10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hoa. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator REID presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of postal workshops at South Melbourne, Victoria.
Transfer of Departments
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Home and Territories has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– T move -
That the bil] be now read a second time.
It is well that at the outset I should indicate that this measure deals exclusively with Commonwealth employees and has no application whatever to employees, of private individuals carrying on business within the Territories of the Commonwealth. Their relationships as employers and employees will have to be provided for by ordinances passed from time to time, as occasion requires, in the various Territories.
In connexion with the consideration of . this bill it may be useful to refer briefly to the history of the law under which a master has been liable for injury or death of his servants in the course of their employment. From early times the common law imposed a duty on the master to take proper care to see that employees engaged by him in carrying on his work or industry did not suffer injury by reason of hia personal negligence or through his failure properly to superintend and control the undertaking in which he and his employees were engaged. For his own personal negligence the employer was always liable and still is liable at common law. The obligations of the master in this connexion extended to: - (1) The provision of a proper and suitable plant; (2) the selection of fit and competent fellow servants; (3) a proper system and, control, of the work; (4) the observance of regulations imposed by statute. The extent of the employer’s duty varied according to the degree of danger involved in the work, and also, according to the skill and experience possessed by the servants. Contributory negligence on the past of a servant would absolve the master from liability in re,spect of injury arising from such negligence. Where the risk and danger of the work were known and appreciated by the workman, and v/hen he undertook to per-, form the work, the master was not, following the maxim volenti non jit in,juria, liable for any injury resulting from the risk or danger thus undertaken by the workman. The master further was freed from liability where the doctrine of common employment could be invoked, that is to say, where the person suffering, and the person causing, the injury were fellow servants engaged in the common employment for and under the same master.* This doctrine has, to a certain extent, been modified by legislation, to which I shall refer later.
The common law on this subject was first invaded by statute law when the Employers’ Liability Act was passed in England in 1880 as a tentative measure to remain’ in force for seven years. It has, however, been kept in force from time to time by the annual statutes, the Expiring Laws Continuance Acts. The act did not abolish, though it largely modified, the doctrine of common employment. The general effect of the law was that whereas previously the workman could recover only if he could show that his employer had neglected a statutory duty or was personally responsible for negligence that led to the injury, he could now recover where the employer had delegated his duties or powers of superintendence to others who had been negligent in the performance of those duties or powers. Th? effect of the act may be stated generally as placing the obligation on the employer to pay compensation for personal injury caused to a workman by any defect in the condition of the ways, works, machinery or plant; the negligence of his superintendents; the negligence of persons to whom he had delegated the power to give orders to his workmen; defective by-laws and defective trade instructions; and in relation to railway servants, the negligent management of signals, point3 and trains.
The next step in the development of this subject was the passage of the “Workmen’s Compensation Act in England in 1906. Here the liability to pay compensation attaches to the relation of employer and employee, and is quite irrespective of negligence. With a few exceptions the obligation is placed upon every employer of labour to make pecuniary compensation to a limited extent whenever death or disablement happens to a workman in the course of his employment. Every employment is within the act, where a contract of service or apprenticeship exists, whether the work involved is manual labour, clerical work, or otherwise subject to such express exceptions as are made in the act. The persons to whom the act does not apply include - (1) Those whose remuneration exceeds a specified sum and who are employed otherwise than by manual labour - in respect of these honorable senators will note a distinction in the measure which we shall deal with presently more in detail - (2) casual employees; (3) outworkers; (4) members of the employer’s family dwelling in his house ; and (5) persons in the naval or military service. The injury in respect of which compensation is payable under the act must be the result of accident arising out of and in the course of the employment of the employee. This provision, as is generally known, has been a frequent cause of litigation.
The first legislation by the Commonwealth on this subject was the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912, which was to a considerable extent, based upon the British of 1906. Such provisions of the British act as were found to be applicable to Commonwealth conditions were applied. Since that date legislation has been passed in the States, and the basis upon which compensation is calculated has been considerably altered. It is thought that the time is now opportune to bring Commonwealth legislation on this subject up to date, and with this object the measure now under consideration has been introduced.
The bill provides for comprehensive and up-to-date legislation in connexion with compensation for injuries to Commonwealth employees who are not entitled to participate in the rights of
State laws. Commonwealth legislation is therefore necessary. In many respects the present act, which was passed in 1912, is out of date. The bill therefore provides for the repeal of that measure and the introduction of new provisions. It contains many important variations from the present law, the chief of these being: - (1) Administration to be in the hands of a commissioner; (2) the act to apply to all employees irrespective of salary but to exclude naval, military and air forces; (3) payment of increased compensation ; (4) payment of medical benefits; and (5) specified payments for certain injuries.
Under the present act questions of compensation are decided by agreement, arbitration or by the court. In the case of death it is the practice to refer questions of dependency to the court, thus causing delay and expense. Provision has accordingly been made in the bill that the act be administered by a commissioner. The powers and functions of the commissioner are set out in clause 6. They provide that he shall determine all matters subject to the provisions of the bill. There is, however, a right of appeal from his decision to a county court. The act applies to all civil employees of the Commonwealth, except employees receiving more than £500 per annum. In the bill the limit of £500 has been abolished, and the act therefore will thus apply to all civil employees. At present the law applies to naval and military forces except when on active service, but the defence regulations contain comprehensive provision for compensation in respect of injuries to members of the forces. It is proposed, therefore, that the bill shall not apply to the members of the forces, but provision is made for the extension of the act to employees of such authorities established under the Commonwealth as are prescribed by regulation. The bill can thus be made applicable to such an authority as the Commonwealth Bank and the authority will, unless otherwise prescribed,, be responsible for the payment of compensation in accordance with the provisions of- the act. Under the present act the compensation to dependants, wholly dependent, is a sum equal to three years’ earnings, subject to a minimum of £200 and a maximum of £500. Under similar conditions the bill provides for payment of a sum equal to one hundred and fiftysix times the weekly pay at the time of injury, subject to a minimum of £400 and a maximum of £700. The present act provides for a weekly payment not exceeding 50 per cent, of average weekly earnings and subject to a maximum of £2. The bill provides for payment not exceeding two-thirds of weekly pay at time of injury, and the maximum is increased to £3. In addition, allowance for child endowment, if any, is to be continued in full during total incapacity. Provision has also been made for increased payments to minors.
The present act does not prescribe payments for specific injuries. The absence of this provision, makes it necessary to arrive at an agreement in each instance or go to the court. Modern compensation laws, including State acts, contain a schedule of fixed payments for specific injuries. The bill accordingly contains a schedule in keeping with modern requirements. In this schedule the payments vary from £600 downwards according to the nature of the injury. The present act contains no provision for payment of medical benefits to injured employees. The trend of modern legislation is to provide for such benefits. Provision has accordingly been made in the bill for payment of medical, surgical, and hospital treatment up to £100. This payment is in addition to compensation otherwise provided in the bill.
The bill provides that the liability of the Commonwealth shall be limited to £700 plus medical expenses, except in the case of permanent total incapacity. It is felt that this limit should not apply in the case of an employee who has received injuries which render him totally incapable of doing any further work. It is considered that the best way to assist such an employee is by a permanent weekly payment instead of lump sum compensation. The bill accordingly provides for a weekly payment of two-thirds of his pay subject to a maximum of £3, without any limitation as to period and total liability.
When the Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed in 1912 there was no Superannuation Act in existence. The principle was laid down, however,that an employee should not be entitled to receive compensation or payment from the Commonwealth in respect of an accident both independently of and also under the Compensation Act. The Superannuation Act was passed in 1922, and provision was made for pensions to be paid from joint contributions by the employees and the Commonwealth. Where an employee receives an injury resulting in permanent and total disablement, that employee, if a contributor to the superannuation fund, is entitled to a pension. If death results, his widow will receive a pension of half the amount that would have been payable to the employee. In both cases a pension will also be paid in respect of children under sixteen years of age. As the Commonwealth provides half of these pensions - for the majority of the present employees the Commonwealth contribution exceeds half - the Government has carefully considered the question as to what additional payments shall be made in such cases as compensation under this bill. As a result, the provisions which the Government deem equitable have been set out in clause 17 of the bill. Briefly stated, the effects of that clause is this -
In the case of permanent and total incapacity, the maximum amount which the employee could get under the Compensation Act is to be reduced by the amount of any pension payable to him under the Superannuation Act. Honorable senators will see that there is a limit to the amount to be paid to an employee in the event of permanent and total incapacity.
This bill includes very comprehensive provision for compensation in respect of injuries sustained by all civil employees of the Commonwealth. These provisions are in keeping with the trend of modern legislation, and are very much more liberal than those of the existing act, and the Government considers that these provisions should apply uniformly to all civil employees. It is therefore proposed that the power to make provision for compensation for injuries to civil employees under any other laws of the Commonwealth shall be abolished. The bill accordingly provides that such a power shall be taken away from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator, and that the existing awards shall be non-effective. That provision makes it possible to maintain an orderly system, which was difficult when the Public Service Arbitrator had to fix compensation for injuries. This provision is incorporated in the bill as it is desirable that compensation shall be controlled by one Government ordinance. The bill also provides for compensation to be paid to employees who are not covered by the Public Service Regulations also for employees who come under the Defence Act. Previously, when applications were made to the courts, there was no definite principle by which the Government could be guided and there was always the possibility that the Minister controlling the department might be inconsistent when awarding compensation, and that he might even dispense varying degrees of justice to persons suffering from the same injuries. I have enumerated the salient features of the measure and I commend it to honorable senators as a genuine attempt to regularize the laws regarding compensation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham), adjourned.
Debate resumed from Srd May, 1927 (vide page 4597), on motion by Senator McLachlan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is not my intention to occupy the time of the Senate at any length since the subject was thoroughly ventilated when the original measure, which this bill amends, was before us. During the last election campaign the right honorable the Prime Minister, in announcing the policy of the Government stated among other things that it was intended to introduce an extensive and liberal housing scheme. In fulfilment of that promise a bill was brought down and enacted, incorporating most liberal terms for the acquirement of homes by the thrifty. I consider that more liberal have never been granted. In order to encourage people to build and own their own homes 90 per cent, of the cost of a home is advanced to the applicant. The bill affords industrialists an opportunity to acquire their own homes, to be free oflandlords, and to have a sense of security and independence. It is particularly desirable that people as they reach the winter of their lives, should have the comforting knowledge that they own the roof which is over their heads. The different States of Australia have housing schemes in operation, but it is my opinion that eventually all of them will be merged in one huge scheme controlled by the Commonwealth Government. The State schemes are not nearly so generous as that which is now before us. Under some of them only 66 to 75 per cent, of the cost of the home is advanced. Most of those schemes are very conservative, and a person needs to be comparatively well off to avail himself of their provisions. In the circumstances this Commonwealth legislation fills a long felt want. The amending bill liberalizes the principal act. It was .found, through consultation between the Commonwealth and State Savings Bank officials, that anomalies existed. Those anomalies will be rectified by this measure and the machinery of the principal act will be made easily workable. The bill also extends the benefits of the act. Originally a person could not obtain any additional advance should he by reason of an in’crease in family or any other s>uch contingency, desire to make additions to his home. That is a very wise and necessary provision. Furthermore, it provides that should a person sell his home, remove to another locality and again desire to build or purchase, he may do so. That also is a necessary provision. The bill provides, too, that repaid money, instead of lying idle as previously, shall earn interest, which is desirable.
Many countries have recognized the necessity for housing schemes. Since the war Great Britain has constructed 1,000,060 homes under housing schemes, and France, Belgium, and Germany are also active in the same direction. Generally such schemes are operative through municipalities and other local organizations, local control being considered mostdesirable. The Commonwealth law wisely provides that loans shall be made through State authorities, and no. doubt in future municipalities, particularly in the capital cities, will freely avail themselves of its provisions. In industrial centres where suburbs are extending this . will be a magnificent scheme to enable the workers to obtain homes of their own. I think that the amendment is necessary and wise. It liberalizes the act, and will confer great benefits upon those who avail themselves of the scheme.
– It is perfectly true that the Government did, at the last election, proclaim that it would, if the people of Australia gave it a further lease of life, proceed with a £20,000,000 housing scheme - one that was to be bigger and better than any housing scheme undertaken by any State Authority. Two and a half years passed, and not a brick was laid, and it follows that if you do not lay foundations, you do not build houses. It was a jerrybuilt scheme of the worst kind. Then the Housing Bill was brought down, accompanied by another bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, by separating the general banking business of the Commonwealth Bank from the Savings Bank branch. It provided for the appointment of three commissioners to undertake the administration of the housing scheme. “We were told many times during the debate on that measure that the Treasurer of the present administration had had frequent consultations with the directors of the Commonwealth Bank and with the State authorities in respect of the housing scheme. The Labour party pointed out the absurity of appointing three commissioners simplyto advance money to authorities which would afterwards be created. Largely because of our opposition to the appointment of the commissioners, as expressed both in this Chamber and in another place, S.O.S. messages were sent to some of the directors of the Commonwealth) Bank, and they immediately hastened to Canberra. The Treasurer realized, after consulting with them, that the opposition of the Labour party was justified, and that it was quite unnecessary to appoint special commissioners.
– The amending suggestion came from this side.
– The Treasurer could not have been very clear as to what the Government really wanted, or else he could not have made his wishes clear to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. If he had done so, the directors would have agreed in the firstplace, to the proposals which they subsequently accepted when they came to Canberra.
We were told that the scheme had been worked out in consultation with the State authorities. Now we are informed that, as a result of later consultations with the States, it has been, found necessary to introduce this amending bill. If ever there was a band of muddlers and unbusinesslike men carrying on the business of government in any country, it is those who compose the BrucePage administration. Most of the time of this Parliament is occupied in amending bills which have been introduced, and put through Parliament by this Government. This “business-like” Government introduced a housing scheme before it had made any serious attempt to ascertain the views of the State authorities. It introduced an amending banking bill before it had ascertained the views of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. The result has been that we have had three or four attempts to get the act into operation.
SenatorReid. - Do not exaggerate. This is only the second attempt.
SenatorFINDLEY. - It is the fourth attempt, and I ask myself is this the final . one. This Government went to the people at the last election with the cry of “ Houses for those who are houseless, and homes for those who are homeless. “ Many votes were captured by that cry, but it was a cruel deception. Many people who were without homes voted for the Government in the hope that they would get what the Government promised them. When I heard Senator Andrew say that this was the most liberal housing scheme ever introduced, I wondered if he was f amiliar with conditions in his own State. Does he really know anything at all about the housing scheme undertaken by the State Government of Victoria? If he does, he must know that this Commonwealth Housing Scheme is a most illiberal one as compared with the Victorian scheme. I shall endeavour to show the honorable senator how ignorant he is of the Victorian housing system. There the State Savings Bank has been created a State authority for the building of houses, and it operates one of the most liberal housing schemes in the world.
– It advances only 66 per cent, of the value.
– A man desiring to build a house costing £1,000 pays a deposit of £50 if he has no family. If he has a family, £5 is deducted for each member of it up to five. Therefore, a man with a family of five can, under the State Savings Bank housing scheme, build a wooden house costing £1,000, or a brick house costing £1,300, for a deposit of £25. and his whole liability would be discharged in 26^ years. Under the Commonwealth scheme, which Senator Andrew has called one of the most liberal ever introduced in any country, an applicant is required to pay a deposit of 10 per cent., which would be £100 on a £1,000 house, and £200 on a £2,000 house.
– What interest does the Victorian housing authority charge?
– Six and » quarter per cent.
Not a single house has been built up to the present time under the Commonwealth scheme. No workman in Victoria, nor any one but those desiring to build houses at a cost of £1,800 or £2,000, would wish to come under the Commonwealth scheme. For houses costing up to £1,300 much better terms can be obtained from the Victorian State Savings Bank. I do not know why the Commonwealth Government ever came into the business at all, at least, as far as Victoria is concerned.
– South Australia also has a most liberal scheme.
– I agree that South Australia has a very liberal scheme, one of the best, in fact, in Australia. No one in that State would desire to come under the Commonwealth scheme as far as certain classes of houses are concerned.
The Commonwealth Government introduced its housing scheme when there was not an acute shortage of houses. If building operations in Victoria have been more or less stationary it is due largely to the fact that there are many men out of employment, who, whatever schemes were provided, would be unable to undertake the financial responsibilities associated with house-building.
There are a number of houses for sale and to let in Melbourne suburbs; yet in some suburbs two or more families are living under the one roof, and there are also numerous married couples living in apartments. Many -of these persons desire houses of their own, but are unable to undertake the financial responsibility involved in home building. I criticized the Government when the first measure was submitted, and I have not hesitated to offer my strong opposition to the amending bills. If there ever was a time when the Government deserved criticism for incompetence and incapacity it is now. The time of Parliament should not be occupied in diseasing amending legislation necessitated by the incapacity and incompetence of Ministers.
– Can the honorable senator contribute any constructive ideas as to how the bill could be improved ?
– We are in opposition.
– Is it the policy of the Opposition to oppose every bill, regardless of merit?
– Not necessarily. I do not know of any good work which this Government has performed. It would be interesting to know the time occupied and the cost incurred by the bank and other officials who have made numerous trips to Canberra to discuss this matter with the Government.
Will any honorable senator opposite say that there was any justification for the introduction of the bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act by providing for the appointment of three commissioners merely to hand over money to certain State authorities to assist in a housing scheme?
When the people were told that this Government intended to introduce a housing scheme, in their innocence, they believed that a liberal and progressive system of house construction would be undertaken. But that has not been done. The Government can not control the construction of houses except in the territories under its control, without permission of State ‘authorities. Why did not the Government put its scheme clearly before those authorities at the outset. There was nothing concrete in its proposal, and it was made merely for the purpose of catching votes. The Government supporters got the votes and the people are still waiting for houses. Under this scheme those who apply for a home will have to provide 10 per cent, of its capital value by way of deposit.
– On what does the honorable senator base that statement? Where is that to be found in the principal act or the amending bill?
– A responsible Minister said that the Government proposed to advance up to 90 per cent, of the cost of houses.
– I did not make such a statement; the honorable senator is speaking only in general terms.
– It is to be found in the original act. Will the honorable Minister say that it is proposed to liberalize this measure in such a way that it will be acceptable to those who desire to build homes as is the Victorian State Savings Bank scheme? If it is to be as liberal, there is no justification for a Commonwealth scheme.
– It has a much more liberal maximum than the Victorian scheme.
– The only difference is that persons desirous of building houses costing from £1,800 to £2,000 can be financially assisted under it, whereas the maximum under the Victorian act is £1,300, but, generally speaking, such persons can make their own financial arrangements.
– A good house cannot be obtained for £1,800 when allowance is made for the cost of the land.
– A very substantial house can be erected for that amount. The number of persons desiring to live in costly homes is L mi ted and those who do can usually make their own financial arrangements. The apparent listlessness of some Ministers suggests that they are overworked and unable to devote sufficient time to the responsible duties devolving upon them. If they are as inattentive at Cabinet meetings as some of them are to the proceedings in this Chamber, I can understand why the Government finds it difficult to carry out its obligations to the people. It is reducing responsible government to a farce.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I was merely showing that there would not be any necessity for this amending bill if the Government conducted its work, in a businesslike way, and gave thoughtful consideration to the many important matters with which it has to deal. The people have been cruelly deceived. We have heard of a go-slow policy and of certain persons falling down on the job. That is exactly what this Government is doing. I trust the electors will awaken to that fact and at the next election will be sufficiently alert to see that a government which practises such deception is not returned to power.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in accusing the Government of deception.
.- The boisterous weather of the last few days has evidently had the effect of vitalizing Senator Findley and rousing him from his sluggishness. He has had quite a lot to say about the business ability of the Government, but he has missed the whole point in the bill now before the Senate. He knows as well as. I do that the main object of this legislation is to afford help to members of the community who are not at present helped by any State housing scheme. For instance, the limit of the advance under the Victorian housing scheme is under £1,000.
– It is £1,300.
– I accept the honorable member’s word that the limit is now £1,300; the Victorian act must have recently been amended by the present State Government, but the Commonwealth scheme permits of advances up to £1,800 being made to persons whose salaries are higher than those provided for in the various State acts. There are many people with salaries in excess of £600 a year who, in the matter of securing homes, wish to be put on the same footing as people with lower salaries. They have been unable to get advances under any State scheme, either because their salaries have exceeded the limit fixed in the State acts or because the amount of the advance available under State legislation is too low.
Because of the change that has come about in industrial conditions, and because of awards made by Arbitration Courts, the wages of many mechanics’ have reached what was previously regarded as the general professional or clerical standard, but no State housing legislation makes provision for persons who earn more than £600 a year. In Victoria the salary limit is a little over £400, and when the Commonwealth Housing Bill was introduced that State would not advance more than £800 on a wooden house or £950 on a brick house. Contrary to what Senator Findley has Stated, the Commonwealth Government has not set out to deceive any one. Its purpose in passing this housing legislation was not to provide homes foi” the homeless. State legislation already catered for the homeless, and the appeal made by Senator Findley for the homeless was consequently a little overdrawn. Under the Commonwealth scheme a person who is paying 8, 9 or 10 per cent, on mortgage to some home building organization -will be enabled to obtain an advance from a State authority.
– I think that that can be done under most of the State housing schemes.
– I understand that it cannot be done under some of them. But the feature of the Commonwealth legislation is that an advance can be made up to an amount for which no State scheme will provide.
Another feature, of the Commonwealth scheme is that it will be administered by the State authorities. Of course, if the State of Victoria is as well off as Senator Findley has said it is, it will not need to take advantage of the Commonwealth scheme, but several of the other States are in a very bad financial position. For instance, Queeusland, owing to the way in which money has been wasted on wild socialistic schemes of the class favoured by Senator Findley, finds now that it has no money to advance for the erection of workmen’s dwellings. The people of that State are just as anxious to own their own homes as are the people in other States, and they will be accommodated by the Commonwealth scheme. Victoria, about which Senator Findley makes a great deal of fuss, is only a small portion of Australia.
– But it is a very important portion of Australia.
– I did not say that it is unimportant, but other States are equally important. South Australia is in financial difficulties and may find it hard to carry on its home-building scheme which, as I know from personal inspection, is one of the best we have in Australia. By means of the advances to be obtained . under the Commonwealth scheme that State will be enabled to con tinue its system of finding houses for I he class of people who, according tn Senator Findley, are being provided with homes in Victoria. All the honorable senator’s talk about the Commonwealth Government not having laid a single brick was beside the question. The actual work of building houses is done by the State building authorities.
– That is the best feature of the bill.
– We know that the money will be spent by the State authorities with the experience they have gained in home building, and we have, therefore, a guarantee that it will be well spent.
Senator Findley was not quite correct in his description of the position in Victoria. That State will have a deficit this year and will consequently find it difficult to provide money for the erection of workmen’s dwellings. The honorable senator’s constituents will probably find it convenient to make use of the money made available by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose. As a matter of fact, Victoria has already entered into an agreement to carry out the Commonwealth housing scheme, and in this instance also, Senator Findley’s talk was all so much gallery play. As the boisterous weather of a few clays ago has passed away and has been succeeded by calm beautiful days, so it will be with the Commonwealth housing scheme; when the State authorities get into swing and advances are being made to those who require homes, everything will settle down and no doubt the constituents of Senator Findley will derive much benefit.
In a complicated measure providing for the erection of houses through the activities of local authorities and for making advances through the Commonwealth Savings Bank to State authorities, it was to be expected that amendments would be found necessary. Full effect cannot be given to the intentions of Parliament until its legislation is put into operation. The Housing Bill which this Parliament passed has been put into operation and in administering it difficulties have been discovered, which the Government has been wise enough to have rectified at once. Senator Findley took good care not to refer to the amendments contained in the bill before us. His speech was simply a tirade against the provisions of the original measure. He could not raise objection to a proposal to make the Housing Act more workable and better for the people whom it was intended to benefit. To my mind it is one of the best steps the Commonwealth Government has ever taken to find homes for the middle class in the community who are to-day suffering from the effects of economic pressure. Men in professional and clerical circles have to maintain a certain standard of living, on proportionately lower incomes than they enjoyed in the past, but in the matter of securing homes for themselves they have not been given help by the State Governments. The Commonwealth Government has taken steps to help them. I have always been enthusiastic about aiding people to get their own homes. It is one of the best antidotes the nation can have against the actions of extremists. In Australia to-day, we have the spectacle of extremists who are not only seeking to injure Australia, but also are ruining the party to which Senator Findley belongs. They stir up feelings of discontent among people who are suffering from grievances of, perhaps, only a minor character. But when a man owns his own home he has a stake in the country, he has something to lose, and something to stand by. If the people of the middle class who are now squeezed economically, can by acquiring homes of their own, be made more contented than they are to-day, they will become again the stable factor they have always been in Australia, holding as they do the balance as between the extremists on either side. Extreme conservatives are just as dangerous to the community as the bolsheviks, who have been causing such an upset in Senator Findley’s party during the last three days that caucus has been scratching its head, not knowing where it stands. Senator Findley is not a Bolshevik, but unfortunately he is sometimes driven by the extreme section of his party to do things which he would not otherwise do. The Ministerial party, which is not conservative, is sometimes hindered by the activities of extreme conservatives, who object to housing schemes or any thing that will afford help to the people.
– The honorable senator has been driven by the ultra conservatives to do what he is dong to-day.
– The action of the Government has been dictated not by the ultra conservatives, but by common sense, with the idea of getting a contented people in Australia. For that reason I support the bill.
– The bill before us is designed amongst other things to enable advances to be made for the extension of houses. I differ from Senator Andrew, who described extensions as improvements. If I own a home and set to work to paint it and make it ornate I am improving it, but not extending it. Extensions are simply additions. I differ from Senator Findley, who claims that the alteration in the administrative provisions of the original bill which was effected by the Government last year and consented to by Parliament, was made at the instigation of the Labour party. I remind the honorable senator that when the Housing Bill was before the Senate I drew attention to the desirability of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank administering the housing scheme and urged that there was no need for appointing special savings hank commissioners. I went so far as to move an amendment to carry out my idea, but, as my proposal was not then acceptable to the Government, I let the matter go on the voices. Fortunately, later on, the Government saw its way to agree to my suggestion. I do not think, therefore, that the alteration can be said to have been made at the behest of the Labour party. “While I agree that extensions of houses should be encouraged, I think that the Housing Act should have been functioning and that a bill for permitting advances for extensions could have been brought down later on. In Queensland quite a number of people of the middle class referred to by Senator Reid are waiting for the act to come into operation,- so that they may make application for advances and proceed with the building of homes. In this way the public have suffered a great deal more inconvenience than would have been caused if the act had been allowed to function. The amendments could have been made later. 1 welcome the measure, but regret that the act which was passed last year was not brought into operation at once.
– I feel that a few words from me are necessary in reply to the criticisms, and particularly the electioneering speeches made by honorable senators opposite. Senator Reid aptly described them as “ mostly wind “, and it has occurred to me that in relation to Senator Findley’s remarks I may appropriately paraphrase certain well-known lines by saying -
There is no terror, Findley, in your threats, For I am arm’d so strong in honesty That they pass by mc as the idle wind, Which I respect not.
The point which the honorable senator endeavoured to make was that the Commonwealth Government was about to become actively engaged in house building. Actually, we are not doing that at all. Our purpose is to furnish the necessary money to the various State .instrumentalities, so that they may expand their house building schemes. This amending measure is the result of representations made to the Government by officials connected with the several State house building authorities in order that it may not be necessary to alter materially State legislation.
The position is not quite as Senator Thompson has put it. The act last year is functioning, but before advances can be made to any State authority, the provisions of the several State schemes must be brought into line with the Common wealth law.
– Up to the present it has not been possible for any person to make an application for the erection of a house under the Commonwealth scheme.
– No application will be made to the Commonwealth Government, in the way suggested by the honorable senator. After the various State authorities have brought their schemes into line with- this measure they will get in touch with the Commonwealth Savings Bank authorities to obtain money for can extension of their present activities. The fact that they have asked for certain slight alterations to the Commonwealth Act is evidence that the measure is attracting attention and is desired by the States. I ask honorable senators to endeavour to appreciate all the difficulties in the launching of such a scheme as this. It cannot be done iri five minutes. An officer of the Commonwealth Savings Bank visited all the States to inquire into the State schemes, and ascertain how they could be brought into harmony with the proposals of the Commonwealth. It has been suggested that in submitting the original measure last year, the Government was lacking in foresight or business acumen, because it did not foresee all the obstacles in the way; but, as I have said, these could only be ascertained after an officer of the Commonwealth Savings Bank had visited the . different States and had had consultations with responsible State officersThe Commonwealth housing scheme in its original form would have limited the operations of many State authorities. I think I am safe in saying that the whole of the amendments included in this bill have been made at the instigation of the State authorities.
Senator Needham took exception to the provision authorizing, in certain circumstances, a second advance to an applicant who already had received assistance under one or other of the house building schemes in the States. I see no reason why an applicant, who may have moved to another part of the Commonwealth, should be denied a privilege enjoyed by other citizens, because it is specifically provided that an advance may only be made to an applicant who has paid off his previous loan, presumably by the sale of his house, and desires to build or acquire another home. To my mind this provision should be an incentive to thrift.
– Would not the adoption of that principle lead to the buying and selling of houses ?
– No, and that is not the Government’s intention. The Housing Act provides, in section 9, that no loan may be made to- any person who already owns a house except for the purpose of discharging a mortgage upon one dwelling house of which he is the owner. Our object is- to assist citizens of the Commonwealth to acquire their own homes, and I see no objection to that provision in the act.
– Can the Minister say what length of time must elapse before an applicant can dispose of his home ?
– That, I suggest, is a matter for the State authorities to determine. The provisions of this bill will enable State authorities to liberalize their schemes.
It has also been complained that the Government has not itself entered into the business of house building for the people. On that point I venture the opinion that the Government proposal to provide finance for the State authorities is a much more satisfactory arrangement. These amendments will make it possible for the Government to assist the State authorities to liberalize and enlarge their building operations. The Leader of theOpposition (Senator Needham) suggested that the Government, under the Housing Act, was in the position of a money lender. That is exactly the function which the Government will discharge. Through the Commonwealth Savings Bank it will provide £20,000,000 for the use of the several State authorities, and will thus provide for the enlargement of their schemes.
– I presume the Government could not constitutionally enter upon the business of house building.
– I have no desire at present to discuss that interesting phase of the Government’s constitutional powers. May be the honorable senator is right, though no doubt the Government could embark upon such a project through the Commonwealth Bank. We have, however, considered that the best course is to subsidize the several State authorities.
– Experience in South Australia has shown that that is the better principle.
– I agree with the. honorable senator.
Senator Findley also made an electioneering speech in dealing with what happened during the passage of the Commonwealth Bank Bill last year.. His remarks under that head have as much to do with this proposal as have the flowers that bloom in the spring, and the honorable senator is welcome to all the credit that he can get out of them. It has been suggested further, that while we propose to assist the States financially to liberalize their house building schemes, ‘we have been neglecting or falling down on the job in connexion with providing war service homes for returned soldiers. That actually was the only real indictment made by honorable senators opposite. All that it is necessary to say in that connexion is that during the present year we have already built 1,455 war service homes, and 704 more will be completed during the year.
– Under this scheme ?
– My friend opposite is either purposely or unconsciously obtuse. I prefer to think thathe is not purposely so. The indictment levelled against us was that we had fallen down on our job over the war service homes, and that we were not fulfilling our promises. In answer to that I have pointed out that we have already constructed 1,455 war service” homes, and that another 704 will be completed this year. Surely that is a satisfactory contribution to the housing requirements of the people by the War Service Homes Department. The average annual amount spent during the last five years by that department has been from £1,700,000 to £1,800,000. This year it is proposed to spend £1,748,000.’ While there may have been, some small delays, they have not been due to any slackening or slowing down on the part of the War Service Homes Department. There have been many reasons for the delay, including the fact that some of the work has been held in abeyance by the applicants themselves, and in other cases the plans were not approved of. I maintain that the position in regard to war service homes is entirely satisfactory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Conditions precedent to any advance).
. -While this clause is under consideration I wish to draw attention to a matter about which I spoke during another stage of the proceedings. I think that we ought to be better informed as to what advances are to be made to those who come under this scheme. During the course of my second-reading speech I said that only 90 per cent, of cost of a home would be advanced under the Commonwealth scheme. That statement was challenged by the Minister (Senator McLachlan), and he asked me to point to any act that had, so far been passed wherein such a provision existed. I said that it was in the original act, find he again denied it. I now wish to draw his attention to the fact that, in section 9 of the original act the powers of existing authorities are extended- -
That is perfectly clear; there is no ambiguity about it.
– None whatever. Senator FINDLEY.- That is the statement I made, and which the Minister challenged. I said that it was proposed to advance up to 90 per cent, of the value of the house.
– The honorable senator said that we would advance the money to the applicant. We do not advance anything.
– What is the use of the Minister trying to quibble in this way? It is laid down in the act that advances up to 90 per cent, only will he made.
-I do not think that the honorable senator is strictly in order in saying that under this -scheme certain amounts will be advanced. The act is quite clear. If he reads it he will see that it is provided that we may make available to the various State instrumentalities certain funds, and certain conditions are laid down which they are to follow when making advances or loans. The amount specified in the act is the limit which may be advanced by the State authority under this scheme.
– Does not that prove what I have said? Under this scheme provision is made for advancing up to 90 per cent, of the value of a house costing up to £1,800, so that a person desiring to erect such a house under the scheme will have to find 10 per cent, of its value as a deposit. I made a comparison between this scheme and the housing scheme administered by the State authorities in Victoria, and I have been proved to be right. The Minister was wrong when he challenged my statement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 4481), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have perused the bill and find that it is merely to provide for the attendance of any prisoner whose evidence may be required before courts of law in any State. In these circumstances I do not offer any objection to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 4482), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is also a machinery measure to provide for placing the territories of the Commonwealth in a similar position to that of the States in regard to the proof of documents issued in the various territories. It does not contain anything of a contentious nature, and I therefore do not oppose the secondreading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– The clause reads -
Section two of the principal act is amended by omitting the definitions of “ court “ and “ court within the Commonwealth “ and inserting in their stead the following definitions: - “ ‘ Court ‘ includes the High Court and all Federal Courts and courts exercising Federal jurisdiction, the interstate commission when sitting as a court for the hearing or determination of any matter.
I should like to ask the Minister why the interstate commission has been included in this clause. I understand that the act under which it was appointed was held by the High Court to be invalid in certain respects, and that the commission is not in existence to-day, at least’ as originally constituted.
.– The High Court held that the Interstate Commission Act was invalid in so far as it attempted to give judical powers to the interstate commission. One of the grounds of the decision was that its members had not a life tenure of office, but as it is possible that at some future date the interstate commission may be re-constituted in accordance with the provision of the Constitution it has been considered advisable to allow the words in the principal act to remain.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Faith and credit to be given to documents properly authenticated).
.- I should like the Minister (Senator McLachlan) to explain whether this provision will cover the disability sometimes experienced in different States in connexion with the witnessing of documents. I have had documents relating to transactions in Queensland which required to be witnessed by a magistrate for that State, and I have found that a magistrate for the State of New South Wales orVictoria could not act instead of a Queensland magistrate.
– Senator Thompson will doubtless realize that the authenticity of State documents, such as those relating to real property and such bills of sale, is covered by State laws. This clause provides only for the recognition of certain documents in the courts. The witnessing of documents under State laws is a matter entirely for the States.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 4486), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill provides certain comprehensive amendments with the object of improving the principal act. One or two clauses require special consideration.
Clause 7 repeals section 28 of the principal act, and inserts other sections in its stead, among which are the following : -
1 ) A publication may be registered under this act as a newspaper if it is known and recognized as a newspaper in the generally accepted sense of the word, and is printed and published within the Commonwealth for bona fide sale at the advertised price as a business proposition with a view to earning profit and is a publication which -
A publication which is printed ‘ on paper and issued as a supplement to a newspaper and which -
A publication designed primarily for advertising purposes or for free circulation or for circulation at nominal rates shall not be deemed to be a newspaper or a supplement to a newspaper within the meaning of this section.
It is a lengthy clause, but its effect is to increase the rate of postage on certain publications which . are not published within seven days. This may cause an injustice to persons engaged in the publication and sale of journals that do not come exactly within the definition “published in numbers at intervals of not more than seven days,” but, in all other respects, come within the definition of a newspaper.” For instance, Golf in Australia is a weekly, and Golf a monthly publication. Both contain similar news.
– But the weekly publication may not come within the definition of a newspaper?
– I admit that it is difficult to interpret correctly the definition of a newspaper, but I am endeavouring to show that if this bill is passed an injustice will be done to certain people: I am hopeful that when I have compared a number of publications, weekly and monthly, the Minister in charge of the bill will see the advisability of consulting his expert advisors in regard to the need for amending the bill. The Catholic Press is a weekly publication, the Harbinger of Light, a monthly. They are both religious publications, and convey news to the respective religious bodies for which they cater. The Advocate, Table Talk, and the World’s News are weekly publications; Life, Stead’s, and Adam and Eve, monthly. Will any honorable senator say that Stead’s does not convey to the reader news of a very important nature? I venture to say that this publication plays a very important part in the life of the people of Australia. I do not think that any Minister or officer of the Minister should be allowed arbitrarily to declare that it is not a conveyor and distributor of news. The Woman’s Budget and the Woman’s Mirror are issued weekly; the Woman’s World, the Australian Home J ournal and Everylady’s J ournal are issued monthly. They are all similar in character, distributing to the womenfolk of Australia news regarding dresses, fashions, housekeeping hints, and so forth. The Listener In, Popular Radio Weekly, Mining Standard, Construction, the Australian Manufacturer, Pigeon Keeper, Poultry, Photoplayer and Hawklet, are weekly papers. Radio, Queensland Mining Journal, Building, the Sugar J ournal, Young Australia, Power Farming, Musical News, and A.N.A. are monthly publications.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Sugar J ournal is a newspaper ?
– I suggest that Young Australia, which is widely read by the youth of Australia, and contains very fine articles, should not be penalized in comparison with a weekly publication like Poultry. The Postmaster-General cannot afford to be dogmatic or arbitrary in such matters. Weekly publications have the benefit of a bulk postage rate of l1/2d. for 20 oz., as compared with a rate of 21/2for 20 oz. for monthly publications. For single copies of weekly publications the postage is1d. for 10 oz., against a rate of1d. for 8 oz. for monthly publications.
– That will seriously affect monthly publications, and throw some of them out of business.
– It affects them very seriously because it is a tax which cannot be passed on. The other day we were discussing a proposed increased duty on films, and were well aware of the fact that the people engaged in the industry bad indicated that they would pass the tax on to the patrons of picture theatres. The publishers of monthly publications will not be able to go back to their subscribers and ask them for increased subscriptions to cover the four months of the year already gone ; consequently they will be obliged to bear the increased rate and charges. It is neither just nor equitable to distinguish between weekly and monthly journals which are obviously similar, ‘ except in the matter of frequency of publication. There is very little difference in their contents, and the Postal Department is fastening on to frequency of publication as the sole means of distinguishing between them. Nearly all these publications, weekly and monthly, cater for the same class of readers. The Melbourne Herald publishes Table Talk and the Weekly Times, and I venture to say that the weeklies contain items that have already appeared in the daily. The Woman’s Budget and the Australian Home Journal, the former a weekly and the latter a monthly publication, contain the same class of information ; they both cater for the same section ofthe community, the same readers, and the only justification the Government has for charging an extra1d. on the Australian Home Journal is that there are 30 days instead of seven days between each issue.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that those publications would fall within the definition of a newspaper?
– The Minister, said that he could not dogmatize as to the definition of what is a newspaper and what is not. Neither can I do so concerning the definition’ of these publications. All I can say is that there is a marked similarity in the information contained in them.
– Would the Woman’s Budget come within that definition?
– I can only answer the Minister by asking him if Poultry- and the Hawklet are regarded as newspapers.
– I have not had an opportunity to examine either of the publications referred to.
– Many other weekly publications are in the same class, such as The World’s News, The Radio Weekly, Construction, The Australasian Manufacturer, and The Pigeon Keeper. Can the Minister say if these publications come within the definition of a newspaper? It appears to me that the clause has been drafted somewhat hastily, and I suggest that it be further considered. Clause 8 provides in proposed new sub-section 29 b -
If, in the opinion of the Postmaster -General, any posted copy of a registered newspaper or registered periodical contains profane, blasphemous, indecent, obscene, immoral, offensive, libellous or seditions matter …. he may direct the Deputy Director to remove the newspaper or periodical from the register…..
I agree that any publication containing such matter should bc penalized, but it seems to me that there is danger of an injustice being done to the proprietors or publishers. I do not suggest that the Postmaster-General would de-register a newspaper for political purposes ; but, in the absence of provision for an appeal from the decision of the PostmasterGeneral, the danger is there.
– In my secondreading speech I indicated that there would be the right of appeal to a judge of the High Court.
– The Minister’s assurance on this point removes any objection I may have had to the clause in its present form. I again direct attention to the provisions of clause 28, and I suggest that the proposed added impost on magazines as against weekly publications be reconsidered.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 4487) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I realize that this measure is a necessary corollary of the Post and Telegraph Bill which has just been under discussion. It will be necessary to pass this measure in order to protect the public revenue. As it contains no debatable matter, I have no Opposition to offer to it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
At the request of my leader I ask honorable senators to come prepared on Wednesday next to finish the discussion on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280504_senate_10_118/>.