23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. A number of people from Melbourne, who have been unemployed for a long period and have suffered extreme hardship, are here this afternoon. I ask the Minister why he will not see these people, as it is directly his departmental responsibility to ensure their re-employment. Will the honorable gentleman say what concrete steps he has taken, as a Minister, to overcome unemployment in the industries that have been adversely affected by the Government’s policy?
– It is a wellestablished policy of mine - and one that was followed by my predecessor as Minister for Labour and National Service - that representations on the problems of employment and unemployment will be received from the Australian Council of Trade Unions or the federal executive of any of the unions affiliated with the A.C.T.U. or of the Australian Workers Union. That has long been the policy and it is one to which we should, I think, adhere. On the political level, I should mention that the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales will not permit its own members to be associated with representations made by these socalled employment councils. Sir, if the A.C.T.U. wishes me to receive a deputation from its own executive, I will be only too happy to do so.
As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I believe that the action taken on three occasions during the course of the year prior to the Budget, through the Budget itself and through the Australian Loan Council, has done much to create conditions under which we can expect increasing employment opportunities to be provided. I should also make it clear that the Commonwealth Employment Service has placed some 267,000 people in employment in the last nine months.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Territories a question concerning the Humpty Doo rice project in the Northern Territory. Can the honorable gentleman say what is the area presently under rice cultivation and whether this is an appropriate time for other interested persons to apply for land?
– We hope that about 2,000 acres of land at Humpty Doo will be sown with rice and harvested this year in the season. Work on the preparation of the land is proceeding now. Until ploughing and land preparations are completed one cannot give an exact figure, but we hope the area will be about 2,000 acres as J have said.
To answer the second part of the honorable member’s question, it is necessary for me to draw a distinction between the business affairs of the company, Territory Rice Limited, which is the leaseholder of the Humpty Doo area - and as honorable members know is in some present financial difficulty and is undergoing reconstruction - and a subsidiary known as Rice Development Limited which, pending the reconstruction of the parent company, is actually concerning itself with continuation of the growing of rice. The four farmers who are working at Humpty Doo now are doing so under arrangements with Rice Development Limited solely for the purpose of producing rice. In the season just closed, they harvested about 1,250 tons of rice and sold it quite advantageously overseas at about £65 a ton. That sale showed that rice-growing under farm conditions is almost, on balance, an economic proposition.
This year’s further experiment with four farmers growing 2,000 acres of rice, we hope, will prove the economic practicability of rice-farming in that particular area. If that proof is conclusive, then in the following season we fully expect both the company and, one hopes, the Government will be taking measures to throw open other land to people who want to engage in ricegrowing.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister as Acting Treasurer. As the Government is at present paying a rate of interest on Commonwealth-State loans which, according to the Government’s claims, represents a return of nearly double the rate when tax remission is taken into account and is equal to the average yield from wellestablished companies, how does the right honorable gentleman explain, first, the Government’s inability to attract the money it needs and, secondly, the necessity to supplement the loan programme out of revenue?
– If the honorable member is concerned about failure of the loan market, I am sure he will be very happy to know that the present loan is going extremely well.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Trade I refer to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Bass about a fortnight ago. In view of the serious problem facing the Australian timber industry, can the Minister inform the House whether arrangements are in train or have been completed for interested members of the timber milling industry in Australia to present their case to the Government?
– I answered a question that was asked by the honorable member for Bass on 31st August on this subject and subsequently advised the honorable member that I would be willing to meet representatives of the Tasmanian timber industry if he would arrange for them to come to Canberra to meet me and subsequently to meet the appropriate officers of the Department of Trade. That arrangement stands. I have since been told by the honorable member for Bass that the Australian timber industry wishes to join in the discussions and accordingly, would like to widen the scope ot the interview. I am informed that the Australian industry desires that some other members of Parliament should assist the honorable member for Bass in presenting a case. 1 am willing to meet them and they will meet officers of the department later. I understand that other honorable members from other States will also attend.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. As the Italian
Government, in order to alleviate hardship, is giving additional assistance to Italian immigrants in Australia who are receiving the unemployment benefit, will the Australian Government take similar action and give additional assistance, in cases where hardship exists, to Australians who are receiving the unemployment benefit?
– The action that the Government intends to take with regard to the unemployment benefit was set out in the Budget papers, and we are not proposing to alter the Budget. The legislation will be dealt with by the Parliament.
– I address my question to the Minister for Repatriation. As the Repatriation Department undertakes the transport of handicapped ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen to and from repatriation hospitals and many other places, will the Minister consider the desirability of obtaining specially designed motor vehicles, on to which patients in wheel chairs can be wheeled and in which they can then be transported? This would overcome much of the difficulty sometimes experienced in transferring patients from wheel chairs to conventional vehicles and back again.
– The honorable member is right in saying that the Repatriation Department transports disabled exservicemen to and from repatriation hospitals and clinics for examination or treatment. I think I am right in saying that the vehicles used are ordinary motor cars, or ambulances when required. It might be useful and economic to obtain special vehicles for the purpose, and I will gladly look into the suggestion. I will do so the more readily because I know that the honorable member for Mallee, as a result of his own war experience, speaks with some knowledge of the repatriation system.
– Will the Minister for Social Services say whether the Cabinet has yet considered the proposal that eligibility for the unemployment benefit should commence from the date on which the person concerned becomes unemployed, instead of seven days after he makes application for unemployment relief? If the Cabinet has not considered it, will the
Minister be prepared to recommend that the proposal be favorably considered?
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh is spared politically on 9th December, he may learn that it is not competent for any one to say what has been discussed or what is likely to be discussed in the Cabinet. As I have had cause to say on a number of occasions, every aspect of social services is carefully examined from time to time, and decisions are reached which, it is considered, meet the circumstances of the moment.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. One portion of the question possibly bears some similarity to a question asked by the honorable member for Wills, but without the window dressing. Can the Minister say whether the actions taken by the Government to assist the building industry and improve the employment situation in that industry have yet shown any noticeable result? If they have not, when does the Minister expect an up-turn in the industry?
– I have watched the employment statistics, particularly those relating to the building industry, very closely. I am glad to be able to tell the honorable member that the best information I can get concerning the home-building industry is that those best situated to know the position expect that within the next few months building commencements will be of an order equivalent to about 80,000 per annum, which is regarded as a satisfactory figure. I shall have to obtain for the honorable gentleman information in relation to commercial building, but I should like to mention some projects references to which I have noticed in Sydney newspapers in recent weeks. First, there is the intention of the Reserve Bank Board to go ahead with a building for the Reserve Bank. Then there is a proposal in relation to a central exchange building, a building for the Pearl Assurance Company Limited, and four or five other projects including the Qantas hotel. This is evidence on which one can conclude that commercial building activities will provide a reasonable amount of employment during the coming months.
– On 7th September the Minister for Labour and National Service, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Fawkner, stated -
During the course of the last few weeks, there has been a quite noticeable fall in the numbers of Commonwealth-assisted migrant workers in Bonegilla camp awaiting first placement.
– Order! Is the honorable member quoting from “ Hansard “?
– I am, because it is the basis of my question.
– To whom is the question addressed?
– To the Minister for Labour and National Service. (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! There are far too many interjections. If honorable members will not cease interjecting during question time I shall have to deal with them.
– The Minister continued in this way -
I think the numbers as at this morning totalled something less than 900 workers there. That is a substantial fall from the peak period of a few weeks ago.
I now ask the Minister: Is it not a fact, as disclosed in the Department of Immigration’s figures, that whereas when this Parliament met on 15th August the number of migrant workers housed at Bonegilla seeking employment was 1,439 and the number at Benalla was 210, the number housed at Bonegilla yesterday was 1,662 and the number at Benalla 201? Do these figures not in fact represent an increase of 223 at Bonegilla and a fall of only nine at Benalla? If the Department of Immigration figures are correct-
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition must ask his question.
– If I am trespassing, I ask the Minister directly and very bluntly this question: Will he try in future to present the facts to the House and not try to mislead it?
– I was very careful in the phrases that I used and the figures that I cited. I had checked those figures on that particular morning with the experts responsible for their compilation. The honorable gentleman has not been very careful in the language that he has used. He commenced his question by referring to the number of workers at Bonegilla awaiting initial employment. The figure of less than 900 for migrant workers which I mentioned on 7th September was correct. The Leader of the Opposition then went on to refer to the number of people housed at Bonegilla yesterday as 1,662, which is a totally different group.
– I said housed and unemployed.
– If any one is guilty of misrepresentation, it is the Leader of the Opposition. (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! I must direct the attention of honorable members to their behaviour generally and to the fact that they are contravening the Standing Orders. By their actions they are interfering with the rights of other honorable members who seek information on matters of urgency. Unless there is a greater degree of co-operation from all honorable members the only alternative will be to suggest that question time be brought to an end. I call the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National. Service aware that many primary industries in the north of Australia, particularly in the electorates of Kalgoorlie and the Northern Territory, are unable to develop satisfactorily because of a shortage of labour? Will the honorable gentleman have published in the metropolitan press information as to employment opportunities which exist in the northern areas?
– I was not aware that the facts were as mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I shall have the Department of Labour and National Service look into the matter and I shall obtain the figures for him. As to the second part of the question, I think that publication of the information in the metropolitan newspapers would present difficulties. Nonetheless, I shall discuss the matter with the department, and I assure the honorable gentleman that if we can do something practical to help, we shall.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Government decide before the election whether it will support a reserve floor price wool-marketing scheme, or will it carry on a no-decision contest until polling day? Was the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry appointed to make a decision before the election or to stall off a decision until after the election has been held?
– Apparently the honorable member wishes to anticipate the report of the committee of inquiry that has been appointed. That is not the attitude of the Government. The Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation made it clear that they wish to see the report when it is presented and to review its contents in order that they may make their recommendations to me before the Government makes its final determination. That is the position as it stands.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Has he had an opportunity to investigate my submission that a rebate or allowance be made to blind pensioners in respect of installation and rental charges for telephones? If so, what decision has been arrived at?
– I should just like tobe sure that the honorable member refers particularly to representations concerning rental charges and the like for telephonesfor pensioners. Is that correct?
– For blind pensioners.
– Yes. This subject has been under review for a considerable time by both myself and my colleague; the Minister for Social Services. Therehas been quite a lot of correspondenceabout it. The matter was thoroughly discussed and considered at the recent meetings of the Cabinet to determine the Budget, and because of the other concessions in the field of social services which arebeing increased all the time, it was decided that no change be made in this- respect. It was decided, also, that as a variety of concessions in respect of telephone rentals, call charges and so on, about which I often receive requests on behalf of various classes of pensioners, come properly within the fields of social services and repatriation, they can be better determined by the trained officers of the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department, and, in future, representations on those matters will be considered by the officers of those two departments.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the one asked by the honorable member for Wills. As the unemployed people who are present in the precincts of this House to-day are constituents of Victorian electorates, particularly Melbourne suburban electorates, will the right honorable gentleman request members from Victoria who sit on the Government side of the House to meet these unemployed people in King’s Hall after question time in order that those honorable members may hear authentic accounts of the plight of these unfortunate people as a result of the Government’s credit squeeze?
– I know nothing about the people who are here to-day. I heard about them only at question time. I do not know what their authority is or how far-
– They are citizens.
– Order! The honorable member for Wills will restrain himself.
– He cannot; he lacks discipline. I do not know with what authority these people speak or how representative they are. I do not think that any honorable members who are busy occupy their time in talking to any private individual who comes along for an interview.
– Why not?
– I am much too busy to do it and I would have thought that the honorable member would have been too busy. Really, this is a matter on which my Victorian colleagues are well capable of informing their own minds and arriving at their own decisions.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General relating to the installation of private automatic branch exchanges, which are officially known as P.A.B.X.’s. I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to continue its policy of having the greater number of P.A.B.X.’s installed by private contractors. If so, what effect will this policy have on the entry of more apprentices into the technical services of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and what effect will it have on the utilization of the present technical staff in Western Australia, in particular on staff employed in the P.A.B.X. installation section?
– It is several years now since the department adopted the practice of allowing the installation of P.A.B.X. equipment to be made by private contractors, always with the condition that this equipment had to comply with departmental specifications and that the department supervised its installation and carried out all necessary maintenance work required on it. That practice has proved to be very successful. As a result of its adoption, great inroads have been made on the growing number of outstanding applications. Even with these contracts, the rate of applications is still such as to ensure that all Post Office staff needed for supervision and maintenance work in this particular field will be fully occupied for a long time ahead. There is no possibility of there being any retrenchments in that technical staff as a result of this phase of the department’s activities.
I would point out, too, that applications for telephones continue to increase and, therefore, there is a continuing demand for the services of our technical staff. Because of this continuing demand, we find it necessary to keep on augmenting that staff from time to time by appointing apprentices. That practice will continue.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by referring to the approval given last year for a grant of up to £29,500 from the Fisheries Development Trust Account to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to enable a survey to be made of the barracouta industry in Bass Strait. I now ask the Minister whether he can say what steps have been taken to obtain a suitable vessel for the survey and when we can expect this survey to commence.
– 1 am not acquainted with the latest position on that matter, but I shall secure the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has been informed of a report by the distinguished executive director of the Building Industry Congress that last year there had been an urgent need for a brake on the cost of speculative building. Was it made clear by him that the building industry would be much healthier as the result of the economic measures of November, 1960? Did the executive director say that it did not require much moral courage to be optimistic at this juncture? Did he say further that it is certain that public confidence endorses the view that disaster would have followed if the November check had not been applied?
– I have been informed of the comments made by the executive director of the Building Industry Congress, and I can commend them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. I point out that no provision is made by the various medical benefit funds for the payment of travelling expenses incurred by general practitioners in the country. Is this not an injustice to country people who often have to pay two or three times as much as a person living in a provincial area for a doctor’s visit? Will the Minister consult representatives of the various medical benefit funds to see whether a refund of a greater percentage of medical expenses can be made to people living in country areas?
– Commonwealth Government medical benefits are paid according to a schedule of benefits and are supplemented by fund benefits. I will examine the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, but I do not think that the position that he has mentioned is creating any great hardship because I have had no representations whatever about it.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that not only must unemployed persons be unemployed for seven days, but they must be registered for employment for seven days in order to obtain the unemployment benefit? Will the Minister see that, in order to protect people from unwittingly depriving themselves of the benefit, employers’ establishments are supplied with registration forms for completion upon notification of lay-off or dismissal so that employees losing their jobs may be immediately transferred from wages to the unemployment benefit?
– I shall look at the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman that forms of registration should be available at employers’ establishments for people who are laid off or dismissed. I see no objection to this procedure, but I will discuss it with the department and let the honorable gentleman know the results of my discussion. As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I was under the impression that a person had to be unemployed for seven days before qualifying for unemployment benefit. I will have clarified the point as to the date from which payment commences and will also convey thai information to the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether arrangements have been finalized to hold another “ Duke of Edinburgh “ conference in Canada next year to discuss industrial and social matters. In what centre will this conference be held, and on what date? In the selection of representatives from Australia, could the Minister ensure that consideration is given to the inclusion of people from provincial and country areas as well as from the larger metropolitan areas? Finally, when will the selection of delegates be made?
– Next year, I think, for three weeks in May and June, a “ Duke of Edinburgh “ study conference on industrial problems will be held in Vancouver. I understand that, afterwards, delegates to the conference will have the opportunity to travel around Canada for some time. The selection of delegates is in the hands of a selection committee which is completely independent of the Minister. I know that the committee is well forward in the task of selection, but I am not able to say the exact date on which its decision will be made known.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did Mr. R. G. Heley, the Australian Public Abattoir Authority’s representative on the Australian Meat Board, pass away two years ago? Why has the Minister allowed two years to elapse without appointing a successor to Mr. Heley? Did the Minister, in reply to representations from members of the authority, suggest to them that they should submit a panel of names to him? Will the Minister assure me that the replacement will be appointed from the panel of names which will be submitted to him by the Australian Public Abattoir Authority’s conference?
– That matter will be looked into again when appointments to the Australian Meat Board are made in the near future.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and is supplementary to a question recently asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Is it a fact that at the beginning of this week the number of migrants awaiting employment at Bonegilla was slightly less than 1,000? Also is it a fact that this number is the smallest for the last five months?
Mr. McMAHON__ Since the Leader of the Opposition asked his question I have had a check made to see whether the figure I used - 900 migrant workers awaiting initial placement at Bonegilla at the date mentioned - was correct. It is correct. Since that date I have been informed the number of workers awaiting initial placement at Bonegilla has fallen to 734 and the number at Benalla to 159, making a total for those two centres of 893. So I think the honorable gentleman is the one who is probably guilty of misrepresentation.
– Mr. Speaker, the Minister has misrepresented me in saying that I have been guilty of misrepresentation.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I assure honorable members that the figures I gave to the House were figures I got from the Department of Immigration.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I preface the question by saying that last week, in answer to a question upon notice, the Minister told me that 3,917 persons, including 175 at Darwin, were registered as unemployed in the district employment offices north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Can the Minister say whether the Government has been able to initiate any action which might contribute to the development of the north and the alleviation of this high rate of unemployment?
– I should preface my answer by saying that fools rush in. I will restrain myself. Those who have listened to statements by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other Ministers during recent weeks know of the massive efforts made by the Government to develop the northern parts of this country. I refer to the help given for beef roads in Western Australia, the provision of £5,000,000 over a period of years for beef roads in Queensland, the allocation of £4,600,000 for the Mount Isa railway and the public works and road programmes that are carried out in the department of my colleague, the Minister for Territories. I will get a list of these developments to show what has been done by the Government in order to increase work opportunities and to develop the north of this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that the Wool Committee of Inquiry recently expresed interest in the establishment of an overall authority for the wool industry? Can he say whether officers of his department have provided, or will provide, information to the committee which will assist it in forming an opinion on this matter? In particular, will his officers provide information from their experience on methods of election, which is the matter that appears to be the greatest stumbling block in the adoption of the proposal I have mentioned?
– The Wool Committee of Inquiry has sought certain statistical evidence from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The committee also has the assistance, in connexion with its hearings, of officers of my department. I do not think it would be wise at this stage for me, as the responsible Minister, to make any comment on what the committee’s thinking is or might be. I will be content to await the committee’s report.
– I address the following question to the Minister for Immigration: Did the Government announce, following the demonstration at Bonegilla migrant camp, that the intake of unskilled migrants would be reduced? Further, did the Minister say, more recently, that the immigration target of 125,000 for the year will be reached? I should like to ask the Minister: Who is fooling whom on this matter? Will there be an actual reduction of migrant intake for the time being in view of the heavy unemployment in this country, and when will this reduction begin?
– There is no foolery about this matter at all. My honorable friend apparently has been fooling himself, or has not understood properly the announcements I have made. I take this opportunity of saying, Mr. Speaker, that the decision in regard to the reduction in the intake of unskilled migrants was made long before the unfortunate riot at Bonegilla occurred. What I said was that between that time and the end of the year we would virtually suspend the entry of unskilled migrants. I have also taken the trouble to make it plain on a variety of occasions that while the Government has- varied the components involved in the immigration programme it has not departed from, the overall intake figure of 125,000 a year.
– I have said this repeatedly, Sir, but the honorable member apparently has not followed what I have said, because he interjects “ Rubbish “ now so I take the opportunity of saying again, that in varying the content of the programme we are intent on fulfilling the overall target. We are engaged in bringing into this country more of the wives, dependants and fiancees of migrants, as well as certain categories of children, who are anxious to come. We are thus taking this opportunity of fulfilling one of the principal planks of the Government’s immigration programme - family migration.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is to some degree supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Banks. I ask the Minister: Is he prepared to initiate a review of the regulations governing the payment of unemployment benefit by the Department of Social Services in order to protect an unemployed person from being deprived of the benefit for a further period of two weeks due to his engaging in casual work for a short time?
– I shall be only too happy to initiate discussions with my colleague the Minister for Social Services and with the two departments concerned in order to find just what is involved in meeting the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, and to discover also whether anything can be done about it.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there are large numbers of unemployed among the immigrants at the Williamstown hostel, as well as at the Brooklyn hostel and the Broadmeadows hostel, in Victoria? Will the Minister inform this House how many of the immigrants in these hostels are unemployed and registered as such?
– I think it should be obvious to the House that I cannot keep in my head the actual numbers- (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Order! The honorable member for Wills will cease interjecting. I have warned him before. If he interjects again, I will name him.
– If they do not want the answer, Sir-
– You cannot answer.
– 1 ask that further questions be placed on the notice-paper.
– by leave - On 7th September I made some observations on the resumption by the Soviet Union of nuclear bomb testing, and said that I might make a further statement this week. I should like now to trace in more detail the course of negotiation on this most important question, and to examine some of its implications for us.
It was in July, 1957, that the Western powers on the sub-committee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission first proposed that a group of experts meet to devise an inspection system to control the suspension of nuclear tests. The Soviet Union did not respond.
The following month the Western powers proposed the suspension of nuclear tests for two years, during which time a system of international inspection could be worked out to ensure that all future production of fissionable material would be used solely for peaceful purposes. In making these proposals, the Western powers again called on the Soviet Union to join in expert studies. The Soviet Union refused.
In November, 1957, these proposals were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, but the Soviet Union still refused to discuss them.
Not until March, 1958, after Russia had concluded a series of tests, and just before- the start of a United States series, did the Soviet Union announce that it would suspend tests unilaterally for six months. I emphasize that, because possibly we are seeing something of the same kind happening again. The West pointed out that unilateral declarations, without a system of inspection and control to ensure that the declarations were being honoured, were valueless; and called again on the Soviet Union to take part in technical discussion on the feasibility of devising an effective system and the form it might take. This time the Soviet Union agreed.
So, in July and August, 1958, the first conference of experts met in Geneva. The experts, including the Russian experts, concluded that it was possible to devise a practicable system for detecting violations of an agreement to suspend nuclear weapons tests. The United Kingdom and the United States thereupon announced that they were prepared to suspend tests for one year from 31st October, 1958, on certain conditions. One was that negotiations should begin on that date for the conclusion of a treaty on the suspension of tests under effective international control. Another was that Russia should not resume testing.
The conference opened at Geneva on 31st October, 1958. On 1st Novemberthe very next day - the Soviet Union exploded an atomic device. Two days later it exploded another. Despite this flagrant breach of faith, the United States declared that it would adhere to its undertaking, provided the Soviet Union refrained from further testing.
From that time, nearly three years ago, the negotiations have continued, with occasional adjournments, and they are still technically continuing. Despite the Soviet resumption of testing, they have still not formally been broken off. Progress has been slow. From the beginning it was apparent that Western and Soviet views on what constituted, an adequate, reliable and acceptable treaty were very far apart. But by painstaking persistence, with the United Kingdom and the United States making every effort of compromise to break deadlocks, the areas of fundamental disagreement were perceptibly narrowed.
When the conference adjourned in December, 1960, in the last days of the
Eisenhower administration, there had been adopted a preamble and seventeen articles of a draft treaty, and two annexes.
Important differences on issues of principle still remain unresolved, but the progress which had already been made encouraged the hope that with perseverance agreement could yet be reached on the outstanding points. “ With perseverance “, I have said. Perhaps I should have added, “ and with goodwill and sincere endeavour “, for there were already by the end of last year disquieting signs. Honorable members may recall that, as I stated to the press afterwards, when I talked with Mr. Khrushchev in New York on 12th October, 1960, he expressed the view that the suspension of nuclear tests was of diminishing importance.
Nevertheless, the Western powers, for their part, continued their unremitting efforts to seek agreement.
President Kennedy, on assuming office, ordered an intensive review of the issues involved, and when the conference resumed on 21st March, 1961, a new set of proposals was submitted by the United States and the United Kingdom. These proposals, which incorporate important concessions to Russian positions, were -
Commission - an arrangement which would give the Soviet Union a voice in guiding the control system equal to that of the United States and the United Kingdom combined, and which would be unprecedented in an international organization.
These, as honorable members will observe, were notable concessions in the attempt to secure some agreement in the interests of the world.
Then on 18th April, building on the agreements already reached and incorporating these new proposals, the United States and the United Kingdom tabled a complete draft treaty for the suspension of nuclear weapons tests. The Soviet reaction was ominous and disheartening. Not only did the Soviet delegate, Mr. Tsarapkin, return to the conference table without constructive proposals, making it clear that the Soviet Union had not used the three months’ adjournment to seek ways of resolving points of difference, but he even went back on an agreement which the Soviet Union had made over a year previously. He insisted that, instead of having, as had been agreed, a single neutral administrator as chief executive officer of the control organization, there should be established a triumvirate of administrators, one from the Soviet group, one from the Western powers and one from the “ neutralists “, who would be required to reach their decisions unanimously. Each member would therefore have a veto.
This is the so-called “ Troika “ principle which the Soviet Union put forward at the last General Assembly of the United Nations to replace the office of SecretaryGeneral. It would give the Soviet Union the power to prevent any inspection by the control organization of suspected breaches of the treaty by the Soviet Union. Whoever might be deceived by that sort of proposal, it would not deceive a child in an ordinary country.
This uncompromising, retrograde attitude was continued by Mr. Khrushchev when he met President Kennedy in Vienna. The Russian “ aide-memoire “ or memorandum of 4th June reiterates this new Soviet contention that “ there do not and cannot exist neutral men “. I call it “ new “ advisedly, because in January of last year. Mr. Tsarapkin, the Soviet negotiator, said at the conference, “ Out of the three thousand million human beings on earth we shall always be able to find some one on whom you and we can agree “. And the following month he said, “ In neutral countries, it will always be possible to find a person, a really neutral person, who can be used for the job of carrying out the duties of administrator”. And in June, 1960, he said, “It will always be possible to discover in the world a person acceptable to both sides for nomination for the post as administrator “. Now we are told that there is no such thing as a neutral man.
The Vienna memorandum also proposed that the negotiations on the suspension of nuclear tests should be merged with discussion of general complete disarmament. That is to say, the Russians proposed that the measure of agreement which had been so painfully won through nearly three years of patient negotiation should be tossed back into the melting pot. They proposed that agreement on the suspension of nuclear weapons tests, which is, despite its complexities, a relatively simple operation, should be made dependent upon achieving agreement on the much vaster and the infinitely more complicated question of general and complete disarmament.
This memorandum also disclosed the hollowness of the much vaunted offer to accept unconditionally any proposals of the Western powers on control if they would accept the Russian proposal on general and complete disarmament. This memorandum makes it plain that the Russians will accept control and inspection only after disarmament has been completed because “ as long as states maintain their armed forces, no control can be free from intelligence. When armed forces are abolished and armaments destroyed, then only control will not be connected with intelligence.” That is a rather orotund way of saying that their view was “ You are not going to have inspection because that will be espionage; so you must first agree with us that all arms are abolished and take our word for it. When that is done, perhaps you may have some inspection, but it will not matter very much.”
The memorandum further suggests that the policing of a disarmed world would be through national contingents - in other words there would be no standing international force which “ could be used through the Security Council” - that is to say, they would be subject to the Russian veto. In addition, “ all the main groups of States should, of course, be equally represented on the command of such international forces “ - that is to say, they would be under a “ troika “ command which would give the Soviet Union the power of veto over the day-to-day operations of the forces.
The United States replied to this memorandum in a note of 17th June. This note patiently rehearsed the substantial concessions which the West had offered since the talks resumed, pointed out the objections to the Russian proposals, and drew attention to the wider consequences for which the Soviet Union would be responsible. The Russian reply was a long note, dated Sth July, which made no concessions, but maintained the new Russian position uncompromisingly. The exchange ended with a United States note, of 15th July, which returned to the central issue and sought to determine whether the Soviet Union was willing to reach an agreement which would halt nuclear weapons tests under effective international control.
The conference at Geneva continued, despite all discouragement, with the West still trying to meet the Russian objections. On 28th and 30th August, the United Kingdom and United States representatives made three new and important concessions -
The Soviet reply, made on the same day as the last two of these concessions, was to announce its intention to resume testing. On 1st September, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear device. Even this did not exhaust the patience or the hope of the Western leaders. On 3rd September, as I mentioned last week, President Kennedy and Mr. Macmillan made a joint offer to Mr. Khrushchev that their three governments agree, with immediate effect, not to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere such as would produce radioactive fall-out. They proposed that their representatives meet at Geneva, on 9th September, to record this agreement. They further emphasized that this proposal was not in any way conditional upon the establishment of new or additional controls and that they were prepared to rely on existing long-range methods of detection which would not involve entry into or overflight of Russian territory.
The Russian reply, as we all know, was the explosion of a second nuclear device, and a third and then a fourth. The explosion of four atomic devices within a span of six days points to a high degree of planning and advance preparation over a long period. It means that Soviet participation at the Geneva talks has for some time been a sham. It means that while the Russians have allegedly been negotiating for the suspension of nuclear weapons tests they have been preparing an extensive series of tests which, it must be assumed, will add materially to Russian nuclear weapons capability.
In this context I would again recall that on 28th August, 1959, the Soviet Government announced its decision “ not to resume nuclear explosions “ if the Western powers did not resume. In the face of the Soviet Union’s patent indifference to the Western proposals or world opinion, President Kennedy found himself obliged to make the following announcement on 5th September, after the third in the present series of Russian tests: -
In view of the continued testing by the Soviet Government, I have to-day ordered the resumption of nuclear tests in the laboratory and underground with no fall-out.
In our efforts to achieve an end to nuclear testing, we have taken every step that reasonable men could justify.
In view of the acts of the Soviet Government, we must now take those steps which prudent men find essential. We have no other choice in fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United States Government to its own citizens and to the security of other free nations.
Our offer to make an agreement to end all fall-out tests remains open until September 9.
The Soviet Union has now rejected the joint United Kingdom-United Sta.es offer and has gone on to conduct three further atmospheric tests of nuclear devices, two with a force of several megatons, that is to say, equivalent in explosive power to several million tons of T.N.T. Mr. Khrushchev, in rejecting the Western offer, contended that a nuclear tests suspension agreement must be considered in the wider context of general and complete disarmament. This Soviet reaction, as I suggested last Thursday, provided “ a complete test of the good faith and pacific intentions of the Communists “. They have failed that test. In contradiction to Mr. Khrushchev’s repeated statements on the need to protect the world from the dangers of radio-active fall-out, they have brushed aside the offer of an agreement which would have done just this.
The Soviet claim that it is not prepared to conclude partial disarmament or suspension agreements, but wishes to consider all these problems in the context of general and complete disarmament, is a transparent propaganda device. The problem of general and complete disarmament is vast and complex and a solution cannot be achieved by short-cuts. The West has always believed that a major step towards general disarmament would be the conclusion of a nuclear test ban treaty. In fact, some progress had been made towards the establishment of such a treaty. Yet the Soviet Union, by its present actions, seems prepared to nullify the progress already made. In the light of this Soviet intransigence it was no surprise when the Geneva conference adjourned indefinitely on 9th September.
On 10th September, immediately after adjournment of the conference, the Soviet Union announced that it would begin testing multi-stage rockets to be fired into the Pacific Ocean in an area south-west of Hawaii. The rockets to be tested are said to be more powerful and improved versions of multi-stage carrier rockets already used in space experiments.
The record makes it clear that the Soviet Union has, from the outset, treated the whole issue of nuclear test bans with complete cynicism, recklessly pursuing what it conceives as its national interest, yet at the same time playing on the hopes and fears of the millions of decent, peace-loving people throughout the world. The first Russian “ suspension” in March, 1958, followed completion of one series of tests. The next series, in November, 1958, was pressed through with a total disregard of international opinion. In August, 1959, presumably when the immediate requirements of the Russian military machine had been met, a solemn promise was given that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would not be the first to conduct any further nuclear tests. The events of these last days show how much faith can be placed in assurances of this kind. It is also clear that while professing to negotiate seriously at Geneva, the Russians were making detailed preparations for the current series of tests.
I say these things merely by way of summarizing and restating what I have already put to honorable members. No doubt as soon as the series has been completed there will be yet another Soviet proposal for an unconditional suspension on both sides, with the Communist propaganda machine fully mobilized to denounce the United States if it continues the tests it has now been forced to undertake. This. 1 warn honorable members, is the great point of danger. This is the kind of propaganda that will be pushed into the uncommitted world. The Russians will have completed doing what they want to do, in breach of all honour and decency, and they will be able to say to the United States, “ Now. that is wicked of you,”; and a lot of people, foolishly and without thinking, will believe them.
The Australian Government commends the patience and restraint - contrasting sharply with the Soviet approach to this issue - which the Western leaders have shown throughout the long and, as now proved, fruitless negotiations at Geneva. Still more commendable have been their persistent and imaginative efforts to seek out every possibility of agreement and, in recent days, to salvage something from the wreck. Given the total lack of response from the Soviet Union, it is inconceivable that the United States should continue its self-imposed ban on nuclear testing in the present grave situation. My Government wholeheartedly supports President Kennedy’s decision to resume underground tests, a decision which the Soviet actions have now made essential to the security of the free nations. For, let us make no mistake, our own security is directly involved. So long as the Soviet Union refuses to conclude an effective agreement for the prohibition and control of nuclear tests, we will be left in the grim position that the only assurance that its leaders will not resort to the ultimate weapon is the knowledge that its use would mean their own annihilation.
At the same time, it is noteworthy that even now the United States, at a substantial sacrifice in time, convenience and money, still refrains from carrying out the atmospheric tests which generate fall-out. There is a clear and important difference between the atmospheric tests conducted by the Russians and the underground testing now being undertaken by the United States.
Although the recent Soviet actions have not come as a complete surprise, their suddenness and brutality - and the threat which they pose to world peace - are nonetheless shocking and deeply depressing. It appears that the fifth, sixth and seventh Soviet tests were in the Arctic regions. Only two months ago ten nations met in Canberra in this very chamber to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, a modest agreement designed to remove causes of friction and dispute and to facilitate work together for the common good in exploration and development. The Soviet Union was among the signatories to this agreement, under which nuclear explosions are forbidden in the Antarctic. I should still like to hope that in the larger interests of mankind, the Soviet leaders could recover something of the spirit of moderation and co-operation which marked the Antarctic Conference and that the ban on nuclear tests, with proper control and safeguards, will become universal. Until it does, the free nations can place no reliance on Soviet professions of concern for mankind. Nor can they accept as genuine the Soviet claim to be the champion of general and complete disarmament.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Nuclear Tests - Ministerial Statement, 13th September, 1961, together with a Chronology of events since the opening on the 1st July, 1958, of the Geneva conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
– I take it that we will debate this motion and the motion for the printing of the earlier paper presented by the Prime Minister together some time to-morrow?
– The idea is to debate them together. I think that would be convenient to everybody.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– I move -
That Standing Order No. 104 - 11 o’clock rulebe suspended for this sitting.
I should make it clear that this motion covers this day of sitting only; it is not intended to cover the remainder of the sessional period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 1031), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the measure before the House is a bill to amend the Repatriation Act Almost without exception, every year a bill of this character comes before the House for discussion and, of course, for action. It is the outcome of the Budget proposals of the Government to deal with the problems that have arisen from World War I. and World War II. as they affect ex-servicemen who have suffered ill health and the dependants of ex-servicemen, such as their widows and children.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, since the inflationary period in this country commenced under this Government the rises in pension rates granted annually under repatriation measures usually have been confined to 5s. In respect of repatriation matters, it appears to me that the Government might aptly be termed a “ five-bob government “. I have always endeavoured to debate these repatriation measures in a non-party spirit, so far as I possibly can, but I cannot refrain from saying forthrightly that, as far as doing justice to the returned servicemen of Australia is concerned, this measure is wholly inadequate. It is quite true that it proposes some improvements, but they are very few.
A striking feature of the debate on this measure has been that, in the main, speakers on the Government side of the House have commenced their speeches by uttering words of adulation, praise and commendation of the former Minister for Repatriation. I consider that the former Minister was a gentleman in every sense of the word, but I am not too sure of his efficacy in dealing with repatriation problems in Australia.
– The Returned Soldiers League did not think that.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport says that the RS.L. did not think that. He has walked right in. I have in my hand an article from “ Mufti “, the official journal of the Victorian branch of the Returned Soldiers League.
– Who is the author?
– lt was written by Charles Joyce, the highly respected secretary of the Returned Soldiers League in Victoria, and a colleague of mine in the old sixth battalion. He is known for his temperate attitude. This is one of the finest contributions on repatriation problems that I have ever seen.
– Does he speak for the Victorian branch?
– Let Us see what Mr. Joyce said. He had some very helpful things to say about the comparatively new Minister, first of all. He said -
The appointment of a new Minister of Repatriation - the Hon. F. M. Osborne, D.S.C. - will be a welcome New Year present to returned men, if only because he is new, for a new mind can do much to unclog a department that has been perhaps too long under one ministerial head.
Apparently the department was clogged up. The article continued -
The worth of the gift will depend on the way the new Minister intends to operate. If he goes all out to see for himself how the returned man really fares he will find a lot to do, and returned men everywhere will feel the impact.
But if he chooses to content himself with sitting in with the Commission, or with being an honored guest at meetings of ex-service organisations he will be purely decorative - hardly a flutter anywhere.
Ex-service bodies will gain a new speaker, but the speeches will be the same - probably from the same source.
Over the past 11 years the department has had as its Minister one of the most kindly and gentlemanly men ever to grace a Commonwealth Cabinet.
I agree with that. The article went on to say -
If a sympathetic bearing and a superb charm of manner were all that were necessary to endear a Minister to returned men, the former Minister was ideally suited to the role.
His addresses to meetings of the R.S.L. left no doubt of his sincerity, or of his concern for his fellow-returned men.
Returned men, however, need more than charm and sympathy from their ministerial head of Repatriation, and a thousand speeches at smoke nights and meetings, as pleasing as they might be, offer no assurance whatever to the returned man of a well administered Repatriation Act.
Honorable members may draw their own conclusions from that article. As I said, the man who made that excellent contribution is a man of very temperate views. Sir, he went on at length, but I do not want to quote all of his article. He raised some questions about the efficacy of departmental administration. He made many references to instances where, in his opinion, remedies could be applied, particularly in regard to ministerial influence and effort as far as the department is concerned. I agree with him. Generally I have found that officers of the department are reasonable and genuinely sympathetic as far as the act allows them to go, although there are odd exceptions. But no department can function satisfactorily and effectively unless, first of all, this Parliament gives it a power within the ambit of which it can work efficiently. Up to date - all parties bear some responsibility for this - the Repatriation Department has not been given the authority and power that was justified. I believe that answers the comment made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman). I think it is quite evident from Mr. Joyce’s article, although he did not name anybody or say so directly, that he felt there was a lot of speechifying, a lot of nicety, a lot of pleasant functions and all that sort ot thing; but the impact of the ministerial head on the department was completely lacking.
Mr. Speaker, I have mentioned that this measure provides for increases here and there. The basic 100 per cent, pension has been increased to £5 15s. As I have said on many occasions, when we consider whether an increase in pension rates is adequate we must examine the movement in pensions over a reasonably long period of time. In 1939, prior to the outbreak of war, the basic wage was 78s. a week. The 100 per cent, war pension was 42s. a week, representing in round figures 53 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, the basic wage is 288s. a week and the 100 per cent, war pension is 115s., representing, again in round figures, 40 per cent, of the basic wage. So, over that long period of time, during which we had a world war, and were governed by Labour governments and Liberal governments, the relationship that the 100 per cent, war pension bears to the basic wage has dropped by 13 per cent.
Let us see what the position is in relation to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. In 1939, when the basic wage was 78s. a week, the T.P.I, pension was 80s. a week. It was actually higher than the basic wage. It represented, on my calculations, 102 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1961, when the basic wage is 288s. a week, the T.P.I, pension is 265s. a a week, representing 92 per cent, of the basic wage.
What is the position with regard to the war widows’ pension? In 1939, when the basic wage was 78s. a week, the war widows’ pension was 23s. 6d. a week, representing 37 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1961, with the basic wage at 288s. a week, the war widows’ pension is 115s. a week, which is 40 per cent, of the basic wage. So, since 1939 the war widows’ pension has improved by 3 per cent, in its relationship to the basic wage. I am prepared to admit that when looking at these rates we cannot leave out of consideration the fact that in some cases wives’ allowances and dependants’ allowances have been increased. There has been some liberality in relation to what may be called related fringe benefits.
– Ceiling limits have been removed.
– It is true that some ceiling limits have been removed, but the removal of ceiling limits does not mean anything to a person who has no income other than his repatriation pension. The removal of ceiling limits would not affect thousands of pensioners, particularly T.P.I, pensioners.
– Those are precisely the persons to whom the removal does apply.
– The removal of ceiling limits has no application where a pensioner has no other income. All that he can get is his T.P.I, pension, plus allowances for his wife and children.
– And his service pension.
– He would be entitled to that also. After all, these are only fringe matters.
Let us look at another aspect that is not taken into consideration sufficiently often.
The Government may feel that its improvement of fringe benefits has compensated for the fact that repatriation pensions have lagged behind the basic wage. But is the Minister unconscious of the fact that in 1939 the number of married women who worked was small compared with the number to-day? To-day, thousands of married women are working in industry, professions and business. In 1939 the number of women employed in industry and elsewhere was 437,000. By 1961 that number had increased to 849,000. If the men who now receive repatriation pensions had not suffered injury or illness as a result of their war service their wives, in many cases, could have earned incomes equivalent to, and in some cases greater than, the incomes earned by their husbands. But because of their husbands’ condition of health those women are forced to remain in their homes and are unable to go out and earn a living. That is something that should be taken into consideration when we are dealing with repatriation pensions.
When comparing rates paid in 1939 with those paid in 1961 we must bear in mind that many pensioners, particularly T.P.I, pensioners, but for their war-caused disabilities, would to-day be employed in professional capacities and would be earning incomes of the order of £2,000, £3,000, £4,000, £5,000 or £6,000 a year. Others, but for their war-caused disabilities, would have been numbered among the hundreds of thousands of skilled artisans in Australia who are earning wages substantially higher than the basic wage. Many of these men, but for their war-caused disabilities, would be doing what thousands of men in Australia have been doing since the introduction of the 40-hour week - holding down two jobs and thereby increasing their incomes.
If we are to look realistically at this matter of pension payments we must bear in mind that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, the average earnings of the community are not the basic wage rate but £21.83 a week. So, to compare pension rates with the basic wage is to take the lowest possible basis for comparison. Some greater allowance should be made to these people for the things that they have been deprived of. I hope that in the committee stage the Government will accept the amendments that the Opposition will bring forward, particularly those relating to the rates payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
I will deal now with the Opposition’s proposal that cancer should be accepted in all cases as war-caused. When repatriation legislation was last before the Parliament the Opposition sought to include a provision that cancer be accepted as a war-caused disability. The Government rejected our proposals. In the committee stage we will move an amendment to section 47 of the act, which deals with the onus of proof. I have heard this matter of onus of proof raised in this Parliament for more than twenty years. The subject has become almost nauseating, but we must admit that from day to day in our parliamentary work and outside we are constantly bumping against this problem of the onus of proof. No ex-serviceman who has applied to have his injury or disability accepted as war-caused is satisfied when the tribunal determines that it was not war-caused. It is high time we took some steps to deal with this problem. In the committee stage the Opposition will seek to incorporate in the bill provision for an appeal from the decision of a war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal to a judge of the High Court or of a supreme court. We will seek to have the costs of such appeal not charged against the exserviceman. On past occasions when the Opposition has sought similar provisions the Government has claimed that their implementation would be too costly and that the courts could not handle the volume of work that would flow from them. A glance at the figures relating to applications to and rejections by the war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals seems to indicate that if ex-servicemen had the right of appeal to a judge of the High Court or of a supreme court, the number of applications rejected by the tribunals would be lower than it is now. It might be inferred, of course, that I am casting a reflection on the war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals. The fact is that for a great many years these tribunals have been choked with work. If they knew that a further appeal could be made against their decisions they might do their work more thoroughly, and perhaps the Government might appoint more tribunals to relieve them of the heavy volume of work that they undoubtedly have to cope with now.
– There are four of them at present
– I know, but if it is necessary to have six, let us have them. Give them time to deal thoroughly with these cases and to examine the evidence closely. Then let us give the returned soldier the right to go on appeal to a High Court judge or a Supreme Court judge.
– Four tribunals are not many to deal with 1,000,000 ex-servicemen.
– That is so. Surely this is a point that might well have been conceded long ago. Attempts have been made by various governments to make the onus-of-proof section in the Repatriation Act foolproof, but none of them has succeeded, and the discontent that has arisen as the result of the administration of the section is now as great as it ever was. Surely, in this enlightened age, we would not be inflicting a heavy burden on the community if we accepted a man’s disability as due to war service, particularly in the case of men who would qualify for the 100 per cent, pension or for the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. After all, at some place and at some time, whether the man’s disability is accepted as war-caused or not, he must receive hospital treatment, and he will become eligible for whatever other benefits his disability attracts, including perhaps the invalid pension. These men run the gamut of a wide range of investigations and sittings of evidence. In an enlightened society their applications should be accepted without question, and they should be treated at community expense and given some chance of a happier existence.
I am one of those who have long believed that society should accept the physical disabilities of every person as community responsibilities. If one considered only the economic loss caused to the community because men and women cannot afford to pay for hospitalization, one would realize that the provision of these essential services, not only for ex-servicemen but for every one, is amply justified, if only from the economic viewpoint. It would also have the effect of eliminating the differentiation that now exists between ex-servicemen and civilians, and so result in a happier state of affairs generally. I do not want to spend too much time on this subject, and I merely say that I hope the Government will consider the matter seriously and agree to the suggestions of the Opposition.
I now turn to the amendment that the Opposition will propose to provide for medical and hospital treatment for members of the forces as defined in section 23 of the act. We believe, in fact, that this treatment could well be made available also for wives and dependants of ex-servicemen. Why should this not be so? Would there be any great cost really involved? These people have to be treated in some way at some time and at a cost to somebody. Surely this principle could be accepted. I think that last year the Government provided for medical treatment for the dependants of service pensioners. Is that correct?
– No. Provision was made for treatment of service pensioners themselves.
– Then I was under a misapprehension. I confused the dependants with the pensioners themselves.
Another indication of the way in which the position of these pensioners has deteriorated is to be found in figures given by the Commonwealth Statistician. The wholesale price index for basic materials and foodstuffs in 1938-39 gave a figure of 108. In 1961 the figure is 356. To give the same purchasing power as was available in 1938-39, the pension now would have to be fixed at a rate which would reflect this increase in the price index.
On the question of medical benefits I again wish to refer to “ Mufti “ and to some remarks of Mr. Joyce quoted therein. In a recent issue of the publication, Mr. Joyce said -
Evidence exists in abundance that in hundreds of claims substantial justice is not being given and claims are not being met.
Hundreds of sick men and women who sorely need hospital treatment are not getting it.
The Commission’s hospital at Heidelberg, for instance, built at enormous cost to accommodate nearly 1,300 patients stands half empty. Fifteen wards and 600 beds go unused week after week, and month after month, whilst returned men in their hundreds suffer at home.
These men at home are being taken care of by their wives, many of whom are themselves sick and frail, who should never have been asked to bear the burdens thrust on them.
Husbands, much heavier than the wives who attend them, have to be lifted from bed to bathroom and toilet - nursing attention has to be given day and night - special foods have to be prepared - all this while a hospital erected at enormous government expense stands to the lasting disgrace of the department half empty.
It is not really to the lasting disgrace of the department; it is to the lasting disgrace of the government of the day. Mr. Joyce went on to say -
No wonder TPI men ask for medical treatment for their wives; for all too many of these have been sacrificing themselves for years doing the job that should have been the Commission’s.
For years these women have been an unpaid, unofficial auxiliary of the Commission, without appreciation or thanks except from their husbands, and sometimes not even from them, for many are too ill to care. 1 think it is worth while quoting freely from these articles by Mr. Joyce in “ Mufti “. In another issue of the journal he said -
The other week a Dr. Pearson returned from Russia with a report of the free medical treatment available there to the community generally; he expressed the opinion, in a press and television interview, that Australia, too, would some day have to provide free medical treatment for its people.
In Russia, said Dr. Pearson, treatment is afforded not when one has the money to pay for it, but when it is needed. Money does not come into it. Expense is no bar in Russian hospitals to treatment to get a patient back into employment. Sickness is regarded as nationally uneconomic, to be overcome as soon as humanly practicable.
Mufti has not at any time supported any Russian plan, or made any comparisons, and the Australian method of treating the community sick may be the most satisfactory procedure practicable.
These are matters that the community and the Government should seriously consider, and I am hoping that the Government will at least see fit to accept the amendments that will be proposed by the Opposition. I think it was the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) who said last year that he favoured the proposal to have cancer accepted as a war-caused disability, but he voted against the Opposition’s amendment. He has again indicated that he favours the proposal, but he will probably again cast his vote against the amendment that will be moved. I notice that the honorable member is now in the chair as Deputy Speaker. 1 am sorry, Sir, I did not realize that you had taken the chair. I hope that when the relevant amendment is voted upon, you will, having stated last year that you were in favour of the proposal, and having said again this year that you agree with it, cast your vote for it. You need have no fear that your vote will defeat the Government; the time is rapidly approaching when the Government will be defeated in any case. 1 shall leave it at that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. 1 simply express disappointment that the Government has not been more generous.
– in reply - 1 have listened carefully to the many speeches that have been made in this second-reading debate on the Repatriation Bill 1961, including that of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who has just finished. The honorable member has not altered the impression that I formed in the earlier stages of the debate that two things have been made clear. The first is that across the broad field of repatriation this Government has kept the promises it made to the ex-servicemen before the election of 1949, and that it has kept repatriation benefits up to date.
We all know that one of the functions of an opposition is to complain, but this Opposition has not been able to do more than make some insubstantial complaint on matters around the fringe of the repatriation system. In any field of social services it is easy to say that this payment or that should be greater than it is. We all want to provide everything that is practicable for our disabled ex-servicemen. As Minister for Repatriation I want to do everything that can possibly be done for them, but as a member of a government I know that this generation of Australians has many responsibilities and wide obligations to many groups of people. Numerous claims - just and reasonable in themselves - are made for Government expenditure, but those claims have to be judged against the other needs of the community. Revenue is not unlimited. To the extent that any government grants one request, expands one service or undertakes one obligation, its capacity to grant another request is limited. Bearing all this in mind, no one can suggest that this Government has neglected the country’s acknowledged obligation to its injured ex-servicemen - to those who fought for it in time of danger and who suffered injury in its service.
The other thing that has emerged quite clearly in this debate is that there is only one consistent field of criticism of repatriation policy or administration. It is a limited field, and it is bound up in the phrase “ the onus of proof “. Most of the complaints which come under this heading result from a misunderstanding of the proper meaning and effect of the provisions of section 47 of the act, which is known as the “ onus-of-proof “, and from a misunderstanding of the application of those provisions by the various determining authorities of the repatriation system.
As honorable members know, that section provides, first, that any inference which reasonably can be drawn in an applicant’s favour must be so drawn; secondly, that any doubt which arises shall be resolved in the applicant’s favour; and thirdly, that before an application is dismissed the onus is on the Repatriation Commission to prove that the application should be dismissed. These determining authorities have to discharge a quasi-judicial function. They have to act judicially and they have to apply the law. A presumption to be drawn in favour of an applicant must be a reasonable presumption. The doubt which must be resolved in an applicant’s favour must be a doubt in the mind of the determining authority, not a doubt in the mind of the applicant, his advocate or his witnesses.
The onus-of-proof provision means that instead of an applicant having to establish his case affirmatively, which could be an insuperable difficulty after many years from the end of a war, the commission must establish affirmatively that the application should not be allowed before disallowing it. The section gives directions as to how doubt should be resolved. But those directions do not relieve the authority of the responsibility of deciding between conflicting bodies of evidence. Every judicial body has to do that.
– It is not a judicial body.
– It is a quasi-judicial body which has to act legally within the terms of the legislation. For example, one group of witnesses may say that a complaint could have been of long standing and could have been associated with a war-time experience. But another body of evidence may say that the complaint definitely is of recent origin and could not have had its basis until long after the end of the war. The evidence against the applicant may or may not be convincing. If it is so convincing as to leave the tribunal in no doubt, the tribunal must decide accordingly. But if the tribunal itself is left in doubt that doubt must be resolved in the applicant’s favour and the claim must be admitted. From experience extending over the greater part of one year, I am satisfied that the tribunals discharge their duties in accordance with the provisions of the act and that very few mistakes occur.
In the course of his speech, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) referred to a case which he proposed to bring to me in the hope that I would examine it. I have never failed to consider any case which any honorable member has brought to me; nor will I do so. But I ask honorable members to remember that I administer an act of Parliament which provides that decisions on claims are to be made by statutory bodies and which assures the independence of those bodies. I have no authority to influence their decisions, and I have no right or intention to attempt to do so.
Honorable members then may ask what is my function when considering complaints on behalf of disappointed applicants. I conceive it to be this: To look into the facts; to ensure that the requirements of the act have been observed; and to ensure that the applicant has received the full assistance of the department, to which he is entitled and which generally he receives from both administrative and medical officers. I conceive it to be my function to ensure that the applicant has been able to present his case properly, and I consider it to be part of my responsibilities to see that all relevant facts have been presented properly to the determining authorities.- In the course of doing those things I sometimes see an opportunity to suggest how an applicant may present his case more effectively. If I see such an opportunity I do not hesitate to take it.
I have stated already that our system for deciding claims and appeals - this threestage system of repatriation boards, the commission and the appeal tribunals - works satisfactorily, and that I believe mistakes are rare. Clearly no administrative system which is charged with the responsibility to decide whether a person is entitled to receive benefits and pensions which are of very great value to those for whom they are intended, can ever hope to convince every one that an adverse decision is a correct decision. Repatriation is no exception.
As I said on another occasion, I believe that from the very nature of the system the cases which reach members of Parliament are almost invariably those which have passed through all stages of application and appeal without success. The satisfied applicants, or the ones who feel that they have been given justice - they are in the vast majority - have no occasion to seek out their members and tell them so. But, notwithstanding this, the Opposition proposes to introduce an amendment which is intended to allow an appeal to be made to the High Court of Australia or to a supreme court of a State.
– Or of a Territory.
– Or of a Territory. Perhaps one can advance a logical argument in favour of an appeal to a court from a tribunal’s decision on a point of law. Such an appeal exists under the English system. There are arguments in favour of that course, and it could have some advantages. But, from the foundation of this system in 1917, it has always been believed that it should be kept as free as possible from the trappings of the law and the complexities of legal argument, and that the ex-serviceman and the associations which assist him should be spared the cost of employing legal practitioners. So it was expressly provided, early in the history of the act, that qualified lawyers could not appear before determining authorities. The system works as it is, and I think it would be unwise, after all these years, to interfere with that aspect of it.
I have been speaking about the possible advantages of an appeal to a court on a point of law. But what the Opposition proposes in the amendment which it intends to bring forward at the committee stage is something vastly different. What Opposition members suggest is that every applicant who considers that he has not been given the benefit of section 47 of the Repatriation Act should be free, on his own judgment, to appeal to a Supreme Court or the High Court of Australia and that every such appeal would be a re-hearing of the case. The number of appeals would be enormous. It is at least doubtful whether the present courts could cope with them, and the cost would be very heavy. It is a significant part of the Opposition’s proposed amendment that there shall be no order as to costs. That means that the Repatriation Commission would pay its own costs and that no order for costs could be made against it for the benefit of an appellant ex-serviceman.
– How does the Minister know all this when the amendment has not yet been moved?
– The Opposition’s amendments have been circulated. I have had them for days past in printed form, just as the honorable member has had them. I am not so idle about my responsibilities as not to have read them.
– But is the Minister permitted to argue them at this stage?
– If the Opposition can present its reasons for putting these amendments forward, I can present the Government’s reasons for rejecting them. In any event, this has to be done, either now or at the committee stage, and I have exercised a right, as I am quite entitled to do, to cover the field at this stage.
The proposed amendment with which I have been dealing provides that no order for costs shall be made. This means that the applicant himself, or some exservicemen’s association on his behalf, would have to bear the costs of each appeal. I think that the Opposition’s proposal is an impracticable one. I do not think that, by and large, it would be in the interests of exservicemen and, so far as I am aware, it is not supported by any ex-servicemen’s association. The amendment will not be accepted by the Government.
I turn now to the Opposition’s proposed amendment which is intended to make cancer automatically acceptable for repatriation benefits, just as tuberculosis is under section 37 of the act, regardless of whether or not it is due to war service.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When this matter was last discussed, another occupant of the chair ruled that amendments which have not been formally moved may not be debated, although he permitted a passing reference to them. I suggest that it is not proper for the Minister to canvass these proposed amendments even before the case in support of them has been put and they have been formally proposed.
– I should like to speak to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am doing no more than making passing reference to the amendments to the same extent as the references to them by the honorable member who led for the Opposition. I am not quoting the wording of the proposed amendments. I am referring to them in general terms in the same way as they were dealt with earlier by one Opposition member after another at this stage of the debate.
– Order! I am sure that the Minister will confine himself to a passing reference only. The amendments are not before the Chair until they are proposed at the committee stage.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Opposition members told us, earlier in this stage of the consideration of this bill, that they propose to move an amendment which is intended to make cancer automatically acceptable for repatriation benefits, just as tuberculosis is accepted under section 37 of the act, whether or not it is due to war service. That proposal has very strong appeal, principally because of the dread nature of the disease and the sentiments which naturally arise when people think about it. But serious reasons can be advanced against the acceptance of such an amendment. As I understand the argument for the automatic acceptance of cancer, it goes something like this: The ultimate cause of cancer is not known. No one can say what its ultimate origin was in any particular case and, therefore, cannot say that it was not due to war service.
– But that was said in 1943 When tuberculosis was first accepted.
– I think that what I have said fairly represents an argument which the honorable member himself has put forward. But such an approach is not tenable. It is true that the ultimate cause of cancer is not known, but a great deal is known about what does not cause it and about the conditions which predispose a person to it. Medical advice often finds it quite practicable to exclude quite positively a given set of circumstances as a possible cause of a particular case of cancer. The repatriation authorities quite correctly treat an application based on cancer just as they do any other application based on any other illness or disease. If the determining authority is left in any doubt whether a particular case of cancer could or could not have been due to war service, the doubt must be resolved in the applicant’s favour, and it is so resolved. The proof of that lies in figures which, I think, have been cited by other honorable members.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel that I must rise to order. The Minister is undoubtedly canvassing the amendments that the Opposition intends to move at the committee stage. I do not say that he does not know that they will be proposed. I merely take the point that he is now arguing in the House the merits of amendments that will be moved in committee. I submit that you must rule him out of order, because this kind of discussion should take place at the committee stage. The Minister said, earlier in his speech, that the Government refused to accept an amendment, but the amendment has not yet been proposed.
– On the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker: A great part of the second-reading stage has been taken up by discussion about whether or not cancer ought to be accepted automatically for repatriation benefits. To seek to apply the Standing Orders to prevent me from entering into a general discussion of that topic at this stage would be to adopt a quite unreal approach. I am addressing myself to the general argument on this subject, not to the particular wording of any amendment, or, indeed, to an amendment itself.
– The House is not aware of the details of any amendments that the Opposition proposes to move at the committee stage. However, I think that the Minister is quite in order in discussing generally the subject of the acceptance of cancer for repatriation benefits.
– I have stated what I understand to be the argument which is put forward in support of the view that cancer should be automatically accepted. I have pointed out that cancer is regarded by the determining tribunals in the same way as is any other complaint. The proof of that lies in the statistics of the acceptance of applications based on cancer made by exservicemen of World War II. Up to March last, 4,135 applications based on cancer had been made by living exservicemen of World War H., and 2,030, or nearly half, had been accepted.
It would not be logically possible to accept the Opposition’s amendment and to stop at cancer. The position is very much the same in respect of other dread diseases which are not so present in the public mind, and if cancer were automatically accepted, there would be no logical basis for stopping there. Some advocates of the claim for the acceptance of cancer have admitted to me that their purpose is to persuade the Government to accept cancer first and then to do the same later with other diseases. The inevitable result, I think, would be ultimately to open the door completely and to permit all ex-servicemen to be treated for all complaints. To some, that might seem to be reasonable, as is indicated by the response of members of the Opposition here, but I suggest with great seriousness to the proponents of such a view that they should look carefully at the possible consequences. Over 45 years we have built up in this country a system for the treatment and compensation of war-caused injuries - a system which is of very great value to ex-servicemen. If the basic principle that the disability in respect of which a claim is made must be due to war service were departed from, and if all ex-servicemen were treated for all complaints, whatever their origin, the cost would be enormous.
At a rough calculation, the repatriation general hospitals would have to be far more than doubled to cope with the needs of exservicemen, and the annual cost would be vastly increased.
I suggest that those who put forward this claim should think carefully and consider whether, if they succeeded, they might do so only at the cost of breaking down the value of the present system, which has been so carefully built up. The number of ex-servicemen personnel is still high - the greater part of 1,000,000 men and women - so that if this process were to go on, we would really have two systems of public medicine - one for those who served for any time in the Forces and one for those who did not. Would public opinion in future years support that? Would future governments be able to find the money to sustain a greatly expanded repatriation service at the very high level at which the service is carried on now? Past governments - let it be said to the credit of the people of this country - have not been niggardly in discharging their responsibilities to ex-servicemen in respect of war-caused injuries. Would future governments be able to maintain the system at its present level? Would we be able to preserve the very real and undeniable value of our present system to those for whom it has been designed - ex-servicemen with war-caused injuries and their dependants? Those who value our present system, which has been built up with care to discharge the solemn promises which were made during two wars to those who fought for this country in time of danger and who suffered through doing so, should consider carefully whether too wide an expansion of the system might destroy it.
I turn now to another of the Opposition’s arguments, which is that medical treatment should be provided for all veterans of World War I. for all complaints, whether due to war service or not. In this, the Opposition repeats a claim and an argument it has been advancing for several years past, and it does so completely without regard to the very considerable alteration made last year by this Government. In advancing the argument again this year, the Opposition overlooks entirely the fact that the Government has already provided medical treatment for service pensioners for all their disabilities. Every one who served in World War I. must now, by the inexorable mathematics of time, be over 60 years of age. Any one who is over 60 years of age and who served in a theatre of war is entitled to the service pension, provided he can meet the means test. So that, in advancing this claim again this year, the Opposition is seeking to apply the benefit of medical treatment only to those who cannot meet the means test. It proposes to give a very expensive range of medical treatment to people who, if single, may be receiving an income of up to £8 15s. a week or have property to the value of £4,860, and, if married, may have a joint income of £17 10s. a week or, between them, property to the value of £9,720. The Australian people as a whole might well ask whether giving free medical treatment for non-war-caused disabilities to people with means of that order is putting the social needs of this country at this time in their correct priority. In any case, this has struck me as a strange suggestion, coming from a socialist Opposition.
Another claim put forward by the Opposition is that the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should be entitled to pensioner medical services and that the rate of the T.P.I, pension should be increased to an amount equal to the basic wage. I have looked at both of these claims with a great deal of sympathy because of the feeling we all have for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. It is a mistake for the Opposition to confuse the pensioner medical service, which comes under the National Health Act, with the repatriation service. It has never been a part of the repatriation system to provide medical treatment for war pensioners’ wives.
– They have it now.
– Not under the repatriation system. They may have the benefit of the pensioner medical service provided under the National Health Act. What we are debating now is the Repatriation Act.
– Some wives of T.P.I, pensioners already have it.
– They do not get treatment in repatriation hospitals. They have the benefit of the pensioner medical service, which comes under the National Health Act. It is no good your shaking your head; that is the case.
– Order! Honorable members have had an opportunity to debate this bill, and the Minister is now speaking in reply. I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I rise to order. The Minister is now answering arguments which have never been advanced.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member. The Minister is entitled to speak as he wishes.
– I have no time to reply in detail to all the speeches made by honorable members, but there is one that should not pass unnoticed. In the course of his speech, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) made the charge that the determining authorities are not guided by the merits of the cases submitted to them but allow a certain fixed percentage and disallow the rest. His words were -
The more I study section 47 of the act and the more I see of some of the decisions handed down by the Repatriation Commission, repatriation boards and the tribunals, the more certain I am that the claims of a certain percentage of applicants will always be rejected.
That charge is false. In justice to the men who comprise the bodies to which he has referred - all of whom are ex-servicemen themselves, and most of whom have been appointed by law from panels of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations - I must reject that charge as groundless and grossly unfair. If it were correct it would mean that my department and I must have entered into a conspiracy with all the members of these boards and tribunals to ride roughshod over the requirements of the act and our obligations to the applicants, deliberately to achieve a predetermined statistical result. The charge is as ridiculous as it is unfair to those men against whom it is made.
There have been several thoughtful speeches during this debate which I have noted carefully. I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) on the importance of the present increase in the rate of sustenance to be paid during a period of essential convalescence after discharge from hospital. The honorable member for Lilley himself has been the principal advocate in this House of this change for several years. 1 conclude by thanking the many members of the House who have expressed good wishes to me in this portfolio. I can only say that I am greatly encouraged by their confidence and that I will do my best to discharge the trust which has been placed in my hands. It is not for me, I think, to thank them for their appreciative remarks about my predecessor, but I join them in admiration for his years of splendid service to disabled ex-servicemen.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Declaration of Urgency.
Mr. OSBORNE (Evans - Minister for
Repatriation). - I declare that the Repatriation Bill 1961 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage -
to the end of clause 8, until 5.30 p.m. this day;
to the end of clause 14, until 6 p.m. this day; (Hi) remainder of the committee stage, until 9.20 p.m. this day;
For the remaining stages, until 9.30 p.m. this day.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, a few moments ago, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and I tried to draw your attention to the fact that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), in his reply to the second-reading debate on the bill, was deliberately answering arguments that were to be advanced by the Opposition at the committee stage. You ruled against the Opposition’s point of order.
– I hope that the honorable member will relate his remarks to the motion for the allotment of time.
– I am going to relate my remarks, most emphatically, to the limitation of debate at the committee stage that the Minister for Repatriation has proposed. It is obvious that when the Minister was making his half-hour speech which concluded a few moments ago, he intended to move that the bill be considered an urgent bill and so to restrict debate in committee. He knew full well that the Opposition intended to move amendments to various clauses because the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) had been kind enough to co-operate with him and to give him a copy of the proposed amendments.
The Minister used most of his time to answer arguments which the Opposition will not now have an opportunity to express. The Opposition wishes to move six amendments which are all based on arguments that have been advanced by returned servicemen’s organizations, including the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association. Those arguments are supported by facts. They are moderate in their tone. The Opposition feels that it should have the right to speak freely in support of its proposed amendments at the committee stage. The Minister has run away from the issues. He raised fictitious arguments and answered them, and has now run away. He will not give us an opportunity to inform the committee of the real case for the proposals that we intend to make. I feel that the attitude adopted by the Minister has verged on the treacherous. He used the good graces of the Opposition in order to answer arguments that have not yet been put before the committee, and then ran away.
– Order! I think the honorable member is canvassing a ruling of the Chair.
– The majority of honorable members opposite are members of ex-servicemen’s organizations, but they refused to raise their voices in support of the ex-servicemen’s arguments during the second-reading debate and will fail to raise them at the committee stage of the bill. The Minister must be afraid of the amendments that we are to put forward. Apparently there are a certain number of ex-servicemen on the other side of the House who were going to support us when those amendments were proposed, and now the Minister refuses to allow the Opposition to put forward its arguments in support of the amendments. I believe the Minister, who has held the portfolio for twelve months, has shown a total and callous disregard for the problems of ex-service men and women. I certainly voice my emphatic protest against the motion.
– I think members on both sides of the House know that it is necessary to have this legislation ready to go to another place by a certain hour of the day. Unfortunately, because of an occurrence which we all regret, we did lose some debating time in the House this week, but I do not think we want to discuss that aspect of it. It was one of those very regrettable incidents which lead to a suspension of the sitting. However, that suspension truncated our time.
I suggest to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) that instead of telling the House about all the things he would like to say if he had the time, he might defer that, allow the bill to go into committee and then put forward his point of view. The longer he and his colleagues protest against the guillotine, the more they rob themselves of time in committee. The time allowed for the second-reading debate and the time remaining for the committee stage are ample for the consideration of all the points of view. It is necessary for the smooth conduct of the business of the House and the forwarding of bills to another place, that we should pass this bill by a certain hour to-night and for that reason my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), has proposed this motion.
.- I join with the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) in protesting at the way in which this measure is being treated. I protest particularly because in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of any objective observer, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) has already pre-judged the amendments which are to be moved at a later stage. He has a closed mind and has indicated that they are not acceptable. In respect of some of the amendments, which have not yet been moved, let alone argued, the Minister has indicated that he is not even prepared to bring an open mind to the arguments that will be brought forward in support of them. What is more, the Minister has made up his mind before they have been moved to reject them. He will not give other members of the Parliament the opportunity for argument, within reasonable time, so that justice may be done to people who have long been denied it.
The simple fact is that these amendments are not flimsy things of inconsequential nature, but are matters of vital and farreaching nature. They refer to things like the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability for which the sufferer is eligible for a pension and the proper provision of pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. Those are matters of vast consequence for people in the community. Apparently they are to be rushed through the committee after about half an hour’s discussion and all the people in this place who should have an informed mind to bring to bear on these questions will be arbitrarily denied the opportunity to do so. I lodge my protest.
.- The time limit proposed by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) is insufficient, because there are major issues of principle at stake. The Minister does little credit to the cause of the ex-servicemen or the department that he represents in this place when he proposes the action that he has proposed to the Parliament this afternoon. The major principles which are involved deal with matters of great concern to exservice men and women. Surely the six amendments to be proposed by the Opposition deserve fair and reasonable consideration! There are ex-service men and women in this country to-day who have been denied pensions, and they seek redress. They have not been able to get that redress through the present agencies and all that the Opposition wishes to do is to enlarge the field so as to allow a court to deal with such matters in order that justice might be done. Not only should justice be done, but justice should appear to be done to those who are denied these benefits at the present time.
Scant consideration is being given to all these matters and if one ex-service man or woman is to-day being denied a pension that is his or her right, the position ought to be corrected. It is an appalling, unhappy and most unsatisfactory state of affairs that members on the Government side of the House remain silent and are not prepared to express their views on these important issues of principle. Instead they have preferred to go into the coward’s castle–
– Order! I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the question before the Chair is the allotment of time.
– That is so. I am speaking of the time to be allotted for the remaining stages of the bill and the fact that it will deny members the opportunity to debate these matters. That is the reason for the silence of members on the other side of the House. I challenge members on the Government side to stand in their places when the bill is in committee, speak to these amendments and indicate whether they are satisfied with the onus of proof as it is being applied at present or whether they will retreat shamefully and shamelessly from our proposal.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1111) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, “ That the bill be now read a second time “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 - by leave - taken together.
Section eighty-five of the Principal Act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended -
Members of the Forces, The rate specified in irrespective of their age section eighty-four of this Act.
Wives of members of the Ninety-one pounds per Forces annum.
.- I moveIn clause 7, omit “ ‘ One hundred and twentythree pounds ten shillings per annum’”, insert “‘Two hundred and forty pounds ten shillings per annum ‘ “.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment provides for the wives of permanently incapacitated service pensioners to receive the equivalent of the class B widow’s pension, which is at present £4 7s. 6d. per week, but will rise to £4 12s. 6d. a week when the increase that has been announced by the Government is implemented. The amount of the allowance that is at present paid to the wife of a permanently incapacitated service pensioner is at present £1 15s. per week, so that when the new rate of service pension of £5 5s. a week and the new rate of the allowance to a wife of a permanently incapacitated service pensioner, of £2 7s. 6d. per week, comes into force, a service pensioner and his wife will receive a total amount of £7 12s. 6d. per week.
The pension plan of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, copies of which were sent to most honorable members, asked that the service pension be increased from £5 to £5 10s. per week. The League did not ask that the allowance paid to the wife of a permanently incapacitated service pensioner be increased, but it did ask that the rates of allowances paid to the wives and children of general rate war pensioners be increased. I point out that the allowance paid to the wife of a permanently unemployable ex-serviceman who is in receipt of a service pension has remained at £1 15s. per week since 1952, and by this bill it is being increased to £2 7s. 6d. per week. The amount of the allowance, when it was introduced in 1943, was 15s. per week. In 1947. it was increased to £1 per week. In 1949. it went to £1 4s. per week, in 1951 to £1 10s. per week and in 1952 to £1 15s. per week. It was not increased between 1952 and this year despite the fact that every few years prior to this year, when an increase of 12s. 6d. is being granted, previous Governments - both Labour and non-Labour - found it necessary to increase the amount of the wife’s allowance.
The service pension in 1952 was £3 7s. 6d. per week and the wife’s allowance was £1 15s. per week, or more than half of the amount of the service pension. But despite the fact that the wife’s allowance was greater than 50 per cent, of the service pension in 1952. there has been no increase in the amount of the allowance since 1952, apart from the increase of 12s. 6d. per week that is granted by this bill. I suppose that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) will be prepared to sit like a mute in his place and say nothing on the arguments that are advanced in committee by honorable members on this side, because when replying to the second-reading debate, in effect he answered arguments that we shall put forward in committee. I should like the Minister to tell the committee why the allowance paid to the wife of a permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is in receipt of a service pension has not been increased, apart from the increase proposed in this bill, since 1952. In 1949, the Chifley Labour Government increased the amount of the allowance from £1 to £1 4s. per week, and in 1951 this Government further increased the amount to £1 10s. per week. As I have said before, the amount was further increased to £1 15s. per week in 1952, and it has remained static since then, apart from the increase proposed in this bill. As increases in this allowance were made every few years between 1943 and 1952, I cannot see why the amount has been allowed to remain constant from that year till now. If the wife’s allowance was an amount greater than 50 per cent, of the service pension in 1952, it should have been increased as the amount of the service pension was increased since that time.
The Opposition has been impelled to submit this amendment owing to the fact that the wife of a permanently incapacitated service pensioner is unable, due to the application of the means test, to earn anything greater than a set amount without affecting her husband’s service pension. The wife of an invalid service pensioner is saddled with extra responsibility. She has to care for her sick husband, whatever disease he may have. Furthermore, service pensioners who receive the pension because of invalidity are below 60 years of age. Not only has the service pensioner himself been cut off from remunerative work in the relatively early stage of his life, but his wife is faced with extra responsibilities. She has to perform a lot of manual labour that could be undertaken by her husband if he were in good health. She has to accept the responsibility of the general care of the house. Because of her husband’s condition, she has to accept responsibility for the care of their children, and she is unable to enjoy a full life in many other respects. Her finances are severely limited, and because of that she is placed in a rather difficult position. It is not much to ask the Government to see that the wife of an invalid is granted a pension or an allowance that will allow her and her husband, and any children they may have, to live in a reasonable degree of comfort.
The Opposition believes that the rate of allowance payable to the wife of an incapacitated ex-serviceman in receipt of a service pension should be increased to £4 12s. 6d. per week so that the total amount of the service pension and the wife’s allowance would be £9 17s. 6d. per week. Even that amount is a miserly amount considering that the ex-serviceman has served his country well in time of war. The wife of an incapacitated service pensioner, not only because of his war-caused disabilities but also for other reasons is called upon to care for an invalid husband and she has to make many sacrifices in order to make ends meet. The Labour Opposition has submitted this amendment out of sympathy and because it knows and understands the problems that the wives of invalid service pensioners have to face. If there is any compassion, if there is any understanding, if there is any sympathy among honorable members on the other side of the chamber, particularly the ex-servicemen among them, then those honorable members, I feel, must support this amendment.
I should like the Minister to explain why, although this Government saw fit to increase the wife’s allowance in 1951 and 1952 it has left the allowance unchanged since then. The Government stands condemned for its callous indifference to the problems of invalid service pensioners, and the Opposition asks all honorable members who have any sympathy or understanding io vote for our amendment, because all it seeks to provide is a measure of assistance to the wives of invalid service pensioners.
– The clauses now before the committee are clauses I to 8 inclusive. Clause 2 provides that, with the exception of one section, the amending act will come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. A careful time-table has been worked out so that we will be able to get this bill through this chamber and through the Senate as soon as possible in order that the increased pension rates may be paid as soon as possible. I am sure the committee appreciates that the time-table has had to be brought down so as to ensure that the bill will go to the Senate to-night.
Clauses 3 to 6 do not, I think, give rise to any controversy. They deal with machinery matters connected with administration. None of the provisions contained in them subtracts from anybody’s rights. Some of them enlarge or ensure the existing rights of some people. The reason for those provisions was detailed with some care in my second-reading speech, and I do not propose to take up the time of the committee by recapitulating them now.
Clause 7 provides for an increase of 12s. 6d. a week in the pension for the wife of a service pensioner whose service pension has been granted on medical grounds - that is to say, because he is permanently unemployable or suffers from tuberculosis. The Government decided to increase this rate by 12s. 6d. a week, from £1 15s. to £2 7s. 6d. The bill also will increase by 3s. 6d. a week the rate of service pension payable to the first child. The Opposition has brought forward another amendment to provide a considerably greater increase. Pension scales are always matters on which people can argue that one particular rate ought to be higher than another. The amount of increase on which the Government has decided for this year is what we have determined as being the most that we can do in the present circumstances, and we therefore ask the committee to agree to the amount provided for in the bill and not to accept the additional amount proposed by the Opposition.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). In deciding to move this amendment the Opposition was certainly governed by consideration of the financial circumstances of the wives of permanently unemployable ex-servicemen. As the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, the rate of pension for the wife has remained unchanged since 1952. I believe that the Minister for Repatriation has himself just acknowledged the fact that the amount has been inadequate and that, despite the increase of 12s. 6d. a week now proposed, the amount will still be completely inadequate having regard to the peculiar circumstances governing the grant of a service pension - which is granted, in the first place, because of the pensioner’s disabilities.
During the second-reading debate 1 pointed out that many of the ex-servicemen who have qualified for service pensions on the grounds of permanent unemployability are people whose disabilities could quite easily have been accepted by a repatriation body as being due to war service. It is only because of the element of doubt in their cases - and this is a matter which is often referred to in this chamber - that the repatriation authorities have not accepted these people as eligible for the repatriation pensions paid to people whose injuries are held to be due to war service. Had they been so accepted, they would be receiving the special rate of pension, but, because, as I said, there was an element of doubt, the repatriation authorities have rejected their claims and they now qualify for no more than a service pension on the grounds of permanent unemployability.
After this legislation becomes law, the wife of such a pensioner will receive £2 7 s. 6d. a week - the first increase granted since 1952, despite the tremendous increase in the cost of living since that year. The honorable member for Lang referred to the special circumstances involved in those cases, pointing out that not infrequently the wives of service pensioners are obliged to relinquish full-time employment because of the medical condition of their husbands. The Opposition holds that in such cases the wives should be compensated to an extent which would enable the couple to live in much better circumstances than they can now live in on their combined pensions. As was stated by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) last night in his second-reading speech on the social services legislation, a future Labour government will initiate legislation to provide that the wife of a service pensioner will receive a rate of pension equivalent to that received by a B class widow. Our amendment proposes that the wife should receive a pension of not less than £123 10s. per annum, which is the same as the B class widow’s pension at the rate of £4 12s. 6d. a week. We believe that this is only just and reasonable. The Minister himself has acknowledged that even despite the increase now proposed by the Government under this legislation the final amount will still remain inadequate-
– No, no, I did not say that.
– The Minister implied it. He may deny it, but he implied that the Government was not in a position at this stage to do any more than it proposes, and I suggest that the inference from that is that the amount should certainly be increased. I ask the committee to accept the Opposition’s amendment.
.- I rise to speak only briefly in order to correct a statement made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) which was untrue. The honorable member suggested that service pensioners who are totally unemployable through illness are in receipt of their present pensions instead of the pensions paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen simply because there is some element of doubt as to whether or not their condition was caused by war service. That is not a fact. The people concerned are incapacitated, but not because of war service. Had there been any element of doubt as to whether or not their incapacity was due to war service the completely impartial repatriation tribunals would most certainly have resolved the doubt in favour of the ex-servicemen. Does anybody seriously suggest that the people to whom the honorable member for Bass has referred, who have been incapacitated in their civilian lives, should receive the same consideration, in the way of repatriation pensions, as people who have been totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of their war service? There is no element of doubt in the cases with which we are now dealing, which are of men who are exservicemen but who have become totally and permanently unemployable through illness or accidents in their civilian lives. The illness or incapacity is in no way related to his war service, but the Repatriation Commission, as the honorable member for Bass knows, goes to the extreme point of saying that if the man’s permanent incapacity can be related even remotely to some incident that occurred on war service, or even if he has some war-caused incapacity that could remotely have contributed to the condition which he now suffers, he is entitled to the special rate pension. Let us not confuse the minds of members of the committee on this point. The incapacity referred to in clause 4 is a civilian incapacity, with no relation whatever to war service.
I am very pleased that the Minister, having recently taken over the Repatriation portfolio, has seen fit, in the first amendments that he has introduced, to provide for an increase of no less than 12s. 6d. in the wife’s allowance.
– That is a very substantial increase in the rate of any pension or allowance in any year. The honorable member for Wills may sneer. But let me remind him that at no time during the Labour Party regime did it ever increase any pension by anywhere near that amount. So it ill becomes the honorable member for Wills to sit on that bench, sneer and make remarks such as that which he just made in regard to the increase that has been provided. I for one am proud that the Government is providing for an increase of 12s. 6d.
This is a very sound move on the part of the Government, and the committee must not be misled by the statements made by the honorable member for Bass in an attempt to confuse us and strengthen the debating points that he put forward. This is a repatriation bill. This clause refers to a service pension, and the incapacity suffered by the ex-servicemen, for which he and his wife are receiving consideration, has no relationship whatsoever to war service. The honorable member for Bass knows that if an ex-serviceman has an entitlement under the Repatriation Act and is receiving a pension for some war-caused disability that restricts his mobility - makes walking difficult for him and impedes his progress across a street - and is knocked down by a motor car, he can relate the injury resulting from being knocked down by the motor car to the war-caused disability and he can then receive a T.P.I. pension if he is totally incapacitated. Cases of that nature are on record in the files of the Repatriation Department. Let us clear our minds. We are considering now civilian disabilities for which ex-servicemen are receiving recognition under the Repatriation Act. The Minister is to be congratulated on the increase in pensions provided in clause 7.
.- In view of the limitation of time, I shall have to demolish the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in shorthand. First, we do not agree that the onus-of-proof provision is satisfactorily applied in such a way that everybody is covered. Secondly, this is a simple matter of common humanity. The allowance for a wife is miserable in the extreme. If both persons were of an age to qualify for the age pension, they would be receiving over £10 a week. In this case, with the ex-serviceman totally incapacitated and possibly dependent upon his wife for care, she will receive an allowance of £2 7s. 6d. We say that it is time that wives of pensioners received the same consideration as they would if they were themselves pensioners.
One has only to look at the schedule to the bill to see the valuation that the Government places upon a woman living On her own. In view of the fact that there has been no other amendment for seven years, this provision is miserable in the extreme. Because a wife is being treated differently from a widow, even though she subsists in the same society, we have moved an amendment. We suggest that the honorable member for Lilley look at his conscience, have less care for the Government’s pocket, and come over on this side when we divide.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 14 - by leave - taken together.
The Second Schedule to the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words - “ Rate for Special Pensions -
Twenty-five Poundsten Shillings per Fortnight.” and inserting in their stead the words - “ Rate for Special Pensions -
Twenty-six Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight.”;
Schedule proposed to be amended -
Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty-ftve
Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight.
– I will detail to the committee very shortly what clauses 9 to 14 do. Clause 9 amends the first schedule to the act to increase the war widows’ pension by 10s. a fortnight and to provide certain increases in the general 100 per cent. rate war pension, as stated in the Budget and in my second-reading speech. Clause 10 amends the second schedule to increase the special rate for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners by £1 a fortnight and to increase certain attendants’ allowances by £1 and £1 10s. a fortnight each. Clause 11 amends the third schedule to increase the pension payable to a double orphan by 17s. a fortnight to £7 3s. It also increases the rate of pension by 15s. a fortnight for the first child of an ex-serviceman whose death was due to war service and by 10s. the rate for each child other than the first child of such an ex-serviceman.
Clause 12 amends the fifth schedule to increase the special rate payable to persons with the disabilities set out in the schedule and increase certain attendants’ allowances. Clauses 13 and 14 are necessary to give effect to amendments to machinery provisions of the act.
.- I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to the significance of the schedule shown in clause 9. There is a differentiation according to rank between the rates of pension payable to widowed mothers, widows, or to ex-servicemen themselves upon total incapacity. I do not think that we can possibly justify this sort of discrimination. It is not a matter of carrying egalitarianism to some extreme; this is a payment made to people because of their sacrifice - a sacrifice made in the service of the country. Generally speaking, the sacrifice bore no relation whatever to the rank that may have been held.
It may be argued that the total and permanent incapacity of a person of very high rank reduces his standard of living more dramatically than such incapacity reduces the standard of living of a person with a lower rank. But in this instance we are dealing with people who attained their rank during the war and who now have been living in these circumstances for perhaps sixteen or seventeen years. Let us disregard the position of the ex-serviceman and examine what the schedule means when applied to mothers or widows. The schedule provides that the pension payable to a widowed mother of a serviceman who was below the rank of leading seaman, corporal or any relative rank or rating shall be £4 10s. a fortnight. Then there is a fine gradation in, I suppose, a sort of feudal system. The widowed mother of a leading seaman will receive £5, of a petty officer £5 3s., of a chief petty officer £5 5s. 6d., and of a warrant officer £5 13s. 6d. Then we come into the silk department. The widowed mother of a member of commissioned rank below lieutenant in the Navy, captain in the Army or flight lieutenant in the Air Force will receive £5 18s., and of a lieutenant, captain or flight lieutenant £6 8s. The schedule then goes through all the ranks until we reach ranks higher than captain in the Navy, colonel, group captain and relative ranks. The widowed mothers of such officers will receive £8 6s. This is almost double - not quite, of course - the amount payable to the widowed mother of members of ranks below leading seaman, corporal and relative ranks.
It is not difficult to imagine families living side by side who have lost sons of widely differing ranks. It is not difficult, indeed, to imagine a mother who unfortunately was bereft of two sons, one a private and the other a brigadier. These are not extremes in the Australian community. Such a mother would be fortunate to receive the pension due to her as the mother of a brigadier. I do not think in this community we can possibly support any differentiation. I realize that there has been a gradual breaking down of these great differences, but I cannot justify those that remain and I think the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) should turn his attention to them.
We on this side of the chamber do not propose to vote against the provision, but honorable members should consider what it means in the repatriation system. Repatriation is based upon sacrifice and provides some compensation to exservicemen and their dependants because of that sacrifice. We all stood equal in sacrifice, no matter what the rank was. Widows and mothers stand equal in the face of sacrifice, and there can be no possible justification for the differentiation in this schedule. If the Minister does not get around to this matter before December, we will fix it ourselves after December.
.- I want to make some reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). As a preface to other comments 1 want to make, let me say that I agree with the sentiments that he has expressed. However, I point out that in 1943 a committee was appointed by the Parliament to investigate the Repatriation Act, and that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a very distinguished member of it. The committee recommended that any increases in pension rates should apply uniformly to every rank referred to in the schedule. Since 1943, the recommendations of the committee have been adhered to, and in the past twelve years that this Government has been in office, the recommendations of the committee have been followed with even’ increase made in the pension rates. The honorable member for Wills will concede, therefore, that in the time we have been in office, there has been a reduction in the relativity between the rates of pension payable to those on the low ranks and to those on the more senior ranks.
If we continue to adhere to the recommendations of the committee, which was, in fact, appointed by the Australian Labour Party when it was in office, I am sure the honorable member for Wills will concede there really will not be any room for criticism and that the amendments contained in the bill must be acceptable to all honorable members.
– 1 move -
In clause 10, omit from paragraph (a) the words - “ ‘ Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty-six Pounds Ten Shillings per Fortnight.’ “. insert - “ ‘ Rate for Special Pensions - Twenty-eight Pounds Sixteen Shillings per Fortnight.’ “.
The increase proposed in this amendment brings the pension into line with the basic wage which applies to-day if averaged over the six capital cities. The Opposition is not breaking new ground. We have consistently advocated that the special rate of pension should be at least equal to the basic wage. This was part of Labour’s policy in 1955, and was contained in the policy speech in 1958. At this stage, we have decided to move it as an amendment to the bill.
We believe that the very minimum tha1 should be paid to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is no longer able to accept his full civic and social responsibilities is this special rate of pension. Our point of view has been upheld by various organizations interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen. Although it may be true to say that the ex-servicemen’s organization, in its last submission to the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee, did not ask that the equivalent of the basic wage be granted, let me point out that the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association requested in April last that the special rate pension be increased to £14. I suggest that that sum was in line with the then existing basic wage. So, in moving that the special rate pension be now increased to £14 8s. a week, we are endorsing the principle that has been accepted by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association.
The Government has seen fit in the legislation now before the committee to increase the T.P.I, pension by 15s. a week, bringing the rate to £13 5s. a week. As I have already indicated, the Opposition proposes that it should be £14 8s. to accord with the existing basic wage. In Australia to-day, 20,807 ex-servicemen are in receipt of the special-rate pension. If the special rate pension were increased by £1 3s. a week as the Opposition proposes, the Government would be involved in an additional expenditure of approximately £28,000 a year. When all is said and done in a Budget for approximately £1,600.000,000, the sum of £28,000 is not very significant. But the payment of that money would mean a lot to people who. because of their war service, are obliged to live on a special rate pension which we believe is quite inadequate.
At the second-reading stage, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) referred to the special rate pension and said that that was not the only amount received by the ex-servicemen concerned. He said that the wives’ allowance also entered into the picture. I have consistently claimed in this chamber that the sum which the wife of an ex-serviceman, in this case the specialrate pensioner, receives because of her husband’s disability has nothing to do with his pension. We are discussing the amount that is paid to the special rate pensioner himself. On a number of occasions in this chamber Ministers have said that child endowment would bolster the payment. But child endowment and the wives’ allowance have nothing whatever to do with the amount of pension that is paid to a special rate pensioner. We believe that the proposition that has been advanced by the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen’s association - that is, that the special rate pension should not be less than the basic wage - is sound. I have already indicated that on numerous occasions we ourselves have advocated the payment of a pension of that order.
The Opposition’s amendment should receive the support of Government members. I should like to see supporters of the Government rise in their places and hear them say that the special rate pension now advocated by the Opposition should not be adopted. I should like to hear them tell me why the special rate pension should not accord with the basic wage. We believe that an amount equivalent to the basic wage is the very minimum that should be given to these pensioners.
– Have a look at the “ Hansard “ report of what we have said.
– I am sure the honorable member for Mallee, who has interjected, would be the first to agree with me when I make that point. There is no need for me to labour the matter. In the past, we have consistently put forward a case in support of the proposition we are now advancing. I am sure there are supporters of the Government who are in sympathy with the Opposition’s amendment. Indeed, I am sure no Government supporter is prepared to rise in his place and say that the special rate pension should not be increased to the amount now proposed by the Opposition. I commend the amendment to supporters of the Government and to the committee as a whole.
.- At the second-reading stage the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), unaware that I was occupying the chair as the Deputy Speaker, made several suggestions about what I should do. I now want to make the position quite clear to the honorable member for Lalor and other Opposition members. The attitude that I propose to adopt towards this amendment is the same as that which I expressed at the secondreading stage, as reported at page 1012 of “ Hansard “. It is all very well for the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) to say, “ I would like members of the Government to say whether they are sympathetic with the Opposition’s proposal and whether they believe that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should receive the suggested increase “. I think the honorable member for Lalor said that it was impossible to fix a sum of money which it could be said would adequately compensate a man who had become totally incapacitated.
We must remember that the increase proposed by the Government is part of the Budget proposals as a whole. The Opposition moved that the first item in the Estimates be reduced by £1, but that amendment was rejected. In other words, the Committee of Supply accepted the Budget as it stood. In view of that fact, I propose to vote against the amendment.
.- I rise to support the Opposition’s amendment, which is designed to give to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners a special rate pension which is at least equivalent to the basic wage. Because of the limited amount of time allotted to me, I did not have an opportunity at the secondreading stage to indicate that whereas in 1950, this Government then being in office, T.P.I, pensioners were receiving 68.7 per cent, of the average weekly earnings of each employed male unit, they will now be receiving, with the increase proposed by the Government included, only 57.1 per cent. - a loss between 1950 and 1961 of 11.6 per cent.
– That is not correct.
– It is of no use saying that those figures are not correct. They were obtained from the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
– 1 am not quarrelling about that. You are taking only part of his pension; you are not taking into account the whole pension.
– I am certainly not taking into account anything that some totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen do not get. There are plenty of single T.P.I, pensioners who are not receiving these other concessions. Even if some do get other concessions such as a wife’s allowance - some of them under a means test - or a part service pension, to my mind it is pretty paltry compensation for loss of their earning capacity. I think it was the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who took the matter to the extreme and said that some couples are able to get more than £22 a week. Even if that were true, one needs to be reminded that in many cases these people are suffering from disabilities which make it necessary for them to employ casual help.
– That £22 does not include attendants’ allowances.
– I am not talking about that. In many cases - probably in most cases - these people are unable to perform such tasks as mowing their lawns and effecting repairs to their homes which other members of the community are able to perform. Moreover, they suffer from the social disability of not being able to move around and enjoy life as are retired persons who are in receipt of a pension. In addition, even if they were receiving the equivalent of the basic wage, they would not get annual holidays. I know, of course, that their pension continues throughout the year. But they certainly do not get long service leave. They do not enjoy such rights. Also, they do not enjoy the benefits of a subsidized superannuation scheme as do people who have been in employment. All in all, these incapacitated people have lost quite a lot. It seems rather paltry to me to begrudge these people, who because of their war service have lost their capacity to earn, a pension equivalent to the basic wage without the application of a means test. In fact, we know that there are very few people in the community who are required to exist on the basic wage. Supporters of the Government frequently tell us that the person in full employment who is receiving only the basic wage is rather a rarity; yet we are begging and pleading with the Parliament to provide the equivalent of the basic wage for those who should have the highest regard and full recognition of the community.
The Totally and Permanentally Incapacitated Pensioners Association has asked not only that we should increase the pension to £14 but also that the allowance for a wife be increased to £3 and that it be paid by the Repatriation Department so that it will not be subject to any means test. They believe that the wife’s allowance should not be paid, as it is at present, as part of the income of £17 simply because the spouse is the wife of an invalid person and has to qualify under the means test for a social service pension. We make the plea that these people be given at least the basic wage. They will still be denied many things that people living normally in the community on the basic wage - even if there are only few of them - are able to obtain, such as long-service leave and a subsidized pension.
.- It is well known throughout Australia that associations of ex-servicemen have always said that they do not want these pensions associated with the basic wage. That is well known also to the Opposition. New members of the Parliament do not realize, perhaps, what has happened in the past. When I first came into this Parliament, I put up exactly the same argument as that put up by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I have explained this previously. When I put up that argument I was corrected by leaders of the Australian Labour Party. I was told that the special rate pension had added to it a wife’s allowance and allowances for children and that these things had to be taken into consideration when comparing it with the basic wage. The “ Hansard “ record shows that they corrected me.
Now we find members of the Labour Party putting up the same case on which I was corrected. It is perplexing to hear members of the Opposition say that so many ex-servicemen on the Government side should have some sympathy with their colleagues.
– Have you the “ Hansard “ to which you referred?
– I have, and if I give it to you will you read it to the committee?
– How can I read it when I am gagged, as you know?
– I have the “Hansard “ and the honorable member for Bass knows very well that I have it. Ask him to show it to you. Of course the honorable member for Bass knows that I have the “ Hansard “ and it can be read by any one. It is there for every one to see. New members coming into this chamber do not realize what the Labour Government did. A certain amount of money has been allocated to be spent on repatriation, and I think that this Government has been most fair in this allocation. I do not take second place to any one in my sympathetic opinion towards ex-servicemen. Members of the Opposition may scoff as they like, but I believe I am at least equal to most in my sympathy for ex-servicemen. 1 know personally what they have gone through. With all that in mind, I compliment this Government on what it has done for ex-servicemen while in office. It has given increases in pensions and all sorts of amenities to ex-servicemen. If Labour supporters knew the way the Labour Government operated in regard to repatriation when in office they would agree with me. No T.P.I special rate pensioner has complained to me regarding his pension for many years.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of clauses 9 to 14 has expired. The question now is, “ That the words proposed to be. omitted stand part of the clause “.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.6 to 8 p.m.
Proposed new clause.
Section proposed to be amended -
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “4a. Section thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘, the words or cancer ‘; and
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer’.”.
This proposal is in line with requests that have been made by the Returned Servicemen’s League over a number of years. This is no new suggestion that the Opposition is putting forward. We propose this amendment because we believe that cancer should be treated as a disease calling for automatic entitlement to repatriation benefits, in the same way as tuberculosis has been accepted for a number of years. We do not believe it is possible for a repatriation authority to say, with any degree of certainty, that cancer is not due to a person’s war service. I remember that during a debate on this matter in 1960 the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) admitted, in answer to a question directed to him in this chamber, that there was no known cause of cancer. If the cause of cancer is not known, I submit it must be very difficult for a doctor to justify the rejection of evidence submitted by an applicant that his cancer is due to war service.
I was most impressed, as, I am sure, were other honorable members, by figures given this afternoon by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), when closing the debate on the second reading of this bill. The Minister said that about 50 per cent. of the applications made to the repatriation authorities to have cancer accepted for entitlement to repatriation benefits had been approved. If it is not possible for a doctor to say with any degree of certainty that a particular case of cancer was or was not due to war service, then, unless the repatriation authorities can show beyond any reasonable doubt that it was not due to war service it obviously must be accepted under section 47 of the Repatriation Act.
I believe that all the arguments that were submitted to this Parliament in favour of having tuberculosis automatically accepted as a disability entitling the sufferer to benefits under the Repatriation Act apply with equal force in the case of cancer. We have been told that it is most difficult for the Repatriation Department to supply statistics required by honorable members on this subject. The fact remains, however, that the department itself has admitted, and the Minister for Health has admitted in this Parliament, that it is not possible for a doctor to say with any degree of certainty that a particular case of cancer was not due to war service. If a doctor cannot say this with any degree of certainty, then obviously the condition must be accepted by the department as entitling the ex-serviceman to repatriation benefits. Because of the inability of doctors to discover the cause of cancer, I believe that in all fairness the unfortunate people who contract this dread disease should be placed in the same position as those who have contracted tuberculosis, whether during their service or after it.
Undoubtedly the provision of the legislation under which tuberculosis is automatically accepted for entitlement to benefit is a generous one. The Government introduced that provision because of the nature of the disease itself. But the arguments in favour of the acceptance of tuberculosis are equally cogent in respect of cancer, and I suggest, therefore, that cancer should also be accepted as a disease automatically entitling the sufferer to benefits under the Repatriation Act.
I said a few minutes ago that this proposal represents the contention not only of members of the Opposition. I have no doubt that the amendment is viewed sympathetically by honorable members of the Government parties, and that the Minister himself is probably sympathetic towards it. The Returned Servicemen’s League supports the claim, of course. The last three annual reports of the league have contained re quests that the Minister consider the automatic acceptance of cancer for purposes of repatriation benefit. For instance, on page 11 of the 44th Annual Report of the organization, item 45 says -
Commonwealth Government to provide that Section 37 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act be amended so as to include after the words “ pulmonary tuberculosis “ wherever appearing, the words “ and/or cancer of the lung “.
As I have said, the proposition we are submitting is not a new one. It has been put forward year after year by the Returned Servicemen’s League. We believe that in fairness to ex-servicemen generally, because of the nature of the condition, and because of the inability of the medical profession to say with any certainty how an exserviceman contracted it, cancer should be accepted as calling for automatic entitlement. In view of the fact that the Opposition’s amendment, which has been proposed on numerous occasions in the past, has received such wide support from the returned servicemen’s organizations, obviously it should receive also the support of the Government.
.- At the outset I should like to say that I am inclined to believe in the justification for the Opposition’s amendment. But that is a personal opinion. Neither I nor, I believe, any other honorable member has sufficient evidence to satisfy our minds absolutely whether the amendment is justified. As I have said, I believe that it is justified, but the department has not been able to furnish the figures which I believe are necessary if we are to make up our minds definitely one way or the other. I am not prepared to accept the idea that tuberculosis should not have been regarded as a warcaused disability in all cases.
– It has been.
– I know what the honorable member is talking about and 1 also know what I am talking about. I am not prepared to accept the idea that tuberculosis should not have been accepted. T know that it has been accepted, but there is a strong line of argument to the effect that it should not have been accepted. If the honorable member for Flinders could see my point he might clarify his own mind. When tuberculosis was accepted as a war-caused disability a precedent was set. I believe that if the medical profession cannot state definitely that a certain disease has not been war-caused, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the ex-serviceman concerned.
I know that individual cases are not necessarily the best basis on which to work, but I know of an ex-serviceman whose application was rejected by the board within the last few weeks. This man was in the Army for a number of years during the war and was discharged in 1944 with a nervous condition. At that time he had a tenderness of the stomach. From 1945 until he died four months ago he had what the doctors called spasms of the stomach. In other words, spastic contractions of the stomach were occurring with gradually increasing frequency. Shortly before the man died an operation was carried out and it was found that he had cancer of the stomach. I do not think for one moment that the board should have rejected the application to have this cancer accepted as a war-caused disability, but it has been rejected. The matter now is before the commission and I have every hope that the commission will deal with it in the way laid down by section 47 of the act. I believe that these matters are important.
There are many different forms of cancer and the amendment now before honorable members covers cancer in every form. I think that the only sensible way to deal with this matter is to set up a committee of the House to investigate the question thoroughly. Such a committee could get all the information that is available from the department and from the cancer authorities in other countries because we are by no means the leading cancer authority in the world. Honorable members do not have this information at present. We are being asked to judge this matter without being in possession of the full details. I can. only say that I support completely the Opposition amendment. I propose to abstain from voting, but I suggest that a committee of the House should be set up.
– Why not propose an amendment along those lines?
– I foreshadow an amendment along those lines. However, I believe that a committee should be set up so that honorable members’ minds may be clarified on this point which already has received a good deal of thought by ex-servicemen generally and by ex-servicemen’s organizations. Clarification can only come from a complete and thorough investigation by a committee of the House. A department that implements government policy is not the proper body to provide the information that is necessary. This is a matter on which the House has to make up its own mind.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) is unable to make up his mind.
– I have made up my mind.
– The honorable member has made up his own mind and feels that other people’s minds should be made up for them. We of the Opposition have made up our minds. In fact, we made up our minds as early as last year.
– But your definition of cancer is too wide.
– I do not think the honorable member would have any difficulty in accepting our definition. If the definition is deficient technically, it would be the simplest thing in the world to have that little weakness rectified when the bill is before the Senate. I think that should satisfy the honorable gentleman and remove any doubt from his mind.
The honorable member for Bowman stated that he wants some figures on this matter. I do not know the nature of the figures that he wants. Does he want to know the number of claims that might be made on the Government? I do not think that is material to the issue. Ever since the repatriation problems first cropped up honorable members have been talking about giving the benefit of the doubt to exservicemen. Here is an opportunity to clarify the position at least in relation to cancer. Let the benefit of the doubt be given forth.rightly and unequivocally to the exserviceman. If the honorable member wants figures in relation to what it will cost the nation-
– You are mistaking me. 1 asked for figures, which the department has available, relating to cancer in age groups of ex-servicemen.
– I do not think age has any bearing on the matter at all. If the age group between 40 and 60 years of age has a cancer incidence of, say, 5 per cent., and the age group between 50 and 60 years has an incidence of, say, 10 per cent, cancer, what has that to do with the question? The fact remains that no one knows whether the cancer could have been caused by the war. This cannot be stated with any degree of certitude, so the benefit of the doubt must be given to the ex-serviceman. If it is a question of financial responsibility, how deeply will the country be involved? If a cancer is of a minor character, the medical fraternity can nip the trouble in the bud, and the patient recovers. That is the end of the matter and the patient is no longer pensionable. But if the cancer is in a serious form then unfortunately the patient may not live for very long and so will not draw a pension for very long. So if, in terms of cold hard cash, it is a question of the impact of these payments on the Budget, that is a miserly attitude to adopt.
I have never read or heard of the medical fraternity anywhere claiming that it knows what causes cancer. The medical fraternity states that it knows that certain chemical elements, irritation, and a wide range of other things may induce cancer, but I understand that no one has been able to say definitely what the origin of cancer is, so why not give the benefit of the doubt to the ex-serviceman? Some members of the medical fraternity will say one thing and some will say the other. That is no reflection on them. But we must look at the facts. Only recently, in Victoria, there was disputation over the cause of death of a man who worked on the wharfs loading wheat which had been treated with a particular kind of disinfectant gas - phosgene. One very eminent medical man said that undoubtedly his death had been caused by the inhaling of this gas, and another equally well qualified medical practitioner said that death was not due to that cause.
I think that this Parliament has to take its courage in its hands and say that cancer in an ex-serviceman shall be accepted as entitling him to repatriation benefits, whether or not it is war-caused. Why not do it? That would not cost the country very much, but it would bring great credit to the Parliament for doing the decent thing in solving this problem for ex-servicemen.
.- Mr. Chairman, before I deal with the essence of the argument on this amendment, let me say that Opposition members apparently have not read very closely the terms of the amendment which has been moved. Each Opposition speaker who has discussed this amendment has advocated that cancer be accepted as a war-caused disability. Nothing in the amendment suggests that the Government or the Parliament should accept it as such. The Opposition’s amendment is based entirely on a resolution which has emanated from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I claim to have initiated the resolution in the Queensland branch of the league. I had it accepted there and submitted to the national body.
– The authenticity of thai statement can be checked.
The fact is that cancer is not required to be accepted as a war-caused disability. The suggestion is that section 37 of the Repatriation Act be amended to embody a reference to cancer. I remind the committee that that section provides that tuberculosis in an ex-serviceman shall be treated “ as if the incapacity or death resulted from an occurrence that happened during his war service “. Under the terms of this section, an ex-serviceman who has tuberculosis receives a pension and treatment from the Repatriation Commission, notwithstanding that there is no suggestion that the disease was in fact caused by his war service. A proviso requires that he shall have served in a theatre of war.
– That is a good point.
– That is the fact.
As I have said, Sir, I initiated the resolution in the Returned Soldiers League. I am sure that nobody will contradict that. Honorable members can check the fact with the league. One would suppose that I, having initiated the resolution in the league. would fanatically support the Opposition’s amendment. But I do not do so, because, since initiating the resolution and initiating, also, discussion of this matter in the Parliament, I have had a series of discussions with the Commonwealth Statistician and with officers of the Repatriation Commission about the argument which I advanced in favour of the acceptance of liability respecting cancer.
As a result of a speech made in this chamber, I received a letter dated 9th July, 1959, from the gentleman who was Minister of Repatriation at that time. That letter contains certain statements which 1 should like to mention this evening. 1 showed it to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and suggested that I incorporate it in “ Hansard “. The honorable member intimated to me that the Opposition would not oppose such a course. The letter contains a great deal of statistical information relating to the incidence of cancer among ex-servicemen. It embodies, also, statements which I believe will be of value to honorable members in debating this matter from time to time. Accordingly, with the concurrence of the committee, 1 incorporate the letter in “ Hansard “.
– Read it!
– That would take too long. There are three typewritten pages. The letter is as follows: -
I refer to the reply to your Parliamentary Question relating to cancer which 1 furnished through my colleague the Minister for Health on 29th April, 1959, and I have noted with some concern your remarks on it in the House on 7th May, 1959.
I hope I need scarcely emphasise that neither I nor my department had the slighest intention of concealing available information to which you are entitled, nor is there any reason why we should attempt to do so.
In answering your Question 4, I did not intend to convey that no facts whatever regarding deaths from cancer were known to my department, for as I pointed out in the House, the first part of my answer indicated that knowledge of some deaths from cancer had come to the notice of the department. What my answer was intended to indicate was that no information which was complete and from which any safe conclusions could possibly be drawn was available.
Prior to 1959 no statistics were kept showing deaths from cancer of 1914-18 members. The information available in regard to 1939-45 members up to 1959 is confined to those whose deaths became known to the department because of some war pension entitlement action. I am setting out hereunder the available information relating to these cases, but in doing so wish to point out the following factors which prevent valid deductions being drawn from the figures: -
Subject to the above remarks, I append the following information in regard to the 1939-45 war: -
As from the 15th January, 1959, the “International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death “ has been adopted throughout the department. This lists eighty-six different kinds of Neoplasms, including fifty-six malignant types. Also from 15th January last, causes of death (in accordance with the International code) are being recorded for members of al] wars, other than South African, though difficulty is experienced in getting information where the deceased was not a war pensioner.
A great deal of information, not recorded statistically, is contained in the individual medical files of deceased members of both World Wars. However, to extract and record this would involve a tremendous amount of time and labour, including professional staff which it is difficult to make available from other duties or to recruit. At this stage I am not prepared to undertake the task. As appears from the Commission’s Annual Reports to Parliament, a fairly wide range of statistics are maintained on both administrative and medical aspects. Wilh the resources which can reasonably be made available for the purpose, it has been necessary to collect and collate statistical material on a strict basis of priorities.
However, Cabinet has recently approved the introduction of machine processes for payment of pensions. It is planned to use these machines also for statistical purposes, and it is intended, as resources permit, to record on punched cards a wide range of medical statistical data, not only from current files but ultimately from the files of deceased members. Necessarily this work will take time to complete, but once recorded, a wide range of information can relatively quickly be extracted by machine.
I shall formally reply to your Question of 7th May (Question No. 25), and also to another Question on this subject of 13th May (Question No. 39) at the next Sittings. Meanwhile, I hope the foregoing information will be of some assistance, and give you some indication of the complexity of the problem from the medical, statistical, and administrative aspects.
Finally, if you desire and if the opportunity presents itself, the Chairman of the Commission and the Principal Medical Officer would be glad to discuss these matters with you in further detail.
I now want to refer specifically to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) that a committee of this Parliament be appointed to consider whether or not a reference to cancer ought to be embodied in section 37 of the act.
– I did not mention that section.
– That is so. The honorable member suggested that a committee be appointed to consider the matter, though. I suggest that at this stage that proposal is premature, because we, as a Parliament, have to approach the subject with the responsibility that one would expect of a National Parliament. Before we, as a Parliament, can make any determination, we need to ascertain the facts and the statistics. Those are not yet available. With respect to this, I now refer the committee to a paragraph in the letter which I have incorporated in “ Hansard “. The paragraph reads -
However, Cabinet has recently approved the introduction of machine processes for payment of pensions. It is planned to use these machines also for statistical purposes, and it is intended, as resources permit, to record on punched cards a wide range of medical statistical data, not only from current files but ultimately from the files of deceased members. Necessarily this work will take time to complete, but once recorded. a wide range of information can relatively quickly be extracted by machine.
I suggest that this Parliament is entitled to have, and should demand, production by the Repatriation Commission of the statistics that will enable us to determine this matter clearly in our own minds. We require statistics of the incidence of deaths of ex-servicemen due to cancer in its various forms. We want information regarding the service of each ex-serviceman so that we can relate the kind of service to the cancer which caused his death. It is important that this information be classified in the various age groups because the incidence of cancer varies according to the age group. As a Parliament, we should demand that the commission extract by the use of the machines that have been installed this data that we need. I agree that, once it is available, we may then consider the suggestion by the honorable member for Bowman that a committee of this Parliament investigate the matter and give to the Parliament recommendations based on facts.
– The honorable member
– The honorable member for Lalor is like a parrot or a cockatoo sitting on a post chattering away. He repeats himself and makes no sense at all. He has had his turn and he ought to let other speakers have their say. He should be called to order by the Chair.
When I was so rudely interrupted, Sir, I was suggesting that this Parliament has a responsibility to the taxpayer as well as to the ex-serviceman. I have never known an ex-serviceman to demand more than he was justly entitled to in his opinion or more than he felt he was justified in seeking from the taxpayers. Therefore, 1 suggest that in order to satisfy exservicemen and the Parliament, and to do our duty as members of the Parliament representing our constituents, we must not come to a decision on an emotional basis. We have to decide the matter on the facts. Therefore, we have to ascertain the facts. That means that we must have the statistics in order that we may put the case clearly to the people and say, “ Ex-servicemen are entitled to have cancer provided for under section 37 of the Repatriation Act “.
For these reasons, Sir, 1 here and now oppose the amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition. I believe that that amendment, first, and primarily, is based on emotionalism, and, secondly, represents an attempt to capitalize on a situation which has arisen as a result of a request made by the Returned Soldiers League. I suggest that the amendment has been put forward purely in an endeavour to embarrass the Government on an emotional issue, and not as a result of a reasonable, sound and intelligent approach to the problem. We, as a Parliament, cannot say at this stage that cancer ought to be provided for in section 37 of the act. Before we can say that, we must have the information on which we can determine the matter. I believe that the Repatriation Commission has a responsibility for finding this information and making it available for every member of the Parliament so that the issue can be settled once and for all.
.- Mr. Chairman, I should like to think that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) had the same concept of the responsibility of this Parliament for the many millions of pounds that are spent in other fields as he seems to have in relation to the poor unfortunate ex-serviceman who happens to suffer from cancer. Would he, for instance, subject the defence estimates, which, in one sense, are a fairly closely allied subject, to the same intensive mechanical scrutiny as he demands on this issue? The simple fact is that nobody has been able to say what are the causes of cancer. On the other hand, the Minister has said that medical men are able to say what does not cause cancer. It seems to me ridiculous to suggest that it can be said with confidence that any statistical analysis can assess the effect of a serviceman’s active service under differing climatic conditions, in a whole - ‘“tv of physical conditions and in varyin?, emotional stresses, none of which can ever be measured by any kind of modern apparatus. We are making an appeal to the social and human conscience of our people to help these unfortunates, for not only does this matter affect the ex-serviceman himself, but more often than not it also affects the wife and children who, in the large majority of cases, are left after the ex-serviceman has passed on. When we realize what a vital difference there is between what such a soldier’s widow would enjoy as a civilian widow pensioner under a means test with very few other concessions and the concessions that she would receive if she were regarded as a war widow, one cannot help but appreciate the feeling of frustration such people must have. If cancer were accepted as a war-caused disability, the widow would enjoy not only the war widow’s pension, but also domestic allowances, extra children’s allowances, assistance from organizations like Legacy and from the soldiers’ children’s education scheme, all of which I think are outside any consideration of the means test and all of which are designed to bring some kind of comfort to a widow who has been left in those circumstances.
If the Minister feels that the tribunals can say with confidence that a particular exserviceman suffering from cancer contracted the disease as the result of some conditions other than those experienced in his war service, let the tribunals take the responsibility of openly saying what were, in their view, the particular conditions that caused his cancer. That is the proposition that is put to them. After all, the onus of proof is placed upon them, and if they can say without doubt at all that an exserviceman’s cancer was caused by conditions not related to his war service then both the ex-serviceman in that unhappy plight and his dependent family are entitled to know what the medical authorities of the Repatriation Department have determined were the causes of his cancer. That is our direct challenge, and I cannot possibly see how, in the light of all expressed opinions about the causation of cancer, any medical authorities can say with absolute, unqualified confidence that they are in a position to make such a judgment. That is the challenge that is made to them. As I have said, when one realizes how much is involved in this matter, not merely for the ex-serviceman himself but for his unfortunate dependants, who may live on for many years after him, one must conclude that the department has some responsibility in the matter. I think that in his own heart the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) realizes that this is a just cause. He also realizes that in connexion with pulmonary tuberculosis there was not a demand for all this statistical evidence. I believe that no statistical evidence could ever be crucial or critical in making determinations of this kind. We have to exercise sympathy in this matter. I do not think we can possibly be excused for not taking action simply because we have not available to us crucial statistical evidence to compel us to act in the sympathetic way in which we are being implored to act.
If we have to wait for years until this kind of evidence can be prepared, how many more ex-servicemen will pass on? How many more wives will be added to the thousands whose husbands already have died of cancer and who have had no pensions granted to them? Why, even up to 1958 - and there have been many more since - of 2,705 applications by living members suffering from cancer, only 1,307 were accepted as war-caused disabilities. In other words, only 48 per cent, of living ex-servicemen suffering from cancer had their applications for war pensions accepted. Again, of the 1,326 applications made with respect to death caused by cancer, in only 886 or 60.6 per cent, of the cases was the cancer accepted as being war-caused. Quite frankly, from the number of cases that have come to my knowledge, I cannot stress enough the frustration and misery of these widows who, in many cases, have young children who will have a number of years to endure without their fathers, who have to meet all the expenses of educating their children, and who are denied what they have seen other people get, knowing in their own hearts, as they do, that nobody can by any means be certain as to what caused the cancer. To illustrate how far medical opinion can go on this matter, I emphasize that in many cases the cancer is not found or diagnosed until a post mortem examination has been made. Only last week one case came to my knowledge of an exserviceman who has been suffering from the effects of gas since World War I. and who receives a pension for a chest complaint. That man is now suffering from, indeed dying from, cancer, but his application to have the cancer accepted as a war-caused disability has been rejected. Surely it occurs even to the layman - it certainly occurs to me. and I make no apology for my feeling in the matter - that in the case of this exserviceman who was discharged medically unfit in 1919 and who has been receiving attention for cardiac trouble ever since then, it could quite easily be argued that at least there is room for suggestion that his disability could have been a contributing factor to his ultimate cancer. Yet his application has been rejected.
I am putting it to the Parliament that this is not a matter that can wait until some cold, statistical analysis can be made. I do not believe we can ever get statistics that can be a crucial factor in arriving at a decision on these matters. I say that because I feel that there are so many uncontrolled factors when a human being is exposed to such variable conditions as can be found in time of war. In those circumstances, how can any one possibly arrive at a purely objective judgment on matters of this kind? Medical opinion has not got that kind of confidence yet. This Parliament ought to recognize that deficiency in our confidence and give the benefit of the doubt to the unfortunate ex-serviceman and his dependants.
.- The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) offers contradictions in the general line of thought he has preferred to this Parliament. When speaking of unity tickets he uses hearsay evidence; when speaking of benefits for ex-servicemen, he wants facts and statistics, and he wants the case proved conclusively. Apparently that is the only kind of evidence that would convince the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting.
The honorable member for Lilley says it must be proved conclusively for the benefit of the taxpayers of Australia that an ex-serviceman’s disability is warcaused.
– He did not say that at all.
– He said that, and the honorable member for Hume made the same sort of remarks in his second-reading speech. We say that if the onus of proof means anything, if there is any doubt whatsoever the obligation rests with the nation to accept the responsibility. I think honorable members on the Government side are looking at this question back to front. The responsibility lies with Parliament to measure up to its responsibility to the individual ex-serviceman before considering its duties to the taxpayers in this matter. The question arises as to whether we can allow to continue the possibility of injustice, suffering and hardship while waiting on statistics which may not be produced for about 50 years at the present rate of progress, by which time the whole question will be resolved, for all the exservicemen will have passed on. As the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) has said, statistics can prove anything. You can prove from statistics that being Prime Minister of Australia is a cure for baldness because only one Prime Minister has been bald. This kind of argument which honorable members opposite produce is completely out of line with the purpose of the repatriation system. We have chosen to mention cancer, not because the honorable member for Lilley thought of it first and not because the Returned Servicemen’s League thought of it first, but because it demonstrates to us that the onusofproof section of the act is not being applied in accordance with the spirit of parliamentary debates on this subject. We intend to use cancer as a test case to test the Government’s sense of responsibility to ex-servicemen.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) evidenced the contention of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) that the Opposition’s case for the inclusion of cancer as a war-caused disability is based on emotional grounds. It was an emotional speech. I should think that better evidence could be furnished by comparing statistics relating to exservicemen who died of cancer and civilians who died of cancer in various age groups. If these statistics reveal a higher mortality rate from cancer among ex-servicemen than among civilians of corresponding age groups then the Opposition would have a strong argument. It was for statistics such as these that the honorable member for Lilley asked, not the kind of statistics to which the honorable member for Barton referred. Only simple, vital statistics are required, but the Opposition has produced nothing but emotional appeals. I have great sympathy with the ex-servicemen concerned in this matter. But, as I said in my speech during the second-reading debate, there are other complaints of which doctors do not know the cause. If cancer is accepted for repatriation purposes as the Opposition suggests this would open the field very wide. However, if the Opposition were to obtain the statistics that I have suggested should be obtained it might be able to present a good case.
.- There is no time to develop any argument of substance in this matter because of the guillotine on this debate. If there is any extended argument on this issue we will not have the opportunity of pressing for a vote on the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
– We have already had ten hours of argument.
– The Opposition wants a vote to be taken in order to clarify where members stand, not only on this amendment but on the host of controversial points that come before the Parliament from year to year, as the Minister has said. We want the opportunity to put honorable members right on their mettle. In this case we are talking about statistics. Basically, we are considering whether or not to extend the provisions of section 47 of the act - the “benefit of the doubt” section. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has talked about statistics as though these could provide the complete answer to the dilemma confronting the Parliament. It would not matter if statistics showed - after the years of inquiry that would be required - that there is no higher incidence of cancer among ex-servicemen than there is among non-ex-servicemen. There could still be the cases in which an ex-serviceman’s cancer condition was the result of his war service. There might be hundreds, there might be ten or there might be only one. That is not the point. The question is: Are we to extend the provisions of section 47 of the act or not? On this side of the chamber, we are prepared to concede cases that are not properly substantiated rather than deny any one whose ca-e could be properly substantiated if all the great weight of scientific and medical evidence were brought to bear. The crux of the problem is that we do not know what causes cancer. Some one from the Changi orisoner-of-war camp could be concerned. Surely that name strikes a note, perhaps more with honorable members opposite than with some of us on this side of the chamber. Is it not reasonable to assume that some one who was in the Changi camp or some other prisoner-of-war camp, and who came back an emaciated skeleton would be susceptible to this or that disease? The figures might show that there is no higher incidence of cancer among ex-servicemen than among civilians but there could be one or two or 50 cases in which there is a genuine association between cancer and war service. The honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) are two distinguished ex-servicemen. Surely, in time of battle they felt that if ever an issue of this type arose they would be prepared to extend the benefit of the doubt to an ex-serviceman! How have they lost touch with the great spirit that prevailed in those times?
What would the Opposition’s proposal cost the Government? A miserable £5,000 or £6,000 or £7,000! Is the Government going to quibble about that? Are Government supporters going to deny a fellow ex-serviceman his rights in regard to this matter? Surely not! The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) has indicated that he has some concern in this matter and that, at least, he wants it to be more thoroughly investigated. We say that this more thorough investigation might deny justice to some one. I say to honorable members opposite, “ Do the right thing! Voice the conviction in your heart - the conviction that is expressed in the proposed amendment. Give the ex-serviceman the benefit of the doubt and when you vote come over on to this side of the chamber.”
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s- amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause.
.- I moveThat the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 5a. After section forty-seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 47a. - (1.) Wherea claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
The onus-of-proof provision has been the subject of a great deal of debate in this Parliament. Only a few weeks ago I initiated a discussion on it and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) replied. This amendment has been proposed on previous occasions by the Opposition when repatriation bills have been debated in this Parliament and I believe that all the arguments which the Opposition feels should be advanced in respect of section 47 of the Repatriation Act have been advanced at those times. We believe they are the correct arguments and the Minister is well aware of them. Earlier this afternoon he had an opportunity, in quite unusual circumstances, of replying to our case before it had been put to this Parliament. The Minister chose to do it in that way, and he has not replied to any of the amendments proposed by the Opposition in committee. 1 have previously said, when dealing with this contentious section 47 of the Repatriation Act, that numerous opinion have been expressed as to whether or not it is being applied in the way that Parliament originally intended. The Opposition has consistently contended that the section has not been applied in that way. 1 have referred on other occasions to the opinions which have been given on this matter by a former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, by a former Attorney-General of this Government, Senator Spicer, now Mr. Justice Spicer, by the former member for Balaclava, now Mr. Justice Joske, who frequently spoke on this matter in this House and, more recently, by the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick The present Attorney-General recently gave an interpretation of this section. With the exception of his interpretation, each of the gentlemen I have mentioned who expressed an opinion–
– Is that the one from Parramatta?
– Yes. With the exception of the opinion recently given by the honorable member for Parramatta, the present Attorney-General, each of these opinions clearly laid it down that if section 47 of the act were correctly applied the benefit of any doubt must be given to the appellant or applicant. There is no shadow of doubt about the meaning of the act. As I and honorable members on both sides of this chamber know, there have been cases before the entitlement tribunal where an opinion has been given against the appellant by the repatriation doctors and an opinion has been given in his favour by a specialist with some knowledge of the case. Despite the fact that the specialist has given a clear opinion in favour of the appellant or applicant, the case has been dismissed. I ask: How can a case be dismissed when a specialist is prepared to give an unqualified opinion that the exservicemen’s condition has either been clearly related to his war service or has been aggravated by it? How can that evidence be overthrown if the onus-of-proof provision is being correctly applied? On numerous occasions in this Parliament arguments have been advanced to show that the onus-of-proof provision is not being correctly applied. I make no criticism of the tribunals themselves, because no one appreciates more than I do the difficult position that these gentlemen must find themselves in with respect to applying the onus-of-proof provision.
I suggest that all honorable members consider the full reports of the entitlement appeal tribunals tabled by the Minister only yesterday. They show the number of appeals on which action has been taken by the various tribunals and the number allowed. I am not suggesting that one tribunal is more favorable to an appellant than another, but I suggest that the tribunals do have- great difficulty in applying the onus-of-proof provision. In view of the fact that so many of the cases that come before the tribunals rest, in the final analysis, on a point of law, surely it is not too much to ask that this Parliament should consider favorably a request from the Opposition that, if there is a legal doubt, the appellant should have an opportunity to submit his case to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of a State or Territory. We believe that that is the only logical solution to the problem.
I have no need to remind honorable members that, this matter has been debated in this. Parliament before the present Government came into office. Honorable members who are now sitting on the Government side were just as adamant, when they were in Opposition, as we are that section 47 was not being correctly applied. I say quite, frankly that all governments have been at fault in this matter. A review of the Repatriation Act by an all-party committee of this chamber presented an opportunity to overcome the difficulty, but the fact remains that the tribunals themselves obviously have great difficulty in applying section 47. We believe in fairness to the appellant. If there is a legal doubt he should have the right to submit his case to the High Court or to a Supreme Court.
The Minister has said nothing in his argument that has convinced me that this should not be done. It has been requested by the Returned Soldiers’ League. I am not suggesting that that organization has requested that our amendment be applied, but the fact remains that it has indicated that section 47 is, in its opinion, not being correctly applied. So the weight of opinion not only of the members of this chamber but also of ex-servicemen’s organizations, would indicate that there is some difficulty at least over section 47. We believe that our amendment presents an opportunity to this Parliament to provide a means to give the appellant every chance to have his case favorably decided on a disputed point of law.
.- The course I adopted this afternoon was by no means unusual. During a long debate in which fourteen honorable members spoke on the second reading, one member of the Opposition after another stated that the Opposition intended to move certain amendments, outlined what these were and argued the case for them. The amendments were circulated, and I was completely in order, and acting in accordance with ordinary practice when I replied to the arguments at that stage of the debate.
I do not want to take up the time of the committee. I want to see the Opposition get on with its amendments. I regret as much as the Opposition does the need to curtail this debate by the use of the guillotine but honorable members opposite know that unless we get this bill through this chamber and into the Senate to-night there is a very strong possibility that the people intended to benefit by the measure will be denied for a fortnight the increases provided for. That is why the bill is urgent.
I will content myself by saying that I think that in my reply to the second-reading debate I covered adequately the claim that there should be a rehearing of the case of each dissatisfied appellant, before the High Court or a Supreme Court. That course is impractical for the reasons that I stated. I doubt very much whether it would be in the ex-serviceman’s interest as a whole, and I say to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that he is on very shaky ground indeed if he tries to make us believe that the Returned Servicemen’s League or any other responsible body of ex-servicemen is in favour of this amendment.
.- Time is running out and I cannot speak at length, because we have other amendments that we wish to have put to a vote.
However, 1 want to make some reference to the whole principle of the routine adopted in relation to ex-servicemen’s claims for acceptance of disabilities as war-caused. It has already been conceded that tribunals, boards and commissions can be wrong in their judgments, because the Repatriation Act provides the facilities to enable an ex-serviceman to appeal from the decision of one body to another. So, the very structure of the act concedes the possibility of error on the part of tribunals. The only point of difference at the moment between the Government and the Opposition is whether or not there should be one further medium of appeal. That is all. I repeat, the existing legislation concedes that the first authority by whom an exserviceman’s case is decided can make a mistake, and that the second authority to which the case may go can also make a mistake. There is provision, therefore, for the case to go before a third authority. We are asking for still another authority - the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory - to which a case may be taken.
The figures in regard to appeals dealt with and appeals allowed are interesting, and I rose mainly to read them into the “Hansard” record. Table 10 of the Repatriation Commission’s 1960-61 report contains statistics of claims received and determined by repatriation boards and the Repatriation Commission. They show that the totals for action were 42,827 cases and that the number accepted was 16,495. Appeals to the Repatriation Commission totalled, for action, 12,817, and the number accepted was 1,869. That means that there were a lot of disappointed exservicemen who, when they applied, must have thought that they had a good case. They are not malingerers dithering about and wasting their own and the commission’s time.
– Do you suggest that all these appeals would be granted by the High Court?
– No, not necessarily. If the Minister does not mind, 1 do not want to take up too much time. 1 want to get these figures into the record. The total number of appeals in respect of claims by ex-servicemen of all wars which went to the entitlement appeal tribunals for action was 10,573, and the number upheld was 1,085 - a ratio of ten to one, roughly speaking. Something is rotten in the State of Denmark. The appeals that went to the assessment appeal tribunals in respect of the ex-servicemen of all wars totalled 12,303 for action, and the number allowed was 5,008.
It is very important to see this whole case in the light of these figures. I ask how many of the people who make those applications and appeals are seen by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who is interjecting. For my part, being a very humble citizen able to see the element of common sense in the attitude expressed by my constituents, I am obsessed by the idea that so many ex-servicemen are denied justice. For the life of me I cannot see why so many of these ex-servicemen fail to get a favorable decision. All that we are proposing is that, since the fact that mistakes may be made is already conceded in the act, we should provide a further judicial tribunal to hear appeals. We are asking for a form of appeal to the High Court of the type which is already in operation in the United Kingdom. The former honorable member for Balaclava, now Mr. Justice Joske, was lifted from this place to a very high judicial position, and he said precisely what I am saying. This is a man who now makes important decisions about the living conditions and wages of people. He said that what they did in the United Kingdom under Lord Denning is the sort of thing that we have a great need for here.
– That was in reference to an appeal to the court on a point of law.
– Speaking on the onus-of-proof provision he said it in the face of great adversity and great opposition from his own colleagues and confreres, and he made a great plea in this Parliament that the Minister for Repatriation should make a declaration as to the manner in which section 47 should be interpreted. He also said that there should be recourse to another appeal. The right of appeal to a court of law works satisfactorily in the United Kingdom, and all we say is that not one case should be allowed to go wrong because of some fiddle-faddling idea. This is another means by which the Government can provide the cx-serviceman with an opportunity to have another hearing of his case. On the figures, there i.s good reason why the Government should concede the Opposition’s amendment.
Mr. JESS (La Trobe) 19.1 1]. - I wish to speak only very briefly on this matter. I listened carefully to the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). He said there was only one difference between his side and our side, but 1 think there is a considerable difference. 1 ask any Opposition member who may speak after me to give the committee an approximation of the cost of this proposal to the country. On an earlier proposal, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) consistently said that the Opposition’s suggested increase of the special pension would cost £28,000 a year. lt would cost £1,820,000 a year, not £28,000 a year. If the Opposition would tell us what this present proposal would cost, we would be very interested.
.- Yesterday the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) tabled the annual reports of the four war pension entitlement appeal tribunals, Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. I rise during the debate on the amendment we have moved to section 47 of the act merely to place in “ Hansard “ the figures relating to the percentage of appeals allowed by each of these tribunals. The No. 1 tribunal, which has been operating for a greater length of time than has any other tribunal, accepted 1 1 .4 per cent, of the cases that came before it. If I have time a little later, I will give the exact number of cases it heard and the number it rejected. The No. 2 tribunal accepted 13.2 per cent, of the cases that came before it and the No. 3 tribunal allowed 25.4 per cent. The No. 4 tribunal, which is the latest tribunal to be established - it was established in January of this year - heard 681 appeals. It accepted 176 and rejected 505. It allowed 34.8 per cent, of the cases that came before it.
The tribunal that has been working the longest has the lowest percentage - that is, 11.4 per cent. - and the newest tribunal has the largest percentage - that is, 34.8 per cent. Some of the members of this newest tribunal have been appointed by the Repatriation Commission and some have been selected from panels of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations.
– Your views do not exactly square with those of the honorable member for Shortland.
– I am not worried about the honorable member for Shortland. The point is that the newest tribunal is granting three times the number of appeals granted by the oldest tribunal. The No. 3 tribunal is granting twice the number of appeals granted by the No. 1 tribunal. The only interpretation that can be placed upon these figures is this: The members of the No. 4 tribunal are apparently much more compassionate and are applying the onusofproof clause to a much greater extent than the older tribunals are. The Nos. 3 and 4 tribunals are apparently much more sympathetic than are the Nos. 1 and 2 tribunals. The No. 4 tribunal is the only tribunal that is made up entirely of exservicemen from the Second World War; the 0!hers have a mixture of First World War and Second World War men.
If the Minister can give any explanation for the greatly increased percentage of appeals allowed by the Nos. 3 and 4 tribunals, I should like to hear it. I should have liked the opportunity to have given the figures relating to the number of cases heard and the number rejected, but the Opposition has two more amendments to move and we want to have a vote on them. Therefore, I will close with the request that the Minister give an explanation as to why there should be such a great disparity between the number of appeals granted by the tribunals.
.- I intend to oppose the amendment. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is strongly opposed to it, first because of the cost to the exservicemen and the considerable sum of money that would be needed to fight the cases in the courts. If an appeal from a tribunal to the Supreme Court is allowed, there must also be available an appeal from the Supreme Court to the High Court and from the High Court to the Privy Council. The fact is that the tribunal’s decisions are not made on the basis of legal points at all. They are not legal decisions. If we grant the right of appeal to a court of law, we will introduce a legal element into the system of hearing ex-servicemen’s claims. Tribunals will have to make their decisions on a legal basis and the ultimate result will be that fewer and fewer exservicemen will have their incapacities accepted for repatriation purposes. Instead of having figures even as high as those given by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), far fewer returned servicemen would have their cases accepted, because any decision would have to be made strictly on the basis of law. The Returned Servicemen’s League knows this and that is why it does not support the suggestion.
Let us, in this Parliament, recognize that there is no more responsible organization in this country than the R.S.S.A.I.L.A. We should be guided by it when we are determining matters of policy that affect exservicemen.
The figures that have been given by the honorable member for Lang are not a criterion on which we can form any judgment. These figures relate to determinations that have been made after the cases have first been heard by the board. If an ex-serviceman’s claim has been rejected, he then has an appeal to the commission and subsequently a further appeal to an entitlement appeal tribunal. The fact is, as the honorable member for Lang probably knows, and as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) knows full well, many cases are lost through the advocacy of a bad advocate appearing on behalf of the ex-serviceman. A part of the act that no one here would want to alter is that no ex-serviceman may have access to his own medical files; he cannot see his repatriation file. He is, therefore, given the opportunity to be represented by an advocate. All ex-servicemen’s organizations provide an advocate for ex-servicemen. If the ex-serviceman, through error, selects an advocate who is toolazy to study his files fully and put his case properly, he is unfortunate. But the answer is not to be found in providing a right of appeal to a Supreme Court.
I urge the committee to consider the very important point that no exserviceman’s organization is advocating the adop tion of the suggestion made by the Opposition. Perhaps I could illustrate this by recounting what happened at a recent meeting. Only a month ago, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) came to Queensland. A meeting was arranged, with the Sandgate Sub-branch of the R.S.L. acting as host. A great many R.S.L. sub-branches and other ex-service organizations in the area were invited to send representatives. The meeting was specifically called to discuss section 47. Not one representative of one exservicemen’s organization voiced his dissatisfaction with the manner in which the provision was now being implemented. I think that is the criterion we should accept in deciding whether the provision is being correctly applied and not the opinion we hear voiced by Opposition members, who are bent on making political capital out of the situation. I will oppose the amendment as strongly as I can.
.- Putting the whole subject in a nutshell, I emphasize that all that the returned soldiers want is a clear idea that they are being given the benefit of the doubt by the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).Order! I am sorry that I must interrupt the honorable member. The time allotted for the remainder of the committee stage has expired.
– I rise to a point of order. Will the amendments that the Opposition has foreshadowed concerning the entitlement of the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to medical benefits be excluded from this debate?
– Order! The time allotted for the committee stage has expired. Therefore, no further amendments will be moved. The question now is, “ That the new clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted “.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I rise at this juncture because, with my colleagues on this side of the chamber, I regret that the bill has not been improved, as the Opposition had hoped, with the amendments it has proposed. 1 take this opportunity to protest most vigorously at the lack of opportunity afforded by the Government to the Opposition to submit amendments that have been circulated. The Government has shown discourtesy to the Opposition in refusing to allow sufficient time for these amendments to be moved. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) is fully aware that there are two more amendments standing in my name, but the Opposition has been denied the opportunity to move them. I refer specifically to the amendment which would have provided free medical treatment for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill itself. The amendments are not before the Chair.
– At the outset, Mr. Speaker, I said that the bill would have been better if certain suggestions of the Opposition had been accepted by the Government. One of the matters that concerns me is that the bill makes no provision for medical and hospital treatment for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. Prior to 1955, those wives automatically qualified for medical entitlements. This Government applied a means test in 1955 and the wives of special rate pensioners were denied the opportunity to qualify for medical entitlement. Members of the Opposition know and appreciate that very little opportunity was given to the wives of T.P.I, pensioners when the means test was applied-
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stage of the bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 807), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not intend to speak at any length on this bill. I simply want to refer again to a matter which 1 raised in this House last May with respect to pensions and allowances paid to merchant seamen. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) reminded us in his second-reading speech, this legislation was first enacted during the war years, in 1940, in order to provide pensions and other benefits for Australian seamen incapacitated by war injury, or for their dependants. Generally speaking, 1 think that we have nothing to learn from the social services or repatriation legislation of the United Kingdom. However, the United Kingdom Government does pay pensions and allowances to seamen who served in the 1914-18 war, while the Australian legislation makes no such provision. In the year ended 31st December, 1959, there were 13,700 pensions being paid in the United Kingdom in respect of merchant seamen of the Second World War, while only 1,070 pensions were still current with respect to the First World War - only about 8 per cent, of the number being paid with respect to the second war.
I have obtained figures from the Department of Shipping and Transport which show that approximately 132 pensions are being paid under the legislation which we are now considering. These are paid to merchant seamen of the Second World War or to their dependants. If the proportion of pensions payable in the United Kingdom in respect of the first war as compared with those payable as a result of the second war is accepted as applying with approximate equivalence in the case of Australian seamen, there would not be, in my opinion, more than a dozen extra persons in Australia affected, and any surviving seamen of the First World War would be over 60 years of age at the present time. I would ask the Government to consider making provision for them under this legislation as the United Kingdom Government does. There is no logical reason why they should not receive the benefits, as they served in very similar circumstances to the merchant seamen of the Second World War.
.- I shall not delay the House on this matter. I simply wish to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) once again to consider a request that I made when legislation of this kind was being considered twelve months ago. At that time I referred to a seaman’s widow who had been eligible for a pension - equivalent to the war widows’ pension - who remarried and who later again became a widow. The widow of an ex-serviceman in similar circumstances is entitled, if she is in necessitous circumstances, to receive an allowance from the Repatriation Department. 1 asked the Minister to consider the cases of the very limited number of women, possibly not more than half a dozen in the whole of the Commonwealth, in this category. The Minister promised to look at the matter, but as soon as the smoke of battle died down the Government did the dirty on us. It did not look at it, and 1 received a reply to the effect that the request I had made in the House had been considered, but that the Government was not prepared to bring down any amendment or to give any relief to these unfortunate women.
As I have said, there would probably be no more than half a dozen persons in this category, ex-servicemen’s widows who had been eligible under this legislation for a pension, but who remarried and then became widows once again. I take this opportunity to repeat my request that the Minister consider the position of these women, and 1 hope that he will adopt a more humane approach this year than he did last year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 1080), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Allan Fraser had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House condemns the Government for having failed to increase rates of payment of various Social Services to correspond with increased prices, and particularly condemns the Government for again refusing to make any increase in child endowment, thus leaving child endowment unaltered since 1950, during which time its purchasing value has halved “.
.- The Labour Party election excesses of some years ago were recalled to mind during the debate last evening when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) announced the Opposition’s social services election promises. With gay abandon the honorable member, as spokesman for his party, enticed votes for what 1 suggest is an unhappy and manysplintered political group. As he enticed these votes surely he was incurring many millions of pounds additional Commonwealth expenditure to make possible the benefits that he was promising. Some of the newspapers of the country have stated that the Labour Party’s promises in this field of social services could be estimated to cost £80,000,000. Other newspapers, other estimators and those interested in social services have said that the proposed benefits would cost many more millions of pounds. I think that I can claim to have an interest in this field, and 1 estimate the value of the Labour Party’s promises at well in excess of £100,000,000. And the honorable member was suggesting that this amount should be spent over and above that incurred in the benefits which are available to-day! How easy it is for any person or for any party to advance proposals of this kind! Any reasonable leader in the community to-day would like io see almost every benefit increased if only this were possible. Then the elderly citizens and under-privileged people would find their lot so much easier. Any thinking man, any member of Parliament worth his salt, would like to see increases in benefits of that kind. But the parliamentary purse is subject to the revenue which John Citizen provides.
We who are elected to the high office and responsibility of members of this chamber, and particularly those who are called upon to exercise office in the executive of government, have a responsibility to see that the right and proper thing is done according to the availability of the finance which can be called in from the taxpayers. Responsible government must ensure that balanced development receives attention while at the same time, the country’s social services and other responsibilities are refined or improved. lt would appear that the Labour Party would introduce irresponsible government of the kind which the people indicated they feared by their deliberative vote a few years ago when the then leader of the Labour Party with more than gay abandon horrified the country with the estimated cost of the social service benefits which he was then offering. Yes, I suggest that the Labour Party of to-day would introduce irresponsible government in this way probably by whittling away the defence expenditure in large lumps, if not completely, and stepping up social service benefits too quickly and applying them too widely.
– The Labour Party has a good printing press.
– It would need to have a good printing press to make the amount of money that it would want to spend.
The bill before us provides for a further increase in the maximum general rate for age and invalid pensions from £5 to £5 5s. a week. In addition, the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner will be increased by 1 2s. 6d. a week io £2 7s. 6d.. while the allowance for the first child under sixteen years of age will be increased to 15s. a week. These are commendable increases. Some of us might like to see them increased still further, but let us recognize that the recipients will receive a benefit which is not small and which is not without value in the present situation.
Many of us too have been concerned about the lot of the class A widow who has two or more children. This bill provides that in addition to the base rate increase of 5s. a week the class A widow will receive a further increase of 5s. a week for each child after the first. Those are the principal amendments of the act with which we are dealing.
No reference to the age and invalid pension scheme of to-day is complete without reference to the merged means test which has operated since March of this year. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) paid a very genuine tribute to the officers of his department and, justifiably, reminded the House in some detail of what was involved in the introduction of the merged means test. We would expect the Minister, with his close association with his department, to pay such a tribute but I think that those of us who, with some delight, supported the introduction of the merged means test and those of us who have been interviewing so many hundreds of people who wanted clarification as to what benefit might apply in their case, would be lacking if we did not follow suit and pay a like tribute to the officers of the department because of the splendid co-operation that we have received from them. So to-night 1 want to add my words of praise to those that already have been spoken.
I want to remind the House that at least 106,000 people have benefited from the merged means test. Therefore, thousands of grateful people have moved up to a full pension entitlement from a part-pension, and thousands more have received a partpension for the first time to help them meet their commitments in their latter years. I should remind the House, as other honorable members have done, of the significant fact that under the merged means test as we know it a married couple to-day are entitled to some pension assistance until their property exceeds in value £9,500. Of course, that amount of property is entirely distinct from the exempt property, being the house in which they live, the motor car which they may have saved so carefully to buy in the latter part of their lives, and their personal furniture. This is a splendid arrangement and I for one, like so many others I am sure, would like to pay once more a tribute to the Menzies Government which ensured that the merged means test was adopted in last year’s Budget and came into operation in March last.
Let me now provide the House with the latest statistics in the field of social services. These statistics are applicable as at 30th June last. I understand they have not yet been released in the printed form in which we are accustomed to seeing them in the department’s annual report. In the last financial year total expenditure under the Social Services Act reached £257,700,000 which represented an increase in that financial year of £24,100,000. As the House is fully aware, under this legislation we deal with benefits totalling a very large amount. But how many people are covered? What is the spread of the benefit of this legislation? Surely it is interesting for us to place on record that last year a record number of persons - 562,790 of them - received an age pension. The proportion of age pensioners to persons of pensionable age now exceeds 50 per cent. Some 177,271 men and 385,519 women to-day receive the age pension. Women represent 62 per cent, of age pensioners. Quite a lot of inquiries are received by honorable members about the proportion of pensioners who receive the full pension. I note with approval that 90 per cent, io-day are in receipt of the full pension, and 10 per cent, receive a part pension. The average weekly payment last financial year to every registered pensioner was £4 16s. 8d.
When we turn to supplementary assistance, we find that the Opposition has recognized the value of this scheme which was introduced by the Menzies Government. The Opposition has stated, of course, that it will widen the scheme - at tremendous cost. The act at present provides for supplementary assistance of 10s. a week for those single pensioners who pay rent. The statistics show that this supplementary assistance is received by 68,869 women and 22,645 men Supplementary assistance is given by the Department of Social Services to 12.8 per cent, of age and invalid pensioners throughout the country and to 15 per cent, of those women who are in receipt of a widow’s pension. I notice that 6,850 people receive benefits under the arrangement made to enable pensions to be paid to people who, unfortunately, must reside in benevolent homes. The benefits of the pensioner medical service are being extended to 88 per cent, of registered pensioners.
We have heard a great many comments by a number of Opposition members about child endowment. I am pleased indeed to be able to point out that a record number of children - namely, about one-third of the total population of Australia - are covered by child endowment payments. Of the total Australian population of about 10,500,000, 3,340,302 children are covered by child endowment. Some people may be interested to hear the spread of these payments over the various sizes of families. Families with one child receive 35 per cent.; families with two children, 32.5 per cent.; families with three children, 18.4 per cent.; families with four children, 8.6 per cent.; families with five children, 3.3 per cent.; and families with six or more children, 2.2 per cent.
I praise the Government most genuinely for its achievements, Mr. Speaker, but I do not claim that all anomalies have been removed and that full justice is done to all. I stated earlier that everything cannot be done at the one time to meet the wishes of everybody. However, the Government has from time to time implemented proposals emanating from many sources. The Opposition, of course, hopes that some of its amendments will be adopted. Private members on the Government side of the House also have their ambitions for charges in social service legislation. I happen to be one who is keen to see benefits for certain classes of people increased. I believe that there are areas in which assistance might well be approved, and I offer a couple of suggestions in passing. I have already mentioned supplementary assistance. I suggest again, as I have suggested on other occasions, that the Minister for Social Services and the Government take action to liberalize the eligibility requirements for supplementary assistance to some extent in order to provide for all single pensioners who are considered to be entirely dependent on the pension. The present supplementary assistance of 10s. a week is helpful and is appreciated, but 1 believe that a lot more deserving pensioners would benefit if this assistance were extended to them at some future date.
Opposition members have discussed the funeral benefit in this debate as they have done on other occasions, and have criticized the Government for not increasing it. I suggest that there is little point in paying a higher rate of funeral benefit to relatives who are not in need, but I am keen to see a supplementary payment of, say, £15 to £20 in addition to the present funeral benefit of £10 paid to a person who is considered to be entirely dependent on the pension and who is liable for the funeral costs of a spouse. I am sure that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will nod his approval of that suggestion.
– Indeed, I do not.
– I am surprised that the honorable member does not, for I be lieve that benefits of this kind could go with advantage into the pockets of deserving people. I for one would be glad to support the payment of an increased rate of funeral benefit to the remaining spouse in view of the high cost of funerals to-day.
My time is limited, Sir. I am sure that other honorable members would like an opportunity to contribute to this debate, and so I shall reduce my speech and take less time than I would normally have taken. I conclude with these comments: I believe that the correction of a number of anomalies which remain in the field of social services would have little impact on the total cost of social services. The areas concerned are well worthy of consideration. For example, the class A widow’s pension might be paid to the wife of a prison inmate with a dependent child from the date of the committal of a prisoner sentenced to three months’ imprisonment or more, instead of from a date six months after committal as at present. 1 suggest that the present arrangement is an anomaly that is well worthy of attention. I do not think that the cost of this improvement would be very great.
Another suggestion that I offer is that the definition of a child in relation to the class A widow’s pension and age and invalid pensioners be amended to include full-time students over the age of sixteen years in the care and custody of the pensioner. A widow who is keen to encourage a child who shows promise and whose study will continue beyond the age of sixteen ought to receive increased benefit for the child beyond that age. I suggest, further, that a pension of 10s. a week for the provision of amenities might well be paid for each inmate of a mental hospital.
– Hear, hear!
– I note that the Opposition happens to agree with that proposal.
Finally, I suggest that legislative action be taken, if not with respect to the Social Services Act, which we are now considering, then with respect to some other social services legislation, to provide for a Commonwealth subsidy of £1 for every £2, other than government or semi-government moneys spent on the construction of recreational centres for pensioners. This is an aspect of social services in which the need is becoming more and more apparent in our community to-day.
These proposals which I have mentioned are, I believe, worthy of the Minister’s enthusiasm. 1 for one will continue to advocate that they receive attention at some future date. I suggest that as we debate this excellent, piece of amending legislation which offers such attractive and worth-while benefits to so many people, we must realize that this Government needs to offer to the people of Australia no apology whatever for its record. When we look back over the years of the Menzies Administration, we find that in this field of social services there has been a substantial increase in benefits and in the spread of those benefits amongst the community. There is no thought in our minds of apologizing for even one area. We simply say that what has been done is very commendable and I believe, as a member coming in contact with the pensioners in my own constituency, that by far the great majority of those who are recipients of benefits under our social service legislation are well satisfied. It is on that record, in which 1 believe the Minister and his colleagues might well take pride, that this Government will confidently face the forthcoming election.
.- The inadequacy of social service payments in all fields is a continuing problem. In recent years, because of the failure of the Menzies Government to contain rising costs, the inroads of inflation have continually reduced the purchasing power of pensions, child endowment, unemployment benefits and all other forms of social service payments. Even with the increases contained in this bill, no one could reasonably say that social service payments are adequate in these inflationary times. Certainly no one could argue in this chamber that age or invalid pensioners can maintain themselves reasonably on £5 5s. a week. The fantastic rise in the cost of living in recent years has brought with it high rents, high food prices, a great increase in clothing costs and a tremendous lift in the cost of all important fuel in winter months. It is unfortunately true that numerous items essential to life have become luxuries to many of those on the basic pension. It is true, too, that some pensioners are in a better position than others. Those with a home of their own are generally in a far better position than those who are forced to pay rent, although inflation has left its mark on local government finance and municipal rates are a constant problem facing pensioners who own their own homes. I am sure that every honorable member has come in contact with a great number of pensioners, both single and married, who exist on living standards that bring shame to the community, and to the Government which allows such conditions to develop.
A variety of factors contribute to this unfortunate situation. Chief amongst these is, of course, the high proportion of the pension which some recipients pay in rent. With the introduction of the merged means test in March last, there are now separate classes of pensioners who receive a basic pension of £5 5s. On the top rung are those who have a bank balance, who own their own home, a car and many of the domestic appliances that make life easier, and who perhaps receive some additional income within the permissible limits. On the bottom rung are the under-privileged who pay rent, who cannot earn additional income, because of illness or incapacity, and who exist on the bread line. As the means test has been liberalized, there has become more apparent a need to get away from the concept that a basic pension should be given to all. Accordingly, the proposal which the Opposition will put to the electors that a special payment of up to 30s. be made to individuals with special requirements, would fill a great need in the social service structure. Certainly it would bring light to the lives of the many needy of the nation. For more than ten years now, child endowment has been given the go-by in successive budgets. Whatever the arguments put up by the Government, the fact remains that the purchasing power of child endowment has dropped drastically in those years. Clearly, the proposals for increases put forward by the Opposition are not extravagant but only fair to the families, especially those on the lower incomes who need help most.
During my speech on the Budget I covered much of this ground, and my chief purpose in joining this debate to-night is to outline two apparent anomalies in the social service payments and to submit proposals for overcoming them. First, 1 want to draw the Minister’s attention to an unfortunate aspect of the application of the merged means test. The Minister will recall that under the old income means test a pensioner could earn £182 annually. He Could earn it in a variety of ways. He could earn it in weekly amounts of £3 10s., he could receive it in a lump sum. or he could earn it in a period of short-term employment at a higher income than £3 10s. a week. For instance, he could work for ten weeks in temporary employment at £18 per week, so earning £180 for the year. He would then not work for the remainder of the year and still receive his pension. I emphasize that under the old income means test there was no limitation on weekly earnings. On the other hand, under the new merged means test a pensioner without property, or one with property of a value below the permissible £200, who earns over £7 in a fortnight must notify the Department of Social Services. If his income should exceed £7 in the next fortnight, action is taken to reduce his pension accordingly.
– That is not so.
– That has happened to my knowledge in the Bendigo district. By this action, many pensioners who have each year, be granted a refund of the amount employment to help eke out a living are penalized.
– There has been no change.
– In Bendigo there are a number of processing factories where essentially seasonal work is carried on. It has been the practice for a number of pensioners to work during a season, particularly the summer season, at processing tomatoes, fruit and so on, earning additional income below the £180 for a short term, and helping to eke out their living. In recent months, since the introduction of the merged means test, numbers of these pensioners have had their pensions reduced because of their earnings over a short period. I stress that many of these pensioners have no property. All they have to look forward to is the small income they receive for their short period as seasonal workers.
– There has been no reduction.
– I can assure the Minister that this has happened in my district. These pensioners on basic pensions have suffered as the result of the introduction of the merged means test. They are not now able to go out and work for eight or ten weeks at £12 or £14 a week and still enjoy full pension payment. After a certain time, they are notified that their pensions will be reduced.
– You should come to me.
– I accept the invitation and I certainly will. The Minister says that this does not happen. I can assure him that it does. That being so, I ask for two things in seeking a solution. First, 1 ask that an exemption be granted to those pensioners without property in these circumstances so that they may earn £182 in a year without having their earnings calculated in fortnightly periods. Failing that, I suggest that those whose pensions are reduced because of this provision, and whose income does not reach £182 in a year be granted a refund of the amount withheld at the end of each year.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is the need for unemployment benefit for those in the community who are under sixteen years of age, and I put these points to the Minister: In many cases, an unemployed fifteen-year-old would be the eldest, if not the only child in the family. In such cases the endowment received would be 5s. a week only. This would also apply in the case of most fourteenyearolds. The second point is that the 5s. a week would be a poor substitute for the £1 15s. per week to which the fifteenyearold would be entitled if he were still unemployed on and after his sixteenth birthday. At fifteen years of age he is just as much in need of benefit as he would be at the age of sixteen.
Third, in a great majority of cases, a child goes to work at the age of fourteen or fifteen years because of extreme hardship in the family. Tt is often a matter of pressing necessity for a child to earn his living at the fee of fifteen. In times of recession, the child has no compensation for the loss of his job and he can pay nothing into the household where it could well be that the father is also unemployed or on short time.
Fourth, Lie Commonwealth Government recognizes the right of the employed child under sixteen still to claim endowment, appreciating that even when a child is earning wages it still falls upon the parent to provide much for the child. It is therefore illogical to deny unemployment relief to a child who is within the age group for endowment.
My final point is that in a great number of cases, children of fourteen or fifteen years of age are working in the daytime and attending night school. A considerable proportion of their earnings goes for fees, school books and equipment. The payment of unemployment relief would help to keep them at their studies. Endowment would not. Accordingly, 1 ask the Government to give earnest consideration to these points which I believe outline the case for the payment of unemployment relief to children under sixteen years of age.
In conclusion, I believe that the increases proposed by the Labour Party in other social services recognize the unfortunate position in which the social service recipient has been placed as a result of the Government’s failure to retain the value of what we term the Chifley £1. Australia’s economy needs a shot in the arm. No member could correctly say that increased pensions or social service allowances would result in luxury spending or increased inflationary pressures. The bringing of a better share of this country’s increased productivity to pensioners - a just share - would result in increased purchasing power which would provide the stimulus that the economy so urgently needs.
.- I wish to address my remarks to the amendment proposed by the Opposition, which reads as follows: -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House condemns the Government for having failed to increase rates of payment of various social services to correspond with increased prices, and particularly condemns the Government for again refusing to make any increase in child endowment, thus leaving child endowment unaltered since 19S0, during which time its purchasing value has halved “.
I ask the House to take notice of the implications of this amendment. The interpre tation that 1 place on it is that the Opposition has implied that the purchasing power of pensions has halved. If this is so, the Opposition should claim that the base-rate pensions should be doubled.
– We say that the value of child endowment has been halved, not the rest of the social service payments.
– In other words, the Opposition becomes inconsistent, as it usually does. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in support of his proposed amendment, advocated an increase in the base rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions of only 5s. - an amount to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) referred as “ another measley 5s. increase “.
Let us look at the facts. When the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided to fix the basic wage on the new principle of the capacity of industry to pay, the child endowment content, which previously was a factor in wage adjustment, went by the board. Because of that, as has been illustrated, the basic wage rose quite sharply from that time onwards. I believe that, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) enunciated earlier in this debate, the child endowment content should still be maintained in fixing the basic wage. I believe that the capacity of industry to pay should be assessed on the wage, plus a child endowment content. But the Opposition wants it both ways. It wants an assessment on the full capacity of industry to pay, and on top of that it wants child endowment. The Opposition has stated that present pension rates have less purchasing power than when Labour was in office. Let us examine that claim, because it is the Opposition’s challenge.
– That is not our challenge.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) reiterated the policy that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro enunciated earlier. I have here figures which have been taken from various booklets issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. They show that in June, 1949, the basic wage was 124s. whereas in May, 1961, it was 288s., an increase of 131.5 per cent. In that period the. consumer index figures rose from. 60.9s. to 123.8s., an increase of 103.2 per cent. Similarly, the age pension has risen from 42.5s. to the 105s. proposed under this legislation, an increase of 147 per cent. In other words, if the age pension had been kept down to the level of the consumer index the pensioner would be receiving only 86s. 3d. per week. If it had been held down to its relationship with, the basic wage the pensioner would receive 98s. 2d. per week instead) of the 105s. per week which is now proposed.
There is another aspect of this matter which some people might not have noticed. That is the relativity between health and social service payments and the Government’s annual income. In the year 1948-49 the cost of health and social service benefits was £80,777,000. The Government’s income in that year was £535,048,000, so that health and social service benefits represented 15.1 per cent, of the Government’s income. In 1949-50 the percentage rose to 16.4 per cent. In 1959-60 the cost of health and social service benefits rose to £330,605,000 which represented 20-.2 per cent, of the Government’s income of £1.638,000,000. In 1960-61 health and social service expenditure represented 21.1 per cent, of income. These figures give the lie to the accusation that social service payments are not keeping pace with increased costs.
Let us look at some of the Opposition’s proposals. The proposed increase in child endowment would, I am reliably informed, cost £61,700,000 per annum. The increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions from £5 5s. a week to £5 10s. a week as proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would cost £9,500,000 per annum. Increased allowances to the hardship cases to which he has referred would cost an additional £5,000,000. Increased funeral benefits would cost an additional £800.000. The increases proposed in the allowances for wives and children would cost £1,300,000. The proposed increase in maternity allowances would cost £4.000,000. The proposal to reduce the residential qualification - with which I agree- would cost £1,000,000. These figures total £83,300,000 or 26 per cent, of the country’s income. They do not include those items which are too difficult to cost such as the abolition of the means test other than the property means test and the extension of the provisions of the aged persons’ homes legislation. There is also this, beautiful little bubble proposed by the Opposition - the extension of prenatal, care. They should know that in most cases medical practitioners make a bloc charge for a confinement which also covers pre-natal care. So this proposed benefit means nothing really.
The Opposition also proposes the abolition of the pay-roll tax which would cost £61,000,000 and cuts in sales tax which would cost about £41,000,000. The exact figures cannot be obtained. Labour also proposes to exempt the basic wage from, taxation, and to reduce taxation on incomes up to £40, a week at a cost of probably £40,000,000, making a total of about £142,500,000. If we add to this the £83,300,000 for proposed increased social service benefits we get a total of £225,800,000. Then we have the proposal for a shipping line at a cost of perhaps £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 a year, and additional development of the north. Do not forget that not more than about 15 per cent, of the community in Australia earns salaries in. excess of £40 a week. This means that this extra burden of £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 a year proposed by Labour would have to be borne by that 15 per cent, of the community and by industry. I ask the electors to ponder on the inevitable repercussions if Labour is returned to power and implements these extravagant promises.
I wish now to refer briefly to two anomalies which I find in the present act and to which I have made earlier reference in the Budget debate. The first refers to the definition of class A widows. In the new pamphlet issued by the department, as in the old one, there is reference to continuation of class A pensions. There we read -
A class A widow may continue to receive her pension until her child reaches 18 years of age if the child is a full-time student, is not in employment and is dependent on her.
This is not so. Section 63 (1.) (ab) of the act, which grants the extra 10s. per week for the succeeding children other than the first is quite clear, and states - in the case of a class A widow who has the custody, care and control of two or more children - an amount per annum ascertained by adding to the sum of Two hundred and sixty pounds the sum of Twenty-six pounds for each of those children other than the elder or eldest child;
In section 79 (1). we read -
The Director-General may direct that a pension shall not cease to be payable (or having ceased to be payable, shall again, subject to this. Act, become payable) to a class A widow so long as she has the custody, care and control of a child who -
is receiving full-time education at a school (including a technical school) or a university (including a university college).
But the Director-General cannot use any discretion to reduce that pension until the youngest child attains (he age of sixteen years. This means that because of this anomaly in the act the children of many widows .are denied higher education, for which they may be well fitted. I feel that this provision should he amended and it would not cost very much. Such an amendment would give the class A widows who struggle to give their children a higher education a possibility of giving them that to which all children are entitled. That is what the. pamphlet signifies, by its wording and not, as the act provides, that it shall apply only to the last child.
The other anomaly relates to the position of a class A widow with perhaps two or three children, who has the misfortune to have the younger child attain the age of sixteen years when she herself is just under 45 years of age. She loses her class A pension and gets nothing further. 1 know the intention was that the children could then keep the mother, but that is not possible in these days. A girl of perhaps nineteen or twenty years and a youth of seventeen and perhaps the youngest child of sixteen may have been looked after for twelve or thirteen years, during the woman’s period of widowhood, and during that time she has had no chance of acquiring the skills which would enable her to enter some form of continuing employment, but she is still’ debarred from receiving assistance. Her children cannot bring to the home more than perhaps the bare sustenance for themselves. Here we have a provision which allows a widow of 45 years and one day when the youngest child reaches sixteen to get the class B pension until she reaches 50 years of age or right through, whereas the other widow has to wait until she is 50 years of age before she can claim that pension. I feel that this grevious anomaly could be overcome by deleting from section 60 (1.) (b) (ii) the words “ after having attained the age of 45 years “.
The bill before us carries forward the tremendous record of the Menzies-McEwen Government in the field of social services. It adds to the terrific amount of credit deservedly given to the Government for the introduction of the merged means test and also for the way in which it has examined the position and is still examining the various suggestions put forward not only by members on this side of the House but also certain of those by the other side. I commend the bill and will vote against the amendment.
.- In complimenting the Government on its programme of social services as outlined in this year’s Budget, I do not wish to traverse the same ground as was covered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in his speech. It is a matter of record that the Menzies Government throughout its term of office has continued to enlarge the range of benefits and to increase the rates of benefits paid. At the same time it has eased the means test in relation to both property and income to an extent which has never previously applied. I was pleased to hear the Minister refer to the fact that structural changes are under consideration. To my mind, we have now reached a stage where further regular increases in the basic rates of pension will not achieve the effects that they should; that is, to relieve distress and give help where it is most needed.
After this bill receives the Royal assent it will be possible for an aged couple who have no dependent children, who own their home and. therefore have no rent to pay, and who have an income of £7 per week from either superannuation, annuity or some other source, to receive a joint pension of £10 10s. a week, or a total income of £17 10s. a week free from income tax. When com: pared with a married man in receipt of the basic wage, who has two or three children to feed, clothe and educate, the aged couple are well off. On the other hand, a single pensioner living alone and having to pay rent, will receive only £5 15s. a week, which is a totally inadequate amount. 1 believe that any proposed increase in expenditure should in future be directed towards assisting those persons whose needs are greatest. If we are prepared to spend sufficient money to effect a general increase of 5s. a week in pensions we should be prepared, as an alternative, to increase the pensions of those really in need, by 10s., 15s. or even 20s. a week.
We must also remember that under the merged means test every increase in the rate of pension causes a greater number of persons to become eligible to receive the pension. It is my personal belief that the present means test provisions are already generous. To-day a married couple, owning their home and a motor car, and having £4,040 in the bank may still receive a joint pension of £10 10s, a week and they do not lose their pension entitlement altogether until the amount of their bank account or the value of other assets reaches an amount of £9,500. Any further easing of the means test at the expense of those really in need would, to my mind, not be justified. In future, we should try to relieve the distress of those who are having difficulty in making ends meet and to remove some rather obvious anomalies which exist under the present legislation. I propose to refer to some of these anomalies.
The first of them concerns a married couple, the husband being over 65 years of age and in receipt of an age pension. His wife is not yet 60 years of age and the couple find difficulty in living on the age pension plus the wife’s allowance. She endeavours unsuccessfully to obtain work, and registers for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. As the present rates of unemployment benefit provide that a married couple will receive £5 12s. 6d. a week, with a total permissible income of £2 a week, the total income of the couple would therefore be £7 12s. 6d. a week. I am referring to the present rates, not those proposed in the legislation. As the husband receives an age pension of £5 a week his wife therefore receives £2 12s. 6d. a week unemployment benefit - but each time the age pension is increased her unemployment benefit decreases by a like amount because of the limit placed on permissible income, and even though it is obviously the Government’s intention for the couple to benefit by the increase in age pension, in actual fact this does not happen and their joint income remains the same. I believe that the Minister should have a look at this apparent anomaly.
Now let us take the case of a B class widow, who is a widow of at least 50 years of age, or one of at least 45 years of age whose class A pension has ceased because she no longer has a child in her care. Her pension rate is £4 7s. 6d. a week and her permissible income £3 10s., or a total weekly income of £7 17s. 6d. Anything she earns in excess of £3 10s. a week reduces her pension by a like amount. An age pensioner whose needs in many respects are less than those of a woman of 45 or 50 years of age receives a pension of £5 a week and her permissible income is also £3 10s. a week, making a total possible income of £8 10s. a week. Conceding that there is justification for the age pension to be higher than the B class widow’s pension, I believe that it is not unreasonable to give the B class widow permission to earn more income - at least such an amount as will bring her permissible income to the level of that of an age pensioner. The cost to the Government would be nil, and I suggest that the Minister examine this proposal also.
I was disappointed to find that the Government has not reduced the residential qualifying period for age pensions for immigrants. Personally I should like to see immigrants become residentially eligible upon naturalization, but if this is too much to expect in one budget I believe that the qualifying period should at least be reduced to ten years residence for immigrants who have become Australian citizens.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in what I can only describe, after consideration, as a vicious attack on the Prime Minister-
– Well, he used the words “ political deceit “, “ political betrayal “ and “ political humbug “. If that is not a vicious attack, I do not know what it is. He endeavoured to show that the Prime Minister had not honoured his election promises to the pensioners but had kept in full his promises to his friends, and he tried to substantiate that statement by refering to record profits, record dividends, record prices, record hire-purchase rates and record interest rates.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith says “ Hear, hear! “ I wonder whether he will also say “ Hear, hear! “ to my next statement. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro conveniently forgot to direct the attention of the House to the Government’s record expenditure on health and social services. In Labour’s last full financial year of office - the year ended 30th June, 1949 - the Labour Government spent £80,777,000 on health and social services.
– What was the basic wage then?
– I am coming to that, and I am glad that the honorable member mentioned it. If we allow for the fact that the population has increased by 25 per cent, in the intervening years, this year’s expenditure should have been of the order of £ 1 00,000,000. If we further allow that the basic wage has increased by nearly 150 per cent, in that period - it has not gone up by that much, but I will concede that for the purposes of illustration - the Government’s expenditure on health and social services this year, by Labour’s 1949 standards, should be about £250,000,000. But, because of the introduction of new benefits and the continued easing of the means test, we find that health and social services are estimated to cost this year not £250,000,000, but more than £350,000,000. Let me put it in another way. Labour’s expenditure on health and social services of £80,777,000 in 1949 represented 14.6 per cent, of a total Budget expenditure of £584,400,000. This Government’s estimated expenditure this year of £358,000,000 on health and social services represents more than 21 per cent, of the total Budget expenditure of £1,697,000,000. Those figures surely refute the misleading statements of the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
In regard to the introduction of the merged means test the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, according to “ Hansard ‘* of 12th September, 1961, at page 1053. said -
Last year, the Minister introduced a generous improvement in the property means test, but I remind the House that he did it in rather peculiar circumstances. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has already given the facts and they have not been denied by any one on the Government side of the House.
He further said -
As the honorable member for Port Adelaide has mentioned, the proposal which last year became part of the Government’s Budget, and which was given effect in the Social Services Bill, was examined by the Interstate Committee on Social Services set up by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party. A letter was sent to the Minister setting out the proposal and inviting him to give an estimate of the cost involved so that the committee could judge whether it was politically and economically practical. The Minister replied that no estimate of the cost of such a proposal could be made. The next we heard of it was when it was announced in the Budget.
That would be a very good story if it represented all the facts of the case. Now I wish to quote the words of the honorable member for Port Adelaide when he spoke on the Social Services Bill last year, as recorded at page 1102 of “Hansard” of 20th September, 1960. The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that he was really responsible for first directing attention to the need for a merged means test, and I do not deny that he may have been so responsible. He said -
I have in my hand a copy of a letter which I wrote to Mr. Chifley on 20th August, 1948. lt reads -
These suggestions would mean the abolition of the property test as we have it at present, and after allowing for the first £100 to be exempt, £1 per annum for each complete £10 to be included in the calculation of income of the claimant or pensioner. This, I feel, would meet the strong objection that has been made for so long to the prohibition of persons with, formerly, over £400 property and, latterly, £750 property, receiving any pension whatsoever. I would ask that information be obtained from the Pensions Department to supply, if possible, the additional cost of such alteration.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide went on to say -
I wrote that before the Budget came down in that year, and in our party meeting Mr. Chifley said at the time that it would cost £22,000,000 to do what I suggested. There were one or two other alterations I had also suggested. He said to me, “We can’t see our way clear to do it”.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide went on to say - 1 did not just leave the matter in the parly room when Mr. Chifley told me that the Government could not accede to my suggestion. Speaking in the Budget debate on 22nd September, 1948-
That was 1948, and the Labour Government also introduced another Budget in 1949- two days short of twelve years ago - I said, as reported at page 734 of volume 198 of “ Hansard “ -
Whilst I wholeheartedly support the Budget proposals, I had hoped that the Government would be a little more generous than it has in relaxing the means test.
Apparently the Labour Party has two standards - one for when it is in government and the other for when it is in opposition. According to the words uttered by the honorable member for Port Adelaide in 1948 the then Prime Minister and Treasurer could not see his way clear to spend an additional £22,000,000 on the introduction of the merged means test. But to-day the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asks us to believe that if Labour is returned to the Treasury bench on 9th December, in addition to increasing expenditure by many millions of pounds - or should I say, hundreds of millions of pounds - in the manner referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) it will also increase social service payments by at least £70,000,000, to quote the figure given by the honorable member. Other estimates place this figure even higher. In government they could not spend £22,000,000- which, allowing for the change in money value, would be about £50,000,000 to-day- for an extension of social services, but in opposition they are lavish with the promise of £70,000,000 in return for a favorable decision from the electors on 9th December.
Before concluding my speech, Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to the Minister’s statement concerning a contributory scheme in lieu of our present system of financing age pensions. The Minister discusses the scheme by saying -
There is no known way to stabilize the value of money, there is no known way to confine the demand for expanding health and social service benefits within certain fixed limits; there is no known way to strike a permanent rate of contribution within the competence of every person to pay without regard to income, or the lack of income, and there is no known way to free the Treasury - that is, the taxpayers of a country - from the responsibility of meeting the very substantial deficits which are inseparable from every publicly controlled social security scheme.
Those of us who believe in the introduction of a contributory scheme have never suggested that the rate of contribution should be permanent. The very essence of the scheme suggested for many years by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) ties the contribution to taxable income. In this way, if inflation were to continue, wages would be higher but so would contributions. There would always be a direct relationship between the two factors. We do not agree that contributions are a tax. Numerous gallup polls have shown that a majority of the public would not regard them in this way. When the Minister says that neither the benefits nor the contributions would ever remain constant, he forgets that our present benefits do not remain constant. Under a contributory scheme based on taxable income each taxpayer would contribute according to his means, but he would receive the same benefit as all other persons receive.
In my opinion, sooner or later, as our population continues to grow and to age, our present system will become too expensive to maintain, and as the money must be found by the taxpayer, he will eventually protest in very strong terms. A contributory scheme would be easier to administer than our present system is, because every person of pensionable agc would benefit. People would be induced to save without the fear that at some point their thrift would be penalized, and our economy must benefit from the introduction of such a scheme.
Despite the few criticisms I have made, I commend the Government on its very fine record in the field of social services.
.- Various Government supporters have strongly eulogized the Government on its record in the field of social services, and many remarks have been made about what Labour did when it was in office, up to 1949. The amount paid for social services by Labour has been mentioned and it has been compared with the amount paid by this Government. In doing this, honorable members opposite do not pay proper and fair regard to the fact that the value of money has changed quite substantially in that time. Indeed, the value of the £1 has probably halved. They do not pay sufficient regard to the fact that our population has risen substantially in that time.
Apart from these factors, to which some reference has been made, I would remind the House of one further significant point. At the time the Chifley Labour Government left office, not only was it in the process of extending the welfare state so strongly condemned by the conservatives in this country, but it had built up the National Welfare Fund until it had a balance of £200,000,000. The Budget papers presented to the Parliament still refer to this fact. The ultimate purpose of the Chifley Government was to extend social service benefits. As honorable members opposite challenge me on this, I should like a further opportunity to quote what some Opposition members of that time said about the Chifley Government. They said that Mr. Chifley was building up a mammoth nest egg and that he was depriving pensioners of just increases in their pensions. Mr. Chifley quite rightly intimated that his intention was to extend the whole gamut of social services in the ultimate.
Government supporters have, of course, referred to the positive points of the Budget. Those honorable members who are very conscious of the reaction in their electorates have also suggested various improvements that could be effected in the social service structure. If Labour members make these suggestions they are inevitably asked where the money will come from to pay for them. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), who has become quite agile in these matters, and other Government supporters have not the same readiness to estimate the present cost to the country of unemployment - not only the unemployment of labour but the non-employment of factory equipment and machinery. A very interesting exercise would be to estimate the cost to the nation of lost work potential and lost production through the present economic recession which has been deliberately created by the Government. No Government supporter is willing to say that this is costing the nation £60,000,000, £70,000,000 or £80,000,000, and it could very well be costing much more.
When Labour puts forward ils proposals, it is very conscious of the fact that more money will be needed to pay for them, but it is also very conscious of the fact that that extra income in the hands of those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder in itself would have an energizing effect on the total economy. It would boost consumption of goods produced in this country, which is at present in a rather sorry state. It would stimulate the consumption of foodstuffs, and this would help to effect a recovery in primary production. Despite all the talk of prosperity, the incomes of primary producers in total have in fact declined over the last few years. Income in the hands of people on the lower incomes would help to stimulate business and to get the wheels of industry moving again. As this had its effect, national income would increase, and as the income of the nation increases, so does the revenue of the Government increase.
No one can arbitrarily say what Labour’s proposals would cost. At this stage, it would be difficult to estimate accurately the amount of revenue that would be returned to the Government as a result of the stimulus to the economy as a whole from the increased consumption of locally produced goods by these people who at present are not enjoying a lavish standard of living.
– All that £60,000,000 would be returned to the country.
– I am reminded that much of this income put into the hands of these people would find its way to the primary producers and to people in country districts.
The shortcomings in the Government’s social service programme are, of course, well known. They have been mentioned already, and I do not want to weary the House by labouring the point. However, I want to refer to some of them. The first matter I want to mention is the Government’s scandalous approach to child endowment. The Government has not increased child endowment for nine years. In fact, child endowment has not been dealt with since 1950-51. The Government has never increased child endowment for the second and subsequent children.
– It introduced child endowment for the first child.
– It has made one contribution. True enough, subsequent to its election in 1949, it introduced child endowment for the first child and fixed the rate at 5s. But, despite the inroads of inflation and increased liabilities of parents, particularly in the matter of education, the Government has not increased the rate of child endowment. Every one knows of the sorry plight of many of our families arising from the cost of bringing up the children. This Government has tried to insinuate that it has sympathy for the parents who are educating their children in non-State schools. Can you think of a more direct or helpful way of giving assistance to those people than by recognizing their family responsibilities as the Labour Party intends to do? In other words, we propose to bring child endowment at least to the level that existed when the Chifley Labour Government left office, lt was the Chifley Labour Government that made the last increase in child endowment for the second, third and subsequent children in 1948.
Supporters of the Government have implied that they have sympathy with the people. I suggest to the Government that if it has any sympathy for those who are confronted with the economic problem of educating their children, particularly in private schools, here is the way to do it without inflaming feelings and causing any controversy in the community. We do not need to stress the point to those who have the burden of educating their children in private schools, but this applies also to those who send their children to State schools. The State schools are only nominally free. As a matter of fact, they are very expensive for those parents who recognize the need to keep their children at school for a longer period than was the case formerly. The compulsory school attendance age has been raised in many States but apart from that, the other kind of economic compulsion demands that parents equip their children with education of a sufficiently high level to enable them to cope with jobs that are available in our modern community. It is necessary for them, therefore, to go to more expense in educating their children
Parents of school children are aware of what it costs to equip their children for a State school, particularly those who have had experience of children moving from a primary to a secondary school. They have to meet the cost of books and equipment, sports and book-lending tees and all the other expenses associated with the maintenance of children from the age of twelve years to sixteen or seventeen years. This places a very heavy burden on parents. We are suggesting a way in which the Government can go to the assistance of these people.
We are very anxious to bring families into Australia. In the House to-day, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) mentioned the desirability of bringing family units here. That is very commendable, but I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that it is very commendable also to encourage Australian families to bring up their children properly and equip them adequately to meet economic demands, both individually and as part of the nation as a whole. So I earnestly urge the Government - if it is not too late before this Government goes out of office - to recognize the desirability of giving assistance to our family units and especially to assist them to meet the increased cost of maintaining their children at school.
The question of allowances for dependent wives has been a sore point. In this case, we are talking, of course, of men who, because of invalidity, are no longer able to work. Such a man might be eligible for the age pension. To attract a dependant’s allowance for his wife, he must be an invalid as well as aged. On the other hand, he might be simply an invalid, not 65 years of age but 45 or 50. Since 1952. this Government has compelled the wife of such a man to live frugally on 35s. a week. At long last, by the persistent efforts of members of this House and the representations of organizations outside, the Government has been compelled to show some humanity and it is increasing the pension from £1 15s. a week to £2 7s. 6d. - a magnanimous increase of 12s. 6d. a week. In other words, an adult couple are compelled to live on £5 5s. a week for a husband and £2 7s. 6d. for the dependent wife.
The husband might be an invalid unable to work under the definition of the law applying to invalid pensions. In all probability, his wife is unable to get work even if she could take a job. We do better than that for the age pensioner. Nobody suggests that £10 10s. a week for an aged couple is an example of excessive generosity or that it is even generous. Despite what supporters of the Government have said, an aged couple receiving £10 10s. a week live a pretty frugal existence, lt might be all right for those with additional income and with the resources permited by the merged means test; but many old people in Australia have not either of these. In addition to their living expenses they have to pay rates unless State governments or municipal authorities give them aid. Life is difficult enough for aged couples; how much harder must it be for the man with a dependent wife who has to live on £5 5s. for himself and £2 7s. 6d. for his wife? The Australian Labour Party has stated its opinion that both the husband and the wife should be paid the full pension rate, and I do not think anybody could quibble with that proposition.
Reference has been made to the unemployment and sickness benefits to which I referred in my speech on the Budget. There is a grave responsibility on this Government to compensate people properly in these days when governments arbitrarily intrude into the economy and decide in their wisdom or otherwise to introduce economic measures which they know could lead to unemployment. When, in fact, governments are purposely putting people out of employment and depriving people of their earning power, they should compensate the people. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is interjecting, would expect to get compensation if his property was resumed. If the Government took over someone’s factory or some other instrument of production, would not honorable members opposite be the first to clamour for compensation for those affected? Does it not follow then that a man with a dependent family who loses his employment should be entitled to the same consideration?
When you take away a man’s capacity to work, you are depriving him of the one thing he has to maintain himself and his dependent wife and children. When the Government interferes in the nation’s stability purposely, it is arbitrarily depriving men of their living. In those circumstances, there is a moral responsibility on the Government to compensate those who have had their income earning capacity taken away from them. It is a matter of utter shame that the Government proposes that a man and his wife with any number of children should be asked to live on £7 a week when the husband has lost his employment. This is even worse than the case of the pensioner with a dependent wife to whom 1 have referred. Actually, it is much worse than we are offering a couple on the age pension. We give them £10 10s. a week, but we ask a man and his wife and any number of children to live on a sickness or unemployment benefit of £7 a week. Ti is true that the children might attract child endowment.
– Is there one single benefit that pleases you?
– The honorable member for Richmond has done very well in directing attention to the positive aspects of the Government’s proposals. I have previously paid a tribute to the Government for introducing the merged means test; but I am not here to remark on things that are satisfactory. I am here to direct attention to matters that need ventilating. I am here to speak for the people who elected me and who expect me to indicate the need for reforms. There are enough persons here patting the Government on the back without me joining the crusade. I have no qualms about making these requests. It may be said that this is a negative sort of approach, but let me tell honorable members opposite that if they are not prepared to implement the proposals I am making, there is a Labour Party here prepared to do so, and pledging itself to the nation to do so, despite all that honorable members opposite say about the cost to the nation. I have made some remarks about the cost, and I have shown that Government spokesmen have been putting forward fallacious arguments. They have not taken into account the fact that the payment of increased social service benefits would stimulate the economy, increase national productivity, and thereby increase the revenue-earning capacity of the Government itself.
Unemployment and sickness benefits, together with child endowment, would give a man, wife and three children a total amount of £8 5s. a week on which to live. I put it to honorable members opposite, including those of the Country Party, that this is harsh treatment. I do not think any person has to be particularly pessimstic or depressant to make that remark, or to submit that it is not a fair go for people whom we have arbitrarily put out of work.
I would also like to direct attention to the income means test as it affects pensioners. A pensioner is allowed to earn an extra £3 10s. a week, and I believe that this amount has not been increased for many years. The cost of living has, of course, gone up to a very significant extent since this amount was first laid down. It would not cost the Government very much to increase the amount of permissible income. There is no hand-out required from the Government itself; all that is suggested is that pensioners should be allowed to earn for themselves a little more than £3 10s. a week.
There is another matter about which 1 should like to make a few remarks. I had to see the Minister about a particular case, but I think I should now mention the general principle involved. I refer to the fact that pensioners who enter mental hospitals are deprived of all their pension rights. This, I think, is most inhuman, and it is causing, in my experience, very considerable hardship. I shall refer personally to the Minister the case of a person who entered a mental hospital. The department was notified that this person was entering; the mental hospital, and the pension was cancelled. Out of the blue, no action having been taken by the person concerned, the pension was restored. The person acting as warrantee for the pensioner thought that this was all right. Payment of the pension continued for four years. During that time the full pension was paid to the warrantee for the mental patient. The person acting as warrantee happened to make an inquiry of the Department of Social Services, and it was accidentally revealed that although the pension was being paid in respect of the person con cerned, she was not, under this legislation, entitled to receive it. Now the unfortunate warrantee is confronted with a demand by the Department of Social Services for the repayment of £1,250.
However, that is more or less by the way. The important point is that these unfortunate persons who have to be treated in mental hospitals do not get all the amenities that we think they should have. We believe it is desirable that their loved ones, who still care for them, should be able to receive at least a proportion of the pension, just as they do when pensioners are admitted to establishments run by benevolent institutions. They should be able to receive at least some of the pension, so that they can provide these unfortunate inmates with a few amenities.
Let me refer also to the position of civilian widows. There seems to be a general consensus of opinion in the Parliament, even amongst honorable members on the Government benches, that it is anomalous that a civilian widow, with the responsibility of bringing up her children, without her helpmate, should still be allowed to earn only £3 10s. a week plus 10s. for each dependent child. Surely we can be a little more magnanimous. Again I submit that it would not cost the Government very much to increase the permissible earning capacity in the case of civilian widows.
– That is about the twentyfourth additional benefit you have mentioned.
– Well, tell me which ones you would knock out. Tell me which ones you think have no merit.
I want to make a few remarks about the residential qualifications for eligibility for social service benefits, particularly the age pension. As we all know, a person must be naturalized and must have lived in Australia for twenty years in order to becomeeligible to receive the age pension. The Labour Party has pledged itself to reducethe qualifying period to ten years. We have been singularly fortunate in our” immigration programme, in that we have been able to attract to Australia a substantial number of comparatively youngpeople. The vast bulk of our immigrants have been young people. We have not had? the expense of paying even child endowment in respect of these persons. They have come here already matured, in the full flush of life, ready to work, and making few demands on our social service scheme. Having in mind the Minister’s announced humanitarian programme of bringing family units to this country, surely these young people should be able to expect that their parents will be eligible for the age pension within a shorter period than twenty years.
I heartily recommend that the Government consider reducing the qualifying period. We have made an excellent investment with our immigration programme. It has been a marvellous thing for the country. It has helped to youthify our population, if I may coin a term, just when we were noticing an increase in the average age of our population. At a time when we were starting to worry about the preponderance of aged persons in the community, we suddenly had a new influx of young people contributing to the productive capacity of the country. It would represent some kind of thanks to these people to make their parents eligible for the age pension after ten years residence. After all, ten years is still a fairly long time to wait before qualifying for this benefit.
I would also like to refer to a subject that has been mentioned, I think, once or twice previously. I refer to sheltered workshops for invalid persons. The provision of these workshops helps such people not only economically, but also in their social adjustment. Unfortunately we have a number of comparatively young adult people in our community who have become invalids and who are receiving the invalid pension. In the suburb of Bankstown in Sydney there is an institution where one of these sheltered workshops is operating, principally because of the support given by the local Lions Club. I must say that I was really inspired by what I saw there. It was by no means a perfect arrangement, but it is making a marvellous contribution. It allows these invalid pensioners who, under the special departmental provisions, are normally restricted to earning £2 a week, to get £3 10s. a week. They are assisted by a few people, devoted to the cause, who obtain contracts for the purchase of the articles manufactured in these workshops. I understand that the United Kingdom Government has taken over the whole project in that country, is running these sheltered workshops and employing in them many thousand of invalids. I do not know how long it will be before Australia can reach that stage, but if we cannot do the job ourselves we can at least give a lending hand to those people and organizations who are willing to do it. In the district in which I live both the poliomyelitis and the physically disabled society, as I think it is known, as well as those people who are charged with the care of spastics, are prepared to get together to build in the St. George area of Sydney a sheltered workshop comparable to that which now exists in Bankstown. They are appealing to the State Government to provide a block of land on which to build, and they have asked me to appeal to the Commonwealth Government for a subsidy towards the establishment, not only of this centre but also of similar centres in various parts of Australia. They would be a marvellous contribution to the economic welfare of those people and, above all, to their social adjustment. It is marvellous to see them gathering in their groups in this social community, each with a sympathy and understanding of the other’s difficulties and inhibitions. It is marvellous that they are able to get together in this way and have some social outlet. This gives them a sense of worthwhileness, if I may use that word, because they are able to do certain things for themselves and are not totally dependent upon the community. They receive great satisfaction from this. This project could be given great encouragement. Although the Government has taken worthwhile action in subsidizing homes for aged people, the provision of these sheltered workshops is a very worthwhile project which should attract the attention of any government.
With regard to homes for the aged, the plea has been made that the Commonwealth subsidy be extended. The Labour Party would like to see the subsidy made available not only to private and church organizations but also, if we are genuinely concerned about doing the very best to house aged people, to other organizations which are able to provide the one-third of the cost which attracts the two-thirds Commonwealth contribution. In other words, let us make the benefit available to municipal authorities which are prepared to raise the one-third of the cost.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to preface my remarks by saying that during the whole time that my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), has held his portfolio 1 have found him exceedingly prompt in handling correspondence and extremely sympathetic in dealing with any matter that falls within the financial capacity of the vote that is allocated to his department. So if I suggest something that could be of first-rate assistance to the unemployed it must not be thought that 1 am lacking in any appreciation of the Minister’s good work.
The position in the city may be different from that in the country where an unemployed man has to wait for one week and, from my own experience, probably two weeks before receiving unemployment benefit. In days gone by the scheme of providing what were called track rations was in operation. This meant that if a man went out looking for a job he received something to help him to carry on. In the depth of the depression he was given a weekly ration - a dole if you like - which enabled him to move from place to place seeking employment. I suggest that when a man loses employment now and feels that he can perhaps find something for himself in another district he be given a card signifying that fact and indicating when he is entitled to a track ration. I am sure this would be of great benefit to very many men and, in addition, it would save the country a fair amount of money. I realize that this is not purely a Commonwealth matter and that it lies within the co-operative sphere of the Commonwealth and the States, but of my own experience I know that it is a matter of great importance.
I listened with interest to two matters raised by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). The first referred to the amount that a pensioner may earn over and above his pension. A pensioner and his wife may each earn £3 10s. a week and this amount, added to the pension which now will be £5 5s. a week each, will give them a weekly return of £17 10s. The only thing I would say to the honorable member is that in fixing the permissible weekly income of a pensioner couple you should have some regard for the basic wage on which a man. his wife and two children are expected to live.
I was extremely interested in what the honorable member for Barton had to say about the load that falls upon parents who endeavour to educate their children in what I shall call non-State schools. It is a great pity that whenever this question arises it is apt to be bedevilled by feelings of sectarianism which, I trust, will not enter into this present discussion. In my own State of New South Wales people are apt to invoke the name of Sir Henry Parkes as though it was the Ark of the Covenant, lt is no disparagement of the magnifiicent job that he did in the act of 1880 to say that. 1. as a student of the things that happened at that time, believe it to be clear that Parkes himself never sought an exclusive system of State schools, with no government assistance to others. This was forced upon him as many things are forced upon us in our political lives. The natural result is that families which to-day desire to maintain and educate their children in non-State schools carry an almost intolerable burden. I am a descendant of the Covenanters and therefore I speak as one who has no bias in favour of one religion as against another.
I believe that this country cannot afford to have within its boundaries a regimented system of State education. I have heard my friends in this place rise night after night and hammer away at the dangers of communism. Those dangers are apparent to all; but there is no danger which should bc more apparent than the danger of having a regimented system of education, the control of which is confined solely to the State. That is what Hitler succeeded in doing: that is what Mussolini attempted to do. and that is what Khrushchev and his friends are doing now. In Australia the child must be brought within a regimented system of education. Let me emphasize that we have here no counter-balancing factors such as are found in other Western countries. We have not the system of close local control that applies in America where even villages control their own education system. We have not the age old systems of Scotland, Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
In 1936, 1 made a private inquiry into this subject in Great Britain and I found that in the Republic of Eire and in Scotland acts of Parliament had been brought down which made possible the working out of a mutually satisfactory system. I do not want to go fully into that, Sir. What I want to emphasize this evening is that, as another honorable member said, when you discuss social services you discuss something that is tied up with the fact that nearly one-third of the children of this country attend non-State schools. Their parents maintain them and educate them at those schools with practically no assistance, except for minor relief in the form of tax deductions. That relief certainly amounts to very little in the way of assistance.
Those parents face increasing problems in modern education, which is already very costly and is becoming increasingly costly. We have before us documentary evidence that the Premiers of the States have said to the Commonwealth, “ We find it almost impossible to continue to carry the burden of education with which we are loaded.” The Premiers have the whole resources of the States behind them in meeting the needs of education; in certain respects, they have the backing, indirectly, of Commonwealth resources. But the parents of the one-third of our children who are in private schools, both those of the various denominations and the non-denominational ones, pay their share in taxes and train their children without any call on tax revenue for education. Those parents render a magnificent service to the country by providing a second stream of education parallel to the system of State schools.
– Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to relate his remarks to child endowment.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed, Sir. It is quite obvious that this burden carried by the parents of children at private schools must be offset in some way. Here is something that is interwoven with the whole system of social services. In many countries, education is regarded as one of the social services and, in this country, education can be said to be related to social services.
You have asked me to relate my remarks on the subject to child endowment, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is quite obvious that families, especially the larger ones, who have their children taught in the independent schools, are carrying a burden the weight of which should be effectively recognized by the Commonwealth or the States. If the one-third of Australia’s children who are being so educated were suddenly thrown on the State schools for their education and the Commonwealth or the States had to bear the cost, there would be tremendous inroads on the funds available for social services or other services. The enormous cost of education in the State schools generally shows that.
So I suggest that there is a case here for consideration by the Commonwealth and the States in order not only to extend a measure of justice to people who educate their children in non-State schools but also to preserve the freedom of education in Australia. I know that I have opened up a very big question. I did so deliberately. The party to which 1 belong opened it up-
– Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to relate his remarks to the Social Services Bill which is now before the House.
– I am sorry if 1 have transgressed once more, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely trying to relate education to the whole burden of cost imposed on families.
Apart altogether from that question which I have raised, I want to suggest something that may not be as acceptable to some people who are listening to me. This matter concerns the basic wage. At the present time, under our arbitration system the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission implicitly takes into account the needs of the family unit in determining the economic capacity of the country to pay and fixes the basic wage accordingly. Wages are related to those matters. What I am coming to, Sir, is that, as we get nearer to the stage at which we will give men and women equal pay for work of equal value, obviously we have to face up to the question of the needs of the family unit. No political party in this country has honestly faced up to that question yet. Unless we adopt a basic wage standard which is related to the needs of the family unit, and which properly compensates families for the burdens that they have to bear, and accordingly gives them something more than they receive now, the economy, even of a country as wealthy as is this, will not be able to withstand the drain on its resources.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you and the House for the tolerance with which my views on this subject have been heard. I leave the matter there.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who has just delivered a most interesting address, made one or two suggestions which 1 believe must be considered by the Parliaments of the nation in the very near future. At the close of his speech, he dealt with the structure of the basic wage, and 1 intend to relate my remarks on this social services bill to the basic wage and child endowment. Those honorable members who have young families, especially those who have more than the average number of children, know only too well that child endowment is not nearly sufficient to meet the needs of families. I do not wish it to be thought for a moment that I mean that members of this Parliament find that they cannot support their families. But 1 am sure that their experience with their own families makes them realize that people whose income is less than the average weekly wage and who have families larger than the average are in dire straits in many ways in the struggle to provide for the needs of their children.
Parents in these days are most anxious to purchase their own homes and to give to their children the very best education that they can afford. I think that most parents adopt the attitude that their children ought to have a better education than they themselves had. Parents like to see their children neatly dressed, and they certainly like to see them well fed. If we investigate the food requirements of children, we find that they are such as to far exceed the purchasing power of child endowment, which would not be enough to provide even the required quantities of fruit and milk. We have been told that a growing child ought to have 1 pint of milk a day. In Sydney, the cost of 1 pint of milk is about ls. Id. delivered. So the child endowment paid for the first child would not provide even one pint of milk a day. In addition, fruit, cheese and other foods are needed by growing children.
– Is child endowment intended completely to keep a child?
– No. I shall deal with that point later. The point that I am making at present is that child endowment was introduced in order to supplement the family income.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Thursday, 14 September 1961
– It is quite obvious that the present basic wage is not sufficient to provide for the larger than average family. The Government has failed to do anything about child endowment since 1950, and the indication given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the other day was that the Government believes that because the basic wage was fixed according to the maximum amount that industry could afford to pay, those people with families were already well covered because, with the child endowment, they were receiving more than the basic wage. The point to be remembered is that the same basic wage is set for the single male adult worker as is set for the married male worker, so that the standard of living enjoyed by the single adult male worker is much higher than that enjoyed by families.
In these days we are moving nearer to equal pay for the sexes - .the present rate for an adult female is 75 per cent, of that for an adult male - the standard of living set for the family unit is not as high as it should be. When introducing the Child Endowment Bill in 1941 Mr. Harold Holt, who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, was most emphatic that child endowment was a national investment. Amongst other things he said -
Child endowment can be rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such as ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things. This is because it is rarely possible for people who make investment in persons to profit from it. For this reason governments subsidized education. For this reason also the investment of the Commonwealth Government in child endowment can be expected to make a high return in human happiness.
Various other Government members spoke on that occasion in 1941, but I shall refer only to the speech of one. The then honorable member for New England, Mr. Abbott, said this -
The bill represents the first attempt yet made to remove an undesirable feature of our wage structure, namely, the injustice suffered by large families under our present wage-fixing system, which places a penalty upon paternity, and, at the same time, pays a bounty on bachelorhood. To some degree the bill will remedy that position.
At various times since 1941 other Government members, including the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), have made references to the family unit. For instance, when introducing the Matrimonial Causes Bill, in 1959, the AttorneyGeneral said -
One of the great foundations of our national life is the family, and in turn the family is founded on marriage. National interest is best served and family life is best nurtured when marriage is truly lifelong.
In 1955, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said -
We must recognize the needs and claims of our children.
He went on to say -
We have a duty to the old, the sick and the family unit.
Surely a government, the members of which have made such statements over the years, should face up to the problem that confronts the family at the present time. It is no good just passing the matter off with the bare statement that the basic wage is fixed at the highest rate that the economy can afford. It cannot be argued that a great number of people in the community are not getting more than the basic wage; but, in many of its judgments, the arbitration tribunal has indicated that it no longer regards its duty as being to set a basic wage which is sufficient to maintain a family. For instance, when delivering the 1950 basic wage judgment, Mr. Justice Foster said -
Social benefits are the Government’s policy for the re-distribution of Australian income after it is earned and of course may be modified at Parliament’s will. The Court’s task is now to settle disputes about wages which are earned in the production of that income out of which Parliament distributes its bounties.
When delivering its decision after the 1952-53 basic wage and standard hours inquiry, the court said -
So far as this Court is concerned, no evidence was presented to enable it to assess the reasonable needs either of a family group, typically average or appropriate.
When delivering his judgment on the basic wage in 1959, Mr. Justice Foster said -
Since about 1920 by the order of the Arbitration Court the basic wage has been adjustable, first as a “ needs “ basic wage and then, since 1934, as a capacity wage.
In 1941 and 1943, it was stated that the basic wage was sufficient to maintain only three people. Perhaps the best-remembered of all these statements is one by Chief Judge 0’Mara, who said -
On our accepted standard of living, looking at it from the needs point of view only, 1 regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. When the unit gets beyond four hardship is often experienced.
Shortly after that, the Government introduced child endowment for the first time, but the payment was made only for children other than the first. In 1950, the Government amended the legislation to provide child endowment for the first child. If, in 1941 and 1943, the basic wage was based on what was only sufficient to meet the needs of a family of three, then surely it must be admitted that the basic wage of to-day is still only sufficient to maintain a family of three. As a single adult male worker is entitled to receive the same basic wage as a married adult male worker, and as the female adult worker is entitled to receive 75 per cent, of the adult male rate, it is quite obvious that the wage-earner who has a family is forced to exist on a lower standard of living than either the single adult male or the adult female. When speaking to the introduction of the Child Endowment Bill in 1941, Mr. Curtin put the matter very clearly when he said -
It is necessary to deal with the problem of family allowances, regardless of the wage determined by any arbitral authority. Whether the authority should fix the basic wage high or low, so long as it took into account the family which is accepted as the standard, or determined upon some special unit of its own selection, so long would it happen that families whose members were larger than the standard or the average, would suffer some disadvantage in their own households. Therefore, what we are faced with is not the problem of the minimum wage, or what is the status of labour as a class, but what is the degree of disparity between the family life of this country, as we find it in many instances, and that of the standard or average family in receipt of the wage which the courts or other authorities declare to be the minimum.
That is the approach that the Government should take. It should recognize thai all people in industry, whether married or single, are entitled to receive whatever basic wage is determined as being the maximum amount that industry can afford. If the family is a national investment, if the family pays dividends to the community, then surely the family is entitled to be considered when it comes to deciding upon social service payments. The needs concept that was so often mentioned in the House when the basic wage and child endowment were mentioned visualized a standard which I feel was well below that which should have been aimed at. The standard was set down in 1907 in the Harvester award. I think it was the Chief Judge, Mr. Justice Higgins, who then said that if A were looking after B’s horses, fair and reasonable treatment for the horses would be to provide proper food and water and such shelter as they might need. He went on to use that criterion for setting a fair and reasonable wage for a family unit of five - a husband, a wife and three children. The amount that he set was 7s. per day for a six-day week, amounting in all to £2 2s. He allowed £1 12s. 5d. for food, 7s. for rent and 9s. 7d. for extras. This is an extract from the 1907 judgment -
This expenditure does not cover light (some of the lists omitted light), clothes, boots, furniture, utensils (being casual, not weekly expenditure), rates, life insurance, savings, accident or benefit societies, loss of employment, union pay, books and newspapers, tram and train fares, sewing machine, mangle, school requisites, amusements and holidays, intoxicating liquors, tobacco, sickness and death, domestic help, or any expenditure for unusual contingencies, religion, or charity.
So, the needs standard which was maintained up to 1934 at the very least and probably is still, in some measure, observed in fixing the basic wage, did not include a lot of things that we have become accustomed to accept as the right of every citizen. Unless the Government is prepared to face up to the needs of the average family unit, the larger than average family will be forced to accept a lower standard of living than the rest of the community, lt is quite apparent from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s reports that the commission does not regard itself as being a social or economic legislature. In volume 6, No. 5 of the “ Industrial Information Bulletin “ the following report from the basic wage inquiry of 1961 appears: -
Role of the Commission.
From time to time the commission and the court before it have endeavoured to make clear what is the role of the Federal arbitral tribunal and what is its function in dealing with cases such as the Basic Wage case now before us. For instance, in the 1952-53 Basic Wage and Standard Hours inquiry the Court pointed out that it was neither a social nor an economic legislature, lt said that the exercise of its powers had “ widespread social and economic results “; but that it was “ not the function of the court to aim at such social and economic changes as may seem to be desirable to the members of the tribunal”.
The report went on, further, to quote an extract from the 1959 metal trades margins case. The commission said this: -
The true function of the Commission is to settle industrial disputes. In the settlement of disputes involving payment of wages, such as this one in which such issues have been raised, the commission will bear in mind the various economic submissions made to it, including those about price rises and inflation; it will also bear in mind the fiscal and economic policies of the Government. It will not ignore the consequences to be expected from its actions but it will not deliberately create situations which would need rectification by governmental action. It will not use its powers for the purposes of causing any particular economic result apart from altered wages although in the event the decision it makes may have other economic consequences.
The commission went on to state its views in the following words: -
We are not national economic policy makers or planners. We are confined to the legislation under which we act and, in particular, in basic wage cases we have the function of deciding only what is a just and reasonable basic wage. This does not mean, of course, that we have not to consider seriously the probable effects of our decision on the economy.
So, the commission completely wipes its hands of any social import in its decisions. It says that the Government should face these social problems. I feel that the Government has completely jettisoned child endowment. It has cast it overboard because the opinion seems to be held among members of the Government that the basic wage provides for the family unit. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) recently indicated that he believed that the basic wage these days was more than sufficient to provide for husband and wife and more than two or three children. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) recently indicated in the House that he felt that it was still sufficient only for a husband, a wife and one child. The employer of a man with a larger family than this still has to pay him only the basic wage. At the same time, the employer is compelled to pay the basic wage to the single adult male worker. Consequently, the standard of living of the family unit is being lowered. lt is time that the Government faced up to its responsibilities in this regard. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission refuses to deal with the matter and the Government refuses to deal with it. How are parents to receive any justice unless the Government is prepared to face up to its responsibilities? I feel it is about time that the Government instituted an inquiry, whether by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or by a select committee or a royal commission. Some one should inquire into the needs of the family. There is no doubt that the standard of living which the family is enjoying at the moment is far below the standard of living that can be enjoyed by other sections of the community. Figures quoted from a gallup poll in March-May of this year indicate that the minimum amount on which a family of four - a husband, a wife and two children - can live is £18 14s. per week. Two thousand people were asked this question -
In your opinion what is the smallest amount a family of four - parents and two children - need each week, to keep in health and live decently - that is the smallest amount for all expenses including rent?
People who themselves had families of four said that the minimum cost of living was £18 14s. a week. That is an indication of how far below the proper standard the present basic wage is set - not that I maintain for a moment that a great number of families are expected to live wholly and solely on the basic wage. Child endowment was introduced in 1941 and various increases were made in it up to 1948. Endowment for the first child was introduced in 1950. Surely the Government should still maintain that benefit. lt promised to do so in 1949. There has been no drastic alteration in the basic wage position since that date. The Government must face up to its responsibilities.
– Has the basic wage not doubled?
– As I have said, the basic wage is based on the maximum amount that industry can pay. If it has been doubled it has been doubled because industry can afford to pay that amount. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission sets an amount that can be paid by industry it does not take social and economic matters into account. It leaves that to the Government. So it is no good trying to transfer to the commission the responsibility that should be accepted by the Government. Child endowment has drastically fallen in value. At 1st July, 1941, when child endowment was introduced for all children except the first, it was 5s. a week and the basic wage on the average of the six capital cities in Australia was 86s. a week. At that time the child endowment payment represented 5.8 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1945 when the child endowment was increased to 7s. 6d. the basic wage was 96s., and so child endowment represented 7.8 per cent, of the basic wage. When the child endowment was increased to 10s. from the 9th November, 1948, the basic wage was 1 19s. and child endowment represented 8.4 per cent, of the basic wage.
In 1950 when endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child was introduced, the basic wage was 135s., and child endowment except for the the first child was 7.4 per cent, of the basic wage. In August. 1956, the basic wage was 246s. and child endowment, except for the first child, dropped to 4.1 per cent, of the basic wage. In July, 1960, the basic wage was 276s. and child endowment, except for the first child, represented 3.6 per cent, of that figure. In July, 1961, when the basic wage for the six capital cities was 288s. the child endowment had dropped even further in relation to the basic wage. Between 1948 and 1961 the child endowment, expressed as a percentage of the basic wage, has fallen by more than half. If child endowment was introduced in order to give some benefit to the family, surely the same degree of benefit should apply now! It does not matter at all what the cost is. The argument we must examine is that in 1941 the Menzies Government introduced child endowment and up to 1948 the Labour Government increased it.
In 1950 this Government introduced child endowment for the first child. If child endowment was necessary in 1950 it is necessary to-day, because the same conditions apply. We have a higher standard of living these days than we had in 1941 or 1950. Because of that fact and because the standard of living granted to basic wage earners has improved, surely those people with larger than average families deserve some consideration! Social problems are the prerogative of the Government and it should face up to them. Either the present Treasurer in 1941 was wrong when he said that child endowment was a national investment and that it could be expected to yield a huge harvest, or the Government is wrong now. The Labour Party says that the Government was right in 1941 but that it is wrong now. We contend that it is time the Government faced up to the fact that the standard of living of the family has not kept pace with the standard of living of either single male persons or single female persons in the community. If parents are prepared to have children, surely for the sake of the nation they deserve some repayment from the nation!
There are many other matters which members of the Labour Party have spoken about in this House and among them are the miserable rates paid to age, invalid and widow pensioners. There is also the failure Of the Government to provide for increases in the funeral benefits. One amendment that is to be moved by the Opposition seeks to enable people who have come here from overseas to become eligible for the age pension after residence in Australia for only ten years, instead of 20 years as at present. I believe that all the amendments to be moved by the Opposition during the committee stage are well worthy of consideration.
I most strongly urge the Minister and the Government to look at the question of child endowment payments in Australia, because until such time as they are prepared to face up to their obligations child endowment will be a dead letter. At the moment the Government is trying to pass the buck to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which refuses to accept it. The Government will have to do something about child endowment, or family life in Australia will be materially affected.
.- The Government has a proud record in the field of social services. An examination of social services in Australia compared with those in other countries clearly shows that social services in Australia are better and more comprehensive than those in any other country. It is, therefore, astounding to notice that a member of the Opposition has submitted an amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time, purporting to condemn the Government for having, in the terms of the amendment, failed to increase the rates of payment of various social services to correspond with increases in prices. The amendment states further that purchasing power has halved since this Government assumed office in 1950. Of course, the assumption of the Opposition that the value of money has halved is not correct. But let us assume for one moment that it is correct. Let us look at social services as they were in 1949 under the Labour Government and as they are under this bill.
In 1949, the age and invalid pension was 42s. 6d. and under this bill it is 105s - considerably more than double. Permissible income - income which the pensioner can have without affecting his pension - was 30s. a week under the Labour Government and it is now 70s. a week. While Labour was in office not only were the thrifty penalized in respect of the assets they possessed, but they were penalized a second time because of the income they received from those assets. This Government has removed income from assets entirely for means test purposes and now income from property or assets is totally exempt under the means test.
Exempt property - that is, the assets which are not taken into account for means test purposes - amounted to £100 under the Labour Government and it is now £200. Under the Labour Government, if a person had £750 in assets he was not entitled to an age or invalid pension at all. This Government has entirely removed that ceiling. Under the merged means test it does not matter how much assets a person has, until the formula works itself out. So until a single person has assets worth £4,750 or a married couple has assets worth £9,500 part pensions are payable.
Under the Labour Government the blind were subject to the means test; but this Government has exempted blind persons entirely from the operations of the means test. Under the Labour Government war pensioners and age pensioners were subject to a ceiling and could not benefit if they went above that ceiling. This Government has removed the ceiling on age and war pensioners. Under Labour there was no supplemental pension for hardship cases - not one penny. Under this Government a supplemental pension of 10s. a week is payable to single persons who have no income other than their pensions and who have to pay rent. Under Labour aboriginal natives did not receive pensions. Under this Government aboriginal natives, except those in the nomadic state, receive pensions just as other eligible people do. Then, under the merged means test provisions, the £750 limit which applied under Labour has been removed and now, as I said earlier, a single pensioner may have property to the value of £4,750 and a married pensioner couple property to the value of £9,500 and still benefit from pensions if they have no other income.
In addition to those tremendous increases, all of which are increases of more than 100 per cent, on the rates under Labour, and many of them increases of as much as 200 and 300 per cent., there is the liberalization of the means test which was introduced by this Government, and there are other additional benefits. The Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government was the first goverment in the world to introduce such an act as the Aged Persons Homes Act whereby churches and charitable organizations are subsidized in the provision of homes for the aged. Under that act 10,000 aged people have been found superb accommodation at rents or boarding charges that they are able to stand.
Under Labour there was no free pensioner medical scheme. The present Government introduced the free pensioner medical scheme, from which 88 per cent, of all pensioners benefit in free medical attention. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) in trying to justify Labour’s extremely poor record in social services, said, first, that the value of money had halved, and then tried to show that, under this Government, benefits had not doubled. The facts that I have just given to the House prove conclusively not only that all the benefits that I have mentioned have doubled in value but that in most cases they have considerably more than doubled.
One extraordinary feature of the attack by members of the Opposition is their attempt to claim some credit for the introduction of the merged means test. Realizing that this is the most popular social reform ever introduced by any government and knowing that it was introduced by the Menzies Government, Labour members are now trying to get on to the bandwagon and claim some credit for the merged means test. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has told the House that he thought of it, and that he wrote a letter to Mr. Chifley, Prime Minister and Treasurer in the last Labour Government, setting out the plan and asking the Department of Social Services to estimate the cost of introducing it at that time. He was told that the cost would be £22,000,000 a year. The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that he then put the proposition for the introduction of the merged means test to Mr. Chifley, and that Mr. Chifley refused to implement the plan because, he said, the Labour Government could not afford £22,000,000. Then we had the honorable member for Barton saying a little while ago that Mr. Chifley built up a reserve of £200,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund. If the honorable member for Barton is correct, and the Labour Government had £200,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund, why could it not afford £22,000,000 for the introduction of the merged means test, which the honorable member for Port Adelaide has told us would have been the cost of introducing it at that time?
Of course, we know what the facts really are. We know that Labour had no intention of introducing the merged means test. Even if Labour members ever thought of the merged means test, they had not the slightest intention of introducing it, and would not have introduced it if they had continued in office. According to the statements of the honorable members for Port Adelaide and Barton the Labour Government had the opportunity to introduce the merged means test, and the money to finance its introduction, but did not do so.
It is utter humbug for Labour members to pretend now that this Government has not been generous in its attitude to social services. I believe that the present Government has a magnificent record of which it can be justly proud. In every year that it has been in office it has introduced reforms in the social services legislation. It has increased pensions and other benefits, it has liberalized the means test, it has brought in all sorts of other social service benefits that were never introduced before. I believe that the Government will go on making reforms year after year wherever anomalies or injustices occur.
I am disappointed that on this occasion the Government did not feel itself able to widen the terms of eligibility for the special hardship pension. I believe they should be widened to cover all single persons, widows and widowers, who have no income other than their pensions, and that the benefit should be payable whether or not these people have to pay rent. We know that there are many single persons who live in homes of their own and have to pay interest on big mortgages, as well as rates, taxes and the cost of repairs, all of which very often come to more than the cost of paying rent. 1 feel confident that when the circumstances of the nation’s economy permit the Government will consider widening the terms of eligibility for that very beneficial supplemental pension so as to make other people in need besides those who have to pay rent eligible to receive the benefit.
Then there is the question of the residential qualification in regard to entitlement to social service benefits. At present virtually only European migrants are excluded from receiving age pensions by the residential provision. It is true that the provision does not discriminate in law and that if an Australian-born person has not twenty years residence in Australia when he reaches the age of 65 he cannot qualify for a pension, but in fact almost every person born in
Australia is qualified by residence to receive an age pension as soon as he reaches the prescribed age. Similarly, as a result of the reciprocal arrangement with the United Kingdom, now that residence in. the United Kingdom counts as residence in Australia, it virtually means that every one born in the United Kingdom also qualifies. Therefore eventually, even though it is not in the law, it is our migrants from Europe who are affected by this residential qualification. I believe, Sir, that if a man has worked for ten years or fifteen years in> Australia and paid rates and taxes, it is an injustice to deny him a pension when he reaches pensionable age. Therefore, I hope that next year the Government will introduce this necessary reform.
The success of the Aged Persons HomesAct gives rise to the belief that there is no better way that the Government can help the community than by assisting Churches, charitable organizations and welfare societies in doing the nation’s work. The Aged Persons Homes Act has been an outstanding: success and I would like to see the same pattern of legislation to help invalid pensioners and sick people during periods of rehabilitation. There have been suggestions, and I would support them, that charitable organizations which are providing rehabilitation centres and accommodation for disabled people should be entitled to assistance of the kind that is provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Therefore, I do hopethat the Government will continue in future years its magnificent record of removing these anomalies year by year as the economy of the country permits.
I hope also that the Government will, continue to give consideration to a proposal for national superannuation which, I believe, must eventually come to meet thegrowing needs of social services. I believe - that we will have a much sounder economy when all people make a small contribution for their own social services rather than throwing the burden on to the few to provide social services for the many. I believe that the great bulk of Australiansprefer to stand on their own feet when they are able to do so. The success of the national health scheme, which is a contributory scheme, is abundant proof of” the fact that Australians are independent people and prefer to make contributions. during the working years of their lives to provide themselves with benefits as a right during the later periods of their lives. In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on another splendid bill in relation to social services.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, I think I should offer my congratulations to the honorable members who have addressed themselves to the subject under discussion. There were perhaps one or two indifferent speeches, to which I might make reference, but in the main all the speeches were good; some of them were excellent and without exception in that category they were all most helpful to me. I can only say, as I have said before, that as the field of social services is now so vast and every aspect of social services lends itself to critical examination by those who are interested in the general question -of social services, we reach conclusions as to what ought to be done, but because everything cannot be done at the same time there has got to be a measure of judgment applied before decisions are reached. And after that judgment is made there is, of course, always cause for conflict of opinion and disputation as to whether it was the right judgment or whether something better might have been done.
I offer my congratulations to those who have taken part in this debate and I want to assure them that all they have said of a constructive character will be taken into consideration. Briefly, may I refer to the impassioned speech on child endowment by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). He, of course, has been interested in the question of child endowment and family allowances generally for a long time. He put up a very convincing case, but he -omitted to mention two important factors. He did mention, of course, that it was this Government which introduced child endowment for the first child; and that is the most expensive item in the field of child endowment. But he omitted to mention that under the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act the concessional allowances for children have been increased during the last twelve years from £78 for one child to £91 to-day, an increase of £13. That, of course, is of material advantage to those who are liable to pay income tax and who have one child. For each child after the first, the increase has been from £52 to £65, another increase of £13. These are material advantages to the father and mother of a family struggling valiantly to make adequate social and educational provision for their children.
Then the allowance for each student child rose from £78 again to £91, an increase of £13. And for the first time in the history of our country, this Government introduced an education allowance. It began at £50 for each child, and to-day it is £100 per child. These have all been advantages to the family man, all designed to help the fathers and mothers and the children of our families, and I believe they have been of very great assistance. 1 know that as far as country people in particular are concerned the education allowance has been the finest form of family assistance that our people have ever had.
Now, I want to make brief and passing reference to the grim and terrible honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who led for the Opposition on this occasion. He shed tears of anguish for the family, Mr. Speaker, but I venture to suggest that those tears were devoid completely of compassion; they were shed in shame. You must remember, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro gave unswerving loyalty and support to thelast - I say this prophetically - socialist government. And it was that government that consistently during nearly nine years of office said that it was utterly impossible to pay child endowment for the first child. For nine years it resisted the suggestion and said that it was utterly impossible to pay child endowment for the first child. That, of course, is paid to-day in respect of 1,500,000 children at a cost to the Australian taxpayers of £19,650,000 per annum.
It was the same government and the same honorable member for Eden-Monaro who said at the previous elections and during the period of the last socialist government that it was financially impossible for this country to meet the position of the civilian widow with more than one child. The previous government paid to an A class civilian widow with one child or more than one child the magnificent sum of £2 7s. 6d. a week.
If she had two children, her pension was £2 7s. 6d. a week; if she had ten children, her pension was £2 7s. 6d. a week. The government that the member for EdenMonaro supported during all his years of service in the previous government said that it could not be improved, not by a single halfpenny.
It was the same government that said it was financially impossible to improve the position of the civilian widow who committed the folly of allowing her youngest child to reach the age of sixteen years before she reached the age of 50 years. For nine years, the previous socialist government said to that civilian widow: “ If your youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years before you are 50 years old and eligible for a B class widow’s pension, you must go to work. You lose your pension absolutely and completely, and it remains lost to you until you reach 50 years of age.” When it was pointed out to the socialist government that there were hundreds and perhaps thousands of B class widows who had devoted their entire adult lives to the rearing of their children and who had reached the age of 45, 46, 47, 48 or. 49, the socialist government could do nothing to help them except to say: “ Go to work and remain at work until you are 50 years of age. Then come back to us and we will pay you £1 17s. a week.”
It was the same government, supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that said it was utterly impossible to improve the position of the D class widow. She was condemned to live with her shame, visited on her by her husband and her children, on £1 17s. regardless of the number of children. It remained for this Government to eliminate that category of widow. To-day she qualifies, if she has a dependent child, for an A class widow’s pension and escapes the ignominy of the D class widow’s pension.
The same government said it was beyond the means of the Australian community to improve the position of the single pensioner or a married couple who, because of the variation in their ages, were required to live on a single pension. The socialist government said that it could not be done, that there was no known way of improving the position of a single pensioner living on a single pension or a married couple living on one pension only when they had to pay rent. For nine years, the government that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro supported said that there was no known way of effecting that most urgent social need. Again it remained for this Government to devise and introduce supplementary assistance for the first time in our history. The same government and the same honorable member for Eden-Monaro said there was nothing to be done to improve the position of the blind pensioner with children, who had to live on a means test pension of £2 2s. 6d. lt remained for this Government to remove the means test for the blind pensioner and to pay the additional allowance for the dependent children.
It was the same government, supported by the honorable member for EdenMonaro with all that he has and had at that time, that said the income means test could not be eased beyond £1 10s. a week. For nine years, it said that £1 10s. was the maximum income that a person could have,, and if a person had income in excess of £1 10s., the pension was automatically reduced. There was no known way to solve that problem, not during the whole of the period that the socialist government was in office. The socialist government said it was impossible to ease the property means test in excess of £750. If a pensioner had more than £750, then no pension was payable at that time. The same government despite all that has been said to the contrary, said that it was financially impossible to do anything to merge the property means test and the income means test. I know that various people claim to have devised the scheme to merge the means tests, but I went through the travail in the Department of Social Services when the system was being devised. I went through the struggles that “were inseparable from the introduction of such a proposal for the first time in our social service history. I know just what it has meant to the people and to the Government. With very great respect, I suggest that if the Opposition does not want to be generous to the Minister for Social Services, whoever he may be, they might consider being a little generous to those who have served him and the people of Australia so faithfully and so well during the last six years.
It was the same honorable member for Eden-Monaro, still shedding his tears of chagrin, who said during the nine years of the socialist government that there was no known way to remove the traditional discrimination levelled against the aboriginal natives of our own country. For 50 years, it was beyond the capacity of the Opposition to devise a simple means that would remove what could only be interpreted as a shame on the Government and the Opposition during these 50 years. It remained for this Government to remove that discrimination for ever. The same honorable member for Eden-Monaro, weeping his tears when he was addressing himself to this bill, said it was impossible to enter into a reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom. No formula could be devised that would he acceptable to the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government. It remained for this Government to enter into that reciprocal agreement, which, as I said in the House yesterday, has worked admirably.
I think I am justified in mentioning one or two other matters to solve the anguish of the honorable member for EdenMonaro. He said that to grant adequate taxation concessions for women over 60 years of age and men over 65 years of age was utterly impossible; it could not be done. This Government did it. This Government has increased these concessions consistent and commensurate with every increase in social service benefits for which these people qualify. The honorable member for EdenMonaro and the government he supported said there was no financial way to grant allowances and deductions from income tax for education expenses. As I said in reply to the honorable member for Lang, it was this Government that devised that provision. It was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro who said that there was no known way to introduce medical and pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners and their dependants. Those of us who can remember back to 1947, 1948 and that fateful year, 1949, know that when the socialist government tried valiantly to introduce socialistic schemes of hospitalization, medical services and pharmaceutical benefits, none of the reputable medical and pharmaceutical people would co-operate in any way with it in proposals of that kind; and so our aged men and women and their dependent children were deprived of these services during the whole of the period of the socialist government.
It was the honorable member for EdenMonaro, still shedding these tears, who said that it was impossible to conceive the idea of assisting churches and charitable organizations to provide homes for our aged men and women. These organizations were engaged in that kind of work and had been engaged in it from time immemorial. They were deserving, and they sought practical assistance from the socialist government to expand their operations, to extend their accommodation, and to provide for greater numbers of people. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said, in effect, that it could not be done; there was no known way of assisting the churches and charitable organizations to provide additional accommodation. The same honorable gentleman said, in effect - not in so many words - that to remove the sales tax on motor vehicles used by qualified disabled persons in the course of their employment was an impossibility; it was too difficult; there was no way of doing it. It has been done and it is being done from day to day.
These, without exception, are all matters of family importance and they are the only matters to which I want to refer in my reply this evening. They have all been dealt with, and satisfactorily dealt with, by the present Government. With the confidence of the electors of our country, the social service policy of the Government will be advanced still further in the next few years. I have no objection to members like the honorable member for Lang and other honorable members of the Opposition who take the same kind of line as he took and who spoke about genuine grievances in an informed way, but I suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that if he wants to assist the sociological progress of our country there is no need to indulge in the whinings and recriminations that pervaded his speech last night. There is plenty of scope for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and Opposition members generally, to engage in social welfare work where they are immediately in a position to put their ideas into practical effect.
A socialist government has been in office in New South Wales for more than twenty years. The honorable member for EdenMonaro, a New South Wales member of this Parliament, has never in any of his speeches on social services mentioned the deplorable circumstances in which the mentally sick of that State are condemned to live. Not a single word! When their conditions descended to a level where a royal commission was required to correct that most grievous situation, there was not a syllable from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. There was not a word to the State Government on what might be done to help the retarded children under the age of sixteen years, at which age in the normal course of events they would qualify for an invalid pension. There was not a word as to what might be done for the children stricken by poliomyelitis, palsy, or any of the other cerebral diseases. Yet there is an illimitable scope for assistance of a variety of kinds.
Nothing has been said by honorable members opposite as to what ought to be done to help the physically handicapped in New South Wales to recover their place in normal society and to discharge their social responsibility in full. Yet there is a field of exploration that ought to commend itself to men who claim to represent the Australian people. These strata, where the children are too young to qualify for Commonwealth social services are, so far as honorable members of the Opposition are concerned, barren fields. There are no votes to be produced in any of them. Honorable members opposite would rather muck around with the paddocks of social services that have been farmed out for years and years. So it is that I have very little to answer, Mr. Speaker.
I should now like to give some authoritative estimates of the cost of the Opposition’s proposals, which are included in its policy for the ensuing general election. The cost of increasing age and invalid pensions by 5s. a week, as those of us who have studied this bill know, would be £8,700,000; of paying a domestic allowance of £3 10s. to class A widows only, £4,550,000; of paying class B widows an extra 17s. 6d. a week, £1,370,000; of increasing supplementary assistance by 20s. a week, £5,000,000; of increasing the wife’s allowance by £3 2s. 6d. a week, £2,400,000; of increasing child endowment on the scale proposed in the Opposition’s policy, £60,700,000; of increasing maternity allowance - allowances, as I understand the proposal - £4,000,000; of increasing funeral benefits to £20, £780,000; of reducing to ten years the residential qualification for an age pension, £2,500,000. The total cost of these proposals to-day would be £90,000,000. The increase in our population, at the level of children, adolescents, and mature men and women, is so rapid that by the time the general election is here the cost of those proposals will approximate £100,000,000. If the cost of the Opposition’s other proposals is added to that, the people of our country will be laden with a taxation burden that can only be described at this stage as insuperable. However, that is for the future to determine.
I want to end on the note upon which I began. I congratulate honorable members who have applied themselves to a study of social services in any form and who have attempted to make a contribution to the solution of the problem as it confronts us to-day and as it is likely to confront us in the future. As the standard of life and living rises in the general community, so does the need for increasing benefits within the ambit of social services as we know them.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who studded his speech with statements beginning, “ The honorable member for EdenMonaro said “. In case anybody might be innocent enough to believe him, I had better put it on record that every one of those statements of the Minister is without any basis whatever.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Allan Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committeed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
– I should like again to ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) whether he can give the House any indication of the amount of the appropriation.
– The same question was addressed to me last year, if I remember correctly, and I told the honorable member that there was no need for me to state any specific amount. He knows the system under which social services are financed.
– That is a most unsatisfactory answer.
-I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in order in speaking twice to the same motion?
– I do not know whether I am in order in speaking twice to the same question; but I would like an answer once to the question: What is the appropriation that is to be made? I say that it is the fundamental right of the Parliament–
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. A point of order has been taken. The honorable member, having spoken once to the motion, cannot do so again.
.- The question still remains to be answered. It is clear that when a motion of this sort is moved, with no reference to a specific amount, the House is asked to make an appropriation with no knowledge–
– Order! The motion before the Chair is, “That the message be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole House forthwith “.
– What is the message?
– Order! The message is the one I read a moment ago.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that that does not make the position any better. A certain message is to be referred to the Committee of the Whole, but no amount is stated in that message. There is no suggestion in the message which has been submitted to you that during the debate the required amount will be determined. If the amount is known now, it can be stated; if it is not known, we are entitled to know why it is not known. This matter is not being raised now for the first time; it was raised last year. Presumably the Government is in no better position now to answer our question.
-Order! The honorable member should not transgress too much. I point out that the motion before the Chair is very limited.
– It is limited. That is precisely the cause of the Opposition’s complaint. We believe that the motion should not be limited and should not be before us in this form. We have submitted our complaint about this matter before, and we believe we are entitled to have it considered. We say, in essence, that the House should not be asked to agree to any message having to do with the appropriation of money unless the amount of money to be appropriated is set out in the message. We cannot see why the amount should not be set out. We would like the Government to tell us why it cannot be done. If the Government cannot answer that question, it should indicate the amount of money that is involved in the message.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
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 purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1960.
– Mr. Chairman, I should like to know the appropriation of revenue that it is expedient to make. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) whether he can indicate the order of the sum involved. I suggest that if Ministers think such information is irrelevant they are recreant to their duty as Ministers of the Crown. I as a member of the Parliament have always believed that the Parliament as a body is responsible for the sums which it expends. I ask the committee to read carefully the motion that has been proposed by the Minister. What is the order of the sum involved? Is it £1.000,000, or £100,000,000 or £1,000,000,000?
Mr. ROBERTON (Riverina- Minister
Chairman, I have tried to explain to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) just what the position is. I shall try to explain it again, if he will listen to the terms of the motion that I have just proposed.
– I have listened to it.
– Well, listen again. I have moved -
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- 1960.
– What is the sum involved?
– The appropriation of revenue is for the purposes of the bill indicated in the motion. That is all the information that it is necessary for me to give to the committee. That is all the information available to me in accordance with the normal forms of the House.
– I regard the Minister’s answer-
Order! The honorable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. I call the honorable member for Wills.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– I ask that the motion be read again. It is proposed that a sum be expended. I ask, on a point of order, what that sum is.
– Order! I have called the honorable member for Wills.
- Mr. Chairman-
– I ask for an answer to my question. What is the sum to be expended?
– Order! The honorable member has attempted to speak a second time to the motion.
– No; I raised a point of order. I was not speaking to the motion. The Minister for Social Services has moved that a sum be expended. As a member of the Parliament, I want to know what that sum is. I raise this as a point of order.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. 1 have given that ruling three times. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I move -
That the Chairman’s ruling be dissented from. (Mr. Crean having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing) -
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I take the same point of view as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). We are asked to agree to the appropriation of a sum of money.
– No sum of money is mentioned.
– You do not specify the sum. Is it £10, £1,000,000, £5,000,000 or £500,000,000? The resolution is 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. What sum of money? What appropriation of revenue? Surely we should know the amount. This is a blank cheque. Would any responsible board of directors carry a resolution that it is expedient that a sum be appropriated for a certain purpose without knowing what the sum was? Would any body of shareholdersbe satisfied if the directors moved for the expenditure of a sum of money without specifying the amount?
Mr.Turnbull. - The Labour Government did it often enough.
– This is something that has been done for a long time, and it is a procedure that should be remedied. I protest, along with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I am prepared to make an apology. However, I must say that I raised this point at the same time last year, and I suggest that this method is absurd in a Parliament that prides itself on being responsible for every £1 of public money that is spent. Here we have a situation in which we do not know what sum is being spent. I apologize to the committee.
Resolution agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Social Services Bill 1961 is an urgent bill.
– The question is, “ That the bill be considered an urgent bill “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage, until 12.35 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 12.45 p.m. this day.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a matter–
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.50 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What amount was paid to each Minister as an “ away from home allowance “ in 1960-61?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The total paid for travelling allowances for Ministers and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition is shown in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department under the item “Travelling Allowances - Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition”. The rates of travelling allowances paid are as recommended in 1959 by the Committee of Inquiry into the Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
z asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Why does the Government charge interest upon loans to State governments made from funds obtained by the levying of taxation on Australian citizens when the only expense involved by the Commonwealth is the cost of collection?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In each year since 1951-52, the State governments have submitted for the consideration of the Australian Loan Council proposed loan programmes for State works and housing purposes which the council finally decided were in excess of the amounts that could be borrowed on reasonable terms and conditions. The Loan Council has accordingly approved a borrowing programme each year somewhat less than the total of the programmes submitted by the States. By agreeing to these reduced programmes, the States have on each occasion clearly signified their willingness to borrow the total amount of the approved programme on the market, and to pay market rates of interest.
In order to enable the States to plan their works and housing programmes on a firm basis, the Commonwealth has, in each of the years from 1951-52 to date, undertaken to find from its own resources amounts sufficient to enable the borrowing programme for the year to be completed, should the market not yield the amount desired.
In each of the last ten years it has been necessary for the Commonwealth, in pursuance of its undertaking, to support the approved borrowing programme by subscribing from its own resources to a special loan, and the Budget proposals submitted to Parliament for this financial year also envisage the probability that a special loan will be required. The resources from which the Commonwealth has subscribed to the special loans have included funds available from oversea borrowings by the Commonwealth, and amounts appropriated to the Trust Fund from the general revenues of the Commonwealth.
The terms of the annual special loan have been based on those for loans floated in Australia earlier in the year. As the States were prepared to borrow the full amount of the approved programme at current market rates, it does not seem unreasonable that they should pay market rates on funds subscribed by the Commonwealth. Moreover, a substantial proportion of State loan moneys are either invested in a productive manner and produce revenues for the States, or are advanced and subsequently repaid to the State with interest. In the circumstances, the Commonwealth has considered that it would not be inequitable for the States to pay interest for the contributions which the Commonwealth has made through special loans to the annual governmental borrowing programmes approved by the Loan Council.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What steps has he taken to amend section 100 (6.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to the broadcasting and televising of medical advertisements in accordance with the resolution passed by the National Health and Medical Research Council on 12th May, 1960, and forwarded to him on 21st July, 1960?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I discussed some time ago with my colleague, the Minister for Health, the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council to which the honorable member has referred. My colleague informed me that whilst he was not, at the time, prepared to endorse the council recommendation that section 100 of the Broadcasting and Television Act should be amended, he felt that there was considerable merit in its recommendation that an Australian national advertising code should be drawn up for the guidance of advertisers of patent medicines and appliances. I am informed that considerable progress has been made in this direction, with the support of the industrial organizations concerned with such matters. Although such a code would have no legislative sanction, but would depend on the voluntary co-operation of all concerned, I understand that the Commonwealth health authorities regard it as likely to be of considerable value in establishing a uniform and acceptable approach to the advertising of medicines and associated products.
Local Government Finance.
s. - On 5th September, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) asked the Treasurer whether Victoria was included among the five States which he said had borrowed every £1 of their 1960-61 semi-government and local authority borrowing programmes.
The Treasurer said that his recollection was that Victoria was one of these five States, but undertook to check the position.
The 1960-61 borrowing programme for Victorian semi-government and local authorities was £38,740,000. Victorian authorities fell short of borrowing the full amount of their programmes by only £6,000, or less than 0.02 per cent. Queensland authorities reported borrowings to the full amount of their approved programmes. Authorities in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia all borrowed within a few hundred pounds of the approved programmes. Tasmanian authorities were the only ones which did not succeed in borrowing virtually the whole of their programmes during 1960-61. The shortfall on the total programme for Tasmanian authorities of £1,600,000 was £177,000.
Having in mind the borrowing difficulties experienced by governmental authorities during last year, the fact that authorities in all the six States managed to borrow within £200,000 of programmes totalling £106,000,000 is an extremely good record. The facts I have mentioned seem adequately to justify the general comment that semi-government and local authorities in five States raised virtually every £1 of their borrowing programmes last year.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
Final annual figures are not yet available, but the following preliminary figures are supplied: -
Apart from “Plywood (at most-favoured-nation rate) “, the above figures do not include miscellaneous small importations which failed to qualify for Papua and New Guinea Preference.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610913_reps_23_hor32/>.