25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir. John McLeay) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I do not want to anticipate a debate on the statement on defence made last night by the Prime Minister, but I would like to ask the Minister for the Army a question about the proposal to establish a battle group in the Townsville area. As there is at present a military installation at Sellheim, which was used during the last war and which has been extended, reconstructed and used for military training since the conclusion of the last war, will the Minister arrange for the battle group to be based at Sellheim?
– No final decision has yet been taken to establish the battle group at Townsville itself. All the Prime Minister said was that it was thought that the battle group would be established in the Townsville area. I shall be only too glad to take into account all that the honorable gentleman has to say. I do not know precisely where Sellheim is in relation to Townsville, but I would say to the honorable member that it is very likely that the battle group will be established in the Townsville area.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he agree that over the past few days the pressure of business in this House has been making a farce of parliamentary government? Will he further agree that this farce could become a tragedy if the pressure of business prevented an immediate and adequate discussion of the very important and welcome statement on defence which he made to the House last night? In the circumstances, would it be possible for the House to meet next week? If this should prove impracticable, could the House meet for a week after the Senate campaign to clear up the business paper? Can he make an immediate announcement on this so that honorable members will have the opportunity to adjust their heavy schedules in their electorates with the least possible dislocation?
– I do not agree that the proceedings of the House over the past few days have made a farce of parliamentary government. I cannot accept that proposition. I hope that we will have a debate on the statement I made last night. If the honorable member entertains some idea of sitting next week or for a week after the Senate election, I assure him that I will not bc here.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, in the event of any fatalities occurring amongst Army personnel serving in Malaysia or Vietnam, he will make provision for burials to take place in Australia if such a request is made by the next of kin.
– The Government has had a well established policy on this matter for many years now. All I can say to the honorable member is that I shall be only too glad to consult with my colleagues - other Ministers are involved in this matter - and will consider the point he has raised.
– I address my question to the Acting Minister for Health. At a recent seminar on rural health conducted at Goroka in New Guinea under, I understand, the auspices of the South Pacific Commission, one of the delegates, a native doctor from the Solomons Islands, suggested a pooling of medical knowledge and medical aid in the Pacific region. Can the Minister inform the House whether any consideration has been given to this suggestion?
– I understand that this seminar is continuing at the present time. No doubt by now the doctor concerned will have found out that it is Australian policy to do this very thing. In fact, this policy has been instituted in all regions where the Australian Department of Health operates. Carrying it a stage further, the World Health Organisation is interested in this particular matter and does, throughout the world, establish geographic regions where health problems associated with those regions can be discussed at regional conferences. Australia and the Pacific islands are members of the Western Pacific Region, which meets regularly each year in committee and discusses matters of mutual interest so far as health problems are concerned. This policy is being strongly adhered to by Australia and will be continued in the future. The honorable member mentioned the South Pacific Commission. I understand, of course, that he shows a special interest in that body because he was an Australian delegate to the Commission recently. This is another forum in which these particular matters of mutual interest are also discussed.
– Several weeks ago the Prime Minister said that within a few weeks he hoped to be able to present the Vernon Committee’s report. I ask now whether that will be done before the House rises. If not, will he arrange for copies of the report to be circulated to all honorable members as early as possible?
– I am informed that there have been some delays, some of them perhaps unexpected, in the preparation of the report, so that I have not yet come into possession of it and therefore, obviously, will not be able to come into possession of it before the House gets up. When the report is received, naturally the Government itself would like to examine it, but I shall see that as soon as possible thereafter it has the widest circulation.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In July of this year the Minister for Defence said that the Government intended to rely on voluntary forces and that “this is the basis of the Army build up and the Government will not depart from it”. What is the reason for the sudden change in the Government’s attitude?
– I should have thought that the statement made to the House last night by the Prime Minister would have made this situation abundantly clear. The Government, of course, always keeps an eye on the changing strategic position, and it would not hesitate to change its mind if the situation warranted it, as it does at the present moment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. Does the Government propose to develop a submarine base in Sydney Harbour? If so, is the base for development related to either of the bases already established at Balmoral and Neutral Bay in my electorate, or has the Government some other site in mind? if Balmoral or Neutral Bay is contemplated as the -site, will the Navy ensure that local residents are adaquately protected against noise or any other nuisance which may originate at such a base?
– As was outlined last night by the Prime Minister, the Navy is preparing a base for the submarines which will be due to come into the Navy in 1966. Alter careful inspection of many sites it has been decided to establish the base at Neutral Bay. The honorable member has made representations to me in the past about the noise emanating from the Balmoral base due to submarines recharging. This is a moot point and one that I appreciate. I am pleased to be able to tell the honorable member that due to the types of generators used in the new submarines and the methods of recharging the noise nuisance will not arise. The honorable member knows that in the past the Balmoral base has been used by the British submarines attached to the Royal Australian Navy but that base is unsuited to Oberon class submarines. This is why it is necessary to establish the base at Neutral Bay.
– 1 ask the Acting Minister for Air a question. In view of the urgency of the present situation which the Prime Minister last night said necessitated the introduction of conscription for the Army, why has the Government decided that we can wait until 1968 or 1969 for a replacement for the Canberra bomber with no interim replacement foreshadowed?-
– The honorable gentleman must not presume that the Canberra bomber is no longer serviceable. Aircraft are highly specialised pieces of equipment and they must be applied to those circumstances for which they are designed. For many years to come the Canberra will be an extremely useful aircraft. The honorable gentleman must realise also that Australia is not alone in terms of the defence of its interests in South East Asia.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question relating to his recent statement that the Army’s most urgent need is for experienced officers, N.C.O’s and specialists and that a deficiency of those people would be even greater if conscription, were introduced. Is that view expressed IS days ago still held by the Minister?
– Yes. The success of the selective service scheme will depend to a great extent on the hard core of long term regulars that we have in the Army. I adhere to what I said earlier, that introduction of selective service training will not make it any less necessary to attract long term regulars into the Army for the reasons indicated by the honorable gentleman in his question. That view stands.
– I, too, ask the Minister for the Army a question. Have the British abandoned conscription because it reduced the efficiency and availability of field forces? Was this the reason why national service training was abandoned in Australia in the 1950’s? How is the introduction of conscription in Australia likely to affect the efficiency and availability of our field forces?
– It is not for me to say why the British abandoned national service training, although I hear that very serious consideration is being given in the United Kingdom at present to the introduction of a scheme very much like the one proposed by the Australian Government. The honorable gentleman should realise that the last national service training scheme which operated in Australia was entirely different in character from the scheme now proposed. The old scheme was framed to suit an entirely different set of strategic circumstances from the one confronting us at the present moment. It was a scheme based on the fact that we thought that global war may well be likely in the foreseeable future. That situation has changed. The situation which we now face requires that probably for a long time to come we must have readily available highly mobile and well trained forces. That is why the Government decided that it would change the compulsory service scheme to a two-year scheme with liability for overseas service. The answer to the honorable member’s question is that the scheme now proposed and as announced by the Prime Minister last night suits the deteriorating strategic circumstances in which we now find ourselves in this part of the world.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Is it still the policy of the Department of Immigration to encourage migrants to take employment and to reside in districts outside our city and suburban areas? If that is still the policy of the Department, what is the present tendency in this regard? Will the Minister, in view of the present full employment position, intensify the drive for decentralisation of the migrants who are continually arriving in this country?
– We are all aware that at present there is a great demand for employees in every State in Australia. When prospective migrants apply at our various overseas posts for permission to migrate to Australia, particulars relating to the various industries in all parts of Australia are put before them and the migrants choose where they would like to go. If migrants arrive in Australia without having expressed the choice of a particular industry or town, the matter of where they should go is one for the Department of Labour and National Service. I assure the honorable member that country districts are not overlooked by any means. I would say that the best way of attracting migrants to country areas is for employers in those areas to nominate them personally.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. The honorable gentleman will recall that 15 days ago he said -
We have not introduced conscription up to this point in time because our military advisers have indicated in the clearest and most unmistakable terms that it is not the most effective way of creating the Army we need to meet the situation we face.
Have the military advisers since changed their advice? If so, how many days ago did they do so?
– True to his usual form, the honorable gentleman quoted only a part of what I said on that occasion. What he quoted me as saying is perfectly correct. Up to this point of time - that is the phrase I used - when the Government was assessing the overall strategic basis of its defence policy the military advisers put the view that the strategic situation then did not warrant the introduction ot selective national service training. However, it has been a part of our military plans for a long time now that, in certain situations such as the early stages of a limited war and so on, selective national service training would be introduced immediately. It is a question of timing in relation to the strategic situation. When the Government last undertook a review of the strategic basis of defence policy, the military advisers did not believe that selective national service training was warranted at that time. On this occasion, when the Government reviewed the strategic basis of our defence policy our military advisers believed that the situation had deteriorated to a point at which it was necessary for them to tell the Government that the only way to establish an Army of the size we required in the time we required it was by introducing a selective service training scheme.
– May I ask the Minister a further question?
– If it is a supplementary question the honorable member will be in order.
– I ask the Minister: When did he seek, and when did the military advisers give, the advice which he quoted fifteen days ago?
– I thought I made the answer to the question perfectly clear. The honorable member is well aware that the Government has been conducting a review based on, amongst other things, a careful assessment of the strategic foundation of our defence policy. It is a consideration of that which has led to the introduction of this scheme.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the way in which requests by the Labour Party for more adequate defence for Australia rose to a crescendo last weekend? Has it become clear whether the Labour Party has changed its mind since the magnificent proposals announced last night and is now crying down the attempts to provide adequate defence for Australia?
– I had noticed that during the weekend very powerful speeches were made by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I had detected a certain significance in them, but I do not feel called upon to advertise what I understand it to be.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to this morning’s newspaper report that the Soviet Government, through its representative at the United Nations, has handed to the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, U Thant, another note refusing any payment towards the 52. 6 million American dollars that Russia owes for peacekeeping operations in the Congo and the Middle East? If so, what effect does the right honorable gentleman think this refusal will have on the effectiveness of the United Nations Organisation in the future?
– I have not seen such a statement in the Press nor, so far as I know, has there been any official cable on this matter. The honorable member would know that there has been a good deal of discussion, some of it behind the scenes, both in and outside the United Nations Organisation, on the question of enforcing the rule regarding payment for such operations. We take the view that the rule ought to be enforced, that people who do not pay ought not to be allowed to vote. This is a view held by some other people, but obviously not by the Soviet Government. Whether the Soviet Government has now made a farther statement I do not know. The whole matter will be debated, I understand, within a few days, and we will then see where everybody stands in relation to it.
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether the national service training scheme involving conscription will apply only to the sons of Australians or naturalised Australians or whether it will also apply to the 2S0.000 persons in the eligible age group who are members of families that migrated to Australia and who have not become naturalised although they are enjoying the benefits of Australia’s prosperity?
– The present position is that aliens - using the term in the technical sense - are eligible to volunteer for the armed Services.
– They can be eligible for call up.
– Who is right, the general or the field marshal?
– It is quite all right; we were at cross purposes here. The fact in relation to aliens is that we do not propose to apply to them, they still being aliens, any compulsory conscription except that they will register and, if called up, they will, on establishing that they are aliens and therefore owing no allegiance to this country, be indefinitely deferred. That is perhaps a longwinded way of saying that they will not have this duty imposed on them while they are aliens. I think honorable members ought to think a little more carefully about this matter before they adhere to the principle that an alien in this country should be compelled into Army service.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Housing, relates to war service homes finance. I direct the Minister’s attention to the circumstances that exist where an applicant has obtained approval for a war service homes loan and obtains permission to arrange temporary finance until his loan is available, and subsequently the municipal council concerned serves a notice for road making charges. The present practice of the War Service Homes Division is to defer the loan until these charges have been met. In many cases, the applicant has to raise a second mortgage to meet these charges and has to pay a much higher rate of interest than would be available from the municipal council. I ask the Minister whether he will investigate the possibility of ex-servicemen being granted a war service homes loan and at the same time being permitted to avail themselves of the low rate of interest and easy terms offered by the municipal council.
– This request involves the question of finance, or so it would appear. The background to consideration of this and other war service home problems is that the Government provides the amount of £35 million per annum for this service, which is not a small sum at this stage. The Government grants the loans at 3) per cent, for 45 years. The terms are infinitely more generous than those available from any other source. There is, therefore, a strong continuing demand for this accommodation, and the demand is likely to continue as long as those eligible are still alive.
At the present time, it is necessary to maintain a waiting list of applicants for the acquisition of used homes and to defer the granting of finance for a period. The names of 6,000 or 7,000 persons are on this waiting list. I will investigate the problem posed by the honorable member, but any extension of the waiting list could hardly be countenanced. The problem will also have to be balanced with other possible priorities if extra money is involved. I will investigate the problem and ascertain the exact position.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Attorney-General. Have the expressions of indignation by the residents of Darwin, arising out of a report that a person in the Australian Capital Territory recently sentenced to death in a Canberra court is to bc taken to Darwin to be hanged, been brought to the attention of the right honorable gentleman? If they have, I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to carry out the sentence in Darwin. If it is, does the Prime Minister not think that the residents of Darwin are justifiably indignant at having their city made the centre for the carrying out of capital punishment on criminals convicted of crimes committed in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I can throw no light on this matter. I suggest that tha honorable member direct his question to the Minister for Territories because I am not in a position to answer it.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he is aware that the introduction of a uniform price for steel throughout Australia would be of great assistance to the decentralisation of population and industry away from the capital cities. Can the Minister inform me whether any negotiations along those lines have taken place with the steel industry? If they have not, will he consider commencing negotiations with the industry on this subject?
– This matter falls more directly within the province of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and
Industry, who is not present today. I will direct his attention to it and I will see that the honorable member receives a reply from him.
– As suggested by the Prime Minister, I now direct to the Minister for Territories the question that I just directed to the Prime Minister. The Minister for Territories heard it, so I will not repeat it.
– All that I have heard on the subject raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory I have read in the Press. The matter has not been brought to me yet. When it is, no doubt I will consider it with the Attorney-General.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has had an opportunity to see the report of the recent peace conference in Sydney. I ask him also whether certain committee chairmen at the peace conference were skilful in preventing the passage of any resolutions attacking or even reflecting on Soviet Russia or Red China but were enthusiastic in criticising policies of the free world. In fact, were resolutions directing attention to warlike crimes of Communist slave countries actually moved, but did they, somehow or other, founder or disappear along the way?
– I have not read the report in question, but what the honorable gentleman says does not surprise me for a moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Will pension payments due to be made around Christmas time be made to all the people entitled to receive them in time to enable those people to purchase their small requirements over the Christmas period?
– The usual practice will be followed in this instance. If and when Christmas holidays interfere with the normal payment dates for social service benefits of any kind, the payment dates are advanced to meet the circumstances affecting the recipients of the benefits. But, apart from that, there will be no change.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that many applicants for telephone services in the Leichhardt area, and particularly in the Cairns district, have been waiting for eight months or more now for the services to be connected, although they have paid the money that they are required to pay and some of them have been given telephone numbers? I have made inquiries about this matter and I have been told that there is a shortage of cable. If there is such a shortage, what action does the Postmaster-General propose to take to overcome the inconvenience caused to the people who require telephone services?
– I would be very surprised if applicants for telephone services had been asked eight months prior to installation to actually pay to the Postmaster-General’s Department the installation fee and the rental for the first six months. The honorable member will be aware, as are other honorable members, that there are considerable numbers of deferred applications throughout Australia at the present time. I cannot give any indication of when the backlog is likely to be overtaken in any particular area. I will be pleased to have a look at the situation in the Cairns district and advise the honorable member on the matter.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service collaborate with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration, to see whether consideration can be given to granting naturalisation to any alien who volunteers for national service training or for general service with the Australian Regular Army, irrespective of the present residential qualifying period of five years?
– I have not considered the question raised by the honorable gentleman in the context of the defence review that has just been carried out by the Government, but it is a valuable suggestion and one that I think deserves careful consideration by my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, by myself and by the various departments that may be involved. I shall have discussions with my colleague as soon as I can and will let the honorable gentleman know the result.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman say why he has used his power as Prime Minister to introduce conscription of our young men for overseas service, when in the First World War he resigned his own commission and failed to volunteer for overseas military service?
– I have heard this lie for many, many years now. It was last stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is utterly untrue. If the honorable member is fascinated to know my personal history be might well be told - and he can verify it from the Department of Defence - that so far from resigning my commission during the war I resigned it two years after the war ended.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport know that it has been announced by the Government of Victoria that proceeds from car registration and drivers’ licence fees which up to now have been paid to the Victorian Country Roads Board for road work will in future be paid into consolidated revenue? Is this procedure being adopted to relieve the Victorian Government of meeting its normal road building and maintenance liability following the increased grant under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act? Will the Minister confer with the Premier of Victoria and explain to him that the greater grant from the Commonwealth was made to improve roads and not to enhance the State’s consolidated revenue fund?
– I am not aware of the reasons why the Victorian Government proposes the changes stated by the honorable member, nor would it be my function to inquire. Funds made available to the States for road construction under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act are paid to the State Governments to be used subject to the normal conditions applying in the legislation. The funds may be used as the States think fit and it would be quite improper for the Commonwealth Government to interfere.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is it not true that many families migrate to Australia to escape military service in their own country? If this is so, how can the Government justify the call up of Australian boys while the sons of new Australians will be exempt from military service? Further, will this exemption enable new Australians to take the jobs that Australian boys are to vacate?
– I suggest that question time is not the time to be arguing about these matters. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, will make a statement of some detail in relation to many of these aspects. That will be the time for honorable members to hear and, if they want, to discuss.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. As many other honorable members obviously were, I was pleased to hear of the building of new naval vessels to be carried out in Australian dockyards. Will dockyards in South Australia share in this type of work to be carried out by the Department of the Navy?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that every dockyard in Australia will be considered when the time comes to let contracts for the construction of naval vessels. If a dockyard in South Australia submits a tender that is favourable, and the dockyard can undertake the task involved, I can assure the honorable gentleman that it will be considered on an equal footing with dockyards elsewhere. That applies to the Whyalla dockyard and dockyards at other places in South Australia.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: In view of the urgency and near hysteria that the right honorable gentleman endeavoured to inject into his statement on defence last evening, why was the Minister for External Affairs not in Australia to take part in the Cabinet discussions on defence? Was not the position serious enough to warrant his presence?
– I thought I intimated that the review by the Government began some months ago. The Minister for External Affairs was engaged in full discussion with us before he went abroad, and I am able to tell the House that the estimate of the strategic position that has been given commands his entire support. If the last part of the question means, “ Why is the Minister not here? “ the answer is: “ Because he is abroad.”
– Mr. NIXON. - I should like to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will young men employed in farming or other pursuits where alternative labour cannot be found be able to obtain deferment of their obligation to serve under the national service training scheme?
– As the Prime Minister intimated in answer to a question a few moments ago, I shall shortly introduce in this House legislation that will set out in detail the requirements relating to registration, call up, exemptions and deferment. I hope that the honorable gentleman will forgive me if I say that I would prefer not to answer the question now, because all the details that he seeks will be given in my second reading speech on the forthcoming measure.
“FOUR CORNERS” TELEVISION PROGRAMME.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. I ask: Has be seen reports that Dr. Darling, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has written to people who protested about the “Four Corners” sackings letters marked: “ Personal. Not for publication.”? Is the Minister aware that the Executive of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Senior Officers Association held an emergency meeting yesterday to consider Dr. Darling’s letters? Has any explanation for the dismissal of the “ Four Corners “ officers been given to them? Finally, will the Minister appoint a parliamentary select committee composed of four Government and three Opposition members to investigate these dismissals and recent incidents that have undermined public confidence in the Commission and disrupted the harmonious working of the staff and the management?
– The answer to the last part of the question is: “No.” I have no knowledge of the matters raised in the earlier parts of the question.
– I ask the Minister for Territories this question: Bearing in mind that phosphate is the basis of large scale expansion of rural production in most parts of Australia, can he say how long the deposits at Nauru, Ocean Island and Christmas Island will last, allowing for the possible enormous increase in demand? Is action being taken to lengthen the life of these deposits by obtaining supplies of phosphate from other parts of the world? If so, how much is being obtained elsewhere and from where does it come?
– It is estimated that the phosphate deposits at Nauru will be exhausted in approximately 25 years. As the Australian demand for phosphate increases, we are obtaining supplies from other parts of the world, quite apart from our opportunity to obtain further supplies from the very large deposits at Christmas Island. We are all the time looking for further sources of supply from which we may obtain phosphate at reasonable prices. I am not concerned about the future in this respect.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Can he give a tangible assurance that he was any more genuine in his statement on defence last night than he was in his statement one year ago, before the last general election for the House of Representatives, that the Government was considering acquiring two squadrons of B47 aircraft as an interim replacement for the Canberra bomber?
– I wish the honorable member would learn to get his facts right, because that is not what I said. I said that we had decided to buy the TFX, as it was then called, and that the Government of the United States had offered us, on what seemed to be favorable terms, the B47 if we wanted it. The offer was examined, not by members of the Parliament but by the best air experts we have in the service of the country. It was decided that the B47 would not be materially better for our purposes than the Canberra is and that it would involve problems of transportation, fuelling and so on. These considerations ultimately put the B47 entirely out of the question. So what I said was right, as it usually is.
– by leave - For some months the Government has been considering proposals made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions relating to the sanctions provisions contained in sections 109 and 111 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The A.C.T.U. has argued, amongst other things, that employers and their organisations have resorted too readily to the Commonwealth Industrial Court for orders to enforce bans clauses in awards and that they have too freely employed legal representatives to build up the costs of proceedings. The National Employers Organisation has also put its views to the Government. In its opinion the penalty provisions are used only as a last resort and it has argued that it should not be deprived of the right to use legal representation according to the needs of each case.
I do not propose to deal in detail with these arguments and the many others we have heard. I make this one broad statement of principle: Sanctions, in one form or another, are an essential part of our arbitration system. The Government has no intention of removing them. The Government’s attitude to this problem should be seen against the background causes of a large number of recent industrial disputes. It is deeply concerned with the irresponsible behaviour of unofficial groups in factories and plants which are usurping the legitimate functions of trade unions particularly on matters concerning wage rates and conditions of employment covered by awards and agreements. The A.C.T.U. is just as concerned about this problem. I have also frequently referred to the blatant attempts by some unions to exploit the severe labour shortage, especially the shortage of skilled workers. Unions have the right, even the duty, to seek to improve the wages and conditions of employment of their members. Accepting this there must be a limit to the kind of industrial lawlessness a sophisticated community can be expected to tolerate. This is particularly so in a community where there is highly developed machinery for the determination of wages and conditions of employment and where the unions use that system to secure the maximum benefits for their members.
The Government has given considerable thought to the cases presented by the A.C.T.U. and the National Employers Organisation. We again confirm our view that proceedings before the Commonwealth Industrial Court under sections 109 and 111 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be used only as a last resort. More positively we want to encourage responsible discussions between the parties when claims are made and to encourage the parties to take advantage of the conciliation machinery provided in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The objective is, of course, to reduce the risks of stoppages of work. The Government therefore proposes to introduce, in the next session, legislation which will provide, in clearly defined cases, where there is a threatened breach of an award, a fourteen days coolingoff period before the sanctions provisions can be used. This cooling-off period will allow for private negotiations or negotiations under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Conciliation to prevent a stoppage of work may not succeed. We want to make sure that the opportunities for negotiation are in fact used. I mentioned a moment ago that our proposals concern threatened breaches. There will be no change in the law when advantage is not taken of our legislation and a union resorts to strike action to force concessions.
On the matter of costs there are grounds for some changes in the law. Again, it is necessary to draw a distinction between the case where there is a threatened breach of an award and where there is an actual breach. Frequently unions have doubts about an employer’s intentions and it is only when the employer resorts to section 109 procedures that the union realises that the employer meant what he said. In general what is intended is, where action is taken under section 109 of the Act in respect of a threatened breach, and, the breach does not take place, no costs of representation will be allowed to the employer. We have also decided that costs of representation, in relation to proceedings under sections 109 and 111, should be limited to junior counsel, unless the Commonwealth Industrial Court considers that issues of such a nature are involved that the use of senior counsel is justified.
One other cause for concern has been the actual wording of a bans clause. The wording of the clause is, of course, a matter for the Commission and will depend on its understanding of the industrial problems involved. So a bans clause may be directed to a dispute in a particular plant or, where the circumstances require it, more widely. The clause is often expressed to apply for a specified time.
Complaints have been made that even where a clause contains a time limit, it has been extended by virtue of section 58 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which provides, in effect, that an award continues until a new award is made. The fact is that every bans clause need not necessarily be caught up by section 58. My intention in referring to this is to point out that the operation of this section can be excluded by attention to the drafting of the bans clauses so as to ensure that the clause does not continue any longer than was intended.
I present the following paper -
Sanctions provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Ministerial statement, 11th November 1964 - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. £. James Harrison) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, and the States Grants (Universities) Bill, which I will introduce shortly, relate to the same subject - academic salaries - and I propose Sir, with your permission, to deal with both Bills in this speech. Last October I announced the intention of the Government to establish an inquiry to recommend the level of university salaries which we should support for grant purposes from the beginning of the current triennium, namely 1st January 1964. I said then that, as an interim measure, the Commonwealth would offer to the States for recurrent expenditure by the universities grants calculated on the basis of a professorial rate of £4,600 per annum. This rate would be payable from 1st July 1963. As it was higher than the rate upon which the 1963 legislation was based, I undertook also to introduce amending legislation to provide the supplementary funds required on the Commonwealth’s part to support the new salary levels.
The Government asked Mr. Justice Eggleston to inquire into university salaries. His report has been received and was tabled yesterday. All honorable members will agree, I feel sure, that we are much indebted to Mr. Justice Eggleston, and to those who assisted him, for the thorough and lucid report which has been furnished to the Government.
Mr. Justice Eggleston has recommended a standard salary of £5,200 for professors and a standard salary of £4,300 for associate professors and readers. The Government has decided to accept these recommendations. In addition, however, in the process of arriving at his recommendations Mr. Justice Eggleston assumed that a reasonable minimum of the salary range to be paid to a lecturer would be £2,400 per annum, and a reasonable maximum of the salary range to be paid to a senior lecturer would be £3,800 per annum. Having noted that Mr. Justice Eggleston recommended a single salary for an associate professor or a reader, and not a salary range, we accept his suggestions for the salary ranges of lecturers and senior lecturers.
It is now necessary to do two things. The first is to amend the States Grants (Universities) Act 1960-1963 to provide Commonwealth support appropriate to a basic professorial salary of £4,600 per annum for the period 1st July 1963 to 31st December 1963. This is to cover the original provision. The second Bill does this by providing an additional £175,000 of Commonwealth money on condition that £318,000 is provided in additional fees and State grants. This is the usual formula.
The second need is to amend the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act to provide for our acceptance of Mr. Justice Eggleston’s proposals. That is the purpose of the first Bill, but I emphasise that this is an interim measure only. We received the report on 30th October. Therefore there has been insufficient time to obtain from the States the detailed information necessary to enable accurate figures to be inserted in the First Schedule for recurrent expenditure in each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966. This Bill provides provisional figures for 1964 only. These indicate an increase of £1.3 million in the Commonwealth offer to a new total of £12.3 million. The corresponding figures for fees and State contributions are a £2.4 million increase to a new total of £22.8 million. As soon as practicable the Universities Commission will recommend final figures for 1964 as well as new figures for 1965 and 1966. lt will do this on the basis of information received from the universities and the States, including information about the levels of salaries adopted. I think it is appropriate that I emphasise once more that the salaries actually paid in a State university are ultimately a matter for each university and the State Government under whose authority it has been established.
A State university may, in fact, pay salaries either higher or lower than those approved for grant purposes by the Commonwealth. If higher salaries are paid, no assistance will be forthcoming from the Commonwealth toward the cost of the excess. It would by my understanding that if salaries lower than the levels approved by the Commonwealth are paid, the amounts payable by the Commonwealth in respect of academic salaries would be limited to our share, according to the established formula, of the salaries actually paid. I think that all will agree that it would not be reasonable for Commonwealth money, specifically offered as our share of the cost of higher salaries, to be used for other purposes, should salaries be adopted below the level on which our offer was made.
I should add at this point that the Government views sympathetically the suggestion made in chapter 6 of the report that limited provision should be made for additional funds from which loadings to professorial salaries should be paid in certain individual cases- where there is a desire to recognise particular merit. This is distinct from the established practice of paying differential salaries to holders of certain Chairs. The Act to which we are now giving our attention applies only to State universities, but I take this opportunity of saying that, so far as academic salaries at the Australian National University are concerned, the Government will adopt a similar policy to that which I have just described. In broad terms this means that in the School of General Studies in that University we shall recognise for grant purposes the four salary points already mentioned. In the Institute of Advanced Studies we would envisage a continuation of a loading broadly similar to that now paid, giving a basic professorial salary of £5,700 a year. The details of salaries at the Australian National University will be settled in consultation with the Council of the University and with the advice Df the Universities Commission.
There is another matter not related to the Bills now before us, but arising from the report, on which I take the present opportunity to indicate Government policy. Our experience with the recent inquiry has convinced us that this kind of machinery is perhaps the most satisfactory means we can devise for arriving at a measure of academic salaries for the purpose of fixing the level of Commonwealth grants for university purposes. Therefore, as suggested by Mr. Justice Eggleston, we stand ready to employ this kind of machinery again; we are not, however, prepared to adopt any specific period between reviews. That must depend on circumstances. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
For the reasons I have already indicated in my speech just concluded, I formally move the second reading.
Debate (on motion by Dr. J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for a further Australian contribution to the Indus Basin Development Fund. The Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement Act 1960 (No. 87 of 1960) authorised the payment of an Australian contribution of £6,965,000 to that Fund, which was set up by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and by Governments friendly to India and Pakistan, to finance the construction of an extensive system of diversionary canals and dams in Pakistan.
These works are to provide water in replacement of the waters of the three tributaries of the Indus which were allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty. Honorable members will recall that signature of that Treaty marked the end of a long-standing and critical dispute between India and Pakistan over the use of the waters of the Indus River and its five main tributaries which form the Indus Basin.
The total amount originally pledged to the Fund was 895 million dollars of which Australia’s share was 15.6 million dollars, equivalent to £A6,965,000. At the time the Treaty was signed it was thought that this estimated amount would be sufficient to cover the total cost of the diversionary works programme. However, in the light of further engineering studies and following the receipt of tenders from contractors for four large works in the system it became clear that the original estimate was too low. After long discussions between the World Bank and the Government of Pakistan and the other contributing Governments a modified scheme was adopted which required an additional 315 million dollars - approximately £140 million. The contributing Governments were asked to pledge further sums to find that amount in the same ratios as they contributed to the original fund.
The Australian share of the additional grant funds required was on that basis 10.46 million dollars, equivalent to £A4,669,643. This sum would bring the Australian contribution to £11,635,000 approximately. Of this sum £3,270,000 has been paid so far and the remainder will be called up by instalments between now and 1970.
The Australian Government was glad to participate in this enterprise which means so much to the welfare of the peoples of Pakistan and India and benefits political relations between these two countries.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for increased salaries for the occupants of the statutory offices of Public Service Arbitrator, Senior Commissioner, Commissioners and Conciliators of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Chairmen and Members of the Taxation Boards of Review. The new salaries will be effective from 1st November 1964.
On 28th October 1964 in the second reading speech on the Bill leading to the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1964 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said:
The salaries for the remainder of the offices not within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board will be individually reviewed by the Government and the appropriate increases applied as from 1st November 1964. Because the salaries are provided from special appropriations, legislation covering the offices of the Public Service Arbitrator, The Senior Commissioner, Commissioners and Conciliators of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Chairmen and Members of the Taxation Boards of Review, and proposing effect from 1st November in each instance will be introduced before the end of the present session of Parliament.
The reasons which led the Government to determine the new salary levels for Permanent Heads and holders of statutory offices were traversed in that second reading speech and appear at page 2402 of the Parliamentary Debates.
The effect of the Bill is to increase as indicated the salaries of the holders of the statutory offices appearing in the First Schedule. As to the Chairmen and Members of the Taxation Boards of Review, the effect of the proposed amendment will be to provide a salary of £6,250 for each of the three Chairmen and £5,400 for each of the six Members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In the course of his speech on 28th October, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) informed the House of the Government’s decision to increase, with effect from 1st November 1964, the salaries of Permanent Heads. This Bill provides an appropriation for that purpose and amends the salaries of First Division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service that are shown in the Schedule to the Appropriation Act 1964-1965. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Provision of engineering services to Casuarina subdivision, Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the provision, at a total estimated cost of £1,136,000, of roads, storm water drainage, water mains and reticulation, electricity mains and reticulation and sewer lines to a new subdivision in the Casuarina area of Darwin. I table plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 9th November (vide page 2666), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, honorable members will be permitted to debate both measures together.
– The Opposition proposes to offer some amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill when it is being discussed in Committee. If the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will indicate that he is prepared to give earnest consideration to them, the Opposition will not go through the formality of calling for a division on each of the several amendments. We shall content ourselves with merely moving them so that they can be recorded and so that the Treasurer can give earnest consideration to them. We hope that when the Treasurer introduces the supplementary measure relating to Commonwealth employees compensation which he stated in his second reading speech he intends to introduce next year, the Government will be in a position to indicate whether it is able to agree to any of the propositions that we put forward.
I might say that I have had a talk with the Treasurer on this subject and that I understand from him that he is not unfavourably disposed to the suggestion that earnest and serious consideration should be given to the Opposition’s proposals. I welcome this attitude. It is a good thing that the Parliament is able to function in this way. After all, we are all here, or ought to be here, to serve the best interests of the Commonwealth. In this particular case, only two parties are involved. This should make the
Government’s task much easier than it would be if it had to consider the diverse interests of thousands, perhaps millions, of people divided into scores of different groups. Here the only two parties involved arc the Commonwealth Government, which is the employer, and the employees of the Commonwealth.
The Opposition has not gone into this matter lightly. I can truthfully say that we have devoted years of study to the subject of Commonwealth employees’ compensation. We have had a special committee working on this problem, on and off, since 1957 - more than seven years. We have consulted the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and the Trades and Labour Councils of the various States. We have also consulted and received help from the lay adviser of the Western Australia branch of the Australian Labour Party, which, at that time, was the equivalent of a Trades and Labour Council in the other States. We have consulted the lay advisers on workers compensation of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. Special thanks are due to the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Birrell) who, when secretary of the South Australian branch of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, gave our committee some really handsome support by authorising and meeting the fees of one of the leading industrial lawyers of South Australia, Mr. L. J. Stanley, to go through the whole of a model bill which we had prepared, with a view to improving it and offering constructive criticism of it. 1 also thank Senator Sam Cohen for the tremendous amount of work he has put into this matter. Being a barrister of some note, and a Victorian expert on workers compensation, his views have been of tremendous assistance to us. I must also mention Senator Lionel Murphy, who has given us valuable help.
Having made those comments to show that the proposals that we intend to submit have not been lightly decided upon but are proposals which have the backing of a wide stratum of people affected by the legislation, I feel safe in saying that they merit earnest consideration. The promise made by the Treasurer in connection with them is welcomed by the Opposition. We hope that this heralds a new approach to a problem that is not a party political problem. It affects only the Commonwealth Government on the one hand and Commonwealth public servants on the other.
Before passing to a general criticism of the existing legislation, let me make the comment that for many years the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act led the field in workers compensation in Australia. It gave a lead by enunciating new principles and breaking new ground - a lead which was followed, although sometimes slowly, by the States. I should like to see the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act once again take its rightful place in the field of reform of workers compensation. It ought not to be lagging behind. Here is an opportunity to take the lead again. It is regrettable that there has been no review of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act since 1959. Normally, live years is not a long time, but we must bear in mind the giant strides forward which have been taken by many other Acts of the Commonwealth in that time. However, that is all in the past. We are not here to bewail the past; we are here to try to produce something better for the near future.
The criticisms that I am about to offer do not necessarily cover all the objections that can be levelled against the existing Act, but I hope the Government will take into account the matters which I shall bring forward. My first complaint is that the Act makes no provision for repairs to artificial limbs, artificial eyes, artificial hearing aids or any other artificial appliances that might be worn by a worker at the time of his injury. When I speak of injury, I refer to the accident or event that causes damage to artificial limbs or other appliances. Let me give a simple case to illustrate my point. At this stage I want to say that, so far as I know, the New South Wales Act is the only one that covers this position. Let us take the case of a worker with a wooden leg. If he were involved in an accident andthe wooden leg was splintered or broken he would not be entitled to any compensation from the Commonwealth for the repair of the wooden leg. But if his other leg were broken the Commonwealth would assume responsibility for the injury and if the leg had to be removed the Commonwealth would pay the costs as set out in the schedule. If the employee were only temporarily incapacitated, the Commonwealth would assume responsibility for paying weekly compensation. This is certainly true of hearing aids, artificial teeth or eyes and spectacles. There is a precedent, as I have said, in the New South Wales Act which provides that where there is damage to any artificial appliance worn by a worker involved in an accident the employer’ shall be responsible for defraying the costs of repairing that appliance, just as the employer would be required to pay compensation if the employee suffered injury to his body.
I know that this is not one of the more important aspects of the matter and, as I say, it is not one in which we would have to establish a precedent, as will be necessary if some of my other suggestions are accepted. But even if it were necessary to create a precedent, surely somebody at some time must establish precedents in these matters, otherwise the position would remain static and we would never move forward. If a precedent has to be established, I can think of no better place than this Commonwealth Parliament, where only two parties are directly involved, to establish it. There is no other place in which a precedent can be established without causing a good deal more friction amongst various groups of people.
Let me refer to another basic weakness in the Act. This may be a technical point, but if undue advantage were taken by the administrative authority of the provision involved, untold injustice could result. I refer to the provision in the existing legislation that no injury is compensable unless it can be shown that the injury resulted from an accident. There are only two other acts in the Commonwealth that retain a provision that an injury is not compensable unless it can be shown that an actual accident occurred. Those are the State acts in force in Western Australia and South Australia.
It frequently happens, as the other States have discovered and have been prepared to recognise by legislative enactment, that an injury is sustained without the person concerned actually being involved in an accident. A person may be working in an unhealthy atmosphere. He may be working in a refrigeration van, for instance, and contract some complaint due not to any specific, overt accident but due to the environment and the conditions of his employment. Under the Act as it now stands such a person would not be entitled to any compensation because he would not be able to prove that an accident occurred. The Act requires him to do exactly that before he can make a successful claim.
We believe that the legislation should be administered by a board. I do not want people to think that this is even an indirect criticism of those who administer the Act at the moment. I repeat what I said before, that I have never had any real cause to complain about the administration of this Act by Sir Roland Wilson or by Mr. Hewitt when he acted as Sir Roland Wilson’s deputy. This does not mean that I have never heard complaints; I simply say that I personally have had no cause to complain. But that is beside the point. I think it is wrong in principle that the employer - and that is what Sir Roland Wilson or any other person delegated to act on his behalf really is - should be the one to determine whether an employee is entitled to compensation and what should be the extent of that compensation.
I know that there is a right of appeal, and on that I might make one other criticism. The right of appeal is to a county court, and again I say that this is wrong. The appeal should be to a Commonwealth industrial court. All appeals should be heard by a single central court which could make decisions on a uniform basis and so help to build up a body of case law. At the present time appeals are lodged to a wide variety of county courts which in some cases, I regret to say, seem to give the highest priority in their lists to matters related to State legislation. But that again is beside the point. Where the appeals are heard by a variety of county courts there is no convenient way of establishing a useful system of case law. I believe, and I will later move, that appeals should be made to a Commonwealth industrial court so that it can build up case law to be used as a guide by both employees and the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth industrial court judges should be given wider powers. They have proved extremely capable and efficient in all the fields in which they have been called upon to adjudicate. They are made up of men of the highest integrity. It has been reported - and I hope the report is accurate - that the Commonwealth will next year re-form its industrial court and constitute it as a Federal superior court.
Let me return to another criticism. I think it is entirely wrong that when the Commonwealth, or the Commissioner representing the Commonwealth, makes a determination against an employee, the Commissioner should have the right to alter that determination after the employee appeals against it. What happens now? If an employee is not satisfied with a determination he lodges an appeal against it and the Commissioner has the right, after he learns that an appeal has been lodged, to vary or rescind his determination. Once the determination is rescinded, the basis of the original appeal is removed and the employee is stuck with the costs of briefing counsel engaged for the original appeal. Sometimes the determination is varied a second time, and if it is still unacceptable, the employee begins another appeal and must then meet the costs of that second appeal. The Commissioner can again vary his second determination.
In theory, although I hope never in practice - and we should even prevent the remotest possibility of something undesirable happening if it is within the wit of man to prevent it - the Commissioner could go on varying his determination as each appeal was made, making it necessary for the employee to re-brief counsel and meet further costs on every occasion. I think the Commissioner should be prevented from varying his determination once he has made it unless he gets the permission of the employee concerned to make the variation. If the employee has already gone to the expense of briefing counsel to conduct a formal appeal he should then have the right to say to the Commissioner: “I am prepared to agree to your varying or rescinding your determination but only on the condition that you reimburse me for the costs I have incurred in lodging my appeal “. The Commissioner would then have the choice of saying “ Yes “ or “ No “, and the appeal against the original determination could either be heard or be withdrawn on those conditions. Such a provision would prevent the Commissioner from altering his determination and removing the basis of an appeal after it had been made.
Now I come to the question of costs, which the ordinary working man always finds difficult to meet. Sometimes the working man cannot afford justice, because the cost of obtaining it when he has to engage expensive counsel is beyond his purse.
– What about legal aid?
– Legal aid is all right in some States. Possibly the system in the honorable member’s State is different from that in my State of South Australia. The honorable member has made an interjection which is fair enough. Where a proper legal aid system is in operation the difficulty or hardship is not as great. But we cannot say, for instance, that there is an adequate legal aid bureau operating in Tasmania and therefore, that we can forget about the rest of the Commonwealth. We have to look at this matter on a Commonwealth basis.
I believe that these provisions should be written into the legislation: (a) Where an employee succeeds in an appeal the industrial court - I say the industrial court because I am contemplating an amendment to the effect that all appeals should lie to an industrial court - shall award the full costs of the case against the Commissioner. In cases where the appeal is lost and the industrial court is of the opinion that the grounds for the appeal were not frivolous or were reasonable or prima facie were soundly based the industrial court may also award costs in favour of the applicant. So, an applicant who is successful would be guaranteed his costs. An applicant who was unsuccessful would have a very good chance of recovering his costs also if the case was soundly based and had been beaten only by some technicality or some point of law that he could not reasonably have been expected to understand or anticipate at the time of the lodging of his appeal.
I move to another point of criticism. In almost every Act in the Commonwealth, but not in all Acts of the world, we find this archaic approach to compensation which leads us into the belief that a man on compensation during periods of incapacity is able to live on less than he can when he is working. The assumption must be that his children eat less and wear less clothing and that it costs him less for schooling and rent. It must be assumed that his electricity and gas bills are reduced and that he receives a discount on his newspapers, milk and every other commodity that he buys. The plain fact of the matter is that this is not so. If the breadwinner is incapacitated in a hospital, the cost of his family going each day to see him there could quite conceivably end up costing the family budget more than it would if that breadwinner were working and travelling to and from his home in the normal way each day. Therefore, I cannot understand why all the Acts of the Commonwealth cling to this archaic idea that 75 per cent, of his normal wage should be the maximum that a worker should receive in the way of compensation.
In my opinion, we ought to adopt the practices which apply in other countries in this regard. I regret that I have to say that Bulgaria, an iron curtain country, follows a more enlightened course. I believe that West Germany does and I know that some of the Scandinavian countries do too. All these countries have long recognised the principle that a person injured in the course of his employment is entitled to receive his full normal wage or salary during the period of his incapacity.
I agree that it is hard for us to adapt our thinking to this new, more humane approach. But it was much more difficult 50 years ago for this country to adopt the principle of any sort of compensation at all because in a society that then knew no workmen’s compensation, it was almost impossible to get some people to see the logic of giving anything at all by way of compensation, even the one-third of the normal wage or salary as was then the case. I think we have to move ahead. Even if other countries had not already established a precedent - and I have just proved that some of them have - we in Australia ought to start creating some precedents ourselves and lead the human race towards a better, more enjoyable and decent existence on this earth; because all of us will bc here for too short a time.
I believe that we ought to take the bull by the horns and accept the principle that while a person is incapacitated, neither be nor his dependants ought to be expected to live on less money than he was receiving when he was working. Nobody deliberately becomes incapacitated. No person deliberately becomes involved in an accident, or loses an eye, a limb or some other part of his body for the purpose of getting compensation. To suggest that anybody does is something that I know nobody in this Parliament would even think of doing.
The next matter I wish to discuss is medical expenses. This Parliament has, by way of the Bill we now have before us, increased the rate of medical benefits from £350 to £500. Why stick to £500? I know that there is a saving clause which says that the Commissioner may increase the amount to whatever the full cost is, but why let this power of discretion reside entirely with the Commissioner? The answer sometimes given is that unless there is some curb upon the amount which the Law provides, the doctors will charge exorbitant rates for their services. This is all right up to a point. I propose to move an amendment in this regard which is taken from one of the Acts of one of our States. I think it is the Victorian Act. Victoria and South Australia place no limit on the amount of medical expenses that can be claimed. No limit is placed on hospital expenses, either. However, each of these Acts has a section which has been carefully enough drawn to prevent doctors from sticking the nips into the public purse on the assumption that the Government concerned will pay it without question. I do not think the matter ought to rest in the discretion of the Commissioner. When the Bill is before the Committee, I will move an amendment on these lines which I hope the advisers of the Government will see fit to adopt in the future.
I have something to say also about burial expenses. The Act limits the present compensation for burial. I think it refers to funeral costs or burial costs. I am not sure. I do not believe that there ought to be any limit placed on these costs. The maximum amount that the Commonwealth will now pay towards the cost of a funeral of one of its employees who is killed during the course of his employment is £60. The Opposition will move in Committee an amendment which will make it clear that not only funeral expenses, but also burial and cremation expenses shall be paid. The full and reasonable cost of these services should be met. Here again, we have deliberately framed a clause in the amendment we will move in such a way that the Commonwealth will be able to say to an undertaker: “The Act does not give you the right to impose upon us an unlimited bill. The Act gives us the right to pay reasonable costs for a burial having regard to the circumstances, the area in which it takes place and so forth.” This is an adequate safeguard to this proposal which ought to be adopted.
I come now to another matter which is quite different from anything that I have already raised. No compensation Act in Australia, except, I think, the Act in New South Wales, makes provision for a person who is killed or injured whilst engaged voluntarily in fire fighting operations, saving life or property, or in work connected with floods, national disasters, or disasters in a particular area.
Frequently, this sort of thing happens. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that in 1959 three policemen were burnt to death in South Australia while trying to save property in the Adelaide hills area. Their dependants received no compensation at all because it was found that they had undertaken this task voluntarily outside the hours of their police duty. I say that the Commonwealth should not only follow the lead of the State of New South Wales, but that it ought to go into the matter much more fully. The Commonwealth ought to provide that any person who rushes to the aid of another individual or who voluntarily becomes engaged in saving life or property, whether requested to do so by anybody or not, shall be regarded as being covered by workers’ compensation. Where a person is killed, burnt to death or drowned in the process of voluntarily trying to assist in the saving of life or property, then the Commonwealth should accept responsibility for his dependants and treat them in the same way as it would treat them had that person been in the service of the Commonwealth. This, I think, is a proper provision and I hope it will be given serious consideration by (he Government.
I regret that I have to move all over the place with these matters and not deal with them in sequence. I come now to another matter. I think that the Commonwealth Government ought to be required not only to pay a partial pension to a person who is partially incapacitated during the course of that incapacity, but that it should also make every possible effort to find suitable employment so that the person concerned can continue to be employed in a suitable job. In addition, I believe that the Commonwealth ought to draw on the services of the Department of Social Services, which has excellent rehabilitation centres, to bring about the rehabilitation of, and provide vocational guidance for, people who are so incapacitated, or whose limbs have been removed, or who have suffered paralysis, or mental disabilities as a consequence of an accident. This ought to be done.
There is a serious defect in the provision of medical expenses. We believe, and we will move accordingly, that where a person is required to travel long distances to obtain medical attention as a consequence of an accident or an injury, the full cost of his travel and his accommodation at the centre of attention for himself and for an attendant where necessary should be met by the Commonwealth. As an example, let us take the case of a man whose eyes have been blown out in an accident at Woomera, which is 400 miles from Adelaide. If he has to go to Adelaide from Woomera for specialist treatment, why should not the Commonwealth be forced to pay the cost of his transport to, and his accommodation in, Adelaide? If he is not in hospital, and his wife has accompanied him on that journey because of necessity, then the cost of her fares and her accommodation ought to be covered by way of payment by the Commonwealth.
I turn now to the lump sum amounts that are fixed under this Bill. The existing Act says that the maximum lump sum payable on death or injury shall be £3,000. This Bill increases that to £4,300 and brings it up to the highest figure in the Commonwealth at the moment. New South Wales is the only State in which the maximum amount is equal to the new maximum amount provided in this Bill. On this point we believe that there is a basic weakness. I know that the correction of that weakness requires radical thinking and involves a completely new concept of workers compensation, but it is no more radical in its approach than that of the people who first wanted to introduce workers’ compensation into a society that had no compensation at all.
We believe that the proper method of fixing the maximum amount payable for death or injury is to fix a sum equal to five times the worker’s ordinary annual salary or wages. In other words, the worker’s average weekly earnings should be multiplied by 260, and that sum should become the maximum payable for death or injury. In the amendments that we propose to move we have not been able to draft an amendment to cover our thinking on the payment for death. In the case of death, if the widow of the deceased worker has children dependent upon her she ought to be entitled to a life pension equal to the ordinary wages of the worker who was killed, and if she has no dependent children she ought to be entitled to a pension equal to 75 per cent, of the ordinary wages of the worker who was killed. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a way to dovetail that thinking into the existing legislation.
I believe that we ought to express the compensation for injuries specified in the Schedule to the Bill not in terms of stated sums of money for the loss of an eye, the loss of hearing and so on, but in accordance with the South Australian practice. The South Australian legislation says that the maximum sum to which a person is entitled is four years earning capacity or a specified sum - I think the maximum amount is only £3,300 in that State - whichever is the smaller amount. Having set the maximum amount, percentages of that amount are then used to express the amount of compensation to ‘be paid in respect of scheduled injuries. So, I believe that the maximum amount ought to be expressed not as a specified sum but as 260 times the average weekly earnings of the worker at the time of his death or injury, and then the compensation for the injuries which are included in the Schedule as being compensable ought to be specified as a percentage of that sum which is equal to 260 times the worker’s average weekly earnings.
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act has this to its credit: It is one of the two workers’ compensation acts in Australia - the New South Wales act is the other one - which entitle an injured worker who is permanently incapacitated to weekly compensation for life. I said before that I regret that the amount of compensation is limited to 75 per cent. It is basically correct, I believe, mat compensation for life should be paid not only to a worker who is permanently incapacitated but also to the widow of a deceased worker. The Commonwealth has not as far to go as the States have, because at least it already recognises the principle of granting weekly pensions for life.
On this point let me remind the House that although a widow and her dependants were granted a weekly pension for life the total cost to the Commonwealth would not be as great as the Commonwealth might at first think when calculating the cost. It should not be forgotten that if the widow were not entitled to a pension for life under the Commonwealth Employees* Compensation Act she would be entitled to social service benefits which, depending on the number of children she had, could amount to anything up to £9 or £10 a week. So the cost of the compensation pension would have to be discontinued to that extent - that is, if we can justify making a cold mathematical approach to whether or not justice should be done.
In our amendments we will propose a few alterations of the schedule of injuries. For instance, the present Schedule refers to the loss of an eye. We want the Schedule to read: “ Loss of the sight of an eye “. At the moment, technically, so long as the eyeball is still in its socket, under the Act a person cannot claim any compensation at all, because compensation is not paid for the loss of the sight of an eye; it is paid for the loss of an eye. It has been put to me by one of the interested organisations that so long as the eyeball is still in its socket, the Commonwealth may truthfully say: “ You have not lost your eye. Your eye is still there. You cannot see it, but we can “. And the person’s claim will fail. That is silly. It is an oversight. Nobody will suggest that the Commonwealth deliberately has chosen the words used in the Schedule to enable it to say to a person: “You cannot receive any compensation for the loss of the sight on an eye unless the eyeball itself has been taken out”. That is not what was intended. The position ought to be rectified by including in the Schedule the words: “ Loss of the sight of an eye “. That is one small matter.
I believe that loss of speech ought to be included in the Schedule. It is not included at the moment. I also believe that facial disfigurement ought to be included. Let me dwell on this point’. In most cases, the inclusion of facial disfigurement would be a departure from the old principle that workers’ compensation is designed to compensate a worker for the loss of earning capacity only. That was the old conception; in fact, it is the current conception. It is wrong, it is archaic and it is completely inhuman to say that unless a person can prove some loss of earning capacity he is not entitled to compensation. We ought to adopt the principle that a person who is entitled to compensation under common law in the case of proven negligence ought to be entitled to compensation under the workers’ compensation legislation. Whether or not the employer is negligent is completely beside the point so far as the injured person is concerned.
Only one workers’ compensation act in the whole Commonwealth departs from the current principle that a person cannot receive compensation unless he can prove loss of earning capacity. That is the Queensland act. It represents a deliberate departure from the current tradition. A person who was working in a quarry had one side of his face blown away and one eye blown out. He received compensation for the loss of the eye, but he received nothing for having half of his face blown away. His union secretary went to the Minister in charge of the Queensland workers’ compensation legislation with a request to amend the act. The Minister said: “ I am sorry. I have discussed this matter with my advisers. They say that there are certain difficulties about granting this man compensation. It would create a precedent. All the other States would come into the matter. All sorts of terrible things would follow. We cannot break the tradition. We are very sorry.” So the union secretary said the Minister: “Will you see the man whom I am asking you to help? Will you let him come into your office? If, after you have looked at this poor devil, you are prepared to say that you ought to stick to tradition, and leave the Act in its present form, then I am prepared to walk out of your office and accept your judgment.”
– A Minister is bound by the law.
– I am talking about a request to alter the law. The Minister was asked whether he would alter the law and he said that he could not alter it because that would be a break with the tradition that unless a person can prove loss of earning capacity he is not entitled to compensation. He was brought before the Minister, Mr. Ted Walsh, who had one look at him and immediately had the Queensland act altered. That was because standing before the Minister was what was left of a man. He had in the side of bis face a gaping opening that would never be shut until the day he died. The Minister at once had the act altered, but it took a terrible case like that to drive the point home to the Minister. We must be more humane about these things. We must not wait until some poor devil is brought before us in that condition before we start to mete out justice and depart from tradition and a cast iron adherence to what happened in the past. We should be prepared to break with that practice.
The same is true of mental injury, which is not designated in the Schedule. I know that it is very difficult to include mental injury in the Schedule, but there should be some way of conveying it. At the Committee stage the Opposition will move an amendment which, if carried, will make it possible for people who sustain a mental injury to claim the compensation specified in the Act, depending on the extent of the mental disability.
I refer now to another matter that was brought to my attention only quite recently as a result of a question that I addressed to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I asked him whether members of Parliament were covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The Prime Minister replied that members of Parliament were not covered because when they died their dependants received superannuation benefits. That reply left unanswered the real question to which I was hoping to get an answer. I wanted to know what would be the position of a member of Parliament who, in the course of his duties, was involved in an accident involving him in long and expensive periods under medical attention. There is no provision in the Act which gives us any right to reimbursement of medical expenses, unless we happen to be injured in a Commonwealth vehicle or while in an aeroplane, or something of that kind. If a member of Parliament is injured while travelling in his own car from his home to Canberra to attend a parliamentary sitting and he has no comprehensive insurance policy or is not covered by his own or somebody else’s insurance, he has to meet from his own pocket the cost of medical attention to bring himself back to normal health. The member of Parliament is the only employee of the Commonwealth who is in that position. It is not right that he should suffer under that disability.
I should like to take the situation of the member of Parliament a little further. If as a consequence of the injury he had to resign from Parliament before he had completed the eight years’ service which would qualify him for a pension, he would resign without any pension, despite the fact that he had resigned for medical reasons arising from his duty as a member.
I want to contrast his position with that of a head of a Commonwealth department. Mr. Speaker, do you know - this ought to go on record - that the heads of departments of the Commonwealth at the moment are entitled to a much better superannuation scheme than members of Parliament enjoy? I shall tell the House of some of the features of the scheme that covers them. If I were to now become head of a Commonwealth department at the age I entered Parliament - 35 years old - I would now be paying £7 ls. 6d. a week contribution to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund compared with the £8 that I now pay for superannuation as a member of Parliament. For the contribution of £7 ls. 6d. a week I would be entitled to superannuation of £82 5s. a week at the age of 65, compared with £37 that I would be entitled to now if I retire as a member of Parliament. If I had been forced to leave my employment on account of sickness before I had served five years as head of the department I would still get £82 5s. a week for life. But a member of Parliament gets nothing if he is forced to leave his employment before completing five years service because in that time he has not qualified for a pension; a pension could become payable only if he died in office. Nobody can say that this situation is justified. Whether people like members of Parlia ment or not, the fact remains that they are entitled to justice. I simply say that if the head of a Commonwealth department is entitled to full medical costs in the event of an accident and to £82 5s. a week for life, even if he retires on account of sickness within five years, a member of Parliament should at least receive the meagre benefits of the Compensation Act.
I thank the House for the time that I have been given. I regret that the Bill does not go further. I regret that it will give to the spouse only £2 14s., which is to be compared with £4 10s. granted under the South Australian legislation. I regret that a dependent child will receive only £1 2s. 6d., compared with £1 15s. in South Australia. I regret that the lump sum compensation in certain circumstances can be reduced to a mere £700. That is not the case under the South Australian Act, nor is it the case under the New South Wales legislation, Nor should it be the case under the Commonwealth legislation. At the Committee stage the Opposition will move amendments along the lines I have mentioned. I regret very much that time prevents me from saying all that I wanted to say.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, which are being debated together, incorporate the increases in periodic and lump sum payments which were outlined in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech three months ago. The Bills came in two days ago. Honorable members will wonder why it was not possible to bring these Bills in earlier, since they have no provisions which were not detailed three months ago. It would be possible from the drafting point of view to introduce such bills as promptly as, say, the Loan (Housing) Bill or the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill, which were introduced, on the night of the Budget Speech. Honorable members might wonder also why, if it was not possible to introduce the bills so early, they could not have been introduced at least a month ago as were the annual bills to carry out the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are disappointed, and
I am certain that a great number of public servants and serving members of the forces are disappointed, that the intervening weeks were not used to incorporate amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to cover weaknesses which have been discovered in the administration and in the principles of the Act since it was last before the House for substantial debate five years ago.
The Treasurer has informed my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), that he will give a generous interpretation to the announcement he made in concluding his second reading speech that he has under consideration a number of administrative amendments to the legislation. I understand he will not confine his consideration merely to administrative amendments but will also deal with amendments of substance and principle such as those outlined by my colleague the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
There have been many decisions on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and some on the Seamen’s Compensation Act since the last significant amendments were debated five years ago. Five years ago, members of the Public Service were still disturbed over the decision in Commonwealth v. Ockenden, which had been delivered by the High Court of Australia on 14th August 1948 and which had been reported in volume 99 of the Commonwealth Law Reports. This was the first of the heart cases. On 19th May 1960, the High Court delivered judgment in five appeals under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Those decisions are reported in volumes 103 and 104 of the Commonwealth Law Reports. Most of them concerned heart cases. Some revealed a difficult division of opinion among the justices of the Court. It is plain that the law on workers’ compensation in general and the law on Commonwealth employees’ compensation in particular is now in a confused condition. After these decisions of 19th May 1960, I asked the Treasurer, on 31st May of the same year -
Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have the forthcoming Premiers’ Conference discuss the co-ordination of Australia’s score of workers’ compensation acts - State and Federal - particularly in view of the number of heart cases on which the High Court, in the last year, has given new interpretations of these Acts.
The Treasurer replied -
The agenda for the Premiers’ Conference will be determined by the Prime Minister, no doubt taking into account the wishes of the Premiers as expressed to him. However, it would be appropriate for me to convey to the Prime Minister, and, in his absence, to the Acting Prime Minister, the substance of the honorable gentleman’s request, and to ensure that it is suitably considered before the Premiers’ Conference is convened.
In the Budget sessional period of 1960, I asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on notice -
Did he take any steps to discuss with the Premiers the co-ordination of Australia’s score of workers’ compensation acts, State, territorial and Federal, about which I asked a question without notice on 31st May last?
On 26th October of that year, the right honorable gentleman replied -
The co-ordination of workers’ compensation acts was not discussed at the Premiers’ Conference in June 1960. The provision of compensation for the large majority of employees in Australia is governed by State legislation and the question of co-ordination is primarily a matter for the Stales.
The Prime Minister disclosed an attitude which is regrettable and which, I hope, is now being discarded. In the last few years, several matters of law reform have been discussed by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. It is difficult for members of the National and the State Parliaments to learn the stage reached by the committee in considering proposals for reform, but we are assured that a wide range of reforms is being considered. I have had a question on the notice paper for seven weeks in an effort to find out what matters are at present under discussion in the attempt to secure uniform laws and what stage the discussions have reached. Workers’ compensation is a subject which comes before tl.e State Parliaments much more often than it comes before this Parliament. Two thirds of the legislation in every State Parliament and in respect of two of the Territories is on the same subjects. Only one third of State Acts and territorial ordinances deals with subjects relating to only one or some of the States or one of the Territories. It seems overwhelmingly desirable that the principles and the application of laws relating to workers’ compensation should be the same in ail instances. I cannot imagine any subject which is more appropriate for discussion bv the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. However, the Commonwealth has not taken the initiative in this matter. In ail matters of co-ordination in our Federal system, the Federal Government has to take the initiative. This has also been the experience in the United States of America, Canada and West Germany. No initiative has been taken by the Commonwealth in this matter. Less surprisingly, none has been taken by any of the States. Accordingly, honorable members wish to discuss various matters concerning workers’ compensation in general when they have an opportunity such as is provided now - the first for five years.
From time to time, I have had some hard things to say about the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, who is the Secretary to the Treasury, and his officers and his various delegates. I was told yesterday that there are now 152 delegates. I have been somewhat critical of the nature of the decisions that these various authorities have made and of the time taken in making those decisions. In all fairness,, however, I must say that Treasury officials themselves have for several years pressed for amendments to these Acts, particularly the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Not many Treasury officials go to sea and therefore not many of them would be concerned about the Seamen’s Compensation Act. The Government, however, has refused to proceed with the amendments sought. It may be that Treasury officials have been alarmed by the decisions given in cases resulting from heart attacks suffered by some of their colleagues in the Taxation Branch.
Last year, in the debate on the motion that the estimates for the Department of the Treasury be noted in another place, my learned colleagues, Senators Murphy and Cohen, discussed the shortcomings of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and its administration. This year, the honorable and learned member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) spoke on this subject in the debate on the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. He was allowed to proceed with his discussion of the matter in that debate when we on this side of the chamber collaborated in his contention that the Attorney-General, instead of the Treasurer, should be allowed to administer the Act. I was happy to pursue the same line of argument when 1 followed him. Last year, in the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), who was then a private member, stated-
I believe that this legislation needs a thorough overhaul. I believe that it is not proper that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should remain as it is and it is inappropriate to be the legislation to determine the compensation for servicemen.
Later today, or tomorrow, the Opposition will propose an amendment designed to give this chamber an opportunity to support the proposition that all servicemen should be covered by repatriation legislation and that servicemen who have not served overseas should no longer be confined to benefits obtainable under the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
The Act covers a very great number of persons. Yesterday, I mentioned to the Treasurer that I proposed to ask for leave to incorporate in “ Hansard “ certain tables which the Prime Minister had given me subsequent to the Treasurer’s having answered a question asked on notice by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross). That answer appears in “ Hansard “ of 15th September. The tables show the number, amount and categories of payments made under the terms of the Act since it was last debated in this House.
– Did I understand the honorable gentleman to say that these tables already appeared somewhere in “ Hansard “?
– No. They were given to me after the Treasurer had answered the question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane.
– Order! Is the honorable member now asking for leave to incorporate the tables in “ Hansard “?
– I ask for leave to incorporate them.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– I thank the Minister for his courtesy. Accordingly, I incorporate the tables in “ Hansard “.
It will be seen that the number of injuries in respect of which compensation has been paid in the financial years from 1959 to 1964 has risen from 18,315 to 19,925 and the total payments from £904,010 0s. 6d. to £1,073,950 9s. lid. Accordingly a very great number of persons are concerned with the operation of the Act, and it deserves our consideration. Furthermore, Commonwealth social legislation should, as far as possible, be a model for all other social legislation. The number of persons who must make claims or receive payments under workers’ compensation legislation in Australia each year could well total 100,000.
My colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, referred to many subjects on which he would move amendments - on which there would be a formal vote - for the consideration of the Treasurer or the Attorney-General, if he is in charge of the Act later. I accordingly will make some remarks for the record. Dealing with the suggestions that the archaic definitions of injury in these two Acts should be brought into line with the definitions that apply in all but one of the State Acts, I draw the attention of honorable members to an article on this subject which appeared in the latest issue of the University of Queensland Law Journal. It is entitled “The Concept of Injury in Commonwealth Employees Compensation Legislation “, and was written by the Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Queensland, Mr. Gerber. My colleague also advocated that appeals should be heard, not by county, district and local courts and by magistrates, but by the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Prom answers to questions that I have asked since the Act was last amended, it would appear that in the last five years the numbers of appeals heard by county courts were 110, 87, 66, 70 and 66 respectively. For some years past I, and more recently other honorable members, have referred to the need for a new Federal superior court. The former Attorney-General, who is now the Chief Justice of Australia, wrote an article for the initial number of the “ Federal Law Review “, the journal of the Faculty of Law in the School of General Studies at the Australian National University. I will read two passages from the article. Sir Garfield Barwick said that there were * special ‘ matters that would call for the jurisdiction of a federal rather than a State court. He said -
Appeals under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act might be thought to supply an illustration of this kind of “special” element in that uniformity in the interpretation and application of a Commonwealth law is desired, without the necessity of frequent resort to the ultimate court of appeal in Australia, the High Court.
In support of the proposition that there should be a new court of appeal, a Federal superior court interposed between the Supreme Courts of the Territories and the High Court, he said -
The same course should be followed, I think, in respect of appeals from the decisions of county courts (or equivalent State tribunals) under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
I would hope that the Government’s activities in this matter will be spurred by the Chief Justice’s advocacy.
I have referred to the administrative delays that arise under this Act. Five years ago I had several cases to put to the House. I brought two others to the notice of the Commissioner in February 1961. I think the position has improved a little since then, but these are remarkable enough. A soldier’s widow in my electorate lodged a claim in October 1958 and received the Commissioner’s determination in June 1959. A Petty Officer lodged a claim in March 1959 and received the determination in February 1960. A dozen men all contracted tuberculosis at the same time in the same ward and had to be discharged from the Navy. They were all treated in the same way. They all had to wait for the same time - 11 months - for a determination. It is quite clear that this is a most remarkable coincidence, if they did not all in fact suffer infection from the same condition.
For the record again, I would give some illustrations of defects in the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Under the present Act, the employee must make a claim and has no right of appeal until the Commissioner determines his claim. On occasions, he acts only after he has been threatened with a writ of mandamus. This could be cured by putting in a provision that any claim not admitted within one month after it has been lodged in writing shall be deemed to have been refused. Alternatively, it could be said that the applicant would have the right to proceed as if the claim had been refused. The necessity for some such provision is this: There is a time limit within which applicants must act; there is no time limit within which the Commissioner must act and there is no limit to the number of occasions on which the Commissioner may ask for more information or make new determinations. After a claim has been determined or deemed to be determined, an employee should have at least 12 months in which to appeal. The Commonwealth can never be prejudiced by such a course because it would have all the relevant facts recorded on the application for determination.
Secondly, under paragraph (1) (c) (i) of the First Schedule of the Act, the Commonwealth may, and does, after it has dismissed a partially incapacitated worker, call evidence before a court of some job within the Commonwealth Public Service which the worker is able to do but nevertheless which the Commonwealth will not offer to him. It would seem that the right to compensation should be expressed differently so as to make it possible for a worker to obtain compensation in relation to his diminished earning capacity within the Department if his services are retained or on the general labour market if he is no longer employed by the Commonwealth. A provision to this effect is in the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation Act, among others. As an example of the harshness of the present position, 1 point out that if an employee df the Commonwealth, being a labourer, loses his right arm and is dismissed from his employment and then makes an application to the court for weekly compensation based on his partial incapacity, it is open to the Commonwealth to call, and in fact the Commonwealth does call, evidence to show the earning ability of a one-armed lift driver in the employment of the Commonwealth, despite the fact that the injured employee is not being given such employment in the Commonwealth or found it elsewhere. 1 give a third instance. Section 17a of the Act limits an employee suing for damages arising from a work injury to within 12 months of the date on which he received the first payment of compensation under the Act. This seems an unreasonably short time, in particular because there is no provision for any extension of it. In New South Wales there is a limitation of three years plus an extension of another year by order of a judge.
A fourth example relates to section 19(4.). Under this provision the Commissioner can ask the medical board to certify not only as to a man’s fitness for employment and the kind of employment for which he is fit but to give such other information as the Commissioner requires. This provision seems to be too wide, particularly as the certificate of the board is conclusive evidence of the matters certified. Either an employment officer of the Commonwealth or the personnel officer of some large company would be in a better position to know the economic consequence of an injury than would a few doctors of a medical board. As to this, section 4a provides that the majority of doctors may give the certificate; the board consisting of two or more medical referees appointed by the Commonwealth and one doctor who may be nominated by the worker. Thus the majority may be entirely those nominated by the Commonwealth.
I wish now to refer more specifically to the Seamen’s Compensation Bill. The definition of seamen in the principal Act ought to be amended by removing the exclusion of masters, mates, engineers and radio officers. This exclusion was put in the principal Act at the request of the Merchant Service Guild and the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers before the war to make it clear that if a compensation provision were inserted in a Federal award secured by the Guild or the Institute it could not be challenged on the grounds that it was inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth dealing with them. There had been a history in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in which some workers’ compensation provisions had been made for masters, mates, engineers and radio officers and had been doubted by the High Court or had been removed by subsequent members of the Arbitration Court.
At last it was made clear in the Queen v. Hamilton Knight reported in 86 Commonwealth Law Reports that the Arbitration Court could make a workers’ compensation award. This is the charter for this proposition. I imagine that in due course we will find that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be making Australia-wide provisions for workers’ compensation as it before long will be making provision for long service leave, in each case displacing inconsistent State acts. The present Merchant Service (Seagoing) Award and Marine Engineers Award made by Mr. Justice Foster in 1962 contain the following provisions -
If personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of the employment be caused to an employee and it is not proved to be attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct the employer shall pay compensation in terms of the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911-1960 as if the definition of “ seamen “ in section 3 of that Act included employees within the meaning of this award.
Thus the award now incorporates the Act. Why should not the Act itself cover this situation? In the present situation there may be difficulties in recovering the amount due under these awards. How are the rights to be enforced? Section 123 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that an employee entitled to the benefit of an award may within the prescribed time sue in a court of competent jurisdiction for the recovery of any payment due by way of wages. This section may be merely declaratory of the High Court’s decision in Mallinson’s case, but it deals only with the recovery of payments due by way of wages.
Section 119 provides for the imposition of penalties for breaches of awards, but the Commission may only by virtue of section 41 (c) fix maximum penalties not exceeding £100 in Hie case of an employer. These provisions are obviously inapt and inappropriate in a case where non-payment of compensation occurs in case of death. Nor does it seem clear that dependants may enforce payment of compensation. They are not parties to an award. The award is binding only on the parties mentioned in section 61 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. These parties include employers, but what right has a dependant to proceed against an employer for a benefit which an award is designed to confer upon her? In the Queen v. Hamilton Knight, Chief Justice Dixon said -
But the conciliation commissioner cannot by his award extend to the officers in question the jurisdiction of the courts upon which the Seamen’s Compensation Act confers the authorities given by, for example, Section S (3), SC (3) and certain clauses in the first and second schedules to the Act. Further if the provisions of the Act were made applicable in full it would be found that in some respects the operation of the words in one clause of the claim made would be enlarged and in others qualified or restricted.
He also said -
It is evident that there are many difficulties in an attempt to incorporate the Act by reference in an award in relation both to meaning and application and also validity and operation.
Mr. Justice Fullagar in referring to existing award provisions stated that any dispute as to liability or amount could be decided in an action at law in the ordinary court but he was not then dealing with claims of dependants. Procedural difficulties would arise, in the light of what Chief Justice Dixon said. The regulations made under the Seamen’s Compensation Act apply where rights created by that Act require to be enforced. They have no application to the case where a right flows from an award provision. The regulations contain elaborate provisions for the determination of disputed claims, for the investment and application of compensation moneys awarded to dependants of deceased seamen, for the appointment of medical referees and for the recording of agreements, all of which are frequently resorted to where claims for compensation are made on behalf of seamen or their dependants. It accordingly seems desirable that the Act should be made to apply to masters, officers and engineers.
Both the Guild and the Institute would welcome such an amendment.
A second important matter arises in relation to claims for compensation where partial incapacity occurs. In a recent High Court case- L. W. Smith Pty. Ltd, v. McErlane - reported in volume 107 of the Commonwealth Law Reports a majority decision was handed down. I quote from the headnote of the report as follows -
A seaman’s overtime wages are not to be taken into account in determining the amount of his weekly pay at the date of the injury for the purposes of the Schedule.
The headnote also stated -
A right of time off pursuant to the Seamen’s Award 1959 is not an addition to weekly pay and payment in lieu of time off is not within the concept of weekly pay at the date of the injury either as a matter of the ordinary meaning of those words or by virtue of the special provision in paragraph 3 of the First Schedule as a regular “allowance payable by the seaman in respect of his employment.”
This decision works a particular hardship on seamen because, they are really seven day a week workers and time in excess of 40 hours a week is paid for on an overtime or penalty basis, or alternatively time off in lieu may be given. The amendment which my colleague will circulate in respect of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act would cure this injustice. [Extension of time granted.]
The concluding matter I wish to mention concerns the limitation of liability which seems to exist in respect of seamen’s compensation under State worker’s compensation acts. The Seamen’s Compensation Act of this Parliament can deal only with people for whom the Commonwealth can legislate under its powers with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, or its power to legislate with respect to Territories. A number of seamen are employed all of the time or most- of the time on vessels plying between ports within the one State. This applies in respect of the Western Australian Government State Shipping Service at least when the ships are not on voyages to Darwin. It applies also in respect of the “ Troubridge” which trades between Port Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln. It applies to the “ Waiben “ which trades on the Queensland coast only. Most importantly in the history of this matter it applies to the “60-milers” engaged in the New South
Wales coal trade between Newcastle and Mortlake in Sydney Harbour. To complete the picture there are also a number of fishing and pearling vessels, ketches and suchlike which trade deepsea but intrastate. All these ships are covered by State workers’ compensation acts.
There is, further, a real doubt whether the amounts provided as compensation under those Acts could be paid in the event of an overwhelming disaster. Such a disaster overtook the “Birchgrove Park”. In 1956 that vessel was lost, probably due to the negligence of the owners in not providing tarpaulins to cover the hatches. It foundered and all members of the crew lost their lives. If the widows had proceeded for damages against the owners they would have been met by the limitation of section 503 of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act 1894, which applies to British ships. As defined in the Act, these ships included ships registered in the States and not excluded by interstate operation. The Act limits the liability of the owners to £15 sterling for each ton of the ship’s tonnage in cases of loss of life which take place by their fault or privity. Multiplying the tonnage of the “ Birchgrove Park “ by £15 and dividing the result by the number of bereaved persons would have meant that damages would have been very small indeed - certainly much smaller than the amounts provided under the State Workers’ Compensation Act. It was very doubtful whether the operation of section 503 had been excluded in respect of British ships in New South Wales.
Section 735 of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act reads -
The Legislature of any British possession may by any Act or Ordinance, confirmed by Her Majesty in Council, repeal, wholly or in part, any provisions of this Act . . . relating to ships registered in that possession . . .
It appears that the legislature of New South Wales had never repealed the provisions of section 503 as they applied to British ships in New South Wales and accordingly it would not have been a very profitable operation for the relatives of the victims to sue for damages. A compromise was reached whereby, in consideration of the relatives not claiming damages for negligence, the employers made payments under the State Workers Compensation Act. Nevertheless, it is a moot point whether the State Workers’ Compensation Act can apply
In respect of British ships since no exclusion has been approved by Her Majesty in Council.
The lesson I would draw from this is that the Commonwealth should now ratify the Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of the Owners of Sea-going Ships done at Brussels in 1957. Then under its external affairs power, and, I hope, on the precedent of the Convention on International Civil Aviation done at Chicago in 1944 the Commonwealth could pass a law concerning seamen’s compensation to cover all persons who went down to the sea in ships in the Australian trade. This means that the seamen who are engaged in the intrastate trade would be in no jeopardy as to the compensation or damages which they or their surviving dependants could claim.
I have recorded these views and suggestions in the debate on the two Bills in the hope that the Minister who will hereafter be responsible for this Act will introduce appropriate amendments in the reasonably near future.
.- I would like to make a few brief remarks about the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill. I think we should remember that the purpose of the Bill is limited and is a very proper and beneficial one. The Bill is designed to increase the scale of benefits to those people who come within the ambit of the Act and in respect of whom the Commonwealth is liable to pay compensation. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has told us that he has under consideration wider amendments to the Act. I hope that those amendments will take care of the matters that have been raised in the House from time to time by honorable members concerning this legislation.
I have had only a brief opportunity to examine the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It is obvious that they are drastic amendments. In saying that I do not for a moment imply necessarily or at all that they are to be rejected out of hand on that account. The amendments go a long way. Without in any way seeking to reject or to criticise them at this stage, because I am not qualified to do
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member wait until the Committee stage to canvass the amendments.
– I do not propose to canvass them in any detail. All I suggest is that it would be better to move them when the Bill foreshadowed by the Treasurer comes before the House next year. Then we will be considering large matters of principle and the suggestions contained in the proposed amendments will afford valuable ground for honorable members to consider.
– I think the Treasurer felt that they would be of some use if they were brought forward now so that they could be examined.
– I consider that is so but I do not think they should be incorporated in the Bill at this stage.
– We are not saying that they should.
– What has been circulated will afford valuable opportunities for those honorable members interested in this subject to do some work between now and some time next year when the Bill is introduced.
– The House is indebted to honorable members for the interest that has been displayed so far in the discussion on what is in my view the next major national problem that must be settled. I was pleased to hear the remarks passed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). I have noticed also in the discussion the obvious interest that has been displayed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), with his wide knowledge of the subject and his awareness of the need for a national approach to compensation.
I feel that when this matter of compensation is finally resolved in this country the research done in the last seven years by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) into the subject of compensation, and his preparation of proposals based thereon, will be recognised by most people, including honorable members opposite, who are aware of the need in this country for a compensation scheme which meets the requirements of the Australian community.
What is compensation after all? The principle of workers compensation is the same whether the worker be injured in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland or any other State. It is the principle that employees who suffer injury in some way in the industries in which they are engaged shall be compensated. I hope that in this discussion we will not think merely of Commonwealth public servants, of those good officers who are employed in places like the Government offices opposite this building. The legislation affects all Commonwealth employees. It affects drivers, firemen, guards and other employees of the Commonwealth Railways in exactly the same way as it affects the employees in Government offices here. The amendments which we propose to submit are designed to ensure a broad approach to the question.
I pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for the attitude he has adopted. I have been a member of this Parliament since 1949, and this is the first occasion during that time on which this House has been able to settle down and look at workers compensation as a subject requiring Australia-wide review. The proposals by the Opposition which have been referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh were contested every inch of the way in 1959 and were rejected by the Government at that time as being impossible of acceptance. However, the attitude adopted by the Treasurer on this occasion makes us hopeful that mature consideration will be given to the objectives that we have sought to achieve by all the work that has been done during the last seven years.
There has been a great change in the position over the past seven years. The honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned that seven years ago the Commonwealth compensation legislation was the best in Australia. Today it is the worst. I know that those honorable members on the Government side who have had the priviledge - it is a privilege-of studying the administration of this legislation will agree with me in that. I think New South Wales now has the best legislation in this field. It may be that that is so because New South Wales got off to a good start. At any rate, the framers of the original New South
Wales legislation had the foresight to use simple language when drafting it. As an example, I quote one section of the New South Wales Act. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has suggested that the word “ accident “ be omitted from the Commonwealth Act because its inclusion casts upon an employee the onus of proving that there was an accident before he can proceed further with his claim. The New South Wales Act provides -
A worker who has received an injury whether at or away from his place of employment (and in the case of death of the worker, his dependants) shall receive compensation from his employer in accordance with this Act.
The position is simply stated in a few words. The principle that a worker shall be able to make a claim against his industry for any injury he suffers is now accepted generally, and I do not think there is much difference in the application of the principle throughout Australia. There is a recognition that compensation is simply a payment for injury or illness suffered during the course of employment.
Compensation is a national problem today. It matters not whether a worker is injured at the Bradford Mills in Victoria or at a woollen mill in a suburb of Sydney. The important thing is that the moment the injury is suffered, there is a national financial consequence. The accident risk liability is now carried by insurance companies, and this system has resulted in a great drain on our national resources and has retarded development. In plain, unvarnished terms, whether an employee be working for the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. or in one of the small shops that are rendering a national service, the risk of his sustaining an injury should not be treated as a game of chance. We do not adopt that attitude with respect to widows. Special provision is made for them in our social services legislation, as I shall show later. They are looked after by the nation. We have Commonwealth social services legislation catering for age pensioners. We have Commonwealth legislation to provide for child endowment. The nation bears the responsibility for covering almost all eventualities from birth to death. The only matter in which the nation does not accept complete responsibility is one that is very important to our economy I refer to the obligation to provide for those who are unfortunate enought to meet with accidents while at work. The payment of compensation for such accidents should not be left in the hands of insurance companies and treated as a game of chance. By being allowed to carry the risks for workers compensation, insurance companies have made huge profits which have enabled them to erect 25, 30 and 40-story buildings in our cities. It is the responsibility of the nation to provide for workers compensation, just as it provides for social services. This National Parliament is the one institution in Australia that can give a lead on this matter.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has a complete organisation in every State for the submission of claims for compensation. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) will know, the New South Wales branch has a special section doing nothing else but determining avenues through which and the methods by which claims for compensation should be made. I think the honorable member for Parkes will also know something about it. A similar organisation exists in Victoria, but it may not be quite so expansive as that in New South Wales. We are hoping to continue developing new industries until we finally become a self-supporting nation.
This question of compensation, which is of importance in all sections of industry, is not something that should be left to chance. It is a national matter and should be considered nationally. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said he would ask the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to have this matter discussed at the level of the Attorneys-General he was looking ahead perhaps a little further than the honorable member for Parkes was looking when he suggested in a recent speech that the field of compensation should come within the control of the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
The Treasurer said in his second reading speech that the purpose of the Bill was to increase the amounts payable under the various sections of the Act. What the honorable member for Parkes said was correct - it is in fact a narrow Bill. But when the Treasurer said that he proposed to do something next year about amending the Act in other ways he provided an opportunity for those of us who think about compensation and its impact upon
Australian production and costs of production to put the point of view that we have been putting today and was first put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who led the debate for the Opposition. The honorable member has said that he will move an appropriate amendment. On the last occasion such an amendment was moved there was a fight, the amendment was wiped off and that was that. This time the Treasurer, thank goodness, has said that he will allow it to be placed on record and that it will be examined carefully to see what can be done. I want the Treasurer to consider the view expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, following on the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
The Treasurer spoke about dependent children and said that the intention of the legislation was to improve the tragic circumstances of the widow left with young children. Let me briefly compare the provisions of this legislation with the provisions of our social service legislation. When workers’ compensation was first provided by law the vast field of family protection by means of social services that we now enjoy was not even thought about. I frequently examine the wide field of social services at the present time and compare it with our provisions for workers’ compensation. Scarcely a week goes by in my electorate of Blaxland without somebody calling on me for advice about compensation, either in the State or the Federal sphere, because people know I have had experience of both. To show how backward we are in the field of compensation, I remind the House that the Treasurer said that it was intended to increase the maximum payment for an injured worker to f 11 lis. a week, or to £15 8s. a week if he is married and has one child. The Treasurer said that the £15 8s. is related to the basic wage calculated on the six capital cities basis. The thinking of the Government is evidently on the lines of that which prevailed in the 1914-18 period, when the next step forward was made following the Harvester judgment of 1907. At that time it was considered that the basic wage for a man with a wife and one child would he taken as the minimum payment. Surely in 1964 we have left behind the thinking of 1907 in assessing the entitlement of a married man, with a child, who has been injured in the course of his employment.
Although the Treasurer did not put it in this way, the fact is that we are now getting back to the ideas that prevailed at the time of the 1907 Harvester judgment when we talk about an entitlement of £15 8s. based on the basic wage. Many times we have been reminded in this Parliament of the average wage of £23 a week being paid in Australia today. The New South Wales Act provides that ‘ the maximum compensation payment shall be equal to the average earnings of the employee, whatever that amount is. Let me say right now that I do not believe in maximums because they become minimums. Let me take this a stage further and give a breakup of the maximum payment as provided in this legislation. The Treasurer tells us that there will be £11 lis. for the injured breadwinner, £2 14s. 6d. for the wife and £1 2s. 6d. for the child.
Let me put this hypothetical situation to honorable members: Bill Smith and Tom Jones live next door to one another. Bill Smith is coming home from work on his bike at lunchtime on Saturday when he meets Tom Jones who has been doing some shopping for his family. On the way home a mad car driver collects the two of them and kills them. The one returning from work leaves a widow - and a child for whom compensation payment of £1 2s. 6d. a week is made. The other man leaves a widow and a child, but the payment for that child will be only 15s. a week. The great difference is this: The 15s. a week for that child together with the widow’s mite, comes out of the public purse, the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but the £1 2s. 6d. a week for the other child is paid by a section of industry, which also contributes towards the profits of the underwriting insurance company, and these payments represent a drain on our national economy. Social services and workers compensation are now so closely related that compensation is an Australian national problem.
The last time I spoke on this subject I was critical of the control of the Commonwealth compensation organisation. I hope the officers of that organisation do not take it personally when I say that the time has arrived for us to remove the control of compensation from any departmental interests. I have said that in matters such as this the maximum tends to become the minimum. Where is there any reason in a situation in which a worker who is injured at work and is brought home on a stretcher finds that the payment for his wife will be only £2 14s. 6d. a week, while a man receiving an invalid pension for some disability not connected with an injury at work is able to get a payment of £3 a week for his wife? We have paid attention to the social protection of the community from the cradle to the grave, but we have neglected this single problem of compensation, which should now be dealt with as a national problem. We should have unified control of compensation provisions throughout Australia, and we should ensure that the captains of industry contribute their mite - and it would only be a mite. Everybody knows that the great commercial and industrial organisations in Australia today have found it more profitable to carry their own compensation risks than to insure their employees with insurance companies. Private employers have set the pattern; they have found that they are better off carrying their own compensation risks. How richer would this nation be if the Commonwealth Government accepted the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and arranged a discussion at the level of AttorneysGeneral to unify the whole framework of compensation in Australia. There is no difference between the Commonwealth Railways driver and fireman whose duties take them between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta and the State Railways driver and fireman whose duties take them from Kalgoorlie to Perth. There is no rhyme or reason in what we are doing now because the result could be the breaking up of compensation responsibilities. I say quite frankly that the position relative to compensation is causing a great drain on the Australian economy. Regardless of whether it is a small or a big establishment at the manufacturing level, or whether it is a small farmer or a big farmer, the plain fact is that no person or firm can afford to run the risk of not having an employee covered by compensation. But in the present set up big organisations are able to carry their own compensation risk.
We have a national responsibility to create a fund from which the whole of the economic needs for compensation payments in Australia can be met. We must accept this responsibility and bring into the system big organisations that at present are finding it easier to finance their own compensation schemes. A scheme should be created that does not operate for profit. The workers of Australia should be assured that in regard to compensation they would receive their full wage for as long as they were incapacitated. The Government need not worry about the implementation of this scheme because a bill to cover it could be written in three pages if this approach to the problem were followed. There would be a fund just as there are national funds now to cover widows’ pensions and other pensions. The whole position is silly, in my view, when we contribute on a national basis to a fund, from which no profit is derived, in order to pay pensions to the widows of those killed outside industry while industry has to carry its own compensation responsibilities. But such schemes are not provided at industry’s expense. Various industries have to load their charges and their costs to the point where they are able to cover these schemes. Insurance companies then take the profits and erect buildings of 34 stories from their rake off.
It is hard to visualise, if we think calmly about the problem of compensation from the national standpoint, that over the years since compensation has been accepted as a public liability in Australia we have established many funds but not one in this regard. We accept responsibility for the payment of maternity allowance, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, widows’ pensions, age and invalid pensions, and provision is made for supplementary assistance by way of the funeral benefit. Responsibility for rehabilitation is also accepted. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has described what happens to a man who loses an arm. A classic example of compensation cover is provided by the New South Wales Railway Act. Even before 1920, the Act provided that if an employee were injured in the course of his employment he could accept payment under what was known simply as Section 100b. He retained his classification during the whole of the time he was in the railway service. If a driver on a margin of £5 a week were injured and lost an arm and were given the job of carrying papers from one branch to another, he continued to receive his margin of £5 a week until he retired from the railway service. This is the type of organisation which we should have set up here.
Under another provision of the Act the employee himself, or his widow, could take the lump sum of £4,300. What happens under the present system? The widow is invited to accept the amount because it will give her some protection. If she takes the £4,300, she is left worse off ultimately, because she has lost her husband and, beyond the lump sum, she does not receive anything. The case of a railway man which I recall is somewhat similar to the case which was mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The employee, who was a tradesman, lost an arm and could not afford not to take the lump sum. He ended up carrying papers, and so he dropped the equivalent of a margin of £5 5s. per week on today’s basis because at the time of his injury he was short of a pound and accepted the lump sum payment. This is not the kind of social legislation we should have in this country at this stage of our development. The States themselves are not in a position to create the necessary funds. New South Wales has done a very good job in this regard through its own organisation, but it cannot carry all compensation responsibilities. So the insurance companies have come into the field and are making the profits from which they are erecting 34 storied buildings.
I wish to speak now of the problem of the rehabilitation. Surely it is more our responsibility, if we are nationally minded, than it is the responsibility of the industry in which a person is injured to rehabilitate him and to provide him for the rest of his life with the wage he was earning at the time of the accident. This opinion is in line with what I said was the provision of section 100B of the Railway Act of New South Wales. Under that legislation a railwayman can make his choice. He may accept compensation or take civil action in the matter. What is happening in regard to civil actions today? Anybody who watches the reports of them has noticed the huge amounts which are being obtained by applicants.
We speak about the lump sum payment of £4,300. A payment of this amount may be a very good thing for somebody who is 64 years of age, when he is disabled, and who is ready to retire in 12 months time on a pension or superannuation. But what is £4,300 to a man of 24 years of age who has two or three children and a wife to support? What is the situation there? Surely such an amount as the total payment for compensation went out with hobnailed boots. Surely it is not a question today of handing somebody a mite and saying: “ This is it.” If something happens to a worker in industry, this nation owes to his wife and family the responsibility of providing them with whatever they would have enjoyed had the breadwinner not been taken from them by injury. This cannot be done if insurance companies are to be allowed to carry the compensation responsibility.
So my plea, in addition to what has been said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and what has been put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is to the Treasurer to set up a parliamentary committee to consider this problem. This matter is above party politics. I invite the Treasurer to appoint a committee of members from both sides of this House to discuss and to analyse this problem at a national level and to make reform with respect to compensation the next step forward in our programme for protecting the Australian community. Let industry itself be relieved in that way of some of the heavy responsibility it now carries. If we do so, we give an assurance to a family whose breadwinner falls by the wayside in industry that this nation is ready to step in and provide for them their entitlement in worldly affairs so that they will receive all those things which they would have received if industry had not claimed the life of that person.
.- Whilst members of the Opposition do not propose to oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has indicated, we do intend to move certain amendments in the Committee. However, when we are dealing with these amendments, we will not divide the Committee on them. They will be moved purely and simply to bring to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the need for the acceptance of some definite and specific amendments to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. I join with the honorable member for Hindmarsh in saying that the amendments that we will propose are not the sum total of the amendments that we believe should be incorporated in the Act.
– Order! May I suggest to the honorable member that he does not canvass the amendments at the second reading stage?
– I am not canvassing the amendments. I am just pointing out that I believe the amendments which will be moved do not constitute the sum total of amendments which should be moved. In the time available to me today, I propose to point out to the Minister assisting the Treasurer, Dr. Forbes, several anomalies that exist in the Bill. I hope that he will see that action is taken in another place to correct them and that definite amendments will be adopted to rectify some anomalies which have been brought to light as a result of some recent court litigation dealing with compensation.
Compensation has been the poor relation of industry for many years. Industry and governments as a whole have been reluctant to do anything about it. Unfortunately, the same can be said of many of the trade unions. Many of them have disregarded compensation or have not dealt with it in the same way as they have dealt with other matters. When an employee is paid less than the award rate of pay the trade unions take action. If a man is wrongfully dismissed they are prepared to take action. If a man does not receive his full entitlement of long service leave, annual leave or sick leave the union secretary or the delegate makes representations immediately. But, unfortunately, too few unions have realised and do realise that compensation is just as important to the worker who is injured as receiving his full entitlement in other fields.
– It is more important.
– I agree with the interjection made by the honorable member for Blaxland. Compensation is more important than those other entitlements because after a worker is injured he has to face up to the same responsibilities to which he had to face up prior to his injury.
That is why I am pleased that the Treasurer has said that he will consider the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act again in the new year. Why does he not appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate the ramifications of the Act? Some years ago a Labour government appointed a parliamentary committee to investigate the Repatriation Act. As a result of that investigation many good amendments were introduced, primarily at the suggestion of the various ex-service organisations. If a similar parliamentary committee were appointed to investigate the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, this matter could be dealt with not as a political football but as a need of people in industry. Such a committee would be able to draw up a pattern for compensation legislation throughout the Commonwealth. The trade union movement could be invited to send representatives and to submit its opinions and suggestions on how the Act should be amended in order to provide adequate and reasonable compensation for men injured in industry. I appeal to the Treasurer and the Government to do something of a permanent and concrete nature when they bring forward their amendments early in the new year.
The existing Act contains many anomalies. For the information of honorable members, I will refer to a few cases which have been brought to my attention and which illustrate the stupidity of the wording of the Act These three cases either are receiving my attention at the moment or have received it in the past. One case was that of a man who had his spectacles broken when he was walking past a carpenter who was working on some form work. The carpenter hit a nail. As honorable members know, sometimes nails fly. In this instance the nail flew and broke this man’s spectacles. Originally, his application for compensation was rejected because he had not been injured. Finally, the Treasury agreed to make an ex gratia payment because it felt that reasonable precautions had not been taken to prevent the nail flying and that a screen should have been put around the carpenter. How stupid and ridiculous can you get!
Another case was that of a man who also had his spectacles broken in the course of his employment. He was the driver of a front end loader. He picked up a load. He lifted it up over the top of his machine in order to put it on a truck. There was a piece of 3 x 3 timber in the bucket. The piece of timber fell out, slid down the arm of the machine, bounced on the engine and then broke his spectacles. It was said that he should have been more careful in handling the load and that he should not have picked up that piece of timber. Therefore, his application for compensation was rejected. I say to the Treasurer that the Treasury’s rejection of that claim is on record in his files.
The third case is one that I have under discussion with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) at present. It is the case of a man who injured his back. He has been before a medical referee who has determined that the Postmaster-General’s Department is liable and responsible for his injury. But what is the Department doing? It has offered him employment not in the Newcastle district but in the Sydney district, where he would have to work in a process shop at a reduced wage. He would be on the absolute minimum rate. He would have to transfer his home from Newcastle to Sydney. That would have to be carried out at his expense and not at the expense of the Department. I quote the following from a letter that he received only this week -
With reference to my correspondence dated 1st September, 1964 and your reply dated 29th September, I am sorry to learn that you find it physically and economically impossible to accept the offer of employment in Sydney. Unfortunately, as there is no other suitable position available in which you can be placed, it will now be necessary to proceed with your retirement, for which approval has been given, with effect from expiration on the 28th October, 1964.
That is the attitude of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to a man who was injured in its employ and who was medically examined by its doctors. The Department has decided that because that man is not prepared to accept employment in Sydney it will terminate his services. Those are the sorts of anomalies that exist in the present Act. Those anomalies must be rectified at an early date. As I said earlier, I am pleased to hear that the Treasurer will review the Act in the new year.
I know that the time for this debate ls not completely unlimited and we do not want to be here until half past two or three o’clock tomorrow morning and, possibly, also on Friday morning. So I propose to deal with the amendments that the Treasurer has brought before the Parliament. The amendments still follow the antiquated idea that a man has to be paid so much compensation for himself, so much for his wife and so much for each child and then, so that the Government will not lose out on the deal, a maximum has to be placed on the amount that can bc received by way of compensation.
Unfortunately, the Government has imposed a maximum on the basis of a man’s wages. I interpret that to mean his wage rate. So, if a man receives the basic wage plus a margin of from £2 to £6, depending on his particular employment, and also works a lot of overtime and works under a bonus system, he loses completely the benefit of the additional payments. From my experience in industry, I know that in many industries today production employees are completely dependent on bonus systems in order to receive anything like a decent wage. I know that on numerous jobs in my electorate men are receiving upwards of £10 a week in additional payments. A Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics publication shows that the average wage rate, excluding overtime, in all industries throughout the Commonwealth is 392s. lid. a week. But the actual income of employees is much greater than that because they work a considerable amount of overtime. The figures disclose that the average earnings of employees is far in excess of 392s. Hd. a week.
I believe that even at this stage the Government should introduce, perhaps in another place, a provision for payments to be made in accordance with the average weekly earnings of the worker concerned. I do not agree under any circumstances with the present system of payment. The Government proposes to increase the weekly payment from £10 to £11 lis. and to increase the payment to a wife by a paltry sum. I believe that the payments should be worked out on the basis of the man’s average income and that he should be paid the total sum of his average weekly income.
We know that many men today are committed to expenditure on their homes. Many people, particularly young people, have purchased new homes and are paying more than £5 a week. They have to purchase household furniture and maintain their children and so on. There is no reason to ask them to live on a paltry sum of compensation just because they have been injured on the job, nor should they be asked to reduce their general standard of living. I ask the Minister, even at this late stage, to consider deleting the provision whereby so much is paid for the injured worker, so much is paid for his dependent wife and so much is paid for each dependent child. I ask him to introduce a system by which they receive the average weekly income that they have been receiving.
In recent weeks several anomalies have been discovered in our compensation legislation. One anomaly relates to the wife of a man who is in receipt of compensation. Under the Commonwealth legislation, if the wife of an injured worker goes out to work to supplement the paltry sum that she receives, if the wife decides that she cannot live on the compensation provided and decides to get herself a job, she is immediately deprived of the wife’s allowance. Her separate income is deducted from the amount of her compensation payments. I am pleased to be able to say that the Minister for Labour and Industry in the New South Wales Government announced today that his Government proposes to amend the New South Wales Act to provide that a wife will receive the full amount of the wife’s allowance, irrespective of whether or not she is dependent on the earnings of her husband. That is a provision which the Minister could introduce into the Commonwealth legislation when the Bill is in another place. He could introduce an amendment to provide that the wife of an injured worker may go out to work and still receive full compensation payments. I do not think it is asking too much to ask for that provision to be inserted. I believe that it is fair and reasonable that where a wife is prepared to go out to work, as in the case I have mentioned, she should not be deprived of the compensation that otherwise would bc payable.
I believe also that the provision relating to the payment to the children of an injured worker requires attention. At the moment the legislation provides that the dependent child of an injured worker shall receive £1 2s. 6d. a week. The New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry today announced that the New South Wales Government proposes to extend that payment to a dependent fulltime student child under 21 years of age. The New South Wales Government has seen fit to grant the endowment to a dependent fulltime student child under 21 years of age, so if the Commonwealth Government proposes to retain its system of payments for dependent children and dependent wives why can it not extend this provision to dependent fulltime student children under 21 years of age. I ask the Minister to give consideration to including that provision when the Bill is being dealt with in another place, to bring the Commonwealth legislation into conformity with the amendments which have been proposed by the Minister for Labour and Industry in the New South Wales Parliament.
I now come back to the payment of £4,300 compensation for the death of a worker. I join with the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) in expressing my complete opposition to this method of payment. For how long does the Minister think £4,300 will maintain the dependent wife of a deceased worker plus the children that she has to look after? How long does the Minister think that that sum will last? Of course, the Minister may say that she can invest the £4,300, but if she invests that amount in Commonwealth bonds at, say, 5 per cent, interest, her annual income from interest would be about £215. I do not think she will get very far on the £4 a week that she will receive as interest on her investment. I believe that the time is long overdue when the widow of a deceased worker should receive a weekly amount rather than a lump sum payment, and I believe that she should receive the average weekly wage received by her late husband. Why should she be the loser when industry has claimed the life of her breadwinner? That is quite a simple question. As I said earlier, there has been a change in the thinking on compensation, but there needs to be a much greater and broader change in the thinking of the people associated with the payment of workers’ compensation. The dependents of a worker must not be the losers because he has been injured at work or has sustained some permanent injury while travelling to or from work. In any case, why should a wife become a charge on the social service system by reason of the fact that her husband has been killed in industry? I cannot see why industry should be absolved from responsibility for maintaining the wife when it has been responsible for the death of the worker.
I believe that all the matters to which I have referred should be attended to at a very early stage. Furthermore, what justification is there for the difference between the payments made by the New South Wales Government and those made by the Commonwealth? The New South Wales Government pays £2 3s. a week for the dependent child of a deceased worker, yet the Commonwealth can see its way clear to pay only £1 2s. 6d. Why is there a difference? Does it cost more to maintain the child of an employee of the New South Wales Government than to maintain the child of an employee of the Commonwealth Government? I ask the Treasurer to consider increasing from £1 2s. 6d. to £2 3s. the payment made to a dependent child. The £11 lis. to be provided by the Bill to an employee who is totally incapacitated for work by injury is now outdated because of the increase which will take place soon in New South Wales and which will provide compensation of £11 15s. a week. Why should a worker in receipt of compensation for incapacity for work because of injury be the loser when he has been injured at work?
I refer now to medical expenses. There is a great difference in the payments of medical expenses made by the various States. The Commonwealth is being very generous in increasing from £350 to £500 its liability for medical expenses, but why should the injured worker be responsible for any of the medical expenses? Why should he be required continually to go back to the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation to ask for an increase in the amount of medical expenses that he can be paid and that are necessary to restore him as a working unit in industry. A man could be injured in industry early in life and could require medical treatment for the rest of his days, yet by the proposed amendment we are asked to prescribe a maximum of £500 for medical expenses. Some States have decided that there should be no limit to the amount of medical expenses. I ask the Treasurer to consider removing the limit of £500.
There is an anomaly also in the provision relating to the payments to a widow of a deceased worker. If the worker has been receiving compensation for sickness or injury for any considerable length of time and has used up most of the £4,300, which is the maximum amount permissible for an incapacitated worker, his widow is entitled to only the paltry sum of £700. On the one hand the Government says that the widow of a deceased worker shall be entitled to receive £4,300, but on the other hand it says that if the worker was away from work for any considerable length of time because of the injury it will deduct from the £4,300 the compensation that has already been paid to him. That is the way our age pension system was worked in the early stages of this century. As the honorable member for Blaxland said, and as I agree, the Government is still thinking in terms of 1914-1918 - or even further back, in terms of the beginning of the 20th Century. I believe that that provision should be eliminated as early as possible and a new provision introduced when the Bill is dealt with in another place.
In conclusion, I should like to refer to the provision relating to burial expenses. No proposition has been advanced by the Government to increase burial expenses beyond £60. In New South Wales burial expenses up to £80 are paid. In Victoria the provision is for reasonable expenses to be paid. In Queensland medical and burial expenses up to £220 are paid. In South Australia an amount not exceeding £100 is paid, and in Western Australia the amount is £59 15s. Tasmania will pay medical and burial expenses up to £1,000. I ask whether the Treasurer can tell me of any funeral director who will provide a reasonable burial, with all the associated requirements for £60. A burial alone costs at least £90, and the usual service of taking care of the grave and the like costs about £100 to £120. Yet we fix a maximum of £60. Numerous anomalies exist. They should have been rectified by the Treasurer. Their removal would not involve any great programme of research. All that is required is the omission of certain amounts specified and the substitution of the appropriate larger sums here and there in the Bill. As I have said, no great complications are involved. These matters should be attended to now, not at some time in the future. I hope that, early in the New Year, the Minister will bring in a new and comprehensive compensation scheme after full consultation with the trade unions and everyone else involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Opposition offers no objection to these clauses. Clause 1 reads - (1.) This Act may bc cited as the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1964. (2.) The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1962 is in this Act referred to as the Principal Act. (3.) The Principal Act, as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1964.
This is the kind of provision always adopted, and we see no reason why we should object to this clause. The same applies to clause 2.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, this may be a convenient opportunity for me to comment in a general way on matters that may affect the Opposition’s consideration of subsequent clauses. I may say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), at the second reading stage, correctly stated what I had said to him about the Opposition’s proposed amendments. He has circulated a considerable number of amendments. I had already taken the opportunity of studying them and I was in a position to assure him that these matters would be further considered during the forthcoming recess. It will be recalled that I concluded my second reading speech with a reference to a number of amendments that are currently being examined. These have arisen out of representations, suggestions by honorable members and senators and our own experience in the administration of the principal Act. In recent years, some features of the Act and its administration have been criticised and amendments have been proposed. These have been considered in our preparation of the bill that I have foreshadowed as likely to come forward in the autumn sessional period.
Because of the wide range of the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh on behalf of the Opposition and other proposals that have reached me from other quarters, including honorable members on my own side of the chamber and people outside the Parliament, many of these proposals being of an extensive nature, there has not been sufficient time for them all to be considered and for appropriate provisions to be incorporated in the Bill now before us. A further measure will be brought in as soon as possible. As I mentioned in my second reading speech, the Government decided that a bill to effect the changes in monetary benefits announced in my Budget Speech should be introduced during the current sessional period. The amendments proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh all relate to matters that will be considered by the Government in the next few months. As I have intimated, many of these matters are already being considered, but it has not been possible to complete our study in time for appropriate action to be taken now.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Opposition accepts completely the assurance given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I now intimate, on behalf of my colleagues, that we shall merely propose our amendments in order that they may be officially recorded, but we shall not press to a division the vote on any of them. May I express our appreciation of the Treasurer’s handling of the situation. This is not a party political matter. No Opposition speaker in the debate that has taken place today has sought to make it one. We may have done so on other occasions, and that may be the reason why this time we have done better than we have done previously. This is certainly not a party political issue. Some 600,000 people in the service of the Commonwealth will be affected. This includes the Commonwealth Public
Service, various Commonwealth instrumentalities and even some members of the defence forces. I know that the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations, the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and any union whose members are affected by this legislation will appreciate the Treasurer’s assurance that the outstanding matters are being considered and that action will be taken.
We have today lifted this issue right out of the realm of party politics. We are trying, not as a Parliament of politicians representing our own particular parties, but as a Parliament of Australians, to settle down to the task of ascertaining just what we can do for the benefit of those who unfortunately are injured in the service of the Commonwealth. We want the Commonwealth to assume again the role of leader in the field of workers’ compensation. This is important. I do not attribute the Commonwealth’s leadership in this field many years ago either to Liberal governments, or their equivalent by other means, or to Labour governments. Under governments of both kinds in the past, the Commonwealth was the leader in this field. I hope that the unusual course that the consideration of this measure has taken will once again put the Commonwealth in the position of leader in this important branch of legislation.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 2a, 2b and 2c.
Proposed new clauses - by leave - taken together.
– I move -
That the following new clauses be inserted in the Bill- “ 2a. Section four of the Principal Act is Amended -
by omitting the definition of ‘disease’ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ disease “ includes any physical or mental ailment, disorder, defect or morbid condition, whether of sudden or gradual development, or whether at or away from his place of employment, and also includes the aggravation, acceleration or recurrence of a preexisting disease as aforesaid;’;
by adding to the definition of ‘ employee ‘ the following paragraphs: - (ea) a person who, without remuneration or reward, voluntarily and without obligation engages in activity in connection with the saving of life or property without the consent of, or under the authority or supervision of any organisation formed in a territory of the Commonwealth with the object of saving life or property shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be working under a contract with the Commonwealth, and (eb) a person who in an emergency, without remuneration or reward voluntarily and without obligation assists in saving or attempting to safe life or property and whilst so assisting suffers injury or is killed, shall for the purposes of this Act be deemed to be working under a contract with the Commonwealth,’; and
by omitting the definition of ‘ injury ‘ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “injury” means any physical or mental injury or disease and includes the aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation, deterioration or re-occurrence of a pre-existing injury or disease and includes “disease” as defined;’.”. “ 2b. Section nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ by accident ‘ “. “2c. Section nine A of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
any place which is necessary for him to attend to obtain any payment by the Commonwealth, or a medical certificate, or to receive medical treatment, or compensation in respect of a previous injury or at which workers are selected or picked up for work,’; and
by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections:- (2.) Where a worker is proceeding between his place of abode (including place of temporary abode) and a camp or place at which he is required by the terms of his employment or expected by the Commonwealth to reside temporarily, or at which it is reasonably necessarily or convenient for him to reside temporarily, for any purpose of his employment, he shall be deemed to be proceeding to or from, as the case may be, his place of employment. (3.) In this section, “ proceeding “ means proceeding by any reasonable direct or convenient route or mode of transport for the journey but does not include proceeding during or after any substantial deviation from the route made for a reason unconnected with the worker’s employment, attendance at the school, or obtaining the payment of wages, medical certificate, medical treatment, pick up or compensation, as the case may be, unless, in the circumstances of any particular case the nature, extent, degree and content of the risk of injury was not materially changed or increased by reason only of any such interruption or deviation. (4.) Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any law where a person under contract is required to provide or habitually provides in the performance of work for the Commonwealth any vehicle, plant or equipment, such person shall be deemed to be working under a contract with the Commonwealth.’.”.
I have only a short explanation to make. Sub-clause (a) of proposed new clause 2a adds the following words to the definition of “ disease “ - or whether at or away from his place of employment ….
This covers people who are injured while they are away from their place of employment. It fits in with the travelling time clause. Sub-clause (b) adds to the definition of “ employee “ a provision to cover people who voluntarily offer their services to save life or property, whether with the consent or otherwise of the employer. For the purpose of this Act, it is proposed that they be treated as if they were employees of the Commonwealth and will be entitled to all the benefits of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act in the event of their death or injury. Sub-clause (c) extends the definition of “ injury “ by adding the following words - or disease and includes the aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation, deterioration or re-occurrence of a pre-existing injury or disease and includes “ disease “ as defined.
Proposed new clause 2b seeks to delete the words “ by accident “. We say that “ injury “ is enough without the addition of the words “ by accident “. Proposed new clause 2c seeks to vary section 9a of the principal Act by inserting another paragraph which extends the benefit of workers’ compensation to an employee who is injured while travelling to obtain his wages or while waiting to be picked up for work. It also makes clear that “ place of abode “ includes a camp site or other place of temporary abode. We have in mind such workers as linemen in the Postmaster-General’s Department who are living in a camp or who have been temporarily transferred to some other establishment to do a particular job, which may take only a week or a few days. This amendment makes it clear that such a place is included in “ place of abode “.
We also want to make it clear that a worker killedor injured while travelling to or from work will not be covered for compensation purposes if he makes a substantial deviation from the normal route for a reason unconnected with his employment unless - we add this saving provision - in the circumstances of any particular case the nature, extent, degree and content of the risk of injury was not materially changed or increased by reason only of any such interruption or deviation. What we say to a worker is: “ You can interrupt your journey on your way to and from work. You need not take the shortest possible route, but remember that, if in deviating from the shortest possible route or interrupting the journey the risk of injury is increased, this will be taken into account against you. On the other hand, if it can be shown that the deviation from or interruption of the journey did not contribute to the injury, the mere fact that you deviated from or interrupted the journey will not be held against you.”
Proposed new sub-section (4.) provides - Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any law where a person under contract is required to provide or habitually provides in the performance of work for the Commonwealth any vehicle, plant or equipment . . .
This covers sub-contractors or ownerdrivers employed by the Commonwealth. I have in mind such people as those working at Woomera, on the Commonwealth Railways or at some other place.
– Or on roads.
– Yes, where the Commonwealth is responsible for roadmaking. It frequently happens that it is more economical for the Commonwealth to employ an owner-driver than to provide a a vehicle itself. This could apply even to a horse and dray. If the Commonwealth had to use a horse and dray, say, to take gravel from the bed of a creek, it may not consider it economical to provide a horse and dray for a job that will last only a few weeks. It would then employ the owner of a horse and dray who would work on the job himself. We say that if, in the course of this contract, the horse is killed by a fast moving truck on the road, the owner is entitled to compensation so that he can replace the horse. This would apply also to a motor vehicle or to a person employed by the owner of a motor vehicle used by the Commonwealth. The owner of a vehicle in circumstances such as I have mentioned may find that he cannot operate the vehicle himself and will employ a driver to do so for him. In this situation the driver, if he is injured, should be regarded as an employee of the Commonwealth.
Mr. HANSEN (Wide Bay) (4.53]. - Proposed new clause 2a provides - “ disease “ includes any physical or mental ailment, disorder, defect or morbid condition, whether of sudden or gradual development, or whether at or away from his place of employment, and also includes the aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation, determination or recurrence of a pre-existing disease as aforesaid;
In many instances, disabilities or complaints such as heart conditions do not become apparent until some time after an employee has ceased work. The onus is frequently placed on the claimant or on his dependants to prove that the disability was actually caused at his place of employment. The inclusion of the provision we suggest will help to make the intention of the legislation clear. This proposed new clause also provides - (ea) a person who, without remuneration or reward, voluntarily and without obligation engages in activity in connection with the saving of life or property without the consent of . . .
I recall an incident in which a man working in a cutting on a railway line alongside a farm noticed a farmer who was mowing a nearby field fall from his tractor in front of the mower. This railwayman came out of the cutting and ran over to switch the tractor off. In so doing he broke his ankle and sustained injuries which necessitated his being away from work for 10 months. It was a severe injury. He had considerable difficulty in proving that in this instance he was covered by compensation. He did what would be regarded as the natural thing. Most of us act on impulse in such circumstances. As this is a Commonwealth Act I think it is particularly beneficial that these clauses should be incorporated in the legislation.
– We are considering such a spate of Bills that I find it difficult to follow the procedure. However, in view of the assurances given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) it is probably unnecessary to do so. At any rate, I commend the principle of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) concerning participation in acts of saving of life or property. What he has said is thoroughly right in principle and I hope that some cognisance will be taken of it.
Proposed new clauses negative
– I move -
Omit the clause, insert the following clause:- “ 3. Section eleven of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:-
– (1.) Where a worker sustains personal injury arising out of or in the course of his employment, the Commonwealth shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, pay the cost of such medical treatment in relation to the injury. (2.) The sum for which the Commonwealth is liable under the last preceding sub-section is such sum as is reasonably appropriate to the medical treatment afforded, having regard to the reasonable necessity for such treatment and the customary charge made in the community for such treatment. (3.) Where any compensation is payable by the Commonwealth under this Act to, or in respect of, a worker, any payment under this section shall be in addition to that compensation. (4.) Where, for the purpose of medical treatment, in relation to which the preceding subsections apply, a worker incurs expenses on account of travelling or living away from home, including the expenses of an attendant where that is reasonably necessary, he shall be reimbursed for such amount of that expense as is reasonable and necessarily incurred.’.”.
The main changes proposed by my amendment are to remove the limitation on the amount which may be paid for medical expenses. The Government seeks to amend section 11 of the principal Act by increasing the £350 limit on medical expenses to £500 with the proviso that more may be paid if the Commissioner feels that there is justification for it. Under my proposal there will be no limitation, which will bring our legislation into line with the provisions applying in South Australia and Victoria, where there is no limitation. In those States the law recognises that if a person is injured he is entitled to be restored to health no matter What it costs, and the employer undertakes that responsibility. Obviously £350 or £500 would be out of keeping with the cost of restoring to health a person who had suffered a spina] injury and who might be on his back in hospital for two years at a cost of £20 to £25 a week in hospital fees alone. In cases like that the Commissioner would obviously approve the payment of a full amount. The Commonwealth has probably retained the provision in its present form believing that it is the only way of preventing doctors from making exorbitant charges upon the Commonwealth, but it is not the only way. By using this means we achieve one objective perhaps, but in order to do so we create the anomaly that the employer has the final discretionary say as to how much will be paid, whenever the cost is £500 or more.
I also propose that where a person requiring medical treatment is obliged to travel and live away from home, and is required to have the assistance of an attendant travelling and living with him while he is being treated, the full cost of travelling and living away from home expenses for himself and the attendant shall be met by the Commonwealth.
.- I have already congratulated the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) privately on the industry he has put into these amendments and 1 now do so publicly. In view of the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) before we went into Committee I shall be brief and shall address the Committee only on the points which, from my own immediate knowledge, I consider do not need amendment. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is not necessary. In fact, I was somewhat perturbed this morning when the Treasurer proposed making a number of administrative amendments to this legislation at a later date. He has this afternoon clarified the position by explaining that be used that phrase loosely and not as a term of act and that be will also consider the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
By this amendment it is proposed to substitute a completely new section 11. I suggest that this is quite unnecessary. The Government proposes amending the section to increase the amount up to which there need be no exercise of discretion by the Commissioner from £350 to £500. Of course, this does not prevent the Commissioner from exercising his discretion above this amount, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh will appreciate.
– He saidthat earlier.
– I appreciate that. It does not stop the Commissioner awarding a larger sum than £500, so I fail to see the point taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that we should remove the limitation. He also said that his amendment was designed to include payment for the expenses of an attendant. The existing section deals with medical benefits. Sub-section (2.) deals specifically with medical treatment. To refresh the honorable member’s memory I refer to the definitions section of the Act - section 4 - where medical treatment is defined as follows - “ medical treatment “ means-
I suggest that this is a most comprehensive definition of medical treatment. Let us pass now to the question of travelling to medical treatment, travelling from medical treatment or remaining for medical treatment. This is dealt with in section 11 (1.). The Commonwealth is liable under section 11 (l.)(b) for all expenses incurred travelling to medical treatment and travelling from medical treatment by ambulance. I suggest that it is not necessary to have an amendment to make it specifically possible to recover the expenses of an attendant when the existing legislation makes it permissible for a person who needs it to travel by ambulance from the place of treatment. It is quite unnecessary to include the expense of an attendant. With all respect to the honorable member for Hindmarsh I cannot see what sort of an attendant one would need travelling from treatment other than in an ambulance.
In anticipation of the discussion we have been promised by the Treasurer at a later date, when he will consider all the amendments put forward by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, one point I should like to make is that as it stands at present section 11 only permits travel otherwise than by ambulance if the distance between the place of treatment and the patient’s home is in excess of 15 miles. I think that one good thing that has come out of the proposal made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is that it is quite wrong in principle for a person who has to have treatment to be paid travelling expenses to his place of treatment but to be limited if he is not travelling by ambulance to claiming only for expenses incurred in travelling a distance in excess of 15 miles. I would think that if a person must have treatment and is paid for travelling to receive that treatment then he ought equally to be paid an amount for the return trip.
In my opinion it is not necessary to accept the amendments proposed by the honorable member because if a person has to remain for treatment he is covered under the existing legislation by section 11 (1.) (b)
I commend again the honorable member for Hindmarsh for his efforts but I could not agree to this particular proposal. I do not think the amendment is necessary. I think the existing legislation, with the one exception relating to travel from the place of treatment to the home, which I think should be any distance - not just a distance in excess of 15 miles - is perfectly proper.
– I appreciate the spirit in which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) has entered into the debate. This is the kind of debate where we see Parliament at its best - where we appear to do the best for the people whom we are trying to help. The honorable member could be right. I would not be adamant about this. Our view is, however, that the amendment I have moved is necessary, judging from experiences we have had. Years ago, I recollect, an employee of the .Commonwealth Railways was injured. As a result of his injury he developed osteo-arthritis to such an extent that he had to travel frequently to Adelaide for treatment. He did not go by ambulance. He had to go by train. He had to be accompanied by his wife, who was not a nurse and who could not under any circumstances qualify as a nurse. He did not enter hospital when he came to Adeliade. That is the trouble. He remained in an hotel visiting the local specialist for ray treatment or some other treatment. He was not in a hospital. He was not travelling in an ambulance. He was not accompanied by a nurse.
If what the honorable member for Denison has said is correct, all that is needed is for the existing law to be clarified beyond all doubt, if clarification is necessary. We are not asking for the Bill to be amended simply for the sake of having some sort of party victory. I do not want the Bill to be amended if the provisions we seek are already covered by the Act. On the other hand, if the Act covers these things in only an oblique way the coverage should be made quite clear by some suitable alteration.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). It is interesting to note that although the Bill increased the allowances that may be paid to persons suffering injuries, the Commonwealth legislation still will not be the best of its kind in Australia. In New South Wales, for example, the amounts are £500 for medical expenses, £500 for hospital expenses and £250 for ambulance expenses.
I, too, have had experiences of cases where injured persons have travelled distances of less than 15 miles to seek attention. Only last week I spoke to a member of a Bureau of Mineral Resources team employed in western Queensland. The man became sick suddenly and had to be taken nearly 70 miles to Boulia by the Royal Flying Doctor Service at a cost to himself of £23. Under the Act he could not claim recompense in respect of the first 15 miles. In Queensland the maximum amounts payable under the State law are £125 for medical expenses and £125 for hospital expenses. Free passes are available for travel on the Government railways to injured persons and to their escorts. In very few cases is the maximum reached in respect of travelling expenses. I do not think it is wise to set a maximum for this kind of expense. I do not think there should be any limit on this kind of expense and the Compensation Commissioner should not be called upon to decide whether expenses will be met.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 3a. Section twelve of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1.) Where an injury sustained by a worker arising out of or in the course of his employment is an injury specified in the first column of the Third Schedule to this Act a lump sum of compensation equal to the percentage of special compensation specified, in relation to that injury, in the second column of that Schedule is, subject to this Act, payable to the worker. (2.) For the purpose of the last preceding subsection, special compensation is an amount calculated by multiplying the worker’s average weekly earnings (including allowances and overtime) during the rwenty-six weeks immediately preceding the date of the injury by two hundred and sixty. (3.) For the purposes of this section and the Third Schedule of this Act, the permanent loss of the efficient use of a joint, limb or member shall be deemed to be the loss of that joint, limb or member. (4.) Where before the injury the worker habitually used his left hand and arm to perform his work and that work is usually performed by a person with his right hand and arm, the compensation payable’ to the worker under this Section is -
for the loss of his left arm or any part ofhis left arm - the amount prescribed by sub-section (1.) of this Section as payable to a worker for a similar loss in respect of his right arm; and
for the loss of his right arm or any part of his right arm - the amount prescribed by sub-section (1.) of this Section as payable to a worker for a similar loss in respect of his left arm. (5.) Where an injury sustained by a worker arising out of or in the course of his employment is the partial but permanent loss of speech, eyesight or hearing, or of the use of a faculty, organ, limb, member or joint, a lump sum of compensation equivalent to such percentage of the amount of compensation payable under sub-section (1.) of this Section in respect of total loss of a similar nature as is equal to the percentage of the diminution of the efficiency of the faculty, organ or part of the body concerned is, subject to this Act, payable tothe worker. (6.) Where an injury sustained by a worker arising out of or in the course of his employment is the partial and incurable loss of his mental powers, or the partial and incurable paralysis of, or damage to, any part of his body not otherwise covered by the preceding provisions of this section, such worker may elect to accept a lump sum of compensation, assessed according to the percentage of the diminution of the worker’s full earning capacity in respect of work of the nature of that in which he was employed at the time of the injury, is, subject to this Act, payable to the worker. For the purpose of this sub-section, the value of the worker’s full earning capacity shall be assessed as if it were special compensation as provided in this Section. (7.) Where an injury sustained by a worker arising out of or in the course of his employment is a severe disfigurement, or permanent, partial or total loss of the use of any part of the body, a lump sum of compensation, assessed according to the degree ofthe severity of the injury, shall, subject to this Act, be payable to the worker. (8.) Where a worker sustains more than one injury in relation to which this Section applies, he is entitled to payment of a lump sum of compensation equal to the aggregate of each lump sum payable under the preceding provisions of this Section in respect of each of those injuries.’.”.
The purpose of the amendment is to recast existing section 12 of the principal Act. The amendment alters the basis of the lump sum compensation now proposed to be fixed at £4,300 to a lump sum compensation equivalent to 260 times the employee’s average weekly earnings. So an employee earning £27 a week who is incapacitated will be compensated for an injury on the basis of his earning capacity of £27 a week. It so happens that the £4,300 lump sum proposed in the Bill would compensate an employee whose average weekly earnings are about £16 9s. - that is, if one is to divide the £4,300 by 260 weeks. That is all right for a person earning £16 9s. a week. In that case one might say that compensation of £4,300 is adequate. But the principle of fixing a sum of £4,300 is not adequate to the highly skilled person whose average weekly earnings are £32. I believe this is what we should take into account. We are here compensating people for the extent of their loss. Our amendment is unanswerable to those who accept the principle that a man should be compensated for loss of his earning capacity. Speaking personally, I do not accept that principle as the chief criterion. In any event, our amendment is a fair and proper way of providing compensation. It would not establish a precedent. Even if it did, that fact alone is no reason why it should not be accepted. But a precedent has already been established. A precedent for the principle involved is to be found in the South Australian Act, where provision is made for a lump sum equal to the average weekly earnings of the person over four years. We think that four years is not enough. Probably the South Australian Parliament would say so, too, if it ever got down to looking at the provision. It las been in the South Australian Act for 35 or 40 years now. I cannot possibly believe that the South Australian Parliament would not be able to see good reason for improving upon what was thought proper so long ago as that.
We want to have written into the Act a provision that loss of any faculty, organ, limb, member or joint not mentioned in the schedule of injuries shall attract compensation and that, on a varying scale, so also shall partial loss, so that compensation can be paid without any trouble in those cases. At the moment, the Act provides that if a man loses a leg he will get the compensation specified in the schedule, and that, if he loses the partial use of the leg he will get partial compensation, based upon the amount fixed for the full loss of the leg. But my point is that unless the injury he suffers is specified in the Schedule, he cannot draw on this section to obtain Compensation of any kind. As to loss of a faculty, we know that in rare cases people are struck dumb by shock resulting from an accident. No compensation can be claimed in those cases because no mention of that type of injury is made in the Schedule. If a man is a court crier and loses his speech, he can claim compensation. It is also true that a woman can claim compensation for facial disfigurement provided she is a theatre usherette or a hotel receptionist.
– Or a mannequin.
– Or a mannequin. However, no compensation could be claimed by a person who was engaged in an occupation in which the employer did not care whether the employee was good looking or bad looking. We want to rectify that position.
I come now to sub-section (6.) of proposed new section 12. This deals with partial and incurable loss of mental powers. We seek to introduce the principle of allowing the person concerned to elect to receive either a weekly compensation payment or a lump sum. The purpose behind this proposal is clear. It could happen that the person concerned could be given greater assistance by being paid a lump sum to invest in some small business. It is possible that his wife could look after him more adequately in those circumstances and that he would benefit more from this type of assistance than from living as a pensioner for the rest of his life. I shall not elaborate the matter further. I think that when it is properly examined by the Commonwealth experts, the principles involved will be revealed. I hope the amendment will be adopted.
Clause 4 (Maximum compensation).
.- I move-
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: - “4. Section thirteeen of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the amount of compensation payable in respect of an injury or injuries caused by any one injury shall not, except as provided by this Section, exceed an amount calculated by multiplying the worker’s average weekly wage plus allowances and overtime during the twenty-six weeks immediately prior to the date of his injury.’; and
by inserting in sub-section (2.) after the words ‘ results in ‘ the words ‘ or materially contributes to’.”.
The principal alteration here is the inclusion of the words “ or materially contributes to “ after the words “ results in “ in sub-section (2.) of section 13 of the principal Act. We want to ensure that compensation will be payable not only where the injury causes the death but also where it materially contributes to the death.
Proposed new clauses, 4a, 4b and 4c.
Proposed new clauses - by leave - taken together.
– I move-
That the following new clauses be inserted in the Bill- “4a. Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word ‘ accident ‘ (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the word ‘ injury ‘.”. “ 4b. Section seventeen a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ by accident V. “4c. Section twenty of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ County Court ‘ and inserting ;n their stead the words ‘ Industrial Court ‘;
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words ‘ thirty days ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ ninety days *; and
by adding at the end of sub-section (2.) the words: -
After any person affected by any determination of the Commissioner has appealed against the determination, the Commissioner shall not without the consent of the person affected, alter, amend or revoke the determination.’.”.
The first of these amendments seeks to delete the word “ accident “ where it now appears in section 1 6 of the Act. The second seeks to delete the words “ by accident “ where they appear in section 17a of the Principal Act. The third seeks to amend section 20 by providing that the appeal from the Commissioner shall be to the Industrial Court rather than to a county court, as now provided. It also seeks to provide that employees wishing to lodge appeals shall be given 90 days in which to do so, rather than 30 days as at present. The final amendment proposed seeks to ensure that after the person affected has received the determination of the Com missioner the Commissioner shall not alter or vary that determination without the consent of the person concerned.
Proposed new clauses negatived,
– I move -
Omit the clause, insert the following clause - “ 5. The First Schedule to the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (1.) and inserting in its stead die following paragraph - (1.) The amount of compensation shall be -
where the death of the employee results from or is materially contributed to by the injury -
if the employee leaves any dependants wholly dependent upon his support, an amount calculated by multiplying the worker’s weekly earnings, including allowances and overtime for the 26 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury by two hundred and sixty and, in addition, an amount of £250 in respect of each child who, being a dependant under the age of 16 years at the date of either the injury or the death of the employee, was, at the date of injury wholly or mainly dependent on the earnings of the employee;
if the employee does not leave any dependants wholly dependent upon his support, but leaves dependants in part dependent upon his support, such sum, not exceeding in any case the amount payable under clause (i) of this sub-paragraph as is considered by the Commissioner to be reasonable and proportionate to the injury; and
such sum as is necessary for the cost of the employee’s funeral, burial or cremation;
where the employee is totally incapacitated for work by the injury, a weekly payment during his incapacity equal to the worker’s average weekly wage, including allowances and overtime; and
where the employee is partially incapacitated for work by the injury - a weekly payment during his incapacity -
of the amount (if any) by which the weekly amount he is earning, or is able to earn in some suitable employment or business, after the injury is less than his weekly pay at the date of the injury;
of the amount (if any) by which the weekly amount he is earning, or is able to earn in some suitable employment or business, after the injury is less than the weekly amount that would have been payable to him under paragraph (b) of this paragraph, if he had been totally incapacitated; whichever is the greater.’;
By omitting sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1a.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-paragraph: -
where death results from or is materially contributed to by the injury any amount paid or payable before the death of the employee by way of weekly payments in respect of his total or partial incapacity for work shall not be deducted from the sum payable under clause (i) of subparagraph (a) of that paragraph, or shall be disregarded in determining the sum payable under clause (ii) of that sub-paragraph, as the case may be;’; and
By omitting clause (iii) of sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (1a.).”.
Clause 5 increases the lump sum payable from £3,000 to £4,300. It increases the wife’s allowance and provides that the amount payable for children shall be £1 2s. 6d. a week for each child until attaining the age of 16 years, in lieu of £100, with the proviso, of course, that where there is benefit in receiving the £100 then the £100 shall prevail. We do not accept those pro posals. As I said before, we submit that the figure ought to be one which represents an amount equal to 260 times the average weekly earnings of the employee. We think that the compensation payable to the wife for the death of her husband should be in accordance with that principle. We also believe that there ought not to be any limit on the reimbursement for the cost of funerals and that burials and cremations ought to be covered as well. We submit, too, that where an employee is totally and permanently incapacitated he ought to get his full wages for life, not just 75 per cent. of his wages as at present. We regret that drafting difficulties prevented us from making provision for the widow of a worker who is killed to be given what we think she ought to get, namely a pension for life equal to the full earning capacity of her breadwinner. That is what we believe she should get if she has dependent children. If there are no dependent children our proposition is - although, I repeat, this is not included in this proposal - that she should get 75 per cent. of her late breadwinner’s average weekly earnings.
We also believe, and provision is accordingly made in the proposition that I now submit, that when a person is partially incapacitated the obligation should be clearly upon the Government to find suitable employment for him in some other industry or calling and to make up the difference in earning capacity between that job and the one previously performed by the person injured, by giving him a partial pension equal to the difference in wage payments for the two jobs.
In addition we would like - although we have not, because of drafting difficulties and for other reasons, been able to include this suggestion in this proposal - the Government to use the resources of the rehabilitation centres under the control of the Department of Social Services to rehabilitate and give vocational guidance to these wrecks of human beings who have been broken, and sometimes broken in mind as well as in limb, through industrial accidents. We can restore many of these people to perfectly normal lives, as thehonorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) would agree. I appreciate the lively interest that the honorable member has taken in this debate. He has sat right through the proceedings today and I do not think many of us can claim to have done likewise, although I know that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) has done so, as has the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle). This is a good thing. It is gratifying to see people taking an intelligent interest in the debate even though they are not participating in it.
I say no more about the matter. There are one or two other matters which I could elaborate. The Government’s advisers will no doubt consider them in due course and I leave them, with their expert knowledge of the law and the requirements of the Act, to do just that.
.- The Bill proposes to increase the lump sum payment to £4,300. This does no more than bring the legislation into line with the most advanced workers’ compensation legislation, which, is the legislation in operation in New South Wales. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has said that the Commonwealth should lead in this field and he has put forward a proposition that the lump sum payment should be 260 times the average weekly earnings. It has been suggested that in assessing the average weekly earnings amounts such as bonus and overtime payments should be taken into account, lt has also been suggested that the amount of £100 for each child should be altered.
Another proposal in the Bill is to increase the payment for an injured person from £10 to £11 lis. a week, and to increase the payment for a dependent wife from £2 10s. to £2 14s. 6d. The honorable member for Hindmarsh touched on a very important point. Most people who meet with a serious accident start to think of what their prospects are for future employment. They go through a very worrying time. I have had experience of it myself. I lost two fingers and I wondered whether- 1 could -write lefthanded. Eventually, after much perseverance, I found that I could manage reasonably well, but never as well as I did when I had a full right hand of fingers. As I say, people who suffer injuries in industrial accidents face a worrying time, but eventually, after perseverance and a good deal of trial and error, they are able to come back and again take their places in the community. I believe that until they are again placed in employment their compensation payments should continue.
Too often we find cases in which people are said to be suitable for light employment. I have never seen the job that came within that category. The only light work I know of is around lighthouses, and that is not too light at times. I have known of a case in which did not involve stooping or bending “. light work and his previous employers refused to re-employ him because over a number of years he had suffered from a back injury. His union took his case to court. The doctor was asked in cross-examination: “ What work would you say he was capable of carrying out? “ He replied: “ Any work which did not involve stooping or bending.” Of course, even if a man is only pushing a broom he must still bend or stoop at some time, even if only to tie his bootlaces.
Placing a man in the category of suitable for light duty is merely a way of removing the responsibility of the previous employer to continue to pay compensation. I believe, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh and other honorable members to whom I have spoken believe, that compensation payments should continue until the person concerned is eligible for the age pension or is placed in permanent employment. Some people might say that this would discourage the person receiving compensation from looking for work. In my long experience I have found that the vast majority of people are mainly interested in being independent, in holding down a job of their own and not being dependent on handouts to provide for their family. They want to be sure that they will be able to carry out a full day’s work and take home a full pay envelope at the end of the week. This is their main interest in life. They want a feeling of independence. For every person you find who is not prepared to try to make a go of it, you will find 100 or 200 genuinely looking for the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.
– There is just one other small matter I should explain in relation to our proposal. It does two things in addition to what I have already outlined. The Bill provides an amount of £700 as the minimum amount which the Commonwealth may pay in lump sum after the deduction of weekly payments already made. At the moment the Commonwealth can deduct in certain circumstances from the lump sum all of the weekly payments already paid, provided it leaves a minimum of £400. It is proposed by this Bill that this be increased to £700. I point out that although the practice of deducting weekly payments already made may be more or less the general rule throughout Australia, it is not without exception. New South Wales and South Australia provide that the full lump sum specified in their respective acts shall be paid, notwithstanding any weekly payments already made. I do hope that the Commonwealth can see its way clear to adopt this more enlightened approach to the problem.
The only other matter I want to mention is the protest we make against using the award rate of a minor in fixing his weekly compensation. What I would like the officers of the Department to do is to bear in mind that in many cases minors, though entitled to only the juvenile rate under the award, are, in fact, receiving the adult male rate. In some awards with respect to employment in quarries junior rates are provided. These are intended to cover the billyboy or the boy knocking around the quarry who does little odd jobs. But quarries frequently employ big, strong young fellows of 18 and 19 years of age who actually do quarrying work. It is not the class of work for the performance of which a university education is required. The young fellows have the brawn required to do the job. They receive the full adult male rate. Perhaps they are not entitled to it by law. I think that this situation ought to be taken into account so that, instead of what the award says a boy or a person of a particular age should receive, the principle should be applied of giving to a person of that age if he is injured compensation on the basis of the wage that he actually receives and not what he is entitled to under the award.
Clause agreed to.
.- I move -
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: - “6. The Third Schedule to the Principal Act is repealed and the following Schedule inserted in its stead: -
Honorable members will notice that this amendment deals with the Third Schedule. Clause 6 of the Bill deals with the same subject. At the outset, I must say that I am obliged again to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) who has directed my attention to a part of the Act concerning the loss of the sight of an eye. He has pointed out very rightly that the Act already makes it clear, not in the Schedule it is true, but in section 12-
– The honorable member points out that this matter is covered in the Act. I thank him for this information. But I am not completely satisfied that this provision obviates completely the need for the alteration that I have put forward. I do not care whether or not the amendment is adopted so long as the officers of the Department are satisfied beyond all doubt that the Act as it now stands is sufficient to cover the point that 1 previously mentioned. It has been put to me that I could have been misled on the point. I am not being adamant about it. It has been put to me that, in one case, although the sight of the eye had gone compensation was refused because the eye was still in its socket.
Forgetting about what the honorable member for Denison has said, I point out that the Schedule, read on its own, merely speaks about the loss of an eye and not the loss of the sight of an eye. This point, it was suggested to me, had been seized upon by a delegate, perhaps not well versed ‘m the law, to refuse compensation. As I say, in politics and parliamentary life, a member can only accept as being given in good faith information that he receives. I accept this information in that same good faith. I may have been misled by the person who gave the information to me, or he himself may have been misled. I mention the matter because I am sure it will do the officers of the Department no harm if they go into the matter thoroughly. If it is found necessary to do anything about it, I am sure they will act accordingly. As I said during my second reading speech, no-one suggests, for one single moment that the Government, or the officers who prepared the Bill, intended to use any verbiage contained in the Schedule in order to deprive a person who had lost the sight of his eye compensation just because the eyeball was still in the socket. No-one is suggesting that was done. I am in fact, asserting that was not done.
The other main consideration is that we include under the heading “ Other injuries “ in the Schedule loss of speech, which is covered by compensation equal to 52 per cent, of the maximum, the maximum in turn being the sum of money arrived at by multiplying the average weekly earnings by 260. I have already explained this figure to honorable members, and I need not elaborate upon it now. Under this heading, two new provisions are also included. The first is -
Loss of, or total impairment of, genital organs, or being rendered sexually impotent.
In each case, the percentage of special compensation is 100 per cent.; in other words, the full amount payable. The second new nature of injury is -
Loss of, or the loss of the use of any other faculty, organ or part of the body not covered elsewhere in this Act.
This is a sort of dragnet clause which does not specify or apply to any particular organ or limb of the body. It is put in purely as a dragnet clause. I leave the question of the genital organs and the disability of being sexually impotent to the honorable member for West Sydney, who has been a well known expert on the matter for quite a long time. He has brought this question to the notice of the Parliament before. It is a matter that is near and dear to his heart. I congratulate him upon the fact that he, more than any other honorable member, has been responsible for drawing attention to a terrible tragedy which can befall men. I do not know whether it can apply to women also, but it certainly does apply to men. Anybody who is affected or is likely to be affected in the future in this way and who gains anything by way of compensation has nobody but the honorable member for West Sydney to thank.
– You will agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I am breaking new ground. I am very thankful to honorable members on this side of the chamber who have done a good day’s work. I am mindful of the fact that we have an assurance from the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that he will look into the matter and possibly bring down legislation in relation to it. I feel that the fact that, in two years, we have received a promise that at least the case of the gentleman to whom I have referred previously in this House will be investigated is a step forward.
The matter about which I am now going to speak is not new. I spoke in this House on the 2nd May in regard to it. The whole case appeared in the “ Medical Journal” and also in the “New York Times”. If it has appeared in those two publications, surely there is nothing wrong about speaking here on it on behalf of this person.
The case was that of a man who was employed in one of the large city Tatt’s buildings in Sydney as a cleaner. This gentleman had been working at the job for nine months in a commendable manner. On a certain day, he was engaged in the removal of a sofa from one room to another. The gentleman at the other end of the sofa allowed his end of the sofa to drop. That is where all the trouble started. This man was hit. After a few days, he was in great pain. He was taken to hospital and he was operated on. On the first occasion he was operated on, he suffered the loss of one - . I went to see the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), and I put this man’s case to him. I said that his paper was filled in by the almoner in the hospital and that certain things were unanswered. I said to the Minister: “ You have refused him any compensation payment.” The Minister insisted all the time that the patient could not be paid because his application was not satisfactory. I said: “The man is in hospital so how can it be satisfactory?” To make a long story short, I merely say that the Minister for Social Services, from that day, has given this man nothing. I said to the Minister: “ I intend to raise this matter in the House. I would like you to help me to introduce this subject. What am I going to say? I cannot go into the House and say that he is a gelding. What would be the proper way to describe his trouble? Would the proper term be his privates or his testicles? “ The Minister said: “ Leave it to me and I will have a look at it.” That was 18 months ago and the Minister has not looked at it yet. This person received no money whatsoever in respect of his claim. He went into hospital. He was there only a few weeks. I approached him in hospital and did everything I could for him. He went back to work and after about three days he had a recurrence of trouble. I have shown him the Schedule to this Bill. I hope that I will be allowed to incorporate it in “ Hansard”. The Schedule states that for the loss of a great toe a person receives £860 and for the loss of any other toe a person receives £344. So, in all, if a person lost two toes - a big one and a little one- he would collect about £1,200. But there is no legislation in Australia under which this man can receive justice.
Three months after he left hospital he had two bills to pay - one for £110 from a hospital in Darlinghurst, and the other for £125 from a hospital in North Sydney. So he had two bills and he was minus two of something else. He had no job. I tried very hard to get him a job through the Commonwealth Employment Service. We succeeded in getting him a job as a cleaner in one of the big emporiums in Sydney. He did his work very well for a while. He came along to see me one day. I said to him: “ How are you getting on in your job? “ He said: “ Not too well. When I am getting around doing my work and I see all the nice young girls around, I get very lonely “. I said to him: “ Never mind about the lonely part of it. Are you satisfied with the job you have? “ Well, he worked in that job for about three months and then he was put off.
If he has to walk any distance, he has to sit down on the kerb or the footpath to rest. I am no judge of how he should feel after losing such important things. But he has no chance of getting a job at the present time. He went before Judge Rainbow, who decided that he had not been earning his living by what he had lost. The next thing was that his wife was not too pleased about things. He does not mind my saying these things, because he is desperate. His wife was advised by a leading solicitor in Sydney that if she took proceedings she might be awarded damages for loss of conjugal rights. But, having no money, she could not go to court. That is this unfortunate man’s position at the present time.
One day I took Les Haylen to meet him in my office, because my secretary is not too keen on entertaining him and giving him some of the kindness that I have given him. Les Haylen was not a candidate for the Senate at that time, but he had lost his seat. Les said to him: “ Well, my boy, if 1 were in Parliament I would give Danny some help and we would get you some compensation straight away”. When you are out of Parliament you can always make promises. I did not like to contradict Les Haylen, but I knew the hard row that I would have to hoe in order to get anything from this Government. But, after the election on the 5tb of next month, Les Haylen will be back in this Parliament. Then we will see what he will do.
I think that we have done a good job this afternoon in trying to do something for this man. There is no chance of his being arrested for rape or anything like that, because of his present condition. I claim that the Minister for Social Services and the Government did the wrong thing in putting him off social service benefits before the matter had been decided elsewhere. I call on the Minister for Social Services now to re-open this man’s complaint
– Order! The matter before the Committee has nothing to do with the Minister for Social Services.
– This man has not been receiving any social service benefits and he has not been able to work.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN__
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- After hearing the speech just made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), I am sure that he is the member of members and, indeed, is a true private mem- ber. Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to deal with the matter of compensation. It is impossible to compensate unfortunate people, who have suffered industrial injuries, such as the constituent of the honorable member for West Sydney or the gentleman who was mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and who lost an eye, in terms of money. However, throughout the States the practice adopted is to provide lump sum payments for specified injuries. That practice is followed in the Third Schedule to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I note that the honorable member for Hindmarsh, in his proposed amendment, suggests that there should be a percentage of special compensation rather than a lump sum payment. At this stage, in view of the undertaking given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that a further bill will be brought before the House next year, I make no further comment on whether it is more desirable to have a percentage of special compensation or a lump sum payment for specified injuries.
However, I directed the attention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh to section 12 (4.) of the existing Act because in his speech at the second reading stage he stated, in effect, that an employee bad actually to lose an eye before coming within the ambit of the Act. But now he has conceded that section 12 (4.) provides -
Where an employee sustains an injury which causes partial and permanent loss of the sight of one eye, there shall be payable an amount of compensation equivalent to such percentage of the amount of compensation payable under this section -
That is section 12 - in respect of the loss of the sight of one eye as is equal to the percentage of the diminution of sight.
I suggest that that is a much more appropriate way of dealing with the loss of the sight of one eye than the way suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh in his proposed amendment to the Third Schedule in which he specifies “loss of binocular vision “ and “ loss of the sight of one eye “ and “ loss of the sight of one eye and serious diminution of the sight of the other “.
I suggest to you, Sir, and to the Committee that the Third Schedule in itself is accurate and that the proposed amendment would give rise to more trouble than it seeks to cure. I appreciate that the honorable member intends to cure trouble and not to make it, but I say that the existing Schedule is more accurate than the proposed Schedule, subject, of course, to the question of principle of whether or not a percentage of special compensation should be substituted for the lump sum payment which, by this amending Bill, is to be raised to £4,300.
– I wish to express my appreciation of the intelligent interest taken in this matter by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson). A reference to loss of binocular vision occurs in only the South Australian Act. Perhaps the reason for it not appearing in other Acts has been explained by what the honorable member has said. I have moved my amendment and if it is not worthy of support it will not be supported and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will not do anything about it. On the other hand, if closer examination shows that all the other Acts should have followed the South Australian Act, I hope that the Commonwealth Act will be amended accordingly.
At this stage I should like to express briefly my personal thanks for the invaluable help given to me by Mr. Petti fer in the drafting of these amendments. I spoke to Mr. Parkes about it and he kindly placed Mr. Pettifer at my disposal. In a very short time, as the Treasurer will understand, Mr. Pettifer was able to get on with the job and to help me in drafting what were very complicated and complex amendments. I want to express my deep appreciation to Mr. Parkes for making Mr. Pettifer available and, in particular, to Mr. Pettifer, who actually did the work.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr. Forbes) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 2666), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr. Forbes) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave -agreed to -
That the Resolutions of the House this day making the resumption of the debates on the second readings of the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill (No. 2) 1964 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1964-65 Orders of the Day for the next sitting be rescinded, and that the resumption of the debates be made Orders of the Day for this sitting.
Consideration resumed (vide page 2793).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Harold Holt) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2793).
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this Bill. As you, Mr. Speaker, are the custodian of the House and the officers who serve in it, I point out that the salary of the Clerk of the House of Representatives is to be increased by 19.4 per cent., the salary of the Parliamentary Librarian by 22.7 per cent., the salary of the Secretary of the Joint House Department by 18.2 per cent. and that of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter by 18.8 per cent. The point that I wish to make is that the general increases to other heads of departments have been of the order of 27 per cent. We feel that there is some grievance occasioned to the staff of the House, the Library and the reporting department who serve this House well and whose jurisdiction should be your care. Perhaps you will give consideration at a later stage to seeing that their salaries are brought up to the same proportionate increases as those of the heads of other departments. I have been asked to state that the Clerk of the House of Commons is the second highest paid civil servant in the United Kingdom, but that is not the case with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The occupant of that position has served us for 40 years and we all owe him and the staff under him a great obligation for help in the past and help which I know we will receive in the future. I ask that that little grievance be noted by you, Sir.
– I do not know whether it is in order for me to come into this discussion, but I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I am not sure what authority I have in this regard. This is not even a matter of consultation; it is entirely outside the province of the Presiding Officers to fix the amount. That is done by other instrumentalities within the structure, and I think that possibly the percentage differences have been overlooked.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Harold Holt), read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) informed the House last night of the compelling reasons for the reintroduction of national service training. He said then that young men would be required to register for national service in the calendar year in which they reach the age of 20. The term of service for men called up would be five years - two years in the Regular Army Supplement and three years in the Regular Army Reserve. National service men will be liable for service overseas. The Bill is designed to give effect to these policies. The provisions of the existing National Service Act will be amended in three fundamental respects. First, it will be amended to provide for the registration of the 20 years age group. Secondly, it will be amended to enable the call-up of this age group for two years’ continuous service in the Regular Army Supplement, followed by three years in the Regular Army Reserve or, if the person desires, in the Regular Army Emergency Reserve. While in the Reserve the normal liability will be for annual camps not exceeding 14 days. In time of defence emergency, under the provisions of the Defence Act, national service men may be called up for further continuous service. The National Service Act will be amended, thirdly, to permit those called up for service to be sent overseas. These changes appear in clauses 5, 10 and 12 of the Bill.
The general structure of the existing legislation as to registration, and exemption from liability to register, has been maintained. The provisions of the Act enabling men voluntarily to seek registration ahead of their age group, and to be called up, have also been retained. Volunteers will not be called up before the age of 19. No doubt some volunteers will, in the future, as in the past, avail themselves of this provision. The Government has not altered the provision that men whose service is temporarily deferred will remain liable to call- up to the age of 26, and, in some cases, to the age of 30. The provisions regarding registration continue to extend to aliens, and, subject to the rules of international law and the practices which govern the comity of nations, we propose to make those who have chosen this country as their home liable to service. For the time being it is not intended to require aliens to register. They will, however, be entitled to take advantage of the provisions for voluntary registration mentioned a moment ago and therefore to volunteer for inclusion in a call-up.
Most of the provisions of the Bill are consequential upon the fundamental policy changes I have referred to earlier. There are, as well, new provisions of a technical kind relating to national service men who are commissioned as officers. Details of these technical provisions can be dealt with at the Committee stage. Much thought has been given to the liability of married men. The Government has decided that men who are married before call-up action commences will not be called up. Generally speaking, this action will occur several months after registration takes place. Those who marry while in the Services, or after action to call up has commenced, will complete their service.
As the Prime Minister said last night, we have given careful thought to the classes of young men who should be called up for service. After weighing carefully the social, economic and administrative problems involved, we selected the 20 years age group. The needs of the Army were paramount and the Government took into consideration the importance of preventing avoidable interruption of the training of apprentices and the studies of men at universities and similar institutions. A high percentage of young men have been in employment for some time when they reach the age of 20. Those at universities and similar institutions engaged in full time studies will generally not have been in employment on reaching that age. Moreover most apprentices will be at the end of their apprenticeship at the age of 20 and many university students will graduate in their 21st year. The fact that the great bulk of men at the age of 20 are already working, and have already embarked on careers, is important. This means that after these men have done their two years’ service they will have careers waiting and employers to go back to.
Next we considered apprentices and students at universities and similar institutions. These considerations are important. The community urgently needs trained men. Obviously, men who are training or studying for trade status, or other similar qualifications, should be permitted to qualify as quickly as possible. The Army requires trained people - tradesmen, doctors, and engineers - for its specialist functions. It will be in the interests of the apprentices and the university students to get their training completed - to be qualified - so that they may take up their careers on return from service. It would not be satisfactory if they had to resume their interrupted studies after completing their service. I have already mentioned that many will have completed their apprenticeship by the time they are 20. For the reasons I have given, the Government has decided that the call up of apprentices, unless they wish to be called up, will bc deferred until they complete their indentures. We have also decided that the call up of full time students of universities, and similar institutions, will be deferred, as a general rule, at least until they have passed their primary examination. As I have mentioned, many will be graduating in their 21st year. I have said that they will be liable to be called up, and they will be called up in certain circumstances. Other students will be considered on the merits of their individual cases. Apart from apprentices, and students at universities and similar institutions, there will be no deferment on occupational grounds.
The present Bill, Mr. Speaker, is to be seen as part of a total plan. The Prime Minister has referred to the importance that we attach to the place of the Citizen Military Forces in the Army as a whole. For this reason the Government intends using the national service scheme as a means of encouraging men to enlist in the C.M.F. The Government proposes to defer from call up those who are at the time of registration members of the C.M.F. and have given at least one year’s effective service in the citizen forces, provided that they continue to give efficient service for an overall period of five years. Next, we propose to defer from call up those who, before the ballot to which I shall refer later, have been accepted for service in the C.M.F., and have undertaken to serve for six years, and who continue to give efficient service during that period. We believe that these proposals will have a most useful effect on the building up of the strength of the C.M.F. and will have widespread public support.
What I have said about our intentions on the subject of deferment brings me back to the point I made earlier that liability to call up will continue to age 26 and in special cases to age 30. It will be apparent from the figures given by the Prime Minister that each 20 years age group comprises many more young men than we are proposing to call up. Therefore, it is important that equity should be achieved in relation to the call-up amongst all in the 20 years group. We faced precisely this same problem in the latter stages of the earlier national service scheme and we then devised a method of balloting that won general approval. The same techniques will be used on this occasion. Honorable members will, I think, be interested in a description of the technique.
Following registration there will be a ballot based on dates of birth. This has the great virtue of being simple, equitable and easily understood by those affected, and it does not lend itself to any manipulation. The method used will be to draw marbles corresponding to the days in the year up to the number needed to produce the required number of men. Assume, for purposes of illustration, that there is a registration of 100,000 young men, and that the Department calculates that 10,000 men will have to be dealt with individually by the Department to allow for deferments, medical rejections and so on in order to produce 5,000 men for call up. In this case, assuming it were a year’s registration, 36 marbles would be drawn out of the barrel, i.e. one tenth of the year’s days. Those whose birthdays correspond with the marbles drawn will be ballotted in and thereafter considered by the Department, interviewed as necessary and medically examined. From these, the number required for the call up will be provided. The aim will be to call up men for service within six months of their registration. At least until an announcement to the contrary is made, those who are not ballotted in will be deferred indefinitely.
I now refer to a particularly vital matter, the question of arrangements to facilitate the re-establishment of national service men after their two years service. Honorable members will notice that the Bill deletes from the National Service Act the code dealing with rights to reinstatement’ in civil employment of national service men. The reason for deleting the section is this: During this session Parliament wrote into the Defence Act a complete code governing reinstatement in civil employment for members of the defence forces. I believe this code had the general agreement of the House and was basically the same as the provisions of the present National Service Act. There is no point in having two similar codes in different Acts. So the Government intends bringing down a bill in the next session to extend to national service men the code recently written into the Defence Act, with such modifications as are needed to meet the case of national service men called up for two years continuous service. Legislation will also be introduced to amend the Defence Act relating to changes in the composition of the Defence Forces which this present Bill introduces.
The Government does not intend to stop at ensuring that a national service man called up for two years’ service will be entitled to reinstatement in his pre-service job. As things stand a regular soldier who has served in special areas may qualify for benefits under specified conditions for repatriation cover and war service homes entitlement. National service men who serve in such areas will be similarly eligible. The whole problem of rehabilitation benefits for national service men is now under active examination and decisions taken will be announced well before the first call up takes place.
Mr. Speaker, this Bill is an historic one. Never before have we taken action of the kind this Bill authorises. It is a reflection of the Government’s appreciation of what is essential to meet our country’s defence needs. We are sure that the strong and decisive action taken by the Government will meet with the warm approval of the Australian public. We believe we have done everything practicable in the past to build up the strength of our Army so as to enable it to serve the nation’s interests. In the changed circumstances announced by the Prime Minister last night selective national service training has become inescapable.
It must be the earnest hope of all honorable members, and the Australian people, that the threatening circumstances that have given rise to the Bill will not remain with us long. As the Prime Minister has indicated, these conditions have not been of our making. We seek to live in peace with our neighbours, playing our part in the peaceful development and progress of the whole Pacific area. The decisions taken must involve some diversion of resources for military purposes and affect the pace at which we would have wished to develop our country. This however can be minimised if there is an even greater effort to improve our productivity. It is our greatest hope that all sections of the community will generously participate in this great national effort. The Australian people will not be found wanting in making the extra effort necessary in order to meet the defence of our country and the treaty obligations we have with our allies. This Bill is an earnest of our intentions, and of our determination to play our part to the full. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I move -
That the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the duy for Monday next.
– The question is that the debate be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– No, I want the debate to be adjourned until Monday so that we will have a debate.
-The motion before the Chair is that the debate be adjourned. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to proceed with fixing a date, he must move an additional motion.
– I understood from the Minister that the debate will be resumed on Monday, 16th.
– That is right.
– I am asking the Minister for an assurance that the debate will be resumed on Monday.
– It will be.
– The question is that this debate be now adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for next Monday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2478), on motion by Mr. Snedden - That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government can move with remarkable speed on some occasions. On this occasion it has brought in a Bill to overcome a decision given by the High Court on 23rd April last. This is a remarkable turn of speed in law reform by a Government that still has not acted on the report of the Copyright Law Review Committee which it received six years ago, or the report of the Bankruptcy Law Review Committee which it received two years ago, or the report on the Extradition Act by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs which it received eight years ago. This is a remarkably swift reform. I have mentioned three pieces of law reform which have been in draft form in the hands of honorable members for many years and in the hands of the Government for further years, and the Government has still done nothing about them.
– The honorable member will concede that they are a little more complex than this.
– But they were already drafted and the Minister said that he approved them at the time. In the meantime the Minister is depriving the people who would benefit from them of the chance of doing so.
I was praising the Government for its improvement. This is a very simple piece of legislation indeed. The High Court’s decision put the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) to the trouble of having to sign an ex officio indictment in any case where a man has been committed for sentence. The High Court decision stated that a man who had been convicted by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, after pleading guilty to an indictable offence before a magistrate and being committed to the Supreme Court for sentence, could not thereafter appeal to the High Court against the severity of the sentence, the reason being that the principal Act gives such a right of appeal only in the case of conviction on indictment.
The Opposition supports this Bill, which will save the Attorney-General some trouble. It will simplify the appeal procedures. It is a pity, however, that no opportunity has been taken to produce a model code of practice and procedure for the court. This is a matter which has been suggested when the principal Act, the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act and various other Territory acts have been before the Parliament. I will illustrate the difficulty that occurs. In relation to the principal Act, where no specific provision is made the practice and procedure of the High Court usually applies, and if that is not applicable the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court of New South Wales applies. In the case of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, where no specific provision is made the laws applicable to South Australia apply. Thus we have two Supreme Courts established by this Parliament in the two Territories on the continent applying different procedures in similar matters. They provide an instance where the Commonwealth could have supplied a code.
On several occasions I have quoted the suggestion by Chief Justice Dixon at the Australian Law Convention in July 1957 that the Commonwealth Parliament should set up a committee to propose model codes which would be available for adoption by States and could be applied in the Territories by ordinance. It would not be amiss for me to point out the diversity of laws which apply in our Territories.
In the Australian Capital Territory, ever since 1911 basically the laws of New South Wales have applied. Since 1911, in the Northern Territory the laws of South Australia have applied. Since 1913, in Norfolk Island the laws of New South Wales have virtually applied. Since 1919, when we took over Nauru, presumably the laws have been made directly by ordinance. Since 1933, in the Ashmore and Cartier Islands the laws of the Northern Territory have applied. Since 1957, on Heard Island and McDonald Islands the laws of the Australian Capital Territory have applied, and since the following year they have also applied in the Australian Antarctic territory. Since 1955, in Cocos Island the laws of Singapore have applied. Since 1958, in Christmas Island virtually the laws of Singapore have applied. In Papua and also in New Guinea, but by different ordinances, the laws of Queensland have been applied. lt is quite plain that if a code of procedure in criminal as well as in civil matters were adopted by the Commonwealth it would have a ready application in 10 different jurisdictions under the Commonwealth. It also would be available for application in the six State jurisdictions.
It is a pity that on this occasion opportunity was not taken to provide that there should be an appeal from a conviction or from a decision by a single judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to the other three judges of that court; there are now four judges of the court and any Federal judge other than a judge of the High Court can be commissioned as a justice of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. Alternatively this is another case where the Commonwealth could have given the jurisdiction to the new superior Federal court which has been authorised by the Government for nearly two years now. 1 am not sure of the exact time, perhaps it is well over two years, but I am giving the Government the ‘ benefit of the doubt. I asked the Attorney-General seven weeks ago when it was authorised, but he has not been able yet to supply an answer. However, the proposal for such a Federal court, interposed between the single justices of the Territories Supreme Courts and the High Court, has been abroad for quite some time. It is to be regretted that the Government did not take this opportunity. When I made this suggestion, among other suggestions, during the debate on the Northern Territory Supreme Court Bill in April 1961 the honorable member for Bruce, now the AttorneyGeneral, supported the suggestion. He also thought that my suggestion of a code deserved attention. Now he has an opportunity in his own right to do what he advocated and what he was willing to support three and a half years ago.
The Bill is an unexceptionable one. We support it and hope that it is an earnest that the Government, in matters of quite simple law reform, will act with more expedition than hitherto.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2479), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Australian Labour Party supports and welcomes any contribution to international lawmaking and law enforcement processes. This Bill is such a contribution. It applies to any forces which Australia makes available to the United Nations. Hitherto there has been only one such force, and that is the Austraiian police force in Cyprus. No Australian law applies to members of the police force outside Australia. If they were Commonwealth public servants, such as diplomats, or if they were Australian servicemen under the Defence Act, there would be such a law, but there is no Australian law applying to them as members of a disciplined body of Australians while they are overseas.
At the same time, the Cyprus Government has given immunity to the members of the forces, such as the Australian police force, in Cyprus. Members on this side of the House - and I believe citizens of this country in general - approved the Government’s decision to make the Australian police available in Cyprus. We support the tribute which the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) paid them in his second reading speech. It is to be hoped that the Government goes further and makes peace keeping forces available for United Nations service in any part of the world, as Canada has done, as New Zealand has announced it will do and as the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have done for some time.
To cover the vacuum in the law applicable to our police in Cyprus this Bill has been brought down. The circumstances are ones which will occur more and more, not only in regard to United Nations forces but probably in regard also to the Status of Forces Agreements in general. I do not know how many Status of Forces Agreements are in force in respect of Australian troops overseas. The Attorney-General said there were some, but although I have had a question on the notice paper, directed to the Minister for External Affairs, since 21st October, asking what those agreements are, the Minister has not been able to give that information. One would have thought that this was a matter the Minister would have at his fingertips.
The law that is to be applied to the Australian police in Cyprus and to any other United Nations forces which Australia supplies, is the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory and this is virtually the New South Wales Crimes Act and the New South Wales Police Offences Act as in operation at the beginning of 1911. Accordingly there are some interesting archaisms in the legislation. I will illustrate those in a moment.
At least a year ago the Law Council of Australia was asked to prepare a draft criminal code for use in the internal Territories of the Commonwealth with the object of having a uniform code based on modern concepts and according with the needs of the Territories. A fortnight ago the Attorney-General gave this information on the progress of this work -
The standing committee of Attorneys-General has looked at this matter in a broad way. It has also been looked at by the Law Council of Australia, and at present a sub-committee of the Law Council of Australia, composed of members of the Brisbane bar and of solicitors, is considering a criminal code. It is progressing very well with the work, and one of the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department is co-operating with it. I expect that in the not too distant future the Law Council of Australia will submit to me the code that it suggests. At that time it will be considered by the Law Council of Australia and the responsible persons in the various States, and also by me. I am afraid I cannot say when I will submit the legislation, but I will submit it as soon as I can.
Honorable members may be pardoned if they are less sanguine about the proximity of this legislation because the Commonwealth’s efforts to secure uniform laws have taken a great deal of time. The uniform companies law which we hear so much about still is not uniform. There are many scientific and health matters which have been the subject of recommendation by the Commonwealth’s advisory bodies and not subject, one would think, to any political pressures on the Government parties, such as the uniform companies law would arouse, and here again, after years of reports, there is no uniform legislation. On a great number of technical matters the laws are still different throughout Australia. Quite a deal of attention has been given to the Australian Capital Territory criminal law in the Faculty of Law in the School of General Studies at the Australian National University. I quoted from some of the articles by members of the faculty, which were published in the “ Canberra Times “, when in September last year I was speaking to the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill which also applied the Australian Capital Territory criminal law to crimes committed on board aircraft within Commonwealth jurisdiction. Last May the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Richardson, wrote three articles for the “ Canberra Times “ on the need for law reform in the Australian Capital Territory. He proposed in particular that there should be a law reform commission in the Territory to deal with the laws in general and particularly the criminal law. It is a matter of some wonderment, surely, that Territory laws of this character are not being investigated and reported upon by persons who live in the Territory and who have directed their attention to them. I do not suggest that many people in the Northern Territory would be able to spare time to do this but there are such people in the Australian Capital Territory. The degree of research in legal matters which goes on in the Australian National University in Canberra compares very favorably with that which proceeds in the other faculties of law in the Australian States. But this matter is being investigated by the Faculty of Law in Brisbane, not in Canberra.
I will repeat what I said last year on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill to show that in this Bill also we are applying the most archaic of criminal laws, with the possible exception of those in South Australia and in the Northern Territory. Speaking in the debate on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill on 26th September last year I said -
The Crimes Act of New South Wales is in force in the Territory by virtue of the fact that the law applicable here is that in force in New South Wales at 1st January 1911 as amended or superseded by legislation issued in the Territory from time to time. There have been a great number oE amendments to the New South Wales Crimes Act since 1911. None of them applies within the Territory unless there is a Territory ordinance applying it. There has been no major overhaul of the New South Wales Crimes Act as applied in the Territory; and the New South Wales law of 1st January 1911 is still substantially the criminal law applying in the Australian Capital Territory today. It will thus be substantially the criminal law applying under this Bill . . .
A revision of the criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory was urged early last year-
Early in 1962- by Mr. Justice Joske who, as honorable members will remember, was one of the members of the Constitutional Review Committee which recommended the modernisation of the Constitution to incorporate power over aviation. Following on Mr. Justice Joske’s recommendation a lengthy authoritative and amusing article appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ of 3rd May last year over the name of Dr. K. C. Sutton, senior lecturer in law at the Australian National University. He points out that the scale of penalties for crimes in the Australian Capital Territory is by far the most severe than can be found in Australia. The death penalty is applied for more offences, as is penal servitude for life. In fact, provision is made even for whipping and solitary confinement. Dr. Sutton says it is possible for a person to be sentenced to corporal punishment, to a total of 150 strokes if 16 years of age or more, and to half that number if under that age, or to spend three months in a year in solitary confinement as part of the sentence.
Not only are the penalties outmoded, but many of the offences are outmoded. Dr. Sutton points out that there are detailed provisions touching the theft of cattle, with 10 years penal servitude as the penalty, but no specific reference is made to the theft of motor cars . . . Furthermore, there is a nice antiquarian tinge in some other sections. For instance, Dr. Sutton says -
Historians will be interested to learn that the East India Company still occupies an honoured place in the Act for it is declared to be an offence to forge any East India bond or any similar document made under any Act relating to the East Indies. And such figures as the Inspector-General of Police and the Colonial Secretary still guide the administration of criminal justice by virtue of unrepealed sections of the Act.
Dr. Sutton concludes by referring to some of the other deficiencies of the Act. There is no provision for probation officers; that is, there is nobody who can prepare a report on a prisoner before his sentence, or who can exercise super vision over an offender after he has been conditionally discharged.
It is this interesting and archaic piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, which is being applied to crimes by Australians in United Nations forces overseas. Let me give another half dozen instances of the severity and the archaism of the law which is to be applied to our police in Cyprus. One year’s gaol is provided for the offence of corruptly taking money to restore a stolen dog to its owner. Penal servitude for seven years is provided for stealing property of a value of £5 or more in a dwelling. Fourteen years imprisonment is provided for menacing a person in a dwelling house. Maliciously damaging or destroying a tree, sapling or plant in any public place or enclosed area can attract a sentence of penal servitude for five years.
– How much for introducing conscription?
– I am dealing now with shrubs in Nicosia. For driving cattle on cultivated land or causing cattle to escape there is a penalty of imprisonment for four years. For using violence or threats of violence and so on, a person, as part of his gaol sentence, can be kept in irons for a certain period. For the last twelve months, all the penalties have applied to offences of this character which are perpetrated on aircraft. When this Bill becomes law, they will apply to offences of this character which are committed by our police in Cyprus. It is quite clear that a modern code dealing with present day offences in a present day way is long overdue. I wish the University of Queensland well in its altruistic endeavours to modernise the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory. Perhaps it will even seek assistance from the Faculty of Law at the Australian National University, which has investigated these matters.
I have explained the law which will apply. The procedure which will apply is to be that of the Territory or State where a person is brought to trial. There are differences in procedure under the Judiciary Act, as well as under this Bill, as between the various States. Under this Bill, a person who is charged with an offence will be tried, in New South Wales, by male electors and by such female electors as have volunteered for jury service. In Victoria, he will be tried by male electors. In Queensland and
Western Australia he will be tried by male and female electors for the Legislative Assembly who are between 21 and 60 years of age. In South Australia, he will be tried by male electors for the Legislative Council who are not above 60 years of age. In Tasmania, he will be tried by male electors for the House of Assembly who are between 25 and 65 years of age and by female electors for the House of Assembly who are in the same age group and who have volunteered for jury service. Under this Bill, the Commonwealth could send an offender from Cyprus for trial in the State where it believed that, because of sex, age or means, juries were most likely to convict.
– This could happen because those are the ways in which jurors are chosen in the various States. There could be no justification for differentiating between jurors in Commonwealth criminal cases on the basis of sex, age or means. The Commonwealth should no longer wait until the more backward States modernise the administration of justice within their borders. The Commonwealth could take the lead in modernising and co-ordinating criminal procedures, and it should do so by making appropriate amendments to this Bill or by introducing a code which could be incorporated in the Bill. It is probably open to the Commonwealth to legislate in connection with female jurors under the United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which was made available for signature twelve years ago. The Commonwealth Government has never adopted this Convention, because women do not have rights to jury service throughout Australia, and they do not have rights to permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service after marriage.
– The honorable member should take note of the Attorney-General’s statement that the intention was that offenders would be charged in their own State or Territory.
– I know he said that, but there might not always be so benevolent an Attorney-General. I accept his assurance, but I am dealing with the Bill as it will leave us. It is possible for the things I have mentioned to be done under it.
The State or Territory laws on procedure, evidence and witnesses are binding on courts exercising Federal jurisdiction in a State or Territory. In the absence of Commonwealth laws, the common law as modified by State or Territory laws shall govern courts exercising Federal jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. Those propositions depend upon sections 79 and 80 of the Judiciary Act. In some States, therefore, Federal matters would be tried in the normal course by a jury, in others without a jury, and in still others by a jury on the application of a party or by direction of a judge. The qualifications of the jurors will vary from State to State, as I have just described. In six of the ten Territories there is no provision for trial by jury, and in two others there can be trial by jury only in capital cases. In the remaining two, trial by jury is optional. All other laws relating to procedure, evidence, witnesses, remedies and punishment will vary from State to State and Territory to Territory. The Commonwealth, in many important ways, will have the right to institute proceedings in a State or Territory whose laws best suit its purposes. It is anomalous, archaic and anarchic to have the laws made by this Parliament administered in different ways in the six States and ten Territories of the Commonwealth. Here again, the Commonwealth can provide a uniform code of procedure throughout Australia. It should do so by amending the principal Act.
This is not far-fetched. It is quite possible, in current circumstances, that an Australian policeman being repatriated from Cyprus could have his first point of landing on Australian soil in the Cocos Islands. What laws and what procedures apply there? I am not proposing amendments along these lines, but I am still not without hope that, as the occasion presents itself to make and reiterate these proposals, the Commonwealth will get round to doing something about them. Let me recall that they stem first of all from suggestions made by Chief Justice Dixon in 1957. We have had a great number of different Acts dealing with the legal systems, the Federal criminal laws and the judicial systems applicable in the Territories and various other fields which fall within Federal jurisdiction. Last year we dealt with the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill. This year we have before us this Bill dealing with the United Nations forces.
I make the suggestion that, on this Bill, as was done in connection with the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill, the proposals that we make should be considered before the Bill is taken to the other place and that the Minister representing the Attorney-General in that other place should sponsor amendments there. The Minister who is sitting at the table had charge of the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill when it was in this House. He acted upon the suggestion that was made by me on that occasion, and that Bill was amended in the other place as a result. One difficulty is that there is no provision in this Bill for the prompt bringing to trial of a person who is arrested in Cyprus. Last year the Minister had the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill amended in the other place so as to provide that nothing shall prevent the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time. I believe that the Minister will see the force of making some such provision in this Bill when it goes to the other place. This is a matter of real difficulty to Australians who are outside Australia. There are no writs of habeas corpus available on the application of individuals in Cyprus. There is no gaol delivery in Cyprus on the initiative of any member of the judiciary in Australia. I do not know how the United Kingdom and the United States have dealt with these matters; they have more status of forces agreements than we have. Nor do I know how Canada, and now New Zealand, are proposing to deal with these matters in respect of their United Nations forces. This is, however, a way in which the principle can be asserted in the Bill. I believe the parallel with the legislation passed last year is complete and I expect that the Minister will see that when the Bill goes to the Senate an amendment similar to that adopted last year is made to it. We support the Bill.
– In supporting this Bill I would like to make one brief comment. One of the good features of the Bill is that it is not directed particularly to Cyprus. As the Minister said when introducing it, it has a general application. It recognises, I think, one of the facts of international life, that in the conditions in which we now live, when the United
Nations may have to intervene on behalf of various peoples for peacekeeping or other reasons in different parts of the world, this kind of operation may become necessary. I am one who believes that no international law can operate without international sanctions - just as no civil law operates without the proper sanctions - the court to declare the application of the general law to the particular case in question, and in the ultimate force which sanctions the decision of the court. I hope that this Bill presages not only for Australia but also for other people the acceptance in wider terms of the jurisdiction of the Court of International Justice, which is an organ of the United Nations. That Court, as honorable members know, is fettered now because it can deal only with a cause that comes before it with the consent of both parties to the cause. It seems to me that the United Nations should endeavour to extend the compulsory jurisdiction of that Court in a wider fashion. It seems to me also that countries might well enter into compacts between themselves to the effect that they would accept the jurisdiction of that or some other court of the United Nations as a matter of general validity in respect of any disputes which arose between them and any other signatory to that same treaty. I welcome this Bill as something which is, perhaps, a very small step towards this long overdue reform.
– I want to make one small point in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) with regard to the time in which a person charged must be brought to trial. I can undertake that we will give consideration to the point raised by the honorable member and see whether we can meet him in. this regard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.’
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Does the House wish to debate the subject matter of these measures as suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.-There are now, in effect, five Bills before the House. They are Bills to amend the Repatriation Act, the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act and the Interim Forces Benefits Act. The Opposition intends to move an amendment to only one of the Bills, the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1964. The amendment is in these terms and I move -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ this House, while not refusing to give the Bill a second reading, is of opinion that the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1964 should be extended to apply in respect of all service in the Defence force “.
The Opposition moves that amendment for reasons that I will now give. In the regular defence forces of Australia at present there are 52,000 members, including 22,750 in the Regular Army, 16,600 in the Air Force, 12,900 in the Navy, and 1,000 in the Pacific Islands Regiment. There are also 27,630 in the Citizen Military Forces, 5,115 in the Citizen Naval Forces and 868 in the Citizen Air Force. At present all these members of the permanent forces or the citizen forces are covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. An injury during service is covered by the provisions of that Act. It is well known that any member of the forces who becomes ill, whether he is in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, is treated in a Service estabishment. Members of the forces are entitled to hospital treatment and medical treatment for any sickness or injury that they might suffer while on duty. The Opposition finds no fault with that at all, but it is concerned at the difficulties experienced by ex-members of the permanent or citizen forces, when they are discharged from those forces suffering from some injury or illness that might have been contracted while they were members of the forces. The Opposition is concerned lest those members should be unable to obtain continuing compensation for their disabilities after their discharge.
Our objection might not apply so much in respect of injury, because once an injury has been sustained during the course of service entitlement is established. But in respect of illness it is not always possible to establish entitlement. Suppose some men in the Regular Army suffer recurring attacks of bronchitis or pneumonia during their service. Then, upon discharge, they find that the illness or disability is continuing. It has undoubtedly been caused by the living or working conditions whilst they were in the armed forces. After their discharge they find that the illness continues and then they have great difficulty in proving that the disability from which they are suffering has been caused by their service in the Forces.
The Opposition is dissatisfied with the present arrangements. The purpose of our amendment is to give all members of the defence forces coverage under the provisions of the Repatriation Act so that any illness or injury which could be shown to be caused, to use the words of the Repatriation Act, and/ or aggravated by service would be an accepted disability, and the ex-member of the forces would be entitled to medical treatment and a pension if the disability warranted it. The further purpose is that the dependants of an ex-serviceman, should the disability or illness lead to his eventual death, would also be covered by the benefits of the Repatriation Act. The Opposition believes that the serving members of our defence forces merit every consideration that can be given to them. The
Government has had great difficulty in obtaining sufficient recruits in our Army, our Navy and our Air Force. Now it is going to conscript young men of 20 years of age. These young men will be taken out of industry compulsorily and any injury that they might suffer or illness that they might contract during their period of service might be detrimental to them all their lives. They, and the serving members of pur Forces, deserve the utmost protection by the Commonwealth of Australia. Those loyal men and women who volunteer to serve in our permanent defence forces should be given every protection that this Parliament can provide them. The Opposition believes that the amendment which I have moved to give them coverage under the Repatriation Act is the best possible way that we can give them protection.
The Minister will probably be able to produce numerous reasons why the suggestion made by the Opposition cannot bc accepted. But these reasons will not be sufficient because if we are going to have our armed forces, and if we are going to have our defence forces, then those men and women who serve in them are entitled to expect the very best protection that can be given to them by this country. The Opposition, the public, the men and women in our armed forces, and the mothers and fathers of the boys to be conscripted will want to know whether the Government intends to use their services in a time of supposed danger without giving them the best possible protection.
The view that I express on behalf of the Opposition is not held only by members of the Opposition. I quote an extract from “Hansard” of 18th September 1963, at page 1143, from a speech delivered by the present Attorney-General, then the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). He said -
The final matter I can deal with in the limited time available to me is the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I believe that this legislation needs a thorough overhaul. I believe that it is not proper that the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should remain as it is and it is inappropriate to be the legislation to determine the compensation for servicemen. I see that the light is on, indicating that I have almost exhausted my time. . . .
I regret very much that the present Attorney-General did not have the oppor tunity to continue his remarks on that occasion, because I feel certain that he was about to take the same attitude as the Opposition takes on this matter. I feel that he was about to say that the members of our armed forces should not be covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and that they should be entitled to the benefits of the Repatriation Act. The Minister is likely to say that the Repatriation Act is operative only for those members of the forces who have served in time of war or in some special theatre of war. But that argument is not sufficient for the Opposition. We think that if the members of our armed forces are subjected to the rigours of training, to sleeping out in the open, and to the many problems and disabilities which are put before them in training, and particularly if they are conscripted in times of peace, they are entitled to expect that they will be protected in the best possible manner against any disability which may fall their way. Accordingly, on behalf of the Opposition, I have moved this amendment.
I pass on now to other sections of the Repatriation Bills which are now before the House. These Bills make amendments to some of the anomalies in the Repatriation Act and other Acts. They deal with a number of provisions and include certain amendments to tidy up appeals to the assessment tribunals, the payment of sustenance to service pensioners, the definition of a stepchild, and the payment of members of forces of countries that previously were known as part of the Queen’s Dominions. They include also amendments in relation to the means test on service pensions, the payment overseas of service pensions, medical treatment to war widows and others, and medical treatment to non-war caused disabilities in order that the cost of that treatment might be recovered by the Department.
Some of the errors, omissions and faults of the Repatriation Act are being corrected after many years. For the last two years at least, the Opposition has suggested that the time is long past when there should be a complete overhaul of the Repatriation Act. The Act as such consists of a number of pages but, on top of that, there is also a series of repatriation regulations which are as large as, or even larger than, the Repatriation Act itself. I feel that there are very few members in this House who are capable of informing any of their constituents just what entitlements are available under the Repatriation Act. I think that the Minister himself, because of the Act and the regulations, would find great difficulty in answering off the cuff many of the questions that could be asked on the Repatriation Act. I also suggest that very few of the Departmental staff are capable of answering any question on this Act off the cuff. I have had the opportunity to discuss repatriation matters on many occasions with members of the staff of the Repatriation Department. I should like to place on record my appreciation of the assistance that they are always willing to give. But I feel that even they would be prepared to admit that the statements I have made can be substantiated and that even they would say that it is difficult to follow the whole of the Acts and the regulations even after years of working in the Department.
If wc turn from the wording of the Act itself to the Schedules, we will find also that there is a very involved system which is intermingled with some discrepancies. Consequently, the action of the Opposition, in moving amendments on other occasions suggesting that the Repatriation Act should be overhauled and suggesting also that there should be a special committee of investigation into the Act and all that it contains, is not taken purely from a political point of view. It is taken fundamentally from the point of view that the Repatriation Act, which has grown up gradually over the years, needs to be revised and improved.
Not only the Opposition is dissatisfied with the Repatriation Act and Regulations as they exist at present. The Returned Servicemen’s League, and the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, the Army and Air Force associations and, above all, thousands of exservice men and women are all dissatisfied with them. The Opposition has moved numerous amendments in line with the opinions of those ex-service organisations. I have no intention this evening of repeating those amendments and the opinions that have been given on a number of occasions. Only two months ago, in September, the Opposition moved a number of amendments to the Repatriation Bill, the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances
Bill and various other bills dealing with repatriation. None of those amendments was accepted by the Government.
I do not expect that tonight the amendment that I have moved, which is designed to give the best possible protection to serving members of the armed forces, will be accepted by the Government. But I believe that the Government at least should look at the proposal that has been made. If the situation is as bad as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) endeavoured to make out last night, then these people - particularly the young men who will be conscripted - deserve to know the benefits that will be offered to them should they be unfortunate enough to be selected by a draw out of a hat to serve in the armed forces for two years. They deserve to be told at this stage whether they will have to fight under the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act or whether they will be granted the benefits of the provisions of the Repatriation Act. There is no doubt that the granting of the benefits of the Repatriation Act would be much better than the fight that is necessary in order to have a disability, injury or illness accepted under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
The complaints that have been voiced in this House by members of the Opposition on a number of occasions include complaints about the proper interpretation of the onus of proof section, the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability, medical and hospital treatment for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, delays in the hearing of appeals by the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, the lack of consistency in decisions of the Repatriation Boards, the Repatriation Commission and the Tribunals and variations in interpretations of the onus of proof section.
Thousands of ex-servicemen are unhappy about the treatment that they have received from the Repatriation Department. They claim - in many instances, quite legitimately, in my view, on the basis of the cases of which I have had experience - that other ex-service men and women with as much justification for the acceptance of their disabilities have succeeded, but their claims have been rejected. Our Repatriation
Act is a very good one. Only the penny pinching attitude of this Government, which is not prepared to listen to the arguments that are advanced by members of the Opposition, the R.S.L. and other ex-service organisations, to provide a few extra benefits and to make available to a few more people the advantages of the Act, prevents the Act from being the best repatriation act in the world.
It is now almost 20 years since the Second World War ended. I believe that a good number of ex-service men and women in Australia are paid a very low rate of pension. There are very few occasions on which those people need to seek medical treatment. Their disabilities cause no loss of time from their employment; and their disabilities have not prevented them from obtaining promotion in their callings. I suggest that it is time the Government had a look at the low rates of pension - the 10, 15 and 20 per cent, pensions - that are being paid to a large number of exservicemen, with the object of seeing whether the money that is being spent in that direction could be used to better advantage for the benefit of the majority of ex-servicemen and their dependants.
We offer no opposition to the amendments that are proposed in the Bills now before the House. The Opposition regrets that the weaknesses in the principal Acts have not been detected earlier. We recommend to the Minister for Repatriation and the Government that the amendment that I have been moved be accepted so that the loyal members of Australia’s defence forces and the young men who will be conscripted in the near future will be given the very best treatment that the Commonwealth can offer.
Is the amendment seconded?
.- I second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). I do not think I can add anything by way of argument to the proposition that the full protection of the repatriation legislation should be extended to all serving members of the forces. It is true that in doing that we would be extending quite an amount of security to those people. But it would not be unique for a government in peacetime to extend such benefits to serving members of the forces.
As a matter of fact, only last year, about twelve months ago, I was in Israel for a few days. That country has full mobilisation of all its 18 to 20 year old boys and girls. As I understand the position, Israel affords to all of those young people the full protection of its repatriation legislation. It was something of an eye opener to see the tremendous research that is done in that country into the rehabilitation of youngsters who happen to be injured in the course of their service. Although Israel has been close to war with its near neighbours on many occasions, I do not think many of its service men or women have actually been injured in warlike activities. But from time to time many of the young people are injured as a result of accidents, contract diseases or experience other misfortunes in the course of their service. It was good to see the tremendous service that has been built up in order to give protection to these young people. It is good for a person to know that if he receives a severe injury - perhaps an injury to his back which makes him practically an invalid for life - he will have the full protection of the rehabilitation service and the repatriation service to carry him and any dependants that he may have through the rest of their lives.
If the Government is sincere, as it says it is, in making an earnest appeal to our young people to come forward and offer their services to Australia at this time, the rest of us in Australia ought to give them this kind of protection. If they are to do so much to help to protect us and if there is to be such an infinitesimal number of them as there will be, I do not think any country that calls itself prosperous, as we do, should begrudge giving this kind of protection to them not only while they are in the Services but also for the rest of their lives, if they have to call for assistance. I realise that the Bills and the complementary measures are not meant to promote a full debate on the Repatriation Act. Most of the measures that are contained in the Bills are of the machinery kind. I support them and can only say that they are long overdue.
Like the honorable member for Lang I regret that the Bills do not go far enough in overhauling some of the defects of our repatriation system. I agree with him that, like the Social Services Act, the repatriation legislation has just aggregated - has been built up bit by bit without having a comprehensive overhaul at any time. There was a comprehensive review of the Repatriation Act in 1943 - 21 years ago - when the then Labour Government caused a review of the Act to be made. Just as I feel that it is time that the Social Services Act was reviewed comprehensively, I believe that it is time that there was a comprehensive review of the various provisions of the Repatriation Act and the regulations made under the Act. 1 heartily support the honorable member for Lang in his request that a comprehensive review be conducted.
From time to time in this place, and again very recently, we have made a lot of noise about the onus of proof provision. Even since I last spoke on this subject in the House instances of the application of this provision have come to my notice. I referred one such instance to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) quite recently. That was an instance which convinced me more than ever that the onus of proof provision is not being administered as justly as it might be in respect of some of our exservicemen, both from World War I and World War II. For the life of me I cannot understand why some disabilities in relation to which there is a war record have not been accepted as war caused disabilities and the sufferer afforded a pension and the hospital and medical treatment that go with it. The application of this provision absolutely frustrates and agitates many exservicemen. I am sure that because of the mood of some of them they would not be giving encouragement to the young boys in our community to join the forces where they feel that our young men will receive the same treatment, or lack of it, as has been accorded to them.
One could go on to talk about the delays in the operation and machinery of our repatriation tribunals. Some ex-servicemen still have to wait far too long for a hearing before the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal or the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It is commonplace in my State of New South Wales for ex-servicemen to have to wait five or six months for a hearing. This delay leads to much insecurity and certainly does not contribute to the ex-serviceman’s chance of regaining his health. Agitation about these things, frustration, bewilderment and insecurity are things that are more likely to disable him, rather than help him. I know that the debate on this legislation is not the time to talk about the inadequacies of pensions, but in view of the recent generous rises in salaries given not only to members of this Parliament but to a range of people outside the Parliament, the Ss. increase in the service pension must be something about which the Government must feel considerable guilt at this time. There has been an increase of 5s. to service pensioners and a very small increase for other pensioners and those in receipt of a part pension. As I say, I do not intend to develop that subject tonight.
The Bill before the House, and the associated bills, deal with a number of matters that have been summarily referred to by the honorable member for Lang. I wish to refer to a few of those things. One matter to which he referred was sustenance. I am glad to see that the provision relating to sustenance is to be amended because just recently a case came to my notice in which a man was paid the full sustenance, which is equivalent to the temporary total incapacity rate, while he was a patient in a repatriation hospital. He was paid that rate at the same time as he was receiving a service pension. Honorable members can imagine the shock that he suffered when he was asked to repay a substantial amount of what he had received in sustenance. He had not realised that he was not entitled to receive sustenance while he was in receipt of a service pension. That error caused a great deal of hardship, despite the fact that he was allowed to repay the amount in instalments. I am glad to see that this provision is to be amended. From what I have read in the Minister’s second reading speech it appears that in future the Department will ascertain first whether the exserviceman is in receipt of a service pension and, if he is, will adjust his sustenance. I take it that that will be the position.
Another amendment which is proposed will ensure that war pensions paid by countries which were formerly part of the Queen’s dominions will be taken into account in assessing the rate of Australian war pension payable. I understand that this situation arises because in recent times countries such as South Africa have ceased to be part of the Queen’s dominions. There is some doubt whether war pensions paid by such a country can be taken into account in assessing Australian war pension entitlements. I suppose that a machinery amendment is necessary to clarify this situation, but I wonder why war pensions paid by another country must be taken into account by Australian tribunals. This question has been raised with me by a former Canadian. He served in World War I with the Canadian forces and suffered a disability for which he was granted a Canadian war pension. In World War II he served in the Australian forces and incurred further disabilities which were accepted as being war caused. But in assessing his entitlement in respect of his disabilities his Canadian war pension was taken into account. He quite rightly asked: “ What has my Canadian pension to do with Australia? I served with the Canadian forces and became disabled and was recompensed for that by the Canadian Government. Why should Australia get off on the cheap “ - that was the way he put it - “ by taking into account the pension I received from the Canadian authorities? Why should not the Australian community pay for the disablement I received in the service that I gave in the cause of Australian security and defence? “ I wonder whether this is not a fair question to ask.
Three amendments are proposed in respect of service pension provisions. The first removes the present means test as to a child’s own means in the case of the first or only child of a service pensioner if he is in the custody of his parents. The Minister said that this change is to bring the service pension provision into line in this regard with the comparable provision for a child’s allowance payable under the Social Services Act in respect of the child of a dependent wife of an invalid pensioner. That provision will be beneficial. It will give something, so we do not object to it.
A further amendment is to remove any doubt regarding the eligibility for payment of the higher rate of 15s. per week service pension to a younger child where the pension of an older child ceases and, in such a case, for the payment of the lower rate of 2s. 6d. per week to any younger children not exceeding three in number. The first thing that I wonder about this provision is why it is that all the dependent children of an invalid service pensioner - up to four children, I understand - receive the full 15s. per week, whereas in the case of a service pensioner, who receives the pension because he has turned 60 years of age and is liable to the means test, a first child attracts a pension of 15s. per week but the second, third and fourth children receive a pension of only 2s. 6d. per week. I suppose there is some case to be made out that a pensioner who receives a pension because of invalidity is not likely to be able to work, even within the means test, and be able to contribute to the support of his family. Usually, a pensioner aged 60 or more is not able to get a job. Therefore, he is not able to contribute to the upkeep of his children as he would otherwise be expected to do.
I do not see any reason why such a service pensioner should be discriminated against. If the children of an invalid service pensioner attract a rate of 15s. a week, should not the children of a service pensioner, particularly an aged service pensioner, attract at least as much? The Repatriation Commission, in its annual report for 1963-64, states that 15s. a week is payable in respect of the second and subsequent children where the service pensioner is permanently unemployable. No help is given to the ex-serviceman who is not able to get a job and who has to keep his children out of his service pension alone. In such a case, only the first child receives 15s. a week and the second and subsequent children each receive 2s. 6d. a week. Why is the rate in respect of them only 2s. 6d. a week? Why bother giving anything if 2s. 6d. is all that is to be given in respect of them? I cannot help wondering about the reasons for these things.
Let me deal further with the position of the aged service pensioner. Perhaps I ought to explain to some people that the aged service pensioner is virtually in the same category as the age pensioner under the provisions of the Social Services Act. The only difference is that the ex-serviceman receives the age pension when he reaches 60, instead of having to wait until he is 65. It is subject to the same means test as is the age’ pension under the Social Services Act. As is the case with social service pensions, if the service pensioner who has attained the age of 60 is not also an invalid, no wife’s allowance is paid if his wife happens to be under the age of 60 and, therefore, is not entitled to the age pension. This is just another of the pension disabilities that exist. I mention this matter because of the provisions in this Bill relating to service pensions.
There is provision in the Bill also for the payment of service pension indefinitely while the pensioner is in the United Kingdom or New Zealand. Many service pensioners, I am glad to say, can afford to go abroad. I only hope that those who do go abroad realise that if they go to a country other than the United Kingdom or New Zealand they will be entitled to the payment of the service pension for only six months after their departure from Australia. Under the Social Services Act, an age or invalid pensioner who goes to a country other than the United Kingdom or New Zealand is entitled to payment of the age or invalid pension for only three months. The Minister for Repatriation, in his second reading speech, went to some pains to say that the service pensioner is being brought into line with the pensioner under the Social Services Act only in respect of being permitted to receive payment of his pension indefinitely while in New Zealand or the United Kingdom. One could, of course, argue: Why is it that a social service pensioner who goes to a country other than New Zealand or the United Kingdom is not allowed to receive payment of the pension for six months as is the service pensioner? I consider that this is just one more instance in which there is need for a comprehensive review, not only of the Social Services Act, but also of the Repatriation Act, particularly in relation to provisions applying to people who are virtually in the same category. Action is being taken now to adopt a common basis in one respect, but there is still a good deal further to go in the co-ordination of these two Acts.
The Biff will also amend section 124 of the principal Act to ensure that, under the regulation-making powers of that section, medical treatment may be provided free for the widows of deceased members of the forces as well as for certain other dependants. Apparently, this is to put beyond doubt a point about which our legal advisers have some doubts. A hardy perennial that we have had before us repeatedly in recent times is the proposal that we should extend to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, on the death of the husband, the same entitlement to medical treatment as is extended to war widows, who are entitled to free medical and hospital treatment. We have argued this matter many times in this chamber. The arguments are well known to the Minister and, I am sure, to the Government. I cannot understand why it does not accede to the request made, not only by members of the Australian Labour Party, but also by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other organisations representing ex-servicemen. It is high time the wives of T.P.I, pensioners were accorded full entitlement to free hospital and medical treatment.
Another amendment of the principal Act now proposed will provide for the recovery of the cost of treatment where the patient has a right of recovery against some other person by way of damages or compensation, in cases in which the Repatriation Regulations authorise medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service for certain ex-servicemen who are seriously disabled as a result of war service, for war nurses of the 1914-18 war and for member service pensioners. The Bill makes specific provision for the recovery of costs where such patients, after having received treatment through the agency of the Repatriation Department, are found to have had a claim against some other person for the recovery of damages or compensation. Where a patient has exercised such a right and received compensation, the Department will be entitled to recover the cost of treatment from the patient. A scale of charges will be laid down, apparently to prevent arguments about the actual value of the treatment received at the hands of the Department. One cannot quarrel with that provision. It is fair enough. It will remove some doubts and avoid arguments.
I do not think that there has been any mention in this debate of a matter that has been mentioned in many recent discussions on repatriation. This relates to entitlement to free hospital and medical treatment for disabilities not accepted as war caused. The regulations provide that such treatment may be received for a maximum period of only three months at any one time. Suppose that a service pensioner were admitted to hospital for the treatment of cancer which was not accepted as being war caused. At any one time, the patient could be treated in a repatriation hospital for no more than three months. A number of ex-servicemen who served in World War 1 have been developing various disabilities such as senility and other conditions that go with age. After three months’ treatment in a repatriation hospital, they have to be removed to some private hospital. This often brings great financial burdens upon them, and especially upon dependent wives, and causes great hardship. 1 wish that this were not so and that our repatriation system could extend to exservicemen in this predicament full entitlement to all the treatment that they needed. This would save them a lot of worry, anxiety and distress. We have argued in this place many times that long term disabilities such as cancer, heart ailments and mental conditions cannot be said with absolute certainty not to have been caused in part by war service. If the Government still resists that proposition, it should at least agree that those who suffer from these disabilities be given full entitlement to treatment in repatriation hospitals while they need it. I think we should be able to provide that.
I would like to make a suggestion about the service pension application form. Even the forms that must be completed by applicants for social services are formidable enough, particularly to elderly people and to those who did not have much education in their early life. But the applicant for social services has only one form to complete. The whole of the information is obtained compactly on one form. I cannot understand why applicants for service pensions are required to complete more than one form. Usually the wife is not entitled to a service pension and more often than not submits an application to the Department of Social Services for an age or invalid pension. She is required to give information about the means of both herself and her husband, but the Department is able to obtain all this information on the one form. The poor old applicant for a service pension must fill in three forms - a form giving his war service record, an income and property statement for himself and a separate income and property statement for his wife to sign. This presents him with what must appear to be an insuperable task and I am sure it could be simplified. It should be possible to obtain all the information on two forms at most. The personal details of the applicant and his wife and information as to their income and property could be supplied on one form, just as it is when an application is made for social services. If we tried a little harder, we could even include the applicant’s war service record, which establishes his entitlement to a service pension, on the same form. This could be done fairly simply.
I do not think that we realise how formidable the task of completing all the details is to these people. Many people delay making an application because they are apprehensive about the amount of paper work involved in submitting an application. I dare say that assistance is available in the Repatriation Department if they want it, although I have seen people in the Department who have been given a form and told: “ Take this home, fill it in and post it back “. I do not think we always realise how difficult and complex this problem is for people who complete these forms on only one occasion in their lives. The meaning of questions is not always as clear to them as it is to us, and after all we deal with these matters day in and day out. I appeal to the Minister to examine the present situation and see whether he can simplify the procedure. I support the amendments that are being made by these Bills. I do not think they go far enough for the reasons I have given. Above all else, I strongly support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang.
– I would like to express my sorrow that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is not here tonight to take part in this debate. He normally plays a leading part in these debates for the Opposition. I have written to him expressing my sympathy in his illness. I hope that he has a very quick recovery and that we see him back again very soon.
These Bills which effect a number of relatively minor amendments have been introduced principally to correct some minor anomalies and to put beyond doubt legally a number of matters that are already expressed in the principal Acts. The debate tonight has been mainly concerned with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). This amendment really has no relationship to these measures. It could more properly have been dealt with when the major legislation was debated only a few weeks ago, and I may say that the major legislation was debated at great length. These Bills would have been introduced with the major Bills if it had been possible to do so, but drafting problems prevented us from getting them through at the same time. This is the reason why they have been introduced separately.
The amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang is a far reaching one. It goes far beyond anything dealt with by the Bills. It reaches down to the very base of our repatriation system, and not only our system but similar systems throughout the world. If the amendment were accepted - I say at the outset that the Government, of course, could not accept it - it would change the whole basis on which the repatriation system has been established. Repatriation would then become a form of social services, and I thought that we were trying to avoid this. We want to retain the present form of repatriation, because the benefits it confers on ex-servicemen are beyond those provided by social service legislation. As far as I am concerned, I am determined to ensure that this position remains. I am sure that the ex-servicemen would not be very happy to have the repatriation system changed into a form of social services, as would be done if the amendment were accepted.
The amendment implies that persons who are now serving in our armed Services and who will serve in the future under peacetime conditions are not in any way covered for some form of compensation. Although the position was clarified to some extent by the honorable member for Lang and later by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), sufficient emphasis was not placed on this aspect. We should make it quite clear at this time that personnel in the Services are covered in two ways. If they are serving under what we classify as peacetime conditions, which could perhaps be equated to service in industry they are covered by the Com monwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. If they have embarked on a career in the Services, they also have the advantages of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. This cover is fairly comprehensive for normal peacetime service. Personnel who serve in what we classify now as special areas are covered by certain repatriation legislation. The Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act covers personnel who serve on special duties in special service areas overseas. Personnel serving in areas where they are likely to be engaged in warlike operations and whose duties are declared to be special duties are entitled to the full range of repatriation benefits, if the areas in which they serve are proclaimed. This provision at present applies to personnel serving in the northern part of Malaysia, in South Vietnam and in other areas around the previous Borneo territories. Other areas can be proclaimed by me as Minister for Repatriation on advice from the Minister for Defence.
I would like to clarify the position in case the debate has raised doubts in the minds of those who may be serving at present or who may serve in the future. They are completely covered by the present Acts both for normal peacetime service and for special service.
The honorable member for Barton referred to the protection given by the repatriation system in Israel. I inferred from his remarks that far more protection was given by that system than is given by the Australian system. This is completely incorrect. I had an analysis of the system made and I know that our repatriation system is far better than the present system in Israel. The present system in Israel in fact is merely the equivalent of our Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. In other words, those serving in Australia under peacetime conditions have a cover that is equivalent to that provided to those serving in Israel where in many instances the personal risk is greater than could be experienced in Australia under present conditions. When personnel in Israel participate in warlike operations they do not have the cover of a system such as our repatriation system, which is far better than their system of compensation. The honorable member delivered a glancing blow at delays in the hearings of cases before the various tribunals. In the past we have had peaks when there have been some delays, particularly in New South Wales. 1 am sure the honorable member will be pleased to know that that situation has improved rapidly. In fact, in some States we have substantially caught up with the lag and are able to cut down on the time occupied by tribunals there and are able to devote the extra time to New South Wales. That will make a considerable difference. The delay is nowhere near the six months suggested by the honorable member; at present it is about half that time.
The honorable member referred to a person who served in another country and who receives a war pension from a country formerly classified as part of the Queen’s dominions. That war pension was considered when a war pension for other disabilities was being paid in Australia. If a person is receiving a war pension for a disability, say from South Africa, and then becomes eligible for a war pension in Australia for other disabilities, his South African pension is taken into consideration when determining his Australian war pension. In other words, if we paid the full pension and he received a war pension from South Africa he would be receiving an advantage over Australian ex-servicemen, so what we do is to make allowance for the pension he receives from South Africa. It is deducted from the total rate of the war pension in Australia. He is not at any disadvantage at all; he receives a right in respect of disabilities here after allowance is made for the pension he receives for disabilities incurred in the service of the other country.
Reference was made to the period of three months for the treatment of acute disabilities in repatriation hospitals. Of course this does not apply to the major proportion of repatriation patients who are war pensioners. We have a responsibility for full treatment, so whether the disability is acute or chronic, treatment is provided for the full period in our hospitals. So far as service pensioners are concerned we are allowed to treat them for three months for an acute case. If a chronic case is involved other accommodation must be found. That has been the principle which was introduced a few years ago. I assure the honorable member that this matter is treated sym pathetically by the Department. We do not adhere rigidly to the three months period; we make sure that suitable accommodation is available. If it is necessary to help a person for a period beyond three months we certainly do so.
The last point referred to by the honorable member related to application forms for service pensions. We keep these matters continually under review. In fact, each year we have a full review of all the various application forms and administrative material that has to be provided. This particular matter does cause us some concern. However, I will take note of what the honorable member has said and another look will be had at these particular forms. I appreciate that the Opposition on this occasion has made a gesture in movingthis amendment, which has no relationship to the minor matters contained in these Bills. Of course, it is not acceptable by the Government.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2477), on motion by Mr. Swartz) -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 (Persons entitled to payments under other laws).
.- I move -
Omit the clause, insert the following clause: - “5. Section fifty-three a of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (b) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - (b) under a law of a country other than the Commonwealth that is or has been a part of the dominions of the Crown,’; and
by adding at the end thereof the words ‘or shall be payable only upon condition that such compensation shall be relinquished ‘.”.
The effect of this amendment will be that persons who receive part British war pension and part pension under this Act will be able to receive their pensions wholly under this Act and thus be free of taxation. Ten years ago the Parliament expressed the clear intention that war widows’ pensions should be exempted from taxation. On 17th September last during the debate on the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill I detailed the legal circumstances and one practical application of the present law. The instance I gave was that of a widow who came with her husband to Australia in 1921. Her husband was killed when a Burns Philp ship was torpedoed in 1944. The widow received a pension from the British Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance under the mercantile marine scheme because the Burns Philp ship had been registered in Hong Kong and was under the command and direction of the British Ministry of War Transport. Australia supplemented her British pension as an act of grace under conditions similar to those which applied at that time under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. The widow became directly eligible for a pension from Australia when the Act was amended in 1952 by an extension of the definition of an Australian mariner to cover - any master, officer or seaman . . . who was, or whose dependants were, resident in Australia for at least 12 months immediately before his entering into the agreement or indenture.
The pension was reduced under section 53a, which was also inserted in 1952, by the amount of the British pension. She therefore received combined British and Australian pensions equal to the amount she would have received if her pension were payable under this Act.
Under Article X of the 1946 double taxation agreement with Britain, her British pension, being derived from sources within Britain by an individual who was a resident of Australia and being subject to tax in Australia, was exempted from tax in Britain. Such a pension was regarded as subject to Australian tax even where the pensioner’s net income did not exceed the amount at which one becomes liable to pay tax. Pursuant to section 8 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act 1952 the widow’s income became tax free for a woman of her age.
In 1954, however, pursuant to an amendment of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, pensions paid by the Commonwealth or by the Government of the United Kingdom became exempt from income tax. In consequence, the widows’ pension, being no longer subject to tax in Australia, was no longer exempt from tax in Britain under Article X of the double taxation agreement. The 1954 amendment was undoubtedly intended to benefit all pensioners resident in Australia, but it had the effect of making the widow liable to British tax on her British pension for the first time since the double taxation agreement came into force in 1947 and liable to Australian tax for the first time since the exemption for aged persons was made in 1952.
In September last I detailed the prolonged correspondence which the widow’s daughter had with Sir Arthur Fadden as Treasurer and Senator Sir Walter Cooper as Minister for Repatriation, as well as the suggestion that the late Mr. J. W. Shand Q.C. made to cover this position. This is the suggestion which I have now moved as an amendment. I detailed the whole of the circumstances when the Bill was before us on 17th September and I invited the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) to deal with the situation. I pointed out at the time that after I had taken the matter up with Sir Walter Cooper the British Government increased the British war pension for the widow and accordingly her pension under this Act was reduced by the amount of the increase. The net consequence was that her overall pension was reduced through the British increase in pension by the amount of the additional tax she has to pay in Britain. Any further increases in British pension will similarly’ reduce the Australian allowance and increase the British taxation.
This is an illustration of what can happen to a person who has lived in Australia for more than 40 years, and whose husband was killed 20 years ago while serving in a ship trading from Australia. Ten years ago we made it an article of faith that no war widow should have to pay tax on her war widows’ pension. The position has now arisen that she has to pay tax. This can be avoided by giving her a pension as an act of grace, in effect, under the principal Act. After the debate in September last I asked how many persons would be involved and how much money would be involved if effect was given to my proposal. The number of Australian mariners involved would be 17. The number of wives or widows of Australian mariners would be 33. The number of other dependants of Australian mariners would be 12. The annual payments which would result from carrying the amendment would be, respectively in the three categories, £2,780, £8,055 and £174.
Cases such as the one I have referred to are not cases where persons are being paid by the Australian Government where they should be able to depend on the British Government, because these people were eligible for British pensions only because they happened to be serving on ships registered in Britain and working under British articles during the war. But they were Australian citizens. They had paid Australian taxes during their working lives.
This is an anomaly which should be cured. An injustice is being done to a small class - a diminishing class. All told five dozen people are affected under this Act. It should be possible to see that these people receive tax free pensions under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. Everybody else receives tax free pen’sions under that Act. The allowances which are paid to those five dozen people under the Act mean that they become subject to British taxation on every increase that is made in the British pension.
It may be that the amendment I have moved is not the ideal way of proposing the change that I have in mind. I have put the argument before in the House and in correspondence. The words were proposed by an eminent lawyer. There may be other ways of achieving the same result. But one thing is clear: This injustice should be removed. We should now see that the original policy announced 10 years ago is applied for the remainder of these people’s lives.
– The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill was introduced in September last by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), who administers the Act. During the course of the debate on that Bill 1 was aware of the points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I am handling the Bill now under discussion on behalf of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The purpose of the Bill is to effect certain amendments to the Repatriation Act and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. That is the reason why I am handling it at the moment and why it was introduced with this group of bills. If this matter were receiving consideration at the moment, that would not affect this Bill, which has been brought down at this time simply to make amendments of the Act which we consider to be necessary to meet the change in the repatriation system and to clean up some anomalies that have arisen. There was no intention not to deal with a matter which had been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition previously.
The other point is that although the Minister for Shipping and Transport administers this legislation, the Minister for Repatriation has certain administrative responsibilities in connection with it. I shall have to get legal advice on how far my responsibility on the administrative side goes in connection with this matter. As I see it, it is principally a taxation matter and not one that should be rectified by altering the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act in the manner proposed by the amendment. It should be rectified at the very base - in the United Kingdom - if that is possible. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated, it is the United Kingdom Government which levies the tax under the agreement. We are not levying a tax here. I do not think it would be fair to other people who may be involved if we took action because of one individual case.
– There are about 60 cases.
– Or because of the relatively small number of cases mentioned. I have not had the opportunity to check the actual number. In the circumstances, I am not prepared to accept the proposed amendment. 1 am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, would not accept it as it stands, because this is not the Bill on which the action desired should be taken. However, in the administrative sphere in which my responsibility lies, I shall undertake to see to what extent any action can be taken to rectify the situation. As I have stated, the general administration of the Act is the responsibility of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and I cannot speak on his behalf. I reiterate that this is principally a taxation matter. I do not think that we should attempt to rectify the position in this way. Therefore, the proposed amendment is not acceptable.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2480), on motion by Mr. Bury) -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not oppose this measure. It is a simple Bill and it will take the House only a minute or two to deal with it. The cellulose acetate flake industry has been assisted by means of a bounty, and the purpose of the Bill is to extend the operation of bounty payments for a maximum period of three months, to 31st March 1965. The rate of the bounty is 7d. per lb. and the total expenditure is limited to £90,000 a year.
The reason for desiring to extent the operation of the bounty payments appears to be that, because of a decision taken last year, the Tariff Board is now conducting an extensive investigation of the chemical industry as a whole, and the Board’s report is not yet available. Presumably it is expected to be available so that this matter of the bounty on cellulose acetate flake can be decided finally one way or the other by 31st March of next year. I do not know how the inquiry into the industry is progressing, but my own view is that we shall be fortunate if it is completed by that time. In the circumstances, the Opposition offers no objection to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Deputy of the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30th October (vide page 2595), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bills be now read a second time.
.- These Bills relate to Tariff Proposals Nos. 19 to 24, which are fairly extensive and which were put before the House in recent months. Proposal No. 19 is a very significant one, and this Bill seeks to give legal effect to it. It arises from a Budget proposal this year to increase the excise duty on tobacco and cigarettes - one of the most significant pieces of indirect taxation legislation proposed in the Budget
An indirect tax is a tax which is paid by people in proportion to the amount that they spend on a particular commodity and not in proportion to their overall capacity to pay. In normal circumstances, it is a type of tax that would be opposed strongly by the Labour Party. On this occasion we take a modified view because we realise the significant effect that tobacco and cigarettes can have on health. Their significance as a possible cause of lung cancer is widely known. It seems to me that it is reasonable to tax commodities of this sort. The increase of duty amounts to 2s. per lb. on tobacco, raising the duty from 23s. 8d. British preferential and 25s.11d. most favoured nation to 25s. 8d. and 27s.11d. respectively. The increase in the case of cigarettes is 5s. 3d. per lb., from 43s. to 48s. 3d. This is an increase of about 12½ per cent., which represents quite a considerable levy on cigarette smokers. A few minutes ago I inquired about the range of prices of cigarettes and I found that every member on this side of the House who was present at the time was a non-smoker. It might be reasonable to expect a body of non-smoking members not to offer any opposition to a measure of this kind. At any rate the Opposition does not oppose proposal No. 19.
Proposal No. 20 relates to drawing instruments and protractors, internal combustion piston engines, pulley blocks and chain hoists, road rollers and tractors for use in road rollers. The increases in the case of chain hoists are of a considerable order. Previously there was no British preferential tariff and a most favoured nation tariff of 7½ per cent. The tariffs in these two cases will now be 15 per cent, and 25 per cent. In the case of chain hoists of the spur gear type the increase is from 20 per cent. to 27½ per cent. British preferential and from 30 per cent. to 45 per cent, most favoured nation. In the case of other types of chain hoists and chain pulley blocks there has been a decrease, so that now the British preferential tariff will be free and the most favoured nation tariff will be 7½ per cent. In the case of road rollers there is an increase of not a significant order. It is not likely to make a great deal of difference. This also applies to internal combustion piston engines. In most cases there is either no change or a decrease. In the case of marine engines there is an increase.
Then I turn to the other item in this proposal, covering set squares, protractors and other such instruments. Here there is an increase of duty of a considerable order when the items in question are precision instruments. The items that were previously free of duty now atract a duty of17½ per cent. Where the tariff previously was 7½ per cent. it is now 40 per cent. The Opposition does not oppose any of the provisions of proposal No. 20. -
Proposal No. 21 concerns plastic coated yarns, fibreglass yarns, and internal combustion engines for outboard motors. Here the increases are fairly significant. Previously the British preferential rate of duty on plastic coated fibreglass yarns was 20 per cent, lt now becomes 35 per cent. The most favoured nation tariff was previously 30 per cent., and it is now 45 per cent. In the case of internal combustion engines for outboard motors there is a decrease in respect of low powered engines from 25 per cent. British preferential to 15 per cent., and from 42 per cent, in the general tariff to 37* per cent. In the case of high powered engines there is an increase which is not very great. The tariffs in these cases are not significant and the Opposition does not oppose anything in this proposal.
Proposals Nos. 22, 23 and 24 cover elastic fabrics. Here we have quite a mixed bag, including fish in containers and electric motors and generators. The fish mentioned is mostly salmon and tuna. There is an increase of duty in the case of tuna cutlets, but with respect to the other items there are either reductions or no changes. The most significant items in this proposal are the A.C. and D.C. generators. In most cases there are increases proposed, and in some cases they are quite considerable. I will have a look at these a little more closely in a few minutes when dealing with the Tariff Board report on the subject. However, we do not oppose this proposal.
I now would like to refer to the Tariff Board report in respect of two items, fish in airtight containers, and electrical generators. I have just referred to these items. The report on fish seems to show that the circumstances of the persons in the industry who own the boats and do the fishing vary considerably. There are some four fishing vessels which make quite a good profit. Of course it is not unusual in industry to find some operators doing a good deal better than others, but quite clearly the protection that has been given in respect of tuna fishing is for the benefit of some of the less efficient or less experienced of the operators. The four vessels which seem to have been the subject of the closest examination are in quite a favorable position. No doubt they will do quite well out of the increased tariff.
Electrical generators represent the most significant of the items in this proposal. There has been a considerable increase in the size of the market in this field. The demand for refrigerators, washing machines and other such appliances has increased very greatly in recent years. The Board expected that this would have reduced costs of production very considerably, but such has not been the case. It is interesting to consider why there has not been such a reduction. There are 13 or 14 different producers in this industry and at present there is a considerable amount of competition. We are often led to believe that competition of this kind leads to a reduction in cost, but it has not done so in the case of these electrical generators, and the fact that it has not done so has surprised the Board.
Why has not it done so? I think the reason is pretty clear. It is that so far not more than perhaps one or two of these firms have been able to advance to a size sufficient for them to take advantage of the economies of large scale. I foresee in the next five or six years a considerable amount of competition in this industry with six, seven or eight of the producers being taken over or going out of business and, in the end, three or four firms or even perhaps two or three firms in an oligopolistic situation, each one being larger than before. It is worth noticing that it is then that we should begin to get the advantages of greater economy. We will begin to get, I am sure, a fall in the cost of production and prices, perhaps not proportionately. It has never happened so far that it is proportionately. However, that is what we shall be looking for in this industry as a result of the considerable growth in consumption.
Finally, the report of the Tariff Board tells us a number of things that are also interesting and significant. It tells us that the direct materials used in production are principally of local origin and account for more than 50 per cent, of the cost of making these electrical motors. The Board’s report tells us on the other hand that the direct labour costs are only 10 per cent, to about 35 per cent, of the total cost. I shall refer in general in a few minutes to the Board’s report this year, but this is a particular industry which demonstrates something of very great importance. It is not just true of this industry, as I shall indicate. It is true, the Board states, of the great majority of industries that it has been examining over the last two or three years. Therefore, to illustrate the point more widely, I want to take just a few minutes, even at this late hour following on a much later sitting last evening, to direct the attention of the House to the contents of the report.
At page 14 of the report, we find, I think, a very interesting and very important section under the heading “Industries Reviewed “. The report tells us firstly -
The larger scale of production of overseas competitors was again an important factor affecting the competitive position of some industries. The scale of production in Australia may be due to the limited size of the domestic market, import competition which reduces the market share of the local industry, difficulties in obtaining export markets, the number of manufacturers in the industry, or a combination of these factors.
It is clear that those factors are all working. But the Tariff Board seeks to emphasise that it is concerned to look at the different position that the Australian industries are in in respect of those industries that can produce at lower costs overseas. The first thing the Board emphasises is the larger scale of production. Scale is of great importance. In the course of the debate last year, I continually emphasised the significance of scale and argued that in a very competitive industry, such as the one producing electrical motors, the fact that we have 13 or 14 relatively small producers is preventing the development of the kind of scale that we need in order to get the most economical result. The Board goes on to say -
The Board again found in the course of its inquiries that the Australian market for some products had been or was being fragmented among more manufacturers than the market could economically sustain, and this fragmentation has tended to accentuate the difficulties arising from this scale of production.
So, the small unit - many small units in competition - has not really all the values economically that we are very often led to believe that it has.
The Board goes on to say something that we would naturally be concerned with at this point. The report continues -
The Board found little evidence of failure to keep abreast of technilogical changes or of failure to adopt up to date labour and material saving techniques.
It looks as though industries examined by the Board have been doing all right in this respect.
Now we come to two important points, in my opinion. The first is that over a wide range of industries the Board finds that it is material costs generally which form a large proportion of total cost of production. One of our problems, therefore, is the high cost of materials. Certainly, there are some labour costs involved in the materials, but the contrast immediately comes when the Board says later -
Although costs of direct labour per unit of production were generally higher in Australia than overseas, direct labour costs did not constitute a large part of total costs in most industries reviewed by the Board during 1963-64. Consequently, direct labour costs had only a relatively small effect on the cost disabilities of the particular industries concerned.
I want to emphasise that. So we have to look at the scale of production. We have to look particularly at material costs. We can stop paying as much attention to labour costs and stop blaming labour costs as much as the community and very often public commentators have tended to do for the situation in which Australian industry might be found. These points emerge from the annual report of the Tariff Board for 1963-64. I think it is most interesting that the Board has stated them. We find them particularly illustrated in this last item under proposal 24 at which I have just looked in more detail. Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to take any more time at this stage. The Opposition does not object to the proposals that have been put before the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.38 n.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
Education in Papua and New Guinea. (Question No. 699.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Does the Government support the repeated use of contempt proceedings against unions by employers who fail or refuse to exploit fully the conciliation provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
As the Government has slated on more than one occasion, it adheres to the belief that the enforcement provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be used only as a last resort. It must be rememberedthat willingness to conciliate is something not to be requested only of employers.
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
During the same period, officers have met as follows - 29th May-lst June 1961, in Perth. 29th-30th August 1961, in Canberra. 19th-20th September 1962, in Sydney. 27th-28th November 1962, in Melbourne.
Special meeting on crayfish. 13th-14th March 1963, in Port Lincoln. Special meeting on shark and crayfish. 15th August 1963, in Melbourne. Special meeting on crayfish. 2nd-6th December 1963, in Melbourne. 22nd-23rd September 1964, in Melbourne. 2 and 3. The honorable member will recall that on 11th October 1962, I provided an answer to a question which he asked, giving details of meetings of Commonwealth and State Fisheries officers to that date, and referred him to Fisheries Newsletter for February 1962, in which an article on “ Fisheries Management in Australia “ set out the management measures in force at that time. Subsequently, in January 1964, Fisheries Newsletter published an article on crayfish management, which sets out the position which at present prevails for crayfish.
It will be seen that several meetings have been held since I gave an answer to the honorable member’s earlier question. While it is not the practice of these meetings to make specific recommendations to individual States or to the Commonwealth, agreement has been reached on a number of matters affecting the regulation of fisheries. The more important of these are -
In the Southern Crayfish fishery, following agreement that the closed season for female crayfish should be from 1st June to 31st October instead of from 1st June to 30th November, all States involved, and the Commonwealth, have implemented this change.
Agreement in principle was reached on the extension of the closed season for male crayfish from 1st September to 31st October instead of from 1st September to 15th October, so that the closed season for both sexes will terminate on the same day. For administrative reasons, the introduction of this change has not yet been completed.
Similarly following a recommendation by the scientists agreement was reached on a reduction of the minimum legal length for female crayfish from 41/4 inches to 33/4 inches carapace length. However, strong opposition to this proposal from fishermen in both Tasmania and Victoria has resulted in this measure being deferred.
In addition, direct negotiations between my Department and the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Fauna have resulted in the following joint management measures being applied to the Western Crayfishery.
In addition to the above regulatory measures there has been a high level of co-operation on a wide range of fisheries matters of interest to both the States and the Commonwealth.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following information -
Thevenard to Alice Springs Road. (Question No. 675.)
r asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. As far as my Department is aware, no surveys of the road between Thevenard in South Australia and Alice Springs have been made.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 November 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19641111_reps_25_hor44/>.