequence of that to many deserving people has been that in their old age they have become dependent upon the State. I do not consider that it is right for the community to force poor house-owners to keep rents down. If it be necessary to keep rents down they should be kept down by government subsidies. Many people believe wrongly that owners of houses are all wealthy, but most house-owners own only small houses and are not wealthy. They are people who have been thrifty all their lives, have built a house for themselves and perhaps one or two other houses for renting and have expected to live, in their old age, on the rents. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth and the States pegged rents when they had the right to do so but they did not peg the rates and other expenses that house-owners have to pay, so that instead of many of these people being able to live on rents as a result of their thrift, they have had to sell the houses that they owned and apply for pensions. By becoming pensioners they added to the social services bill that the Commonwealth had to pay. If rents are to be kept down, and I consider that it is necessary that they should be, that should be done by means of subsidies paid by the governments concerned. I support the bill because I believe it to he a good measure that will be appreciated by the age and invalid pensioners. I also believe that the Government will do everything in its power to consolidate the position of the country so that the slack will have been taken up next year, we shall have increased production and shall have put back into the £1 the value that I am confident can be put back into it by a wholehearted effort by the people of this country. {: #subdebate-22-0-s5 .speaker-KX7} ##### Mr WARD:
East Sydney .- While there is a good deal that I could say about this legislation, I propose to restrict my remarks because I understand that if the Government is able to have the measure passed through the House by a reasonable time to-night pensioners will obtain the increased rate of pension on the next pensions pay-day. There are several matters that ought to be "cleared up. It is quite evident that the honorable member for Gwydir **(Mr. Treloar)** will claim in the future that he was one of the people responsible for giving a substantial increase of pensions to age, invalid and other pensioners. But as a matter of fact anybody who listened to his remarks would realize that he is just the same as all the tories who have ever had an opportunity to debate such legislation as this. Anything that they give is always grudgingly extracted from them. The honorable member considers that pensions are a form of charity. He talked about giving other people's money away, but in fact pensioners are only receiving a return of their own money, because they are the pioneers of this country who made it possible for it to be developed to its present position. During their working years they paid taxation, either directly or indirectly, and contributed to the funds from which they benefit when they, have retired or when they are too ill to work. The honorable gentleman's approach to the matter must astound the old pioneers of this country. He has tried to make them feel that they are paupers instead of honoured citizens who have done the real spade-work of the community, have developed the country's industry and have brought it to its present condition. One point that I must clear up is connected with the claim by honorable gentlemen opposite that the Deakin Liberal Government first introduced pensions. I ask those honorable members to consult the parliamentary records in which they will find that, whilst it is true that the Deakin Liberal Government was in office at the time at which pensions were introduced, even members and supporters of that Government gave full credit the Labour party for the bringing down of the legislation. I could quote the utterances to that effect of many antiLabour politicians of the time, but I shall confine myself to the words of the late **Sir John** Forrest. He would have been the last person to have any sympathy with the Labour party, yet he said during the debate on the measure under which pensions were introduced - >The Attorney-General could have handed nic a copy of it. We all know that this bill has been hurried forward practically by the Labour .party. They have told the Government, " If you do not introduce it, out of office you must go," and, in reply, the Government says, " Do not shoot, Colonel, and we will come down ". He made it clear that although the Labour party was in a minority in the Parliament at that time it exercised the balance of power and was responsible for compelling the Deakin Government to introduce that legislation, which was a part of the price that that Government had to pay in order to remain in office. And so it has been in connexion with all the social legislation of this country. It was either introduced by Labour governments or forced very grudgingly from antiLabour governments because of the pressure exerted by the Labour movement both inside and outside the Parliament. The honorable member for Gwydir really wishes to get back to the days of Queen Elizabeth, because he believes that the system that was in operation in those days, under the application of the British Poor Laws, was a good system. I do not know whether he has a knowledge of the conditions of privation under which the poor people lived in those days, or of their having been compelled to exist on a form of charity. If he has not such knowledge he should gain it by reading history. Just as the old tories in the days of Queen Elizabeth were grudgingly compelled to do something about the situation because they feared revolution, civil unrest and disorder, so are antiLabour governments nowadays compelled to do something about the alleviation of distress because they realize that they could not exist for five minutes unless they did so. I turn now to .the matter of making these increases retrospective to the 1st July last. During the general election campaign, Government supporters had a great deal to say about what ought to bc done for pensioners. If they regarded assistance to pensioners as having such a high priority why did they not introduce. as one of their first measures after they took office, a measure to provide for such increases? The Government has been in office for almost twelve months, yet it has waited until now to introduce this measure. Even if honorable members opposite can give a reason for not having introduced this legislation immediately they took office they can adduce no valid argument for not making the payments retrospective to the 1st July last. If the Government could find it possible to increase the salaries of members of the Commonwealth judiciary and of highly .paid public servants retrospective to that date then there is no reason why it cannot make the increases of pensions retrospective to the same date. Pensioners are in greater need of the projected increases of pensions than are judges and high Commonwealth officials of an increase of salary. Instead, however, pensioners are to receive this very inadequate relief rather belatedly, and whatever benefit they might have gained from the increase has long disappeared because of the increases of the cost of living that have occurred since the Government took office. In fact, the cost of living has risen to such a degree in that period that the projected increase will not even put the pensioners back on to the basis that they were on when the Chifley Government left office. What we want to know is why the payments of the increases are not to be retrospective to the 1st July last as are to be increases of judges and highly placed public servants. We also wish to know when the Government proposes to review the rate of pension again, because the .cost of living is rapidly rising. Are we to take it that the increase now proposed is the last that pensioners will receive during the life of this Government? If not, will the Minister for External Affairs **(Mr. Spender),** who is at present in charge of the House, say when the Government proposes to review the pensions rates again? That is a very important matter for those unfortunate people. Honorable members opposite have spoken about a Labour government's repeal of the provision that pensions rates should fluctuate according to the rise and fall of the cost of living. It is quite true that a Labour government took that action, and we who were associated with it are proud of it. Had we not repealed that provision the government of the day would have had to take 6d. a week from the pensioners because the cost of living index had fallen. It was not prepared to take that action. Before honorable gentlemen opposite talk about putting social services in this country, on a fluctuating basis according to the rise and fall of the cost of living, let them make the rate of pension commensurate with the cost of living. If the rate of pension to-day were determined on that basis the pensioner would be receiving a great deal more than he is to receive even with the proposed increase. Listening to Government supporters, anybody would imagine that these unfortunate people were to live in luxury because the Government has granted' them what its supporters claim to be the largest increase of pensions ever made. As a matter of fact, an examination of the figures, over the years, in relation; to the cost of living will show that any pensioner who is now without the support of friends or relatives and who must depend entirely on his pension is in a most desperate position. He will still be in a desperate position even after this paltry increase ha9 been made, 'because there is no city in this country in which he can rent even a small room for less than 15s. a week. After he has paid that minimum rent he will have 35s. of his pension of 50s. left for food, clothing and other necessaries. If he had 21 meals a . week - and surely nobody will argue that our old pioneers and sick persons are not entitled to have three meals a day as do other members of the community - the remaining 35s. of the pension would allow him to spend only ls. 8d. on each meal. Honorable members know the kind of meal that can be obtained nowadays for ls. 8d. After paying for his three meals a day the pensioner would have nothing left of his pension to buy clothing and other necessaries and he would have to depend on relatives and friends for assistance to buy smokes and other amenities and to pay transport fares. Yet the Government boasts about what it is doing for those people. The honorable member for Gwydir talked about the pegging of rents as if that had been an evil practice. It is quite true that when we were in office we pegged rents because we were trying to protect the workers and people like pensioners against undue exploitation. It is evident that the honorable gentleman does not understand the legislation, because he talked about some person who had been able to purchase a number of houses, hoping to be able to live on the rents in his old age, and then had had to apply for a pension because rents had been pegged. He should know that the value of the properties would in any case prevent such people from receiving a pension. What we want to know is what security pensioners get from the Government. The present measure will give them an increase of pensions, but we are still mindful of the fact that in the event of another depression, while an antiLabour government is in office, honorable members opposite will argue that economies are necessary, and the first people on whom the Government will economize will be the pensioners. . History has shown that the moment economy is deemed by an anti-Labour government to be necessary it adopts the policy of cutting social services. The Government has given no guarantee that that will not happen again. The honorable member for Riverina **(Mr. Roberton)** talked about social services benefits being paid out of production, and said that if the prices that we are now receiving for our primary products fell we should no longer be able to afford those benefits on such a lavish scale as that which now applies. An increase of pensions only means that pensioners will be able to buy a little more of the foodstuffs that are produced in their own country. It does not mean that they will be able to buy imported motor cars, and so accentuate our dollar difficulties. It is of no use for the Minister for External Affairs to argue that the country cannot afford to pay for a good standard of social services, because he is worried, or says that he is, about the low living standards in certain Asiatic countries, and at conference after conference has proposed that millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money be expended on efforts to raise them. I am all for helping those people to improve their living standards, but I say that our first duty and our first responsibility is to our own people in Australia, whom we ought to treat more generously and to whom we should give security. I warn these unfortunate people that despite the fact that they are to receive a little more than they were given previously, the proposed increase of pension will not really improve their condition but will merely, in part, offset the rapidly rising cost of living. In addition, they have no guarantee that if we face another depression the Government will not start to economize on them. In conclusion, I say that the Labour party supports this bill because we should be foolish to deny these deserving people some relief, although the relief provided under this bill is inadequate and is grudgingly given. I inform honorable members on the other side of the House that the Opposition intends to keep up its pressure on the Government. We want to know when pensions and other social services will again be reviewed. We are not satisfied that the pensioners are getting sufficient to enable them to have a decent standard of comfort, and until the wherewithal to do so is provided we shall not be content. We support the measure because it gives some slight increase to these people, but we shall continue to agitate until they get, what is not a charity, but their right and the right of every other Australian citizen - economic security. {: #subdebate-22-0-s6 .speaker-K4Y} ##### Dr NOTT:
Australian Capital Territory -- I rise to address myself to this bill because I believe that half a loaf is better than no bread at all. I am not satisfied with the provision that is made for the age and invalid pensioners, nor do I believe that it is the maximum provision that could be made under to-day's circumstances. During the course of this debate a great number of historical facts have been recited concerning the evolution of the pensions that are to-day received by certain sections of the com- *munity. I listened to the honorable member for .Sturt **(Mr. Wilson),** who referred us to some remote date when pensions were first granted, and I listened to several honorable members on the opposite side of the House who advanced arguments in rebuttal of that testimony. I consider it to be completely immaterial to the present issue to introduce the history of pensions, and to try to prove who raised them and who lowered them. The matter that concerns us to-day is whether the pensions are adequate to meet the needs of the people who are receiving them. The health of the community should be the first and greatest concern of any Australian government, and the pensioners form a considerable portion of our community and are therefore a certain and unending government responsibility. Irrespective of what political party occupies the treasury bench it has an unending responsibility towards the pensioners. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that they shall be properly housed and shall be allowed to spend the declining years of their lives, the sere and yellow leaf, in conditions which may reasonably be expected to be necessary for white people in this country. I do not know whether this Government is or any previous government was fully seised of its responsibility towards the age and invalid pensioners. I have spent almost the whole of my life in various institutions in which aged and invalid people are cared for. It has been my task and my privilege to render some service to those people during the last 30 years. I have seen no more pathetic sights than the places where the pensioners live and the conditions under which they are eking out their final years on this planet. Up to the present time, no political party has done full justice to these people notwithstanding the claims that have been advanced and countered in this chamber to-night. I believe that this bill is in conformity with the promise which the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** made during his general election campaign, but I have not at any time expressed the opinion that enough was being done for the pensioners. The bill proposes to increase the pensions by 7s. 6d. a week to the sum of £2 10s. a week. In 1941, through the Advisory Council of the Australian Capital Territory, I forwarded to the Government a resolution of that body which asked that the invalid and age pensions be increased to the rate of £2 10s. a week. It is only to-day that the pensions have reached that sum. If one relates the increase of 7s. 6d. a week to the value of money to-day one finds that it amounts to an increase of 5 1/2 d. a day for the age pensioners. The present situation of age pensioners is intolerable. Almost all of them are suffering from malnutrition and are in need of medical care. Many life-saving drugs have been made available to them free of charge, but those drugs are not so essentia] to them and to the invalid pensioners as are certain other drugs which do not come within the classification of free drugs. They also need dental treatment and equipment to enable them to face their future with some degree of comfort. I do not think that the proposed sum of £2 10s. a week will meet the requirements of these people. Even when payment of that amount is authorized I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision nd date back the payment to at least the 1st July, 1950. If that be done, these people will be paid a lump sum which will take to itself something in the nature of a Christmas box. Two pounds ten shillings a week to-day gives to u person a pre-war spending power of about 24s. a week. Would any honorable member in this House care to eke out an existence upon 24s. a week? Is there any wonder that in the Australian Capital Territory these people have to live hidden away in the gullies in substandard hutments trying to keep body and soul together? I regard that as a deplorable condition. So bad is it that it drives many aged people to seek hospital attention. To-day I examined a man who asked me to have him committed to an asylum because he could not get admission to the local hospital on account of the shortage of beds. He felt that he could not go one step farther along the road of life because he was suffering from malnutrition and the future looked hopelessly black to him. It has been my unfortunate experience again and again to be called by the police to where an aged or an invalid pensioner has been lying dead. Perhaps he had been dead for three days and no one had bothered to think about whether he was still alive and, if he were, what was his state of health. We owe a great deal to aged people, and I could not in any circumstances miss an opportunity to do something for those who have contributed in the past to the development of this country. In the circumstances I must accept this bill and support it, but I do that only half-heartedly, hoping that the Government will review the position and give to these people sufficient to enable them to spend their declining years in peace and comfort. It is very easy to make an emotional speech about the plight of age pensioners, but I came to this House with the express purpose of helping these people. In fact they signed my nomination paper, and no reason precipitated me into this chamber other than the desire to help them. Not only have they been my patients and friends, but I have also given an undertaking to do all that I can to help them during their declining days. I am astonished that the Government, knowing what could be done, and realizing that it costs at least from £12 to £15 a week to maintain one of these people in a hospital, has not made greater provision for them so that they may be able to maintain themselves in a healthy condition and save themselves the necessity of getting hospital accommodation. I support thebill only because I believe that it will; be a stepping-stone towards something better in the near future. In conclusion, I recommend that the Treasurer **(Mr.. Fadden)** re-consider the suggestion put forward by the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Chifley)** to the effect that these payments be dated back to the 1st July, 1950. {: #subdebate-22-0-s7 .speaker-KVT} ##### Mr THOMPSON:
Port Adelaide -- I wish to refer to one or twostatements that have been made about this bill. I appreciate the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley **(Dr. Donald' Cameron),** who did not attempt to make a party political issue out of this matter,, but made a fine contribution to the debate. I regret that honorable members on theGovernment side have said frequently thatsocial benefits have come exclusively from. Liberal governments. It was said to-day that social benefits had been given beforethe Labour party was formed. I heard my late father say that in 1889, when, the South Austraiian Government . was approached for social benefits, the people who approached it were told that if they wanted social benefits they should put their representatives into Parliament toget them. That was the beginning of the Labour movement in South Australia. Very often through the pressure and influence that Labour has brought to bear on governments many social benefits havebeen secured. I was pleased to hear the honorablemember for East Sydney **(Mr. Ward)** refer to the Deakin Government and provethat it was because of Labour insistencethat age pensions were introduced by it.. The honorable member for Bass **(Mr. Kekwick)** said that he intended to set out the correct position and to show that honorable members on this side did not understand the subject. He alsocontended that an ample fund from which pensions could be paid to employees would be established if the employee, theemployer and the Government contributed ls. a week each for that purpose. When I interjected that it would not bepossible to provide a pension of £2 10s. a week under such a scheme, the honorable member replied that that could *bedone.* In order to show how little heknows about the matter, I point out.. -.that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, which the Lyons Govern- -ment enacted in 1938 in order to establish a compulsory contributory scheme, provided -for a contribution of ls. 6d. by the employer and ls. 6d. by the employee which was to be increased by 3d. in 1944 and by a further 3d. in 1949 making a. total contribution by the employee and the employer of 4s., a week, [n return for that contribution, benefit was to be provided for a male at the rate of £1 a week and for a female at the rate of 15s. a week. In addition to the contributions that I have mentioned the government also was to be obliged to make a contribution the amount of which was not stated. Those figures prove that honorable members opposite who talk so much about a contributory scheme fail to appreciate the fact that in order to provide a benefit of from £2 10s. to £3 a week, the employer, the employee and the Government would be required to make a substantial contribution. I welcome the proposal to increase the rate of pension by 7s. 6d. a week. Indeed, I did not expect that the Government would grant so large an increase. However, one supporter of the Government said that it had fixed the amount of the increase at 7s. 6d. a week before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently .announced an increase of the basic wage by £1 a week and before the recent cost of living adjustments had been announced. Consequently, the proposed increase bears no relation to the present cost of living. Supporters of the Government have chided us members of the Opposition by saying that the Government that we supported did not increase pen.sions in 1949. That government increased pensions by 5s. a week in October, ] 948, and during the general election campaign twelve months later our leader said that if returned to office the Labour party would do all that it possibly could to increase them still further. He refused to make any definite promise in that respect. But the present Government parties promised that if they were returned to office they would not only increase pensions but also abolish the means test in respect of all social services benefits. The day after the present Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** made his policy speech, while travelling in a bus, I heard one man ask another "Did you hear **Mr. Menzies** last night His companion replied " Yes ; it will do me. They are going to do away with the means test and I will be able to get a pension ". That was typical of the general reaction of the community to the promises that the present Government parties made at the last general election. However, since they assumed office they have not made any attempt to abolish the means test. A fortnight ago a pensioner informed me that the combined pensions of his wife and himself had been reduced by 16s. 3d. a week, on the ground that they owned a house in addition to the one in which they lived. He told me that from that house he received rent at the rate of 12s. 6d. a week out of which he had to pay rates and taxes. If that couple had not owned that house they would not have lost a portion of their pensions considerably in excess of the rent that they derived from it. When I took up the matter with the department I was informed that the municipal council in whose area it was situated had revalued the property and that on the basis of the revaluation the department had no option but to reduce the pension of that couple under the means test provisions. I also direct attention to an anomaly that exists in respect of the allowance that is payable in some instances to the wife of an age or invalid pensioner when she is under the age of 60 years. At present, she receives an allowance of 24s. a week. When the Chifley Government increased all other classes of pensions by 5s. a week with the exception of that allowance, which amounted to £1 a week, I made personal representations to the Leader of the Opposition, .who was then Prime Minister, to increase the allowance by a similar amount. Later, it was increased to 24s. a week. I was informed that it was not increased to 25s. a week because the wife of a war pensioner was receiving only 24s. and it was not desirable to pay a higher pension to the wife of a civilian. Under this measure the pension payable to the wife of a war pensioner is to be increased from 24s. to £1 10s. 6d. whilst the allowance payable to the wife of a civilian pensioner is not to be altered at all. The Government cannot justify that differentiation. I urge it to adjust that anomaly, particularly as the war pensioner will receive an income of approximately £7 a week whereas an age, or invalid, pensioner will receive only £2 10s. a week. I do not suggest that the pension payable to the wife of a war pensioner should not be increased as the Government proposes to increase it under this measure. In fact, I welcome that proposal. However, the Government is not consistent when it makes the differentiation that I have indicated. I regret that the Government has not done more than it has done to ease the means test. Speaking in this chamber a few months ago, I urged it to combine the means test in respect of property with the ordinary means test in respect of income. Such a concession would benefit the thrifty whom supporters of the Government claim to represent. I realize that many difficulties would arise as the result of such an alteration being made. Every case differs according to circumstances. Like the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory **(Dr. Nott),** many honorable members could speak emotionally about the effect of anomalies in certain instances. Whilst one pensioner may be in receipt of income apart from the pension and is in a comparatively comfortable position, another pensioner may have to pay high rent for a house and if he is entirely dependent upon the pension he is in very difficult circumstances. The Government should not hesitate to act as I suggest simply because many complications would be bound to arise. On the contrary it should endeavour to obviate complications. 1 urge it to give greater consideration to the needs of the wives of invalid, or age, pensioners. As has been pointed out in the course of this debate, the pension of £2 10s. which it is proposed to make available under this legislation will be only approximately 30 per cent, of the present basic wage, whereas it was approximately 36 per cent, of the basic wage in 1948. Supporters of the Government have complained that the Chifley Government did not increase pensions during the last twelve months of its term of office. The present Government has been in office for eleven months and it has not yet actually increased pensions, although under this measure it proposes to do so. Thus it will have taken the present Government twelve months to do what its supporters have criticized the Chifley Government for having failed to do twelve months ago. Members of the Opposition will co-operate with the Government in any legislation that it introduces with a view to doing justice to the pensioners. I again urge the Government to increase the pension still further in the near future in order to enable pensioners to meet the rising cost of living. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted. Bill - *by leave* - read a third time. {: .page-start } page 3084 {:#debate-23} ### POST AND TELEGRAPH RATES Bill returned from the Senate without amendment. {: .page-start } page 3084 {:#debate-24} ### ADJOURNMENT {:#subdebate-24-0} #### Industrial Unrest - Waterfront Employment" - Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations Motion (by **Mr. SPENDER)** proposed - >That the House do now adjourn. {: #subdebate-24-0-s0 .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr MULLENS:
Gellibrand .- 1 believe that honorable members will agree that there is an unfortunate tendency to-day on the part of the public, the press and the Parliament to view every industrial dispute that occurs with a more or less jaundiced eye, and, consequently, there is a failure generally to differentiate between the spurious and the genuine, the just and the unjust cause and the genuine strike and the conspiracy. It is high time that we developed a sense of comparative values. I do not desire to detain the House unduly at this hour, but it was good enough for this chamber to sit until approximately 2 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss cosmetics and the nether portions of an infant's anatomy, and until 4 a.m. this morning to discuss roads and rural problems, as if they were of paramount importance to this community, so surely we can devote a few minutes to-night to look at the panorama of momentous events, industrial and political, which are happening to-day in Melbourne and Sydney. All members of the Parliament should be keen, consistent and tenacious observers of outside events. Our horizon should not be limited by the farm fence, and the fluctuations of the prices of primary products. Let us examine some matters which, I think, are of slightly more importance to this community than are those subjects. It is a valid indictment to lay against this Government that its Ministers are completely unaware of the causes underlying industrial disputes in the country. I do not make that statement in a spirit of carping criticism. Ministers are the products of a bleak and individualist philosophy, which has determined their ideas on these matters, with the result that the proclamation of the Crimes Act has been foreshadowed in the Parliament and in the press to deal with disputes on the waterfront in Sydney and in Melbourne. I am concerned more particularly with the position in Melbourne, and I hope that this Parliament, the Cabinet, the community and the press will be able to differentiate between the substratum of the dispute in Melbourne and disputes which may occur elsewhere. The waterside workers in Melbourne have a genuine industrial dispute. {: .speaker-L19} ##### Mr Leslie: -- They always make that claim. {: .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr MULLENS: -- I emphasize that the men who work on a vessel are entitled to protect their greatest asset, their own flesh and blood - the instrument that enables them to support their families in some measure of comfort. The issue in Melbourne is predominantly the safety of the men who work on the vessels. Those facts are incontestable. What is the value of this artificial levity among members of the Australian Country party? Is it not enough to say, as I say dispassionately, that members of the Cabinet, headed by a microphone-happy Prime Minister, are persons who, with the bast of intentions in the world, lack, by reason of their education and their environment, . knowledge and experience of the problems of the workers, individually and collectively. That is a true indictment. {: .speaker-L19} ##### Mr Leslie: -- Did not the honorable, member absent himself from the House in order to see the Melbourne Cup race? {: .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr MULLENS: -- Certainly, I went to the Melbourne Cup meeting, and I had the pleasure of rejoicing with waterside workers at it. Similar breadth of vision would be welcome in members of the Cabinet. I am amazed at the apathy and ineptitude of the Government in the face of recurrent industrial crises. {: .speaker-KYB} ##### Mr Pittard: -- The honorable member is bemused with his own oratory. {: .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr MULLENS: -- The honorable member for Ballarat **(Mr. Pittard)** knows perfectly well that the series of climaxes which have occurred in this Parliament this year have been marked with oratory and a spate of words to an artificially created audience here. But outside the Parliament, things are happening. What is the Government doing about them? Not a thing! {: .speaker-K7J} ##### Mr Cramer: -- Tell us what is happening. {: .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr MULLENS: -- I shall do so. Waterside workers were engaged to work SS. *Camdale* in the port of Melbourne, and in almost less time than it takes to tell, a dispute occurred on a safety issue. It was due to the psychology, misunderstanding and lack of correct approach on the part of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the industrial officer. The dispute concerned the wheeling of cargo into *Caradale.* I realize that Government supporters, obsessed with their own problems and with the implication of international events, cannot see the significance of that dispute. But the waterside workers in Melbourne owe allegiance to the Australian Labour party, and we members of the Australian Labour party have to stand up for them. Their cause is just and reasonable. The men who objected to the absence of adequate safety measures were suspended, and were told that their names had been removed from the pay-roll. Other members of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to work that vessel, and activity in the port came to a standstill. What is the answer to that problem? Is it the proclamation of the Crimes Act. accompanied by the adoption of the superior air that characterizes the approach of some Ministers to industrial problems? I deliberately exclude the Minister for Labour and National Service **(Mr. Holt)** from that statement, because he seems to have a policy and to understand the attitude of the workers. I appeal to honorable members to-night to display clarity of vision, so that the issues may not be confused. I am endeavouring to isolate the causes of the dispute in Melbourne from the causes of the stoppage in Sydney, simply because I am not interested in the dispute at the last-named port. I am speaking for a body of fine, loyal Australians, whose cause should be as important to this Parliament as is that of the wool-growers and other primary producers, whose plight so constantly agitates our minds. {: #subdebate-24-0-s1 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- Order! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time. I call the honorable member for Parkes **(Mr. Haylen).** {: .speaker-BV8} ##### Mr Calwell: -- I desire to move - That the honorable member for Gellibrand **(Mr. Mullens)** be granted an extension of time. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: -- I am sorry, but I have called the honorable member for Parkes. {: .speaker-JVM} ##### Mr Mullens: -- The facts as I have stated them are unpalatable to Government supporters, but they will be forced to heed them one day. {: #subdebate-24-0-s2 .speaker-KGX} ##### Mr HAYLEN:
Parkes . -Last Tuesday, I directed the attention of the House and of the Prime Minister **(Mr. Menzies)** to the proposal to stage the pageant *Hiawatha* in the jubilee celebrations next year, and to the matter of its place in any pageantry associated with the fiftieth anniversary of federation. I was unable to obtain either a reply from the Prime Minister, or the name of the committee which made that decision. I have searched the records of the Parliament and of newspaper offices and there appears to be a series of committees concerned. I think they are ten in number. I was not able to place the blame adequately or fairly upon any committee for perpetrating this outrage upon the Australian people in relation to their celebrations, but I think that the Arts and Crafts Committee may be responsible. When I asked the Prime Minister whether it would be possible to obtain an answer to a question that I consider important, the right honorable gentleman stated that he did not know. It therefore seems to me that the only method by which I may obtain an answer is to emulate Longfellow and to sing another version of *The Song of Hiawatha.This* is my version of the poem - >I should ask the great white father, > >Chieftain of the Aussie nation, > >In the wigwams of the people, > >Why he brings us Hiawatha > >From the teepees of the tycoons, > >Singing songs of other nations > >At the eating of the emu > >By the banks of old Molonglo. > >In the forest of the people > >Are there not much sweeter voices > >Than the nasal Minna-ha-ha > >And the windy Hiawatha - > >Not forgetting old Nokomis > >And that bore, Kabibonokka? > >Have we not a local Antill, > >Of the famed Arunta tribesmen, > >Who will dance among the shadows > >A corroboree of passion > >At the feast of Iguana, > >At the eating of the oysters > >And the clinking of the glasses > >At the skinning of the 'possum? > >Came there not a Henry Lawson > >In the song time of the nation, > >Singing songs of sheep and shearers > >Ere the days of Fadden taxes? > >Have we not a sweet toned Banjo > >Twanging songs of High Monaro > >And the man from Snowy River? > >Why will not the high-born Chieftain > >Of the cold Canberra wigwams > >Hearken to the voice of Bradfield, > >Listen to the plaint of Fraser, > >Give us something pure Australian > >For the sing song of the people > >In the land of old Eureka? I draw attention to the fact that a serious lack of planning by those responsible is demonstrated by the proposal to include *Hiawatha* in the pageant. It is, no doubt, a nice piece of music, but I suggest that it is woefully out of keeping with the celebration of something purely Australia. I recited the verse to honorable members in the hope that it might prompt the Prime Minister to reply in a like medium to my valid request for information and for action to repair the damage that has been done. I do not dislike *Hiawatha* as a song. In its class it is an excellent work, but it is not a fitting subject for our celebrations. Since reciting the verse, I have realized that I forgot to mention the jackass. I am reminded of that by hearing the voice of an honorable member opposite *who* has consistently interjected. I shall include that reference on the next occasion. {: #subdebate-24-0-s3 .speaker-KUG} ##### Mr SPENDER:
Minister for External Affairs · Warringah · LP -- *in reply* - I wish to say only a few words in answerto the honorable member forGellibrand **(Mr. Mullens).** I do not propose in any way to canvass the nature of the dispute that has taken place in Melbourne. That would be wrong, and particularly so at the present time, since this afternoon an application was made to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for the calling of a compulsory conference. I have no preconceived views on the subject, nor, I am sure, has the Minister for Labour and National Service **(Mr. Holt).** If there has been any suggestion of the application of the Crimes Act, there certainly has been no proclamation by the Government concerning it. I was present this morning at a discussion during which it was determined that the facilities of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be exhausted in order that this matter might be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land. I sincerely hope that, as a result of that conference, the dispute that has taken place in Victoria will be settled, and that the men will return to work without further difficulty. Question resolved in the affirmative. {: .page-start } page 3087 {:#debate-25} ### PAPERS The following papers were presented : - Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department - Health- P. D. Abbott. Postmaster-G eneral's - H. Barber. Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c, acquired for- Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Meekatharra, Western Australia. Immigration purposes - Port Stephens, New South Wales. Postal purposes - Broome, Western Australia. Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1950- No. 25 - Public Service. No. 26 - Restricted Areas. House adjourned at 10.59 p.m. {: .page-start } page 3087 {:#debate-26} ### ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS *The following answers to questions were circulated: -* {:#subdebate-26-0} #### Lantana and Nut Grass {: #subdebate-26-0-s0 .speaker-KVR} ##### Mr SWARTZ:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · LP z asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that in certain parts of south Queensland the growth of lantana has been spreading and is now encroaching on good farm land and that efforts by owners and local authorities to eradicate this pest have so far been unsuccessful ? 1. What stage has been reached with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization experiments designed to eradicate or control lantana growth? 2. What further information is available from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization regarding the eradication of nut grass in areas where its growth can be classified as extensive? Mr.Menzies. - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization has no direct information about the spread of lantana in south Queensland, but it understands from the Department of Agriculture and Stock, Queensland, and their various producer organizations, that some spread is occurring. 1. Officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and also of the State departments in New South Wales and Queensland have been interested in the eradication of this weed for some time. The results of recent investigations have indicated that an effective control of the weed, in restricted areas, can be obtained by the use of the new hormone-like weedicides, 2,4-D and tnethozone, applied in fairly high concentrations. The chief of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Division of Plant Industry, **Dr. B.** T. Dickson, has advised that the results of recent work have indicated that concentrations of from 2 to 5 lb. of active ingredient per acre, depending on the growth stage, are required for complete kill, the best time to spray being on a regrowth after a burn. It is appreciated that this method of control is rather costly to apply, but it is nevertheless effective. From time to time in recent years consideration has been given to the possibility of releasing an insect for the control of lantana. However, the position was rather complicated inthat banana-growers considered lantana was of value in improving soil fertility and, after consultation with the State Departments oi Agriculture, the matter was brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and the Australian Agricultural Coun<cil, which decided that the insect should not be released. More recently, in response to numerous inquiries, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has again taken up this matter with the State departments and it has now been agreed that the position should be further investigated. Both the New South Wales Department of Agriculture and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock consider that the loss caused by lantana exceeds any benefit from rejuvenation of the soil. Therefore, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial liesearch Organization has now asked a principal research officer of its Division of Entomology. **Mr. F.** Wilson, who is at present overseas, to investigate the question of biological control of lantana while he is abroad. It is expected that **Mr. Wilson** will return to Australia early in 1951, when consideration will be given to such information as he is able to obtain. 2. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization has been looking into the matter of the control of nut grass for several years. The best method of control has been obtained by the organization with the use nf soil fumigation by means of the use of D-D. This material is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and is marketed by the Shell Company of Australia. Applications at the rate of approximately 750 lb. an acre have been reasonably effective in killing nut grass under reasonably dry soil conditions in Queensland. The method of application is to inject the material into the soil to a depth of 5 or 6 inches, with a 12-in. lateral spacing. If any considerable area is to be treated, it is best to use some type of knapsack, such as the Blundell machine made by the Rega Company, although we understand that the Shell Company also market an injector of their own design. The rate of injection with a M!-in. lateral spacing would amount to approximately a teaspoonful and a quarter per injection. After the injection into the soil, the hole should ho fairly effectively tamped, and it may bc advisable to roll the ground so. that the gas is not lost from the soil. This method is rather expensive, but reasonably effective when applied to dry soils. The action of D-D as a soil sterilant lasts for only a few weeks. However, the Commonwealth Scientific anr! Industrial Research Organization indicates that this method of control is likely to be less effective if applied to damp soils, and suggests that better results might possibly be obtained on such soils by the application of the hormone weedicide 2,4-D, at the rate of 20-40 lb. an acre. Such an application should cause soil sterilization for three to six months, and any heavy rain would assist in the penetration of the 2,4-D to buried tubers. Officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are continuing in their experimental work with the newer types of herbicides in the hope that a more economical and more practical method of controlling nut grass can be obtained. {:#subdebate-26-1} #### Shipping {: #subdebate-26-1-s0 .speaker-KVR} ##### Mr Swartz: z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that additional ships have been made available for the Queensland interstate run? 1. How many ships are operating on the Queensland interstate run; what are their names and what is the tonnage of each vessel? 2. Will it be possible to maintain regular schedules for certain passenger and cargo vessels? 3. If so, what schedules will be maintained? 4. Will he endeavour to ensure that regular sailings are now made from Newcastle and Whyalla to maintain continuity of supplies of basic materials to Queensland? {: #subdebate-26-1-s1 .speaker-JLZ} ##### Mr Anthony:
Postmaster-General · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP -- The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The new Commonwealth-owned vessel *Binburra* has recently been added to the vessels already engaged primarily in the Queensland interstate trade. The main function of this vessel will be the carriage of raw sugar to southern refineries returning northwards with steel, &c. 1. In order that the utmost use may be made of existing tonnage all interstate vessels are under the co-ordination of the Combined Traffic Committee which allots vessels to the various trades as circumstances warrant. The number of vessels engaged in the Queensland interstate trade thus varies somewhat but at present the following 35 vessels are operating on the Queensland run : - *Ormiston,* 5,832 tons ; *River Mitta,* 5,010 tons; *Bilkurra,* 3,952 tons; *Daylesford,* 2,351 tons; *-Nyora,* 1,299 tons; *Bidelia,* 1,304 tons; *Barossa,* 4,239 tons; *Bungaree,* 3,093 tons; *Dilga,* 3,308 tons; *Manunda,* 8,853 tons; *River Norman,* 6,458 tons; *Dalby,* 2,348 tons; *Euroa,* 584 tons; *Arkaba,* 4,212 tons; *Babinda,* 659 tons; *Beltana,* 3,043 tons; *Caledon,* 1,083 tons; *Lady Isobel,* 1,048 tons; *Culcairn,* 3,165 tons; *Binburra,* 3,952 tons; *Denman,* 2,265 tons; *Enfield,* 584 tons; *Alagna,* 730 tons; *Balook,* 4,052 tons; *Bundaleer,* 4,238 tons; *Cycle,* 3,952 tons; *Macedon,* 4,368 tons; *Mildura,* 3,498 tons; *Mungana,* 3,351 tons; *Ulooloo,* 3,236 tons; *Cardross,* 2,557 tons; *Tambua,* 3,566 tons; *Carlisle,* 1,881 tons; *Caradale,* 1,881 tons; *Fiona,* 2,198 tons. 2. Under present-day conditions it is not possible to maintain regular schedules except for certain passenger vessels and these schedules can only be maintained on occasions and by restricting their loadings to offset weather and other delays in port. Cargo vessels are allotted .by the Combined Traffic Committee *to* the trade where they ore most urgently required and no regular schedules can be. maintained. {: type="1" start="4"} 0. See answer to Question No. 3. 1. Ike supply of basic materials to Queensland from Newcastle and Whyalla must be considered in conjunction with supplies to other States and the Combined Traffic Committee endeavours at all times to provide adequate tonnage particularly for essential materials. A considerable number of the vessels listed above as being engaged in Queensland interstate trade are suitable for the carriage of ' basic materials from Newcastle and Whyalla. When a sufficient quantity of cargo is ready for shipment from any particular port, vessels are allotted by the Combined Traffic Committee to lift it, thus ensuring as far as it is practicable a regular flow of basic materials to all States, including' Queensland. Grain Sorghum. {: #subdebate-26-1-s2 .speaker-009MB} ##### Mr McEWEN:
MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP n. - On the 31st October, the honorable member for Darling Downs **(Mr. Swartz)** asked a question concerning the export of grain sorghum. Approval was given for the export of portion of last season's grain sorghum crop on the basis of 60 per cent, of the total intake by merchants, provided the balance of 40 per cent, was disposed of on the local market. Export permits were granted accordingly for the export of 60 per cent, of the crop. I am informed that there is at present a keen demand 'for grain sorghum on the Brisbane market and consequently it is not considered that additional exports should be agreed to until local requirements have been met. Petrol. {: #subdebate-26-1-s3 .speaker-JOI} ##### Mr Beale:
Minister for Supply · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP e. - On the 7th November, 1950, tho honorable member for Cunningham **(Mr. Davies)** asked a question concerning the alleged refusal of some oil companies to supply petrol to garages. Tie Minister for .Fuel, Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply.-- > I am aware that the oil industry' hae in the past exercised some control over the establishment of new petrol reseller outlets and the. Government has not intervened in this matter. It is understood that the industry's policy was laid down in the interests of both the resellers and the oil companies, and, as a result of this policy, the number of resellers in any .particular district was regulated according to the demand for petroleum products in the particular area. However, I have been advised that the Oil Industry Reseller Outlet > >Committee was recently disbanded. The position now. is therefore that an intending- teseller may negotiate with any oil company for the supply of motor spirit and the installation of the necessary pump equipment and the oil company or companies concerned may approve or. refuse the application without reference to any industry committee. . Basic Wage. {: #subdebate-26-1-s4 .speaker-KHL} ##### Mr Holloway:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA y asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, *upon. notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that the Conciliation audiArbitration Act limits the powers of the court, by preventing it from making a new basicwage, and that the court is permitted only to amend the existing basic wage! 1. Will he consider an immediate amendment of the act so that (a) the court may have, power to make a simpler and more" scientific basic wage covering all organizations registered with the court, and (6). the recent basic wage increase can be passed on to the registered unions without the difficulties associated with the present limitation of the powers of the court? {: #subdebate-26-1-s5 .speaker-009MC} ##### Mr Holt:
LP -- The answer to the right honorable gentleman's questions are as follows : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Under section 25 of the Commonwealth. Conciliation and Arbitration Act as amended when the Government, in which the honorable member held my portfolio, was in office, the court's powers are .limited to altering the basic wage or the .principle upon which it is computed. 1. As previously announced, the Government has the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act under review but does not propose to present any amendments of that legislation to the Parliament this session. It *is* notaware that if the court had power to fix a basic wage the present proceedings would *in* any way be facilitated.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.