3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Progress report (No. 2), presented by Senator Chataway, and read by the Acting Clerk, as follows : -
The Joint Select Committee ‘ appointed to inquire and report on matters of privilege, have the honour to submita Second Progress Report.
Your Committee, having recommended that, the proposed new procedure should not be retrospective, have taken preliminary steps to inquire into some recent allegations published reflecting on Parliament. Their attention has been directed to a statement published by a Sydney newspaper containing charges of political corruption against unnamed members of Parliament. It would be dishonouring to Parliament if such charges were allowed to remain unproved, unwithdrawn, and the maligners unpunished. Your Committee regret to find that in the existing state of the law, they are unable to prosecute their inquiries in an effective and complete manner. There is no statutory law in- force authorising Select Committees to summon - and secure the attendance of witnesses before them, and above all -there is no law requiring, and if, ne- cessary, compelling, witnesses before Select Committees to be sworn and to answer questions relevant to the issues involved. It is true that the Standing Orders provide that Select Committees may summon witnesses, but they do not enable such Committees to take evidence on oath, nor do they provide any punitive measures in case of disobedience to the summons, or refusal to be sworn, or to give evidence.
Your Committee do not think it would be wise to proceed further with an investigation in which they would be powerless to deal with witnesses who may refuse either to prove or withdraw scandalous charges made by them against’ Parliament, or to give the names of their informants. If the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill at present before the House of Representatives be passed into law with some slight amendments, Select Committees would be armed with effective authority to take evidence on oath, and to recommend the prosecution of recalcitrant witnesses.
John Quick, Chairman.
Melbourne, 4th June, 1908.
– Later on in the sitting I propose to move the adoption of this report in conjunction with the first progress report. Therefore, I move -
That the report, in conjunction with progress report No. r, be taken into consideration at a later hour of the sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if any portion of the money appropriated by, I suppose, the Committee for the purpose of entertaining the American Squadron on its arrival in Sydney and Melbourne is to’ be devoted to entertaining the men of our own Squadron on the Australian coast.
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– I give notice for tomorrow, but surely the Minister might an? swer it now?
– I cannot answer it now.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the question of providing cheap transport between the States at the time of the reception of the American Fleet has yet been specifically referred to the Reception Committee, as the honorable senator promised ?
– The matter has been referred to the Entertainment Committee, who, I believe, are in communication with the Premiers of the States on the subject.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether his attention has been directed to the correspondence passing between the Government of Victoria and the Government of New South Wales about alleged differential treatment meted out by the authorities of one port to the ships coming from the’ other port, and, if not, whether he will make an inquiry to see how ‘far the regulations, if any, infringe the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution ?
– I am inclined to think that on the notice-paper for to-day there is a question relating to the same matter ; but if my honorable friend will give’ notice of his question I shall look into it.
– Perhaps, as the session is rapidly nearing its end, my honorable friend will allow me to hand to him the newspaper paragraph, and inquire into its subject-matter?
– I will.
Senator GUTHRIE drew attention to the fact that under the State law of Victoria differential treatment is meted out to ships registered in that State as against ships registered in other States of the Commonwealth, and asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Government endeavour (if exemptions are to be granted) to see that such exemptions are only granted to ships in which Australian crews are carried?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter has been brought under the notice of the Government and inquiries are being made.
The Government may only take action in the direction of securing that no unconstitutional differentiation (if any exists) shall continue.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if he is yet in possession of any information concerning the number of objections which were issued by the electoral registrars in two Federal electorates in Queensland?
– The exact information which the honorable senator seeks - that is, the number of persons whose names were removed from the rolls during the three months ending May last - is not to hand. But with regard to the general matters referred to by him and Senator
Findley, I .have obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer a report in these terms -
In lodging objections, the officers are merely carrying out the duty imposed upon them by the law. They obtain all their information from official sources, and the Divisional Returning Officer, in practice only, issues notifications of objection on the ground that the persons concerned have permanently left the division. All Divisional Returning Officers have been directed to enclose a form of claim when issuing a notification of determination of objection in order that the person concerned may re-enrol -without difficulty for the division to which he has removed. If by any mischance a person is improperly objected to - and this occurs very rarely - it is only necessary for him to inform the Divisional Returning Officer or Registrar of the fact in order to prevent the removal of his name from the roll.
It is fully recognised that large numbers of people disappear without leaving any information at their last-known address as to their whereabouts, and that when an election is approaching they re-enrol for other divisions instead of transferring their names as the law provides, that persons also re-enrol when they remove from place to place in the same Division, instead of applying merely to change their names from one polling place to another, and further, that many persons do not trouble to enrol until the approach of an election.
That paragraph will explain, I think, what 1- was putting before my honorable friends the other day - that in the proposed new form the three forms will be combined, so that there will be no difficulty whenever an elector makes an application. An original application for enrolment, an application to have a name transferred from one polling place to another, and an application to - register a transfer from one division to another, will be printed on one form for the purpose of simplification. The Chief Electoral Officer continues -
Everything that can be done in order to secure a satisfactory system of registration is being done as rapidly as circumstances will permit.
The whole of Australia has been subdivided into registration areas designed to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth and the States, and it is proposed that for each subdivision there shall be one competent registrar with definite responsibilities in relation to his sub-division whose work will be subject to periodic inspection.
It is proposed that there shall be an annual canvass of the electorates (in conjunction with the States as far as practicable) for the purpose of adjusting the rolls, i.e., adding to the existing rolls the names of all (unregistered) persons entitled to be enrolled for each subdivision at the date of canvass changing the names of electors from one subdivision in a division to another subdivision in the division, and removing the names of all persons who have ceased to be qualified for enrolment for the division.
At present we are in communication with the different States with a view to adopting in each State a system that will be most conducive to the securing of complete and accurate rolls.
It is proposed -to reprint the rolls annually, and, as far as practicable, from standing type, set up in such a form that it can be used for both Commonwealth and State purposes,; but in any case to so simplify the form of the Commonwealth rolls that the cost of reprinting from standing type will be reduced to a minimum.
The Chief Electoral Officer then makes reference to other proposals which are still under consideration, namely, in connexion with the next census to adopt a card’ system so that in respect of every elector “on the roll there will be an index upon the card system, and he can be traced from one electorate to another and placed in his proper division and on his proper roll, with, a minimum of inconvenience to the elector himself. So far as concerns the particular cases to which Senator Turley and Senator .Findley referred, T am obtaining from the divisional returning officers the exact numbers of persons objected to from the beginning of March this year, to the end of last month.-
– The number- of objections sent out ?
– Yes, but in the meantime . every effort is being made by the Electoral Department, both on its own account and in co-operation with the States - and I am glad to say that that cooperation is being generally obtained - to have the most complete and accurate system of keeping the rolls in proper order.
– The Minister says that- the officers in various constituencies have sent out a list of those whose names are objected to, and that in a number of instances those objected to have not given notification of their changed address. Would it be possible for the Minister, because of that admission, and the peculiar circumstance leading up to it, to ascertain approximately the number of notices of objection that have not reached the persons objected to, and that are perhaps lying at the dead-letter office? Apparently a lot of work is being done without- any result to the people or the Department.
– The honorable senator may ask the question, but he may not debate it.
– I do not know whether it would be possible to obtain approximately the information the honorable senator asks for, but if the letters have been sent out, and are likely to be returned through the dead-letter office, that is abundant prima facie evidence that the addressees have ceased to reside at their usual address. The obvious inference is that they have moved from that locality. If they have not .taken steps to re-enrol, that is largely their own fault. What I did quote from the Chief Electoral Officer, although not in relation to the sending out of those particular notices, was as follows : -
It is fully recognised that large numbers of people disappear without leaving any information at their last known address as to their whereabouts, and that when an election is approaching they re-enrol for other Divisions, instead of transferring their names as the law .provides.
– Athough the officers make that admission, they send out a list of objections to the persons objected to.
– It is obvious that in those cases the persons have left that particular locality. If the honorable senator were leaving his present address tomorrow, he would take care that the postal authorities knew his new address.
– Can the’ Minister of Home Affairs state if there has been any expenditure by the Commonwealth Government in survey work on the Tasmanian coast, and any expenditure of a similar kind on behalf of any other State?
– I do not know of any expenditure in connexion with survey work by the Commonwealth Government on the Tasmanian coast. I think, speaking without making inquiry, that any hydrographical work that has been done so far has been done by the Admiralty at the cost of the Imperial Government.
– Is it not a fact that the surveying of what is known as the Wakatipu Rock was carried out at the expense of the Commonwealth Government ?
– It was on the Estimates, at any rate.
– That may be, but that rock is in the vicinity of Deal Island in Bass Strait and, probably, nearer to Victoria than to Tasmania. It was also considered to be in the fairway of all shipping passing through the strait, and I pressed upon the then Government the advisableness, in the interests not merely of Tasmania, but of that shipping, of having the rock located.” It was only discovered by a steamer passing from Eden to Launceston unexpectedly bumping upon it.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, if he has any information as to the delay in the transmission of telegraphic news between Cape Borda and Adelaide?
– I have the information, but I have not got it on the table at present. I will furnish it to the honorable senator. I left it here on Monday, in anticipation of the question being asked.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice, referring to the reply, given by the Minister on 21st May, to a question asked by Senator Pulsford -
– The answers to the . honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
No extensions of time have been given to any party in any case under the Patents Act without affording an opportunity to the other party to object.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Half-year, January to June, 1907, £111.
No information is available in respect of the amount received prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth offices in London.
Amount Returnable to States
asked the VicePresisident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General cause an inquiry to be made as to whether the requirements of the Commonwealth in the supply of copper wire would warrant the establishment of rolling and drawing mills by the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General has already had inquiries made into this matter and understands that the lowest output on which it is economical to start wire drawing mills is100 tons per week. The annual requirement of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is about 357 tons per annum, and it is therefore considered that the establishment of rolling and drawing mills by the Commonwealth is not warranted at present.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In the event of the Government deciding to establish wireless telegraph stations at King Island and other islands of Tasmania, or of cable communication with any of those islands, will the Government -stipulate that the State Government of Tasmania shall guarantee the Commonwealth to recoup any loss arising therefrom, in the same manner as the guarantee required from the State Government of Western Australia in the case of the Black Range telegraph line?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The question of guarantee will be considered when tenders are received.
– May I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the Black Range telegraph line referred to in Senator Pearce’s question relates to an Inter-State service ?
– I must confess my inability to answer the question. .
– The service is a local one. I also wish to ask the Minister whether the same principle was adopted in regard to the Black Range line; that is, did the Government wait until they received tenders before they required a guarantee?
– I do not know anything of the circumstances.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow.: -
– Since I asked a question a few minutes ago, I believe that the Minister of Home Affairs has received the information which I required, in regard to telegraphic communication between Cape Borda and Adelaide.
– As I intimated to the honorable senator, I communicated with the Postmaster-General, and I have received the following memorandum from the Department, dated 28th May -
With reference to the inquiry made in Parliament by Senator Guthrie as to why the telegraph station at Kingscote, South Australia, could not be communicated with by Cape Borda signal station between 1.20 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the 16th idem, vide Hansard of the 20th May, 1908, I beg to inform you inquiry has been made, and the following is copy of a report in regard to the matter received from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Adelaide : -
Re article in Adelaide Express of 19th May, headed, “Belated Telegram, Borda, officials not to blame.” This matter was previously referred to Kingscote, who reported that he heard no call from Cape Borda till 3 p.m., and when Cape Borda sent the memo, he said nothing about any previous call. We have been trying to get further report from both Kingscote and Cape Borda, but since your wire of 21st idem we have been unable speak Kingscote, except, for a few seconds occasionally, owing to cable becoming more defective, consequently have been unable to obtain further information.
To the last passage Mr. Scott, the Secretary of the Department, appends the following memorandum -
I may add that the cable referred, to as de,fective is that connecting Kangaroo Island with the mainland, which cable was laid in 1875, and its repair is now receiving attention.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Comparative Table of Provisions of Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Bill and certain State Acts, together- with the recommendations of the Royal Commission relating to rate of pension, deductions, &c.
Defence Acts 1903-1904. - Regulations for the Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps - Cancelation of Regulation 3 of Section 1 and Regulation 13 of Section 2, and substitution of new Peculation in lieu thereof .-Statutory Rules 1508, No. 59.
– I move -
That the Progress Reports from the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedure, brought up on the 29th May and 4th June, 1908, respectively, be now adopted.
I have first of all to say that it is owing to the absence of Senator Neild in the North that it has fallen’ to me to take up the matter standing in his name on the business-paper. I ask honorable senators to consider first of all the reference indicating what it was that the Joint Committee had to consider and report upon. They will probably have observed that in many newspapers statements have appeared to the effect that an effort is being made by Parliament through this Joint Committee to confer upon members of this Parliament privileges or immunities which they have not possessed in the past. I take as a typical illustration of that form of criticism this statement which appeared in a leading article of the Argus, of 3rd April last-
Having recently noted’ a grossly improper accusation levelled against them, Federal members seek to take advantage of the occasion and frame rules which will have the effect of preventing the liberty of criticism which should belong to every newspaper and every citizen.
That is typical of the criticism levelled by a number of newspapers at the report which has been before honorable senators for some time past. As a matter of fact, the reference with which the report is headed shows that the Committee was asked to do two things. First of all, to report not as to what privileges we have, or whether we should have more or fewer privileges than we are entitled to” claim at the present time, but as to the procedure in dealing with, and the power to punish persons charged with any interference with the privileges of members of either House. Secondly, the Joint Committee were asked to report upon any recent allegations reflecting upon Parliament or any of the members thereof. It was clearly the duty of the Committee to ascertain the nature of the existing procedure in such cases. That could only be discovered by a reference to the procedure of the House of Commons, because, under the Constitution, until by Act of Parliament, we declare them ourselves, our powers and privileges at the present time are those of the House of Commons, as established mainly by precedent. We found that if a person is considered by either House of Parliament to have committed a breach of privilege, he can be summoned to the bar of the House concerned, and ordered to be imprisoned, but he cannot be imprisoned for any term extending beyond the close of the current session. In the circumstances, if, to-day, the Senate called an offender to the bar of this Chamber and ordered him to be imprisoned, no matter how heinous his offence, he would have to be released, probably, in the course of three or four days. A difficulty arises in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament which does not’ arise in the case of the House of Commons. The House of Commons can commit a prisoner to Newgate, or to one of the common gaols of the country, or it can order him to be confined in a room in Parliament House. The evidence of various legal experts who were examined by” the Joint’ Select Committee indicates that it is very doubtful whether we have any power under the Con- stitution to compel any State gaoler to take over, and hold in custody, a prisoner committed to a gaol by either House of this Parliament. On the other hand, it appears to be perfectly clear from the evidence submitted that if we passed a law making breaches of the privileges of Parliament an offence, State gaolers and police would, under the Constitution, be obliged to carry out that law. We are in a worse position in this matter than is the House of Commons, because, as a matter of fact, I believe that all we could do with an offender would be to shut him up in one of the rooms of the building in which we are assembled, and we could only keep him there while Parliament was sitting. Another point elicited by the evidence submitted to the Committee was that it was practically impossible to fine an offender. If we could do so, even without keeping him in custody, we might .have an effective mode of punishment. I believe that the last occasion on which the House of Commons inflicted a fine in such a case dates as far back as 1660. Generally, the opinion of the witnesses before the Committee was that we have at present no power to fine ; but that there is nothing to prevent our taking that power by passing an Act dealing with the matter. The evidence , showsthat, so far as the present procedure is concerned, this Parliament is practically powerless to deal with breaches of privilege. It was stated in one of the newspaper comments made in connexion with the matter, that the haling of an offender before the bar of either House amounts to little more than a farce, and that statement will be generally agreed to. It- was the business of the Committee to consider what procedure might be adopted to meet the difficulties of the case. It was strongly felt by the members of the Committee that the time had passed when any House of Parliament should continue to be judge and’ jury in its own’ case. It was felt that Parliament is no longer entitled to place itself in a position of so much authority as to claim to be able to hale an offender beforeit, and try, and sentence him for an offence against itself.
– If it- could impose’ upon him a sufficiently severe sentence, it would be all right.
– I cannot agree with the honorable senator; even if Parliament could chop an offender’s head off, I do not think it should do so for an offence against itself. The Committee con- sidered that if the dignity of Parliament, and its good name and reputation for fair play, were to be maintained, the best course to adopt would be to intrust the trial of such cases to a regular judicial tribunal. It was also felt that in the case of the Federal Parliament no better tribunal could be suggested than a judge of the Supreme tribunal of Australia, namely, the High Court. It will be found that the only action Parliament need take is to pass a resolution” in the form of an instruction to the AttorneyGeneral, who, acting upon the resolu tion, would prosecute ari offender before the High Court. It was felt that that would be a prompt, and, at the same time, a dignified way of dealing with breaches of the privileges of this Parliament, and I feel that, even though they should differ’ as to details, honorable senators will approve of the general principle underlying that recommendation. It may possibly be justifiable to make a slight reference again to the criticisms in some newspapers on the first report’/ The main criticism has been that by this new procedure Parliament is likely to take something which it did not have before, that is to take the power to protect, itself from criticism. The Committee is not asking Parliament to take anything which it did not have before, and what is more, bond fide criticism can no more be interfered with if these reports are adopted than’ if can be at the present time. There is a distinct difference between criticism and- libel or slander. Criticism is, an expression of opinion based on certain facts. One may or may not agree with a criticism, but to call a man a bigamist or a burglar is not to criticise him. It is a slander on him. unless it is true. On the other hand, a libel or a slander is a statement of matter of fact, and not - a statement of a person’s opinion. To say that’ a member of Parliament has been, bribed is a statement of fact. It is. not a criticism of a member, and consequently I hold that the Committee in putting forward a method of procedure to deal with persons who make statements or alleged statements of fact which are not true, but which are slanders, and are calculated to lower the dignity of Parliament, and to degrade it in the eyes of the country at large, .is not hampering criticism. It is a perfectly fair and legitimate proposal that persons who slander Parliament or commit other offences should be made responsible in exactly’ the same way as a person who slanders another person is responsible. It may also be noted that in criticising the first report of the Committee, the press have taken up rather a curious attitude. I am a newspaper man; in fact, I have been so engaged nearly all my life, and it seems to me a . curious thing that newspapers should give the advice to public men, “ Never mind what the newspapers say.” If they are going to preach the doctrine that public men are not to pay any attention to criticisms and statements in the press, then why do they make them? Why should newspapers criticise or attack members of Parliament?
– Criticism is all right, but their statements sometimes are damnable.
– Why should newspapers attack the policy of members of Parliament if they do not expect them to take any notice? It is all very well for them to say that members of Parliament are thin-skinned. The Committee is proposing a feasible procedure by which each House can deal with what have been recognised as offences practically ever since parliamentary government came into existence. It may be said, indeed it is suggested, that the Committee is proposing something new. On that point it may be worth while to draw, attention to the evidence of Mr. Gavan Duffy, clerk of the other House. On page 10 of the report, he says -
So long as forty years ago, the Queensland Constitution Act set forth in detail the powers of the Parliament. It could punish summarily for certain contempts, and for disobedience to its order ; for not attending when summoned : and for assaulting and obstructing ils officers: and for this purpose the House could direct the Attorney-General to prosecute before the Supreme Court any person charged.
Is that provided .in the Queensland Constitution? - It is provided in the Constitution itself, and there are similar provisions’ in the Constitutions of Tasmania and Western Australia, but in the case of the larger States, of New South Wales ‘and Victoria, there is simply given the power to declare the rights and privileges. I am not sure that that power has been exercised in New South Wales, but it has been exercised in Victoria. In the case of Queensland, the offences are set out in detail, and constables and others are directed to assist in the execution of the orders of the House, and the gaoler to imprison offenders. I am giving these particulars in reply to the question whether it would bf possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to delegate its powers to Courts of Law.
Section 45 of the Queensland Constitution empowers either House to punish summarilv for certain contempts, including -
The assaulting, obstructing, or insulting any member in’ his coming to or going from the.
House or on account of his behaviourin Parliament, or endeavouring to compel any member by force, insult, or menace to declare himself in favour of or against any proposition or matter depending or expected to be brought before either House.
The sending to a member any threatening letter on account of his behaviour in Parliament.
The sending a challenge to fight a member.
The offering of a bribe to or attempting to bribe a member:
The creating or joining in any disturbance in the House or in the vicinity of the House while the same is sitting whereby the proceedings of such House may be interrupted.
Section 51 provides that -
The publishing of any false or scandalous libel of any member touching his conduct as a member by any person other than a member is hereby declared to be a misdemeanour.
And it shall be lawful for either House to direct the Attorney-General to prosecute -before the Supreme Court any such person committing any such misdemeanor.
So that for forty years in Queensland there have been in force provisions similar to those which we recommend to this Parliament. Section 52 of the Queensland Constitution says -
It shall be lawful for either House to direct the Attorney-General to prosecute before the Supreme Court any such person guilty of any other contempt against the House which is punishable by law.
That, I think, will sufficiently dispose of any argument that’ we are endeavouring to introduce something new. I have not had time to look up the Constitution Acts of any other States, but we have it in evidence that they contain somewhat similar provisions. As regards the mode of procedure, I contend, first, that the Select Committee has shown that the present procedure is ineffective and useless ; secondly, that it has pioposed a mode of procedure which is consonant with the dignity. of the Parliament of Australia; and, thirdly, that it has not suggested anything new or radical in the method of dealing with such matters, but that those matters have all- been dealt with in a Colonial law, if I may use the expression, which has been in existence for a large number of years. As regards our second report, I have only to say that it points out that our present mode of procedure is worthless) and the Committee has found that without the power to compel witnesses to answer questions, it is impossible to proceed further with the second part of the inquiry.
– I think that the Senate, as well as the other House, is indebted to those who constitute the
Joint Committee for the close attention they have given to the matters remitted to them for consideration, and for the able and practical report which. they have presented. They were appointed
To inquire into and report as to the best procedure for the trial and punishment of persons charged with the interference with or breach of the powers privileges or immunities of either House of the Parliament or the members or Committees of each House.
It was not, as has been pointed out, their duty to create fresh offences, but to supply an acknowledged defect in the machinery for dealing with offenders against Parliament. That is all that they have applied themselves with diligence to do. No doubt . their recommendations are very valuable. I cannot say at present that the Government concurs in all of them, particularly in detail. Amongst other things, the Committee recommend -
If the report is adopted, as I have no doubt it will be, a responsibility will be cast upon the Government to prepare the necessary measure for the consideration of Parliament.
– There may be two or three measures necessary.
– Yes ; assuming that the report is adopted, the Government will have no hesitation in complying with the wish of honorable senators in that respect, and duly submitting the necessary measure.
– The second reference to the Committee was, I understood, to inquire into certain charges which have been made against some members of Parliament, and the second Progress Report deals with that part of their duties. It contains this passage -
Your Committee regret to find that in the existing state of the law they are unable to prosecute their inquiries in an effective and complete manner. There is no statutory law in force authorizing Select Committees to summon and secure the attendance of witnesses before them, and above all, there is no law requiring, and, if necessary, compelling witnesses before Select Committees to be sworn and answer questions relevant to the issues involved. It is true that the Standing Orders provide that Select Committees may summon witnesses, but they do not enable such Committees to take evidence on oath, nor do they provide any punitive measures in case of disobedience to the summons or refusal to be sworn or to give evidence.
I am not going to pit my opinion against that of some members of the Select Committee, who are legal gentlemen, but it does seem to me that they have overlooked a very important point, and that is that our Constitution contains this provision -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Constitution.
I take it that up to this time the Houses have not declared their powers, and that, therefore, we have the same powers as the British House of Commons. On page 430 of May nth edition, honorable senators will find a statement concerning the power of a Select Committee of the House of Commons to deal with a witness. After recounting the practice of ,past years, it says -
At length, in 1871, in pursuance of the recommendations of a Select Committee of 1869, Acf 34 and 35 Vict. c. 83 was passed, empowering the House of Commons and its committees to administer oaths to witnesses, and attaching to false evidence the penalties of perjury.
It goes on to say that -
By Standing Orders Nos. S6 and 87, oaths and affirmations, under the Oaths Act 1888, are administered to witnesses before the House or a Committee of the whole House, by a clerk at the table; and before a Select Committee, by the Chairman, or by the clerk’ attending the Committee. It is not usual, however, for Select Committees to examine witnesses upon oath, except upon inquiries of a judicial or other special character.
If we have the powers of the British House of Commons, the Act which declares those powers applies also to this Parliament, and this Select Committee had the power under that Act - that being a power pertaining to the House of Commons - to call witnesses before them and administer the oath, . and breaches of that oath would be subject to the penalties for perjury.
– Supposing they declined to come?
– I take it that we have the power to compel their attendance in the same way as the House of Commons.
– What if they would not come except by force?
– Under the Constitution, the Courts and the law officers of the States are called upon to carry out the laws of the Commonwealth, “ and this Act “ - meaning the Constitution Act. The Constitution is an Imperial Act, and if, by, virtue of it, we have the powers that a Select Committee of the British House of Commons has, every law and police officer in the Commonwealth is bound to carry out that Act, just as if it was an Act of this Parliament. As a layman, I think it is not a statement of fact to say that we have not the power to summon and secure the attendance of witnesses.
– The evidence goes to show that we can summon them, but that if they do not come, or refuse to answer questions, we must report to the House, when the House brings them to the bar, and the whole trouble begins.
– The question is not whether the subsequent procedure is adequate. The statement is distinctly made in this report .that there is no statutory law in force authorizing Select Committees to summon and secure the attendance qf witnesses. There is a law, which is an Act of the Imperial Parliament, in force giving us the powers of the House of Commons.
– Would a declaratory resolution of the House of Commons be sufficient to confirm a privilege claimed by the Senate?’
– Not an Act passed now; but the Constitution says that the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament shall be those of the British House of Commons at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth, and this was at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth a power of the British House of Commons.
– We could not assume a privilege under a declaratory Act.
– The whole of the privileges and powers of the House pf Commons have been set out from time to time by Act.
– Was not the Committee appointed because it was found that the privileges and powers of the British House of Commons had broken’ down here?
– I am not dealing with what happens afterwards in the House. I simply say that this passage is not a statement of fact.
– The effect of it is correct.
– It may be true that the Committee are not able to prosecute their inquiries in a proper and complete manner.
– The evidence given by the experts amply justifies the statement in the report.
– I am . not going to set myself up against the experts ; but when the Select Committee of the Senate on the Tobacco Monopoly was taking evidence, I consulted the ex- President, Sir Richard Baker, who was regarded as an authority on parliamentary procedure, and the Clerk of the Parliaments, Mr. E. G. Blackmore, both of whom assured me that as Chairman of that Committee, I had the power to summon witnesses to attend, and to administer the oath, to them. During the whole of the proceedings of the Committee, I did issue summonses to witnesses, and swore them.
– What would the honorable senator have done if they had not come?
– I should certainly have reported to the Senate.
– Then we get back to the old story.
– The powers of the Senate might have been defective. I am not arguing that they are effective ; but the progress report has been carelessly drafted in saying that wehave not the power to summon witnesses.
-Is not that rather splitting hairs?
– If we make a statement, it ought to be correct. In the present case, certain statements were made by a newspaper. The Committee had the power to summon the men responsible to attend their meetings; but did not exercise that power, . and give as a reason that they had not the power to summon witnesses. That is where the mistake seems to be made, unless Mr. Blackmore and the late President were wrong ; and I do not’ think that they were. The Committee may not have had the power to deal with the witnesses if they refused, to come or were recalcitrant, but we- are not justified in assuming that they would refuse to come.
– It might have been a question of whether it was wise to make heroes of those men, knowing perfectly well what would happen afterwards.
– That is a matter that ought to have been determined before the question was referred to the Committee.
– Some of us voted against referring it to the Committee.
– If the fear of making heroes of those men had been in the mind of the Senate the question would not have been referred to the Committee at all. But as it was referred to the Committee the Committee should have made some effort to summon these witnesses, and give them an opportunity of substantiating the statement which contained slanders on certain members. If then the Committee had found that they were in a difficulty, they could have reported to the House, and it would have been for the House to say whether it would arm itself with further powers to deal with the matter.
– - The criticism directed by Senator Pearce to the report seems to have been answered by interjections in the course of his speech. He affirms, ‘ and no one will deny, that the Committee could have proceeded with regard to the specific charges, by reason that it had. all the powers, privileges, and immunities of a Select Committee of the ‘House of Commons. Theoretically that is perfectly true; but, as I interjected, the very reason for the appointment of the Committee was that it was felt that the . powers, privileges, and procedure of the House of Commons had become obsolete, and were unfitted and insufficient for our purposes.
– They are not even as good here as in England, because the Commonwealth has no gaol.
– Not only are they regarded here as out-of-date and obsolete, but the Commonwealth labours under certain disabilities from which the Imperial Parliament is free, one of them being the fact that we have no control over the gaolers and other officers of the States. Senator Pearce quoted a section of the Constitution which appeared to give us that power, but that section calls upon every officer of a State to discharge his duty where any offence against our laws is concerned. We have not yet. passed a law dealing with this matter. That seems to be a material point. Even admitting for the sake of argument - which I do not - that the Committee could have gone further than they did, was it not wise to go slowly, and as we are liable to have our motives misinterpreted, to pick our steps warily, and be perfectly certain of our ground and machinery, rather than do anything to make Parliament the laughing-stock of Australia ?
– The section which I quoted from the Constitution calls upon all the law officers of a State to give effect, not only to all laws made by the Commonwealth Parliament, but to the Constitution itself, and section 49 is part of the Constitution.
– I was referring to section120, which provides that -
Every State shall make provision for the detention in its prisons of persons accused or convicted of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth, and for the punishment of persons convicted of such offences, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws to give effect to this . provision.
That section speaks distinctly of Commonwealth laws. I shall not give a definite opinion, because I do not feel qualified to do so. I simply suggest to Senator Pearce that the road was full of pitfalls, and in the circumstances the Committee played a wise part in offering Parliament certain recommendations which are really an invitation to Parliament to provide machinery by which it will be possible to’ deal with these, cases in the future without the slightest hesitancy or doubt as to”” the position in which we stand. In common with other honorable senators, I have had my attention drawn to the misapprehension that exists outside as to what isreally contemplated by the procedure that we are now asked to adopt. One would assume from newspaper criticisms that there is an attempt to clothe individual members with privileges and immunities which they do not enjoy to-day. It has been affirmed that we are seeking here to relieve ourselves of the responsibility which an ordinary citizen has to shoulder. There is no justification for that statement. There has never been any attempt here to throw a cloak over individual members. If an individual member is libelled or slandered, nothing proposed by the Committee will take from him the obligation of defending his own character. He stands in exactly the same position as the ordinary citizen in the street. If I am libelled . to-morrow, the procedure recommended by the Committee will not help me. It will rest with me to take my own case into the ordinary law courts, and either prove it or suffer the consequences.
– Unless Parliament likes to take up the honorable senator’s quarrel, and it can do that now.
– What is proposed is that where general libels are uttered against Parliament as a whole, as in the case already referred to, machinery which does not exist at present should be provided by which Parliament, in its corporate capacity, can vindicate its. own honour in the eyes of the people. There are only two ways in which that can be done. One is by Parliament being the prosecutor and Judge in its own case. It is affirmed, curiously enough, by some of our newspaper critics, that we have ample powers now, and ought to put them into effect. I wonder who would be. the first to denounce Parliament if we attempted to call one of our journalistic critics here, and hale him to gaol ! Is there enough ink in all the printing offices in Australia to express the indignation which would be showered on us if we did?
– If he said that four members had taken a bribe, would not that alter the case ?
– If we condemned the pressman who said that, or ‘the journal that published it, the retort of the press would be: “Fancy a Parliament accused of corruption being the judge of whether it is corrupt or not !” The whole thing is absurd. Apart from that, it departs from what we always recognise as the underlying principle of British justice, that a man shall not be a Judge in his own case. That is why this Chamber has deemed it expedient to depute to a Committee the task of devising some machinery outside Parliament itself, which, when imputations of that kind are cast on Parliament as a whole, will hold the. scales of justice true “ and equal, and determine whether or not those critics are justified in what they have said, or whether a wrong ha.- been done to Parliament as a public institution. There is the further point that if any person in criticising Parliament exceeds the bounds of legitimate comment, and ventures into the arena of slander, he has an ample and better opportunity, before a trained Judge, of demonstrating his case, by going before a public court, than he would have if he were brought up here. Therefore, those who are merely acting in the public interest’, have no cause of complaint in this matter. There is no attempt to curtail public criticism, and if any such attempt were made, the first institution in the country to rise up and protest, would be this Parliament itself. There is no body that has more to gain from proper public criticism of its own proceedings, than Parliament itself. One of the complaints that we have to-day, is that not sufficient publicity is given to the proceedings of Parliament. It is not the fact that publicity is given to our proceedings of which we have to complain, but that some journals seem to regard Parliament as a body against which to make unwarranted statements. Just as no individual is called upon to submit to such attacks, so no Parliament is called upon to do so. It has been said that if Parliament consults its own dignity, it’ need not be troubled about such criticisms. The public journals that take that view have no reason to fear any legislation passed by any Australian Parliament, so long as they confine themselves to fair and honest criticism. The procedure recommended by this Committee would only operate in regard to those journals which devote themselves to libel, slander, and gross personalities, and which pander to the grosser tastes of portions of the community. I venture to say that, although the whole of the details of this report may not commend themselves to the Senate, it is one which, in substance, can be heartily supported ; and, I think, that in saying so, I am expressing the views of . the great .majority of honorable senators.
.. - In supporting the motion for the adoption of the report, I wish to refer briefly to .the concluding remarks of Senator Millen. He observed that, so far as the Select Committee is .concerned, its report is now complete, , and its . work finished. . That .is the position, the Committee having now submitted a supplementary report in addition to. its’ progress report, submitted at an earlier stage.
– I was not aware of that.
– I wish to say, in reference to the statements made by Senator Pearce, that whilst, like him, I do not profess to be able to enter into the matter from a legal point of view, yet, having heard the whole of the evidence given before the Committee, I am convinced that the honorable .senator would not have expressed some of the views that he did had he been acquainted with the facts. He omitted to mention, probably through an oversight, that we are in no wise dealing with a matter that, in any sense, can be said to be paralleled in the. case of the
British House of Commons. The experts whom we had before us, very clearly pointed that out. On the particular point: upon which Senator Pearce dwelt, namely,, the power of a Committee of Parliament to do certain, things, we had the evidence of Mr. R. R. Garran. In reply to question 116, after it had been put to him whether the Committee had, or had not, the power to do certain tilings, he was asked whether he thought that the Committee had power to take the steps suggested in Senator Pearce’s argument. Of course, we had an idea that there was a method by which witnesses could be compelled to attend, and give evidence, but we were also strongly inclined to think that to do so would be like bringing a horse to water. When yow get him there, you cannot compel him to drink. Mr. Garran was asked whether we had power to summon witnesses. His reply was -
I think you can summon them and call upon them for an explanation.
Then in. question 117, his evidence went on -
How could we get them here? - If they did not obey the summons then I think, the Housemight, through the Speaker, issue his warrant for their arrest, and bring them before the Bar of the House.
Other witnesses gave evidence to the same effect. Every one of the witnesses examined by the Committee .. had evidently been particularly careful in getting up his case. The evidence which they placed before us bore upon it the impress of a good. deal of research, and of a very close an.d intelligent application to the questionssubmitted. Any one . who reads the evidence closely will see that the. witnesses were practically unanimous upon the point that there is nothing in existing law and usage as applied to this Parliament, to enable us to deal in a satisfactory manner with a man who chooses to say nasty or vile things about Parliament arid its members. All that we can .do is to bring the offender to the bar of the House. , In question 118, Mr. Garran’s evidence continued -
Has this Committee power to. summon them ? - Do you mean for purposes of punishment?
No ; for” examination ? - Yes, I am inclined to think that the Committee can summon witnesses, but that it cannot administer an oath. ‘
Suppose we were to issue a summons to the proprietors df the Bulletin, calling upon them to’ come and give evidence, and they refused tocome; which, could we do? - I am not sure what the law would be as to that. I did not come prepared . to answer that question. I recollect that Parliament is engaged in considering a Bill for the purpose of making its powers clear in that respect. There seems to bea considerable amount of doubt as to what those powers exactly are. I am not prepared to say offhand what the powers are.
It was made abundantly clear that without the intercession of some declaratory Act it was impossible for us to do anything except follow the old plan of bringing the offending individual to the bar of the House. Then, if we felt that he had not been sufficiently glorified, we could bring him back again on another occasion, and even go to the extreme of putting him for a few hours in one of the rooms in the basement of this building.
– Where we might kill him by means of the draughts !
– We might do that, but that is all we could do. The Committee consider that their report is fairly comprehensive. Whilst some of the newspapers have snarled rather bitterly about our recommendations, and have endeavoured to show that our object was simply to muzzle public criticism, I think that it will be obvious that those who have taken that line of argument have merely endeavoured to divert public attention from the real facts of the case. When the report is carefully read, it will be seen that it not only deals with matters of libel, but that it is sufficiently comprehensive to deal with all the most important offences relating to the powers, privileges, and immunities of Parliament. Therefore, the attempt made by the Committee is much wider in its scope than some of the newspapers would lead the public to think. In paragraph 6 of their recommendations, the Committee say -
That in view of the fact that a new measure of punishment for breach of privilege and contempt of Parliament is hereby recommended, your Committee cannot advise that the proposed new law should be made retrospective.
– Why not?
– Because to do so would be to make the new law apply to offences committed before it came into existence. It would not be in accord with British fair play and justice to pass an Act to-day, and under it to punish a man for something that he did six months before the law came into existence. That is the reason why we consider that it would be unjust to make the new law retrospective. I have much pleasure in supporting the adoption of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being at once considered, and all consequent action taken.
Bill, read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The question of old-age pensions has been a prominent one in politics in the Commonwealth ever since its establishment. Fortunately! in the two larger States, provision for the payment of old-age pensions has been in existence for some time. I venture to say that honorable senators will concur with honorable members elsewhere in esteeming it a privilege to be given the opportunity to take part in the enactment of so commendable a measure. As a matter of fact, I know of no measure introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament which has, or will receive, in a greater degree, the commendation, not only of members of this Parliament, but of the people of the Commonwealth. The desire and design of this Bill is to recognise the right of a section of our citizens to a contribution in old age, or earlier if they should have the misfortune to become invalids. Many of the persons whom it will benefit are amongst the worthiest of our old colonists, men who have grappled with the difficulties of early, settlement, and have led a strenuous life in the service of the country, which entitles them to the most generous consideration at our hands. It is not necessary, in the circumstances, that I should enlarge on the merits of this Bill. I desire at the outset to acknowledge the splendid services rendered in this matter by the Royal Commission appointed to consider and make representations in connexion with old-age pensions, in the very excellent report they have furnished. Fortunately, the Senate was represented on that Commission by my honorable friends, Senator Pearce, Senator Gray, and ex-Senator Styles. The various recommendations made by the Commission will, I am sure, be of value to honorable senators, in the consideration of this measure, which is largely, if not completely, founded upon those recommendations. It is true that the Commission had the great advantage of the legislation of the two larger States in considering the question, and doubtless the valuable experience of the operation of the States’ measures referred to greatly aided the Commission in their inquiry. The Bill before the Senate seeks to deal, not only with the payment of oldage pensions, but also with the payment of pensions to invalids under certain conditions which are set out. I need only refer to the fundamental features of the Bill, as many of the clauses are in the nature of machinery, to give it effect. The main provisions with respect to old-age pensions are set out in Part III. It is there provided - in clause 15 - that every person who has attained the age of sixty-five years, or who, being permanently incapacitated for work; has attained the age of sixty years, shall, whilst in Australia^ be qualified to receive an old-age pension. It is further provided in the same clause, that by proclamation it will be competent for the Governor-General, . so far as women are concerned, to declare that the age at which they shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension shall be sixty years, and from and after such proclamation, the preceding provision is to be read as regards women as if the word “ sixty “ were substituted for the words “sixty -five.” Then it is provided in clause 16 that certain persons shall be specially disqualified. These include aliens, naturalized subjects of the King who have not been naturalized for the period of three years next preceding the date of their pension claims, and also Asiatics, except those born in Australia-
– There are none.
– There are many. Aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand, are also disqualified, but no woman having married one of these persons is, in consequence only of such marriage, to be disqualified from receiving a pension. Then there are certain- necessary conditions set forth to qualify a person for an old-age pension. It is provided .that no person shall receive an old-age pension unless he is residing in Australia on the date when h=; makes his claim, and has, on that date, so resided continuously for at least twentyfive years, and is of good character. Clause 18 defines what continuous residence means, and provides for the emergency of occasional short absences from the Commonwealth. Then no person is to be entitled to a pension unless the net capital value of his accumulated property within or out of Australia does not exceed ^310.
Invalid pensions are dealt with in Part I W of the Bill, which is only to be brought into operation by proclamation. The conditions on which such pensions may be granted are set forth in clause 20, in which it is provided that every person above the age of sixteen years, who is permanently incapacitated from work by reason of an accident, or by reason of his being an invalid, and who is not receiving an old-age pension shall, whilst in Australia, be Qualified to receive an invalid pension. Certain persons are disqualified from receiving an invalid pension, and they are aliens, Asiatics, except those born in Australia, or aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand, but no woman having married one of these disqualified persons is, in consequence only of such marriage, to be disqualified from receiving an invalid pension. Necessary conditions entitling a person to the receipt of an invalid pension are set forth in clause 22. The invalid must be residing in Australia when he makes his claim to the pension, and must have resided in Australia continuously, within the meaning of clause 18, for at least five years. . It is provided in clause 23 that the amount of an invalid pension shall in every case be determined annually by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, having regard to any income or property possessed by the applicant. I venture to say that both as regards oldage and invalid pensions, the provisions of this Bill are not only reasonable, but generous. Honorable senators have before them a comparative table of provisions of the Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Bill, and certain States Acts, together with the recommendations of the Royal Commission reTlating to rate of pensions, reductions, &c, and the only matters it contains to which I need specially refer are the provisions with respect to age or ill-health, and, later on, as to the limit of the pensions. The Royal Commission’s recommendation was the attainment of the age of sixty-five years, or sixty where the applicant was permanently incapacitated for work. The Commonwealth Bill provides for an old-age pension on the attainment of the age of sixty-five years, or sixty years where the applicant is permanently incapacitated for work, and as to women, the GovernorGeneral is empowered to reduce the qualifying age to sixty years. Under the New South .Wales Act, the age qualification is the attainment of the age of sixty-five years, or sixty years in cases of inability of claimant from physical unfitness to earn his own living. Under the Victorian Act, the qualification is the attainment of the age of sixty-five years, or permanent illhealth caused by having been engaged in mining or any prescribed dangerous or unhealthy occupation. Under the Queensland measure, which is to come into operation this year, the qualification is the attainment of sixty-five years, and, under the New Zealand Act, the qualification is also the attainment of sixty-five years. The provisions with respect to the limit of both invalid and old-age pensions are set forth in Part V. of the Bill. In clause 24, it is provided that the amount of a pension shall, in each case, be at such a rate as, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the Commissioner, or Deputy Commissioner, who determines the pension claim, deems reasonable and sufficient, but shall not exceed the rate of £26 per annum in any event, nor is it to be at such a rate as would make the pensioner’s income, together with the pension, exceed £52 per annum. Where the pensioner has accumulated property, the amount of a pension is to be subject to certain deductions. Where the pensioner has accumulated property, the amount of a pension is to be subject to the following deductions-
Take the case of a man owning property worth £250. From that would be deducted £50.
– If he were living in that property, would anything be deducted ? The clause which the Minister has just read exempts his home.
– Take a case where a man owns property worth £250. This £50 is first taken off. and then £1 for every complete £10.
– Not if the £250 property is the one in which he is living?
– I have told the honorable senator that it is so. I am saying that where the man does not reside in the property there will be a deduction of £20. In the other case there will be a deduction of-
In that case, the honorable senator will see there will be a deduction of £100, and then a deduction of £1 for every complete£10. In those circumstances, there will be a deduction of £15 from the
Provided that, where both husband and wife are pensioners, except where they are living apart pursuant to any decree, judgment, order or deed of separation, in making the deduction in the case of each of them - paragraph (a) shall be read with the substitution of Twenty-five pounds for Fifty pounds, and paragraph (b) shall be read with the substitution of Fifty pounds for One hundred pounds.
– If I read that provision aright, two deductions, will be made in the case of the property with the highest amount. Paragraphs. a and b are not alternatives.
– Yes they are; In the case of paragraph a, where he does not reside in the property, there is a deduction of £50. As regards the net value of accumulated property, there is a provision as to how it shall be assessed; but paragraph d provides that -
In the case of husband and wife, except where they are living apart pursuant to any decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation, the net capital value of the accumulated property of each shall be deemed to be half the total net capital value of the accumulated property of both.
In clause 26 provision is made for the computation of income. The Royal Commission recommended a pension of £26 per annum, and the Bill adopts that sum. In New South Wales £26 per annum is allowed where both husband and wife are entitled to pensions, but where they are living apart, pursuant to any decree or deed of separation, the allowance is fixed at £19 ios. each. In Victoria the pension is £26 per annum, in Queensland £26 per annum, and in New Zealand £18 per annum. As regards the various deductions that are to be made, that . is rather too elaborate ‘ a story, but those who are interested will find full particulars set forth in the table which has been presented. The administration of the measure is dealt with in Part II. The scheme is that there shall be a Commissioner of Pensions for the whole of the Commonwealth, and a Deputy Commissioner of -Pensions for each State. The Commonwealth will be divided into districts. To each district will be assigned a registrar, and, working in conjunction with the other officers to whom I have referred, there will be a magistrate assisting in the administration of the law. The term “ magistrate “ includes a police stipendiary or special magistrate of the Commonwealth or of a State. The procedure is set forth in clause 27 and following clauses. Clause 27 reads -
Every person claiming a pension shall, in the prescribed manner, deliver or send a pension claim therefor to the Registrar of the district in which he resides, or to a prescribed officer therein.
That is the first step which he has to take. The claim has to be indorsed by the claimant, with a declaration showing his qualifications, which the registrar will investigate. Clause 28 sets out -
Upon receipt of a pension claim “the Registrar shall cause to be made such investigations as appear to him desirable, or as are directed by the Deputy Commissioner, in order to ascertain the circumstances of the claimant and the truth of the statements in the claim.
The registrar is to be at liberty to call upon persons to furnish him with the necessary information to enable him to make his report. Upon the completion of the investigation, the onus is to be thrown upon the registrar of reporting fully to the magistrate. That is to say, he will receive the claim, investigate it fully, and make out a report, and that, together with the claim, will be forwarded to the magistrate, and the claimant notified that it will be considered on a particular day. Clause 29 provides that, where the magistrate is satisfied that, by reason of physical disability, or other sufficient cause, the claimant is unable to attend, he may dispense with his attendance. The magistrate’s duty is to continue further investigation, and, if he should deem the claim fair and equitable, he will have the power to recommend the claim, as made, or as modified by the result of his investigations, or if he should think fit, postpone the claim for further evidence, or recommend its rejection. It is provided in sub-clause 2 of clause 31 -
If it appears to the Magistrate that the claimant, although otherwise qualified for, is unfit to be intrusted with, a pension, He may recommend that the claimant, instead of being granted a pension, be sen( to a benevolent asylum or charitable institution ; and the Registrar shall at once notify the Deputy Commissioner, who may thereupon cause steps to be taken for the admission of the claimant into a Benevolent asylum or any prescribed public or private charitable institution.
Provision is made in clause 32 for an appeal in respect of matters found by the magistrate to be disproved. The claimant may, in the time and the manner prescribed, appeal to the Minister, who may cause an investigation to be made by the Commissioner, or Deputy Commissioner. In the following clause, it is provided that the recommendations of the magistrate as tr> the pension claim shall be indorsed on the claim, which shall thereupon be returned to the registrar. It will be forwarded’ by the registrar to the Deputy Commissioner, whose duty it will be, except in certain cases, to determine the application, and after he is duly satisfied, to issue a pension certificate, iri proper form, when the claimant will be entitled to his pension. There is provision for the re-hearing of a claim in certain circumstances, and ‘ also a provision that persons entitled to State pensions may be held to be qualified to come under this measure without much trouble. Clause 35 provides -
Any person who at the commencement of this Act is the holder of a valid certificate entitling him to an invalid or old-age pension under a State Act may, instead of sending in a pension claim, deliver up his State certificate to the Deputy Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner may, subject to the Regulations, if he is satisfied that the person is entitled to a pension under this Act, issue a pension certificate to him.
The payments,. I may explain, are to be made fortnightly, and, possibly, the Post Office, or other convenient Commonwealth, or, perhaps, State office, by arrangement, will be utilized for that purpose. As for the number of persons likely to be provided for, we derived considerable assistance from the experience of New South Wales and Victoria. In his valuable work, the Official Y ear-Book, Mr. Knibbs gives some data which will aid us in coming to a decision. On page 913, he deals with the number of persons in receipt of old-age pensions in New South Wales and Victoria. In 1901-2 there were 13,975 pensioners in New South Wales, and 14,570 in Victoria, making a total of 28,527. In 1906-7, there were 21,465 pensioners in New South Wales, and 10,832 in Victoria, making a total of 32,297. Approximately, it has been estimated that the number who will avail themselves of the old-age provision, will be about 67,000. From the same book, we learn that the number of persons, sixtyfiveyears of age and upwards, is about 168,000. And more than that, we are told’ that those who avail themselves of pensions, having regard to the experience of New South Wales, represent about 4 per cent, of the total population of the State, or, in this case, the Commonwealth. It is by that means -that we arrive, -roughly, at the estimate that the number of old-age pensioners, under this measure, will be about 67,000. In dealing with this matter, Mr. Knibbs says -
It will be seen that during the past three years the number of pensions has remained practically constant at about 32,000, the number in New South Wales having increased during that period by 560, while the number in Victoria decreased by 777. At the census of 31st March, 1901, the number of persons in New South Wales aged 65 years and upwards represented 3.44 per cent, of the total population of that State, while in Victoria the corresponding percentage was 5-52-
Assuming these percentages to hold good for 30th June, 1907, the number of persons in these two States aged sixty-five and upwards may be stated approximately as - New South Wales, 53,400 ; Victoria^ 68,300. On this basis the number of persons in receipt of old-age pensions in New South Wales on 30th June, 1907, represented 40 per cent, of the total number in the State on that date aged sixty-five years and upwards, while in Victoria the corresponding percentage was 16. It is probable that the numbers aged sixty-five and upwards given above are somewhat underestimated, especially in the case «f New South Wales, and that in consequence the percentage in receipt of pension is slightly overstated. The error involved is, however, probably not large.
The estimate is therefore something like 68,000 old-age pensioners likely to take advantage of this provision.
– It appears that about 4 per cent, of the people are above sixtyfive years of age, but what percentage of those are likely to apply for pensions?
– I cannot give that percentage off-hand.
– The honorable senator gave the figures, and I thought he might work the percentage out. It is about 40 per cent, of 4 per cent.
– I have roughly stated the number likely to claim. It is impossible to state definitely how many will claim. As to the cost, in 1901-2 New South Wales paid in old-age pensions ;£436»l83> and Victoria paid ,£292,432, or a total for that year of .£728,615. In 1906-7 the amount paid in New South Wales was ,£494,227, and in Victoria £187,730 or a total of .£681,957- roughly £682,000- for those two States for that financial year.
– Those figures show that in Victoria nearly all the old people have either dropped off or have not got pensions.
– There is an extraordinary disparity which is not altogether accounted for bv the fact that the laws of the two States differ in one important respect. In Victoria; relatives may be- proceeded against to contribute towards the support of old-age Pensioners.
– The length of residence qualifying in Victoria is five years less than in New South Wales, so that one would think there would be more claimants in Victoria.
– The pensions in Victoria are hedged round with all sorts of pauper,like restrictions.
– The important provision in the Victorian. Act, giving the right to resort to relatives for contributions towards the support of old-age pensioners, produces only the trifling sum of .£4,000 a year.
– The disparity between the two States is one of the strongest arguments for this Bill.
– That is so. It is estimated that, for the Commonwealth, we shall- have to provide, for old-age pensions alone, something like ,£1,500,000.
– ;£i, 750,000, on the figures that the honorable senator has given.
– Does the honorable senator think that .£1,500,000 will be sufficient?
– That is only a rough estimate of the minimum that must be provided for; it may be more. It is contemplated that, by the resources which will be created ‘under . the Surplus Revenue Act - of course this is only a rough calculation - provision will have been made for that amount by the 1st July, 1909. That would, of course, contribute substantially towards, if not completely pay, the amount that would be required for old-age pensions between the 1st July, 1909, when the Act begins to operate, and the 30th June, r9io. Of course after that date half of a financial year would elapse before 31st December, 1910, when the Braddon section would expire, and greater elasticity at all events would be afforded to the Federal Parliament.
– The honorable senator is announcing that policy now, straight away ?
– I am doing nothing of the kind. I am simply stating the fact that after 1st January, 19 n, the control of the consolidated revenue will be in the complete discretion of the Federal Parliament.
– We all know that without the honorable senator preaching it.
– Then why did the honorable senator interject?
– I asked if the honorable senator was announcing that the policy of the Government would be to take it all.
– I have done nothing of the kind. By clause 15 the GovernorGeneral in Council may by proclamation declare that the age at which women shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension shall be sixty years, and from and after such proclamation the last preceding provision shall, as regards women, be read as if the word “ sixty “ were substituted for the word “ sixty-five.” Honorable senators will notice that that comes into operation by proclamation. It is estimated that the number of women in the Commonwealth between sixty and sixty-five is about 40,000, and of those the number likely to require pensions will be about 16,000. When the proclamation issues, it will be necessary that provision should have been made for an increase of something like 16,000 pensioners, and an estimated increased yearly cost of between £250,000 and £300,000.
– Nearer ,£400,000.
– I admit that these are mere matters of conjecture, and the honorable senator is just as much at liberty to make. an estimate as I am. We do not propose to bring that provision into operation until we find that we have the means available for such a desirable object, and we must be prepared to find at least some amount between £250,000 and £300,000 when the proclamation issues. Invalid pensions are provided for in Part IV., which also comes into operation upon proclamation. I believe New South Wales has a similar provision regarding invalid pensions, which cost that State something like £60,000 per annum. It is estimated that it will cost the Commonwealth about £200,000 per annum to bring that portion of the Bill info operation, but, as in the. former case, before the proclamation issued, the Government of the day would have been well assured that the money was available in the Treasury for the purpose. Then comes the question of the cost of administration. The figures as to the States of New South Wales and Victoria will be found on page 914 of Mr. Knibbs’ Y earBook. In 1901-2 the cost of administration in New South Wales was £17,258, and in Victoria £2,799, °r a total of £20,057. In 1906-7 the cost in New South Wales was £20,949, and in Victoria £1,746, a total .of £22,695.
– What is the reason of the great disparity between the States?
– Because there is a Board system in New South Wales.
– That is not all. More than half the cost was commission paid to the Bank of New South Wales for paying the pensions.. In Victoria the payments are made through the post-offices.
– I believe that £10,000 is paid to the Bank of New South Wales. That is one reason.
– It is correct that there are Boards in New South Wales, which, I believe, cost something.
– There are those two contriButing causes. The Commonwealth proposes to avail itself of its .officers, and to administer the Act through the post-offices, so far as it can. In some cases the postoffices will be utilized, and in other cases other Commonwealth offices, but the determination of the Government is, so far aspossible, to confine the administration to our own officers, and thereby minimize the expense.
– Does not that look very like Socialism?
– We are quite prepared to run that risk.- I have endeavoured to state the fundamental features of the Bill and the contemplated cost. Its provisions, while not excessively generous, are on the whole liberal and reasonable, and, hiving regard to our finances, the best that we are justified in undertaking at present. . I have great pleasure in commending the Bill to honorable senators, and venture to hope that, with the assistance of my honorable friends opposite - the feeling of the Chamber being unanimous as. to the desirability of the measure - we shall have no difficulty in passing it through all its stages before we rise.
– If there is one Bill received by this Chamber that may be honestly termed a non-party measure,_ it is this. I’ congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council that time and circumstances have contrived that to his hands should fall the task of introducing it. I feel, as other honorable senators will, a certain amount of gratification that I should be enabled by voice and vote to assist in placing it on the statute-book. It is a Bill we all welcome and to which every member has looked forward for a considerable time. Therefore I can confidently predict a smooth passage for it through this branch of the Legislature.
– Smooth and rapid.
– Smooth and rapid, as the honorable senator says, with that keen eye for the recess which always marks him. Having held out this cordial, welcome to the Bill, I trust that in pointing out a few drawbacks in it, I shall do so with no other desire than to make it a more workable instrument to accomplish the end that we all have, in view. I shall take this opportunity of indicating what appear to be its weak points in order that we may be able to dispose of them the more rapidly when we reach them in Committee. I say with a great deal of regret that we are really taking a plunge in regard to this Bill, because the financial foundation for it is simply non-existent. . So far as I understand- the financial position we are undertaking to provide an amount which at the lowest estimate is £1,500,000 per annum, and which, in my opinion, will approach more nearlv to £2,000,000 when the scheme is in full operation. We are undertaking to pay that from the 1st July next year, wthout, so far as any one has been able to show me yet, having anything like that sum either in hand or likely to be received. According to the figures placed before the Senate yesterday, the amount of surplus revenue for last year would be roughly £730,000. We arrive at that in this way. There is £470,000 to be retained under the Surplus Revenue Bill and £260,000 of surplus revenue which has been paid to the States, making a total surplus revenue of £730,000. Fromthat amount has to be deducted an appropriation for naval purposes of £250,000, leaving the surplus for the present financial year, £480,000 in all, available for old-age pensions. It may be suggested that the surplus is going to be more next year. But, on the contrary, the Federal Treasurer has been emphatic in declaring that the revenue will decrease and the expenditure will mount up. That is only a reasonable conclusion.
– The honorable senator is referring to Customs and Excise revenue?
– But there are other sources.
– I am pointing out that as we are putting this Bill upon the statute-book, and are undertaking to pledge the honour of Parliament to provide these pensions at a certain time, it is not an unreasonable thing that honorable senators, who next year will have to face the responsibility of finding the money, should bear in mind the responsibility which they are accepting for themselves and Parliament generally. There is, I say, £470,000 of surplus available for the whole of this year after providing for the naval payments. That would be assuming that we retained the £260,000. Next year we may expect a smaller sum than that. I do not propose to show why, because it must be obvious to honorable senators that the probabilities are strongly in favour of the surplus revenue being less next year.
– Will the £250,000 for naval purposes be required next year?
– I think it is probable, and in any case it is reasonable to assume that £250,000 will be required for other purposes. We need not shut our eyes to the facts. It would not lighten our task a bit to close our eyes to what is ahead of us. I am speaking simply as a friend ot this Bill, and for that reason I think honorable senators will see that it is advisable that we should face the position and ascertain exactly what we have to do in order to meet our responsibilities by the time when’ we have to take action. We can in this way make up our minds as to what is the best method of raising the necessary revenue. I have stated that £470,000 is the maximum surplus for this year. Allowing for a shrinkage next year, it seems to me that we shall have in hand in July next year for the purposes of this scheme less than £1,500,000.
– The payment of a million and-a-half will be spread over the whole year.
– My honorable friend will see that to meet the claims for oldage pensions we shall have the £222,000 in hand, the surplus from the 1st July next, and the surplus for 1908-9. But those amounts altogether do not total the sum required to pay old-age pensions for one year.
– If the honorable senator’s estimates are correct.
– The old-age pensions do not commence until next year, and by that time there will be a fund’ in hand.
– But I am showing that the fund will not be large enough for the purpose. It appears to me, however, that the moment one begins to point out weakness in a Bill of this sort, it is regarded by my honorable friends opposite as an attack- on the Bill ‘itself. I ask honorable senators to disabuse their minds pf that idea, and to look into the question of finance as it relates to the Bill, in order that there shall be no possibility of a breakdown at any point along the line.
– The honorable senator asks us to agree with his estimates, and we do not agree with them.
– Does any one seriously dispute the assumption that the amount of the surplus next year will be no more than that for this year ?
– I do not agree with that. I think the surplus will be bigger.
– I shall put. down the surplus next year at £480,000.
– The honorable senator must be assuming that we are going to pay another £250,000 for naval purposes.
– Does Senator Pearce assume that there are no other responsibilities ahead of us? It is fair to show that the claims upon the Commonwealth are growing, and must continue t’o grow.
– So is the revenue growing.
– The returns for the last month or so have clearly borne out the prediction of the Treasurer that the revenue from Customs and Excise is going to shrink.
– There “has been no decline yet. The revenue has not increased so fast as it did formerly, but there has been no decrease.
– The revenues of every State have been shrinking for the last month or two.
– That is not the case with Customs and Excise.
– Assuming that the surplus next year will be as large as it has been this’ year, and that it will be as large for two years! running until the pensions become due, if you add those surpluses together, and include the £222,000 set aside this year, you will see that the total does not amount to £1,500,000.
– The honorable senator is leaving out of consideration one factor - that we Shall not commence the payment of the full amount df pensions from the 1st July. The claims will have to be sent in, and adjudicated upon; and that will take a month or two.
– I shall assume that the claims will be dealt with before the 1st July, or this Senate will want, to know the reason why. The claims will be dealt with, and the pensions will be paid from the 1st July of next year. Otherwise, the Bill is a fraud upon the face of it.
– There will be no authority to receive the claims until the Act comes into operation.
– Then we ought to put the authority in the Bill. This Bill, is put forward with the honest intention that pensions shall be payable from the 1st July of next year. I go back to the figures again, and, to make good my position, let me say that’ we have no reason for thinking that the surplus next year, and the year after, will be larger than the surplus of this year. But I will take it that the surplus will be what it has been this year. If you add to the amount of surplus for the next two years the £222,000 available this year, you will, I say, still not have enough to meet old-age pension payments for the one year in which the pensions will be in operation before the expiration of the Braddon section. If that be so, I see no escape from the conclusion that the responsibility is upon us, and upon the Government and the Parliament - upon every one who supports this Bill - to realize clearly that in assenting to its provisions we pledge ourselves to make financial provision to meet the obligations that will arise under it. This is the point that I am leading up to : that honorable senators will, in voting for this Bill, be required, sooner or later, to make special financial provision to meet the claims which will arise under it. I will now proceed to point out what I regard as a serious and fundamental blot on the whole Bill.
– Has the honorable senator any suggestions to- make in regard to the financial matter?
– I am certainly not going to offer a financial policy to the Government. But, so far as my honorable friend and his party are concerned, we all know that they have their financial proposals already framed. I come, as I have said, to what is really the serious and fundamental blot on the Bill ; and that is that, instead of the Bill being, as its title indicates, a measure for old-age pensions, it is really’ an endowment of poverty. The great blot upon this Bill is that it attempts to discriminate between ‘classes of the community, and that it is going to make the payment of old-age pensions a sign and stigma of impoverishment.
– The honorable senator raises alarm about the difficulty of finding £1,500,000, and now he wants us to raise £”5,000,000.
– I have raised no alarm as to the finding of ,£1,500,000. I have simply pointed to the responsibilities that we are assuming. If my honorable friend considers that a senator is discharging his duties properly by taking a Bill and accepting it without looking into its details, I beg to differ from him. I am showing that my main objection to the Bill, as it is framed, is that it attempts to set up a difference between one individual in Australia and another. If there has been one party in Australia which has set itself up as being determined to pull down any differences that may divide one section of the community from another, and which has resolved that all classes, and men and women alike, shall stand upon an equal plane before the law, it is the Labour Party. I ask them, then, after having attempted to pull down these objectionable differences, not to endeavour to set them up in another way. Whereas the difference in the past has been in favour of the better-off classes, it is now sought to make a difference in the opposite direction.
– The honorable senator cannot influence us by that argu-ment. We are quite willing to take the risks this time.
– If the honorable senator is going to call this Bill an Old-age Pensions Bill, he is at liberty to do so. But I will call it nothing of the kind. I say that it is a Bill for the endowment of poverty, not one for the payment of pensions to old age.
– It is a Bill for the payment of pensions to the necessitous aged.
– That is perfectly true so far as it goes.
– -The same principle has been observed in all Old-age Pensions Acts in Australia so far.
– That is perfectly true; but the fact that such has been the case all along does not make it right. The Labour Party, a few years ago, would have ridiculed that argument. The mere fact that what Senator Trenwith describes has been the case so far is no reason why we should stick to it. It has frequently been said by those who have asked for pensions for the aged poor that the poor man in the street is as much entitled to his pension as is the Judge- upon the Bench. I reverse the proposition, and say that the Judge upon the Bench is just as much entitled iu his pension, if there is to be an old-age pension, as is the man in the street. There does not seem to be any escape from this argument : If there is to be a pension for old age, payable at the age of sixty-five - and, sir, I am rapidly getting to that stage when I resent sixty-live being regarded as an old age - I say that it ought to be paid irrespective of the worldly pussessions of the claimant. On the other hand, if there is to be a charitable dole to the least fortunate members of the community, it is not entitled to be called an oldage pension.
– We all agree with the honorable senator, but, still, we all knowthat he would not help us to find the money to extend the scheme.
– This is another evidence of the fact that honorable senators opposite are not prepared to concede even common honesty to those who differ from them. If we are not prepared to find the money exactly in the way they desire, we are declared to be absolutely unsound, and to be cast into outer political darkness. Thank goodness, there are the electors to stand between us and that fate. I have preferred my chief objection to the Bill. My next objection - and this is all I shall have to say on the measure - is that in regard to the provisions with respect to the reduction of the qualifying age for women and for the’ payment of invalid pensions, the operation of the measure is to be subject to proclamation which, of course, means to the action of the Minister. I dissent altogether from that proposition. If, for financial reasons, the Government are unable to bring these provisions into immediate operation, they should’ be brought into operation later, not as a result of the action of the Minister, but as the result of a joint address from both Houses of this Parliament. I have previously referred to the unfortunate habit into which we are drifting, of leaving important action to Ministerial discretion; but I know of no proposal of this kind likely to be attended with more, anxious consequences than the proposition embodied in this Bill. I am not making these references personal; but let us assume that without any regard to the financial requirements of the next Parliament, the Minister, in order perhaps to improve his position before the electors, issues the proclamation referred to on the eve of a parliamentary election. I say that it is not desirable that such power should be placed in the hands of any ‘ Minister. The necessary machinery is provided for in the Bill, and when it is shown that the finances of the country are in such a position as to justify this further extension of the pension principle, there should be no difficulty in inducing Parliament to sanction that extension. In that way, Parliamentwould keep within its own control its proper legislative duty, instead of handing its legitimate functions over to some one who, for the time being, might be beyond the power of Parliament. I trust that in regard to the operation of the provisions for the reduction of the pensions age in the case of women, and for the payment of invalid pensions, honorable senators will assist me to retain the power to make these provisions operative in the hands of Parliament.
– That was tried in another place. I was there.
– I was not aware of that. I can see no objection to the proposal I make, and Senator McGregor has himself, on other occasions, assisted me. to make a similar amendment in other Bills.
– The honorable senator is so clever, that we have to be very careful.
– I have to repeat that it is a matter for some regret that honorable senators opposite should be so en’amoured of this measure, as apparently to be prepared to take it as it is without looking into details. A neglect of the machinery proposed to give it effect does not in any way affirm their attachment to the principle of old-age pensions. Nor does it indicate lukewarmness with respect to the principle that honorable senators on this side should express a desire to make the measure more perfect. My object in addressing honorable senators has been to point out what appears to me to be defects which I think can be remedied, without in any way jeopardizing . the Bill or delaying its passage for a single hour. I trust that when we get into Committee honorable senators will be prepared to assist in improving the Bill as far as possible.
– I am very “glad that I am a member of a Parliament that is prepared to pass such provisions as are contained in the Bill now before the Senate. But, in common with many members in another place, as well as in this Chamber, I -am not so entirely . enamoured of this measure as to imagine for one moment that it is the best that those in health, strength, and the vigour of life can do for those who are in their declining years. There is no such idea running in the minds of honorable senators on this side. “But we feel that it is possible to obtain something of a veryliberal character and are determined’ not to lose the opportunity to do so.’ Many honorable senators have been long enough in Parliament to have become wary, and they are always wary of the suggestions, the efforts, and of the amendments of those who have opposed for so long the enactment of a measure of. this description. The leader. of the -Opposition was rather amusing this afternoon. He commenced, like a Jonah, he carried on like a Jeremiah, then he went into ecstasies like a David ; but I do not believe that he had any intention of winding up like a Judas Iscariot. I do not believe that he would do so.
– Order. Will the honorable senator please take ,his seat. I direct his attention to the fact that it is very disorderly to liken any honorable senator to Judas Iscariot. Such a- comparison is most offensive, and I must ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression.
– I did not do any such thing. I said that- the honorable senator did not and would not do such a thing.
– The honorable senator implied that Senator Millen did so.
– I point out that it is just as disorderly to make an unworthy accusation by implication, as it is to do so by a direct charge. If Senator McGregor . gives his assurance that- he did not mean to apply the expression complained of to the leader of the Opposition there is an end of the matter.
– I had no intention of applying any such epithet” or suggestion to the leader of the Opposition, because I have too much respect for the honorable senator to do anything of the kind. I said that although he commenced like a Jonah, went on like a Jeremiah, and got into the ecstasies of a David, I was very glad that he did not wind up in the manner I have described or like the individual to whom I have alluded.
– Might I ask if the honorable senator was suggesting that I ever opposed an old-age pensions scheme ?
– No ; I was talking of the honorable senator’s performance this afternoon, which I am going to criticise. He commenced by endeavouring to . prove to the Senate that, we could not possibly expect to have the funds necessary to give effect to the provisions of this Bill before the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section.
– From existing sources of revenue.
– It does not matter what the sources of revenue are.
– It does; for that was the point of my argument.
– The honorable senator tried to show that it is impossible to raise funds under existing conditions to provide for the payment of old-age pensions until the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section or until Parliament otherwise provides.
– That was his point.
– But immediately he concluded his elaboration, of that point the honorable senator went on to inform the Senate that the measure proposed was not half liberal or costly enough, and that the Government were not proposing to do in the interests of the aged people of Australia half as much as they ought to do. He said that instead of spending £1,500,000 for this purpose we should spend £2,000,000. That is the impression which the honorable senator’s speech made upon a simple individual like myself, and it is how the speech would strike most people in Australia.
– I did not say that it was impossible to find the necessary funds ; but that the Bill placed upon us the obligation to raise further revenue to give effect to its provisions.
– I shall deal with that a little later on. Senator Millen should not be impatient. Honorable senators will recognise that I have fairly interpreted the honorable senator’s remarks. Now, with respect to the limitations of the Bill. Does any honorable senator suggest for a moment that the members of the Labour Party entirely approve of those limitations. Not one that I know does, but there is not one who is not aware that it is a very risky business to attempt to deal with them or to follow any member of the Opposition who would make such an attempt. Our past experience shows that action of this kind has been taken for the purpose of defeating measures of this description, to which members of the Labour Party have given very serious consideration, and on which they have placed a very high value.
– That is entirely worthy of the honorable senator.
– I was present in another place when a similar attempt’ was made there - whether honestly or not I do not know - and if it had been successful, the probability is that the Bill would have been dropped. That attempt failed, and I hope that if a similar attempt is made here it also will fail. The leader of the Opposition stated that this- is not a party measure, and I hope that no member of the Senate will regard it in that light. If the members of the Labour Party so regarded it, they would press for the enactment of all that they desire in the form of an oldage pensions scheme. The leader of the Opposition indicated that the provisions with respect to the reduction of the pensions age in the case of women and the payment of invalid pensions should not be put in force until . we were sure that there were funds enough in the Treasury to meet the necessary expenditure. I hope that no consideration of that kind will be allowed to influence the Government, but that they will issue the proclamation provided for whenever they think the time is opportune, and that these people ought to be relieved, and will consider the advisableness of raising the necessary funds to give effect to these provisions. Now, with respect to the raising of the necessary revenue, I wish to say why my suspicions have been aroused on this occasion.
– Thev did not need rousing.; they are always there.
– I am old enough and have had enough of disappointment to make me suspicious where political associations are concerned.
– They are not altogether groundless.
– I am just going to show how they are not groundless in respect to the very matter that we are discussing. We are firmly convinced that until a very great alteration takes place in this Parliament there is no possibility of raising the desired amount of revenue by direct taxation. The leader of the Opposition knows that as well as I do.
– Why not?
– Until the conditions of the Federal Parliament are “changed, we know that there is no possibility of carrying direct taxation.
– We know that it is not possible. The numbers have been counted sufficiently often to guarantee that at the present time we cannot carry a .progressive land tax and a direct tax without any exemption.
– Is the honorable senator sure? He does not want a direct tax without an exemption.
– Will any one on the other side say that he will support any proposal of that kind?
– The honorable senator would not vote for one without an exemption.
– The honorable senator does not know what we would do. If he will give us a chance, and show a little earnestness, probably he may get a surprise.
– The honorable senator is wonderfully acquainted with everything that we would do.
– I am more acquainted with everything that mv honorable friends would not do. I have just stated, and earnest advocates of the provisions of this Bill believe, that, so far as direct taxation as a means of raising the necessary funds to pay these pensions, is concerned, “it can’t be did” under, existing circumstances, as a Yankee would say. What about the other direction ? We know that from honorable senators on the other side of the House taxation with a protective incidence would receive very little support. On one occasion, the Government introduced a Bill that had for its obiect the imposition of special taxation, of which threefourths would not have to be handed over to the States. It was clearly stated at that time that one of its purposes was to assist in the payment of old-age pensions. There were other purposes.
– Of defence.
– Oh, the honorable senator need not quibble. Did he support that ?
– No; with Senator Turley, and others, I voted against it, and I would vote against it to-morrow.
– That brings me to the climax. The honorable senator knows that we cannot raise the money by direct taxation.
– I do not.
– The honorable senator would not help us to impose a tax which would embody protection to the slightest extent, and he has opposed the only other system by which revenue could be raised.
– The honorable senator’s field is very limited if he stops at that. -
– I am going to stop at that, because I think I have said enough.- I have delayed an important measure long enough.
– Senator Millen also opposed the nationalization of the tobacco industry.
– Of course, I have done everything that is wicked.
– That is so selfevident that it is hardly necessary to mention it. The honorable senator would never support the nationalization of the tobacco industry, or the sugar industry, or the shipping industry, or anything else which would increase the prosperity of Australia, and give the Government additional funds. Honorable senators on that side have given their support to nothing which would increase the revenue. The leader of the Opposition is not satisfied with the sum which is involved in this Bill, but wants it increased by one-fourth. After what I have said, I think that it must be very clear that I, with other members of the Labour Party, have every reason to bc suspicious of the great anxiety of the honorable senator and those associated with him to carry a measure which would involve a larger expenditure than is proposed. The members of the. Labour Party have made up their minds to carry the Bill’, as nearly as possible in its present form, so that they shall run no chance, either by delay or by amendment, of losing that which they have sought for for so many years,, and which at last they are about to obtain.
Senator PULSFORD (New SouthWales) [5.16J. - The boastful language of Senator McGregor is most easily met by reference to two simple facts - that the State which has established the most generous system of old-age pensions is represented here by six senators, none of whom is a Labour man, and that the State which is represented wholly by Labour mert has no provision for old-age pensions.
– What State is that?
– I refer to Western Australia. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind that the adoption of old-age pensions throughout Australia has largely been in the absence of the Labour Party, as indicated by their presence here to-day ; of that there can be no doubt. That,’ I think, should put a bit of a stopper to the boastful remarks which have been made this afternoon. I desire to refer to the financial aspect of the measure. I have no occasion to say anything in support of the principle of old-age pensions. It had my support in New South Wales.; it has my support here. But, I submit that in the case of a measure which involves so great an expenditure, the financial aspect ought to have had a better and fuller elucidation, than it received to-day from the Minister. I venture to say that the expenditure thereunder will not be covered by , £2,000,000 per annum.
– It will be very extraordinary if it is not.
– I have no doubt in my mind that when the measure is in full operation, it will mean an annual payment of between £2,000,000 and £2,500,000.
– We shall have a progressive land tax.
– If it takes three millions, what odds?
– I am now commenting upon the remarks made by the Minister, who gave us to believe that the payments under the Bill would be in the neighbourhood of £1,500,000. I think thathe told us afterwards that the expenditure on invalid pensions would amount to probably £200,000, and that the reduction in the age of women would mean an additional expenditure of from £250,000 to £300,000. But from my calculations, I have, put down the expenditure at considerably over £300,000 - nearer £400,000. If we take the minimum of £1,500,000 for old-age pensions, as mentioned by the Minister, £300,000 on account of the reduction in the age of women, and £200,000 for invalid pensions, we have a total expenditure of £2,000,000. I wish to draw attention to the fact that census by census the percentage of persons of sixty-five years of age and upwards, has been risingvery materially. In 1861, it was 1 per cent. ; in 1871, 1.74 per cent.; in 1881, 2.44 per cent. ; in 1891, 2.90per cent., and in 1901, 4 per cent. In England the percentage of such persons is 4.67. And probably the next census, or that of 192 1,will disclose that in Australia, where better health conditions prevail, the percentage is at least 5 per cent. These figures, which look so small, mean a very large increase in the amount which has to be found by the Commonwealth. I think that it would have been right for the Minister to have referred somewhat to the amount which will be debited to the various States. I imagine that the Bill will entail an expenditure of between £66,000 and £75,000 on the little State of Tasmania.
– £65,000 is the statistician’s estimate.
– I have shown reasons for anticipating a higher expenditure than other gentlemen have done. Now, taking £65,000 as a minimum, that is a very heavy amount for Tasmania to find.
– It is a very serious thing for the poor people who ought to get a pension, but are not.
– The honorable senator need not raise that point at all.
– But that is the important point.
– I know all about that.
– The question is - hot have we the money, but do we owe it. If we owe the money, we must find it.
– The more important it is that we should pay the money , the more important it is that we should know where to get it, and how much it will be. If we do not know anything about that, what is the use of gasconading about owing the money, the desirability, the humanity of making this provision, and all that sort of thing? Let us show a little common sense with all this talk. Let us ascertain what we have to pay, and find out ways and means of meeting the expenditure.
– The first thing which the honorable senator considers on receipt of an account is - does he owe the money. If he does, he looks to see how to find it.
– When a man receives an account, there is no question about owing, if he is solvent. In Committee, I intend to move an amendment in paragraph c of clause 16, which reads -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely : -
I desire to have paragraph c wholly eliminated. Nearly every Asiatic in Australia at present is already covered by paragraph a, as an alien.
– Large numbers of them are naturalized in every State, especially in Victoria.
– There are not large numbers naturalized. Coghlan, for 1903-4, states -
Excluding Queensland, where the information was not ascertained, the number of naturalized foreigners in the Commonwealth at the census of 1901 was 10,910, distributed as follows : - New South Wales, 3,265 males, 354 females; Victoria, 3,304 males, 1,262 females; South Australia, 1,360 males, 545. females; Western Australia, 576 males, 101 females; Tasmania; 119 males, 24 females. In New Zealand the number of naturalized persons was 4.672. It is probable, however, that the above numbers are understated. Germans have availed themselves most largely of the privileges of naturalization, having taken out about one-half of the certificates granted.
Consequently, of a total of 10,000 aliens naturalized here in 1901, more than half were Germans, and all other nationalities are covered by the remaining 5,000. Under the Naturalization Act passed by this Parliament, naturalization was refused to Asiatics. In those circumstances it is undesirable to pass that paragraph, which will save the Commonwealth practically no money, while it will be another means of casting an insult on the people of Asia. I do not know quite what to say with regard to the aboriginals. I believe most of them are already caredfor in some way or other. If so, they might be excepted from this Bill, but I ask honorable senators to consider before we reach ‘the clause to which I have referred whether it would not be entirely fair and reasonable to omit the word “ Asiatics,” on the ground of its offensiveness to the great nations of Asia.
– I desire to congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council on the sympathetic manner in which he introduced the Bill, and to express my agreement with him that members of this Parliament who are in a. position to vote for it ought to feel grateful for such a privilege. This moment is certainly the proudest in the short period during which I have been in public life in ‘Australia’, because I am in a position to-day, by my vote,to help to give effect to a promise, that has long been given to the old people of Australia, of some consideration at our hands. Senator Pulsford regards it as possible that the money proposed to be allocated for the payment of old-age pensions will not be sufficient. I do not believe that in a year or two from now £1,500,000 will be enough to pay old-age and invalid pensions. But if the contingency arises that we cannot pay all the claimants from the Consolidated Revenue with our present . means of taxation, I shall welcome it, because we shall then be in a position to insist upon another method of taxation - a method which is repulsive to Senator Pulsford and others who think withhim. Instead of paying old-age pensions or anything of that kind from money derived through Customs and Excise duties, we ought to provide for them by a direct system of taxation. If what Senator Pulsford predicts does happen, the time will be opportune to impose that most necessary of all taxes - a tax on the unimproved value of land. I welcome this Bill, and will support it generally, because it is certainly a step in advance when compared with similar measures now in force in New South Wales, Victoria, and New Zealand. I venture to say. that it is the most advanced piece of legislation in the world.
– Oh !
– The honorable senator laughs ironically, but’ when he stands upon his feet I hope he will attempt to disprove my statement.
– He could not do it if he stood upon his head.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council when introducing the Bill referred honorable senators to a comparative statement issued under the authority of the Royal Commission on old-age pensions appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament. According to that statement, the maximum payment to oldage pensioners in New Zealand is £18 per annum. That is wrong. It was so under the original Act of 1898, but the maximum was raised to £26 per annum by an amending Act passed, I think, in 1905. Consequently that portion of the statement was misleading.
– That is the report of the Royal Commission as things existed then.
– Quite so; but the statement should have been revised before it was placed in the hands of honorable senators.
– It should have been if there had been any doubt about passing the Bill.
– The honorable senator is anxious to get to a vote. So am I ; nor do I think” there is any doubt as to how the vote will go, although some honorable members, both here and in another place, .cast their votes against a measure the intention of which was to give a start to a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions.
– The - honorable senator is not in order in alluding to the debates in another place,, and to the reasons that actuated honorable members of another, place in giving their votes.
– I have no intention to contravene the Standing Orders, or to reflect upon the votes of honorable members of either House. Whilst I support the Bill generally, I think we might go further. I believe in giving a pension to all citizens irrespective of their position in the community. Every man, if he has been a good citizen, has done something to make things better than he found them. That being so, under a really good old-age pensions system every citizen ought to be entitled to claim a pension. By that means the stigma of. pauperism or charity which to-day applies to - a claim for a pension would be removed. I am glad to know that this Bill will practically remove that sigma. Under the system that has obtained in the past, even in New South Wales and Victoria, a claimant for a pension has been considered somewhat in the light of a pauper. I am glad to know that when this Bill becomes law the citizen who claims a pension will no longer be looked upon as one who is seeking a charity dole, but will be regarded as one who makes a rightful claim to something which, by his own energy and industry, he has helped to earn. .
– The leader of the Opposition says it is an endowment of poverty.
– I do not believe that it is, and if the leader of the Opposition in this Chamber made such a statement he did so in order to create some semblance of opposition to the measure.
– What is worrying honorable members on that side is that we do not oppose.the Bill.
– There is not a member of the Commonwealth Parliament to-day who dare vote against it.
– Honorable senators opposite would like to believe that we would vote against it if we dared.
– I do not think that is correct. I am glad that the Bill has been received so favorably. I should like to see a universal system of old-age pensions, but I recognise that our first duty is to our indigent poor. There are thousands of poor people in Australia to-day who will welcome the Bill and be glad to know that a long-standing promise is at last to be fulfilled. As bearing out my statement that this is the most advanced piece of legislation in the world, I point to that portion of it which provides for invalid pensions. People over sixteen years of age who have resided in the Commonwealth for five years, and who through illness or accident are permanently incapacitated from following their employment, are to be . entitled to receive a pension. What does this mean to a number of homes throughout the Commonwealth? It means that many people who, in consequence of disease and misfortune have been unable to contribute to the support of their families, will be assisted, and those responsible for the maintenance and support of the aged will be better able to bear their burdens.’ I do not consider that, a pension of 10s. per week is ample. I should like to see it considerably increased. .Had this measure been introduced at an earlier stage of the session, I should have been prepared in Committee to move amendments. But I do’ not want to do anything to endanger the passage of the Bill at this stage. For one thing, I think that the age limit of sixty-five is too high, particularly when we consider the climatic conditions under which many of our people have to work in comparison with those in other parts of the world.
– Our climate is finer than that of any other country.
– Those of our aged poor who have borne their share in opening up Australia have lived under very adverse conditions in respect of climate: Senator McColl knows that very well.
– I have been in many climates in my time, but have not experienced any better than the climate of Australia.
– The honorable senator has not worked under adverse climatic conditions as thousands of the people of this country have had to do.
– The honorable senator does not know. ‘ I do not want to traduce the Australian climate, at all events.
– I am not traducing it; but the honorable senator, by his words and votes in this Chamber, has tried to traduce, not only the. Australian climate, but Australia itself.
– The honorable senator should not talk bunkum.
– The conditions under which many of our people have had to work have taken years from their lives. It is for that reason that I think that the age limit is placed too high.
– What the honorable senator says is recognised under the Victorian Act, which provides invalid pensions for miners.
– The Victorian Act specifies a residential qualification of twenty years, and I should like to see the Bill before us amended so as to enable any person who has resided twenty years in Australia to receive a pension. There is one part of the Bill which is not favorable to the White Australia policy. It does not disqualify a woman who has married an Asiatic. The desire underlying the White Australia policy is to keep the white race inviolate ; and any white woman who marries, or lives with, a Chinaman, or an Afghan, or Japanese, ought not to share the benefits of this Bill. We must also remember that in this vast continent, there aTe great differences in the cost, of living. A sum of ros. per week may be sufficient in Melbourne, but would be equivalent to no more than 5s. per week in some parts of Western Australia and Queensland. In that respect, the Bill is faulty. Provision might have been made to ‘ allow for ‘ the vast difference in the cost of living in parts of some States. The Federal Government itself has set an example in granting an al.lowance to Federal officers in parts of Western Australia. I may point out that the number of people over sixty-five years of age in Western Australia is the lowest in any State. The highest number of people over that ape in any State are resident in Victoria. I have pointed out one or two features in respect to which the Bill might be amended. But while I have indicated these defects, I am by no means desirous of moving amendments which would have the effect qf blocking the passage of the Bill. Had it come before us at’ an earlier stage of the session, I might have been inclined to submit amendments. Under present circumstances, ‘I shall support the second reading, and shall endeavour to afford facilities for the rapid passage of the Bill through Committee. I cannot sit down without again expressing my sense of pleasure at having the privilege to be a member of .this Parliament, and of voting for a measure which will bring comfort and assistance to a large number of people who deserve well of Australia.
– I intend to support this Bill. As I have indicated every time I have addressed myself to the question of old-age pensions, I have long been a supporter of such a policy, and I am glad to have an opportunity of voting for this measure.
– The honorable senator does not look like it.
– I can disregard the snarling of Senator de Largie who, throughout this debate - which was initiated by an excellent speech from the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and followed by a speech worthy of the occasion by the leader of the Opposition - has sought to attribute want of sincerity to men. who have been desirous of supporting a measure of this kind long before Senator de Largie was ever heard of, and who will remain steadfast supporters of such a policy when he is no longer within the region ‘of Australian politics.
– The honorable senator cannot get people to believe what he says; that is all.
– I have said that I intend to support this Bill, and I do so with the utmost sincerity. It ought’ not to be necessary to say so. It should be deemed offensive for a man to have to proclaim his sincerity in supporting such a piece of legislation. I recognise, however, that so far as my own State is concerned, I am assuming a serious responsibility. It was estimated some three years ago, when the Royal Commission upon this question took evidence in Tasmania, by the Statistician of that State, that the cost of an old-age pensions scheme to Tasmania would be something like £65,000 per annum. That is a serious amount for a State, which, as the result of Federation - and I am not speaking in disparagement of Federation - was placed in serious financial difficulties from the very- first year when we imposed a uniform Customs’ Tariff. In that year we had to endeavour to .finance .the State, in face of an ‘ actual loss of something like £170,000 from Customs and Excise, and of other losses making up a total of £[200,000 - practically one-fifth of which was revenue of which we were deprived ‘ ‘ in one act.” That system of loss has been going on in a lesser degree ever since. Lately, as the result of the imposition of the new Tariff, a larger amount of revenue has’ been received, and Tasmania had some reason to hope that the deficiency consequent upon. Federation was going to be wiped out. Although the Bill is going to cost Tasmania from £[65,000 to ,£70,000 a year-
– She has other means of finding revenue.
-Will honorable senators allow me to proceed.
– I ask honorable senators not to interject. Senator Mulcahy objects to interjections, and the honorable senator in possession of the Chair, whoever he may be, is entitled -to be heard without interruption.
– Senator Mulcahy should set an example when other honorable senators are speaking.
– As a rule I do not object to interjections ; but on this occasion the interjections have been of a spiteful nature, and have been made with the endeavour to establish the insincerity of honorable senators on this side who support the Bill. I strongly resent my character for sincerity being impugned, although it does not depend upon the opinion of men like Senator de Largie. I am aware that this Bill is going to cost Tasmania between ,£60,000 and .£70,000 per annum, but still I am also aware that it is not proposed to take that money away from Tasmania. It will be spent within the borders of tlie State. I am also glad to recognise that the institution of this system will be a recognition of the debt which we owe to the aged and infirm. There is, however, another aspect of the question. I know that, at any rate so far as certain goods are concerned, some of the Customs duties which we have imposed with the object of bringing about increased protection will have the result of levying heavy taxation upon poor people. I have given reasons for that view before. Consequently, this £[70,000, or a large proportion of it, will simply be a restitution to those people of the increased taxation which we have placed upon them this year. There is one other remark which I have to make about the Bill itself. That is that in voting for the second reading I throw upon the Government the responsibility - which would ordinarily be shared by every member of Parliament - for the scheme of the measure. The Bill was practically forced through one House of the Legislature yesterday, and apparently it is to be put- through the Senate to-day ; I hope so, at any rate.
– Yet the honorable senator cannot call this ,hasty legislation.
– It really is, because I believe no honorable senator can master the details of such a Bill within the time that we have had at our disposal. It will be impossible for the most conscientious amongst us to make a real effort to perfect the measure. I must, therefore, throw the responsibility for the details upon the Government.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Government are justified in what they have done, inasmuch as we know that there are old-age pensions in actual operation in Australia? This Bill is therefore largely a copy.
– We know that; and it would be very strange indeed if the experience gained by the States had not been utilized by the draftsman in preparing this Bill. But at the same time it goes without saying that honorable senators have not had., a fair opportunity of thinking out the details. It is a Bill in connexion with which extensive and expensive machinery will be necessary. I am glad to hear that it is proposed to make use of the ordinary services of the Commonwealth in carrying out the measure. There is another responsibility which belongs to the Government and to the party supporting them, who, as I said honestly and sincerely last night, are more deserving of credit for the introduction of this measure than are the Government. The responsibility I refer to is that of financing the proposed scheme. Senator Millen dealt with the matter very fully this afternoon. Whatever motives may be attributed to those who have felt called upon to point out the dangers of our financial position, the fact remains that in this measure we are really being asked to authorize an annual expenditure of from £[1,500,000 to £[2,000,000 without doing that which any business man would recognise as a solemn obligation1 in such a case, namely, making the necessary provision for the anticipated expenditure.
– We have made provision.
– We are making provision for the first year’s payment, but are letting the future look after itself.
– We have a year in which to consider that.
– “ Sufficient .unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– That is just the kind of argument against which I protest. I have, at any rate, made my position clear. As I have always indicated, T shall support the Bill and throw upon the Government all responsibility for its details and the financial obligations it involves..
– I do not think that I should have risen to speak upon this Bill if it were not for the fact that I desire to put myself right with a number of my constituents. At the last Federal elections I expressed the opinion that the States Governments should retain control of the management of old-age pensions. I think that it is right to say why 1 have changed my mind and intend to support this measure. First of all, I wish to say that since my entry into Federal politics I have been more and more impressed with the view, and I have given expression to it more than once, that the contract entered into between the States and the Commonwealth is one that should be carried out in every detail. I believe that the Commonwealth should carry out the duties assigned to it under the Constitution at the earliest possible moment, whilst the States should continue to exercise the powers which were not handed over to the Commonwealth”. Although a couple of years ago I expressed the opinion that the States Governments were well fitted, because of their superior local knowledge, to look after the payment of old-age pensions, I must now admit that I have been compelled to alter my opinion, and, seeing that the establishment of old:age pensions is a duty cast upon the Commonwealth Parliament, I believe it should be carried out at the earliest possible moment. Coming to the measure itself, I must say, first of all, that I am not much exercised in mind on the question of financing the proposed scheme. Yesterday I objected to a certain measure, because I believed that for certain reasons it was not sound, quite irrespective of its association with old-ap;e pensions. I think 1 made that clear. Now that we are dealing with the question of old-age pensions, I consider that the financing of a scheme should not be a matter of serious difficulty if the Federal Government pro pose to continue for. any length of time to do what they have said they intend to do. I believe that sooner or later they will be forced to do what has been found to be inevitable by Governments in other countries, and if they go to the money market to borrow the money required for the construction of works of a permanent character, there is no reason why they should not be able out of the ordinary revenue of the Commonwealth to meet the expenditure required for old-age pensions, and for a great many other Commonwealth undertakings. I am aware that some honorable senators do not like the idea of constructing public works with borrowed money, but in my opinion the adoption of that course is inevitable if the Government intend to finance an effective old-age pensions scheme by relying upon the ordinary revenue.
– What about a land tax?
– The honorable senator has started again. The Bill before us deals with old-age pensions, and I propose to confine myself to that subject. I propose practically to repeat what I said on this .subject at a meeting which T addressed in Queensland. In my opinion, the whole scheme of old-age pensions proposed is crude, and is by no means worthy of a people so far advanced in civilization, at this stage in the world’s progress. Dealing with the question of assisting, .not the ordinary poor, but the aged poor, I would say that it is possible to go to almost any country in Europe, and find a very much better system than that which is proposed in this Bill. The reason for the payment of old-age pensions is not that a man has reached the age of sixty or sixtyfive years, and should, therefore, be given a pension of 10s. per week, but that those who have failed in the battle of life, and have reached a stage when they can no longer continue the fight with any reasonable prospect of success, shall be informed that they are pensioned off, just as those who are living in Chelsea Hospital and such institutions are pensioned off. But what do we do here? W.e turn to an old man or an old woman who has failed in the battle of life, not necessarily -through his or her own fault, but who has reached a stage when it is no longer possible to contend with the younger and, it may be, the brighter members of the community, and we say, “ Here is a pension of 10s. a week. Go, now, and try to make a living with people who may tse possessed of brighter intellects and have the advantage of youth on their side.”
– Is this . antiSocialism ?
– This subject is not new to me. It is one in which I havetaken a very great deal of interest, although I have hot spoken in public upon it in years past. It seems to me that, although it is certainly proposed in this Bill to do something, we are not going to do a very great deal. In Austria it is found possible to provide aged people with bright homes, that are practically their own, and with food, or the means to obtain food for themselves. They are also practically provided with servants to look after them. I speak now of the decent aged poor, and not of criminal loafers - of the poor who can claim as a right, and not as a charity, to obtain assistance from the State - and the total cost of the system in Austria is is. 5 1/2d. per head per day, which is practically the same as 10s. for a week of seven days.
– Is that the cost for administration ?
– That includes everything, and 5d. of the amount goes to meet interest on the cost of the buildings which the aged people are permitted to occupy.
– The cost of living in Austria, and the standard of living, is con,siderably lower than here.
– I admit that the cost of living in Austria is less than in Australia, but honorable senators will agree that the Austrian system is one which is worth considering. I have read the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but have not studied their report, which may possible give very good reasons why some such system as I have described should not be adopted in the Commonwealth.
– Any barracks system is objectionable if it can be avoided.
– I am not talking about a barracks system, but about a cottage-home system. I know something of the barracks system which is in operation at Dunwich, on Stradbrook Island, in Moreton Bay. There they have an asylum for the aged poor on- one island, a leper station opposite on another island not far away, and a gaol on a third island at no great distance from the other two, and to get to Dunwich the poor have to make a journey of a long distance by water.
– It is ‘ a monument to the anti-socialistic party.
– The honorable senator may try to make political capital of the griefs of poor people, but I am not prepared to do so. I am willing that he should make whatever political profit he can out of it.
– The honorable senator’s party- has shown a lot of sympathy for poor people in Queensland.
– Order !
- Senator Findley seems to think that nobody in this world who is not a member of his own political party has any right to claim to be charitable, or to have any feelings of sympathy, but I venture to say that there are many who do not agree with the honorable senator politically, and myself among the number, who are just as genuine students of measures calculated to improve the conditions of the aged poor as the honorable senator or any member of the party to which he belongs. I have referred tq the conditions under - which the bai racks system is carried out in Queensland.
– The further you get away from Dunwich the better.
– All I can say is that I addressed 700 or 800 old people at Dunwich, and I got a better hearing from them than I often get from some honorable senator’s opposite when I am trying to tell them what I honestly think. The effect of the system ‘ adopted in Queensland is that the aged poor are treated almost as pariahs of society in being made to feel that they are separated from the rest of the community.
– That is the poof law all over the world.
– No, it is not. If the honorable senator studied1 the question more carefully he would know that in many places on the Continent cottage homes have been established where aged poor people can live in the midst of their fellow, citizens, and are troubled with very little official supervision. I am not, of course, prepared with a cut-and-dried scheme to deal with the matter, and though I am willing to accept this Bill as a step in the right direction, I say that if we wish to deal with the question satisfactorily we must do so scientifically, and with a greater regard to the real requirements of the old people than to” the adoption of a scheme which will be the least expensive to those who have no need of pensions. ;
– It is to be said for the establishment of cottage homes that under that system less money finds its way into the pockets of landlords in the way of rent.
– I admit anything of that kind that the honorable senator may be pleased to say. Although I cannot’ find it within the four corners of the Constitution, I feel that it is equally a national duty of the Commonwealth Par1liament to deal with the difficulties of infant life. I believe that in the case of people at the two extremes of human’ life, infancy and old age, the State should interfere. As we cannot have such a system as I think we ought to have, in view of our advance in civilization, we must take what is” offered, and I can only hope that this measure will notbe held to represent the Ultima Thule of our aspirations in the direction of making provision for the aged poor. That seems to me to be the danger that is before us. At present two of the States have old-age pension systems in operation, and in a third it is hoped that old-age pensions will be provided in a very short time. But none of these States appear to me to go to the root of the thing, and try to deal with the question on a scientific principle, realizing what the people themselves want.
– That can only be done by adopting Socialism.
– The honorable senator is always trying to make party profit out of something of this sort. Can he not rise above party for a moment, even in a matter of this kind ? He reminds me of Wordsworth’s philosopher who “peeps and botanizes on his mother’s grave.” What we ought to consider is that the old people do not want merely bare money. One of the things which the old folks tottering to their graves require is companionship and sympathy. If we put them on a distant island, or in barracks in a place like a penal settlement, will they get all the sympathy or companionship they require?
– What is the honorable senator creating that goblin for ?
– While I cannot support a barrack system as applied to oldage pensions, I believe that we could do very much better for the old folks if we adopted some system by which we could enable them to enjoy the same companionship as they previously had, and helped them - possibly at no extra cost - to a far greater extent and in a material f ashion by means of cottage homes than we shall do by simply paying out a little hard cash. Let us make them an allowance and supply them with a home, as in Austria, if you like, at a low rent. All I wish to say at this stage is that, while I support the measure, I hope that the people and statesmen of Australia will make it their business to go further into this question. Do not let us be content to follow upon the dead lines which have been followed in Englishspeaking countries, and in that respect I believe that English-speaking countries are far and away behind foreign countries. Let us not adhere to the old plan of thinking that as soon as we have chucked our half-sovereign to the poor old man or poor old woman we have done all that is required of us.
– I do not propose to occupy the time of the Senate for more than a few minutes. I felt when this Bill was introduced that it would be put through very quickly, for the reason that there was practically no opposition, at any rate to its principle. While I congratulate Senator Chataway upon the very humane and comprehensive view which he has expressed, I submit that the consideration of various schemes’ is neither before us at the present time nor is it desirable. Therefore, I urge that the principle should be affirmed at once so that we may get into Committee, and, unless there is some very grave reason for making an alteration, pass the Bill quickly and get done with our work.
– I desire to compliment the Government upon having introduced a measure which has been anxiously awaited throughout Australia. I also compliment them upon the fact that they have at least a fair wind and a good passage ahead of them with the Bill. It is not often that honorable senators on both sides of the Chamber are found to be bosom friends on a measure. But that is so in this instance. The reason why I desire to speak is because while Senator Chataway was addressing the Senate I interjected that the system obtaining at Dunwich was practically similar to that which obtains under the poor laws in all parts of the world. He was expressing to us his sympathy with the aged and the poor, and stating how at Dunwich they separated the men from the women in their declining years, practically kennelling them like so many dogs in bits of reserves that are usually unfit for almost any kind of cattle, much less human beings. I only desired to Suggest to him that what he was describing in regard to Dunwich is obtaining in almost every, part of the ‘world which has poor laws on which old people, after having worn out their’ physical energy, have to depend. It is became of our close observation of that disgraceful system that we are anxious to erase it from the annals of Australian history. We want .to enable our aged people to spend the remainder of their days in something like comfort and happiness. I am just as anxious as is Senator Chataway that in the future we should even go so far - and I hope that we will - as to make comfortable homes for our old people and do something for them such as I have seen in other parts of the world. I admit that they are established under charitable conditions.
– That is the trouble.
– Yes ; they are. established by means of the generous outpourings of men who . sympathize with their fellow men.
– And so relieve the State of its responsibilities.
– Yes ; in certain countries the old folks have comfortable little homes and gardens wherein they employ themselves and spend their latter days very comfortably indeed. Of course, these cases are few and far between- a mere handful in the midst of teeming millions. I am quite prepared at any future time to assist any project with that object in. view. The barrack’ system is repulsive. Indeed, the very phrase makes ‘me feel very wroth. I have observed its operation, and, therefore. I hail with pleasure this Bill, which I think, ought to be allowed to pass as it stands. Whatever may be our opinions as to future, developments and as to future .necessities, in the name of humanity and the interests of. the people of Australia . let us pass the Bill as it stands, and then we shall have laid, down, the foundation of .a system such as has yet not been equalled in any part of the world.
– The members of the Government and Senator Trenwith are. pressing us to take this Bill without deliberation.
– One of the mottos on the floor of the vestibule is “ Where no counsel is, the people fall.” We are asked to pass the Bill without discussion ; but I think that we . ought to take counsel on the subject. It cannot be said that I am opposed to old-age pensions, be.cause I advocated them here four and ar half years ago, but coupled with the condition that the wage-earner should contribute to his own support. A little time ago I took exception to the observation that this Bill is the most advanced in the world. If it is the most advanced Bill certainly it is not the most perfect. I contend that to give an allowance of 10s. a week to old people, and to leave them to starve in the street is not proper charity. The reason why I question the perfectness of the Bill is that in Belgium I have seen in very good situations in towns large numbers of cottages where the aged ‘ poor are living with a small allowance from the municipality and the Government, and often from their own old employers. They live rent free, and have the companionship of their ‘ fellows, and the women are able to sit at the cottage doors and make lace or do something else towards their support, even though they may be over sixty-five years of age. I should like to see a system of that sort established in Australia, It is too late this year to take any step in that direction; but at some future time we ought to effect some improvement in this legislation. The principle of the German Imperial law of 1891 ought to be adopted. It is called the “ Stick “ law, and is very easily carried out. The worker who contributes a farthing or 1 1/2d. per week, according to his1 wage, presents his card at a Post Office and is given a stamp which he affixes to. it. As. soon as the card contains a sufficient number, of payments he is given another- card, and so on.
– Has not that law been altered?.
– Not to my knowledge. In the first five years of its operation, they had £[5,000,000, and now they have over £[20,000,000. There are 12,000,000 working men and women. Half the premium, is paid by the workman, and generally the other half by the employer, while the Government add a proportion equal to half or one-third.
– The proportion is onethird each.
– That is not so in Germany in regard to this law, which is a little different from the other laws there. A good many of them have been passed to help the poor. The result is that when people become .indigent by old age, or through accident, they often have a large sum to fall back upon for their own sustenance. When a person contributes towards his pension, it is very different from a system under which money is given simply as a charity. If you make the worker contribute you encourage thrift, but if a pension is given at a certain age you encourage no thrift, and that, to my mind, is one of the greatest blots on the Bill. It is a good Bill in many ways ; its object is good, but I do not think that it is the best measure of the kind in the world. It may be said that the worker in Germany can live very much cheaper than he can here, but it must not be forgotten that meat and bread are much dearer there than here, and there is more room for economy here than there is in Germany or Belgium.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
– I desire to compliment the Government on the measure they have introduced. If any proof were needed of the advantages of the cordial understanding that exists between the Government and the Labour Party, this Bill would furnish it. The work of the session is about to be crowned by the passage of this admirable measure. I have no doubt that, later on, we may have an opportunity to improve upon the Bill, some of the drawbacks of which have been pointed out by members of the Opposition. When that opportunity comes, the members of the Government and the Labour Party will cordially assist those honorable senators in that good work. Senator Pulsford taunted those members of the Labour Party in this Chamber who come from Western Australia with the fact that there is no old-age pensions system in existence in that State.. f would remind the honorable senator that we, in this Parliament, have no power u> legislate for Western Australia. If we had, nothing would give us greater pleasure than to bring our State into line with New South Wales. But, had the party to which Senator Pulsford belongs had their way, New South Wales might have been just as far back as Western Australia is at present. We cannot forget the fact that, notwithstanding that the Labour Party in New South Wales supported the free-trade, or Reid, party in State politics for many rears, no move was made by the latter party towards securing the great principle of old-age pensions, and it was not until Sir -William Lyne formed a Government that a measure was passed by the New
South Wales Parliament, with the support of the Labour Party. I am glad to know that Sir William Lyne is now identified in Federal politics with this admirable measure, and, together with his old supporters, is helping to put it on the statute-book of Australia. In view of the tone of many of the remarks made by certain honorable senators this afternoon in favour of this principle - sentiments that, so far as I know, came from them to-day for the first time - I have to ask myself who has been placing obstacles in the way of its passage up to the present? If I remember right, all the obstacles in the way of the Federal Parliament legislating in this direction were raised by members of the -Opposition. It was they who declared that we could not possibly raise enough revenue from the Customs to pay old-age pensions. It was they .who “ rang the changes “ on the argument that we should be compelled to raise £6,000,000 in order to get the million and a-half necessary to finance a pensions system. We were also told by members of the Opposition, both on election platforms and in this chamber, that the Federal Parliament had no power to impose direct taxation. You yourself, Mr. President, were amongst those who held that we had not that power. Consequently, when I heard members of the Opposition announcing that they had always been in favour of old-age pensions, I began to think that it must have been the Labour Party, and not the Opposition, that had been making difficulties. Later on the necessity will be forced upon us of finding sufficient money to pay the pensions. I do not agree with the Government estimate. They are making it too low. A comprehensive measure of this kind, granting pensions to a much larger number of people than any measure now in force in Australia, will require a great deal more money to finance it. That, of course, will not prevent those of us who are with the principle heart and soul from supporting the Bill now. There are numbers of sources from which we can get sufficient money if we care to take the necessary steps. There are ample means of taxation, open to us. Suggestions have been made showing how the money can be found by means of taxation, or by the nationalization of certain industries and the utilization of the profits. As short speeches are the order of the day, I shall- not occupy longer time, although I felt that it was necessary to explain our position: So far as concerns the amendments suggested by mem- bers of the Opposition, I, for one, once we ‘ have affirmed the principle and made sure of this instalment by placing the Bill upon the statute-book, will be only too ready to ‘ assist those honorable senators to improve a measure which they regard as so imperfect. I hope that they will not forget the statements they have made to-day,, but will act up to them when they get the opportunity. The party with which I am connected will be only too glad to give them every assistance.
– It was not my intention to occupy time in debating this question, but I crave the indulgence of the Senate to express my pleasure at having the opportunity, in my . first session in this Parliament, to assist in passing so grand and glorious a measure for Australia. Knowing the many years of hard fighting that have been put in in order to obtain the enactment of the principle of old-age pensions, I must express my surprise and pleasure at the unanimous feeling that exists in this Chamber, and, I understand, in another place. Knowing the difficulties .that have had to be overcome, a new member like myself cannot but wonder who has really been keeping the “ principle back. The members of the Opposition would seem to be even greater champions of the Bill than any one who has . spoken on this side. The leader of the Opposition even went so far as to advocate universal pensions, which I heartily believe in. 1 hope that when we are in a stronger financial position the leader of the Opposition will take an early opportunity of trying to put his views into practice. If lie does he will find very few 00 this side of the chamber who will not support him up to the hilt. I am also particularly pleased, as a Victorian, to know “that we shall at last have removed the blot which exists upon the old-age pensions legislation of this State, in the matter of dragging the relatives of those who are aged and poor into Court to show cause why they should not contribute . to their support. I have no sympathy with those who can, but will not, support their aged parents, but nevertheless I cannot conceive of any independent-minded old man or woman taking info Court an unworthy son or daughter for such a purpose, and I should, think that the bread obtained by such means would choke the old people who ate it. 1 hope that we shall not only make this the most liberal piece of legislation in the world, but that it’ will serve as a pattern to other countries. I trust that the Bill will be carried without amendment, not because I am not desirous of liberalizing it in many respects, but because I believe that it is a step in the right direction, and goes a long way upon the road that we desire to travel; I hope thatat an early date we shall have a better opportunity of liberalizing it.
– The party to which I have the Honour te belong have reason to congratulate themselves on the fact that after long years of striving and advocacy of a measure of this sort they have at last succeeded in creating such a strength of public opinion. in its favour that even the rankest Tories in the Senate are loud in their support of it. I remember the time when we were advocating old-age pensions .some years ‘ ago, and were denounced in the Tory press of Australia from one end of the continent to .the other for advocating such a measure. We were told that we should destroy the provident habits of the people and kill all thrift. Our policy was used as an argument in favour of that holy old lie that we wished to destroy the marriage tie, and to subvert family life. Such arguments were repeated ad nauseam. But now our efforts are going to be crowned by the passing of a splendid measure of this kind. That, I say, is a matter for sincere congratulation. I am extremely pleased that honorable senators and people outside who were formerly so strenuously opposed to old-age pensions have at last declared themselves in favour of this Bill. But - while in no way doubting their sincerity or throwing any slight upon it - I must, at the same time, take leave to remark that although the persons to whom I refer are supporters of this Bill, they showed none of that anxiety which people who were favorable to it’ ought to have displayed in finding ways and means for financing the scheme. No later than yesterday, in this chamber, when” we were striving our utmost to pass a measure by which alone the inauguration of ‘Commonwealth old-age pensions was possible, we experienced strenuous opposition from honorable senators opposite, who, with one honorable exception, voted against it.
– The honorable senator is mistaken.
– I am not. The fact’s are there to speak for themselves.
– But that ‘was so long ago as yesterday.
– Old-age pensions are quite independent of that Bill.
– The Bill with which we dealt yesterday is not under discussion now.
– I arn not discussing it, sir, nor do I propose to allude to it any further. There is not, and cannot be, any comparison whatever between the beneficent utility of a Commonwealth Oldage Pensions Act and a similar Act passed by a State. Even if. old-age pensions had been universal in the States - and as we know such measures existed in only some of the States - a liberal measure of this kind would have been necessary to cover numerous cases in Australia. We have in this country a number of people who are, I claim, amongst the best citizens Australia possesses. They are the pioneers of settlement and of industrial activity. They are the men who take their lives in their hands, and go up and down the country with their swags on their backs prospecting in- the most Outlandish wilds in the remotest parts of the continent. They are the people who have opened up’ this country, and have enabled others to step in and enjoy the fruits of their work. Owing to the very exigencies of their calling, those, who have gone about’ looking for gold and for opportunities of developing new resources, have been absolutely unable to participate in any scheme of old-age pensions hitherto, because the States in their Acts very properly included a provision that the recipient of a pension must have been- a resident for a certain number of years. Consequently those men who were constantly travelling about the country, and opening up its resources for the exploitation of those who came after them, were not sufficiently .long in any one State to establish a claim for an old-age pension. ‘ Thus many of our best and worthiest citizens were entirely debarred from participating in the benefit’s of such legislation. Therefore, it was essential that the Commonwealth should inaugurate ah old-age pensions scheme which would embrace every part of Australia, and under which the only qualification would be residence in some portion of the Commonwealth for a certain period of time. The Federal Labour Party, of which I have the honour to be a member, laid it down as -one of the foremost planks of its plat form that we should establish a Commonwealth old-age pensions- scheme at the earliest possible date. We have kept that ideal in front of us all the time. We have struggled and striven to attain it. We have frequently been met only by abuse. But I .am proud and pleased that our advocacy has at last borne fruit, and that we now have a Federal Old-age Pensions Bill before us. It was predicted that such a measure would lead to all sorts of evils. But we recognised that it was essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth that such a scheme should be established. I am pleased to accept this Bill as a very fair instalment of what we re- - quired and demanded. I believe that it goes quite as far as in the present state of our finances we are able to. go. .It goes quite as far as anybody could have expected six months ago. Though I am free to confess that the Bill does not quite meet the ideal of . the Labour Party, or some other public men outside that party, it is nevertheless a valuable instalment. I am of opinion that in order to remove the very suspicion of a taint of charity from an oldage pensions scheme, it should be universal, and .that the pensions should be paid to rich and poor alike. Such a scheme would result in no hardship to any one. The rich man would contribute as well as the poor man, and though more money would be paid, the people would get it back in the shape of old-age pensions. But I recognise that we could not inaugurate such -a scheme until the expiration of the Braddon section, without resorting to drastic new taxation. I. am pleased and proud that the ‘Government have brought forward this measure. It accomplishes as much of our desires as we could expect in the present financial condition of the Commonwealth. For that reason, I heartily support .the second reading of the Bill, and shall assist in its passage in the speediest possible fashion.
.- 1 am pleased indeed that this measure contains a clause enabling old-age pensions to be paid to all those who have been in Australia a certain number of years, no matter to what State they may belong. I was always an advocate of that principle in the States, although I recognised that it could not be applied to a purely State scheme. A man may have been ten years in Queensland, and forty years alternatively in New South Wales and Victoria. But he might not be entitled to an old- age pension under any State law, through not having resided continuously for the necessary period in any one State. That is the class of cases that I desire to meet, and I am pleased indeed to see that this Bill accomplishes that end. I was pleased when the State of Queensland fell into line with two other States of the Commonwealth in adopting an old-age pensions scheme under which 10s. per week was paid. We had a scheme in Queensland before, for providing for the aged poor, but it was a very bad one. It was simply a charity scheme, and the amount paid was only 5s. per week. Like Senator de Largie, I am afraid that the raising of the money will lead to some difficulties, unless the Government have a scheme in their minds. I have made a calculation on my own account, and, as far as I can see, the Commonwealth will be nearly £500,000 short in 1909, including the money required for old-age pensions. I suppose that the Government have some plan in view, which they will propound later on, for making up the necessary amount. If it is a reasonablescheme, I shall support it. The payment of old-age pensions by the Commonwealthwill entail a great relief this year to those States which are at present paying old-age pensions. But, at the same time, the measure will be very hard indeed on one or two States. As this is a Commonwealth question, I am entitled to refer to a State of which I know something. I allude to Tasmania. There is a very large percentage of old people in that State. It is one of the oldest settled States in Australia. Many of the young men, unfortunately, leave, and come over to the mainland.
– Why do they do so?
– Well, Senator Givens and I agree as to one of the principal causes.
– They are hunted out of the country through land monopoly.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator, and have told the Tasmanian people so. But that is not the question now. The Bill will be hard on Tasmania, because a large proportionof the 180,000 people in that State are old men and women. They will participate under the scheme ; and if Tasmania has to pay her full share, it will cost a very large amount of money. Probably Tasmania will have to pay more proportionately than any other State. I do not know how it will work out - whether the expense will be borne per head of the population, or whether Tasmania will have to pay for her own old-age pensions.
– It will be new expenditure, and will come out of the Commonwealth revenue.
– Not necessarily; but, if so, it will be a great relief to Tasmania. I believe that the Bill will be passed unanimously. No matter what some people may have thought in the past, I believe that every one in the Commonwealth now acknowledges that the States should do something to assist the aged and infirm. There is a large number of men in the Cloncurry district in Queensland, who at various times have been engaged in mining for gold all over Australia. They have never worked for wages, but have tried to better their condition by following up alluvial diggings. The proposed old-age pensions will be a great boon to those men. Some people may be in a position to make a claim under the Queensland Act for a pension of 10s. a week, but very many will be entitled to claim such a pension from the Commonwealth under this Bill, and we. know how far men accustomed to look after themselves in the bush can make 10s. a week go. I hope that the measure will be administered in a fairly liberal spirit. Many of our old people are very independent, and if they are expected, as I believe they are in some of the States, to beg for a pension, they will prefer to starve. I see no reason why the various local authorities should not be in a position to bring deserving cases under the notice of the officials appointed to administer this measure, and I repeat that I hope it will be administered in a liberal and humane spirit.
. -I do not know thatI should have risen to speak on the Bill at all, had not members of the Labour Party been twitted with a desire to induce honorable senators opposite to say something in opposition to the measure, and with a desire to establish insincerity on their part. It would be a very strange thing for men who have been working for twenty years in advancing a particu- lar movement, and who have succeeded in ! popularizing it to such an extent as to make it acceptable to-day to all parties in the Federal Parliament, to characterize those who came to their assistance as insincere. I do not say that honorable senators opposite are insincere to-day. I believe that they are just as sincere in support of this measure now as the party to which they belong were in their opposition to the principle for so many years. There is no harm in saying that they have been converted. We only ask that they shall acknowledge that they have been wrong in the past, that they have made mistakes, and that the work of the Labour Party in connexion with this movement has been so effective that they are now willing to fall into line and support the establishment of old-age pensions. Members of the Labour Party are not likely to describe honorable senators opposite as being insincere. They have come more immediately into contact with the evil results of the charitable systems which have been in existence in the past than have the members of other political parties. Under the charitable system in force in Queensland in the past it was left purely to the discretion of a Minister, on the report of a police officer, to say whether any person should get a charitable allowance or not. I have known cases where children have been prepared, if the charitable allowance were given, to assist aged parents and keep them under the same roof as themselves and their grandchildren, and because the Government have refused to make -the paltry grant of 5s. per week, which is the highest amount that could be given as a charitable allowance under the system, the aged people have been torn away from the homes which their children were ready to provide for them, and taken to the benevolent asylum at Dunwich. I am glad to say that the system under which that kind of thing occurred has been abolished, and that aged people, in the circumstances I have described, will after the 1st July be entitled to receive an old-age pension in Queensland. But it was a knowledge of cases such as I have described that impelled the members of the Labour Party throughout Australia to carry on the agitation to convince not only the people outside, but members of political parties opposed to them in Parliament, that something should be done to relieve the necessities of the aged poor. I do not believe that the leader of the Opposition intended to do what I think he has done. It seemed to me that the honorable senator desired to brand the money which aged people will be entitled to claim under this Bill as a charitable dole.
– So long as it is made dependent upon poverty that is what it will be.
– I listened to the leader in another place of the party to which the honorable senator belongs, and it gave me great pleasure to hear him say that there is no charity in the proposed pension, and that no man need be ashamed to send in an application for a pension under this Bill. He admitted that the poorest man in the community should be just as much entitled to a pension as the man in the highest position in the land, and agreed that under this Bill, whether an aged man had been a member of a fighting force or of a judicial bench, he would be equally entitled to apply for a pension.
– Hear, hear.
– I agree with that. I do not believe that there is any charity connected with this proposal, and I am sorry that Senator Millen should have given me the impression- that in his opinion there is. The honorable senator described the proposal as an “ endowment of poverty.” It seems to me that for the honorable senator to brand a pension under this Bill with a name like that-
– I did not do so, but the Bill does.
– Nothing of the kind.
– It is not an endowment of poverty. Any old person who may be kept by his children has a right under this Bill to claim a pension, and it cannot be contended that the condition of such a person is one of absolute poverty. Under this Bill a man has a right to say, “ I have put in thirty or forty years in this country doing my best to develop it and to make it a better place for other people to live in, and, although I happen to be living with members of my own family; I see no reason why I should not come to the State and claim the pension provided for me.” Will Senator Millen say that because we cannot at the present time afford to give a pension to wealthy persons who need no pensions we should not therefore provide a pension for the man who does?
– I .have never said that at all.
– The honorablesenator has practically said so. He has said that we are creating class distinctionsby this Bill.
– I think I see the honorable senator’s difficulty. It is due tothe fact that he is disappointed at gettingsupport from honorable senators on thisside.
– I am not. I welcome the support of the honorable senator and I have told him why. I have said that it is because members of the Labour Party have come more closely into contact with the evil results of the charitable systems of the States that they are prepared to welcome the support of ‘the honorable senator and his friends for this Bill.
– When the honorable senator says that he welcomes my support might I interpose to say that I was advocating old-age pensions publicly before the honorable senator was ever heard of upon a public platform. So that the true position is that I welcome the honorable senator’s support.
– It is over twenty years now since I commenced the advocacy from the public platform of old-age pensions, and I do not think the honorable senator had started then. I am sorry that he should be ashamed of his conversion. I think he has no reason to be ashamed of it.
– There has been no conversion in my case.
– I am only too glad that the honorable senator is able to. assure me that for a number of years he has been advocating the principle of old-age pensions. I was pointing out that I regret that any member of the Senate should endeavour to create the impression in the public mind that this is a charitable dole that is proposed to be served out to the aged poor. It seems to me that the Bill provides for something more than that. I can understand that under the Victorian system, where people are brought before a Police Court and asked to give evidence as to their circumstances, and to say why they are unable to maintain aged relatives, the pension granted should be characterized as a charitable dole. I can understand the charitable allowance which was given in Queensland in certain circumstances being regarded as a charitable dole, for the simple reason that the Government, by paying 5s. per week to old people, induced them to remain out of the benevolent asylum in order to save something like1s. 8d. per head per week. The Government there said we find it cheaper to give you 5s. per week if you remain outside of the benevolent asylum than to pay 6s. 8d. per week for your keep in the asylum. That was an allowance which might well be regarded as a charitable dole, and it was refused by a large number of people in Queensland, who would have no objection to make an application for a pension of 10s. per week under this Bill. If we are unable to provide a pension for every aged person whether he needs it or not that is no reason why we should not provide for one of those who do need it.
-I did not say that it was.
– The honorable senator might just as well contend that I should walk down the streets naked because I am not in a position to pay £6 6s. for a suit of clothes, and that I should not get that suit until I had £6 6s. to spend. If I had not the £6 6s. I should get a suit for 30s., and make the best of it until I could afford to purchase a more expensive one. In the same way, we are prepared to accept this Bill as an instalment of what we hope will develop into something better by-and-by.
– Then the honorable senator agrees with my contention?
– Most decidedly not.
– The honorable senator spent half an hour in denouncing it and now he agrees with it.
– Not in denouncing it. It was the one blot on the Bill, and I naturally objected to the honorable senator trying to convey the impression that it was a. charitable dole. I deny that it is.
– The honorable senator admits that it is a defect in the Bill, and that is all. that Icontended for.
– For the edification of the honorable senator I shall read a resolution which was passed at a caucus of the Labour Party -
That this party, while holding strongly to the principle of universal old-age pensions without other restrictions or qualifications than age and residence, is prepared to support the Government measure on the second reading and in such details in Committee as affect the scope of the measure, because it represents a substantial advance upon existing legislation.
– I will sign that myself.
– I am very glad to hear that. It is nonsense for honorable senators to taunt us with trying to prove that they were not honest and straightforward in their support of the Bill. We are only glad to see that the party to which they belong has been converted to the principle and to welcome the support which they are giving to the Bill because it extends some assistance to a large number of people in Australia.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) deserving of congratulations for their action in bringing forward this measure- even at this late period of the session and in this year of the Commonwealth’s existence. Any one who is conversant with the way in which old persons are treated in those States where there is no scheme of oldagepensions at present must admit that they are subjected to a lot of indignity which this measure will entirely remove. In those States men, simply because they have grown old, are thrown into public institutions and forced to wear a garb which very closely resembles that of a convict.
– But in some cases they are sent to gaol.
– Yes, in Victoria. Recently a few men were sent to gaol simply because they had grown old. That is not creditable to a new country which is possessed of great material wealth, and which, above all, is boastful of its liberality, progressiveness and humanitarianism. I desire to correct a false impression which appears to be in the mind of Senator Millen. He said that the representatives of Western Australia were satisfied to pass this Bill in order to obtain a portion of New South Wales revenue to pay old-age pensions in their own State. That is not correct in any sense. Western Australia is the only’ State in a position to pay - with a lot to spare - all the old-age pensions that will be payable within its borders. I am sure that the honorable senator was not conscious of his unfairness when he said that it is not in a position to pay its old-age pensions.
– Has it not a deficiency in its finances ?
– Possibly ; but there is no connexion between the two things.
– I think that the State Treasurer will see some connexion between them at the end of this month.
– I dare say that he will. First of all, .we acknowledge that this debt is due by the citizens of Western Australia, and it is not correct to say that it is waiting on the border-line of any State in the hope of picking up a surplus from that State with which to pay old-age pensions. It is in a position to pay out of its one-fourth share all the old-age pensions that will be payable within its borders. A statement was made by Senator Pulsford evidently for the purpose of placing the Labour Party in an unfair position, and not giving them due credit for keeping this humane “measure prominently before the public. ‘ He mentioned that Western Australia, which had a full representation of Labour members here, did not yet pay oldage pensions. He should remember that, according to the latest determinations, it has the lowest percentage of persons of 65 years of age and over - that is, 1.8.
– That is no reason why they should not have an old-age pension.
– I mention that fact to show that though Western Australia has sent a full complement of Labour representatives to the Senate, there was not the same intense need for instituting old-age pensions there as existed in the State which he represents. There were 100 per cent, more people entitled to a pension in New South Wales, and apparently its public men, influenced by that fact, and also, I presume, by the presence and the support of the Labour Party, passed an Old-age Pensions Bill. It will be well for Senator Pulsford to remember that if the six Labour representatives of Western Australia had” not been on this floor yesterday, we should not have had an Old-age Pensions Bill to-da.y. A few words more, sir, and I shall have finished, because there is no need to discuss a measure which appears to be received with universal favour.
– No one on the “honorable senator’s side has discussed the measure ; every one has discussed the Opposition.
– No; the charges which they were throwing at us.
– The object of this Bill is to give the people of the Commonwealth old-age pensions. But the crucial time has passed, and those honorable senators who failed to share in the effort to provide the . necessary funds cannot go before the people and say that they gave or assisted to give them. Yesterday, when the question of providing ways and means for oldage pensions in July, 1909, was before the Chamber, the Opposition, with one solitary exception, voted against the measure introduced by the Government.
– Order! The honorable senator is transgressing the wellknown rule that he cannot allude to a previous debate of the session unless he is discussing the same matter. That measure is entirely distinct from the present one.
– The sympathy of those honorable senators is subject to a lot of discount, and it reminds me of the man who assisted his friend with a cheque, and then stopped payment of it. I wish to refer to what I consider two blots on the measure. In the first place, it does not deal with the case of a son (or a daughter’) who is in opulent circumstances, but is so heartless as not to support his parents. I believe that it would be only natural justice to compel a son or a daughter, if in reasonable circumstances, to support the parents.
– That is fairly sound, but it raises the question to which the honorable senator objects.
– In that repect, the Victorian law is superior to this Bill.
– The honorable senator will not get many to agree with him.
– No ; it is not superior.
– The moral law which compels a parent to support his offspring, and which I hope will last as long as civilization, should, with equal logic, be applied to compel the offspring to support the aged parent, when he is no longer able to support himself, provided, of course, that the children are in sufficiently comfortable circumstances to be able to give that help. That is a blot on the measure, and one which I should like to see removed.
– Who is to decide?
– I would trust to the common sense and judicialmindedness of our tribunals to decide that point. Of course, if a son were not well placed, and had quite enough to do to support himself and his family, it would be unreasonable and unnatural to punish him.
– In Victoria, I have known an instance where a man with four children and a sick wife, and who was earning only 33s. a week, had to give 3s. a week towards the maintenance of his father.
– An old-age pension will meet that particular case.
– It did; but it charged the son 3s. a week.
– I have known instances where men and women in fair circumstances were so wanting in natural affection that they allowed their parents to suffer penury and want. No Legislature should allow such a condition of affairs to exist.
– Would the honorable senator like to eat bread which had been wrung from an unworthy son?
– We would not make the pension dependent upon the son. We would only draw something from the son.
– In this instance it is only a case of visiting well-merited punishment upon the man or woman who is not sufficiently conversant with the obligations of a child towards his or her parents.
– That is one reason why there is only 16 per cent of the old people getting a pension in Victoria.
– The other pointI wish to refer to is the inequality of the pension. I had intended to move in that direction, but certainly not in such a way; as to jeopardize the passing of the Bill. I should have liked to see in the Bill a provision which would render a pension of equal purchasing power in all parts of the Commonwealth. It should be remembered that varied conditions obtain throughout this immense continent. In some parts the conditions of life are such that the purchasing power of half-a-sovereign is 20 per cent less than if is in congested areas of population. While we are striving to mete out a measure of even-handed justice to the aged poor, at the same time we should keep in mind the need of giving a pension which would have an equal purchasing power, and be capable of render-‘ ing equal assistance in every part of this large continent.
– The honorable senator would undertake a very difficult contract.
– No doubt, but since the principle has been recognised in the case of public servants I fail to see why it should not be applied to old-age pensioners:
– That is too parochial altogether.
– If the honorable senator happened to be in an inland portion of Queensland, or in Oodnadatta in his own State, or in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, he would find that’ the purchasing power of half-a-sovereign is fully 20 or 25 per cent, less there than it is in Melbourne or. Adelaide.
– Those things will be remedied in the course of time.
– My proposal would be to give such discretionary power to the Commissioner that he could recognise inequalities in various parts of the Commonwealth, and, exercising that wise discretion which should be his, and which is exercised in a similar way in the payment of our civil servants, give an increased percentage wherever the cost of living is excessively high. That is the one feature of the Bill that does not specially commend itself to me, but, .taking it all in all, I have much pleasure in giving it my hearty support as the first instalment of a reform that will bring sunshine and happiness into the lives of those old men and women whose claims to consideration have unfortunately, been too long neglected.
– I am glad to see that there is really no opposition to the Bill. I am not going to give the Government so much credit as some honorable members have, because if we had not flogged or prodded them on, we should not have had this Bill before us to-night. I, as a Labour member, and one of the floggers, take some credit, with others, for having kept’ the matter before the Government during the whole of the session. It gives me great pleasure f) be a member of the Senate when such an important Bill is to be unanimously carried. It reminds me of the year 1894 when I became a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia. The question at that time was the granting of the franchise to the women of the State. I had the satisfaction of being there, and, had I not been, the Bill would not have been passed, because the numbers, without me, were equal. When I was first elected to Parliament, I did not belong to the Labour Party. It is only some three years or so since I joined them. When I was a candidate for the Legislative Council, I dropped across a. platform of the National League, and another issued by the Labour Party. On the Labour platform, f found old-age pensions and adult suffrage “for the House of Assembly, and I made my selection’. Since then, I have had an uphill fight in South Australia in reference to those democratic principles, because a great many people then thought that if the women of South Australia were given the’ franchise; the children- would be neglected, and everything would go wrong. That lias not proved to be the case. At the general election, when 1 was a candidate for the Senate, the principle df old-age pensions was one of the issues. I am proud to congratulate my colleague, Senator Vardon, on having broken away from the tenets of the party which generally supports him. When 1 was a candidate, the National League sent out a circular of which I happened to get a copy, asking for financial assistance and support for their candidate, and setting forth their object as the defeat of the socialistic movement in favour of old-age pensions, and some other measures. That is God’s truth, and I presume that Senator Vardon knows it. I was a little afraid last night that he was not going to be so liberal as he has proved to be to-day. I rejoice that a great number of people in South Australia have’ changed their opinions on the subject, for not only does Senator Vardon advocate the principle of oldage pensions, but my other colleague, Senator Symon, advocated it, and, in fact, found it necessary to do so to get where Le is to-day. The honorable senator was not such a strong anti-Socialist. He advocated old-age pensions not only for . men, but also for women; and even went so far as to say he would give a bonus to those who .had the most’ children, thereby going beyond our grand and noble Constitution. I congratulate Senator Millen on going so far as he. did to-day. He is a gentleman whose ability I admire very much, but when he laid himself out so nicely to show that we have not the money at present to pay old-age pensions, that there would be some difficulty in getting it, and that the members of the Labour Party did not believe in the Bill as it stood, but wanted to make it more general - and so we do - I thought. I could see His object. He laid out his net so nicely that he thought we would fall into it, and be caught. He said that the Government, who are likely to be responsible for administering this measure - unless the honorable senator is in power then himself, and I would not mind seeing him there some day - would not have enough money to finance it, and yet .he wanted to extend its scope a great deal. But, as a reader of Hansard debates for some years back, I know his opinions, and I began to think that his object was to drive us and the Government into a corner, so that the Bill would practically break down of its own weight. But it is a grand measure, and I am proud to think that Senator Millen and Senator Mulcahy - whose position in politics is often very difficult to define, except when he is denouncing the Labour Party- have shown themselves to-day to be on the side of humanity, with .other honorable senators who sit opposite.
– The honorable senator used to sit on this side himself.
– I am not- altogether satisfied with the Government yet, and if this Bill had not been forthcoming, I might have gone over there again. The people of South Australia, and in fact of the whole Commonwealth, will be glad to hear of the passage of this Bill, and I am proud to think that on this great question South’ Australia speaks in the Senate with no uncertain sound, because had Senator Symon been here to-night, I have no doubt that, on a division being taken, we should all have been found voting on the one side.
.- I desire to congratulate the Government on bringing in this Bill. I do not think there was a single candidate at the last two Federal elections who did not express himself in favour of old-age pensions. It is a pity that this measure was not allowed to pass without the ungracious and unkindly remarks that have been made here to-night, because we are all at one on the question. I do not know that it is a case of sudden conversion with any honorable senator, because there are men here who do not think with the Labour Party, but who have advocated the principle for many long years. At first, it was not a labour question at all. It was a plank in the platform of the Liberal Party of Victoria. I desire to congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council because of his connexion with the passing of the Victorian Old-age Pensions Act in 1899 - the first Act of the kind passed in Australia. There was one in existence then in New Zealand, and the honorable senator was deputed by the Liberal Government of Victoria of that day to go to New Zealand to make inquiries into its working. On his report, a Bill was introduced into the Victorian Parliament by the Government of which he was a member, and passed into law. I am glad that he is here to-night to present this Bill to the Senate, and so to assist in the endeavour to solve what has been one of the world’s problems. The question of financial needs has been overdone-. . There are already three States paying old-age pensions, and I suppose that 70 or 80 per cent, of those who will receive pensions in Australia are receiving them now. It is merely a question of transferring the control from one body to another; so that the problem of finance need not trouble us very greatly. The money will be found. The States that are now paying pensions will be relieved of that expenditure, and it would have been only a year or two before the other States would have been compelled to adopt an old-age pensions system on their own account. Not only will this Bill commend itself to Australia, but its passage will put Australia before the world as. having a humanitarian Legislature which isendeavouring to solve a question that has in the past been one of the world’s puzzles.
– I should not have troubled to speak on the second reading of this measure, but for some most unnecessary remarks made by my colleague Senator W. Russell. On the first political platform that I ever stood, I advocated the principle of old-age pensions, and I have been a consistent supporter of it from that time. As a Minister in South Australia, I had control of the Destitute Asylum, and nothing gave me greater pain than the. knowledge of the system whereby we had, in a sense, to treat some of our old people. It was a grief to me to see a man and a woman, who had lived together for forty or fifty years and become unable to support themselves, being taken into an institution where they were separated from one another.
– There was only one case in nine years. I was on the Board for some time. When the wife was dying, the man would not go to see her.
– Whether there was one case or many the system was bad. Neither did I like the idea of putting a uniform on the old people so as to distinguish them as inmates of a benevolent institution. They were thus branded in a most objectionable way. I have always felt that when a man or woman has lived in the country for a number of years, doing their best honestly as citizens’ and bringing up their families, they have a certain claim on the rest of the community for services rendered. For that reason I have always advocated some relief of this kind. I cannot understand some of the things that are being continually dragged into debates of this kind by certain honorable senators.
– The honorable senator himself dragged in the Labour Party last night without any cause.
– I did not refer to the Labour Party without any cause. I was not talking about this Bill last night.
– The honorable senator talked about old-age pensions.
– Old-age pensions were dragged in in connexion with a Bill with which they had nothing to do. I agree with you, Mr. President, that the two Bills are separate and distinct, and that it was not necessary to make the passage of the previous Bill appear to be essential to the payment of old-age pensions. I said so last night, and still think so.
– The one depended on the other.
– I say again that the one Bill did not depend on the other.
– Absolutely the one was essential to the other.
– I ask honorable senators not to allude to the Bill which was passed last night.
– I should be glad, sir, if you would prevent interjections with regard to yesterday’s debate. Senator W. Russell has referred to an institution that sent him a circular.
– I said that I had one, not that it was sent to me.
– I am bound to say that that institution never at any time asked me what my political principles were, or whether I was prepared to support this, that, or any measure. They came to me freely, and said, “ If you are prepared to stand we will support you.” I stood upon the principles in which I believed, and certainly would not go cap in hand to any party for support. They knew that I was a supporter of old-age pensions, and helped me on that understanding.
– They paid over £500 in connexion with one man’s election.
– It is all very well to make these assertions.
– I can prove it.
– Order ! I have already asked the honorable senator not to continue these interjections, which are utterly irrelevant and have a tendency to prolong the debate.
– Interjections of the kind are not only irregular, but they are unfair. Any one can make an interjection which it is exceedingly difficult on the spur of the moment to disprove. We should discuss a measure of this kind on its own merits. We are responsible to the country for what we do. I support this. Bill because I believe it is right to do so, and not because any institution or association has asked me to support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
Senator VARDON (South Australia] shall come into operation on 1st July, 1909, “ or on such earlier day as is fixed by proclamation.” Are we to understand that it may possibly be brought into operation at an earlier date?
– 1st July, 1909, is the earliest date at which the Bill can come into operation.
– Do the Government contemplate being able to bring it into operation earlier?
– If we have the money, the honorable senator can be sure that we shall do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
– This clause leaves it within the power of the Governor- General - whichmeans the Ministry - to declare by proclamation at any time that the age at which women shall be qualified to receive old-age pensions shall be sixty instead of sixty-five. I think that that is a power that ought to be retained in the hands of Parliament. The matter is one which has come up in relation to other measures quite foreign to old-age pensions, and it involves a distinct principle in itself. On so important a matter Parliament itself should determine. I move -
That before the word “ The,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “ Upon the passing of a Joint Address by both Houses of Parliament.”
– - I do not think that the amendment is necessary.: Did the finances of the Commonwealth justify us, we should not have inserted this qualification of age in the case of women, but should have fixed it at sixty years. I submit that it is not desirable that we should have to seek the ratification of Parliament as to whether we can at any time afford to make the intended concession. That is a matter for the responsible Government of the day. If any Government chose to take the responsibility of saying that it is desirable that the concession should be made, they could only do so with the full knowledge of being able to provide the necessary funds. When the proclamation was issued the change would be permanent. The Government is responsible to Parliament. No Government would be so unmindful of its responsibilities as to launch a concession of the kind unless it was prepared to take the responsibility financially. I must apologize for the insertion of a modification of the kind in the present Bill, but I do not want to make the rectification of that modification more difficult by requiring a vote of both Houses of Parliament.
– As the clause is worded it tends to limit the power of Parliament. We do not know what might take place before a proclamation was issued under the clause. We do not know what object Ministers might have in issuing the proclamation at a particular time. It might be issued a few days after Parliament was prorogued, and when we should be powerless to express an opinion. The Minister estimates that to make the pension payable to women ofsixty years of age would involve an extra expenditure of from £250,000 to £300,000. For my own part I think that from . £300,000 to £400,000 would be required. I see no objection to retaining the power in the hands of Parliament, but I can see very great objection to leaving it in the hands of. the Government.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I should like to have some explanation, of sub-clause 3. It provides that no old-age pensions shall be paid to any person who is under the age of sixty-five years, unless and until his claim is certified by a registrar. Under sub-clause 1, it is provided that every person who has attained the age of sixty-five years, or who being permanently incapacitated for work has attained the age of sixty years, shall be qualified to receive a pension. I should like to know whether it is intended, under sub-clause 3, that in certain circumstances persons under the age of sixty years shall be qualified to receive a pension?
– No. If a man is incapacitated for work, he may be qualified to receive a pension at the age of sixty years. Sub-clause 3 provides only for machinery, by which persons of sixty-five and sixty years of age are enabled to have their claims certified.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely : -
No woman having married one of the persons disqualified by this section shall, in consequence only of such marriage, be or become disqualified to receive a pension.
– I move -
That the words “ Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or,” in paragraph c, be left out.
I submit the amendment primarily because Asiatics are already included in the term “ Aliens “ in paragraph a.
– What about Indians? They are not aliens.
– There are very few Indians in Australia who are British subjects, and there are very few Asiatics who have become naturalized. When I referred to this matter on the second reading, it was suggested that there is a considerable number in Victoria. I have looked up the lastVictorian census, and I find that the total number of Chinese in that State who were naturalized at that time was 72; comprising 67 males and 5 females. This was the total number of all ages, and’ probably not more than four or five would be over sixty-five years of age. It may be admitted that the number of naturalized Asiatics in the Commonwealth is entirely a negligible quantity. At the last census the total number in Queensland was 8,000, and the number above the age of sixty only 540. There is no record of the number naturalized, but it is evident that they must .be very few. We have also to remember that the number of Chinese and other Asiatics in Australia is steadily diminishing. According to the returns, the number of coloured persons who left Australia during the three years 1904, 1905, and 1906 was 16,184. The number arriving in those years was 10,091, showing an excess of departures over arrivals of 6,093, and included in this number is a. total of 2,209 Chinese.
– Is the honorable senator sure that all the arrivals were recorded ?
– One or two might not have been recorded, but we cannot base our legislation on such a contingency. The figures clearly show that the number of Chinese in Australia is steadily decreasing. I direct attention to the fact that under the naturalization law of the Commonwealth, Asiatics cannot be naturalized. I have here a table giving the list of naturalizations during 1904, 1905, and 1906/ and there is not one Asiatic in the list. I regard the words which .1 propose to leave out as mere surplusage. If they are left out, it is possible that a very few of these persons may become entitled to old-age pensions, but the number is so very small that it is quite unnecessary that, in order to disqualify them, we should go’ tq the extreme of using terms in this Bill which we know by experience are offensive to a race like the Japanese. I ask honorable senators in the circumstances to remove what is merely a blot on an otherwise very gracious measure.
– I point out at the outset that this Bill deals with a matter of domestic and internal concern. We must make its terms as precise as we can because upon it, to some extent, we must base our financial arrangements. The honorable senator has said that he desires that the words to which he has referred should be left out, because they are covered by the word “ Aliens “ in paragraph a. As a matter of fact, that is not so, and if the words “Asiatics (except those born in Australia) “ were left out, the probability is that it would be found’ that many Chinamen in Australia were born in Hong Kong. We should be faced with the difficulty of proving whether a Chinaman was born in Hong Kong or in Canton. I take exception to Senator Pulsford’s statement that the words to which he objects are offensive to a friendly race, namely, the Japanese. The suggestion is most unreasonable in view of the fact that in the clause in which they are used, we propose also to disqualify aboriginal natives of Aus-, tralia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, and of the neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand. In the circumstances, I think it would be unwise for the Committee to accept the amendment. This question was discussed very fully elsewhere, and the clause was practically recommitted for the purpose of putting it. in its present form, . which was regarded as a compromise; Under these circumstances, I submit that the words should be allowed to remain.
) [9.26]. - I quite agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council -that this is a matter of purely domestic legislation. At the same time,. I think that it would have been much better if it had- been provided inan earlier clause that any person who was a natural -born or naturalized subject should be entitled to a pension, rather than to say that certain persons should not beentitled to a pension. However, we have, passed the clause,- and I think that the clause before the Committee might be amended” in such a way as to show quite clearly that it is not intended to apply to natural-born or naturalized subjects. Of course, I quite agree that aliens are not entitled tq participate in a matter of this kind, but I do not think it is wise to enact that the people of a certain country, merely because they belong thereto,, shall not be entitled to. receive a pension. No matter where he was born, an alien, when he is naturalized, becomes a subject, just as a natural-born individual is a subject, of .the Crown. If we have granted to a Chinaman a certificate of naturalization and made him a citizen of the -Commonwealth, is it not perfectly fair and just that he should have the same rightsand. benefits as a natural-born subject is entitled to? The very object of naturalization is to enable a man to acquire the fights of a natural-born subject. . A man can choose what country or nation he will belong to. Of course, a man is born into a nation, but under the comity of nations he may, if he sees fit, change his allegiance from one country to another. Once we give a certificate of naturalization to a German or a Chinaman, or a Japanese, it is only a matter of reason and justice that he should get what is then impliedly promised to him - all the rights, whatever they may be, which are given to a natural-born subject. Before a man or a woman can be entitled to any benefit under this Bill, he or she is required to have resided in Australia for twenty-five years. Frequently I have listened to debates on this question, and heard it put very forcibly that every man is entitled to his old-age pension if his circumstances are such that otherwise he cannot afford to provide for himself. He is. entitled to that assistance if he has been a resident of the country for a given number of years, and has thereby helped to promote its prosperity. If it is put on that broad basis it becomes very immaterial where a man was born, so long as he has resided in Australia for twenty-five years, and, of course, has obtained a certificate of naturalization.
– In the case of an invalid pension it is five years only.
-Colonel GOULD. - That is provided for in a later clause, and the argument I am putting is not so strong in the case of a five years’ residence as of a twenty-five years’ residence. I do put it that on the ground of naturalization we are entitled to give the same consideration to a naturalized, as to a natural-born, subject.
– It will encourage the Japanese to come here.
.- Our law is of such a character that we cannot naturalize an Asiatic. He is not entitled to apply for letters of naturalization. In section 5 of the Naturalization Act it is provided that -
A person resident in the Commonwealth, not being a British subject, and not being an aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific, excepting New Zealand, who intends to settle in the Commonwealth, and who -
has resided in Australia continuously for two years immediately preceding the application ; or
has obtained in the United Kingdom a certificateofnaturalization or letters of naturalization, may apply to the Governor-General for a certificate of naturalization.
Section 6 provides -
An applicant under paragraph (a) of the preceding section shall produce in support of his application -
An applicant under paragraph (4) of the preceding section shall produce in support of his application -
Then under section 7 -
The Governor-General in Council, if satisfied with the evidence adduced, shall consider the application, and may, with or without assigning any reason, in his discretion grant or withhold a certificate of naturalization, as he thinks most conducive to the public good.
Provided that in the case of an applicant who has not obtained in the United Kingdom a certificate of naturalization or letters of naturalization, the Governor-General shall not issue the certificate until he has received from the applicant the certificate of a Justice of the High Court, or a Judge of a Court of a State, or a Police, Stipendiary, or Special Magistrate, that the applicant has before him taken an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form in the Schedule to the Constitution.
The points I wish to make are : first, that when we naturalize a man we promise him the rights of a natural-born citizen ; secondly, that it is entirely within the power of a country to say whether a man shall be naturalized or not. That is a way in which any country can protect itself absolutely. Naturalization does not depend upon the whim or the discretion of an individual. It rests entirely with the GovernorGeneral, acting with the advice of the Executive Council.
– According to the honorable senator’s argument, natives of India, if they came here, would be eligible for a pension after a residence of twenfy-five years.
– Perhaps . so. If we choose to naturalize persons who come from otherparts of the world, we ought to give them the rights which we profess to give to our own people.
– If they came here as British subjects, they would not require to be naturalized.
– I recognise that, and that would be an argument against my contention that all natural-born and naturalized subjects should be admitted to the benefits of the measure. It is only just and right, I submit, that naturalized persons should enjoy whatever benefits we give to natural-born subjects. Again, why should an aboriginal native of this country,in which practically we are intruders, be denied an old-age pension?
– They are already looked after by the States.
– If any one will take the trouble to look at the provision made by the States for the majority of these people, he will find that it is of the most miserable character imaginable.
– That is the fault of the States which have taken the lands of the aboriginals.
– The treatment of the Australian aboriginals has been a crying disgrace and shame to the people of Australia. Owing to contact with our vices, very few of them will live to attain the age of sixty or sixty-five years. This provision is a mistake and a blot on the measure. I consider that the amendment of Senator Pulsford should receive a generous reception.
– I hope that Senator Pulsford will not press his amendment to a division, because if he does, I shall be compelled to vote against him. In the first place, the word’s which he desires to omit are, as he admitted, to a very large extent covered by the word “ aliens “ in the first sub-clause. Consequently, the worst which can be said “is that it is a matter of surplusage, or, in other words, that it is saying twice what might be said in one line.
– That is one of my grounds of objection.
– Apart from that, I and others have freely and fully admitted here the right of Australia to decide on -a certain national policy. We recognise that right, and intend to do our best to carry it out. Certain aliens have been deported, and I hope that the time will come soon when other aliens of the class that Australia has decided are undesirable, will also be sent to the countries from which they came. I cannot see my way to support an amendment which will have the effect, so far as I can see, of encouraging some of these very people to stay here, so as to get a benefit which they would not obtain in their own countries.
– They are not naturalized.
– That may be so. We know a good deal about this naturalization business. In some places, the certificate is obtained solely for the purpose of enabling the holder to lease or hold land.
– We do not naturalize the kanaka.
– There is nothing to prevent it.
– There is the Commonwealth law.
– This appliesonly to aliens, and it is a matter of surplusage. I ‘decline to be associated with any proposal which will convey the impression that I am going back on the pledge I gave to the people of Queensland, namely, that I would do my best to carry out the White Australia policy.
– I think that honorable senators are not quite seized of the fact that these words were very nearly eliminated from the clause in another place last night.. It was only by a majority of, I think, two,, that they were retained. Senator Chataway is a little mistaken in the ground which he takes with regard to them. I hold that the more earnestly we devote ourselves- to the principle of what is called a White Australia, the more we ought to associate with it every possible courtesy towards the races affected by that policy, and not to take advantage of the first opportunity that offers to do anything which they regarded as offensive. That that view is taken of legislation of this character is undoubted. It was for that reason, and no other, that I proposed the amendment. As Senator Chataway has recognised, the term is surplusage, because all these people are already included in the term “aliens.” I cannot see any object in duplicating the exclusion, and, in doing so, causing annoyance to those with whom we ought to try to be on friendly terms.
– The only argument that appeals to me is the one addressed to the Committee by Senator Gould. We propose to say to those who are naturalized subjects, “ When we admitted you by the process of naturalization to full citizenship we intended to give you the responsibilities But not the benefits thereof ‘.” That does not seem to be honest. We had the opportunity to discriminate whom we would admit to citizen rights and whom we would refuse. We could not compel them to become naturalized, but having granted them naturalization papers, we now turn round and tell them that we did not mean what we then promised. The total number of naturalized Asiatics in Australia is insignificant, and the number entitled to the pension is smaller still. There can be no accession to their numbers, because under our law we decline to naturalize any more of them. The bargain we made when we naturalized some Asiatics may have been a bad one, but as we have made it we ought to carry it out for the sake of the good name of Australia.
– We shall commit a breach of faith if we do not give all naturalized subjects the full benefits of our citizenship. Under the Naturalization Act of 1903 we recognised certificates of letters of naturalization given by the States. Now we are asked lo say that those persons shall not be deemed to be entirely naturalized, and to withhold from them the benefits that we give to our own people. That seems a very selfish policy. There are only a few persons concerned ; but there is a good principle involved, and I hope we shall uphold it.
Senator SAYERS (Queensland) [9;43J- I have never believed in the principle of naturalizing Asiatic aliens. We are nowmaking a new departure by giving old-age pensions to- our ‘own people, and I do not see that we are bound by what was done in the past to include them. We are not taking anything away from them at all. We are simply refusing to give them something which they had no right to expect at the time they were naturalized. Since then we have refused to naturalize any more of them. We have adopted a White Australia policy which it took years to bring into force. A naturalized Chinaman is not allowed on a mining field, so that this proposal is not a new departure.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Part IV., Invalid Pensions) -
This Part shall not come into operation on the commencement of this Act, but shall come into operation on a subsequent day to be fixed by Proclamation.
– - I had intended to move on this clause an amendment similar to that which the Committee have already defeated, in order to make this portion of the Bill come into operation, not upon a proclamation issued at the instance of the Government, but upon a Joint Address by both Houses. Whilst I still hold that that should be done, 1 am not oblivious to the fact that the Committee were strongly against me on the previous amendment, and bearing in mind that_ we are approaching the end of the session, whilst I place on record my view that the principle of the clause is wrong, I do not propose to occupy time by taking another division.’
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 -
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an invalid pension, namely : -
No woman having married one of the persons disqualified by this section shall, in consequence only of such marriage, be or become disqualified to receive a pension.
.- Clause 16 includes, amongst those who are not to be qualified to receive an old-age pension, the following -
Why is there no similar provision disqualifying those persons from receiving invalid pensions?
– For the obvious reason that if such a person is an invalid somebody has to keep him.
– The only qualification necessary in this case is that the naturalized subject shall have resided continuously in Australia for at least five years.
– The question of youth is involved in the case of invalid pensions.
– Can a minor apply for naturalization papers?
– No, I think the ap.plicant must be twentyone years of age.
– Senator Findley has raised an important point. Under this clause a naturalized subject of the King who has not’ been naturalized for three years will be able to claim an invalid pension. This clause and clause 16 should be in conformity, because the cases are on all-fours. Otherwise, we shall run the risk of having people who have been naturalized for only one or two years thrown upon our hands to keep. There is no reason why we should give such a person if he becomes sick an invalid pension under better conditions than if he is over the age of sixty-five, If Senator Findley moves an amendment to bring the two clauses into line I shall feel inclined to support him.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) [9-Sil– The question of youth raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council does not answer my contention, because persons over twenty-one can be naturalized, and the clause may apply to any one between the ages of twenty-one and sixty-five.
– There is a difference between the . two clauses. If a man has been resident in the Commonwealth for twenty-five years, it is reasonable to provide that he should have been naturalized for at least three years before he can draw a pension. But in the case of invalid pensions the applicant must be above the age of sixteen and permanently incapacitated for work by accident, or by reason of being an invalid, and must not be receiving an old-age pension. There is a further provision that the accident which has* incapacitated him must have happened in Australia. A person must be resident at least two years iri Australia to enable him to get naturalization papers. There is also the question of youth to which I previously referred. I do not think, therefore, that the same conditions should be made applicable in this case as in the previous one.
: - Does this clause mean that a person born in Australia who at the age of, say, twenty-five goes in search of work to an unhealthy part of Australia, and becomes incapacitated for three years, is for the rest of his life to be a pensioner upon the country?
– Yes, if he is permailently incapacitated.
– - It is very undesirable that women who marry men who are disqualified under the Bill should be able to get old-age and invalid pensions.
– Does the honorable senator mean that if an Australian woman marries a German who lands in Australia, and that German does not become naturalized, the woman should be debarred from getting a pension?
– I am not referring particularly to women who. marry Germans, although it is exceedingly desirable that any German who comes to this country, should be naturalized, so that his wife may, retain the privileges of Australian citizenship. But I am referring particularly to women who marry Chinamen, Japanese, or other Asiatics. I object to their being placed in a position to claim pensions under this Bill. I will tell the Corn.mittee why. It would encourage Asiatics to induce white women to marry them. That’ is contrary to the spirit of the White Australia policy. Our policy is to discourage Asiatics in every way. By inserting this clause we “shall further postpone the day when we shall have a complete White Australia. The object that I have in view might be met by making sub-clause 2 read -
A woman having married one of the persons disqualified by this section shall in consequence of such marriage be or become disqualified to receive a pension.
I have no desire to interfere with women who marry white aliens. But the Government should try to devise a clause to differentiate between women who marry white aliens and those Who marry Asiatics.
– The honorable senator’s suggested amendment would have an effect that he does not desire.
– I move-
That the word “ No,” line 1 of sub-clause 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ A,” and that the words “ this section “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ paragraph * of sub-section 1.”
– The result would be that if a woman did not marry, but simply lived with a Chinaman, she would not be disqualified.
– She might be his servant or his housekeeper. It would be impossible to tell whether there was anything immoral in their relations. In any case, I would not encourage white women to marry Asiatics. We cannot, by means of this Bill, prevent white women from living with Asiatics, but we can at least penalize them for marrying such men.
– I ask Senator Stewart not to persist in his amendment. The law is that a woman who marries an alien thereby becomes an alien also. We are following the legislation of the States in this respect. What probably would happen if Senator Stewart’s amendment were agreed to would be that, in some cases at all events, the formality of marriage would be dispensed with. But, apart from that, we should err on the side of generosity. A woman who marries an Asiatic is, after all, a British subject, and if she has chosen to permit her affections to wander, she will probably find that she has made a mistake. It is not desirable that we should penalize her under this Bill.
– Would it not be better to insert after the word “ No,” the words “man or”? Why penalize a woman and not a man ?
– There is a legal reason for that.
. -I pointed out in my secondreading speech that it is undesirable to give a pension to a woman who marries an Asiatic. We offer a distinct encouragement to such marriages if we provide old-age and invalid pensions for women who enter into them. We ought to draw the line somewhere, and this provision is entirely opposed to our White Australia policy. I presume that we have to tolerate those Asiatics who are in the country, but we ought not to encourage white women to marry or live with them.
. -I am sorry that Senator Stewart has thought fit to move his amendment. The probability is that in a few days there may be a meeting of ladies somewhere in Collins-street, and that they will bring up the amendment as another evidence of the inclination of the Socialist party to destroy the marriage tie. The amendment certainly would give no encouragement to marriage. It would impose a disability upon a woman marrying an Asiatic, although she could enter into another kind of relation with him. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
Clause agreed to
Clause 22 (Necessary conditions).
– Paragraph e of this clause provides that a person shall not receive an invalid pension unless - .
He has no claim against any employer, company, or other person or body compellable under private contract or public enactment to adequately maintain or compensate him on account of accident or invalid state of health.
Will the administrator of the measure see that if a person has a claim against a company or employer it is enforced ? Otherwise it might pay a person to forego a claim so as to get an invalid pension.
– He would have to satisfy the Deputy Commissioner.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 -
Where the pensioner has accumulated pro perty, the amount of a pension shall be subject to the following deductions : -
– I think that sub-clause 2 of this clause ought to be left out Clause 17 provides that no person shall get a pension whose property exceeds in value £310. The Government might very well be content with that. Under this clause a person, instead of getting £26 a year, or 10s. per week, would get a great deal less. I hold the opinion that no reduction should be made where the pensioner possesses property under the value of £310. We have heard a good deal about the necessity for encouraging thrift, but this proposal, which apparently is supported by a number of honorable senators, actually discourages thrift. We must not shut our eyes to the facts, and honorable senators are aware that there are in Australia tens of thousands of men who own the cottages in which they live. It is very desirable that our people should be encouraged to make homes of their own. Instead of being penalized for doing so, as this Bill proposes, they should be rewarded, because it will not be denied that men who have secured homes of their own have given evidence of good citizenship. Paragraph b of sub-clause 2 provides that the amount of the pension shall be subject to a reduction of £[i for every complete £[io by which the net capital value of the property exceeds £[100 when it includes a home in which the pensioner permanently resides, and which produces no income. Let us take the case of a man who owns a cottage and land worth £200. Such a man would lose £[10 a year of the pension. That is to say he would, tinder this Bill, be called upon to pay £[10 a year for the privilege of living in his own house.
– And then he would.be on exactly the same level as the man who had no house and no land.
– Exactly. I do not wish to repeat all the old arguments about the man who denies himself and saves money to secure a home of his own, but honorable senators know that there is a large number of people in Australia who by energy and thrift have built up little homes for themselves. They know also that there are other people who, whether they have been able to earn enough money for the purpose or not, have not done so. What Senator Givens says is that the man who has saved, up and secured a little home for himself, should.be placed in exactly the same position as the man who has not done so.
– No, but that under this Bill the man who has nothing would be placed in the same position as the man who has something.
– A little while ago I heard the honorable senator say that while he was prepared to support this Bill he believed that every one should be entitled to an old-age pension irrespective of whether’ he owned £[100 or £[1,000.
– The adoption of that principle would prevent any complications of the kind to which the honorable senator is referring.
– It would. My proposal is a step in the direction of that ideal, yet honorable senators who profess to favour the ideal refuse to take that step.
– What is the honorable senator’s proposal ?
– That nothing should be deducted for property owned by an applicant for an old-age pension up to senators cannot go the whole distance they desire they will do nothing.
– The honorable senator makes his proposal too late. We have already laid it down that the total income of the pensioner is not to exceed £52 a year. If his proposal were agreed to, a man might get a rental from his property and the pension as well.
– He might get a rental of 10s. per week for a house valued at £[310. With his pension that would amount to £[1 per week, and as he would have to pay rent for another house himself he would gain nothing by letting his own house.
– But other pensioners would have to be satisfied with £26 a year.
– Because, unfortunately for them, they would not possess a house. I repeat that what the Bill does is to penalize the man who has provided himself with a home, and to say that he shall be placed in exactly the same position as the mail who has not done so. What inducement is that to a man to deny himself and save money to obtain a home of his own? There is another aspect of the question which should appeal to honorable senators. ‘ We all know that 10s. per week is not enough to support any one in comfort unless he lives in a tent in the bush, where he need pay nothing for water or fuel, and can live in the most primitive fashion. But if a man has a little house of his own and 10s. a week, he can live in comparative comfort in many parts of Australia. Of course, I am sorry for the man who has not a house of his own ; but we cannot afford to do anything more for him at present.
– Would it not be desirable to permit the Bill to operate for a time that we may better understand the financial position ?
– I am merely exercising my right in pointing out what I consider to be a blemish on the Bill.
– According to the honorable senator’s argument, the man who has a home worth £[1,000 should be given more than the man owning a house of less value.
– I say that the man who owns a home worth £[1,000 does not need a pension.
Senator de Largie. Then the thrift argument has not a leg to stand on.
– The honorable senator forgets that 10s. a week without some place in which to live, is not enough for any one. I suppose that a man could not rent the barest hovel for less than 4s. a week, and that would leave him only 6s. a week to live on. Let me say again that we should encourage rather than discourage people to provide homes for themselves.
– The honorable senator has repeated that statement a number of times, and he is aware that there is a rule against tedious repetition.
– I have heard tedious repetition very often in this Chamber without any fault being found with it ; but if honorable senators, or the Chairman, are tired of listening to me, I will give it up. Apparently, honorable senators’ skulls are so dense and so hard that the hammer of argument in such feeble hands as mine cannot penetrate them. I gather from the interjections which have been made that I should probably not get any support for the amendment I have suggested, and, therefore, I shall abandon it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 -
Penalty : One hundred pounds, or six months’ imprisonment.
– I fancy that a word has slipped into this clause inadvertently. Honorable senators will notice that sub-clause 2 provides that the registrar may bring persons before him and submit questions to them to enable him to present a report to the magistrate as to the circumstances or financial transactions of any claimant or pensioner “ or of any relatives of a claimant or pensioner.” It appears to me that as the Bill throws no obligation upon relatives this clause has possibly been taken from an Act which did. It is not at all desirable that we should empower the registrar to call upon the relatives of a pensioner or a claimant for a pension, seeing that we in no way put a claim upon them. They are quite outside the transaction ; the Bill does not recognise them, and I do not see what we have to do with the transactions of the relatives of a claimant. If the relatives were called upon to answer questions it would be different, but this clause empowers the registrar to inquire into transactions with the relatives of a claimant. I ask the Minister to agree to the omission of the words.
– I think that it would be a great mistake to strike out a provision of this kind. The registrar has to secure the best information which he can obtain.
– For what purpose does he want to report on the circumstances of a relative of a claimant?
– Under clause 4 “ relatives “ means -
The husband, wife, or children of a claimant or pensioner, as the case may be.
There may be some contributions as between the parties. That is the only reason I can see for the insertion of this provision.
– I think that the Minister will find that it has been taken from one of the Acts under which a relative is made liable to contribute.
– I am told that it is not so, that it was put in to enable the registrar to get the best information which he can secure.
– It is not a question of the registrar making inquiries from the relatives of the claimant, but whether he should inquire into the circumstances and financial transactions of the relatives of the claimant.
– I do not think that the Committee can go wrong in agreeing to the provision. Having regard to the fact that it relates to a confidential report, and that it may become desirable that the financial relationship as between husband and wife or children, as the case may be, should be known to the registrar,I think that no harm can be done by retaining the words. In fact, I am informed by the draftsman that they were specially put in for that purpose.
– I must still protest against the retention of the words, because it appears to me that they are quite misunderstood, even after listening to Senator Best. There can be no objection to calling the relative of a claimant before the registrar and questioning him closely with regard to the latter’s position and circumstances. But why should the registrar question the relative of a claimant as to the relative’s circumstances? Suppose, for instance, that a man put in a claim for a pension, the registrar would immediately call his brother, who has had nothing to do with him for years, and examine him, not about the claimant’s position or transactions, but about his own position or transactions.
– According to the interpretation clause, a brother is not a relative.
– The Bill exempts relatives from any obligation in respect of a claimant. But under this clause, when a man of sixty-five years of age makes a claim for a pension the registrar will simply call his son and ask, not “What has your father been doing? “ but “ What are your own circumstances and transactions?’.’ It means that the registrar will make a confidential report as to the circumstances or financial transactions of a relative of a claimant or pensioner. There can be no need to inquire into the circumstances of a relative, but of course he should be put into the witness-box and asked about the transactions and circumstances of the claimant. In spite of the Minister’s assurance I feel certain that this provision has crept into the Bill by a double inadvertence. It crept into the New South Wales Act inadvertently by copying from an Act which did make the relatives of a claimant liable. There is no single senator who will say that it is necessary or desirable to question the relatives of a claimant as to his own personal transactions.
– But this course is not to be taken in every case. This is simply an enabling power to be used if, under certain circumstances, a report is necessary.
– Will the Minister tell me why he wants the registrar to inquire into the circumstances or transactions of a relative who is not liable?
– There may be certain financial relationships between the family.
– If that is so they are the transactions of the claimant. But under this provision the registrar can inquire into a relative’s transactions which have nothing to do with the claimant.
– A person may apply for an old-age pension. . The registrar may. know that the claimant has a certain relationship with other members of his family, whether it be wife or children, and it may be necessary that he should know the transactions of those relatives with respect to the claim for a pension. If it were known that the claimant with the other members of his family was receiving five times as much as the old-age pension it would be the duty of the registrar to privately obtain the information.
– That is into the circumstances of the claimant.
– Into their financial relations with each other.
– Under clause 17 no person is to receive an old-age pension unless - he has not directly or indirectly deprived himself of property or income in order to qualify for or obtain a pension.
If a claimant has handed over some property to his wife or children it may be necessary to make an inquiry.
– But that would be an inquiry into his own transactions.
– It would be an inquiry into the circumstances existing between them.
.- I hope that Senator Millen will not allow this matter to drop, because to my mind it is very important.
– It is half way to the provision in the Victorian Act.
– Yes. That Act empowers an investigator to call upon blood relatives of the applicant to show cause why they should not contribute.
– That provision is not in this Bill.
– No; but if the Bill is passed in its present form it will enable the registrar to call relatives of the applicant. For what purpose?
– Only in special circumstances.
– Why should we give to the registrar the power to call relatives of an applicant into the box at all ?
– That is not so.
– The evidence will be taken on oath.
– No; it will be a confidential report.
– If it is not taken on oath it will be taken in camera.
– No; it will be a confidential report.
– Should we not have some means of detecting fraud?
– We should make the applicant responsible. I think that the Bill would be much better without the provision, because it is getting very close to the objectionable provision in the Victorian Act.
– It is very harmless.
– It may appear harmless just now, but as Senator Millen pointed out it was inadvertently placed in the New South Wales Act, and probably this is a copy of the provision in that Act. We have heard a good deal about harmless provisions. If it is a harmless provision why was it inserted? Very likely it will give great power to a registrar, and we do not know how far he may exercise it.
– Itake it that the information which is obtained under this clause will be used as evidence against an individual.
– No; it will be a confidential report.
– It will certainly be used to influence the magistrate. It will he secret evidence. It is not desirable to put an applicant on his trial. It seems to me that this provision will introduce the curse of the Victorian system, under which inquiries are made by all sorts of busy-bodies. If any objection is to be lodged against an applicant, surely it can be heard in a Court! If it is found that a man has no right to apply for a pension, surely there is no need to bring secret evidence against such a character. I do not think that there is any necessity for secrecy.. If a man wrongly applies for a pensionhe ought to be exposed. If all sorts of people are to be applied to for confidential reports it will mean handing over the administration of the provision to clergymen and other influential men in each district, as is done under the Victorian Act.
. -In order to test this matter, I move -
That the words “ or of any relatives of a claimant or pensioner “ be left out.
If that amendment is made, the registrar will still have ample power to call a relative and interrogate him regarding the circumstances or conditions or transactions of the claimant, but he will not be able to poke his nose into the business of a relative and concerning the relative only.
– I would point outto Senator Millen that it will be quite possible for the relative of an applicant to act in collusion with the latter.
– Then his evidence will not be worth anything.
– This is not a very big matter from start to finish.
– It is. We have had a taste of this kind of thing here.
– If it is thought that two persons are acting in collusion the registrar should have the right to call ‘upon an independent party who is aware of the collusion to tender a confidential report.
– Sometimes it may be necessary to investigate one man’s affairs in order to prove the transactions of another man.
– It takes two parties to be privy to a transaction, and in this case it would be the applicant and a relative. Only in the case of shady transactions will this power b given to the magistrate. I think the danger has been unduly magnified.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 -
If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum or other charitable institution, the pension shall become payable as from a date not more than twenty-eight days prior to the pensioner being discharged from or leaving the asylum or institution, but no payment on account of pension shall be made to him so long as he is an inmate of the asylum or institution.
– There is an anomaly in this clause. Isee no reason why this kind of deduction should be made from the pension.
– It is not a deduction. It is something in the man’s pocket to go on with when he leaves the institution.
– An improvement could be made on the lines of the New Zealand Act of 1905, by which the pension is paid to the governing body of the institution, the cost of maintenance is deducted from the pension, and the surplus given to the pensioner when he leaves. Even an allowance of a pension for twentyeight days may not be equivalent to the surplus which would be due to the pensioner under the New Zealand system.
– That is another scheme altogether.
– It is obvious that Senator Needham has not grasped the meaning of the clause. The Bill provides that no inmate of an asylum shall be entitled to a pension, but it presupposes that he may desire to get out and go on the pension list. It, therefore, says to him, “ If you are qualified by reason of age whilst still an inmate of the asylum, put in your application. It will be dealt with, and if it is approved of you will be entitled to your pension when you leave the institution, but we willnot give it to you while you are there for fear the asylum authorities might take it from you. The moment you leave, however, we will give you a month’s pension to start’ with in your new life.” That is a piece of special generosity; If we were to adopt the New Zealand system the unfortunate man when leaving the asylum would have hardly anything to begin with. Under this Bill he is assured of £2 - one month’s pension - to start his newhome on.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 50 agreed to.
Clause 51 (Forfeiture of instalments or cancellation of pension certificate for certain offences).
.- By this clause a poor old man is to be penalized for the rest of his life if he gets drunk. It may be his first offence.
– In the case of a conviction for drunkenness the provision is that the Deputy Commissioner “ may “ forfeit any one or more of the instalments.
– If may be a trivial offence, because sometimes one glass will upset an old man. I understand that there isno hope of an amendment being accepted.
– Not the slightest.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 52 to 56 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn..
The first businessto be proceeded with tomorrow will be two formal Bills in connexion ‘ with Customs and Excise, and possibly the Parliamentary Papers Bill, but I am hopeful that we may receive from another place some important Bill’s with which we will proceed in the order of their importance.
– Will the Government ask the House to sit on Saturday rather than meet next week?
– We shall try to wind up the business to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.54p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080604_senate_3_46/>.