25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr. Speaker, we were all delighted last week to learn of the birth of another son to Her Majesty the Queen. The Senate was not sitting last week, and it therefore seems appropriate that we should to-day take note of last week’s news so that a joint address may be presented to Her Majesty on behalf of both Houses. I do not need to elaborate this, because we all have the same feelings about it. I move -
That the following joint address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen: - “To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, tender to Your Majesty and to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, our warmest congratulations on the occasion of the birth of a son and express the great joy felt by the people of Australia at this event.
We take this opportunity of expressing our continued loyalty to the Throne and Person of Your Majesty.”
– Mr. Speaker, I second the resolution. There is not much to be said in addition to what the Prime Minister has said. We all wish the Queen and her husband a long life and every happiness, and all the joy and satisfaction that will come to them from the happy family they have around them. We hope that the birth of this latest child will add to that great joy and satisfaction and we all hope that sorrow and suffering will long be delayed from approaching their family door.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has he had brought to his notice the submissions made by counsel representing employers at the current basic wage hearings to the effect that Australia has a very poor rate of growth and a mediocre increase in productivity compared with other countries? Will he examine these submissions in the light of statements to the contrary made by members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, during the general election campaign, which were repeated in this House by the Treasurer during the debate on the Address-in-Reply and repeated again by the Treasurer yesterday when he was addressing a handful of people constituting the Liberal Party’s branch in Manly, New South Wales? If it appears that the statements made by the employers* counsel are incorrect, will he instruct the Commonwealth’s counsel to correct these statements in order that the Commonwealth’s alleged impartial attitude to the basic wage claim may be extended to the employers as well as to the trade unionists?
– It is not for us to intrude and tell counsel for the employers -how they are to conduct their case. If they care to make these statements, that is their business, and counsel for the trade unions will have a right of reply. They will have every opportunity to contradict the statements and to try to create a more accurate impression than has been created by the employers. We have also put in the Commonwealth’s presentation, as we have stated, how difficult it is to measure productivity. It is a measurement of the future and not a measurement of the past, so you have to make an enormous number of guesses and, particularly, a number of guesses based on estimates which may turn out to be right or which may turn out to be wrong. We on this side of the House have always stated that we believe that these are matters to be argued before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We do not think that the commission’s decision should be prejudiced, and we certainly do not think that we should take a partisan attitude by speaking for or against either of the parties.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the contract for the printing of the Tasmania telephone directory has been taken from the Tasmanian Government Printer? If so, why?
– During last year, tenders were called for the printing of the Tasmania telephone directory. Three tenders were received - one from the Tasmanian Government Printer, one from a Melbourne firm and one from an Adelaide firm. The tender received from the Melbourne firm was substantially below that of the Government Printer in Tasmania and we had no alternative but to accept the Melbourne firm’s tender.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. The honorable gentleman will know that protests have often been made at the restrictions placed on Australian journalists in the Soviet Union. My question concerns his reported ban on a visit to New Guinea by a Soviet journalist. I ask: What restrictions, over and above those applying to Australians, are applied to diplomats and foreign newspaper correspondents who wish to visit New Guinea? In applying these restrictions, does the Minister bear in mind the way in which Australia could help to promote the free movement of men and interchange of information between all countries?
– It is our prerogative to determine whom we shall permit to enter New Guinea and I believe that the Government’s policy is exercised in a very fair way. It is our policy to have free interchange of information between the communities of the world, and I believe that there are far fewer restrictions on entry into New Guinea than on entry into, say, Communist China or Soviet Russia.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Has the fluoridation of Canberra’s water supply been considered and has any decision been reached in the matter? If so, will the Minister please inform the House of the details of the decision, especially whether fluoridation has been decided on and when it will begin?
– My predecessor decided that Canberra’s water would be fluoridated, The National Capital Development Commission has the responsibility for providing a desirable system of water supply for Canberra. The commission recommended fluoridation only after an intensive and exhaustive examination of the health aspects of fluoridation, based on most recent knowledge, and after a recommendation by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council that Canberra’s water be so treated. The matter has been progressing and the Department of Works has been preparing plans for a plant to introduce fluoride into the Canberra water supply. It is hoped that tenders for this plant will be called about the 28th of this month and that fluoridation of Canberra’s water will begin about August of this year.
– I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has any formal protest, in the diplomatic sense of the word, been made by the Australian Government to the French Government about the conduct of nuclear tests in the Pacific? If a diplomatic protest was made, how was it made? If no diplomatic protest was made, does the Government intend to make one and when?
– There is no magic about the word “ protest “. The important objective diplomatically is to convey to another government what we think. Australia conveyed to France unambiguously what it thought about the proposed tests, as I told an honorable member in the House a few days ago.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. Why does he equate his policy on the exclusion of people from New Guinea to the policies of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and not to the traditional British policies of freedom of speech and freedom of association? Is it because he and the Government are materialist and dictatorial in attitude and not democratic in the British tradition?
– The honorable member for Wills suggests that we equate our policy with that of Communist China. I pointed to the policy of that country as an example. If we look at territories occupied or accepted by Russia after the last war, such as the southern portion of the island of Sakhalin, we may wonder what action
Russia would take if we tried to send a representative there.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. As he is well aware, certain ex-servicemen are issued with surgical boots. In many cases, owing to the disability of the ex-serviceman and the type of work he does, a change of boots is necessary and two pairs are issued by the department for this reason. However, when a pair of boots has to be returned to the department for repair or replacement the ex-serviceman is left with one pair only. Will the Minister investigate this problem with a view to providing three pairs of boots where necessary to overcome the inconvenience caused by the issue of only two pairs?
– The provision of surgical footwear is an important part of the work of the artificial limb and appliance centres of the Repatriation Department in each State. We supply many thousands of pairs of surgical footwear each year. Each case is treated individually. There is no collective policy which would be taken as an overall policy governing the provision of footwear. If the honorable member has an individual case in mind, and if he will refer it to me, I will see that it is investigated to find out whether we can meet the requirements. In any event, I will look at the overall picture to see whether something can be done to meet the problem generally.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the great pleasure given to the Australian people by the announcement by His Holiness the Pope of the honour conferred on the Leader of the Opposition, will the Prime Minister give further pleasure to Irish men and women and Australians of Irish descent on this Saint Patrick’s Day by assuring the House that he will appoint an ambassador to Ireland?
– I do not know whether this happy conjunction of the planets is intended to suggest that perhaps we might appoint “Sir Arthur” as ambassador. I thought perhaps he might have different views on this matter. The problem of exchange of representation with Ireland is under examination at this time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry who will be aware that final arrangements have been made to lift a record Australian crop of apples and pears - a crop in excess of 9,000,000 bushels. Is the Minister aware that the export of the crop is seriously threatened by inactivity in Melbourne and Sydney in relation to filling the additional waterside workers’ quotas of 300 and 600 respectively? Is he aware that because of the early maturing of the crop and strict time-table for shipments the position could become chaotic and that the additional ships arranged for and arriving in ballast could be a considerable embarrassment? Will the Minister consult with his interested Cabinet colleagues on this matter? Can he give an undertaking that immediate steps will be taken to prevent such a situation from arising, particularly as it could affect the major fruit exporting port of Hobart?
– I am aware of the estimate of a record Australian crop of apples and pears available for export this season. I know of the difficulties involved in arranging satisfactory shipping to cater for the quantity estimated to be available. These difficulties have now been overcome. It is necessary, as the honorable member stated, that the time-table be adhered to in order that the shipments may be made in time to reach the markets before the products of other countries of the world. For this reason it is vital that the shipping timetable be strictly adhered to. As to the other part of the honorable member’s question, I received yesterday evening, as I understand other Ministers did, a telegram concerning the provision at the ports of the requisite labour. This vital matter concerns my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I shall certainly continue with him discussions which have already been started to see what can be done.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry as the representative in this chamber of the Acting
Minister for Trade and Industry. Is the Minister aware of the hostility which has been expressed in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America as well as in the parliaments of several States of the Union to the meat agreement entered into by the United States of America and Australia? Is it a fact that a campaign is under way in the United States of America directed against Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland which have increased their exports of meat to the United States of America? If this campaign is gaining strength, will the Minister consider asking the Governments of New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland to co-operate with Australia in a campaign to counter the opposition to their access to the valuable export market which has been developed in the United States in recent years?
– Considerable pressure has been exerted upon the Government of the United States of America in this matter by the meat-producing interests in that country. However, the honorable member knows that we have completed an agreement with the United States Government to which, I imagine, it will adhere. It is a very satisfactory agreement which contains certain factors I could explain, but as I will be introducing an amendment to the meat board legislation in a few days I will have much more to say at that time on the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Would the Minister for the Army agree that a request by a country such as Malaysia for the training of recruits would be hard for the Australian Army to meet because of shortages of officers and non-commissioned officer instructors? Would the Minister also agree that, in the event of an emergency involving Australia, the training of our own recruits likewise would be difficult, if not impossible, while retaining our field strength? Will the Minister give urgent consideration to the creation of an instructional corps - without detracting in any way from our present battle group strength - as a vital pre-requisite to any wider Army commitments?
– As is well known, there is a shortage of officers, particularly of junior officers, in the Australian Army. Measures to rectify that situation are actively under consideration at the present time. In the more substantial part of the question, the honorable member talked of an emergency. Provision has been made to expand our recruit training activities, in the event of an emergency, to cope with the numbers involved.
I do not believe that at the present moment there is a requirement for the formation of an instructional corps. Each corps in the Army has a number of trained instructors attached to Army schools. Those instructors are not part of the field force. They keep up to date and get firsthand experience by rotation through the field force. I think the attraction of the idea of an instructional corps goes back to the days when the Australian Instructional Corps was in existence. But it should be remembered that at that time there was no regular Army, except for a few officers and the Australian Instructional Corps. If we had not had that corps we would not have had any instructors at all. But to-day the people who would go into an instructional corps would come from the same source as people who are required in the Australian Regular Army in general.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of a statement that it is the intention of the Government to prevent a rebate being made on national health service prescriptions by friendly society dispensaries to bona fide friendly society members? If that statement is correct, can the Minister tell the House the reasons that prompt such action?
– I know that certain matters relating to the national health scheme are under consideration by my colleague, the Minister for Health. I will convey the question to him and see that an answer is prepared.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to opening a new branch of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation in the suburb of Malabar in my electorate?
Does the Minister consider that the continued growth of population in the suburb of Malabar merits a new branch being opened for the convenience of residents? Or is it the policy of the Government to allow the private banks to become established in a suburb before any attempt is made to establish a branch of the Commonwealth Bank?
– This is not a matter which would come within the direct administration of the Treasury. As the honorable gentleman is aware, it is the policy of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to maintain active competition with the trading banks. The bank makes its own decisions as to where branches will be located. I shall direct the attention of the chairman of the corporation to the honorable member’s question.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Reserve Bank of Australia has called up some £99,000,000 of bank deposits, and as export earnings could reach record, proportions this year, are there any restrictive factors affecting our export earnings as was suggested by Opposition members during the debate on the Estimates last year?
– I am not sure that I apprehend the question completely, but I think my colleague has in mind the thesis advanced by one of the prominent Opposition spokesmen that a steady rundown of our overseas reserves this year would make necessary policies of restraint on bank lending which would produce what he described at the time as a credit squeeze. It may be recalled that in replying to the honorable member for Yarra, who advanced this view, I expressed the confident belief that far from overseas reserves declining in the current financial year they would rise very substantially. Our record export earnings and sustained capital inflow have produced a very remarkable increase in overseas reserves, and the action taken by the Reserve Bank in relation to statutory reserve deposits has been designed to neutralize to some extent pressure on liquidity which might otherwise have been generated by these abnormal increases.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia have submitted joint proposals relating to northern Australian development? If so, will the Prime Minister state the nature of the submissions and whether any specific reference was made to the development of the Northern Territory? If no such reference was made, will the right honorable gentleman give an assurance that the interests of the Northern Territory will be protected by its direct representation on any body set up to co-ordinate and implement proposals that have been submitted? For this purpose will he accept the suggestion that the most suitable type of body to create would be on the lines of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority?
– It would not be appropriate at question-time to make a long statement of policy, particularly when that policy is now subject to the consideration of a document which was laid before me last week by one Premier on behalf of Western Australia and Queensland. This document is in fairly general terms. At present it is being put in study and it would be unwise to try to anticipate the result of that study. The honorable member may be quite certain that so far as we are concerned the interests of the Northern Territory will not be overlooked in any consideration of northern development, because the Northern Territory forms a very, very important part of that problem.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state what stage has been reached in negotiations with the New South Wales Government for the .possible release to that Government of Army land at George’s Heights in the electorate of Warringah? Is the delay in finalizing this matter due to procrastination by the State Government? Has the survey to determine the area of land involved yet been completed?
– I am somewhat familiar with this subject, because I visited this area in the course of familiarizing myself with land held by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is prepared to dispose of 32 acres in this area. About fifteen months ago the Commonwealth offered it to the New South Wales Government, which is still considering the offer. If the State Government does not accept an offer of this kind the land in question is usually offered to the relevant local government authorities. If they do not want it, it is then disposed of at public auction. In cases in which a non-profit organization wants such land the Commonwealth Government sometimes negotiates privately with the organization for the disposal of the land. In this case, however, I believe the area is wanted for parkland. It is at present bushland. I know it well, and it is a delightful area. I would like to see it kept as it is at present, and I hope that the State Government will acquire it. But when bushland is acquired by a State government for park purposes the transaction is not usually completed quickly, because it carries no high priority. However, I feel sure that the State Government will soon make up its mind in this matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he, at the earliest opportunity, say to what extent land holdings in the southern portion of the Australian Capital Territory will be affected by the establishment of a second space tracking station, in the Orroral Valley? Will the Minister also say whether the area to be occupied by the station will impinge on the area generally regarded as being necessary for a national park? Will the establishment of this station bring to the residents of Orroral, Gudgenby and other portions of the electorate the improved roads and stream crossings that they have been seeking for years, and will it also bring to those areas the power supply which previously has been denied them because the line from Tharwa could not carry the voltage load?
– It would be impossible for me to answer all the honorable member’s questions, but I shall try to give him as full an answer as possible. I do know that an approach has been made to the landholders in this area with a view to acquiring a site for a second tracking station, and that the landholders - I am speaking off the cuff at the moment - have agreed to this land being acquired by the Commonwealth. I do not think this development will affect the reserve area there, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware that Dr. R. Scragg, the Director of Health for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, recently stated that three-quarters of the European school children examined at Mount Hagen and Goroka have undergone chronic skin changes capable of resulting in skin cancer? What steps have been taken or are being taken to remedy this serious situation?
– What the honorable member has stated is generally correct. The skin changes have been caused by the ultraviolet component of sunlight, which is unusually strong near the equator at high altitudes. A campaign is being conducted in the schools to remedy the situation by encouraging children to wear hats with broad brims, and by urging fair people to keep their sleeves rolled down in order to prevent the sunlight attacking the skin.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Does the Commonwealth Government accept the Victorian Government’s valuations of rural lands when assessing estate duty in that State? If so, is the right honorable gentleman aware that such valuations are based on sales and are often inconsistent and confusing? Will the Treasurer make investigations with a view to adopting a method of valuation of rural lands for estate duty based chiefly on net returns from an average of production over a period of at least ten years?
– The State Government valuation is accepted in some cases, but the Commonwealth Government makes its own valuation of substantial properties. The honorable gentleman raised a policy aspect in the concluding part of his question and I would need to give some consideration to that. If he has any specific instances which he feels demonstrate that the present system adopted by the Commonwealth Government is not working out fairly for those who benefit from the estate of a deceased person, I shall be glad to have that material before me when consideration is being given to the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has Malaysia or Indonesia referred their dispute to the United Nations? If not, will he request Malaysia to take such action? Alternatively, is it possible for Australia, as a party to the dispute by reason of the fact that we have troops in Malaysia, to take the initiative and bring the matter before the United Nations and thus make a positive move to ease the tension and prevent a full-scale shooting war between our two neighbours?
– In making a statement to the House the other evening I pointed out that the question of whether or not the United Nations should be directly concerned in the differences between Indonesia and Malaysia was primarily a matter for Malaysia itself. I said also that I would expect Malaysia to make a decision after talking with others in the region. I think it proper to point out to the honorable member that anticipation of the result that can be expected from a reference of a matter to the United Nations is often exceptionally complicated. A great number of nations are represented in the United Nations and one is never sure at the outset what information each nation has about the dispute and what other factors are working to influence the way a nation will vote. All these things have to be taken into very close consideration and a great deal of preparatory work has to be done before approaching a body of this kind. All these very complicated circumstances touch Malaysia most directly, and Malaysia’s friends, if they were really friends, would wait until Malaysia had made up its mind what it wished to do in this connexion. That is exactly where Australia stands.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is he in a position to make a statement on the transportation by air to Perth of two elderly Commonwealth-assisted migrant newly- weds, the bridegroom aged 83 and the bride aged 78? What was the cost of flying these honeymooners out to Australia?
– I am aware of this case and can tell the honorable member that inquiries have been made. Of course, not many are newly-weds at the ages that have been mentioned. These are British migrants. When the bridegroom first applied to come to Australia he did not intend to marry, but I understand that later, romance came to his life and, as he had been accepted to come to Australia, obviously he could not leave his wife behind. He was sponsored by a nephew in Australia. It has been our custom not to take only the younger people from the United Kingdom, but to have some regard for the wishes of relatives who have already come to Australia. In this instance the migrants came to Australia on a chartered plane at the contract rates. Although I have already looked at this case and found out the circumstances, I shall, in view of the relationship, look at it again. I should emphasize that we always give sympathetic consideration to relatives of migrants who have already come to Australia from the United Kingdom.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. It has many times been suggested that to encourage the setting up of manufacturing industries in country areas adequate taxation deductions should be allowed to those establishing such industries for at least the first five years of their operations. Has he investigated such a proposition? If so, will he state whether he considers it to be a practical possibility?
– The honorable gentleman has raised a matter of policy which it would not be appropriate for me to canvass at question time.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question. Does he know that Mr. C. G. Crane, chairman of the Australian Gas Light Company, has made a statement to the effect that this company will have to make a decision concerning the future use of coal as a major raw material for town gas production? Because of the great importance of the attitude of the Australian Gas Light Company to the coal industry, which has already lost 10,000 employees,, will the Minister take immediate action to preserve the employment of those at present at work in the coal industry? Will he confer with the Government of New South Wales, with the object of establishing a gas and fuel corporation, with the industry based on the coal-fields in New South Wales? Finally, if he will not take this action, will he use the powers vested in the Joint Coal Board to protect the Australian coal industry?
– I have seen a press reference to Mr. Crane’s statement. I will convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place and see that the honorable member obtains an answer.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Griffith. Will the Minister confirm that the meat agreement with the United States of America can be terminated by the United States Administration itself on six months’ notice?
– There is in the agreement provision that, after a firm period of operation, either country can give six months’ notice of its intention to terminate the agreement. This is a usual clause which is included in practically all trade agreements negotiated between countries.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: Is it the practice of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services to terminate age and invalid pensions when the recipients are admitted to State mental hospitals? Does the Minister condone this? If not, what has he done to redress this apparent injustice?
– The Social Services Act provides that where a pensioner is admitted to a mental hospital the pension shall be suspended and shall remain in a state of suspension during the period that the pensioner is in a mental hospital. If and when the pensioner is discharged he becomes entitled to a payment covering four weeks of the period of suspension. That has been the law ever since the Social Services Act was passed by this Parliament. Because of the complexities associated with State laws on mental health it is a very difficult question to resolve.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House what opportunity is given to Australian interests of any kind to put evidence before the committee of the United States Senate which is currently inquiring into the importation of beef and other meat into the United States of America? ls there opportunity for Australian interests, such as the Australian Meat Board, to give evidence before this committee?
– I am not quite conversant with the procedure adopted in this case, but I should think it is a purely parliamentary procedure used in order to ascertain the facts so that the United States Senate committee can make recommendations.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In reply to a question last year the Prime Minister indicated that the Government was not prepared to strike a special medal on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Anzac landing in 1965, but he did indicate that the Government was considering alternative means of celebrating the occasion. Have any specific plans now been made and, if so, what are they? If not, when does the Government expect to make an announcement which, I understand, is anxiously awaited by exservicemen’s organizations?
– I am not sure whether there is on the notice-paper a question dealing with this matter. If there is not and the honorable member puts his question on the notice-paper I will see that he is given an answer.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of the decision of the Government to provide certain defence aid to Malaysia. On 28th January the Prime Minister (Sh- Robert Menzies) announced that the Government had been given to understand by the Malaysian authorities that assistance in the form of material and training would be useful in the development and expansion of their own forces. Accordingly, the Prime Minister said, a defence mission would be sent to Malaysia to discuss with the Malaysian Government, and assess, what items within Australian capacity to supply might be needed. The defence mission left Australia on 9th February and had close and useful discussions in Kuala Lumpur during the following two weeks. As a result, it was able to prepare for the Government’s consideration firm proposals on the details of the assistance Australia could offer and the types of assistance that the Malaysian authorities considered would give them the earliest and most direct support. The mission’s’ report therefore combines an assessment of Malaysian requirements with an evaluation of Australian capability to assist.
After considering the report the Government has decided to provide substantial quantities of ammunition, engineer equipment, general stores and various small sea going craft, all of which are urgent requirements for the Malaysian defence forces. Some items of ammunition and equipment will be supplied immediately from our own Army stocks which will then be restored to their present level by further procurement. The material items will be produced in Government munitions factories and private industry, including the Australian shipbuilding industry. Training courses will also be provided in Australia on a greatly increased scale for Malaysian Army, Navy and Air Force personnel during 1964 and 1965 as part of the aid programme. The Malaysian armed forces are also being assisted by the secondment of a small number of officers and men of the Australian services until the training of their own personnel is further advanced. Under the aid programme Australia will bear portion of the costs of its seconded personnel. The Government believes that this programme should appreciably assist Malaysia to strengthen her defence forces more quickly.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I desire to inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House at 5.15 p.m. to-morrow. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honorable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1959, Mr. Chaney be discharged as a trustee serving on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust, and that Mr. Howson be appointed a trustee to serve in his place.
I think that honorable members will be well aware of the reasons for this motion. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) is now a member of the Ministry, and it has been the practice to have a back-bench member serve on the trust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10th March (vide page 430), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition supports the measure. This support must not be taken, however, to indicate that we consider the Government’s proposals to be satisfactory. Far from it, as the subsequent debate will show. The Opposition contends that the benefits now proposed should and could be considerably improved. The Government has a mandate for this bill. In fact, for nearly fifteen years this administration has had a mandate to give justice and to honour promises to those receiving child endowment. As democrats, we on this side of the House welcome this belated realization by the Government of its responsibilities. We gladly accept this morsel offered to some of our people who, for so long and so patiently, have waited for the day when this LiberalAustralian Country Party Government would honour its obligations to the children of Australia in accordance with election promises made as long ago as 1949.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) never ceases to be a source of amusement and fascination to the Opposition when piloting through this chamber a bill on social services. He faces the House solemn of countenance as, with burring voice and extravagant language, and with eyes turned occasionally and hopefully towards heaven, he rumbles to the attack. As a matter of fact, the Minister gives the impression that he is about to announce to a startled world news of a shattering event. As honorable members know, nothing is further from the truth.. His ponderous announcements on social services cover reforms demanded by Labour for years, such as this bill relating to child endowment. When our hopes have almost been abandoned, the Minister rises in his place and, with all the solemnity of a person who has made a great discovery, submits his proposals in the guise of advanced thinking on social services by the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party.
Let me briefly recall some of the phrases that the Minister used in discussing this measure. We on this side have sought since 1949 to have the child endowment legislation improved. Yet, here are just a few of the extravagant and selfcomplimentary terms used by the Minister in his second-reading speech -
Over the years, the Liberal-Country Party Government has had an outstanding record in the field of social services and, indeed, can take the major credit for the beneficence of our social service laws to-day.
That is quite a modest statement! Later, the Minister said - the opportunity arises to turn our attention to child endowment which, in our whole system of social services, touches on more homes in Australia than any other benefit.
Later, he declared -
The passage of the present bill will represent another notable advance in the history of social services in this country.
The Minister did not end there. He referred to -
Later, he made this dramatic statement - we must advance or stagnate.
He is fifteen years too late. We have nearly stagnated. Let me quote a few more of the the Minister’s expressions. They are worth recalling. These are just a few taken at random from his second-reading speech- “ justifiably beneficient “, “ liberalized health and secure future”, “financial responsibility “, “ good government “. He used many other phrases in heaping extravagant praise on himself and the Government because it has at last given us this belated but urgently needed measure providing for increased rates of child endowment.
I intend to discuss the broad provisions of the bill and particularly the Government’s failure to provide adequate child endowment benefits for the people of Australia. The Opposition intends to show that this measure does not meet the requirements of this day and age. We shall show that many full-time students will still not be covered. The committee stage will present us with an opportunity to examine in detail certain provisions in the bill that are anomalous and unsatisfactory and should be amended.
I propose now to discuss a little of the background to this Government’s so-called proud record in the field of child endowment. I do not intend to spend much time on this, but, as the Minister was so full of self-praise, I believe that I ought to outline the Government’s deplorable record in the field of social services generally, and particularly of child endowment. Far from the thinking embodied in the present proposals being new, the fact is that the introduction of a measure providing for increased rates of child endowment has been delayed for almost a generation. Furthermore, the bill now introduced continues to deny to countless thousands of families benefits that they ought to have. The neglect of family allowances and child endowment in our social services structure is one of the most outrageous and callous features of the administration of any government. The present Government’s neglect of family allowances and child endowment constitutes what one may describe as a monument to the Government’s inefficiency in this sphere of social activity.
I say in passing that the rates of the maternity allowance have been unchanged for twenty years and the funeral benefit rate for pensioners is still the same as in 1943. The rate of child endowment for the first child has remained unchanged for almost fourteen years and the rale for subsequent children has remained unchanged for more than fifteen years. This has occurred despite demands by the Australian Labour Party every year since 1951 for necessary reforms and amendments of the social service legislation. Every year since 1951, Labour, in this House, has proposed amendments to social service measures in an endeavour to have child endowment payments increased and social service benefits generally improved so as to keep pace with changes in the cost of living under the administration of this Government. In addition, on practically every occasion, we have sought to have increases in age and invalid pensions back-dated to 1st July of the financial year concerned. On every occasion, Government supporters, including the Minister, have rejected Labour’s amendments. The records of this Parliament show the names of the Minister and the other Government supporters who, since 1951, have been recorded as voting against Labour amendments designed to introduce the increased rates of benefit that are now presented to us in what the Minister has described as enlightened social service legislation thought up by this Government.
The Budget presented to the Parliament just prior to the last general election made no provision for increases in the rates of child endowment. On 12th September, 1963, on behalf of the Opposition, at the second-reading stage of the Social Services Bill 1963, I proposed an amendment that, in part, read -
Whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that -
increases should be made in -
child endowment which has remained unchanged for the first child for 13 years and for subsequent children for IS years; . . .
We are now presented with a bill providing for increased rates of child endowment for some, but not all as we desired. As the records of the House show, the Minister and other Government supporters have voted against amendments of that kind since 1951. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), whom I see looking keenly at me now, is among those who have voted regularly against amendments such as this. The amendment that I have just cited was proposed only a short time before the Government announced the date of the general election. With the election looming, the Government, desperate, and with a resilience that would do credit to the man on the flying trapeze, reversed its attitude and policy, and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his policy speech, submitted proposals that were broadly those that Government supporters had voted against in this Parliament only a short time before.
The Australian Labour Party and the Opposition in this Parliament have every right to claim credit for any benefits that the people receive from this bill. The facts that I have stated support our claim. The records of the Parliament show the amendments presented to it every year since 1951 in relation to child endowment and the voting on those amendments. I propose to ask for leave to incorporate this information in “ Hansard “. These records are undeniable. They are proof of the efforts of the Opposition to force the Government to give justice to those people who depend on child endowment, which, in the Minister’s own words, touches on more homes in Australia than any other benefit.
– The honorable member had better seek leave before he gets too far away from the point.
– I seek leave of the House to incorporate the amendments in “ Hansard “.
– Is leave granted?
– Does the Minister for Social Services grant leave?
– The answer has been given.
– I remind the Minister for Social Services that I have an exceptionally good memory. The conduct of the Government in refusing leave to incorporate the matter I have mentioned in the “ Hansard “ record of this debate will not be forgotten by me when I am sitting at the table as representative of the Opposition. No matter what the Minister seeks to incorporate at any future time, I will refuse leave on behalf of the Opposition whenever I am present. The Government is condemned to-day. It has refused, to allow me to incorporate in “ Hansard “ the amendments that its supporters voted against previously. The Government’s refusal to accept these amendments shows that it does not believe in child endowment. The facts that I have stated show - the amendment’s would have made the position clear - that far from being new and enlightened legislation, as the Minister would have us believe, this bill has been introduced because the Australian Labour Party forced the Government to make the promise during the election campaign and it dare not delay implementing its promise. It dare not deny even this small token of justice to those who depend on child endowment. This is a token answer to Labour’s great programme of child endowment, which was announced during the last election campaign. It is safe to say that, if Labour had not made its announcement and if the Government had not become desperate on the eve of the election, this legislation would never have seen the light of day.
So much for the phoney attitude of the Minister who will not let the evidence of his political crimes be incorporated in “ Hansard “. So much for the honorable member for Swan, who desperately supported a policy he voted against, to save his seat in this place, and so much for the proposal introduced fifteen years later than it should have been only because of the pressure exerted on the Government and the amendments moved by the Opposition.
– Read them out.
– I would read them if I thought you could understand them. I remind the honorable member that it is only rarely that I have seen him so active at this stage. I ask him to listen to me, to try to look intelligent, and in 30 minutes he will know a lot more than he does now.
I want to say something about Professor Harper, to whom the Minister for Social Services referred in the course of his second-reading speech on this bill. The Minister said -
In this connexion, may I be permitted to interpolate here that my attention has been drawn to a book entitled “Our Pacific Neighbours” by Professor N. D. Harper, of the University of Melbourne, which has been set for Queensland senior high school students for the current year. In it the learned professor asserts, inter alia, that child endowment was introduced by a Labour govern ment. That, like most of his references to social services, is lamentably - if not maliciously - wrong. Perhaps Queensland members interested in education will be able to inform the senior high school students in that State of that and any other imperfection in their text book.
I do not believe much of what the Minister says, so I took the trouble to refer to the book. At page 38, Professor Harper had this to say -
New South Wales recognized this-
He was speaking of the social conditions of the time - by introducing child endowment in 1926, but the rest of the country lagged behind until the Commonwealth Government introduced a system of child endowment in 1946.
It is true, as the Minister said, that child endowment was introduced by a Liberal government on a Commonwealth basis in 1941 and for the first child in 1950, and to that extent the date 1946 is not accurate. It is true, however, that in New South Wales a Labour government, led by Mr. J. T. Lang, in 1926 introduced a family endowment bill which was passed into law in March, 1927, and brought into operation on 22nd July of that year. The act provided for the payment of 5s. a week to a mother for each dependent child under the age of fourteen years. This proves that Professor Harper was right and fifteen years before a Liberal government bothered to do anything, a Labour government in New South Wales had introduced and established the principles of child endowment. In these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I consider that the Minister owes an apology to Professor Harper and certainly he should withdraw the malicious comments that he made in his second-reading speech.
I now wish to comment on the Government’s record in relation to other aspects of child endowment. Contrary to what has been said, the Government’s record is deplorable. Time does not permit me to make a complete survey of its neglect in this important field. To do so would take days. Without any doubt, the Minister and the Government are culpable, guilty and vulnerable on this subject. Prior to this legislation, no change has been made in child endowment since 1950 - a lapse of fourteen years. In 1950, the Menzies Government granted 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age, and the amount remains pegged at the 1950 figure.
The basic wage in 1950 was £6 18s. a week, but now, when the basic wage is £14 8s. a week, endowment for the first child remains at the 1950 level.
There has been no increase in the endowment for the second child since 1948 and I think that is even before the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), who is interjecting, became a member of the Parliament. In 1948, the basic wage was £5 19s. a week, but child endowment remains at the 1948 level. This is the first movement of the Liberal Government, moving speedily in the jet age. Since 1948, the cost of living has increased tremendously. I am indebted to my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) for some interesting figures, which I shall place on record. The honorable member informs me that for the year ended 30th June, 1951, endowed families numbered 1,151,000, endowed children numbered 2,389,000, the annual liability for endowment was £47,200,000 and the consumer price index, taking the base year 1952-53 as 100, was 75. For the year ended 30th June, 1963, the number of endowed families increased to 1,535,000, the number of endowed children to 3,457,000, the annual liability for endowment to £70,000,000 and the consumer price index to 125. The purchasing power of child endowment in 1951, on the basis of 1963 prices, was £78,000,000. This means that there has been a decline in the purchasing power of the total child endowment bill of some £8,000,000 in that time, despite the fact that in 1963 endowment is paid for about an additional 1,000,000 children, or an increase of 45 per cent. In June, 1951 the basic wage on the basis of six capital cities was 176s. Although child endowment has not increased since then, the basic wage is now 288s. People still have to raise their children although the rates of endowment are pegged and prices have risen.
As I have shown, child endowment has lost much of its value. To say the least, this is a scandalous state of affairs and is an indictment of the Government for its neglect of the mothers and children of this country. Without doubt, the rates for all children should be increased at the very least to those proposed by Labour at the last election - that is, lis. for the first child, 19s. for the second and 22s. for the third and subsequent children. This would restore some of the value and the purchasing power that endowment has lost under this Government, and I point out that in 1949 the Government promised to maintain purchasing power. How does the Government decide on an amount of 5s. each time? What is this figure tied to? Does the Minister think of a number, double it and take a few away? How does he arrive at 5s. or 2s. 6d., as the case may be? Is there any better way to decide the amount of increases? Labour’s attitude is right; it believes that the rate of endowment should move as the cost of living moves. In this way justice would be done.
A study of the 22nd report of the Director-General of Social Services for the year 1962-63 makes interesting reading, particularly the references to child endowment. The report shows that at 30th June, 1963, there were 1,535,388 families receiving endowment for 3,432,166 children under the age of sixteen years. In addition, at 30th June, 1949, the last year of office of the Chifley Labour Government, the average annual rate oi endowment for endowed families on the last day of the financial year was £45.389, without endowment for the first child. In June, 1950, the period covered by the last Budget introduced by the Chifley Government, it was £58.139. Let us look at the situation now. At 30th June, 1963, after fourteen years of LiberalAustralian Country Party Government, the average income from endowment has dropped to £45.120 per annum. This means that the average annual rate of endowment at 30th June, 1563, even allowing for endowment for the first child, which did not apply in 1949, is lower than the 1949 level in actual money. When compared with the 1950 figure, the average is £13 lower in actual money. Using the figures made available to me by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the position is that families are getting less in endowment than they received sixteen years ago.
I place there figures on record only to show the deplorable record of the Government. The report shows that in June, 1950, 662,949 families and 1,813,925 children were endowed. In June, 1963, the figures had risen to 1,535,388 families and 3,432,166 children. In June, 1950, there were 375 institutions caring for 22,397 endowed children. In 1964, there were 497 institutions caring for about 25,000 children. In 1949, the Government’s liability for child endowment was nearly £28,737,774; and in 1950 it was £39,126,035. According to the Minister, the Government’s liability this year will be £76,600,000. This means that whilst expenditure has increased greatly under this Government there has been no real benefit to the endowees. Their rates of endowment have been pegged at the rates which prevailed fifteen or sixteen year ago. The only reason for the increased exenditure is that the number of recipients is now greater than ever before. Expenditure has been increased exclusively for that and no other reason. About two and a half times as many families and children share child endowment to-day but for many of them there has not been any increase in the rates. No matter what might be said, for sixteen years no real financial benefit has been given to people receiving child endowment. Every penny of the increased expenditure has gone to new endowees.
The Minister in his second-reading speech stated that 520,000 families and 900,000 children will benefit. The figures taken from the report of the Director-General of Social Services show that 1,015,380 families and 2,532,166 children will receive no benefit whatever from the legislation we are discussing. The Government is only scraping the surface. It is offering a sop in desperation in consequence of its election promises which are to be only half-fulfilled. These figures only go to prove how unsatisfactory the position is and how unjustly those in receipt of child endowment are being treated by this Government. The report shows that in 1963 there were 528,520 families with one child and 494,112 families with two children. Those families will receive no benefit whatever from this legislation. Therefore, how can Government supporters say that they are spreading the benefit amongst people who really need it. Unless the children happen to be fulltime students, many families will not come within the category of benefit. We have the position that in two respects the bill pegs child endowment at the 1948-1950 level whilst in some cases benefits may well be paid to people who could do without them.
The figures which I have cited reveal the shocking record of the Government in the field of social services. It stands condemned as a Government that has failed in its responsibilities to the mothers and children of Australia. I record these figures in order that all might know the facts. There is still no change in the rate of benefit for first and second children under sixteen unless they qualify ultimately as full-time students. This means that the rate for the first child remains at 5s. which is, I repeat, the same rate as was paid fourteen years ago. Payment for the second child remains the same as it was in 1948, sixteen years ago. Have we not the right to ask: When is the Government going to increase the miserable benefit paid in respect of the first child to what it ought to be to-day? Children and families are still suffering under this so-called Liberal-Country Party Government because of the pegged rates of almost a generation ago. The position is scandalous in the extreme. The bill retains the anomaly that when a child reaches sixteen years, unless he is a student child, in families of three or more there is a reduction in child endowment. This means that in such families there is a drop of 15s. a week when the eldest child who is not a full-time student reaches sixteen years. That situation will be further explored at the committee stage of the bill. Investigation is needed to remove this anomaly.
I have placed on record the deplorable actions of the Government in the field of child endowment. In the few minutes at my disposal I intend to deal with certain aspects of the bill which we believe are unjust and which discriminate against certain sections of the community which should be benefiting. The Government is not fulfilling the pledge it gave to the people, as many full-time students will be excluded from the . legislation.
I shall deal briefly with the major provisions of the bill as outlined by the Minister. The first provision is for an increase from 10s. to 15s. a week in the rate of child endowment for third and subsequent children under sixteen years of age. Provision is made also for the payment of 15s. a week to parents of full-time students aged sixteen years to twenty-one years who are attending schools, colleges, or universities and who are not employed. The rate of endowment for children who are inmates of institutions approved for child endowment is to be increased from 10s. to 15s. a week. There are other provisions.
The prime qualification is that children must be full-time students. Part-time employment will be permitted if undertaken outside normal education hours or during school vacation. The DirectorGeneral of Social Services will be given discretion to direct that employment may be disregarded where a full-time student is employed. Each case, it is said, will be looked at and treated on its merits. Students who are inmates of institutions and who undertake full-time education will also qualify without a means test. In accordance with the provisions of the bill full-time employment will be a disqualifying factor. Full-time students who are undertaking their studies - other than secondary school studies - as a condition of employment and who are receiving a norma] wage or salary will not be covered by the new scheme. This will also apply to cadets, apprentices, trainee teachers, nurses and others who receive education and training as part of their employment and who are bound to an employer or future employer.
Payment will be made to a person having custody, care and control of a student. Existing endowees who have children who will turn sixteen years of age after March, 1964, will be invited to apply for the student endowment if the child after reaching sixteen will be continuing with full-time study. This means that the only child in a family could qualify for the benefit.
Another important aspect of the legislation is that the increased benefits for third and subsequent children and the endowment of student children are to be paid as from 14th January, 1964, the beginning of the endowment period when schools generally open. The first payment will be made on 7th April, with twelve weeks’ arrears. The cost, the Minister has stated, will be about £18,000,000 in a full year. 1 have covered broadly, quickly and briefly the major provisions of the bill. At this stage I intend to deal with one or two of its other provisions.
I direct my remarks to a few general observations on the legislation, particularly in regard to what we consider to be certain anomalies. Other comments will be left to a later stage of the debate. The decision to pay child endowment to children in institutions is to be commended and its only fault is that it should have been increased more substantially in order to cover the increased cost of living. If I might say so in passing, it is hardly necessary for the Minister to write to State Labour governments on the subject as they have a long record as pioneers in the child endowment field. The granting of their approval would be a routine matter, so great is their belief in this type of legislation. In any case, legislation that will give assistance to people rearing children or providing education is not only necessary but is also a national obligation.
I point to an anomaly in the legislation in that whilst the Government still refuses to increase child endowment for the first child from 5s., if that child subsequently becomes a full-time student he will qualify for payment of 15s. a week. This is a strange approach. I do not deny the right of a person with one child to have him educated, but I point out that the Minister conveyed the impression that the legislation is intended to assist mainly people with three children or more. If it were intended to assist families with one child it is a wonder that the Government did not increase substantially the amount payable. Evidently the impression conveyed by the Minister is incorrect as the first child will ultimately benefit if the child becomes a full-time student. Under the Government’s proposals a family with one child is expected to struggle in order to rear and educate their child on 5s. a week endowment up to the age of fifteen years and eleven months. When the child reaches the age of sixteen years and one month, if he is a full-time student, in the eyes of the Government he is worth 15s. a week. This strange and sudden change occurs almost overnight, and more than ever justifies Labour’s contention that payment for the first child now should not be less than lis. a week, and should move according to the cost of living. It is difficult to reconcile that anomaly with the facts of the situation as outlined by the Minister.
It is also worth mentioning that only a few months ago, whilst the Government provided for the continuance of payments to invalid and permanently incapacitated pensioners and widows in respect of children undergoing full-time education up to the age of eighteen years, it refused to put that principle into operation in respect of child endowment generally. With an election looming, the Government submitted certain other proposals which it thought would overcome its shortcomings in that regard.
There is another factor in respect of this legislation to which I wish to refer briefly. The Minister has decided to make these payments retrospective to January. He has now established a principle, although members of. the Government parties have voted against that principle in every year since 1951. Whether the Minister likes it or not, I intend to quote a couple of his arguments why retrospective payments could not be made. I should like to hear the bright young member opposite who is to speak next tell us why he voted against this principle not long ago but to-day advocates it in this Parliament.
The decision to make the payments for the third and subsequent children and student children as from 14th January, 1964, is a revolutionary change of front by the Government. As the records of this Parliament will show, on practically every occasion in the last fifteen years when the Labour Party has moved that increases of age and invalid pensions commence from 1st July of the relevant year, our proposal has been rejected. The records, which honorable members opposite refused to allow me to incorporate in “ Hansard “ to-day, show that. It is worth while quoting a few of the replies by the Minister to motions moved in this chamber, particularly by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in an attempt to have social service payments made retrospective. Listen to what the Minister said, as reported at page 1197 of “ Hansard “ of 21st September, 1960, in response to an amendment moved in this chamber. He said -
Every member of the Opposition knows that a proposal for the provisions of this bill to be made retrospective would have to be rejected by me as they have been rejected by every other Minister for Social Services. The proposal would have to be rejected by this Government just as such proposals have been rejected by every other Government.
The Minister also said, as reported at page 1107 of “Hansard” of 18th September, 1963 - as late as last year -
It is, rightly or wrongly, the traditional custom of every government, when it makes alterations to the- Social Services Act, to have those alterations take effect as from the first pay-day after the bill receives the royal assent. There is a single exception to this. If for any physical reason payments cannot be made on the first payday after the legislation receives the royal assent, then the Minister for Social Services at the time, regardless of his political affiliations, must announce that the payments will be made on the first pay-day after the bill has been proclaimed.
Listen to what he said on 24th September, 1959, in response to an amendment which sought to have payments to the aged, the sick and the infirm made retrospective! The amendment was rejected by the Government. I quote these words from the Minister’s speech, as recorded at page 1397 of “ Hansard “-
I must go through the normal processes of a Minister in charge of a bill of this kind and indicate to the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that the amendment that he has proposed is not acceptable. It is rejected in the full knowledge of the historic fact that it is the responsibility of a member of the Opposition . . .
I can just imagine him saying this - to propose an amendment along the lines of the amendment now before us. No one knows better than the honorable member for EdenMonaro, no one knows better than every informed member of the Opposition that such an amendment would be unacceptable to any responsible government.
Yet we sit here in this Parliament to-day and hear the Minister, who said that this proposal would be unacceptable to any responsible government, introducing it as a new idea to improve the social services structure! The men who sit behind him, diligently, like sheep, will stand up to-day and support a proposition which they have condemned the Labour Party for advancing every year since 1951. They are trapeze experts deluxe. There is no policy that they will not plunder. There is nothing that they will not do to win office. To-day, on this great issue of child endowment, they stand condemned as specialist trapeze artists who are prepared to do anything, even to sacrifice their principles, for the sake of some applause from the people who look to them for some measure of justice, and whom they have neglected for so long.
Surely this decision to pay the increases as from 14th January - which we support - indicates that the Government never wanted to pay increases of age and invalid pensions as from 1st July. Clearly, administrative difficulties and departmental problems have been swept aside as Labour said they could be. We now find the principle of retrospective payment being adopted by a Government whose members are on record as having voted against that principle in every division.
As other Opposition members, no doubt, will deal with that point more fully, I pass from it to clause 3 of the bill. We of the Labour Party say that this clause requires amendment. It amends section 94 of the principal act and provides for the definitions of “ child “, “ student child “ and “ training agreement “. lt contains relevant matters affecting the whole structure of this legislation. It is a clause on which there must be a wide difference of opinion, because it actually defines who shall and who shall not be classified as a student child or a person who is in full-time employment. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that cadets, apprentices, trainee teachers and nurses were categories of people -who would be deemed to be in full-time employment and consequently would be disqualified. There may be others, but those were quoted as instances. I intend to deal with this clause of the bill.
Without doubt, the designation of fulltime employment presents difficulties of interpretation. It appears that the Government has drawn a very fine line in its definition, particularly as it relates to trainee teachers. Let me deal first with the situation of some people who are covered and that of other people who are not covered. The holder of a Commonwealth scholarship is entitled to 15s. a week child endowment under this bill. This is what a Commonwealth scholarship means: Students at universities have their fees paid. This year those fees will average about £130 a student. A means test is applied. Allowances for students range from £247 ls. per annum or £4 15s. 2d. a week to £383 10s. per annum or £7 7s. 6d. a week. The latter sum is paid to a student who is living away from home, lt is estimated that about 10 per cent, of pupils receive a living allowance of £200 per annum. Under this legislation a scholarship holder is permitted to undertake employment at certain times without prejudice to the payment of child endowment. This means that the incomes of some scholarship holders may average the basic wage or more. They will still qualify for child endowment. We have no objection to that.
However, holders of teachers’ college scholarships are not eligible. Under this bill, the holder of a teachers’ college scholarship is deemed to be in full-time employment because under clause 3 he is party to a training agreement. Teachers’ college scholarships vary from State to State. In New South Wales there is no means test, but the allowance paid to a student under 21 years of age living at home is £260 per annum or £5 a week for the first and second years. Such students are not permitted to work. They receive no workers’ compensation, and their date of commencement of service with the Education Department is the date of their appointment after graduation.
In Victoria the allowances range from £510 per annum, or £10 a week, to £686 per annum. In South Australia they range from £305 per annum or £6 a week to £350 per annum or £7 a week. In Western Australia they range from £7 to £8 a week. In Queensland they range from £268 to £429 per annum or from £5 to £8 a week. In Tasmania they range from £8 to £10 a week. These allowances are paid during the period of training, which is a couple of years.
From those figures it will be seen that the holder of a Commonwealth scholarship appears to be better off or at least no worse off, than the holder of a teachers’ college scholarship. Holders of teachers’ college scholarships receive as little as £5 a week - the figure for New South Wales. The average for all States would be about £7 a week. That figure certainly places teachers’ college students in the position of being no better off than Commonwealth scholarship holders. In fact, when the permission to work is taken into consideration, Commonwealth scholarship holders appear to have a decided advantage.
The Opposition does not take exception to that, but we object to the elimination of students in receipt of teachers’ college scholarships. To define them as full-time workers is drawing a very long bow. They are full-time students in every sense of the words; but for some reason or other they are being denied the benefits of this legislation. It also would be safe to say that the vast majority of students at teachers’ colleges, like students in receipt of Commonwealth scholarships, come from families which urgently require financial assistance in order to educate their children.
The definition of a worker in the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation Act does not cover the holder of a teachers’ college scholarship. The New South Wales Education Department was good enough to give me the number of teachers in training in 1962. The figure is 18,879. That means that about 19,000. teachers’ college students are being denied the benefits of this legislation. The Government parties, in their election promises, said -
Fifteen shillings endowment will be paid in respect of all full-time student children from 16 to 21.
This promise has not been honoured, and the Government should remedy the situation by including teachers college scholarship holders in this category.
Cadets, trainee nurses and apprentices may be slightly different from Commonwealth scholarship holders and those at the teachers college. There is, however, much to be said for the payment of a benefit to apprentices and trainee nurses and probably to other categories that have not yet been mentioned. As a comparison of their incomes with those of Commonwealth scholarship holders let me cite some figures which were given to me by the Industrial Registrar of New South Wales relating to the wages paid to apprentices and trainee nurses. For instance, an apprentice carpenter of 17 years of age receives £5 17s. 6d. a week in his first year and £7 18s. 7d. in his second year. A female hairdresser of 17 years of age receives £5 18s. 4d. in the first year and £7 8s. 2d. in the second year, while trainee nurses receive £9 14s. 4d. in their first year and £10 lis. in their second year.
The point I make is that allowing for the employment which full-time students are permitted to undertake in accordance with the act, apprentices in particular would be no better off in the first two years than Commonwealth scholarship holders. In addition, their income is the maximum that they can earn. To a lesser extent similar remarks apply to trainee nurses. They are undergoing training and it is taking a very fine line again to claim that they are not entitled to come within the scope of the act. Apprentices and trainee nurses represent very important sections of our society which we respect. They are difficult to obtain, and prohibiting them from the benefits of this act could have a very serious effect on those vital sections of our society. Without doubt, the definition of a full-time student presents problems, but to deny the benefits of the act to holders of teachers college scholarships, apprentices and trainee nurses, as well as to other categories, appears to be unjust. Some amendments should be made to include them in the categories which will benefit from the proposed increase.
The views that I have expressed on behalf of the Opposition have been stated in an endeavour to bring home to the Government the fact that this legislation does not fulfil the obligations that the Government and the Parliament bear to those receiving child endowment. We still maintain that rates of payment for all children should be increased in keeping with the inflationary prices which obtain to-day. The bill under discussion should be amended to bring it into line with our submissions. Our criticism does not cover all the points at issue, and during the committee stage we intend to question further certain aspects of the legislation which we believe should be amended.
In his second-reading speech the Minister said that child endowment touches on more homes in Australia than does any other benefit. That is an open confession by the Minister that for fifteen long years the Government has neglected and treated with contempt the families of this country because it has failed to increase the rates of child endowment which it promised to do in years long gone. The present measure is a desperate token gesture forced on the Government by Labour’s efforts over the years and during the recent election campaign. To Labour, child endowment is an essential and integral part of our social services programme, but despite this bill it remains in this Government’s view merely a memorial instead of a practical contribution to the social welfare of the people of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has led the Opposition’s attack on this bill relating to social services. We have heard the honorable member in his typical fashion rolling along spilling out words like empty cartridge cases from a machine gun. This is an experience with which we all are familiar.
– What happened to the bullets?
– Only the empty cases, not the bullets, reached us. The honorable member has raised his usual plaintive cry along the usual well-worn lines. “The Government has a shocking record in social services “, he said, but in previous debates we have been able to present to the House the rather amazing record of the Menzies Government in the field of social services. The Government has expanded existing benefits or has introduced new imaginative benefits. This afternoon we heard the honorable member again state, “ The Government has adopted Labour Party policy but it has not gone far enough “. If he charges us with inconsistencies let me point out to him that he was inconsistent at stage after stage in his speech, as I shall reveal as I proceed.
The honorable member referred also to the fact that amendments proposed by the Labour Party on previous occasions were not supported by honorable members on this side of the House. How futile is this argument! Well does he know the state of the parties in this Parliament before the last election. Even if there had been an element in any Opposition amendment that we would have liked to support, were we free to do so and to topple the Government and put the control of this country into the hands of an ill-prepared Opposition? That is just a foolish attitude to adopt in this debate. Surely we were justified in refusing to grant him leave to have these proposed amendments incorporated in “ Hansard “ because they are already in the record. He was adopting this device simply to extend his speech and to save him reading some of the words that he had to spill out so rapidly.
Another point that I want to clear up at this stage is that he claimed on behalf of the Opposition that although a child of sixteen may not then be a student the payment of child endowment for that child could well be continued. To do so would be a negation of the Government’s attitude to this subject. We shall explain further why it has been necessary and helpful, and the commonsense thing to do, to extend payment of child endowment for a full-time student to 21 years “of age. If the child in question is not a full-time student it is illogical for the honorable member for Grayndler to claim that his party considers that the age limit for the endowment should be extended similarly.
I suggest in all sincerity that our good friend the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) should have been brought back to lead the attack for the Opposition.
– The Opposition’s case could not have been presented better.
– If you deferred to your colleague from Grayndler you surprise me, because his performance to-day left much to be desired. On previous occasions we have always followed with a great deal of interest your presentation of the Opposition’s view on social services legislation.
In a very splendid second-reading speech the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) gave to the House the interesting history of child endowment. There is, therefore, no need for me to traverse the same ground at this stage of the debate, but I want to state that our Government has every reason for satisfaction and for some element of pride in the fact that it has been able now to bring about these further extensions in the field of child endowment. Let me mention three points that other honorable members may not have touched upon, and give. to these points perhaps some degree of stress and underlining. The first and major point in the bill is that for third and subsequent children parents in future will receive an increase in child endowment from 10s. to 15s. a week. Secondly, for the first time this legislation will provide for child endowment to be paid at the rate of 15s. a week to parents who have full-time student children aged between 16 and 21 years, with no aspect of employment being involved. Thirdly, and finally - this is a very important feature of the legislation as presented to us - endowment will be increased from 10s. to 15s. a week in respect of children in approved institutions. Later in my speech I shall direct attention to the number of such institutions and the children who will so benefit.
I commend the Minister and the Government on this commonsense approach to the problem of children in institutions. I remind the House that when referring to this aspect in his second-reading speech the Minister said that he had sought the co-operation and advice of the Premiers. I cannot follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Grayndler who poured scorn on this approach. Surely it was justified, because not on every occasion when social service benefits and increases in pension payments have been approved by the Government have we seen the full benefits received by the people whom the benefits were designed to assist. On a number of occasions State governments have taken steps which have, unfortunately, cut down some of those benefits. In respect of the benefit we are now discussing, some 25,500 young people are involved, and the ready response of the Premiers indicates a spirit of co-operation which is praiseworthy and is highly desirable.
The House should be reminded that not many months ago a splendid increase was given to civilian widows, and certain other welfare payments were then reduced by State governments, and we felt that this had the effect of depriving the widows of a large proportion of the generous benefit that the Commonwealth had approved. On this occasion I commend the Minister for moving in at the right time and obtaining an assurance from the State governments, so that we can, in this very debate, tell the people of Australia that the benefit to be made available to children who are unfortunate enough to be in these institutions will be in no way diminished.
Now I come to the provision for student children. I was one member who was impressed by the fact that there will now be no means test imposed in respect of the payment of endowment for student children. Provision has been made in the legislation - and it has been clarified by the Minister - to the effect that the receipt of a scholarship or any other educational grant by a student will not affect the payment of endowment to his parent or guardian. The basic requirement is that the child should be a full-time student. We naturally asked questions when we heard of the proposed legislation, wondering what the position would be of the full-time student who, during vacation, went out to earn a few shillings to help his parents and to further his education. The Minister has cleared this up very satisfactorily. He told us in his speech that part-time employment is not necessarily inconsistent with full-time studies, especially if undertaken outside normal education hours or during vacation. We believe that this will be a great encouragement to young people, who will now know that while they are student children their parents or guardians will obtain child endowment and that the financial burden on them will be reduced to this extent. They will also know that any efforts they make to earn a little more will not disqualify their parents or guardians from receiving the endowment.
I am one who finds no logic in the claim of some of my colleagues - and, of course, of the honorable member for Grayndler - that cadets, articled law clerks and the like should attract child endowment up to the age of 21 years. I believe that child endowment was not intended to cover persons such as these. For a full-time student, with no vestige of income apart from the little earned during vacation, I agree that endowment should be paid, but I must then part company with the honorable member for Grayndler, and also with some of my closest friends, who feel that the area of payment should be extended to include people such as I have referred to.
When we come to consider the cost of this proposal we find, of course, that a substantial amount of money is involved. Information in this connexion has been given very clearly in the Minister’s speech; but I want to stress the fact that the increase from 10s. to 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children, and the similar increase for children in institutions, will involve an expenditure by the Commonwealth Government of about £12,000,000 per annum. In addition, the provision of endowment for student children will, it is estimated, cost nearly £6,000,000 in a full year. We have, therefore, a proposal involving an additional payment of £18,000,000 from the National Welfare Fund. I think I should apply myself further to these figures because in this field of child endowment many people fail to take cognisance of the cost involved.
Some years ago a very commendable committee, the National Catholic Welfare Committee, produced a document on this matter of child endowment. It was not widely publicized. The committee suggested that child endowment should be paid at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child, 10s. for the second, 15s. for the third, £1 for the fourth, £1 5s. for the fifth and £1 10s. for the sixth and subsequent children, as well as £1 10s. a week for children in institutions. Undoubtedly this scheme displayed very great humanity. I particularly stress the fact that it was suggested that children in institutions should attract the highest rate. A calculation was made at the time - this was in 1958-59, and the relevant figures would be substantially . greater to-day - which showed that the committee’s proposal would have cost more than £80,000,000, far greater than the total amount which was approved and paid in that financial year. I do not want to go further into that matter, other than to emphasize the fact that in the child endowment field even the smallest of increases involves the payment of millions of pounds.
The honorable member for Grayndler wisely referred, as I have also done, to the last annual report submitted to the Parliament, for the financial year ended 30th June, 1963, by the Director-General of Social Services. It is interesting to turn to the section headed “Child Endowment”, and to see some of the figures given there. At the end of that financial year there were 1,535,388 families receiving endowment for 3,432,166 children under the age of sixteen years. The number of endowed families showed a net increase of 12,314 for the year, and the number of endowed children in families was 36,717 greater on 30th June, 1963, than on 30th June, 1962.
I said earlier in my speech that I would refer to figures regarding numbers of children in institutions. This report shows that in 497 approved institutions there were 25,454 children for whom endowment was paid. The report gives a clear record of the distribution of those institutions throughout the various States. The report also shows that new grants of endowment to families totalled about 90,000, covering more than 122,000 children. These new grants included 67,000 made to mothers for first children born during the year, and about 23,000 to mothers otherwise becoming eligible, for example, those whose families settled in Australia. The figures are clearly set out, and I direct particular attention to an interesting table which shows the net annual increase in the number of endowed families and the number of endowed children in families. Here we find a decline. In 1957 the increase in the number of endowed families was 38,362. This figure fell to 12,314 in 1963. A comparison of the endowed children in these families shows a reduction from about 102,000 in 1957 to 36,717 in 1963. As we would expect, the Director-General, in his commendable report, gives the reason for this. He points out that in earlier reports he had referred to the substantial increase in births in the years following the cessation of World War II. The report continues -
Births in that period have been reflected in the numbers of children turning sixteen in recent years -
That is shown in the table to which I have referred* -
The diminishing rate of growth in the number of endowed families is primarily due to the fact that the number of families where the youngest or only child reaches sixteen during the year has increased at a greater rate than the number of births of first children.
So it was apparent that there was a reduction on that basis of expenditure on child endowment, but as against that we have an increased population. We are a growing nation and now, in this bill, we go further than we have ever gone before with the provision of £18,000,000. I suggest that the provision under this bill will help the incomes of larger families. Those who, in past years, have advocated a recognition of need to be brought into the provisions for child endowment must recognize that when you move into the field of the larger family, which may have six or more children, there is a need which cannot be denied. The larger the family the greater is the responsibility of the parents. So with this higher rate of endowment a measure of assistance is given to raise the income of the larger family. We must recognize, as others have said, that this will assist with the education of the elder children of the family. What a relief it will be to parents who are prepared to make every sacrifice to help their children go on to a higher education, to find now that this Government assistance will be theirs!
In the concluding paragraph of his speech the Minister drew attention to the substantial increase over the years in the total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund. I find that when we add on the £18,000,000, which these child endowment proposals will cost, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund will reach the rather astronomical figure of £429,000,000. This, surely, is confirmation of the broad social service benefit plan of this Government which has controlled the administration for thirteen or fourteen years. The Opposition speaker who follows me will find it extremely difficult to tear apart the record of which we proudly remind the country this afternoon because, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, year after year the Government has made a commonsense review of social service benefits. Extension of family benefits in particular indicates not only a broad view of social services but, in my estimation, indicates sound government.
I conclude by reminding honorable members that the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when introducing the Commonwealth’s first child endowment bill said -
Child endowment ran be rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such v. ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things.
Taking his words, I suggest that the bill now before the House indeed represents a profitable national investment. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the Opposition would raise no objection to the bill, other than the criticism that he has voiced, and that he could not vote against it. So I hope that every honorable member will give ready approval to the bill, for it underlines the effectiveness of our social service programme. That this Government is able to do these things, is able to reach out and find the millions that are involved when child endowment is extended to this degree, indicates a sound aproach to a valuable national investment.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said that I would find it difficult to tear to pieces the social services legislation that has been introduced by the Government. We shall see about that as the debate proceeds and as other Opposition speakers add to what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said. This bill provides for a 5s. increase in child endowment for the third and subsequent children under the age of sixteen, and 15s. child endowment for full-time students aged between 16 and 21. This is in accordance with an election promise that was forced upon the Government by the proposals that were submitted to the people by the Australian Labour Party. Only a few weeks before the election, when the Budget was brought down, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and his followers, including the honorable member for Swan, refused to do justice to Australian families. I draw the attention of honorable members to the amendment that was moved to the second reading of the Social Services Bill 1963. The honorable member for Grayndler moved -
. whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that -
pensioners’ funeral benefits which have remained unchanged for 20 years;
That amendment was supported by every member on this side of the House and opposed by every member on the Government side of the chamber. The facts are as contained in that amendment. With the exception of the amount paid for a first child, child endowment has not been increased for fifteen years. At one time in this country big families were the order of the day, but now married couples are doing little more than replacing themselves. According to figures that were released recently, the average number of children born to a family now is 2.19, whereas more than half the children born in Australia in 1894 were at least the fourth born in their families. At present fewer than one Australian couple in five is interested in having a family of four, whereas abou! 60 years ago every second family was of this size. Couples will not have large families to-day because by so doing they will reduce their own spending power as each additional child comes along. They know that they cannot do justice to their children if they have a big family. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said in his secondreading speech -
Apart from these direct forms of assistance there are other . . . forms of indirect assistance. . . .
He continued -
For example, in arriving at a person’s taxable income, a deduction of £91 is allowed for the first child under sixteen years and £65 for each other such child.
That may be so, but I shall state the facts on the effect on families of taxation and child endowment. The spending power of the family is reduced as each extra child comes along. For instance, if a man who earns £25 a week gets married, after tax is deducted he receives £22 8s. 8d. a week, which leaves him and his wife each with £11 4s. 4d. When the first child comes along the taxation is reduced by 8s. 3d. a week and the parents receive 5s. a week child endowment. This means that the total cash received is £22 16s. a week, but the income per head, due to the birth of that child, drops to £7 12s. Taking the reduced taxation and child endowments into account, when the second child arrives the drop per head in income is to £5 19s. per head and when the third child is born the income per head amounts to £5 6s. a week. When the fourth child is born the income per head is reduced to £4 10s. lOd. per week. And so it goes on. When the Minister points out what happens in regard to taxation, lie ought to bear that in mind as well.
Inflation has forced incomes into the higher income brackets for taxation purposes, but, as the result of inflation, less can be purchased with the income. In 1949 a family with two children and receiving the basic wage paid 16s. a year in taxation, but now a similar family pays £20 16s. I mention this to show how weak the Minister’s argument was when he referred to the benefit which accrued by way of taxation deductions to families with children. To lift the burden from families the Government should have gone further and, in accordance with suggestions from this side of the House, child endowment should have been raised for all children under sixteen years of age. In 1948 the basic wage was £5 16s. and at that time a family of five received £2 a week in child endowment. To-day, with the basic wage at £14 8s., a family of five receives £3 a week in child endowment. In effect, the basic wage has gone up by two and a half times and so, to retain its purchasing power, the child endowment for that family group should have gone up to approximately £4 10s. a week. Labour’s policy, which it submitted to the people at the last election, provided for child endowment of lis. a week for the first child, 19s. a week for the second child and 22s. a week for the third and subsequent children. That would have meant that a family of five would have received £4 16s. a week in child endowment.
Labour’s policy also provided for payment of child endowment for children over the age of sixteen years who are attending school. That meant that we were prepared to put back into child endowment the value which applied when this Government came into office, so that the amount of goods which could be purchased with the child endowment at that point of time could still have been purchased at this point of time had our policy been implemented. The Minister, when he was a back-bencher in 1950, disagreed with the amount of 5s. child endowment. I refer to “ Hansard “ of 25th May, 1950, where, at page 3265 the Minister is recorded as saying -
I admit that this endowment payment will not achieve all that even Government members hope that it will achieve. For example, child endowment for the first child in terms of 5s. a bushel is inadequate.
He made a mistake there and got confused between departments. He corrected that statement and said -
The payment of 5s. a week for the first child of parents who live in a country area will solve no problem because circumstances in country areas differ from those in urban areas.
When called to order by Mr. Speaker the Minister said -
I was directing the attention of the House to the fact that an endowment payment of 5s. a week will solve none of the major problems so far as country children are concerned.
Apparently he has changed his mind, because he still leaves endowment for the first child at 5s. a week. As I say, the Government’s proposal means that the first child will get 5s., the second 10s., the third 15s. and others 15s. This means that a family of five will receive £3 a week in child endowment whereas, under Labour’s policy, the same family group would have been £1 16s. better off. It would have received £4 16s. a week. I repeat that pressure from the Labour Party during and before the last election campaign forced the Government’s hand. The Government intended to do nothing about child endowment a few weeks before the election, as is clearly indicated by the amendment that I read out and which members of the Government in this Parliament as well as private members on the Government side of the House voted against. I have here a newspaper cutting from the Perth “ Daily News” of 16th August, 1963. It is headed “ Child Endowment. See How It Shrinks ‘ and appeared the following Budget debate. The article gives some interesting information in regard to child endowment and puts up a good case why child endowment should be increased for all children and not only for the third and subsequent children. It says -
When Treasurer Holt left child endowment rates unaltered in the current Budget it meant that payments had not changed in thirteen years.
In Western Australia 113,000 families are affected -last year they collected £5,400,000 in endowment money.
The money - 5s. for a first born, and 10s. for each addition - was paid to the parents of the 267,000 for whom endowment is claimed in this State.
The last change in endowment rates was made on June 20, 1950, when in addition to the 10s. for every child after the first, the Ss. allowance for every first-born was introduced.
At that time butter sold at 2s. 2d. per lb., milk at 6id. a pint, bread at 10id. for a two lb. loaf and best eggs were 3s. 6d. a dozen.
To-day butter is 5s. a lb. (increase of 130.7 per cent.); milk is 10id. a pint (61.5 per cent.); bread is ls. 7d. (80.9 per cent.); best eggs are 6s. (71.4 per cent.).
And so it goes on. It illustrates, by basic wage comparisons, how families have suffered in child endowment since this Government has been in office. But it was ever thus, as far as this Government was concerned. It is pressure from this side of the House, from the Labour Party in Opposition, that has been responsible for any social reform that this Government has implemented. It has been implemented either by this Government or by Labour, when it was in office, but Labour has been in office only seventeen years since Federation and during that time quite a lot of reforms were placed on the Statute Book. Since then, of course, as the result of pressure from Labour in opposition, other social services legislation has gone on the Statute Book; but, whatever has been done, the fact is that, no matter what form of social services legislation you refer to, it has not maintained its purchasing power over the years. I direct attention also to what the Minister said during his secondreading speech, when referring to which government implemented child endowment. He said -
In this connexion, may I be permitted to interpolate here that my attention has been drawn to a book entitled “ Our Pacific Neighbours “ by Professor N. D. Harper, of the University of Melbourne, which has been set for Queensland senior high school students for the current year. In it the learned professor asserts inter alia, that child endowment was introduced by a Labour Government. That, like most of his references to social services, is lamentably - if not maliciously - wrong.
The Minister himself was wrong and, if not lamentably, he was maliciously wrong, because it was a Labour government which introduced child endowment in the first place. I refer to the report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowances in 1929, which at page 136 stated-
In 1926, Mr. Lang’s Government introduced a family endowment bill, which, after lengthy debates in both Houses, was passed into law in March, 1927, and was brought into operation on the 22nd July of that year. The act provides for payment to the mother of 5s. per week for each dependent child under the age of fourteen years.
The rate was then 5s., and that is still the rate paid in respect of the first child under the present Government’s legislation. I have mentioned this fact because I want to correct the statement made by the Minister the other evening to the effect that child endowment was not introduced originally by a Labour government.
– Nor was it, in the federal sphere.
– The Minister for Social Services said nothing about the federal sphere. Nowhere in the passage that I have quoted did he mention the federal sphere. He referred simply to child endowment. I have read his words as they appear.
– You made an implication in the way that you read them.
– The point is that the Minister for Social Services did not mention the Commonwealth sphere. In the first place, child endowment was introduced by a Labour government. The Government cannot crawl away from that fact.
The present Government, despite its antagonism to the idea, has been forced to improve social welfare in other ways. The Government, although it has been opposed to the welfare state over the years, has been forced to adopt necessary reforms and to acknowledge the welfare state. Government supporters would not dare to go to the electors and suggest that the welfare state should not exist. It is true that inflation and other factors have reduced the benefits that flow from social service legislation but, generally speaking, the welfare state is here to stay. It is here because the measures on which it is founded were implemented by the Labour Government and because the Australian Labour Party has forced the present Government to adopt further welfare measures.
Our opposition to the bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is not directed at the benefits that will flow from it. Our opposition is based simply on the fact that this measure will not apply to all children and the fact that the rates of child endowment proposed are .inadequate, since they will not restore the purchasing power formerly enjoyed by people who depend on child endowment. Some time ago, the National Health and Medical Research Council investigated nutritional levels in this country, lt found that 73 per cent, of families with two children enjoyed a first-class diet. This meant that 27 per cent, did not. The council found that 62 per cent, of families with three children had a first-class diet. This was found to be true of 38 per cent, of families with four children, 27 per cent, of families with five children and only 16 per cent, of families with six children. The council directed attention to the fact that families could not afford adequate quantities of the fats, milk, fruit and other foodstuffs necessary for a good diet for children and, consequently, had to settle for bread and cereals as substitutes. This is one of the reasons why, in the opinion of myself and my colleagues on this side of the House, the rates of child endowment should be increased, not only for the third and subsequent children, but for all children.
When the last Budget was presented to the Parliament, we were told that the Government proposed to spend about £13,000,000 on bringing migrants to Australia in the current financial year. Recently, more than £3,000 was spent on flying a migrant family out here. I do not complain about that. At question time to-day, I asked a question about an aged couple being flown to Australia - at a cost, I understand, of more than £1,000. There may be some justification for that. There is also justification for our asking the Government to ensure that families already here are adequately cared for and are enabled, by means of child endowment and other benefits, to provide their children with an adequate diet.
More should be done for Australian mothers. Australian children are the best migrants. Yet very little encouragement is given to married couples to have large families these days. If this Government had had any regard for Australian mothers, it would have increased the rates of the maternity allowance, which have remained unchanged since the level was last fixed by the Curtin Government in 1943. The Australian Labour Party announced during the last general election campaign that it would increase the rates to £30 for the first child rising to £35 for the fourth child. But this Government has left the rates at the level at which they were last fixed by the Curtin Government. From the inception of the maternity allowance until the present Government took office, the allowance had always been recognized as adequate to pay the costs of confinement, but that is not the case to-day. Economic reasons are preventing newly-weds from having children as soon as possible after marriage. In many instances, both husband and wife have to work in order to finance the establishment of a home. The Government should have regard for these facts and provide for increased social service benefits - if not immediately, then when the next Budget is prepared.
There is another reason why the Government should have increased the rate of endowment for the first child as well as the rates for the third and subsequent children. There is a considerable effect on the family budget when the eldest child reaches the age of sixteen. Under the present proposals, the family will lose the benefit of the 5s. a week that has been paid in respect of that child, the payment for the second child will be reduced from 10s. a week to 5s. and the benefit paid for the third child will be reduced from 15s. a week to 10s. So the net effect will be a loss of 15s. a week when the eldest child reaches the age of sixteen. Let us take the example of a family with five children. The benefits paid will be 5s. a week for the eldest child, 10s. a week for the second child and 15s. a week for each of the third and subsequent children, making a total of 60s. a week. When the eldest child reaches the age of sixteen, he will attract no benefit, 5s. a week will be paid for the second child, 10s. a week for the third child and 15s. a week each for the fourth and fifth children, making a total of 45s. a week - a net reduction of 15s. a week. When the second eldest child reaches the age of sixteen, the payment for the third child will drop to 5s. a week, that for the fourth child to 10s. a week and 15s. a week will still be paid for the fifth child, making a total of 30s. a week - a further reduction of 15s. a week in the family income. Similarly, when the third child reaches the age of sixteen, there will be another reduction of 15s. a week in the family income, a total of 15s. a week in endowment then being paid.
When the child attaining the age of sixteen is a full-time student, of course, there will be no loss of income. With a family of five children, the eldest being a full-time student, when the eldest child attains the age of sixteen, he will attract a benefit of 15s. a week, the second child 5s. a week, the third 10s. a week, and the fourth and fifth children 15s. a week each, giving a total of 60s. a week, the same as before. It appears to me that the Government should consider doing something to obviate the sudden drop in income when the oldest child, not being a full-time student, reaches the age of sixteen.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that this measure will not apply to cadets, apprentices, trainee teachers, nurses and the like - apparently, because they would be in full-time employment. I thought that the honorable member for Grayndler dealt with this matter very effectively. He was good enough to supply us with some very interesting figures. The honorable member for Swan agrees with the Government in the matter, for he said that he was not prepared to advocate that clerks - I presume that he meant junior clerks, possibly in their first year - cadets, trainee nurses and apprentices, who may be just on sixteen, should qualify for the payment of child endowment. The honorable member for Swan said that others of his friends object to some of the restrictions placed on the payment of endowment, and I take it that he means his friends on the Government side of the House. When we look at the rates of pay that these young people receive, we can understand why honorable members opposite believe that something should be done for them. I hope that their efforts succeed. For instance, a trainee nurse in her first year receives £7 18s. a week.
– But she does receive that.
– I know she receives it; that is true enough. But a student can earn a fairly substantial amount even though he is engaged in part-time work. It is worthwhile to look at these matters. An apprentice, receives £7 18s. 2d. in his first year.
A junior technician receives about £6 5s. a week, and I think that this amount carries on to the second year. A trainee teacher receives £260 a year or about £5 a week. Surely some of these anomalies should be cleaned up.
The Opposition has succeeded in making another break through. When the increase of 10s. a week was granted to single pensioners in August, 1963, we asked that it be made retrospective to the date of the Budget. The Minister, of course, said that this could not be done and all sorts of obstacles were put in the way. At the same time, a subsidy of £9,000,000 for superphosphate was granted and this was dated back to the date of the Budget. Actually, the date of operation of this subsidy was earlier than the date on which the necessary legislation was introduced. Surprisingly, the Ministers who introduced the legislation for the superphosphate subsidy and the increase for single pensioners were both members of the Australian Country Party, but the legislation affecting farmers was made retrospective and that affecting pensioners did not take effect until the following November, if I remember correctly. On this occasion, increases in child endowment are being made retrospective to 14th January. We agree with this. We believe that it is a good idea. But what we want to know is this: If it can be done now, why could it not be done when last year we asked that increased payments be made retrospective? However, I hope that the action being taken now sets the pattern for the future and that any further social service amendments will be made retrospective. It has been suggested to me - 1 would not suggest this myself - that the Denison by-election had something to do with the Minister making this increase retrospective. I pass the information on to the Minister for what it is worth.
The Government has had second thoughts on child endowment and I suggest that the Minister should have second thoughts about other social service benefits. They , all require adjustment to give them real value. The age and invalid pension should be increased. The funeral benefit was fixed at £10 when it was introduced by the Curtin Government twenty years ago and it still remains at that figure. At the beginning of his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
Over the years, the Liberal-Country Party Government has had an outstanding record in the field of social services. . . .
He added that progress in this field had by no means been completed. If this is the Minister’s belief, there is some hope for the future, and I ask him to give attention to the benefits I have mentioned so that real value may be restored te them when the next Budget is introduced.
I believe that the Government should have done more when increasing child endowment. The increase should have applied to every child and I hope that when the Budget is being framed further consideration will be given to this matter. The Australian Labour Party is pledged to fight for the restoration of the value of all the benefits that I have mentioned and for the restoration to the people of that which rightly belongs to them.
.- I have been interested to listen to the honorable members for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and Stirling (Mr. Webb) and to suffer the many errors that they have made. It is delightful to be entertained by the honorable member for Grayndler. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said -
Let me say in passing that it was the LiberalCountry Party Government which was responsible for the introduction of child endowment on a Commonwealth basis in 1941 and for the extension of the scheme to include the first child in 1950. It is fitting that it should be the Liberal-Country Party Government that again brings before this House measures to liberalize and further extend the scheme.
These remarks have been misquoted and misinterpreted and I think the record should be put straight. I have been delighted with the case put forward by the Opposition, because it seems to have gone too far. Opposition members now seem to be competing with each other to claim a former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Jack Lang, as a great representative of the Labour movement and as a man of whom they are very proud. He was formerly a member of this House. I lived in New South Wales for a number of years, before I saw the light and went to Queensland, and I find this attitude of Opposition members very interesting. For many years, Labour men in New South Wales have denounced the gentleman who first introduced child endowment in that State in 1926 or 1927. They now claim that the man they once denounced was a great representative of the Labour movement, although he seems to have been a part of the Labour movement that they do not remember.
– He did a number of very good things, and this is one of them.
– You would not want to say that very often. You might get into trouble.
I come to another interesting piece of research that was done by the honorable member for Grayndler or those associated with him. He read Professor Harper’s book, or at least page 38 of it, and he thought he came upon something that he could use for his own purposes. Let me put the record straight. Four major social service benefits were introduced into the Commonwealth field before or by 1941. The age pension was introduced by a government of the political colour of this Government and Labour governments introduced the invalid pension and the maternity allowance. We introduced child endowment in 1941. These benefits take about 76 per cent, of the total amount that is paid in direct social services and all these measures were introduced before or by 1941. Another error for which Opposition members are responsible - they have stated this so often that I am inclined to think they believe it - is that we have not been responsible for any liberalizing of social services, that we are hard-hearted, that we are the flint hearts who would do nothing for pensioners. The record shows that we have introduced the pensioner medical scheme and very liberal measures with respect to aged persons’ homes. We have raised the rates of pensions, we have greatly varied the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits and we have increased the property allowances associated with pensions. We have introduced the payment of supplementary rents and other measures. Never let it be said that this Government has been hard-hearted. It has been responsible for introducing the measures I have named into the Australian Parliament.
Honorable members opposite having divested themselves of the father figures of Mr. Jack Lang, a former member of this
Parliament, and Professor Harper, it is worth-while to reflect a little on what were the original intentions associated with the introduction of child endowment in this Parliament in 1941. The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, made it clear when he introduced the Child Endowment Bill in 1941 that the Government’s primary objective was that child endowment would be a profitable national investment producing a high return in human happiness. That position continues. We are the ones responsible for increasing the high return in human happiness. The right honorable gentleman also stated that child endowment would relieve pressure on the larger families. This followed reports on nutrition in larger families in the late 1930’s. Consequently in an indirect way provision of child endowment would tend to increase the birthrate by decreasing unfortunate circumstances where they existed. It was expected that the measure would decrease the rate of child mortality and improve children’s health and, above all, introduce a uniform level of social service legislation in Australia. The continuation of these aims has been our responsibility.
It is very clear that many members of the Opposition have tried in their own way to make a case that they have forced the Government to introduce social service measures. They seem to take great pride in stating that we have introduced these measures not because we wanted to do so but because we were forced to take such action. They say that we were panicked into the last election and as a result have introduced changes in child endowment. Such is not the case. Whatever might be the attitudes of the majority of Opposition members it is difficult to understand the attitudes of those Opposition members who come from my own State of Queensland. It is very clear that this measure will be disproportionately beneficial to Queensland. Whatever might be the results in other States, it is very clear that Queensland will benefit greatly. With only 14 per cent, of Australia’s population, Queensland is to receive about 17 per cent, of the increased payments in child endowment under this measure. The average number of endowed children in families is rather larger in Queensland than in other States. This is due to the very salubrious atmosphere fostered by a very tender-hearted State Government. Furthermore, it is worth reflecting that the average annual amount of endowment payable, disregarding students’ allowances and having regard only to the amounts payable for the third and subsequent children in the family, will be about £48 10s. a family, whereas in Queensland the average amount payable to an endowed family will be about £53 6s. So, whatever may be the attitude of honorable members opposite from other States, it is beyond my comprehension to understand the opposition of their eight colleagues who come from Queensland to a measure so favorable to their State. (Quorum formed.) I .note that with one exception the Opposition members from Queensland are still absent. Perhaps they do not comprehend the particularly beneficial effect this measure will have for Queensland. I can understand that these things would not have percolated through to the front bench of an opposition which has not seen fit to include in its shadow cabinet any of its members from Queensland. It is a shadow cabinet which casts a very long shadow.
We have gone through some of the statistics associated with child endowment. It is worth-while having a look at the sincerity of the Opposition when it claims around the country that it has forced us into bringing about an adjustment in child endowment against our wishes. It is always open to an opposition party to promise all kinds of things, but the Government has the responsibility to put them into operation. Whilst honorable members opposite are in opposition - and they seem to be slipping into permanent opposition in more States than ever before - they can whinge and cry about social services without having the responsibility of administration. However, the Opposition does have some influence with respect to wages and allowances for families. With the concurrence of members of State executives of the Australian Labour Party, and with the concurrence of members of trades and labour councils and with the rising influence of the left wing in the trades and labour councils there has been a lessening of influence or a lack of influence in the field of family allowances. I recall that the matter of child endowment was forced on the Australian Council of Trade Unions by a right-wing union in 1953 or 1955. Since that time the council has retreated from any sincere agitation about family allowances, but we find members of the Labour Party supporting wage policies which will leave nothing to be distributed from the national income as family allowances. The trade unions bring cases before various tribunals which if granted would allow nothing to be distributed to those who have extra family responsibilities. Yet the honorable member for Stirling says here that he is concerned about these people. We have seen some left-wing union officials agitating at job and workshop committee levels, particularly in the last twelve months, but nothing has been heard from them about family allowances. They are insincere about these things.
In my home State of Queensland we have that delightful group of men on the Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labour Party and also on the executive of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council. They go to meetings of the Queensland Central Executive and formulate some outlandish and outrageous policies in respect of allowances, which cannot be put into operation. Then they go to meetings of the Trades and Labour Council, where they have some influence, and forget what they said on the political level because in the Trades and Labour Council it is not worth any votes. They retain their positions in those bodies by various methods of voting.
Members of the Opposition have been completely insincere about this matter, as they were in their policy for the last election. That policy included some proposals for massive changes in family allowances. Those changes represented a greatly increased cost which honorable members opposite said would be financed by “ economic growth “ - this new term which seems to have come into vogue. Of course, many people read the “ Australian Financial Review “. Having stated that policy, they went around the country saying that they would give everybody more money; that they would give families of all sizes more money, without increasing taxation and without indulging in a deliberate bout of inflation. Let us look at the record in that respect. Their unrealistic child endowment policy was responsible in many ways for their financial errors. In the third year of Labour government - had Australia been so unfortunate as to have a Labour government foisted upon it - they would have been about £160,000,000 short of taxation revenue with which to finance their proposals. Of course, their child endowment plan figured largely in those proposals. They would not have been able to raise that £160,000,000 by new or novel forms of taxation. A capital gains tax would not realize that kind of money. They would have had to increase taxation all the way down the line - on the more well-to-do people as well as on the people who have not very much money. They would have had to increase taxation on people who could afford to pay, and also on people who could not afford to pay.
– Refute these statements, if you can! The only alternative would be to indulge in a deliberate bout of inflation, which was Labour’s policy. Members of the Opposition should realize that a deliberate bout of inflation, if it hurts anybody, hurts most the people who are dependent on social services, including the families about whom the honorable member for Stirling was so concerned. It hurts the larger families who depend on government measures for some muchneeded assistance. The tears which have been shed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the tears which the honorable member for Stirling has attempted to shed do not seem to be very sincere.
It is worthwhile looking at the families who will benefit from the new child endowment proposals. Honorable members opposite were very concerned about the plight of the larger families and their financial position. If honorable members opposite knew anything about democracy, about the relationship of family sizes to income and about Hargreaves law as applied to family sizes and income, they would realize that many of the larger families tend to be on lower incomes. That fact cuts across national, social and religious barriers. It is those people whom we are assisting; but despite that we are being criticized continually by members of the Opposition. If they look up Hargreaves law in a dictionary, they will realize that it is something with which they should have been acquainted for many years. Certainly the honorable member for Grayndler, who led for the Opposition in this debate, should have been acquainted with it for many years; that is, if he is sincerely interested in child endowment and social services generally.
Our policy in this matter has been realistic because the money that will be paid out in child endowment, in addition to benefiting Queensland disproportionately well, will go directly into consumer expenditure. The money will not go into the unused bank overdraft limits which were so troublesome during 1960 and 1961. On the face of it, the money will go directly into basic consumption expenditure and will help most the people who need assistance most and who have been assisted materially only by this Government.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is a great honour for me, as a member of the Government parties, to support this measure. In supporting it I endorse these words of the Minister for Social Services -
We believe, above all, that the distribution I have outlined will meet with public approval and be of great benefit not only to all recipients but ultimately to the whole community.
This measure has been received and approved by the whole community. No matter what the honorable member for Grayndler may say in this chamber, it is very clear that we are the only people who are able to put proposals into operation in a socially useful and economically responsible manner.
.- As this is the first opportunity I have had to speak in the new Parliament, I take advantage of it to extend my congratulations to Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their re-election to their high offices. The fact that they were re-elected unopposed indicates that they hold the confidence of all sides of the House. Their re-election was a tribute to the fair manner in which they carry out the duties of their respective offices.
The two members of the Government parties who have spoken on this bill have continually excused the Government in respect of social service entitlements.
They departed from the social service before the House, namely child endowment, and told us about everything else that the Government has done in the field of social services. That indicates to me a weakness in their case and that they are using that diversionary tactic because they have not sufficient evidence to justify their record in respect of child endowment. We might have expected the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to introduce this measure with a great deal of humility, befitting the occasion. But he could not resist the temptation to engage in a characteristic fanfare of publicity. He tried to give the House the impression that the Government parties were in the vanguard in respect of granting child endowment benefits. Of course, the fact is that this has been the most neglected social service benefit under this Government. From time to time the Labour Opposition has reminded the Government of that fact; but on all occasions our pleadings have fallen on deaf ears.
In passing, let me repeat a statement which was made by the Minister in the early part of his second-reading speech. He said -
The opportunity arises to turn our attention to child endowment which, in our whole system of social services, touches on more homes in Australia than any other benefit.
That is a profound statement of fact, but when you relate it to this Government’s record it only emphasizes just how sorry and unfortunate is that record in respect of a social service which, according to the Minister, touches on more homes in Australia than any other benefit. Over the years the Government has granted some increases in other forms of social services such as age, invalid and widows’ pensions, but those increases were granted only in an attempt to cope with the inflationary processes which have been so evident during this Government’s reign.
The astounding feature is that while the Government recognized - of course only to a limited degree - the effect of those inflationary processes on age, invalid and widows’ pensions, for thirteen or fourteen years it chose to ignore completely the necessity to bring child endowment into line with the other social service benefits. The Government stands doubly condemned not only for its failure to take the necessary steps in this field but also for its attempt now to gain some political propaganda advantage out of this legislation.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in a very comprehensive and efficient manner to-day exposed the Government’s short-comings in the field of social services. He contrasted the Government’s policy with Labour’s policy. He pointed out that endowment for the first child will continue to be 5s. a week - this has been completely ignored by the Government since 1950 - and that endowment for the second child will continue to be 10s. a week. This also has been completely ignored by the Government since 1950. Had a Labour government occupied the treasury bench endowment for the first child would have been lis. a week, for the second child 19s. a week and for third and successive children 22s. a week. Comparisons are odious.
In a .fit of pique the Government refused leave to the honorable member for Grayndler to incorporate in “ Hansard “ certain statements relating to the Government’s attitude over the years to advanced thinking in the field of social services. As a result I shall have to do a little reading but this is necessary so that the record will be straight. The Labour Party has been ever mindful that recipients of social services should not suffer because of the creeping inflation which this Government has allowed to continue during its years of office. From time to time and on all appropriate occasions the Labour Opposition has proposed certain amendments to social services legislation in an attempt to convince the Government of the necessity and desirability of bringing the purchasing power of social service benefits into line with current costs and prices. This record goes back to 1951 so I shall abbreviate wherever possible so that I do not weary the House too much.
– The Government asked for it.
– As the honorable member for Grayndler has stated, the Government asked for it and the Government will now receive it. When the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1951 was introduced the Labour Opposition moved -
That the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for -
the operation of the act from the first pension day in 1951.
This brings in the question of retrospectivity. In 1951 the Government ignored our plea but to-day it is falling over itself to make payment of the increased rate retrospective. Our proposal went on -
I point out that this was in 1951 when money values were entirely different from what they are to-day. Our next suggestions were -
When the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1952 was introduced the Opposition again moved -
That the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for -
the new pension rates to operate from 1st
In 1953 the Opposition moved in respect of the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1953-
That the. bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for -
the new pension rates to operate from 1st
In 1954 the Opposition moved a composite motion in terms of those which I have already mentioned. We set out to try to achieve a minimum age and invalid pension of £4 a week. Of course we have now had to raise our suggested pension because, like the dog chasing its tail, we are chasing the constantly increasing cost and price structure.
In 1955 when the Social Services Consolidation Bill (No. 2) 1955 was introduced the Opposition again sought to impress the gravity of the position upon the Government by asking -
That the bill be re-drafted to provide, as from 1st July, 1955, in the light of the declining pur chasing value of money, increases in the rates of social service payments to the maximum extent that the national economy will permit, and, particularly, to ensure as a minimum that each of these payments is restored to the same percentage of the (unpegged) basic wage as it was under the adjustment of rates by the Chifley Government in 1948.
All these amendments moved by the Opposition were opposed by the Government, which trailed all sorts of red herrings and gave all kinds of excuses for not being able to support such desirable amendments.
That was the position until last year, when, during the election campaign, Government spokesmen offered to grant an increase in child endowment. This was not offered out of the goodness of their hearts; the fact was that the House was almost evenly divided, the Government having a majority of only one and fearing the outcome of the election that it faced. That was the first and only time since 1950 that the Government has been moved to increase child endowment payments. The mothers of Australia have had to wait thirteen long years to have the purchasing power of their child endowment payments partly restored.
In 1955 the. Opposition was so concerned about child endowment that it submitted, on 5th May, a matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion. It was submitted in these terms: -
The inadequate amount being paid for each child under the Child Endowment Act and the necessity for urgent consideration by the Government of increasing the amount to meet adequately the increased cost of providing for children by their parents or guardians.
We tried to focus the attention of the Government on the need to increase child endowment rates, but once again the Government had the numbers and so our efforts came to nought. In 1956, the Opposition asked that the Social Services Bill be re-drafted to restore social service payments to their previous purchasing values. In other words, we wanted to see a restoration of the purchasing power that has been filched from the people by the octopus of creeping inflation. Again, in 1957, the Opposition took similar action, urging upon the Government the need to restore the purchasing value of endowment rates and other social service payments; but once again our efforts were defeated. In 1959, we sought to have the Social Services
Bill re-drafted to provide rates of social service payments adequate to living costs at that time and representing a fair and reasonable share of the national income. We asked that the increased rates should take effect from the first pension pay-day in July. That amendment also was defeated by the Government because it had the numbers and we had not.
We were not deterred, however, from continuing our fight for what we considered social justice for pensioners and other recipients of social service payments. In 1960, another Social Services Bill came before the House, and again we proposed an amendment in terms similar to our amendments of previous years. Again we were defeated. In 1961, the Opposition went so far as to make a motion in the following terms: -
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.
It can be seen that the Opposition has been ever mindful of the need to increase child endowment payments to the mothers of Australia. We cannot be condemned or criticized for the attempts that we have made in this direction. On the other hand, the Government and the Minister stand condemned for their consistent refusal to do anything about such increases. The Government has, as we freely admit, increased other social service payments in order to restore their purchasing value, but for some reason known only to the Government and the Minister, it has consistently refused to recognize the need to increase child endowment payments.
Still undeterred, the Opposition in 1962 again moved an amendment asking that the Social Services Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. Then, in 1963, we proposed an amendment to the Social Services Bill, which again the Government rejected. Our amendment was in the following terms: -
Again our pleas fell on deaf ears. A remarkable aspect of this matter, Mr. Speaker, is that only two months before the election campaign, when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) promised an increase of child endowment payments, the Government resolutely refused to grant one penny increase. The Budget introduced that year provided absolutely nothing in respect of increased child endowment payments. Yet, for reasons best known to the Government and its supporters, two months later the Government was able to tell the Australian people that it was prepared to increase child endowment payments. Such a change of face on the part of the Government is, I suppose, nothing new. It has performed many somersaults during the last few years, particularly in its economic policy and its banking legislation. So I suppose it is reasonable to expect it to turn another somersault in connexion with child endowment. This is precisely what it did in a period of two months in 1963. Having refused to grant one penny increase in child endowment rates, the Government commenced its election campaign and offered to grant an increase - certainly not as great an increase as a Labour government would have given, but at least some slight increase, which we hope will give the mothers of Australia some benefit.
As the honorable member for Grayndler has said, however, we are concerned about the people who will gain absolutely no benefit at all under this bill. The Opposition will have to continue to undertake the task of pressing for recognition for these recipients of social service benefits; and we will not shirk our responsibility. I know that the honorable member for Grayndler and other leading thinkers in the Opposition in the social service field will continue to stress the requirements of children in respect of whom no increase in child endowment is being granted under this legislation. However, the family with one child will get absolutely no benefit from the new rates unless their child becomes a full-time student. If the child leaves school at about sixteen years of age and goes to work the family will have received only the 5s. unit throughout that child’s life.
I support wholeheartedly the criticisms that have been levelled at this bill. We support the measure because we accept that it provides some advance on the sorry record of the Government in this field since 1950, but we take advantage of this opportunity to criticize the Government’s shortcomings in this regard. With those observations I wish the bill success. I hope that it will give some benefit to those people who are fortunate enough to receive the proposed increases. My sympathy goes out to those who will be deprived of the opportunity to receive the wholesome increases that would have been granted if a Labour government were now occupying the treasury bench.
.- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) based most of his criticisms of the Government’s performance in the field of social services on its failure to take into account the changed purchasing power of the £1 since a Labour government was last in office. In maintaining this argument I believe he was incorrect because whereas £1 to-day would be worth about half its value in 1949, the age pension in 1949 under a Labour administration was only £2 2s. 6d. a week compared with £5 15s. now. In other words, although the age pension is more than double the amount paid by a Labour government in 1949, the money value has not decreased to the same extent. So I think that most of the case presented by the honorable member for Adelaide falls to the ground.
The bill now before us contains two main provisions. The first is the payment for the third and subsequent children, which is to be raised from 10s. a week to 15s. a week, and the second is the introduction of a payment of 15s. a week for each full-time student between the ages of 16 and 21 years who is attending a recognized university or college. I feel that these two provisions are to be commended. They are in keeping with the consistent endeavour of this Government since 1949 to widen continually the scope and benefit of payments through the Department of Social Services. Substantially increased expenditure on social services generally has been achieved despite the ever-widening demands on the Commonwealth Treasury. The expenditure proposed under this bill is in keeping with the principle, which I support very strongly or distributing money in the most’ equitable manner, namely through the
Department of Social Services. I have never supported the suggestion that every one should receive a pension. I think that the more affluent people should contribute to help others who need assistance and are entitled to it. I remind honorable members opposite that it was the parties now on this side of the chamber that first introduced child endowment.
Honorable members opposite have criticized several factors in the proposals contained in the bill and have been generally critical of the Government’s record, yet Labour governments have a very poor record in the field of child endowment. In this debate the Opposition has said, naturally, that there should be bigger child endowment payments and therefore higher expenditure, but as we all know a bill such as this must be looked at as part of the total concept of, first, social services and, secondly, the whole of Government expenditure. There must be a balance. The increases proposed in this legislation will involve finding another £18,000,000 for social service payments, taking the total to £429,000,000 in a total Budget of about £1,830,000,000. This seems to me to be a quite fair and reasonable, if not large, proportion of the total expenditure by the Government of the taxpayers’ money. I feel that this further achievement will cause to continue and strengthen the respect in which our social services policy is held throughout the free world.
The two main arguments always advanced by the Opposition in this type of debate are, first of all, that the Government has failed completely in its social services policy and, secondly, that it has failed to pay out enough money. If the performances of this and Labour governments are compared it will be seen that these arguments have no weight at all. Of course, we have to go back a long way to see what a Labour government did when it was in office, but if we look at the figures -for 1949 we see that the National Welfare Fund expenditure was £92,804,000 in a total Budget of £580,652,000, that is, 16 per cent. In this financial year the Government has estimated that the expenditure on social services will be £411,386,000 in a total Budget of £1,837,000,000, which is 22.4 per cent. In other words, in 1949 the Labour Party, which claims to be the champion of social service payments and of the people who need help, spent 16 per cent, of the total Budget on social services, whereas this Government is prepared to spend 22.4 per cent, of the total. This, in addition to the liberalization of eligibility for social service benefits, in my opinion shows that the Government has performed very creditably when compared with a Labour administration.
There has been considerable criticism of the Government for not doing something before now to increase child endowment. However, the records of this Parliament show that Labour governments refused to grant child endowment for the first child. It was left to honorable members who are now on this side of the chamber to say, in 1949, that if we were elected we would introduce child endowment for the first child. The Labour Party opposed this strongly and said it could not be done. When the Government came into office this was one of the first promises that it honoured in 1950, thus proving that it could be done. So I doubt the sincerity of the Labour Party in this matter.
There is no question that these provisions will be useful in two major directions. First, they will give people assistance and, secondly, they will give people incentive. By way of assistance these provisions will mean extra incomes for families with children and this, of course, is an important factor in the constant economic battle that the average person has in order to live in comfort to-day. The provisions will also help to pay school expenses and will help institutions in which some unfortunate children have to live. This measure will make conditions better for young people who are forced to reside in institutions. As far as incentive goes, this legislation must obviously give people encouragement to have larger families and this in turn will contribute towards solving our small-population problem. While we press ahead with our immigration programme, I think it will be agreed that the more native-born children we have the better it will be for Australia.
I was very pleased that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) had the foresight to write to the State Premiers before this legislation was finally agreed upon by the Government. As honorable members will know, the reason why the
Minister wrote to the Premiers was to ask for their assurance that, if these two provisions were introduced by the Government, the States would not make a corresponding decrease in their expenditure on child welfare. I am certain that all of us who have been in this Parliament for a while have heard the theory that is advanced quite often by governments when they want to deny some change in legislation. In such circumstances a government says, “ If we give this benefit the State governments will only add it to their budgets or take it off their budgets”. I therefore congratulate the Minister on taking this action to receive from the Premiers an assurance that they will not make any reduction in their expenditure in this direction.
The final point I wish to make in regard to social services is one I have had in mind for some time. I think that the Government and the officers of the Department of Social Services should very seriously consider - I refer particularly to the Government, because the move must come from it - abolishing the word “ pension “ altogether from any Commonwealth Government document. I think that to say that we pay people an age, invalid or some other sort of pension is very misleading and is almost insulting to people who are recipients of these benefits. It would be much better if the age pension were called the age entitlement or the age payment or the age allowance. As the years go past I become more and more opposed to the word “ pension “. I do not like it at all and I do not think it is a fair description of the payments that are made by the Department of Social Services to those people who are entitled to them. I would call it an age entitlement, an age payment or an age allowance.
– What about parliamentary pensions?
– I understand that that subject is sub judice at the moment. I want to conclude by congratulating the Minister and the Government on introducing these two major provisions which I am certain will play a major part in assisting people to keep their children at school longer. This, of course, will be of great benefit to Australia, as it will enable us to have more skilled and educated young io- . : si people who, after all, will be responsible for the future safety and progress of this great country of ours.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition, although it supports the bill, is extremely critical of the Government’s attitude to child endowment generally and its general treatment of the less fortunate section of Australian youth, especially fifteen-year-olds, who are expected to live on 5s. a week until they reach the age of sixteen. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), at the conclusion of his speech, said that he commended the bill to the House because it would enable youth to obtain a better education. I wonder whether the honorable member meant what he said. If he did, what has he to say about more than 1,000,000 children who will not benefit one iota by the passage of this measure? What assistance would he propose for those children who, through sickness or other adversity, have to leave school at fourteen or fifteen years of age? In my view, they, too, need assistance.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), in his second-reading speech last Tuesday, told the House that this measure was a consequence of the mandate that the Government had received from the people at the last general election. It is true, Mr. Speaker, that the Government has a mandate to increase the rates of child endowment, and I congratulate the Minister on introducing this bill within a few weeks of the meeting of the Parliament. However, in my view, a Commonwealth government, whether its political complexion be Liberal or Labour, always has a mandate to improve the living standards of the people. In the middle 1940’s, the Labour Government took action to improve the living standards of the Australian people when it initiated a referendum for the transfer from the States to the Commonwealth of power and responsibility in respect of health and social services. It is true that great progress is being made from year to year in the improvement of our general living standards. However, despite these improvements - for which the Minister claims credit for the present Government - there are still far too many anomalies in the Social Services Act.
I am sure that great numbers of the electors throughout Australia recognize that were it not for the diligence and tenacity displayed by the present Opposition, especially at Budget time, when we have repeatedly demonstrated to the Minister the irregularities in his proposals, the level of social service benefits would be very much lower than it is to-day. Over the years during which I have been a member of this Parliament, we have heard from Bert Thompson and others on this side of the chamber real gems of contributions to debates on social services. If I remember correctly, Bert Thompson was the one who first proposed that the means test be merged to enable pensioners with assets and no income to achieve equality with income earners in the matter of pension entitlement.
The Minister said that this bill has three main purposes - to increase the rate of endowment from 10s. a week to 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children in all families, to endow full-time students over the age of sixteen at the rate of 15s. a week and to authorize the payment of increased endowment in respect of children who are inmates of institutions approved for child endowment purposes. The purposes of the measure are good, and it is sincerely welcomed by the Opposition, as far as it goes. But, as must be obvious to every one, many anomalies will be created and thousands of families will be treated unfairly.
The Minister, in terms of glowing enthusiasm, claimed that this Government had in the first place granted child endowment for the first and only child in 1950. That claim will deceive no one. In 1951, the Opposition, with an awareness of the great upsurge in inflation that was taking place at that time as a result of the extremely high prices being paid for wool, proposed an amendment to the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1951 with the object of providing for an increase from 5s. a week to 10s. a week in the endowment paid for the first child. The Honorable A. G. Townley, who was then Minister for Social Services, gave the Opposition’s amendment very little consideration and rejected it.
As I have said, the bill will endow fulltime students over the age of sixteen at the rate of 15s. a week and will provide for the payment of increased endowment in respect of children who are inmates of institutions approved for child endowment purposes. Though the objects of the measure are good, they do not go far enough. The Minister for Social Services, in endeavouring to convince the House of the outstanding achievements of the present Government in the field of social services, obviously and conveniently forgets to disclose that this Government has more than trebled taxation, both direct and indirect, in order to pay for the higher rates of social services about which it skites
At 30th June last, there were throughout Australia 528,520 families with one child, receiving endowment of 5s. a week. How many of those families depended for their income on a basic wage worker, I do not know. But I do know that, under the administration of the Chifley Government, couples with one child and dependent on the basic wage were never required to pay income tax. To low income earners, endowment of 5s. a week means virtually nothing. When all the costs associated with the rearing of a child are totalled up, families with one child are well behind scratch. Is it any wonder that so much poverty exists among wage-earners and pensioners trying to rear and educate children when the Government expects that costs of clothing, education, dental and medical care and recreation for a child can be met out of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week? Is it any wonder that so many adolescent children become delinquents when they are forced to grow up under conditions such as those enforced on them by this Government?
At 30th June last, there were, as I have said, 528,520 families with one child, and there were 494,112 families with two children. So it will be seen that 1,022,632 families will receive no direct benefit from this bill. It is true that the fortunes of some children of these families will improve on their reaching sixteen. Those who continue full-time education after reaching sixteen will have their endowment increased to 15s. a week. Those who are fortunate enough to obtain Commonwealth scholarships will have futures much better than those of children who obtain scholarships to enter teachers’ colleges. A teachers’ college trainee probably works harder and swots harder than a university student does, because the teacher trainee has only a limited period in which to qualify. However, the trainee teacher will receive no assistance under the terms of this bill although a university scholarship student, whose allowance is much greater than that of a teacher trainee, will qualify for endowment as a full-time student until he attains the age of 21. This situation just does not make sense to me, Mr. Speaker.
So that the House and the general public will have a better understanding of the so-called wonderful chivalry of the Minister for Social Services, whose heart, so he says, often bleeds for the underdog, I shall restate some of the things that the Minister said. Perhaps, at the committee stage, he will amplify his interpretation of “full-time employment”, since he claims that an apprentice is employed full time. In numerous instances, apprentices are required to do a full day’s study each week at a technical college and, in addition, to attend night classes. That being so, should they be treated as being in any way inferior to university students? Perhaps the Minister will also say why he has picked on trainee teacher students to be the scapegoats while the parents of other students whose income greatly exceeds that of the trainee teachers are allowed to enjoy continued endowment. Is the Minister aware that trainee teachers are not classified as employees under the code of the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry? Does the Minister know that student teachers are not covered by the New South Wales compensation laws? If he is aware of this, will he reconsider his attitude to this section of Australian students and extend the provisions of the act to them, if not now then when the bill reaches another place?
A remarkable feature of child endowment - I think it is wrong - is that the amount of endowment paid to a family is reduced as each child reaches the age of sixteen years. When the first child of a family is born, the mother is paid endowment of 5s. a week and as each other child comes along she is paid 10s. a week for the second child and 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children. However, when the eldest child reaches sixteen years, the mother ceases to receive the 5s. a week for it but, instead of the second child continuing to receive its 10s. a week, the endowment for it is reduced to 5s. a week. In my view, once a rate of endowment has been struck for a child, the rate should continue until that child reaches the : age of sixteen years. In most cases, mothers have budgeted their incomes and have given endowment an important part. When the new legislation becomes law, many mothers, especially those with three or more children, will notice the drastic effect of their children’s sixteenth birthday, as on that day their incomes will fall by 15s. a week. I suggest that the Minister review this situation.
Another aspect of the proposals now before us that needs clarification is the decision of the Commonwealth to raise the rate of endowment for the inmates of approved institutions from 10s. a week to 15s. a week. What is the reason for this increase? Why are the inmates of institutions treated any differently from the parents who retain the custody of their children? To what institutions will endowment be paid? Will it be paid to mental institutions or State rectification homes? Will the inmates of the Milson Island home on the Hawkesbury River receive the increased allowance? Are orphans to receive the increased allowance? If so, to which class of endowees does proposed new section 95 (2.) refer? Section 95 (4.) will simply provide that the rate of endowment payable to an endowee being an institution in respect of a child is 15s. a week. I ask the Minister: Why on earth should a child confined to an institution be entitled to receive more for his upkeep than does the child of an ordinary working class family? I also want to know at what age the endowment ceases to be paid to wards of an institution.
The provision in the bill that an alien child be not paid endowment if the father is dead, unless it was born in Australia and the director-general is satisfied it is likely to remain in Australia, is all wrong. I have had experience of these cases. In some instances a mother is left with young children on the death of her husband. She is not naturalized and does not understand our laws. Surely the payment of a paltry amount of child endowment is not to be used as a means to brow-beat a mother into naturalization. In my view, payment of child endowment should be made for all children resident in Australia.
The bill proposes to amend section 94 of the principal act to give a discretionary power to the director-general to disregard what some persons may look upon us employment in the case of certain students. The proposed new provisions read as follows: - (1b.) The Director-General may, having regard to the nature of, and the amount earned or to be earned and the time occupied or to be occupied in, any employment or work or any intended employment or work, direct that the employment or work shall not be taken into account, or that the intended employment or work shall not, when begun, be taken into account, in determining whether or not, for the purposes of the definition of “child” in sub-section (1.) of this section, a person is or was in employment or engaged in work on his own account. (lc.) The Director-General may, having regard to the nature of the employment or work of persons included in a class of persons, direct that that employment or work shall not be taken into account in determining whether or not, for the purposes of the definition of “ child “ in subsection (1.) of this section, any person included in that class of persons is or was in employment or engaged in work on his own account.
In my view, the discretionary power is too wide and it could be claimed that the power had been used unfairly in some instances. I suggest that the Minister review the provisions I have quoted and have the intention of the Government written into the act in a more definite way. There are many families with handicapped children. Some of them are spastic and some are even mongoloid children. Many are affected in other ways. If they were to be placed in institutions of a government character, the cost of their upkeep would be tremendous. In my view, the Government should in those cases apply a special type of endowment, as the cost to the parents is tremendous and often the parents can ill afford to meet it. I suggest that the Minister have a look at this type of case.
In many families, young girls and boys are compelled to leave school at the age of fourteen and a half or fifteen years. Adolescent girls and often boys on reaching fifteen years without having passed their examination find themselves on the unemployment market. In a number of instances, parents, to keep their children off the streets, send them to business colleges while seeking employment. Consistently the Minister for Social Services has refused to provide unemployment relief for them, allegedly as they are full-time students. Will the honorable gentleman now say whether private business colleges are “to be regarded as approved schools? Further, will he amend the Social Services Act to provide unemployment benefit for fifteen-year-old boys and girls who often are forced into undesirable company simply because they have no independence or financial support for themselves, until they reach sixteen years of age. I have in mind especially the children of widows and of invalid pensioners.
Before I conclude, Mr. Speaker, I wish to touch on two cases and I ask for your indulgence. Although one of the cases at the moment does not involve the payment of child endowment, it will within the next few days. These cases arise because the young women concerned were thrown on to the world through misfortune. In the first case, a young woman who had been carnally known at a very early age ultimately married the man concerned. Within a few months he was admitted to a mental institution. It was apparent that something was wrong with him when he commenced to beat his wife, and he was admitted to the institution. Some months later, a baby was born, and later still the parents of the husband had their son released from the mental home and placed in their care. Later the husband took court proceedings to have his wife returned to him. The court ordered her to return as he stated that he had a home to which she could go. However, the home he had to provide was with his parents and was not very satisfactory. As his wife was afraid of him, she did not return. Neither before nor after the marriage has the husband supported his wife or child. The Department of Social Services pays child endowment of 5s. to the husband’s mother but refuses to pay anything to his wife as a deserted wife’s pension, unemployment or sickness benefit or special benefit. In my view such refusal shows up the department in a very bad light. An officer of the department told me that the girl’s mother should look after the child while the girl goes to work. I hope that the Minister will look into this case, the details of which are known to officers of the department.
The other case to which I refer is that of a young woman who also fell into bad company. For a long period she had been receiving unemployment benefit. The Department of Social Services and the Minister have written to me. Last week the Minister wrote to me and took exception to the terms of a letter I had written. As far as I can see there was nothing wrong with the letter. The young woman concerned had been refused payment of unemployment relief last July and had taken up the company of a married man. She became pregnant to him. He moved away and left her stranded. The Department of Social Services also left the girl stranded as its officers refused to pay any benefits to her.
A woman employed at the Newcastle office of the Department of Labour and National Service sent a telegram to the girl on 15th August. The telegram reads -
Please ring B 3251 immediately regarding position.
The telegram did not reach the girl until six hours after it was sent. She is a child of an invalid and widowed mother who must keep her fifteen-year-old boy on endowment of 5s. a week and who has another unemployed daughter of seventeen years. The family lives in a hut in the bush. The female employment officer at Newcastle repeatedly sends girls to employers who say on seeing the girls, “ We have no employment for you. We did not ask for anybody to be sent out here.” In his letter to me last week the Minister made the excuse that the girl had notified the department that she was going to Sydney and did not want to be considered any more for payment of benefits. I took the matter up with the regional officer in Newcastle and pointed out to him that I had a medical certificate from Dr. Frank Firkin of Wallsend. I have the medical certificate here. It states that the girl has been pregnant for five and a half months and will not be able to work for five months. In the face of this certificate the Department of Social Services refused to pay the girl either sickness benefit or unemployment benefit. This is the sort of thing which is going on in my State in areas where the cost of public transport is so high that young people who are getting about 25s. or 30s. a week find it impossible to pay their fares to seek work in the city where the big industries are located.
I say to the Minister that such a position is quite wrong. All I want to see is justice done to young people of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years of age. The girl I am speaking about has virtually been forced on the streets into the company of married men. What does the Department of Labour and National Service do? I believe that much of the work that has been done over the past 25 years to improve social service legislation is to be commended, but much more remains to be done to remove completely the anomalies that still exist in the act. I hope that the Minister will soon do something to achieve that result.
.- Having listened very attentively to the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) I appreciate that what he had to say was said with sincerity and in the hope that it would achieve a purpose. I feel certain that the two cases he brought to our attention warrant sympathetic consideration. They will receive sympathetic consideration and the investigation that is necessary from the very sympathetic Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton).
I have listened with rapt attention to the debate as it has proceeded. One is always amazed at the strange criticism of a measure such as this which conies from the other side, lt seems that honorable members opposite are never satisfied that the Government is spending enough and are always urging that more should be spent. Of course, because they are in opposition they have no responsibility to the electors as to how much is spent and in debate make all sorts of idle suggestions without having the responsibility of carrying them out. One recalls that when they were in office for a comparatively short period, from 1941 to 1949, and had a golden opportunity to spend a lot of money on social services - particularly from 1946 to 1949 - they paid little or no attention to the extension of social services. Their spending in that direction was very paltry indeed.
Child endowment was introduced in 1941 by the Menzies Government. The rate was struck at 5s. for the second child and subsequent children under the age of sixteen years. When the Labour Party was in office it twice increased the endowment of 5s. - first in 1945 by the magnificent amount of 2s. 6d. and again in 1948 by 2s. 6d. The first increase was made by the Curtin Government and the second increase by the Chifley Government. The endowment for each child under sixteen years with the exception of the first was thus brought to 10s. by two paltry increases of 2s. 6d. Surely if honorable members opposite had practised what they preached they would have been generous to the extreme and on each occasion would have granted an increase of 5s. When Opposition members criticize the Government for failing to increase child endowment still further they do not take into account their own performances.
It is always interesting to hear honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber talking about how they would assist the children of a working family. Listening to them, one would think that they had a complete monopoly of giving assistance to those folk. Of course, such a claim would be sheer hypocrisy and sheer humbug, because the parties on this side of the House have done more to assist the working man and his family than was ever thought of by the Labour Party. If you look at the history of the Social Services Act you will find that a very large proportion of the benefits have been extended by the Menzies Government. 1 have very great pleasure in congratulating the Government on this measure. It is a very humane one. I am certain that it will be of great benefit to a vital section of the community. It is very pleasing to note the speed with which the Government has honoured its promise to improve child endowment benefits after its election on 30th November, 1963. Perhaps that date should not be mentioned too often in this chamber, if we have regard for the feelings of honorable gentlemen opposite. This measure is another feather in the cap of the Government which has done so much to promote social services. 1 say without fear of very substantial contradiction that the social services that we enjoy in Australia are the envy of many overseas countries. If we take the trouble to examine the social service benefits offered overseas, we find that in very many cases they do not measure up to the benefits that we enjoy. Our approach is that an increase in child endowment is not a matter of extending cheap sympathy to the working man and his family. We believe in doing the things about which we talk. We do not believe in talking about things and not doing them. Unfortunately, the Labour Party, when it was in office between 1941 and 1949, talked about doing things but never did them. The Menzies Government gets things done.
This measure provides for a very substantial liberalization of the existing child endowment benefit. Since 1941 child endowment has been accepted as a feature of Australian economic life. There is a vital principle underlying child endowment. As we all know, family expenses rise very steeply with the birth of each child; and, on the other hand, they decrease commensurately as children reach an age at which they can earn income. The Menzies Government always has believed that the effective way to bridge the gap between the economic needs and the income of a family is by the payment of some form of allowance. That is the reason why we pay child endowment. There is much to be said for the view that the expense of rearing a family to maturity should not be borne entirely by the parents.
I do not need to emphasize the fact that large families make a vital contribution to the welfare of a nation. That has been stressed on many occasions, particularly from this side of the House. This measure should encourage parents to have larger families. It contains three very substantial provisions. I think they will bear repetition, because members of the Opposition are inclined to forget what the measures are about. First, there is the increase from 10s. to 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children under sixteen years. Secondly, for the first time in the history of social services in Australia, 15s. a week will be paid to the parents of student children between 16 and 21 years. Thirdly, there is an increase from 10s. to 15s. a week in respect of children who are inmates of approved institutions. Those three provisions are very worthwhile. I reiterate that this measure should encourage parents to have larger families.
The extra money that will be made available will greatly help parents to meet the additional financial burdens which result from the raising of education standards. As all honorable gentlemen who have families know, keeping children at school after the age of sixteen years is very expensive. It is not only a question of meeting whatever school fees may be involved. There is also the additional burden of ensuring that children have pocket money and sufficient money to pay their fares. Parents have their hands in their pockets continually in order to ensure that their children are looked after financially. The financial strain that devolves on parents these days was never experienced years ago when it was not necessary to keep children at school for a longer period.
Parents are very anxious to ensure that, in this very competitive age when scientific and technical education is so important, their children receive the best possible education. With secondary education now extending beyong the age of sixteen years, it is essential that appropriate endowment benefits should be provided. These benefits will assist parents in their endeavour to ensure that their children have the best educational facilities that are available and that their children will be kept out of dead-end jobs, if possible. One reason why the Minister for Social Services is to be commended for bringing down this bill is that parents will be given a greater opportunity to guide their children along worth-while avenues, to ensure that their good characters are maintained, to see that they do not get into deadend jobs and to reduce child delinquency, if possible. This measure goes a long way towards raising the standard of living not only of our young people but of the Australian people generally. That is of supreme national importance.
Last week I was accosted - I think I can use that word appropriately - by an age pensioner who was very concerned that there should be no means test on this child endowment benefit that is being extended to parents of student children. He was very disturbed that although a means test was applied to the age pension none was applied to child endowment. This is an issue which concerns many age pensioners who feel that the Government is being overgenerous towards the parents of young children. It would be impracticable, and I suggest ridiculous, to impose a means test to separate the parents who would be entitled to child endowment from those who would not. You have only to consider the difficulty and the cost of administering a means test, not to mention a number of other aspects, to realize that a means test is completely unnecessary. As my colleague the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) has reminded me, the savings made would be infinitesimal.
I am proud to say that the Menzies Government has always endeavoured to assist the family man and the youth of Australia. The people’s acceptance of the Government’s policy relating to the family man and our youth, which was advanced during the recent election campaign, shows that the people are prepared to rely on this Government to do the right thing at all times by the family man and by the youth of Australia. The Menzies Government is a government in which the family man can place his trust. As one can readily appreciate, families can be measured among Australia’s greatest assets, so they are entitled to all the assistance that can be given to them.
It is interesting to note that to meet the cost of the provisions of this bill the National Welfare Fund will be increased to £430,000,000 during the current year. This amount will include £18,000,000 to cover the cost of the benefits provided by this measure. The new child endowment sector of the fund will face an outlay of £94,600,000. The Government is very conscious of the amount that it will have to provide for these benefits, but it appreciates that the cost is by no means outrageous but is well within the ability of the Treasury to pay.
No one will doubt that this measure deserves unanimous acceptance. It will go a long way towards assisting the family man and his children. I conclude my support of the bill by repeating the following passage in the Minister’s second-reading speech: -
The passage of the present bill will represent another notable advance in the history of social services in this country.
And so it will!
.- I rise to support the bill insofar as it makes some reasonable provision for certain classes of young people. However, like other Opposition members, I want to indicate that in my estimation the bill falls very far short of what is required.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) spoke of the golden opportunities that the Labour Party had when it was in office to provide better social services than it did. I remind the honorable member and others who might be inclined to think as he does that the years 1941’ to lt. . li . 3 i? 1949 were very difficult years for Australia. The Labour Party led this country in a fight, first, to survive the greatest war that the world had ever known, and secondly, to rehabilitate and return to civilian life over 1,000,000 men and women, when the war ended. In a moment I shall refer to what the Labour Party did between 1941 and 1949.
I am rather intrigued by the honorable member’s reference to this bill as providing some inducement to parents to have larger families. If a grant of 5s. a week to a family of three children is regarded as an inducement to have a larger family, I think the Government is guilty of a grave misjudgment. The honorable member also mentioned that the bill will provide a far better standard of living than the people currently enjoy. I shall point out in the course of my remarks that this is not an opinion that I hold and I dare say it is not an opinion which would be held by many families or breadwinners in the community.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) always seems to be provocative. He introduced the bill in the following very provocative manner: -
Over the years, the Liberal-Country Party Government has had an outstanding record in the field of social services and, indeed, can take the major credit for the beneficence of our social service laws to-day.
He stated subsequently that the Government had increased age, invalid and widows’ pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits - to a level of which we are justifiably proud.
He might be proud of it. Some members of the Government parties might be proud of it, but I am sure that it does not give great satisfaction to those who have to rely on these benefits. A married pensioner couple, for instance, who receive £5 5s. a week each in this age of great prosperity, of which we have been constantly reminded, would not feel very happy about it. Neither would the single pensioner battling to pay rates on his home and to maintain himself on £5 15s. a week; neither would the wife of an invalid pensioner who, not eligible for a pension, has to rely on £3 a week to keep herself. In other words, an adult man and woman, one of whom is invalid, are expected to live on £8 5s. a week. Is this beneficence? Is this the thing of which the Government can be proud? Does the Government really feel proud that it gives an unemployed adult male or female £4 2s. 6d. a week on which to live during the difficult time of trying to secure employment? Is £4 2s. 6d. the measure of the Government’s beneficence? Is £7 12s. 6d. on which a married couple have to eke out a living the measure of the Government’s beneficence?
I indicated that I would challenge the Government’s right to call itself the administration which has made the major contribution to social services in Australia. Let us look at the record objectively. I shall enumerate the social service measures which have been introduced by an Australian Labour Party government. The first was the invalid pension which was introduced in 1910 by the Fisher Labour Government. The second was the maternity allowance which was introduced in 1912, also by the Fisher Labour Government. The third was the widows’ pension which was introduced in 1942 - during the war - by the Curtin Labour Government. I remind the House at this stage that unfortunately Labour governments have been rather rare in Australia, but let me mention now the contributions to social services which the Labour Government .made during the last war. The fourth measure of assistance was the funeral benefit for pensioners which was introduced by the Curtin Labour Government in 1943 and which has remained unchanged since then. The fifth was the allowance for wives and children of invalid pensioners which was introduced for the first time in 1943 by the Curtin Labour Government.
The sixth of these benefits was the unemployment benefit, which was introduced in 1944 under the Curtin Labour Government and which was carried into effect in 1945 under the Chifley Labour Government. The seventh was the sickness benefit, which was likewise brought in when the Budget was presented in 1945. The eighth was the special benefit. Most of us in this House know the kind of unfortunate people who have to be provided for by this kind of benefit, which was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government in 1945. All these benefits were introduced in the golden days of Labour rule, during the most trying period of this country’s history. The ninth, , of these achievements was the Commonwealth
Rehabilitation Service which has been applauded so generously by all of us in this House and which has been the means of bringing back into ordinary civilian life people who have been unfortunate enough to suffer injury. This service was inaugurated in 1948 by the Chifley Labour Government.
That is not a bad record, is it? On the facts I have disclosed it is obvious that the main conception of social services in this country and the major legislation in this field have sprung from Labour in office on the lather unfortunately rare occasions on which Labour has been in office. In addition, most of this legislation was introduced during either the First World War or the Second World War. And what has this Government done? It has improved on those legislative efforts, of course, because it has had to do so in order to keep Labour out of power. The Government prides itself on the fact that back in 1910 a tory government under Prime Minister Deakin introduced the age pension. I am not going into the details or the history of the introduction of that legislation, when the Deakin Government had to make a deal with the Australian Labour Party in order even to survive at that time. It went out of office, as a matter of fact, only a few months after it had introduced the age pension legislation of 1910.
Then I come to the introduction of child endowment, about which this Government has so often boasted. We have been reminded in this House several times that child endowment in Australia was in fact introduced in New South Wales by the Lang Labour Government in 1927, fourteen years before a tory Government ever thought of introducing it in the Commonwealth sphere. But I am intrigued when I think of the history of child endowment and of the cynical approach that toryism has brought to even this social service benefit. If you consider the three occasions on which a conservative Government has introduced or amended child endowment measures, you will come to the same conclusion, as I have, that a most cynical attitude has been displayed. What was the position in 1941? The Menzies Government was in power on the sufferance of two independent members . who ultimately tossed it out a short time after it brought in this legislation, if you look at the record of that time you will find that a distinguished member of the Menzies Government, Mr. Duncan-Hughes, the member for Wakefield, and also Mr. Archie Cameron stood up and strenuously opposed a measure to introduce child endowment. Mr. Duncan-Hughes said -
Many honorable members on this side of the House-
He meant the Menzies Government side - are just as enthusiastic about child endowment as a theory as are honorable members opposite, but very many people in this country are not satisfied that this is a suitable time for the introduction of such a proposal.
How often have we heard that story from tory governments. He went on to remind Prime Minister Menzies that he did not have any mandate to introduce child endowment, that he had not mentioned it in his election policy speech prior to the introduction of the legislation into the House.
So in 1941 we had the introduction of the bill into this House by a government hanging by a thread, desperately trying to keep in office. In that situation the Government introduced the legislation more or less out of the blue. When was the next instalment? In 1950, child endowment was granted for the first child. At that time we saw the Liberal-Country Party coalition in opposition and desperately trying to get into office, after being in the wilderness for eight years. It offered to introduce child endowment for the first child, got itself elected to office and brought down the necessary legislation. But since then fourteen years have elapsed and the Government has done nothing whatsoever about this matter in the meantime. Is not this the height of cynicism? If it was necessary or worth while in 1950 to provide for the first child, why is it not necessary or worth while now? If it was thought necessary to help some families having one child or two children in 1950, why is it not thought necessary to do so now? What has happened in the meantime to make that unnecessary? This, as I say, is the second demonstration of the cynical approach of this Government towards child endowment. Then comes the third illustration. The Government existed in this place throughout the last Parliam’ent by almost the narrowest possible majority, and once again it came up to the barrier and met the challenge of the Opposition by offering a third instalment of child endowment. If the Government can take satisfaction from this kind of approach to legislation, it is not a satisfaction that I envy them.
This bill is in three parts. The first part provides for an increase of 5s. a week for the third and subsequent children, the rate being lifted from 10s. to 15s. a week. The second prong of the legislation provides a rise from 10s. to 15s. a week for all inmates of approved institutions. Thirdly, the legislation provides for the first time an amount of 15s. a week - I think this is probably the Government’s major contribution, and for this it deserves some credit - for fulltime students between the ages of 16 and 21 years attending schools, colleges or universities. But even in this matter the Government, to my mind, has severely limited the categories of eligible people. I shall say more about that aspect later.
Let us look now at the number of children involved in the first proposal, which provides an increase of 5s. a week for the third and subsequent children. The Minister has told us that more than 900,000 children under sixteen years of age, in 520,000 families, will benefit. The figures are worth remembering. The Minister told us that more than 900,000 will benefit, but he did not tell us how many will not benefit from this legislation. How many will be excluded from benefit? We have to supply that information to the House ourselves. In June, 1963, there were about 3,430,000 endowed children in Australia, from slightly more than 1,500,000 families. Of those 3,500,000 children- in round figures - 2,500,000 will get nothing under this legislation. These are 2,500,000 children under sixteen years of age whose standard of living was going to be improved by this legislation, which was also supposed to represent an inducement to parents to have bigger families. Those children will get nothing at all from this legislation. To put it in a way that can be more readily appreciated, 73 per cent, of children will get no benefit at all from this legislation.
This information may help to put the legislation in some sort of perspective. As a matter of fact, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) now reminds me, the legislation is something of a confidence trick, and I think a good many people outside are now rubbing their eyes and finding that a lot of the measures being introduced by this Government do not appear now as they sounded when announced in the hustle and bustle of a quick election campaign. The 1,500,000 children of families with only one or two children are excluded straight away. But even where there are three or more children in the family, the first and second children get no benefit from this legislation. So we add 441 per cent, of children who are in families with only one or two children to the first and second children of families with three or more children, we find that 73 per cent, are to receive nothing at all from the proposed measure.
Honorable members opposite suggest that it is all very well for us to cry about what the Government is not doing, and they ask what the Labour Party was prepared to do. No doubt they will argue that whatever we were prepared to offer, the public was not prepared to accept us as a government, but that is not the whole truth of the matter. There were other important issues in the last election, apart from child endowment and social services, I remind the Government that with even a virtual landslide at the election, the Liberal Party and the Country Party received very few more votes than did the Labour Party. Had I realized that this issue would be raised I would have brought figures into the chamber to support my argument. Honorable members opposite cannot argue that the Democratic Labour Party supporters prefered the Government’s proposals to ours. If anything, the Democratic Labour Party proposals were more generous than those that we advanced, so let us give some perspective to this business of the Government being given a mandate for its social service proposals.
In this bill no increase is proposed for the first child, whereas Labour promised to provide Ils. a week. For the second child, Labour promised 19s. a week, whereas the Government promised nothing and is leaving the endowment at 10s. For the third and subsequent children the Labour Party promised 22s. a week, compared with 15s. which is to be provided by this legislation. Those figures will perhaps have even more meaning if 1 translate them into amounts per year. Under
Labour’s proposal, a family with only one child would have received £28 15s. a year in child endowment; the Government provides £13. Families with two children - 1 understand that there are 400,000 such childrent in the community - would have receieved £78 a year had Labour been returned, but they will have to be content with £39. I am sure that the extra £39 that would have been paid under a Labour Government would have been very handy, especially to those families in which children aged thirteen, fourteen or fifteen have to be clothed and maintained; these growing teenagers eat nearly as much as their parents do and cost even more to keep in shoes and other clothing.
Labour promised £135 4s. a year in child endowment for the family with three children, but the Government will provide only £78. Again, that is quite a difference. Under a Labour administration a family of four would have attracted £192 8s. a year in child endowment, but under this Government the payment will be only £113 - about £75 less. There are still many families with four children, and how much better off they would have been had a Labour government been elected last November!
A family with three children will receive a total increase of 5s. a week in child endowment. Divided among the three children, that 5s. comes to ls. 8d. each. That is the contribution that the honorable member for Warringah spoke of as giving a great lift to the standard of living. The extra ls. 8d. a week will not buy two pints of milk; it will not buy a decent pencil-case, and after all it is supposed to help families with education. It will not buy a decent exercise book each week. Yet this is the contribution that a family of three will receive at a time when, so we are told, we have never had it so good, we have never been so prosperous.
We have been told also that we must encourage people to have larger families. How they will be encouraged by the additional ls. 8d. per child per week! From the increased endowment the family with four children will receive 2s. 6d. per head per week as a result of this Government’s beneficence. The children will be able to have nearly two and a half pints of milk a week, unless the price rises as is threatened in Canberra where, I understand, there has been some trouble recently with milk deliveries. So, those families will not get much help from this Government.
I come now to the second proposal, for which I think the Government deserves credit. The bill proposes to increase from 10s. to 15s. the endowment paid for children who are inmates of approved institutions. I think that provision is reasonably fair, though probably a Labour administration would have given more. However, I shall not quibble about that. There are 25,500 such children in the community. I think the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) had a point when he referred to children with special problems who have been maintained at home. Perhaps something could be done to give them the maximum rate, irrespective of the size of the family.
The third proposal is the one that will do the most good. Endowment of 15s. a week is to be paid in respect of full-time students between 16 and 21 years. However, there are limitations. This proposal will benefit students attending universities or attending certain colleges which are not very explicitly defined in the bill. It will benefit also children who are continuing their full-time secondary schooling. So the three categories to be included are the children attending universities, secondary schools and some kinds of colleges, but with the proviso that the child cannot be a bonded student and cannot be in part-time employment. This immediately disqualifies one of the most obvious groups. I refer to students at teacher training colleges. There are between 19,000 and 20,000 students in this category. We have been reminded on all sides of the dearth of qualified teachers in Australia and we recognize that any programme that is a genuine attempt to uplift education must depend on teachers and lecturers.
The new member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) reminded the House the other night that the real problem in Australia to-day is the lack of adequate teaching staff. It was to the honorable member’s credit that he raised this point. Yet the Government specifically excludes trainee teachers from its child endowment proposals. I think this restriction is rather hard. What is the criterion by which these payments are to be made? Is it not that the students need assistance and encouragement to take further education? If that is the criterion, why not include trainee teachers in those eligible for the endowment?
Many of these trainees receive less than holders of Commonwealth scholarships receive as living allowances - not forgetting that those persons have to face a means test. Many trainee teachers receive substantially less than do those on Commonwealth scholarships and they are equally full-time students. They need the money and they need the encouragement to go on with their education. Furthermore, the community needs their services. Why are they not included? Honorable members will have to wait for an answer to that because, although the question has been raised a few times already to-day, no Government supporter has so far explained why teacher trainees are excluded.
The same principle applies to a lesser degree to cadets or nurses in training. Nobody would suggest that these people, especially in their first two year’s of training, are receiving any princely sum. They should be encouraged to go on with their training, but in more cases than not they need assistance to enable them to do so. The same can be said about apprentices. Practically every day in this House we listen to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) telling us there is a dearth of skilled tradesmen, technicians and technologists in this country. We are prepared to allocate large sums of money in order to go all over the world trying to induce skilled people from other countries to come to Australia, but we are not doing enough for our own chidren. We are not helping them.
This measure does not do one thing to help young persons going into apprenticeships. It does not help young people who get £5 17s. 6d. a week in the first year of their apprenticeship - as is the case of apprentice carpenters, and for all I know apprentices in some other trades may get even less. They will get no inducement out of this. It might not be necessary to give them inducements right through to the end of their apprenticeships, but the Government could have given them inducements until they are eighteen years of age, because up to that age they are at least on a par with and not above youths who have the Commonwealth scholarship living allowance. I have every sympathy in the world for people doing university courses, with the difficulties of the means test applying to their living allowance, but it is still possible for the university student - if he wants to do so - to spend at least three months in full-time employment. As far as I can see there is nothing in the provisions of this bill to debar him from doing that. Many students have done it. I know from personal experience that they finish their examinations at the end of November or the beginning of December and work right through until the beginning of the university term, about the middle of March in the next year. They are in that position, but teacher trainees are not, and I can speak with some authority on this, as one who lectured in a teacher training establishment. Teacher trainees have, more often than not, to spend at least two weeks of their vacation at teaching practice in schools under the supervision of the headmaster and the staff. They have not the same opportunities. I am glad to see that some people will benefit from this measure.
I am also very glad that, whilst the Government rejected the approach of the Opposition for so long, it did come up to the barrier when the chips were really down and it had to fight desperately to survive. Then it came up with these promises and, even though they might appear pretty cynical, I think the results are what really matter. Some people are going to benefit by this legislation, lt will be a help to students in this day and age when so many secondary school students will be staying on to complete the fifth or sixth year of schooling and when perhaps most will go through the four years secondary school programme - as most of them will in New South Wales in future - which means that some will be beyond sixteen years of age before they finish the course. The measure will be a help, and to that extent it is welcome but, as I have tried to indicate, it will not do what members on the Government side have tried to persuade us it will do. There is a lot more to be done, and I hope the Government will not wait until it is on the threshhold of defeat before its next effort in this direction.
.- It has been suggested that the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Australian people, but let the House not be misled. Let it be quite clear that it was stated in the policy speech of the Liberal Party, delivered by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in November, that child endowment would be increased to 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children in each Australian family, and that endowment at the rate of 15s. a week would be paid for children between the ages of 16 and 21 years receiving full-time education at schools, colleges or universities. The proposal was designed to assist parents and to ensure that children continue and complete secondary and tertiary education. There is no need to clarify the situation further.
This measure will cost the Government approximately £17,500,000 per year. Let us compare that with what was put before the people by the Opposition during the election campaign. Expenditure to be incurred in this regard under the Opposition’s policy was to amount to £80,000,000. This legislation will stand on its own feet as prudent and well timed. It is a welltimed addition to the social welfare of the community, where it is most needed. It will encourage people to have larger families and will give encouragement to those who are prepared to seek and pursue a higher degree of education. It is prudent because it does not add to the rate of taxation, and it bears no tendency towards inflation when the money provided enters the financial stream of the economy. The Opposition is very much inclined to overlook this facet when putting its arguments. One of the most graphic impressions one receives in his early days in this House is the lack of penetration in the arguments and proposals put forward by the Opposition. The Opposition’s story now is a different story from what was put to the electors by the Opposition before the last election. What effect would the £80,000,000 which the Opposition proposed to put into the economy have had? It would have done irreparable damage to all facets of the economy. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), in leading the debate for the Opposition, reminded the House that in July he suggested a 5s. increase. Of course Opposition members say that what the Government is doing is not enough, or that they themselves thought of the improvement first. The honorable member for Grayndler trotted out this same basis for argument. He said that he had proposed in July or August that the payment should be increased by 5s. The £80,000,000 was mentioned, but with no thought of timing or of the effect on the economy. No thought was given by the Opposition to what had already been presented in the previous Budget - something which was a prudent inflow into the economy. I am emphasizing the fact of the prudent inflow, and why not? What is the value of an increase to the people who receive it and need it most if prices spiral out of all proportion and it becomes absolutely useless? Of course the Opposition can suggest these improvements first! What about the claims staked out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his policy speech? By making promises honorable members opposite could stake out claims to cover every improvement made in the next ten years. The Opposition can suggest all sorts of things first, because it will probably not get into government for years. It can afford to make promises, knowing full well that it will never get the opportunity to carry them out. Once again there is no thought of timing as far as the economy is concerned, but an almost complete irresponsibility.
It is one thing to make suggestions and promises and another thing to implement them. The people, do not forget, had the situation clearly before them at the last election and made their decision. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), apart from suggesting that the people of Australia had the wool pulled over their eyes, got onto this story about a family of five receiving an increase of only ls. 8d. for each of three children. The honorable member for Grayndler got onto it earlier in the day, also. But all honorable members opposite know that child endowment was implemented on the basis of spreading it over the family, and that the whole family should be taken into consideration. This story about ls. 8d. which honorable members trot out is ineffectual and as old as hades. The honorable member for Grayndler also came out with the story about retrospective payments. Because the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has seen fit to make payments retrospective, the Opposition says that we have again stolen its thunder. Of course, the Opposition can bring these things out at any stage it wishes. On this occasion it has ignored the facts that we promised these things on 30th November and that the Minister got about his business and made a statement to the. people by the middle of January about all the factors associated with the question. There is no compliment to the Minister on this occasion because he got under way quickly with the implementation of what had been promised. Opposition members would not wait to think that, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has said, the proper time to adopt the proposal officially and put it into effect is when the Budget is presented in August. In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me say to honorable members opposite: Do no forget that, in effect, the Australian people have already ratified this bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish particularly to discuss this bill, but my remarks will be reasonably brief. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), opening his second-reading speech, said that this LiberalAustralian Country Party Government has an outstanding record in the field of social services. I would be the first to agree that, in most parts of the field of social services, this Government certainly has a record. That applies particularly to the field of child endowment, with which this measure is concerned. The present Government’s record in relation to child endowment will go down in history, Sir. It is such that no one in Australia would ever want to see it broken. In fact, everybody would be very disappointed and very disgusted if any other government went within even twelve years of the record of the present Government. This Administration has the sorry record of having spent more than fourteen consecutive years in office without altering the rates of child endowment.
The Minister, apparently, is very proud of the Government’s record in this respect. He is very proud, apparently, in the knowledge that, for fourteen years, this Government has denied to the children of Australia proper rates of child endowment. He is proud, apparently, to be able to point out to the people of Australia that the present Government, for fourteen years, has torpedoed all the efforts of the Australian Labour Party to have the rates of child endowment raised to levels commensurate with the cost of living. At every opportunity, the Australian Labour Party has endeavoured to have accepted in this House amendments to social services legislation which, had they been accepted by the Government, would have given to pensioners or parents and children, as the case may be, the benefit of adequate social service payments, and would have restored the purchasing power of those payments to a level commensurate with the cost of living.
I have in my hand a list of the amendments that have been proposed. I notice that on at least thirteen occasions since 1951 - at least once in every year - the Labour Party has tried to prevail on this Government to do the right thing and to increase social service benefits adequately. But, on every occasion, Government supporters and Ministers have voted in a body against the propositions put forward by the Labour Party. As a result, social service benefits in this country are well below the level at Which they should be. This applies particularly to the rates of child endowment. For fourteen long years, people of Australia have waited for this Government to make some move in relation to child endowment and, at long last, the Government has made a move. But only because it has been forced to do so. And what a miserable and discriminatory move it is. Nothing is to be done for the first and second children and only 5s. a week more is to be paid for the third and subsequent children.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, also claimed that this Government can take a major share of the credit for the beneficence of our social service laws to-day. So let us go a little further into the Government’s record and see where the credit should go in respect of several other features of our social services. Let us, for a start, look at this Government’s record in relation to the maternity allowance, which affects the same people that benefit by child endowment. This represents another field of social services in which the Government has made no adjustments during its fourteen consecutive years in office. Apparently, the Minister is very proud of the.. Government’s record in this field of social services also. Who should receive the credit for the introduction of the maternity allowance? Surely it must go to the Australian Labour Party, which introduced this benefit in 1912. The Labour Government, in 1943, raised the rates of this allowance to the level at which they stand to-day. How can this Government claim any credit for being satisfied, during fourteen consecutive years in office, to leave the rates at the levels to which they were raised in 1943 by the Labour Government? Twenty years have gone by without any increase. Yet the Minister said that he was very proud of the Government’s efforts. Let us look at the history of the funeral benefit. Every one knows - there can be no denying the fact - that to-day the cost of a funeral is at least three times the cost of a funeral in 1943. This Government can take no credit in these fields of social services, Sir. But it must be prepared to meet severe criticism for not having done anything to raise the rates of benefit.
Surely the Government does not expect to be applauded for the discriminatory action that it took in relation to age and invalid pensioners. Surely the Minister will not take any credit to himself for the part that he played in the proposal under which married age and invalid pensioners each receive 10s. a week less than is paid to their single counterparts, even though the living costs of married pensioners may be greater than those of single pensioners. Is the Government proud of the fact that it was the first administration to impose a means test on the entitlement to pensioner medical cards? Is the Minister proud of the fact that that means test has never been eased since it was introduced. Is he proud also of the fact that the present Government has never eased the general means test on pensioners? The maximum permissible income under this means test now stands at £3 10s. a week, but the current purchasing power of this sum is well below the purchasing power that it had in 1954 when the rate was fixed. To restore purchasing power, the maximum permissible income should be raised to £4 4s. a week. This Government, according to the Minister, takes pride and pleasure in the fact that it has done exactly nothing to restore the purchasing power of pensioners! All T can say to the Minister in reply to the statements made in his second-reading speech is that either he has a very queer sense of pride or he has been painting a false picture for so long that he has now come to believe in it himself.
My colleague, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), mentioned all the social service measures for which the Australian Labour Party can take credit. Therefore, I do not intend to pursue the matter further. It is well proved that the Labour Party has a very distinguished record in social services. That record is in sharp contrast to the bleak and black record of the present Government. The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who was at the time Minister for Labour and National Service, in his second-reading speech on the Child Endowment Bill 1941, and referring to that bill, said -
Honorable members are asked to accept it also as one of the few measures of social progress that it is possible to introduce in time of war and to regard it as a foretaste and pledge of the full reconstruction that will be possible when we can again turn our surplus productive forces to the purposes of peace.
What has happened with respect to that pledge made in 1941 by a predecessor of this Liberal-Country Party Government? Where is the full reconstruction that the people were promised then? In fact, the Australian Labour Party honoured the pledge given in 1941 by its political opponents. In 1945, Labour raised the child endowment benefit, and raised it further in 1948. In 1943, the Labour Party also increased the rates of the maternity allowance and introduced the funeral benefit. So the pledge given in 1941 by Labour’s political opponents was honoured by Labour itself. This Government, however, has completely disregarded the promises made in 1941. It has thrown them aside. The pledge given then means exactly nothing to this Government. That, of course, is not surprising. That sort of attitude is quite usual for this Government.
In 1941, the present Treasurer said also that any measure designed to promote an increase in population should be welcomed. Apparently, child endowment was introduced for the purpose of promoting an increase in the population. The present Government, however, does not subscribe to that view any more, and has not, done so for the last fourteen years’, because it has certainly done nothing in relation to child endowment that would provide any incentive to increase the population. Over the years, it has become quite evident that this Government does not really believe in child endowment, let alone in higher rates of child endowment. The fact that during its fourteen consecutive years of office it has done exactly nothing about increasing the rate of endowment is proof of of its attitude. But at last it has been forced into the position where it has had to do something. It has been forced into this position purely by the pressure exerted by the Opposition. We on this side of the House are far from satisfied with the Government’s niggardly approach to the real purpose of child endowment and that is to assist the young families.
The Minister in his second-reading speech said that child endowment touches more homes in Australia than any other social service benefit does. I point out that the maternity allowance also would touch many homes, although at an earlier stage and not for so long. Even though the Minister pointed to the importance of child endowment, both he and his Government have failed to give to the people all that they are entitled to receive. The Government has completely neglected the first and second children of a family. Endowment for the first child will continue at the same rate as that which applied away back in 1950 - fourteen years ago. The amount for the second child will remain the same as it was in 1948 - sixteen years ago. If the legislation of 1941, which granted endowment to all children under sixteen years of age in excess of one in the family, was justified and if the increases of 1945 and 1948 were justified - I am sure that no one, not even honorable members opposite, would have the courage to say they were not justified - surely there must be justification to-day to increase the amount for the second child to a figure that would give to this part of child endowment the purchasing power that it had in 1948. Similarly, if this Liberal-Australian Country Party Government was justified in granting endowment for the first child in 1950, there must be justification to-day to increase the amount for the first child from 5s. to a figure that would have the same purchasing power as the 5s. had in 1950.
The bill provides that the rate for the third and subsequent children will be increased by 5s. The only argument I have about this is that the amount of the increase is insufficient. The increase of 5s. falls far short of the amount that is needed to restore to child endowment for these children the value that the 10s. had in 1948 and for a couple of years afterwards. To give endowment the same value as it had in earlier years, the rate for the third child should be increased to at least 20s. 1 think the amount should be nearer to 22s., but it should be at least 20s. A similar amount should be given for the second child and the rate for the first child should be at least 10s. The decision of this Government will grant to a family of three children only the amount that should be paid to a family of two children.
I thought that the Minister would tell us why his Government did not propose to increase the payments for the first and second children and why it was decided to make the third child the commencing point for the increase. I also expected to hear the processes of reasoning by which the Government arrived at the figure of 5s. as the amount by which the rate for the third and subsequent children should be increased. But the Minister was quite silent on these points. If he had spent a little time in explaining them instead of trying to fool the people into believing that his Government plays the role of the saviour in social services, we may have been in a better position to appreciate what is being done by the Government.
There is no background and no foundation for a simple increase of 5s. Nothing done or argued prior to 1950 gives a basis for such a small increase to-day and certainly nothing has happened during the fourteen years of office of this Government to suggest that such a figure would be set, except, of course, that the Government always seems to adopt the attitude that, if a social service benefit should be increased by a certain amount, it will give half the amount that is really needed. That seems to have happened in this instance. The Government and the Minister know that the proper increase for the third and subsequent children is really no less than 10s. and they have, therefore, granted half the appropriate increase. Apparently the Minister is a great exponent of the old saying that half a loaf is better than none.
We give our support to that part of the bill which seeks to increase the endowment for the third and subsequent children from 10s. to 15s., but in doing so we wish to place on record our claim that the amount is not as large as it should be. We recommend that it be increased to at least 20s. While I am on the subject of children under sixteen years, let me say that we believe the Government has treated the first and second children of a family most unfairly and without good reason. The rates of endowment for these children should also have been increased and not left left at the amounts they were fourteen and sixteen years ago. The Government, by failing to grant these increases, has dealt most unfairly with a section of the community and in doing so has failed, and deliberately failed, to observe the proper and obvious purpose of child endowment.
I move now to the proposition that endowment should be paid to persons over the age of sixteen years but under the age of 21 years who are full-time students. It seems to me that the Government for some obscure reason is using the social services legislation and the Department of Social Services as vehicles to give assistance for education when this subject could more properly be dealt with under other legislation. One section of the community should not be dealt with when so many sections really need assistance for education purposes. I give my wholehearted support to the idea that the Government should provide more help for the education of our youths, particularly those whose parents, because of their circumstances, are unable to provide the finance needed to give their children the proper opportunities to become fully educated. I do not think that any child or young person should be denied this opportunity simply because the parents or guardians, as the case may be, are unable to make the necessary provisions. In fact, I agree with and support the proposition that it is the duty of the Government to do all that is necessary to ensure that young people receive a proper education, but the opportunity should be given to all and not merely to a few, as this bill proposes.
There can be no doubt that as the years go by it will become more and more necessary for people to have a very high standard of education, and we will find that the cost of education and the increased time taken to obtain the necessary education will mean that many young people will be denied the opportunity to obtain a suitable education unless governments provide some additional assistance. But the assistance that will be required will go beyond the assistance provided in this bill. Because of this, I believe that some legislation other than the Social Services Act should be used for this purpose.
The Minister in his second-reading speech made some rather peculiar remarks and some contradictory remarks. He said - . . under the existing provisions of the Social Services Act endowment ceases to be payable when a child reaches sixteen years of age. The scheme is thus confined to providing some assistance towards the financial burdens imposed by the rearing of children up to that age. 1 believe that the scheme of child endowment should continue to be confined to those issues and that assistance for education for persons beyond the age of sixteen years should be provided by some other legislation. Many problems arise when assistance is provided for the education of children and they cannot be dealt with properly under legislation such as that now before us. Surely it must be agreed that generally speaking parents most need financial assistance when raising their children to the age of sixteen years. That is the time when their most serious problems arise, in the first years of marriage and of rearing children. In those years in addition to meeting the children’s needs parents are faced with the financial difficulty involved in paying off a house and furniture and meeting other commitments associated with the early years of marriage. After about eighteen years of marriage most parents are in a more favorable position. The early years of marriage are important not only to the parents but also to the children. If the children are not provided with a good home life and a reasonably good early education they are most unlikely to make much of a mark in later years.
This Government has overlooked or deliberately rejected the fact that further endowment for the early children of a marriage may be far more beneficial than assis tance after a family has been raised. If parents are assisted during the early years of marriage they are not only enabled to establish themselves more quickly but also given an opportunity to plan for the future. That is a very important reason why the Government should have increased the child endowment for the first and second children of a family. If Government supporters are honest in their approach to the future of our children, as the Minister took great pains to point out in his second-reading speech, and if they are interested in a good education for children, why did they not see to it that in the early stages of marriage parents of young children receive assistance additional to the amounts that have been paid for about the last fourteen years? The purpose of the extension of endowment payment to persons beyond sixteen years can be described only as an encouragement to a higher standard of education; but surely it should be encouragement to all our young people and not to a certain section only. Irrespective of type of education and the resultant occupations, all the young people should qualify for the additional payments, provided they are engaged in an educational pursuit in keeping with their chosen occupations and with their ability to learn. That is one reason why I feel that it is too big a problem to cover persons to the age of 21 years. It should be broadened to take in all children who have the desire to learn. We must encourage all education because in the not too distant future Australia will require of its people generally, and not simply of an odd section, a much higher standard of education than has been the rule in the past.
We must remember that the need for a better standard of education will be felt by a large number of our young people who will not be able to acquire it as full-time students at a college or university Accommodation is not available for them all. There are others for whom the type of training they want is not available to them as full-time students. We should not deny them the right to learn if they want to learn. We should not deny them the right to assistance that is extended to other young people. This applies particularly to people in the country; and this aspect should have been examined by the Government. Country people desire their children to become apprentices or trainee teachers, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) so strongly argued. In many cases facilities are not close to their homes and they must travel to a city or centre. A very high additional cost to their parents is involved. In attempting to follow their chosen professions and to improve their education generally such young people are denied by the Government the assistance that it is prepared to give to another section of the community.
While the Minister said that improvement in education is of national importance and of great concern to all parents who are conscious of their responsibilities for the future of their children, he is not prepared to give to them all equal opportunity. 1 do not think it is too much to ask that all young people be given an equal opportunity to learn if they want to learn. The honorable member for Barton pointed out in relation to the first provision of the act concerning children under sixteen years of age, that only about 27 per cent, of such children will receive any benefit from the legislation. It is not too much to ask that all our young people be given assistance and that the Government pay some heed to their needs. No one would deny that to-day there is a very great need for tradesmen, nurses and teachers. It is very likely that the need for these people is as great as it is for solicitors. When I see among honorable members opposite some who are solicitors, this seems to be particularly true. I am sure that the need for tradesmen is just as great as is that for professional people in the higher income bracket. There is no reason whatsoever why the Government should not see to it that everything possible is done to ensure that we have sufficient” tradesmen.
I support the proposal to assist young people with their education. However, I feel that support could have been provided under a different title and to a much larger number of people.
– And by another government.
– Yes. If we had a Labour government there would be no argument on that point. I feel that the Government’s proposal to extend benefits to persons up to 21 years makes the title of the legislation look rather silly, lt is stretching the definition of child. Surely that term does not mean young men of about 21 years of age. As the Minister himself pointed out, the purpose of child endowment is to help parents of children in their early years. It seems to me to be rather silly that a young man who is a month under the age of 21 years should be paid benefits under legislation relating to children. A rather interesting position could arise. Imagine the case of a young man who is a full-time student and is married and is the father of a child. He, the father of the child, would attract 15s. a week endowment as a student child whilst his child would attract endowment of only 5s. Or, perhaps, the grandmother of the child could still be considered as having control and custody of the child’s father - her son - in which case she would be entitled to collect the 15s. In such a case, if the father had to be placed in the custody and control of his mother he could not have control and custody of his own child. Thus his mother would have to have control of his child and would qualify to receive the endowment of 5s., payable in respect of the child.
I support the proposal to provide additional endowment for full-time students up to the age of 21 years, but I strongly disapprove of the Government’s action in discriminating against other young people who wish to further their education but are barred from receiving such assistance. I sincerely hope that at the committee stage, when members on this side of the chamber will point out anomalies in the proposal, the Government will take heed and do justice to all students and not just a few. I hope that the Minister will be big enough - particularly in view of the things he said in his second-reading speech - to do the right thing.
.- I open my speech by congratulating the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) on presenting what is clearly a very carefully prepared bill. Obviously he has gone to a good deal of trouble to cover all contingencies so that the people who really require assistance will receive it. Over the years that this Government has been in power there has been a tremendous increase in social service benefits. Previous speakers on both sides of the House have’ had to agree with that. There is no doubt at all ! ‘ that social service benefits have more thakept pace with rising costs. To-day, the recipients of benefits are far better off than they have ever been before.
We should look very seriously at our social service benefits and ask ourselves what really is the aim of social services legislation. As I see it, the aim is to assist people who cannot fend for themselves - the unfortunate, the sick, the aged and the incapacitated. If we continue as we appear to be going at present, we will reach the stage where we will be taking money out of one pocket and putting half of it back in the other. I do not need to tell the House that a great army is required to collect taxes and another great army is required to pay them back in social service benefits. Where does the money required to pay social service benefits come from? It has to come from taxation.
We have heard honorable members opposite to-day and to-night talking about what they would have done had they been in power. It is easy to make promises when you know that you have no chance of being in power, and so will never have to carry them out. Had members of the Labour Party been required to carry out their promises, they would have had to increase taxation tremendously. Eventually, we would be progressing towards a socialist state. I am very sure that the people of this country do not want such a state. The very reason for the Government’s win at the election was that the people did not want a socialist state.
I cast my mind back to the days when I first became interested in politics. That was away back in the days when Mr. Dedman represented Corio. He made that very famous statement about not wanting to make a race of little capitalists by making it possible for people to own their own homes. For that very reason, Mr. Dedman’s name will never die in Corio. That electorate, because of its physical characteristics, should be anything but a Government seat, but it is still a Government seat, very largely because of Mr. Dedman’s statement and the fact that the people of Australia do not want socialism at any price. I remind honorable members opposite that if they look at any socialist country to-day they will find that the people on the lower wage levels are much!, worse -off than are similar people under our system.
I deplore the tendency that is apparent in Australia to-day to cry to the Government for assistance on every occasion. The Government is asked to look after people from the cradle to the grave. We are losing our spirit of enterprise and adventure and our backbone because we are not prepared to get out and do something for ourselves. If we ask the Government to provide for our children throughout their lives - which is the logical conclusion of the suggestion made by some members of the Opposition - we will have socialism in Australia overnight. The purpose of this legislation is, by the payment of special benefits, to encourage people to have larger families and to give their children a higher education. This country desperately needs young people with the best education that it is possible to give them. That is of very great national importance.
To-night we have heard quite a lot of criticism and abuse from the Opposition. When a man descends to abuse it is reasonable to assume that he has no case. I have heard several Opposition speakers and I have not heard ohe word of constructive criticism, from them. Their speeches have been full of abuse. When a man has no real argument, he descends to violent abuse, and this is all we have heard so far. This bill is a serious and sincere attempt to help the larger families, to help parents to give their children a better education and to help the less fortunate children in our institutions.
During this debate the Government has been criticized for abandoning a principle by making the increased benefits retrospective to 14th January. There was a very special and perfectly obvious reason for that. When, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made the promise to grant these increases, he made it to parents of children who might be continuing their education in the ensuing year. Knowing that they could depend on receiving this assistance they were able to decide whether their children would remain at school. That is the only reason why the legislation has been made retrospective. This is not a general departure from Government policy at all. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill. I congratulate the Minister on the presentation of the bill and upon his obvious sincerity in attempting to cover all contingencies in the bill.
– The Government has a mandate for the legislation that is before the House to-night. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) pointed out most effectively in opening the debate on this bill for the Opposition, the Government has had that mandate for the past fifteen years. One difference is that until now it has not done anything about that mandate. The only other difference, as you well know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that for the past fifteen years the Government has had a mandate to do far more in the child endowment field than it now proposes to do.
I am not quite sure in what year you were elected to the Parliament, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe that you were elected, as were so many other honorable members, on the pledge of the Menzies Government to maintain, and indeed to increase, the true value of all social services in Australia, The distinguished member for Angas (Mr. Downer), whom I see at the door of the chamber, knows very well that all honorable members who have sat on the Government side for the past fifteen years have quite cheerfully and quite cynically repudiated that pledge to the Australian people. I do not know that any one could have for them any feeling except one of complete contempt when one realizes that, having been elected on that pledge, each of them cynically repudiated it the moment the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) decided that it should not be carried out.
– Of course, you know that that is wrong.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that I know that that is wrong.
– Of course you do, because the Government has honored its pledge.
– I may be wrong - the honorable member for Mallee can correct me if I am - but I do not remember that each year he voted for the Opposition amendment to require the
Government to honour its pledge on child endowment.
– Because the Government was honouring it.
– The honorable member now states that the reason he did not vote for the Opposition amendment was because the Government was honouring its pledge on child endowment. The Government was elected on a pledge to maintain the full value of child endowment. When the Government was elected in 1949 the rate was 10s. for the second and subsequent children. That is still the rate, although the value of money has decreased by more than one-half. Yet the honorable member for Mallee dares to say in this House that the Government honoured its pledge on child endowment. He is silent now, and I understand the reason why. I wish he were not only silent but also a little ashamed.
Figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician show that if the Government had honoured its pledge on child endowment the rate for the first child now would be lis. a week instead of 5s., and for the second and subsequent children 22s. a week instead of 10s. Those are the amounts that the mothers of Australia have been cheated out of every week for the past fourteen years, in the case of the first child, and for the past fifteen years in the case of second and subsequent children. By its repudiation of its child endowment pledge the Government has deprived the mothers of Australia of just over £400,000,000 in child endowment which should have been paid to them in accordance with variations in the cost of living. The Government now is proposing an expenditure of £18,000,000 - £18,000,000 to be returned out of £400,000,000 of which the mothers have been robbed, as the price of the Government’s re-election to office. Perhaps this is not the most cynical deal that this Government has ever made, but it is equal to the most cynical.
Government supporters speak to-day, and will vote to-morrow, exactly like marionettes. They speak exactly contrary to the way in which they spoke last year, and they will vote completely contrary to the way in which they voted when the House divided last September and the way in which they have voted on this, issue every year for the past fifteen years f’t
– Like the people did on 30th November last?
– I hear the honorable member for Corangamite muttering in his beard. I have noticed with interest that he has been doing so all day. He hates even this proposal. He has no enthusiasm for it. He does not want child endowment for the third child to be increased to 15s. a week. He has never believed in it.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will address the Chair.
– I am addressing the Chair and I am telling the Chair that the honorable member for Corangamite has never believed in child endowment of 15s. for the third or any other child.
– That is not true.
– When did he ever say so, or when did he ever vote for it? The first time that he knew he believed in it was when he heard the speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on the air and he had to wait , until he read the newspaper next morning to confirm what be now found was his new political conviction, after having spoken and voted against it all these years. It is understandable that he growls in his beard to-night, because he still hates the proposal. He still has no enthusiasm for it, but even he will vote for it when the order is given to-morrow.
– It was in the policy speech.
– The honorable member for Phillip says that it was in the policy speech. Of course it was! That is where the mandate came from. All I am pointing out to the honorable member for Phillip and to the House is that neither he nor any other member of the Government parties believed in it, advocated it or knew about it until they found it in the policy speech. Prior to that, in all the years that the honorable member for Corangamite was in the House be spoke and voted against it, and he still would have been pre? pared to speak and vote against it if he had not discovered in the policy speech that all his political convictions had suddenly changed.
– Get on to something constructive.
– The honorable member has now asked me to get on to something constructive. I think it is constructive to stand Government members up on what they really believe on the child endowment issue.
– We have to make your speech for you by interjection.
– I do not wish you to interject. I should like to think for once that you would sit in silence and listen and learn and perhaps amend your political attitude on child endowment. I should like you to think back to the solemn pledge that was given in December, 1949, and instead of agreeing now to 15s. for the third child just because the Prime Minister happened to think it up a fortnight before the election, to decide for yourself what the true rate of child endowment should be, compare it with the cost of living figures which have been supplied by the Statistician, and for once vote in accordance with your own honest conviction instead of accepting from the Prime Minister’s lips what you are to believe, advocate and vote for in this chamber.
This proposal, of course, has considerable value. It will be of assistance to parents with three or more children. As has been pointed out by Opposition speakers to-day, it will give the family with three children an additional 5s. a week when, to restore the former value of child endowment, the family should be receiving an additional 27s. a week. To parents with full-time student children aged from 16 to 21 years it will give 15s. a week for five years, when in fact the parents have been deprived for sixteen years of the payments properly due to them in respect of those children.
This is an extraordinary situation. The parents of one child are told: “The appropriate amount that you are to receive to assist you in the upbringing and education of your child until he reaches the age of sixteen is 5s. a week. If you can manage to do that until he is sixteen years of age and then can manage to provide for his full-time education, then and only then you will receive 15s. a week “. The parents receive 5s. a week when the child is 15 years 11 months old and 15s. a week when it is 16 years 1 month old. Not one member on the Government side can justify that kind of logic or that kind of decision. But, of course, they do not need to do so, because they do not need to think. They do not need to have any convictions or beliefs of their own. They are simply parroting what was announced for them on the night of 14th November, or whatever night the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech, and are advocating now something that they did not believe in until that date.
I remind honorable members on the Government side that until the night of 14th November they all opposed Commonwealth aid for education below the university level. Now, suddenly, they favour it. Not one of them has changed his mind; not one of them has thought it out; not one of them apparently really cares about the truth or justice of this matter. All that concerned them was obtaining votes and their election to this Parliament. In that they were successful, so if that was their criterion they were justified. Until the night on which the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech every one of them - sitting members and new candidates alike - opposed any increase in child endowment. Every one of them was prepared, until 15th November, to oppose by his voice in the election campaign, any increase whatever in child endowment, and none of them knew until the morning of 15th November, or the night of 14th November, that from then on he was to be in favour of a payment of 15s. a week for the third child. Even the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) was quite prepared to act as the ventriloquist’s dummy and to echo the voice of the master ventriloquist. When it was decided that the payment thenceforward was to be 15s. a week, the honorable member for Mackellar swung straight into line. If big brother had decided that it was to be 17s. 6d. a week, the honorable member for Mackellar would just as readily have voted for and justified the payment of 17s. 6d. a week. If it had been decided to make the amount 12s. 6d. a week or £1 a week or any other amount, the honorable member for Mackellar would have declared himself in favour of it, even though he had had no voice whatever in making the decision, and even though he had opposed any increase by his voice and his vote during the whole time he has been in the Parliament.
Of course until the night of 14th November every member on the Government side was completely opposed even to marriage loans, to say nothing of outright housing gifts. Not one of them had contemplated justifying an outright housing gift to young married couples until he suddenly discovered that this was the policy to which he was from then on committed.
Former Senator McManus came out of the Prime Minister’s room a few days before the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech. I am referring to former Senator McManus of the Democratic Labour Party. He said, “ I have warned him that 1 cannot deliver the vote unless he matches Labour’s policy proposals on education, on child endowment and on housing “.
– Very interesting.
– Exactly. This was four days before the Prime Minister decided to incorporate these proposals in his policy speech. Mr. McManus was asked, Have you received the assurances you need on these questions? “ He replied, Wait until you see the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I think you will find it will contain some surprises.” And it certainly did. Then the Cabinet met-
– That is the first eleven.
– Yes, I am sorry, the first eleven. The Prime Minister announced these tawdry gimmicks which he proposed to incorporate in the speech for the purpose of gaining the votes he needed and the Democratic Labour Party support that he required. One of his Ministers - it is reported to have been the Minister for Defence - said, ‘ How can we now propose these things when not one of them was in our Budget of only a few weeks ago? “ The Prime Minister replied, “ The answer is simple; there was no election then “. Of course, that is a supreme example of political opportunism and cynicism, but it does contrast with the statement of the same Prime Minister in December, 1961. At that time the Prime Minister said -
We are a Government whose policies and ideas have been for twelve years put into practice. For us to come along now with a string of new promises would merely excite your ridicule.
That was the statement made by the Prime Minister in December, 1961, when on all the signs and portents he believed he was assured of election victory. But, of course, December, 1961, taught him a horrible lesson. So in November, 1.963, he ate every one of those words, and although his Budget had contained none of these proposals he put forward this string of new promises which he himself had said would only excite the ridicule of honest men.
To-night we have had several speeches from the Government side on this subject. We have not had a speech from the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), and I do not think we will have one. He is prepared to confine himself to gesticulations and interjections. He has not the political courage to get up and say where he stands on this issue. He has the political cowardice to sit where he now sits and to snipe, but not the courage to stand up and declare himself. But the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Bosman) spoke to-night. He spoke on the policy on which he has been elected, a policy about which he knew nothing until the night of 14th November. To-night he spoke in favour of it. He gave the House all the reasons why he thought this policy was the correct one and should be put into effect, and he sat down within five minutes. He could not speak for more than five minutes on this issue, and I take it that that was because he is so new to membership of this House on the Government side that he has not quite become accustomed yet to the completely cynical attitude represented by this bill and the proposals contained in it.
A candidate named the Reverend Malcolm Mackay woke up on the morning of 15th November to discover that he was to advocate proposals which he had opposed throughout the whole of his bigoted life. He is now in this Parliament as the member for Evans on the strength of repudiating convictions that he had so strongly held and so firmly and fervently expressed. If victory in an election is a sufficient reward, then he has obtained his reward in this Parliament.
– Haven’t you any sense of shame, to be calling a man a bigot when he is not here to defend himself?
– It is his place to be here to defend himself. This is an issue that I think is important to the people of Australia. I do not think there is any doubt that the gentleman did oppose for many years of his lifetime the proposals to which he suddenly found himself converted on the morning of 15th November, a conversion which brought about his election to this Parliament, replacing a man whom he will never replace in worth or stature in this House. Then we have heard to-night the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt), also a newcomer to the Parliament.
– Don’t be so bitter about your defeat.
– I am not bitter about our defeat. We were defeated; you did win, and you won in exactly the manner and by exactly the means which I am describing to the House to-night. There is no bitterness in that.
– Are you calling the Australian people fools? That is what you are doing, in effect.
– No, I am not calling the Australian people fools. I remind the honorable member for Phillip of words spoken by a man much greater than himself and much greater than I am. That man said that you can fool some of the people all the time and that you can fool all of the people some of the time, but that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. That is my answer to the honorable member for Phillip when he says that I am calling the Australian people fools. That is just not so.
– Order! The House will come to order. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will address the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will address the Chair and I will endeavour to ignore the disorderly interjections.
– Order! The honorable member for Mallee will get his chance.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Mallee will get his chance and I hope he will take it and try to justify himself. The honorable member for Hume was the one to whose remarks I was referring. In a way, his was a refreshing voice in the Parliament to-night. He spoke with the true voice of a mid-Victorian reactionary. His was the true voice of the Australian Country Party. He has not yet learned enough to conceal his true thoughts. To-night the honorable member for Hume equated the extension of social services with socialism. I should like to know whether any other member of the Country Party will have equal honesty and declare that that is his attitude also as a member of the Country Party. Government supporters have been very lively in their interjections, but when given the opportunity to support the statement made by the honorable member for Hume every one is silent.
– What was the statement again?
– He equated the extension of social services with socialism. The honorable member for Mallee is still silent.
– He is working it out.
– That is a very unkind remark, but 1 am sure that the honorable member will come up with an answer - perhaps to-morrow. The honorable member for Hume then went on to use some remarkable words in his reference to the Australian people, and 1 refer those words to the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston). He said that the Australian people were losing their spirit of enterprise, their character and their courage because they were not prepared any longer to go out and do something for themselves. That is a remarkable expression in this House. Does that represent the view of the Country Party, or is any one member of the Country Party prepared to repudiate that statement? Not one! They are not prepared to assert it or deny it. They are very willing and eager to interject, except when the thing is laid on the line and they are asked to declare themselves. Then, of course, they are completely silent. So tonight every Government supporter will cheerfully advocate and to-morrow vote for 15s. a week for the third and subsequent children^ under 16 years/i and for every student child between the ages of 16 and 21 years. Is there one honorable member opposite who is prepared to support 7s. 6d. instead of 5s. for the first child?
– They would not be allowed.
– Exactly; that is the answer. Is there one of them who would be prepared to advocate 12s. 6d. for the second child instead of 10s. - the figure that has remained unaltered for fifteen years? Not one of them answers, and again because he would not be allowed. Not one of them has freedom to express his own beliefs on the matter. Even the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), renowned in this House for his frank speaking, will agree with me that he does not believe that 15s. a week for the third child represents full justice. The honorable member for Wakefield will know that he was never consulted on this proposal before it was announced.
– If I disagree with it I have a full right to say so.
– The honorable member says that if he disagreed he would have a full right to say so, but he is not game to do it. He knows, as so many of his colleagues know, what happens to those who get out of line when big brother lays down what is to be done by the members of the Liberal and Country Parties in this House. I ask again: Is there one member on the Government side who is prepared to advocate 17s. 6d. instead of 15s. for the third and subsequent children? What is the magic of this figure of 15s., except that it was thought up in five minutes by the Prime Minister, without consulting any one, when the Democratic Labour Party representative told him that unless he produced these gimmicks the Democratic Labour Party could not deliver for him its preference votes on 30th November?
– No wonder you get ulcers.
– The honorable member for Corangamite says it is no wonder that I get ulcers; but he might think about this for a moment. I have not ulcers and I have no cause to have them, but there are hundreds of thousands of harassed mothers in the Australian community tonight who may well develop ulcers when they face the continuing struggle, week after week, to rear their children on a child endowment payment -fixed, for the purchase ing power of 1949 - fifteen years ago.
– They are far better off than they were under a Labour government.
– They are far worse off in child endowment. So, Mr. Speaker, the benefits of this measure will be available to those parents who are able to take advantage of it, but it is a measure which represents the Government’s final repudiation of its responsibilities in the matter of child endowment. The very basis of this proposal is a recognition that the increased cost of living requires some increase in child endowment payments, yet this legislation provides no increase whatever for the great majority of Australian mothers or for the great majority of their children.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Aston) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
A recent conference of State health ministers resolved: “That the Commonwealth Minister of Health be asked to recommend to the C.S.I.R.O. the appointment as a matter of urgency of an entomologist for the purpose of investigating the life cycle of the bush fly in Australia with a view to recommending to the State Ministers of Health action to be taken to control and if possible eliminate this pest, and that in the event of the C.S.I.R.O. not being able to undertake this task, the project be undertaken by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.” The resolution is currently receiving consideration.
Social Services. (Question No. 26.)
d asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice -
How many aborigines residing at -
Christmas Creek Station
How many, at each place are paid direct?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Social Service benefits are paid to Australian citizens who qualify under the Social Services Act and, as a matter of policy, no record is kept of their ethnic origin. The information requested by the honorable member is therefore not available.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. 150 numbers are available at the Kogarah exchange and the installation of an additional 400 numbers (cross-bar equipment) is planned for July next. This is expected to be sufficient to cover applications for the next twelve months where line plant is available.
asked the Minis ter for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following information: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Which is the more expensive article, a black telephone handset or a coloured handset, for his department to purchase?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
At present the purchase price of a new black telephone is the same as that of a coloured telephone but the real cost factor influencing the tariff is the fact that the department has nearly 2,000,000 black telephones in use, many of which are often dismantled and re-issued. The real value of a coloured telephone is, therefore, about £2 higher than the value of a black instrument. This, together with higher stock-keeping and administrative expenses involved in keeping separate coloured sets available all over Australia, is the reason why we charge £2 more for a coloured set.
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These were persons who claimed when registering that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced at the reporting date. The figures include those who, since registering, may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service, and persons who had been referred to employers with a view to engagement but whose placement was not confirmed al the reporting date. They also include persons receiving unemployment benefit.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total cost of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is the same as that given to him when he asked the same question in 1961. It is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640317_reps_25_hor41/>.