23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that on 7th September last I directed his attention to the fact that a meeting of salaried and professional officers had been held in Sydney to protest in relation to certain matters affecting their industrial conditions. On that occasion I informed the Prime Minister that it was alleged that officers of the security service or the Commonwealth Police Force had been present at the meeting taking notes. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would indicate his views of such procedure if in fact some Government officers, whether of the security service or another branch, had been deputed to take a verbatim account of what was said at the meeting. The right honorable gentleman said that if any statement of the kind was made to him directly by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association he certainly would have the matter investigated.
I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has received a letter from Mr. E. H. McGrath, branch president of the association, a copy of which I hold in my hand. That letter contains the statement that a week before the meeting Mr. E. A. Stevens of the Commonwealth Police had inquired about the proposed meeting, and on that occasion it was thought that he was making his inquiries because he was a Commonwealth public servant. In fact, he was the person who attended the meeting in company with a shorthand writer who took notes of what was said.
– When are you coming to the question?
– I had to give the background to the story.
– No, you did not.
– I had to give the background to the story for the benefit of those people who may not know as much about it as the Prime Minister and I do. I now ask the right honorable gentleman why it was considered necessary to take notes of the speeches. To what purpose will the notes be put? Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that they will not be used for any administrative action through the Public Service Board? Will the Prime Minister give a further assurance that the notes will will not be used for the purpose of victimizing, or prejudicing the promotion of, any union official or public servant who spoke at the meeting?
– I had thought that by this time a letter which I have signed or am about to sign - I have forgotten which - would have been received by the Leader of the Opposition. If he has not already received it, it will certainly come to hand in the course of the day. I have written to Mr. McGrath and am sending a copy of that letter to the Leader of the Opposition. All that I need say about the matter is that no use whatever, prejudicial or otherwise, will be made of the notes that were taken.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Interior. In view of the traffic hazard which semi-trailers and other industrial vehicles create, as well as their unsightliness, will the Minister put an end to the undesirable practice of parking these vehicles in first-class residential areas of the National Capital, especially at nighttime and during week-ends? Are not suitable areas available for this purpose?
– At present, there is nothing to prevent parking in roads except in areas where parking is specifically prohibited, provided that a vehicle does not constitute a traffic hazard and is sufficiently lighted. The police do try to prevent unlighted vehicles from constituting traffic hazards, but it is quite difficult to check this all the time and in all the streets of Canberra. However, 1 shall consider the matters raised by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question without notice. Has the Australian National Line considered building and operating a passenger ferry to maintain a service between South Australian gulf ports now that the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited has withdrawn and sold the “ Minnipa “? In case constitutional reasons are preventing the Commonwealth from filling the gap on this run as it so successfully did when private vessels were withdrawn from the Bass Strait service, I ask the Minister: Has the South Australian Government requested the Commonwealth to preserve this intra-state service or has the Commonwealth told the State Government that it is willing to do so?
– I know of no application that has come from the South Australian Government, but I understand that the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited is building a vessel which will replace the “ Minnipa “.
– When will it be ready?
– It is under construction now. I cannot say exactly when it will be completed, but I shall look up the details and let the honorable member have them.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question. The right honorable gentleman may recall the request that I made on behalf of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation that action be taken quickly to limit imports of orange and lemon juices pending a Tariff Board inquiry, although the growers’ organizations had supported the importation of lemon juice in years in which crops in Australia had been light. I now ask the Minister: Can he inform me of any action that has been taken in this matter as requested by the federation?
– When the honorable member last raised this subject, 1 undertook to keep a close watch on importations or indications that importations were likely to occur. I am able to inform him now that this close watch has revealed nothing which would indicate any situation seriously dangerous to either the Australian citrus growers or processors. By that, I mean any danger that would occur before a normal Tariff Board inquiry could be concluded. Having said that, I undertake still to mainlain a close watch on developments in this regard.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question without notice. Is the Minister aware that Sir Philip McBride is reported to have said that in the light of general world prosperity, the prices of other commodities and the prospects of a smaller clip this year, present wool prices are too low? Is the honorable gentleman aware that for the first two months of the current wool season prices have averaged. 15d. per lb. lower than in the same two months of the previous season and that if these reduced prices continue throughout the year Australia’s export income will fall by approximately £102,000,000? 1 ask the Minister, also, whether he is aware that in the archives of the Department of Primary Industry there are records of two successful marketing schemes which substantially controlled the price at which Australian wool was sold in the world’s markets. I ask the honorable gentleman: Is he aware that the Division of Agricultural Economics has made extensive research into woolmarketing, wool problems and costs of production? I also ask the Minister, is he aware-
– Order! I think that the honorable gentleman is going beyond the ambit of a question without notice.
– I will get to the point, Mr. Speaker. I finally ask the Minister: Is he aware that the Graziers Federal Council has had extensive inquiries made the world over into wool marketing? In view of these facts will the Government itself, without further delay, produce from alf this available information a proposal for the control of marketing which will return to Australia and Australian wool-growers the value which wool production in this country should rightly command?
– In reply to the honorable member’s first question regarding Sir Philip McBride, I have not seen any statement attributed to him. As to the honorable member’s statement about wool values being 15d. per lb. lower than at this time last year, that statement is not correct.
– Yes it is! I will produce the evidence.
– The statement is not correct, because last year’s average figure was about 57d. per lb. and the present value is slightly over 50d., which is not anything approaching ls. 3d. per lb. less. So far as concerns the honorable member’s statement about the investigations made throughout the world by the Graziers Federal Council, I (point out that that body’s findings were entirely the reverse of what the honorable gentleman suggests. That is to say, the members of that body want to stick to the auction system. That was their finding. They did not find in favour of any alteration to the marketing system as at present carried out.
The honorable member also stated that two schemes from the Division of Agricultural Economics are in the archives of my department. I remind the honorable gentleman that one of those schemes was submitted to the growers years ago, and defeated by them by a vote of about four to one. Yet the honorable gentleman now suggests that I re-submit that scheme so that the growers may throw it out in the same way. 1 complete my answer to the honorable member by saying that I stand for the policy that the Government has always adopted, and with which I heartily agree - that it is up to the industry itself to determine where it is going in these matters.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister challenged (he authenticity of my figure of 15d. per lb. I shall produce the evidence.
-Order! There is no substance in that point of order.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. When were medical and pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners introduced in Australia, and by what government? What is the value of these benefits to pensioners at present?
– The pensioner medical service and pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners were both inaugurated in 1951 which, as the honorable gentleman will realize, was during the long and beneficial reign of the present Government.
The honorable gentleman has asked me the value to pensioners of those services. It is not easy to assess that in precise terms per pensioner; however, last year the cost to the Government of the pensioner medical service was somewhat over £4,000,000 and the cost of pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners was somewhat over £3,500,000. So the total cost approximates £8,000,000. As. I say, it is not easy to assess the value to pensioners in actual terms per pensioner. One could work out a calculation which would give a statistical answer, but it would not be the real answer. The value of these services is obviously greater to some pensioners than it is to other pensioners who make less call on the services. Another factor is that, by agreement between the British Medical Association and the Government, doctors supplying the services under this scheme do so at considerably less than their normal fees. If the pensioner had to pay normal medical fees for attendance his liability would be very much greater than can be calculated under this scheme. This is a welfare measure of very great value and of enormous advantage to pensioners.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Department of Health is drawing up a national advertising code for voluntary adoption to include a wide range of proprietary medicines and appliances. Does the voluntary basis of this code mean that any commercial enterprise which so desires can ignore the code and advertise its product in an extravagant, exaggerated or dishonest manner?
– At the last meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council a suggestion was made that it would be advantageous to the public if there were some national code of advertising with respect to medical products, including, I think, patent medicines. The department, with an association which, I think, is called the Association of Australian Advertisers, and the Postmaster-General’s Department, is exploring the question of whether it is possible and advisable to take action under the Broadcasting and Television Act in order to introduce a voluntary code. The matter is still being investigated and, as the honorable gentleman will realize, the legislation, if introduced, would not be a matter for the Department of Health, but would be within the province of my colleague, the Postmaster-General. But all that has happened is that these suggestions have been made and investigations are proceeding to see whether something of public benefit can come from the discussions. A report will be submitted to the next meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that a system has been introduced in the United Kingdom whereby a United Kingdom telephone subscriber can charge a telephone call made anywhere in Britain and in quite a number of overseas countries to his home telephone number? Can the Minister say whether any consideration has been given to adopting this very desirable service in Australia?
– I am sorry that I cannot inform the honorable member, offhand, whether consideration has been given to this practice. I shall shortly be conferring with some of my officials and will then be able to let him know.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether it is true that quite recently the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea offered for sale by tender its live-stock station at Arona in New Guinea comprising 2,900 acres complete with homestead buildings, 25 miles of fencing, stockyards and other equipment and stock? Is it a fact that the highest offer received was one of £10,500 made by the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company Limited and that other private interests offered even less than this amount? Is it true that the Government rejected these offers as too low and is now contemplating calling for fresh tenders? If this is true, instead of calling for fresh tenders, will the Minister give consideration to converting this valuable property into a native cooperative settlement in order to relieve the great land shortage of the Chimbu people who live in or near the area?
– I am not familiar with the details contained in the honorable member’s question, but I shall have inquiries made and furnish him with an answer.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs in relation to the report of the International Commission of Jurists on Tibet. Has the Australian Government had an opportunity to consider the report? If it has had an opportunity, has the Government, as a consequence of its consideration, made any recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the report of the International Commission of Jurists will, in fact, be debated during the current sittings of the Assembly?
– I cannot answer the last part of the question positively. As to the first part,the report has been under examination in the Department of External Affairs, but we have not yet reached any conclusion about it.
– My question is directed to the Acting Attorney-General. Is it a fact that F. E. Maling, Parramatta, Ace Tyre Service, Newcastle, Lascoe Auto Sales, Cabramatta, and Spence’s Rubber Works, Hurstville, independent tire dealers and retreaders, have had their new tire volume trade discount of 9 to 16 per cent discontinued because they refused to observe the conditions of trade as agreed to by the four major tire companies? Does the Government approve of companies getting together and fixing their own system of price control? Does the Government approve of this restrictive code and the harsh penalties that are imposed upon dealers who exercise their rights as independent dealers to run their businesses as they wish? Has this trade agreement resulted in a substantial price increase for new tires and retreads to the public, transport companies, government departments and semi-governmental bodies? When will the Government take action against these companies?
– The question asked by the honorable member was very complex, and my simple answer is: I do not know of the allegation on which he based his question.
– Will the Minister for Trade inform the House whether the export potential of the many manufacturing firms situated in areas other than capital cities is being given consideration? Can the Minister say what is being done to encourage these firms to assist in the drive for increased exports?
– From time to time, appropriate officers of the Department of Trade visit areas where there is decentralized industry with a view to consulting the industrialists and ascertaining whether any helpful advice about export opportunities can be given to them, or whether any information can be supplied to them by the department. The Department of Trade stands ready at all times to help in trade promotion activities and to assist export activities by any of the decentralized industries. Indeed, the facilities of the department are widely available. For example, if the department has knowledge of tenders being called overseas, maybe for sleepers or anything of that sort, it takes steps to disseminate the information concerning the tenders. That action is taken in respect of any trade opportunities that are perceived.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that the Department of Supply is gravely concerned at the continued loss of first-class tradesmen from the Bendigo ordnance factory because of an air of insecurity at that establishment? Will the Minister allay these fears by stating the extent of firm orders held by the factory and how long the orders in hand will maintain the present level of employment? Will the Minister outline efforts that are being made to achieve a continued flow of orders? Will he state the effect, if any, of the Australian-American mutual weapons agreement on the prospects of future employment in the factory?
– I know of no reason why members of the staff at the Bendigo ordnance factory should have any feeling of insecurity in relation to their employment. Assurances were given by me several months ago, and also by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, on the current work load and the work load for the next twelve or eighteen months. We are endeavouring all the time to increase the work load of the factory, and nothing has taken place in the last two or three months to cause me to believe that there is any ground for a feeling of insecurity amongst the employees. As to some of the other aspects of the honorable member’s question, I shall have to make inquiries and let him know the result. I do assure him, however, that everything possible has been done by this Government over the years to give security to the workmen at Bendigo, because we appreciate the significance of the Bendigo factory in the district’s economy.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In addition to the assistance that Australia gives to underdeveloped countries under the Colombo Plan and by its development of New Guinea, will it be contributing this year to the United Nations fund for under-developed countries?
– I would like the honorable member to put that question on the notice-paper. There are several such funds, and this may provide a good opportunity for me to state precisely what we are doing in relation to each of them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the withdrawal of the British Aluminium Company from Comalco, as announced yesterday, can the Minister tell the House to just what company or group of companies the. Bell Bay undertaking has been sold?
– The Minister for National Development made a statement about ten days ago in another place setting out the. financial structure of the company that will purchase the aluminium works at Bell Bay. I will obtain a copy of that statement and give it to the honorable member. I am sure he will find that it sets out the facts to his satisfaction.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. It has reference to the new automatic telephone exchange system which was so successfully brought into operation in Toowoomba last week. I understand that the Swedish crossbar equipment is the first to be installed in Australia. Is it intended to install this kind of exchange in other centres? Can existing automatic systems be converted’ to the crossbar system? Does the Australian subsidiary of the Swedish company intend, in the future, to manufacture these exchanges in Australia under licence from the parent company in Sweden?
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Darling Downs was able so successfully to open the new automatic telephone exchange in Toowoomba. It is the first exchange in Australia in which the L. M. Ericsson crossbar type of exchange equipment, of any magnitude, has been installed. 1 say “ of any magnitude “ because several years ago we established two small exchanges in which this type of exchange equipment was installed. One was at Templestowe in Melbourne and the other was outside Sydney. We did so in order to determine whether the advantages of this type of equipment outweighed those of the types already in operation, the step-by-step system and the bi-motional system, and whether it was advisable to proceed with the installation of the new equipment. Our investigations showed that there were certain very important advantages associated with the new type of equipment, and we have, therefore, decided that it shall be standard practice to install this type of crossbar equipment in Australian exchanges. The installation will take place over a period of years! As new exchanges are brought into operation this kind of equipment will be installed. In cases in which it is necessary to extend exchanges now using the step-by- step or the bi-motional systems,, the crossbar equipment can be installed to effect such extensions.
The honorable member also asked, I think, whether the existing systems could be converted to the crossbar system. It will not be necessary to convert existing types; they will be replaced as the opportunity occurs. Finally, I am asked whether we will be able to manufacture this type of equipment in Australia. The reply is, Yes. The L. M. Ericsson organization has arranged with both Telephone and Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited and Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited to manufacture this type of equipment in Australia. Both companies are at present tooling up and preparing their organizations so that they can go into production quite soon.
– I ask the Minister, for Territories a question: What official status, if any, is accorded to pidgin English in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Is it an impediment to the learning of correct English? If so, can it be discouraged? Has any consideration been given to according any native language official status? Is any native language possible and practicable as a common language?
– Melanesian pidgin has no official status in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The policy is that the use of English should be fostered and that English should be taught in all the schools. The basic fact that we must appreciate, however, is that Melanesian pidgin exists as a language in wide use - not as the result of any encouragement from us, but because it is a medium of communication that has been found very acceptable to the native people and has been adopted of their own volition. Its use has grown over the years in the Territory.
I do not think that it would be possible to select a single native language and promote its use throughout the Territory. It is true that, on the Papuan side in the time of Sir Hubert Murray, Motu was taught as a medium of communication. Having regard to the fact that there are about 500 distinct languages in the Territory and each one has a validity for its own group of people, it would be difficult to say which was the predominant language and why one language should be promoted in preference to the other 499. Furthermore, because of the complete lack of any literature, if a native language were selected it is doubtful whether it would be of much use to those who learnt it. So we have consciously and deliberately adopted the policy of promoting the use of English and teaching English as the standard language of the Territory and, one believes, as the national language of the future for the Territory.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he can inform the House of the extent to which the proposed factfinding mission to South America will investigate markets for individual products and, in particular, for agricultural implements.
– The mission which has gone to South America at the request of the Government has gone not to effect sales but to explore the market potential of South America. It consists of six experienced men led by a Sydney businessman, Mr. Simpson, who has had experience in South America and who speaks the languages used there. I think ten different countries will be visited in a period of about three months. The mission will report back to the Department of Trade and, through that department, to the Government on its estimates of the market potential there. If the potential is found to be encouraging, as we hope and expect it will be, the next step will be to ascertain whether shipping companies can be induced to establish a direct service between Australian and South American ports. Then, the actual adventure of seeking business would follow. Australia, of course, was exporting agricultural machinery to South America in substantial quantities 50 years ago. I have little doubt that a market would be found in South America for Australian agricultural equipment if there were a direct shipping service between the two countries.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that Mr. Askin, Leader of the Liberal Party in the New South Wales Parliament, recently contended that a conference should be called between Federal, State and local government representatives for the purpose of considering the financial crisis prevailing in respect of Australia’s local government instrumentalities? Is it a fact that last November the Australian Council of Local Government Associations asked him to convene such a conference and that approximately ten months later he indicated that he was not prepared to do so? Has the right honorable gentleman changed his views on this important subject, or is he prepared to continue disregarding the plight of local government and so remain at variance with his colleague, the Liberal Party leader in New South Wales?
– I am not aware of the statement which the honorable member tells me was made by Mr. Askin and therefore I am in no position to comment on it. Our position in relation to this problem has been stated more than once. The honorable member falls into error if he thinks that the operations of the Australian Loan Council, of which the Commonwealth occupies the chair, are not for the benefit of local government authorities. In fact, the last two special discussions that have occurred between normal sessions of the Loan Council have been related to the possibility of extending the financial resources of local authorities in order to enable them to do much needed work and, in one or two cases, in order to enable them to take up some of the slack in employment. We are deeply appreciative of this problem, but I remind the honorable member once more that we are dealing, in Loan Council and in Premiers’ Conferences, with the States. The States are the creators of the local government bodies and the financial relations between the States and the local authorities are purely matters for those two authorities, and not for us.
– There is the gentlemen’s agreement!
– Under the gentlemen’s agreement the projected borrowing programme for semi-government bodies and local government bodies comes before the Loan Council in globo and does not deal with individual proposals as a rule. For example, early this year when we had a special meeting it was pointed out that local government bodies could, under market conditions, raise more money, and we agreed with the members of the Loan Council in an extension of their borrowing authority by an amount of £4,000,000 for the remaining part of the year. That £4,000,000, by the request of the States, was not confined strictly to local government bodies, because the States thought that there were one or two semi-government bodies which might, with justice, be brought into that category. But everything that I have heard since then has indicated that the provision then made turned out to be of singular advantage to the local authorities.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will he ascertain from the Leader of the Opposition what success the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Yarra have had in trying to persuade their Russian guests that Pasternak was a first-class novelist?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Chisholm, but I am sure that any conversation I have with my friend opposite will be of a highly confidential kind.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is he aware of the great back-lag of timber at the port of Hobart awaiting shipment to Melbourne? Is he further aware of the concern being felt because of the curtailment of storage space at the depots and mills, the possible temporary closure of some of the timber mills and the fear that some of our mainland markets may be lost to Tasmanian millers because of the ready availability on the mainland of imported timbers? Will the Minister have the position investigated by officials of his department with a view to using a D class vessel to clear up the back-lag of timber at the port of Hobart?
– I am aware of the back-lag of timber and other cargoes that exists at the various ports, not only in Tasmania but throughout Australia. As the honorable member will readily understand, this is due, not to lack of shipping tonnage, but to the regrettable actions of the seamen’s union over the past few months. Obviously, if week-end work is not undertaken and ships are not sailing, cargoes must be affected and this in turn must have some effect upon timber mills.
I should like to point out, though, that as Tasmania is so dependent upon shipping the department is keeping an eye upon the position. “Warringa” and “Karoon”, which up to now, have been held up and not visiting Hobart, are now resuming normal schedules. Further, an additional vessel, “ Tatana “, has been put on the run and, if shipping is enabled to operate on normal schedules, it is expected that the back-lag will be overtaken, wharf sheds will be cleared and the mills to which the honorable member referred will be able to continue operating as they have been in the past.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether there is general agreement amongst the medical profession of Australia with the claim by United States dental scientists that the fluordination of drinking water in the proportion of 1 to 1,000,000 does reduce the risk of tooth decay in people. Further, can he say whether any Australian organization has been established to advise local authorities of scientific information dealing with this subject? Finally, do the Minister and the Government endorse the principle of fluoridation of water?
– I think I can best answer the honorable member’s question by saying that the National Health and Medical Research Council has considered this matter on more than one occasion and has given as its opinion, and as its advice to the Government, that the fluoridation of water is a potent factor in preventing tooth decay. The implementation of this recommendation, of course, is a matter not for the Federal Government but for the State governments which can take such action as they consider to be suitable and necessary. I do not know that the medical profession has expressed an opinion apart from that given by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Cabinet has given any consideration to that part of the Boyer report on Public Service recruitment dealing with the employment of physically handicapped persons in the Commonwealth Public Service. If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is intended to amend the regulations covering employment in the Commonwealth Public Service so as to allow the physically handicapped to obtain permanent employment in that service?
– Later in the course of this session, I expect to be able to lay some material before the House on the question of the Boyer report. I think perhaps it would be better to do it1 comprehensively at that time than to take one element separately.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, since the reorganization of the Australian Military Forces into two pentropic divisions and the dependence on these two divisions of eight battle groups of Citizen Military Forces, the new voluntary recruiting scheme for the Citizen Military Forces is meeting expectations?
– Yes. It is, of course, a little early to give definite information on this matter, but the indications are very good indeed. As a matter of fact, in all parts of Australia, recruiting for the Citizen Military Forces is quite above expectations at the moment. I hesitate to say that this amounts to finality in the matter because, as the honorable member will appreciate, we have just abandoned the national service training scheme and possibly a number of these recruits have had national service training and are interested from that point of view. But at the moment, the position looks very hopeful indeed.
– I address a further question to the Minister for Territories: Is it correct that about 1,000 applications were received in response to an advertisement calling for teachers to be employed in Papua and New Guinea, and that the Government has decided to employ only 60 or 70 of the applicants? Why has the Government decided to restrict the number of teachers to such a low figure when the need for education is so great?
– I think that the honorable member has the sequence of events back to front. The sequence of events is that I called the Administrator of the Territory, the Director of Education and the Public Service Commissioner into conference, presented to them the urgency of the Government’s view on education and required them to produce some proposals for dealing with the matter. They produced a number of proposals, not all of which have been announced. One of the proposals was for the immediate recruitment, at a lower standard of initial training than was previously set down, of some teachers who would be suitable to go out, after a comparatively short period of training, into the primary schools in the Territory.
The next question which was directed to the Administrator and the Public Service Commissioner was how many teachers they could handle. Their reply was governed by their capacity to train these teachers, who are not being recruited as fully trained teachers, their capacity to house them and their capacity to erect schools in which the pupils could be taught. They produced a plan which provides, in the initial year, for a fairly modest recruitment. I have not the exact figure in my mind, but it is something of the order of 60 or 70 teachers. This number will increase year by year with the expanding capacity to receive, train, house and accommodate in schools the teachers who will be recruited under this scheme.
The response that we have received to the advertisement is very encouraging, and gives us a great possibility of selection. But this is only the first stage of a long-term scheme, and is only one of several measures that have been taken to meet this problem.
– by leave - The subject of compulsory political levies by organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been frequently debated in this House and elsewhere. It is a subject to which the Government has given a great deal of attention and about which its views have been stated from time to time. In short, the Government is opposed to compulsory political levies; and that unionists should risk loss of employment or be victimized in other ways for failing to pay such a levy is utterly repugnant. We know these views are shared by the general public and, we believe, by the the great majority of trade union leaders. Whilst the Government’s views have been made known, I think the time has come when I should re-state and develop them.
Attention has been focussed on compulsory political levies and primarily on levies in connexion with parliamentary elections. This is but one aspect of a much broader and more complex problem, and I want to say something of this broader problem so that the narrower one may be considered in perspective.
Let me mention certain facts relating to our industrial and political life in the light of which the payment of political levies should be considered. In the first place, the two Labour parties draw very considerable financial support from funds contributed by trade unions. With odd exceptions those funds have traditionally come, and still come, from affiliation fees, contributions from normal union funds and voluntary levies, some of a formal kind, others often quite informal. Provided such payments are authorized by, and made in accordance with, the rules of the union the Government sees no reason to consider the passing of legislation relating to them. This is an internal problem for the unions, and I suppose it is to be expected that the membership would become pretty critical if extravagant expenditure of union funds were to occur.
Secondly, the degree of unionization in Australia is extremely high. Thirdly, over large fields of employment in Australia - in terms not only of geography, as with Queensland, and of award provision, but also of industrial custom - union membership is virtually a pre-condition of securing or retaining employment. We all know of the preference to unionists provisions in legislation and awards, and of the closed shop.
Fourthly, our trade unionists are not exclusively the supporters of any one political party. In mentioning these facts T am not concerned to argue the rights or wrongs of any of them. I am merely stating the facts and the background.
To put the problem in perspective, I emphasize that the striking of compulsory levies for political purposes, particularly for parliamentary elections, has, in recent years, rarely been resorted to and I re-emphasize that the Australian trade union movement taken by and large dislikes compulsory political levies just as much as the Government does. The fact is that some of our unions have, provisions in their rules giving effect to the principle that political levies should be voluntary. I mention two - the Australian Workers’ Union and the Electrical Trades Union. The great run of our unions have made it their practice to make calls for political purposes voluntary, for example at election times. Only one union, the Waterside Workers Federation, has during the last ten years attracted public attention by imposing compulsory levies and, in doing so, it has been just as much out of step with the sentiments of the trade unions generally as it has been on so many other things.
Our trade unions include within their membership persons of all shades of political opinion, and it is in our view intolerable that a man should, as the price of retaining membership of his union and perhaps his job, be required to pay a contribution levied expressly for the purpose of promoting the interests of a political party to the policy of which he is opposed.
It is easy enough to say that the principle of majority rule might be invoked against what I have just said; that there is nothing undemocratic in -the idea that a member of a voluntary organization should be compelled to submit to a decision by the majority as to the payment of political levies or, for that matter, on other questions of policy whether in relation to payments of affiliation fees or, for example, for charitable purposes, on which his views may not coincide with those of the executive, or the majority of the members, of his union.
There are a number of arguments about this proposition that should be mentioned. While trade unions are, on the face of it, voluntary organizations and it is easy enough to say that a man who joins should be prepared to abide by the rules, the truth is that in many instances joining a union is a virtual necessity. Nor, turning to the other side, is it the answer to say that a member who dislikes paying political levies has only to resign. Though it is true that a member of a trade union is free to resign in the manner provided by its rules, to do so may very well result in loss of employment or, at any rate, loss of the preference in employment granted by law or by award to unionists. Putting all this aside, a man may well feel some sort of obligation to belong to the union of his calling. Trade unions occupy a special position in the industrial life of this country, which distinguishes them from ordinary voluntary associations. I illustrate this by mentioning that a man may wish to enjoy the protection it gives to his industrial interests or he may shrink from incurring the ostracism reserved by unionists for those who decline to join.
Then, too, the question of compulsory political levies cannot be answered simply by saying that democracy is the rule of the majority. Democracy also implies respect for the rights of minorities, and particularly does this apply to the right of political dissent.
Against the background 1 have sketched, the Government feels that some regard must be given to long-standing practices and customs associated with the expenditure of union funds which have some community recognition even though they are not entirely approved. There may be room for wondering about the wisdom of the choice made in selecting the object of a union’s generosity, but that is a separate matter.
The problem we are discussing has attracted the minds of people and the activities of legislatures in many countries. Solutions have been sought in a variety of ways. I need not review these in detail but I do want to refer to two methods that have been followed. One such method is popularly referred to as “ contracting out “; that is to say, a member of an organization who files a notice that he objects to making a political contribution is exempt from the obligation to make such a payment. This approach may be contrasted with that of contracting in under which only those members who have filed notices agreeing to pay political contributions are obliged to pay them.
In the Government’s view, both these approaches are open to objection, contracting out in particular. Why should a man who does not wish to pay political levies have to make a formal declaration that he objects? He is required publicly to go on record as taking a stand contrary to what may well be that of a majority of his fellows. He risks subjecting himself to pressures of the worst kind. Is this the proper way to introduce the principle of voluntary contributions? The Government does not think so.
Nor does the Government favour contracting in. Why, for example, should a man be asked to agree in advance to be liable to pay levies for political purposes as yet unknown to him? If there is to be a political levy for election purposes, the individual member should be completely free, in the ordinary sense of those words, to pay it or not. In other words, we say that political levies should be voluntary. If an individual member does not wish to pay such a levy, he should be free simply not to pay it and should not be subjected to any adverse consequences because of not paying it.
Legislation on these lines was prepared by the Government back in 1958. We did not go on with the bill then because the Hursey litigation was proceeding and we could not have proceeded without compromising that litigation. The matter has been kept under review ever since and we have come to the conclusion that in to-day’s circumstances and subject to certain conditions to which I shall refer in a moment, legislation is not necessary. In coming to this conclusion the Government has taken into account the considerations I have referred to. It has given weight to the argument that Parliament ought not to legislate so as to interfere in the internal management or domestic affairs of the trade unions. This argument is not decisive. The Government would legislate if it were shown that an evil existed that called for legislative remedy. The secret ballots legislation of this and the previous Labour government is an example of legislation protecting the rights of trade union members in what are trade union affairs.
Where we believe, as we do in this case, that the organized trade union movement shares our view and is prepared to prevent abuse, we shall test our belief and give the movement an opportunity to put its own house in order. So we have informed the Australian Council of Trade Unions,, which in matters like this has great responsibilities and authority, that it should take action to put a stop to compulsory political levies. In some senses, what we have done in this case resembles what happened in the case of the indemnity payments. Then, the A.C.T.U. acted and we have had no trouble since. In this case - that is, of compulsory political levies - the president of the A.C.T.U. has informed us that the following resolution was passed by the interstate executive of that body at its recent meeting: -
The A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be applied by affiliated unions.
To be operative the resolution has to be endorsed by four of the six trades and labour councils in the States.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I now inform the House that if the Government is informed by the A.C.T.U. that the resolution has been properly endorsed the Government will, in the belief that it will be unnecessary to legislate, defer further consideration of legislation to deal with compulsory political levies. If, however, in spite of the A.C.T.U.’s resolution, there is resort in future to compulsory political levies by individual unions, the Government will be forced to reconsider the need for legislation.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Compulsory Political Levies - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has used a lot of words to say very little. He told us that he intended to explain the Government’s position in regard to compulsory political levies in trade unions, and he has seized the occasion to obscure the issue as much as possible. In his statement, the Minister has been guilty of misstatements and distortions of fact, and I propose to refer to one or two of them. First, he said -
The two Labour parties draw very considerable financial support from funds contributed by trade unions.
There are two misstatements of fact in that one sentence. There are not two Labour parties. There is one Labour Party and there has never been anything but one Labour Party. That is the Australian Labour Party which is based on the trade union movement and which is under the control of its annual conferences at which delegates from the trade unions and the party branches determine its policy without direction from anywhere else.
There has been a split in the Labour Party, and a break-away section, no more than 20 per cent, of whom ever belonged to the Australian Labour Party, and who with a number of former Liberals and former members of the Australian Country Party and a lot of other people who have never belonged to any political party previously at all, have grouped themselves into a body that calls itself the Australian Democratic Labour Party. This is a body that is neither democratic nor Labour and is not even a party. Furthermore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this so-called Democratic Labour Party, on the second preference votes of which this Government depends for its very existence at election time, has no unions affiliated with it, except in Victoria. And even there, only five or six are affiliated.
Now 1 come to the second misstatement to which I direct attention in the Minister’s observation -
The two Labour parties draw very considerable financial support from funds contributed by trade unions.
The Australian Labour Party depends almost entirely on the support it gets from the trade union movement, and the D.L.P. certainly does not depend on support from trade unions. It receives much more support from anti-trade-union interests than it does from genuine trade unionists.
It receives support from people who, in a spirit of fanaticism, believe that they have to keep it going or else the Communists will take over control of Australia. That is the sort of mid-summer madness in which they move. But to call that body a Labour party, and to use the opportunity to talk the sort of nonsense the Minister uttered when the Opposition allowed him to make a statement, is beneath him or any other Minister. We wanted him to tell us the Government’s story. We did not expect him to indulge in miserable little Liberal Party debating society propaganda stuff - and it was very cheap stuff, too!
The Minister says that the trade union movement has never favoured compulsory political levies. He says that such a levy has been imposed only once in the last twenty years by a trade union.
– When did I say that?
– I think you said it in the course of your speech, and I think you referred to the Waterside Workers Federation as the only organization that has imposed a compulsory political levy over the last twenty years. The Waterside Workers Federation did impose a compulsory political levy, as a result of which the Hursey case came into the courts. Who is going to believe the Government when it states that it held up its legislation of 1958 because of the Hursey case? It had other reasons for holding it up, and the Minister ought to tell the reasons and not try to mislead the House with the version with which he regaled us a few moments ago. The Hursey case is now a matter of history. The courts have decided on the matter. The D.L.P. used the Hurseys, the Liberal Party used the Hurseys. And, of course, when the Hurseys left the waterfront and the father - Hursey senior - wanted to stand as a Liberal candidate, the Liberal Party would not endorse him, nor would the D.L.P. He stood as an independent and lost his deposit. They were prepared to use him for the propaganda value of the case, but they were not prepared to back him in whatever merit he may have had or thought he had in his protest on this matter.
The Minister could not even content himself with a recitation of the facts in this case. He had to have a slap at the watersiders. He said that the watersiders are just as much out of step with the sentiment of the trade union movement generally in the matter of political levies as they have been on so many other things. What other things? The Waterside Workers Federation is composed of decent Australians, and it is as decently run as every other trade union is. Most of its members happen to be returned servicemen of the last war. Very few of them are members of the Communist Party. Anything up to 40 per cent, of them are supporters of the D.L.P. Probably about 50 to 55 per cent, of them are supporters of the A.L.P., and these men are better Australians than the Minister who reviled them - every one of them!
Tt is all right for a millionaire Minister who never goes near the waterfront, but spends his life in the clubs of Sydney and Melbourne and other such places, to stand here abusing the waterside workers of Australia. We have had our complaints to make about the conduct of individual trade unions and trade unionists from time to time but we deal with each case justly on its merits. We never seek the opportunity that is given in a debate of this sort in the Parliament to attack any section of the trade union movement or that body generally, and neither should anybody else.
The Minister told us finally that the Australian Council of Trade Unions- (Honorable members interjecting)-
– Order! I ask the House to come to order, and I ask that interjections on both sides cease.
– I have no complaint, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of my own followers because they are not embarrassing me, and I treat with contempt interruptions by Government supporters. The Minister came to the end of his story by saying that the A.C.T.U. had decider! that it was opposed to the imposition of compulsory political levies. But he could not take even that situation on its merits and deal with it. He had to issue a threat. He had to say that if the A.C.T.U. could not get the support of four trades and labour councils for the recommendation of its executive committee the Government would have to review the position. He holds over the A.C.T.U. the threat, “ Do as we tell you, or else we will take punitive action “.
Then, of course, he says at the same time that the Government has no desire to interfere with the internal affairs of the trade unions. If that is so why does not his Government bring down a bill to repeal some of the penal clauses of the Arbitration Act? If the Minister is to be believed on the question of non-interference he will follow his statement up with some action that will prove his genuineness on the matter.
The Minister says that it is the Government’s belief that the A.C.T.U. should be given an opportunity to put its own house in order. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we regard that statement as arrogant, impertinent and presumptuous. The A.C.T.U. has no need to put its house in order. It is a highly efficient, very representative body that plays its part in the social, economic and governmental life of this country, and the Government is very glad, and has been very glad over the last eleven years, to consult it and seek its advice on matters of very great and far-reaching importance. I know why the Government does not want to interfere with the rights of the trade unions to vote moneys out of their funds for political activity. All of us know that if the Government were to interfere with that right it would have to interfere with the right of big companies to vote millions of pounds that go into the slush funds of the Government parties in order to help them stay in power and win election after election. The Government is trying to make a virtue out of necessity. It is indulging in the usual humbug and hypocrisy with which it deludes itself and with which it hopes to delude the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20th September (vide page 1119), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The House is again called to the consideration of legislation for the amendment of the
Social Services Act. This legislation embodies the effort of the Government towards remedying certain of the disadvantages and inconsistencies in the social services field to-day. Members of the Labour Opposition feel that, while the improvements made by the legislation are desirable, and are supported by them, the bill still falls short of providing a remedy for many of the injustices, difficulties and anomalies in social, service provisions to-day.
That being so, members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, at their meeting this morning, resolved that an amendment should be proposed to this legislation. In the name of every member of the party with which I am associated I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide among other social service benefits, increased amounts for dependent wives of invalid and old age pensioners, and increased rates of child endowment, also to provide social service payments generally more adequate to meet present living costs and representing a fair and reasonable share of the national income. Such rates to take effect as from the first pension day in July, 1960.”
Owing to the way in which the Government is rushing this legislation through the Parliament, it was only this morning that its consideration was possible by members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would probably have moved an amendment last night if our party had had an earlier opportunity to discuss the merits of this bill. Therefore, I fully associate the Leader of the Opposition with the statements that I now make in moving this amendment.
I feel sure that Government supporters will claim that if this bill is withdrawn for further consideration this will delay payment of the proposed increased benefits. However, if this bill is withdrawn the Government need not take a long period to reconsider it. The Government could immediately give urgent attention to the plight of those who will gain nothing as the legislation now stands. Furthermore, if any delay in the making of payments resulted from the withdrawal of the bill, the recipients of the benefits would be recompensed by the provision in the amendment that payments shall be retrospective to July. That being so, 1 feel that there is every justification for the Opposition to make this request for the reconsideration of the position of people who need further assistance.
Especially do I wish to bring to the notice of the House the circumstances of the “wives of invalid pensioners. The neglect of these people represents a disgraceful omission by this Parliament. Invalids can be subject to much greater expense than even age pensioners “because their injury or ill health may require certain services and special food and care. Consequently, an invalid with a dependent wife needs a much greater amount than is paid to him at present. Our neglect to provide for the wife of an invalid pensioner a sum greater than £1 15s. a week is one of the distinct anomalies in our pension law. Members of the Opposition and. probably, members on the Government side of the chamber, have had numerous instances presented to them of the serious hardship that is being suffered by many people who are in the circumstances to which I have referred. I appeal to the Government immediately to correct this inconsistency in our law and to make a more generous payment to these people who are subject to a great deal more expense than other pensioners.
There is another section of the community which is suffering hardship. I refer to widows whose pension is limited by the means test which .is applied to .their earnings. T hope that we will show a much broader understanding of our obligation as a Parliament to people who are in unfortunate circumstances because of the loss of their breadwinner and who are -denied the opportunity to supplement their pension. Many of these people have no relations to help them in their widowhood. They should receive a much more generous allowance than they receive at present. I know that many honorable members have received applications from such persons who have been suffering great hardship.
I should also like to direct attention to this Government’s inexplicable attitude to family life. This aspect of national life should1 be a prime consideration because the home reflects the true life and character of the people. That being so, one would expect : the Government to recognize the urgent need for assisting families by increas ing the rates of child endowment. With inflation and the consequent increase in prices, the present child endowment payments are totally inadequate. We are jeopardizing the future of Australia by denying adequate benefits to families. Throughout the whole of its term of office, this Government has failed to make any increase at all in child endowment payments although price levels have risen greatly since child endowment was introduced.
The seriousness of the situation is revealed by the statistics prepared1 by the Commonwealth Statistician on the C series retail price index. The Commonwealth Statistician has taken 1939 as the base year. A comparison of price levels at September, 1939 and at June, 1960, shows that food has risen by 92.8 per cent., rents by 19.9 per cent., clothing by 64.8 per cent, and miscellaneous items by 32.2 per cent. In other words, the level of these prices has risen by 209.7 per cent, but child endowment has been kept at the same low level. This Government has failed in its duty in that regard despite the continued expansion of the economy.
All services and other necessaries of community life cost more as charges rise. Municipal rating, water and sewerage and other inescapable charges on home life continue to make extra demands on householders, but this Government makes no attempt to provide adequately for these increases through social service benefits. The Government is indulgent towards those who profit from the community and1 who reap the benefits of prosperity that the people should enjoy. The National Parliament should do something to correct this situation and I hope that supporters of the Government will adopt a more humanitarian attitude towards the needs of the people.
I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) for the notable contribution he has made towards the welfare of the people. For many years, the honorable member has consistently advocated justice for the needy sections of the community. In his thinking on social service problems, the honorable member for Port Adelaide was twelve years ahead of the Government. He took a leading part in these activities with the Australian Labour Party Social
Honorable members opposite frequently compare the record of their Government in the social services field with that of Labour governments. In this connexion I would refer them to a table which formed part of the documents presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) during his Budget speech, and which appears at page 80 of “ Hansard “ for 16th August, 1960. The table is headed, “ Outline of Commonwealth Social and Health Services, 1960-61”. The various benefits are set out in the table, together with the dates of commencement of those benefits. A perusal of those dates shows that at least ten of the major benefits were initiated by Labour governments, and only seven by Liberal governments, despite the fact that Liberal governments have been in power for twice as long as Labour governments.
I would like to make a few comments about the maternity allowance, which at the present time is quite inadequate. I do feel that the Gov.vernment should be much more generous towards Australian mothers. Honorable members will realize what a great comfort it is for an expectant mother to know that she will have enough money to cover all the expenses connected with the coming of a child, who will in due course become another valuable member of the community.
The table to which I have referred sets out various other benefits, including tuberculosis campaign allowances, unemployment and sickness benefits and funeral benefits. But all of the rates of benefits need
Let me say something about the person who is solely dependent for his subsistence on the base rate pension. For such a person an increase of 5s. a week is completely inadequate, because we know full well that an increase of two or three times this amount would barely cover the increases that have occurred in the costs of bare necessities since the pension rate was last reviewed. This Government should deal much more generously with these old people who have spent their lives in the service of the country. When we realize what high standards are enjoyed by other sections of the community, and particularly teenagers, we should not neglect our obligations to those aged persons who laid the foundations of the high standards that we now enjoy. I sincerely hope that the Government will provide something much more substantial for these people. I am all in favour of the easing of the means test for property owners, but I do suggest that we should not ignore our responsibilities to those whose sole means of livelihood is the base rate pension, and who, in the evening of their lives, should be treated with much more consideration than has been shown by this Government.
In conclusion let me say that 1 believe the amendment I have moved will commend itself to honorable members. I know that my colleagues on this side of the House at least will support my proposal that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide among other social service benefits increased amounts for dependent wives of invalids and age pensioners, and increased rates of child endowment, and also to provide social service payments generally more adequate to meet present living costs and representing a fair and reasonable share of the national income, and that such rates should take effect as from the first pension day in July, 1960.
– I second the amendment and shall reserve my right to speak on it later.
Mr. CASH (Stirling) [4.151.- Tt is not true to say that Opposition members have had no opportunity to discuss the hill in caucus. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has informed me that, at the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), he made arrangements for the Opposition to have a copy of the bill on Tuesday, 6th September. That is, before the bill was considered by the legislative committee, Cabinet or either or both of the Government parties. So, it is not true for the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) to say that there was no opportunity to discuss the bill in the Labour caucus. The Opposition has had fifteen days and nights to consider the measure. I believe that the amendment of the honorable member for Bonython is moved in an effort to cover the appreciative comments from all sections of the Australian community regarding this new social service legislation.
Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke of the next federal election in 1961. He intimated that the people should return a government that would give justice to those who need it. On its past record, that entirely eliminates the Australian Labour Party. Let us look at the social services available now and check back to discover which of them were introduced by the Liberal-Australian Country Party Administration. First, we know that the Menzies Government introduced child endowment and later extended it to the first child, despite bitter opposition from the Labour Party. The first Budget presented by the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government after the election of 1949 - that is, the Budget for 1950-51 - increased the amount of pension by 7s. 6d. a week or by 17.6 per cent., taking the pension from £2 2s. 6d. to £2 10s. a week. In the same year, the Government introduced the pensioner medical service, providing free medicine and general practitioner service for pensioners and their dependants.In his latest report, the Director-General of Social Services said -
The Department continued to work with the Department of Health by issuing entitlement cards for the Pensioner Medical Service to eligible pensioners and their dependants. Altogether 61,633 cards were issued to new age, invalid and widow pensioners in the course of the year.
That is. for 1959-60 -
Enrolments on 30th June, 1960, totalled 640,144, or 89.4 per cent of persons receiving pensions or tuberculosis allowances.
That scheme was introduced by the Menzies Government. The Opposition has been critical of the Government. Why did the Labour Party not introduce such a scheme when it was in office? It had the opportunity to do so; but this Government was quick to recognize the need and introduced the scheme. In 1951-52, the pension was increased by a further 10s. a week or 20 per cent. In that year, we lifted the property limit, beyond which pension is not payable, from £750 to £1,000. In 1952-53, the pension was again increased by 7s. 6d. a week, and we provided a pension to all qualified blind persons free of means test. We also extended the invalid pension to persons aged sixteen to 21 years, regardless of the parents’ means. The Labour Party had an opportunity to introduce legislation providing these worthy benefits, but as always, it did nothing.
In 1953-54, we increased the pension. We raised the allowable income by 10s. a week from £1 10s. to £2 a week. We raised the property exemption from £100 to £150, and the property limit from £1,000 to £1,250. In 1954-55, more changes were introduced. The allowable income was raised by £1 10s. a week from £2 to £3 10s. a week. The property exemption was raised from £150 to £200, and the property limit from £1,250 to £1,750. In addition, a major change was effected in that the income derived from property was excluded from the income means test. In the same year, this Government introduced the subsidy for homes for aged persons on a £l-for-£l basis. Since 1954, nearly £7,500,000 has been expended by the Government on this scheme, and already more than 8,000 persons have been accommodated. During its term of office, the Labour Party had ample opportunity to provide for such a worthy subsidy, but again it did nothing.
In 1955-56, this Government increased the pension by a further 10s. a week. We followed that in 1956-57 by introducing an additional pension of 10s. a week for each child under sixteen years, except the first, of an invalid or widow pensioner. In 1957-58, the pension was increased by 7s. 6d. a week and the subsidy for homes for the aged was increased to a £2-for-£l basis. Then, in 1958-59, we introduced supplementary assistance of 10s. a week for single pensioners and married pensioners whose spouses did not receive a pension or allowance,, provided that the pensioner paid rent and was deemed to be entirely dependent on his pension. Perhaps in the future the scope of this allowance could be extended to cover all single pensioners who are entirely dependent on the pension, whether they own a home or not. In 1959-60, the pension was increased by another 7s. 6d. a week.
At 30th June of this year, 538,000 people were receiving pensions and another 538,000 were eligible but excluded by the existing means test. The total number of persons qualified for a pension by age, residence and nationality is, therefore, in excess of 1,000,000. How many persons will benefit from the legislation that we are now discussing and what will be their benefit? It is estimated that over 100,000 existing pensioners will benefit from the new means test. The number of people who will receive benefits for the first time could be anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000. No accurate estimate can. he. made until 1st March of next year, when the new means test should become operative and by which time all new applications should have been received. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Social Services said -
The bill provides for the introduction- of a composite means test of two components, an income component and a property component, with but one single purpose, to assess pension entitlement on a common and interchangeable basis. To that end, the income means test and the property means test have been merged for the first time in our social service history and, appropriately enough, will now be referred to a& the merged means test.
Under the merged means test the income component will be calculated in precisely the same way as it is to-day, subject to any variation in the exemption limit and any variation in the maximum: general rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions,, but the property component will take a different form Income from property will continue to be excluded, and the property exemptions will remain, unchanged, but £1 in £10 of the value of property above £200 wilL comprise the property component which, when added to other income, if any, will allow a pension or a part pension to be paid to- a qualified person until the property component and other income, if any, exceeds the sum total of permissible income - £182 - and. the current maximum pension rate - £260 - that is, an aggregate of £442 for age and invalid pensions.
Two terms used in this legislation have caused some confusion in the minds of the public, and I’ I’-sink it is worth while to define them again now. The term “property”’ does not include the house or residence of the applicant, its contents or a motor car; if one is owned. It does include any additional house or land, cash in hand, money in the bank, savings, shares or investments of any kind. The term “income” does not include income from the property that I have just detailed. Ft does include- income from superannuation, annuities1, part-time wages’ or personal exertion. I have here three examples which I should like to give to the House. They contarn quite a few figures. Perhaps the wishes of honorable members would be met if I were given leave to incorporate these three examples’, which are nonpolitical, in “Hansard”.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– The first example deals with a married couple. Taking the property they hold as £4,000, they win each be allowed an exempt amount of £200, making a total deduction of £400. This leaves a balance of assessable property for the purposes of this calculation’ of £3,600. We calculate the property component simply by dividing by ten. This gives a figure of £360. These two people are each entitled to a pension of £260’ or a joint pension of £52.0. They have permissible income each of £182 or a total of of £364. We calculate, therefore, a figure of £884 for a married couple and this is referred to as the formula figure. We deduct the property income of £360r which we have calculated, and this: leaves a balance of £524. Therefore, the maximum joint pension payable to this couple is £520; that is. two maximum pensions of £260 each. Under the existing legislation the joint pension payable would be only £160. This couple will receive a, pension of £520 and still, be able to receive the income from the property without affecting the pension, a» from the 1st March next vear. If. foi example, they had £4*000 invested at 7i per cent, the £300 they received would nor affect their entitlement to. the full joint pens taa of £520..
Let me take another example, that of a single pensioner with property to the value of £2,200. We deduct £200 leaving an assessable figure of £2,000; and again we calculate the property component by dividing that figure by ten, giving us £200. With a base pension of £260 and a permissible income of £182, the formula figure for the single pensioner is £442. From this we must deduct the property component of £200, and the pension payable is, therefore, £242 if this person does not receive any assessable income. If, for example, such a person had an assessable income of £100 the pension payable would be £142 a year. Under the existing legislation a person in the same circumstances with £2,200 worth of assessable property and £100 superannuation would receive only £60, although he will now receive £142, an increase of £82 a year.
Another important category of pension is the class A widow, the widow with children. If she has assessable property valued at £3,250 we deduct this time an amount of £1,000 compared with the previously exempt amount of £200 for the other classes of pensioners. The class A widow is allowed an exempt amount of £1,000 and deducting that from the assessable property of £3,250, we get a figure of £2,250. Regarding the entitlement, the base pension for the class A widow is £273 a year and as the permissible income is £182 the formula figure is £455. From this we deduct the property component of £225 and the pension payable to the class A widow is £230. Under the existing means test this widow would have received no pension after her property holding reached £2,250. Now, with a higher property holding of £3,250 she will receive a pension of £230 where no pension was previously payable. In addition, an extra pension of £26 per annum is payable to the class A widow for each child under sixteen years after the first one and she can also receive the income from the property of £3,250 without a reduction of her pension entitlement of £230.
Under the merged means test an age, invalid or widow pensioner without children who has no income other than exempt income from property, may have property to the value of £2,020 and receive a maximum general rate pension. A widow with children, similarly situated, may have pro perty up to the value of £2,820 and still receive a pension at the maximum rate. An individual applicant for an age or invalid pension who has no other income - other than exempt income from property - may have property to the value of £4,620 under the merged means test before eligibility is exhausted. By the same calculations, a widow with children and no other income may have property to the value of £5,550, and a widow without children may have property to the value of £4,300 before the deductions leave no remainder and the eligibility ceases. I remind honorable members that the amount beyond which no pension is payable should be doubled in the case of a married age or invalid pensioner. Thus a married couple may have property to the value of £9,240 before the pension entitlement ceases provided their only income is income from property.
Despite the ever-increasing expenditure as benefits are extended and the number of pensioners increases from year to year, I should like the Government to take another look at the allowances payable to the wives of invalid pensioners and to consider granting the supplementary assistance of 10s. a week to all single pensioners who are dependent on their pensions even if they do own their own homes.
Like many other members of this Parliament, T should like to see the entitlement for age pensions extended to persons who have been resident in Australia for ten years, instead of the period of twenty years required under the present Social Services Act. Many organizations have approached the Government for a pension equal to half the basic wage. To meet this request, an additional sum of £86,000,000 a year would have to be found and a situation would be created in which a married couple, both in receipt of a full pension could, with a permissible income of £7 a week, receive pension and income far in excess of the basic wage. Their circumstances would then be much more favorable than those of many thousands of wage and salary earners who. of necessity, would be paying taxes to meet the additional cost.
Sir, the increase in rates and the merged means test will add over £13,000,000 to the cost of social services each year and the total expenditure from the National Welfare
Fund will increase from £299,000,000 to £330,000,000. Finally, Sir, may I say that this bill which we are discussing is good legislation. The new merged means test will be of tremendous benefit to thousands of Australians both now and in the years to come. It follows on the beneficial pattern of all social services legislation introduced by this Government, and I commend it to the House and to all Australians.
– Sir, since this debate commenced we have heard a great deal about the so-called cost of social service benefits in this country. We have heard criticism that proposals which have been made from time to time by members of the Labour Party would cost far too much. I suggest that that is a completely wrong attitude to adopt when looking at this question of social service payments. Surely it should be the duty of a government to assess what is the right and proper thing to do for the various classes in the community who suffer the ailments from which all suffer some time - old age, or invalidity, or widowhood, or sickness. Surely it should be the duty of a government to say what is the right and proper thing to do and then tax the people in order to provide the benefits at the scale which the Government considers just and not to provide anything less than should be provided, simply because of a fear to impose the taxation which would be required.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, when introducing this measure, about a week ago, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said he believed that social services should not be made a matter of party political argument, but in his very next sentence he made this question just such an argument by accusing the Labour Party of using those tactics. It is completely true to say that many Government members who have spoken in this debate have sought to decry what was done by a Labour government in the years between 1941 and 1949. I fear that many members on the Government side of the House, who have come into this place recently, have not studied even the brief history of social services provided in the booklet issued by the Department of Social Services, and have accepted the unwise words of some of their elders who deride and decry what the Labour Party has done in the field of social services. It is quite common to hear a member on the Government side of the House who has been here only a fortnight or so say to the Opposition, “What did you do in this matter?” It might be beneficial to give Government members some information in that regard, as I now propose to do.
The Curtin Government came into power in 1941. For 23 of the 25 years before that date, it must be remembered, anti-Labour governments had been in power in this Parliament. In the other two years there was, of course, a Labour government but an antiLabour Senate. So, in effect, for that quartercentury anti-Labour governments were in power in this Parliament.
– The people just would not have you.
– The answer to that interjection is-
– Do you say that the tail - the Senate - wagged the dog?
– I shall show shortly what the Minister’s own department has done to pensioners in this Territory. For 23 out of the 25 years before 1941, antiLabour governments were in power. When the Curtin Government came to power the only social services being provided by the Commonwealth were the age and invalid pensions at a maximum rate of £1 ls. 6d. a week; the maternity allowance, subject to a means test, and paid at a rate ranging from £4 10s. to £7 10s.; and child endowment, which had been in force for only a few months and which, as honorable members will recall, was introduced by the then anti-Labour government under threat not only from His Honour Judge Beeby but also of the two Independent members of this chamber who subsequently wrought the overthrow of the Menzies Government of that time. They were the only three Commonwealth social service benefits being paid in this country at that time. Legislation providing for age pensions had been introduced in 1909 by the Deakin Government, and the pensions became payable in 1910, the year in which the Fisher Government introduced the invalid pension. The maternity allowance was introduced by the Fisher Government in 1912, and it was introduced against most violent opposition from the anti-Labour parties of those days. They said it was a completely immoral proposal and that it would lead to baby-farming, and they fought it tooth and nail. They allowed the rate to remain at the figure set then all through the years until November, 1931, when they reduced it. Admittedly that was during a time of depression. Subsequently it was restored to approximately the rate I quoted a few minutes ago for 1941. The only Commonwealth social service benefits existing when the Labour Government came to power in 1941 were age and invalid pensions, maternity allowance and child endowment at the rate of Ss. for the second and every subsequent child.
In the period of eight years for which the Labour Government was in office under Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley - and let us not forget that that period covered the worst years of the war and the difficult post-war period - it almost doubled the rate of age and invalid pensions, increasing them from £1 ls. 6d. to £2 2s. 6d. a week and providing for a very considerable easing of the means test. It more than trebled the initial amount of the maternity allowance, increasing it from £4 10s. to £15. That amount has not been altered since. It also abolished the means test for that social service benefit. It doubled the amount of child endowment by increasing it from 5s. to 10s. a week for the second and each subsequent child, and it introduced a whole range of new social service benefits that had never before been introduced by a Commonwealth government. It introduced widows’ pensions, assuming federal responsibility for the payment of pensions to widows for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth. It introduced unemployment and sickness benefits. It introduced special benefits for sufferers from tuberculosis, although, admittedly, that was done through the health administration. It introduced allowances for the wives of age and invalid pensioners, and it introduced funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners. It also introduced what I believe to be one of the most Christian schemes ever introduced in this country - a rehabilitation service for invalid pensioners and those qualifying for unemployment or sickness benefit.
That is a very proud record of achievement by a Labour government in a period of eight years, a period which, as I have said, included the worst years of the war and the difficult years of the post-war period. Not only did it introduce all these new benefits, but it also very substantially eased the operation of the means test for age and invalid pensioners by permitting recipients to earn up to £1 10s. a week at that time and by raising the property bar to £750.
Those on the Government side who seek to criticize what the Labour Government did in relation to social service benefits should bear well in mind that the present Government, in its eleven years of office, has made no increase at all in the rate of maternity allowance. The only alteration it made was to increase from £5 to £10 the amount of maternity allowance that could be paid out within four weeks of the approaching birth of the child. Admittedly, in 1950 it did introduce child endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week, but it has left that rate unaltered ever since. It has left completely unaltered the rate of child endowment fixed by the Chifley Government in 1948 at 10s. for the second and each subsequent child. It has left completely unaltered the funeral benefit introduced by the Curtin Government in 1943 at the rate of £10.
– And the cost of funerals is prohibitive.
– That is right. The cost of everything has gone up. AntiLabour governments did not introduce these benefits; they opposed the introduction of them. But they have not had the courage to remove them from the statutebook, although they have sought to destroy them by leaving the rates completely unaltered for a period of eleven years.
– What did they increase?
– I give them credit for what they did increase, and I am sorry that I cannot reply in a husky voice.
– I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not doubt that there are members of the Country Party who can. take tip one and a half, minutes, of their time itemizing what this Government has done in the field of social services.
What I have said has been said for the record, and I hope that those who have sought to criticize the Labour Party - perhaps it was in ignorance - will learn from what has been said. In case they should doubt the accuracy of what I have said, I suggest that they look at the booklet “ Social Services a copy of which I have, and which is issued by the Social Services Department. It has been amended from time to time. I have an original copy published in 1949. It was written by a very competent journalist who was press secretary to the then Minister for Health and Social Services, Senator McKenna. That was before I entered this Parliament,, and the wording of the booklet remains unchanged. 1 commend its reading to honorable members who lack knowledge in this field.
Great play has been made- not only i:n the present debate but on previous occasion’s on the relative value of pension and benefit payments of various kinds. When we on1 this side have sought to use’ the basic wage as a measuring-stick, not suggesting that pensions should be tied automatically to it and rising and falling with it, but suggestingthat it should be used as an appropriate measuring-stick to assess the value of pensions or benefits being paid, we have been attacked from the Government side because Government supporters prefer to use the C series price index, or to talk about the average wage. I have before me some, tables of figures. Some of the tableshave been provided by the Commonwealth Statistician while the others were compiled by me- from figures I have obtained from1 the Commonwealth Statistician-. The first table quotes the weighted average price of certain food items in the six capital cities. 1 suggest to honorable members that, leaving aside altogether the question of the basic wage, the question of the C series index and. the question of the average wage, the proper way to assess the value of a pension or a social service benefit is to ascertain what it will buy. The tables T have prepared will show what the pension, as last adjusted By (he Chifley Government in 19418, would buy with respect to- ten basie foodstuffs.
Me. Bandidt. - You must go on the C series index, surely?
– The figures were submitted to me, and I shall quote them to the honorable member who, during the debate fast night, was so critical of what the Labour Government had done.
– The C series index obviously is a good guide.
– If the honorable member had sought during his speech to relate each item of the C series index to the pension, he would have required several extensions of time. I suggest that he might allow me to make my speech in the way in which I propose to make it and then let anybody on the Government side criticize it or fault the figures if he can.
I have said that the only way to assess the proper value of a pension or the relative value 0f any payment is to assess what it wil£ buy. I have taken ten basic food items, and,, lest any member of the Country Party would like to suggest they are not basic food items,. I shall name them. They are bread, butter, milk, tea, sugar, potatoes, eggs,, rump- steak, chuck steak and leg of, mutton.
– What about some chops?
– If, the Minister, possessed the knowledge that members of the Country Party possess he would know that he might be able to get some chops from a leg of mutton.
– They would be unusual sheep.
– They would be, but it can be done. r can- refer theMinister to publications other than the one’ which I have with me, notably that of Mrs Beeton. I ask the consent of the House to have these tables, to which I shall refer in considerable detail, incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– No. The Opposition would not allow a. Government supporter such a right.
– Is leave granted?
Mi”. DEPUTY SPEAKER. - Leave is not granted.
– I can understand why leave has not been granted and I do Shot ‘quibble about it. I shall read the figures contained in the tables. The first table is headed “ Average Retail Prices “, and gives the weighted average prices of certain foodstuffs in the six capital cities. This information was given to me on Monday of this week over the signature of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. The columns show the average retail price of the foodstuffs iri the June quarter of 1948 and in the June quarter of 1949. I have selected 1948 because it was the last year in which the Labour Government fixed the rate of pension and because it was a pre-election year. I have selected I960 for the same reason. I suggest the comparison is completely fair.
– The Labour Government refused to increase pensions in 1949.
– I know, but do not forget that the pension which we fixed in 1948 was the pension being paid in the spring of 1949, and that the pension which this Government is fixing this year will be the pension being paid in the spring of 1961.
– Of course it will be. It is completely fair to make a comparison between 1948, a pre-election year in which pension adjustments were made, and 1960, again a pre-election year in which pension adjustments are being made. Those who quibble about 1949 will recall quite well that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley - an honest man - refused to bargain for the votes of pensioners by granting an increase in pensions on the eve of an election. In his policy speech in 1949 he reiterated his refusal and said that the Government, if returned to office, would make whatever adjustments in the pension were justified. He refused in 1949 to bid for the votes of pensioners.
– A striking contrast to subsequent Labour leaders.
– The Minister may make his own- contrast, but let him keep in mind that this Government is granting a pension increase now of 5s. a- week. I shall be here when next year’s Budget is intro duced and I shall be interested to see what increase this Government grants in an election year. I shall proceed now to read the figure’s contained in the tables to which 1 have referred. In June; 1948, th’e price of a 2 lb. loaf of bread was 6.95d.; in June, 1960, it was 16.93d. In 1948 butter cost 23.61d. per lb.; in 1960 it cost 55.63d. In 1948 a quart of fresh milk cost 8.55d.; iri 1960 it cost 19.75d. In 1948 tea cost 33.01d. per lb., in 1960 it cost 78.16a.
– From what source did you obtain these prices?
– The Acting Commonwealth Statistician provided them for me the day before yesterday. They were contained in a document which bore’ his signature.
– Those are not the ruling prices in Brisbane.
– These are the figures for the six capital cities.
– Was the price you gave for one pint or one quart of milk?
– I stated that it was for one quart. In 1948 sugar cost 4.49d. per lb.; in 1960 it cost 10.56d. Potatoes, which were dealt with iti 7 lb. lots by the Statistician, cost 10.47d. in 1948 and 38.6’3d. in 1960. In 1948 one dozen eggs cost 37.9d., but in 1960 they cost 74.84d. In 1948 rump steak - I do not suggest that pensioners can afford it - cost 22.92d. per lb., but in 1960 it cost 77.81d. In 1948 chuck steak, which would be more in the line of diet for a pensioner who wanted to make a simple stew, cost 10.94d. per lb., but In 1960 it cost 42.84d. In 1948 leg of mutton cost 12.04d. per lb., but in 1960 it cost 27.28d.
The figures in the second table, which I have prepared on my own calculations, indicate the quantity of each of the ten basic foodstuffs that the age or invalid pension would buy in 1948 and 1960. The comparative pension rates are the rate fixed by the Chifley Government in the 1948 Budget, the present rate and the rate proposed under the 1960 Budget. Calculations are based on figures which were provided by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, showing average prices in six capital cities in the June quarter 1948, and the June quarter 1960. In every case except one, the pension of £2 2s. 6d. in 1948 would have bought more than does the pension of £4 15s. to-day.
– What would the pension buy when the Labour government reduced it?
– The honorable member should read the history of the pension and find out what happened when the Lyons Government reduced the pension still further. The honorable member is sharp as a Whip, but he should read that history. The figures contained in the table which 1 shall read to the House are quite authentic and, as I have said, in every case except one they show quite clearly that the pension of £2 2s. 6d. in 1948 would have bought more of these basic foodstuffs than does the pension of £4 15s. to-day.
In 1948 the pension of £2 2s. 6d. would have bought 73.38 loaves of bread; to-day it will buy 67.3 loaves. In 1948 the pension would have bought 21.6 lb. of butter; to-day it will buy 20.49 lb. In 1948 the pension would have bought 1L9.28 pints of milk; to-day it will buy 116.44 pints. In 1948 the pension would have bought 15.44 lb. of tea; to-day it will buy 14.58 lb. In 1948 the pension would have bought 113.58 lb. of sugar; to-day it will buy 107.95 lb. Admittedly there are fluctuations in the price of potatoes, but in 1948 the pension would have bought 340.97 lb. whereas to-day it will buy 206.51 lb. It is in relation to eggs that the Government scores its only victory. In 1948 the pension would have bought 13.45 dozen eggs and to-day it will buy 15.23 dozen, a gain of exactly 21 eggs in twelve years. In 1948 the pension would have bought 22.25 lb. of rump steak; to-day it will buy 14.65 lb. The pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week would have bought 48.15 lb. of chuck steak in 1948. To-day’s pension of £4 15s. a week, according to the figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician, will buy 26.61 lb. The pension of 1948 would have bought 42.35 lb. of leg of mutton and the present pension will buy 41.78 lb. So, in respect of bread, butter, milk, tea, sugar, potatoes, rump steak, chuck steak and leg of mutton, the pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week would have bought in 1948 more than the present pension will buy to-day.
– The year was 1947.
– No. It was 1948.
– The honorable member means 1947 and the first half of 1948.
– I am talking about 1948. At that time the pension would have bought more of all the foodstuffs I have mentioned, with the sole exception of eggs, than the present pension of £4 15s. a week will buy.
If we take the proposed pension of £5 a week, allowing for the increase of 5s. a week, we find that in all except three cases the 1948 pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week would have bought more than the proposed pension of £5 a week will buy. In the few minutes still available to me, I shall compare the purchasing power of the pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week fixed in the 1948 Budget with that of the proposed pension of £5 a week under the 1960 Budget. The comparison shows that the 1948 pension would have bought 73.38 loaves of bread, whereas the proposed pension will buy only 70.88 loaves. The 1948 pension would have bought 21.60 lb. of butter and the proposed pension will buy 21.57 lb. The Government almost breaks even here. The pension of 1948 would have bought 119.28 pints of milk and the proposed pension will buy 121.46 pints. Here is a magnificent victory! The proposed pension will buy about two pints of milk more than the pension of 1948 would have bought. The 1948 pension would have bought 15.44 lb. of tea and the proposed pension will buy 15.35 lb. The pension of 1948 would have bought 113.58 lb. of sugar and the pension now proposed will buy 113.63 lb. - one-twentieth of 1 lb. more. The 1948 pension would have bought 340.97 lb. of potatoes and the proposed pension will buy 217.421b.
In respect of eggs, of course, the Government gains another victory. The pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week in 1948 would have bought 13.45 dozen eggs, and the proposed pension of £5 a week will buy 16.03 dozen. But heaven help the pensioner who wants to buy a little meat with the inadequate pension that this Government provides. These figures relating to meat may interest members of the Australian Country Party. Again, I do not suggest that pensioners can afford rump steak on the pension handed out by this Government. The pension of 1948 would have bought 22.25 lb. of rump steak and the proposed pension will buy 15.42 lb. The pension of 1948 would have bought 48.15 lb. of chuck steak and the proposed pension will buy 28.01 lb. When we come to leg of mutton, the Government is given another victory, because the pension of 1948 would have bought 42.35 lb. of this and the proposed pension will buy 43.98 lb.
So, the pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week in 1948 would have bought more bread, butter, tea, potatoes, rump steak and chuck steak than the pension of £5 a week proposed by the Government in this Budget will buy. And this is the Government which came to office on a promise to the pensioners! It said, in its policy speech, “ The pensioners can look to us for justice. We shall maintain the value of all pensions and social service payments.” The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) added, “But, more importantly, we will increase the purchasing power of pensions and social service payments “. What rot!
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) introduced this bill and made his second-reading speech last Thursday week. Copies of the bill were available to all honorable members, including Opposition members, during the week’s recess and they had an opportunity to study it. But last evening, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) speaking in this debate for the Opposition in his capacity as its leader in this House, attacked the bill and deliberately avoided mentioning the great benefits which will be provided by it. Instead, he went back to the beginning of the century and tried to convince some people who may have been listening on the radio that the Australian Labour Party, also, had done a fairly reasonable job in the field of social services. After the Leader of the Opposition had spoken, we heard the chairman of the Australian Labour Party’s Social Services Committee compliment the Government and congratulate it for having introduced this bill and having done something that he had for so long wanted to see done by legislation.
Obviously, Opposition members do not feel very satisfied with the approach adopted by their leader when he led what was supposed to have been an attack by the Opposition on this measure. Clearly, they feel that their leader has let them down. Apparently, they believe also, that the chairman of their Social Services Committee has let them down, because to-day we have seen the spectacle of the first two Opposition speakers for the day in this debate respectively moving and seconding an amendment to the bill, and thereby taking the Opposition’s business out of the hands of their leader and deputy leader and the chairman of their Social Services Committee. This procedure demonstrates quite clearly not only to the Parliament but also to the people generally that members of the Australian Labour Party cannot agree on any subject - not even on social services!
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who preceded me, spent a great deal of the 30 minutes at his disposal in reciting a great string of figures designed to show what £2 2s. 6d. a week would have bought in 1948 compared with what £5 a week will buy to-day. He tried to suggest that this was a fair basis on which to compare this Government’s treatment of age pensioners with the treatment which they were given by the Labour Government. What the honorable member did not mention, Sir, was that when the Chifley Government was in office in 1948, the age pensioner, in addition to trying to buy sufficient food to keep him with his £2 2s. 6d. a week, had to pay at least 10s. 6d. every time he went to the doctor for medical treatment. Furthermore, he sometimes had to pay £2 10s. or more to the chemist for medicine prescribed by his doctor. If he had anything left at the end of the month after having paid his doctor and his chemist, he may have been able to buy some of the food that he needed.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory made no mention of those old pensioners who lived on their own and were unable to care for themselves and who found it impossible to find accommodation in homes for aged people. He said nothing about the expenditure that this Government is making in order to provide homes for the aged, subsidizing by £2 every £1 spent for this purpose by private institutions. Nor did the honorable gentleman say anything about the special consideration given by this Government to those very indigent pensioners who receive a special allowance of 10s. a week in order to help them to pay for rented accommodation. So I suggest that the comparison that the honorable member put before the House was based on a completely specious argument, and furthermore that he was well aware that the argument was completely specious.
As is customary in every country in the world after a war, in the period since World War II. there has been inflation in this country. The only section of the community which has been really prejudiced by this inflation is that containing people who have been compelled to live on fixed incomes - people who have retired or have built up some savings in the belief that upon their retirement they would be able to live at a standard at least comparative to that of people on the basic wage. But the inflationary spiral which developed at the end of World War II. - a situation which we inherited from the Chifley Government - continued to run, and the people I have mentioned were those whose position was prejudiced as a result.
This legislation is the first concrete move that has been made to do something to assist that section of the community. I think all honorable members on both sides agree completely with the Government’s approach in attempting to alleviate the problem that faces these people who retired on fixed incomes. It is true that the formula which has been evolved to deal with them is complex for people who have not had the same opportunity to study the legislation as honorable members have had. Unfortunately, many people are being further confused about the legislation’s provisions, despite the fact that during last week’s recess members on all sides of the Parliament took every opportunity to educate people in their electorates on the terms of the new legislation. Members of the Parliament, having given their electors some idea of how the legislation’s provisions will work, are concerned that in Queensland people became confused as the result of an article which appeared in the Brisbane “ Telegraph “ of Saturday, 17th September. The article is headed “ Means test much too complex - get rid of it “. I shall quote parts of it to the House in order to show how incorrect, inaccurate and completely distorted the article is, and how confusing it has been to people who have read it. I hope that the Brisbane “ Telegraph “ will devote as much space to the correction of its inaccuracies, which I will now make, as it devoted to creating this confusion in the minds of pensioners who may have read the article.
Here is a passage from the article which shows how completely inaccurate the statements made in it are. It reads -
Much was made in the federal Budget of the easing of the means test for agc, invalid and widow pensions.
But it does not amount to much because the cost to the Treasury for a full year is put at only £4,200,000 in a total pension bill of £172 million.
We in this House know that both those figures are completely inaccurate. It has been estimated that in the next financial year expenditure on social services, as the result of pension increases and so on, will be £23,500,000, and not £4,200,000, above last year’s figure. We also know that the total expenditure for 1960-61 on social services will be about £257,000,000. The article then goes on to say -
People to benefit will be those who have a small amount of assets over and above the previously permitted £200, apart from their exempt residence, car and furniture.
But many of the hypothetical gainers quoted in the Social Services Department’s illustrations simply do not exist.
You will be able-
And here again the author of this article went completely astray - under the proposals, to own property other than exempt property, up to £4,620 without losing all pension - but only if that property does not produce income.
Every member of this House knows how completely inaccurate that statement is. We all know full well that any income from property is completely exempt, and that a single person with £2,020, or a married couple with £4,040, in the bank enjoys the benefit of having interest from that money completely exempt in relation to calculation of the rate of pension. If pensioners had their money invested in a house, and were able to get £20 a week rent from that house - which, of course, is a rent far beyond reason, but I am giving this figure only to strengthen the example - -that £20 would also be exempt. If they were fortunate enough to have invested their money in some speculative scheme which was paying them at the rate of £20 or £30 a week that money too would be completely exempt from consideration in relation to the pension.
So this article is completely misleading, and has misled people to whom members on both sides of the House have tried to explain the new provisions.
– What newspaper did it appear in?
– The Brisbane “Telegraph “. The article goes on to say -
If you have, say, £2000 in Government bonds at 5 percent, a merged 10 percent of the excess over £200- in other words, £180- will be added to your £100 income. So you will be counted as earning £280, which is really double reckoning.
I do not think that that statement is anywhere near accurate, lt is more like a lot of double-talk. The article continues -
And you will lose part of your pension because £182 is still the maximum income limit for the full pension.
Remember, the writer is referring to income from property. The next paragraph reads -
The pension disappears altogether if YOU income, on their system of reckoning 10 percent of capital in with it. reaches £442.
Because so many people have been misled by this article 1 feel that it is important that the correct effect of the measure should be stressed. Let us make it quite clear that when these provisions come into operation in March next year age pensioners may own the home in which they reside, may own a motor car or a boat or furniture or any personal effects. They may have an insurance policy with a surrender value of £750 in the case of a single pensioner or £1,500 in the case of a married pensioner couple. In addition, all income from property will be exempt.
The formula means clearly and simply that any single age pensioner can own all of the things I have mentioned without their being taken into consideration with respect to the rate of pension payable, and in addition can have £2,020- in the case of a single pensioner or in the case of a married pensioner couple £4,040. This can be in the form of money in the bank, or money in their purses. It can be in bonds or shares, it can be in a house other than the one in which they reside, in land or in any form of real estate, without affecting their pensions. Any income that comes from the investment is completely free of consideration by the department when the means test is applied. In fact, on those figures, such pensioners would be entitled to a full pension each. A single pensioner can have his pension of £5 a week and a married pensioner couple their pensions totalling £10 a week, plus income from investment of £2,020 or £4,040 as the case may be, without affecting their pensions. So such pensioners might have a total income of anything up to £30 a week. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they would have such an income. It is, however, reasonable to assume that a married person could derive income from capital to that amount, wisely invested, together with pensions somewhere in the vicinity of £17 a week. I do not think that anybody in this Parliament or any newspaper correspondent could criticize that as being an ungenerous attitude taken by the Government.
If we are to be completely fair and just when speaking to this legislation we must give some credit to all those members on both sides who have worked so hard to try to alleviate the problem which has faced people who have retired on a fixed income. I believe that credit must go, above all people in this Parliament, to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) for the gallant stand that he has taken. Not only in this chamber but in the party room he has defied all opposition and has stood firmly in regard to this matter. I believe that it was because of his firm convictions that he lost his seat in 1951. He opposed the Government’s attitude in failing to implement proposals similar to the present ones. This man was prepared to make any sacrifice because he believed so strongly that this scheme should come into being. This must be a tremendously proud moment for this very gallant member of the House and all members should pay due respect and credit to him for the great work that he has done.
We on this side of the House agree with members on the Opposition side that we have not reached the culminating point of perfection in the field of social services legislation. But we believe that the greatest step forward in all the history of social services was made with the introduction of this legislation. Of course, anomalies still exist in the act, but they are of minor importance compared with the ones which have been remedied. We know that further anomalies may well develop from the legislation that has been introduced. Let us take one which we can foresee, even at this stage - the case of an aged married couple who receive the maximum pension and who have £4,040 invested. This couple has been used to an income approximating £17 a week, made up of the pension of £10 a week plus an income of, say, £7 a week from their investment of £4,040. When one of the couple dies, the one who is left suddenly finds that the pension for which he or she is eligible is less than £5 a week because he or she then owns property in excess of the limit of £2,020 to which one person is entitled. In fact, this person may now have property approximating the total amount at which the pension ceases to be payable- £4,620.
If such a person is left with over £4,620, as might well be the case, no pension at all would be payable to the one who is left. This person would be required to live entirely on the income from the investment. While the position of this person would be comparable with the situation of those who are now single, it would impose upon this person a very difficult period of readjustment to the sudden loss of the pension. On this side of the House we believe that, progressively, further amendments will be made to increase the ceiling in this field. We also hope that some of the anomalies that exist so far as the special allowance of 10s. is concerned will be eliminated. But all these things cannot be done in one budget.
One of the most glaring anomalies in relation to the 10s. special allowance is that a person who is paying rent, who is single and has no other income receives the allowance. But if a married couple are paying off their home at the rate of, say, 30s. or £2 a week, are paying rates and taxes and meeting the cost of maintaining the home, and one of them dies, the surviving person is denied the supplementary allowance. The single age pensioner may be paying rent of only £1 a week whereas the person whose spouse has died may be pay ing £2 a week off the home which he or she may or may not own one day. Yet this person is not entitled to the 10s. special allowance which means that his or her income is less than that of the single person who pays rent.
As I think the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) pointed out, a similar position exists in the case of an aged couple living in a home. Such a couple do not receive the 10s. special allowance, but if they were single they would get it. So, in the same home, you find people who get the supplementary allowance and some who do not. Of course, there is a feeling that this is an injustice. From a legal point of view, all these things can be explained. However, we are not dealing with legal technicalities but with human beings. I hope that these matters will receive attention in subsequent Budgets as we find that the tax-paying community is prepared to meet the increased expenditure.
There are two other matters to which I would like to refer: It would appear that consideration might well be given to the problem of those immigrants who have been naturalized and are now good, tax-paying Australians, bringing up their families in our Australian way of life. What action is being taken to ensure that when these people reach the age at which they are unable to work they will be taken care of under the terms of our social services legislation? The legislative provision which existed before our great immigration programme that aliens had to live in the country for twenty years before being eligible for social services is now obsolete. New thinking must be given to this most important matter. There is a general feeling of concern among new Australians over this problem. Reassurance from the Government that this has not been overlooked and that, in the near future, this matter will be dealt with, would give great encouragement to these people.
The only other point to which I want to refer concerns invalids. T have in my electorate an aged man who is an invalid pensioner. His wife is not of pensionable age. being 58. She is required to be in constant attendance to look after her ailing husband. He receives his invalid pension and she receives a wife’s allowance. They would be better off if the wife could receive the equivalent of a widow’s pension or an age pension. She is disqualified from receiving the age pension because she is two years under 60 years of age. Her spouse is no longer capable of providing for her by going out to work. This woman is more sadly prejudiced than the “B” class widow of 50 years of age or over because she is required to be in constant attendance on her husband. Yet only the wife’s allowance is paid in respect of her. This most important point should be looked at when the next social services legislation is introduced.
Before I conclude I would like to emphasize that I am not carping when I bring these points up. I feel that, in this Budget, we have made a tremendous advance. On this side of the House we still claim that the legislation before the Parliament is the finest that has ever been introduced in the field of social services, but we also acknowledge that we cannot say that we are completely satisfied with our social services legislation and that all anomalies have been erased. Assuredly, as we eliminate one anomaly we will create another. This will continue ad infinitum, but I hope that when the next Budget is introduced the Government will have found that the taxpayers of Australia are just as aware of the inequity of these situations as are the members of this Parliament and that they agree that some definite action should be taken to alleviate the problem which faced the people to whom I have referred.
I should like to conclude by extending to the Minister and the Government, and particularly to the honorable member for Sturt and his committee, my congratulations on the formulation of a wonderful piece of legislation which has the wholehearted support of every member of the House however much members of the Opposition might try to pretend they are looking for some flaws.
.- During the course of this debate, supporters of the Government have been endeavouring to convince the Australian people that they are the pioneers of social service legislation in Australia. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) very modestly had this to say when introducing t he bill to the Parliament -
This Parliament knows that there is no known way to reconcile differences of opinion on the question of social services, but the historic fact remains that, during the last 60 years, great changes have been made and, if I may say so without undue pride, most of them have been made by the present Government.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) last night clearly exploded that theory because it is undoubtedly recorded from the time of Alfred Deakin that the only pieces of social service legislation introduced by tory governments were those relating to age pensions and certain child endowment provisions many years later. I do not intend to go over that period. The Leader of the Opposition produced Andrew Fisher’s letter and statements from “Hansard” by Lord Forrest and others, and clearly exploded the theory put forward by the Minister for Social Services and supporters of the Government that this Government had introduced major reforms in social service legislation.
The fact of the matter is that supporters of the Liberal and Country Parties in State and Federal parliaments are bitter enemies of social progress, as have been the supporters of Liberal and Country Party governments of different ages. Under a great variety of names they have come forward and opposed every little increase of social service payments designed to help those in the lower income brackets.
I heard a grunt from Country Party members as I made that statement and, unintelligent as it was, it calls for an answer. When the Australian Labour Party, through the government of the day, held a referendum seeking, among other things, power for this Parliament to make provision for social service benefits, members of the Australian Country Party, without exception, went throughout the length and breadth of the land and opposed that referendum. In the face of their opposition, the referendum was carried and thus many of the benefits for which the Minister for Social Services is taking credit were introduced by a Labour government in spite of the Australian Country Party.
Supporters of the Government have displayed humbug and hypocrisy by building on the foundations laid by the Labour governments and then seeking to gain full credit for a policy that they have opposed continuously, simply because most of the cost had to be met from taxes drawn from the wealthy monopolists and others who support this Government. The fact is that this Government has practically destroyed the National Welfare Fund which was established by the Chifley Labour Government to ensure that social services” Would be maintained at a maximum, and so that, iti good seasons and bad, the people would always be able to enjoy the social service benefits that ate their right.
On 1 1th February 1943, Mr. Chifley,- who was then the Labour Treasurer and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, introduced the National Welfare Fund Bill,, and in the course of his speech he said -
It therefore proposes tor introduce to comprehensive scheme of national welfare and to develop it progressively. The welfare scheme includes health, sickness, unemployment and other associated services”. The parts’ of the scheme which it is proposed1 te? introduce immediately are a new maternity benefit and the liberalization’ of the present maternity allowance, and the provision of funeral benefits’ for old-age and invalid pensioners. Investigations cif unemployment and sickness benefit- schemes are proceeding. It is anticipated that the unemployment benefit scheme will be’ brought down within six months, and that the sickness benefit scheme will be’ introduced three months later. The several health services will need much- detailed preparation.- It may be impracticable to introduce a complete health- service during the war.
That was the introduction of the National Welfare Fund. Even in that time of great national crisis, trie Labour Administration of the d’ay Was thinking of the later years because it knew that pe’ople so’ easily forgettheir obligations fo servicemen and’ others. We” believed in laying the foundations of* a social service” scheme, 6u£ unfortunately it has since’ been destroyed in many respects by the present Administration. Ohe may say that the” National Wel’fare Fund ha’s Seen destroyed s”o” far as the purposes for Which it wa’s” established are concerned’. Instead of having huge reserves constantly being increased from social’ service taxation and certain other payments made to it, the fund has been almost pegged by this Government at a set amount. As a result, if a crisis should arise, we might easily find that social services will have to be cut because the basis that was set down by Mr. Chifley for the maintenance of social services has been destroyed by this Government.
I have listened to supporters of the Government saying what they have and have not done. The fact is that they have cutright through the pattern of social service legislation and, with the exception of the two items I have mentioned; every one of the present social service benefits has been introduced By a Labour government. They include invalid pensions; pensions for husband; Wife’ and first child, maternity allowance, child Endowment, Widows’ pensions,funeral benefit,- unemployment and sickness benefits”; Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, hospital Benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, medical benefits for pensioners?, pharmaceutical ben’efits for pensioners, tuberculosis allowance,- child nutrition, miscellaneous services and rent rebates.All those benefits have been introduced by Labour governments. Let us consider the legislation concerning tuberculosis which was introduced by a Labour government. Because of its implementation,- that legislation has been responsible for” practically wiping out that dread disease in- Australia. This Government can take no credit for that achievement because it was one df the great schemes introduced by a- Labour government.-
Supporters of the Government applaud the proposed increase in pensions of 5s. a week. That is equal to 8d>. a day - a miserable pittance! A pensioner will now get £5 a week compared with £2 2s. 6d. in 1948-49. The honorable member for the Australian Capital- Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has shown that a pensioner could buy more for £2 2s. 6d. in 1948 than he can Buy for £5 a week now. The simple reason is1 that under this Government, prices have increased by 98 per cent, and the purchasing power of money has never been lower at any time in our history. Inflation affects particularly those who are receiving social service benefits and irrespective of the increases in payments that this Government claims to have granted, the real purchasing power of money has declined tremendously during this Government’s term of office.
I have listened to the Minister and supporters of the Government speaking on this legislation. It is true that the Government has made certain changes in the means test which appear to be very desirable; but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that these alterations should be called the Thompson changes in the means test because, when all is said and done, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has been sponsoring this scheme foc twelve years. This proposal has been stolen from the Labour Party, as have most of the good things in the policy of this Government and are claimed to be the result of Liberal Party thinking. Most of these Changes were desirable but I do not know from whom the Government will take the extra 5s. a week it proposes to give to the pensioner*. Undoubtedly, there is tremendous scope for an increase beyond 5s. when we consider the state of the economy.
It is useless for Government supporters to say that the Government cannot find the money to increase the maternity allowance, child endowment and pensions generally. A mere glance through company profits will show that there is a vast untapped field of taxation from which great benefits might be given to the people - particularly to the aged, sick and infirm - by way of social services. The fact is that the people who are bearing the full brunt of the inflationary policies of this Government are those who are receiving pensions and other social service benefits. The full impact of increases in prices falls upon them and the Government refuses to do anything about it.
Let me give a few examples of how living costs have increased. Rump steak now costs lis. per lb. The price of butter is about 5s. per lb. It is absolutely impossible for the ordinary family man to pay these prices. Where does £5 a week go when food and other necessary commodities command such terrific prices? The fact of the- matter is that despite the pension increases that honorable members opposite have boasted about, the standard of. living of the pensioner has never been lower.- 1 listened’,, as. I said, with great interestto the- speech of the Minister for Social Services, and there are one or two matters contained in it to which I would like to refer. It is true, as the Minister said - or we accept it as true - that some 700,000 Australian citizens will benefit from this legislation. The Minister went on to say that the increase of 5s. a week in age, invalid and widow pensions, various other machinery changes- that are proposed and other adjustments to the act will have farreaching effects on people dependent on pensions, and that the alleviation of the means test will benefit a considerable number of people. I do not intend to go into the complications of the means test, but I do want to quote a few remarks” made by the1 Minister in his second-reading, speech. He said:~
It is estimated that Some 100,000’ existing pensioners will benefit from the new means test. Of these 96,000 Will be age and invalid pensioners and 4,000 will be Widow pensioners, iri addition’, it is probable that some 20,000 persons now ineligible will receive pensions for the first time. This latter figure includes 17,000 aged’ persons and invalids, and 3,000 widows. On the estimated numbers of these’ n£w entrants 1 must, however, Strike a note’ of caution. It will, perhaps, b’e appreciated that the department has no data on. which we can estimate the income and/or property of persons now outside the pension scheme.
Then the Minister went on to say that the scheme would come into force on 6th October. Why should it not be back-dated, as the Opposition has consistently suggested, to 1st July of the financial year in. which it is instituted? In this day and age when mechanization and automation are so widespread, and when the most modern bookkeeping methods are available to government departments, particularly those which are concerned with paying, pensions, what reasonable excuse can the Government have for not paying the increased pensions from 1st July? If is idle to say that it cannot be done. The pensioners would not mind waiting a few weeks for the back payments. I see no reason why an injustice of this kind should be’ done to people who are expected to live on these miserable rate’s of pension.
Similarly, the benefit’s to be derived from the adjustments to the means test will not be available until next March’. This represents a considerable delay’, aird every effort should be made to eliminate it, because it’ should be apparent that people expect these benefits to be paid not at some time in the future; which will”, be almost ire the1 nextfinancial year, but at the’ beginning of the financial year in which the provision’s are introduced.
It is important that we should point out to the Government that it has completely failed in respect of social services. The miserable increase in the base rate pension, amounting to 8d. or 9d. a day, is hardly worth mentioning, having in mind the tremendous increases that have occurred in costs. There is one particular benefit, however, originally introduced by a Labour government, that has been completely ignored for many years. I refer to the maternity allowance. The Minister said -
Maternity allowances have remained unchanged for some years, but this Parliament knows that an additional £5 to some 231,000 expectant mothers would approach £1,160,000 in the present financial year. The inevitable question arises as to whether that sum of money, if it were available, might be spent to greater advantage in improving the maternity services of our country.
In what better way could we spend this amount of more than £1,000,000 than by giving it to the people who are bringing young Australians into the world? We spend countless millions on bringing immigrants to Australia, and nobody quibbles about that expenditure. We are also spending large sums of money in bringing to Australia certain disabled persons, thus making a contribution to the important welfare work that is being done in various parts of the world. But if we can spend large amounts of money for these purposes, then we should also be able to increase the maternity allowance granted to the mothers who give us the best immigrants of all, Australian children. We have waited for practically a generation, during which no increase has been made in this benefit, and there is still no indication from the Government that any increase is contemplated. The Government’s attitude is nothing short of scandalous, particularly when it is dealing with a Budget of more than £1,700,000,000.
Let me also mention the matter of child endowment. The Minister said -
The question of child endowment presents even greater perplexities.
I suppose it would present perplexities to a Scotch Minister who does not like spending money. He went on -
It was comparatively simple for this Parliament to reach a decision - although it took many years and was resisted by honorable members opposite - to pay child endowment for the first child. But that was the end of the simplicity of the matter. An increase of 5s. a week would involve the community in additional expenditure of some £43,000,000, and I am bound to say that all the representations which have been made to me have been in multiples of these figures.
The Minister says that a 5s. a week increase would cost £43,000,000 a year. There was no problem in providing unlimited money for expenditure on the Woomera rocket range when it was in use. It is quite easy to provide about £200,000,000 a year to be mis-spent, in many instances, by our defence Ministers. But it is impossible to get sufficient money to increase child endowment payments, which are simply a practical way of giving a helping hand to the family man who has to maintain his Australian children.
Child endowment payments have not been increased for a generation or more. The payment for the first child is still 5s. a week. Compare the value of 5s. to-day with its value in 1948 or 1949. I doubt if there is 6d. worth of value in 5s. to-day compared with its value ten or eleven years ago. Under this Government, which boasts of its social service scheme, the value of endowment payments has progressively declined. There can be no justification for spending unlimited amounts of money on immigration if that money is to be taken from Australian mothers and fathers and children, who should be enjoying the benefits to be derived from higher rates of child endowment and other family allowances.
I think the Government is very vulnerable on this question of social services. In 1949 it made some strong appeals to Australian mothers. I wish I had some of those heart-rending documents here to-day. Many members of the Government owe their places in this Parliament to the fact that they practically wept on the shoulders of Australian mothers in 1949, with pledges that they would increase child endowment and other social service benefits. Having got the votes of the mothers by false pretences, they have completely forgotten their promises and have refused to grant increases in child endowment, and for this the Government deserves the censure of the Parliament. It seems that nothing will be done to increase these payments until, perhaps, the eve of an election. It is only on those occasions that the Government shows any activity and the people can get any promises from it - and even then there is very little chance that the promises will be honoured. As I say, the Government is most vulnerable on the matter of social services. Let me read a passage from the policy speech delivered in 1949 by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), then the Leader of the Opposition. I remind the House that this policy speech was subscribed to temporarily by the Australian
Country Party, which is opposed to social services. The right honorable gentleman said -
Australia still needs a contributory system ot national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment, and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test. During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you at the election of 19S2 a scheme for your approval.
The Government is as out of date as the horse and buggy. It is eight years since the time when it promised it would bring forward such a scheme to this Parliament, but, far from easing the means test, it has imposed a means test which is most vicious with regard to the payment of the 10s. supplementary rent allowance. It has denied medical benefits to pensioners and others by the introduction of a means test in that field, in direct contradiction of its announced policy. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, in a brilliant speech this afternoon, showed that the purchasing power of money has never been less, and the value of pensions to-day is less than it has been at any time since 1948, when pensions were only about half the amount that they are to-day. One honorable member said that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has made a courageous stand for pensioners in this Parliament. But, of course, he had a simple arrangement. He could say what he liked about the Government, provided he voted for it. It was said that he was always trying to do his best for pensioners. But when Labour, at an election several years ago, offered to abolish the means test, he went on to the platform and opposed the scheme that he now espouses in this Parliament. That is no more than humbug! The fact that honorable members opposite can play up to the pensioners in that way shows that the Liberal Party has the happy knack of putting it over this deserving section of the community; it repudiates the promises that it makes.
Let us look at other social services. Let us take the funeral benefit which stands at £10. The Labour Government introduced that benefit a long time ago. From memory, I think it was introduced about 1st July, 1943. But the amount still remains the same to-day. Under this so-called progressive Liberal Government, no increase has been granted in this benefit. It is almost too dear for a pensioner to die to-day. You could not bury a dog now for £10, much less bury a citizen with respect and dignity. This Government says that it has acted humanely, but it refuses to increase by £5, £10 or £20 a benefit that provides only a fraction of the cost of burial. Yet the Government boasts of what it is doing in the field of social services. This is scandalous! Some day, perhaps, the Government may find that people do not like being treated in this way. No one looks forward to death. No one wants to be the central figure at a funeral. But inevitably death catches up with us. Therefore, an obligation rests on the National Parliament to provide at least a reasonable benefit so that in a time of great sorrow close relatives can ensure that these pensioners are buried with dignity. The National Parliament should make a more adequate contribution to the cost of burial and substantially increase this benefit.
Right down the line of social service benefits the story is the same. Take the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner. It is 35s. a week. What a tremendous amount that is! I should say that the Prime Minister would spend about that amount on tips after every meal he has abroad. Yet this is the amount allowed to the wives of invalid pensioners. This allowance has not been increased for many years. It should be increased by at least 5s. or 7s. 6d. a week, although these amounts are considered extravagant by the Liberal Government. It says that an invalid pensioner can exist on £5 a week and, although he may have no other income, he receives only 35s. a week for his wife. To make it worse, this allowance does not apply to age pensioners, except in very special circumstances. That in itself is nothing short of scandalous and proves that this Government is concerned to increase only certain sections of social services and disregards many major sections.
I hear members of the Australian Country Party continually interjecting. Members of the Liberal Party are at least decent enough to keep silent on these matters; they know their shortcomings. But this party sitting in the little corner here, its numbers getting fewer and fewer after each election, State and Federal, continually opposes social service legislation and referendums which would affect reforms of benefit to these pensioners. Members of the Australian Country Party interject and say that the Government is doing a good job. Nothing is further from the truth! The fact that I am pointing to the incompetence of the Government in these matters undoubtedly hurts them very much.
Take the matter of free medicine. When we introduced such a scheme in the time of the Chifley Government, Country Party members voted against it and said it was the basis of socialism in our time. What happened? As soon as we were in opposition, this Government introduced our scheme with many modifications. Our scheme provided for benefits for all. The Liberal-Australian Country Party Government took our scheme and modified it. Not one of the long list of social service benefits that I have given would have been introduced in these prosperous days, before the war or just after the war, if it had been left to the Liberal-Australian Country Party. What has happened is unfortunate but true. The Government has taken splendid pieces of legislation introduced by a Labour Government, such as legislation providing for a free medicine scheme and other matters that I have mentioned, has chosen the best parts and hypocritically introduced the schemes as its own. That is the only method that can be adopted by this Government because there is lack of thought, planning and desire in tory governments to give these people the social service benefits to which they are entitled.
The legislation now before the House gives the minimum of benefit to those who most need it. It is introduced in a way that prevents us from criticizing it at length. If we did so, the Government would say that we were delaying the payment of these benefits. But the Government has refused to back-date payment because it wants to stop criticism such as I am now levelling at it. The pattern of social service legislation introduced by this Government is such that, despite the increase of the pension to £5 and other benefits, pensioners to-day have a lower standard of living than they have had at any time in ourhistory. I sincerely trust that the Opposition’s amendment will be carried as a protest against the policy of this Government, which gives to the wealthy, the powerful and the influential at the expense of the sick, the poor and the needy. I hope the amendment will be carried as a censure of the Government, because it is deserving of our censure for its treatment of those who depend upon social service benefits.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hamilton) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Opperman)read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which has been received from the Senate, provides for an increase in the rate of certain pensions which are payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. That act first came into operation in 1940, and has been amended a number of times in recent years. The main purpose of each of the amending acts has been to authorize increases in pensions as had been approved by the Government and provided for in the respective Budgets.
Pensions payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act have always been maintained at the same level as the corresponding class of pension payable under the Repatriation Art. Following the Government’s decision to increase further pensions of incapacitated ex-members of the forces and war widows, as announced in the Budget, the Repatriation Bill which has just been before this House was introduced. It is therefore necessary to introduce this bill also in order that similar increases may be granted under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
Australian mariners who are totally but not permanently incapacitated, and widows, are granted general pension rate pensions as specified in the First Schedule to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and a partially incapacitated mariner receives a pension proportionate to the degree of his incapacity. A pension as specified under the Repatriation Act is paid to a mariner who is totally and permanently incapacitated or suffers from a special disability as specified. Under this bill an allround increase of 5s. a week is to be paid to widows of Australian mariners, bringing their weekly rates to amounts ranging from £5 10s. to £6 8s. a week.
The Repatriation Bill provides for amendment of the Second Schedule to the Repatriation Act to increase special rate pensions by 10s. a week to £12 15s. a week. It is unnecessary, however, to include these increases in the provisions of the bill now under consideration as, by virtue of section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, they will be automatically applied to Australian mariners suffering similar incapacity. The bill includes the usual provision for the amending act to come into operation on the day on which it receives Royal Assent and for the increased pensions to be payable on the first pension pay day thereafter. The increases proposed will, I feel sure, have the support of all honorable members, and the bill is recommended for their favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 1174).
.- I rise to support this legislation because in it we have still more evidence of this Government’s desire to help the pensioners as much as it possibly can, always keeping in mind the financial circumstances with which it is faced. But I regret that I am forced to the opinion that the only contribution I have heard so far from the Opposition relating to the legislation was that by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had very little to say about social services. He spoke about shares in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Colonial Sugar Refineries Limited, the Chevron-Hilton hotel and a host of things far removed from social services. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, he was followed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who again had very little to say about social services. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose to endeavour to answer some of the criticisms levelled at the Government by honorable members opposite.
This afternoon, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) quoted a host of figures relating to how much, a pensioner was allowed to earn. He said that the amount of permissible income had not been altered for some years, but he failed to point out that this Government has modified the scheme to provide that superannuation payments up to £7 7s. a week shall not be taken into account against applicants for pensions. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory then endeavoured to show how badly off pensioners are to-day on £5 a week compared with the £2 2s. 6d. they enjoyed in 1948. But he very studiously refrained from mentioning any of the other benefits introduced by this Government since it has been in office. I refer in particular to the pharmaceutical and medical benefits schemes to which I shall refer later. He also had much to say about the prices that obtained in 1948, but he did not mention that in 1948 the people in this country were suffering the ill effects of prices control. No matter what amount of money they had then, the people found it very difficult to buy the things they wanted. Those of us who care to hark back to those days will remember vividly that not only did the Labour Government lose the support of the taxpayers, but it also got offside with the medical profession when it challenged the rights of the members of that profession. The Leader of the Opposition referred to that matter last night. The people of Australia need to be reminded of these things because those of us who care to think back remember only too well that certain sections of the community were finding it very hard to carry on. For instance, because of the harsh treatment meted out to primary producers by the Labour Government, we saw the inglorious spectacle of orchardists ploughing oranges into the ground because, as the cost of orange cases exceeded the price received on the market for the fruit, it did not pay to harvest oranges. If anybody can convince me that citrus fruits and juices are not beneficial to pensioners, I will walk from here to Perth. Again, in those days we remember that the predecessor of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in the portfolio of Minister for Commerce, undertook a very nefarious deal with New Zealand and sold wheat to the New Zealand Government at a rate far below the established cost of production and the ruling overseas price.
– Because they had a Labour government over there.
– I was not going to worry about that side of the question. Had it not been for my colleague, the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), who is now the Minister for Primary Industry, and whose brother was a member of the New Zealand Parliament, this country would never have found out what was going on. I give the honorable member for Lalor all due credit for being big enough to let us know what was going on when this thing got so hot. In those days, too, if one wanted to buy a gallon of petrol one had to go to the black market for it. The same position applied if one wanted a packet of cigarettes. Right through the whole of our economy there was this insidious influence under which everything was hidden under the counter, and one could buy only if one had the money to pay. I well remember that if one wanted a seat on the train to Melbourne one would have no trouble in getting it if one had a packet of cigarette papers. If one did not have the papers one was not in the race. I say to honorable members opposite that it is of no use whatever trying to compare what happened in those days with what obtains to-day because in those days the people could not get the things they needed.
Just prior to the suspension of the sitting, the honorable member for Grayndler accused members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties of being the bitter enemies of social services. I throw that accusation back in the honorable member’s teeth. If any government since federation has done everything possible - perhaps not all it would wish to do - for this unfortunate section of the community, if any government has made an honest endeavour to improve conditions for these people, it has been the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government which has been in office since 1949.
The honorable member said that the social service legislation was introduced by a Labour government. I admit that. But at the same time I point out that it was introduced by a Labour government only because the people demanded it by way of referendum in 1946. In a few moments, I shall show just how much credit the Labour government can take for that legislation.
In his tirade against this Government, the honorable member said that a Labour government had introduced the unemployment benefit scheme in 1943. I do not wish to take credit from the Labour Government for that, but I shall never forget, just as I hope all honorable members present will never forget, that that same Labour Government which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who is interjecting, supported, imposed a means test on war pensions. If an ex-serviceman who was suffering from injury or sickness due to service in the defence of his country was forced into unemployment because of that injury or illness, his war pension was taken into consideration when submitting him to a means test before granting him unemployment benefit. That is what these so-called champions of the people, the members of the Labour Government, did in 1943! Time and time again they admitted to the returned servicemen’s organizations that this was wrong, that it was anomalous, and I can recall arguing this matter in this chamber on one occasion through the night and until 2 o’clock in the morning, with the support of my old colleague, the then honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Tom White. Up until the time it was knocked out of office in 1949, the Labour Government did nothing to rectify that anomaly. It was left to this Government to do so. I suggest to the honorable member for Grayndler and his colleagues, who engage in so much buffoonery in launching a tirade against the two Government parties, alleging that, as a government, they have or have not done certain things, that they should scrutinize the records closely so that they will know the true position. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has just reminded’ me, and I thank him for it, that the honorable member for Wilmot, who is again interjecting, was one of the Labour Government’s greatest supporters in those days.
The honorable member for Grayndler accused this Government of seeking to destroy the National Welfare Fund. Admittedly, we did alter the arrangement for the fund in 1952. By the National Welfare Act 1952 governments are obliged to put back into the National Welfare Fund every penny that they take out of it. Therefore, as this year the Government will use an additional £31,000,000 from that fund Consolidated Revenue will have to replace that amount. Any one who listened to the words of this gentleman to-day would have thought that he was diametrically opposed to such a thing.
I took the opportunity to consult the Clerk of the House while the honorable member was speaking and I looked up the record of proceedings. I found that a vote was taken on this issue on 18th September, 1952. The Labour Opposition had called for a division, and bless my heart and soul, on looking through the names of honorable members who voted on that occasion, I could not find the name Daly! I thought that possibly he was away from Canberra, so I looked further among the names of honorable members who were absent at the time, but the name Daly was not included among them.
– He was probably sick.
– Then he would have been marked absent. Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh implying that the officials of this House do not make a correct record of the proceedings? On the occasion to which I have referred the honorable member for Grayndler was just playing around, as he has been for years. He was so interested in maintaining the
National Welfare Fund, which was introduced by the Chifley Government, that he was not prepared to come in and vote when this Government was proposing an alteration in the arrangements.
Let us now proceed a little further. The honorable member read from page 22 of the present Prime Minister’s 1949 policy speech relating to social services. He exhibited the photograph of the Prime Minister, just as I do now. I admit that the honorable member read the policy speech correctly. Of course, the present Prime Minister did not hold that office at the time. He Was seeking to become Prime Minister; he became Prime Minister and to-day he is still Prime Minister. The policy speech is in these terms -
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval.
Who stopped the possible presentation of that scheme? I think you were here at that time, Mr. Speaker. If my memory serves me correctly, you joined us in 1949 and have graced us with your presence and prestige ever since. You will recall, Sir, that in 1949 one of the planks of our election platform was endowment of 5s. for the first child.
– That is not so.
– Before interjecting, the honorable member for Scullin should read the records of that time so that he would know what went on in this place.
– I cannot read at night-time.
– If the honorable member cannot read at night-time, he should try it in the day-time and he might then get somewhere. At the time when this issue was before the Parliament the Labour Party in the Senate would not allow it to become law. The Labour Party deprived the recipients of social services of their just dues for some considerable time. Strangely enough, to-day it is trying the old stunt of having proposed increased payments made retrospective to 1st July - something it never attempted to do when it was in office. The Labour Party knows that if this plan were adopted the recipients of social services would receive the higher payment for fifteen months instead of twelve. Since I have been in this place, pensions alterations have become operative on 1st October.
The Labour Party, being the bitter enemy of social services, has accused the Government of doing nothing. Not one member of the Opposition has renounced what the honorable member for Grayndler has said. Let Opposition members rise in their places and refute the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Grayndler and we will know that they do not subscribe to what he has said. While charges are made against the party to which I belong, and against my colleagues, I will raise my voice in protest.
This gentleman said to-day that the Liberal and Country Parties were the bitter enemies of social services. When we look at the record we find that the greatest enemies of social services are none other than the members of the Labour Party. Look at the votes and proceedings of this chamber; look at journals of the Senate. Then you will see what they have done. Those documents contain a record of what the Labour Party has done in relation to social services, and deeds speak louder than words. Because of the machinations of the Labour Party in the other place, we were forced to drag the Opposition protesting to the polls in 1951 following a double dissolution of Parliament. This upset the Government’s arrangements. In 1954, under the guidance of their previous leader, the members of the Labour Party went to the people with a host of grand promises in relation to social services. What happened?
– We nearly won.
– You nearly won? You might as well have been a mile behind. The fellows who nearly won at the Olympic Games did not receive a gold medal, and that is what counts. The Labour Party was miles behind. It was rejected, not by the ordinary taxpayers but by none other than the pensioners who wanted to know from what source the money to implement these promises would come. Mr. Bourke, who was then the member for Fawkner, was expelled from the Labour Party because he had the audacity to challenge the word of its leader.
– That is the worst fairy story I have ever heard.
– The honorable member has only to look at the record to see that it is not a fairy story. The Labour Party tried its promises again in 1955 and in 1958; but it is still in opposition.
– The Opposition has a special committee on social services.
– My honorable friend from Richmond reminds me that the Opposition has a social services committee. But when did that special commitee commence to operate? It commenced years after a special committee of Government members, headed by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), had been established. The Labour Party wanted to get on the band waggon. The only gentleman from the Opposition side who has made any real contribution to this debate is the honorable member for Port Adelaide. Every one knows that he has been very genuine and very sincere in his approach to the subject.
– You have never been genuine and sincere since you have been in this Parliament.
– I could refer to a telegram about commandos that the honorable member for Parkes sent some years ago, but I would not like to do that because it would make him most embarrassed. Instead, 1 shall continue with my speech.
The Opposition has attacked this Government for what it has done in regard to social services generally. It has said that we have done nothing for tuberculosis sufferers. Let us have a look at the record, and consider what was done in 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949. In the 1946 Budget of the then Labour Government no funds were provided to assist tuberculosis sufferers. In 1947 it spent £109,603. In 1948, when one would imagine that the scheme was getting under way and that there would be a greater call for money to be spent in this way to assist these poor unfortunate sufferers, the Labour Government spent £27,590, a reduction on the previous year’s allocation of about £82,000. In 1949 the Labour Government spent £151,079 in this way. Since this Government has come to office it has allocated much greater sums to tuberculosis sufferers. In 1950 the amount was £757,870, rising to £8,596,624 in 1957. Now that the Government has achieved the objective which it set out to achieve and chest hospitals are being handed back to the States for use as ordinary hospitals, the amount has been reduced and at 30th June, 1960, stands at £6,143,772. Members of the Opposition have chided this Government for not doing anything to assist tuberculosis sufferers. I have great pleasure to-night in informing the House of exactly what this Government has done. I hope that Opposition members will ponder on what I have said before they make such charges again.
– You are so confused that no one can understand you.
– I am not surprised that the honorable member for Scullin cannot understand me, but I am certain that some of his colleagues do because they already appear to be punch drunk. Whether they are or not, I do not know.
The Labour Parly has stated that it introduced pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners before it got the O.K. by referendum. Let us look at the record. I am amazed that for the years ended 30th June, 1946, 1947 and 1948 the then Labour Government did not spend one penny on pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners.
– Not even a Beecham’s pill.
– As my friend from Wide Bay has said, the Labour Party did not give the pensioners even a Beecham’s pill, which were supposed to be very valuable. They were said to be worth a guinea a box. In the financial year ended 30th June, 1950 - the financial year that saw the advent of this Government - £304,689 was spent on pharmaceutical benefits, including benefits for pensioners. The expenditure in this field has increased every year, and in the financial year ended 30th June, 1960, it totalled £24,335,671. Yet the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, the honorable member for Grayndler, and other Opposition members, with the exception of the honorable member for Port Adelaide, have chided this Government and alleged that it was doing nothing for the pensioners.
– That is right, too.
– The honorable member has an outlook on these things which is different from that of the ordinary individual. I have a kind of sympathy for him, because he is confined here in a narrow sphere and he does not see how life goes on in the rest of this great continent. It is up to us to try to help him, and I am happy to contribute this evening towards the enlargement of the knowledge of my friend Jim.
However we go through these things, Mr. Speaker, we find that the record of this Government is one of which we can be proud. But we cannot be satisfied. We have still more to do, and every year we try to do more. I point out to the people of Australia that if something is in a Government’s platform, the mere fact that that part of its platform is not put into effect in one, two, or three years does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that the platform has been tossed aside. That Government may still be trying to give effect to its platform. And that is what this Government is doing.
I shall not dwell on these things much longer, because I do not want to upset Opposition members too much. What, will be the effect of this bill, which was introduced by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) last Thursday week? The Minister would be the first to admit that this measure is not the acme of perfection and that it does not meet all his wishes with respect to social services. Let none of us forget what he has been able to achieve. It is estimated that 100,000 existing pensioners wilL benefit from the merged means test proposal. This means that they will receive something more from the taxpayers of Australia. A group of 100,000 people is not to be sneezed at. Also, 20,000 persons who have not yet been able to enjoy any such thing as the pension will for the first time receive at least a part pension. Thisis not a bad effort for a first attempt at implementing a merged means test. As most honorable members know, the proposals in this bill will cost £13,300,000 in a full year, and the total expenditure on social services will rise by £23,500,000 a year.
The Government has every right to feel proud of its achievements. It has made no rash promises to the people. It has never been rejected by the people because of its attitude towards social services. The Australian Labour Party, on the other hand, as you, Mr. Speaker, know full well, cannot make a similar claim. On three occasions when it has faced the electors, it has been rejected out of hand more particularly on the score of its proposals with respect to social services than on any other score. The people have said to it, in effect, “ From what source will you get the money required? “ It has never been able to answer that question satisfactorily.
I do not propose to detain the House much longer, and no doubt you, Sir, will be quite happy about that. I have the greatest pleasure indeed in supporting this bill. I have not dealt at much length with it specifically, because it has been adequately discussed by my colleague, the Minister, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), the honorable member for Sturt and others. However, I thought it was incumbent on me at this juncture to say what I have said, in view of the remarks made by Opposition members and the unfounded attacks based on false premises that have been directed at members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party. I make no apology for the observations that I have made. I have stated the facts and therefore I defy contradiction.
I come now to the note on which I want to finish. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking last evening, my young colleague, the honorable member for Richmond, interjected and pointed out that the social services contribution imposed by the Labour Government was a per capita tax. The Leader of the Opposition, being a very old campaigner in this field of employment - for we do work even though we are members of Parliament - attacked my colleague. I myself then interjected to put the matter right, and the Leader of the Opposition made a reply which indicated that he was not worried about what we had said. I have since taken the opportunity to look up “ Hansard “, and I have established that the Social Services Contribution Bill 194S, which was introduced by the Chifley Government on 12th September, 1945, imposed what was to all intents and purposes a per capita tax. Last evening, the Leader of the Opposition said that I was to retire from this House next year and that it was just as well that I was going if I had not learned anything. I have learned enough to look at the bill which I have just mentioned. I find that under its provisions a single person with an income of £105 a year - this is not taxable income - which was pure chicken feed, paid l.ld. in the £1 by way of social services contribution. A person on an income of £156 a year, or £3 a week, paid 15.7d. in the £1. A person on £170 a year, or roughly £3 10s. a week, paid 18d. in the £1.
– What was the basic wage then?
– I have armed myself with that information. A person on an income of £20,000 a year also paid 18d. in the £1 under this Social Services Contribution Bill 1945. Yet Labour members claim to look after the under-dog. If one goes through the rates for married men with no children, married men with one child, married men with two children and so on, the same sort of thing is apparent throughout. A married man with two children and an income of £300 a year paid 12.2d. in the £1 in social services contribution. And married men with two children and an income on a higher scale, whether they were in receipt of an income of just over £300 a year or £20,000 a year, paid 18d. in the £1. This information is given in a table recorded at page 5305 of volume 184 of “ Hansard “, the date being, as I have already indicated, 12th September, 1945.
This morning, I telephoned the Bureau of Census and Statistics to obtain certain information. I found that in 1945 the basic wage for a fitter and turner was £6 14s. a week. If one multiplies that by 52 and makes no allowance for overtime or anything else, one gets an annual income of £348 8s. A person on that income paid social services contribution at the rate of 18d. in the £1 in 1945. In that year, the basic rate for a carpenter was £7 8s. a week, that for a bricklayer £7 6s. a week and that for a boilermaker - my friend, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), was one - was £6 14s. a week. The basic rate for a blacksmith was £6 15s. a week. So men who were working for wages in those days - they were making a much better contribution to the country’s well-being than is being made by some people to-day - were being taxed at the same rate in the £1 for social services as were people on incomes of £10,000, £20,000 or £25,000 a year. Yet Opposition members say that that tax was not a per capita tax.
– How much does the fitter and turner get now?
– I have only a couple of minutes left; so I shall not allow the honorable member to interrupt me.
The facts that I have outlined, Mr. Speaker, establish the reasons why the people of Australia, when they found how these things were affecting them, turfed out the Labour Government in 1949 and gave the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party a mandate to introduce a system of taxation which allows for concessional deductions instead of rebates and which amalgamates the social services contribution and the income tax. Thank heaven the Australian people have realized how much this, the pensioner medical service, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and so on mean to them and have therefore kept the Australian Labour Party out of office for so long. I sincerely hope that the people will continue to do likewise even after I leave the Parliament next year and that this Government will be kept in office for another ten years at least.
.- The tirade of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) does not do him, or the legislation, justice. His bitter attack on the war-time Labour government - a government which was charged with the onerous responsibility of bringing this nation from war to peace through those difficult days of transition - was quite unjustified, because that government is deserving of the highest praise of the nation. Outside of this place, indeed, there are few people in responsible positions who would not say that the leadership of Mr. Chifley was the most outstanding financial leadership this nation has ever had. Yet it was left to the reckless honorable member for Canning, in his swan song to this Parliament, to say otherwise. That is a tragic state of affairs. I am sure that the honorable member would have done much better had he consulted a publication issued by the present Administration dealing with social services. He would have found there the lie direct to his claims regarding social service payments. I do not intend to go through all of that detail, which is available not only to honorable members but also to Australians everywhere, to read and find the answer to the reckless, unwarranted statements made by the honorable member for Canning.
The business before the House is the Social Services Bill, though honorable members would not know that as a result of listening to the honorable member for Canning, for he roamed the world dealing with all sorts of matters not related to the business before the Chair. He referred to a wide range of subjects concerning the war period, and at no time dealt with the fundamental matters contained in the bill.
I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bonython, which reads -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide among other social service benefits increased amounts for dependent wives of invalids and old age pensioners, and increased rates of child endowment, also to provide social service payments generally more adequate to present living costs and representing a fair and reasonable share of the national income. Such rates to take effect as from the first pension day in July, 1960.”
The Opposition believes that if other payments can be made retrospective payment of pension increases also should be made retrospective. There seems to me no valid argument against the adoption of this course. Not many months ago in this Parliament members on the Government side were voting with the greatest glee to increase substantially the salaries received by many people in the Public Service, and those increases were made retrospective. If it were good enough to have retrospectivity in a matter of that kind I see no reason why this matter should not be regularized and pension increases backdated to 1st July.
The present bill will add another patch to the patchwork quilt of social service legislation passed during this Government’s term - another patch which fails to cover the needs of the citizens. The merged means test provisions, Mr. Speaker, are welcome, but this is a tardy recognition of the cause of the thrifty. There are many anomalies in the bill. They concern such aspects of social services as the wife’s allowance referred to in the amendment - the allowance for the dependent wives of invalid pensioners. There is also the failure of the Government to increase funeral benefit from £10, the level at which it has remained since the Labour Government was in office. There is, too, the position of the civilian widows, whose pleas have gone unheeded by this Government. There is the need for a substantial increase in the maternity allowance. There is also the outstanding problem of the need to increase child endowment so as to help parents in this country to fit their children to face the great problems, educational and otherwise, that they will meet.
Social service legislation ought not to be brought forward as this bill has been brought forward. Since the Government came to office social service measures have
Deen dealt with on a number of occasions. Fourteen bills in all have come before us in regard to social services, and also seven amending the National Health Act. Now we have before us a bill to deal in a patchwork way with the great problems that face many people in Australia. It is my view that there ought to be a clear-cut plan regarding social service payments. All the disputation that we hear regarding the percentage of the basic wage represented by the pension at various times is cold comfort to people who are in need. We ought to be able to base on our productivity the pension payable by the nation to the pioneers of this country, to the aged who have blazed the track, to those who, because of infirmity or ill-health, are in need, to the widow who has been bereaved, to the children who will carry the burden, and finance payment of pensions out of a fund which would meet the situation.
It is well known that when the Labour Government was in office in 1948 the age and invalid pension represented 37 per cent, of the basic wage. I am not arguing that that was an adequate percentage, that that was all that the pensioners were entitled to; hut, looking through some statistics I have here covering the period from 1951 to 1959, I find that at no time has the present anti-
Labour Government, either when it was the Menzies-Fadden Government or, as it is now, the Menzies-McEwen Government, ever brought the pension to the ratio that it held to the basic wage when the Labour Government was in office. In 1951 the age and invalid pension was 29.6 per cent, of the basic wage. Towards the end of 1951 it rose to 30 per cent., but in 1952 it fell to 29.3 per cent. In 1953 it was 29.7 per cent., and thereafter it rose to 33.9 per cent. In 1956 it dropped from that point to 32.5 per cent., then to 31.3 per cent. The percentage then rose to 34.2 and thereafter fell to 33.5 and 31.7. Those are percentages. I am concerned with humanity and with trying to get a system whereby the pensioners will receive the amount of money they are entitled to.
The honorable member for Canning referred to the National Welfare Fund. He had much to say about the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for driving home in this House the telling argument based on the efficacy of the Chifley legislation which enabled the National Welfare Fund to provide, in a growing and vigorous manner, the financial means to meet the social service needs of the day. At that time, I repeat, the age and invalid pension was 37 per cent, of the basic wage. The Chifley Government, in dealing with the National Welfare Fund, also provided that as time went on it would be able to finance the amelioration of the means test and greater benefits for the people.
It is well known that in 1952 this Government, with its strange ideas about finance, closed the National Welfare Fund insofar as that fund covered the broad aspects of social service payments. It pegged the fund at the level at which it then stood, and provided that only sufficient money would be paid into it to enable it to meet the needs set by the Government from time to time. This was done instead of allowing this fund to continue on the firm foundations on which it was established by the Labour Government. The Government, in effect, left the fund with no means of increasing its income to meet the growing cost of social services. Instead of following the path so clearly marked out by the Labour Government, this Government adopted its own. strange way of financing social services, which it has dealt with in a patchwork of fourteen pieces of legislation. And after these fourteen pieces of legislation the pensioners - those in need, those on the bottom rung of the ladder - are worse off to-day than they were in other days!
The Chifley Government’s legislation on the National Welfare Fund, which was part of the Budget programme of 1945-46, set out to deal with this matter in a thorough way. The legislative provision governing the fund, which was created in 1943, were amended by the 1945 measure, and were further amended by the present Government in 1950. Then, in 1952, this Government to all intents and purposes stopped the fund from growing. Mr. Chifley, in the course of his Budget speech, said -
The Government considers thai the increasing outlay on social services, representing as it does nearly one-half of all non-war expenditures, makes essential a new financial approach. Moreover, now that hostilities have ceased and the Budget will bc concerned more and more with peace-time revenue and expenditure, the time is appropriate to reconsider the problem of social security finance.
He went on to point out the need for coordinating these funds to ensure sufficient income to guarantee, not only the payment of age pensions, but also expenditure in the broad realm of the welfare state. It is amazing to hear honorable members opposite speaking in favour of the welfare state. They were the people who, in the early stages of social services legislation, opposed that legislation because it did not fit in with their scheme of things. They were utterly opposed to any form of welfare state. Mr. Chifley, in his Budget speech to which I have referred, went on to say -
In conclusion, I would say that we are fully mindful of the splendid service and the sacrifice of the members of the fighting forces and are determined to do everything possible to speedily re-establish them in civil life.
Shades of Mr. Chifley! With all the years that have gone since the termination of the war, ex-servicemen are to-day forced to seek temporary finance at prohibitive rates of interest in order to house their families. Shame on the Government that these people have to borrow money at 10 per cent, and 12 per cent.! This is the type of administration that professes to be concerned about the ex-servicemen. Mr. Chifley further said-r-
The Government’s policy of full employment and social security will contribute towards a happy and healthy community.
Those were the sentiments of the Labour Party at that time. Those sentiments permeate the Labour Party to-day and are expressed in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). Our programme is to take step after step in an overall plan for the wellbeing of our people. The statement on the National Welfare Fund at page 13 of Mr. Chifley’s Budget speech showed that rental rebates under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for 1945-46 were estimated to be £200,000. The present Government, under the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, withdrew that benefit from the needy, the aged and the infirm. I believe that the National Welfare Fund is essential.
We welcome the merged means test because it recognizes the needs of the thrifty. But needy people whose only income is the pension are finding it increasingly difficult to live because of inflated costs. Since the freezing of the basic wage the prices of butter, bread and sugar have increased. With steak at about 8s. per lb. the price of meat is almost prohibitive to the aged and the infirm. This legislation, in spite of the merging of the property and income means tests, fails to do all the things that ought to be done. There is nothing in this bill which will remove those aspects of social services legislation which deal harshly with the people.
In the past, means tests have related to income and to property. These have affected the rate of pension payable. There has also been a means test on eligibility for medical cards and on the special rent allowance. In regard to the rent allowance, I am particularly concerned with the grave anomaly which exists in respect of the pensioner who is buying his home. He does not receive the special allowance although the pensioner who pays rent receives it. The person who is discharging his mortgage and has to pay rates, taxes and fire insurance as well as maintaining his property should be entitled to the special allowance. Every single person, every widow and widower, every spinster and every bachelor ought to be entitled to the 10s. special allowance. The means test relating to that allowance ought to be eliminated immediately. This means test is a petty thing which is hurting many good citizens at the present time.
The Government should have taken action in regard to other anomalies to which I have referred. The funeral allowance of £10 was made available by the Chifley Government when a £1 was a £1, but the amount has never been altered. This allowance makes the Commonwealth Government no more than a pall-bearer at a pauper’s funeral. The sum of £10 would not now pay for a funeral. By making it available the Government is certainly not saving anybody from a pauper’s grave. This is a matter with which the Government could have dealt very easily. My plea is for a national plan and a welfare fund to ensure that all pensioners shall get a living allowance adequate to their needs. I think that the pension should be disassociated from charity.
Arrangements ought to be made for medical and nursing care for the elderly sick, either in their homes or in a suitable place. Hospital treatment for the aged and chronically ill should also be provided. If these services were provided we would be making real progress in this important matter. A proper national welfare plan would pay due regard to the wife’s allowance and to increased maternity allowances. What better people have we in this country than the young people who are growing up? Record seasons, record harvests and increasing national income all assure that the nation could make the payments that I have suggested, and they assure the practicability of the proposal contained in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bonython.
Perhaps the matter which is of the greatest importance is that of the endowment of the family. The first effort to deal with this question in Australia was made by the Labour Government of New South Wales in 1927 when a rate of 5s. per child was fixed for every child under fourteen years of age. In special circumstances, that pension for every child was continued for two years thereafter. I put it to the Parliament that if those payments could be made as long ago as 1927 and if they could be continued throughout the war and a depression as they were, a much better and bigger contribution should be made to the family income now. The failure of this Government to have regard to a contribution to assist families to develop and preserve our nation is to be deplored. Families are an integral part of the nation. That is selfevident. The home is the nursery of our most cherished possessions and the sheetanchor of our way of life. It is the citadel of our standards. The history of Australia is the history of its families, yet the families have been virtually ignored by the Menzies Government in the Budget.
Despite raging inflation with rising prices and costs there has been no increase in family endowment since November, 1948. For eleven years payments to families have remained stationary. Meanwhile, prices of essential food’s which are in abundance in Australia have soared. Rents for homes have risen. The mother who has remained at home to care for her children is faced wilh recurring financial problems. Sacrifices must be made by the parents if children are to be given equal opportunities with other children; yet a Liberal spokesman, Senator Marriott, according to a press statement, recently declared that family endowment payments should be abolished. That is one of the challenges facing the people of Australia. While every thoughtful person isdirecting attention to the need to do something for the families, we find a senator on the Government side advocating the abolition of family payments.
While I believe that we must build up our population as rapidly as possible, I direct attention to the fact that it is probably costing about £120 a head to bring migrants to Australia; yet nothing is being done for our families. An immediate substantial increase in endowment payments is required, and further assistance should be given to the families by way of tax concessions. The great burden of the high cost of living is being borne by the families to a much greater extent than by any one else, and I believe that family endowment should be increased for a variety of reasons. First, it will help the family to develop. It will assist in the education of children and endowment should be paid as long as a child continues to go to school if we are to have a community healthy in body and mind. It is not much use making payments for further university training unless we give consideration to this important matter.
As I have said, child endowment payments were introduced in New South Wales in 1927. They were not introduced by the Commonwealth Government until 1941. A Labour government was in office when the rate was 5s. for the second and each other child. The rate was increased by the Labour Government to 7s. 6d. on 1st July, 1945 and was increased again by a Labour government to 10s. on 9th November, 1948. A non-Labour government - the Menzies Government - made child endowment available for the first child on 20th June, 1950. Since the beginning of 1950, fourteen social service measures and seven national health measures have been passed by this Parliament, but the Government has omitted to include provision for families in any of that legislation. The Government should deal with this matter quickly.
I have referred to the money we are paying this year to maintain our Department of Immigration, totalling £11,457,000. I merely divide that by approximately 100,000 representing the number of immigrants coming into Australia. Only a small percentage of them are not assisted. Consequently, the cost of bringing the assisted immigrants would be substantially greater than the figure I have mentioned.
This matter should excite the feelings of every honorable member. We are all concerned with moral values. Every seriousminded person has given some thought to declining morals and child1 delinquency. These problems have been debated on every forum. I say to the Government: Provide sufficient child endowment so that mothers may stay in their homes. They can do more than any paid worker for our children. The mother’s work in the home is more valuable than any advice. Nothing can replace a mother’s love and care; but the Government has failed to face up to its responsibilities to help the mothers. The Government has disregarded entirely the great burden that is being borne by mothers in particular. Often, while a child is going to school happy, tidy and clean, in the home there is a mother who is weary because of the sacrifices she is making. Many mothers are denying themselves something so that a child might have opportunities.
I have before me a copy of the Sydney “ Sun “ of 25th August containing an article headed, “ We’re Caught in the Tax Web “. The article points out that the average Australian family - husband, wife and two children - paid £10 7s. lOd. a week in taxes in 1959-60. Most of that is hidden in indirect taxation. The Government ignores the mothers because there is no pressure group in Australia to speak on behalf of the families. There is some one to espouse the cause of every other section and group in the community but when it is a matter of building up the nation - and that can be done only in the home and through our families - the Government has deserted our most priceless heritage.
– I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has come into the House because I want to refer to some of the things he had to say last night when he was speaking in this debate. This bill has two main objects. The first, of course, is to increase the general rate of pension - with which we all agree - and the second is to introduce what is known as the merged means test. I propose to refer to that in rather more detail a little later. I merely say about it now that the more one thinks about it, the more its value becomes apparent. It is a very great advance indeed in social services.
– The Thompson plan.
– I will have something to say about that. This debate on the social service legislation is an annual event and it is not often confined strictly to the subject of the bill or the letter of the bill. It generally ranges fairly extensively over social services and our concepts of social services and this occasion has been no exception. I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition is in the House, because I want to refer to several of the matters that he referred to in the course of his speech. It has been usual in recent years for some one other than the Leader of the Opposition to open the debate for the Opposition on this kind of measure. On this occasion, however, the matter was apparently considered so important that the Leader of the Opposition himself opened the debate.
– Because of the illness of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– I must say, Sir, if the honorable gentleman does not much object to my doing so, that he made a most extraordinary speech.
– A very good one.
– I was going to say that it was an appalling speech, but I thought that choice of phrase might have been offensive. The honorable member made a most extraordinary speech. Let me say also, if the honorable member does not mind my doing so, that he devoted almost the whole of his time to trivialities of mental concept of social services. Throughout his speech he completely failed to get to the heart of the matter.
The Leader of the Opposition spent a great deal of his time in making - saving his presence - such childish suggestions as that the Labour Government was the first to think of certain benefits. He interjected to-night, when I began to speak, with a similar kind of comment. Does it really matter who thought of something first, and does that question really have anything to do with the social service legislation of this country? But the honorable member went farther. He interlarded his speech with sallies against his opponents, and sometimes, I am afraid, with the expression of sentiments which were quite unworthy. Let me refer to one of them. Does any one in this House, including the honorable gentleman himself, really believe that child endowment payments were introduced or maintained in order to avoid increases in the basic wage? That is what the honorable member suggested.
– Of course they were!
– We all know that such an idea is preposterous.
– Not at all. It is the fact.
– As I said previously, I do not believe for a moment that the honorable gentleman really thinks so himself. Even if child endowment was introduced for this purpose, it has certainly proved to be a most ineffective way of achieving that end, because during the tenure of office of this Government, which was responsible, incidentally, for introducing child endowment for the first child, no less than five substantial increases in the basic wage have been awarded by the arbitration authorities, and two very substantial increases in margins. If there is anything in the honorable member’s suggestion, therefore, I can only say that it was a singularly ineffective way of achieving such a result. But nobody imagines for a moment that any government of any political colour or in any country could really entertain the idea of pursuing such a preposterous course of action. What we have really seen under this Government is a steady improvement in the conditions of the working man. He is infinitely better off, absolutely and relatively, than he was when this Government took office. What has been taking place, and what I understand the honorable gentleman regrets, is the steady obliteration, under the regime of this Government, of the class distinction so dear to the Labour Party. Not only have there been substantial rises in the basic wage, but there have also been substantial improvements in living standards all over the country.
The honorable gentleman had a great deal to say, as I mentioned earlier, about who thought of things first. Is it really possible to trace a progressive idea to a single mind and a single starting point? I very much doubt it. Even if it is possible, does it matter? What really counts is not who thought of something first, or dreamed of something first, or imagined he was the originator of something; what really counts is who actually delivered the goods.
– And we delivered the goods!
– In a few moments, Sir, I will say something about the goods which have been delivered by this Government, because its record in the field of social services, no matter what honorable gentlemen opposite may say or think, is unparalleled in the history of Australian government. Let me first, however, say something about the nature of social services, as they have been provided by governments of all political complexions in this country. Traditionally, social service payments have been granted by all governments out of revenue, and they have been regarded on all political sides as payments made to relieve need and hardship in the community. As they have been so regarded, it has been realized that the extent of need has had to be determined by way of a means test. I am not complaining about that state of affairs; I simply point out to the House that this has been the traditional pattern for the provision of social service benefits in Australia. This pattern has evolved quite naturally in the circumstances that have existed in Australia.
We talk a good deal in this country about growth and development. We talk a good deal - and it is quite right that we should - about the fact that in some respects we are not plentifully endowed with natural resources, such as, for instance, water supplies. We have had to exert ourselves greatly, and we will have to exert ourselves even more in the future, to augment our water supplies, to develop our resources in order to do all sorts of things. We have had to devote our labour and our wealth to the development of our country. But what is the object of developing it? It is not just so that we may have more water or more of some other natural resources. The real purpose of development is to improve standards of living. Every one has realized, therefore, that the provision of social services has to be geared to the resources of the country and. in fact, to the resources of the taxpayer, because whatever is said - and much was said last night - about welfare funds and other means of providing social services, the essential fact is that the taxpayer has to find the money. Every one in this country realizes that, and at the last two or three federal elections the people have given pretty solid evidence that they do realize it.
Let us consider sensibly this question of social services and the basic wage. The Leader of the Opposition said last night that the Labour Party related the pension to the basic wage, whereas the Liberal Party related it to the cost of living.
– That is your claim.
– The honorable gentleman says that that is what we do. We might as well say plainly now that the real position is that the basic wage is paid for one purpose and the pension is paid for another purpose, and it does not help the pensioner or the recipient of any other social service benefit to disguise that fact. To attempt to link social welfare payments with the basic wage is really of no actual assistance or comfort to those who receive social service benefits. If the honorable gentleman thinks that is a good way of approaching the question, let him go ahead and do so, but let me point out that in 1948, when his government was in office, the pension represented about 37 per cent, of the basic wage, while to-day, taking into account the supplementary rent allowance, the pension represents 39.8 per cent, of the basic wage.
– Your own colleague, the Minister, said that it was 36 per cent.
– These are the official figures, and the honorable member can take his change out of that.
– You cannot make up your mind where you stand.
– It is of no help to the community to gloss over these facts, and the honorable member really inspires no goodwill and gets no good marks for endeavouring to establish this kind of arithmetical link, which really does not mean a great deal. The fact is, as I have already pointed out, that we must relate the rate of social service benefits and of pensions to our resources and to the ability of the taxpayers to pay them. Perhaps that applies more to this country than to many others.
I said that I would say something about the actual achievements of this Government in the field of social services. I do this because the Leader of the Opposition, who led the attack on this bill, went so far as to say that the Government had done very little about providing social services. He- also said that anything we had done had been thought of by the Australian Labour Party first; but that fanciful idea has already been dealt with. Let me recall to the honorable gentleman’s mind, and to the House generally, some but not all of the important achievements of this Government in social services. Let me begin by reminding him once again of endowment for the first child. I remind him also of the Aged Persons Homes Act. If there has been anything in the complete history of social services in this country that has been of real benefit to the aged and a real social welfare measure, that has really brought aid and comfort to old people, it has been the Aged Persons Homes Act so ably administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton).
Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition of the pensioner medical service. I was asked a question in the House to-day about this scheme. I said then, and I repeat now, that it is impossible to measure in financial terms, though they are very great, the value of the pensioner medical service introduced by this Government, quite de novo - not even dreamed of by the Leader of the Opposition or any of his followers. It was introduced into the social service structure by this Government and it is one of the greatest advantages that pensioners have ever had. I remind the Leader of the Opposition of another important social service - perhaps not so important in financial terms, though it costs the country £3,000,000 a year - and that is milk for school children. I remind him that until this Government took over the reins of office and provided effective direction to the country, there was no workable scheme, no real scheme, of national health insurance. These are social achievements, important to the country and the taxpayer, that go far beyond anything the previous government introduced.
I refer in this catalogue finally to one other matter that the honorable gentleman raised last night, when he spoke about what he called the 5s. tax on pharmaceutical benefits. Of course, the real position is that a vast range of drugs and pharmaceutical benefits is now available to the public, through the actions of this Government, at a nominal fee of 5s., although the average cost of them, without this scheme, would be at least 18s. 6d. for each prescription, and in the case of most of the important ones, far more than 18s. 6d. - in some instances as much as £6, £7 or £8 for each prescription. For any one to say in this House that these are not measures of real social welfare, compatible with the resources of the country and provided in a way that is acceptable to the people, is utter nonsense.
I said that these were only some of the achievements of the Government in the field of social services. That brings me back to the bill now before the House. As I said, it does two things. It increases the general rate of pension, which has been steadily increased ever since this Government came to office, now nearly eleven years ago, and it introduces the merged means test. I repeat that the merged means test is one of the greatest social service measures ever introduced in this country. It has been described in detail by some of my colleagues - by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) last night, by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) this afternoon, and, of course, by the Minister for Social Services in his second-reading speech. I do not propose to go into the details of it again; they are now well understood by every one and I have no doubt infinitely appreciated by those who will benefit from the measure.
But could I point to three things about this merged means test? First, I want to mention the immense benefits that will flow from the expansion of pensions to many persons at present in receipt of pensions. The pension rate of many pensioners is now kept extremely low because of their other possessions. A great many of them will benefit under this measure. The second important effect is that there will be included amongst the ranks of pensioners a great number of people who are now excluded, not through faults of their own, but perhaps, I might almost say, through virtues of their own. The third, and perhaps in some ways a more important benefit, though a less tangible one, is the fact that many people will now receive a pension and will feel that the efforts that they have made have not been in vain and that the care and prudence they exercised during their lives will now be vindicated. They will now be able to receive either a pension or a much greater pension than they otherwise would have received. These are far-reaching effects. They will not be felt only immediately; they will be felt for many years to come. This one measure has removed many of the objections that people previously felt existed in the method of providing pensions. So this is really a great advance.
Let me conclude by congratulating the Minister for Social Services, under whose able and generous hand social services have expanded steadily year by year in recent times and whose efforts have now culminated in this very great advance in the provision of social services. The objections raised by the Opposition to the passage of the bill are trivial and the Opposition’s amendment, which, since it was moved, has scarcely been referred to by honorable members opposite, is a spurious one. I give my heartiest support to the bill.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . .22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Makin’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message):
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947- 1959.
– Could the Minister indicate the precise sum to be appropriated under this motion?
– It is not usual, nor is it expedient or possible, to mention a precise sum in connexion with a bill of this kind.
– I think it is desirable, and it ought to be possible, to say how much is to be appropriated, so that we may consider the matter intelligently. I ask the Minister whether he can indicate the sum that is to be appropriated under this motion. After all, this is a responsible committee. It is supposed to know what it is doing. All I ask of the Minister is whether he can indicate the sum which this committee is to appropriate after giving the matter intelligent consideration.
– I think that the committee is entitled to an explanation. What is being done now is a complete departure from what has been the procedure for a number of years. Each year, when a bill similar to this has come before us in the ordinary way, we have been able to move amendments to the various clauses. I understand, from what I have heard outside the chamber, that this is a deliberate move on the part of the Government to prevent the Opposition from moving amendments.
– The Minister says it is not, but the fact is that the procedure this year is a departure from the procedure of previous years. In previous years, we were able to move amendments calculated to provide for what we considered was necessary to meet the needs of the people. I believe that 1 am correct in assuming that once this motion is carried, we shall not be permitted to move amendments which, if carried, would mean an increase in benefits. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has asked what amount is being appropriated by this motion.
I can tell honorable members that the Public Accounts Committee closely examines statements prepared by the Auditor-General and the Estimates for the various departments. If the members of that committee notice that an appropriation has been exceeded or has been under-spent, they want to know why. In this case, we do not know what sum is involved. We are asked merely to vote for an appropriation. What is the amount involved in the appropriation? If honorable members on the Government side think that it is quite all right to agree to an appropriation without any information as to the amount involved, they may follow the Government’s lead, but we do not propose to do that.
In previous years, the money to be used for the purposes mentioned in this bill came from the National Welfare Fund and, because of that, we were in order in moving amendments which, if carried, would mean increased expenditure. My understanding of the position now is that if the motion is agreed to in its present form, we shall be denied the right to move such amendments. The Minister has stated that we knew what was in the bill and could have prepared amendments a fortnight ago. From the information we obtained, we felt that the amendment which has just been disposed of by the House had to be moved at that stage. Originally, we did not intend moving it, because we were under the impression that we would have the opportunity in committee to move any amendments that we thought desirable. Whether the information we obtained is correct or not, the position apparently is that we cannot propose an amendment during the committee stage. That is why we moved the resolution which has just been rejected. If the Minister does not propose to state a specific amount, is it competent to propose any amendment to increase the figure which is contained in this bill? I should like the Minister to reply to that question. Will we be permitted to propose, for example, that the wife’s allowance be increased from £1 15s. to £4 7s. 6d. a week? If we can do so, we will not be so much worried about the Minister’s proposal, but if the Minister intends to use the method which he has foreshadowed to legrope the Opposition and prevent us from moving amendments, we shall vote against the appropriation being granted.
, - The House is in committee of the whole on a financial resolution. The Government, after having gagged the bill through the second-reading stage after only a few hours’ debate, proposes now to prevent members of the committee from making any effective protest against the inadequacies of the bill, or taking any action to enable the committee to express an opinion on the amount which the committee might consider to be reasonable in each of the series of proposals in the legislation.
This is the first time for many years that the House has gone into committee of the whole merely to enable the Government to gag the committee. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) shows his contempt for both the committee and the parliamentary procedure by refusing to indicate the precise amount that the committee will vote before we have the opportunity to discuss the various classes of people who will benefit from that total appropriation. The committee is entitled to know the exact amount to be appropriated.
The Government states that it will make the increased payment as from a certain pension day in October, lt has already estimated the number of pensioners who will benefit and it knows how many weeks there are between the first pension day in October and 30th June next, so the Minister and his advisers have only a simple problem in arithmetic to work out. If the Minister refuses to tell the committee the total amount to be appropriated, it is further evidence of the contempt which this Government has for the whole parliamentary procedure.
– I wish to clarify the position as far as it is possible to clarify a position which has been deliberately confused by the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) prefaced his speech by saying that I had made repetitive gibes that the Opposition had plenty of opportunity to discuss this bill. I have never mentioned that matter in this place at any time. Now that he has mentioned it, let me say that at the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), I came to an arrangement with him to let him have an advance copy of the bill fifteen days ago, before the legislative committee of Cabinet had had an opportunity to examine it. He was aware of these conditions. At the same time, because of that arrangement, I also handed an advance copy of the bill to the chairman of the Government members’ social services committee. The position is that Her Majesty’s Opposition had fifteen days and fifteen nights in which to examine the bill if it had wanted to do so. The fact that it did not do so has nothing to do with me. The Opposition had the bill before it was discussed by either or both of the Government parties. No Minister in any parliament could be more generous than that.
The motion before the Chair is one that follows in natural sequence a message from the Governor-General. It is in these terms -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1959.
If the Opposition wishes to express its disapproval of that resolution, it can adopt the normal parliamentary procedures.
– I rise to order. Mr. Temporary Chairman. I do not want to take part in the argument but I should like some information. Apparently in the past it has not been necessary to bring in a Governor-General’s message in a case such as this. Why has a message been brought in at this stage? On 24th September, 1959, when a similar bill was before us the second reading of the bill was agreed to and we went straight into committee. On that occasion was the message brought in before the bill was read a first time? What is the position with regard to the message?
– For legislation involving an increase of expenditure a message recommending an appropriation of funds is required. It is that message which is now before the committee. The question before the Chair is that the resolution which has been proposed by the Minister for Social Services be agreed to.
– In that case, was last year’s bill illegal?
– The Chair is not cognizant of the circumstances associated with the legislation which was dealt with last year.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) did not reply to a question which has been asked consistently by several honorable members on this side of the chamber. It is this: Why, for the first time in the history of the amendments to the Social Services Act, has a message from the Governor-General been introduced? Hitherto, a message has never been received before a bill was introduced. Hitherto, a message has never been received after the second reading stage and before the committee stage. We want to know why a new procedure has been adopted on this occasion in relation to a bill which every year, without fail, comes before the House. The Minister either does not know or will not tell us the reason.
The Minister stated that I had a copy of this bill before he introduced it. That is true. There is an arrangement between the Government and the Opposition that the Opposition will not be required or expected to resume a second-reading debate until it has had an opportunity to consider its attitude to the bill on a Wednesday when the House is sitting. The Minister made his second-reading speech on Thursday night, 8th September, the night on which the House went into recess for one week. It was expected that the debate would be resumed by us last night. As I have said, the House did not sit last week so the only sitting Wednesday on which the Opposition could consider its attitude to the bill was on Wednesday, 7th September. Accordingly, we received a copy of the bill at about 9.30 on that morning so that the Parliamentary Labour Party executive could consider it first and then caucus could consider it at its meeting at 10.30 that morning. Neither the Minister nor any one on his behalf told me at that time that a message would be coming in from the Governor-General at any stage. The Minister gave no indication whatever that there would be a departure on this occasion from the practice which has applied in previous years when we have been asked to deal with proposed amendments to the Social Services Act.
Another question, which would seem to flow perfectly naturally from an appropriation bill, was asked of the Minister. Apparently, the law is that no one in the Legislature can move an amendment to an appropriation measure which will increase the appropriation. We therefore ask: How much is the appropriation? The Minister either does not know or will not tell us. All he does is to require us to infer that X pounds are being appropriated, and he therefore asks you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to rule in due course that we cannot move at the committee stage any amendment which would involve the expenditure of X-plus-1 pounds. But he does not know or will not say how much X pounds is. The position is quite farcical when members must calculate the effect on an appropriation when the Minister himself does not know how much is being appropriated.
The Minister for Social Services is not in the Cabinet, but he is a Minister and is therefore one of the Governor-General’s advisers. The Governor-General has sent a message to this place on the advice of the Minister among others. Yet the Minister is unable to state the basis of the message which is sent to us. He should at least know and be prepared to divulge the reasons why on this occasion a message of this kind has been transmitted to us at so early a stage in the consideration of a measure such as this. This kindof thing has never happened before. Surely no one can assert that there is no legal basis for the past procedure. Nobody has ever challenged the legality of appropriations or payments which have been made under the terms of earlier social services bills. A message of this kind from the Governor-General has never before been transmitted to us prior to the committee stage of a social services bill and nobody has challenged the legality of what has been done before.
We know perfectly well that although the courts can invalidate what the Parliament finally decides, the courts do not and cannot supervise the way in which the Parliament goes about making its decisions. If the Parliament does not receive a message like this, it can still pass a measure which will be valid in the eyes of the courts. Why cannot we on this occasion follow the same procedure which the Parliament has always followed and which nobody in the Parliament or outside it has ever challenged hitherto? The unfairness of what is being done, Sir, is that we are now to be precluded for the first time from moving at the committee stage amendments with respect to precise timings, qualifications and amounts of social service benefits.
The interpretation for which the Minister contends is an extremely fortunate one for the Government. It is a very clever device. If the Minister is allowed to get away with this, Government supporters cannot be pinned down and made to declare themselves on the very things which, outside the Parliament, they always proclaim and on which, inside the Parliament, they always betray their promises. This is a mere subterfuge to prevent criticism of the Government and to enable it to escape from the responsibility of living up to its protestations. I submit that the Minister for Social Services should be required to explain or divulge - or at least learn, if he cannot explain or will not divulge - why the customary procedure has been altered on this occasion, this being the first time that such a thing has happened.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Further to the point raised by the honorable member for Chisholm, I ask you whether it is in order for the procedure of this chamber to be so altered as to prevent honorable members from giving expression to their views, the sole purpose of the alteration being to enable the Governor-General to depart on a visit to Western Australia. This alteration of the procedure will prevent honorable members-
– Order! The honorable member must not make reference to Her Majesty’s representative.
– On the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: I submit that the honorable member for Kingston was not reflecting on the Governor-General. He was reflecting on the GovernorGeneral’s advisers.
– Order! I ask the committee to assist the Chair. If honorable members expect to receive explanations, they will have to give attention to the proceedings and refrain from interjecting. With respect to the point raised by the honorable member for Kingston, I point out to him that he cannot make observations such as he has made without offending against the rules of this place.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am brought to my feet by the imputations which, to my great surprise, have been made by so highly respected a man as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and also by my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), about the Government’s motives in adopting this new procedure.
– So the Minister admits that it is a new procedure.
– I admit that this in an alteration of the usual procedure. The answer to the arguments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is very simple: Section 56 of the Australian Constitution, under which, of course, this Parliament operates, applies to the measure now before us because it involves an appropriation of moneys. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a lawyer of no mean distinction in Sydney and has been a colleague of mine on the Constitutional Review Committee for the last two or three years, and he of all people should be well informed about what the Constitution says and about its applicability to revenue measures in this Parliament. The Government, acting on the best advice available to it, has introduced this variant of the customary procedure in order to comply with the implications and the injunctions of the Constitution as we believe it to be binding on this Parliament. Surely to say that because in the past those on both sides of this chamber have been in error because this point has not been adverted to, since we have not realized how compelling are the requirements on this Parliament, is to adopt an extremely weak argument. Are we to take the view that the error should not be corrected and the procedure should not be altered? Are we to go on bungling and setting a bad example? What the Government has decided to do is to place the whole matter in an atmosphere of correctitude by altering the procedure. That is the only reason why we are taking this course this evening.
To accuse the Government either of stifling debate or of resorting to subterfuge is to talk absolute nonsense and humbug of the worst order. Good gracious, Sir, the second-reading debate on this measure was resumed last evening and it continued until after 9 o’clock to-night. If Opposition members wished to propose amendments, they were at perfect liberty to do so during that time. If I may say so, with great respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, you were the only Opposition member who seized the opportunity to move an amendment.
– What chance did I have?
– My friend, the honorable member for Port Adelaide, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who interrupts me in so surprising and so rude a fashion, and others had ample opportunity under the rules of this chamber to move amendments. But they availed themselves of their chances not one jot. Now they put up what the public can only describe as a stage-managed trick - that is all it is - with the purpose-
– Order! . The Minister is not entitled to make an observation that there has been anything in the nature of a trick. I ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw that.
– I would substitute then, Sir, the word “ manoeuvre “ if I may use that - a manoeuvre which will be singularly unconvincing to people outside should they happen to read this debate in “ Hansard “.
I have stated the facts of the matter. The Government is acting with complete honesty and complete propriety, and I have no doubt at all that from now on what we are doing will be followed by other administrations, whether from this side of the House or from the other. Now, Sir, the time is very late. I have heard honorable members opposite calling out “ gag “ and other opprobrious terms. In order to save honorable members from further disputation on this subject, and so that we can proceed with the real business of the committee, I move -
That the question be now put.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The committee will divide. Ring the bells.
– The Government is a collection of dingoes.
– I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the honorable member for Grayndler should apologize to the Chair for his remark regarding “ dingoes “. He should be asked to apologize.
– I take exception to the honorable member’s remark.
– I also take exception, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the remark of the honorable member for Grayndler, as I think all honorable members on this side of the committee do. I ask you to order the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark and apologize to the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The committee is in the process of voting. A division has been called, and until that matter is disposed of no further action can be taken by the committee.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. N. J. O. Makin.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The question is ;
That I report the resolution to the House and ask leave to sit again.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Did the honorable member for Grayndler make the statement complained of?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause i agreed to.
Clause 2 - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, is it competent for me to move an amendment to clause 2 in view of the remarks of the Minister for Social Services?
– It depends on what the amendment is.
– I propose to move an amendment in the following terms: -
In sub-clause 1 of clause 2 omit - “ come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent “, insert “ be deemed to have come into operation on the first pension pay day in July, One thousand nine hundred and sixty “
– The proposed amendment would not be in order because it would have the effect of increasing the amount of the appropriation.
– In order to test the feeling of the committee, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I move -
That the Temporary Chairman’s ruling be dissented from. (The Leader of the Opposition having submitted his motion of dissent in writing) -
Question put -
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Minister said the fact that something was wrong for SO or 60 years was no reason why it should be wrong now. The same argument can be used in this case. In the past, recipients of social service benefits have not received them until the relevant bill received the Royal Assent. That should not be the position now. After all, the amount involved in this case is little enough and there is no reason why we should be bound by what has happened in the past. This is the National Parliament. It should look to the future. Are we to expect the Parliament always to act on precedents? Are we to be bound by past procedure simply because social service benefits were not paid until the Royal Assent was given?
– I support the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and oppose clause 2. The Government can make payments retrospective when it wants to increase parliamentary salaries and the allowances of Ministers. When it is a matter of increasing the salaries of higher public servants by £20 a week, the Government can make the payments retrospective. There is nothing to prevent the Government making these social service benefits retrospective except lack of willingness. The Government wants to give the pensioners the least possible amount. If it wanted to, the Government could make the payments retrospective till 1st July or for ten months. This Parliament has the power to do so. The Government knows that public opinion is such that it must increase age pensions; but it will pay the minimum amount possible for the shortest possible period. That is its attitude. The Opposition is not merely entitled to object but is duty bound to do so. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) can justify voting for retrospective increases in his own salary only by making the payments to age pensioners retrospective also.
– Clause 2 concerns the commencement of increased payments, and I dealt with that matter myself very fully in my second-reading speech on the bill. I explained that on a certain date, certain increases would be paid. On a subsequent date, because of administrative work that would have to be done before conclusions could be reached and assessments made, the provisions for the merged means test would be proclaimed as soon as it was possible and practicable to do so. I explained that the payments would be made then forthwith.
Every member of the Opposition knows that a proposal for the provisions of this bill to be made retrospective would have to be rejected by me as they have been rejected by every other Minister for Social Services. The proposal would have to be rejected by this Government just as such proposals have been rejected by every other government. Indeed, twelve years ago every member of the Opposition who was then a member of this House knew that a proposal of this kind would have to be rejected whether they were in office or whether the present Government parties were in charge of the administration. We are following the procedures that have been followed without deviation in the past and are vital in the presentation of a budget.I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put -
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Conditions of grant of age pension).
.- It was my intention to express some views during the second-reading debate on the conditions under which age pensions are granted. Unfortunately, however, the debate on the second-reading was gagged. Consideration of clause 4 in committee gives me an opportunity to say briefly some of the things that I had intended to say in more detail if 1 had not been deprived of the opportunity to do so. 1 remind the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Parliament that in the constituency I represent there are 71,000 electors, and that a large number of them are immigrants. Many of those immigrants would now be eligible to receive the age pension were it not for the fact that they have not been resident in Australia for twenty years. It is my considered opinion that this Parliament should now be generous enough to say that an immigrant, of 60 years or more in the case of a woman, or 65 years or more in the case of a man, may now receive an age pension, provided he or she can comply with the other qualifications set out in the legislation, even if such an immigrant has been resident in Australia for less than twenty years. It is quite true that a number of these relatively old persons were allowed to come here because of the humanitarian outlook of no; only this Government but also of previous governments. Permission was granted for some of them to come here only after their relatives already in Australia had given guarantees that they would not become charges on the State. Unfortunately, however, it sometimes happens that sons or daughters or other relatives who give such guarantees themselves assume additional obligations, or fall upon evil days, or experience ill health, and are then no longer able to assist these old people. In such circumstances, and having in mind the fact that the number of persons concerned would be very limited, I suggest that the Government should be generous enough to provide that such immigrants who attain pensionable age and who can satisfy the property and income qualifications may receive the pension. 1 had also intended to mention, during the second-reading debate, the position of men who lose their wives and are left with six, seven or eight children. Many such widowers find it impossible on their wages or salaries to engage housekeepers to keep the families together and look after the children. In those circumstances the family circle is frequently broken up and the children scattered amongst three or four religious or State institutions. These institutions admittedly do very good work in their own way, but it seems regrettable that a widower who wants to keep his family together and to continue as the breadwinner for his children has no alternative but to allow his family to be broken up simply because he cannot afford the services of a housekeeper, even if one is available. I believe that these are the kinds of special cases for which any Government, and this Government in particular, should make some provision. The Minister has told us that special conditions apply in certain kinds of cases, and I suggest that these would be cases deserving of special treatment. We have the case mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech of the unfortunate wives of men who have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The provision first made by the Labour Government followed my suggestion in1 94 7 to the then Cabinet. I appreciate that in this bill the Minister has liberalized the conditions under which that grant is made. But just as there was good reason to make that grant, so there is good reason for a grant to be made to the two types of persons that I have mentioned to-night. I trust that the Minister, with the kindness of heart that I hope he has but of which I have not seen much evidence, will have the essential amendments inserted in the bill when it is before the Senate.
– Order! The honorable member should confine himself to the property disqualification. He has made no mention of the property disqualification.
– With due respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am not talking about the property disqualification at all. I am talking about clause 4, which, according to the marginal note, deals with the conditions of grant of age pension. That is the condition under which grants are made to pensioners.
– The grant of age pension in that context is concerned only with the property disqualification, not the general conditions of the grant of a pension. The honorable member should confine his remarks to the clause and not deal with the general grant of an age pension.
– I accept your ruling, Sir. Having made my point, I plead with the Minister to take such steps as are necessary to make it possible for the Government to introduce the necessary amendments in the Senate, so that the cases I have mentioned may be dealt with.I do not think that any honorable member would deny that the persons I have mentioned should have assistance.
– I desire to speak to this clause for a moment or two.I congratulate the Government on having abolished the provision which disqualifies a person if the value of his property exceeds £2.250. I would not have chosen to speak at this time if it had been possible for the Opposition to move an amendment earlier, butI would like to clear up the matter raised by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). He said that the Opposition could have moved amendments during the second-reading stage. I was amazed to hear him say that. As a lawyer and a man who knows his business, he should be well aware that the only amendment we could move during the second-reading stage was an amendment to the motion that the bill be read a second time. We could not have moved any of the other amendments that he referred to. He should not have attempted to belittle honorable members on this side for not having taken advantage of an opportunity to move amendments during the second-reading stage; we could not do that.
I would like to refer to the matter raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), regarding persons who come to this country under a guarantee by those who nominate them to find accommodation and employment for them. I ask the Government to consider lifting the restriction which prevents people whom we describe as new Australians from obtaining a pension, except those who come from England, until they have had twenty years continuous residence here. I think that is the matter that the honorable member was contesting. I am sorry that no provision has been made in this bill to alter the requirement of twenty years continuous residence and to fix some lesser period. I hope that the Government will consider this suggestion. Other countries have reduced the period of residence and I trust that this Government will do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Rate of pension).
.-I should like to know how the Government arrived at the figure of £260 mentioned in this clause. I have in mind that the cost of living has increased tremendously and the value of the pension has declined proportionately. The Government now considers that £5 a week is sufficient to meet the needs of a pensioner, and I should like to know the basis of that computation. On what basis does the Government assess that a pensioner without any other income can live on £5? When all is said and done, those who are fortunate enough to have even a little more than the pension, are much better off than those who receive only the pension. No means test is more vicious than that which applies to the supplementary assistance of 10s. a week.
I should like to know how the Government expects a single man or woman to live on £5 a week in this day and age when inflation has run riot under a government that could not care less about what happens to the individuals. It is all very well for the Government to say that £260 should be inserted instead of £247. But why should it not be twice that amount, for instance? General Motors-Holden’s Limited had a profit of £15,000,000, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited distributed £32,000,000, and countless millions more have been made by other companies. Surely this shows that we should have a more appropriate amount than £260. Why does the Government not make it more than £260? What is an increase of 5s. a week? After all, it is only 8d. a day, and that is no more than a couple of cigarettes, if you smoke, or half a cauliflower, if you eat. It would not buy a pound of butter or a pound of tea. But the Government says that the rate of pension should be £260 instead of £247. Why is it not more? How does the Government assess the astronomical increase of 5s. a week or 8d. a day? This Budget provides for the expenditure of £1,700,000,000, of which £200,000,000 will be spent on defence. Most of that will be wasted because of the incompetence of Ministers and of the Government. Why should not the rate of pension be increased beyond £260? I ask the Minister to explain this.
I look in vain to honorable members who sit on the Government side to explain this measure, because they do not know what is in legislation until it comes before the Parliament; and they could not care less. Their silence to-day signifies that they cannot explain how the Government arrived at the figure of £260 instead of some other figure more commensurate with the needs of pensioners. It is all very well to say that the amount of £260 represents an increase on what was given before. But when assessing the amount of a pension on which a person should at least be able to maintain himself adequately, the Government should realize that not all pensioners have wives and in consequence not all have an income of £10 a week. The basic wage is now about £14 a week. The proportion of £5 to £14 is well below the proportion that the pension bore to the basic wage when Labour was in office. Why has this Government not maintained the proportion that was adopted by the Labour Government of days gone by? Why has the Government not maintained the purchasing power of pensions? Why does the Government not subsidize butter, tea and sugar, as these commodities were subsidized in the days of the Chifley Government? This would give pensioners who receive only £260 a chance to buy these commodities at a reasonable price instead of at the exorbitant prices that are charged to-day.
These are questions that should be answered by the Government. I do not want to be met with the gag at the end of my remarks and I do not want the Government to gloss over these important considerations. I would like to know how the Government assessed the great increase, as it calls this, of 5s. a week for pensioners. Never forget that this Government went into office on a pledge to retain the purchasing power of social service benefits and to increase the value of pensions. It v has not done so, and that is why I ask the Government now how it arrived at this figure. When may a pensioner expect a reasonable increase of his pension - an increase that will make good the loss of purchasing power of the £1 that has occurred whilst this Government has been in office? At election time, Government supporters, whether they belong to the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party, tell pensioners that they will give them adequate pensions on which to live. But when they come to this Parliament, they are as silent as the grave. They care not what happens to pensioners.
– They give pensioners only enough to starve on!
– That is so. Not enough to bury them; just enough to starve on. The Government gives an increase of 5s. a week, but one would think that it was giving an increase of £5 a week. If the Government distributed to the pensioners even a fraction of the amount spent on world trips by its members that would increase fairly substantially the amount of money on which these people are expected to live. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to interject. Why do they not rise and defend the Government?
– It is not necessary.
– The honorable member is a director of a dozen banks and owns four racehorses. He is more wealthy than any other man in this Parliament, yet he thinks that -a rise of Ss. a week is enough for the pensioners. If the honorable member has anything to say, let him get up and say it. The honorable member knows full well that this miserable increase in the pension will spell doom for him even in what he thinks is a blue-ribbon electorate at the present time. Looking at him I would say he would need a blue-ribbon seat in order to be sure of being here.
The Labour Party believes that a pension of £5 a week is not adequate and asserts that it should be substantially increased. We believe that the minimum increase should be the amount required to bring the pension to 37 per cent, of the basic wage, which was the rate given by the Labour Government, in the belief that it was the minimum amount on which pensioners could live. How many members on the Government side of the House could exist on £5 a week, if they had no other income? How many of them could support a wife on £10 a week? I wonder whether any of them could bury a deceased member of the family for £10.
In respect of every benefit, it has been proved this Government just picks a figure out of the air, as it were, and says that that is what it will give the pensioners. The Government cares little then what happens to them. But there is an obligation on all members of this Parliament, irrespective of their political views, to see that adequate pension rates are maintained for the people. This Liberal-Country Party Government should think of the promise it made to the electors that it would maintain the purchasing power of money and increase pensions proportionately to meet rising costs.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other honorable members opposite must take full responsibility for the inflationary conditions that exist in the community. The progressive reduction in the purchasing power of money since 1949. when this Government took office, is scandalous in the extreme. The fact that a pension of £4 15:-. a week will not buy as much as 42s. 6d. a week bought in 1948 when Mr. Chifley ‘s
Government was in office, is a glaring indictment of the present Government’s failure to honour its obligation to the pensioners.
I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) will rise and explain this matter. I have no doubt that he and the Government resorted to the new procedures, to which we objected earlier, in order to prevent us submitting certain amendments. Obviously, the Government is ashamed of what it has done and is frightened to let us move amendments. The Government knows that what has been done is not adequate, lt gives taxation relief to the wealthy interests in preference to giving money to the people who need it by increasing the pension to only £260 a year or £5 a week, lt is all very well to say that people can have income of £3 10s. a week or £10,000 or some other sum in the bank, and still be eligible for a pension. There are countless thousands of people in this country who, through no fault of their own, have not been able to save anything. They were rearing families while they earned the basic wage under tory governments in days gone by, when long working hours and low wages were the order of the day. They were unemployed when the boss did not want them or when he could not make enough profit out of them. Those people could not put money aside or provide for an income of £3 10s. a week. It was not because they were drunkards or anything like that, but simply because they had not the opportunity to put aside the £3 10s. or £4 per week to buy a house.
What is this Government doing for the people who through no fault of their own have no income other than their pensions to-day? It is giving them an extra 5s. a week, or 8d. a day! It is magnanimously giving them £5 a week at a time when the basic wage is £15 a week and, if the truth is known, should be £20 a week in order to let the workers live under this Government. Members of the Government side of the House interject and sneer at my statements. They are not prepared to rise and defend the Government’s policy, because it is indefensible. I point out these matters in order to show that the Government cares only for the wealthy, the powerful and the influential. It does not care for the vast majority of the people who depend on social services. It does not care for the pensioner who is 60 or 70 years of age, or for those who are invalid or infirm and have children to keep. To them the Government says, “ You can live on £5 a week “. To-day the Country Party dominates the Liberal Party in this Parliament and refuses to give more than 8d. a day to people who are absolutely dependent on their pensions to keep body and soul together.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I did not intend to speak in this debate, and I rise only because the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said he looked in vain for somebody on this side of the chamber to defend the Government’s policy. I am proud to defend the policy of the Government. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the purchasing power of the pension is now less than it was when the Labour Government went out of office. I wish to remind him that, in making that statement, he finds himself out of step with his leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who stated in his speech on the Budget that since the Menzies Government came to power prices had risen by 98 per cent. The honorable member for Grayndler says that 100s. per week at present will not purchase as much as 42s. 6d. a week purchased in the time of the Chifley Government. If the honorable member cannot work out his arithmetic, I point out to him that that is an increase of 110 per cent, in the rate of the pension and that prices, according to the Leader of the Opposition, have risen in the same period by 98 per cent.
Let me make one more point. The proof of the Government’s sincerity lies in what it does and not in what it talks about. I shall refer to the last three years the Labour Government was in office. It is interesting to recall that in 1946-47 Labour’s total expenditure was £431,300,000, and of that sum it spent £62,000,000 on health and social services.
– It was more the following year.
– I hope the honorable member is prepared to say that when he has heard my argument. In 1947-48 the Labour Government had an expenditure of £465,900,000, of which £68,600,000 was for health and social services. In 1948-49, its last year of office, with a total expenditure of £554,400,000 that Government raised its expenditure on health and social services to £80,800,000. So Labour’s expenditure on health and social services to its total expenditure in each of those three years was between 14 per cent, and 15 per cent. This year, out of a total Budget provision of £1,616,000,000, this Government will spend over £330,000,000 on health and social services, or more than 20 per cent, of its total revenue. So I say we are spending more than 20 per cent, of the money we derive in revenue on health and social services. That is the proof of what the Government is doing. I am proud to support the policy of this Government in respect of social services.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) makes a series of calculations, then works out percentages and satisfies himself that the argument he advances is an irrefutable one. In our day we did not tax the little people, but we did tax the big people. If the big incomes in this country were taxed to-day in the same proportion as they were in 1948-49 the Government could have a much bigger Budget. Allowing for the comparative worthlessness of our Australian money today, in relation to the value of the Chifley £1, I think that expenditure on social services is not 20 per cent., but 16 per cent, or even less.
The truth is that when we were in power the pensioner received 37 per cent, of the basic wage and the basic wage-earner with a wife and two children paid no income tax at all. To-day a man with a wife and two children who earns the basic wage pays approximately £100 to this Government each year and the pensioner does not receive 37 per cent, of the basic wage. The worker does not receive the cost of living adjustments which would make his basic wage what it ought to be. He has been deprived, by the order of this Government, of the quarterly cost of living adjustments which would have enabled his wage to-day to provide the same purchasing power as it had in 1949-50. The worker in Australia is worse off to-day than ever he was.
If he is buying television sets or other things, he is buying them on hire purchase, and as soon as the boom bursts and those things are (repossessed, he will have very few assets left from his present supposedly big income. The pensioner is not getting enough. Classes of pensioners are being neglected, their claims are being ignored, and the Government will answer for it. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) will be one of those who will have to answer for it when the 1961 elections come around. I hope he will feel proud to stand on this Government’s record then, but I am afraid it will have to be a much better record than it is now if any one is to stand upon it.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) is very naive when he refers to the percentage of the national revenue devoted to social services. Does he not realize that, in order to quality for maximum hospital and medical benefits, the family man pays to hospital and medical benefit societies about £23 a year? If the honorable member takes that into consideration, he will have a more reasonable basis for comparing what was available during the Labour Government’s regime with what is available now under this Government. The honorable member gives no consideration whatsoever to the fact that these payments to hospital and medical benefit societies and to friendly societies are in effect a flat rate of income taxation on those citizens who seek the benefits. That seems to have been completely forgotten by the citizens of Australia, whom the Government is lulling into believing that they are receiving additional benefits while being taxed lighter.
It is quite true that health and pharmaceutical benefits which were not available under the Labour Government are available to-day, but the honorable member knows that the Labour Government paved the way for making these benefits available. He knows full well that the Labour Government’s proposal was opposed by a solid bloc from the medical profession, to which the Minister for Health (Dr. Cameron) belongs. The members of that profession refused point blank to co-operate and write prescriptions under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme proposed by the Labour Government, but to-day, in order to accommodate the present Government - or it may be that they have become enlightened with the march of time - they write prescriptions for a wide range of pharmaceutical benefits, although that range is by no means as wide as the one proposed by the Labour Administration.
– It is much better.
– The honorable gentleman will not deny that the members of the British Medical Association, one of the strongest unions in this country, refused point blank to write even one prescription under the Labour Government’s scheme.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause under discussion, and that clause makes no mention of pharmaceutical benefits.
– Then I conclude my remarks.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Computation of income).
– This clause seeks to make only a small alteration to the principal act, but I should like an explanation of what it really means, because I should like to be in a position to explain to people just what they are entitled to receive. Section 29 of the principal act reads - (2.) For the purposes of this Part, the income of a husband or wife shall -
That is clear enough, but the section as amended will read -
For the purposes of this part, unless the contrary intention appears, . . .
I do not know why those words are inserted. I cannot understand the amendment, and I should like the Minister to tell the committee what the words “ unless the contrary intention appears “ imply. If the Minister can tell me that, I will be very pleased.
– If I may deal with this clause and anticipate discussion which might arise on clause 10, this clause deals only with the computation of income, and the amendment is consequent upon amendments made to section 45 by clause 10. Section 45 makes clear the circumstances under which a pensioner must notify the rate of income he receives. In reply to the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) I shall mention what clause 10 does. Sub-section (2) of section 45 of the principal act provides that a pensioner shall notify a director after he has received income of a specified amount for eight consecutive weeks. The sub-section is not now clear as to whether, in the case of a married pensioner, he should notify the income he himself receives, or whether the income he should notify is half the combined income of himself and his wife. That point is made clear in clause 10. The doubt as to whether the pensioner is required to notify only when he receives income in each of the eight consecutive weeks is also resolved.
As a result of the introduction of the merged means test, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide will understand, it will be necessary for certain pensioners to give earlier notification of the receipt of income; and the amendments made by this clause give the Director-General authority to serve a notice in writing on such pensioners, setting out the circumstances in which they are required to notify changes in income. In addition, the section is being expanded to require the notification of other changes in a pensioner’s affairs which would affect his entitlement to a pension.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Supplementary assistance).
– I am not at all satisfied with the extent of the provision for supplementary assistance. At present it is given to single pensioners who are paying rent. They receive the not very large sum of 10s. a week. The matter I raise has been mentioned in previous years. It was mentioned also in the second-reading debate on this bill. On this occasion I noticed that a number of Government supporters pointed out the anomalous position of people who are buying houses.
Last week a case was brought to my notice. I am prepared to give the name of the person to any one who desires it. if he disputes what I say. This person is an elderly widower. Some years ago, when his wife was alive and he was working, they were forced to buy their house because otherwise they would have been ejected from it. They bought the house and paid a substantial deposit, and thereafter paid £3 a week off the balance of the cost of the house. When he ceased employment because of his age, he and his wife were able to pay the £3 a week, but since his wife died he has been expected to pay the £3 a week although he is receiving only £4 15s. a week. Therefore, he has to live on £1 15s. a week. This afternoon the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) referred to a person paying £2 a week, but in the case to which I am referring the man pays £3 a week. So this citizen, a very worthy gentleman, has £1 15s. a week with which to pay rates and taxes, feed himself, pay for electric light, fuel and clothes, if he can afford to buy any. lt is definitely wrong that this very worthy citizen should be in that position; and there are thousands in the same position. Perhaps there would not be that many because most people would have paid off their house at the age of 65 years. So, it would not cost the Government a great deal if it were to give the same supplementary allowance to people who are paying off a house as it gives to single pensioners who are paying rent. Surely nobody on the Government side of the chamber expects any citizen to live on 35s. a week. I discussed this matter with this man’s neighbours, who told me that if it were not for the assistance given to him by his neighbours he would be almost in a state of semi-destitution and starvation. I was very happy to see supporters of the Government taking up the cudgels on behalf of such people in this debate. The honorable member for Lilley made several pertinent remarks with which I wholeheartedly agree. The Government should give very serious consideration to extending the provision of the supplementary allowance to pensioners who are paying off houses. The amount involved would not be very great, and justice would thus be done to a large section of the community who are treated very unfairly under the existing legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 1 1 (Inmates of benevolent homes).
.- This clause relates to the allowance paid to the inmates of benevolent homes. I point out to the committee the anomaly that exists when an inmate of a benevolent home who suffers from a mental illness is transferred to a mental home. At present, while such a person is in the benevolent home and is physically ill and is, no doubt, an inmate of the sick ward of the benevolent home, he receives £85 16s. a year. So, he has pocket money which he can spend on little luxuries, if I may use that word. From time to time he can buy things he needs, such as toilet requisites. However, if his physical illness changes to mental illness and he is necessarily transferred from the benevolent home to a mental institution, his pension ceases immediately. That is definitely an anomaly. There is a differentiation between a person who is physically ill and one who is mentally ill.
I know that the argument is used that the care of the mentally ill is the responsibility of the State governments; but that argument does not apply in respect of recipients of Commonwealth social service benefits who are inmates of State hospitals. We live in an enlightened age, and the fact that we have been unjust to the unfortunate victims of mental illness in the past is no reason why that injustice should be perpetuated. If relatives of inmates of mental homes take them home for the weekend, they do not receive payment for the fares incurred in taking them home; they have to depend upon the generosity of their relatives and friends for the payment of their fares to and from the mental home so that they may enjoy a week-end away from the atmosphere of the mental home. The time has arrived when inmates of mental homes should receive the same consideration as the inmates of benevolent homes receive under this act, because one day a person could be an inmate of a benevolent home and the next day, because of advancing years, he could become mentally afflicted and be transferred from the benevolent home to a mental home, and so lose immediately the annual allowance of £85 16s., or £91 as it will be when this clause is put into effect. I hope that in preparing next year’s legislation the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) will give serious consideration to remedying this anomaly. Such action would involve an expenditure of only about £2,000,000; and it would remove a stigma which now attaches to a very unfortunate section of the community.
– I support the statements which have been made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). A tremendous effort is being made at the State Government level, particularly in New South Wales, to restore the mentally ill to health and to help them to become normal human beings again and to take their place in society. With the aid of modern drugs, a man who had been in a mental institution for 22 years, was recently restored to health and now is back in employment. Unfortunately, the only assistance that these people receive at present comes from organizations of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Batman. The poor unfortunate people who are mentally ill rely entirely upon the goodwill of people outside. Surely the Government has available to it the same information from medical superintendents and those in charge of mental institutions as is available to the Opposition. There is a pressing need for assistance of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Batman.
At present there is a great movement towards restoring the mentally ill to health. The Government should provide the States with the maximum amount of financial assistance to enable them to carry on this most important work of restoring mentally ill people to health. These unfortunate people should receive some training in handling money of their own. 1 raised this matter last year and I raise it again now because the Government, for some reason or other which I cannot ascertain, neglects to give any attention to it. Great organizations are being built up to assist the mentally ill to return to a place in society. I have just mentioned the case of a man who is back in employment after spending 22 years in an institution. Every week some mentally ill person is being restored to good health with the aid of modern treatment. In this modern age we are approaching the time when mental illness should be treated in the same way as is any other illness. Until we do so, a blot will remain on our social services system.
The Government should give the closest attention to the suggestion which has been advanced by the honorable member for Batman.
As I have said, I appealed to the Minister to do something along these lines last year, but apparently either his time or his interest was divorced completely from the proposals. There is an urgent need for assistance for these people. In fact, it is one of the most urgent needs in the community. I join with the honorable member for Batman in his appeal on behalf of that section of the community which deserves the most attention but receives the least.
– I am unwilling to delay the committee in its consideration of this clause, but I must deal with the views which have been expressed on this vexed question by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), the honorable for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and other honorable members from both sides of the chamber. The sorry fact remains that when a person who receives a social service benefit becomes mentally ill to the degree that he must enter a mental hospital, by that very process he goes into the charge, care and custody of the mental health authorities of the States. It is that sequence of events which disqualifies him from social service benefits. The benefit which he was receiving is suspended immediately because it is involved with the lunacy laws of the States and, in the normal course of events, payments cannot be made to the mentally ill person. But the situation is not quite as bad as honorable members imagine.
In the case of a married man who is in receipt of a social service pension and who enters a mental hospital and, therefore, comes under the care and custody of the health authorities of the State, his wife, in the natural sequence of events, immediately qualifies for a widow’s pension for which she would otherwise not qualify. Then, when the happy day arrives that the patient is discharged from the mental hospital as cured, his social service benefit is restored and is made retrospective for the four previous weeks.
The matter has been given consideration. I assure honorable members that I would like to do something more to assist these unfortunate people but. as I have said, the matter is involved with the lunacy laws of the States. If the honorable member opposite who has just made an unseemly noise thinks that this is a case for ribald laughter, his conception of what is serious and what is humorous is entirely different from mine.
– I am sorry to delay the committee at this late hour on this question, but the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has referred to what happens to patients when they enter mental hospitals. It is that very feature which has changed the whole complexion of the problem:. The change that has taken place makes it possible for this, or any other government, to provide the assistance which has been suggested by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and by myself.
Let me refer to a mental institution in New South Wales with which I am closely associated. Most of the patients in that hospital are just as capable of taking care of themselves as are a great number of patients in other State institutions. 1’he position is improving and every day people leave mental hospitals. There is the case of an aged person who finds it necessary to return to hospital for treatment extending over three, four, or even six weeks. In the intervening period, the pension ceases. At the time when the State is trying to restore completely the health of the individual this Government’s legislation prejudices the p’ossibility of the sick person being restored to health because the social service benefit ceases when the patient enters the hospital.
I ask the Minister not to look at the matter in the same way as he looked at it last year because, with the advent of modern drugs, conditions have changed. I appeal to the Minister to have another look at the matter or to detail officers who have some sympathy with these poor unfortunate people to investigate it for him. There is a simple solution to this problem.
– I should like to make a few comments on this matter. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) makes out that he is very sympathetic towards the mentally ill. I can suggest a very simple means by which the plight of a married man who has to enter an institution can be alleviated to some extent. The Minister has said that when a married man enters a mental hospital his wife immediately becomes eligible for the widow’s pension. But that does not help in meeting the husband’s incidental expenses. I. have in mind his clothes and the other things that are necessary in his everyday life. When he enters hospital all he receives is treatment for his mental condition. Whether a person is in a mental hospital, or any other hospital, he needs certain things. Let me play upon the Minister’s sympathy, and make the practical suggestion that an additional allowance be made to the wife, or a relative, of a patient who enters a mental institution. I am sure the Minister is not listening to what I am saying, and I wish he would listen. The Government should be practical and sympathetic in dealing with the unfortunate sufferers from mental illness. I suggest that an allowance somewhat in the nature of that made to the wife of an invalid pensioner - say, £2 or £3 a week - should be paid to the men and women of whom I am speaking, to provide the incidental items that are so essential in the every-day life of sufferers from mental illness. Such a payment would help to alleviate the worries of the relatives concerned and at the same time lighten the burden on State governments.
I have made a practical suggestion and the Government also should be practical. Never mind about all this theory. I get sick of listening to the theories that are dished up here. Let us be practical in our approach to the every-day problems of these people and do something for members of the community who most need help.
.- I wish to correct a statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is always attempting to pass the buck to the State governments. In my opinion - and I have had some experience of these matters - there is nothing that prevents the Commonwealth Government from coming into this field to a greater degree than it has in the past. I am quite certain that no State government would object to its doing so. I have listened to some of the contributions of members of the Opposition. They covered a pretty wide field and embodied very valuable suggestions.
Let me give an illustration of the way in which unfortunate sufferers from mental illness are penalized. In New South Wales - and no doubt the same is true of mental institutions in other States - if a person is considered to have recovered to some extent but is not due for discharge from a mental institution, he may be allowed, although he is still regarded as a certified inmate, to leave the institution for certain periods, subject to his returning periodically for examination. In many such cases the relatives have not sufficient means to provide for those persons and they are obliged to remain in the institutions, but in other cases, because they have not been discharged, and although they may be living outside the institutions, the Commonwealth refuses to pay them pensions. I do not believe there is any insurmountable difficulty in the way of the Commonwealth if it really wanted to find means to pay pensions to such men and women living outside mental institutions. But the Commonwealth does not pay pensions in those circumstances. The people concerned are obliged to depend on relatives to assume responsibility for their care during the period they are outside the institutions.
The Minister has said that in those circumstances the people concerned come under the control of the State lunacy authorities. Nobody is arguing about that. What we are arguing about is whether the Commonwealth is justified in completely cutting them off from relief because they have the misfortune to suffer from mental illness. If the Minister is not prepared to adopt other suggestions that have been made by members of the Opposition, I recommend that he should adopt the suggestion that the people to whom I have referred, although not discharged from an institution, should be entitled, while living in the care of relatives and still regarded as being under the control of the lunacy authorities, to receive the full Commonwealth benefit.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 25 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 26 (Application of amendments).
.- This clause relates to the date on which the pension shall be payable. It states, in part - (1.) The amendments made by this Act that come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, insofar as they affect instalments of pensions, apply in relation to an instalment of pension falling due on the first pension pay-day after that day and to all subsequent instalments.
In other words, the Government has refused any retrospectivity in the payment of the increased rates of pension. It is adamant that no increase shall be paid until the act receives the Royal Assent. In an earlier discussion this evening, the Minister stated that the Parliament was following the normal procedure, and on that procedure he based his case. But this Parliament is not bound by what happened last year or the year before, or ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago. This Parliament is the master of its destiny and may amend legislation as it thinks fit.
If we are going to say that because nothing was done ten years ago nothing should be done now, there is no need for the Parliament to meet. We meet regularly because we are always amending legislation. Our ideas change. We repeal legislation and introduce fresh legislation. From year to year, we amend acts in accordance with changing times. Although it has not been the practice in the past to make retrospective increases of pension payments there is no need for that practice to be observed in the future. After all, during the last ten years or so conditions have changed considerably. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in productivity. The Government claims that there is general prosperity, but unfortunately that prosperity has not been reflected in the circumstances of the recipients of social service benefits. Years ago it may have been a good argument that increases of pensions could not be paid from 1st July because the money was not available to do so, but this Government is always prating about the unprecedented prosperity of the country. Why not give a little of that prosperity to the recipients of social service benefits? Surely we have the right to correct the mistakes of the past.
Any member of this Parliament who says that because somet hing was done here ten or twenty years ago we have to adhere to it to-day, has no right to be here because he is not a man of progressive ideas. The personnel of this Parliament changes. The Labour Party may have thought, in 1945 or 1946, that increases of pension rates should not be paid until after the relevant legislation had received the Royal Assent, but I point out that the composition of the Labour Party in this place has changed considerably since then. Ideas change and individuals change, too. Surely no member of this Parliament would claim that he has the same ideas to-day that he had ten or twenty years ago. I would be ashamed to admit that every idea I had twenty years ago remained fixed in my mind to-day. Circumstances change, ideas change and conditions change. Because of that, the decisions of the past are not as immutable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians.
The principle of retrospectivity is not a new one so far as this Parliament is concerned. I remember the hullabaloo that was caused last year when the members of this Parliament decided to give themselves a not very small increase in their pay. But they did not say, “ We will get the payment after the Governor-General signs the act “. Not on your life! They said that it would operate from a date three or four months prior to the date of the Royal Assent. I do not remember many members of this Parliament getting up and saying that they opposed the back-dating of that increase of pay for three or four months because we did not do the same thing with increases of pensions. They certainly forgot the argument that is applied to recipients of social service benefits when they were considering their own payments.
The same argument applies to the increase of judges’ salaries. Surely nobody would say that the judges could not have carried on with the not altogether small stipend they were receiving at the time that legislation was introduced to grant them an increase. We back-dated their payments. But when we get to ‘ the lowest strata, economically speaking, in our civilized community, namely the pensioners, we say that they may not receive increases of pensions until the Governor-General signs the relevant act. I suggest that we should be consistent. We are elected to work for the progress of the Commonwealth and of its people. Because a previous Parliament has said that a certain thing should not be done, there is no need for us to refrain from doing it. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), in an endeavour to prove that an alteration of procedure by the Government was justified, stated earlier to-night that the fact that an incorrect procedure had been carried on for the last 40 or 50 years was no reason why we should perpetuate it. That argument is all right, but let the Minister for Immigration apply it in this instance and be consistent.
Here we are concerned with people who are living from hand to mouth. Nobody can truthfully say that £5 a week is a very large stipend. Surely this Parliament can find the money needed to pay to pensioners the additional £3 or so that they would receive if these increases were dated back to 1st July. Even with the increase of 5s. a week in the pension the unfortunate pensioners will find it very difficult to make do from week to week. I suggest that in this matter the good name of the Parliament is at stake. If it is good enough to make increases in our own allowances retrospective, it is good enough to make retrospective increases in pensions for those people who unfortunately are not in the same favorable economic circumstances as we are.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I was impressed by the arguments of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). After all, why has the Government decided to increase pensions? Was this decision made because the cost of living had decreased, because it had remained the same or because it had increased? If the reason was that the cost of living had increased, the higher pensions should be paid from the time within the current financial year from which the cost of living had risen. I may point out that the last announcement of cost-of-living figures revealed that in the quarter to which they related the cost of living in Victoria had increased by 18s. a week. The increase in the cost of living which presumably was responsible for the decision by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Government to increase pensions should also determine the date from which the increases are paid. The Government should not pay pension increases made as a result of an increase in the cost of living dating from July as late in the financial year as it possibly can.
– Do you not think that you are wasting your time? Look at the Minister’s face.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Scullin should be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
-I am probably wasting my time with respect to the Minister, but the people outside this Parliament expect us to do what we can to induce those who enjoy the abundant good things of this land, and who live in the lap of luxury and occupy positions such as that occupied by the Minister, to do something for the people who are less able to look after themselves. As the honorable member for Batman pointed out, a government’s attitude smacks of hypocrisy when that government increases the emoluments of those who support it and of its Ministers and back-dates the increases but refuses to back-date increases in pensions. This Government increased travelling allowances for some Ministers to £12 a day and dated the increases back Cor a considerable period. It also increased the Prime Minister’s salary by about £60 a week and dated the increase back for a similar period. I point out, too, that we recently increased the salaries of higher-paid public servants and said that they were entitled to receive the increases retrospectively. We gave some of them increases of £20 a week and made all the increases retrospective to the time of the increase in the cost-of-living. The attitude was that this would give justice to those public servants. If that was good enough for them, the same sort of thing is good enough for the pensioners.
No amount ‘of argument or quibbling about what has been done in the past will exonerate the Minister. I know him and I know the Ministry. When the Government decided to make the increases in parliamentary allowances retrospective - and it will take the same attitude when those emoluments are next increased - it was not concerned about whether or not previous increases in those allowances had been paid retrospectively. It just said, “ We shall make these increases retrospec tive “. It was quite entitled to do that, and it had the power to do it. It has the power to pay these increased pensions retrospectively, but it will not exercise that power. It will not pay these increases retrospectively, because it represents the vested interests in this community. It serves only those interests and it is out to protect its own privileges and conditions as well as those of the predatory capitalistic gang that supports it and maintains it in office. The Government’s attitude towards pensioners, and especially age pensioners, is neither honest nor honorable.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the committee is indebted to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) for having pointed out to the Government again the glaring anomaly and injustice of its refusal to date back until 1st July last the meagre and miserable pension increases for which this bill provides. We live in an age of atomic energy, automation and bookkeeping and accounting machines of unparalleled capacity and efficiency. Yet the Government evidently thinks that the calculations that would be required if pension increases of 5s. a week were back-dated for a couple of months would be too complicated. I cannot see any justification for the Government’s attitude. I do not see why it quibbles over this matter in the face of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Scullin, even if there were no other argument in favour of the backdating of these pension increases. Salary increases of £18 and £20 a week for judges, members of Parliament and high public servants have been back-dated for months. Why does the Government refuse to date these pension increases back to 1st July last? The financial year on which its financial affairs are based commences on 1st July. Why should not an increase in any benefit paid under Commonwealth legislation date from the beginning of the financial year?
We have been told that the Labour Government and other governments did not date increases in benefits from the beginning of the financial year. The Labour Government may have been at fault and it may not. The fact is that this Government now has the power to do what we ask, and the failure of earlier governments to take similar action is no reason why the present Government should perpetuate mistakes or the old ideas. As the honorable member for Batman has said, the fact that something was not done twenty yearsago is no excuse for a government not doing that very thing to-day. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Government refuses to do as we ask. Its refusal would perhaps be understandable if the increases amounted to £5 or £10 a week. But we are here concerned with only a miserable addition of 5s. a week to a mere pittance. Indeed, the additional 5s. hardly seems worth taking. It represents only about 8d. a day. Yet the Government will not date it back a couple of months.
What is restraining the Government? When all is said and done, although 8d. a day may not seem much to many people, it means a little more to pensioners, and the Government’s refusal to date these increases back to 1st July is unforgivable. I wonder what reasons the Government can advance for its refusal. Surely lack of money is not the reason. It will have to find money for these increases anyway, and very little more would be required if they were paid as from 1st July. Surely the reason for the Government’s refusal is not the inability of the acountancy experts in the Department of Social Services to make the necessary calculations. As I have already pointed out, in this day and age we have marvellous accounting machines which could do the job. Indeed, they would reduce it to mere routine. I do not think the pensioners would mind if the payment of the increases were delayed for a couple of weeks, or even three or four weeks, to enable the necessary calculations to be made, so long as the increases were backdated to 1st July.
In my view, neither this Government nor any other has given a reasonable excuse for not back-dating increases in social service benefits to the beginning of the financial year. I believe that something should be done to rectify the matter. I urge the Minister in his wisdom, if it is possible for him to exercise wisdom, to be just and tolerant in his understanding of the needs of pensioners - I appeal to his lighter and more sentimental side now - and to see whether even at this stage he can back-date these pension increases to 1st July.
Having to wait until the passage of this measure for the payment of the increases is bad enough. I understand that those who are affected by the new merged means test proposal will have to wait until about next March before they will receive any benefit. For all that the benefit will be worth to them for the remainder of this financial year by the time they receive it they may as well wait until the beginning of next financial year. These things are well worth considering. Government supporters may snarl and sneer and sit down and interject. Let them get up and defend the legislation.
– When we do speak you walk out.
– Wake up! You have been sitting there all night like dummies. You know full well this is unjust, but all you do is to interject, instead of getting up and defending this legislation. You know it is indefensible. If you think it is just and reasonable, stand up and say so. I know you will not do that, but you will go to your pensioner organizations and tell them that in the party room you tried to get them this pittance, but the Minister was hardhearted and would not agree to your request. You sit here to-night as silent as the grave.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I am just pointing out the shortcomings of the Government, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and particularly I left your party alone, hoping for a little tolerance. The point I am making is that this payment should be back-dated to 1st July. The payments to the people coming within the scope of the new means test should be paid well before March of next year because by then nine months of this financial year will have elapsed. If these people have to wait until March of next year, the total amount they will receive will be meagre, because at the most it will last only for about three months, if the usual pattern is followed.
I ask the Minister to tell me why the Government cannot commence payments from 1st July. This seems to me to be a reasonable question, and it demands a reasonable answer. No reasonable explanation has ever been given. This is probably the only legislation in which payments are not made retrospective. As I mentioned earlier, people in much higher categories, who are well able to afford a loss of income, have their payments back-dated, and I am not quibbling at that. Probably it is right that their payments should commence from that time. You will find also that the industrial court has made payments retrospective for a week or two, a month or even more. Why take it out. for the sake of a few miserable pounds, on the most deserving section of the community?
The Government is certainly not giving the widows anything, so they will not be affected by the back-dating of these payments. The Government has not given the widows anything for a generation. It is not giving unemployed people any extra. People in receipt of child endowment will not receive any extra, but in the one piece of legislation where the Government has magnificently or - to use the Minister’s own word, exhilaratingly - increased the pension by a miserable £13 a year. 5s. a week or 8d. a day, it refuses to back-date the payment a couple of months. It is scandalous in the extreme, unforgivable, and a most contemptible action by a government which has introduced a Budget of £1,700,000,000.
Shortly there will be a by-election in the division of Calare, and the people of that electorate will pass judgment on this Government for its callous and unjust treatment of this section of the community. These things are worth remembering when we have this kind of crime - if I may use that word - perpetrated in this country. I repeat that these people are entitled to payment from 1st July. The Government’s action is unforgivable, and it is beyond my comprehension why it will not back-date this payment. We hear of all kinds of appeals made by the Government from time to time in an effort to assist people.
I mentioned earlier in the debate that we are spending millions of pounds on immigration. I am not quibbling at that at all. We are bringing to this country people who unfortunately are suffering from certain ailments and disabilities. If we are prepared to do that to build up our population, why not do something in the most practical way to assist those who are already here? We could do that by back-dating this miserable increase of 5s. for a couple of months. I hope that the Minister will take heed of what has been said by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), and by other speakers on this side.
I should think it would be within the Minister’s own power to give these people back-dated payments. It is not very much to ask. It is not very much, even for a Liberal Government, to condescend to do, and I appeal to the Government of the day to see that it is done. I listened to members of the Country Party, but I take little notice of them, with due respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I take little notice of interjections made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), because he will not be here for very long. But while he is here it would be better if he did a little for these people who are deserving of his sympathy by agreeing to support this move to back-date these payments to 1st July. It is all very well for honorable members to sit idly and smugly. They are enjoying good salaries, while many people have only £5 a week on which to live. By back-dating their payment a couple of months, the Government would alleviate their appalling living conditions and assist them to meet the high cost of living that has been caused by it.
Therefore, I appeal to the Minister’s wisdom, tolerance, and understanding in the hope that his heart will be touched. He knows full well that countless thousands of people will be affected by this legislation, particularly those who are endeavouring to get the rent allowance of 10s a week, in respect of which a most vicious means test is imposed. I ask the Minister to back-date this 5s. payment in order to assist them and make their lives a little easier. When I look at honorable members opposite, I am certainly not hopeful that their hearts will be touched by my plea. I doubt whether there is any kindness in their hearts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to ask two questions. I do not wish to make a contribution to the debate so much as to ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to answer these questions, if he would. I do not mind giving the Minister time to obtain the information from his officers, because these are important questions. First, is it possible for people who are, at the moment, not eligible for a pension on account of the operation of the existing means test, to make their application at once so that by March, 1961, they will be eligible immediately - assuming their claims have been processed - for the payment of pensions in accordance with the new means test, or must they wait until after March before making application?
I now come to the other matter I should like to ask the Minister to explain, so that the public will know the true position. My understanding of the new means test is that when a man reaches 65 years of age, and his wife also is of pensionable age, they are entitled to have a combined income of £17 a week. If that man is earning £15 a week under an award of some industrial court, on attaining 65 years of age, is he entitled to continue working at the award rate prescribed for his work and, because he is 65 and his wife is 60, to apply for part pensions for himself and his wife which, on the figures I have quoted, would amount to £1 a week each? My understanding of the new means test is that he would have the right to do that, even though still working fulltime and receiving £15 a week in accordance with an award. I notice that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is shaking his head.
– If the honorable member would care to come and have a talk to me, T will explain it to him.
– The reason 1 ask the question is that I have personally raised this matter with an officer of the Department of Social Services. I told the officer that I would not use his name. He isa highly placed officer. He is not the secretary of the department, nor is he the director. He told me in all good faith that he understood that that was how the scheme would operate. At the same time, he pointed out that it would affect few people in any event, and that it was a kind of lap-over anomaly - if you like to call it an anomaly - that could not be avoided. He said he would not like to be dogmatic, but he could imagine no other meaning of the provision. I realized that I had no right to expect him to give a ruling on a matter that is really the prerogative of the Minister. All I ask is for the Minister to tell the country just what would be the position in a case such as the one I have quoted. To repeat my question, I should like to know whether a man who is earning less than £17 a week from permanent employment can claim, as a pension, the difference between his earnings and the £17 a week which is the permissible income, including the pension, for a man and his wife.
Thursday, 22 September 1960
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, before they are forgotten, may I answer the two questions asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron)? If the honorable member had paid any attention to my secondreading speech, he would have heard me say, amongst other things, that there is to be no alteration in the application of the means test in its present form as far as income is concerned. The permissible limit for income remains at £182 per annum for a single person and at double that, of course, for a married couple if both are in receipt of a pension. Income in excess of either of those two amounts reduces the pension payable by the amount of the excess. That is the present position, and there will be no change. That is the reply to the second question of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
His first question dealt with the merged means test, which was explained in the second-reading speech and in the discussions that have taken place since then. To-day, I made a public statement suggesting that people should make application for social service benefits under the merged means test in the new year. No useful purpose would be served by any one making an application now under the merged means test provision, because it would not be competent for the department to assess the entitlement now for a pension which could not be paid until March. The circumstances of people change from time to time, and change very rapidly. As soon as the applications are received by the department they will be processed and the assessments of entitlement will be made. That will be done in March, it is expected. It will be done then if it is physically possible.
I have already replied to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who suggested that retrospective payments should be made. I repeat now what was said by the late Joseph Benedict Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, and by the late John Curtin when he was Prime Minister, when the same proposition was put to them. They said that it would not be possible to give favorable consideration to a proposal of that kind.
– Why not?
– All honorable members know that it is the responsibility of the Treasurer of any Government to draw up a budget consistent with the estimates of revenue that have been approved by the Cabinet in the normal process of budgetmaking. It is the height of absurdity to expect any Treasurer to provide in a budget for retrospective payment of sums of the magnitude of those expended by my department. 1 have mentioned the honorable member for Scullin and the honorable member for Batman. I mention the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) with a great deal of disfavour. A great many members have expressed, in a variety of ways, their pleasure and delight at the introduction and prospective passing of this piece of legislation, but no honorable member has expressed greater delight and shown more enthusiasm than the honorable member for Grayndler. He is excited at the prospect of the improvement in the social services scheme of our country which will result from the passing of this legislation. Both he and his staff come to my office every day, pleading for additional copies of the explanatory documents which I provided when the Budget was introduced, pleading for additional copies of my secondreading speech, and on every occasion expressing great personal satisfaction at the prospect of the passing of the legislation.
.- The Minister for Social Services still has not clarified the matter that
I put to him. All that he has said is that mere has been no change in the income means test. Let us accept that there has been no change.
– I rise to order! To what clause is the honorable member speaking?
– I am speaking to clause 26.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause and not to labour the subject he is dealing with.
-I rise to order. Clause 26 is, for all practical purposes, the same as clause 2, and deals exclusively with the commencement of the legislation.
– There is nothing wrong with asking this question. I want to clarify a point concerning which I have already asked a question. The Minister has partly answered it. I am going to take only half a minute.
– I gave you great latitude when you first spoke to the clause. I suggest that you allow the honorable member for Hughes to speak. You have spoken once.
– I am not the only member of the Opposition who wants to speak. I am aware of eight or ten who have been desperately trying to put their point of view for some considerable time.
– They have suffered from the gag.
– That is so. Never before has so little been said in reply to so many. This has been a most disappointing evening. I have sat here, listening intently, from the time that the debate started. Most of the substantial and impressive points raised by the Opposition have not been answered by the Minister. That is in sharp contrast with the situation that I observed last Sunday, when the honorable gentleman was in my electorate. Not having to withstand any opposition, he was able to wax very eloquent about aged persons homes and to squeeze every miserable vote that he could out of the situation. To-night, when he- has to face opposition and when a democratic situation prevails, he does not conduct himself in an impressive manner.
I am concerned with clause 26, as I am sure you will be gratified to know, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I was interested to hear the Minister indicate on several occasions that he was intent on getting the preparations for giving effect to the merged means test under way in January, so that everything would be ready by next March. With the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), I have been wondering why the Minister does not start preparing to implement the merged means test now, in order that it may come into operation before next March.
– Order! The merged means test is not related to clause 26.
– I will make a passing reference to that point. If the preparations were made now, the merged means test could be put into effect in January. That would allow the Government the same amount of time as it now proposes to use to prepare for the change, but people would have the benefit of the merged means test a lot earlier than is now proposed.
Dealing precisely with clause 26, I am anxious to establish a few points. I think most honorable members are aware that there has been confusion about various aspects of the social service legislation for some time. Many people have been deprived of the benefit of the annuity arrangements because they have never been encouraged by the Government to understand them.
– I rise to order. How does the honorable gentleman relate these remarks to the clause under discussion?
– Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to keep to the clause.
– That is precisely what I am going to do, if I am not frustrated by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who seems to spend his time interrupting the proceedings of the committee. If he did not do so, we would be able to get to the point very much quicker. The marginal note to this clause reads “ Application of amendments “.I want to ensure that the general constituency is fully cognizant of the provisions of the legislation. The Government should consider setting out the provisions of the new means test in pamphlet form and make them available at all post offices. If that had been done in respect of annuities, the position would have been much more satisfactory. The honorable member for Hume is now belatedly coming to appreciate the relevance of my remarks.
– Order! The honorable member must not canvass the Chair’s ruling. The question before the committee relates to the time when the amendments will come into operation.
– That is so. I have made the point that if work on this matter started now the provisions would come into operation in January instead of March. If we wait until January to start making preparations, it is obvious that we shall not get any practical benefit from these amendments until March. If the benefit is to be obtained in either January or March, it is clear that the general constituency will need the benefit of very detailed information. The position in regard to annuities was never understood. I have asked the Minister repeatedly whether he would give some consideration to publishing the provisions in pamphlet form, and I again ask him that question.
– Order! Unless the honorable member keeps to the clause, I cannot allow him to continue.
– I simply ask the Minister to consider the suggestion that appropriate literature be prepared for distribution at all post offices so that many people who would otherwise be deprived of the benefit of the new means test might get the benefit, I hope, in January. I trust that the Government will be discouraged from languishing in this matter and that the proposal will be brought to finality in January rather than in March.
Mr.KILLEN (Moreton) [12.13 a.m.].I shall take precisely 30 seconds of the committee’s time I think that a very fair question has been put to the Minister and to the committee by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), concerning clause 26, which relates to the application of the amendments. Here I am dealing with the substance of the provision. The honorable gentleman inquired about the position of a person who was drawing £15 a week. As I see it, that would represent an income of £780 a year.
– Order! That has nothing to do with clause 26, which is now under discussion.
– How can you apply the amendment to something when you do not have anything running in the amendment? You cannot apply the amendment to nothing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The amendments have been dealt with in previous clauses.
– This amendment?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! This clause relates to the application of the amendments - not a specific amendment. I hope that the honorable gentleman will confine his remarks to the clause, as we want to get the bill through.
– With very great respect, the Chair allowed a discussion of this matter & moment or so ago.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I do not intend to allow any more discussion of it.
– I simply trespass on the committee’s time for half a second. An income of £780 a year, which is equivalent to £15 a week, is for a couple, £416 in excess of the allowable amount of £182 for each person.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is not addressing his remarks to the clause.
– I just despair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I want to raise with the Minister a point regarding clause 26. Clause 2, which has already been approved by the committee, reads -
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
If the act comes into being, I imagine that all the benefits that accrue - they are very few - should be paid from that date. It is clear that the act becomes effective on the day on which it receives the royal assent. Clause 26 appears to provide a means by which the Minister may gyp these unfortunate pensioners of the increased rate for about thirteen days, because it is said that pensions are paid in advance. If the first pension pay-day after the royal assent is thirteen days later, the pensioners will not get the benefit of the increase till thirteen days after the royal assent has been given to the measure. The increase for those thirteen days will have been permanently lost to pensioners. This will be in conflict with a decision already made by the committee in regard to clause 2.
I ask the Minister: How can the pensioner benefit from the provisions of this bill as from the day on which it receives the royal assent if he gets no increase at all until approximately thirteen days later? The matter could be dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner only if the royal assent happened to be given on a pension pay-day, that is, if the dates coincided. If the next pension pay-day is thirteen days after the date of the royal assent, the pensioners will lose the increase for thirteen days. I think that this is because it is well known that the Minister in his other activities outside the Parliament has always expressed great disapproval of the payment of social service benefits at all. He regards them as a form of charity. Consequently, I think this is only another of his snide moves to deprive these unfortunate people of a few pence.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I just want to ask one question.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Roberton) read a first time.
House adjourned at 12.31 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Crop-dusting Aircraft Accidents.
y asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing” the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers: -
r asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Trade with South America.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The mission is organized and ‘financed by the Commonwealth through the Department of Trade. This is a survey mission organized for the purpose of seeking fullest possible information on the export potential to Australia of this vast area. In this respect it differs from the normal trade missions in which members set out as representatives of their firms and organizations to seek selling opportunities for their products and pay their own way. 3. (a) The mission comprises the following: - R. A. Simpson, leader - a Sydney businessman with years of business experience in South America.
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What was the (a) quantity and (b) value of Australian wool exported to each Communist country during each of the last five years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is shown in the following table: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
How many import licences were issued to import plywood from Japan, the United States of America and other countries during (a) 1958-59, (b) 1959-60 and (c) each month from January to August of this year?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No record is kept of the number of import licences issued as this information would not serve any useful purpose.
The value of imports of plywood during 1958-59, 1959-60 and for the first seven months of 1960 (the latest preliminary monthly figures available) was as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
To what countries has Australia appointed Trade Commissioners?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Australia has appointed Trade Commissioners to 23 countries. These, together with the more important territories under the control of the respective posts, are -
United Kingdom -
London - United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
New Zealand -
Wellington - New Zealand and Pacific Islands.
Auckland - North Island of New Zealand.
Christchurch - South Island of New Zealand.
Djakarta - Indonesia.
Tokyo - Japan, Korea and Okinawa.
United States of America -
Washington - Whole of United States of America.
New York - Eastern and Southern United States of America, Mexico.
San Francisco - Western United States of America.
Chicago - Central Northern United States of America.
New Dehli - Northern India.
Bombay - Southern India.
Calcutta - Eastern India and Burma.
Singapore - Singapore, Borneo Territories.
Paris - France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
German Federal Republic -
Bonn - Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Netherlands.
South Africa -
Johannesburg - Union of South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Angola, Mozambique.
Rhodesia and Nyasaland -
Salisbury - Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Congo Republic.
Nairobi - Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Ethiopia.
Accra - Ghana, Nigeria.
Montreal - Eastern Canadian Provinces.
Vancouver - Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Hong Kong - Hong Kong.
Kuala Lumpur - Malaya.
Manila - Philippines and Taiwan.
Colombo - Ceylon.
Rome - Italy, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Malta.
West Indies -
Trinidad - West Indies, all Central America other than Mexico, South America.
United Arab Republic -
Cairo - United Arab Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan, Sudan.
Stockholm - Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Norway.
Bangkok - Laos, Viet Nam, Cambodia.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600921_reps_23_hor28/>.