15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chairat 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate as to when telephonic communication between the mainland and Tasmania is likely to he restored ?
– I regret that I am unable to inform the honorable senator exactly. A vessel which the Government has under charter for the purpose of preserving the cable has been despatched fully equipped and ready to deal with the matter. It is assumed that some craft taking cover from the gales that word prevalent in Bass Strait during the week, dragged a portion of the cable and interfered with it in some way or other. Every effort is being made to have repairs effected as speedily as possible. If I receive any advice either this evening or to-morrow I shall communicate with the honorable senator.
– I bring up the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and move -
That the paper be printed.
At the last meeting of the committee, a resolution was carried unanimously expressing appreciation of the invaluable service rendered tothe committee by retiring Senator J. G. Duncan-Hughes. The committee also placed on record its appreciation of the excellent services of Mr. Edwards, who had filled the position ofsecretary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SenatorFOLL. - On the 22nd June, SenatorCollett asked the following questions, uponnotice: -
What is theauthorized establishment, by ranks, ofthe Australian Staff Corps forthe year1937-38?
Was financial provision to meet thecost ofthat, establishment included in the Appro- priation Act of the year mentioned? 3.Didthe appropriation alsocoverthat amount oftheannual increment ofpay in eachrankand appointment oftheauthorized establishment?
Are thereany vacancies in the establishment; ifso, why have not the requisite appointments and promotions beenmade inorderto fill suchvacancies?
Haveany annual increments of pay, which may havebeen due,been withheld; if so, why?
The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answersto the honorable senator’s question : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s question : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.Referring to the reply toaquestionby SenatorBrown somemonths ago in which it was stilted that the wireless plant at Laverton was rapidlybecomingobsolete - Has this plant been displaced byan up-to-date wireless plant or is it still in use? 2.If still in use is it the intention of the Defence Department to lay down amodern wireless plantatLaverton in the near future?
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The reply to the honorable senator’s questions is, that a substantial proportion of the obsolete plant has been replaced and the remainder of the new equipment is in process of being installed.
Debate resumed from 22nd June(vide page 2489) on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan -
That the billbe now read a second time.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria) [11.38].- Considering this bill from a national viewpoint, I am first impressed by the fact that, in the discussions both hore and in the House of Representatives, too much attention has been paid to small grievances, or small alterations and additions, rather than to the magnitude of the measure, its purpose, the obligations of the Commonwealth and tax- payers generally under it, and its likely benefits. If, in the opinion of honorable senators generally and of the public of Australia, the obligations are likely to outweigh the benefits, they have a right to object to it; but if, on the other hand, the effect on the national and social wellbeing of the people, by reason of the benefits to be conferred, will be sufficiently great to warrant the assumption of those obligations, well and good. We must have in our mind a clear picture of both the responsibilities to bc assumed and the benefits that are likely to accrue. It seems to mc that the financial obligations of the Commonwealth are so great that the closest examination is demanded of the burden that the scheme, if it becomes operative, is likely to impose. The actual cash obligations are the greatest which the Commonwealth has ever undertaken in respect of* a single proposal, with the exception of the expenditure involved in flic prosecution of the war. The initial deficit in respect of health and pensions will amount to no less than £281,000,000. The argument that insured persons will pay the whole cost of the scheme is absurd ; they will be responsible merely for their own contributions. The Commonwealth, which represents the whole of the taxpayers of Australia, will have to find £281,000,000. Certainly, that will be spread over a given number of years, but oven in the beginning the outlay - with ihe alterations that have been made - will bc £1,000,000 a year on the health side, :ind, in respect of pensions, £1,000,000, rising to £10,000,000, at which the amount will be stabilized. I do not think that the people of Australia realize the magnitude of the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth, or that the Labour party appreciates the immensity of the contribution to be made by the Commonwealth, or the expenditure in which it would bc involved were the scheme to be on a non-contributory basis.
From a business viewpoint, the first matter requiring attention is the solvency of the scheme. Should it prove to be not solvent or workable, the benefits to be conferred on insured persons would have to be discontinued. We must ensure the permanency of the scheme. Therefore, the first consideration is, what it will actually cost, and whether the proposed exemptions and other smaller concessions will interfere with its solvency. Any action in either this or the House of Representatives which jeopardized its solvency, would be most dangerous. The next point to be considered is, whether the proposed benefits in respect of social, moral and health welfare, will be equivalent in value to the sacrifices to be demanded of taxpayers in order to ensure the success of the scheme.
I cannot understand the attitude of the Labour party towards the bill. I should have thought that that party would have supported the bill, but they endeavoured to alter it in particular directions, with a view to improving it from their point of view.
– The opposition of the Labour party to a measure, designed primarily to benefit those whom its members are supposed to represent in this Parliament, amazes me. I cannot understand the argument of the Leader oi the Opposition (Senator Collings) that the employee will pay not only his own contributions but also those of the employer. Although J believe that the payment of compulsory contributions by insured persons will engender in them a feeling oi self-respect and security, I do not believe that, in the long run, the insured persons will pay very much of the contributions. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) stated that courage, self-respect and self-reliance are impossible for the persons involved in this bill. Is not that statement an absolute slur on the people whom the Labour party is supposed to represent? I thought, as a matter of fact, that the workers, as a class, had any amount of courage and selfrespect, and therefore it is beyond mc to understand why the honorable senator should say that it is impossible for them to possess those qualities.
– I rise to a point of order. I did not say anything of the kind. I said that it was impossible to develop self-respect and self-reliance in the slums. I cannot allow the honorable senator’s statement to pass without challenge, and I ask that it be withdrawn. I did not say under this bill that courage, self-respect and self-reliance were impossible in the class I represent. I said that it was ridiculous to talk of fostering those qualities simply by compelling people to make compulsory contributions under the scheme. I said that it was impossible to develop courage, self-respect and selfreliance in people who were harassed all the time by want and insecurity which this bill did nothing to remove.
– I took down the honorable senator’s actual words. If. I have misrepresented what he intended to S:I.. I am sorry, but undoubtedly he did make the statement that I quoted. I certainly object to having to withdraw a’ true statement simply because some one takes exception to it. That would be to abrogate all liberty of debate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator has heard the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) state his version of what he said. I ask him to comment upon it as the latest presentation of his views.
– There is not much difference, and I accept his explanation of what lie meant to say when he was making his speech.
– I cannot accept that kind of pantomime. I am objecting to his assertion that I made a statement which I did not make, lt is offensive to me, and I demand that it be withdrawn. I do not demand an apology, because the honorable senator cannot insult me. Only my superiors can do that.
– In the absence of a shorthand report of what was actually said, it is impossible to determine the matter exactly. It is a case of “yes “ on one side, and “no” on the other. Therefore, in order that the business of thb Senate may proceed, I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement objected to.
– In conformity with your ruling I withdraw the statement. Will the honorable senator deny that he said also that in future a needy Treasurer would raid the funds?
– I said that there was no safeguard in this bill to prevent a needy Treasurer from raiding the funds, as was done in the case of the Commonwealth Superannuation -Fund.
– The only time that we had a really needy Treasurer in this Parliament was when a Labour Government was in power. Therefore, we may draw our own .inference as to what kind of a Treasurer would be likely to raid the funds. However, the gravamen of the Labour party’s objection to the scheme is that it provides for compulsory contributions. If that is their only objection, then I claim their support for the bill, because, before very long, the insured persons will not be paying anything under the scheme. The full amount of the contributions will be paid by tho employers. The Commonwealth has taken on the obligation of finding tho immense sum of £281,000,000 in order t<> make the scheme solvent. That is a matter for the general taxpayer, but, in essence, the financing of the scheme is a matter between the employers and the employees. It follows that the whole of the contributions, in the first place, will undoubtedly be a burden on industry. I am not referring to manufacturers only, but to all industry, primary and secondary, and what may be called the tertiary, or distributing, industries. The burden will, in many instances, be passed on to the general public, but, before very long, the immediate contributions will, in fact, be made almost entirely by the employer, because the amount of the employee’s contribution, ls. 6d. in the case of men and ls. in the case of women, will be added to the basic wage.
– And the benefits of the scheme will be taken off the basic wage. The honorable senator should not forget that.
– There has been some talk about the legality of this measure.
– Hot the whole measure, but merely the methods proposed to give effect to it.
– I am referring to the question which has been raised regarding the constitutionality of the scheme. The Government was advised to seek the highest constitutional authority in order to determine whether it really had power to put such a scheme into operation. I agree that there is doubt regarding the legality of clause 18S, which purports to instruct the Arbitration Court, State Wages Boards and State industrial tribunals of all kinds, that if they take into account in fixing the basic wage the contributions of persons under the scheme, they must also take into account the benefits which insured persons will derive from it. In this clause the Commonwealth seeks to coerce the State wagefixing tribunals. I am not a legal man, but it seems to me that the clause has no legal significance whatever, and its insertion in the bill is merely an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the employers. It purports to do something which the Commonwealth has no legal power to do. I do not think that it would be possible in this legislation to give instructions even to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, let alone the State authorities.
– The provision can have no practical effect.
– Of course not. The judges of the Arbitration Court are free agents. They fix the basic wage as they think fit, and they need not even state any reasons for what they do. Therefore, clause 1S8 is merely a pious aspiration by the framers of the bill, and, in actual practice, it will not have tho slightest effect whatever, unless the judges happen to accept its suggestion when they arc framing the basic wage. I repeat, therefore, that eventually, if not immediately, the contributions of insured persons under the scheme will be regarded as a legitimate addition to the basic wage, and finally the employers will be paying the whole of the contributions, aird the employees will bo paying nothing.
Some of the employers are in a bad way financially at the present time. Many small farmers and small shopkeepers, who employ one or two persons, are themselves not earning as much as the basic wage, and the provisions of this measure will bear hardly upon them. I have said that, eventually, the cost of the contributions will be borne by employers, but, if the employers are business men, they will pass on the cost if they are able, and probably between 67 and 10 per cent, of it- will, in fact, be passed on. This will have to be taken into account by the Tariff Board when it i3 deciding how much protection Australian industry requires against outside competition from sources where industry does not have to bear a similar burden. The taxpayers and consumers of Australia have to consider what their obligations under the bill will be. If they understand the bill and look at it from my point of view, they will say to themselves, “ We have to accept this obligation. It will cost us so much, and taxation will go up accordingly; but we believe that it will be of such tremendous national benefit to Australia that we ought to accept even such heavy obligations.” I recognize that the obligations of the public will be stupendous.
I want to reply to two or throe points raised during the debate. Senator Duncan-Hughes referred to the pooling of the surpluses of approved societies, and expressed a fear that the provision for pooling would act as a deterrent to safe and sound management. But is there not another possibility? Might there not be a tendency to avoid extravagance in administration so as not to be under the necessity of receiving funds from others who are more efficient? I do not think that, by and large, there is very much to be feared from the effect of the provision. I believe that in some cases certain privileged societies which, by the nature of their businesses, have to take less risk than other societies, will be able to build up larger surpluses. It would not be fair if the persons insured through such societies were permitted to enjoy advantages of which other groups were deprived. The Government has acted wisely in providing that after a number of years there shall be some pooling of funds. Pooling may even lead to meanness in administration.
– Which may result in increased benefits.
- Senator J. B. Hayes complained that, in view of the low wages of apprentices, the bill would place a heavy burden on them and their employers. I do not know what apprentices’ wages are in Tasmania, but I know what ti icy arc in Victoria, and assume that they are practically the same in New South Wales. Every one knows that they advance quickly until they become about two-thirds of the adult artisan wage. The basic wage is £4 a week, and apprentices receive, in the last two years of their apprenticeship, about £3 a week. Most apprentices in Australia, except in their first year, will be quite able to bear the burden of the contributions.
I shall reserve, until the bill is in committee, any further remarks I have to make on its clauses. While I recognize the enormous obligations which the scheme will place on the public, I also recognize the tremendous advantages it will confer on the workers - advantages that cannot be denied to them any longer. The bill will have a markedly beneficial social effect on the workers, and it is because I believe that it will help them mentally, morally, and physically, that I urge the Senate to pass it. We, in Parliament, are sitting almost as a board of directors to deal with this scheme on the business side. We have to see that it is made safe and solvent, so “that the benefits will not in future be lessened or taken away. Personally, I feel that in time the benefits will grow. With a few years of experience, we ought to bc able to add further benefits.
Senators have received hundreds of letters from adherents of the Christian Science Church who have conscientious objections to subscribing anything for health benefits for themselves or, strange to say, for any one else. They say that it would be against their religious convictions to make such payments. I understand that an amendment will be moved to meet those objections. Out of curiosity, I made an analysis of the letters I have received. I found that at least 70 to 75 per cent, of them were’ from women, and I judged by where the letters came from that not 10 per cent, of the writers of them would be insured persons under the scheme. I also concluded that about 40 to 45 per cent, would be employers, and thus liable to pay contributions. The amendment proposed by these people will not bring about what they desire, because the 50 per cent, who are employers will still have to make compulsory contributions, which means that they will have to pay something towards providing health benefits for others. I support these people in their conscientious objection, but I do not think that the amendment they propose will solve their problem. The question is, can we relieve the employers of their obligations just because they happen to be Christian Scientists?
– They are not asking for that.
– I know they are not asking for it, but logically they should. More of them will be paying for medical benefits than will escape paying for them. Because the suggested amendment would relieve employees, but not. employers, it is inconsistent, and I cannot see any virtue in it. I cannot conceive that the Senate would agree to the exemption of employers.
– Was not a similar amendment accepted, almost word for word, in British Columbia?
– I do not think so. If we agree that Christian Scientists should be exempt because they hold certain religious beliefs, we must, to be consistent, lend a favorable ear to a lot of other claims for exemptions on moral, religious, or other grounds. There are many people who do not believe in taxation, and many who do not believe in making provision for national defence.
– Some employ experts to dodge taxation.
– The Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to dodge his responsibility by opposing this scheme. He is seeking to enable the workers to dodge just payment for the benefits they will receive. There are many who are opposed to expenditure of large sums of money for defence purposes, but they are not allowed to avoid their irrigations to contribute towards the »-it of our defence system. The numbers of the Christian Science denomination, who object on religious grounds to being brought under this bill, cannot evade their obligation to contribute towards a scheme that will benefit other members of tho community. The solvency of the scheme mUst be assured.
When the Treasurer and prominent government officers and oversells experts first undertook to formulate this proposal, they must have been appalled by its magnitude. The Government must have great faith in the Australian people and in the loyalty of its supporters, otherwise it would not have launched such a gigantic scheme, involving as it does heavy expenditure and enormous responsibilities. I congratulate the government upon its earnest attempt to protect not only the health, but also the physical and moral well-being of the Australian people. X am glad to learn that provision has been made to protect the rights of pensioners in that pensions cannot be assigned in any way. Had that protection not been afforded we would Iia ve found, as has been found in respect of invalid, old-age and war pensions, that in time of extreme need pensions had been assigned to others. I congratulate iiic Government upon the courage it has displayed in bringing the bill before Parliament, and, although the cost to the taxpayers will be heavy, I believe that r.he .people will realize that the Government has done a good job, and that eventually the scheme will be of inestimable benefit to a vast majority of the Australian people.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [12.19”. - I followed the plain and comprehensive speech of the Leader of the Senate with a good deal of interest. I congratulate the Minister - it- is in regard to this measure about the only bouquet I can offer him - upon the fact that lie introduced the bill in his own eloquent language, instead of adopting the usual practice of reading a speech that had been delivered in the House of Representatives on the same bill. I regard! that as an indication of the honorable gentleman’s good leadership, and of a desire on his part to uphold the dignity of .the Senate, and to ensure that it shall be restored to its rightful position under our Constitution. The Minister’ dealt at some length with the manifold advantages of the scheme, such as medical and disablement benefits, sick pay and pensions, that will be available to those fortunate enough to come under it. As I listened to the Minister, I wondered - my wonderment has increased ever since this measure was introduced iti the House of Representatives - why small farmers, graziers, small land-holders, storekeepers and other self-employed persons, who comprise the most important section in Australia’s economic life, have been excluded. I refer more particularly to those living in outback country areas many of whom arc struggling against adversity in an endeavour to make a frugal living on the land. Whyshould they be excluded from the benefits of this scheme, while at the same time, as taxpayers, they will be compelled to contribute towards the benefits of others? There is no justification whatever for this extraordinary omission. I have perused the policy speeches delivered before the last general election by the leaders of the political parties supporting the Government, in which a scheme of national insurance was forecast, but I find no mention of the exclusion of small farmers, graziers, storekeepers and others. Why should this important section of the community be deprived of the right to participate in the benefits enjoyed by others? Dressmakers and others conducting small businesses, while not receiving any benefits themselves from the scheme, will have to contribute towards the cost of benefits for their employees. I attended many political meetings during the last general election campaign in Western Australia, and assisted not only the Senate team of which you, sir, were so distinguished and popular a member, but also candidates of the United Australia party and Country party for the House of Representatives. - In the speeches I heard at political meetings or over the air, no suggestion was made of the introduction of a national insurance scheme under which hardworking primary producers, while not benefiting themselves, would have to contribute towards the cost of providing benefits for others. Under the heading of “ Health “, the Australian Country party’s platform provides for -
A contributory scheme of national insurance against old age, casual sickness, invalidity, maternity and accident.
They are very desirable objects, which, would appeal particularly to residents in country districts. Producers and others living at a long distance from centres of. population, would be very anxious to be brought under the provisions of legislation based on that desirable and comprehensive plank of - the Country party’s platform, which does not suggest a scheme of national insurance to benefit merely a majority of those resident in’ the cities and towns to the exclusion of those living in the rural areas. I would be surprised to learn that any member of the Country party or its supporters ever interpreted that plank to mean a scheme such as this. That plank in the platform of the Australian Country party conveys to my mind at least that any national insurance scheme sponsored by the Country party would afford protection to those who produce 97 per cent, of the commodities we export, and who” form the real backbone of Australia’s stability. Why should the primary producers be expected to provide benefits for those who work under more favorable conditions in cur sheltered secondary industries? Sir Earle Page, when Treasurer in the BrucePage Government in 192S, introduced a bill to provide for national insurance on a comprehensive scale; but, unfortunately, the Government of which lie was a member was defeated before the bill could be passed. The succeeding Government, led by the right honorable member for Yarra (.Mr. Scullin), had sufficient , difficulties with which to contend during the depression period to prevent it from proceeding with legislation dealing with the subject. National insurance has always been dear to the heart of the leader of the Country party, and I believe that had -he been in Australia at present he would have opposed the exclusion of the primary producers from this scheme. In his policy speech delivered at Grafton on the 30th September, 1937, he said -
Under the scheme proposed by the Government, approximately 2,000,000 people would bo insured, and taking dependants into consideration the total number of people to benefit would be in the vicinity of 3,000,000.
Under this measure benefits will be provided for 1,850,000 persons; but wives and families will be excluded from medical benefits, and dependants come only very slightly into the measure to the extent pointed out by the Leader of the Senate in his very lucid speech. I cannot help thinking that the present measure is less national in its character than that proposed by the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) in his policy speech, since the latter obviously intended to cover the wives and families of insured persons totalling 3,000,000, as compared with 1,850,000 people to be covered by the provisions of the measure now before the Senate. It seems to me that this measure has been introduced largely because the rising cost of invalid and old-age pensions is regarded as conveying a threat to national solvency. In 1928, the pensions bill of the Commonwealth was £8,250,000; this year it is estimated to reach nearly £16,000,000. In 1909-10, there were 65,492 pensioners and the pensions bill amounted to £1,497,330 ; to-day, there are 311,000 pensioners and the total pensions bill is estimated at £15,850,000, or more than ten times the cost at the inception of the scheme. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has estimated that, on the present rate of increase, the number of pensioners in 1978 will reach 625,000, and that the pensions bill will be £32,000,000, a greater amount than Australia has any prospect of being able to afford at that time. These figures show the need for a real scheme of national insurance which will be just and equitable in its incidence, particularly so far as the persons engaged in the primary industries - farmers, graziers and, particularly, small farmers - are concerned. After the long debates that have taken place in the House of Representatives on. this measure, and the very comprehensive speech of the Leader of the Senate in introducing it to this House, I do not propose to review the whole of the features of the bill; I wish, however, to refer to some of the anomalies disclosed by a study of the measure, which, in my opinion, show an utter disregard, if not a wilful neglect, of the interests of the men and women on the land, who are the mainstay of Australia’s stability and prosperity, and the producers of all our real wealth. This measure covers wageearners of the Commonwealth in receipt of incomes up to £365 per annum; but the whole of the farmers of Australia are entirely excluded from its benefits. As a representative of a primary producing State, I refuse to accept as a national scheme any proposal which denies to farmers earning up to £365 per annum the same benefits at the same cost as are to be provided for city wage-earners on a similar income. The benefits of this measure are denied to the farming community and other small employers, many of whom have no taxable incomes at ail and have to work hard for long hours in order to wrest a frugal existence from the soil. I regret that this Government, which I would like tobe able to support, because the Country party is included in its composition, should have brought forward a scheme of national insurance which affords no protection whatever to those Australian farmers whose income corresponds to that of wage-earners who are to enjoy the benefits of this measure. Until this bill exempts from payments in respect of their employees, small employers and those small farmers, I intend to oppose it. I intend to move in committee an amendment which will exempt from contributions, in respect of their casual employees, all farmers whose taxable income is less than £208 per annum. We have recognized that principle in other respects. It was embodied in the legislation providing for the payment of the wheat bounty. For at least one harvest only those farmers who had no taxable income were eligible to receive it. It was found, however, that the bounty had to be paid to the majority of the wheat farmers in Australia. No administrative or other difficulties arose in connexion with the payment of the bounty; a wheat farmer simply applied to the Taxation Department for a certificate to the effect that he had no taxable income, and an application lodged with the proper authority, supported by that certificate, entitled him to participate in the bounty. Since the farmers of Australia are to get no benefits under this measure, the least we can do to assist them is to say that those in receipt of a taxable income not exceeding £208 per annum - that is a very low figure, and I should prefer a higher one - shall not be expected to contribute to the national insurance fund in respect of their employees, many of whom are employed only casually. When this Parliament has recognized the position of the wheat farmers during successive years by the granting of bounties only to those who have no taxable income, surely that measure of consideration should be repeated in this measure. It is surprising to calculate the number of people on the land, in small scattered rural homes in Australia, who are excluded from any benefits under this measure, but, at the same time, will be expected to contribute to the national insurance fund for the insurance of somebody else. These people, in the past, have shown their unselfishness in so many directions that there is no selfishness in their desire to enjoy this particular exemption, which is almost necessary for their continued existence on the land. It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back, and the financial position of one primary industry is at a breaking point. The following statistical tables, compiled from the 1933 census figures, and the 17th report of the Commissioner of Taxation, show the number of farmers, graziers, and others engaged in the agricultural and dairying industries of Australia, and also those who work on their own account, who will be penalized by this measure by being excluded from its benefits, and the number of farmers and pastoralists who paid income tax in the assessment year 1933-34:-
The number and percentage of taxpayers described asFarmers and Pastoralists assessed for Federal Income Tax in 1933-34 (i.e., on income earned in 1932-33), were as follow : The figures given which relate to Resident individuals and companies for Australia as a whole are published in the Seventeenth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation.
This table shows that there are 272,620 independent farming people who may be regarded as supporters of the Country party in politics, and who, therefore, may look to that party to represent them in this Parliament. This bill does not confer the slightest benefit on any one of those 272,620 Australian producers, or - and this is more important - on their wives or families. Though they are excluded from its benefits they will have to pay a contribution for every person they may employ. Of that number 110,450 are classified as employers, the remainder being classified as working on their own account. I have been assured, however, by a courteous officer of the Statistician’s Department that, included in the latter, are many farmers who operate their farms as family concerns. They and their wives and families are just as much entitled to the benefits of this bill as is anybody else. Only by living frugally, and with the assistance of their wives and families, are they able to continue on the land. It is difficult to believethat even these 162,170 farmers, who are classed as working on their own account, do not from time to time employ casual labour. Some of these people will be called upon to contribute directly and all of them will have passed on to them a portion of the cost of the scheme to secondary and other industries.
I oppose the bill because it penalizes every farmer in Australia without con ferring upon him any corresponding benefits. I refuse to accept as a national scheme of insurance one which excludes from any benefits 272,000 persons who are engaged in wresting their living from the soil, and their wives and families - a scheme which, at the same time, levies on many of them contributions which they can ill afford. According to information supplied to me by the Statistician’s Department, only 12,977 of those people pay federal income tax. Thus, 259,643 producers, the sturdy yeomanry upon whom the nation’s stability depends, have no taxableincome, and should, in my opinion, be relieved of the liability to contribute to the insurance fund provided under this measure.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– To be deserving of the name “ national “, which has been attached to this bill, the Government’s proposals should cover the whole of the 272,000 Australian producers who are working on the soil on their own account, or with labour; or at least, it should cover the major portion of them - those whose incomes do not exceed £365 per annum. There are 260,000 small rural homesteads scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and the farmers in charge of them have no taxable incomes, yet they are asked to make contributions towards the insurance fund because of the semi-casual or other labour which they employ. It is proposed that even those with no taxable income shall make the same contribution of1s. 6d. a week for each employee as is proposed for those who will benefit under the scheme. Employees in other walks of life will pay only1s. 6d. a week each for full insurance under this measure, and, in my opinion, the primary producers are entitled to expect equal benefits from this Government for an equal contribution. I reject this measure, because it excludes the small farmers and cultivators of the soil from any of the benefits, and because, once more, it asks the farmers to pay for protection for others that they will not receive themselves. We should consider the state of the farming industry in Australia to-day. It is unable to accept this new burden. When we remember that (1,000 farms in Western Australia alone were abandoned by. their owners during the last few depression years, because they could not make a living on them, bow aro those who have remained on their holdings to pay for the insurance of the labourers whom, at certain seasonal periods, most of them must employ? I know that many small farmers find it difficult to eke out a frugal existence. According to the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, many of them are insolvent, the value of their assets being less than the amount of their liabilities. To compel such men to pay for insurance for others, while they are refused any insurance for themselves, is to inflict on them an injustice which is entirely opposed to Australian sentiment and to which I shall not be a party.
Manufacturers and others will, no doubt, pass on the extra cost to be imposed on them by this measure. The primary producers alone will be unable to recover one penny of the added burden. Many of the farmers are in dire distress, and are much worse off than the employees on whose account they are asked to contribute, both directly and indirectly. The Government should alter the bill qit. the lines of an amendment, which I have foreshadowed, providing that farmers and other small employers whose incomes do not exceed £208 per annum- I should prefer a larger amount to be fixed - should be exempt from the payment of the employer contributions. Some such relief should be given to the people engaged in the great primary industries, which, unlike the secondary industries, aro entirely unsheltered. Many thousands of these producers sell in the open markets of the world, and cannot pass on the costs which they have to meet on account of the tariff, let alone the new burden contemplated in this bill. The wheatgrowers and the wool-growers will be doubly penalized by the measure. They will have to make contributions on behalf of their employees, and will be unable to pass on any portion of the cost of the contributions, when selling their products overseas; but their own costs of. production will be increased, arid they, will carry ti. new burden, in addition to that imposed by the tariff, through having the extra costs passed on ‘ to them, in consequence of this legislation, by manufacturers and others engaged in secondary industries. 1 repeat that the farmer will pay for something that he will not receive. He will pay directly and indirectly a large proportion of the cost of this scheme, but he will receive no benefit whatever under it.
I wish to be fair to the Government. I have read in the press that another bill is to be introduced next September to give some insurance, on a voluntary basis, to small employers. It is said that they are to pay 4s. a week, instead of ls. 6d. a week, as proposed under the present bill, and, if they have reached the age of 45 years, they are not to be brought within the scope of the scheme. I noticed that the Minister in his secondreading speech did not refer to the second proposal which has been outlined in the press. This is a most unsatisfactory one, and would not, in return for similar contributions, confer the benefits to be provided under the present measure. I deprecate dealing piecemeal with a scheme that is supposed to be a national one. All proposals under a national health and pensions insurance scheme should be considered simultaneously. I also deprecate the haste with which this measure is being passed in the dying hours of the session, as the Senate is now constituted. This measure will be carried on the votes of senators, who, in many instances, failed to secure re-election at. the polls. Such action is opposed to my ideas of democratic government. Australia’s greatest democrat. Sir Isaac Isaacs, has expressed a similar view through the press, during the last few days, in regard to the Inter-State Commission Bill, and I am heartily in agreement with him.
– The matter has never been placed before the electors in this way.
– No. The electors of Western Australia were told that this was to be a national scheme of insurance. When Government candidates addressed large gatherings of farmers, we were not in a position to inform them that they would be called upon to contribute to the cost of this scheme, although they would not come under it. We never dreamt that the Government’s bill would be so manifestlyunjust.
The producers of Australia, as a class, will be unfairly penalized by this measure, under which, whilst excluded from the benefits of the bill, they will contribute towards the cost of their employees’ and other people’s employees’ insurance, and will also pay a heavy part of the cost of the contributions of the manufacturers, merchants, and distributors engaged in secondary industries. The cost of production will be increased in Australia, and a burden second only to that of the tariff will be placed on the already overloaded backs of the primary producers in our export industries, who now have the utmost difficulty in finding markets overseas. The organized primary producers of at least three States, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, have already expressed varying measures of opposition to this bill in its present form. I have before me a copy of a letter sent by the Queensland Council of Agriculture to the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, which states -
The Queensland Council of Agriculture, which represents tho whole of the organized farmers of this State, is deeply concerned with the legislation now before the Federal Parliament dealing with national insurance.
While the council is favourably disposed towards a national scheme which would include all income earners and which would deal equitably with all concerned, it desires to draw attention to the unfair advantage which apparently, judging from tho information given by the Treasurer when presenting the bill, would be experienced by tho farming community if the measure be passed in its present form.
It is a recognized fact that the average fanner does not make a net earning equal to that of the basic wage, and this is substantiated by the last annual report of tho Commissioner of Taxes in this State, which discloses that of the 20,000 or more dairy farmers in Queensland only 717, or one in every 28, earned, incomes from personal exertion and/or property sufficient to be taxed for State income tax purposes. Yet there does not appear to be any provision whereby this class of worker can receive any benefits from the scheme.
It does seem, however, that his already unremunerative income will be further taxed by having to subscribe ls. Od. per week for each employee he may engage.
Whilst other sections of industry are already discussing ways and means of passing on this extra expense in the cost of commodities or services, the- primary producer in many cases will be unable to do so and, presumably, will have to bear not only the full expense of the direct contribution, but also the added cost of his requirements.
I have to say, therefore, that my council would be pleased to get an assurance either that the conclusions arrived at regarding the provisions of the bill are incorrect and that it caters for the farmer equitably with other workers, or alternately, that the position will be reviewed and that he will be given the consideration which is his duc.
The Parliamentary Country party of Queensland has also passed a motion strongly opposing and condemning this measure. In the last issue of The Land is a report pointing, out that the heavy burden to be placed on the primary producer, because of the introduction’ of the Commonwealth Government’s health and pensions insurance scheme, was stressed by speakers at a meeting of the executive of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association of New South Wales. A motion, on the lines of an amendment which I propose to submit, was carried as follows -
That wo ask the Government to exempt from liability, under the national insurance scheme, small employers whose income docs not exceed the basic wage in the respective States, without penalizing their employees.
Pew organizations of producers in the Commonwealth have been more consistent in their general support of this Government in the past than has the Western Australian Primary Producers’ Association, with which I have the honour to be associated, but this measure asks too much of it. At a recent meeting of the political and general executive of Sio organization, which represents the farmers of Western Australia, the strongest opposition was expressed to this bill on the ground that the farmers are unfairly treated under the proposed legislation. The following motion was passed by the general executive, and endorsed by the political executive of the organization: -
As the Federal Government hae not yet made adequate provision for the rehabilitation of the wheat and wool industries, we cannot support the national insurance scheme, which must impose added costs upon those already overburdened industries.
The parliamentary leader of the organization, the Honorable C. G. Latham,
M.L.A., i6 not only the leader of the Country party in Western Australia, but also the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of that State. In the full reports published in the primary producers’ newspaper, many of the arguments that I have used to-day in opposition to this measure, have been set out, and the reports have not disclosed, nor has the correspondence that I have received from Western Australia shown, that a single farmer in that State supports this bill. I admit that, in advanced countries, it is recognized that there should be a proper system of national insurance, but the present proposal of the Government stands condemned because of the contributions to be levied on small farmers, the large majority of whom have no taxable income, and are unable in their present distressed circumstances, to meet the cost of the scheme. It stands condemned also because the farmers as a class. are unjustly excluded from benefits.
The Minister for Defence, Mr. Thorby, visited Western Australia some time ago, in order to inquire into the necessity for a grant for those who had suffered from drought for two or three years, but the farmers did not receive any grant as the result of the Minister’s visit and inquiries. The farmers of Western Australia have decided, through their political organization, that t-hey are not prepared to act as wood and water “ joeys “ for the rest of Australia, as far as this scheme is concerned. Farmers with small incomes should not pay the employers’ contributions. Farmers and other producers earning less than £365 a year should receive the benefits of the bill for the .same contribution, namely, ls. 6d. a week, as the wage-earner with a similar income. I regard these two points as vital, and intend to vote against the measure unless those two conditions are unequivocally met.
Showing the distressed state of the wheat industry, and its inability to bear any portion of the burden of this bill, I quote from pages 99 and 100 of the second report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry the following table, which gives an estimate of the total debtsof wheat-growers alone, throughout Aus tralia, at the date of the publication of the report: -
The commission has considered it desirable to segregate the debts of the wheat-growers under main headings according to the class of creditor.
The following table gives the analysis of the total debt “of £151,459,270:-
Other sections of our primary producers are almost as badly off in respect of the heavy debts they carry. As the result of this report, the Government at the 1934 election promised to provide £20,000,000 in respect of farmers’ debt adjustment, and the following very attractive advertisement appeared at that time in the Western Australian press : “ Cash this on the date of the election - £20,000,000 for distressed farmers, (signed) Lyons and Page “. From the form of that advertisement, the farmers were entitled to infer that this amount of money would be paid in cash by the Government were it returned to office. On its re-election, however, the Government asked Parliament to approve of the expenditure of only £12,000,000 in this respect. That, of course, was a generous amount, and I would give the Government full credit for going to that extent had the amount been paid. Had that amount been made available quickly in cash, the whole of the rural industries of this country could have been rehabilitated, but I am sorry to say that up to the 12th May last, when I asked a question on the subject in the Senate, a sum of only £4,103,000 - a fairly substantial sum, I admit - has been disbursed. For the coming financial year the Government can find only £2,000,000 of the balance for which parliamentary approval has been given for this purpose, as compared with the provision of £2,500,000 for the current financial year, whilst we do not know when the balance of £6,000,000 is to be provided. The Government cannot yet find this large sum which Parliament has authorized for farmers’ debt relief. In these circumstances, how can the farmers of Australia, who are already overburdened with debt, be expected to carry the additional burdens represented by their contributions to this scheme, particularly when, as a class, they will receive no benefit from it whatever ?
That is the gravamen of my charge against the Government in respect of this measure. As the Senate is now constituted, the bill will probably be passed by this chamber, and, that being so, the best we can do is to endeavour to improve the scheme. With that object in view, .1 propose to move amendments in order to give relief to those 260,000 farmers who have no taxable income, or whose income is less than £208 annually.
I wish now to deal with the proposal to compel subscribers to existing superannuation and similar welfare schemes to pay contributions under this scheme. No one doubts the financial stability of existing benefit schemes organized in connexion with such institutions as banks and insurance companies, under which subscribers are entitled to benefits exceeding in value those to be provided under this scheme. In this respect, I have received quite a large number of telegrams from interested persons who wish to be allowed to carry on their .existing schemes, with which they are entirely satisfied. From an officer of one of the leading banks in Perth, I received the following telegram : -
Western .Australian staff request you to use your influence in excluding bank officers from provisions National Insurance Bill. Staff fully satisfied with own pension fund.
In this respect I hope that in committee honorable senators will accept the amendment foreshadowed by SenatorDuncanHughes in his very interesting speech last night. The present satisfactory schemes under which bank employees contribute in respect of pension benefits should not be interfered with any more than those affecting permanent government employees. The benefits provided under these existing pension schemes are equal, if not superior, to those proposed under this scheme, and therefore, I urge the Government not to interfere with the contributors to such funds, many of whom obviously cannot afford to pay to two insurance schemes.
Like other honorable senators I have been requested by the Christian Science Church to support the following amendment of this measure in order to enable members of that church to conform with their religious beliefs by being excluded from this scheme in respect of medical benefit : -
Where an employee, otherwise within the scope of this act, makes an application for exemption and establishes to the satisfaction of the commission hy certificate from a duly constituted Christian Science branch church or society that he is a member or adherent iti good standing of such brunch church or society, the commission shall grant him n certificate of exemption from those provisions of this act which relate to medical benefits, but such certificate may be cancelled at tin; request of the said grantee.
As this proposal seems to be justified, I shall support it.
In respect of the medical side of the measure much dissatisfaction has already been expressed, not only by members of the British Medical Association, but also by residents of remote country districts in Western Australia, who are afraid that this scheme will make it even more difficult for them than is the case at present to retain doctors in their midst. Even with the aid of substantial subsidies from the State Government, remote communities in Western Australia have found it very difficult, since the depression, to attract medical doctors to settle among them. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will inform me whether or not such fears are justified. In any case, I have received numerous telegrams from residents in important country districts in Western Australia, pro- testing against the Government’s proposal in this respect. One telegram reads as follows : -
National insurance entirely unsuitable as now proposed. Will have effect of driving away country medical practitioners. Northern District Hospital’s Association. Adam, Acting Secretary. Wyalkatchem.
On behalf of the . Roads Board, - Dowerin, the following telegram was sent to me: -
Inform till Western Australian representatives enter strong protest conditions national insurance bill affecting country hospitals and doctors. Suggest withdrawal present measure and Framing new clauses protecting these interests in collaboration with country representatives.
And from the Primary Producers Association District Council, in the north-eastern area of the wheat belt, I received the following telegram: -
Combined meeting Primary Producers’ Association and Wheat Growers’ Union here yesterday carried resolution emphatic protest resent proposals national insurance. Objection tei exclusion farmers and self-employed persons. Medical benefits must include whole families. Country doctors definitely will not remain in districts under present unsatisfactory pro posals. Government promise of future amendments not acceptable. Show this message all Westralian representatives and senators, please.
I notice that the Government has undertaken to refer the matter _ of fees to bc paid to doctors, including members of tho British Medical Association, for investigation by a royal commission. Doctors in country districts ave now doing excellent work, and 1 know from personal experience that their services are invariably at the disposal of any one who needs them, whether or not the patient is in a position to pay. I recall that on the death recently of a very popular doctor with a large practice at Narrogin in Western Australia, where he worked night and day for the benefit of the community, Iiia family was left in a difficult financial position owing to the fact that debts to him amounting to thousands of pounds were outstanding.
– That doctor would have welcomed a. scheme of national i insurance
– I do not think so. The point I stress is that the large majority of the people whom a doctor in such a district would be called upon to attend do not come under the provisions of this scheme. If the farmers and producers, and small settlers in this well populated district were brought under this scheme, the honorable senator’s contention would possibly be correct. That is what I want the Government to do. My objection to this bill is that it has not done so. I notice, however, that the whole subject of medical benefits and payments, with which I do not intend to deal at any length, i3 to be referred to a royal commission. The Government has acted wisely in making this decision, but it would have acted more wisely still had it proceeded no further with the bill until the report of the commission had been made available. That would have made possible the incorporation in the measure of any recommendations relating to the British Medical Association and other medical practitioners which the commission saw fit to make. If the Government desires to act fairly by the medical practitioners, especially those practising in the outlying parts of Australia, it will have to increase considerably the payments proposed in the agreement with the British Medical Association. As things are, we are being requested to pass a bill without knowing what it will cost the public in respect of one of its most vital sections, namely, the provision of scientific, professional and medical services. This is important, even though, unfortunately, most of the people resident in our outback rural areas are not to be covered in that regard. I wish to see proper payment made . to the medical practitioners who will be called upon to assist in the carrying out of this measure, if and when it becomes law.
I wish to refer briefly to the attitude of the women of Australia to the bill. In Western Australia, and, in fact, in all the States of the Commonwealth, the women have taken .a very great interest in this measure, and have expressed their views very forcibly upon the degree of sex discrimination inherent in the scheme. A conference of women was held in Western Australia on the 8th June last, at which the following women’s organizations were represented: The National Council of Women, the Abolition of Poverty Campaign Council, the Girls Friendly Society, the Labour “Women’s Organization, the Mothers Union, the Women Christian Temperance Union, the Women’s Section of the Primary Producers Association, the Australian Federation of Women Voters, and the Women’s Service Guilds of Western Australia Incorporated. The conference carried three brief motions protesting against various provisions of this bill. I ask permission to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I believe Senator Collett referred to those resolutions in his speech yesterday.
– In that case I shall not press my request. I point out, however, that the conference expressed keen disappointment that the Federal Government had not seen fit to introduce a measure of national insurance applicable to citizens in general, as has been done in no less than 30 countries in the world. The women emphatically protested against the bill, inasmuch as it embodied in its provisions sex discrimination, non-provision of medical benefits for wives and children, and discrimination in old-age pensionsas between men and women. The conference also complained that the measure was sectional, and not national, in its application, and considered that the hill should recognize -
The conference was not prepared to accept the amendment which the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, announced in the House of Representatives, that an employed woman who had been a contributor before marriage should have the option to contribute1s. 6d. a week in order to qualify for an old-age pension of 20s. a week at the age of 60 years. Objection was taken to the optional character of this suggestion, and also to the anomaly it created by not covering women for sickness and disablement as an equal contribution covered men. It was pointed out, too, that no provision had been made in the bill for widows, numbering, at the last census, 89,000, who are unemployed. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Senate for its consideration. The conference called upon the Senate to delay the passage of the bill until members of the Parliament had had an opportunity to return to their various States to discuss the measure with their constituents, or, alternatively, to reject the bill. It also strongly protested against the provisions of clause 76 (3), which raised moral objections to certain women.
– They could have left that unsaid.
– That is their protest, and I support it in every respect. Those are not the only protests I have received from women electors. Only yesterday honorable senators from Western Australia received a telegram which indicated that even the latest proposals of the Government were entirely unsatisfactory. This communication, which was from Mrs. Olive Evans, chairman, Women’s Campaign Committee, Perth, read -
Women of Western Australia emphatically protest against inequalities and injustices national insurance measure; strongly urge vote defeat of bill on grounds sex discrimination, limited application, inadequate benefits, and forgotten mothers.
It must be evident, from what I have read and said, that this measure is not acceptable to fully representative gatherings of every description of women’s organizations in Western Australia. The position of women under the bill is entirely unsatisfactory. Western Australia, the State which you, Mr. President, and I, have the honour to represent in this chamber, led all the other States in giving votes to women. Moreover, the social legislation of that State has always been directed towards giving women equal status with men.
– That subject is some distance from the subject-matter of the bill.
– I respectfully submit, sir, that it is not. I point out that the State of Western Australia has always sought in its legislation to observe sex equality, whereas the Commonwealth Government has departed from that principle in this bill.
– This is a bill for social insurance, and not an electoral bill.
– I am aware of that fact, but in the social legislation of Western Australia, an endeavour has been made to preserve sex equality.
– The honorable senator will be in order in referring incidentally to that matter, but he may not overload the debate with extraneous matter.
– I defer to your ruling, and shall not continue that argument, except to say that I support tho protest that the women of Western Australia have made in regard to the provisions of this bill. Their communications certainly strengthen my opposition to the measure in its present form. I shall vote against the second reading of this measure, and unless my wishes are unexpectedly complied with at the committee stage, I shall vote against the third reading of the bill.
Whilst I cannot support the measure, I appreciate the work done by the Treasurer, Mr. Casey, and other members of the Government. I refer ‘particularly to the Leader of the .Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) who has put the measure, Avith all its manifest imperfections, clearly, lucidly, and eloquently before the Senate. Sir Walter Kinnear and Professor Brigden have shown great courtesy in explaining the bill to honorable senators. I have a strong feeling, however, that Sir Walter Kinnear’s experience of national insurance in Great Britain, a country with a congested industrial population, has not altogether fitted him to propose a suitable measure of national insurance for Australia, a country of huge distances, sparse population and unsheltered primary industries in which the people have to produce wheat, wool and other products for sale in the open markets of the world. Sir Walter Kinnear has given us great assistance and advice, but I am sure that the very different conditions prevailing in Great Britain imposed on him a superhuman task to make suggestions to meet our particular and varying circumstances.
I oppose the bill because it is unjust to the women of Australia, and imposes upon the residents of the country districts of the Commonwealth, and particularly those in primary-producing areas, a burden which they will be unable to carry. The farming population of this country has unwillingly, but unselfishly, carried the incubus of the tariff; it cannot afford to carry, either directly or indirectly, the financial responsibility of this tattered form of partial and sectional insurance under which it will receive no benefits whatever and in respect of which it is once more being called upon to pay the piper without having any say whatever in calling the tune.
I am willing and anxious to support a real system of national insurance, but the 272,000 farmers, graziers and rural producers of the Commonwealth must be included within its protection and benefits. A scheme which, in a primaryproducing and exporting country like Australia, excludes a quarter of a million primary producers and farmers from its benefits, cannot truthfully be called national in its incidence.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches made on this important national subject. Senator Johnston read more telegrams and messages on the bill than any previous speaker. If we take notice of all the letters and telegrams we receive and allow our judgment to be warped by them, we shall finish up with a very s.trange bill.
I wish to make a brief reply to some of the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The honorable senator usually sets a good example; but on this occasion, although he asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator A’. J. McLachlan), who had spent 1 hour and 20 minutes in dealing with the hill, to grant an adjournment of the debate, a request which was favorably considered, he himself spent not more than five minutes in criticizing the points raised.
– I rather overdid their importance even then !
– The Senate will, no doubt, express its view on that aspect. The Leader of the Opposition also said that he did not pose as a legal authority, yet he occupied 45 minutes in dealing with legal opinions with the object of making a smoke screen to cloud the real issues. That portion of his speech had no constructive value. The honorable senator admitted that he was not an authority.
– That is so; but he quoted the opinions of men who understood the legal position.
– Both the legal authorities whom he quoted were South Australians. One of them passed to the great beyond many years ago; the other, h. Anstey Wy nos, is now in the employ of the Commonwealth Government.
– Does that make his advice any less valuable?
– It would be interesting to know whether Dr. Anstey Wynes gave to the Leader of the Opposition his considered opinion, or whether the honorable senator formed his own judgment on what he rend in a book written by that gentleman.
– I have never met Dr. Anstey Wynes, but I have read in law journals articles written by him. The extracts which I used were taken from them. I gave the pages and paragraphs.
– Despite its length, the honorable senator’s argument was not convincing. In legal matters the Government is guided by the advice of officers who are held in high esteem by the legal profession throughout Australia. Moreover, the Leader of the Senate is himself a legally qualified gentleman. I am prepared to trust such advice.
Turning from the legal aspect, the Leader of the Opposition objected to the hill being based on the advice of actuaries.
– I did not; I said that the actuarial aspect had overshadowed the claims of social justice.
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition knows what he said. A cardinal principle of any national insurance scheme is that it must be founded on a precise actuarial basis. If the scheme is to remain solvent the contributions and the benefits must be strictly related. I hope that honorable senators who have signified their intention to move amendments will bear that in mind. If we exclude from the operation of this legislation this section and that section, and increase benefits here and there, we shall upset the actuarial soundness of the scheme. Increased benefits necessarily involve additional contributions.
Throughout this debate, as also when the Government’s defence proposals were before the Senate recently, honorable senators opposite have sneered at England. The Leader of the Opposition taunted the Government with having taken, its instructions from Downingstreet, whilst his lieutenant, Senator Brown, asked why this Parliament should be expected slavishly to follow the English system.
– Senator Johnston asked the same question.
– That system was followed because it has been tested and proved over 27 years.
– It is a failure.
– Nonsense; all parties in the Parliament of Great Britain support the principle underlying the scheme of national insurance in operation there. I go so far as to say that the British scheme was followed because it is the best in the world.
– The Government has been slow to follow the example of England.
– Australia is fortunate in having the advice of an expert with experience of national insurance in England. The result is that a wellbalanced measure has been placed before this Parliament. I claim that this legislation provides for the most liberal national insurance scheme in The world. Senator Johnston said that the English experts do not understand Australian conditions, but I say that they had not been in Australia more than a week before they knew more of Australian conditions than do many honorable senators.
– The same may be said of every globe-trotter. .
– I am here to defend experts of whose merit I am convinced.
– Many Australians do not understand Australian conditions until, they have an opportunity to study them.
– I cannot understand the attitude of that section of the Labour party which delights in belittling the Mother Country. I appreciate that country, first because of the crimson thread of kinship that binds us to its people, secondly, for the market which it provides for Australian products, and thirdly—–
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, ruled Senator Johnston out of order when he departed from a strict discussion of the bill. I submit that the honorable senator’s remarks have nothing to do with the measure before the Chair.
– The honorable senator’s remarksare rather distantly connected with the bill, but, when dealing with a measure of such importance, the limits of the debate cannot be measured by a decimal rule. I take it that Senator McLeay referred to the British legislation by way of comparison. 1 ask him not to pursue that line of argument too far, but to confine his remarks to the bill.
– Give the honorable senator a Union Jack and let him wave it !
– In spite of the honorable senator’s jibe, I am proud of the Union Jack. I. ask the honorable senator what would happen to the financial structure of this country if its trade with the United Kingdom ceased?
– If, at the same time, Australia were relieved of the necessity to pay interest to the Mother Country, the loss of trade would not matter much.
– The honorable senator has made another typical outburst. I now ask him what would happen to Australia were it not for the British fleet at Singapore? By attacking the shadow, the Opposition missed the substance of the bill. I noted that several phrases wore usedrepeatedly by honorable senators opposite. Among them were: “Miserable benefits” and “A conspiracy of the rich against the poor “. What a charge to make against a government which is trying to do something to help the 2,000,000 wage-earners of this country! The remarkably illogical statement, “ The workers will pay all the contributions,” was made so often by honorable senators opposite as to call for comment. The soap-box orations of honorable senators opposite might satisfy the unemployable and the unthinking mob—–
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator referred to the Opposition as an unthinking mob. I ask for your protection, Mr. President. .
– I do not think that the honorable senator applied the term to members of the Opposition. Unless Senator Ashley is of the opinion that the remark applied to him personally, and takes objection to it, Senator McLeay may proceed.
– The honorable senator pointed straight across the chamber to where members of the Opposition are sitting. There is no doubt about his meaning.
– I said that such utterances as were made by honorable senators of the Opposition might appeal to the unthinking mob. No honorable senator opposite will deny the use of the expressions to which I have referred, or that, in the view of the Opposition, the whole of the contributions in respect of national insurance will be paid by the workers. Indeed, when I asked one honorable senator to define a worker he said that it meant an employee. I suggest that those employees who have become employers are still workers. I admit frankly that, in my opinion, the contributions by employers to this scheme will be passed on. The contributions of employees will also bo passed on.
– To whom?
– To the consumers.
– Of whom 80 per cent. are workers.
– I refute the stupid statement that the whole of the cost is to be borne by the employee.
– Who said that?
– Labour senators, one of whom was Senator Brown, who said, “ The workers will pay the lot “. It is obvious that the employee will pay a third, the employer a third, and the Commonwealth Government a. third.
– The Commonwealth Government shoves taxation on to the workers to relieve the wealthy.
– I nail the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) down to the statement, “ shoves taxation on to the workers “. The Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Ewing, recently issued an excellent production containing information in relation to the assessment of income taxes,- Commonwealth and State, for the financial year 1937-38. If the Leader of the Opposition is reasonable enough to listen to and to analyse the figures which I am about to read he might withdraw the statement that the workers will have to pay the lot. The following table sets out the total taxes, State and Commonwealth, paid in Queensland - I have chosen Queensland because more than half of the Opposition senators are Queenslanders - on a net income basis for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, by a resident taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children - .
The Commonwealth and Queensland company tax is £215 16s. 8d. on every £1,000 of net income. This amount is based, so far as Queensland income tax is concerned, on a rate applicable to companies, showing a return on capital of from 6 per cent, to 7 per cent. Ordinary companies making a higher percentage of profit are taxed at a higher rate, exceeding 5s. 3d. in the £1. The calculations in the foregoing table are made on the particular net incomes as set out in the respective tables. Prom the not incomes the allowances for dependants and the statutory exemptions have been deducted and the tax shown is that payable on the resultant taxable income.
The table shows that the people who are making money in this country con tribute more than liberally to national insurance. It refutes the argument of the Opposition that the whole of the expense is being borne by the employees. Senator Gibson made the point, by interjection, that those persons who will benefit from national insurance virtually pay no ‘ Commonwealth income tax at all. The taxpayer earning £365 with dependent wife and two children does not pay any federal income tax. That point is worth bearing in mind. I now present a table showing federal tax payments for 1936-37, in groups, as a further proof of my contention -
The last group paid more than one-third of the taxation received. I deny, therefore, that the moneyed men in this country will not contribute to national insurance. I trust that those figures will silence my friends in opposition.
The National Insurance Bill now before Parliament is the result of the most exhaustive examination that the Cabinet and its helpers could have made. The Government has been criticized in the past for not pushing on with a national insurance scheme, and now, when it has brought one forward, it is being criticized for rushing it through.
At this point I desire to pay tribute to Sir Walter Kinnear, Mr. Lindsay and the staff who worked on the bill and gave the Ministry the benefit of their years of experience in national insurance work. Notwithstanding some of the cheap jibes that have been made against Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Lindsay, I want them to go back to England realizing that the great majority of the Australian people consider themselves fortunate to have had their services and advice.
I do not propose to go into the matter raised by Senator Johnston, because that and several other points that have been raised, although they could provoke an interesting discussion at this stage, can more properly be considered in committee. I do, however, desire to make reference to the attitude of some honorable senators, particularly Opposition senators, who tried to find fault—–
– That is our job.
– On the contrary, the job of the Opposition is not merely to find fault, but to offer something constructive. That is what I am trying to do, but honorable senators opposite, by their constant interjections, are doing their best to prevent me. The Labour party of Australia has rendered the greatest disservice to the wage-earners who come within the scope of this bill by its opposition to the bill. I say in all sincerity that members of the party have betrayed the people whom they profess to represent. It is amazing how honorable senators opposite have been carried away by the propaganda of vested interests. Senator Pearce yesterday challenged Senator Brown, who was interjecting, with the question, “Are you in favour of the bill?” Senator Brown replied, “ Yes ; I want to improve it.” Yet, all that the Opposition has done is to do its best to kill the bill.
-Who has tried to kill the bill?
– The Labour party in the House ofRepresentatives voted against the second- and third-readings and its members have shown that they will vote for any amendment which has for its purpose the defeat of the measure. Senator Ashley said that this bill should be considered by the new Senate. With what object? With the object of defeating the bill. If Labour senators try now to make out that they want the bill to be passed, all that I can say is that they are trying to mislead the public. How the Labour party tried to defeat a measure designed to do more for the workers of this country than has ever been attempted in a measure in this Parliament, will go down in history.
I now turn to the part which insurance companies should play in the administration of this scheme. We all agree that the friendly societies have rendered a great service to this country. My friends in opposition have been pleased to lay stress on what they have done. But let us examine some aspects of their posi tion under national insurance. To-day, in round numbers, the friendly societies are catering for 450,000 persons. When this scheme is operative they will be administering approved societies and dealing with more than 1,000,000 persons. The Labour party is not in favour of a contributory scheme of national insurance.
– We are, as regards health benefits.
– I accept the correction. I appreciate highly all that the friendly societies have done for their members, but I contend that the benefits to be given to contributors to this scheme are infinitely greater than it is possible for any friendly society to offer. Furthermore, members of these societies have to pay the full amount of contributions, whereas, under this proposal, employees pay1s. 6d. a week, employers a like amount, and the Government almost onethird of the money necessary to provide the benefits specified. Yet members of the Opposition pretend that wage-earners receive better treatment from friendly societies than they will get under this scheme. I thoroughly approve of the Government’s proposal, and I shall support further legislation to make the scheme as broad as possible. In its present form it will give protection to nearly 2,000,000 people.
– That is not what the actuaries said.
– My statement that the scheme will cover 2,000,000people is near enough for the purpose of my argument, though I am aware that the number specified is somewhat less. 1 repeat that nearly 2,000,000 people will come under the scheme andget benefits from it. An important feature of the proposal is that it will include youths entering industry at fourteen years of age. Their high health standard will give much strength to the fund. To suggest that the benefits to be given under this proposal are not comparable to those given by friendly societies is ludicrous. Labour members who say this will one day be required to answer to the people for misleading them in this matter.
– What about the work of other industrial societies, and the trade unions?
– I appreciate highly the social benefits given to wageearners by trade unions.
– And do not forget the mutual life societies.
– I agree that these societies hare also rendered a very useful service. It was the intention of the Government to include mutual life societies in the list of approved societies to administer the benefits. Much will depend upon the prudent management of these approved bodies. It is hoped that if the fund discloses a surplus it will be possible to extend the benefits to include dental and ophthalmic treatment.
– Why not include such provision in the bill?
– The honorable senator objects to the contributory principle, and asks why we cannot extend the benefits. What a great country this would he if that were possible !
– The Government has forgotten all about health benefits for women.
– The honorable senator and his friends have had much to say about that matter. As a matter of fact, the scheme offers a better investment to women than to men. Female contributors will pay less and qualify for their pensions five years earlier than male contributors. For a time women were under the impression that an injustice was being done to them, but I feel surethat they realize now that much of the criticism which they directed to the proposal was not wholly justified. The more I look at the scheme, and the more I understand its fundamental principles, the more I. appreciate its worth to the employee on the basic wage. We all agree that the man on the bottom rung of the ladder is deserving of all the help that wecan give to him.
An examination of the respective benefits of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme and this national insurance proposal discloses that, from the point of view of the employee, this scheme is infinitely better. I raise this point now because I think that later it may , be necessary to make an adjustment in the interests of all concerned. A Commonwealth public servant in receipt of a salary of £208 a year, contributes to the superannuation fund 4s. 5½d. a week for the units of pension allowable to him under that act. I do not think that any one will seriously contend that he will receive from the superannuation fund benefits equalling three times in value the benefits to be given employees under this national insurance proposal. The more I analyse this scheme, the more convinced am I that for payment of1s. 6d. a week, the contributor will get benefits which it is not possible to obtain under any other similar proposal.
I know that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has little faith in actuaries.
– I never said that.
– At all events I understand that the honorable gentleman is not very much impressed by the argument that this scheme is on a sound actuarial basis. He would prefer a proposal on a sentimental basis. .
– On a basis of social justice.
– On the basis of sickly sentiment - something for nothing - a principle that is opposed to the eternal law of life. It is a good thing for this country that the Leader of the Opposition and his Labour friends are where they are instead of being behind a Labour government. The honorable gentleman directed some criticism to clause 73, which contains the provision relating to the payment of the old-age pension to contributors. Under that clause a man coming into the scheme at 60 years of age, will be in a very advantageous position, because, when he reaches the maximum age, namely, 65 year’s, his total contributions will have amounted to only £15 12s., and if he has made 39 payments in each of the three years immediately prior to attaining the maximum age, he will get a pension of £1 a week as well as free medical treatment and medicine.
– He will deserve it.
– No doubt he will. If that man lives to be 75 years of age he will draw from the fund £520, and if he lives to 85 years, he will receive more than £1,000 for an investment of £15 12s.
– Be fair. The average life of an old-age pensioner is seven years.
– There is nothing unfair in what I have said. However, I accept the statement of the honorable senator and will assume that a contributor will live seven years after attaining the maximum age. What will be his position under the scheme ? During the whole of that time he will receive £52 a year, for a total investment of £15 12s., which I suggest is an excellent return. If the honorable senator thinks otherwise, I invite him to go to any Labour meeting and tell his Labour friends and see what a reception he will get.
Some objection has been raised to the proposed allocation of the contributions, namely,1s. 9d., to the pensions insurance fund, in the case of male employees and 1s. 3d. to the health insurance fund. This is not inequitable, because it has been worked out that, at the age of 32 years, the10½d. representing the employee’s portion of the contribution has a cash value of 5s. 9d. a week, at the age of 42 years a cash value of 9s. 10d., and at 52 years, £1 a week. In view of these figures, how any Labour representative can oppose the bill or vote against it is beyond my comprehension. I can only conclude that he does not understand the scheme.
I was amazed at the argument employed by Senator Brown: The honorable gentleman began his speech with praise for members of the medical profession. “We all acknowledge that they have rendered wonderful service to the people of this country and that their standard of ethics is exceedingly high. I agree with Senator Johnston, who said this afternoon that during the depression very many doctors did not collect one-half of the fees that were due to them. Therefore, I have every admiration for the doctors, but I contend that since it is not competent for the taxpayers to say what taxes shall be levied, the doctors should not have the right to determine what amount should be paid by the insurance commission to them.
– Then why does the Government intend to appoint a royal commission to inquire into that matter?
– It is essential that we should have the fullest support of the medical profession. “We have been told that an arrangement which had been made between the Treasurer and the executive of the British Medical Association was not acceptable to the doctors, so the Government has decided to appoint a commission to make inquiries and submit a proposal which, we hope, will be reasonable and acceptable. If this means an increase of the capitation fee of l1s., I hope the Government will accept it and make the necessary arrangements to satisfy the doctors, because complete co-operation of members of the medical profession is vital to the success of the scheme.
Senator Brown in his speech this afternoon praised the medical profession and immediately afterwards sought to belittle the scheme by suggesting that under the panel system the doctors would fill their patients with medicine. I have a higher appreciation than that of the medical profession. Whether a doctor has 500 or 1,000 persons on his panel under this scheme, it will be in his interests, as well as his duty, to make his patients physically fit as quickly as possible, in order to keep them away from his surgery or consulting room. We know from experience that through neglect or the lack of the necessary means parents have been unable to obtain medical attention for their children, even in respect of ordinary ailments. The part of the scheme which appeals to me very strongly is that which aims at arousing this objective in the ranks of the medical profession, so that disease may be prevented and the trouble of curing it will be avoided.
– We should first deal properly with the mothers.
– The honorable senator is fond of raising extraneous issues. The bill makes provision for mothers. If a wife has the misfortune to lose her husband after he has been insured for two years, and has contributed £7 16s. to the fund, she will receive a widow’s pension until she remarries or until her death, as well as an allowance in respect of her children. That is something which she does not receive to-day. Is it not a step forward ?
– Supposing that the royal commission were toreport that the capitation fee should be, say, 10s., would the honorable senator recommend that doctors should be dragooned into accepting it?
– If the royal commission were to recommend such an amount, the honorable senator would have to afford to me the privilege of using my own judgment; but all things being equal, I cannot see how the Commonwealth Government could recommend a capitation fee higher than was recommended by the commission any more than it could advocate the payment of a wage lower than was recommended by the Arbitration Court. That is my opinion at present. Many persons have lost sight of the fact that, even though a doctor has a panel of 500 or 1,000, he will not be deprived of the right of private practice, but will be able to treat all of those ailments for which provision is not made under the scheme.
– What are they?
– There are numerous other complaints to which a doctor will have to attend. His income will not be confined to that which he receives in respect of his panel of 500 or 1,000 insured persons, but he can rest assured that he will receive payment for that number. It will be in the interest of the medical profession to prevent disease in the early years of life, and thus the standard of physical fitness will gradually be raised, and we- shall have a far healthier nation. Any investment by the Commonwealth for the improvement of the health of our people will pay greater dividends than will money spent in any other direction. In that respect, this scheme has very great possibilities.
It has been suggested by Senator Duncan - Hughes that the bill omits to make provision for very many things. The administration of this legislation will be. enormous, and it will be the duty of those in control of it to deal with the thousand and one points that will arise. We are fortunate in that we shall have the services of men of such outstanding ability as Professor J. B. Brigden, Mr. D. McVey, and Mr. H. C Green. The bill cannot make mention of all the details, and these men must be given sufficient latitude to deal with any problems that may confront them. Problems have arisen in the operation of every national insurance scheme in the world, and have been overcome. They are not insurmountable, and as time goes’ on, they will be overcome in Australia.
This scheme has three cardinal virtues. The virtue of thrift will be inculcated in the boy of fourteen years of age, by his being compelled to contribute. To-day there are 450,000 who are practising thrift by reason of their membership of friendly societies, but in addition, there are 1,500,000 who are not doing the right thing, and it is desirable that they should be compelled to do so in the interests of the national life of this country. The second virtue of the scheme is that its effect will be to improve the health of our people ; and its third virtue is that it will induce self-reliance. An examination of legislation in this country and in other countries during recent years, shows that the tendency of parliaments has been to spoon-feed the inefficient at the expense of the self-reliant and efficient. It is about time we departed from that policy and acted upon what is a fundamental principle of government.
Kefference has been made to the oldage pension. I am in favour of providing a pension at an age at which existence is not possible without it. It has been argued that pensioners are the pioneers of this country. With all due respect, I say that they comprise only a portion of the population. If they are pioneers, in what category are we to place the large number of men and women who, whilst having rendered great service to this country, are not drawing the old-age pension ? They are something more than pioneers; they are the backbone of Australia. If we follow the lines here laid down, we shall have a more thrifty, healthy, and self-reliant race. At the age of 65 years, the pension will be given as a right, and not as a dole. Those who, unfortunately, reach the stage of invalidity, will be cared for by the National Parliament. That is why I am so keen on the bill. I urge honorable senators not to be led aside by the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Johnston. The problem that he has raised should not be brought into this matter. It is an economic problem, and should be dealt with separately in another way. This is a well-balanced, well-moulded, comprehensive scheme. It has been prepared by experts, and on the whole is well worthy of the approval of the National Parliament. Therefore, it has my utmost support.
– I have been very interested in the speeches that have been delivered on this measure. I believe that the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable it to be passed through the Senate without delay was dictated by undue anxiety on the part of the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Government to have it dealt with expeditiously. We have not far to seek for the reason for that anxiety; it is due to the vote cast at the last Senate elections. The people of Australia were then consulted in regard to the proposal to legislate to provide for national insurance. It is to the credit of the Labour party that it placed before the electors the concrete proposal that, if returned with a majority in both Houses, it would introduce a national insurance scheme. The people responded accordingly. In the respective States they, voted as one electorate, and their verdict was an endorsement of the policy of the Labour party in respect of the introduction of legislation for a national insurance scheme.
– Not in New South Wales.
– I include New South Wales in my observation. What is the policy of the Labour party, and wherein does it differ from this scheme, which gives effect to a policy that was not propounded to the electors by Government supporters? The difference is that the Labour party proposed that invalid and old-age and widows’ pensions, and children’s and orphans’ allowances should be the responsibility of the nation, that the payment should be truly national, for the alleviation of the circumstances of those of our people who need it. The Labour party also propounded a scheme of national medical and health insurance, embodying compulsory contributions.
– That was not included in the policy speech of the honorable senator’s leader.
– It was; and it was advocated by representative candidates of the Labour party throughout every State in Australia. When we present ourselves to the electors as candidates on behalf of the great Labour movement, we place before them a policy designed to secure the best possible remedial legislation. We take the people into our confidence in regard to our intentions. That is not the practice of our opponents. Senator Johnston is smarting under treatment which he, in common with other representatives of the Country party, not only in this chamber, but also in another place, has received, in having been given a “ pig in a poke “ or “ sold a pup “ by the combination of parties forming the Government. He has complained that, during the absence from Australia of the Leader of the Country party, Sir Earle Page, on an important mission in the Old Country, the Government has acted behind that gentleman’s back, in a manner contrary to his professions during the last election campaign, and in opposition to the policy of his party. One would think that, in a national insurance scheme, the first consideration would be to provide for those people who are least able to provide for themselves. In this measure, however, the Government has provided only for those who are actual wage-earners. I should like the Leader of the Senate to explain in his reply why the figure of £7 a week was chosen as the maximum income of those who would be required to contribute to the scheme. How was that figure arrived at? Was there any ulterior motive behind its selection? Why not £5 or £6 a week? Even under the scheme, those who are in receipt of salaries less than £7 a week will have to provide hospital treatment for themselves. Moreover, does it not stand to reason that unemployed persons, and those on relief work, for whom this scheme makes no provision at all, are more likely to require medical assistance than those in constant employment? It. seems to me that the provision of medical and hospital treatment for those persons will continue to be a charge on the State authorities.
The Labour party has always maintained that the payment of pensions should be a national obligation, whether they be invalid, old-age, or widow’s pensions, or children’s or orphan’s allowances. Honorable senators opposite have sought to justify the special taxation which this scheme proposes on the ground that it will improve the status of pensioners. They suggest that pensioners will be able to hold their heads higher because they will have contributed towards the pensions they receive, but it has remained for senators supporting the Government to sneer at the recipients of the present old-age pensions as persons receiving a charity dole. Senator Dein will not deny that he referred to them in those terms.
– I did not sneer; I sympathized with them.
– Our present invalid and old-age pensions scheme was inaugurated as the result of the agitation of the trade unionists of Australia.
– Mention one Labour government that ever did anything in the direction of introducing old-age pensions.
– The President of this Senate, who was at one time a member of the Labour party, can bear witness to the truth of what I have said. He will remember that it was because of the pressure brought to bear by the Labour party on an anti-labour government that the original Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Bill was introduced. A political crisis _had arisen during the tenure of office of the Deakin Government, and it was in return for a promise of support from the Labour party that Mr. Deakin introduced the pensions scheme. Touching on the remarks of Senator Dein, I propose to quote the statements of two greater men who took a prominent part in the political life of this country.
– If the old-age pension is not charity, why the means test?
– Sir George Reid played an important part in bringing about the federation of the Australian States. We look upon him as one of the great leaders of the past, and he, speaking <on the invalid and oldage pensions proposal, said -
I wish to heartily commend its character in so far as it removes any suggestion of an old-age pension being a charitable allowance. Such an idea degrades a system of old-age pension. I should look upon a person who qualified under this act to receive a pension as being just as fully entitled to it as is a CommanderinChief of the British Forces or the Chief Justice of Great Britain, or of any other part of the Empire, to receive a pension under any other system.
– Then why is indigence a qualification?
– Another outstanding personality, Sir Joseph Cook, said -
I regard old-age pensions very much as a form of national annuity given to men who are entitled to demand it as a right and not as an act of mercy or charity. That is the only real basis on which the system can rest.
But there has been a change, and an altogether different outlook has developed. At one time, the old-age pension was regarded as a right, and not as charity.
– It should be, but it never has been.
– A former Prime Minister of Australia, the Bight Honorable S. M. Bruce, in his policy speech in 1928, uttered these -words - lt has to be recognized that oven under the conditions existing in Australia the wages of the workers are not sufficient to enable then to safeguard themselves against sickness, unemployment and old age.
Well, has the income of the wage-earners so increased that they can now afford to contribute towards the cost of medical benefits and pensions? Have things so much improved that we can get away from the principle laid down by an ex-Prime Minister of this country only a few years ago? Recently, when a bill was before this chamber to provide for the restoration of Parliamentary allowances, Sir George Pearce, who had drawn his allowance as a senator for 37 years, and as a Minister for 25 years, stated -
I am leaving this chamber without a competence
Yet, only two years ago, when referring to the old-age pension, he stated -
There are many who, because of their thriftlessness and because they have never denied themselves every form of pleasure and luxury, have, by their own act, brought themselves within the pension class.
If Sir George Pearce, after having drawn his senatorial allowance for 37 years and, in addition, his ministerial allowance for 25 years, . was unable to acquire a competence, how can we expect the men and women who pioneered this country to provide for their old age out of their meagre incomes?
Honorable senators opposite have declared that Labour has not been the only reform party in the Commonwealth, but 1 point out that the workers have always had to look to the Labour party for whatever social services they enjoy. Notwithstanding what has been said about the Labour party in New South Wales, it was Mr. Lang who introduced pensions for widows with allowances for dependent children.
– It remained for him to refuse payment. He made a chopping block of them.
– My honorable friend is entirely wrong. A financial crisis was engineered in the State of New South Wales and the Government was denied the revenue required to pay the pensions.’ Labour in New South Wales introduced that legislation, and the act remains on the statutebook. Did any New South Wales government prior to the advent of a Labour government ever introduce legislation of a similar character?
– Yes, the Holman Nationalist Government” introduced it and Mr. Lang opposed it.
– On that occasion, Mr. Holman was coaxed, as other Labour members have been on other occasions, to the other side of the fence. I ask the Leader of the House to tell the Senate what the position will be in the event of a military force being organized for war throughout Australia. During the Great War, there was no suggestion that soldiers should he taxed to pay for their pensions. It was felt, rather, that they were an insurance for the people of Australia’. What will be the policy of the Government if a similar crisis occurs in future? .Will it use this national insurance, scheme, which taxes the manhood of Australia, to compel soldiers to pay for their own military pensions? A crisis such as I refer to may arise much sooner than we desire. Pensions of soldiers and soldiers’ widows are to-day a national obligation; the taxpayers meet the billMen called upon to defend Australia will already be contributors to the National Insurance Fund. Will they be called upon to pay for their own military pensions ?
– The honorable senator should supply the answer.
– The obligation is not on me, but on the Prime Minister.
– We can depend on tb«* present Government giving the soldier a fair go.
– Hear, hear ! But what is the .matter with giving the industrial soldier a fair go? Do not the industrial soldiers engaged in developmental work for the Common^ wealth .deserve at least equal consideration? Do not they and their women and children deserve well of the nation? Should not this national insurance scheme be a national responsibility ? The Leader of the Senate mentioned the possible effect of the scheme on population. One would assume that the bill was introduced to populate Australia. In what way will it assist to that end? In what way will it provide additional financial assistance in maternity cases? We know that the allowance originally made to mothers by a Labour government has been tinkered with by other governments. In my opinion, the time is not far distant when we shall have a national health insurance act on the statute-book.
– In abou4 a week.
– Do he a little sensible ! The present bill is not. a national health insurance bill. The Minister must admit that it is a sectional bill, for it does not provide anything for the unemployed or the relief workers. I believe that legislation will be introduced in the not far distant future to provide for the periodical medical examination of every person in the community. Tha>t will put Australia in line with advanced medical practice throughout the world. Doctors in Australia, as well as in other countries, say that patients often do not consult a doctor until they have reached the incurable stage. Doctors assert that if they had the opportunity to treat tuberculosis and malignant growths in the early stages of those diseases they would have a good chance of effecting cures.
– That is what the bill sets out to do.
– The honorable senator must admit that no provision is made in the bill for the unemployed and relief workers. He need not try to apologize for it. Both he and the Leader of the Government have already admitted it. A national health insurance scheme would make provision for the instruction of all school children in the pare of their foodies. We have been allowing children to grow up in ignorance of the methods- and simple methods they are - that should be adopted for safeguarding their health. Such a provision would cost a large sum of money, but” it is quite within the cash resources of the Commonwealth.
– Many rich as well as poor people find that they have not taken precautions to safeguard their health in time because they did not know what they were suffering from.
– I admit that; but rich people have opportunities for obtaining advice not enjoyed by poor people. When such calamities happen to rich people they can often be attributed to stubbornness or fear of consulting a doctor.
It is quite impossible to apply the provisions of the bill in the huge outback areas of Australia. No provision is made for the exemption of the thousands of persons working in remote areas. They will be called upon to make contributions, as employers or employees, without having any prospect of direct benefit. Another class that needs consideration is small employers, who are barely earning an existence. They will be called upon to assist to finance the scheme, but even at the present time they can barely earn enough to buy food and clothing for their families. That statement applies to many wheat-growers and dairy farmers in Western Australia, and also, probably, in the other States. The Government asks them to make contributions out of income they do not have. It may be truly said that many of them are financed by governments and by overdrafts granted by financial institutions. Some of them are unable to obtain the necessary money to insure their workmen under the Workers’ Compensation Acts. There have been cases of men being hurt whose employers could not pay for medical attention and hospital treatment, not having had the money to insure against such a contingency. Some senators, especially Senator McLeay, have expressed surprise that members of the Opposition should oppose the bill. We do not oppose medical and health insurance. With the Senate constituted as it is, there is every possibility of the motion for the second reading being agreed to and the bill being reported from committee without amendment. This measure, which is supposed to embody a national health arid medical pensions scheme, is not sufficiently wide in its scope, and in its present form will bear unduly upon a section of the community unable to carry any additional burdens. The Government would have been wise had it deferred further consideration of the bill until the Parliament next meets, and thus enable controversial provisions to which even some of its own supporters object, to be further considered. Had that been done, members of Parliament and the people interested would have had an opportunity to give further study to its controversial provisions; but undue and even indecent haste has been displayed by the Government.
– That does not prove anything.
– Thinking members of the community, apart from Senator Dein, are opposed to the rush tactics employed by the Government in this instance. Even the proprietary press of Australia, which assisted this Government to gain a majority of seats in another place at the last general elections, has expressed disapproval of the haste with which this measure, which will have a very direct bearing upon the lives of a great mass of the Australian people, is being passed through Parliament. Senator Johnston read resolutions which have been passed in Western Australia and in other States in opposition to the bill. I ask the Leader of the Senate how many public meetings have been convened to demonstrate approval of the measure, and of the tactics employed in hastening it through Parliament?
– Not one.
– The people affected arc not’ protesting.
– Not only the wage-earners, but also the employers are opposed to ‘the bill. The worker will have to contribute ls. 6d. a week, and the employer a similar amount, while the Government, which represents the taxpayers, will also contribute towards the benefits to be provided under the scheme. But who are the taxpayers? Senator McLeay read a long list of taxpayers, and cited the huge sums paid annually in the form of taxes. One would imagine from the honorable senator’s remarks that those who pay heavy taxes actually earned the incomes on which those taxes are paid. The incomes received by wealthy taxpayers have been obtained solely as the result of the application of labour to industry. It is the workers who earn the money, and not the employers. The taxes which the employers pay come from .the industry, the success of which depends upon the extent to which labour is applied to production. It has been truly stated that the rate at which our birth-rate is declining is alarming. Moreover, departures have exceeded arrivals during recent years. Has the Government introduced this measure with the object of attracting migrants from other countries where the dole system, obtains? Is it proposed to bring out people from Great Britain and let them loose amongst our own unemployed? Is it intended to inform the unemployed in Great Britain that Australia has adopted a national health and pensions scheme, that it proposes to provide against unemployment, and that British migrants coming to Australia will not be in a worse position in this country than they are in Great Britain? Is that the ulterior motive behind the Government’s action? I believe that it is. British people will not migrate to Australia at present, because they will have no security against unemployment. The Australian Labour party has always advocated the introduc tion of legislation to provide some security in the event of unemployment. This bill has a sinister purpose. The Government realizes that its financial obligations are increasing, and that additional taxes will have to be imposed on those in receipt of high incomes if our social services are to be paid for. .That is one of the reasons why this legislation has been introduced. Under the bill a widow will receive from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week and each dependent child 3s. 6d. a week or 6d. a day, an amount which is not sufficient to buy even porridge and milk.
– To-day they are not receiving anything, and the honorable senator wishes to keep them on that basis.
– In Western Australia dependent children receive 7s. a week.
– Prom- a State institution - not under a national scheme.
– Does the honorable senator wish us to believe that if this legislation be passed the State governments will continue to pay 7s. a week to each dependent child ? If that is the contention of the honorable senator I can assure him that he is wrong. State representatives attending meetings of the Loan Council will be notified by the Commonwealth Treasurer that the’ financial obligations of the States have been decreased by 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each dependent child, and State borrowings will be so restricted that the States will be unable to continue the present rates. It is true that the friendly societies have been performing wonderful work. Does Senator Dein suggest that the work of friendly societies will be encouraged by this bill?
– I do not think so.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the members of friendly societies contributing towards the funds of such societies?
– I believe in contributions to health funds. I have said half a dozen: times that the Labour party believes in legislation to provide for health and sickness benefits on a contributory basis.
– No such pronouncement was made in the policy speech of the honorable senator’s leader.
– I am glad to have the opportunity to amplify some of the points in that speech.
– Are sickness, disablement ‘and widows’ pensions provided for in the Labour party’s scheme?’
– They were never mentioned.
– The Australian Labour party has made a definite declaration as to its policy in the matter of national insurance. The Australian Labour party included national insurance as one of the planks of its platform; but it meant a real scheme and not a mongrel scheme such as we have before us to-day. When the bill is being dealt with in committee I shall take the opportunity to move certain amendments designed to improve it.
– We can depend on the Senator CUNNINGHAM.- My honorable friend is treating the bill like a little ewe lamb which must be nursed and fed. For my part I see no merit in the bill as one providing a measure of social insurance. Whilst it would be a pleasure for me to support any effort of this Government or any other government to endow the people of Australia with a just and equitable measure of national insurance, I must oppose the bill now before the Senate.
– Previous speakers have dealt with practically every aspect of this bill and, as -far as possible, I shall refrain from repeating their remarks. While I support the bill as providing the foundation of a national insurance scheme in Australia, unlike honorable senators opposite, and even some honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I am not sure that it is not somewhat over-ambitious, and even, perhaps, more or less premature, because of the fact that we in Australia are not an industrialized community such as is to be found in other parts of the world where national insurance schemes are already in operation. I know” of no particular request from the people of South Australia for a national insurance scheme or legislation such as this. In fact,. I think I foresee very much resentment-
– The honorable senator can see it without foreseeing it.
– - And many difficulties a-rising because of the adverse effect of this legislation on many sections of the community. At the same time, I believe that when the majority of thinking people in Australia reflect that its purpose i3 to provide a measure of social security, and when they consider how a similar scheme has been developed successfully in England, they must come to the conclusion that by this bill the Government is honestly endeavouring to add something to the value of life. Many criticisms have already been made in regard to the provisions of the measure; the answers to most of them cannot be weighed until the working effects of national insurance in Australia are seen. The main thing is to put into operation a system which can be quickly modified in the light of experience. I believe that it has been suggested by medical men that provision should be made for such adjustment if necessary. I am of the opinion that flexibility should be the key-note if the scheme is to be the success hoped of it. Any amendments of the bill should bc constructive in tone and moderate in extent. The scheme should not be exploited or damaged to secure sectional advantages. As I have said, I am not sure that the bill is not already overambitious. In my opinion we should place on the statute-book only a scheme that is sure of financial success. It is, at this stage, better to introduce a scheme disappointing to the people than to endeavour to put into operation one that may break down under its own weight after disorganizing the work of very fine institutions, such as the many benevolent institutions we alre’ady have, and also injuring the medical practitioners on whoso hearty co-operation so much of the success of the scheme rests. As Senator Leckie has pointed out, this legislation, with all its advantages, will impose a further tax on industry. Pastoralists and farmers are already carrying a heavy share of the costs of social services, and their costs have been increased because of the protection afforded to other industries to such an extent that their position is already anomalous. In a recent survey Professor Giblin found that the producers of wool and meat were bearing a full third of the excess cost of their industries, because of the protection granted to secondary industries valued at £25,000,000 per annum. “When any new imposts are being considered, facts such as this should be borne in mind by the Government. Many other unsheltered primary industries periodically have to sell their products under the cost of production because they have to accept world’s market prices. They will not be able to pass on to the public a further impost such as is contemplated under the bill now before us. At present the big wheat industry is, even on to-day’s price, again on the brink of being obliged to sell under cost. The huge crops now being harvested in the United States of America and Canada will be thrown on to the world’s market within the next few weeks, and it is likely that the price of wheat will have dropped still further before the next Australian crop is harvested. If the Government does not again come to the rescue of the wheat industry there is every possibility that the situation of that industry will have very serious repercussions on the national insurance scheme.
One other very serious problem which has been touched upon by honorable senators is how to deal with the vast number of small business men engaged, in both primary and secondary industries who, us employers of labour, will have to contribute to the insurance fund, but who will not be eligible for the benefits of the scheme, though they earn much less than £365 per annum. I understand that the Government proposes to deal with them at a later stage, but it is very evident that, in the meantime, very much real hardship will be inflicted on them.
If the scheme is to be a success it appears to me that its very basis will have to be a satisfactory arrangement with the medical practitioners to ensure that they receive adequate compensation, which will enable them to equip themselves with all that is required to render proper services. I . am not suggesting that they would not give of their best under any conditions - they have always done so in the interests of the preservation of the health of the people - but it is questionable whether they will be able to render efficient service unless they are adequately recompensed. I suggest that the Government should be absolutely certain that the capitation fee is adequate to enable the medical fraternity to provide the maximum services. The cost of education, the years of training, and the purchase of up-to-date equipment are all very expensive to our young doctors, and if they were asked to provide their services under cost it would be unfair not only to the medical profession generally, but also to insured persons. “We should be particularly careful not to take advantage of the fact that doctors cannot refuse to do the work which is so important to the success of the scheme. I understand that an agreement has been arrived at between the British Medical Association and the Government that the capitation fee be determined by a royal commission. I would have preferred adhering to the original arrangement with the British Medical Association and making provision to vary the capitation fee should it be found insufficient to enable the doctors to render proper services. I understand that the National Insurance Commission is also to assess the amount to be paid by patients who have to undergo major operations or receive treatment outside of that specified by the bill. I suggest that it would be much better to allow the doctors to endeavour first to negotiate a settlement with their patients, and if settlement cannot be agreed upon, to let the commission act as a court of appeal. Persons receiving salaries of approximately £365 per annum are, at present, I have no doubt, receiving the best medical attention, and paying for it, and I feel sure they would be quite prepared to continue to carry on as before. In the past, under the friendly societies’ schemes, these conditions have been entirely satisfactory, and I think they should not be interfered with by any fresh arrangement that may result in upsetting the smooth working and good feeling that now exist between the doctors and their patients. Senator Duncan-Hughes foreshadowed an amendment which, I understand, is designed to reduce the maximum income that may be earned by an insured person from £365 to £315 per annum. I do not agree with that, because it would deprive those people in receipt of incomes of between £315 and £365 per annum of the opportunity to contribute for what is called by some an old-age pension, and by others a superannuation pension. I would prefer, at this stage, to see even slightly less monetary benefits provided for the various groups of persons coming into the- scheme, than that the doctors who are called upon to carry out the responsibilities of giving proper attention to the health of the people should be penalized. I could have touched on many other phases of the bill, but opportunities will be presented at the committee stage for consideration of the measure in detail. I shall support the second reading, hoping that the Government will give favorable consideration to some of the suggestions which I have made.
– I had no intention of speaking at this stage until I heard some of the extraordinary statements made by my genial colleague from Western Australia, Senator Cunningham. This is probably the most widelydiscussed bill that has ever been introduced in the National Parliament, and not even members of the Opposition can suggest that ample opportunity .has not been given for its full consideration. The measure has been under discussion for almost two months, for its second reading was moved in the House of Representatives on the 4th May. As ample opportunity for its consideration has been given to all organizations intimately concerned, I submit to Senator Cunningham and others that by no flight of the imagination can it be said that the Government has shown unseemly haste with regard to this legislation. Senator Cunningham remarked that, if further delay was occasioned, the new Senate, as it would be constituted on the 1st J July, might be able to defeat it. At any rate, I submit that that was the underlying suggestion in his statement. He seems to be under the impression that on and after the 1st
July, Government supporters in this chamber will be in a minority, but that will not be the position. Even though the bill’s passage were delayed to that extent, I consider that, because it is a good measure, it would receive the endorsement of a majority of honorable senators. Senator Cunningham suggested that, on the passage of this bill, the Government might, by some insidious method, introduce ways and means of reducing the war’ pensions paid under the Repatriation Act. I cannot follow his reasoning in that regard, but I can give him and honorable senators generally the assurance that this Government would not dream of doing such a thing. I think that I can speak for my two ministerial colleagues in this chamber, and say that not one of us would be associated with a government that would take such action.
The suggestion of the Opposition that it is in favour of a contributory health insurance scheme is quite new. I well remember the occasion when the Leader of the Australian Labour party (Mr. Curtin) delivered his policy speech prior to the last federal elections. I was only about one and a half miles away when his address was broadcast from Perth, and, on that occasion, no mention was made of any scheme of national insurance, let alone a contributory scheme.
– He wrote a report over five years ago in favour of national insurance.
– If members of the Opposition propose to mention what was and what was not said at the last elections, it is necessary to compare the policy speeches of the leaders of the opposing parties.
– But the people did not understand this bill at the last elections.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The policy speech of Mr. Curtin was delivered about a week before that of the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, but no statement was made in it that the Labour party, if returned to power, would introduce a contributory scheme of health insurance; nor was anything at all said about a health insurance scheme. Nor was any reference made to that mat- ter in. the published policy speech of the Australian Labour party, as authorized by its campaign director, Mr. Beasley, and printed by the Labor Daily, Sydney. The main points of that speech were summarized as. follows : - .
We will defend Australia.
Wo will develop and protect Australian industries to ensure our capacity to resist aggression and to enable us to be a selfreliant people.
We will make the employment of the Australian people a major measure of national policy.
We will make the Commonwealth Bank a bank for the nation.
We will initiate action to develop oil supplies within Australia, as a major measure of national security.
We wilt apply the forty-hour week principle.
We will enable the primary producers to organize on a Commonwealth basis for their mutual protection against exploitation.
We will establish a system of unemployment allowances.
We will provide pensions for widows who have children dependent upon them.
We will make soil erosion a matter for national attack.
We will give young persons opportunity for training and employment.
I shall compare those points with the utterance of the Prime Minister, at Deloraine, a week after Mr. Curtin had delivered his speech. The Prime Minister advocated a contributory scheme of national insurance, the cost of which was to be borne by the employees, the employers and the Commonwealth Government. There was no equivocation about that. The Prime Minister went on to. say -
Any proper system of national insurance, if it is to preserve the dignity of labour by makin;; its benefits a matter of acquired right, and not a matter of public benevolence, must provide for contributions from government, employer and employed. The insured person thus pays only a relatively small portion of the cost of the benefits he receives, but he receives those benefits as of right.
A non-contributory system, not only would not bc an insurance system at all, but it would also tend to destroy the good work of friendly societies and other benefit associations which have been of such great value to the people of Australia. for very many years.
I tell you quite frankly that it is utterly impossible to establish an enduring system of national insurance paid for solely out of the funds available to the Commonwealth Government. Do not be led away by those who are not above promising something for nothing.
That is the policy on which this Government was re-elected last year. We now have a death-bed repentance on the part of the Opposition, which alleges that the Labour party has already proposed a health insurance scheme on a contributory basis, but this claim is too late. If the Labour party had had the courage to place such a scheme before the people at the last elections, and had been able to give effect to it, I should have been the first to congratulate it, but no mention was made of such a scheme on the hustings as far as Western Australia is concerned.
I cannot agree with Senator Ashley that the return of many additional Labour senators to this chamber is to be regarded as a definite expression of the opinion of the people of Australia. With all due respect to the new senators, whom I shall welcome, because they have been rightfully elected in accordance with the Constitution, we cannot ignore the fact that in a great number of instances their return was purely a “ fluke “.
I recently had occasion to write to my family doctor forwarding to him a remittance, and I asked him his personal opinion, as a friend, of this national insurance scheme. . He began his reply of eleven or twelve pages, in a friendly spirit, by thanking me for my regular remittance and he then proceeded to discuss the difference between this scheme and that in operation in Great Britain. Unfortunately, he is under an erroneous impression, which is shared by Senator DuncanHughes, that because the doctor under the British scheme receives a capitation-fee of 9s. for each patient, it was ridiculous to fix the capitation-fee under the Commonwealth scheme at only Ils. a patient He forgot, of course, that under the British scheme the fee covers more services than it will in this country. The medical man in Great Britain has to add the cost of administering anaesthetics, and the cost of attendance upon cases covered by the workmen’s compensation law. Comparing the two fees on an Australian basis, the British doctor receives the equivalent of only about 7s. 6d. for each patient, as against lis. in Australia.
The suggestion was made by another honorable senator that the salary limit of persons to be compulsorily brought under the scheme should be £5 or £6 a week, instead of £365 per annum. The contract rate as arranged between the British Medical Association and the friendly societies is £364, and it was solely for that reason ‘ that the income basis of £365 was adopted in respect of this scheme. That is a plain and simple answer to the objection raised by the honorable senator, and he need have no fear of ambiguity arising so far as this aspect is concerned.
I commend this measure to honorable senators. I feel sure that when medical fees and other matters are investigated by the royal commission, any difficulties arising in those respects will soon be overcome. As reasonable men, and in view of the excellent services they are already rendering to the country, the members of the British Medical Association, I feel certain, will co-operate wholeheartedly in this respect and thus enable the scheme to be based on the soundest of foundations.
, - I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this measure. It may be far from perfect, but time and patience supplemented by future experience will no doubt enable us to overcome the difficulties pointed out by honorable senators. This is the roost humane legislation that has yet been placed before this Parliament. On the occasion of my last visit to the Old Country, I made it a point to mingle as much as possible with my friends, who are working people, in an endeavour to ascertain their general reaction to the British national insurance scheme, and I heard nothing but .the greatest praise for that scheme which, I point out, is not quite so good as this one. I feel sure that, once it is given a fair trial, the workers of this country, regardless of what their representatives in this chamber may say, will be as favorably disposed towards it as the workers in England are towards the British scheme.
I am very pleased that the Government has promised to introduce a supplementary scheme to provide for the insurance of small farmers and small business men, thereby giving to those sections of the community as great assistance as will be extended to the masses of the people under this measure. “When that supplementary measure becomes law, this Government will have accomplished more for those sections of the community, which are really responsible for the prosperity of the country, than has yet been done for them through any other enactment of this legislature. I am most anxious that this measure should be put through this chamber as quickly as possible, in order that it may be placed on the statute-book before the date of tuy retirement as a senator arrives.
– National insurance has been the subject of inquiry by various parliaments and royal commissions during the last twenty years. In ,1928, the Bruce-Page Government actually introduced a measure to establish such a scheme, but owing to the defeat of that government at the ensuing elections, it was not placed on the statute-book. Whatever may be the views of honorable senators regarding the principle underlying the particular scheme now before us, we must give credit to the present Government for progressing so far in the matter as to place so comprehensive a measure as this before us. Its preparation has involved a tremendous amount of work, and the more one examines it the more one realizes the magnitude of the task accomplished by the Government. Although I do not agree entirely with the bill, I heartily congratulate those who have been responsible for its introduction. At least it is a beginning, and an earnest of the Government’s desire to improve the lot of the great numbers of our people. I understand that 1,850,000 persons will come directly under the scheme, whilst it will indirectly affect 3,000,000 people, or practically half of the population of this country. This, however, is only the first instalment of legislation of this kind, because the Government has promised to introduce a supplementary scheme to extend the benefits embodied in this scheme to other important sections of the community, including small farmers and small business people.
Briefly, this scheme provides free medical attention, sickness benefits, widows’ pensions, allowances in respect of children and orphans, and superannuation pension for females at the age of 60, and males at the age of 65. The people whom it will benefit most will be those whom members of the Opposition claim to represent directly, namely, workers in industry who are mainly in receipt of the basic wage. For that reason I regard this scheme purely as an industrial workers’ benefit scheme. It will embrace the majority of employees, including boya and girls and women, engaged in our factories and workshops. Probably one of the greatest advantages which will accrue from it will be the inculcation of a health sense among our people. It will certainly help in a material way to improve public health generally. All honorable senators recognize that mostpeople are reluctant to approach their doctors until they are practically forced to do so, and we are all familiar with instances in which patients, afflicted with serious illness, are told by their medical advisers that had they sought attention earlier their complaint could have been completely cured. Such experiences emphasize the influence which this measure will play in establishing a health consciousness among “our people. Another important aspect of the scheme is that it will tend to dispel that fear of insecurity and of sickness, the existence of which among many sections of the community has been brought forcibly home to me in my travels, particularly in Queensland. In conversing with wives and mothers one makes acquaintance at first hand with this problem. What is likely to happen when the husband becomes ill and is unable to provide for the family, the wife, in many cases, does not know. A constant underlying fear is in the hearts of many parents of this country owing to the possibility of the sickness of the breadwinner, and the consequent failure of the family income to- materialize. This measure will undoubtedly give a sense of security to family breadwinners and lessen the sense of financial strain. People who at present do not know where their next shilling is likely to come from in case of sickness will, when this scheme becomes operative, know that at least a few shillings a week will be available for the family needs.
It is also gratifying to know that this scheme will give a greater sense of security in relation to pension payments. We are all well aware that during the depression period of a few years ago, the Government was unable to maintain, from national resources, the existing statutory obligation to pay a pension of 20s. a week to persons who had been led to expect that this source of income, at least, would not fail them. I believe that under this scheme, the National Health Commission, which will not be subject to the exigencies of political policy, will be able to assure all subscribers that the benefits for which -they are contributing will be available notwithstanding any temporary economic difficulties through which the country may be passing.
This bill does not go as far as I should like it to go, but it is the commencement of a national scheme of insurance. I regret that provision cannot be made to cover unemployment. Our first duty is to assure, as far as possible, employment for our people. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Constitution does not make it practicable for this Parliament to implement an effective unemployment insurance scheme without the cooperation of the State governments. At prosent State taxpayers are contributing fairly heavily ito State unemployment insurance and relief funds of one kind and another. In Queensland, approximately £3,000,000 will be contributed this year in the form of relief tax, presumably for the relief of unemployment. The relief tax in Queensland is the highest in the Commonwealth, ranging from 3d. to lid. in the £. There is also a compulsory unemployment insurance fund to which contributions are made by both the employer and employee at the rate of 6d. a week each. I believe that if the unemployment insurance scheme of Queensland and also the amount of money raised by the relief tax could, by some means, be co-ordinated with a truly national insurance scheme, much greater benefit would be obtained by the people for the expenditure involved. I trust that it may be possible, »at some future time, to secure the co-operation of the State governments in the formulation of an unemployment insurance scheme of a truly national character. Any such proposal would, of course, have to be considered in conjunction with existing State schemes, but it would undoubtedly be to the benefit of the people of Australia if this important subject could be dealt with by one authority.
It is obvious that the cost of this scheme will fall principally upon the primary and secondary industries of Australia which, together, will have to find about £13,000,000 annually for it. This amount works out at about £2 a head of the population and will mean in the State of Queensland approximately an additional £2,000,000 a year, which amount, when added to the £3,000,000 raised from relief tax, will make a total under the two headings of £5,000,000 to be. found from productions.
As a representative of the Country party, I must express my regret that so heavy a proportion of this cost will fall upon primary producers, especially those who have to sell their products at world parity prices on the export market. In my opinion, such producers who, in a state like Queensland, are engaged in cotton-growing, peanut-raising, dairyfarming, sugar-growing, tobacco-growing, and other forms of primary production, should either be exempt from contributing to the scheme as employers or else should be enabled, by some means, to participate in its benefits. That observation applies also to small shopkeepers. Many of the people to whom I am referring receive, to my personal knowledge, a net income of less than £200 a year, and they will be seriously burdened by having to contribute as employers, at a similar cost to that of the employee ; but as their operations are of such a nature as to oblige them at certain periods of the year to engage outside labour, it will be obligatory upon them to make such contributions. On any considerations of equity they should undoubtedly be entitled to exemption. I know many small graziers in north-west Queensland whose individual incomes have not aggregated £200 for the whole of the last eight years. Sitting suspended from5.47 to 8 p.m.
- Senator Ashley said that many graziers could well afford to pay this tax, as they would be in England, or elsewhere, enjoying their incomes from this country, but I point out that about 98 per cent. of the graziers in Queensland work their own properties, and reside on them with their wives and families; and, as I have shown in many cases, their net income for a number of years has not been equivalent to the basic wage. The day of the absentee squatter has passed.
– I referred to large tracts of country in New South Wales, not Queensland.
– I come now to the provisions relating to medical services. Doctors in the cities are in close contact with their patients, but in sparsely populated areas, settlers may be hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor. In my opinion this bill should provide for medical attention to people living in remote districts, particularly those which can be reached only by aerial doctors. I have in mind the Australian Inland Mission, an institution which, with money subscribed by the public, augmented by a subsidy from the Queensland Government, has established at Cloncurry, Queensland, an aerial medical service for inland areas. As both employers and employees in these areas will be called upon to make contributions to this scheme, they should be provided with better medical facilities than they now enjoy. This legislation should embody a provision to give financial assistance to organizations of this kind. A case which demonstrates the value of the aerial medical service occurred near my home in north-western Queensland this year. In a small township, 130 miles from the nearest railway, a number of children suddenly became very sick. Tropical rains had fallen, making the road to the rail-head at Winton impassable. Fortunately, a pedal-wireless apparatus had been installed in the township, and communication was established with Cloncurry. Immediately, a doctor flew from Cloncurry, diagnosed the ailment of the children as infantile paralysis, and communicated by private telephone with Winton. On the following day an aeroplane was sent from Brisbane with a second doctor and nurses to take three of the children to hospital in Brisbane. Eight other children were kept in isolation in the township. Had it not been for the pedal-wireless service, and the fact that a flying doctor was available at Cloncurry, all those children would have been seriously stricken with infantile paralysis. The funds of this scheme should be made available to assist organizations of this kind. A subsidy should be given to the Australian Inland Mission to provide more doctors and more aeroplanes to extend the great service that it has inaugurated. That is the only feasible way for outback people, who will be compelled to subscribe to the scheme, to obtain prompt medical attention. In these areas, roads are often impassable to resident doctors, whereas flying doctors can cover great distances in only a few hours. I ask the Leader of the Senate to bring these representations under the notice of the Treasurer and I hope that some action will be taken in the direction that I have suggested.
Senator Cunningham seemed to be perturbed about the effect of the scheme on returned soldiers who receive benefits from the Repatriation Department. I also have given some thought to the matter. There are many returned soldiers in receipt of sums varying from a few shillings a week to the full amount of pension, who come within the income limits proposed in this measure. I sought the advice of the officers who drafted this bill and obtained from them the following information in respect of war pensions : -
The provisions of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, in so far as they affect returnedsoldiers in receipt of benefits under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1927, are contained in clause 97 of the bill.
Those provisions may be briefly summarized as follows: -
– War Pensioners.
War pensioners, if engaged in insurable employment, will be brought under the scope of national insurance, but if the benefits paid in respect of any war pensioner and his dependants (wife and children) under the Repatriation Act are at least equivalent to those provided under national insurance, he may, within a specified time, apply to the National Insurance Commission for exemption. Exemption will, in such circumstances, be granted. Unless he so applies, however, he will be insured.
Note. - Benefits received under the Repatriation Act will be assessed actuarially for comparison with the benefits provided under the National Insurance Bill, viz., health benefits, comprising -
Medical benefit, i.e., free medical atten tion and medicines;
Sickness benefit, i.e., 20s. per week from the fifth day of sickness and continuing for 26 weeks;
Disablement benefit, i.e., 15s. per week from termination of payment of sickness benefit and continuing while incapacity for work due to sickness lasts;
Additional benefits, which may be pro vided by approved societies out of disposable surpluses revealed at each quinquennial valuation, and which may include increases in the rates of sickness benefit and disablement benefit, free dental treatment, ophthalmic treatment, hospital treatment, &c. Pensions benefits, comprising -
Superannuation pension at the rate of 20s. per week from the age of65, in- cluding free medical treatment for life;
Widow’s pension at the rate of 15s. per week for life, or until remarriage;
Orphan’s pension, 7s. 6d. per week until fifteenth birthday.
Combined health and pensions benefits - Dependent child’s allowance at the rate of 3s.6d. per week for each dependent child under fifteen years of age and payable while sickness or disablement benefits, on old age or widow’s pensions are payable. (b) If a war pensioner, after having been granted exemption, has his benefits under the Repatriation Act reduced to the extent that those benefits are less than the benefits payable under national insurance, he may apply for cancellation of the certificate of exemption and admission to national insurance.
The war pensioner insured under national insurance will not have hie benefits thereunder reduced in any way. He will be entitled to draw the full benefits to which he is entitled under the Repatriation Act, and also the National Insurance Act.
– Service Pensioners.
Insured persons in receipt of service pensions are treated somewhat differently from returned soldiers in receipt of war pensions.
Where a returned soldier in receipt of service pension becomes entitled to benefit under national insurance, he will be paid the difference between his service pension and the appropriate benefit under national insurance, if the latter is the greater. If he falls out of employment, the Repatriation Commission will keep him in insurance under the National Insurance Act, by paying the contributions due on his behalf as a voluntary contributor, so that he may be kept in full insurance and entitled to all benefits under the National Insurance Act. When he reaches the age of 05 years, his service pension will be terminated, and he will then become entitled, by virtue of his insurance, to the superannuation pension of 20s. per week, and medical benefit for life, under the national insurance, but such termination of bis service pension does not affect in any way the continuance of the rights of his wife and children to benefits under the Repatriation Act. The wife and children of a service pensioner will also be entitled to benefits under the National Insurance Act, by virtue of the husband’s insurance, in addition to any benefit to which they may he entitled under the Repatriation Act.
That information shows that the treatment of returned soldiers entitled to repatriation benefits is most generous.
Although this bill is not all that I could wish, I think it is a commendable first endeavour to introduce a scheme of national insurance which will alleviate a certain amount of the distress with which the workers of this country have to contend. I should like to see the bill amended either to include within the scope of its benefits the small farmers and graziers and other self-employed persons who are in receipt of less than £365 a year, or to exclude from liability to contribute in respect of employees such persons who are not in receipt of the basic wage of £208 a year. A great number of the people whom I represent are not catered for by the measure, but I hope that in the committee stage we shall have some chance of bringing those small employers of whom I have spoken into the scheme at the same rate as has been fixed for the employees, or that we shall be able to exempt them from all payments under the bill. I look upon this billas somewhat above party politics and it should be considered from a national standpoint with a view to improving, as far as possible, the general social standards of a large proportion of the community in this country.
– This bill has already been discussed from every aspect, but I have been particularly interested in listening to the speeches made by supporters of the Government. Every one of them has had something to say against the bill. Although it has been discussed at great length, however, I contend that it has not been considered in a proper and fair way. We have not had an opportunity to deal with it as such an important measure should be dealt with. In the House of Representatives the Ministry took up and persisted in the attitude, “This is our bill: take it or leave it”: and it gave scant consideration to the opinions of its own supporters, and stubbornly refused to accept any suggestion for amendments from the Opposition. In my opinion that is not the right atmosphere in which to discuss such a big issue as is involved in this measure. I was astounded, when it came to a vote, at the attitude taken by several supporters of the Government who, in their speeches, had shown themselves to be strongly opposed to the. bill. I know a good deal about party politics, but I was astonished to see how the heavy party whip had compelled members of the Country party to support a bill which every one of them had condemned. If the consensus of opinion of honorable members of the Senate and the House of Representatives had been allowed to sway the Government, it is quite possible that we should have a better measure than this, which, no doubt, the Government will be able to force through the Senate as it was able to force it through the House of Representatives. It is to be regretted that that should be so. The Government did not give the subject sufficient consideration before it brought the bill before Parliament. No doubt, the matter of national insurance has been discussed over a long period, in and out of this Parliament, but the Government has no grounds to claim that it has a mandate from the people for this bill. The falsity of its claim in this regard is shown by the vast number of protests against its provisions that have come from every corner of Australia. The right thing for a democratic parliament to do is to consider any suggestions for amendments made by any representative of the people, but the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) definitely refused to accept any amendment on the ground that the actuarial basis of the scheme would be upset.
– Why did the Labour party oppose the second-reading?
– The Labour party opposed the second reading because it well knew what the attitude of the Government would be. Every honorable senator opposite who has spoken on this bill has, to some extent, condemned it. Even the archbishop of the United Australia party. Senator Dein, spoke against the bill.
– I did not; I spoke in the highest terms of the bill.
– The honorable senator emphasized that the benefits under the bill were not what they should be and said that they were not satisfactory to him. He referred to the fact that the unemployed were not covered.
– If the honorable senator follows my vote he will do the right thing.
– No doubt the same thing will happen here as happened in the lower House where members of the Country party supported the bill against their wishes and against their expressed opinions. The electors should take heed of the state that party government has reached in the Commonwealth. I believe that if the combined intelligences of both sections of this legislature had been accepted by this Government we should have had before us to-day a better bill than this. Honorable senators opposite say that we on this side are opposed to national insurance. No party in politics has done more for national insurance than has the Labour party. I believe in national insurance, but on a more reasonable basis than is contained in this “bill. This scheme will cost Australia a tremendous amount of money, and we have to consider whether the benefits will be commensurate with the heavy costs. After mature consideration I say that the benefits will not be commensurate with the burden that the community will have to bear. If that tax is to be placed on this country it can be used to better advantage than is provided for in the bill.
– In what way?
– I expected this to be a health insurance bill, but it relates also to pensions. Any money expended in improving the health of the people is well expended, but this bill leaves out of health benefit the most important section of the community, namely, women and children. Who ever heard of a measure dealing with health entirely neglecting the women and children ?
– They will be included before this scheme is in operation.
– We know all about promises. I am quite prepared to believe that they are sincere, but I like to see the goods delivered.
– The honorable senator would like the Government to take over the friendly societies altogether.
– Nothing of the kind. I do not trust a Government which brings in a measure and neglects the people on the land who are struggling for an existence. The Government is prepared to tax those people for the purpose of giving service to others better off than they are. That is most unjust. I have every sympathy with those Country party supporters from Queensland, who were forced to vote for this’ bill against their will, because they will have to go to the small cotton-growers, cane-growers and dairymen, and try to explain their support of a measure, which excludes them from benefits, notwithstanding the fact that they are worse off than many persons who, as contributors, will benefit from the bill. The Government should have considered the claims of that section of the community and brought them within the scope of the proposal. We have had a promise that the Ministry will introduce another measure at a . later date to make good the defects of this proposal, but the probability is that if the people to whom I refer are dealt with under a separate measure they will get a worse deal than if their claims were met by the insertion of the necessary provisions in this bill. There is no need for haste in passing this legislation. The people would have, been willing to allow this national insurance proposal to be thoroughly discussed with a view to improving the scheme and making it more acceptable.
– The honorable senator’s leader condemned the Government for delay in introducing the measure. Now, the honorable gentleman says that there is no need to hurry.
– I object to the bill for several reasons. In the first place, I believe that if industry is to be taxed in order to provide social services for the people, the scheme should make provision for those most in need of this form of assistance. The most sickly man in the community is the man who is out of work. I wonder whether any honorable senator supporting the Government ‘has had experience of this kind of sickness? I know of many thousands of good Australians who have had a large dose of it, and because they are not in employment, they will not receive any benefits from this scheme. It is anomalous also that the wives and children of contributors will be denied medical benefits. This is a very serious omission. The man in regular employment is not so much in need of medical benefit as is the man whose unemployment has become chronic, and whose wife and children may be in desperate need of medical attention. A more comprehensive and more equitable scheme should have been submitted. Even at this late stage the Government would bc well advised to withdraw the bill with a view to re-drafting it and presenting a proposal more acceptable to 1)he people of Australia. There is no justification for this attempt to bludgeon the bill through Parliament. I object to it also because it is an unwarranted interference with the existing pensions system. There’ is. no doubt that -the people of Australia, at the last election, made up their minds that widows were also entitled to a pension. The woman whose husband, has died and who has to care for three or four dependent children is entitled to some assistance to provide food and clothing and rear her family in decent conditions. We are opposed to a contributory basis for old-age pensions.
– One of the honorable senator’s colleagues said that he believed in the contributory system.
– We object to any contributory scheme of pensions for invalids, the aged, or widows; but we have no objection to a compulsory contributory scheme for health benefits. One of our objections to this proposal is that it will not have universal application. Persons who are out of employment -should receive first consideration from the Government in any scheme . of national insurance. The omission of provision for the unemployed is one of the most serious defects of the bill. If this country is to develop, as we hope it will, the Government should not delay dealing with this problem of unemployment, which I regard as of paramount importance.
– Why not vote for this bill, which will provide health and other benefits for 1,850,000 people? Later the honorable gentleman can support other proposals to widen the scheme to include the unemployed.
– I object to the bill because the Government has started at the wrong end. I believe in doing first things first. Measures to deal with unemployment and health benefits for the wives and children of contributors to this scheme are of primary importance, yet they have been ignored by the Government.
– I also would like to see provisions of that nature in the bill, but I am not going to vote against it merely because the scheme is incomplete, and so do an injury to those who will benefit under this instalment of reform.
– The claims of small farmers i-for inclusion have also been overlooked. These small employers will have to pay the contributions of their employees, but will themselves be denied any of the benefits of the scheme. Country party supporters of the Government will find it difficult to explain their attitude to country electors, in Queensland at all events. I regret also that there is no provision for hospital services, and there appears to be need for clarifying the definition of medical benefit. Other honorable senators have referred to clause 47, which deals with this matter, and have pointed out that the medical benefit to be given to contributors will not include medical services involving special skill or experience such as general practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess; nor will it include special treatment of any nature such as an operation for appendicitis, because that would necessitate hospital treatment. This means that a contributor may have to incur an expenditure of £20 for an operation which, we contend, should be included as a medical benefit. Senator Brown pointed to one of the dangers of the scheme when lie said that medical treatment might easily come to mean just a bottle of medicine.
– The honorable senator has a very poor opinion of the doctors.
– That is not so. Apparently the Government has not a very high opinion of the medical profession, because, regardless of skill, all doctors are to be paid a flat rate. Professional skill apparently will count for nothing under this scheme.
– How is it possible to discriminate between the qualifications of two doctors?
– I admit that it is difficult to do that; I am merely pointing to a weakness in the provision relating to medical benefits. It is no exaggeration to say that health conditions in the plant and animal kingdom receive more attention than the health of human beings will command under this scheme. In the industry with which I am associated, diseases among plants are the responsibility of every person engaged in that calling. No trouble is spared to eradicate them. Can the same be said of the health of human beings under this scheme? Is it not true that thousands of young Australians in urgent need of dental treatment in order to ensure their health in later life, will not be able to get it? I am a firm believer in national health insurance, but I do not approve of the Government’s proposals, and, as I have said, I strongly protest against its interference with our present system of old-age pensions. I resent the suggestion that an old-age pension is a dole. I agree with the following statement made by Mr. W. J. (later Sir William) Lyne, when he introduced the Old-age Pensions Bill in the New South Wales Parliament nearly 40 years ago: -
It is equitable that deserving persons who, during the prime of life, have helped to bear the public burdens of the Colony by the payment of taxes and by opening up its resources with their labour and skill, should receive from the Colony pensions in their old age.
In a work which deals with the life of the late Richard John Seddon, who introduced in New Zealand the old-age pensions bill which was passed in 1898, the following passage occurs: -
He took the human view that those who had brought up large families and worked hard all their lives for a daily wage, had done their duty by the State. He held, too, that it was impracticable to, try and compel the working man to set aside part of his wages towards a pension scheme during a period when every penny ho earned would, in the ordinary course, be spent in the upbringing of his family. Such expenditure, Seddon maintained, was every bit as much for the benefit of the State as would be a forced contribution towards a pension scheme.
That is as true to-day as it was then. I believe that those who have grown old in the service of this country should be given the pension as a right when they are no longer able to earn their own livelihood.
– Are they not now receiving it?
– Yes, but this bill will disturb the existing system.
– It will not.
– If through unemployment, after passing the prime of life, any one is unable to pay his contributions, he will not receive this pension.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Except as a charity. It is wrong to assess the pension altogether on the basis of £ s. d., because the whole of it is used in the purchase of the necessaries of life. Australia is producing in abundance everything that is needed by our old people, and they should receive sufficient to keep body and soul together.
SenatorFoll. - Does the honorable senator believe in the principle of superannuation ?
SenatorFoll.. - That is the principle which underlies this bill.
– But the tax should be equitable. It is wrong to tax a man on a wage of £2 a week to the same extent as one who has an income of £7 a week. It is also wrong to found the scheme on the basis of employer and employee. Many farmers are experiencing difficulty in continuing their operations because of their big interest payments on their mortgages. Yet, however small may be the net income of an employer, he is to be compelled to pay the same contribution as others who are more favorably circumstanced. To-day I received the following communication from Queensland : -
Brisbane. 21st June, 1938.
I am instructed to inform you that at a meeting of the Queensland Country party held at Parliament House to-day the following resolution relative to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was carried: -
The State members of the Queensland Country party, whilst favouring the principle of national insurance, object to the bill as introduced and as amended to date, owing to the inclusion therein of primary producers and small business men, who will be compelled to make contributions whilst being excluded from any benefits. In view of the existing heavy burdens of taxation in this State and the prospective additional Commonwealth taxation for defence purposes, we are of opinion that the further imposts proposed under this measure would detrimentally affect our primary industries and employment, particularly under the present adverse conditions.
– That is the best party in Queensland.
– I had a little more respect for members of the Country party until, within the last few days, notwithstanding the honest and sincere opinions they had expressed privately and in the House of Representatives, they showed that they were quite prepared to vote against their convictions when the whip was cracked. The protests voiced by all sections of the people throughout this country against this measure are the reason for their perturbation.
– Those who are to come under the scheme are not complaining.
– That may be. But I remind the honorable senator that the payment of1s. 6d. a week will prove a very serious matter to the average employee, particularly the casual worker. It would be far better if the money were expended in the proper upbringing of the wives and families of bread-winners. The exactions that are to be made from the workers, and from industry generally, would be spent to greater advantage if it were devoted to the relief of unemployment, and the provision of better medical treatment for women and children. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will delay the passage of the bill until next month, so that we may have an opportunity so to improve it as to make it acceptable to the people of Australia. For the reasons that I have given, I intend to vote against the second reading.
– There is no doubt that the Government will be subjected to a good deal of criticism for having introduced this measure ; but it cannot be said that it has not been sufficiently debated by both Houses of this Parliament because the consideration of- it has extended over a period of about five weeks. The debate in the House of Representatives occupied 100 hours, of which 57 hours was devoted to the second reading - 22 hours to speeches in favour of the measure,. 22 hours to speeches against it, and about twelve hours by speakers who adopted a neutral attitude. It reached the Senate two days ago, and has occupied our attention ever since. Had any honorable senator desired an extension of time he would have been permitted to continue beyond the time allowed by the Standing Orders.
Numerous reasons have been advanced for the introduction of this legislation. Before dealing with them, I wish to offer my meed of praise to the Government for having brought it forward, to Mr. Casey, for his absolutely magnificent handling of it in the House of Representatives, and to Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Lindsay, for the assistance they have rendered to both Parliament and the people. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has said that the scheme has been propounded in order to avoid a revolution.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that it is a measure of insurance against the flaring up of revolution caused by undeserved poverty.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Is not that the same thing? I do not think that the people have in their minds any idea of revolution, and I am positive that there is no need for it.
– If the honorable senator were to meet the hungry unemployed he would realize how near they are to revolution.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.I should not mind meeting them, and talking to them. I have no doubt that they would prove more amenable to reason than is the Leader of the Opposition.
– Their stomachs would not be filled by the honorable senator’s talk.
– Their stomachs might be filled more quickly if they accepted my advice than if they accepted the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.. There is no need for revolution, because every three years the people have an opportunity to change the government of this country; they can then elect whom they choose. The contention of Senator Brown is, that the sole object of the scheme is to save the big taxpayer of prospective heavier taxes. I do not think that that is correct. The Leader of the Opposition has questioned the constitutionality of the methods that are being adopted to give effect to this scheme. I was astonished at his modesty in claiming to know little about law; yet he occupied a period of 45 minutes in making quotations from statements by all the learned lawyers of this country in regard to the bill.
– I quoted only three.
– The honorable senator went on to say that in his opinion this bill should be so framed that it could not be attacked. Surely, having lived so long in this country, and had such a lengthy association with the making of laws, he realizes that it is positively ridiculous to assume that any law can he made legally water-tight. I believe that the sponsors of this bill have taken every care to make it as legally water-tight as possible. I make no claim to being a socialist, hut I am a humanist. I consider that the bill is an honest attempt to help the people of Australia to assist themselves. I am simply astounded ‘ at the opposition to the measure, both in and out of Parliament.
– The truth is out at last; nobody wants it except the wealthy interests.
– Although there is opposition to the measure, it also has many supporters throughout Australia. I am inclined to the belief, despite what the Leader of the Opposition may say, that many of the good folk whom he represents are strongly in favour of it. We might safely say that, for the last 150 years, this question has occupied the minds of social students. They have been concerned with trying to devise means for alleviating the condition of the masses of the people, particularly in regard to’ sickness, old age and unemployment. The leaders of the country, on the platform and through the press, have emphasized the need for a workable scheme of social insurance. To-day. an attempt is being made to do something in this direction, and the scheme has become a target for all manner of objections. I remind honorable senators that social insurance schemes are already in operation in Austria, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Eire, Italy, Poland, Russia, Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Holland, Norway and Switzerland.
– Are they on a contributory basis?
– Every one of them. We -boast of our democracy, but we must remember that in a democracy, while the people have privileges, they, also have responsibilities. Any government that wants a happy and eontented people -must take, measures to safeguard their health, and to look after them during periods of unemployment. There has recently been much talk of the need for defence, but if we want the people to co-operate with the Government in the defence of the country, we must do something to make them proud of their country. This scheme deals only with health benefit, old-age pensions and widows’ pensions, but I am hopeful that it is only air instalment of a wider scheme which will include unemployment insurance. Such social evils as sickness and unemployment are for ever recurring. I was struck the other day by a report in an English newspaper -that/ during the reconstruction of a road in Yorkshire, i workmen had come across a tablet upon which it was stated that the road had been constructed by the unemployed in 1826, Thus, so long ago as that, they had unemployment relief works.
Many schemes have been suggested from time to time to relieve distress among the masses of the people. Some of them have been tried and found wanting ; others have not yet been tried. The greatest of all remedies, I suppose, is Christianity. Many people say that if we lived according to the Christian code, every one would be healthy, happy and employed. Perhaps there is a great deal in that, but we are still a long way from the millennium. I do not think that the people are quite ready for it-
– Christianity has never been given a chance.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No one has done more for the. relief oi sickness and human, misery than have certain groups of earnest Christian workers. Then we have the temperance advocates, who say, “Do away with the drink traffic, and all social evils will be cured.”
– The abolition of the drink traffic would certainly help.
– Prohibition was tried in the United States of America for fourteen years. At the end of that period, there were 6,000,000 unemployed, and more misery and crime than ever before in the history of the country. Henry George advocated his single tax system as a cure for all social evils. In his book, Progress and Poverty, he sought to show that if all taxation was raised from the land, there would be no unemployment or poverty, and the people would be happy and contented. That scheme has not yet been tried.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator is getting away from the subject.
– Would the President think that I was straying from the subject if I pointed out that a great many people in this country think that the social evils of poverty and unemployment are due to the existence of the capitalist system? Those people seem to think that, if they could produce bank notes by simply turning a handle, every one would be prosperous and happy.
– That is how bank notes are produced now.
– Yes, but their number is limited. The honorable senator and his friends want to turn them out in unlimited numbers. We must deal with the position as we find it to-day, and I maintain that the bill now before us represents a step in the right direction. I do not think that its sponsors claim perfection for it. It is merely the beginning of what will be a much greater scheme. Everyone knows that you must build the walls of a house before you put on the roof. This bill represents the foundation and the walls of the structure. The bill has come iu for a great deal of criticism, and while I do not object to constructive criticism, I believe that many of the critics of the scheme have sought to destroy it rather than to improve it. The whole scheme rests upon an actuarial foundation, and while the layman may by amendments upset its actuarial equilibrium, he would find it hard to restore the balance again.
Many honorable senators have criticized the contributory provisions of the scheme.’ I do not believe that the average Australian has any objection to paying for what he gets. Approximately 2,250,000 persons in Australia are covered by industrial insurance, upon which the annual premiums amount to £5,000,000. That indicates that Australians arc prepared to pay for their benefits. There are, in addition, a great many members of friendly societies, who contribute annually £1,500,000. It has been suggested that people would be better off as members of the friendly societies than as contributors to the national insurance scheme, but that is not so. Under industrial insurance, for every 15s. a person pays in he takes out £1, while members of friendly societies, on an average, receive £1 in benefits for each £1 they pay in. Under the national insurance scheme, however, male contributors will, on an average, take out £3 6s. for each £1 contributed, whilst women contributors will take out £6 for each £1 contributed. It would be very difficult to find a better insurance scheme, and why there should be any objection to it I cannot understand. At the present time, the per capita costs for social services throughout Australia, are: -
In view of the fact that the States are making this substantial contribution towards social services, it is not too much to ask the beneficiaries under the national insurance scheme to make some contribution towards its upkeep.
This afternoon, Senator Johnston referred to the, claims of the small farmers and said that they should be exempt from contributing towards the cost of the scheme. I am. disposed to forgive him for his advocacy of the interests of the small farmers. He is at least consistent, but I took exception to the cries of “ Hear, hear ! “ from the Labour benches while he was speaking. Senator Courtice referred to the condition of the small farmers in Queensland, but, for the most part, members of the Opposition are not veryrnuch concerned about the farmers. I make an exception in favour of Senator Cunningham who, during the recent tariff debate, made quite a good free-trade speech. In general, members of the Opposition do not care twopence about what happens to the small “ cockies “ in Queensland or elsewhere, so long as the tariffs are high enough to keep the wheels of industry turning in Sydney and Melbourne. Senator J. B. Hayes referred to the position of youths and apprentices under the scheme, and urged some modifications in their favour. Senator Dein touched upon the matter of funeral expenses. The amendments suggested by the honorable senators will, no doubt, be included later, but, for the time being, I think it would be just as well for us to put the measure on the statute-book as it has been submitted to us. Then we can build on this foundation, and make the scheme better.
Senator Macartney Abbott has given notice of an amendment to exempt Christian Scientists from the health contribution. In common with other members of this chamber, I have received hundreds of letters from Christian Scientists from all parts of the country. I sympathize with the religious convictions of these people, and I believe that their convictions should be respected” as far as possible. I make this suggestion, however: There are many Christian Scientists in Australia, and there is nothing to stop them from forming an approved society among themselves, so that they may accept or reject the health benefits as they think fit, without interfering with the scheme in general. I judge that there will not be a division on the motion for the second reading.
– The honorable senator need not delude himself. Does he think that we have been shadow-sparring?
-I do not for a moment think that members of the Opposition have been shadowsparring. I thought theywere putting up an honest fight, and that they meant what they said. Every member on that side said that he had no objection to the principle of the bill, but wantedto improve it. How can the Opposition improve it by voting to defeat it?
– I rise to a point of order. Senator James McLachlan has made a very definite statement that every member of the Opposition said that he had no objection to the bill. I ask that the statement be withdrawn, because it is not in accordance with fact. I spoke for an hour and a half against the bill.
– Senator Collings said that hewas not opposed to national insurance and that he wanted to improve this bill, not to destroy it.
– Senator James McLachlan had better withdraw the offending words and allow the debate to go on.
– I withdraw, Mr. President.
– Withdraw what?
– I may find that out later. The Leader of the Opposition must admit that he said that the members of the Opposition were not against national insurance but wanted to amend the billto make it workable.
– I said I wanted to improve the bill, and that at present the scheme was neither “national” nor “ insurance “.
– I fail to Bee how any one who favours national insurance and who desires only to improve the bill, can vote . against the second reading, knowing that if such opposition succeeds there will be no chance of amendment. When the bill is in committee, amendments to it’ will be moved. I suggest that any senator who moves an amendment should be prepared to give the Senate some idea of what difference his amendment will make to the cost of the scheme. Senators, generally, are not lightning calculators. The mover of an amendment might also tell us where the money can be obtained. Senator Abbott has given notice of an amendment that will make a difference of about 2-Jd. a head of the contributors to whom it will apply.
– The total will be about 2,000 twopences
– That is for New South Wales only. I should say that, roughly speaking, the total for the whole Commonwealth will be 20,000. The Government has done remarkably well in going as far as it has gone in the bill, and I fear that if the bill be loaded any further with costly amendments the stability of the scheme will be endangered: The scheme will be a very heavy tax on the people. The employer will pass on his share of the cost, and the employee will go to the Arbitration Court for an increase of wages, and the public in the end will pay all. I hope the bill will have a speedy passage,’ and I feel certain that any senator who may be a scoffer to-night will, if he has the good fortune to be above ground five years’ hence, bless the day the bill was passed.
– I support the motion for the second reading of the bill and share the view of many senators who have spoken in support of it. They have not claimed, nor does the Government claim, that the bill represents perfection. I am surprised, and other senators have expressed surprise, that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and those who support him can see no virtue in the bill. Members of the Opposition speak with two voices.- They say that they believe in national insurance; and then they object to the contributory basis. The contributory basis, I believe, was an afterthought with them, because it was freely stated by Labour candidates at the last general election that although they believed in national insurance they were opposed to any contributory ‘scheme.
– In that case it would not be insurance at all.
– It would be merely a system of benefits and pensions paid out of the general revenue by the Government of the day. A previous speaker has referred to the great number of persons who will participate in the benefits of the scheme. Those who will benefit are principally wage-earners. The Leader of the Opposition and Senator Courtice have declared that they will not support the bill unless it makes provision for widows, children, and the unemployed. Whatever charges may be laid at the doors of previous Governments, it certainly cannot be said that the present Government has been unmindful of the unemployed. There has been a gradual reduction of unemployment since the Government -came into office, and to-day unemployment figures are back to normal. There will always be in the community unemployable men; in addition, there are many men who are engaged in intermittent and seasonal work. It is therefore impossible to eliminate unemployment entirely. There is seasonal work in the sugar, wheat, fruit-growing, and pastoral industries. Certain men are employed ‘ fully at certain periods of the year, but are without work at other times. I do not think that any senator can claim that there is anything novel in the principle of the bill. It represents, I suppose, one of the greatest efforts ever made by any government to devise a scheme of social legislation. Similar legislation has been in operation in other countries for many years. Friendly societies blazed the trail for a form of insurance against sickness and death, and provision of medical services and medicine for members and their wives and families. I pay ray tribute to those societies for the work they have done throughout the Commonwealth, for they have provided much needed relief to the- people. They entered upon their great social work nearly a century ago, and have carried on under many and great difficulties, particularly during and after the war, when the financial depression afflicted this country. The work has been done at a minimum of cost to members. The Commonwealth YearBook for 1937 gives figures relating to the operations of friendly societies for the year 1935. Sick pay for that year cost £775,000, and medical attention £771,000. The total expenditure for the whole of the Commonwealth during 1935 amounted in round figures to £2,500,000, and reserve funds were £15,000,000. There has been some anxiety on the part of benefit societies as to how the national insurance scheme will affect them, but I am glad to know that they have established themselves in such a position that Parliament will find it difficult not to recognize the great services they have rendered. I am quite at a loss to understand why members of the Opposition object to the contributory basis of the scheme. They say that attention should be given first to those who are sick and unemployed. A non-contributory scheme would undermine the basis of the friendly societies.
– A majority of the men who will be compulsorily insured would prefer that their wives and families should be provided with medical benefits.
– Apparently the ‘ honorable senator loses sight of the fact that nearly 2,000,000 persons throughout the Commonwealth will benefit .under this scheme, and that provision will be made for many of those who, he says, need assistance. Instead of opposing the second reading, the honorable senator should allow tho bill to get into committee and then move amendments to improve it as he considers necessary.
– The Government will refuse to accept amendments from this side of the chamber.
– If the honorable senator is still dissatisfied with the bill when it has passed the committee stage, he can oppose the third reading, ft seems mere hypocrisy for the honorable senator to say that he believes in a contributory scheme.
– Hypocrisy is an unparliamentary word and should be withdrawn.
– If it is offensive to the honorable senator, I withdraw it. Opposition ,to the bill has been raised because of the exclusion of small farmers and certain classes of business people, but many in that category who earn only small incomes do not pay direct taxes and therefore do not contribute towards benefits for others. Although I should like such persons to be included, I do not intend to’ oppose the bill merely because no provision has yet been made for them. The Government recognizes the anomaly which exists, and will, I believe, remove it as soon as practicable. A scheme to include selfemployed persons and’ others in that class would have to be on a voluntary basis, and it is difficult to say how such a scheme can be financed until the most careful investigation has been made.
– They should be exempt from paying contributions as employers.
– I cannot say to what extent their exemption would affect ‘the contributions of employees or the general stability of the scheme. If small employers were exempted, additional money would have to be provided out of Consolidated Revenue or obtained from some other source.
– Does .the honorable senator not think that the Government ie in a better position to provide the money than the small farmer who does no’t possess it?
– Employers have to contribute ls. 6d. weekly for each employee,, and if they wish to come under the scheme they will have to pay 3s. a week for themselves, or a total of 4s. 6d. a week which is unreasonable. The position of those engaging casual employees presents many difficulties, as the first person to engage a casual employee in any week will he responsible for the contribution in respect of that employee for that week. No doubt attempts will be made by those employing casual labour to avoid being the first employer, and that will result in many casual employees being deprived- of employment.
There should be some definite direction - it may be given by the commission later - as to how employers’ contributions in such cases shall be paid. An employer who has to pay an employee’s contribution of ls. 6d. for, san,two hours’ gardening in the morning will feel that he has been unjustly treated. The whole system of engaging casual employment will have to be altered, otherwise many of those who now obtain a living by casual work will lose their employment. Small but irksome anomalies such as I have mentioned may cause the scheme to be unduly criticized, but I hope that a projectembodying so many important benefits will not be jeopardized by anomalies that can be removed. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) who said that the Government has not received a mandate from the people for the introduction of this legislation, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated in his policy speech that the Government intended to introduce a comprehensive scheme of contributory national insurance as soon as the necessary investigations had been made. Moreover, the principle has been discussed for about_ fifteen years, and the people were fully aware that at the earliest opportunity the ‘Government would introduce a -system of national insurance. I trust .that the members of the Opposition will .decide to support the second reading .of the bill; and seek to improve it in committee as they consider necessary. ;
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) unrobed and speaking from beside the chair. - I propose to say a few words on this important measure, because the electors of Western Australia, who sent me to represent them in this Parliament, have forbidden me to speak on their behalf after the clock strikes 12 midnight on the 30th June. When I was elected President of the Senate, I made it quite clear to my constituents that I was not accepting this office to the neglect of the interests of those who sent me here. Honorable ‘senators will, therefore, realize that I am entitled to participate in the debate, as any presiding officer may do, although I believe that such participation ought to be indulged in sparingly. If any honorable senator, acting within his rights, should suggest that I am transgressing the Standing Orders, I shall only have to resume the chair and sit in judgment on myself. There is an old Roman saying that no man is a just judge in his own cause, and if I transgress the rules of debate, any honorable senator who objects and is not satisfied may appeal to the Senate as a whole. Except in the committee, I have not used this right in the past, and I am availing myself of it now, at the second-reading stage, because I desire to take the only opportunity afforded me to speak as I feel on the essential features of this measure. In a country like Australia, where the people enjoy freedom of speech, it is only right that a bill of this description should be discussed from every aspect, and its weaknesses, if any, made known; and, if it can be shown to be against the best interests of the public, it should be rejected.
This bill is about the most advanced piece of legislation that has been introduced in any Parliament in Australia during the last 75 years, since the establishment of responsible government in the mother State of New South Wales. It represents the greatest step forward ever taken in this country towards social equilibrium. Those who have expressed the contrary opinion are disposed to under-estimate the value of the measure, but I would point out to them that there are various ways of assessing public measures. If an important proposal of this nature is regarded by the people as being obnoxious, the public halls throughout Australia are always available for indignation meetings, yet I have not heard of any large halls in the capital cities, or anywhere else, having been engaged for public protest against the passage of this bill. It is true that objections have been taken to it by a number of estimable individuals, who have taken it upon themselves to represent the views of their fellow citizens. This has happened in connexion with many other proposals to which effect has been given, and which have, eventually, proved to be of great value in the public interest. Take the federal aid roads scheme, for instance.
– The honorable senator had better confine his remarks to the bill.
– I accept the mild rebuke. 1 merely desire to indicate that some people go too far in expressing what they claim to be the will of the people. When the petrol tax was first imposed, for the purpose of providing revenue for road-making purposes, loud protests were heard ; but good roads have been provided, and we now hear nothing of those protests. If citizens, -who desire to obtain benefits such as those to be conferred under this bill, had the choice of entering one of two doors - one that of a private company, and the other that of the Commonwealth Government - would they have any difficulty in choosing? The overwhelming majority of the reflecting citizens would desire to pass through the door opened to them by the Commonwealth Government, and by nobody else. I have made inquiries concerning the results obtained under the national insurance scheme in Great Britain, and, having regard to the standards of living in the Old Country as compared with ours, the’ benefits offered under the scheme now before the Senate, allowing for the purchasing power of our currency, are 50 per cent, greater than those provided in Great Britain.
What will be the foundations of this scheme forty years hence? That is my deep concern at the moment. The super.structure can look after itself, but we should give earnest consideration to the security of the foundations. We must have regard to the population figures shown in the Commonwealth Year-Booh. These are significantly referred to as “ vital statistics “. They are vital, because they mean life or death to us and to our country. We have been warned that, judging by the present and recent trend of the figures, and assuming that the rate of migration will not materially; change, the population of Australia will have begun to decline in considerably less than forty years. Therefore, in less than forty years, the foundations of this scheme will have begun to crumble, and, with a definite decline of the population, the position will become sadly worse. I do not desire to assume the role of a prophet, but I remind honorable senators that sixteen years ago I drew the attention of the people of Australia to the then menacing decline of our birthrate. The press of this country took no notice of my warning, but it is time it ceased making money for shareholders, and addressed itself to some of the questions that so vitally, if not mortally, affect the welfare of Australia. Whereas the birth-rate was about 40 per thousand in the ‘sixties, it is now less than 17 per thousand, and I pointed out sixteen years ago that if that rate of decline were maintained Australia’s birth-rate in another 20 years would be ‘as low as that of France. To-day it is “lower. Four years before the outbreak of the great war, France had a birth-rate of 18 for every 1,000 of its population, and at that time deaths in that country exceeded births by 20,000 annually. I should be wanting in my duty if ‘ I ‘did not direct public attention to this state of affairs, which clearly shows1 that Australian parents of to-day are not living up to the example set by their more worthy forebears. This problem, I submit, lies at the very root of the success of this scheme of national insurance. I remind honor.orable senators that in introducing the measure in the House of Representatives the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) explained that the necessity for legislation in respect of national health and pensions insurance has arisen largely because of an insufficient inflow of young wageearners to industry. From estimates supplied to me to-day by the Statistician’s Department, I find that if our birth-rate of 50 years ago had been maintained, Australia’s population to-day should be 4,500,000 more than it is. If Australian women of to-day were like .their mothers, and not merely spurious imitations of them, we should have a population to-day of about 11,000,000. The . “ he-maids “ of society who encourage the devilish practice of birth -control are as bad as those barren fig trees of women who live only for pleasure and selfish indulgence. Perhaps this subject is a painful one. St. .Paul has said that there are certain matters which should not be so much as mentioned in the presence of men; but this sadly distressing subject cannot .be dealt with without saying painful things. We must face this subject frankly when we see this canker, in all its repulsive ugliness, eating the very heart of the nation. and retarding progress. At the outbreak of the Great War the population of Australia was a little over 6,000,000. After 300,000 men had gone to the front and we were obliged to estimate how many more able-bodied men we could send to reinforce them, we found that hardly more than: an additional 200,000 could be raised. Thu3, as a nation, we were confronted with the fact that we could not call upon more than 500,000 fighting men to defend this country, and unless we face this problem frankly now, we may have to face a similar position should we come into conflict with a foe within the next -30 or 40 years. In that case this legislation, together with the rest of our statutes, will prove to be merely food for termites and worms. Therefore, the only construction that can be placed upon this baneful development in this young country is that those who thus rebel against nature’s law have left this country with 300,000 fewer defenders than it should have to-day. Should our birthrate continue to decline, all our efforts to insure the welfare of our people will prove futile, because we shall not have sufficient population to enable us to carry on our industries efficiently. That is not merely my opinion ; it is supported by the best authorities. France, I suggest, offers a sorry example in this respect. When the Great War broke out, that country had a population of only 40,000,000, as compared with Germany’s population of 70,000,000. Germany was rich and ‘ powerful, mainly because it looked to the maintenance of its birthrate. As the result of an evil which we are countenancing in Australia to-day, France was obliged to send out an S.O.S., and, I suggest, it would have been justly repaid for its error in this respect, had those countries which subsequently came to its aid, decided to let France stew in its own juice. They might well have said, “You have neglected to fill your cradles. Our children must not be sacrificed for your defence “. When asked for his opinion of France’s future, the “ Tiger “ Clemenceau declared, “ My beloved France needs larger families”.
From my humble place in public life. I say that Australia, too, needs larger families, or it will find itself in a predicament similar to that which confronted France at the outbreak of the Great War; unable to defend itself, it will perish unless other nations come to its aid.
The responsibilities of citizenship are not being accepted by the manhood and womanhood of this country. The vital statistics issued by the Statistician tell us that 420,000 married couples in this country have no children, and that in 26S,000 other homes there is only one child. The homes in which there are either no children, or only one child, with no companion to play with, represent more than half of the total number of homes in this land.
– Men and women will not rear children to be shot.
– The Statistician’s figures also show that in 1921 the average savings bank a’ccount averaged £11; today the average is £33. As the savings went up, the birth-rate went down. Wherein, then, comes the argument : “ We can support children ? “ The Leader of the Opposition is welcome to whatever comfort he can get from those figures. The country is on the road to perdition and ruin.
– Not under the Lyons Government, surely?
– I was not referring to any government, but was directing attention to the fact that if the womanhood and manhood of Australia - it is called; manhood, but I should call it something else - did their duty, we should not find so large a proportion of married couples with no children or, at most, one child. I have already referred to the defence aspect of the falling birth-rate. Had the population increased at the rate at which it was increasing 40 years ago, there would to-day be well over 300,000 new defenders of this country. The burden on the budget would be lightened, and this country would have- a better chance to hold its own when danger comes.
It is natural to ask whence the money is to come to finance this scheme of national insurance? We cannot rely upon any philosopher’s stone which, as the story books of our youth had it, could turn wood into gold; we must find the money in a practical way and so as to ensure that the scheme shall not be threatened with insolvency. One source of revenue will be the contributions of the persons who are called the “ insured persons “. I do not like that phrase, or the word pensioner, which signifies dependence in an unpalatable sense. Contributors, under this scheme, will be making provision for their security in time of want and sickness and, I suggest, they should be described by the more suitable term - “ providents “. The second source of revenue will be the employers’ contributions, and the third source the Government or, indirectly, the taxpayers as a whole. The employer represents industry, which may be briefly described as the production of goods and the rendering of service for profit. No man will produce or serve except for profit. As for the contributor, the ordinary conception of a pension, superannuation benefit, or insurance, is that it is something to which a person has entitled himself by past payments. To expect these benefits for nothing is to run counter to a rule of conduct that has obtained down the ages. Sympathizers with a widow usually inquire whether the husband was insured, and if the answer is in the affirmative the occasion for sympathy is lessened by the knowledge that the deceased had been thrifty, and had paid his premiums regularly in order to make provision for his dependants after his death. The qualities of thrift and foresight are of the essence of insurance, and should they not equally apply to a pension? That also should be a right earned* by earlier provision, and should not, as is often the case, have the nastytaint of cold charity or dependence. We should profit by the example of the honey bee and store up in the days of plenty enough to tide us over the days of scarcity. It has been said that it is impossible to study the lives and habits of bees without becoming a socialist. .
As to the effect of a scheme of this nature on industry generally, I point out that our wool and wheat industries, the two main primary industries upon which the prosperity of this country has largely been built, are not by any means flourishing. Our income tax returns show that the revenue from these two industries has fallen by 50 per cent, over the last eight years. Fortunately our manufacturing industries have fared much better, and I am glad that they have. Official returns indicate that income tax totalling about £8,000,000 was collected in’ 1936 upon incomes amounting to about £140,000,000. Bearing that in mind, I ask honorable senators to recollect that the Treasurer has said that for the purposes of this bill the industries of Australia -will be taxed to the amount of £7,750,000. What is to happen to our industries when this additional impost is placed upon them? A fair study of the figures will show that the contribution of industry to this scheme will be equal to the amount of income tax it now pays.
– The national income also is increasing.
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection, for it reminds me that this burden will fall ultimately upon people engaged in our primary producing industries who will not be able to pass it on.- It has been said “ The man on the land pays all the taxes “. I shall not go as far as that, but it is undeniable that the people on the land who will be taxed under this measure will have to pay the tax, knowing full well that they will not be able to recoup themselves. The world’s buyer wants the cheapest article ; he has no concern for our social needs. Honorable senators should consider the real facts in relation to our wool-growing industry. The royal commission which inquired into this industry some years ago examined witnesses from all parts of the Commonwealth and made a declaration that, leaving out of account transport and managerial expenses, it cost 11¼d. per lb. to produce wool in Australia. An examination of the Year-Book will show that for the last eight years the average price obtained for Australian wool has been about lid. per lb. What margin does that allow for additional taxation? None at all! I do not ask honorable senators to accept my word on this matter. The chairman of the Development and Migration Commission was the Honorable John Gunn, a former Labour
Premier of South Australia. His report is full of frank admissions about the “shaky” state of that industry. I do not know how the wool industry can possibly stand additional taxation. I have been told by a member of this Parliament who is not a member of the party to which I belong, that one bie financial institution has been so hard hit in Queensland that it intends to discontinue altogether its operations in that State.
– Does the honorable gentleman know the name of the company ?
– I do. I am not here to play tricks.
Let us look for a moment at the circumstances of our great wheat-growing industry. I know a little about the wheat industry unfortunately. Perhaps I ought to say I know more about wheat-sowing than wheat-growing. It has been mentioned in this chamber that the Wheat Commission found that the total indebtedness of the wheat farmers of Australia was in the neighbourhood of £150,000,000. This, again, is the finding of another royal commission. Senator Hardy, who has a reputation for research and accuracy, has stated from his place in this chamber, that the total value of our wheat lands is estimated at £135,000,000. These figures prove that that great industry is in an insolvent state. What extra taxation can it stand? I do not ask honorable senators to accept these figures on my authority. They have been published officially for all men to read. The wheat industry, like the great wool industry, will thus also find it impossible to bear any extra burden of taxation.
– Is the honorable senator opposing the bill?
– I am not. I am merely pointing out the weak position in which we shall find ourselves unless we radically alter our methods and outlook in a manner that I shall presently describe. We are reasonable men, or, I presume, we should not be here. Our actions should be dominated by sweet reasonableness, and nothing else. I want this subject to be looked at fairly. I shall probably tread upon the corns of some people, but I shall make no apology for doing so, for I wish to bear witness to the truth as I see it. I ask whether the great primary-producing industries of Australia can possibly, under existing conditions, bear an increased burden of taxation? Is it right that they should be asked to do so? What will happen if additional burdens are loaded upon the people on the land? I say that they will not be content to remain the wood and water joeys of society! They will leave their farms. And if they do and join the heedless throngs in the cities, what will be the result to this country?
In dealing for a moment or two with the situation that faces our industrial efforts, the small income citizens, and the income of this country generally, I shall quote as an authority that responsible authority, Professor Giblin. In his book, Lewers to John Smith, he points out that in 1928, which was before the depression, the income of the people of Australia was about £650,000,000, whereas the total amount of money required to pay wages was, on the basis of court awards and returns by trade union secretaries, £605,000,000. Out of our total income, taxes amounting to £44,000,000 had to be paid. In addition, the people saved about £50,000,000, but the figures cannot cover this. How is it done? He explains.
Yet a constant agitation is going on for a higher, and still higher, share of industry. On this point I had better give Professor Giblin’s own words, from page 17 of his book: -
Of course there are lots of things wrong in the present distribution of wealth that badly want remedying. Plenty to do in that direction. But the important point here is that oven if they were remedied your wages as a unionist would not be any higher - possibly a bit lower.
I hope those remarks will sink in a long way from Canberra. Professor Giblin went on to say -
If you want more wages the country must produce more wealth. Here and now in Australia in 1930 for you as a unionist there is no other way.
I remind honorable senators that the professor is not upon the same side of the political fence as that on which I normally find myself. If honorable senators want further evidence of Professor
Giblin’s political predilections, I remind them that he wears a red tie. The reddest flag that flies at Moscow is not half so red as that tie ! There is not the least offence, I hope, in this reference to his tie; I liked it. It is rather a symbol of his democratic principles Every one who knows Professor Giblin’s depth of mind, also realizes that he would not put his pen to any statement unless he was satisfied that it was downright correct.
– I hope that honorable senators will not forget those remarks when next they jeer at the red book and the red flag.
– I hope not. Professor Giblin pointed out that organized labour of Australia was receiving more in wages than was labour not organized, and that the major share of the wealth produced by industry in Australia, goes to the organized section of the workers. The unorganized section of labour - the men on small farms, or running small businesses - receive far less a» their share than they should receive. It is their under-payment now and hitherto that makes Professor Giblin’s figures balance. In quoting Professor Giblin I know I shall be misunderstood. By the grace of the mortgagee, I work a small farm. During an election campaign on one occasion those who were opposing me circulated a fable that I was not paying good wages. I had, therefore, to get declarations, signed before a magistrate, from the men who worked for me. I published those to the world. They indicated that my employees were, not only receiving much higher wages than other workers in the district, but more than my miserable farm could pay. I have treated the men who worked for me well, for the simple reason that I myself was a worker in this country for many years. I want to say, however, that the men engaged in developing our primary industries should get a little more consideration than they arc at present receiving. They should not be shot at from every angle. A journeyman who becomes a bootmaker, or a small employer of labour - that is, a man who rises from the ranks - is no less a good man because he once received a journeyman’s wages.
In some parts of this country, the idea is prevalent that because a man is an employer of labour he is necessarily wealthy; but that it is not the case. We always hear of the few successes, but not so often of the failures. Many employers of labour are not so well off as the men whom they employ. If, at this stage in our affairs, we set out to change the whole system of industry and, particularly, if we impose undue burdens on the people endeavouring to develop our primary industries, we shall quickly make it impossible for them to continue their operations. I remind honorable senators of the old saying : “ One man may lead a horse to the water, but twenty men cannot make him drink.” If the employing class decides that conditions are impossible and that, therefore, they will return to the ranks of the workers, the’ last position of this country will be much worse than its first. It is no use for us to say to the employers, “You are all right, carry on.” That will not remedy the situation which faces us. We can increase the wealth of Australia in only one way and that is, by persistent, patient effort, in a spirit of national goodwill. Is there any other way to increase our wealth? I say emphatically, “ No “. If we make the burden of the people in rural areas too heavy they will simply leave their homes. I know what I am talking about. I am trying to grow wheat on hungry land in Western Australia that is worth only ls. an acre. .That wheat has to be sold on the world’s markets in competition with wheat grown under immeasurably more favorable conditions. How am I able to do it? Only by working longer and harder than other people. If this is to continue possible, it is necessary to give proper consideration to the’ settlers who labour under such - difficult conditions. If conditions become more arduous than at present, will the rural settlers carry on? Do not be deceived! They will not. What happened in this country when the Holman Government fixed the price of butter and milk? The cattlemen simply decided to dry off their cows.
Every Australian should look upon his brother as an equal, not as an inferior. If I were asked whether the primary producers of this country could produce more, I should answer with an emphatic “ No ; they are already up to their limit “j but if I were asked whether the secondary industries could “produce more, I should just as emphatically answer “ Yes “. The reason is shown in the records of the United States of America. That country extracts from overseas buyers of its secondary products no less than £200,000,000 each year. What is Australia’s record? This country’s total export of manufactured products is not worth £4,000,000 a year. That means that America gets £9 of foreign money as compared with the 18s. we receive for secondary products. Canada too exports £90,000,000 worth of manufactures. On that basis we should be exporting £60,000,000 worth of manufactured goods. Labour conditions are the same, if not better, than they are in Canada; yet secondary production in this country still stagnates. Should we not be ashamed of ourselves? Unless we can do better, it is time that we threw up the sponge. If the people of this country think that they can continue indefinitely to live on its primary producers I tell them that those producers will not for ever rise early and work late unless they get a fairer deal. Bather than continue in an industry that does not pay, they will join the happy throngs in the cities which prate about the brotherhood of man. In all earnestness, I say that the time has come when our secondary industries must produce more. Australia has iron ore awaiting manufacture, and timbers equal to the world’s best; indeed, its natural resources are beyond computation. Why does the country not produce more? On my farm in Western Australia I have implements of Canadian manufacture, but what do we send from Australia to Toronto and other Canadian cities and towns? When an attempt was made by a government, of which I was a member, to commence shipbuilding in Western Australia, the rates and conditions fixed by. the Trades Hall in Perth were such that we refused to go ahead with the project. The conditions made the establishment of that industry impossible. On another occasion when H. V. McKay proposed to produce harvesting machinery in Western Australia, the same authorities refuse to co-operate, and so that industry was lost to Western Australia. The result is that Western Australian farmers still get harvesters from eastern Australia. What, is the reason that Australia cannot export more in manufactures? Some years ago, in dealing with the dairying industry, 1 found that the dairymen of Denmark were sending butter to London at prices which made competition difficult for our dairymen. But I found that land suitable for dairying in Denmark was as cheap as or cheaper than land in Australia. If our dairymen could stand up to that competition, and hold their own, why cannot our manufacturers do the same? If only we could broaden the area of production - if only our secondary industries could produce to the value of £60,000,000 !
The manager of the Cockatoo Dockyards told me on one occasion that 35 different awards had to be observed by him. He said that by the time a sheet of iron was lifted from a lighter and placed in a ship’s side it had to pass through five or six sets of rules, each covered by a different award. It is time that this kind of thing was brought to an end. If Australians think that the primary producers will continue to hang on to their holdings, irrespective of the treatment they receive, they are making a great mistake. The men on the land have no protection. The cold blasts of competition blow upon them from all points of the compass. I have felt them. I love Australia; to me it is the one country in the world; but I am not so patriotic as to allow myself to accept an unfair burden which other people do not share.
– Is the honorable senator for’ or against the bill?
– I realize that honorable senators have been most patient, and I thank them. I wish to place on record the high standard of the craft guilds of the Middle Ages. They had many admirable features. Lipson, in his standard Economic History of England, said, on page 1,279 -
The fundamental and perennial interest of the medieval craft guilds lies in the fact that they represent a vital stage in economic evolution, and enabled us to discern how industrial problems were handled and solved in the
Middle Ages. These problems, and it must be acknowledged, differ widely from our own, which are at once more complex and involve larger issues. But in the effort to provide a fair remuneration for the worker and to reconcile the conflicting claims of producer and consumer, were developed principles of industrial control and conception of wages and prices to which we may perhaps one day return.
Similarly, Mr. F. Robinson, in his book, The Spirit of Association, said -
The first object of these trade societies was to secure a high quality production. . . . Shoddy work and bad materials had but little opportunity of finding a way into the markets and shops of mediaeval England. (Page 78). A sense of responsibility to the community generally was very strongly marked in many of the craft ordinances. (Page SO).
Again he said -
Nevertheless, when all the aspects of guild activity are weighed in the balance, we cannot fail to conclude that the guilds and companies contributed much which was valuable to the social, religious and industrial welfare of our own country, and bore a share, the importance of which can hardly be overrated, in building up our civic and national life. The guild brethren had a vision, and they formulated ideals. If the vision was narrow, the ideals were often unattained, yet the part which they played in the history of associative effort has been of immense service to civilization. (Page 111).
Will not history take a friendly turn by repeating itself in this land? I earnestly hope so.
If the members of the craft guilds in the middle ages could make common cause with their employers, there is no reason why similar action should not be taken in these days. If people in all walks of life were more willing to exercise a spirit of sweet reasonableness, they would find that many who, they think, are opposed to them are not so bad after all. Honorable senators should remember that the people who sent them here have an 6pen franchise. It is not uncommon to find the various members of a family voting in different ways; one man may vote for one party, and his brother for the other party; and so, too, may mother and daughter differ. Surely those are not evil-minded who vote for one party as against another? Surely parties voted for in this way cannot be saints on the one hand and devils on the other? I hope that this bill will usher in a brighter era in industry, and that a better spirit will reveal itself in the relations between employers and employees. We need more goodwill and mutual regard for each other if Australia is to advance.
. - iti reply - After the eloquent speech of the President (Senator Lynch) I feel almost dumb. His address appealed to all, but I imagine that it would have made a special appeal to a jury of matrons. In the few minutes at my disposal, I shall endeavour to concentrate on the more important points raised during the debate. I shall pass by various suggestions, with which I hope to deal more fully in committee; but there are a few matters of outstanding importance to which I desire to refer. I do not propose to try to search the hearts of honorable members opposite with regard to this measure, because I am incapable of understanding whether their opposition to the measure is due to jealousy by reason’ of the fact that this forward movement in social reform comes from a government of which I am a member, or ‘whether it is simply political manoeuvring. Whatever the reason, one can scarcely harmonize the speeches of honorable senators opposite with their protestations of goodwill towards the people whom this measure will affect. My diagnosis is that a large percentage of those who, both in this chamber and in the other branch of the legislature, oppose this measure, do so merely for political reasons. They desire to exhibit a certain amount of solidarity, but evidence is not lacking that some of them oppose this measure with their tongues in their cheeks. Others have frankly refrained from voting on certain important issues. I do not propose to discuss the bill in a partisan way, because its introduction has been actuated by the highest motives. The Government has been charged with acting hastily, and exhibiting a lack of consideration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) suggested that the Government has not even considered the constitutionality of the measure. I do not intend to traverse all of what has been said about the history of national insurance in thi& country. My colleague from South Australia, Senator Duncan-Hughes, pointed out that the report of the royal commission which thoroughly investigated national insurance, was the basis of a bill which bad made substantial progress in this Parliament when the dissolution occurred in 1928. For some years before the introduction of this bill, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was active in influencing the Government to bring down a national insurance measure. Before this bill was introduced every preparation was made. Every source of information was tapped by the Government, both here and abroad. The national insurance schemes in England and Europe were closely scrutinized before the details of our bill were finally settled. The Government has had the assistance of experts from Great Britain.
In passing, I pay tribute to Sir Walter Kinnear. That gentleman, who rendered wonderful service in the preparation of this bill, has been in Australia twice to investigate national insurance; not only the industrial aspect of it, but also the aspect which concerns those sparsely populated areas to which I shall make later reference. Sir Walter Kinnear has investigated national insurance schemes in other British countries, in British Columbia for instance. He has now had the high compliment paid to him of being called by the Government of the United States of America to put upon a sound footing the national insurance scheme which was introduced into that country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) expressed doubt as to the constitutionality of this bill and expressed the opinion that the Government had not given that aspect sufficient thought. It would be a poor lot of governments which would not inquire into the constitutional aspects before proceeding to set up a royal commission, to draft a bill, to send men overseas to obtain information, and to bring experts to this country. I assure the honorable gentleman that the constitutional aspect has had the consideration not only of the present Attorney-
General, but ako of his predecessors. Moreover, in order that I, humble as I am in my profession, should not be misguided! by my own, preconceived convictions, I took care to ensure that this bill was framed in such a way as to make it impregnable, as I see it, to attack on the ground of unconstitutionality. I do not desire to use more of my time in dealing with this aspect of the matter, because I believe that what was said by the Leader of the Opposition was intended as a smoke screen. The Leader of the Opposition, for political or other reasons, did not want to discuss the merits of the bill. Before leaving the subject, however, I remind the honorable gentleman .that there are other powers in the Constitution besides that contained in placitum xiv. There is the appropriation power, under which we can appropriate from the Exchequer moneys necessary to implement this measure. We arc bringing clown two other measures to enable us to levy contributions from the employer and the employee respectively.
I shall be pleased when the minor constitutional matter mentioned by Senator Leckie arises in committee, to explain to him the grounds on which the AttorneyGeneral, the law officers of the Commonwealth, and I, are of the opinion that clause 188 is absolutely constitutional.
One of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition was that this measure is not complete, that it should contain provision for unemployment insurance. Honorable senators who have read the two reports furnished by Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. Ince, know that the two schemes are distinct, that they are based on different statistical facts and actuarial calculations, and that in any event there would have had to be two bills to give effect to unemployment insurance as well as to health and pensions insurance. Senator Pearce . pointed out that unemployment insurance is so inextricably mixed up with the affairs of the States that it is essential, before anything in the nature of legislation for unemployment insurance can be introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament, for an arrangement to be reached between the Commonwealth and the
States. Various conferences have been held on this matter, and it is proposed to hold another one shortly in an endeavour to arrive at some reasonable arrangement, The Leader of the Opposition suggested that there was no security under this measure for the insured person. No security! Has the honorable gentleman read the terms of the measure? He complained about the number of bodies that are to be set up. But the board of trustees, for instance, is the best security that the insured person could have. Does the honorable gentleman not realize that in the world of insurance there are two classes of insurance funds? One is set aside in the books of the company for the benefit of the policy-holder, and the books are subject to government audit and actuarial valuation. Those funds are as inviolate as the trust moneys are to be under this measure. Unless this country crashes, the fund to be established is better secured under the provisions now made than is any other trust fund of which I know.
– I remind the Leader of the Senate that when the crash came in 1930 a raid was made by the Government upon the Commonwealth public servants’ superannuation fund.
– That fund is on an entirely different basis. What the honorable senator suggests cannot be. Men of the standing of the Solicitor-General are to be trustees under this bill. They will be answerable, not to the Government, but to the nation. They will have a duty to the insured persons, just as the director of an assurance company has a duty to its members. The funds of mutual companies belong to and are held in trust for the policy-holders. The same sort of trust is embodied in this legislation. Every safeguard is provided to ensure that the funds in the hands of the various approved societies shall be secured, and there will not be that degree of wreckage that has taken place , in the funds of some outside organizations. Never has greater care been taken to make funds inviolate than has been taken under this bill. The only thing that might wreck that security is the adoption of the policy which the Leader of the Opposition suggests could settle all of our ills, namely, the extraction of money from the air. I shall not waste time over that, because it is so much eye-wash for the unthinking public.
-Will the honorable senator tell me where is the security against the possibility of a reduction of benefits, in times of alleged financial stress ?
– Of course, if the honorable senator’s party obtained power and played ducks and drakes with the finances of this country by the adoption of wild methods, we would probably have a crisis which would bring us to our knees as we were nearly brought to our knees in 1931. I fancy that the honorable senator is trying to make out that there is no security for the insured people in the sense that the pensions were reduced in 1931-32. I do not blame the government of the day for that reduction.
– I am not talking about that. I am talking about the public servants’ superannuation funds, which, when the Government needed money, were raided. I do not blame the Government for doing that, but the same thing might happen in this case.
– Once the national insurance fund is in the control of the trustees, short of a dishonest act of Parliament, there will be no power to raid it. What occurred in respect of the superannuation fund was due to the fact that the whole economy of the country was upset. The pensions were reduced and the funds were raided. Nothing of that nature occurred to the funds of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Those funds were held by trustees who regarded their trust as sacred, and who had made ample provision by way of reserves to meet all contingencies. I take it that the gentlemen who will handle this fund will not handle it in an improvident way. I should have preferred a lower rate of interest than the 3½ per cent., which is the governing rate set out in this scheme. I should have preferred something more conservative, but, I deny the possibility of raiding this fund. Every precaution has been taken to audit and govern approved societies, and the funds will be vested in trustees and controlled by them independent of any treasurer or political force.
– Reduction by the Government of the amount of its contribution from Consolidated Revenue, which would lead tx> a reduction of the benefits, would be a raid on the funds.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN.No! Senator Collings complained that there was no security for the insured persons. I counter that with the declaration that no more security could be given than has been given. From a business point of view, one could not have better security than has been provided. Of course, if the country is going to repudiate - we were pretty close to it once - that will be a different matter.
There are one or two other aspects that have been touched upon by other honorable senators as well as the Leader of the Opposition. It has been suggested that there is no provision for organized medical services. Because medical service matters are to be arranged by the commission, the details do not appear in the bill. Details, control, management, remuneration, duties, and other matters, will all be settled between the commission and the medical profession. Questions were asked during the debate as to what would happen to the actuarial basis of the bill if the capitation fee of 31s. ,to doctors were increased or if, as is more likely, the mileage rate were increased. I do not wish to say one word as to whether those fees, which were the subject of compromise between the Treasurer and a certain section of the medical profession, are too high or too low. I do not wish to prejudice any further negotiations in respect of that matter. But t[he Government is so firm in the belief that lis. will be a fair payment that the Treasurer is prepared to risk that. In regard to mileage in country districts, the increase can only be such as the fund will be able to stand. I do not share the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the service which the medical profession is to give is in the nature of first aid for trifling ills.
– That is all that it is.
– In committee, the honorable senator will see that it is much more than that. Not only will the service be a general practitioner’s full service, but also the drugs to be supplied will be of first-class quality. When Senator Duncan-Hughes referred to this matter, I thought that he had made a point that had been overlooked. I might have known that it would not have escaped the notice of the gentlemen who have been handling the matter on behalf of the Treasurer. I thought that Senator Duncan-Hughes had scored a point, because provision had been made for the supply of drugs retail at wholesale prices, and those prices might be a trifle too high. I have been informed, however, that the matter has been thoroughly covered. Lists have been furnished of the wholesale rates at which drugs are to be supplied by chemists. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that .the quality of those drugs will be beyond question: they are to be of the best quality prescribed by the British Pharmacopoeia, and are to be subject to periodical examination. If any attempt were made to increase prices in the future, the commission would have means to deal with it, and, if necessary, to take such action as would ensure supplies at a reasonable price.
– There is no clause in which there is any provision for control to be exercised over the wholesale chemists in regard to price.
– There will be no control over the wholesale chemists in that sense.
-hughes. - There should be.
– I point out that lists of wholesale prices’ have already been supplied by the wholesalers. It is on those lists that the Pharmacy Board and the commission have come to an arrangement.
– I complain, not about the price of the drugs, but about the meagre list which is to be supplied to insured persons.
– This is an important point. Where is there mention in the bill of the cost of production by the chemists ? How does that compare with the wholesale price?
– There is no greater “ ramp “ in this country than that in connexion with the price of drugs and medicines.
– That is an argument in favour of the contention that the tariff should be reduced in order to enable drugs and medicines to flow in from other countries. I do not think that anything so drastic will be necessary. I am assured—–
– We want to be assured by the hill.
– We can deal with that in committee, when the relevant part of the bill is reached. 1 was impressed by the importance of the matter when it was raised, and immediately made inquiries. I was informed that the whole thing had been examined. In committee, I shall give to the Senate the benefit of that examination, so far as it is not confidential.
The points raised in regard to outlying districts have not been overlooked. If honorable senators will study clauses 102 and 116, they will see what power has been reserved to the commission to enable it to handle the situation. It is realized that, over an area of 3,000,000 square miles, with a sparsely populated interior, difficulties are bound to arise. Special provision has been made to enable the commission to deal with the situation, even to the extent of providing for the moving of medical services from spot to spot. If the commission should find itself incapable of handling the situation, it will have the power to exempt any district until the scheme has been sufficiently developed to enable that area to be covered.
I shall deal with the point raised by Senator Abbott in connexion with Christian Scientists when he moves the amendment he has forecast. I believe thatI shall be able to satisfy him that it can be met in the administration of the scheme, although not perhaps to the limit desired. Provision has been made for certain exemptions, and any extension of them would cause difficulties with the medical profession. If there were 30,000 or 40,000 Christian Scientists in Australia, their withdrawal from the scheme would mean the loss by the medical profession of £22,000. I shall prove to the honorable senator that if the Christian Scientists form approved societies they will suffer only to the slightest extent. He has spoken . of them suffering for conscience. They will suffer no more than the Quakers suffer when they pay Commonwealth income tax, in the knowledge that a portion of the revenue so derived will he used for purposes of defence.
I regard as of extreme importance the position of the small man, to whom Senator Johnston referred as the £208 a year man, who has to employ labour for a time. On the face of it, a glaring injustice will be done to him under this scheme. The Government recognizes that, and is prepared to give a certain undertaking. It is not possible to graft on to this contributory scheme another scheme of insurance which would place the small farmer or business man in a much better position. The Government is now. and has been for some months, considering the position. An examination is being made of the facts by skilled officers, and the Government hopes to be able shortly to submit to Parliament a scheme which will be financially sound, and will mitigate the injustice of this scheme in respect of the small man. This is based on certain statistical facts, which must be maintained until it has been worked out actuarially. Whatever is done must be done separately. However, an amendment is to be moved, and I shall then have an opportunity to give the honorable senator a little more detail concerning the matter. Senator Duncan-Hughes and. Senator Cunningham asked how the figure of £365 as the maximum income permissible under this scheme had been reached. I am informed that that is the figure stipulated in the majority of the agreements between the friendly societies and the British Medical Association.
– My information is that it represents the maximum figure, and that the average figure is nothing like so high.
– A note supplied to me is to the effect that most of the agreements between the friendly societies and the British Medical Association stipulate that the contract is not to apply to persons earning more than £364 a year. That is the basis upon which the arrangement was made between the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the doctors.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the bill be now reada second time.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. j. Lynch.)
Majority .. ..16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Sent of Government Acceptance Act and Sent of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 20. - Canberra Community Hospital.
No. 21. - City Area Leases.
No. 22. - Hospital Tax.
Senate adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380623_senate_15_156/>.