21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council who, I assume, is acting for the Treasurer, whether it is the intention of the Government to grant, under the Banking Act, an authority for a company controlled by the Bank of New South Wales to embark upon savings bank business. Alternatively, has an authority been granted enabling private trading banks to enter a field that is very efficiently managed by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the State government savings banks?
– The attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn r.o this matter, and he has given it some consideration. However, I am not aware what decision, if any, he has made. I will see that the right honorable gentleman’s question is placed before the Prime Minister on his return so that a satisfactory answer may be given.
– Has the Minister for Air read or heard a report that uniforms supplied to the Royal. Australian Air Force are inferior in quality and design and that the general effect is detrimental to the appearance of members? Will be advise the House what steps are taken to . see that Royal Australian Air Force personnel are provided with uniforms that are appropriate to that arm of the service?
– The Royal Australian Air Force is acutely aware of the importance of good uniforms, and the fact that they have quite an effect on morale. It goes to a great deal of trouble to ensure that uniforms are satisfactory. A wide variety of sizes is available and a service tailor is always on hand to assist in fittings and make necessary alterations. On the larger stations service tailors actually do the fitting. Men requiring outsize uniforms may have them tailor-made. The material used is exactly the same as that which is used in the other two services. The buttons differ in that they are of the Canadian pattern so that the men will not have to polish them.. I have seen in the press reports to the effect that members of the Royal Australian Air Force are not as well dressed as they might be. Those reports are unfair and misleading. If any members of the press would like photographs showing the types of uniforms available I should be only too happy to supply them.
– Can the Minister for Territories state whether any complaints have been received from the Anti-Slavery Society in Great Britain or from the United Nations that the conditions of employment of some Australian natives in Australia constitute a form of slavery? If such complaints have been received, on what facts were they based?
-So far as I am aware, no such complaints have been made to the Federal Government. I would say, quite bluntly, that if the United Nations made that inquiry, it would be none of their business. So far as the Anti-Slavery Society is concerned, I have frequently been in correspondence with it on a variety of matters affecting the welfare of aborigines, a. correspondence which has been very friendly and conducted with understanding. But so far as my memory serves me, the society has not raised with me the particular question to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation give the House some information about the forced landing that was made by a Trans-Australia Airlines Viscount aircraft at Forrest aerodrome in the early hours of Saturday morning last? Is it a fact that, in that landing, three tyres burst and the lives of passengers were at some risk? Is the Minister satisfied that the pilot of the aircraft handled the situation with the necessary amount of skill and ability? Is he satisfied that the Forrest aerodrome is a suitable aerodrome to handle landings and take-offs by Viscount aircraft?
– Yes, I am aware that the aircraft mentioned carried out a landing at Forrest aerodrome last Saturday morning. The circumstances were that exceptionally strong headwinds “Were encountered and the pilot, I think “with commendable wisdom, decided to land at the Forrest aerodrome. The Strip there is quite capable of taking Viscount, or even larger aircraft, and he was obeying instructions that not the slightest risk was to be taken. Very wisely, I think, he landed in order to take on a little more fuel. “While the aircraft was on its landing run, the brakes were applied and apparently they bound a little. That caused one of the tyre3 to blow out and, later, a tyre on the other side of the aircraft blew out. I do not think that the passengers were in any danger whatsoever. As far as the ability and skill of the pilot are concerned, I am of the opinion that all pilots of the Australian airlines are as good as any pilots in the world. The particular pilot in this case, Captain Green, is a man of distinguished record and very wide experience, and I think that he handled a difficult situation with commendable skill and ability.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the amount of capital that the Government has invested in the various uranium enterprises that are operating at present? What amount of foreign capital, both British and American, has been invested in these enterprises?
– I cannot give any precise details in answer to the honorable gentleman and, with respect to some of the matters, I do not think that I should. With respect to Rum Jungle, the Australian Government has invested in the development of that enterprise some millions of pounds provided by borrowing from the Combined Development Agency, which we are repaying out of the proceeds of the sale of oxide to that agency.
– How much has been borrowed ?
– I cannot give the figures. There is a similar arrangement with respect to Radium Hill, in South
Australia. Those are two what I may call government instrumentalities, one Commonwealth and one South Australian Government. With respect to other capital, a substantial contribution has been made by the Government, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to the development of uranium throughout Australia and, indeed, also through the work of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. As regards foreign capita], the honorable gentleman will have read in the press of proposals by the Rio Tinto company to invest some millions of pounds in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry area, and also a proposal - still tentative - for the Atlas company of America to invest a large sum of money also in the Northern Territory.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House whether the Government has under consideration any proposal for giving the Territory of Papua and New Guinea representation in this Parliament similar to that accorded to the Northern Territory?
– No proposal of that kind is under consideration by the Government. This is, of course, a matter that raises policy, and I will not attempt to comment on policy questions. But T think I might say, in passing, that any government considering a question such as that would have to take into account two points in respect of which the Territory of Papua and New Guinea differs very much from the Northern Territory. The first is, that whereas the majority of the population in the Northern Territory is European, and the coloured people of the Northern Territory have a clear path to full citizenship on exactly the same terms as Europeans, the situation in Papua and New Guinea at the present time is that any electoral roll that was formed would be a roll of only a few thousand European and Asiatics, while at least 1,500,000 of the indigenous people would be at the present time unable to participate in, and exercise a franchise. This is a fact that, of course, limits the possibility of choosing an elected member representative of the whole of the Territory in this House. The second point to be borne in mind is that, whereas, in the case of the Northern Territory, there is a very clearly discernible future for the Territory as a member of the Commonwealth, nobody can speak with the same degree of certainty regarding the future of Papua and New Guinea. I am sure it is the intention of all sides of politics in Australia - and the hope of all sides of politics in this country - that the link between Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will always be extremely close and extremely harmonious, but it is, perhaps, a little premature for us to decide at this early stage what the exact constitutional shape of Papua and New Guinea shall be.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that several months ago a number of passport blanks disappeared from the Commonwealth Government Printing Office in Canberra? Has the Government yet received a report from the Commonwealth investigation service about the missing passports? Can the Minister tell the House whether the passports were stolen and, if they were, by whom ? Can he pay why the passports were stolen, and whether criminals or other undesirables have used them for improper purposes?
– I have received a report on this matter. I shall see if I can get precise particulars which can he made available to such honorable members as may be interested in this matter. My own recollection of the report is that it did not disclose anything of a sinister character; in fact, it was not conclusive in the sense of stating precisely what had happened. Indeed, if my recollection is correct, one of the theories still held is that these papers may have been bundled up with others that were taken away for destruction, which occurs from time to time. However, I shall see if I can get precise details for the honorable gentleman.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you inform me whether the precedents -established in Australian State parliaments are taken into consideration in any way in determining proper pro cedures in this House and building ? Can you give the House an assurance that the regrettable procedure apparently approved yesterday in the New South Wales Parliament, on the instance of the Labour Government in that State, will in no way be considered as a precedent for us here? Bv way of explanation, the incident to which I have referred was the making available of a room in the Parliament building for the purpose of enabling people not members of Parliament to hold what may be described as a “Kangaroo Court “ upon a member in relation to his vote on the floor of the House. I ask this question especially in view of the fact that the left wing of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament is closely related to the Australian Labour party in the New South Wales Parliament and because the members of the Labour left wing in this House acknowledge themselves to be subservient and submissive to a similar outside junta. May I add, sir, that I ask this question as a matter of principle only and not because I find myself in agreement with the views of the particular member of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales.
– In reply to both questions, I think it is clearly understood by all parties and by the House itself, that our determinations are based on our own experience and our own precedents, together with those of the House of Commons.
– Has the Minister for the Interior made any decision or given any instructions specifying increased frontages for residential building blocks to be made available in any current or future housing subdivisions in Canberra, so as to avoid what has occurred in some recently completed subdivisions ?
– I have had several conferences with officers of both the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, and also with the chairman of the Public Works Committee, who is a member of the National Capital Planning and Development Committeee, on the question of subdivisions. I have made no decision and have issued no order in the ministerial sense, but I have asked the National Capital Planning and Development Committee to consider the matter and to give me its views about it. In respect of a fairly large project that we have in hand and that may now have to be extended over a somewhat longer period owing to the present economic situation, I have also sought outside town-planning advice in order that we may avoid what I think every one admits to have been a mistake, particularly in the Narrabundah area. It is not so much the houses that are objected to, though perhaps those of us who were born in the late Victorian era do not like modern homes. The homes in question seem to be very popular with those who are applying for bouses. I agree with the honorable member that a mistake was made in the frontages and the alinement of the houses to the front of the blocks, and I hope that we shall avoid similar mistakes in the future.
– In the absence of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I address a question to the Minister for Defence. In view of a public statement by the officer in charge of the wild life section of the organization that rabbits will be immune to myxomatosis in between five and ten years, can the Minister indicate what action the organization is taking to develop a more virulent strain of the virus?
– Knowing the honorable gentleman’s interest in this subject, I obtained some information upon it. I am informed that research into myxomatosis is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in cooperation with the Australian National University. Up to date, the research indicates that the virus is not losing any of its virulence. Rather, rabbits are developing greater resistance to it. Officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are still investigating methods of spreading the virus and are endeavouring to produce a more virulent strain. It is rather too early yet to say what the results of their research are likely to be, but I have no doubt that they will become clearer as time passes. I have much more information that I shall be happy to give the honorable member if he requires any further details on the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. In view of his recent statement that the new high-octane petrol is of no appreciable advantage to the wide range of vehicles used by the Department nf Supply, will the Minister make available full information on this subject to the State governments to avoid a waste of public money?
– i am not sure that I agree with the honorable member’s suggestion of waste of public, money, and 1 think it is important that one should not get into controversy on this matter. All I said in the House was that as a result of experiments carried out in the Department of Supply on a wide range of motor cars used by it, we had come to the conclusion with respect to most of them that the high-octane petrol was of no appreciable benefit. That had nothing to do with how beneficial it was in certain other types of cars. I will give consideration to the question of whether State governments should have made available to them copies of the report which was given to me. I should imagine that most of them would have conducted their own investigations, because they also have large transport fleets.
– I should like to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether there is any official information available yet regarding the result of the elections in Indonesia. If not, will the Minister undertake to make a statement to the House giving us that information when it is available?
– We have had a communication from our representative in Djakarta, but I think it is fairly clear that the counting has not proceeded sufficiently far to enable us to arrive at a definite opinion as to the result. I shall be very happy, when we get information of a definite character, to make an appropriate statement to the House.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service accept the fact that power is vested in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to determine the wages of apprentices engaged in the various trades operating under federal awards ? If he does, will the Minister take the appropriate action to implement the decisions of the CommonwealthState Apprenticeship Inquiry Committee that a percentage of the tradesmen rate be paid to apprentices instead of a percentage of the basic rate, which now operates ?
– I am not in a position to state offhand what action is available to a Commonwealth government in relation to this matter, but I am not aware of any impediment to the making of applications to the court by the representatives of employees in the industries to which the question refers, and judgment being given upon them.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Social Services, I refer again to the difficulty experienced in understanding pension application information sheets, which occurred before the Minister took office some years ago. Are these information sheets being continually revised so that they may reach the highest standards in simplicity and clarity? Will up-to-date information sheets be sent to every official and non-official post office as soon as possible, and will the out-of-date sheets be recalled? How long will it be before the new sheets incorporating the present legislation will be ready for despatch to post offices?
– Last year, the honorable gentleman was good enough to direct my attention to the fact that it was desirable to bring information sheets up to date as quickly as possible. As a result of the information given to me by him and my friends on the opposite side of the House, instructions were given that in future, as soon as any change was made in social services benefits, the department should alter the information sheets and distribute them as quickly as possible. New information sheets based upon the very generous increase in pensions approved yesterday by the House have already been prepared, and they will be distributed as quickly as possible. I should like the honorable gentleman to know that they will be despatched to post offices and to all officials dealing with pension matters by to-morrow at the latest, so they will be available for distribution just as soon as persons call to apply for the first increased pension to be made available on the 27th of this month. J. should like to thank the honorable gentleman for the help that he has given. I assure him that it has been of great benefit to the Department of Social Services, to the PostmasterGeneral, and particularly to the pensioners themselves.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that delays of eighteen months or more are taking place before applicants for war service homes can expect to have their homes commenced ? Is the Minister also aware that this delay is causing great hardship to many applicants? If these are facts, what action has the Government taken to alleviate the distress caused, and when may the many applicants expect that loans will be granted immediately on application?
– I think the honorable gentleman who asked that question must realize that it would be impracticable, and that it will continue to be impracticable for at least the next three or four years, for any person who wants a home to get it immediately he makes application. That applies equally to an ex-serviceman as to any other member of the community, unless he happens to be fairly wealthy or in fairly well-placed circumstances. I am certain that the honorable gentleman would like to know of the performances of this Government in the provision of homes for exservicemen, and I am glad that he has given me the opportunity to make that matter clear.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order !
– I know that they do not like this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is wise to make clear that this year the War Service Homes Division will make available to ex-servicemen over 11,200 homes.
Opposition Members. - Not half enough.
– The division will therefore be the biggest single homeproviding authority in Australia. The homes are provided on an ownership basis at very low rates of interest and over an extended period of time. It is obvious to ex-servicemen that they may, on application, obtain the most favorable conditions, because the number of applications has increased from 22,000 or 23,000 to 29,000 this year. That fact in itself is enough to demonstrate that exservicemen realize the great advantages that they can obtain by applying for a home to the War Service Homes Division. If the honorable gentleman desires any more information on the outstanding performance of the division, I shall be only too happy to provide him with details, including details of the number of homes provided in his own electorate.
– He is now sorry he asked the question.
– Has the Minister for the Interior been informed of a recent gallup poll, in which 75 per cent, of the people interviewed were in favour of placing on the ballot-paper the name of the political party for which a candidate is standing, while only 19 per cent, were opposed to it, and the rest were undecided ? In view of this large majority desiring this change, will the Minister ascertain whether the supposed legal difficulties cannot be overcome so as to allow this to be done?
– I did see the result of that gallup poll. I think most honorable members follow the results of gallup polls. I gather that the Opposition does not like the results of those taken recently. With regard to the poll mentioned by the honorable member, I have discussed the matter with the electoral officers, I have reached no finality at the moment, but I shall take the matter up further.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Health to amend the National Health Act? Is he aware that, if the act were amended in accordance with the public statement that he made, it would deprive war pensioners, the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and pensioners in many other categories, of benefits that they hope to receive as a result of the amendment of section 91 of the Social Services Act ? Will the Minister say whether that is his own idea, or whether the proposal came from the British Medical Association?
– All matters affecting war widows’ pensions are dealt with by the Minister for Repatriation. That has been the position, irrespective of the government in office, since World War I. The proposed amendments of the National Health Act will be dealt with very fully, I hope, when the legislation has been introduced. One reason why the amendments have been suggested is that we want to make certain that there will be no discrimination between people in this country who are entitled to pensions and those who are not.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that several aircraft manufacturers in the United States of America expect to have jet commercial aircraft in operation for trans-continental and overseas services during the next few years? Can the Minister indicate the stage that has been reached in the production arrangements for the British commercial jet aircraft, the Comet 4? Is it anticipated that the new Comet, when available, will be used by the companies which previously had been operating the earlier models of this type of aircraft? If so, does that mean that this type of aircraft will eventually be operating on the services to and from Australia?
– There appear to be three commercial-type jet airliners that may come on to the airlines of the world in the next few years. They are the Douglas Commercial 8, the Boeing 707, and the Comet 4. I understand that the
DCS went into the engineering design stage last year. The Boeing 707, which has been a military aircraft really, was released by the United States Army authorities for civil production in July of this year. Both of those aircraft will probably be available by about the end of 1959, or in 1960 - possibly a little earlier in the case of the Boeing. The aircraft will be in the 500 miles an hour class, or better. It looks as if they will cost between £2,500,000 and £3,000,000 each. As the honorable member probably is aware, the Comet 2 has been exhaustively tested. One half of the number of aircraft of that model that were built have been tested to destruction, and others have been subjected to exhaustive flying tests. The results of those tests are expected to be available early next year, and the Comet 3 - which, I assume, will embody the results of those tests - will carry out further tests in June of next year. Those tests will result in the production of the Comet 4. Three Comet 4’s are expected to be available for use by the British Overseas Airways Corporation in December, 1958, and another six aircraft about six months after that. The cost of the Comet 4 will be in the vicinity of £1,500,000. It is for the airlines operators to decide whether any of these aircraft will be used on the services between the United States and Australia and England and Australia. Assuming that certificates of airworthiness were granted by us, it would be possible for the British Overseas Airways Corporation to run Comet 4’s out to Australia ; but it may well be that the high cost of these aircraft, and the possibly high operating costs, would result in very high fares, and the travelling public may be inclined to use turbo-prop aircraft which fly at relatively slower speeds, say 350 miles per hour or 400 miles per hour. That is something that only the future will decide.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question arising from a question that he was asked yesterday by the honorable member for Griffith, concerning the cost of road transport of a public servant’s furniture from Brisbane to Darwin. Can the Minister add anything to the reply that he gave yesterday, to the effect that the allegations made by the honorable member for Griffith were not correct?
– As I said yesterday, the allegations upon which the honorable member for Griffith based his question were not true; but I called for a report and have looked into the matter in more detail, and I find that the circumstances of the case are as follows: - In the first place, of course, as all honorable gentlemen know, a public servant who is moved from one State to another is entitled to have his furniture moved at government cost. The public servant in the case to which the honorable member for Griffith referred in his question yesterday was being moved from Brisbane to Darwin, and the Department of the Interior made application to the Department of Supply, which arranges these matters, for the public servant’s furniture to be moved. The honorable member for Griffith yesterday mentioned a figure of £1,000 as -the cost of moving this public servant’s furniture. I want to tell him now that his figures are wrong. Approximately this figure covered the cost of transporting the furniture not only of Mr. Eden, the public servant concerned, but also the furniture of another person.
– Who was he?
– He is not a public servant. Apparently two lots of furniture were grouped together by the carriers, and somebody jumped to a wrong conclusion.
– Did the taxpayers have to pay for the carriage of the second person’s furniture?
– No, the taxpayers did not have to pay for that. Quotations were obtained by the department, and the quotation for door-to-door carriage of Mr. Eden’s furniture was chosen as the most economical quote for the safest method of transport. The quotation for sea transport of the furniture was £35 cheaper than the quotation for road transport, not £850 cheaper as was alleged in one newspaper. But no shipping space was available for six weeks, and to have waited for the space to be available would have involved the payment of substantial travelling allowances for Mr. Eden and his family while they were waiting in Darwin for the furniture to arrive, which would have amounted to considerably more than the difference between the cost of transport by sea, and by road. I am told that James Patrick and Company Limited, the agents for the vessel concerned, have specifically contradicted a newspaper report that space was available. I do not know whether that contradiction has been published. One newspaper report suggested that Mr. Eden was being critical of the Government. I should be surprised if that were so, because Mr. Eden himself requested that his furniture be moved by road transport, if possible, because he was vacating his home in Brisbane on a certain date.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question following on a question I asked him last month regarding rearward-facing seats in civil aircraft. He replied that by 1957 all civil aircraft in Australia would be forced to have rearward-facing seats. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that four of the seats in Viscount aircraft face to the rear. Why, in the interests of safety, could not the other seats be altered to face to the rear also?
– The configuration of the Viscount aircraft operated by Trans-Australia Airlines at present has been determined by the company. The two rearward facing seats are provided because they happen to fit into the company’s galley arrangements. The requirement for rearward facing seats applies to new aircraft types coming into this country after 1957, and not to new aircraft coming here now. The delay will enable companies like Trans-Australia Airlines, which may buy new aircraft, to instruct manufacturers to incorporate the rearward facing seats during the construction stage. The honorable member has probably heard about an accident to a British service aircraft in Darwin the other day. If rearward facing seats had not been installed in that aircraft it is most likely that a substantial number of the occupants would have been killed or severely injured. The Royal Air Force Transport Command will have nothing but rearward facing seats.
– Last week, the Minister for Labour and National Service was good enough to give me certain information in answer to a question on the unemployment problem on the northern mining fields. He intimated that he hoped to meet yesterday, with his colleague, the Minister for National Development, the representatives of the northern miners’ federation. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the meeting took place, and whether he can give the Parliament any report upon it?
– Yesterday the Minister for National Development and I met representatives from not only the northern fields but also all sections of the miners’ federation, associated unions, the Joint Coal Board and the Colliery Proprietors Association. The conference, at which there was a good deal of useful discussion, proceeded for about two and a half hours, and arranged to meet again in December. In +he meantime, my colleague has advised the interested parties that, as he is the Minister most directly concerned, he will be available in Sydney at any time that they care to discuss any further aspect with him. He came to the conclusion that the problems of the industry fell into short-term and long-term groups. At present, a certain amount of re-organization is going on inside the industry in order to improve efficiency of output and to meet the pressure of competition from both the production of residual oil and the developments that have taken place in South Australia and Victoria, especially. Those States have for some years been trying to make themselves less dependent upon New South Wales coal. The New South Wales industry has found it necessary to become more efficient and produce coal of better quality at a lower cost. The leaders of the industry are quite confident that, as they have been able, during the present year, to maintain the output of coal at earlier levels despite competition from oil, the industry will have a good future if there is a genuine effort on the part of all sections to get prices down and improve quality. They believe that the future of the industry is rendered even more promising by the steady expansion of the industry throughout the Commonwealth. As for the longterm aspect, the managements are inquiring actively into the possibilities of briquetting coal and adopting some of the latest overseas developments in production. There has been some exploration of export possibilities and also of the economics of producing oil from coal, though this does not seem to hold good prospects because of the high production cost of Australian coal. I can assure the honorable member that his interest, and that of his constituents, in this matter is very well appreciated, and that the Government, through its various departments, has been inquiring very actively into the problems of the industry. Lt is trying, with the help of the industry, to work out solutions of those problems and yesterday’s conference gave no cause for pessimism as to the future.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether, in view of the information that he has given on the results of tests made by his department of the “ super “ or high-octane petrol that is being sold at a higher price than ordinary petrol, showing that the great majority of the cars on Australian roads derive no benefit from its use, he will agree that the vast, expensive advertising campaign conducted by the oil companies in an attempt to persuade car users to buy the “ super “ grade petrol-
– What has that do with this House?
– I will come to that in a moment. Will the Minister not agree that this product is being wrongly described to the Australian people? Will he, therefore, make public the results of the tests and forward them to the State Premiers who have legislative power to act where there is a false description of goods, and in this way prevent the oil companies from charging an extra 4d. a gallon for petrol which, according to his own statement, is not warranted ?
– I do not think that the honorable member is entitled to draw those inferences from what I said. I do not know that I have much to add to what I told his leader a moment ago. People do not have to buy this petrol if they do not want to. Surely that is the answer. I shall not pass judgment as to whether oil companies or any other organizations are indulging in a wrongful advertising campaign. From one point of view, all advertising is exaggeration. We all know that. Citizens are expected to exercise intelligence, and to discriminate between various degrees of exaggeration. I promised the Leader of the Opposition that I would consider making the report available to State authorities, but the States all have large transport organizations, and surely there is wit enough within those organizations to enable them to find out the facts for themselves.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Hasluck) read a first time.
– I have received from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
The urgent necessity for action to be taken to protect from intimidation and victimisation the rank and file trade unionist in communist controlled Trade Unions who petition for properly supervised ballots in accordance with their rights under the Arbitration Act.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- It is apparent from the interjections of members of the party led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), that they do not believe in the protection from intimidation and victimization of rank-and-file trade unionists. That is an interesting admission for them to make. I have here a number of affidavits from members of the Australian Railways Union, Victorian branch, which at present is under the control of a united front composed of Mr. J. J. Brown, of the Australian Communist party and other supporters of the Evatt Labour party. I have also affidavits from members of the Builders Labourers Federation, and letters sent by the Australian Railways Union threatening to deal, either by fine or some other union action, with members who sign petitions seeking a properly controlled court ballot in those unions.
It is only a few years ago that almost every one of our key trade unions was in the hands of executives controlled by the Australian Communist party. It has only been as a result of legislation, introduced in the first instance by the Chifley Government and expanded to a certain extent by the present Government, and as a result of the work of the Australian Labour party industrial groups, that that hold has been broken. I think it is important to remind the House that the principle of the arbitration court’s controlling a ballot in order to prevent fraud was a principle that was established by the Government that was led by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is too much audible conversation.
– All that the present Government did was to expand that legislation so that instead of the executive of a union applying for a court-controlled ballot, a certain number of the rank and file could petition for the holding of such a ballot.
– That is the whole essence of the legislation.
– No. The main principle was established by the Chifley Government as the result of representations from the industrial groups who wished to prevent fraud taking place for the purpose of preserving Communist control of key trade unions. It is interesting to remember that when this Government extended that legislation, it was vigorously opposed by most honorable members who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton.
– The honorable member opposed it.
– I did not. It is interesting to note that position. The legislation was described, during the course of the debate in this House, as fascist legislation and as an attempt to destroy trade unionism.
– Hear, hear!
– I should like to ask the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) and any other honorable members just what objection they could possibly have to the rank and file of trade unions being given a vote in an election, properly controlled by an independent returning officer, so as to prevent fraud. What objection could be taken to such legislation? There is only one group of people who could oppose the holding of a ballot, properly controlled by an independent government returning officer, and that is those who have a vested interest in keeping the crookedness going. Ever since this legislation was first introduced there has been opposition to it in this House. Of course, once it was passed, most genuine trade unionists accepted the legislation, and many of them used it. But a continuous campaign of intimidation has been conducted by Communists and various others in trade unions to try to prevent that legislation from being used. Unfortunately, a vast number of union secretaries are not only overworked but also underpaid, and some union secretaries - very few in number - can only be termed racketeers. They have joined the Communist opposition to this legislation.
I shall quote one instance. I read from a judgment by Mr. Justice Dunphy in relation to the action of the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union, Mr. Barney Clapp, who is a member of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. He is one of the small, select group that guard the citadel of socialism from the defiling hands of the members in this corner of the House. He is one of those who are giving out the new dispensation on behalf of the party of the right honorable member for Barton. He is one of the shining examples of the doctrine of socialism, “ from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs “. He is one of the small group of twelve who now control the destiny of the party that is led by the right honorable member for Barton. The judgment to which I have referred reads as follows : -
At this stage, therefore, upon uncontradicted and apparently undeniable evidence, we have the situation that the respondent Patt, the Federal President of the Union and the SecretaryTreasurer of its New South Wales Branch, assisted the Committee of Management of the Branch, of which Committee he was a member, to arrive at a decision to send Union Motor Vehicles for repair and maintenance to a garage of which he and a female office associate were undisclosed joint owners.
The judgment continued -
Early in 1953, long before the Group was re-formed. Mr. Carl ing, then the Assistant Secretary of the T.W.U. and a previous supporter of Mr. Platt, began proceedings in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court following his discovery that Mr. Piatt and his senior Clerk, Miss P. Herbert, were secretly the joint owners of the garage at which the Union’s cars were repaired and, on occasion, sold. Mr. Carling sought to have Mr. Piatt directed to account to the Union for the secret profits which had accrued to him from these transactions.
There we have the new dispensation of socialism - the unity of labour is the hope of the world, provided Barney Piatt gets his cut. It is the type of person that I have just mentioned that has joined with the Communist party in an attempt to prevent, by intimidation or any other method, people from seeking the advantage of legislation which was introduced by the Chifley Government to enable the rank and file of workers to control their own trade unions. Let us hear, further, why it is that Piatt and his friends on the federal executive of the Australian Labour party are opposed to clean ballots, and why they fight by every means possible, and join with members of the Communist party, against clean ballots. I shall quote from propaganda issued, not by my party, but by the New South Wales executive of the party to which many members on this side of the House belong. According to this pamphlet, Mr. Justice de Baun said -
During the course of this inquiry, Mr. Piatt, as Secretary of the Union, produced to the court to substantiate his case from his own custody a complete set of forged and faked documents including forged receipts for Union subscriptions, membership cards, application forms, &c - going far beyond those previously shown to the returning officer and scrutineers - to substantiate the eligibility of his five supporters.
The pamphlet went on to say -
Mr. Justice de Baun found in this case (which he described as the worst case of fraud and forgery in Union affairs in the history of the Industrial Commission ) to be characterized by wholesale systematic forging and faking of Union records, which, in subsequently ordering a fresh election, led him to state that “ the Union has suffered grievously and it is vital for its good name and for the conduct of its business in the future that its management is placed in the hands of men beyond reproach “.
He ordered a fresh election to be held because of the way in which the union has suffered grievously at the hands of Mr. Piatt. Therefore, we have a picture of opposition to properly controlled court ballots. We have a picture of opposition to the rank and file being given the opportunity to govern their own affairs in their own trade unions. We have the “ Corns “ on the one hand and the crooks on the other. It is a sad day for the Labour movement in general that one of these crooks now occupies a governing position in the Australian Labour party as a member of the federal executive. I can produce evidence in relation to that statement, which has been issued by the executive that most of the members who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton support. I ask the good, honest Labour supporters in the community whether they think that a Labour movement, pledged to the ideals to which it is pledged, and talking about freedom, justice and decency, is likely to be led to success under the leadership of a man of the type that I have mentioned. Of course, it will not, and there will be a re-awakening.
Let me now turn to the present and discuss how the Communists are taking advantage of the existing situation in order to retain control. First of all, the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, of which Mr. Piatt is such a distinguished member, says that the industrial groups - he was not a member on the date that the groups were considered - the only force fighting against the Communist party in the trade unions, are now to be dissolved. Having done their best to destroy the groups, they are busy with intimidation designed to prevent rankandfile members from using the legislative methods available in order to prevent the Communist control of trade unions. They are being assisted as a result of the decision made by the Victorian executive of the party led by the right honorable member for Barton, which met last Friday night, in which it declared officially that members of the party could stand on the joint unity ticket with members of the Communist party. Does the New South Wales branch of the party subscribe to that decision? The Victorian executive of the party led by the right honorable gentleman decided last Friday night to enable Communists to stand on a ticket with members of his party, and vice versa. Everybody knows, of course, that “ Corns “ standing on their own ticket in a union election properly controlled have not a chance of winning the election, but “ Corns “ standing on a ticket supported
Mr. J. R. Fraser interjecting,
– “Corns” standing on a ticket supported by the party to which the honorable member who is interjecting belongs are able, by using a Labour cloak, to succeed in elections. No matter how they may try to escape from the fact, their party has decided that its members can stand with members of the Communist party on joint unity tickets and they, in turn, can stand on the Communist ticket where that ticket is so arranged.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Apparently, the members of the official Opposition do not like it. I understand that they are opposed to the practice. But the simple fact is that it is being followed. What do they propose to do about it? Do they intend to sit silent in the face of these things and give consent by their silence? It is quite obvious that they intend to sit silent and be dragged at the heels of the Communist party while the Communists obtain control of the key trade unions. As a result, the position in which a few Communists had control of the key trade unions in the community will shortly be restored.
As a further instance of what is going on, we have only to refer to the meeting called by Mr. Matthews, who is a prominent member of the Cain-Evatt combination in Victoria. He and Taylor and Gillies, all known Communists, sat with others in a joint meeting at which the Cain-Evatt members decided on unity with the Communist party in order to get rid of the industrial groupers in the
Ironworkers Union. Mr. J. J. Brown was elected in the Victorian Railways Union elections as a result of a unity ticket. One of the first things that those on the Cain-Evatt unity ticket decided to do when J. J. Brown won, was to threaten any member who attempted to petition the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a properly controlled ballot for the appointment of delegates to the annual conference which is shortly to take place. One member has been threatened. He will be fined £5, and industrial action will be taken against him. Others have been bashed and threatened. That is the sort of thing that is going on, supported by the party led by the right honorable member for Barton. That is the sort of thing that we are told the Australian Labour party should support. In other words, the members of that party, by their support of the unity ticket, support the Platts, the frauds, and the crookedness, the bashings and the intimidation.
I should like the honorable members of the Evatt party to explain to the people of Australia the reasons for their objection to a properly controlled court ballot. Why do they object to a responsible government official controlling a trade union ballot so that every rank and file member of a union will know full well that his vote has not been tampered with, and that proper expression will be given to the will of the rank and file as a result ? Anybody who opposes a proper ballot supports those who attempt to gain control of these trade unions by fraud and crookedness. These people who join with the “ Corns “ in opposing this particular matter can give no other reason. This Government has an urgent responsibility to protect the people, whose affidavits regarding threats and bashings I have here, and which I shall be only too pleased to give to the Minister in order that the rank and file of trade unionists in this country will be protected in their attempts to get the right to control their own trade unions by a properly controlled ballot.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
[3.361. - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who is the deputy leader of the
Anti-Communist Labour party, has brought forward a proposal which in substance points out the necessity for action to be taken, presumably by this Parliament and the Government, to protect from intimidation and victimization the rank-and-file trade unionists in Communistcontrolled trade unions who petition for property supervised ballots in accordance with their rights under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I was glad to hear the honorable gentleman say that he will make available the information which is in his possession, because one of the great difficulties in dealing with a problem of the kind he has mentioned is to get from those who may have been affected by threatening or intimidatory tactics some statements of fact on which action can be based. A man in one of the unions under Communist control realizes that he takes a very real risk if he puts himself forward as one not merely critical of action taken but also one who is calling upon a government, perhaps a government of a different political complexion from that which he would normally support, to protect him from what is occurring inside the anion.
I have had a look at the legislation which bears on this matter and I am not certain whether we have fully covered the kind of situation outlined by the honorable gentleman in the legislation of this Parliament. There may be some provision under the Crimes Act, which I have not yet been able to explore, but we have taken some action already in relation to intimidatory tactics where an election has been decided upon. If the honorable gentleman cares to refer to section 96n (2.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. he will find that it is an offence in, or in connexion with an election of the kind that we have provided by that legislation, to threaten, offer or suggest any violence, injury, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage in order to induce any candidate to withdraw his candidature, any vote or omission to vote, any support or opposition to any candidate, or any promise of any vote, or opposition and so forth; and in sub-section (b) of that section, to use, cause, inflict or procure any violence, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage for or on account of any such candidature, and so on. The penalty is £100, or imprisonment for twelve months, or both. So it will be seen that we as a Parliament have already made provision against intimidatory tactics winning elections. But the kind of case which I gather has been put to us to-day by the honorable gentleman is where there may be rank-and-file members of a union who feel that a ballot in terms of the legislation passed in this Parliament is desirable but who, because of threats or intimidation directed against them, are not disposed to petition for such an election. We must inquire more carefully whether protection is needed in those cases. I believe it is within the knowledge of all of us that these things occur. It is certainly within our knowledge that, from time to time, particularly in unions under Communist leadership, resolutions are passed declaring as a matter of policy that members shall not resort to the ballot as provided for in our legislation. It is common knowledge, also, within the industrial movement, that those members of unions under this kind of leadership who are prepared to press for a ballot subject themselves to serious risks. I must say to the honorable member for Yarra and to the House as a whole that it says a great deal for the courage and spirit of the rank-and-file members of our trade unions that, despite these obvious dangers to which they subject themselves, there has been no lack of determination in pressing for their rights under the legislation introduced by this Government in 1951.
– They have no option.
– I do not know what the honorable gentleman means. Of course, they have an option to accept or refuse the kind of election that their office bearers force upon them. The only way that they can avoid it, if they feel that the election will not be honest, is to take advantage of the provisions of the legislation introduced by this Government and carried in the teeth of the bitter opposition of members such as the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). The language to which the honorable member for Yarra referred is very fresh in my own recollection because I was the Minister who had to pilot the 1951 measure through this House. At that time, we were told that we were trying to destroy the Australian trade union movement, that we were trying to tame-cat the unions and that this was fascist legislation. The experience of the years for which that legislation has operated demonstrates that rank-and-file unionists throughout Australia have gladly seized the opportunity this Government gave them of having a democratic vote to decide who should hold office in the union.
In the relatively short period since the legislation was enacted in 1951, there have been no fewer than 111 applications for officially conducted elections. Of these, 87 applications have been granted, and 87 elections have been conducted under the provisions of the measure introduced by the present Government. In addition, there are the provisions of the measure introduced by the Chifley Government, to which the honorable member for Yarra referred. Dp to the Srd October of this year, there have been 29 applications made under those provisions, most of them, if my recollection is correct, having been made before the 1951 measure came into force. Even in this year, the provisions of the 1951 act have been availed of as much as ever. There have been 27 applications during 1955 for officially conducted ballots under the provisions of that measure, and two applications concerning alleged irregularities made under the legislation introduced by the Chifley Government.
The honorable member for Yarra referred to a very significant development. The Communists found themselves seriously handicapped by this Government’s legislation. In union after union, they were swept from office. Even where they were able to retain office, the knowledge that, if they did not conduct themselves in a manner that commended itself to the rank-and-file members of the union, the secret ballot weapon was there to discipline them and, if need be, to remove them from office, has had an important deterrent effect upon Communist leadership. As a consequence, the Communists, being men of some subtlety and considerable guile in these matters, have decided that, if they are to return to the positions of power that they held formerly, they must not present themselves in their own guise directly to the members of the union as Communist candidates, and therefore they have evolved the technique of the unity ticket. They try to drag around themselves the cloak of respectability that comes from their association with recognized members of the Australian Labour party. Certain members of the Australian Labour party, far from being alert to the significance of this move, or, as I suspect, because they no longer have anything to fear from association with the Communists and in fact welcome the electoral support that that association may bring them, happily associate with the Communists on the socalled unity ticket. The most recent development is that, in Victoria, the State executive of the Australian Labour party, in effect, has given its blessing to this kind of process. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the New South Wales State executive of the party, which, until now at any rate, has strongly resisted developments of this kind.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I should like to give the House an illustration of what is happening in one of the key industrial unions - the Federated Ironworkers Association, which, in earlier years, was one of the strongest bulwarks of Communist domination. Under Ernest Thornton, and those associated with him, there were Communists in office throughout that union. Indeed, it is remarkable to be able to record that, as a result of the secret ballot provisions of the 1951 legislation introduced by this Government, approximately 200 Communist officials were removed from the central executive and the various branches of that union alone. There is now a strong and determined move by the Communists to get back into office in the union. I have in my hand one of the most recent issues - that of the 5th October - of the Communist newspaper, the Tribune. It contains an article occupying more than half a page, written by Ernest Thornton and entitled “ Unity in the Ironworkers Union “. Thornton emphasizes what all of us who have been following developments closely have known for a long time - the manner in which the unity ticket is employed by the Communists in order to win back control of the unions. In the article, which appears at page 5, Thornton writes, among other things - . to-day united anti-group tickets-
L emphasize the words “ anti-group tickets “, which include every one allied against those who oppose communism - ure being worked out in every britnell of the union in preparation for the coming union elections, and no one can say that the Communists are in a dominant position on any of them.
This is the old Communist trick of infiltrating and then, by activity, and greater skill perhaps, winning a dominant position from the process of infiltration. Thornton adds -
We Communists work to build and strengthen the Labour Movement; a stronger Ironworkers Union means a stronger Labour Movement.
That is a very different story from the one that the Communists told a few years ago when they thought they would be strong enough to stand on their own. They know that the only strength they can enjoy now is the strength that they may gain from association with the Australian Labour party. They can enjoy strength in association with the Australian Labour party only if the leader of that party in this Parliament, and the executives of the party in the various States, willingly associate themselves with the purposes that the Communists have in mind. The honorable member for Yarra, by highlighting what is happening throughout Australia at the present time, should alert every loyal trade unionist to developments in the midst of the unions and should make unionists realize how the once great political movement to which they almost automatically gave their allegiance is being perverted by those who either are blind to the danger or willingly ally themselves with the Communists and allow them again to resume their position of dominance in the industrial movement.
Mr. E. JAMES HARBISON (Blaxland) f 3.50] . - It is not surprising to honorable members on this side of the House to find the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) standing side by side with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). I am conscious, as I feel sure other honorable mem bers sitting behind me are conscious, to-day of the fact that an important article was written recently which stated that if the Minister continued to support the honorable member for Yarra in these matters, he would destroy this Government in the process. If he does so, we, naturally, shall be happy about it.
The honorable member for Yarra has talked about Piatt. Why did he not tell us about Clark, this great trade unionist whom the groups threw up in Victoria from the Waterside Workers Federation, who to-day is doing two years for pinching the workers’ money? Are the.-e the type of people whom the honorable member for Yarra and this Minister want to throw up in the trade union movement? If they are, I want to say, on behalf of the trade union movement, that we have had enough of this type of person in this great movement. Those of us who are “ fair dinkum “ in the Australian Labour party set out to clean the Communists out of the unions. The fact that the honorable members who now form the corner group are in that place shows that they were never “ fair dinkum. “ with the Australian Labour party. We engaged in a vigorous fight against the Communist party. The honorable member for Yarra talks about dividing us into two groups. He talks about the “Corns” and the crooks. How true! The “Corns”, on the one hand, have always been fought by the Labour party. As a consequence of these crooks in the groups, the Labour party had to take the same action against them as against the “ Corns “.
– Order ! Did the honorable member refer to honorable members of the Anti-Communist Labour party as crooks?
– I am not referring to the members of the AntiCommunist Labour party. What I said was that when the honorable member for Yarra talks about “ Corns “ and crooks in the trade union movement, he talks about two sections. On the one hand, we had the “Corns” to fight and throw out; and in this group organization was a bunch of crooks who, in many instances, were worse than “ Corns “. They were traitors to the trade union movement itself. The honorable member for Yarra, who throws up the name of Clark, must realize that this great trade union movement is determined to get rid of the Clarks, just as it got rid of the Thorntons and others from the trade unions and Australian Labour party branches throughout Australia. The honorable member for Yarra plays up a question, and then does not speak of it at all. The Minister also ran round that question. The honorable member for Yarra knows perfectly well that under section 73 of the act, there is power to deal with anybody who attempts to interfere with ballots in this country. That power has existed since 1928. Neither the honorable member for Yarra nor the Minister wants to deal with the subject before the House. They prefer to use it as a cloak for the crimes committed in the trade union movement, and they run in unison to-day in an endeavour to continue those crimes that were committed against a great organization.
Let me make the position clear. This very legislation which tbe Minister wants to bolster now, this very legislation which is supported by the honorable member for Yarra, was opposed, at the thirdreading stage on the 5th July, by every member of the honorable member for Yarra’s party. That is on record, if the Minister and the honorable member for Yarra care to have a look at it. To-day, for political purposes, he attempts-
Government members interjecting,
– It is there, if honorable members want to have a look at it. Let me remind the honorable member for Yarra, who obviously knows nothing about trade union organization, about another point. It is obvious that the honorable member for Yarra does not know that the secretary of the Victorian branch of his own party was at an Australian Council of Trades Unions congress recently. He was Mr. McManus, and when the motion was submitted for a return to the Chifley legislation for the control of trade union ballots in Australia, McManus did not vote against it.
– That is not true.
– That is on the record.
– That is not true. The decision was on the voices. It is just not true.
– The difference between McManus and the honorable member for Yarra is that McManus had to stand up to his obligations amongst trade unionists. The honorable member for Yarra thinks he can get some cheap publicity for the party of which he is deputy leader in this plac by bringing up things that cannot be answered by the trade union movement unless they have representatives in this House.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
I ask the House to come to order.
– It was resolved by the Australian Council of Trades Unions congress of 647 trade union delegates, including Mr. McManus, Mr. Mains, and all the rest of the trade union people who come from the same section as the group in the corner here. They did not have the courage, if we can believe what the honorable member for Yarra says, to rise in their places and oppose the recommendation that we return to the Chifley Government’s form of control of trade union ballots. The honorable member for Yarra attempts to smear the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), but I remind him that neither McManus, Mains nor any of the rest of them had the courage to divide the great trade union movement on the question that the Australian Council of Trades Unions pledge full support to the leader of the Australian Labour party, Dr. H. V. Evatt. Now that honorable member comes into this chamber and attempts to besmirch the trade union movement and the people who work in it.
– I rise to order. There was no attempt to besmirch the trade union movement. We drew attention to the crooks who were battening on the trade union movement.
– While the honorable member for Yarra is throwing up Clark and all the rest of them, why does he not, if he is fair in his examination of what is happening, tell us about what happened in connexion with the ballot for the Clerks Union in
New South Wales? Why does he 11Ot tell us what happened with respect to thu Miscellaneous Workers Union ballot in New South Wales? There is not sufficient time at this stage for me to tell the story here, but I am prepared to debate with either the honorable member for Yarra or the Minister in any place he cares to choose, what happened as a consequence of those decisions.
– I rise to order. The subject of this debate relates to two matters. One is the threats against the unionists who propose to use the legislation relating to the control of ballots for a particular purpose, and the second is the technique in which members of the Australian Labour party and Communists propose to use membership tickets for the control of ballots.
M:r. DEPUTY SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member for Blaxland must confine his remarks to activities within the unions.
– Now let us have a look at the elections. The honorable member for Yarra spoke about the election of Brown to the Australian Railways Union, but he was not f auto the House. Why did he not tell us that, in the same election, an organizer of the Australian Railways Union in Victoria, who was a group supporter, was re-elected with a very fine majority. He was re-elected because he had rendered service to the trade unions. The trade unionists of this country are determined to select their representatives in their own way. They are determined to select the men who are most capable of getting for them the conditions they deserve in this country. Never again will they bend the knee to allow the employers to select for them, through any form of group organization, the type of people who are to represent the trade union movement in Australia. When the honorable member for Yarra talks about the “ Corns “ and the group tickets, he casts a slur upon the capacity of trade unionists to select the type of person to represent them in any sphere. As one who has always been opposed to Communists, and equally opposed to groups, I can say that, because of this attitude, we have not one paid officer in the Australian Federated Union of Loco motive Enginemen anywhere in Australia who is either a “ Com “ or a grouper. That is the position that will obtain as a result of the decision of the Australian Labour party in connexion with their ballots. If the Liberals are so keen on group ballots, why do they not set up a Liberal group? In point of fact, they did; and that is why the Australian Labour party took the course it did. It took that action because the groups that were set up in many instances were boss-created groups.
Government supporters interjecting,
– They were groups that took unto themselves the right to run the affairs of the unions. I finish on this note: The day has gone now when the trade unionists of this country will allow themselves to be told either by the Minister or by the honorable member for Yarra whom they are to elect to office in the great trade union movement of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It was very distressing to hear the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) speaking in the way he did about a man named Clark, who was at one stage secretary of the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation. I know this man Clark, and his wife and family. He committed the unpardonable offence, apparently, of being a grouper. He won his way into the position of branch secretary of that union, in the process defeating Communists and helping to get rid of them, but he did that on the industrial group ticket, and therefore in the eyes of the honorable member for Blaxland, and other persons like him, no stick is big enough to use to belt him. Because he was weak, he apparently took some money that belonged to the union.
– How much?
– I do not know how much. He is now in gaol and is paying the penalty for his weakness. I suppose we all have weaknesses of some sort. The honorable member for Curtin may have some weakness.
– In the head.
– ,1 rise to order. The honorable member made reference to the honorable member for Curtin. I am the honorable member for Curtin, and I am certain that he is not referring to me.
– I apologize. I meant the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who was interjecting.
– I did not take any money.
– I am not suggesting that the honorable member took any money. This man Clark, because of his weakness, took some money belonging to his union, and he is paying the penalty. It is most disgraceful and degrading to hear the honorable member for Blaxland gloating because a man has gone to gaol, and because the law is exacting its penalty for his transgression. The honorable member would not be gloating were it not for the fact that this man was an industrial grouper. Because he assisted the industrial groups in fighting to get rid of Communists from his union, persons like the honorable member for Blaxland parade his fall from grace to the world. The honorable member spoke about the fact that this man had gone to gaol in the same terms as we read in the Communist press. But what did he have to say about Mr. Piatt?
– Not a word!
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) read one of the most astounding and disgusting stories of events that are degrading unionism in this country, because men like Piatt gain office in unions and prostitute their positions. This man Piatt was carrying on a secret business and being a capitalist under the lap. He was drawing substantial dividends and profits for himself from that undercover business, and he has now been elected to a senior and responsible position in the Labour movement.
– Is he still secretary of the union?
– Not merely is he still in the union, but he is also a member of the federal executive.
– He is not. Why does the honorable member not tell the truth?
– This man Piatt engaged in these astonishing activities, but this sort of behaviour is commonplace among some of the pseudoradicals who voice great radical thoughts but carry on in that way and indulge in such despicable frauds in union elections as those that were mentioned in the court proceedings. What does the honorable member for Blaxland have to say about him? He said not a single word of condemnation, because that is the sort of man with whom the honorable member for Blaxland and his colleagues associate, and whom they support. What did he have to say about another big boss who is running the Labour party, Mr. Tom Dougherty, the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union? Mr. Tom Dougherty is apparently able to flout with complete immunity the executive of the New South Wales branch of the Labour party. He is able to do as he likes, make public statements attacking his colleagues in the Labour party, tear up the rules of the party, go into other States and attack their Labour executives, and say that he will destroy the Gair Labour Government in Queensland. He is able to do all these things and get away with them. I say that Mr. Dougherty and men of his ilk are a disgrace to the trade union movement. Like Mr. Piatt, whose deeds have been mentioned here, he is prostituting unionism in this country. Mr. Dougherty regards himself as above and beyond any ordinary citizens of the community. I remember that a year or so ago this Mr. Dougherty, the big union boss, was charged with a traffic offence, something which is likely to happen to anybody, and his name was called in the court of a country town in New South Wales. He did not appear to answer the charge as any ordinary citizen, any unionist, any member of Parliament, or any other member of the community would have done. The police prosecutor at the court announced that he had received instructions from higher quarters that this prosecution was not to be proceeded with, that it had to be withdrawn because it was Mr. Dougherty who was involved.
– Above- the law !
- Mr. Dougherty had apparently seen the powers that be in New South Wales, and they had ordered the withdrawal of the prosecution. There was one law for the ordinary citizen and another for Mr. Dougherty, because he was secretary of the Australian Workers Union. That is the sort of man who is running the Labour party now. We did not hear the honorable member for Blaxland say anything about Mr. Dougherty, or about the astonishing position that has developed in Victoria within the last couple of days. Since the charter of the industrial groups has been withdrawn in Victoria, we have seen the practical effect of this “ new order “, this new character assumed by the Australian Labour party, whereby it has, in effect, given up the fight against communism, la the recent ballot for officers of the Australian Railways. Union, a unity ticket was issued combining the names of Evatt Labour supporters and Communists, and that unity ticket was successful, although, it was contrary to all the rules of the old Australian Labour party. In order formally to legalize this extraordinary position, a new rule was introduced last Friday night by the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party. Mr. Tripovich, the secretary of the Evatt section of the Labour party in Victoria, is reported in the Melbourne Herald, of the 8th October, 1955, as having said -
But a man. would not be expelled merely because his name appeared on the same union ticket as a Communist. He might lie still one of the staunchest supporters of the party, and it would not be just to expel him.
What an astounding position! A man might still be one of the staunchest supporters of the Labour party while his name appears on the same union ticket as a Communist. Here is absolute and final evidence of the complete change of character of the Evatt Labour party, particularly in Victoria. At one time, one of the fundamental principles of the Labour party in Victoria was firm and uncompromising opposition to communism and to Communists in trade unions. Now the tide has turned completely. Unity tickets are now the rule, and there is complete official confirmation of the fact that one can be a good Labour man in this new Evatt Labour party, this Stout
Labour party, and still have his. name appearing on the same ticket as Communists. What is the effect of that? The name of the Australian Labour party is being lent to the Communists to enable them to get back into the unions and to gain control again. We are now witnessing what may be one of the historic changes in the political development of this country, because nakedly and unashamedly the official secretary of the Victorian branch of the Evatt Labour party is putting forth publicly, and gloating about the fact, that the name of a Labour man can now appear on the same ticket with the name of a Communist in a union election. This is a new era in the history of the Labour party. That is the Evatt Labour party’s new character.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - I am not going-
– I rise to order. I draw attention to the fact that so far in this debate we have heard four anti-Labour speakers and one Labour speaker. When I rose to my feet to get the call, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you called another antiLabour member. I ask you to give a ruling on this matter.
– Order ! As the honorable member for Mackellar was the only person to rise, I called him.
– I should be glad to defer to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), if he would like me to speak after him.
– Order ! The honorable member for Mackellar will proceed.
– I am not going into the details of the trade unions, which have been dealt with by honorable, members on both sides of the House. All I can say is that so much dirty linen is being washed in the House by the members of the Labour party that they should all be members of a laundrymen’s union.
There is a serious side to this debate. The most serious thing is the attitude of the left wing of the Labour party, which goes under the. leadership of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), to this proposal. One would have thought that the members of the left wing would support every word of it. Is there anything in it which contravenes true Labour principles? It is a move against intimidation, a move against victimization, a move for properly supervised ballots and a move to allow people to exercise their rights under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. What is wrong with that from the viewpoint of any pure Labour principle?
The most distressing thing of all was that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) engaged in a tirade of abuse, as though he had received a personal insult, because somebody brought forward this unexceptional proposal. I do not believe - in fact, I have every reason not to believe it - that the honorable member for Blaxland is a Communist. I do not believe that he is. The distressing thing is that this is an example of how well-meaning people are used by the Communist party. It was Communist propaganda that fell from his lips, even though I know he is not a Communist. If this Communist propaganda is strong enough to deceive and control the mind, even of the honorable member for Blaxland, we must consider the way it works in the trade unions, of one of which I believe he is still an official.
The Communists say, “ We are going to keep in the trade unions “. Think of what Lenin said in Left Wing Communism, which was repeated with approval by Stalin in Foundations of Leninism, the text-book of the Communist party. The Communists say that it is necessary for them to get into the trade unions at all costs and to resort to every fraud and stratagem to remain in them, to control them and to carry out party work inside them. It is because the Communists work in that way that it has been necessary to take measures against them.
If this is an anti-Communist proposal, is that any reason why the left wing of the Labour party should not support it? I fear now that it is. How do the Communists go to work inside the trade unions? They do it, first, by concealing the fact that they are Communists. They come forward as progressives, as people who are out for the genuine good of the trade union members, whilst all the time they are under the discipline and the orders of a centrally directed Communist, minority. If they can get on a unity ticket, that helps them. They try to get the imprimatur of the Labour party. They try to get the Labour party to accept them, help them and co-operate with them. But while they are going on with their mealy mouthed hypocrisy and while they are saying that they are looking after the interests of the members of the trade unions, they are really looking after the interests of imperialist Russia and the Communist party.
It is a great loss to the anti-Communist cause that the resolution referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) has been adopted by the Victorian Labour party. The Communists get into the trade unions by assiduous organization, by attending meetings, by always being there, while the lackadaisical trade unionists are at home. It is a great blot on the trade union movement that so many resolutions which bind the whole of an organization are passed when only a tiny minority is present.
Then the Communists get there by fraud, by getting somebody who is, not nominally, but actually a Communist, elected as a returning officer. He proceeds to miscount the votes, to destroy ballot-papers and to falsify elections by all the numerous means with which honorable members opposite are so intimately familiar. We need not look for any outside evidence of the fact that fraud is practised in trade union elections. The evidence comes from the trade unions themselves. It is their own evidence. They stand self-confessed. It is in that kind of whirl of corruption that the Communist finds his most fruitful field. When a returning officer is a crook and a Communist, it becomes impossible for the rank and file to express a genuine opinion against communism, because the ballots are crooked. There is no way of retrieving the position when the votes are counted by a crook, because every vote to put a Communist out of office is counted by a Communist crook. There is no way of putting the Communists out of office except by a ballot properly controlled or supervised by an officer of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is known by every honest trade unionist. Those who oppose court-controlled ballots, those who try to keep a Communist crook in power, are playing the game of communism.
It is a dangerous game. The Communists are out to control the trade unions because they are a source of power. This is how minority politics work. A little Communist gang, by careful organization, gets control of a trade union by attending meetings at which perhaps only 5 per cent, or even fewer of the members are present. They get control by their assiduity. Ordinary trade union members, by their complacency - by their guilty complacency, I feel - have allowed that to happen. Then, through the trade unions, the Communists control the Labour party, which is the official Opposition in this House. The Labour party, as its constitution states, is very largely the creature of the trade unions. This little minority then uses the bigger minority, the trade unions, in order to control the bigger group, the Labour party in this House, and sometimes the politics of this country, when Labour happens to be in office.
Do you wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Communists take that trouble? If there is intimidation or victimization going on, surely this House should reprimand it. Surely anybody who stands against this proposal stands as a friend of the Communists, because there is nothing in it to which even the most pure Labour man could take exception. Are honorable members opposite in favour of intimidation? Are they in favour of victimization? Are they in favour of communism? Do they not think that the workers should have their rights under the law? Support this proposal! Do not do as the honorable member for Blaxland did, and be deceived into hysterical denunciation.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- First, I wish to express my very great astonishment that the Standing Orders of the House could be used in the manner in which they have been used this afternoon. I desire to bring under your notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the nature of the proposal submitted to the House for discussion by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). The honorable member’s proposal reads -
The urgent necessity for action to be taken to protect from intimidation and victimization the rank-and-file trade unionists in Communistcontrolled trade unions, who petition for properly supervised ballots in accordance with their rights under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
I ask honorable members on all sides of the House to what extent has the debate on this question been directed to the matter proposed by the honorable member for Yarra for discussion. All I can see coming from the debate is, first, that an attack has been made on the Australian Labour party, and that an attack has been made on the leader of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Yarra spent most of his speaking time attacking an official of the Transport Workers Union, Mr. Piatt, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) spent most of his time in attacking Mr. Dougherty, of the Australian Workers Union. I simply point out to the House that neither of the two unions mentioned is under Communist control. The fact is that almost everything except the proposal now before the Chair has been discussed so far. As a matter of fact, there is no need for the discussion of such a proposal, because section 96n of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act already gives ample protection in respect of the intimidation or victimization of any one in connexion with a trade union election. So one can only say that the proposal has been submitted to the House purely for the express purpose of providing a means to attack the Australian Labour party. It is just as well for the House to know the history of section 96sr of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which is involved, by implication, in the matter we are now discussing. In the first place, sections 96a to 96l of the act were introduced by Mr. Chifley as a consequence of discussions and negotiations with the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I was one of the people who participated in the negotiations and agreed to the amendment of the act in order to overcome certain irregularities that were taking place in trade union ballots, and I want to say frankly that those irregularities were not confined solely to Communistcontrolled trade unions. Irregularities were also occurring in connexion with ballots that were not controlled hy Communists, and we, as the Australian Council of Trades Unions, decided that it was essential that the rank and file should have every protection against possible irregularities in trade union ballots, no matter who controlled a particular trade union. For that reason the official spokesman of the Australian Council of Trades Unions agreed with Mr. Chifley that the necessary legislation should be passed. Now we come to the amendments made in 1951, which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) introduced. Sections 96m and 96n were added to the act in that year. We on this side of the House opposed the amending bill, and when the division on the second reading was taken all of the honorable gentlemen who now constitute the centre party on the corner benches voted, as the division list shows, against the insertion of section 96m and section 96n in the act. We opposed their insertion for the reason that we believed that it was wrong for any interference to take place in connexion with the internal management of trade unions. I believe that it is a sound principle that trade unions should be permitted within the confines of the legislation protecting the interests of their members, to carry on their own administration without constant interference either from governments or from anybody else. Members of the parties now in office uphold a similar principle, because they claim that industry and commerce should be interfered with as little as possible by government. So our adherence to the belief that trade unions should have a similar freedom from interference is merely the application of a principle for which Government supporters also stand.
As far as the question of Mr. Piatt, of the Transport Workers Union, is concerned, there are two sides to Mr. Piatt’s case. There was a law case in New South Wales concerning that trade union, but there was also an inquiry by the trade union itself into the particular matter. A member of the executive of the party to which the honorable member for Yarra belongs is the general secretary of the Transport Workers Union. I want to know from the honorable member for Yarra what that member of his own party has done to see that the person to whom the honorable member for Yarra has referred has been properly disciplined. I further say to the honorable member for Yarra that Mr. Piatt is not a member of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. The New South Wales members of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party are, I understand, Messrs. Campbell and Colbourne. Mr. Piatt has nothing whatever to do with the federal executive. I want to go a little further and say that the principle of preventing victimization must be applied to both sides. I want to say, as a member of the Labour party in Victoria, that people who belong to the same group and the same party to which the honorable member for Yarra belongs, have, in effect, intimidated me, and attempted to intimidate me, because of the stand I have taken in connexion with the affairs of the Australian Labour party in Victoria. If people are to be saved from victimization and intimidation from one section of the community, the principle has to be applied by every section of the community, in order to ensure that intimidation and victimization will not take place in respect of persons with whom other persons may be in disagreement.
I was sorry to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service himself falling victim to Communist propaganda. This afternoon he quoted to the House certain extracts from the Communist party’s journal. I have heard the Minister, and others on the Government side, warn everybody against propaganda disseminated by the Communist party, pointing out that it is full of falsehoods, distortions, exaggerations and so on, and is not to be trusted. But when it suits the purposes of the Minister for Labour and National Service to use propaganda issued by the Communist party, in order to besmirch the Labour party, he does so, and I think that that is entirely wrong.
– What has the honorable member to say about Thornton?
– All I know about Mr. Thornton is that if Mr. Thornton oan turn and twist a thing to suit his purposes he will do it. If he can mislead he will do it, and if he can use any means whatsoever, devious or otherwise, in order to secure an advantage, he will use them. The propaganda disseminated by means of the Communist party’s journal, Tribune, is directed to Communist ends. I do not think that there is anybody, certainly on the Labour side of the House, and I do not think on the Government side of the House either, who will deny that right throughout my period of service in the trade union movement I fought Communists in every direction. I know the means the Communist use, I know their tactics, I know the nature of their propaganda, and I know the organization of the Communist party. We on this side of the House have constantly fought that organization, because we believe that the principles for which it stands are against the best interests of the people of
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
(No. 2) 1955.
In committee: Debate resumed from the 11th October (vide page 1471).
Clause 1 - (1.) This Act may be cited as the Social Services Act (No. 2) 1955. (2.) The Social Services Act 1947-1954, as amended by the Social Services Act 1955, is in this Act referred to as the Principal Act. (3.) Section one of the Social Services Act 1955 is amended by omitting sub-section (3.). (4.) The Principal Act, as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Social Services Act 1947-1955.
.- I move -
That the clause be postponed.
I do this as an instruction to the Government -
That immediately on payment of the present increases provision should be made for the establishment of a Royal Commission to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be made payable for the comfort and needs of the various recipients of welfare payments.
The amendment obviously falls into two parts. It asks that after the proposed pension increases have been made the fullest inquiry will be held to ascertain the needs of pensioners and that the Government will then act according to the determinations that are reached. All the speeches that we have heard here and elsewhere, since the whole field of social service payments has been debated, offer the strongest evidence that pensions have been used in a most undesirable way in an attempt to win favour for one political party or another. Such tactics have all the indignity that one associates with charity publicity. Surely this bartering on a quid pro quo basis is most undesirable. At the last elections the Opposition sought the favour of the electors by offering £4 a week to the pensioners. This year the Government is apparently determined to adopt the amount that we advocated last year. One might quite logically ask how on earth the amount of £4 was arrived at. I have heard the claim that it was done scientifically. I do not know whether, since pensions were first granted, there has ever been anything scientific about the amount that has been paid them. We are simply trying to base pensions on a rate which first operated some years ago.
– What has this to do with the appointment of a royal commission ?
– It has everything to do with it. I am giving my reasons for saying that the Government should immediately change the professes of calculation which it has adopted up to the present. I do not know of any action that has been taken to examine this matter on a scientific basis, and I think it is high time that it was placed on a scientific basis.
I would say that the amount of £4 a week which has now been granted as a pension has just been taken out of the air. I believe that it has been granted as a result of promises given, not by the Government, but by a group whose promises have been adopted by the Government. I do not think it possible to get satisfaction by the use of such a method because, in the wide scope of social services, there are so many groups with so many varying interests and requirements. Simply to set down a flat rate for pension groups seems to me to prove that there is nothing scientific about the manner in which pension rates have been fixed. I believe that the fixing of pension rates should be placed far beyond the reach of any one who desires to be politically unscrupulous or who desires to exploit pensioners for political ends.
As I said before, the claims of pensions groups are by no means identical, and it needs only a few moments’ reflection to see that that is so. Taking the age pensioners, one must recognize that something definite must be done in relation to diet. A diet that is suited to one who is receiving the basic wage could not be considered as reasonable and rational for one who has joined the pensioner classes. It seems to me that the position of one pension group is by no means identical with the position of another from the point of view of shelter. Among the pensioner classes are those who own their own homes and those who are living in rented properties. There would be a great deal of difference between the requirements of pensioners who are living under these different conditions. There is ample scope for inquiry in order to ascertain the exact clothing requirements of those who have joined a retired class or pension group. Inquiry is also needed in connexion with sickness benefits that are available to those who have joined a pension group.
This subject is very topical because apparently it has been suggested by pensioners who are likely to receive medical benefits that something serious is about to take place. Apparently, the British Medical Association, feeling the pressure of numbers, is making representations for some type of means test to be applied in order that doctors may be able to handle the number of cases that they are called upon to handle under the medical benefits legislation. An inquiry might easily show that members of the British Medical Association have been exploited because of the attention that has been available to those who are in the pensioner groups. It is possible that it has been far too easy for such people to receive attention from doctors. An inquiry might show that a means test should not be applied to the recipients of medical benefits. Types of sickness for which medical attention should be given could be prescribed. I believe that these facts indicate the necessity for the widest sort of inquiry. I believe that dietitians should give evidence to such an inquiry, and that people who are attending to the wants of the pensioner classes in business areas should also give evidence. It is certain. that doctors could give valuable assistance to any inquiry.
I make these statements in order to indicate that there is much need for authentic inquiry so that this matter may no longer be handled in the willy-nilly fashion in which it has been treated. In advocating the necessity for an inquiry, I think particularly of those widows who find it necessary to supplement their pensions in order to provide suitably for their children. This is a factor of the greatest importance to widows. A most serious effect on a widow’s health must result from trying to care for her family and, at the same time, supplement her pension.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Government lias given careful consideration to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) on behalf of the Anti-Communist Labour party. The Government has decided to reject the amendment for four reasons which I shall put to the committee. First of all, in considering a budget problem, particularly the question of the amount that should be paid in pensions, every aspect of Government policy must be considered. The most careful scientific examination is made of the financial and economic position and of the needs of pensioners and, therefore, of the amount of money that can be expended and, in particular, of the a mount of pension that should be paid.
The second reason is that no government can permit control of its finances to pass out of its own hands. If a committee were to inquire into the whole problem and make recommendations which were beyond the capacity of the community to sustain, not knowing what the other commitments of the Government might be, the Government could very quickly lose control of its own finances and lose control of its own method of fixing budget benefits. The third reason is that the Government has available to it most of the facts that could be made available to any committee. It has been found by most committees which have been associated with problems of this kind that they had to go to government sources in order to obtain the information that they wanted. I venture to suggest that if a committee were established to inquire into this problem, it would be compelled to go to the officers of the Department of Social Services in order to get the necessary facts on which it could base its judgment. It is true that there are other people from whom it could obtain special information; but the great hulk of the information would have to be obtained from the Department of Social Services, the Treasury or the Commonwealth Statistician. Therefore, the Government says that, in this particular case, it would serve no really useful purpose if a committee were appointed.
Finally, I want to establish this point: that the Government realizes that the scientific examination of these problems is becoming increasingly more difficult than it has been in the past. Therefore, it is establishing within the Departmentof Social Services a small section which will be called the Research and Public Relations Section and which will have five officers who will give continuous and detailed consideration to many of the problems of social service benefits. That section is now being established. As it is necessary to appoint people of the very highest quality to the section, its establishment has not been able to proceed as rapidly as we would like. Nonetheless, appointments to the section are taking place and, as men of quality come forward, they will be appointed to the various postings.
The Government does give the most careful consideration to these problems when deciding the amount of social service benefits that should be granted. I think that most honorable members, if they are prepared to be objective, will admit that the social service benefit proposed on this occasion is of a very benevolent size. Therefore, honorable members on this side of the chamber are prepared to argue the matter before the public and the pensioners themselves and to ask them, for a vote of confidence as to what they think of the increase in social service benefits contained in the bill. For that reason, and remembering that the official Opposition has proposed to move certain amendments which must receive careful attention, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 64
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 70
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent “ be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “ be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-five “.
I have moved the amendment to remove one of the worst features of the bill, which results from the Government’s decision to pay the increased pensions only from the 27th October. It has shown itself ready to delay until that date payments that should be made, at the latest, immediately the measure is passed by the Parliament. It has refused to make the increases retrospective to the 1st July last - the beginning of the financial year. Pensioners are entitled to receive the increases from that date. The Government adopts a very strange policy. For some reason, it refuses to give pensioners and persons who receive social services benefits consideration equal to that given to the wealthier and more influential sections of the community. A study of the Government’s record in this matter reveals it in a very shabby light for its treatment of pensioners. Its refusal to make the increases retrospective to the 1st July will cause hardship to many thousands of people who depend solely on pensions. The cost of dating the increases back to the 1st July would not be more than £3,500,000 or £4,000,000. People may say that that is a lot of money, but I point out that the Government is saving £39,000,000 because it has refused to increase child endowment in the 1955-56 budget. Last financial year, it had a surplus of £70,000,000, and it has budgeted for a further surplus in the current financial year. Yet it has refused to back-date the 10s. a week increase of pensions in order to relieve hardship and distress among the aged, the sick, the infirm, and many thousands of families that are dependent upon pensions.
Let us contrast the treatment accorded to pensioners with that given to judges of the High Court of Australia, for instance. The Chief Justice of the High Court, who, until recently, struggled along on £5,000 a year, or approximately £100 a week, has been given a salary increase of £3,000 a year, or about £60 a week, back-dated to the 1st January of this year. The Chief Justice and the other judges have received salary increases ranging from £20 to £60 a week, retrospective to the 1st January of this year. In addition to that, senior public servants have been granted increases of from £1,250 to £2,000 per annum, increases representing from £20 to £40 a week, and these have been back-dated for periods ranging up to six months. I am not quibbling about the increases at this stage of the proceedings, but if it is good enough to give this selected and highly paid section of society back-dated increases, what is wrong with giving a most deserving section of the community a similar benefit by backdating their meagre and miserable increase to the 1st July of this year?
I suppose the Government will say that the Chief Justice, who is struggling along on approximately £100 a week, needs his extra £60 made retrospective to keep him going, whereas the pensioner, who is getting along on his £182 per annum, has money to spend on motor cars and luxuries which the Chief Justice cannot afford. That is the reasoning of the present Administration. I repeat that we on this side of the Parliament are supporting this amendment because we feel that if it is good enough to give the man who is in receipt of £100 a week, or slightly less, the benefit of back-dating his increase until the 1st July, it is not asking too much to expect similar consideration for the pensioner section of society.
Probably the Government will say that. Labour did not make increases of pensions retrospective to the 1st July when it was in office. That has always been the cry of honorable members opposite. The fact remains that when the Labour Government was in office, pensions had real purchasing power. To-day, however, the purchasing power of pensions has been gobbled up by the inflationary conditions created by the failure of this Government to control prices in the interests of pensioners and others.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council can say “ Nonsense “ as often as he likes. That is a fairly intelligent interjection from him. But in this instance, the pensioners do not think it is nonsense. The Minister knows as well as I do that this increase of 10s. a week has already been absorbed in the exorbitant increases in the prices of butter and other food items mentioned in the course of this debate. The fact is that since the 1st July, the pensioners have had to pay these increases for commodities and other items, and that they are called upon to meet their commitments for other large items just as much as are judges and others who have been given huge increases of salary.
I should like to know also why the Government stopped the Department of Social Services from making these payments as from the 1st July and why they were to be delayed until the 27tb October, when they should have been paid upon the passage of this measure. This Government adopts a strange attitude on these matters. First of all, it keeps the Parliament in recess foi months. Then it arranges a budget session late in the year. The later it can delay the payment of pension increases, the greater is the advantage that this heartless Government gains. If. the pensioners are not to enjoy the increase until the bill has passed through this Parliament, why do we not meet on the 1st July, and introduce the budget? The Government has all the year to prepare for it. The departmental officers are ready to do this work, and they should be given enough notice by the Government to allow the increases to be paid as from the 1st July.
There are three reasons why this money has not been paid as from the 1st July. One is that the Government believes that the cost would be too much. If the Government believes that to be so, I suggest that it could utilize for this purpose a fraction of the £39,000,000 that it is saving by its failure to increase child endowment. If it is not administratively possible, or if it might cause complications or extra work, then it is high time the Government gave its departmental officers, whose efficiency I do not criticize, enough notice to allow these adjustments to be paid as from the 1st July.
The next point I wish to make is that the Government believes that this wealthy, influential and highly paid group of public servants, such as judges and others, should have their increases back-dated to the 1st July, and that pensioners who are dependent entirely upon an income of £182 per annum are in a position to wait, while the Government goes on its leisurely way, and puts through the necessary legislation just when it deems lit. We on this side of the Parliament are supporting this amendment as an indication that we believe it is important that these adjustments should be paid as from the 1st July in this and every other year.
I say, quite frankly, that when the next Labour government is in office - and that is not in the very far distant future - the pensioners will receive justice along the lines I have suggested. I impress upon pensioners that we will see to it that they get their increases as from the 1st July, just as other sections of the community who have been given increased wages and other benefits in recent months. We will show the people that, far from being a sectional government like the present one, we are anxious to protect the interests of those who have less of this world’s material goods, the people who really need some assistance, in preference to those who are in the higher income groups. Why does not the Minister do something about it? I think the pages of Ilansard show that when he was in opposition years ago he indicated that this was the right policy to adopt. When he was in opposition, he was like a roaring lion. Now, he is like an old tomcat in the Government. He just sits there, and does nothing. All those statements he made while in opposition have gone into oblivion. They were merely words of wisdom, pearls that dropped from his lips at the time, purely to catch a few votes !
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I ask honorable members to carry this amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member does not obey the Chair, he will not carry anything.
.- Strangely enough, copies of the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) have been circulated in the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The amendment has been moved by the honorable member for Grayndler for the simple and sufficient reason that an amendment similar to this has been moved year after year. On the last three or four occasions, it has been moved by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. It would seem that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is a little embarrassed at having to move this kind of amendment each year, and on this occasion, has handed it to the honorable member for Grayndler, his object being to avoid the slight embarrassment that might be caused by a suggestion that each year he moves the customary pot-boiler. He knows very well it is a pot-boiler for the reason that when the Labour Government was in power it always adopted the same practice as this Government is adopting on this occasion. Increases of pensions have never been made retrospective to the 1st July.
– Why not change the practice?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro knows very well that the late Mr. Chifley always stated his attitude to this very fairly. In 1948, when a similar amendment was moved on behalf of the then Opposition, Mr. Chifley said -
I think I should make it clear to. the committee at the outset that the Government does not propose to accept any amendments to this bill. In saying that, I refer not only to the matter under discussion but also to other payments provided in the bill. General principles have been laid down by the Government regarding the various types of benefits proposed in the legislation which covers an annual expenditure of about £20,000,000 for additional benefits.
Why, the increases alone proposed under this bill have nearly reached that amount ! Mr. Chifley went on to say -
The Government does not propose to depart from those principles. Whatever may be said, we believe we have made a fair judgment and a very liberal advance in the way of social services payments.
– Who said that?
– The then Treasurer, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, made that statement in 1948. The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro know very well that it is neither right nor proper that these payments should be made retrospective to the 1st July.
– Members of the Liberal party asked for it.
– In 1948, it was thought a very good idea. The Labour Government had been in power for six years, and we thought we would get Labour’s view of the matter then. I have read the reply given by the then Treasurer.
It is obvious that this is just another of those time-wasting amendments that have been submitted by members of the Opposition during the consideration of this bill. Last night, the Opposition proposed a time-wasting amendment which it knew very well was of no use what ever, as it would not be carried, and the same type of amendment has been put forward on this occasion. Honorable members opposite know very well that it would be quite impossible for any government or any treasurer to bring down a budget that would provide for retrospective payment. In those circumstances, I have no doubt whatever that the Government will refuse to accept this amendment, and in doing so, it will be acting wisely.
.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Daly’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section twenty-eight of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ One hundred and eightytwo pounds “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Two hundred and eight pounds”; and
That, in paragraph (a), the words “Two hundred and eight pounds “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Two hundred and thirty-six pounds and twelve shillings “.
The effect of this amendment, if carried, would be to increase the proposed pension rate from £4 a week to £4 l1s. a week. The amendment is in conformity with the principles stated by the Opposition during the second-reading debate, when we requested the Government at least to restore the relationship between the basic wage and all social services payments that existed in 1948, the time of the last adjustment made by the Chifley Government. In 1948, the average basic wage for the six capital cities was £5 16s. a week and the pension rate was £2 2s. 6d. a week, or 37 per cent. of the then basic wage. To-day, 37 per cent. of the unpegged basic wage would be £411s.; that is, 37 per cent. of £12 5s. Accordingly, we have moved to insert that figure in the bill.
Upon the acceptance of that amendment by the committee, we would move similar amendments relating to the rates of child endowment, widows’ pensions and other appropriate social services payments. In accordance with that principle, we would move to double the existing child endowment rate, because that rate has not been altered since 1948, and to make a corresponding increase in the widows’ pension rate. I remind the committee that this amendment is in direct conformity with the pledges made on behalf of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to the pensioners and other recipients of social services benefits at the 1949 general election and at subsequent elections. At those elections, the specific pledge made on behalf of those parties was that, on election to government, they would maintain the value of all social services payments, and indeed, would increase their true value. At this: stage, we are not asking the Government to increase their true value. By this amendment, we are requesting honorable members opposite to honour their pledge to maintain the full value of all social services payments.
Since this very valuable debate began, we have had the extraordinary admission from the Government side of the chamber that, even, on the C series index, measured back in 1948, the £4 a week is an insufficient rate of pension.
– That is not correct.
– That admission was made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) last night. The figures and the percentages were quoted. Whatever basis is taken, it is clear that, compared with the rate applicable after the adjustment made in 1948 by the Chifley Government, the present pension rate of £4 is inadequate. Similarly, the rates of child endowment and other social services payments are completely out of line with the alteration in the purchasing power of money and with the increases of wage rates.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has said that this Government recognizes that the pensioners should share in the increasing prosperity of the nation. Ministerial spokesmen, in debate after debate in this Parliament, have claimed that the nation to-day is enjoying unexampled prosperity. Therefore, I fail to see how any member of the Government could reject the request contained in this amendment, namely, that the pensioners be given the same proportion of the basic wage as they were receiving in 1948, at the time of the last adjustment made by the Chifley Government.
The Minister has also told us that, in considering the social services picture, the Government must give consideration to the needs of the children. He made that specific statement in his speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Yet the bill contains no proposal for any increase of the rates of child endowment. The inconsistency of the
Minister and of the Government in that respect is remarkable. How can any one say, “ We must give consideration to the needs of the children “, and tb-ju give no consideration whatever to the needs of the children? How can the Government say to us that the rates of social services payments must be balanced, that we must not give too much to the age and invalid pensioners because we have got to consider how much we ought to give by way of child endowment, and then give nothing at all by way of child endowment? How can a government which went to the people on a pledge to maintain the full value of social services, still refuse now, in its sixth year of office, to make any adjustment of child endowment rates, although its own spokesmen admit that the purchasing power of money has been halved in that time and that to-day it would take at least fi to provide what 10s. would have provided in 1948?
For all those reasons, the Opposition submits this amendment to the committee. If the amendment were considered solely on the basis of justice and fairness, there is no doubt that every member of the committee would have to vote for it. As I have said, if the amendment is carried, we shall proceed to move other amendments designed to give equal justice to all other recipients of social services payments. If the Government refuses to apply the principle contained in the amendment to the age and invalid pensioners, obviously there will be very little chance that it will be prepared to consider any case presented on behalf of other recipients of social services payments in this country. I have moved, therefore, the amendment to clause 7, the object of which is to increase the rate of age and invalid pensions from £4 a week to £4 lis. a week, thus preserving exactly the ratio of pension to basic wage that existed in 194S, and I intimate to the committee that if his amendment is carried the Opposition will proceed to move similar amendments to give a similar increase, in relation to the basic wage, to recipients of child endowment, widows’ pensions, and other forms of social services payments.
– Members of the Government, and I in particular, listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), not only in this debate at the committee stage, but also during the debate on the second reading of the measure. I should like to make it clear immediately that, when making his estimates in relation to Opposition proposals for increases of social services pensions, based upon the figures supplied to him by the Commonwealth Statistician, the honorable gentleman did something which I, personally, regard as unpardonable in this Parliament. The honorable gentleman had asked the Commonwealth Statistician for a “ a universal deflator of cost-income expenditure “, and was given certain figures on which he could work out such a universal deflator. But he, instead, applied those figures to the 1948 pension, and claimed that the result showed that if the value of the pension was to be retained the rate of pension should be increased, not by 10s., but by 21s. In point of fact, the universal deflator of cost-income expenditure has nothing whatsoever to do with changes in the purchasing power of money or the value of the pension. Therefore, the letter written to the honorable gentleman by the Commonwealth Statistician has no relevance to the problem we are discussing, which is the problem of by how much pensions should be increased to give them the same purchasing power as they had at the time when the Chifley Labour Government had its last opportunity to increase them. So far as the Governments knows, there is no other satisfactory yardstick than the C series index of prices that can be used to make that determination. I want to make it clear that succeeding governments have adopted that practice. What I also want to point out to the committee, because it is important, is that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked the Commonwealth Statistician for a universal deflator of cost-income expenditure, without saying for what purpose he wanted to use it and, having obtained it, applied it to a purpose totally different from the purpose for which it is really designed. Naturally he came to a totally wrong conclusion.
Therefore, I say that his figures cannot be taken as a sensible or satisfactory estimate of the rate of pension that would have been paid by a Labour government, were one in office now and following its traditional principles of fixing the value of the pension.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) interjects a little more I shall disclose to the committee just what I think of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro’s very gross misrepresentation.
The Government proposes to increase pensions, on this occasion, by 10s. a week, and the relevant provision for the increase is contained in the clause that we are now discussing. I think that, when the increase of pensions was first mooted, many honorable gentlemen, including the honorable member for Melbourne, thought an increase of 10s. in the basic rate of pensions for aged pensioners was exceedingly generous. I challenge him to deny that, because he can very easily express his view if he wants to, and if he’ likes to contradict my statement, then let him look to the script of the statement that he made over the Labour radio station when, by implication, he said that an increase of 5s. would be regarded as satisfactory, and an increase of 7s. 6d. would be regarded as pretty generous.
– Who said that?
– I have the honorable gentleman’s statement. The increase is to be 10s. a week. How did the Government arrive at that figure? The Government, of course, considers a matter such as this in a scientific manner, and takes many facts into consideration when it is deciding what the rates of pension should be. It looks over a very broad vista, taking into consideration its other commitments, changes in the purchasing power of money, and all the other factors that must be considered if the Government is to act responsibly, and if due consideration is to ‘be given to the demands of all sections of the community. Following the past practice of other governments, Labour and Liberal alike, one of the considerations that the Government had in mind when it was making its determination of the increase was that the change in the value of money, and the changes in the C series index of prices, had reduced the value of pensions. Applying that very test to the pension paid at the date when the Labour party left office in 1949, we find that if a Labour government were still in office, and were following the Labour party’s own expressed principles the pension would be increased, not by ls., or 5s., and certainly not by 10s., the amount by which we propose to increase it, but by only 8d. Therefore, this Government is increasing pensions by 9s. 4d. more than they would have been increased were a Labour government in office.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro said that, applying the C series index formula and accepting as the commencing point the date in 1948 on which the Labour Government last fixed the pension rate, the pension would have been increased now to beyond £4 a week by a Labour government. The honorable gentleman is again obviously misinformed, because, in simple truth, if the date in 1948 chosen by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had been taken as the commencing point, and applying the C series index to the pension rate then paid, the rate which should be paid now would be between 70s. and 77s. or, at its highest, 3s. less than the Government actually proposes to pay. ft does not matter what test is used, whether it be the test based on the 1948 rate, or the test based on the 1949 rate, it is obvious that a substantially increased benefit has been granted to pensioners by the Menzies Government.
In addition to that, however, the pensioners have been, and are, receiving other benefits from this Government. “We have not only considered the actual money value of pensions. We have also considered the other needs of the pensioners, particularly in respect of housing and medical attention. We on this side of the chamber are very proud to be able to say that we are not looking solely at the pension payments themselves, but are looking to other means of adding to the degree of comfort and security of pensioners. The Government has been able to give pensioners a degree of contentment of mind in their old age of which we are justly proud. We have pride in the fact that we introduced legislation to assist in the establishment of homes for aged persons, which will result in bringing real comfort and real mental contentment to many pensioners and is, I think, one of the greatest contributions made by the Government to the solution of the pensioner problem for many years. Also, free medical attention and pharmaceutical benefits have been provided for pensioners within certain limited income ranges. These, too, are of immense benefit, because the pensioners who are eligible for them are secure in the knowledge that if they fall ill they will be able to obtain general medical practitioner services at the expense of the Commonwealth, instead of at their own expense. So the Government’s programme of assistance to them is not only giving persons the benefit of increased pensions, but is also giving them other material and spiritual benefits which we think are making a real contribution to their comfort and happiness. The Government knows full well that it is doing the maximum, that it possibly can do to give social justice to the pensioners and to see that their needs are met as far as possible this year.
In determining the rate of pension, the Government had to consider just how much could be afforded in the circumstances in which we found ourselves, and I should like to mention that this year the provision of social services benefits and homes for the aged will increase expenditure by £26,000,000 in excess of the expenditure last financial year. Those honorable members opposite who have given reasoned consideration to this problem will know that progress of the kind that this Government has made must be considered in the general context of budget problems. Most people will agree that, considered in that context, an increase of £26,000,000 in one budget year is a magnificent achievement for any government. Therefore, the Government states quite emphatically, first, that the amount which it has approved is generous, and secondly, that on any figures available it is more generous than would have been the case if Labour had been in office.
Thirdly, the Government states that the actual figures used by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are related not to changes in the value of money or in purchasing power, but to a universal deflator. Therefore, they are irrelevant to this debate. For that reason the Government says that the amendment cannot be accepted. I take it, following upon the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that if this amendment is rejected the other amendments foreshadowed by the Labour party will not be pursued.
– I did not say that.
– I say, therefore, that the amendment will be rejected.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services. I would not have taken notice of him had he not been speaking as a responsible member of the Government. He accused me of “ unpardonable conduct “ in obtaining from the Commonwealth Statistician a universal deflator of costs and then wrongly applying it to the pension rate. I did nothing of the sort. Our calculations as to the pension rate were based not on a universal deflator of costs but upon its relationship to the basic wage, as every one knows. The letter that I produced from the Commonwealth Statistician was not used for that purpose at all. It was used solely to controvert the statement of the Minister that the C series index is the only satisfactory yardstick, and that the Commonwealth Statistician agreed with him that this is so. I produced the letter from the statistician to show that that gentleman did not agree at all with the Minister’s statement. In fact, the statistician said that no single index could be regarded as a satisfactory yardstick. That is what I said. The Minister should not try to distort my argument. He should accept his defeat on the matter.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I, too, have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services.
– The honorable member should read his speech.
– Iwill notread it. I gave a copy of it to the Minister. 1 would have liked him to read precisely what I did say, and not a garbled version which grossly misrepresented my remarks. In a speech over a Labour broadcasting station I said that the pensioners might get an increase of 5s. a week or 7s. 6d. a week, but that 1 did not think the Government would be decent enough to give them an increase of 10s. a week. I did not say that 5s. or 7s. 6d. would be sufficient.
– I said that you had implied it.
– When I had made my speech the Minister rang the Labour party office in Melbourne and demanded a copy within an hour. When I was appraised of this fact, I said, “ He won’t get the speech if he demands it”. When I saw the Minister here I said, “ If you will ask me for the speech I will give it to you, but you will not get it on demand “. I gave him the only copy that I had and said, “ Make a copy from that and send it back to me “. What I said will be found in that document.
– That is quite right.
– The Minister says that that is quite right. I may be going a little beyond a personal explanation but I suggest that he should be careful not to get a reputation for being guilty of imprecision of fact. He should not handle the facts carelessly. If quotations are to be made they should be made from the document concerned and not given in a garbled way which the Minister has described as the implication to be derived from what was said. The Minister has the document. I advise him to read it to the House.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Allan Fraser’ s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Clause 8: -
Section thirty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2a.).
.- I move-
That, after the word “ amended “, the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (a) by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ Ninety-one pounds ‘ and inserting in their stead the words One hundred and seventeen pounds’;”.
The amendment that I have submitted is intended to correct what members of the
Opposition feel is a serious anomaly. Clause 8 possibly represents one of the most grievous mistakes in this legislation. It excludes from the increase that the Government has proposed in this legislation, the wife or other dependent person who cares for the needs of an invalid pensioner. For many years, our pension law has recognized, in cases of invalidity, the claim of the wife, and it has afforded her the benefits of the social legislation. It is inexplicable that the Government should have omitted from this legislation provision for further assistance for the dependants of pensioners. Therefore, I feel that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) should be required to give some explanation as to why he has committed this grievous error and has failed to provide for the needs of these people.
The Opposition cannot believe that the Government has purposely excluded this most deserving section of our people. Very often the wife in such a home makes sacrifices in order to give a little extra for the comfort of her invalid husband. In this bill, the Government denies the need of such people. It is difficult to understand why the Government should disregard the undoubted obligation that it has toward this section. The action of the Minister could have serious results in the homes of these people. Any amount that is withheld from them means less for those who are totally and permanently incapacitated. Under the Government’s proposal, these people will definitely be paid 10s. a week less than they would be paid if justice were done to the claim of the wife.
Why has this person, who has a full share of the cares and anxieties of the home, been singled out for this kind of treatment? The Minister has given no explanation for such unusual and unwarranted action. This action will cause hardship to people who are least able to find a way to relieve their condition. If such a provision applied to the aged, it. would be serious enough; but when applied to the wives of invalids, it will be not only a disappointing circumstance but also a grievous one. Therefore, if the Minister has unfortunately made a mistake in regard to this clause. I , ask whether he will he prepared, even at this late hour, to make the amendment that is essential for the purpose of correcting very unfair and unwarranted treatment of these deserving people.
The Minister is pursuing a despairing policy which will inflict unnecessary hardship upon these unfortunate people. In recent days we have been considering the expenditure of £1,100,000,000, and consideration has been given to many people in high positions and many who are wealthy, yet a hardship, under this legislation, is to be visited upon the infirm and the invalid. This is really beyond the power of any considerate person to understand. Certainly, I feel that the committee has a duty to see that such an anomaly is corrected. Therefore, with confidence, 1 present to the committee the amendment that has been circulated on behalf of the Opposition. 1 hope that the Government will recognize the importance of the amendment. I hope also that it will recognize the unanswerable case that has been presented on behalf of the most deserving section of our community - people who are in urgent need of the most humane consideration that we can give to them. The Government should regard it as one of its first charges to see that they are adequately provided for, and rescued from any condition under which need or hardship could be inflicted upon them. That being so, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I commend the motion to the committee.
– As honorable members will know, the benefit under consideration is now paid to invalid pensioners and to age pensioners with a permanent incapacity. The object of the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) is that this particular payment - a payment which is also made to the widow or to the wife of a pensioner - amounting at present to £1 15s. a week, should be increased to £2 5s. a week. That is the whole sense of the proposed amendment.
The Government now pays an allowance to the pensioner, man or woman, and, in addition to that amount, it makes an allowance in respect of the wife of the pensioner. The Opposition has suggested that the allowance in respect of the wife of the pensioner should be increased by 10s. a week. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Sturt. It does so for the very good reason that, when we were considering budget problems in general, this matter received the most careful consideration and it was decided that the proper thing on this occasion was to grant, not the ancillary benefit, but the main benefit of an increase of 30s. a week, in the age, invalids’ and widows’ pensions. I should like to mention that there are 12,550 wives’ allowances current at the present moment and that, if an extra increase of 10s. a week wore agreed to, an additional payment from the National Welfare Fund of £326,000 in a full year would be involved. As I said a moment ago, the Government gave full consideration to this matter when considering budget proposals, and it decided that the wise course to follow was not to reduce the general pension by an equivalent amount, but to give the full increase of 10s. a week. My personal opinion is that most pensioners will think that that was a very generous and a wise course to follow.
There is one other matter that I should like to make clear to honorable members opposite, and that is that, in addition to the wife’s allowance, the Government pays an allowance of Ils. 6d. a week in respect of the first child. In other words, the Government pays, first, the pension, then the wife’s allowance, and also an allowance of lis. 6d. a week for the first child. The total extra commitment of the Government this year in respect of invalid and age pensions is £25,000,000, with an extra commitment of £1,000,000 in respect of homes for the aged; last year, we expended £1,000,000 less than was appropriated in subsidizing the provision of such homes, although £1,500,000 was available for the purpose. I think that most people will agree that the total expenditure was generous, and they will agree, also, that justice is being done to the pensioners by this Government. Therefore, we are prepared to argue anywhere, and at any time - on the floor of the chamber or, if the Opposition chooses, before the electorate - that never before have the pensioners received the degree of justice that has been accorded them by this Government. I, as the Minister responsible for the administration of the social services legislation, am proud of what the Government has achieved in this field. I think that the facts are known to the general public and that they, too, approve of what we have done. In conclusion, I repeat, the Government rejects the amendment. I therefore move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr. Makin’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The amendments effected by this Act, in so far as they relate to instalments of pensions, apply in relation to an instalment of a pension falling due on the first pension pay day after the date on which this Act receives theRoyal Assent and to all subsequent instalments.
.- I move-
That the words “ date on which this Act receives the Royal Assent “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-five “.
This amendment relates to the date from which payment shall begin. The matter has already been decided by the committee’s decision on the amendment to clause 2, which was negatived. As this amendment has been circulated, I content myself with moving it formally.
Clause agreed to.
New clause 9a.
.- I move-
That, after clause 9, the following new clause be inserted: - “9a. The amounts fixed in this Act as the maximum amounts which may be paid for age, invalid and widows’ pensions shall be reviewed annually and increased in accordance with any upward movement of the cost of living as measured by the weighted average retail price index for food, clothing and groceries as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician for the twelve months ending on the 31st March in each year.”.
I propose this new clause in accordance with the policy that has been ann ounced- -
– I rise to order. The amendment has not yet been circulated. Neither you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, nor the Clerk of the House, has seen it. It is extraordinary for an amendment to be moved in this manner without preliminary notice. From what I have heard so far, I think the House has already traversed the matter to which the amendment relates. I should certainly like you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to see the amendment before debate on it proceeds.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Although it is true, as the Minister for Social Services states, that the amendment has not been formally circulated, it was clearly out lined and foreshadowed at the secondreading stage by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua).
– The honorable member for Ballarat mentioned something totally different.
– That may be the Minister’s opinion. The honorable member for Ballarat clearly indicated our -intention to move an amendment such as this. It is a simple amendment and it is not difficult to understand. It means merely that pensions shall be varied in accordance with movements of the C series price index. It is tied to the Cseries index - the upward movement, I emphasize. There is no doubt about it. It is not a complicated amendment. It is quite a simple statement of principle, and whether the Minister had notice of it or not must surely make little difference to the position.
Still speaking on the point of order, I claim that there is no requirement for the amendment to be circulated. As the honorable member for Ballarat clearly indicated in his second-reading speech our intention to move it, I think that was adequate notice for the Minister.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
Thatthe question be now put.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have not read the proposed new clause to the committee, and I ask you to do so now. We do not know what the proposed new clause provides. I submit that you cannot put the question unless we know what the proposed new clause is.
The TEMPOEAEY CHAIRMAN”. - Order ! The honorable member is wrong. The closure can be moved at any time. I shall read the proposed new clause to the committee. It is as follows: - .
The amounts fixed in this Act as the maximum amounts which may be paid for age, invalid and widows’ pensions shall be reviewed annually, and increased in accordance with any upward movement of the cost of living as measured by the weighted average retail price index for food, clothing and groceries as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician for the twelve months ending on the 31st March in each year.
– I have moved -
That the question he now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Keon’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 85
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Mr.CLAREY (Bendigo) [8.49].-I move -
That, alter clause 9, the following new clause be inserted : - “9a. Section fifty-five of the Principal Act is amendedby omitting the words ‘ Ten pounds’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Twenty-five pounds’.”.
The effect of this amendment would be that the present funeral benefit of £10 would be increased to £25. In support of the amendment,. I point out to members of the committee that funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners came into operation on the 1st July, 1943. In that legislation, the amount of the funeral benefit was fixed at £10. It is still fixed at that figure. I do not think any honorable member on either side of the chamber will argue that, if £10 was only enough to cover the expenses of a funeral in 1943, it is enough to cover the expenses of a funeral now.
In the thirteenth report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services information is given about claims made from 1944 to 1954 for funeral benefits in respect of age and invalid pensioners. The report shows that the average amount paid per grant has increased substantially during that period. In 1944, the average amount paid per grant was £9 9s. 4d. Then it rose steadily year by year and in 1954 it was £9 18s. 3d. The figures indicate that the full amount of the benefit is paid in most instances. Only in a few cases is a relatively small sum paid.
It is interesting to note that during 1954 the deaths of 31,980 age and invalid pensioners occurred. In that year, 29,030 claims for funeral benefit were granted, the cost being £2S7,798. Assuming that the number of deaths this year will be 30,000 and that there will be a tendency for the number to increase gradually each year, owing to the increasing number of age and invalid pensioners, the effect of the amendment would be to increase the expenditure on the funeral benefit by approximately £450,000.
The Opposition has proposed the insertion of this new clause because it appreciates that one of the great fears that beset age and invalid pensioners is that when they die they will not leave enough money to pay for a decent burial, and that they will be given a pauper’s funeral. The fact that that is a very real fear is indicated by the establishment of funeral benefit associations in the various States during recent years. A pensioner pays a small sum each week to a fund, with the object of ensuring that there will be sufficient money available to pay for his funeral when he dies. The corruption and frauds which have occurred in connexion with funeral benefit schemes have caused the Victorian Parliament to pass special legislation to deal with them. Some organizations have been wound up, and all funeral benefit schemes now are subject to registration, acturial examination and strict supervision by the Victorian Government. The fact that these schemes exist indicates the desire of the pensioners that when they die some money will be available to pay the expenses of their funerals.
During July of this year, and occasionally during last year, the Melbourne Herald published a series of articles dealing with the privations and difficulties of pensioners, particularly single age pensioners and single invalid pensioners. The details that were given about malnutrition, bad housing accommodation and inability to make ends meet on a pension showed that there was very little likelihood that a single age or invalid pensioner would be able to save, from his meagre pension, enough money to pay for his funeral. When one realizes that some pensioners are paying high rents for squalid rooms and that they have not enough money to pay for all the food they require, let alone for clothing, their difficulty in making provision for funeral expenses becomes apparent. At the present time, the payment of the funeral benefit is subject to a very severe means test. As far as I can see, the only persons who can get the benefit are the relatives of pensioners who have left no money at all.
– There is a means test.
– No. The funeral benefit is paid irrespective of assets.
– Recently the sister of a deceased invalid pensioner came to see me in Bendigo to discuss the payment of the funeral benefit. She told me that, because her brother had had a small sum of money in a savings bank in Bendigo, the Department of Social Services had decided that she was not entitled to receive the benefit.
– Either the brother was not entitled to receive an invalid pension or the honorable member has not stated the facts correctly. If he will let me have the details of the case, I shall have a look at it.
– There is a means test in connexion with the funeral benefit. That is evident. The figures published by the Director-General of Social Services show that, of the 30,000 claims for funeral benefit made in 1954, 929 were rejected and 1,352 were awaiting determination at the end of the year. I have no doubt that when the figures for 1955 are available, they will reveal a somewhat similar position.
We maintain that an increase of the funeral benefit would be justified on the ground that the cost of living has arisen, apart altogether from the increase of the basic wage. We say that the decrease of the purchasing power of money between 1943 and 1955 warrants an increase of the benefit. We believe that £25 would be a reasonable and fair amount to pay. It would impose no strain on the financial resources of the Government, and would be in accord with reason and logic. We think that our proposal should be accepted, and we hope that the Government will consider it sympathetically.
– I listened with care to the remarks made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in moving his amendment. I concede that there is some substance in his claim that the cost of funerals has increased considerably since 1943, when the funeral benefit was fixed at £10. I put forward a similar claim when the Estimates were under consideration recently. Therefore, I do not propose to oppose the amendment.
However, the Opposition has moved it as a political tactic. That is plain enough. All through the day we have seen examples of one section of the Opposition trying to outbid the other section. An amendment was moved by one section of the Opposition, proposing an increase of the pension rate by 10s. a week, and then the other section of the Opposition proposed an amendment designed still further to increase the rate. Honorable members opposite have been bidding one against the other all the way through the debate. For my part, I do not intend to use my vote to support a process of bidding one against another. Neither will I seek to upset the Government’s budgetary proposals. One recognizes clearly that this bill is a part of a carefully devised series of financial proposals, to upset any one of which would upset the rest. Therefore, I do not propose to vote for the proposed new clause, the insertion of which would upset them. My purpose in rising is to say that I hope the Govern ment will take notice of the arguments put forward in the course of this debate when the next budget is being prepared, and will seek to increase the amount payable.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to he inserted (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th October (vide page 1317), on motion by Mr. Francis -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As a first move in the discussion on the second reading of this Repatriation Bill, I desire on behalf of the Opposition to move the following amendment: -
That, all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “having regard to the sustained and continuous decline in the value of Australian money, the bill be redrafted to provide substantially greater benefits for ex-service personnel and their dependants with effect as from the 1st July, 1955 “.
Honorable members will note that no specific increases in the various categories are suggested. In view of the inflationary trends, the presence of which has been acknowledged by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his statement on the financial position, the fixing of amounts at this stage might eventually make nonsense of the requirements of the servicemen concerned. We want also to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Parliament and the nation to the chaos that exists in the administration of sections of the Repatriation Act, and to the vitally urgent needs of some categories of ex-servicemen. Because this is a serious and important debate, we do not charge the Government with being unconcerned about the demands made by ex-servicemen’s organizations. However, it is at least rather nonchalant about those demands and apparently hopes to get by because it has a very strong group of ex-servicemen on its side in this Parliament. Although the Government has yielded to pressure and made certain increases, it has not tackled the problem as a whole. It has not begun at the top and shaken the whole structure. A complete re-organization is long overdue. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is an exserviceman, and is generally sympathetic, but some of his decisions have been shockingly unsympathetic because they have stemmed from a cast-iron plan evolved by the repatriation bureaucrats. Before I deal with the subject in detail, I should like to consider the question of the increases of war pensions. A large sum of money is involved in the payment of pension increases, but it is small when compared with the Government’s budget surplus. When one turns to the increase to be given to the totally and permanently incapacitated man, one is confronted with a situation that must be attended to. The proposed figure of £9 15s. a week is not enough. These men are unable to work, for total and permanent incapacity is the nth degree of incapacity. As long ago as 1954, when a new government was elected, the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) contained a proposal to pay £12 10s. a week to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. That figure was worked out by a committee which decided that it was sufficiently close to the basic wage to justify it being made consonant with that wage.
The best way to consider the matter is to look at the position of the serving soldier. Recently, about 1,000 men were sent to Malaya in accordance with the wishes and plans of this Government. These men, the fittest men in the nation - highly trained, skilled and possessing various techniques - would, in the round, I suppose, be able to command at least £20 a week in this country. They have gone away in the Army at a much lower figure. T hope that incapacity befalls none of them, but they may be involved in conflict or in accidents while on service. The maximum that these young men, whose average age the Minister will agree is about 23, can hope for, in the event of total incapacity, is £9 15s. a week. That is the figure for a single man. Of course, in the case of a married man there are dependants’ allowances, but that is another matter altogether. I am. referring to the payment of £9 15s. to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman. These are a diminishing group. Indeed, the tragic manner in which they are dying off has been brought to the notice of this House time and time again. There have been increases of the general rate, but not of the total and permanent incapacity rate, on two separate occasions. One wonders whether it was a question of pleasing the greatest number, or of helping those most vitally in need. In any case, the position must still be met by the
Government and the Minister must say why the proposed payment to the totally and permanently incapacitated man is still to be so tragically low. This is not a matter for politics, one way or the other.
When we are considering repatriation matters, surely something should be done for this small group which, as the result of sickness, is diminishing every day. An allowance of £9 15s. a week is not even equal to the basic wage, yet it is the amount that is paid to these people who have made almost the ultimate in sacrifice. It is a niggardly, poor thing; and the amount of money that would be involved in increasing the pension to £12 10s., as sought by the Australian Labour party, would be infinitesimal compared with the millions of pounds that are pouring into the coffers of the nation. It would be a payment with which everybody would agree. Nobody can honestly protest that these claims are political, or that they are merely electioneering propaganda, because the Opposition has sustained this point of view over a number of years. We think that the most vulnerable group of repatriation pensioners is the totally and permanently incapacitated men. They have been neglected inasmuch as their standards have always been much lower than the standard of compensation that has been paid in other fields.
The pension of £9 15s. a week stands as a monument of niggardliness, miserliness, and meanness and, in the final analysis, disregard for this little, diminishing group. Every returned servicemen’s organization that makes representations to the Government on this matter begins with the problem of the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Many of these men are unable to move about, or are so sick that they must have an attendant. The attendant’s allowance and recreation allowance that are paid are all very fine in their way, but the Opposition wants to drive home again and again the fact that the basic payment of £9 15s. a week is too low in view of their condition and that the payment of this amount does not discharge our obligation to these men, who suffered in the cause of national defence. I. shall not labour that point any longer. It is well known, and it has been mentioned before. I am sure that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) will deal with it in his reply. But whether that reply will be effective I doubt, because the only adequate compensation that we could give to these men would be to increase their pensions to the level of the basic wage. Whilst the Opposition has not specified any figure, I invite the attention of the House to the fact that a pension of £12 10s. a week is the minimum requirement for a totally and permanently incapacitated man. The payment of that amount has been endorsed by Government members’ Repatriation Committee and by the Government parties as a whole.
The general rate pension is to bc increased. That is very good. But the Opposition has also had a struggle to convince the Government that the percentages cited by its spokesmen are wrong. If this land is flowing with milk and honey; if this land is a prosperous country; if we can boast about this nation in every parliamentary speech, surely a general rate of £4 15s. a week is far too low for people who have made this country safe for democracy, and capable of development to the pitch of prosperity that it enjoys to-day. In considering that low rate, one must remember that it is a 100 per cent, pension and that the 20 per cent, and 10 per cent, pensions are pitifully small in view of the high cost of living. So the ex-serviceman who is in receipt of a pension and who has no other income, is in a very bad position.
I concede that the Repatriation Department has attempted, by making allowances, by provision for children and by other means, to build up the pension rates. But the pensioner himself, the man who should be paid adequate compensation, does not receive it ! It does not matter about loading the pension with concessions which are paid in respect of the wife and children. The pensions of £9 15s. a week for the totally and permanently incapacitated man and of £4 15s. a week for the general rate pensioner are shockingly low, and the Government cannot congratulate itself on having left things as they are.
These are the points that the Opposition makes, without stating the definite increases that should be made. But I can say - because it is necessary to be cautious and to believe what one says and to stick to it - that £12 10s. a week is the minimum amount that should be paid to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner; and the highest percentage that the base rate of pension bore to the basic wage in the days of the Chifley Government is the minimum requirement for the base rate pension. These things are clear. They have been argued in the Senate, and they have been argued here on previous occasions.
We turn from that to certain serious matters which affect, not so much the rates of pension, which are always arguable, but the Repatriation Department. The department is on trial by public opinion. That public opinion has been expressed by returned soldiers’ organizations which, at a meeting held in the Sydney Town Hall yesterday, said that they were sick and tired of making protests on repatriation matters. The section of the Repatriation Act that causes the most alarm is the injurious section 47 - the onus of proof provision. Are we to have a continuing battle until all the diggers of World War I. have died off, or are we to come to the conclusion that the intention of the act is clear and that the administration of the act must be just as clear and clean cut? Perhaps some people could judge the statements of Opposition members as biased, although they are not; but when protests come from, ex-servicemen’s organizations-
– There has been no protest except in Sydney.
– I differ from the Minister on that point. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported as follows : -
A meeting was held in Sydney at -which over 400 people attended to deal with the question of the Repatriation Act with particular reference to the onus of proof.
– That was inspired by Mr. Yeo.
– Whether the protest was inspired by Mr. Yeo or not, he is the president of the State branch of the exservicemen’s organization, and Mr. Lewis is the secretary. Are they to be derided because they stand up for their own exservicemen ? The meeting was inspired, not by Mr. Yeo, but by the pressure behind Mr. Yeo and Mr. Lewis to do something in regard to the Repatriation Act, particularly section 47. It has been apparent for a long time that something should be done in this respect. The classical example of how the intention of section 47 can be twisted and perverted is provided by the Latter case. Again, the Sydney Morning Herald is my authority on this case, which is particularly grievous and in respect of which no decision has been made. This case concerns the onus of proof in regard to an airman. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald states that “ an appeal was lodged in February, 1954, on the grounds that the dysentery infection had contributed to Latter contracting cancer “ - a tumour or whatever the stomach ailment was that led to his death. The case was referred to the Repatriation Department and later to a specialist. The report continues -
The case was referred to Professor Harvey Sutton, former director of the Sydney University school of public health. He agreed with the opinions of the two doctors who supported Mrs. Latter’s appeal.
He said recent research at the Mayo Clinic, in the United States, and St. Mark’s Hospital, London, showed that recurrent diarrhoea was a precancerous condition.
It goes on to explain that the repatriation doctors opposed the greatest medical authorities in this country and said, “ No, it is not due to war service “. On the other hand, there is the section which gives them every opportunity to bend over backwards in favour of the ex-serviceman. If there is the slightest chance that the ex-serviceman’s case is right, he gets the benefit of the doubt. That the resistance is there is made manifest when one reads that brilliant medical men outside the Repatriation Department who give their evidence - unbiased evidence - and are careful to write a case history in order to help the department, are brushed aside. One begins to wonder what is behind this persistent battle against the onus-of-proof provisions in section 47.
There is also another onus of proof, a sort of invisible one, if I may use that expression, namely the service of the men concerned. Listen to this. The newspaper article continues -
Latter, an R.A.A.F. Flying Officer, was shot down with two companions in the Mediterranean in October, 1941.
For six days they drifted in a rubber dinghy. The daily ration for each man was one tablet of chewing gum and one of malted milk. »
Latter was the only swimmer and three times saved the lives of the other two men when the dinghy overturned in heavy seas. The three men were captured off the shore of Tunisia.
They were imprisoned by the Vichy French in the fortress of Laghouat
Latter was one of 29 prisoners who toiled for seven months digging a 290-ft. escape tunnel with pocket knives.
They escaped but were recaptured and imprisoned in pairs in stone cells less than SO inches square.
Latter contracted dysentery from which he never recovered.
Surely evidence of service which gives a clear supposition of outrageous suffering in the cause of service to country should contribute, as well as medical advice, to proof of war-caused disability. As Flying Officer Latter, a healthy courageous and fit man, proved that he had gone through these experiences, and after imprisonment came out with a pre-disposition to cancer which afterwards resulted in cancer, was denied a pension, I ask the Minister: Who could get a pension under section 47? Who possibly could have a better claim than Flying Officer Charles Latter? This is pretty nearly the pattern of the refusal of the entitlement tribunals. The figures are alarming. Those people who go before, first, the Repatriation Coramission, and later the entitlement appeals tribunals, have a record of rejection that is almost unique as far as the numbers are concerned. Here are the figures. With regard to the widow of the late Flying Officer Latter, and other equally good cases, the onus of proof is almost impossible of being discharged in favour of an ex-serviceman because of the present attitude of the repatriation bureaucracy. Here are the figures in relation to those people. In relation to the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, the 1954 figures, which are the latest figures available, show that 15.93 per cent, of the appeals were granted and 84.07 per cent, of the appeals were disallowed. That is an extremely high proportion of disallowance. The No. 2 War Pensions
Entitlement Appeal Tribunal heard 4,083 appeals,, of which 211, or 10.13 per cent, were allowed by the commission, and 205, or 9.84 per cent, were allowed by the tribunal, and fewer than 1,667 appeals were rejected, equal to 80 per cent, of the total number lodged. Is there not something wrong with that? Honorable members opposite may say that before these people go to the tribunal, pensions are granted all along the line. I concede that to be the case. But when these men go before the tribunals, the perecentage of rejection - 80 per cent. - is scandalously high.
Will honorable members opposite take another view and say that this could be because of malingering on the part of old soldiers? There are only one of two conclusions to come to. I would be most reluctant, as I am sure would the Minister and most medical men and officers of the Repatriation Department, to concede that most of these cases rolled up because ex-servicemen were getting old or because they had indulged in a bit of malingering.
– I think the honorable member’s figures are wrong. Where did he obtain them?
– The figures I cited were taken from the records of the entitlement appeals tribunals, and they appear to be correct.
– According to the Public Accounts Committee, they are not correct.
– They appear to be correct from the statement I have. There would not appear to be very much wrong with them.
– There is quite a lot wrong with them.
– These are the 1954 figures. The statement was prepared from figures I obtained from the Library. They establish that in relation to these claims there is a very high percentage of rejection. Perhaps honorable members on the other side, particularly the exservicemen, will agree with that statement. What do they intend to do about it? Does the Government intend to adopt the attitude that everything in the garden is lovely? Quite apart from the meagre increases in pensions, which are arguable - in view of the economy of the nation we will let that aspect stand over and fight it out later - what will the Government do about the section to which I have referred? The applications of a large number of aged men are being rejected by the department and the entitlement appeals tribunals because some one is defining section 47 in regard to the onus of proof in a manner never intended by the Parliament. Because of that, I intend, on behalf of the Opposition, to move certain amendments at the committee stage. The repatriation bill is on many counts a committee bill. There are so many considerations for the ex-serviceman, so many provisions, and it covers so many things, that the problem can best be grappled with at the committee stage. I advise the Minister that one of the amendments that I foreshadow concerns the matter of appeals, which we consider can best be handled by the High Court as the final arbiter - an appeal to the judicial mind on the evidence. That would also ensure that there would be no word of mouth decisions. We will request that when the final case for the old, sick, and tired “ digger “ goes to the tribunal for justice, and he asks that the onus of proof he discharged in his favour, it will not be resolved merely as the result of a bit of nattering between two repatriation doctors. We believe that the formal evidence must be gathered together at the right time and placed before a judge of the High Court to analyse it from the legal stand-point in order to ascertain whether justice has been done to the ex-serviceman. I know a great deal of support has been given, and will continue to be given, for the way in which appeals are dealt with on a nonlegal basis, but in ray view the system has failed because of the high proportion of rejections and the continued complaint from the ex-servicemen’s organizations that this section of the act is not being properly administered. So, the amendments that we shall propose will include one regarding appeal to the High Court. Such an amendment has been asked for, I think, in more than one State. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), in his capacity as the Minister who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in this chamber, knows that everybody is on the qui vive to see whether we can restore in the minds of ex-servicemen some faith in the operations of the Repatriation Department, particularly in relation to the onus-of-proof provisions. For that reason, we think it is imperative to use the legal machinery to review the evidence. The amazing number of rejections of applications is a compelling reason why this should he done. Another important matter that will be debated in committee is the eligibility for pensions of men discharged from the forces as medically unfit. It seems completely anomalous and utterly ridiculous that a man who has been on service in a theatre of war and has been discharged as medically unfit should not automatically be entitled to a pension, and we shall move an amendment to remove this anomaly. I have enumerated the main points with which we are concerned. War widows’ pensions are still inadequate, and they and other payments will be discussed at the committee stage.
I wish now to summarize what I think are the general views of the Opposition about this matter in the hope that we may be able to impress upon the Minister for the Army the need for certain things to be done. The first matter is the £12 10s. a week pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Does the Minister consider that the pension is too much when many other social services benefits have been increased? In view of the diminishing numbers of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, can the Minister deny that they have special needs? Can he deny them because he sees hope of peace in the future? There cannot be any financial reason for refusing to increase the pensions paid to those men. The real reason for the Government’s refusal to increase these pensions must be parsimony or a failure to accept the idea that, in this day and age, we should give repatriation pensioners a new deal. The second matter is the need to reconsider the base rate of pension and the percentages applied to it. I am aware that every government is assailed with the cry that the base rate is not enough. In both the illustrations that I gave the Minister, it is definitely not enough.
The third matter concerns an aspect of the repatriation legislation upon which a grand assault is being made - the onus-of-proof provision. I ask the Minister who is to make the final decision. The law of the land, as declared in the onus-of-proof section of the principal act, is most explicit. It could not be more explicit. To a layman like myself, it seems to indicate that it would be very difficult indeed to deny a man a pension if he could manage to arouse even a hint of a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of the doctors concerned or of the assessors. However, in fact, the onus-of-proof provision has worked in a completely reverse manner, as is demonstrated by the case of Mrs. Latter, which shows clearly how disastrous have been its effects. No matter how monumental the case or how obvious the entitlement to a pension, once a case is either raised in the Parliament or publicized in the press, as was the Latter case, that is the end of it, because some one is piqued or dismayed. Each case should be decided on a proper interpretation of the onus-of-proof section of the act. For the reasons that I have stated, the Opposition proposes to move, at the committee stage, the amendments to which I have referred.
In conclusion, I beg the Minister not to close his mind on the issue with the thought that there is only a small protest in New South Wales. There is a protest in New South Wales. As a member from that State, I know the protest to be justified. It is not merely vamped up. It turns entirely on the onus-of-proof provisions of the act. Ex-servicemen’s organizations are bedevilled daily by ageing ex-servicemen who come to them and tell them that they have been able to get nowhere, having approached their local member and also a repatriation subcommittee. In desperation, they consider taking the story to the press. The matter is fairly and squarely in our laps. Therefore, the amendments that I have foreshadowed will be specifically and doggedly debated at the committee stage. The amendment to the motion for the second reading is genuine. In it I have attempted to indicate where the increases could and should be made. The Opposition proposes to press it to a vote at the appropriate time.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in stating the views of the Opposition on this bill, has stated that the Opposition intends to move an amendment, which, expressed in general terms, will provide for substantially greater benefits. It appears that honorable members opposite propose to follow a policy similar to that which they adopted during the debate on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1955, which has just concluded. It will be remembered that, in that debate, the Opposition advanced proposals designed to increase benefits provided for in that measure. An honorable member earlier referred to those proposals, very rightly, I think, as an attempt to outbid the Government. He stated also that history showed that no great weight could be attached to those proposals because the Opposition is developing the habit, without sincerity, and certainly without any expectation of ever giving effect to its proposals, of attempting to outbid the Government on every occasion. It is extremely easy for a party in a position in which it will never be called on to implement its proposals, to adopt the attitude that benefits proposed by this Government are not generous enough and that the party in opposition would be much more generous. I dislike having to treat matters such as this as a contest to see whether the Opposition could or would be more generous than the Government. A subject such as this should not be treated in that way.
The remarks of the honorable member for Parkes force me to point out briefly that, in spite of what he has said about the increased benefits proposed in the bill, the pension for a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, which the honorable member stated was not sufficient, under the administration of this Government, has increased by 84 per cent, of the rate paid in 1949, compared with a cost-of-living increase of 67 per cent, during the same period. On that basis, it can reasonably be contended that the present rate represents a very fair increase. The same thing applies to the other rates of pension. For instance, the ]00 per cent, rate, which the honorable member criticized as being insufficient, has increased by 73 per cent, since this Government took office. I remind honorable members that, as I have just stated, in the same period the cost of living increased by 67 per cent. The position relative to all the benefits payable under this bill is similar. Not only is the rate for a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman being increased by 10s. a week to £9 15s. a week, but also the attendants’ allowances paid to those who are permanently disabled are being increased by £1 a week. The rate payable under the second schedule for an attendant has been increased from £1 15s. to £2 15s. a week, and the rate under the fifth schedule has been increased to £4 10s. a week. As a result, a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner will almost certainly receive about £13 or £14 a week. It is idle for the honorable member for Parkes to state that the increases of attendants’ allowances and other allowances do not count, and that one must consider simply whether the base rate is fair. Of course these allowances count, because they all are designed to provide for the needs of ex-servicemen, and they do so.
I could go through the list and point out that the allowances for war widows and service pensioners have been correspondingly increased throughout the whole range. However, I do not want to spend too much of my time on this aspect of the subject, because I wish to reply to some of the comments and criticisms made by the honorable member for Parkes. I wish to direct attention to an important aspect of the bill, which, I noticed, the honorable member carefully avoided. I do not know why, because it is indeed important. I should have thought that an ex-serviceman like the honorable member for Parkes would have commended this Government on its action in repealing section 91a of the act so that the ceiling limits on consolidated pensions, which have prevailed since 194S, no longer will apply.
– He is too ashamed of Labour’s record on that.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) advises me that the ceiling limits were imposed first of all by the previous Labour Administration in 1948, so it may Le that Opposition members feel that the less they say about our repealing them, the better it will be for their own record. However, it is an important feature in this bill, and it is an indication of how the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), whom the honorable member for Parkes had the audacity to describe as shockingly unsympathetic, feels towards exservicemen. How on earth any man on the other side of the House can apply such a term to the present Minister, I do not know. I do say that the repeal of section 91a of the act indicates how the present Minister has pursued a policy during the years he has been in office, which is designed to get the maximum benefits and advantages for the exserviceman whom he is representing. This is part of his long-range detailed plan, spread over a number of years. It is obvious that he has not been able to put into effect all that he desired to do in one particular year, but he has steadily progressed, and now he has reached the stage where the imposition of the ceiling rates has been removed.
In explanation, I point out that on previous rates, the ceiling amount which could be obtained by a war pensioner, if he was entitled to other pensions such as a service pension or a civilian pension, was £5 12s. 6d. a week, compared with an amount of £7 a week which civil pensioners could obtain. In other words, these ceilings definitely penalized the war pensioner ex-serviceman, by preventing him from obtaining as much by way of social service benefits as the civilian pensioner was able to enjoy. As a result of the repeal of these ceilings and of the increase in the rates as provided in this amending bill, a single war pensioner who is on a 100 per cent, rate will now obtain £4 15s. a week from the rate itself, and will also be available for a service pension of £2 15s. a week, giving him a total of £7 10s. a week as against the maximum of £5 12s. 6d. that he could obtain previously. Surely neither the honorable member for Parkes nor any one else can possibly contend that an increase from £5 12s. 6d. a week to £7 10s. is miserable, or is not a reasonable adjustment of the pensioner’s position.
The same applies, of course, when an ex-serviceman and his wife are entitled to both a war pension and a civil pension. In an extreme case, he and his wife would obtain an income of £15 a week. I submit that the repeal of section 91a removes an anomaly which some of us say has been in the act too long. It was put in the act in the first instance by the Labour Government, and we are very proud indeed to know that we are now able to remove it. We also know that the action of this so-called unsympathetic Minister has been received with the greatest satisfaction by servicemen’s organizations, and he has already been advised to that fact by them. So everything the honorable member for Parkes said about, the attitude of the ex-servicemen’s organiztaions generally to our repatriation proposals will not stand the test of investigation.
The honorable member for Parkes also indicated that in committee he proposed to move several amendments dealing with the department’s administration of the act generally. He contended that it was unsympathetic and not in line with the provisions of the act. At the commencement of his remarks, he made some comments to the effect that there were a number of ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House. He referred to our ex-servicemen’s committee, and he stated that he felt that this committee, representative of ex-servicemen in the Government, must have yielded to pressure and had not been able to secure the insertion in this act of all that it desired to do on behalf of ex-servicemen. That statement is completely incorrect.
I propose to give the House an outline of the work that has been performed by that committee in doing what it could to assist in the drafting of a bill which would be reasonably satisfactory. For instance, the honorable member for Parkes referred to the onus of proof, to which is related the question of the benefit of the doubt. We are well aware of the fact that there has been a considerable amount of criticism for some time past of the operation of section 47 of the act. For that reason, a consideration of the interpretation and the administration of section 47 was one of the matters to which the Government members’ ex-servicemen’s committee applied itself particularly. The repatriation sub-committee of that committee,, of which I am chairman, has spent a considerable amount of time in investigating all the avenues available to it to determine whether the interpretation being placed upon the act, and upon section 47 in particular, by the appeal tribunals was correct, and whether the benefit of a reasonable doubt was being given to appellants in the majority of cases. That sub-committee approached this investigation with a critical mind, because we all have seen in the press statements or claims that, in certain cases, exservicemen were not getting a fair deal. We have had personal experience of some cases, which we have taken up, when sometimes we could not entirely understand the decision of the tribunal. In our investigations, we have had the benefit of interpretations by men who were in a position to study this matter and give a reasonably sound interpretation. As a result of those investigations, we support the bill, and we state that the administration of the department and of the assessment appeal tribunals is something which cannot be adversely criticized, and which merits our support.
– And of the entitlement appeal tribunals.
– That is so. I want to do more than make merely a bald statement to that effect. I state, therefore, that the committee, as a result of its very extensive investigations, is quite satisfied, for a start, as to the onus of proof. It is satisfied that there is no doubt that the onus of proof is placed firmly by section 47 of the act on the person or authority that contends that a claim or appeal should not be granted. That ia where the onus of proof lies fairly and squarely under section 47. Further, under that section, it is not necessary for a claimant to furnish proof to support his claim, although obviously - and possibly tJ:.is is a point that is not appreciated by all - it is desirable for any claimant, in his own interests, to supply evidence in support of his claim.
Another point which has become evident to the committee is that the entitlement appeal tribunals are required by the act to give all claimants the benefit of any doubt and to draw from all the circumstances of the case and from all the evidence submitted - from the medical evidence in particular - all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. There is no doubt about that.
– That is what is supposed to be done, but what is done ?
– I point out that it is important to realize that the doubt which is referred to in the act is a doubt in the mind of the determining authority, that is, the tribunal. That is the point that I want to consider. That is one of the factors that have given rise to a good deal of the adverse criticism by various bodies of the administration of the act. The doubt must rest in the minds of members of the tribunal, not in the mind of the appellant, or in the minds of the medical men who are putting up the case, although the act requires that if a medical man has any doubt in his mind as to whether the disability is war-caused or not, he is required to state that fact. It is not that doubt to which the section refers; it is the doubt which may or may not develop in the minds of members of the tribunal as to whether or not the disability is war-caused. As a result of our deliberations, that fact has been brought home very clearly to the committee and it has formulated its opinion, as I stated earlier. We have gone much further in our investigations. It is perfectly obvious, judging by press reports and letters which we have received, that a common interpretation of this act is extant, which is not entirely sound. The common interpretation, which has given rise to much of the current criticism, is that the appellant need only claim that his incapacity is a repatriation responsibility, without submitting any supporting evidence, and the onus is then on the commission to disprove the claim. This school of thought also has it that if there is the slightest doubt in the mind of any one regarding the matter submitted, or if there is any conflict of medical opinion regarding the origin of the claimant’s disability, then the claimant must succeed. We believe that that is not a proper interpretation of section 47. If it were, is it. not obvious that there would be no need whatsoever for the appointment of boards and appeal tribunals, because every claim must succeed, for in regard to every claim which is submitted the appellant does believe that there is a doubt? He believes that his claim arises from a war disability, otherwise he would not make the claim. Therefore, if section 47 has the meaning which is claimed for it by some of those who are very vocal in the press at present, we can immediately dispense with the tribunals and say, “ We are adopting an entirely new government policy. Every disability is to be accepted as being war-caused “, and that would be the end of it. Other countries have tried this policy with the result that they cannot offer to ex-servicemen who are suffering from war-caused disabilities anything like the degree of assistance which Australia is providing. We do restrict, to a certain extent, the assistance offered by. the Government to exservicemen, in that we do not accept all disabilities which have developed after the war as being war-caused, hut as a result we give a. much better, and much more extensive, service to those who need it. We say that that is a sound policy to retain.
The committee has set out to try to determine, from various opinions and from its own investigations, a reasonable interpretation of this clause in relation to benefit of the doubt. In our opinion, a reasonable interpretation is that the determining authority, whichever it may be, after reviewing all the circumstances of the case, including the evidence that has been furnished to it, and particularly the various medical opinions, must draw all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. Mark that : It has to draw all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, and then, if any doubt whatsoever exists in the mind of the determining authority, the benefit of that doubt must be given to the claimant. That is a reasonable interpretation of the act, and our investigation of a considerable number of cases leads us to believe that that is the policy adopted and given effect by the entitlement appeal tribunals. There has been some suggestion that because the present form of the act has given rise to an opinion which we state is incorrect, an attempt could be made to redraft it so that there may be no possible doubt, hut we arp satisfied that any other form of drafting would also lead to similar ambiguity, because we believe that the conflict of opinion regarding the interpretation of the act arises not so much from its present drafting but from the conviction held by some appellants that all disabilities should be accepted as being war-caused, and unless they were so accepted any redrafting which the Government were to attempt would fail in its purpose, because the result would still be open to misrepresentation and .still give rise to ambiguities.
Another matter which the honorable member for Parkes indicated would be raised by the Opposition is the introduction of a right of appeal to the High Court or a Supreme Court. We have also examined this matter. We have been guided by the desire to ensure that any claimant could have the best type of hearing of his case and be given every opportunity of appeal if he considered he was aggrieved. Had we believed that giving him the right of appeal to the High Court would improve his opportunities for proper treatment, we would unhesitatingly have recommended inclusion of a provision for such right of appeal, but we are not so satisfied. It must be realized that dealing with exservicemen’s claims in relation to disabilities and determining pension rates is a highly specialized job, and we are firmly of the opinion that those who are handling this task on behalf of the Government and of Australia - not only the officers of the commission, but those to whom appeals are made-
– All returned soldiers.
– I am reminded that they are all returned soldiers. I say without qualification that as a result of the experience which they have gained, and their naturally sympathetic leaning towards ex-servicemen and their problems, they are far better men to handle this highly specialized job than are any of the judges of the High Court.
– On questions of fact.
– As my friend points out, on questions of fact. That is the crux of the position. It might he argued that on questions of law there is some virtue in an appeal, but in the main these tribunals are determining questions of fact, and dealing with very difficult problems of conflicting medical evidence and other matters. We are quite firmly convinced that to refer such matters to the High Court, as will be proposed by the foreshadowed amendment, would mean that each case would be re-opened, and there would first be a great deal of legal argument, and then a great deal of conflicting medical argument. We have found that doctors argue and disagree about certain cases to just as great a degree as do solicitors and barristers, so we think it would not be in the interests of ex-servicemen to put them in a position where they had to go before a court, engage counsel to take part in learned dissertation on legal aspects, and have doctors - some of them so-called specialists - arguing backwards and forwards and spending a considerable amount of time and the ex-serviceman’s money, which he would not be able to recover because, if I am rightly informed as to the terms of the Opposition’s proposed amendment, no costs would be awarded by the court. In other words, all parties to the appeal would have to pay their own costs. It would be a very nice thing, would it not, to say to an ex-serviceman, “ We are giving yon the right of appeal to the High Court, but you must pay all your own costs”.
– That is not correct.
– It is in the amendment, unless the honorable member has taken it out. I have not seen the amendment that is being distributed now. We condemn the proposal that these matters should be referred to the High Court.
I point out that there is a great deal more to this amending bill than the provisions for increasing pension rates and repealing section 91a of the act. The Minister for Repatriation is always looking for opportunities to improve the services that the Repatriation Department renders to ex-servicemen. As a result of his experience, he has discovered that certain provisions relating to the hearing of appeals should be improved, and he has taken action to improve them. Section 64 of the aft prescribes the procedure to be followed by the Repatriation Commission and by the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. Briefly, the Minister proposes an amendment of the wording of section 64 (6.). Under the present procedure, when further evidence is produced to an appeal tribunal, the tribunal normally refers the ca.se back to the commission for reconsideration. If the commission’s decision is adverse to the appellant, all that happens is that the tribunal “ considers and decides “ the appeal. In other words, it has a look at what the commission has sent back to it and decides whether to allow or reject the claim. It is felt that that procedure is not fair to appellants and that, if an appeal tribunal further considers a matter that has been referred back to the commission and sent by the commission to the tribunal, the appellant should have the right to be present, with his advocate, at the proceedings of the tribunal. It is felt that there should be a fresh hearing. Provision is made for that in the bill. The amendments will make it clear that when a case has been referred back to a tribunal under section 64 (6.) there will be a further hearing, at which the appellant can appear with his advocate. That will be a considerable improvement of the procedure for the handling of appeals by the tribunals.
The general effect of the amendments - I have not time to go into all of them now - will be to give greater clarity to the provisions of the act in this connexion, and to make sure that an appellant, with his advocate, will, before a tribunal gives its decision, have a full opportunity to comment on or answer all of the evidence which has been produced to the tribunal.
It has been found that, on some occasions, after an appeal has been disallowed by a tribunal, further information comes into the hands of the commission which indicates that the appeal should have been allowed. Nowadays, medical science is advancing rapidly, and we know that sometimes fresh knowledge gained by the advance of medical science can alter completely all previously accepted ideas about a particular disease. ‘ At present, the Repatriation Commission cannot, of its own volition, in the circumstances that I have indicated, vary the decision of a tribunal. It is contended that the commission should be able to do so. One of the clauses of the bill proposes that, under those circumstances, the commission shall have authority to vary the tribunal’s decision, subject to the provision that it shall not have authority to vary a decision given in favour of an appellant.
I have referred only to some of the provisions of the bill. Other honorable members will explain the provisions for the increase of pension rates. I submit that the bill stands to the credit of the Minister for Repatriation.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This measure is a hardy annual. In these days of spiralling costs, it is necesary that it should be a hardy annual. Other wise, returned servicemen in receipt of repatriation pensions would not be able to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) expressed hia regret at the fact that, during this debate and previous debates on repatriation, the Opposition has endeavoured to outbid the Government. May I say that I - and I think this goes also for the other members of my party - have always endeavoured to keep the debates on repatriation matters on a relatively high plane? I have always endeavoured to keep them above the level of party politics. That does not mean that T take the view that there is no necessity for party politics, or that I deny that any good can come from party politics and conflicts of political opinion.
The honorable member for Dawson, as [ have said, has expressed regret at the fact that we have endeavoured to outbid the Government in this debate. I say that, in view of present circumstances, it is essential for a vigorous Labour Opposition to outbid the Government. Our bid is based on a sound study of the facts as they exist. When I say there is every justification for outbidding the Government, I do not suggest for a moment that the Government has not tried to make at least some improvement of the conditions of returned servicemen. In an era of ever-rising costs, it is essential that the Government should do something for pensioned exservicemen, and it has, in fact, done something. The Government is entitled to credit for some of the proposals embodied in the bill.
Lifting this subject out of the field of party politics, let us look at the facts impartially and ascertain, if we can, how standeth the war pensioner to-day, compared with sixteen years ago. I take that period because it was a peace-time era. World War II. commenced sixteen years ago, in 1939. At that time, there were people in this country in receipt of pensions paid under the provisions of the repatriation legislation in force then. The legislation had not been altered substantially for many years, because during the preceding period war-caused inflation, as we know it to-day, had not been operating to any substantial degree. As a matter of fact, on some occasions there had been a deflationary situation.
Let us see how those people have fared during the last sixteen years. I take that period in an endeavour to lift this subject out of the party political sphere. During those sixteen years, governments of various shades of political opinion have been in office in this country. I do not want to make invidious comparisons. I shall give the bare, basic facts, proved by figures published in official documents. In 1939, the 100 per cent, war pension was £2 2s. a week. In 1955, fifteen years later, with the passage of this bill-
– What about 1949 ?
– Never mind that. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is a gentleman whose colleague from Dawson (Mr. Davidson) decried the introduction of party politics into this debate. Honorable members opposite are endeavouring to introduce into this debate, for purposes of comparison, the very difficult war-time and post-war era in which the Labour Government so ably led this country, and also to introduce comparisons between 1949 and 1955, comparisons based on the 0 series index, and all sorts of other comparisons, and also to introduce the party political aspect. I am giving honorable members facts and figures ranging over a period of years when governments of all political complexions held office. I do not care much whether this government did that, or that government did this. What I am concerned with now is how the returned serviceman pensioner is faring after a period of fifteen years, during which the national economy has passed through periods of peace, war, and post-war circumstances.
When we come to consider the figures relating to 1939 let us not forget that at that particular time our economy was in a not very prosperous condition. As the Commonwealth Statistician has remarked, at that time no less than 10 per cent, of our working population was on the official unemployed registers. In fact, a few months after war broke out in 1939 the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in addressing a public meeting in Melbourne, himself, confessed that, at the outbreak of war, 246,000 Australians were out of work. So, it was not a very prosperous period ; yet the pension rate at that time for the 100 per cent, war pensioner was 42s. a week. In 1955, when this bill becomes law, it will be 95s. a week, an increase, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of 126 per cent. - and never mind what, governments have been in. office in the interim. Now let us compare that increase with the increase of the basic wage in the same period. In 1939. the basic wage was 78s. a week. In 1955, in this post-war era of excessive inflation, the basic wage is 246s., that is to say, £12’ 6s. a week - an increase of slightly more than 215 per cent. These are facts, and I repeat them for the sake of emphasis. In fifteen years the 100 per cent, war pension rate increased by 126 per cent. In the same time the basic wage increased by 215 per cent. And then somebody opposite had the temerity to say that any criticism about the ungenerousness of the proposed increases of pensions is an attempt by the Opposition, for purely political purposes, to outbid Hie Government.
Let me examine the position of the totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner, who is generally referred to briefly as the “ T.P.I, pensioner “. In 1939 the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner’s rate - and it was all too low - was 80s. a week. In 1955 this Parliament proposes to bring the rate to 195s. a week - an increase, in fifteen years, of 144 per cent. Over the same period the basic wage has risen by no less than 215 per cent. So there we have another great disparity in percentage increases’ over a period of fifteen years - an increase of 144 per cent, in the totally and permanently incapacitated, pension rate, and an increase of 215> per cent, in the basie wage. It is quite true that, coincidental with all the increases that have taken place, there have been - and I want to be perfectly fair about this - some improvements in domestic allowances, children’s allowances and other factors appertaining to pensions. Nevertheless, despite all those improvements we, as a Parliament, have failed deplorably to bring pension rates up to the level at which they should stand to-day in an era of substantial prosperity in order that they will be worth while, and will bear comparison with the rates paid to disabled returned men in 1939, which was a period of not very great prosperity. We have made substantial improvements in technology, in secondary production methods, and agricultural methods, and there have also been great improvements in the position of this country insofar as our population is concerned, as a result of prosperity, but we have not improved enough the position of war pensioners. The single totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is to receive £9 15s. a week.
I say that, in this year of prosperity and abundant wealth, and of excessive profits made by various big industrial concerns, if necessary the wellcircumstanced sections of this nation’s population, including myself, and other honorable members, should pay increased taxes in order that men who have been totally and permanently disabled in the service of their country may receive more than this meagre and miserable rate of £9 15s. a week. This is not necessarily a matter entirely for the Government, but is a matter for the whole Parliament. The 100 per cent, war pensioner is to receive 90s. a week under this measure. He is the man who is suffering from what is called a “100 per cent, disability”. In some instances people who are physically disabled have compensating mental ability which enables them to earn some income, but they are still not adequately circumstanced. But the pensioners who are the worst treated by all governments - and I will not make party politics out of this - are, in my opinion, the war widows, who have lost the company of the men they selected as their mates for life, and have been left alone in the world. They are to be given under this measure a miserable increase of 10 per cent, of their pension rate. They can never be fully compensated for the loss they have sustained in being deprived of their partners, and under those circumstances this nation ought to be able to do something better for them than is at present proposed.
I think that my criticisms of the proposed pension rates are unanswerable. I challenge any honorable member to say, with truth, that the figures I have cited are not authentic, clear, concise and to the point.
– They are not in enough detail.
– They are the bare bones. Unfortunately, I have to say to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), in debates of this sort frequently, too many small bones are thrown in, and the bare facts are not laid in plain enough language before the Parliament and the people so that they may analyse them and take suitable action.
Now let us examine another matter that has arisen during this debate. The honorable member for Dawson did his best. He has taken up this question of criticism levelled in another place, and the moving of an amendment in that place in connexion with the onus of proof. The Acting Prime Minister who is now seated at the table - I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) should get his due title on this occasion - knows something about the onus of proof and, of course, as I do not want to introduce party politics, I shall not go into the horrific details. But let us examine, impartially and factually, its origin. The war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals arose out of the fact that over a long period of years returned service applicants for pensions were having their applications rejected by the Repatriation Commission, and waited on the doorsteps of successive Ministers for Repatriation in order to plead their cases. Cases were brought up in this Parliament and heavy pressure was put upon the
Minister to take action if the department had not done what the returned soldier thought it should do. The unfortunate Minister was often almost, bereft of his senses in his anxiety to know what to do next. It then became a question of how he could be relieved of the frightful responsibility of going into all the details when some one appealed for an increased pension, or for pension eligibility, after having been rejected by the commission. After some years all political parties, realizing the unfortunate and deplorable situation, evolved, with ex-servicemen’s organizations, the proposal for a tribunal that would be the equivalent of a returned soldiers’ High Court - the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. To-day, there are several such tribunals and they are entirely independent of the Repatriation Commission. They are expected not to have any official association with the commission, or to be influenced by it. In correspondence with returned soldiers I always emphasize that fact. The tribunals were set up at the request of the returned soldiers’ organizations and with the agreement of all parties in this Parliament.
They are composed entirely of exservicemen, and in the very nature of things, appellants can expect the tribunals to have at least an unconscious prejudice in their favour. I believe that that was the hope of the ex-servicemen’s organizations and the parliament of the day. It seemed to be the answer to the problem, but what has happened? Inevitably - as we should have expected when we appointed these authorities - a percentage of the claims by returned soldiers are rejected. Probably between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of the appeals are rejected, and only 10 or 20 per cent, accepted. Unfortunately, cases where there has been undoubted injustice come to the notice of honorable members. I know of one or two myself. Any judge or court will agree that, in some cases, the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals have erred. It is, of course, human to err. After all, the tribunals must be guided largely by medical opinion. They have before them specialists of kinds - most of them good and only a minority bad. Most doctors are conscientious, but a minority lack that quality, and are inattentive to their duties. But whether that is so or not, their opinions carry a good deal of weight in such cases. Unfortunately, medical opinions very often differ. This results in cases that should be approved being rejected by the tribunals. That sort of thing has been going on for years. This Parliament has become a battleground for the warring factions. The Labour party does not pursue this matter for political purposes. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) smiles, but he will admit that I have not introduced politics to this debate. I have merely given an interesting historical account of the development of repatriation tribunals in this country.
Labour has come to the conclusion that it is time the system was improved. It may be that the returned soldiers are entirely satisfied with the existing tribunals. That is important, but it is more important that Parliament should go to the limit in ensuring that, substantially, justice is done. I should not have been surprised if some ex-servicemen’s organizations had said, “ Let us wipe out the whole thing lock, stock and barrel and substitute the courts “. But they have not done so, nor has the Opposition. We say that a single judge should be appointed so that there will be a check on the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. We are all prone to make mistakes and become careless. The action that we propose would ensure that these cases were analysed to the ultimate degree. The tribunals would know that, in the final resort, an appellant would be able to go before a man trained in the law. It would not cost much. It might not produce the results that the Opposition, its supporters, or the Government would wish, but it would provide some solace to the many people who believe that injustice has been done. Though I am one of those who prefer the common-sense judgment of the layman, I must admit that upon occasion lawyers can be of vast assistance to people who wish to sustain claims, or have them suitably presented to the courts.
In those circumstances, I hope that the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson”) will withdraw his objection to the foreshadowed amendment. He is under the impression that the cost of any appeal to the proposed court would be borne by the appellant. That is not so. The amendment will provide that no order with regard to costs shall be made. The honorable member for Dawson told us to-night that even the Government was bringing along some suggestions that would improve the position and offer greater opportunities for further hearings before the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. Surely that is an answer to those who say that the Opposition is endeavouring to outbid the Government. That idea’ would not be as effective as would our own proposal that a judge should give the final decision, but it indicates that criticisms by exservicemen and honorable members have borne some fruit.
I appeal to honorable members to discuss this matter on a non-party basis. I do not think that any one will say that I have been partisan during this debate. It is true that substantial improvements in pension conditions were made in 1943 after the appointment of a non-party select committee, of which I was chairman. Though we were then in the middle of a war, a pension increase of 20 per cent., and a little more in some cases, was granted to ex-servicemen. I make bold to say - and doubtless the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) who was a member of the committee, will agree with me - that but for the war we would have recommended an even more substantial increase. I regret that some one in another place quoted the C series index on the subject of increases of pensions since 1943, but studiously avoided mentioning the 20 per cent, increase that had been made in that year by the Curtin Government. I shall leave it at that, hoping that I have made some contribution to the debate. I hope, not only that I have impressed this Parliament with the necessity for a better deal to be given to ex-servicemen, and with the necessity for withdrawing this bill and bringing ex-servicemen’s pensions at least into line with increases in the basic wage since 1939, but also that I have done something to let the public know that the Opposition will be behind the Government in the acceptance of any measure for an improvement in pensions. Some service pensions have been adjusted without regard having been paid to the fact that ceiling limits have been lifted in respect of other pensions. The present unfortunate provisions were imposed during war-time when no one knew what the end of the national economy would be. The Government should not forget that the imposition of the means test means that an ex-serviceman with some private income cannot obtain the benefit that would normally have been given to him by the lifting of the ceiling limit. The present legislation is not wholly good, but it represents a substantial improvement on the previous legislation. I hope that something will be done by all honorable members to improve the Government’s proposal substantially, and the condition of war pensioners, war widows and their dependants.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McColm) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator Wedgwood had been appointed to the Public Accounts Committee in place of Senator Paltridge.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator Marriott had been appointed to the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee in place of Senator Paltridge.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I must take this opportunity, even at this late hour, to bring before the House a subject that was raised as a matter of urgency by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) on Tuesday regarding the intention of the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line. The speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), who replied to the honorable member, was brief, and he deliberately evaded the issue. At the conclusion of his remarks, he moved the closure. Therefore, I must take this opportunity to pursue the subject.
The honorable member for Wilmot dealt most comprehensively with the present position of the Commonwealth shipping line and undoubtedly showed, with little difficulty, that the fleet of some 50 vessels, which have been accumulated over fifteen years has, during the life of the present Administration, been faced with the threat of an ultimate sell-out. The remarks of the Minister, in my opinion, represented no more than an endeavour to evade a question that has been asked very often by honorable members on this side of the House, and which has been asked at party meetings by honorable members on the opposite side of the House. I can be sufficiently magnanimous in my approach to this subject to concede that some members of the Government parties must appreciate the value of this valuable enterprise and that they arc able to assess public opinion. Therefore, they must oppose the ultimate disposal of the Commonwealth shipping line to any form of monopoly which must necessarily concern itself with profits rather than with the extension of a vital and essential transport system which could and should be used to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding economy.
Therefore, in the final analysis, the Minister told us exactly nothing. He did not deny the charges which had been made by the honorable member for Wilmot. He did not refute the statement that the Government was contemplating the establishment of a corporation. He did not refute the assumption of the honorable member for Wilmot that the Government intended to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line at the first opportunity. There is no justification for such a move as that, and the Government should realise, long before it becomes too deeply involved in negotiations for the establishment of a corporation, that this move to hand over the Common wealth shipping line to private interests is not acceptable. It has already been pointed out that the establishment of a corporation, with the Government as a partner, could only mean a repetition of the events which led to the sale of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and other national enterprises, merely to satisfy the whim of the Government which has disposed of Commonwealth assets without having any valid reason for doing so.
Let me consider the effects which can be expected from the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line. In order to do so. I shall briefly recapitulate a’ discussion that took place during the last parliamentary session when the subject of shipping and freight rates was discussed as a matter of urgency. On that occasion, the overseas shipping combine had announced that it would make an increase of 10 per cent, in the freight rates on cargoes which it carried to and from Australia and New Zealand. Those companies, both British and continental, carry 60 per cent, of our imports as well as 90 per cent, of our bulk exports to the United Kingdom and Europe. Of our total import bill of approximately £800,000,000 a year, £80,000,000 is charged by private shipping interests for freight.
In order further to illustrate the position with respect to the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line, I remind the House that the report of the Peninsular and Oriental group of companies announced a profit of £17,900,000 for the year ending September, 1954, and, for the previous year, a profit of £17,100,000. Now the Government, which has had the advantage of many years of experience gained in the operation of the Commonwealth shipping line, wants to dispose of that line because it wishes Australia to continue to be faced with these conditions. It must be obvious to every honorable member that the Government has been reluctant to exercise control over any sort of monopoly, just as it has been obvious to every honorable member on this side of the House that there is no competition between the private shipping companies. They all belong to the same family, and will continue to fix freight charges how and when they like. I believe that to be a fact, lt has been proved in the past, and if the Government continues with its policy of disposing of Commonwealth ships, the experience will be repeated in the future.
I have dealt briefly with the subject of freight rates, merely in order to point out the consequences which can he expected to follow the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line as well as to indicate that it is practically impossible, as experience has proved, to maintain freight charges at an economic level unless those who are in a position to do so are prepared to offer fair and reasonable competition. During last year, the Commonwealth line of ships carried 3,500,000 tons of cargo, which represented more than a third of the total interstate seaborne traffic. In each of the last three years of its operation, the Australian Shipping Board has been able to report a profit and, for the last financial year, its surplus amounted to £493,000. Therefore, having regard to what I have said, and the general acknowledgment that the Commonwealth shipping line has been of immeasurable value to Australian trade, why must the Government continue with a policy which can only put an end to the service which is being given by that line? Whilst the Government suggests that it cannot be held responsible for the increased freight rates charged by the overseas shipping combine, it can and should be held responsible for the minimum level of freight rates charged by ships which operate around the Australian coast. To-day the Australian Shipping Board has under its jurisdiction a fleet of some 50- odd ships which could, and should bc operated in fair competition with the private shipping companies. Yet, notwithstanding the lesson that this Government has already had in respect of the overseas shipping combines, it now wants to sell its ships and so force on both exporters and importers unsatisfactory conditions. I suggest that if Government members were really sincere on this issue, they would be bound to admit that they cannot advance one valid reason acceptable to the Australian community which would justify such an ill-conceived policy. I admit that this problem of shipping is not a new one. It has been with us for over a quarter of a century; but the problem is much greater to-day than it has been before, and it is significant, too, that freight charges have increased by 396 per cent, between 1949 and 1954. The Government should have realized much earlier that the Commonwealth line of ships can be a vital factor in securing cheaper freight rates as well as fares. Freight rates charged to-day are at an exorbitant level. More than 180 ships operate around the Australian coast under charter by the private companies. Many of them are obsolete and hopelessly uneconomic. That is possibly one of the reasons why the private shipping companies want to take over the Commonwealth line of ships. The second and equally important reason, of course, is that they want to eliminate competition by forming one more monopoly - this time in Australian waters.
I have already suggested several reasons why these vessels should be retained. No better argument could be used for their retention than the example of our airways. Trans-Australia Airlines is government-owned, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is privately owned. Those airline operators have, in competition, provided in Australia one of the finest and cheapest airway services in the world, but their rates per ton-mile and per passenger-mile increased by only 40 per cent, between 1949 and 1954. Very many questions have been asked of the Prime Minister in regard to this matter. Eu3 replies have always been evasive, which means, in effect, that up to this moment the Government has not had the courage to take the final plunge. Either that is so, or the proposals of the ship owners have not been acceptable to this Government which, after all, is not very hard to please in these matters. The general consensus of opinion is that the Commonwealth line of ships must be retained and placed on the same basis as Trans-Australia Airlines, and particularly, that these ships should be maintained, controlled and managed with trained staffs, and that the line should, be expanded whenever necessary. Finally, I want to say that the sale of a SUCCeSS- ful enterprise, a profitable undertaking which is to-day working for the benefit of the people, would be inexcusable.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to speak for longer than about a minute. I would just like to point out to the House that I cannot understand what the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who has just resumed his seat, has been talking about. I can only say that as a supporter of the Government I have never heard the suggestion that he has advanced put up by anybody, and I merely want to put on record the fact that I think this whole story is a figment of the Opposition’s imagination, and that it has been brought up for purely political purposes.
.- I am particularly pleased that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is present, and I hope that before he leaves the House he will promise to do something about the deplorable conditions under which . assisted immigrants live in the suburbs of Melbourne and probably, also, in the suburbs of other capital cities as well. .[ make it clear that I am not opposed to immigration. Because of the conditions under which the people to whom I referred are living - particularly those who cannot speak the English language - they are exposed to exploitation by unscrupulous members of the community. When the Minister was asked a question in connexion with this matter, he said that they were probably unassisted immigrants and that therefore the department had little or no responsibility with regard to their accommodation because, before they were accepted overseas for entry into this country, their accommodation had to be guaranteed. I assure the Minister that not all of these persons who are living in Fitzroy and elsewhere are unassisted immigrants. Some of them have only recently come from Bonegilla, where they have been housed for a very short period, and are still unable to speak the English language. They are required to pay rent of as much as £4 a week for one room. There are many instances in which a whole family lives in one room.
I have in mind a certain house which, even at to-day’s inflated values, would not realize more than £1,000. It comprises five rooms and, in addition, there are two little dilapidated shelters at the back of the premises. Separate families occupied each of the rooms. The five families living in the house comprised 24 persons all told. Each family pays rent of £3 a week - a total of £15 a week. The people living in the two outhouses pay rent of £2 10s. a week in respect of each of them. Therefore, a total rental of £20 a week is paid by the occupants of the premises, for whom inadequate conveniences are provided, the cooking and sanitary arrangements are meagre and deplorable, and their rental does not include payment for food.
– How long has this been going on?
– It has not been going on for very long in this instance. The persons that I interviewed have not been in this country for twelve months yet, and came from Bonegilla only recently. If any honorable member doubts the accuracy of my statements, I can supply further particulars. I invite the Minister to accompany me on an inspection of the area, when I shall indicate the house that I have mentioned so that he can see at first-hand the number of people who occupy it and the conditions under which they live. I also undertake to provide the services of an expert interpreter so that the Minister can ascertain personally the rentals that they pay. Some honorable members opposite will be prone to ask what the previous Government did in 1943, and to say that both the State governments and municipalities have a responsibility in this matter. I acknowledge that that is so. I also acknowledge that somebody in 1843 or 1943 did not do what he should have done. I acknowledge the fact that both State governments and municipalities bear some responsibility in connexion with immigrants. But that does not excuse this Government of its responsibility. As the Australian Government brought the immigrants to this country it should ensure, as far as possible, that they are not exposed to extortion by unscrupulous landlords. I am not opposed to immigration. Indeed, I have been a strong advocate of immigration, and I shall continue to support it. But I point out that if the conditions that exist in the tenement houses that I have mentioned are allowed to continue, there will he delivered to our immigration scheme such a great blow as to militate against its success. If prospective immigrants heard about the conditions under which the immigrants to whom I have referred are living, they would he discouraged from coming to Australia. Therefore, we should endeavour to see that those conditions cease to exist. 1 recall that, in 1951, I told the Minister for Immigration that there was a rent racket in respect of unassisted immigrants. 1 told him how they were nominated by people in this country who guaranteed them accommodation, and, on their arrival in Australia, found the accommodation inadequate. They were housed in what were really long dormitories for which they paid extortionate charges to the people who nominated them so that they could amass immense capital and make enormous profits out of them. I told the right honorable gentleman then that the welfare officers of the Department of Immigration should take action, and that, if the department did not employ welfare officers, it should immediately appoint a number of them and assign them to watch the interests of those people. I tell the Minister to-night that the Government has a responsibility not only to unassisted immigrants, but also to assisted immigrants who cannot understand the English language. Let there be no argument about what some one else did not do. The responsibilities of municipalities and State governments cannot absolve the Department of Immigration of its responsibility immediately to investigate the conditions of immigrants and to take prompt action where it is needed. The staff of the department should include experts with a knowledge of the necessary languages, and they should go out among the immigrants and ensure that they are not exploited. I shall not say more now. The Argus newspaper made clear the deplorable conditions that exist. I do not say that those conditions are general. They are not, but they are far too prevalent in the capital cities. Our duty is to see that they cease to exist. If the Minister doubts the accuracy of any of my statements, let him investigate for himself the conditions that exist at the places that the Argus reporter and photographer, together with myself, Mr. Gain, M.L.A., and Mr. Lovegrove, M.L.A., visited during the last few days. I have not the slightest doubt that, if the Minister saw those conditions for himself, his conscience, as were our consciences, would be so affected that he would not rest until the position of those immigrants had been improved. I am sure also that, even though he might think the responsibility rested with some other government organization, he would have that organization galvanized into activity so that these deplorable conditions would cease to be a blot upon the Christianity and civilization of which we boast.
.- I wish to bring a particular matter to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in the hope that he will bring it to the attention of the Government and, particularly, of the authorities that control the Commonwealth Literary Fund. I understand that an application for assistance from this fund either has been made recently, or will be made in the very near future, by the editor and the editorial board of a journal that calls itself Overland and is alleged to be an Australian quarterly literary magazine. Because I do not like the associates of Overland, its origin and the things it stands for, I shall give the House the history of this journal. I hope that those who administer the Commonwealth Literary Fund will be impressed by its history and will refuse to make it a grant. The title of the magazine is very innocuous. Up to the present time it has published only four issues. The title page states that it incorporates the Realist Writer, which is an off-shoot or an auxiliary of an organization called the Realist Film Unit. If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) were in the House, he would recall very vividly representations that I made to him, when he and I were members of the Victorian Parliament, about the Realist Film Unit.
At the time I proved conclusively that it was a Communist organization that utilized the facilities of the Victorian State Film Centre for the purpose of disseminating propaganda in support of the Communist ideology. Overland traces its origins back to the Realist Film Unit.
I have taken the trouble to go through the various copies of the magazine that are available. At least two of the four quarterly issues that have been published were printed by the Coronation Press, 16 Corrs-lane, Melbourne. I think the Minister for Labour and National Service and those who have fought the Australian Communist party in Melbourne in the past, and are fighting it to-day, know full well that the Coronation Press is the Australian Communist party printing press in Melbourne. It prints th* Guardian. In short, everything about Overland smacks of the Australian Communist party. Most of the illustrations in the four issues are the work of Noel Counihan, a well-known “ Com “ and the admitted “ Commo “ artist. The editorial board of Overland includes, among others, S. Murray-Smith. I do not know much about that gentleman, but 1 understand that he has been behind the Iron Curtain - whether in the guise of a novice to be indoctrinated or as a traveller, I do not know. The remaining members of the editorial board are Eric Lambert, Jack Coffey and Ian Turner, all of whom are well known to be Communists. These people, who constantly vilify the Australian Government, in conversation and in various kinds of propaganda, have the audacity to ask this constitutional Government, which they are more or less pledged to overthrow, in accordance with the Communist ideology, for a grant to help them along their way of literary endeavour.
The contributors to Overland include such known and admitted “ Corns “ as Jean Devanny, Jock Graham, who was identified before a recent royal commission as “ Runner “, Frank Hardy, Eric Lambert, Ian Turner, John Manifold, C. B. Christesen, who was identified before a recent royal commission as “ Crab “, and Alan Marshall. Other people known either to be of great assistance to the Australian Communist party and always found in the company of
Communists, or to be very active peddlers of the Communist line, are named among those who have contributed articles to this periodical. 1 do not say for one moment that these people are Communists. I say merely that they are always found in the company of Communists. They include Brian Fitzpatrick, Rex Mortimer, Helen, Nettie, and Vance Palmer, Katharine Susannah Pritchard, Allyn Vasey, Judah Waten, and EleanorWheeler of Prague.
The magazine publishes advertisements for the New Theatre, Flinders-street, Melbourne, which is the “ Com “ cultural head-quarters in Melbourne. The subjectmatter printed in this periodical is of the type that one would expect, in view of its associations. I wish to quote only one spicy passage of poetry from a poem contributed by Ross Tracie, in issue No. 1 of the spring of 1954. It contains the following fine sentiments about the Rosenbergs, who were executed in America for treason: -
The Rosenbergs, though dead, are strong,
To move a poet into song,
The President is still in flower,
But who would sing of Eisenhower.
That is typical of the material peddled by this magazine. From the silence of the honorable members who follow the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) I assume that they accept my statement that Overland is a “ Com “ journal and that all its actions, thoughts and ideology are Communist. “With great amazement, I found, in issue No. 2 of the summer of 1954-55, a very good article entitled “The Eureka Stockade” contributed by a distinguished member of the galaxy of contributors to this journal. It comes from the pen of the right honorable member for Barton. I ask honorable members not to think that this has beenfilched from the right honorable member, because the journal acknowledges and thanks him for his assistance by saying -
We (the editorial board) are grateful to Dr. Evatt for permission to make the study available to the Australian general public for the first time.
The Eureka Stockade was an early work of the learned doctor.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is an old adage that I think applies with equal force wherever we go. It is “ Show me your company and I will tell you your friends.” That is effective on this occasion. This is a “ Com “ show right through. Mark the temerity and cheek of it ! It applied to the Commonwealth Literary Fund for assistance. Practically every writer to it is either a known “ Com “ or a fellow collaborator and associate of “ Coms “, and amongst that distinguished galaxy is he who is leading the alleged Labour party to perdition - the right honorable member for Barton.
I repeat that those members of the Labour party who follow the right honorable member for Barton today are pledging themselves to this type of association, this type of material, this combination of ideas, dragging down the name of a movement that once stood for democracy, that once stood against communism but now, by the actions and associations of its leader, is going rapidly down the path to “ Com “ collaboration.
.-I came in late, and heard only the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), but it appears to me that the burden of his complaint is that a journal has made application to the Commonwealth Literary Fund for assistance. Is that so?
– The honorable member for Hoddle as the custodian of the writers and of the morality of this country, took great exception to the making of that application. Is that so?
– No, I take exception to the “ Coms “.
– Is the honorable member for Parkes supporting it?
– Just a minute! I will tell the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) what I am doing. The position, as it appears to me, is that a committee is appointed by this House to consider applications from outside sources in connexion with contributions of a literary nature. The final authority on that is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), several other distinguished honorable members of this House, plus the literary committee itself. That being so, any recommendations can safely be left to them.
I am not concerned with this application whatsoever. I had belonged to the Commonwealth Literary Fund, and 1 understand how it operates, and how these applications are sifted. The only test that can ever be applied to a writer is whether he is a good writer. If people are writing Communist propaganda, they are not good writers. These people are asking for assistance, apparently, as they have done before. They may be refused, and they may not be refused, but we should not pre-judge the matter in relation to their literary output. I am not concerned, except to say that I am rather incapacitated by the fact that I did not hear the whole of this argument. This is an important matter. It is no good smearing all persons concerned because they happen to be writers who are trying to give some understanding of what happens in this country. Because they are doing so, they are subjected to the cheap gibe that they are Communists. Some of them may be.
Mr. Cremean interjecting,
– They are not dills like the honorable member for Hoddle. At least they have some ability. In this connexion, I am defending a right. I am not defending the writer’s political gospel and beliefs in any way. Some people hate any one who does anything of a literary nature in this country. They indulge in smears and gibes. He is treated like a three-legged man or a dog-faced tartar. He is an oddity, before he starts in this business, and as a result, is fair game for the smearers of the splinter group in the corner. I shall indicate how insincere this sort of thing is. The honorable member for Hoddle has made his allegation, which has been handed to him by some outside source, that, “this is ‘Com’! this is ‘Com’! this is ‘ Com ‘ ! “. A ring through every nose, it will be noticed. Then comes the final smear of the Leader of the Opposition. He writes! That story is abundantly clear. He is an authority on Australian history, and he has written two magnificent books. One is Justice Within the Law and the other is a treatise on Eureka. That is available from the National Library. It is available everywhere. It is a reprint.
Mr. Cremean interjecting,
– Will the honorable member listen to what I am telling him? I know what I am talking about. The inference is that it was a special work prepared by the Leader of the Opposition for this small struggling journal, which is alleged to be a realist writers’ group. They have been in existence for some time and I am merely bringing these points before the House. The smear was that it was written as an original work. It is nothing of the sort.
– How does the honorable member know?
– The only thing I have to say is that it is not an original. It has been written long since, and used. This is borne out by the dedication, “ We thank you for the use of it “. It is for the use of any study groups. They are realist writers, a study group.
This is on all fours with the attack made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), the deputy leader of the splinter group, some years ago when he was a member of this party. I saw the wisdom, like John the Baptist, of being the precursor, and I attacked him for anti-Labour activities in those days in smearing people who were not Communists. Another point I make is that all the people who were defamed were given scholarships by the Commonwealth Literary Fund for writing. They wrote good novels which are now best sellers, and they have justified themselves. Finally, I say that any one who tries to marry politics to the writing game will be in worse difficulties than the splinter group, which is rapidly approaching extinction.
– Time will not permit of my dealing with more than one subject to-night, and perhaps I shall not be able to deal adequately with that, but I do refer to what has been said by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). I can tell the House that I have witnessed some shoddy political performances in my time in this place, but what has been occurring within the last few days in Victoria - another chapter has been added to it by the honorable member for Burke to-night - constitutes one of the shoddiest political performances I have witnessed in the whole course of my interest in public affairs.
I shall give the House a little of the background of the business, so that honorable members may judge it on its merits. I should like to discuss the whole question on its merits, but unfortunately we are not being given the opportunity to do so. The Victorian section of the Labour party discovered quite recently that it had fallen a bit behind in the race to attract political support from some of our new settlers. lt discovered, for example, that the Queensland and New South Wales divisions of the Labour party had been regularly securing copies of the Gazette containing the lists of the names of those new Australians who had become naturalized and, therefore, eligible to vote. Starting a little behind scratch, the Victorian section of the Labour party thought it was time it did something about the matter. The interesting feature of it is that the spearhead of the current campaign comprises the former Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, who was joined in an attack against the groupers at the last election by Mr. Lovegrove and the honorable member for Burke, who quite recently has asked me for copies of those issues of the Gazette which contain the names of the people who have been naturalized. To take it a little further, we find that only a few days ago there was a significant announcement that a New Australian Committee of the Australian Labour party had been formed, and that one of the first things the Labour party would look into in the interests of the new Australians was this problem of exploitation by unscrupulous landlords. So we have Mr. Cain, who, as anybody in Victoria will know, and as anybody in this Parliament who has shown any real interest in immigration will know, has been one of the most notorious opponents of immigration, in public places - certainly in the parliaments of this country - and as Premier of Victoria.
– That is not true.
– The deputy leader of the Labour party knows that the one former Australian Premier who has been consistently and notoriously opposed to immigration is Mr. Cain. To show the bona fides, or the lack of bona fides, in this particular performance, I mention that although I had conferences from time to time during his term of office with his own Minister of Immigration, and although he has been represented at our conventions here, on no occasion did his Minister of Immigration put forward the kind of story that we have heard in the last few days. In addition, supporting this campaign, has been the one daily newspaper in the Commonwealth which has been consistent in its opposition to the immigration programme, a journal which, in a rather frantic endeavour to increase circulation, has adopted a policy of sensationalism and has allied that to its consistent antagonism to immigration to this country. Here we have this assembly of persons making themselves very vocal, in print or in the Parliament, in recent days on this subject of overcrowding of immigrants in Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond and places like that. As long as I can remember, there has been a problem of’ sub-standard housing in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond - no doubt in a number of other places throughout the Commonwealth, but in those places in particular. That that is the case is well within the knowledge of any citizen of Victoria, and we all deplore it. Successive State and Federal governments have expressed their intentions of doing something about it. Some governments have clone more than others. Mr. Cain had some opportunities during his own term of office as Premier of doing something about it, but to present this as some problem which has been caused by the influx of immigrants into this country is a shoddy political performance, and completely unwarranted on the facts. No one challenges the fact that there is, to some degree, a housing shortage in this country. There has been a housing shortage as long as I can remember, and it may be some time before we overcome it. But if immigration has done one thing, it has assisted materially in overcoming the housing shortage which formally existed in this country, and anybody who studies the facts will accept that as a statement of fact, because we have consciously directed a considerable proportion of the immigrant labour which has come to this country into the production of building materials and into the on-site labour force. As a result, as a community - not just a federal government or any single State government - we have been building houses at the very good Australian average, indeed one of the best housing averages in the world, of fewer than four persons to a home, to accommodate 300,000 people a year. At the rate of four persons to a home, that has meant the construction of 75,000 houses a year throughout the length and breadth of Australia. We have been adding to our population, by natural increase and by immigration, at an average rate of 220,000 persons a year. So, in the result we have not been merely keeping pace with the population increase; we have been eating into the housing lag to the extent of about 80,000 persons a year. That does not mean that there are not those who are temporarily without homes, but we do a great disservice to this nation when we allow it to go out from Australia, through our parliaments and our press, that the immigration programme is causing squalid conditions which otherwise would not have existed. There are these bad spots in various parts of the Commonwealth to-day. They have, been there for a long time, and it is up to us to remove them as speedily as we can. Far from worsening the position, immigration, by enabling increased building construction and additions to the work force, has been lessening rather than increasing the seriousness of the problem. If further proof be needed, I direct attention to what is happening in hostels. In providing temporary accommodation for immigrants, we budgeted for a turnover of 2 per cent, a week of those persons who enter the hostels, but our figures show that a much more rapid turnover than that is being achieved. In other words, the persons to whom we give temporary accommodation are finding alternative accommodation for themselves.
Looking at the question on its merits and clear, I hope, of a political taint which should never have come into the story, I stress that the immigrants who are congregated in the districts referred to, are persons who have not come here so much by means of our assisted passage schemes, but who have been nominated by their friends and, more particularly, their relatives already in Australia. For the most part, they are southern Europeans, and in order to keep the inflow of southern Europeans to a reasonable level, we have had to insist that either the immigrant in question is going to some essential occupation or that there be a close tie of relationship between the nominators and the nominees before we permit the latter to enter Australia and settle in our capital cities, notably in Sydney and Melbourne. They are persons who have been nominated by close relatives in Australia. Their nominators have guaranteed them accommodation and employment when they arrive. We have the option of either reducing that flow, and thereby delaying the joinder of close relatives, or making the best we can of the resources of this country. We would receive small thanks from most honorable members of the Parliament, to say nothing of those immigrants who are already established and desire to have their relatives join them, if we were to reduce drastically the proportion of southern Europeans who are coming to this country. As it is, at the moment we keep a check so tight that at times it becomes an embarrassment to me, as well as to other honorable members.
Bonegilla was mentioned by the honorable member for Burke. I examined the case, which was referred to in the Argus, of somebody who came from Bonegilla. * Extension of time granted.]* We had examined the proposed accommodation and we had advised the persons concerned that it was not suitable. Without authority from the Government, and without seeking our further advice on Hie matter, they went to that accommodation. We have no legal compulsion over them to restrain them from doing so. To bring this case forward as representing the general situation affecting our own assisted immigrants is quite without warrant on the facts.
While one could talk at great length on this matter, I do not wish to abuse the patience of the House at this late hour. I am quite certain that as a nation we can encompass an immigration programme of this magnitude. After all, our percentage of population expansion from natural increase and immigration now is no greater than that of Canada, and this kind of complaint is not voiced in that country as it is by some people in Australia at the present time. The programme provides for the intake of some 40,000 fewer persons a year - I think 45,000 this year - than did the programme in the last year of administration of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I do not say that critically. I approve of his actions, and Australia is all the better for his having brought in those people at a time when our housing situation was much more desperate because of war-caused shortages than it is to-day. We then considered it good policy to bring in 169,000 people. We have broken that down on this occasion to 125,000, and that intake together with the natural increase gives a percentage which we should be able to absorb. But taking the broad picture, immigrants who come to Australia have a better prospect of occupying and possessing a home than they will find in any other country of comparable standards; and there are hundreds of thousands already in Australia who would concede gladly that they have found happiness in their own homes here that they would never have been -able to experience in the country from which they have come.
We have this social problem, so let us combine to meet it and not go to the damaging and, I suggest, mischievous lengths of trying to score party political advantages off each other which, whatever advantage they may bring in the short term, can only harm Australia in the long term.
.- The fact that the evil mentioned by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) exists is only too true. He knows as I know very well that during the years when Mr. Cain was Premier of Victoria repeated representations were made to him about the exploitation of not only immigrants, but also Australians by unscrupulous landlords in this particular area. Mr. Cain, during the years he was in office, refused to do anything about the matter. When it was put to Mr. Cain that his Government should amend the State Landlord and Tenant Act or the State price-fixing regulations to remedy this evil, I well remember him saying to the State member for the district, which is included in my electorate, “ What are you worrying about because this is a Labour district ? What are you concerned about your votes for? You are all right “. This evil exists in relation not only to immigrants because for years past unscrupulous landlords have been exploiting tenants in .this and other areas, charging fantastic rents for rooms. Thus, for Mr. Cain to get up now - a couple of months after his Government has left the office which he occupied for years - and start to attack people in respect of the present situation, when, as the honorable member for Burke must admit, representations were repeatedly made to him and he did nothing about them, is nothing other than the utmost hypocrisy and humbug. The Minister in the Cain Government who was in charge of immigration matters, Mr. W. Slater, was also Minister in charge of prices. He was a consistent opponent of immigration and the only action he took as Minister for Immigration was to try to obtain permits for Greek “ Corns “ to publish a Greek newspaper. He and Mr. Cain consistently refused to do anything in this matter. I well remember representations being made by Australian Labour party branches and by State Labour members to Mr. Cain to appoint special inspectors to see if they could prevent these people from exploiting these immigrants, and on every occasion he refused to incur the additional expense involved in such inspections. If anybody is responsible for the present position, Mr. Cain, having regard to the period for which he was Premier, must accept his full share.
It 18 obvious that this sudden concern, this sudden sympathy for exploited immigrants that is turned on like water from a tap does not spring from any genuine concern for the immigrants because, if it did, something would have been done in the matter. This concern arises from a deliberate attempt to exploit the sufferings of these immigrants in the interests of the political group to which members of the Opposition belong. I am quite certain that the people of Victoria know the actual position. I say for the honorable member for Burke, as he admitted when he asked his question the other day, that when these complaints were made as far back as 1951 he and others attempted to do something about them; and he knows that we could not get Mr. Cain to do anything about them. The honorable member knows that the power to prevent this exploitation of immigrants by unscrupulous landlords rests with the State Government, and he also knows that State members for the district concerned have failed in representations they made to that effect to State Ministers. But the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made it quite clear why this matter was dragged up when he said that Mr. Barry was the State member for this district. Unfortunately for the honorable member for Lalor Mr. Barry was not the member for this district. That member happens to be Mr. Powers, who is one of the honorable member’s mates. But, of course, the truth does not matter to the honorable member for Lalor. He and his colleagues know perfectly well that, by and large, the immigrants are anti-Communist and anti-Evatt, and therefore are opposed to themselves. Thus, this is a desperate attempt by those honorable members to try to curry favour with this particular group of people. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has been running around trying to get various immigrants to serve on his committees. Those honorable members have tried everybody in that way and have not succeeded; and this matter has been trotted out as a stunt to win the support of immigrants. However, anybody who reads the daily newspapers knows that Mr. Cain could not conceal his dislike and hatred of immigrants and has concentrated his attack, not on the landlords, whose exploitation of these immigrants should have been stopped when he was Premier of Victoria, but upon the migrants themselves.
I am sorry to say that there does not appear to be any sympathy for these immigrants on the part of the new Victorian Premier and his Government, which has done nothing to deal with this exploitation, any more than there was on the part of Mr. Cain and his government. The whole of the debate in the State House was used in order to attack the immigrants themselves. I put it to honorable members that this evil exists. The fact cannot be denied. The remedy lies in the hands of the State Government. That is the only body that can take appropriate action. If the honorable member for Burke were genuine in making this attack he would have made quite clear the attacks which he made on Mr. Cain in years past in order to stop this vicious exploitation by amending the State Landlord and Tenant Act or the State price-fixing regulations. I hope-
– That nothing will be done.
– The honorable member hopes that nothing will be done. He and his colleagues have a vested interest in misery; they have a vested interest in the misery of the pensioners. Therefore, they hope that these conditions will continue. I put it to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) that in spite of all the political turmoil and argument that has taken place he has a duty to impress upon his colleague, the Premier of Victoria, that he now has a chance to do things that should have been done in years past to put a stop to this vicious exploitation of not only immigrants but also, I emphasize, Australians. The State governments have the power to put a stop to it. I hope that the Minister will bring it forcibly to the notice of his present colleague in Victoria in order that something will be done about it.
– I shall go on from where the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) stopped. The real point of the discussions is noi whether Mr. Cain, who was for so long the Premier of Victoria, either in name or in fact, ignored the problems of immigrants. Indeed, his attitude to them is well known. It is a fact that, during that period, he ignored, coldly and callously, the justifiable claims of our fellow Australians. The charge should not be confined to his attitude or the attitude of his party to immigrants, because during the years when he was the Premier of Victoria, either in name or in fact - during the years when he ruled Victoria directly or indirectly - there were permitted to exist in that State housing settlements that were a disgrace to this community. The housing settlement at Watsonia, finally closed at the insistence of this Government, was not only tolerated, hut encouraged. There are members of the Opposition present who know that such action as he took in relation to that settlement was purely for political purposes, and had nothing whatever to do with the disgraceful conditions under which the people there were forced to live. It is also true that, during those years, when Victoria was ruled by a Labour government, that indescribable place, Camp Pell, was permitted to continue to exist. Indeed, the population was increased. During all that time, no effective action -was taken in either of those two places by any section of the Labour party in Victoria.
About two years ago, a pamphlet was issued by, I think, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. Nobody will . challenge the sincerity of the Brothers of St. Laurence. In that pamphlet, they referred to the lack of progress in slum clearance in Victoria. They said that at that time the slum position within 7 miles of the General Post Office in Melbourne was worse than when the slum clearance legislation was introduced many years previously. During most of that time, the Labour party had dominated the political scene in Victoria. Therefore, it ill-became Mr. Cain and his followers, only two or three months after they had suffered an overwhelming defeat at the polls, to pretend to discover something with which every reasonable person knew they were well acquainted then, and with which they had been well acquainted for years. As the Minister said, very rightly, it is shocking and damnable that one who has occupied a position of such responsibility in the political life of this country should endeavour to make political capital out of the unfortunate conditions to which some people are subjected, and which are due either to the incapacity of the Cain Government to deal with the situation or to its disregard of the common needs of humanity.
When these matters are thrown into the political arena, the time for soft word* has passed. If Mr. Cain and the people who now follow him want to adopt the tactics that flow inevitably from the unity ticket in Victoria, if they want to use a. technique which is familiar to all of us who Iia ve studied conditions in the older countries of the world, then any one who believes in parliamentary institutions aru! in the future of this country has a solemn duty tn expose that shabby trick for what ii is.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [11.45 1. - 1 agree with a great deal of what the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said in his speech, and I disagree with other parts of it. I think his tribute to the contributions made by immigrants to the building programme and to developmental work generally in this country was a proper and a just tribute. I think his appreciation of the service.given by all migrants was well merited. But I think he was guilty of an intemperate outburst when he accused the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) of doing something that was shoddy. What did the honorable member for Burke say? He said that he had discovered the other day - he was honest enough to say that he had discovered it only the other day - that certain Italian people in a certain area of Melbourne - he said it was only a small area - were robbing and exploiting new immigrants.
– They set out as a team of exploration.
– It may be that they did. Let us face the fact that they discovered something-
– With photographers in attendance.
– Let us acknowledge the fact-
– I do not want to talk in competition with drongoes! The people who made the investigations discovered certain facts. I believe that the attitude of some people to this business is not a very admirable one. I think the Argus newspaper is merely living by exploiting sensationalism. It is sensationalizing everything. I talked to a friend of mine the other day about these matters and he said, “ The trouble with the Melbourne Argus is that its policy is one of petite bourgeoise nihilism “. I think that is a. fairly just description of what that newspaper is saying and doing. The honorable member for Burke has appealed to the Government to do something about these foetid sores on our community life. He is justified in making such a request. I suggest to the Minister that, in view of these disclosures, which may not affect only this particular area because there may be similar conditions in a few other areas of Melbourne as well as in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and other capital cities, he should call a conference of State Ministers for Immigration to place this responsibility fairly and squarely where it belongs.’
I think that the State governments have a major part of the responsibility in this matter. I think that municipalities have their duties to discharge, and I have always thought so. I thought so rauch about the matter when I was Minister for Immigration that I suggested to the State governments that they introduce legislation to prevent any alien from buying any house in Australia until he had been here for at least five years. I could not get any State Premier to agree with me. In the past few years, I suggested to the present Minister for Immigration that he do something on those lines and he. too, said that he did not agree with me. When the Chifley Labour Government started the immigration programme, we said that immigrants coming to this country would not be permitted to endanger the employment or the housing of any Australian citizen. That was a proper attitude to adopt. To-day, we know that in parts of Australia Italians are robbing Italians and Greeks are robbing Greeks. We have had all sorts of attempted rackets which the officers in charge of the department have been able to suppress. But human nature is human nature. During the last century in America, it was the Irish who robbed the Irish and the Germans who robbed the Germans. There is no doubtthat there are harpies in this country, Australian -born and non- Australian-born, who are exploiting the housing shortage and making great profits out of the misery of our own people as well as migrants.
Let us deal with that problem. Let us see how we can handle it. Do not let us ignore it. I suggest again that the Minister call this conference of State Ministers. 1 suggest that, if necessary, he prevent people from leaving Bonegilla, if they come here unassisted, by requiring them to give two years of service in return for being brought to this country. I suggest that at this conference on immigration he might throw on the States some responsibility for the accommodation guarantees which nominators give to the department in order to justify the issue of landing permits. In a number of instances, these accommodation guarantees are not being honoured, but the department would need to have a tremendous army of officers to police all these things. It is necessary to have the co-operation of the States so that they will play their part in making a success of the scheme.
I agree with the Minister that we ought to keep this matter above political controversy. Never mind what has happened in the past or is happening at the moment; let us guarantee the future for these newcomers and our own people. I think the Minister has unfairly reflected on the honorable member for Burke by his remarks. As to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra, he was a member of the Victorian State Parliament for some years and could have taken action on the matter, but, if he did, apparently he did not succeed. Victoria is not the only State in which conditions could be found about which to make complaints.
It has been suggested that the Labour party wants to help Communists to obtain awards from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. If any awards have been granted to Communists they have been granted by governments from the time of the Lyons Government onwards. They have been granted by the government of the day because it had a majority on the Literary Fund Committee. If the honorable member for Hoddle has any complaints he must make them to this House against the present Prime Minister in respect of awards that have been granted during the past five years. It has nothing to do with the Labour party.
– But this award is to a journal.
– I have seen the journal. It is only a small four-page pamphlet. One would need a microscope to see it.
– It has sixteen pages.
– Very well, it has sixteen small pages. But whether it is to be subsidized or not is a matter for the Literary Fund. The honorable member for Hoddle calls it a journal. I have seen documents in this chamber called journals, and in comparison this one is only a sixteen-page note paper size tabloid.
– Eight of those pages were written by the right honorable member for Barton.
– That is not so. An application is made to the Literary Fund,, and if it is granted or refused, that is the responsibility of the Prime Minister. It has nothing to do with this Parliament as a Parliament. The honorable member for Parkes did not justify anything except the right of a writer to write and to have the merit of his production determined by the Literary Fund, which is the body charged by this Parliament with the responsibility of making awards.
– Would the honorable member have contributed to it?
– Of course I would not have. I do make contributions to high-class journals, but I would not write for this paper. It is perfectly obvious that the honorable member for Hoddle misquoted the contribution of the honorable member for Barton. That contribution was written many years ago, and it was taken out of its context. That is how I interpret the remarks of the honorable member for Hoddle.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative
House adjourned at 12 midnight.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What percentage of the total number of age and invalid pensioners is receiving the present ceiling limits of income plus pension of £7 per week for a single person and £14 per week for married pensioners?
– The information sought by the honorable member is not available. It could be obtained only after an enormous amount of work which it is thought would not be justified.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished thu following answer to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. Apart from importations by the Commonwealth Government, foreign representatives and passengers, motor vehicles are, for tariff purposes, separated into their component parts such as body, chassis, radiator assembly, springs, gears, batteries, tyres, tubes, &c. Statistics record the importations of the variouscomponent parts but except as regards socalled “ Unassembled chassis “ make no distinction between car components and truck components. Accordingly separate information concerning the number and value of motor cars is not available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551012_reps_21_hor8/>.