20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, refer to the Standing Orders Committee the possibility of making recommendations to this House in order to preserve the rights of private members under Standing Orders 105 and 291 ? In particular, -will you ask the committee to consider the possibility of suspending the operation of Standing Order 48 on Thursday mornings? By way of explanation, the first two standing orders to which I have referred preserve certain rights for private members on Thursday mornings. I recognize that government business must take precedence in some circumstances, but I trust that that will not be so on all occasions. Under Standing Order 48, time which should be reserved for productive and non-partisan debate is very often taken up by the discussion of motions by members of the Opposition that are based on partisan grounds.
– Order I The honorable gentleman shall not reflect on the actions of the House.
– Will you refer those matters to the Standing Orders Committee, Mr. Speaker!
– I shall undertake to examine the standing orders that the honorable member has mentioned. I am familiar with two of them offhand, but I am not sure of the terms of the third. ‘ I believe that a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee will be held as soon as the Prime Minister is able to attend. In the meantime, I undertake to have a private talk with the honorable member in order to determine whether I can make any recommendation to the committee.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government has abandoned the claim against Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for landing dues ? Has it now become the policy of the Government not to charge landing dues to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited but to charge landing dues to Trans-Australia Airlines?
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and every other company have certain rights under the Constitution. For example, they have the right to challenge the validity of acts and regulations of this Parliament. They have exercised that right, and a case before the High Court of Australia is now pending. Until that case is determined, the Government can not enforce its orders.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation on the general policy of the Government that it will take over responsibility for the operation and maintenance of an aerodrome only in instances in which it has been proved by actual airline traffic over a period, that sufficient traffic is available to justify the locality being listed as an approved stopping place on a regularly operated airline service. This policy places a heavy responsibility upon groups of councils which accepted the responsibility of establishing aerodromes as it prejudices their ability to undertake other work, such as roads and developmental jobs, because of the strain that such undertakings place upon their finances. Can the Minister say how much has been expended up to date on construction work at the Kingsford-Smith Aerodrome, and what is the total estimated cost of such Work ? When will the work be completed ? Will it then be possible for the Department of Civil Aviation to give more generous financial consideration in respect of the establishment of aerodrome facilities in country districts?
– The KingsfordSmith Aerodrome at Mascot is one of the key aerodromes in Australia. It is the terminus of practically all international flights and most of the country and trunk line routes. Consequently, it must be maintained in first-class condition for the reception of all kinds of traffic. Ithink that the expenditure on the aerodrome up to date amounts to approximately £3,000,000 and that the work of bringing the aerodrome up to the required standard is estimated to cost about £7,000,000. I shall obtain the exact figures later for the honorable member. He has enunciated correctly the Government’s policy in respect of country aerodromes. The Government will not take over such aerodromes untila certain volume of traffic uses them. We are not likely to depart from that policy for some time, because we are already confronted with the task of bringing more aerodromes up to the requisite standard than the facilities at our command will enable us to do.
– From time to time, there have been reports and rumours to the effect that work at Llanherne, the new airport near Hobart, is being restricted or curtailed. Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether there is any truth in those reports?
– The aerodrome area to which the honorable member has referred is recognized as important by the Department of Civil Aviation. So far as I am aware, it is not intended to restrict the work there.
– Will the Treasurer inform me what restrictions placed on local government authorities are likely to prevent them from securing the necessary loan funds for the construction of roads and the prosecution of other public works, particularly those of a developmental character?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask this question.
– Then it is not properly a question without notice.
– Local governing authorities cannot secure all the loan moneys that they desire for various purposes because the present demand for such funds far exceeds the amount of investable funds that can be made available.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, with the statement that serious repercussions are being experienced in Tasmania already through the dismissal of linemen and technicians from the Postal Department. Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that our population is increasing annually by 3 per cent., and that there is an ever-increasing demand for telephone services? In view of the fact that the Postal Department has a large programme for the provision of essential new telephone services in rural, suburban and city areas and that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs has stated that the completion of works will be delayed, will the Minister immediately urge the Public Service Board to re-appoint the linemen and technicians who were dismissed by his department recently? We regard the dismissals as a scandal.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not refer to an act of the Government as a scandal. His remark was completely unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark.
– At this stage, the Government will not ask the Public Service Board or any other government instrumentality to reconsider any decision that it has made in respect of the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The expansion of industry and the growth of population are not peculiar to Tasmania, but are common to all parts of the Commonwealth. The reason why this Government has had to act in the way in whir:h it has acted is that there are not sufficient materials and manpower available to enable us to carry out all the developmental works that require to be done. If the Commonwealth exercised priority in relation to manpower and materials for all the works that it could do, there would be practically no man-power or materials available for private individuals or private home builders. That fact has influenced the actions of this Government. With regard to the development of telephone services, the Postal Department is giving priority to the most essential works.
– I understand that arrangements have been made for the payment of age and invalid pensions at the increased rates as from to-day. Will the Minister for Social Services say when widows’ pensions will be paid at the increased rates?
– Widows’ pensions will be paid at the new rates from next Tuesday, except in Victoria, where they will be paid from next Monday.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. As the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision in the Australian Capital Territory of facilities that are provided normally by State governments in other parts of Australia, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Social Services upon the urgent need to provide cottage homes for old people in Canberra ? Will the honorable gentleman give consideration to having the first cottage that is built named the “ L. W. Nott Memorial Cottage “, in tribute to a man who for many years worked to assist the aged and the afflicted ?
– The matter of building twilight homes in Canberra has been under consideration for soma considerable time but I do not know when we shall be able to undertake operations. I wish, however, that when a man does a great job in public life more people would recognize it while he is alive and not wait until he is dead to do so.
– Will the Treasurer say whether the Government’s committee on taxation advised against the allowance of an income tax concession in relation to disbursements by taxpayers for educational purposes? If so, will he furnish to the House the reasons that were advanced by the committee for giving such advice?
– The reports on taxation matters that have been made by the committee have already been tabled, and are available to honorable members for consideration. I have nothing to add to that statement.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he will recommend to the Government the withdrawal of the tax on brandy in view of the hardship that the increased price has imposed upon many sick people who have to take brandy daily for medicinal purposes ?
– My reply to the honorable member is that the Government’s budget proposals have been approved by this House unequivocally and definitely.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that income tax has been collected on made-up pay or supplementary allowances paid by employers to their servicemen employees during the war years? Is it also a fact that the Commonwealth Taxation Board of Review has decided that payments of this nature do not fall within the classification of Australian income, and therefore should not be liable to tax? Is it further a fact that the Commissioner of Taxation is appealing to the High Court on this matter? Will the Government give consideration to introducing retrospective amendments to the law in order to make all such payments exempt from income tax?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is at present the subject of litigation before the High Court and, consequently, I cannot discuss it here. What the Government will do as a result of the court’s decision is a matter of policy that will be duly considered.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, in view of the growing disquiet in the minds of many thousands of applicants for telephones about why the Government has failed to provide them with this essential service, he will furnish to the House a list, of the names and occupations of telephone subscribers to whom telephones have been supplied during the last five years. Is he aware that many applicants for tele phones have complained that their applications were lodged more than five years ago?
-Order ! That question should obviously have been put on the notice-paper.
– It need not go on the notice-paper, Mr. Speaker, because I can now answer it. The answer is that we would not do such a stupid thing as the honorable member has suggested. People who have been waiting more than five years for telephones were waiting at least three years for them during the Chifley regime. In the last year the Postmaster-General’s Department has connected about 90,000 telephones throughout Australia. However, applications for telephones are coming in faster than it is possible to make the installations. That fact is due, of course, to the present over-prosperous state of the Commonwealth.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to give me any further information with regard’ to the request of the Carabost soldier settler group to be connected to the Humula telephone exchange? In explanation, I state that these ex-servicemen applied more than two years ago to have their settlement connected with the telephone system. In view of the Minister’s statement in this House last week that he is having certain work done by contract as an experiment to test the efficiency of that system, will he consider calling for tenders for the completion of this work if the Postal Department is unable to undertake it immediately ?
– The honorable member has interviewed mc repeatedly about an exchange for the Carabost soldier settlement. Arrangements had been made with, a resident of Humula to conduct the telephone exchange, but later that resident indicated that he did not desire to continue with the arrangement. Since then it has not been possible to find any one who is willing to conduct the exchange. However, the department is examining alternative schemes. When some finality has been reached concerning them, the soldier settlers and others in the area will he informed of the new financial contracts that they will be required to enter into. Then the work will be put in hand as soon as materials and labour are available.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question relative to the annual grant made to the States and therefore, in effect, to local authorities throughout the Commonwealth, for the purposes of carrying out road work. Those grants, which are made under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act, amounted last year to £12,000,000, and are a valued and generous concession. Is it possible to increase the grant to the State governments this year to assist local authorities to maintain roads other than main roads?
– The grant to which the honorable member has referred is, under tho relevant legislation, automatically increased at a rate consistent with the increased consumption of petrol. In these circumstances, local authorities this year will receive more than they received last year for road works.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Government, as part of its so-called antiinflation policy, has reduced credit facilities for intending home builders? If so, is the Government prepared, in view of the great urgency of the housing problem, to reconsider this matter and to provide much more liberal assistance to home seekers through the Commonwealth Bank and the War Service Homes Division by making available to genuine intending home purchasers housing loans up to 100 per cent, of the value of the property, at an interest rate of 2 per cent. ?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is emphatically “ No “.
– I address a question, to you, Mr. Speaker. In an address given by leaders of a deputation, that visited Canberra yesterday certain members of the Opposition were referred to a« “ Progressive Labour “.
– Order ! I am not concerned with the designation of members of the Opposition.
– In view of the use of that designation is it intended to allocate a special section of the Opposition benches for this new wing of the Labour party, in order that honorable members on this side of the House may refer to them by their correct title ?
– Order ! The Opposition is here under arrangements that were announced by the right honorable member for Barton, and as far as I am concerned, it is one united Opposition.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform the House whether it is correct that the Royal Australian Navy has not yet made any arrangements for university students to undertake their national service training in periods which coincide with university vacations as has been done in relation to the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force the result being that a university student can only perform his national service training in the Navy at the cost of a whole academic year? Does the Minister agree that university students, no matter how much they may be attracted to naval service, are being driven by necessity to the other services? Does the Minister agree that owing to the enormously increased complexity of modern naval arms and equipment the Navy can ill afford to reject this important source of trained and educated personnel which it needs both as present trainees and future reserve officers and technicians ? Will the Minister ensure that, whatever the difficulties are, some way will be found of providing training in the Navy for university students without requiring them to sacrifice a whole academic year?
– As I informed the House previously the training of national service personnel in the Royal Australian Air Force has been staggered over the Christmas vacation in two periods of 88 days as it applies to university and technical college students. Due to the existence of certain difficulties in the Navy, particularly the necessity to effect maintenance and repair of ships over the Christmas period, it has not been possible, so far, to make similar arrangements for national service personnel who enlisted in the Navy. One difficulty was associated with the necessity for giving trainees at least six weeks’ training afloat at the expiration of the first 120 days of their training. I think that the honorable member, who knows a good deal about these matters, will realize that it is not desirable to reduce the period of service afloat. I took this matter up with the Naval Board and have initiated discussions with the university authorities. They did not initiate the discussions with the Government. The matter has been taken up by the Second Naval Member with the university authorities, who are holding a convention in Adelaide, with the object of introducing some satisfactory system. It will not be possible to introduce such a system this year or next year, but the Government will try to introduce it during the early part of 1954.
– Can the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that Australian newspaper proprietors are attempting to establish a system of syndicated news from the Australian Parliament? Does the Government consider it to lie in the public interest that there should be only one channel of news from this Parliament to the press throughout Australia? If it does not consider this to be desirable, what action does it propose to take in this matter?
– I know nothing of the matter to which the honorable member has referred. I shall cause inquiries to be made and supply him with a written answer to his question.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the cost of equipment for members of rifle clubs has increased greatly in recent years? Is !t a fact that the government grant to rifle clubs of 5s. for each efficient member has not been increased i As at least 50 per cent, of the members of rifle clubs are of military age, and as the correct use of the rifle is all-important in the defence scheme of Australia, will the Minister give consideration to recommending to Cabinet that the government grant be increased?
– I have taken a close and detailed interest in rifle shooting for a long time. The matter of further assistance to rifle clubs is at present engaging the attention of myself and the Military Board, and I shall take into consideration the matters raised by the honorable member. If it is possible to do anything I shall do it at the earliest opportunity.
– I ask leave to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. My question is related to a question which was directed to him yesterday, and which you, Mr. Speaker, ordered, to be placed on the notice-paper. Is the Minister aware that many small poultry-farmers at the present time cannot get supplies of feed wheat? Will the Minister take immediate and urgent action to ensure that supplies shall be made available as soon as ‘possible, in order to prevent the starvation of thousands of fowls?
– The distribution of wheat is made by the Australian Wheat Board. At present there is a shortage of wheat in Australia due to the lower yield of crops, and the reduced area of planting. If, in certain parts of Australia, there is a shortage, and apparently there is because of the honorable member’s question, I shall direct the attention of the Australian Wheat Board to that fact.
– I preface a question that I desire to address to the Treasurer with the explanation that recently I asked him, upon notice, the following questions : - ]. How many applications have geen granted by the Capital Issues Board since February, 1951 1
To those questions the Treasurer gave the following reply: - 1, 2 mid 3. The information contained in applications under the Capital Issues Regulations is of a confidential nature and I am, therefore, unable to disclose to the honorable member the details for which he has asked.
The question that I now wish to ask arises from the fact that I have read repeatedly in the daily press statements that have been issued not only by companies whose applications the board has granted but also by companies whose applications the board has refused. I refer particularly to a statement that was published this week in respect of Drug Houses of Australia Limited.
– My point is–
– Order! The honorable member must ask a question.
– In view of the fact that this information is made available by individual companies to the daily press, why is it said to be confidential? Why does the Treasurer refuse to give similar information to honorable members?
– I refuse to do so for the simple reason that the matter is one entirely for the companies concerned. If they wish to make public information of the kind that the honorable member seeks, that is their business.
– My question is addressed to Mr. Speaker, and I point out, by way of explanation, that a number of questions which appear on the notice-paper are of general interest to honorable members, but, unfortunately, the replies to them are available to honorable gentlemen, other than the questioners, only through Hansard. As you, Mr. Speaker, are aware, the publication of Ilansard is considerably delayed at the present time. Will you inform me whether it is possible for answers to questions upon notice to be distributed to honorable members generally in addition to those honorable gentlemen who have asked the questions?
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I undertake to investigate the matter. I am well aware of the fact that Hansard is very late in appearing these days, and it does not seem possible, because of printing difficulties, to reduce that delay at the present time. I do not know whether the publication of Hansard can be speeded up, but I think that it will be possible to arrange for copies of replies to questions upon notice to be placed upon files in the respective party rooms, where honorable gentlemen may peruse them if they desire to do so.
– I remind the VicePresident of the Executive Council that, last week, I asked him a question about the desperate position of the sugar industry in Queensland as a result of the shortage of shipping. The honorable gentleman, in his reply, went to a lot of trouble to tell me. what the Government would do about Communists on the waterfront and in the shipping industry, but he made no reference whatever to the matter in which I was interested. I desired to know whether he would contact the Prime Minister with a view to having more ships made available to lift those sugar stocks. I now ask the honorable gentleman to inform me whether he has had an opportunity to discuss that matter with his colleague. If he has had that opportunity, can he give me any information about the shipping position ? If he has not had his opportunity, will he be good enough to discuss that matter with the Prime Minister as quickly as possible?
– I am sorry that my remarks have not met with the full approval of the honorable member for Herbert. It is perfectly true that I have said from time to time something about communism.
– It is also true that I have said something about communism from time to time.
– If the honorable gentleman had told me that he wanted to discuss sugar, I would have been able to discuss that subject with him as well. I inform him, in reply to his question, but not to his observations, that I have not had an opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister the availability of shipping to transport sugar from Queensland, but I shall take the opportunity to do so and will furnish him with a reply later..
– My question to the Treasurer refers to the distribution of the profits from the Joint Organization to those wool-growers that have left the industry. The right honorable gentleman has indicated that special legislation must be enacted to authorize the distribution. Will he give an assurance that such legislation will be introduced before the forthcoming recess?
– The necessary machinery and work in connexion with the distribution of the profits from the Joint Organization are entirely matters for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and it is already carrying out the work that is required to make the distribution to which the honorable member has referred. I shall confer with officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture with a view to ascertaining whether action can be taken to expedite the completion of the work in order to give effect to the promise which has been made with regard to those wool-growers who have left the industry.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Committee of Privileges: -
Report relating to an article written by the chief of the Sim Canberra Bureau, appearing in the Sydney newspaper, the Sun, of the 2nd October, 1051, together with minutes of the proceedings of the committee.
The article in question was referred to the committee on the 3rd October for consideration and report.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison), proposed -
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Will a precis of the evidence that was given to the committee particularly that of the author of the article, be placed on the table of the House with the report of the committee?
– I understand that the precis of evidence will be laid on the table in the Library.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3.20 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 4th October (vide page 320), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to maintain order. Although the honorable member for Bendigo is standing at the table there is too much general conversation among honorable members for me to hear what he has to say. Honorable gentlemen should leave the chamber if they wish to converse because a standing order provides that they shall not converse inside the chamber.
.- This bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act .is, from the stand-point of Commonwealth employees, probably one of the most important- measures that has been introduced during the life of this Parliament. The history of workers’ compensation may well be examined at this stage in order that we may appreciate the value of the legislation and the importance of the amendments to the principal act for which this bill provides. Workers’ compensation is a development of the twentieth century. Prior to the turn of the century, compensation for injured workers was not provided for in the statutes of any country. The introduction of compulsory compensation indicated the growth of humanitarian thought at the beginning of this century. The situation of workers in industry prior to the enactment of the first compensation legislation was undoubtedly tragic. Much suffering and destitution resulted from the neglect of injured workers, many of whom were placed in almost hopeless circumstances merely because there was no legal protection for them against the adverse affects of the injuries that were sustained inevitably from time to time in industry.
The passing of the first legislation to provide for workers’ compensation in Great Britain represented a new outlook upon human rights. It was acknowledged that industry should bear the cost of the wastage that arose as a result of accidents that occurred in the daily employment of men and women. The first measure to provide a form of protection for employees of the Commonwealth was not passed until 1912. Successive amendments of that legislation have traced the development of a new conception in public life and in industry of the importance of granting justice to those who, in the course of their daily’ duties, suffer injuries sometimes slight, sometimes serious, and too frequently fatal. The act of 1912, to which I have referred, provided, for only a very small measure of compensation for injured workers.
No doubt many honorable members will be astonished to learn that the amount that was determined as the basis of compensation was two-thirds of the earnings of the worker concerned, subject to a maximum limitation of £2 a week. Many changes have occurred since then, and there has been a gradual improvement of the treatment accorded to injured workers that has been akin to the development of the attitude of the community towards social services. The community has accepted a greater measure of responsibility for the welfare of certain classes of disabled persons and, in the same way, industry has undertaken greater responsibilities on behalf of those citizens who are injured in the course of carrying out productive work or providing the services of the nation. In modern practice, the tendency has been to depart from the basis of a percentage of a worker’s earnings as a measure of compensation and to adopt instead a fixed sum. The needs of wives and children and of widows have also been taken into consideration, as has been the case in relation to social services. Amounts additional to those that are granted to injured workers are now paid in respect of dependants. In the early history of workers’ compensation, the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization and medical appliances was borne entirely by the injured workers. No direct contribution towards such expenses was made by industry. However, in recent years, our laws have been amended so as to provide that industry must bear the major part, if not the whole, of the cost of medical treatment, ambulance transport and so forth. More important, still, as a development of the tendency to protect the worker against the risks that are inherent in industrial employment, legislation throughout Australia now covers employees, for the purposes of workers’ compensation, in respect of injuries sustained while going to work or returning home from work.
Under this measure, all compensation payments for which provision is made in the existing act will be increased. It can be said without exaggeration that the bill is long overdue. It is proposed that the maximum weekly compensation payment made to an injured adult worker during a period of incapacity shall be increased from £4 to £6 a week; that the payment made in respect of a wife shall be increased from £1 5s. to £1 15s. a week; that the payment made in respect of a dependent child shall be increased from 10s. to 15s. a week; that the weekly compensation payments made to injured employees who are under 21 years of age shall be increased from £3 to £4 10s. a week; and that the maximum compensation payable to employees who have suffered specified injuries, such as the loss of a leg or an arm, shall be increased from £1,250 to £1,750. It is proposed that the maximum payment in the case of death, when death arises from an injury suffered in the course of employment, shall be increased from £1,000 to £1,500, and that the sum paid in respect of each child of such a deceased worker shall be increased from £50 to £75.
Provision is made for an increase from £25 to £50 of the sum that can be provided in respect of the funeral expenses of a deceased worker who leaves no dependants. It is proposed that the medical expenses payable in respect of an injured worker shall be increased from £100 to £150, and that the maximum compensation payable in respect of an injury shall be increased from £1,250 to £1,750. It should be pointed out that the Commonwealth compensation legislation, unlike that of most of the States, does not impose a limit upon the weekly compensation payments that can be made to an employee who is permanently and totally incapacitated and is unable to carry on with his employment.
Although it can be said with truth that this measure makes provision for an increase of all compensation payments to injured workers and their dependants, I say, after having considered the workers’ compensation legislation of the various States, that the measure is not as liberal as it should be. At the committee stage, I shall move a number of amendments that are designed to strengthen the bill and to achieve what honorable members on this side of the House believe would be a greater degree of justice. Considered in relation to the present basic wage, the rates at which compensation payments will be made under this measure show a distinct tendency to differ from all previous conceptions of such rates. Under the 1912 act, the maximum weekly compensation payment that could be made to an injured employee was £2. No provision was made in that measure for payments to be made in respect of a wife or children. At that time, the basic wage was £2 13s. a week. Therefore, the maximum weekly compensation payment that an injured worker could receive was 13s. less than the basic wage. The 1912 act continued in force for eighteen years.
The 1930 act fixed the maximum weekly compensation payment to an injured worker at £3 10s., but no provision was made for payments to be made in respect of a wife. The act authorized payments to be made in respect of a child at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week. The total compensation payment at that time in respect of a family of three was £3 17s. 6d. a week. When the 1930 act was passed, the basic wage was £4 6s. a week. Therefore, the difference be- tween the basic wage and the compensation payable in respect of a family of three was reduced from 13s. to Ss. 6d. a week. The 1930 act remained in force for fourteen years. Under the 1944 act, the maximum weekly compensation payment in respect of an employee was fixed at £3 a week, but the maximum rate was paid only when it was equivalent to two-thirds of the worker’s normal wage. The 1944 act made provision for payments to be made in respect of a wife at the rate of £1 per week, and in respect of a child at the rate of 8s. 6d. a week. The total weekly compensation payable in respect of a family of three then was £4 8s. 6d. The basic wage at that time was £4 16s. a week. Therefore, the difference between the basic wage and the weekly compensation payment received by an injured worker with a wife and one child was reduced from 8s. 6d. to 7s. 6d.
The 1948 act further increased compensation payments to injured workers and their dependants. Under that act, the payment to the worker was increased to £4 a week, and the payments in respect of a wife and a child were increased to £1 5s. a week and 10s. a week respectively. An injured worker who had a dependent wife and child received a maximum weekly compensation payment of £5 15s. The basic wage at that time was £5 19s. a week. Therefore, the gap had been reduced to 4s. a week. It is against this aspect of the bill that my most stringent criticism is directed. The amount of compensation proposed in the measure for an injured worker is £6 a week with an allowance for his wife of £1 15s. a week and for a child 15s. a week. A family of three would therefore receive £8 10s. by way of compensation. The basic wage which is to operate from the first pay period of this month, which will be before the provisions of this bill will have effect, will be £10 a week. Therefore, the gap between the payment received by an injured worker who has a wife and one child, and’ the basic wage, will be 30s. a week. Unless an amendment which I propose to move at a later stage is carried, it may be some years before amendments are made to the legislation to allow for the increased cost of living. The history of similar bills shows that one operated for eighteen years, another for fourteen years and another for four years without amendmen. The rates provided in 1948 are only now to be amended. In view of the present tendency of prices to increase the rate of compensation received by injured Commonwealth employees will, at some future time, be barely sufficient for them to support themselves let alone their families, unless some provision for automatic quarterly adjustments of rates is included in the measure. These considerations are of the greatest importance to the worker, and I consider it to be necessary to incorporate “in the bill a provision for automatic adjustments of the prescribed rates. Such a provision would mean that all the payments provided in the first and third schedules of the bill would be automatically adjusted as prices fluctuated, and so there would be no possibility of injustice to an. injured worker being continued because this Parliament had failed to amend the legislation to meet the pressure of rising living costs.
I propose to move other amendments at the committee stage, but I shall leave my remarks on them until that stage has been reached. However, I stress again that it is essential to take the opportunity while the measure is before us, not only -to make the bill as good as we can make it, but also to insert in it provisions that will prevent injustice arising as a consequence of delay in the introduction of amending legislation that would be necessary if the provision for quarterly adjustments that I have suggested is not included in this measure.
The bill contains a number of anomalies in respect of the rates that it provides for specific injuries, in comparison with similar rates provided under State legislation. The bill provides that a person who, as a consequence of an accident arising out of his- employment, loses his hearing entirely, shall receive compensation of £1,225. “Under the New South Wales legislation the same injury is compensated for by a lump sum pay ment of £1,100, and under the Victorian legislation by a lump sum payment of £1,050. The rate of compensation provided for in this bill is therefore £175 higher than the similar rate provided for in Victorian legislation and £125 higher than the rate provided for in New South Wales legislation. Compensation for the loss of one eye, with serious diminution of the sight of the other eye is fixed at £1,312 10s. in the bill. The rate under the New South Wales legislation is £1,350 and under the Victorian legislation £1,310. So the New South Wales rate in respect of that injury is £37 10s. higher than the rate proposed in this measure, while the Victorian rate is £2 10s. lower. Another anomaly is in respect of the loss of a lower part of an arm. The rate of compensation for that injury varies from £1,120 10s. to £1,225. In New South Wales the corresponding rate is £1,250 and in Victoria compensation for the loss of the lower part of the left arm is fixed at £1,135, which is £32 10s. greater than the rate fixed by this bill. It seems somewhat strange that different legislatures should, in relation to exactly the same kind of injuries, arrive at results that differ by as much as £175.
Another anomaly in the bill is that compensation is to be paid only from the moment that the accident occurs. Anabsurd position will arise in that a person may be injured on the job at 10 a.m. and be unable to carry on with his work. His wages will be calculated until 10 a.m. at the rate of pay applicable to the work that he was engaged on at the time of his injury and he will be paid for the rest of the day at compensation rates. That seems rather an extraordinary procedure to follow because it will involve a great amount of calculation before the rate at which the worker should be compensated for the rest of that day can be arrived at. Such a procedure would necessitate an investigation to establish the exact time at which an accident had occurred. I propose to move at the committee stage an amendment to overcome that difficulty, and to provide that the worker shall be paid for the day on which the injury occurred as if no injury had occurred to him on that day. I hope that the Treasurer will be prepared to accept that amendment as well as the other amendments that I have foreshadowed.
This bill doe3 not provide for the payment of liberal compensation as the Opposition desires that it should, and I hope that the amendments that we shall submit will be accepted by the Treasurer. If they are accepted the bill will be much better than it is at present. The necessity for the passing of this measure i3 best demonstrated by a number of inquiries that I have received from workers who were injured in days gone by. Some of them have been in receipt of workmen’s compensation for up to ten years and have found it extremely difficult to make ends meet on the limited payments that are provided under the existing act. This measure will give some relief to those people, although it will not be so great as the Opposition considers that it should be. Its members hope that by means of the amendments they will move later they will be able to make the bill better than it is at present.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has delivered the thoughtful kind of speech which honorable members always expect from him, but his main criticism that the provision of this bill are not so liberal as they might be is a criticism that can always be made by an Opposition of a government measure. Very considerable concessions have been provided for in the bill. For example, in respect of the loss of hearing, to which the honorable member referred, the amount of compensation has been increased from £875 to £1,225, an increase of £350. The payment in respect of the loss of one eye, with serious diminution of the sight of the other, has been increased by £375. Payment in respect of the loss of both eyes has been increased by £500. This bill undoubtedly ranks in the class of liberal measures. It is not always easy or possible to give as much as one would desire to give. The honorable member complained that the weekly payments provided for in the bill were not equivalent to the basic wage. I did not understand from the quotations that he made that the basic wage had ever been adopted as a basis in making these payments. The principle which the Opposition now seeks to adopt of pegging the amounts of compensation to the basic wage is, I understand, a principle of recent adoption. It is not a basis upon which workmen’s compensation has been awarded in the past.
This measure proposes the elimination of the words - shall not be entitled to obtain both damages and compensation. from section 7 of the act. When this act was debated in 1948 two honorable members who were then on the Opposition side of the House, the then honorable member Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the then right honorable member for Warringah, dealt with this matter. They pointed out very clearly that this provision and the definition of medical treatment in the act were not so clear as the then Government considered them to be. They stated that the provisions were ambiguous and that there would be considerable difficulty in construing them in the courts. They suggested slight amendments in order to clarify the provisions. Those amendments were rejected by the Government of the day on the ground that they merely amounted to legal bickering and on the further ground that the honorable members ‘ to whom I have referred had no interest in the workers. Those honorable members retorted not only that they were interested in the workers but also that they had had some experience in workers compensation courts. It is a matter of satisfaction that the Government has clarified these two provisions and has thereby given recognition to the fact that honorable members who happen to be lawyers are not only interested in the rights of workers but also know a little law.
– Mr. Speaker, I call attention to the state of the House.
– There are ten honorable members on my right and six on my left. I point out that a quorum has not been present since the debate commenced. . Quorum formed.] I think that the House should take some notice of the tendency during this series of sittings for the attendances at debates to be very small. This morning at one stage there were only fifteen members in the House. I suggest that if the House has no interest in the legislation before it. the proper thing for the Government to do is to put the question and allow honorable members to get on to something that does interest them.
– Your comments, Mr. Speaker, are most appropriate. I consider it to be the duty of all honorable members to be present when a measure as important as the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill is before the House. Every compensation measure must be treated very seriously because by its very nature it is connected with people who are injured in the performance of their duties. All compensation legislation should be first considered from the standpoint of the worker. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) say that the concessions envisaged by this measure are quite considerable. I put it to the House very sincerely that no concession made to an injured worker can ever be regarded as “ considerable “. Money can never compensate a worker for the pain, suffering and probable permanent physical incapacity that fall to his lot because of his injuries. I propose to show that the provisions of this bill are by no means generous.
Conversation being audible,
-Order! Conversations are being carried on in the House close to microphones, and I must remind honorable members that I am the one who receives letters of complaint about that sort of thing.
– When a worker is injured and is transferred to compensation, the family income is immediately limited to the amount of compensation paid. Anything extra that the bread-winner was accustomed to bring into the family fund, such as overtime, is eliminated. Therefore, the amount of compensation payable to injured workers “should not be considered to be some-, thing less than a minimum subsistence allowance, but rather as the minimum sum necessary to relieve the worker of financial worry about his family during the time that he is unable to work.
Weekly payments prescribed under prior compensation a:t3 are to be adjusted by clause 13 of the bill. Frankly, I have never been able to understand the reason why maximums of this nature are included in compensation measures. When a worker becomes entitled to compensation for an injury he immediately becomes subject to all the terms and conditions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. He has to attend for medical examination and has to fulfil many other conditions. In the light of all those facts, surely the matter of a maximum PaY. ment should lie within the discretion of the medical adviser of the injured person. Statutory maximums have two bad results. First, the worker, when he discovers that he is approaching the end of his compensation, may go back to work too soon and may consequently do permanent damage to his health. Secondly, the medical adviser, knowing that the worker is approaching the end of his compensation, may send him back to work too soon with the same deleterious affect on his health.
The maximum payable under the bill in the event of the death of a worker has been increased from £1,000 to £1,500 for the widow, and from £50 to £75 for eac child. In view of the increased cost of living, surely it will not be denied that £2,000 to-day will not buy as much as £1,000 would buy five years ago. Therefore, the increase of the widow’s allowance to £1,500 is not at all generous. The payment of £1,000 was originally designed to allow the widow of a deceased worker to obtain a home for herself and family. In those days a very comfortable home could be obtained for £1,000. To-day it is not possible to obtain any sort of home for £1,500, and only a mere shack for £2,000.
Upon one matter I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava, and that is that the increase of the funeral benefit, from £35 to £50, is generous. However, the only person who will benefit from this increase will be the funeral director. Therefore, neither the worker nor his family will get any benefit from this generous increase.
– The family will get a benefit.
– The increases in other directions for the family amount to about 50 per cent, of the original benefits, but the increases for the funeral director amount to 100 per cent. The incapacity payment has been increased from £4 to £6 a week. The wife’s allowance has been increased from 25s. to 30s. and the child’s allowance from 10s. to 15s. They are certainly not such generous increases as have been given to the funeral director. In this measure the Government has broken thu cardinal rule of compensation legislation; that is, that the injured worker shall receive monetary compensation at least equal to the basic wage. Under this measure an injured worker with a wife and one child will be paid £8 10s. a week, whereas the basic wage is £10 a week. It was bad enough that the Government should have allowed the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to drift into such a position that it so badly needed amendment, but to amend it without increasing the payments to injured workers to at least the basic wage was most unfair. The policy embodied in the bill is contrary to that which one would expect this or any other government to endorse. Whilst the amendments that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has foreshadowed would, if adopted, perhaps stabilize the position, they would not take up the lag between the proposed amount of compensation and the basic wage. A man injured would require to have a wife and three children before his family unit would become entitled to receive compensation equal to the basic wage. It would appear that the Government either took a pot shot at the weekly rate or totally disregarded living standards when it determined the maximum rate of compensation that will be payable under this bill. The basic wage is now £10 and, undoubtedly, it will continue to increase. Surely the Government will accept the amendments that have been forecast on behalf of the Opposition and thus maintain a maximum rate of compensation not more than 30s. less than the basic wage. Recipients of compensation payments should not be placed, as the result of basic wage adjustments, in a position worse than that for which the bill makes pro vision. Such a guarantee would be in line with legislation that State governments have enacted during the last 25 years. After all, the Government’s liability under this measure will be limited to payments in respect of its own employees. Surely, if it wishes to increase production generally it will set an example to industry by maintaining a reasonably decent standard for its employees who may have the misfortune to be injured in the course of their employment. The honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. Joske), who is a member of the legal profession, said that rates of workmen’s compensation payments have never been determined on the basis of the basic wage. If he studies legislation of this kind that has been enacted by the States, he will find that what I am saying is correct. I again appeal to the Government to guarantee to employees of the Commonwealth, who may be injured, at least this meagre aid in relation to future adjustments of the basic wage. That is the main amendment that will be proposed by the Opposition.
My colleagues and I will also seek to provide that a worker who has been injured shall bc paid in respect of the day on which he is injured at his full normal rate and not on a pro rata basis according to the hours that he actually worked on that day. The cost that would be involved under such a provision would be less than that which is now incurred in calculating pro rata payments in such circumstances. The Opposition will also propose that a worker who has been injured, on returning to his employment, shall be guaranteed that he shall receive the same rate of pay as he was receiving when he met with injury. That principle has been embodied in legislation in New South Wales, and, as the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) will admit, it has been accepted by all parties in the New South Wales Parliament. I, therefore, urge the Government to embody it in this bill. The Opposition will also propose that the appropriate authorities shall be empowered to determine what rate of compensation, if any, shall be payable to the parents of a worker who has been fatally injured. I know that it will be argued that the parents of a worker should not become entitled to receive any compensation whatever on account of his death if he was not maintaining them. The fact remains, however, that in such circumstances parents suffer great loss. Surely it is not too much to expect the Government to make provision along those lines. J. again urge it to accept all the amendments foreshadowed on behalf of the Opposition.
.- This bill may be summed up in four words - “ too little, too late “. I remind the House that Opposition members have been urging the Government for many months to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, and although halfpromises have been made in that respect, we have been obliged to wait until now for the necessary legislation to be introduced. Like the honorable member for
Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), I believe that this bill was drafted a considerable time ago, and that the value of the amount of weekly compensation was related to the basic wage at that time. Since then, the cost of living has increased rapidly, so that the amounts of compensation for which the bill provides are now completely inadequate. In that respect this measure is similar to the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1951 and the Repatriation Bill 1951 that were submitted to the Parliament recently. Those bills purported to grant generous increases of pensions, and although my statementmay appear paradoxical, their recipients will actually experience a considerable reduction of their standard of living in the future. This bill will have a similar effect, because the proposed payments, whilst they represent a considerable increase in terms of money, are completely inadequate under existing economic conditions.
I remind the House that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was last amended in 1948, when the rates of compensation were increased so that the weekly payment to an injured man who had a wife and one child would be only ls. a week less than the basic wage at that time. Such a standard was reasonable, and I believe that this Government should give effect to it in this bill. Unfortunately, it declines to do so. When the new rates of compensation are in operation, the basic wage will be possibly £10 10s. or £10 15s. a week, and the weekly payments of compensation will be completely unreal in relation to it. Therefore, the standard of living of a public servant who is entitled to receive compensation will be substantially reduced. The Government should take a realistic view of the wnomic situation, and increase the proposed weekly payments of compensation in. order to bring them into proper relation with the basic wage, as was done by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948. The Government should also accept the amendment that has been foreshadowed on behalf of the Opposition, so that the weekly < rates of compensation may be adjusted Quarterly in accordance with the fluctuations of the basic wage. If that proposal were adopted, the necessity to amend the
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act periodically would not arise, and honorable members would he assured that at all times those employees who were receiving compensation would have at least the equivalent of the basic wage while they were laid aside through injury. Such a provision is necessary.
I notice that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated in his second-reading speech that since the act was amended in 1948, the basic wage had substantially increased. Everybody agrees with that statement, because the effects of such an increase are definitely being experienced. The right honorable gentleman also said -
Moreover, recent amendments of the workers’ compensation acts of the various States provide more generous benefits than are at present payable to Commonwealth employees.
We know that to be a fact. However, this National Parliament should not slavishly follow in the footsteps of the States in the matter of fixing the rates of compensation that shall be paid to injured employees but should set the standard and be an example to the States by treating generously that small, unfortunate number of its employees who become entitled to compensation. The Commonwealth should be prepared to set itself up as a model employer, and, as such, should lead the way in fixing rates of compensation. But, according to the Treasurer, the Government is merely trailing along behind the States in that matter. The States have fixed their rates of compensation on the basis of existing economic conditions, and the Treasurer is content to follow in their wake. He is prepared to bring certain rates under the act into line with those of the States, but, in other respects, he is content to trail some distance behind them. In matters of this kind, the Commonwealth should lead the way. It is generally admitted that this Parliament has greater opportunities to obtain revenue than have the States, and, therefore, it should treat its injured employees generously.
Undoubtedly, the existing rates of compensation are to be increased. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred to the proposed increase of lump sum payments, some of which appear to be considerable, but a brief examination of the position causes us to revise our opinions in that respect. As I stated, the rates of compensation were last fixed in 1948, when the workers enjoyed a basic wage of £5 16s. a week. At present, the basic wage is approximately £10 a week, and the workers do not benefit from it, because already it is lagging behind the actual cost of living.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has no knowledge of the position. He is still living in the past.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Wills address me, and ignore interjections?
– The honorable member for Gippsland lives so deeply in the past that he does not realize that costs are spiralling every day. A basic wage of £10 a week is at least 4s. or 5s. a week below the actual cost of living. If the honorable member for Gippsland were living in the present, he would understand the true position. As he is living in the past, I shall not bother to refer again to his interjection.
At present, the basic wage is £10 a week. Under this bill, the maximum compensation payable to an injured employee who has a wife and one child is to be £8 10s. a week. By the end of next February, the basic wage will be £10 10s. a week or possibly more. Yet an injured employee will still receive only £8 10s. a week.For the reasons that I have given, I consider it to be essential that the weekly rate of compensation be increased to bring it into closer relation with the actual basic wage to-day, and that the Opposition’s proposal to provide for the adjustment of compensation rates quarterly in accordance with the fluctuations of the basic wage be accepted. The inclusion of the quarterly adjustment would place the average man in receipt of compensation in a position somewhat similar to that which he occupies when he is at work, although the amount of compensation, including the adjustment, would still remain lower than his normal wage because most, if not all, adults employed in the Public Service receive more than the basic wage. In nearly every grade of the Public Service, the minimum adult wage is higher than the basie wage and most of the employees likely to be affected by this legislation are skilled workers who receive reasonably high margins for their skill. Even if, by the inclusion in it of the amendments foreshadowed, the legislation should provide that the rate of compensation shall approximate to the basic wage, workers laid aside as a result of injury will still suffer a fairly substantial monetary loss. Many of the employees who are injured in the service of the Commonwealth are engaged in dangerous occupations in which the risk of injury is present at all times. Injuries are often due to sheer accident, but many of them are caused by faulty equipment provided by the employing department. Victims of such accidents should not be compelled to exist during their incapacity on a starvation rate of pay, and if they are to receive fair treatment the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition must be made.
Although the bill provides for higher rates of compensation, I suggest that the Treasurer compare them with those that are specified in the compensation laws of the various States. He indicated in his introductory speech that he had studied State legislation when the bill was being prepared, but, if he made a further examination, he would find that, in certain instances, the State laws provide for more generous compensation than is provided for in the bill. Furthermore, he should take into account the fact that the State acts were framed some time ago and that, since then, living costs have increased considerably. Those rates are already out of date and are due for revision. Therefore, this bill should provide for more generous compensation than is provided for by the States. I also direct his attention to the fact that the Parliament of Queensland has embodied in the workmen’s compensation legislation of that State a provision for the adjustment of compensation payments in accordance with basic wage adjustments. The result is that reasonable weekly rates and lump sums of compensation are payable to injured workers who come under the terms of that law. The National Parliament should provide for Commonwealth employees at least as much as is provided by the States for their employees. I am not asking the Government to be unduly generous. The State acts are not particularly generous and, in fact, because of the rapid increase of the cost of living, they are already out-dated. I ask the Treasurer to give special consideration, at the appropriate stage of the committee proceedings, to the amendments that have been foreshadowed on behalf of the Opposition because they have been framed, not for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, but with the sole object of endeavouring to ensure that employees of the Commonwealth shall be dealt with fairly and justly. I remind the right honorable gentleman of the following statement that he made during his second-reading speech : -
The proposed increases in monetary benefits are estimated to cost £125,000 in a full year. The approximate charge to the budget for the current financial year is estimated at £70,000.
Those costs do not represent a large burden on the Government. Therefore, the Opposition’s proposals do not indicate a neglectful attitude towards the people’s money. Assuming that the Treasurer’s estimate of an additional outlay of £125,000 is correct, the average cost per capita for the whole Public Service will be very small. I am not able to estimate the probable amount of money involved in the Opposition’s proposals, but I submit that it will not be very high. The amendments, if accepted, will provide a greater measure of justice for the unfortunate employees who suffer injury from time to time and, therefore, I urge the Government to accept them in the committee stage.
– in reply - Nothing that has been said during this debate calls for any reply from me. The object the Government had in mind when it introduced the bill was to .bring the compensation conditions that apply to Commonwealth employees into line with those for which the various State acts provide. It believes that that object will be achieved, and therefore it will not accept any amendments. The bill provides for a 50 per cent, all-round increase of compensation benefits. Nothing more need be said at this stage. The views of the Government will be expressed in detail when the amendments that have been foreshadowed are proposed in the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The First Schedule to the Principal Act is a mended -
by omitting from clause (i) of subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1.)
by omitting clause (iii) of that subparagraph and inserting in its stead the following clause: - “ (iii) such sum, not exceeding Fifty pounds, on account of the expenses of the employee’s funeral, as the Commissioner considers reasonable; “;
Schedule proposed to be amended - (1.) The amount of compensation shall be -
where the death of the employee results from the injury -
if the employee does not leave any dependants . ..; and
if the employee leaves no dependants - such sum, not exceeding Twenty-five pounds, on account of the expenses of the employee’s burial, as the Commissioner considers reasonable; (1 A.) Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph (1.) of this Schedule -
where the employee ix totally or partially incapacitated for work by the injury -
– I move -
That paragraph (c) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs : - “ (c) by omitting from clause (ii) of that sub-paragraph the word ‘and ‘ (last occurring) ; “ (ca). by omitting clause (iii) of that subparagraph and inserting in its stead the following clauses: -
if the employee leaves a parent who is not dependent upon his earnings - such sum ( if any), not exceeding in any case the sum of One thousand five hundred pounds, as is considered by the Commissioner to be reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case; and
such sum, not exceeding Fifty pounds, on account of the expenses of the employee’s funeral, as the Commissioner considers reasonable;
This amendment has been drafted as the result of practical experience. Many employees meet with accidents after having put their parents to considerable expense in educating them to the standard that enables them to become public servants. Within the last twelve months there was a very sad case that affected a young man who had undertaken an extensive course of training in order to qualify as a scientist. He graduated as a Bachelor of Science. One of his first assignments was as a member of the Antarctic expedition. Unfortunately, during that expedition, a vehicle in which he was travelling fell into the sea and he was drowned. His death was a great loss to. the Commonwealth. It was not only a tremendous personal loss to his parents, but also a financial loss, because they had expended a great deal of money upon fitting him to become a useful citizen and a valuable servant of the Commonwealth. Having been notified of their son’s death, they applied for compensation, and were told that, although they had gone to considerable expense to educate their son, they were not entitled to be compensated because they were not dependent upon him.
Many similar cases may occur in future. Many parents assume considerable financial obligations in order that their sons shall be educated and trained to become useful citizens and competent public servants. Often they borrow money upon the security of life insurance policies and of their homes so that they may give to their sons a good start in life. In most instances, there is an implied agreement that the sons will assist them when they become old. The amendment proposes that if a Commonwealth employee leaves a parent who is not dependent upon his earnings, the parent shall be paid such sum, not exceeding £1,500, as the Commissioner considers to be reasonable. Care has been taken not to make the amendment too wide. It is proposed that the Commissioner shall have regard to all the circumstances of a case, that he shall not be bound to order the payment of compensation but may exercise his discretion, that a limit shall be placed upon the sum that can be paid, and that only parents shall be entitled to compensation. The reason for restricting the claimants to parents is that parents have a special responsibility for their children’s education and welfare and that they enter into commitments for their children’s benefit that other people could not be expected to incur.
.- I oppose the amendment. Apparently the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) believes that the days have passed when parents willingly expend money to give their children a good start in life, and that now parents expect to receive some return for the expense that they have incurred in educating their children. This amendment, which seeks to put a price upon human beings, is an example of socialism. I do not believe that parents who have expended money upon the education of a son and, having sufficient to maintain themselves, are not dependent in any way upon the earnings of the son, expect to be compensated if, by some mischance, he be killed while a member of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. If the young man were engaged in business on his own account as, say, a saw-miller, and were killed while conducting his business, his parents would not receive any compensation. I cannot see any merit in the amendment. If it were accepted anomalies would arise, and some wealthy people might secure compensation, because it states clearly that it is applicable to parents who are not dependent upon the earnings of the deceased Commonwealth employee subject to certain discretionary powers.
.- It appears that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has not read the amendment, and it is quite certain that he does not understand it. Nevertheless he has risen and “ blown his top “. The position is perfectly clear. The amendment proposes that, if a claim for compensation be made by bereaved parents, all the circumstances of the case shall be taken into consideration. I assume that the Commissioner, as the custodian of public money, would exercise his discretion wisely. If the parents of a deceased Commonwealth employee suffered no financial embarrassment as a result of the death of the employee, the Commissioner would certainly take that fact into consideration in arriving at his decision. I assume that he would not agree to the payment of compensation to parents whose financial position was such that they did not need the money to maintain themselves.
It is true that the workmen’s compensation legislation of the States does not provide for the payment of compensation in the circumstances envisaged by this amendment. But why should not the Commonwealth give a lead in this matter? Why should we always say that, because the States do not do something, we also should not do it? In the improvement of social legislation, some authority must give a lead, and I believe that it should be the Commonwealth. It is wrong for a legislator in the National Parliament to adopt the attitude that, because a number of States have not a provision of this nature in their legislation, it should be omitted also from Commonwealth legislation. Ad the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) pointed out, workmen’s compensation legislation has been gradually expanded and improved over the years. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) would, if agreed to-, improve the Commonwealth employees’ compensation legislation and, therefore, it should be accepted by the Government.
p. 2.40]. - This amendment involves an important principle. It is suggested that provision be made for the payment of compensation, up to a specified maximum amount, at the discretion of the Commissioner, to a deceased employee’s parents who were not - I emphasize the word “ not “ - dependent upon the employee. It is fair to say that the object of the amendment is to provide for a parent who, although not dependent upon the deceased employee, makes some monetary sacrifice for his education or welfare, and later experiences financial hardship that he would not have suffered had the employee lived. If the amendment were accepted, some extraordinary anomalies might occur. We should depart from an established principle. The amendment makes no reference to the age of the deceased employee and, if it were accepted, compensation might be paid to the parents of a man who was well advanced in years;
Provision is made in the legislation of some States for the payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased employee even though, technically, there is no dependence on the part of the parents. Those provisions apply only to employees under 21 years of age. Thar, is an important point. Queensland is the only State that makes provision for the payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased employee who has made no contribution to the upkeep of the home. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that a lead should be given in this matter. Queensland has given a lead, but it has not been followed by the other States, which rest upon the established principle. I believe that, in order to prevent anomalies and avoid injustice, we must adhere closely to the established principle. All States other than Queensland which make a similar provision require some contribution from the employee - in New South Wales, the major portion of his earnings. The amendment, which proposes a revolutionary change, must be viewed in proper perspective. It contemplates the payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased employee without requiring any dependence on their part. That is generally opposed to a fundamental principle of compensation legislation, namely, that there must be dependence, either total or partial, upon the earnings of the deceased employee. Compensation legislation contemplates the payment of compensation only to dependants who suffer financially from the loss of the employee’s contribution to their living costs. The Government is not prepared to depart from that principle.
.- The object of this amendment is to improve the Commonwealth employees’ compensation legislation. The principal objections of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric j. Harrison) to it appear to be that there is a principle at stake - that what is suggested has not been done before and, therefore, cannot be done now. The VicePresident of the Executive Council told us that something of this kind has been done in New South Wales.
– Not in New South Wales.
– The Minister said that in New South Wales there is a contributory scheme. With a glare in his eye, he said that under the New South Wales scheme employees must pay to the State the major portion of their earnings. I have never heard of any employee contributing the major portion of his earnings to a compensation scheme. I should be pleased if the honorable gentleman would amplify that remark later. I shall be interested to’ learn what kind of employees contribute the major portion of their earnings to obtain any kind of compensation under the workers’ compensation legislation of New South Wales or of any other State.
The honorable member for Mallee, in his usual hare-brained manner, asserted that the amendment is another step towards socialism. He did not know whether or not there was something socialistic in the proposal, but, because he believed that there might be, he opposed it strenuously. There is nothing sinister in the amendment. All that is proposed is that the compensation legislation shall be made more generous, and that it shall make provision for compensation to be paid to the parents of an employee of the Common- wealth who is killed in the course of his duties.
Sitting suspended from 12. U5 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.~
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was pointing out that no new principle is involved in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), although the Vice-President of the Executive Council has suggested that a new principle is involved in it. The adoption of the amendment would result merely in an extension of an existing principle in the legislation, in thai provision would then be made for the payment, of a lump sum to the parents of an employee who died as a result of his work. Under the existing legislation provision is made for payment of compensation to people who are partly dependent on the earnings of the employee. Adoption of the amendment would extend that principle. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to re-examine the amendment. If he does so, he will agree with me that no new principle is involved in it and that there is nothing sinister in it. The amendment has been submitted by the Opposition in all sincerity, with the object of improving the legislation and removing an anomaly. When he moved the amendment the honorable member for Ballarat proved conclusively in his remarks that parents often suffer a grievous loss as a result of the death of sons or daughters at work. Up to now no form of compensation has been provided for parents in respect of such a loss. I ask the Minister to give the matter more consideration.
– Apparently my reference to the requirements of the New South Wales legislation, that deceased employees should have been contributing the major portion of their earnings for the upkeep of their parents to make the parents eligible for compensation was misunderstood by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson)., I had previously mentioned that no State legislation except that of Queensland provided for the payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased employee who had not been making some contribution to the upkeep of the home. It followed, obviously, that the New South Wales requirement was that an employee should have been contributing the major part of his earnings to the upkeep of his parents’ home.
– That is different from what the Vice-President of the Executive Council said before.
– It is actually what I said before. The Government is not in favour of the Opposition’s proposal, not because it represents an innovation, but because it departs from the principle that a parent must be a dependant of the deceased worker in order to qualify for compensation. In the kind of case envisaged by the Opposition the position is in reverse, inasmuch as the employee would be dependent on his parents.
– Like the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), I express my disappointment that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has declined to accept the amendment. The Minister advanced two reasons for having declined to accept it. One was that it involves the introduction of a new principle inasmuch as it departs from the principle of compensation being based upon dependency. His second objection was a minor one, and was that the amendment proposed no limitation of time. I stress what I consider to be the utter heartlessness of the legislation as it stands. A brief provision contained in the First Schedule to the act says simply that if an employee leaves no dependants the amount of compensation shall be such sum not exceeding £25 - the amount will be made £50 by this bill - on account of the expenses of the employee’s burial as the Commissioner considers reasonable. In consequence of that provision industry is and will be able to discbarge its responsibility in respect of the death of an employee which resulted from the performance of his duties by the mere payment of the burial expenses. It seems to me that where death has resulted from an injury sustained by an employee while he was performing his work, the payment of the burial expenses by the employer is a very cheap means by which industry can discharge its responsibilities in regard to the employee’s death. I shall later develop that point further.
The Vice-President of the ““Executive Council has already admitted that a precedent has been set in respect of this principle in the Queensland Workers Compensation Act, but he has said that because of the proposed departure from the principle generally followed in workers’ compensation legislation, of payment to the dependants, he is not prepared to accept the amendment. If that attitude had been adopted by other parliaments in the past the remarkable improvements of workers’ compensation provisions that I mentioned during my second-reading speech would not have taken place. In the past we departed from the principle of paying to the employee only a certain sum of compensation. A provision was added to the legislation that a sum must be paid also in respect of his wife and children. We also departed from the principle that an injured employee had to bear the whole of his medical expenses, and provided that medical expenses should not be borne by him. Another principle from which we departed was that a worker should be compensated only in respect of injuries that were sustained on the job, and we adopted the principle of compensation in respect of injuries sustained on the way to or from work. The Opposition’s amendment has been described as a socialist proposal by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), but it is only an extension of a principle that an employer has an obligation to ensure that adequate compensation is paid in respect of an employee who has been injured or has lost his life as a result of the. performance of his duties.
It will be found that, in the main, persons who lose their lives in industry and are covered by the section of the act which it is desired to amend are generally young men who have not married and have not assumed the responsibilities of maintaining a family. But these young men represent a potential, absolute asset in the community. Often enough, in consequence of sacrifices made by their parents, they have been able to learn skills or trades, as in the case mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat. Their value to the community as productive units is almost incalculable. Yet when they lose their lives as a result of accidents the whole matter is to be considered settled by the mere payment by the employer of a sum of £50 for burial expenses. It could easily happen that a young man who had been trained for a craft or profession as a result of his parents having foregone luxuries could meet with a fatal accident at his job without his parents being eligible for compensation, because they were not dependent upon him. It is also conceivable that within a short space of time the young man’s father might die,” and leave the mother without any means of support. The provision which we propose should be inserted in the bill would enable cases of that kind to be adequately met. I consider that the amendment is sound, and is based on the recognition of the rights of all parents to receive compensation in certain circumstances, even though they had not been dependent upon the earnings of the deceased son or daughter. I follow the honorable member for Wills in earnestly asking the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give further consideration to this proposal, and suggest that, even if the Government cannot accept it at present, it may accept it when the bill is going through another place.
– I should not have spoken again except for the speech of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). It appears that he considers that he must always use personal abuse in his speeches. When he does so it is a sure sign that his argument is not strong. I point out that I said that . if the amendment were accepted compensation could be paid to people who had enough money already.
The amendment would create all sorts of anomalies, and allow some people to use stratagems to obtain compensation. The parents of our men who lost their lives in two great world wars, who were not dependent on the earnings of their sons, receive no compensation for their loss. How can the Opposition contend that the case of a man who has lost his life in industry is the same as the case of a man who lost his life fighting for his country overseas and whose parents are not paid compensation in respect of his death because they were not dependent on his earnings? The argument advanced by the Opposition is out of place.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr.
Joshua’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, after paragraph (e), the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (ea) by inserting in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (1a.), after clause (i), the following clause: - (1a) payment shall be made to the employee in respect of the day on which he sustained the injury at the same rate as the rate of pay that he would have earned if he had not been incapacitated for work by the injury;
Conversation being audible,
– Order! There is too much audible conversation. The honorable member cannot be heard. I ask honorable members to refrain from talking.
– This is a very simple amendment, which has been designed to remove an anomaly. Its effect would be that, in respect of the day on which a person was injured and became eligible to receive worker’s compensation, he would receive the same rate of pay that he would have received had he not been injured. Rather an extraordinary position exists at present. If a worker is injured at ten o’clock in the morning and, as a consequence, ceases work and receives medical treatment, his wages are paid as provided in the appropriate award up to ten o’clock. In respect of the rest of the day he receives workers’ compensation. This entails a good deal of inquiry in order to ascertain the time at which the injury took place and it is necessary to calculate two rates of payment for the one day. It seems to the Opposition that this is a remarkable way of dealing with such a situation. It is proposed, by this amendment, to provide that in respect of the day on which he is injured a worker shall receive his usual rate of pay.
– Why did not the honorable member think of this before?
– Why did not the Government think of it? The workers’ compensation legislation of 1912 and 1930 was introduced by governments of a similar political character to this one and such a provision was not then made. Now that the Opposition has made the suggestion it is only fair that the Government should give consideration to it. The effect of the Opposition’s proposal will be that on the day an injury takes place an employee will not lose any wages. I hope that the Minister will give favorable consideration t« the amendment.
– In essence, the amendment before the committee provides that an injured employee shall be pa’-‘l wages for the full day on which he is injured. The present position is that if, because rC an injury, an employee has to cease duty before his usual time of cessation, compensation payments commence from th? time at which the payment of wages cease. This position arises from the basic provision for the payment of compensation in respect of incapacity to work and related provisions which vequire that any pay received shall be taken into account in assessing compensation. The Government considers that the Opposition’s proposal is not unreasonable in view of the fact that under some awards outdoor employees arc entitled to a full day’s pay for that part of the day’s work which may have been lost because of adverse weather conditions. However, it is considered that the proposal is inappropriate for inclusion in this bill which provides for weekly payments of compensation for loss of earnings. The act does not purport to provide for other conditions under which salaries or wages are paid. There is no Government objection to the principle of the proposed amendment and I shall undertake to have the whole matter considered by the Public Service Board.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council recommend the proposals to the board?
– The Government will undertake to have the matter considered by the board. When the Government refers a matter back to the Public Service Board the board takes it as an indication that the Government desires to have it given the most favorable consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Clause agreed to. ‘
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
New clause 5a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 5, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 5a. Section twelve of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1a.) the words ‘or sub-paragraph (c) and
by omitting from that sub-section the words ‘ either of those subparagraphs ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ that subparagraph’.”.
Section proposed to be amended - (1a.) Upon payment of an amount under this section the employee shall not be entitled to any payment in accordance with subparagraph (b) or sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph ( 1 ) of the First Schedule of this Act in respect of a period of incapacity for work resulting from the injury, but the amount payable under this section shall not be subjectto any deduction in respect of any amount previously paid to the employee in accordance with either of those sub-paragraphs.
Mr.CLAREY. - The amendment may seem to be very technical. In effect, the Opposition asks for the extension of a principle which is already incorporated in the act. There is a provision in the First Schedule of the act that where an employee is permanently partially incapacitated by an injury and subsequently returns to work, if the amount that he is paid when re-employed is less than he would have been paid had he not been injured, his earnings shall be made up to the rate that he was receiving at the time of the injury, with a maximum additional payment of £4 a week. For instance, if a man had been employed on a job for which he was paid £10 a week at the time of his injury and was reemployed at the rate of £8 a week, the difference between £8 and £10 would be paid to him under the provision in the First Schedule. That is an accepted principle which has operated for a long time. The Opposition asks for its extension to those persons who are provided for under the Third Schedule of the act. The Third Schedule provides for a specified sum for a specified injury. For instance, a person who loses both eyes is entitled to be paid £1,250. It is proposed to increase that amount to £1,750. Some persons who receive a lump sum under the provisions of the Third Schedule return to work but, because of the injury that they have sustained, they are engaged in a lower classification than they were occupying at the time the injury took place. As a consequence, they are paid a lower rate of pay. Under the proposed amendment these people will be given the same advantages as those which are now enjoyed by persons who are permanently partially incapacitated. In other words they will receive the difference between the rates that they had been receiving when they suffered the injuries and the rate that they received on their return to work.
I can quote several cases to show the necessity for the proposed amendment. I propose to give the committee instances of persons covered by the Third Schedule failing to benefit from the provisions of the First Schedule.
My first example is that of a lineman who met with an accident in January, 1943, while working on an iron pole which was rusted at its base. As a result of the pole collapsing, his right leg was injured and subsequently amputated. He was paid a lump sum of £562 compensation and his status was reduced from that of exempt lineman to that of lift attendant. From the £562 that he received, £119 was deducted because he had already drawn that amount by way of weekly compensation payments. The net amount received by this man for the loss of his leg was £443, and when he returned to work he was reclassified as a lift attendant. The difference in the rate of pay between lineman and lift attendant was then £48 a year. Therefore, since that time his compensation has been reduced by more than £300, and in another three years he will, in effect, have received no compensation at all. The lump sum payment was designed to compensate for the permanent loss of use of some part of the body as the result of an accident. It was designed not only as compensation for the loss of employment, but also as compensation for the general hardship, inconvenience and other things suffered as a consequence of the loss of the use of some part of the body
My second example is that of a lineman who was injured in February, 1944. He first left work because of an injured back. He returned to work and performed light duties and was paid as a lineman. On the 5th June, 1944, while lifting a road manhole fitting, together with his foreman, a clot of blood burst into his left eye. For three months he was on and off compensation. It was then decided to grant compensation for partial loss of sight. He returned to light duties at Coorparoo line depot where he remained for two years on full lineman’s pay. However, in 1946, the commissioner decided to pay him a lump sum of £256 in respect of80 per cent, loss of use of the left eye. Two days afterwards his salary was reduced from £317 per annum to £272 per annum and his classification was altered from that of exempt lineman to that of exempt labourer at Coorparoo line depot. The difference between the rate of pay of a lineman and that of a line-labourer was £54 a year. Therefore, the £256 received by this employee has already been offset by the reduced rate of pay applying to the lower position. Assuming that the lump sum payment was made in respect of incapacity, within a few years the whole of that sum has been used up and the physical disability is still suffered by the worker. Moreover, he has to continue working at a lower rate of pay. All the amendment attempts to do is to extend to the persons who fall within the Third Schedule the same right to have the difference in pay made up as already exists in respect of those permanently or partially incapacitated. Every honorable member should agree that this is a reasonable proposal and one that aims to ensure that the economic position of the worker is not permanently worsened as a result of his being injured while working. Therefore, [ suggest that this very reasonable proposal might be accepted by the Government and the amendment agreed to.
– The case submitted by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has interested me. It has certain merit, and although I propose to give some indication of the way that the Government views this matter, I also give the honorable member an assurance that the case that he has made out will be brought to the attention of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), with a request that he give the maximum amount of consideration to it. I think that the honorable member has made out a good case. His proposal is that an employee who has received a lump sum payment in respect of a specified injury mentioned in the Third Schedule and who, because of the injury, is subsequently employed on work of a lower status, be paid wages at the current rate applicable to the work on which he was injured. The act provides for certain lump sum payments in cases of specified injuries, such as loss of a limb. This is common to the legislation of all the States and is a fundamental provision in. workers’ compensation. The lump sum is payable in addition to the weekly payments made during total incapacity and, in practice, is paid even in cases where the employee has been able to resume at his former work. The lump sum payment in respect of a specified injury represents a final settlement in redemption of any liability to continue weekly compensation payments. In other words, it is paid in lieu of the weekly compensation normally payable in respect of any residual incapacity for work and consequent loss of earnings. It is hardly reasonable, therefore, that in addition to the initial weekly compensation payments during total incapacity plus the final lump sum paid in redemption of the liability to continue weekly payments, the employee should receive any further weekly compensation. The full liability for compensation payable on account of incapacity for work has already been met and the amount so paid has included a component in recognition of any loss of earnings arising from the specified injury.
It may seem to honorable members that these remarks are somewhat anomalous in view of my earlier remarks. Notwithstanding that, I give the honorable member for Bendigo an assurance that his representations will be brought to the notice of the Treasurer as soon as possible. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clarse proposed to be inserted (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
New clause negatived.
New clause 9a.
Mr. CLARET (Bendigo [3.5]. - I move -
That, after clause 9, the following new clause be inserted: - “9a. After section twenty-two of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 22a. - (1.) For the purposes of this section “ index number “ means the weighted average retail price index number for the six State capital cities of the Commonwealth as shown in the “Court” index (Third Series) of retail price index numbers published from time to time by or at the direction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. (2.) Provision shall be made by the regulations for the quarterly adjustment of payments of compensation under this Act by the increase or decrease of those payments by the amounts prescribed when the index number for the last preceding quarter of the year is higher or lower than the index number for the quarter ended on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty -one.’.”.
The object of the amendment is to apply the principle of quarterly adjustments of the cost of living to the amounts of compensation provided for in the First Schedule and the Third Schedule to the principal act as proposed to be amended by this bill. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) during the course of the second-reading debate. He said that compensation payments have had no relation to the basic wage. I point out to him that in the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912 and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930 such payments were definitely related to the wages that were paid to employees. Those acts provided that compensation was to be two-thirds of the wages of the employees and, at the same time, they prescribed the maximum amount of payment that could be made. The whole principle of workers compensation under both Commonwealth and State legislation is to relate compensation payments to the wages that were being received by employees at the time that they suffered injury. In some instances the compensation payment was fixed at 75 per cent, of the employee’s wage and, in other instances, the compensation payment in respect of minors was fixed at 100 per cent, of the employee’s wage. Therefore, compensation payments provided for under previous acts were definitely related to wages and were made available as compensation for wages lost, such payments being fixed at a certain percentage of the employee’s wage.
The proposal I now submit may be regarded as being somewhat new, because it endeavours to apply to workers’ compensation payments the principle that has been operated by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration since 1913, which is, that the adjustment of wages shall be in accordance with the rise or fall of the purchasing power of money. The need for such a provision in relation to compensation payments becomes evident when we consider the practice that has been followed in the past. The first law that was enacted in this sphere was the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act which was passed in 1912. That act remained in operation without being altered until 1930. In the meantime the basic wage increased from £2 13s. a week to £4 6s. a week. An injured employee could obtain as compensation only £2 a week under the 1912 act. The 1930 act remained in operation until 1944; and it is interesting to note how wages fluctuated during that period, which included the depression years. The basic wage receded from £4 6s. a week to £3 ls. 8d. a week in February, 1933, and by August, 1943, it had risen to £4 18s. a week but, at the same time, the payment fixed as workers’ compensation remained static. When the 1944 act was passed the basic wage was £4 16s. a week and that act remained in operation for four years. In the meantime, however, the basic wage had risen to £5 19s. a week. The 1948 act fixed the compensation payment in respect of an injured worker with a wife and one child at an amount that was 4s. a week less than the basic wage at that time. As I pointed out earlier, the weekly compensation payment provided under this measure will give to a family unit of three an income of £S 10s. a week which will be 30s. less than the basic wage which will operate from the commencement of the first pay period this month. Every honorable member can readily visualize what the position of injured workers will be if another period of three years should elapse before this legislation is again amended. It is certain that in the meantime prices will continue to rise and that, as a consequence, the basic wage also will continue to rise, whilst, at the same time, an injured worker’s income will remain static and, consequently, his purchasing power will diminish.
I do not know whether it is possible for the Government to guarantee that it will introduce an amendment of this legislation every year. Having regard to the history of this legislation since federation, I should say that that would be extremely unlikely. Therefore, it becomes necessary to ensure that those who fall by the wayside in the course of their employment shall not experience unnecessary hardship. The object of my amendment is to implement a system similar to that used by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in respect of the basic wage, under which these payments would be adjusted quarterly in accordance with the Statistician’s index numbers that the court uses for its purposes. The great advantage of such a system would be that regardless of the degree to which prices might fluctuate in the future, the standard that we now seek to lay down in respect of injured workers would not decline and the purchasing power of tha compensation payments set out in tho bill would remain static as nearly as possible. The amendment seeks to do no more than justice to recipients of compensation payments. I shall not stress the point further. It is clear that persons who may bo injured in the course of their employment are entitled to enjoy permanently a standard of living at least equal to that which is contemplated under this measure. That can only be done by adjusting compensation payments in the same way as wages are adjusted quarterly. If that is done the living standard of recipients will be made as nearly as possible complete and constant. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who has been leading the debate on this bill for the Opposition, has had a really good day. He has already been given assurances that two of the Opposition’s previous amendments will be carefully considered by the Government. Nevertheless, he has divided the committee on those amendments. Despite that attitude on the part of the Opposition, I shall not withdraw those assurances. However, I am not prepared to give the assurance that the honorable member has asked for in respect of the amendment now before the Chair, because this amendment bristles with complexities. One could embark, upon a lengthy discussion of the honorable member’s claim that prices are certain to continue to rise. I remind him that the budget has been designed to bring prices down ; and I have no doubt that it will ultimately succeed in doing so. Indeed, honorable members opposite are perfectly well aware of definite trends in that direction. I shall not weary the committee by debating that point at length, but shall deal specifically with the amendment. The honorable member for Bendigo proposes, in effect, that the weekly payments of compensation for incapacity be linked with variations in the basic wage, as governed by the prices indexes. I shall refer briefly to the general position of the workers’ compensation laws of the Commonwealth and the States.
Queensland is the only State which has provided for the automatic adjustment of weekly compensation in accordance with variations of the basic wage, and that system was introduced only recently. There must be some good reason why all the States, which work much more closely in this field than does the Commonwealth, have not adopted that principle. Action by the Commonwealth to link compensation payments with fluctuations in the basic wage may prove embarrassing to those States which have not followed the example of Queensland. They require no lead from the Commonwealth if they consider that it is necessary to adopt such a principle.
It is all very well for Opposition members, at this late stage, to advocate the incorporation of such a provision in this bill. They must be aware that it has been the policy of successive governments, including the Curtin Labour Government and the Chifley Labour Government, during the eight years they occupied the treasury bench, not to make provision for social services, war pensions, superannuation payments and tho like to be adjusted automatically in accordance with variations of the basic wa*re. Such a principle, had it been adopted, would have involved loss of control of budgetary expenditure. Yet Opposition members suggest, at this late hour, that this Government should adopt a principle that Labour governments were not game, or were not prepared, to adopt.
Another important objection to that proposal is the contingency of falls in the cost of living. Such a movement would involve the withdrawal of a part of the existing benefits from the recipients. It is preferable to review such benefits periodically as on the occasion when the budget is presented annually to the Parliament. The same remark applies to employees’ compensation. The basic wage differs not only in the various States but also as between male and female employees. Even if the average basic wage were accepted as appropriate for Commonwealth compensation purposes, discrimination between the sexes would quite obviously result. That discrimination would represent a radical departure in compensation payments, which is not followed in any State other than Queensland. I see no good reason why the Commonwealth should introduce such a differentiation by following the innovation in that State. In any event, some recognition is already given in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to variations of wages, in as much as the rate of weekly compensation of a man with a dependent wife and several children is limited only by the amount of his weekly wage as it may have been varied by wage increases granted subsequent to his injury. The position is similar in respect of a partially incapacitated employee who is entitled to the difference between the pay which he has received before his injury, and that which he receives after his injury. The amount of weekly compensation payable to that person is based on the ruling rate of pay applicable to the job on which he was employed at the time he was injured.
I suggest that the honorable member for Bendigo has not given such mature consideration to those matters as he would have us believe he has done, or else that he does not realize the effect that the adoption of such a principle would have on budgetary commitments. The Curtin Labour Government and the Chifley Labour Government were perfectly well aware of that position, and I have no doubt that it was one of the reasons which influenced them not to adopt that principle. This Government takes a similar view, and cannot accept the honorable gentleman’s proposal. I move -
That the question be now put.
– I rise to order.I should like to know whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr Eric J. Harrison) is in order in moving the gag immediately after he has concluded his speech.
– I moved the closure when I saw an Opposition member rise to address the Chair.
– The Minister is in order in doing so.
Mr. Tom Burke interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making a comment. He has raiseda point of order, and the Chair has given its ruling.
– You will not hear me, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! Will the honorable member resume his seat?
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 13
That the new clause proposed to he inserted (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
New clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Anthony) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 26th September(vide page 115), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Consideration of this measure arouses in my mind memories of the ill-conceived land settlement schemes for ex-servicemen of World War I. These 31-year-old memories are vivid and unhappy. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and I are the only two members of this House who participated in those schemes. In Victoria alone, over 13,000 men were settled on the land under the original plan, but only about 5,000 of them survive to-day. Most of them have become prematurely old and bowed as the result of their struggles and the hardships that they suffered under the scheme. Thousands of men left their properties and were heartbroken and physically wrecked. Only the very strongest of them have been able to survive in other vocations.
Through this bill the Government seeks the authority of the Parliament to raise loan moneys to the amount of £4,125,000 to provide for its obligations under the war service land settlement scheme that was so ably planned under the guidance of the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, and by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction at the time, Mr. J. J. Dedman. The scheme was magnificent in its conception, and I pay tribute to Mr. Dedman for the success of the work that he did on behalf of ex-service settlers of World War II. Great difficulties had to be overcome, and there are still many complaints about the operation of the scheme. However, generally speaking, the plan was soundly based and it has been well operated. Great credit is also due to the members of the Rural Reconstruction Commission that was appointed by the Curtin Government to survey the future prospects of agriculture and land settlement in Australia. I am not able offhand to recall the full membership of the commission, but I know that it included Mr. Lambert; Mr. Frank Wise, who was then a member of the Parliament of Western Australia ; the late Mr. Frank Murphy, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture; and Mr. Crawford, who is now secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I also pay a tribute to the work that was done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Mr. Crawford was formerly the director of the bureau, and, in that capacity, he supervised the scheme on behalf of the Australian Government. Many Australians are not aware that most of the cost of the land settlement scheme, particularly in the three principal States of New South Wales, Victoria and
Queensland, is borne by the Australian Government. It is responsible for certain inescapable costs and, in addition, it must accept liability for contingent costs.
For the sake of illustration, I shall place on record an example of the distribution of costs involved in an investment in land and improvements valued at £5,250, together with advances for stock, plant and equipment totalling £1,540. The inescapable costs for which the Australian Government is responsible are as follows : -
That represents a total liability of £906. The State Government concerned is responsible for the following costs: -
That makes a total of £129. Thus the burden borne by the Commonwealth, which is liable to additional contingent expenses as well, is eight times as large as that borne by the State. In effect, the expenditure may be entirely written off as a charge against the settler. It is borne by the people. Because of this apportionment of financial responsibility between the Australian Government and the respective State governments, the Commonwealth must approve of any State project before it can be accepted as a part of the general scheme. This has led to some criticism of the Commonwealth by various State governments. Most of the criticism has arisen from the fact that the Commonwealth has declared that settlers would be unlikely to prosper on certain sub-divisions that have been recommended by the States. Such criticism has not been justified. During the period when I was acting for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the former Labour party was the originator of this trouble, in some instances that were brought specifically to my notice, of consulting the chairman of the settlement commission in Victoria and of making personal inspections of land in New South Wales. In all those cases, the difficulties that had arisen were resolved after conferences with the respective State authorities. Generally speaking, there has been harmony between the States and the Commonwealth in implementing this magnificent settlement scheme.
The only criticism that I offer is that progress has been too slow. Thousands of men in all States who are willing and qualified to go on the land are still waiting to be settled. We are justified in asking, in these circumstances, what obstacle is preventing the rapid development of the scheme. The excuses and reasons for delay that have been offered are many and varied. Large land-holders have been reluctant to submit their properties for sale at reasonable prices, and there has been much haggling and discus-, sion. In many instances, it has been necessary for the States to resume large estates ‘compulsorily. Inevitably, proceedings under the compulsory resumption legislation of the respective States entail long delays. Those whose land it is sought to resume compulsorily have certain rights under State laws, and they and their advisers have shown a remarkable versatility in confronting the State authorities with difficulties in order to delay the resumption of their land and the settlement of ex-servicemen upon it. That is one of the great obstacles to the rapid settlement of ex-servicemen upon the land.
Another obstacle is the inevitable and unfortunate difficulty of obtaining labour and materials to develop properties. But, over all, it gives one a great feeling of satisfaction to know that since the end of the last war the work has been done efficiently, and even generously. I have photographs of some of the homes that have been erected by the South Australian Government, acting as agent for the Commonwealth. They are magnificent, but they are no better than they should be if we want to encourage people to remain in country areas. The homes, out-buildings and equipment that have been provided in Victoria under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme are also magnificent. The only trouble is the dreadful delay in satisfying the wants of ex-servicemen who desire to go on the land.
When I consider the great success, generally speaking, of the scheme and recall the remarks that were made by some honorable members during the last sessional period about the need to increase the production of food, I regret the failure of the Commonwealth and the States to make provision for the settlement on the land of landhungry Australians who are not exservicemen. If we could settle those people upon the land and overcome the great obstacles that lie in the way of rapidly breaking up the large estates in this country, we should go a long way along the road to avoiding the shortage of food that has been predicted in the years that lie ahead.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting away from the bill.
– I say that only by way of passing reference. I am concerned primarily with this great scheme that is proving so successful. On behalf of the Opposition I support this measure ardently. It provides, not only for loan moneys to be made available to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligations ‘ under the scheme this year, but also for £1.600,000 to be appropriated from Consolidated Revenue for expenditure upon certain phases of the scheme. In my opinion, the principle of appropriating money from Consolidated Revenue for expenditure upon a vanishing proposition is sound. I do not object to it.
But I point out to honorable members that, in the principal States - and this may apply also. I am sad to say, to the agent States, although there is no indication in this bill that it will do so - the governments of which act as purchasing authorities, the settlement of exservicemen upon the land will be drastically retarded and curtailed as a result of the reduction of the amount of loan money for which those States have asked. The chairman of the Victorian Soldier
Settlement Commission has made a complaint to that effect in the public press. That is a tragic state of affairs. I understand that a similar state of affairs exists in New South Wales. The New South Wales Minister for Lands is reported to have said that, as a result of the loan cuts, the moneys made available for war service land settlement in that State will be reduced from £5,500,000 to £4,500,000. That reduction will have a depressing effect upon the prospect of bringing this scheme to fruition. That is very regrettable. I wish that this Government would make available to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, for the advancement of war service land settlement in those States, a part of the £114.WO,000 surplus that it will have at the end of this financial year. The surplus will probably amount to more than that. I hope that the Government, in its wisdom, if it has any - if it’ has not any now, it may develop some - will use some of the surplus for that purpose.
It has been said repeatedly in this Parliament that the Labour party is not interested in land settlement or in the advancement of the welfare of the primary producers of this country. The Labour party was the originator of this great and successful scheme. It was responsible for the conclusion of the agreement between the States and the Commonwealth in 1945, under the terms of which this Government has continued to act.
The terms that the three principal States, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, have specified as a part of their obligation under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme are exceedingly generous, and prove that the governments of those States take a real and practical interest in the welfare of ex-servicemen settlers. In New South Wales, land is made available to ex-servicemen under the scheme on leases in perpetuity. It was left to each State to choose its own form of land tenure, and New South Wales chose leases in perpetuity. Whatever criticisms may be directed at the perpetual leasehold system, organizations of returned servicemen who are interested in this problem have declared themselves as being in favour of it and have stated that they consider it to be very good. In New South Wales, the land made available to ex-servicemen under this system carries an annual rental of 2^ per cent, of the capital value of the land and ground improvements. If the State desired to recover from the settlers the whole of the charges associated with the loan funds invested in the land, it would need to charge them an annual rent in perpetuity of approximately £3 ls. per cent. Thus, the reduction of the rental to 2$ per cent, per annum is equivalent to a writing down by the State of the capital value by approximately 17 per cent. That is being done by what thi honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) would call a socialist government, but I think he approves of that kind of socialism.
In Victoria, the Cain Government was in power when the agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth and that State. The Cain Government acted generously in the terms that it laid down as a basis for the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen. The Victorian plan provides for the acquisition of land by equal annual payments of 3 per cent, of the capital value over a period of 55 years. The annual payment consists of interest at 2 per cent, per annum and a sinking fund payment of 1 per cent, per annum. That concession is equivalent to a writing down by the State of the capital value of the land by 25 per cent. In Victoria, the freehold system has been adopted.
In Queensland, which heads the honours list, leases in perpetuity carry an annual rental of 1^ per cent, of the improved capital value of the land. In the case of land acquired with loan funds, that concession is equivalent to a writing down by the socialist Government of Queensland of the capital value of the land by approximately 50 per cent. I am certain that the members of the Australian Country party approve of that kind of socialism as being in the best interests of ex-servicemen who are settled on the land. I wish that it could be extended to cover land-hungry Australians who are not ex-servicemen.
Tasmania. South Australia and Western Australia are agent State.?. Having regard to their sparse populations and huge areas, they did not consider that they were sufficiently strong financially to accept the full obligations involved in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. The Commonwealth under the agreement of 1945 has laid down terms that are as good as those that have been laid down by the principal States. I have reason to believe that the agent States, irrespective of the political complexion of their governments, are doing a very good job as agents for the Commonwealth. It is to be regretted that settlement is not taking place more rapidly. I commend the bill to the House. I hope that the Government will see fit to make available to Victoria and New South “Wales enough money to enable those States to implement their land settlement programmes.
.- I was glad to hear the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) give this bill his blessing. It has a laudable objective, to which all honorable members can subscribe. It is desirable that ex-servicemen who are capable of engaging in primary production should be given an opportunity to make their living in that way. The Government will make available for this purpose a sum of money that it considers will be adequate to meet requirements this year. I hope that, if necessary, more money will be appropriated for this purpose later, if it be required.
The agreement to which the honorable member for Lalor has referred has some defects. One schedule is applicable to the three principal States, and another to the three agent States. The agent States are, in effect, managed by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth can acquire land only on a fair and equitable basis but, if I understand the position right, the States can acquire land at any price that they desire to pay. That is unfair. One way of decreasing primary production in this country is to take land away from those who are prepared to stay on it. There are not enough primary producers in this country now, and any Government should be reluctant to take land from the primary producers who arc doing a good job and place new settlers upon it. There is ample land available for the purposes of war service land settlement. This bill will make money available for that pur pose, but it does not seek to amend the schedule that applies to the principal States, which contains the iniquitous provision that land shall be acquired at a value not exceeding the 1942 value. Actually that agreement is not legally effective but it is actually effective because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has given the States a promise that the Government will carry the agreement out. Whilst I know that the Minister and the Government are both sympathetic in regard to the payment of fair and just prices for land acquired for soldier settlement such prices are not being paid in every instance. The payments made to certain land-holders whose land has been acquired are very much below present-day values. Local authorities base their rate assessments on current values, yet men whose land has been taken from them by a State are paid only the ancient values, which are far below current values. That position ought to be corrected. Paragraph (rf) of clause 10 of the First Schedule to the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act reads -
The Commonwealth and the State shall confer on each proposal and decide whether it should be accepted, either with or without alteration or modification, as an approved plan of settlement.
The Government should not agree to any plan that does not make provision for the payment of a fair price. The honorable member for Lalor expressed one opinion with which I agree, which was that there are thousands of returned servicemen who want farming land and are capable of working it. But he went on to say that this socialistic plan of putting men on the land has his approval. If the socialistic plan of taking land out of production, as carried out in Queens-, land, has the approval of the honorable member, it certainly has not my approval, because what the socialist government in Queensland does is to take up hundreds of thousands of acres and farm it unsuccessfully. As a result, it makes attacks on the public purse. That land is good land in an area where the annual rainfall is 27 inches a year, and would be well utilized if it were made available to land-hungry settlers who would help to increase production.
The Minister should take two points into consideration. One is that the acquisition of land for soldier settlement at 1942 values should be discontinued and the Government should force its discontinuation by using legislative provision that gives it the final say, so that, settlers whose land is taken from them will receive present-day prices. Some of those settlers went on to the land between the two world wars. War-time controls were instituted in 1939 and, later, immediately after the war, the State Government froze certain land transactions and they have been frozen ever since. The owners have not had effective control of their own property since the beginning of the war, and they do not know whether their lands are to be acquired or not. That is no way in which to encourage men to settle on the land and expand our primary production. Much land in Queensland has been frozen for six years and the owners are refused the right to sell it or do anything about getting value from it. Naturally nobody will spend money on his property if he thinks that the Government may eventually take it from him at a low valuation.
In conclusion, I emphasize that one of the anomalies in connexion with land settlement is that returned soldiers who took up land after World War I., and worked it successfully, are having their land taken away from them. No returned soldier should have his land acquired, but that is what is being done by the Queensland Government. The land is being given to other returned soldiers. The Minister should ensure that such a practice is discontinued and that all returned soldiers shall be protected in the future. It is, of course, a different matter when a returned soldier holds surplus land, but the cases with which I have come into contact concern soldiers who have a living area only. Yet their land is being acquired at 1942 values and they are required to leave it without having even sufficient finance to acquire a home elsewhere. That is not fair treatment. My second point is that where there are cases of tenants in common where an exserviceman shares with a partner a property that has an area sufficient for a living area for both parties, such exserviceman should be allowed the right to acquire a living area of his own. Returned soldiers should be protected in those ways. It was to urge such protection for them that I rose to speak.
.- I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) say that in Queensland land is being taken from certain soldier settlers and given to other soldier settlers.
– That is true.
– I shall take the statement at its face value, but there must be another side to such a situation. I should say that it is probable that the returned servicemen from whom the land has been taken probably own interests in other properties of perhaps as much as 100,000 acres.
– The ones to whom I have referred had only ordinary living areas.
– That is strange, because no government would surely be so foolish as to take land from one soldier settler to give it to another soldier settler. There must be another side to the matter. The position in Victoria is certainly the reverse of that which the honorable gentleman claims to be the position in Queensland. I should like to see the other side of the picture that the honorable member for Fisher has painted. Of course, if what he has said is true, I agree that it is entirely wrong. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has stated, the Opposition approves of this measure, which deals with one of the most important problems that faces the nation to-day - the provision of moneys to stimulate land settlement by ex-servicemen. That is not a party matter but is of grave national concern. Members of the Australian Country party have been reported in the press to be perturbed about the decrease in the production of foodstuffs. What are we going to do about that problem ? It is of no use just to talk about it. This country’s economy is out of balance because, whereas prior to the last war we had ample primary production and insufficient secondary production, we now have an over-concentration oh secondary industry and a decrease of primary production. Our economy is right out of balance and we are going the wrong way about restoring its balance. The responsibility for that task rests with the National Parliament, because the major consideration in relation to it is finance. It is of no use to blame the States for inaction. The responsibility is ours. War-time governments promised the servicemen that their interests would be protected when they came back from the war. Have we done so? In Victoria there are 3,000 exservicemen who were born on farms and now wish to become farmers, but we arc not encouraging them to do so. We are, in fact, preventing them from doing so. They are becoming disillusioned and disgusted and are drifting into secondary industries. These men would be great assets to the country if they were working on the land. Instead, they are being forced into secondary industry and are thereby adding to the unbalance of our economy. Our food production is decreasing and our population is increasing. We do not quibble about expending millions of pounds on defence. Is not the production of food one of our major defence responsibilities, because we must produce food not only for ourselves but also for our allies? This is a major problem. The responsibility for its solution must rest with the Government. Honorable members opposite have said that the responsibility for the curtailment of loan moneys lies with the States but the Australian Government still has a responsibility in that regard. It was understood that the Government would supply the money necessary for the States to carry out the plans which they had already commenced to put into operation.
Excellent results have been achieved by the Victorian Government up to the present time. That Government has built up great assets which will benefit the nation and every £1 invested in them will be repaid tenfold. Therefore the Australian Government has a national responsibility to make possible the development of those assets. Land settlement is a national responsibility.. Mr. H. L. Simpson,, the chairman of the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria, has said that the reduction of the loan moneys available to the Victorian Government will sound the death-knell of soldier settlement.
– That is a stupid statement.
– It is not stupid. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is ignoring the facts, and, if he adopts that attitude he has no right to represent a constituency such as Gippsland where land settlement is an important matter. Because of the curtailment of loan moneys, State government authorities have had to reduce their programmes by 33^ per cent. The Government should make that money available to them. I do not want honorable members to make this a party matter.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order! One at a time, gentlemen, please.
– Honorable members opposite should use their influence to persuade the Government to review its decision on this matter. I support the appeal that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made on behalf of ex-servicemen and on behalf of farmers’ sons who wish to remain on the land. The Government must make money available to assist these people. The Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria planned to expend £7,600,000 this year, but had to reduce its expenditure to £5,000,000. The effect of that reduction will be felt by many men. Large estates, some of them over 20,000 acres, should be divided amongst those who wish to settle on the land and should not be held by companies. The Victorian Government has not been able to resume many such estates because it has not had the money to do so. That Government planned to settle 500 dairy-farmers on Crown land in the south-west of Victoria. That scheme will now have to be. restricted. The necessary expenditure had been estimated at £350,000. This is a serious matter and the Government should review its decision in the light of the serious fall in primary production. A young married man who settles on the land knows that he has to get out of. debt and he will work to do so. He has the economic spur to make good. He has to pay off his mortgage. Many farmers’ sons are now leaving their father’s property in order to drive trucks and go into other industries.
Land settlement should be financed by the Commonwealth Bank. It is the greatest investment that a country can make. Even if certain land settlement schemes that were launched after the first world war were a financial failure they were a great success in other ways. After the last war the lads who became farmers were well treated by the Socialist Victorian Government but after the first world war we who settled on the land had to pay interest at the rate of 6^ per cent, on the money that we had to borrow. There were no homes on the properties when we went to them. We were allowed £625 to build a house and to fence and stock the property, and I think that we were allowed tools such as a crosscut saw and a shovel. We were soon in debt. We received notices to pay arrears. Many men were forced to leave their farms. The land that we took over had been run down and we did not have sufficient finance to develop it. We were served with eviction notices.
On one occasion a number of government officials got out of two cars at my property. One man said to me, “ This country looks very nice “. I replied, “ It is all right. There is nothing wrong with it. It has been a great success ‘’. He said, “Has it?” I replied, “Yes. It has been a great success for every one but me”. I told him that the 30,000 acres were carrying about 4,000 sheep. In two years, output had been trebled and the production of the properties in that district was of great benefit to the country. Once a year one would read that the Auditor-General had reported that £2,000,000 had been lost on closer settlement and soldier settlement. There had been a loss from the AuditorGeneral’s point of view, but, actually, the State bad not suffered any loss. Closer settlement and soldier settlement schemes were a great success from the stand-point of the States. Over 100 children had been born in my district at the time of which I speak. Many of the sons of the men who settled there have fought for this country.
The honorable member for Gippsland will probably recall the conditions of which I speak. Even if these men had been given the land they would not really have received any concession, because the nation derived the benefit that accrued from their activities. The owners of properties of 228,000 acres could not defend this nation. So why haggle about the money that is required to settle ex-servicemen on the land? The responsibility rests completly on the shoulders of the Government to provide the States with the finance that they need for this purpose. The Government recently announced that it was necessary to increase production. ‘ These men are prepared to produce. Since the inception of the dairy settlement scheme in Victoria to which I have referred over 400,000 tons of butter has been produced under it. Now the State Government will have to curtail that scheme. That is completely wrong. I do not wish to make this a party matter. It is the responsibility of all honorable members to rectify the position. When it is necessary to build bridges the public do not quibble about the expense involved. An expenditure of £15,000,000 is necessary to build a battleship, but £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 would enable the Victorian Government to proceed with its settlement scheme. The one is as important as the other. It is not too late for the Government to review th,curtailment of loan moneys. The money available to the States must not be restricted, not only because of our obligations to ex-servicemen, but also because of national requirements. It is now sis years since the war ended and some exservicemen are still unable to obtain land. If loan moneys are curtailed th, Government might as well forget altogether about making land available to them. I ask Ministers to review the position in regard to land settlement in ail States, in the interests of not only the men directly concerned, but also the welfare and advancement of the whole nation.
.- For once I find myself in remarkably close agreement with, honorable members opposite who have addressed themselves to this measure. However, one or two of the statements that they have made do not advance the argument which, apparently, they earnestly wish to advance. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for
Wannon (Mr. McLeod) criticized owners of large tracts of land, and repeatedly stated that big holdings should be broken up. Such an argument will engender great hostility to closer settlement of any sort, and I inform honorable members opposite that I desire, just as much as they do, to see our land more closely settled. To inveigh against a certain class of land-holders is to do the very thing that will establish a vested interest in opposition to the result that these honorable members are seeking. I agree with what the honorable member for Wannon implied when he said that over a given area, if a vigorous policy of closer settlement were followed, not only the number of stock but also the number of human beings would increase. That is a most important observation. Neither sheep nor cattle will defend this country ; the backbone of our defence will always be the men, women and children of Australia.
Honorable members opposite should remember that the size of holdings is relative to other things. The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Wannon are both landholders. According to some people they are extremely wealthy land-holders because their wool and lamb cheques total thousands of pounds. I am not one who is opposed to little capitalists, and, therefore, I do not cavil about the size of their properties. However, in the eyes of many others who are smaller land-holders or who are completely landless, they are proper subjects for closer settlement activities. I admit that any holding that is so large that it cannot be efficiently exploited should be settled more closely. But we must draw the line somewhere. It should be remembered that more than sufficient good land in this country is being offered for sale. Governments interested in closer settlement could easily acquire that land. Such governments should buy land rather than instil a fear in the farming and pastoral community that anybody who improves his holding will place himself in danger of having it taken from him. Honorable members opposite should give due weight to that warning in the light of the fact that I am as much interested in closer settlement as they are.
Laud settlement of ex-servicemen has been consistently classified by honorable members opposite as a Labour, or, indeed, a socialist venture. If putting men on their own land on such terms as make it possible for them to acquire it within a reasonable period is socialism, then I am a socialist to the backbone. The very conditions under which ex-servicemen settlers may now acquire holdings were opposed by the Minister who held the relevant portfolio in the last Labour Government - Mr. J. J. Dedman. He openly stated that it was not his government’s intention to bring into existence a race of little capitalists. The honorable member for Lalor will recall the strenuous attempts that were made to induce that gentleman to take the lead in a fight to compel various agent States to grant to their settlers the privilege of ultimately owning their own land. I would willingly support the expenditure of a much larger amount than is to be set aside under this measure.
It is a sad commentary on all the governments that this country has had since the war that to-day, six years after the end of hostilities, thousands of competent ex-servicemen have not yet been settled on their own land. We are quite rightly expending large sums bringing immigrants to this country and constructing hostels in which to house them when they come here. Yet we have not fulfilled our obligations to our own people. If our ex-servicemen and their families are settled on the land they will become an asset of far greater value to this country than could be gained by bringing people to Australia from outside sources. During the last war I served in a unit - that was composed largely of the sons of small farmers who desired to go on the land, but did not have sufficient capital to do so. I now see many of those men in the cities. They have taken other work because they have been unable to wait for years to be settled on the land.
The fulfilment of our promises to exservicemen is not only desirable but also the surest way to ensure the production of the additional food that Australia needs. There is a growing realization in all quarters that in the immediate future we shall have not an exportable surplus of food to send overseas to those who need it, but barely enough for ourselves. Food will probably become so expensive that the cost of living will rise and the standard of living will consequently fall.
The producer of food is essentially the small land-holder. In saying that I refer not to wheat or wool growers, but to the producers of meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruit. We need more such producers, and who can do that job better than ex-servicemen who are experienced fanners? We must carry on our policy of closer settlement for as long as land is available in this country. We must do that in order to increase our population and strengthen our hold on Australia. In the future, closer settlement facilities should be extended first to ex-servicemen and their families, and to other Australians, both British-born and new Australians. I believe that the best of the people who come to this country want to become owners of a piece of land. That desire is encouraged by our immigration propaganda abroad, and I believe that later there will be an obligation on us to help qualified new Australians to settle on the land. But first we must have our own ex-servicemen successfully settled.
The Government of New South Wales must be severely criticized for the part it has played in the scheme of land settlement of ex-servicemen. It has done the very thing upon which I join issue with the honorable member for Lalor. It has instilled a fear in the minds of the farmers and graziers that their land may be taken from them on unfair terms. Land has already been acquired by the New South Wales Government on terms that were not only unfair, but also amounted to. gross dishonesty. The result has been that landholders have avoided, delayed, and done everything possible to discourage, the settlement of ex-servicemen in their particular areas. The people who have suffered because of this action of the New South Wales Government are, of course, the settlers themselves. They have, perhaps, suffered more than the landholders. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to talk of acquiring more land unless they make it clear to everybody that such land will be acquired on fair terms and that, as far as possible, land that is already available for sale will be acquired, because there is plently of that on the market. That should certainly be done before we act in an intimidatory or spiteful manner merely for the sake ‘of taking something from somebody.
.- Under this bill it is proposed to raise £4,125,000 to settle ex-servicemen in South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania. In New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria the State governments are responsible for the prime expenditure pursuant to the resumption of land incurred in the settlement to ex-servicemen. The Commonwealth is responsible for the financing of the acquisition of land and settlement thereon in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. This measure has the general approval of the Parliament. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced this bill he mentioned that the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1950-51 provided for the raising of £5,500,000, and that to the 30th June, 1951, only £3,800,000 had been expended. A balance of £1,200,000 of the money already appropriated for this purpose remained unexpended. I trust that the whole of the sum of £4,100,000 for which provision is made under this measure will be expended during the period in respect of which it is made available.
The Government has been somewhat, perfunctory in its approach to the problem of the land settlement of exservicemen in the three States in which it is responsible for such settlement. Victoria and New South Wales, which directly finance schemes of this kind out of loan money, must reduce their appropriations because the Loan Council has reduced their loan allocations. Already, New South Wales, whose allocation was reduced by 25 per cent., has decreased its expenditure on land settlement by £1,500,000 ; and I have no doubt that as Victoria’s loan allocation has been reduced by 33^ per cent., that State will be obliged to reduce its expenditure on land settlement to a corresponding degree. All honorable members who have spoken in ‘ this debate have emphasized the absolute urgency of settling as many persons as possible upon the land in order to increase food production, which is the nation’s No. .1 requirement. Primary production. including that of meat and agricultural crops, has fallen to an alarming degree. I trust that the Government will heed this warning. Closer settlement is one of the vital problems that confront this country. Raving regard to the vast spaces still unpopulated in this continent, we shall not render fair service to either our own people or the starving peoples of other countries unless we tackle this problem effectively. Not so long ago Australia was one of the leading food exporting countries, but to-day we have not only lost that distinction, but are also faced with the danger that we may not be able to produce sufficient to meet our own requirements. Last year, the production of milk products, potatoes, meat and wheat declined to an alarming degree.
This problem can be solved only by intensifying land settlement, including schemes for the settlement of exservicemen. New South Wales has a comparatively good record in this respect. Up to the 30th June last, 1,7 64 exservicemen had been settled on the land in that State at a cost of £18,600,000. Thus, New South Wales has achieved results practically equal to those that the Commonwealth has achieved in the three States in which it directly controls the settlement of ex-servicemen. We hear a lot of talk about what should be done to encourage land settlement in the Northern Territory, for which the Commonwealth is completely responsible. However, not one holding has been made available in the territory for settlement under a scheme for ex-servicemen. Western Australia is practically a vast open space. The Commonwealth could do much to extend settlement in that State, great regions of which are suitable for the production of beef and of wheat and other crops. One has only to travel along the north coast of Queensland and see what has been done in the cultivation of sugar and other crops that call for intensified effort in order to realize the opportunities that exist in this sphere. It will not be sufficient merely to settle persons on pastoral holdings which require only a relatively small number of persons to run. The only solution of this problem is to encourage closer settlement in regions that are suitable for the production of crops such as sugar, and other crops that are produced in northern Queensland. If that policy had not been followed in northern Queensland, tha population of that part of Australia would not be nearly so large as it is to-day. Similar opportunities exist in Western Australia and the Commonwealth should interest itself to a greater degree than it has done in the closer settlement of that State.
I do not under-estimate the importance of this measure. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) pointed out, closer settlement must be intensified, not only for the purpose of increasing the production of essential foodstuffs, but also to populate areas that are now devoted solely to pastoral pursuits and are not being adequately utilized. Large pastoral holdings should be sub-divided for that purpose. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who is an exserviceman of World War I., instanced successes that have been achieved by exservicemen on the land in the area in which he resides in Victoria. He pointed out that production on one holding that had previously been owned by one grazier had been trebled within a matter of months after the holding had been subdivided. I am not without experience in this matter. Following World War I., I was employed as a junior surveyor in various areas. At that time, I gained a considerable knowledge of land values and of the uses to which various classes of land could most profitably be put. J also had an opportunity to see at firsthand how several schemes for the settlement of ex-servicemen after World War I. were carried out. In many instances the holdings that were made available were too small to enable settlers to succeed. Consequently, many exservicemen were unable to make ends meet and numbers of them simply walked off their holdings. The Government, subsequently, increased the size of holdings under those schemes and eventually, but only after an unnecessarily long period, they proved successful.
I should like to sound a warning in this respect. To-day, there is a tendency to insist upon holdings that are too large for the group settlement of ex-servicemen. I refer particu- larly to settlements in New South “Wales. I have some knowledge of the carrying capacity of land to which I refer. In many instances, Commonwealth officials have refused to approve of schemes that have been submitted by the State government on the ground that the proposed holdings were too small. Some of those proposed holdings were of greater area than the average area of adjacent holdings that had been successfully settled many years previously. That attitude on the part of the Commonwealth has forced the abandonment of many schemes which to my mind would have proved successful. The provision of unnecessarily large holdings not only increases the cost to the Commonwealth but also renders more difficult the settlement of ex-servicemen. I ask the Government to examine that aspect of the administration of schemes for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
All applicants for holdings under this scheme are required to hold a qualifying certificate, the object of such a procedure being to ensure that holdings shall be made available only to persons who will be suited to life on the land by reason of their knowledge and experience in the forms of production in which they wish to engage. I know of many men who were born on the land, sons of farmers and graziers, who took up other occupations because no land was available to them. Those men have been refused the right to enter ballots for holdings on the ground that their need was not so urgent as was that of others who were still working on the land. In most instances, they left the land upon marriage in order to provide a reasonable standard of living for their wives and families and they should not be denied a qualifying certificate to take part in ballots for holdings under schemes of this kind. Qualification certificates should not be refused to such applicants because for the time being they are not working on the land.
I support the measure and trust that the Government will intensify its efforts to extend land settlement generally. I hope that it will expend all the money it is seeking under this measure. Indeed, I should’ not quibble if the Government should find it necessary in the near future to ask for a further appropriation for the purposes of settling ex-servicemen on the land. We cannot do too much in this respect. In China and other countries, communism is thriving among the rural population because Communists promise the masses that they will make more land available to them. In Australia, which is a country of vast empty spaces and contains large estates that are controlled by absentee landlords, governments should ensure that all persons who wish to go on the land shall be given an opportunity to do so. It can be done in a practical way under the scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, and in other ways, to which I have directed attention. I support the bill, but I make an earnest request to the Minister to take into consideration the matters that I have raised.
.- A» honorable members on both sides of the House have stated, this is not a measure that calls for any party political contention. We all are in agreement with the principle of the settlement of exservicemen on the land, and with the principle of the closer settlement of our productive lands, provided the scheme is carried out with wisdom. But, as the representative of an electorate in New South Wales, I consider that this debate should not close without further reference than has yet been made to the activities of the McGirr Labour Government in resuming land for soldier settlement by means which amount to neither more nor less than confiscation of property.
– The McGirr Government has done the right thing in that matter.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), if he will hear me explain what the McGirr Government is doing, will have cause t<reconsider his views. The purpose of this bill is to authorize the Government to raise a sum of £4,125,000, and advance it to certain States which will expend it on the acquisition of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. What is happening in New South Wales? The Government of that State uses its powers under the War Service Land Settlement Act and the Closer Settlement Act to acquire land at the values that were ruling in 1942. Et either resumes the land compulsorily at the 1942 values, or approaches the landholder and says, “ Will you sell this land to us at what we reckon to be the 1942 value? If you will sell it voluntarily to us, we shall give you a bonus of 15 per cent, for not contesting the claim “. The owner, therefore, is caught in a cleft stick. He can have his land compulsorily resumed at the 1942 value, or he can sell it to the New South Wales Government at that value and receive, in addition, a bonus of 15 per cent. He knows that, in any event, his land will be taken from him at a price far less than its present market value. What else is that but the confiscation of his property? The excuse advanced so frequently by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr, Renshaw, is that the State Government does not wish to settle ex-servicemen on land which it must acquire at crippling prices. He says - and I think that there is much justice in his view - that if we put ex-servicemen on land purchased at the prevailing prices, they will be so burdened with debt that they may never get out of it, and that, therefore, it is necessary to subsidize, to some degree, the settlement of ox-servicemen on the land. What Mr. Renshaw does not explain is by what principle of law, justice or reason the present owner of the land is made to provide the whole of the subsidy. I propose to cite two examples of what has occurred within the last year in the resumption of properties. An estate known as “ Bullagreen “, near Gilgandra, a property of some 22,000 acres, was resumed., at a valuation of £4. 12s. an acre. The owners were left two blocks for themselves.
– Who owned that estate?
– I do not know.
– The honorable member does not want to know.
– I am unconcerned about who were the owners, but I am concerned at the confiscatory acts of the New South Wales Government. The owners of that estate were left with two blocks, which they decided, whether rightly or wrongly I do not know, were insufficient for satisfactory sheep raising, and they sold them at auction. For one block they received £8 12s. an acre, and for the other block, £10 6s. an acre. The confiscation of their property by the McGirr Government at 1942 values meant a loss of £100,000 to them. That land was stolen from those owners by means of legalized theft.
I come now to the second example. The “ Ghoolendaadi “ sheep station, near Gunnedah, was sold, under threat, by its owners to the New South Wales Government at £5 an acre. The present price of that land has been reckoned at £11 10s. an acre, and the owners have incurred a loss of no less than £248,000. By what principle of law or justice was that land resumed? Can the honorable member for Watson defend such an act of confiscation ?
– The land should be taken from them.
-Order! The honorable member for Watson must cease interjecting.
– The manner in which such resumptions are made may nol be known to honorable members who do not represent electorates in New South Wales, and, therefore, I point out that there is no provision in the laws of thai State similar to that in the Australian Constitution, which compels a government that acquires land to do so “ on just terms”. The New South Wales Government may acquire land on any terms which it finds convenient, and the owner of that property has no legal redress.
That brings me to the point that I wish to make in relation to this bill. Although this House has no control over the way in which this money will be expended, we have to vote it; and there is a moral obligation on us to ensure that the money which we vote shall not be used to confiscate the property of Australian citizens. For that reason, I say that there is an obligation on this Government to see that not one more penny shall be advanced to the Government of New South Wales until satisfactory assurances have been given that the money will not be used to acquire people’s properties except on just terms.
.- I am astonished at the attitude of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) in relation to the land settlement ‘of exservicemen. His tears of anguish over the acquisition of properties seem to be conditioned by his reading of the Sydney Morning Herald. I am even more astonished that he finds that all the injustice is suffered by the owners, and sees no merit in the long-term plan that has been followed by various governments for settling ex-servicemen on the land. Some of the contentions of the honorable gentleman are valid, but I consider that he is too aggressive in his approach to the whole subject. For example, he declared that properties had been filched from the owners, and he accused the New South Wales Government of a scandalous act of fraud. All governments have made solemn commitments over the years in regard to the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, and fortunately insofar as servicemen of the 1939-45 war are concerned the scheme has been most successful because good land has been provided for the settlers, and high prices have been obtained for their produce.
Two problems confront this Government, as, indeed, they confronted the previous Labour Government in the land settlement of ex-servicemen. The first arises from the present fictitiously high values, and the necessity to give good land to the settlers. The most important matter, which has been stressed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), is that ex-servicemen have been given good land, and will be able to make production a reality. Unfortunately, many of the veterans of World War I., who settled on the land, were given poor country, and could not develop it profitably. Governments in the last few years have not repeated that mistake.
The second problem arises from the fact that we are in considerable trouble about whether or not land shall be acquired on more just terms than those at which it has been acquired to date. Obviously, one of two things must happen. If land is to be acquired, the price must be such that the ex-servicemen will be able to discharge their indebtedness, become useful, provident and solvent members of the rural community, and above all, stay on the land. If, in the application of that scheme, land is acquired from the owners at prices which, compared with to-day’s value3, are considered to be dangerously low, what is the Government to do? Is it to establish a sectional pool from which an owner will be paid because his land has been acquired by a State authority? Let us not forget that the scheme for the land settlement of exservicemen is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and of the States alike. Opposition members carefully considered the whole position at their party meetings when the previous Labour .Government was in office, and we believe that, not a great deal of injustice has been done to owners. Indeed, no injustice has been done to many persons whose properties have been acquired. If there are to be injustices, for heaven’s sake do not let them fall on the ex-serviceman, because the high prices for primary products that are being received at the present time do not guarantee his future. Ex-servicemen are being given good land, and we hope that, as a result of such a policy, solid farming communities will be established. As has been pointed out quite validly by the honorable member for Henty, ex-servicemen should be the first to receive our consideration.
The honorable member for Evans spoke of land being filched from the presentowners. Well, if we go back to beginnings, we shall probably find that it was acquired in doubtful circumstances from the original owners, and the poor aborigines may come into the discussion. Many towns are landlocked by big holdings which prevent their development. Because of increasing population, Australia is facing a food shortage, and exports are dwindling. A landowner holds his land in trust for the community. The area of good land is limited, and where good land is held in large areas it must be subdivided. How could it be used to greater advantage than by placing it at the disposal of trained and competent exservicemen? There has been too much propagandist talk about filching the squatters’ land, and such talk comes badly from the honorable member for Evans, himself an ex-serviceman. There is no justification for attacking the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Renshaw, who has approached this matter with the Knowledge of a country man. There is a case for giving ex-servicemen land on reasonable terms. Are we to assume that there is not sufficient wit amongst members of the Government to devise a formula that would be just to both the present holders of the land and the ex-servicemen who are to settle on it? Honorable members opposite seem to be incapable of doing anything except moan and debunk their own Government’s scheme. We have heard too much about tearing away possession of the land from men who are already wealthy. What have those men done with the land in the past? On balance, as economists say, the case is strongly in favour of the New South Wales Government, and of the ex-serviceman.
.- It is evident from the debate that there is considerable misunderstanding among honorable members about what the scheme provides and permits. As a matter of fact, even the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) appeared to be unaware of the genesis of the present act. It is well to record that the Western Australian branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League prepared a list of conditions that should apply to the settlement of exservicemen. It was submitted to the federal executive of the organization, which adopted it with some small amendments. Ultimately, it was submitted to the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which was appointed by the Labour Government, and the commission accepted the proposals of the league as the basis of a land settlement scheme. Those who prepared the scheme were guided by the experience of ex-servicemen who settled on the land after World War I., and also by the experience of governments that had been concerned in their settlement. The Rural Reconstruction Commission made one vital departure from the recommendations of the Returned Servicemen’s League. In order to make certain that ex-servicemen would succeed on the land, the commission applied conditions and standards which have seriously retarded settlement.
The Government eventually adopted the recommendations of the commission, including the proposed safeguards against individual failure. It was necessary that safeguards should be imposed, but it was not necessary that every doorknob should be gilded. It was not necessary so to order matters that the ex-serviceman should go on to the land merely as a part of the machinery to work it, and thus be deprived of all initiative. It was only after representations. were made by some of us on the land committees of the Returned Servicemen’s League that the original conditions were modified, but even in their present form they are deterring men from going on to the land, and until the conditions have been further modified there will be cause for complaint.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said that the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in Victoria would be hampered because of the reduction of the amount of loan money available to the Victorian Government. That is not so. It is for the Victorian Government to decide how the available money shall be expended. If in the opinion of that Government the settlement of exservicemen is important, it will make the necessary money available. The position is the same in the other States. We do not wish ex-servicemen to be put on land the price of which is too high, and there is a provision in the act which enables governments to acquire land at a fair price. If the market price is above what is considered to be the economic value of the land, the Commonwealth and the State government concerned may, under one provision of the act, subsidize the purchase of the land so that the settler shall become responsible for no more than the economic price. All these matters were thrashed out by the Rural Reconstruction Commission when it was preparing its recommendations for the Commonwealth. Western Australia has serious grounds for complaint because the standards that were ultimately applied excluded from the scheme two large areas which were considered to be unsuitable merely because, under outmoded farming practices, they had not been sufficiently productive. Recently, I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) why 258,000 acres of a total of 2,000,000 acres that had been submitted for land settlement in Western Australia had been rejected by the Government as being unsuitable. The Minister informed me in his reply that general unsuitability was a sufficient reason for the rejection of land but promised to provide me with the reasons for the rejection of particular areas.
Two main areas in Western Australia have been arbitrarily excluded. They are in the wheat belt and the coastal strip. However, as a result of the improvement of agricultural practices in recent years, they are capable of being developed at very small cost so as to provide intensive high-quality production. Their exclusion from this scheme is not based upon sound scientific reasons. A careful examination of the facts will show that men who have taken up similar land under similar conditions in recent years have achieved outstanding success. Every honorable member who has participated in this debate has spoken of the need for intensification of agricultural production. T say without fear of successful contradiction that no other part of our continent offers such good prospects for agricultural development as do the regions in Western Australia that I have in mind. They are capable of rapid development at a low cost in terms of money and labour. Many ex-servicemen want to establish themselves there, but, because of the decision that I have mentioned, they are not able to do so. Like other honorable members, I regret that the proposed expenditure on the settlement of ex-servicoreen this year will not exceed £4.125.000. However, we must realize that the State governments are acting as the agents of this Government and that their failings are largely responsible for the slow progress that is being made. Over £1,000,000 of the total amount that was set aside last year for the purposes of the land settlement scheme has not yet been expended. Obviously, therefore, we cannot justly condemn this Government on the ground that it has not provided sufficient money for the current year. However, it should spur the States to greater efforts. It is open to criticism in that respect.
All States have been neglectful of land settlement generally. We need to re-orient our ideas about out land and adopt a. new scale of values. The three main essentials of life - food, shelter and clothing - can be produced better in Australia than in any other country, and, if we refuse to undertake the job of producing those essentials to the limit of our capacity with the God-given resources at our disposal, somebody else will surely take our land from us. It is up to us to use Australia’? natural resources to the best advantage. I urge the Government to direct its attention to the regions in Western Australia that I have mentioned. We have an excellent opportunity to develop those areas at very small cost and with practically no risk of failure from either a national or an individual standpoint. 1 was astonished to read in the newspapers recently that a conference held in Canberra had decided that, if there were insufficient applications from exservicemen for land settlement in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia, settlers would be obtained from other States. There is no need to worry about any shortage of applicants in Western Australia ! Over 1,000 men are already waiting to obtain blocks in that State and almost as many have withdrawn their applications because the delay in dealing with them has been too protracted. We do not need anybody from other States. We have more exservicemen waiting for land than can be satisfied under the terms of the settlement scheme. I support the bill.
.- As the representative of a large rural electorate in Tasmania, I join forces with those honorable members who have already supported the bill and expressed satisfaction with the progress that has been made with the settlement of exservicemen on the land. This is not a party political matter, but I point out that the present Government has had less than two years’ experience of the current land settlement scheme, which was initiated by a Labour government. The ground work was laid by the Labour Administration, and the entire plan was set in motion by it. As far as I have been able to determine, the present Government has not altered the original programme, a fact that gives cause for deep satisfaction. The success of the scheme depends upon the State governments and those agricultural officers who are directly responsible for its implementation. As most honorable members are aware, the attempts that were made after World War I. to settle ex-servicemen on the land failed disgracefully and great injustices resulted. There was a tremendous amount of racketeering in land for the settlement of returned servicemen. In South Gippsland, a large area infested with fern, blackberries and rabbits was purchased for that purpose. There is not a house nor a farm to be seen there now. Worthless land was acquired for exservicemen settlers, many of whom became bankrupt. Exorbitant prices were paid, not only for land but also for cattle and machinery.
Mp. SPEAKER-Order I The honorable gentleman is going well outside the scope of the bill.
– Because capital charges were so great, many settlers did not have a chance from the start. In one year, 55 ex-servicemen were allotted blocks of land near Foster in South Gippsland, but only five of them survived the economic blizzard and overcame other difficulties that beset, them.
When the last; war ended, the attitude of all political parties to war service land settlement changed considerably. When the present Government parties were in j Opposition in this Parliament they supported the war service land settlement scheme, which, was initiated by the Labour party, and they have supported it since they have been in power. I am certain that in ten or fifteen years’ time, when we look back upon what has been done during the last six years in regard to war service land settlement, we shall regard it as a real triumph. I pay a tribute to the work that lias been done by the officers of the State governments who are charged with responsibility for implementing the scheme. The Commonwealth provides the necessary money, but the State governments and their officers do all the hard ground work. They are making available to ex-servicemen settlers the very best land that they can acquire. Big estates are being subdivided.
One of the best features of the war service land settlement scheme is that in areas where, for half a century, very little was produced, there are to-day many splendid farms that are producing in abundance. A. great impetus has been given to decentralization and to the growth of rural communities. The production of foodstuffs will be increased considerably as more ex-servicemen are allotted blocks of land. Although our population is increasing at the rate of 3 per cent, each year, rural production is increasing by only 1 per cent, a year. If that process continues, within a few years we shall be compelled to import food. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, by 1960 there will be 10,500,000 persons in Australia. In order to feed a population of that size, we shall have to produce 74 per cent, more pig meat than we are producing now, 55 per cent, -more mutton, 46 per cent, more potatoes-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting well away from the bill.
– I suggest that an increase of the production of foodstuffs, as a result of the operation of the war service land settlement scheme, is relevant to the bill.
– The honorable gentleman is getting on to 1960, which is a little far ahead.
– The settlement of exservicemen upon the land is a vital step towards the achievement of an increase of the production of foodstuffs to a degree that will enable us to feed our people, not only now but also in 1960. An investigation has been made of the position in regard to twenty farm products. It has been estimated that in 1950-51 the production of thirteen of the products will be less than it was in 1949-50, that the production of three will remain at approximately the present, level, and that in respect of four there will be an increase of production. Only four of twenty commodities such as wheat, oats, barley, butter, cheese, lamb and mutton will be produced in greater abundance this year than last year. It is vital to proceed with war service land settlement as fast as possible in order to avoid the necessity to import food.
An interesting feature of the scheme is that when ex-servicemen settlers go on to the farms that have been allotted to them, the farms have a full production capacity. The houses and farm buildings have been erected, the land has been subdivided, and cattle and machinery are on the property. The ex-servicemen go on to their farms, knowing that from the beginning they will be ready to produce. That was not the position after the 1914-18 war. The subdivision of big estates for the purposes of war service land settlement will help to eliminate the rabbit menace in this country. The owners of big estates, who often have too much land, are unable to cope with the rabbit menace, but when those estates have been divided into 30 or 40 blocks and the smaller blocks have been fenced, 30 or 40 men can begin to exterminate rabbits instead of the task being left to only one man.
– What does the honorable gentleman think about myxomatosis ?
– I do not believe in myxomatosis. I believe that the subdivision of large estates is one of the best ways in which to combat the rabbit menace. The success of the scheme is evident to anyone who travels through northern Victoria. In the Numurkah district, there has been a remarkable development of war service land settlement. In Tasmania, many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land. In one area in my electorate, there are fifteen properties occupied by ex-servicemen where formerly there were only two large properties. Those men are doing a grand job on their farms. Amenities such as electric power and telephones have been made available to them. Soon there will be a thriving community of ex-servicemen settlers in a place where previously there were only two landowners and where a great deal of the land was not in production. In another area in my electorate, there will be 70 farmers on 70,000 acres of land which was previously held by one man. He was a good landowner and worked his land well, but it will be better to have 70 men working the land than one man.
I commend to the House the system of single-unit farms. In Tasmania, there is quite a number of those farms, isolated from the main war service land settlement projects and scattered here and there. It is good to have single-unit farms in addition to the large closer settlement projects. A variety of agricultural operations is being undertaken by ex-servicemen settlers. That is good, because it will result in an increased supply of various primary commodities. The war service land settlement project at King Island is one of the finest in Australia. What was formerly useless land,, strewn with fallen, blackened trees that were burned by the bush fires that ravaged the island 50 years ago, is now being developed to provide 14’0 dairy farms. In the not-distant future dairy herds will graze on land that in the ‘past carried neither sheep nor beasts of any kind. By the use of bulldozers the land has been completely cleared; roads have been constructed and township sites have been established. The King Island project has been one of the most rapidly developed settlement schemes that the State Government has handled. For its success we have largely to thank a Labour Minister who was in charge of war service land settlement, the former honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman.
Honorable members on both sides of the House regret that not many members of the Australian Country party have taken part in this debate.
– The honorable member does not know who has taken part in it because he has been absent from the House.
– We all are unanimous . in stressing that the King Island settlement project must proceed with all possible speed. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that the scales of justice must always be tipped in favour of the ex-serviceman.
– As the Minister in charge of war service land settlement I thank honorable members for having given this bill a very speedy passage, as speedy passages in this House go ; but before the debate is concluded I must reply to some very incorrect statements that were made by Opposition members and others on this subject. The first of those statements, made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and repeated by another honorable member, was that the Australian Government had reduced the allocation of loan moneys for war service land settlement purposes.
– That is true.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) does not know the difference between truth and fiction. The truth of the matter, as everybody who is aware of the position knows, is that the amount of money to be made available to meet the loan requirements of the States is determined by the Loan Council, of which the Premiers of the six States are members. The total amount having been decided upon, it is the prerogative of the States to determine how much of the amount allocated to them, shall be devoted to war service land settlement. Neither the Australian Government nor the Loan Council has any power to decide how the loan moneys allocated to the States shall be expended. The two principal States that have been doing most of the squealing about this matter - New South Wales and Victoria - asked for £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 more than they allocated for ex-service land settlement purposes. The Premier of Victoria, who, notwithstanding all the noise he has made about the shortage of money, has so much of it that he was able yesterday to grant to himself a salary increase of £300, and thus raise his salary to the level of that of the Prime Minister, last year expended on the nationalization of the gas industry £2,500,000 of loan money that could have been used for war service land settlement. Similarly, the Premier of New South Wales regarded the settling of ex-servicemen on the land as of less importance than the electrification of suburban railways, and cut his allocation for war service land settlement purposes.
– He did so in order to provide money to build the eastern suburbs railway.
– That is so. Irrespective of what Opposition members may say, or how they try wrongly to accuse this Government, the fact of the matter is that this year both New South Wales and Victoria obtained allocations of loan money greatly in excess of those approved last year and that their loans were underwritten by the Commonwealth.
The second statement to which I wish to refer was made by Mr. Renshaw, the New South Wales Minister for Lands, in regard to the activities of the agent States. I do not know why he does not mind his own business. He criticized the work done by three sister States in connexion with war service land settlement apparently because he was under the impression that the Australian Government was responsible for it.
– What business is that of the Minister?
– As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has already told the honorable member for Watson, the States carry out the work and the Commonwealth merely provides the money to enable them to do so. Thi? is the sort of incorrect statement that Mr. Renshaw made in his attempt to criticize the Commonwealth -
Paltry progress has been marie in States where the Commonwealth Government has assumed direct responsibility for soldier settlement.
– Quite right !
– I inform the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that a conference that we held on Monday with representatives of Ministers of Lands in the agent States was conducted on a friendly and profitable basis and that all those who were present expressed satisfaction with the manner in which the Commonwealth had carried out its obligations. The representatives of the agent States pointed out that almost 50 per cent, of the genuine applicants for settlement had already been settled and that plans were in hand for settlement schemes in the remainder of Tasmania under which more farms would be available than would be required to meet applications from that State. It was also stated that in Western Australia there were more applicants than there were farms available to- meet them. We are endeavouring to overcome that problem. The three agent States have done a very good job, Mr. Renshaw’s vitriolic statements to the contrary notwithstanding. I do not know why they should be subjected to such criticism by a Minister who represents the wealthiest State in the Commonwealth. Mr. Renshaw also said -
Because New South Wales and Victoria had protested that cuts in loan funds were curtailing soldier settlement programmes they were being pilloried.
It is purely hyperbolic nonsense also to say that the Commonwealth is guilty of hypocrisy with respect to the land settlement of ex-servicemen in New South Wales and Victoria. The Kent Hughes family has a much better record in the service of Victoria than has the Renshaw family in the service of New South Wales.
– The Minister is blowing his own trumpet.
– I am not blowing my trumpet. Ex-servicemen are satisfied that the members of the Government and myself, as the Minister responsible, will do everything possible to see that they shall get a fair deal. As Minister in charge of war service land settlement I shall not allow criticism of that kind to remain unanswered. I shall always answer such criticism in the strongest and most straightforward fashion.
– The Minister has descended from the political to the personal.
– Should the Labour party alone exercise the prerogative of being personal? I come now to the subject of the acquisition of land for war service land settlement, which is carried out by the State Lands Departments. Despite the fact that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) endeavoured to play down the truth he admitted that the acquisition of land in New South Wales had not been carried out on a fair basis. No one wishes such unduly high prices to be paid for land acquired for war service land settlement that ex-servicemen to whom it is allotted will be unable to make a reasonable living from it. In the interests of justice, however, the burden of the cost of the war service land settlement scheme should be spread equitably over the whole community and should not be placed wholly on the landholders by acquiring their land from them on the basis of unfair and out-of-date values by the “Ned Kelly” methods of acquisition adopted by the New South Wales Government under its legislation.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.. Is the Minister for the Interior entitled to refer to the methods of the New South Wales Government as “ Ned Kelly” methods?
– Order ! I heard the Minister use the term “ Ned Kelly “ That term is not usually parliamentary. Although it is often applied to me by the press, I have no objection to it.
– I have asked for your ruling as to whether the term is parliamentary. If it is not parliamentary, then the Minister should withdraw it.
-I have stated that it is not parliamentary.
– In order to please the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I withdraw the term and apologize to Ned Kelly.
– I rise again to order. I understand that under the Standing Orders withdrawals must be made unreservedly.
– Order ! A withdrawal must be made unreservedly, but it need not be followed by an apology unless one has been demanded by the Chair. The Minister was therefore in order.
– The withdrawal was not asked for by the Chair. I made it voluntarily in order to remove any offence I had given to the susceptibilities of the honorable member for Lalor. If the position be that the action complained of is being taken only in New South Wales, I cannot understand why it should be feared that a system that operates fairly and justly in other States might operate unfairly and unjustly in New South Wales, unless the standards of justice and honesty of the New South Wales Parliament are entirely different from those of the other State parliaments. I do not believe that to be the case.
I hope that the New South Wales Government will fall into line with the procedure that operates in connexion with the schemes that are being carried out in the other States, irrespective of the political colour of their governments, and accept the same principles of honesty and justice as have been accepted by the other States. If not, then under section 96 of the Constitution, which provides that the Commonwealth may make financial advances to the principal States only on such terms as this Parliament thinks fit, it will be necessary to ask the Parliament whether it regards as “fit” the terms and conditions that operate in New South Wales in the functioning of its land settlement scheme.
– You try it on!
– I will try anything on with the honorable member for Watson. The honorable member for Parkes adopted a very fair attitude towards the matter, and he is one of the leaders of the Labour party in this House. The honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) should have listened more closely to him, but perhaps he does not belong to theirparticular clique and so they do not agree with him. If they had listened closely to him they would have heard him say that he does not regard as fair the terms of acquisition applied by the New South Wales Government. I agree with that view and have said so. I hope, therefore, that influence in the Labour party’s ranks will be brought to bear on the New South Wales Government in order to have that view impressed on it, and I trust that there will be no more criticism of the very excellent work that is being done in other States in relation to the land settlement of ex-servicemen.
I am familiar with the propositions on King Island and Flinders Island, to which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has referred.
That brings me to the last point that I wish to make, which is that I hope that in future more attention will be paid to settling ex-servicemen on lands that are capable of being improved and of helping to increase primary production rather than on following the practice of merely transferring ownership of land from the present holder to an ex-serviceman.
– Does not cost also enter into the matter?
– Of course it does, and the Commonwealth has agreed with the principal States to bear the cost in the proportion of 50-50. As far as the agent States are concerned, the cost will be divided on the basis of 60-40.
– As we enacted the measure we know all about it.
– One honorable member on the Opposition side apparently did not know all about it. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) might inform him about it and so help him in the future.
– I am willing to help the Minister also.
– I have no doubt that that is so, but at present the honorable member is too much concerned with the attempt of international financiers to get control of Australian broadcasting stations. I wish to emphasize the hope that in future the States will be able to acquire land that is capable of improvement. In Western Australia the scheme is being carried out in a very progressive and fair manner. The authorities there assist the settlers to clear the land and take an interest in the property from the start. I am sure that the Western Australian scheme, and schemes that are similarly operated, will be eminently successful.
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.
Assent to the following bills reported -
Social Services Consolidation Bill 1951.
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1951-52.
Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No.2) 1951-52.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 26th September (vide page 89), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this measure is to repeal the Wool Sales Deduction (Administration)
Act 1950, the “Wool Sales Deduction Act (No. 1) 1950 and the Wool Sales Deduction Act (No. 2) 1950’. Those vicious1 measures, which were passed by the Parliament last year, are unparalleled in the history of taxation in this country. The first intimation of them was given in the budget speech of the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), delivered on the- 12th October, 1950. In that speech, also, the right honorable gentleman referred to what he termed the dangerous inflationary trends operating in this country. Under the heading “ Increased Business Profits “, he said -
During the post-war period, it has become increasingly evident that, in many sections of commerce and industry, the pressure of purchasing power has raised business profits to inordinate levels. To a large degree, these profit increases are not the gains of normal business enterprise and activity but the direct result of high prices for commodities in strong demand. In their turn, increased profits’ add to the strength of the forces of inflation.
As part of an organized and balanced plan to bring these inflationary forces under control, measures are under consideration to draw off some part of the abnormal profits.
That was a frank admission by the Treasurer that the business world generally was enjoying exceptionally profitable times. The right honorable gentleman conveyed to the Parliament and to the country generally the impression that he was considering some means of drawing off some part of those abnormal profits. In the course of the ensuing debate on the budget and during the debate on the wool tax measures, he was prodded by Labour speakers, and, ultimately, he gave a forthright promise to this Parliament that the Government would introduce an excess profits tax which would operate retrospectively from June of that year. Apparently, as time went on, he weakened, because that promise was never fulfilled. The people of Australia were misled and deceived by no less a person than the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. It is of no use to tell the Parliament that there were difficulties in the way of such a tax. The right honorable gentleman had no right to make that promise without first, in his capacity as Treasurer, and, secondly, in his capacity as a qualified accountant, and one who is not unfamiliar with the law, making sure that the promise could be fulfilled.
-Order f The honor- i able gentleman’s remarks- are outside the- scope of the bill.
– I realize that, Mr. Speaker, but the argument that I am ‘ advancing will lead me to my next point..
-It may lead tinhonorable gentleman into trouble.
– The Treasurer, having dealt in his budget speech with the profits that were being made by business and commercial organizations, proceeded to attack the wool-growers. Apparently he had no hesitation in singling out from the Australian community this comparatively small body of taxpayers, numbering 90,000. The incomes of wool-growers vary from a few hundreds of pounds a year to hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, yet the. Government announced, through the Treasurer, that it intended, without discrimination, to take 20 per cent, of the income of all wool-growers for the year 1950-51.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting right away from the bill. The purpose of this measure is to repeal the wool sales deduction legislation. The measure has a few machinery clauses, but the honorable member had better stick, to the subject of the repeal.
– The Labour party will support the repeal of the iniquitous wool tax legislation. By so doing it will be acting in accordance with the promise that I gave when leading the debate on the wool tax measures on behalf of the Opposition that, if returned as a government, Labour would repeal these acts. It is necessary that this House and the public generally should know the nature of the measures that we are now being asked to repeal, and I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will consider an explanation of those measures to be in order.
– I shall emphatically rule out of order any discussion of the general question of wool taxation. That is a matter that the Parliament decided last year. The intention now is to repeal the measures that the Parliament passed on that occasion.
– The purpose of this bill is to repeal a tax that was imposed on 90,000 people. A member of the Australian Country party interjects that that was not a tax. Members of that party always seem rather concerned when the measures that we are now asked to repeal are referred to as taxing measures. The term “ deduction used by the Government, was merely a subterfuge. The fact remains that wool-growers had to pay this impost twelve months before they were due to pay only portion of it.
– The Government thieved the money from the wool-growers.,
-Order ! That remark was completely unparliamentary, and the honorable member for Wills must withdraw it and apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize.
-The honorable member must withdraw and apologize. I shall not permit remarks of that kind.
– I also withdraw.
– I point out that out of 350,000 taxpayers in this country, excluding the wage-earning group, the Government called upon 90,000 wool-growers to bear this unfair charge. They were compelled to meet, not only their ordinary income tax commitments, but also this additional tax on current income, twelve months before it was due to be paid. Fortunately the Government has now realized that the tax should be abolished. Lest there be any doubt that, under the wool tax legislation, the Government took from the woolgrowers an advance payment of their income tax commitment, I draw attention to the following passage from the Treasurer’s budget speech of last year : -
This proposal imposes no extra tax on wool producers but merely requires earlier payment of the income tax that will be subsequently assessed. The deduction was to be paid, in addition to their ordinary taxation assessment for that year.
In effect, the Government has now proposed that the House should repeal an act under which it raised a loan by the use of the taxation weapon from 90,000 of the Australian community out of 350,000 taxpayers outside the wage-earning group. I often wondered why that deduction was imposed on that small section of the people. I have come to the conclusion, after some research and after recollecting the proceedings at that time, that there was a difference of opinion between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party sections of the Cabinet in respect of’ exchange adjustment.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot discuss the question of rates of exchange under this bill.
– However that may be, the decision was made to impose this deduction and an amount of approximately £100,000,000 was raised in that way. The Treasurer said at the time that that amount would be used for the purpose of damping down the inflationary trends in the economy but an examination of Government expenditure over the last twelve months indicates quite clearly that the deductions had no affect whatsoever as an anti-inflationary measure. Every penny of the money raised from th& wool-growers in that way during the financial year has been spent by the Government.
– The amount collected has been credited to the woolgrowers.
– It has been spent by the Government. Now the Government has proposed the abolition of the averaging system of income taxation and, again in advance of an obligation to pay, the sum of £47,000,000 will be taken from primary producers, particularly the wool-growers.
I am very glad to know that the Government has at last seen the light and has introduced this measure to repeal this iniquitous tax. The method of its application, imposition and collection has resulted in a loss of confidence in the Government on the part of the Australian people, particularly the primary producers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is again getting away from the bill. The question is one of repeal of certain acts.
– I think that the acts should be repealed. Already it has become apparent that the confidence of woolgrowers has been undermined. The Government sponsored a proposal to stabilize the wool industry and asked the woolgrowers to vote on that proposal. Their confidence in you was so low-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me. I am still here.
– The confidence of these people in the Government of this country was so low that by a vote of 63,000 to 16,000 they rejected a very good proposal to stabilize the Australian wool industry on lines similar to those which were followed during the existence of the Joint Organization. That is an additional reason why the Government should not again impose this taxation. I suggest that never again will this sort of taxation be imposed on the Australian people. I hope that the Government will realize that this is not a matter of party politics. It is a matter of common justice. I do not think that any section of the people resent taxation which is imposed on a sliding scale in accordance with ability to pay, but the Wool Sales Deduction legislation imposed a form of tax that will never again be imposed on any one section of the community.
– The same as the sales tax.
– The question of sales tax is an entirely separate matter, which is not associated with this measure. When the sales tax comes up for discussion, the Opposition will deal with it on its merits.
Under these circumstances, I support very enthusiastically the repeal of these acts. The measures should never have been passed. They have made no contribution whatsoever to the stated purpose for which they were introduced; they imposed sectional taxation and they were not followed by an excess profits tax which the Treasurer assured the House would be imposed retrospectively in order that the wool-growers and others who made large profits should bear their share of a. contribution towards a diminution of inflation. Under these circumstances I support the repeal of these measures.
– Rarely have honorable members heard the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) put forward such a poor case as that which he has just stated. He is usually a vigorous speaker and there is usually some point in his comments. On this occasion, he was at a complete disadvantage because he had no case to present on behalf of the Opposition. It is interesting to note that this morning, Mr. Speaker, you mentioned that, so far as you were concerned, the Opposition was united. I imagine that on this occasion there are very wide differences of opinion among Opposition members. The honorable member for Lalor has taken up the cudgels on the part of the wool-growers. I have no doubt that the wool-growers will assess quite satisfactorily the value of the support given to them by the honorable member. I have no doubt that over the years the woolgrowers have heard comments by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) which would not agree very well with the comments of the honorable member for Lalor.
– What were they?
– I have no doubt that they have also heard similar comments from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I do not think that he has been a great champion of the wool-growers who are usually designated by Opposition members rs “ wool barons “ and referred to as a section of the community that can well afford to bear heavier taxation. So it cannot be said that the Opposition attacked the wool sales deduction legislation as a national issue. They hoped to obtain some temporary political advantage from their action. The result of their efforts was seen in the general election that was held this year, when the wool-growers, amongst others, assessed very accurately who their real friends were. I know that the Labour party won one or two seats in rural areas. I am convinced that if another general election were to be held in the near future the result in those divisions would be completely different from the result that was recorded in April last. The wool sales deduction legislation was considered very carefully by the Government before it was introduced. Attempts have been made to divide the Liberal and Australian Country party members of the Cabinet. I should like to say quite distinctly, that never since I have been a member of the Cabinet has there been a division on party lines on any issue that has been considered by the Cabinet.
– I rise to order! In view of Mr. Speaker’s rulings during the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I ask whether the Minister is in order in discussing cabinet meetings during the debate on this repeal bill,
– The Minister should confine himself to the bill.
– There was complete unanimity in the Cabinet from the first occasion that the subject of wool sales deductions was raised. The Cabinet is unanimous that the legislation should 11OW be repealed because the necessity for it has passed. It is also evident that there is complete unanimity in the Parliament about it. This is probably one of the few occasions on which there has been complete unanimity.
The honorable member for Lalor has made some very extraordinary remarks. He has, for instance, made the completely inaccurate observation that, as a curb to inflation, the wool sales deduction legislation has been completely ineffective because the Government had expended the taxes that were prepaid. I think it will be agreed that had those amounts not been deducted from the wool-growers’ returns, in all probability the woolgrowers would have spent the money. There would then have been an extra £110,000,000 in circulation, which obviously would have increased the inflationary pressure in this country. If that legislation had not been introduced, one section of the community would have escaped its just taxation dues. It is interesting to recall that it was a Labour government that introduced the payasyouearn taxation system, under which taxpayers other than primary producers and business men are required to prepay their taxes. As soon as the wage-earner receives an increase of wages his tax deductions are increased. But the wool-growers are taxed on their previous year’s income. The income of the wool-growers in 1949-50 was very much lower than it was in 1950-51. The receipts from wool sales in 1949-50 were approximately £289,000,000, on which the wool-growers paid tax. Provisional tax, also, was calculated on that income. In 1950-51 the wool sales netted £636,000,000. Consequently, it is perfectly obvious that the wool-growers did not pay anything like the correct amount of provisional tax.
Initially, the wool-growers objected to the deduction legislation. However, when wool prices began to fall they realized that it was a very good measure, and that they were peculiarly fortunate to have their prepayments of tax in reserve. Whilst I do not want to make any prophecies, I must say that I think it is probable that the wool income in this financial year will be at least £250,000,000 less than it was in 1950-51.
The measure before the House has been introduced to implement the undertaking that was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) during the general election campaign in April of this year, that the wool sales deduction legislation would be repealed as soon as it was considered that the provisional taxes that had been paid by the wool-growers were sufficient to meet their probable tax commitments.
When the deduction legislation was brought down, some honorable members contended that wool-growers with small incomes would perhaps have to pay a little more provisional tax than they would ultimately be liable to pay. To meet that position, a clause was inserted to provide that if any woolgrower could show that 20 per cent, deduction would cause him hardship, he could obtain a credit for the whole or part of the amount involved. To the best of my belief, all wool-growers who had a real cause for complaint received remissions. I repeat, that although in the early stages there was a fear that the proposed deductions would impose hardship, and that the legislation might be sectional in its incidence, once it became operative and the wool-growers realized the ultimate benefit that they would derive from it, they accepted it with a very good grace. Consequently, it is useless for the honorable member for Lalor, or the Opposition in general, to try to resuscitate this dead horse, because it just will not run. The case submitted by the honorable member for Lalor showed quite clearly that his heart was not in what he said. He knew quite well that his case was not one that would be accepted by the wool-growers. While I am glad to hear that honorable members opposite intend to support the repeal of these measures I am quite certain that they will not get any political advantage out of this late and insincere appeal to the feelings of the wool-grower. There is a certain carry-over of money collected under the wool sales deduction legislation. The acts are only now being repealed, and consequently growers who sold their wool at the early sales of this year have suffered a deduction of 20 per cent, from their returns. However, as was stated in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer this money will be refunded to them. What is more important is that it will be refunded to them without them benig required to make application for it. The wool-growers will experience no difficulty in getting this refund because it will be paid to them almost automatically. I think that that is the proper way to deal with a refund such as is now proposed. The great majority of the wool-growers are glad that the Government made this deduction from their incomes, because they now realize that by this means a very useful amount of money has been accumulated for them to meet other heavy commitments. I have much pleasure in supporting this bill.
– I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, will agree that we farmers shall be very glad to see the last of these most iniquitous measures known as the wool sales deduction legislation, which is now in process of being repealed. It is high time that it was repealed, because it has done a considerable amount of damage. I shall be very pleased to say farewell to it, because I suppose that it is the first taxation procedure of a British parliament which outraged all the principles upon which taxes are levied. It is perhaps significant that it was introduced into this House last year by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Arthur Fadden). The first undesirable feature of this tax was that it was levied on gross proceeds. It took no account of any expenditure by the farmer on freights or anything else.
Yesterday it was stated in this chamber by honorable members that taxation shauld be equitable and just and should bear evenly on the whole community according to ability to pay. These taxation measures completely ignored that principle. I know from my own knowledge that the wool tax seriously embarrassed many small farmers. Many farmers, among them ex-servicemen, who recently entered the industry had very heavy commitments for interest on mortgages, stock loans, and many other things. They needed every £1 that they could get, but nevertheless they had to pay out this 20 per cent, of their gross proceeds.
– The honorable member is forgetting the hardship provision.
– I am glad that the honorable member mentioned that. No man wants to plead hardship because it is a humiliating experience to have to do so. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out, the wool sales deduction legislation imposed a tax on a section of the people.
Conversation being audible,
-Order! Honorable members will please be seated. I also ask them to cease conversing in the House.
– It is interesting to remember that when the Treasurer introduced the legislation which is about to be repealed he indicated that he intended also to introduce an excess profits tax. No doubt that was said because the wool-growers otherwise would have wondered why they were being singled out for a sectional tax when most of our big industrial concerns were making enormous profits and were paying only the usual taxes. The fact that an excess profits tax has not been introduced proves that- there was really no necessity for the Treasurer to take such vast sums of money from the wool industry. I suggest that last year was the first profitable year that some wool-growers had ever had.;
Honorable members interjecting,
– According to the Australian Year-Book, from 1938 to 1949 wool averaged 11.5d. per lb. If woolgrowers did make profits, they were certainly not very big. Of course I am not talking about the men who own 50,000 or 100,000 sheep, because they are well able to look after themselves no matter how high their taxes may be.
The reasons given by the Government for the introduction of the wool sales tax legislation were completely specious. The Government said that it was designed to counter inflation, yet every penny of the money raised was spent by the Government. If that money had been left with the wool-growers there would have been far less inflation than there is now because they would have spent it more wisely than the Government has done. For instance, they would have purchased capital goods, such as machinery, from Great Britain, and would have used some of the money to pay off mortgages. You had a hard struggle, Mr. Speaker, when you were in the north. I am speaking for the ordinary farmer when I say that if he had a little surplus money it would be put into a safe place to provide for the rainy day that he knew would come. It would not be spent. Every penny of the £100,000,000 that was obtained under the legislation now to be repealed was put into circulation by the Government, but I do not know what we received in return for it. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) has said that there was an additional £100,000,000 in circulation. That is true, but I suggest that it merely served to accentuate the inflationary tendency. Rather than distribute the burden of taxation, the present Government parties, when they were returned to office, decided to tax a certain section of the community and to use the proceeds to balance the budget.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman would be good enough to address me, I am sure that the result would be mutually pleasant.
– I contend that the wool sales deduction legislation enabled slick and dangerous financial methods to be adopted. If an individual mortages his property and spends his income twelve months ahead, it will not be long before he is bankrupt. The same principle applies to national finance. A certain sum of money was deducted from the proceeds of the sale of my wool, and. instead of sending along a cheque with my next income tax assessment, I merely pinned on a receipt. I consider that that money should have been paid into the Treasury in the current financial year. The fact is, however, that it has been spent already, and the Government now wishes to impose retrospective taxation.
The Minister for Defence clashed during the debate with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) on the question whether wool-growers paid income tax under the payasyouearn system. I consider that they were paying their tax in the same way as wage and salary earners, but whereas wage and salary earners know from week to week and from month to month what their income for the year will be, the farmer and the business man must wait until the end of the year before they can assess their income. When introducing the wool sales deduction legislation, the Government said that, for deduction purposes, income would be based on that of the previous twelve months. Woolgrowers would, therefore, be paying their tax twelve months in advance. Now, the position has been reversed. I admit that the incomes of wool-growers during 1950-51 were very high, but they were obliged to deduct 20 per cent, of their gross proceeds and, at the same time, to pay provisional income tax. I suggest that the Government will receive the benefit of that method because income for the financial year 1951-52 will be subject to a double amount of provisional tax. The wool-growers will pay excess provisional tax. The Treasurer knows that that is so. The right honorable gentleman admits that approximately £25,000,000 will be received-
– What is the honorable member talking about?
– Order ! Honorable members will please refrain from interjecting:
– Obviously the incomes of wool-growers this year will be less than they were last year, because prices have fallen. Many graziers do not know yet what their incomes will be because they have not yet shorn their sheep. Nevertheless, the taxation authorities will say, “ Your income for 1951-52 will be assumed to be the same as for 1950-51 “. The rate of tax will therefore be based on the income of the previous year. It is of no avail to say that the system operated in the interests of the wool-growers. The fact is that the Government introduced legislation which was wrong in principle and which embarrassed many woolgrowers. We must be honest about such matters. I suggest that all the people should be called upon to bear the burden of taxation and that a certain section of the community should not be singled out and asked to bear an unfair share. I trust that taxation of that nature will never again be introduced, and I am sorry that it should have been supported by tl] e Australian Country party. If that party continues to support such legislation, it will not last long as a political entity. Throughout the community, financial arrangements of that kind are getting us into a terrible mess. The necessity for such action could have been avoided when the previous budget was introduced if overall taxation had been increased, as is proposed in the budget now before the Parliament. In conclusion, I am happy to be in the Parliament at this time in order to say farewell to this iniquitous legislation. It gives me pleasure to be present at its burial.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) waxed eloquent concerning the faults of the wool sales deduction legislation, while the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) described it by such terms as “ vicious “, “ extraordinary “, and “ iniquitous “. I remind those honorable members that the legislation would not be on the statutebook to-day had it not been passed by a majority of the Australian Labour party in the Senate. I believe in deeds, not words. If honorable members opposite intend to get up and tear a bill to pieces-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I wish to hear the honorable member for Farrer.
– I suggest that, if any honorable member should be thankful for the introduction of the wool sales deduction legislation, it is the honorable member for Wannon.
I welcome this bill, which is designed to repeal the wool sales deduction legislation. No tears will be shed about its disappearance, and no one will mourn its passing. But the members of the Opposition are merely kicking a dead horse, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) Las said.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the House to come to order. If interjections continue, somebody will be missing.
– I am certain, Mr. Speaker, that you do not wish to see a dead horse being kicked round this chamber. . The Opposition has claimed that if the Government can repeal this legislation to-day, it should not have introduced it last year. I wish to show, briefly, that conditions in the wool industry are different to-day from those that existed when these measures were introduced. I ask honorable members to follow the figures which show rises in the average price received for wool during the last few years. During the war years, of course, an appraisement system was in operation and there were only two different prices during the whole of that time. At the end of the war we were receiving 15.47 per lb. for wool, which brought in a total of approximately £74,000,000. As soon as we reverted to the open auction system in 1946-47, the price rose to 24-Jd. per lb., and there was a gradual increase each year from then on. That increase went from 39id. per lb. in 1947-48 to 48d. in 1948-49, and then to 63 1/2 d. in 1949-50. The net effect was that the wool-grower was not paying in provisional tax the equivalent of what he actually owed. In those years a relatively small amount may have been involved, but he was lagging in provisional tax because the price of wool was continuing to increase. That was the position at the end of the 1949-50 wool-selling season. Then there occurred an enormous jump of 81£d. per lb., from 63$d. to 145d. per lb., and the record price for Australia, which previously was 210d. per lb. rocketed to 354 1/2 d. per lb. The value of the wool that was sold that season was £1,000,000 more than the combined receipts for the three preceding years, in each of which receipts had been records. The point I make is that the wool-grower - I am pleased to say that I am a woolgrower - was paying tax on the amount that he received in the 1949-50 season when sales totalled £286,000,000. He paid provisional tax on the assumption that he would receive an equal income in the following year. Instead, however, the total increased by £350,000,000 to 636,000,000. All of us rejoice in the fact that wool prices have been so good. They have enabled many growers who, for many years, wished to carry out improvements but could not go ahead, to effect such improvements, including the erection of hay sheds, to institute pasture improvement, and, in effect, to plough back into his property a proportion of his income. All of us rejoice that not only the woolgrower, but also the community as a whole, benefited from high wool prices.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when framing his budget, attempted, as any Treasurer, regardless of party, would have done, to spread the tax burden as equitably as possible over the community ; and when he considered the position of all classes of taxpayers last year, he realized that the wool-growers, as a class, owed far more in respect of provisional tax than they have actually paid. Consequently, he decided that deductions from wool sales should be instituted; and from that source he estimated that collections would amount to £103,000,000. I think that they actually amounted to £109,500,000, but that sum was still much less than the growers owed in tax. When the principal wool sales deduction bill was introduced, I said that as time went on the growers would realize that it was a perfectly reasonable measure. I stand by those words to-day. In many instances, the deduction has amounted to only from one-fifth to one-third of the total tax for which growers became liable. In that respect, I refer not merely to the big grower. For instance, a grower with a property of 400 acres received last year just over 30 bales, which returned at the peak market prices slightly over £6,000 and from that sum the amount of £1,200 was deducted as provisional tax. By the time that grower sold a few sheep and cattle, his total taxable income amounted to £7,000 on which his tax for the year amounted to £3,750, whilst provisional tax in respect of the following year amounted to an equal sum. Thus, with a total tax liability of £7,500, provisional tax actually deducted from his sales amounted to only £1,200. Is it unjust that a taxpayer should have deducted from his income only one-fifth of the total tax for which he would eventually become liable ?
On the other hand, that small grower was liable to pay in tax in one year £500 more than the actual amount of his income in that year under the operation of the provisional tax. I do not criticize the Government for having introduced the provisional tax, because it was introduced on the recommendation of an all-party committee which based its calculations on normal conditions under which there would not be abnormal increases in the rate of provisional tax. However, no system of taxation is just if under it a taxpayer is liable to pay in one year tax which amounts to more than his actual income in that year. Of course, his provisional tax is held in credit in respect of his tax liability for the following year. Nevertheless, he has to find that amount in the current year. Certain provisions were inserted in the wool sales deduction legislation for the granting of relief in cases of hardship. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) said that relief had been granted in only one case that he had submitted to the taxation authorities. The fact remains that relief has been granted in a total of 2,769 other cases. Every meritorious case that I submitted to. the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation was sympathetically considered and, almost invariably, relief was granted. Under those provisions, applicants who proved hardship were permitted to apply the whole of the deduction in payment of their tax liability in respect of the current year; and, if they did not wish to do that, they could claim a refund of a proportion of the deduction. I commend the income tax authorities for the manner in which they administered those provisions.
The position of the wool market at present is entirely different from its position at this time last year. It is for that reason that the Government is now repealing the measures that were passed last year in order to cope with the enormous income jump to £636,000,000 that resulted from high wool prices in 1949 and 1950. One cannot forecast what the total sales will amount to this year, but they will certainly be considerably less than they were last year. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) estimated that the decrease would be approximately £200,000,000. The average price at the opening sales this year was 71 1/2 d. per lb., compared with the average of 144d. per lb. last year. In the third week of September, the average price dropped to 56d. per lb., and on the 1st October last it again rose to 74d. per lb. whilst at the following sale it rose to 90d. per lb. Speaking from memory, the price has since further increased slightly. However, it is obvious that total sales will not amount to anything like the total that was recorded last year. Therefore, in repealing the wool sales deduction legislation the Government is honouring the pledge that the Prime Minister gave on the 3rd April during the last general election campaign when he said -
I want to say that that law will be repealed as soon as provisional tax reasonably provides for the tax obligation of the wool-grower.
During that campaign, the Australian Labour party attempted to make party political capital by promising that if it was returned to office it would repeal the , wool sales deduction measures. It gained votes by saying that it would do exactly what the Government is now doing under this measure. The Australian Labour party candidates also said that they would return to the wool-growers the total deduction of £103,000,000 that had been made. During the budget debate certain honorable members opposite criticized the Government’s proposals to increase taxes.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to a debate that has taken place during the current session.
– In introducing this measure, the Government is acting in good company. The Government of New Zealand passed a measure which, although slightly different in character., was in principle similar to our Wool Sales Deduction Act. In New Zealand one-third of the value of the clip was deducted from the wool-growers’ income and was frozen. Those wool-growers retained two-thirds of the clip on which they had to pay income tax at a rate 50 per cent, higher than that which applies to the Australian wool-grower. The New Zealand Government has repealed its original legislation and has decided that as from next year growers will be permitted to withdraw annually one-fifth of the total amount standing to their credit. Thus, this Government is now taking action similar to that which the Government of our sister dominion has taken. I support the repeal of the wool sales deduction legislation, because I believe that it has been difficult to administer properly. Small clips have presented a difficult problem. An exemption is provided for the first £20. Last year, when the Wool Sales Deduction (Administration) Bill 1950 was introduced, some honorable members on this side of the chamber attempted to havethe exemption fixed at a higher figure, and the Treasurer did his utmost to meet our request. But he pointed out that it was possible that, had a larger exemption been fixed, a person might split his clip into three or four sections, and sell one in his own name, one in his wife’s name and one in his son’s name, and thereby escape the payment of the 20 per cent, deduction. I believe that was the reason why a higher figure was not acceptable. But, as a result of the adoption of the figure of £20, deductions were made from the proceeds of the sale of small clips, and the growers concerned had to go through all the rigmarole of getting it back again.
I believe that the wool sales deduction legislation has been most difficult from the stand-point of wool-selling brokers At every wool sale, approximately 1,000 different sellers dispose of their clips, and for every one of those sellers, the brokers have to make out a form in triplicate, and make the wool sales deduction of 20 pei cent. They also have to send that money, and the necessary returns, to the Treasury, That procedure makes considerable extra work for them. Probably all wool-selling firms have been obliged to employ additional staff to cope with that extra work, and they have received little thanks for the fact that they have been compelled to do it. For that reason also, I support the repeal of the three acts that cover the wool sales deduction. The position after the repeal will be that no deductions will be made from wool-growers’ cheques. For the first time 3ince 1939 the total proceeds of a woolgrower’s clip will go directly into his pocket, even if they do not remain there for long. I support the bill.
– I enjoyed the speech of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), and I imagine that the House in genera! enjoyed it, because it was a fair and logical presentation of the case from his viewpoint. As a matter of fact, he put the best possible face on a bad case, and gave an object lesson to the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), who is in charge of the bill, on the way in which such a case should be put, because his fair and logical presentation of it was in complete contrast to the speech of the Minister.
– The honorable member for Farrer has not so much money as has the Minister.
-Order ! The honorable member may not make personal reflections upon another member of the House.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) made an effective reply to the speech of the Minister. Enactment of the wool levy was the first giant step taken by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the financial rake’s progress on which he is obviously determined to continue, as is shown by his budget. It will bring this country to bankruptcy if its does not first bring this Government to defeat. The Minister for Defence said that the Labour party, by its over-late support for the repeal of the wool levy-
– I referred to the support of the Labour party for the woolgrowers.
-The Minister said, in effect, that the Labour party’s over-late support for the wool industry would not gain it any political benefit. It is only necessary for me to state the fact that is so obvious to anybody outside this House, that the Labour party today does not need any particular political support from the wool-growers of Australia, because it has such overwhelming support to-day from every section of the Australian people as will throw the Government out of office at any time a general election is held.
– There are not enough Communists to bring about the defeat of this Government.
– There are enough Australian people to bring about the overthrow of this Government if they are given an opportunity to register their decision. The Minister made an extraordinary statement in reply to the contention by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) which was that there might have been some justification for the wool levy as a measure against inflation if the Government had taken the proceeds of the levy and frozen them for the time being. The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that the operation of the wool levy could not have anti-inflationary effect .because the Government had, in fact, spent the whole of the money which was taken from the wool-growers during the previous financial year. The Minister for Defence replied that the wool levy must have had some anti-inflationary effect because, he said, if the proceeds of the levy, which totalled £104,000,000, had been left to the wool-growers to spend, the Government would have been obliged to expend an additional £104,000,000, and, therefore, that amount would have been injected into the economy. The only possible interpretation that I could place upon that remark by the Minister was that the Government could see no alternative to the wool levy except to issue treasury-bills for an additional £104,000,000. That fact, of course, is the indictment of this Government. I contend that the Government, in grabbing £104,000,000 from 90,000 wool-growers at least twelve months in advance of the time they would have been required to pay any part of it, demonstrated at that stage its refusal to attempt to draw off the excess profits which were being made throughout the whole community and were exerting a tremendous inflationary drive.
The Minister for Defence repeated the argument, which had originally been placed before the Australian people by the Treasurer, to the effect that the Government, by the wool levy, merely placed the wool-growers on the same footing as all other sections of taxpayers. That argument has been controverted by the honorable member for Wannon, but I notice that it has been repeated by the honorable member for Farrer. Therefore, I think that it is worth while for me to point out once again the actual position. Every wage and salary earner pays his tax weekly or fortnightly, as he receives his wage or salary. Every primary producer, on exactly the same principle, pays twelve months in advance an amount that is estimated to be a year’s tax.
– Nonsense !
– He is required to make that payment under the system of provisional tax.
– Do not be silly. The primary producer does not pay his tax twelve months in advance.
– Of course he does.
– He does no such thing.
– Exactly the same system is applied to every professional man and every business man throughout the community. If the Minister now says that the wool-growers have been at an unfair advantage compared with the rest of the Autsralian taxpayers, because they have not been required to pay tax in advance, he condemns himself in respect of all the professional and business men, who are allowed to operate on that system.
– There has been a bigger lag so far as the wool-growers are concerned.
– The Treasurer knows better than anybody else that provisional tax is levied on the basis of the income for the previous financial year.
If a man’s income in the succeeding year happens to be higher, he does not pay so much provisional tax as the amount of the assessment that he will subsequently receive.
– That is exactly the reason for the scheme.
– I think that “ scheme “ is the appropriate word to apply to this matter, because the other half of the transaction is that, if a man’s income in a year is less than his income in the preceding year his provisional tax is more than his assessment and so the Treasurer gains a benefit. The right honorable gentleman is not attempting to reduce the provisional tax which is payable by the wool-grower, and is based on the high income from wool that he received last year. The Treasurer does not say, for the very reason that the growers’ income this year will be smaller, that he will take special steps to reduce the provisional tax which is payable by the grower. The right honorable gentleman will take every penny of provisional tax from him on the basis that his income this year will be as high as his income was last year, whereas last year, the Treasurer demanded extra payment from him on the basis that his income for that year would be higher than his income for the previous year,
– How does the honorable gentleman know that? Can he see into the Treasurer’s mind?
– I cannot see into the Treasurer’s mind, but I think it is plain to the wool-growers and to the rest of the community how the Treasurer’s mind unfortunately works - unfortunately for them.
– It is better than having no mind at all.
– I agree. The most unfortunate statement made by the Minister for Defence was that woolgrowers now realize how fortunate they are that the wool levy was imposed upon them. That might apply to a few woolgrowers in the high income class, to which the Minister himself belongs, but it certainly does not apply to the. many thousands of small wool-growers, upon whom a very severe hardship was imposed..
– By his interjection the Minister has made manifest his inability to recognize and understand the position of the small growers. As every member of the Australian Country party knows, and as the honorable member for Farrar undoubtedly knows, because his speech indicated as much, great hardship was inflicted upon thousands of small growers by the imposition of the levy, and they had to approach a hardship board in order to obtain relief.
– Then they suffered no hardship.
– Unless they were suffering hardship they were not entitled to relief. Before they could get relief they had to submit an application in response to which they were given a most complicated form to fill in. So complicated was it that many of the growers were unable to fill it in at all without invoking the assistance of a taxing accountant or some other qualified person. Many growers, because they could not obtain assistance, went without the relief to which they were justly entitled. The filling in of complicated forms is a difficult task indeed for the ordinary small farmer living away from large centres of population, and unaccustomed to the intricacies of such matters. In some instances, the small grower had to place particulars of his financial position before a friend or business man in a neighbouring town before he could prepare his application in such a way as would insure the board’s attention to it. That was another injustice. It is wrong that a man should have to make known details of his financial position to other persons than his banker and officials of the Taxation Branch.
The levy was unjust in every aspect, but particularly because it was imposed on gross income and was a flat levy of 20 per cent, payable by the small man as well as by the big one. It was unfair because it was a sectional levy imposed on country dwellers by a Treasurer who is himself a members of the Australian Country party. No similar levy was imposed on other sections of the community who were also receiving high incomes. The Australian Labour party opposed the levy from the moment it was first announced, and it has been consistent in its attitude ever since. The Government, having first declared that the levy would be imposed, and having said that it could not guarantee that it would not be imposed again this year, now takes unjustified credit to itself by claiming that it never intended that the levy should continue beyond the point when assessments for the current year’s income were overtaken. Like the honorable member for Wannon, I regard it as a pleasure to be in the House to see the end of this sectional, vicious and unjust piece of legislation. But this will not be the end of the matter for the Government. By imposing the levy the Government destroyed the confidence of a large section of rural producers, and the effect of that will be felt in the future.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (M.r. Allan Fraser) cannot hope to increase his political stature by the speech that he has just made. In point of fact, the honorable member has overreached himself with the primary producers by supporting the McGirr Government in New South Wales in its refusal to allow the butter producers to receive a reasonable price for their product. I support this bill with a great deal of pleasure and persona] satisfaction, not only as the representative of Riverina, but also as one who is himself a small wool-grower. The purpose of the bill is to repeal three acts which together comprise the wool sales deduction legislation. The bill also constitutes a public demonstration of sincerity on the part of the MenziesFadden Government. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced the Wool Sales Deduction Bill, he gave an assurance that the legislation would be repealed as soon as circumstances rendered that course possible. Now, after the acts have been in force for only one year, circumstances, together with good government, have rendered it possible to repeal the legislation.
The three acts to which I have referred represented a genuine attempt to meet a situation that had developed almost overnight out of the fantastic rise of wool prices last year. I remind honorable members that, at the very time when wool prices were rising so rapidly from sale to sale, the Treasurer was preparing his budget. He was required to meet urgent and nonrecurring commitments entered into by the previous government for which no provision had been made. He had to find an amount in excess of £172,000,000 for that purpose, and he was at bis wits’ end to get the money without increasing taxation. As I have said, the price of wool was rising to fabulous levels, and the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was introduced with a twofold purpose. In the first place, it was a genuine attempt to stem the rising tide of inflation at that time, and to protect the economy of the country from the full impact of rising prices. In the second place, it was designed to meet a situation that became inevitable when a fortuituous rise of income rendered the provisional tax of every wool-grower, large and small alike, wholly inadequate for the purpose for which provisional tax is levied and collected. The measure was successful in both ways. The 20 per cent, deduction temporarily removed a sum of about £110,000,000 from the spending potential of the community and, to that degree, it stemmed the rising tide of inflation. For that reason alone, if for no other, it was justified. But, in addition, it placed the wool-grower in a position to make up the leeway in his provisional tax payments that resulted from the fantastic increase of wool prices.
Admittedly, these special circumstances could have been met by a less scrupulous government in a wide variety of ways. Some of those ways were mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Others were mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), whom I am sorely tempted to refer to as the honorable member for Dunvegan because to-night he waved the fairy flag of Dunvegan to no avail., By supporting this bill he hoped to gain kudos from the opposition to the wool sales deduction legislation that was raised by members of the Labour party at the time of its introduction. As I have said, a less scrupulous government could have used a variety of means to achieve the purpose that this Government had in mind when it introduced the wool sales deduction scheme. The first method that comes to mind is that of issuing treasury-bills. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) said earlier, that method would have involved the issue of treasury-bills to the amount of £172,000,000 for the pressing needs of government at the time, plus an additional amount of £110,000,000, for which the wool sales deduction in fact accounted. That method, therefore, would have raised the spending potential of the community by £282,000,000. The same result would have eventuated had the Government resorted to borrowing in order to raise the amount of £172,000,000 that it obviously needed to meet urgent non-recurring commitments., Again, the Government would have had to provide, not only for that amount of £172,000,000, but also for the amount of approximately £110,000,000 for which the wool sales deduction scheme accounted. Therefore, this method, too, would have injected £282,000,000 into the spending potential of the community. Another method was suggested by the Labour party itself. After the three measures had become law by the grace of God and with the support of the Labour Opposition in the Senate, the Labour party, led by the Leader of the Opposition at that time, gave an undertaking to the people that it would repeal the legislation and spread the tax, as it was called, over the rest of the community - in fact, over the poor unfortunate workers to whom the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) refers so tearfully from time to time! That undertaking was given solemnly on the hustings during the last general election campaign. Honorable members opposite intended to spread the burden over the rest of the community in order to save the poor unfortunate wool-grower from this imposition !
Another method that could have been adopted was seriously canvassed at the time. A less scrupulous government could have imposed an export tax on wool in order to draw off that proportion of the increased income from wool that threatened the national economy. An export tax, of course, would have been confiscation. Furthermore, it would not have dealt with the situation that arose when £110,000,000 more than was ever dreamed to be possible was received by the wool-growers in that year. Finally, a less scrupulous government could have met the situation by means of an immediate depreciation of the exchange rate.
-Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are departing from the terms of the bill. Any discussion of the exchange rate is out of order.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was attempting to describe the methods that could have been employed as alternatives to the wool sales deduction scheme.
– Order ! The question of alternatives does not arise now. The question is whether the wool sales deduction legislation shall or shall not be repealed.
– In its wisdom, the Government introduced those three measures in order to meet a desperate situation. Now that they have served their splendid purpose, it has introduced a bill to repeal them. I support the measure, both as a member of Parliament and as a small wool-grower. The wool sales deduction arrangement has been of considerable personal advantage to me because it enabled me to meet my commitments without the embarrassment that would have been incidental to the meeting of such commitments if action had not been taken to increase my provisional tax payments. What applies to me as a small wool-grower applies to all wool-growers, both large and small, except those who, because of special circumstances, were confronted with pressing financial difficulties. The situation of growers in such straits was adequately covered by the hardship provisions of the wool sales deduction legislation and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, no appeal by a man or woman in such circumstances was summarily dismissed. Therefore, it is a matter of great personal satisfaction to me and to other honorable members on this side of the House that the Government, faithful to its trust, has taken advantage of the first available opportunity to legislate for the repeal of. the three acts now that they have served their purpose well. Instead of spreading the tax over the community in other ways, it intends to abolish the legislation once and for all and without reservation.
The bill that provides for the repeal is in two parts. The first part provides for the simple process of repeal and will obliterate the three acts from the statute-book. The second part is of vital importance. It makes provision for the refund of the wool sales deductions that have been made since the 1st July of this year. I assure all wool-growers whose clips were sold immediately after the 1st July and before the Minister delivered his second-reading speech on this bill that the measure makes provision for the automatic refund of deductions that have been made by woolbrokers. Their money will be refunded to them in the normal way of business.
I shall refer briefly to a few of the observations that were made by the honorable member for Lalor. No man was in a more pitiful position in supporting the repeal of the three acts than was the honorable gentleman. I have no doubt, and neither, I am sure, has he, that if, by any unfortunate circumstance, he had continued in office as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture he would have met the situation caused by the fantastic rise of wool prices in a way entirely different from that in which this Government met it. He would have met it with a wool stabilization scheme that would have destroyed the wool-growers equity in their own product, involved them in losses amounting to millions of pounds a year, and given unlimited power to any Minister to sell wool in any quantity at any price for party political purposes. That is the way in which the honorable member for Lalor would have met that situation and, unfortunately, it is the way in which he met every situation of its kind when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He referred to the wool sales deduction as a vicious tax. It was neither vicious nor a tax. It was a simple arrangement to save wool-growers from very serious consequences by taking from them temporarily 20 per cent, of the gross proceeds from the sale of their wool and holding it in a state of suspense until either the price of wool receded to a degree or the sum deducted from them was roughly equivalent to that which they were required to pay in income tax. That was an act of justice to the rest of the community which, at all times, strains to meet its income tax liability. A situation arose in which the provisional income tax that was being paid by approximately 90,000 taxpayers was entirely inadequate to cover their income tax liability. In their own interests, apart altogether from the matter of inflation, it was considered expedient to make some provision for increasing, in effect, their provisional income tax payments.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the repeal of the wool sales deduction legislation is incidental to the defeat of what he called the Government-sponsored wool reserve price scheme. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Lalor that that is untrue. He and I were associated at the birth of the wool reserve price scheme. Neither this Government nor any other government had anything to do with the origination of that proposal. It was conceived in the minds of the wool-growers organization, was expressed to the wool-growers State organizations and was correlated by the wool federations. Finally, proposals that were satisfactory at that time to those federations and to the wool-growers State organizations were submitted to the previous Administration, which gave an undertaking that they would be submitted to a ballot of wool-growers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot go into that matter now. It is outside the scope of this measure.
– ‘With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I am not going into anything. I am extricating the honorable member for Lalor from a very difficult and dangerous situation. I am saving the honorable gentleman from himself. No man could do more than that. Let me leave the wool reserve price scheme, having said that this Government faithfully honoured a promise that had been given by the previous Administration to submit the proposals to a referendum of wool-growers.
The honorable member for Wannon stated that the 20 per cent, wool sales deduction was made and that the Government used the money that had been taken from the wool-growers. What did he suppose that the Government would do? The previous Administration left the Treasury short of £172,000,000. That sum had to be found somewhere. It could be found in the variety of ways that I have mentioned, or by the simple process of the wool sales deduction, which was harmless to the wool-growers and which protected their equity in their own product. There is no cause for complaint about that. Members of the Opposition have stated that the wool sales deduction is a tax. I remind them that, when the three wool sales deduction measures were introduced into the Parliament the Labour Premier of Queensland gave an undertaking to the people of this country that if Labour were returned there would be a home consumption price for wool and that the necessity for a wool sales deduction would be obviated. That would have been confiscation, naked and unashamed. The socialists were up to their usual tricks. They were putting forward specious arguments in support of a proposal to take from the wool-growers their equity in their own product. Let me leave it at that.
It is a matter of great personal satisfaction not only to me but also to the members of the Government that good administration of this country has made it possible for the wool sales deduction legislation to be repealed in a comparatively short time. I suggest that all the purposes of the legislation have been fulfilled to the degree of the 20 per cent, deductions. This measure is a public demonstration of the sincerity of a truly democratic government.
.- In the course of this debate, some honorable gentlemen opposite have referred to the wool sales deduction legislation, which it is proposed shall be repealed by this bill, as a dead horse. The horse cannot be dead, as they imagine it to be, because the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has received a kick in the teeth from it. His fulsome defence of that legislation was- naked hypocrisy.
– Order ! I do not think that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) should use the word “hypocrisy” when referring to another honorable member.
– I withdraw the word. It was an aberration of his very nimble mind. When the wool sales deduction was a political issue, he approached it in quite a different manner. To-night, he said that the legislation which it is proposed shall be repealed does not impose a tax and is not dangerous. He applauded every section of it as having performed useful work at a time when it was needed. He soothed the injured feelings of the wool-growers by saying that everything was all right in this best of all possible worlds.
To-night, the honorable gentleman appeared to be watching with some pleasure the process of expunging from the statute-book of this country what he described as useful legislation that had served its purpose. But I remember reading with some interest his volcanic attack upon that legislation which was published in the Canberra Times of the 19th September, 1950. We on this side of the chamber thought so much of it that we embalmed it in our records. The honorable gentleman has been a member of this Parliament for long enough to know that he must be careful about what he says, because the recording angel of Hansard will reveal any inconsistencies of which he may be guilty, even if the research officers of the Labour party do not discover them. If one compares the honorable gentleman’s attack upon the wool sales deductions that was published in the Canberra Times with the statements he has made during the last half hour, one wonders where he is going. He said, in very terse, clear and clarion tones -
This attempt to blame the Australian woolgrowers for the comparatively high price that wool is bringing on the markets of the world is political madness in its most virulent form. [f that was political madness, his speech to-night was sheer political humbug. He cannot have it both ways. He added -
The price paid for Australian wool to-day is the value of the wool in Australian currency to the rest of the world.
Later he asked -
How comes it that the wool-grower, the most inarticulate section of the entire community
He at least has a most articulate representative in this Parliament - is to be blamed - and is to be dealt with if public clamour is any criterion - for selling his commodity at the buyer’s price?
Yet to-night he wandered all round the wool paddock, in a verbal sense, telling us that this was the best of all legislation in the best of all possible worlds. The honorable member was not honest in his statement of the matter.
– Would the honorable member repeat that statement?
– Order ! The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has already spoken in the debate.
– He hopes to see the end of this legislation and his faux pas of claiming to be diametrically opposed to it was in contradiction of his public statements and completely put him out of court as a valid critic of it.
I now come to some points that were made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) when he was in charge of the House before his junior, the Minister for Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) took over. The honorable gentleman said that the bill was popular among the graziers, but immediately afterwards he said that at least one Labour member was returned to this House because the wool-growers and the graziers detested it. Obviously the honorable gentleman became somewhat confused in his reasonong. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) was triumphantly returned to this House because of opposition .to the measure in his electorate and because of his knowledge of the dangers inherent in it, not to the big grower but to the small man. The same remarks apply, but in a modified way, to the honorable member, for Hume (Mr. Puller), whose electorate returned him to represent it in this House. Those who know the facts claim that at least a part of the increased vote recorded in his favour resulted from the genuine feeling of opposition to the measure as it affected the small grower It is good to see this legislation disappearing from the statute-book. When k was introduced the Labour party denounced it as sectional legislation and said that it did not form a part of a genuine plan to deal with inflation but was an eleventh hour thrust at the woolgrowers to balance a creaky budget.
When it was introduced the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was completely “ broke “. He admitted that he had a deficit of £104,000,000 and the Government decided that that amount, to the exact penny, should be extracted from the wool-growers. To contend that this great piece of political conjury and financial finesse would put us on the road to solid, sober finance and a balanced economy, and that it would restore value to the £1, was to utter absolute nonsense. It was snatched out of the blue, and no one is more happy to see the last of it than are the Treasurer and the members of the Australian Country party.
I have noticed to-night that the members of the Australian Country party have been strangely silent about this measure. One can well understand that because they are waiting, a little nervously, to see the legislation float off the statute-book. Because it imposed unjust demands on the graziers and woolgrowers, it constituted one of the greatest political faux pas in history. Members of the Australian Country party, which has been the sectional centre party in this House since 1918 - I admit that it has had some redoubtable members, including you, yourself, Mr. Speaker - knew how unjust it was, and to-day they are detested by the wool-growers and graziers.
– Order ! The Australian Country party is not being repealed by this bill.
– It should be.
– If with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I may develop my point, may I say that the fact that this legislation had repercussions on the Australian Country party is demonstrated by an article that appeared in the Northern Daily Leader, one of the most influential newspapers that circulates in northern New South Wales? The article which appeared in a report of the proceedings of a conference of graziers in the Armidale district, stated that the conference had passed the following resolution in relation to the wool sales deduction : -
That this meeting of Armidale branch of the Graziers’ Association is of the opinion that Mr. Fadden and members of the Federal Country Party have lost the confidence of the country community; and we urge- the Country Party to take more independent action in the Federal Parliament to represent more satisfactorily and safeguard the interests of the country people. The meeting believes that the best interests of the party would be served by the election of a new federal leader.
– The resolution was agreed to by only about twenty graziers.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes is getting rather wide of the subject-matter of the bill. I ask him to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I return to some of the statements that were made by the honorable member for Riverina. The honorable member, talked blandly about the £104,000,000 that was to be collected from the wool-growers under the legislation that is now to be repealed. He said that the proceeds of the wool sales deduction had been used to balance the budget and that if it had not been collected and later disbursed, another £104,000,000 would have had to be provided as the spending money of the nation because it was necessary to balance the budget. That completely disproves the contention that it had anything to do with the Government’s plan to halt inflation. It was a stop-gap measure and the Australian Country party is thoroughly ashamed of it. The honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) were lucky to escape the wrath of electors in April last. It is of no use for them to claim that it was a splendid, .piece of legislation. They are glad to see the end of it. It is obvious to an observer who is not blinded by being too close to the situation, as is the honorable member for Riverina, that among the graziers and wool-growers of this community there is criticism, not merely implicit but also active, of the actions of. the Australian Country party in relation to this legislation which is to be repealed. The stabilization plan that was evolved by the Government, principally in consequence of the advocacy of the honorable member for Riverina, was overwhelmingly defeated by the graziers and wool-growers.
– I rise to order. The statement made by the honorable member for Parkes-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot base a point of order upon a statement made by the honorable member for Parkes. If he disagrees “with it he may make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the honorable member’s speech.
– I do not think that the honorable member has been misrepresented. I made the point broadly that the scheme was overwhelmingly rejected, and that is the plain fact. The inference to be drawn from it is that there is no longer any faith in the Australian Country party as the thick and thin supporters of, and the advocates and spokesmen in this House for, the wool-growers. The members of the Australian Country party have completely discredited themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member had better come back to the bill.
– You must remember, sir, that the honorable member for Riverina was allowed to proceed*-
– Order !’ I brought the honorable member for Riverina back to the bill on the same point.
– But he had been twice round the ram paddock in the meantime.
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman intends to contradict, me, I shall call him to account for it.
– I am not attempting to contradict you, Mr. Speaker. If I am to be circumscribed in this way, I have only a few words to say in conclusion. The Labour party has been a model of consistency in this matter, because it opposed1 the original measure, one of its reasons being that it never supports sectional taxation. Other reasons were that the party considered that the measure would have no real efficacy in dealing with the inflationary spiral and that it was of the catchpenny type and was hastily conceived. The party also promised on the hustings that it would repeal the legislation if given the power to do so.
I shall make one final point and shall leave the further development of our case to other honorable members on this side of the House. That point is that if the scheme had not been unpopular, if it had been accepted instead of having been re jected as hateful and spurious, there would be no such haste as the Government is evincing to have this- measure passed. The Government knows that the scheme has been discredited and has not worked so effectively as it hoped that it would. It has been taught the sharp lesson that sectional taxation, in any guise, will not be tolerated by any section of the community. The Labour party drove that lesson home at the general election. .1 conclude by saying that this scheme will die in ignomy accompanied by deep breaths of relief from members of the Australian Country party who hope only that the debate will not last very long, because they are rather uncomfortable about the whole thing. When the scheme has disappeared they will say, with relief, “ Never again ! Now let us try to build up our shattered morale.”
– -I rise to make a personal explanation. A few moments ago the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said inter alia that I had advocated the adoption of the wool reserve price scheme. That is untrue. Prom the very beginning I recognized the wool reserve price scheme as an ill-considered proposal that had been conceived in the tortured minds of the members of the Socialist party and I opposed it.
– As one who supported the wool sales deduction proposal it is with much pleasure that I support the repeal of the act now, because circumstances to-day are altogether different from the circumstances that obtained at the time when the measure was introduced. A number of honorable gentlemen opposite who have spoken in this debate have persisted in stating that the wool sales deduction, was really a wool tax. I wish to make it clear, once and for all, that the deduction was never a wool tax. Not one woolgrower has lost one penny as a result of the deduction having been made. Every penny deducted from the receipts of the wool-growers was placed to their credit. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says that the Labour party has been a model of consistency throughout in connexion with the original proposal. I have heard nothing funnier than that statement for the last five years. He claimed that the deduction constituted a sectional tax. I remind him of what the Government that he supported did to the wheat-growers. It did not ask the wool-growers to supply wool at a home-consumption price, but it asked the wheat-growers to supply wheat at such a price. That was a form of sectional taxation to which he was a party. But now he and other honorable members opposite, would have the people believe that we imposed sectional taxation on one small part of the community, namely 90,000 wool-growers. As a matter of fact, the pay-as-you-earn system of tax collections was first imposed on 1,500,000 taxpayers nine years ago, and honorable members opposite who have made such a noise about the wool sales deduction scheme allowed that system to remain in operation while the Government that they supported was in office. They allowed the man who works for the wool-grower to pay his tax in advance, and now they say that it was unjust of us to ask the woolgrower to make a similar prepayment of tax at a time when he was earning five times the amount of income that he had been earning three years previously. I cannot imagine that honorable members opposite are sincere for one moment in that contention. They say that they opposed the original legislation when it was before the Parliament. A Government supporter in a back bench tas reminded them in an eloquent speech that had it not been for the Labour party majority in the Senate which voted in favour of it, the wool sales deduction legislation would never have gone on the statute-book. When I addressed some wool-growers in my constituency I asked them to judge the sincerity of the Labour party and to remember that the deduction could not have been made unless the scheme had been agreed to by the Labour majority in the Senate. I asked them to consider what their chances would be of having the legislation repealed if the Labour party regained office.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) would have us believe that we have forfeited the confidence of the wool-growers for ever and a day because of the imposition of the deduction scheme. The results of the last general election do not support his conten- tion. I doubt whether he would get a great deal of satisfaction from an analysis of the election figures in his own electorate. If he thinks that the deduction scheme is a sure election winner for the Labour party, he has another think coming.
– It is all right so far.
– The Labour party is all right so far because it is in Opposition, and while it remains in Opposition it will probably continue to be all right. But, if it regains office, the unhappy experiences that the people had under two previous Labour governments will be repeated. However, I have too much faith in the intelligence of the voters to believe that they will put the Labour party back on the treasury bench just because the Government saw fit to impose the wool sales deduction scheme at a time when the wool-growers were receiving incomes that were out of all comparison with the incomes received by the remainder of the people. We have heard a great deal tonight from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro abou the injustice that they have alleged was imposed on the small wool-grower by -the deduction scheme. Who is the small man in the wool industry?
– The auctioneer.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would not make even a good auctioneer. A friend of mine who was a member of my battalion during the war came to me smiling one day and told me that he had shorn 300 sheep and had sold the wool. He said to me, “I shore 300 sheep, including weaners, and my cheque before the Treasurer took a smack at it, was £4,200 “. He was a small man. Honorable members opposite need not waste their sympathy on such small men.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! I ask for a fair hearing for the honorable member for Corangamite, who seldom addresses the House and should be listened to in silence.
– I thank you for the protection that you are affording to rae, Mr. Speaker. No doubt you could see how dreadfully embarrassed I was by the interjections that were coming from the opposite side of the House. The honorable member for Parkes was so devoid of argument that during his speech he had to read a statement by a prominent member of the Australian Country party which appeared in the Canberra Times and which had nothing to do with the subject that we are discussing. He said that that honorable member had stated that nobody could blame the wool-growers for the high price being paid for wool. We are not attaching any blame to anybody for that high price. I repeat a statement that I made on a previous occasion - that the high price of wool stems from the results of the last war and fear of the next one. We wish the wool-growers good luck if they receive high prices for their wool, but also tell them that they should not complain if they are asked to do as their employees do - pay their taxes in advance. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that through the imposition of the wool sales deduction the wool-grower had been asked to pay his taxes twelve months in advance. Nothing could be further from the truth. The financial year in which the wool deduction scheme operated ended on the 30th June, 3950, and wool-growers did not receive their tax assessments until March or April of this year, when taxation for nine months of the current year was already due and when their employees had paid income tax on nine months’ income. Yet the honorable member would have us believe that the wool-growers were singled out and were brutally told to pay their taxes in advance, thus being treated differently from other members of the community, Nothing could be further from the truth. The blunt fact is that the people who have to pay their tax commitments in advance all the time are the ones who are least able to do so. Every time a wage-earner gets a rise, his income tax deduction is increased as from the very next pay.
I agree with the Minister for Defence that many wool-growers who complained when the wool sales deduction legislation was passed are now saying, “ After all, you did us a jolly good turn “. They realize now that they have not lost one penny because of that legislation. On the contrary, they now have a “ nest egg “ put by for the time when they will be asked to meet their tax liabilities arising from the high incomes that they received last year. I shall not flog this matter. I merely say that the people of Australia should be informed that the wool sales deduction was not a tax. Wool-growers did not lose one penny under the legislation that we are now asked to repeal. Every penny that they contributed has been placed to their credit with the Taxation Branch. That money will be of great benefit to wool-growers in districts that are now suffering from bush fires and drought. They will have a “ nest egg “ to meet their tax liabilities at a time when they are short of spending money. I am pleased that the Government honoured its promise to review the wool sales deduction legislation. The Government did not promise to repeal that legislation ; it merely said that the scheme would be reviewed. It has been reviewed, and in view of the changed circumstances it is to be repealed. It has served its purpose. It has not been unjust to any one, and it has been of great help to the Government during a very critical period.
.- As one member of this House who has a broad national outlook, I wish to say a few words about the repeal of legislation which the Opposition described last, year as a “ .wool steal “, The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has said that it was a wool tax. « Mr. McDonald. - I did not say it was a wool tax. I said it was a wool sales deduction.
– Very well, a wool sales deduction. A rose by any other name does not always smell as sweet. The wool-growers of Australia were so incensed by the wool tax legislation that the Government parties, in April last, lost several seats because of it. That is why the legislation is now being repealed. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) are back in this House because of the wool tax legislation, and they are back here to stay. The Government has introduced this repeal measure because it is afraid to face another election with the wool tax legislation still on the statute-book. This bill is a retreat from Moscow for the Government. The honorable member for Corangamite said that the wool tax scheme had provided a “ nest egg “ for the wool-growers because, under this measure, they would get back the money that they had contributed since the end of June of this year. I suggest that the wool-growers have a few other “ nest eggs “ to which they are entitled, but which they are not getting back. If, in equity, they are entitled to a refund of the contributions that they have made under the wool tax scheme since the end of June, they are entitled also to a refund of the £63,000,000 that was taken from them under the Joint Organization scheme, and of the £45,000,000 that was taken from them under the Post Joint Organization scheme.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill now before the House.
– Surely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am entitled to say that if the Government believes that it should give back to the wool-growers the contributions that they have made during the current financial year under the wool tax scheme, the wool-growers should also have returned to them everything else that is legally and morally theirs. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Pad den) can endeavour to explain to the wool-growers the attitude of the Government in that connexion. If he does so, I have no doubt that his party will lose a few more seats at the next general election. In the course of the last general election campaign, the right honorable gentleman addressed an Australian Country party conference at Ballarat, Victoria, and told enraged supporters of his own party that some o’’ them should be rearing goats instead of sheep. He also told them that the woolgrowers of Australia had nothing to complain about because the wool grew while they slept. That is how he insulted woolgrowers and lost votes for his party. Last year, we were told that the £104,000,000 that was to be collected under the wool tax scheme would help to defeat inflation.
The honorable member for Corangamite said that he voted for the wool tax legislation last year because circumstances were different then from what they are to-day. The excuse offered for the scheme last year was that it was needed to counter inflation. Is the House to believe that there is no inflation now? Have circumstances so changed that we can relax in our fight against inflation? Is inflation no worse to-day than it was last year? Will it not be worse next year than it is now unless there is a change of govern ment? How can the honorable member for Corangamite, who has such a benign countenance, try to delude the House into believing that his argument is logical ? He tried to find an excuse for this Government. He said that because the Labour majority in the Senate permitted the wool tax legislation to be passed last year, morally the Labour party had as much responsibility for that legislation as the Government had. Let us face up to that one. We of the Labour party are never afraid to face up to anything. We shall answer any arguments that the Government likes to advance on any bill, at any time. What was the position last year? Had the Labour party not permitted the wool tax legislation to be enacted, the Government would have said immediately, “We are short of £104,000,000. Therefore we cannot pay the age pensions, the invalid pensions, the war pensions and the widows’ pensions, and the Labour party is to blame “.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ‘ Honorable members must cease interjecting, and the honorable member for Melbourne must keep to the bill.
– I am trying to do that in spite of the interruptions. The honorable member for Corangamite said, in answer to our argument that the wool tax legislation was sectional, that the home-consumption price for wheat was a sectional impost. He seemed to point, the bone at us because of that; but who was it that introduced the homeconsumption price for wheat? Was it not th, Menzies Government ? The wheat-grower* voted for that proposal, but the woolgrowers did not have a chance to vote on the wool tax scheme. We challenged the Government to hold a referendum on that scheme. Honorable members opposite like to have referendums on some questions, but they refused to hold a referendum on the wool tax plan, just as they refused to hold a referendum on the restoration of Commonwealth prices control. When they talk about wheatgrowers and sectional taxation, they are only whistling to keep their courage up. They have no arguments with which to induce the people of Australia to favour the wool tax plan. The £104,000,000 that was taken from the wool-growers under that plan was used to finance a profligate budget. Had that money been left in the hands of the wool-growers, most of it would never have been spent, but the Treasurer of Australia took it and spent every penny of it quickly. That contributed to inflation. Certainly it did not encourage deflation. Therefore, the state of this country is worse to-day because of the passage of the legislation that this measure will repeal than it would have been had the wool-growers not been subjected to a discriminatory, sectional and vicious form of taxation.
As I have said, two honorable members who had had long careers in this House were returned after an absence of fifteen months because the Government did not reduce the deduction provided for under the sectional legislation. The Opposition hopes that no future government will try to introduce the form of political trickery that was indulged in by the present Government. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), were lucky to escape the wrath of the people in April as a result of the passage of the Wool Sales Deduction Act. I do not believe that they will escape the wrath of the people at the next general election.
I was amused - and I am not easily amused - to find that although the honorable member for Riverina did not believe in a line of this legislation he supported it and voted for it on the principle that it was better for Government supporters to hang together than to hang separately. He concluded his speech by saying, “Let me say finally that this is a public demonstration of the sincerity of a truly democratic government “. That is complete and arrant nonsense. There is nothing sincere about the proposal before the House. The Government is making the best of a bad situation. There is nothing democratic about this measure because the graziers themselves they been given the opportunity to vote on it. It was foisted upon them and is being removed under fear of what may happen to the Government if it is continued.
The Government has made a virtue of necessity. It has decided to give to the wool-grower what he is estitled to and to impose another form of taxation on him. The wool-growers have been singled out for oppobrium. They have been attached vigorously and rather viciously by Government supporters. It almost seems to be a crime to be a wool-grower. In the eyes of the Government it seems to be an offence that the wool-growers, who have never asked any government for assistance in the marketing of their product, should benefit from the adventitious circumstances that have enabled them to obtain high prices for their wool. They have been induced to believe that they are public enemies who must be deprived of a very large portion of their income because, otherwise, the country will be ruined. A lot of other people in the less essential sections of society, such as the middle man who deals in motor cars, have made high profits during the inflationary boom.
-Order! The honorable member must get back to the point.
– I am just making a passing reference to people who could be equally subjected ,to a sectional tax because they are in receipt of dividends of up to 67 per cent., and in the case of one company in which a profit of £1,000,000 was made as against £250,000 in the previous year, of 150 per cent. The Treasurer has done nothing about them.
-Order! That has nothing to do with the bill.
– The Treasurer has attacked the very people who helped to put him into office - the wool-growers of Australia. Those people believed that the Australian Country party, of which the Treasurer is leader, represented the interests of the wool-growers. The woolgrowers have no representation in this Parliament except through members of the Labour party. The Opposition defends them, not because it is particularly interested in pressing the claims of any section of the community but because the Labour party is a broad party with a national outlook on all questions. “We want to give justice and equity to every section of the community however they earn their money so long as they earn it honestly. Wo do not believe that any section of the community should be singled out to bear taxation of the particular type that the Government now proposes shall be repealed. I hope that such an act as the Wool Sales Deduction Act will never again be brought before this Parliament. It is to the everlasting disgrace of the second Menzies-Fadden anti-Labour Government that it attacked the wool-growers in an un-Australian, undemocratic and inequitable fashion.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) repeated a remark which honorable members made very often when the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was introduced. They said that it was a “wool steal “. I should like to know why those honorable members voted for the measure, not only in this House but also in another place. The honorable member claimed that Government supporters were responsible for that legislation, which was passed in another place but he knows that some of those who sat there were afraid to face a double dissolution. They knew what would happen if they attempted to reject the legislation. When the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was introduced last year the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech, as reported in Ilansard, at page 1101, volume 27, stated -
As I have already explained, this will not be another tax on the producer. It will be continued only so long as the economic circumstances of the country render it either necessary or appropriate.
Later the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), prior to the general election that was held in April, made this statement on behalf of the Government parties -
I want to say that the law will be repealed as soon as provisional tax reasonably provides for the tax obligation of the wool-grower. Labour is now attacking this measure, though it voted for it in the Senate. With singular disregard of the interests of the householders of Fawkner, Corio, Barton, Kingsford Smith, and a score of other seats; it is simply making a bid for the votes of the wool-growers.
In view of the opposition that was expressed by honorable members opposite to the Wool Sales Deduction Bill when it was introduced, it might reasonably have been anticipated that the present measure would have an easy passage. But the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has endeavoured to make party political capital out of it by “flogging a dead horse “, to use an expression that has been used before in this debate.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the Government wished to have this legislation repealed because it was unpopular. I admit that it was unpopular. But after I had fully explained the position to the wool-growers in Western Australia, and after they had recovered from the shock caused by certain full-page advertisements in the newspapers, they realized that the Wool Sales Deduction Act would operate to their advantage. Contrary to the expectation of the Labour party when the general election was held in April, the Australian Country party failed to hold only two seats. The Labour party had promised to repeal this legislation and to repay the money at some future date. But the Premier of Queensland let the cat out of the bag when he said that the Labour party would introduce a homeconsumption price for wool, and thus supported to the hilt the contention voiced previously by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that there should be a home-consumption price for wool. So much concern did that cause to the Opposition that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was put up to make a plausible explanation of the remarks.
Labour knows that it cannot gain any kudos from this matter. The honorable member for Lalor has stated that the wool sales deduction legislation was of a most vicious and extraordinary character. That portion of his speech has already been dealt with by some of my colleagues. He also claimed that this Government, by bringing down the legislation, had attacked the wool-growers. Honorable members will recall that just prior to the introduction of the legislation, honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), continually asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) what the Government intended to do to protect the workers against the wool barons, in view of rising wool prices. They expressed concern that the workers might not continue to be able to obtain clothing at a reasonable price. Yet when the legislation waa introduced they described it as a vicious and sectional tax. When its validity was challenged, the High Court of Australia ruled that it was not an extra tax but merely a method of collecting taxes that were owing. No Labour member has mentioned that aspect of the matter during this debate, because it does not suit the book of the Opposition to do so. Although Labour ran away from the deduction legislation following the ruling of the High Court, it regarded the High Court as a good peg on which to hang its hat when the Communist Party Dissolution Act was declared to be invalid. Only a few months ago they stumped the countryside applauding the decision of the High Court in that connexion.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) claimed that the Government, by introducing the wool sales deduction legislation, had perpetrated an outrage on the wool-growers. 1 remind honorable members that the deduction of 20 per cent, from the gross proceeds of the sale of wool was in respect of taxes that the wool-growers knew would become payable. The amounts deducted were credited to them. The honorable member for Wannon was silent about what Labour had permitted to be imposed upon the workers during the last eight years. This was the similar system of “ pay-as-you-earn “. As everybody knows at the end of each financial year the
Commissioner of Taxation is regarded either as the Archangel Gabriel or as Father Christmas. Honorable members of the Labour party were quite agreeable to the proposal that credits under the “ pay-as-you-earn “ taxation system should be established in the Taxation Branch in relation to more than 2,250,000 workers when it was introduced some years ago. But because 100,000 wool-growers were to be asked to fall into line, the legislation was described as vicious. The honorable member for Wannon stated, in reply to an interjection while he was speaking, that farmers would be humiliated if they were required to make application to the Commissioner of Taxation for a remission of taxes on the ground of hardship. What fools people would be to suffer hardship by allowing somebody who had no right to do so to hold their money because they were afraid that they would be humiliated if they applied for a refund of it. The same honorable member contended that if a wool-grower wanted to obtain a refund he would have to fill in a complicated form. That was not the procedure in Western Australia, where I took particular pains to communicate on this subject with the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation. All that a wool-grower in that State had to do if he was experiencing hardship as a result of the deduction of 20 per cent, of his gross proceeds, was to write to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation setting out his position. It was not necessary for him to consult an accountant; all that he was required to do was to estimate his position. On receipt of applications, investigations were carried out and, where justified, refunds were made promptly. There were no complicated forms to be filled in, and no humiliation.
– What has this to do with the measure before us?
– I am endeavouring to counter some of the misrepresentation that has been indulged in by the Opposition. The honorable member for Wannon also referred to the wool sales deduction legislation as “ the Copland plan “. Professor Copland was not invited by the Government to discuss the proposals. Had the Government adopted suggestions that were made in the newspapers at the time, the woolgrowers would have been much worse off.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has pointed out that not one penny piece was lost to tha. wool-growers, because the amounts that were deducted from their gross proceeds were credited to them by the Taxation Branch. Honest wool-growers are now saying, “ Thank God it was taken from us then, because now we shall be able to meet our tax liabilities “. The measure before the House seeks to repeal the wool sales deduction legislation, which is what the Labour party, during the last general election campaign, promised the electors that it would do if returned- to office. Honorable members opposite are singularly quiet on that aspect of the matter. Instead, they are trying to make party political capital out of the matter by flogging a dead horse. They tried to stampede the wool-growers into supporting- them by promising to repeal the legislation and refund the prepayments if they were returned to office.
Recently we have been debating the proposals contained in the budget. All sorts of arguments have been advanced about what the Government should and should not do. If Labour had won the general election and become the Government of this country, and had had to refund the amounts that had been deducted from the wool-growers as prepayment of tax, it would have been in queer straits indeed. The Government is not repealing the legislation as a recompense to the wool-growers in anticipation of securing their votes in the future, but is fulfilling its promise to them. I must restate that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) promised, when introducing the deduction legislation, that it would be operative only for as long as it was needed and that the Government would repeal it as soon as it was economically possible to do so. It has now become possible for that ‘promise to be honoured. The provisional tax that will be payable this year will be based on the income received in 1950-51. Obviously, unless there was a further increase of the price of wool, the existing legislation would be no longer required.
Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to draw many red herrings across the path. Other honorable members and wool-growers who may be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, should not be misled by references that have been made to minimum reserve prices, and post-joint organization. The measure before the House is merely for the purpose of repealing legislation that the Government was forced to introduce last year. We disliked it at the time, but considered that it was necessary in the interests of the wool-growers. We told them that we would repeal it as soon as possible, and to-night we shall do so. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to cloud the issue and to salve their consciences by introducing extraneous matters. I support the measure. I should have thought that’, as I said at the inception of my remarks, in view of Labour’s attitude when the wool sales deduction legislation was placed on the statute-book last year this measure Would have had an easy passage through this House.
.,- We have listened to the usual incoherencies of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), and to more than his usual number of contradictions. He went through all stages politically and dialectically in a frantic attempt to excuse himself and his party for the sin that they committed when they aided the passage of the Wool Sales Deduction Bill, which was another of the bad financial measures for which this Government has become notorious. The non-Labour parties have always been notorious for such bad measures, not only in recent times, but also throughout their political history. This is; one of a number of unjust, unfortunate, inequitable and unsound financial measures for which the government can claim no present credit, and can look for no credit in the future. The honorable member for Canning said that in this bill the Government has given effect tff its promise to repeal the Wool Sales Deduction Act after it had been in operation for only one year. I say that the Government refused to give a promise of that nature. When the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was being debated in this House the Government was asked whether it would give a guarantee that the measure would operate for only one year. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) then refused to give that guarantee. Therefore, it is not to honour a promise that the legislation is being repealed but it is because of the legitimate hostility of the wool-growers to it.
The measure was bad in principle because it selected the wool-growers to bear the full weight of the most savage taxation impost for which it provided. The honorable member for Canning stated that he went to Perth and explained the whole matter to the wool-growers, who then indicated that they were satisfied with the measure. He said that any honest wool-grower would say to-day that the Wool Sales Deduction Act has built up a “nest egg” for him and has prevented him from wasting the profits of a very good year. A letter was sent to me from the Farmers Union of Western Australia and, although it is dated the 14th November, 1950, it was written after the farmers had had the benefit of the honorable member’s ideas and after he had explained to the wheat and wool-growers of Western Australia the advantages of this measure. The letter reads -
On Tuesday last the Wool Section of this Union held a special meeting to further discuss the 20 per cent, wool tax. At this meeting Messrs. Hamilton and Leslie, Ms.H.R. were in attendance and explained the Government’s point of view in connexion with the matter. Notwithstanding this, however, the Executive, after very careful consideration of the question, hae maintained its former strong opposition.
It is, as previously pointed out, considered to be legislation of a. sectional nature directed against the wool-growers, and strong and continued objection is on the question of principle. The Executive is of the opinion that the Federal Government’s desired object of raising the amount which would be contributed by the wool-growers could be gained by the floating of a loan, to which wool-growers and others could contribute.
The feeling is that if this course was decided upon wool-growers would contribute generously, and that there would be no difficulty in raising the amount by this means. As it is, taking 20 per cent, of the wool-growers’ income is nothing but a forced free of interest loan.
This whole question has also been considered by the General Executive of this Union, and the Wool Section Executive^ attitude is completely endorsed.
The Labour party said when the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was being discussed last year, that it was a bad measure and that it anticipated revenue in respect of a year in which the revenue was not at that time payable. We said that it was bad in principle and would impose a very heavy burden on many sections of the wool-growers. After consideration, the Government by means of an amendment provided that a tribunal should be constituted before which farmers could prove that they needed the money which was to be deducted. That merely caused embarrassment to farmers, because no man likes to say that he cannot meet his legal obligations. We urged that it was wrong that the wool-growers should have to do that. The Government took last year what should have been this year’s revenue, and so the measure now before the House became necessary. It appears that anticipation of future revenue is again to be a feature of the Government’s administra tion.
The honorable member for Canning asked why the Opposition did not vote against the measure if it objected so strenuously to it. The Government is amazingly adept at conjuring up arguments when it needs them. We were told that we should not reject the measure because the Government had a mandate from the people to govern. We were also told that it was wrong in principle for an Opposition party with a majority in another place to use that majority to give effect to what it believed to be necessary. We said that the legislation was bad in principle and that we would repeal it when we next assumed office, but that because it was associated with a budget proposal that involved social services, we would agree to its enactment. Having done that we were told that we had voted for the measure. That is pure misrepresentation. We said that it was bad in principle, but that as it was bound up with the Government’s financial proposals we would vote for it. The payments to pensioners and others -
– Order! The honorable member must speak to the mattei under discussion.
– I realize that, Mr. Speaker, but the honorable member for Canning also strayed far from the subject under discussion. I submit that it is necessary to state the reason why the Opposition did not oppose the Wool Sales Deductions Bill. We said to the people of Australia that whilst, for the reasons I have given, we could not reject the legislation at that stage, we would repeal it at the first opportunity.
– And refund the amount deducted.
– That is correct, because the Australian Labour party gives effect to its promises. I point out that this Government has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000. Why can it not repay the money from the money that is held by the Treasury at the present time?
– Order ! The honorable member may not now discuss the budget.
– The Australian Labour party has been completely consistent in its attitude towards this legislation. It said at the time of its introduction that it was bad legislation, and it says the same to-day. It said then that the Government had introduced the measure to further its financial ideas, because the Australian Country party was willing to allow the farmers to be the butt of every Government attack. The members of the Opposition stated then that the Australian Country party was allowing the farmers, whom it claimed to represent, to have taken from them a large volume of their ordinary purchasing power which, in any event, would not have been used by them. The Opposition says the same to-day. What did the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) say then? The right honorable gentleman did not pretend that the legislation was good or that it would help the farmers - an idea that the members of the Australian Country party had drummed into their heads. He merely said that it was a better measure than revaluation of the currency, which would have the effect of taking permanently from the farmers a large amount of their earnings year by year. The Australian Labour party has no apology to offer for its attitude, because none is called for.
– The members of the Opposition have no conscience.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) should be a good judge of conscience. On the other hand, the Government has apologies to offer all along the line. They are strange apologies to make to the people it claims to represent.
– Order ! Will th* honorable gentleman please return to the bill?
– The Opposition gladly supports the repeal of the legislation, but regards it as its duty to point out that the Government was forced into introducing this measure, as it will be forced into introducing other measures, by the growing opposition of the awakened people of Australia. The Opposition considers that because of the introduction of that and other legislation, the strength of the Government parties in this House was substantially reduced at the last general election.
– Did not the honorable gentleman hear about the Senate election?
– I did.
Air. SPEAKER.- -Order ! Will the honorable gentleman please leave the election alone and get on with the bill?
– If the Government regards the result of the last general election as a victory, all that I ask is for a few more victories of that kind. 1 contend that the Opposition has been completely consistent in its attitude and that the Government has been forced to accept its arguments because of the pressure of public opinion.
.- The dead horse has been dragged round the chamber very freely to-night. Personally. I am inclined to the view that the Opposition has pulled an old ewe out of a dam, has plucked a bit of dead wool from its back and has used it in an attempt to bolster its arguments. Frankly, I have never hoard such rubbish in my life. [Quorum formed.’] After that brief interruption I am pleased to see that there are one or two more honorable members on the Opposition side of the House to hear of the sorry defection of their speakers during the debate on this measure.
In introducing this bill to repeal the original act, which was passed last year with the support of the Opposition, the Government has not met with the expected ready response to a gesture which is patently honest and in keeping with the promise previously made that when the necessity for the legislation had ceased to exist it would be repealed. The members of the Opposition have sought to use the occasion as an opportunity to make party political capital of the issue. They have made no attempt to do more than flog the political issue and try to set themselves up as the champions of large and small wool-growers and farmers, the very people, who, in the past, they have frequently criticized and vilified in this chamber, casting at them all the invective at their command. Repeatedly, and even to-night during this debate, I have heard the accusation hurled at the Australian Country party that it does not support in this House the people whom it represents. I have heard the term “ hillbilly corner” levelled from the Opposition side of the chamber at members of that party. Y”et the Opposition has the effrontery to defend the farmers and graziers of this country against what it describes as iniquitous legislation. I have never heard such arrant rubbish.
What was the reason for the introduction of the wool sales deduction legislation? I did not think for one minute that alio the old stories concerning the introduction of the act would again be raised, nevertheless they have been raised. In many instances misrepresentations concerning the reason for its introduction have also been made. The original reason, which was quite openly stated in this House, was twofold. First, it was desired to take out of circulation a volume of money which would have a very inflationary effect on the currency of the country. The second reason was, so that money would be used not in a spendthrift manner, but to meet payments of a non-recurring nature, one of which was a legacy from the previous Government. I refer to the necessity to pay war gratuity amounting to £62,000,000.
– What rot!
– It was admitted by the then Leader of the Opposition-
– That is not true.
– It is perfectly true. The Leader of the Opposition at that time, Mr. Chifley, said that the amount of money that was necessary to meet war gratuity payments was not held in actual cash. He stated that it was in the form of credits only. That statement is recorded in Hansard. The war gratuity payments, which had been deferred for five or six years by the Chifley Government, had to be met in cash, and money had to be found to do so. In addition, an amount of £70,000,000 was required for defence stockpiling. It was hoped at that time that that amount would be a non-recurring liability. Unfortunately, it has been found not to be a non-recurring item, although at that time there seemed to be every possibility that it would be so. Accordingly that amount had to be found either by the flotation of a loan or by the issue of treasury bills.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is discussing the reason for the passage of the legislation. This bill is designed to repeal it.
– That is so, Mr. Speaker. However, I should have preferred that all the other speakers this evening had kept away from that issue and had not raised it at all.
The Parliament was thoroughly justified in enacting the Wool Sales Deduction Act, and now that economic circumstances are favorable for the taking of action to repeal it, the Government is honouring its promise to do so. Members of the Opposition have claimed that they objected to the original legislation when, in fact, a Labour majority in the Senate agreed to its passage. They have merely taken advantage of this opportunity to make party political capital and to bolster up their party morale. As a small wool-grower, I welcomed the passage of the Wool Sales Deduction Act, and I was glad to explain its provisions to my constituents. As I did not sell my wool at peak market prices I admit that when I received my wool cheque it hurt me to find that a proportion of the proceeds of the sale of my wool had been withheld. However, T soon realized that when I received my tax assessment I would have the comfort of knowing that I had already paid a proportion of my tax indebtedness. Growers who sold their wool at peak prices found that the deduction that had been made from the proceeds of the sale of their wool was not sufficient to meet their actual tax liability. Members of the Opposition criticized the Wool Sales Deduction Act on the ground that it obliged growers to pay their income tax in advance. Those honorable members spoke with their tongues in their cheeks when they made that and similar statements, because they knew perfectly well that provisional tax, plus the wool sales deduction, will not be sufficient to meet the tax commitments of the growers. The few growers among my constituents who protested against the legislation did so on the ground that, whilst they were not concerned so long as the Menzies Government administered it, they feared the consequences if a socialist government should be returned to office while the measure remained on the statute-book. They will be delighted to learn that the legislation is now being repealed.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) claimed that the Labour party is always consistent. The fact is that it is consistent only in its inconsistency. Whilst in the past the honorable member and his colleagues constantly made attacks upon graziers and farmers, they somersaulted to-night. They now say, in effect, “We are the friends of the grazier and we shall save him from the ill-will of this terrible Government “. What arrant rubbish ! The object of this measure is simply to repeal the wool sales deduction legislation which, having served its purpose and having proved to he popular with the wool-growers, is now redundant. It has caused no real hardship to the growers as a whole. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) claimed that thousands of growers had been obliged to enlist the assistance of friends in filling in the application form for relief under the hardship provisions of the relevant act. On that form, applicants were required simply to state the amount of their present income, their estimate of their prospective income and the amounts of their assets and liabilities. The form was then forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation. In every instance, the taxation authorities dealt with applications sympathetically, and it was found to be necessary torefer only a few of the applications to a taxation board of review. In some instances, after an investigation had been made, applicants were obliged to admit that they were not in such a bad position as they believed when they lodged their applications. Every genuine case of hardship was thoroughly investigated and remedied. I do not propose to labour the matter further. I repeat that Opposition members have merely taken advantage of this opportunity to wave the old party political flag. That is all that they have done this evening ; but, unfortunately for them, they have’ shown themselves to belong to a party that does not know its own mind on this matter. It is astonishing that, having supported the passage of the Wool Sales Deduction Bill, they should now indulge in sham fighting.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to repeal the Wool Sales Deduction (Administration) Act 1950, the Wool Sales Deduction Act (No. 1) 1950 and the Wool Sales Deduction Act (No. 2) 1950, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 24th October last, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) the following question, upon notice : -
Will he consider making provision under the National Service Act for all time lost from work by apprentices attending camp for training to be counted as time worked for the purpose of their apprenticeship?
I received the following reply: -
Under the National Service Act there is power to direct that a period or part of a period of national service training served by an apprentice shall be regarded as a period of employment under his contract of apprenticeship. It is proposed that this power shall be delegated to the apprenticeship authorities constituted under the laws of the States relating to apprenticeship and the concurrence of the governments of the States in this arrangement is being sought. Under the proposed arrangement, it will be for the apprenticeship authority to decide whether, in effect, the term of the indenture should he shortened by reason of trade experience or training gained by the apprentice while performing his national service. Similar powers were exercised by the apprenticeship authorities under theRe-establishment and Employment Act 1945 in relation to apprentices returning from service in the last war. Every effort is made to ensure that trainees possessing civilian trade skills are posted to positions in the services in which their skills will be utilized, but this is obviously not possible in all cases. For all trainees, part of the period must be devoted to basic service training.
That is misleading, because no regulations to that effect have been gazetted. In their haste to get the boys into camp for training, the authorities forgot to afford them any protection. I am greatly concerned over this matter, because I know how avaricious employers have been in the past. The National Service Act provides -
Unless the Minister otherwise directs, a period during which a contract of apprenticeship is suspended under this section shall not, except for the purposes of section forty-two of this Act, be deemed to be a period of employment under the contract.
Section 42 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act is as follows: -
An Apprenticeship Authority may, in exercising its powers under section thirty-nine of this Act, review the contract of apprenticeship, and may vary any of its provisions in such a manner and to such extent as it deems just and equitable, and, if satisfied that the capabilities of the apprentice for the exercise of his trade skill have increased during the period of suspension of his contract of apprenticeship, may direct that the period or any portion of the period shall be included in the term of apprenticeship.
No facilities are provided for teaching trainees a trade. The lads who will be called up on the 8th December next will include many apprentices. University and technical college students will do their period of training during the Christmas vacation, but apprentices in factories will lose three months of their apprenticeship in their third year, and will have to make up that time subsequently. Similarly, in the fourth and fifth years of their apprenticeship they will lose time, so that at the end of their term, when they are 21 years of age, and should receive journeymen’s wages they will have to make up almost six months of lost time. The act was deliberately framed to help the employers. Probably about 50,000 apprentices will be affected, and it will be worth a good deal to the employers to keep them on an apprentice’s pay for an additional six months. I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service to remedy this situation. Indeed, I am justified in demanding that he do so.
– Why not have a sit down strike?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has been sitting down for most of his life., He has never contributed anything to the welfare of his native land, and we should be justified in calling him an unmitigated loafer.
-Order ! The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– You mean the word “loafer “?
– The honorable member knows very well what I mean. He will withdraw the words and apologize.
– I withdraw them and apologize. The employers should be made to accept their share of the burden of national defence. The profiteer is always ready to grasp whatever he can at the expense of the unfortunate apprentices and their parents. Pressure will be brought to bear on this matter by the trade union movement, which was not consulted over this issue.
I know that the Minister for Labour and National Service claims to have talked with the president and secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, but he should have consulted officially with the executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which would then have appointed a committee to inquire into the matter. Had that been done the present situation would not have arisen. I have myself had the experience of being compelled to make up time at the end of my apprenticeship. In such circumstances, the boss shows no mercy. At the end of five years, when a lad should become a journeyman, the employer rakes over the record to discover what days have been lost so that he may keep the employee on an apprentice’s wages for some time longer.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) referred to one aspect of the national service training scheme. Before I discuss that aspect, let me say that if there is one act of government policy which has proved conspicuously successful, and a credit to all those participating in it, including the Government and the lads called up for training, it is the national service training scheme.. One reason why it has proved so successful is that consideration has been shown at all stages of training for the welfare of the lads themselves. The Government has kept in mind the fact that the young men are required to make some contribution to the security of their country by giving up part of their time over a period of three years so that they may be trained. We knew when the scheme was introduced that it would make demands upon young men drawn from every section of the community, and engaged in all sorts of occupations. No person has been relieved of the obligation to serve by reason of occupation, whether he be a professional student, an employee in business, a farm lad, a mine worker, or an apprentice. But just as certain demands are made upon young men, so also are demands made upon employers and upon the taxpayers in general, who have to foot the bill for what is a very costly scheme. The country as a whole and the individuals who participate in the national service training scheme all benefit in a variety of ways from it. The nation adds to its security, many of the young men are built up in health and strength and develop a spirit of discipline, and whatever may be lost from periods of apprenticeship or in other ways is compensated for by the benefits that the country and the young men receive. The honorable member has already raised this matter by means of a question upon notice and he received the lengthy reply which he quoted in his speech. That reply was prepared by officers of my department who know much more about the matter than I claim to know, and I believe that it sets out the position factually. However, I shall try to sift the remarks made by the honorable member to-night and will ensure that any comments of substance that he has made will be further investigated by my officers. If any aspect of the matter requires additional clarification, it will be clarified by means of a statement in this House. It may be true, as the honorable gentleman implied, that all details of this scheme have not yet been worked out. He referred to that passage in the reply to his question which stated that the apprenticeship authorities in the States would have a part to play in this matter. He did not strengthen his case, neither did he make his point of view any clearer, when he clouded the issue with silly threats and a lot of ranting against the Government, employers and anybody else who happened to come under the lash of his tongue. I assure the honorable gentleman that any matters of substance dealt with in his remarks will be examined and thata reply will be supplied to him at a suitable time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Rose Bay, New South Wales.
Hyde, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Complete figures of acreages under rubber in Papua and New Guinea cannot be given until an agricultural census now being carried out has been completed. Estimates based on available information are -
All exports of rubber from Papua and New Guinea are in the form of crude rubber (smoked sheet) and no figures are available for latex production. The following are the figures for crude rubber exports from Papua and New Guinea since 1945-46: -
Pre-war peak production in Papua was 1,340 tons in 1939-40.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– When the honorable member asked for information on the 26th September as to the Government’s attitude towards migrants who had been found to be law-breakers, I informed him that during my period of office I had issued 78 deportation orders in respect of migrants convicted of criminal offences, and that during a comparable period my predecessor had issued 59 orders. Out of the 78 which I have issued, 45 of the persons have been deported so far, and 48 of the 59 orders issued by my predecessor have been put into effect. Various reasons account for the fact that deportation has not been effected in the balance of the cases. In some instances, such as where displaced persons are concerned, it has not been possible to secure their readmission to their country of origin or last permanent residence ; in others they have not yet completed the sentences they are serving. It is not proposed to publish the names of the persons who were the subject of these deportation orders. Many of the deportees still have relatives in Australia who will suffer unnecessary embarrassment and hardship through having the cases brought under the glare of publicity once more. Many of the persons named in the deportation orders are no doubt doing their best to make a fresh start in life, and I see no good reason why their efforts should be hindered by revival of their past misdemeanours, which received their measure of publicity at the time. The nationalities of the persons who were named in the deportation orders, and the crimes or offences of which they were convicted are shown by the following tables. It should be mentioned that in some cases the offence for which the person was convicted was not the only factor leading to the issue of the deportation order. It may be assumed, for example, that the deportation of persons convicted for “ vagrancy “ would be ordered mainly because other facts showed them to be undesirables.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 November 1951, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511101_reps_20_214/>.